Black Tickets, Baker Street and Community Chest

What ho, everybody? I was busy having tea, scones, warm ale and fine cut marmalade all of last week and therefore could not find time to post. Work took me to Peterborough, Cambridgeshire and do not think that the borough (of Peter) is just a sleepy village in East Anglia, because it has something that cannot found anywhere else in the known universe. It has something that even the mighty Hercules could not find as part of his 13th task. It has something that is such an object of international desire, an object that has spawned wars of horrendous magnitude and queues that can only be measured in light years. It felt like Columbus setting foot on the sandy shores of what he thought was India while lush choral music played in the background to indicate that this was a moment of ecstatic joy after a long time of struggle, of many shops visited, raided and being told that the only thing available as a replacement for the object in question was disappointment. Yes, hallelujah and all that. A shop in Peterborough had

The Nintendo Wii in stock.

So now I can play EA Sports’ Kamalhassan Wii Silambu (Think Mortal Kombat using Silambu). Or the cheesy romantic Wii Dandia (where the user has to use two wiimotes and weave his way through complex dance patterns and make synchronized contact with the other virtual dandia dancers, and failure to do so will result in one’s virtual girlfriend (or boyfriend) dumping the user for a better dandia dancer), or the high-adrenalin competitive Wii Mottai, where the wiimote is used as a tonsurer’s knife, and one can compete in multiplayer mode to find out who can shave the most heads in 5 minutes.

Wait. Those games don’t exist, you say? Oh damnation. Ok. I’ll stick to Wii Sports and Mario Kart then.

Back to Peterborough though. The Brits in that part of England pronounce “borough” like a piece of women’s undergarment, and that same rational logic is applied when considering the “w” to be silent in “Norwich”. In fact, the saying goes that while “Foster’s” is Owstrylian for beer, “Foucester’s” is English for ale. I strongly suspect that PG Wodehouse was actually an undisclosed American because no true-blooded, tea-drinking, ale-swigging, jam-loving, umbrella-toting Brit would ever consider spelling the hapless Bertram’s last name “Wooster”. I’m not even British, but years of being enidblytonized and wrenandmartinized causes me to immediately spell that as “Worcester”. A few other rules of conversation in that part of England – Men call each other “Guv”. (“That’ll be 10 quid, guv“). Women call each other “Darling” (“That lipstick looks appalling, darling“), and cross-gender conversation usually ends with “Luv”, ( “Would you like some tea, luv?“).

Apart from the game store where the precious Wii is available in stock, Peterborough has just one landmark worth seeing – a magnificent 12th century Norman cathedral.

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After 4 days of work there, I had a Saturday that I had to spend in London, also known as “The city with too many things that remind you of the board games Monopoly and Scotland Yard“. I left my baggage at the cloak room in King’s Cross station, took a customary photo of platform 9 and three-quarters and hopped into a bus going down to Westminster Abbey where I saw the grave of Issac Newton. I expected to see something on the lines of an apple, but it looked more like a semi-peeled orange (photo from Wikipedia)

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It was when I was walking across London Bridge (which wasn’t falling at that moment in time) that I heard Big Ben strike 9. Approximately E C D G G D E C (Ga Sa Ri Pa Pa Ri Ga Sa). Possibly Mohanam, but hard to confirm without the presence of Dha. With the ever increasing immigration of of Indians, I think it is only fair that some gamagam be introduced in Big Ben’s trademark chime.

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Apparently, England has been getting hotter because of Al Gore’s inconvenient truth, so the good authorities in London have decided to cool things down with Almonard. A really large Almonard industrial man-cooler.

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I then walked across to Charing Cross station where I found a pub named “Sherlock Holmes”, and for some reason, it reminded me of the following 3 questions

  • What type of school do young kids go to? (Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary)
  • What tree bears citrus fruit used to make pickle that goes well with curd rice? (A lemon tree, my dear Watson, a lemon tree)
  • What canal that serves a “digestive” purpose are you likely to find inside the human body? (Alimentary, my dear Watson, alimentary)

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Interestingly thought, Holmes never actually uses that particular combination of words in any story.

Walking down Northumberland avenue, I happen to land on “Community Chest” which ordered me to advance to Trafalgar square where I found the inscription on this statue rather interesting.

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Where is the Hindu Makkal Katchi when we need them? Where is the Shiv Sena? We should immediately demand that this statue be taken down and replaced with one of Aamir Khan in Mangal Pandey garb.

In Trafalgar square, there is a rather nice looking fountain and one of them features dolphins being used as water hoses, which when added to other less than stellar roles such as “Secondary Seaworld attraction to Shamu the killer whale”, “Mine detector for US Navy” and “Mistaken by fish net for tuna”, sort of explains why they eventually decided to say “So long and thanks for all the fish” and leave earth altogether.

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After Trafalgar square, I took the underground to Tottenham Court road, where I saw the Rosetta stone in the British museum. The museum also explained how the Sphinx is likely to have lost its nose, but I think they got it wrong. Obelix did it, in “Asterix and Cleopatra”. Leaving the museum behind, I then turned towards Fleet street, and was shocked to see this.

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I know outsourcing has had its impact on the job market in the West, but butlers too? Is this what it has come to, Jeevesy boy? Dry cleaning? Sad. Walking down the Strand (and thereby covering the troika of red coloured tiles, Trafalgar Square, Fleet Street and Strand), the magnificent St. Paul’s came into view. It is truly one of the great churches in the world. Designed by Christopher Wren in 1675, the view from the Whisperers gallery is nothing short of astounding. And oh, you can also whisper into the walls from where you stand, and others standing diametrically opposite can hear it through the section of the wall close to them. Holy Telephony!

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I then took the underground to Tower hill and did what every self respecting desi does in London. See the Koh-e-noor and claim (not loud enough for the Brits to hear though) that it was stolen from India and therefore rightfully belongs to us. Poor diamond. Ever since it’s been on display in the Jewel house inside the Tower of London, it has had to suffer an untold number of Indians casting “boori nazar” on it. I recommend that the royal family drishti-sutthufy it to ensure that it does not start going pale and unlustrous as a result of all this ownership claiming. As a spoil of war, this diamond has changed hands many times. So if one considers the length of ownership to be an important factor, the Mughals, who were technically foreigners, owned it for the longest known period of time, and therefore the Koh-e-Noor should be returned to modern day Uzbekistan.

The Tower also has funnily dressed storytellers called Yeoman-Warders, some of whom are also Ravenmasters, and they take care of the XXL size ravens that inhabit the tower. Legend has it that London will fall if the ravens leave the tower, and so these supersized crows are utterly and completely pampered. They are so large that one could make 2 plates of Biriyani. For Vivek, i.e

After the 12th century tower, I jumped forward in time and across the Thames to the Tate museum of modern art, where I learnt that a red cardboard box filled with old newspapers can symbolize (with a suitable amount of willing suspension of disbelief) the angst of youth bombarded with mainstream messages of conformism leading to feelings of suppressed violence. Stuff like that. And with that, it was 5 pm and I had to get back to King’s Cross, pick up my luggage and take the underground to Heathrow, where I was picked up for what seems like the thousandth time, a “random” extra security checkup. As usual.

ps: flickr photos here