This week in bigger pics

    Monday17th February 2014 week 139, Spain


    First, I better to explain something or else you'll think me a hooligan. I'm a fairly chilled out chap and I can normally put up with a lot before my elastic snaps but, perhaps like you, I do have a point where I can lose it. Ok that said, and it needed to be said for reasons that will become clear later, I expect you want to know how we got on in Tangier. The answer, dreadfully.

    Tourist are not universally liked. I've made this point before, they're tolerated and none more so than in Tangier. I'd have to say if I was Moroccan I wouldn't like them either. How would you like a bunch of affluent tourists schlepping around your neighbourhood gawking at you. Taking photos of the poverty, the dereliction, near third world living conditions and of you going about your daily business? I'm guessing you wouldn't, so why do we do it? I watched a tourist take a photo of a toothless old women sitting on a step selling a few vegetables. Now it might make a good photo, but its disrespectful and displays an indifference to these proud people by the potograher. It's their country, their home, what it isn't is a museum!

    From the minute we met our Tangier guide Rashid, a chap who wore a permanent smile which only left him when he walked off to answer his iphone and returned when he rejoined us, and we boarded the coach, he took us for a ride in more ways than one. First port of call, oddly, a lighthouse, not even an interesting one. Why? Well as a fellow tourist said to me, waving his arm like he was parting the red sea: “this is the spot where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic'. Right, and that makes it what? a worthy tourist attraction? I mean, its not like there a giant waterfall or massive whirlpool. Its water, mixing with other water. Well blow me down. Water rarely gets that interesting. But its early days, its only our first stop.

Don't get Hazels happy face confused with her terrifed one, which this is.

(ps shes told me to point out she's not that grey, its a querk of the camera)

    Next was Hercules caves. Sounds fascinating right? It was anything but. It was just your average dank cave. But, if caves are your thing, you may have loved it, I didn't. This wasn't shaping up well. There was some mention of the Kings palace on the itinerary but all we were treated to was a fleeting glimpse of it as the coach thundered past on the way to the obligatory snake charmer. Now this I didn't know but they don't actually charm snakes, at least not any more. They just annoy the creatures by poking them. The Cobra in this case, understandably, got pissed off and then adopted that familiar threatening pose. After forty seconds of angry snake the hat was passed around. Some show.

    Lunch deserves a mention. We were taken to a deserted restaurant which, considering this was lunch time, doesn’t bode well. The four piece Moroccan band struck up on cue as we entered, clearly they'd been waiting for us along with the staff. They served us soup, chicken and mint tea, a cheaper meal you'd be hard pressed to knock up. -The cost was included in the tour price-. The drinks were possibly the dearest we have come across in Europe. A Small bottle of water £1.70, a small stubby bottle of beer £2.20. A printed note on the drinks menu proudly stated that the drinks were at a 'special group price'. Which, quite frankly, assumes we're all mugs. Our drinks bill, 800 Durham, roughly equalled a weeks pay for your average Moroccan and more than covered the cost of the food, and I dare say a new roof. Some thought the meal was wonderful, I didn't. It was mediocre.

    I expect Rashid was rewarded for taking us there.

    I'll continue tomorrow........It gets worse.






 Tuesday 18th February 2014 week 139, Spain


    Ok so next stop was the market, but not the one full of everyday Moroccan bargain hunters, this was the Souk in the old town, full of everyday street pedlars who descended upon us like flys on a dog turd.

    “Please, you buy”.

    “I don't want one' I said.

    “But feel the quality. Only seventy Euros”.

    “Hmmm nice, but still I don't want one”.

    “Buy it for your wife then”.

    “She doesn’t want one either”.

    “How you know?”

    “Erm, Telepathy?”.

    “Special price, you only, thirty Euros.

    “You said seventy a second ago”.

    “Yes, but you very special person, I see this now, twenty Euros”.

    “Thanks but I still don't want one”.

    “Allah will smile upon you”.

    “I somehow doubt that mate”.

    Doggedly repeating the same sentence eventually did the trick. However the minute one moved off and another took his place. Locals walked past and ignored us. Some towns have tourist police but not here. After I refused to buy something from one seller he then resorted to begging. I gave him a Euro just to get rid of him. “Give me more” he said. I glared at him. I then made the mistake of actually buying something, a djellaba. This sent them into a frenzy, a little like sharks tasting blood. I was surrounded by every djellaba salesman in a two mile radius. A small boy trying to sell me gum was roughly grabbed and hauled out of the way by a toothless man (few had a full set of teeth) who took his place. Meanwhile Rashid popped into the shop where I'd brought the djellaba, and others of our group had brought purses and bags, and was no doubt paid his commission.

Dancing in my Djellaba (Actually practicing a new dance move.....Should work)

    We made our way back down to the ferry on foot. The street vendors following us like sea gulls around a trawler. Some guy tried to sell me a hat. I pointed out I had no money and no need of a hat. He wasn't deterred. To convince him I showed him my empty wallet. He said I should borrow money from friends. In the end I took out my last Euro, gave it to him and told him to leave me alone. He took it with no thanks. His place was taken immediately by another, more persistent chap. I explained I had no money left and he was wasting his time. He didn't think so. He walked by my side offering me more tat. At that point I'd had enough. Enough of being a tourist, enough of being seen as a walking ATM, enough of being taken for a mug and not being listened to when I said no!. I snapped. I turned and shoved the guy and told him to fuck off, twice. Rashid, hearing the commotion, quickly ushered the guy away and I walked on.

    Someone said I should just have just ignored him. Perhaps I should have. But I wasn't brought up to ignore people. If I'm spoken to, I speak back, anything other than that is rudeness in any country. Perhaps if we did speak they might not treat us with the contempt they clearly do.

    I doubt that guy reads my diary, but just in case he does, I'm sorry mate, its not your fault I make a such crap tourist.






   Wednesday 19th February 2014 week 139, Spain

    Men behaving badly

    Bit late in the day to be bringing this up but I hope you all had a wonderful romantic valentines day. A day, which I'm sure you all know, dates back to 496AD and celebrates some Christian martyr. The romantic overtones were added much later in the middle ages. (Getta away. Ed). True. Its that time of year when we can think about our significant other. Word of warning here to my male readers. I once had a colleague come to work looking moody. I asked if he was okay? He said he'd fallen out with his wife after giving her a Valentines card. I said that was unusual, not that women normally get awkward when given a card, but more that he'd actually gone out and got one, he wasn't the type. Turns out he hadn't, he'd made one using the computer. So not the same thing in a women eyes.

    Unlike many of our 'special' days in the Uk such as Pancake day, Easter egg day and Hot cross bun day, Valentines day, regrettably, is not traditionally celebrated with something edible, pity, unless of course you buy your loved one chocolates and then eat them yourself.

    Now I can't let this week slip past without saying a few words about our St Valentines day party last Friday. It was simply the best shin-dig to date. I know you guys out there in the real world oiling the wheels of industry, keep it up by the way, probably couldn't give a monkeys toss as to whether we have a good time or not, but I'd like to think you're really a warm caring bunch, so I'm guessing you're happy we enjoyed ourselves.......... even if you didn't.

I should point out before you run off with the idea no one was listening to us, the audience was in front of us.

    The band Unwired, of which Hazel and I are members, played a dozen songs to rapturous applause. (Case of over egging the pudding there, but carry on. Ed). One of our songs was George Gershwin's Summertime. This was opened with one band member hauntingly playing the harmonica before his wife joined him on the accordion. Hazel came in on the vocals and myself and the other chap on guitars. It was the stuff goose pimples are made of.

    After us The Travelling Oldberries, the other band on site, took to the stage and were exceptional. Had they charged us an entrance fee I would have been happy to have paid it.

    We then danced the night away. A new comer to the camp site asked me: “is it always like this?”. “Pretty much” I replied. At one point, late in the evening, I found Hazel writhing on top of a German chap in the middle of the dance floor. I'm happy to report she wasn't accosting the poor fellow. Apparently, for reasons best known to himself, he attempted to pick her up but failed. Perhaps this is an old German custom, who knows. He apologised profusely as any man might who would so careless as to drop another man’s wife.

    It was also good to see we were joined by many of the local Spanish. I've no idea what they think of us ageing Brits but I doubt they cared. They seem keen to party on with the rest of us, besides we do bring some colour to this sleepy little part of Spain this time of the year.

    Lastly, and apropos of nothing at all, I found it interesting to read that apparently we're reading less Charles Dickens books these days. This because, so its been reported, our attention spans are, well, you know... too a …...whatever.





 Thursday 20th February 2014 Week 139, Spain

    Man's an idiot.

    Let me return to a subject I've touched on before from another direction.

    'Natural selection' is a way in which nature ensures that the strongest, and most adaptable of living things survive, its the mechanics of survival if you will. Nature doesn’t tolerate the weak nor the feeble, only the strongest make it. Here's an extreme example: Two miles below the Atlantic ocean, on sea bed floor, molten lava spews from volcanic geysers. The area around these are the most inhospitable on the planet and yet shrimp live there quite happily. In water hot enough to boil potatoes, so acid it would burn through leather and pressures so vast it would pop a submarine like a toothpaste tube. The shrimp have adapted. Without natural selection, us, and just about every living thing on the planet wouldn't have survived as long as we have, we would have succumbed to some disaster or another and long since perished.

    Now you might think that natural selection, as far as us humans are concerned, no longer applies, we've reached the pinnacle, well we haven't. In fact its still very much at work. Take another example, me, not quite as extreme as the first granted but I'll do. Now I decided one day to clean out my garage. I was ferrying rubbish back and forwards to my car, at the time I was wearing a baseball cap. At one point I walked smack into the edge of the up and over garage door so violently I staggered backwards dazed. The peak of the cap had hidden the edge of the door from my line of sight. Not ten minutes later I did it again. I'd learnt nothing from the first impact. That’s natural selection at work. After the second time I did take my cap off thinking that if I did it again I'd probably put myself into a coma or possibly a vegetative state from which I would not have recovered, who knows.

    I've made the point before that Spain, as with a few other countries in Europe, are not what you might call idiot proof. We once visited a wonderfully preserved Roman walled city near Valencia. What struck me immediately was the lack of safety features protecting the visiting public. No railings, no barriers, no roped off areas. A young chap, in his prime, could walk off the battlements and fell 100 feet to his death, easy. Thus thus ensuring, through natural selection, he never father any children as daft as himself. Here, unlike the Uk, you're expected to look after your own safety, which, frankly, I approve of -I did Google Spanish heath and safety executive, but drew a blank. But that’s not to say some such organisation does 't exist. If it does I'm guessing its a low key affair.-

    People should be made aware they're responsible for their own well being and safety. It's for us to asses the dangers in any activity we participate in. If we get it wrong then that’s the nature of the beast. One less hapless individual to worry about is neither here nor there. But at least it will ensure the next generation will be just a tad wiser and smarter.

    The very point of today’s ramblings was brought home to me when I read that British tax payers, in 2012, shelled out a staggering £20 million to policemen in compensation payments. One payment of £13,600 was paid out to an officer who hurt his toe while actually in a health and safety training session. Another got £130,000 worth of private medical care after breaking a hip falling over in a cupboard. Go figure?. More weirdly there was the case of the detective who was awarded £7,000 after claiming exposure to cannabis made him snore which, in turn, caused problems in his marriage. There was £108,000 awarded to the PC who was injured by his own handcuffs and another was awarded, just shy of a quarter or a million, after slipping on a banana skin.

    There you go, natural selection is clearly very much in evidence.





Friday 21st February 2014 week 139 Spain

    What’s on my mind

    Don’t you just want to slap some people? I mean, not like really hard but hard enough to wake them up from their stupidity. Yes? Good. I know I do. I'd focus on those people who say, “Its a fact”, as though what they just said is a fact, regardless. You'll note these are often the same people who use the phrase 'End of' to kill an argument stone dead.

    The other day I stood chatting with a small group of people. A young chap visiting his parents, a neighbour and a lady in her mid thirties whom I'd previously not met. During our chat the topic of smoking came up. The young chap said he was a smoker and enjoyed a cigarette. The younger women then launched an attack on the poor chap describing smoking, as so many non smokers do, as a disgusting and filthy habit. She went at it with some venom. I stood there thinking she’s old enough to know, that by association, she's also implying that he is dirty and disgusting for enjoying a fag. In my experience people are apt to take offence when they're told they indulge in dirty habits, fortunately he didn't. I wanted to point out that no matter what disgusting and dirty habits she might confess to I wouldn't be sorude or intolerant as to tell her how much I disapproved of them. Mostly because its not what I was put on earth to do and besides, its just bad manners.

The local beach.

    Smokers have become the social pariahs in our society. They've not only become fair game when your looking for someone to insult and vilify but they themselves have become apologetic for their habits. That's the power of public opinion, bad press and the anti smoking lobby. However since smokers, according to ASH, (action against smoking) cough up an extra £18 billion a year in tax revenues, -an under estimate in my book- I think they should be applauded, positively encouraged for the sterling work they are doing in bolstering our tax coffers. And before someone emails me to say smokers cost the NHS more! they don't. Smokers, again according to their worst critics ASH, cost the NHS around £3 billion a year, so they more than pay for their own healthcare, and that 'is a fact'.

    However she then levelled her venom on British school children. Because, according to her, they all drank Coca Cola for breakfast and that's why all their teeth are falling out!, news to me and perhaps you too. I do so wonder where these people get their information from. I asked if that wasn't just a bit of a sweeping generalisation? No! she assured me and continued almost without pause. Pointing out that these kids are a burden on us tax payers because all children get free dental care!. I should have pointed out that perhaps the extra tax revenues paid by smokers more than covered this cost but these people rarely listen to sense.

    She then rounded on meat eaters. She told us that 'its a known fact' that people who eat meat walk about with it up their bums (her words) for years'......oh dear! She looked such a nice young lady as well. By the time she uttered her last sentence I had mentally condemned her as an idiot and suppressed the urge to slap her.

    Someone once tried to educate me by saying, as I spread margarine on my toast, 'course, margarine is just one atom away from being a plastic! you shouldn't eat it'. I asked how they knew this? 'its a known fact'' they said. I pointed out that water is one atom away from pure hydrogen, which is an explosive, but are they carefully turning on the tap?.

    What’s the saying? a little knowledge is worse than none at all! You all have a good weekend.



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