Travel and Pollution

Ripping the skies

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We travel. We like to go places. I like to travel. Travel broadens the mind. We like to travel to many places. Most people travel by air. Flying further and further in search of the exotic or simply a week in the sun. This coupled to an increase in the number of people travelling is a cause of pollution. Flying is the number one culprit. Estimates state that around 13-15 percent of greenhouse gases in the UK are generated by aircraft.

As we speak, the Arctic is rapidly moving towards an ice-free scenario. The upshot will be the increase in plumes of greenhouse gases, which will warm the planet even more. Our protection, the Arctic Ice, which has  shielded us from climate extremes is rapidly disappearing. Predictions state that 2016 will be the hottest year ever since records began.

We are like a smoker with a hacking cough who simply cannot quit. We are addicted to our own demise. Technologically there is no airborne revolution that will change this situation. Certainly not one which will comply with the number one directive. Namely to make money.

This is something we must take into account when planning our travels. For as we travel, we are killing that which nurtures us all, our planet. It is time to look beyond our own noses. But will we?

Memories of Koh Samui

Arrived via a small ferry. Chose a place to stay from the hawkers at the quayside. Onto the small van like vehicle and away.  Accomodation. One of six, or maybe eight small chalet style places in a neat row. Think I can still spot them on Google Earth search. Clean inside with a backroom with a hole in the ground and a tiled mandy for washing. Great.

 

Hot, hot hot. And don’t forget humid. No namby pamby aircon for us. Budget constraints meant we had only a fan on the ceiling. On reflection on the floor would have been rather troublesome.  Fan, you were lucky! Okay but a fan so slow the flies hopped on for a rest. Our neighbours were German lads with their ‘temporary’ Thai girlfriends. True love runs deep.

 

The beach, (Lamai I think), was a little stroll away. Somebody told us that it would be even hotter when we got to Indonesia. It was not. At that time Koh Samui was not overly commercialized. Plenty of hippy style chill out places to doss and chill. I remember  one good hotel with one good pool. The problem. The clientele was entirely German. We snuck in and tried to blend around the pool. However  the hotel staff saw us for what we were, thin and poorly dressed, and we were forced to scuttle away. We left heads held high, and feet higher.

The girls with me adopted a little doggy. She was sweet and they christened her Lucy,  They fawned on her. I remember them being heartbroken on the day we moved onto Penang in Malaysia.

Food was sadly western if required. I remember eating a super hot soup which had the words crab and hot in the title. I liked it, my body not! When ill there was a well equipped medical centre. Nearby weer shack like phone booths for that call home, to reassure you why you were there1

Nightlife was fantastic. Well certainly after a few glasses of Mekong whisky. The full moon party was full on craziness.  Starting with the almost embarrassed tipping of small amounts of water over people, it rapidly grew into a frenzied water battle. Then dance the night away. Magic.

Eating crabs on the beach at a barbecue, watching the sun rise. Great stuff. In the end we left Koh Samui, but Koh Samui never left me. After Koh we needed a rest.

Roadtrip Nice Thru’ to Verdon Gorge

 

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Onwards McDuff. Meandered along the coast to Cannes. I guess we were expecting something a bit cheap, gaudy and classless. Well, that was reserved for Monaco. Cannes was a real delight. Of course expensive, especially as young man had an ice-cream obsession, where can I sell my next kidney? But a place  with a lovely ambience and wonderful streets to peruse back away from the seafront. Wealthy yes, but not tawdry like Monaco. The beach was great for the children, of all ages, with beautiful views along the bay in both directions.

Then we made our way to Nice which was very nice. The horror that would unfold there the next week was unimaginable. Again a wonderful place to spend time and simply take in the atmosphere. This included swimming, splashing and blowing up inflatables until I had cheeks as red as a lobster! All good fun in other words. Monaco was tacky, dirty and seemed to shove its vulgar wealth down peoples’ throats. A large ugly underpass comes to mind and a huge car park that didn’t want us to leave. Some things have passed me by, due mainly to the fact that I want to move onto the Verdon Gorge.

Verdon Gorge. There, it’s easy to say, yes? My wife showed me the map and the route. Assuring me it wasn’t the Alps and the way to Chamonix. Not ‘too’ high. So we headed to Moustiers-Saint-Marie. The Gorge  is 700 metres deep, or high and about 25km long. On I drove, upwards and upwards. The drive was stunning, my hands were wet and my eyes so focused they could have bored through rock. The road is narrow. Very narrow in places. As we rounded corners one could only see blue sky ahead, and still blue sky and then back online. Only to twist outward again. Tunnels wide enough for one vehicle at a time added to the fun. And still upwards. The view down was impressive. But a view I tried to avoid. A two brick high barrier marked the edge of the road. A barrier that couldn’t stop a sickly mouse.In some places nothing along the edge of the road apart from gravity. We stopped at a viewing point. Took pictures, had a look around, wrung out my shorts, that sort of thing. My wife spotted a twisting, switchback, extremely narrow drive down to the canyon floor. Super I said as we clambered back into the car. The way out of the Gorge is stunning and teasing. Just as you think you are going down, upwards swings the road again. I don’t do heights well and so felt proud of myself when we came out on the other side. A side with fields of lavender, wonderful trees and FLAT roads. Flat is good.

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Mother and Fathers Improbable Meeting

 

“To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”

Woody Allen

 

Once  again the actual fat chance of our hero existing once again comes into play with some incredibly, mind boggling odds.  The numbers are difficult to comprehend.  There are approximately 7 billion people in the world, give or take a few dozen.  It does tend to fluctuate. Now factor in that around 70%  are adults and that there’s essentially a 50/50 split between males and females. Which means there are about 2.45 billion potential special people out there for any one person. So in a nutshell a person has a 1 in 2.45 billion chance of meeting a life partner.

 

In this case the egg donor and the sperm supplier met as entirely by chance as is possible to conceive, quip fully intended. Mother was on a day out at, roll on the drums, Southend-on-Sea.  Again the sea and water! Mother and her younger sister were ambling around the beautiful playground that was the funfair at Southend in an affable manner, circa 1951. As they strolled around in their best attire they spotted a ride that they both agreed would be fun. However the ride was going to project them up to some crazy G-forces. Giggle force. They duly deemed the ride unsuitable for their handbags. Then the problem arose. Neither of them had had the forethought to bring alone a young man as company and chief bag handler. What were the young ladies to do in order to find a solution to this thorny problem? Trumpets please and sounds of horns blaring out in a Roman Empircal mode in the background. Enter stage left our hero, that handsome slim but well -built old devil, Brylcreemed and clad in jaunty grey flannels and a blue jacket, that caddish looking chap who would be known as Father. For some blindingly naïve reason, or such was the desire to go on this particular fairground ride that the ladies asked Father (to be) to hold their handbags. But move beyond the mere bag in its material form. For in the bag was their money. Money they had been saving for this day out, the keys to their home, ration cards and other forms of identification, apart from the mundane essential of cosmetics, and probably spare knickers for purely emergency reasons. Just what were legitimate emergency reasons was never alluded to in any great detail. Although there was enough material for an emergency parachute, or two! Maybe that was the answer. Covert parachute production.

 

And what a fascinating place Southend-on –Sea was for the funky hipsters of the time. Originally the ‘south-end of Prittlewell village, so much more appealing and lyrical to the ear. As a resort Southend- on-Sea grew in popularity from the Georgian era onwards. To celebrate this popularity a pier was built in 1830. Then after some time the very sensible idea of building it in iron instead of timber saw the new, stronger modern pier open in 1889. And what a pier! At 2,158 meters long, or 7,80 feet, or if you really want to get a concept of its length try 1.34 miles or 2.16 kilometers, the longest in the world. Southend-on Sea could really say come and have a look at this! This epic sized construction juts in a phallic like manner into that aquatic playground known as the Thames Estuary. The location of Southend -on-Sea geographically means that it has warm summers. However remember these are British summers we are talking about, with no dry season.  Exactly. Brolly, please.

 

Back to the amusement park. In fact they met at what they termed the Kursaal. This is a German word and means the ‘main public pump room in a spa.’ However it was used in the  English language to denote a Fairground or Amusement Park at that time. The Germans must have been outraged at this blatant and abusive misuse of their beautiful language. So much so that in May 1915 the German High Command sent a huge Zeppelin captained by a certain Hauptmann Erich Linnarz to visit England. Well to be honest they only did huge when it came to Zeppelins. Anyway, the gallant captain was tasked with attacking London. However he single handedly destroyed the myth of German thoroughness and efficiency  when he decided, on a whim, to drop a few bombs on Southend. As you do. Just to say hi! Maybe he spotted too many sunbeds without towels laid on them reserving them for after the war. Later when Captain Linnarz was deterred from attacking London he dumped the rest of his bombs on Southend again on his return trip. What a generous soul. Hundreds of  bombs exploded in the town and duly punished the English for using and twisting the linguistic usage of Kursaal so derisively. Take that Englander! Anyway this meant nothing to Mother and Father in 1951 outside of the offending Germanic word which was in common usage at that time.

 

The ride. Father, on being accosted and asked if  he would hold their bags, and being the gentleman that he was, duly agreed. And then he waited patiently while the ladies had their fun, hurtling around at unimaginable speeds and giggling. He did not rifle through the bags, for he had left his rifle back in barracks. Nor did he pilfer anything, not even the spare bloomers. Instead he  stood as if he were a sentry outside Buckingham Palace, solid and reliable. Hwe was definitely starting to feel solid. Or maybe he was thinking along the lines of a ride for a ride. Come on ladies, I was ever so helpful! Either way contact was established and events would unfold at such a rapid pace that Father would ask for her hand in marriage, and all the other attached bits too, in only three weeks from the day they met . Now that was a fast worker. Notably neither of them took heed from the inherent warning to be taken from the initials of where they met, Southend -on-Sea, or SOS. Three dits, three dahs and three dits. Which incidentally does not stand for ‘’Save our Souls’’ as apropo as that sentiment may have been for their fateful meeting.

 

Now back to creating him. So, 23 male and 23 female chromosomes fused in perfect harmony, and excuse his immodesty, devilishly handsome to boot, and the process of creating him from the nothing he had been, which is nothing and nowhere as there was nothing there,  to the something he would become. He had, if you will, surfaced turtle-like and had his neck lassoed with his very own life-saver slung around his neck.

‘’And as unplanned as the ensnaring of a turtle with a life saver’’,  said the counselor, who really was pushing home her bitch-like advantage behind a banal smile, pineapple tilting slightly to one side dangerously. He agreed with the counselor, not from deference for her profession, but for the fact that somewhere in the depths of his mind, his walled and partioned brain, a dim 40-watt fly shit encrusted bulb had illuminated. It was visible through the cracks in some of his walls.

 

Unplanned he had slipped in unbidden (more punning) into Mother’s nether regions. Well, that was not exactly completely accurate nor true. He had been pumped in at 28 mph, or 44 kph for those of the metric system. Just stop and think about the size of a sperm, which is as mentioned earlier only 50microns long. And then fire it off at 28 mph, that really is some forward motion. After such an explosive start the sperm, naturally, starts to slow down just a tad. Well you wouldn’t you. And then takes the slip road of the motorway and takes about 72 hours to reach the egg.

At first he wasn’t much to look at with just two layers, but he was replicating nicely and by 4-weeks he had built himself up to the size of a poppy seed, and could then officially be called an embryo.

’’ Hey you’’

‘’What’’

‘’You’re an embryo’’

‘’Thanks’’

His brain which developed from a neural tube, was coming along nicely, as was his spinal chord. Although others would later testify that our heroes brain development had been as stunted as Snow Whites dwarves. But still nobody knew he was there, not even Mother. However around the 12th week Mother grew exhausted on blaming everything on ‘the wind’ and sought a more definitive diagnosis for her discomfiture. If it were wind, then the future did not look rosy for her, or those in her company. Beseeching pleas were made by the family who felt the acute lack of ventilation in their home at that time. Mother was encouraged strongly to find a cure for  her windy problem, so a visit to a doctor was arranged. The very profession that had been so reliable in her life up until then.  But beggars can’t be choosers. The doctor concurred that it was not wind in a relieved tone. The he quietly closed the surgery window fretting over the lack of fenestrations in his small surgery. He then informed Mother that she was in fact pregnant. With child, bun in the oven and up the duff.

‘’So you were an accident,  an unwanted child and you threw a the family out of kilter ’’ said the counselor.

‘’Have you ever thought of how such thinking pervaded their thinking of you then, and later on?’’

No he hadn’t, he was being taken to places his mind had not dwelt on before. It was unsettling. Revolutionary.

The flensing was going quite nicely.

Further Southwards into France

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Went into Avignon by bus which was cheap, clean and let me have a good gander as I was not driving. I did ask, but the driver said, ”Non”. Avignon was home to the pope between 1309 – 1377. Well he had one advantage then, the walls kept people out. They are still an impressive sight. However Avignon was beset by hoardes of tourists, they swept all before them. Really it was too much. Souvenir shops for instance. A few tacky shops are okay, however Avignon had its fair share. Nice bridge too, but when will it be finished?

Took in Aix-En-Provence which was a combination of the beautiful and the slighty grubby gracefulness. Prices for food were bad. Basically what we will pay in Polish Zlotych cost the same in Euro’s. The best way to negotiate this thorny problem was to stop and buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the roadside stalls. Great food from under the provence sun, and far better prices. Even managed to get service with  smile.

Headin’ down we drove through the Camargue. This is one beautiful place, truly. Low lying and flat, none of those pesky mountain passes with inches to spare! Driving past rice fields and then the most beautiful white horses. There are plenty of places to stop take in this area. We alighted in Cassis. Cassis in the sun is great. A long sweeping esplanade with a great beach and a free pissoir in the car park. What more can you want! Although there were tacky shops the place had a wonderful feel to it. Just walking along the roads one could see it was well looked after, with splashes of colour from beautiful flowers thrown in for measure.

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Pottered around and went to the most unhelpful information lady in history. Her Gallic indifference and shoulder shrugs were superb and her English, well, bazik. Anyway we discovered that safaris into the Camargue cost around 120 Euro for the four of us. So no thanks. Eventually we plumped for the cruise which was about 12 Euro for an adult and discounted for the children. The ferry trip went up the mouth of the (Lesser/smaller?) Rhone and although we draw close to some beautiful views, it was all a bit distant. The chop on the sea as we took in the swell of the sea on the return trip was pretty cool for me. Onwards and along the coast…