This week in bigger pixs
Monday 5th May 2014 week 150 England
Thanks for the memory.
A quick word of thanks to the many people.......(How many? Ed). Okay. A quick word of thanks to both the readers who were kind enough to email me travel information about darkest Albania and Montenegro. I had thought, after reading a shed load of bad press, of taking a detour and avoiding those countries but I'm happy to report that with the new info that's come to light we have reset our compass and will stick with our original route. Cheers.
One reader gave me the name of a web site which he said 'I may find useful'. He wasn't wrong. However it quickly depressed me. It documented, in quite some detail, a couple's travels around Europe in a motor-home, humm sound familiar?. It was good. Bloody good. Well laid out, packed full of handy tips and useful advice. Basically then, everything this web diary isn’t......... fuck!. This chap really knows his eggs!. I pointed it out to Hazel who immediately logged on and started reading it.
“There’s a lot of very useful information here”, she said
“Yes I know” I said.
“This is interesting, what they’ve said about Albania”.
“Very” I said.
“I like the way they have laid out.........”
“Yes, well, point taken. I muttered. I guess its okay if you like that kinda thing”.
“What?...you mean..... a web site full of useful information?”
“Too much, I said philosophically, is as bad as too little”
“Right. Well, how do I add it to my favourites?” She asked.
“Dunno I've forgotten”. I replied sulkily.
Fair to say ole matey boy never had anything this cool on his website.
And then I spotted something familiar. An account he'd written of how he took offence at being told to get off his bike in Spain. He was in a royal park at the time. I've been there, and unlike me, he didn't read, or take note, of the NO CYCLING signs at the entrance. Apparently it was the way he was told he didn’t much care for. However rather than simply apologise and defuse the situation, it escalated. Photos were taken of the offending park warden, for identification purposes, should it end up an international incident I guess, and a formal complaint was lodged with the tourist information office who immediately promoted the park-warden to head of palace security. -I doubt they did. I'd just like to think they did-
Anyway, it then suddenly occurred to me. I know this chap. Couple years ago he came across my web site and emailed me. I remember what he said: 'There’s an awful lot on your web site that I could fundamentally disagree with'. And I thought, bloody cheek! Who asked you for your two pennies worth? Not bloody me.
Remembering all this made me feel a whole lot better.
Tuesday 6th May 2014 week 150 England
Keep taking the tablets
Over the weekend we found a gem of a camp site in Cherry Hinton on the edge of the historic city of Cambridge. The camp site was once a busy chalk quarry. Today its an oasis of charm and tranquillity. Yesterday, mid afternoon, we were both a little surprised to see a fox stroll casually though the camp site as if it hadn't a care in the world. Clearly, now fox hunting is banned, they don’t feel the necessity to hide quite as much.
Just five minutes from town, you'd have never thought so.
The chap who ushered us to our pitch was particularly jolly and so enthusiastic you would have thought he was on something illegal, or at least was abusing his own medication. How do I know he's on medication you ask?. Fair question. I know because he's of an age. I'm of that age. Its one of the great truisms of life that when you reach a certain age your doctor will prescribe you something. You may have never known you needed it. You may have walked in to his surgery feeling as fit as a fiddle and blissfully unaware your body could explode at any minute but all that changes the minute you leave, prescription in hand. You're now charged with having to take a tablet each day that will serve to remind you, each time you take it, of your own mortality. I was told three years ago my cholesterol was running amok. I explained to the doctor, slightly bemused at hearing this, that I didn’t eat butter, nor cream. I only drank semi skimmed. I brought 'Low' everything. I'd religiously steered away from processed foods, Christ! I'd once toyed with the idea of buying Hazel edible underwear but didn't as I couldn't find any that were low fat. - He didn't laugh. I soon changed doctors - So how could this be? It was then I discovered my body, like yours, makes its own cholesterol and mine makes too much of the wrong type. I could have had the dietary habits of a rabbit my entire life and yet my cholesterol would still have been outta whack. So that was it.
The only real benefit of taking a pill daily, especially one that has no obvious effect, i.e: I can't leap tall buildings once I've taken it, is that because the days of the week are printed on the packaging they do make for a rather excellent mini calender.
Turns out that half the tablets doled out are not prescribed to help people recover from illness but are issued to alter peoples internal 'workings'. It's assumed, by doctors, that everyone’s internals should be in synchronisation with everyone else’s. I'm a sceptic. Our cholesterol, our blood pressure, our levels of this or that hormone and our heart rates should all be the same, or least within a very narrow optimum range. They believe this even though they know we are all quite different. A pill may work well on one person but not on another. Some suffer side effects, but not all. Doctors are none the wiser why that should be. Prescribe a 'placebo', and some people can actually get better and its not even a real tablet!. Again doctors are not sure of the mechanism at work there. Some races are more susceptible to some illnesses while some races only get certain illness. Why that is, research has yet to answer. Some illnesses are simply put down to genetics. You may do all the right things with your heath but that’s still no guarantee of longevity. If 'spontaneous combustion' runs in the family then it would pay to carry a fire extinguisher.
This fine tuning of our bodies has made the pharmaceutical companies the wealthiest on the planet and seemingly given doctors the power to prolong our lives . We put our faith in these people, we call them the experts, they know some of the answers and their advice is gospel. Yet I know, they are just as fallible as the mechanic who services my car.
Still, I'll keep taking the pill.................... just in case.
Wednesday 7th May 2014 week 150 England
Occasionally I revisit a diary entry from our first year, and by the way the book, which is an amusing and yet wildly interesting look at our first year on the road, is going swell and will soon be ready to download, in the meantime here’s an entry from it.
On the way back from town this morning I almost cashed in my chips. A dramatic rear tyre blow out. My own fault, I was going too fast on the rough road back to the camp site. I swerved violently as the rear instantly deflated. I had zero grip as alloy met tarmac. The back end slewed around and I fought for control. Bits of my life flashed before my eyes. Some of it, I'd completely forgotten about, which was nice!.........Other bits I wish I had. However through skilful steering and deft toe and heel pedal work I was able to bring the wayward machine under control. Who'd have thought riding a bike could be so dangerous? not me......... Its enough to make you rush out and buy a helmet -only joking-
Talking of bikes. If you're considering undertaking this type of adventure here’s a piece of advice: don’t come to the continent on a ebay £99 special you'll only be laughed at. (Just remind us again,, where you got yours from?, Ed). Hardly relevant to the story, luv.
Bikes over here are serious bits of kit. The Europeans take their cycling very seriously. The roads are full of cyclists dressed in multi coloured, body hugging, spandex. And unlike the UK, in Europe, cyclists are shown and given respect on the road. Besides knock a cyclist off his bike in Holland, and quite frankly, you'll be shown about the same leniency, in court, as a paedophile.
Taken in Cambridge at the weekend...... shows I have too much time on my hands.
The Dutch and Germans have the best bikes. Hulking great sturdy things. Manufactured from the same material as second world war Panzer tanks. Designed, not so much to get you around the park on a Sunday afternoon, but to cross continents. They positively bristle with ingenuity and features. These are bikes people circumnavigate the globe on when they're stuck for something to do on a weekend. I have witnessed, slab sided elderly ladies cycle up near vertical inclines effortlessly on these things. Unfortunately the down side is they cost about the same as a Ford Fiesta.
Anyway, after my kiss with death I needed a new tyre. The old one now resembled one of those lorry treads you seen abandoned on motorways. I purchased the imaginatively named Cheetah triple Maxxx This spelt, as you can see, with two extra x's, so it must be good. The packaging informs me it was an all terrain tyre with added knobbly bits and proudly boasted: Suitable for long trips. So presumably they also make a tyre for short trips. I can't imagine what the difference could be. I picked up an inner tube at the same time. The blurb on that box stated: 'Holds pressure long time'. Since it was manufactured in Vietnam, the country from which the phrase: 'Me love you long time' comes from, it seemed appropriate. Price for the whole lot £14.63. Struck me as a bargain.
In the bike shop Hazel found me lusting after a particular sexy looking machine until she found the price label, a sphinter shrivelling 2999 Euros, Christ! I've brought cars for half that and they came with ash trays.......... some even had working windscreen wipers.
Thursday 8th May 2014 week 150 England
What's on my mind?.
Britain is changing, which was always inevitable, after all nothing stays the same, much as some would like it to. However it's the rate of change that surprises many. Take Peterborough. In the late seventies it was a small sleepy provincial city of just 71.000, on the edge of the Fens. The kind of quintessential market town that John Betchamin wrote poems about. Employment, then, was dominated buy four large companies and the farming and processing of sugar beat.
In the late seventies the city expanded under careful management. Several thousand 'council' homes were built and Londoners were encouraged to move there, I was one of them. Arriving was akin to stepping back in time. It was like moving in with The Waltons. Locals had a charming naivety about them and us city slickers were viewed, initially, with some suspicion, and it's true we thought ourselves a little more sophisticated.
Up until our arrival the city did have a large Italian community. Many came to work in the London brick pits after the war. There were a few Polish and a relatively small, but growing, Asian community. The ethic mix was about right. Importantly, no one felt threatened and we all got on with the job of earning a crust. It remained that way until the millennium.
Today Peterborough has a population of just under a quarter of a million. It's reported, by the council, that 103 languages are spoken here. Only a little over half of the population, six of out ten, are classified as 'white British.' -This from the 2013 Census-
While there last week I shopped in New England, an area within Peterborough, which is now home to some 27,000 eastern Europeans. I heard it said in a local radio interview that this influx had brought colour, life and vitality to an otherwise economically dull part of Peterborough, which is a valid point, but those remarks come easy when you don’t have to live there, amongst the overcrowding. Nor with unscrupulous landlords exploiting tenants, and the housing benefits system.
The old fella crossing the photo is walking on the fountains which will come on any minute, Its why the ground is wet, you goota luv em!
What is obvious is that the social infrastructure of the town isn’t equipped to cope and has lagged behind the rapid population growth. There isn't a single area: health, schooling, benefits, accommodation which isn't reportedly over stretched. There are 6,000 families, almost 16,000 people, on the social housing register and this is in a city where, thanks to government intervention, the council is no longer required to build social housing.
There has been some racially motivated trouble. But this, almost exclusively, has been between the various ethic groups. It would seem some arrive in Britain and sadly bring with them their own cultural prejudices for one another and other races. And many come from countries with very few immigrants, its something of a culture shock for them too.
Of course the vast majority come to better their lot in life, work hard and raise families. But historically first generation migrant workers get the worse of everything: pay, housing and jobs and on top of that have to bear the resentment of a growing section of the population and I don’t know if they were ready for that.
I have no malice towards anyone. I respect anyone out to make their own way in the world, good luck to them. But the resentment felt by many Brits is not born out of some racial dislike for migrant workers, but for an inept government that expounds the benefits of multiculturalism without understanding the practicalities of actually having to live in one. And frankly, if I hear one more politician bang on about the British characteristic of being a tolerant nation, I'm going to prove him wrong by shooting the twat!.
We are not! at least no more so than any other nation.
No entry for tomorrow so you all have a good weekend.