Monday 11th August 2014 week 164 Croatia
On the move.
Today finds us on the edge of the historic city of Split sweltering under thirty two degree heat, it ain't alf not mum!. We left Camping Marina early this morning in an attempt to get the jump on other campers. I've said it before, it pays to arrive at camp-sites early. And lucky we did as, as big as this site is, over three hundred pitches, they had just two vacant and that at £30 a night! We'd been paying ten.
We were at Marina for twelve days, the longest we have stayed at a camp-site since leaving the Uk back in June.
When I paid, the women she had no idea how long we'd been there so had to ask me. She suggested ten nights, I corrected her and pointed out it had actually been twelve. She seemed surprised.
“Really! Twelve nights she said holding up an assortment of fingers.
“Yep twelve” I confirmed.
This news surprised her because the site would practically empty each morning, once everyone had visited Krka park I assume, and then filled up again by early evening with a diverse mix of French, Italian, Polish, Germans and Dutch. Hazel and I being the resident British contingent. -How we managed to forge an empire is a complete mystery to me. People seem reluctant to leave blighty these days-.
Anyways, clearly it was not use to guest staying twelve nights.
“You like the camp site? She asked. Seemed an odd question having just established I been there twelve days.
“We do, very much, thanks”. I was tempted to tell her that had it not been for the thirty loud French teenagers that arrived yesterday and her freaking crowing hens we might have actually stayed longer, but why upset the poor women?
She then scribbled down the bill amount, 1200 Kuna and furtively slid it across the table, in much the same way a double agent slides a note across to his handler containing the the names of British agents working in Croatia. She pointed to the amount and said nothing. I paid and said we would see her again. As we left she came out and waved a farewell. That’s nice.
The drive was just sixty miles, thirty eight of which were on a toll motorway which cost a staggering £6. Which makes French tolls roads look positively cheap. -not something I thought I would ever say-
The town of Skradin in the distance there. We'd pop in for a three course meal with drinks £25.
I have to say Croatia has really grown on us. The coastal scenery is spectacular, and inland has a rugged charm with pockets of really very beautiful scenery. I don't think it's an obvious destination for the British but it's a place I would definitely return to. The people are very pleasant and speak better English than you'll hear on some council housing estates back home. (Nooooo, you can't say that. Ed). Doh! They know what I mean. The weather is just the best. The prices are ridiculously cheap. And, if you feel so inclined, you can get bladdered on Vranac wine at £1.30 a bottle. A fruity little number with notes of vanilla, oak cast and gym sock
Now that’s a bargain.
Tuesday 12th August 2014 Week 164 Croatia.
It's said that humans are the most successful creature to ever walk the planet, I disagree. (You would. Ed). Shush!.
For a start, define the concept of success? Not easy, it varies. For example: Take the chap who wants nothing more than to be an abject failure in life. He shuns success at ever turn. Years later, as he looks back on his miserable life, he realises he succeeded. But he also realises that, in his quest for failure, he was actually hugely successful which wasn't the idea at all.
To measure mankind’s success we need a yardstick, something to measure his achievements by, ideally an end game. For example: it goes without saying mankind has been far more successful at building mass automotive transport than any other creature. As far as I'm aware no other creature has even grasped the rudimentary concept of the wheel, though hamsters come pretty close.
But comparisons like that, of which they are many, are petty. Sure we can build all manner of stuff, we have technology up our kysters, but is that it? Should we not have something a little more lofty than the iphone to celebrate mankind’s achievements? Perhaps what we should be asking is: has mankind been successful in the pursuit of peace?. Does he live harmoniously with nature? Is he working to care for the planet?. Is he understanding of his neighbour, even those who are quite different from himself? Does he work tirelessly for the greater good? Does he put others before himself? And is he willing to sacrifice himself so others may prosper? The answer to those questions is sadly, you gotta be kidding!. There are exceptions, but too few to make any real difference.
Ants on the other hand have it sorted. Their answer, to the above questions, would be a resounding yes!. They are hugely successful. And while we fight and squabble they just get on with all manner of stuff. We're outnumbered ten thousand to one by them. -I'm guessing someone counted them to know that for sure.- They've also been around a heck of a lot longer than us and are likely to be around long after mankind has shot himself in the foot which seems increasingly likely. Mankind continually proves he's totally incapable of sorting out his differences peaceably or amicably. His default position is one of aggression and that’s his Achilles heel, and why he will never be as successful as the humble ant.
The above is a convoluted, yet I think interesting way, of getting me to tell you about my recent involvement with the ant world. This is not bad news, on the contrary, they have helped me solve a mystery.
Rainwater was somehow getting in via the roof, finding it's way down the wall skin and escaping from around the inside window frame. All my investigations and copious amounts of sealant, drew a blank. It was a mystery. I managed a temporary cure by parking the van on the piss, i.e tilted back slightly.
My half twist double pike dosn't go according to plan.
Now thanks to some ants I'm pretty sure I've discovered the entry point. Hazel had seen, and killed, the odd ant in one of the cupboards. I discovered they were using the wiring channels in the roof to get into the cupboard. They were coming out from around the light wire. Outside I pulled away a branch that was just touching the roof and found a group of about twenty ants fussing around a piece of trim. I couldn't see what interested them until a couple walked out from under it. Interestingly this was almost directly over the interior leak area. If ants can get in, I figured, so can water.
I've since fired ant powder into the channels and sealed up the gap under the trim and we have not seen any since. Fingers crossed.
Ants one humans nil.
Thursday 14th August 2014 week 164 Croatia.
Baska Polje, and no that’s not a Croatian greeting.
Sorry about yesterday. Did you miss me? I know some of you think I do little but get fed grapes and sit in the Sun drinking cheap plonk while I think this tosh up but I do have off days. We had to leave Camping Stobrec, Split yesterday. The pitch we were allotted was booked. I could've checked to see if any had become vacant during our stay but it was too crowded and too noisy so we were happy to move on, besides, I'd formulated plan A. There are several camp-sites within a twenty mile drive south. We'd leave early and check them out.
The traffic on the coast road was nose to tail. This was due to a traffic light failure in Omis, ten miles down the road. For the life of me I can't understand why humans are so monumentally crap at controlling traffic. It's not rocket science. Stick a chap with a whistle in place of a set of lights and chaos quickly ensues. Still, as we crawled along, we had the mountains, a wonderful turquoise sea to look at and also bigger problems looming.
Yes they are a number of caravan sites along the coast road, but I fancy they were once just gardens. The owners thought to convert them into a mini camp-site and cash-in on the booming tourist industry. They were tiny, looked full, and worse, all possessed a fearsome looking decent from the road into them, I wouldn't chance it. Okay so plan B. I knew there were a couple of larger sites further on, not what either of us fancied, but beggars can't be choosers, right?. They turned out to be packed. At one, a guy just waved at us, mouthing the word FULL!. We drove on. Oh dear. About then I told Hazel of emergency Plan C. We'd swing around, pick up the motorway and head back to camping Marina, the one before last. She wasn't keen on that so we ploughed on. At least the traffic had thinned out. We passed a couple more sites both the size of tennis courts. Time was getting on. The temperature thirty five degrees. I only had plan Z left.
Thirty miles down the coast I'd found a massive camp-site, on the web. Baska Polje Autokamp has eight hundred pitches. On-site bungalows. On-site hotel complex and on-site apartments. This is camping on a biblical scale. And, frankly, it sounded like hell, but I reasoned their daily turnover of campers must be enormous. They must have some room.
They did. And as it turned out.......... quite a bit of it.
Set in a pine wood with the Adriatic lapping at its shores it really doesn’t sound too bad, but that’s as good as it gets. What hits you first are the trees. Okay it's a wood, and I expect to see trees but come on this is taking the piss. Finding a large enough area between any of them to actually pitch on, took us an age. Wandering around you realise why no-ones thought to chop the odd one down to make some bloody room, most of the campers are in tents. There’s a few caravans, a handfull of mobile homes but mostly tents. And the registration of the cars give the game away. Russian, Slovakian, Polish, Czechoslovakian. Hardly any Dutch or Germans, those with cash to burn.
I now know what they mean when they say can't see the wood for the trees.
In it's glory days Baska Polje Autokamp must have been a sight to behold. I suspect it was some committees vision of what the future of holidaying in Yugoslavia was going to be: Somewhere for the downtrodden working masses to go and enjoy their freedom. I say this because I'm convinced the camp site was designed in a smoke filled room full of over weight balding back slapping comrades. The hotel complex looks as if it took its design cues from Chernobyl. Made, as it is, from still unpainted grey concrete. The site now has a sad utilitarian look and feeling, as do, I’m afraid to say, most of the holiday makers. The on-site supermarket says it all. It has large shelves decorated with a few canned goods.
Mini fridges for campers, now broken and vandalised.
When it gets this bad the only thing you can do is re-brand the place as a cold war soviet 'theme park' and make a joke of the whole thing.
Friday 15th August 2014 week 164 Croatia
What's on my mind today?
Now bear with me here, all will be revealed in time. Public health minister Jane Ellison said recently: "Protecting and improving children's health is an urgent priority and this is just one measure we plan to introduce to help achieve that goal”.
Well that's good to hear. So what is it she's talking about? Perhaps a return to free school dinners? Or free school milk. Or compulsory health checks for the under fives? Or perhaps even a new Children's hospital? Nope.... none of them.
So what is it, you ask? What's become an urgent priority for the government? So urgent in fact the full weight of the British legal system is going to be brought to bear. What health issues, affecting kids, have gotten so out of control that Ms Ellison now feels people should be hauled before the courts? Made to stand in the dock and defend their actions before being fined a maximum, according to The Times newspaper, an eye-watering £10,000 for repeat offenders.
Well hang on, because she then adds: "The only effective way to protect children is to prevent them coming into contact with 'it' in the first place. Exposure is a serious health hazard and a significant number of children say they are exposed.”
The whole of the one miles beach is like this! Bedlum.
Okay, well 'it', as you've probably guessed, is second hand smoke in cars. I feel obliged to point out there's no evidence that: 'occasionally' breathing in cigarette smoke is harmful. Shoving a rat in a box and filling it with fag smoke 24/7, as someone did to prove it could be harmful, proves zip in my book. I'm not suggesting its ideal. But let's not lose sight of the fact we all breath in a cocktail of pollutants, thanks to industry. Perhaps the government should focus on the bigger picture rather than the odd parent smoking their fag, in their car, with their kids aboard. I mean, who’s the parent here?
The offenders are, most often, parents. Parents, who this government assumes, can't be trusted to look after the health of the 'fruit of their loins'. Who smoke while perhaps ferrying their kids to school. Odd, for a government that was once so opposed to the nanny state that they seem more than happy to embrace the concept today. The upshot is, rather than try and educate, we're getting a law which seeks to punish and fine parents for not obeying the said law. Smacks of big brother, but who am I.
But hang on! Let me go back a bit. What did Ms Ellison say again. And I quote 'a significant number of children say they are exposed.' Can I ask? Have kids been ringing her up at the Department of Health and dobbing in their mums and dads? Little fuckers.(He's off, mad bugger. Ed) I think she should publish a list of their names, so parents can have the choice whether to put them up for adoption. She says 'it's a significant number'. Well that's a fat lot of help. So, more than ten then? Maybe a hundred?. Maybe a thousand?. So perhaps millions of kids are whingeing on to her about breathing in a little fag smoke on the way to school. Perhaps they should whinge to their mums and dads. Or open a window. Or better still bloody walk to school for a change and lose some of that weight. That'll do more for their long term health than getting all moralistic and legal on a few parents bad habits. What's it to be next? What we are feeding the little blighters with?
When I was a kid I'd sit on the floor watching Double Your Money with five adults all smoking behind me........ fuck! today I could have the lot banged up for child cruelty.
Have a good, smoke free, weekend