Friday, March 31, 2006

Thanks Michel

I ache all over. The day was spent in the garden helping Michel finish the dog kennel and side gates. He's an excellent worker and it all looks good. Even in the short time he's been here it's amazing how much building knowledge that you pick up. Not that I'm likely to use much of it.


The second half of this month was much warmer (15.8 C avg) than the first half (12.5 C avg) and with only 17 days of sunshine mostly in the second half it was a satisfactory rather than an exceptional month. Having said that, I turned off the heating today because it looks like summer has now arrived.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

La Table des Agassins

This article about a commercial jet that landed at the wrong airport made me laugh. The pilot had been cleared for a visual approach and landed at a military airport 5 miles short of his destination. This reminds me of the time when I was sitting in the cockpit on a commercial flight from Jersey to Southampton. As we approached Southampton, ATC told us that we were third to land after planes A & B. It was a beautiful clear day and we could see for miles. We were passing the airport on the right hand side (you mean starboard - Ed.) with a view to making a right turn towards the runway. Both the pilot and the co-pilot were looking everywhere to find the 2 planes in front of us. Eventually they found one of them but they never saw the other, either in the air or on the ground, and, believe me, I was looking as well. We landed safely and they could offer no explanation or not one they wanted to discuss with me! Mnnnnnnn.


Out for lunch today at Les Agassins, the restaurant where Chris W is continuing his new life. Chris was a Times journalist, author, IT expert and runs the Dr Keyboard website. He is now a trainee chef at this great restaurant. We had the excellent value (19 euros) 3 course, Dejeuner Saveurs de Printemps. I started with a Salade d'Haricots Plats et Magret de Canard, followed by Supreme de Pintade a la Tapenade Noire and then Tiramisu. Each and every course was excellent and chef Jean-Rémi Joly, who we met, along with Chris, in the kitchen, spoilt us by providing lots of little between courses tasters. Jan said it was one of the most enjoyable meals she had ever had. You can't say better than that. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Say that again John

Peter from The Languedoc Page made reference to this article which I found interesting.


The garden gates and the kennel are coming along fine and I spent some time this afternoon mixing concrete to help the process. Michel is a good worker and at this rate most of the work will be finished by Friday.


We were both watching Prime Ministers Question Time today which was being conducted by William Hague and John Prescott, the deputy Prime Minister, in Tony Blair's absence. Hague asked a question which Prescott in his inimitable (incomprehensible) style answered, to which Hague said, "There was so little English in that reply that even President Chirac would have been happy." They both hammered away at each other with insults flowing thick and fast, and it was, without doubt, the best and funniest PMQ's that we have heard for a long time. Excellent.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

That's how to play football

Harold and Elizabeth left today and we very sorry to see them go. It was a relaxing few days and we had lots of laughs.

Michel, our new macon, arrived as planned to build some garden gates and a chenile and run for the dogs. From time to time it's necessary to leave the dogs for more than a couple of hours and the kennel will help enormously. I have built in space for them to run about and lots of space for them to get out of the sun. If they don't like it, I can see myself using it when Jan gets fed up with me! (probably a bit more often than you think - Ed.)

It was so warm this evening that we didn't need to light a fire. This was an added bonus to my 2 hours in front of the television tonight watching Arsenal play Juventus in the Champions League. It was one of the most exciting matches I have ever seen and if Arsenal continue to play like that, they will definitely be crowned champions of Europe. Watch this space.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I liked this one

A guy sitting at a bar at Heathrow Terminal 3 noticed a really beautiful woman sitting next to him.
He thought to himself: "Wow, she's so gorgeous she must be a flight attendant. I wonder which airline she works for?"
Hoping to pick her up, he leaned towards her and uttered the Delta slogan: "Love to fly and it shows?"
She gave him a blank, confused stare and he immediately thought to himself: "Damn, she doesn't work for Delta."
A moment later, another slogan popped into his head. He leaned towards her again, "Something special in the air?"
She gave him the same confused look. He mentally kicked himself, and scratched Singapore Airlines off the list. Next he tried the Thai Airways slogan: "Smooth as Silk."
This time the woman turned to him and said,"What the fuck do you want?"
The man smiled, slumped back in his chair, and said "Ahhhh, Easy Jet!"

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Yet another domaine to find

After I had driven to Quissac for bread and croissants, I cleared up the breakfast stuff, packed the dishwasher and swept the floors. H&E and Jan, on the other hand, went to a book fair. Anyway they did remember to come back to pick me up so that we could go to Mas de Roux for lunch. What was particularly good about the lunch was that we might have found another good source of wine. On reading the label, that Harold very kindly bought, Domaine des Aigues Belles is very close by and is now on my list of 'must visit caveau'. It never fails to surprise me that there are so many good wine producers in this area and, after 3 years, I still find new ones. What a charmed life we have ahead.


Mother's Days are great for mums but only if you remember them!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Peter buys a drink

After a leisurely breakfast it was off to Sommieres for the market. We hadn't been to the market for ages but because H&E wanted to go and because the weather was so pleasant it was an attractive proposition. As usual, we met lots of people that we know, but the highlight has to be that Peter Hornby actually got round to buying me a drink. I have mentioned Peter before because he runs the very successful Languedoc Page. Normally I'm a forgiving soul but I had no sympathy when he eventually got up to buy a bottle because he was the only one who could get up from the table without dislodging several people. When it came to my turn to buy, I sensibly called the waiter over and asked him for the same again. It transpired that we had drunk so many bottles that my bottle was offered free. Whilst Peter's bottle tasted good, mine tasted even better. Cheers Peter.
On market days the cafe that we frequent spills out onto the street and our table stuck out well into the road. We stayed until after the market had finished and the stall holders had cleared the street. What was funny, was that as the street got back to normal, the drivers of cars that were having to squeeze past us, apologised at having to disturb us. Now that's what I call people power. Vive la revolution! Such is life at Sommieres market.


Talking about vive la revolution, this article is interesting and helps to put some of the recent unrest with the young and the new employment contract into some kind of context. As far as I'm concerned, the notion of jobs for life disappeared with the dodo (and so will France as an economic power unless the French start to see some sense). What I find interesting about all this is that I had no idea that French attitudes were so self centred and deeply entrenched. The next few years will be very interesting.


Tonight Jan prepared cheese soufflé, slow cooked lamb and minted strawberries for dinner. All washed down with a few bottles from Domaine de Baubiac. My new best friend.

Friday, March 24, 2006

A French truckstop

Harold and Elizabeth arrived today to stay for a few nights. Until recently they lived in the village, but moved to Agen (about 4 hours away) last year. Their visit is about meeting up with old friends.
First stop this evening was Ray and Val's for 'aperos' before we headed to the relais in nearby Montmirat for a cheap and cheerful 4 course, 11 euros meal, wine included (how do they do it?). Each course has a choice from 3, I had eggs mimosa, steak and chips, cheese, crème caramel and as much wine as I could drink. All this for 11 euros (£7.85). It's no wonder that they are always full at lunchtime. Unfortunately, at this time of year they only open Friday and Saturday evening. Good value.
With regards to my rant yesterday, regarding Norman Kember, it seems that I'm not alone. Take a look at this site for lots more comment.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Yet another weather forecast

It feels like spring has finally arrived. It's a glorious warm sunny day and the outlook for the next couple of weeks is good. I'm glad we have seasons here and quite well defined they are too, all 2 of them. From the middle of March you can expect it to start warming up considerably (and so it does) and from November on you need a fire in the evening. Lovely jubbly.


I'm probably going to offend somebody here but I have to say it. It makes me really angry that the likes of Norman Kember create so much heartache and grief in their selfish, ill advised trips to the likes of Iraq. Selfish because "he felt he had to do something", ill advised, because anyone with the slightest modicum of common sense understands the danger, and despite both advice from government and experts on the ground, ploughs on in some ridiculous 'dream' about helping people and bringing peace. He should spend the rest of his life showing gratitude to the people that have worked on his behalf behind the scenes and the soldiers who put their lives at risk to rescue him. Mr Kember, you are a selfish idiot and your actions only make matters worse.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I need help

It rained on and off for most of yesterday so I took the opportunity, during my enforced captivity, to finish the data inputing that I had started the day before. I type pretty much with one finger and by the end of the day my right index finger was very sore. (Such a big brave boy - Ed.)


Jan and I have felt for some time that one or two of our French neighbours talk in a racist way but haven't thought much about it, other than trying to avoid them. This article suggests that the problem is much more widespread. I wonder what the equivalent figures for other countries are.


I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. My mother called today to mention that she has now received junk mail, mailed to two different names that she does not recognise, at her address, and that she is very worried. When I asked what she is worried about she said that as she lives on her own these things can be very worrying and what should she do? I tried, probably not very successfully, to explain that she had nothing to worry about. It made me reflect on the problems associated with elderly people living on their own and how vulnerable they can feel. I need to be more sympathetic and more patient. (You should talk to your care worker about it - Ed.).

Monday, March 20, 2006

I'm forever blowing bubbles

From time to time I mention Katie, a delightful person, who visits us on school holidays with her parents Glyn and Gill and her equally delightful brother Tom. Well, Katie is a fiend with a squash racquet, plays for her county Lancashire, and recently won a tournament in Ireland against an older, bigger, stronger and uglier opponent (I hope she doesn't see this - Ed.). I'm pleased to include a picture of Katie collecting her prize.


I saw this today which made me laugh. There's hope for us all yet!


With the exception of West Ham (I had the honour of signing their first ever shirt sponsorship) beating Manchester City in the FA Cup, nothing much happened today. It tried to rain most of the day so the garden was out of bounds and I spent at lot of time at the computer inputing data. It looks like I'll have to do the same again tomorrow - yippee - can't wait!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A one eyed frog

In response to huge public demand, I include another picture of my new beret. Very Gallic or what? (Why do you keep closing one eye? - Ed.)


The dogs have been quite mischievous recently and today Max decided to chase a cat, which disappeared under the house. New houses in this area all seem to be built with a vide sanitaire. A space under the house where you can get access to all the plumbing and drainage. We have 2 extra accesses (don't ask) that I had blocked off with a view to doing something permanent later. Whilst going under the house is not a problem in itself, the damage he could do to pipes is something else. Gentle he is not. For 2 years Max has never been interested in going under the house but a cat has changed all that. Both holes were blocked with heavy concrete blocks, but if it means getting at a cat, these posed no problem to our little angel. He brushed them aside as if they didn't exist.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Seriously good wine makers

Today was all about meeting Bob and Lynne for a little wine tasting, and trying out a new restaurant, but just before B&L arrived both the dogs went missing. After about 20 minutes, Max responded to calls and turned up on the other side of a boundary fence, but we had to use quite a bit of subterfuge to trap him because he was clearly very excited at having 'escaped'.
Minnie, on the other hand, had totally disappeared and so with Max under control, we went off in search of her. We toured the village in the car and on foot shouting her name. Nothing. My thoughts turned to someone having taken her because she is quite valuable and very friendly, so getting hold of her would not be a problem. After 40 minutes we returned home and had to assume that she would turn up. She did, in exactly the same place that Max had 40 minutes earlier. We then spent some time trying to find their escape route and blocking the hole. The little darlings.


When Bob and Lynne arrived, only I was ready, so the 3 of us set off for a little wine tasting but before that they very, very kindly gave us each a birthday present. Fabulous, I've always wanted a beret and together with my new stripy jumper (Marks and Spencer!) I think that I am at least starting to look a little French. Thank you B&L, you are very kind.


First stop for the tasting was the cave at Crespian to taste their Bois d' Elene, Grand Reserve (amongst others), then onto Mas de Plan at Serignac for some of their reds, where we also discovered a delicious bag-in-box white. It's funny that both my white wines of choice, from around here, come in boxes. Last stop was Quissac for a tasting in the front room of the owners of Domaine de Baubiac. These people are seriously good wine makers but what made the tasting so atmospheric was Raul's insistence on making it a bit of an apero (I think he fancied the company) by offering us some sausage and olives and leaving the television blaring out, whilst France beat Wales at Rugby. You couldn't pay for moments like this and to quote a MasterCard advert - it was priceless. As Jan said some time ago, "It sure beats buying wine at Sainsburys."


As our luck was riding high, the new restaurant was bound to be good. WRONG, at best the food was mediocre, with a style straight from the 70's, it was not particularly cheap, and the wine was ok but poor in comparison to what we had been tasting earlier (if you want to avoid it, it was Hotel Restaurant L'Esquielle in 30190 St-Genies de Malgoires). A disappointing end to the day, but the rest of it was pretty damn good!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Give us a job mister

I've finally caught up with the backlog of typing for last week's trip. Other than catching up with bits and pieces, not too much happened yesterday.


I've mentioned before about antiquated French attitudes to work and how this country needs strong leadership that will move it forward into the 21st century. The present unrest, as mentioned here, is a good example of what I mean. I'm no expert, but I believe that the UK has had the same type of law in existence for over 25 years and doesn't seem to suffer too much. Every time I discuss employment with any of the artisans that I come into contact with, to a man, they mention the high cost of employing people in this country, in terms of social security payments and stringent employment laws that make it very difficult to fire someone who doesn't perform. As a result, you find lots of one man bands, high youth unemployment and negative attitudes. French protests seem inevitably to have a violent side to them and in my eyes makes the protestors look Luddite in the extreme. For a nation that launches space rockets, builds Concorde, designs nice clothes and makes fine wine, I find it all a bit puzzling.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A brave man

As planned, new gates arrived from Lapeyre in anticipation of blocking off the front and back gardens and Mr Fridge Repair Man arrived to fix an ongoing problem with our main fridge. At the time of writing, it's still chillin!

We had a big shock however, when JP, our French friend and former restaurant owner, appeared on the doorstep minus his usual mane of hair and Gallic moustache. He was expecting an email from his family, who had recently decamped to Zimbabwe, and called to see if it had arrived. The poor man had had a lump removed from his throat and the chemotherapy had zapped all his hair and 'burnt' his face. All this had happened in the space of the few weeks since we last saw him, and he has been dealing with this all on his own. A brave man.

It reminds me of how frail we all are, how we should all love one another and that we should all live life to the full.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Honey, I'm home

An early start, so that Jill and Harry could drop us off at Luton before they carried on up to Manchester Airport for a short break in Morocco.

Ryanair's recent clamp down on baggage allowance (10 kilos carry on and 15 kilos checked bag) had us juggling items between the suitcases at the airport but we just managed to scrape inside the limits. Having said that we left a huge box of goodies in Hinxworth for J&H to bring with them next time they drive down. I see a little business opportunity here for someone to ferry items between the UK and all Ryanair's destinations. Hmnnnn.

Our plane was delayed for an hour but otherwise the flight was uneventful and we landed in a warm and sunny Nîmes. It was good to be back. It was good to see the pooches and even better to get back into our own bed.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Give me patience

Because James and Pauline had very kindly let us use their bedroom, we left Brighton early so that they could get on with their lives and we could head north to meet Jan's sister Valerie.

On the way, we stopped off at Marks and Spencer (I'd noticed that you hadn't mentioned it yet - Ed.) so that Jan could take some items back that she had bought 2 days previously. Furthermore, despite my suggestion that she buy something that would be useful and improve her life, she promptly filled a trolley with clothes, that she tried on, and then put back. What is it about women and shopping? I actually don't mind shopping, but this was a total waste of 1 hour of our lives. (What happened to all your birthday good will? - Ed.)

Val was in fine form and after a pub lunch (I had a pint of Badgers, which was really good) we headed back to Hinxworth for an Indian curry with Jill and Harry. The perfect end to the day - and the week.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Surprise No 2

Because one surprise wasn't enough, today (with help from Rebecca in England) we orchestrated 'Surprise 2'. After a lazy breakfast and a read of the Sunday papers, Jan and I wandered up to the
Seven Dials Restaurant (1 Buckingham Place, Brighton 01273 885555 - recommended) for an excellent Sunday lunch. What Jan didn't know was that the rest of her extended family had already gathered for yet another surprise. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time that we had all gathered together in one place. The ages ranged from 87 years old to 2 years old.

Two perfect days were rounded off by putting Maisie (No 1 granddaughter) to bed and heading back to James' for pizza.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A nice surprise

Whilst Jan's birthday was on Thursday, what she didn't know was that I'd arranged for all our children to gather today, including Ben and Paula from Spain, for a family get together. Jan hadn't wanted a fuss made about her birthday and she was genuinely touched that all her children had gathered from the four corners. We celebrated at Aumthong Thai Brasserie (31 King Road, Brighton 01273 777256) with a long drawn out dinner. An excellent evening despite the fact that I somehow managed to lose the carpark ticket and it cost me £25 to recover the car. (You donkey - Ed.) In no particular order, Ben and Paula, Josh and Rebecca at the restaurant. Sorry Luke, no offence intended.

Friday, March 10, 2006

On the move again

We left for Brighton via Welwyn Garden City and a pub lunch in St Albans. At the pub I had 2 pints of London Pride, which I have always liked, but it seemed a bit 'thinner' than I remembered. However, whilst it may be a bit 'thinner', the price has certainly got 'fatter' at £2.90 a pint. How do kids afford to binge drink?

Leaving St Albans we took the M25 round London and boy, was it slow. It was 15.00 hours on Friday and the road was solid, stop-start all the way. It took over 2 hours to get to Brighton where we picked up James (my son) from work and then went on to his new flat in Hove for dinner. Pauline (pronounced Paolina in German) cooked us risotto ai cavolfiori, cauliflower risotto from Jamie Oliver's book Jamie's Italy. It was absolutely delicious and has instantly become a favourite. All in all a good day.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Happy Birthday

In order to get a few things for the dogs, we popped into Harrogate and visited a pet shop. The conversation got round to the possibility of Minnie getting pregnant by Max and how we could prevent it. On our way out of the shop, I made the joke that 'boys will be boys' and that I'd have to watch Max. The shopkeeper lent over the counter and in a conspiratorial whisper said, "My old Gran once said to me, 'Ner trust owt wi bollocks!'" A smart lady his granny!


Today was Jan's birthday and the major reason for this trip. Political correctness prevents me from saying how old she is, but if we lived in an area with any buses, her new free bus pass would come in handy. And by the way, I'm her toy boy. After a lovely breakfast in Harrogate, we jumped in the car for the 3 hour journey south for lunch. Jill had invited us, together with Bar and Geoff, for a delicious lunch. The rest of the day was spent laughing and joking (don't we all look pretty in pink?). A nice way to spend your birthday.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Food, like Mamma used to make

Today was all about R&R and so we achieved very little. The highlight of the day was going to be the visit to an Italian restaurant. I have always found it difficult to find good Italian restaurants in England. Most places are stuck in 70's mode and offer food that has only a passing resemblance to anything Italian. We were encouraged to visit Sasso in Prince's Square, Harrogate. The menu looked very appetising and the wine list was interesting to say the least. It promised a lot. Oops, that's as far as it got. I started with small bacon wrapped scallops, all three of them, followed by a seafood pasta dish that also contained asparagus and brocoli. There were far too may flavours all fighting with one another - hopeless. For main course, Jan and I had sea bass which unfortunately was covered in a porcini mushroom crust. This was far too strong a flavour for the fish. The pudding was equally disappointing. Not a good experience and not recommended and luckily I wasn't paying!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Holy contraceptives

Mum has a small house and very kindly lets us sleep in her bedroom whilst she moves to something smaller in another room. Being a staunch Roman Catholic, the room is full of religious artifacts, crucifixes, statues et al, which kind of puts you off your stroke if you are feeling in the slightest bit amorous. I presume it's a type of Catholic contraception. Anyway it bloody works!


First stop today was Knaresborough. A delightful market town where mum has her doctor's surgery. As a note of warning, never offer my mother a lift anywhere, it will take the rest of the day. On to Harrogate where, between them, mum and Jan achieved 2 hours of shopping, I hung around whilst they 'popped' into shops and, other than boredom, I achieved absolutely nothing. Now usually I don't mind shopping but my mother tests every kind fibre in my body to breaking point. When will I ever learn? Anyway, I had another bite of the cherry this afternoon and managed to buy Jan's forthcoming birthday present.

Out to the theatre tonight to see Alan Bennet's, Talking Heads. Harrogate Theatre opened in 1900 as Harrogate Grand Opera House and, over the years, has been visited by many famous old actors, Sarah Bernhardt, Isadora Duncan, Henry Irving, Herbert Beerbohm Tree and even Charlie Chaplin. It has a charming Victorian auditorium and only seats 500 people. The play was well performed and was very entertaining, albeit in a very gentle northern humoured way. The test for me, with anything like this, is whether I fall asleep or not. I stayed awake.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A short interlude

We left for a week in the UK today. The flight with Ryanair was, as usual, trouble free. Jill and Harry kindly met us at the airport, lent us their car, and we set off on our journey north to Yorkshire. The primary destination was Harrogate where my 81 years old mother lives. She left Italy when she was 22 and has lived in Harrogate ever since.
Whilst I lived in Harrogate for 21 years (it's the sort of place that I wanted to leave when I hit 21 but recognised as very attractive when I got to 40), I spent a lot of my early life in and out of Leeds. At school from age 11, and with my first job as a trainee quantity surveyor. Leeds was our first stop because we had to visit the best fish and chip shop in the world. I've been eating at Bryan's, (6, Weetwood Lane, Leeds, LS16 5LT, 0112 278 5679) for over 35 years and this visit is like revisiting the Holy Grail. I speak with some authority having eaten fish and chips all over England. According to Bill Bryson, the Magpie in Whitby makes the best fish and chips. Jan and I, who followed some of his trail in Notes from a Small Island, disagree. Forget Harry Ramsden, forget the Seashell in London and forget the Magpie. Bryan's is definitely the best. I had baby haddock, 3 fresh, moist, delicious pieces of haddock with chips, deep fried to perfection in beef dripping. None of your low fat, low cal nonsense here. Just pure, honest to goodness heart attack material with an exquisite taste. Recommended.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Who cares who the winner is?

At this time of the year I spray all the fruit trees, vines and the oleander bushes with Bouille Bordelaise (copper sulphate to you and me). This acts as a good fungicide and kills 99% of all known household germs (and anybody who eats the fruit - Ed.). It's used by all the vineyards around here to help prevent mildew. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
Jan has, by now, learnt not to ask me about recipes. Instead she uses her superb instincts and tries new and sometimes unusual combinations. Today was no exception because she served a Smoked Mackerel and Grapefruit salad. If she had told me about this beforehand, I'd have laughed my head off. It sounds awful but tastes delicious and she found the recipe here on the BBC food site.

To help with your cinema viewing, I am pleased to point you to this years winners of the Golden Raspberry Awards. Don't say you weren't warned.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Is that book interesting dear?

In need of something to feel righteous about, but in reality because the water had turned an olive green colour, I decided to clean the pool. It's amazing how 75 cubic metres of avocado soup can turn to an azure blue in such a short time. And yes, I did feel self righteous.


It was Woody Allen who once said, "Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go, it's a pretty good empty experience."
This reminds me about when I complained to a friend, that the woman I was with at that time, didn't seem to enjoy sex. Being a man he was immediately interested in my observation.
"How does she display this?" he asked.
"Well, she didn't stop reading her book," I said.
Being a kind friend and trying to cheer me up he said, "You can always tell whether she was enjoying it or not,"
"How?" I said.
"Did she turn the page?" he said.
Crestfallen, I remembered that she had in fact turned the page.
Following last night's dinner, we went this morning to Domaine de Baubiac to see if we could taste some wine. As Jan correctly observed, I was on a mission. The sign on the caveau door said open between 11.30 and 13.00. A strange opening time by French standards, but not so strange by another French standard, because there was no one there. Anyway, I made contact and arranged to return at 16.00. We met with Raul Philip, one of the two brothers, the other being Hervé, and he offered us 4 wines to try. They were so good and so very much to our taste, that it was difficult to chose. So we bought some of each. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Being British

As an add-on to my rant about the Oscars, I am pleased to display the logo for the Golden Raspberry Awards. Please support this very worthy cause.


I quite often talk about insular French attitudes to 'things foreign' and laughed when I received this today.

"Being British is about speaking on a Finnish mobile phone whilst driving in a German car to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer and trying to pick up a Scandinavian girl, then travelling home, grabbing an Indian curry or a Turkish kebab on the way, to sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV. And the most British thing of all? Suspicion of anything foreign ".


Driving into Nîmes today we saw yet another instance of the French police standing at the side of the road and pulling cars over. This wasn't as scary as the other night when one of the flics was standing with his rifle ready to shoot somebody, which reminds me of a time when we lived in Windsor. One night we saw several police cars, having rammed a car into the barriers, at a roundabout near where we lived. What was really scary, was to see a man, handcuffed and face down on the road and an armed policeman standing over him pointing a rifle at his head. His 'moll' was screaming and having to be restrained and a police dog was barking at her. If you'd seen it in a film you'd have thought that it was a gross exaggeration of reality. (No jokes please about how you paid his parking ticket - Ed.)


We headed off for a pizza tonight in Quissac, but found that our target was closed for a private function. The next choice, recommended by William, was busy but if we wanted to eat there we would have had to eat outside. Mnnnnn, it was warm but not that warm. So La Baraka it was. As you enter Quissac from the south, this place is just before the traffic lights on the right. Thank goodness we ended up there. It was one of the best meals (at the 19.90 euros price) that we have had for ages. We both had the terrine de cèpes et poireaux, Jan then had fish and I had magret de canard gratiné au pelardon. I wasn't bothered about the cheese but it was interesting. This was washed down with an excellent Domaine de Baubiac, Coteaux de Languedoc, 2000. One of the best reds at the price that we have ever had. We have previously tried to visit this domaine but it was shut. It's now high on the list for a visit because I've got to see if he's got any of the red left.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Get a grip

It's wind up time again. Wind up for me that is, because each morning on breakfast news, a considerable amount of time is given over to the forthcoming Oscars. I now know all about this worthless event. An event where so many people are so far up their own backsides. I have seen interviews with dress designers, providers of jewelry, one or two columnists from the LA Times, the guy who sweeps the carpet, chauffeurs and technicians. The only one that bore any semblance to normality was the guy that runs the alternative Oscar ceremony, "The Golden Raspberries". The BBC quite often mentions the phenomena of celebrity worship, but it is as guilty as anyone of fueling the media hype.


So what did we do last night? We watched Oceans 12, a film with so many "stars", it begs belief. Over time we have collected many DVDs, all still in their protective cellophane wrapping, for general winter viewing. Jan, who is partial to the odd drool over Brad Pitt and George Clooney, chose the film because we both quite enjoyed Oceans 11, but it was she who, for the first 30 minutes, kept asking me, "What's going on? Do you understand the plot?" Me, full of male bravado, told her not to worry (dearest) because all will be revealed in the fullness of time. At which point I fell asleep. I was trying so hard to understand what the hell was going on and straining so hard to hear the pathetic dialogue, that my brain gave up the ghost and I sank into a coma. It was awful. (Might have to agree with you on that one - Ed.) As if I need to prove my point, I typed Alternative Oscars into Google and look what I came up with.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

How to avoid spam

The weather in February was quite good. Whilst we had to light a fire because it was cold at night, the average midday temperature for the second half of the month was 13 C. There were 23 days of sunshine and only 1 day of rain. Pretty good really. It's no wonder that the weeds are growing.


Having now tried it out for several months, I have to give a thumbs up to my Gmail account. Whilst my 'regular' email account gets lots of spam (just how do they know that I've got a small willy and need Viagra?), the inbuilt spam filters in Gmail catch everything. Google have decided to only open new accounts by referral from existing account holders, so if anyone wants one please email me. The other bit of software that I have tried recently, and like, is Mailwasher. Mailwasher acts as a buffer between you and your mail handler and allows you to delete spam before it reaches your inbox. It's neat and has the clear advantage of making you less visible to spammers. You can try the simple version for free. Recommended.


We had to nip out for a couple of things this afternoon, with the intention of popping into Domaine Arnal to see if their boxed white wine is ready yet. I've noticed that Jan is getting a bit twitchy, so I'm sure that a couple of boxes will help calm her down. Last year, this was our white wine of choice, and at 2 euros a litre it was an absolute bargain. First stop was Sommieres, where we parked outside the chocolatier Courtin, just outside the town walls. This place makes delicious handmade chocolates and you can watch them plying their trade at the back of the shop. I just had to buy a little present for Jan (and you - Ed.). On to Arnal to be told by Madame that they had only just put the wine into the cuve and it would be ready in a couple of days time. Not a bad guess from yours truly! Not to be outdone, we drove back towards Sommieres and called into Domaine de Christin to try their whites. Like Arnal, they had little white left (most vineyards attempt to make just enough white and rosé to last a year) but we tried and bought some Sauvignon and some boxed red to try at our leisure.