Friday 21st November 2104. Week 178 Spain

    What’s on my mind this week.

    Well I think its about time we all said a big THANK you to smokers. We owe them a debt of gratitude. And let's face it, we're not terribly kind to them. We've turned them into lepers. We make them stand out in all weathers to get their nicotine fix. We walk past, as they huddle in doorways like small frightened creatures, and feel superior to them. Get all righteous when we tell cowering smokers their addiction is a 'dirty and disgusting habit'. And on top of all that we pile on more and more restrictions daily. The latest: they can't smoke in their cars in front of the kids. This because The Great Benevolent Head says so. Now parents have to wait till they get home before lighting up in front of them. At least in a car they could've opened a window! But what do I know. The GBH is now considering banning smoking in the streets. Where are these poor souls going to go? What did they do that was so frekin bad?.

    Why aren’t we standing up for their right to live how they want? For good or bad. It's their lives after all. Because, mark my words, once you've trampled on someone’s personal freedoms it's much easier to do it again. The line in the sand has been redrawn. Today the smoker, tomorrow the junk food eater.

    Now I know many are not as sympathetic as I am to smokers. Some will say 'What about my rights to walk the streets breathing clean air? Why should I tolerate people smoking? Forcing me to breath in their smoke?. Hey? Mr clever dick know it all?

    Well, for a start, we don't actually have a right to clean air. It's not written into our bill of human rights as the GBH has never given us one. But if you want fresh air, go climb Everest, because it's the only place you'll find it. But be warned, due to mounting CO2 levels, ozone depletion, and industrial pollution you'll get skin cancer forty times quicker than lying on a beach at Clacton.

 Fuck the cake, lets spark this bad boy up.

   I just don't understand why we’ve persecuted smokers when A: we could easily move away from them. And B: depending on whose expert research you read, second hand smoke is the least harmful of the cocktail of pollutants we all breath in 24/7. And C: There are real issues at stake. Surely one needs to pick ones battles. Banning smoking isn't even a skirmish. The battle to clean up the atmosphere is a mammoth one. If the pollutants from car exhausts were bright red, I'm sure the world would be an entirely different place today. Industry pumps out millions of tons of pollutants each day. C02 levels continue to rise. The world is slowly choking to death. It's a pity some don't go after the real polluters with as much enthusiasms as they have with smokers. But then again, I guess, smokers are easy targets.

    Anyways that’s not why we owe them a debt of gratitude. This is. Here’s the maths:

    There are 10 Million smokers each paying £6.53p (the tax revenue on one pack) a day for the privilege. Times that by 365 and that equates to a gargantuan £24 Billion a year that smokers cough up in additional taxes. That's money non smokers would have to fork out when smoking is eventually banned. And before anyone emails me: Smokers account for 7.8% of hospital admissions which cost the NHS 2.7 billion. And remember they also pay N.I

    So do me a favour next time you see a smoker say thanks, as they're saving you a fortune.

 

    Ya'll have a good, smoke free weekend.

    Sources: The Tobacco Manufactures Association: ASH:: The Treasury

 

 

 

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    Thursday 20th November 2014 Week 178 Portugal.

    The Euro

    While not debated as often as it once was, there are still those in power who believe we should adopt the Euro. There are, after all, some quite obvious financial benefits in terms of trade and tourism. But at the same time there are also a number of drawbacks. Chief among these is us Brits bloody love the pound. It's more than just our currency, it represents us and our independence, for good or bad.

    Living in Europe these last 178 weeks I reckon I have discovered why the Euro hasn't caught on. And by that I mean: theoretically, it should've become the currency all others measure themselves against. For a start it's backed by some of the biggest economies in the world which have, historically, both some of the oldest banking systems and some of the most trusted financial institutions within them. Also the Euro has phenomenal buying power. Almost half a billion people use it, spend it and save it. So what's gone wrong?

    Well I'll tell you. (Thought you might. Ed)

    Years ago I collected foreign banknotes. Many were incredibly beautiful, near works of art in themselves. The old currencies of Europe said something about the countries they represented. Colourful and richly decorated. Their designs evolved over time. The printed imagery often celebrated some historical event, a famous person, or some physical feature of the country. It felt as though you had history in your wallet.

    The Euro, in this area, is hopeless. For example: printed on the twenty Euro note is a picture of two windows. On the ten, it's a church doorway and on the five, an arch. It's without doubt an incredibly dull looking currency, only marginally more attractive than monopoly money. In fact, it puts me in mind of the toy money, I used to find, in a compendium of games as a kid. For me the Euro trivialises the value of paper money by turning into a document and it's hard to get excited about a document. It's also physically very small. How can it be taken seriously when it doesn’t so much as fill a wallet, but cower inside one?

    However those are not insurmountable problems. The next is. Let me put it this way just so you realise the gravitas of this point.

    Many years ago Reliant, a British manufacture of three wheeled cars, made a four wheeled version. Unfortunately it was doomed from the minute it rolled off the production line because, for some strange reason known only to themselves, they decided to call it the -drum roll please- 'Reliant Kitten'. I think they sold three and those to family and friends. I doubt there was a man in Britain who would have proudly boasted, while down the pub with his mates, he'd just brought a Reliant Kitten. He'd have very quickly been beaten up. Had they named it the Reliant Cougar Slingshot XL Turbo he might have been able to hold on to some of his friends but I think the word Reliant would have almost certainly sealed his fate.

    What something is called is vital to its success. Ask any ad agency. Ask Englebert Humperdink, John Wayne or Cary Grant if they'd been as successful using their own names of Arnold Dorsey, Marion Mitchell and Archibald Leach? I doubt it.

    'The Euro' sounds vague, uninspired, lacklustre and boring. It was thought up in a committee room by a bunch of bureaucrats.

    The Euro should fill a wallet and not slip behind the stitching. The printed image should capture the hearts and imagination of those using it. And it should have been called.................well anything other than the sodding Euro.

 

 

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    Wednesday 19th November 2014. Week 178. Portugal.

    It Beggars belief.

    Lagos is one of the nicest coastal towns we've visited, anywhere. Not too large not too small. It has a busy marina and even busier fishing port. The large fish market overlooks the harbour which, if it didn’t stink of fish so much, I might have ventured into it by now. -I much prefer to buy my fish semi prepared and presented in a nice Styrofoam tray- Because of the fishing industry right on its doorstep there are more fish restaurants than you can wag a Fishfinger at. During high season they're kept busy. At the moment, they're all chasing the same hungry diners.

    The town was once walled, surprise surprise, but only one section remains. There’s a small unimpressive fort on the quayside and the original slave market still exists although obviously not open for business. Other than those, Lagos is a mite short of historic buildings. The town centre is neither upmarket nor down at heal and has a good mix of shops. It's always busy, mildly attractive and you can sit, alfresco, at one of the many cafés, look out to sea or do as I do, and people watch.


    One of the people you'll see, while sipping your coffee, is the town's eccentric. He reminds me of Jack Sparrow, he of Pirates of the Caribbean fame. The most eye catching feature of his apparel is his paisley underpants which he wears over his skinny jeans. His hat is festooned with seagull feathers. He's often seen, on his knees, picking up cigarette filters, not butts, the actual filter. However his most endearing feature is, as far as I'm concerned, that he asks for nothing. Unlike some.

    Now I can't help having the face I have. I'm blessed, or cursed, I'm not sure which, of having one that doesn’t look too threatening. Hazel says I have a face people think they recognise. Possibly. I was once accused, by two pensioners in my local co-op, of being 'that bloke off the telly' When pressed, neither could put a name to him, so clearly not someone well known.

    I believe I have either a kindly face, or a benevolent one. I say this because beggars always make a bee-line for me. I was accosted today by a women who asked for money. I said to her, that “ not three days ago I gave you a Euro. I can't give you money every time I see you.” I hoped she'd walk away having seen the logic in my argument. Safe to say she didn’t.

    “Why not” she said. “I bet you could.” Cheek! So I had to say no, a lot more firmly.

    I was asked once by a beggar 'if I could spare some change'. I said no. At that moment her mobile went off and she produced an iphone!. I was then tempted to ask her for some.

    Another ploy was used by this old chap. He sidled up to me and asked if I would exchange a pound coin for a Euro, this was in Spain. When I gave him a Euro he made it quite obvious he didn't actually expect me to take the pound coin in exchange. I let him keep both for his cheek.

    Last week while enjoying a coffee another beggar approached me, having spotted me from some distance away. He zoomed over and produced a crinkled and worn family photo. A women and her brood. He then extended his hand. I waved him way. I'm sorely tempted in these cases to produce my own family photo, then just stare blankly back, in a kind of Mexican stand off

But the beggars that get zero sympathy from me, are the fat ones. You’ve no right to be a beggar and fat. The first rule in the 'How to improve your beggar skills' handbook, is to look emaciated, not look like you've been stuffing your face with fizzy pop and crisps all day.

 

 

 

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    Tuesday 18th November 2014 Week 178. Portugal

    WiFi & Danger.

    You're probably wondering what happened to me yesterday. No? Okay, please yourselves. I should have mentioned on Friday they'd be no Monday diary. This is because they planned to switch off the old wifi system and switch on the new. Which they did, but as is the way with these things, all did not go according to plan.

    Previously if you wanted wifi access you had to sit in a small lounge behind reception. Because we're reasonably close to it I could connect to it in the van, but it was unpredictable. It seemed only to work when there wasn't an 'R' in the month. Some days I could log in, it would romp along and others it would treat the wifi connection as if it had leprosy.

    Anyways. After much scratching of heads and jiggling around the new system is up and running.

    I should imagine that little nugget of info interests no one, but it's something of a red letter day around here so I thought I'd share it with you. Consider it shared.

    Something else which I doubt will foster much interest is the weather. Having said that, I do occasionally get asked about it. I was once asked if I could report on it daily. I was tempted, after all I could have simply cut, copied, and pasted the Met Office's daily report. That has to be what? A couple of hundred words?. Would've made my life easier.

    The whole of last week we had sporadic showers. As a result we did very little. Not that we do much when it's not raining. I don't want to give the impression we're out wind surfing, scuba diving or cycling up mountains laughing our heads off 24/7, we don't, (Can't more like. Ed) True. I know I'm going off the point but: As you get older you become one of life’s spectators and less of an active participant. Besides, risking everything in the pursuit of fun, or a buzz, or a high, is for the young, they’re daft enough to think themselves invincible. I know I did. As a young man I hammered around north London on a old Triumph 650 motorbike which literally had no brakes and was held together with string and spit, true. Did I think that was dangerous? Of course not. Stopping required nothing more than some advanced notice and stout shoe leather. The older you get the more you realise just how misguided, or plain bloody stupid, you once were.

    Okay what was I talking about? Ah! yes. I recently had this queer compulsion, still do in fact, to hang my neoprene wetsuit (Used twice. Ed) Shush!, over the clothesline outside the van. This would go some way in creating the illusion I was still something of action man. Someone full of daring do!. The young ladies from reception would have walked past and seen it. I then could have said “Morning ladies, apparently there's been a great white in the bay, I'm off to check it out”. Should up my kudos rating.

    Hazel, oddly, thought the idea juvenile. Women!

    So anyway this weeks forecast is for clear blue skies with temperatures around a cool 67. At least now if we want to do something outside, we can.

    Right suns out, I'm off rock climbing  

 

 

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