Monday 2nd February 2015. Week 189. Spain.

    Taking a bath

    Hello. Enjoy your weekend? Not too cold I hope. Here the temperature plummeted to a chilly 53 degrees. Around here, that's cold. Four years ago, before this trip, I'd have thrown on a pair of shorts and sparked up the barby at that temperature, not now. The last four years, following the sun, has softened me up.

    I wasn't always so soft. I grew up in North London. Our house didn't have central heating, a bathroom nor an indoor toilet, we had an outside privvy consequently, in winter, you tended to get constipated a lot. And when you did finally spend a penny, you'd have to chip away at the ice in the bowl before you did your 'business'. Being a small boy and fascinated with all such things, as small boys are, I wouldn't bother. This afforded me the opportunity to check everything was okay, colour, consistency and gag reflex. (Way too much info. Ed). The only good thing about having an outside loo was you never had to wait long, no one spent a second longer in there than absolutely necessary.

    It also wasn't unusual to find ice on the inside of our bedroom windows. There was no heating in the bedrooms at all. If you were cold in bed you'd get an overcoat thrown over you, which was always referred to as the 'eiderdown' if we had company. I would confuse guests by telling them I have pockets in my eiderdown.


It's not shite eveywhere.

    School wasn't any better. The class rooms were only marginally warmer than an abattoir fridge. The only warm kid was the one draped around the radiator. If you were cold you sat with your coat on. Back then you regulated your body temp with clothes. You either put more clothes on or took some off. Now we reach for the thermostat, burn more fossil fuels, screw the ozone and complain when the gas bill comes in. Clearly we were once hardier people.

    I can still hear my Dad saying to my mother: “Come on Val, get your coat on!” “Why are we going out” she'd say excitedly.

    “No, I'm turning the fire off” .

    Halcyon days indeed.

    Also, while I'm at it, and this came to me this morning while taking a shower, back then we only bathed once a week. Any more than that was considered a waste of hot water. Saturday was traditionally bath night in many homes across Britain. -This was the reason why factory and shop workers only worked a half day on Saturday. To allow the family time to get scrubbed up for church the next day- (True Ed)

    We had a tin bath which hung on the garden wall. This was brought into the kitchen once a week. A large boiler was struck up and the bath filled. The bath water was communal. There was a strict bath etiquette based on age. The oldest first. Next the second oldest, and so on down the line. I was the second youngest in a family of seven, so when my turn came around it was barely tepid and took on the appearance of a farm yard puddle.

    Now at this point, I'm guessing, you're thinking, Christ almighty! just how old is this guy? Well this may surprise you but this was London in the swinging sixties.

    Today, I shower daily. Not sure why. It's not like I've spent the day down a mine shaft, I spend most of it on my arse drinking wine and reading.

    As I towelled myself I realised just how much times have really changed even in my life time. For example, I couldn't help notice the towel I was using was made in Portugal. My dressing gown in Spain. The flannel in France. My pants in Sri Lanka. The hair dryer in China. My shaver in Holland and the shower gel made by Lidl of Germany

Fair to say then, I am now both a man of the world, and a very clean one to-boot.









    Tuesday 3rd February 2015. Week 189. Spain

    Just an observation

    I'm the financial advisor and chief treasurer of this expedition. I'm not sure why it's turned out that way, it just has. I think it has a lot to do with genetics, pre-programming. Us chaps, historically, have been the bread winners, granted it's not always the case today. But regardless of the march of political correctness,I think dudes, today, still feel responsible for the Family's fortunes. We know how tough earning a crust can be. We've not seen a decent rise in our dough for years and we're all regularly nobbled by the tax man and are left just a few crumbs.......... (Enough with the bread analogies. Ed).

    The point is, chaps still feel the yoke of financial responsibility. For me, I'm comfortable holding the fiscal reins. While Hazel is more than capable at running the finances she has complete confidence in my steady stewardship. I'm happier as well because I know that women view money differently to us chaps. The sexes value money differently. For example, I'll often ask Hazel, as she casually throws something in the shopping basket,

    “How much is that?” to which she'll reply, “I don't know”.

    Now there's not a man breathing that shops like that. We have to know the price. It's why items have price tags in the first place, it's for us blokes. I'd never forgive myself if I discovered, while scrutinising the till receipt later, that the bottle of Balsamic vinegar I'd picked up was £4.99. I mean Balsamic vinegar, what the fuck is it? I could live a charmed life without it ever once passing my lips, and be a fiver up. (Ah! The old Balsamic vinegar incident, let it go. Ed)

    Ask a bloke how much say..... a half inch chuck reversible cordless 14 volt power drill is, and he'll come up with a good guess. Ask a women and she'll say about a million pounds. They've no idea because they don't give a flying fig. Ask them about shoes and they'll be bang on the money. They know because they buy a lot, and it's not because they are fond of walking, they're not. Women like shoes in the same way men like having jars of assorted nuts and bolts in the garage. I recently read that the average British women spends £34,000 on shoes in her lifetime. Personally that's grounds for divorce in my book. 

You'd think it was Robinsons Crusoe's pad, but it's our beach local.

    Manufactures play on this differing concept of value between the sexes. Cast your eye over the cost of perfume. Men's after shave is half that of a woman's perfume. The most expensive female perfume is one by Clive Christian at £143,000 a bottle. I bet Clive doesn't make a 'Homme' version, he knows he'd never sell a drop.

    Value for money does seem fly in the face of sound fiscal judgement when it comes to beauty products generally. The more outlandish and exaggerated the benefits of a given product, the higher the price tag. Hazel has two small jars of anti-wrinkle cream which she refuses to divulge the cost of. I've tried to get it out of her even when she's half asleep, but to no avail. Judging by the youthful claims on the jar I'm guessing a lot.

    Why am I telling you any of this? well perhaps it's to try and calm myself, because for the second time, the women have gone on a shopping trip. The last was a ten hour marathon.

    “I'll need some cash” she said last night.

    "My wallets on the side” I said bravely, spying at her through the crack in the bathroom door..

    “I'll take a hundred”.

    “'God! you going shopping or making a drop? She knows to ignores me.

    “We're having dinner out”

    “And what, you're paying for them all, because I could do you a pack-up”.

    “Well I might see something I like. Perhaps I should take the credit card!”

    "Hang on! let's not do anything rash”

    “But then again I might not” she added'

    Well we can all dream, I thought. (He is sooo easy to tease. Ed)









    Thursday 6th February 2015 Week 189. Spain.


    Apparently, women know when they are about to have a bad day, it's when they absent-mindedly put their bras on back to front only to discover it fits them better. (Again that olé chestnut. Ed). Don't knock it. It was funny back in 1972 and it's still funny today.

    I'm telling you this to highlight, as I'm sure you already know, that few things in life ever go quite according to plan............. and also to get a cheap laugh of course.

    Hazel showered this morning and it wasn't until she was half way through the process did she realised she'd forgotten to take a towel with her. She walked back across the camp-site looking like a contestant in a wet t-shirt competition, least that's what some overly excited male camper told me.

    I tell you this not because it's hugely interesting, It isn't, but simply to document the resulting fall out. Rather unjustly, in my opinion, she's christened this 'mishap' as Pulling-a-Phil. The reason being I'm the one who normally cocks-up, and none more so in camp-site shower blocks. I could write a small book on the many adventures and merry japes that have befallen me in whilst showering. Some say I already have....... this. The most traumatic I guess was in Germany where, though some dodgy door signage and my complete lack of understanding for the German written word I ended up showing with a bunch of frauleins. Two saw me in my underpants and never said a word. Treated the sight of an Englishman, shaving in underpants, as an everyday occurrence.

    I blame a variety of reasons for my misadventures. My age, obviously. My impatience with inanimate objects and my natural pre-programmed, all round, clever dick-ness.

One of my better ones.

    My impatience with inanimate objects is one that's shared universally I think. Nothing infuriates me more than things not doing what they are designed, and built to do. One that readily springs to mind is those infernal hotel room door cards. Getting access to your hotel room is, it seems, all about how you introduce the card into the slot. Quick, slow, deliberately, hesitantly, causally, nonchalantly, none seem to work for me. Clearly it's a knack and one I've yet to master. I can get them to click but only open of the twentieth attempt.

    The other day I spent an age trying to get into a pack of cotton buds which were encased in a fortified plastic bucket. That's ridiculous you're thinking. How hard can it be? Well as it turned out, bloody nigh impossible. It didn't help the instructions were in double Dutch, literally...... she brought them in Holland. It was fitted with a kind of press-o-matic pop up lid. The kinda thing you obviously needed an engineering background to open successfully. It did everything but pop up,no matter what I squeezed or pressed. In frustration I hacked the lid off with a bread knife. It this kind of experience which puts me in Victor Meldew mode, I end up banging on about how all our lives could be made immeasurably simpler if only manufactures used their common sense.

    I recently had to get into a moulded plastic container which held captive a pair of scissors. It was practically bomb proof. Wrapped in that kind of brittle, razor sharp, plastic. Ironically the instructions said; Cut around dotted line. It then gave you a pictorial representation of what that action looks like: A pair of scissors cutting around a printed dotted line. Which raises the obvious question, if the buyer already has a pair of scissors to get into the pack, why would he/she need another pair? Had it shown you how to break into it using say... a can opener or a cat that wound have made more sense.

    I was once asked if I could get the lid off a jar of beetroot. I gave it my best shot. It wouldn't budge. So I placed it in a door-jam and used the door as a vice. Did the lid come off you ask? Oh yeah!. Unfortunately still attached to fifty percent of the jar. Suffice it to say it made something of a mess. I walked away thinking that's the last time I'll help an arthritic neighbour

    I'll crack on with this tomorrow.






Friday 6th February 2015. Week 189. Spain

    Cont from yesterday

    Sorry this should have been posted yesterday, We went to the bar to celebrate a fellow campers birthday at one o'clock, and emerged some eight hours later. Don't ask.

    Where was I? Oh yes!. 'Pulling-a-Phil'. I think age contributes to some of my mishaps, my forgetfulness. I forget things I really shouldn't. Now here I'm not talking about birthdays, anniversaries and suchlike because, being a bloke, I've always been hopeless at those. It's safe to say that if no cataclysmic event occurred on your birthday, something for me to nail the date to mentally, I'll forget it the instant you've told me. Interestingly, in this respect, women's brains work entirely differently to us blokes. It's why they make such excellent secretaries. They remember dates, birthdays, meetings, appointments etc. It's as much of a gift as it is a mystery as to why evolution bestowed this on them and excluded us chaps. It would have made relationships between the sexes that much easier.

    No, the types of things I forget are the everyday minutia: What did I just do with my glasses? Where are my car keys? -invariably in the fridge- Fuck where's my wallet! When this happens I panic and frantically pat my pockets till I locate it. Haze, now asks as we leave a shop, “Have you got your wallet?”, in pretty much the same tone she once used on her boys: “Have you got your PE kit?” I occasionally forget to put in my one tooth, I have one on a partial plate. Without it I look like the type of idiot that would marry his sister. It was knocked out during a bar room fight, or was it during a rugby scrum? I forget. (Bet the dentist doesn't! Ed) Still I doubt I'm any worse than the next bloke.

Something a little arty today.

    As a young man I believed, as all young men do, I was invincible. Still to this day I occasionally slap death in the face, but it's wearing thin. I have a habit of not looking where I'm going which I mistakenly thought was one of my more endearing features, much like that of a doddery old, but kindly, professor. Only the other day I cycled into the path of a vehicle bearing down on me. I narrowly missed being turned into gloop. In fact I've done this so many times now Haze insists on bringing up the rear and shouts “CAR!” at the top of her lungs each time one speeds past. In Holland I fell foul of some lanky spandex covered pro-biker who I very nearly sent careering off into the woods when I wobbled sideways into his lane.

    “LETOOP LETOOP” he screamed as he struggled to regain control.  What a language!

    Of course I'm the architect of many of my own mishaps. For example I never read instructions. Never have. Believing as do they're designed to be read by lesser mortals than I. Normally I can wing it, get away with not reading them. Occasionally I fall foul. For three months I thought my new camera had a fault. I couldn't adjust the speed. After periodically twiddling with it, I gave up. On reading the manual recently Hazel, discovered the small multi function bezel I'd been poking, prodding, rocking and clicking, actually turned. It all works fine now.

    But at the end of the day, like you, I'm just a human being trying to get through this world with the minimum of fuss and bother. If anything my mishaps, many of which I've catalogued over the last 189 weeks, are the result of the world trying to mould me! into fitting in with it!. I'm naive enough, still, to think it should be the other way around.

    No diary next week. We have relations visiting us, so I'll be busy entertaining.

    In the meantime, you'll have a good weekend.





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