Friday, 31 May 2013

The stuff wot we have done

It’s half term here in the UK, one week holiday and then the rest of the term to go. I know all my American peeps have finished, but we still have seven weeks left so don’t talk to me about it. Even after nearly a decade of living here my body clock still registers US time when it comes to the end of the school year. By the end of May I start to get antsy. Shouldn’t we be finished by now? Thank goodness for half term.

 We’ve been busy beavers having a few day trips and nice surprises in honour of our wedding anniversary next week. I’ll go into detail on all the little bits next week, but here are a few highlights from our day trips.


We ambled into London to our old friend The British Library. They do so many interesting exhibits and talks, we practically live there. We also love it as it literally a stone’s throw from King’s Cross station. We went to see their new exhibit on Propaganda and boy was it interesting (and not just because the exhibit told us it was). It had a variety of items from paintings of Napoleon and Chairman Mao that tried to use symbolism to convince us they were the chosen leader to some WWII propaganda --some about careless talk costs lives, but some about dig for victory and getting people to grow more veg. There was even Potato Pete and his friend Doctor Carrot to convince children to eat more veg. There was also a cheerful ditty you could listen to on headphones about our vegetable friends. Somehow hearing a talking potato say, “Hey kids, I taste great in soup!” makes me feel like a cannibal, but what do I know? 

How many times have you heard that carrots are good for your eyes? That carrots help you see in the dark? I heard this all my life, but it turns out that this was just propaganda invented in WWII and spouted off by the likes of Doctor Carrot who said that British pilots were eating loads of carrots to help them shoot down German planes. Carrots were easy to grow at home and this was said to encourage more people to grow them and eat them. It would, supposedly, help you see in a blackout. But it was all spin made up by the Society for Eating More Carrots (or whatever they were called). Interesting, no? It gets better.

They had the *actual* Protect and Survive manuals given out by the government in the event of a nuclear attack during the Cold War. The advice was ludicrous and everyone would have ended up dead. Well you would have, wouldn’t you? In a nuclear attack making a “lean to” shelter using your doors angled at precisely 60 degrees would make all the difference, right?

Then there was Bert The Turtle. He was the mascot for children to teach them how to duck and cover. Because we all know that if you duck and cover, the radiation and fall out will just magically pass you by. There was also a cheerful jingle that took three people to write about be like Bert the Turtle and duck and cover. Spiderman and I both recall having duck and cover drills at school--they said it was for hurricanes--but now we are wondering.
how we were taught to do it in school


After the exhibit we pottered over to our favourite restaurant Tibits for a gorgeous meal. I should mention at this point that it has been cold and *pissing* down with rain all week. Everywhere we went we were slightly soggy despite wearing our cagoules. A cagoule for those who don’t know the term is like a small waterproof windbreaker with a hood that you can roll up and stow away in your bag when it is not raining. We didn’t really get to take them off all week.


Then it was of to Foyles bookshop--a wonderful five story bookshop. We try to get books from places like them as we are trying boycott Amazon as they don’t pay their taxes. Seriously, they are that disgraceful kind of legal tax dodger with offshore accounts. We’d rather give our money to more honest companies. But I digress.


We were there to do several things--browse some books and see Joe Hill. For those of you who do not know him--you *must* go now to you local comic book shop and purchase the graphic novels series Locke and Key. That’s an order. This amazing series, so complex and layered, with history and horror and characters you genuinely care about will knock your socks off. We start every issue with a tickle fight to see who gets to read it first when it comes through the post and end every issue screaming, “Nooooooooooo!!!!!” because the cliffhanger is so unbearable. There are three issues left and I don’t think I can bear it. I think some of my favourite people are going to die.


Anyway, we are huge fans of his other works as well. Check out his collection of *brilliant* short stories Twentieth Century Ghosts or his novels Heart Shaped Box and Horns (soon to be a major motion picture starring Daniel Radcliffe)  But we were there to hear him talk about his newest novel NOS 4R2 (or NOS 4A2 as it is in the US--for pronunciation sake)

British (left) American (right)

Still can’t figure it out? NOS 4R2 is the vanity plate on a car--say it out loud. Nosferatu Geddit?

He was just as gracious as he was the last time we saw him and he kindly signed a bunch more books for us. Seriously. Check him out.

 That was the stuff wot we done on Tuesday. Stay tuned for the further exploits.  

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