Tag Archives: Grumpy Old Gran

Banned in Spain – but smokers’ paradise is just seconds away!

2 Jan

IT’S JANUARY 2, 2011 AND FROM TODAY SMOKING IN PUBLIC PLACES IS BANNED IN SPAIN VERY MUCH ON THE SAME LINES AS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.

PERHAPS THE MOST ACCEPTABLE (IF NOT THE SAFEST) PLACE FOR SPANISH-BASED SMOKERS TO GATHER IN FUTURE IS ON BALCONIES LIKE THIS ONE (click on the link). GRAB A CIGGY, POP OUTSIDE, TAKE IN THE VIEW, LIGHT UP – AND YOU’LL BECOME AN EX-SMOKER IN A MATTER OF SECONDS.

IN FACT, THE EXPRESSION ‘TO CRASH THE ASH’ WILL ADOPT A TOTALLY NEW MEANING.

AM I HAPPY THAT I’LL FINALLY BE ABLE TO ENJOY A MEAL AND A DRINK IN SPANISH BARS AND RESTAURANTS WITHOUT BEING SUBJECTED TO CLOUDS OF STINKING TOBACCO? YOU BET I AM!

AND WHILE I REMAIN CYNICAL AS TO WHETHER THE SPANISH PEOPLE WILL ABIDE BY THE NEW LAW,  I’M ALL FOR GIVING IT A GO. IF THE WORST COMES TO THE WORST, WE CAN ALWAYS USHER THEM OUT ONTO THE BALCONY…

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.

Corrupt or not, Blatter and his bunglers have lost the FIFA plot

24 Dec

During last summer’s World Cup, I wrote a magazine article in which I described Sepp Blatter, the most powerful administrator in world football, as ”an ageing plonker”. I now accept that at the FIFA chairman is not ageing. He’s decrepit.

Indeed, he is so far past his sell-by date that I suggest his native Switzerland considers putting him out of his misery. Euthanasia is perfectly legal there, after all.

Now I love football but, like just about every fan in the world, I think its administrators are in another world when it comes to moving into the 21st century.

Soccer is the world’s most popular game with billions of fans and ludicrous amounts of money passing through its coffers. Yet while other major sports like tennis, rugby, American Football and cricket have long since been using modern technology to adjudicate controversial moments, the Methuselahs who orchestrate the game’s structure continue to insist that decisions must be left entirely to the human eye.

Even if those decisions are patently wrong and unfair, as they often are.

Take England’s disallowed goal against Germany, for instance. Frank Lampard’s rocket shot bounced down off the crossbar at least a yard over the line and then came out of the goal – and the referee and linesman were seemingly the only two people in the stadium who failed to spot it.

The German goalkeeper knew it was a goal, of course. But since honesty is the last thing one expects from professional footballers (we won’t mention being faithful to their wives), there was no way he was going to tell the referee. Let’s face it, England would have done exactly the same had it been the Germans who scored, so dishonours even there.

However, had the referee merely been allowed to consult a video replay, as are officials in other major sports, justice would have prevailed. As it was, nobody knows what might have happened had England been level at 2-2 at halftime rather than 2-1 behind. Why, they might even have won. (well, in my dreams).

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a player or manager speak AGAINST the use of video playbacks to confirm or over-rule controversial refereeing decisions. And the argument that the delay would detract from the game has long since been shot down by the evidence of other sports. In rugby and cricket, for example, the anxious wait for decisions like ‘not out’ or ‘no try’ to appear on the screen invariably ADD to the excitement rather than detracts from it.

Yet Blatter and his fellow FIFA duffers have consistently resisted calls for any sort of technology. And that has inevitably led to people like myself asking ‘Why?’

And in the absence of a logical reason, I can’t help pondering the recent corruption allegations over FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia.

Now I am well aware of the laws of libel, so I am not saying someone is bribing Sepp and his sidekicks NOT to say yes to the technology companies. But it makes you wonder, particularly as Blatter’s election in 1998 was later sullied by allegations that an African federation official had been offered a 100,000 dollar bribe to vote for him.

Certainly, Blatter’s logic seems to be at variance with the entire population of the world. Apart, perhaps, from his cronies in Geneva, all of whom are presumably blokes. And that brings me to another negative aspect of the man’s background.

Seedy Sepp does not seem to hold women very high in his esteem. Indeed, he seems to see us merely as sex objects. According to Wikipedia, in the early 1970s he was elected president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders, an organisation which tried to stop women wearing tights instead of stockings and suspender belts.

Then, in 2004, he angered female footballers when he suggested that women should “wear tighter shorts and low cut shirts… to create a more female aesthetic” and attract more male fans.

I’ve got news for Mr Blatter. If he spent more time sorting out football’s injustices and less on ogling the girls, then it might start living up to its billing as ‘the beautiful game’.

He could start by introducing a law that works wonderfully well in rugby and ensures that cheats who illegally prevent a certain score don’t prosper. In such circumstances, referees can award a ‘‘penalty try’’ – yet in football, the worst a team can suffer is a red card for the offender and a penalty kick for the cheated side.

When a Uruguay player prevented Ghana winning their World Cup tie by deliberately stopping a goalbound shot with his hand, the correct decision should have been ‘goal’ – even though the ball did not cross the goal line. The incident happened at the very end of extra time, so the red card did not help Ghana in any way.

And when they missed the resultant penalty kick, any advantage was completely wiped out.

Uruguay celebrated their reprieve by winning the penalty shootout that followed and Africa’s last representatives in the tournament were on their way home when in the eyes of every fair-minded person they were really the victors. But the concept of introducing a ‘penalty goal’ award to foil the cheats has probably never crossed Mr Blatter’s mind.

Ghana did not get justice, they were robbed because the laws are an ass. It’s the sort of thing that makes football appear even more stupid than the heads-in-the-sand brigade who run (or should that be ruin?) the game.

So how is football ever going to be dragged into the 21st century? Maybe we should offer sleazy Sepp an inducement to hand the whole caboodle over to us girls. Then we could sort it all out in no time and let him concentrate on whatever else he does for kicks…

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.co.uk

I’ve been bleating about the incompetence and obstructiveness of Blatter’s bungling regime  for years. Not least in September 2006, when I wrote in a Sportingo.com article under the heading ‘The FIFA joke that Blatters to deceive’:

Rugby referees use it at the slightest excuse, while Test umpires call on it to adjudicate virtually every contentious cricket incident. So why do the stuffed shirts who run the so-called ‘beautiful game’ continue to defy logic and refuse to allow video technology to judge big-time football’s controversial moments?

As any unbiased German will tell you, soccer officials have been getting it wrong ever since the 1966 World Cup Final. Yet, amazingly, 70-year-old Sepp Blatter and his bloated FIFA bunglers would have us believe that utilising TV recordings to ensure major decisions are always right would be a retrograde step.

Try telling that to any player, manager or fan whose team have been cheated out of a goal or a penalty by a misjudgment of the human eye.

Nothing is more certain than at some stage in the new Premiership season, a referee will rule ‘no goal’ when slow-motion proves the ball has clearly crossed the line – or reward a blatant dive with a penalty. Consultation with an off-pitch video referee with access to immediate playbacks, common sense to all but the immense idiots who run the game, could end such controversial incidents once and for all. But FIFA president Blatter and Co would have us believe the delay while the TV official adjudicated would be detrimental to the continuity of the game.

How ludicrous! Just ask any rugby fan – Union or League – how much his enjoyment of a vital match was ruined by the nailbiting tension as he awaited confirmation that the winning try was legally scored.

Or find a cricket umpire who’d rather do without the luxury he now has of knowing every run-out decision is correct. Sometimes it is literally impossible for the human eye to judge whether or not a batsman has made his ground.

England-Pakistan sporting relations may be in turmoil over split Hairs of the Darrell kind. But I’m afraid, Mr Blatter, that continuing to deprive football fans of video justice is just not cricket. Or soccer . . . if you and your ageing administrators know the difference between the two.

Snowed-in Brits left on ice as foxy French stir the grit

23 Dec

Regular readers of my rants will know exactly how I feel about the pathetic British mentality that anything thought up by foreigners can’t be any good.

When will we ever accept that theold Empire is dead and buried? And has been so for the last 50 years, even if the Beatles did rule the world for a while.

The reality of the 21st century  is that the entrepreneurial wheels have dropped off in the UK and that the Europeans have come up with a lot we can learn from. OK, they have no idea how to run their economies – but there again our lot are also a load of bankers.

I’ve written before about Spain’s clever idea of filter lanes in the centre of main roads to allow traffic on side roads to ease onto main carriageways with the minimum of disruption.

Well, I’ve now discovered that the French (and I bet they are not the only ones) have mastered the art of clearing ALL roads of snow and ice in the current arctic conditions with no more grit than the poverty-screaming British have.

They simply grit the SIDE roads – and leave local residents’ cars to drag it onto the main roads, where the flood of  heavy traffic melts away the residue.

I was told about the French idea last week by a Manchester taxi driver, whose wife is une femme francaise.
And he assured me: ”The idea works, believe me. I’ve been there and seen it.”

My local council in Bury, Lancashire took pride in announcing in their ‘Our Voice’ magazine that they had prepared for another bad winter by putting aside an extra 500 tonnes of salt plus 300 salt bins after being caught short by the bitter freeze-up 12 months ago.

But what did they do to make the borough’s snowbound pavements usable by the elderly and handicapped – surely a far more important issue? The answer is absolutely zilch!

And spread any grit, salt or whatever on the side roads? Not likely. My street, a leafy cul-de-sac (the picture was taken from a  bedroom window)  is on a gradient that makes it impossible for those at the top to access their homes by car when we are snowed up – unless they have a four-wheel drive vehicle. And the chances of safely negotiating the two streets between us and the main road diminish in proportion to the depth of snow.

I’d never really thought about the French idea before but it would certainly be  a godsend in my locality (on my increasingly rarer visits to the UK, that is). The traffic is so heavy on the main A56  Manchester-Bury road that it would take an avalanche to cause any major problem, even without gritting.

And dithering dodderers like myself wouldn’t have to spend days at home afraid to go out in case we fall over and break our necks.

Runway heating could pay for itself in two years, says report

22 Dec

I am not privy to airport costings but the seemingly needless grounding of British-based planes during the ongoing cold spell is a soar point with me (pun intended).

Because it could all have been avoided if Heathrow,  Gatwick and other UK airports had  heating under their runways.

But that would not be ec0nomically viable,  did I hear someone say? The cost would be astronomical and would have to be passed on to those who utilise the airports.

Presumably that means  the thousands of us who stand around interminally analysing the ‘Cancelled’ and ‘Delayed’ messages on flight departure boards.

Presumably, then, the £12 car-park fee my daughter paid to pick me up at Manchester Airport last week is NOT astronomical. And  it’s reasonable to charge nearly a fiver for a sandwich?

Captive audiences will always be ripped off. The only way the public can counter the profiteers is not to buy extortionately priced goods. But when you are starving and stranded miles from nowhere, what alternative is there?

When you think about it, it is actually in the interest of the  airports to ground passengers because they have to eat. And that means buying those gold-plated sarnies and £4 bottles of water.

It might be a good idea to start charging for using the airport loos as well, as mooted by Ryanair’s penny-pinching boss. That’s gotta be worth a bog-standard million quid a week, surely.

I’m not surprised there’s no rush to invest in underground heating – and the predicted vast expense provides a good excuse. Of cours, Britain’s increasingly deluded bureaucrats also assure us  we don’t have enough sub-zero weather to justify runway heating. Which is nonsense if the past couple of climate-changing years are anything to go by.

So how expensive would it be to heat the runways? Well, an executive study at  St Cloud State University in Minnesota concluded that using geothermal heat can prevent the build-up of ice and snow ”and once installed, such a system could pay for it self in as little as 2-5 years.”

The report also slammed current methods of trying to keeping runways open, maintaining: ”Both chemicals and snow-ploughing vehicles have adverse effects on the environment as they contribute to pollution.”

I am no engineering expert, so have no idea whether such a system is feasible for UK airports. But something MUST be done about the seemingly endless delays passengers are suffering these days.

Keeping airports open at all times has to be a priority. BAA, who own Heathrow and Stansted among others, are predicting a 15 per cent rise in income next year to £1.12 BILLION. So they are not exactly skint. 

But do they really care that it’s becoming a bonus for passengers to get to their destination on the scheduled day, let alone on time?

The heat is on – or rather off if you’re in the UK. Whether those who make the decisions have the hot-water bottle to do anything about it is another matter.

When you can’t bank on your bank to bank your bankings

21 Dec

Whilst life sometimes seems to go into slow motion in Spanish banks, one does usually get the job done – whether it’s paying in money, sorting out bills or trying to prove you’ve been ripped off over service charges. Only in the latter situation you never win.

In the UK, service is invariably a lot quicker. So how on earth did I spend half an hour in my local Halifax branch last week making a vain attempt to pay two small cheques into my account – and leave with the money still in my handbag?

Never mind the snow and ice, the whole episode was a frozen waste, which ended with me making a protest walkout after all my efforts to achieve some credit proved futile.

So how did I manage to spend 30 minutes standing on the spot and achieving precisely nothing?

Well, let’s take it chronologically. Since this particular Halifax branch has a designated automatic paying-in machine, I could avoid the inevitable long queue at the cash desk. Or so I thought. (I don’t do queues or traffic jams, as anyone who know this particular Mrs Stresshead will vouch).

The problem was that the paying-in machine decided it had a fault and could neither process my cheques nor return them. However, it did manage to gobble both drafts up before informing me.

‘’Your cheques have not been credited and we cannot return them,’’ read the subsequent message on the screen, or words to that effect. ‘’Consult a staff member.’’ Which I did.

Cue bank-raid security drill. A staff member built like Rambo said he would need to open up the machine – but for security reasons, a colleague had to lock the entire office full of customers inside the building while he did it.

This obligatory anti-robbery procedure took several minutes as Rambo made a one-man foray into the machinations of the state-of-the-art paying-in device, unlocking various boxes and eventually pulling out a metal tray which contained a couple of cheques.

As if that wasn’t delay enough, the whole procedure then had to be repeated as his first attempt produced only one of my two cheques – plus a rogue draft I had never seen before.

Bank Raid Precaution, exercise two duly achieved deliverance of my second cheque to Rambo-man. But only after several more minutes of customer lock-in.

By now I had been in the branch for 20 minutes just to pay in two cheques worth a total of £71. And they were no nearer reaching my account than they had been when I arrived.

The only way to get the money credited now was via the pay-in counter. Cue the problem for which the cheque machine had presumably been installed – a frustratingly long queue at the counter.

Have you ever seen all the tills in your bank or building society manned (or more often than not womanned) at the same time? I certainly haven’t. And isn’t it remarkable that at the times cashiers are most needed, at least one suddenly takes a coffee/ lunch/tea/cigarette break?

Equation – four tills and 20 people waiting. Chance of all four tills being manned – nil. Chances of one of the two cashiers actually working taking a break – even money.

On this occasion, I found myself adrift of six queuing customers, plus two who were already at the desk. The obligatory two out of four tills were unwomanned.

After five more minutes, the same two customers were still prevaricating with the two unflappable cashiers. That’s one thing I will give those girls – I’ve never seen one get angry or ‘hurry-up’ a customer. Maybe that’s why there are always queues, who knows?

I was becoming more and more frustrated, my two cheques still in my hand…and those six customers plus two prevaricators still ahead of me.

Enough is enough, I thought. I bundled my cheques back in my purse, turned on my heel, muttered a suppressed ‘’I’ll come back later’’ to the still-hovering Rambo-man, and went home.

Half an hour completely wasted – for precisely nothing. Well, I did get this Grumpy column out of it, I suppose. And another chance to demonstrate why 21st-century Britain is not for me.

Having said that, I could tell you some horror stories about Spanish banks, so watch this space.

Image courtesy of freeimages.co.uk