News from Britain: brawls, bugs, and Brexit

A brawl broke out on a cruise ship when–well, that’s where it gets murky and we haven’t even finished the first sentence. Let’s start with what we do know. Or think we know:

The fight happened so early in the morning that it was still late at night, in the ship’s restaurant (or buffet, as most of the articles put it), after a day of “patriotic partying,” whatever the hell that is, and an evening black-tie event. By this time, everyone involved was probably well lubricated. What the papers establish is that a lot of alcohol had been transferred from the bottles into the passengers but they don’t say which individual passengers it was transferred into. 

The people involved in the fight used plates and furniture as weapons. Passengers who weren’t involved described the fight as being between family groups. Is this what U.S. anti-gay campaigners have in mind when they talk about “family values”? I was never clear on whose family they were thinking of.

Six people were injured and reports say blood was everywhere. 

How much blood? How big an area is everywhere? What values did the families have? Dunno, duuno, and dunno.

Irrelevant photo: North Cornwall cliffs.

It all started, according to a witness, when a passenger became upset that another passenger was wearing a clown suit. He’d specifically booked a cruise with no fancy dress events. 

A fancy dress party is British for a costume party, and they’re endemic in Britain. The whole thing about dressing up says something profound about the British culture, or its psyche, or its something, although I’m damned if I know what. I’d welcome explanations, however far fetched.

If the story sounds strange, it gets stranger: The cruise line, P&O, swears that there was no clown on board and no one was wearing fancy dress. 

The people who were suspected of being behind the incident were confined to a cabin for the last day of the cruise.

With no dessert.

Two people have been arrested, a man and a woman. They’ve also been released but when they were last in the news they were still under investigation.

In the meantime, no one seems to be investigating this whole business about the clown, which borders on criminal irresponsibility.


Since we’re talking about transportation, a horse wandered onto an unstaffed train station at Tyne and Wear, which has something to do with Newcastle, but we don’t really need to know that. What mattered is that the horse wandered in and passenger helped it wander out, leading it to a nearby field that everyone agreed–possibly based on evidence and possibly based on convenience–was exactly the field it had come from.

The company that runs the trains issued a statement saying almost nothing, but it did mention that trains had been warned about the incident. I’d like to think the trains’ drivers were also warned. The real message was that there’s nothing dangerous about leaving a station without staff and everyone could sleep safe in their beds and not have nightmares about horses. 

What can we learn from this? That trains in Britain have drivers while trains in the U.S. have engineers. They do the same job.

Also that horses get bored. And lonely.


Reports in August said that Britons had spent £4 billion stockpiling things in case Brexit brings shortages. One in five people had gathered up £380 worth of food, medicine, and–yes, of course–drinks, because if you’re going to face shortages you want to at least be able to get shitfaced. Some 800,000 people are sitting on a hoard worth £1,000 or more. Luxury car imports are up 16% compared to a year ago, so presumably the super-rich are stockpiling luxury cars in case the import taxes go up. Because hey, you’ve got to watch every penny when you’re buying luxury cars.

People are also stockpiling toilet paper, but I don’t know how much they’ve spent on it or how many days’ worth they consider safe. It does all tell us what people consider important.


A study published in the British Medical Journal reports that washing the dishes can help you live longer. Not because it’ll keep your partner from killing you (it may, but they don’t seem to have factored that in) but because light exercise–taking out the trash, crawling under the bed to locate that lost shoe–keeps you alive longer. Less conveniently for your partner, so will walk around the block. And tickling a nerve near your ear with a low-level electrical charge might as well.

Okay, full disclosure: That last study indicates it might improve your mood and help you sleep and age better. It didn’t actually say you’d live longer.

Optimism also helps you live longer–11% to 15% longer according to a recent study (sorry–I lost the link). On the other hand, a really good chocolate cake might do the same thing. I haven’t found any data to say it won’t.

I also haven’t looked for any.


Salford City Council has dropped a ban on public swearing in Salford Quays. It was imposed three years ago and never enforced, but if it had been and if you’d been at the wrong end of it, you could have been out as much as £1,000.

With a mouth like mine, it could have been an expensive place to visit. 

In 2017, Rochdale City Council banned skateboarding, swearing, and begging in the town center. Violators could be fined, again, up to £1,000–which makes perfect sense when you’re dealing with someone begging on the street. 

The swearing ban was dropped as unenforceable later in the year. The rest, as far as I can tell, is still in force. 

In 2015, Chester banned sleeping on the street, feeding birds, and unlicensed busking, which is British for making music in public and leaving your guitar case open for people to drop money into. When all hell broke loose (and protesters marched in their pajamas), the council backed off those parts of the ban but kept the ones on urinating in public, drinking in public, and using legal highs. (That’s not a typo. They were talking about the legal ones.)  

I’m not a big fan of public peeing, but it might be more effective to just make some toilets available. Although that costs money. Welcome to austerity Britain. If you need to pee, that’s your problem.  

All the bans were introduced as Public Spaces Protection Orders. 


Protesters in France spent some time recently going into town halls, politely taking down the president’s portrait, and leaving with it. They’re pointing up President Macron’s inaction on climate change, despite his stance as a world leader on the issue. They recently held a march where they carried the portraits they’d taken–upside down. 

I wish I could explain why I find that so funny. I suspect it has something to do with how perfectly beside the point taking down the portraits is. 


A new study of seagulls reports that going eyeball to eyeball with them when they’re trying to steal your chips (a.k.a. french fries) will make them back down. Of course, no sooner did someone send out a press release on the study than every TV station in the country sent a reporter to the nearest beach to interview whatever humans were available. One that I watched asked them to recreate the experiment, and it was a disaster, especially when the humans were faced with more gulls than they had eyeballs, or when the gulls swooped in from behind, where (inconveniently) humans lack eyeballs.


The City of London (which is not to be confused with the city, small C, of London, of which the City, large C, is one small and expensive part) is tightening regulations on new skyscrapers. Existing ones have created winds that a cyclists’ organization says are strong enough to knock over pedestrians and push bike riders sideways, possibly into the paths of cars.

One building, called the Walkie-Talkie because of its shape, concentrated the sun’s rays strongly enough to melt parts of a car parked nearby. A reporter managed to fry an egg using only its heat. It’s since been retro-fitted with anti-pyromaniacal glazing and hasn’t set anything on fire for a while. We’re all hoping it’s found a better outlet for its impulses.

The new regulations will make the architects think all that through ahead of time. 

Don’t you just hate government red tape? 

London has developed a wonderful tradition of giving its skyscrapers names their that developers and architects didn’t plan on, and probably hate. The Walkie-Talkie is one. Others are the Cheesegrater, the Shard, the Gherkin, the Can of Ham, and the Scalpel.


A New Zealand bug imported to the Isles of Scilly some hundred years ago has evolved to reproduce asexually. The population’s now entirely female and it’s doing just fine, thanks. 

The little beast is a stick insect called the Clitarchus hookeri, and it was an unplanned import, hitching a ride with some plants that were brought in for a subtropical garden. And no, in spite of it sounding like an academic April Fool’s Day joke, the little beast is real

Scientists brought some of the bugs back to New Zealand, where they were happy enough to mate with local males but went ahead and reproduced in the old fashioned way, which is to say, without male input. 

You can draw whatever morals you like from that.

The Isles of Scilly are off the coast of Cornwall and yes, they’re pronounced silly and are sometimes called the Scilly Isles. I’ve heard it often enough that I’ve lost the urge to giggle.


And finally, a small ray of hope for the human race: Writer Olivia Laing, whose first novel, Crudo, won the £10,000 James Tait Black prize, announced that she was going to share the prize with her fellow finalists. 

“I said in Crudo that competition has no place in art and I meant it,” she said. 

She’s what in Yiddish is called a mensch–a person of real integrity. I’m off to a bookstore to take a browse through the book and if it grabs me, to buy a copy. The other finalists were Murmur (Will Eaves), Sight (Jessie Greengrass), and Heads of Colored People (Nafissa Thompson-Spires). I’ll have a browse through them too. I have a hunch that you wouldn’t end up regretting it if you doing the same.

97 thoughts on “News from Britain: brawls, bugs, and Brexit

    • Good question. Unfortunately, I’m too old to know.

      Wait, wait, I looked it up. First on the list is alcohol, although not in all countries of course. Others are called things like Benzo Fury, 5-IAI, MDAT, Spice, Sence, Magic, Salvia Divinorum, Party Pills, Kratom, GBL, BZP, Raz, Charge, Snow Blow, Happy Caps, Blessed, Diablo, Doves, Summer Haze, Pep Pills, A2, Nemesis, Frenzy and Legal E. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that particularly informative. Maybe (see above) I’m just too old. But when I asked Lord Google, he (of course–he knows what I want to know better than I do) offered me a list of banned legal highs. How, you might ask, can it be both legal and banned?

      Um, I might ask that too. And I have no answer.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Legal highs (booze aside) mainly relates to a class of synthetic drugs which have not been outlawed…and so are legal. They are manufactured and, I believe, often mimic the effects of a controlled substance I.e. an illegal high, like cannabis. Until legislators pass the necessary regulations banning the products, they are legal highs and can (and are) freely sold. When one gets banned, the producers tinker with the ingredients so it is no longer, by definition, the product which has been banned and the game starts again.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure those are all illegal in South Africa. Except alcohol. Our government really wants to make that illegal as well, but that will lead to underspending on the budgets for important state functions and one cannot allow that to happen.

        Liked by 2 people

        • The US experiment in making alcohol illegal wasn’t encouraging. Among other things, it put gangs in charge of alcohol, and made them very rich indeed. Our experience in outlawing drugs hasn’t been impressive either.


  1. Thanks for the smile.
    I love how you come up with all the irrelevant data.
    I never knew the stuff about the places I know even if unenforced. I’m glad to know it.
    Hope you have a peaceful weekend.
    Love, light and glitter

    Liked by 1 person

    • In these days when I have to brace myself to open the morning’s paper, I’m grateful when I find irrelevant data that lightens the mood, and I’m even more grateful to have a way to share it and people who enjoy it. Have a good weekend yourself. (It just started raining here. What more could I ask of life?)

      Liked by 2 people

      • To stop raining? It’s winter already and it’s cold… I really do love the irrelevant data, was cool to see the Lowry mentioned, and getting updates on the madness that constitutes politics – I don’t read the news, I rely on you. Whoops, now you can misinform me.
        Happy weekend!

        Liked by 2 people

        • I know it’s not good for anyone’s mood, but really, I do recommend reading the news. It’s stuff we need to know, sadly. I find the hunt for absurdity improves my mood when I open the paper. I really do look forward to finding those little gems of absurdity.

          Liked by 2 people

            • I think there is something we can do–always. That doesn’t mean we win, but you never know what action will set off another one, or when. My parents were union organizers back in the thirties and forties and they used to say that no strike is ever lost. Everything feeds into other things, often in completely unexpected ways and places.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. What a collection! I thoroughly enjoyed the read today, laughing at human folly and wondering how we manage to reproduce so successfully when we plainly lack significant brainpower to walk, talk and chew gum at the same time!

    The New Zealand insects on Scilly worked out an interesting solution for continuation of their species. The males didn’t do anything worthwhile anyway I suppose, so now are free to drink beer and watch football on the television. LOL!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I saw a video of the “patriotic singing of songs” on the said cruise ship. It was like a vision of hell (my hell, anyway). I can’t understand why people like cruises one bit. I have posted a link here. It’s from the Express – WARNING – DO NOT READ the Express it’s full of over-excited stories about a) impeding natural disasters that never quite materialize and b) dementia (cures and causes) and c) Dog whistle Brexit “articles”.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ll follow the link when I’m feeling stronger (really, I will). I drop off the paper for a disabled neighbor, leaving (sigh) the Express in her door almost every morning, so I see the front page headline. God, it’s awful. The neighbor, on the other hand, is lovely, in spite of her choice of newspaper. The world’s an odd place.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Yes, I used to think that the newspapers were telling lies (they are) and people needed to hear “truth” but now I think it’s people like to feel that they are right and read that in their newspapers. Not a cheering thought, really.

        Liked by 1 person

        • How’s about some newspapers are telling lies–and blatantly. The Guardian seems to be reliable, although I part ways with them on coverage sometimes, either over what they don’t cover or how they slant it. But yeah, lots of people want to be told they’re right and don’t have to think, others just want to be entertained, and I suspect the majority don’t want the news because it’s depressing and they feel they can’t do anything anyway.

          Since our local store closed, the few of us who are regular newspapers share the task of driving to the next village to pick up the papers and it’s made me realize how few people read the paper regularly.


  4. I do wonder how the outside world see this rather strange island. The reason is we have been a small archipelago off Europe for thousands of years. And deloped some sort of parallel universe here. Having studied this island and its insular attitude for years. Still I haven’t quiet got to the bottom of it. And doubt it will change.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Train stations used to have somebody sitting in a kiosk selling tickets. Now more often than not there’s nobody about and we have to navigate through the complexities of the ticket machine. Thank goodness a passenger waiting on the platform was willing to guide the horse out (in days gone by there would have been a guard or two on duty)!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have heard that sleeping better / more helps you live longer…

    but the question is, do you get more done in the long run?

    I would get less done right now if I slept more…but possibly I could save some of those things for the time I gain when I live longer…
    Could I convince work that having the odd day off now was ok because I’d use some of my living longer time to catchup?

    Have I missed the point of all this?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That is a selection of news most welcome – getting back to important items and not mentioning the B word – well only for the stockpiling. At least I now know why the relatives we recently visited had a big kitchen with big cupboards stacked with supplies – though there weren’t any vegetables or fruit to be seen. As for cruises, I always thought they would be full if boring people, but now I want to go on one.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You really do need a love button – and I’m not referring to something that has the same three letters as that unisex bug, I suppose you do have one of those – just a replacement for ‘like’ at the bottom of the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As an eternal pessimist (or a low expectations realist as I call it) I guess i should probably start constructing my coffin now. But then building the coffin would be light exercise which would cancel out the pessimism. Maybe?

    I do know that if I was stuck on a cruise ship with clowns I would be lowering myself in a lifeboat and rowing for the nearest land. That’s how much I hate/fear clowns. However, know what I hate more than clowns? Drunken eedjits behaving like total louts and ruining things for everyone else. So I am full of internal conflicts in my responses to your news flashes today.

    Thank you for ending on such an uplifting note.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Like MinneapolisSt Paul and Buda Pest, London is really two cities (almost three), next to each other. The City of London (aka The ‘square mile’) which is the home of the financial district, is the old city of London, Roman Londinium (mainly), site of the Norman city and so on. The Tower of London is here. The City of Westminster, west of the City along the river, is called London but is outside the original City of London. They are distinct. The City of London has its own Police force, for example, whilst all of the rest of the metropolis is covered by the Metropolitan Police (the Met). South of the richer was, for years, a virtually distinct and separate place called Southwark (pronounced suth-ic). So, sort of a tale of three cities?

    Liked by 1 person

      • East end is exactly what it says, the eastern end of the city, going down river towards the sea and near where all the boats docked and loaded and unloaded. So, traditionally, working class and full of immigrants and transitioning (no longer – this is historic). Remember, at its peak, London was far and away the biggest port in the world. Waves of successive immigrants lived there, so at one point, it’s was a big Jewish area and at another it was Bangladeshi. This is where the opium dens were in Dickens time and it is there that Jack the Ripper stalked and murdered women, mainly prostitutes (docks, sailors, prostitutes being connected). The 2012 Olympic facilities were built in this area as part of its regeneration and the financial district has a second hub here called Canary Wharf – repurposed dock land areas

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks. As you can tell, my understanding of London’s limited. The problem with taking the tube is that you never get a sense of how anything relates to anything else. You go down a rabbit hole. You come up. You’re someplace else. If you do that enough times, you stop wondering what the relationship is.


  11. Having lived near (not far) from the City (big C not small c) of London, more than a few (possibly many) (who counts when you’re having fun?) year’s ago…am I digressing?…it’s so reassuring to know that nothing has changed. Naming buildings, naming ships and boats (Boaty McBoat Face comes foremost to forefront) aggressive name calling, forgetting names but remembering them later (always too late), and forgetting one’s own name has no bearing on, well, anything. Well done. Biscuits out of the tin. Just waiting for you to put the kettle on…..

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you. I am so confused by all the Brexit/Boris chaos that when I saw your title I almost didn’t begin reading. Only the tiniest of mentions on this subject pleased me to no end.
    As well as the horse. I like horses who can think for themselves and are unafraid to seek out new experiences. Oh, and the bugs. I am growing more and more confident that one day, females will rule the world in some form or other.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Gordon Bennet! You don’t arf find some right treats for us!
    I think those floating gin palaces are like convict ships. Not at all surprised things got out of hand, with or without a clown.
    As for small-minded officials banning things…what can i say. Some rules are meant to be broken. I wonder if they’d have put the come-alongs on Joshua Bell that time he fiddled outside the Lincoln Centre…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. You never used to see men who were fashion victims. Men either cared about fashion or didn’t. If they did, they managed to do it right and look good. Guys in very slim pants that hit above their ankles who wear colorful hip socks will not like the photographs they see 15 years form now. The other day I say a guy on the way to the subway wearing pleated, glen plaid pants, hem able the ankle, white shirt, tie, brief case, ordinary short haircut, colorful socks, can’t remember the shoes. He looked like a toned down Ronald MacDonald. I kept trying to puzzle out his dress, but if I had been on a cruise ship and hated “fancy dress” I might have had a different reaction. Maybe the dude who caused the fracas was just a fashion victim. And my goodness, you find all sorts of news of the weird It’s refreshing.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Mother lived in Southampton – cruise ship mecca – and refused ever to go on board having read the accounts of food poisoning in the local rag. Had they advertised a punch up…with or without the disappearing clown…she might have been tempted to take the risk. Bearing her own sandwiches and flask, of course. Given the bar supplies she could have relived her wartime experience and made a Molotov cocktail to add to the jollity.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I don’t generally like clowns, but o don’t think I’d go as far as to start something that ends with blood everywhere. If your market shelves start to go bare, I’m sure we can dust off a few transports and stage an airlift. Cigarettes and Hershey bars for everyone. That’s all we know how to pack. I like the author’s approach. It’s cool to see people put their values ahead of money. I’ll look at that book.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Ellen, this is one of your marvelous posts I can’t even comment on. How does one know where to begin? I don’t really read news, I just sort of hit the highlights, not much more than a headline, maybe the first paragraph. This method keeps me informed of what’s going on, but in a way that won’t be too jarring. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

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