Madness, just madness

On Friday the European Medical Agency staff lowered all 28 EU flags and symbolically said goodbye to their London office. The UK is bowing out of the EMA having been the host for the agency since 1995. The EMA does lots and lots of drug development.

So, Leavers, how are you going to replace that? Are our doctors and scientists so good that they can do this on their own, without the collaboration of our European partners? Or do you have another plan? Please let us know.

Madness, just madness.

Ho-hum …

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it takes some reminding that we lived in Doris and her smaller cousin for 4 years

It’s been a week of two halves. Working with Jen until Friday and then three days of domestic chores, mostly focused on sorting out Doris. As you’d imagine, most of the habitation issues with a motorhome come about because of damp and being knocked about by travelling. I’m not talking about rain getting in, I’m just talking about damp air circulating and getting in the electrics. So, as well as a clean inside, I had to sort out a kitchen ring that wasn’t staying alight, a loo that won’t flush and a driving light that’s much dimmer than it should be. She goes in for her MOT on Wednesday so the light needed sorting.

All three just needed contacts brushing, cleaning and oiling. and, hey presto, all three are working again. If any of you have a MH and are faced with 12 volt problems, I’d really have a go rather than send the van off to the doctors. The problem with any vehicle electrics, especially if they’re intermittent, is that the man-who-does probably has as much chance of finding the fault as you do … and in the end, nine times out of ten the part will not be broken, it will just be a loose contact or similar. A word of warning, however. Whilst a 12 volt shock won’t kill you, an exposed wire will spark and heat … and could cause a fire. So be a little bit careful.

Anyhow, she’s ready for her MOT and for me to use her as an outside workspace next week as I ‘sew from home’ to save me travelling to Jen’s in Gloucester every day.

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we’ve got Cassie with us for a while …

Talking of which, we’re off to Jen’s tonight to attend a pub quiz. C’s knocked up sausage casserole for the lot of us, which will be grand. Tonight’s quiz theme is Star Wars. That’ll be no points from me then.

Finally, C is about half way through book 5 (still no title) and is loving it – she would say. That gives me great hope as the book picks up in the second half and I think the ending is one of the best sub-plots I’ve ever penned. We’ll see.

That’s all from the Bradley Stoke jury. Have a great week.

Time to go home

Today is our last full day in The Bahamas. We fly tomorrow, via NY. We should be back in the UK first thing Tuesday morning. It’s therefore probably not a bad time to give you my overview of the place. (I think it’s C’s too, but don’t quote me.)

The key thing to remember is that The Bahamas is a huge archipelago made up of over 700 islands. New Providence, where we’ve stayed and pretty much in the centre of the group, is one of the smaller islands. It’s where all of the industry is – most of the businesses, and is the seat of government and power. It is where the cruise ships stop (they must find a better name for these floating ants nests – they are huge) and  where the big hotels are. At round 250,000 people it’s a busy place. And it’s been our home for 4(+) weeks thanks to Bex and Steven who teach at one of the schools here.

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The Bahamas is/are an outcrop of jagged limestone and coral. There’s a dusting of soil and some sandy beaches, but it’s not what you’d call a fertile place. Roots have nowhere to go. Palm tress, for example, are not indigenous. They couldn’t be bothered. As a result it’s a shrubby; low-lying and wiry. Even the mangroves are ‘dwarf’. It’s hot. I don’t mean to brag but I’m both jungle and desert trained – the army took care of that. But, without air conditioning (which both C and I loathe), it’s a hot and humid place – too much and too often for me at my age. And I haven’t mentioned the hurricanes! As we search this land for somewhere to call home, for that reason alone the weather here has drawn a line through The Caribbean as an option.

The Bahamas’ history, and I don’t exaggerate here, is a tale of pirates, smuggling, drug-running, prohibition breaking and easy money. It’s no surprise that being a tax-haven was the next big thing. I’m going to repeat a generations-long Bahamian now, so don’t come after me with knives and sticks. ‘The men here are idle. They do as little as possible for as much as they can get.’ And you get that feeling. Yes, the heat doesn’t help. But the women folk are mostly the industrious gender. There’s no class structure on New Providence. There’s just the uber-wealthy and the poor (and the tourists). Quoting my same source, ‘there is no middle-class’. But I think that’s a simplification. Demographically I would say this island is split vertically and horizontally. There’s a thin, rich crust floating on a sea of poverty and near-poverty. And, down the middle, there’s the women and the men. The women hold nearly all of the aspiring middle-class jobs; positions that require an education. Shop assistants, cashiers, clerks. The men, less so.

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And with that comes gang culture and violence. There’s lots of it here. Again, a crust of affluence exists around the northern side of the island – where there are estates and hotels and gated communities and tourism. Then there’s the centre, which is much more run down. Look closely and you’ll find ghettos, desolation and furtive men driving muscle cars.

OK, so most of the politicians are men – and the latest prime minister is apparently a good one, trying hard to put The Bahamas straight. But corruption is rife. Whilst we’ve been here the latest scandal is top politicians not paying their electricity bills (one to the tune of $60k).

Half the problem is that there is no income tax. The government has recently introduced VAT, but other than that I don’t get where its revenue comes from. Tourism is the biggest earner by far, and every day on the local radio there’s a plea for all the locals to be smart and happy and welcoming and smiling. To make people like me feel welcome. But, it’s not exclusively so. Most of the girls behind the tills are dour and uninterested. Few smile, and less still engage. If they tried that in the UK, many would be sacked. I don’t feel particularly welcome, except when they’re taken $70 from me for one activity or another. Everything costs at least $70 here. Come armed with a credit card.

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Having said all of that, when you get to a beach and have acclimatised for the sun, the vistas can be extraordinary. The water is completely clear – and it is, as our friends the Randalls, say a screenshot view every time you turn the corner. Yes – absoluetly. Especially away from New Providence. We did a day trip to a local cay – the one with the sharks and rays? And it was idyllic. Perfect. But, if snorkelling is your bag the fish and the reef are good here. But they’re not great. We’ve snorkelled in The Gulf of Aqaba – and there the reef and coral is a rainbow of colour (here, just brown and sand). There, the fish are straight from an aquarium – fish of every shape and colour. Here, the four or five species are beautiful, but nor plentiful.

So why come? We wouldn’t again. Cuba would be our next choice – you get the same Caribbean island feel with so much more history. And that’s on our list. If we wanted the sun, sand, sea – and the beaches, which is not really just our bag, I guess we’d try The Maldives next – or somewhere else in The Indian Ocean. Yes, it has been a fabulous break and we wouldn’t have missed a moment of it. But we probably won’t come again.

Oh, and how’s books? I’m 80/120k into Book 4 and loving it. Sales have been OK and the marketing is keeping me busy. I’m meeting Frank, my director friend, next Thursday to discuss Unsuspecting Hero screenplay – and I’m trying very had not to get excited by that.