Monday 6th October 2014 Week 171 Spain.
The Grapes of wrath..
Good weekend? Great. We didn't do much. We're camped outside the small sleepy village of Capmany. It has a general store and a restaurant, we've not seen either open. There are four wineries in the village which makes it smell like your front room, the morning after a party. We dropped into one and brought a flagon (2ltrs) of their local wine, cost £3.35. I was dubious at that price, beside the label was singularly unattractive. A good bottle of wine should always have an interesting label. The only exception to this is Australia wines where a boomerang or Kangaroo is acceptable. Never buy a cheap bottle with a dull label you're asking for trouble. This however, turned out to be a real corker. It was like drinking alcoholic blackcurrant jam.
Hazel announced on Sunday she'd like to walk to one of the many Dolmens in the area. Yes, that’s what I thought, so I quickly looked them up -I was on the computer at the time-. Turns out a Dolmen is a standing stone. Many date from stone age times. As to their purpose, that's unclear. A look out, a way-point, an early tourist attraction who knows?
We set off in the afternoon under clear blue sky's. There was a signposted walk which started in the village. Just as we left the camp site Hazel pointed to a dirt road leading off to our left.
“What about this one?” She asked.
“No, let's stick to the signposted track” I answered. Reminding her that this is exactly the reason we constantly get lost, we go tramping off in any direction that takes our fancy.
We found the start point and struck off. The first part of the dirt track took us between two vineyards. Fat, juicy, dark purple, bunches of grapes hung on vines. I couldn't fight the temptation and within minutes had leaped over the stone wall in one energetic bound and helped myself to a bunch. Hazel frowned and tried to make me feel guilty.
“Want one? Their dead yummy” I said with grape juice running down my chin,
“How would you like it if you owned a vineyard and people stole your grapes?”.
“Well, I considered, I'd not give a hoot. I'd be that chuffed I owned a vineyard”. She tutted. I shuffled along, kicking the odd stone, head down, quietly stuffing my face.
Like there going to miss one bunch
We hiked around several vineyards. A number of olive groves and the odd cork tree plantation. Up hill and down dale, -or the Spanish equivalent thereof - Occasionally falling upon another sign, turning off and following that. At one point we came to a sign which proudly announced we had arrived at the fountain of La Maria Cristana. It turned out to be a hole in the ground full of leaves. Perhaps you have to come in the rainy season. We ploughed on. The signs, pointing to the Dolmen, had by then, dried up. We'd hiked for over an hour. I suggested we should start heading back. Making the point we had the same distance to walk back, besides, I now had a tummy ache. Hazel agreed. We turned around and started back up the path we had just joined. It was then I saw a caravan. Then another. Look I said a caravan site. Who would have...... Hang on!........ isn’t that our motor-home. We'd twisted and turned, dipped and dived, climbed and descended for over hour and half and found ourselves back where we started, the track Hazel first pointed on leaving the site.
I give up!
Tuesday 7th October 2014 week 172 Spain
We left Capmany this morning, it's free grapes, excellent cheap wine and headed south. While the camp site was okay it was populated with some rather ferocious looking ants, about the size of a Fiat 500. Ants that wouldn't so much as steal the odd breadcrumb but could take the whole frekin loaf. If you attempted to stop them they'd beat you up, simply because they could.
Driving in Spain is a pleasure. The roads are good. Far less traffic on them and the scenery is often nothing short of spectacular. It's rugged, barren, mountainous and for large parts completely wild looking, a wilderness. In Europe, it's unique.
Now the ant picture.
As we had just 150 miles to go I decided to take the more scenic route and keep off the motorway. The sat-nav constantly wanted me to turn off and join the motorway. The N11 ran parallel to it for long stretches. I've no objections to using Spanish motorways and, unusually for me, I'm actually happy paying their tolls. Unlike those dastardly French and Italians who charged me more just because I'm in a motor-home towing a small trailer, here the Spanish highways agency treat you all the same. They also employ humans to take your cash and not machines.
Along the route, while enjoying the ruggedness of the terrain, we also spied several 'ladies' in various states of dress or undress, depending on whether you're a half full or half empty kinda person. I will say it sure beats looking out for speed cameras of which, by the way, there are few.
We took one bend in the road and there, up ahead, sat a women.... well let's use the term: of sizeable stature. Now I'm no ladies fashion expert, but even I know few ladies can pull off canary yellow and it certainly isn’t a colour for the larger framed lady. She was also clearly a lot older than some of her colleagues who we'd passed earlier.
“Whoa!! she's a big lass” I said, moving out toward the meridian this avoiding an impact which could have totalled the van.
“Be kind, Hazel warned. Some men like the fuller figured women.”.
“True, but if she were any bigger they’d have to install a roundabout.”
“It's horses for courses, Hazel explained. Some chaps like a women with love handles. ”
“Love handles are fine, I sport a couple of those myself, but I just think you'd need stirrups with her”.' I was on a roll, you can tell.
We sailed past her and I couldn't help but think: this entrepreneurial women must be filling a niche market. I doubt she'd sit out in the sun all day watching the traffic whiz by, otherwise. Some Spanish men must prefer sheer bulk for their Euro rather than the wispy lasses we'd passed earlier and good luck to them.
I imagine her walking home and being asked by her partner,
“Howa moch did you earna today my flower?”.
“Ten Euro and 50 cents”.
“What mean son-of-a-donkeys-ass, gave you just 50 cents?”
“Em....come to think of it, they all did”. She 'd reply.
( I've let him get away with this.... just this once! Ed)
Wednesday 8th October 2014 Week 172 Spain.
A question of Perspective.
First off, I have to ask: Have I still any female readers or did yesterdays meanderings overstep the mark? I hope not. I was just trying to be informative in an amusing and jocular manner. (That’s open to debate, but that’s enough grovelling, get on with it. Ed).
Today you find us back at perhaps one of the best camp-sites in Europe. Whether it is or not I can't actually say but I can tell you that it's probably the best we've stayed at and that's out of a list of some 120 sites across Europe.
Vilanova park is a vast self contained village. It's so big that walking around you're constantly bumping into people who are as lost as you are. I've not gone anywhere using the same route twice.
The view from my window, its a jungle!
It's beautifully landscaped with sub tropical plants. It has four pools one of which is indoors and heated. It also has a Jacuzzi and hydro pool. For entertainment a decent restaurant, bar and outdoor entertainments stage. For the sporty types it has tennis courts, a golf course, three medium sized football and basketball pitches and for the serious types a gym. For the kids an adventure playground, swings, amusement arcade etc. You could spend your two week vacation here and not step outside the resort. This, in all probability, because you can't find the exit.
For the touring camper it has roomy flat pitches and importantly taps from which water flows Niagara like. If it had free wifi I'd move here. And, this late in the season, it's only about a third full. We're here for at least a weeks R&R.
We were treated to a huge thunder storm early this morning. I've stopped looking for superlatives to describe thunderstorms. In Europe they all seem to be on a biblical scale. It can't just drizzle here for a bit and then stop, it buckets down in great Noah like torrents. Pummels you into submission, you don’t brave them, you can't, you hide from them. Fortunately I've grown battle weary. Once they would have me sat up in bed worrying about being washed out to sea, or I'd lay imagining we'd find ourselves floating down some impromptu stream by morning, now I just hike the covers up.
I woke around seven and raised myself on one elbow and gingerly peered out the window. The dark clouds were scuttling off toward the sea leaving a clear blue sky behind. The day looked.... well odd as it happens. Uncommonly clear. You know when it rains and it washes the crud and pollution out the air, well that's what it was like only more so. It was almost as if I was looking at the world through some kind of magnifying glass. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and refocussed. Nope, still the same odd clarity. I looked around the inside of the van, it looked as it always does. I sat up and looked out the window again. No, it definitely looked... different. I was above to raise Hazel from her slumbers, as I was in need of a second opinion, when I noticed a line three quarters of the way up the window. I looked closer. It suddenly became even clearer. The double glazed unit was now two thirds full of water.
On inspection, later, it transpired that when I backed into the tree three weeks ago the bike handle bar cracked the window. Later I had no option but to drill a hole in the bottom, to drain the rain water out, it was that or drop in a couple of goldfish.
On a far more sobering note. I also woke to discover we are just 350 miles from the very first case of Ebola contracted outside Africa. A Madrid nurse caught it from her patient who had just returned from Africa. Kinda puts the whole window thing into perspective, rain filled or not.
Thursday 9th October 2014 week 172 Spain
Where can I hide?
If you are a regular reader you’ll know my roots. You'll know I come from a working class background and you'll also know, by now, I'm no snob. While my Dad never owned a whippet nor wore a flat cap he did smoke players weights un-tipped and worked on the buses as a clippy. Need I say more? I needed to make that point before you read on.
It's been suggested that people wanting to make Blighty their home should be subject to some kind of 'British' test before being allowed in. Now this strikes me as a daft idea, the type politicians love dreaming up hoping to curry favour with the electorate. Personally, I see it as having no practical application besides, if I were asked to name say... the last five British monarchs by a Uk immigration official at Calais, they'd not let me set foot on the ferry.
Now you'll remember I recently suggested that people leaving Blighty, even for a long weekend, should be subject to an aptitude test, perhaps based on manners and polite etiquette when meeting Johnny foreigner. I reckon this would weed out those lacking the necessary gravitas and kudos to represent our country abroad. After all we don't want buffoons wandering around Europe giving us all a bad name, do we?. We've already had to suffer hooligan football supporters, teenage girls lying drunk on the streets of Ibiza flashing their knickers, the loutish behaviour of chaps on stag do's in eastern Europe and of course our Government, a constant embarrassment to us all, so enough bad press already.
Nothing nasty would happen to those who failed to make the grade. Their passports would be incinerated and they'd be shipped off to Skeggy for their holidays,which, I've been reliably informed, is a fun seaside resort in the Classic British tradition. They’d love it.
Talking about politeness, I must interject for a moment. Whilst we were returning to our camp-site in France one evening we passed two old French chaps sat on a veranda. They offered us a cheery evening salutation which we returned. One then said; Ah! La Roastbeefs! Now some see this term as an insult. Personally, as food based insults go, it's a bit lame. I'd take more offence at being called say... a cabbage as it implies a lack of motor skills and higher brain activity. Insulting a person based on what they might or might not eat on a Sunday is, frankly, juvenile, but that’s bloody froggies for you.
Capmany campsite. Bit late I know, but its does look pretty
Okay back to my point. Yesterday I popped down to the pool bar looking for a decent wifi connection. At one table sat a group of British women in bikinis. Two of them sported elaborate tattoos at the base of their spines. Apparently, this type of 'tat' is known as a “tramp stamp”. Anyways, one lifted her pint glass and downed it's contents with all the grace of a miner attempting to clear the soot from his throat after spending a shift at the pit face. She then called her son: 'an annoying twat'. This because he asked for a fizzy beverage. Judging by his subsequent behaviour at being refused one it was actually pretty apt. Running around the tables legs, was a posse of small kids who all seemed to enjoy the same name: Oy u!.
“Oy u! come here.” “Oy u! want some chips?” “Oy u! stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about.” Which is the most confusing thing you could say to a screaming kid since they've already found something to cry about.
There were also several plump pink young British lasses around the pool squeezed into size 10 bikinis when a 12/14 would have suited better, their hair pulled back in the classic 'Essex facelift' mode.
One shouted “oy Chantell u gunna sun bav”. Chantell made a noise like she been harpooned.. “Naaaaaar fuck off” she groaned.
Safe to say: These would all have failed the test!
Friday 10th October 2014 Week 172 Spain
What's on my mind today?
Well I was going to prattle on about vegetarianism but Hazel's received a message from David Cameron our PM, so that takes precedence. More of that in a moment, as I first need to set the scene.
The news that UKIP has won its first parliamentary seat didn't come as much of a surprise. Up until a few days ago Clacton was a safe Tory seat but UKIP snatched it way with a huge 60% of the vote. The kind of result that only the most optimistic, or foolhardy, politician ever hope's of getting. Based on this result, is the writing on the wall for our two main parties next May?. Well yes of course it is. Clacton is, or was, a quiet little Tory back water, hardly a hotbed of political reform. If sleepy Clacton can swing UKIP's way, what about the marginal constituencies?. Project this result to the May 2015 general election and it would decimate both major parties. The political landscape will never look the same again.
Obviously some people don't like polotics so here a photo of a nice cat and an old bloke.
I've said all along UKIP are destined to upset the political apple-cart. Personally I'm not a follower. Not because I don't like the wacky cigarette smoking, beer swilling, always grinning Nigel, he's a top act, but because if you visit the UKIP website, it's frighteningly bland. Not one fresh, or exciting idea, to get your political juices flowing. There's no well thought out and reasoned alternatives to what we have now. Regretfully, it's also devoid of real 'meat and potato' policies. You'll find just a small collection of knee jerk reactionary policies based on the fears and misconceptions about Europe and immigration. And it wrongly assumes that they are our only problems which of course they're not. Find the unemployed work, create some real prosperity, create a fairer tax system, end austerity measures and you'll be amazed at just how quickly interest in the party would wane.
The thing is, the other two parties don't have the faintest idea how to defeat UKIP. They can prattle on all they like about the benefits of EU membership, and how wonderful it is that we all live in a diverse multicultural society, and that the British have a long and proud tradition of tolerance. Well perhaps we did once, but not now. The worlds moved on and so has Britain. It's changed. It's certainly less safe for us all, thanks to those in Government.
Perversely, and laughably in my book, the big two parties had a answer to UKIP four years ago in the form of a referendum on proportional representation. But both major parties shamefully misinformed the public in order to maintain the status quo, and the two party system which they are the benefactors of. Proportional representation, is perhaps the only measure that could stop a possible future UKIP landslide.
This brings me to the message Hazel, like millions of other Facebook members, received from David Cameron, asking her to take part in a poll. The government wants to take the pulse of the nation. Here are just three questions they asked.
1, Should they cut down on healthcare and benefit tourism? for non Europeans?. (A mystery question since non Europeans are not entitled to them, but still)
2, Should it be made easier to deport criminals?
3, Should we reduce non EU, immigration? (well that ship sailed a while ago)
Come on! just how stupid do we all look to this Government? Really, they don't know the answer to these questions after five years in power!! Truth is of course they do. This just a political smoke-and-mirror act to make us believe they give a damn.
It's mind-numbingly pathetic.
You all have good weekend.