How to avoid paying customs duty on Christmas gifts between the UK and Europe.

Frustration due to new customs rules.

What is the problem?

It is now much more complicated to send and receive good between the UK and the rest of Europe.   Britain is no longer in the customs union which leads to a very big increase in red tape and costs. The text below is harvested from forums and Facebook discussions.

Examples of problems?

I’ve just had to pay customs duty of 21% on a second hand book from the UK after a ten week delay in its delivery. I calculated this from the declared value that the Spanish customs  had converted to Euros, then added 4.50 admin costs then IVA at 21% on top of that. I now read that IVA on books was reduced to 4% last year and I also thought that books were free of any duty.

…. My daughters Christmas parcel to us posted air freight ( two to three says delivery quoted) December 16 with well known courier finally arrived today post Brexit. Customs would not release it until! 116 euros charges paid on parcel containing 152 pounds in gifts. The delivery company have refused to reimburse! Thanks Brexit!.

We have stopped people sending from U.K. after last parcel a gift, took two months to clear customs and cost us €42 .

Hi again – still waiting for a parcel sent from UK to Spain on Jan 11th – says stuck in customs – desperate for parcel as start new job on Tuesday

I recently ordered frames for glasses which came from a company outside of the EU (I did not realise that at the time). They had demo lenses only and I will have to have prescription lenses fitted here in Spain. The frames were very expensive… €250. To my horror, I have now been charged €87 for customs fees and duty which I had to pay before they would be released to me. This seems an incredible amount to pay for customs fees… 35% of the value of the item. Is this normal?

The solution to the problem?

Although most of us don’t like Amazon for treating their workers badly and not paying hardly any  taxes the solution is to just go to a website in the destination country.



To send Christmas cards to any country in the world use companies like moonpig. They send them within the destination country thus avoiding customs. Click here to go to moonpig

Pretending to be be where you aren’t using VPN
Sometimes websites don’t allow you to do certain things if your ip address indicates that you are in certain countries. The best way around this is to use a VPN. It has other advantages such as being able to to watch TV in other countries. EG BBC Iplayer or different versions of netflix.   I use Pure VPN. It works very well. I sign up for the 5 year option and it works out very cheap.
Click here to go the the PURE VPN page.

Note: Most of the links in this page have affiliate tracking codes.  In theory I will get commission if you buy anything. However in reality most affiliate programs find ways of not actually paying anything out.


Filling up with Petrol in the UK

The shortage of lorry drivers in the UK has made it much more difficult to obtain petrol in the UK and some people have resorted to extreme measures.

A new years’s message from nobody 2020

This is my message for 2020. It is from me a nobody. I am nobody but I do represent a lot of people. This message has been written off the top of my head and I did not use google or internet to help me. What is on internet is probably a lot of lies so If I was not sure I just made it up.

Sparkler in the sea

My new year’s resolution for 2020 is don’t read anything about Brexit, British politics or any political Facebook feeds. Don’t engage in any polemic subject especially with British people. It is all just too depressing. We are in the post truth age where everything is too confusing to be meaningful. Having an opinion about anything is a waste of time. Nobody cares about truth or objectivity. 2 plus 2 can be any number you like. Believing in delusional fantasy used to be mainly confined to religion, quack medicine and believing the answer to the question Does my bum look big in this? The complexity and unknowableness of everything has permeated everything. Cause has been uncoupled from effect. “I think therefore I am” has been transformed into “don’t bother thinking much, anything can be anything”.

Things are no better in the United States. They have published the guide to putting down the arguments of your snowflake lefty liberal relatives to be used during Christmas gatherings. Just spout a lot of ridiculous facts and figures which are gross exaggerations, outright lies and half truths. Who can be bothered to check up? Even if you could be bothered where would you look? Which of the news is fake news? How do we know what is true or false? Does anyone even care what is true or not? It is so liberating when facts are detached from reality we can blame who we like for any problem. Just make up lies on the fly, nobody cares.

I have long suspected that human beings are “not very nice”. From my own experience in life about 5% of people are so awful that most people would breathe a sigh of relief if they ceased to exist. Many people could be described as (I was persuaded by my wife not to use swear words so as not to alienate my readership so I have softened the swearing) Absolute “C” words – “F” wording “B” words – “D” heads – “W” worders –
Nincompoops – Bounders – Rotters – Ne’er do wells – Scallywags – etc. Few of us are perfect and over the last few years even Saints may have embarrassing pasts involving choirboys. This is the reality that we will have to endure in 2020.

So what can we do? In 2020 how can we not become completely disillusioned living amongst horrible halfwits and scumbags? Remember that we are not allowed to consider people as morons even though they patently are. Looking down on people because they are racist, homophobes or simpletons too easily influenced by lies is taboo. That would be condescending we must respect the right of other people to be wrong. Logic and reasoning are not the only ways of forming an opinion. We must also allow emotions and feelings to influence our judgments. In the words of someone from Monty Python. “I meet a lot of people and I’m convinced that the vast majority of wrong thinking people are right” .

The only way I can think of staying sane in 2020 is to focus on small victories and self delusion. Imagine that the ills of the world are not created by humans. Imagine that global heating has been created by an asteroid which has landed in the sea and is slowly pushing the world into oblivion. Just accept that global heating will cause better weather in some parts of the world and focus on the advantages. By pretending that nobody is to blame you can solve the problem of being angry at the human race for causing its own destruction. You can still do recycling, drive a Toyota Prius, like Extinction Rebellion on Facebook and use low wattage light bulbs if it makes you feel good.

Just live your life and don’t think about politics. Most of us live in democracies but there is not much point in thinking about politics because most of what politicians say are just lies. Imagine trying to choose a holiday destination when all the information you have is lies. It is like buying a counterfeit watch from a street seller at the beach. You deliberate between a Rolex and a Vacheron for a long time but there is no point because it is fairly certain that after 3 weeks the hands of the watch will drop off.

Am I being too negative? Too depressing? Well yes I am. It does not have to be “The unbearable awfulness of being” It is still a wonderful world. 60% of us are “C” words but there is a good chance that you can spend some time in the company of the top 10% of people who are intelligent, kind, unselfish fair people with love in their hearts. If not get a dog. Learn from the dog. Realize that the only important thing in life is running after sticks. If there are enough sticks to run after and enough walks to go on and you have a place to sleep there is no point in worrying about anything.

By the way: If you are right wing and have been offended by the content of this article you can read this article and add some lies about Muslims in the comments section.

Why did people vote for Brexit?


I am British and have benefited from being in the EU because I have been able to live in Spain for the last 30 years.  I hate the grey British weather and having blue skies almost every day makes me happy.  I don’t spend a lot of time  with many British people so I have never understood why anyone would want to vote for Brexit.  It seems illogical to me.  To get more information I have visited  some pro Brexit websites and harvested  the following pieces of text which give reasons.

It seems that the main reasons are too much immigration, immigrants undercutting wages and people having money problems which are blamed on the EU.  The EU is deemed to be unfair and does not offer value for money.

Here are the statements:
Note: I have copied the quotes as is and have not corrected spelling mistakes etc. I did not use any editorial control I just copied the first ones I found.

Our country is being ruined by too much immigration.

The NHS wouldn’t need the extra staff if the Immigrants were not scrounging on it.

I want an appointment to see a doctor, it takes 3 weeks to see one. It used to be 1 or 2 days,

We are being trampled on.

Why did they vote for Brexit?

The amount of foreigners using the NHS is on the increase year in year out while we remain in the EU.

What about the 4 Billion on migrant benefits??

Apprenticeships along with training in most trades and industry went out of the window when we joined the EEC/EU. All part of the plan to wind Britain down into one of the United States of Europe and flood it with immigrant low paid workers.

Dump the Frump – Chuck Chequers – Leave with no deal

We need to get out NOW..

I read yesterday that a third of the world’s population is in the Commonwealth group of nations! Let’s leave and trade with them!

Keep our fishing grounds

Let’s invest in the British people!


Out with May in with Tommy Robinson let’s get the *ucking ball moving…

The eu is sinking and without us it will implode.

Get us out of the EU and with No Deal we need the £39 billion for our people.

They need us far more than we need them. Soon come knocking on the door when they realise they messed up when other members start leaving too.

At the end of the day we need someone that will stand up to the non elected EU.

This Irish backstop why can’t we keep it the way it is with no hard boarder! Switzerland is surrounded by EU member countries and not one has a hard boarder.

Can’t the fools see were full up NHS is at breaking point hospitals full wait weeks for doctors appointment schools full roads jammed having to build on our green belt to house all these people we are full can’t the idiot MPs see it

If they come to work that aint a problem.. We just don’t need benefit scroungers ..think of our pensioners first

That’s the trouble with this country, stepping over British citizens to welcome everybody and anybody in without any thought.

We have too many here and our infrastructure cannot cope. And I am fed up with this lala attitude..

If foreigners come to work here we don’t want thousands of relatives coming as well.

Self employed East Europeans are undercutting self employed British workers on contract prices by sleeping in dormitories in multi occupancy accommodation which reduces living costs . The minimum wage does not apply to the self employed .

I have friends who have been out of work for several year and have qualification,they have even applied for shop or office work in fact any job that will bring a bit of money into the house but it appears immigrants are given the jobs first but then our law states that employers have to take a percentage of immigrants but it looks to be like that percentage is higher than it should be.

when was the last time we got to see the doctor without a 2 week wait?

I only got about £35 year until in 2013 when my husband died, Then I lost that and got his Pittance of a pension , and yet people from out side this country come hear and get all the benefits are much better off than the likes of me when my father and grandfather and husband have payed into this country for donkeys yrs

I worked many years part-time and years full-time so I get my full pension. That is what makes me so cross because we have immigrants in this country from years ago who have never worked, particularly the women but they get the pension.

The EU low skilled have found that work for a year and you entitled to full benefits, especially if you are a woman expecting.

Importing cheap labour only indulges our people’s desire to not work, and that doesn’t produce a stable or healthy society

where I live there is a large Romanian Population They use gardens for toilets, litter the streets with rubbish & steal anything they can get their hands on including charity tins We certainly don’t need them in our country

when my children were young, so had to try part time work as i had no one to care for them once out of school. I got no widows pension no help at all,. and now retired get sod all to live on. That,s why i voted to leave the EU knowing there pensioners get a lot more then we do..

two week wait for the doctors that’s good it takes me 4 weeks to get in.

Will all those people who seem determined for us to stay in Europe kindly pack their bags and f**k off across the channel. If nothing else I might then be able to park the car wherever I please.

this is exactly what millions of people voted for. Leave, no deal just leave and keep our £39 billion in our country !!!

I knew exactly what I was voting for to get shut of that lot of dictators and get my country back I didn’t vote to be richer or poorer I voted OUT SIMPLE

if they want to treat us like dirt then we just walk and spend the 39 billion on a big party

If we bought more cars that are made in the UK, our Pensions would be a lot better than £155/ week.

The UK state pension is actually the lowest state pension paid by any country in the developed world.

Let’s get out and bring back British values of loyalty and a sense of community!

Too many foreigners in this country who will not assimilate and cant even speak the language.

French want our fish, Spanish want the rock and Germany wants it all.

Walk away,take our money off the table and watch them come running.

The ONLY way to protect the UK from the vindictive EU is to leave on WTO terms

So the Oceans are dying? , certainly our stocks are going down because of overfishing by EU countries. We should set our own quotas

Anyone ever think that we must be paying far too much tax if they can afford to give the eu 350million a week freely of our taxes that i thought were collected to look after our own services in Britain? Our own people in britain and our hungry and homeless in britain? Not forgetting OUR tax money to foreign aid?

whilst countries like Poland have received millions every year from the EU to improve their infrastructure, railways, schools and health service etc… the UK’s own social care and health service has declined and now suffers from inadequate investment.

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans have come to Britain to do a job.

My Comment
I would be very sad to see Britain leave the EU.  In my own personal situation I could get Spanish nationality because I have been a tax paying resident for many years. It seems that the main reason for voting Brexit was immigration.  The current situation  in Britain as well as Spain immigrants have to either support themselves economically or go home.  Immigrants are paying taxes and are not scroungers because they are performing valuable services in the economy.  However,  maybe the British are disgruntled because the  immigrants are willing to work for low pay and conditions, this may be good for business but it may lead to resentment from the lower paid sections of society who may feel they are being undercut.

I am an immigrant myself. In 30 years I have almost never suffered from racism in Spain.   It is my opinion that a  large amount of humans are naturally xenophobic.  It seems to me that Brexit is a reaction to immigration.

Interesting facts about the Alhambra Granada Spain

Reflexions at the Alhambra
There is a lot of water in the Alhambra which leads to a lot of interesting reflections.

6,000 people a day visit the Alhambra. It is Spain’s most visited monument.

It was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889.  The Alhambra eventually became the residence of royalty and of the court of Granada in the middle of the thirteenth century. The first change from a fort to a palace happened around 1333, by the Sultan of Granada, Yusuf I.

The Alhambra was meant to be a paradise on earth.

The main buildings of the Alhambra complex are built on a plateau which measures about 740 meters (2430 ft.) in length and 205 meters (674 ft.) at its greatest width. A visit to the Alhambra normally takes about 2 or 3 hours and most people walk around 3 or 4 kilometers on the way. There are places to buy food and drink inside the Alhambra but most people bring a sandwich or use the  small bars or kiosks.

Visiting the Alhambra
Visiting the Alhambra

In the last 20 years or it has been very difficult to buy tickets for the Alhambra. The problem is created by the very high demand and the restriction in the amount of people allowed into the Nazrid palaces. Some years ago there was a problem with corruption, so afterwards the ticket distribution system was outsourced to ticketmaster. This was very unsuccessful, it is hard to believe how a big name in tickets could do such a bad job. Many people had to put up with a very inefficient, badly run service. Australian very not allowed to use credit cards which caused a lot of consternation. At the time of writing the ticket system is not too bad but buying tickets still requires your full attention. When people go to visit most cities they first book a flight and accommodation then think about where to visit. In Granada people first book their Alhambra tickets then find a flight and hotel.

Granada is not far from a fault line and small Earthquakes are fairly common. In 1821 an earthquake caused damage to the Alhambra complex. Every century or so there are bigger earthquakes on April 19 1956 in the town of Albolote, just outside the city, an earthquake reaching 5.1 on the Richter scale killed 12 people and destroyed 250 homes so the Alhambra has experienced many fairly large quakes in its history. The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 which killed 60 thousand people would have been felt here.


The amount of people allowed in the Nasrid palaces at any one time is restricted so it is necessary to buy a ticket which states the time that the person can enter into this part of the Alhambra. The Nasrid dynasty was the last Arab Muslim dynasty in Iberia, ruling the Emirate of Granada from 1230 until 1492. Twenty-three emirs ruled Granada from the founding of the dynasty in 1230 by Muhammad I until January 2, 1492, when Muhammad XII (Boabdil) surrendered to the Christian Spanish kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. Today, the most visible evidence of the Nasrids is the Alhambra palace complex built under their rule.

The loss of Granada marked the end of seven centuries of Muslim rule in southern Spain. Boabdil was the last Arabic ruler who lived in the Alhambra. He negotiated the take over of the Alhambra by the Spanish monarchs. He left by the back door, (la puerta de los siete suelos), he asked that the door be shut forever afterwards. You can see this door on your left soon after entering the Alhambra from the ticket office.

The geometric artwork decorating the interiors of the Alhambra follow Islamic law, meaning there are no depictions of living beings.

The ceilings, columns and walls of the Alhambra are covered with over 10,000 Arabic inscriptions. They contain everything from snatches of poetry and verses from the Qur’an to clever aphorisms, boastful slogans and pious wishes. The Nasrid motto – “There is no victor but Allah” – is the most common inscription.

The mathematical properties of the decorative tile and stucco patterns of the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain have been extensively studied. Although it is disputed,  some authors say that all of the 17 wallpaper groups can be found in the Alhambra. (Wallpaper groups are ways which patterns can be repeated.)

The illustrator M.C. Escher visited the palace twice. The patterns, tessellations and rotational symmetry had a big influence on his drawings.

Patterns at the Alhambra

Getting a dog instead of having a child – A Comparison.

Dog versus Child. Could child substitutes be the answer to human overpopulation?

I have written this article as an exploration of the idea that people could choose to have a dog rather than have children. It seems almost certain that unless we solve  the looming human overpopulation crisis the future of people born at the present time will be very grim.  There are too many humans for the planet to support. We could limit ourselves voluntarily now or let the people alive in the near future  suffer the decline of the human race which seems inevitable. The question is not “if” but “when” will the shit hit the fan?    The dystopian future is just around the corner.  Maybe you should rush out , buy extra dried beans and learn how to make a hobo stove.

I have never wanted children and have always continued to be very happy with my decision especially when spending time with friends who did have children.  About 4 years ago I got a dog and I have undergone a lot of the emotional bonding processes that I assume happens when people have children. I have a gooey emotional “aaaaah” reflex when watching my dog run around, I fantasize about   attacking anyone who would dare to hurt my dog. I imagine that my dog is the best and most attractive dog in the world. These must be the instinctual  feelings and responses that are designed  to make humans look after a child.  This has led me to believe that for some people a dog could act as a child substitute. If enough people chose child substitutes it may alleviate the overpopulation crisis. With the advent of AI we could also develop robotic Tamagotchi like creatures similar to K9 on Doctor Who which would satisfy the need to have children in a much more ecological and convenient way.   In the 80’s there was an expression “fuck dancing, let’s fuck” Nowadays it could be “fuck children, let’s get a dog”.

The following is a comparison of the realities of having a dog and having a child.  I am sure that the text below will be offensive to some people but it is just reality in the way that I see it. I respect the right of people to have children and I believe that if it very unlikely  that the human race is a viable concern at the present population  level even if we do all get dogs it is already too late.

Cost: Although most dogs do not live to be 18 years old to make a comparison we will make calculations based on 18 years. Many years ago most children would get a job and start paying for themselves at 18 but in many countries children will continue to be a drain on resources until they leave home and get married which could be up to 30 years old or even never.

Cost of getting a dog to 18 years.

$1000 first year $700 afterwards
So $1000 + $11900 = $12 900.

Cost of getting a child to 18 years.
Calculating the cost of bringing up a child is incredibly complicated. I just went to 5 or 6 big websites and made an average of their figures.

Child – $300,000

Cost Conclusion:
Having a dog is much cheaper than having a child. If you get a dog rather than having a child you could spend a lot of money on yourself, buy a bigger house, get a better car etc.

Toilet training:

Dog: If you get a new puppy it will have been brought up by the mother dog for the first weeks of its life. After a very brief period it will be house trained and as long as you allow it to go out at certain times of the day it is unlikely that the dog will shit or piss inside your house.

Child: A child has effectively have no control over its bladder or bowel movements. According to some websites I looked at the average time until a baby is potty trained is between 2 and 3 years, some say it is even more. Nowadays most people use disposable nappys/diapers which is incredibly un-ecological not the mention the extremely unpleasant smell and experience of changing a baby. The average baby goes through 5,000 diapers before being potty-trained,  95 percent of these diaper end up in landfills.

Obtaining a dog or a child in the first place.

Dog: You don’t have to spend any money on buying a dog if you don’t want to, just go to the local dog pound and there will be lots of dogs for you to choose from. If you do want an exclusive designer pedigree dog to impress your friends with it could be very expensive but a cheaper pedigree like a labradoodle should not be much more than $250

Child: Maybe the child could win on this one because the easiest way to conceive is to have sex which for most people is an enjoyable activity. However 15 minutes of pleasure is followed by weeks of morning sickness and 9 months of pregnancy which by all accounts is not a walk in the park. If you are lucky childbirth will be no longer than several hours of agony and only mild disfigurement of the genitalia.


Dog: It is unlikely that anyone would choose to have a dog that has a health problem. However at some point a dog may develop an illness which means that it is not fun to have anymore, or the dog is suffering. In this case it is a fairly simple process to have the dog painlessly dispatched by a vet with the minimum of fuss. No depressing suffering, costly medical procedures and heartache.

Child: Having a child has an element of risk. If you are unlucky a child could turn out to have a physical or mental illness. Many people when faced with this reality behave exceptionally well. The nurturing bond is so strong that many parents will put their entire life on hold to look after an ill child. This can be very heroic, nevertheless nobody would choose to have a defective child and there is no easy solution. Euthanasia is illegal and there is no easy way out except to grin and bear it.

Long Term Benefits

Dog: Dogs don’t live that long and most dogs after 10 years old will be getting senile.  A dog will not look after you in your old age when you yourself have become senile and unable to look after yourself.

Child: If they are lucky people with children will be looked after by their offspring in their old age.  Those of us  who chose dogs will take a trip to the bottom of the garden to visit Fido’s grave but have nobody to cut the lawn on the way back.  Maybe this IS an advantage of having kids.

Health Benefits.

Dog:  If you are a lazy person the fact that a dog has to be taken out for a walk at least twice a day may seem a disadvantage however for most people the obligation to take the dog for a walk  will result in regular exercise which will result in weight control, lower cholesterol, better heart health etc.

Child: The negative effects of childbirth are too numerous to mention here but they are significant. Other problems with having children are sleepless nights,  constant worry,  increased stress,  depression, domestic isolation, relationship breakdown etc.

This article is not finished, there are several more comparisons to be made.

Emigrating to the UK from the Philippines in 1971

I have recently being exploring the idea of living without money. This has led me to volunteer in 3 different places in Spain. I have used the workaway system to find the places. At the moment I am in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain not far from Guadix. Today it is raining so we can’t work outside and I have been asked to write down some impressions of my first days in England after coming from the Philippines to work as a nurse in 1971.

Getting on a plane in Manilla

I first traveled out of the Philippines on a one way ticket 47 years ago. Like other economic migrant workers/travelers, a working visa is a surefire way of securing a kind of travel experience completely different from a normal short term holiday. I first got the idea of emigrating to England from the landlady of my bedsit in Manilla.  The  fees  necessary for the organization of the emigration to the UK was substantial so I had to obtain funds based on the ownership of a 2 hectare paddy field belonging to my family.   I paid an agency 4000 pesos to organise my flight, work visas and job in England. The flight from Manilla to Heathrow took over 24 hours and included a stop over in Hong Kong. I set off from Manilla on a hot and sweaty afternoon and arrived in England on a freezing cold Spring day on the 28th April 1971. I was with 2 other Filipino girls all in possession of work visas as nursing auxiliaries in a geriatric hospital in Maldon, Essex.

Most graduates or student nurses from my country looked to the outside world for jobs that offered higher pay than what they would normally get in the Philippines. Although the country is rich in mineral resources it is kept in poverty due to its colonial status in relation to the United States of America. The government in power at the time was headed by Ferdinand Marcos Sr and he was only looking after the interest of foreign investors who saw the country as a source of very cheap labour. Hence Filipino workers started emigrating as construction workers, domestic workers, nurses, hospital workers and other sorts of hospitality workers. As a neo-colonial country under United States of America most of our educated Filipinos went to the USA looking for greener pastures. From the late 1960s to 1970s the hospitals in England were recruiting nurses from countries like Jamaica, Philippines, China and Malaysia. Hence for the first time in my life I came across the country called England, my new country to be.

We were met at the main door of the hospital by a kind Nurse Barrett, the night nurse on duty, at 11:00 at night after getting off the last bus from Chelmsford. I felt the cold was going through my bones on that night we were walking from the bus stop to the entrance to the hospital. Nurse Barrett took us to the Villa, the nurses’ residence. There was excitement and nonstop talking till 1 in the morning meeting the other Filipino nurses (Linda, Gillian & Aida) who were already working in the hospital.

Looking after the elderly

The following day we met Miss Judd the matron of St Peters Hospital in Maldon. I found the matron very genial and helpful. She welcomed us and went through with us important things we needed to do like registering with the police station in town, our work schedule. One nurse was tasked to show us around, where to get our clean uniform and where to take dirty uniforms back, the canteen and other important aspects of the hospital. After a day of rest from traveling we started work the following day. I was assigned to work in ward P3, women’s ward where most of the patients were elderly, some suffering from dementia, some arthritic and some with general elderly ailments. I found the patients very sweet and friendly. Compared to the library work I left in Manila, my work as a nurse which included personal care of the patients, i.e putting them in the bath, bathing them, or giving them a wash in bed, getting them out of bed and putting them to bed at night time, was much harder physically though emotionally and socially rewarding. The salary was three times more than what I was getting as a Teacher Librarian in one of the big public secondary schools in Manila.

It was exciting and really nice that my co workers in the ward were so friendly and helpful, from the Sister (the nurse in-charge of the ward), the staff nurse and other nurses to the ward orderlies and cleaners. In the canteen the English food wasn’t too bad, the roast meats were tasty but a lot of the vegetable were overcooked. As a bonus a cleaner called May, and other orderlies, always saved us some food from the trolley, although we were not supposed to eat in the ward. They said that it was a crime to throw it away. The Friday fish and chips was always a treat although I found the fish a bit flat in taste compared to the fish we had in the Philippines. To begin with the food was so different from the food back home. In the ward I worked with another Filipino nurse, a Chinese nurse (Dunmok), a Jamaican nurse (Duncan), an English nurse (Kathy), Sister Cornelius, Staff Nurse Downes and Nurse Barrett.
When we were out in town we were greeted enthusiastically by our new friends/workmates if we happened to meet them in the streets. We were invited to our new friends’ houses for tea and taken to the strawberry field to pick our own strawberries. Generally I found people friendly and helpful but occasionally I came across people who reacted strangely to our presence in town.

Being used to living in Manila where there were always people about when I went out of my house, I found life in Maldon very quiet especially at night. When the shops closed there were very few people walking in town. The opening times of shops also had to be borne in mind when planning activities. The shops in the Philippines were always open late at night. I found life a bit lonely in my new country compared to life in the Philippines. I thought of my friends back in the island of Catanduanes, my original home. The warmth and joy I felt when I was in the island, surrounded by family and friends. Just being happy, nothing to worry about.

A typical street in Catanduanes

People in the Philippines are normally spontaneous but I found my new life in England becoming structured and rigid as we had to fit into our own new schedules and that of our workmates and new found friends. I missed my family and friends back home. After 6 months I suffered from headaches. My doctor prescribed me some anti depressant pills but after a while I stopped taking then because they made me feel worse. I never went back to the Doctor and instead resolved to look after myself properly.

I found the system in my new country much more efficient than that of my home country, and found the people seemed more disciplined than the people I left back home. On the surface, there seemed to be less corruption and bribery compared to the situation in the public offices in the Philippines. I don’t blame the Filipino people for being what they are as that’s what happens when people have been dominated by another country. Colonialism really messes up the natural evolution of the people’s way of life and how they organise themselves in their own country.

The landing of the Spanish expedition to Sulu by Antonio Brugada.

In 1521 Spanish ships led by Magellan came to the Philippines looking for gold (which they found loads of!) and spices. They brought with them the bible (their version of God!) though we already had our own belief systems in nature. Thus followed 450 years of Spanish domination and mistreatment of the peace loving Filipino people, facilitated by the introduction of Christianity to the islanders. In the north of the Philippines, the mountainous areas, where the Spaniards were not able to penetrate, the Filipino people were able to retain strong traditions and authentic characters.

Previous to the arrival of the Spanish ships Filipino people were already trading with the Chinese, Arabs and Indian people. With a strong resistance from the native people Spain was finally overthrown by the Filipino people only to be dominated by another country, United States of America. The 1898 treaty of Paris, Spain ceded Philippines to the United States of America for $20 millions.

I stayed living in England and made it my home I eventually got married had 3 children did many jobs such as taxi driver, librarian etc. It has been an interesting journey. I have returned to the Philippines on several visits over the years.

Luckily I obtained a British passport in 1997 and hopefully my documentation is in order. Thankfully I am not in the same boat as the people from the Caribbean who are now being threatened with repatriation back to Jamaica after 45 years of paying taxes in the UK.

I feel sad that the need to escape from economic hardship has meant that people had to leave their family behind, young children being forced to grow up being apart from their parent or parents in pursuit of money to survive. I found that people just want a happy and fun life, free from problems.

I thought there must be a better system than the money system that rules our world now and that is what I would like to explore now.

The rain has stopped. Now we can go back outside to weed the strawberry beds.

Myths about Diet and Food

Beefburger and Chips
Beefburger and French Fries is it healthy?

Everyone has their own opinions about nutrition and health. Many of these, however, are fads or ideas they read online somewhere or heard from someone else. This can lead to false generalizations and claims that can make one become obsessive about the foods they’re eating or avoiding. While there is a lot more to it, here are 5 common myths about nutrition that I love to debunk!

Being careful of what you eat. Measuring calories.

1.  Healthy foods means I can eat more of it 

While I wish this one was true, unfortunately it’s probably the furthest from the truth. Your body is like a scale. You take in calories and you expend calories. An average person of about 70 kilograms with an active lifestyle needs about 2,000 calories per day. A good rule of thumb is to calculate 30 calories per kilogram of body weight. If you want to lose or gain weight you will have to adjust the amount of calories. One pound  (453g) is about 3500 calories, so eating 500 extra calories per day every week will, in theory, make you gain a pound a week! This can add up throughout the months or years without even realizing it. So, while eating a bunch of healthy nutritious foods, like bananas (which are high in sugar) or avocados (which are high in fat) is great, remember that the calories still count!

There are many ways of losing weight.

2. Starving myself will make me lose weight 

Sometimes we skip a meal, whether it be accidental or intentional, which is perfectly okay. Our bodies are designed for this. We store unused energy, called glycogen, to sustain us throughout the day and night while we aren’t eating. However, when we frequently skip meals our bodies will take the food you do eat and store it into fat, a long term storage, since it doesn’t know when it will get its next meal. Frequently skipping meals will slow your metabolism and can ultimately make you gain weight. Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day will increase your metabolism and maintain your energy.

Skinny Dog
This is not necessarily healthy

3. Skinny = healthy 

Unfortunately, today’s media has distorted our image of an ideal body physique. Skinny models and celebrities have made us think the thinner the sexier. For some this is probably the most difficult theory to unlearn.  Eating healthy foods regularly and staying active is in my opinion the sexiest. A scale can’t determine if you’re at nutritional risk. Remember that muscle weighs more than fat? Try exercising regularly with a combination of cardio and resistance training without obsessing over it. There are many ways to throw in more activity in your day, for example taking the stairs instead of elevator or taking your dog on a daily walk after dinner.

Squashes contain a huge amount of vitamin A, as well as significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, and folate. In terms of minerals, squash contains magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, calcium, and iron.

4. Vegetarians don’t get enough protein

Vegetarian diets are very common throughout the world. They can be in fact, quiet healthy, since you substitute a meat protein for a vegetable. Vegetables contain a lot of nutrients and fibre which is great for heart disease prevention. However, protein is also an essential nutrient that needs to be carefully monitored in vegetarians, and more importantly for vegans. While it needs to be considered, it’s not impossible!  Legumes, whole grains, eggs and diary products are a great source of protein for vegetarians (also for meat-eaters). So how much protein do you need per day? While it differs per individual a good rule of thumb is to calculate 0.8 grams for every kilogram of body weight. However, it doesn’t end there. You have dispensable (non-essential) and indispensable (essential) amino acids. This means there there are certain types of proteins that your body can’t make on its own and the only way to get it is with diet. A protein that contain the 9 essential amino acids is called a complete protein. Animal products are complete proteins and vegetarian proteins are incomplete, however, combining a legume and grain (for example beans and rice) can become a complete protein. For vegans, there is much more to it, since you are missing essential nutrients from animal products. These nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and iron, need to be supplemented and checked regularly by blood tests. So, vegetarians can absolutely get enough protein in their diets if they keep up with it. Also, just because you’re a meat eater doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a vegan or vegetarian meal once in a while.


5. There is one good diet that works for everyone

This is my favourite myth to debunk. Often you see a new book, or a celebrity claiming ¨This is the best way to lose weight.¨ Or a friend suggesting a diet that you’ve got to try. There are so many different diets out there, whether its low-carb, low-fat, gluten-free, sugar-free, cleanses, etc. The list goes on and on. So which one is the best? The truth is there is not a single magic miracle diet that works for everyone. Everyone is different and has different preferences. The best diet for you is one that you can adhere to the longest. So if you love bread, maybe a low-carb diet isn’t best for you, because you won’t be able to sustain it for long. Try something that works best for you, because in the end losing weight is about restricting your calories. Also, moderation is key. Anything in excess isn’t healthy, but that also doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself from enjoying life and enjoying your glass of wine with a piece of cheese now and again. Life is short!


Beware of Sugar

Fructose and Sucrose. Strawberry and granulated sugar.

These days, sugar gets a bad rap. Sugar, however, its a natural part of life and what our bodies live off of every single day. There are many different forms of sugar, or carbohydrates, that occur in the world. The sugar that we use for energy is called glucose. Everything we eat eventually gets converted to glucose to give our body energy to function. However, the foods that we usually eat don’t occur as glucose. For example, fruit contains fructose, milk contains lactose, malt contains maltose. When looking at ingredients, words that end in -ose or contain the word ‘syrup’ will generally be a sugar.

Since sugar or carbohydrates are necessary for human digestion, there’s no reason to avoid them. However, it is important not to have too much of it. Unfortunately, in today’s society, it’s a little more difficult to watch out for. Processed and fast foods are all around us and readily available anywhere we go. These processed foods generally contain loads of hidden added sugar. Why do you think most commercially produced breakfast cereals tastes so good?!  Manufacturers hide these sugars in the ingredients lists with unrecognizable names such as dextrose or sucrose. They also might have names that deceive you into thinking they are natural or healthy sugars, such as corn syrup, molasses, beet sugar, or rice syrups just to name a few. These are highly processed sugars that, according to research, can lead to weight gain and diseases such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in arteries), high cholesterol and heart diseases. Processed sugars are refined and modified, and serve as empty calories, meaning they don’t add any nutritional benefits or carry any nutrients.

Carbohydrates are found in most foods including fruits, vegetables and grains. A carbohydrate contains 4 calories per gram (proteins also contain 4 calories per gram, while fats contain 9 calories per gram). Carbohydrates can serve between 30-50% of your daily calories every day depending on one’s diet. However, added sugars found in candies and processed foods are different since they don’t serve a nutritional purpose and should be limited. Some health agencies recommend limiting your added sugar intake to 50 grams, or 10% of your calories per day. However, it is possible to consume a lot less or avoid it completely. Most people who have taken added sugar out of their diet have said to feeling more energized, healthier and slimmer.

While eating fruits and vegetables is important in one’s diet, there is such thing as too much. Some fruits contain a lot of sugar, which can spike your blood sugar levels and make you feel tired, cranky or moody when it crashes again moments later. A banana, for example, contain about 16 grams of sugar and when consumed on an empty stomach can make your blood sugar spike. Try eating it with some protein or healthy fats, such as a sugar-free nut butter, to control the rise of your blood sugar. Juices are also something to be careful for. While juices can contain healthy nutrients and vitamins, they are also very concentrated with sugar (commercial products usually also have added sugar). A normal serving size is only 4 fluid ounces, or half of a cup! With apple juice, that’s already 11 grams of sugar. In my opinion you’re better off eating an apple since you’ll get the benefits of the fibre with the same amount of sugar and nutrients.

Written by Lisanne.

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GMOs and the Malthusian Specter: The Case of Golden Rice

Golden Rice and White Rice
Golden Rice. A GMO type of rice with added vitamin A

In 1798, Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus warned the world of impending disaster. He theorized that the human population, growing exponentially, would soon become so immense that the food it required would surpass the food it could grow. But as the Industrial Revolution thrust ahead into the nineteenth century, bringing forth advancements in agricultural production, the world heaved a sigh of relief that Malthus was wrong, and new industrial man scoffed at Malthus’s failure to credit human ingenuity with its due regard. For the moment, we had overcome the Reverend’s gnawing little problem. However, at the time that Malthus was warning us about our food supply, the global population numbered just one billion. Today, as 7.6 billion people are expected to become eight within a decade, the specter of Malthus arises to warn us once again. Food insecurity has crept back into view. What will be our new revolution?

This time, with mechanical means of agriculture already highly developed, we turn not to engineers, but to biologists. And just as the radical leaps in industrial technology met with its Luddites, so the modern biological age of agriculture contends with its own neigh-sayers. But we ought not be hasty to dismiss their doubt as alarmist: the modern answer to Malthus involves supplanting the food supply with genetically-modified organisms, or GMOs. In other words, today’s Luddites aren’t simply disaffected workers but an entire human species concerned with the long-term health problems arising out of genetic tooling. Many worry that the very miracle products meant to save us from starvation may sooner impair our global health and that of posterity.

One case of genetic food engineering still on trial by global opinion is the recent innovation known as “golden rice.” Golden rice is a genetically modified rice grain that has been biologically altered to include vitamin-A, a vitamin necessary to human survival and eyesight. The creation is dubbed “golden” because of the hue it takes on when the vitamin-A is added. Vitamin-A is the same vitamin that gives carrots and pumpkins their bright orange color, thus turning this new rice from white to gold. The benefit of golden rice, however, does not come from its lofty name or brilliant sheen but from its vital global health potentiality. The World Health Organization (WHO) has persistently warned of the deleterious effects of vitamin-A deficiency (VAD) in many regions of the world.

Specifically, the WHO reports that VAD is the single most important cause of childhood blindness in developing countries” and that VAD contributes significantly “to morbidity and mortality from common childhood infections.” The United Nations International Childhood Emergency Fund (UNICEF) warns that VAD is the “leading cause of preventable childhood blindness and increases the risk of death from common childhood illnesses.” In the regions of the world where foods containing the vitamin-A are economically or agriculturally inaccessible, VAD poses a major health threat. The condition overwhelmingly affects poorer communities, particularly in the Pacific, Southeast Asian, and Sub-Saharan African regions. The WHO has officially named VAD a global public health concern on account of VAD’s vast reach and pervasiveness. Approximately one third of children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years suffer from VAD, and an estimated 250 million children suffer from VAD, with blindness occurring in 250,000 to 500,000 children each year. Of those children affected with blindness, half of them die within a year of going blind. All this despite VAD being highly preventable. The initial response to VAD, carried out by a number of health organizations around the world since the 1990s, was vitamin-A supplements. While this remedy helped reduce some incidence of death, it failed to reach much of the affected populations.

Enter golden rice. Rice itself is the crucial source of energy for a significant portion of the world population. Over 3.5 billion people depend on rice for at least 20% of their caloric intake. And while rice is third in global grain production after corn and wheat, it is cheaper and therefore the more prolific grain among economically poor regions of the world. Crucial to golden rice’s efficiency as a solution to VAD is rice’s role as a staple grain in developing Asian countries and Sub-Saharan Africa, the same regions where VAD occurs in high numbers. Thus, golden rice presents itself as an elegant solution to the VAD problem. In theory, if golden rice can be grown in place of regular rice in these Asian and African regions, VAD may be treated and prevented more effectively and economically than with the traditional vitamin-A supplement approach put forth by UNICEF and the WHO.

However, simply introducing vitamin-A into the rice of VAD regions is not as easy in practice as in principle. As with all GMO foodstuffs, health questions arise. The countries targeted by golden rice have serious concerns about unintended side effects from consuming biologically-engineered rice. As golden rice development continues, these countries will push for stronger evidence that the rice is safe to eat before allowing mass production for their people. Already there has been serious resistance to the product among organizations such as Greenpeace and by the populations of some VAD countries. In one instance in 2013, hundreds of protesters in the Philippines uprooted golden rice crops that had been planted in the country for field testing, displaying the yet undetermined fate of this health innovation. As of today, testing and development of golden rice continues, and mass appeal for the miracle grain is left up in the air. Developers of golden rice hope their invention can step out from the shadow of more contentious GMO products, but its fate is left to the tension of science, fact, and global caution.

Today, the question of our modern food insecurity problem is yet left undetermined. The international controversy surrounding the pros and cons of genetically modified foods will continue to pit the celebrators of scientific discovery against the pragmatic representatives of regional health concerns. Meanwhile the Malthusian clock is whirring in the background: one in nine people on earth suffers from chronic undernourishment, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Many are optimistic that our modern answers to the global heath and scarcity issues brought by population growth, golden rice among them, will unravel a new age of food security. Others stay weary that in the end, we may be left with the bitter taste of scientific heroism gone wrong. Nonetheless, it is crucial that the debate remain focused, not on unsupported optimism or irrational fears, but on the facts of the case.

Written by Roberto T.

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Interesting facts about David Bowie.

Some of the faces of David Bowie

David Bowie was born David Jones on 8th January 1947 in Brixton and died on 10th January 2016 at the age of 69 from liver cancer. The stage name “Bowie” came about for various reasons: Davy Jones, lead singer of the Monkees was up and coming at the time and he decided on “Bowie” because it was “the ultimate American knife”. Bowie declined two major British honorary titles: Commander and a Knighthood from the Queen.

Bowie had a very interesting and unusual look. Thin and androgynous, with crazy hairdos, flamboyant makeup, clothes and shoes. He is not only an icon of the music world but an enigma. He is quickly recognised with two distinctly different eyes, one pupil much bigger than the other which was caused a small fight when he was 15 over a girl when his eyeball was scratched after being punched leading to his pupil being constantly dilated. He apparently thanked his friend as his eyes shaped his identity and became intrinsic to his character.

David Bowie was not only a singer, but an actor and a painter and collector. He starred in 28 films including Labyrinth as the Goblin King, in Basquiat playing his friend Andy Warhol and The Man who Fell to Earth as an alien. Some of his favorite artists were Picasso and Micheal Ray Charles.

Bowie has had six number one singles in the UK – Space Oddity, Ashes to Ashes, Under Pressure (alongside Queen), Lets Dance, Heroes and Dancing in the Street (alongside Mick Jagger). Throughout his long career he had many different faces. Major Tom was a hedonistic astronaut featured in three songs, whilst Thin White Duke was an aristocrat that had fascist views was sleek, extremely thin and stylish. Ziggy Stardust was possibly his most famous alter-egos, featured in his album “Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” was a red headed, egotistic demi-god, a promiscuous “messiah” with a desire to be a rock star with his Spiders from Mars. His clothes and makeup were influenced by A Clockwork Orange and Wild Boys, he was also interested in mime. Bowie later told newspapers that his Stardust alter ego “wouldn’t leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to go sour … My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity.” Aladdin Sane was another famous alter ego, he was a more fantastic version of Ziggy, Aladdin Sane was Stardust at the height of his stardom.

Bowie wrote over 750 songs and is believed to have sold 140 million albums whilst alive. He performed around 5,000 times live. He was named by The Rolling Stone as 23rd in a list of best singers of all time (2004). He had many different styles throughout his career include glam-rock, folk-rock, electronic, soul  – a unique take on RnB through Bowie´s eyes. He played guitar, saxophone, guitar, keyboard and mouth-harp among others. The last ever single Bing Crosby recorded was with Bowie who he didn’t know at the time and they sang a duet of “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.” Bowie´s album “The Next Day” was recorded without anyone knowing about so it could be a surprise. He had a fear of tea due to an incident when he was younger and hated flying. He also had a long and hard struggle with cocaine abuse which caused high paranoia and a substantial weight loss, he stated it was not for “hedonistic” purposes as he didn’t go out much but for working for days on end.

His first marriage was to Mary Barnett and they had one child, Duncan Zowie Jones, who now is a director. His second wife was Iman, and he had another child with her, Alexandria Zahra Jones, in 2000. He also has a stepdaughter, Zulekha, from Iman´s frist marriage.

Bowie is regarded by many as one of the best and most influential singers of his time and although he passed away his name and music will be remembered and cherished.