David Cameron’s Virtual Renegotiation

cameron pleadingHave you seen Dave’s EU “renegotiation” demands?

Why didn’t someone tell him that good negotiators start high and concede little? Not start low and go virtual.

Let’s look at the four main demands he has sent by letter to the European Union:

Protection of the single market for Britain and other non-euro countries

Does he really think it makes sense to be in a club where the other members discriminate against us. Of course they’ll agree to this or be accused of discrimination. Or is he saying they are discriminating now? Smoke and mirrors.

Boosting competitiveness by setting a target for the reduction of the “burden” of red tape

They’ve already committed to this very vague aspiration so there is no need for renegotiation. In fact it’s rather dishonest of Cameron to pretend he has won a negotiating point when Brussels had already decided to blitz red tape. “Move along, nothing to see here”.

Exempting Britain from “ever-closer union” and bolstering national parliaments

Except that the government can still opt in to regulations piecemeal. Which means that we will continue to vehemently implement every regulation that fits their agenda whether or not it is good for the British people (remember us Dave?).

Restricting EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits such as tax credits

But continuing to pay out of work benefits. So immigrants are incentivised to stay at home watching Sky TV rather than get a job. And this is what he wants to negotiate? No thanks!

We really do need to vote OUT, if and when we get a referendum.
(Big IF, I’ll believe it when I see it).


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What’s a Munzee?

munzee symbolmunzee via googleFollowers of this strange blog will know that I am into geocaching in my spare time. Just recently I came across the tech version, Munzees.

Geocaching involves finding a container (cache) containing a log book and maybe other goodies, using GPS on a dedicated gadget or a smartphone app. Munzees are actually QR codes, normally on stickers but also on tags similar to geocaching travel bugs. They are also found with GPS using a dedicated smartphone app that you can download from your usual app store and use for free, or from www.munzee.com.

Munzees will never replace geocaches – it’s a bit like comparing pitch and putt to golf – but they have advantages. They are very cheap at £0.25 per QR sticker (less than €0.35) and they are unlikely to get broken, stolen or suffer from wet log books. So no maintenance! They can be captured quickly and easily once found, so are great if you have a few minutes to spare when visiting a town.

The downsides are that the app is a little flaky and not well documented but there is a forum which you can find using Google. Also some have been placed in the most unimaginative places; the first few I found were on lamp posts in a London Underground car park – exciting eh?

In Lagos (Algarve) they are catching on and several have been placed (by me) to provide a tour of the town’s street art. Other munzee-ers have deployed them to show you interesting statues and unusual roundabouts and to lead you to some of the best bars and restaurants in town. We are also placing them where there are great views, historic buildings and, if things go to plan, inside a geocache.

If you have any problems with the munzee app I may be able to help if you send me a message or  email me. However, I’m very new to this too, so I’m not the oracle.


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Madeleine McCann – Freedom of Information Request

searchThis week I received from the UK Home Office a response to a Freedom of Information Request regarding the ongoing cost to the British taxpayer of the search for Madeleine McCann, the child who went missing from Praia da Luz in the Algarve 8 years ago.

The full response is as follows:

Thank you for your letter of 18 September 2015 in which you ask a number of questions about the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (Operation Grange). I will answer each of your six questions in turn:

1) How much UK taxpayers’ money has been spent on the failed search for Madeleine McCann?

The total cost of Operation Grange, up until end of June 2015, is £10.1m.

2) How many arrests have been made?

The Home Office does not hold this information as, whilst this department funds the investigation, the MPS is an independent organisation and so has operational responsibility for the management of the investigation.

3) What firm leads are being followed up?

As per answer 2.

4) How many police officers are still working on the case, and their ranks?

The MPS has informed me that there are currently 18 Police Officers working on the case comprising one Detective Chief Inspector, two Detective Inspectors, three Detective Sergeants and twelve Detective Constables.

5) Why is so much time and money is being spent on this one, very old, case when a child goes missing in the UK every 3 minutes.

The Government takes very seriously all cases of missing children. Although most of these cases may not be in the public eye, unresolved missing children cases are never closed and they remain the responsibility of individual police forces until the child is found. The circumstances of each case will vary and it is for individual forces to make an operational assessment on how they pursue it.

The Government believes it is right that it does all it can to support the search for Madeleine McCann. That is why the Home Secretary asked the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service to undertake a review of the case in May 2011. The Commissioner considered the request and made a decision to bring the Metropolitan Police’s particular operational expertise to the case.

The Home Office agreed to fund this work from the Special Grant budget, subject to the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police reviewing together the value and cost of the work at each stage. The level of funding provided to the Metropolitan Police will continue to be monitored to ensure expenditure from the Special Grant budget is appropriate and proportionate.

6) When is the investigation likely to be closed?

The MPS will continue to work on the case whilst there are lines of enquiry to follow.

So there you have it – 18 detectives, more than £10 million spent and, if there are any leads or have been any arrests (pigs fly) then they’re not telling us.

I think it is now time to stop focusing all this effort on one old case that Mr Cameron wanted to support. Time to get those detectives on to the crimes that are happening now.


I know that there are varying opinions about the McCanns’ behaviour at the time of the disappearance and subsequently.

I declare that I find much of their conduct after the event to be totally inappropriate – it’s not surprising that a sign next to the main junction in Luz was defaced.

It is difficult to reconcile grieving parents with legal actions against a policeman for €1 million damages, a visit to the Pope, appearance on an American TV chat show…

That’s my opinion, but what do you think? Should we draw the line under this investigation now? Am I just a grumpy old man or do you share my view?

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Street Art

My (very occasional) blog has previously touched upon Street Art as a topic. I featured the skeleton on a building in Lagos (Algarve) and can’t resist showing it again below.

But in the last year or two many fine examples have been popping up all around Lagos, supported by local arts organisation Laboratório de Actividades Criativas (LAC). LAC is part financed by the Portuguese government and is based in Lagos’ old town jail, right next door to the GNR (police), in Largo Convento Sra da Glória.

Every year they invite well known international street artists to Lagos. Their first task is to redecorate the inside of the jail which is worth a visit in itself. Viewing by the public  is free of charge – just show up during working hours and say hello.

Once the jail has been completed the artists hit the streets to produce works like those pictured here.

boy by alias

The above is one of many by ALIAS to be found on the streets of Lagos.

man and bird

The above looks as good close up as from afar.



girl on the corner

snails in the garden


the moving finger



The last one above is more gruesome viewed close up, but it was the fact that it was in a ruin that struck me. Poignant!

Finally the one that started it all for me. On the side of a huge building on the main Avenida that runs by the river, this masterpiece is by ARYZ:


How come these people get so little acclaim?



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I Really Don’t Give a T#$S

up yoursI have passed retirement age which I think qualifies me to make certain observations based on experience. One of those is that I no longer really care what other people think.

That’s not to say I would deliberately do or say things that would upset people. But if others don’t like my opinions then that’s tough.

This is not something that happened overnight; it has been a gradual development throughout my life starting from adolescence when it was essential that I looked and acted to conform with my peer group. I rarely complained and generally respected authority (although that is sadly going out of the window nowadays).

Progressively my confidence grew so that I became more likely to voice my opinion even if it contradicted popular beliefs. At the same time I began to realise that most of those in positions of power were utterly incompetent and often stupid. In many cases I could do a better job than them if I had the inclination.

When I was in my thirties I was supping beer with a friend in a pub called The Gate in Barnet, North London. Not a spectacular watering hole but pleasant enough and it served a decent pint. Nowadays it’s all nooks and crannies and microwaved lasagne. It was after the lunchtime rush and we were the only ones in the bar apart from three old boys well past retirement.

The door opened and two policemen came in, one in uniform the other plain clothes, and asked the barman if they could speak to the landlord. As they were waiting  one of the old boys called out “My friends and I were just saying that this is the only country in the world where you can say what you want to a policeman without getting locked up. So UP YOURS!”. This was accompanied by the obvious gesture.

To his credit the officer in plain clothes calmly replied “And the same to you sir”.

I’m not at that stage yet, but perhaps one day I’ll speak out and amuse someone else who is half way along the road to “not giving a t#$s”.

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Odiáxere Carnaval – 2015

Odiáxere in the Algarve is only a tiny village, so I wasn’t expecting too much when I went to their carnival last week. How wrong can you be!



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My Goat Eats Too Many Imaginary Carrots

It all started after I treated myself to a new Android tablet, a Sony Xperia (highly recommended).

Firstly, a normally reliable friend of mine introduced me to Candy Crush, a pointless game which kept me occupied for too many hours over a couple of months. If your idea of fun is matching liquorice allsorts whilst battling against spreading chocolate then this is for you.

But the novelty wore off. I went in search of a new free-to-play game that might be a bit more challenging. And there, in the Google Play Store was Hay Day.

Six months later and a huge chunk of my life has disappeared without trace.

If you are not familiar with Hay Day it is your chance to play at farming, starting with a couple of patches of field, some wheat seeds and a vast overgrown area of trees that you will eventually develop. Not only into a thriving farm with chickens, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, a dairy and a farm shop, but also a separate fishing area and a town. As you expand you will join a farming co-op, open a sushi bar, coffee shop, a mine, a soup kitchen, spa, cinema… You get the idea.


And it is highly addictive. And it doesn’t cost a penny – unless you want to take short cuts.

The graphics and programming are exceptional and you can interact live online with any of a million or more other real life players with whom you trade.

The first hour of my day involves setting up my farm and town for the day; then I return all too often. Meanwhile my other half (also an addict) is up several times throughout the night to send out her farm boy for scarce supplies. OK, I’ve also had a few sessions in the small hours, and I’m not talking about those sorts of sessions!

But it could also be a serious educational tool. Calling it a realistic business simulation would be overdoing it, but as a schoolroom activity it would teach basic business disciplines – margins (and arithmetic), rudimentary stock control, cash flow and supply chain management. Teachers take note: this will better prepare your pupils for life than reciting Shakespeare or learning about the Ancient Greeks.

But mainly it is great fun, and you don’t have to kill a single alien. Try it, but beware – you may find that your social life is sacrificed for red eyes, and that you become obsessed because your greedy pet goat eats its way through your stock of virtual carrots.

Anyway, enough of this. I’ve got chickens to milk.


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Ecco Shoes Fall Apart

suedesI try to prevent my blog from becoming overly serious, although I do throw in a bit of light politics now and then. But today I want to warn you against a poor quality product on the high street so that you don’t get ripped off like me.

And if you think that I’m alone, just Google “Ecco shoes fall apart” and you will see that thousands have lost out. God knows how many others there are who have not complained.

The problem is that many of their shoes suffer from a fault in the composition of their soles which they have described to me as being of “a polyurethane material” which degrades through “hydrolysis”. In emails to me they say the problem is caused by “certain chemical stabilizers used in the production process to slow this degradation eventually being consumed”.

sandalsIronically the problem comes when they aren’t being worn. If you leave them in a cupboard for a while the soles will start to break down so that, when you next want to wear them, they disintegrate in your hand or as you walk.

Three pairs have gone this way, my men’s sandals and casual shoes and my other half has just handed me her suede shoes where the heels have suffered the same fate.

They will not give a refund or replace them no matter how hard you press them, they will just offer a discount on a replacement, so at best you get a pair with the same inherent fault at cost whilst they get away with selling crap. Great!


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Thank you Scotland – from the rest of the United Kingdom

teapotLast Thursday the Scots voted to remain a part of the United Kingdom rather than split off as a separate country, and I as an Englishman am greatly in their debt.

I rarely go to Scotland, sharing my time between England and Portugal, so the effect of the vote on Scotland itself was of little interest. However, the effect on the rest of the UK could have been very much worse.

For those unfamiliar with UK politics there are two main parties, left-ish Labour (incompetent) and right-ish Conservative (self-serving). But Scotland is almost entirely Labour under our electoral system (which only pays lip service to democracy) and their departure from the UK would mean that the Conservatives would have no real opposition in future. A dictatorship – and we have plenty of evidence of the misery they cause.

I won’t vote for either party anyway. I will vote for UKIP, a growing minority party that wants us to leave the European Union, because the irony is that the above is more or less irrelevant. You see, we are all actually ruled from Brussels by people we didn’t elect at all.

No wonder so many don’t bother to vote.

who runs the uk

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London’s Street Entertainers

I’m currently in the UK and took the opportunity to watch the street entertainers

street entertainers

Click here for more…

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