Travel notes: Oxton, Wirral

Visiting the in-laws in Oxton on the Wirral (near Birkenhead), I found a good new coffee shop in Oxton village. Moose Coffee (perhaps called that because the premises used to be a hairdresser) is a New York-y place with pretty good coffee and a range of american style breakfasts. My latte was on the milky side, but the buzz and ambience even on a Midwinter Thursday, were great.

Samantha Smith & Rachel Corrie

An interesting and poignant post on Metafilter concerns Samantha Smith, a 10-year-old girl who wrote to Yuri Andropov asking him whether the USSR was going to declare war on the US. She died young, in a plane crash.

Matteo makes an interesting comment comparing the treatment of her death in pre-Internet days and the treatment of Rachel Corrie on right-wing blogs.

Repeal a law you don’t understand

The Today Prorgramme is once again running its public vote on ‘a law we’d want to repeal’, and like so much of the programme these days, it’s completely uninformed pub politics. They’ve had people on the programme making more or less (usually less) cogent arguments about various candidates, and have now whittled the long list down to six.

You can vote on them here, though to be honest I wouldn’t encourage it. Indeed, I wouldn’t particularly encourage visiting the page, as there’s very little information either pro or con on any of the options: just audio clips of people condemning the laws.

And what are the laws in question? Two of them are perhaps reasonable candidates – the provision to ban protestors outside Parliament, and the Act of Settlement that prevents Catholics becoming monarchs. Two are pressure-group related – the Hunting Act and the Dangerous Dogs Act. And the final two are ill-informed bits of nonsense that neither the voters or the programme presenters appear to understand – the Bloody EU telling us what to do, I hate the bloody French Act of 1972, and the And they let out the black blokes what do murders but they won’t let me do fifty in a thirty zone, bloody human rights act, innit Act of 1998.

The worst of it that this circle-knee-jerk is presented as some form of grassroots democracy – a way for ‘the people’ (or at least that microset of them that listen to the Today programme) to kick back at the excesses of the ruling class. No matter that understanding the EU and our relations with it is a lecture series not a soundbite, or that arguing against Human Rights is perhaps a little 1930s Germany. Why would discussion or information matter when you have prejudice? What’s the point of treating the people with respect when you can have Oxbridge-educated radio producers pat you on the back for how democratic you are and then ignore you the other 364 days of the year?

I’m a conscientious abstainer.

They’ll always have Paris

Bizarrely fascinating story on the BBC about the Japanese tourists (a dozen or so each year) whose romantic visions of Paris are so crushed by the realities and petty rudenesses of Parisian life that they just flip out, and have to be taken home under psychiatric supervision.

I wonder whether there’s a similar syndrome in reverse for Westerners who arrive in Tokyo.