Back from the UK plus some random observations about Norfolk, TV and the elections

Okay, so I’m back from Norfolk. Actually, I got back late Wednesday evening, but I needed yesterday to take care of things that didn’t get done while I was gone. I also took lots of photos, so there will be photo posts in the near future.

But for now, here are just some random observations about Norfolk, British TV and the German elections:

  • The Norfolk Broads are probably the least British looking part of the UK I have ever visited. In fact, the region looks uncannily like the Netherlands or Northern Germany (and of course it is only a short hop – 30 minutes by plane – to Amsterdam). “England dressed up as Holland”, I described it at one point.
  • Consequently, the works of the so-called Norwich School of 19th century landscape painters, many of whose works can be seen in the museum at Norwich Castle, part of a collection assembled by the mustard magnate J.J. Colman, bear a striking resemblance to the works of Dutch and Flemish landscape painters, while some of the later works on display reminded me uncannily of the works of the Worpswede painters to the point that I said, “If you told me that this was a work by a lesser known Worpswede artist, I’d totally believe you.”
  • At first glance, Norwich International Airport looks just like any other small regional British airport. However, if you try to fly out of Norwich, they charge you an “airport development fee” of ten pounds per person. There’s no notice, no advance warning, they simply won’t let you through the departure gate unless you pay up. Though they have a nice elderly lady explaining to you that you must pay, probably because they hope that justifiably enraged passengers won’t take out their anger on a little old lady. Now this one of the worst cash grabs I’ve ever seen. Oh yes, and guess who doesn’t have to pay, since they board through a separate gate? The heliport passengers bound for the gas platforms. To be fair, local British people hate that charge, too.
  • As for the German general election, I pretty much called it in my post last week, though I didn’t expect the liberal (libertarian in the US sense) party FDP to get kicked out of the national parliament altogether. I also didn’t expect Angela Merkel’s victory to be quite so decisive. Still, the signs seem to point towards a great coalition, though the Social Democratic Party is still playing coy (and making demands, having apparently forgotten that they only got around 25% of the vote) and a coalition between Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party and the Green Party is still in the cards as well, as is theoretically a coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Left Party (Dracula coalition?), though that would never work (might be fun to watch, though). Meanwhile, we’re also seeing a metaphorical rolling of political heads (finger-flipping Peer Steinbrück is the latest casualty) unseen since the French revolution.
  • The BBC News election coverage, while not bad, was certainly rather basic, particularly regarding the smaller parties. I had to resort to the Internet to find out how the Left Party or the Pirates did, though a BBC reporter did interview Anke Domscheit-Berg of the Pirate Party as well as  Gayle Tufts, an American entertainer living in Germany. But the highlight of the BBC election coverage was clearly a BBC reporter attempting to explain German parties and coalitions with the help of gummybears and licorice, which was absolutely hilarious. “She forgot the Left Party”, I said, “Were dark red or purple gummybears out? And what party are the white gummybears supposed to represent? The Pirates? The AfD?”
  • I’m really happy that the xenophobic anti-Euro, anti-foreigner, anti-everything party Alternative für Deutschland did not make it into parliament, though I’m kind of pissed that they got 4.8% of the vote. But then, there has always been a certain number of xenophobic arseholes in Germany, though the more moderate of them used to vote CDU.
  • Meanwhile, the British equivalent of the Alternative für Deutschland, the UK Independence Party held its annual conference during the time I was in the UK, where a leading member caused a scandal by calling female members of his own party “sluts”, hitting a journalist and later threatening to shoot that same journalist or maybe his own party chairman. Britain certainly has more colourful xenophobic jerks than Germany.
  • The Labour Party also held its conference in Brighton, while I was in the UK. And of course, the conference got a lot of coverage on the British news programs, much to the annoyance of my friend and myself, since we couldn’t have cared less. “So when is their election anyway?”, my friend asked me during yet another interminable report about the Labour conference. “In 2015”, I replied. “So they’re making all that uproar for an election that won’t be until 2015? From all the speechifying I’d have thought it was next month or so.” And indeed, there was more campaigning on display at that party conference two years before the next general election in the UK than there was anywhere two month before the German election.
  • Our neighbours in Austria are also having a general election this weekend. They also have one of those online quizzes which ask you questions on policy and then determine which party is the best fit for you. It thinks I should vote for the Austrian communists or the Pirate Party BTW.
  • Meanwhile, I was very pleased by the extensive coverage the BBC gave to the shopping centre siege in Kenya, especially since from what I could glean from German news sites, the German media had relegated the topic to the “And further news” block near the end of the main news programs, which – as I was once told point blank – is for topics such as disasters in foreign countries which are too big to ignore, but not considered relevant for German viewers/readers. “But I think an earthquake in India is relevant”, I said, “I don’t think German political blather is necessarily relevant.” So that’s one point where the BBC is better than the German news media. It does not automatically consider terrorist attacks affecting mainly people of colour irrelevant.
  • While on the topic of TV, is it me or has the quality of British TV declined significantly? For while I was there, there was almost no decent drama on the telly. There was an episode of New Tricks with a conclusion so stupid it made me actively angry, there was Orphan Black, which has gotten a lot of good press in the US, but which totally failed to impress me, there was Downton Abbey, which I can’t stand at all, and there was a new show called By Any Means, which looked halfway decent. Oh yes, and I saw a trailer for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which looked really good (more once I watched it). Still a disappointing yield overall.
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11 Responses to Back from the UK plus some random observations about Norfolk, TV and the elections

  1. Pingback: E-readers spotted in the wild, while in the UK | Pegasus Pulp

  2. Daveon says:

    The party conferences have been a big media thing in the UK for pretty much as long as I can remember.

    Political parties get very little air time under UK law but they get their conferences covered every year. Strange but true.

    The Conservative party conference and the Lib Dem conference will get the same coverage and treatment. And it’s not just the news. They’ll actually cover the stuff live too.

    • Cora says:

      German party conferences get coverage, too, at least for the bigger parties, but it’s these days mostly limited to some clips on the news, a fifteen minute special in a graveyard slot (usually broadcast right before the cultural programming, which means that those of us who watch the cultural programs have to sit through the bloody party conference coverage beforehand) and live coverage on an information and documentary channel that everybody has, but hardly anybody watches, similar to the parliamentary channels that many countries have.

      But German parties don’t have annual conferences. Instead, they only have conferences when there are major decisions to be made. So watching near wall to wall coverage of what looks very much like a pre-election conference some two years before a general election is just plain weird.

      • Daniela says:

        Shall I out myself as someone who regularly watches things like phoenix/br alpha and such? I love documentaries and the constant repeats make a nice background noise for writing. I think by now I’ve seen every 3rd Reich documentary Guido Koch has ever done.

        • Daniela says:

          Duh, Guido Kopp of course not Koch.

        • Daniela says:

          Duh, Guido Knopp of course not Koch.

        • Cora says:

          I occasionally watch Phoenix, too, though I prefer 3sat and arte. The documentaries are generally quite good on either channel. However, I’m hardly the usual German TV viewer. And I certainly don’t watch the live coverage of party conventions, union conventions and parliamentary debates.

          I have known only one person who actually watched the Bundestag debates, back when there were still only three channels and ARD/ZDF broadcast them. That person was an old East German man we knew, who never watched West TV or allowed his wife to watch it except for Bundestag debates. He always watched those – hate-watching I guess you could call it. When my great aunt (who was a neighbour of the couple and where the wife took refuge to watch West TV) told us the story, my approx. 14-year-old self blurted out, “Well, if he only watches parliamentary debates, no wonder he hates our TV. Everybody hates those, cause they’re so infernally boring.”

          I’m an awe of you having watched every 3rd Reich documentary Guido Kopp has ever done BTW. I think that man has by now made more documnetaries about the Third Reich than the Third Reich lasted altogether.

          • Daniela says:

            I think my father occassionally watched Bundestagsdebatten, or at least he had it on when I sometimes dropped by. But I think it was mostly just background noise while he was sleeping or doing something else and not actual wtaching. But who knows, he also used to watch Der Schwarze Kanal while we were still living in Berlin and before the Wall came down. But like me and you my dad wasn’t your typical German TV viewer.

            I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all the Knopp-3rd Reich docus, some even several times because Phoenix or ZDFInfo often have them in reruns and I have them on as background noise while I write/surf/read/do paperwork. I like the narrator.

            The number of documentaries he’s done is truly astounding. But I am still waiting for one called Hitler and his Animals, or Hitler and Vegetarinism. Maybe Hitler’s Secretaries?

            They were a decent entry into the topic but now I’m reading Prof. Evans books and have the Kershaw-biography on my wish list. The books by Richard J. Evans are very interesting, especially as he starts with Bismark and the creation of the Empire and goes on from there to explain things happening during the Weimarer Republic. I’m reading the English original and at the beginning, for the first time in a very long time, I was wondering if I should have picked up the translation. He also had some interesting thoughts about why he translated most of the German terms into English and didn’t use the German terms like Führer that many people are so familiar with.

            • Cora says:

              The “Hitler’s Something or Other” titles (Hitler’s Soldiers, Hitler’s Children, Hitler’s Generals, Hitler’s Women, Hitler’s Buildings, Hitler’s Music etc…) documentary titles got so common at one point that I thought, “Okay, now all we’re missing is Hitler’s Dogs and Hitler’s Penis.” Shortly thereafter, a documentary about Hitler’s German shepherd dog Blondie came out, though they did not call it Hitler’s Dogs. I’m still waiting on the penis, though. Hitler’s Vegetarianism might be quite interesting, though. As for Hitler’s Secretaries, there is a lengthy documentary/interview with Hitler’s former secretary. Der Untergang was also partly based on her memories.

              BTW, I know exactly which narrator you mean. He does most of those ARD/ZDF historical documentaries, not just the Hitler ones. I like his voice as well.

  3. Mark says:

    The lack of more coverage of the Kenya events on German TV irritated me as well.

    • Cora says:

      I understand that the election got more coverage, but the news sites even gave more coverage to that court case about the 17-year-old who killed his mother and little brother than to the events in Kenya. I guess this is a typical case of the “No German victims, therefore it does not matter” attitude that has been infuriating me since forever.

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