English Cops Shows & Karaoke

I found that most people who live in Newcastle are untouched by the Norman castle there, the one that looms over the River Tyne between the rail station and the Guildhall. To them the antiquities that all the tourists take pictures of are just rock walls.

They want American culture, not this half-rate British ruralism. They are charicatures of the American college student: They drink a lot and start early, and they appreciate the finer parts of cops shows (including domestically produced versions, which are in some ways more violent since nobody has guns so they just beat people senseless with sticks).

I stopped in Newcastle for a day on my way back south from Edinburgh to see the castle and the squat remains of Hadrian's Wall. None of the buses were running out to the best sites in the downs, so I settled for the Roman forts in the city itself.

The British built a road over Segedunum before they knew it was there and never bothered to move it. It still covers half the buildings and who knows what else. The rest of the foundation has been dug up, pathed, and marked so it looks like a blueprint made of stone and gravel. 20 feet of the 74 miles of Hadrian's Wall are across the street, so reduced they look like a sidewalk.

In a rebuilt bathhouse on the fort ground a big man in lorica segmentata inducted 30 elementary school kids into the Roman Legion VI. First Spear Centurion Maximus showed them their new equipment and included all the gory details about face-stabbings and just how a Roman javelin bends or breaks after it goes right through an enemy's back. The kids jumped back when he gave his war cry and demonstrated how best to skewer a Pict.

His presentation over, Maximus ripped up a tarp and pulled out leather vests, helmets, swords, and shields for everyone. They all dressed up and marched around in a bad turtle formation while their parents threw plastic balls at them and giggled. One four-year-old girl stood out front waving her gladius like a baton while the Centurion shouted things in Latin so it looked like the world's most fascist entry into a pre-school parade.

I crossed the Tyne on a ferry and went to Arbeia, a resupply fort named for the Arabs who manned it. It was more complete than Segundum and had a pit and a few columns still conspicuous. It was closed so I had to hop the fence to take a few pictures.

On Sunday I took an overnight bus from Newcastle to Bath, which was patriated by the same angry poor people who take the night buses in the states. It's a small, quaintly English town with the ruins of a Roman bath house and a Jane Austen museum. They run tour buses out to Stonehenge and the village where the BBC shot Pride & Prejudice and sell lifesize posters of Colin Firth.

I came back to London on Thursday and noticed immediately that the British are terrible at naming stores. Either go with the arcane (Forp, a clothing store), the obscene (Get Shitty, Dirty Dick's, The Bad Ass, all bars) or the uninspired (Eat, Tea).

Walkabout is an Australian bar in West Hamstead, London, just down some stairs and streets from the hostel. I went to the karaoke night there after I got back to London this week. It was terrible. Everyone who sang was awkwardly sober, and the bar closed at midnight. I don't think the English know how karaoke is supposed to work.

I leave today for Canterbury, then go to Paris on an overnight bus.


  1. Get Shitty. hahahaha.

  2. more crazy stories and less history!!! haha
    so you wouldnt believe what jp, arren, and i are playing right now......think leroy jenkins....

  3. Katy McDonald22 February, 2009

    i want to go to dirty dicks. and i agree with jordan, you need more stories!

  4. It's my blog, I'll do what I want. Next up: Lesson on the social implications of the French Revolution.

  5. LEEEEEEEEROOOOY ARGGHH JENNKIIIIIIINS ... haha i think that you have a 99.69% chance, *rounded of course* to have a better time if you spend more time in southern london ... much better people, moods, and the food is unreal .. and when you are in paris try to not be a tourist for one day and go to the wine country in the south, pay someone a small fee to live in their bougeat in the hills and you can wake up to what is still the cooooolest mornings ever. Plus the women are finnnne.

  6. Katy McDonald25 February, 2009

    p.s. why is there no quote for this blog? i love the quotes

  7. Thanks for the tip JP. It's not the right time for wine country travels just yet, but I'll try to get out of the cities and see some of it when I'm along the Adriatic and Aegean. Should be cheaper in Croatia and Greece, too.


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