4 Mar 2015

London's hidden gems: the plague pits

The London Evening Standard has a competition to find 'hidden gems' for tourists to London. Here's mine:  
The Plague Pits
'The terrible outbreak of bubonic plague that swept through England in 1425 did not spare the capital's citizens.  The scenes of death and suffering are hard to imagine, but a few vestiges remain.  Dotted around London are various ‘plague pits’ where those who died from the plague were hastily buried en masse. Thousands of bodies were interred in these burial sites, to be covered over, filled in, and gradually forgotten.

The bubonic plague bacillus, however, is a living organism that can survive for several centuries in a dormant state. Very occasionally, fresh building work will uncover a medieval plague pit - at which point the medical authorities immediately take control of the site, putting the workmen through a rigorous quarantine. Thankfully bubonic plague can now be treated with drugs, but the dangers of it rapidly spreading through London’s population, aided by the tube and bus network, are all too apparent.

Most of these rediscovered plague pits are pronounced safe by the authorities, but a few where the live bacillus was detected have been sealed off with concrete and covered over again. There is one just behind Holborn station, another opposite the London Eye fairground, and a third (probably the best known) at the North end of Leicester Square.

A ‘safe’ plague pit can be seen up on Hampstead Heath, alongside the bathing ponds. It is quite small and takes some finding, since it is not signposted, but locals should be able to direct you. A visit to see ‘the pit’ makes for an interesting detour if you are visiting the Heath.'

Extract from my book 'How Not to Be a Tourist in London'      

16 Feb 2015

London tourist book now out in paperback

At last 'How Not to be a Tourist in London' is available in paperback,
'How Not to be a Tourist in London' on Amazon UK for you to read on the broken-down bus, or while strolling down Oxford Street.  Here at last is the honest-guv truth about why cabbies don't like tipping, what those little studs in the pavement are for, where to catch a Thames salmon, and which local delicacies to order 'off menu' at your favourite London restaurant. Packed full of such vital material, here is a book to get your touristic imagination working overtime.

Have a look on Amazon UK and USA.

1 Dec 2014

That new Starbucks 'no tax' logo

"The new boss of Starbucks today admitted the coffee shop chain will not start paying corporation tax in Britain for up to three more years." Evening Standard newspaper

23 Sep 2014

The white t-shirt law

Here's new law to save the planet:  Only white t-shirts are allowed, all others are banned - until the climate agreements are met.  Enforced with fines, and swapping the offending t-shirt for a white one by police.


1.  Surely world governments can agree on this trivial thing
2.  Helps young people to focus on finding a solution to climate problems rather than worrying about whether their t-shirt makes the grade with their peer group / gang
3.  A constant visible reminder to everyone
4.  Very easy to enforce.

14 Sep 2014

The Dilemma of the Scots

Wave goodbye to your UK pals, take your country to the dogs, make all your pies and chips cost a fortune, never have a good job again, get invaded by anyone with a shotgun, and have to use the Bolivian Kip as your currency.

  -- or --

Delight all the effing Tories, get bossed around for the next 300 years by a bunch of patronising tossers in Westminster, be laughed at by bankers, and suck up policies designed to screw you and fatten rich Southerners.


11 Aug 2014

New Kindle book - getting more tax from Amazon

My new e-book, 50 Ways to Get Amazon to Pay More Tax, is available on the Kindle, Amazon’s own e-reader (as well as other readers and formats).

Yes, a bit cheeky to publish on the Kindle But if the book does well, they might pay a bit more tax. Maybe.

Many of the 50 ideas in the book refer to Amazon’s treatment of its warehouse workers, whose toilet breaks are limited and timed; I suggest applying similar rules to shareholder meetings. Other thoughts focus on Amazon's steady march towards becoming the biggest retailer on Earth.

Toilets and world domination - always good for a laugh.
There are various suggestions for “consumer disobedience” and other ways to solve the tax issue:
  • dressing up as a tax inspector and hanging around Amazon’s offices,
  • incentivising them by re-naming the river Trent as ‘The Amazon’
  • setting up barrage balloons on the roof of your house to interfere with deliveries by Amazon drones.
The e-book is short, so it's priced low at £1.15 / $1.93. (Also I don’t want this putting me in a higher tax bracket.) 

See the book online on the Amazon UK Kindle store, and the US one.

Also available in other e-reader formats at Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble etc.

26 May 2014

Getting out the Grudge Vote

Voter apathy is bad, but logical in the British voting system.  If your area is solid Tory or Labour and you support another party, it can seem rather pointless to vote, since the candidate with the most votes wins outright.  They may only get 40% of the total, but whoever has the largest number of votes wins. This unfairness is why some people call for proportional representation instead.  But that is very unappealing; we want our local MP.

The Grudge Voting system will square this circle.

Here's how it works:  The candidate with the most votes wins the seat, same as now.  But their power in Parliament for the next 5 years depends on what % of the votes they got.  Take an MP who wins a seat with 60% of the vote.  In the current system they have 1 vote in Parliament.  Under my system they would only have 0.6 of a vote.  And an MP who won with just a 35% share - which is not unusual - would in Parliament get only 0.35 of a vote. 

The power of the elected MPs in Parliament would therefore directly reflect the amount support they command in their constituencies.

That's fairness for you.  And the beauty of the system is that nobody's vote is now wasted.  If you are a Labour voter living in a solid Conservative constituency, it is worth going out to vote Labour - your candidate won't win, but your vote directly helps to reduce the Tory MP's power in the next parliament.  Same thing if you are a Conservative voter living in a solid Labour area.  It's also worth voting for a minority party; they won't get in, but now you can help to reduce the clout of the winner.

Hence the title, the Grudge Voting system.  It appeals to that deeply felt need to do the other side down.  Just the ticket for alienated, fed-up Brits!

28 Apr 2014

Want some free stickers?

Available for your 4x4, or your toilet.  Just follow me on Twitter, or something, then ask for your free stickers!

30 Jan 2014

A lot of cock is talked about rhino horn

It’s odd that news stories about the threatened extinction of the rhino focus on the poaching of rhinos and smuggling of rhino horn, with pictures of dead rhinos and pieces of horn captured while being smuggled through airport customs.  It’s all about supply.

Meanwhile there is a strange silence in the media about the consumers of rhino horn – men living in China, Indonesia, and elsewhere in the Far East. Presumably the silence is because these countries have strong and growing economies, so we’re not allowed to laugh at their medieval delusions.

And now, we hear, criminal gangs are involved in poaching and smuggling.  There’s a surprise.  Any day now there will be complaints from end-users that the powdered horn is being ‘cut’ with aspirin or chalk;  and a dawn swoop on a rhino ‘farm’ in the suburbs of Beijing.

Meanwhile the answer to saving the rhino is staring us in the face.  Powdered Viagra tablets, dyed the same colour as rhino horn, would make a perfect substitute.  And better yet, they would actually do the trick.  The World Wildlife Fund could set up a factory, label the packets ‘genuine rhino horn (substitute), guaranteed to work’ and flood the Far East market with the stuff.  Rhiagra, anyone?

25 Nov 2013