Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Home very sweet home


After a good night's sleep, we left Tim, Sue and the children and headed for Luton. Security gave Jan a good going over (I've always said she looks dodgy) at the airport but apart from that the trip back was smooth and comfortable.


***

The most notable thing about arriving in France was how quiet it was. Given that we had spent the last few days driving in the south east of England and in particular around the M25, the roads from the airport at Nimes to home were almost deserted. It felt good but very strange. After a few thousand miles, three different beds and a lot of restaurant food, it was good to be home with Max and Min.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A graduation in Brighton







The main purpose of this short trip to Blighty was to see Jan's son Josh graduate. Typically for a left wing bolshy student he refused to formally accept his first degree and had it sent by post. With a bit of pressure from his mother, who had attended all her other children's degree ceremonies, he finally relented. Last year he achieved his PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate of Education) thereby allowing him to teach and, more to the point, increasing his salary from that of teaching assistant.
Anyway, at 11.00 this morning, he called to say that he'd been knocked off his bike the night before and had a lot of pain in his neck. Mum naturally rushed to his bedside and decided that it wasn't so serious that he could skive off another ceremony. We all then decamped to Brighton Pavilion, or the Dome, as it is also known, in downtown Brighton. This is a seriously nice venue. Jan and I have between us attended five other graduation ceremonies (three at Manchester, one at Leeds, and one at Oxford) and, with the possible exception of The Sheldonian at Oxford, this was the most impressive venue and ceremony. More to the point it was very comfortable and everyone got a good view.
Whilst Josh went to get his gown, Jan and I had a quick bite in
Carluccio's. I'm sure that I've mentioned them before, but this chain of restaurants is, in my opinion, as close as it comes to good, authentic Italian food. Highly recommended.
Back in the Dome, the presentation ceremony began with a procession into the hall of the great and good of the University (of Sussex). The Chancellor happens to be
The Lord Attenborough (Dickie Attenborough to all us luvvies) and he attended in all his finery. To give the man his due he stood throughout the ceremony and shook every graduand's hand and gave an excellent speech before the closing the ceremony. Very enjoyable.
***
Because we had an early start the next morning for our flight back to France, we left Brighton and got on the road north to stay at Tim and Sue's house in St Albans which is closer to Luton. For dinner, Sue prepared an excellent bangers and mash, the best I have ever tasted. Thanks Sue.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Chows



This morning we checked into a hotel so that James and Pauline could get their house back. To have access to a 'home', as opposed to a hotel room, makes our trips to Brighton so much more relaxed. Thanks James and Pauline.
***
We had no commitments for the day so we took Maisie out to the park in the afternoon and then then drove up to Westerham to meet my old pal AJ and his lovely partner Holly. We ate at Chows, 23 Market Squre, 01959 562101. This is how Chinese cooking should be. This is the sort of Chinese that we like. A modern menu, an excellent wine list and lots and lots of laughter. A good night. Recommended. If you are ever near Junction 6 of the M25 and neeed a good fix, just follow the signs to Westerham.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Brighton


It was back to the shops this morning to take back everything that didn't fit properly that we bought yesterday. For all my French readers, yes, the shops are open on Sundays and for all my Keep Sunday Special readers, no, it doesn't stop me going to church. I know I didn't mention it yesterday, but did you really think that Jan could be on English soil without hitting Marks & Spencer and seeing what goodies they had to offer? Incidentally, the other English pleasure is to buy the Sunday Times with all the bits. The ST is available in France, printed in Marseille, on the day, but it is a compressed version, containing the essence but not quite with the same feel. A treat.
The other thing that we had to buy was another suitcase. We'd forgotten that there were still Christmas presents to exchange, and as this tends to involve books, we were going to be seriously overweight if we didn't take precautions and check some extra bags.


***

The sea front at Brighton was 'bracing'. For bracing read 'a bloody strong cold wind blowing from the west.' We joined Becs, Trev and the kids for a walk along the front and, frankly, froze in the process. The highlight, however, was a really good hot chocolate from a' small cafe near the children's playground at the West Pier, which helped restore the blood flow to my head. The West Pier burnt down a few years ago and is a tangle of nothing but twisted black metal poking out of the grey sea. It stretches the usage of the word pier to the absolute limit. But there you go.


***

James and Pauline arrived back from Grenoble this afternoon, so Jan cooked one of my favourite pastas. Roast vegetables and melted mozzarella mixed into hot pasta and drizzled with olive oil. With dinner we drank, amongst others, a Marques de Costal 2002, (Cab/Merlot) from M&S. As James said, it's very Spanish, and totally different to the same blend grown in our village. Excellent.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Grandchildren


Call me naive (er yes - Ed.) but it still tickles me that I could start yesterday's post in France and finish it off in the UK. Isn't the Internet a wonderful thing?
I mentioned yesterday that I'm generally a lucky person. I wish I could understand it all, and better still, harness it somehow, but when we arrived last night I found a car parking space right outside James' house and when we returned from visiting tonight there was one even nearer. Parking in Brighton is tough, mostly resident only, so to find parking spaces so easily has to involve a lot of luck. On top of that a kind chap in another car pulled up alongside and helped me get into a very tight space. He waited until I'd parked safely. Hmnnn, spooky.


***

Today involved visiting Jan's children and more to the point, getting together with grandchildren. At three years old, the eldest is delightful and for me just at the right age to start to have some fun. I've never been a baby person but I love young children when you can interreact and converse with them. I remember with pleasure how kind adults gave me time, made me feel important and took me seriously when I was young, so I attempt to recreate those feelings now.

Friday, January 26, 2007

To the UK again


A busy morning, what with having to play some tennis (William and I lost 2-0, bum), taking the dogs to kennels and packing for a quick trip to the UK. We managed it, but it was all a bit fraught. Then lunch at the airport with Jill and Harry. We have no idea why, but Jan and I got priority boarding. Jill and Harry had to travel coach. In fact we all had to travel coach because Ryaniar only have coach!
We then drove down to Brighton which took 3 hours, (bloody M25 on Friday afternoon), and moved into James' (my son) apartment (whilst he's away in Grenoble for the weekend). We then went out to Murasaki Japanese restaurant, 115 Dyke Road, at Seven Dials, 01273 326231, for dinner. I have written about this place before. It's a very relaxed restaurant. I love Japanese food and now Jan enjoys it too. Murasaki is Brighton's most authentic izakaya style restaurant (it says on their publicity). In Japan this style of restaurant is characterised by a menu that contains many smaller dishes, a sort of Japanese tapas. We stuffed ourselves with with lots of sashimi, sushi, tempura, wine (a couple of bottles of white rioja) and then an ice cream tempura and a few glasses of plum wine. We slept well.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What, another birthday!


And, not to be outdone, it's my birthday today. Vincent C popped round with a bottle of the bubbly that he now makes, after overhearing me, a couple of weeks ago, mention the date to someone else. Wasn't that kind?
Out for dinner at Maeva in Salinelles tonight. We thought that we hadn't been there for a few years, although Gill and Harry swore blind that we had been there with them before. It wasn't that memorable then and hasn't changed much since. Jan and I agreed that our food was good but the meal wasn't memorable. Strange that. What makes a meal memorable?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Max


It's Max's birthday today. He's 3 years old. Happy birthday son. Love me love my dog.


***

A seven year old boy was at the centre of a courtroom drama yesterday, when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him. The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with the Child Custody law and regulations requiring that family unity be maintained to the degree possible. The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt beat him more than his parents and he adamantly refused to live with her. When the judge suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried out that they also beat him. After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the Judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him. After two recesses to check legal references and confer with child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the England Cricket Team, who the boy firmly believes are "not capable of beating anyone".

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

And while you're at it


Bugger, bugger, bugger. I looked at my watch, it was 02.15 (Tuesday morning). The couple next door made so much noise when they got to their room that I thought that I'd overslept and jumped out of bed. I couldn't believe it, a second night of broken sleep. Why are people so inconsiderate? To top it all, they then started! I could clearly hear them at it, with all the attendant grunting, groaning, moaning and squeaking bed. This went on for about 35 minutes, then peace. As I started to drift off, she started again. What is it with women? She kept saying, yes, yes, yes. I thought about banging on the wall and telling him to stop asking her questions! But who am I to spoil their fun and more to the point I didn't know how big he was (pun intended!) They finally calmed down at about 04.00. How did I know they were not married or hadn't known each other long? Ask yourself when you last had a 2 hour session. At 06.30 when my alarm went off I felt like shit. I need my 8 hours!


***

Forgive me, I've got to let off steam. Airport security is really pissing me off. There is nothing that is more guaranteed to get me wound up than the unnecessary and demeaning rituals that now surround air travel. It's all a huge nonsense, so unnecessary and could be handled much more sensibly. If you only have hand luggage, you're supposed to have your liquid toiletries, max size 100 mls each, in a 20 x 20 see through plastic resealable bag. We had a clear plastic bag that was rectangular rather than square, at home, that fitted the bill. What do you think the moronic little security idiot said to me at Nimes? Yes, I know its not bloody square, but what bloody difference does it make? Use some common sense. Look at the pictures of every single bomber or terrorist for the last few years. Do I look like them? Does that little grey haired lady look like one? No, she bloody well doesn't and neither do I!! And in fact out of the 150 white, middle class, boring bloody travellers there was only one that looked suspicious. Search him and bugger off, leave the rest of us alone. Well, at least I'd tried to get it right. Despite all the warnings the elderly, grey haired, posh old bird behind us was carrying a three litre, metal tin of olive oil (just like my Italian gran used to have), either she was an elderly, grey haired, posh old terrorist or she was bloody well made up or she was for real (actually she didn't looked like prime terrorist material to me, but then I only use common sense) and needless to say they confiscated it. Serves her right, how dare she carry a lovely tin of quality olive oil. What's the world coming to?
That was nothing! At Luton they now use body scanners. Not only do you have to put all your belongings through an xray machine (have you ever noticed how little attention they pay to the screen?), but you also have take off your shoes and belt and enter individually into a chamber with your hands in the air (yes, you read that right) and wait while they check out the size of your bits. Incidentally, my trousers started to fall down! We all got to stop this, folks. The men in grey suits are taking over and we are being subjected to humiliating, unnecessary and over zealous so called security checks. I'm going to start a protest. Please join me. I've just got to figure out what it will be. They have signs at the airport saying that they will arrest you if you shout at security staff, so they even try to stop you getting pissed off under threat of imprisonment. Talk about Big Brother!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Domaine Costeplane at Vinopolis


That was a very interesting day. With the exception of travelling on the underground at rush hour, which I hated, it was very enjoyable. We arrived at Vinopolis at 09.00 as they were unloading the pallets of wine that the exhibitors were having delivered. The halls were beautifully laid out for the over 70 wine producers from all over France. On a practical point the wine was cold, so cold that you couldn't possibly sample the reds, so it was a relief that only a few people turned up during the morning session, which then allowed the red stuff (that's a bit too technical - Ed.) to get up to speed. Vincent speaks English quite well but understands it less well, especially when it is gabbled and spoken quickly. But then that's true for all of us. The afternoon session was an undoubted success. The place was buzzing. We had a steady stream of tasters, some just out for a good time and others serious. What was fascinating, was to hear Vincent point out the 'tourists', those that were not serious wine buyers, as we watched their over elaborate and unnecessary tasting rituals. A process that's very specific and that doesn't actually take too long. But hey, if they order some wine then they can stand on their heads for all I care.
The afternoon was also very valuable for us, because Toby K very kindly visited us with contacts that he knows and Kevin got out of his sick bed later in the afternoon. Good effort chaps, and many, many thanks. Vincent made several very interesting contacts which the optimist in me thinks will be converted to sales. Hmnnn, but we have all been there before, haven't we? We shall see.
***
Business over and after a couple of pints in the Dog and Duck in Soho, we walked round to The Red Fort, 77 Dean Street, 020 7437 2525, for a curry. Forget flock wallpaper, this is a beautifully decorated and very posh curry house and the food is excellent. After the strident music in the pub, it was a haven of peace and calm. The service was understated and elegant and Vincent couldn't get over the man who opened the toilet door for you and handed you a towel when you needed it. This is no ordinary toilet, this is a Red Fort toilet! Unfortunately you find nothing like this around Nimes or Montpellier. From your food obsessed corespondent in London, it's back to you in the studio. A good choice Kevin, thank you.

No more information, please!


It's 4.06 am on Monday morning and I can't sleep. I'm nowhere near a computer and so I'm handwriting this. On top of that, I have a huge thirst and have resorted to drinking chlorinated tap water. I once read that London tap water has previously been through several people, so the drinks only partially quenched my thirst and the thought made me feel sick.
Anyway, yesterday's journey went well. That is until Vincent realised that that the cost of the return rail journey from Luton to London was costing more than the journey from Nimes to Luton, and for the rest of the stay he was noticing the cost of different airport/London transfers. We finished the day with a very nice meal at PJ's, 52 Fulham Road, 020 7581 0025. I had a delicious rib eye steak and we shared a bottle of Argentinian Malbec. Good gear, and as long as you have deepish pockets, recommended.
We chatted long and hard on the flight and over dinner, as I tried to cram a tiny fraction of his 20+ years of wine knowledge into an even tinier brain. Bear in mind that he is speaking French and the strain of keeping up makes it very tiring. In order to get a better handle on how I could be of practical assistance, I asked him what would make him happy as a result of this little trip. He told me how many bottles he would like to sell, so now he's talking my language and gives me a clear objective.
I've no idea how we got onto the subject, but at one point over dinner I mentioned old farmhouses and windows and that older properties could be quite dark and gloomy inside. He said that in ancient France there used to be a window tax so if you had 10 windows you paid ten times the tax. In one fell swoop we covered building construction, its place in the economy and tax matters. It was no wonder I had a headache when I got to bed and why I'm pissed off sitting here wide awake.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lucky


I've always thought that I have good luck, but this duck is much, much luckier!


***


Talking about lucky, we had a good find last night. Thwarted in our attempt to eat curry at Five Roses in Lunel, because it was shut, we headed back to Sommieres and noticed that the Restaurant L'Estocade, 8 rue Abbe Fabre, 0466 53 48 06, was open. They offered a 13.5 euros menu, which was itself unusual for a town centre restaurant. I didn't fancy the starters so I went for the carte but the others, Jan, Gill and Bryan made the right choice. They had stuffed mussels, meat and pudding, all of which looked, and tasted good. It was an interesting, well priced menu, with an inexpensive wine list. Recommended. (For locals, it's on the opposite side to L'Olivette, which was closed, a bit further up the road).


***

Jan, who wants to buy the Sunday Times at the airport, offers to take Vincent and me for our flight to London. More to follow about the behind-the-scenes at a London wine fair.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Be careful, it's tough out there


It's getting tougher. Yesterday there was only Milton and me playing tennis (ok, I know it should be Milton and I) and he was leading throughout the set until I managed to scrape back to 6 - 6. We are fairly evenly matched, but whilst I've been playing again for the last couple of years, he has only just started playing again after a 15 years lay off. God knows what he'll be like when he gets his eye in. Just gotta keep upping the game! Just for the record I beat him 7 - 2, in the tie-break. You knew I wouldn't let you down?


***

So we're in Sommieres this morning, helping Elie dispose of his huge stocks of red wine, when Peter has a go at me about not writing much recently. Bloody hell, he gets all this garbage for free and then complains that he doesn't get enough garbage. I have to admit however that the muse has escaped me for the last few days (that, and nothing much has happened anyway) but I know it will come back soon. Tomorrow I leave for the UK, with Vincent C, for his wine fair at Vinopolis in London. That's bound to get my creative juices flowing. It could be that I won't get to a computer until I return on Tuesday, so don't go away!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A cautious man


If you can't read what's written, click on the picture.







Monday, January 15, 2007

Royaume-Uni de Grande-Bretagne et de la France


This news would have had Chirac choking on his cornflakes.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Captain Sensible


That´s better. On Friday night we didn´t get to bed until 3.00 in the morning, just as the town was getting going!. Last night I was Captain Sensible and got a good nights sleep by being first to bed at 23.00. The others stayed up to watch Barcelona get beaten 3-1 by Barcelona´s other team Espanyol. Serves 'em right.


***

Ben cooked a Panang curry for dinner last night and it was, without doubt, the best such curry I´ve ever eaten. Thanks Ben. As today is Sunday it´s normal to eat out (back to one of our favourite pastimes) and, after picking up a few bottles of Jan´s favourite Rioja, we head off for Bar Tomas, Major de Sarria, 49, 93 203 10 77. It was packed, with a queue down the hill, so we went around the corner to their other place and we got a table straight away. I don't understand it myself because it was the same menu. Anyway, it's right out of town, in fact just off the Ronda de Dalt at junction 7 which was neat because we left for home from there. If you like tapas then this is a very good choice. As ever, we enjoyed the couple of days with Ben and Paula. They are great company and a pleasure to be with.
Door to door, the uneventful journey home took exactly 4 hours.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Barcelona


A small note of caution. I usually use the built in spell checker to correct my typing errors. But because I´m logged in from Spain on a Spanish machine the spell checker, thinking that I´m typing Spanish, highlites every word, so I´m having to rely on proof reading. So der.

Some time ago Ben (that´s Jan's eldest son), booked us into an Egyptian restaurant for arguably the worst meal that any of us had ever eaten. I remind him from time to time, it keeps him on his toes. Anyway last night, ever the thoughtful host, he had booked us into an Italian restaurant. It was an excellent choice and they were offering something very different. Da Greco, Paseo de Gracia, 116, 08008 Barcelona 93 218 65 50 is a stylish and very busy restaurant. The food was excellent with some nice twists but what was new and interesting was that a small plate of what anybody ordered was, additionally, brought to the table for the others to sample. It was such a simple and inexpensive idea that offers diners the opportunity to sample more of the menu. Highly recommended.


***

We love Barcelona. As long as you take sensible anti theft measures it´s a wonderful place. Lively, vibrant (if that isn´t the same thing) and always full of surprises. It helps enormously that we have Ben and Paula to show us around because we see and experience so much more. Particularly when it comes to two of our favourite pastimes, eating and shopping. I don´t suppose you´d ever noticed that? This afternoon we got both, in one hit. Diagonal Mar is a huge shopping centre where the boulevard Diagonal hits the sea. Being a modern (yeah right - Ed.) man I don´t mind shopping. Being a (fat - Ed.) modern man I love eating and Barcelona is the place to eat. There´s so much choice of every nationality and from every area of Spain. One little thing to get used to is that dining out starts much, much later than we are used to. For instance, because we had a late breakfast, we didn´t decide to eat something until about 16.00, so we ate outside on the roof terrace of the shopping centre. The place was buzzing and all the retaurants were busy. We ate at Sagardi Euskal Taberna, Avda Diagonal 3, 08019, 93 356 04 76. This place specialises in food from the Basque country, pintxos (tapas) being their speciality. Very good it was too. You choose your pintxos from the bar and, as everyone has a toothpick holding the delicasy to the bread beneath, they just count up the sticks at the end. On top of that, the waiters come round separately offering you hot dishes which are impossible to refuse. If Jan and I had been on our own we´d never have come across this place and missed out on this delight. Excellent.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A watershed


Cracked it. For the time being, I will get no spam into my inbox. Our old email addresses have been ditched and we now use only Gmail. Whilst we could have used Hotmail, I'm a Google fan and decided to support them instead. Having used Gmail for some time now, any spam gets caught by their excellent spam filters so there is little to do other than delete en masse. However, this is the first time in years that I won't have to deal with tons of spam and I'm already starting to miss it. Whatever you say about spam, at least they write to you regularly which is more than you can say for your kids!


***


We took Max and Min to their new kennels this morning, prior to popping down to Barcelona for the weekend. I hope they behave. Within 2 minutes of meeting her, Min had pulled the Kennel Lady over whilst I had to plant my feet to keep Max in shape. She says she will take them for a walk on a lead, good luck to her!


***


The journey to Barcelona was uneventful but just a little fraught because the Spanish drive very fast and up close behind you. I was travelling at the maximum speed limit in the inside lane and all manner of stuff was passing me at a much, much greater speed. I suppose that because it was a Friday evening all these guys and gals were in a hurry to get home. A bit scary nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Work and play


The gardener arrived again yesterday morning, wow, 2 days on the trot. He says that he will be ready to plant on Thursday, so the work looks like it could be finished soon. We shall see!


***

More work with Vincent C yesterday afternoon and this morning, on his mailing to UK wine buyers. He had got his internet back and could therefore start the background work so that I could make some calls on his behalf. A few hours yesterday and today and I'd finished the job. Very satisfying. What was interesting was that with everyone of the phone calls that I made, I received a polite and positive reception to my questions. I'd expected a lot more resitance to a cold phone call and was proved wrong. We were invited to send out lots more invitations to Vinopolis, so Vincent was very pleased.


***

Jan painted all afternoon with Gill and then both Gill and Bryan had dinner with us. The girls painted the view from the main terrace (above). Which was nice! The next day I suffered from a surfeit of something, which was not nice.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Barcelona


At the weekend, we intend to pop down to Barcelona. Their most gifted player Ronaldinho is pictured above, (with all the wonderful things that Barcelona has to offer is that all you can think of, a football player? - Ed.) Because of the trip, we went to check out the new kennels this morning. We were quite impressed and the lady seems genuinely interested in dogs and their welfare. We booked them in for a few days and will see how the dogs fare.

***

The gardener revisited again this afternoon (after saying that he would return last Wednesday) and continued to prepare the ground for planting. It's rock hard in places so he is having to use an industrial cultivator. So far so good.

***

Vincent C also turned up this afternoon because he had an Internet connection problem and needed help with some bounced mailings. As a result of the letter that I composed for him he has had 4 wine buyers from the UK promising to visit his stand at Vinopolis on 22nd. For a 'cold' mailing one could reasonably expect a half percent response. He has achieved 2.6% so, even if I say so myself, the letter must have been bloody good! Well, either that, or, there are a few people looking for a day out, wine included.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Brokeback Mountain


Typically, at this time of the year, we watch films on DVD. It's cold and dark outside, so I light a big fire and we settled down to watch some blockbuster that's still in the drawer in its original cellophane wrapping. I know that I noticed a problem when we watched Walk the Line last November. Why is it so difficult to understand film dialogue? Last night we watched Brokeback Mountain and I swear that neither of us understood more than 50% of what was said. It has been given a 15 Certificate with the rider that it "contains strong language, moderate sex and violence." There was absolutely no need to worry about the language because it was impossible to hear what they were saying. If you consider watching two men rogering each other as moderate sex then I admit to being seriously out of touch and I have also seen more violence in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. The audio was so bad that I considered checking the television for a fault, that is, until the film finished and regular tv came back on. I can only imagine that all the people involved in the process of giving 4 Bafta Awards and 3 Academy Awards are also excellent lip readers!


***

This afternoon at 17.00, the village was invited for the annual get together in the village hall with William for a reprise of the year and to drink local wines and eat some gallette du rois. I understand more of William's speech every year and this year was no exception. What's fun is that we now know lots more people and we had the opportunity to meet new ones. For example, we met a nice couple who we vaguely know and who might be fun to excercise the dogs with and a lady who is just starting new kennels. It would obviously be handy to have kennels in the village so we will check them out tomorrow.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Apple strudel?


I reckon that we have the only toilet in the western hemisphere that smells of apple strudel. I had reason to complain to Housekeeping the other day that the toilet smelt a little antiseptic. Nothing wrong with that you may say, but I didn't like it. Anyway, what do we have now, but an apricot potpourri and Sainsbury's Spiced Plum room spray? Suddenly, it's less toilet and more kitchen. Ah well, I should keep my mouth shut (agreed, and where the hell do you buy your apple strudel? - Ed.).


***

If it's Saturday, it must be headache time, with Peter from The Languedoc Page and Bryan, who isn't. My head hurt badly last week, mostly because I had to sit and listen to them going on about their Christmas and it also had something to do with the wine. Jan and I rarely if ever drink at lunch time, Saturday being the exception, because we tend to suffer for the rest of the day. Today was different, I still got a headache listening to Peter and Bryan, but no hangover, because I only had a couple of beers. The next stage in my rehabilitation is to stop listening to P&B.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Hidden


So last night was culture night. Jan, who is our culture secretary, had read good reviews about the French film Cache, Hidden. (The image above was the best that I could find regarding the word Hidden, sorry chaps.) It has won lots of honours, so we settled down to a gripping evening. What is it about continental films that make you endure long spells of silence and inaction? I estimate that at least 25% of the film involved long pauses and nothing actually happening. It wasn't exactly a bad film but we both looked at each other as the closing titles started to roll and said, "What happened to the ending?" Describing it as 109 minutes long was a bit of an exaggeration, never mind contravening The Trades Description Act, as were a lot of the unattributed comments on the box. To describe it as a "Stunning thriller," and "The most gripping film of the year," was just a little over the top. I've seen more exciting stuff watching Jan decide what to wear for the evening.


***

A couple of months back I had the Golf silencer fixed at the local garage. I can't tell you how many times I have called in to to pay the bill, which he never seems to have completed. I called in again this afternoon and he acknowledged that he had done it, but this time he couldn't find it. He seemed very impressed that I play tennis with William, mentioning it a couple of times, but doesn't seem bothered that I owe him money. Talking of tennis it was one set all again today but this time we won the first set 6-2 and then lost the second 7-5. Must do better!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Liquidambar


The landscape gardener turned up this morning, 24 hours later than he was supposed to. Ah well, at least he showed up. He's a nice chap so I find myself forgiving him. It's interesting how much more easily you feel well disposed towards some people. Anyway, he started by planting a Liquidambar (Sweetgum). I suspect that this wasn't as easy as he thought because at about 40 cms he hit solid rock so he had to pause and go back to base to get his rock breaker. The tree, of which we knew nothing, having asked for something big and decorative, is already 4 metres tall. That's cool.


***

Michel also showed up, but after lunch. He still looked a bit 'tired' after his New Year trip up to Lozere with a few mates. Anyway, he continues to finish all the small building jobs that need doing in the garden.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Before you, no before you, no before you


Mr Log Man called this morning. He asked me when I wanted the delivery and I replied that it didn't matter, whatever was convenient for him. This went backwards and forwards for a while until I got fed up and said, OK, 14.00. He then said that he couldn't do it at that time but could get here at about 15.00. Why do people do that? They keep insisting that it's up to me and then tell me that they can't make it at the time I chose. I find this really irritating and it's not the first time it has happened.


***

Last year we bought boots and skis, and skiing became the new passion. Well, I was relieved to see that 10 cms of snow fell today up at Mont Aigoual. The station opens on Thursday. Yippee!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year




Out to dinner at Bryan and Gill's last night. It was a murder mystery dinner with each of us going in character. My character was Ernest Sharp, a seedy businessman, and Jan, a good time girl. If I wasn't so thick skinned I could have got upset at the casting! The costumes, all home made, were excellent. The best was Gill who made a very authentic looking nun's outfit. I didn't need a costume per se and all Jan did was use a mascara pen to paint on a thin moustache. The slightly scary results above. The meal was excellent, as was the wine and we even got a second crack at the New Year (English time) when we got home. We slept late this morning!
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Tennis this afternoon and, like last time, they came at us powerfully to try to pin us back. They succeeded this time and took the first set 6-2. Their job done, they dropped their shoulders and naturally we lifted ours. We took the second set 6-4 and won the deciding tie-break. Phew, it's getting harder.