Monday 1st December 2014 Week 180. Portugal

    Food glorious food.

    Good weekend? Good. Us too. The rain finally stopped, the sun appeared, and the forecast is for more this week. We can but hope.

    Okay first to my in-box which this weekend was crammed with erm.. one mail. Feel free to comment. Good or bad.

    'Can you really live on £30 a week? And on what? Corn Flakes!' The composer posed. -This, after I'd gone to all the trouble of working it all out scientifically. Why do I bother?- Well I can assure you, you can! Okay, you ain't going to eat steak every night or even once a month, probably never again to be brutally honest but c'mon, is that any great hardship? No, of course not.

    Living on a budget only takes planing. Work out your menu for the coming week and shop accordingly. It's that easy. And it beats aimlessly wandering around a supermarket waiting for nutritional inspiration to take you. Which is okay, but you'll only spend more and take twice as long doing it. Hazel and I don't so much shop, as raid. We go in like a swat team.

    It'll also help you weight wise. Forget diets, they’re all hopeless. Any weight loss is only temporary, you’ll put it all back on the minute you revert to old eating habits. Change what you buy, and ergo, you'll change what you eat. The golden rule is never put anything in your basket you wouldn't, or couldn't, eat in one sitting without throwing up.

  Doh! what a I doing? Its the wacky Brucie thing, she got me again 

  A weeks menu for us may include Lasagne, Curry (either of the latter can be vegetarian. Ed.), Spaghetti, Cottage pie, Fritatta, Chilli. Etc. Yesterday Hazel cooked a traditional Sunday roast, albeit with chicken, but along with stuffing, veg and Yorkshire puddings a true British classic.

So while shopping on Friday we picked up a chicken. I threw fiscal caution to the wind and bought a bottle of Capataz Tinto which turned out to have subtle notes of oak, vanilla and old shoe leather, but at 90p a bottle who gives a toss (It was very nice, Ed) It was.

    Now I think a quick heads up on buying chickens here in Portugal wouldn't go amiss. The one we bought looked like a thousand other chickens. It was only when we got it home did we discover it wasn't. True, it sat in the familiar blue Styrofoam tray covered with cling-film but there any resemblance ended. I cut loose the cling-film and out it popped, almost as if the packaging had held it prisoner. To my horror it was a whole chicken complete with neck, little wobbly head, beak and a sad looking expression. Laid out on the worktop it looked less like Sunday lunch and more like road kill. As I opened up it's bottom to take out the giblets it's legs and feet sprung out like it was about to dash off. Which, considering where my fingers were at the time, seemed a reasonable reaction.

    Most of the time we're pretty removed from what we eat. A burger looks nothing like a cow. A lamb chop never looks like it once frolicked in a field, full of the joys of spring. But faced with this chicken which looked, well, just like a real chicken only dead, it kinda brings it home. Hazel couldn't bring herself to look to prep it so I did. I hacked it's head off -the brute that I am- and as I did it's eye caught mine, needless to say, it looked resigned to its fate.






 Tuesday 2nd December 2014 Week 180 Portugal,


    Now there's not much I fear. My fearlessness stems from surviving several assassination attempts by Hazel. There was the microwave explosion incident. Her attempt to set fire to the van, me in it. Poisonings, she plays scant regard to sell-by dates. I'm no stranger to liberally sprinkling sauce over my food that’s only marginally younger then me. Probably the attempt that came closest to succeeding, was when, as a nurse, she brought home some bug from the hospital which laid waste to the men folk of the house. She seemed immune to it. I collapsed, threw up for three days and thought about getting all my affairs in order.

    I am, while not fearful, wary of large spiders. Also, if I'm going to be honest about this, heights, sharks, flying, letters from the inland Revenue and doctors who gasp before asking: Christ almighty! how long has it been that big? I should also add I'm none too fond of boats either. Interestingly this fear manifested itself when my dad bought me a puzzle, it's theme was the sinking of the Titanic. As a small lad I spent many a happy hour looking for bits of puzzle containing drowning people. So little wonder, even today, I can be found standing next to a life boat on a cross channel ferry.

    However my biggest fear is man himself, at least the mouth breathers, the numpties.

   Our local beach. it's okay I guess.

    A few days ago a TV programme was broadcast which tackled the very serious issue of paedophilia. They interviewed a man who said he'd been drawn, from a early age, to children. It was, as admissions go, about the biggest a man or women could possibly make in such a public forum. It was a confession, a cry for help. The programme pointed out he had no criminal record and he said he'd never acted on his impulses.

I thought wow! he's one very brave chap to confess this because, let's face it, such is the universal loathing for such people that had he admitted to say......... eating kittens, we could've at least admired him for his honesty. Even thugs, who attack pensioners, feel morally superior to paedophiles.

    I once heard a chap describe someone as looking like: 'a creepy Paedophile'. Which I thought was odd since calling someone a paedophile is bad enough without prefixing it with the word 'creepy'.

    Anyway no one topic evokes quite as much paranoia. To prove the point I only have to highlight the case of the paediatrician whose house was stoned because the angry mob stoning it confused the word 'paediatrician' on the gate with paedophile. Easy mistake I guess if, as a numpty, reading isn't your strong suit. (It beggars belief that people would think a paedophile would advertise themselves on a plaque outside their house! Ed)

    Some of the comments left by the viewers were encouraging. They praised the makers. 'Its a tough subject and one that needs tackling'. 'It was brave and informative'. Some said: 'Listening to the chap gave them a insight into the minds of these people'. Which is sound logic, because it's only by understanding them, can we possibly hope to help them, but more importantly protect those that are at greatest risk from them. Regretfully however those people were in the minority. Most said the chap should be boiled alive in oil. Several said a bullet was the only answer for people like him. Some were worse. People led by fear, blind hatred and ignorance only makes the problem worse. But you'd never get them to see that.

    It's those people that scare me.





 Thursday 4th December 2014. Week 180. Portugal

    Getting into the spirit

    Nothing yesterday, we were out Christmas shopping. At least that was our intention. Trouble is, even in a town of some 20k souls there are so few shops. You just can't go shopping. If you wander around aimlessly waiting for inspiration to take you you’ll likely walk right out of town and then stand there thinking: Where'd the shops go?

    There are the traditional trinket shops that specialise in tourist tat but would you want a painted plate depicting a Lagos harbour scene for Christmas? Course not. There are the five Chinese bazaars but they all sell junk. For example: The watches they sell range from £4 to £12 and are housed in a secure locked case, because their at the top end of their merchandise range. However, as fascinating as I find these bazaars, I sure as hell wouldn't want someone to buy me a gift from one.

    There’s just not the range of shops nor the number here. There are no shopping malls. No departments stores. No Argos catalogue you can to thumb through while you lustfully gaze at the special precious things within. We couldn't even find a jewellery shop. Its tough to know what locals do for gifts.

 Logos town center if full Christmas swing. Think he's hit the sauce early.

   This will be our fourth Christmas away and again we've decided not to buy each other a gift. The problems of trying to find something and then hide it, in an area the size of your average bathroom, is a logistics nightmare. So we treat ourselves to £100 each to spend on anything we fancy. This means the other person isn’t allowed to exclaim: 'What! how much? Or 'You've got a a perfectly decent phone why buy another! Or 'Why do you want a toy helicopter you're a grown man? erm............... stuff like that. I'm guessing.

    But perhaps this is all good because, with less than four weeks to go, you'd not know its Christmas. Yesterday I spotted just one shop that had strung up a few sparse decorations. Another shop was playing Christmas carols. I recognised the tune as Silent Night but the words were anything but. I know Portuguese is a foreign language, but if it had been sung in Klingon I might have been able to make more sense of it. Some languages you can have a stab at, not so Portuguese. (We can manage 'obrigada' (thank you) and that's about it. Ed)

    So that's it as far as Christmas decorations go. And the worst of it, not a turkey in sight! Imagine that? Christmas without a turkey. Yeah, doesn’t bear thinking about. Dried cod is the traditional Christmas fare apparently and I doubt that comes with stuffing.

    I know Christmas in the Uk is just one overly commercial excuse to max out your credit card, but it’s that that makes it so special. We over spend, over eat, and generally over indulge in anything and everything. We forget fiscal prudence, our waist lines and go for the essence of Christmas, eat! drink! and be merry! Some even go to church.

If I was back at home still working, I'd have woken this morning excited, looking forward to the upcoming festive fortnight off and not just because it's my birthday on the 24th. -Interestingly, Jesus was apparently born in March not December. So He stole my thunder, not the other way around. I've wanted to get that off my chest for some time-

    What I especially looked forward to is that last working day before the break. The one where you go in and do bugger all. You arrive thinking you've done them a favour just by turning up. You spend the morning just goofing around, playing at doing your job, eating mince pies, knowing the boss is going to send you all home at two. And on the way home there’s already some drunk people staggering about. Many of them people who'd normally wait till much later to get pissed. But now, being Christmas, they’re all bladdered by three and full of friendly at Yule tide spirit and good cheer. Ah...... halcyon days indeed.






 Friday 5th December 2014 Week 180 Portugal

    What's on my mind today.

    Well I'd recently read the British press had reported that Mohammed was now the most popular new boy's name in Britain. That struck me as highly unlikely. I mean, total non British only account for around 12% of the population, so unless British families have abandoned the more traditional names of Kevin, Trevor and Malcolm in favour of naming their kids Mohammed the report seemed highly dubious. So I wondered what was behind it.

Turns out, the media had taken the info from an baby naming web site who'd admitted they'd played around with the figures: they'd amalgamated all the various spellings of Mohammed. Interestingly they didn't do this for English names. For example: John, Jon, Jonn etc. Why? Well you'd have to ask them that. 

    Had the press been as sceptical as I they could've easily checked with an official source. They didn't. If they had, they would have discovered Mohammed came 15th and the other spelling 23rd and in fact Oliver was the most popular boy's name. In the interest of accurate reporting they could've also mentioned that half of all Islamic and Muslim boys are called Mohammed. It's an extremely popular name in their culture. Also, if they'd then scratched a little deeper, they'd have seen that of the one hundred top boys names, only nine have a distinct non British ring to them. The other ninety one are made up of traditional English and biblical names, with a smattering of American pop and film stars. Mohammed, proportionally, is tiny.

  Sods law! Theres always someone! in the way  when your trying for a decent shot.

  Now wouldn't you think the media has a moral obligation to report responsibly and accurately? Perhaps checking first? It took me ten minutes to discover that: Oliver, Jack, Harry, Thomas, Charlie, Oscar, William, James, George, Alfie, Joshua, Jacob, Noah and Ethan all came before Mohammed.

    So I'm in the dark as to their motives in reporting the way they did because, on the surface, it smacks of racism. Would they, along with the BBC, have all reported that Oliver was the most popular boys name? Of course not. It's not news. Few care. However reporting that Muhammed is, even though incorrectly, is. Especially at a time when support for extremist right wing politics is at an all time high. When immigration is under the spot light. And don't they know certain sections within our society will jump on this type of 'misinformation' for their own racially motivated ends. They won't care if it's factually true. To them: that's 'proof' that Moslem's are filling up our maternity units and we're being taken over. This kind of reporting is irresponsible, shoddy, dangerous and regretfully becoming more typical.

    So again, I have to query the media’s motives. Was this an attempt to appeal to the bigots that read their papers? Maybe. Was it an attempt at veiled racism? Possibly. Or was it just another symptom of a declining British press desperate to flog newspapers regardless of whether what they're reporting has any basis in fact? I expect so.

    Finally, and just to end on a lighter note. On the subject of names I spotted that Cruz, Romeo and Brooklyn are very popular names. Personally I think that’s a pity. Traditional British names have roots and meaning. Take mine for example, Phillip. It means friend of horses. It comes from the Greek Philos, meaning friend or lover and 'hippos' meaning horse.

Being named Brooklyn, after one of the Beckham’s brood, means your name's taken from the old Saxon: a place where a footballer and pop singer fucked.     How nice.

    ave a good weekend.




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