Monday 24 th November 2014. week 179. Portugal
How to open a can of worms.
Good weekend? Ours was spoilt by the weather, again. In fact the last two weeks have been dire, showers and thunderstorms. Consequently there’s no shortage of glum faces around the site. Course, it doesn’t help the bar's still closed for refurbishments, so we might feel we're all drowning, just not our sorrows.
Hobbies, as I've said before, are important. Sitting in your van for hours you're apt to find yourself wondering if your partner is breathing in more air than you, and questioning whether that's fair. Or worse, writing stuff to post on your web diary which only upsets nice people you've never met. Which I've managed to do.
I had a good motor-homey life changing topic to share today but I'll talk about that tomorrow.
Now apparently my remarks on Friday about smoking, didn't have the mass appeal I was going for. (Getaway! Ed). Exactly.
'D'you know' someone protested, smoking related illnesses cost us 10,000 days in lost production last year!'. Crikey, the only word missing from that was 'Comrade'. Britain turned into a socialist commune since we've been away? Do we now all work tirelessly to ensure turnip and tractor production? Are ill people just slackers?
Another reminded me: '100k people die a year from smoking' Well not 100% true. As far as I'm aware there's not a death certificate in existence that says: Cause of death, John Players Special. I'm not suggesting smoking's good for you, because clearly it ain't, but according to WHO, it's the old Eastern block countries that top the smokers chart. Now I've been there, and they do actually walk around with fags in their mouths, it's practically part of their national costume. However it's the Yanks, who come way down the list, that have the highest number of smoking related deaths. Two stats which contradict what we're told. Make of that what you will.
The local coast line, wonderful.
But that aside, and I know it sounds harsh, but none of us are immortal. We're all going to have to pay the restaurant check one day. Smokers, bless 'em, are just not always around to see the sweet trolley arrive.
Eight out ten non smokers will reach their seventies. Thing is, who amongst them is looking forward to it? Anyone? (69 year olds. Ed). Maybe. The list of things you once could do and now can't grows daily. You could end up spending those extra few years sat around in an old folks home knowing that at any minute another bodily function will pack up. Or sit wondering why no Grand-kids visit. The high point of your day will be a game of bingo before your cocoa. Great!
Now that would have been it. My final words on this matter, but while gathering facts about smoking -yes I actually research this stuff- I discovered, from the GBH, that one out of four cigarettes is fake!. Now I'm assuming they don’t mean they're made from bits of old twig or rolled up newspaper disguised to look like proper fags, but fags manufactured by black market profiteers and sold in the Uk. Apparently, because of Uk tax, many end up here. One report went on to say, and I am paraphrasing here: 'These cigarettes can contain any old crap and are a health risk!' Really? A health risk? Sorry am I missing something?. Because as far as I'm aware Benson and Hedges are not exactly vitamin packed
Now that’s positively the last time I'm going to talk about fags. Tomorrow I'm going to show you how you can live the life of Old Riley, regardless of how many years you might have left, on £100 week. Can't wait to write it.
Sources: WHO, The World Health Organisation; The GBH, (Great Benevolent Head): The American FDA and ASH
Tuesday 25th November 2014 week 179 Portugal
How to live the life of Old Reilly.
Right enough about bloody fags. God I've like, sooo done that topic to death.
Let me turn to another, far more complimentary and interesting, email I received. It came from a very nice chap, Jim, a pensioner. -See this is what I like interaction-
“I've been reading your blog” -It's a web diary Jim, but carry on- “I have been a pensioner for a while now. My question is: Do you think I could do what you're doing on a pension?”
Well, I don’t know how much a British pensioner gets, what? eight, nine quid a week? Anyways his email set me thinking. How cheaply could you actually do this for? I reckon with careful fiscal management a hundred quid a week will do the trick.
Camping fees are likely to be your single biggest expense. The cheapest we've paid for a week is £56, the dearest £200. The trick is avoiding the £200 ones which, with research, isn’t that difficult. There's shed loads of info on the web. They are a few other ways to minimise outlay on camping fees. The obvious one is not to use em at all! Wacky but possible. You could use Aires, or their equivalent, or 'wild camp'. You'll need to cherry pick your countries as some don’t have Aires, nor allow wild camping. France is excellent for Aires. On some you have electricity and water and pay just a small fee, others are completely free. My advice would be to mix and match it. Spend two/three days wild camping and then two/three on a camp site. That will allow you charge your batteries, give you access to washing machines, and make use of the facilities. To live, full time, on a budget of only £100 you would have to wild camp at least two or three days a week.
A couple of vans wild camping just down the road. Look pretty idilic.
Now to do that you'll need to undertake your adventure in a motor-home. Wild camping is frowned upon, and sometimes even illegal in a caravan. Why? I'm not sure. A few do it, namely gypsies. Which you could pretend to be. All you'd need is a couple of old fridges to park outside your van and you'll be left alone. It's actually better than an alarm.
Three nights on a camp site will average out at about £25. The one we have stayed at for three months only cost us £56 a week. They're the ones you need to find.
Your next big outlay is grub. Using our shopping spending as a guide, which surprisingly hasn't changed since we started 178 weeks ago, and bear in mind ours includes wine, quite a bit of it as it happens, I'd say a single non drinker, shopping in Lidl, could feed themselves on £30 quid a week. The secret is to plan the meals ahead. Shop to a list. Trust me, you'll be gob-smacked at what you'll save. We do it on £53 p.w. If you're an imaginative cook and possibly on a diet, £25 should be enough.
Fuel is your last big expense. At the moment I'm paying 94p per litre. If you limit yourself to say, 125 miles a week between stops -depending on the MPG- that will set you back around twenty quid p.w. Obviously, stay two weeks and you'll effectively have halved your weekly fuel cost. You'll need to avoid tolls, in particular the French ones, most of which will require you to take out a mortgage before they let you through. So.......
£25 camping fees 3/4 days average over a year.
£30 for grub.
£20 for fuel.
£10 for spares, repairs, wifi, and gas. That leaves you £15 to get totally bladdered on......... or, of course, you could take the wife along Jim.
Wednesday 26th November 2014. Week 170 Portugal
Sun's out. Blimey. What do I do?.... I know, go out in it. Good idea. Here's something I prepared earlier.
I can't blame anyone for thinking I've an unhealthy fascination with toilets, reason being it's a theme I'm regularly drawn to. So much so, I'm considering prefacing anything I now say about them with the words: Look! I really don't have a toilet fetish! Okay?
I once read that us British have more euphemistic names for the toilet than any other nation, and almost as many adjectives to describe what we do in them. I've no way of knowing if that’s true. If it is, it wouldn't surprise me, much of our attitudes today are still shaped by our Victorian forefathers.
Our trip around Europe has highlighted many cultural, and social, differences between us and our European cousins when it comes to toilet etiquette. For example the Spanish and Portuguese appear quite happy to engage in conversation while on the throne. This is in stark contrast to us Brits, who, when answering the call of nature would feel uncomfortable even answering their phones at the same time. We've both experienced people in toilet cubicles carrying on conversations. In my case a chap chatted away merrily with a female cleaner while pausing briefly to erm....how can I put this.....concentrate on his efforts. In France one often finds unisex toilets. So you can often find just a thin sheet of Formica separating you from a women. Which, if you ask me, is reason enough to stop anyone wanting to emigrate to France. There is no way I could function, I just know my sphincter would go all coy.
Oddly, there's never been an 'Idiots guide to using the toilet', published. (A must read title if ever there was one. Ed) If one had been written, under the heading: men’s urinals, I think it would highlight these five basic rules.
1, On entering a public WC to use a urinal one doesn’t, under any circumstances, take the urinal next to one that’s occupied. It's simply not done. If you ignore this rule your sexuality will undoubtedly be called into question by your neighbour. Strictly speaking you should always have an empty urinal each side or you, an imaginary no man’s land if you will. If it's busy then 'the rule' can be temporarily suspended until the backlog is cleared.
2, When standing at said urinal one should face forward. Not look down, or around and on no account try and start a conversation or smile. Failure to adhere to this rule could mark you down as a pervert or mad.
3, If one tries a loo door at home and it is engaged, the correct etiquette is to say: 'Sorry old chum I didn’t know anyone was in there'. If however you're in a public loo and try a cubical door, the onus switches to the occupant. It's for him to announce: 'Someone’s in here'. Always refer to yourself as someone, this can save any unpleasantness later if you meet socially.
4. It's taboo in the loo -sorry couldn't resist that- to strike up a conversation with the chap in the next cubical. This will most likely result in you getting beaten up.
5, Contrary to female toilet etiquette where, if the paper dispenser is empty it's perfectly acceptable to ask a neighbour to pass some under the partition, this is not the case in a man's WC. Asking a man for loo paper is only likely to get you a chaps phone number, and draw unwelcome attention from the authorities. In this instance you should search your wallet for credit card receipts and the like. While not exactly regulation size, with practice and patience much can be achieved.
I feel confident these unspoken rules will strike a merry chord with most chaps!
Thursday 27th November 2104. Week 179 Portugal.
Trust me, if you're a miserable git you'll only see things which confirm what you already know: the World's shite, and you’ve every right to be a misery guts. Conversely: if you see the good in people, you're happy-go-lucky, you smile and enjoy doing a good deed when the opportunity presents itself, the world will repay you. Now I've always believed that, however, it took bit of a knock yesterday.
I popped into reception a few days ago. Inside, a short elderly English chap dressed in Benny Hill shorts, those big flappy khaki ones, was remonstrating with the receptionist.
“They're cutting the branches on the tree over my pitch” he moaned.
“Sorry” the young girl said, “It has to be done”. There was a pause as the chap rallied his thoughts.“Yeah but if I'd known that, I'da parked somewhere else”.
“It will only take them two hours. But do you want to move?” She asked.
“S'not the point luv. You could've told me this morning”.
“Yes but I didn't know this morning” she replied. This went on for a while. Ping pong style. He pretty much repeating his complaint she pretty much giving the same answers. “What would you like me to do for you?” she said finally putting him on the spot. He fell silent, which I took to mean the battle of words was over when he piped up with..
“I once had my van damaged by a falling branch”. Clearly he was aiming for sympathy and attempting to add gravitas to his complaint. -This is a ploy used but those who think their not been taken seriously, so they up the anti- He chuntered on some more before leaving in a huff.
I apologised. Pointing out that not all British are like him.
Yesterday he hitched up his caravan and pulled off his pitch, he was leaving. Clearly still not happy about the whole tree cutting fiasco, I dare say. Twenty minutes later he was still there, half on, half off his pitch. Ten minutes later I spied him on his knees at the rear of the caravan. He obviously had a problem. I wandered over to see if I could be of any help. -I don’t like to see anyone one in a fix- His tail lamp was out. However in trying to fix it, he explained to me, they then all went out. I suggested it might be a fuse. This struck him as a sound idea and off he went to check. He'd disassembled the lamp-cluster and I noted the bulb he'd shoved in to replace the blown one was the wrong type. Single, not a double element and that’s what blew the fuse. I carefully explained this to him when he returned.
Wonderful day yesterday at last.
Time was getting on. It was six, getting dark. He didn't have a spare bulb and had a three hour drive in front of him.
“Nothing I can do” he said despondently, “I'll have to stay another night” I felt sorry for him and had an idea. I didn’t have a spare bulb so I offered to take one off my trailer. 'I can get another in Lagos tomorrow' I said. His wife seemed pleased with the offer. I took out the bulb, fitted it, the lights came back on, all systems go.
Now guess what he said to me....?. No guess.......? Try...? Nothing, that’s what. Not a word of thanks. No, 'cheers mate you've saved me a lot of hassle'. Nor, 'I really appreciate your neighbourly gesture'. Nor did he offer to pay me for the bulb, which I now have to go and buy. None of it. He got in his car and drove off.
I stood there thinking: I so fucking hope, next time, the whole bleeding tree falls on you mate.
Friday 28th November 2014. Week 179 Portugal
The big one.
Rains back so I thought I'd attempt the $64,000 dollar question. The one on everyone’s lips. The one, dependent on the next election results, will either thrust Britain into a right-wing utopia or a version of George Orwell's 1984. Take your pick.
Should we stay in or opt out of the EU? ?
Well, for a start, I think we can all be forgiven for thinking the EU is run by people who sell their pets to vivisectionists, such is the mountain of negative press they get. It does actually do some very fine work but that’s never reported on. We only get to hear the daft stuff about bananas not being straight, or universal condom length because, frankly, it makes for amusing reading. However, throw enough mud and it sticks
Consequently the EU is blamed for everything. From high taxation to the density of cornflakes and their ability to retain rigidity in a bowl of hot milk. All this, I feel obliged to point out, while the GBH miraculously dodges any bullets with their name on them. Bloody Amazing!
As someone who voted against joining in 75 I only wish blame was that easy to apportion, it ain’t. Sure the EU has failed to bring about many of its early promises but I know this: leaving, will not make a scrap of difference to you or I. Will all our problems wither away? No. Will we pay less taxes? Not on your Nelly. Will the austerity measures be scrapped? In your dreams. The EU is far from perfect, but leaving is short-sighted and akin to swimming the channel, getting half way, and then deciding to pack up because you can't be arsed.
It was this or some euro bureaucrats.
Some argue, patriotically, that Britain has lost it's right to self-govern! Which, if it wasn't for the fact only half of us can be bothered to vote, I might take more seriously. However we are the governed. It's politicians, worried about their shrinking powers to govern us, that whip up those fears. At least, thanks to the EU, we now have the right to take the GBH to court, he no longer has the last word.
Many say the cost of membership is reason to leave. This is hugely misrepresented by the media. Last year we contributed 16.3 billions to the EU budget. We then got back 3.6 billion as a rebate. The EU then spent 6 billion of it, in the UK, on all sorts of projects. Small business loans, farmers subsidies, redevelopments, business enterprise regions etc. It's a long list. But do we ever hear about it? No. Truth is rarely exciting. So we're actually out of pocket by eight billions. To keep that figure in proportion, worth noting The Treasury collects over £100 Billion just in VAT and since the financial crash, which brought about much of Europe’s woes, bankers have paid themselves £80 billions in bonuses. Eight billion, might seem big when compared to our bank accounts but it's pocket money to a country. Besides, using the GDP per capita criteria, which is an accurate way of representing our wealth as opposed to our country's, we're ranked 23rd richest in the world. Not bad.
Some see immigration as a reason to leave. When we accepted migrant workers from the EU, Government experts calculated around 15,000 would enter. In reality a quarter of a million came. Taking into account those leaving, the net figure has sat around the 200,000 since 2005. The resulting growth in population has undeniably increased our economy. However, it's also undeniable that uncontrolled and mismanaged immigration doesn’t benefit a country. That’s not racist, that's just common sense. I've no objections to people wanting to better themselves but they need housing, schools, job prospects and the social infrastructure to deal with them. The GBH has done nothing. It's just left migrant workers to sort themselves out. Hopeless!. In fact it doesn’t even have a working immigration policy. It's still talking about caps, and half the immigrants entering Britain are not even from EU countries.
The ideals behind the EU were enviable and lofty. The founders, having come through two world wars, wanted to ensure Europe would never again take up arms. In that they have achieved their aim. However looking for the answer to the $64,000 dollar question is an academic search, because fear will keep us in the EU. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not knowing what will happen, if we leave. Will we prosper or crash and burn? Even politicians don't know which is the only reason they're considering a referendum. That way they can blame us lot if the economy goes tits up.
You have a good weekend.
Sources: Full facts.org. The Treasury: Wikipedia: Gov.uk