This week in Bigger pictures

Monday 20th January 2014 week 135 Spain

    Weekend. (Part one)

    Fun weekend? Had a laugh? Get out at all? Good. Us? Well we stayed in. Had to, no choice. I expect many people imagine we enjoy an idyllic lifestyle partying 24/7, liqueured up on cheap plonk, laying out in the Sun, one merry jape after another but it's rarely like that. Take this weekend, it's been raining since Thursday and only stopped yesterday. Now take my word for this, but there are few places quite as grim as a rain soaked, wind swept camp site in winter, even a Spanish one. Now I know what you're going to say: 'That's no hardship Phil!' and you'd be quite right, it's not. But, on the other hand, you've not been holed up for four days in something no bigger than your bathroom. You have rooms to wander into, stairs you can climb, a bed you can relax on without first having to build it. Space to swing the proverbial cat. In short, you've got 21st century creature comforts and not some short hand version of them. On a camp site when the weather is pants there’s little you can do but batten down the hatches, hope the sealant holds and the awning stays put.

Meet Edward. Doh!! he's climbing on the furniture again, The little monkey.

   Now if you're cooped up in a confined space for days, take it from me, this it when it pays to have a grown up hobby or interest. Apparently, looking for new apps for your cell phone doesn’t count, nor does trying to learn to juggle oranges. If you don't have something that occupies your time you could soon start talking to yourself, or worse still, watching daytime soaps via satellite, urgh. And you’ll soon start to wonder what your cell mate...., sorry, I mean soul mate, is thinking, sitting there knitting, maybe plotting. Who knows. Needles clacking away. 

    “What are you knitting? I call above the noise of the rain pummelling the van roof.

    “It's a bear”.

    “A bare what?” I ask, as her answer strikes me as somewhat cryptic.

    “No, a bear, a teddy bear”.

    “Why are you knitting a bear? you've not taken to knitting friends now have you?”

    “Idiot!. It's for someone’s baby”.

    She tells me the someone's name but, being a bloke, I instantly forget it. I turn my attention to the rain outside. Check the repair on the window for the twentieth time. The puddles outside are now growing into Olympic sized pools. I'm reminded of that phrase: The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain and reason this is because they don’t do drains, least not like us and not around here. A wave of rain laden clouds scurry across the sky as if they've somewhere more important to be. I spy the German man, Peter. He's braving the inclement weather with his dog. He needs the loo. The dog not Peter. He's wearing a cute yellow rain coat, again the dog not Peter. A few days ago he and his wife Heidi threw a birthday party for their dog. We went. They said the dog was old and perhaps time was not on his side. “Zo vee make him happy viza party” said Heidi. The dog looked singularly unimpressed. Clearly it doesn’t realise it's living on borrowed time. I was a bit sad. Not because of the dog but because it's becoming quite apparent that even animals get birthday parties around here. So that’s now five birthdays and only four parties. But still, whose counting?.

    I take another look out the window. It's bleak. We're not going anywhere today. I decided to get out the lap top and write. See what comes.

    I'll tell you tomorrow, what does.




   Tuesday 21st January 2014 week 135 Spain

    Weekend (part two)

    I start to write ….......

    I leapt out of bed this morning at nine forty. I say leapt out of bed but that's not really true. It's simply not possible to leap in a motor-home. Even if you spend 100 grand on a A-class German thing which is both the size of the Bismark and has a name which befits it's price tag, The landscaper Star Liner, or The Excelsior millennium falcon 1000. Even in these behemoths leaping out of bed you tend, much like a ball in a bagatelle machine, to ricochet off the fridge, the cupboard, the door and table before coming to a slightly stunned rest in the so called dinette area. Oddly, and this is just an observation, if you spend say just thirty odd grand for one it'll be called The Jiffy or Compact. Its a fact of life that the more costly a vehicle the longer and more glamorous the name. I'd like to get an old builders Transit, shove a hob and bed in it and name it The Galaxy Equinox Overland cruiser GT7000-plus, just to annoy owners of these pretentiously named vehicles.

Noooooo, its not me. I've used it for illustrative purposes only

    I stop writing. It's a good start, but I don't know where to go with it..... I was thinking of writing about sleep but I seem to have gone off on a tangent. Which I do all the time. I'm not sure if it's a gift or a burden. I wanted to waffle on about how much better I now sleep and point to one of the benefits of this lifestyle. Back in civvy street I was always half asleep. Once, walking past the notice board of a company I was the manager of I spied, amongst the faded memos, a photo of myself asleep at my desk. Some wag had sneaked in and took it. It was good humoured......

    In the early hours, one morning several years ago, I fell asleep at a set of traffic lights waiting for them to change. I was awoken by a policeman who thought I'd died. I've also driven across a roundabout because I'd nodded off. And I'm not talking about one of those dustbin lid sized roundabouts, the ones we all drive over because we can't be arsed to steer around them, nope, I'm talking about a roundabout that had grass and flowers....... Had, being the operative word. Fair to say I was wide awake by the time I bounced off the other side. I also once fell asleep on a train. I awoke to find an attractive lady had taken a seat opposite me. Normally in such circumstances I try to come across as cool and handsome. However I was scuppered on this occasion because, as I became fully awake I discovered I'd dribbled down my suit jacket while I was asleep.

    It's a known fact that as you get older you require more sleep, ask any judge. Older people sleep as much as children and almost as much as teenagers, but not as long as Koala Bears which sleep for twenty two hours a day. Hang on a moment... had a thought.

    “Its not a Koala Bear you're knitting is it?” I ask.    

    “A what?...”.


    “No. Just a regular bear. Why'd you ask?”.

    “No reason, I'm writing about them that’s all”

    “You are, why?

    “Erm.... dunno?

    Interestingly if you have a problem falling asleep recent research has shown that looking at pictures of other people already asleep helps you nod off. That's weird. But for total weirdness, and this I promise you is true, it's been found that shining a light on the back of your knees can change your sleep cycle. Why this is scientists have no idea.

    OK, that enough, I'm off. It's stopped raining.




Wednesday 22nd January week 135 Spain

    How to be sexy (Men only).

    When Hazel can't undo a jar lid she'll yell out: “Phil, I need a man”. To which I reply, being the wag that I am, “I'll go fetch one”. Seriously, it's like this all the time in our home.

    If women are at one end of the scale and men at the other then I'm somewhere in between. I'm a guy, a bloke, not a man. There's a huge difference. Guys actually make up 85% of the male population. Now don't get me wrong, I'm in no way effeminate, at least I don't think I am although I do like shopping.... a lot. (He's not. Ed). See, I'm a normal bloke. (Well lets not slip into the realm of fantasy just yet luv. Ed).

 A Man

The other day I slipped on my chunky cable knit jumper and Hazel said: “I like you wearing that”, which was her way of saying I looked sexy. (Hunky is the more preferred word. Ed). Possibly, but I like sexy. She thinks this because she was brought up on 70's knitting patterns. These always featured macho looking chaps holding either a pipe or a lobster pot and all wearing chunky knit jumpers. She was convinced this was what a real dude should look like, manly and warm. Boys had the Freeman’s catalogue. The Freeman’s catalogue was the closest a young lad could get to a girly magazine unless he knew where his Dad stashed his Parade. The freaky thing about Parade, back then, was that most of the ladies featured were about your mums age. Scary.

    No to be a Man you have to fill a certain criteria. You need to hunt, and ideally eat what you've hunted. More kudos to you if you eat it raw, which by definition means you're either in the SAS, or stupid, or both. The only thing I've ever hunted is my car keys. -Handy Hint number 289: when looking for your car keys start in the fridge, trust me-. Real Men have five o’clock shadow by lunch time and have names like Todd, Jack or Chuck, always single syllable. They never check the temperature of water before diving in and never just jump in. They all play some sport. I don't, unless ping-pong has been elevated to a contact sport which I doubt. Men normally work in an industry where say, if a limb gets chewed off in an industrial accident, they're be expected to finish their shift before seeking medical attention. They also have tattoos in incredibly painful places, like the scrotum and have piercings. They have at least one scar they got in a bar room brawl. They've been in a car wreck (ideally in a pick up truck for maximum macho points) where they were impaled on a wooden post for several hours but managed to take a photo of the wound and post it on facebook while they waited for an ambulance to arrive.

I don't know what the Fuck was going on here.

    Working in my favour, so Hazel tells me, I don't have any of the icky habits some Men seem to relish. She has a point. I'm house trained. Which all leads me to a recent poll which points to the ten things a Man does, without knowing, that makes him sexy to women.

    1, Rolling up his sleeves.

    2, Adjusting his tie or watch.

    3, Making prolonged eye contact.

    4, Lean toward a women when she's talking to him.

    6, Supporting himself on a door frame while talking to a women.

    7, Scratching his beard.

    8, When turning his head raise an eyebrow.

    9, Hold a baby. (not by its legs)

    10, Wear chunky knit sweaters. (OK this ones mine)

    Right I'm off to practice.





  Thursday 23rd January week 135 Spain

    Lost dreams

    Crickey! week number 135, that’s a long time to be doing anything. Thankfully I don’t think we've lost any of that sense of adventure we felt back at week one. This even though we've seen more European walled cities than your average medieval crusader. I'd would have thought, by now, our interest might be waning, but no. The thing is, I've wanted to travel and seek adventure since my failed attempt to run away from home back when I was a boy. Hummm.... best explain that a little.

    Back in the late 60's a programme called Route 66 took to the small screen. It featured two characters, Tod Styles and Buz Murdock who were two socially conscious knights of the road. Each week they drove across America in their Corvette looking for adventure. They'd stop at different towns, get temporary jobs, girls and get involved in all manner of high jinks!. (He doesn’t really talk like this. Ed). Shush! In one memorable episode they fell foul of a gang of Hells Angels who were up to no good, as Hells Angels are apt to be. Now even though our heroes were two handsome young chaps (See pic) and the Hells Angels were ugly mother fuckers (Language Phillip!Ed) our heroes beat them up. Which is odd because you normally find ugly people fight much better than good looking people. I have a theory as to why this is. I think its because ugly people have nothing to lose, feature wise. If you have a face like a bag of spanners fighting won't make it any worse. Anyhow, I digress. Our two adventurers weekly explored the 60's growing social problems in the USA. They reject the post-war American dream of the little white box, set in the suburbs and explored a vanishing America with its diverse, but disappearing, culture. As an aside: Its reported the show doubled Corvette sales at the time.

Buzz & Todd

     Ok, back to the point. My best mate and I were huge fans of the programme and we wanted that life style. We wanted the freedom, the adventure..... the girls, but not the fighting. We wanted it so much, that we decided to chase our dream, run away from home and take to the open road, or as it turned out, Epping Forest. So at tender age of 13, on a cold February morning, I crept out of bed, left my house and mounted my bike. First stop? my mates house to collect him. We then cycled across London, a distance of fifteen miles, to Epping Forest. We'd been there many times before, camping. Our plan was to pitch up the tent, make a cup of tea,  eat a packet of Garibaldi's, get our heads down and dream of what adventures awaited us. As small boy plans go, it's not such a bad one. 

    Unfortunately we hit a snag en route, the bill. At three in the morning we were resting on a bench at the top of Chingford Mount having ridden up it, when a police car pulled up. Within one minute of talking to us the policeman suddenly said: 

    “you've run away from home lads, haven't you?”. -I think he later went on to become the best detective in the world-

    “No”, I said indignantly, “We're going camping”. 

    “At three in the morning?”.

    “Well we wanted to make an early start”, I ventured.  

    He then asked us who else would go camping in February. Even I had to admit that was a good question and not one I had a ready answer for. He took our names and addresses and drove off. We realised at that point it was now hopeless. Our dreams of becoming the English version of Tod and Buz were doomed. So we decided to head back, besides we'd just given him our correct names and addresses. Even we could see we'd be found in no time.

    I never tried it again.




 Friday 24th January 2014 Week 135 Spain.

    What's on my mind

    We can all agree the worlds going to hell in a hand cart, yes? The good old days, those between 1955 & 1985, were as it's turned out the good old days for us all, we just didn't know it at the time. Before and after, has been pretty much down hill. Now I recently posed the question: what will the youth of today look back on with nostalgic fondness? Since asking it I've given it some thought and came up with - bugger all. So I've taken a peak at the news headlines from the future, the 16th of March 2055 to be precise, to see if they throw any light on it and was...., well you read them.

    The government enquiry into the nuclear accident at Sellafield, which has already cost the British tax payer ten billion, enters it's second year. The accident, the worst in the history of the nuclear power industry, cost the lives of three million people and has rendered large parts of Cumbria uninhabitable. The nuclear cloud, which reached mainland Europe, has since been blamed for the dramatic rise in the the number of cancer cases.

Sellafield 2 was built on the site of the original plant which closed in 2020. NuGen, a consortium headed by Japan's Toshiba Corp, Spain’s Iberdrola and the French utility company GDF built the power station in 2031. -NuGen is the wholly foreign owned company building nuclear power stations in the UK today- The accident at Sellafield 2 has been the subject of numerous court cases, three books and two films. It went into melt down on the evening of the 12th December 2044. A four year trial, which saw all three companies cleared of Corporate manslaughter, found that human error was to blame.


  The Last remaining high street shop has finally closed it's door. The well known company, Hobbs and Watts which opened it's doors in 2025, said in a press statement: The steady decline in high street shopping which started at the turn of the century, was the reason for the closure. It just wasn't viable to keep the stores open. Over the last 40 years we have witnessed a total switch to internet shopping. People simply no longer venture into town centres,as they once did, just to shop.

    Fuel rationing will not be lifted after talks broke down between The United States of Europe and OPEC. The oil producing countries are attempting to ration their shrinking oil reserves. They said: oil production will remain at 2020 levels. China, a country of 3 billion people which consumes half of the worlds total oil output, is holding separate talks. The British Ministry of Resources said this will affect about 30% of British motorists who still drive non green vehicles, and rationing books for March will be issued as planned. On a positive note however scientists are confident that people may soon be able to venture outside without wearing UV protective clothing, the result, they say, of lowering pollution levels and the stabilisation of the ozone layer.

    New Figures released today showed another fall in life expectancy. Forty years ago life expectancy reached it's peak, but has consistently fallen since then. This had prompted calls from opposition parties to lower the retirement age to 55. Back in 2010 the World Health Organisation warned about the dangers of mutant viruses becoming resistant to antibiotics. Illnesses which were easily cured by taking a weekly course of antibiotics are now proving fatal, as antibiotics have little of no effect on the many resistant viruses today.

    The Microsoft Corporation has released Windows 78. The operating system is fully intelligent and has it's own personality. Microsoft said it will learn from the owners inputs, web searches, emails etc and will adapt itself to become his or her friend, colleague, confidant, associate and advisor. Unfortunately it still has a keyboard. When asked about this an official from Microsoft said that the 'Alt', 'Alt Gr', and 'sysRq' keys were still a bloody mystery to them so felt they had to keep the keyboard just in case someone out there knew how to use them.

    You have a good weekend



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