This week in bigger pixs

    Tuesday 22nd April 2014 week 147 England

    Things that go bump in the night.

    Well we hope you all had a good Easter break, we did. I've been pushed for time so here’s something from year one which kinda loosely follows on from last weeks security issues.

    I'm asleep. Suddenly, and I'm not sure how, I become aware Hazel is sat bolt upright in bed. I open my eyes, trying to focus in the dark.

    “What’s up?”, I asked.

    “Shush!” She replies.

    “Can you hear something?” I ask yawning and reaching for the clock.

    “Shushhhh! Did you here that?”

    “What?”

    “That..!.”

    Okay, well I wont go into the whole script because all couples know how it pans out. I try, at times like this, to convince her its probably the wind, creaking pipes, a ageing central heating system, birds on the roof and if all that fails, tectonic plate movement deep in the earth mantel. Basically anything that's remotely plausible which allows me to stay in bed. This being far more preferable than gallivanting around a darkened house investigating a mystery noise. More seriously, I also don't want to surprise some unsuspecting burglar as he hoofs it out the window with our Dvd player, running the risk of giving us both a heart attack, its not worth it. But as I lay there I do hear something, a rustling. We both slowly move over to the window, careful not to make a noise. I reach for the touch. We hold our breaths. I aim it out into the darkened awning and then quickly flick it on. -I’m guessing to make the light come out even quicker than normal, it doesn’t-. However the element of planned surprise is somewhat wasted as the fly screen is down and we are bathed in reflected light. Hazel makes a quick move toward the screen catch, fluffs it, and it shoots up with an almighty THRAPP! which, I expect, has cats ears twitching within a mile radius. Anything that may have been out there has legged it. We peer into the gloom, see nothing and settle back down.

    I start to slip under. There it is again. Its like someone unwrapping a boiled sweet in a cinema, annoyingly just on the periphery of my hearing. This time I get up and make my way over to the door. On route I grab the nearest weapon to hand. This unfortunately turns out to be the bright yellow fly swat in the shape of a frog, hardly lethal but it gives me confidence. I switch on the awning light, open the door and look out. Still nothing. I notice the trash bag we left out now has a hole in it. We've forgot to take it over to the bins. I debrief hazel as I climb in bed. She then devises a new plan to ensure its not forgotten again in which I play the leading roll. 

    “It was probably a cat, we've seen a couple around I say.”

    “Yeah, I guess. Night.”.

    “Night”

    Sixty seconds later, there it is again, but louder. This time I get out of bed in stealth mode. I creep, like an avenging Ninja, in his underpants, -a sight to behold-, toward the caravan door. With as much swiftness as I can muster at two in the morning, I switch on the awning light and throw open the door. I stare out. Nothing. Then I see the trash bag move. Somethings inside it. Something large, judging by the bulge. I'm instantly reminded of the scene in Alien where John Hurts stomach bulges just before the Alien burst forth. Do I want to tackle it? Nah! I reply. It could be anything. I don’t know what creatures they have in Europe. If I were braver, maybe, but I'm happy I’ve solved the mystery. I climb back into bed and settle down content in the knowledge that our intruder is only making off with our used tea bags and not our Dvd player.

 

 

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   Wednesday 23rd April 2014 week 148 England.

    So much BS.

    Well I'm guessing, judging by the calamitous fall in my readership numbers over the weekend, many of you had better things to do than read my diary. That or, as I've always suspected, most read my diary at work and since you’ve not been there that would explain it.

    We travelled to the wonderful country of Scotland to stay with friends. I can say, with some authority, having spent almost three years schlepping around Europe, that Scotland, in terms of scenery, has no rivals in Europe. We are truly blessed to have it on our doorstep.

In the distance you can just see the car park, or civilisation as I like to call it.

    On a very quick political note I do hope Scotland votes to leave the UK in the up and coming referendum, our Scottish friends doubt it will. Clearly what's making it such a tough decision for the Scots voter is the propaganda being spewed out by the two main English parties. Labour needs the Scottish vote if they ever hope to see power again and the Tories, keepers of all things British, would never live it down is Scotland went while they were on watch. I hope the Scottish voters see through this. I to, doubt they will. The British political establishment have sown the seeds of economic fear in many of the Scottish voters.

    While there I was duped into climbing a mountain. We managed it without ropes, crampons or a Sherpa guide so I suppose a hike would be a better discription. To encourage me to climb the 1650 feet, there was some mention of a bar at the top, this, of course, turned out to be ruse. What there was however was Loch Skeed. A huge expanse of crystal clear water which tasted far better than anything that’s ever come out of any tap I’ve ever turned on. This, of course, is what makes Scottish whiskey a unique product.

By mid afternoon we'd  stopped chatting  and started to consentrate on the task in hand.

    On our return my friend drove us back the scenic route which I would have enjoyed had I not fallen asleep from the exertion expended walking up a mountain, he can't have it both ways.

    We've since returned to a small camp-site outside our home town of Stamford. Finding a camp site wasn't easy, this is because the Peterborough motor-home show is next weekend, so camp sites are filling quickly. We drew a blank on our first two choices. This site we found after an internet search. On paper it looked remarkable value. Its very neat and tidy, well laid out, surrounded by woodland and only £10 a night, where’s the catch you ask? We found it after we arrived. It doesn’t have any loos or showers. I've often admonished camp-sites for failing to provide hand washing facilities and/or toilet paper but never for not having a toilet in the first place! For us, this is a first. We have always had somewhere to 'go' in the mornings, if you catch my drift. This morning that was not an option. Of course we have on board lavatorial facilities but we have not used them for anything other than a whiz. Using our own convenience is not without its 'fun element'. There is a procedure one has to follow. You can of course use the toilet as you would any but apparently this is not the 'correct way'. Its advised, by those that know, the process of …......erm... well you know, is quite elaborate. I don't want to go into too much detail as I'd hate to kill off any romantic notions of a life on the road you may be harbouring, but it involves a carrier bag strategically placed.

    I really can't bring myself to say anything more on the subject.

 

 

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 Thursday 24th April 2014 week 148 England

    Shady Nook Rest Area

    Driving behind some chap the other day I found myself reading a sign displayed in his rear window. It read: Warning! show dogs in transit. I immediately called into question his sanity. Why would anyone display such a sign? What were his motives? Perhaps, he thought, that if he ever found himself entangled in a multiple car pile-up, the following drivers would avoid careering into him because, after all, we're a nation of dog lovers. Maybe he displayed the sign because show dogs, a bit like human models, can be a bit up themselves, a bit highly strung. Last thing he wants is his champion Afghan-hounds poking their tongues out or worse, mooning following drivers, so the sign could be an advanced apology of sorts. Sorry about the antics of my dogs but they are show dogs!

    Of course in the Uk we're all familiar with the other popular warning sign: Baby on board. Mothers display this sign to warn other drivers that they are carrying a very precious cargo, the fruit of their loins. Dads agree to the sign because it proves they have a healthy sperm count, so give him a wide birth if you don’t want your wife miraculously impregnated as you overtake. Or perhaps they display it foolishly believing they are going to be given some quarter on the road., they're not. Personally I think its just a strange eccentricity of us British.

    I live in fear that one day I'm going to have to slam on my brakes in an emergency and the two stationary cars in front, one of which I know I'm going to plough into, has a 'baby on board sign' and other a 'show dogs in transit' sign and I'll thereby be faced with something of a conundrum....... who do I crash into?


     I've discovered that driving around the continent has softened me up, as a driver that is. I'm not really prepared any more for the gladiatorial spectacle that is driving in the UK. Once upon a time I'd irrationally sit behind the wheel of a car, bit between my teeth, protecting my space on the road with all the ferocity of a junk yard guard dog, I admit it. I'd monitor every other drivers speed, but rarely my own with quite the same degree of fanaticism. I verbally admonished drivers that drove so close to my tailgate they could reach in and empty my ashtrays. I would glare disapprovingly at drivers on their cell phones and like most British motorists I'd learnt a number of finger gestures which can convey a variety of complex messages to other drivers.

    Tuesday I found myself giving a fellow driver the Vee sign. This because he came barrelling toward us, on our side of the road, attempting to overtake a car on his side of the road. Hazel was forced to take avoiding action. He then had the nerve to gives us a jocular little wave as he squeezed past. Twat!

    There just isn’t this level of road mayhem abroad. Most countries are bigger with fewer drivers so everyone has more room. Which means they're all a lot less stressed than us. Driving around many countries in Europe its reminiscent of what it was like when your Dad drove a Cortina. A time when people would jump into their cars and went for a Sunday drive. They frequently never actually went anywhere. They just drove around. It was a novelty. In 1959 when the M1 opened it became an instant tourist attraction. Drivers drove on it simply to see what it was like, people would picnic on it. Most never realised it actually went anywhere. Southerners, in the sixties, never went North, that was something only travelling salesman or lorry drivers did, besides, most couldn't speak the language.

    Interestingly, shortly after the M1 opened so did Watford Gap service station. Then, a committee considered calling it 'Shady Nook Rest Area' but threw it out because it sounded a bit effeminate.

    Absolutely true.

 

 

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     Friday 25th April 2014 Week 148 England.

    What's on my mind?

    I'm disappointed, are you? In my book, the measure of a society is how well it takes care of the less fortunate within it. But I realise that’s becoming an increasingly unpopular view in the UK these days. People like me are accused of being lefty do-gooders or bleeding heart liberals, not that I'm either, its just a way some, like to shut people like me up. Personnally, If Im ever called a do-gooder I pose the question Was jesus one too? Has em stumped. 

    It would seem the only growth area in Britain at the moment is in food banks, it's estimated there are around 750. Most are run by volunteer organisations. They redistribute food donated by consumers, retailers and the food industry, to the needy. The largest is run by The Trussell Trust, which now has 400 food banks dotted around the UK. It estimates that over half a million people, including children, in the UK, are now reliant on some kind of food aid. Now I have to say I wasn't entirely surprised when I came across this in Portugal, but Britain? the country with the sixth largest economy in the world? A country whose military might is surpassed by only four other countries on the planet? I have to ask what's going on?

This is what I look at to cheer myself up if ever I need it.

   In the period April-September 2013 alone, over 350,000 people received food from Trussell Trust food banks, triple the number they helped in the same period the previous year. This has led to calls for an inquiry which our government has ignored. Wonder why? could it be they are embarrassed? I doubt it.

    It seems that a variety of factors have contributed to the growth in food banks and their usage. Under this government there has been a raft of significant changes to the benefits system. The abolition of the social fund, the reassessment of incapacity benefit, a cap on housing benefit, tighter controls on unemployment benefits and a new tax on those claiming benefits who have a spare bedroom. The actual list would surprise you. However the five billion paid out frivolously each year in child support benefits to those earning in excess of £100,000 per year hasn't been touched, but why would it, they vote Tory. The poor generally don't!

    The above changes have resulted in the poor and lower paid, those considered to be at the bottom of the economic pile, being squeezed financially. Many say that such welfare reforms are the reason for the growth of food banks but the Government says, and I quote here: “there is no robust evidence to link the two”. This is true, but only if you ignore common sense. The government have done a first rate job in demonising the less fortunate in our society. Making them look like hangers on, wastrels and scroungers and therefore fair game. When it comes to creating a fairer and more just society, particularly for the weakest amongst us, this governments record is abysmal.

    However its not all doom and gloom. On a more positive note millionaires have recently enjoyed a huge tax cut, the top rate of tax was slashed for them. I guess at the end of the day you have to remember that twenty three cabinet ministers are themselves millionaires, so the obvious questions is do they have a clue? let alone know what having a social conscious means? I doubt that too!

 

    Diary entries for next week may be a bit sporadic. We are out and about visiting all manner of family and friends before shoving off quite soon for more adventures.

    Have a jolly good weekend.

 

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