Sunday, July 31, 2005

Phew what a scorcher

The average midday temperature during July was 30.3 C (86 F), slightly up on last month. Again, we had no rain and we now have water restrictions in place. It has only rained once, for two consecutive days, this year and that was in April. Before that it was August 2004. Not many people know that! (Why would anybody want to know it? - Ed.)


Jan's leg is finally on the mend and all the scabs have fallen off
(Oh pullleeeeeese - Ed.) This may be just a bit more information than you need, but to us it's a milestone! Jan is now much happier getting into the pool and the locals now no longer run away shouting, "lepreuse, lepreuse".


Jan has mentioned again about getting a friend for Max and suggested that I ring to check what's available. She is probably serious, but we wouldn't do anything until later this year, at the earliest, when we would have much more time available. We shall see.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

This little doggy went to market

This morning we hang about waiting for the nurse, which in the great scheme of things is only mildly irritating, but becomes an issue when we have 'things to do'. In particular, it means that Max has to miss his training yet again because it is difficult if not dangerous to try and get Max out of the car single handedly, and we can't both leave until the nurse has been. Why, I hear you say? Because Max launches himself headlong out of the boot as soon as you open the tailgate. If you anchor him to something it makes no difference, because he will either hang helplessly by his neck, strangling himself with an ever tightening collar, or pull so strongly it is difficult to loosen the ever tightening anchor knot. Trying to control a 40 kilos, struggling dog with your left hand and undo a very tight anchor with the other is difficult to say the least. So two people it is!


For a change, after the nurse has been, we decide to take Max to the market in Sommieres. In fact, it's one helluva change because he has never been to the market before and it will be interesting to see how he behaves. He behaves very well, but he is a little nervous and overawed with all the noise and bustle. In fact he behaves better than some Swiss Germans, who we offer a place at our table and, who accidentally tip the tables over, spill wine and water all over Jan, and omit to apologise. If Max is naughty, at least he licks you!


This weekend is the start of the annual French getaway and the roads are crazy with cars. We certainly felt it on our way to Sommieres. It's definitely a day to stay at home if at all possible. When in the UK, I always refused to drive anywhere on a Bank Holiday and the one time I broke my own rule I spent 3 hours stuck in traffic on a motorway, fuming at my own stupidity.


Out with the Lloyds for dinner to Le Fournea tonight. Glyn leaves tomorrow but will be back for another short stay mid August. They are a lovely family and we really enjoy their company. I enjoy being 'rude' with Katie and Tom (11 and 14) and doing all the things that their parents would never dream of. I have very fond memories of being 12 years old and being entertained in a much more adult way than my parents could allow themselves, by some of their friends. I recall with much fondness, individuals who helped open my mind, who treated me as a grown up and who showed me how to have fun.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Wine women and shopping

We started last night in the bar at the top of the Carré d'Art in Nîmes (I hope you appreciate that I am now inserting the correct French spelling) because the restaurant was full and all we can get is a drink. It's a great place to survey the scene, being high up, looking over the rooftops and right next door to the Maison Carré, which is a stone's throw from the Arene. It's still light so we head for our favourite pizza restaurant nearby, where they accommodate us with a great flourish by adding yet more tables to their 'patch' on the pavement. At the end of the meal it is dark and much more atmospheric, so we wandered the old quarter and looked and listened to all the interesting sights and sounds. A good night.


Rob's group left this morning, on the early flight to Stansted, so after I dropped him off, I hung around for a bit to pick up the Brown family who arrived on the incoming flight and who are staying for a couple of weeks. Jan cooks a lovely welcome lunch, before we then head off to Nîmes again to buy a couple of things, and to take Katie (don't ask) to Decathlon for her late birthday present. Even though she is only 11 years old, she is already displaying adult female traits, in that she takes an age to decide what she wants and attempts to spend twice as much as the allotted allowance.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

First class medical care

Jan continues to get better and recently finished all her medication. However, the nurse who visits daily suggested that she visits the doctor again. Doctor J puts her back on antibiotics and insists on a further course of injections. She is now in her fourth week of treatment, feels better in herself and can walk normally, but the medics continue to treat her problem with caution. We called the nursing service, to arrange more visits, and they responded so quickly that they were at the house within 30 minutes. The level of personal care has been excellent.


The Thursday night market in Nimes has started, so off we go to see what's what. Usually you can hear live music around most street corners and a plethora of stalls selling all kinds of things. We shall see.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

A few of us fancy a trip to the seaside, so after a heavy tennis session we visit Aigues Mortes and the beach at L'Espiguette. From there on to Grande Motte, where, with much hilarity, one lady is persuaded to have a temporary tattoo. It was a very tasteful motif, placed close to where the sun don't shine. Mnnnn.


Home to an Italian themed meal consisting of lots of antipasti, a really tasty porcini mushroom risotto and Jan's first attempt at panna cotta. Panna cotta is an Italian pudding consisting mostly of cooked cream and vanilla flavouring. Good heart attack material but tasty nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


The tap in the kitchen is broken, and having tried unsuccessfully to fix it, we pop to Lapeyre for a new one. I never thought that buying a tap could be so complicated. There is so much choice in terms of styles and price that eventually you start to get nervous about making the right decision. Add to that, the fact that you queue at one counter to order the blessed thing, at another counter to pay for it and then at another counter in the warehouse to pick it up. Give me a break! What should have been a relatively simple procedure took ages.
Then, on leaving this shop, our next door neighbour but one has tracked us down and is sitting next to the car waiting for us. Can you help get a pergola, that we've bought, back home, she says? The salesman told her that it would fit easily into an open topped car. I'm not sure what medication he was on but he needs to up the dosage! We go to the shop to find this monstrous package of metal bits, that has to be lifted by a forklift truck, waiting to be taken away. Between the two cars we just manage to fit everything in, and said pergola gets delivered.


On getting home, I play a little tennis with some of the group, which is not that easy considering that I had a few gin and tonics inside me. It was fun nonetheless. I score a few easy points off Rob which is very unusual because he would normally beat me easily, until I realised that he was playing left handed because his right shoulder hurt. Thanks Rob for making me look good in front of the assembled masses!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Lots and lots of tennis

A tennis group arrives today for a few days stay. They are always good fun. My good friend Rob leads the group, which consists of several people from the UK all intent on learning something new and generally having a good time. Rob is an excellent coach, always prepared to try new things and he tries hard to make all his sessions satisfying and enjoyable.


Jan cooks an excellent lasagne for dinner which we wash down with copious quantities of my new favourite white from Domain Arnal.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Superman is alive and well and visiting Paris

Today should see Lance Armstrong win his seventh Tour de France. At the time of writing he has a 4 minute 40 second lead over second place Ivan Basso, which should be enough to give him the title later this afternoon in Paris. This man is a modern day super hero. Take a look here.


Jan and Jill prepare a sumptuous cold buffet as a farewell party for Harold and Elizabeth. Some others work hard as well, on the menial things, but we don't get a mention. Such is our life! Lunch started at 1.00 pm and we finally finished eating and drinking at 7.00 pm. Now that's what I call a lunch! Harry was poured into the car shortly after 7.15 pm, still talking to anyone that would listen.
Nobody was listening.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

No smoke, no fire, but big butch firemen everywhere

I hear that yesterday's fire devasted 250,000 hectares, which translates to 2,500 million square metres, or 2,500 square kilometres, or 965 square miles, or 2,520,000 Japanese tanns, or 424,950 Roman gerediums (I don't care who reads this rubbish, no more conversions - Ed.) The whole area is still crawling with big butch pompiers in very large, heavy weight, fire fighting vehicles, and many roads have been blocked to prevent rubber neckers (which includes me!) getting in the way. Jan has a 'thing' about firemen, which I'm not sure is entirely healthy, but as she has a bad leg, I let her indulge her fantasy.


We are having two families for lunch tomorrow, as a farewell party for Harold and Elizabeth, who are moving to Agen about 4 hours west. Peter and Carol buy a 10 litre box of rosé for the party which, for ease of serving, I decided to decant into bottles. I nip out to get half a dozen new clean bottles but amazingly can't find any for sale. I even cheekily called into the cave cooperative in Sommieres who have, at a rough guess, 10,000 new bottles stacked on pallets outside. I had to giggle when I was told that they didn't have any. Following all leads, Intermarché, our supermarket of choice, had some cheap, Spanish (would you believe), white wine at 1.09 euros a bottle, and having been prepared to spend up to 1 euro for an empty bottle I decided to buy it and throw away the wine when I got home. That's when my problems started. Nobody would let me throw it away and 'they' decided to start working their way through it instead. Far be it for me to suggest that some people should start to seek treatment around here, but they did all realise that I wanted 6 empty bottles by morning. However at only 11% abv, they'll find more alcohol in a bottle of milk, so nobody should suffer too much. Watch this space.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Cats, fires and steaks

Bob phones because his car has broken down. He is not absolutely sure of the reason but what he knows is that a light, warning of a problem with the catalytic converter, comes on and then the engine management system shuts the car down. A bizarre sequence of events, if that is the real reason, and extremely inconvenient as it happened in the middle of the night, the breakdown service wouldn't come out until morning and there was no taxi service available. It seems inconceivable that a car would cease to run just because there is a problem with the 'cat'. Is this the ultimate car folly in our pc mad world?


By mid-afternoon a huge plume of smoke, covering a large part of the sky, could be seen to the south east. Glyn and I went to investigate and established that it was a huge forest fire that we estimated was about 3 miles long. Several planes dropped huge amounts of water into the heart of the fire, flying south, to the sea, to replenish their tanks. Another two planes dropped large quantities of a red coloured chemical. Convoys of fire engines came from the north and headed towards the problems. As the flames licked high into the sky, we felt very vulnerable. By evening the smoke had died down. Scary.


Out for dinner at 'the relais' this evening. We haven't been for a while but they still offer their 11 euros, four course, 'steak and chips' type menu. Not haut cuisine, but what do you want for that amount of money?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

What a peach

The three (got to start somewhere!) peaches that have grown are now ripe, and today we had the first one. A white one at that. It was delicious and all the more so because I'd grown it. I could get into this fruit growing thing. In addition the melons are now ready. There I am waiting for one, and four come along all at the same time. I get the feeling that I'm going to get sick of them, but hey, I'll enjoy it in the meantime.


Out for an early barbecue at the Lloyds, next door. It turns into a late night and they get cleaned out of brandy. Oops.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

French toilets

We were discussing toilets over lunch. How appropriate you say - you weren't eating the food, I say. Anyway, we started by observing how much more lax the French rules about the number and placement of toilets are in comparison to the English, and then started to compare anglo saxon and latin attitudes to the same. See how bored we get. We generally agreed that, the French (and the Italians come to that) aren't as prudish as the English about using the same toilets or toilets with common entrances. I remember trying to use a male toilet on a motorway in Italy which had been sealed off for cleaning. I asked the cleaner where the next one was and she looked at me as if I was stupid and pointed at the Ladies. No one batted an eyelid as I entered to use a cubicle. I entered the toilet feeling that I was invading a private space but of course the problems were all in my head. If no one else minds why should I mind? Interesting.


The invites are flowing thick and fast at the moment, so we go for a quiet dinner to Jill and Harry. They need to let off steam about their various offspring and their attitude to 'cheap holidays with mum and dad'. We have lots of experience with this and, as is my wont, I let off steam as well. Lots of steam later, we settle down to a nice dinner of salmon and a peaches and cream pudding. Harry pours lots of fizz and even more rosé and a good night was had by all. The next few days are busy with lots of invites so we need to get into training. As if we aren't finely tuned eaters already!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

2000 year old rock and roll

We harvested our first melon today, a Chanterais, and very tasty it was too. OK, so we now know that we can grow tomatoes, peppers, peaches, plums, melons, chillies, cherries (I like the alliteration), and apricots. The jury's still out on kaki, apples and pears. Don't snigger, this means a lot to us, folk that used to think that all food came from the supermarket!


You are now going to have to admit your age. This evening we went to see Joe Cocker, playing at the Arene in Nîmes. If you know who Joe Cocker is, then you're cool. If not, where have you been for the last 35 years?. Sitting in a 2000 year old Roman amphitheatre, watching an artist nearly the same age, dig away at all your self restraint and self composure - what a huge buzz. Where to begin? It was an incredible performance. He certainly still knows how to belt em out. A wonderful mixture of blues, R & B, and rock and roll. You spend all your time rocking to the music and also expecting him to have a massive coronary at any minute. If you get the chance you must go see him. The ultimate test - I'm going to look and see if he is playing again tomorrow! The best concert I have ever been to. Superb.

Monday, July 18, 2005

A wonderful evening

I started the week, as usual, with tennis for an hour. I was useless, not having slept very well the night before, but at least it gave William something to go home and crow about. How do I know he crows? The last time I saw his wife in town, she repeated, score by score, all our recent games. That's how I know! He's extremely likeable but very competitive, so remind me to kick his butt on Wednesday.
We always have a coffee after tennis and 'shoot the breeze'. He told me the story of a mayor that he knows, who was recently found exposing himself, whilst dressed in women's clothes, on a nudist beach (that alone made me laugh) and was arrested. When he later broached the subject with the same man, he totally denied involvement (even though he was arrested and spent the night in the slammer), and put it down to false stories being put about by his enemies. He'd make a good American politician!


Jan continues to progress slowly and she can now put her heel down to walk. As long as she can walk in the direction of the kitchen, I'm happy.


There are only three vignerons in Gard, under the Vins de Pays section, who are worthy of inclusion in Hachette. One of them, Domaine Leyris Mazière, is right here in the village, about 100 metres from us, and to our shame we have never bought wine from them. At the Bastille Day celebrations last week, he very kindly invited us for a tasting. Wow, what an evening. His name is Gilles Leyris (his wife Odile is the Mazière) and he took us first to his cave, where we tasted some dozen wines. It was fascinating to note the differences between the same wine made in different years (albeit with some subtle differences in the cepage) and the passion and love he puts into every wine. He recounted with humour the fact that, after the floods of 2002, he had to make a 15 kilometre detour just to get to his fields, and that he sat down and cried when he saw the state of the vines. He phoned his wife and told her that they were ruined (he only had 1.2 hectares under cultivation at the time), but when I asked him about what he had said to the bank, he burst out laughing and said that he had told them that everything was fine. We tasted wine from bottles, spanning several years, ageing wines from barrels, wine from cuves holding several thousand litres and yet to be bottled and experimental wine (we didn't like his first attempt at rosé and he admitted frankly that neither did he) and new grape varieties. Naturally he saved his best until last. With a twinkle in his eye, he told us that this was the most expensive vin de table that we would ever taste. He explained that he couldn't sell it under his normal classes of wine (Coteaux du Languedoc or Vin de Pays d'Oc) because the cepage at 100% Alicante is not allowed under the rules, so he has to sell it as vin de table. It was amazing stuff. The whole experience was absolutely fascinating! But there was more. We then understood that we were to be invited back for aperos (as if we hadn't had enough already), which usually means nibbly bits swilled down with pastis or whisky or some such. Oh no, we get the full blown 5 course dinner treatment. They were so kind, and such lovely people. A wonderful evening.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

R & R

Today was a day to let my body recover from the pounding that I have given it recently. It was also very hot, at 36C (97F) in the shade, so I decided to watch the Open from St Andrews. I reckon that Tiger Woods could do well at golf, if he keeps practicing!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Not the easiest way to lose weight

I'm making a reasonable effort at following the diet that the good doctor (Dr K - the nutritionist, sorry, Chris) is insisting that I follow, because losing weight is part and parcel of improving my diabetes. We certainly find it easier when there is just Jan and I to satisfy, but today was a bit of a challenge. We are invited for lunch, because it is Jill's (of Jill and Harry fame - keep up) birthday. Needless to say it's bubbly to start, followed by melon and ham, a niçois salad, fruit, and lots of rosé (I must remember that é is alt+0233) which is actually pretty good as far as the food is concerned, but I'm not too sure about the 2 gallons of wine, but hey! The next challenge is Bob and Lynne's soirée. We need to be there at 6.30 pm.
Now before you ask, Bob is not Californian. In my experience Californians typically eat dinner at about 5.30 - 6.00 pm, and then go to bed at 9.00 pm. They then need to get up early, just in time to put the world to rights, after everyone else has messed it up whilst they have been asleep. It's different! It's a regime that would suit me, but Jan is definitely a night owl and likes to go to bed late and sleep later in the morning.
But I digress. We arrive at 6.50 having given a lift to a woman who, it transpires, is going to Ganges to meet friends. I never stop to give lifts and why I made this exception I'll never know. Anyway, she was chattering away in the back and, as usual in these circumstances, I nod, say "oui" with a little knowing chuckle, to everything that is said. Understandably It was quite difficult to concentrate on the road and listen closely to what she was saying. At one point she explained that the reason she had no car was that a friend had crashed it and died in the accident. You got it! Before I had fully translated everything in my head I nodded, said "oui", and chuckled. Oops!
Dinner at B&L's is, as usual, superb. Prawns to start, not piddly little things but big, fill your mouth, monsters from the deep, then baked Sea Bass followed by a delicious almond tart. Bob sent pictures the next day which frankly I didn't realise were being taken but when you look closely at the pictures, you see that I always have my face buried in a plate, oblivious to everything going on around me.


Just to hark back to the TdF, after the 14th stage, Lance Armstrong is still in the lead. I found this article interesting, because whilst we were watching on Friday, he was so cool and relaxed, considering that he was riding his bike at about 35 mph at the front of the peleton, and that he was playing to the camera whilst all around him were huffing and puffing to keep up. Whatever he's on, I wouldn't mind some of it!

Friday, July 15, 2005

You are what you eat

Having never had more than just a passing interest, we are now much more interested in the Tour de France. The interest started in 2003 when it passed near Sauve, 15 minutes away. Last year it went straight through Sommieres, again 15 minutes away, and on to the end of the stage in Nimes. This year it is even nearer, passing through Quissac which is our nearest town, 10 minutes away. It's funny how this has sparked our interest, but last year I started to think a bit more closely about what they actually accomplish. Last year's stage started in Carcassonne and finished in Nimes. In a car, this is about a 2 hour journey. It's a journey that I would think twice about making unless I had a very good reason. These jokers complete this journey by bicycle, having already completed umpteen difficult stages and with lots more still to do. This has to be the ultimate test of endurance. Is there any other sports event that is so demanding? This year they will cycle a total of 3608 kilometres, up and down mountains for a total of 21 days. They're mad, unbelievably fit and with amazing stamina, or am I just being naive?


Thanks again to all the kind people who have enquired after Jan and have sent their best wishes. She is slowly getting better but still finds it difficult to walk. I reckon that the early part of next week will see her back in the kitchen again. It's no wonder I'm losing weight.


Talking about losing weight, we watched the TdF today on television, mainly because Jan would find it difficult to stand for any length of time, but also because you see so much more. We watched the last 100 kms of the 13th stage and the final sprint into Montpellier. I wouldn't say they were close, but we could hear the helicopters that follow the race as we watched the television. It was very exciting, especially as they passed over streets that we drive over continually and as the peleton slowly pulled back a 7 minute lead from the breakaway group. They timed it perfectly with the bulk of riders crossing the finishing line at more or less the same time. Lance Armstrong continues to lead and it looks like he will win it for a record breaking seventh time. What a man!
If you would like to read a funny and interesting book about the TdF, then I recommend French Revolutions by Tim Moore. We have both read and enjoyed it.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bastille Day

It's Bastille Day today, a national holiday. Bastille Day marks the storming of the former Bastille prison in Paris by angry crowds on 14 July 1789, sparking the revolution that signalled the end of the French monarchy and the start of self rule, a sort of Independence Day.
(OK, that's enough of the history lesson - Ed.).

We, and the rest of the village, are invited for aperos at the foyer, village hall, at midday. Jan drags herself along, never turning her nose up at a free drink. It's amazing how many people we know. At a rough guess, we recognise at least half the people there and we chat to lots. We are now starting to feel a real part of the village and this makes us feel good.
During his relaxed speech, sitting on the bar counter, William, the mayor, made reference to an edict by Jacques Chirac, that France should observe a minute's silence to respect those killed last Thursday in London. We were very touched by that and I suppose this means that I should have a 'be nice to Jacques' period. I'll see how long I can keep it up.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

One of life's little pleasures

OK, so it's a little pleasure, but we do enjoy watching the hundreds of Swifts and House Martins in their spectacular, ritualistic evening 'dance'. At times they fill the sky, turning this way and that, presumably feeding on insects as they go. If you are in the pool, you can expect to be dive bombed as they scoop up water. Missing your head by inches, as they dare you to enter their domain. It's all quite entertaining, with the exception of having to clean the droppings from the pool later. Talking of pools, I spend the morning cleaning ours and also ensuring that our neighbours' new pool is filled to the right level. They arrive on Sunday so it will be a nice surprise for them, because they have not seen it yet.


Whilst she feels better in herself, Jan's leg is still very, very painful. So we pop to the doctor who is quite concerned and who puts her back on antibiotics, telling her to continue the injections for another 10 days and to get the nurse to start dressing her leg. Poor old thing. (Not so much of the old - Jan)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Pic St Loup

Travel for 30 minutes to the east (you come to Pic St Loup), or 30 minutes to the south of Cannes and you will find a host of seriously good wine producers. I can't believe the number. Travel even further east and you will find hundreds, travel further south and you will get very wet (sorry, you're in the Med.). Languedoc is seriously good wine producing country. I love it. I love 'discovering' the wines nearly as much as I enjoy drinking them. Prior to moving to France, neither Jan (above - doing what she does best) nor I drank any French wine. Our tastes were almost exclusively reserved for 'new world wines'. This area has been a real eye opener. I'm afraid that our view of French wine was based upon the inflated prices and overrated quality of both Bordeaux and Burgundian wines. These areas still have a lot of catching up to do and they certainly need to stop feeling so superior. The world is marching on and they are stuck in a rut. I realise that they have very strict laws governing their production, but they will only get into further problems if they don't change quickly. Just a thought, but maybe Jacques could argue for an increase in his farm subsidy! Anyway, the Languedoc region is far less rigidly controlled and the vignerons have more opportunity to experiment and change age old habits. They are doing an excellent job.


James leaves today, so yet another trip to Montpellier. Yippee. It's a pity that Jan was so poorly for his stay, however he helped enormously with the cooking early on and with exercising Max, whom he adores. Thanks, James.


I've just realised that last Friday, July 8th, was the third anniversary of our move to France. I remember driving towards the village hoping that we would be accepted. Cannes has about 400 inhabitants and we subsequently learnt that there were 4 permanent English families in residence and another 2 holiday homes. The eight Brits amount to 2% of the population, an extraordinary figure given the location and size of the place. Two families are however moving on (it must be something that Jan has said), thereby reducing the impact of my call for an English mayor and representation on the local council. Hey ho.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Nurses, wine tasting and a bizarre sight.

One of the first things the doctor requested, when Jan visited her with her recent health problem, was that a nurse should visit the house daily to administer an injection. The doctor even made the call to the nursing practice to make the arrangements. The injection is being given to prevent a potential thrombosis and by default to let the nurse give additional help and advice. The nurse did in fact change the medicine, after consultation with the doctor. We have to say that the medical care, and the nursing care in particular, has been excellent.


Jan suggests that we venture out for a change, so she is definitely feeling better, and we decide to visit some domains for a little wine tasting. Pic St Loup is a well respected wine producing area, about 30 minutes away, so we head first for Chateau l'Euziere in Fontanes. We try a white and two reds and as usual end up buying two boxes of the most expensive at 11.50 euros per bottle. Absolutely delicious. Next is Chateau La Roque, where we try six wines, two whites, a rose, and three reds. They are all so nice that we buy some of each. This is turning into an interesting, expensive and very enjoyable afternoon.
But the smiles get much wider. We are on our way back, when we are flashed by cars coming in the opposite direction. This usually means that there are police ahead, so we dutifully slow down. It's not the police, but an accident. One car is totally blocking the road, another has flipped onto its side and there are several people milling around. I spot what I now suspect is the cause of the accident. An elderly man, with some kind of elaborate decoration in his hair, is standing by the side of the road surveying the scene. I know he is elderly by the size and quantity of the veins running up the back of his legs and over his backside. He is also very wrinkly. How do I see the veins running up his legs, how do I know he is wrinkly? Because he is virtually naked. He is wearing absolutely nothing but a thong and wooden 'platform' clogs. He also has dreadlocks half way down his back. I very much doubted that he was a passenger in one of the cars, my best guess being, based upon the deep brown colour of his skin, that he walks around like this. We have never seen anything so bizarre or funny and I'd say that at least one of the drivers was so distracted (as indeed we were) that he lost concentration and crashed. Oh that we had a camera! The rest of the day was boring in comparison.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Getting back to normal again

The road to the house finally opens late yesterday afternoon and they leave a gap that allows cars to pass with inches to spare on either side. It's so tight that you have to pull the door mirrors in. This is not a space to attack with reckless abandon. Thank you EDF (Electricite de France) for spicing up our lives.


Notices everywhere predict road closures for the Tour de France on July 15th. Checking the TdF website, I note that it will pass through Quissac (10 minutes away) at around 15.00. I now understand why Quissac is holding an early fete this year, from 13th to 17th July, which of course includes the public holiday Bastille Day on 14th. I'm tempted to go and watch the race, but with no action replay, and with the lead group passing in a matter of one or two seconds, I think that it's better watched on television. We shall see.


Martin and Jenny leave today for their next stop in Beaujolais country. Their brief visit has rekindled many memories of Jan's distant past, memories of her time in Vienna with two young children. We are sad to see them go. The rest of the day is spent lazing, trying to catch up on sleep.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

To sweat or not to sweat

Jan gets a little better every day and she can now walk short distances but she has to sit and rest after about 30 metres. No Olympics for her then! The leg still looks very angry and whatever bacteria it was, it has really attacked the flesh. Anyway she is well enough to have a go at me over some minor indiscretion so she must be getting better! As James said over lunch, "it's good to have you back in the kitchen".


With the temperature hovering at around 30C most of the time, even the smallest chores mean that we inevitably get covered in sweat.
(Do we really need to know this? - Ed.) I'm in the bakers, feeling a little dishevelled, buying bread for lunch, and it is 29C outside. Feeling hot and uncomfortable, I can't help but notice that the woman in front of me is wearing several layers and, to top it all off, a raincoat. How come she feels cold, I think, but then what does she do? She buys an ice cream. Strange.


I take James to the honey farm in Clairan, my role being chauffeur and personal bank. It's all a bit like the queen really, she gets driven everywhere and never carries money. Not much changes, even with older children!


We eat at Pousaranque tonight, between Quissac and Sauve. It's our fallback restaurant for when Le Fourneau is busy. The menu has changed quite a bit and they now offer a 19 euros and 24 euros formula. I had the 19 euro meal and very good it was too. The wine is generally all local and well priced. Highly recommended.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Rural charm or a pain in the arse

We have never failed to be impressed about the state of roads in France and in particular the speedy, pragmatic way they dealt with repairing, major breaks in the roads after the floods in 2002. The other day a man knocked on the door to say that, from the next day, our road would be closed between 8.00 am and 4.30 pm, because they are digging trenches to bury the overhead power cables. This same tale was told to the other 3 families that would be affected. Not a problem we all thought and some of us dutifully moved our cars "to higher ground". It has now been three days and because of the huge holes in the road, it has been totally impassable at any time. Only because I couldn't be bothered to move the car before 8.00 am, I arranged to leave it somewhere else. Lucky me. A couple of other families are now stranded, unable to get out to the shops or anywhere else, under their own steam.


Jenny and Martin arrive for a two night stay on their way back from Spain to the UK. They have known Jan from her time (two years) in Vienna and have therefore been friends for over 30 years. After a glass or two of our favourite fizz we eat out at Mas de Roux which manages to satisfy even vegetarian James.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Mystery solved

I'm walking in the garden with a friend, showing him my agrarian labours. Max, as usual, is excited and bounding around. The next thing I see is Max flying through the air, grabbing an apple, and the branch that it is growing on, from the puny apple tree, and running off to play ball with the apple. Whilst we all know that we should eat more fruit, I'd rather we all had the same choice, at the same time, and particularly when the fruit is ripe. I'd been wondering for a while why there was so much fruit on the floor which was not yet ripe, and now I know. This would appear to be his new game. He has tired of jumping up at the clothes line, grabbing Jan's knickers and running around with them on his head.


Sitting here in the south of France, without any of our children in or near London, you can't help but feel very lucky. You feel even luckier when No 1 daughter emails to say that her planned business trip into London had been postponed until the afternoon and that three of her colleagues were on one of the trains that were bombed.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Thank you very much

Thanks to one and all for your kind messages of support for Jan, but I'm a bit surprised that no one has written to offer me any moral support in my hour of need.
(They know you too well - Ed.)

I plough on regardless, getting breakfast for everyone and generally making myself useful. This morning, I played an hour of tennis, worked on the pool, put in a load of washing, unloaded the dishwasher, loaded the dishwasher, hung out the laundry, weeded in the garden, played with Max, and tended to all Jan's needs. And just in case anyone is listening, I like my rewards now, not in heaven!


Floyd calls this afternoon, from the UK, on Skype. We sit and chat for ages all for free. It's a good programme and since we have been using it our phone bills have been decimated. Take a look here if you are interested. Anyway, we chat about his forthcoming trips in August and September.


Jan is still laid up, so James and I go looking for new sources of wine (as if we really need to find more). We head off to Domaine Arnal in Langlade, about 20 minutes away. We sample all their whites and their two expensive, 12 euros, reds. This place could turn out to be a serious find. But more to the point there must be hundreds of boutique domains like this in Languedoc all producing excellent wine. I need a bit more time to sample their goodies under a variety of conditions but I suspect that this is a good find. What I am particularly interested in, is a 10 litre bag-in-box Grenache, Roussanne blend at 2 euros a litre. They appear to use Roussanne a lot in their whites and very nice it is too. Watch this space.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Who cares for the carers?

My No 1 son arrives today (No 1 daughter left last week), so after trying to get Jan to eat something for the first time in over two days, it's off to Montpellier. I'm a little concerned that, because she is not eating, she will start to lose more weight than me. We shall see. Anyway, the plane was on time which was a bit of a BA first for me of late. I also called into the 'Chateau Puech Haut' shop at the airport and pretended to be interested in their wine, when in fact I know it well, and sampled some of their delicious White Tete de Cuvee, a Roussanne, Marsanne mixture, and their Red Tete de Cuvee, a Syrah, Grenache assemblage. This cheers me up, and is my little reward to myself for all my selfless airport runs.

Jan appears to be little better (the nurse turned up and injected as promised) but she still finds it very painful to walk. The antibiotics should start to kick in soon and she has started to look a little brighter already. Whatever it was, it was very, very nasty and will take a few days yet to clear.
I noticed this today and found myself agreeing with most of it. For anyone thinking of moving to France it will make interesting reading.

James cooks a fresh tomato and basil sauce for dinner, to go with the fresh gnocci that we bought today at Intermarche. We also drink a bottle of the White 2003 Tete de Cuvee that I couldn't resist this morning. You can tell that Jan is still not well when she refuses a glass.

Monday, July 04, 2005

A very poorly lady

Jan is still not well, but I have an appointment that has already been rearranged once, so I have to leave her in Max's capable paws.

When I get back, I play doctors and examine a recent nasty swelling on her leg. Because she ached so badly yesterday she did not associate her leg with her other aches and pains. At a rough guess, having had one myself in the past, I guess that she has an infected bite, so I take her for medical help. After an almost two hour wait, we get to see a doctor who states that she has an infection from either an insect bite or possibly a plant. She is prescribed lots of medicine and she also has to have injections for the next ten days. The doctor arranges for a nurse to visit the house to deliver the injections into her stomach. I feel ill just thinking about it. My poor darling, but at least I now know that she is not faking it!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Get well soon

Jan was not well this morning. She ached and shivered all over, which I think are the classic signs of alcoholic poisoning. Anyway, she decided to stay in bed, so I needed a crash course in finding all the breakfast stuff, like milk, spoons , bowls etc. She kindly drew me maps and diagrams and I single handedly got my own breakfast. I bet she won't show any gratitude. I also secretly hoped that she would get better by lunchtime or it could turn out to be a really disastrous day. If I let her make me some lunch, it will be on the strict understanding that she doesn't pass on any germs. How can I look after her if I'm ill as well?
The day got worse! I had to get both lunch and dinner. My culinary skills were sorely tested but as the song says, "I will survive."


The men's final at Wimbledon showed Federer at his awesome best. It's difficult to see anyone challenge his No 1 position and assuming he keeps healthy he is likely to hold that position for some time to come.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

If it's Saturday it must be?

OK, so we like Sommieres market. This market just seems to get better and better. However, Jan is always complaining that she only ever gets the chance to buy her clothes from a market stall, and I say, what's wrong with a blue and red striped shirt with a No 10 and Ronaldo printed on the back?
(Because he now plays for Real Madrid and the shirt should at least be white - Ed.)
We need some fruit and a couple of bits so off we go. Shopping done, we sit down at Bar Partropi for a bit of refreshment. After the first bottle of Viognier, from the local cave cooperative, we are joined by Bob and Lynne, and pooch Harry, and Peter H. Another bottle it is then. I really don't like drinking at lunchtime, it's when I make all my worst decisions, however, a good decision was for B & L to come back for lunch so that Harry and Max could play for a while. Jan rustles up a delicious avocado and bacon salad, I rustle up some more wine, Harry and Max played for three hours solid and a hazy afternoon was had by all. Mine was particularly hazy, and when I woke at 7.00 pm, I was just in time to watch Venus Williams picking up her Wimbledon trophy. She must have played well!


Another application for wasp stings, as supplied by Will, is to use toothpaste. I asume this helps relieve the pain as well as whiten the area.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Not just a goddess but also a psychic?

I have mentioned before that Jan can guess the average temperature, for the month, to within half a degree. Well, this is even more bizarre. Earlier last month (June), I can't remember which day but about a week before the end of the month, I asked Jan to PREDICT the average temperature for the month. Now bearing in mind that the average for the first half was 27.0C and that the average for the second half was 32.1C, there were some wide variations in temperature. "OK, smart ass", I said, "tell me what you think it WILL be this month?" She paused, wrinkled her pretty little nose, and said "about 30C". Bloody hell, how does she do it? The answer turned out to be 29.6C (hotter than any month last year). I may have a prophetess on my hands which will come in very useful for the new religion that I keep thinking about starting.


It's dental check up time, so off to Quissac to see da man. The dentist appears to be very efficient. He notices a small hole, he drills and fills, all with a lot less fuss than I was used to back in the UK. I'm intrigued as to which way is more competent. Hole filled and teeth scraped clean, it's back to the ranch to start making them dirty again. (Do we really need to know this? - Ed.)


Tim contacts me because he wants to know what has happened about the other wasp nest. Not a lot really. I assume that they're still building and I'm biding my time (OK, waiting until I'm pissed enough to have enough courage) before I tackle them. I'm sure it will be any day now.