Sunday, September 30, 2007

From your sports correspondent

Yesterday morning we had a full blown lie-in and didn't get up until 09.30. Excellent. We're now entering a 'quiet period' with no visitors on the horizon so we'll have a bit of a chance to pamper ourselves. We even decided not to go to Sommieres market and meet the previous night's crowd again. We needed a break from all the partying.


What a good match last night. Wales were playing Fiji (pop 850,000) in a sun soaked St Etienne, in the Rugby World Cup. In the normal course of events you would expect Wales to conquer but Fiji played out of their skins, right to the last minute, and pulled off an exciting win. Probably the best rugby match I've ever seen.


Autumn is here. It was cold and miserable yesterday, rained heavily all last night (increased the pool level by 6 inches), and it was raining and miserable this morning. The one bright note was that Lewis Hamilton won the Japanese Grand Prix and looks good for his rookie World Championship. What a good effort.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lots of satisfaction

After he made up a four for tennis this morning, Rob, and his mother, left today, (oh joy, the third trip to the airport at Nîmes this week) so it's back to a quiet house for a few days. Josh is no trouble and clip clops around the house on his crutches. He and I had a bit of fun fiddling with his 40 Gig laptop, that was creaking under the weight of all his music. We connected a 120 Gig external hard drive, that we didn't need, and transferred all his music 'off shore'. That was quite satisfying. (It doesn't take much to keep you happy! - Ed)


Tonight it was off to Chez Vero for a bite to eat and to watch the, must win, England vs Tonga World Cup rugby match on a very big screen. All in all, it was an interesting experience. Our table of fifteen was set down the middle of this old cave cooperative and there were lots of other tables set around. The proprietor, obviously an old rocker, had quite a sophisticated sound and light system so that every time England scored a try he had flashing lights and loud music to celebrate the event. It certainly added to the atmosphere. Any of the other diners, looking for a quiet night out, must have been sadly disappointed but no one seemed to mind and everyone joined in the party atmosphere. One old guy took a fancy to Josh and even asked him were he was sleeping tonight. Thank goodness he had his mother there to protect him! It was a great laugh.
Anyway, England won and now go through to play Australia next Saturday. They'll need quite a bit of luck with that match!
After the match we were treated to a Rolling Stones concert with the rock pensioners belting out some of their 'old masters' all on a huge screen that made you feel part of the audience. A good night.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ask a policeman

So we're in Aigues Mortes and I needed the toilet. I approached a policeman and asked him if there was a toilet nearby.
He said yes. That was it, just yes.

After a long pause I asked him where it was.

He looked over both his shoulders (like some comedians do when telling a joke) before telling me where.

I shot off and I eventually found it, but the door had no handle.

I returned to the main square determined to find another and I swear that I saw him walking in the distance swinging something in his hand!

The whole episode was witnessed by Rob, who couldn't stop laughing. You had to see it to believe it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wedding questions

A Saudi couple, Ahmed and Layla, preparing for their wedding, meet with their Mullah for counselling. The Mullah asks if they have any last questions before they leave.

Ahmed asks, "We realize it's tradition in Islam for men to dance with men, and women to dance with women. But, at our wedding reception, we'd like your permission to dance together."

"Absolutely not," says the Mullah. "It's immoral. Men and women always dance separately."

"So after the ceremony I can't even dance with my own wife?"

"No," answered the Mullah, "It's forbidden in Islam."

"Well, okay," says Ahmed, "What about sex? Can we finally have sex?"

"Of course!" replies the Mullah, "Allah Akbar! (GOD is great) Sex is OK within marriage, to have children!"

"What about different positions?" asks the man.

"Allah Akbar! Mafi Mushkila (no problem)," says the Mullah.

"Woman on top?" Ahmed asks.

"Sure," says the Mullah. "Allah Akbar. Go for it!"

"Doggy style?" "Sure! Allah Akbar!"

"On the kitchen table?" "Yes, yes! Allah Akbar!"

"Can I do it with all my four wives together on rubber sheets with a bottle of hot oil, leather harnesses, a bucket of honey and a porno video?"

"You may indeed. Allah Akbar!"

"Can we do it standing up?" "No, absolutely not!" says the Mullah."

"Why not?" asks the man.

"Because that could lead to dancing!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

There's more

We're back to a full house again. As well as Josh, James and Pauline returned from honeymoon and my good friend Rob brought his mum out for a few days. She's 79 this year and kept us in stitches. What a funny, lively, bright mind. Fabulous. I can only hope that I'm as sharp as her when I get to her age.
But, we need a break! That comes next week. Yippee.


I found this very funny.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The only source of serious news

You read it here first. You now have the French Prime Minister and the President of the European Central Bank saying it as well. Over two years ago I said the Health Service was bankrupt and now they're both saying that the country's finances are in a critical state.

If only someone had listened!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rugby World Cup

That was a nice day. Thanks to Bryan and Gill, we were invited to watch the rugby in Montpellier. Not any old rugby, but for my first ever rugby match I get to see Australia vs Fiji in a World Cup game. The Fijians, expecting to be thumped, put out a second string team and, surprise, surprise, got thumped.

The Stade Mosson holds about 33,000 and it was full, with an awful lot of Aussie shirts on view. We got the tram at Odysseun (Junction 29 on the A9) and about 50 minutes later we got to the stadium. A smart move. Our seats were excellent, in the shade and high up to one corner. I pitied the poor folk sitting in the sun, they must have roasted. We got a great view of most of the action and what you missed was shown on a huge tv screen. An excellent day.


Another very smart move was to eat and have a couple of beers before and after the game at Les 3 Brasseurs just next the the start of the tram platform at Odysseum. What a good find. I'd been meaning to try the one in Nîmes for some time, so this was an excellent opportunity. They brew their beer at the bar/restaurant and very good it is too. Aside from special beers they sell blond, brune, ambreé and blanche. They also sell wine and non alcoholic drinks. They have a huge choice of food and we tried their speciality flammekueches (La Speciale Brasseurs). It was fabulous, so much so that Bryan and I ordered another one each. Highly recommended.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Only the good die young

I woke this morning thinking about Tony. He was my age and the first of my peers to die. But grief, he was young. I feel young (that's stretching the meaning of the word to the limit - Ed), and way too young to die. But something like this really brings it home. They say only the good die young, and Tony was very, very good. He was an extra special doctor and he spent his working life trying to save others at home and also abroad. He left his mark on the world and made me look puny in comparison. It was an honour and a privilege to know him.

The thoughts that passed through my head all morning related to vulnerability and sadness. I put vulnerability first because at these times of grief we almost always put ourselves first. My could this affect I well........... what warning signs should I look out for..................oh, and I feel very, very sad for his nearest and dearest. Self pity, it's not a comfortable thought but I think that it's largely true. When I was young I remember being told that when we cry, we cry because we feel sorry for ourselves, and not out of a sense of sadness for someone else. When my 83 years old mum left yesterday, I was sad. Sad at the thought that I might never see her again. Me, me, me.

Anyway, whatever the rights or wrongs of any of the above, the world was a better place with Tony in it, and it owes him a debt of gratitude.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tony Hart

Just over a month ago, on the 19th August, we invited an old school friend, Tony Hart and his wife, who were holidaying nearby, over for lunch. I have known him since we were five. He died suddenly this morning. Our thoughts are with Jenny his wife.

In loving memory of a kind and very clever man.

I'm worried about my baby

Jan pulled out the stops again last night and produced a dinner to die for (well, not exactly), in fact, I barbecued dorade, probably my favourite fish, and Jan did everything else. A good effort all round.


My mum, who has been at the house keeping the dogs company whilst we were in England, left this morning. This, combined with S&J leaving as well, has left the house very quiet. Well, not totally quiet, because Josh, Jan's second son, is clip clopping around the house on his crutches (with a broken ankle). The dogs appear to be very confused with all the comings and goings. I hope you're paying attention!


James and Pauline, who are presently on honeymoon in Austria, called this afternoon to say that they were having problems with the Golf's alarm (they borrowed the car from here). They couldn't use the car because the zapper wouldn't turn the alarm off and unlock the doors. Delving deep into my memory, I remembered that you could turn the system off with a little touch pad inside the car and told them how to get the information. Problem solved.

Anybody else got an issue they can't resolve?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mind that leaf!

S&J arrived late yesterday afternoon for a short stay. S is an old (but younger) friend of Jan's from Windsor, so there was lots to catch up on and trying to prise them apart this morning was a major effort. I have never understood the ease with which women can just chat for hours.
Anyway, apart from a lovely dinner and a surreal time when, at midnight, I'm trying to fish leaves out of the pool, surrounded by women swimming, nothing much happened.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


And there were only 20 messages in the spam folder this morning. They can't have got tired already, can they?


Do you know the medical distinction between guts and balls? Here's a handy guide.

GUTS - is arriving home late, after a night out with the boys, being met by your wife with a broom, and having the guts to ask: "Hi darling, are you still cleaning or are you flying off somewhere?"
BALLS - is coming home late, after a night out with the boys, smelling of perfume and beer, lipstick on your collar, slapping your wife on the butt and having the balls to say: "You're next."

Medically speaking, there is no difference since both ultimately result in death.


Talking about balls.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I can see clearly now

I'm being inundated with spam at the moment, mostly of the 'undelivered mail' type. When I say inundated I mean 50 an hour. I opened my Gmail account this morning and there were 800 sitting in the spam folder. This is all very recent because there was no problem, as far as I'm aware, last Sunday when I last looked at the account.


Jan has been whingeing recently about the prescription for her lenses/glasses. Her optician here in France had pick up some astigmatism, when it has never been picked up before. Jan doubts that this is correct, and tried to book an eye test when we were in England. Anyway, this morning she states that she is having difficulty seeing things clearly. I sympathised, as much as you can with someone who knows everything medical and trusts no one. A few minutes later I heard her mutter as she walked off to the bathroom, "I wonder." It turned out that she hadn't even put her lenses in! Bless. (You like living on the edge, don't you? - Ed)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Laon to Nîmes

We stopped in Laon last night and arrived home after an 8.5 hour drive. It's very good to be back.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

On our way back

After a leisurely breakfast, we packed and made a last stop to see Maisie and Elsie, picked up Josh (who was returning with us to France) and set off for Eurotunnel. Josh came with us because he had recently broken his ankle and wasn't allowed back to school to teach. Health and bloody safety!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Ninetieth Birthday

I had a dream last night about not being able to find Max, which is probably a sign that I’m starting to miss him. That ties in with the fact that I’m already starting to think about the drive home. Should we stop for the night, or go for a non stop strategy?


Anyway, today saw the final event of our two weeks stay in England. We were here to celebrate a ninetieth birthday. Wasn’t that neat? The lady in question had always wanted to visit the London Eye so that was what was arranged. Gwen, together with all her children and grandchildren met first at the Skylon restaurant at the nearby Royal Festival Hall for lunch. I thought it was very good, with a great view over the Thames and all the activity on the South Bank. The food and service were excellent and it was a great choice. Thanks to Claire and Tim for organising it.
After lunch we made our way to the London Eye and a reserved pod. What this meant was that we had the pod to ourselves and the services of a nice lady to point out the sights. Gwen was enthralled, so job well done. A few glasses of champagne (from our village in France) whilst sitting on the grass and watching the world go by finished the afternoon. The next bit wasn’t planned but fortunately the South Bank was a heaving mass of activity because of the Thames Festival, which helped pass the next few hours until the bus called to pick up the birthday girl. All in all, a great way to celebrate your ninetieth birthday.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Gimme coffee

I have a problem. I need Internet access and get edgy if I can't get online whenever I want. We are in James' flat in Brighton at the mo and my laptop picks up an unencrypted wifi router somewhere close by. Now I realise that I'm stealing a bit of bandwidth, but not much, and I doubt that I'm disrupting the kind soul who has not encrypted his router. Thank you kind sir, you don't know it, but you're very kind. In the meantime, I'll say three Hail Marys.


I’ve never really understood the anti-globalisation thing. Everyone seems to knock Starbucks and companies like it because they're huge organisations with shops all over the world. Who cares how big they are? Good luck to them. No one is forced to go in. Me, I don’t like Starbucks because I don’t like what they sell. I don’t care how big they are, I just want them to sell something that tastes like coffee. Now that's something to protest about.

Another day of meeting family, and in particular Jan's lovely sister Valerie. Dinner at Murasaki Cafe finished the evening. Excellent.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The motoring column

After successfully tracking down a new battery pack for Jan's camera, we drove over to Lee Hire in Brighton to have a new set of tyres fitted. I always use Blackcircles for my tyres. You get a good choice and they are always a lot cheaper. I ordered them online from France and rather than have them delivered to France, I arranged to have them fitted in Brighton. The last set of tyres were good for 60,000 Kms which was pretty cool.


Lots of boring family stuff today so, on a motoring theme, I offer a little advert for your amusement.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fowey - Torquay - Brighton

Hi, we (that's the royal we) are back online, and this is what we've been up to.

Monday 10th

Fowey is a very pretty, quaint seaside village. Definitely worth a visit. The road through the village is very narrow and we only just got the car through. We would love to have stopped but there was just nowhere to park.
Anyway, outside one of the shops was a huge display of
Croc rubber shoes. What is it with these shoes? They might be comfortable, but they must make your feet sweat like crazy. I don't understand.

Last stop today and the fifth bed of the trip so far was Torquay, to visit Mike and Gill.

Tuesday 11th

Last night Gill (above middle), who makes the most fantastic fish pie, cooked, er..... fish pie. The recipe is a family secret, that has been handed down through the Paxton family since fish was invented, or that's what she said, and very good it was too. This morning, after buying some farm cider, we visited Stoke Gabriel, a beautiful village a short drive away. Having convinced Gill that the Post Office was unlikely to sell red peppers, we visited the village church with its 800+ years old Yew tree. There has been a church on this site for about 1000 years. Pretty consistent eh?
Anyway, after an afternoon ziz we drove over to Teignmouth for a family meal and to catch up with the rest of the family. Excellent.

Wednesday 12th

We were sad to leave Torquay after such a pleasant stay but the sixth bed of the trip reckoned and we set off for the six and a half hour journey to Brighton.

We got to Brighton late afternoon, and after buying a few provisions, we passed a betting shop where I noticed that for a £10 bet you could get odds of 17-1 on tonight's England v Russia game, if Owen scored first and England won by two goals to nil. I never bet, but I said to Jan, "that looks like a good bet to me." My beloved dismissed the idea out of hand. I didn't feel optimistic but England played really well and Owen scored first and at half time they were two goals ahead. Jan knew that I'd never let her forget this, so was praying that something else would happen. It happened. England scored again and I thought, "Great that was £170 down the drain." Anyway, England won a difficult game and I went to bed a poor but happy bunny.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Eden Project

Despite a deep seated belief that it was nothing more than a couple of bloody big greenhouses, I was prepared to be open minded about it. The Eden Project was our first stop this morning.
The first thing that we noticed was the numerous earnest looking types with rucksacks, sandals and a fair share of beards. I still had an open mind. Jan who was desperate for a coffee stopped in the foyer for a fair trade coffee. I've had fair trade coffee before and been less than impressed with it. Fair trade for me means that I pay a little bit more, so that the growers are more able to survive. But it also means that I want something that tastes like coffee. I have never had a fair trade coffee that tastes anything like, and this was no exception. Something is very wrong here and the bottom line is that I pay more for a brown tasteless fluid. Hmnnnn. Give me my Lavazza 'Il Perfetto Expresso' every time. Now that tastes like coffee, and I get what I want.

We were probably still a little jaded after yesterday's excellent all day wedding, but neither of us was particularly impressed with the EP. It was interesting, but, in our opinion, not really worth the £14 entrance fee and I had my suspicions confirmed. The biospheres are just huge greenhouses displaying all kinds of plants .


We were now heading towards Torquay to see Jan's relatives tomorrow but tonight we stayed at Fowey Hall. A little treat for a still tired Jan.
Internet access might be a little difficult over the next couple of days. We'll see.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

An elegant English wedding

The Crowan village church is very pretty. Charlotte and Wayne got married there this morning and we felt privileged to have been invited. We were deep in the Cornwall countryside to see this very lovely couple tie the knot. We were surrounded by wonderful place names like Praze-an-Beeble, Nancegollan, Reskadinnick, Carnkie and Twelveheads. It was a traditional English wedding in an ideal setting. Excellent. What made it even better was that we met up with old tennis friends who we might not otherwise have seen. Mike, a very good tennis coach and player, and Jo who will shortly move to Australia, invited us to their wedding in Sydney next month. The temptation is huge but then so is the cost and we're just not ready at the moment for a long trip down under. We felt very privileged to have been invited. Next up was Preston, another good tennis player and coach, who was also part of a tennis team that I managed in the 90's. This team won the Berkshire County Championship five years in a row which was no mean feat. We had a great team, a great team spirit and we had a lot of laughs. An excellent time.
After the church service we all decamped to Scorrier House a short distance away and partied until the early hours. Jan pointed out that it was nice to be at a wedding and not have to do anything other than enjoy yourself.

Having left mine at home, I will post some photos when I buy a new card reader shortly.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Crossroads Hotel

Jan was in heaven. We had no idea, but the hotel last night was right next door to the biggest and newest M&S you have ever seen. Having already had a Travelodge breakfast on an earlier trip, I fancied something different so the M&S Deli counter was just the ticket. The freshest squeezed orange juice and a bagel with scrambled eggs and smoke salmon did the trick.


The M5 down to Cornwall was quite busy and, as I peered into the other cars, I noticed that they were all stuffed with old people (like you – Ed), no doubt on their way the fill all the rooms vacated by families with children who were now back in school. We were heading towards pensioner county!


The Crossroads Hotel (our third bed this trip) has to be the new Fawlty Towers. The initial attraction was twofold, first it was very close to the reception venue and second they had wifi. Despite being connected to their network I couldn’t call up any website. After an hour of trying it turned out that they were having problems themselves but didn't realise it.
We fancied a Thai meal for dinner but the lovely lady at reception, who had only been there for two weeks, couldn't help, but claimed that her husband was an 'award winning' chef so, with a Thai red curry on the menu, that decided it. We went down to dinner but the very friendly waitress wouldn’t let us sit at any table in the empty restaurant until she was ready. We were the only couple in the restaurant at all times. The curry was excellent, better than Jan's (you like to live dangerously don't you? - Ed).
All the staff were very nice but, having to cover too many bases, were quite disorganised. I wish them well.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The end of a long journey

We rarely wake to anything other than sunshine at home but this morning was different. It was raining and miserable, but did we care? Welcome to northern France. We arrived effortlessly in England courtesy of Eurotunnel and made it to the M5 by 17.30. I admit that I was tired. Anyway, tonight saw the end of a long journey in more ways than one. If you remember, earlier this year I had found my deceased, natural father's wife and her daughter and so tonight we met them for the first time. They were very kind and helped fill in some of my family history. It was quite emotional to see letters from me, as a child, to my father and to learn more about him and his family. The end of a long journey.


I learnt today that my daughter, who has just returned from Barbados, might have dengue fever. Woops. Get well soon my lovely.

Jan - superstar

On the drive up to Rheims we had the chance, for the first time in several days, to discuss the events of last weekend. I had to laugh, because I hadn’t realised that whilst I was slowly getting pissed, Jan was working hard behind the scenes holding lots of hands, and, sorting out lots of problems.

Problems (a part list).

1 Being pescatarians, the newly weds had chosen a fish paella as an acceptable main course. "Jan, a person (all names deleted to protect the innocent) is allergic to moules. Can you do anything?" Well, the obvious answer is to put the bloody moules to one side and eat the rest. Not good. The moules might have ‘infected’ the paella, so Jan arranged for J-M to cook some fish. I have a big problem with people saying that they are ‘allergic’ to certain foods. I suspect that they use’ allergy’ as an alternative to ‘I don’t like’. Hmnnnnn.

2 A family member (who had had a lot to drink), had a hissy fit and said that she couldn’t eat paella because she had been ill eating it in the past. She was told to calm down and was encouraged to eat the salad and bread!

3 A young couple demanded a ‘bed’ for their young one, half way through the meal, and Jan had to find suitable bedding to put out on the terrace for the little one to sleep under the stars. Hadn’t they considered this possibility and taken action. How come they expected us to deal with it?

4 Where’s the travel cot that my parents gave to you for my baby asked another family member? Jan spent a lot of time looking in vain for said cot only to find, what she already knew, that the message was incorrect.

The list goes on and on. So, when I said to Jan, “Did you enjoy Saturday?” she said, “No, not really.” I now understand why. There are lots of high maintenance people in this world and last Saturday Jan came across more than her fair share. Thank you, my darling. You’re too good for this world.

About an hour out of Rheims, we rang round for a hotel. After trying at least 10 hotels we realised that every hotel in the north of France was full. Eventually, we tried a restaurant with rooms. “Oui monsieur, we have two rooms left but the restaurant is full.”

“Pas grave,” I said, as I bit her hand off. L’Assiette Champenoise, 40, av Paul Vaillant Couturier, 51430 Tinquex, was a real find. A large room with a huge bed at 140 euros, whilst not cheap, was like manna from heaven. Thank god the restaurant was full. This is a 2 star Michelin restaurant, with a price to match, so off we went to a nearby Buffalo Grill for steak and chips and a very good carafe of Californian red. The best of both worlds! (You are such a yob – Ed)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

More weddings

During the last ten years, Jan and I have not been to a wedding together. This year we will attend 3. The first was last weekend and the second, next weekend in Cornwall, so this morning we left by car for the UK. Mum is at home looking after the dogs. Wish her well!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Wedding No 2

Last Saturday was one hell of a day, and we haven't stopped since. We entertained 120 people at the house and have only just stopped clearing up. The pictures tell the story. Tomorrow we drive to England.