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.