The Null Device


Some observations from my recent trip to the UK:

Britishisms absent in Australia:

  • Pantomimes starring celebrity has-beens (a fine British tradition, or so I hear)
  • Bathroom sinks with built-in stoppers operated by a lever. Pretty much every bathroom I saw in England had those; presumably the rubber/plastic stoppers you see in Australian bathroom sinks are quaint antiques over there. (Perhaps it 's some EU standard?)
  • The ear-splitting beeping sound made by pedestrian crossings
  • Teletext as a widely used information medium
  • A comprehensive railway network
  • Those Cadbury Boost bars, i.e., chocolate bars with caramel, guarana and biscuit. Here we have something similar, only it's called Viking, doesn't contain any biscuit and isn't quite as nice.
  • Poker machines everywhere. Not just in pubs and sporting clubs; they're in shopping centres, railway station cafés and other public places. Mind you, there are always signs nearby telling children that they are not to play with them. Perhaps evidence that the Poms have more respect for authority than the larrikinous sons of convicts in Orstraya?
  • Those sub-miniature two-seater "Smart" cars. There may be one or two in Melbourne, but they're everywhere in London.
  • The deep amber glow of street lamps. In Australia, they are a leprous salmon pink.

Australianisms absent in Britain:

  • Half-pint pot glasses in pubs. There, beer is drunk by the pint. If you ask for half a pint, you'll get one of those wimpy cylindrical glasses whose very shape mocks your prowess as a drinker.
  • Wastebaskets in public places. Then again, with the way things are going, how long until those disappear from Australia as well?

Advantages London has over Melbourne:

  • Decent public transport. You can rock up at a Tube station and get a train in the direction you want within 5 minutes. And the London council are actually implementing a congestion charge on traffic going to the city, using it to pay for public transport improvements. Fat chance of seeing anything like that happening in Melbourne, where billion-dollar freeways are the go and railway line extensions costing 1/10 of that are cancelled.
  • Portobello Market, Camden Market, &c.
  • Fopp
  • The fine UK indie tradition that isn't an artificially packaged "UK-indie" product, i.e., lumping Oasis, Fatboy Slim, Radiohead and a few old Smiths tunes together under the union jack for the amusement of poseurish pseudo-Mods from South Yarra and the like.
  • The temperature never reaches 40 degrees. (Except perhaps on the Tube.)
  • Any pub you go to you can be assured will have Guinness on tap.

Disadvantages London has to Melbourne:

  • It's horribly crowded.
  • Everything's so expensive.
  • Tap water has a vaguely detergenty taste/consistency about it.
  • Pubs close at 11. (Still, that usually means you can catch the Tube home.)
  • Not as much of a unified live music scene. Once you get beneath the level of major-label touring acts, you have to dig deeply to find the many little sub-scenes.

australia culture london melbourne uk 9