This week in bigger pictures

    Monday 18th November 2013 week 126 Spain

    Credit where credit is due.

    Oliva is not a tourist hot spot, thankfully. There is life here. There's a long string of beach front hotels but they're spread along the coast. Oliva is just a small urban town of twenty seven thousand souls, a quarter of which are immigrants. It has a small ex pat community. They're easily spotted as they're all the colour of a mahogany sideboard. The benefit there being you save a small fortune on Sun block, you just spray on Mr Sheen for that all over deep Jacobean glow. I don't understand why some crave the complexion of Moroccan leather, but clearly some do. I proudly still sport a white body but with a brown head, arms, and lower legs. The only downside of that being when I strip off I look as if I've been hastily put together from two different kits.

    A steep rocky hill sits to one side of the town. At the top is Santa Anna Castle, built in the 16th century. Even though in the last couple of years I’ve probably seen more castles than your average crusader, we climbed it, albeit slowly. Now having reached the summit I can't help feeling a tad cheated, because Santa Anna castle consists, today, of a wall. That's it. One wall, and not even a whole wall, just a bit of a wall. Trying to imagine what it must have looked like 500 years ago from just the one small piece still standing, would take an imaginative five year old. I'm just glad I hadn't paid an entrance fee, I'd be after a refund. Hazel, sensing my disappointment pointed out, 'they can't restore every ancient monument to please you' - she thinks by making it personal it'll shut me up, it rarely does- I'm not asking for some kind of disneyesque experience once I arrive puffing and wheezing at the top, but surely it's not asking too much to expect maybe a pictorial representation or better still a three dimensional model. At least then the slog up would have been more about just the physical exercise.

    The old town was split into two, the Christian half and the Moors half. The Moors were medieval Muslims. Unfortunately, back then, the Moors and Christians never really got on and eventually the Moors were kicked out, this was after being forced to switch to Christianity or face torture. Faced with that option I'd have become a Klingon if it made them happy.

    Touring Europe I've come to realise  that religious wars and persecution have shaped European history, borders and mankind. Many think religion has a lot to answer for. I know followers maintain that the horrors perpetuated in the name of religion is not the fault of religion, but rather what men do in it's name, I've always thought that a naive argument, but that’s just my opinion.

    Anyway full marks to the towns tourist authority who have provided signs which lead you through both parts of the town. At various points notice boards give you historical information in several languages. It's a pity more towns don't do this. It helps to bring these places to life. Talking of giving credit where credit is due, I'm pleased to report to my non British readership (You do realise that word implies more than one. Ed) that after criticising the British Government last week they have handsomely stepped up our aid relief for the Philippines.

    We are all citizens of the same world.

 

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Tuesday 19th November 2013 Week 126 Spain

    No moral judgements here.

    We bade farewell to Kiko park and our German neighbours and headed 160 miles south to Isla Plana, near Porto Mazarron. On route to the motorway, which was just a couple of miles from the camp site, Haze counted twelve young ladies plying their trade along the road. This makes them, according to my maths, about as frequent as Finnish speed cameras. Now before someone accuses me of fixating over loose women I should point out, in my defence, that I see it as my duty to report on everything. It's no good me leaving out bits. When I'm old and dribbly I want to be able to re-read my web diary and re-live this trip so it has to be accurate. (Sorry....did I miss something, when you're old? Ed). Careful! if I could afford a decent word processor package you could be replaced.

    What does surprising me is that they're all mighty attractive ladies. You would have thought some handsome Caballeros would have swept them off their feet and taken them home to meet their mums. Back in my old home town of Peterborough there used to stand, by the Territorial army base, a fearsome looking women, short, stout with a face that would have given Quasimodo a run for his money, She fair scared me. Out the corner of my eye I could see her give me that come hither look, whenever I passed her in the car. I found it staggering that some blokes saw her as desirable. Don't get me wrong she may have been a charming lady but that’s not why men sought her company. Here, in Spain, they're good looking lasses. All had slim figures, long dark hair and wear those aviator sunglasses. To me they all looked like Posh spice.........erm, pretty sure that's a compliment. You know what?.... it might be an idea if I left this topic for some safer ground. (Good idea. Ed).

75 years ago a sleepy little fishing village

    The scenery was at best mediocre and only really livened up around Benidorm. The skyline is mighty impressive as you can see. I've never been to Benidorm and to be honest I don't fancy it. Not because I think there is anything wrong with it, I'm sure it's a swell place to spend your vacation but I don't like crowds. Not fond of being a 'Tourist'. I don't like queuing, nor do I like being over charged simply because I'm a 'tourist'. We had two small beers the other day in a trendy tourist local and they cost us eight Euros! Walk into any supermarket over here and you couldn't carry out eight Euros worth of beer. I also don't enjoy eating second rate food - We all know it pays to eat where the locals eat - and perhaps strangely for a Brit I don’t think that being able to get an all day English breakfast should be a feature of any foreign holiday, sorry.

     For the rest of the journey the scenery was sun bleached, parched, rock strewn and practically lunar. The only vegetation was that on irrigated farm land. Outside that you only see trees, little grows wild and grass doesn’t have a chance. With just 1.5 inches a rain a month, if they are lucky, the ground is baked solid. Hammering in a tent peg is hard work, and retrieving them later near impossible. When it does rain it simply runs away. However to our right rose a line of mountains, and occasionally one high enough to be snow capped. This was the only thing of real note........... that’s if you don’t count those twelve rather splendid señoritas.

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  Wednesday 20th November 2013 week 126

    Ex pats

    I'd forgotten just how many British live around here. They are everywhere, it's like an epidemic, a break-out of ageing ex pats. I don’t have any figures but it's considerable. I'd like to know what the Spanish think of them. I ask because the Spanish are a pretty chilled out bunch and since almost all the British are pensioners and the worse thing they get up to is clog up post offices, I guess we're tolerated.

    Yesterday while shopping in Mercadona supermarket, English was the only language we heard. As an aside: Can I, through my web diary, make a nationwide appeal? Yes? Great. I Like to request that: all shoppers who feel compelled to stop midway down an aisle and chat with friends, leaving their trolleys to block said aisle, FUCKING MOVE OUT OF EVERYONE'S WAY. Thanks.

    I can see the attraction of living here. Great summers, mild winters, your money goes further. A modest modern two bed apartment with a balcony, access to a swimming pool and views out to sea will set you back £60k, or a house for twice that. Fixadent and elasticated stockings are as cheap as chips from the Chinese bazaars. The cost of living is generally cheaper. Gas and electric can work out less expensive simply because you don’t need to heat your home six months of the year. Spaniards might not agree with that because they feel the cold a lot more. I was asked, again, the other day by a Spaniard “wasn't I cold”? this is because all I had on was a t-shirt. So yes, I can see why a million choose to live here.

Porto beach, oh you'd soon get tired of lounging on it.

    Thankfully the Gibraltar saga hasn't appeared to sour relations either. I get the impression the Spanish are quite philosophical about the whole issue. In a recent poll conducted by the Real Instituto Eclano 70% of Spanish asked, said good relations with the UK were important, regardless of the Gibraltar issue. They are more concerned about the economy and corruption than Gibraltar. And they are worried about the smuggling and money laundering that goes on between Spain and Gib. They recently saw the dumping of concrete blocks in the sea, which they claim hinder Spanish fishermen, as very serious. It was, in truth, a pathetically childish act by our Government. We really should be above this. I made this point on a news forum and was vigorously told: 'well the 'Spanish started it! Point made I think. Trouble is when a government does something like this it only serves to harden attitudes and escalate tensions on both sides, it's hardly constructive. Anyway I had far more pressing matters on my mind yesterday than irate Anglophiles telling me what a knob I was. (Becoming a habit that. Ed) True.

    We discovered they had opened a British Spar in town which sold all manner of fine British foods. Oh dear! this wasn’t going to be cheap. Shopping in Morrisons in Gibraltar was enough of an education for me. I've been meaning to frame a till receipt I got there last Christmas as a stark reminder of what the cost of food in the year 2075 will look like. As I imagined everything was twice what it would cost you in the UK. A jar of Marmite -horrendous stuff- for £4.20, well you could hear my exclamation across several aisles. But then I saw Hazel's face light up at the sight of six Oxo cubes and a box of Bisto gravy powder, well, lets just say it's a hard man that can still hold firm. I had no option but let slip the reins of fiscal control and turn a blind eye to what was being dropped in the trolley. (Own up! you really enjoyed the Lincolnshire sausages in onion gravy you got for dinner! Ed)..... urm true.

 

 

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   Thursday 21st November2013 week 126 Spain

    What's Nice.?

    This is one of the nicest sites we have stayed at. Nice is good, normally, but not always. In certain circumstances it can be an insult. For example: try telling your wife she looks 'nice' after she's spent three hours getting ready to go out and I dare say you’ll end up going alone. However 'nice' is used, deciding on whether something is actually 'nice' requires you to define the word and therein lies a dilemma. To describe anything as 'nice' implies you've measured it against some internal list or agenda. The problem then is, no two lists are ever the same, there’s not, regrettably, a universal list of niceness.

    One feature of this site which isn’t so nice is that they charge for electricity. Each pitch has a meter. You're allowed a daily allowance of 4kw, after that you pay. To make campers lives easier, not that they need to be made any easier, I think they should have a pictorial representation of what 4kw of power looks like in reception. For example they could have a row of stickers in the form of electric kettles, hair dryers, toasters etc. displayed in much the same way WW1 fighter planes had their 'kills' plastered on the fuselage, then at least we'd have an idea. Anyway, because of this I'm extremely careful. Hazel got up yesterday and harshly accused me of sitting in the cold because I was too tight to turn on the heating. As if? I sternly pointed out that global warming was a serious issue and one we all needed to take on board, besides I was wearing two jumpers.

Yes I know yesterday's shot was of the beach but there's an awful lot of it around here.

    The site maintenance chap called yesterday to read our meter, typically we were out, thus proving meter readers around the world are all schooled the same. However he kindly left the meter readings pegged to the awning door. I was surprised to discover that even after deploying all my energy saving ideas we had still used more than our daily allowance.(This explains why we are sitting in the dark. Ed) Nonsense, take no notice of her.

What is also nice is the large, glass roofed, indoor heated swimming pool. Now anyone who reads my ramblings with any regularity will know I have a Mr Bean like talent for getting myself into odd situations. Yesterday I was swimming my lengths when a very large German lady entered. Now I don’t like to be ungallant but she was substantial, both vertically and horizontally, but mostly horizontally. She stepped out of her bath robe and confirmed what I had always believed, the wearing of Lycra should be subject to a weight limit. There are sizes of clothes which Lycra should never be manufactured in. She climbed in, I swear the level of water rose. I carried on calmly swimming lengths. She launched herself into the crawl and was crossing diagonally. I realised, if I didn't alter course, we would collide. I could see the bow wave emanating from her bright red swimming cap. She was under a full head of steam and had reached a quite surprising rate of knots for such a large person. I quickened my stroke only to see she too had altered course and was still bearing down on me. I was put in mind of the The Bismark, since proportionally she was about the same size. By comparison, I was a nervous British frigate about to encounter one of the Third Reich’s most feared battleships. I sped up but it was too late I was firmly in her sights. I spied her two large torpedoes as they broke the surfaces. At the last minute she heaved too, narrowing missing me. I bobbed around in her wake like a cork in a bath tub.

    If that wasn't enough, I then spied a chap in the open showers at the end of the pool, hand down the front of his trunks seemingly washing himself far too energetically for my liking.

    If nutters are magnets then I’m a fridge door.

 

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  Friday 22nd November 2013 week 126 Spain

    What's on my mind.

    You'll have noticed, on occasion, I'm apt to criticise our government. Now it might surprise you to learn that I do try to be objective, yes I know that’s hard to believe but trust me on that. Now I recently received an email from a 'government supporter' who said, and I quote 'it's easy to criticise but I don't see you coming up with any solutions'. It's a fair point, if not posed a tad aggressively, and one that deserves an answer. But before I do let me just quickly say something I've longed to point out, that being: Dave & Nick, as names for two political leaders quite frankly suck. It's a little like having Chas & Dave running the country. Whenever I seen them I half expect them to whip out banjos and break into two choruses of: 'Snooker loopy.' Once upon a time leaders had proper names. Names that inspired confidence, names with a few syllables in them. Such as, Benjamin Disraeli, William Ewart Gladstone, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, Augustus Henry FitzRoy, and who could forget Archibald Primrose.......hmm, well perhaps that one not so much. (PM, about a zillion years ago. Ed)

It was this of a pic of Chas and Dave.

    OK back to my rebuff. First let me remind the questioner why we have a government at all, it's solely to manage the county. This involves two jobs. Job one: to distribute the taxes the inland revenue collects and two, make laws which benefit all citizens. This is the one they have the greatest difficulty with simply because ideologies are often put before common sense policies. A quick example might call question the wisdom of privatising the British probation service to a company based solely on how cheap their quote was. What the Government failed to comprehend was that this was the cheapest quote for a reason!. Now the service, which is there ultimately to protect us, is, allegedly, being abused by offenders and staff. Offenders are not bothering to turn up and yet staff are marking them down as attending.

    Now I don't believe, as some do, that running a country is as difficult as they would have us believe. Italy have had 54 governments to our 16 since the war and they're doing fine, I mean Italy is not a wasteland. The shelf life of an Italian politician, even on a good day, is about a hour. I'm not suggesting that’s ideal, it isn't, but I'm just making the point that if all politicians were zapped by aliens tomorrow few of us would notice anything untoward. The country wouldn't grind to a halt. Tax would still be collected, water would still come out of taps, life would go on. The huge bureaucratic machine would still rumble inexorably on.

    Politicians possess near celebrity status and have made themselves seem indispensable. They have also convinced many that managing the economy is a tricky job, it isn’t. It's simply about managing. Walk into any commercial enterprise and you'll find it run by a manager or a team of managers. How well it's run depends on the quality and commitment of those people. I was one for over half my working life. I wouldn't have lasted five minutes in any managerial job by blaming those around me, those who had the job before me or continually asking for more resources. The government are paid to manage and not to make excuses as to why they can't, or blame others, or just continually hike up taxes. No, sorry, if they can't do the job it's not up to their critics to help out with solutions.

    Now might be a good time to point out I'd be more than happy to take on the job but, regrettably, I'm otherwise engaged at the moment.

    Have a good weekend.

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