Posts Tagged England

Two Weeks in Spain!

Two Weeks In Spain!

A  crowded Benidorm beach

A crowded Benidorm beach

COMPARED to some folks I’ve not been away on many foreign holidays. Indeed, it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really managed to get abroad on a regular basis. As a youngster (which wasn’t exactly yesterday!) we’d always go on holiday in England. Hastings in East Sussex was a real favourite with my mum and dad.

My parents were reasonably interested in history, heritage and culture and I can still recall visiting the likes of Hastings Castle and Battle Abbey. We’d also walk for miles across the Fairlight Glen and take a look at the famous fishermen’s huts.

With all of this exploring to do, I couldn’t really understand why people went abroad at all. I think this attitude came from my mum. She still has a saying that goes along the lines ‘with all of our beautiful scenery, if the British Isles got the weather you wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.’

I subscribed to this view for a long time. OK, we don’t get the weather, but what’s wrong with holidaying in Britain? Like my folks, I’m really into history, heritage and culture – and we have it in spades! So what if we had to endure the odd deluge that lasts all ‘Summer’?!

Now I’m much older (but sadly not any wiser!) I can see the attraction of a couple of weeks of unbroken sunshine. It does wonders for my aching muscles and bones. No wonder my grandparents began going on their annual week-long package holiday to Spain during the 1970s. They always had a great time and came back with tales of lovely weather, food and drink.

Therefore, for the last couple of years, Majorca has been our place of choice. But this year we decided to go to mainland Spain. Therefore in early September, some of my extended family and I spent a fortnight near Allicante on the Costa Blanca. The lure of sun, sea and San Miguel was just too much to resist!

Whilst staying near Allicante we decided, on a whim, to visit Benidorm for the day. I’d heard a lot about this popular holiday resort – good, bad and indifferent – and I wanted to see what it was like first hand.

Our snap decision to visit Benidorm put us at a slight disadvantage as we didn’t have any time to find out what the general area was like, look at maps or check out what was on. It meant that we didn’t know the lie of the land or what was where!

Sadly, my first impressions weren’t great. It appeared very claustrophobic – I’ve never seen so many tower blocks in one place in my life! It seemed as if the whole of the front consisted of high rise hotels that were crammed cheek by jowl together.

Whilst I’d admit that one or two large buildings are impressive – and believe me some of these buildings were very impressive – I’m not really a great fan of high rise buildings. I really feel sorry for folks who have to live in them all the time. I regard them as a ‘stack a prole’ experiment gone horribly wrong and prefer a more rural, natural and ‘human scale’ style of living. (And I know some people think that my ‘ideal’ of rural living is extremely bizarre as I’m a proud Cockney from East London!)

Benidorm also appeared very brash to me. To quote my mum again, it would be very ‘Honky Tonk.’ I presume it’s a case of what you see is what you get – something like Blackpool with sun! And talking about the sun, it reached a blistering 38 degrees on the day we visited. Maybe the extreme heat added to my discomfort?

Walking around made me realise how ‘British’ the place was. It might be an exaggeration, but along the front every other bar, café and restaurant appeared to be British (or Irish.) The flags of the ‘Home Nations’ could be seen everywhere. Accents, tattoos and football tops also gave the game away!

There were also several English language papers available – Costa Blanca News, The Weekly Buzz, RTN Benidorm and Round Town Times. No wonder so many Brits feel at home here!

One thing in Benidorm’s favour, however, was the sheer number of places where you could get a bite to eat or a drink. Some streets we wandered along just seemed to be full of outlets selling every drink and dish under the sun. The range of food and drink was impressive to say the least. One thing’s for sure – you’d never go hungry or thisty in Benidorm!

With this in mind, I can see why many folks choose it for stag and hen parties, ‘jollies’ or just going on individual benders. In fact we saw one tourist weaving along just after 1pm who looked slightly (to say the very least!) under the weather. I’m still not too sure what he was ‘under the influence’ of – but he didn’t look like he knew what country he was in, let alone what time of day it was! I wouldn’t have liked to woken up with his headache the next day.

Another thing in Benidorm’s favour was the number of shops which sold everything you could ever need. It would have probably taken a couple of weeks alone just to have a good look around the Old Town. I was also really surprised at how cheap some items were – even in what appeared to be the really ‘touristy’ areas.

Like many people we’d seen ITVs popular series Benidorm and half expected the place to be completely awash with mobility scooters! However, we didn’t see that many. We actually admired some of the double seat mobility scooters and had a good chuckle at some of the ‘driving.’ Indeed, one OAP looked like he was trying to emulate a Hells Angel on a Low Rider!

On the whole we had mixed feelings about Benidorm. To some extent, we got the impression that it was a ‘plastic’ version of Spain. However, it’s easy to see why thousands of ordinary working class Britons head there every year. The familiarity of a Full English breatfast, Ulster Fry or Fish and Chips would be a instant hit with many folks. Combine this with Priemiership football on massive TVs and ex-X Factor contestants providing entertainment in various clubs and bars and you’re onto a winner.

However, much of this was of no interest to us. We’re not fantastically into popular ‘culture’ and usually prefer the peace and quiet of rural areas. Our family is more inclinded towards true history, heritage and culture and love to see – and sample – local ways and mores. To us, Benidorm had just about enough to remind us that we were in Spain.

To be fair, I’d heard it described as Blackpool – what you see is what you get – with blistering sunshine and I think that this is a very apt description. I hope I’ve not been unduly harsh on Benidorm. I realise that you can’t judge a place in one day – and obviously there was much, much more to see. I’d like to go back sometime in the future to explore more of the area and hopefully come across the real (Spanish) Benidorm.

John Field

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Majorca Daily Bulletin

WHENEVER I’m away from home I always try to pick up a local paper. It doesn’t matter where the paper is from – anywhere in the English speaking world does me just fine. I really enjoy reading them right the way through from front to back (and from back to front if the sports news is really interesting!)

As well as reading what the paper has to say for itself I also love to see how the paper looks. I’ve always had an interest in layout and design so this aspect

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of the media really fascinates me. My view is that there’s no point in having a brilliant article if no one reads it because of a bad layout. (This latter aspect would be particularly important for any commercial paper, where making a profit is the bottom line for the owners. If no one’s buying the paper – because of its bad layout – then their profits go out of the window.)
Whilst on a recent (and all-too-brief) family holiday in Majorca I came across the Majorca Daily Bulletin (1). Written to an excellent standard – and at 1 Euro for 32 pages – I thought it represented excellent value.

This English language daily is on sale throughout the Balearic Islands – Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. It appears to be part of a much larger Spanish-based media group, Grupo Serra. Other publications in its stable include Ultima Hora (2) and Mallorca Magazin (3).

One thing that immediately struck me about the Majorca Daily Bulletin was its editorial independence. One would think that the safe and logical thing to do for this paper – especially as it’s wholly pitched at the (foreign) English-speaking community – would be to toe the government line. But the Bulletin doesn’t.

The independence of the Bulletin was demonstrated by Editor (Jason Moore) in his Viewpoint article of September 24. This noted that:
“The Madrid government was busy toasting a record August for tourism yesterday with foreign tourists spending billions in Spain last month. But not everybody was celebrating yesterday. Infact, in bars and restaurants across Majorca the champagne was very much on ice. The official figures tell a story; a rise in the number of tourists who spent more money. The big winners were naturally the hoteliers and the losers were the small army of bar and restaurant owners across the country who saw their takings fall because of an increase in all inclusive holidays and the recession.”

I thought that this was a good – and balanced – view. I presume that tourism is the lifeblood of the Balearics and no one would want to ‘rock the boat’ when it came to this subject. However, the Majorca Daily Bulletin saw right through government waffle and pr spin. The paper got to the heart of the matter – the survival of the local economy via small independent shopkeepers and traders. There’s a worrying trend whereby small indigenous shops are squeezed out existence by big business. If it continues, then all we’ll be left with is an ‘identikit’ world. I don’t know about you but when I go away I like to see and experience a bit of local culture – and this includes the shops!

Away from taking the government to task, the paper has a great mixture of home (Majorca) news as well as several pages covering Britain and the World. I’ve a sneaking feeling that Gerry Mulligan’s Crimewatch page is a ‘must read’ for lots of folks. The Balearics appear to attract drug dealers by the score but as Gerry notes, the Guardia Civil are successfully “weeding” out these criminals!
The Bulletin also features several interesting sports pages. I particularly liked its football coverage. With so many people enjoying their holiday in Majorca, it carried reports from England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands.

However, one of the best sports articles was written by Monro Bryce – Squeaky Bum Time At Son Moix! It reported on Real Mallorca’s game against Mirandes in the Spanish Premier League. This was a great example of a fans point of view. His report was full of passion. There was constructive criticism of the club – a “Jekyll and Hyde outfit” – but a deep love as well.

I loved his acknowledgement of Real Mallorca’s Ultras: “A special mention must go to our Ultras at the North end curve, they sang all game – it would have brought a tear to a glass eye.”

I also really loved his description of watching his local team – “fans squirming in their seats as one’s team’s fortunes wax and wane” – but all that squirming must have paid off as Real Mallorca won!!
(1) http://majorcadailybulletin.com/
(2) http://ultimahora.es/
(3) http://mallorcamagazin.com/
Reviewed by John Field

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Mark Elvis Nixon

Mark Elvis Nixon

markelvis

MILLIONS of people around the globe would say that Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the greatest singers and entertainers the world has ever seen. Some would go further and say that he was the greatest singer and entertainer ever. And they would agree 100% with this description from the official Elvis Presley website:
“Known the world over by his first name, he is regarded as one of the most important figures of twentieth century popular culture.” (Check out www.elvis.com for much more information about Elvis.)

I feel that one of these people would be Mark Elvis Nixon. But who is he, why is he named after The King and what’s he doing in Counter Culture?

Well, first things first. Mark is a 23 year old native of Durham in the North East of England. His parents are massive fans of Elvis and his music had a real effect on Mark. Indeed, he changed his middle name to ‘Elvis’ by deed poll wheb he was just 17.

Not content with calling himself Elvis, Mark now earns a very honest crust via his way above average – and highly energetic – Elvis Tribute act. I was lucky enough to catch him towards the end of September whilst on a brief family holiday in Majorca. Mark had been performing here seven days a week for the whole season.

At first I was a little taken aback – it’s not often that you see a youngster in one of The King’s trademark white catsuits, normally associated with the latter part of his career! Despite Mark’s young age, there’s no mistaking his love and passion for Elvis. He puts his heart and soul into his performance. This really comes over in his hour long show, which was very energetic to say the least. The sweat was bouncing out of him in no time!

Mark had the crowd singing, clapping and dancing in no time at all. Really noticeable were the dozens of people taking photographs and filming him as he got into his set.

Along with virtually all Elvis tribute acts and impersonators, he’s got every mannerism – from swiveling hips to the famous curled lip – off to a tee. His singing voice is also spot on. However, what makes Mark stand out from the crowd is his self-depreciating sense of humour. He’s not afraid to send himself up. When he’s introducing songs and talking about himself he does it on his normal voice – as he noted a couple of times, his is the worst American accent you’ll ever hear!! However, there’s also a serious point to this. Mark doesn’t regard himself as an Elvis impersonator (he’ spaying tribute to The King), so there’s no need to put on that famous Southern drawl.

Another thing that sets Mark apart from the rest is that his set list is really different. I’ve seen a few Elvis acts and it’s reasonably easy to predict what songs will feature. Whilst Mark sings many favourites – Hound Dog, You Were Always On My Mind, Blue Suede Shoes and so on – he featured several songs I hadn’t heard before. One was the fantastic Steamroller Blues, which had a great Rockabilly feel to it. Also included were Elvis’ interpretations of the Beatles classics Something (in the Way She Moves) and Hey Jude.

As I mentioned earlier, Mark Elvis Nixon really puts his heart and soul into his performance. If he keeps at it he’ll be doing what he loves for a living for a long time to come. If you see him advertised go alongand see him – you’ll be in for a great show!

Check out his web-site here: www.markelvisnixon.co.uk/index.htm
Check out his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/markelvisnixonuk

Reviewed by John Field

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“Revamped Too” – Tim Bragg (2012)

Revamped Too is largely a compilation of various tracks from Tim Bragg’s back catalogue but also features some brand new recordings plus previously unreleased material. Tim Bragg is a talented and engaging multi-instrumentalist who has composed an impressive body of work comprising several albums that range from protest folk to jazz-rock to pop ballads with an obvious Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy influence. He is also a novelist who has covered such genres as science fiction and political social commentary in works such as “The White Rooms”, “The English Dragon” and “Oak” – themes that have also inspired an earlier album “Fields of England”. Three tracks from this album (which is due for a revamped release in 2013) are featured on Revamped Too: “Rock the Boat” concerns political-correctness; the gutsy “My Family” and my favourite track: “England’s Seal”, a brilliant Marleyish piece of reggae “agitist” reflection.

The album is impressively produced and mixed with a highly attractive cover and features a wonderful assortment of various well-crafted contributions by various musicians – although Bragg at times performs most of the instruments. There is also a rockier cover version of Phil Lynott’s “Kings Call” and a country-rock version of Little Feat’s “Willin’”. Other tracks to look out for are “Sometimes” (which opens and closes the album with different versions) and “These People” (a reference to those folk who wreck other people’s lives!).

An instrumental album “Crossing Over” concerning spiritual themes and exploring the human predicament of death has been recorded and awaits release sometime in 2013, plus the aforementioned revamped version of “Fields Of England” (a work that demands more recognition). Bragg’s move to France has certainly given him a warm objectivity, Buddhist-like detachment and inspiring artistic perspective in the composition of his music – informed as it is by his writing and philosophical insights particularly concerning his former native land. He delivers these songs with heartfelt conviction and integrity. They come from a real place but as someone once said “a prophet is without honour in his own country” (how sadly true of Bragg). Nevertheless this compilation expresses a freshness and positivity rich in soul and genuine creativity, a work that is topical, relevant and delivered with a gritty rustic realism but shot through with warmth and compassion.

Wayne Sturgeon

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Federalism for Britain

Cover of Caledonian Voice.

Cover of English Voice

Federalism for Britain: The NLP Launches two papers for England & Scotland.

JULY saw the launch of two new publications by the National Liberal Party (NLP), English Voice (EV), and Caledonian Voice (CV).  As their titles suggest, the former is produced for England and the latter is aimed at Scottish readers and thus they will function as the national NLP papers for England and Scotland.  Both papers are currently produced in a double-sided A4 format with the front page comprising eye-catching mastheads and lead articles with the reverse giving readers a general introduction to the NLP, its policies and its New Horizon e-zine.  EV is currently available online while CV is available both online and in printed form for distribution door to door.

The common theme of the first issue of both publications can be summed-up as ‘Federalism for Britain’ and revives the concept of ‘The British Family of Nations’ which was a strong strand of de-centralist thinking within nationalism in the 1980’s which sought to strengthen local and regional identities and culture and devolve power away from central government and down to the ordinary people.  At the time this represented a radical departure from what had been hitherto orthodox nationalist policy which looked very much to a centralist British Government and a blanket British identity.  With the question over Scotland’s future within the United Kingdom and calls for England to have its own Parliament, EV and CV bring a nationalist view to these debates.

CV leads with The Independence Referendum…..Is there a Third Way? and puts forward the option of Devo-Max as alternative to both outright separation of Scotland from the rest of the UK and the status quo.  Devo-Max seeks to devolve as much power to Holyrood from Westminster as possible leaving only issues common to the whole of the UK such as defence and foreign affairs vested centrally.  The NLP’s distinctive stance in calling for the establishment of an English Parliament and the introduction of citizens’ initiative referenda along the Swiss lines are also highlighted:

“The NLP supports the creation of an English Parliament and encouraging people across the United Kingdom to become involved in open and accountable systems of government at both local and national level that enable ordinary citizens to participate in the decision making processes that affect their daily lives.  The NLP calls for the introduction of Swiss-style citizens’ initiative referenda to ensure that the majority can be heard on issues that the political elite would rather ignore”.

EV carries the bold headline DEVO-MAX FOR THE ENGLISH and pulls no punches when it lays out the anomaly of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having their own parliaments or regional assemblies while England has none:

“DISCRIMINATION! That’s the only way to describe the way the Westminster establishment treats England and the English people. One of the main reasons England is discriminated against is because every other nation in Britain has some form of self-government. But England has none!”

 

EV then continues to point out other areas where England is disadvantaged relative to the other parts of the United Kingdom, such as the “West Lothian Question”, posed by the Labour MP Tam Dalyell back in 1977, which highlights how MPs from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales can vote on purely English matters in the House of Commons while under devolution English MPs could not vote on the same matters concerning those other parts of the UK.  EV puts forward the creation of an English parliament under Devo-Max as the way to address the imbalance with the rest of the United Kingdom.

Both English Voice and Caledonian Voice are produced to a high standard with impressive layouts that attract the reader.  CV has been produced in printed form with the aim of being distributed especially in small towns and rural areas that do not often see any form of political campaigning.  It will be interesting to see what the response is.  Readers interested in distributing CV door to door in their areas should contact the NLP’s office for details of how copies can be sent to them.  I understand that issue two of both papers should be out before the end of the year.

Both papers are also available via e-mail.  To get hold of them, e-mail natliberal@aol.com and ask for your FREE pdf copy of Caledonian Voice and English Voice.

Reviewed by Andrew Hunter

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