Monday, 27 December 2010

A short post-Christmas poem

Another Christmas over
Another Christmas done
I hope you all liked what you got
And you had lots of fun
I hope you didn't argue
And were full of Christmas cheer
And didn't feel too sick from
All the turkey and the beer
You've seen your friends and loved ones
Lots of smiles all around
And haven't fallen over on
The ice still on the ground
The clearing up is still to do
And our bellies still quite full
And with memories still fresh, I wish
A happy new year, one and all

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Of sea kings and sea lions - Chronicles of a Cornwall Holiday - Day 6

Okay, that might have been a bad idea, I thought as the alarm clock woke me. Drinking so much the night before was probably not the best idea knowing what time we had to leave the hotel. Slowly, I began to assess the situation, checking off those parts of me that were protesting, and those parts of me that hadn't quite drummed up the energy to do so. At this point, I realised that maybe the hangover wasn't as bad as I had initially thought. My head was a little swimmy, but not throbbing by any means. My stomach felt a little off, but again, it seemed to be more to do with hunger than the after effect of the white wine/lager combo.

I stumbled out of the bed and went to the bathroom to empty my bladder, which seemed to be about the size of a football. I then stumbled back into bed and proceeded to argue with the snooze button for the next half an hour. After a while, I accepted that I was going to lose the battle, so got out of bed again and headed for the shower. With the hot, steaming water pulling me back from the depths of sleepiness, I did something that up to a few minutes previously had seemed almost impossible. For the first time that day, I opened my eyes!

After nearly drowning myself for quite some time, it was time to get ready to check out. Hastily, we packed our bags before heading down to reception to hand back the keys. With that done, we decided that breakfast was definitely in order, and only one place could possibly give us what we needed. Back to Wetherspoons!

Fed, watered, and with the hangover suppressed, we went back to the car and headed out of Penzance. Our destination for the morning was the National Seal Sanctuary just outside of Gweek. As we were heading there, I heard a loud rumble emanating from the sky. For a few moments, I thought it was thunder, as unlikely as it seemed considering the blue skies that had graced us with their presence. I looked toward the sky for confirmation, and saw where the noise was coming from. Two fighter jets were passing low overhead in search of the airfield at Gweek. As we were heading in the same direction, we decided to take a short detour to the airfield to see if we could find somewhere to watch what was going on.

We found the perfect spot. To the south side of the airfield there is a viewing area allowing for passing traffic to stop and view the vehicles using the airfield. The airfield itself is used both for military purposes and for the local air-sea rescue, whose helicopters save the lives of so many around this part of the coast. There's something about high powered flying machines that has always fascinated me. There's just something so elegant about them that I could quite literally sit for hours watching them fly overhead, which is what we actually did!
After a relaxing hour or so watching the planes and helicopters come and go, and somewhat aware of the time, we left the airfield and headed for the seal sanctuary just a few minutes down the road.

It had turned into an extremely nice day as we left the car once more to head into the seal sanctuary. Started in 1958, the National Seal Sanctuary was opened to aid injured and sick seals found around the Cornwall coastline. By 1975, the sanctuary had outgrown its single pool at St. Austell and was moved to its current location at Gweek. Since then, the sanctuary has grown to five pools, a hospital and several enclosures for other animals such as Otters and Sea Lions.

Unperturbed by the surprisingly expensive entry fee into the complex, we entered the sanctuary and began to walk the length of the park, taking in a welcome stroll and the glorious sunshine overhead. Having bypassed the main pools, we ended our walk at the otter enclosure which is in a beautiful, forested part of the park. I had never realised before how beautiful an animal the otter is. I found myself mesmerised watching the otter lying on its back "juggling" a stone between its paws. I could have watched them for hours, and in fact, I probably did!
After some time watching the otters, we headed back up the park to see the other animals. As we approached the first of the pools, we heard an announcement that it would shortly be feeding time at the pool at the top of the park, so we once again passed straight by the pools. I hoped that we hadn't caused any offence or ill-feeling to the seals by walking straight past them twice without so much as a wink!

The feeding started with the sea lions which were brilliantly trained. It was explained that the sea lions needed to be trained so as not to be too unruly when it comes to veterinary treatment. It was somewhat amazing to see the placidness of such a large animal when the trainers held their hands flat to them and they appeared to lightly kiss the hand.

Having watched the seals and the sea-lions feed, we moved on to the penguins. For a very long time, I have had something of a love of penguins. Personally, I think they are one of the most beautiful creatures to habit our planet. I find them somewhat humorous with their waddle walk, and their "always dressed for dinner" colour. From the grace of the Emperor to the cuteness of the little blue, I love watching them and was rather pleased to find them in the seal sanctuary.

If you are ever in the area, I would urge you, dear reader, to visit the seal sanctuary. It's a great visit, and there is something of a satisfaction knowing that the entry fee goes only to help the animals.

After a good few hours at the seal sanctuary, we got back in the car and manoeuvred out of the very steep car park and headed on our way to our resting destination, Falmouth. Only a short drive, the car deposited us to the outskirts of Falmouth in what seemed like no time at all, and we managed to find a bed and breakfast with relative ease. Having checked in, we left once more, this time on foot into the town centre in search of sustenance.

How could I describe Falmouth town centre in mid-September. Nothing short of dead comes to mind. There seemed to be nobody in the town centre at all, save a few restaurateurs and shop-keepers. We were, at least, able to get some food, after which we went down to the bay where we sat, and talked, and watched the evening slowly drift away!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Of end of lands and lizards - Chronicles of a Cornwall Holiday - Day 5

Overnight, the rain of the previous day had completely disappeared leaving us with the best day so far, weather wise. A few wispy white clouds decorated the rich blue in the skies above us, and the suns rays were kept in check by a light breeze coming straight off the glistening ocean over the quiet promenade. This was Penzance at its finest.

After a short wander along the promenade, we headed back to the car. On the agenda today were two of the most scenic areas of this part of the world, the first of which was Lands End. To get to Lands End from Penzance is remarkably easy when you are heading straight there. A short 9 mile jaunt along the A30 will take you straight there in about 15 minutes, or so. But this is Cornwall, and on a beautiful day there's nothing I like more than to take a long and leisurely drive along the scenic route. I managed to turn the 9 mile drive into more than 30 miles. We first headed towards St. Ives, and then headed to Lands End via one of the most scenic roads in Britain, the road between St. Ives and St. Just. With green fields and hills in one direction, and the land plunging into the sea in the other direction, I was finding it difficult to resits the urge to stop the car every few minutes to take more photos.
After a little over an hour, we arrived at Lands End. Having been here many times before, I was more than familiar with the location, but places like this never get boring. However, to my recollection, this is the first time I have been to Lands End in a car, and I had forgotten the extortionate amount the authorities charge for parking a car in what is essentially a field.

Unperturbed, we parked the car and set foot into the sunshine. It seems that every time I go to Lands End, I forget that there is more than just scenery there. The tourist trade around the area is buzzing in the small shopping area where they are truly capitalising on the location with shop names such as "The first and last post office in Britain", "The first and last pub in Britain", "The first and last restaurant in Britain" etc. I think it would be brilliant if they burnt the rule book and added a few extra bits. I almost felt compelled to don my hoody and stand in the shadows with a sign around my neck saying "The first and last gigolo in Britain". So many possibilities!

We headed swiftly through the shopping area, and headed towards the cliff. Lands end itself is inaccessible being too far down the cliff to be considered safe, so we took a seat overlooking the waves crashing violently against the rocks that had decided to detach themselves from the mainland, presumably heading for mainland Europe in a needlessly unpatriotic display of defection.
After a little while watching the water, we were blessed with the presence of a single brown rabbit. Basking in the sunshine, the rabbit which I had assumed to be wild, seemed to be completely fine with so many tourists around, and despite not allowing people to touch it, did have something of a flair for the camera, sitting perfectly still as I, and several others took some remarkably close-up pictures of it.

With the rabbit having left us to seek other opportunities to be pap'd, we left our seats and headed back towards the shopping area with the intention of finding something to eat. Unfortunately, both luck and the volume of tourists were against us. There was not a bite left to eat in the area. A picnic lunch at Lands End postponed, we decided to head back towards Penzance. Having spent a day or two there previously, I knew that there was a Wetherspoons in the town centre, and I really fancied a veggie burger! Quite hungry by this point and not wanting to get stuck in another cow jam, I opted for the short route back, and it was only a short while later that we were tucking into our lunch.

Stomachs full, we headed back out of the town, and headed towards Lizard Point. I'm still not quite sure what the area has to do with Lizards, if anything at all, but Lizard Point is the most southerly point of mainland Great Britain, further south even than Lands End. In comparison to Lands End, the area is much less catered for the tourist. There is a lighthouse and a youth hostel, but that really is pretty much it. For the time of day that we went there, we found the car park pleasantly empty, and somewhat surprisingly, free.

We left the car, and headed down towards the cliff edge. At Lizard Point, the eager sightseer can head all the way down the road to sea level, which is where we found ourselves a few moments later after the short walk from the car. It was full tide by the time we got there and this added so much atmosphere to the area. We sat at the end of the road where, at low tide, the road meets the beach. At high tide, the beach is submersed under about four feet of water, allowing the waves to crash heartily against the cliffs. There is something about the sound of waves crashing against cliffs that I find simply mesmerising. We sat down and watched and listened to the waves for what could have been hours. I honestly have no idea how much time we actually spend there, only that I enjoyed every single moment of it.

It became apparent as we headed back up the road that time had slipped silently past us. We found ourselves with the choice of heading back to the hotel for food and an evening of postcard writing, or waiting for a little while to catch a good sunset. We opted for the latter, and it wasn't long before the sun was dipping away behind us, giving us an ever-changing view of the cliffs silhouetted against the backdrop.
Thoroughly relaxed, and somewhat in awe of how beautiful the world can be, we headed back to the car before dark, and then headed back to Penzance once more. In the evening, we decided to while away the hours by heading out to the pub next to the hotel for the inevitable postcard catchup. For me, this was the first set of postcards that I had written since arriving in Cornwall (Louise had written and sent postcards for every day of the journey so far!), and I found myself increasingly frustrated at the size of the writing area of the postcard in comparison to the size of my handwriting. For any of those who I sent postcards to who are reading this, I apologise for the completely illegible squiggles!

By the time the postcards were finished, the beer garden was almost completely pitch black, I was probably half-cut, and the postcards themselves had begun to bend from the dew! We had been in the pub for several hours and I was freezing, especially my writing hand. Clearly the beer jacket didn't yet have enough layers, so we stayed for a couple more. when last orders were announced, we didn't feel like heading straight back to the hotel, so instead we found ourselves a bottle of wine and headed to the promenade, where we sat in a wind-shelter overlooking the calm waters of Penzance bay. Hours drifted by as we chatted and drank and shivered together. Eventually, at nearly 3am, we stumbled back to the hotel thoroughly happy, relaxed and looking forward to the day ahead.

If only the day hadn't turned up so early.....!

Writing postcards in the pub

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Of torrential rain and midnight drives - Chronicles of a Cornwall Holiday - Day 4

On the morning of our fourth day in cornwall, we once again woke up to the sound of rain hitting the concrete outside our room. This was never in the plan! Unperturbed, we left in search of the glorious sunshine of southern Cornwall. Driving through the mist, it wasn't long before we realised that the glorious sunshine wasn't going to come.

And then the rain started, I mean REALLY started. The rain was coming straight down, and from in front of us, and behind, and from each side. Inside my little Citroen Saxo it sounded like the four horsemen of the apocalypse were playing polo on the roof. We persevered, the car aqua-planing and swerving along the roads. Now, I know I have said that driving on the roads in Cornwall is fun, but when the car has a mind of it's own and the mist is so thick that I can't see more than three feet past the bonnet, even I will admit to being a little non-plussed! Still, we carried on along the coastal roads, not that it really made much of a difference, honestly, we could have been pretty much anywhere!

Eventually, the rain ceased, and we were able to see, for the first time that day, the coastline, and the Atlantic in the distance. The saturated beaches were almost empty, except for a few poor canoeists who had either been caught up in the mist and taken a wrong turn, or didn't really get the point of canoeing!

It seemed to be a day for strange sightings. We stopped at a small car-park on the edge of the water for a quick pee stop, and I was somewhat surprised by a sign I read. I wish I had taken a photo of it as proof, but I had other matters in hand (so to speak!). As I was washing my hands, I caught sight of the condom machine. I find washing my hands a deplorably boring task, so my eyes drifted, and I found myself reading the front of the machine. On the bottom, where it dispenses its product, I saw the classic line "This machine will not dispense when empty". No sh*t Sherlock! Seriously!?!? I have decided that when I come to power (mwahahaha!!) I will give free condoms to absolutely anybody who can't work this out for themselves. I'm serious, can you imagine what will happen if these people breed?!

The day being what it was, we decided to head straight for Penzance, which was to be our home for the next two days. We rolled into Penzance, and found our hotel. Instantly, we had flashes of the Lusty Glaze lodge again. Admittedly, it didn't look quite so bad from the outside as Lusty Glaze, but it wasn't exactly the Marriot! Regardless, we checked in, and to our horror, the room we were given was a mess. Empty bottles, hairs in the bed, towels on the floor. My heart sank, this wasn't what I wanted after a day driving through the rain. We immediately went to reception to put in only our second complaint of the holiday. We were asked if we would go back to the room, and somebody would be up very shortly to check things over. One of the managers followed us to the room, and on seeing the state of the room became somewhat sheepish, and extremely apologetic. "I'm so sorry, the room does not look to have been cleaned at all. I'm sorry. I apologise, I will sort it out immediately". We could still hear him apologising as he headed down the hall, bless him. A few minutes later, he came back with a fresh set of keys, and we were moved to a room opposite the hall, after he had checked out the room to make sure this one had been cleaned. More than happy with the move, we settled in.

Later that evening, after a little afternoon nap, we headed out of the hotel and back into the car. After finding some food, we decided that we would finish the day off with a night-drive to see how different the area looked without the natural light. After the days driving through the rain, I was a little pensive about it at first, but after a while, I started to settle into it. I have already mentioned how much I love driving in Cornwall, but at night it is even better, partly because all the cows were asleep in their fields, partly because I could see the headlights of cars coming towards me, but mostly because of the added driving experience. After a few hours of driving, in which we had gone from coast to coast and back again, we headed back to the hotel, hoping for better weather the next day.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Of waterfalls and nightmare hotels - Chronicles of a Cornwall holiday - Day 3

We stirred early the next morning to the sound of a light rain against the french doors of our hotel room. Sound can be somewhat deceptive though, as we found out when we opened the curtains. The sky was black in places, grey in others, and the rain was pouring down on the patio outside the room. In other times this may have put a bit of a downer on the day, but not today. Not now. We are on holiday, and we are going to enjoy it, no matter how much the gods conspire against us. To quote Billy Connolly, "there's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes!"

After a good breakfast at the hotel, we checked out and headed off in search of St. Nectarns Glen waterfall which we had passed on the way into Tintagel the evening before. We knew the car park for the waterfall was no more than 5 minutes up the road, but were unsure of where the waterfall was from there. We arrived at the car park just a few minutes later, and put on as many clothes as the temperature would allow to keep out the rain. We then headed off in the direction that the signs told us.

The rain didn't hold off for long, but it wasn't long before we were under a canvas of trees, walking though a woodland and following a beautiful little stream. With the rain hitting the leaves overhead, the gentle trickle of the stream, the smell of the forest in my nose, and the fresh air in my lungs, I felt a beautiful calm wash over me. I was thoroughly enjoying the walk, despite how wet I was getting.
After a while, we started rising away from the stream and into the upper forest. We arrived at a small house who's garden was packed with garden chairs. This is the house who's occupants own the land on which the waterfall resides. They have also opened their garden as a coffee shop and postcard retailer. There was nobody around, and the gate down to the waterfall was locked, so we had no choice but to wait for somebody to turn up. We sat down on the only dry table we could find and waited. And waited. and when we were bored of waiting, we couldn't decide what to do, so we waited some more. Eventually the owners turned up, and opened the gate for us.

Now, I know we live in a world where people will always try and make a profit from anything, but I do have something of a problem with asking people to pay money to see something that is natural. Waterfalls are carved out of rock over the course of thousands, if not millions of years. I don't believe you can put a price on that, and people should not have to pay to see the natural beauty of the world. By all means set up a coffee shop, a pub, whatever next to it and let people choose to go into them, but forcing somebody to pay for something for which you can take absolutely no credit and could never really "own" should not be allowed.

Nevertheless, we paid our money and headed down the steep steps to the waterfall. And my, what a waterfall it is. The water cascades beautifully down the hillside, and then through an archway before falling to Earth. So beautiful, and somehow so delicate that I simply can't put it into words.
After about half an hour, we left the waterfall and began the long walk back to the car. Although still quite dark, the rain had started to ease a little, and temperature had improved. On the way back to the car as we were crossing the road, I heard a small scream behind me. I turned to see what was going on, and couldn't see anything the matter at first. Louise explained to me that as she crossed the road, she was about to put her foot on a leaf when the leaf, taking the form of a small frog, started jumping away from her towards the kerb. I walked back a few paces, and found the frog resting in the grass on the roadside probably analysing the details of it's whole life that had just flashed before it's eyes!
Feeling the first bite of lunchtime hunger, we got into the car and pointed the front wheels in the direction of Tintagel
We carried on heading south-west along the coastal roads, heading towards Port Isaac. Port Isaac is a tiny little village on the coast and is most famous for being the village in which the TV Doc. Martin is set. Personally, I have never watched Doc. Martin. As much as I like Martin Clunes, it is not a programme that I have ever made a point of watching, and being on at a time when I am usually on the way back from work, I have always missed it. Still, it was as good a destination as any, so a little while later we rolled into the village. And straight back out again. The village really is that small! Unperturbed, we headed back up the road to find a car park, and then took a walk down the hill towards the port and the actual village. When I say hill, I mean mountain! Well, not quite mountain, but very steep and long hill anyway! You have to worry when you see a car parked on the hill with small boulders being used as chocks to keep the car in place!

Despite being a tiny, and very hilly village, Port Isaac is a beautiful place to go, and I would like to go back there. The village is set back from the surrounding cliffs where the sea comes much further inland creating what must have been an ideal location for the pirates and smugglers of old.
After only a short while in Port Isaac, most of which was spent watching a man playing with his two dogs on the beach, we headed back up the road to the car. Our next stop was to be Newquay where we would be staying the night. Back on the road in the afternoon traffic, it wasn't long before we were in Newquay and looking for the place that we had booked to stay the night. When booking it, I was a little hesitant as the name "Lusty Glaze lodge" conjured up all sorts of images of drunken ramblings, but upon checking the map, I discovered that Lusty Glaze was actually a real place name, and not the embodiment of a certain emotion! We drove all the way through Newquay looking for the hotel, but couldn't see it. It was only after we turned round that we saw it from the other direction.

Have you ever seen the episode of Scrubs where every time JD does something wrong, an opera singer comes up behind him and sings in a powerful soprano voice "Mistaaaaaaaaaaaaake!"? Well, that's kinda how I felt driving into the grounds of the Lusty Glaze lodge! From a distance, it looked OK. Just a standard hotel. But as we got closer, the cracks started appearing, and by the time we got into the car park (which looked like an abandoned building site) we were really starting to worry. Potholes in the car park, empty beer bottles lying on the grass by the entrance, tables piled with dirty stuff in the lobby, they really did have everything. We checked in and went up to the room which was filthy. We would have had a lovely view of Lusty Glaze beach and the sea beyond had it not been for the dirt on the window.
After what seemed like an age sitting in the room and wondering what to do, we needed to get out. We went downstairs, and after a short discussion decided that we were going to check out. I think it is a testament to the quality of the hotel that the reception staff didn't seem at all surprised that we were wanting to check out, and were more than happy to give us a full refund.

We jumped back in the car, and started searching around for a bed and breakfast. One of the great things about this part of Cornwall at this time of year is that there is more than enough accommodation going round for everyone. It wasn't long before we found a very good looking B&B that had a vacancies sign in the window. We pulled into the car park (admiring the lack of potholes!) and went up to the door. There was a sign giving the phone number of the owner and telling the potential customer to call. I called, and was told that the ladies husband would be there in just a few minutes with the keys. After waiting, we checked in, instantly falling in love with the place. Everything was clean, the room was comfortable, the staff were really kind. It was everything we wanted.

We left the room and headed out on the short walk into the town centre. For the first time so far on the holiday, we were actually in an area that could be classified as a town. We headed through the town and down towards the beach on the other side. The tide was out, and although we didn't go down onto the beach, we whiled away the time watching a few dogs play on the sand. Beside us was a nice house situated on a high rock at the side of the beach, only accessible by a rope bridge to the mainland. I can't remember how much for, but I am told the place is for sale. Still waiting for the lottery win, though!!
Later, we headed away from the beach, and back into town for some food. After a recommendation from the owners of the B&B, we had settled on a very nice Indian restaurant overlooking the beach. An outstanding feature of the restaurant was that every single table had a sea view. This wasn't achieved by a clever laying out of the tables, or by having every seat next to a window. Instead, in a blinding moment of genius, the management had erected beach-facing cameras on the outside of the building, and displayed the video feed on TV screens carefully situated throughout the restaurant. If that doesn't deserve an award, I don't know what does!

Fed and watered, we took a long evening stroll back to the B&B for a well earned sleep.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Of awesome drives and runaway cows - Chronicles of a Cornwall Holiday - Day 2

After an astounding night's sleep, we awoke early with the smell of toast in the air. It's funny how toast can make you feel instantly hungry. I am very happy to say that it wasn't just the smell of the breakfast that was fantastic. Food, glorious food! A full English of the vegetarian variety, toast, coffee, fruit juices, fresh fruit and cereals were amongst the choices on offer. Food of such good quality and service with a smile and a chat from our hosts is what makes bed and breakfast so much better than the equivalent hotels!

We left the bed and breakfast, and started heading north. It hadn't really been our intention to head north, but after taking a quick look at the map, I couldn't help myself. I was instantly consumed with excitement when I saw the name "Westward Ho!" shining like a beacon from the page. It is my opinion that anywhere in the world that has an exclamation mark in the name must be truly awesome. I've not seen a place name with an exclamation mark in it before, which I have begun to feel is a bit of a shame! I would love to see more punctuation in place names. As some of you will know, I am very fond of exclamation marks wherever they are used. I think somebody should take the initiative and put more punctuation in place names. Maybe the odd question mark wouldn't go amiss. Picture the situation. Some bright-eyed soul adds a question mark to London, and all of a sudden, nobody seems to know where it is, and when people say they are going there, they would always sound like they can't quite believe it (I'm going to London?). The world would be so much a better place.

We started heading along the main A road and after a few minutes we hit traffic. Ever the optimist, I was once again not expecting to hit traffic, especially this far into Cornwall. As it turned out, one of the roads had been closed due to an overturned caravan. A quick check of the map, and our route had been replanned, taking us inland a little, going horizontal and vertical, rather than the expected diagonal route. The road this way was much clearer, and I have to say that I was thoroughly enjoying it. I have enjoyed driving ever since I started taking lessons oh so many years ago, but there is something about driving in Cornwall which makes it all the better, not only because it was a holiday drive, but the roads are exceptional. The road we were travelling on was twisting and turning through the countryside, a long left hander immediately followed by a hard right, and steep hill and then a drop that brings you back only about ten feet away from where you started, as the crow flies. This is what driving was invented for! In my head, I was a rally driver! In my head, there was nobody else on the roads, and although I was driving safely, I was driving to the best of my ability and absolutely loving every second of it. To all of you, I beg you, if you ever get the chance to drive in Cornwall, take it. Spread your wings and fly through the Cornish countryside in the best way your car lets you. To those of you that do not have a driving license, I implore you to pass your test as soon as possible, get a few years driving experience behind you, and then head to Cornwall. Don't ask. Don't procrastinate. Do!!

We arrived at Westward Ho! (<< still makes me giggle!) and were greeted by an exceptional surfers beach, people enjoying the sport amongst the waves a little offshore. Westward Ho! is not a particularly big place, but to be honest, I think it would be spoilt if it was. The beach seemed to stretch on for miles, bordered by cliffs and breakwater's either side. The tide was a fair way out at the time, which meant that it was a fair walk to the waters edge, but that only meant that there was more room to play for those who'd taken their dogs onto the beach. Incidentally, there is a practice here in the UK that I have to admit that I am not overly fond of, that being the restriction of dogs on beaches during the summer months. Having once owned a Collie, I know how fond dogs can be of running freely in the sand, just as we all were as children. I understand that because a few messy people let their dogs poop freely on the beaches and don't clear up after them, and some people are scared of dogs, that some considerations must be made, but it seems these days that dogs aren't allowed anywhere unless they are on the lead and muzzled. It just seems a little unfair to me!
After a brief walk along the beach, we headed back onto the road, and heading south to Bude and beyond. By now, the road I had intended on taking that morning had been cleared of the caravan and reopened. And what a road it is! I know, I have already mentioned how good driving in Cornwall is, but it is made even more spectacular when the view encompasses great hills on one side, and cliffs and ocean views on the other. Because of a lot of the corners, it was impossible to do more than forty on the sixty mile an hour road, but it wasn't about the speed. But something a little strange happened along the way. We were going through the winding cliff roads, left, right, up down, round again and then...

Traffic. AGAIN! What is going on. What could possibly be causing us to slow down this time? I looked ahead of me. This traffic jam was a little odd, as it seemed to consist of just three cars, and a man in the middle of the road shouting. Then I realised what was behind him. About fifty cows had joined their owner in an afternoon stroll along the main road, taking in the sights of Northern Cornwall. Is this normal? Is this supposed to happen on a Saturday afternoon in these parts? Is the farmer that conscientious of the welfare of his cows that he gives them a run-out at the weekends. No wonder Cornish clotted cream is said to be the best in the world if this is the environment the cows are living in! Had the cows been stampeding, or even running, I might have thought that this was a case of a broken fence and a few cows getting loose, but they seemed to be perfectly happily moving in their mass down the road, past the cars and towards whatever their destination was. And what seemed even more odd was that the rest of the traffic didn't seem to even notice. Just sit and wait, no horns, no angry shouts, no words with the farmer. Nothing. As if everything was perfectly normal.

Having got past the cows, we persevered and carried on towards Tintagel, stopping at Widemouth Bay for some lunch and some surfer spotting along the way. Eventually we hit Tintagel, a lovely little town who's claim to fame is that King Arthur once held court there. Well, that is as the story goes, anyway. There is a lot of proof to the contrary, but that will never stop the tourist machine. The result is that absolutely every shop, pub and road sign bares the name of King Arthur and many of them complete the picture with a suit of armour guarding its entrance.

We found our hotel and checked in. I have to admit that I was exhausted by this time. The long drives over the past 48 hours had really begun to take their toll on me, and although it was only late afternoon, a short lie down on the very comfortable bed turned disastrous as sleep overcame me. There's something about sleeping in the afternoon that I have always been a fan of, no matter where I am, and it did me the world of good.

After my few hours sleep, we left the hotel in search of a few lazy pints at one of the local pubs. I can't remember the exact name of said public house, but given where we were, I am sure it must have been something along the lines of King Arthurs Arms, or something equally Arthurian. A very relaxing evening was to be had in the company of locals and tourists alike, but it wasn't long before the affects of my afternoon sleep had worn off, and I felt the bed calling once more.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Of traffic jams and Stephen King novels - Chronicles of a Cornwall holiday - Day 1

After quite literally moments of planning, my girlfriend and I took to the road on the 3rd September and headed for Cornwall. Actually, that makes it sound a lot easier than it was. The truth is that we had planned to leave at around 10am, but actually ended up leaving at around 12:30. Funny how much more relaxed you feel about it when you are driving!

With the route planned, we hit the road in glorious sunshine, an eclectic mix of music thumping from the stereo, and that little bit of excitement that is only felt when you are going on holiday (as opposed to having arrived!). We got onto the M3 and everything was looking absolutely great, the car was going fine, and the other drivers were behaving themselves and sticking to their respective lanes.

We had been going for about an hour and a half when the traffic started to slow down around us. My car only being a Citroen, and not the superhero style car that I had asked Santa for at Christmas, I was forced to give in to peer pressure and slow down as well. Being foolishly optimistic, I hadn't been expecting to hit traffic on the way down, but lo and behold, the driving public of southern England had other ideas.

After nearly two hours, we finally hit the end of the traffic. And what had caused it, you ask? Stone Henge. That's it, that's all it was. The rubber-necker brigade appeared to be out in force. Scientists have been struggling for years to explain what the reasons for Stone Henge being built were. Is there a religious significance, and was it a place of worship? Or was it some form of time keeping device? On the evidence I have seen, I feel the answer seems to have been staring them in the face. I think it is simply an ancient, if slightly elaborate pacifier. People come from all over to look at it, and can never seem to pass it by at more than five miles an hour!

All in all, it took us the best part of six and a half hours to complete the journey. It should (if Google's directions are correct!) have taken us about four hours. This wasn't only due to the traffic. Those of you that know me could probably testify to the fact that when it comes to directions my ability is only slightly above that of a drunk puppy! Eventually we found the road on which the bed and breakfast we were staying was situated. We turned into the driveway and our hearts sank. The road was dark, overgrown with trees and the road itself had potholes the size of coffins. My mind raced to Stephen King novels. I was expecting to hear cackles coming from the surrounding woodland, a serial killer or two hiding behind the trees. Hearts and minds racing, we drove hesitantly up the road. After what seemed like an age, the trees opened out and a revelation was beheld.

We were greeted with an immaculate gravel driveway leading to the most beautiful of Cornish cottages. I instantly fell in love with the place. I went inside and was greeted by the owner who showed us the room which was absolutely stunning. We couldn't have asked for more, and with a warm handshake, the owner told us to make ourselves comfortable, using the living room if we required.

Knowing that we were already heading into late evening, and that it was such a clear sky, we decided to head to the coast and take in the sunset. And what a spectacular sunset it was! We had found a clifftop overlooking Widemouth beach, the waves crashing against the rocks on the shore, and a deep red sun plunging into the sea on the horizon.

After watching the sunset, we went down to shore level, and took a short walk along the beach. For me, the walk turned into a short run. I couldn't help myself. I came over all childish. With the air in my lungs, and my childhood in my heart, I ran as fast as I could to the waters edge. It was only once I got there that I became an adult again, and remembered that I was wearing shoes, and didn't want to get them wet. Not wanting to spoil the moment, I ran like a five year old all the way back again! The holiday had officially started, and we couldn't have asked for a better start.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

WTF Wednesdays - 01/09/2010


Those of you who follow the simply wonderful Stephen Fry on Twitter may have seen this morning a post regarding the drinking of whiskey made from the urine of diabetics.

Not one for disbelieving Stephen Fry, I had to follow it up, and as ludicrous as it sounds, the story is actually true.

One James Gilpin has started creating a whiskey in which the sugar rich urine of his diabetic grandmother, among others is used in the distilling process. Once the whiskey has been fully distilled, the product is bottled and labelled under the "Gilpin Family Whiskey" label, with the name and age of the person who "donated" to the process included on the label.

Not that I drink whiskey, but I can't say that I'm overly keen on drinking it! Still, you have to try everything once!

The Gilpin Whiskey site can be found here

Happy Hump Day :0)

Saturday, 28 August 2010

A poem about a hangover

I woke up last night in a little bit of pain
there was something in my eye that was driving me insane
I got up to have a look but alas I couldn't see
So I went back to my bed and then quickly fell asleep
I woke up again this morning with a very painful head
I should have gone down to the gym and not the pub instead
I should not have had the fourth and definitely not the fifth
The Sambuca was just silly, and my god was there a sixth
Well it couldn't have been that bad as at least I caught the train
and a bloody taxi doing speeds that are insane
I hope I didn't make a noise as lock evaded key
and as I ran straight up the stairs, busting for a wee
I found one sock still on my foot, the other on the floor
I felt like I was just alive, I felt a dirty whore!
I needed sleep, I needed food, I needed a new head
but the headache wouldn't let me sleep when I went back to bed

Eventually I got back up and went down to the shop
I needed something chocolaty and some fizzy pop
The chocolate and the fizzy pop worked so very well
And now, apart from tiredness, I am feeling swell!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

WTF Wednesdays - 25/08/2010

This week sees the start of a new weekly feature to this blog, which I have chosen to Christen WTF Wednesdays.

The idea of the WTF Wednesday is to deliver a small piece of the internet, or the outside world (hmm, natural light, *shudder*!!) which makes you stand still for just a few seconds and think "what the F***?!"

I'm hoping to make this a regular feature and would welcome any suggestions as to future posts.

As a start, I came across this apparently genuine sign this morning

It really does beggar belief that somebody would actually put a sign up informing people that the sign is dangerous. Not only that, but the sign in question appears to actually have rounded edges which may prove to be less sharp than would warrant such a sign!

Ho hum.

Happy Hump day, and I hope it is a good one for you :0)

Monday, 23 August 2010

Killing Music?

Recently, there has been more talk of the internet generation destroying modern music by downloading tracks illegally, and using services such as Spotify to stream their music rather than buying the albums. But it strikes me that in my entire musical memory, record companies and the powers that be have always said that home taping is killing music, and yet music has always survived. These days, live music is more popular than ever, and speaking from the UK point of view, there are far more festivals than there ever used to be. If we look at the festival calendar we find that the older festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading now act as cushions surrounding the likes of the Isle of Wight, Download, Creamfields and V. Many of the highlights of the festival calendar are broadcast on the BBC and other national TV stations and reach audiences in their millions worldwide.

So it would seem that live music is more popular than ever, but the record companies themselves still insist that the music industry on the whole is failing. So where is the gap between people going to the festivals and those that are buying singles and albums? I, for one, think that the answer lies in the music that is presented to us by the commercial radio stations. The fact is that there is a lot of good music out there, when one takes the time to go out and actively seek it, but the commercial radio stations choose to furnish us with the same generic rubbish year on year.

I like to think of this as the Simon Cowell affect. Simon Cowell seems to have been around forever, invading our TV screens for the best part of 9 months every year. Under his belt, he has such classic tunes as the Blobby song and Bob The Builder, as well as countless series of PopStarz, Pop Idol, X-Factor and Britains' Got Talent. One of the questions that comes about from the rise of these shows is, If Britain's got talent, why can't Simon Cowell seem to find any? Or any that lasts, anyway. Off the top of your head, how many "winners" of these shows can you remember? And how about the runners up? Figured!

The problem doesn't necessarily lie in the brand of music that he is creating. Let's face it, we've all had a little bit of a dance to the likes of S Club 7, Steps, and various others, but it is the opinion of this particular blogger that music should be about music. I don't care what the people making the music look like. It speaks much more to me that people sing their own songs, in their own voices (it came to light that some of the recent X Factor audition videos broadcast on the show had been post edited and autotuned to make the contestants sound better), and with the passion that was originally put into the lyrics.

A recent of the "looks are better than lyrics" generation comes in the form of Lady Gaga. Personally, I find both her style and her music utterly deplorable, and for want of a better word, boring! Anybody can look like a cross between Courtney Love and Snow White after a bad night with all seven dwarves if they want to, that doesn't make for a talent. As for the music, if you listen closely, you easily hear the autotune kicking in quite a lot. Also, many of the lines in songs such as Telephone are split so that a single word can cover half a chorus (I give you t-t-t-t-telephone!). This is not an original concept. Some of you may be too young to remember Stutter-Rap by Morris Minor and the Majors

Nothing in music appears to be original anymore. That's not to say that there is no good music out there. One of the most exciting bands out there at the moment are Paramore, but can they really be called original? Probably not. People look to the old masters to get the best music of previous generations. Once again, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and other older bands are rising in popularity. People want to find something new, but with record companies refusing to let us hear anything truly new, we have no choice but to go backwards in what we are listening to, and then draw the similarities between those bands around today and the bands that were around then!

To quote a line from one of my favourite films, following his untimely death, one of the lead characters, reading from an essay says the following. "Always finish on a quote, since somebody has already said it better, steal from them and go out strong". A quote that could so easily be referring to certain factions of the current music industry.

However, I don't see this as the end of the music industry. People may stop buying albums and singles from the main record companies for a time, but while the record companies begin to yield less power, so the smaller record distributors, and the local bands become ever stronger. I look forward to a time when the radio is dominated by bands and musicians who have a passion for writing and performing, who don't seek overnight success and accept that to really make it as a musician you have to hone your craft and work at it, sleep in camper vans for months at a time playing small clubs and growing an ever loyal fanbase. Embracing the new technologies available to them and utilising them to reach as broad a fanbase as they possibly can. Maybe this will be the wake up call that the major players in the music industry have been waiting for.

We wait, with bated breath!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The perfect late-night snack

A bit of a lame post this, I know, but here is a recipe for the perfect Friday/Saturday (/tuesday!) late night left-the-pub-and-everything-was-closed snack. Enjoy!

2 slices white or brown bread
3 slices sandwich ham/turkey/bacon
Some grated Cheddar cheese
An amount of ketchup

Chop the ham/turkey/bacon into 1/2 to 3/4cm squares
Toast one side of the bread
Spread the ketchup on the untoasted side of the bread
Sprinkle the ham/turkey/bacon pieces onto the bread
Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top
Toast until the cheese starts to turn golden

Voila! That's it. Simples!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Suffering from the cold!

I was on my way to work this morning, and as I approached the train station, it suddenly occurred to me that I was absolutely freezing. Of course, living in the UK, this is nothing new. Our summers tend to vary between spitefully cold, and bone-drenchingly wet, with only the odd day of real summer sunshine.

For as long as I can remember I have suffered from terminal coldness. I remember being on holidays when I was younger and always having a jacket handy waiting for the moment when the sun went down and I wasn't in direct heat. But as I move on in years, I seem to be feeling the cold more and more, despite the media's take on the onset of global warming.

It seems these days that everywhere I go, I am cold. I get on the train in the mornings, and the air conditioning is switched to "Keep the turkey cold for Christmas". I get off the train at Waterloo, and walk over Waterloo bridge, which has a severe cross-wind coming straight off Old Father Thames. I get to work, and back into the air conditioning for the day.

Why is air conditioning so mean? I would be fine with it if the temperature it was set to was the actual temperature that is coming out of the fans. Instead, it seems that the actual air temperature is at least fifty Celsius below that!

Incidentally, on a random side-note, why do we still refer to temperature in Centigrade. Everywhere we look, and in every modern text book, temperature is referred to as Celsius, and the term Centigrade ceased to exist in 1948! Strange thing is, I'm sure I remember being taught Centigrade when I was at school, and I'm not that old!

I say it's about time we get rid of air conditioning. In a country such as this, it is completely unnecessary. If we really want some cooler air coming into the office, then why do we not just open a window. The air is much cleaner, and contains the right amount of humidity to stop sore throats and dry eyes. Also, air-con units are a haven for germs of all sorts and i believe they are the main causes of things like this.

With that, I'm off to wrap myself in a duvet with a hot water bottle!!!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Are chicken nuggets really that good?

Just a short post this one, but it really did make me chuckle!

Some of you may have seen the news report the other day of one Melodi Dushane of Toledo, Ohio, who has been sent to jail after a case of food rage.

The story goes that, finding herself rather hungry early one morning, she went to her local drive through fast food restaurant, and ordered some chicken nuggets. Told that the restaurant was not serving chicken nuggets at that time as it was too early, and they were still serving breakfast, she decided her best course of action was to assult the counter staff.

She got out of her car, and apparently punched the attendant in the face before smashing the kiosk window.

Now, I admit that I haven't had chicken nuggets in quite some time, but I have to be honest and say that I never really liked them. Maybe the recipe has changed!

So, I ask, are chicken nuggets really THAT good?

Click here for the video :0)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Man Flu - One of the deadliest diseases in the world!

As I write this, I am sitting in bed with my laptop on my lap (let's face it, where else would it be!), a cup of Lemsip on my bedside table, four toilet rolls stuffed up my nose, a half packet of Paracetomol swimming in the already consumed Lemsip in my stomach, and a few tears running down my cheeks.

The fact is, I am dying. Many among you will feel that I am just being a wimp, and that it is just the usual bout of summer cold, but I am sure there are some out there who will sympathise with how I feel. I suspect that the divide between those who think I am a wimp, and those who think I am entirely justified in wanting to lie down and die very loudly (what is the point of dying quietly when making it known how you feel is so much more fun!) will be evenly divided between the male and the female of the species.

Yes, this is why they call it "Man-Flu". An ordinary cold that affects men far more than it affects women. An affliction that will be complained about as much as possible by the sufferer as they claim that they are dying (and rightly so, in my opinion!) while still maintaining enough energy to claim it as loudly as possible!
It always starts with the sore throat that feels like somebody has taken a cheese-grater to it. For most people, this would result in the sufferer to consume lots more water, try to relax a little more, get a couple of nights of decent sleep, and take a few lozenges. For the Man-Flu sufferer, however, this is a sign that he should begin telling as many people as he can that he is coming down with a cold. This is when one of the lesser known symptoms of the cold will start, that of feeling sorry for yourself!
A day or two of the sore throat, and the stuffed-up-ness will start, closely followed by the runny nose. Some men choose to advertise this by stuffing toilet paper up their nose, leaving just enough outside of the nostril for people to notice.

The man will eventually give up the fight against the inevitable onslaught of illness and be forced to spend at least one day in bed equally dividing his time between sleep and Jeremy Kyle (Man-Flu is proven to take away any sense of taste!).

From here on out, it's anybody's guess. It could go anywhere, and until it is over, there is no telling which way it will go. It could end with the victim feeling much better, and having a different view of the world after being so close to the edge. On the other hand, it could end in death by drowning (don't think about that too much!!).

For this particular victim, time can only tell. If I survive, I will see you on the other side. If I don't, then I hope in years to come you will remember me. Wish me luck!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Rules of the commuter train

With the onset of the school summer holidays, there will inevitably be a few additions to the passengers on the morning commuter trains into London. For those who do not travel on these trains very often, and as a service to those who do, I write here a reminder of the unwritten rules of the commuter train.

Quiet Car
When entering a "quiet car", please ensure that your mobile is set to its "loud" setting, text a friend to call you, and then put the phone on loudspeaker as you discuss your sex life and what you intend to eat that evening. Also, make sure that your MP3 players volume is set high enough to broadcast to the deaf!

Avoid eye contact
If you are not on the quiet car, under no circumstances attempt eye contact or any other form of communication with anyone else on the carriage (except when "sharing the love" (see below!)). This aversion to other people should include the ticket inspector who should never, ever be so much as acknowledged. If at all possible, upon hearing the ticket collector, leave your ticket face up on your knee and stare out of the window as far to the horizon as you can. Do not attempt to talk to, smile at, or admire the shoes of anybody that you don't know.

Share the love
Make sure that you are as close to the person sitting next to you as you could possibly be. If said person begins to creep away from you, you are obliged to turn towards them with the intention of brushing your leg against theirs. On certain seats, this can also mean that your back will be against the shoulder of the person behind. If you find that this is the case, make no attempt to lean forward. Instead, nuzzle into the person behind you.

Gents, keep those knees apart

For the male commuter, it is imperative that your knees remain apart at all times by a distance no less than one and a half times the width of your shoulders. This is particularly important when seated in the middle seat of a three seat block. An effective way to maintain this position is to lean slightly forward and focus on the floor. When performed correctly, this position should be complemented with your forehead being no more than 3 inches above the knee of the person sitting opposite you.

The fuller the better
As is demonstrated by the above video, one should never step onto an empty, or partially empty carriage. Instead, choose the carriage with the most people on it, and offer your services in adding to their cramped discomfort. Crowd surfing is generally frowned upon, mostly due to the amount of fun had in doing so, but always keep the option open for consideration.

Cycle restrictions
The notice "Cycle restrictions apply on this train" means that you must carry at least one bicycle onto the train. If you don't have a bicycle to hand, steal one from the train platform, or borrow one from a friend. Make sure that when placing said bicycle on the carriage, you cover as many seats as possible, and leave it balanced precariously so that it will fall over every time the train hits a bump. Do NOT apologise if the bike falls over and hits somebody on the shin/ankle/foot. Instead, look at them like they stole your last Rolo, and devote your attention to making sure the bike hasn't been fatally wounded!

Germs are everybody's friend
Remember that everybody on the train is curiously fascinated by bacteria and loves to get ill. Therefore, you should never cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing. If at all possible, try to direct the flow of sneeze based spittle towards the ear of the person sitting next to you, or to the lap of the person sitting opposite you. Handkerchiefs and tissues are not allowed, so any excess must be wiped either on your hand or on your sleeve.

Leave your litter on the seat
Remember to leave as much rubbish on the seat as possible. Newspapers, Styrofoam cups, sweet wrappers, engine oil, horse manure, anything you can think of. If possible, separate each page of any newspaper, and place separately on the seats and floor around you.

Don't give your seat away

Under no circumstances offer the old person your seat. Instead, focus every fibre of your being on ignoring them as they struggle to stand against the sideways motion of the carriage

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


There are a few things in our driving lives that make the usually pleasurable experience of owning a car tiresome, dull and in some cases infuriating. Be it the days when you are driving through a town and it seems that every single traffic light is has turned their collective attention towards you, and insist on stopping you in your tracks. The learner drivers that insist on taking their first ever lesson during the morning rush hour. The Mercedes drivers who want to know all of the details of the inside of your exhaust pipe, and are getting as close as they possibly can in order to find out. Waiting at the petrol station for the person in front of you to move, only to find they have decided to do their entire weekly shopping in the shop.
All of these things I find grate me a little, but at the same time, I can accept that they are all part and parcel of the driving experience, and take them in my stride. There is one thing, however, that is often a sore subject. It comes around once every year, beginning with hours of misery on the phone or on the internet, and concluding with the blatant throwing away of your hard-earned money. I am, of course, talking about car insurance.
These days, there are two routes to go when looking around for car insurance. The first of these is the old school method of sitting on the phone for countless hours in fifteen minute bursts answering the same questions over and over again, only to discover that the first quote you had wasn’t quite as extortionate as you had first thought. The second, and somewhat preferred method is to go through an online company such as GoCompare (having forgotten the pact made on the third occasion of hearing THAT advert!), where the data can be entered once and fired off to the internet.
At the end of all the searching, I always find myself left with a certain satisfied feeling that I have got the best deal for my insurance. This feeling, however, will only last for about twenty minutes or so before I start wondering if it really is that good a deal after all.
Let’s look at the facts. During my driving career, I have spent an average of around £500 a year on insuring my car. This is money that I will never, ever see again. During these twelve years, I have only had one claim on any of my insurance policies. The claim that I made was that my car had been stolen from outside of my home. The car in question wasn’t worth that much, and at the time, I was glad of the money, which was far more than I would have received for scrapping the car, which had actually been my intention anyway! Lo and behold, when I got around to buying a new car and renewing my insurance, I was informed that because I had made a claim, my insurance was to go up by £150. The suggestion is that it was somehow my fault that the car was stolen in the first place!
Being a man in my late twenties, my car insurance is always heightened, the theory being that I only ever drive at 100 miles an hour, sideways, finishing my journeys in a ditch, covered in petrol, on fire! The fact is that, despite the presence of testicles, I do not drive like that. I have never had reason to believe that my current car would even support the warp factors that the insurance companies deem me capable of. I have a fully clean license, no prior convictions, and although I have been stopped several times by the police, the incidences were never anything more than random checks of the condition of the car and the driver.
So why, then, does my insurance, even now, keep increasing? I know that the £50 or so increase is not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but when I consider that this is an increase of 10% of the policy, I have to start asking questions. To the best of my knowledge, there has not been a sudden spate of car crime in the area which would warrant it. I still only do a few thousand miles every year, and I haven’t changed my car.
All in all, I feel that the insurance system that we have is desperately unfair on the clean driver, and it is only because of the legal requirement of having insurance that the companies have been getting away with it for so long. I would be more than happy to pay a slightly higher sum of insurance at the beginning of the term if I knew that in some way, somewhere down the line, I would get the money back. If I drive for an entire year without making a claim (incidentally, I am now into my fifth year without making such a claim!), then why should I not see at least some of the money be returned to me, or have a rolling insurance policy whereby I only pay again if I use it? As I have already said, despite the non-existence of claims against it, the cost of my insurance keeps increasing year-on-year.
That said, what if I were to make a claim? Having read some of the small print in the insurance documents that have previously been sent to me, there is no guarantee that any claim will be met with anything more than a scathing look and a sarcastic “erm, no!” The number of things that one can claim for is far outweighed by the number of things that you can’t claim for. A few examples of the things that would be deemed unclaimable are as follows:
Inviting theft
If I were having that bad a day that I accidentally locked my keys in my car, went home to get my spare set, and upon my return found that my car had been stolen, the likelihood is that my insurance would be null and void. The reason for this is that, since the keys were in the car at the time, the theft would have been invited, even though I had not been able to get to the keys without breaking into the car myself.
The same clause goes for a situation where I left my keys in my front door, with the car keys attached to the door key and some unscrupulous person were to steal both keys.
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but unless I were to physically walk up to an unknown passer-by and ask them in a polite tone if they wouldn’t mind perhaps stealing my car, then I have not invited them to do so. And of course, if I were to do this, I would be sent to jail for insurance fraud, and rightly so!
Act of God
This has to be the insurance companies favourite because if taken to the extreme it can cover pretty much anything and everything. We have all heard of people who have woken up one morning to find that a tree has succumbed to the elements and fallen gracefully through the front window of the car. This is just one of the many so-called acts of God that are not covered by most insurance policies. Some of the other favourites are flood damage, earthquake damage (yes, not very likely on our island, but even so!), and some circumstances of fire damage (in the case of a forest fire that is not caused by arson!).
Alas, dear reader, I shall once again be hitting the web tomorrow with the latest details of my car, my driving habits, how many cups of tea I drink in an average week, the brand of toothpaste I use, and who I was supporting in the Wimbledon final in the hope that I can get my insurance quote down to somewhere in the realm of what could be considered value for money. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Eggs by the dozen? Yes, I think so!

On Sunday, it was reported in The Mail On Sunday that a new EU regulation has been passed which will prevent the selling of eggs by the dozen or indeed, as is more common on our island, by the half dozen. Immediately, the rather surprising number of readers of that particular publication raised their voices as one proclaiming that the European Union have never done anything but meddle in our affairs. There is many an angry person that reads the Mail with the trust afforded to the British press who will believe all of these types of stories, take them under their collective wings and stand as one, opposed to the European Union and everything it stands for. But what should we make of the story? Is Europe creeping at the door and invading everything we stand for, or is this just another example of the misguided half truths that the British press hand us on a platter with the expectation that the nation that will gorge itself?
The answer to that particular question lies in a further article from the daily edition of the paper that went to press on Monday, just one day after the original article. The article, entitled Eggs by the dozen will NOT be banned, say Brussels after backlash by Britain made an attempt to cover the previous articles tracks, although not very effectively, and explain the real laws that had been passed by the European Union. Further reading from other sources reveals the real story behind the hype presented to us by those reporters at the daily mail.
The story behind the myth
The real story, and indeed the proposed legislation behind this report is that the EU are attempting to standardise the way in which food is sold in all shops and supermarkets throughout the nations that it governs. This legislation will require that all items should be sold by weight, or at least have the average weight clearly visible on the packaging. This does not mean that supermarkets can no longer sell items by quantity, but it does mean that the average weight of the package should be in clear view to the proposed consumer. As a result, eggs can still be sold by the dozen or half dozen, but should have an average weight of the contents so that the consumer knows exactly what they are buying.
This law is a step on from the current laws stating exactly what constitutes the size of an egg. There are four official sizes of eggs, those being
- Very large (73g and over)
- Large (63g – 73g)
- Medium (53g – 63g)
- Small (under 53g)
There are many other EU regulations that have been misreported by the British press, and many, many more that have been completely made up. It has almost come to a point where if somebody mentions EU regulations, there is an observable shudder in the shoulders of the recipient to the conversation. So what is it that causes this reaction? The answer, once again is the British press and the lies and misguided half truths that they spout on what would seem an almost daily basis. Every one of us has some story or other that we have heard from the British press which is as much anti-Euro as it is completely untrue.
Straight bananas only!
This is one of my favourites, more because I was aware of when the story first broke, and I have to admit that, for a while at least, I believed it. Alas, it is another one of the Daily Mail’s lazy excuses for journalism. This story comes about from an EU regulation on the size of a banana, and not, as was reported at the time, its shape. Now, I know a lot of people wont see the point in passing a regulation on such a menial thing, and that is probably true in a world where most of the produce we buy is by weight, but if we think of it with a view to the individual banana, this law does actually make sense. If you were to walk into an average sandwich shop tomorrow, you will know doubt see bananas, as well as other fruits on sale for a specific price. The EU regulation states that a shop cannot sell these fruits for the given price if they are under a certain weight. The law was passed to make it fairer on the consumer. If the regulation had not been passed, we may have found ourselves in a situation where a normal sized banana was being sold for the same price as a miniature banana, not half the size of its cousin.
Hair nets for trawler men
Now, this one was actually completely made up. To explain the law that was stated in the press, it was apparent that fishermen were to be forced to wear hair nets whilst fishing in order for the produce to be completely clean from the sea to the supermarket. Once again, the story broke and then propagated around the British press in all of the daily papers to the point where Richard Littlejohn wrote at the time “Oh, what a circus, the safety Nazi’s have forced fishermen to wear hairnets, you couldn’t make it up”. The fact remains, however, that indeed somebody did actually make it up. Two British journalists, who shall forever in this blog remain nameless actually admitted making up the whole thing one night in a bar in Brussels.
In conclusion, whatever your thoughts on the European Union, whether you consider yourself a member of the European Union, or an avid supporter of the island Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, before you begin to believe what you read, take it with a pinch of salt. If you have the time and the resources, research the stories behind what is printed, and do not be too sceptical of the powers that be. Much of the time, their words have been misquoted, or placed unwillingly in their mouths!