My Christmas message.
Today is my Birthday and personally, I've never thought it a coincidence I was born so close to little baby Jesus. As a small kid, I too thought I was sent to save the world. Absolutely true. I thought I was endowed with some mystical gift which I could use to save humanity, all I needed to do was discover what it was. For ages I thought the most practical application of this power would be to create a petrol tank that would never empty. A motorist would only fill his car once. I think I was concerned with world fuel shortages and the balance of payments at the time. I realise now, looking back, I must have been a very practical little chap, but clearly lacking imagination because today I'd go for Xray vision. Sod humanity. Sadly, I was not dropped on my head as a baby nor were my parents weirdos, so this belief was all my own making, I'd no one else to blame. Thankfully I grew out it by the time I was forty five.
Anyhoo, before I get sidetracked totally, I thought I'd answer the question we all ask ourselves at some point in our lives, 'What's the meaning of life?' What's it all about? To find the answer we have to clarify the actual question, because 'meaning' implies purpose. It assumes there might be an end game, so by understanding the 'purpose' we may discover more about the answer.
I can perhaps explain this better if I give you the answer I came up with. It was: 'One Thing'. And that, 'One Thing', is different for us all, the knack is finding your own. If I tell you how I discovered mine it might be helpful. I should say this didn't come to me in a blinding flash, it took a while, but this was the catalyst.
I was watching a TV programme about Masai warriors. It showed a bunch of them - I doubt that’s the collective name for a group of Masai warriors but let's say it is - sitting around a camp fire after enjoying a good meal. They were chatting and laughing. Probably swapping anecdotes; like the time when, while out hunting, Ingoo was almost eaten by a lion and still has the scars on his arse to prove it. Or the time Zebeto shoved twelve bones though his nose just for a laugh. It occurred to me, that here were a bunch of guys sitting in the dirt having a jolly good time, and yet compared to me they had bugger all. No indoor plumbing. No electricity. No TV or radio. No high tech gizmos etc. but more importantly, they weren't backed by a huge social infrastructure like I was. They lived in a mud huts and had a doctor who rattled beads at them when they felt ill, and yet, here they were all having a jolly good time, looking as though they'd not a care in the world. My life however was packed with annoying niggly everyday problems. In short, they looked a damn site happier than me.
Ingoo, showed how high he jumped when he saw the loin.
What I came to realise is, I measure my life using some kind of internal yard stick written for me by others; advertisers, media, society, family and friends, all outside sources, it's not one I'd written. What was worse, much of that yard stick just created a quite illogical desire to have more stuff. I wanted more stuff constantly, and with more functions and buttons.
These guys showed you can be happy with nothing.
I think we all tend to confuse happiness with contentment, which I believe is really the point of life. If you're content sitting in the dirt then a chair is a luxury and you'll never have to look far for a good seat. I’ve worked to find my own contentment. I've realised, like many, it has nothing to do with money. Money gives you choice and with it comes fresh problems, problems you perhaps would never have had if you were broke. Look at the divorce rate amongst lottery winners or the family feuds winning has can cause. Choice doesn’t make people happy, it just confuses us. And worse still, money kills dreams. The minute you can afford the car of your dreams it ceases to be a dream. So for me, my 'One Thing' is about finding contentment, because once you've found that, happiness will find you.
So, I'd like to wish you all the very best at finding your 'One Thing' and congratulate those that already have.
Hazel and I would like to wish you a merry Christmas and hope that 2017 will turns out a much better year than 2016 was for any of us.
Friday 23rd December
The end is Nigh, pack your bags!
In the last sixty years they have been fifty two nuclear accidents, we only get to hear about the big ones. The ones they can't keep quiet about because radioactive fallout might have us sprouting a second head, and that would need explaining. Thirty three of those accidents were identified as serious, several as extremely. In almost all cases human error played a major part.
The Three Mile Island, nuclear accident, cost $25 million in compensation payments. $2.5 billion in property damages. $1 billion to clear up, and the insurers paid out $82 million in health claims and evacuation costs. And all because, basically, a $10 bulb went on the blink.
Nuclear fusion can't be made safe. You're messing around with the same process that keeps the sun burning. No matter what back ups, what fail safe procedures, what automation or double checks you employ, it can all boil down to a ten dollar bulb. When a nuclear power station does go into meltdown nothing can halt the process. Theoretically, it could burn a hole through the earth. The meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan is still only being contained. It hasn't been stopped, just controlled, and this is five years after the event.
For many, this was a wake up call.
Germany started switching off it's nuclear power plants. It has decommissioned twenty seven and plans to switch off the remaining eight by 2022, making it the first country in the world to rely on alternative energy. Of course pro nuclear lobbyists argued it wasn't possible to rely on green or renewable energy. They said it's too expensive and inefficient. However, German energy consultant Günther Birkenstock, said, “Many in Germany feared that the country would be facing energy shortages, but instead, Germany has produced so much electricity this year that it has actually exported its surplus”.
In Portugal, over one Xmas period, Green energy provided 95% of the countries power usage. Germany and Portugal are showing the rest of the world it can be done.
Our Government, however, faced with six ageing nuclear power plants, no imagination and no green credentials have asked the French publicly owned EDF and the Chinese to build us a nuclear power station in Somerset. The Tories are looking to save a few bob, so what better way to do that than get the Chinese to knock us one up on the cheap. To seal the deal the Government have guaranteed future electricity prices to EDF. Meaning, British tax payers will make up any shortfall suffered by the French tax payer if the prices of electricity drops. Consequently it's a win win for EDF and the French taxpayer. They're cock-a hoop.
Now I guess if you agree with our government and see nuclear energy as the only way forward, and are happy having a communist country build us a nuclear plant, and are overjoyed at giving a foreign government the power to possibly black out Britain! then I bet you're wetting yourself with glee. I'm not. We're the sixth richest nation on earth with a GDP of 1.8 trillion pounds. We're not as hard up as this government would have you believe.
Personally, I'd rather no one built a frekin nuclear power station and certainly not in wonderful Somerset by the Chinese. - What Chinese quality item have you bought recently? We need to invest in green technology, but first we have to have the will, and that's lacking. For many British say, “We don't want ugly wind turbines and solar panel farms cluttering up the British landscape. We want Britain's countryside to stay the way it is. All green and grassy blah blah blah”. Clearly their happy to take the nuclear gamble, and I suspect don';t live in Somerset. I think it's short sighted view. But I console myself with this fact: If we do suffer a meltdown and are all given a dusting of Nuclear fall out, we might actually grow another head! And then, armed with two brains some of us might see the wisdom of having invested in safer cleaner, renewable energy, but by then it'll be too late.
Its worth remembering, more energy falls to earth from the sun in one hour than humanity uses in a day. All we need to do is harness just two percent of it. Would that be so hard?
I think not.
Wednesday 23rd December
The big Question.
Thankfully, many of the questions that have dumbfounded mankind since the dawn of time have been answered. For example:
Where did we come from?
What lies at the outer reaches of the Cosmos?
Does anything travel faster than light?
Why does Farage think he's God's gift to politics?
And so on....
And yet there are questions, which, while nowhere near as complex, still haven't been answered.
Why don't escalator hand rails move at the same speed as the stairs?
What is a free gift? Surely all gifts are free.
If ignorance is bliss, why aren't we all a damn-sight happier?
In answer to the question on a job application: who to notify in an emergency? Why do we never put our doctors name?
Still, if you ask me, one of the greatest questions facing mankind has been overlooked. Perhaps because it's too complex. Some of the greatest minds of our time have given it a wide berth. Edison, Aristotle and Einstein made no mention of it during their lives. The question in question, is of course, Why do women need so many clothes?
Take me and Haze and this trip. My entire wardrobe occupies the shower cubical, in which I have fitted a rail. That's where my entire wardrobe lives...
(We use the campsite showers. Ed)
...all twelve items. That's it. Just twelve. And yet there are mornings when I've not got the foggiest idea what to put on. It's a conundrum. Haze, on the other hand, has the actual wardrobe, two cardboard boxes under the bed and four overhead lockers. She opened one the other day and a skirt fell out. The last time I'd seen her in it, was I think, in 1998.
“Christ I'd forgotten you had that” I exclaimed.
“Yeah... well you never know. We might go somewhere where it will be ideal”, she mused. Since even Haze would agree, it is a tad short, I was tempted to suggest the only place it would be 'fitting attire' would be at a wife swap party, but thought better of it. Us blokes have to tread cautiously. For if we're not careful the whole debate can quickly escalate into, “Well you never take me anywhere where I could wear it”. And that argument, a bit like a black hole in space from which nothing escapes, is fraught with danger. Best to back off. Few men escape unscathed.
At the weekend we popped into town for a few bits, and I suddenly became aware we were shopping for TShirts. “Really, Tshirts?” I said, as carefully as I could. The knack here is to sound genuinely interested, but at the same time not whiny. It's a balancing act.
“Yeah, I don't have any with thin straps”.
Over the years I've skilled myself in the art of shopping with Haze which I'm happy to share.... it might save the odd marriage. For example, she'll step out of a cubical and ask, 'What do you think of this?' Ah! Now this is precisely the reason men don't like shopping with women, they get asked trick questions. You can only really say, 'It looks great luv', even if it makes her look like a bag of spuds. This is because it's better than any of the alternatives. The least offensive of which is, 'Well it doesn’t really suit you'. A rookie mistake that one, because she'll now want to know why it doesn't. “Why what's wrong with it?”. See, that black hole is sucking you in. You’ve now got to come up with something that's not going to offend. You could say it makes her look fat but take it from me don't! just don't, okay? You could say, “It's not your colour luv”. But there's every chance she'll have clothes the same colour at home, so you could be looking at a new wardrobe. The very worst reply is, “It's too young for you”. If you went with that, I suggest you find yourself a solicitor asap. You could say, “I don''t think it compliments your figure” which is good, almost right, but you run the risk of her then saying “Why! what's wrong with my figure?
No, the best answer, the least dangerous one is: “You look great love, but I'm not sure it does your figure justice”.
So no, many question will remain unanswered, and I guess that's one of them.
Monday 19th December.
Well Christmas is almost upon us, not that we know it being here. There's almost nothing that gives the game away. We shopped for sausages in Chiclana, a thirty mile round trip, over the weekend. They have an English butcher who makes his own traditional Lincolnshire bangers. You can't get anything like a British banger in Europe. Germany, maybe. In Spain we've only found those skinny anaemic looking things.
I digress. While walking around I saw no evidence that Christmas was almost on top of us. No decorations in shops. No tree in the town centre and no festive bunting hanging up. I can't even say there seemed more shoppers than normal. Now, this is not because the Spanish don't celebrate Christmas, they do, but here it's more of a religious festival.
In the UK it's the complete opposite. It's a commercial festival which is a whole different ball game. We've stripped out the religious overtones: they were getting in the way of commerce. The whole idea behind a UK Christmas, is to get you spending your dosh! nothing more. It's a giant corporate thing. Consequently, nothing about how we go about celebrating Christmas has anything remotely to do with the birth of Jesus. For a start it's not even his Birthday. His birthday is unknown. The 25th was decided upon as it coincided with an existing pagan festival celebrating the sun's rebirth. Interestingly, this date was later 'authenticated' by religious followers using some quite convoluted maths. Thus proving, anything can be proven if you work long enough at it.
Santa Claus was a 13th century Greek Christian bishop called St Nicolaus. It was really an ad campaign by Coca Cola in the 50's which is responsible for the Santa Claus we all know and love today. Coke gave him a makeover. Made him old, fat, jolly and gave him a bread. The original chap was slim, sour looking and clean shaven, least judging from a painting I've seen of him.
The giving of gifts pre-dates Jesus. It goes back to Roman times. It has nothing to do with the three wise men stumbling around in the dark looking for a manger, although, this has not stopped some religious believers hijacking this custom by saying, and I quote; 'The giving of gifts reminds us all that God gave us his biggest gift, his son Jesus'. Try telling that to a nine year old on Christmas morning who thought he was getting a Guitar, but instead found his bonkers parents had bought him a frekin violin!!
(Let it go luv.....Breathe. Ed)
The traditional Christmas feast is also part of the same pagan festival. The tree, mistletoe, the crackers, nuts, greetings cards, Christmas pudding, etc. The whole shebang in fact, was mostly started by those wacky Victorians. Anyhoo, commerce mixed the whole lot together and Boom! They had a success on their hands of biblical proportions. If you strip away the hype and commercialism you've got bugger all, apart from the carols maybe. Of course if you're religious you'll go to church. If not, you might perhaps bask in the warm glow that is your family. Having said that I should point out that, according to The Association of Funeral Directors, more people are murdered on Christmas day than on any other US national holiday. Relate, and The Citizens Advice Bureau in the UK, both say that demand for their services doubles around Christmas time, so we can't even say it's a time of good will to all men.
I guess some family members are a bit like fish, if they hang around too long, they'll start to stink. And while it can be great catching up with family, I think it's more than coincidence that the question one often asks, after giving grandmother a welcoming hug is “So, how long are you and granddad staying for?”
Perhaps my elder brother had the right idea. One Christmas, back when I was a boy, I charged into the front room Christmas morning to find it empty, save for a tramp sitting on the sofa. It turned out that after a night out with his mates, my brother had invited the tramp home to share Xmas with us.
The guy hardly a word all day, but practically ate us out of house and home.
Friday 16th December
Take a vote?
You’ve so got to worry about some people. I was browsing the internet the other day when I came across a poll. It asked: Is Boris Johnson the right man for the job? Not the most difficult of questions I would have thought. He is or isn’t, depending on either your political leanings, or if you like chubby blondes.
It offered three choices.
1, Yes, he's Brilliant.
2, No, he's a total buffoon. (My choice)
3, I've absolutely no idea. 28%
Still not difficult. Oddly however, 28% had no idea. Now I don’t have a problem with people who are non-political, or undecided, or just don't have an opinion, that's fine. It's a free world. We don't all have to have an opinion on everything.
(You surprise me. Ed) Careful.
Thought you might like this arty shot I took of a cow. Why I don't know.
But what I do have a problem with is why that 28% felt the need to share that fact. If they really don't have a clue, then I have to ask, why take part? Why not just move on? What was their motivation? I'm guessing they sat and read the question and thought, eh.... d'you know what! I really don't have a blessed clue about this chap so I'll click 'I've no idea. That makes no sense to me. To announce to the world you don’t have an opinion is pointless. Surely the point of a poll it to find out what people are thinking, not what they're not thinking. Not having an opinion isn't in itself, an opinion! It's a blank! A void! It's you not knowing. If option 3 said: I've no bloody idea but I frekin love clicking buttons, I wonder how many would have clicked it then?
Now I would have let all that go. Not worth mentioning really. But then yesterday I saw another. The question was simply: Was the actor Peter Capaldi convincing as Doctor Who?
1, Yes, he's brilliant....24%
2, No, bring back the other old dude....18%
3, I didn't watch it....58%
Doh!!......over half that responded didn't even watch it! And they thought they'd share that fact with us. Why? They should have looked for a poll that asked: Did you watch Doctor Who?
1, Yes it was fab.
2, No I cleaned the fridge.
3, I don't have a TV.
I doubt anybody reading the original question thought: blimey! I really wish I'd watched it now. I could have formulated a valid opinion of the actors abilities and voted accordingly. Oh! hang on. They've an 'I didn't watch it' button, Phew. Saved.
Now you may say the third option was telling. It showed some watched it, and some didn't, but knowing 58% of an unknown quantity tells you bugger all. Maybe I'm being overly critical but I hate this dumbing down of intellect. It was The Sun newspaper who ran a poll which asked,
Who do you want to run the country?
4, I don't give a toss as long as they've got big tits
Have a good weekend
Wednesday 14th December
I'm here to help.
When we were planning this getaway, way back in 2011, I needed info, so I asked around. I found a few people who were 'full timing' on web sites. I contacted them and asked, quite innocently I thought, what was it costing them? I was met with a wall of silence. Clearly some people can be very tight lipped when you ask them about their spending habits. I reckon I would've got a better response if I'd asked them about their sex lives. One chap replied asking, why did I want to know? I thought it was obvious, but I was tempted to write back and say I worked for the DHSS and we were looking into his finances. But you can't really can you?
Over the weekend I received an email - two in nine weeks, slow down you mad lot - This one from Jim. He said, “I've been reading your blog - It's a web diary Jim, but carry on mate - I'm a pensioner. My question is d'you think I could do what you guys are doing on a pension?
Good question. How cheaply could you actually do this for? After some scribbled maths and looking back on our past spending, I reckon with careful fiscal management you could do this on £125 a week, so yes, it could be done on a pension.
The biggest weekly expense will be campsite fees. The cheapest we've paid is £56 a week and the dearest £200. The trick is avoiding the £200 ones. Basically, avoid any campsites whose name contains the words 'Fun' or 'Family'. These seem always charge a premium rate. Also campsites near large cities and close to well known tourist attractions, they too almost always charge more. Get yourself the ACSI discount camping book as they list sites from €11 a night, in low season. Many sites will also offer discounts if you stay longer, ten nights of the price of eight, that kind of thing is quite common. Another way to minimise on camping fees is use them occasionally. If you are in a motor home use Aires or 'wild camp' but you'll need to cherry pick your countries as not all have Aires or allow wild camping. On many Aires you'll have electricity and water and pay just a small fee, some are completely free. Many full-timers spend a few days wild camping and then a couple of days on a campsite to charge their batteries, get access to washing machines etc. We call em, 'wash and go's'. Wild camping is only really possible in a motor-home, For some odd reason, I've not managed to fathom, wild camping in a caravan is not acceptable, although try telling the gypsie community that.
Some beach right?
Your next big expense is food. Using our spending as a guide, which surprisingly hasn't really changed since we started. For example, I noted a bottle of wine we brought locally in 2011 for 99 cents is still 99 cents. Five years no increase! Amazing. I'd say allow £35 or £55 for a couple. The secret to budget shopping is plan your meals ahead, and shop to a list. Trust me, you'll be amazed at what you'll save, and the lack of waste.
Fuel is your last big expense. At the moment I'm paying 89p per litre, which is less than I was paying five years ago. If you limit yourself to around 125 miles between stops and stay at least a week, Fuel will work out about twenty quid a week. Obviously, stay two weeks and you'll effectively have halved your weekly fuel cost. You'll also need to avoid tolls, in particular the French ones, most of which will require you to take out a mortgage. Stick to the route nationals.
So a weekly average will look something like this. And bear in mind I'm going for the budget approach.
£60 camping fees.
£35 for grub.
£20 for fuel.
This will leave you about £25 from an average pension to spend on wine, women and song, not that I'm suggesting you do Jim.
Monday 12th December
Trust me on this, miserable people have tunnel vision. By that I mean they only see things which confirm what they already know about the world, it's shite. Nothing's the way it should be, and no one listens to them. Consequently, therefore, they've every right to be miserable. I have a different philosophy. I reckon if I try and see the good in people, try not to sweat the stuff I've no control over, and try and do the occasional good deed, the world will repay me. While this works most of the time, occasionally it offers me little reward, especially when I'm up against the dark forces that surround a committed miserable git, someone who's made a career out of it.
I popped into reception. Inside, a short elderly English chap, dressed in large flappy khaki shorts, was remonstrating with the receptionist.
“They're cutting the branches on the tree over my pitch” he bleated.
“Sorry, It has to be done”, the young girl behind the desk explained.
“Yeah, but, if I'd known that, I'd a parked somewhere else”.
“It will only take them two hours. Do you want to move?”
“S'not the point luv. You could've told me this morning”.
“Yes, but I didn't know this morning”
This went on for a while. He repeating the same complaint, only phrasing it differently, she, pretty much giving the same answers.
“Would you like me to find you another pitch?” she said, putting him on the spot. He fell silent, which I took to mean the battle of words was over and he'd lost, but no. Sensing he was losing, he upped the anti and added drama to his complaint.
“I once had my van damaged by a falling branch”, he said, and then looked to me for morale support. I offered him none. Once he'd let the dust settle on that bomb shell he left in a huff.
I apologised for him. Pointing out that not all British are like him, annoying and only a few of us dress like Benny Hill.
Yesterday afternoon he hitched up his caravan and pulled it off the pitch. Twenty minutes later he was still there, half on, half off. Ten minutes later I spied him on his knees at the rear of the caravan. He obviously had a problem. I wandered over to see if I could do my good deed for the day. His tail lamp was out. However, in trying to replace it, he'd managed to blow them all. I suggested he might check the fuse. This he duly went off to do. I checked the bulb he'd put it. He'd put in the wrong type. A single, not a double element, and that had blown the fuse. I explained this to him when he returned.
“Nothing I can do” he said despondently, “I'll have to stay another night. I don't have a spare bulb”. I felt a tad sorry for him, so I offered to take one off mine.
“I can get another tomorrow” I said.
His wife seemed pleased with the offer.
I took out my bulb and fitted it to his caravan. He'd replaced the fuse and the lights came back on. So all systems go.... which is exactly what he did. He climbed into his car and drove off. No, cheers mate you've saved my bacon, or even a half hearted wave out of the window. Nothing, zip, sweet FA, nada, bugger all!
I stood there, my karma having taken a battering and thought....I so hope the next time a branch falls on his caravan, it's a fuck off big one and he's still inside it.
P.S Someone asked, what's the weather like? Blue skies and 66 Degrees.
What's on my mind.
On occasions, when nothing of interest has happened to either of us, you'll have noticed I resort to writing about, 'stuff'. Much of this 'stuff' I like to think, is a tad outside the box: this has something to do with either, the way my brain is wired, or a cycling accident when I seven, before the wearing of crash helmets became trendy. Last night as I lay in bed waiting to drift off, I got to thinking about the Chinese.
Now let me ask, d'you know the ratio of men to women in Britain? No? Well I'll tell you....
(He looked it up. Ed)
...close on 50%. Not, I think you'll agree, either hugely interesting or surprising, barely makes it as a 'Fun Fact' to be honest. But what might make it a little more interesting is that this ratio is practically the same right across the globe, with just a few minor variations. In fact, it's safe to say, if you don't mess with the sexual 'comings and goings' of us humans, the law of averages, and nature, dictates that this ratio is the norm. Which is handy for us, as it means there's almost certainly a Jack for every Jill.
China, however, has a history of meddling with the natural order of such things. Consequently, they now have 32 million more Chinese lads, under the age of 20, than they do girls of the same age. A fact which might not trouble you, but I bet worries the bejeebers out the 32 million lads no end. Just imagine trying to find someone to love. Imagine wanting a family and knowing the odds are stacked against you. Imagine the chances of getting your leg..... (Censored. Ed). Would I want to be a eighteen year old Beijing rickshaw driver? not for all the tea in ............well, China.
In the mid 50's experts predicted that the UK population would double by the turn of the century. Well in true expert style they got it wrong by a massive mile. 40 million to be exact. Still, easy mistake to make I guess. What they didn't do was take into account the effect of our growing affluence. It's since transpired, the more affluent we became, the fewer children we wanted to share that affluence with. Perhaps harsh, but none the less true. The UK population rose by just 12 million in fifty years. That includes immigration.
This can not be said for China. The rise in their affluence has barely made a dent in their figures. In 1953 there were 583 million Chinese. Sixty years later that number had tripled to 1.5 billion and that's WITH draconian birth control laws. Each year 18 million babies are born in China. That's 360 million per generation. Almost a quarter of the world's population is now Chinese. Arguably the population has reached critical mass. A point where nothing can stop its growth, even laws which once forbade couples from having more than one child had no effect.
If you take the present population of China, add in some maths, you'll discover that at some point in the future we'll all be of Chinese decent. Theirs will be the dominant gene in the gene pool. Nature will do the rest. That might sound a bit far fetched, but what you probably don't know is that, according to ONS (Office of National Statistics), the largest group of immigrants coming to the UK in 2014 wasn't from India, the middle east or eastern Europe, but from China. A total of 42,000. And that's not even a spike in the yearly migration numbers.
China's population has one other very worrying implication for us all. When you get 1,344,130,000, people living on top of each other you create the perfect environment for nature to engineer new viruses in the hope of levelling the playing field. Little wonder the last three outbreaks of avian flu have all been in China.
About then, thankfully, I drifted off.
Wednesday 7th 2016
It's a gas
Today I'm going to take you on a journey into the fascinating world of bottled gas: as a consequence this could be the most boring diary entry I've ever attempted to write. But write it I must, why? Because I get emails from people asking me such questions as: What gas bottle should I take on my planned caravanning odyssey? What gas bottles do you use? How long will a ten kilo bottle of butane last me? All fascinating questions I think you'll agree. So to answer them, here's the best practical 713 word article you're likely to read about camping gas. For those would rather stick pins in their eyes than be educated, I've tried to make it interesting. Seriously..... I did try.
Regardless of the many attempts, by those wonderful people in Brussels, at standardising Europe - condoms and bananas spring readily to mind – they've failed miserably with the the gas bottle industry. Each country has its own idea about how to get gas into a cylinder, and then how to get it back out again. No two are the same. The only universal gas bottle on the market is the French manufactured 'camping gaz'. Unfortunately the smallest bottle, about the size of a can of baked beans, will just about heat up a can of baked beans before expiring. And the largest would struggle to keep you warm through one frosty night. They're also French, which means they're stupidly expensive.
Having wasted hours studying all the pros and cons of all portable gas bottles, I plumped for the BP Gaslite system, for two simple reasons. First, the bottles are made from glass fibre which means they're much lighter than steel bottles.
(Weight is your enemy! Lighter bottles, equates to more clothes ladies. Ed)
Secondly, they're semi transparent. This makes working out what gas you have left a doddle, as you can actually see the stuff sloshing around. I marked the level and was able to accurately calculate how long a bottle would last. I reasoned, that both bottles we took would last nine months, and they did. Now I should point out we use electric for heat and to cook with, where possible. Gas was our back up.
Nothing to do with gas, just your average Spainish stag do. And no thats not me out front.
Now of course bottled gas is universally available throughout Europe. In much of southern Europe small towns and villages don't have piped gas, so they rely on bottled gas. Consequently it's plentiful, easy to get and a lot cheaper than in the UK. In Morocco for example, you'll pay around £5 for a 15 kilo refill. In Spain about £15. The only down side of buying gas over here is, if you're not careful you could end up filling your van with empties which, unless you're a collector, could be a real bind. I recently met a newbie to this life style who carried six! Poor chap. Obviously, if you're staying for long periods in one country, for winter perhaps, it makes sense to buy the local gas bottles. Many people on this camp site do. When you move on you can leave the bottle behind. Regulators are easy to buy and again cheaper than the UK. You can avoid this faffing about and have the Gaslow system installed in your van. This will enable you to to fill up with LPG. Which sounds great, and it would be if LPG was widely avaiable across Europe. It's not. YOu have to look for it, especially in southern Europe.
You can actually fill a bottle yourself. This is not advised as you could blow yourself, and much of the campsite, up! But apparently it's common practice with the French and Germans in Morocco. You basically transfer the gas from a local bottle, to yours. This is done by hanging the full bottle upside down, a few feet off the ground. You then connect it to your empty one underneath, via a connector, not a regulator, and then open the gas tap. I'm guessing at this point you leg it for safety. If you do try this method, and survive, you'll need to weigh the filled bottle as there has to be room for expansion. Failure to do so means you've basically made yourself a bomb.
Right that's the last I'm ever going to say about gas. Promise.
Frankly, some people shouldn't be allowed out of the country. I'm serious. I've said this before. A test should be part of applying for a passport to see if the applicant makes a suitable ambassador for Britain. I say this because how we conduct ourselves abroad reflects on all of us, as a nation. Johnny foreigner will use Brits he meets as a yardstick to measure us British by. This is why Alexandra Boris de Pfeffel Johnson - Boris Johnson to you and me - shouldn't be allowed to leave Britain, let alone be our Secretary for Foreign Affairs. It might be wrong of me to pick on him since he was actually born in the USA, but few know that. But I suppose his birth place does at least explain why he named his kids Apollo, Lettice, Milo and Peaches.
Anyhoo. I got chatting to an elderly English couple a while back. Initially I found difficulty understanding him. Not because of his northern accent, but because he was stripped to the waist and was sporting a dense mat of thick wiry chest hair which, for some odd reason, I found slightly hypnotic. It was like looking at an antique sofa that had the horse hair filling bursting out of it. It was made more mesmerising because he didn't have a hair on his head: Age can be so cruel. So while I was weighing all this up I did miss some of what he was saying.
He told me, he was only staying one more day because the water tap was to slow in filling his water barrel. Which it was. Mine too. But it's not like we've appointments to keep. I've plenty of time to fill my water barrel. In fact, my whole day could be scheduled around filling my water barrel. It certainly wouldn't screw around with my daily agenda any.
“Where are you going? I asked.
“Out of Spain. That's for sure. Maybe Portugal.
“Not a fan of Spain then? I enquired.
“Don't talk to me about Spain.” he answered.
Which was odd, since he brought it up.
“Why what’s up with it?”
“I was stopped by the police for towing a car with an A-Frame”.
(An A-frame is a device fitted to the front of a car which allows you to tow it. Ed ).
“I told them, I spelt it out, it's perfectly legal in the UK! But they wouldn't listen, and after all the money we've spent here. You'd think they be more grateful”.
I wanted to point out that I doubted the old bill had been keeping a tally of his spending habits while he was here, but clearly he thought someone had, and the amount had earned him some kind of exemption from the Spanish judicial system. Of course I didn't. People don't like the obvious being pointed out to them.
“No sod 'em mate. If'n that's how they gunna tret us, we're done wit Spain”.
“Last year we was in California. Have yer been?” He continued.
“California, no never.” I replied.
“Don't”, the wife chimed in, “Fulla black people. Were there a week before we spoke to a white person”.
I never know what to say to bigots. What can you say to a stranger who seems happy to share their prejudices with you? I felt sorry for them to be honest. To have lived as long as they had and have learnt bugger all, is sad. They'll take that to their grave. I'm reminded, nobody is born a bigot, that has to be learnt at the school of Intolerance, fear and small mindedness
Regrettably, however, people are born with the right to a bloody passport.
Friday 2nd December
Oh! for the love of......
It is me? Or is the world slowly losing the plot, because I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the loons tunes are taking control. By that I mean stupidity seems to be becoming acceptable. Almost the norm. And the idiots don't seem embarrassed any more! They used to keep their dappy ideas to themselves, but not now.
So let me clear this up; the new five pound note is not made from lard, it's not full of calories and it doesn't smell piggy. A tiny amount of tallow is used in the manufacturing process; less than is used in some candles, lots of cosmetics, many soaps and a plethora of other goods we buy and use.
Even so, this did not stop over 100.000 British people signing an online petition calling for the return of the old low calorie, fat free, fiver. Many of those who signed were vegans or religious people. One enraged health food shop owner, proclaimed “I'll not be accepting the new fiver”. A sound business stratagem if ever I heard one. Personally, If I ran a health food shop I'd welcome a washable fiver, strikes me as more hygienic. One stick thin, slightly emaciated looking vegan girl, screamed on a news forum. “Fat in fiver's! Are they FUCKING KIDDING!” In caps, so she was pissed.
My advice to any vegan who signed the petition is this. Use the fiver by all means. Spend it willy-nilly, just don't frekin eat it. Okay? And my advice to those with religious concerns is that there's zero chance of a fat molecule leaching out and be absorbed into your skin, so please, don't worry. Now this is really the result of political correctness gone batty, and frankly, that's a shame as it gives legitimate political correctness a bad name.
Veganism, vegetarianism and other faddist diets is a lifestyle choice made possible by the mountains of food stacked in supermarkets. Sure, perhaps they've struggled with some issue on animals rights and have decided to take a stand not to eat badgers. Fine. Maybe they've rejected their genetic carnivorous heritage in favour of Tofu. No skin off my nose. Or they've convinced themselves that what we eat is a perversion of what we 'should' eat, but regardless of their reasoning they can only pander to their food preferences and tastes because we have so much food. We're privileged. We throw away 7 million tons of the stuff away a year. We don't really think about the three million children around the world who die of malnutrition a year. Or the one hundred million kids in developing countries who are underweight. Or the one in four who don't get a proper diet. I've been to a third world country. I've watched people devour a chicken in seconds, till all that's left is a pile of spotlessly clean bones. It's something to behold. You'd have thought it would have taken some kind of industrial process to reduce a chicken to that. Visiting a third world country where food is scarce, and people don't give a toss about high fibre, low sodium, saturated fat free high protein diets, is an education. You tend to come away feeling enlightened.
My point really is this, If you're going to sign a petition, for fucks sake make it worthy of your signature. Maybe sign one that condemns the world leaders for managing to find 1.7 trillion dollars to spend on arms each year but leaves feeding the hungry to charities! Or ones that try and set the wrongs of the world, right and not because your sensibilities are offended by a tiny ingredient used in the manufacturing process of a fiver.
Okay. Pretty sure I've offended quite a few there, so I'll just say this, tough! We're all different. We all feel offended by something at some point. And we can't go through life worrying if something we're about to say is going to offend someone, it's bound to. But just let me say, in defence of the above, if it has offended you, you might want to look up the difference between being rude, which does offend me, and being offensive which doesn't.
Anyways, have a fat free weekend. Cheers.