Just found my online diary? really? you should surf more. Your a bit late comming to the party as this ones over. ie, the fat lady has sung. But feel free to have a nose around.
Tuesday 30th June 2016
Did you miss me? No! I didn't think so. We've been on holiday, and yes I know what you're thinking, been on holiday! christ you've just come back from four years schlepping around Europe! In my defence, I did get it discounted. I've a friend who runs a motorcycle tour company. So we toured Scotland, on a motorcycle, ending up on the Orkney Islands which, and I never thought I'd say this, makes Sweden look like a swell place to settle down in.
Sometime, I think in the third year, we toured Sweden, I've still not got over the boredom of it.
The tour members were a mixed bag. One chap talked incessantly about himself. By the end of the tour I could have written his autobiography. I knew more about his life than my own. Another chap could not have been more different. Getting him to talk was like pulling teeth. However, he did amaze me four days into the tour when he suddenly asked me, “Where'd we all come from Phil?” He said it in such a way that led me to believe he'd been mulling the question over for some time.
“All.... you mean..... Humanity?” I seeked clarification.
“Yeah people and that.” I mumbled some rubbish about evolution and the sea but even I wasn't convinced.
Not mine, one of Hazels.
George was a semi retired Boston attorney. Larger than life, a big man with a round moon face. He struck me as the type of attorney the mob would hire. In casual conversation he told me he advised his clients: If you shoot a dumb MF for breaking into your home on the lawn, make sure you drag his sorry-ass back into the lounge before the cops arrive. He was serious. The most remarkable thing about him, other than his seemingly loose grip on justice, was his age. Seventy five. He sat astride his hired Harley with a bandanna around his balding head chewing on a big fat Cuban stoggie. He looked every inch the part. His lady friend, a teacher, was a just year or two younger. I had nothing but admiration for her as, riding behind her, she handled the terrain, the weather, the bike and George with great aplomb. I only hope when I'm their age, I can do it justice as they did. Another member, Geoff, was the wrong side of fifty. He downed a bottle of white wine with each evening meal, owned fifteen pet ferrets which, if you ask me, is about fifteen too many, and ate more ice cream than a coach load of school kids. I nick-named him 'six scoops' but a jollier man you'd be hard pressed to find.
All in all we had a great time. It's sad we're unlikely to meet them again. The only sour point to the trip, other than Orkney itself which you couldn't pay me to return to, was that some idiot reversed his van into my bike knocking it over and causing £600 worth of damage.
Oh! And the scenery is magical. But you knew that, right?
Monday 15th June 2015.
Well good news/bad news, and then some more good news/bad news.
First did you have a good week? I hope so. Mine was something of a red letter week but it didn't start well. The Vauxhall dealership had my car for a day but couldn't find a fault. 'It's been fine' the chap said as I paid them for doing sod all. Within three minutes of getting it home the alarm went off!. Fuck, why do I bother.
While there I asked if the alarm could be disarmed, permanently. He raised an eyebrow at this.
“It's that or my neighbours will raise a petition to have us evicted from the street” I said.
“Ah! Well you could always disconnect the car battery” he replied.
I wanted to point out the alarm has it's own power supply so disconnecting the cars battery would achieve bugger all other than stop me from starting the bloody thing, and why didn't he know that? but, as I say, why bother.
Taken on route to the Brenner pass. Looks like something out of the Lord of the Rings
Okay, good news/bad news. The bad news first. If you click on the 'year one link' you'll discover my first years diary is no longer available. The good news is I've gone and turned it into a proper grown up book. I've given birth, least that's what it feels like. Incontinent? Who us? is alive and kicking.
Since returning I've been busily working away on it. Cut out boring bits -not that there was many- corrected even more spelling mistakes, included more photos and generally jazzed it up. It really is a jolly decent read now, no seriously. I know I am bound to be biased but I've always been my worst critic. Now I'm as proud as a mother who has just had a wee sprog. It's being published by by Madcow publications and is available on Amazon at the remarkably affordable price of £6.50 in digital format. They suggested £9.99 but I said no! make it cheap so it's accessible to the poor.
Here's the pre-order link.
They've also published my other book, 'The Smart Persons guide to making money on ebay'. In this I explain how, using modern sales and marketing techniques, you can make money with, and from, ebay.
Do I know what I'm talking about, you ask? Well yes I do. In the six years I've been selling junk on eBay, stuff I'd have previously given way, dumped, burnt, lost, hid, swapped, stashed away in the loft or garage, I've turned over in excess of £20,000.
Here's the link.
Next bit of good news/bad news. The good is we're off on holiday. Yes, yes that's right, we've been travelling around Europe for four years, back five minutes and we're off on holiday. We're taking a motorcycling tour of the Okneys. The bad news is they'll be no weekly update next week'
Yeah, I know, it's no great hardship: but I should have lots of material when I return, especially as two Americans are booked on the tour and you know how much I like them.
Monday 8th June 2015
Good week? Ours ended up Okay. The early part was spoilt by our new car -well new to us- nervously, and randomly, sounding its alarm. Personally I don't think it's quite got over the trauma of being dumped onto a flat bed truck in Glasgow and towed away by two burly Glaswegians a few weeks back. I've booked it in for a counselling session tomorrow, so fingers crossed. On the up side, on that point, Glasgow council have now refunded my £200 parking fine. This after I sent them, even though I say so myself, a well penned begging letter. I can grovel with the best of em!
Now I once attended a wedding where the vicar asked that classic question “Does anyone present know why these two should not be wed?” . From the back of the church came the response “Yeah she can't blooming cook!”. The vicar, lacking a sense of humour I thought, halted the proceedings and issued a stern warning against inappropriate comments.
(Didn't help with you laughing. Ed) True. But it was certainly something the groom should've been made aware of.
Personally, as I've said before, humour and religion make strange bedfellows. Which is odd since it's fundamental to the human condition. Lets be honest it's what keeps many of us sane. I mention this A, to get a cheap laugh and B, to segway neatly into the family wedding we attended this weekend.
Now, within the hundred or so people within the congregation I'd guess perhaps two see the inside of a church with any regularity. I base this assumption on a YouGov poll which showed that 65% of Brits said they are not religious. Another poll, conducted by Mori, suggested that 37% of Brits were humanist, of which I'm one. And a recent British Social Attitudes survey found that 40% said they were not religious at all. Do the maths and you're down to a couple at best. Consequently I found myself wondering why the bride and groom had chosen a church wedding. I posed this question later to someone at the reception. They replied with: 'Well I guess it's just traditional more than anything else'. I expect that's pretty close to the truth. However the bride and groom didn't strike me as traditionalist types, what with their small daughter running up and down the aisle pulling faces. Don't get me wrong, that's not a criticism, just an observation.
During the proceedings the vicar said. “Whomever shall have love in their hearts, God shall dwell within, for God is love. (Debatable) He that lights the way blesses those that rejoice in love, for this is his purpose”
I can't help thinking that religious language may well have something to do with why so many see religion as an irrelevance in the 21st century. It wouldn't hurt if the clergy sounded like the rest of us rather than a actor in a Shakespearian drama. Verily, I say unto you, thou knowest what I spake of. I'm sure if they did we'd all find it easier to identify with religion.
Still, not my problem.
“Love is patient, the vicar continued, and kind: it does not envy or boast: it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way: it is not irritable or resentful: it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”
Well I'm down with that, just glad he omitted the bit that says, Wives! submit to your husbands as you would the Lord.
Tad sexist if you ask me. Still a jolly good day out.
Monday 1st June 2015
Do they like us?
Since returning from our four year jaunt around Europe I've been asked, on occassion, do the Europeans really like us Brits? Not an easy question to answer. I think they liked me but then again I'm a likeable chap.
Some do, Switzerland for one. Why I've no idea, but I have it on good authority from a fellow Brit who lived there, their nuts about us. The French I'm not so sure about. Who they like/dislike can be a fairly tricky issue. For example, French living in the south of France don't much care for those living in the north, and almost everyone that doesn't live in Paris dislikes Parisians, so I wouldn't dare ask what they think of us. However, in general, most nations do, but clearly they hold us in the same high regard they once did.
For proof of this look no further than the Eurovision song contest. Now you're not going to believe this but Britain is the most successful country in the contests history. Yes, I'm gob smacked too. I checked the results from day one and we were winners, or runners up, twenty times.
(You've got too much time on your hands. Ed) True, saves digging the garden though.
We did jolly well in the early days with acts like Matt Monroe, Perl Carr & Teddy Johnson and Kathy Kirby, halcyon days I think you'll agree.
Britain is one of the big four. If you're not sure of what that is, I'll tell you. We, along with Germany, France and Spain finance the contest. Aunty Beeb coughs up 1.3 million from the TV licence fee. ITV and channel four also contribute. In '96, when Germany failed to qualify with that catchy little number: Man gewohnt sich so schell an das Schone, they kicked up such a stink the rules were changed. Now, even if any of the Big Four get no points, as we did in 03, we automatically qualify.
I'd frekin love a pair of sparkly pants.
For us things started to go pear shaped when they changed another rule. You see originally countries had to sing in their own language. This suited us because sixty percent of Europeans spoke, or understood, English. This meant, for example, people in Azerbaijan could join in with the chorus to Lulu's Boom Bang-a-Bang. Our songs had instant appeal. Toe tappers for everyone. Today entrants can choose which language they sing in and since then we've consistently brought up the rear. So is this, you ask, why we scored just five points the other day with quite a good tune?.... course not.
Thing is, today, it's all political. Britain is viewed as a bit of an loose cannon within the EU. This is due to our inability to 'make our minds up' -incidentally a song that won the contest in 1978 for us- about whether to opt out. It also still rankles with some that we get a huge rebate from our contribution toward the EU budget. But more importantly, perhaps, we're just not good neighbours. Our GBH tends to side with the Americans every time they want to bomb someone they've taken a dislike to: someone who has more oil than them usually. We've always put our 'special relationship', which always sounds slightly incestuous to me, with the USA, before our friendship with our much closer euro cousins. So no, it doesn't surprise me we've not had a win in almost twenty years.
So I reckon we should either apply for a rebate, opt out altogether, or renegotiate the rules.
Now why does that sound familiar?
Tuesday 26th May 2015
Real Numbers and dates.
Let's try and clear this up. I've been asked, by another one of my international readers, how come 4 million Brits voted and ended up with two MPs, and yet 11 million Tory voters ended up with 330.
-I refer the honourable gentlemen to the answer I've given previously-
It's simple, it's down to Britain's wacky version of democracy. It's why we can't get shite done around here. Governments are still debating the same problems they did when I was a snot nosed kid. Housing, health, education, pensions. Nothings changed. You'd have thought they'd have got their shit together by now, but no chance.
Take immigration. We've just had another bumper year, second biggest since records began. David, I-can't-belive-I'm-still-employed, Cameron said on Friday: 'His Government will tackle immigration head on. Set Targets. Bring in quota's. Get tough! Sound familiar? Well it should do: it's what he said five years ago. Still, keeps labour costs down I guess.
Last year they issued 532,325 visas to non EU visitors*. Almost 200,000 work visas were issued. What the GBH can't tell you is:
A: How many went home after their visa expired. And B, How many stayed and carried on working. Consequently they've no idea how many live and work here illegally. You'd have to ask why, in a country with 'officially' 2.5 million employed, this Gov issued any frekin work visas in the first place?
A boat on stage, whatever next?
Anyhoo, enough grumbling. You'll remember last year about this time, well a year and six days ago to be exact: late afternoon, I was sitting in my motor home, in Spain enjoying life when Hazel suddenly piped up.
“Guess what day it is today?”
“Monday” I replied.
“Yep. Anything else?”
“The anniversary of Philip van Bourgondie being installed as the bishop of Utrecht in 1517”
“Twat...... No. It's my birthday”
Fuck! A husbands worse nightmare: forgetting his wife's birthday. What could I do?. How was I going to salvage this? More to the point would I ever eat a hot meal again? Fortunately I had the printer out so I was able to knock up a birthday-card with the aid of a photo of a kitten.
-Not a good idea as it turns out-
So this year I had to do something special. -For special read expensive- I had to make up for it. So I planned an overnight trip to London and good seats for Phantom of the opera, she has the CD and hums the tunes incessantly. Monday I casually announced she should pack an overnight bag. Her little face positively lit up. When she climbed into the car on Tuesday morning she had no idea where I was taking her.
I'll not go into detail but safe to say my forgetfulness was a distant memory and the show was truly amazing. Trouble is, I've now set the bar quite high. Box of chocolates and a birthday hug ain't going to cut the mustard next year.
Have a good week.
*Office for national statistics
Monday 18th May 2015
This week I've proven the existence of God! but more of that in a moment. First this: I read a news story which reported a restaurant had been closed for serving human flesh. I was relieved, as you would be, when I read it was in Nigeria. Now my first thought was: ah! typical. I mean, it's Nigeria. If a restaurant is going to dish up human flesh is going to be in Africa right? so I wasn't hugely surprised. I guess that says more about me and my opinion of Africa than it does about their cuisine.
I should say I've been to Africa and while there was offered Kudu in a restaurant, which I believe is the name of a type of antelope and hopefully not a Mr Kudu.
The visit was quite an education. I did take pity on a small boy who was begging and gave him a few Rand. As the bus pulled away, with me aboard, he was jumped on by older boys and, I expect, had the money taken from him. Before my intervention he was just hungry little boy, after: he's still a hungry little boy but now sporting a black eye. Even charity comes at a price. It did strike me as a land of extremes and not one I'd rush to revisit.
One diner at the restaurant, when interviewed by the police, said that the food was very tasty but pricey. He'd paid £12.60 for a meal for five which I've worked out is £2.60 per head...... I just hope thats not what he had.
Okay, now most of you know where I stand on religion, I'm a non believer. However, I do think that if I witnessed a genuine miracle I might be persuaded otherwise. Who wouldn't be?
You'll remember a couple of weeks ago I told you my car got hijacked. It was mounted on a tow truck and whisked across Glasgow by some burly looking Glaswegians who, had I been there, I would've probably helped load the car rather than argue the toss with. I'd mistakenly parked in a residential area. However, at the time, I saw a parking meter, brought a ticket and assumed it was all pay and display. This error cost me £200.
I penned a letter to the Glasgow city council when I got home and signed it The Rev Phillip King. Now for reasons I'm not going into again I am legally entitled to call myself The Reverend. If you want to know why? send a S.A.E or serch this site for the full explanation.
In my letter I threw myself on their mercy. Took the blame for the abduction of my car and said I believed the fine was more than just fair it was a bargain. I went on to say that, for future reference, they could perhaps, if it's not too much trouble and they have some spare paint knocking around, mark out the ground denoting the residential parking area as this would save fools like me running foul of their wonderfully sensible parking restrictions.
Friday, I received a reply from them saying they would, on this occasion, refund me my money.
Miracle, or what?
Monday 11th May 2015
Good week? Ours was busy. Something interesting today, but first I've been asked a question by one of my international readers. And yes, I have do have a few.
“How come” he asked, “1.5 million Scots voted SNP and elected 56 new MP's and yet one million people voted for the Green party and they only got one?”
Good question. Basically it's because of a peculiarity of democracy, or at least the British version of it. Our version is not to be confused with that quaint notion of 'one man one vote' where one citizen's voting power is equivalent to another's. True the early Greek philosophers felt that while it was the best way to create a fair and harmonious society our Parliament dosen't. So it evolved a queer system whereby more people can vote not to elect a particular party and yet it can still get elected, wacky I know. And once elected it can do what the fuck it likes. An example of this is the Tories who, not wanting to let the grass grow under their feet, have announced they're planning to scrap our adherence to the European Human rights act. Now that wasn't in their manifesto was it?
Still, worth remembering that in the 1800's only 214,000 people were eligible to vote in the UK so we're coming on in leaps and bounds if you ask me.
Okay enough of that: Imagine this: A slim attractive girl is running, barefoot, through a green meadow. The sunlight catches her hair. Close behind her is the man of her dreams. Tall, chisel jawed with a full head of hair and designer stubble.
(Not you then? Ed). No. I lost it on tall let alone the full head of hair.
He catches her. She giggles coquettishly. They fall into an embrace. He lifts her and spins her around. A voice over announces, with a French accent, Amour! By Armonde for the woman in you'.
If you're not familiar with that image, try this. Some hippy chick in a far too short mini skirt is seen climbing into a clapped out Renault in the early hours, she drives off wearing a saucy smile. The camera switches to a tall chisel jawed, full head of hair dude with designer stubble.......
(Same bloke then? Ed.) The very same.
he's lying across a bed in a kind of naked sky dive pose, the sheet strategically covering his one bit and two bobs. The same voice announces, Charlie! by Else St Adame for the girl in you.
That is how perfume is sold to women. Manufactures and advertisers aim the adverts at women by either creating some romantic fantasy or making them appeal to the girl who knows what she wants and how to get it.
Of course when it come to men you can't do this. Gone is the romance and caddish female behaviour. Here, the advertisers know that before you can get to the part where you're spinning some girl around in a field like an idiot, or find yourself in an empty bed with the sound of a knackered French car driving away, you've actually got to attract one. Men wear aftershave and or deodorant. Now since very few men are chisel jawed with a full head of hair, advertisers tend to choose weedy nerdy types to flog their product. This is hardly surprising as weedy nerdy types more accurately reflect normal blokes. They'll then throw him amongst half a dozen hot leggy girls who get one whiff of him and then start a cat fight to decide who's going home with him.
Of course us blokes are not daft. We know in the real world that's not likely. This because we know smell alone is not what it takes to pull a bird............. or do we?.
People who make aftershave would have us believe that trapped inside their product they have captured an odour which will make women go weak at the knees. They then give it a totally ridiculous macho name to tempt us. Here's a few, all real. Fire and Ice. Zero. Masculine Black. Only the Brave. Villain for Men. Star Walker. Team Force. Deep Energy and my favourite, the imaginatively named, 'Swiss Army Mountain Water pour homme' …......probably makes you smell like a puddle.
Trouble is, regardless of how stupid the name is, none of them work. They've all missed the boat. And I say this because there is only one odour that's guaranteed to make women’s knees buckle. Only one that she will not be able to get enough of. Only one that will have her following you around like a lost puppy and it's been under our noses, and hers, since the dawn of time. What is it?
Well the odour of a freshly scrubbed little baby of course.
Monday 4th May 2015
It's the great BONAZA Giveaway!!
It's a good time to be British. This is more like it. The electorate doesn't want policies. Fuck that! What we want is politicians with pound-stretcher mentalities. We want bargains and that's what we're being offered, in spades.
David Cameron, in his manifesto speech, has promised us all 'A good life' under Tory rule...... even for people who live upt-north. His words not mine.
Well I for one can hardly wait. Think we can all agree the last five years have been pants!. So it's comforting to know the days of wine and roses are just a mere pencil cross away. Let's hope his view of 'A good life' is similar to ours. Plenty of dosh in our pockets. Follow Germany and reduce the retirement age. Get the NHS we all deserve and increase the sate pension to that of Brazil's.
He's certainly teased us with some cracking offers.
NO income tax increases for five years. And to that end he's promised us a new law which will forbid his Government -if he gets re-elected- from raising our taxes. Erm.... why he needs a law to stop him raising our taxes does sound a tad suspicious but let's not look a gift horse in the mouth right? He goes on.........
NO increases in National Insurance during his Captaincy
NO increases in Vat for five years!
(Might be worth taking this one with a pitch of salt. After all he did raise VAT despite saying they wouldn't. Perhaps that's why he needs a law... who knows?.
He's scrapping stamp duty up to £300k.
He'll give fifty quid for every two hundred quid saved by first time home buyers toward a deposit. You could find yourself being handed a swag bag containing five grand to help you buy your first home.
Personal Income tax allowances will be raised to £11000.
Housing association tenants are to get the right to buy their homes.
And he's pledged to spend more on the NHS.
It goes on.
Of course, not wanting to be outdone, Labour has hit back with the promise of more!. They'll do most of the above........ PLUS!
Build a quarter of a million new homes. Provide 8,000 more doctors, 20,000 more nurses and 3,000 more midwives. Introduce a 10p lower tax band. They'll cut Tuition frees. Freeze energy bills. Increase the minimum wage and scrap the bedroom tax.
And Ed has gone one better than Dave, rather than bring in new laws to help him keep his promises, he's gone all biblical, he's pledged, Moses like, to have his promises, not written into law, but on an eight foot high tablet of stone and place them in Downing Street. (True).
Like me you might be wondering where the billions are going to come from to finance this massive spending spree.
Well it turns out the Tories are going to finance their give-away by clamping down on benefits payments. Personally, I didn't know the poor were awash with dosh, but what do I know? Labour will pay for their plans by increasing taxes on nasty tobacco company profits and the rich. Both have also said they'll close 150 year old tax loop holes once they work out just how. And they will both save on Government waste. Apparently, there's billions ministries can save on Paper clips and UHU glue.
What they're going to do to make this a fairer and more just society is anyone's guess.............. none of the above I fancy.
Tuesday 28th April 2015
What an Insult?
First let me thank those amongst you who have wished Hazel a speedy recovery. Happy to report she's on the mend. Unfortunately however, by the time she got home from the hospital I'd caught it. What 'it' is, is a mystery. My doctor referred to it as a 'bug thing', which is exactly what a friend of ours called it and she's no medical background what-so-ever, working as she does in a dry cleaners. I now can't help wondering if my doctor knows anything about dry cleaning, I suspect not.
We now sit around coughing like a couple of sixty a day smokers. Still, every cloud has a silver lining and aside from shopping for food we've not been able to get out and spend money which seems to be all we've done since getting home.
I'm now of the belief there must have been a whole raft of people eagerly waiting for our return so they could get their talons into our meagre pensions come savings. I counted no less than fourteen financial bodies and institutions all of whom wanted a piece of our action. Home less than a month, and we're plugged back into the Matrix that is the financial national grid. We've become consumers once again. Organisations across Britain have tapped into our bank account and are now drawing fiscal nourishment in the form of direct debit payments from our banking nipple.
Safe to say, I've seen a corresponding rise in my stress levels
If I were to measure my stress levels using a scale of say, one to ten over the last four years while travelling around Europe, I'd say they rarely peaked above 0.1. Occasionally they did reach 2.2 but only when Mercadona, my favourite supermarket in Europe, failed to stock my favourite chocolate cakes. At all other times my stress levels were low enough not to register at all. I walked around blissfully ignorant, unaware the world was nothing less than perfect. What contributed to this euphoric state was my complete indifference to the news. I didn't watch TV nor did I read newspapers. I let nothing upset my own personal apple-cart.
I can say zero stress leads to an awakening of ones senses. It's quite amazing the difference you feel from your clarity of thought, when its not burdened with stress induced by the many idiots that surround us. Of course, returning to Britain I knew stress couldn't be headed off or avoided altogether, it's a prerequisite of modern UK living.
In an effort not to get drawn into the frenzied politics that is the currant election debate, I've avoided watching anything political, believing as I do, that in that route lies only madness and much hair pulling. And I very nearly managed it until I accidentally overheard a radio interview with the outgoing leader of the the GBH. I dashed across the lounge, well as fast as my poor state of health would allow, in an attempt to switch off the radio but I wasn't nimble enough. In answer to the thorny question of future government debt and borrowing David Cameron said:
“We can't let our children, nor our grandchildren pay for the mistakes of this generation”
In an instant my stress lever peaked at 9.8. What fucking mistakes? The British public has dug deep into it's collective pockets and bailed out this country. Bailed out the banks. Bailed out the financial institutions and bailed out this government. We have all, collectively, got poorer. Our savings have been devalued. Few of us are worth what we once where. Need I remind anyone, the British tax payer guaranteed 44 trillion in loans to banks in 2008. We've done a bloody lot, thank you! We've coughed up massive increases in Vat and other taxes and yet, according to our leader, 'We've made the mistakes'. What a liberty?
Had he said: 'the huge mistakes of my government' I might have been able to keep a lid on my stress levels. But no, he laid the blame squarely at our door. He should remember the British tax payer has surrendered decent pensions, agreed to work longer for less. We should be applauded, not ridiculed or used as a scapegoat for failed management.
I can't think of a bigger insult a British politician could make of it's people. And yet, bugger me sideways, will it stop people from voting for him and his cronies? Will it heck-as-like. I give up.
Monday 20th April 2015
First week back, a financial disaster. Second week, my car gets hijacked and held for ransom. Surely this week wasn't going to hold any surprises? Well I got that wrong.
I got asked two odd questions this week. One humorous, the other far from it.
We'd popped into Specsavers and got fitted for new specs. The first part of the eye examination consisted of answering general health questions asked by a young lady.
“Do you have any hobbies?' She asked as she scribbled away. I didn't answer right away, not because I've none, but I wondered where this line of questioning was going to lead. Why would she want to know I'm a beer mat collector? Not that I am. I suspected that if I answered 'no', she might launch into a sales spiel about Specsavers now branching out into 'hobby event weekends' and would I like to sign up for a few.
Just as an aside: Have you noticed, when you get railroaded in those situations, there's always an offer on. 'You can can save yourself 20% if you sigh up today they'll say, conveniently glossing over the fact you could save yourself the whole 100% by not signing up at all.
Anyway, she must have taken my hesitancy in answering as a sign I didn't understand the question so she tried to clarify it by saying, “Hobbies you use your eyes for?” Now that sounded plain daft. I wanted to ask her what hobbies did she know of where sight wasn't required because, apart from a blindfolded circus knife throwing act, I couldn't think of any. This prompted me to reply with, “Well there's none I do with my eyes shut if that's what you're asking. I thought it was a witty retort. She clearly didn't. Young people can be such a tough audience.
The week wore on.
On Thursday it all got turned upside down. I found myself having a near political debate at four in the morning, with three men, in my bedroom while Hazel was in bed. Sounds completely implausible I know, but absolutely true.
Let me say before I tell you how this came about, Hazel is fine. But in the early hours of Thursday morning she collapsed and I had to call an ambulance. She'd complained of feeling unwell and went to bed early -it transpired she'd managed to catch a particularly virulent form of bronchitis- Her already very low blood pressure dropped off the chart which caused her to collapse while making her way to the bathroom. Her normal blood pressure is only marginally higher than that of a sloth's, so when it does drop, so does she. At the time I wasn't to know any of this.
The ambulance turned up and an emergency paramedic was not far behind. He couldn't quite believe the readings he was getting when taking her blood pressure and clouted his machine in much in the same way you once had to clout old valve TV sets to get a decent picture.
“Right” he said. “Now I could try and get an out of hours doctor but that isn't going to be easy”. He then went into a long convoluted explanation as to why that was so. There have been cuts in services. Political manoeuvrings. Reluctance of some GP's to work out-of-hours. He could, he explained, ring the hospital but they were likely to say 'bring her in', so it's a bit of a dilemma. After all, no one wants to go into hospital? So what would you like me to do?”.
That struck me as daft a question as the one asked of me at specsavers, after all, I'm not a medical expert, if I was I wouldn't have called an ambulance in the first place. Now, at four in the morning, I'm being asked queer questions. Questions, that for all I knew, might have life and death consequences.
Anyhoo an hour later we found ourselves in casualty. And after a few tests they hooked her up to a drip and decided to keep her in for two days observation and IV antibiotics.
I'd like to say that never having cause to visit a casualty department in the early hours of the morning before, what struck me was the number of old people filling it up. Most had fallen over while taking a whiz or just fallen out of bed. A&E was awash with old codgers with black eyes, bloody noses, bandaged heads. Of course I could be totally wrong. It could have all just kicked off at the local retirement home after an overly enthusiastic game of early morning bingo.
What do I know?
Monday 13th April 2015.
So okay, last week was a bit shite, what with the windscreen going, the drains needing unblocking etc. but I had high hopes for this week. It started well enough, I listed the motor-home on eBay and within 72 hours she had a new owner. I shouldn't be surprised, after all, I did write a small guide book entitled 'How to sell on eBay'. -Drop me a line if you want a copy-
Later in the week we visited friends in Scotland and over the weekend we popped into Glasgow. We parked in the city centre, bought a parking ticket, which cost a mere £1.20 for the afternoon, and set off.
We visited the wonderful Kelvin-grove museum and Rennie Mackintosh's home, both free. In fact the majority of museums and art galleries in Scotland are free. We then had lunch amongst the young and trendy in the inexpensive University dining hall, which is open to the public. Glasgow had turned out to be a pretty cheap day out. How many cities can you say that about? None I fancy.
Later we returned to the car. On route we had to cross a busy road. As I waited for the pedestrian lights to change a recovery vehicle zoomed past. It carried a car with it's lights flashing and horn blaring out. It was obviously in a state of panic, it was being hijacked. There was something familiar about it. I'd seen the car before. It took a few seconds for the penny to drop....... fuck it was mine!. My car! There was nothing I could do but stand opened mouthed and watch it disappear into the maze of traffic, protesting it's innocence.
We made our way down to our parking spot which was now empty. Two policeman walked by. I explained I'd just seen my car on the back of a flat bed lorry.
“Aye, it'll be towed away I reckon”. He said wisely.
“But I had a valid parking ticket displayed in the window” I said not so wisely.
“Aye, but you'd maybe parked in a residents spot. There's a wee sign”.
I looked. He was right, there was a wee, quite ambiguous, sign. I deciphered it.
There were four parking bays Two for the public and two for residents. Of the four, all empty when I arrived, I'd unwittingly chosen a residents space. There was nothing on the ground denoting it was any different to the other two public ones.
The cop gave me the address of the car pound. We hailed a cab and raced across town. The driver took us to a decidedly less than desirable part of Glasgow. The kinda place, I'd guess, you'd not venture out at night unless you were tooled up. I found my car in the pound, behind barbed wire, looking as though she'd been interfered with. Inside the blast proof shed that passed for an office I was told I needed to pay £200 release fee. - why they don't simply call it a ransom I don't know- I knew it would've been pointless explaining my innocent error and plead for mercy, besides, the guy behind the inch thick perspex screen looked more like a boxer than someone with a soft spot for a sassanach.
Later I noted the ransom fee was subject to VAT, so even the GBH has profited by my misfortune. I read the appeals notice in the vain hope I might have grounds to appeal but there were no exceptions that covered making a genuine mistake, you're punished as if you are guilty.
Next week has just gotta perk up surely.
Home. 6th April 2016
It's true, shite comes in three's
Had a couple of emails asking me how my first week back is working out? That's an easy one, it's not.
It started to go pear shaped the minute we landed. Leaving Dover we were disappointed to see the amount of detritus, much of it chucked out of car windows, along the motorway. Plastic bags, caught on bushes, fluttered in the breeze like so much bunting welcoming us home. Occasionally, the shredded snakelike skin of a lorry tyre lay discarded. Bottles, cans, fag packets, bits of car, dead animals, fast food packaging all decorated the verges and meridian.
Now you're probably going to take me to task and say come on Phil! it ain't quite that bad! But it is. You're just use to it. What arriving tourists make of this mess I shudder to think. Europe is way tidier (generally). It's a known fact that in Germany an empty crisp packet can cause traffic congestion as bewildered drivers slow down to check it out.
“Vot ist das Fritz?”
“Mine goot, ist abandoned crisp packet, Helmut”.
“ Abandoned..... really!. Nein, must be somevon lost it”.
“Yah. Zis must be zar rezon, Helmut."
Granted, there's maybe no more crap now than four years ago when we left, but coming back from mainland Europe you certainly notice it. -I once read that collectively, councils in Britain spend £150 million just removing gum from our pavements- While I was calmly telling Hazel that motorists who litter should be dragged from their cars and have their heads shaved, a sports car flew past. A stone, the size of an exocet missile, was ejected from his tyre, hit our windscreen and cracked it from top to bottom. Suffice it to say this somewhat took my mind off the roadside litter.
We nursed Betsy home. I fell into a mild depression.
Stamford in Lincs, so old it makes me feel young.
We walked into our home for the first time in four years. Very odd feeling. It felt strange. If fact, it even smelt strange. Very strange. Five minutes later I discovered why, the drains were blocked solid. We called a drain unblocker chappie who proudly boasted in his ad, 'within the hour'. Stephan, from Poland, turned up twenty six hours later full of apologies. I was tempted to ask if he'd driven from Warsaw? Less than a hour later, job done, he handed me a bill for a staggering £234! Clearly it would've actually paid him to drive from fucking Warsaw! I decided then and there, if I am wrong, and there is life after death, I want to come back as a drain unblocker. Who needs a sound education? Stephan certainly didn't, just a good calculator and no sense of smell.
Whilst watching him at work my attention was drawn to the garden. It had, during our time away, reverted back to some kind of primeval jungle state. I half expected to see a Japanese soldier emerge from the undergrowth unaware the war was over.
The once small ivy bush, which Hazel used to keep in-check, has now become a habitat in it's own right. It has been allowed to grow the entire length of the garden wall. I called a gardener who wants £150 to cut it down and haul it away. As I was mulling that over I received a phone call from a windscreen repair guy who wants £170 for replacing my windscreen.
I've been home a week, a quick calculation tells me I've already shelled out £212 in just tax (VAT) alone.
Welcome back the the real world.
MEANING: Its illegal to copy any of this down and pretend to your mates you thought of first.