Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Calais 1988

Calais, France 1988

So, MY Calais happened some time after I first left Great Britain- In 1987 Jan and I escaped by taking a quiet route out of England because I was on probation and not technically allowed to leave the country. We found the smallest ferry service available and escaped through Plymouth to Roscoff. However, one year into our travelling escapade we parted company and ended up doing Europe in our own way.

After muchness, I was broke and hungry and on my way back home to get my teeth fixed (those who read my books will know what I mean). I ended up in Calais without the money to cross the Channel and that is where I met Leigh- a skinhead from London, who should not normally have been my friend but was. We hung around with different dudes for a few days getting drunk, and all the while I was thinking of a way to sneak onto a truck to get back to England to get my teeth fixed.

Meanwhile Leigh taught me a fantastic way to make money and get back home legally. So good was the plan I decided to spend nearly a month in Calais, earning more money than I had ever earned in my life doing nothing but being honest.

The scam was to approach all the tourists going back to England on the ferries and blag them for their spare change. Upon their return they could change all their notes back to English money, but their coins were not refundable and wasted, so unless they were planning on coming back anytime soon, they had no reason not to give us what they had left.

Because of human loveliness, it got to a point where we would be making two hundred- three hundred pounds a day (250-400 euros) and going to the kiosks that changed your money in the port got embarrassing. It came to a head when the guys working in the change kiosks complained about me and Leigh and the three other people that were doing the scam, purely because they were jealous about all the money we were making. Once we realised their negative vibes, going there armed with kilos of spare change to count and give us back in notes became too hostile.

The Gendarmerie did a massive clamp down and for a few weeks they deported, beat up and sent home anyone they deemed a traveller and not a tourist- game over.
They sent Leigh back to Dover, he hopped on the next ferry back, and most of the other travellers, who weren’t even in on the scam got sent back to England, too.- they didn’t catch me. I bought a first class ticket and went to spend all my dosh on beer and friends back in my hometown, while I waited for new dentures.

When I returned a month later with new teeth, on yet another lorry, sneaked on by a friendly driver, who was sympathetic to my search for another life outside of Thatcher’s Britain, there were at least a hundred people pulling our scam. I tried to make money but the vibe had gone, people were paranoid, the police were beating people and deporting them. At that time many lorry drivers were wielding their right to have another passenger in their vehicle free of charge, it was part of the contract for most of them so that spouses and family members could accompany them from time to time. They spurred on young people like me who were finding their place in the world and were actually really sympathetic and helpful. On many occasions a free meal would be thrown in, which again I presume could be written down on their expenses claim. Travelling was still romantic in those days and even revered by many. I wonder if I could get a free ride home from a lorry driver in Calais today? The ridiculousness in the previous sentence shows the gravity of the situation.

What is Calais today? My Goodness! How things change- Well they successfully cleared out all the hippies, only to have them replaced by a situation which is much worse and the people have a much more valid reason to be there. Our society has spent so much time discriminating against minorities it has created a vacuum, called terrorism. Anti government used to mean trashing a few public toilets or defacing a statue, now it is savage dismemberment and beheadings.

If society wants to reduce the number of terrorists in the world, it has to start treating its citizens with respect and gain their trust again. We are all feeling robbed and abused in the current climate, and living in Portugal that feeling is being magnified with every day that passes and every fine and every euro they are stealing from us all. Hi-jacking our bank accounts, taking our money and telling us we can only have it back if we can find our receipts of payment from five years ago is but one example of the abuse Portuguese residents are suffering. Auctioning off our homes when we owe two thousand euros to the Social Security, a service you have to pay for, but which is almost non-existent.

This kind of abuse has lead to an overall lack of faith in our world leaders and politicians and is giving some people the justification they need to commit heinous anti-establishment crimes against humanity. No quick fix here, but I would suggest trying to create a society that people want to be part of and stop alienating so many good hard-working people.

Gerald Freeman

Friday, June 26, 2015

Do You Have The Time To Become You?

How Did I Become Me?

I wandered around the world until I was thirty-three before I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. Globe-trotting and learning about different cultures fed my thirst for adventure for many years, and I always had one eye open for what it was I would become. However, there came a point when I was beginning to feel a little frustrated and tired of living such a selfish life. I thought it would be too easy just to travel forever, and so the desire to contribute to the world in some way gradually began to devour my wanderlust.

Coincidentally, I met a woman on a beach in Portugal after I had just returned from my latest stint in East Africa and was actually at a loss for the first time in years as to where to go next. I moved into her summer house and then she invited me to come and live with her after the holidays ended. She basically brought me in off the street and then began my reintroduction into society. I thought I would finally work out what I was going to do with all the time I had left on this planet. Not so- it still took a long-winded, stormy relationship and four more years before I stumbled upon a sculptor at a local market and knew instantly that sculpture was to be my life.

I signed up for a one year course in the Sociedade Nationale Das Belas Artes in Lisbon and I also enrolled in an international sculpture apprenticeship. From here, my life changed drastically. I had always been known as the party man- Ger don’t care, but I’d found something more important than my anger and my idealistic excuses to get wasted every day, all day. In fact I soon realised I could not do sculpture the morning after partying: I actually needed a clear head. For many who know me the idea of a clear head was absurd.

For the first eight years of my artistic development I refused to do exhibitions because I knew I was still learning and making mistakes, perfecting and experimenting. I wanted to wait until I was producing pieces which were well crafted. Then I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Facing death and at the same time on the verge of getting married to the first person I had ever met in my life, who I truly believed loved me, and without drugs to depend on anymore, I temporarily drowned. I wandered around my town in a daze for a few hours after hearing the news from the hospital.

Luckily, my iron shirt was not far away and I approached the planned six month treatment, for which there was an 80% success rate, positively- I’d contracted the best Hep C possible- Genotype 3A, the most curable. They could even trace back the strain to the country of origin and almost refused to treat me because I had obviously contracted it years before in another country. Hepatitis C is only blood transmitted and was not discovered until 1989, until that time best practice in most dentists’ and doctors’ surgeries did not protect people from the virus, tattooists’ parlours and many other places either.

Everyone has the right to be tested for the virus, but it is not encouraged because there are too many of us and governments are worried about the cost. If you are over twenty-six, you should go to the doctor and demand a check up. This killer virus often shows no symptoms, while at the same time it slowly destroys your liver. By the time you feel signs of something being wrong, it is often too late to reverse the damage done. If you need help or assistance this British based foundation is the best place in the world for advice and support.

It was during this fuzzy haze of a six month period, which actually lasted two years that I began to write up all the thoughts I had written down over the years. Although, I absolutely do NOT believe that everything happens for a reason, I know that stepping stones lead somewhere. I found a wonderful quote the other day by Nora Roberts, “If you don’t go after what you want, you will never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”

I could not sculpt during my illness, I could barely leave the house because the injections and pills I was taking were so strong. For once, I was glad of my cursed second passion- writing. Wow, I suddenly realized I could still be productive in my dark hole, tapping away at the computer. I wrote three books over and over and when I reached the light at the end of the tunnel, I did not feel like the illness had stolen much of my life- incidentally, I beat the virus. And that is how my path led me into the writing world and that is how I became ME.

I honestly believe in following your heart and being as idealistic as possible in Life- Do not constrain yourself to deadlines and time-frames, enjoy the ride as well as the destination and you will look back on your life with satisfaction and pride, instead of regrets and hankering after what could have been.

Gerald Freeman

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Positivity Is Strength And Power!

STAY FREE- Age does not equate to succombing to the system, which is designed to keep you down. I am 50 AND more hardcore than most, and a better dancer Lol.
My book is about living outside of the system AND more importantly, "Do not let age strip you of your youth."
 Do not let the system become you- Acceptance is weakness- positivity is strength and power! I am determined to die with a smile :)

My memoirs are looking for like minded people who love having fun!!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Total Feeling Of Inadequacy :(

Oh my God,
for years I have thought that my dog's bad breath was comin from her tummy- I rationalised that she had lived on the street eating crap for years before we found her, and that was why she stank.
Just discovered today that her teeth are falling out and she obviously has a gum disease- I am a loving caring father to my dogs and I feel so shamed and useless for not having spotted it years ago...SHIT.
Not going to end this post negatively- no one's fault...will take her to the vet's on Monday.
Sorry Nina X

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Teaching WOW Factor.

I have to say that this is fast becoming a teaching experience blog, but to be honest that is what is going on right now. An accumulation of one year's work put to the test, crucial for some. Do you realise that many Portuguese people have to use English text books to do their university degrees and read and take notes in a foreign language? They have to do an English test to get into a university in their own country! I train these people and see so many underachieve just because of the language problem.
To put this into context- Americans, can you imagine having to learn Dutch in order to be accepted on a certain degree course? English, can you imagine having to do a French test in order to go to Uni?

This is a message I sent to a friend tonight after a class of 16- 19 year olds-

Hey dude,
 hope all is busy..a teacher and end of year tests etc..pretty cool but busy, man if u knew what an amazin time I had today listening to my 16 year old students discussing whether terrorists will go to heaven, would you kill your father to save the world?, would you prefer to be happy and ignorant, or in pain and real? gosh- so inspiring, they r such good people- of course all terrorists go to heaven, and of course i would kill my father because if I didn't he would never look at me as his daughter again- Wow!!

I want to Live, Learn and Question , and Create, and Love, and.... for the rest of my Life!
PS- Yes, Life always deserves a capital letter, no matter where it appears in a sentence.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Eva and Portugal: Vegobiffar från "ALNATURA" i Tyskland

The latest cooking post from Eva in Portugal- Keep an eye on this blog if you like vegetarian cooking. Eva creates lots of unique and new recipes. It is in both Swedish and English.

Eva and Portugal: Vegobiffar från "ALNATURA" i Tyskland: I går gjorde jag det enkelt för mig. Det var väldigt varmt och helt   vindstilla. Sommaren har kommit på riktigt till Portugal, efter e...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Life should be more Benjamin Button.

Teaching Gets Testing –
Life should be more Benjamin Button.

It’s the time of year that students and teachers alike dread doing the end of year assessments and reports. And as per usual it has left me exhausted and my students stripped of their mental agility, all of us ready to collapse into holiday mode just as soon as the last bell has rung. Then suddenly there was a surprise twist to my end of term meltdown and I find myself revitalised and ready to enjoy my vacation, instead of using it as a period of recuperation.

I recently began teaching business English to company professionals and discovered they were totally inspired and even eager to do their evaluation tests-such a contrast to kids, who spend the whole year doing tests and cannot help but be fed up with them.

Continual assessment has its merits, but I feel testing has become so common place that no one bothers revising anymore and they never have long enough to practice the new information and retain it before they are tested on what they can remember.
Such a joy, however, to be doing constructive evaluations with a group of adults who are as nervous as teenagers about their results and enjoying the feeling of being back at school after so many years.

Life is back to front. We spend the first twenty years of our lives working hard and studying, when all we want to do is play. Then we spend our adulthood honing our skills and interests, only to be told when we are old and experienced that we have passed our sell-by date- all that knowledge essentially goes to waste.

We would be better off as Benjamin Buttons, exams would never be a waste of time, no one would be forced to learn, most would begin life gluttonously absorbing as much knowledge as possible. By the time we regressed to fifty years of age, we would still have years ahead of us before being unborn, to go out in the world and put to use and share all that we had learned on the way down- a case of winding up and not down towards the end of our time on the planet, while paradoxically it would be the biological opposite.

Ten year old children walk into my school with backpacks bigger than them and loaded down like mules with books. This is after a long day at school and with plenty of homework still to do. Kids are stressed, we are teaching them that life is going to be one long hard slog, there is little inspiration, it is only creating mass depression, or rather a mass lull on vitality, which in turn will produce subdued versions of every person on the planet.

Society is banning creativity and free thinking and stripping the human race of its identity, hoping to eventually turn us all into machines- and they still say The Matrix was just a film!

Gerald Freeman

I have a 1% chance of dying in the next 5 years.

Check out this trending questionaire- for fun, of course.
But you must be honest

Friday, June 5, 2015

Inspiration and admiration struck at the same time.

I am a teacher, not a real one, just a part time language advisor. But at times I experience the gem moments my wife talks about- she was a teacher for forty years, full time.
In Portugal a child can ride a motorbike at 14...
Applying for a Licence
Basic driving practice can begin at 16 years of age (or 14 years of age for category AM) if certain criteria are met. These are:
  • Written consent from parent or guardian
  • Must not have a police prohibition order (resulting from joyriding or illegal driving)
  • Must have the necessary physical, mental and psychological aptitude
  • Must have residency in Portugal for at least 185 days of the year
  • Must be able to read and write
  • Must be enrolled at a government-licensed driving centre

One of my students got his DT50 motorbike three weeks ago, lovely kid- don't worry he didn't die. But he had his first accident and broke all his toes and crushed his ankle in a collision with a car. Obviously not his fault as the driver visited him in hospital and is paying all the fees, no police involved- it was both their faults... He will be in plaster for 2 months and then physio for six.
What do you say when a kid turns up at your class all messed up? The usual supportive stuff, a great deal of lies in order to comfort and reassure him. However, what he said to me bowled me over and made me so, so, so proud to know that strength of character knows no age.
"So you're going to have to find some other way of letting off your steam," I said to him.
"Gerry, if I can't skate anymore, I'll learn the guitar, or Chinese." He is a professional skateboarder, parcour player- paying sponsors all that...
My head reeled to hear this young boy come back with such a perfect and positive approach to his situation. I couldn't help but tell him that he was such a great guy and that an attitude like that will carry him through life- so easily he could have sulked and been depressed. I felt I had to tell him he was allowed to have down days, but that I was in awe of his attitude at such a young age- He made me stronger today X