Monday, 9 December 2019

Brexit 419

I'm not going to call Boris Johnson a liar. There may well be a mountain of well documented untruths, deceptions and broken promises to put forward as evidence regarding the question of his honesty. But I've decided I won't stoop so low as to call Mr Johnson a liar.* It's unseemly, undignified and adds nothing to the febrile political atmosphere. What I will say is this. If the Conservative manifesto began with the words, 'Dear Beloved One', introduced the writer as  a Mr Johnson Ahmad (a close confidant of the daughter of the late Colonel Muammar Ghadafi, dontcha know) and finished with a request for the readers bank details and a small advance fee,  then the document would more accurately reflect it's true nature.

The Conservative manifesto is, at its heart, the ultimate 419 scam. A scam that promises the world, and all for such a small price. Just a little initial sacrifice. And then another small charge. And so on, until you've nothing left to give. Nada. So on until it's all gone. Your savings. Your pension. Your NHS. And the promised riches are still no where to be seen. Because, of course, they never existed. No faux Nigerian prince has ever attempted anything this ambitious, this audacious, on this sort of scale. The Tories are breaking new ground with the scam, and they are confident that they can pull it off. And why not? If we've learned just one thing these last three years, it is that a surprisingly large proportion of the general public are a greedy, gullible and easily duped.

I do not know what the result of the general election will be. The pollsters seem convinced of a large Conservative majority. But then, they were wrongly convinced of a similar Tory landslide last time round. To my mind, this is as unpredictable as an election can possibly be. But if there one outcome that this democratic exercise will deliver of which I am certain, it is this: the Leave voters will be disappointed. A hung parliament may take away their dreams of Brexit with a second referendum. Or - worse still - Boris Johnson  will triumph, but his undeliverable Brexit promises will be shown for what they are. A scam, peddled by shysters, bought and paid for by mugs.

*Not today. But normal service will resume tomorrow.

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Saturday, 23 November 2019

Find Your Luxury Stay at Heathrow London

It is vacation time again! People are finding new ways to please themselves, and traveling is one of them. It can be a solo trip or with family. In either case, you want a hassle-free travel that will save you time to explore the city. It can only be done if you have planned it over before. This traveling rate has increased the commercialization even in the small towns. You won’t believe how many options you will get for your stay from local budgeted hotels to seven-star hotels. You can choose accordingly as per your budget.

On exploring the internet about hotels in London, you will get immense options that will blow up your mind and make it difficult for you to choose. People have their priorities set; if they are going on a vacation, they will choose hotels within the city, and if for business, most people try to stay near the airport. When it comes to the airport, Heathrow is considered to be the most beautiful and large airport. You can get stays nearby quickly, and many hotels are willing to help you to visit the city in your meantime.

If you are looking for such a budgeted luxury Heathrow airport hotels with parking, then you should consider trying with Atrium Hotel Heathrow.

Choosing the best option among many hotels

It may be challenging to choose the best among all, as each hotel offer you tempting offers to welcome aboard. But you can choose wisely among all? Though, you can try to filter out hotels as per your requirement. This decision can be based on many factors like location, luxury, budget, and many more. It is essential to make the right choice as your complete journey depends on where you stay. If you are happy with your hotel and service, then you can consider it to be the best part.

How a pleasant stay will leave an impact on you
A visit is one of the essential parts of your journey, and you want it to be in the right way. Before the rest, you try to do all the research about the hotels and the place where you are going to stay. Hotel management takes care of all your need during your stay and makes sure you will love their service and expect you will recommend them to your friends. But sometimes there is no guarantee of the quality, so be careful with your research part.

Creating hotel awareness through great marketing

It has become the trend now that travel bloggers visit places and share their travel and stay experience with the world through their social media platform. It is one of the best ways that any hotel can create their awareness among people. Apart from this, an excellent staff makes sure your stay should be a memorable one, and you revisit the hotel again. So make sure you choose the right one and make your stay remarkable.
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Subtitles, Nipples and Netflix

Subtitles are a wonderful invention. For the hard of hearing, or just plain stone deaf, they give meaning to the magic of the moving picture. They reveal the mystery of a foreign tongue. And they bring us a dose of humour when they go wrong. Yet I did not warm to the subtitle for many years. They were a distraction. A nuisance. Irritating. Their mere presence on screen would compel me to change channel.

I did not watch foreign films. Ever. Except, if I’m to be entirely truthful, with the exception of a few choice late night French or Spanish flicks on Channel 4. There was no internet when I was a teenager. A saucy seƱorita revealing a breast or two in a moody continental film was pretty much as good as it got. Teenage angst is defined by the horror of patiently sitting through a film one does not understand, only for the joyous moment to be dashed by subtitling covering up the wonder of the female nipple. Lads born on this side of the millennial divide just don’t know how good they’ve got it.

Then I moved to Mexico. And subtitles became the norm. If we went to the cinema, I had to make sure I booked tickets for the subtitled version and not the dubbed one. At home, anything we watched either had Spanish subtitles on for Mrs P, or English subtitles for me. I became used to subtitles. They ceased to bother me at all. Indeed, they opened up a whole world of cinema to me.

Without subtitles I would never have met Hatidze in Honeyland, an endearing Macedonian production. I would not have gone on a trip to Acapulco with Mariano, Antolin and Justo. I would not have hit the campaign trail with Luis Colosio, and experienced the ensuing tragedy, in both 1994 and The Candidate. My taste buds would not have been tantilised by the Taco Chronicoles. I would not have become acquainted with the scandal of the Alcasser Murders in Spain. And I would have entirely missed out on the most bizarre real-life political murder mystery I've ever come across - Killer Ratings. I highly recommend all of the above, most of which can be found on Netflix.

Of course, every silver lining has a cloud. The cloud being Parchis. For Mrs P, it was a nostalgic trip back to her childhood. For me, it was drivel that achieved nothing more than inspiring a sense of pity for kids growing up in Mexico in the 80s and 90s. Whether they deserve the same level of pity as us British teens wailing at subtitled nipples is open to debate. You can decide that one for yourself.
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Saturday, 9 November 2019

Seafood. And Steak.

One of the delights of popping across the channel, be it to St Malo - the location of our most recent jaunt - or elsewhere in France, is to sample the food. The French are famous for many things, but I'd argue that their food is top of the list. Any decent blogger worth their salt would produce lengthy reports on the culinary delights they sampled, reviews of the restaurants they visited and rave about the wonders of the French food scene in general.

Alas, I'm not worthy of any salt. Not the table, rock or sea varieties. My palate has the sophistication of a single celled organism. I'm as easily pleased in a hamburger joint as I am in a multi Michelin starred restaurant. This does at least make me a cheap and cheerful dining companion. My scale for rating food stretched from 'absolutely delicious' to 'well, I didn't spit it out'. The latter would, of course, be muttered quietly and even then only to the most trusted of dining companions.

I am ever so British. I could be served a broth scooped from an unflushed toilet, topped with maggots and a sprinkling of dustpan debris and I'd likely still inform an enquiring waiter that 'everything is just fine, thank you'.

The best I can do for you, should you happen to be curious about foodie options in St Malo, is inform you that they are very famous - unsurprisingly for a coastal town - for seafood. Mussels and oysters top the bill apparently. The photo above is of a couple of bags of mussels and a box of oysters (I think), dropped off outside a restaurant early in the morning. Most restaurants seemed to have a sack or two awaiting the arrival of the chef.

When we dined that evening, we were presented with a menu filled with different fish and shellfish options. I, ever the contrarian, ate steak. Which was 'delicious'. Mrs P went for the oysters, seeing as our home town on the northern side of the English channel is even more famous for mussels than St Malo. We like going to a local Loch Fyne restaurant where she can eat unlimited mussels on Tuesday when they are in season. I will eat steak. Or traditional fish and chips if I'm trying to 'fit in'.

Nothing during our short stay came close to 'well, I didn't spit it out'. Prices were reasonable - neither cheap nor expensive. There is a shop that sells butter which is very famous. We brought back a packet of their smoked stuff, which also fits in the 'delicious' category. I rather wish we'd brought back more of the stuff. What else can I say? I think I'm done on the topic.

If I were ever to branch out into the food blogging scene, I do know the niche I'd like to occupy. The title of the blog would be 'Cheese I've Eaten', which tells you pretty much all you need to know. I could live on cheese and bread. I've yet to find a cheese that my taste buds object to. Creamy cheeses, hard cheeses, blue cheeses, smoked cheeses, processed cheeses, mature cheeses, stinky cheeses, stringy cheeses - I like the lot. I've always liked cheeses.

I have fond memories of working on a delicatessen in a posh convenience store in the late 80s/early 90s. No off cuts were wasted. And there were a lot of off cuts. Indeed, if I am going to be absolutely honest with you, dear reader, then I must confess that what I refer to as an off cut would possibly be described as theft by the store owner. But it was all such a long time ago, let's simply describe the whole thing as a matter of semantics.

Still, my single celled palate developed a certain degree of hitherto undiscovered sophistication during my time working for that delicatessen. I discovered many new cheeses there, Roquefort being my favourite. But ultimately, nothing quite beats a real top quality extra mature cave aged cheddar. It's such a versatile cheese too. You can slice it up for a sandwich with some Branston pickle. You can melt it for the perfect Welsh Rarebit. Or just chop a big chunk off to go with a Cheese Ploughmans.

I don't think we actually ate any cheese in St Malo. The French are currently engaged in a national sulk having done so poorly in the World Cheese Awards. Perhaps the nations stocks of cheese have been removed from public view until the shame has passed. The awards are not to be taken too seriously though. An American cheese won, after all. The best thing I can say about US cheeses is that they're not Mexican cheeses. But when all is said and done, once all the insults in the world have been offered and received, after tempers have cooled - there's still not a cheese in that list - or any list - that I don't like
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Thursday, 31 October 2019

Neighbours Part Two

Our neighbours are moving out, exactly one year after they moved in. Apparently, the landlord is intending to sell the flat. But that's what we heard last time when the previous occupants moved out. Who knows. We'll find out soon. This isn't the first time I've mentioned the neighbours. I previously wrote about their unholy rows and the possibility of domestic violence. However, since I published that post, I don't think we've heard a single argument of note. Although two months ago somebody pinned up a poster on the communal noticeboard, titled 'Are you afraid of your partner?', with instructions on what to do if your answer is 'yes'. Perhaps someone else heard them screaming when we were out, and took indirect action. I do not know. I do know that I use it to jokingly threaten Mrs P if she carries on as she sometimes does. 

This isn't to say that they haven't caused any disturbances since. One afternoon in the summer, on a hot day when every window in the block was open to let fresh air in, they decided to have sex. Loud sex. We are talking the sort of noise levels that you would associate with a 70s German porn movie. Or so I've been told. Mrs P was mortified. I found it hilarious. I didn't ask the other tenants in the block what they thought. 

And then there's the cigarette inspired coughing fits that the gentleman treats us to. They aren't ordinary coughing fits. They are the deathly choking fits I'd associate with emphysema. He can't be much older than me. It's been going on a long time, but I'll bet he hasn't had it checked out. He won't, not till it's too late. He's that sort of bloke. Which isn't an insult. I reckon most of us are that sort of a bloke. 

As I sit here typing, there's a professional cleaning company inside the flat working their magic with noisy machinery and clever cleaning potions. I suspect they've got their work cut out. The ceiling will almost certainly need to be repainted to cover up the nicotine stains, although they will probably leave it to the next occupants. And once they're done and gone, we'll soon start to see people coming to view the apartment. Whether as tenants or owners, we'll have to wait to see. Will the next people be an improvement or neighbours from hell? We'll have to wait and see on that too.
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Wednesday, 30 October 2019

The Automotive Upgrade

Nearly five years ago, I passed my driving test. A month later, Mrs P and I went to buy our first car in the UK, from a dealer in east London. It was a four year old, low mileage red Mazda 3, and it served us very well. Reliable, easy to drive, comfortable and generally cheap to run. Nothing ever went wrong with it, beyond your normal wear and tear issues. And rust. Chronic, terminal rust. It is, I have since learned, a common problem with Mazda 3's from around that time and a problem that became noticeable on our motor about a year ago. It scraped through the last MOT. It would have needed substantial welding and other work to get it through the next one in April. That's expense that I'm not willing to invest in a twelve year old car. It was a shame, because were it not for that, I'd have kept it for a few years more.

I'd been looking at used cars since last April. The budget? I don't like taking on debt, but the choice was between borrowing big or bagging a banger. I didn't want a banger. So perhaps somewhere between £10,000 and £12,000. The car? Something reliable, easy to drive and comfortable. More of the same, really. Ideally about three years old, with less than 30,000 miles on the clock. Apple CarPlay would be a plus. But then something caught my eye. And I started looking at new cars. And doing the maths. It's always important to do the maths.

If you look hard and haggle harder, new car deals can start to look attractive. Even with the heavy depreciation. I used Carwow to gauge what sort of deal I could get. I became quite addicted to the process of choosing a car, specifying the extras and waiting for the offers to come in. I must have done hundreds, including cars I had no intention of buying. I didn't buy through Carwow, though. I bought from our local Mazda dealer. Because we really wanted another Mazda. But I used my best Carwow quotes to get a price match.

The maths told me that ultimately I would be paying more for a new car. Of course I would, or what state would the used car market be in? But not so extravagantly more, once I'd added in the extra costs of MOTing and maintenance. It's also a less risky purchase, with the chances of buying a dog of a car eliminated. And then there's the pleasure of having a brand new car. The smell of a new car.

So I'd like to introduce the new member of our family. It's a Mazda 2 Sport Nav+ in Mica Crimson. It's a smaller car, but more than big enough for our purposes. It's very economical. It's extremely easy to drive. It's comfortable. It comes with Apple CarPlay. It's pretty much what we wanted. We're happy. And the maths worked out for us. In case you're wondering, the cost of buying new worked out to be between £50 and £60 a month more than buying a £12,000 used car based on my estimations. 
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Tuesday, 29 October 2019

St Malo

Would you like me just for once to write a positive Brexit story? Well, I shall then. In June, Mrs P and I paid a quick visit to Malta on a Brexit-busting getaway, days before the UK was due to leave the EU. The grand departure from the union did not, of course, happen. It was postponed until the end of October. So we plotted another last minute Brexit-busting getaway to the EU. This time aboard the Bretagne, a Brittany ferry that crosses from Portsmouth to St Malo in France. It's a large ferry with plenty to do, see and buy on board. Although we'd highly recommend bringing your own food for lunch or dinner. The restaurants are neither cheap nor likely to feature in a Michelin guide.

We returned only to discover, much to our surprise*, that once again the UK's departure from the EU would be postponed. This time until, potentially, the end of January. We will need to plot another Brexit-busting trip before then. Although, as this extension is actually a flextension, the UK could actually leave earlier. Or we might not leave at all. Who really knows? If you ask about, everyone on both sides has a firm opinion, but I'd suggest you take them all with a generous pinch of salt. 

We shall plot another trip nonetheless. Although we will probably pick a different mode of transport. The English Channel can get rather rough in winter. It was rather rough on our way over to St Malo in October. However, as it was a night time crossing and we had a cabin with beds to lie down on, we survived without needing to make use of the seasickness bags provided to passengers. We did not get a wink of sleep though. It's not just the motion that keeps one awake. It's the constant, loud creaking and banging of the ship that really keeps you awake.

St Malo is a very pleasant little town. Full of history, cobbled streets, wonderful seafood restaurants, a picturesque beach and a stunning cathedral that sadly closed half an hour before we turned up to have a look inside. And there was also a four man troop of soldiers, armed with very smart looking assault rifles, on constant patrol. Mrs P found their presence to be disconcerting. I found them reassuring. Having watched the very moving Netflix documentary on the Bataclan attack, we both understood why they are considered necessary. I highly recommend watching the series.

Is there an actual purpose, a real benefit, for us Brits taking these Brexit-busting holidays before the UK leaves the EU? Not really. There will be changes. For example, we'll no longer have access to free health care. But then we have worldwide travel insurance anyway. But as the UK is not part of the Schengen area, passport control will not change. It might be more awkward to travel with pets. But duty free shopping with cheap booze and fags will return.

Our Brexit-busting holidays are entirely symbolic, travelling when we are still part of the EU family. Seeing the sights before we become outsiders. Foreigners. Immigrants. So there is our personal positive Brexit story. We're getting multiple holidays out of the fiasco. While we can. Vive le EU!

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