Wonderful wwoofing, new friends and the unbearable Captain Underpants.

Another great post Natural Nana, especially this part, made me proper laugh out loud:

“In Portugal, when people make wine, after they bottle it, they then still the grapes to make aguadente, the local moonshine. Everyone, it seems, has a home-made still, I love it here!!! The Portuguese are mad for the stuff and make it out of anything they can get their hands on, in the Algarve they use madronia, which is like a tree strawberry, that doesn’t have much taste, but once stilled – wowza, I had two shots of it, with a load of old men in Aljezur and had to hold on to the table, mental stuff! They also use figs to make it, it’s so powerful, it’s used as a cleaning product too, we used it in the kitchen to sort of sterilise things, which broke my heart, what a waste…”

Think it would be an idea to market a drink with a powerful cleaning action – versatile!

Hope you’re having fun with Vix in Porto, can’t wait for the next wwoofing chapter. xx


‘I’m a wwoofer’ I said far too quickly to a startled looking young man who answered the door of the farm. I arrived in Castro Marim on the Algarve near the Spanish border, like a crazed bag lady in a cagoole, emerging from the pitch blackness, at 9pm on the Sunday night.  I was totally flustered after a 12 hour journey, with no response from the wwoof host since the previous day. The wwoofers weren’t expecting to find me knocking on the door and pressing my face against the glass panel, hoping for humankind to respond, they had no idea I was due to arrive!  Luckily Arthur and Luisa, my co-wwoofers, were brilliant, made me tea, offered me food, sorted me a bed and instantly I felt welcome. There was a wood burner heating up the living room, a shower, washing machine, dishwasher, dry bed, the place was paradise compared…

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The case against perpetual progress

As I grow older (and as a parent), the future of civilisation is something that preoccupies my mind more and more. That, and a million other only slightly less weighty things.
So, if you haven’t got enough to worry about, here’s a sobering quote here on Canalside View from Tim O’Reilly’s article ‘The rise of anti-intellectualism and the end of progress’.

canalside view


For so many in the techno-elite, even those who don’t entirely subscribe to the unlimited optimism of the Singularity, the notion of perpetual progress is somehow taken for granted.  As a former classicist turned technologist, I’ve always lived with the shadow of the fall of Rome, the failure of its intellectual culture, and the stasis that gripped the Western world for the better part of a thousand years…

History teaches us that conservative, backward-looking movements often arise under conditions of economic stress. As the world faces problems ranging from climate change to the demographic cliff of ageing populations, it’s wise to image widely divergent futures.

Yes, we may find technological solutions that propel us into new golden age of robots, collective intelligence, and an economy built around ‘the creative class’. But it’s at least as probable that as we fail to find those solutions quickly enough, the world falls into…

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It’s about (a disaster in) time

Back in 2011, Italian scientists found neutrinos (ghostly subatomic particles which sound like a tasty corn-based snack) travelling 5,996 metres per second faster than the speed of light. Or so they thought. A bit confused by the result, they’d been checking their sums for some time. But then it turned out Einstein was right – nothing can travel faster than light.

But, imagine for a nanosecond the Italian scientists were right (they weren’t, but let’s stay with this exciting – though disproved – thought), and some neutrinos are moving faster than light particles, could we travel back in time? In some unfathomably distant future, might we finally do it?

Hedging my bets with Einstein, I’d say no. The idea’s riddled with problems. For one thing, if it was possible, surely we’d know about it already? It’s the classic smart-arse riposte.

There’d be Lycra-clad tourists from the 25th century rocking up all over the place, mucking up the space-time continuum for us hapless losers stuck in the present. Just like in that 1992 film Timescape (released on video as The Grand Tour: Disaster in Time).

Ever seen it? Here’s the trailer (worth watching if only for the ‘in a world’ voice over):

Starring Jeff Daniels, who a couple of years later would find fame in Jurassic Park, Timescape is a great little tale that introduces the idea of a cabal of future tourists on a grand tour of historical disasters, whose lives intertwine with Ben Wilson, a widowed guesthouse owner.

It’s a plot to get your mental knickers in a twist – but then that’s the job of just about every time travel story, because it’s based on an alluring but impossible conundrum. Like looking at Escher’s drawing of the Penrose staircase, it’s compelling and beautiful, but it can’t ever make sense.

Timescape‘s got the feel of a superior TV movie, or a particularly good Twilight Zone episode. The future tourists are nicely creepy too, calmly dropping in on doomed past (or present, depending on how you look at it) lives to luxuriate in the exciting preamble to a spectacular disaster before beaming back to their cosy future.

Time travel will forever be a wellspring for storytelling. It’s an endlessly fascinating and metaphysically rich idea to play with, even it can never quite make sense. But whenever did good sense made a great story?

I have one thing to admit with regard to the weighty subject of time travel – to this day, I have never seen Back to the Future. Though a future version of me already has.

What’s the point?

I’ve been reading two books, one fiction, one non-fiction.

In John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, Augustus Waters reminds the narrator Hazel Grace that “The world is not a wish-granting factory” (one of Green’s many wonderful phrases, which even has its own Tumblr).

The following day I’m looking through Alain De Botton’s ‘The Consolations of Philosophy’ at my desk, skimming the final chapter entitled ‘Consolation for a Broken Heart’, and happen on a summary of Schopenhauer’s view of life, that “[he] asks us not to be surprised by the misery. We should not ask for a point to being alive…”

Immediately I read Alain’s words (channeling Schopenhauer), it evoked Green’s phrase – the two thoughts connected. The idea that the world should a) exist to grant our wishes and b) have a point are two thoughts which, while on the face of it seem unhappy news, perhaps point to the source of unhappiness.

Carry on sloganeering

Great little film explaining the story of the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ phenomenon.

Although 2.5m copies of the 1939 poster were printed, they were kept on reserve, only to be used in times of absolute crisis or invasion. Amazingly, despite the many crises of the Second World War, the ‘Keep Calm…’ posters were never displayed.

Cut to 60 years later, a crumpled copy of the original poster was found in a box of hardbacks bought in an auction by the owners of Barter Books, a second-hand book shop in Northumberland.

Come to think of it, ‘Freedom is in Peril, Defend it with all Your Might‘ (the second slogan in the campaign that ‘Keep Calm…’ was due to be featured) is just as relevant now. Though maybe not as catchy.

Wwoof, wwoof, bleat. Reflections, lessons learnt and adventures afoot………………………….

Travels and travails of my dear friend Lou, aka Natural Nana.


So before I carry on, I thought I’d give you a vaguely relevant track to listen to whilst you read…

So here you go, it’s beautiful….


So after a longer than intended stay in the UK, (I passed my TEFL, yee haw, hee haw). I’m heading back to Portugal on Thursday to live with goats, well I will be in a caravan, the goats will be outside, I hope. My dad’s mate, Gordon the Welder, used to have a guard goat that lived in a caravan, I’m hoping it’s just me in the caravan, and maybe a hairy hippy man, that would be acceptable.  

I am pretty much shit scared of all animals, so this is going to be a real challenge for me, as well as goats, they have dogs, probably my most feared of all animals, (in a realistic way, I’d shit it if I saw…

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