Sunday, December 28, 2008

Spain Trip - Part 3

Ain't Gettin' in No Glass Elevator, Fool.

Living in north England, I don't see too many buildings with more than three storeys. This is where my fear of heights may come from. As you can see, Benidorm has a lot of tall buildings, probably nowhere as tall as ones you might find in New York or Tokyo. But they're tall enough for this vertigo sufferer.

The boats in the harbour give a sense of perspective. Just looking up at the rooftops made me feel dizzy. Is it possible to get vertigo from gazing upwards? I think so, though this was the first time I'd experienced it.

The one advantage of talls buildings is that you get a good view, at least for the brief period you dare look out of the window. My hotel room certainly had a view, it had a view of lots of concrete. The water in the pool had the same appeal as an ice bath, thus, nobody ever went in it. Why bother when you can walk in the sea without the slightest chill. And the view is better.

Spain is a deeply religious country and there are beautiful looking little churches everywhere. This religious culture might go some way toward explaining why the Spanish are so hard-working. And they certainly are hard-working; they never once complain about anything during their extremely long working day and night. I couldn't help but think that both the Church of England and the RC Churches in England have not done much to accomodate the expanding population in England, and maybe this is why Christianity is failing here; the churhes don't have the capacity for the township. Well, that and there's a stuffiness associated with some churches. I'm sure that, even if God does exists, he wouldn't mind people turning up to Church in torn work jeans and paint spattered t-shirts.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

In Inverted Commas #1

"Sell a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach a man how to fish, you ruin a wonderful business opportunity." - Karl Marx (allegedly) rewords a Chinese proverb to suit the capitalist thinker.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Spain - Part 2

We all know it's not unusual to go on holiday and have people trying to sell you genuine "Armani" sunglasses for the same price you can get a burger. Being offered counterfeit goods is part of the holiday experience; you make the choice: buy or don't buy. There are some things that you just can't resist, even though you know they're not genuine. Especially since the genuine thing in question doesn't even exist outside of an animated world.Turning down the opportunity to enter an animated cartoon world - after all, it was our first day - we decided to explore the town, without the aid of a map or a tourist information guide. There were certain clues which should have told us we were heading into the newer part of Benidorm rather than the historic part, the traditional buildings and culture. We missed those clues. Of course, they were easy to miss:
"Missing the clue"

One thing we were pleased about was the temperature, some twenty degrees celsius warmer than back home. One thing we weren't pleased about was how dangerous crossing the road could be. Especially after beer. It didn't matter if the little green man was lit or not. Those cars just won't stop. Fear of heights? Pah. Nothing. Crossing Avenida del MediterrĂ¡neo gave a whole new definition to fear.

Less frightening, but mildly annoying, were the bar promoters every ten yards or so in the street. They were mostly young British ex-pats who had moved to Spain, lured by the constant sun and the "good life." I don't envy these people. I admire them for their courage in taking up such a challenge. But I did tire quickly of being told it was a beer and a shot for one euro in this bar or that bar. It was pretty much the same price everywhere. Dirt cheap alcohol and a free pavement pizza later on. I didn't need anybody to give me a piece of paper to tell me. And besides, I wanted to go to authentic Spanish bars, drink Spanish beer, make an idiot out of myself trying to speak Spanish.

I was actually surprised by how many pubs/bars there are. In fact, I have never seen so many pubs in one place in all my life. Quite how they all stay in business is beyond me. Oh wait, it's not. They stay in business because of British beer monsters of all ages, who go there for two reasons: sun and cheap booze. Of course, our downfall as Brits is that continental lagers are much, much stronger than anything we brew in the UK. Proper head-fucking tackle. It leads to bad judgements...

You know, it does exist, it really is genuine. At almost four euros a bottle, I imagine it is genuine. It must be.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spain - Part 1

Video capture. Still from little bros footage
East Midlands to Alicante

If you enjoy flying you will know someboy who doesn't. There are a lot of people in this world who really don't enjoy flying. I'm one of them.

Boats and ships are fine. I can take the ferry to the mainland anytime. No bother at all. But when it comes to flying I'll start getting twitchy and agitated a couple of weeks before. As much as my knowledge of physics and accident statistics tells me that flying really is the safest form of travel my mind just won't have it. So my brother dragged me on a plane because ferries take to long.

With some alcohol inside me, I found myself travelling at around 500 miles an hour, 31,ooo feet in the air. THIRTY ONE FUCKING THOUSAND FEET IN THE AIR. People say there's no sensation of height when flying and I agree. But my mind still knows that I am 31,000 feet in the air and that this is not normal. I think my facial expression reflected that, even after beer.

When we touched down in Alicante I was elated. We were on the ground. There is no passport control or customs to pass through, we just headed straight out of the airport and went for the bus. I was glad, as I all nervous flyers are, to be on Terra Firma and heading for the safer transport of a bus.

Like all mainland western European countries, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of a highway code in Spain, and most of the cars that passed our slow bus were covered in dents and scrapes, even the brand new ones, cars weaved in and out of the lanes, narrowly missing each other and our bus.

Some of the landscape almost made me feel like I was in a Sergio Leone western. If it weren't for the modern fencing, I could have believed it. And there are too many mountains for a vertigo victim. I was hoping the bus wouldn't go on any roads which ran alongside sheer drops. Time for more beer. This wasn't so much a holiday as a test on my adrenaline glands.
An hour after landing we arrived at our destination. It made a change to be staying in a hotel instead of some dodgy hostel where thefts are a daily hazard. I was, of course, delighted to know that we were staying five floors up and had to get there in a glass lift (elevator). Still, it could have been worse, we could have been on the sixth floor. Soon it was time to sample the night life.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Wonder Years

Watching repeats of The Wonder Years lit that spark of nostalgia. The trouble with sparks is that they can start fire. And what was a pretty picture burns away to reveal the truth.

I like The Wonder Years for the same reason I like the film Dazed and Confused: it tells the truth.

And what is the truth about school days? Is it that most of us catch ourselves saying that we wish we could go back, and that this momentary desire is based on one tiny spark of nostalgia, one tiny event, we shared with someone?

When we think about events surrounding that one glorious moment we shared with someone, those before, and those after, we get a better scale of things. And really, while school wasn't that bad, it wasn't great either.

Looking back the entire education system, at least in this country, was absurd.

Let's take detention for instance; the single most useless form of punishment known to man. The first time you get detention, you're dreading it. But then, once you experience it, you realise that detention is easier than regular classes. In fact, it's a breeze. You don't want to be there, the teacher doesn't want to be there, and you're given something boring to do. And teacher knows you won't complete the task. Just as he wont finish marking homework. No, he'll read the sports section of his newspaper instead. And you, you'll spend most of the time looking out of the window, thinking "this isn't so bad." Definitely easier than getting the cane.

There's the morning assemblies. At the lower school site we had to stand in assemblies and would often take bets on who would pass out first when the heating was cranked up full. Some teacher would stand at the front, reading some passage from the bible, and then go on about morals and values, probably while wishing he hadn't bet the next month's mortgage on the 3:15 at Newmarket and wondering if he might get to fuck that sexy new German teacher who was fresh out of university and had tits the size of watermelons.

You'd see the metalwork teacher, who was always telling you about health and safety, and that you must wear your goggles, playing around with the carburettor on his car during lunch break, whilst he has a lighted cigarette dangling from his lips. Petrol and lit cigarettes: great combination. What a fine example, teacher.

Some break times, the Geography teacher might confiscate the cigarettes of some kids at the back of the bike sheds. Later on that afternoon, in class, she'd make eye contact with Mark, just as she lit one of the cigarettes she'd taken from him. She'd puff away at it at the front of the class, all the time, watching him, smirking.

And then there were the bullies. The bullies didn't need a reason to beat you up. You'd ask them, "Why me?" And the reply was often just a simple, "Because we want to." They don't realise that one day we all grow up. And that in most cases the bullied do far better than the bullies. Most bullies turn out to be actual cowards in later life. The whole business is sad. For both parties.

So were they The Wonder Years? Sure, they were. At least, I look back and wonder how I got through them. Most of us survived.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eurovision - The Real Winners

This year's Eurovision Song Contest protest talent like you have never seen, only the talent was more comedic that musical. Take a look at the entries from Spain and France. They should definitely have finished in the top three.

Spanish Entry

French Entry

I'm sure you'll agree that both acts were sheer class.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

You Would Not Be A (maze) d...Just Relaxed

Having no Internet, finding that the local library is open fewer hours than is good for the community, and having no expendable income presents all kinds of problems with what to do with my spare time.

After playing guitar so much that my fingertips actually started bleeding it was time to find something else to do, probably much to the relief of my neighbours who must have been sick of hearing the same scales, ascending and descending, over and over.

The weather was good enough to take a walk, over the fields and through the woods, to the park on the edge of town. In the park lies a true labyrinth, rather than a maze.
It's incredibly relaxing, walking to the centre, more relaxing than walking around a maze, getting lost as the light runs out. You know exactly where you're going, you're on a journey to the path's end. And I guess life is like that, we're all heading towards the end. What the end holds is different for all of us, and some will reach it sooner than others.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Clear Blue

Something happened today. Of course, something happens every day, but something happened today.

A Full English Breakfast is only ever "full" if served with Black Pudding. And I woke to the smell of this treat being cooked. That smell alone adjusted the various chemicals in my brain to "normal" levels, making me feel balanced for the first time in months. But that's not what happened.

Making my way into the kitchen my eyes hurt from the sunlight which poured in, bouncing off of every reflective surface, washing away every bit of dark and gloom, bringing warmth and that special feeling we all get from time to time.

Today was the day when I could do anything. Well, not anything. Obviously I couldn't fly to the moon or bring about world peace by the mere act of releasing a pop record featuring best selling artists, but I could do anything within my means.

It was the first clear blue sky I had seen months. After yesterday's rain it seemed like Sunday might be another washout. But it wasn't.

After eating breakfast I washed my host's pots, as a way of thanks, and headed out. This was great. No signs of anything bipolar. No manic feelings, nothing depressive, no lithium washout. Today I was going to do something different.

I had no particular direction to head in, not even home. And besides, that isn't really my home, just somewhere to rest my head and store my things. So, I just went wherever my legs would take me.

Before I knew it I had passed through woods, walked through open fields, almost got trampled on by a cow (not the first time this has happened - cows seem to be getting aggressive these days), and I was by the canal.

There were many fishing the waters and as I passed each fisherman (there were no women fishing) I wondered how many times that day they would be asked if they'd caught something, and how they might react each time to that question, whether they would find it frustrating, or whether they'd indulge themselves by pulling the keep net from the water and showing off the products of their day's "labour."

Soon I was back on the road and passed by a park where there was a Sunday league football match. Most of the players looked hungover and some of them looked too old and fat to be running around for 90 minutes. I thought about how many times I'd read about people having massive heart attacks while playing Sunday league football. Still, if you die doing what you enjoy...

Looking at my watch and noting how long I'd been travelling away from where I ought to be ending up I decided to head back. But then changed my mind.

I wasn't too far from an important piece of engineering history. Engineering has a lot to answer for; some of it good, some of it bad. But for the most part, good. Humans were designed to be engineers, it's just that we got some of it wrong. It's not too late to put things right.

Something happened today. But I can't remember what it was. Something to do with the clocks?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Kitchen Art...or...

...Utter Bollocks?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Changing Nature of Exploitation

Not so far back in history people did things differently, much differently. There was a real community spirit here in England, a spirit which appears to have been swept away by mindless consumerism, snobbery and apathy.

Last night I went to a local history lecture which focused on a local family who had brought much wealth to the area through exploitation of people, people they sent down mines, people they had working in foundries, people in other dangerous areas of industry. But there was something different about this family, something of moral fibre that today's rich people lack.

The founder of the company fathered three children, three of them boys. Before any of the boys took up roles within the company after completing their education he made them do a stint down the coal mines so they could see exactly what conditions the employees had to work in. Much to the father's horror, one of the sons, a keen sportsman who was destined to play cricket for the county, contracted pneumonia while working down the mine and he passes away aged 20.

So much was the father's grief that he passed away himself just a few months later, devastated by his loss, and feeling responsible for it. His remaining offspring learnt a valuable lesson from this experience and set about making improvements in the local area. I forget the exact quote but one of the daughters said something along the lines luxuries are bound up by the hard labours of the men in this community.

One of the sons went to the mine at the end of one shift and stopped ten men before they went home. He gave them ten pounds each (which was a lot of money back then), a return train ticket to London, and ordered them to go as they were, immediately. The idea behind this was so that people in the city could learn exactly what these men did in the North of England and in Wales, to bring them essential coal. The miners got to stay in luxurious accommodation and were cleaned up ready for their return.

Around this time the family gave away a piece of land to the borough, land that today is worth millions of pounds, so a park and municipal golf course could be built. They also gave away one of their luxurious homes, which was turned into a school. Another school was also funded by one of the daughters as well as Britain's first mother and child clinic. The generosity of the family also extended to the local hospital where new wards were built.

The older son was shocked by the living conditions families had to endure in one part of the town and so he invested, what would be over 3 million pounds in today's money, in the redevelopment of the area, bringing better living conditions for workers.

There were testimonies from families who said that these people were very good to work for and treated all employees well though they would suffer no fools.

In contrast, today's capitalists in this region put nothing back into the community. All they do is drain resources and avoid taxes. I've always been slightly left wing in my political views but last night's lecture taught me something I should have known long ago: we really do need to learn from the past.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Yep, It Was An Earthquake.

Just a few hours after a 5.8 quake in Indonesia, we had a 5.3 quake here in boring old England.

It was quite a significant quake for a region where we mostly get 2 pointers and I have to say it was an experience, a moment of "what the fuck is this?"

One woman emailed the news to say she had watched The Exorcist before going to bed and thought she had been possessed. I can understand that. For me it was like the onset of a seizure, I really thought I was having a seizure until I realised things were rattling and falling over.


Thankfully, there are no reports of fatalities.


It is just after 1:30AM as I write this.

Around 1:00AM I was woken by a violent shaking, something that shook the whole house. Since England does not lie on any of the major faultlines it is very rare we experience earthquakes, though there have been a couple of things that barely touched 2.0 on the scale during my lifetime.

Checking the news sites there is nothing at present to say that it was an earthquake though I have had calls from people up to 100 miles away asking me if I had just felt it.

Updates to follow.