This week bigger pics

 Monday 11th November 2013 week 125 Spain.

    Bonny and Clyde

    What did you do this weekend? Me? I spent a small part of it singing to a bunch of Germans, almost brought the services of a young 'lady' and robbed a gas station, so, an average weekend for me then.

    One of the benefits of keeping an online diary is that readers, on occasion, drop me a line and tell me where to go! Hang on, not sure I've worded that sentence correctly but you know what I mean. I received one a few days ago from a chap who had holidayed here. He very kindly listed a number of places we could visit. One being Peniscola, pronounced pe.niskola which, to be honest, doesn’t help a great deal. Unfortunately no matter how I go about pronouncing it....it always comes out like I'm a twelve year old out to embarrass my parents. Doesn’t help than the Spanish for penis is pene so you can't win really. Anyways it's often called the "Gibraltar of Valencia," and is known locally as "The City in the Sea" and since the old part is a walled city built out on a rocky headland that seems reasonable. The town has a busy fishing harbour but today it's given, like so much of this coast line, over to the tourist industry. It's only claim to fame that I can see was that it was used as a location for the 1961 film El Cid. The chap who sent me the suggestion assumed I was perhaps too young to remember the film! How kind. (Believe me he's not, it's all smoke and mirrors. Ed)

Our watering hole.

    We wandered around and came upon the public gardens. I spied an attractive young lady in skimpy tight shorts and dark tights lounging on a plastic chair smoking. She looked at odds with her surroundings. A chap sat in a booth a few feet away. “How much?” I asked. He smiled ruefully. “For the Gardens?”. “Yes” I replied, wondering what else he had to offer since he was sat in the pay booth for the gardens. “Five Euros”. “Can we get into the castle from here?” I asked. “No, you have to walk up the hill for that”. The young lady looked on impassively. I thanked him and walked off. Hazel insisted there were other 'services' on offer which the tourist broacher was clearly making no mention of.

    We spent a nice couple of hours strolling around the charming and near deserted old town before rounding our visit off with an ice cold beer and a bowl of olives overlooking the azure blue Med.

    On our way back, a distance of about 18 miles, I swung the scooter into a gas station. Knowing I wasn't carrying any money Hazel asked the service guy to put in Ten Euros. I stared off into the distance day dreaming while Hazel struggled to get her purse from the top box. When she'd retrieved it she noticed the guy had filled the tank, cost 17 Euros. “Bugger we've only got 15 Euros, she said, I told him ten” - He had walked off to serve another customer-. “That all?” I asked. “Yes I spent it on those stupid olives you wanted. - See how I cleverly got landed with the blame there, very subtle-. What are we going to do? I doubt he understands English. “I'll tell him we're British and he's made a frightful error. He'll have no option but to accept our 15 Euros in good grace.” I said in my best Noel Coward accent and marched off. Her parting comment was “don't get us arrested”. A few minutes later when I came out I said, “quick, quick, get on before he notices”. I threw my leg over and hit the starter. Hazel jumped on and we high-tailed it out of the garage. When we arrived back I explained, luckily I had two Euros on me. Interestingly she didn't know that when I urged her to 'quick get on' so she was quite willing to be Bonny to my Clyde.

    Later in the evening I found myself singing and playing that Monty Python classic, Always look on the Bright side of life, to a bunch of appreciative Germans who all knew the words to the chorus.

    Life’s odd.

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  Tuesday 12th November 2013 week 125 Spain

    It's all a little tongue in cheek.

    No kidding, the holiday resort of Alcocebre, this time of year, can make a coma patient look positively fidgety. It's slipped into off-season hibernation and now resembles a ghost town. Rows of empty hotels line the abandoned seafront beaches. Signs on café’s, restaurants and souvenir shops teasingly promise to be open again by Easter. Some complexes are a mix of residential and holiday lets. So you see huge empty shuttered apartment blocks with just the odd balcony bedecked with drying washing, showing life exists within. It's an odd and I suspect quite eerie way to live, rattling around a building that’s empty, rather like having the QE2 to yourself.

Hows this for some installation art?

    While the town has nothing to excite, the camp site makes up for this with Jan. Jan is a large rotund British lady who seems to have appointed herself camp commandant. She came calling and introduced herself. She practically lives here she tells me, returning to blighty for a couple of months, the rest of the time you'll find her here living in her caravan. Why someone would squirrel themselves away in this part of Spain is a mystery to me. It's not actually Spain, it's the tourist version - which I can tell you is not the same thing at all. I was tempted to ask if she was on the run but thought better of it because for all I know she, or her husband, might be.

    Anyway her reason for calling was to invite us to a little soiree she was hosting. She made it quite plain, twice, it was NOT open to just anyone but only those she invited. Clearly she was out cherry picking her guests and it was going to represent the Whose Who of camping Tropicana. Fair to say it was all I could do to hide my excitement. We had been elevated from the B list campers, into the A list for reasons unbeknownst to us. We happily accepted. I think I detected a twinkle of acknowledgement of that in her eye as she left. The venue was the kids playroom at 7.30, so brightly painted with elephants if nothing else..

    We turned up expecting what? Well I don't know, perhaps twenty of Tropicana's socialites. Ladies in cocktail dresses, men in evening wear. The chink of crystal glasses, the pop of the odd champagne cork. Instead we got the cast of Cocoon, (A film about a retirement home. Ed) I doubt anyone was younger than seventy, a few considerable older. I felt positively pubescent. They were being entertained by husband and wife duo Sue and Pete. Who, on guitars, were pumping out such memorable classics as My old man's a dustman, Tie me kangaroo down, and who could possible forget Larry Grayson's On Mothers Kelly's door step. You can't.... no seriously, I've tried. They even reworked the lyrics of Yellow submarine so the chorus now rung out with 'we all live in a white box on wheels'. I'll not be unkind to Sue and Peter because they were good, but at two and half hours it was a little much and not my cup of tea. At the end of the gig they wound up with that perennial classic Show me the way to go home, and I really couldn't wait.

    Talking of Tie me kangaroo down, the song. I once met Rolf Harris in a lift in London. I don't think I've mentioned this. I said wow! You're Rolf Harris!, you're the guy who did Two Little Boys. Fuck off! he snapped, that was Jimmy Saville.

 

 

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  Wednesday 13th November 2013 week 125 Spain

    Don’t embarrass us, please.

    We've upped sticks and left sleepy hollow. I couldn't take the excitement of Camping Tropicana a moment longer. Nor Jan, whose position as camp-site matriarch is based solely on the fact she was perhaps the only camper young enough to remember her own name. We also think she was threatening to put on another 'do' and we were afraid we'd get invited and then have to lie to get out of it..... as you do. The truthful excuse: I'm not coming because last time I almost lost the will to live, can, in certain circumstances, be a tad hurtful.

 

Play spot the orange

    We drove, off motorway, - another £20 saved on tolls- south to Oliva through seemingly endless orange groves, oranges for as far as the eye could see. After a while I started thinking, fuck come on! this is ridiculous. Ok, I'm in Spain, I expect to see some oranges growing but this is taking the piss! There’s not a square meter of land here that’s not got an orange tree growing on it. On several occasions Hazel stopped me from pulling over and grabbing (He means stealing. Ed) a basket full. In my defence I should point out that I'm not a thief. I remember being told, as a kid, whenever I asked for something my parents couldn't afford, that: it, didn't grow on trees. Can I have a bike Dad? A bike! Good grief whatever for? They don't grow on trees son? After a while I got wise to this and started asking for things that did grow on trees. Bananas, dates, pineapples all manner of exotic fruits, back in the early sixties they weren't common, I didn’t get them either just a reputation as a smart arse. But their constant reference to 'things not growing on trees' left me with the jaundiced view that anything that did was therefore free.

    We headed for Kikopark for no other reason than we both overheard someone once say something nice about it. The web photo makes it look very trendy. It isn’t. Our broacher also said it had a heated swimming pool. It doesn’t. On arrival we parked up and went looking for a pitch. On the left, as you enter, are the cheaper smaller pitches. On the right are the larger comfort pitches. The difference between the two is four Euros a night. Now oddly, and I'll make no comment here, I'll just give you the facts and you can draw your own conclusions. What was clear was that the British had pretty much taken over the cheap end of the site and, with just the odd exception, the Germans had taken over the more expensive half. Why? I'm saying nothing. (We have parked at the posh end for a change! Ed)

Looks great, but take my word for it it''ll shrink your plums.

    And finally A Message to Dave and Nick, Britain’s very own dynamic duo.

    Guys, I've read you're sending six million and four blokes out to the Philippines as aid, to help out after one of the worst storms on living record. There's possibly 10,000 dead, no power, no water, no sanitation and thousands of homes have been decimated so my question is; is that the very best us Brits can do? ..... Really?  And before someone says Phil, charity begins at home mate, I'd agree, but we are talking a disaster here. I'll also add that according to the World bank and The International Monetary fund the UK has the sixth largest economy in the world. We are not poor, even though this government has convinced many of us otherwise. The Chancellor has just announced he's about to spend twenty five times that amount on improving mobile phone reception in hilly areas. We pay out five billion, or 833,000,000 times that amount in benefits to people who earn more than £2,000 a week!. According to the Tax Payers Alliance and the Bumper book of government cock ups, this government lets 120 billion slip down the back of the sofa each year. So six million is nothing.

    Either help, or don’t bother, just don't embarrass us.

 

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  Thursday 14th November 2013 week 125 Spain

    How hard should life be?

    Climb into any car and I bet you could drive it. Even though cars come from different countries, different manufactures and different designers, thankfully, they build em all the same. It's never struck the Germans to say, add a beer pump where the gear shift sits, or the French to replace the dash with a picnic table (with, instead of a cup-holder...a baguette holder? Ed), or the Japanese to mount the pedals on the dash because they really can't reach the floor. Amazingly with two thousand components they're all put together pretty much the same way. Now my question is: with only two working parts why can't the same be said for the humble shower.

Oliva: seriously the sky really is that blue.

    On camp-sites nothing varies quite as much as the showers and I should know. After showering my way across Europe I can tell you no two are the same, it's amazing. You'd think with just an on/off control and a shower head you really couldn't get that many variations, but you do. Some have buttons. Some, self cancelling buttons. Some cancel after a 'three minute shower', which is just possible while others cancel after a 3 second shower which isn’t. -In those the knack is to shower with your arse pressed against the button- Some have a lever. Some with two levers. Some have taps. Some with knobs and a few have handles. Very modern ones sense you are in the shower and just come on. But regardless of the method used in turning the thing on, they all have one thing in common, and that’s at the very point of turning it on you've not got the foggiest if it's going to come out hot or cold. This ignores an absolute truth that a showers default position is always freezing. Now you're going to say: but Phil, they all have a little red and blue colour segment to show which is hot and which is cold. Well in Europe that’s not always the case. There’s an element of Russian roulette over here. And where there are those indicators they don't seem to follow any logical sequence. The red segment is on the right, so does that mean when you turn it to the right you get hotter water even thought the blue segment is now clearly more visible? I don't know, so I have to experiment each time. First turning it this way and that, allowing for the hot water, if it's coming at all, to get to you. 

    Kikopark showers are a point in question. I made my way over to them and realised immediately I was going to have a problem. Why? Well the door was made from see through twin wall polycarbonate, the stuff used for conservatory roofs. Not a good start. I entered, pulled down the small folding seat, placed my wash kit bag down on it and let go. The seat flipped up with a resounding thwack and my wash kit bag disappeared down the back and escaped into the next cubical. Oh for fuc... sake! OK restart. Retrieved wash kit bag and placed it along with my shoes and my towel on the flip up seat. Tested it. It remained in the down position. Excellent. I stripped and hung my clothes. - I'll not add any colourful descriptive prose to my stripping as my daughter reads this so you'll have to use your imagination -. Turned on the shower. What came out, thanks to a shower head caked in lime scale, was a very fine gossamer mist. I stood under it for two minutes before I realised I was no wetter than I was when I got in. It was so fine it was wafting away on the breeze of an open window and what didn't escape that way I was breathing in. I scraped away at the lime scale and managed to free a chunk and was rewarded with three jets of water spraying at various angles. I banged it and twiddled some more. I then noticed a wayward jet was now issuing from the head at a 90 degree angle and was spraying directly onto my clothes. I stretched across and covered them with my towel at which point the seat flipped up and wash kit bag and shoes slipped down the back. Oh for fuc... sake.

    Life really should not be this difficult.

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  Friday 15th November 2013 week 125 Spain

    What's on my mind?

    There's little doubt Britain has got immigration wrong. We were one of only three EU countries to open our labour market to migrants from 2004, Germany and France followed suit but not until 2011. Jack Straw, the former Home Secretary, has since described this as a 'spectacular mistake'. Research, then, by the Home Office got it stunningly wrong when they estimated that between 5,000 and 13,000 immigrants per year might enter the country. I truth, since 2002, the UK gets, annually, around half million migrants*. Luckily, in the same period around four million have emigrated. In his defence Mr Straw said: "However careful you are, as a minister, many decisions are based upon expert predictions about the future. Experts, oh dear!, lets just hope these are not the same experts now advising this government about future pension costings.

    It's estimated that 8 million immigrants live in the U.K, but we are not sure. A group of MPs recently said: 'net migration figures are little better than a guess'. The Public Administration Committee said the figures were "unreliable". In truth no one knows. As one testy politician said: 'we don’t live in a totalitarian state, we don’t count each person coming in and we don't count each person going out', personally I think we should, American can, so we can. Amazingly the main source of migration data comes from The International Passenger Survey which was designed back in sixties to look at tourism trends. It's based on 'random interviews' at ports and airports. The Office for National Statistics takes the IPS data and adds some additional figures before arriving at a final immigration figure. In short, it's shambolic.

Oliva: Taken from the mountain top which we climed, so enjoy the view.

    Now the problem with living with ten years of unchecked immigration is, not surprisingly, a rise in social tensions within the UK. In my home town 22 thousand Eastern Europeans have turned up in the last four years looking for work and homes, resulting in well documented problems for the local authority, schools, housing, hospitals and public services. Since, historically, all immigrants have tended to form small communities within the larger one this has only exacerbated the situation, made worse by the shear numbers and the speed at which they arrived. It's therefore understandable why some British feel their very Britishness is being threatened. They are also frustrated with a government that has the power to make them work longer for their pensions rights, and introduce a raft of austerity measures which, they now say should become permanent, and yet seem incapable of putting together an immigration policy that benefits all UK citizens. The result? Many are turning to far right politics looking for answers and that road spells disaster. Most British are not objecting on the grounds of ethnicity or colour but on  practical grounds, Britain is Full. We are the most densely populated country in Europe.

    I see in a desperate and quite pathetic attempt to appear to be taking at least part of this problem seriously the government is running a pilot scheme to target illegal immigrants. Now this, for my non English readers, might take some believing but it's true. This involves a van being driven around our capitol carrying a billboard telling illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest!". Perhaps if the Government had not, in 2011, cut 500 jobs from the Border control workforce in an effort to save a few bob they wouldn't have got in in the first place.

    Have a good weekend

    *Source: Office for National Statistics

 

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