Weekly read 156
Monday 16th June 2014 Week 156 Germany
Check out the week number and do the maths. Yep, 156 makes three years, this week, we've been bumming around Europe.
They say travel broadens the mind and I can certainly vouch for that. For a start, I now know my way around Europe. Before, if asked what countries would I need to cross to get into Finland?, shamefully, I wouldn't have had much of a clue. Now I can rattle them off with the consummate ease of a seasoned traveller. Not only that, I'm also able to point out that a trip to Finland is a total waste of anyone’s time since the most exciting thing about the country is actually leaving it. (Apart from Helsinki. Ed). True.
What the past three years has taught me is just how small Europe it is. And, even though I've never been a fan of the European Union, I've now come around the conclusion it will be a sad day if we opt out and isolate ourselves from our neighbours. They do have a lot to offer us. Sure, it needs reforming and de-clawing but not abandoning. But either way, I have to ask, does it really matter? Sitting here, typing this, I'm surrounded by trees that have been around a lot longer than me, or you, so that kinda puts things in perspective.
We estimated yesterday we've visited a hundred camp-sites. The number that wild horses couldn't drag me back to, even if they were free and threw in topless pole dancing in the evenings, would number less than ten. Most have been fair to good, and a few excellent. This camp-site has raised the bar another notch and is a fitting site for us to celebrate our three years on the road in.
It's set in a small logging valley surrounded by forest. Meandering through the site is the kind of picturesque stream you only see in Disney films. The place is immaculate and quite charming in a wooden-hut-ski-lodge type way. Unlike other camp-sites we've visited, here you get a complete wet-room, tastefully decorated with trendy fittings and underfloor heating, to yourself. Its the kind of bathroom you see in upmarket magazines in doctors surgeries. I doubt we'll find anything better. But we are in Germany so who knows. The site also benefits from an outdoor heated pool which is filled, free wifi which is lightning fast and a special doggy bath, a first.
On arrival we were given a free bus and rail pass called a Konus guest card. Later, using it, we went into town. The bus arrived on time and dropped us in Freudenstadt. We shopped, found a tyre outlet (Re. blow-out on the way here. Ed) and stuffed out faces with massive ice creams. Three hours later we caught the bus back. This time the driver was a pretty, slim, young blonde wearing aviator sun glasses. She'd have looked more at home in a pop video than at the helm of a bus. She impressively manoeuvred the huge bus through the town with far more success than she was having at controlling her fringe. I noticed she was constantly adjusting it each time we stopped. When we boarded we asked for the camping-platz stop. Once out of town the bus hurtled along. We shot past the hotel which we'd passed on the way in. I knew our stop was next, just around the bend. She showed no sighs of slowing down as we approached. We took the bend and the camp-site turning was in view, I quickly got to my feet realising she'd forgotten this was our stop. Seeing me standing she slammed on the anchors and a dozen very surprised octogenarians all slid around their seats. She just made the lay-by.
None of which did much for her fringe.
Tuesday 17th June 2014 week 156 Germany
It's all different.
I said to Hazel, as we crossed the French border into Germany the other day, it's nice to be back. I've always found something reassuring about being in Germany. They're by nature efficient. I doubt they know any other way to be. They just seem to do things right and following the rules is the norm. It's infectious as well. Take something as simple as crossing the road. In the UK I regularly slap death in the face by crossing where-ever and when-ever I want, but not here. Here I wait, sometimes for ages. Often there’s no traffic on the horizon but we all wait patiently until the little man turns green. I do it because I don’t want to be the odd one out, besides, you know they'll only write you off as the local 'dorftrottel', (Village idiot. Ed) if you do.
Yesterday, we took the motor-home in to have two new rear tyres fitted. Now I can normally get a good deal of 'material' from garages. In my experience they're all pretty hopeless. I've many anecdotes cataloguing my misadventures at the hands of British garages. I've come to realise that, just like standing in a church doesn’t make you a man of the cloth, holding a wench in a garage doesn’t make you a mechanic. ( He means wrench, but it was too funny to correct. Ed) A classic Freudian mistake, luv.
I once took my car in to have the spark plugs changed -amongst other things- only to find when I returned they hadn't bothered.
“But that’s why I brought the car in” I exclaimed, I asked for them to be changed”.
“Yeah, well, I can see your point mate but the mechanic didn't think they needed changing”.
“Really? me asking for them to be changed wasn't enough of a heads up?”.
Some were downright dangerous, like the garage that fitted new brake pads to my car, only the wrong way round.
“You've put the brake pads in the wrong way around!” I exclaimed down the phone.
“No...... getaway, we haven't....... have we?, really? Doh! you can't get the staff these days” the guy said stifling a giggle. Then there’s the actual criminal. Like the time I was told I needed to have a rusted brake pipe replaced, cost? £200. This even though modern brake pipes are alloy, and alloy doesn’t rust. The car subsequently breezed through two more MOT's and two services and not a whisper about brake pipes.
I have lots more anecdotes but I think my point's made, besides, I bet you have a shed full yourself. I should say what they all had in common was, with only one exception, they were all with large national garage chains. Make of that what you will.
So yes I can always poke fun, and not always mischievously, at garages. But this is Germany, how would they deal with me? Well the whole experience went off without a hitch. The staff were professional, courteous, and as I expected very efficient. On top of this the garage was spotless, you'd have thought all the mechanics were ladies. In short they provided me with no 'material' at all. As we left they gave us a free gift and wished us a cheery 'Und gute Fahrt'.
Now that’s service!
Wednesday 18th June 2014 Week 156 Germany
Become a millionaire thanks to me.
Imagine this. A slim attractive girl, probably wearing a flowery Laura Ashley dress, is running through a meadow barefoot. The sunlight catching her hair. Close behind is the man of her dreams. He's tall, chisel jawed, has a six pack, a full head of hair and designer stubble. (Not you then. Ed). No. I lost it on tall, let alone all the other qualifications.
Strings are playing in the background. He catches her. She turns and giggles coquettishly. They fall into each others arms and embrace. He lifts and spins her around. A voice announces. Amour, by Armonde, for the women in you.
Ok if that doesn’t do the trick, try this: A girl, wearing a mini skirt and a saucy smile, is pictured climbing into a Renault Clio in the early hours of the morning. The camera switches to a tall chisel jawed, six packed blah blah blah dude lying spread eagled on a bed. A white sheet strategically covers his one bit and two bobs. The voice over announces. Charlie, by Else St Adame, for the girl in you.
That, in the main, is how perfume is sold to women. Advertisers either create some idyllic romantic fantasy or hint that you can be bit of a slut and get away with it.
With men it's all quite different. Neither of those ads would work. Gone is the romantic imagery and the caddish behaviour. Advertisers know that before you can actually get to spin a girl around in a field like an idiot, or find yourself in an empty bed with the sound of a car engine disappearing over the horizon you've first got to attract one, and that’s the tough bit. With men the advertisers have to come at this entirely differently.
Swiss army moutain water, for that dank soldier whiff.
Since remarkably few men have a chisel jaws, six packs, designer stubble or a full head of hair they'll pick some weedy nerdy type whose far more representative of us normal chaps. They then surround him with half a dozen hot leggy girls who, once they get a whiff of his aftershave, start a cat fight to decided whose going to bed him. Of course this washes over us blokes. We're not daft, only some of us. We're not sold on this image beside, we've all tried it. We know, smell alone, is not what it takes to pull a female. No. It takes charm, wit and clean underwear.
But this doesn’t stop the manufactures of aftershaves and deodorants implying their products will make women weak at the knees. And so it appeals to our sense of manliness they give them ridiculous names. Here's a few: Fire and Ice. Zero Masculine Black. Only the Brave. Villain for Men. Star Walker. Team Force. Brute. Deep Energy and the oddly, named Mickey Mouse by Disney. Finally, and my favourite daft name, Swiss Army Mountain Water'. Ideal if you're out to smell like a puddle. I imagine some guy getting his date back to his pad and her saying, “Can I smell drains?”.
Anyways it's all academic because regardless of the name, none work. There is only one odour that turns women into putty. One that she will not be able to get enough of. One that will have her following you around like a doe eyed puppy and this is where the Millionaire Opportunity comes in, because I've discovered it. Yes, and you can have it if you promise to cut me in on the profits. And it's so simple. It's been under our noses, and hers, since the dawn of time. What is it? The odour of a freshly bathed baby. Women can't resist it.
Lather yourself in that, and you could probably kick the whole 'throwing her around in a field' into touch.
Thursday 19th June 2013 week 156 German
What’s it costing?
I receive emails, periodically, asking me what this lifestyle costs us. Most of the enquires are from nice people considering a similar life of travelling and some are from people who are well, just plain nosey. But I don't care, I'll tell anyone anything, which is more than what can be said for some. When I was planning this trip, three years ago, I contacted people who were already 'on the road' and asked them about their costs. I might just as well have asked about their sex life. They clammed up. Wanted to know who I was?. Who did I work for? Had I any connection, past or present, with anyone working for the Scunthorpe DHSS? When I said whoa! No!, they told me to sling my hook and mind my own business. One's finances, much like one's sexual practices, are a seemingly taboo subject.
Just as an aside, and having hinted at a taboo subjects, and also in an attempt to make today’s entry mildly interesting and or amusing, I recently heard someone talking about paedophiles. They described one as a 'creepy paedophile'. The thought occurred to me that calling someone a paedophile was bad enough without first prefixing it with the word 'creepy'. It almost implies there may be some nice ones out there, which I doubt..
Back to the plot. Today I'm publishing my three year end fiscal report. I think this makes for fascinating reading (Really? Ed). I tried to think of an interesting and amusing way to write it, but there isn't one. But I'm confident some will find it very helpful.
See if a bit of glamour helps to perk up an otherwise boring entry.
FUEL: Year one £1832, year two £1806 and last year £1830. Amazing its practically not changed in three years and yet totally different routes each time. Go figure?
FOOD: Year one £2627, year two £2631 and last year £2812. Again hardly any difference to speak of. If you are a non-drinker you'll save a shed load of dosh on the above spending. The small increase this year coincided with a few extra pounds I've put on. Thus proving a direct correlation between what you spend on food and your waist size.
SITE FEES: Year one £4755, year two £4448 and last year £4672, Once again hardly any difference. Almost without exception we use ACSI camp sites. Unless you wild camp you’ll not do it cheaper. If you stay longer on sites, upwards of a month, you can normally negotiate a cheaper rate.
TOLLS and PARKING: Year one £339, year two £260 and last year £342
As you know, I try and avoid tolls when I can, not always possible.
ENTERTAINMENT: Year one £1136, year two £525 and last year £600
This includes eating out, the internet, entrance fees, bus fares laundry etc.
SPARES AND REPAIRS Year one £597, year two £240 and year three £566.
This includes replacement of all the Chinese crap I brought because it was cheap. I've now had to replace almost all of it. Lesson learnt.
Wasn't too painful was it?
Friday 20th June 2014 Week 156 Germany
What’s on my mind today
Where do you stand?. The justification for the British and Americans attacks on Baghdad in 2003, as we all know, were the alleged ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, they were chums, at least that's what we were told. We were also told that Al Qaeda operated within Iraq and Saddam had some very big bombs: this even though weapons inspectors had been to Iraq two years prior and found bugger all: WMD have never been found.
Its worth reminding ourselves that The United Nations doubted all the above as did our European neighbours. Morally, at this point, Britain was on a very sticky wicket.
In the US federal agencies fell over themselves trying to prove a link between Saddam and Osama and as a sweetener, said: an invasion would reduce Al Qaeda terrorism. In Britain a downing street official leaked: Saddam could launch an attack on the UK within 45mins: That source was never found. Newspapers proclaimed “Brits 45mins from doom” and "Mad Saddam ready to attack: we're 45 minutes from a chemical war", Anyways, even though little of the intelligence was accurate or even any good it didn't stop the Blair government from feeding us the propaganda.
Back in the US, now that Bush had his conspirator, he gave the orders to launch the optimistically named 'Operation Enduring Freedom'. And on March 23rd, eleven years ago, -least he got the enduring part right- the war started just as he hoped it would as a reprisal for 9/11.
Partners in crime?
Unfortunately for Bush, two years later the US independent 9/11 Commission found “no evidence of a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda”. They concluded that "after the two years of intensive searching no solid evidence of a relationship between Saddam Hussein's government and Al Qaeda exists.”
Unfortunately for Blair too a report by RUSI, the British defence think tank, recently stated:
“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the British tax payer £30 billions and has been a strategic failure. The invasion of Iraq has only fuelled the spread of radical Islam, terrorism in the UK and across the globe. The war on terrorism, far from being won, has actually only promoted it. The campaign to topple Saddam and the subsequent occupation of Iraq has led to the deaths of at least 100,000 innocent Iraqis while two million have been made refugees. The war has also increased the number of political refugees entering Britain. And since our military campaign in southern Afghanistan the production of opium has actually surged',
Unfortunately for the rest of us, who've had to pay for it all, the news isn't good. This because, ISIS, which are a group of extreme fanatics who make Al Qaeda members look positively uncle like, is on the rise in Iraq. Their cause was born solely from the invasion. They recently captured the country's second-biggest city Mosul, and have their hopes set on Baghdad.
Now some say might, say after reading the above, that hindsight is a wonderful thing, if only we'd have known all that!. The thing is, many did. History provides all the answers if we look.
I read in a recent poll 69% agreed Blair and Bush should be considered war criminals. I'd say, that had they been any other nationality, they would've been by now.
Have a good weekend.