This week in bigger pics

Monday 3rd March 2014 week 141 Spain

    Winter watering-hole.

    Friday was a bank holiday and by lunch time it was standing room only on the site. Many have come for the Cadiz festival and to make the most of the first long weekend since Christmas, by Sunday evening they had all left.

    I've made this point before but its worth making again. Us Brits love to have a little no man's land around our vans. A buffer from over enthusiastic neighbours if you will. Given half a chance I'm convinced some would dig a moat and fill it with Piranha. The Spanish however couldn't be more different than if they hailed from another planet, they don’t give a toss. They shoehorn themselves between anything and anyone. Then the bikes come out, the table and chairs, the mobile kitchen, the gazebo, the kids and the dog. We've even seen chickens brought to the camp site. They'll often park with their awnings opening out into each others and in doing so create a far more sociable atmosphere. But that's the Spanish for you, not so much a nation, just one big family, perhaps united by a difficult historic past. Who knows?

    I find it interesting that you rarely see elderly Spanish people camping, I've no idea why. In the main its the ever polite Dutch, the friendly Germans, us English and then the French who, like Greta Garbo, just want to be left alone. I have, so far, only managed to elicit a grunt from our French neighbour. You do get a smattering of other tribes but that’s all it is, just a smattering.

The moorish statue at Vejer, pronounced B'hair

    Well this is the start of our last week here and, as Hazel pointed out the other day, the three months have whizzed by, proving, if proof were necessary, time moves much quicker when you're drunk. (You’ll have readers thinking we are a couple of old lushes. Ed). Never. We are however ready to move on. We have enjoyed our stay, made new friends, met up with some old ones but the time has come to look for fresher pastures, beside they need to cut the grass under the van. And of course we have to be back on home turf by 4th April when the MOT's run out.

    I should point out that you don’t have to find a camp-site to wait out a European winter in, you can travel around, many do. The fiscal benefits of taking root somewhere for three months is that, like here, you get an excellent rate. Pitch fees, electric, wi-fi and sky Tv, if you want it, all for a mere £58 a week, and you get sunshine thrown in. You also make savings on petrol by not touring. I estimate we've saved around £600 over the three months which helps bring down our average monthly costs and keeps us within budget. If you're agreeable to spending three months in one place then I can recommend this site. You'd be hard pressed to find a winter watering-hole full of people who are as friendly and clearly out to enjoy themselves as this lot. As well, you'll have this splendid area of Andalucia, Spain to explore, unsullied by the 'all day English breakfast' brigade.

    Just an advisory note and purely a personal one. I think it's vital, especially during the winter period, to have an interest or hobby. I feel sad for some who spend their days watching afternoon television. Me, well I've managed to cobble a diary entry together each day, exept weekends. Its not always been easy, not always been that interesting either but it keeps me out of trouble and amused. Its my hobby, and as a mate said when he read it recently “Blimey Phil you're a bit controversial”. And there's me thinking I was perhaps too main stream,

    “Well it makes for a more interesting life” I replied.





Tuesday 4th March 2014 Spain

    England at play.

    Today, as I'm sure you're aware, is pancake day. The Spanish might have their fiestas and carnivals but us Brits have today, or to give it its religious name, Shrove Tuesday.

    Its a day when, for some, they make a special point of self-examination. Of considering what wrongs, or sins, they need to repent. Also, what adjustments they might need to make in areas of their own spiritual growth and seek, if necessary, God's help. For others, less angst ridden mortals, its a day to eat pancakes. I fall into the latter. And being a heathen I have to confess, for my sins, to eating them on days other then a Shrove Tuesday. Yeah heresy I know. I expect I'd have been burnt at the stake at one time.

    The eating of pancakes is in preparation for fasting for Lent. Lent or Lenten, begins on Ash Wednesday. Shrove Tuesday is a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk and sugar before the 40 days of Lent. The term Mardi Gras is French for fat Tuesday, referring to that very practice. I, on the other hand, eat 'em because I like 'em, a lot! especially sprinkled with sugar and lemon. Interestingly, and I've only just noticed this, Lemon and Lenten look, as words, remarkable similar but I guess you’d already spotted that.

    According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, (John never mentioned it), Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert where he endured temptation by the Devil and I dare say lost a lot of weight. It's this that is remembered.

Right! well these ladies would be disqualified right away, ones got it stuck to her face.

   As a UK celebration some say, a tad unkindly, simply eating a pancake is not in the same league as a festival nor even in the same ball park. Clearly the people who say this have never visited Olney in Berkshire. For if they had their eyes would be opened. Each year since 1445 - Note to any American readers, 1445 is a year and not the time- the Great Pancake race has been held there. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race over a 415 yard course. The rules are strict: contestants have to toss their pancake at both the start and the finish of the race, easy to forget a toss and then have to suffer the ridicule of your loved one for twelve months until you can redeem yourself a year later. They must also wear an apron and a head scarf. Traditionally if men folk wish to participate they must dress as a housewife. This, as you might imagine, causes much merriment and mirth.

    In England, as far back as the 12th century, many towns held traditional Shrove Tuesday "mob football" games. Mystifyingly this practice died out in the late 1800's when playing football on public highways was banned. This, I guess, to make way for the car which was yet to be invented, but that’s heath and safety for you.

    And finally Scarborough still celebrates pancake day by closing the seafront off to all traffic, shutting schools early and inviting everyone to 'come and have a skip'. Traditionally, long ropes were used from the nearby harbour. The town crier would ring the 'pancake bell' calling the erm....faithful, to erm.... well have a skip.

    So never think for one minute Mr Jonny foreigner, the British don't know how to party, we do........... in spades.





  Wednesday 5th March 2014 week 141 Spain

    Christ I'm getting old.

    We sat the other evening and planed next week. Planning is one of the aspects of this type of 'lifestyle' we both enjoy, its exciting, and let face it, not much in life is exciting any more. You'll discover this as you get older. I've had people say to me: “Criky I bet you're excited”. Which has brought it home to me, I'm not. I've experienced too much, seen and read too much and little now surprises me. The excitement has worn off. I don't, nor do you, have a limitless supply of being nonplussed or gob smacked or excited. Children get excited, older folk just get impatient. In times past, things, events and acts I once considered as exciting are now just accidents waiting to happen. And of course there’s not much you can actually do that’s exciting when your older, your body has limits even if your imagination dosn't. White water rafting, base jumping and abseiling are just three things I'd like to try but my body point blank refuses.

    We watched some guys on the beach doing, well, I'm not sure what they were doing. (See picture). It looked fun, but if I'd had a go, I'd get something lethally wrong. I'd stand the wrong way or pull the wrong bit of string and be whisked out to sea never to be seen again. And people would say “Well the man was a fool, whatever was he thinking ......, At his age as well.”


    I've approached, or am rapidly approaching, that time of life when taking it easy and avoiding rushing around seems more important than getting anywhere with time to spare. Last thing you want is trip and break something. As you get older you don’t heel as quick or as well. This, I fancy, is why older people wear wear cycle helmets. This, when generally speaking they can't attain the kinds of speeds where a crash hat is a necessary safety feature, there's only so much damage you can do at 4mph. There will, of course, always be freak accidents, where even wearing chain mail won't save your ass let alone a colourful expanded polystyrene hat.

    Now I never sat down to write any of that, funny what comes out on a blank page some mornings.

    Back to our planning. On Saturday we are leaving and heading North, two hundred and fifty miles, to 'Castillo al Eman'. I've just looked it up because it appears to be in the middle of absolutely nowhere and I can't remember, for the life of me, why we ear marked it. It's in Benquerencia, near Cáceres. I expect its one of the few camp-sites we found open in that area. Checking on google earth it does resemble a one horse town. I mean no disrespect to one horse towns, I'm sure they are swell places to live. Regardless however, when we pull away from here I'm sure we'll both feel a frisson of excitement at being back on the road.

    We'll see.

    Oh yes, the dog. The one that out foxed us at every turn, you remember, yes? Well I'm happy to report he's been adopted by a British camper. The guy regularly fed the dog and the dog, being a smart cookie, knew you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. They are the best of friends and he left yesterday wagging his tail.

    The Dog not the bloke, that'd be gross..




Thursday 6th March 2014. Week 141 Spain


    Just a short piece today as my dance card is pretty full. We have a busy day ahead making preparations for leaving on Saturday morning and tonight we've been asked to play in the bar, so we'll need to run through a few things with the band, it's our farewell gig.

    I have time to tell you this tale of confusion.

    A week ago a couple pulled alongside us on the next pitch. I took them to be French. I believed him to be French for three reasons. Firstly, he was driving a French motor-home with a French registration. Secondly, he looked a little dour. This comes for spending your adult life shrugging your shoulders, turning down your mouth and frowning in that typical Gallic mannerism the French have to express that: all that happens to them is a fait accompli . And lastly, and this the deal breaker, because the first thing he said to me was in French which, considering he actually came from Hull, was, and still is, a total mystery.

    I saw him trying to plug his power hook-up lead into the post and realised he had a French plug, not a Euro three pin plug. I walked over to do my small bit for En tente Cordiale.

    Non” I said. “Trois pin, euro”.

    “Ah! Oui. Merci. Ma femme.”.he said and then pointed off toward the office.

    La reception” I said.


    Clearly he and his wife had the situation under control so I left having done my good deed for the day. I like to do one good deed a day, no matter how small, to help smooth out the wrinkles of others lives. If we all did one, just imagine what a swell place the world could become.

    The following morning he grunted “Bonjour,” as I made my way to the shower block. I replied “Bonjour”. The following morning he said “Good morning”. I replied with “Bonjour” but I was encouraged to see that he was,as I thought, having a crack at my language. -Apparently 40% of French can speak English, just a pity only 5% want to-. (No, you've not lost the thread he did hail from Hull. Ed)

Vejer, voted one of the most attractive towns in Spain

    Our new neighbours seemed keen to keep themselves to themselves, which also made me think they were French. As neighbours we coexisted for the week being well, neighbourly. Passing the odd Bonjour or the occasional good morning as and when required.

    Yesterday they departed. They packed up and backed off the pitch. We were both outside the van getting ready to take the scooter out so we waited for them to pass. As they slowly passed us Hazel, called “Bon Journey”, a very typical French salutation. To which they both replied in perfect northern English     “Aye, yooves too”. (We nearly wet ourselves, giggling away. Ed.)

    We discovered later they came from Hull. Why he thought I was French I've no idea but clearly he did. We had struggled to converse, albeit sparingly, in French to each other the whole week. Still I expect our helpfulness and friendliness has helped to reinforce their faith in the French.

    Honest, you couldn't write this stuff. Funny? Well........... very nearly.





 Friday March 2014 week 141 Spain

    What s on my mind?

    When I was a kid, my elder brother would occasionally send me out to buy him fags. Back then, in the good old days of yore, there was no law stopping a tobacconist selling me a pack, only later it become illegal to sell them to kids. Up until then it was a parents job to dissuade their children from smoking, not the governments. However if kids wanted to buy cigarettes, they could. If they wanted to smoke, they could. The new legislation backfired really because all  it did was make smoking even more of a taboo pastime than it already was. You were a renegade, a law breaker now.  My school chums and I took up smoking because of it. I'd go and buy a single cigarette for twopence, which was my bus fare home. We did it to look grown up, cool and of course to 'cock a snoop' at authority as is the way with teenagers.

    Back then, unlike today, there was no education on the perils of smoking or other “grown up” health issues. I only hope its improved from my day when the vicar come to our school and took us for a sex education lesson this, even though, he wasn't married. Perhaps the blind leading the blind? . I do vaguely remember him making it sound like quite a wondrous event. Lots of Angels singing and harps playing, a case of seriously over egging the pudding, methinks.

Even though he's a drawing, he still died of smoking related illness, sad really.

    Back to my brother. He'd give me two and six and send me out for twenty Embassy”. I say Embassy but it might have been Pall Mall, or Mayfair, maybe Strand or possible Park Drive special -I've no idea what made them special-. Brand names were often named after some posh part of London. Advertising, which is another form of education, not that anyone in authority has ever grasped that concept, and advertisers, had free rein back then. You could appear more sophisticated and cosmopolitan overnight by smoking the right brand. Prior to that brand names where a little more utilitarian. You had Woodbines, Players Weights, Navy Cut and later the highly imaginatively named No.6. You could also buy Capstan Full Strength. These had such a high tar rating that today, it wouldn't be measured in milligrams but by the cup full. They were for sailors or soldiers, presumable because they had high risk jobs and were going to die anyway. Literally the tar would drip uncontrollably from the end when you smoked one. You could re-tarmac your driveway with just a couple of packets.

    When I started smoking I smoked Cadets because they just seemed appropriately named for a beginner. Much later I smoked menthol cigarettes, mostly in secret, because they were seen as a bit girly. My dad, a confirmed Players Weights man, would have been mortified if he found ten menthol Consulate under my bed. He'd have thought I was only one step away from dressing in frocks. I had man lungs, I should have smoked a man’s cigarette. “Here's twenty Capstan, get 'em down yer, son”. (He never said that)

    I digress. I'd shoot out on my bike and instantly forget what he'd asked for. I had other things on my mind, conkers, picture cards, my toy matchbox collection, The next episode of The Lone Ranger, all manner of stuff. So it was hardly surprising I'd return with twenty Silk Cut. This wouldn't please my brother. I was amazed at how quick advertisers had engendered in him such brand loyalty, and in such a short time. That’s the power of advertising or education as I like to call it.

    I'll end this walk down memory lane on this mildly interesting fact: The Kingdom of Bhutan is the only country in the entire world to have banned smoking outright. King Wungchuck, and no I didn't make that up nor misspell it, passed a law in 2005, with the help of the Prime minister Mr Tobgay and no I didn't make that up either, banning smoking and all tobacco products from their country.

    You all have a good, smoke free weekend.



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