Friday, October 23, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #369] Complete

My new Banksy came today, and with it, I have something on every wall I want to now.  My flat is now complete.  I hope it's a good while before the first revision/repair/refit...

Cheers (quite literally, as I have a glass of wine next to me right now to celebrate),
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #368] Mein Liebchen

I went to Berlin for the first time in 2003, not knowing much more about it than the Wall and the Fernsehturm, and I fell in love with the city within 20 minutes of leaving the airport. I went again in 2007 and then continued my torrid affair this weekend. Russ accompanied me and I am happy to say he was wowed and seduced in much the same way I was; Berlin has continued to impress.

Honestly, it's got to be the coolest city in the world right now. It just has everything right - the vibe, the style, the people, the pace, the architecture (the criminal demolition of the Palast der Republik notwithstanding), the cost and (not insignificantly) the boys. I used to say Madrid's the hottest, but Berlin's the sexiest, but I am not so sure any more. I go back to the Spanish capital in three weeks, so I'll reevaluate that maxim then. The city's all about enjoying and being yourself. Berlin air breaths free.

I could go on and on, but I have before, so won't again. It's sufficient to say I had a great weekend and I will not be letting two more years lapse before my next tryst. I love my London life, but I am very comforted in knowing I have such a splendid mistress so close.

Tschüß,
Shaun


Some pics attached below, full set at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=166647&id=713081334&l=215a52a345


My favourite spot on Earth, Alexanderplatz, the old commercial centre of East Berlin


Fernsehturm from Alexanderplatz

How Berlin was divided

The Weltzeituhr (World Clock)

East Berlin flats and the Rotes Rathaus, Berlin's city hall.


Central East Berlin

The Berlinerdom and the vacant lot that was once the impressive Palast der Republik, shamefully demolished to make way to rebuild a faux Prussian palace. (This isn't Disneyland, it's Berlin, epicentre of the Cold War. )

Brandenburg Gate

The street in front of Brandenburg Gate. The bricks in the road show where the Wall used to run (they do this for the entire length of the Wall).

The Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate

The Holocaust Memorial. From Wikipedia, the blocks "are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason".

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial


A map showing where the wall ran

The longest bit of wall remaining in the centre


Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, damaged in bombing in WWII, left in ruins as a memorial


Miss Piggy at Barbie Bar


Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #367] Room for rent in Shadwell, E1

New, modern, well-kitted flat with great views and transport links.  Can move in immediately.  Previous tenant has relocated to Berlin.  Contact Marco for details.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #366] Jings Crivvens help ma boab, shoot the craw, byraway!

...and that* pretty much sums up Glasgow.

OK, OK, I guess that's a little unfair as, superficially, it's not so bad - a fairly average British city (from what I hear it was like 20 years ago, this is a drastic improvement), not overly stately or overly harsh, containing all the usual chains. Uninspirational, but certainly not egregious.

Until you go to the gay bars, that is. When I was online talking to locals to find out where to go, a lot of them said things like "Oh, I don't like going out in Glasgow any more." And I can see why. My friend Paul summed it up perfectly: "I had so much trouble finding a gay bar in Glasgow". He was probably in them and just didn't know it. I've never been to a city other than Milton Keynes with more straight women in the "gay" bars.

Now, before the mob forms to tar and feather me to chants of "misogynist", I am fine with some mixing at my bars. But many of these bars had over 50% straight women. When you start getting that kind of flow, the straight men start coming and soon the gays are isolated to a small corner of the space à la the Pink Punter. The people were friendly and drinks cheap as promised, but it's been a while since I've had such a thoroughly unenjoyable night out. This is why Manchester has started implementing door policies, to keep the unique and lovely character of Canal Street from becoming the latest hen night runway.

Hey ho, sometimes you get Manchester, sometimes you get Glasgow. What're you gonna do?

Cheers,
Shaun

*Roughly: My god, quick, let's leave!



Some pics attached, full set @ http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=165234&id=713081334&l=345b29ba7f


01) DSC00021 - The leaning rubbish bin of Glasgow, Scotland's #2 tourist attraction after Loch Ness


02) DSC00022 - Glasgow's high street


03) DSC00023 - The street where we stayed


04) DSC00025 - My new favourite store!


05) DSC00034 - I think this is city hall...


06) DSC00037 - Love the St. Enoch


07) DSC00041 - Glaswegians love and cherish their riverside.


08) DSC00043 - Russ and a Scottish beut


09) DSC00045 - Such a proud city!


10) DSC00049 - Another disappointing night begins...


11) DSC00051 - Must... stop... the... pain.


12) DSC00496 - Ah, Glasgow!

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #365] Béal Feirste

I continued my tour of Britain over the weekend with a 26-hour jaunt to Belfast, Northern Ireland, with my flatmate, Marco. Shamefully lured by £20 inclusive return flights, we packed our allowed 12 ounces of carry-on luggage and set off in a plastic plane over the Irish Sea.

Turns out, 26 hours in Belfast is enough. I didn't think too much about the city before going, and it wasn't even till we were on our way that it came back into my frontal lobe that I am quite interested in The Troubles* and grew excited to see some of the separation barriers and such, à la touring the Berlin Wall and East Berlin. I asked the hotel front desk where I could see these things, but my the friendly assistant was rather unwilling to promote this aspect of her city and referred us to a city tour so we could get more of an encompassing history. We duly paid our £12.50 and did our ten minute (OK, 1h15) tour of Belfast, which was cool, but sadly dwelled much less than I'd wanted on The Troubles and its divisions.

We went through a main Catholic and main Protestant neighbourhood, saw the Peace Wall, murals commemorating events for both sides, Divis Tower and a separation barrier, but zoomed through it all in a way that didn't allow much of a sense of what it's like on the ground. As an American, it was weird to think that people who were just as white as their neighbours could have a sweeping prejudice against them. Of course, religion's really just a proxy for views on whether Northern Ireland should be reunited with the rest of the island or remain an outpost of Whitehall, and I don't maintain it's even as shallow as that, but the surface-level effect is still quite odd.

So, culture done, we headed out to the real point of the trip: booze, bars and boys! The streets of Belfast had been hinting to us all day what we would find once we were out, and from the first karaoke song to the last drink at a club more than eight hours later, Belfast did not disappoint: it was truly chavtastic. At one point, as we were walking between beer purchases, Marco said to me "Those girls don't really exist. I just dreamed them up in my head" so Middlesbroughesque were they. And indeed, that's how Belfast felt, by no means in magnitude, but in character. Belfast could be Middlesbrough's older brother; the one that got out of town, but never really got away.

It's much less lively than Dublin, and lacked a certain buzz of the Irish capital (of course, I was there in the days of the Celtic tiger), but the people were just as golden and I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically love the accent. I'd go back if prompted, but I've got other places to see if I am the one setting the itinerary.

Slán,
Shaun

Some pics attached, full album @ http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=4222670&l=700ff79fff&id=713081334

*For several decades there were harsh tensions (euphemistically called 'The Troubles') between the mostly Catholic residents who resented Britain's occupation of Ireland and the mostly Protestant, pro-British remnants of that occupation. The IRA is the most known outcrop from the fight for independence, and it bombed cities around Britain and other aggressions in its struggle (though, almost chivalrously by today's standards, they called into a bomb site before it went off so the site could be evacuated). The IRA has since been replaced by its political arm, Sinn Féin, which partakes in the current power-sharing government. Northern Ireland is still one of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom and peace prevails, but the neighbourhoods are still largely segregated along sectarian lines and locals are happy to tell you that America was right to dump Britain or not, depending on which side of the Pope they fall.

01. DSC00001 - Not Belfast, but I like this tube station and it was in the same roll. :-)


02. DSC00003 - What you get for £20 - oh, the joy of RyanAir!


03. DSC00006 - View from our hotel including the "Belfast Eye".


04. DSC00008 - The Peace Wall, lined with murals honouring various separation and anti-suppression movements


05. DSC00009 - A separation wall dividing mainly Protestant Unionist (pro-UK) and mainly Catholic Nationalist (pro-Ireland) neighbourhoods


06. DSC00011 - Who designed this sign?


07. DSC00013 - Belfast City Hall


08. DSC00014 - The tower block in the distance is Divis Tower. Until two years ago, the British military occupied the top two floors as their base for their operations in West Belfast and as a guard tower overlooking the city. After the military left, the council asked the residents what they'd like to do with the roof, and they asked for a curved roof to ensure no helicopters would ever land on it again. Sidenote, the building houses single and divorced men, so its nickname in the neighbourhood is the Heartbreak Hotel.


09. DSC00015 - Ah, finally!


10. DSC00030 - Belfast's leaning clock. It tilts four feet to one side as this street, which paves over a river Fleet style, can't support it.


11. DSC00032 - Outer Belfast looking over its harbour.


12. DSC00035 - You know you're in for a classy time when a city names its airport after footballer George Best, who said one of my favourite quotes ever: "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."


Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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