Saturday, 15 June 2019

Hitch-hiking robots

As this column gets penned a few weeks before it goes to print, when it should be read in summer, it is still mid-winter here in France. Now this might make me sound like Mr Moanalot but, apart from one brief sunny spell a few weeks ago, the weather seems to have deteriorated so much that we are seriously planning on permanently moving to Spain. In fact, we are shortly due to head North for a month on the road, leaving our cats and sheep to shiver, while we seek some warmth in Scotland. Firstly we are expected at a wedding in St Andrews, one with French connections and hence have our seaside holiday houses will be full of ex-pats for a week. I am sure much frivolity will ensue as we attempt to play golf and drink the town dry. From there we head the compass across the country, donning our sou-westers as we settle in for a week's exploring on Scotland rugged but beautiful west coast, along with a few million midges. Yes I am aware it is probably the worst time to be there, along with all the other English touring numpties, but we have our reasons.
From there we continue following the setting sun, hopping over the sea to the Emerald Isle in time for a spot of golf. Last year was the first time we had been at the British Open but we enjoyed Carnoustie so much that we have opted for another go, this time in the scenic village of Portrush on Ireland's most northern tip. A few days here watching the world's best professionals and catching up with friends before we continue on over the border to Ireland's west coast. A slow trek down through Donegal, stopping in Co Mayo, a place where I holidayed in my childhood, will eventually find us further south in time for one of Europe's biggest events, the Galway races. We have made a number of friends in this district over the years, many of whom have partied at our house in France, so this is payback time. I am not a big gambler but I will put the first tenner on the fact that it will be pouring down all week and the second on the odds of me not winning anything else. But one thing I will bet on, to quote the Blarney, 'we will have some mighty craic!'
This is of course assuming our auld campervan will make the distance, or else it will be Wendy and I and two bedraggled dogs thumbing it for a few thousand miles. The thought of this does fill me with some dread as, and I know this may be old hat to some, but it will soon be the 4th anniversary of the death of Hitchbot. For those of you who are unenlightened to this cheery chap, 'he' was a peaceful robot that was designed and built to hitch-hike its way around the world. All started quite well in 2014 when it managed to make the trip from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, almost the entire width of Canada, in just 26 days with the help of friendly strangers who found-out his whereabouts from social media and gave him a lift. Not content with this, Hitchbot then made it across Germany and the Netherlands, armed only with a limited vocabulary and a 'bucket list' of places he wished to go. And so it was, on his next adventure across USA that on the fateful day of August 1st, just 14 days into his trip, the poor fellow was beaten up and decapitated on the streets of Philadelphia. Since then, there have been any number of conspiracy theories as to the instigators of his demise including aliens, Donald Trump and suicide, despite his attackers - a couple of local teenagers - being caught red-handed on security camera!  
I also don’t relish the thought of hitching or even walking at all just now as I have, once again, broken a toe. Not sure quite when the clumsy gene reared its sore head in my life but that will be three Junes out of the last four that I have been laid up resting my feet on high for a week or two. At least in previous years I have had the chance to sit in the sun with my tootsies in the swimming pool. Ooo, there I go again, complaining about the weather. I will admit that sitting around and resting isn’t great for my advancing physique, something that was endorsed when I cleared out the mezzanine last week and found my cross-trainer all seized with rust. But then I never really did see the sense in all this exercise for the sake of it. When I want to get fit I go and build a shed, or lay some concrete, not sit around whiling away the miles going absolutely nowhere. Did you know that the treadmill was originally designed as a form of torture in Brixton prison in 1818? Quoting from the internet, one prisoner said about the machine, "I have worked for months on the wheel. I was quite well on coming in. I have now a great pain in the back part of my legs, my loins, and my left side. I get weaker every day. I can hardly stand upright!"
I rest my case. Bottoms up!

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