Monday, February 27, 2006

How to sex a bird

I have never been able to tell a male bird from a female, but it's easy when you know how! Click on the image to find out. (That's such a cheap shot, but what else would I expect from you? - Ed.)


Jan's art class restarted this morning, so I tackled a few jobs around the house. (Like reading the paper, surfing the net and making cups of coffee - Ed.).


Not usually being a fan of this sort of thing, I thought that the closing ceremony at the Winter Olympics was quite spectacular. It's difficult to imagine how the organisers for successive games come up with new and different ideas. Having said that, some of the displays were difficult to understand unless you had some kind of commentary. It was not easy to understand some of the symbolism. I presume that you get comfortable with some of the wackier ideas in design meetings after an explanation from the weirdo that thought them up, but in the cold light of day (or night) they should at least make obvious sense to the average Joe. I know I'm not the brightest bulb in the box but I can't be the only one.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Known French criminals

My idea of a dinner dance is one that involves a formal evening, black tie and possibly a band, but almost certainly a DJ and a very informal style of dancing. Not so in France. Last night Bob and Lynne very kindly took us to a war veterans annual dinner organised by FNACA. At a rough guess, this probably stands for (excuse the spelling) Federation Nationale de Ancient Combatants d'Algerie. What a wonderful evening, so different to anything that I have previously experienced. It was held in the salle polyvalente in downtown Sumène. A large multipurpose hall, which could in no way be described as cosy, being lit by modern 'old style' fluorescent lamps, regulation magnolia coloured paintwork and a toilet with the largest completely see through panoramic window imaginable. The four of us reduced the average age to somewhere around 75. This was a group of people with but two objectives, to dance and to enjoy themselves. These people could really dance. I have never seen such a large group of people all very capable of dancing to such a variety of formal styles and to such a high standard. It put my couple of minutes of shuffling to shame and frankly made me want to do better. The band (the trio actually) knew exactly what they were doing. There was one female singer, who kept nipping off stage to re-emerge in ever more fantastical outfits. The styles ranged from 'Folies Bergere' to 'Carmen Miranda', and with each change came an appropriate change of music and dance style. Brilliant! The other two band members were male and they interchanged instruments, ranging from the ever present synthesizer, to trumpet, to sax, accordion and clarinet. Excellent. At one point the accordionist came down off stage into the hall and led a series of 'old soldier', lets-kill-a-few-Algerians type songs and later some Corsican folk songs. Very, very, enjoyable. I can't remember any event in the UK that I have attended where participants were so serious about their dancing. The dance floor was full before, during and after the meal. Dancing is taken so seriously that dance clubs attend as well, in order to give their members the opportunity to practice in real-time and also to help raise money for 'old soldiers'. I remember with fondness the audience dancing to Strangers in the Night played on a trumpet and a Paso Doble played on accordion and castanets. They were still going strong at 01.30 when we left to relieve the dogs (don't you mean for the dogs to relieve themselves? - Ed.) A night of excellent, but simple pleasures and one I will remember for a long time.


I have mentioned random police checks before and I have been pleased to bore anyone who would listen about my theory that they only occurred between the very civilised hours of 14.00 (after lunch) and 17.00, before going home for dinner. Every single police roadblock that I had encountered has happened like this. NOT SO. There I was rather smugly driving home at 01.40 through the very sleepy little town of St Hippolyte du Fort when at the roundabout on the south of the town we were stopped by a small army of gendarmes. It was freezing cold, minus 3c, and naturally there were very few cars around. Miss Gendarme signaled for us to pull over and turn off the engine. She said something that I didn't understand and when I pointed out that I was English and could she repeat her request (instruction) she proceeded to ask me, in perfect English, for my driving licence. Not wanting to bowl her over with my breath (I'd been eating a lot of garlic) I decided not to enter into any deep meaningful conversation and nearly wet myself as she waived us on and wished me a very pleasant rest of the morning. Further round the roundabout another group of gendarmes, armed with rifles at the ready, presumably to pick off any recalcitrant motorists that decided not to stop, glowered as we drove past. Very scary.

The conversation naturally then centred on what the hell so many of them were doing there in freezing temperatures, at that unearthly hour. Jan helpfully suggested that perhaps they were on the look out for known French criminals and because I was neither known, nor French, I didn't exactly fit that profile. We shall never know, but it was a salutary lesson and I'm still shaking. One of my well known theories has been blown out of the water. Bum.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Forza Italia!

We took Max and Minnie to training this morning and Max was his usual 'difficult to control' self. Not difficult in an unpleasant way, but he pulls in different directions, depending on the smell, dog or person of the moment and he always wants to play with other dogs and people. He is a strong, powerful dog and it makes for tired muscles and sore hands trying to keep him in line. I'm considering stopping taking him because if I want him to change I'm going to have to get much tougher and that's not how I'd like to be with him. I like a dog to have spirit and have fun, so long as he is not dangerous, and I don't want to have to make him a quivering jelly. Max has a fou fou personality and he's not likely to change. We shall see.


France beat Italy at rugby this afternoon and it's fair to say that Italy were the better side for much of the match. Most sports pundits say that Italy are improving quickly and it's just a matter of time before they pull off a good win. The main problem, as I see it, is that they need to play better opposition more often. Forza Italia!


Bob and Lynne have invited us to a dinner dance in Sumène this evening. More about that tomorrow.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Which button to press

The Lloyds left yesterday morning and, as ever, we are sorry to see them go. Katie and Tom are good fun and we enjoy having them around. They'll be back in April so that's something to look forward to.


There was also a lot of hanging about yesterday, Jan, to let the electricity people read the meter at our house in the village (which they have to inspect personally once a year) and me to let the fridge repair man look at our sick fridge. In this day and age you don't expect a fridge to go wrong. When all is said and done there isn't much to go wrong, but this is the second time we have had it looked at in 3 years. Despite sitting around for 4 hours, the meter reader failed to show up and Jan was mightily pissed off. At least it wasn't with me this time.


This afternoon I went round to help our neighbours with their computer. They are both relative novices so it was all fairly straightforward. They have bought books and are becoming more proficient so my help involved minor issue like organising the toolbar and getting the sound to work on some games. It's easy to forget that we were all novices at one time. I didn't touch a computer until I reached 45 (yes, the new electric ones came in at about that time - Ed.) and I remember how unnerving it was. Hey ho.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Where to start?

We were very kindly given two invitations to the international wine trade exhibition called Vinisud, at the Exhibition Centre in Montpellier, today. This place is massive. There were exhibitors from France, Italy and Spain and I estimated that there were over 1850 wine and or spirit producers, which is a lot of tasting. Anyway, the first slight hurdle was that this was a show for professionals, but because I class Jan and I as professional drinkers, my conscience was clear. A little porky got us past the gestapo at the entrance to the exhibition halls, all 11 of them, and we let the fun begin. I've said it before but there are some seriously nice wines produced in Languedoc and I was a little ashamed to note that I recognised a lot of the names. A fun time.

I stomped around the house for about an hour this afternoon, irritated because I couldn't find my reading glasses. Jan took pity on me, assumed her bored mother (let's sort the silly child) attitude and helped me look for them. She even put me through a sort of regression therapy (when I discovered that I'd been an Egyptian prince in a previous life) but we still could not find them. After about an hour Jan asked what they looked like? I said, well a lot like the ones you are wearing............ I wouldn't have minded, but we have very different prescriptions. You'd have thought that her blurred vision would have been a bit of a clue!


The Lloyds leave tomorrow so we reciprocated their kindness from Sunday, with dinner. Jan prepared stuffed peppers (one type with tomatoes and anchovies and the other with meat) to start and then roast tenderloin stuffed with prunes, plums on the side and then meringues with either a sweet chestnut sauce, minted strawberry soup or mascarpone. See what I've got to put up with?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A surprise result

The dogs have started to wander out of the front gate. Despite it always being open, Max has rarely gone outside, because he was conditioned when he was a puppy. Neighbouring dogs would bark and frighten him and so he stayed inside. Minnie, on the other hand, is less fearful and likes to explore, so she now wanders outside and takes Max with her. Needing to keep the front gates permanently closed, our electrician was due to arrive to fix them. He showed up as agreed and started to fix a myriad of minor electrical problems around the house. He's a first class workman and deals with all the problems calmly and professionally. It's good to have him around.


It was football on the box tonight with Arsenal playing at Real Madrid in the Champions League. It was a mouthwatering prospect because Real Madrid have a very sexy lineup. Given their poor league form, Arsenal were not a good bet. The final score? Real Madrid 0 Arsenal 1. The Spanish all star team were no way near as good as the English club and it was an excellent result for Arsenal.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A little wild boar's head does you good

A visit to the doctor this morning, to renew my prescription, introduced a new doctor. Our regular doctor has bad health (Not exactly a good sign for a doctor - Ed.)) and his duties are being shared. Today I met a new sharer. She was very thorough and because she did not know me, asked lots of questions and spent some time reading my notes. All very comforting and laudable. She checks my BP and as it is a little higher than normal she says that if it hasn't reduced in 30 days she will prescribe medication. Bum. More to the point, she mentioned that all my problems would disappear if I lost weight. Twice bum. It doesn't look like I can hide from this one.


What we needed was a little retail therapy, to take our mind off things, so it was off to Ikea for 2 items. We went with the Lloyds, who are still furnishing their house. Half way through the store we had not bought the 2 target items but had managed to fill half a trolley. Not quite par for the course and a definite improvement on earlier trips. If we carry on like this Mr Ikea (his real name has not been used to protect the innocent) will go bust. However, by the end of the trip we had bought 1 target item and filled the rest of the trolley. Mr Ikea can sleep a little easier tonight.


Off to dinner with William and Christine tonight. The call came out of the blue and was most welcome. We really enjoy their company and we regard them as our closest French friends. The starter, which William said was made in the village, was tête de sanglier and the main course chilli con carne, French style. Both dishes new to us and both delicious.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Not quite strangers in the night

The more I thought about this article, the more stupid I thought it was. It sort of ties in with the piece the other day on common sense. Assuming that it is serious and well researched, I find it stupid, unrealistic and woolly academic thinking on several fronts.

1 How many people would want to work until they are 85? Even at my tender age, I can see myself slowing down and much less able to do the things I used to. I'll probably be a basket case by the time I reach 80. I wouldn't hire me at 65, never mind 85.
2 It's doubtful that Companies would want a work force of over 60 year olds. Younger is cheaper and more hours can be extracted.
3 Why talk of retirement when all you can reasonably expect is to work until you die?
4 Society needs to look after its older generation, not keep them out at work.
5 Society generally has to adapt and Mr Taljapurkar would better spend his time trying to establish more realistic solutions.


Tonight we were invited to our next door but one neighbours, the Lloyds, for dinner. We adore their children, Katie and Tom, who usually spend a lot of time with us when they are over. Anyway, we had a strange encounter on our way over to their house this evening. The back way to the Lloyds house takes us up a long, narrow, dark lane. I walked in front with the torch and about half way up the lane we could see a man, standing at the side of the lane, with his face to the wall. As we got nearer we could see that it was not a mugger but the village cantonnier, Thierry. Now Thierry is a nice person, but usually very pissed and with his broad local accent it is impossible to understand what he is saying. In 3 years I have never understood one word. Tonight was no exception. He muttered something and was using his phone to light up the hedge on the top of the wall. Because I had a torch, and despite the fact that I had no idea what I was doing, I helped him search. It took a few minutes, but he eventually found what he was looking for. It was a 5 litre box of wine that had been concealed in the shrubbery. He must have been really pissed off to be caught in the act but obviously either he or someone else had left the wine for him to pick up later. Anyway, he muttered his thanks and went wandering up the lane with his new found booty. He didn't even offer us a drink.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Just 1 out of 350 million sperm!

I'm not one for conspiracy theories but having said that I find it hard to believe that it's a coincidence that further pictures from Abu Ghraib, the video of British soldiers beating up some kids, and the Danish cartoon furore all surface at the same time. All these incidents happened quite some time ago but they have all just recently appeared as headline news. In the battle for hearts and minds the West has some catching up to do.


Just when you thought that it couldn't get anymore stupid, this happens.


After a lazy morning, discounting a trip to the supermarket for the weekly shop, I sat and watched Liverpool play Manchester United in the FA Cup, this afternoon. Now I know that I haven't been very active recently (hence my increase in weight) but I thought that it was very unkind when Jan said to me, "How come, that out of 350 million sperm, you were the fastest?" I wish that she would come straight to the point.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The passing of common sense

I received this from a friend today and I feel so strongly about it that I would like to share it with you.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were lost in bureaucratic red tape a long time ago.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, that life isn't always fair, and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies like adults, not children, are in charge.

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer paracetamol, sun lotion or a sticky plaster to a student; but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; police forces became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded huge damages.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else is to Blame, and I'm A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realised he was gone.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

So who's a misandrist then?

It's been a hectic few days, all centred around the new love of my life, skiing trips to Mont Aigoual. I fixed lessons with Jean-Paul on both Monday and Tuesday, with a view to being proficient enough to go up the green slopes before next week. Next week, because we don't intend to go then, because of the crowds, and if it proves difficult to ski after that, then at least I'd got to a level that would kick start me for next year. My hopes were not high because I didn't feel that I was skiing too confidently, or more to the point, I hadn't learnt to stop!


The weather on Monday was beautiful, a good to be alive day, and the lesson went well. We also met Bob and Lynne, who are proficient skiers, at the ski station. B&L, who had just returned themselves from a skiing holiday, very kindly invited us back for a 'Savoyarde' dinner. This comprised raclette and cheese fondue with lots of nice meats and pickles, two delicious puddings (ok, so I had both), and all washed down with several delicious reds. I think that I've said before that B&L are excellent hosts and very kind.


I won't bore you with all the negative stuff (and there was lots of it) but most of Tuesday was excellent. Jan, ever the kind loving person, had remembered that it was Valentine's Day and showered me with kindness. I, to my shame, forgot. The very good news was that J-P took us up the mountain for one, very controlled, descent. We did it! Even at my age it's great to feel that you can learn new things. (Bloody hell, and there I was thinking that you knew everything! - Ed.)


Wednesday, it poured down, so we spent some time doing little jobs in the house, nursing sore muscles and sitting in front of the fire watching the Olympics. Have you seen the two man luge? Whoever thought of that one could hardly be described as a misandrist. It was interesting to note that a lot of the competitors were related (well, you would be after an experience like that). Very cosy! I wonder how you get to chose who goes on top? Mnnnnn.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Grandma Luge

A few hours this morning were spent getting my posing gear fitted to the top of the car and making sure that the skis would fit. It wasn't an easy job because some of the brackets had not been made to line up precisely but, with a bit of grunt and ingenuity, I got it all to fit. Assuming the weather checks out all right, just watch me pose tomorrow!


There's a lot of sport on television at the moment and with so much choice it's difficult to know what to watch. One crazy event at the Olympics, which I was watching this afternoon, is the luge. Those men are off their heads but if you think that they're mad, what about Grandma Luge? This is one unusual grandma and good luck to her.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

So who's a poser then?

I have always been impressed with cars carrying skis on the roof. If you see them in England, it suggests that you have just nipped over to Switzerland for a little après-ski and might pop back if the snow holds. To little, old, impressionable me, it looks exotic and cool. (You're so shallow - Ed.) When I suggested that we fit a ski rack, Jan pooh-poohed my idea as posing nonsense. That is until she had to sit, squeezed in the back of the car, with one of the seats folded down to accommodate her skis. Now she thinks that it's a 'good idea', so I have to find some porte-skis. I know the type of shop that might sell these things but can I find the right category of shop in pages jaunes? No I can't, so in the end it's back to good old Google and we find the answer. A quick trip into Nîmes and I find what I want at Feu Vert. If you like bits for the car (and I do) this is a little goldmine. If you want snow chains they can even give you a choice of makes. I was very tempted but goodness knows who buys them. This is one of the hottest driest parts of France. Anyway, Jan can now stop whingeing and I can now start posing, so everybody's happy.


For a change, we ate out at Mas de Roux last night. They have increased the menu price to 22 euros but it's still good value. The starters were large, and for main course, I had duck cooked to order on the open fire and Jan had a blanquette de veau. Cheese and pudding followed. This isn't the most inventive restaurant but their formula is good.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Two smelly dogs

This morning we woke to bright sunshine and an arid landscape and it was difficult to imagine that a few hours ago we were standing in snow 'on top of the world'. We never imagined that skiing would be 'on the menu' when we moved here. Nice, nevertheless.


It was time for me to have my three monthly blood test, so we went to the usual place in Sommieres. When we first arrived in France, it took some getting used to when we realised that there are lots of separate, independent businesses that perform functions like blood tests and radiology. I presume that you can get the same services if you walk in off the street into a hospital but these local businesses are very convenient. This morning, I walked through the door without an appointment, answered a few questions and had the test done immediately. It was very quick and easy and this system works well in a rural environment. It saved me a longer journey into Nîmes and with no waiting time. It takes pressure off the hospitals, and it's a service that might work in the UK.


Anyway, we then shot over to the kennels to pick up 2 very relieved pooches and bring them home. As Jan said yesterday, "it's nice to have a couple of days without them but now I miss them and I want them home". The downside of their sojourn in kennels is that they always return smelling very doggy and we spent some time trying, unsuccessfully, to get them to smell better. Ah well, Jan has to put up with me so a few extra doggy smells aren't too bad.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

My new love

Yesterday, on the way to the Millau Bridge, we stopped off in Le Vigan to check for somewhere to stay for the night and then entered virgin territory for the one hour drive west. It was interesting countryside with alpine gorges, high plateau moors and strange rock formations. It was however too slow to consider this as a route to the A75 for a drive north but interesting nonetheless. The bridge was awe inspiring and we were glad that we made the effort. It crosses the Tarn Gorge near Millau and joins up the A75, north to south, thereby considerably reducing the journey time on this stretch of motorway. Back then to Le Vigan for a bite to eat and a nights kip before we ventured up the mountain for 'le ski'.

This morning we met up with Jill and Harry, who were 'in town' again and who decided to join us for our little adventure. (Please, no jokes about on the piste - Ed.) After the 55 minute drive up the mountain, Jan went off up the slopes whilst three of us had a lesson with Jean Paul. I think that I'm hooked. Learning new skills at my age is very satisfying, but conquering new fears feels even better. I may have been in the 'baby school' and only just capable of standing with these very slippery things on my feet, but I felt very satisfied and eager to continue. The only drawback, after an hour, was the pain in my legs and the desperate need for a rest. Wearing ski boots is a bit like hitting the lower part of your legs with a hammer and then wondering why it hurts. Anyway, it looks like next week will be quiet (the schools in Montpellier shut the week after that, and the place apparently turns into a zoo) so we will be back then. If you look behind the handsome couple in the picture above you can see how quiet it was. I can't wait.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

On top of the world

We live at the edge of the coastal plain and the foothills of the Cevennes in a little wine growing village, between Nîmes and Montpellier. For entertainment, we have always tended to 'head south', either to the towns or the beach. However, yesterday's trip showed me how shortsighted this has been. We have always been impressed by the dramatic scenery as we headed north to Ganges, but this time we ventured beyond Ganges. Continue up the D999, and you follow the river Hérault through breathtaking 'alpine' countryside towards Le Vigan. After Le Vigan, you can drive up Mont Aigoual where the views are even more breathtaking and spectacular. At 1380 metres to the top of the mountain, it is not very high in the scheme of things, but the views make you feel 'on top of the world'. I think that this is the highest mountain in the Cevennes, and the journey from Le Vigan in the valley below to the summit, takes about an hour. Jan pointed out, as we passed some of the houses clinging to the hillside, "you wouldn't want to run out of milk too often up here." Anyway, this experience prompted us to visit the area again, so today we left the dogs in kennels and head off to see the Millau Bridge, which is not too far away and is a must see local spectacle. More about the trip tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

On top of old smoky

The bad news from yesterday was that I'd put on a couple of kilos, so much of the day was spent sulking. How am I supposed to enjoy myself and lose some weight? The world is conspiring against me. I'm not paranoid, but why is everyone getting at me? I cancelled the lovely Dr K on the pretext of having to fly around the world on urgent flying round the world type business. Aren't scales a horrible invention? How dare they tell me the truth? When all said and done I keep the truth from myself so surely they should cooperate a little. Bum, bum and thrice bum.


Unless it has something to do with a knife and fork, or a corkscrew, Jan and I don't seem to rush into things. And so it was today that, having lived here for over 3 years, we finally got off our backsides and decided to go skiing. First we dropped the dogs off, and then we set off for Prat Peyrot on Mount Aigoual about an hour and a half away. I can remember exactly the last time we went skiing. We were in Austria in a little village called Abtenau, not too far from Saltzburg. I have fond memories of this trip because it was my first ever attempt on skis but also because we spent quite a lot of spare, nursing-bruises-time, watching the Winter Olympics. Now, four years later, was going to be my second time on skis, just before the next Winter Olympics, which start on Friday. You can't say that we're not consistent! Anyway, after a winding drive up Mont Aigoual, we arrived in brilliant sunshine at the ski station. Jan, who has skied before, went off up the slopes and I decided to have a lesson with Jean Paul, a very nice man who Jan admitted that she fancied a lot. What is it about ski instructors and women? (Can I remind you that just the other day you were wittering on about an exotic babe on an exotic beach? - Ed.) The snow was perfect, the sun shone and conditions could not have been better. Assuming that we don't ache too much tomorrow we might have another go at it later this week. An excellent day and one to remember.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

And what's your name?

Last night, neighbours Nicky and Graham, and friends Chris and Delphine came to dinner. Jan prepared as a starter, pan fried Rouget fillets on a bed of leeks, followed by duck, slow cooked, with ginger and star anise on a bed of noodles. Lemon syllabub with an apricot compote brought up the rear. All this was washed down with a Marsanne/Roussanne mix from Domaine Arnal and a 2002 Hardiesse from Chateau de Valflaunès. I suffered a bit this morning but was fighting fit again by 11.00. (Aren't you a big brave boy? - Ed.)


This was in the news today and I thought it funny.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Wot, no teeth marks!

As a matter of interest, the Great White failed to find me last night! If, by chance, it had found me, I'd probably be typing this on some exotic beach, with some exotic babe, sipping an exotic cocktail. Having said that, the prize was shared by 3 people and they only got £40 million each. Serves them right! Ah well.


We took Max and Minnie to training today. Max was his usual boisterous, "in love with the girls" self and Minnie, considering it was only her second time, behaved really well. The class has a high proportion of Rottweilers, many of whom are puppies. They all behaved impeccably and Jan made the comment that Rottweiler puppies are really cute. I made the observation that they are not unlike women, soft and cuddly when they're young but formidable and ferocious when they're older. Maybe I'm just a bit cynical! What do you think, boys?


Italy and Ireland played rugby this afternoon, as did England and Wales. France and Scotland play tomorrow. Despite losing, Italy played well and are starting to show promise (I'm not biased, honest), England kicked ass and stamped all over Wales. Good fun, unless of course you're Welsh.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Look out, there's a shark in the garden

Last night Jan cooked cassoulet for the first time. The recipe varies depending on who you read, or listen to, so Jan made her own version. Basically it is a meat and bean stew. Jan used sausage (Italian because she didn't have any Toulouse), duck and pork . Throw in the haricot beans and the other bits then leave to cook for 2 hours. Delicious, but I have to say that I'm not sure why the French make such a fuss about it. For a more precise recipe click on cassoulet above.
Minnie, who is still only 4 months old, can now open the back door on her own. Does she learn fast or what? Max wasn't able to do this until he got to about 18 months. She's one smart little girl. Bless.


We had to pop out to Quissac this afternoon for a couple of things, one of which was to buy a Euro Lottery ticket. The top prize currently stands at £125 m (175 million euros) which would just about pay off my credit cards. The only drawback that I can see is that the chances of winning are reported to be the same as being bitten by a great white shark. On the basis that I live 50 minutes inland does that mean I'm not going to win? What do you think?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

How to get on in business

For all you aspiring executives I offer a little advice:

Corporate Lesson 1 : A man gets into the shower just as his wife is finishing her shower, when the doorbell rings.

The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs. When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next door neighbour. Before she says a word, Bob says, "I'll give you $800 to drop that towel,"

After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob. After a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 dollars and leaves. The woman wraps the towel around herself and goes back upstairs.

When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, "Who was that?"

"It was Bob the next door neighbour," she replies.

"Great!" the husband says, "did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?"

Moral of the story: If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in good time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.


Corporate Lesson 2 : A priest offered a lift to a nun. She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg. The priest nearly had an accident. After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg again.

The nun said, "Father, do you remember Psalm 129?"

The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again.

The nun once again said, "Father, do you remember Psalm 129?"

The priest apologized "Sorry sister, but the flesh is weak."

Arriving at the convent, the nun went on her way.

On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, "Go forth and seek, further up you will find glory."

Moral of the story: If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.


Corporate Lesson 3 : A sales rep, an admin clerk and their manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes out.

The Genie says, "I'll give each of you just one wish."

"Me first! Me first!" says the admin. clerk. "I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world." Poof! She's gone.

"Me next! Me next!" says the sales rep. "I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life." Poof! He's gone.

"OK, you're up," the Genie says to the manager.

The manager says, "I want those two back in the office after lunch."

Moral of the story: Always let your boss have the first say.


Corporate Lesson 4 : A crow was sitting on a tree, doing nothing all day.

A rabbit asked him, "Can I also sit like you and do nothing all day long?"

The crow answered: "Sure, why not."So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the crow, and rested.

A fox jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very high up.

Corporate Lesson 5 : A turkey was chatting with a bull.

"I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree," sighed the turkey, but I haven't got the energy."

"Well, why don't you nibble on my droppings?" replied the bull. "They're packed with nutrients." The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree.

The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.

Finally after a fourth night, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree when he was spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.

Moral of the story: Bullshit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Oh lordy, lordy, I seen da light

There was a very interesting programme on television last night about faith healing. It was being investigated by Prof Kathy Sykes, a very fit, good looking scientist, don't you know (there aint nothing wrong with her body - Ed). The sort of woman that makes you feel like getting your Bunsen burner out. Anyway, the net result was that it demonstrated scientifically that people could be cured or just feel better, because they believed that they had been operated on, or had hands laid on them, or whatever. Now I've been thinking for a while about any little extra curricular activities that I might get into, and it made me think that maybe I could get into the 'healing business' like the laying on of hands. I decided to try it out on Jan. The results were absolutely amazing, I laid my hands on various bits of her body and, you know what? I felt better straight away! A miracle.


I get such a buzz when I get things to work. Some time ago we had a chap install a new box to pick up the free to air BBC channels. It was cold, late in the day, and he struggled to tune in the last couple of channels that I wanted. He made the usual promises about sorting in out for me the next day and went home for his dinner, or whatever French artisans do at the end of the day. Needless to say, he made no further contact and I decided to do it myself. I had tried twice previously but this morning I woke with a clear head and decided to try again. Bingo, don't ask me how I did it, but did it I did. And now I feel qualified to lay my hands on yet even more things!


Eat your heart out, it was another glorious sunny day again today and the forecast for the next 10 days or so is for sunny, warm/cool days and cold nights. Now I remember why we moved here. In line with the improved weather, William and I played tennis for the first time in a few weeks and whilst he came at me like a steam train, I managed to fend him off and beat him 6-3. Vive l'Angleterre.