Monday 2nd March 2015 Week 193 Spain
Good weekend? Do much? Probably spent it quietly with your feet up what with it being chilly and all. I don't blame you. Here in Spain, least this part of it, they celebrated Andalucia Day this weekend. This marks the anniversary of a referendum held in 1980, the outcome of which made this area of Spain, Andalucia, an autonomous community. They have their own flag. I've seen it. One flies over the camp-site entrance. Three stripes, two green and a white. It looks as dull as dish water. Judging by the amount of Pot that's washed up regularly along this stretch of coastline, perhaps a couple of surfer dudes smoking a joint might be more apt. Still I'm no vexillolist. (Someone who studies flags. He's not that clever. He's only just looked it up. Ed)
The day is spent with family and friends. Many attended parties. Some municipalities hold communal meals with traditional entertainment. Local politicians hand out certificates, awards and medals to local folk for services to the community. It's all very festive.
Here at Pinar, the camp site started to fill on Thursday. By Saturday we were chocker with families of partying Spanish.
Now this is their country so it's only fair they make as much noise as they like, and if I, or anyone else, objects, well we all know what we can do.... bugger off!. I say this because the Spanish don't do anything quietly, it's simple not their style. They..... how can put this politely, embrace life with an audible vigour. That's not a criticism, far from it, I'm envious. In Britain, loud gregarious behaviour and noise is generally frowned upon. So much so that noisy love-makers can find themselves slapped with an ASBO and told to keep it down or else!. Personally, if I got an ASBO for that, I'd frame the fucker and send copies to my friends.
I have this theory. Back home sitting in your lounge there's no real need to raise your voice say, much above the level of the tele. However, living outdoors as the Spanish are apt to do you've a lot more noise to contend with. Your friends and family for one. Other neighbours, passing traffic, the ever present dogs barking and of course the occasional 747 passenger jet passing overhead. Consequently you need to raise your voice to be heard above all that, about 80 decibels, or the level of a jack hammer should do it. And that's just what they do, and pretty much all at once. It's the Spanish way.
I can, and did, lie in bed listening to the sound of a dozen kids playing football in the flood-lit pitch, just 400 yards from my resting head, at midnight. I could also hear small children running around laughing and playing into the wee small hours. As a visitor to their wonderful country I embrace this cacophony of sound.
Still, as I tow a scooter I've access to a good supply of ear plugs.
Not a soul in sight.
Someone asked: why didn't I post any photos of the tranny/mannie party last week, it sounded a hoot! -I seem to attract people that use words like that- Well the thing is, you may have noticed, I very rarely post photos of people. The reason for this is because I object to my own photo being candidly taken and then posted on social media sites. It's one of the reasons I quit Facebook. I kept seeing dreadful photos of myself mid-chew, or mid-wink or, worse of all, mid-dance step which made me look as though I'd just been tazzered. I've see some quite horrendous photos of women I know, looking as though they've been slapped in the face with a wet halibut. Not flattering. I can't imagine for a moment they're happy that someone's plastered it on Facebook.
Personally Amazonian tribes people have the the right idea. If you take their photo without their permission they are likely to chop your head off for stealing their souls. Now, to me, that doesn't strike me as overkill.
Tuesday 3rd March 2015 Week 193 Spain
One Man's story
Couple of years ago, prompted by our travels around Europe, I suggested the GBH should cherry pick some of the best ideas around Europe and adopt them. Sadly, this went largely unnoticed by the powers that be.
I suggested, and I won't go into them all again, that perhaps the way the Dutch calculate pensions is better than ours. Rather than crystal ball gazing, and then cobbling together some fanciful notion that we're all going to outlive Methuselah, so we have to work longer for less. They use the mortality rates of the over sixties, which is more accurate, less speculative and a damn site fairer. Maybe this is why Dutch pensioners get twice what we do.
We could also adopt the Portuguese love affair with wind power. It was reported that during one Christmas period, wind power generated over 80% of the country's energy needs. We could also adopt Germany's dislike of Nuclear energy. They are planning to decommission their remaining nuclear power stations within the next few years and go green. We, on the other hand, have just signed a contract with communist China allowing them to build a fast breeder power station in the UK. I hope they are better at building, what is after all a thermonuclear bomb, than caravan awnings. Our first was made in China. It wasn't until I read the instructions, after it disintegrated, that I noticed it advised: DO NOT USE IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT. Clearly it was designed for convert night time camping.
They looked chuffed having flogged us a power station. Pity they still refuse to buy our beef. They banned it in 1980.
I was mightily impressed with the free WI-Fi I came across in all the old eastern bloc countries. If they can do it why not us? Why do we have to pay for information? All information should be free. We could also, like Spain, offer women in the sex industry protection in law, instead of leaving them to pimps and sex traffickers. The original list went on in that vein..
Now why am I mentioning this again. Well a chap told me a story, his story, and it reminded me of how Germany handled a particular social problem.
This chap owned a small pub sited within a maze of residential streets up north. It was a traditional pub in every sense of the word, a virtual Rovers Return. He didn't serve food and had no passing trade, he relied on his regulars. It was a meeting place, a focal point within the community as much as a pub. He lived above it and did quite well. After a few years he borrowed some cash and refurbished it. He thought it was a good investment.
Then in 2007 the Labour government introduced the smoking ban. This was after it initially suggested that for pubs that didn't serve food it would be optional. The big breweries pressured Labour into making the ban universal. The breweries feared people would eat their pub-grub and then move onto smaller, independent pubs for a few jars and a smoke. Labour caved, and the ban was made universal.
“How did it effect your business?” I asked. “Catastrophically” he said, “Almost overnight I went from earning a reasonable living to standing behind the bar drinking alone”. I kept it running using savings and borrowed money, but finally I went bankrupt.”
The business was sold off to pay his debts. He moved into a council house and he and his wife went on the dole. At over sixty he can't find a job.
Since the ban, 83,000 people have lost their jobs and 27,620 pubs have closed. This according to the 'Lost pubs project'.
Since the ban, according to Cancer Research, lung cancer in women has risen slightly, and lessened slightly in men, this even though the number of smokers has continued to fall.
In Germany the government was faced with the same problem. Closing bars, loss of jobs, increasing social cost. Their answer was to relax the laws. It became optional, not compulsory. So Germans can make up their own minds: seemingly, thanks to big business and pressure groups, we can't.
Wednesday 4th March 2015 Week 193. Spain.
Well that's it. We're off tomorrow. It's been a busy, fun packed, boozy couple of months here at Pinar and now I'm in need of a break....... well a holiday really. I doubt this camp-site is everyone's idea of a relaxing winter bolt hole but the last four years it's been ours. I said four years ago it had a great community spirit, it still has, fostered by the campers who come regularly each winter.
I think later in the year, early December maybe, I'll get an instinctive feeling to fly this way again, much like migrating birds do at the onset of winter.
I wanna take a moment and thank everyone here for making our stay pleasurable. I know one or two read my ramblings, one even casually admitted to 'quite enjoying it', he's clearly not read it enough then! Another called it, and me, controversial! I'd never thought of myself as controversial, well people don't do they. We all like to think of ourselves as normal. That's half the problem, we measure other people 'normality' using our own as a yardstick and that road, if you ask me, leads to all kinds of misunderstanding. Still, I was both chuffed and flattered they didn't call it a load of ole shite.
It's not with a heavy heart we'll be pulling away tomorrow because whenever we take to the road, thankfully it's still with that frisson of excitement. The adventurers spirit. To boldly go and seek out new horizons..... well hang on... getting carried away here. It's not like we're venturing out on uncharted waters or anything, we're actually taking the AP-4 to Seville but you catch my drift. It's an adventure with a small 'a'.
Hazel's finger 'acting'..... she points like a pro.
We took Betsy, Hazel's name for our motor-home -I wanted to call it 'The Thunderflash XL5000' but she wasn't having any of it- out for a spin yesterday. We drove to San Fernando to get my Christmas present to myself, a Tablet. In the process I saved sixty quid on UK prices and saved myself a chunk of VAT. I now have, amongst other things, a stupidly gigantic calculator. Just what we all need.
The other reason for taking Betsy out was to check all was well with her, she's been sat motionless since December.
On the way out of San Fernando we discovered they'd closed a bridge. The Sat-Nav told me to take the next right. I did. I was now on a one-way slip road going under the road which I'd just passed over. The slip road passed under it with just 2.5 meters of headroom to spare. Great, I'm three! I pulled over to allow cars to pass. There was no way forward and nowhere I could turn off. My only option was to reverse back up the slip road which curved, this meant drivers using it couldn't see me till they were practically on top of me. Needless to say I incurred the wrath of one of two drivers. Others were more forgiving and realised my plight. At the top I noted there was no warning of the limited headroom ahead, so I doubt I'm the only one who's made that mistake.
Tonight I've offered to buy everyone a farewell drink in the bar, rash I know. Bang goes the sixty quid I saved on the tablet. But that's life, a mixture of swings and roundabouts with the occasional low bridge chucked in for good measure.
Nothing tomoz but back Friday with a warning to you all.
Friday 6th March 2015 Week 193 Spain
What's on my mind today?
Well one of the best bits of bumming around Europe is meeting new people. For me another bonus is meeting people that have come to know me through this, my diary. We've met several. “It's nice to finally meet you face to face” one of two have said. Another, almost disappointedly, said, “You're not as tall as I imagined”, Had I written in short hand (Dreadful pun. Ed) I might have understood where they were coming from. I didn't ask. Another said, “Your not as funny in real life”. I think they were expecting Tommy Cooper. Still, I was pleased that they thought me funny if only mildly. One random encounter which has stayed with me, some might say haunt me, was Trevor.
Time 9.15 am. This time finds us sitting in the awning having just finished breakfast and thinking of the day ahead. This particular morning an unknown face appeared at the awning door.
“Ah! a fellow Brit” it exclaimed cheerfully, “Morning”.
“Morning” I replied.
My mother taught me it's rude to hold a conversation from behind a fly screen unless the person you're talking to has a contractable disease so I pulled it back and Trevor took this as an invitation to step in. Who's Trevor you ask? Exactly. Who is Trevor? Finding out about Trevor and his wacky camping adventures, his work, his failed marriages, his life choices, his drink issues, his favourite film takes him till 3.15. Yes! that's six hours. In that time we sat at first interested, then bemused then resigned to the fate that had befallen us, both still with bed hair. The man could talk, and some of it best told only to a priest.
While a few of his anecdotes bordered on being mildly amusing, most weren't. An anecdote, as I've said before, needs to be either interesting, informative or amusing. If it's none of those then it really shouldn't be told. Trevor didn't subscribe to this theory. To be fair to him he's aware of his faults. He confessed that he likes to talk and doesn’t know when to shut up. I did suggest that perhaps when his audience slips into a coma, could be considered as something of a clue.
France, just one of my better arty farty photos. Thought you might like it.
By early afternoon I noticed Hazel flicked her eyes in my direction. I detected a look in them. I took it to mean: If we kill him now, can we bury him and be gone by the time he's registered as a missing person. While I agreed we would perhaps be doing fellow campers and possibly humanity a great service, I shook my head. She looked on bemused.
Several times he shuffled in his seat and made leaving gestures. We, in turn, collected ourselves up. I sat up from my slouch and yawned. Hazel gathered the tea cups. Then he remembered something he hadn't yet told us. I slipped back in my seat and Hazel asked if we'd all like another cuppa?
By early afternoon I'd given up jogging his memory whenever he'd forgotten the name of a character -the same characters appeared with monotonous regularity- it seemed safe to do this.
By now a storm had arrived. Thunder rattled overhead. He raised his voice above the din. Clearly nothing was going to stop him from keeping us entertained. We were now imprisoned. The warden determined to wear us into submission or die in the process of trying to amuse us, the difference between the two becomes one and the same. The cheap Chinese awning, which can't be used in daylight nor in inclement weather, tries it's best to keep out the weather but I feel a drip hit my head. I ignore it. It's the least of my problems Suddenly he stands, which catches us unawares. “Can't sit here all day. Things to do!”. So at four in the afternoon we found ourselves showering and brushing our teeth.
It's suggested: The world's a stage and we are all merely players?. Well if that's true, Trevor should have his equity card revoked. You've been warned.
Y'all have a good weekend now.