Sunday, November 4, 2012

Frank Bough and further failing economies

Half term, and the lady who sleeps on my left and myself continue our tour of failing economies of the European union.

Lisbon this time, four days in a Portuguese city situated on an important corner of Europe that seems to be have been ruled by all bar the moonies. For a couple who live several miles from the nearest streetlight and for whom a noisy night is an owl hooting on the roof, Lisbon gives a great change of pace for a few days. Noisy, vibrant and with loads to see and do we walked miles and collapsed into our seat on the plane home.

Like Greece, it’s cheap, welcoming and a lesson in how far things can quickly go wrong under a government guilty of hubris and high on cheap euros
A capital city hosting a failing economy can be a dicey place to spend a few days, we avoided Athens, Bogata and Mogadishu for that very reason. But in Lisbon a resigned air to the economic situation hangs heavy amongst all but the students who rioted gloriously on the third day of our stay. The screw has been tightened by the government and the senor on the street faces a hefty bill for the profligacies of those who held power in the past. Several Lisboeta that we spoke to bemoaned a government that raised taxes on a monthly basis while continuing to live a gilded life funded by the state, no sign of the futile nationalist movement that is currently gaining ground in Greece, just students and a few others chucking pies at the politicos who don’t appear to be joining in where the austerity measures are concerned.

Of great interest during our stay was the Portuguese plod, our first encounter was with the parking department on our opening skirmishes into the heart of the city where we came across thousands of pounds worth of Bentley Continental being towed away by the vehicle removal department, it may well have belonged to a prominent MP, but it became a recurring theme throughout our stay as we bumped into the same team wrapping a chain around the chassis of an executive Mercedes or Lexus before hauling it away.
At other times Porto plod were indifferent to what was happening all around.

I have never received so many offers of drugs (hard and soft, day and night) on the street as I was during our stay, but in the last twelve months I have felt more threatened in parts of London and Paris than I have in Lisbon.

There was comedy, Chief Wigham style, when police tumbled out of their den on a blue lighter only for their steed to fail on a flat battery, and an electric police car designed for use in the pedestrianised commercial district assumed “interesting feature” status for several hours as it too lost all power.

Every supermarket checkout is manned by armed police who are not there to help with packing and several have been issued with segways with flashing lights that they leave leaning against the nearest wall prefering to smoke and walk. If all hell did break loose over the state of the economy I am not convinced the police are motivated enough to restore order.

Apart from the much maligned Lisbon treaty, Port is synonomous with the country but having spent four days shuffling round the streets of its capital I would suggest that with a little organisation they could grout their way out of most tight corners. One row of tiles behind the sink is the tiling equivalent of the Gordian knot for this correspondant, but this lot think nothing of tiling a whole five storey house! All tiles level and set in place for decades. If I was having a fancy bathroom fitted I would make sure that the tiles were stuck on the wall by a man from Portugal.

There were many other highlights. Trams are undoubtedly the future of transport and I shall be looking to trade our car in for the latest model soon after Christmas, one female tram driver multi tasked beatifully as she managed to eat a yoghurt, place bids on ebay while transporting fifty bleary eyed passengers across rush hour roads.

The Spar with a bar and hooker was an interesting twist on the local corner shop and like home the newsagents had no copies of the Shooting Times at eye level but plenty of Teta, Penthouse and Playboy on offer at counter level.

During our trip to the castle we watched a primary school production re enact the Jesuits being driven from the site in the middle ages, great fun with swords and spikey helmets very much to the fore, no blood was spilt but an awful lot of history learnt.

The fishing rod made the trip, but the size of the Tagus and constraints of time resulted in only a few hours feeding mullet in the marina. The locals fish with hefty tackle for all manner of species, and I was seriously undergunned with my travel rod and waggler, although further up the lagoon I would have fancied my chances if time had allowed.

Throughout our stay Cruise ships stopped by, disgorging several thousand much needed visitors to the town.

No corner is complete without a bi-toothed beggar rattling a superbock glass in your face but leave your cruising trainers on deck and rock up in your leather shoes and ask one of the many street shoe shiners to buff up your bumpers if you want to help out.

On our return, the Dever had risen several inches and there was standing water in the meadows. We have had several inches of rain and it looks like the river could receive a much needed scrub behind the ears this winter. The BBC was twisting its knickers further over what it may or may not have done over the last forty years. Does no one remember Frank Bough and a scandal that scarred a generation of Grandstand fans and ruined fond tea time meories of Nationwide, Alan Clark MP who first took up with his future wife when he was 26 and she 12, or 13yr old Mandy Smith who started a sexual relationship with a man 34 years her senior,but because it was good old Bill Wyman was given a positive spin by the tabloids of the day. As Miss Smith said in a recent interview "if it happened today, he would have gone to jail" which is just how far things have moved on, and with my optomistic head on the circumstances in which sexual predators like Sir Savile thrive, no longer prevail.

I, along with a cast of thousands, have received invitations to discussions on a “Chalkstream Restoration programme” which seems a fairly sensible idea. There was an attempt to draw up a list of best practice for the chalkstreams over a decade ago, which fizzled out as too many failed to buy into the advice it offered.
An invite has also arrived to a “summit meeting” on the plight of our chalkstreams chaired by the chairman of the “cross party committee for angling” in Stockbridge which I can only assume will be on the roof of The Grosvenor Hotel, it being the highest point on the high street. Oh yes, and a very kind call to chase some super sized grayling on the Frome.

Ash Trees are getting a lot of press of late and why was there a need to import ash trees in the first place? The woods around here are full of self set seedlings and the last time we planted any ash trees we visited a neighbouring copse and thinned out a few saplings for transplanting elsewhere. I am not convinced that disinfecting wellies and wiping our dog's feet will have much effect and neither will a mass programme of burning, some trees appear to be resitant so the solution may come from mother nature rather than man, who is often guilty of bigging up his part in this kind of caper.

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