Monthly Archives: January 2010

Fascist Spain – it’s all such a long time ago, init?

MY FIRST VISIT TO Spain was in 1969 – I hitchhiked from Leeds to Dover, caught the ferry then hitch hiked all the way through France although the motorists thought my hair was too long, and crossed the border between France and Spain at the usual spot.

We caught the train across the border at Bayonne – in the carriage there Basque people introduced me to goatskins full of wine. They were good company and sort of understood my schoolboy French. We all got quite getrunken.

In Spain we found the going even harder than in France although a kind English couple gave us a ride over the Pyrenees and took us as far as Burgos.  This is an ancient city with soldier ants bigger than we’d ever imagined them to be and quite prepared to take on a curious 20 year old youth. Bless them.

From Burgos we were forced to take again a train in Spain to Madrid – long haired youths were obviously not considered to be worth picking up – Spain was such a poor country then anyway. My pesetas went a long long way, San Jose.

A nice young guy on the train said that Spanish wasn’t a hard language, and proceeded to give me a bit of instruction in the lingo/bhash. It’s a shame I never learnt Spanish, it seems a lot more intelligent than Esperanto, or I hope so anyway.

Wikimedia Commons image of FrancoThe Madrid underground system had just opened – so recently that it hadn’t got round to putting signs on the individual stations – we had to count the stations to get from one side of Madrid to the other. Already having given up on any chance of hitch hiking, we took the milk train down to the Costa del Sol.

Andalusia, ah Andalusia. Here our thumbs started to work again and a kind American gave us a lift all down the Costa del Sol main road. He said that he’d been down here a while ago when the coast road didn’t exist and every single town like Torremolinos and Marbella were fishing villages, pure and simple. In Marbella, I learned to my alarm about The Troubles. And so the IRA.

In his car was a Danish guy and his German girlfriend. Although Danish, the German Army had called him up and he was a draft dodger, having a lot of fun in the south of Spain.

I’d already noticed that there were a heck of a lot of different police forces in Fascist Spain – every time we needed to sleep we had schlafsacks and that and just camped towards the beach. One morning we woke up to find three members of the tricorn wearing the uniforms of the Guardia Civil pointing their machine guns at us. As their motto is “Everything for the Fatherland”, we took their advice about sleeping on the beach and decamped rapido.

To Malaga and to the Morocco ferry. Queuing up I made some observations to my fellow travellers in English about my impressions of Fascist Spain and the number of police forces there seemed to be. In those days, speaking against the  regime could get you thrown in gaol. A very nice Spanish gentleman, must have been in his mid 1930s, turned round to us and said: “Please keep your voices down. Spain is getting better all the time, but it is still unwise to speak out about the regime.”

And so to Morocco – or rather to Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast and no doubt as irritating to the Moroccans as Gibraltar is to the Spanish. Here we fell in with some conscripts in the Spanish Army, and just the way you can do when you are 20, we discovered they were paid the equivalent of one shilling a day. A month.

My Moroccan adventures don’t matter too much here – but I found myself once again on the ferry going back to Spain  with some very foolish companions – a couple of very young American up and coming tennis players, who had stuffed the barrels of their rackets with cannabis. The journey was rough and the bows of the ferry caused many a passenger to vomit like there was no tomorrow and go green. I was OK – I don’t mind turbulent seas. What was really fantastic was passing through a vast shoal of tuna fish.

The customs house in Malaga was staffed with hundreds of  officials and I did fear for them. But they somehow got through customs and we had to say goodbye to each other. I was going to fly for the first time from Malaga Airport. I had a ticket, but no money at all, only enough to buy a lemon in the old town. My flight wasn’t going to happen for a day, and I hadn’t realised there was something called airport tax you had to pay.  There was a member of the Guardia Civil in the airport, and for one brief moment I contemplated nicking his pistol and shooting myself in the head. But a kindly English girl took pity on my and paid my airport tax so I could fly back to Blighty.

It’s all a bit blurry, but what does Cross Country mean?

CROSS COUNTRY is a UK railway company that sort of goes up the middle of England and includes Oxford on its way to wherever it ends up.

Engineering works are always a bit of a problem. But when the trains do run they have a very useful socket into which you can shove your charger for your PC or your mobile phone.

This is a bit blurry – sorry about that but the train was shifting along quite nicely. It’s a 240V 13A  socket with a label above it saying only to be used with PCs and mobile phones.

Makes me wonder a bit.  Has Cross Country perhaps come across an individual who has attempted to plug his microwave oven in, or his vacuum cleaner? Or his or her electric toothbrush? Or….. or…. My mind is boggling… 

No Burns’ Night for me, the noo


Oxford: the ways and means committees do continue

ANOTHER DAY in Oxford – famous for all sorts of stuff including how the different colleges that comprise Oxford University trashed the place.

The first shot is of the Bear pub, down Blue Boar Lane. The Bear and Staff was called that but its  original 13th century name was the Tabard. The Blue Boar has vanished. Il a disapparu! Alors!

So full of regimental ties! Here are three more in quick succession, followed by a William Turner one.

And right at the very end, William Turner.

Oxford’s not too dangerous for cyclists

I PLACED A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION request to Oxfordshire County Council to find out how many people were injured in Oxford between the years 2005-2009.

Why did I do that? Because Oxford is pretty cycle friendly – and even pedestrian friendly for that matter. There’s plenty of cycle lanes, the speed limit is 20MPH in many areas, and there’s heaps and heaps of students. Plus the buses are quite expensive.

The results are encouraging, considering the city is quite bike rich. Here’s the table those nice people from Oxfordshire County Council sent me under the FOI Act. Two deaths in five years doesn’t seem too bad to me, although 100% bad for the two individuals involved.  Oxfordshire, in conjunction with Oxford City Council, is also pretty good at devising schemes to make the roads even safer for people living here.

The figures for 2009, marked * are for the months January to November, no data being available for December. Here’s the response to my FOI request.

Oxford pedal cyclist injuries 2005-2009

Oxford meets Taiwan – in Oxford

BUMPED INTO a very nice guy in the Rose & Crown on North Parade recently.

He’s spent a fair amount of time in the lovely island of Taiwan – the old name was Formosa which means the beautiful island in Portuguese.  Not only is it a lovely island, the people are kind hearted.  It’s the computer industry that’s taken me to Taiwan but like Mike Busby, I’ve been to Hualien  and to the Taroko Gorge. That was too exciting!

They quite like Qwan Yin in Shanghai, too.

Here’s his set of paintings, they’re well worth a dekko. ♣

Only in Oxford

OXFORD IS a kind of interesting place, as this Channel Four clip shows.♦

The Tower of Babel: tongues’r’us

HOW MARVELLOUS the Interweb is. Google is not “evil” but it’s very “live”.

Magee is the 93rd most common name in Ireland, or so it is told.

Sometimes Google  it makes me wonder who I am. Am I Dr Mike Magee, who writes books about all sorts of stuff?  Am I the famous poker player? Am I the soccer player, born in Chicago 1984?  Am I MikeyMagee on Twitter? Am I tattoo artist Mike Magee? Have I translated Sanskrit books into English? Am I Adamson Rust? Am I Eva Glass? Am I Eva’s sister, Harta Glass? Am I C. Shanti? Am I Lokanath Maharaj?

Or am I none of the above?

It’s all very confusing. Who am I?

Am I a Lavengro or a Sapengro, pal?

I visit the Ashmolean

DIDN’T HAVE time to see very much, it’s true. But there’s lots of great things there and I’m going back.

We open TechEye to the world

JEEPERS, CREEPERS, where did you get those peepers? Jeepers, creepers, where did you get those eyes?

And so JAM IT Media – that’s J(ames), A(llan) and M(ike) started a UK tech site today called  We’re hoping it’s going to be sort of the All Seeing Eye on technology.