Every time I come to London, I am surprised at how much Brits complain. Napoleon might have called them a nation of shopkeepers and Britain might have responded by voting the daughter of one them as Prime Minister, but times have changed. Now they are a nation of complainers. And their favourite target is the tube (the metro). Tony Blair is fast catching up, however. One headline called him simply, ‘Superglue’ for his refusal to leave the chair. The national debate on when he ought to walk away into the sunset has not yet gathered the momentum that the tube has.
But Brits are civilised. They don’t take out protest marches that hold up the traffic or immolate themselves. I suspect a couple of them slide politely written notes under the doors of a BBC newscaster who, on Monday makes a passing remark on the state of the tube (while reading something else). By Tuesday, the other newsreader gets into the act, and makes a joke about getting to the studios late. By Wednesday, there is a pointed reference to New York or Singapore. By Thursday the silt hits the fan, and ministers, officials and the man-in-the-street come into the studio to discuss the problem. All very gentle, and with none of the breathlessness of some of our TV channels.
The tube authorities express surprise every year when the tracks exposed to the sun expand and need repairs. They haven’t worked out yet that metal expands no matter what year we live in. This is rather like their counterparts in Bangalore whose annual surprise is caused by the rains.
Complaints have become a national obsession. In fact you can tell the nationality of the complainer by his complaint. The Japanese complain about the lack of empty benches at Leicester Square, the Eastern European about the British accent, the Arabs about the large portions of London that somehow still do not belong to them, and the Indians about not being invited to the weddings in Lakshmi Mittal’s house.
Killing them softly
Lobsters are worrying Britain sick. Lobster euthanasia is all the rage.
“We must stop boiling these chaps,” they say, or, “we must stop poking their eyes out to kill them,” or “gosh! Did you know we have to kill these guys before we eat them, how barbaric.” Lobster-knowledge is sweeping Britain like the results of the national lottery. Humane treatment does not involve simply letting these creatures live, but killing them softly.
Now a 60-year-old lawyer has come to the rescue of guilt-ridden chefs who have been agonising over how to cook lobsters without letting them know they are being cooked. Just as years of research was beginning to conclude that there is no human way of killing lobsters, he has found the answer: Crustastun. It electrocutes your dinner first, and the creatures don’t know whether they are dying or watching television. How human!
The Crustastun costs two thousand pounds. Expensive? But what is that compared to the knowledge that lobsters pass away with a smile on their faces and a determination to add that extra something to your dinner, and perhaps the following day’s lunch if the guests eat carefully?