Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 327: California Dreaming ...

She was fat. That's not a politically incorrect statement, just a reflection of the facts. She probably blamed an under-active thyroid gland but from the length of the 'Upper Crust Baguette' in her hand, I suspect that it had more to do with an over-active knife and fork. I politely asked her to move but she simply smiled and ignored me. I asked her a second time but she just frowned and continued to stroke the screen of the iPad in the duty free electronics shop at London's Heathrow airport. Maybe she was searching for the latest version of Atkins but whatever it was that had caught her interest, she certainly wasn't going to breath in to let me through. I had no alternative but to try and squeeze through but the gap was a little narrower than I thought. My rucksack gently caressed her back and she suddenly lost all interest in the iPd. "You fu**ing retard". A little strong I thought, but heck, maybe her day was going as badly as my own. I smiled my sweetest smile, shrugged my shoulders and barged on through. "You fu**ing bastard". 'Bastard' was definitely a little more accurate than 'Retard' and I think that she actually suited the skinny latte that she was now wearing instead of drinking. Maybe it was 'International Rude Day' and nobody had thought to tell me, or maybe Heathrow is just always like this .... mai pen rai

Eight hours earlier I'd arrived at Heathrow following a fifteen hour flight from the far East. I'd killed time without sleep and then queued at the Air Canada check-in desk only to be told that my flight had been cancelled. On deeper investigation, I found out that the flight itself hadn't been cancelled, only my ticket. They didn't seem to understand 'why', and directed me to another long queue at the Air Canada information desk. A few telephone calls revealed that instead of flying to San Francisco via Toronto with Air Canada, I'd now be flying from Frankfurt with United Airlines. They had no idea why this change had been made and when I asked why I hadn't been notified about the changes, they simply told me that it wasn't their responsibility to inform me of non-significant changes to my itinerary. I was waiting to board a plane at the wrong airport in the wrong country, so I'm certainly glad that it hadn't been a 'significant' change .... mai pen rai

So eventually, 'International Rude Day' ended and I arrived in San Francisco just a few hours later than planned. Back in November 2007 I fell in love with the Anderson Valley area of Northern California and this would be my fourth visit in two years. My brother Alan and his family live here in Boonville on a small holding that's now a little too small for their self-sufficient needs. The plan is now to build a new home on 167 acres of virgin hillside, 20 minutes back from the road and so far 'off-grid' that they'll probably wonder if any grid actually existed. No water no electricity and certainly no telephone service. To some, including myself, that might seem like a little too much hardship, but just take a look at the view. The official plan is to build a two bedroom home on 'Lone Tree Ridge' at the exact point from where I took this photograph. The unofficial plan is lets just say ..... slightly more ambitious

Post 326: Bling Bollocks & Balls

If it wasn’t so sad, it might actually be quite funny. She wafted into the courtroom with a face like a recently smacked arse, rudely late and without an apology or a note from her Mom. Being there was an unnecessary inconvenience, an interruption to her important and meaningful life. She didn’t know who the man was, they were just dirty old pebbles and where was Liberia anyway?

Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, Sexual Violence, Enslavement, Use of Child Soldiers. Just a small sample of the charges faced by Charles Taylor in the Hague. In her defence, I’m sure if they’d been serious crimes such as invasion of privacy or slander, then she’d have given her time more willingly and assisted the court in there efforts. Seemingly less concerned with seeking justice for the families of the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives at the hands of former War Lord and President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, she spent more time seeking an injunction against photographers taking her photograph outside of the court than she did assisting the process of justice within it. What a shame that such an injunction wasn’t sought and granted around the time of her birth. Naomi fu**ing who???? ….. now that would be justice

Talking bollocks is clearly not exclusive to supermodels. Bob Crow claims that Clegg and Cameron are deliberately picking a fight with the working class and that the working class must be up for it. He’s called for general and co-ordinated strike action to halt the Governments savage assault on jobs. Bob Crow is general secretary of the RMT transport union and their slogan is ’Never on our knees’. As slogans go, it seems to be just a little self centred. Anybody who travels on public transport will probably understand that Bob Crow doesn‘t give a flying shit about anybody but himself and his members. Time and again he’s willingly kicked commuters in the nuts in order to preserve tea breaks for his members.

Crow wants his words to ring out on the ‘’Millionaires Row of Clegg and Cameron’’. He claims that the government has thrown down the biggest challenge to the trade union movement since Margaret Thatcher took on the National Union of Mineworkers. I’m sure it’s true, but the Trade Union Movement now has the opportunity to either work with the government or fight against them. The coffee jar is open and Bob Crow ought to try taking a sniff. We’re no longer living in financial La La Land, this is Great Britain and our overdraft is big enough to give Sarah Ferguson a few sleepless nights. Perhaps like Arthur Scargill, Crow thinks that the only way to stand up for the rights of his members is to fight tooth and nail against the government. Maybe he’s right, but how many people can you name who currently earn their living down a coal mine?

I didn’t vote Conservative and I didn’t vote Liberal, but enough people did and I’m learning to live with what we’ve got. To be honest, I’m actually doing slightly more than ’learning to live with it’, I’m actually quite thankful. I don’t think that Cameron and Clegg have suddenly become great politicians, but the potential opposition is beginning to show it’s true colours and I’m not liking what I see.

With Gordon Brown booted out of Downing Street, the labour party had the best possible opportunity to find not only a new leader, but also a new backbone. Under Blair and Brown, Labour had lost not only it’s way, but also it’s integrity. Unfortunately, that opportunity has already been wasted. With the slightest whiff of power in the air, Abbott, Burnham, Balls and the Miliband’s have all fallen into the mode of trying to please their public. When will they learn that we’re not idiots?

‘Yes‘, there is a huge financial deficit and ‘No‘, we certainly don’t want to end up in the same situation as Greece. Listening to the leadership candidates it feels that if Labour had been elected, then the deficit would have simply disappeared of it‘s own accord. They’ve suddenly become a group of ‘Deficit Denyers’ and there really ought to be a law against that. All that we ask for is a little bit of honesty about the future and a little acceptance of responsibility for the past...... In exchange for our votes, I really don't think that it's asking for too much