Day 127 + 20

All change, please!

As I am sure you will have read, this tour was the first time I had been in the UK for NINE years! Obviously a lot has changed.

Here are a few random thoughts as I compare the UK with Spain and with how the UK was in 2001.

*Prices. I was very surprised and pleased with the prices of most goods. Supermarket specials, BoGoFs etc meant I could eat for almost nothing. Newspapers were much cheaper than Spain and have more supplements.

*Cycling – obviously I would be more aware of the rise and rise of cycling. Huge numbers of cyclists on the roads, cycle lanes, cycle signs (usually incorrect!) Let’s hear it for M.A.M.I.L.S.(Middle-aged men in lycra – not me by the way!)

*Cleanliness. I was constantly amazed how clean the towns and cities were. The shopping centres and retail stores especially were much cleaner than I remember

*Public transport. Everywhere I went I seemed to be passed by buses on a 4,5,6 or 10 minutes route. Impressive …and would have been more so if they were not empty!

*Supermarkets. I could not get over the Tescosation of the UK. There appear to be innumerable supermarkets open 24 hours a day and each town seems to have an insatiable desire for even more. They sell just about everything under the sun and the sheer size of them is incredible.

*Pubs. The death of the pub or at least the death of the boozer. Before I left it was difficult to get a coffee in a pub. Now every high-street is full of Starbucks, Costas etc etc. In the Baker Street area of London you can almost see one from the next one.

*Restaurants. Similarly, the gap between a greasy spoon and a silver service restaurant is slipping. Every high-street now offers an incredible choice of sit-downs and (especially) take aways from the four corners of the globe.

*Optimism. Yes, I felt there was a new-found optimism. Certainly compared with expatshire, people had confidence. There were jobs available and the retail outlets seemed to be doing fine. (Spain has 42% youth unemployment and 1.5 million empty homes!)

*Cosmopolitan! Oh wow! Every town is a mini United Nations. It was a strange feeling being “at home” among so many residents, students and tourists from literally every nation of the world. Felt good!

*Social media etc. I was amused on a couple of occasions when I heard people talk about a “networking opportunity” 10 years ago, it was called, “Going to the pub.” There did not seem such a self-exerted pressure to constantly be exchanging business-cards, be fixated to a mobile or finding someone’s twitter ID!

Of course, some things never change and that’s what gives solidity to our lives. The love for one’s friends and family, rain in July …and, of course, Man City still looking at an empty trophy cupboard.

All a bit tongue in cheek ….but genuine observations over the four months on the road. I would value your thoughts too.


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