Thursday 18th September 2014 week 169 Italy.
Good luck to my Scottish friends.
Today Scottish people will be asked: Should Scotland be an independent country?" Any patriot worth his salt would, and should, answer yes to that and hang the consequences. I know I would. Strikes me as cleverly phrased question. For example had it asked: Do you want to leave the Union and go it alone in the world? I'm not sure you'd get the same excited response. However this isn’t about questions it's about politics. This is about Alex Salmon and Mr Cameron being written into history but for entirely different reasons.
Worth pointing out for any non British readers, and yes I do have a few, Scotland already has its own parliament or assembly. Scots have their own health care and education system. Their own voting system, which includes an element of proportional representation. Their own courts and legal system. Their own police force. Their own language. Scotland has its own flag, its own National Anthem. It fields its own sportsmen and women in worldwide sporting events. Its also has its own proud history and heritage. And those are just off the top of my head. That's independence surely in all but name? Having said that, if they want independence, then good luck to 'em, but I don't really see it as being life changing. But I'm not Scottish. It was an independent country three hundred years ago, I see no reason why it couldn't be again.
Of course our David is not very happy. He'll be blamed by history, and his fellow Conservatives, for losing Scotland, almost a third of the United Kingdom. This will relegate Britain to a country not much larger than Tunisia, with about as much clout. British politicians are worried they'll have a weaker voice on the worlds political stage. And how are they going to justify spending all our money on the military might if we slip into being the 83rd largest country?. Fuck! The electorate might start asking awkward questions. Such as: Explain why the worlds 83rd largest country needs to have 4th biggest military budget on the planet? The 3rd largest Navy fleet? Surely we should cut the cloth to fit the suit? We've all had to, why is the government exempt?.
Then there’s the practical side of things. We will still be Great Britain or, Almost Great Britain? What will our flag look like once you take out the Andrews cross? And what if none of the hysterical hype and threats befall Scotland and they go from strength to strength. Who's next? Wales? Isle of white? Canvey Island?.
But I'm here to tell him he doesn’t have to worry, as Scotland will vote NO. Why? Well the British establishment have done an excellent job of spreading fear, propaganda and misinformation. They have warned of dire consequences for the Scots if they dare to leave the Union. Most of the British governments arguments, I've read, have been based on speculation and scaremongering not fact. And yet there are plenty of historical examples of countries gaining independence to draw from. Frankly, It's been embarrassing to witness. I noted a military expert yesterday waded in saying: independence will lead to increased terrorist attacks, why? I've no bloody idea and I doubt he had either.
It will go exactly the same way the referendum on proportional representation went in the UK five years ago. The Government bulldozed the truth. but above all, people hate change, some even fear it. Most believe in the old adage: Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.
It's a very brave man who picks the latter. I just hope I'm wrong.
Wednesday 17th September 2014 2014 Week 169 Italy
Bygone days of yore.
Once upon a time, many years ago no one could tell the time. Watches and clocks had yet to be invented. They had sun dials, but, being made of stone meant they weighed about a hundred weight and no way you could mount them on your wrist. Not having a method to tell time was a nuisance. You'd pop along to the say, ye olde bakers only to find a note on the door saying: Gone, back in a while, or soon, which, let's face it, is vague to say the least. You couldn't say to anyone: 'just give me five minutes', because its meaningless as would: 'I'll only be a second'. However the general populace were not all doomed to being perpetually late for a dental appointment with the black smith, no, because the church was the official time keeper.
Churches throughout the land rung their bells on the hour, the quarter and half. Thus people could only ever be one quarter hour late, or early for any appointment. It informed those who tilled the soil it was time for work, and then when to go home. And, most importantly, told them when it was time to pop into the church and leave a donation. This method of time keeping worked well.
Could she look anymore Italian? No, They love their scooters here.
However progress, and in particularly time, moved on apace. We now all have watches and clocks. I have one in the car. One on the scooter. One on my phone, occasionally one on my wrist. One on my camera and MP3 player. One on the cooker and one on the microwave. I also have one on the telly, one on my laptop and one on my calculator. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, we went out, I think last year, and brought one for the wall. Where telling the time is concerned, Hazel and I, have seventeen ways of telling the time.... it's fair to say we've pretty much got it covered. The only downside of having quite so many clocks is that at any given time they rarely agree. Who amongst us changes the clock on the cooker when summer time ends, or begins?
In the UK, if you're lucky, you may still hear the distant gentle peal of tuneful church bells on a Sunday morning. It may remind you, if you're old enough, of a bygone romantic era when the countryside was full of babbling brooks, dingles, dells and hollows, ploughs were pulled by stout looking horses and John Betchamin wrote poetry about the English countryside and steam trains. Halcyon days indeed.
Thankfully, today, in the UK, church bells chime when calling the faithful to prayer, although with a plummeting congregation one has to ask why can't this be done with a just a phone call?
This is not true in Italy. Here church bells still keep time. On the hour, on the half hour, on the quarter hour and when the priest has a hair cut. In fact I'm convinced they are linked to the church door, much like a bell in a grocers shop. As far as I can tell, they are rung with the minimum of provocation
The other day I attempted to have a read in the shade and perhaps nod off. After all I'd been busy with.. well... stuff in general. It wasn’t long before I found myself drifting off until the the local church struck up. For three minutes they rang. Ring is actually the wrong word. Ring makes it sound almost pleasant, tuneful even. It would be far more accurate to say they clanked and clonked like cannon balls inside a tin bath.
There is an art in ringing bells, its called campanology. The clever bit is getting something of a tune out of them. Here, I'm convinced, they simply swing on the ropes for a laugh.
Tuesday 16th September 1014 week 169
Always nice to provide fellow campers with a little bit of light entertainment and I don't mean knocking out a few songs on the guitar. I was the figure of much attention and some mild mirth yesterday as, in leaving the camp-site to head south, I reversed into a tree: clearly then, in Mr Magoo mode. I heard the bang-come-crunch which drew gasps from a number of Germans close by. One women threw her arms up in the air which I thought was a tad overly dramatic. I should say I was being seen back by Hazel, but it was my fault, I was watching another tree the other side of me. A 'big up' to the Mrs for staying calm and not dragging me from the cab screaming. Not sure I would have been so cool had she been driving, I like to think I would have. (Best joke all week. Ed)
I jumped out casually. I tend, in such circumstances, to try and not draw undue attention to myself, not easy when the arse end of your van is shoved up against a tree. I tried to make it look like it's an everyday occurrence: What now? Oh not another tree! What am I like Derr!!
I nonchalantly brushed away some loose tree bark from the bike rack, tossed out the odd twig that had fallen from the tree under impact, smiled and climbed aboard, and with a cheery wave and an auf wiedersehen all, took off. They looked a little dumbstruck to be honest.
A few miles down the road I pulled over to survey the damage.... and possible cry in private. It wasn't that bad. I'd managed to bend the bike rack rails and buckled, slightly, the rear wheels on both bikes. Still, it matches the other dent I put in the tow bar back in the Uk. While the van looks great, the back end is beginning to look like a Beirut taxi cab.
What a sweet find. Camping pian dei boschi
The drive down was spectacularly boring with little scenery to ogle at. The toll was a hefty €33 on 190 miles. I was heading for a camp-site just outside Genoa. I'd phoned them two days ago and made sure that had vacant pitches.
'Noa problemo, justa turn upa' the women said confidently.
When we did it had a FULL sigh on the entrance. Oh for F...., sake. Great!. I sailed past. The area was heaving. Hazel suggested they must have some event on. There were motor-homes parked in car parks, on waste land, by the roadside. One c.aravan was parked in the street and had it's awning out on the pavement. There was nowhere I could stop so we headed back towards the motorway
At the next service station (Fuel €1.88 a litre. Ouch!. Ed) I pulled in to get my bearings and find another camp site. Behind me was a sports car. I pulled over, out of his way and moments later a Corsa shot in off the motorway, skidded and smacked into the rear of the sports car which launched it forward over the ground, not a minute ago I'd occupied. Now that seriously could have made a mess. Fortunately no one was hurt.
We found another site 25 miles down the coast. And headed for it. Turned out to be a little gem. Lovely swimming pool. Nice shaded pitches. Barely half full. Accepted our discount card and gives us one free hour use of the internet daily, more if you wanted to pay. Result. We were both glad the other place was full.
Right must get cracking, wheels to repair and all that.
Monday 15th September 2014 week 169 Italy
I received a small number of emails this morning. The usual. One asking me to confirm bank details for a bank account I don’t have, guess you'd call that a speculative email. One from a women in some ex eastern-bloc country looking for a husband: I forward those on to Hazel and another asking if I'd like to bulk purchase 500 Viagra tablets, so basically enough to straighten out the Tower at Pisa.
I did get one from a chap asking me: 'where did I get off calling religion a 'dark forces'. (Oh Dear! I told you not to put that. Ed). This in reference to Fridays entry. I pointed out that it was only my opinion and therefore, unlike the commandments, not written in tablets of stone.
I was hoping a few people might read it and think, cool! I've always thought that Phil, nicely put mate!. But I also realised some are going to say: What the fu......!. this guy's an idiot!. But that’s the way of the world, I accept that. You commit an idea to paper and it can put you squarely in the cross hairs. I told him that what I actually said was 'religious doctrine' and not religion but I reckon he thought I was just splitting hairs. Which maybe.... I was.
I once got this very supportive email from a lady after I'd said I'd managed to lose half my readership. -A quite meagre number to start with- (Now that's not true dear, you have a very healthy readership, Ed.) This because I'd aired my support for gay rights.
I'd made the point that what others do in their bedroom isn't my business. And whom-so-ever they choose to do it with also wasn't my business. I was not put on this earth to judge my fellow man. I suggested it was a pity so many thought they were. This was prompted by some batty old Archbishop who annoyed me by referring to gay people as 'those people' when, according to the scriptures which he's suppose to follow, none of us are 'those people'. Surely we're all Gods children?. Jesus said: Love Thy Neighbour as Thine Self'. He didn’t then add the proviso; unless they gay or belonged to a minority ethic group in which case fuck em!. He was very clear on the subject. Religious people can't have it both ways.
Peschiera del Garda
Anyways, the upshot was my readership plummeted. She said I'd always made it clear it was only ever my view I was expressing. And while she'd laughed, disagreed and not understood all the stuff I'd written I should kept writing it none-the-less. Which I thought, coming from someone I've never met, was a jolly nice thing to say.
The only other emails I got were ones that informed me I do have a Euro key.
Oh great! I Launch into a Victor Meldew rant at computer keyboard manufactures and apparently all I had to do was press and hold down the Ctrl key, as well as the Alt key, then press the numeral 4 key to get the Euro sign! €, there I did it. Well that’s me with egg on my face.
“Now why didn’t you think of that?” Hazel asked. “Perhaps, and let me speculate here, because it not exactly obvious” I replied. And this coming from someone who could find his way around a Sinclair Spectrum keyboard, the most complex known to mankind. Still, I dare say this may go some-way in explaining why, occasionally, when I look up at the screen to read what I've typed, I find the last two paragraphs are in capitals, or italics or the font has jumped from Times New Roman size 12 to Ariel size 44!. Clearly, I've inadvertently hit upon some weird combinations of keys.
I guess I should count myself lucky no email had the subject line: 'Phil you turnip'. No, they were polite and even complimentary. Cheers. I'm just hoping I didn't managed to upset any of them on Friday, what with them being so helpful and all.