'I FEEL I was born in the dark ages', my mother-in-law always says, mainly referring to the complexities of modern technology like computers, Skype, Facebook and anything in that vein.
And I would tend to agree with her. Poignantly, because I have just spent the best part of a day trying to download some software so that I can connect my laptop to a printer and print boarding passes for an airline that fines you heavily if you forget to do so. Alas, to no avail. The printer is sitting stubbornly silent in the corner while my computer merrily informs me that the job has been completed.
Now, I should at this point add that I have a total of four printers, collected over the years. One only works as a fax, another only works in Japan and another still has cartridges unavailable in Spain. My blood is boiling.
They say that information technology is not rocket science, and they may be right, but at this moment in time the darn printer, along with the laptop for good measure, risk being rocketed out of the window. IT 'balconing' if you will.
It is not only these devices that send me into a tail spin on a regular basis. My mobile has the same effect, often cutting out at a pivotal moment in the conversation due to sudden loss of reception.
The phone company shrugs its shoulders and confirm that reception is particularly poor in the area, yet there is no discount for the lack of service.
At times, I have considered messenger pigeons or smoke signals as a more reliable alternative. Postal services were not included in the realms of possible substitutes since mail often takes weeks to reach or leave these fair southern shores.
For expats, there is clearly a lot of benefit in both Skype and social networks such as Facebook, not least since they avoid hefty phone bills on the few occasions coverage is available.
But with the video conferencing aspects of Skype, you can no longer chat away looking dishevelled or while cooking, watching TV or filing your nails, which means you have to do these things another time. Thus you are not in any way saving time and energy as the industry boasts.
As for Facebook, studies have shown that it can bring about depressive tendencies if your own life doesn't compare with that of your 'friends' who seem to travel incessantly, eat out at fine restaurants morning, noon and night and have a gazillion Facebook friends who 'like' their every movement, even if just popping down to the shops.
In fact, how these busy people have time to update their status and post all those photos is a wonder. Perhaps they have a personal secretary dedicated to the task?
Instead of un-complicating your life, technology seems to have quite the opposite effect. Even cars are so computerised these days that an Electro Magnetic Pulse device would gridlock us all.
And spare a thought for the Belgian lady, who blindly trusted the Satellite Navigation device in her car when driving to collect a friend from a railway station some 38 miles away, even when she passed several national borders and ended a 900 mile-journey in Croatia two days later.
As for me, the reason I need that boarding pass in the first place is to fly to Madrid to renew my passport, which has to be done in person for the technological reason of biometric photographs.
I half suspect the machine will decide that I am not myself and reject the application. Next week, I will share my top tips for a day out in the capital, assuming I have managed to tame the uncooperative printer, of course.
ALTHOUGH eyebrows were raised and many people were 'not amused' at the early release of the Pryce/Huhne duo, strange as it may seem I’m not one of them.
If you are not a member of the habitual criminal fraternity, where prison terms can often raise standing among your peers, and your lifestyle is more centred around those to whom unlawful activity is not accepted as the norm, life can become very difficult indeed.
Although you are no longer gazing out from behind prison bars, your sentence still continues. It simply changes to a far more complex series of problems, and often severe psychological trauma, which can often last for years.
I speak from personal experience when I can tell you I still occasionally come up against some form of recrimination or discrimination because of my term as a guest of her Majesty, and that was an unbeleivable 40 years ago!
The immediate aftermath for these two will be traumatic in the extreme. They will discover that their whole social scene will have changed completely. Many who they thought were friends, will blank them. Invitations will become sparse. They will find themselves no longer welcome at many local events, charity dos and so forth.
Even a trip down to the pub can become a traumatic exercise. Sometime after my release, I was actually ejected from my local in Sunningdale while I was sharing a half pint with friends after a game of tennis. At my somewhat feeble protestations as to why? The Landlord and couple of extremely large 'helpers' simply told me they didn’t want 'my type' in the pub.
At the time I was actually devastated and still find myself affected when I recall the event. Even more recently I lost a 60’s tour because the promoter thought I would be remembered more for my prison term than my three-and-a-half million selling Little Arrows record!
So you get the point. Another three months in the nick wouldn’t have made the slightest difference to these two. In fact it would probably do ‘em a favour by keeping them away from ‘grim reality’ a while longer.
Believe me, their sentence goes on and unfortunately will for the rest of their days. Pity more than prison would be a more appropriate attitude toward these two. I wish ‘em the best of luck.
I’m delighted to report that part three of my autobiography is finally completed. Only took 30 years!
Hopefully with sponsorship it will be available soon. I’m also delighted to report I have already sold 3,000 copies of Part One and Two. I hope this third offering comes up to standard and expectations. I’ll let ya know when it ‘escapes’
A multitude of love and congrats to my lovely daughter Charlene. Pregnant at last after seven years of ‘practice’. You’ve made an old grump very happy.
Keep the Faith
Published in Leapy Lee
THE thought occurred to me that although we spend much of our lives with ghosts we are not aware of them. I do not mean the kind that go woo-hoo in the night and scare the daylights out of us. No, the other kind.
The other kind? Yes, the friendly cashier on checkout was curious about what I did for a living. “I’m a ghost,” I told her. This made her more curious. I explained to her that I ghost books, which admittedly did not enlighten her by very much. Pointing in the direction of the book displays, I revealed a little secret.
Memoirs naturally have the name of the celebrity on the cover but only 20 per cent actually write them. The rest have been written for them; it is not unknown for famous people to not read their own biographies.
When asked about his biography former President Ronald Reagan quipped: “Yes, I believe it is good. I must read it sometime.” It gets a tad better in the fiction department. Even so, it is estimated that as many as half the novels we read are ghost-written.
This includes famous name authors. One famous author, whose books still appear, has been dead for years. I suppose one could say his books are ghost-written.
Is it honest to put the name on a cover of the person who wrote only the plot? I take the view that Messrs. Cadbury, Kellogg and Gillette are kicking up the daisies too but their names still grace their products.
Does it matter? In my experience, few books would be read if the ghost’s name was on the book’s cover. The truth is, re-writing an author’s book, to bring it up to retail standard, is a skill in itself. Ghosts are a rare breed and can earn as much as the person named on the cover.
It is the famous name on the cover that sells a book. Those of us who work in the shadows may paint as well as Turner or compose poetry as good as the best, but our names are unknown and worthless.
The name on a book’s cover does provide the story’s sketch, perhaps as much as 40 per cent of it. The ghost then takes over and then hopefully buyers read an engaging book.
There are extremes; I once received four sheets of handwritten paper, which the optimistic purveyor thought I would turn into an 80,000-word paperback. As his name was not Jeffrey Archer, I declined
When the ghost has weaved his magic everyone crosses their fingers and hopes the buyers will judge the book by the cover. There is another rather quaint reason why we never see the ghost (writer).
Good ones are as rare as hen’s teeth. It is not unknown for literary agents, from whom book publishers buy their titles, to poach rival agents ghosts.
WITH yet another celebrity arrest – the 73 year-old comedian, Jimmy Tarbuck - over an alleged assault dating back to the 1970s, you have to ask yourself when is this celebrity-targeting going to end?
Whilst I don’t condone what Tarbuck or his fellow celebrities are accused of, I do have some problems with the manner of their arrests.
First off, the lack of anonymity given to those faced with historical sexual offence claims. According to common law, people are innocent until proven guilty, and they should be entitled to anonymity, at least until a court orders otherwise.
When the mere fact of an arrest (which the police and the tabloids have every interest in widely publicising) can effectively kill someone's career, the balance is in the wrong place. It’s simply wrong and flies in the face of justice for their accusers to be able to make, anonymously, public accusations.
And how exactly can you convict someone beyond reasonable doubt after 40 years? Which is why I find it so amazing that the police spend scarce public funds investigating these claims.
Would this be so if the defendant wasn’t a celebrity? Is there maybe here a bit of envy of the “rich and famous”?
Another problem is that Britain today suffers not just from a blame culture, where someone always has to be identified as the wrongdoer, but it’s also a litigious society bent on getting compensation at any cost to the victim.
Yet another problem is that, 40 years ago, consensual sex with underage girls, though illegal, wasn’t considered as serious as now, at least not by the BBC.
If it had been, why weren’t there checks by the BBC on the age of groupies besieging its stars’ dressing rooms? Thus, elderly men are now being charged with 40 year-old crimes due in part to a shift in attitudes.
So, the 1970s are getting a hammering but I expect the revelations to be ongoing, rather than grinding to a halt in 1979. But there’s such an air of sadness about it all, as it feels like the happy childhood years of many are being deconstructed and turned into something embarrassing.
Any day now, the Blue Peter tortoise, Captain Pugwash and Zippy from Rainbow will be hauled in for questioning …
Nora Johnson’s thrillers ‘Retribution’, ‘Soul Stealer’, ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.com) available from Amazon in paperback/eBook (€0.89; £0.77) and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca.
Published in Nora Johnson
NEWS that hordes of expatriates have packed their bags to return to whence they once came may spark intense discussions in expat households on whether to stay or to go.
The latest figures show that residents in Spain have fallen by 206,000 - largely consisting of non-Spaniards - due to the economic crisis and the lack of work opportunities.
So, with the aim of helping you make up your mind, here is my tuppence worth on the matter.
Ultimately, there are two types of expats. The Patriot Abroad, leaves his country in search of a specific benefit or purpose, but remains emotionally and intrinsically linked to his birth country. If there were a test of allegiance, this group would probably outperform most of their countrymen who never left.
The majority of their friends are of the same nationality; languages have never been their strong suit, but living in an expat area this has never been much of an issue. They create Little Britains, Germanys or Swedens in their host country and with a satellite link they don't even need to miss out on the TV from back home.
Asked where home is, the answer is unequivocally their birth country. Home, after all, is where the heart is even if the sun doeth shine rather more over here. Often people in this category sooner or later feel the need to return. The comfort of your own nation is a great persuader, especially in times of trouble and uncertainty.
The second category is the Global Nomad. Each country the nomad has lived in has been a wonderful experience, but none particularly wins over another.
The world is an adventure to explore and why go back when they can move forward? Chances are that they have two or more languages under their belt and they thrive on cultural differences and the local fare.
Asked where home is, the global nomad is often confused for a moment, then launches into a long-winded explanation of places and people, never really answering the question.
They miss elements of their birth country, but in the same way they do other places they have visited. Circumstances may bring about a return home but, all things being equal, this category of expats would rather stay abroad or even try pastures new.
Whichever group you feel you belong to, it may, in the end, be technicalities that fuel your decision.
Inheritance or other taxes being calculated differently may mean that you choose to return to avoid losing almost everything to the respective tax authorities.
Work opportunities here for foreigners are far lower than for the Spaniards if you are not completely bilingual, which may also be a deciding factor; as is the dwindling social security should you require health care.
Many also choose to return to their home countries for the children's secondary or higher education.
Or is the prospect of a return to the cold, wet and dark too much of a deterrent? And while economists are practically falling over one another in lamenting the problems of Spain, the rest of Europe is hardly unscathed.
In fact, an analyst at Morgan Stanley has tipped Spain to become the 'next Germany' thanks to competitive exports, although I am currently checking if this research note happened to be published on April 1.
Whatever you decide, take heed from author David Sedaris, who said: "Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once."
ANOTHER week. Another poll. You’ve doubtless seen press headlines like this: “Coalition faces local election disaster with UKIP now fourth UK party.” Another distortion of the UK voting system. And another set of conclusions which mean little in reality.
Well, if ahead of this week’s local elections, voters actually experienced less scare-mongering verging on paranoia from the tabloid press about, for example, the number of Romanians/Bulgarians heading to Britain next year, perhaps the polls would show something other than a confused, desperate electorate reacting to each scare and false hope.
Then there might be a more rational picture of the national mood and attitudes. For, as long as voters don’t have access to a reliable source of balanced information, they’re at the mercy not just of the press but lobbyists and PR companies with their vested interests.
But isn’t this precisely the remit of the extremely well-funded (by licence-payers) BBC News? While the BBC seemingly tries to give both sides of a political argument and, occasionally, lambast some of the flimsy claims and empty promises made by two-faced politicians, nonetheless sustained campaigns in the press have sought to distort and influence the political viewpoints of already confused voters.
Whether or not you believe it’s a “left wing propaganda machine” as its many critics claim, the BBC needs to fulfill its mandate to keep the public consistently informed.
And for starters, fire over-paid ‘celebrity’ presenters and provide more neutral analysis of controversial events like, for instance, Margaret Thatcher’s death and legacy. After all, if voters don't get consistently balanced information, how can they make balanced decisions at the ballot box?
As for polls, these have been shown occasionally to get it right, in the same way as weather forecasts for London are the same for the Shetland Islands on the same day.
Other than that, they simply fill space in the press and give writers something to write about. Basically, nobody can accurately predict the actions of 46 million voters.
Finally, once again many thanks to all of you who’ve helped my newly-published thriller, Retribution, which I wrote abouthere recently, become at the time of writing number 39 in the crime/suspense category in Amazon.es’s eBooks!
And Soul Stealer number 40. And keep those donations going to Cudeca!
Nora Johnson’s thrillers ‘Retribution’,‘Soul Stealer’,‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.com) available from Amazon in paperback/eBook (€0.89; £0.77) and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca
Published in Nora Johnson
A CYNIC asks a newspaper columnist if aspiring authors actually make money from selling their books.
They do, and the chances of recouping their outlay are far higher than returns offered by many other investments.
There are no guarantees that a book, film or television series will be successful. Like new fashions or newspapers, they are acts of faith. Wilbur Smith and Jeffrey Archer cross their fingers when their latest title rolls off the printing press.
Amazon-Kindle and e-books have provided a level playing field. New authors, who in the past would have received wads of rejection slips, now collect wads of banknotes whilst well-known authors fail.
Most people spend on indulgences like photography, painting, learning a language, horse riding; taking on a pet for life. Do cynics ask, “Do you actually make money from that?”
Of course not but writing a book costs considerably less. It is a feat, most authors recover their outlay and many do well out of their book’s success. When introduced as an author there is always the Wow Factor response. Tell them instead you just spent time and money on a skiing holiday and watch eyes glaze over.
Most authors are philosophical. If their only reason for writing was to make money, you can guarantee two things. They would never get round to it and if they did it would fail. Good books are written with passion. If it were otherwise, it would be as fruitless as attempting to sell a product you do not understand or have a belief in.
Writing a book, painting a picture or creating a sculpture are triumphs that bring out the best in us. Such achievements are therapeutic and nothing quite matches the feeling you get when you see your accomplishment in its completed form.
When you spend money on a sport or holiday, all you have to show for it are photographs and memories. An expensive piece of jewellery is someone else’s gift, not yours. These are personal indulgences. The author, sculptor or artist shares their achievements with others. Their works are enduring.
Today we get pleasure from books, movies and we enjoy listening to beautiful music; we marvel at works of art that were created by paupers who, at the time, laboured under passionate self-belief.
Yesterday’s libraries and art galleries are stuffed with biographies and pictures of famous but boring people. Because of advances in publishing, posterity can now look forward to sharing the lives of today’s not so famous but who lived lives that are far more interesting.
Imagine if today we could read first hand accounts of servants who lived ‘under the stairs’ of stately homes, travellers who journeyed steerage, soldiers who served in the Peninsular Wars. This is the legacy that today’s authors leave to the world. What will you leave to posterity?
HAVE you noticed how many Tom Selleck doppelgängers there seem to be of late - in the last few weeks to be precise? If you look carefully, even some British Airways, Qantas and Virgin airplanes have a Charles Bronson look about them at the moment.
No need to scour the pages of Vogue para Hombre for details of a new trend, or resort to a stick-on until you can sprout one of your own. It is, of course, 'Movember' - a portmanteau word from moustache and November - the month so-called 'Mo Bros' have to complete their hirsute task.
The term was coined in Australia in 2004 to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancer as well as other health issues for men. It has since snowballed into global phenomenon raising $174-million to spread the word of preventing unnecessary deaths by early detection of cancer through annual check-ups and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
It is a well-known fact that women are far quicker off the mark in consulting a doctor than men - especially when the nether regions are concerned - so any effort to encourage them is laudable. It does make me wonder, though, why this once treasured piece of pogonotrophy is so rare once our brothers, husbands and fathers have bee-lined it to the barbers or the bathroom sink come midnight on December1st?
Back in the seventies, every bloke worth his testosterone donned a fine specimen of Fu Manchu (long, downward pointing ends) or Walrus (bushy, covering the lip) or other fine artistry. It was also a trademark for the Village People and once regarded as a gay calling sign. But today it is hard to think of many people in the public eye who cultivate a 'tache' - beards more so, 3-day stubble or goatees quite frequently, but the upper lip seems to be a relatively hair free zone in the 21st century.
This is a sad fate to befall a style that can be traced back to 300 B.C., with the portrait of an otherwise shaved Iranian horseman. But with ardent followers like Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein, it is perhaps no surprise that it has largely fallen out of favour over time. Less so, perhaps, here in Spain where men seem to favour 'more is more' when it comes to hair in general.
In the Western world - in contrast with some Arab cultures where it is associated with power - women shun prospective partners with a moustache. According to a survey by an online dating website, Match.com, only 8 percent of the fairer sex go for this prickly look.
Until the tides of facial hair fashion turns again, all those with a secret yearning for some upper lip decoration, Movember is the perfect and noble excuse to channel your inner Salvador Dali (whose mustache was so distinguished it has its own category, the Dali). And if you are sold on the retro charms of the moustache, why not head for the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where the National Beard and Moustache Championships have just taken place with 340 whiskered competitors fighting it out across 18 categories and a total of 54 medals.
The charitable foundation behind hope to make this movement as wide-reaching as October's Pink month for Breast Cancer Awareness and to support the cause there is still time to donate on the Spanish Movember website (English version): http://es.movember.com/en/donate/
SCANNING local media I am impressed by the choice of tempting short break holidays on offer.
Up for grabs are three days in Valencia for €95 and for just €15 more for similar in Madrid. I hope we won’t hear criticisms of tour companies that offer such good value for money.
In the UK 29 per cent of homes have only one person resident; a total of 7.6 million. Why would it be different on the Costas? I wonder if convention excludes many thousands of singles from taking advantage of these offers. Being single but not unsociable I am envious of those who, with their arm-candy, occasionally take advantage of such breaks, night outs and restaurant tête-à-tête. Try it on your own.
Of course there are many singles whose status is not necessarily by choice; widowed, divorced, plain, ugly or plain ugly; maybe known to be cantankerous on occasion. They still deserve and need company. Why can’t they be loved too?
Several years ago I missed occasional company of skirt but had no wish to change my single status. I signed up to a holidays for a singles online service. When setting out my profile I told no lies. What you see is what you get. I even used a recent photograph of myself. There are cheats (we know who you are) who are economical with the truth by using photographs taken before they put on 15 kg or 15 years earlier.
I recall one lady who, when questioned, admitted she used her daughter’s photograph; otherwise she found it difficult to get a date. With morals like that she might have made up for it in other ways; her date wasn’t interested in finding out.
The holidays for singles are a wonderful idea and gave us singles the best of both worlds. When writing out my profile I made it clear that I wanted a shared holiday, not a shared life. The dilemma was the delicate subject of sleeping arrangements. No problem for me; after a day’s touring all I want to do is sleep.
But if you book single rooms the costs soar. Anyway, the loneliness of separate rooms after a day’s togetherness seemed to go against the spirit of the venture. I couldn’t see a problem sharing a room though not necessarily the bed. Leaving hanky-panky aside it is nice to have company, someone to natter with at lights out.
We are all adults; if we can’t be trusted to stay in our own beds we can’t be trusted to share a coach seat. All I could do was run it up the flag pole and see if anyone saluted. I did and was surprised at the number of ladies who found the suggestion accommodating. One at a time I presume.
Maybe these tour operators should try a little matchmaking; it could pay dividends. It’s not a dating site we need; it is a ‘Travel Date’ solution.
IMAGINE if life was like a TV show (hopefully not Eastenders) and that at the end of an hour the credits would roll and you could pause and relax before the next showing.
As the main character all the action would revolve around you and any peripheral characters would come and go with barely a second thought. Scripts would be agreed beforehand and spoilers would alert you to any nastiness or unpleasant interludes, such as relationship break ups or queuing at the post office, you could nip to the kitchen at that point and make a cup of tea, or fast forward to a more agreeable period of time.
Repeat showings would guarantee longevity and enable you to enjoy events in your life time and time again a bit like a wedding video only with more audience participation. Of course the downside would be repeating the bad times ad infinitum and living with actors. As the show’s star you would have final say over costume, location and script.
Of course that does kind of sum life up, except for the spoilers and script control. At times it feels as though I’m stuck in my own filmic loop constantly making the same mistakes and walking the same long, unending path (like a French film). No matter how many times I fall into the same pattern of behaviour I still cannot see the twist in the tale. Like ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’, or ‘Spartacus’, I still hope the ending will be different, but no, Jesus gets crucified, Spartacus ends his days as a bloody stop sign on the Appian Way and I always underestimate a peripheral character’s ability to ruin my day.
The audience is hiding behind its hands screaming “don’t go down the cellar” but do I listen? No. There is a reason why that new person in my life reminds me of someone else, it is a subconscious warning that they are very likely to cause the same mayhem as that someone long ago excised from my life. But, like real TV shows, there are only so many character types to choose from. Misgivings are nature’s way of shouting at us from behind the settee and we should listen.
How great would it be to timetable in commercial breaks? I could advertise Prada or Dior; sell my life to the highest bidder. Mid way through a difficult scene life would stop and turn black and white and be populated with beautiful, chisel jawed men wearing nothing but white boxers and a ‘come hither’ smile.
Talking of commercial breaks I had a relationship once with a man who managed to avoid arguments by making a cup of tea whenever things got tense. My son’s father dealt with dissent by ‘nipping out’ for days on end until he finally disappeared completely (in that sense he wrote himself out of my show). His own life was one endless game show complete with cheesy host and rubbish prizes.
And my own TV show? I like to think its sassy and sharp like ‘Ally McBeal’ but I suspect it’s a little more like ‘Lost’ the same confusion and frustration but without Sawyer.
Anyway as Woody Allen said; “Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television.”
Published in Suzanne Manners
- Costa del Sol
- Costa Blanca South
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