Friday 2nd December
Oh! for the love of......
Come on, is it 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.
What to do?
Good news! we were just five points from winning the Quiz night, we came second. Thought you'd like to know that. We'd have come even closer to winning if my answers to two of the questions hadn't been ignored by my other three team members, all women...... so the odds were stacked against me.
I expect many readers imagine we enjoy a kind of rock and roll lifestyle, partying, getting bladdered on cheap plonk, laying out in the sun etc, basically one merry jape after another. Truth is, only sometimes is it like that, camping has its darker side.
Take last weekend, and all that rain. I guarantee there are few places, quite as grim, as a rain soaked, wind swept, campsite in winter; even a Spanish one. Now I bet you're going to say, 'that's no hardship Phil!' And you'd be quite right, it's not. But, on the other hand, you've not been holed up for three days in something not much bigger than your bathroom. You've probably got rooms to wander into, stairs to climb, a basement or loft to get lost in, and a bed you can sleep in without first having to build it. Basically, you've space to swing the proverbial cat. In short, you've probably got all the domestic creature comforts of 21st century living, and not like us, living in some kind of short hand version of it.
On a camp site, when the weather is pants, there’s little you can do but batten down the hatches, hope the sealant holds and the awning doesn't take flight, which, historically, some have done around here. If you're cooped up in a confined space for days, take it from me, this is when it pays to have a hobby. And apparently, and this is official, looking for apps for your phone doesn’t count as one, nor does trying to learn to juggle with oranges which, at some point, 'we might want to eat!'
If you don't have something to occupy yourself with, you could start talking to yourself, go stir crazy or worse, end up watching daytime soaps via satellite. Or you could start to wonder what your cell mate....sorry, I mean soul mate, is thinking, sitting there knitting, plotting maybe .... who knows.
“What'ya knitting? I called above the noise of the rain pummelling the roof.
“A bare what?” I probe, as her answer seemed cryptic.
“No, a bear, a teddy bear”.
“Why? are you trying to knit new friends?”
“Idiot!. It's for someone’s baby”.
I turned my attention to the rain outside. Checked the depth of the puddles. Some had taken on Olympic dimensions. I was reminded of that phrase: The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain, which it does because, as I've pointed out before, they don’t do drains, least not like us, and not around here.
A wave of dark rain laden clouds, scurried above us, as if they had somewhere more important to be. I spied Peter. He was braving the inclement weather with his dog. He needed the loo. The dog, not Peter. He's wearing a cute yellow rain coat, again, the dog not Peter. A few days ago he and his wife Heidi threw a birthday party for their dog. They said the dog was old and perhaps time was not on his side. “Zo vee make him happy viza party” said Heidi.
The dog looked singularly unimpressed. Clearly he doesn’t realise he's living on borrowed time. Ignorance is bliss, even with a dog.
Oh! the joys of camping.
I'm aware I'm going to get no sympathy, but still. Do you find that little in life works out either the way you planned it or the way you hoped it would? Yeah me too. I ask because the leisurely drive across Portugal and then Spain, the one I waxed lyrical about on Thursday where I spoke of the open roads, the wonderful scenery and listing to chillin' tunes on the radio, was anything but. The traffic around Seville was congestive, the scenery was obscured by pounding rain and the music was drowned out by the windscreen wipers fighting to clear the windscreen. What we didn't know, at that point, was that we were driving into one of the worst storms to hit the area in twenty six years.
We pulled into the camp site after five hours and dashed into reception, the rain showing no signs of abating. We booked in, found our pitch, unhitched and squirrelled ourselves inside.
For the next 44 hours: I'll say that again, for the next 44 hours!, it rained, hard, non stop, biblical stylee. The last person to witness a storm on this scale was Noah. The thunder rumbled relentlessly before exploding overhead, shaking the ground. It sounded like cannon fire. As I lay there, I could easily imagine this was what life was like in the trenches back in 1914..... just without the bullets, tear-gas and bits of body flying around.
At 2.30am we were sat in bed eating toast looking at Youtube clips of kittens doing wacky things. We couldn't sleep with the noise of the tempest raging around us.
(Let's not get too carried away. Ed)
The noise of the rain pounding on the roof measured, and thanks to a phone app I can tell you exactly what it measured, was 68 decibels. To put that in some kind of perspective for you, imagine throwing a seven year old girl into a swimming pool. The scream she'd make as she travelled through the air is also 68 decibels.
On Saturday we braved the the rain. We had to, we were running dangerously low on vino. When we tried to leave the supermarket the exit was blocked by shoppers, few were brave enough to run for their cars. We made a dash for it in water three inches deep, it couldn't run off the car park fast enough.
By the time we returned, the caravan sat in the middle of a pond, about a foot deep. A neighbour came across with a shovel and we dug two trenches to drain away the standing water. Fortunately the site is sand, so the trenches can be easily filled. This morning I moved the van as I'd parked in a dip, it'll only fill again.
The village of Zahorra, which the campsite sits on the edge of, is all but impassable. All the roads in, and out, are flooded as are a few homes apparently. Worth remembering, they don't do drains and guttering here.
Still, we're off to the bar tonight for a quiz, Wednesday we've got ten coming around, and there's a party on Saturday in the bar with live music. So, don't feel too sorry for us.
As a foot note: I find it very hard to understand people who refuse to believe global warming is an issue, not that this downpour is necessarily a result of it, but extremes are becoming more and more a feature of our weather. Floods in the UK are becoming seasonal. The four highest earth temperatures that have ever been recordered, have all been in the last ten years. Sea levels have risen and ice caps are melting. And we pump 40 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. I think Trump and Brexit are the least of our worries.
Thursday 24th November 2016
On the Move
We're moving on tomorrow. Not entirely sorry to leave, to be honest. They're re-laying roads and building an indoor swimming pool here which is not something you can do quietly, so it's a bit like living on a building site with the noise from jack hammers and the trucks ferrying in building materials. Thankfully the glorious weather we've enjoyed has made up for that a little.
We're heading for our winter feeding ground 260 miles south. - Like birds migrating for the winter, the greater liver spotted pensioner heads south to warmer climes - We're heading west out of Portugal, turning right at Seville, then onto Conil de la Fronterra or at least a small village just outside it.
We've been to this same campsite four times to spend winter, we've made some good friends whom we are eager to catch up with. The first year, 2011, I felt apprehensive when we booked it. Haze told the receptionist we wanted to stay for three months. That was scary. The longest we'd stayed, at any campsite had been ten days. Three months was practically a sentence. Fortunately, on the very first day, I was asked by a jocular lady if I could I play an instrument. Haze, who, apart from being my wife, is also, as I was about to discover, my manager and jumped in with, “Yes he can play guitar!”
“Great,” the lady said, “We've been looking for a guitarist to join our campsite band”. I was quick to point out they still hadn't found one, they'd only found me which, once they heard me play, they'd realise is not the same thing at all.
But the three months went quickly. We spent it dancing, having quiz nights, singing, jamming, partying, socialising and occasionally getting bladdered and falling asleep in sand pits.
(No guesses as to which one of us did that! Ed)
So, generally acting like teenagers I suppose. I should say, I fully realise I've just described the campsite from hell for some people, but each to their own. Besides there's no better way to act, especially when you're retired, or, as in my case, you just stopped going into work. I often wonder if anyone missed me. They probably still look at my empty desk and ask, 'didn't some bloke used to sit there? Whatever happened to him?
The camp site sits on the Atlantic side of Spain so it's not as warm, at this time of the year, as the east coast which enjoys a micro climax. But as a consequence, it doesn't fill up in winter. The weather sits around 60 degrees during the day and chilly at nights. It starts to warm up towards the end of February.
The area is Andalucia, famous for flamenco dancing, horses, white hill top villages and marijuana. The stuff regularly washes up on the beach, and probably accounts for the high number of dread-locked surfer dudes mooching about.
The largest city is Cadiz, famous for the carnival. South we'll have Gibraltar, at least for the time being. Once we leave the EU I, like the Gibraltarians, are a tad uncertain of its fate. While we're EU partners with Spain, Spain has not pushed the issue of sovereignty, but there's a growing feeling they might. Spain has, on several occasions, closed the border. The last time was when the British dropped concrete blocks into the sea just off the coast, which pissed off the Spanish fishermen that fish the waters. Spain could close the border, and for a lot longer than a day or two.
So today we're decamping. Taking down the awning. We'll probably spend most of the day cleaning the bird shit off it. And then we'll start packing, stacking and racking. I fully expect the roads to be empty tomorrow, so we'll take our time, stop for lunch, enjoy the scenery and wind up the music.
It's a life.... of shorts. Wednesday 23rd November 2016
Ye ole times.
It's odd, and a tad scary if you ask me, to think that for today’s younger generation 'today,' is going to be their 'Good Ole days'. They'll look back, and complain to their kids, 'It wasn't like this in my day'. Which is the scary part since, most of us more mature folk think that now. Worst still, as a lad, I remember my aunt telling me the same thing. “It was all so much better in my day young Phillip”. However, even though I was young, I wasn't daft. I thought coming from a woman who'd dodged Polio, Diphtheria and Rickets as a kid, and had survived the horrors of two world wars, that was a bit rich. I also remember my Dad saying, “In my day son, I could take your mother to the pictures, have a fish and chip supper and have enough money for the bus fare home, all from two and six”. I realised, much later in life, my fiscal prudence had obviously been inherited.
Thing is, I'm convinced my time, was actually the best of times. A time when we could leave our front door open, simply because, we had bugger all to nick. Our homes weren't full of high tech as they are now. As kids, we could play games in the street, even in the road. We could get up to all manner of high jinks and general shenanigans, safety.
(Me too!, scrumping and knock down ginger. Ed)
Little peek there, into Hazel's 'wild child' youth me thinks.
But, most importantly, it was a time before 'disposable incomes'. Few working class people had spare money. Which was why we were just customers, we'd not yet become consumers. There was no advertising industry, consequently, we weren't materialistic. We didn't worship consumerism. Shopping was not something we 'did' it was something we needed to do. The Joneses, those people we were later encouraged to keep up with, hadn't yet moved in. Adverts were practical, not inspirational or aspirational. Omo washing power, Coal tar soap, Mackintoshes, Paraffin, Players Navy Cut and ladies undergarments which looked like something a bomb disposal expert might wear. I wondered if men found the need to take bolt cutters to bed with them.
It's a little known fact that the sixties sexual revolution started because of the cold war. Teenagers thought Russia and the USA were on the brink of nuclear annihilation. I too was scared, scared Armageddon would mean I'd miss out on all the free love action. By the time I was old enough to fill my boots the Russians and the Yanks had come to an agreement and the world had moved on to avocado bathroom suites.
Another reason why I say it was so much better back then, was we knew bugger all about the world. The 24/7 information highway hadn't yet been laid and we were blissful in our ignorance. Today we hear the same news regurgitated every thirty minutes. Little wonder we feel paranoid if we spot a discarded bag. A few years ago, I was evacuated from a department store when a strange unidentified package was discovered on the staff entrance steps. Four hours later a robot, from the bomb squad stationed at RAF Wittering, found it contained baby shit. It was a discarded nappy.
Then, politicians looked like our grandfathers. They smoked pipes and seemed irredeemably trustworthy. And we all thought the police were there to uphold the law and protect us.
So, I ask myself, has life got any better? Well of course it's not. There are new dangers, new fears, and for many that breeds hate, extremism and intolerance.
When youngsters look back on their youth, I wonder if they'll remember anything with romantic, nostalgic, fondness? I doubt it. And if they do look back and think, theirs was 'the best of times'. that will be very scary indeed.
Monday. 21st November 2016.
Exciting weekend? Ours was, mildly. A film crew swept in. Trucks full of apparatus, a mobile kitchen and a truck dedicated to making up the actors. Within an hour a corner of the campsite looked like a film set. I immediately wondered if they'd need extras.
I've long fancied being an actor. I once attempted to join an amateur dramatics society. I was told of one, not far from me. I turned up one winters evening at a church hall. I expected to find perhaps a spinsterish librarian, a dentist with a touch of the theatrical about him, a cocky menswear salesman and a sprinkling of retired council officials, but not a bit of it. I was shocked. The hall was packed with young and old alike, at least fifty of them. I was approached by an enthusiastic elderly lady who said they were 'doing' Oliver this year, and I was more than welcome to join the chorus line. I was tempted to tell her I was a bit long in the tooth to be expected to work my way up from the chorus line, and ask her if the role of Fagin had been cast? But she'd scooted off, clapping her hands, marshalling a group of unruly teenagers. Consequently, after banging out a couple of verses of 'You gotta pick a pocket or two', I was off, never to return. But it's still on my bucket list. So if there's anyone out there who wants a character actor - I do a rather good irascible old man, complete with a funny accent - then drop me a line.
I 'perform' him for Haze occasionally. Yesterday, for example, he was pointing out the only way to stop people using their phones, while driving, was to lob off the hands of those caught. This he didn't consider excessive. As he points out, “Works well for the Arabs. Try making a call with a bloody stump, see how far they get”. But then he also pointed out the flaw in that plan, the Chinese! They'd almost certainly come out with a plastic stump phone adapter..... them or Betterware. (end scene)
Back to the film crew. I was tempted to change my clothes several times, wander across to demonstrate my various personas, hoping someone would spot me. I didn't, but did go across. I leaned casually against a tree, James Dean style. It got no response so I moved a little closer. After a few minutes a chap approached me wearing head phones with a clip board.
If he was about to ask, 'had I any acting experience? I was prepared to lie. Instead he asked if I wouldn't mind stepping back, I was in danger of getting into the shot. Cheek! So, my acting debut was nipped in the bud, again.
The media has reported on Portugal's increase in economic growth. It's outstripped the results of the other EU members, including Britain. I only mention it because Portugal has a coalition government which is made up of the socialist party, aided by both the Communists and the Greens - which must make for some very interesting meetings - Their rallying call is, employment! employment! employment! That's actual it. They seemingly repeat it whenever the opportunity arises. They see employment as a way towards economic growth, prosperity, and to cut the dependency on state benefits. Seems obvious really. So good on them.
The Portuguese media is also full of Mr Donald Trump. - Whoever thought a bloke called Donald! would run the free world? not me - The reporting is less hysterical than I've seen and does tend to be a little more measured. Here the main concern is one of climate change and Don's refusal to believe that it exists. However, since America is responsible for a quarter of the worlds pollution, if I were Don, I'd probably deny its existence too. He's appointed a known doubter of global warming to council him on this most apocalyptic of issues. Donald also said he'll ignore the 'Paris Accord' on carbon emission, because it's just a ploy by Chinese to stifle American manufacturing. He intends to reinvigorate the coal industry and press on with a trans American oil pipeline, basically then, burn a lot more shit.
Here scientists, meteorologists, and climate change experts agree: if currant trends continue the Algarve will become a desert before the end of this century.
I can tell you, it ain't that far off now.
PS. By the way....if you're interested, I can recite the soliloquy from Hamlet.
Friday 18th November 2016
Apology to seventeen million people.
While I was hiking up a mountain with Haze yesterday...
(A what? Ed) Okay, a big hill then.
...I had a light bulb moment, brought on by the altitude and the fact I'm sick and tired of this whole Brexit debacle, as I'm sure you are.
Imagine for a moment, what would've happened if we'd woken up after the Brexit vote and the REMAIN camp had won. What do you think would've happened next? Street parties? A day of celebration? A new Bank holiday? I doubt it. Me, I'd say bugger all. Cameron would have gone back to number ten congratulating himself that he'd dodged a bullet. We would've all been saved from having to listen to Teresa May banging on about 'The will of the people' like it had been handed down from God. Boris Johnson wouldn't be bumbling around like a character from a Bertie Jeeves novel, embarrassing Britain with his lack of diplomatic skills. Farage wouldn't be strutting the world political stage like a peacock demanding the Tories now take him seriously. The newspapers would have found something, or someone, to scare us with, and maybe, even no Trump. Such Bliss.
So now let me ask, when you stood in the polling booth, pencil in hand, what did you think you were really doing there that Thursday? Voting whether to stay in the EU? Or maybe you thought it was just a straw poll to test public opinion? Or maybe you thought whatever the outcome, it would have to be rubber stamped by parliament? Perhaps you knew the result would be up for endless debate by every Tom, Dick and idiot in the land? Or maybe you thought it doesn't really matter, as the result will be open to legal challenges anyway. I bet, like me, you just thought, you were there to vote on Brexit, Right?
Which one got the top job as a thank you from T May. Correct the loon!
That Friday morning, when I heard the result, - Haze and I voted to remain- I thought that meant we were coming out. And let's not forget, Parliament had already voted six to one to allow the public to decide the issue via a referendum.There was no debate.
So, as I trudged up the very tall hill yesterday, hoping there was going to be a bar or at least an oxygen tent at the summit, I asked myself this question; If the remain camp had won, what would have been our response to the brexiteers kicking up a fuss, as we've done. Challenging the government in the high court. Asking questions about sovereignty and Parliamentary prerogative. Questioning the result. Calling for a second referendum on any deal struck, a deal which no one will understand. I know what I would be saying to them, get over it. You lost! Move on! It was a slam dunk! Basically everything I've heard them say since the result. They're calling foul and they have a right to.
So I came to the conclusion in the thinning air, that the brexiteers are right. Not right in leaving the EU, I still believe that'll prove to be financial and political madness. No, right that the referendum was FAIR, as was the resul It was democratically arrived at.
Sure, I know the debate was pathetic. It had no intellectual merit. Facts were deliberately falsified. The public was lied to and misled, but fuck! that's politicians for you. What did we expect? The truth? No different to what we hear come general election time. Propaganda, promises and lies. We all know that, so we can't act surprised? No, had we won, we would've expected the brexiteers to RESPECT the result.
As I reached the top, legs aching, lungs burning, I decided we should do the right thing, leave and accept the consequences. We took a vote and lost. The vote is still the best form of democracy we have, if we don't like the outcome, that's tough. Democracy can't be up for debate. We, in the remain camp, just need to remember who's to blame for this fiasco and hold them accountable next election.
On the up side; If the shit does hit the fan, we can at least point to the Brexit camp and say, 'We told you so'. Imagine just how smug that's going to make us feel.
Have a good weekend.
Wednesday 16th November 2016
I thought I'd stick with the food theme, seemed to be going well. Here's one of my many, as yet, unproven theories, besides, yesterday was a slow news day. We didn't bump into anybody odd I could poke fun at, I didn't shower in the ladies by accident... again! and Haze didn't enter a wet T-shirt competition.
Right, start by forgetting all the stuff you've ever read about dieting. Bunkum, the lot. All temporary results at best as most of those on a diet have discovered. Ignore the fads. The calorie counting. The exercise regimes, The high fibre, low protein, diets. The joys of Colonic irrigation etc: all a waste of time. We need to start with a clean sheet. Approach this from a genetic perspective. Go back to basics to find an answer to the question, Why do we get fat?
So, can I ask, how many fat overweight animals have you seen? Exclude pets, they're a special case. No, I mean regular animals out in the wild, standing around in fields chomping on grass etc? When was the last time you were in the countryside and thought, 'OMG! Just look at the fat arse on that horse!' I bet you never have. I bet some people have never given it a thought...
(That's a pretty safe bet. Ed)
..and why should they? The thing is, nature or God - up to you which one you want to go with - saw fit to programme every creature with a chemical mechanism that tells them when they're hungry and when they're not. It's a chemical switch. Interestingly some dementia sufferers lose this switch. Their food and liquid intake has to to monitored by someone else or they could starve themselves to death. So what's gone wrong Phillip? You ask. Has the 'genetic' switch, you speak of, stopped working? Well no, since you ask, it hasn't. Its been turned off! Blimey!, you say, Tell us more.
Well, when nature programmed it -it's a protein byt the way- fats and sugars didn't exist together in the wild – there's one massive exception which I'll come to in a sec - they existed only as two separate food sources. Basically fruits = sugars, and meat = fats. It took man to come along and mix the two together. The result, our switching mechanism doesn't recognise this 'new' combination. Therefore the switch doesn't tell us when we've had enough of it, we only stop when we want to.
Now the one exception is milk. Mammals produce milk for their young and milk does combine fats and sugars, but here's the nub, only humans carrying on drinking milk into adulthood, all other creatures stop. And we only carry on drinking milk from other species. Now think about that, cause it sounds and looks well fucked up.
Now I've been alone in this theory for quite some time. But, recently, a scientist chappie went off and researched this, and while not totally proving this theory, added weight to it. He took three groups of mice. Fed one group on fats, another on sugars and the third on a mixture of both. Only the mice eating the third mixture got fat. The mice in groups one and two stopped eating, didn't gorge themselves and didn't' put weight on.
The food industry, whose prime job it is to make money, stumbled on this years ago and have been putting sugar and fat together ever since. And we just keep shovelling it down our necks not knowing when to stop...... Literally.
You might say, if that's the case, why aren't we all overweight? Well we would be if we all had the same life styles, ate the same diet, had the same metabolic rate but we don't. But many of us are overweight and the west has a real issue with obesity.
So here's my advise is this, and remember it's based on practically no research whatsoever; you need to re-enable your switch. That starts with what you put in your Lidl trolley, because, and remember this while you're pushing it around, you'll become what you fill it with.
(So basically eat a lot of beans then? Ed).
Well yeah, but just not Heinz beans, because they add five spoonfuls of sugar to the 6gms of fat that's already in the can.
Friday. a massive apology to seventeen million people.
Monday 14th November 2016
Don’t end up on the menu.
Good weekend? Ours was lovely. Nice weather. We sunbathed and swam.
(Paddled more like. Ed)
True, I'm not a fan of swimming in the sea. Once, In the med, a school of fish, maybe a hundred, swam past. I almost freaked out what with them being a good two inches long and me unsure of their intentions. What do I know?
However, what I do know is that sharks see us as one of their five-a-day. A plat de jour. A tasty titbit. Basically a food source. On average two people a week are eaten by sharks. This according to the ISAF (International Shark Attack File). And no, I've not made them up on this occasion, they exist. Last week three of our number were digested and turned into shark manure.
An ISAF statistic tells us; 'there has only been 2463 confirmed 'unprovoked' shark attacks around the world. - How they link the word 'only' to the figure 2463 is frankly taking the piss in my book- However that number is not accurate. It's not the whole picture. Because it doesn't include figures for 'unconfirmed' attacks or data for 'provoked' attacks. The actual figure could be double or treble. The ISAF does offer some comfort. It says, if you're a swimmer or surfer don't panic, you’ve only a one in 10 million chance of being eaten by a shark. A fairly meaningless figure, especially if you're being pulled under by a great white. I guess you can at least console yourself that 'it's just your bad luck, try not to take it personally. But maybe you think those odds are too long and not worth considering, I should remind you the odds of winning the lottery are double that, but that doesn't stop millions buying tickets each week. Just for the hell of it I've calculated the odds of a lottery winner being eaten by a shark: they're halved. This is because spending your winnings, may take you to places where sharks hang out.
The ISAF say there are three types of shark attack.
1, The 'Hit and Run'. This is when a shark will just swim past, grab your arm and fuck off with it.
2, The 'Sneak Attack' You'll not see this one coming. You'll just sustain multiple bites and sink in screaming gargling agony.
3, The sharks favourite, the 'Bump and Bite'. Sounds almost fun. The shark circles, bumps into you a few times, before making off with your leg.
In an attempt to put the whole shark attack question into some kind of perspective the ISAF points out there are 480 species of shark, but only four you need concern yourself with, The Great White, The Tiger, The Bull and The White tip shark. Unfortunately, since most of us don't carry the Observers book of Sharks while out swimming it's' all a bit academic. And even if we did, by the time we've looked up the index, found the page and checked the markings, you're lunch!
One of the ways to reduce the risk of being attacked is NOT to take out Australian citizenship. Aussies are gobbled up at an alarming rate. Over 700 of them. Why Aussies go anywhere near the water is beyond me. After all they not only have sharks to contend with, but Box jelly fish, salt water Crocodiles, Blue ringed Octopus and various poisonous water snakes, all fatal........... Having said that dry land isn’t a whole lot safer for them with over twenty killer land based creatures, including a particular ant.
If you're going to be attacked be an American. Although it's the country with the highest reported number of attacks, curiously, and no one has an explanation for this, they also have the lowest number of shark fatalities, with only 4 percent of those being attacked actually being digested. Clearly there’s something about 'some' Americans that even the shark can't stomach.
Oh come on! I said did say 'some'.
Friday 11th November 2016
It was an accident! Really!
Wednesday 9th November 2016.
What a day!
Well I'm gutted. Seriously, I did have something mildly amusing to bang on about today but the news from America has completely stumped me. I feel like I did when I woke up to find we'd voted to leave the EU. I had an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach because I knew we were now heading into uncharted waters. I don't posses the blinding faith brexiteers seem to possess, that everything is now going to be hunky-dory. I'm fearful of the path we're on. But that fear is not a personal one. I'm in a position, and of an age, where I can pretty much weather any storm. No, my fear is for my country, and to be honest that surprised me because I'm one of its fiercest critics.
What I couldn't see, that morning, and still can't, is how Britain is going to divorce itself from the EU and walk away smiling. All divorces, by their very nature, are messy.
Many Americans must have that same feeling this morning. Their once proud nation has elected someone who, in front of thousands of supporters, told them proudly, “I know a lot of words” and the crowd applauded. I feel sad for the intelligent, compassionate and tolerant Americans who wake each morning and hope for a better and brighter future for themselves and their kids, but now, like me, I'm sure they can see only uncertainly.
But at the same time I completely understand the frustration that many Americans feel about their political system and Washington. They don't feel connected to it, they don't feel it represents them. They feel politicians are basically self serving and corrupt, and who can blame them. Do we feel our politicians are trustworthy?
In truth. If you have principals, a sense of fair play, high ideals and a desire to right the wrongs of the world, you shouldn't go into politics. In politics you'll have to conform to the political dogma, the agendas, you'll have to tow the party line and obey the whips. By its very nature politics corrupts the individual, and I think the ordinary folk are beginning to wake up to that.
Unfortunately, it doesn't make a lot of sense replacing those people with someone who shares several character traits with psychopaths. Psychopaths lie. They manipulate the truth, They are invariably very successful in their field. They're often womanisers. They show no compassion or understanding. They're ruthless and they have few real friends. Psychopaths are not all murderers or rapists, many are drawn to the power politics offers them.
They say, we all remember where we were on the terrible day 9/11. I wonder if we'll all remember where we were when we heard about trump, what with it being 11/9.
Monday 7th November 2016
If you ask me what the Portuguese eat? I couldn't really tell you. They eat a lot of fish, ugly fish, I know that. Are ugly fish cheaper? They should be. But I suspect the Portuguese diet features many of those foods stocked by Lidl and Aldi, which as you know isn't vast. Lots of canned bratwurst and frozen rabbit lungs, least I think that what they were.
Both shops are popular here, as they are across Europe. Their no nonsense approach to grocery retailing and pricing is very appealing when you're on a budget. Here, with a much larger proportion of the public, living at, or below, the poverty line, spending on food is the only real area some can save a few bob on, which in the 21st century is a dreadful comment to make and still be right.
Of course here, as in many countries in Europe, food is taxed. Oddly, I think it a champion idea. It's a great way to collect taxes. They can't be avoided by anyone no matter how many tax accountants are employed. We could knock income tax on the head for say... anyone earning the minimum wage. Luxury foods like; Shippam's crab paste, Carr's water biscuits and banoffee pies can attract higher rates of tax. While the basics, like what poor people eat; those pink wafer things, pickled gerkins and Kraft cheese slices can attract a much lower rate of tax. I think it would be fairer all round.
Old gateway into Lagos. Just inside is the old slave market (no longer used)
Walking around Aldi's on Saturday I was struck, and not for the first time, with the variety of beans they stock. Beans in cans, floating around in glass jars, in packets, dried, some ground down into powder, I watched a guy fill his trolley with them. I wondered what on earth he could do with them. How do you make a meal out of beans? - other than beans on toast, which technically, isn't a meal- Is it even possible? I don't know. I noted he had dreadlocks and was wearing those harem pants which perhaps explains his dietary fascination with beans. In my experience, people who look like they knit their own clothes do seem to have very odd eating habits.
So anyway's, as I mooched about Haze asked did I fancy a Sunday roast? Which of course I did. So we picked up a chicken, not that it had been dropped. They're about €3. We'd smuggled a packet of Paxo stuffing out of the UK, so a traditional Sunday roast was in the offing. I pushed the boat out and bought a bottle of Portuguese Tinto with a charming label for a Euro, which turned out to be a little cheeky, but with some interesting notes, very palatable.
When we got back I set about preparing the chicken. It looked like any other chicken we'd buy back home. It sat in the familiar blue Styrofoam tray covered with cling-film. But that's where the resemblance to any chicken we've previously bought ended. As I cut loose the cling-film its legs sprang out like it was preparing to dash out of the caravan. My gut reaction was to grab it. It gave me quite a start. To my horror it was a whole chicken. Complete with neck, legs, little wobbly head, beak and face. Laid out on the worktop it looked less like Sunday lunch and more like road kill.
Most of the time we're far removed from what we eat. A burger looks nothing like a cow. You never imagine a lamb chop jumping around a field full of the joys of spring. But faced with this chicken which looked, well, just like a real chicken only dead, naked and looking mildly embarrassed, it kinda brought it home to me. Haze, couldn't bring herself to look it in the eye, nor me for that matter. I thought the simple task of preparing it for the oven was getting way too personal as I hacked off its head and looked up its bum. As I finished, one black eye caught mine, needless to say, it looked resigned to its fate.
Past Diary entry from 2012
Crime solving Dolphin vs Media.
Do you like Dolphins? I luv 'em. Seriously. If I believed in reincarnation, which I don't, I'd want to come back as one..... or a women, but that's a whole other story. If there’s one creature that makes an ideal role model for humanity, it has to be the dolphin. For a start they're chilled out, intelligent, peace loving, communicative, friendly, smiley and permanently moist. What more could you want? Fuck! most of my friends aren't that!
Take Flipper. Flipper, in case you didn't know, was the dolphin in the 1965 kids TV programme of the same name. It featured a crime solving Dolphin: granted all the crimes were water based but still, pretty amazing. And just as impressive was Bud, the small boy who befriended him. He was pretty exceptional too. Flipper would swim over - Bud was never far from water for some queer reason – make lots of squeaky noises while furiously nodding it's head, and amazingly Bud would be able to construct long complex sentences and conjugate the odd verb from listening to him.
“What's that Flipper?” Bud would decipher. “A tourist boat has run aground on the rocks at Sandy bay and is sinking! Gee williekers I'll tell my Pa”. Flipper would squeak again and Bud would add. “Yeah... I'll get Pa, to call the coast guard, don't worry.” Great stuff. The programme did a wonderful PR job for Dolphins. Not that it needed to. I mean, who hasn't heard the heart rendering story of the little boy, with learning difficulties, one leg in a calliper, who fell overboard and was protected from a school of circling sharks by a lone dolphin.
(Nobody, you just made that up. Ed). As if?
So you can imagine my horror when I read this headline.
'Two dolphins die in heroin overdose after weekend rave.'
Turns out the dolphins weren't smack heads. They were given the drugs by two, supposedly, more intelligent creatures who'd attended the rave party. Now at that point I was confused as to who I was most annoyed with? Sure, the two twats were obvious candidates, but newspapers always wind me up with their stupid hysterical headlines. I haven't bought a newspaper in thirty years for that reason, and I'm a far saner person for it. Everyone I know who buys a paper seems to view the world in black and white, much like the colour of the newspapers they read. But there's another, far more sinister, reason.
Newspaper advertising is worth two billion pa. That's 83% of newspapers revenues. End advertising today and newspapers would cease publication. Publishers know this, so they can't leave anything to chance which is why they employ professionals to profile their readership. From this, publishers are able to show advertisers which particular demographic and socio-economic group their readers fall into, and from that advertisers target their ad campaigns. To keep the same 'group' buying his newspaper an editor will tailor it's contents. The news, the editorials and articles will be governed by the readers opinions and political views which the research also identified. That's why, for example, A Daily Mail reader, someone who is known to be angry about everything, will read the headline, 'Immigrants pour in as floodgates open'. While the Guardian reader will read, Immigration: small rise in net figures. What one gets in a newspaper is filtered news designed to appeal to the reader's view of the world. In that way the reader is not challenged by what he reads. It simply confirms his version of reality and he smugly continues to buy the same newspaper.
It was once said that Guardian readers wanted a strong Tory leader. The Mirror readers wanted a compassionate Labour leader and Sun readers didn't give a toss as long as they had big tits.
You think your choice of paper is your own, it's not. It was chosen for you.
Enjoy your Sunday read.
Friday 4th November 2106
It's 5.15 am and the campsite is eerily silent. I can't hear a thing. Well almost nothing, but more of that in a sec. I'm probably the only one up..... in Portugal. What's got you up so early Phil? You ask. Well, in a word, rage. Let me explain.
When we arrived here, clearly I wasn't thinking. I ignored one of the cardinal conventions of camping and parked under a tree. Worse still, it's a big tree. If you've never been a boy scout, a girl guide or into camping, you'll probably not be 'au fait' with basic camping conventions. So let me enlighten you as to why it's generally considered a no-no.
1, Rain: When it rains, and then stops, it doesn't under a tree, it carries on raining. The length of time it continues to rain is directly proportional to the size of the tree. A large tree, with big leaves can drip, splosh, thud, drip-drop and dribble on the caravan roof for a couple of hours, which is mega annoying, especially when the sun shines after. Inside, especially at night, this is equivalent to Chinese water torture. Your brain starts to try and pre-empt when the next drip, splosh, thud, drip-drop and dribble will arrive. You kind of involuntarily tense up. You can't stop it.
2, Shade: Trees give you shade which, when it's really hot, is a blessing, but when it's not, isn't. It just stops the van from ever warning up.
3, Insects: Where you find trees you'll often find bugs, ants and spiders which can drop down through open roof vents.
4, Goo: From pine trees, which are the predominate variety in southern Europe, you get resin. This looks like Golden syrup, sets to the consistency of concrete and nothing shifts it. It becomes bonded to anything it lands on. It's natures superglue.
Now we come to what was making me mad.
5, Birds: Two mornings ago I found the car lathered in bird shit. Fifty eight individual bird droppings. I counted them. What the French guy on the next pitch thought while I was doing this he didn't say. He was probably just glad we're finally leaving the EU. Fifty eight dollops of bird shit is a lot. I've no idea if it was fifty eight individual birds, or just one with the shits, but fuck, fifty eight? That's got to be some kind of Guinness world record, surely. I should probably phone Norris and ask.
I spent an hour washing it off. I moved the car from under the tree. I then inspected the van, as it's also parked under the fringes of the tree. The branches directly above it are quite sparse. Thankfully, I found nothing. Maybe the caravan falls just outside of the 'bird shitting area'. Do birds have a 'bird shitting area?' I don't know. I mean, it seems reasonable to assume they might have a few dedicated branches from which they do their number twos. A predefined 'latrine area' if you will, if only not to ruffle the feathers of their neighbours. It was while I mused this point, I admonished myself for not knowing more about our birds.
The next day the front right side of the van took a dozen direct hits, some of them big poos, not humming bird sized but crow sized. The caravan has become the new target.
Now to this morning and why I'm up so early. I got up to take a wizz, climbed back in bed and I swear, I could hear the sound of bird shit hitting the roof. Seriously. I could hear tiny little splotchy sounds. I tried to ignore it. But as I lay there, it started to wind me up each time a 'splat' hit the roof, I'd sigh grumpily, and tut loudly, knowing, as I did, a bird had just taken a dump. I began to hatch a plan to get my own back. I could buy a big fuck-off stuffed bird of pray and stick it on the roof using the tree sap that's also collecting up there. But then I reasoned that could work out expensive. Stuffed birds of pray ain't going to be cheap, right?. I could convince Haze to knit one, she's good at stuffed bears, how hard can it be to knit an eagle? But my needs were urgent. I then remembered, I'd seen two doves knocking around. I could take out my frustrations on them. Scare them off! Throw something at them (when no one's looking) Basically, bully them.
And then....., I felt bad. This is not me! Besides what if they're not the ones shitting on the van. Perhaps they're just two innocent birds and I've just picked on them, like a thug! I ask you, what kinda of a man does that? This is how Nazism got started.
So I've decided to move the van. I daren't look on the roof even now, Lord knows what I'll find in three weeks when we leave? It'll be a bio hazard. I'll be refused entry back into the UK. The van will have to go into quarantine. It'll be a Petri dish on wheels.
Have a good, bird shit free, weekend.
Wednesday 2nd November 2016
Are Idiots a Menace?
Yesterday, we attempted to walk to the next town along the coast, a small charming fishing village called Burgau. We took the coastal pathway. Now don't for a moment think it's a coastal pathway, it ain't. They just call it that. They don't really do coastal pathways here. They'll tell you they do. Show them on maps, but when you get there what you won't find is a well trodden path, with signs, arrows, a bit of fencing or the odd barrier. No, what you'll find is that some dude, with a dodgy sense of direction, has banged in a few posts and painted them. From that you're expected to find your own route. In my experience this is not as easy as it sounds. Mainly because, having banged them in, the chap never returns to check if they're still there, or if they're now buried under a pile of fallen rocks or covered in foliage, so it's all a little hit and miss.
We came upon a large section which had disappeared completely. We peered over the edge of the cliff, it was lying at the bottom being pummelled by the sea, it's post in full view. The next section hung out like a wonky DIY shelf. The sea had gouged its way underneath. Haze, suggested we'd better stick to the right, in case our combined weight was all that was needed to snap it off and send it seaward. Not unsurprisingly, the PCPA -Portugal Coastal Path Authority- haven't been out to cordon off the area or make it safe, this is because there isn't a Portugal Coastal Path Authority I just made them up. Here you're on your own. Walk off into a yawning abyss and that's pretty much down to you being an idiot and not looking where you're going. Now I like that. I like being able to assess risk and danger and not have someone else do it for me. I have a keen sense of survival, honed over a good few years of dodging all manner of bullets, both human and physical and I like exercising it occasionally. Of course my attitude won't suit everyone, people would die, the stupid ones. But I don't have a problem with that. I think there's a far greater issue at stake here. I'm convinced that 'stupidity,' is a form of genetic natural selection. There's basically a stupid gene. It's natures way of culling the dullards.
There was the story of the two guys who ignored the warning signs about getting too close to a glacier. This was in NZ. They wanted a better photo. They climbed over the barrier and walked down to the glaciers edge. The glacier, a tourist attraction, has remained virtually motionless for a zillion years, so it was extremely bad timing when a fuck-off size chunk broke off and squashed them both. Someone, out to apportion blame, suggested the signs weren't big enough nor the warnings strong enough. But I realised, being idiots, it was only a matter of time before they'd fell victim to their own idiocy. That's what happens.
Many people in the UK only survive, thanks to The Health and Safety Executive, instruction manuals, warnings and a whole raft of emergency services and I'm not convinced that's a good thing. We need to stop making provision for these people. They breed, and their offspring are as daft as they are. This makes it exponentially more unsafe for us smart people. And worryingly this 'trend', is dumbing down humanity. Humans are evolving into two quite separate peoples. You have the thick fuckers and the rest of us, the smart ones. If you doubt me look at the decision to put Britain's future economic prosperity into the hands of some people, whose last experience of voting was for their favourite act on the X factor. That's scary. Fuck! Trump, in a little over a week, could have his finger on over 4000 Nuclear weapons! How much proof do you need? That's half a nation, complete loons!
I digress, where was I? Oh yes the walk. In typical fashion we were underdressed. Hazel wore flip-flops and I had on a pair of rather trendy denim sneekers. Haze was wearing flip-flops because, two nights ago, she fell out of the van and was nursing a slightly swollen ankle. Her fall had nothing to do with alcohol consumption, if had more to do with a dodgy step.
(At least, that's what I've been advised to write)
Monday 31st October 2016
On wards and upwards.
Good weekend? Good. Unless your goldfish died, in which case we're sorry to near that.
We said cheerio to the gypsies, the half full museum, the rather lovely girl scouts looking to build a new hut, and headed south to the Algarve.
The drive was, at best, marginally scenic. Once you're out of the mountains and away from the coast line, inland Portugal is not particularly impressive. South of Lisbon, broad leafed deciduous trees gave way to lofty pines. Verges became more sand than earth and smalll farm buildings with red terracotta roofs littered the often sparse and dusty landscape. Not much grows here. You get a few vineyards, small ones, and cork trees, lots of 'em, but little else.
The motorway was typically empty. On long sections we were alone, nothing in front, behind or the other side going North. I flicked on the cruse control, pointed the car south and wound up the music, while at the same time, we considered how lucky we were.
We arrived at Turiscampo campsite, near Lagos, late Friday afternoon as storm clouds gathered, It's a favourite of ours. We've been here four times now. It's one of the best campsites in Europe. It has everything you could want. The staff were as charming as always and referred to me, slightly regally, as King Phillip. You get the feeling they are actually pleased to see you.
Yep, I can see where it might need improving.
They're building a gym and an indoor swimming pool and have renovated the bar. Not that it needs any of that. Fair to say, if you were in the campsite building game, this would be exactly what you'd build. The price has stayed pretty reasonable too, and you get a handsome discount if you stay a month or more. I can't recommend it enough. Besides that, the surrounding area is an absolute delight. Lagos, the nearest town, has a Lidl and an Aldi!. Spoilt for choice or what? And it has some spectacular and dramatic beaches.
We found a pitch and set up just before the rain arrived. Unfortunately we then had thunderstorms for two days, still, you can't have everything can you? It more than once knocked out the campsite electrics. When it rains here, it rains, and hard. For two nights I went to bed with cotton wool in my ears. It was the only way I was going to nod off. Haze suggested I sleep near the edge of the bed. I asked why? She said I'd soon drop off, and then giggled.
I reminded her, from under the duvet, I did the jokes, even the bad ones.