What's on my mind today?
I reckon if one didn't have a good sense of humour one could go bonkers. You'll have noticed I frequently have a pop at politicians. Well why not? They're are a pompous privileged bunch that take themselves way too seriously. They forget they're just Britain's admin. But every so often one raises his or her head above the parapet who, quite frankly, just shouldn't.
Let me ask, if you'd been caught taking some quite major 'liberties' at work I reckon you'd be grateful if they let you keep your job. The following day you'd be keen to prove you could be the next employee of the year. I know I would. It's the sensible thing to do. So why is it this is not the case with politicians. Is it because they arrogantly think that the rules that apply to them are not the same ones that apply to us?
Example: Take Liam Fox MP. Now I struggle to see how this man is even allowed into the parliament building let alone have a top job within it. Recently you'll have read he's been demanding more cuts from schools, the welfare state and of course our NHS. Apparently we must save more money. Thing is, saving money is not something that comes very easy to Mr Fox, certainly not his own.
He's had a dodgy political past. For a start, he gave his best mate, Adam Merritt, - seventeen years his junior and a chap with no security clearance - access to the Ministry of Defence secret meetings. He's also taken him on MOD jaunts around the globe. Adam, clearly enjoyed himself because he's been on forty of them. When asked by a journalist, why he went along? He claimed he was 'an advisor' to Mr Fox. In truth he had no official position in the government and was paid a wage by Mr Fox from expenses he claimed as an MP. Well, by now, I'm sure you're querying Mr Fox's judgement because so was everyone else including the Tory leadership. Quite soon after this came to light he resigned, and or was sacked, as Defence minister. A pretty damaging entry on anyone's CV, but it gets worse.
Prior to this he'd 'allegedly' claimed more than £19,000 in expenses to cover his mobile phone bill. He said it was high due to his trips overseas and the high data roaming charges. However, one can't help but wonder, that if he'd been responsible for the bill himself, he'd have found a cheaper tariff or used a land line. It's not rocket science.
Unfortunately, a year later, he dropped the ball again by 'mistakenly' claiming £22,476, of tax payers money, in mortgage interest payments which he wasn't entitled too. I know we've all made mistakes on our expense forms. I freely admit to adding a Snickers bar and a carton of Ribena when filling up the company car, but twenty two grand is taking the piss! Mr Fox was ordered to repay the money. But he appealed. His reasoning was based on the naff argument that he could have claimed more but didn't. So we basically what? Got off light? The appeal was rejected and he was ordered to repay it.
It doesn't end there. A few years ago the Commons Speaker blocked the release of information showing which MPs were renting out their 'tax payer homes' to other MPs. It was laughably deemed 'not in the public interest' to make this information public. Fortunately a newspaper revealed that Mr Fox was receiving rental income from his London home which was paid for by us. He, meanwhile, lived elsewhere. He was sub letting. This surprisingly is not actually against the rules. It is however, obviously, against the rules for those on housing benefit.
Today Mr Liam Fox is flying high in the Tory party. His past seemingly behind him. He had two cracks at the leadership and has his eye on a third. He's now Secretary of State for international Trade. When recently asked 'how many countries were looking for trade deals with the UK in the light of Brexit?' He didn't know the answer was 'none'. He earns nearly £150 thousand pounds a year. Plus expenses, plus living allowances. In politics it's not what you know, nor what you don't know. It's not what you've done, nor what you haven't done. It's all about who your mates are. And people wonder why I take the piss out of them!
Right, taking another break for a week. We have family coming over from New Zealand to spend a week here with us.
Wednesday 3rd January
A clean sheet.
Is there any point in making new years resolutions? I dunno. For a start we might not survive the petulance of Trump and live long enough to really get stuck into one. I'd just be hitting my target of dropping a jeans waist size, only to wake up one morning to find that Trump had insulted Kim Yong what's-his-face just one time too many and the world now stands on the brink of nuclear annihilation. If it happens, to be honest, I'll not be massively surprised. Will you? I think I'll be all philosophical about it, then eat all the chocolate in the house. Fuck it, why not?
But for those that don't share my concerns, yes it's that time of year for making 'new years resolutions'. Now I know most people think they're just another name for a to-do list for the first week in January but I can tell you they're not, it's all very serious stuff. They're actually a religious tradition that goes back thousands of years: see, and you thought it was just a bit of tom foolery. According to those that know, the Babylonians kicked it all off. They made promises to their Gods at the start of each year to return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Now that's amazing. I mean, even back then, if you loaned say your hedge trimmer, (or equivalent thereof) to a Babylonian neighbour, there was no guarantee you'd ever see it again. And there's me thinking, loaning stuff and never having it returned, was a modern day phenomena. Clearly not. The Romans also began each year by making promises to their God Janus. And in medieval times knights of olde took to renewing their vows and their commitment to chivalry. So this tradition goes back some ways and certainly knocks into a cocked hat my promise to drop a trouser size.
A recent study has shown that 85% of those that make a news years resolution fail within days, 'failure', is as big a tradition as actually making a resolution, so never feel bad about not seeing one through. It's almost doomed to fail.
I thought about making one. And I kinda had. It was going to be 'do one kind deed a day'. Though, thinking on it later, it sounded a tad ambitious, so I changed it to one a week. Then I thought, that was also asking a bit much. I mean, it's not a contest, so I plumped for one a month. One good deed a month should be doable. That's twelve good deeds a year. Seems reasonable. Though, to be fair, I'm not sure what actually constitutes a good deed. The other day I saw an old chap standing by the kerb, nervously looking both ways. I thought, you know what? I'm not in a hurry. One day I'll be like that, old, crotchety, slow, annoyed with the world.
(No.... seriously, one day? Ed) Ignore her.
I slowed the car and smiled at him. Flashed my lights to let him know it was okay to cross. He gawped at me like he'd never seen a car before. I waved him across in a jocular fashion. 'Come on old timer, cross the road' I said out loud. He looked the other way. 'No it's clear that way as well', I muttered to myself. He then looked back at me. 'Come on, the coast is clear'. Just then a car, from behind, pulled into the kerb and he clambered in.
'Fekin twat!', I muttered as I drove off. Why stand so bloody close to the kerb? Drivers are bound to think you want to cross. Clearly some good deeds can upset your whole day. So I changed it. My resolution is now, 'Ask more questions and believe less what others tell me'. This is because everyone has an agenda.
Here's the actual top five new years resolutions.
Eat a healthy diet.
You can clearly see a trend there, they're all health related. Why are we all so preoccupied with our health? Sure, it's something we should monitor, but not obsessively. Not to the point where it becomes the focus of your life.
Sadly, what the above list does tell us, is that nobody wants to be kinder. Nobody wants to be more charitable. Nobody wants to be more tolerant. Nobody wants to be less judgemental and nobody wants to befriend a brexiteer. What happened to a little altruism? Has it been totally replaced by the 'sod you jack I'm alright' mindset. What happened to the greater good? One well known right wing politician once said, “There is no such thing as society”. Can't believe she was right, can you?
1st January 2018
My Christmas Day
Good morning world. Here's wishing you all a 'problem free' 2018.
How was your Christmas? A cheerful one I hope. Like you, possibly, I drank and ate far too much, but I guess that's as big a part of a traditional Christmas as is Santa Claus climbing down ones chimney. Besides, we have to entertain ourselves until the shops open again. Best to suffer the rigours of a drunken stupor and an increasing waistline than face withdrawal symptoms from not being able to go shopping.
On Christmas day forty rowdy pensioners invaded the campsite restaurant and attempted to recreate a typical British Christmas day atmosphere, not easy when there's not a brussel sprout or turkey drumstick in sight. A few British ladies had decorated the room and the tables to give the restaurant a traditional festive look which it hadn't had before. We pulled crackers, donned our paper hats, shouted out the naff jokes within and tested ourselves with the 'Magic fish of truth' that fell out of one. This seemed to bemuse the locals walking through; lots of old Brits sitting around wearing colourful paper head gear and giggling at bugger all. Still, we did give the world Monty Python. After dinner we knocked out a few classic carols with me and a mate supplying the musical backing on guitars.
I didn't watch the queens speech. I never have. Does anyone? I don't see what relevance this women has to me. I know constitutionally, I'm listed as one of her subjects, but give me a bill of rights and a republic anytime. Basically something less medieval and a little more Buck Rogers. I've no idea why so many people revere this family with its German heritage. They had to change their name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, from the German House of Wettin, to Windsor. The duke of Edinburgh's sisters were both Nazis! It's also struck me as odd that, unlike most other countries, our anthem is not a rousing song dedicated to Great Britain and or its history, but is a prayer asking God to save an extremely rich and privileged lady. Try explaining the logic behind that to a Martian. My biggest gripe with 'The Firm', as they apparently call themselves, is that they represent the class system. They're its mascots. And before you think that remark irrelevant, just remember that over half of British Prime Ministers have come from the aristocracy, and the same number come from just two very privileged British schools. And if you think that's just coincidence, you need to get out more.
However I did see Donald Trump's Christmas message and couldn't help but wonder at the irony. You had Melania Trump talking in her thick-as-treacle Eastern European accent about “vot unites uz as peeples of America”, this while sat next to a guy who once had a prominent KKK leader on his Christmas card list. But even more ironic was Trumps own wish of “Peace and Goodwill to all men”. Except, I'm assuming, those at CNN and NBC for their fake news. Anyone unfortunate enough to head the FBI. All Liberals. The Clintons and the Obamas, obviously. Everyone in north Korea who will no doubt suffer as a direct result of additional sanctions he's been pressing for. Mexicans, and not forgetting 1.5 billion Islamic followers, many of whom have now had their hopes dashed of ever visiting Disney World. I appreciate he wants to make the US safe for his citizens, but surely that ship sailed with the ever increasing gun sales.. Americans, killed by fellow Americans, number around fifteen thousand a year. A US state has just passed a law making it legal to carry a firearm into a bar. I mean, what could go wrong there? Being wished 'Peace and Goodwill' from a man who could bring about Armageddon with a tweet, is more than ironic, it's scary. Sadly, the best bit of news I could've woken up to on Christmas morning was to hear he'd thrown himself out of the 93rd floor window of Trump tower. Alas no such news.
Anyhoo, that's it done for another year, well at least for us. Here it Spain it's not quite the end of the festive celebrations. In fact it's about to come to something of a crescendo. We're just a few days away from 'Three Kings day', the day when Spanish children are given their Christmas gifts. Three old chaps get dressed up - one actually blacks up : why? nobody knows - and then get carted around the streets on a float pulled by a tractor. They call to the children, much like the pied piper, to follow them. To tempt the kids they throw sweets, though I don't know what's wrong with showing them a kitten and telling them you have several more at home. Seems to work well for some. I feel obliged to point out that nowhere in the original gospel does it mention 'Three wise men', black or white, only 'Magi' which are followers of magic and where we get the word 'magician' from. And it's only assumed there were three because of the number of gifts. But not withstanding the truth, 'The Three Kings' have morphed into religious history and now, those of faith around the world, celebrate their arrival.
Roll on the day when we can put all this behind us.
NOTES FROM A DIARY
New year almost upon us. When I was a lad the future excited me. Thursdays, I’d sit glued to the TV to watch Tomorrows World introduced by Raymond Baxter, an ex Spitfire pilot and the excitable and accident prone Bob Symes, an amateur inventor himself. His numerous missing digits were testament to his own experimental mishaps. Apparently his missing fingers frequently posed a problem for the cameraman whenever he went in for a close up. It wasn't easy finding a finger that didn't look too gruesome to show on telly. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, each week they’d demonstrate what wondrous inventions were just around the corner. Because it was broadcast live, I witnessed many demonstration failures but this only served to prove we were at the cutting edge of technology.
In 1961 I saw a demonstration of a Microwave oven. Amazing! Cook with no heat! Whatever next? Surely mum would chuck out the gas oven and embrace this wondrous new technology. Sadly, had Ray shown us how to defrost bread, while I would have been less impressed I would have at least been better informed.
We were told the office would become a thing of the past, computers would take over. I saw my first digital watch and thought I’d glimpsed nirvana. By the turn of the century pills would replace food, we’d be driving cars that could fly, or float, robots would take our dogs for walks and computerised manufacturing would herald in the three day working week. Then the real issue facing humanity was what to do with all our free time? As a kid I had high expectations of the future, it promised so much and I couldn’t wait.
The reality has been disappointing to say the least. Sure, we have technology coming out of our kisters, but it’s only added to our woes. Now we own loads of stuff that come with manuals which we need a degree in electronics to master.
And what about tomorrows world? Good question.
Well mobile phones will come with ever more features but you’ll still struggle to make a decent phone call. Even more people will live their lives through social media, in the mistaken belief that others find them interesting. We’ll move, politically, further to the right as people continue to look to governments for answers, and politicians will continue to tell us they have them. The state will gain more power and our freedoms will be eroded still further. Today, make too much noise in the bedroom and you could be slapped with an injunction under the governments 2014 criminal behavior order. Misinformation will grow exponentially because ignorance is less taxing than making the effort to try and understand. Consequently, mankind will continue to shoot himself in the foot because, as I now realize having met so many idiots, wisdom isn’t handed down from one generation to the next! So we’re doomed to make the same mistakes as our ancestors did. Which explains, in one sentence, why Trump now sits in the oval office.
So I’ve decided my ‘good ole days’, were actually ‘my good ole days’. Which means in the future, today, is going to be some poor buggers ‘good ole days’. Christ!
NOTES FROM A DIARY
Traditionally, like the Queen, I like to give a Christmas message. I try and pass on some sage piece of advice which may help you survive the coming year, although this coming one could test us all, however, here goes.
I don’t do keep fit. I’m not sure you should either. I look at gyms the same way old folk look at snow. This because I’ve never been convinced keeping fit does one much good. I had two keep fit enthusiasts friends, my age, one died while out jogging the other on the squash court. The guy who wrote ‘StayFit into old age’, died at 57. Over two million keep fitters end up in A&E annually. Wikipedia has a list of over fifty people who died while running marathons. True, while not proof of anything, it’s a tad worrisome. So, the closest I get to keeping fit is by wearing a track suit, which I enjoy as it creates the illusion that at any moment I could burst into a mad sprint or at least look as if I’m capable of such an athletic feat.
I notice the NHS has recently advised old folk they should try a 60 second cardio burst of ‘skipping’ as an aid to keeping fit. Really? First, I can’t skip and have no desire to learn, and second, if I tried, I’d only catapult myself face first into the coffee table. Or worst still, accidentally unscrew my hip. (Sounds suspiciously like a Tory plot to cull us old folk).
Fitness levels varies from person to person and is dependent of their level of activity and lifestyle. There’s no industrial standard. Just because YOU can’t jog twenty five miles doesn’t mean you’re unfit, it just means those that can have trained until they can, which, in a world of mass transportation, seems a tad pointless if you ask me. If you never do anything but sit on your arse, your level of fitness will be 100%. Meaning: if you do bugger all you’ll never get knackered not doing it. Simple. Now I know some people will accuse me of talking twaddle so let me explain the logic. An elephant has roughly the same life expectancy us, and yet, it wouldn’t know a cardio work out from a bunch of bananas. Elephants do jolly well just strolling along at an exceedingly leisurely pace doing sod all. Try telling a farmer his cows are unfit because they just stand around in field chewing the cud and farting, I dare say he’ll tell you to fuck off. And rightly so.
People who try to get fitter than their lifestyle dictates have missed the point. The human body can manage itself quite well without the owners interference. While they’ve only been in existence for five minutes, nature has been working on them for a 400k years. Give it some credit.
Truth is, for many, keeping fit is about ones immortality. Ones attempts to cheat death or at least postpone it for as long as possible. Fact is, as any geneticist will tell you, life expectancy has little to do with the external factors of those of us living in the west, but far more to do with our genes. In fact geneticist researching our DnA have suggest, being able to predict our expiry date is only a matter of time. So, if you come from a good gene pool you’re more likely to have a decent innings. Which means, it doesn’t make sense wearing yourself out now if you plan to be in this for the long haul.
Finally. An American health study said recently that retired, and those in sedentary jobs, need only to walk briskly for 30 minutes three times a week to maintain a good level of fitness. So my heath advice is, EVERYTHING in moderation, especially exerciser, but most importantly, laugh more and stop taking yourself so seriously, and of course, go for the occasional walk.
NOTES FROM A DIARY
A walk in the woods:
Germany. The black forest. - Which isn't black at all, it’s mostly green but never mind - We were camped on its edge. It had rained for two days so when we woke up to find sunshine we were eager to get out and about. We’d been told of a woodland path that meandered through the wood, so after breakfast we headed off to find it.
Now, before I go on, I should point out, even though I was in the Cubs as a lad, I'm pretty hopeless at anything boy scoutish. In an apocalyptic world, if I found myself in a wood, I’d die. No two ways about it. I've zero bush tucker skills. Haze on the other hand clearly took being a member of the girl guides seriously. She knows a lot about forest type stuff. Names of plants and trees. She’ll collect dead things to paint. She points stuff out to me, “Oh look Phil, a pink ladies slipper” (it’s a flower apparently). A walk in the wood with Haze is like stepping out with David Attenborough. It’s an education.
At one point during the walk I was a little ahead of her, she’d found something and stopped to poke it with a stick, when I stepped into a woodland clearing about the size of two football pitches. As I entered I spied, in the far corner, a Stag and what I assumed was a lady stag. I quickly ducked down in the long grass. I called to Haze. I beckon her forward, telling her to “keep low”. In a hushed voice I explained my find and pointed in the direction of the stags. She took a peep. “Wow a male and a female Roe deer. They seem to be looking this way. Quick! which way is the wind blowing? She asked. I sucked my finger and raised it above my head. It told me nothing other that I had a wet finger.
“How’s this supposed to work” I ask, sucking on my finger again, clearly not lubed enough.
“Keep your voice down, He might hear us.”
“So…. if this is mating season, he could be very protective of her”.
“Fuck! you mean we’re in danger?” I exclaim under my breath.
“When’s mating season”? She asked.
“How the fuck should I know” I answered. I then had a flash of genius. I got out my mobile and googled ‘Mating season Stags’. No signal. OFFS! What it the point of these bloody mobile phones when………. “Shush!!!” She shuts me up. “I'm going to get a photo”. She gingerly raises the camera, winds out the lens fully and looks through. There’s a pause. She then stands up. I asked if she’s got a death wish or something?. She hands me the camera. “Take a look”, she says. I look. Ah..….. Now for some very odd reason, at least not one that I can pass on to you, someone had carved an extremely lifelike model of a stag and his mate and stood them in a field.
Germans, they’re a funny bunch.
NOTES FROM A DIARY
At the beginning of October the great migration begins. Thousands of aged, liver spotted Homo Sapiens from around Europe, head south. This journey, much like wilder-beast crossing the Serengeti, has become a feature of the affluent European pensioner. Fearful of plummeting temperatures and a shortage of denture fixative, they make their yearly pilgrimage to the rich feeding grounds and numerous watering holes of southern Europe. And who can blame them/us? (delete as applicable) Once there, they'll bask in the sunshine while their skin turns the texture and colour of a mahogany wardrobe. However, caught up with this herd of pill popping, elasticated stocking wearing, octogenarians, you'll occasionally find a young family. They, having shaken off the modern trappings of 21st century living, have reverted back to the 60's love child, knit-you-own-yogurt era. Unable to afford the luxury of the ' Globetrotter Overlander Supreme 2000 XL, (The dearer the vehicle the more adventurous the name) they'll do it in 1968 Talbot van, a red one. They can frequently be seen in Lidl filling their trolleys with mung beans and lentils from which a fine broth can be made. Oddly, and we still don't know why, they all dress in multi coloured harem pants, tie-dyed T-shirts, and oversized knitted jumpers: this is how they spot each other from a distance, one assumes. One, or both, will have dreadlocks. (It's obligatory) Their young pups can be found equally oddly dressed and often barefoot playing with mud on a stick. (This is encouraged by the parents to help bond them to mother earth)
And finally, as sure as eggs is eggs at some point one of them will get a guitar out.
NOTES FROM A DIARY
Man vs Machine.
I'm at the age where I tend to gravitate toward anything powered, preferably electric. Anything to make my life easier. For example, Electric carving knives take all the physical strain out of carving up ones Sunday joint. So when I saw two 'shopper type' electric bikes going cheap, I reached for my wallet. Who wouldn't? Ideal, I thought, for our winters away from the UK.
Their range is 20-25 miles; least it would be if you remember to charge them up. Sadly, I rarely do. In that respect they're like every other battery powered thingamajig I own. Half dead. Not charging them, unsurprisingly, drastically reduces the range from 2 miles to a rather disappointing 650 yards. Yesterday, I made no such mistake (I reminded him. Ed) I charged them fully; they were positively glowing toward the end. We'd decided, ambitiously I thought, to take the coast road to the charming fishing of Salema; a round trip of about 20 miles. In planning the ride - I studied google maps for a day - I failed, as did google, to take into account the topography of the landscape. Turns out, most of the route was up a slab sided mountain. The kind of mountain you'd only attempt with the aid of a Sherpa guide and a bag full of crampons. When we reached the summit - top is far too inadequate a word - the sign that greeted us was a warning that the decent was 20%. (Basically very very steep) Undeterred, I launched myself into the abyss. It was clear to me, as I plummeted back down to earth, theses bikes were designed to take one to Tescos not abseil down a mountain astride. There were moments when I was convinced I was airborne. With both brakes firmly on I was still doing 42 mph. Bits of my life flashed before my eyes, and not the good bits either. My ears popped due to the sudden drop in atmospheric pressure, the effect one get while landing. And all this so we could enjoy an overpriced coffee and 'get some exercise' which, if you ask me, is severely overrated.
On the plus side however, the bikes are folding......... so we can at least get them on the bus.
What's happened to this campsite, Pinar San Jose is what I’d like to know?. It’s like the Marie Celeste the day after. Bar empty. Over half the camp site looking like the opening of an end of days Stephen king novel. A barren, tumble weed strewn waste land devoid of human habitation. There’s only two English couples here that were here when we arrived back in 2011 (Obviously they’ve not been here at that time, pretty sure they went home at some point). So I’ve been wondering, what’s a foot? Brexit maybe? Possible, but it doesn't explain the lack of Spanish in the bar each evening. Example. Take yesterday. In an effort to up the bar takings the campsite paid for a trendy 'pop combo' to play: I knew they were trendy because the drummer smoked weed on stage. (For stage read hastily nailed together pallets). Booked for four o’clock they eventually struck the first chord - an F# - almost two hours late: a bum note as far as the bar manger was concern. He was not a happy ombre because, by then, pretty much everyone had buggered off home to cook their tea. He walked out several times and glared at them poker faced before going back inside. At one point it was just me and four kids in the mosh pit. Thankfully the audience blossomed into about a dozen hard core 'middle of the road' music fans, all Brits save two. However the bar was as empty as an old empty thing that had been emptied several year earlier…. . And this on a Friday night!
During the evening I had a brief chat with a local English speaking lady. She spoke off the record. She told me the bar is being boycotted by the locals. Apparently, for some time..... and I'm so not gossiping here.... there has been two bar prices in existence. One for us campers and another, a cheaper one, for the locals. This policy has recently changed and the locals have been asked to cough up the full camper whack. As you can imagine, they’re not happy. Clearly they were more than happy with the campsite exploiting us campers... but not them. That’s taking the piss apparently. According to my source, tourist are fair game. Still the policy stands, so locals have got the hump and have taken their thirsts elsewhere. (Across the road actually).
Obviously, you got none of this from me.