This week in bigger pictures

    Monday 23rd December 2013 Week 131 Spain

    How not to shop.

    I casually said, over breakfast, I needed a new pair of shoes. Hazel asked “what kind?” Being the ready wit that I am, I replied with: “the kind you walk in”. “No” she says, “what type?” I came back with the same answer, “the type you walk in”. I think that she thinks she's talking to a women. It's a proven scientific fact that women spend almost as much time discussing shoes as they do shopping for them. This has been proven by the bods at Nasa and they like, do rocket science and shit. Most blokes want to know just three things about shoes, will they fit? how much? and do they come in brown? We never talk about footwear to our mates because to do so would either imply your testosterone levels are shot or you're thinking about having a sex change.

We decide to take a ride to Porta Santa Maria to a huge shoe shop we’ve seen. Now I should say, up front, I like taking an adult shoe shopping with me. The last time I brought a pair of new shoes it was four months before I realised they were of differing sizes. The right was an eight, the left a nine. (Absolutely true. Ed)

Not so much a forest more a jungle around here.

    After breakfast we sped off. I couldn't quite remember where it was but Hazel assured me she could. It transpired she couldn't. She started off well. “Turn right”. “Straight on”. “Left here” but suddenly it's, “Oh! I'm not sure”. The hand signals stop and she goes eerily silent. Consequently we take a number of wrong turns. At one point I realise we are heading South, when we should be heading North. I need to cross the motorway. I spot an exit and pull off. I arrive at a roundabout and we argue about which exit to take. On Hazels advice I take the fifth, only to find I've rejoined the road I've just left. By this time fuel is getting low along with my patience, so we ride into Cadiz to top up before setting off once again. After a forty seven mile trip, and bear in mind it was only twenty six miles when we started, we arrived.

    I conservatively reckon there’s a trillion shoes in this place. It's the size of a football pitch and I'm not exaggerating for comedic effect. It's shoe world..... or if you're female shoe heaven. If you want a pair of shoes this is the place to come, of that there is little doubt. I headed for the trainer section. I'm faced with hundreds to choose from, too many in fact... I feel dizzy and sit down. My problem with modern trainers is they all look as if they’ve been designed by someone with too much time on their hands. The are 'built' from anything up to fifty individual bits of material all sewn, glued and vulcanised together and are now manufactured in colours that can be seen from space. Some have lights in their heels, handy if you jog at night I guess. Whatever happened to plimsolls? Finding nothing I then looked at the hiking boots, another mammoth selection. Most weighed slightly less than me and had soles that looked as if they had been taken from an earth movers tyre. They put me in mind of those weighted boots deep sea divers wore back when air was fed to them from bellows on-board a ship. Hazel points to a pair. “I like these” she says. “Flat soles” I say. “I want shoes that make me look taller not shorter”. She brings over a pair. “What about these?” “They're white, get dirty too quick”. “What about those then?” “Too flimsy”. “Too tight”. “Too garish”. “Too many lace holes, not enough lace holes”. “Wrong shade of brown, not leather” ........ it goes on. Eventually, after an age in which ice caps have melted, I find a nice pair of brown walking shoes. Not too heavy, not too light, comfy but tough enough to enable me to walk great distances in the unlikely event I may one day want to. They are priced at £100, expensive, but it's a birthday present to myself. Do they have my size? Do they heck as like. I walked out dispirited and empty handed which is more than can be said for Hazel.

 

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 Tuesday 24th December week 131 Spain

    The last laugh is on you.

    It's that time of year again, my Birthday, when I traditionally tackle the more complex issues. I like to think of it as my Christmas lecture. (Over egging the pudding but carry on. Ed) I've so far attempted: Where did we all come from, and The meaning of life. Today, my take on that most taboo subject, the one no one mentions, even though we all think about it, that permanent elephant in the room, death.

    I think we all have a downer on death, not our fault, it does, after all, always get a bad press. We see it as the end which, if you want to be all negatively about it, it kinda is. Now I'm not getting into the whole heaven/hell thing. If you believe in the existence of either destinations then you’d probably make a good suicide bomber, but most religious believers I know have no desire to shuffle off this mortal coil any quicker than me, which strikes me as odd since they argue they have somewhere to go.... unlike me, a confirmed atheist

It was this or a pic of the grim reaper.

    Many many years ago the Mormons tried to convert me. They optimistically showed me a video of someone meeting their loved ones in Heaven. It was all slightly disneyesque: white, bright, fluffy with a full 32 piece orchestra just off camera.

    “How do you know heaven will look like that”. I mischievously enquired.

    “Well we can't be sure what heaven looks like Phillip” One said

    “There’s no furniture” I said casually.

    “What?”.

    “In your video, there’s no furniture, where would people keep things?”.

    “Well as I say..... we don't know what......”.

    “So it could look totally different then?” I interrupted. Worried I was venturing down an alley for which they had no scripted answer, his buddy asked, “Wouldn't you like to meet your loved ones Philip in heaven?” I mulled it over. Struck me as a loaded question, what can you say? “Erm not really I owe most of em money”. In the end they stopped coming, which is probably a first.

    Many work hard to delay the inevitable. They worry about not getting at least three of their five a day, not drinking enough liquids, second hand smoke, their weight. If they’re getting enough exercise. They happily don an expanded polystyrene bike helmet in the optimistic hope it will afford some protection against a one ton vehicle. And we all take just about any prescribed tablet, regardless of it's possible side effects. Many believe that a life spent living right can pay dividends in the form of extra years, even though, as we all know, any years we do manage to tack on following a life of denial and minimalism are not going to be fun ones. You could just be extending the amount of time you're going to spend dribbling down your vest and calling everyone Dorothy in an old folks home. Might as well live life to the max and die on time! I say.

Most people see death, as the alternative to life, which I've never subscribed to. If I was asked to describe life, I might say...em, Well, it's fun. It's living. It's exciting. Challenging. It's a bowl of cherries. Tons of stuff to do. Places to go, people to see etc. Death is not the opposite of that. If it were you'd have to describe it as, tediously boring. Made worse by having to lay motionless for the rest of eternity in an inky, lonely, depressive blackness with nothing to do and no mobile signal but it's not... it's simply non existence. It's a little like wondering where the light goes once you turn it out.

Right well that’s enough of that. I think my birthday scotch is kicking in. I'll leave you with the final deathbed words of some great men. Inspirational to the last breath.

    When asked by a priest to renounce Satan. Voltaire said: “Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies”.

    Dominique Bouhours, famous for always being grammatically correct said to those standing around his deathbed.: “I am about to...... or, I am going to die........... either expression is quite correct”.

    John Sedgwick, a general in the Union Army, said, in an effort to lift the flagging spirits of his troops, “Come on they couldn't hit an elephant at this distance”.

    But my favourite by far is Oscar Wilde who on his deathbed said simply "Either this wallpaper goes, or I do!".

    The knack is not to take anything seriously, even death.

 

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 Wednesday 25th December week 131 Spain.

    Christmas message.

No I've not had a mini stoke, thats how I smile, odd right?

    I'm sure you have tons to do, gifts to open, mince pies to eat, turkey needs stuffing, -the bird not the country- and I'm sure if you look hard enough you’ll find 'Bridge over the River Kwai' on some UK TV channel so I'll not ramble on. Need to make a quick apology however. It's been brought to my attention that my remark about Americans being eaten, or not as the case maybe, by sharks could be viewed erm... well negatively. If you haven’t read: How to avoid being eaten from a couple of weeks ago you'll not know what I'm on about, so ignore this- So for the record. Once again. I do really really like Americans, a lot, honest.............. even if sharks don't.

    Want to thank everybody for the birthday wishes from yesterday, having thirty drunken octogenarians singing happy birthday to me at the top of their lungs, while not spiritually uplifting, was a treat.

    So we would just wish everyone who knows us, doesn’t know us or would like to know us a jolly festive Christmas.

    Over the next couple of days I've something special to gob off about. Which you will either think, gosh! this chap really know his onions or, which is going to be far more likely, this idiots doesn’t have a clue! Either way it will be food for thought.

    Yo ho ho to you all. xx

 

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  Thursday 26th December 2013 week 131

    What's on my mind.

    Maxed out on sherry trifle and mince pies? Kids driving you mad? Your relations still using all your hot water? Well put your feet up and lets talk. I'm starting my own party. Really, and you're in at ground zero. It was going to be called “The Common-sense, Reasonable and Aspirational Party” until Hazel pointed out that the acronym would read C.R.A.P. So I'm calling it the 21 party which is a bit more hip and groovy. Now I should warn you that before you carry on with this you'll need to think outside the box.... way outside. If you can't, well it might be best if you read something else as this'll have you frothing at the mouth. Having said that, I fully expect at least some portion of it to upset at least half of you, but that’s politics, It's a tough old game. So here’s the first half.

    Welfare: Sorry, have we all lost the plot here?. The original idea of the welfare state was to lift people from poverty and to ensure everyone had a minimum acceptable standard of living. Today 20.3 million families are receiving some kind of benefit. We have reached the stage where, for example a staggering £20 billion is paid out to people who earn in excess of £1.987 per week. Crazy! People have come to expect, as a 'right', the freedom to dip into their neighbours pockets for benefits. That has to stop and while we need to insure that those at the bottom are helped up, tax payers pockets are not bottomless pits. Now don't panic but my party would scrap all 42 benefit payments. It's way too complex, massively expensive to administer, open to widespread fraud, abuse and is hugely unfair. We will have just One. If you don't have a job, for any reason, you'll get it (the benefit! he means Ed.). The amount however will reflect the average wage in the UK for unskilled work. We will stop paying the mortgages and rents of the unemployed. All mortgages companies, by law, must allow buyers up to one year's grace on payments, same for council tenants. Nor will we pay private landlords rent for the unemployed. Renting your house out for profit makes it a business, therefore. like any other business you must bear any losses. My advice, take out insurance against non payment. But we will start a programme of building cheap social housing.

   The national minimum wage will rise substantially. At the moment we pour billions into propping up, through tax credits, hopeless companies. This is not money well spent. No longer will your taxes be used to subsidise business which are so poorly run, so miss-managed and so unprofitable they can't pay their workers a decent wage it's simply cheap labour.

   Pensions will be abolished and replaced with a retirement wage. Retirement age will be lowered to sixty three and will be based on mortality rates and not on how long someone might or might not live in the future. No one will be forced to retire. If you can do your job, you're good at it and want to stick at it, excellent. If you carry on, then when you do retirement your retirement wage will be bigger. If you can afford to retire earlier you'll get the minimum retirement wage.

    ID cards will be carried. We need to combat identity fraud, banking fraud and need a method of identifying people other than asking them name and date of birth. We also need to discover who, and how many people actually live in the UK. At the moment no one knows.

    Immigration: Unemployment is around 5 million and not the 2.7 million reported. Under previous governments the way the unemployment figures were calculated was changed sixteen times, there is a whole raft of unemployed they exclude in the figures, They don't count for example the 1.3 million "discouraged workers" as reported by the OECD, the over 60's and those physically handicapped. -A discouraged worker is a person who is not seeking employment or who's unable to find a job after long-term unemployment-. Add to these an unknown number of migrant workers and the true unemployment figure is nearer 5 million! So we will encourage, through cash resettlement payments, people to return to their original country of birth until such time as we have unemployment under control, are able to provide decent social housing, welfare and the prospect of employment, then, and only then, will we re-open our borders. It's madness to allow people into the UK when we don’t have the infrastructure to support and care for them. Its simply a recipe for disaster.

    More tomorrow... They get worse, I mean extreme.............. no I mean better.

 

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 Friday 27th December 2013 week 131

    Continued from yesterday.

    Armed forces. I doubt it's escaped anyone’s notice but we don’t actually have an Empire any more so can we please stop pretending we do. Why do we have the fifth largest Navy in the world, still? It's time we cut the cloth to fit the suit. Out of 112 former British protectorates around the globe we've just 16 left. They, now, should be given full independence because, quite frankly, we struggle to protect women walking our streets at night let alone distant islands. The 21Party will amalgamate all branches of the armed services into one force, united and working as one. It's job will be extended to securing our borders and providing security at home. It will not have first strike capabilities. It will be smaller and dedicated solely to defence. We would scrap all but six of our 250 nuclear warheads. Redundant soldiers will be retrained, where suitable, as police officers. We need an additional 45k police officers on the streets

    Health care: It will be free to all. End of.

    Industry: The Government will support British industry by investing some of the 600 billion it has at any one time in the bank in the stock market. Dividends and profits earnt will go to the country to offset taxes.

    Citizens rights: We will introduce the long overdue bill of Rights, Every British citizen regardless of colour, who they sleep with, religion, gender, ethnic origins or disability will have exactly the same rights as everyone one else and those will be protected in law.

    Tax: We will streamline and simplify the tax system. The UK tax guide presently stretches to 11,520 pages. No one will pay tax until they earn the national minimum wage. It's ridiculous to tax low paid workers and then shamefully ask them to apply for handouts. Tax will start at 10% and rise, along with pay in a sliding scale, up to 70% The onus of tax collection will shift from what you earn, to what you spend. To that end we will scrap NIC and and tax codes, they are an unnecessary complication. Road tax will be scrapped. The tax will be collected at the pump. Those that use the road more will pay more. (That's a favourite of mine). Tax on fuel an extra 4p a litre.

    Crime: We will hold a debate and national referendum on the reintroduction of capital punishment for certain murders. At the moment a murderer could be out in as little as nine years. That’s how little society has come to value human life. That’s wrong. Those found guilty of serious and repeated sexual crimes on woman or children, will be offered shorter sentences in return for irreversible chemical castration as is being tried in some US states. All prisoners will be offered education. Prisoners will earn extra remission if they get educational qualifications. At present 70% of prisoners are below educational standards. We will almost halve the prison population by looking at ways of de-criminalising, controlling and issuing recreational drugs. Addiction will be treated as the illness it is.

    Police: We would have one universal central police force that covers the country. We would scrap all the individual constabularies which are costly, duplicate work, staff and are inefficient. We will offer deals to criminals for admissions of guilt. They will go from police stations to jail. We will go back to having neighbourhood beat policemen patrol the streets and local police stations in trouble spots. We will make Britain safe.

    EU: We will hold a debate and referendum on staying in the EU. While the EU has been successful at achieving it's original goal of ensuring there wasn't a third war in Europe, and yes that's was the original reason for it, it's failed in many other areas. The prosperity, job security, and fiscal strength of a united Europe has not materialised. We are how heading towards a 'United states of Europe' within' this century we need to decide now if that’s what we want.

    Democracy: We will take a step closer towards true democracy and abandon the two horse race which is has suffocated British politics for too long. To the point now where the disenchanted are now turning to right wing extremist parties to be heard. We will adopt proportional representation where each and every vote cast actually counts. There will be no such thing as a safe seat. Politicians will be answerable first to those that elected them and will be subject to performance reviews. We will work in partnership with the nation, not in opposition to it.

    While clearly some of the above will cost us more, pensions and minimum wage for example but there are a more areas where we save, dramatically.

    Twenty million families, 68% of the the working population have come to rely on government handouts to live. This is frankly appalling and only increase the strength of the benevolent nanny state. We have become a nation that looks to government to solve our problems, weather that be Tory Capitalism or a labour Socialism, truth is neither can, that much the last 100 years has proven.

    I'm going to start a 21party web site where people can become a joinee and contribute good ideas..... and hopefully jokes.

    PS. I don't necessarily have to be the leader. Thought I'd best make that clear in case you thought I was some kind of Ron Hubbard type character.

    Have a good weekend.

 

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