This week in Bigger pictures
Monday 16th December 2013 week 130 Spain.
A recent and very chequered past
Friday is market day in Conil de la Frontera so we rode in looking for festive bargains. Finding somewhere to park the scooter is a breeze, I can pretty much shove it where I like. You'll often see scooters parked on pavements but then again you'll also often see cars parked on pavements too. Here, one doesn’t so much park one's car as abandon it.
I spotted a large public building with a parking area out front so I swung in and parked up alongside several other bikes. We got off and started chatting. From the corner of my eye I became aware of a guy standing on the steps staring at us. I looked over the façade of the building, it reminded me of council offices. Hazel noted he'd fixed his gaze on us permanently. It suddenly occurred to us it might just be a police station. Police Station's in Spain are not always that obvious. I stepped back and looked up to see it was indeed the local headquarters of the Guardia Civil, needless to say we left slightly quicker than we had arrived.
Non Regulation Spanish hand brake
Spain has two police forces. The Cuerpo Nacional de Policía or CNP who either look like your uncle or Claude van Dam in their blue cargo pants, t-shirt and baseball caps or the Guardia Civil. They both fight crime, the difference being one fights city crime the other rural crime. - just an observation but the minimum height requirement for a cop here is a minuscule five foot five- All are armed with 9mm Glocks or sub-machine guns so it pays perhaps, not to take their parking spots. Why they have two police forces, with all the associated cost of running two completely separate law enforcement agencies, is one of history. They did have three, the third being the plain-clothes service known as the 'Superior de Policía', better known as the secret police, although since everyone knew of their existence the secret wasn't well kept. It's reminiscent of the British top secret service, MI5, whose massive headquarters any Londoner can point to on the embankment.
Here the Police are still mistrusted, mostly by the older generation. The police under Franco were feared as a symbol of his regime's oppression. But after his death the police adopted the growing democratic spirit of the times. And in the failed Spanish coup d'état of 1982, supported the legally constituted government. The police have also demonstrated against right-wing militants within the police force and no longer turn a blind eye to abuses of civilian civil rights by other officers.
It's quite easy to forget that up until 1975, during the package holiday boom years when us Brits were discovering sea, sun, sand and sangria, Spain was run by Franco. A military dictator whose administration resulted in some of the worst abuses of human rights in modern history. He established almost 200 concentration camps. He held power by terror, censorship, bribery and coercion. He suppressed dissident views. He imprisoned his ideological enemies. And used the death penalty to silence his opponents. The number of Spaniards who were murdered runs into tens of thousands. Right up until the 70's Spanish women were not allowed bank accounts. Forbidden from certain jobs, not allowed to testify at trials. Had to have their affairs managed by a male and woman fleeing from domestic violence could be arrested and imprisoned. This, and a lot more, all within most of our lifetimes.
President Bush, not noted for his tact nor his intelligence, once said of him: 'General Franco was a loyal friend and ally to the United States'. American Foreign policy has never much cared what dictators did to their own people.........unless they were sitting on vast oil fields.
Tuesday 17th December 2013 week 130 Spain
I've gone and done it. Quit, Stopped. Given up and I feel a whole lot better for it. What vice am I talking about you ask?. Well Facebook of course. I closed my account last week. True, for a few days I had slight withdrawal symptoms. I had to stop my mouse from drifting across my browser looking for the Facebook tab, but thankfully that's wearing off.
I'm the first to say that for many, Facebook, is a great way to keep in touch with people you know, even those you'd rather not hear from, and if you're one of them then I say 'good luck to you'. However this week Facebook will announce it will start posting video ads which will play automatically when you log in, so maybe more will follow me soon, who knows. But that's not the reason I quit, I've simply never been a huge fan.
I'd cringe at the way, occasionally, photos of myself would turn up no matter how unflattering. Oh! here's one of Phil lying in the gutter. Had some bad beer mate? LOL, would be the caption. Or I'd had horrendous bed hair or be snapped mid chew or mid yawn which made me look like the kind of person you'd avoid sitting next to on a bus. When you're young you can look cool in any photo but when you're older, much older, you have to first scan through thirty to find one that doesn’t make you look like Wurzel Gummage.
Some beach right?
I also object to being told how many friends I have. I'd log in and would be cheerfully informed I had 178 friends! No I don't!. I have three who are close and a dozen who are not, the rest are a mixed bag of acquaintances and colleagues (he's discounting relatives here of course! Ed). I'd receive emails from facebook telling me that someone I'd never heard of, and wouldn't know even if I fell over them in the street wanted to be my friend. I don't Facebook to find me mates. Friends are very special people, they are not uncle Tom Cobbly and all. One of the criteria in acknowledging someone as a friend should be that by doing so you automatically agree to lend them money, now see how many friends you have?. I'd check out the suggestions. I'd stream through a long list of people many of whom I didn't recognise. Facebook should have a 'Fuck off I've never heard of you' button. And then when I un-friended someone -you’ve all done it- because I couldn't bear to listen to their continual lacklustre comments. I had one friend who felt compelled to to leave a blow by blow account of her daily movements, I'd worry. Did they know? Could they tell?
Then I'd be faced with that question each time I logged in: What's on your mind? I'd occasionally try to be witty, sometimes it worked sometimes it didn't. I recently added a comical remark to a friend's comments and she completely took it the wrong way. I had to email her and clear up the confusion. There’s lots on my mind, but do other people really want to hear it? I doubt it. I tried in the early days to write meaningful stuff, make proper serious social comment but that simply attracted widowers... I mean weirdos.
Then there’s the serious side. A number of youngsters have committed suicide because of comments on facebook. Young girls have been chatted up by guys who later turn out to be sixteen stone, balding, lorry drivers from Crewe, no offence to sixteen stone, balding, lorry drivers from Crewe but you get my drift. Recently Facebook featured a beheading. It was a hundred and fifty years ago since we saw a public execution in the UK, what were they thinking?. Facebook is for posting pictures of fluffy cute animals, or photos of carrots that look phallic, or passing on trite homespun philosophies, or telling the world what a wonderful place it would be if only we could all get along.
Those that know me, know how to get in touch, those that don't.... well that’s probably for a reason
Wednesday 18th December 2013 Week 130 Spain.
Do you scare easy?
My my, the camp-site is reminiscent of the The Mary Céleste which, as most will know, is one of the greatest maritime mysteries of all time. On the 4th December 1872 she was found in the Atlantic Ocean, adrift and abandoned. She had carried an experienced crew. The weather was fine. She was in good seaworthy condition and still under sail heading toward Gibraltar. She carried six months supply of food and water. Her cargo along with the crews belongings, including valuables, were untouched . The ships clock had stopped and the compass was smashed. The crew were never heard of again. There were several theories which attempted to explained the crews fate. Mine, knowing what a superstitious bunch sailors are, is they abandoned ship because they believed it haunted. My reason for saying this is because, and this is not so commonly known, of what happened after. It's owner sold the ship after his father drowned while taking it back to the USA. Over the next 13 years she changed hands 17 times. Each time falling into further disrepair. The last owner, Captain Parker tried unsuccessfully to sink her for the insurance money. He drove it onto reefs, but even though the ship was holed it refused to sink. Panicking he then set it ablaze but even after the fire she remained intact and afloat. He was then charged with insurance fraud which carried the death penalty. Surprisingly he was found not guilty but died mysteriously three months later. The ship was left to the elements and eventually sank. 135 years later the wreckage of a ship was found at her last known coordinates but later research carried out, disputed she was the Mary Celeste.
Right well I kinda got sidetracked there, I didn’t set out to write about the Mary Celeste but that's how it goes sometimes.
I'm saying nothing.
The camp site is not as full as it has been on the two previous years we were here. Most of the Brits who camp here during winter are here, or will be here within the next month. It's the other Nationalities that are missing. While on route here, the east coast seemed to be doing a cracking trade, there where no shortages of campers. Mazarron, which was as lively as a tramps vest, was full to the gunnel’s of partying European octogenarians some staying up as late as 10.30 at night! You do need a mix of people to liven the place up a little. Consequently it's all a little slumberous, and when the sun doesn’t come out the attraction fades a little. We enthusiastically sang the praises of Pinar to several other British couples looking for a winter stopover during our travels, insisting Pinar had a kind of 24/7 carnival atmosphere, I'd now be a tad embarrassed if any turned up.
It would also seem this year the site is full of musicians, you can't move without hearing someone tuning something up. We've a Banjo player, a harmonica player, five or six guitarists, a couple of keyboard players and at least one drummer. All we now need is a couple of Violinists and we could start doing ELO covers...... not that we are in the band this year. (Think they had enough of us last year. Ed). Probably.
Thursday 19th December 2013 week 130 Spain
What’s in a name?
Do you like your name? I ask because I'm not a fan of my own. It's boring. All of it. I once asked my mother how she came by Phillip, she said she took it from a book she was reading at the time, she never said whether that was at my birth or my conception. It means lover of horses, apparently, which in my case is not wholly accurate. I tried riding a horse once. From the second I mounted the beast we both had quite differing ideas of how the whole experience was going to go. As I recall I spent most of my time shouting giddy-up and bouncing around in the saddle while it stood motionless and dined on the grass verge.
I'm not happy with my surname, King. It's just a single syllable. So, for example, if I'm waiting to be called and my head is somewhere else -which it often is- I'm quite likely to responded to anything that remotely sounds like King. They shout, say, Tompkin, I hear the 'kin' bit and think it's my turn. It's happened. Also, King, can make your Christian name sound like a verb, such as, Mark-king, Jack-king, Luke-king. Had I been called Joseph for example people could have greeted me thus: “You must be Joe king?”. Hilarious. Worse still, Wayne, and I'll let you work that out yourself. I was once mysteriously directed to a room full of policemen. This because my middle initial is C, so when I asked at the court desk for directions, the receptionist read P.C.King and assumed I was a member of the constabulary. I thought it odd when she asked me if I was staying for lunch. I had no idea 'driving with no road tax' cases could last that long. I declined.
I feel sorry for Kate and William because unlike most parents they hands are tied when it comes to naming the fruit of their loins. Us commoners have hundreds of names to choose from but not so royalty. Not for them a Tristan, Ethan or, Brooklyn. Nor even some of the more familiar boys names, Tom or Trevor for example, they simply lack royal gravitas. You just can't shout out: “long live King Kevin” without sniggering.
Within the top ten names for boys at the moment are some imaginative and impressive offerings. Oscar, Ethan, Noah, Jacob and Oliver. I particularly favour Ethan simply because it makes you're nine year old sound like a rogue CIA agent. Disappointingly after such a good start comes the lacklustre Jim. While the others sound like characters from apocalyptic films, Jim sounds like someone out of a Dickensian novel.
Six hundred years ago we only had Christian names, not surnames. People were know by their trade. John the smithy, Peter the baker for example. Same for Royalty. Kings had a adjective added to their name such as Alfred the Great, Edward the confessor, Edgar the peaceful, Ethelred the unsteady or unready, not sure which, Edward the Martyr and so on. This stopped abruptly when in 1016 King Cnut came to the throne. No one could think of a good adjective to use with Cnut. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and can be dangerously mispronounced once you’ve had a few glasses of mead. But it resumed briefly with Edward the confessor before it was scraped and they went in for the much simpler numbering system. Henry the I the II etc, all the way up to the Vlll. By 1400 we had started adopting surnames.
Your profession often dictated your surname. Names such as Archer, Baker, Carter, Cook, Carpenter, Farmer, Shepherd, Gardener, etc etc. Or perhaps where you lived. Peter by the forest became Peter Forest. Similar names would be Hill, Bush, Lake, Wood, Hall etc. Sometimes is was based on a personal characteristics such as Short, Brown, Black, Young, Long etc. Or the place or town you lived, Burton, London, Leighton, Sutton etc. A favourite was adding 'son' to your fathers name. So James, son of Peter, became Peterson which was sometimes shortened to just Peters.
My name, King, suggests either I'm the rightful heir to the throne (Not likely Ed) or that my early ancestors were in the service of the king. I'm guessing King Cnut's jester.
Friday 20th December 2013 week 130 Spain
What's on my mind
If I get to have my time again, (Not likely. Ed) I'm going to be a MP. (Even less likely. Ed). For a start, along with road sweepers, kitchen assistants and lavatory attendants it's the only other job I know that requires no qualifications, which might give me a problem as I have a 200 yards breaststroke swimming certificate so I could actually be over qualified. Bugger. You do need to master the art of answering a direct question with something other than a direct answer. Here's one of the trick questions you'll get asked at an MP selection event. Are you awake?. To which, being normal, you'd say... urm... awake?....well yes of course. Fail!. You should have answered thus: Well first you need to define the word awake. It can have any number of meanings. One of consciousness and or neurological activity. So the question, while it appears simple enough, needs to be quantified. Since I'm not suitably medically trained, venturing an answer at this stage may be seen as presumptuous. Notwithstanding the most common interpretation of the word it would be folly for me to make any predictions as to what state I may, or may not be in...... Bingo! you're in! Ideally you also need to have a shaky moral compass. This is because it'll enable you to pledge your loyalty to the party leader, and the whip, and forget all those election promises you made to the people that voted for you. If you don’t, or can't, then it's a life on the back benches for you. The rest is a gravy train.
Pay is £65k pa, plus a £65k tax free relocation allowance. Subsidised housing and mortgages and a very generous expense account. Now on that subject, claiming your expenses can be a minefield. This is where an NVQ in expense claiming would really come in handy. As these Honourable gentleman found out. David Chaytor, Eric Illsley, Denis MacShane and Margaret Moran who between them got it wrong to the tune of £140,000. But all's not lost if you do get caught, I mean get it wrong, sorry. Two Lords, who had done porridge for 'getting it wrong' are today still claiming the daily £300 tax free parliamentary allowance. Interestingly, Lord Hanningfield suggested he knows fifty Lords who only turn up for 'work' simply to claim their £300 a day attendance fee, it's called 'clocking in' He's a wag.
The good news is a pay rise is on the cards. The Tories terrified of being seen as greedy created a review body, The IPSA, to look at the whole issue of MP's pay. However to no ones surprise, least of all themselves and everyone in the country, it suggested a whacking hike. A jump from the current £1.276 pounds a week to a maximum of £1.604. If you are an actual minister you get double that. Well of course there are a few red faces. Even Tory millionaires can see it's a tad embarrassing, especially when the country is getting poorer. So the IPSA have suggested they could cut some of the perks such as the £65,000 resettlement grants, the £15 daily dinner allowance, the free taxis after 11 pm and free TV licences. They have also suggested that claims for MPs biscuits should no longer be allowed. What!. That’s one bridge too far. Pay for my own Hob Nobs? You're having laugh right?. Sod that. I Take it back. I'll choose another career.
Right well I don’t want to end on a sour note, it's not all bad news. I was cheered up to read the number of millionaires in the country, according to one report, has doubled in the last two years and an additional thirty two billionaires have been created under this government, so it's not all doom and gloom this gov is at least getting something right.
Have a good weekend.