Monday 1st September 2014 Week 167 Croatia
Ah.... the weekend. I can still remember them. The pending excitement on a Friday. Two days when you can forget work and get on with doing stuff that you want to do.
So what did you get up to?. Shopping I bet. House work? A car boot maybe? A bit of gardening? Perhaps you threw yourself into some DIY. Painted the bedroom Saturday and spent Sunday clearing up the mess you made. Done it loads of times.
Perhaps you've an hobby. There are thousands. From Origami, which costs zip, to building dolls-houses which cost almost as much as building the real thing. Maybe your an avid collector of bottle caps, or beer mats, of porcelain frogs and you’ve spent the whole weekend chasing down a particular one? Millions, collect just about anything. The list is as long as it is bewildering. Perhaps you had more of a social time of it?. A Barbecue? Maybe you attended a party to celebrate a wedding anniversary or a birthday?
You could be the outdoors type and went backpacking? Hiking? Birdwatching? Caving? Kite flying? Mountain climbing? Model plane flying? Bungee jumping? Windsurfing? Caving? Cycling, the list is endless, or you just went for a bloody good long walk?
Are you the sporty type? Did you spend your weekend chasing a ball around? A tennis ball, football or a golf ball. Millions do. Did you catch a film? Or go to a football match?. Get bladdered in the pub? You could have gone fishing, more people fish than watch football apparently.
Maybe you didn't do much. Just mooched about. Lounged around and had a really good Sunday dinner, put your feet up and read a book, or played with the kids, or just watched the box?
Just so you know. Its blowing a gale and floods are forcast.
And while millions, up and down the country, got on with the job of living their lives as best they could in the pursuit of their happiness and their families, dark forces moved amongst us. Some, a tiny number, attempted (none that read this. Ed) to destabilise the world like some James Bondesque villain. And those that did were all politicians. It's a calling they feel, for some unknown reason, they have.
Take ole Saddam for example. Chap was a complete pain in the arse, agreed. But many argued we should leave the idiot alone. But no, us and the Yanks got shot of him. Is the world a better or safer place for it? Fuck no! Britain now sits at It's highest terrorist alert. The USA is at Defcon whatever. Us, the British, thanks to the meddling of witless politicians, have now become very real targets for religious extremists and terrorists. And Iraq is a mess. Well thanks a bunch for cocking that up! But, hold on! did this teach them anything about international politics. Like: Keep your nose out? Mind your own? Stop interfering? Let history run its natural course? And yes, aren’t we all crap at it?. Answer. No. They've learnt bugger all.
While you and I were all getting on with living our lives and enjoying a myriad of peaceful pastimes our wacky leaders, along with the rest of Europe, ganged up on Russia. We've threatened more sanctions. Putin, clearly feeling cornered, felt he needed to remind Europe that Russia is still a major nuclear power. That’s upped the anti.
Concerns mount that the Russian people, who've known little until now about the Ukraine situation, are asking awkward questions. The families of a thousand Russian soldiers killed or missing want to know why their sons are fighting in the Ukraine. Western politicians sit, plot, and fan the flames. Putin has to tread carefully as Europe piles on the pressure.
World politics is a game and a very dangerous one at that. And one that could easily spiral out of hand as with Iraq and Afghanistan. And of course Europe shouldn't lose sight of the fact that much of the gas it uses, is thanks to the Russia.
Tuesday 2nd September 2014 week 167 Croatia.
We moved on and drove 150 miles north. This time we took the motorway rather than the prettier, but tortuous, coastal road. In doing so five facts became abundantly clear.
1, I conducted an impromptu poll (He means he got me to count the cars. Ed) and I discovered nine out of ten cars using the motorway were foreign plated. Fascinating. (If you say so. Ed). In winter they could close this road and I doubt anyone would notice.
2, Tolls run at almost £1 per ten miles, which might explain why no Croatians use it.
3, Inland the scenery, in places, put me in mind of The Yorkshire dales and Scotland. I know, amazing right. (Not really. Ed)
4. While driving north we passed a handful of motor-homes and caravans. However, there was a near constant stream heading south. This, after a while, made me paranoid. Why were so many heading South? I asked a bemused Hazel. She had no idea. Was there something they knew that I didn't? I considered. Were they escaping from something? I pondered. Perhaps I should turn around and join them? I thought. Hah..... It was going to be a few hours before I found out why.
5, Approaching the hundred mile marker we entered a five mile long tunnel. When we emerged the other end the change in temperature was dramatic. It plummeted quicker than offers of work for Rolf Harris. It had nose dived a staggering fifteen degrees. This indicated by the overhead road signs. (Which are in English. Ed) From a very pleasant 28 down to a decidedly chilly13 and all in couple of hours. Hazel fumbled for the heater controls. We were both dressed in shorts and t-shirts like extras from Summer Holiday.
I'm sorry its all I've got to look at at the moment.
“Do you want a jumper? She asked?
“I should cocoa.” I replied. -Every so often I drop in 30's rhyming slang. I should get that looked at-
We aimed for a camp site on the coast. One we'd actually passed on the way down. Then, six weeks ago, it was bulging at the seems. Now? It was as empty as Rolf Harris's appointment diary. (Seriously, again with the Rolf Harris? Ed). It's deserted. On arrival the temperature stabilised at 12.6. However the wind struck up and was now blowing a gale. The way only winds blow when you're camped 300 meters from the sea. We quickly parked up, put the kettle on, pressed our noses to the window and asked, almost in unison:
“Shite. Who's bright idea was it to move?”
We were battered by winds all night. Bits of debris scuttled across the site as if trying to escape and in doing so banged into all manner of obstructions on route. Trees branches panicked. The roof vent rattled. I slept for three hours. We can't get to the shop while it's drizzling, and deffo can't go for a walk up the beach in case one of us gets blown into the sea and is never heard from again.
This morning I checked the weather. We're on the edge of a huge depression. It's likely to cause heavy storms and possibly localised flooding in northern Croatia for the next three days. Now that might go some way to explaining the mass exodus yesterday.
By the by...
I bumped into Rolf Harris once, in a lift. I said: 'Oh your the guy who did two little boys'. Fuck off! he said, that was Jimmy Saville.
Wednesday 3rd September 2014 Week 176 Croatia.
It was an accident! Really!
Still being pounded by the wind and rain you'll be pleased to know, so I've turned to a news story for inspiration.
Now let me start by asking a question. Define, what constitutes an accident? My definition would be: An accident is the negative result of the coming together of one or more unforeseen and or unplanned chance events. For example: When I was a kid I was ferrying two cups of tea into the lounge when the kitchen door flew open as my younger brother came barrelling through it. This sent the cups flying across the kitchen. I was quick to point the finger at my brother for the mess. My dad said it was an accident. It wasn't reasonable to expect my brother to announce, ahead of time, his proximity to the door nor his intention to come through it. Nor was it reasonable for him to assume that I was about to wander through cup in hand. -My dad often talked like this-. (Explains a lot. Ed) This, he announced, is why restaurant kitchens have two doors.
I've posed the question because some people seem confused as to its definition. Many look to blame others for their own carelessness. Like the women whose toddler bit her tongue off on a bouncy castle at a kids party. The parents accusingly screamed: 'there was no supervision!'. The host defensively screamed: 'it wasn't my child' The kid, well as you can guess, said very little.
What brought on this line of enquiry was a news item, which you’ve probably read, about a firing range instructor who 'accidentally' got shot in the head. It read: Tragic Fatal Accident at Firing Range. Of course when accidents happen on firing ranges, while always tending to be on the tragic side , they are not outside the realms of predictability. Unlike say, if the headline read: Tragic Fatal Accident at cream-tea shoppe, which would have us all perplexed.
It transpired that someone was being shown how to fire a weapon. They fired one once but the recoil was so strong they lost control and the second bullet hit the instructor. Clearly the person pulling the trigger didn't do it on purpose, therefore, it's assumed it was an accident. Wrong!, completely wrong!.
An accident is when you can't see, or it's not reasonable to expect someone to see, the potential dangers in something. For example: We've all told our kids not to touch the kettle!. Don't go too near the water!. Move away from the cliff edge!. Put that grenade down before someone gets hurt!. We have the sense to see potential danger in some everyday situations and by doing so keep others safe.
What made this a non-accident, in my book, was the fact the person being trained was an eight year old little girl. Her parent took her to a firing range for a day out. I have to ask. Who does that?. What's wrong with the park, the zoo, grannies? Who takes a eight year old kid to a firing range. I'll tell you.......... American Parents that’s who.
There you go Daisy-May now put the Barbie doll down and have a go with this. See if you can hit the target, that's the one that looks like a man’s torso, you never know, one day you might have to do that for real.
If that isn't insane then tell me what is? And to make matters worse the instructor gave her one of the most feared weapons in a terrorists arsenal. A 600 round a minute sub-machine gun, an Uzi! This was stupidity. Dim witted parents and an instructor who should have know better, but didn't, and therefore paid the price.
Sorry, that's NOT an accident.
Thursday 4th September 2014 Week 167 Italy.
Great news! the deep depression which has been hanging over us and bringing all that shite weather has taken an unexpected turn and is heading south. In a day or two it should catch up with all those campers we saw heading south on Monday. Hang on..........! is that mean spirited of me? Nah!... fuck em, besides, half didn't return Hazel's wave. She always waves at passing motor-homes, and for that matter, any vehicle she mistakes for one. It's her thing. I let her get on with it.
Well that’s it, Croatia has been struck from our list of must visit countries. Were off tomorrow to Italy. I am going to repeat what I said a week ago: it's a swell country and one I'd certainly recommend. The camp-site we've been on since Monday is just 15 miles from the very first one we visited six weeks ago.
Exodus on masse
The differences between then and now is, frankly, astounding. It's like the set of a disaster movie after everyone has been evacuated. The place is empty. Back then you struggled to find a spot on the beach large enough to lay your towel, now its all beach, not a single lobster coloured sun worshipper to be seen. Sun loungers are piled high. Ice cream kiosks are shut and chained down and you couldn't buy a plastic beach ball even if you wanted to. Excursion boats, which six weeks ago had queues of excited tourists lining up, are now lined up themselves looking for the odd straggling tourist. And now cafés don’t mind you hogging a lunch time table to sip coffee at your leisure. The hoards of holiday makers don't seem to have gone home, they seem to have vanished. It's quite odd.
Will I miss anything? Well yes. Holiday makers walking around in their underwear, for starters. That was a revelation. I'll miss the excellent free wi-fi. In most towns and cities you can log onto 'Hotspot Free Croatia'. Who runs it? The government I think.
I'll certainly miss the prices. We popped into Lidl yesterday and brought eight bottles of wine. A rather good bottle of Bourbon. A very palatable bottle of Tawny Port and enough food to throw a couple of really good parties. Cost? just £43. Food is cheap. Fags £2 a pack and diesel £1 a litre. Here your money goes a looooong way.
Tomorrow we are heading 150 miles north to a swish five star resort which, not four days ago, would have set us back a heart stopping £252 a week! But now, end of season and with the Acsi discount card will cost us a mere £65 a week. Bloody Bargain.
I tell ya, I feel almost embarrassed at slapping the Acsi discount card on the counter.
Friday 5th September 2014 week 167 Italy.
What's on my mind today?
Apparently, British motorists cough up a staggering one billion pounds a year in fines. Of the three hundred and fifty million pounds they paid in parking fines nothing was used by local or central government to build car parks which, in my book, would have been the fair thing to do. Instead they simply stuffed the bounty into their coffers.
Now I thought the concept of fining wrongdoers is meant to act as a deterrent, fines are not there to punish. Let me explain. Fines are a warning. In the same way you might warn a child: 'Touch that and I'll smack you'. It's a carrot and stick philosophy. Cause and effect. All legal penalties are designed to make us conform and behave. Flout a law and you could be fined, or worse. Thing is, if the government has to 'punish' a section of society to the tune of over one Billion pounds a year -that’s literally millions of us- then clearly something isn't working, possibly the fines system or the laws. Which then leads the sceptics amongst us to believe: fines are simply another way to collect additional revenues. Hardly fair.
I was caught by a speed camera, I was barrelling along at warp factor seven. That's 37mph in old money, in a 30mph zone. I was fined £60, which is a small irritating sum, (Depending on your income. Ed) much like a fly hovering around your beer on a sunny day, and slapped with three penalty points. Nine months later my insurance company used it to hike my premiums up, and did so for the following five years. It all seemed a tad excessive for a small, one-off, infringement of the rules and not terribly just.
I want one!
But that’s not my biggest moan.... I mean concern. It's unfair from a legal standpoint. If I'd been caught say, stealing a loaf of bread from Tesco, I'd have a legal right to my day in court and face my accusers. This right is written into the Magna Carta. I could have pleaded extenuating circumstances: innocence, ignorance or hunger. But not so with speeding. Your innocence isn’t up for debate. I was hung, drawn and quartered and all through the post. I was also threatened, if I insisted on my day in court, my fine could be heavier. My pleas that I'd driven an estimated half million miles since I was 18 without getting a speeding fine, and that even murderers get the chance to say something before sentence is passed, was to go unheard. That's also unfair.
Some of course won't agree with me. Some argue punishments, and the judicial system, is not tough enough. Criminals have an easy time of it. Strikes me these people overlook the fact that back in the 1800's had I stolen a loaf of bread, I could have been hung for it, and yet, bread was still stolen. What does that tell us?
The Tories once subscribed to this philosophy. They foolishly believed that if you gave teenage offenders a 'short sharp shock!' as they called it, they could bully them into becoming decent upright citizens. Youth detention centres were run along strict military guide-lines. Of course it didn't work. It was said by a leading Tory politician at the time: 'They simply couldn't find people beastly enough to run these places' It was quickly abandoned.
Now, you'll be pleased to hear, I've never murdered, nor robbed a bank and I don't speed. But that's not because its against the law. It's for the same reasons you don't. It's because I'm a compassionate, mildly intelligent and civilised human being. It's not laws, nor the threat of being punished that have kept me, or keeps any of us, on the straight and narrow, but a sense of where we all fit into our fair and just society. Trouble is: when we can't see that, as in the case of those who are victims of an unfair, unjust and prejudiced society, we'd all break the law.
You have a crime free weekend.