This week bigger pics
Monday 9th September 2013 week 116 Germany
Torture? Can you really have too much?
Now the question is: After the anti war rhetoric of last week (Some would say rant, Ed) have I any readers left?. I'm guessing only those who thought I may have a point. I should say it's only my opinion. I'm not out to convert anyone because I've long since given up trying to do that through simple debate or argument. That you can only achieve through torture and or brain washing, so I'll do my best to keep things light and fluffy for the rest of the week. We're spending a few days with my brother and his girl friend in the Charming German town of Treysa, so this week it will be a mix of old and new.
Now on the subject of torture here's my updated entry, which you may have missed, from two years ago.
Today more sightseeing and another museum. I’m not the greatest fan of museums. I can do the really big ones but it's those specialist museums, The history of Roman Pottery for example which send me into a catatonic state. There are only so many broken pots any one human can gawk at in a life time and it's fair to say I’ve reached that number. Others appear hastily thrown together around odd collections of say, dolls heads (I loved the doll museum at Lake Magiore! Ed.) in order to elicit money from bored tourists. All this means I'm slightly wary when someone suggests a museum. However we drove thirty miles to a museum in a castle which I was assured was well worth a visit. The museum turned out to occupy a single room in a castle with a five Euro entrance fee, obviously at the time of handing over my money I didn't know this. However the organisers clearly knew what they were doing as it was centred around the ever cheerful theme of medieval torture. Now when it comes to torture, the old medievalist’s really knew their stuff, you got your money's worth back in those days. You could be tortured for just about any reason. You didn't need to be caught selling you're country's secrets, or because you knew the hideout of a band of terrorists and were saying nothing, oh no! back then you could be tortured just for spreading gossip or stealing a chicken.
You would have thought no one would have committed crime, but they did.
Now whoever thought up the Chinese water torture method, -well the Chinese I guess- that continual drip drip drip on your forehead, had clearly never been to this museum. For compared to what they had in store for you here, a few drips on your forehead would have felt positively refreshing.
Here you could be strapped down, men and women, to a wooden bench and then whipped with an impressive array of whips, crops and canes. Oddly a pastime which some people still pay good money for even today. For more serious offences you could be anchored to the floor and have a cartwheel dropped on you. This would normally result in your arms and legs snapping like pretzel sticks. If it was dropped on your neck you'd make a quick exit. This was seen as a blessing. Failing that you could have bits chopped off you, then for good measure, and just to drive the point home, be thrown into a 25 foot pit from which there was no escape. Should you survive the fall you'd starve or bleed to death from your injuries, safe to say your end never came quick. It's said that some kept themselves alive, in the pit, by eating the flesh of the rotting corpses of previous victims. If the judge felt merciful he would sentence you to have your head cut off. This was seen as being both the preferred choice and the judge doing you a favour. To me this is where it all turns Pythonesque.
Imagine the scene: You’ve stolen a neighbours chicken and you are taken, kicking and screaming, down into the castle dungeon fearing all manner of horrors! They strap you to a bench and then start dripping water onto your forehead!. I doubt you'd believe your luck. You would be told this is a new method from the Orient and you are the first to suffer its horrors. I expect the first victim would fake his torment, camp it up a bit. Knowing, as he did, they had all manner of other delightful methods of torture to hand should this seem not to be doing the trick.
I reckon that's more than enough motivation for me to put on quite a performance.
Tuesday 10th September 2013 week 116 Germany
It's a free country and if someone wants to be a vegetarian who am I to stop them. I do think that if mankind turned to vegetarianism tomorrow there wouldn't be enough tofu to go around but having tasted the stuff I'm not sure that’s altogether a bad thing. The biggest problem we would all face is getting enough protein. One cow provides a hell of a lot of protein and they do this by turning the most abundant and humanly inedible food on the planet, namely green grass, into something we can all eat and enjoy. And while we could get our protein from nut cutlets and soya burgers I doubt we'd have enough land to grow sufficient amounts for us all.
Vegetarianism is an option. One that we in the west, because we have so much food, can 'enjoy'. This is in stark contrast to half the planet who struggle to get a daily basic diet let alone worry about getting five a day. I once ate with a family of Africans in Africa. They collectively stripped a chicken of it's meat and flesh with all the efficiency of an industrial process. What was left was a pile of bones.
The wonderful small town of Jena
I'm also far from being convinced of the supposed heath benefits of a meat free diet. No the only obvious benefit I can see about becoming a veterinarian is that it makes you placid. Don't believe me? When was the last time you saw a vegetarian lose it?. You haven't because they don't. If you were a boxer and your next opponent turned out to be a vegetarian you'd offer to fight him with one hand tied behind your back. Become a vegetarian and it's not long before you've taken up flower arranging and start taking an unhealthy interest in soft furnishings. Meat keeps us angry and in moderation is perfectly fine nutritionally. After all our bodies have evolved over 70,000 years to process the stuff. Anyway, as I said, it's still a free country and if you're a veggie by choice then that's up to you. I mean you no disrespect, it's just not for me.
However, and there has to be a however with me, it's those vegetarians who, while not actually looking down their noses at us carnivores, somehow come across as smug or intellectually superior simply because they've turned their back on meat. It's as if they feel your missing out on some great truth and see it as their mission to enlighten you, not unlike some born again Christians I've met.
A while back while sitting in the sun at a café a British couple we had previously met at a camp site walked past. We got chatting and they joined us. The women was in her early fifties and was certainly twice the weight that was good for her. We started talking about nothing in particular as you tend to do with strangers but the lady was one of those very odd people who seem compelled to tell you their life story, regardless of whether you show any interest in it or not. Within a few minutes she had told me the intimate details of her sons love life. Her daughter-in-law, apparently, had walked out on her son because, as she put it, she wants sex with strange men. Now I don't know about you but I probably wouldn't even have divulged that to my therapist (He doesn't have one, least not yet. Ed) let alone to a total stranger.
At this point a waitress arrives and asks if they would like anything?. No just coffee they reply. I tell her the cake is very good thinking that a wedge of cake might save her son any further embarrassment. She informs me they had just eaten. From here we get into a discussion about food. At this point she proudly announces she’s a vegetarian. The quite obvious dichotomy about her weight and salads pops into my head but I say nothing. She tries to excite me about the wonderful health giving properties of nuts, beans and pulses, don't they all? She then, as if to prove she has an exciting life as a veggie, says she still loves her Sunday roast dinner but without the meat. I want to tell her that a Sunday lunch without a joint is simply a warm salad, with gravy, but refrain. She then turns her attention to British school children. Because, according to her, their breakfast consists solely of cola and crisps and that's why their teeth are falling out!. I asked if that isn't perhaps a generalisation? No! she answered. And being kids she adds, they all get free dental care which the rest of us have to pay for. Now on something of an evangelical roll she tells me that people who eat meat walk about with it up their bums -her words not mine- for years' ......
Oh dear! where do some people get their information from?
Wednesday 11th September 2013 week 116 Germany
On the road again
Having spent the last few days parked up on a farm with family, good friends and a noisy pig, I'm reminded, once again, that it's people that really matter and, at the end of the day, make ones life what it is. So a big thank you to all in Schwalmstadt and Trutzhain for your wonderful German hospitality. Clearly none of them had read the list of twenty mildly interesting facts about Germans and Germany I posted last week. Least if they had they were too polite to take me to task over it.
Our time in Germany is coming to an end, as is the summer in northern Europe. We are stopping at one last camp-site in southern Germany before heading across the border into France. I've already pored over French maps plotting a course across France in an attempt to avoid their road tolls. From Belfort, on their eastern border which is where we will enter, to Perpignan on the Spanish border, a similar distance to that between Brighton and Glasgow, the toll charge is around £100, which is more than it will cost in Fuel. It's little wonder that the motorways are as empty as they are. For a truck the cost from Tours to Paris is 250 Euros, one way. Menton to Paris will cost a motorcyclist 46 Euros, only half that of a car. Getting around France can be a costly business so it's my job as the tour financial manager to get us across by paying the French authorities the least amount possible. To do this I'm sticking, where possible, to the National roadways or N roads. However this will not be simple and is made immeasurably more difficult because my Sat-nav, with which I have a true love hate relationship, refuses to use them. Even if I set the bloody thing to 'avoid toll roads' it still, annoyingly, gravitates to them like matter circling a black hole in space.
We don't plan to hang around either. The camping season is drawing to an end. Many camp-sites have started to close. Many will close by the end of September and those that don’t will close end of October. Very few will remain open all year. I have books, maps and a computer based catalogue showing us thousands of European camp-sites. So I have laid out a course, it's just now a question of whether the sat nav will allow me to take it.
We will spend about three weeks crossing France. I enjoy France and I like the French it's just a pity some of them don't like me. France is the only country out of twenty or so we have visited where I've had poor service, been refused entry to a camp site because they didn't like the look of me, been spoken to in French when they clearly understood English, was dismissed by a street vendor and almost mugged in a French Lidl. Fair to say the vast majority of French we've met have been polite and friendly but there are some that don't like us, why that is I would love to know. You can bet it'll be something we did to them, or didn't do.
The other reason for not hanging around in France is because of the prices. In a recent holiday poll France came out the most expensive country to holiday in. This I can believe. I should also think its one of the dearest to live in. I still wake up at nights, in a cold sweat, after having paid five pounds for one of those stupid tiny tubes of super-glue in a French supermarket, little wonder they have so few glue sniffers in France, poor buggers can't afford the stuff. Here it's not crack cocaine that costs the money, it's a family sized tube of Evostick. Apparently it's not as addictive as heroin but can sometimes be the only thing holding the sniffer together.......(Oh dear, Ed). Sorry about that. I used to work for a building company that sold super-glue to the trade for industrial use. For five pounds you could have brought enough to bathe in. (Disclaimer: On no account does the author of this recommend anyone attempting to bathe in it. Ed). Best put that in case someone tries to stick me with a law suit.
Thursday 12th September 2013 week 116 Germany
Who sold Britain?
I once bought a set of knives, the ones that sit in a wooden block. They were made in China and very smart they looked too. However, the block, had a annoying habit. When you placed all the knives into it, it became top heavy, feel forward and emptied the knives onto the worktop. Now you would have thought, wouldn’t you, that someone would have noticed this not inconsequential feature during manufacture, a free standing knife block that doesn't, well, free stand. But to be honest, did I expect better? probably not. I realise the Chinese must think there’s nothing the west won't buy from them.
Now there are some people who, mistakenly in my book, blame China and Asia for our manufacturing decline but in truth we only have ourselves to blame. I am reminded of this every time an ever popular 'German' Mini whizzes past.
It's nothing special but just a wonderful building
In Germany there is only one way to do something and that's the right way. For proof of this you need look no further than their manufacturing record. They make a huge range of quality products which are sold worldwide. This proves, if proof were needed, that if you get design, quality and price right, you'll have a winning product, a principal which UK manufacturing once taught the world. So what went wrong?. Well you're not be too surprised to learn I blame a large part of the decline on politicians, (Not like you to blame hard working politicians. Ed). I say this because Britain has been up for sale since a greengrocers daughter, Margaret Thatcher, who believed religiously in free market forces shaping the economy, started privatising Nationalised companies in the 80's. It was her government's attempt to emulate the success of the US economy, and in the process dumb down workers rights and control, what they saw as out of control trade unions. We were sold the notion, by Government and the media, that organised union labour was evil, too powerful and all ran by communists. -She (Margaret) once called them the enemy within- Union power, such as it was, came from it's members just as it does today. In truth, governments had, and still have, all the power. They make the laws, control the army, the police and influence the courts. But on the back of industrial unrest the Tories set about changing Britain for good. They minimised the influence of government on industry, sold off nationalised companies and weakened trade unions. Rank and file Tory voters were delighted and still feel the woman should be made a saint. Others disagree (that,s normal people! Ed)
As a rule of thumb almost any company that started with the word British, as in British Telecom, British Steel, British Coal, British Airways etc. was once a nationalized company. Even British Petroleum (BP) was; until Mrs Thatcher's Government sold 130 million controlling shares for a fast buck. At the time there were some forty large nationalised companies.
Unfortunately the government got carried away and sold off the utilities companies, most of which are now in foreign hands. The UK’s biggest electric supplier which is EDF is wholly owned by the French nationalised Électricité de France. So I find it hugely ironic that each time someone pays their EDF electric bill, thanks to Mrs T, a slice of the profit is going to the French government.
It was often argued Nationalised companies were not profitable. And to a certain extent some weren't but it was also argued this was only because of continual governmental interference. Many actually turned a profit, but in the war of political propaganda they were never held up as examples. It was always those companies that needed tax payers money to bail them out. Of course some people rejoice in this and say that government has no role in Business. I just wonder how many of those would have opposed the 1.5 trillion bail out of the banks. Three of which have now been partly nationalised thanks to the free market economy which almost bankrupted the country.
Some businesses and companies are far too important to the Nation to leave to market forces, speculators, asset strippers and foreign owners, it's just a pity Mrs T and her government didn’t appreciate that.
Friday 13th September 2013 week 116 Germany
Not for the first time I've been accused of knocking Britain. So now might be a good time to point out that being English, through and through, as I am, criticising my country is my birth right, my heritage. It's what us British do best. The reason I do it is two fold. Firstly, I believe Britain could be a better place to live and by that I mean we could have a fairer, more caring and far more democratic society than we do. We could also improve upon those fundamental needs of any modern society, education, healthcare, police, affordable housing and a place where the old can enjoy their twilight years. Secondly, and far more importantly than any of that, we could eliminate Sod's Law. That law which governs the lives of all British, whether we acknowledge it's existence or not. Now my non British reader(s) might be unfamiliar with Sod's Law so rather than give you my interpretation of it I'll give you just a few examples. I can assure you, as you read down my short list, most of my British reader(s) will be sagely nodding their heads in recognition as they read it.
Sods law dictates:
There is a direct correlation between the length of time you have to wait for, say, a pair of jeans to arrive in the post and the unlikelihood, that when they do, they will fit.
You turn up at the garage to collect your car having left it with them all day so they can fit a set of wiper blades only to discover it's not yet ready.
You'll excitedly dash into town after seeing an advert for a £39.99 printer. Once there you'll discover you also need a £19.99 cable, a £69.99 set of ink cartridge and the extended guarantee is £49.99 and you'll emerge having spent £179.96.
You return a faulty item to a shop and they ask: “Have you still got the receipt”? (even though consumer law states you don’t need one to get a refund) Unfortunately, as always, the receipt was the first thing you binned when you left the shop last week,
You wait in all day for a plumber, you nip next door for 7.8 nanoseconds and when you return you find a 'sorry we missed you ' card on your door mat.
You're not able to book a doctors appointment when you're ill - only when you're feeling better.
In Britain the police will automatically treat you as though you have a body under the bed, even if you've only asked them for directions.
Bureaucracy is designed to wither British resolve. (wow! That,s a good one. Ed)
Whenever you complete a form and hand it over to someone in authority, they will have lost it within 24 hours.
On ringing, say, the gas board you discover the person whose been trying for the past two months to unravel your account is either gone on long term sick or moved to Addis Ababa, so, frustratingly, you have to start at the beginning all over again.
You arrive at the doctors with twenty minutes to spare. You then wait a further twenty to see him, yet if you arrive two minutes late you’ve missed your spot!
We feel obliged to tip all manner of people for simply doing what they are paid to do in the first place.
Every five years we elect a representative to parliament knowing full well he's absolutely no intention of actually doing anything for us.
Things constantly disappear. You put something down and it vanishes, slips into a black void never to be seen again. A team of forensic scientists searching for a month wouldn't be able to find it.
Still perhaps the best or worst example of Sod's law in action is that of Adolph Coors III. You might know him, he was heir to the mighty Coors beer empire until he died during a botched kidnapping attempt. Now that's just tragic you might say, but unfortunately, thanks to Sod's law Adolph Coors III was actually allergic to beer.
I'll stop there. Those are just examples that spring to mind it's in no way a comprehensive list. I did once write a full list, but someone used the back of it to scribble a note to the milkman.