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I thought he was an economist … Thinking with a Lisp 7th of August, 2006 POST·MERIDIEM 02:51

Milton Keynes was not, despite what I suspected, thought up by that British Tory government that included a former director of a major road-construction company; instead it was started under the stewardship of Harold Wilson’s Labour. Of course, that was exactly the same Labour government that implemented the evisceration of the UK’s rail service, so they were a pretty pro-road-transport bunch too.

Anyway, I make that remark by way of leading to the point that Milton Keynes is a distinctly car-oriented part of the world. They have things called “redways” that people can cycle and walk on, which were a relatively good idea, but a lot of people perceive them as dangerous and they’re not used as much as they could be. Otherwise, it’s a question of getting ferried everywhere, through roundabout after roundabout after roundabout. They have a huge indoor ski slope in the city centre, which is interesting in the abstract, and chains. Lots of chains.

Weekend spent hacking, I am surprised I am still able to communicate with other human beings in German or anything after it. Need to stop living like a fuсking hermit coder.

Word of the day: „aufmachen“ is German for show, present, and is usable to describe making a window visible on a computer ; „ausmachen“ means turn off, extinguish or in a windowing system context, close. Careful with that fricative.

There’s a weird appeal (to me at least) to British town planning, especially the concrete monstrosities built from the 1960s onwards.

Spent a night in Birmingham on the way home from Cambridge last week. The hulking overpasses and motorways that gouge their way into the city centre, getting lost on the way from Broad Street in the city centre to the M6 was an interesting detour....

Certainly a direct contrast to the more organic feel of Cambridge which seems to have grown up around the listed college buildings and various protected landmarks. Both of them work, for different reasons, and in different ways, even at 9am, getting out of Birmingham was pretty easy, and getting into Cambridge between 5 and 6pm had been easy the previous week. Compared to the hour it took to drive down the keys from Dublin Port to Heuston Station when we got home at 6:30 that is....

Ste, I’ve read reports of studies that life expectancy in England in the 20th century was at its highest for Oxbridge dons; they beat the average by decades, apparently because their lives were so rewarding but stress-free. It does seem to make sense that Cambridge a) works well, as it seems to from your experience at the folk festival and b) has the organic feel of a place people are happy to be.

I hadn’t realised Birmingham was so 20th-century in having motorways in the city centre and so on—then I’m not sure what I thought of the place, it never arose much in my consciousness. :-)

Cambridge does have the feel of a low stress kinda place to live, very much a bicycle city, you see people of varied social backgrounds and of all ages cycling around the city, and there are bicycles parked everywhere. Which may be symptomatic of it being a college town with a lot of poor students who can’t afford cars, or maybe it’s just that everything is within cycling distance of everything else. Either was it does give the place a more relaxed feel. I was also impressed by the automated bollards that close off some streets, but which obediantly drop into the road when a bus or taxi approaches.

Birmingham is an interesting place, bleak and industrial in a lot of ways, with a lot of 20th century concrete spoiling the view. But like most English cities has some architectural jewels lurking around unexpected corners. The area we stayed, around Broad Street is a bit sort of Temple Bar, in that it’s been cleaned up to look nice, but is basically a strip of bars and restaurants which was lovely on a Tuesday night, but felt like it might get a bit dodgy of a weekend. I’d always slagged it off, based on the grim outskirts visible from the Motorway as you drive past on the way to London.

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