Weekly read 181
Monday 8th December 1014 Week 181 Portugal.
What a turn around in the weather. After suffering two weeks of rain, finally the sun's appeared. We've had a few glorious days with more to come this week.
The sky's now an azure blue, not a cloud to be seen. One thing you notice, this far south, is the light, it's more intense. Brighter. Sharper. Shadows are deeper and take on a form of their own and colours appear more vibrant. Of course being so close to the coast helps, the air is less polluted. You can see why artists come to such places to paint.
See, point made
And with the sun comes the heat, 68 in the sun yesterday. December and people are sunbathing. Sitting around the pool knocking back cocktails. (Cocktails? might just be over egging the pudding. Ed) It's called Poetic licence luv.
I'm going to miss this life. In less than six months we're back in blighty. That'll be just six weeks shy of four years on the road. Seems Crazy. Was that really four years? It raced past.
Back home I've little idea what I'm going to do with myself. Organise the garage I expect. Look for stuff to tinker with. Drill holes in things. Categorise my screws in descending order of thread depths. Basically men stuff. Make a mess! Hazel's suggested. Maybe get a job. Might have to get a job! thanks to Osborne & Co. I could rent out the spare room to a Swedish student to off set our income. Least, having now been to Sweden, I can chat to them about it. A land blanketed in trees, literally. You might not be able to see the wood for the tress, but you sure as hell can't see Sweden for 'em either. Nor for that matter can you find an off licence!. Now having made those two points I realise that's exhausted Sweden as a topic of conversation. Still, should absorb all of five minutes.
Anyhoo, lets move on before I get too maudlin. Hazel is looking forward to it, being back at home that is. Family, friends and all that. Not that she has any gripes. She's loved it all, even though we've shared a space no larger than a prison cell for four years. She's looking forward to the novelty of living in something that doesn't come with wheels or rock each time you walk from one end to the other. However, I've had to be the harbinger of bad tidings, I've told her she'll have to quit smoking. She mumbled something unintelligible under her breath.
I've mixed feelings. I've developed a taste for this life, who wouldn't? I don't want to give it up, at least not permanently. Still, there are things to look forward to. Decent tea bags for one. How a continent can properly function without tea breaks is one of life’s many mysteries. Then there’s Sausages of course. Germany does have some wonderful sausages but still nothing like the great British banger. Then there's...... erm..... No, that’s it. That’s the sum total. Tea bags and sausages, oh! and gravy.
Here I'll miss the room. The space. The empty roads. The weather. The politeness and friendliness of people. The prices. (Fuel is now 90p a litre. Ed) Wine £1 a bottle and its not drain cleaner either. The diverseness of the scenery. The joy of cycling and being respected on the road. Back home I'm little more than a target, a nuisance or obstruction. However, above all, we'll miss the adventure. That frisson of excitement each time we decamp and move on.
And of course you lot......... will miss reading this almost as muc as I enjoy writing it.
Tuesday 9th December 2014. Week 181 Portugal
Is it the best policy?
Are you honest?. Not an easy question to answer really. On a scale of one to ten, one being as saintly as Mother Teresa and ten having the nickname 'fingers', I'd rate myself a three. Why am I asking? Well, as I mentioned a while back, the camp-site has now got a new wifi system. All whistles and bells, and it works beautifully. No more trudging over to the dafty lounge to post my ramblings. I can now surf 24/7 from the comfort of my van. Wonderful.
On the day of the switch over I was given a new pass word. The new system didn't recognise the old. Although I had only two days left on my old one they handed me an eleven day pass, worth €15. They said for the inconvenience caused. How kind. Well that was mid November and I'm still surfing the web. The password hasn't expired. Something isn't working, so I'm enjoying free wifi, just not guilt free wifi. So what do I do?
Well of course the honest thing to do is pop over and tell them. Thing is, today, honesty isn't an absolute, it's a variable, the parameters of which alter with circumstances.
Take, as an example, the honourable gentlemen of the GBH. When a bunch of them were caught fiddling their expenses they were just asked, with just a few exceptions, to pay it all back and no more was said. They were also allowed to 'apologise' to the inland revenue for tax 'oversights'. This in stark contrast to the pensioner who gets a police record for nicking cat food from Asda. Clearly, from their example, even our law makers see honesty as a somewhat flexible and murky issue.
The Bible, and I doubt you'd find a better authority on the subject, simply states: Thou shalt not steal. It's a commandment. Simply and direct. No room for equivocation or misunderstanding, right? Well that's what I thought until I checked. Turns out the commandment was interpreted by traditional Jewish commentaries to apply to theft of a person, probably a slave. God, apparently okay with you owning slaves, just didn't want you nicking a neighbours. Also, the phrase 'Thou shalt not' wasn't mentioned until King James had the Bible rewritten, there was a lot he didn't like in the first edition. So I'm not so sure it is the definitive authority on the subject.
The law says that theft is the taking of another person's property without permission or consent with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it. Well that seems crystal clear. No chance to misinterpreting that. But if we accept that as the yard stick we're all in trouble. Few, if any, could align ourselves with Mother Teresa.
I mean, who hasn't helped themselves to office stationary? Or dropped a personal letter in the out tray?. Or taken home something from their place of work, disguised as a perk?. Or tweaked their expense claims to cover a Mars bar or two?. Or walked out of a restaurant knowing the wine wasn't charged for?. Or a million other ways we get away with just a little.
The GBH argue that due to us not being terribly honest their tax coffers are light by some £70 Billion a year. Well that’s enough to end austerity measures overnight.
So perhaps, like most of us, I draw my own line in the sand as to what is, and what isn’t, honest. While I wouldn’t actively steal I do smile when fortune favours me. I'm sure I've sufficiently muddied the waters now so you won't think ill of me when I tell you I've decided to say nothing. I'm content I've exonerated and justified my actions, and if nothing else demonstrated there are perhaps no moral absolutes.
Thursday 11th December 2014. Week 181. Portugal
The good 'ole days.
Ever had one of those pointless discussions where you put the world to rights? Yes?, of course you have. Safe to say we all have. I do it all the time. I'm sure you've noticed. During such debates you can bet your bibby-bobca someone will say Britain's 'going to hell in a hand cart.' or it's equivalent. It's a commonly held belief, particularly amongst UKIP supporters.
Whenever I hear someone say it I'm always reminded of an aunt I once had. This, back in the sixties, was one of her favourite sayings. She'd wind up any discussion with those words. Today I have to think, if she were right then surely we'd have arrived by now. However I heard it only the other day so I'm guessing we're still on our merry way.
My aunt, regardless of whether you'd asked to hear them or not, often expounded on her views. (Ah! so its a family trait then. Ed) Cheeky. It was either the fault of Mods and Rockers, teenagers in general, all of whom had no respect for their elders, pop music, mini skirts, prices, immigration, and her all time fav a lack of discipline in schools. She was utterly convinced everything was so much better in her day.
“Do you know? she'd say, “Me and Dad -she called her husband Dad- could go to the cinema, get a fish supper and a bus home all for two and six. We didn't have all these problems back then. We could walk the streets at night. Leave our front doors open....etc. “ She'd prattle on in this vein, bemoaning the swinging sixties. Oddly, for someone so young, I doubted her version of reality. This because, back when she was a teenager, in what she considered was the heyday of Britain, we were engaged in WW2. Twelve million people died horribly. You'd have thought an event like that might have cast bit of a shadow over her teenage years, but it never seemed to. If you reminded her of it she'd gloss over it like it was a minor irritation. I should've also pointed out to her that Polio, Scarlet Fever, Measles and Diphtheria were rife among school kids in her day, but unfortunately I lacked the argumentative skills back then.
However, and let's all be honest here, I bet we've all thought Britain is sliding down the crapper quicker than Rolf Harris's reputation in strangeways. Thing is, I have this totally unproven theory which states: If you travelled to some dust laden hell hole in the middle of nowhere. Then you walk for miles till you come across a mud hut. Ask to speak to the old women inside -there's always is one- she'd come out and tell you that it was so much better in her day.
So what does this tell me? Well either we're all wrong and it never really was any better in bygone days, or Britain has been floundering around the crapper for years and we've only just awoken to the fact.
The truth is however, as I interpret it, that this jaundiced view of Britain and the world has it's roots in us growing old. As kids we didn't give a monkey's toss about anything. As teenager boys we thought only about sex, and girls, romance. In our twenties we settled down, started a family and took on a mortgage. In our thirties we woke one morning and wondered just how the hell we'd ended up with all these responsibilities. In our forties we discover we've developed a beer gut and we own kids we barely know. In our fifties we notice the worlds moved on but we've not and on top of that we now need a small surgical procedure. And in our sixties we tell our kids well.............. life was so much better in our day.
And so, the circle of life goes on.
Friday 12th December 2014. Week 181 Portugal
What's on my mind today?
Read this, it's about you.
“The cost of older people isn't going to slow down; we are all living longer. There are 10 million people aged 65 and over in the UK and in 20 years time that figure will increase by 5.5 million. It's not realistic to carry on providing benefits that are as generous. It's also too much of a burden on those of working age.” (Generous! Uk pensions benefits, in a league table, come eleven places behind Spain. Ed)
How many times have you heard that before? We're all living longer. Life expectancy, so number crunchers tell us, has been steadily increasing.. Blah! Blah! Blah!.
I don't know about you but when I hear that I want to ask: Hang on mush! if that’s true who are we actually living longer than?? Well people from Ye olden days, they'll say. Back then people dropped like flys. Dirt, disease, all manner of even minor illnesses, poor nutrition, lack of personal hygiene and no sanitation all took a heavy toll on life expectancy. They'll go on: but thanks to better diets, healthier life styles, exercise, clean water, modern medicine and sewage not running down the middle of the High street, you can look forward to well........ working a lot longer.
Exreme fishing can shorten life expectancy
So okay, people in days of yore died, what? younger than we do now? Well let's test that. Let's go back 350 years when 'average' life expectancy was 47. Let's check on a group of people. Take famous composers whose lives are well documented and who were all born prior to 1710. Check out their ages below. No, seriously, check...... I'll wait. Checked? Good. Notice anything? Because it strikes me that 350 years doesn’t seem to have made a scrap of difference! So even with all our medical advances, our low fat, low sugar, low salt, high fibre, high vitamin, diets, or the billions we spend trying to keep fit, are we actually living longer?. I've yet to be convinced.
Why the huge anomaly between 47, as life expectancy and the info below? Well then it was skewed by the high infant mortality rates of the time, 25%. You can get figures to support any theory. It's all about how you count and what you count.
This is the complete list up to 1700. I've not edited it. Sources Wikipedia: Local Histories by Tim Lambert
You have a good weekend.
Johann Nicolaus Bach(1669-1753) 84