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Buddy Golly! The miracle baby with no heartbeat goes home

2 Feb

Buddy leaves hospital...all 2 kilos of him

BUDDY John Harry Holmes entered this world silently on December 14, 2011 – and it was three minutes before he drew his first breath.
My daughter Hayley’s third child arrived 12 weeks early and weighed less than a kilo. For those first terrifying moments of his life, he also had no heartbeat. How times change!

On Wednesday this week, the little mite left hospital with his mum and dad, the intrusive array of tubes that had decorated and invaded his little body for weeks all long gone.
For the first week of his life, it was touch-and-go for Buddy. Dragged out of Hayley’s womb by Caesarean section, he survived because of her intuition that something was amiss with the 28-week embryo.
A scan revealed that the waters surrounding Buddy had all leaked away – and medics ordered an immediate emergency delivery.
Hayley and her partner  Steve Holmes learned later that the baby would have died within two hours had he been left in the womb.
As it was, he survived not only those first breathless, heart-stopping moments, but also being half-strangled by his umbilical cord.
For a week, he remained in an incubator in Intensive Care, listed as ‘critical’.
Then the miracle of life kicked in big time. And when he left hospital this week, Buddy’s birthweight had more than doubled to 4lb 7oz.

So tiny...that's Buddy, not dad

In seven weeks, the wizened mini-alien had transitioned into a chubby little boy – albeit still only the size of a man’s shoe.
Hayley and Steve had named him seconds after he was born, fearing he would not survive.
Instead, he has become a picture of health, so pardon this column’s nepotism as the family drink a toast to the little one’s future.
Mine’s a Bud, by the way.

Aside

Born with no heartbeat… my new grandson is a Christmas miracle

25 Dec

He’s only alive because of his mum’s intuition. Born 12 weeks early with no heartbeat, he weighs less than a kilo. Meet my new grandson 

Baby Buddy: The little mite had no heartbeat

I’M not exactly new to grandparenthood, if that’s the right word.

Up to last Wednesday my two daughters had their hands full with a handful of kids between them. Five, that is…or two and a half of each if the eldest got her way and was allowed to chop her despised cousin Charlie in two.

The two boys and three girls range in age from 20 down to five but all have one thing in common. They came into the world normally and were lucky enough to arrive healthy and complete.

So when my elder daughter Hayley found she was expecting, everyone assumed all would go well. I know she’s 41 and  it’s  12 years since her second daughter, Daisy, was born.

But all progressed normally right up to the 28th week – with Hayley and her partner Steve Holmes focused entirely on the scheduled arrival of a son in early March.

Then, 197 days into Hayley’s  third pregnancy, came a remarkable – and frightening – development triggered by the smallest hint that something was wrong.

Last Wednesday, the embryo child all but stopped booting hell out of Hayley’s body from the inside. She sensed that something was amiss, and although her midwife was not ­unduly concerned, the worried couple wanted to be sure.

A surreal scenario followed, with Hayley and Steve acting purely on intuition and forking out £100 for a  private consultation with a  paediatric specialist.

He sent them immediately to hospital, where  a scan revealed that the waters around the baby had all but dried up. Fearing the tot would not survive in this sea of nothingness, an urgent Caesarian section was ordered and the baby was plucked, lifeless, from Hayley’s body with the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around his neck.

The little one had no heartbeat and was not breathing.

For fully three minutes, doctors and nurses united in a battle to give life to the tiny foetus. For Hayley and Steve, those three minutes translated into a lifetime of lifelessness.

As the seconds ticked away, they named the baby Buddy, desperate that he should have a proper identity, even if he was never to draw breath.

Then, his tiny body invaded by a host of canulas, tubes and ventilators, a miracle occured. The mite’s heart began to beat.

Buddy was alive…if not kicking. All 992 grammes of him (or a tad under 2lb 2oz if you don’t do metric).

For 24 hours, his under-developed lungs were helped by a ventilator. Then another miracle; he started breathing by himself.

And another miracle, he scored 8 out of 10 in an official health check – a respectable score for a full-term baby, let alone a barely-formed Bud.

Amazingly, doctors told the relieved parents that had Hayley not gone to the pediatrician, the baby would have died inside her within two hours.

Over the next few days, Buddy went from strength to strength. He was two days old by the time I arrived in Manchester for my Christmas visit. Hayley was waiting for me in hospital reception…there were predictably lots of tears as we embraced.

With Hayley approaching her 42nd birthday, the chance of her conceiving again after a complicated Caesarean  is remote, to say the least.

And with Steve’s only previous marriage childless, this was  his probably his only  chance to fulfil his dream of fatherhood.

Hayley’s hand shows how small Buddy  is

So they desperately needed  Buddy to be a survivor…and judging by his never-say-die attitude throughout his first week of life, he’s bionically indestructable.

After four days on the critical list in Intensive Care, he was reclassified at five days old as merely ‘vulnerable’. By the time you read this, he’ll probably be doing aerobics in his cosy incubator with its vivid blue light.

With his sensitive skin and distorted grimaces, there’s something unearthly about my sixth grandchild. He was not meant to leave the comfort of his human spaceship until early March and at less than one third of the weight of the typical new-born, I could easily confuse him with ET.

Particularly when my specs aren’t around.

It’s wonderful that, with his future now all but secured, I can joke about which planet the little fella came from. All of which leaves both Hayley and me in stitches.

Only mine don’t hurt.

Trick or treat? For Fawkes sake revive that Bonfire Night Guy!

29 Oct

I BLAME it on the Americans. In fact, I blame everything on the Americans – they are big enough to take it. Even the ones who weigh less than20 stone.

I’m talking about the over-the-top Halloween hoo-ha that has whooped its way into Britain…and all but killed off one of the nation’s most treasured occasions.

When I was a child, Guy Fawkes Night was one of the biggest days of the year. A tradition marking the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, it commemorated a failed assassination attempt against King James I by a group of provincial English Catholics.

The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament – something I doubt many British 10-year-olds these days know anything about.

Kid today are more concerned with Halloween, where they are free to frighten the lives out of  old ladies by donning ­horrific masks and demanding sweets with menaces.

I wonder what you get if you ask for a ‘trick’ rather than a ‘treat’? Does one of the little demons remove his mask and turn out to be Paul Daniels?

To me, the Guy Fawkes culture of my youth was so much more embracing.

For days, even weeks before the event, we’d go from door to door with makeshift effigies of Fawkes and implore householders to give us ‘a penny for the Guy’.

Then, as darkness fell on November 5, the neighbourhood would gather for a fireworks spectacular in which Guys galore would go up in smoke on top of a massive communal bonfire.

How that delightful tradition came to be usurped by the hideous ‘trick or treat’ culture, I do not know.

I believe Halloween has Celtic origins and was originally a pagan holiday in honour of the dead.

But I honestly cannot remember anyone celebrating it when I was young.

We may have started it – but as with everything else, the world has pinged it back in our faces with interest.

But I yearn for my grandchildren to enjoy the atmosphere of Guy Fawkes Night as I did half a century ago.

November 5 has a special place in my heart.

And nobody will convince me that the Halloween takeover was not a devious plot by those over-the-top, razzamatazz Americans.

Published in The Courier, 28/11/2011 (www.thecourier.es)

They pink it’s all over – but I still love joke birthday cards

22 Oct

IT was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and no, I’m not telling you how old I am.
But judging by the sort of birthday cards I received, my friends (the few I have left after all my moaning) clearly believe I have reached my dotage.
Apparently I am no longer a suitable target for those corny joke cards the ‘younger’ community bounce off each other.I didnt even get a card making fun of my being old. You know, the sort that make you seem glam until you get the punchline inside.
A year older…and no sign of any joke cards

On the front, it will say something like ‘’What Do You Like To Get Up To In Bed, Sexy Lady?’ Then, when you turn inside, there’s an old dear in a flannelette nightie sitting on the loo saying ‘I Like To Get Up To Wee.’

That one’s dreadful because I made it up. But you know what I mean.

Anyway, virtually every card I received was one of those schmaltzy affairs you send to great-grandma on her 97th birthday.

I’m talking about the pink ones covered with pretty flowers and the message To a Dear Friend.

Admittedly, I automatically orientate to this type of card for my 83-year-old  stepmother – but with good reason. She gets the pink schmaltz treatment because she has no sense of humour – or sense of anything, for that matter.

Anyway, this plethora of pinko cards all but convinced me that my friends had made a pact to tell me subtly that, in their eyes, I am now officially OLD. The fact is I love funny cards…and always have done. Providing they are not too crude, that is.

I might be a boring old drone to some, but no one can say I don’t have a sense of humour. So I assume the reason no one sent me a card I could laugh at is that the entire planet now sees me as a coffin dodger.

I scoured the cards for even the slightest hint of humour and the nearest I could get to a giggle was one bearing the message ‘Especially For You…’’. Well, Who else would it be for, tonto?

That’s me off everyone’s Christmas card list. Now where did I put my Zimmer  frame?


My life has gone to the mogs and that’s just…PURRFECT

1 Sep

THEY say that cats have nine lives. Well, my life has nine cats.

At least it seems that way as just about every waif and stray in the neighbourhood queues at my cat flap for its daily food fix.

Officially I have three moggies. The first is mad Molly, who is small, black, weirdly mis-shapen and has learning difficulties (the description of her previous owner, not mine).

MOLLY: Not intelligent enough to have learning difficulties

Poor Molly’s not intelligent enough to have learning difficulties. The cat flap’s been there for three years and she still doesn’t know how to use it.

MOGGY No.2 is Geoffrey (Geoffrey Boycat to give him his full name – apt for an animal that moves as slowly as his cricketing namesake used to score runs for England). My Geoff is a black, long-haired softie of a stray who was probably lost or left by his previous owner a long time ago.

Certainly someone cared for him because he was neutered and healthy when he first started coming to my place.

In fact, it’s possible he still has another home because he sometimes goes missing for a day or two.

MOGGY No.3 is Henry, a young tabby who turned up at my back door last autumn with a hairless, bleeding chest and a mega-miaow.

‘’I suspect he’s been in a fight but I can stitch it up, no problem,’’ said the vet. ‘’I would advise you to have him neutered as soon as possibly, though. Not only will it stop him fighting, it will also help to keep the cat population down and make him more of a house cat.’’

Twenty-four hours later, Henry moved in – neatly stitched, snipped and tucked. When his chest took longer than expected to heal, I took him back to the vet…and a blood test revealed he was FIV-positive, the feline equivalent of HIV.

‘’It’s nothing to worry about,’’ said the vet. ‘’He was almost certainly born with it. It’s quite common and he has a good chance of leading a normal life. Because he has been neutered, he’s highly unlikely to pass the FIV on, even through sharing food bowls with other cats.’’

All of which makes Henry a bit special. After all we’ve been mutually stitched up – him by the vet and me by Henry, who could have saved me a lot of money had he turned up on someone else’s doorstep! (I’m joking…wouldn’t be without him for anything.

Add to Molly, Geoffrey and Henry the half-a dozen feral waifs and strays which turn up at various times of the day and night – and the menagerie-a-trois moves into mega-moggy mode. And thereby hangs another tail…the tale of why I prefer cats to dogs.

Now I’ve written a couple of light-hearted articles in the past about the respective merits and otherwise of each species, so apologies to those who have previously been subjected to what follows.

HENRY: I had him stitched up - then he stitched me up!

Cats are to me the most mysterious, fascinating and wonderful creatures on earth. Not only can they read your mind, they can also manipulate it to their own advantage. That’s the voice of 40 years of cat ownership speaking. Oh, and I didn’t own any of my moggies – they owned me.

I was THEIR pet, not the reverse. If it didn’t suit them to live in my home, they’d have been off like a flash to appoint some other purr soul as honorary daily food-and-milk supplier. Some of us are cat people, some dog people and some, like myself, care for both. Only we usually have a preference and in my household, moggies have always held the edge. To start with, they allow their owner more independence.

If you’re not around for a few days, it doesn’t really matter as long as someone is there to feed them.

Leave a dog on its own for two days and you’re not only in serious trouble with the animal authorities, the poor mutt will also have moped itself into a candidate for the canine nuthouse.

Then there is the cleanliness issue.

Dogs love to pepper their noses with the ghastliest of savouries left for them by their fellow barkers. The browner and smellier the better for Fido and his pals, and the worse for those of us whose shoes squelch the stink into our rugs and carpets when we get home.

From my experience, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to house-train a puppy. It will pee and poo to order providing you let it out a minimum of 250 times a day.

But pop out yourself for five minutes and you open the door on your return to a mound of doggy dung and a floor awash with a ship-load of urine.

The yelps when Little Poo is left momentarily on its own are bad enough. But they are nothing to the yelps of human anger that boom into the stratosphere when Mr and Mrs Owner discover what poochie was up to while they were out of the room.

Yet to a dog lover, those Close Encounters of the T*rd Kind are all acceptable in exchange for the pure, uncomplicated love you are guaranteed in return for just being there.

Who cares that Fido spends all day rolling in mud, urine, vomit and the faeces of every animal on earth? It only takes a couple of hours to clean him up – and then those luscious licks and doggy hugs make it all worthwhile. Unless, like me, you’re already so browned off by those pooper bloopers that you’ve vowed never to have a dog again.

Cats are a complete contrast. House-trained before they’ve ever seen a house, all a kitten needs is a litter tray and it will wee and poo into it ad infinitum.

Mind you, removing the hail of stones that hurtle around the house in mini-puss’s attempts to bury the residue with its lethal back feet can take twice as long as clearing up after any untrained puppy.

Moggies also need no teaching when it comes to cleaning themselves. And thereby hangs another tale – plus body, head and legs.

Before you know it, puss has licked herself bald and is coughing up a two-ton hair ball. You rush her to the vet thinking she’s on her last legs but fear not…they all do it. Unless, like my Molly, the furry one suffers from feline asthma and vomits up nothing but wheeze.

GEOFFREY: Does he have another home?

If your cat is a Tom, then you have another problem or three. First and worst is his territory spraying, and the pungent, difficult-to-remove smell it creates.

Then there’s his sexual appetite, which he’ll inevitably impose on all the local moggettes – accompanied by a cat’s chorus loud enough to drown out a 30-piece orchestra. The solution to that one is simple.

Have Tiger Tom snipped in the bud when he’s a few months old and the spraying and s****ing will be a thing of the past. If you have a dog, you will of course need to take it for walks.

Unless you are a lazy bitch like one or two of my friends – and end up with a mutt that’s even fatter than its owner. In such instances, at least fatso and her pet won’t need a pooper scooper to clean up the dog mess, though not that many people seem to bother if the pavements in my locality at El Raso are anything to go by.

People not clearing up the mess left by their dogs in public places is a big problem everywhere. But here’s a question for you: If you saw a threatening-looking yob’s pit-bull pooing outside your home and he didn’t clean up the mess (the yob, not the pitbull), what would you do?

If your answer is ‘nothing’, score a brownie point for honesty. As for me, I’ll stick with my moggies. I just wish they could purr in English.

Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es) September 2, 2011

Ryanair, rip-offs and reason: Micky is taking the Mickey

28 Aug

MY opinion of Ryanair has always been consistent. I wouldn’t touch them with an air bridge.

Michael O’Leary’s methods of making money do work – but at the expense of rubbing an awful lot of people up the wrong way. Including me.

What some people don’t realise is that Ripoff-air’s seemingly low prices are heavily subsidised by those poor people who HAVE to make emergency late bookings for unforeseen emergencies like family bereavements.

And by the millions of families who cannot take vacations off-peak and are forced to pay silly prices to travel during school holiday periods.

Counting the Costa: Talia, boarding card and mum Lisa

My daughter Lisa has just been lumbered with just such a situation – and ended up paying a fortune for a ONE-WAY Ryanair ticket from Alicante to Liverpool for her 15-year-old daughter Talia. Plus heaven knows how much more in £1-per-minute Premium Rate phone calls to verify details with arguably the most elusive customer call centre on the planet.

Talia was away with her school in Holland when Lisa and the rest of the family flew out to my place in Spain last week. So she travelled with me on my return from the UK on Monday – on a single Monarch ticket which cost a total of £54.48, including all taxes plus a suitcase. That reservation was made on July 29 – just three weeks before the date of travel.

A very fair price in the peak season, by anyone’s standards.

However, since Talia is 15, she is not allowed to travel alone, so the only way of getting her back to the UK in time for the new school term was to add her to her mother’s party. And they are booked on Ryanair’s Alicante to Liverpool run next Monday.

I had tried to make Talia’s reservation while I was in England, but Ryanair’s online booking service, unaware that she would be on the same flight as her mother, predictably rejected the booking with a message that under-16s cannot travel alone.

The only option remaining was for Lisa to add Talia to her travelling party herself, which she eventually managed to do – but by now it was only10 days before the date of travel.

Enter Michael Skybandit O’Leary and his rip-off boys, rubbing their hands with glee.

What would be a fair price to pay for a one-way ticket from Alicante to Liverpool in late August? The £54.48 charged by Monarch? No, that would be incredibly cheap. Say100 euros, then – 120 top whack?

No chance. For the pleasure of travelling one way from Alicante to Liverpool, with absolutely no frills, Lisa was fleeced for 228.99 euros – or £212.84 sterling at Ryanair’s. A predictably miserable exchange rate.

And still the expense was not over, because Talia had to be booked as an Adult to circumvent the system – and Lisa then had to call the Rip-offair office to switch the documentation to Child.

That in itself took three days, which won’t surprise most of you.

Ripoff-air even managed to include a €6 administration fee – presumably for the extra work involved in counting the money. Plus another €6 for web check-in. Does that mean Talia can check in for free at the airport…before Ripoff-airs jobsworths tell her she can’t take her hand luggage on board because the bag is 4mm too wide?

Ryanair’s sharp practices are not even clever. ‘‘Passengers who do not present a boarding pass at the airport will be charged a reissue fee of £40’’, they warn. Forty pounds! How much does it cost Ryanair to print a piece of paper, for heaven’s sake.

Oh, and each boarding pass ‘‘’must be printed and presented on an individual A4 page’’. Get it wrong and it’s gonna cost you again but then, when do O’Leary’s boys NOT take the Micky?

A Cork-based friend of mine travels to Alicante with Ryanair because has no other option. And he reckons their attitude is not one of gratitude for his business but that THEY are doing HIM a favour in providing a service.

Another friend’s experience last year suggests that Ryanair should consider adopting the expression ‘The Customer is Always Wrong’ as their official slogan.

My pal Andres Ballesteros, whose English is adequate but not perfect, paid on line for a return ticket from Liverpool to Alicante for his UK-based son – only to realise almost immediately that he had booked the flights back to front.

It was clearly a genuine mistake but Andres, who lives in El Altet, accepted he’d have to fork out another 20 euros or so to have the dates reversed. But when he phoned Ryanair’s call centre, a dismissive female operator told him haughtily: ‘‘It’s your mistake. You’ll just have to pay again’’.

Consequently, poor Andres had to rebook both flights, more than doubling the cost and adding a tasty bonus to O’Leary’s greed machine. World’s Most Popular Airline? World’s Least Caring Airline more likely.

Lisa reckons Ryanair have made a total of around £250 out of Talia’s single fare. No frills? At that price, my granddaughter should be getting all the frills of every inflated fare O’Leary has pocketed all summer.

PS: I just took a look at Monarch’s website in order to make a direct comparison with Ryanair – and guess what? A one-way ticket from Alicante to Manchester on Monday (August 29) would cost me €420.50! I stand corrected – it seems that when it comes to holiday time, the fly-boys are all as bad as each other.

Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es) August 26, 2011

England 2011, soft on discipline and a soft touch for low life

12 Aug

I CAME home to Manchester last week to visit my family and friends.

Instead, I came home to see the values I love destroyed forever.

The riots and looting may have been temporarily washed away by midweek rain, but you can be sure the thugs will return.

Because they know they have nothing to fear from a system that has been wrecked by political correctness and the outlawing of discipline, both at home and in the nation’s schools.

England will never be the same after the trashing by local morons of cities from London to Liverpool and from Manchester to Bristol.

Like every law-abiding citizen, I wanted to see the trouble cut off at source by the police – be it via water cannon, rubber bullets or taser gun.

Instead, we had Home Secretary Theresa May preaching against even the softest of deterrents as shops were wantonly vandalised, torched and looted.

‘‘The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon,’’ she woffled. ‘‘The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities.’’ That, Ms May, is precisely why the country is in a mess – because the low-lives responsible for the mayhem don’t live by the rules of normal society.

The only thing they fear is pain, plus perhaps the prospect of spending many years behind bars. And in a society that has banned physical discipline and treats prisoners like hotel guests, that means they fear NOTHING.

The scenes were embarrassing as the world watched ignorant children, yes children, being allowed to wreak havoc with impunity as if they were stars in a Hollywood movie.

As for deterrents, there weren’t any.  Just droves of unarmed police, reined in and equipped more to defend themselves than to attack the villains.

Prime Minister David Cameron seems to think the troublemakers will get their comeuppance in court – but he’s deluding himself. The PC brigade frown on locking up children and I’ll  be staggered if even one rioter or looter gets the five-year sentence a stricter society would impose.

No wonder the world is laughing at Britain’s joke government and the opposition, too.  Because Ed Milliband’s lot are just as responsible for the softie judges and magistrates who will inevitably tiptoe through the minefield of mayhem.

The vermin who destroyed England come from a subculture that has developed in the UK over the last few decades  – a scum society where scallies perform street carnage while mum and dad are either enjoying the pleasantries of a comfortable jail cell or out of their minds on drink and drugs.

These low-lives are only a tiny minority of British society – yet they can cause havoc, as we have seen so painfully this week.

They respect nobody, would not dream of working, and believe the only way of life is to steal from others. They live by the law of insolence, robbery and violence.  And the only way to deal with them when they go on the rampage is to give the police and, if necessary, the  Army the freedom to stamp on them .

But in a country where most of the police are not even armed, what chance have we got?

Political correctness rules, just as it does in the schools where the little scumbags develop their obnoxious charms. Teachers cannot so much as raise a hand to discipline the rebels, who celebrate by threatening and even attacking the people trying to educate them.

This, Mr Cameron and Ms May, is where the problem began…we took legalised discipline out of the equation when the cane was confiscated from our schoolteachers.

Now you’ve forgotten that it actually used to work. I never met anyone who was damaged by six of the best. Exactly the opposite in fact – it taught kids to behave themselves.

But of course it wasn’t PC. Unless that stands for the Perfect Corrector.

I just thank God that I got out in time. Y viva Espana.

When the ‘charity’ collector comes calling…

26 Jul

I’VE never been sure what the Spanish law is regarding door-to-door charity collections.
On one hand I’m told it’s illegal, and that the people who ring my bell trying to raise money for a new school/hospice/orphanage/public toilet are in fact bogus.
On the other hand, you have those charity callers whose impressive documentation .and smooth tongue convinces you they are for real.
‘’Don’t give money to anyone collecting at the door,’’ is the clear message from both my community president and the local Neighbourhood Watch. ‘‘The odds are that they are not genuine.’’
Well, for the last two or three years, this cheerful-looking Spanish guy in his 40s, lways armed with identity card, badge, documents and flyers galore, has been doing his best to squeeze euros out of the expat community around my home.
Some people give, some don’t. And I admit he’s sweet-talked me into parting with a few euros in the past.
Weapon
But that was before I became Editor of The Courier – and in fact, before this newspaper even came into existence.
This time I was armed with a powerful new weapon and II plotted a scheme that would make or break him next time he came calling..
I would to tell him I was writing an article on residents being pestered by bogus charity collectors. I wanted take his photograph and put it in The Courier, at the same time confirming to readers that he was no Luis the Ladrón and represented a genuine cause.
I figured that an honest collector would agree instantly to being photographed since it would surely improve hisreturns…while an imposter would run a mile.
I was in the garden when he turned up in mid-afternoon a couple of weeks ago.
‘Hola senora, you Engleesh?’’
He clearly didn’t remember me – not that I wanted him to.
‘’Yes, I want to speak to you,’’ I replied in Spanish, going straight on the attack as he pulled his documents out of his briefcase.
I reeled off my proposal (well, hardly reeled it off – my Spanish isn’t particularly good) and then mentioned taking his photo.
He did not like the idea. In fact, it horrified him. ‘No photograph!’’ he snapped, quickly putting his papers back in his briefcase. ‘‘Definitely not. It is illegal to take photos in Spain.’’
‘‘It’s illegal to collect money door to door in Spain, more likely,’’ I retorted, uncertain whether this was in fact true.
With that, he thrust the leaflet alongside into my hand and stalked off to accost another potential victim.
The following day a respectable looking woman aged about 30 appeared at the front gate and began the charity sales talk. Or so I thought.
‘‘I’m sorry but there’s a great suspicion of charity collectors around here,’’ I said, lining up another photographic session. ‘‘People think you are not genuine.’’
‘‘Charity? I’m not collecting for charity, cariño,’’ she retorted indignantly. ‘‘I’m collecting for ME. For me and my family.’’
There followed a party political broadcast on behalf of Spain’s unemployed masses. She told me she had lost her job, her husband was out of work and his dole had been stopped, and they had three kids to feed.
How else could she support them than by calling on the generosity of more affluent people?
I know she could have been conning. But if she was, she deserved the €10 I gave her just for her acting skills.
Genuine or not, her face lit up at the sight of the money and she couldn’t thank me or hug me enough. ‘‘This will pay the lighting bill tomorrow, carino. I’m so happy.’’
And off she went with a parting shot. ‘‘Watch out for those charity collectors. You never know if their genuine.’’

WITNESS FOR THE DEFENCE

TALKING of uninvited callers, I got into conversation the other day with two very nice ladies about…the end of the world.
Yes, they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now although I am not a Christian, I have never been one of those ‘we’re not interested – clear off’ types.
Indeed, apart from the fact that they are invariably humble, gentle people, I have the greatest admiration for the courage of Witnesses in the face of adversity.
Namely the antagonism of so many people who resent their intrusion. It’s all very well to turn them away politely but firmly, but verbal aggression and rudeness is not necessary.
I’d also like to clear up one or two misconceptions about Jehovah’s Witnesses. First of all, they are neither crazy nor any more deluded than followers of any other religious order. Indeed, to me their message rings truer than most.
The mess that mankind has got the world into needs sorting urgently – and who better to handle it than Big G himself? And soon!
I would never have the courage or dedication to become a Witness. But I do wish I could truly BELIEVE because it immediately takes all the fear out of dying
‘‘I bet you get a lot more abuse than friendliness when you knock on doors,’’ I said to my visitors. ‘‘You are so brave to carry on despite all the resentment.’’
‘‘The strength to go on doesn’t come from us – but from Jehovah,’’ they replied.
I come from Jewish roots, but as a lifelong agnostic, I have spent my entire life wondering what existence is all about.
But there has to be more to it than eating, drinking and making a nuisance of ourselves.
Jehovah’s Witness literature often portrays their idea of the Paradise awaiting believers.
We see images of Mum, Dad and smiling kids strolling and playing in a sunny Garden of Eden, their pets – including lions and tigers – sitting obediently at their feet.
Beat you to it, guys. I’m in Paradise every time I sit in my sunny garden, full of glorious summer colour, with one purring moggy on my lap and another at my side.
In this life, that’s as good as it gets for me. It almost makes my chronic backache worthwhile…

DNA baby bank the answer to serious crime – but it ain’t PC

2 Jul

THE very mention of human rights is enough to send my temperature soaring. The minute someone comes up with a constructive idea aimed at advancing the quality of 21st century life, up pop the PC brigade (not you constable, I mean those holier-than-thou do-gooders) to kill it off.

Take the brilliant concept of banking a DNA sample from every new-born baby in the UK (or ideally the world). The idea is that by the end of this century, police will know in an instant the identity of the perpetrator of EVERY crime where DNA is present – even if tracking them down might not be so easy. I mean, the sort of person we are talking about is unlikely to be waiting for the local PC (that’s you, constable) to knock on his mum’s front door. Or to greet him with a jolly ‘It’s a fair cop, guv’.

But babies certainly won’t object to having their DNA taken. Neither, surely, would any law-abiding parent, knowing that the DNA bank would be contributing to a safer world for our children and grandchildren.

We have the technology, so let’s use it to the maximum (are you listening, FIFA?). That’s simple common sense. But of course the PC plonkers won’t have it. I mean, taking a baby’s DNA would be impinging on the little innocent’s human rights because we don’t know if ‘goo goo’ means ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Then there’s the baby’s parents. Their feelings have to be considered, of course, particularly if mum is a junkie alcoholic whose other five kids are in care and dad’s is doing 15 years for bludgeoning his best friend half to death. Well, something like that.

Since the objection lobby would be made up largely of those with something to hide, we’re back in the world of victim and perpetrator. And in a week in which British law took a deserved battering from the despairing Dowlers, as ever it’s the baddie who wins.

Hang on, Levi Bellfield should be facing the voters’ justice

1 Jul

WHEN it comes to the legal system in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, there’s not much I agree with. Come to think of it, I’m not too keen on anything else about the two regimes, either.
Not that the citizens of those esteemed Muslim democracies (I’m joking) have much say in what’s going on.
But just how democratic are countries like the UK and Spain? Do Brits really have a say in everything that matters – particularly when it involves contentious issues where government and public opinion are at odds?
Like bringing back the death penalty.
Successive governments have known from their research that a national referendum on the return of capital punishment for predatorial killers like Levi Bellfield would produce a massive ‘hang the scum’ vote.

Levi Bellfield

Rage
And that’s where the British system ceases to be democratic. Because David Cameron’s government, like the Brown, Blair, Major and Thatcher regimes before them, think they know better than the voters.
So Bellfield will merely spend his life in jail at our expense.
My heart bled for his victime Millie Dowler’s family in their understandable rage following Bellfield’s conviction.
‘‘In my eyes, justice is an eye for an eye,’’ said Millie’s sister Gemma. ‘‘You brutally murder someone then you pay the ultimate price …a life for a life. So in my eyes no real justice has been done’’.
And so say the vast majority of those who think political correctness sucks. Which is just about everyone I know!
Gemma made it abundantly clear that she wanted Bellfield six feet under.
But however desirable that may be, it would not politically correct. Because it would impinge on Bellfield’s human rights.
Human rights? Since when are vermin like Bellfield human? And let’s not call him an animal because, unlike him, no animal is innately evil. Ask the average Brit and at least 75 per cent will say this particular piece of filth has lost his right to live.
Likewise, the likes of Ian Brady, Myra Hindley, Ian Huntley and Harold Shipman should have been executed as soon as they were convicted. It’s all very well for the Lord Longfords of this world to cry out at the lynch-mob mentality of the masses, but public opinion still seems to favour the Old Testament philosophy of an eye for an eye.
It may be PC to take the New Testament route and turn the other cheek – but if it leads to being whacked twice as hard, what’s the point?
I took a straw poll among friends the other day and whilst a majority favoured bringing back the death penalty, the one proviso everyone demanded was that guilt must be established, not beyond reasonable doubt as in the past, but beyond ALL doubt.
Rage
I would also confine the ultimate penalty to murders involving premeditated evil – which would exclude crimes of passion.
Isn’t it ironic that bringing back capital punishment is so popular with those who remember, not only the heinous crimes of the Crippins and Christies, but also the horrendous mistakes when convicted ‘murderers’ were hanged and then found to be totally innocent?
Discussing this topic is, of course, largely pointless, because Britain will never restore the death penalty.
Neither will Spain, which in 2009 became one of the last nations in Europe to dismantle its gallows completely.
Indeed, the death penalty remains in only two of Europe’s 50 nations, Latvia and Belarus. And the Latvians retain it only for crimes during wartime.
I’m no fan of the gung-ho Americans, but at least they listen to the people (even to the point of electing an idiot like George W Bush and half-destroying the world as a consequence).
The Yanks executed 47 murderers last year with Texas the most prolific and enthusiastic state.
The problem is that our friends across the Pond often fail to understand the difference between a life sentence and a death sentence.
I mean, serving 20 years on death row and THEN being hanged is a bit steep.
But even 20 eyes for an eye would be too lenient a punishment for the likes of Levi Bellfield.

How careless Brits are keeping the Costa criminals in business

14 May

The gullibility of Brits here in the Spanish Costas, and not only tourists, never ceases to amaze me.

Virtually every day I hear that someone or other has been the victim of a pickpocket or handbag snatch.

The experience of being mugged in public is both traumatic and disruptive, particularly if your passport happens to be among the stolen items. Which is why I have always been ultra-careful when it comes to protecting my possessions.
I have never been robbed – unless you count the evening I found 45 euros in notes on the floor of the Irish bar in El Raso and gave it to a tipsy punter who claimed he had dropped it. I realised when I got home that the money had fallen out of my own purse!

OK, that was stupid – but nowhere near as daft as those male tourists who wander around Spanish markets with their wallets wedged in the back pocket of their shorts.

And the women who leave their handbags on a table or chair while they chat to friends – only to discover when they come to pay the bill that they have no money…and no handbag.

It happened to a friend of mine a few weeks ago. She went for a coffee after a busy day at work, plonked her handbag down alongside her and when she next looked – whoosh, it had vanished.

The sting was that this particular lady invariably carried all her documents, including her passport, in that bag, not to mention a considerable amount of money. It was an experience that will live with her until her dying day – and the saddest thing of all is that it could have so easily been avoided.

My friend has been living in Spain for some time, but most of the victims of the petty thieves tend to be tourists. They are so hell-bent on enjoying themselves that being robbed is the last thing on their minds. What juicy pickings for the villains…

I follow a regular procedure with my handbag. When I am in a public place, I always wrap the strap around my wrist so it can’t be snatched. And when I sit down, the strap goes under a chair or table-leg so it can only ‘vanish’ accompanied by an entourage of furniture.

Oh, and I NEVER take a bag to market – I carry cash in notes and wedge them into my bra. It means that no-one can rob me without being arrested for indecent assault!

My advice to men is that if you go anywhere where there’s a large crowd, leave your wallet at home, in your hotel, or hidden under the carpet in your car boot. Put the cash you need in your trouser pocket (not the back one!) and to make the fortress impregnable, how about keeping your hand in your pocket as you walk around?

While Spain’s Moroccan and Romanian communities are thought to be behind the majority of bag-snatches, I suspect the perpetrators come from more diverse roots. What one does have to concede is that these ladrones, however much reviled, have a remarkable skill.

One person I know had her purse stolen from the handbag on her shoulder as she browsed her way around a crowded department store. The thief not only unzipped the bag and removed the purse without anyone noticing – but also zipped the bag up again!

It was the best part of half an hour before my friend realised she’d been robbed. And the way it was done suggests that the perpetrator could make a decent living as a stage magician or in a circus.

But then, theatre audiences are not quite so generous to the sleight-of-hand merchants as the mugs they feed off every day…

Katherine of Arrogant (she looks haughty here anyway!)

28 Apr

A rare picture of Prince William's fiancee looking anything but happy and relaxed. Maybe someone told her that her namesake's marriage to King Henry X111 did not always run smoothly...

The thin man: Meet Will o’ the Wisp – hair to the British throne

28 Apr

Heir today, gone tomorrow (the hair, that is)

Where there’s a Will…is there a way the marriage can last?

27 Apr

To most plebs like me, the pomp and ceremony of a Royal Wedding is an event to die for. But these days it’s a rare Prince or Princess whose marriage doesn’t die long before they do.

The fact is that, looking at recent history, the omens for couple- of-the-moment William and Kate are not good. The Queen and Prince Philip have been married for a remarkable 63 years and five months.

Indeed, most of us weren’t even born when the then Princess Elizabeth got hitched to the then Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on November 20, 1947. (I should really say ‘most of YOU weren’t even born’ – but that would be giving my age away!).

I’m sure there have been plenty of ups and downs during the intervening years but the main thing is that, six decades and 27 Philip foot-in-the-mouth gaffes later, the marriage continues – and will inevitably continue to continue until, as the wedding oath affirms, ‘till death us do part.’

Which is a lot more than can be said for their children. Indeed, the word ’divorce’ has sown a trail of destruction throughout the Queen’s immediate family ever since her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

That world-changing decision thrust her father stuttering onto the ultimate stage as King George VI – and the then Princess Elizabeth became heir to the throne.

Next for a taste of divorce pain was her only sibling, Princess Margaret, who wanted to marry her father’s equerry Peter Townsend, only the Church of England to object to him being a divorcee.

How pitiful that reason now looks in light of the plethora of royal divorces that have followed! Margaret subsequently hitched up with photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones – Lord Snowdon – and 18 years later became a divorce statistic herself.

Whilst there has never been any suggestion of her own marriage breaking up, divorce was something the Queen was going to have to get used to. Because THREE of her four children proceeded to go down the same path as Princess Margaret over the next couple of decades.

The Prince of Wales (Charles), the Princess Royal (Anne) and the Duke of York (Andrew) were all married in the sort of glitz and glamour that befits the most illustrious family in the world.

And which the public so adore. And whilst our Liz and Phil can thank Princess Diana, Mark Phillips and Sarah Ferguson (aka the Duchess of York) for their part in produce half-a-dozen of their grandchildren, sadly their marriages all ended up on the rocks.

Between them, Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew managed a total of 44 years of marriage to their original partners, though how many of those years they were actually living together is anyone’s guess.

Certainly no one believes the Prince and Princess of Wales were actually an item for the entire 15-year span of their marriage. What the Queen and Prince Philip made of it all is anybody’s guess.

The one thing they certainly won’t be complaining about is the nest of eight grandchildren – four boys and four girls – produced by the ‘Three Divorces and a Stay-wed’ brigade.

Two princes (William and Harry) a couple of princesses (Beatrice and Eugenie), plus Princess Anne’s untitled Peter and Zara Phillips and Prince Edward’s one of each make it an equal split

The only surviving marriage is of course that of the Earl and Countess of Essex – ‘baby’ of the Queen’s family Edward and his wife, former public relations manager Sophie Rhys Jones.

Perhaps the secret of keeping a royal marriage together is avoiding the headlines. And quiet man Edward has achieved that admirably despite numerous attempts by stir-mongers to ‘out’ him as being a closet homosexual. Edward vehemently denies it.

And the evidence of nearly 12 years of marriage – plus their children, Princess Louise, 7, and three-year-old James, Viscount Severn – would tend to indicate otherwise. But as William and Kate prepare to make history today, it is certainly going to be one incredibly gay day…

‘Dirty, apologetic, drunken, tattooed dog-mad hooligans’

25 Apr

A SPANISH EYE VIEW OF THE AVERAGE BRITISH TOURIST…

Jose Monllor Perez is small, dark, law-abiding and enjoys nothing more than relaxing with his pals, a cerveza and a cigarette. A stereotypical Spaniard, you might say.

We all have our own views on what exactly constitutes an archetypal native of this particular Iberian nation. But how do the Spanish see the thousands, nay millions, of British holidaymakers who swarm around their country seeking the sunshine that invariably shuns our own grid-locked island?

For the past dozen years Perez, 43, has been teaching Spanish to students of all nationalities (me included) at the Berlingua School of Languages in Quesada in the Costa Blanca – the majority of them English.

Teaching runs in Jose’s family and after seeing 4,000 pupils pass through Berlingua’s doors, he’s a pretty good judge of character. The Alicante-born profesora is also a dab hand at another trait that runs in the family – art. And he paints a hilarious tongue-in-cheek assessment of the stereotypical Brit.

Spainly speaking, it seems we are an apologetic, dog-crazy, dirty, unfit, drunken bunch of tattooed hooligans. And those are our good points!
The bad guys apparently all wear bowler hats and carry umbrellas.

Here’s the lowdown on how Spaniards see us – as interpreted by Perez.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 1: ‘‘They are always saying ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’. Sometimes I think that if you stamped on an Englishman he would apologise. And they say ‘thank you’ so much that the Spanish believe you thank cash machines after withdrawing money.’’

Next comes the obligatory condemnation of our drinking excesses. No, not getting sozzled every day and spending most nights, in the words of Billy Connolly, ‘‘talking to Hughey down the big white telephone’’. Something gentler and more refined than that – tea.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 2: ‘‘They drink tea at all hours – and with COLD milk. Uggh! I thought it was meant to be a hot drink!’’

The fun stops when we move on to the UK’s much-maligned drink culture, which arguably represents the most vivid stereotypical image of an Englishman in the eyes of 21st-century Europe.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 3: ‘‘The English drink far too much beer and wine and they all seem to spend all day in a state of drunkenness. ”

Of course, when we’re on the beach or by the swimming pool, all that booze makes us forget that our white skins are being roasted by el sol.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 5: ‘‘They just can’t take the sun. Their white skin never goes brown – it’s always bright red.’’

And then there is our perceived obsession with queueing.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 6: ‘‘They love to stand in a line waiting. Sometimes I think they make queues when there is nothing to queue for!’’

The British attitude to pets is another peculiarity that amuses Perez.

Jose Monllor Perez: ‘Every person is an individual'

BRIT STEREOTYPE 7: ‘‘They really love your dogs. We think they sleep with them, eat with them, take them on the bus, go into bars and get drunk with them – and then take each other home. They spend a fortune on their animals, but as for having a RABBIT as a pet, now that we cannot understand!’’

Perez confesses that the Channel 4 programme How Clean Is Your House? has sparked a suspicion among Spaniards that the entire nation is DIRTY. ‘‘That TV show is incredible,’’ he says. ‘‘The gardens are clean and tidy, but inside the houses it’s completely the opposite. If I go into an English bar after seeing that programme, I always examine the cups and spoons!’’ Then, of course, there is our physical shape.

BRIT STEREOTYPE 8: ‘‘Their fitness levels are bad with lots of people overweight – and the guys all have tattoos and look like hooligans.’’

According to Perez, the Spanish also see us as bashful when it comes to discussing sexual matters and hmmm, let’s say anything involving personal excretions. But when it comes to using the F word, then there’s no holding us back…

Away from the wisecracking, Jose insists that only ignorant people actually BELIEVE these characteristics are representative of the nation. ‘‘Each person is an individual,’’ he insists. ‘‘There are Englishmen who do not drink tea, Spanish who don’t like flamenco, Germans who not have a moustache, Italian pizza haters, non-romantic Frenchmen and Russians who don’t belong to the Mafia.

‘‘Our brain wants to save energy and work quickly, so it creates stereotypes. It’s easier to believe than that each person is uniquely different.’’

Spain’s Costa-cutters shame Britain’s airport rip-off boys

30 Mar

Car-park charges in the UK are enough to drive any motorist insane – and the rip-off boys are getting greedier and greedier. Particularly those who have a captive audience.

Like airports.

I returned to Spain from Manchester on Sunday knowing I’d be flying into Alicante’s new state-of-the-art terminal, an amazing edifice which cost the cash-strapped Spanish well over £500 million.

The Madrid government invested 628.67 million euros in expansion works which will double the airport’s capacity and cater for up to 20 million passengers per year.

When my daughter Lisa met me on my arrival in Manchester three weeks earlier, it cost her no less than £12 for an enforced two-hour stay in the Terminal One car-park (well, I paid it actually – that’s what parents are for).

And while Lisa might have got away with the £2.20 minimum charge had she
parked up to see me off on my return to the Costa Blanca, she’d inevitably have got carried away with emotion, hugged me for an hour, and forked out another £8 for the privilege.


So she just dropped me off and vamoosed, leaving me to find that my flight was being delayed for well over an hour for technical reasons.

We eventually arrived at Alicante half an hour late and by the time we got back to my friend Valerie’s car, it had been parked in the airport’s new 2,700-space multi-storey facility for an hour and a half.

At Manchester prices, that would have meant another £8 – to pick up a passenger who had already paid a fistful in airport taxes as part of her air fare.

In the event, Val’s 1 hour 38 minute stay cost me 2 euros and 95 cents.
That’s less than one-third of Manchester’s rip-off tariff – at an airport which must be desperate to recoup their massive investment as quickly as possible.

Exactly the same charge, based on a minute-by-minute reading which equates to just 70 centimos for half an hour, is levied at other major Spanish airports, including Madrid’s main Barajas facility, Malaga and Barcelona.

New Alicante terminal

The new terminal at Alicante: It can cater for 20 million passengers a year

How refreshing that a nation in desperate financial straits should put the passenger before profit, unlike the greedy ” fleece ’em for as much as we can” attitude in the UK.

When my sister flew in to Manchester from her home in the Middle East recently, fellow passengers on the delayed Jet2.com flight consoled her by insisting the plane was ALWAYS late in order to ensure that family and friends had to park up for at least an hour and incur that obligatory £8 fee.

I’m told that Stansted charge similar prices to Manchester, whilst
Heathrow’s initial £2.50 charge goes up to £4.30 after just half an hour (or at least it used to, though it may well have increased since those figures were reported).

Perhaps that’s why Spain is in a worse economic pickle than Britain…the Zapatero government prefer to remain needy rather than labelled as greedy.

So carry on with the overcharging, Britain. Enjoy squeezing the public to the pip.

I’ll continue to chill out on the cheap here on the Costa Lot-less.

Ryan Giggs: Manchester United legend but no red-blooded Taffy

29 Mar

Anyone who thought Welsh football wizard Ryan Giggs would end his self-imposed international retirement and play against England last  Saturday must have been dreaming.

Because when it comes to the Land of His Fathers, Giggs and patriotism have never been particularly close partners.

I’m a big football fan. I am also proudly Welsh. But when it comes to Giggs and his contribution to his country’s cause, that’s where I grab my little red ranting hood.

When our best player Gareth Bale had to drop out of the squad for the England game, the cry went up for Manchester United legend Giggs to step in. He did – but only to show his face and perhaps offer some friendly advice during a family holiday in Cardiff.

Had he been as dedicated to the cause as any true red-blooded Taffy, he’d have stripped off for action there and then. The golden boy may be 37, but he is still as good as any player in Gary Speed’s Wales squad.

The problem is that throughout his career, the Cardiff-born star’s loyalty to the land of his birth has been tenuous, to say the least. And there was as much chance of him saying yes as there was of Speed calling ME into the squad!

Giggs opted out of international football three years ago – and Wales said goodbye to a tragic dragon rather than the magic one who has graced Old Trafford for the last two decades.

Ryan Giggs: No hero for Wales

For me, it was a case of good riddance because I can count the number of outstanding performances he made for his country on one hand, if not one finger.

Those who do not know the full facts believe Giggs chose to play for Wales rather than England.

The reality is that our Ryan was born in Wales of Welsh parentage and has absolutely no English blood.

So the option was never there…even though he did qualify for England Schools courtesy of being educated in Manchester (where I am assured Welsh was not on the curriculum).

Look at the contribution Giggs has made to his ‘beloved’ Wales since leaving his native Cardiff at the age of seven and began speaking more like a Salford scally than a true Taff.

Like myself and millions of other Welsh patriots, I’m sure he is proud of his blood line. But the reality is that everything about him, from his upbringing to his education and subsequent career, is pure English.

I was born in Birmingham but my Welsh father and English mother moved back to Wales when I was a baby and I will always by loyal to the country I regard as my homeland. Giggs is almost the reverse of this…so it would surprise me if his loyalty outside football is entirely to Wales.

I cannot imagine he supports Cardiff Blues at rugby and Glamorgan at cricket, as I do – and I’d just love to know which side he favours when Wales play England in the Six Nations!

Admittedly, the guy has played some blinders for United – and is right up there with the greats of the Premier League. But all those comparisons with George Best are ridiculous – George had tricks Giggs couldn’t live with and unlike his Welsh counterpart, he could do them with both feet.

The thing that irks me about Giggs’s Wales career is that when he condescended to don the real red shirt he invariably either went through the motions or developed a mysterious injury which incredibly cleared up before United’s next game.

For nine years from 1991 he refused to play for Wales in friendlies – missing 18 matches, many of them important build-up games towards major tournament qualifiers. Had he played in even half of those, Wales’s 49-year spell without qualifying for a major tournament may well have ended years ago.

Patriotic Welshmen simply do not refuse to play for their country without a very good reason. Mind you, it might all have been at Sir Alex’s instigation. Now that is a thought.

I’ll have a think about that one…and then maybe I’ll grab my hair-dryer and head for Old Trafford.

Compared to Spain, Britain’s binmen are a load of rubbish

28 Jan

My dispute with the guys who collect the household refuse at my home in the UK is not so much a game of cat and mouse. It’s more like  prat and house.

Bury Borough Council is not the only local authority that refuses to take bags which protrude above the lid of the grey wheelie bin provided for every household. But what a petty rule it is!

Believe me, when it comes to rubbish collection, the guys who empty the bins around my Costa Blanca villa are in a different league. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

The fact is some households generate more rubbish than others – particularly if hordes of children either live in the house or descend upon it almost incessantly. Such is my home in the Bury area of Lancashire – courtesy of the fact that my five grandkids all live within 200 yards of my pad.

And while I can accept the local council placing some limit on what they will collect, it takes a true jobsworth to remove and dump any bag that happens to protrude above lid level of the wheelie bin.

Bury Council’s official website requests householders to ‘‘make sure your bin lids are fully closed’’ on collection day. But why? Will the bin attack a neighbour or something if the lid is raised just a teeny bit above horizontal?

It beats me that the binmen bother to enforce the ‘empty closed wheelies only’ policy because moving a piled-high bin onto the ramp to be tipped automatically into the bowels of their wagon is surely quicker than having to remove the excess rubbish first.

You’d think the £178-per-month I pay in council tax would entitle me to have ALL my genuine household waste taken away each week. Instead, I often have to wait three weeks for my separate recycling and garden-waste wheelie bins to be emptied.

It’s all so inferior to the quiet, efficient way refuse is collected in the Costa Blanca, which has become my home of choice over the last few years.

To start with, the Spanish binmen come in the evening, when the roads are quiet – so there’s minimum disruption to traffic. It’s so much better than the chaos British bin lorries cause during the day as they back up into side streets and cul de sacs.

In Spain, household refuse is also collected EVERY DAY, not just once a week. In the winter, as well as summer. And rather than stopping at every house, the binmen remove the rubbish from large communal containers placed a couple of hundred yards apart.

Garden refuse is collected once a week from the same point, while recycling containers are dotted conveniently around the urbanisation for people to use at their convenience.

It’s anything but inconvenient for householders – even the laziest of individuals should be able to walk 100 yards to dispose of their household waste. Oh, and last year the council tax on my three-bedroom villa amounted to just 386.08 euros (equal to £333.78 as I write). That’s roughly 20 per cent of what I pay to Bury Council.

It’s one of my old chestnuts, but Britain is being held back by the old colonialist attitude that still lingers in decision-making areas. Namely that if we didn’t think it up, then it can’t be any good.

That sort of thinking is a massive load of rubbish! And no, Bury Council, I don’t want your bolshy binmen to come and dump it all on my drive in Prestwich.

Put the lid on it, boys. This jobsworth behaviour wheelie is too much.

I’ve got Parkinson’s Disease – so why am I still laughing?

19 Jan

Bob Monkhouse never lost his brilliant sense of humour right up to his dying day. And the late, great comedian’s legacy of laughter taught me a lesson I plan to utilise every waking hour from now on.

Because life is too short to be taken over-seriously. Even by a Grumpy Old Gran.

To most people under 40, the aches and pains of advancing years don’t exist. But take it from me, kids, old age is gonna getcha – and quicker than you think! (Though it doesn’t hurt quite so much out here in the sunshine).

There’s a fair chance you’ll end up a stooped old wrinkly shuffling your way along the streets and causing irritating queues in the newsagents as you fumble for change. And then drop your purse on the floor for someone else to pick up.

I know all about it – because I’m heading towards the world of zimmer frames myself. And it’s not pleasant.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with angina and had two stents inserted in an angioplasty procedure to widen my coronary arteries. Now I have been told by a neurologist that I also have the beginnings of Parkinson’s Disease.

Not very pleasant, but millions of people are in far worse health than I, and hopefully I will be around for a good few years yet. I have also found a true inspiration in the unique humour of Bob Monkhouse.

Like him, I believe that the best antidote to illness and the negativity of ageing is laughter. The Monkhouse School of Mirth may not cure major ailments, but a good giggle does make even the Grumpiest of Grans feel a lot better.

When Bob knew he was dying from prostate cancer, he not only kept smiling – he incorporated it into his act.

Back in the ‘70s, I was lucky enough to see him perform live at a major London hotel function. Until then, I had always regarded him as rather smarmy and insincere, but I realised that evening that I was watching a true genius strutting his stuff.

Not long before he died in December 2003, and still looking amazingly fit despite his advanced cancer, Monkhouse quipped on Michael Parkinson‘s chat show that he had asked his doctor: ‘’How long have I got to live?’’

”Ten,’’ said the doctor.

”Is that weeks, months…?’’

”Nine, eight, seven…’’

That wisecrack reignited my belief that when old age and/or illness strike, the most effective way to fight it is to have a little giggle about life, however difficult that may be.

I half expected Monkhouse to throw in a line about his unique ‘’sense of tumour’’. He didn’t – but there’s a fair bet he is up there in his celestial home right now haranguing St Peter with his one-liners.

In the meantime, I have told my kids and grandkids I want to hear them singing at my funeral, not being just plain miserable. Perhaps a couple of choruses of ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Deathwill help – not that I’ll be able to join in, of course.

Meanwhile, life goes on for me, my angina and my Parkinson’s, with semi-permanent backache and painful hip joints thrown in as a bonus. But I’m happy because I spend most of my time in the Spanish sunshine.

I can also see a new career on the horizon. If the Parkinson’s gets any worse, they might yet give me my own chat show…

Cats v Dogs: A tongue-in-poo look at the habits of our pets

30 Dec

A doggy or a moggy? Donna takes a humorous look at the benefits and brickbats of ownership

I love cats more than any other animal. They are to me the most mysterious, fascinating and wonderful creatures on earth. And not only can they read your mind, they can also manipulate it to  their own advantage.

That’s the voice of 40 years of cat ownership speaking. Oh, and I didn’t own any of my moggies – they owned me.

From Fluffy to Thatcher, from Geoffrey to Henry and from Lucky to Sooty, I was THEIR pet, not the reverse. If it didn’t suit them to live in my home, they’d have been off like a flash to appoint some other purr soul as honorary daily food-and-milk supplier.

ALL IN THE NAME: My cat Geoffrey (Geoffrey Boycat to give him his full name) is a fine cricketer!

Some of us are cat people, some dog people and some, like me,  care for both. Only we usually have a preference and in my household, moggies have always held the edge.

To start with, they allow their owner more independence. If you’re not around for a few days, it doesn’t really matter as long as someone is there to feed them. Leave a dog on  its own for two days and you’re not only in serious trouble with the animal authorities, the poor mutt will also have moped itself into a candidate for the canine nuthouse.

Then there is the cleanliness issue. Dogs love to pepper their noses with  the ghastliest of savouries left for them by their fellow barkers. The browner and smellier the better for Fido and his pals, and the worse for those of us whose shoes squelch the stink into our  rugs and carpets when we get home.

From my experience, there’s nothing more frustrating  than trying to house-train a  puppy. It will pee and poo to order providing you let it out a minimum of 250 times a day. But pop out yourself for five minutes and you open the door on your return to a mound of doggy dung and a floor awash with a ship-load of urine.

The yelps when Little Poo  is left momentarily on its own are bad enough. But they are nothing to the yelps of human anger that boom into the stratosphere when Mr and Mrs Owner discover what poochie was up to while they were out of the room.

Yet to a dog lover, those Close Encounters of the T*rd Kind are all acceptable in exchange for the pure, uncomplicated love you are guaranteed in return for just being there. Who cares that Fido spends all day rolling in mud, urine, vomit and the faeces of every animal on earth? It only takes a couple of hours to clean him up – and then those luscious licks and doggy hugs make it all worthwhile.

Unless, like me, you’re already so browned off by those pooper bloopers that you’ve vowed never to have a dog again.

Cats are a complete contrast. House-trained before they’ve ever seen a house, all a kitten needs is a litter tray and it will wee and poo  into it ad infinitum. Mind you, removing the hail of stones that hurtle around the house in mini-puss’s attempts to  bury the residue with its lethal back feet can take twice as long as clearing up after any untrained puppy.

Moggies also need no  teaching when it comes to cleaning themselves. And thereby hangs another tale – plus body, head and legs.  Before you  know it, puss has licked herself  bald and is coughing up a two-ton hair ball. You rush her to the vet thinking she’s on her last legs but fear not…they all do it.

Unless, like my Molly, the furry one suffers from feline asthma and vomits up nothing but wheeze.

If your cat is a Tom, then you have another problem or three. First and worst is his territory spraying, and the pungent, difficult-to-remove smell it creates. Then there’s his sexual appetite, which he’ll inevitably impose on all the local moggettes – accompanied by a cat’s chorus loud enough to drown out a 30-piece orchestra.

The solution to that one is simple. Have Tiger Tom snipped in the bud when he’s a few months old and the spraying and s****ing will be a thing of the past.

If you have a dog, you will of course need to take it for walks. Unless you are a lazy bitch like one or two of my friends – and end up with a mutt that’s even fatter than its owner. In such instances, at least fatso and her pet won’t need a pooper scooper to clean up the dog mess, though not that many people seem to bother if the pavements in my locality at El Raso are anything to go by.

People not clearing up the mess left by their dogs in public places is a big problem everywhere. But here’s a question for you: If you saw a threatening-looking yob’s pit-bull pooing outside your home and he didn’t clean up the mess (the yob, not the pitbull), what would you do?

If your answer is ‘nothing’, score a brownie point for honesty.

Cat-walking is strictly for models, of course. But at the end of the day, you’ll shack up with the pet that suits YOU, whether it be a dog, cat, rabbit, kangaroo or a 15-foot crocodile. My 11-year-old grandson would happily have the lot – particularly if the croc came with a guarantee to eat his sister.

As for me, I’ll stick with my two moggies back home in in Guardamar. Even if I am at my wits end hoping they are OK while I spend Christmas and the New Year here with my family in Manchester. Don’t worry, while I am away some good friends are feeding them both – along with three or four strays who have adopted me (and particularly my daily food offerings) over recent months.

They all used to be straggly. Now they are verging on obese. But I’d happily take them all with me everywhere I go if only they could speak English.

PS. Question: What do you call a brown Spanish cat? Answer – a chocolate gato.

Pain in Spain: Why I still have more money than stents…

14 Sep

I WAS asleep when a chink of light  in the doorway alerted me. A man had entered Room 114.

A 6am intruder! The last thing I wanted on top of the angina attack that had put me in Torrevieja Hospital for four days and counting. Particularly with only a flimsy regulation-blue hospital gown for protection.
As I lay on the bed, squinting blearily into the darkness, the glint of metal told me the shadowy silhouette was on a business call.
He sat down on the bed – and  I realised he was brandishing two razors in his right hand.
My worst fears were confirmed. I was about to be shaved of my last vestige of dignity…by, of all people, the camp male nurse I had silently dubbed Dapper Diego.
I hadn’t the heart to protest as DD lifted my gown and, humming quietly, went to work. Donna’s pube train was at the sharp end of a potential disaster – and my only thought was that Diego might not mind the gap.
Five minutes later, the plucked chicken with the dicky ticker was ready for her heart-to-heart with the stentist later in the day.
More than 12 hours later as it happens. But of course, Torrevieja Hospital, like just about everyone in Spain, does everything manana.
Anyway, I eventually ended up at the mercy of  the guy whose job is to ping balloons into clogged up coronary channels. It sounds like a children’s party – and it might as well have been from the way the medical team laughed and joked their way through the entire procedure.
There was I, lying there with a catheter invading half my body via a gaping hole in  my femoral artery, and they were all cackling away in Spanish like kids playing doctors with a doll.
I certainly didn’t find it funny…though their trivialisation of it all did admittedly ease my own fears that my life was in danger.
Stentist? It was more like a dentist working upside down after administering laughing gas to himself and his staff.
And you’ve only heard a fraction of the story.
The previous weekend, an undertaker came to the rescue after I suffered a major angina attack at home. My good friend Mike, a funeral director by profession, was staying with me at the time and averted a potentially grave situation by calling the Spanish emergency services. Minutes later, I was in the back of an ambulance roaring down the N332 at 140kph with Vettel Mickey screeching behind in his rented Ford Ka.
I was about to receive proof – if any was needed – that the Spanish health service leaves the NHS standing. Even if it does seem to work at half the speed.
Torrevieja Hospital is a magnificent building with magnificent facilities …a credit to Spanish medicine in the 21st century.
That was evident from the moment I set foot – or rather wheels – on the premises.
I was whisked through the emergency admission process in a matter of minutes…with a slight hiccup when doctors discovered the handful of different medications Mike had grabbed from my bedroom drawer weren’t mine!
Assessed and then herded into a 32-bed observation ward, I shared the following eight hours with an array of characters of various nationalities in various states of discomfort.
Only an obligatory bland, salt-free apology for lunch eased the boredom. Plus the hope that I would be discharged later that day.
I suspect that is what the doctors intended because I was the only patient in the ward not to receive an evening meal.
Mind you, that changed big-time when the nurses got word of the poor starving waif in bed C-21.
They hunted around and unwittingly brought me a magnificent fully-flavoured meal that had clearly been intended for a non-coronary patient. Salt of the earth, those nurses.

For the next five days, home was a comfortable, modern en suite room of my own. And for me, Torrevieja is right up there with any British private hospital – with the exception, of course, that you don’t pay five-star hotel prices.
You get a much better view, too. Tourists would pay good money for the glorious panorama from Room 114 across the salt lake. Picture postcard stuff, particularly at night when the glow of lights on the far shore flickered on the water.
And in Dr Piotr Chochowski, I had the most caring of cardiologists. I’ve lots more to say  – but the main thing is that I’m not yet ready for my date with Mike and his Bury Boys..
And since I did not have to resort to private funding for the surgery, I still have more money than stents.

How I conquered my fear of flying – Funda-mental facts

24 Jul

I used to be so petrified of flying that I’d lock myself away in the airport loo half an hour before boarding and demolish a quarter bottle of neat Fundador.
Then I’d happily jet off to my destination full of carefree spirit, knowing that if the bottom fell out of the plane at 38,000 feet, I could ferry passengers and crew across the sky to safety using my own 40 per cent proof alcohol tank.
Even in those days, I was awafundadorre that flying was much safer than driving. So, indeed, are the masses of nervous people today who are so scared of air travel that they think a Ryanair loo and a hot flush are the same thing.
So why did I ever get into a flap over what is statistically the safest form of travel on earth (or a few thousand feet above it to be accurate)?
Global airline safety reports confirm there were a total of 90 commercial aeroplane accidents in 2013, just nine of which involved fatalities .
The 173 people killed on those doomed trips may seem a lot but when you look at the figures in the context of 32 million flights worldwide, the overall statistic of one accident per 300,000 flights and one fatality every three million trips proves conclusively that there is no safer form of transport.
If you are set on meeting St Peter at the Pearly Gates ASAP, then I can reveal that making the trip on two wheels is by far the best bet.
Yes, the riskiest way to travel anywhere is on a motorbike. Mile-for-mile, motorcycling is statistically 3,000 times more deadly than flying – and you are 100 times more likely to die travelling to Spain on four wheels than on a UK charter flight to or from the Costas.
Feel free to double the car-death figure if you include the loony Spanish fly boys who have brought a new skill to the art of driving. It’s called airborne overtaking and it’s soaring in popularity on my local autoroute.
I was approaching my fifties (in age, that is, not maximum driving speed) when I finally came to terms with the fear-of-flying nonsense. During a rare moment of airborne sobriety, my pickled brain came realised that Fundador-mentalism at ground level was much more likely to kill me than an extinct bird trying to board Ryanair ‘s smallest aircraft.
So when I now squeeze myself into one of Michael O’Leary’s tiny 3,000-seaters, I am reasonably relaxed, albeit still with the ability to panic whenever turbulence is around. Admit it, you laid-back veterans of sky travel – don’t you cast a quick look at the cabin crew’s faces whenever the engine sound changes or if the fasten seat-belt signs suddenly lights up?
I’m sure the aircraft staff are trained to remain calm at all times. But I defy them to keep a straight face if and when a desperate dodo sticks its beak into the starboard wing and the engine catches fire.
For all that, it’s great to be smugly dismissive of the occasional flyers who break into a round of applause when their holiday flight touches down. What’s coming next – a windbound for the driver?
For me, the most sobering thought is that my daughter and her other half run a major training centre for motorcycle riders in Manchester.
I need a drink. Anyone seen my hip flask?
PS. A thought on the new menace of terrorism in the air. In the wake of the 9/11 horror, airline passenger miles in the United States fell between 12% and 20% while road travel rocketed. By the time the panic ended and sky travel returned to normal, academics estimated that 1,595 extra lives had been lost. I never could figure out the Americans.

Alas Myth and Cones: Counting the Costa traffic jams in a city of red lights

18 Jul

I am lucky enough to have two homes. One is a sunshine villa 30 minutes’ drive from Alicante airport, the other a modest semi 18 miles north of Manchester’s three flight terminals.

An airport trip at the English end is subject to an electrifying hazard in the form of 50 sets of traffic lights. The consolation is that no more than 47 tend to be stuck on red at any given time.

If you are lucky enough to actually catch your flight, you do at least face a delightful evening discussing traffic lights with the Spanish cabbie driving you to Guardamar on the N332.

Mention the super-hazard of every street corner in Britain and the taxi driver’s conversation is likely to consist of a quizzical look and the words ‘Que es trah-fick-lie-eat?’

Odds are he won’t know what you are talking about because, believe it or not, there’s not a single set of the things between Alicante and my Costa Blanca home.

At the Manchester end one can, of course, avoid the red-light menace by heading for the airport via the city’s Park-And-Don’t-Move service, otherwise known as the M60 motorway.

That trip is no fun either, aRoadworks on the A21nd unless you give yourself at least two days to get to the airport, a couple of hours with your head immersed in 50 Shades of Red may well be less stressful than counting traffic cones.

Either way, both routes to the airport provide ideal material for a ‘100 Reasons to Escape Manchester’ publicity blitz.

What sort of voyeur gets a kick out of watching traffic cones breeding on the M60, for heaven’s sake? Last time I used the so-called ring road I counted 428 million giant ice-cream cornets during a six-mile crawl to the Trafford Centre. The 14-hour trip was marginally quicker than taking the car but my knees didn’t half hurt by the time I reached my destination. And I was suffering from orange-and-white colour blindness into the bargain.

One of the few perks of driving to Manchester airport via the city centre is that you can stop off for a coffee and a bacon butty. The down side is the £60 parking fine you’ll inevitably get in addition to burning off eight gallons of unleaded in a desperate attempt to park sideways on the single metre of kerb untainted by double yellow lines.

I appreciate that comparing the Costa del Salford with the Costa del Sol is akin to confusing Bury Market with the London Stock Market. But that’s a bourse-case scenario.

There are, in fact, many leisurely compensations for those who choose not to drive in what must surely be the wettest part of the UK. One is enjoying a morning swim to the office in downtown Mancunia’s high-street ocean, known to the aquatic community as the Sea of Umbrellas. The rush hour is so busy that there’s no choice but to do the crawl, and not only because the breast stroke is illegal and a butterfly as rare as an English Mark Spitz.

Which brings me on to football or, for the gob-fearing amongst us, the mouths of Wayne Rooney and Kompany.

Manchester is of course home to two top football teams, namely Bury and Oldham Athletic. Fortunately I don’t support Man United or Man City either, which is a bit of a relief since I don’t speak German (heaven help whoever puts the names on United players’ shirts) and with my flight back to Spain only 24 hours away, I’m pretty low on Sterling too (boom boom).

Oh, a geeky friend just called to say there are actually 49 sets of traffic lights between my Whitefield home and Manchester Airport. Using the bacon-butty route, that is.

I believe there are also 49 million traffic cones between Anfield in Liverpool and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

All paid for in Sterling, of course.

WARNING: DYING CAN DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH

30 Jun

LIFE experts reckon young people don’t even think about their own mortality until they reach the age of 35.That’s their funeral. When they reach my age, they’ll think about it 35 times a die (sorry, day). With respect to the doom-mongers, I won’t let the thought of dying get me down half an inch, let alone six feet.

Let’s face it, there’s no point being too serious about anything because none of us is going to get out of this alive.  Death is arguably the most sensitive issue in life – but losing someone special is something we all  have to deal with it at some point. 

I just wish I had the courage to laugh in the Grim Reaper’s face and ensure that I go out in a blaze of glory. Heaven help me if the Reaper really does exist!.

The funeral scenario gets a whole lot worse as the years roll on. Your body starts to creak and you wonder if the tickle in your throat is about to escalate into a coffin fit.


It’s time to stop choking and start  joking. And that’s easier said than done  when you failed to turn up for your own Biblical D-for-Death appointment eight months ago.

It’s a grave thought but, going on Old Testament  chronology, my funeral plan should have exploded into action on October 10 last year, when I celebrated my three score years and 10 at my daughter’s home in north Manchester.  OK, to be strictly

accurate she lives in Bury. Hell, that’s ominous.

If I do actually pop my clogs on the big day this year, I guarantee the shock will kill me. So I’m hoping the Big Boss will grant me a bit more overtime instead.  Say 30 years in perfect health to take me through to a Lord’s  century?

 I’m dying to know what lies beyond the grave. Absolute believers like Jehovah’s Witnesses predict that God’s Kingdom will soon replace the  increasingly  rotten society we now live in.

The dead will be resurrected and put to a loyalty test,  while the wicked and disobedient will be destroyed. It’s a case of ‘Vote for the Jesus-God coalition and live forever in an idyllic world’.  

I guess that means you’re a dead cert for 10,000 years hard Labour if politics sends you to sleep and Ukip when you should be voting. Only consolation is that you’ll inevitably serve your time Clegg-less. The goodies live happily ever while the unfaithful push up daisies for the rest of their deaths.

Chain gang, here I come.

DONNA’S  DEAD-CERT TOP TEN

1. Going Underground – The Jam
2. Skull Of Kintyre –  Poor Yorick
3. The Hippy Hippy Wake – Swinging Blue Jeans
4. The Funeral Is Over – New Seekers
5. That’s Death – Frank Sinatra
6. Grave On – Buddy Holly
7. When You Walk In The Tomb – The Searchers
8. Hearse Of The Rising Sun – The Animals
9. The Road To Hell – Chris Rea
10. Good Mourning – Judy Garland

My living hell: Crohn’s Disease nearly killed me

2 Jun

BY DAISY BECKMAN age 13

(Donna Gee’s granddaughter)

The last nine months have been living hell for me. My Crohn’s has been horrific and I’ve been in and out of hospital many times. It all started when I went to Manchester Children’s Hospital and I was on 32 tablets a day and was rattling with drugs. I was doubled over in agony most of the time and was in desperate need of an operation to remove my extremely inflamed bowel. They did many scans and tests and found nothing. I had a nasal gastric tube placed which I hated and was fed through that and was not allowed to eat because I was vomiting when I did. My consultant did not think I required an operation and suggested most of my pain was psychological. This made me mad and upset me more than ever to think me being in pain most if not all of the time was being completely ignored. I went to Alder Hey children’s hospital which was very on the ball and my new consultant Dr Auth was fantastic and got all my MRI scans, bariums and scopes done straight away . When I woke up from an anaesthetic I was told I required an operation to remove some bowels and that it would be pretty straight forward. My operation was planned for two months time – not long after my 13th birthday. I went to my outpatient’s appointment in a wheelchair as I was in that much pain and so weak that I could hardly walk. Dr Auth said I had to be admitted straight away so I went to ward E3 for the night. The next morning I was wheeled down to ultrasound and they found the unexpected. I had no clue what was going on but my surgeon was called to ultrasound and was very concerned. Then I was told in two hours time I would be operated on. I was panicking like mad so my nurse gave me some premed before theatre to calm me down and I was all drugged up and completely out of it . I don’t remember anything after that . I had had the biggest operation of my life lasting seven hours. I had an abscess stuck near my kidney which nearly killed me and a stricture. I had lost loads of blood during the operation and needed a blood transfusion. I have had such a traumatic time and I just wanted to thank you all so much for doing this Walk for me it really does mean a lot. I wish I could be there to thank you all personally but I am so far behind with my studies that I really have no time for anything but schoolwork at present. You are all wonderful for supporting research which will hopefully make the sort of pain I have suffered a thing of the past. Your donations really do make a difference.To end I want to say a huge thank you to my grandma Donna for doing a sponsored slim to help CICRA and for making people more aware of the pain and suffering of children with Crohn’s through her column in The Courier newspaper in Spain.

My fundraising angels are the Crohn jewels of charity

2 Jun

ImageI’VE never been any good at expressing myself through a microphone ­– so forgive me for building a little gratitude grotto here.

For the past four months I have been trying to raise funds for a charity close to my heart…a cause dedicated to ending the suffering of youngsters like my granddaughter Daisy, who almost lost her life to Crohn’s Disease. (that’s her pictured with her baby brother Buddy)

My cunning plan was to try to lose two and a half stone through a sponsored diet. It was hardly a Mission Impossible…indeed it was Mission Dare Not Fail, because I could hardly let Daisy down by continuing to resemble the Princess of Whales.

In the 16 weeks I’ve been fighting the flab, I’ve lost all but half a stone of that 35lbs target, but it’s been tough going, believe me. I also made a mess of the sponsorship side because of my inexplicable embarrassment  when it comes to asking people for money. And because I was so naïve that I didn’t realise I should have recruited sponsors to back me BEFORE I started losing weight.

The end result is that although my online fundraising  stood at the start of this week at 25 per cent more than my original £500 target, I probably missed out on double that amount through my lack of fundraising skills.

But CICRA, the Crohn’s in Children Research Association, are about to get a big surprise, thanks to my amazing friends Dee Williams and Susan Reader and the unbelievable support of an expat community whose generosity knows no bounds.

Susan, one of the Costa’s most prolific voluntary fundraisers, and Dee – who runs Bar Sofia in El Raso,- decided to give a boost to my uninspiring efforts to fill CICRA’s coffers. I didn’t ask them to help…they formed their own Daisy chain and plated it with gold in the form of a Charity Walk and Fun Day

I had expected perhaps half a dozen sad souls to take part in the short 2.5km walk and perhaps a dozen to come along to the subsequent activities at Sofia’s.

There were five times that number, with dozens more thronging Sofia’s for the fashion show and commercial mini market that followed. The Walk and Fun Day, plus raffle and other ‘extras’, have already generated a staggering €1,200 plus…and the money is still coming in.

The bottom line is that the £759.93 I have raised for CICRA in sponsorship and gift aid is about to rocket to more than £2,000 even if nothing more comes in before I complete my diet on June 30.

Some €500 of this latest cash injection came from two sources….€200 from the now defunct El Raso Neighbourhood Watch, for which I thank Barbara Roebuck and Tony Bowhey in particular, and an unbelievable €300 collected personally by my neighbours Marie and Colin Whitfield. Ever-helpful and ever-willing, the golden hearted couple’s wad of sponsorship forms included the name of just about every soul on the urbanisation.

As I write, my Just Giving charity page shows only the £759.93 contributed to CICRA by sponsors of my diet. Sunday’s  jackpot will be added in the next few days but I doubt that will be the end of it… because the philanthropy of the expat community seems to know no bounds.

Just keep checking www.justgiving.com/donna-gee and you’ll see what I mean…