Monday 23rd February 2015. Week 192 Spain
Good weekend? Excellent. Ours was eventful. First off we bumped into Paul Weller from The Jam. He was taking his kids to the beach, apparently he lives around here. “Ola” he said. 'God!, I thought, I can't bloody go anywhere without being recognised'. Yesterday we invaded the Monkey bar, on mass, with our instruments and entertained ourselves. And a couple of days ago Hazel came first in a competition arranged by a fellow camper. She was rightly proud. I was rightly worried. But more of that in a moment: I need to set the scene. (Waffle he means. Ed) Oh tish poo.
Men have not always worn trousers and women have not always worn skirts. Early clothing was very gender neutral. Henry the eighth strutted around in little more than a mini skirt and tights under a cod piece and very fetching he looked to. Over time clothing became more specific to the sexes and it wasn't really until the early twenties did it become acceptable to see women wearing trousers. Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn, 30's actresses, helped to make the wearing of trousers chic and fashionable. -Interestingly, like pants and knickers, trousers originally came in two parts, hence 'pair' and the pluralisation of the word- During WW2 women were encouraged to wear trousers while working in factories, this to lessen the risk of being pulled into machinery by their hem lines and getting mangulated.
Today women are free to dress like us chaps, many do. The downside to this of course, is that while they undoubtedly feel more comfortable, they've lost some of their femininity. I'm not saying you can't be feminine in a boiler suit, you just gotta really work it. I'll stick my neck out here and say I doubt there's a chap reading this that doesn't prefer to see his wife in a little black off the shoulder number, or something that makes her look like a manikin in a Laura Ashley shop window. For proof of this look no further than the ladies of the night. I guarantee you'll not find one dressed in dungarees standing on a street corner. In that particular business less, really is more. However, there's little us chaps can do to stop this trend toward our wives dressing like our mates. Femininity, in my book, has been slowly vanishing since, well, the demise of hot pants really. Let me pause here a moment while I bask in fading memories. Hay-ho. Happy days.
Generally speaking men don't wear women's clothes, at least not in public. Nor, I'm led to believe, outside many of the small apartments that surround Parliament run by ladies who specialise in corrective therapy. For some reason, Westminster seems to be the epicentre for such activities. Make of that what you will.
Women dressing like men is acceptable. We don't make jokes. The same can't be said when chaps slip on a dress, and here I'm not talking about the cross gender community, I'm talking about 'regular' blokes. Once we have a dress on we slip into adolescent schoolboys mode, and out come the jokes. We can't help it. We all turn into Danny La Rue, Darling!.
By now your probably wondering what the hell I'm going on about. Well, someone asked, did we have the Trannies and Mannies party? -For the sheltered amongst you that's where the sexes swap clothes- Well yes we did, here in the bar. Perhaps not surprisingly it wasn't as well attended as some of the previous parties we've had here. I admit, I didn't dress. I chickened out. As to why will remain a secret between myself and my therapist. The brave guys that did dress however looked both hilarious and scary in equal measure. In fact so scary I'd wager that if one had purposely knocked over a strangers pint in the bar, said stranger would probably turn around and blame his own clumsiness rather than get into an altercation with said dame. One chap, with his wife's assistance went the full Monty. The results made him look like the kind of female sailors find themselves waking up next to after a skin-full. It was the look his wife was going for, safe to say she nailed it. Rightly so, he won the best male category. Everyone was pleased. Although, by all accounts, there was some evidence of smudged mascara as dudes left the men's, less said the better.
As I wasn't dressed I was appointed one of the judges. Hazel, whom I didn't vote for as I thought it unfair, won the best dressed Mannie. Now I don't know what's worse, her winning or me having a wife that can pass as a geezer.
It's all very confusing.
Tuesday 24th February 2015 Week 192 Spain
Winter is drawing to an end down here. Not really what you guys want to hear I guess, apparently you've more snow on the way. The temperature is nudging a comfortable 60 degrees in the daytime. In the sun it feels markedly hotter. It's forecasted to hit 65 next week. People were sun bathing over the weekend. I've even contemplated digging out shorts but why scare people with my knees?
This change in the weather has heralded a small, but significant, exodus of campers over the last couple of weeks which will increase in the coming two weeks. People are either going back to the UK or moving on in search of new adventures and greener pastures, good luck to them all.
The camp-site is now slowly empting of winter refugees, even though we've also had one or two new arrivals and a small influx of Spanish holiday makers. It will be our turn to leave next week. Yesterday I planned our return. We're zipping up through Spain stopping off at sites we're previously visited. There isn't much choice along the route we're taking which is perhaps the fastest way North.
In France many of the camp-sites are not yet open. The season doesn't really kick off till the end of April, beginning of May. So at this time of the year French sites that claim to be open should be checked first, before turning up. The French take a very laissez faire attitude to opening and closing times. I'm sure the opening times on shop doors are only there as a guide.
For some reason we decided to hold a pan cake race, we're a wacky bunch.
We could take a ferry from Bilbao or Santander back to Blighty rather than travel buck up through France, but the first time I made that trip I took a blood oath never to do it again. The Bay of Biscay was a tempest. I spent the whole trip sprawled out on the bathroom floor barfing. The only high point was when Hazel called out and said she could see Dolphins out the port hole. However, unless one shoved it's head up out the pan I wasn't moving.
Of course this move signals the end of our adventure. Week 198 will be our last. Considering we only set out with the intention of doing this for two years, and here we are one hundred and ninety eight weeks later, is perhaps a testament to how much we've enjoyed it.
I know I'd be happy to do the lot again but if I did, I'd revert back to a caravan.
I can say, with accuracy, as I've kept detailed accounts of everything we've spent over the last 192 weeks, we are spending less today than we were when we first came over in 2011. That's saying something. This is, in the main, down to three factors.
1, Regardless of criticism, the Euro has helped to keep prices low in mainland Europe While those countries in the EU, who are not tied into the Euro, have seen prices rise.
2, The Pound was worth £1.12 four years ago, it's now worth a mouth watering £1.36.
3, Diesel has dropped from £1.31 a litre to just 81 pence today. I think we're in for a financial shock when we get back.
My advice to anyone that can do this, and wants to, is get on and do it. Don't think you have to have a few bob tucked away, you don't, I've proved it can be done on a budget and I've also shown ways it can be done even cheaper. And when it's becomes time to look for a winter bolt hole, this site takes some beating. At £53 quid a week including electricity, Wifi and TV, it represents excellent value. You'll not find a more friendly bunch of people. If you'd rather keep yourself to yourself, -perhaps your training to be a lone gunman- that's fine too. Here you'll get to visit some wonderful local towns, villages and attractions and sample the traditional Spain, not the pre-packaged version. The dramatic Atlantic ocean is just a mile away and the hospitality and friendliness of the locals is second to none.
However, having said all that a word of caution, If you're a guitarist, I'd sail right past, we've no shortage of those thanks.
Thursday 26th February 2015 Week 192. Spain
I've been asked a few times: has living in mainland Europe these last four years changed my view of it? Well I'd have to say it has. I was never a fan. I voted in the 1974 referendum to leave the EU. But after a typically low turn-out one third of the nation spoke for the other two thirds and we remained in. It's the British way.
Today I view it differently. For example: it strikes me that while the Spanish are without doubt proud to be Spanish and the French are well, quite frankly, more French by the day, neither mind being thought of as Europeans, unlike some Brits. We've never really been comfortable thinking of ourselves as British Europeans. I put that down to living on an Island.
To explain why my views have changed I have to take you back 105 years. (You would. Ed)
You may never have heard of nineteen year old, and poorly educated, Gavrilo Princip but his actions changed our lives and, importantly, the way we all view the world.
I doubt he could believe his luck when he saw the car carrying Archduke Ferdinand backing out of an alley. The driver had taken a wrong turn. Gavrilo's associates had only minutes before tossed a hand grenade into the open car. It's reported the Duke coolly tossed it back out again. As the Duke came into view Gavrilo drew his revolver and shot the Duke and the Duchess killing them both. This one act, eight weeks later, kicked off WW1.
Many military historians now agree that WW2 could have been avoided if the allies hadn't demanded such huge war reparations from Germany. Germany at the time was in ruins, both financially and politically. They were starving. But this didn't stop the victorious allies picking over the defeated carcass. It's now generally agreed this sowed the seeds for the rise of Hitler and his nationalist party.
Thus, European Royalty caused WW1 and politicians caused WW2 and the common man, who wants only ever to live his life in peace and quiet, fought and died in both.
Nothing to do with what I'm talking about but a cool photo
At the end of WW2 six men gathered in Paris and signed the 'Treaty of Paris'. Their reason? to eliminate the possibility of WW3 which, some thought, was an inevitability. They came from Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Holland and Germany. British politicians were invited but they declined. The British establishment was not that interested in working with johnny foreigner. Six years later they signed 'The Treaty of Rome' and created the EEC. The British were again invited but our politicians declined once again. Of course had we joined we could have helped shape the future of Europe, instead we foolishly left that task to the French and the Germans.
Even today British politicians still can't make up their minds about Europe. And what's worst, they're experts at blaming the EU for all our ills, rather than lay the blame at crap management and that total loony tunes nutter Bush.
Not too long ago our prime minister embarrassed Britain, and himself, when he warned Greece about the folly of leaving the Eurozone. A tad rich coming from a guy who refuses to join the Euro and has said he'd push for another referendum on our membership. Fecking politicians! Where do we get these people from? And what do we do? Keep having referendums till we get the answer the sceptics want?
Truth is, in my book, the outcome of another referendum is a foregone conclusion. Britain will vote to stay in again for exactly the same reasons we didn't leave in 74, or vote for a fairer and more democratic voting system in 2009 and the Scott's didn't opt out of the Union.......... people fear change.
However all is not lost. The rest of Europe doesn't view Britain as a team player, so I guess they could revoke our membership and I wouldn't blame them if they did.
Friday 27th February 2015. Week 192. Spain
What's on my mind today?
Americans, don't you just love 'em? I've mentioned before they fear anyone who isn't a baseball loving, flag waving, hamburger eating, Yankee doodle dandy. It's why they spend squllions on arms, which is odd since they seemingly can't provide basic health care for the very people that pay their taxes, which gives them the cash to spend on arms in the first place. -Here I'm talking about Obama care- Amazingly they have the nerve to criticise our NHS. Go figure, as they're apt to say.
Fear is an important part of American life. And since we're far more like them than our EU neighbours, I fancy it's something we're in danger of adopting. We already fear so much: real and unreal. For example: Anything declared unsafe by the Health & Safety executive. Hoodies on estates. Scroungers bleeding the welfare system. Do gooders out to do good. Wishy washy Liberals. Fat people on social. Immigrants filling the country. Religious fundamentalists plotting our downfall. People with dark skins and beards who look like they might be plotting our downfall. Women who dress like post boxes. Inflation. Deflation. Climate change turning us crisp. Getting old. Pollution screwing with the polar ice caps. Migrant workers nicking jobs. Extremest politicians, either right or left. Rogue meteorites banging into earth. The EU taking over everything. Not eating one of our five a day. Going into hospital. Practically anyone living in Asia, The North Koreans, Chinese and lastly my nemesis, Tony Blair.
There's something in that list for just about everyone, and it's by no means complete. But at least we are not scared of our neighbours, which ironically is the one thing the Americans should be scared of.
Nice photo to help take your mind off things
Americans murder one another at quite an alarming rate. 300 a week. If you include attempted murder you can double that figure. It's akin to the fecking wild west there. At any one time there are twelve serial killers walking the streets. A recent report by the FBI said: 'in the last five years there have been 172 mass killings' -A mass killing is of four or more people- These mass killings have gone largely unreported in the media'. It appears blowing your neighbour away is no guarantee you'll make the front cover, you'll have to knock off his family as well to make the news.
This murder rate makes for a lot of prisoners. Unlike many UK prisons, US prisons are run by private companies. Central government pays them 'per head'. In an effort to bump up their profits they financed lobbyists to push though the: 'Three strikes and you're out' policy, under that other idiot, Bush. Consequently profits have risen as has prisons numbers. Now they are attempting to fudge the death penalty. It pays them to keep prisoners alive. An executed prisoner is bad for profit margins and bad for the investors, so they also fund anti capital punishment pressure groups.
Ironically, and a tad suspiciously if you ask me, the European company that supplies the lethal cocktail of drugs to US prisons has now refused to supply it on ethical grounds. This in the wake of several botched executions. Which in itself is odd because they, like us, have no problem in putting down sick animals. Clearly the lethal injection is not that lethal after all. In fact some prisoners have felt decidedly chipper after being pumped full of the stuff. It's reported one prisoner said his chronic back pain had miraculously disappeared after receiving the injection.
In some states this has thrown the whole execution system into turmoil. Death row is filling up. They've considered gassing those on death row but the companies that run the prisons say it would be too costly to install gas chambers. So lobby groups have come up with a cracking idea, 'Firing Squads'. Cheap as chips and provided the seven man death squad hits the chaps heart he'll pretty much die instantly....... Well not always. There's one famous case of a prisoner being hit seven times who then took thirty minutes to bleed to death while the guards watched. Undeterred three US states are pressing ahead.
Like me, you might find it ironic that in a country where Americans murder one another with such ease, the authorities are the ones having trouble joining in.
Have a fear free weekend.