Peeing drunks ruining historic buildings in Chester, England

Chester, Chester Rows
The Chester Rows, a set of medieval buildings in downtown Chester, England, are under threat from drunks peeing on them.

This unique set of timber buildings are built atop Roman ruins and offer raised, covered walkways with shops behind them. Unfortunately, these hidden spaces are perfect for drunken louts to relieve themselves. Shopkeepers are complaining about the smell and urine seeping into their businesses. Also, the cleaning that’s required most weekends is wearing away at the fabric of the buildings.

Chester police caught 250 people peeing in public last year, although that’s only a fraction of the real number of incidents. I live part time in England and I can attest to the fact that it’s a problem in pretty much every city.

Councilor Hilarie McNae says the local government is working hard to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the city’s heritage. Sadly, Ms. McNae’s efforts will fall on deaf ears. Drunks who pee on medieval buildings after downing fourteen pints of lager are barely aware of anything and probably don’t care even when they’re sober.

Photo courtesy John Allan.

England riots: watching Basket Case 2 and waiting for Oxford to burn

England riots, Basket Case 2The night before last, I walked into my local convenience store here in Oxford and the pothead manager told me, “Be glad you don’t have to stay here all night.”

“Expecting trouble?” I asked.

“You haven’t heard the news? It’s all over Twitter. They’re going to gather in five different locations and then attack the city center.”

I considered for a moment. The store, and my house, are on the south end of Iffley Road. It’s a nice neighborhood, but just south of it is Rose Hill, full of yobs and hoodies, just the kind of snaggle-toothed lowlifes who’ve been rioting in London and other English cities. I pictured a mob of them swarming down from Rose Hill, burning the nineteenth-century thatched roof houses in Iffley village (including my son’s school), spray painting the Norman church, and charging up Iffley Road in a lager-fueled fury.

They’d hit the store first, beating up the night manager and stealing his weed along with the liquor behind the counter. Refreshed, they’d head up Iffley Road towards city center. Right by my house.

I finished shopping and hurried home. There had already been incidents in nearby towns. A McDonalds set on fire. Shop windows smashed. When I got home my kid said that when he was coming back from day camp he’d seen a lot of police. Even a five-year-old knew something was up.

His bedroom faces the street. I pictured a brick flying through shattered glass. That happened to a friend of mine in London, and it wasn’t even during the riots. I moved him into the back room with his mother. I took the front room.

They soon went to bed. I texted some friends who live in Rose Hill, hardworking immigrants who work overtime to provide a good education for their kids. They didn’t reply. I constantly checked the Thames Valley Police Twitter feed, which said all was quiet but that there were increased patrols. I saw none from my window.

I needed to take my mind off my worries and nothing does that better than a B-movie. Lately I’ve been feeling nostalgic for New York City. Not today’s Disney New York of tourists and yuppies, but the gritty and vibrant 1980s New York of my teens. Besides Driller Killer, no B-movie captures the essence of the old New York better than Basket Case.This tarnished gem features conjoined twins: a regular teenager who looks a bit like I did at that age, and a shrunken lump sticking out his side. They’re separated with an operation, but of course they have a telepathic bond and the lump likes to kill people. The normal brother keeps the evil football-with-claws in a basket, hence the movie’s name. I’d seen Basket Case, so I put on Basket Case 2, which had to be better than the original, right?

In the sequel our “heroes” takes refuge in a mansion run by a mad psychologist who shelters mutants. The house is filled with them. In the first therapy session, the shrink tells the basket case, “I understand your pain, but ripping the faces off people might not be in your best interest.” Somebody should tell the rioters that.

The movie seemed to be taking an interesting turn. I kind of felt sorry for the monster. It never had a chance. I definitely felt sorry for his normal-looking brother, trapped into a lonely and fugitive life because of his evil other half. I soon lost all sympathy. Any regular people who enter the house of freaks are immediately attacked, and the freaks corrupt the normal teen until he’s as evil as themselves. The injustices of the world weren’t making the mutants do bad things, they just used that as an excuse.

I worry about my friends’ kids up in Rose Hill. Surrounded as they are by lager-swilling dropouts waiting to turn 18 so they can get onto the dole like their parents and grandparents, they’re going to have a huge challenge growing up clean. Decent folk in bad neighborhoods face a stark choice: be a victim, get out, or become one of the monsters.

The night passed quietly. The next morning the paper said several fires had been set across Oxford. None were serious. In one case a would-be arsonist stuck a rag into a car’s fuel tank and set the rag alight but somehow the fire didn’t spread. These guys aren’t exactly rocket scientists. I suppose the cops didn’t report the fires on their Twitter feed for fear of encouraging copycat crimes. Makes sense from a policing point of view, but from a taxpayer’s point of view I wasn’t pleased.

The next night I went to the Albion Beatnik, Oxford’s best independent bookshop. There was a reading sponsored by eight cuts gallery, a local small press, and unlike so many literary readings most of the stuff was actually good. This is the England I love, the England of intellect and wit, of culture and community. The England of the rioters is a different country occupying the same space. Shangra-La and Somalia.

I left early to make it back before dark. The city at dusk was quiet. Several times people moved out of my way. Two girls even crossed the street. A lone man is suspect. Once again I slept in my son’s bed in the front room. No bricks this night either, but at 5:30 in the morning I got woken up a hollow thump thump thump. It continued for at least ten minutes, punctuated by incoherent bellowing.

I peeked out the window. A young drunk guy in a hooded sweatshirt was kicking the plastic recycling bins and calling for his friend to let him in. Eventually he realized he had the wrong house and staggered off down the street. He wasn’t going to make it far. I pictured him curling up on the sidewalk and dozing off, oblivious to the early morning pedestrians stepping around him. You see that a lot in England.

As I got back into bed it started to rain. I thought of him asleep out there and smiled.

Getting drunk: Twenty cities that don’t know how to handle their liquor

California loves to get wasted! San Diego and San Jose are the top two cities that drink stupidly, according to a survey by Insurance.com. They lead the country in alcohol-related driving violations, a dubious distinction to say the least. So, if you step into the crosswalk in these two spots, take an extra second to look both ways.

The reasons for hitting this list vary and include proximity to colleges and nightlife, and the presence of stringent enforcement may play a key role, the survey finds. If you think a lack of enforcement puts a city at the top of the list, remember that slapping the cuffs on a lot of people increases the instances of drunk driving, which actually pushes it up. Insurance.com explains:

San Diego most likely tops the list because its police departments are aggressive in making DUI arrests, and officers there arrest lots of drunk drivers, says Mark McCullough, a San Diego police department spokesperson specializing in DUI issues.

To pull the list of 20 drunk driving metropolitan areas together, according to Insurance Networking News, Insurance.com analyzed “percentage of its car insurance online quote requests for which users reported alcohol-related driving violations.”

So, who made the top 20? Take a look below:

  1. San Diego, CA
  2. San Jose, CA
  3. Charlotte, NC
  4. Phoenix, AZ
  5. Columbus, OH
  6. Indianapolis, IN
  7. Los Angeles, CA
  8. San Francisco, CA
  9. Austin, TX
  10. Jacksonville, FL
  11. San Antonio, TX
  12. Dallas, TX
  13. Houston, TX
  14. Fort Worth, TX
  15. Memphis, TN
  16. Philadelphia, PA
  17. New York, NY
  18. Baltimore, MD
  19. Chicago, IL
  20. Detroit, MI

Boston got lucky on this one. It was excluded because of a lack of data – not because the drivers there are absolutely nuts.

Disclosure: I learned how to drive in Boston.

[Via Insurance Networking News, photo by davidsonscott15 via Flickr]

Drunk tourists trash archaeological site

The ancient Chilean town of Tulor has been trashed by a group of drunken tourists.

Tulor is an extensive town with well-preserved adobe houses of the Atacameño culture, dating from 380 BC to 1200 AD and is a popular site for tourists, with 10,000 visits a year. Yesterday Chile’s National Monuments Council said they found damage to some of the town’s ancient walls and there were beer bottles and plastic cups strewn everywhere.

Nobody has been caught, but trashing a heritage site is a serious crime in Chile, with a penalty of up to five years in jail. That’s considerably more time than the one night in jail that a group of drunken British tourists got for insulting Catholicism by dressing up as nuns and going on a binge in Crete.

Gadling’s hangover cures

Sooner or later it will happen to you on a trip. You’ll drink too much schnapps, or ouzo, or chang, or tej, and you’ll wake up the next morning feeling like your brain is two sizes too big for your skull and your mouth was indecently violated by The Mummy.

A hangover is one of the worst types of traveler’s illness because it’s self-inflicted. Luckily every country that has a local branch of hooch (and that’s most countries) has a local remedy. Here in Spain, someone suffering from a reseca should go to a cafe and order a tostada con tomate. This is toast with a bit of olive oil topped with tomato puree and salt. It’s best taken with some strong coffee. The Scots like drinking their national soft drink Irn-Bru. In England people have a traditional fry-up, with baked beans, toast, sausage, bacon, tomato, and mushrooms. Lots of carbohydrates is one school of thought for curing a hangover, although Vitamin C is also a common cure.

When I asked the rugged, hard-drinking travelers here at Gadling, I got plenty of suggestions. One blogger gave her personal recipe as “Emergen-C, carbs, a nap, a shower, more carbs.” Others suggested the “hair of the dog.” Two said a few Bloody Marys work best, mixed either with eggs Benedict and greasy hash browns or a nap. The Mexicans have a variation on the Bloody Mary cure called the michelada that sounds like it should work pretty well. I wish I had known about it after a certain tequila night in Nogales.

Gadling readers offered some favorite cures too. In Wisconsin, with its history of German and Scandinavian immigrants, the traditional remedy is sauerkraut juice. I can’t imagine stomaching such a thing the morning after a pub crawl, but with its salt, liquid, and vitamins C and B6, I can see how it would work. More palatable is ice cream or chocolate milk to get your blood sugar level up quickly. Chocolate before going to bed is said to give you crazy dreams as it flushes the alcohol out of your system more quickly but you’ll wake up feeling OK.

The main causes of a hangover are dehydration, vitamin B deficiency, and the toxins in the booze you guzzled the previous night, so the best cure is preventative: drink quality stuff and before going to bed have plenty of water and some vitamin B tablets. I’ve noticed that a night on the town enjoying quality British real ale gives me a pain-free morning, while drinking regular lager destroys me.

For more international cures, check out this handy National Geographic diagram. If all else fails join The Prohibition Party. Yep, they’re still around!