The Null Device
The latest commentator to attempt to nail the essence of Englishness is expatriate Frenchwoman Hortense de Monplaisir, currently resident off Fulham Road, as her husband is a grosse légume in the City:
There is a famous crêperie on the King’s Road. (We love crêpes, as we have kept in touch with simple pleasures.) As lumpen doughy pancakes were brought to the table with a pitiful garnish of anaemic lettuce and flavourless tomatoes, I wept. I gazed out at the rain and said: “I cannot do this.” My husband held my hand and looked quite wretched.
Having no talent for sex (or food), the English make a virtue of their deficiencies. What they really enjoy is going without. Rather than leave the office for a delicious lunch, they will pull out a Tupper-ware box of sandwiches. Instead of a soirée sensuelle, candlelit dinner followed by a night of love, they’ll go to the country to strip wallpaper, walk in the rain and sleep in a freezing cold bed.
In France, we are wary of the marchands de biens, dealers who buy and sell houses for profit, but in England everyone is a marchand de bien. The property ladder is the very essence of Englishness: a fusion of greedy profiteering and stay-at-home cosiness.
A study of hundreds of written threats to US politicians has yielded the conclusion that emailed threats showed far fewer signs of serious mental illness than posted ones. This is presumably because the internet has lowered the barrier to entry to threatening one's congresscritter, making it available to people who are only slightly nuts.
As one might expect, the emailed threats also contained more obscene language and were more disorganised.
A new study has discovered the phenomenon of suicide tourism, which involves people committing suicide choosing to do so at or near iconic landmarks or historic locations, and travelling to do so. The study claims that one in every 10 suicides in Manhattan is by an out-of-towner who travelled to the city expressly to die:
Some 274 suicides by non-residents were recorded in Manhattan between 1990 and 2004, more than half of them as a result of long falls from bridges and high-rise commercial buildings, including hotels, according to the report.I once read that luxury hotels are a big suicide magnet, with many treating themselves to a luxurious exit, though this is the first time I heard of suicide tourism as such (not counting specific examples, such as various bridges).