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Old enough to know better.

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» More Terrible Hotels

More terrifying than terrible.
This is an absolutely true story. Half a lifetime ago I stayed with my wife at a family run hotel at Olivet near Orleans in France. It looked promising in the Michelin red book. The location was in woodland adjacent to a tributary of the Loire called "Le Loiret", and approached by a long narrow driveway lined by dense hedges and overhanging trees. When we arrived, the hotel looked like it was at one time a fairly grand residence but has since gone rather downhill. What was probably once a garden, but so overshadowed by the canopy of trees that it had become home to mushrooms, ferns and moss covered statues. To start with we thought that we had made a mistake, because there were no other cars and the place looked deserted. I parked in the driveway and approached with slight trepidation. As I got nearer to what I assumed was the front door, a figure emerged from around the corner of the building. It was a short and quite portly middle aged lady, who was smartly dressed but most remarkable for being quite appallingly ugly. Her grotesque face was made yet more repellent by thick white make-up, crudely rouged cheeks and gash of scarlet lipstick. She greeted me with a sickly smile and ushered me into a side door. It seemed that this was after all the right place and we were expected. After the checking-in formalities, we were shown up a grand staircase to our room by another lady very similar to the first, with similarly unsightly features. At no point did we see any sign of other guests. The room was enormous, entered by double doors and served by a bathroom almost as big again. On the mantelpiece was a rather satanic looking bronze statue of Pan, complete with goat's feet and horns. Rather than give a complete description, I'll just say that the environment gave the overall impression of being the set for a horror film.

The twin sisters had a younger brother who appeared to be a bit 'special'. I met him when returning to the car to collect our bags. He was wearing blue overalls and was carrying an axe. His dead looking eyes set in a grey pallor and slack jaw made me think that he might have a pile of dismembered bodies hidden somewhere in the forest.

As we got ourselves installed to our room, we tried to make light of the situation, making jokes about the ugly sisters and the axe murdering brother, but at at the same time both genuinely uneasy. I've never known a place quite so creepy. I hardly slept at all, and what sleep I did get was filled with dreams of the statue of Pan coming alive and dancing around the room.

We didn't stay for breakfast.
(Thu 27th Nov 2014, 13:18, More)

» Road Trip

From Epsom to Aberdeen with 2CV
This saga started when I bought a 2CV on eBay from a policeman's wife in Epsom. Part of the deal was that the car had to be moved from this guy's driveway in a hurry. The problem was that it was not in a road-legal or drivable state. I didn't have a trailer to put it on, so I borrowed one from a friend in Kent. I collected the trailer/transporter on the Thursday afternoon and took it immediately to Epsom and managed to winch the 2CV onto it. I set off in triumph, northbound to Aberdeen. I got as far as Watford when Geoff (owner of trailer) called me and asked what time I could get the trailer back to him on Friday because he needed it for the weekend. I explained that Scotland was quite a long drive and the chances of an overnight round-trip was rather unlikely. So now I needed plan B... I pit-stopped at a friend's flat in St Albans and got online to put the backup plan into operation. I'd also been bidding on a car transporter on eBay but the auction didn't end soon enough to collect it and do the 2CV pickup. It turned out that I had actually won the auction but the trailer was in Guildford.

So... time to regroup. I took Geoff's trailer and 2CV to a local car park. I unloaded 2CV and took empty trailer 120mile round-trip back to Maidstone. Drove trailerless to Gulidford to pick up the trailer I'd bought on eBay. The directions I'd been given to the farm where the trailer was located included the words "the road gets a bit narrow, steep and rutted here but keep going". They were not kidding... I finally arrived having done what seemed like a 4x4 test track. Money exchanged hands and trailer was hooked-up. First problem was that the former owner had wired the trailer lighting circuit on both his Landrover and the trailer, but had not bothered to respect the convention on what wire does what light. After an hour or rewiring in the fading daylight, I was on my way again. Negotiating the 4x4 course was now even more fun in the dark with a car transporter in tow. After an hour or so of dropping mud around the M25 I arrived back in the car park at St Albans about midnight and prepared to load the 2CV. So far I'd done about 350 miles on the road and only moved the 2CV about 50 miles from where it started. Half way through winching the 2CV onto the trailer, the winch jammed. Thirty minutes of swearing and barked knuckles later I had made a temporary repair to the winch and got the 2CV safely on board. Finally back on the road towards Bonny Scotland...

Just short of Northampton on the M1 at about 2am, a truck behind me started flashing and blowing it's horn. I pulled off into Northampton services and checked the trailer. One of the (four) tyres was flat and was in the process of shredding itself. I had no spare so I was going nowhere until morning. The morning of the second day dawned and I unhooked the trailer and took my shredded wheel into Northampton to get a new tyre. The 3rd tyre place I tried had a tyre that was near enough the right size and by about 10:30am I was back heading north on the M1. On reaching the Scottish border in the afternoon, I had the notion that I was on the final furlong. That was until passing Cumbernauld just the other side of Glasgow, when a second tyre shredded itself spectacularly. It was 5pm and almost in time to find a tyre place open to get it fixed... almost but not quite. The only one open was Kwik Fit and they didn't have a tyre the right size but "Och, we kood git woon fer Toosdee". Yes I'd love to spend a long weekend in Cumbernauld, thanks... but no thanks.

I abandoned the 2CV plus trailer in the KwikFit car park and took ALL the trailer's wheels off and put them in the back of my car. I took them to Aberdeen where I arrived late that night. The following morning I took the trailer wheels to be properly re-shod at the local and trusted purveyor of automotive rubber to the good folks of Aberdeenshire, Charlie Chalmers. I then set off back on a mission to rescue the 2CV from Cumbernauld, where I arrived in the early afternoon. The trailer was where I had left it, but at some point someone must have 'nudged' it and knocked it off its axle stands. Getting the wheels back on took two hours instead of ten minutes. Finally I was back on the road with 4 new tyres plus a spare (thank you Charlie). I arrived in Aberdeen on Saturday evening having covered nearly 1600 miles in three days in order to move a 2CV a mere 565.
(Thu 21st Jul 2011, 9:55, More)

» Crazy People off the Internet

Conspiracy nutter
A friend of a friend's friend once contacted me out of the blue because he had somehow found out I spent some time working for a pharmaceutical company. His first email appeared relatively sane and I had no idea of the madness to come. His second email was slightly more worrying. He dismissed pretty much all my first hand observations, quoting the deranged and paranoid theories of his circle of conspiracy minded internet chums. As a postscript to his email he also hinted at several other demented notions he subscribed to.

What I should have done is leave it right there and not respond, but I hadn't yet appreciated the depth of his commitment to the crazy ideas he had put forward, and I was tempted into refuting them with self-evident facts and well established scientific truths. What a mistake... I didn't realise that his irrationality and paranoia rivalled David Icke.

I had never come across someone who had bought so completely into every possible wacky internet theory. He had moved from his home in the USA to Mexico because he believed that the American government was attempting mind control by dosing all food and water with psychoactive drugs. He was prepared to believe, based on the most unreliable evidence that government, banks, military and big business are co-operating and conspiring to perpetrate all manner of secret complex and unlikely programmes against the general population.

Here are just a few his notions, roughly in the order they came up;

Powdered silver cures cancer.
Fluoridation is for mind control not dental health.
All cancers are caused by fungal spores.
HIV doesn't cause AIDS
The Pentagon orchestrated 9/11 attacks
Television was created by the military for mind control. (Mind control is a bit of theme of his).
Artificial sweeteners cause birth defects.
MMR causes autism.
Wearing a magnetic wrist-band can cure heart disease.
All wars are started by weapons manufacturers.
The moon landings were faked.
Just about anything you can buy at your local supermarket will give you cancer.
The US government records and transcribes ALL phone conversations.
American pharmaceutical companies conspire with the CIA to secretly drug the population.

And finally... masturbation will make you more intelligent.
(Fri 23rd Nov 2012, 12:34, More)

» Self-Inflicted injuries

Builders! Nothing gets me more angry than bloody builders
I had a builder scheduled to start some work on my house and he asked if he could drop a load of sand on my driveway a few days before starting the job. I told he that I would agree, but ONLY on condition that he do it with my supervision, so it can go where it will not block access. I said that I would be at home from 12:30 to 1pm the following day. I drove home (in my lunch break) as planned and arrived on the dot at 12:29... to be faced with the builder turning out of my driveway having ALREADY dropped the huge pile of sand RIGHT SMACK IN THE WRONG PLACE blocking access to both my front door and my neighbour's. He gave me a smile and a cheery wave as he sped off.

I got out of my car fuming with rage and punched a brick wall.

Afternoon spent in local A&E.
(Fri 29th Nov 2013, 11:30, More)

» Conspiracy Theories

Dihydrogen Monoxide... the truth should be told!
www.dhmo.org/
(Thu 1st Dec 2011, 23:47, More)
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