It's quite a contrast to go from chilly COVID-ridden Canberra to warm laid-back Britain. I say warm rather than hot because here in south Devon the recent heatwave peaked at 24 degrees and the sea is still only 15 degrees. There are of course places in the UK that have been much hotter, like Coningsby, Lincolnshire which on July 19 had the hottest recorded temperature of 40.3 degrees. Councils in the hottest areas are said to be gratified that melting roads are filling their own potholes.
London has always been a climate hotspot. It also tends to be crowded, very expensive, and slow to get around. Walking is often a quicker option for getting from A to B, but that can be a challenge too. Native Londoners always walked on the left side of the pavement. Now it's a shambles, with walk-on-the-right visitors colliding with residents and using the wrong stairs on the Underground.
One of the must-see summer entertainments in London is the annual Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of Art at Burlington House. It has the usual gamut of innovative art, brilliantly executed pieces, and art that could have been produced (and perhaps was) by ungifted amateurs and con-artists (no pun intended).
One installation was a two-wheel trolley carrying glass sheets titled "Unpacking, Wheels" and priced at 3000 pounds. According to the artist's website, he "digests, expels and conjures stories, turning the figure of the ethnographer upside down where the object of study is never an other but always oneself". We are told that the artist is "driven to conjure obstacles that push us to revise the forceful script of modernity, collating fragile objects, gestures and stories that also aim to barricade and protect an alterity".
Accommodation in London has always been expensive. Most mid-range hotels charge more than 200 pounds a night, while more pleasant club accommodation can be had for a lot less. For the well-heeled, The Savoy now charges over 1000 pounds a night for the cheapest rooms.
Meanwhile in Devon and much of the rest of the country, a major problem for local businesses is getting staff - or should I say "team members" - particularly in the service industry. Few Brits want to work at jobs like cleaning, dispensing fast food, waiting, and washing-up, and the eastern Europeans who used to perform these menial tasks seem to have left during the Brexit process and COVID lockdowns.
Unsurprisingly post-COVID, many Brits prefer being at home or working from home and being subsidised to do so. That of course is not a practical option for the service industry. The result has been widespread closures of pubs, hotels and restaurants, and a lack of manual workers in general - one manifestation being the unavailability of baggage handlers at London airports.
Speaking of pubs, a 50-year-old IT billionaire walks into a pub with an attractive 25-year-old girlfriend. His buddy asked him how he managed to attract a girl half his age. The billionaire replied, "I lied about my age." His friend asked, "So you told her you were 40?" "No" said the billionaire, "90."
Another challenge has been choosing a Tory Prime Minister to run the country post-Boris. One cynic noted that it was perhaps a case of "the bland leading the bland"?. Another commentator put it more crudely, observing that "Choosing the next Prime Minister is like choosing which portaloo to use on day three of a rock festival."
If you plan to travel to the UK in 2023, book your return flights well in advance, have only carry-on luggage, and be aware that package deals offer the best hotel rates. You can of course disregard this advice if, like me, you were fortunate enough to win the Nigerian lottery.
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