Saturday, April 30, 2005

Too hot to handle

Lots to do today.

I take Max for his training this morning whilst Jan finishes lots of reorganising in the kitchen. We are invited for a barbecue to Nella and Andrew. We arrive at 12.30 pm. They have a great place in the heart of the countryside with 7 horses, 4 dogs and a pig. The afternoon passes in a blur of bbq food and lots of local wine. Dan, an English neighbour arrives at about 4.00 pm and stays the course. A great deal of rubbish is discussed and we work hard at helping the local economy. We arrive home at 7.00 pm. What a lovely afternoon. I wish I could remember one tenth of what was discussed!

We're getting to the time of the year when it is too hot to work in the garden after 11.00 am. Yippee! However, if there are jobs to be done then that means a very early start. Yuk. We really need to switch Max's walk from late afternoon to early morning. Jan thinks that I should do it! Hmmm, need to think about that one.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Pay attention, you'll be tested

We started the day yesterday by again trying to eliminate the satellite receiver as the problem in our ongoing TV fiasco. I took the box to a friend and neighbour to try it out on his system. The box failed to work (no signal, no nothing), so now I think I know where the problem lies. On returning home, I set up the box so that when the New TV Repair Man shows this afternoon, he can see the system in non-action. Well blow me down, but it starts to work again. Arrrrrrgh!

If you're getting bored, then I understand, so skip the next paragraph.

Third TV Repair Man showed up, and after a full briefing from me, started to dismantle the existing set up. He does a really thorough job, rewiring, checking and rechecking everything. Voila, we have English TV! During the course of the afternoon, I have to suffer lots of low grade, daytime TV, as we check pictures, coming and going all over the house, but there was one item worth mentioning.

It was a book programme, and the celebrity chef, not known for her wit, was talking about the meals ordered by prisoners on the night before their execution. She made the comment, that despite expectations, not all meals conformed exactly to what was actually ordered.

The panel leant forward not knowing what to expect, and then she uttered the immortal words, - "just when you thought that life couldn't get any worse!"

The pool hits 25C this afternoon and Jan has the first swim of the year. I need it a tad warmer, more like 28C and then I'll venture in.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Vive la television Francaise

OK, so I got it wrong.

I slagged it off the other day but maybe it's not so bad after all. French TV that is! The satellite signal is up the swanny again, so I have a new call out for someone to take a look. My local man is on holiday and doesn't return for a couple of weeks, so I contacted a web based organisation and talked through the problem with them. The finger gets pointed at the dish again (just after it ran away with the spoon - sorry, I couldn't resist it!!).

The urgent matters are twofold. First, there was an important Champions League match being played last night, the semi final between Chelsea and Liverpool, and I really wanted to watch it. Secondly, the UK election takes place next week and we both want to stay abreast of events.

Guess how I could watch the match? Guess who showed the whole match live? Why good old French terrestrial TV, TF1, French TV at its best!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Poppies and paddy fields

Yippee, it's another Ikea day.

This means a 6 hour (3 hours driving, 3 hours shopping) round trip to Marseille. When they open the new one in Montpellier, that will reduce the trip to about 3 hours, but surely by then we will have bought everything that we need? Please!

The journey is not the most interesting, because you cross the Rhone delta, which is mostly flat and dull. However, I noted two things this time that softened the pain somewhat and cheered the soul. The first was the paddy fields. It may not be too well known, but there is quite a lot of rice grown in this area, so you occasionally see fields flooded with water and strange tractors working up to their axles. Coolies would have added an authentic touch, but they were nowhere to be seen. And secondly, poppies, making beautiful red carpets at the side of the road and, even more profusely, along the central reservation.

As usual we buy far more than we set out to purchase, but as I've said before, Mr Ikea isn't the wealthiest man in Europe for no reason.

Spam fascinates me. Take one from today.

The subject line states: New impressive rawlex repliccas now campground

The first part of the message says:
Now presenting:You know you've allways wanted it - watchees: elegent, fancy, impressive repliccas! You can impress you're lady/man with roleex, carttier, braitling, bulgari and much more...The bast brand s in the world! Just naame it - We got it :)

Selected other bits (with links):
i want rawlex now
i lust for carttier
braitling please

Now we all know that they misspell brand names in order to fool spam filters, but have any of these dimwits ever stopped to consider that there aren't many people stupid enough to buy a watch from someone who can't even spell it correctly. Or are there??

I can just see the spam of the future going something like this:

Subject line: ;wo4it aslciew7 nbgyl NDIWOQP
Message: vbjssyehn lllonmndhghsj nbsgteyeuj, buy won todaaay%

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

And the next conversation goes like this

The next conversation goes like this:

"Hi mum, the ticket is booked, would you like to write down the flight details?"
"I was talking to a man at Church and I told him that I would have to fly from Liverpool. He thought that that was ridiculous."
"Did he happen to mention which airport would be better?"
"Well he told me that they are expanding at Leeds."
" Expanding what? The runway could take years, there are no extra flights, but I suppose they could be expanding their waistlines."

Yes, I'm starting to lose it.

"Alex, he's a very intelligent man. He used to be a lawyer"
"Well that qualifies him to know all about flight timetables. And I suppose that means he always tells the truth? Does he have any experience of flying to Nimes?"
"No, I don't think so."
"Well what does he suggest we do then?"
"He said to keep an eye on Leeds, because they are expanding."
"Are you both suggesting that I am deliberately making you travel by a more inconvenient route?"
"Are you, or my learned friend, suggesting that there is an easier, cheaper or more convenient way of getting to Nimes?"
"So you will be happy, 'if I keep an eye on Leeds'?"
"Mum, would you like to write down your flight details?"

This one is going to run. I just know it.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Al Jolson is alive, and well, and working in Redmond

Regular readers will by now have realised that I am prone to flights of fantasy. This is, however, a true story.

I was recently typing, in MS Word, and the sentence that I wrote went as follows, "the rest of me is pretty broad as well." Not too much wrong with that I thought, but not so, the grammar checker automatically underlined the word "is".

I right clicked the offending word and they suggested that I change "is" to "am". So here it is, "the rest of me am pretty broad as well". That should keep some twit at Microsoft happy.

But then I thought that maybe I should change the "the" to "de", blacken up my face and do an Al Jolson impression! - "de rest of me am pretty broad as well .........mammy". But that would be stupid, wouldn't it?

After two days of rain, (we need it, so I'm not complaining), we have a beautiful clear blue sky this morning, so full of bonhomie, I call my mother. The conversation goes like this:

"Hi mom, would you like to come over for your birthday and stay for a few weeks?"
"Alex, I'm not feeling too well at the moment, could we delay the decision for a couple of weeks?"
"Yes mum, but it's not too far away now and the fare is already up to £80, and I don't really want to pay more."
"Well do I have to fly from Liverpool again?"
"Yes mum, it's the nearest airport and the taxi will take you door to door."
"Can't I fly from Manchester?"
"Mum, I've told you before that Manchester is marginally closer but, more importantly, there are no flights from Manchester."
"But the taxi is so expensive."
"Mum, it is no more expensive than any where else, like Luton or Stansted, and those airports also involve an overnight stay. This is the easiest, cheapest and safest option for you."
"Look mum (imagine the tone heating up) if you don't want to come, that's OK with us, but I thought that you would enjoy a bit of sunshine for a few weeks. It would make you feel better."
"Well yes that's true, I'd like that."
"So what do you think then?"
"Look I'll leave it up to you. You book it if you want."

For the sake of balance, my mother is 81 years old and I love her to bits. I always feel so proud of her when I see her walking from baggage reclaim into the arrivals hall. She adores Jan and Max, and she always makes herself busy around the house and even digs the garden. The tales she tells of growing up in wartime Italy are endlessly fascinating and I can't wait to see her again.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Medieval markets and the last of the Popes.

Last night we had a visitation from Nicki and Graham. I say visitation because we had some very funny, irreverant, quasi religious conversations, all involved with the new ministry that I will be starting in the not too distant future. They actually just came for dinner, but the conversation went off into flights of fantasy, which were frankly hilarious (and such a serious subject too), but lots of things became clearer to me. A large amount of the evening was spent "helping the local economy".

Today, therefore, is a quiet day because of all the effort we put into "helping the local economy" last night. Jan cooks a big fry up for breakfast, which really hits the spot. It is raining and Max is not well, so we all settle down to a well earned day of rest in front of the TV. This is a pity, because it's the "Fete Medievale" in Sommieres, our favourite little market town. One weekend a year, the shopkeepers dress up in medieval costume. There are lots of shops that offer tastings of their produce, street entertainers, music, the list is endless. If you want to know more, look here. Definitely worth a visit.

Watching the news, I was really surprised to see a Pope walking unaided. It made me realise how used I had become to seeing a very frail old man, dressed in papal robes, being carried everywhere and needing assistance at every turn.

The news also mentioned that the new Pope had now moved into the previous Pope's apartment, which, as some wag pointed out, is not the first time that a German had moved quickly into Polish territory!

(That's enough about Popes - Ed).

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Enough monkeys and enough typewriters

I regularly read .

If you need to know anything about computers, have a problem to solve, or a question to ask, this is the place to be, so my thanks to Jon, one of the administrators of the site, for this very valuable, and very funny, piece of information.

Today is St George's day, the patron saint of England. The myth surrounding his bravery and the slaying of the dragon, is all good stuff, if you are into that sort of thing. Listening to the BBC News this morning, I noted a comment from a Scottish gentleman, who claimed quite vehemently that the story about St George killing the dragon was all bunkum. Despite the perceived wisdom, he claimed that the dragon is still alive and well, and had been living with him, as his wife, for the last 30 years.

Friday, April 22, 2005

A trip to the vet and helping the local economy

Last night, Nimes Olympique, our nearest football team, played Sochaux in the quarter finals of the French Cup. This is real David and Goliath stuff, because Nimes play in the French Third Division and Sochaux in the French First Division. In fact, Sochaux made it to the latter stages of the Champions League last year, so they are quite some team. The match was televised live, on TF1, at 5.00 pm (to a full stadium, but that's another story) and very exciting it was too. It was a thrilling match played at great speed and from end to end. Nimes scored the winner in extra time. They might be worth going to watch next season. (That's enough football - Ed.)

Today we take Max for his annual vaccinations.

He dislikes the car, so it is quite a comical struggle to get him into the boot. When we get there, the first thing we do is weigh him, because some of his ongoing treatment is weight related. Getting him to sit still, on the scales, with all the other animals around, is not easy. Because he fidgets so much, the scale reading flickers between 38 and 42 kilos, so we settle at 40 kilos ( 88 pounds). A lap dog he is not!

Reading this article, makes me realise that we are not doing enough to support our local industry. Although, at times, that would be very hard to believe.

After much replanting and the introduction of modern techniques, this area now produces some very, very nice wines, at reasonable prices. The sun is well down over the yard arm now, so I'm off to help the local economy.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

There's nothing wrong with being lucky

Asparagus has just come into season and it is grown locally. We love the stuff, and so nip down to a producer in the village. He is selling big fat fingers, cut fresh this morning, for 4 euros per kilo, as opposed to the supermarkets where it is sold for 6 euros a kilo. We buy a couple of kilos, which will make quite a few meals and lots of soup. Yummy. I hope that we don't get tired of it too soon!

Rob called last night and confirmed that he is coming out, with a group of 5 women, in a couple of weeks time. As usual, Rob leaves everything until the last minute, and so rang off to book his flight. At this late stage, I fully expect that the cost of the flight will be prohibitive and that he will ring back and renege.

He calls a little later and confirms that he has booked a flight with Ryanair for under a pound each way - lucky or what? The total cost, with all the so called taxes, comes to £35. It will also cost him an additional £70 in petrol and car parking charges, double his return fare from London to the South of France. Just crazy, but reminds me of this.......

Napoleon was once asked whether he preferred courageous generals or clever generals. "Neither", he replied; "I prefer lucky generals every time".

I have known Rob for about 15 years. He was my tennis coaching partner after I moved from a 25 year career in consumer finance into the glamorous world of tennis coaching. I believed that he was the best tennis coach in Berkshire and I needed to learn how to teach tennis. I suggested a partnership using my business skills and his tennis skills. It worked well and we had lots of laughs, lots of luck and a lot of success along the way. We were a very good team.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pomp and circumstance

I'm not really sure that they made the right decision.

I was brought up as a Catholic, and was taught variously by nuns, and later by priests in a Jesuit College, in Leeds. It explains why I have a passing interest in what happens in the Catholic Church. For various reasons, I no longer practice, but if you read this article, article and you feel that this church should move forward, and start to relate better to its many followers, who in Europe are deserting it in droves, then Benedict 16th is not your man.

If you don't give a shit, then I sympathise with your views as well.

On a slightly lighter note, if they had offered me the position, then I would have taken the title Pompous 1st and Jan would have been known as The Pompette. Max, our beloved pooch, would be responsible for dogma, and my cardinals would all be known as Pomposities.

I'm currently writing a theological paper, and, when I get my mission up and running, I will publish details here. All I will say at this stage, is that if you want to join, it will cost you, because I like fast cars and even faster women.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Rewards are made in heaven

Being a good person, I spend a few hours this morning helping a friend with her computer. Imagine my delight, on my return, to find that the electrician, who I have been waiting to hear from for about a month, calls to say that he is coming today. Being a nice person really does bring its own rewards.

Next good deed of the day is to take Jill, Harry and Ron back to the airport. I'm starting to feel a call from Rome coming on. It doesn't have to be a Cardinal you know. Look at Mother Theresa, she was always doing good deeds and eventually got mentioned in dispatches.

Bum - I've just heard that someone's got the job. Ah well, I'll try for the next one, and step up my good works in the meantime.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Even spammers need a weekend off

I have a funny feeling. Despite all my protestations, I'd sort of got used to not having English television, and now that we have it again, I'm starting to find it a bit intrusive. As the great philosopher once said, "that's weird".

I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed this, but I seem to receive a lot less spam at weekends. I don't get that much during the week, on average about 20 per day and I have message rules set up for those that are not captured by my spam filter, Spam Inspector from . This all works quite well. However on Saturday I only received 2 and today Sunday only 6. This means that spammers must take the weekend off. So despite being a plague on society, they get tired just like us, and maybe they are warm cuddly people after all. What do you think?

Is it a coincidence that since we moved to this village of 300 souls, 2 out of the 4 permanent English families are moving away?

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Houston - we have TV

Freddy, the TV man from Gitem in Anduze, calls. Can he come today instead of next Tuesday? I can hardly get the words out fast enough. Within 20 minutes he arrives, I explain the problem, it's raining, but he still shins up a ladder and sticks his nose above the roof.

"I know what it is", he says, and slides down the ladder. I look baffled (but then I usually do!), I said, "how can you tell with such a cursory glance?" What I actually said was "how do you know?", because 'cursory glance' is French lesson 49, and I'm still on lesson 6. He patted the side of his nose.

It turns out that he could see that the LNB, the bit on the end of the arm in the middle of the satellite dish, is broken, and within 20 minutes, he has replaced it. I call Houston and tell them to stop worrying, our problems are solved!

I saw this today and just loved it - The world needs lots more people like this.

We try a new restaurant tonight, Le Fourneaux de Clelia in Aigremont. It's right in the middle of this small village, and you would never find it unless told about it. A friend recommended it. The dining room was attractive and they also had a big terrace which will be pleasant in summer. They have one 29 euros menu with a choice from three for each course. I could have chosen any of the courses, they sounded so good. Being hyper critical, the food promised a little more than it delivered, but I would still recommend it. The wine list was comprehensive, with a good selection of reasonably priced local wines. We will definitely go back.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A public apology

I think I might have overdone it a bit.

Someone, (ie Bob) takes offence at the thought of me showering, en plein air. He sends an email and makes the comment," I hope the shower does not face any inhabited areas... Like France". A bit harsh, but I've got broad shoulders. Unfortunately, the rest of me is pretty broad as well - so I suppose that's what he's talking about. I must therefore apologise unreservedly to anyone of a nervous disposition, or to anyone who was having breakfast at the time that they read yesterday's post. (That's enough about showers - Ed.)

The predicted rain hits this morning so the garden is out of bounds. Max comes in from the garden, not only wet and smelly, but also with some mysterious looking white stuff in patches around his front legs and face. It looks like either paint or mastic. But where has he got it from? I search the garage and garden and can't find anything. Another of life's great mysteries.

Off for my "new" hobby of eating and drinking. We meet Jill and Harry, and we eat at a busy little restaurant in Anduze. I'd heard about this place before. The 8.60 euros four course menu is astounding value.
1. Charcuterie, a bowl of pate (help yourself) and salad
2. Omelette
3. Meat and frites
4. Cheese or desert
In terms of finesse, non of the chefs in France will lose any sleep, but it's good honest food and the place is packed. A good place for the new hobby!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Showers 'en plein air' and back to the soil

I spend part of the morning fitting a soap tray and towel hook near to the outside shower. I know it's weird, but I must admit that I enjoyed showering outside last summer. It's the exhibitionist in me, or something, and it's the same kind of feeling as swimming in the buff. It just feels good.

We also replant most of the tomatoes that had "fallen over" whilst we were in Spain. We have now concreted them in and they ain't going nowhere! The cherry toms last year were quite a sensation. They had the most exquisite taste. We are also experimenting with watermelon. Look, I know that they are cheap to buy, but the tomatoes were exceptional and we've never grown baby cucmbers, peppers, melons, grapes, apricots, plums, kaki and chillies before. It's a back to nature, horticultural kind of thing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Ah, now I understand, I think

I bite the bullet today.

Because I'm anticipating leaks, a non functioning pump and what have you, I have delayed turning the pool heating on. I did it today and you know what? worked. As that great philosopher Jeremy Clarkson, once wrote, "by abandoning hope, I've removed the despair", or as that even greater philosopher, me, says, "unhappiness is the difference between expectation and reality". Keep your expectations low and, with luck, reality will ensure your happiness. Does any of this make any sense?

I've given up on the first TV Repair Man. We have no English television for the moment and frankly I'm not missing it too much. I'm taking this opportunity to watch (a little) French television instead. I'm amazed at how much I understand and just as amazed at how much I don't understand, but it's good practice. I tend to watch the news and always, (the English fascination) watch the weather. Evelyne, who usually presents at 19.50 on TF1, speaks clearly and not too fast, and in any case she is nice to look at whatever the weather. The other upside is that we start to watch some of the many DVD's that are sitting with their original cellophane wrapping still intact.

I have a call out to Frederick, from Gitem in Anduze, (heaven knows why I didn't just call him in the first place - well, I do know - I thought that I'd help a young Brit with his business in France) and hopefully Frederick will eliminate the antenna as a problem. He can't make it until next Tuesday, so another week will pass sans TV Anglaise!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Pools, visitors and cheap printers

After the strong winds of the last few days, the pool is full of rubbish and needs cleaning again. That's my job for this morning.

Clean, it looks so inviting that I feel like jumping straight in, but, with a temperature of 11C, not even brass monkeys would survive. I'll get the heating going in the next day or so, so that it will at least be warm for a school reunion planned for May.

Jill and Harry arrive today so it's off to the airport. The Ryanair flight is, as usual, early, so a quick turn round and back home to instal a new printer.

It's difficult to believe how the price of printers has fallen over the last few years. I seem to remember that an HP LaserJet 4 cost me about £1200 in 1993. Jan bought a printer, scanner, copier for about £250 in 2001 and we have just now bought a similar machine for £66.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Wind, skin and more wind

Yesterday we wake to a gloriously sunny but very windy morning. The beach opposite the hotel is on the menu of visits for the day. The wind whips up the sand and blasts your skin. Female beauty adverts call it exfoliating, I call it bloody painful. Several layers of skin later, we grab a quick bite and then head back up the motorway for a very, very windy ride home. I'll miss out the obvious joke, and suffice to say I had to wrestle with the steering wheel to keep the car on the road for a large part of the journey. Not much fun and scary at times.

Jan is very unwell for most of the night, and the strong wind continues to blow for most of today, so excursions into the garden, or anywhere else for that matter, are quite unpleasant. A time for catching up with lots of little indoor jobs.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Fish and Tom Tom

Yesterday was a good day, but I didn't manage to write much because we got back so late. The day started with shopping, Jan's favourite sport. Today was all about shoes and boy, are we in the right town for shoes. Having being pointed in the right direction, the street in question, just off Placa Catalunya, has more shoe shops than you can imagine. We buy shoes.

Lunch is at, what at first glance, looks like a fish shop. You go to the counter, choose your fish and then sit down whilst they cook it for you. Very informal but a great restaurant (sorry didn't pick up a card but can tell you it's on Carrer Commercial quite close to the Thoo), and an enormous meal for 6 comes to about 107 euros. Great value.

Back to the hotel for another ziz before getting a cab for a family cooked meal in another part of town. The driver uses a GPS navigation system to get us to our destination. I've never seen one in action before so I'm fascinated. I speak to him in Italian (I don't speak too much Spanish, except to ask for 2 beers and where's the toilet) but he says that the system is called Tom Tom. He inputs the destination and then, following the map and spoken instructions, he takes us on a circuitous tour of Barcelona. I check, and he states that he has only been taxi driving for one month. I'm sure he didn't tell the machine to take us on the pretty route, but it would be charitable to say that we went a long way round. This man will be very rich, very quickly, as long as he sticks to picking up tourists.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Where's Snowflake?

The main point of this trip is to meet up with some of Jan's children. No 1 son lives with his wife in Barcelona, and No 1 daughter and her husband and child and No 2 son all decide to visit from the UK for a get together. No 3 son can't make it.

We meet at a Catalan restaurant which offers a great 12 euros, three course, lunch time menu. If you know where to go, you can eat really well and really cheaply in Barcelona, and of course we are led by locals.

So where do you take your grandchild for an afternoon out? The answer is the zoo, or as the Spanish pronounce it the Thoo, which is just next door. Barcelona Zoo was home, until recently, to Snowflake, an albino gorilla, who was quite famous and who died a few years ago. I'm not sure what I feel about Thoos. For a start there are 7 adults, at 14 euros each, to accompany one 20 month old child, who gets in free! But that's not the main point. There are the usual array of wild beasts (which reminds me of a girl I used to go out with - but that's another story), but the enclosures don't seem large enough at times and you see quite a lot of repetitive pacing and rocking, which I believe is a sign of boredom and potential mental health problems. But enough about me, and back to the zoo. Or more precisely, back to the hotel for a quick sleep, because tonight is going to be a late one.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Pretty but dangerous journeys

I never fail to get a buzz at seeing Barcelona signed on the motorway near us. It's not too far, about 350 kilometers, and the journey takes about 4 hours at a steady pace. We always enjoy this trip, and as you head to the border, there's nothing nicer than seeing the snow capped Pyrenees on one side, and the sea, in the distance, on the other. Well, it would be, except today is cloudy and misty, and you can't see anything.

One day I'd like to get the train. I imagine it would be an interesting journey. However, trains can be dangerous, and that reminds me of the last time I made a train journey. In the seats opposite, on the other side of the aisle, there was a couple having sex. Everybody just sat and watched and nobody said anything. After about 20 minutes, they finished and then they both sat back and lit up a cigarette. I was really angry, and felt that I should make some comment at their unacceptable behaviour. "Excuse me", I said, "but don't you realise that this is a no smoking compartment?"

I don't know how Jan does it. She always find good hotels at very attractive prices. This one is no exception. Hotel Atenea Mar, , is right on the sea front, not too far from the underground, and has the best breakfast buffet that I have seen in ages. Definitely recommended.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

We're off to sunny Spain

Jan, clearly remorseful about the terrible lunch the other day, and now humbled by last night's feast, serves up bacon and tomato butties for breakfast. I knew some good would come from all this.

But then she shouts at me, because she wants to know what I want packing. In the good old days, I always used to pack for myself, but I've turned into such a scruff now, that Jan insists that she knows what I will be wearing (a good little ruse for all my male friends).

I never tire of the trip down to Barcelona. It's an interesting drive along the coastal plain of Languedoc, but more of all this when I post on our return in a few days time.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Back to the box? and great food

Yippee, the TV repair man is scheduled to arrive at 11.30 am today. Remember, I said scheduled because this is France, and he ain't here til he gets here! He calls at 10.30 am, to say can he meet me near the motorway and give me a box to try, excuse, excuse, excuse. No I say, because the problem's probably with the antenna. He finally arrives at................ go on, guess. Yet again he does not show up. What is it with these people? If you, unlike me, like to waste your time hanging around for someone who says one thing and then does another (when I was young it was called lying) then I will gladly give you this company's name.

But the good news is ...................we are invited to Bob and Lynne's for a "scratch supper". Now, I have no idea what a "scratch supper" means, but I can certainly recommend one to you!

We start with asparagus sitting on pancetta with Parmesan cheese and a poached egg on top. And that was just the starter - yummy! To follow we had gnocchi with a wonderful cheese sauce and for desert a chocolate pudding, soft in the middle with raspberries on the side. What was it she said about scratch supper?

From now on, I want scratch suppers!!

Bob, not to be outdone, serves his favorite red (name withheld because I don't want to start a rush on it) but you can get it from ,an excellent wine company based just 20 minutes from here, and who really know their stuff.

Whenever we have eaten at Bob and Lynne's they always push the boat out, and if you like good food and good wine, I seriously suggest that you get to know them.

On top of all this, we meet Arri their new black Labrador puppy, who is soooooo cute. A wonderful evening!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Weird behaviour

It's really weird, but regular as clockwork, whenever I suggest that we eat out, it is always at about 6.00 pm on a Monday. I promise that when I make the suggestion I never think about the time or the day, but as soon as Jan giggles, I realise what I've done. So, last night, (now that the village restaurant has closed) off we go to our new local, Mas de Roux, in nearby Bragassargues. The restaurant is a very large, very airy room, that despite its size always feels comfortable. There's only one, four course, 20 euros menu. There is a reasonable choice of starters, and the main course is a selection of meats, beef, lamb, veal or pork, which are cooked to order over a wood burning fire. This is then followed by cheese and a selection of gateaux style puddings. The wine list features local wines and is reasonably priced. One thing that I really appreciate is the linen tablecloth and napkins (you can see that we don't get this at home!), so overall, a pleasant and relatively inexpensive evening out.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Where did all the water go?

You just can't tell a man about his pool. For some time now I have been putting what seemed like an inordinate amount of water in the pool. I finally decided that it was leaking, and so stopped filling it, and let it settle to its natural level. The level stopped falling just below the skimmers, so in my mind the leak had to be above that level. Seemed simple enough to me. So I call in my 2 experts, both called Manu. One a Portuguese builder and the other a French plumber. What do they think? They both give me conflicting advice and neither agrees with me that the problem is at the skimmers. I'll need some convincing on this one.

With endless patience I insisted that we remove the covers to the skimmers, and, well blow me down, there's enough evidence to show the truth. So who's a clever boy? It will be fixed tomorrow, when I'll clean the pool and start the heating, and then Jan can start her lengths. Hopefully, she'll do enough for the two of us!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Sleep, books and Happy Birthday

I have always slept very well, however of late, I have a tendency to wake at least once in the night to take a leak. I know that you didn't really want to know that (or as my daughter once said "that's just a bit too much information"), but bear with me. Generally I think that it's an age thing. Sometimes I can get straight back to sleep, sometimes I read until I feel sleepy, and now, for the first time ever, I'm sitting at the computer.

Not earth shattering, and certainly not an unusual event in the great scheme of things, but very different for me. It's 3.34 am and I'm typing.

The book I've just finished, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, was a good read, and highly recommended. It was slightly more enjoyable for me because it's set in Barcelona, and we recognised many of the places and names. At one point, I did get lost with some of the characters, but that was probably just one of my senior moments. My current read, Boris Becker's autobiography, couldn't send me to sleep (but I bet it has for a few people), so here I am.

I can't even go and watch television because the satellite box has just packed up. Despite appealing, man to man, that it would mean I'd have to talk to my wife all weekend or worse still, watch French television, I still couldn't get a quick fix out of Mr TV Repair Man. I definitely need to improve my pleading skills!

Ouch, my typing finger is starting to get sore and I'm starting to feel sleepy. At least this worked, I'm going back to bed!

Is it any wonder I get up late? This afternoon I set off to borrow a satellite box, that Chris has kindly offered, so that I can start to eliminate some of the possible causes of my TV problems. Bum, still no signal. It's starting to look like the problem may be with the antenna. We shall see.

It's my number 1 son's birthday today. Happy birthday.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


The Pope died this evening. Now I'm not at all a religious person, (despite having being brought up as a good Catholic boy) but whatever ones religious beliefs, I think that that he was a good man, doing what he tried to do, in a humble way. I certainly do not agree with everything he said or did and of course he could have done more, but he followed his beliefs, presumably to the best of his ability, and I feel a sense of sadness.

Friday, April 01, 2005

It's not fair being a man

Today I upset Jan. In the great scheme of things it was a small event but boy how it blossomed. What was my sin? - I complained about lunch! I suppose that's what they mean by in vino veritas, a couple of glasses and you tell the truth.

I conservatively estimate that the number of times I have complimented Jan on her prowess as a cook will be approximately (gets his calculator out because the need for balance here is important) 8760. Jan is a great cook and I love eating her food!! Now maybe I was under the weather, being absent minded, or foolishly, just speaking my mind, but I happened to mention that lunch was substandard.

I knew she was upset. There were lots of little clues, like kitchen knives being sharpened, the sudden appearance of weed killer in the kitchen, the odd attempted knee in the groin, and worst of all, she stopped talking to me.

I mentioned my problem to Floyd, who happened to call from the UK, and he found it all hilarious. He sided with Jan immediately, stating that she could serve dog shit and that it would still taste delicious. Nothing if not imaginative our Floyd!

He went on to remind me, (this is Floyd, who is still single at 42) that a woman will conveniently forget thousands of compliments, but will remember the one complaint, and refer to it in an argument 10 years later. It's not fair being a man!