This week in bigger pics

    Monday 4rd November 2013 week 124 Spain

    Out and about

    Yesterday was Sunday, hopefully you noticed that. In Spain, well in Europe really, not much happens. Little is open. All the superstores that are a Mecca for us Brits on a Sunday are closed. This can depend on what region of Spain you live in and if you live near a city where you might find some bigger stores open. DIY superstores, gardening centres and supermarket car parks stay eerily empty, much like the opening to a apocalyptic horror film. So to stave off any feelings of guilt brought about from not being able to shop on that most holy of holy commercial days we walked into town via the coastal route. I won't bore you with a step by step account of our three hour trek. Suffice it to say. I made it back with just the odd insect bite and a few scrapes but more importantly I never walked blindly off the edge of the rock strewn path while admiring the scenery nor the pretty Spanish lass we stumbled across sun bathing topless.

    Now I must say, and not for the first time, walking from A to B to A, as a recreational past time, is to me both over rated and, to a certain extent, mildly pointless (I love it! Ed.). To strike out only to find yourself back three hours later from whence you set off both questions your motives and your sense of direction. Some people say walking is good exercise. But can that be true? I mean it's pretty minimal. It's just the next phase after standing up which itself is only the next stage after sitting down so I'm not sure. If walking kept one fit then postmen should live forever but they don't, far from it. Google; How many postmen die of heart attacks, and you'll get 396.000 web pages on the subject. Common sense alone should tell you that fewer people die sitting in a over-stuffed comfy armchair than die hiking.

It's ickle me on the path of death, and yes it's the actual path!

    I can however see how those home walking machines maybe of benefit. At least with those you can watch say, Question time, so exercise your brain at the same time. Of course the real benefit of owning one is you’ll never become one of those bodies people out walking dogs in the early hours of the morning keep tripping over. Collapsing, clutching your chest in your lounge has to be more survivable than at the bottom of a ravine laying in six inches of stagnant water. Unless your 'billy no mates' in which case, quite frankly, your stuffed even at home. I once brought one of those indoor rowing machines, well it was given to me really. To be honest I really couldn't be arsed, so I'd just sit in it and drift.

    Some people tell me excitedly: yes but you're outdoors! in the fresh air! ( That would be me, Ed) Excuse me? Fresh air? What exactly is fresh air when it's at home? All air is fresh. Old used air is no longer air, it's some other gas, carbon something or other. The same people say: open a window it's stuffy in here, let some fresh air in. As far as I'm aware, and correct me if I'm wrong, oxygen doesn’t have a sell by date, correct?. In the Antarctic scientist can drill hundreds of meters below the ice pack to collect tiny pockets of air trapped tens of millions of years ago. They're able to analyse it. What’s interesting is that it's perfectly breathable, in fact it's positively minty 'fresh', actually 'fresher' as it has zero pollutants. They don't unscrew the cap on a probe and say: blimey that’s a bit rank Jim, quick open a window. And opening a window is also mildly pointless as there is no known natural process that exchanges air from your lounge to the street or visa versa other than a three grand extraction system. From my experience all that happens when you open a window is you let the fly,s and noise in.

    Finally, I had a mate who was a keen hiker. He swore by all this exercise and fresh air he enjoyed. One day he tells me he's been advised by his doctor to stop. Why? I asked. I've worn out my knee caps and the traffic fumes are aggravating my asthma......

    Point made I think.

 

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   Tuesday 5th November 2013 week 124 Spain.

    Gods and Goddesses

    We left L'Ametlla and headed 100 kilometres south to Alcossebre, yes I'd never heard of it either. This time I took the N340 non-toll road and saved myself a mighty eleven Euros. -In your face! you Spanish road toll tax collectors!- And before you tell me to calm down I've only saved eleven Euros, let me remind you that eleven Euros around here buys you five bottles of plonk........ There, now who's got egg on their face?

    One of Spain’s unique features is space, and lots of it. But this can also be one of it's drawbacks and driving on the N340 reminded me of this. Let me explain. Because they're not short of land, it's almost three times the size of England with less people, they don't bother knocking down old disused buildings, particularity commercial and industrial. You want a factory, ware-house? No problem. Build one. There’s no shortage of vacant land. This results in there being a glut of empty, derelict, buildings and the route yesterday was peppered with em. It's not pretty and gave me the impression of commercial stagnation, depression and untidiness. This was perhaps made worse by 'ladies of the night' -guess they were the day shift- plying their ancient trade along the hard shoulder. We saw upwards of ten. Let me say right off I've long since learnt that I was not put on this earth to judge other people, unless you walk in their shoes you can't! and to do so is foolhardy. So you’ll get no moral hand wringing from me.

 

Ths one captures my very own goddess..

    Hazel suggested it must be a dangerous way to make a living. I added perhaps a very boring one. I mean, having to sit all day on a plastic chair, in heat, by a dusty road side waiting for frisky drivers to pull over. Hazel agreed and added, absent-mindedly, Yeah I couldn't do it, the boredom would drive me crackers! I pointed out that if that was the only aspect holding her back I'd treat her to a Kindle! (It's OK ladies, for that quip I slapped him on the head! Ed). I did disagree with the view it must be a dangerous way to make a living. It might, I have no statistics and could find none. However the most dangerous job, greatest number of fatalities and serious injuries, is acknowledged to be truck driving so it might just be one of perception. And it's worth remembering that the vast majority of men are sane human beings, even those who visit prostitutes. They do the bizz, pay up and leave, they are not crazed killers. The tiny number that could be a danger to them are a danger to all women.

    Anyhow, on the instructions of the sat nav we pulled off the N340 onto a rough partly tarmacked road which the phrase 'off the beaten track' was invented for. I stopped. This didn't look likely. Hazel, spotted a distant sign to the camp site so we pressed on. The road narrowed. It crossed dusty open scrub land. A scattering of uninhabited buildings sat on stony red bare earth. The road disappeared and then reassuringly reappeared four hundred yard further on newly tarmacked. The tarmac didn't last long. It was now down to the width of the van and mostly loose gravel. The Garmin told me to press on. I did for a further two miles. It eventually spat us out onto the main road which, even being generous, wasn't a whole lot better. We turned onto it and found Camping Tropicana up on the left, like a little oasis of civilisation. I half expected the girls in reception to greet us with: Christ you found us, we were getting worried! but they didn't.

    Club Tropicana is.... well what? Nothing like the song for a start. It's like camping amidst some Greek tragedy. Who ever built this place went off and pillaged his way around Europa looking for alabaster statues. The site is full of life sized statues of Greek goddesses and gods. (see pic)  They stand like sentinels all over the site, most odd.

 

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 Wednesday 6th November 2013 week 124 Spain

    Oh to be a James bond villain

    I've been asked to  don my Jeremy Clarkson hat and give my verdict on the benefits of motor-home ownership over my old car and caravan set up. This is because I've now been knocking around Europe in one for the past six months. My first problem in answering this question is how to make it interesting for people who don't give a monkeys toss what I drive around Europe in (That'll be most of em. Ed) but I'll give it a go. 

    Right well, in a nut shell..... basically none. As you might imagine that's not really what I wanted to report having just bought one. In fact it's easier to talk about their draw backs than benefits. Lets give you an classic example. At the last site an ageing Dutch couple parked opposite us in a smart new motor-home. During their stay they went, absolutely nowhere. They didn't carry cycles, there was no bus service from the camp-site and a walk into town was an up hill three mile trek along unpaved roads. So after three days they left. This is why, as I once speculated, motor-homers generally move on more frequently than caravanner’s. On route to their next site they'll almost certainly stop and shop for a few days supplies. This is evident by the number of motor-homes you always see parked in any Lidl car park.

    Like me some get around the mobility issues by towing a scooter or more often, a small car. But then you have twice the motoring costs, increased ferry fees, road tolls and your still towing! you may just as well tow a caravan and be done with it.

 

    Now it also helps if you're on the same pay scale as Jeremy Clarkson because you’ll need to fork out upwards of £80 grand if you want a roomy new model. Ours is an older six berth model, we still can't pass each other without engaging in some kind of intimate game of 'Twist' mid way. Six people in this would be bedlam and we've no spare storage room. We met a British couple who had spent £110 Grand on a top German model. While it looked like something a James Bond villain might use as his headquarters it was still smaller than a students bedsit. And frankly, for that money, I'd insist it was amphibious and came fitted with a cloaking device so I can sail through road tolls undetected. However, I'm well aware some motor-homers can squirrel themselves away into the tiniest vehicles which, had they been forced to live in them, Amnesty International would be calling for their immediate release. No, I need space. I enjoy stretching out in the evening with a glass of grape juice after a long day getting lost.

    You can wild camp in a motor-home and some see this as a big plus. Wild camping it's where you park pretty much where you like, within reason. On beaches and in woods for example. Unless you're in a group however it can be unsafe. The only three break-ins we've heard about were all off camp-sites and involved motor-homes. While out walking last week we spotted a motor-home buried in a wood. Granted his view out to sea was positively idyllic but to a thief it would make easy pickings. Park in a wood, spend the day at the beach and return to find your home up on bricks. It's for this reason wild campers tend to cluster together.

    I don't regret buying our motor-home, I'm convinced they are generally better built, and more convenient at times, especially when getting into and out of smaller camp sites. Hazel finds driving it a lot more to her liking. Having said all that, a flash German motor-home, the size of say the German battle cruiser Graf Spee, does have undeniable kudos. And in a world of one-upmanship people will always aspire to owning what’s perceived to be the best.

If I won the lottery would I buy one............... probably.

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  Thursday 7th November 2013 week 124 Spain

    Crime solving Dolphin.

    We are having serious wind problems. And no, before you ask, it's nothing I've eaten, it's the actual wind. Gusting, according to the online Spanish weather service, up to 50 mph. I've spent the last hour trying to re-secure the awning which, like a rabid junk yard dog, is frantically trying to escape. It's now three in the morning, I've been up two hours so if this makes little sense............ blame it on sleep deprivation.

    This is about two Dolphins, I'll come to them later because I want to talk first about the British press and one leads into the other..... kinda... well almost.

Sunset over the med.

    In Britain the newspaper ad market is worth a herculean two billion pa. An amazing 80% of a newspapers revenue comes from advertising. Because of this publishers can't leave anything to chance, they have to know who reads their paper. To do this they hire professionals to carry out periodic research to identify and profile their readership. This then enables them to show advertisers which particular demographic and socio-economic group their readers hail from, this is so advertisers can target their ad campaigns. It's the editors job to maintain and improve circulation. He'll do this by tailoring the news, editorials and articles according to the readers opinions, expectations and most importantly their political views. That's why, for example, The Daily Mail reader will see panic-stricken headlines such as: 'Immigrants pour in as floodgates open'. While the Guardian reports the exact same story thus: Immigration: small rise in net figures. It's all quite deliberate. Never expect unbiased news reporting from a newspaper, you’ll not get it. It's targeted, coloured and filtered to appeal to the readers view of the world.

    I choose not to buy newspapers for this very reason. I pick up news from the Internet, radio and other media sources. I often read online news media services and with no demographic readership and only generic advertising it can remain reasonably impartial.

    All serious stuff.... however here's a news headline that caught my eye, it read 'Two dolphins die in heroin overdose after weekend rave. My initial thoughts were: What the devil are Dolphins doing at a rave party, let alone shooting up? After all Dolphins are exceptional. If there’s one creature that’s a role model for humanity surely it's Dolphins, right? Chilled out, fixed with a permanent smile, intelligent, peace loving, and communicative. Look at Flipper, the 1965 TV programme about a crime solving Dolphin, granted all the crimes were water based but still mighty impressive. And just as impressive was the small boy who was his friend, Bud, he was able to construct long complex sentences and conjugate verbs just from listening to Flipper making a lot of squeaky noises while furiously nodding it's head. “What's that Flipper?” the young lad would decipher. “A tourist boat has run aground on the rocks at sandy bay and is sinking! Gee williekers I'll tell my Pa” Great stuff. The programme did a great PR job for Dolphins. Not that they need it, I mean, who hasn't heard the story of the little boy who fell overboard and was then protected from a school of sharks by a lone dolphin. (No-one, you just made that up, Ed). As if?

    Anyway turns out they didn't actually go to a rave party or willingly take heroin. For a start, lacking opposable thumbs, it would have proven mighty difficult to hand over the entrance ticket. No, the drugs were fed to them by creatures who had been to a rave nearby, strangely often considered way more intelligent.......... blokes.

    I'm off to bed.

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 Friday 8th November 2013 week 124 Spain

    What's on my mind?

    When someone straps a bomb to themselves and detonates it, on say a bus, killing commuters, we wonder what kind of human can do such a thing. It's assumed, by many, he did it because he was a terrorist and that's what terrorists do, almost as if it’s an explanation in itself. However no one is born a terrorist, they become one and most frequently it's because of perceived injustices or oppression. To Separatists, freedom fighters, liberators, revolutionaries, vigilantes, militants, paramilitary, guerrillas, rebels, patriots, and the mujaheddin to name but a few, who all believe they're soldiers fighting wars, civilian deaths are justified. We are no different. To date British, American, European and Taliban forces have shamefully killed and murdered 22,000 civilians in Afghanistan. Oddly, some wonder why we have become a target for middle eastern terrorism. The west has meddled in the political affairs of that region for over a hundred years. Israel, in Iran the British helped to overthrow the legitimately elected Iranian government so the USA could install the Shar. Iraq, Suez and we have now fought in Afghanistan three times. The list is a long one. I believe that until you have walked in their shoes you'll never understand how these people feel about us nor our continual interference in their region.

    On 2nd April this year a NATO air strike killed 11 Afghan civilians, 10 were children. You can perhaps see how some might see us as the imperialist aggressors and even believe we are out to get them, their way of life, their religion maybe. It doesn’t take a great leap in intellect or imagination to see how some might take up violence against us, those they see as oppressors, believing, as I'm sure they do, they are not terrorists but perhaps freedom fighters or liberators.

    Today the word terrorist is used as a 'generic term' to describe pretty much anyone involved in the use of violence as a means of coercion. Unfortunately that’s not helpful because by labelling them all as terrorists you instantly dismiss them as crazed fanatics. And that stops us asking the most important question, Why? And you need to know why if you actually want to combat terrorism, you’ve no hope of defeating it if you don't understand the motives, aims and goals of the terrorist.

    Of course there are people who will accuse me of not knowing what the devil I'm talking about, there always are. I dare say these people also applauded the USA when it declared, a war on terrorism. But this was as pointless as it was dangerous because you can't, at least not in any conventional way. That one ill thought out sentence raised their profile, added to their fanaticism and affirmed what they'd always believed, they are fighting a war. Some argue that you can't negotiate with terrorists, but that's not true. While many governments say they don't, they actually do. You need only look at the history of the IRA, PLO and the recent secret talks the USA has been having with the Taliban for example. The French and Swiss are often mediators.

    Finally, it should be made clear that the Islamic terrorist has as much in common with Islam, as the Klu Klux Klan did with Christianity but worryingly this is not a fact that’s widely understood. What pervades is religious misunderstanding and suspicion. In the UK it's clear many feel uneasy with followers of the Islamic faith. Some see middle eastern religion as a threat to them and their way of life, so perhaps now we are just beginning to walk in their shoes.

    Have a good weekend

 

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