Weekly read 185

    Monday 5th January 2015. Week 185 Spain

    All in a name

    Imagine this: You take a phone call from an employee. He tells you he's contracted an acute case of Coryza, or Rhino Pharyngitis, both highly contagious, but he's still coming in. What would you say? Me? I'd tell him straight. I'd tell him not to bother. We're locking the entrance, security has been put on full alert and if I see him walking across the company car park I'll drop a typewriter on his head from a great height.

    On arrival here, a few days ago, we found that the camp site resembled a field hospital more than a winter retreat. Many were unwell. You couldn't walk fifty yards without bumping into someone who was either sneezing, coughing, wheezing or, given the age of some of them, looking as though their next of kin should be contacted. I tried to dodge them, as you do. Once ducking behind a parked car for cover. And when I got cornered I tried to breathe only when absolutely necessary. But that's not easy to do without turning blue after a few minutes. Some very kindly warn you in advance, as they approach you, that they are carriers. It would be really helpful if those infected with anything, wore say, a small bell around their necks. Least that would give the healthy some advanced warning, but I fancy that would be asking too much, especially of friends.

    Anyway I've succumbed. I awoke this morning in a sweat. I'd caught it, Rhino pharyngitis, or to give it its more usual name, 'the common cold'. The symptoms begin within 16 hours of being exposed. Since half those in attendance at the New Years Eve party had it, I foolishly thought I'd dodged the bullet but no such luck.

    I'd like to point out, before I go on, that an eminent medical research team in the USA has discovered that men actually do suffer more with the common cold than women. (Bet it was an all male eminent medical research team! Ed).

    Still typically and in stoical fashion, I put a brave face on it.

    Problem is of course, I've been spoilt by my mum, like most blokes have.

    I remember, as a small boy, being ill really wasn't half that bad. For a start, it guaranteed your mum would forgive, or forget, all the embarrassment and mayhem you caused by just being a small boy. She'd slip into default 'caring mother mode' and treat you like the little injured soldier you clearly were. You'd get Lucozade. A weird and near luminescent fizzy drink which, for years I thought was actually a medicine. You'd get to stay in bed and not go to school. If you weren't contagious you'd get to lay on the living room sofa and watch telly with a blanket over you. You'd get comics to read and be fed medicinal dippy egg and soldiers or, if it was a throat infection, ice cream.

    Of course none of this bodes well for the women we eventually marry. Mums set the bar quite high in terms of sympathetic nursing care. So it's hardly surprising us married chaps expect great things from our wives when we're poorly. And of course, most fall short simply because they are NOT our mothers. This is one of the reasons why women often accuse us men of making such a song and dance about our illnesses, we never feel they're taking our ailments seriously. We revert to some behavioral pattern instilled in us by our mothers and we're just a little disappointed when our wives don't come up to scratch. I fully admit to being prone to talking in hushed tones when I'm under the weather. It's as if by talking in my normal volume I'll not be taken seriously. It's a ploy which worked a treat on mothers.

    You'd think, being married to a nurse I'd have it easy. My nursing care would be second to none, you'd not be far wrong. Hazel goes about the job in a professional manner. I dare say I recover quicker than most. But if I do fail to follow any instructions, or whinge about the size of the pills, or the taste of the linctus, I can be in the dog house quicker than a family pet whose just humped a visitors leg. She gives me that kinda look, well let's just say one my mum never gave me.

    (What he's not been mentioned was me traipsing to the shop to get medicinal chocolate. Ed) 








Tuesday 6th January 2015. Week 185. Spain.

    Is it fair?

    Who hasn't seen a movie where, in the climactic final scene, the hero has to defuse a bomb. Oddly, have you noticed, that bomb makers always seem to include a digital display which conveniently counts down the seconds before detonation. I've never seen a film where they've dismantled a bomb and there isn't one. In fact I can only imagine that in the Idiots guide to bomb making handbook it starts: First, get yourself an LCD screen - And while on this subject, why is it hero's never cut the wrong wire? I digress.

    What's this to do with today's topic? you may ask. Well, very little as it happens but I have to start these things off somewhere.

    I guess when I'm talking about the differences between men and women, which I'm about to do, there's always the concern it could blow up in my face. And being married means I'm much closer to the fuse. And, of course, in my case I have a few female readers, so I have to tread lightly. Besides, the list of people I have offended whilst committing my thoughts to screen seems to grow longer by the day.

    Now I hope my daughter isn't going to read this because she'll think I've lost the plot, or worse, she'll think I've forsaken the King family motto: Facere minare duplici, which is Latin and loosely translates to: Make mine a double! 

Its a tough life but someone has to live it.

    Apparently we've decided to cut down on our drinking. I say apparently because I was informed of this rather than it being democratically arrived at. There wasn't a vote that I was aware of. Haze decided it was a good idea. Now, I'm actually inclined to agree with her, after all, we'll be back home in a three months and I doubt we'll feel inclined to paying UK prices, so weening us off our daily tipple doesn't seem altogether a bad idea.

    So the last few days we've forgone our civilizing pre-dinner Gin and Tonic and glass of wine with dinner. (For glass read bottle. Ed) We've agreed to have a few drink free days.  Why has she taken this drastic action now you ask? Good question. Hazel's concerned we're making a habit of it. Personally I don't like the word habit, at least in this context, I much prefer tradition, but I suppose that might be splitting hairs.

    Now I have to say, and I've no idea how many men will agree with me here, but when wives give something up, it seems us blokes unwittingly have to go along with them. It's a little like stepping into a canoe on a fast running river, you're just simply swept away. I remember when she stopped buying cakes.

    “No cakes?! I exclaimed while looking for them in the larder.

    “No not this week”, she replied.

    “Really! What's happened?'

    “'Thought we'd hit them on the head for a while”. I never saw another blessed cake for six months. I was abstaining by proxy.

    “Nothing to stop you buying yourself a cake” she added when she detected a hint of criticism on the whole not-buying-a-cake issue a week or so later. True. And yet I knew if I'd bought a cake and then sat scoffing it while watching telly, she'd have given me a withering look and said “How could you? I knew it wasn't worth it.

    Interestingly this lob sided communal decision making never extends to me. When I gave up smoking cigars, she didn't follow.

    On that, I was on my own.








    Thursday 8th January 2015. Week 185 Spain

    Helpful Harry

    If this lifestyle of ours doesn't float your boat then I suggest you read no further.

    I'm occasionally contacted by readers after information which is really what this web diary is all about, though you'd not think that sometimes. Some compliment me, -keep those coming- and the odd few want to tell me what an opinionated plonker I am. This, normally after I've said something disingenuous about some section of humanity which I'm guessing they are a member of. In fairness I have, over the last 185 weeks, pretty much had a go at well..... just about everyone. So if you fall into any of the following categories I've probably upset you at some point or other. Extremists, always top of my list, whether political or religious. Experts. Euro-skeptics and Economists, the three E's. Politicians, racists and bigots obviously. Any one in America with a gun, so pretty much all of 'em then. Also homo-phobics, royalists, militarists, general loons and of course vegetarians. I've had a pop at them all. Little wonder then my readership, of late, has fallen.

    I normally answer these emails, the good, bad and ugly, directly and only answer them here, when like today, I'm stuffed for a topic.

    Anyhoo, one yesterday wanted to pick my brain. The chap told me he's slowly working through my Diary. Now there's a feat. I've written just shy of 700 thousand words during the last 185 weeks and while longer than War and Peace it sure ain't as interesting, so I wish him luck. He tells me he's in the middle of planning a similar adventure. 

    He wants to know how we go about planning our route, come destination? Easy! we use a dart, map and blindfold. Actually, that wouldn't be far from the truth. We tend to sketch out a destination on the back of a fag packet and take it from there. We're somewhat guided by the Acsi Camping-site book. An indispensable guide and well worth £16, if for no other reason than the discounts you're offered when you produce the Acsi discount card at camp sites. We choose sites near to our proposed route or ones that don't have us deviating too far from it. We've picked up a couple of guide books on our travels and have used them. The web is a fountain of knowledge, as is, of course, fellow travelers we meet. Some of the best campsites we've found were by word of mouth. Our route tends to evolve from a mix of those sources. We both believe that too much planning, and in too great a detail, can turn an adventure into a mission. We much prefer to amble along aimlessly which might explain why we got lost as often as we do.

    He also asked about the internet. Well ninety percent of sites do have some form of internet connection, in the main WiFi. Surprisingly Germany was the country which had the poorest campsite WiFi facilities. The best was old Eastern block countries who, since being freed from the yoke of communism, have embraced the WiFi age along with stolen BMW's. Cost varies considerably, from a euro an hour, to free 24/7. Using your phone to get online is financial madness. When all else fails head for a MacDonald's as globally, it seems, they provide free WiFi connection and they don't expect or care if you don't buy a Big Mac. Which is handy as I never do.

    His last questions was about satellite reception. I know little about this. I know many campers have satellite dishes mounted on their vehicles and some have portable dishes. All this technology does make some camp-sites look more like spy listening stations or military quarters than a place to park your tent.

Chris was very complimentary about my photos (Thanks mate) but asked if I could also include the place names alongside. I am in the process of doing that very thing. Dependent on how much bad weather we suffer, I will have it done soon.

Hope that helps.

I should point out I've nothing against vegetarians. In my experience they are the least aggressive people on the planet. I think somewhere in the Bible it says: Blessed are the vegetarians for they are the real peacemakers.








    Friday 9th January 2015. Week 185. Spain

    What's on my mind today?

    Religious history is littered with the bloody atrocities of wars, murder, torture, execution and the persecution of the unbeliever and heretic.

    I'm prompted today, by the murders in Paris, to ponder the question: Would humanity be any better off without religion? I'd have to answer yes, simply because I really don't see how we could be any worse.

    The conundrum is, that while religion may seek to unite us, it attempts this by first dividing us. Religion segregates and separates its followers into hundreds of differing factions. Then, through religious text and teaching provides each faction with it's own set of beliefs, laws, customs, practices and in some instances health and dietary advice.

    Some suggest that without moral and spiritual guidance from something higher than ourselves we'd all slide into an anarchic abyss. Personally I think we're already there, religion has only fueled the journey.  Religion doesn't help us make sense of the world. Holy books are riddled with inaccuracies and contradictions, they only muddy the waters. And their contents are interpreted a thousand different ways to suit the readers motives and agendas. Love and hate spring from the pages of religious text in equal measure. I could go on. 

Our local

    Many would tell me I have it wrong. That's it's not the fault of religion I'm told. Its what men do in the name of religion. And yet while good people to good things and evil people do evil things, religion has no difficulty in making good people do evil things. Even Hitler thought God was on is side.

    For me that argument is not a get-out-of-jail card. It's naive thinking. It doesn't excuse, nor does it acknowledge the power of religion over mortal man. Religion has to take responsibility for the action of it's followers.

    Embracing doctrines and teachings which, two thousand years ago may have been valid, are not longer. Nothing roots mankind so firmly in the past as religion. Without it, mankind's understanding of himself and his place in the cosmos would have evolved much further than it has. The world has moved on. It's now outdated and outmoded. The newer religions do little to enlighten as their foundations are built on the same fables, superstition, dogma and mythologies of their predecessors.

    Me? I'm a humanist, an atheist.

    Humanism is not a soft option, nor is it a religion. It's an uncomplicated philosophical and ethical stance, which emphasizes the value of all human beings, both individually and collectively. We prefer to call upon the sciences, and our growing understanding of the human condition, to explain the world rather than rely on doctrine and scriptures.

    Humanists think for themselves about what is right and wrong This, based on reason, empathy, tolerance and mutual respect for others. We look for our own contentment in this life, rather than pray for entry into the next. Importantly humanists believe people can use compassion, understanding and a single belief we are all one, to make the world a better place for all.

    We don't need to be herded, corralled, marshaled, taught, indoctrinated, instructed, segregated nor brain washed by distant ghosts of bygone civilizations. We are free to make our own minds up. We are members of the human race and that's what unites us all from birth.

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    Have a good weekend.



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