Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Minnie the minx

I went on a mushroom hunt today when we took the dogs out for a walk. Despite the fact that I carried my all new, huntin, shootin and fishin knife, I couldn't find any. Bum. Ah well, I managed to get the dogs to sit still for a couple of seconds and took the photo above. William had me in fits last night with tales of the last time he went to find mushrooms. They drove for miles, arrived before it was light, like an hour before, so had to head for a bar (with two committed drinkers) and then found nothing. They then moved on and drove for another 20 minutes and found a little. Like me he said that you can buy them relatively cheaply (when you take the man hours and petrol into consideration) at the local market. But, and this is the big but, they don't taste as good. Hmmm?

Whilst she is very soft and gentle with us, Minnie is very aggressive when she plays with Max and despite being slightly smaller than him, it already looks like she will rule the roost in a years time. Typical female (he said bitterly)!


We'd forgotten that I'd invited Christine round this morning to help her with her computer. We were both still in our pj's when she arrived. Anyway, her machine was in a right mess and when I checked the Windows Update site there were 61 patches to be downloaded. I started at 10.45 and didn't finish that bit until 15.00. Yuk. On top of that, the machine kept freezing and is very low on memory (256 Mb). I ordered some more from Crucial, which is my one stop shop for this type of thing. Recommended.

Monday, October 30, 2006


A couple of photos of our trip to the market in Sommieres on Saturday and lunch at Fourneau de Clelia on Sunday. From the top, Elie's daughter making our meat, cheese or spinach filled galettes, middle, the Lebanese sweet things on offer and bottom, Harold and Elizabeth listening intently to something very important that I was saying. (Give me patience - Ed.)
Harold and Elizabeth left this morning and we are sad to see them go. They are good fun and like to eat and drink, which is just as well, because that's all we seemed to do.
William, Peter and I started our tennis again this morning. It's the first time in several weeks since we last played. William played particularly well even though he was complaining about a cold. Every time he hit a good shot he said, "I wish I was feeling better!" Conman. With time constraints for all of us we didn't get a full session completed but we did have a good laugh and, more to the point, we got some exercise and the tennis just gets better.
Following my rant at the pope yesterday, here's another example of a poor 'religious leader'. All these guys need to start looking at themselves a little more closely, think about what they say more carefully and stop trying to teach others how to lead their lives when they are patently incapable of behaving correctly themselves.
Here's something that I have been wrestling with recently. You will note in the paragraph above that I wrote pope with a small 'p'. The other day I wrote God with a capital 'G'. I wrote pope with a small p because I believe that he needs to earn my respect but I feel two faced about writing God with a capital G because I'm an atheist. If I really don't believe in God, should I write the word with an upper case or lower case letter? I was raised a Catholic and was taught by Jesuits (there I go again) but now have little time for the church and do not believe in a God. I do however respect everyone's right to believe in their God and would never impose my will. Should I write god or God? Frankly I'm not sure. If I write god, then I'm honestly expressing my belief, but could start offending people. If I write God then I feel uncomfortable and two faced, but might be keeping him/Him happy just in case there is one/One. How would he/He expect me/Me (now there's another conundrum) to behave? See the things I've got to wrestle with?
In the past I have accused Jan of not listening to me. She naturally refutes this. Here's my proof. This morning I reminded her that I had to take the Jeep to Quissac for 11.00 because it is now nearly 4 years old and needs its first control technique. She even repeated back to me, "Oh, you're going to Quissac this morning!" So far so good. Later this morning I shortened our tennis session because I had to leave to go to Quissac. So far so good. After coffee I walked outside to find that Jan had taken the Jeep to her art class and could not be contacted. So far, not so good. Q.E.D.
Here's something else I don't understand (you've been thinking too much again - Ed.) There has been a lot of talk recently about 'Green' taxes. All shades of British political parties have joined this bandwagon. As I understand it, if you pollute you will pay a tax. OK, a simple proposal, but pray tell me, if I give Mr Tax Collector a fiver, because I polluted, what exactly will he do with my fiver to plug the ozone layer? Or maybe, just maybe, is this another means of revenue raising? I can't wait!!
Out for dinner at William and Christine's tonight. The other guests were Alain (artist) and Christiane his missus. A good evening, which was nice.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sorry Ben, but it's all just a bit too late

Sorry Ben, but this is just a bit too late. Why has it taken you so long to say something? Why aren't you addressing all the poor unfortunates that have been abused? Why not say sorry? The list goes on.
And, to top it all, you could at least have congratulated Alexandra Rosenfeld a bonny lass from just down the road (Saint-Thibery), who is the current Miss Languedoc, the current Miss France and who has just been crowned Miss Europe. This young, blond, 19 years old beauty wants to travel the world, do good things for orphaned children and the children who have been abused by your priests. Or at least I think that's what she said in her tearful victory speech. Keep up!
This quote by Roger Law made me laugh, “I go to the theatre to be entertained. I don't want to see rape, sodomy, and drug addiction. I can get all that at home.”
Jan is slowly losing the ability to cook. H&E invited us for lunch, so we all headed for Le Fourneau de Clelia in Aigremomt. It's a 31 euros menu and always our restaurant of choice, especially if someone else is paying. I started with a terrine de foie gras with a chestnut velouté on the side, garnished with girolles mushrooms. For the main course we all had a filet mignon de porc with a honey based sauce and girolles and whole chestnuts on the side. Pudding was huge, and delicious. All this washed down with a Viognier 2005 from Domaine de Grand Chemin and a Mas Foulaquier Les Calades 2000. Highly recommended. I was stuffed for the rest of the day.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Changing flags

If you can't read this, click on the image to enlarge it.


The mood was a little quieter at the market this morning and given that we are all going out to the relais this evening for dinner, everyone decided to take it easy. Having said that we still got stuck into some wine and we all trooped off to buy bits for the pique nique which we ate under the arches. I bought a selection of galettes from the Lebanese stall, Bryan brought bread, wine and hummous and Harold bought some savoury tarts and a huge slab of brie de meaux. A great feast. Not to be outdone, the table of friendly French tourists from Alsace behind us chomped (or rather slurped) their way through a mountain of oysters and other goodies. They made us look like amateurs!


Eight of us headed off to the relais tonight for dinner. We paid 25 euros per couple for a four course meal with wine. Amazing.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Le Mas de Roux

A friend from Liverpool emailed this morning in a bit of a panic. He is coming to France, for a wedding, with his family next August and he needs at least 7 bedrooms. Everywhere he had tried was full so he turned to me to sort it all out. Within 3 hours I had him fixed up with excellent accommodation at nearby Mas de Roux that suited his needs perfectly. Don't you wish you had a friend like me? (Err, no - Ed.)


Because H&E like to eat and drink, and because we sort of like to as well (well blow me down - Ed.), we popped into Domaine de Baubiac at lunch time to pick up some of their delicious red. Nothing extraordinary about that, but when I asked him how much of his year 2000 (my favourite) he had left, he said not much. As an aside to myself I murmured that I'd better buy some more, when he helpfully suggested that he would put away as much as we needed. What a helluva offer. He mentioned a pallet which I think is about 600 bottles but I increased it to 2 because he hadn't counted on Jan! Our own private wine supply kept at the perfect temperature to buy whenever we want. Isn't that nice. Slurp.


Because we had dinner with H&E on our own last night, and I couldn't stand another, (just kidding) Jan invited Bryan and Gill over for dinner as well tonight. It was a big one, and the Baubiac went down a treat.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Saint Jan of Cannes

Check this out to see how many people in the US have your name. I checked and found that only one other person has my name. Jan has no one with her name. But then who would want to be called Saint Jan of Cannes.


I hate shaving, but having said that my attempt at designer stubble finally ended this morning. The crunch came when I noticed Jan looking at me, out of the corner of her eye, with undisguised contempt. I think it was the beard she was looking at! (Think again - Ed.) Anyway, Jan gleefully hacked at it with some electric sheep shears and despite spilling a little blood it was all off in ten minutes.


Harold and Elizabeth arrived for a few days this afternoon. They are friends from this village who moved away last year. I think it was something that Jan said, but I'm not sure!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

There must be an easier way

Gill and Terry left for England this afternoon but not before we spent a great deal of time trying to get two outside doors open. The rain over the last few weeks had swollen the doors so much that they wouldn't budge. Terry and I sawed, levered and generally forced them open because we needed to get inside to be able to shut down their pool. I even broke a key in one of the locks (oooh, you're so big and strong - Ed.) but managed to fish out the remains with pliers. Fun and games, but eventually successful!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Canary Islands Date Palm

The sun came out again this morning and it's funny how much more positive I felt about getting off my backside. Yesterday, it was cloudy, drizzly and generally miserable. Just the sort of weather that we moved to France to avoid. Anyway, today, God is back in his heaven and all is right with the world.
Mid morning,
Truffaut turned up at the agreed time to deliver a new palm Phoenix Canariensis for the terrace. Whilst we fiddle about with it and decide exactly where to put it, it will sit in a pot. In a few years time it should produce dates (but not until it grows 30 feet tall and you will be dead - Ed.).
Out with Gill and Terry tonight for a pizza. We expected to be able to eat in any one of three places in Sommieres, but the place was like a ghost town. There was only one restaurant open, in the middle of town, Les Caves de la Maison d'Avignon, 4 Place Jean Jaures, 0615 02 98 92. It was late and we didn't really have time to look further afield. There are two establishments side by side. One sells a large selection of very good local wine, and you can eat in the attractive grand salon next door. We have used it a few times on Saturday mornings in the past and have been impressed with the salads on offer and the quality of the wines. Their policy is simple, if you buy wine off the shelf in the cave for x, then you will pay 2 times x if you drink it sitting down in the restaurant. I would need to try it again, but the food was at best satisfactory and none of our party of six was very impressed with their meal. The wine on the other hand was excellent and I would go there again for the wine alone.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A dog breeders nightmare

This has been troubling me all day. If you bred a Bulldog and a Shitzu, would the offspring be called a Bullshit?

Otherwise, it was a quiet day.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I'm a pushover when it comes to mushrooms

First thing this morning we get a knock at the door. Look who's here? It's Vincent D with a basket of ceps (above) that he picked yesterday. He told us that he slept until 11.00 the other morning because he was exhausted and the ceps are his way of saying sorry. Isn't he a nice man. Guess who had ceps on toast for breakfast this morning? (And for the next few weeks by the look of it - Ed.)
The ground is very soft at the moment so we went out to plant some climbers on the main terrace this morning. I suspect that in a moment of boredom Minnie will be digging them up but we shall see. Whilst it was overcast today it was very warm, with rain forecast, so I plonked myself in front of the television and watched Man U v Liverpool this afternoon.
Gill, and her father Terry (our next door but one neighbours) arrived this morning for a couple of days and Jan invited them for dinner. Despite having to be at Liverpool airport at 04.00, they were in good shape when we sat down at 20.00 for dinner. However they faded fast as the night wore on. Jan's English Sunday roast did hit the spot.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Insurance companies are bad for your health

I had a run in with an insurance company not so long ago but I won't bother you with the details. Suffice to say that these people operate in the ice age. The latest incident with AXA caused me to get pissed off yet again. Here goes. When we sold the other house in the village, I wrote to the AXA agent to let them know that the house insurance was no longer needed. A month and a half later they replied to inform me that they wanted a copy of the Attestation given to us by the notaire confirming that the house had been sold. I went ballistic. Yet another piece of bureaucratic garbage. Why isn't my word good enough? Why do I have to prove what I say? Can I point out that I'm the client? I'm the one paying the bloody premium and if I say that the house has been sold then THE BLOODY HOUSE HAS BEEN SOLD, YOU BONEHEADS. If by some quirk, some mental aberration, I was lying, then you no longer have to provide cover. Not that you don't try and wriggle out of paying claims anyway, you pathetic incompetent shits! Don't tell me that there is a law, don't tell me that that's the way it is, take a look at yourselves, stop living in the past and join the rest of the human race. Drag yourselves out of the dark ages!
Rant over, but the funny thing is I don't feel much better. Thank God the sun is trying to come out.


In desperate need of someone to moan at, or better still to have a laugh with, we decide to go to Sommieres market. The usual suspects are already there but haven't yet ordered the wine. I soon put that right! Top you can see the accordionist who makes it all feel very French, but we are going to have to have a whip round to get him a new tracksuit. Below him is Bryan S. Now that I've posted his photo the police will have an easier job catching up with him. At least they now have a recent mugshot!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Not a mushroom in sight

I knew it was a mistake. I still have painful memories of getting up very early one morning to help Vincent prune his vines. The arrangement was made under the influence and needless to say he didn't turn up then, and he also didn't turn up this morning. Jan and I were up at 04.15 prior to our (the boys) trip up to Lozere to find ceps. At 05.00 there was a knock at the door and there was Alain on his own some. He explained that he had knocked at Vincent's house and phoned his mobile but still couldn't raise him. We waited about 20 minutes but still no sign so it was back to bed. More to the point, what am I going to do with my fancy new knife? I suppose I could try stabbing someone!


Eric the volet man turned up as agreed this morning to install two new volets on the garage. He's a very nice man and also fixed a couple of other minor problems for no charge. If you need new shutters or your old ones repairing then this is the man for you. Thanks Eric.


A storm caused quite a bit of mess last night and you can see where 'rivers' formed in the garden and moved a lot of gravel. It won't take much to get it back in order but it does remind you about the amount of rain that can fall in relatively short period of time and the effect that it can have. This morning, the stream at the edge of the property, which rarely has water in it, was 'roaring' with all the water that was flowing down the hill.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What's that lethal looking thing in your hand?

Today was a bit of a nothing day. It was blowing a storm and wasn't the sort of weather to go out in. Having said that, I had been told that for tomorrow's expedition I would need a knife, so off to Quissac I went. They like knives here, and I have always been impressed with the range on offer at the market in Sommieres. Now I had a genuine excuse to buy one and Jan couldn't argue. It must be the hunter in me, don't you know. The droguerie in Quissac had a good selection, mostly hunting type knives which would come in handy for skinning all the animals that I was going to catch! The hunting culture in France is very strong and they think nothing of selling lethal weapons. If I was to try to buy the same thing in England it would probably involve a lie detector test, confirmation of good standing from some child molesting priest, and a certificate from a psychiatrist (you've got one of those already - Ed.) Anyway, I settled on a lethal, olive wood handled, long, thin bladed jobbie, made by Opinel, with its own leather pouch and a tiny 'steel', which the middle aged lady shop assistant told me was essential to keep the knife sharp. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has chosen to include Opinel Knives in its display of one of the 100 most beautiful objects in the world. I didn't have the heart to tell her that all I was going to do was pick a few mushrooms. OK, so now I'm a real hunter!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A sense of doom

I know that I have made a big, big mistake. I have a terrible sense of doom. Last night at around seven Alain popped round for two things. The first to remind Jan that she had offered to buy one of his paintings the other night, and the second to invite me to look for mushrooms, with Vincent, on Friday.

The last time I had this terrible sense of impending disaster was when Eric, the man who came to fix the shutter that Max had broken, was here. It has always concerned me that if there was a fire near the front door, which is where the electricity board is situated, this could disable all the shutters, which are are electrically controlled, and then how the hell would we get out? I mentioned this to Eric who looked at me with a certain disdain. He muttered something unintelligible in the local dialect which I took to mean, "When the flames are burning the hairs on your arse then I'm sure you will think of something. When all is said and done, your dog didn't find it too difficult and all he wanted to do was to get his leg over." Or something like that.
Anyway, if the weather is fine Alain, Vincent and I leave on Friday at 05.00. My fear wasn't diminshed when I protested at the unearthly hour and Alain mentioned that we would stop on route for a wee coffee. Now I know Alain and Vincent very well, they both like a drink, a big drink, at any hour day or night, on any day, in any week in any month. We would not stop for coffee, that's for sure!
Let me tell you about the last time we had a 'session' with them. A couple of years ago it was raining. Raining so hard and for such a long time that part of the garden was under water. Even the pool had got flood water in it. I had to do something quick and drastic. This involved digging a couple of big drainage ditches to let the water get away. Alain happened to come by early that morning, I can't remember why and, understanding the predicament, shot off to get Vincent who had a little tractopelle which would do the job. We finished at 11.30 and, very relieved and thankful, I invited them both in for coffee. I have subsequently learnt that at 11.30 these two do not drink coffee, in fact I suspect they never drink coffee. How naive! I cracked open the wine whilst Jan and I drank coffee. At 12.30 I whispered to Jan that I thought we should offer some lunch, at which point Jan and I started on the wine as well. By 14.00, with the party in full swing, I remembered that Vincent liked whisky. Jan and Alain continued with wine. By 15.00, when we are all having difficulty standing up, Vincent invites us down to his newly built cave, in the fields outside the village, to taste his first ever attempt at making his own wine. This was a BIG mistake, because we started sipping from huge, 6 metres high, tanks of several different wines. He had thousands of litres of this stuff and we were in no state to differentiate between water, petrol, wine or coconut juice. At 18.00 we are now in serious trouble. Jan, who never goes to the toilet in the countryside, staggers outside into the dark and promptly steps up to her knees in a big puddle. After sorting herself out she is pulling up her pants when a car comes into view and she falls into the full glare of the car lights. Bear in mind that we are in the pitch black depths of the countryside and no one has visited this place since we arrived. Bad luck or what? All I can say in our defence is that it was the early days of our life in the village and we have since moved on but if there two people that I steer clear of when it comes to party time, it's Vincent and Alain. Come Friday I am going to spend 12 hours with them. Is it any wonder that I have an impending sense of disaster?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Is it me you're looking for?

Just to let you into a secret, it's me under there!


I wonder if anyone else has noticed an increase in spam over the last couple of days? I wasn't in the habit of getting that much, 30 a day into one box and 40 into another, but they have both more than doubled in the last couple of days. 70 into the former and 80 into the latter so that can't be a coincidence. The former is the account that I am slowly moving away from and the latter is my gmail account where their excellent filters catch it all. The more I use it, the more I like Gmail.


Jan and I are getting to be experts at turning weeds into 'lawn'. The rain over the last few weeks has made the weeds grow quickly and others turn green. One patch of ground, that we have so far ignored, has now been turned into a 'lawn' by chopping down the tall stuff and mowing the rest. It's easy when you know how.

Monday, October 16, 2006

This is how they do it!

It looks like William and I will be joined by Peter (from Czechoslovakia) for our regular tennis sessions. That's an Englishman with an Italian mother, a Frenchman and a Czech all with an English spelt first name. I find that a bit odd. Anyway, this morning was the second such threesome and boy, do you have to work hard. We played 2 on 1 which means that the person on their own has a lot of running about to do. After a good warm up we play five games each as the 'one'. The games are even more competitive than when William and I used to play on our own. William and Peter won two of their five games each and, neeless to say, I won three, but it was tough. (I'm surprised you mentioned it - Ed.)


Always one for the quick, incisive riposte, Chris (ex journalist and author and more recently chef) makes a somewhat bitter but funny comment to my recent post 'How do they do it?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The National Teaching Awards

I was up early to take Glyn back to the airport for 09.00. The incoming flight leaves Liverpool at about 06.30 which means that you need to be at the airport at around 04.30. It's no wonder they get off the plane looking grumpy, they've been up half the night!


As I mentioned on Friday, Gill, Glyn's wife, has made the finals of the National Teaching Awards (in the UK). This is a huge event in the school calendar and it was televised on BBC. There are eleven categories in total and her school is a finalist for the Healthy School Award. One hell of an achievement. Well done Gill.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

How do they do it?

Here's another article from NewsBiscuit which I found funny. It occurs to me that if you like this type of humour you will look there yourself, so I won't post links in future.


I spent a great deal of time yesterday getting the computers up to date. After installing Office 2003 (Student and Teacher Edition - much, much cheaper than the regular price, if you have children at school or children who are teachers, or even if you were ever a child yourself), you are prompted to check for security patches. This entailed not only hanging around for the installation of the new programme, but also downloading and installing over 60 megabytes of security patches for each machine. This was a seriously boring process.


To cheer ourselves up, Glyn, Jan and I went to the relais in Montmirat for dinner. We all had the 11.5 euros menu, which includes wine, stuffed ourselves on the four courses and finished with a bill for 36 euros. How do they do it?

Friday, October 13, 2006


Glyn, our next door neighbour, arrived this afternoon for a couple of days of house and pool maintenance and we popped over to Nimes to pick him up. He is always good company and Jan took pity on his single status to invite him over for dinner. Gill, his wife, has other more important things on her mind this weekend. Her school has reached the finals of the National Teaching Awards with presentations to be held at the Theatre Royal in London on Sunday evening (more about that later).
Gill is nothing if not imaginative. Needing to eat somewhere tomorrow (Saturday), she phoned for a table at
Jamie Oliver's restaurant '15'. The nice lady regretfully announced that they are booked months ahead and sorry, but there were no vacancies. Gill, not to be outdone, mentioned that they are visiting London as finalists of The National Teaching Awards and is she sure they can't be squeezed in? The receptionist seeing an opportunity called Jamie Oliver and then promptly offered a table for 5 the following evening. Great story, nice one, Gill.


We, on the other hand, had to suffer Jan's mozzarella, fig and Parma ham salad to start, chicken stuffed with mushrooms en croute, and a warm mango and chilli pudding. Whilst I would love to eat at '15', Jan's restaurant runs a very close second!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A good curry

It was Gill's (Bryan's better half) turn today to organise a curry lunch. So, after a haircut in nearby St Mamert, where Alain now gives me a petite brosse (and pronounces me a real Frenchman), we headed off to Lunel. Twenty of us ate at Five Roses which we think is the best curry house around. Now I'm not the best one for meeting hordes of expats for one event (yesterday), never mind two, but it was a jolly affair and the food good. Thanks Gill.


This is funny.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Les Gorges du Gardon

As part of a general, 'get more active' regime, Jan and I decided to 'go for a walk'. We intended to join an intrepid band of part time hikers led by Bryan S. This was our first venture and we also decided to take the dogs. We met at Sanilhac at 09.45 with the intention of tackling a 7kms walk through Les Gorges du Gardon. Bloody hell, this wasn't a walk, this was serious mountain climbing, but let me start from the beginning. About 34 of us met as arranged just outside the Mairie in Sanilhac. We took the dogs, because Bryan was taking his, and crossed our fingers that it would go well. This was Minnie's first day out with lots of other people and other dogs. We had no idea how she would behave.
The first part of the walk through vineyards wasn't too bad, but then we slowly started to descend. Now I don't mind walking, but this path was so boulder strewn that all you could do was keep your eyes on the floor to avoid breaking your ankle. I stopped a lot, for breath! Ok, inch by inch we descended to the bottom of the gorge. This was a seriously long way down, not made any easier by the thought that we had to climb back up. "It's a bit of a climb", said an ever helpful Bryan.
When we reached the bottom, the scenery was quite eerie, but beautiful at the same time. You could see the ruined remains of an old mill and the part completed remains of a house half way up the gorge on the other side. All (the five) dogs loved it and Max and Min swam happily in the gently flowing river. The only slight mishap was with Minnie, who found it difficult to climb out of the water onto very slippery rocks. The poor mite tried a couple of times and was obviously getting tired and a bit panicky. She eventually had to be rescued by Bryan who dragged her out when he could get hold of her. Thanks, Bryan.
Whilst we were standing there taking in the scenery, a very nice man called Phillip W introduced himself as a reader of this esteemed journal. He recognised the names Max and Minnie and wondered if he had found the source of all this wonderful knowledge. I nodded shyly and signed an autograph (just kidding), at which point we realised that our trusty lightweight rucksack was falling to bits before our eyes. Phillip very kindly offered to let us include all our bits into his bag and, in a stupid fit of bravado, I offered to carry the lot. Phillip, in a not so stupid fit of bravado, agreed. Nice one, Phillip.
The trip back to the top was nothing short of horrendous. We left base camp, without any Sherpas, and made our first stop at a little chapel, which someone had thoughtfully built, about a quarter way up the cliff. Presumably this is where you make your peace with your maker and write your last will and testament. As I said, very considerate. The next part of the journey involved an unlit 50 metres underground passage through the cliff face. We had been warned to bring torches, but the little pinpricks of light, that Jan and I had brought, were absolutely useless. Someone with a very powerful million candle watt jobby shone their torch in everyone's eyes, which made matters worse. Now you couldn't even see your pin prick of light. Jan and I clung onto each other, at least I think it was Jan, and we stumbled and swore our way to the other end. By now we are about a third of the way up the cliff face.
It's at this point, that we subsequently learnt, that we went wrong. Yours trully had learnt his tracking skills in the SAS (or was it the Girl Guides? - Ed.) , which is just as well, because after we took the wrong path we had to climb up the sheer cliff face on a track that had been abandoned by mountain goats, as far too dangerous. To make matters worse, all the dogs saw fit to keep running backwards and forwards, checking that their masters had not fallen to their deaths. Not only was it necessary to cling to bits of rock face with your finger tips, but the dogs did their best to send you crashing to the valley floor, hundreds of feet below. (Note to lawyer: It was Bryan who suggested bringing the dogs!) Anyway, using my innate (don't you mean insane? - Ed.) sense of direction, where the only direction that you really need is 'up', we literally scrambled up sheer rock faces. We passed the odd mountain goat skeleton, and pushed and hauled the dogs up by their collars. Poor old Min, not only had she nearly drowned, but now she was expected to climb mountains. Watching Max nearly slipping to his death she got a tad nervous. She was not happy.
As we neared the top the 'climbing' got a bit easier and I followed some Neolithic, overgrown tracks until I got to what looked suspiciously like a grave stone. "The poor sod got this far," I thought to myself.
The rest, as they say, was history. After another couple of kilometres, we headed to the nearest bar, used alcohol to calm our shattered nerves and firmly resolved to instruct lawyers if Bryan ever opened his mouth again.
Photos, starting from the top, our first view down into the gorge, the advance party, with the dogs, as they get to the river bank, Phillip and Jan and if you look closely you can see the 'chapel' above Phillip's head and the entrance to the tunnel above and to the right and finally a view down into the gorge taken from the cliff face.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Feeling good

I have a list, a list of 'things to do', which is how I previously organised my life. Of late I've learnt to relax a little more and haven't been using one but, as the mental list was getting longer and my memory was getting shorter, I resorted to an old fashioned written one. Anyway, the written list was getting longer and all I did was keep looking at it. It sits there just next to where I eat breakfast and it irritates me every morning. So, determined that it would irritate me less, I decided to polish off some of the jobs. The easiest way to feel really good is to tackle the one that you least want to do. That was easy (or not). I really did not look forward to digging a couple of holes just in front of the garage, where we intend to plant some creepers. I had tried previously and hit concrete so it was not going to be easy. So, armed with various implements including a pick axe I decided this morning to have another go. I DID IT. I broke through the concrete slab to the earth below and now I feel really good. The other hole was much easier so in the space of two hours - horrible task number one was finished. Suddenly, the list looks much shorter and easier, which it isn't, but I feel much better.


You'll note that they've superimposed a different 'feel good' head onto a photo of me above. Honest!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Buy your tyres at Blackcircles dot com

I've just realised that my problems accessing this website, to post these words, is a problem with my computer and not with Google. I'm typing this on Jan's machine, thank you darling, but actually she doesn't know because she is out at her art class. Another little computer problem to resolve.


William came round for tennis this morning and immediately complained of a bad stomach and splits in his feet. I must admit that I felt sorry for him until, an hour later, when he had beaten me 6-2. I tried hard, honest, but no matter how well I served, he got everything back. The luck was all on the French side , which is more than can be said for their football team who were beaten by Scotland at the weekend, but that's another story. Moral of the story, never feel sorry for anyone who complains of personal problems before you play them at any sport. They'll stuff you, as soon as look at you.


You have to have a certain sense of humour for this site but I found this funny.


Whilst getting tyres moved around this afternoon, at the local tyre depot, I enquired about the cost of replacing the Goodyears on the Jeep. He quoted me 270 euros per tyre. Zut alors! If you need tyres go to www.blackcircles.com . For a similar tyre, they didn't have Goodyears, but they did have Bridgestones @ 107 euros, Michelins @ 122 euros and the most expensive was a Dunlop @139 euros. If you live in France you can also order from their French site http://www.blackcircles.com/francais . I have just ordered two tyres for the Golf and they arrived even earlier than quoted. This is a good company to do business with, and no I don't work for them.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Just how deep?

On our way back from the vernissage in Vendargue last night, Jan remembered a good restaurant that we had eaten at a couple of years back, so even though it was 21.30 we stopped off to see if we could get in. Lou Flambadou, used to be run by an Italian and his French wife. It's a pretty restaurant in a small village, Codognan, right on the N113 just near the Perrier 'factory'. Our previous meal was memorable and we wanted to see if it had changed. Whilst ostensibly the same, the restaurant had changed hands, but it was full. Our meal was good but not special. We both started with a caviar of aubergine which we enjoyed, then Jan had coulibiac (fish pie to you and me) and I had scallops. We skipped cheese which was included in the 26 euros menu and moved onto puds. Jan's creme brulé was fresh and my fresh fruit salad was plentiful but unspectacular. All this was washed down with a very good 2005 rosé from Chateau Lancyre. It's a little too far from us to use it often but if were ever in the area we would eat there again.


Today was a day for garden maintenance. I had to start thinking about putting the pool to bed and we both took a look at the Leylandii hedge on the back boundary. I have always sworn against these trees which are the bane of English gardens but it is difficult to find anything as fast growing as Leylandii. Ours have finally taken off so I intend to trim them properly and not let them get wild. When they are well maintained they are fine.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

And what's behind the doors?

My half hearted attempt the other day at understanding the phrase 10-4 prompted a reply from Will. Look at this, there's a whole different, parallel English language out there and when you include this, it really makes you wonder. And there I was just thinking about an old TV programme!


Jan, desperate for anybody's company other than mine, (I wonder why? - Ed.) leads us off to Sommieres market. Bryan and Peter have set up at Elie's and, having bought a selection of galettes from Elie's other place, we eat lunch. More to the point Bryan and Peter (but not me guv) decided to go for it and we drink a bunch of red.
Not satisfied with trying to drink Sommieres dry, we (Jan and I) girded our loins and set off to Vendargues at 19.00 for Alain's vernissage. This was quite a big event and Alain, literally, had centre stage. There were 167 artists in all and a lot of the work was quite appealing. The top picture is my feeble attempt at showing Alain's eight 'doors' and below, the man himself.

Who put the goo in Google

I had a problem logging on to any Google site yesterday so apologies all round. This has happened once or twice of late so they may be having some biggish problems. There is certainly a lot of extra spam around at the moment and I suppose that will affect this site and Google mail, which I now use a lot. Hey ho.


When I came in yesterday afternoon I was full of self satisfaction having spent a few hours in the garden sorting things out for autumn. It is still beautifully warm and very pleasant to be out in the sun. We have had to learn that there are only certain months when it is possible to work efficiently in the garden. June, July, August and September are out. The ground is rock hard and the sun will get you. October, November and December are better and with a bit of rain the ground might be a bit softer. January and February you can expect sunshine but it can be cold and you can't plant because you can't water because of overnight temperatures. March, but particularly April and May are pleasant good gardening months. Plants and watering are another issue (please, no more gardening - Ed.), we had friends who would spend hours and hours watering their pots, and other plants, and we determined that we wouldn't fall into that trap. So it was lots of gravel, though that still needs weeding, bum, and splashes of easily maintained colour on the summer terrace. Palms, cacti, Lavender and Oleander grow well and need little maintenance as do the usual array of pot plants, as long as you're prepared to water them. I realise it's all a bit lightweight so here endeth the lesson on gardening! (Hallelujah - Ed.)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Can they be worth it?

Last night was cold. The first cold night of autumn and, after we'd returned from a few drinks sitting outside with Alain, Jan made a lovely dinner of beef and ceps to warm us up. There were still ceps in Quissac market yesterday and I noted that the big jobbies that we bought were about 10 euros a kilo but nearby he was selling smaller, younger ones for about 19 euros. There must be something very special about them to be double the price but somehow I doubt it. I might be tempted next week if they have any, but Jan will probably knock some sense into me. We shall see.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

10 - 4

What was the name of that 50's police programme starring Broderick Crawford? Just checked Google - it was Highway Patrol. Anyway, he always used to say 10 - 4 when he was on the radio to base. Today therefore seems to be the appropriate day to celebrate this event. More to the point was does it mean? Er, 10 - 4.


Whilst we were walking the dog yesterday, Jan and I were discussing someone, who I consider to be anally retentive and I also happened to mention that he was gay. Jan uttered the immortal words, "You don't have to be gay to be anally fixated." We both fell about laughing.


Earlier in the day, Alain the artist invited us to his vernissage this Saturday. The term vernissage comes from the time when painters used oil paints, which were allowed to dry for anything up to 12 months. When the painting was considered to be dry it was then varnished (vernissage) and then considered finished. It could then be sold.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dire Straits

Into Nîmes this afternoon for various bits, and in the process we walked through lots of the old part of town that we had never visited before. The more we explore 'old Nîmes' the more we like it. Wonderful buildings with wonderful doorways and pretty balconies. The obvious attractions are the Maison Carré, the quay and the arene, but there is so much more. It's a real treat. This site has some interesting shots of the town.
Whilst looking for the pictures above, I came across a poster for the band Dire Straits playing at the arene in Nîmes. This reminded me of the time when I'm sitting in an office with someone and a third person entered the room with an application for a loan of £30,000. The applicant was a very famous member of the band. Band members were notoriously bad risks, and the person that I was with, having looked at the loan application, said, "Sorry but I'm not approving a loan for him." The chap that had brought the application into the room said, "But sir, he's in Dire Straits." My friend said, "I don't care what kind of a mess he's in, I'm not lending him £30,000." True story.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Oh go on, just a nibble

For crying out loud, we're doing our best.


Whilst I had a bit of warning, Mr Volet Man turned up out of the blue this morning to replace the shutter that Max smashed a couple of months back (One horny dog - 13th July) and also to fit a new all singing and dancing garage door. The shutter from the study, where the dogs sleep, hasn't closed properly for all this time and from time to time the dogs see something out on the terrace and wake us up barking in the middle of the night. Last night was a good example. They woke us at 03.00 and I couldn't get back to sleep even after reading for an hour. There I am watching some strange word game with prizes at 04.00 and wondering what kind of people watch this kind of programme in the middle of the night (you for one - Ed.) The old garage door was a real mess and never shut properly and so we decided to get a new one. He had it up and running by mid afternoon and I couldn't wait to play with it. How could anyone get so excited over a garage door? Sad (yup - Ed.). I'd show you a picture but that would be really, really sad, so you'll have to imagine.


I'm into ceps at the mo especially as Jan made a mushroom (100% ceps) risotto last night and grilled some beef with a mountain of ceps on top tonight. You can imagine my delight as we were walking the dog this afternoon and we found some fungi in the woods. They looked edible but I couldn't persuade Jan to try one for me so I'll need to go back and collect some to take to the pharmacie. Pharmacies offer a service that will examine your fungi and pronounce them fit to eat, or not. A friend of mine took a bagful into a pharmacie and had them pronounced as poisonous. The cynic in me says the pharmacist took them home and had a jolly good feast.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Now, is everyone happy?

Needless to say, E senior and E junior turned up this morning to satisfy their pernickety personalities. The three of us messed about with tape measures and, to my amusement, a metal detector. The metal detector was to be used to find the borne. I started to laugh at him and he thought that I was laughing at his ingenuity. Shame. Anyway, we still couldn't find the borne so, with said tape measures, we all agreed that the marker should be 30 centimetres (12 inches) inside our fence. They looked at me with puzzlement and couldn't believe it when I said, "that's good, it's less garden to deal with." You have to understand the mentality of some French people, where land is all important. The new marker duly planted, I offered to move the fence 12 inches, knowing full well that they would agree and E junior then went off without saying goodbye. I reckon that he was pissed off because he had been thwarted in having a big dispute about the position of the borne. He gained at most 2 square metres of land. Land that is half way up a severe bank and is of absolutely no use to anyone. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad. Bless.


This piece about David Blaine made me laugh.