You don't know queues. You don't know queues until you've stood through the hottest hours on the hottest day in a shadeless car park in Texas, all for a sandwich. Four hours in short shorts and factor 50 in a line that doesn't move an inch. Four hours ("And you were lucky!" says a cheery local) shifting from foot to foot, hungry. We are living in a time of meat. A time of food channels broadcasting sandwiches the size of caravans long into the night. Of status burgers served with champagne, and chicken wings and ribs, and 18 napkins per person per dinner. Steakhouses line British streets; steaks line British guts. In the wake of the "burger revolution", Britain has begun flirting with barbecue. That's "barbecue", rather than barbecues – the first being slow-cooked meat, the likes of which you find in smoky Texas yards; the second a tray of Tesco Finest sausages served on a Leicester patio in between storms. Last autumn (following National Burger and Bacon Days) the carnivore's … [Read more...] about Best little sandwich shop in Texas
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Pennsylvania Avenue is one of Washington's main thoroughfares — a broad road, six miles long, that cuts diagonally through the city, beginning in the southeast, at the intersection with Southern Avenue, and heading northwest. It was one of the city's first streets, mentioned as early as 1791 in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. In the years since it was laid out, Pennsylvania has unofficially earned the title of America's Main Street — a nod to the line it runs from the Capitol to the White House, past the FBI headquarters, the Treasury Building and the World Bank. But its nickname also reflects its role in the collective imagination, as an artery of democracy carrying processions, parades and protests. In the road's beginnings, walking up through Fairfax Village and Stanton Park, you are reminded of the city's southernness – the slow gait of the day, the lushness of its landscape. A John Deere digger sits among the oakmossed trees; a man reclining on a … [Read more...] about Walking down Main Street USA
In central Riga, people are laying flowers beneath the Freedom Monument. It's a green statue of a woman holding three gold stars on top of a 42-metre stone pillar at the end of a broad, busy street. One woman explains to me that it's the 65th anniversary of the day in 1949 when 42,000 Latvians were deported to Siberia by the Soviet government. She still remembers hiding underground and finding the neighbours' house empty the next day. "Only the dog was left," she says. In Riga, Latvia's capital city, the past is alive – and complicated. The road that the monument stands on is now called Brivibas bulvaris (Freedom Boulevard), but its previous names – Alexander, Hitler and Lenin – are a clue to the city's history of rule by foreign powers. It was founded in 1201 as a base for crusading German knights, and for three centuries it thrived as one of the Baltic ports in the Hanseatic League. In turn, Riga then became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and then the … [Read more...] about Riga, a city revelling in its culture
A picture of large-scale destruction is emerging in and around the Indonesian city of Palu after an earthquake and tsunami struck on Friday.At least 844 people are confirmed to have died but that figure is expected to rise sharply as more remote areas are reached. The authorities have said they will begin burying victims in mass graves, fearing disease could begin to spread.Dozens of people are thought to be trapped alive under the rubble.In Palu, rescuers are awaiting heavy machinery to search the ruins of a hotel and a shopping centre as aftershocks made it unsafe for them to go in. "Communication is limited, heavy machinery is limited... it's not enough for the numbers of buildings that collapsed," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. Air traffic controller hailed as quake hero In pictures: Search for survivors A tsunami warning had been issued after the magnitude-7.5 earthquake hit on Friday, but it is unclear whether it was still in … [Read more...] about Indonesia earthquake and tsunami: Desperate search for survivors
The idealisation of the natural world is as old as the city, to the corrupting influence of which a return to pastoral life is always presented as a cure. But the increasing modern appetite of metropolitan readers for books about walking around and discovering yourself in nature is the literary equivalent of the rise of the north London "farmers' market". Both feed on nostalgie de la boue – the French term for a kind of rustic-fancying inverted snobbery, which literally means "nostalgia for the mud". In the case of the urban consumer of nature writing, of course, the mud is to be hosed off one's mental Range Rover immediately one lifts one's eyes from the page and gives silent thanks for the civilised appurtenances of hot yoga and flat whites. Much of the pastoral literary genre has long been a solidly bourgeois form of escapism. But nature is today also the arena for an oddly sublimated politics, and recent nature writing reflects some … [Read more...] about Is our love of nature writing bourgeois escapism?