Sunday, December 31, 2006

A good year

Bryan, Peter, Jan and I were at our usual haunt in the Sommieres market yesterday morning. It was easy to tell who had had visitors for a long time over Christmas. They just couldn't stop talking. On the other hand, Jan and I had visitors on Christmas day and that was it. So we just sat and listened. (You have never sat and listened in all your life - Ed.) Unfortunately we probably sat, drank and listened a bit too long because I had a huge headache later in the afternoon.


The Lloyds got back from their six hour journey into Spain yesterday evening and then came round for dinner. Jan had cooked the hare that Michel gave us the other day and jolly good it was too. Non of us were big game eaters but it was a compliment to Jan that we cleared our plates. After I had jointed it (actually chopped it into pieces with a cleaver) Jan marinated it for about 30 hours in wine and vegetables and then casseroled it. It was tasty, succulent and moist. Good effort Jan, but game will never be our first choice. The next problem is to know what to do with all that's left. There are another two meals and I'm definitely not going to eat game for the next few days.


It's New Years Eve. As I reflect over the past year, I have only good memories. Jan and I had lots of fun and not too many problems. Our children are all settled and into their careers and we have two lovely grandchildren. Life is good, and our heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make it pleasurable.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Aggressive tennis

Tennis again this morning with the 'the boys'. Peter and Milton came at us like tanks and pretty soon we were three nil down. How did you expect us to respond? Slowly but surely we hauled them in and beat them 6 - 3. Just to rub it in we then went on to win two tie-breaks. It was very competitive and we had some great games. Anyway, the 'good guys' are winning 3 - 1 at the moment.
Michel turned up again this morning to finish the chenile. It looks fantastic with its tiled roof. There's no way that Max can escape from this little beauty. Thanks Michel.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Playing with new toys

It was a pleasant and fairly relaxed day yesterday. The Lloyds, William and Christine came round for aperos at midday which, as usual, lasted until late afternoon. A nice group of people to spend some time with over Christmas.


Today, 'the boys' came round at 09.30 for doubles. Whilst it was sunny, it was very cold and ice had formed at the end of the court that gets no sun in winter. Anticipating such an event I had bought a large box of salt which soon cleared the problem. I just hope I'm not doing any damage to the surface. I suppose it might bleach it a bit but I doubt it.
A large part of the rest of the day was spent getting Jan's new Palm up and running. If only I followed instructions a bit more carefully, it would not have taken me 2.5 hours. There were subtle, but important, differences with some cables (the cradle to the computer) but I got it all working eventually.


The Lloyds invited us round tonight for dinner. Roast quail for mains all washed down with a delicious Costieres de Nimes. After dinner we played Balderdash into the wee small hours. An excellent evening.

Monday, December 25, 2006

To Queen or not to Queen

Let me first state that I'm generally in favour of the monarchy. I can't defend power, or rule, through an accident of birth, but when you look at how long the Queen has performed her duties as Head of State (over 50 years) and try to compare that with any equivalent presidential type head of state, then her record looks very good. Jan, on the other hand, is an avowed republican. But, and it's a big but, the Queen does seem at times to be out of tune with the public. This morning's news that the Queen's speech would be available as a podcast is a good example of that. I may be wrong, but in my opinion the average age of pod casters is likely to be around 15/20 years old and I may also be wrong when I think that the last thing that any 15/20 years old would be interested in, would be the Queen's speech. It's an inappropriate gesture. Get real Betty. Or, more to the point, stop listening to those around you who are also patently out of touch.


If you want to get away from it all and spoil yourself for a few moments visit Reindeer Tipping.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Yet another Christmas greeting

The Lloyds arrived this morning to get away from the gloomy weather in Lancashire and spend Christmas here in sunny Languedoc. Look, I'm not trying to make you feel bad because it's very, very cold here at night but at least we have sunny, cloudless skies during the day, and it should stay that way for most of winter. Oh OK, eat your heart out!


This would be funny if it wasn't so true. And, whilst we're talking about the French, I thought that this was funny as well.


Because I'm a very nice person here's a Christmas greeting for you
As usual make sure your speakers are turned on.

Elf yourself

My very best wishes to all of you who regularly read this journal. May I wish you a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year, and, by way of a little early nonsense, watch me 'elf myself!' Make sure you have your sound turned on. Click on the link. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Lidl bit better

When he had finished yesterday, I gave Michel a few bottles of wine as a Christmas thank you for all the work he has done for us this year. I stared at him a little blankly when he asked if we ate gibier. I nodded and smiled in my usual pathetic way when I don't fully understand something, so, not to be outdone, he rushed home and came back with a rabbit and a hare that he had recently shot. At least I now know what he meant by gibier, game. I'd mixed the word up with gesier, gizzard, and had visions of Jan trying to look pleased as he handed over some animal innards. Phew. Having said that I'm not sure if Jan has ever cooked rabbit and I know for sure she has never cooked hare. Could be interesting.
If you'd like a funny image, imagine Jan trying to stuff two long, frozen hard animals into an otherwise very full freezer. She did it, but she came back a little red in the face!
As it's the last Saturday before Christmas, you'd expect the roads and shops to be very busy. Far from it. We went as far as Montpellier and found everywhere very quiet. I even popped into Lidl to get Jan a Christmas present and that was quiet as well. Lidl is amazing, it's an Aladdin's cave of things that you never knew you needed. The one near Sommieres has recently been remodeled and has several aisles of goodies. I bought Jan a screwdriver set for 7 euros, a flannelette nightie for 5 euros (I don't mind paying a little extra for good quality) and an extendable paintbrush for those awkward little places. They even have clothes for sale and from now on I'm going to be dressed by 'Man at Lidl.'

Friday, December 22, 2006

Whirlpool take note

I'm not sure about the rest of France, but around here, in some villages, you come across communal, open air wash houses. Basically it's a huge stone built 'bath' with running water and covered with a roof. The one above which I saw recently in Parignargues (30) was unusual in that it was full of water and ready for use.
Michel turned up as agreed and started to cover the chenile. He thinks it very funny that I go to so much bother for the dogs. Most of the time the dogs are either in the house or in the garden but for the odd occasion that we have to keep them in the kennel I want to know that they are comfortable and safe. More to the point, when Jan gets pissed off with me, I'd like to think that I've got somewhere warm and dry to sleep.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas is coming

It's starting to feel very Christmassy. Carols, from Kings College Chapel Choir Cambridge, playing in the background, Jan dressing the Christmas tree (before and after above) and me, sitting with my feet up, stuffing my face with mince pies. You can't get more Christmassy than that.


This made me laugh. If you're not well travelled, and, by the way, whilst I like Paris a lot, I don't think that it is the most user friendly place on earth. But then, what capital city is?
Michel, our favourite local macon, turned up today to start fixing various things around the house. The garage is built right next to a steep bank and floods when it rains heavily. He started by lowering the surrounding terrain around the garage, digging drainage channels and then, together we put in some agricultural drainage. (Do we really need to know all this? - Ed.) He's coming back tomorrow to start putting a roof on the kennel. Unfortunately it's the only way we can keep Max in the kennel, without chaining him in.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A trip to the vet

William and Peter turned up for tennis yesterday morning as agreed. We weren't able to play the day before because of wind (no fart jokes please - Ed.) but this morning was sunny and cold. Cold enough for me to wear a hat and a left glove until I got warmed up. Despite my hacking cough, I was in good form and won the majority of my games. The leader board currently reads GB 12, Fr 9 and Cz 8. That's more like it.


My trip to the vet with Minnie this morning was good fun. It was her annual vaccination and, as we sat and waited our turn, a heavily pregnant lady entered. I pointed out to her that maybe she had made a mistake because the doctor's surgery was next door. She didn't seem too amused but the man sitting next to me thought it was funny.
Talking about waiting, in my experience, the French seem to have no concept of giving service to people waiting at a counter and will take new phone calls and/or plough on with existing phone conversations as if no one else existed. Take this morning for example, there were four of us waiting patiently whilst the harassed receptionist had to hand hold a phone enquirer about the use of some drugs. She had to keep repeating the names of drugs and the order in which they should be given. After ten minutes, when we are all shuffling our feet, I said in a loud voice to all the people hanging around, "I'm English, and even I understand the instructions!" Ah well, it calmed everybody down.
Minnie behaved well and got lots of admiring comments. When all is said and done she has very good antecedents and is a very fine example of her breed. (More than can be said for you - Ed.) As we were leaving, a man who may have been single and not too sure about the ways of the flesh came in and asked the vet to accompany him outside because he thought his dog might be pregnant. Why he didn't bring the dog in baffled everyone waiting but, more to the point, the poor guy seemed very unsure when asked if the dog had grown fat slowly or had it come on suddenly. Good fun.
Just before I posted this piece, Jan complained that the picture above was not an actual one of us playing tennis. I had to point out to my beloved that the picture was supposed to be representative. That we do not have acres of grass courts and, the last time I looked, none of us was black. Bless.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Shopping the Ikea way

We're in Ikea and Jan picks up a pack of something porcelain that I don't recognise. Interested (or more to the point, nosey), I asked, "What's that?"
She replied, "I'm not sure, but they're very cheap and I'm sure I'll find a use for them." Is it any wonder that Mr Ikea is one of the world's richest men?

Talking of rich men:

The waiter took a bottle of Merlot to the woman and said, "This is from the gentleman seated over there," indicating the sender. She regarded the wine coolly for a second without looking over at the man, and decided to send a reply. The waiter, who was lingering for a response, took the note from her and conveyed it to the gentleman. The note read: "For me to accept this bottle, you need to have a Mercedes in your garage, a million dollars in the bank, and 7 inches in your pants." After reading the note, the man decided to compose one of his own. He folded his note, handed it to the waiter and instructed him to take it to the woman. The note read: "For your information, I have a Ferrari Maranello, a BMW Z8, a Mercedes CL600 and a Porsche Turbo in my garage. There is over twenty million dollars in my bank account, however, not even for a woman as beautiful as you, would I cut off three inches. Just send the bottle back."

Sunday, December 17, 2006


If you still can't decide what to buy your loved one for Christmas then I have the answer. Outiror will be visiting Quissac on 20th December and will have everything that you could ever need for your beloved. I was fascinated by this service when we first came to France over 4 years ago and it still seems to be going strong. Basically it's a huge pantechnicon stuffed to the gills with all things diy. So if you want to buy your dearest a log splitter - ref 24379, thermal underwear - ref 24985 or even spoil yourself with a new car jack - ref 19839, then this is the truck for you.


Out to lunch at Bob and Lynne's. Lynne who is now a Pru Leith trained cook (god knows why, cos she was bloody good before) served, as usual, an excellent lunch with Bob, as usual, providing excellent wine..

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Who's not bright?

Jan and I are both full of cold and not feeling too bright, so both yesterday and today were heavy going. J&H came round for dinner on Friday and then we took them to the airport today.
This is the first time that I have covered the pool for winter so on the way back from the airport I popped into a pool shop to get some floats that need to float diagonally across the pool in order to allow for expansion if any ice forms. And all I ever thought you had to do was get in and swim. Bloody pool.
Also concerned about our palm trees, we popped into Truffaut to get advice on protecting them from winter frost. What happened to planting something and then walking away from it?


We finished translating the last of Vincent's letters at 23.33 tonight with the last one being particularly tricky. You read the French and you understand what he is saying, but then you have to make a sensible and well constructed letter out of it. Anyway, I was pleased with the final result and I just hope Vincent is as well.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jan de Cannes

After we had an aborted trip to the dentist (his chair had broken down) in Quissac, Vincent Coste of Domaine Costeplane popped round this morning to ask for help with the English translation on an email he is about to send out. It transpired that he has quite a few names and addresses for wine importers in the UK and he wants to mail them with an invitation to Vinopolis on 22nd January 2007. Vincent exports wine to several countries in the EU and wants to break into the tough UK market. As a little business challenge for myself I'm trying to see if I can help him.


Jan's art class held a vernissage at Mas de Roux tonight and several hundred people turned up. The cynic in me says that the free drinks and canapes helped but so what. As we walked into the room I heard a group of people commenting on a rather nice painting of tomatoes on the vine. Because we had only taken it the day before it wasn't included in the catalogue but the anonimity had created a little excitement. I proudly pointed to Jan as the artist. Well done 'Jan de Cannes' (her new artistic name). By the way, I'm now her manager and agent.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Salt and pepper icons

Is this the shape of the last 30 years? I first came across this style of salt and pepper pot, in the US, during the 70's. I obtained a blue painted pair for Jan in the UK in the late 90's to match her kitchen decorations, and these two beauties adorned our table in a hotel in France just the other day. A trans global cruet set that stands the test of time. Wish I'd invented them!
By the way you can see exactly what Jan has for breakfast!


You begin to understand why the Turks may find it difficult to gain acceptance in the EU when you read this: Anyway, when I was a kid, if I remember correctly, Turkey was shown on a map as Asia Minor. Nothing too European about that. Who changed the boundaries and why wasn't I told?


This morning, around 30 of us met up in the village of Combas and took a 2 hour walk. Bryan, being careful not to get sued, chose a much safer route this time. Then it was back to B&G's house for mulled wine. Contrary to what we have just been experiencing in England it was a crisp, sunny day, just right for a walk. Excellent.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Saddle sore

We left Brighton yesterday at around 11.00 and headed for the Channel Tunnel. It was blowing a gale, and hell would freeze over before I would get on a boat, so we ignored our pre-booked catamaran crossing with Speed Ferries. After landing in France at 16.00 local time we decided to see if we could make the journey to Languedoc in one hop, and skip the night in a hotel. When I was younger I thought nothing of driving through the night, but I'm a little older now (you don't say - Ed.), so this was an unusual experiment. As it happens, it was quite straightforward and despite missing an important motorway interchange, which added about 1.5 hours to the journey, we arrived home at 3.00 in the morning. In order to keep alert, we both drank a few cans of Blak (Coke's new caffeine drink) which actually seemed to work. I was amazed at how fresh I felt after 15 hours in the saddle. There must be a Roy Rogers joke there somewhere?


The best part of today was spent unpacking, getting things back to normal in the house and picking up two rather smelly dogs. Joy.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Murasaki Cafe

Our hotel was packed with young people, presumably after their visits to various weekend Christmas parties. Over breakfast, it was noticeable how they spoke. Now I'm no snob, but frankly, it was difficult to understand them. It was Estuary/Essex English at its finest. It makes you wonder how a 'foreigner' would start to understand them. It's a bit like how we sometimes feel in Languedoc. Those that speak 'regular' French, we have no problem with, but those that speak with a strong local accent we have great difficulty with or do not understand at all. Language changes, and that's healthy, but please, gimme a chance!
After a good nights sleep it was family visits today, dishing out presents for Christmas. Jan very kindly offered to cook lunch for her daughter and the rest of the family. She still can't get away from providing for her children, even if it isn't always appreciated.


In the evening we saw my son James, for the last of the family contacts. Still full from from a late lunch and wanting something 'light' we ate at Murasaki, 115 Dyke Road, Brighton 01273 326231. I love Japanese food and for a change it wasn't too expensive. Recommended.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Al-Jazeera were planning to launch an interactive service. They decided against it when they realised if they told their viewers to press the red button, half of them would blow themselves up.


We're both getting a bit tired and we slept heavily last night. Whilst I was in Reading meeting Cara, Jan had a girlie night with friends in Windsor. This morning we had another re-pack, loaded the car again and headed off for Brighton. Another town and another bed, the fifth this trip but we're over half way so that's good. We have three of our offspring in Brighton so it's an essential part of any visit to England. Additionally, we now have two grandchildren here as well.
Another essential for these trips is to choose the mince pies that we will take back to France. So far we have tested Duchy Originals (awful), Waitrose Deep Fill (the filling tasted as if it had been pureed), Marks and Spencer (into the taste off), Tesco Finest (too much brandy but not too bad). We still have to test Sainsburys Deep Fill and Tesco Deep Fill, last years winner. See the effort we go to to get things right (and fat - Ed.).

Friday, December 08, 2006


This morning we drove over to Windsor to see Robert Mac at Mailboxes etc. We know and love Robert well and use his business as a private mailbox particularly when we want items, ordered on the internet in France, to be either held for collection in England or forwarded to France when the business won't deliver. After using his computer to locate a wifi hotspot I finished up at cafe Nero in the Royal Station from where I am posting these words. The wonders of modern science.


I met Rob (not to be confused with Robert above) at his club Stoke Park (above). This is a very nice club with both indoor carpet and beautiful grass tennis courts. Historically, Rob and I have met for a curry and a few pints of Cobra on Fridays. We decided to relive this tradition today. Memories of India, The Broadway, Farnham Common, Bucks 01753 644166, is the best Indian restaurant that I have visited for a long time. We arrived at 13.30 and the place was empty (not usually a good sign) but we had the undivided attention of all the waiters and the whole kitchen. No wonder the food was good!


A very important part of this trip to England for me was to meet my daughter Cara, who I hadn't seen for 9 months. She was in good form, the best I have ever seen. Her life mostly revolves around her business life (she works for a large software house) and it was good to see her getting on so well. You know that she is doing well when she offers to buy dinner! My little girl, buying me dinner brought a lump to my throat. Sniff. We ate in Reading at a 'gastro pub', Bel and the Dragon, Gas Works Road, 0118 951 5790. Despite the huge number of Christmas parties the service was excellent and the food well cooked and imaginative. It was difficult to choose. Go there, you won't be disappointed.
What a lovely day. Seeing Cara after such a long time and two rather good meals.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

You want to stick your finger where?

After three very enjoyable days with Jill and Harry it was time to move on. J&H are very kind hosts so the prospect of a few nights in Travelodges did not appeal too much. Anyway, there were things to do and people to see so off we went.
Later in the afternoon, as we were driving around the M25 in torrential rain, I got a call from my old friend and former partner in crime, Rob. It transpires that he was house sitting in Stoke Poges and wanted to know if we would like to stay with him. It occurred to me that a couple of nights with home comforts had to beat a Travelodge any day, so Stoke Poges it was. What a house! It was very big and very old and featured an illuminated well below a glass floored kitchen. Sorry Travelodge but this was too good to pass up. This is the life!


Later in the evening, a long standing dinner arrangement with Toby and Alison took us into London. T&A are old friends and very kindly invited Rob along as well. From their lovely house in W5 we headed into the West End for dinner at Hardy's, 53 Dorset Street, W1, 020 7935 5929. This is an excellent restaurant with a 'spoilt for choice' menu and an excellent wine list. Highly recommended.
Over coffee back at Chez T&A, Alison proceeded to tell us about a very unusual full body, oily, Indian massage that she had once experienced. Evidently, at the end of the massage, the masseur sent her into 'another world' by sticking his fingers in her ears. I couldn't wait to question her about this and learn more, but Toby insisted on showing us some bloody home movies. I suspect that Toby had heard enough and wanted to save Alison from further embarrassment. Given that he had been such a kind host I couldn't say anything but rest assured I'll probe further (no pun intended) mes braves. A great evening.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A day at a spa

Jan (and Jill) went off to Henlow Grange (Champneys) for a day of beauty treatments and relaxation. This was Jan's birthday present from her children from earlier in the year. If I was an unkind person, I'd say that a day was hardly sufficient, but then I'm not an unkind person, so I won't. In the meantime, Harry, very kindly drove me to Welwyn for a little Christmas shopping. This was my only real opportunity to get Jan a (very expensive and highly desirable) Christmas present without her being around. Even Harry, who hates shopping and Christmas in that order, browsed for his beloved. The shop very kindly wrapped the presents for me, at a price, so my dearest has no idea what to expect until later this month.
The girls returned home at around 17.00 and the difference was truly amazing. Well worth every penny of the £***'s they each spent, (he said sarcastically). (If you say any more you'll be a dead man - Ed.)


Bar and Geoff very kindly invited us all for dinner this evening. The meal was truly fabulous, they pulled out all the stops. Thank you so much B&G.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Roman remains

It has always irritated me when the first thing that an expat can say when he gets back to blighty is how he longs for a pint of beer. Well, I'm embarrassed to say that I am now that man. The pub, within walking distance of J&H's house, is a Greene King house and sells Abbott Ale. Last night, after two pints I was a happy man and walked back to J&H's for a wonderful meal of baked sea bass.


Today was a family visiting day so we drove to St Albans (the abbey above), Jan's home town. As we drove through the town I can't help but mention that it isn't a patch on my home town Harrogate. Jan naturally disagreed and in order to prove her point mentioned some outstanding features that St Albans has over Harrogate. I list them below, with my reply.

Jan: St Albans has Roman remains.
Alex: Harrogate has a living Roman remain in my mother.

Jan: It had the first English martyr, St Alban.
Alex: I'm an English martyr (just not yet canonised).

At this point Jan gave up because I was not taking this very seriously. However, I think I proved my point.

Lunch at the Holly Bush on the outskirts of St Albans, with Gwen, included a pint of Flowers EBA. Good beer.

More visiting in the evening at Tim and Sue's and their delightful children Emma, Jessica and Abigail with a chinese takeout. Excellent, and they're not even my family.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The colour of old urine

So there we are having dinner last night which, frankly, wasn't too bad given that we were eating in an hotel. We got to the pudding wine, which Jan didn't like too much. She described it as, "the colour of old urine." Now forgive me, but I'm much too gentile to describe the colour of antique piss over dinner.


Driving the final leg from Reims to Calais we needed to stop. On the CD player, Annie Lennox was singing 'Sweet Dreams' when we stopped at the next service area. As we walked into the lobby for our pitstop, what should be playing over the tannoy but Annie Lennox and 'Sweet Dreams' at exactly the same spot as we'd left it in the car? Weird or what?


Being something of a mystic, Jan changed our booking on Speed Ferries' catamaran to the Eurotunnel train a couple of days ago. She was so spot on. It was blowing a gale in the Channel and sea crossings were described as 'very rough'. I'm a poor matelot at the best of times and the switching of transport was just what this matelot needed. Thank you so much my mystic honey.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A caravan to Reims

I have to declare an interest. I don’t like caravans. Why would anyone want to drive at 50 mph all over the countryside, sleep in some makeshift bed, empty the effluent out of their own toilet and pay a lot of money for the privilege? There must be some perverse pleasure that I haven’t quite cottoned on to. Anyway, there we are driving up the A31 on our way to Reims when I saw something that really puzzled me. It was a Porsche Cayenne pulling quite a small caravan. It occurs to me that anyone who can afford a Porsche Cayenne has a bob or two. Anyone with a bob or two can afford to stay in a nice hotel of which there are hundreds around here. So what is he doing? Margaret Beckett, the UK Foreign Secretary, likes caravans and as a result causes the Secret Service a nightmare when it comes to protecting her. In my view, if she likes caravans, she is a legitimate terrorist target and, the sooner the better. (What you don’t understand is that the guy pulling the caravan is now broke because he bought the Porsche – Ed.)


Travelling north on the A26 on Sunday lunchtime you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world had come to an end and that you were the only people left on earth. When you add mile upon mile of boring, flat, farmland that must take weeks to cultivate then you could also be forgiven for falling asleep. Add caravans to this mix and you have very dangerous territory. Beware!


Every single time that we have driven up through France we said that we wanted to stop and take a look at Reims and, in particular, the cathedral. Well, today was the day. The frontage (above) is quite spectacular and is being cleaned but it does nothing to prepare you for the splendour and majesty of the building within. Historically the cathedral is very important insofar as every French king (bar two) have been crowned in Reims. The first crowned king was Pippin the Short (just had to mention that), and the first king to be crowned at Reims was his grandson, Louis the Pious in 816 AD. (OK, thanks, that enough of copying out of the history books – Ed.)

It was very cold, wet and windy when we left the church but, as an added bonus, we stumbled across a very jolly Christmas market nearby. I'm getting into the Christmas spirit!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mug a child for Christmas

Good grief, we got away at midday! After dropping the dogs at Olivier’s and after having to give Jan a corrective interview after she tried to pack 10 days worth of clothes into 2 small overnight bags, we set off. We didn’t intend to drive too far today because, for once, we intended to visit places on route instead of making it the usual long, boring and tiring grind to the Channel.

There were several things of note travelling north on the A7, first the huge number of Spanish registered cars with skis on top, presumably travelling to the Alps. I know that there isn't too much snow in the Alps because of the very warm autumn we have all been experiencing. In Cortina (1224 m) midday temperatures are 15C, which is normal for May. It was also forecast that this could be the start of the end of European skiing below 2000 m. In addition to the Spaniards, there were also lots of Italian camper vans travelling in convoy. And, something that I’d never seen before (you definitely need to get out more – Ed.), overhead motorway signs displaying your car registration number and telling you to slow down if you were speeding. I’d be interested to know whether these cars got booked. How very civilised, to warn you without booking you.

The hotel (Mercure at Chalon-sur-Saone) was fine and we couldn’t quite figure out why, but it was full of kids. Something to do with Christmas I think. I like hearing kids enjoy themselves but as long as they behave. This lot were not very well behaved but they didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves. But then we’re old hands, don’t forget we have Max and Min!

Friday, December 01, 2006

In charge of bullshit

A couple of months back I promised to help Vincent Coste (above with his family) of Domaine Costeplane at a wine fair in London. He turned up this morning to say that he now has the dates. He, with others, will be showing their wines at Vinopolis in London on Monday 22nd January 2007. He will be the wine expert and I will be in charge of bullshit (at last you have found your calling - Ed.).
Vincent D also turned up as agreed this morning to finish filling trenches, putting in a new land drain and levelling. Vincent likes a drink and last night I went glass for glass with him. Mistake!
Apart from a visit to the dentist to fix a broken tooth, an appointment that I had to wait three weeks for, a lot of time was spent this afternoon getting ready for a drive to England to deliver some wine left here by friends, see family and to buy our Christmas goodies. Hopefully we will leave at about midday. We shall see.