The English Town That Changed Its Name Because of Sacha Baron Cohen

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

While a shout-out on a popular TV show might be a boon for some small towns, many of the residents of Staines, a town on the River Thames in Surrey, England, were pretty displeased when their hometown became a recurring joke on Sacha Baron Cohen’s Da Ali G Show, which ran from 2000 to 2004. In fact, according to Condé Nast Traveler, residents were so upset to be named as the fictional Ali G’s hometown that they changed the town’s name, making the official switch to the slightly fancier-sounding Staines-upon-Thames.

Baron Cohen’s alter-ego Ali G, a white suburbanite who plays at being a streetwise rapper, claims to live in the heart of the “Staines Ghetto.” The location serves as an in-joke for Brits familiar with the relatively affluent London commuter town. Being from Staines is the opposite of being from the ghetto, in other words, adding to Ali G’s poser persona. The town’s greatest claim to fame before Baron Cohen made its name famous was that it is a major producer of linoleum—and that it was the hometown of the decorated World War II homing pigeon All Alone.

Unfortunately, many Staines residents didn’t appreciate the joke. In 2011, the chairman of a local commerce group claimed that the town's association with Ali G was lowering its property values.

“There’s no doubt Ali G put Staines on the map,” Alex Tribick of the Spelthorne Business Forum said, “but for all the wrong reasons. He put the stain in Staines.” The borough council voted in favor of changing the name to Staines-upon-Thames in December 2011, no doubt leading newscasters everywhere to stumble over the phrase “Staines-upon-Thames name change.”

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Florence’s Plague-Era Wine Windows Are Back in Business

A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.
A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.

Many bars and restaurants have started selling takeout cocktails and other alcoholic beverages to stay in business—and keep customers safe—during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, 17th-century Florentines are surely applauding from their front-row seats in the afterlife.

As Insider reports, a number of buildings in Florence had been constructed with small “wine windows,” or buchette del vino, through which vendors sold wine directly to less affluent customers. When the city suffered an outbreak of plague in the 1630s, business owners recognized the value of these windows as a way to serve people without spreading germs. They even exchanged money on a metal tray that was sanitized with vinegar.

Wine not?sailko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Things eventually went back to normal, and the windows slowly fell out of fashion altogether as commerce laws evolved. This year, however, they’ve made a comeback. According to Food & Wine, there are currently at least four in operation around Florence. Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi is using its window to deliver wine and cocktails, for example, and the Vivoli ice cream shop, a go-to dessert spot since 1929, is handing out sweet scoops and coffee through its formerly dormant aperture.

Apart from the recent resurgence of interest, the wine windows often go unnoticed by tourists drawn to the grandeur of attractions like the Uffizi Gallery and the Florence Cathedral. So in 2015, locals Matteo Faglia, Diletta Corsini, and Mary Christine Forrest established the Wine Window Association to generate some buzz. In addition to researching the history of the windows, they also keep a running list of all the ones they know of. Florence has roughly 150, and there are another 100 or so in other parts of Tuscany.

They’re hoping to affix a plaque near each window to promote their stories and discourage people from defacing them. And if you want to support their work, you can even become a member of the organization for €25 (about $29).

[h/t Insider]