London and Why Have I Not Used Buses Before?

At the weekend Con and I took to London for my sixth time and her first (proper) time. It was a mixture of getting away from Glasgow, a short city break prior to our wedding, one of Connie's friend's wedding (to another Brit, yeah) and also to go and fulfil a Christmas present, and go to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: the Making of Harry Potter.

Some context: Connie's favourite film series is the Harry Potter series. And it is also one of my favourites. The latter ones (basically the ones not by Christopher Columbus) are very good and towards the end become true blockbusters. It's kind of crazy that a film series got to it's eighth instalment before it peaked. That really breaks the Sequels are shit rule.

The wedding was lovely, and it was great to dance and party like nothing else - a lot of champagne really helped me to dance my way into a dreadful and almost endless hangover that killed a full day of possible sightseeing and any chance of meeting for drinks later that night. We were staying with Jayna and her place is located in Wandsworth, a place I'd never been before.

Not near a tube stop, we had to rely on buses and trains. Previously, I've avoided buses in London because they were impenetrable. I had no idea how to buy a ticket (the first time I went was before the Oyster system) and I also had no quick way to check where buses go and which one to take. I downloaded Citymapper to my phone and it was a sudden change - the bus is dirt cheap and the app told you which buses to get, where from, and where to get off. So, instead of the dirty dirty tube we got the bus to Westminster for our first bought of tourism, and it was great.

We got a short tour of London, with myself acting as "tour guide", and I pointed out a few places here and there. It wasn't until we looked up how to get from Westminster to Buckingham Palace did I realise that I had a golden chance to ride the New Bus for London, the much touted and expensive replacement for the old routemasters.

We hopped on the back and said hello to the conductor and sat in a kinda cramped seat, but it was a routemaster. It felt like the old ones - I remember them as a boy running around Glasgow city centre. It was fun, and quick, and a bit of a novelty. The bus looks great on the outside and seemed confortable on the inside, though the lower deck was really small (two stair cases and three doors, mental).

Harry Potter was not in London, despite it's name, and is located out by Watford at the Leavesden Studios (where films are still being filmed today). Getting the train to Watford Junction was made more difficult by the temperamental Overground cancelling services (and stopping me from getting to use the service, which was a shame).

The tour was brilliant - I was amazed at the sets that are still standing the costumes - personal highlights were the Ministry of Magic floo network fire places, the Knight Bus, the Magic is Might sculpture (that I was certain was a CGI creation) and the endless nick nacks here and there that made up the world. It felt like a wizarding museum, it was so lovingly craft and created.

We did miss Frank a lot though.

Bank Holiday Fun

Everyday in May

Today's topic is "bank holiday fun", which essentially seems to suggest that I shouldn't be at work - but I am. I actually do most of my writing on breaks and at lunch whilst at work, finding it a soothing distraction from the endless battles with politics in the office and unwieldly syntax errors in Excel (that's actually a joke; I am a master of Excel and can make it dance in very complex ways at my bidding).

I don't do bank holidays. I get the days off in lieu and use them on other days of the year, which is my preferred option - I am not a fan of having a day off when everyone else is off and places are shut.

I actually really dislike bank holidays - they seem like such a hangover from an older age, where the world wasn't always connected, or on. For example - last month, Easter Weekend coincided with my car needing to be re-insured and re-taxed. It was the perfect example of the ridiculousness of a day where things are shut in this day and age - I couldn't tax my car without my new car insurance documents which were delayed by the postal service being shut, and neither could I tax my car over the phone because the DVLA was shut. Thanks to Royal Mail being closed, the DVLA being closed, and the delays that result from them, I was unable to legally drive my car for a week despite doing everything within my power to comply with the rules.

It rankled a lot.

I know I am being "bah humbug" about something that gives people time off work, something that is hypocritical when considered with what I wrote a few years ago. It just feels like a hangover for an age long gone.

Add to that my ignorance of most of the holidays (I actually have no understanding why May has a few bank holidays in the first place, and a read at a very dry Wikipedia page didn't really help my understanding) I really can't be doing with them. I'll take my days off on days the rest of you are at work and I'll go hillwalking, drinking tea, or visiting castles.

Celebrations (of an Atheist)

I normally don't celebrate Easter. I celebrate Christmas, but not in the religious sense. Easter has, in my childhood home, always been about the Chocolate. I know people will complain about missing the "true meaning of Easter", but to be honest I never have had the true form of Easter in my life as I was never brought up religious. The only time I ever was touched by religion was in the primary school which forced attendance at church and the singing of hymns during school assemblies.

As a child I didn't think anything of it – it was just the way the school was set up. The hymns were about stuff that I didn't understand and thought ridiculous at a young age – mostly the entirely lame songs put me off completely. The stories I was told were ridiculous and even then I didn't believe them. But as an adult I am kind of repulsed by the idea that I was fored to go and do these things by my education. I find it radical that children in Scotland were made to do this by the state operated school system. I understand being taught about religion, but there was no link of what we did at assemblies to what we were being taught during classes. Indeed, there was an "us and them" attitude to the whole thing, with many Hindu, Seihk, Jehovah's Witness and other religious children being allowed to sit out the Christian parts of the school assemblies.

Interestingly, it was only recently I was made aware of how odd the whole thing was, and also how strange it was that I'd not even noticed it before. I had been a strong atheist for most of my recent adult life, and yet I'd not fully understood that I'd been involved in a strange type of attempted indoctrination that only was broken by my parents – who are 50/50 in the Great Scottish Divide. My father – raised catholic, and my mother – raised protestant.  Their reluctance to send to a church on either side eventually allowed me to make my own mind up. I wonder if I had been sent to Sunday school in one of the sides of that, would I have came out the other side the same way? Or, like a friend of mine who raised catholic to the hilt, might I have came out even more disenchanted?

Easter and Christmas, however, despite being Christian holidays technically, are also as secular as you can get. Many religious people will claim that this is hypocritical, and also not allowed. Why should I be able to celebrate Christmas and ignore the message that it is built upon? Well, to that i'd say that Christmas is more than religion, and has been for decades. Indeed, I've never went to church outside of weddings and school enforced events. So yes, maybe the "true" meaning of Christmas and Easter are not applied to my celebration, but I see that as no reason to not at least partake in my version of it. Christmas is the time when in the UK the country shuts down, and it's one of the few times that it's accepted that people will be off – it's family and friends time, and i am grateful for that.

I don't believe in Christmas' or Easter's "meaning", or religious meaning – does that disallow me to celebrate it in my own way? I actually don't celebrate Easter at all, not understanding people's reactions (Connie's included) to working over the "long weekend". I actually can barely name all of the days – Good Friday, Classy Saturday, Egg Sunday... but I will enjoy some cut price easter eggs if i find them, as I like chocolate (especially the Mars chocolate). However, Christmas is the most important time of the year as it permits me to go home to Glasgow, go home to Canada, and see the family that otherwise I might not see.

It also highlighted a large gap in Connie and I's cultural exchange - she had the traditional Easter celebrations, whereas I didn't, and it upset me that I had no plans made. No I know, though.

Do many religious people find it annoying that I celebrate "your" holidays? I can imagine yes, and I guess they are allowed to be a bit annoyed by it.