Monday 22nd September 2014 Week 170 France
I spent the weekend making repairs to the bike rack and the bikes wheels after our argument with the tree. After checking 'You Tube' for inspiration and instruction I managed to straightening each cycle wheel by adjusting the spokes and, when that didn't seem to be doing the trick, resorting to brute force. Mine was fairly easy but Hazel's rear was well outta whack (the wheel, not her rear, her rear is quite pert as it happens) I took it off, wedged it into a crevice on the trailer and yanked it hard over several times. Hazel asked if that was how it had been done on You Tube?. I lied and said yes. She looked unconvinced.
Anyway, the repairs done and you'd hardly notice, granted, both bikes do seem to favour left hand corners more than they used to, but what the hell?.
We left Italy and headed toward France. I've driven through France each year of this odyssey, so you’d think I'd be better mentally prepared for their sodding road tolls and yet I never am. Having covered only sixty miles into France we passed through four. Yes four, that’s not a typo. We'd passed through three, and just 3.8 kilometres from our exit, we came upon the fourth. I could practically see our exit up ahead. Hazel took a ticket. When we turned off and went through the piage it cost us €5.40! '
'We've only travelled two frekin miles' I shouted at the machine. Fair to say I had plenty to say at the time. (Still do apparently. Ed) We'd covered 117 miles at a cost of €41 in tolls, about twice what it cost in fuel. Hazel tried to put the smile back on my face by shouting; 'Oh look Phil! Le Clercs have diesel at £1.01 a litre'. But I was still rumbling on about being ripped off to take too much notice. You know what it's like.
Motorhoming on a tight budget.
The site is only three miles from a Lidl so we cycled there to pick up some much needed supplies. (Out of vino again. Ed). With the bike's slightly left hand bias the roundabouts were a breeze. Inside Lidl, while none of the prices shocked us, we knew we were in France. Everything was that much dearer.
Now I know what some of you are are thinking. Get over it Phil!. Stop whingeing about the price of everything. Well in reply I'd have to retort that: in the not too distant future I'll be a pensioner and this is good field training for that day. Because then, I'll be forced to eke out my meagre pension. (See below). I'll spend my time looking for bargains and special offers. Out of date foods. Dented cans. Cut out magazine coupons while at the doctors surgery. Shop in charity shops and not because I feel charitable but because it will be the only shop I can afford to shop in. -Nothing like wearing the cast off’s of the well to do or the dead-. I'll be having dinner at 12 o’clock just so as to get the pensioner special meal deal. Go to the pictures just after breakfast. I'll spend my afternoons wandering around shopping malls getting in peoples way. Take ages at the post office and will tell anyone, within earshot, my entire life story and in doing so, will prove it's possible to slow time for the listener.
Note: (Source: Which money report 2013). Britain has one of the lowest basic state pensions. Spain, Germany, Sweden, France, Denmark, Holland. Also the USA, Australia, Canada and even Brazil all have a better basic state pension. We are just above Greece and South Africa. And you'll all soon have to work that much longer for it. This really is a smashing Government!
Tuesday 23rd September 2014 Week 170 France.
Keep taking the pills.
I'm sometimes asked why I don't occasionally write about some of the more practical aspects of this temporary life style of ours, rather than waffle on about, well...... not much to be honest. It's a jolly good point and one I have to concede. Trouble is, I can never think of anything to write about that wouldn't send the reader to sleep. But, okay, lets have a crack at something. After all, part of my job is to highlight some of the many differences between us and our European cousins.
French health care -noooo stay with me- it is based on a state run insurance scheme. It's fiercely supported by the French and is considered to be one of the best systems around. For example: a visit to the doctors will cost you £21, which you can claim back. All over France you find: medic laboratorie, we saw one yesterday in the high street of St Raphael. If you need a medical test that’s where you go. You pay for the results and claim that back too. Same for medicine. Here you go to a wonderfully named Apothecary, purchase your tablets, potions, ointments, creams etc and then get your refund. The amount you get back depends on your earnings/fame/wealth etc. Now the benefit to us, or you for that matter, of this system is you can buy all manner of medicines over the counter, which you can only get on prescription in the UK.
Frejus: Looks like a Dulux paint chart
Yesterday I'd run out of both my tablets: I'm of that age where doctors insist I start taking something, so we popped into the local apothecary. I handed over my empty pill boxes which were then promptly replaced. No questions asked. No Id’s or prescription needed. Easy-peasy. What's more, and to my surprise, I paid less for them than I have done under the NHS who asked me to pay £16.20 for two items, the prescription charge. Here I was asked to pay just £11.80 the cost of the actual tablets. Quite a saving if you have to buy them regularly.
Of course, Hazel was quick to point out, just seconds before I climbed on my soap box, that some medication in the UK would cost me far more, but I'd still only pay £16.10. Intimating that paying over the odds for anything was in some way a bargain. I understand that, but what gets on my man tits is being deliberately overcharged for my medication so that the government can use my over payment to subsidise someone’s else’s Viagra medication or Haemorrhoid cream. That's not on in my book. And for all I know these people may be more than able to buy their own aphrodisiacs in the first place!
Not so the French. You pay the box price. Which strikes me an altogether fairer way to do it. To finish I'll make this final observation. The French tablets I brought yesterday were exactly the same as I would get in the UK, except the warnings about the side effects were obviously in French, and being in French, most sounded positively delightful. Also, being French, I think the chemist who made them up may have added just a soup'son of garlic. Such is the French way.
S'okay you can wake up now.
Thursday 25th September 2014 week 170 France.
Sorry no internt connection yesterday
Only some of Cannes, which is just up the road from here, is, as you might expect, quite upmarket and swish. This you can tell immediately from the boutiques that line the maze of small streets around the sea front. They don't do shops here. The difference between the two is that Boutiques have only six items in the window and none of them priced. So, not my kind of shop then, I like to test the financial temperature by ogling through the window before I step in. Another good indicator of just how costly it's likely to be for anyone that does, is: how glamorous the staff are? The more attractive the more expensive the items within. There’s a proven scientific correlation between the two.
Hazel managed to ignore them all and we made our way down to the seafront. This is the showbiz end of Cannes. A string of large and very grand looking hotels lined the front. These were built at a time when Cannes was the only place in Europe the wealthy would be seen in in summer.
In the marina sat the toys of the millionaires. Boats your dreams would have dreams about. You'd need to win the lottery twice to afford one. The promenade was busy. Its four mile length was peppered with the same strange eclectic mix of people you find in airport lounges. Few locals venture down here.
As with any beach there were a number of attractive women wearing bikinis. But here the number was larger while the bikinis were decidedly that much smaller. Leggy blondes, who'd clearly spent the morning agonising over what to wear, sailed past us on roller blades in tight pink outfits with pony tails bobbing and sun visors. (So got it wrong then? Ed). Balding men dressed in white cotton outfits sporting greying pony tails ambled past looking arty. Old women whose skin texture was akin to their handbags sat weathering themselves even more. Glamorous, expensively dressed, older women carried tiny dogs who seemed too nervous to walk. Overweight guys in flowery Bermuda shorts walked and talked loudly as if that would proclaiming their importance. Groups of Japanese tourists moved around like flocking birds and seemingly every third or forth person was on their cell phones. We overheard one guy say: “You’ll have to talk to my lawyer”. He was an American. Americans seem to say things like that..... a lot.
Look even the tampost have knitted booties.
And all this life paraded before small groups of photographers who, much like wild life photographers around an African waterhole, stood patiently waiting for a rare glimpse of someone rich, famous, or both.
Many restaurants had fidgety security outside which helped to create the impression that they were expecting a celebrity any moment. Truth is: I suspect their presence had more to do with upping their profile, and profits, with passing hungry tourists.
Displays and sound stages were being erected. Those wacky funsters: Yahoo, Google and Microsoft were in town promoting themselves the way only big American companies can. They were putting on a glitzy showbiz front and had a bevy of male and female models flitting around dressed in corporate colours in order to glamorise an otherwise terribly dull commercial enterprise.
We both got the impression that Cannes is not so much a holiday destination, as a place to be seen in. The problem with going anywhere that caters for the rich, famous and glamorous is that it reminds you by just how much you haven’t made it, -If that’s how you measure success, that is- . For us its name is bigger than the sum of all its parts and the thought of spending more than a couples of hours there would fill us with dread.
Friday 26th September 2014 week 170 France.
What's on my mind today?
I've always had more respect, and admiration, for women than I have for my own sex. This is chiefly because without them mankind's days would be numbered. I'm not sure the same could be said for us blokes, after all, it only take a donation and a freezer. As well, women are generally also the care givers and home builders. The nucleus of the nuclear family, and without family you'd have chaos as 'the family' underpins society. They are also less aggressive, less competitive and so by nature life’s peace makers. Traits, which I'm sorry to say, us blokes do struggle with. Men, on the other hand, like to to blow shit up. Build things that go stupidly fast and laugh when they fart. Blokes are just taller versions of boys. As a boy I'd put fireworks in milk bottles to see what would happen. Today, scientists fire atoms at each other in a underground super collider for the exactly the same reason. Some thought this reckless, saying it could create a black hole which the world would get sucked into. But that didn’t stop the scientists from nervously tightening their sphincters, as they switched the thing on.
Sure, without men jars might go unopened and shelving not put up, but does that justify our existence? I'm one, and I'm not convinced. It's for that reason, and others, some of which are best kept between myself and my therapist, I'd like to come back as a women and see the world from a female perspective.
Okay, so now the point of this. Thinking, as I do, you can imagine my horror when I read that young women can now join the US military in a combat role. Women can now get shot alongside their male counterparts in the name of what? political ideology?. Well that's equality for you. What a giant step forward for... oh I don't know, women's rights, or imbecilic behaviour? You choose. It's bad enough that mothers see their sons lives put in the line of fire, but now what, their daughters too? Well I'm bitterly disappointed. I thought women had more sense.
See! five ladies with machine guns, who wouldn't be scared.
So I have to ask myself: am I coming at this from the wrong angle? Maybe this is what modern warfare needs, a feminine touch. Out goes those drab camouflage uniforms and in comes something a little more tailored, a little more stylish, something that doesn't make your arse look quite so big. Great. And under that will they be issued with camouflage stockings and suspenders?. (Careful. Ed). What?.... it's a fair question.
And who said tanks have to be green?. What about something pastel?, Something from the Laura Ashley colour swatches perhaps. You might argue tanks are green to blend in, but I'd be forced to point out that a Challenger tank weighs seventy tons. They're thirty foot long, snort plumes of diesel fumes and make a hell of a racket. The only place it would go unnoticed is in a parking lot full of other tanks.
One of the issues the top brass will have to address is that, statistically speaking, women are more susceptible to mood swings than your average nineteen year old snot-nosed squaddie. Sergeant Majors are going to have to tread carefully from now on. It's one thing bellowing into into the face of a young lad but quite another screaming into the face of a female soldier suffering from PMT, who also happens to be armed.
And what about from the enemies point of view. Are they going to cease firing every hour just because the attacker has had to nip off for a pee? But then again, if I were some half baked Jehadist, sat in a fox hole which was being attacked by a couple of comely American cheerleaders in stockings and suspenders I'd surrender in a jiffy. I'd bet you, whole rebel bands would throw down their arms just to be taken prisoner by Privates first class Daisy Duke and Betsy-May who wear their helmets at a saucy angle.
Okay, I'm the first to admit I've not really taken this issue terribly seriously. But I'll leave you with this, just to prove my point. Ask your wife or girlfriend to show you her WAR face, her KILL face.......... Okay done it? …..........Point made I fancy.
You have a good weekend.