lemon abroad

UK Update - GISHWHES and Snowdon

Last week I participated once again in


- the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.  Created by Misha Collins (an actor most famous for his role on


), and raising money for the charity

Random Acts

, this video-and-photo hunt challenges people to move outside their comfort zone, attempt the impossible, and also perform random acts of kindness along the way.  I participated last year and this year, since I was going to be away from my team, I roped some colleagues in the UK into helping me.  It made for a fairly busy second week in Southampton, as I was arm wrestling movie theatre employees for tickets to

Guardians of the Galaxy

, creating art installations out of dishes (complete with artist statements), creating monuments to the founder of Rubber Gloves, Harris Packard, and dressing up co-workers as fish, the Flash and Batman for various ridiculous things.  

One of the major challenges on the list was to climb one of Table Mountain (South Africa), Mt. Fuji (Japan), Mt. Sinai (Egypt), Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), or Mt. Snowdon (Wales).  Being only a 5 hour drive from Wales, my paralegal Indy and I decided to give it a go, and got up very early last Friday morning to make the drive to Wales.

Wales (what I saw of it), was everything I hoped it would be.  Beautiful, idyllic, friendly, with sheep running everywhere...and don't forget the delicious, delicious Welsh cakes.  Snowdon was breathtakingly beautiful and we met up with several other teams at the summit, who we then walked back down the mountain with.  Without GISHWHES, I would never have gone to this beautiful place, or made new friends.  Plus it gave me like, 28,000 steps on my Fitbit for the day, which was rad.  

I wish we had stayed overnight, but instead we undertook the drive home, after getting down off the mountain at 9 pm or so.  We arrived home in the very early hours of Saturday morning, and I spent most of the weekend recovering, binge-watching Orphan Black and chilling out.  The remains of Hurricane Bertha hit Southampton last weekend, and you've never heard anything like the wind and rain that whistled around the flat all weekend. At one point the skylights in my flat, which is right on a pier, blew open and hail started pouring in.  I stumbled around the apartment on stiff-post-Snowdon legs, pushing the skylights back in with a pole, only to have them blow open again minutes later.  It was probably a comical sight, but I felt like I was in some sort of carnival game, trying to anticipate which one would blow open next.

I'm up in London now, which is obviously much more familiar turf.  I'm making a list of all the sights I was too lazy to see when I lived here, thinking I'd have all the time in the world, and am determined to check them all off before I leave in just over two weeks.  I am getting very homesick and lonely and at least this will give me something to do, rather than wallowing in those feelings.  I've also been asked to be a reviewer of submissions for some of the GISHWHES video tasks, which will keep me busy watching some of the craziness other GISHWHES teams around the world got up to.  So, lots to keep me distracted.  16 days until home.

I texted my brother to let him know I was in Wales. He made a joke about needing to get Welsh cakes and I was pleased to be able to text back this photo, saying, "Oh you mean THESE?"

Just breathtaking views on Snowdon, and so different from our BC landscape.

Indy and I at the summit of Snowdon.

First Week...Home?

I've been back in the UK for a week now.  It feels like I've been here longer than that - and also like I haven't been away from here for that long (I was last here in February).  That's the funny, and I guess reassuring, thing about feeling like you are at home in a few different places.  Although it's sad that I don't feel that novelty of a new place when I come here anymore - that feeling of wonder and discovery - it does help with the homesickness.  If only Curriecat was more amenable to travel, I'd be set. 

I'm spending the first few weeks of my stay in Southampton, where my company has an office.  I'm staying in our company flat, which is perched above our offices on a quay in the middle of the port, literally in the ferry terminal where you can catch a boat to the Isle of Wight.  I can hear ferry safety announcements from my bed, and have glanced up a few times while in the living room to see a very large cruise ship sail perilously close to my window.  I've been up to London a few times, both for work and for pleasure, but have largely been spending time getting to know new co-workers and exploring Southampton.  I thought I'd give a little update on what I got up to this week:

This is a funny little monument I found in Southampton's High Street dedicated to some citizens who fought a fire in a local church.  Typically Victorian - desperately in need of an editor to cut out a few adjectives.

This is the monument.  The clock tower has a funny little cuckoo clock kind of apparatus, where two little male figures appear and beat a bell on the hour.

Sunset from my balcony.  Southampton is a working port, with huge shipping vessels as well as cruise ships and ferries to the Isle of Wight passing by regularly.

The Titanic sailed from Southampton.  There is a museum on the subject that I have yet to visit, but on one of my nightly strolls I found this monument to the Titanic's engineers.

I'll be going up to London once a week or so while I'm in Southampton.  This past week I took my boss (also visiting) to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street - the oldest pub in London and still an OK place to grab a pint.

I've been doing a lot of walking, because the weather has been uncommonly nice in England, and well - you make the most of that while you can.  On Tuesday I went to London and got home to the quay quite late - looked like my neighbour (Red Funnel Ferries) took my parking spot for the night.  Good thing I walked.

I found this hilarious graffiti in the women's toilets in a pub in London.  It made me giggle.  

I told you I was walking a lot.  My FitBit scores have been through the roof.

East Park in Southampton.  Right in the centre of town, and a nice place for a walk after work. 

Our office here allows dogs to come to work.  This is Chalky, who I babysat on Thursday.  He lost a tooth (baby tooth!) on my watch!

He's no Curriecat but he'll certainly do.  What a handsome and cuddly guy.

On Friday I had the pleasure of attending a dear colleague's wedding in Birdham, near Chichester, in Sussex. An English church wedding means fascinators/hats required.  Here's me, my boss Ben and his wife Jana waiting for the ceremony to begin.  Jana and I's fascinators are suspiciously similar...

St. James' Parish in Birdham.  Just what we foreigners imagine an English country parish to look like.

The Bride and Groom's getaway car.

A lovely country parish.  I didn't have a chance to walk around the little cemetery outside to see how old some of the burials were.  The church was restored in the 1860s so I suspect most of them date from after that time period.

Parts of this tower were built in 1545.

A reception followed at a converted barn, which had great indoor and outdoor space, so guests could dance inside, or relax outside and get some air.  I danced.  A lot. 

My ridiculously good looking (and delightful) pals, the bride and groom.  They threw an amazing party.

No travels ever seem complete without catching up with Pearson College folk.  Here's (from left) Dorota, Mike, and Gavin, some 17 years after we met, along with Gavin's wife Sanya and his sister Kimberly.  We caught up for a very leisurely lunch in St. Christopher's Place in London on Saturday.

I *think* I've kicked the jet lag now.

The weather has been amazing so far.  This is England people! Look at that blue sky (taken in Trafalgar Square, Saturday evening)!

I love me some movies, and I happened upon this great little cinema in Ocean Village in Southampton.  I've been twice so far - to see Richard Linklater's



worth the hype), and

Guardians of the Galaxy (

not so much).

Any cinema where you can wait outside on the patio overlooking the ocean while enjoying a cider is just A-OK in my books.  In fact, I paid to become a member of the cinema, which entitles me to free tickets and discounts on popcorn, that kind of thing.

So, that just about wraps up my first week here in England.  There was quite a bit of actual work thrown into the mix as well, and today was a leisurely day of strolls around the neighbourhood and a late-night solo dance party for one.  The week hasn't been without its tribulations - the travel from Heathrow to Southampton after a red-eye flight nearly killed me (a train, then a train and train and a taxi, with a few detours just for fun), and a train cancellation last Sunday meant I missed my friend Alex's sold out show in London - but it really wouldn't be England without those weird hiccups, would it?

The Farewell Tour Begins.

The weather this weekend was about as perfect as London gets in October: crisp, but dry. The perfect climate for wandering around London as the final countdown begins.

The weekend started early on Friday, with lunch with friends in Spitalfields Market...boozy for them, but not me, as I have trapped a nerve in my back and am taking many a narcotic to deal with the pain. Lunch turned into wandering around the market, saying hello and so long to some of my favorite local designers who display their wares on Friday afternoons. Market wandering turned into meeting friends at a wine bar for more drinking (sigh) later Friday evening.

Given my non-hungover status, I was up and fresh as a daisy quite early on Saturday morning. As letting agents are still trooping through the flat, I decided it was best to get gone as soon as I could. I took the boat to London Bridge, and as it was early enough to avoid the crowds, nipped into Borough Market (any doubts yet that it's my favorite place in London? How much do I talk about it?). I bought breakfast and plunked myself on a rock on Winchester Walk, a side street that runs behind the market, from which one can view the hustle and bustle, and gaze at Southwark Cathedral, relatively uninterrupted. The only people that passed by were a few uniformed traffic wardens, and a butcher from the Ginger Pig, in his striped red and white apron, white shirt, and black trousers.

I tried to get into Monmouth for a flat white but the lineup was by this time snaking out the door and around the corner, and so I nipped instead into Konditor & Cook, the famous pastry shop, which happens to be next door to Monmouth, and doesn't make a bad cappucino. To my surprise, the chalkboard listing the day's specials proudly proclaimed, "Pumpkin pie! Delicious and spicy!" I immediately told the cashier I needed a piece, as it had been Canadian Thanksgiving the week before. He rolled his eyes. "I know," he said. "Four of our staff are Canadian, why do you think we're even selling this?" "Oh," I said, a bit deflated. "Well, it makes me very happy to see it so please box up a piece for me anyway." I popped the box into my extra large handbag and was off again.

I continued to wander along the south side of the river, on the Thames Path. I passed a large group on a walking tour, standing in a semi-circle around their tour guide, near the Clink Prison. I stumbled upon a family standing on some stone steps leading from the Globe Theatre down into the Thames, who were holding each other tightly while someone read from a piece of paper. They were obviously grieving; I had stumbled upon some memorial for a loved one. I hurried past, not wanting to intrude on a private moment.

My next destination was Tate Modern. There is currently an interactive installation in the vast Turbine Hall called, "How It Is," by the Polish artist Miroslaw Balka. He has constructed an immense metal shipping container several stories tall, which visitors are encouraged to enter via an enormous ramp. I stood at the foot of the ramp and looked into the container, which is as wide as it is tall: all I could see was a yawning blackness that seemed much larger than the dimensions of the container, which I had walked around. Don't get me wrong, it's mammoth, but it ain't infinite. Still, the darkness seemed to continue forever and somehow, I began to believe that it did go on forever, that it stretched beyond the confines of the box. I strode up the ramp and into the container, towards the blackness. After a few steps, when I was out of range of the faint light at the entrance, I began to feel somewhat nervous and claustrophobic, afraid I would bump into someone, or a wall. I couldn't see more than a foot in front of me. I tentatively edged to the right side of the container, and placed my hand on the wall to guide myself. It was covered in black velvet. Using my hand as a guide, I confidently moved forward, until I unexpectedly hit a wall in front of me. Startled, I put my hands out. The infinite abyss? Well, it was only more black velvet. I felt disappointed that it was over, that I hadn't reached whatever imaginary destination on the black horizon I had felt I was moving towards. At once, the reality of the container and its dimensions returned and I felt silly for not having anticipated the wall. I turned and made my way out of the container feeling a bit like I had been had.

I continued to skulk around Tate Modern, and of course paid a visit to their store, which I think it one of the best museum stores around. Then it was out again into the fall air, and down to Royal Festival Hall, to peruse the acres of card tables holding used books for sale, trailing my fingers over the book spines as I leaned down (painfully) to read their titles. A bit of lunch, and then it was time to head to the Young Vic to see Jane Horrocks in "Annie Get Your Gun."

The production was delightful. The "orchestra" was four pianists, in western gear, playing at upright pianos built into the stage. The MD was wearing a sheriff's badge, which any musical theatre bunny can tell you is oh-so-appropriate. Jane Horrocks was, as usual, amazing as Annie. The ensemble was fantastic, and it was kitschy and glitzy and tassled and fringed and everything you expect this classic to be. It was so great that I found myself tearing up, when there is *nothing* to cry at in "Annie." I immediately phoned my mother when I got home and said, "I have to do that. Enough of this lawyering business, I need to do that." She agreed, but until the student loans are paid there will be more lawyering than theatre-ing, and that is just my reality. Still, I was singing "There's No Business Like Show Business" for the rest of the night.

Sunday morning was another early start. My friend Ben and I argued over text message about where we would meet for brunch, I was eventually persuaded to meet him on Marylebone High Street, where he lives, so I once again boarded the early boat and found myself wandering through Covent Garden by 10:30 am. Covent Garden is always subdued on a Sunday, as the theatres are dark, and especially at 10:30 on a Sunday, as shops aren't open and the tourists have not yet arrived; for this reason it is one of my favorite times to visit its cobblestoned streets. I stopped in Neal's Yard for a coffee and to read the paper, and then was off walking up Tottenham Court Road, through Fitzroy Square, to Marylebone. Ben and I sat outside in the fall sunshine at Le Pain Quotidien, nursing coffees in cups large enough to be soup bowls, and then popped in and out of shops along the street before heading to Selfridge's as Ben needed wine for a dinner party that evening. Selfridges' Food Hall is always an experience; not as extravagant as Harrods' but a treat nonetheless. It was already festooned with Christmas trees, garlands and red and green lights.

A slight flaw in the perfect London weekend when I entered Bond Street tube station, on my way to Waterloo and the Old Vic to see Kevin Spacey in "Inherit the Wind." Bond Street and Waterloo are both on the Jubilee Line, so this should have been an easy jaunt. However, Transport for London had once again shut the Jubilee Line for construction work and so I was forced to squeeze onto a Central Line train to Oxford Circus where I could switch to the Bakerloo Line. The platforms and the trains at both stations were absolutely packed, which always puts me in a bad mood: I hate it when people stand directly in front of you on the platform so they can push onto a train first, I hate it when people try to stand on the same step as you on the escalator, I hate it when people are in such a rush they feel it absolutely necessary to almost knock you down to get to the "Way Out" before you. Anyways, the journey was somewhat longer than anticipated and I was afraid I'd be late, but I still made it in time for curtain. Anything with My Kevin in it is fantastic, so no more needs to be said about the play.

By the time the play ended, I was tuckered out from a weekend of walking, and felt a wave of exhaustion hit me as I walked onto the pier at Waterloo only to see my boat pulling away without me. I sighed, and sat down on the dock. As anxious as I was to get home, I had to admit that this was the perfect place to rest for a minute and be still: the London Eye towered above me, but the dock was empty and silent. I stared across the water at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, illuminated. I watched party boats cruise up and down the river. All alone, I silently contemplated London, stretched out before me. To be alone and to feel this view is a display just for you, is a rare gift in this city. Sometimes missing your boat can be a blessing. I felt echoes of that old London excitement as I sat there, excitement that had mellowed into fondness, and a quiet appreciation.

So, now there are 11 days left for me in London. I have to admit that now I am anxious to go. I just want to be home and start this next chapter.

Currie is Ready to Go Home.

Currie is Ready to Go Home.

Animal websites advise that you get your pets ready for travel by putting

their carriers out where they can sniff them, explore them, get used to

them. Currie has always hated her Sky Kennel, but I dragged it out when

Orange Kitty was here and haven't put it back yet...and Currie is spending

alot of quality time inside. Last night I walked by and she had shut

herself in there with the door shut. At first I thought that maybe I had

knocked the door closed when I walked by, so I bent down to undo the

door-she batted me with her claws and told me to leave her alone. I felt

like the mother of a teenager barricaded in her room. Currie might as well

have put a sign on the door that said "No parents allowed!"

Yes, It Really Is That Simple.

As part of Transport for London's initiative called "Art on the Tube" (an unsuccessful attempt to render our daily stampedes through the underground tunnels of London a little less dreary), I have been regularly passing a huge poster that exhorts, "If you don't like your life, you can change it!" In fact, here it is:

My consistent reaction has been to mutter under my breath and remind myself of all the reasons I couldn't just change my life: "When I commit to something, I commit. I chose this life in London, and dammit, I just have to make it work. I have to make it a success. And oh, yeah, it's so easy to just change your life, isn't it? I bet that goddamn artist didn't have student loans they had to pay off," I'd think, storming up the escalator in a worse mood than when I'd descended.

On Friday I gave my notice at work. And, epiphany time: yeah, it really is that easy to change your life. And although I know it sounds really Pollyanna and nauseating, and closely resembles an Oprah soundbite, once you choose to recognize unhappiness for what it is, consciously choose to seek the alternative, and refuse to compromise in the quest for a life that satisfies you, the results are profound and immediate. Here is my testimonial (I am imagining a Baptist congregation standing behind my desk at the moment, waving tambourines and jubilantly urging me on - "


Sister Lemon!"):

1. My shopping mojo has returned in full force. No, look, you don't understand. I've felt so gross and disgusting from sitting behind a desk for a year, I haven't been able to bring myself to shop. At all. This has been a loss.

Call me shallow, call me superficial, I'll agree. But I freaking love to shop. And express who I am with clothes. And have felt no inspiration.

Well. Saturday morning I wandered out to get some things for Currie Cat and ended up coming back to the flat loaded up with two new boyfriend blazers, a very vintage-y dress that simply called to me and said, "I'll look amazing with your forest green patent leather shoes and that gorgeous patent leather green belt," a lovely, mod-ish red winter coat fully in keeping with my whole "I love the sixties and I just can't help it" aesthetic, new earrings, a few new tank tops, a funky blingy necklace, and some serious fabulous shoes.

Ohhhhh yes. I'm like a parched traveller finding their way out of a desert.

2. I blog, therefore I am. Seriously, haven't I blogged more in the last week or so than, err, a year? My friend Ben and I wandered all over Oxford in the sunshine today, talking about every subject under the sun (to be more precise, God, gay rights, ice cream, adoption, biological clocks, sex, architecture, our childhoods, parenting, Canadian identity, the extinction of the Beothuks, Jewish culture, California, Kabbalah, Pierre Trudeau, tourists and real estate, although not necessarily in that order), and I said at one point, when he asked how I found the energy to blog, given how I've been working, I said 'I have to write. If someone said, "You can't sing anymore, but you can write," I could take it, but the reverse would be unthinkable.'" And as I said it, I realized how true this statement was. So...ahhhh. It feels nice to be inspired by my own life again, to have the energy to wish to reflect upon and share my experience with all 4 of you who read this.

3. Inspiration cylinders are beginning to fire again. I'm drunk with ideas, about just about everything. In Oxford, I made a pilgrimage to the Oxford University Press bookstore, which Ben patiently endured (note: I made a similar journey to the Cambridge University Press store last week, with similar disastrous effects on my chequing account). As usual, I came out loaded up with critical texts on my two favorite stand-bys, Jane Austen and John Donne. I tried to explain to Ben how I could love a repressed spinster English novelist and a metaphysical lawyer/poet turned religious zealot who wrote about sex or God, or, frequently both in the same breath. I wistfully said, "If and when I do my PhD in literature, my dissertation will be on one or the other, although I love them both, and they're so totally different." And then, WHAM! My mind was racing with thoughts about how these writers could be compared, and what kind of research I'd need to do, and then the title of the dissertation hit, and then, several excited Facebook posts with a friend and fellow literature student later, and, I can't stop thinking about it.

4. Fuck the sad ballad and bring on the up tempo. My iPod is smoking: all I want to do is listen to music that makes me dance. Waiting for the boat on my way out these past few days, I've been skipping past the melancholy melodies that have reflected my mood, instead hitting repeat on the songs that put a spring in my step and bring a smile to my face, dancing on the dock, waiting, literally, for my ship to come in. Here are some highlights that should be on your playlist, too:

- MGMT: "Time to Pretend"

- Sam & Dave: "Hold On, I'm Comin'"

- Vampire Weekend: "Walcott"

- Matt Costa: "Mr. Pitiful"

- Alphabeat: "10,000 Nights"

- Badly Drawn Boy: "Something to Talk About"

- Billy Elliott Soundtrack: "Shine"

- The Coasters: "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart"

- Chicago Soundtrack: "We Both Reached for the Gun/The Press Conference Rag"

- Yann Tiersen: "A Quai" (from Amelie)

- Dean Martin: "Ain't That a Kick in the Head"

OK, that might be enough joy for now. Must dole it out in doses you know. I'm a little breathless. Until tomorrow's gleeful update!

Satanic Sluts and Freedom of Speech?

I have been a big fan of the British comic Russell Brand for ages. Most people in Canada don't know Russell, except if they've seen the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, where Russell basically played a rock n' roll version of himself called Aldous Snow, who steals Sarah Marshall and the movie. Russell's hosting of the MTV Video Music Awards in September may have raised his profile somewhat, and he has jumped on the Judd Apatow train and will be making several films in the next year, so safe to say, he's the Next Big Thing. Russell often refers to himself as a Dickensian-era chimney sweep thanks to his charming "Mockney" persona and pseudo-Victorian-goth style of dress. He has a great turn of phrase and, most of the time, a high-brow, sarcastic sense of humour that I really enjoy. A highly intelligent guy.

For several years Russell and his writing partner Matt Morgan have hosted a radio show for the BBC, first on 6 Music, and for the past few years, on Radio 2. I have been a big fan of the show, which I listen to on podcasts, in which Russell rambles, engages in shambolic interviews with random celebrities (a highlight includes his interview of Big Bird), and relates generally lewd stories to best buddy Matt. Russell is a recovering heroin addict who freely admits to having a sex addiction and a lot of stories involve who Russell has shagged, is shagging, and wants to shag. It's just part of his persona.

Last week Russell had Jonathan Ross, who hosts a chat show called Friday Night and is the highest paid performer at the BBC (6 million quid a year), as his guest host. Russell has been a frequent guest on Friday Night and they have a good rapport. Things got a little out of hand, though, to say the least.

It all started on last week's show. Russell's guest host, the author David Baddiel, was telling an anecdote about how, as a married father of two, he has always enjoyed popping round to Russell's house to witness various single-guy shenanigans. He mentioned coming over once to hear from Russell that the "Satanic Sluts," a gothic-burlesque dance troupe, were coming over for a little romp. One of the sluts, Georgina Baillie, introduced herself to Baddiel and said her granddad was Andrew Sachs, who played Manual on Fawlty Towers. Baddiel mentioned that he had met Sachs, and Georgina begged him not to tell her granddad that she'd been round to Russell's house. David and Russell had a good laugh about it, and moved on with the program.

Cut to last week, and Jonathan and Russell. An interview with Andrew Sachs was scheduled. The minute they announced this, I knew that it was not going to end well, as clearly the only connection between Russell and Manuel was Georgina. Russell made a point of mentioning again how he had had sex with Sachs' granddaughter and said to Ross not to mention it during the interview. However, Sachs did not pick up the phone, and Russell proceeded to leave an answer-phone message, when suddenly Jonathan Ross yelled out "He fucked your granddaughter" in the background. Russell promptly hung up, giggling. Remorse clearly set in for both of them, and they proceeded to leave several more answer-phone messages, each worse than the next, where they would start out making a contrite apology, and descend into making even more offensive remarks about Sachs and his granddaughter. I'm not easily shocked, but I listened to this as I jogged along this weekend and was shocked a number of times. The program was pre-recorded, so I assumed, with some degree of wonder, that the producers of the show had gotten permission from Andrew Sachs to include these messages in the broadcast. Well, I mused, he's a comedian, so maybe he thinks this is funny, even if I don't.
Well, apparently he didn't find it that funny, and neither did the 27,000 people who have now complained to the BBC. The media grabbed ahold of this story on Monday and ran with it. While I found the program somewhat offensive and not that funny, it didn't strike me as worthy of the complete outrage and howls for the heads of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross that have popped up the news over the past few days. The complaints escalated, and by today, the pressure on the BBC to take some action against the two was insurmountable.

They were both suspended this morning by Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, who called the program a "gross lapse of taste." Can you imagine David Letterman being yanked off the air? Suspending Jonathan Ross from broadcasting will have about the equivalent impact here in the UK. Much to my disappointment, Russell Brand did the classy thing about half an hour ago and resigned, saying that he only does his radio show to make people happy, and since it was clear that he wasn't making people happy anymore, so it was time to go. The BBC investigation will not look at whether or not the show should be broadcast; it appears clear that it should not have been. However, the BBC will have to account for how such content was approved, and who gave the nod for such content to go out, and will therefore investigate the editorial processes at Radio 2.

Ofcom, the independent media regulator, has also launched an investigation to determine if the show breached the UK Broadcasting Code, the content standards for television and radio established under the Communications Act 2003 and the Broadcasting Act 1996. Section Two of the Broadcasting Code incorporates articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and establishes minimum standards to protect the public from offensive or harmful material. What does that mean?

Well, no depiction of suicides or self-harm, unless editorially justified. No depictions of exorcisms, the occult, divination or paranormal activities unless it is explicitly stated to be for entertainment purposes only. Competitions should be conducted fairly, and any simulated news must be broadcast in a way that there is no possibility of the public understanding it to be true. From a quick read of the Broadcasting Code, it doesn't appear to me that Brand and Ross clearly violated any specific provision.

So, it appears that Ofcom's investigation will hinge on this, Section 2.3:
"In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that
material which may cause offence is justified by the context (see meaning of
“context” below). Such material may include, but is not limited to, offensive
language, violence, sex, sexual violence, humiliation, distress, violation of
human dignity, discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the
grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion, beliefs and sexual orientation).
Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in
avoiding or minimising offence."
"Context" means:• the editorial content of the programme, programmes or series (as noted, often it includes who Russell has shagged this week) ;
• the service on which the material is broadcast;
• the time of broadcast (Saturday evenings between 9 pm and 11 pm);
• what other programmes are scheduled before and after the programme or
programmes concerned;
• the degree of harm or offence likely to be caused by the inclusion of any
particular sort of material in programmes generally or programmes of a
particular description (Aha!);
• the likely size and composition of the potential audience and likely expectation
of the audience;
• the extent to which the nature of the content can be brought to the attention
of the potential audience for example by giving information; and
• the effect of the material on viewers or listeners who may come across it unawares.

So. It will all come down to the degree of harm or offence caused by the inclusion of this material in the program, which will be a subjective determination by Ofcom. I feel like Brand and Ross have lost already, thanks to the furor that has been mostly generated by the London tabs. Sure, it was offensive. But so is Russell's regular item, "GAY!" where he gives "advice" to people with "gay problems." Was this particular episode so offensive that two of the biggest stars should resign? I don't think so. Russell Brand is offensive. But the show was no more offensive than usual. Unfortunately, thanks to the spotlight that has been put on this episode, I think the degree of potential "harm and offence" caused to Andrew Sachs and Georgina Baillie has increased hundredfold. Ofcom will have to find that the program was offensive now and no doubt the BBC will face a large fine.

I think the media has generated much of the firestorm, posting pictures of Georgina in lingerie, and paying her for exclusive interviews in the Sun on how "devastated" she is, chasing poor 78 year old Andrew Sachs down the street to get his reaction and to snap pics of an elderly man clearly overwhelmed by the attention that is being heaped on him, which would inspire a sympathetic reaction in anyone. Apparently, the day after the broadcast, there were only two complaints to the BBC. It was only after several London papers published stories earlier this week, that the complaints began to pour in. I think this is a tempest in a teacup that has been grabbed up by London editors who love to splash tales of Russell's bad boy antics across their pages, and now Brand and Ross are paying the price.

Absolutely, the two need to apologise to Andrew Sachs, and publicly. No granddad wants to hear the details of their granddaughter's sex life. However, the man wasn't born yesterday. His granddaughter's profession is as a "Satanic Slut." She has appeared topless on the Internet and in newspapers as a glamour model. He isn't going to be shocked to learn she isn't as pure as the driven snow. And as for Georgina Baillie a.k.a. Voluptua the Satanic Slut, a word of advice: if you're so concerned about your reputation, you might want to take down the pics of you in a bustier with a whip from your Myspace page, and maybe refrain from engaging in group sex with sex-addict TV stars who regularly speak about their conquests...and at the very least...don't tell him who your granddad is. Brand and Ross weren't funny. Yes, they crossed the line, and no, it wasn't funny. But I don't think the reaction has been commensurate with the action in this case.

Britain regulates media content. Fine. But don't enforce it inconsistently, and don't enforce it only when pressured by public outcry that is generally instigated by rival media outlets. If you're going to stop Russell Brand from broadcasting a show with occasional naughty bits, please get rid of TV shows like Miss Naked Britain, please edit out those bits of Big Brother where we have to watch grainy night-camera footage of people having sex under the covers, censor Little Britain, fine Jamie Oliver every time he says "fuck," and please, no more reality shows with naked glamour models like Jodie Marsh looking for yet another husband, or Danielle Lloyd getting another pair of implants or dating another footballer. Since when are tabloids our collective conscience? That's a scary thought indeed.

Hold Tight London

What to say? This is Tottenham Court Road, one of London's busiest streets, at around 12:30 p.m. on July 7, 2005. As word of the attacks started to spread across London, more and more streets became virtually deserted, like this. Everyone hunkered down in offices and homes, waiting for news , expecting the worst, wondering if more attacks were coming.

I didn't actually know what was going on until relatively late yesterday morning. I am staying at Edy's place at Ladbroke Grove, which is on the Hammersmith and City Line. I was going to go with him to work, near Tottenham Court Road, so I could walk to Russell Square to close my bank accounts, as I'm leaving on Sunday. I got lazy though, and thought I'd take the Tube into town later (Taking the Hammersmith and City line, changing at Edgeware Road to the Circle and District line, passing through Liverpool Street, Aldgate and Tower Hill on my way to Temple, and the LSE) and went back to sleep. I woke up to the phone ringing in the living room and Edy saying, "Dani, Dani, Dani, wake up" on the answering machine. "That's weird," I thought. "Why wouldn't he phone my mobile?" It was sitting right beside me on the pillow. I tried to dial his number but my mobile wasn't working. I padded into the living room and clicked on MSN. Edy's name was "Stiamo bene-we are all fine." Then I really got confused. Edy told me to turn on the TV, that the city had been attacked.

I sat with my eyes glued to the television. The simultaneous attacks had created such chaos that no one was really sure where the bombs had gone off. Walking wounded were coming up out of the Tube at stations at either end of the explosions, so when I woke up, the BBC was reporting that Liverpool Street, Aldgate, Moorgate, Old Street, Russell Square, Edgeware Road and Leicester Square Tube stations had been attacked, and that the bus had just blown up on Woburn Place. Cell phones weren't working for civilians as they were afraid a passenger answering a call at another station might ignite any explosives hidden there. They were reporting 90 dead at Aldgate Station (a relatively small, "lazy" station) near my place, in East London) alone. More attacks were predicted.

Of course, I was beside myself. None of the surprise or shock of 9/11, but the absolute horror, helplessness and disgust I felt was overwhelming. Of course, it could have been me. My planned Tube ride would have taken me through all of the stations that were attacked. But it wasn't me, and that wasn't what I was most upset about: I was most upset that someone had dared to FUCK WITH MY TOWN, to hurt people who honestly have no choice but to get on that bus or Tube to go to work everyday (and pay a handsome price to do so), and have their safety violated in such an awful way. We all knew, living here, that the threat of an attack was there...but the Tube, despite all proclamations of security and safety, is an extremely vulnerable place, with so many people and packages travelling every day, that I, as a daily passenger, chose not to believe (for my own sanity), that terrorists would choose such an easy target. Packed rush-hour Tube carriages? It's like shooting fish in a barrel. Which makes these attacks even more contemptible.

I was worried that friends near these Tube stations had been caught. I was worried that Ladbroke Grove station, a 3 minute walk down the road from where I was sitting, might be next. I could already hear sirens beginning to wail across the city.

Through some miracle, none of my classmates or friends were caught in attacks. Edy was a little too close to the bus explosion for comfort, but he is safe. The bus exploded in front of the United World College headquarters in Tavistock Square (UWC is the parent organization of Pearson College), but word quickly came that all staff were present and accounted for there. Soon, we found out that there had been only 4 explosions, not the 7-8 earlier reported. Several "missteps" happened in local coverage: a bomb was reported in Victoria Station; it turned out the station had just been closed due to a bomb threat. Two more bus explosions were reported. It was reported that Heathrow Terminal 3 had been evacuated because of an attack, but actually all flights were operating normally. Then the personal accounts of friends and friends of friends started to come in: a friend of a colleague of Edy's had stepped onto the bus in Tavistock Square only to have it blow up in her face; she reported bodies flying from the top deck. Another friend called in to Edy's office to say he had watched a suicide bomber be arrested at Wandsworth Station. Another classmate sent an email; she had been on the bus-behind-the- bus and witnessed some terrible injuries. While no outlets were reporting casualty or fatality counts, the eyewitness survivor accounts on all channels described scenes that suggested people had died, and that many, many were injured. While the news was "better than expected" in terms of the numbers of attacks, it was clear that this was going to affect the lives of thousands of people.

It's 7:50 a.m. now, the Morning After. The streets here in Notting Hill are relatively quiet; the Met has asked people to think hard about whether they need to travel in to Central London today. I thank God I'm at Edy's right now, I'm in the thick o' things, but not as much as if I had been at home at Butlers' Wharf, right in the middle of Zone 1 chaos. I am curious about what is happening in the hot zones, but not so curious that I actually want to see. The big question is, what happens today? What do I do today? Do I take the Tube into town, as planned yesterday, and close my bank accounts? I am seriously considering walking to the bank, as I'm not sure I want to get on a train or bus today, although I know that is letting the terrorists win if I let it change the way I live. But my anxiety at this time is a little too great to be so defiant. It'll only take 2 hours or so to get there on foot. I know that by the time I arrive home in Canada on Sunday, London will have begrudgingly returned to normal, out of necessity and pure grit. But today...today, I can't feel normal.

My final word: the people who did this are sick. Really. If they are indeed Muslim extremists, they killed their own people; Edgeware Road and Aldgate East are stations in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. These people aren't fighting against the West, they are killing without discrimination. I only hope that our leaders meeting at Gleneagles can respond with calm, will fairly prosecute those attackers they hunt down using the justice systems in place, and will use this as an opportunity to build trust and equity among cultures and nations rather than to continue aggression, and will not use their hurt and anger as an excuse for more war.

Peace. Please.