This week in bigger pics

 Monday 21st October 2013 week 122 Spain.

    The 11th Commandment.

    First off thanks for all the ant remedies, combined, we've not seen one inside now for a couple of days.

    It's clear from some of the correspondence I get -and thanks very much for it- a few assume I live a charmed life and believe I spend my days sitting by the poolside ordering pina calada,s from scantily clad serving wenches. I don't. If I do, regrettably, it's only ever in my dreams. In reality I do things like, as I did the other day, clean the motor-home roof. I doubt it had been cleaned since the manufactures stuck it onto the body back in 2004. Now before I continue with this, an amusing (We'll be the judge of that. Ed) and cautionary anecdote about cleaning has popped into my head.

It was this or me sat on the van roof.

    My brother-in-law, who is not longer my brother-in-law for reasons which I'm about to make plain, once said, rather rashly, that men can wash-up better than women. He was apt to make such random statements which explains why he perhaps lives on his own now. He aired this, lets call it a theory, at a family get together. I clearly remember the hush that descended. The men that didn’t retreat into the garden all stared intently at the wall paper. For they all knew he had dug himself a massive hole from which there was no escape. The women in the room rounded on him. For a moment he looked like a rabbit caught in the glare of headlights. I couldn't throw him a lifeline for fear of being guilty by association. Had I had a shotgun handy I could have put him out of his misery then and there, but I didn't. He was on his own. He'd broken an unwritten marital law. Moses may only have brought down ten commandments but I reckon he left a couple up there. I'm sure there was one that said something along the lines of: Thou shall not cast aspersions on thine wives housekeeping skills, not lest ye wish to be cast into the field with the swine.

    His wife, my sister, asked him to repeat it which the blithering fool did. He then went and dug the hole deeper by making an example of my sisters frying pan. A piece of kitchen ware which A, even after only moderate use can only be cleaned successfully in a nuclear reactor. And B, is often the choice of weapon for many an enraged housewife. If memory serves me right he spent the next few months proving his theory, my sister took some convincing. So a lesson there for us guys I think. Ok back to my day.

    You'd have thought the thunderous downpour we endured a couple of weeks ago would have had the roof sparkling like an operating theatre floor, but in truth all it did was to feed what was up there. There were things growing on it. It had become a Petri dish on wheels. Had I been stopped at a border I could have been accused of smuggling Bio- hazardous material into a country.  So that was my day. Interestingly, I discovered you can't clean a motor-home roof without getting a mixture of strange looks. I try not to care about what others think of me but it's difficult. Many of us say we don't care, but that’s baloney. I've only known one person who truly didn't give a hoot what others thought of him, my Father! I once walked in on him as he was slipping into a pair of mums tights. I looked aghast. Realising he'd probably scarred me for life he went on to explain that standing on the open platform of a bus for eight hours a day in December, keeping warm, at any cost, was more important than protecting his masculinity. This sounded reasonable so I didn't phone child-line.

    I guess we are hard wired to care, and those that don't, well, end up cast out into the field with the swine.






 Tuesday 22nd October 2013 week 122 Spain

    Demon drink

    Ever had a boozy night? I'm sure you have. Does it do you harm? Of course not. Wine is made from fruit and since when has fruit been bad for you? And we all know wine aids digestion. Regretfully, however, that’s only true if you drink it by the glass, not by the bottle.

    Anyway, you start off well intentioned. You bring home a rather decent bottle of wine, not silly money but perhaps more than you would normally pay. You unplug it, carefully pour yourself and your good lady a glass and savour it. Trouble is, an hour into the evening, perhaps after a meal, you discover it's empty. You remark on how well it went down and marvel just how quickly. But the night is still young. Far too early to don your dressing gown and knock up a mug of Horlicks, besides you're feeling just a tad squiffy and yet.... surprisingly sophisticated. So you decide to nip to the Spar and grab another bottle, this while the wife goes all continental and opens up a tin of fruit salad for dessert, so who knows where tonight will end?.

    Once there, if your are like me, you pick up a bottle based on the label. Does it look interesting or not? My entire ethos on the selection of wine is based solely on the attractiveness of the label. And I've discovered it has some validity. I tend to go for bottles with darker labels more than light ones. I also steer away from bottles whose labels depict castles or châteaus but gravitate to those showing Kangaroos or boomerangs.

    Now when you've already sunk one bottle of wine, choosing a second bottle is never quite as difficult as the first. Does it meets your basic requirements? Well it's red and alcoholic, that'll do. You get it home and that too disappears as quick as the first. As you sit and contemplate if you dare stumble into the Spar at this time of night, the wife comes to the rescue. She's found one of those little bottles of cooking wine. Even though it tastes like a mix of industrial cleaning fluid and malt vinegar you finish it and suddenly remember you have a half bottle of sherry knocking about the garage. -You kept it out there should you ever need to de-gunk the lawnmower-. You're now drunk and a glass of sherry washing over your taste buds will hardly register. You could pour yourself a glass of lighter fluid and it would probably taste OK. Which, and lets be honest, most cheap sherries taste like anyway. The night ends with you curling up on the lawn and your wife falling asleep with the toothbrush in her mouth. So, a good evening all round. Now where’s this leading me you ask? Well, to an apology, of sorts. Perhaps I've been to quick to judge.

This is were they conducted Exorcisms.

    Last week I told you about my elderly neighbour, the one who insists on sitting in his underpants. I wasn't, you may remember, very complimentary, think I called him an idiot. I bumped into him yesterday. He was walking along carrying a full bottle of whisky.

    “Do you drink whisky?” he stops and asks.

    “I do indeed” sensing my luck's turning.

    “Here” he says, offering me the bottle. “I brought this, it's dreadful, I can't drink it”.

    “Have you tried mixing it with something?” I suggest.

    “There’s nothing you could mix that with to make it taste any better”. He says philosophically

    “ Was it cheap? I ask.

    “No, eight Euros, there were cheaper ones”.

    “ Really!, I try and sound surprised. “Well thanks” I say.

    “Don't thank me yet, you’ve not tried it” he says as he shuffles off.

    I tried it later, after a tall G an T and three glasses of wine and you know what? just like the sherry, it didn't taste half bad.






Wednesday 23rd October 2013 week 122 Spain

    Confidence is everything

    When I was eight I wanted a guitar. Like a lot of kids I had dreams of becoming a rock star so I set about convincing my parents to buy me one for Christmas. It was, apparently, all I talked about in the run up to Christmas, which for an eight year old starts around October. I still carry the emotional scar of that Christmas morning. I sat on the floor and excitedly ripped open my guitar shaped present to find I'd been brought a Violin!. To say I was surprised was something of an understatement. I stared at it in stunned silence. I think my parents misread the tears welling up in my eyes as joyous emotion. They weren’t! I couldn't imagine how they got it so wrong. All they had to do was walk into a toy shop and buy me what I'd spent the last three months banging on about, how hard could that be?. They must have walked in and thought, right now what was it that Phillip wanted for Christmas? Ah yes! I remember, a toy violin? If they had stopped a total stranger in the street, who'd never met me, and asked them what musical instrument their eight year old might want, I bet not one would have said a violin.

    Besides my obvious disappointment there was also no way I could go back to school and tell my mates I'd got a Violin for Christmas, the few I had, I wanted to keep. I lived in North London for Christ’s sake! I would have been beaten up...... by the girls! I tried to speak. To point out she'd brought a violin and ask if she was drunk or daft when she brought it? but, at eight, I didn't think in those terms. I was just mortified and ungrateful. My musical career was over before it had started. I just managed to state the obvious: “It's a violin mum”. She then took it from me and struck an Elvis pose and said. “You can still play it like a guitar”. I carry that picture of her in my mind to this day and people wonder why I'm the way I am! I never picked it up, ever! Soon after, a short-sighted neighbour did me a favour by sitting on it while watching Hughie Green in 'Double your money'.

    Many years later I brought myself a guitar and learnt a few chords. This makes me, unofficially, a bit of a musician. (I'm guessing not the talented bit, Ed). Ouch. I play and sing, both of which I do with only a modicum of success. I don't think anyone wants to hear me play, but at the same time no one has ever told me to put a sock in it, nor, its true to say, have they thrown their underwear at me.

Tonight Mathew I'm going to be Buddy Holly

   Now yesterday I was making a small repair to the scooter when the Dutch fellow opposite started singing and playing his guitar.

    “Bent De Zon Voor Mij

    Van Iersel Voot ,

    Ellert wangleflipper,

    let oop Dremples”

    Those were the lyrics, at least I think so. I wandered across. His name is John, not very Dutch sounding and a bit disappointing to be honest as I thought all Dutch were called something like, Erktop, Oddvald or Bjoon, which made them sound like pieces of Ikea furniture, anyway we got chatting. He asked what I played. I showed him my song book. He showed me his. It's what us musical types do. His was filled with Leonard Cohen and David Bowie numbers. I confessed I wasn't a fan of Bowie and while I'd heard of Leonard Cohen I couldn't hum one of his tunes if you held a gun to my head. On hearing that he launched into a medley of several Cohen number. What became evident, apart from the fact his guitar was way out of tune, was that he had an odd singing style. He threw himself into each song with such misplaced confidence you went with it. It was quite inspiring. I asked about his voice. “Yes, I have been much singing since when I was a small boy”, he said proudly. He sounded like you’d imagine Englebert Humperdink might after a lungful of helium gas.

    I walked away wondering if it was too late to kick start my musical career.






  Thursday 24th October 2013 week 122 Spain

    Cowboys and Indians

    I doubt there’s a man alive who doesn’t have a gun noise. By that I mean a sound he can make to replicate that of a gun being fired. I'll take this a stage further. Some men have more than one gun sound. I do, because, clearly, a single shot revolver sounds nothing at all like a machine gun. One's a BANG! the others more a RATATAT! and therefore calls for a whole different set of oral skills. All men master these sounds when they are boys, with the exception of American kids, in their case they just borrow the parents Magnum and go with the real thing. I've perfected one which is of a gun being fired and the bullet ricocheting off an object, a kind of realistic 'peeeeeeeeoooww' effect. This because, playing cowboys and Indians you don’t really want to be seen shooting wildly at your mates as they're apt to think they're invincible and not take the game seriously. So to add the sound of the bullet bouncing off, say, a garage door, helps to keep them pinned down behind a neighbours dustbin. Some, didn't take their 'shots' and there were frequent stoppages in the game to discuss and argue who had been hit by whom. We took it seriously, as you can see. In fact before we'd let anyone join our game he'd have to demonstrate his gun sound. If it was impressive you’d want the newbie on your side. If it wasn't you’d make him an Indian and hope he would improve over time. 

Good ole days when you knew your enemy

    Now while I'm on this fascinating subject (Yawn, Ed) I should also point out that most boys also have a car sound. In my experience it's not that of a Ford Escort but a Ferrari 240 at full bore. If you have a car noise you will also have a skid noise, ergo, one follows the other. Other noises you should have in your repertoire are trains, ideally steam, police sirens and of course the all important motorbike. I once had a mate who could make the realistic sound of a tube train pulling into a station. It was uncanny. I was sure he was destined for greatness.

    I dare say there are those reading this thinking: I bet he's finished that cheap bottle of whisky and it's addled his brain., What is he on about? And I bet most of you are women. Well I'm highlighting once again one of the many differences between us men and ladies. While I'm the first to admit women have some excellent skills and talents that men struggle with, there are some glaring differences. Not convinced? Well ask your wife or girlfriend to make the sound of a gun. She'll not be able to, they can't and don't get me started on car sounds. You could argue that since girls never played cowboys and Indians they never honed their sound making skills, but if that was true why can't they make the noise of a sewing machine or a washing machine? (Whew! skating on thin ice here love. Ed.)

    Well what’s made me so knowledgeable on this subject you ask? because I have, over the course of writing my diary, cited many of the differences between the sexes. Now while I don't profess to know it all.... I should perhaps lay out my credentials where the sexes are concerned. I don't think I've ever mentioned this so it might be an idea if you sat down. Sitting? Good. Well I've been married five times! You've read that right no need to reread it. Five times. That's a lot, even for a film actor. But it proves one thing.... well several in fact. Firstly, I really like women, that goes without saying, nothing funny about me. I also like being married and, I guess, I like wedding cake. I've also said the wedding vows that many time I've been known to jog the memory of an ageing vicar.

    So my observations, I hope you’ll agree, are not without some substance.







   Friday 25th October 2013 week 122 Spain

    What's on my mind?

    Excluding individual people and their achievements, there isn’t much us Brits can be really proud of these days, not when you weigh it up, but I would have thought The Royal Mail was perhaps one of them.

    It can trace it's history back to 1516. For most of that time it's been operated as a public service, run as a government department or public corporation. In 1868 it was the very first nationalised company. It employs 150k workers. Made a handsome profit of 430 million last year. And the service it provides is one of the best in the world. In short the GPO has done sterling work for 500 years and has served it's customers and the country well. So can someone enlighten me and tell me why the dynamic duo, Dave 'n' Nick, have flogged it off?. Is this just a case of Tory ideology or is there some justification for it? I ask because, and I don’t want to be the harbinger of bad tidings, but there's already talk of 'streamlining' and a hike in postal charges. The reason? Well, obviously to squeeze even more profit from it and reward the new investors. Soon, mark my words, the price of a stamp will be based on distance. Those living off the beaten track will have to collect their mail. Village post office closures will speed up and we'll be down to one delivery a day, Monday to Fridays. Why? because investors are more important than customers and the pursuit of profit has always been more important than the pursuit of excellence.

    Still, perhaps there’s hidden benefits. After all who could have imagined that when Mrs Thatcher sold off BT it would have heralded the explosion of the sex chat line industry. -Slightly ironic since they consistently championed family values, but never mind-. At least one can pick up the phone and get 'virtually spanked' for £2 a minute. Before privatisation all BT provided in that area was the speaking clock. Which, frankly, isn’t even in the same league as Miss whiplash.

    However the real worry now for David 'n' Nick is they've nothing left to sell. The Tories have sold it all. There’s no more nationalised industries left. I mentioned a month back that over forty have disappeared. Many of those companies that the public purse once profited from now supply profits to private and foreign investors.

    There is, as I see it, just one left, and in my book it should have been the first to go. The Royal Family. What a bunch of.... I'd have no axe to grind if they just paid their own way in this world, like the rest of us. I see we coughed up for William and Kate’s USA air fare. A whopping £51.410. (That’s not a misprint. Ed )Them, their cronies and security took over first class of a BA flight. Apparently as long as they make at least one official engagement while on holiday they can chalk the whole thing up to us. Well, that’ll never be abused will it?. This family is filthy rich, wealthy beyond your imagination so why are we paying?. And before anyone writes and tells me that the Royals attract tourism, let me remind them that the French, who get four times the number of tourists we do, chopped off the heads of their royal family so lets not go down that road. No, I think Dave n Nick should put them on ebay. I've no idea what a dysfunctional family of extremely wealthy Germans and Greeks living on benefits and subsidised housing might fetch but the sooner they go the better in my book.

    Finally. I guess, as always, I'm being too hard on politicians. I should remember they are not professionals. They have no specialist on the job training. Nor do they need any formal qualifications. They also don't need a recognised skill set, nor any particular talents, nor for that matter a single GCSE. No they can come into politics totally unencumbered by qualifications. All they bring to the job is a political agenda and a willingness to put the party before those that elected them.

    85% of the public said they were happy with The Royal Mail and selling it would mean the service would suffer. But they know better.

    You have a good weekend.




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