Friday, February 29, 2008

Village life

With our village elections coming up shortly, this article about the only English mayor in the whole of France was interesting.

It appears to me that our village is settling into two distinct camps. One camp focuses on things arty and the other on things traditional. I could go on about this, but being a sensitive soul (you really shouldn't put sensitive in the same sentence as yourself - Ed), caring about other people's feelings and not wanting to be run out of town, I have to say that there is room in the village for both 'sides'. Last summer they both put on a weekend fête and both were good in their own way. One provided plates and cutlery and the other didn't. One provided a better meal than the other, but both were great fun and I would hate to see one side win over the other. Such is village life and village politics. We try to stay out of the politics.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

How difficult is it to get dressed

What is it about women and getting dressed? This morning I was pacing up and down waiting to go out and popped into the bedroom to discuss something. Jan was fastening the belt to her trousers. I then wandered off, perfomed several small jobs and, after about 15 minutes, wandered back to the bedroom to discuss something else. Jan was still fastening her belt. Now I'm no fool. What this means is that she had dressed and redressed as many times as she could in fifteen minutes. In my case that means I would dress and redress about fifteen times. Maybe more. I put it all down to chronic indecision and the nurturing of the false concept that anybody else cares about what you wear. I have met and liked women whose dress had seen better days as curtain material. I still liked them. This indecision could also show the onset of short term memory loss, especially when you end up wearing the same outfit that you started with fifteen minutes ago. There's a book here somewhere!

Monday, February 25, 2008

A not so new idea

Tired of cleaning? Looking for a way of getting at those irritating marks on your computer screen? Thanks to Holly I have the answer. Look here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pastry or bread

Jacqui, I humbly apologise. Despite your clear instructions, I failed to distinguish between bread and pastry. I've corrected the post (you know that truth and accuracy have never been very high on my agenda) and I just want a nice quiet day now.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

France v England at rugby

The Six Nations Rugby recommenced today, so I nearly had square eyes by 22.30 tonight. After watching rugby most of the afternoon, it was off to Chez Vero in Congenies to watch France v England, with a group of 37 and others, on a huge screen. The dinner was disorganised and pretty dire and has confimed to me that this is not a good place to eat. We arrived at 19.30 and my first course of so called tapas was placed in front of me at 21.00, just as the match started. I suspect that they did that so that you wouldn't look too closely at the food. I went with the Spanish theme, the 'tapas' being a a few bits of French appetisers on a plate, and then fideua which is basically paella made with macaroni. Neither of the two huge mussels on my plate were edible. One was closed, so dangerous, and the other a charred mess. It wasn't a good (20 euros) meal. When I think how good the 12 euros lunch was during the week it makes me cross.

The atmosphere however was great, and what was even better, against the odds, we beat France. There's an argument that the French should look at both their rugby and cooking skills.

A bitch called Dave

At around 19.00 last night I made a phone call and received both good news and bad news. The bad news was that we were expected to be at our hosts at exactly that moment (so we were already late) and the good news was that there was curry on the menu. Not just any old curry, this was a Languedoc curry (with apologies to M&S), the best curry you'll eat anywhere in France and right here on our doorstep. Unfortunately this isn't a restaurant, you'll find this delight at Carolina and Steve's place about 30 minutes away from here. I thought that Jan could cook good curry but this was much, much better. Subtly spiced lamb, chicken and pork curries with beautiful rice, accompanied by the best tarka dahl ever, justa lika mamma (listen here Pinocchio, your mother has never cooked a curry in her life - Ed) wouda lika to make. Thanks guys an excellent evening.

If there is only one common denominator amongst all the friends that we have met and eaten with over the last week, then it has to be that, not only are they very nice people, but they are also dog lovers. Last night was no exception. From left to right above, Aicha (aka Dave - don't ask), Yana and Rolf.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A perfect day

The girls were having a 'craft day' today, so Bryan and I decided to hang out together. Jan mentioned later that she seemed to spend ages getting her 60 euros sewing machine from Lidl to work. What do you want for 60 euros I unhelpfully asked? I think Bryan and I had more fun.

First we shot off to Nimes to haggle over car insurance and then off to the relais in Montmirat for their excellent 12 euros lunch. Their cheese flan is to die for and today it was on the menu. Mnnnnn.

With a bricolage in the afternoon to buy drainage channels and concrete, we were in seventh heaven. Superimposed over all this was a warm, sunny, calm day. Life just doesn't get much better. (It doesn't take much to keep you happy! - Ed)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A blogger's convention

So I'm sitting in the car waiting for Jan, in Sommieres, when I was idly looking into the estate agent window in front of me. Estate agents in this part of France have always fascinated me. Basically it's a very competitive business, their charges are high and you are personally escorted to each property without being given any property details, and having given a signed mandate to buy from the agent who took you there. Anyway, I'm looking at this window and my eyes fall on their opening hours. They are open Monday to Friday with a two hour lunch break each day, and the bit that shook me, even after all this time in France, was that they shut all day Saturday. Saturday is market day in Sommieres and the place heaves with people, both locals and tourists. I wonder how long it will take for me to get used to this attitude to business?
I've never met another blogger before and the reason we were in Sommieres was that we were on our way to meet Jacqui and her family, some two hours away. If two bloggers can have a convention then a convention it was. I've always had a soft spot for Jacqui's blog and Jan loves to read it. We obviously have our own experience of French life but without school going children (OK LeeLee, I know that it's a lycee) and Jacqui's tales of their experiences as the only English family in their village, are always well written and interesting. We had been invited to lunch (how come you always talk about food? - Ed) and boy, did they push the boat out. A beautiful lobster bisque, followed by whole chickens (2) baked in their own bread case. Absolutely delicious and a first for me. This was obviously a family favourite because the girls couldn't wait to get stuck in, but demurely held back. Good effort girls. Either I'd written about it before or Jacqui's psychic but apart from a chocolate cheese cake, we were also offered my all time favourite, tarte au citron. It was a fabulous, fun filled, gossipy lunch, enhanced by Richard's excellent wine.

I nearly fell off my chair when I recognised the time. Lunch had extended to 5.10 pm and with a two hour drive home we knew the dogs would be busting. Thanks guys for a memorable time. You are very kind.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Avignon has a great feel to it. If you can find your way to the Palais des Papes car park (see how advanced they were in those days) and follow the pedestrian exit signs you arrive right outside this beautiful building. It takes your breath away.
We were there last night at the invitation of Chris and Delphine. Chris, one-time Times journalist, author and computer expert, is now a French trained chef and last night he was cooking for us. How cool is that? Your own personal chef. Unfortunately, we are only amateur eaters so we kinda blew it by stuffing our faces with his appetisers of home made chips and mi-cuit foie gras with apricot on brioche toast. Our starter of pan fried foie gras was followed by duck with a mushroom sauce and olive oil mash. By this time I was ready to throw in the towel but not before we made a good effort at a chocolate pudding with cardomom cream. All this was washed down with various wines including a Puech Haut Tete de Cuvé. I wonder what the poor people were eating?

Thanks Chris, you are very, very kind.

Strong men in queer positions

See what you can do with a pot of gold paint, a huge choir, a sixty piece orchestra and a posing pouch.

Friday, February 15, 2008

On the piste

It all started earlier this week when Gill Lloyd invited us to meet them for a couple of days skiing over Easter. There was no snow at Prat Peyrot last year so the boots and skis that I bought the year before (against Jan's better judgement), have been rotting in a wardrobe ever since. Having taken a quick look at this website, I called Jean Paul, my friendly ski instructor, and booked a lesson for 11.00 am this morning. The ski station is only 1 hour 40 minutes away so it's easy to get there and back in a day and as the dogs sleep all morning, they wouldn't be too inconvenienced.

When we arrived at 10.15 the place was empty. There were only six cars in the car park and Jan was the first up the button lift. She couldn't believe her luck. It was a warm, beautiful sunny day, no wind and with a beautiful blue sky. She had the mountain side to herself, amazing.

Me, I'd forgotten how hard it was to walk with two huge, heavy lumps of concrete strapped around my feet and ankles and I waddled, awkwardly, over to the ski school to find JP.

As I tried to walk in the bloody boots, hold onto a pair of skis and two poles, I stopped to consider that we spend all our life trying hard to stand up straight and not to fall over on snow and ice and then, when we decide to ski, we have to learn all over again. Dumb or what. If only I'd started earlier but my parents had little money and I never got the opportunity. As I grew older my interest lay in sunshine holidays and skiing never really appealed.

It was great to see all the little mites, some can't have been more than 4 years old, whizzing around but I was happy on the starter slopes whilst Jan sailed down a precipitous cliff which they had the nerve to call a green run.

JP was patience itself and I managed to remember some of the basics from two years ago. He soon got me slaloming around tiny cones but, and it was a big but, my right calf muscle started to hurt, really hurt. You have to use muscles in a way that is not normal so I was glad when the hour was up.

Jan looked good and later swooshed up to me sitting on a chair nursing my aching limbs. God I felt decrepit. Anyway, she was tired as well, so it was off to the cafe to rest our bodies and get stuck into steak anything with chips.

As we had a bit of time on our hands, the roads were clear and, we'd never done it before, we popped over to the meteo station at the summit nearby. As the bottom picture shows, it's a real top of the world experience but without the need for oxygen or crampons.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Love You (Happy Valentine's Day)

Not the most politically correct video you'll ever see, but funny all the same. Sound on and watch right to the end.


As I woke this morning, my beloved gave me an envelope, which looked just like a bill, and a box of chocs. How come women remember these things? The envelope contained a hand made Valentine card (true) and an invoice for my board and lodging (just kidding). In addition she sent me this card. I'm all choked up! I promise to be better.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Love is an old pair of jeans

It was all good news today. First our lovely neighbours, the Lloyds, Gill, Katie and Tom arrived for a quick stay. I got my new garden sprayer working which allowed me to get out and nuke some weeds. We, the above, all went out for a nice meal in Sommieres and I found a pair of jeans that I didn't know I had. My last pair of work jeans had a big hole in the arse and so Jan, with an evil glint in her eye, ditched them. As an aside, Katie was wearing a $70 pair of torn jeans which she had recently bought on a trip to NY from Abercrombie and Fitch. If I'd only known, I'd have given sold her mine for $35. Anyway, Jan's callous action left me with no old jeans to wear in the garden, so she decided to sort me out an old pair of trousers by going through my wardrobe. Well, lordy, lordy, there they were, an old pair of work jeans at the bottom of the wardrobe, where they had been discarded, and that I'd forgotten about. I love old jeans. I have a very old pair that are like silk and that I've had patched so often that the last time I took them for mending to our couturier neighbour, she told me in no uncertain terms that I could buy a new pair from the market for 10 euros and that she wouldn't touch them again. And there I was thinking that Jan was callous!

Sunday, February 10, 2008


It was breakfast time and I was sitting at the bar admiring a small basket of narcissus that Jan had bought from Intermarché. The plastic care instruction label, that had been 'planted' in the pot, was written in three languages, Dutch, English and French. Being the inquisitive type, I read the label. It told me to afford plenty of sunlight and keep the soil moist etc. What really grabbed my attention was the final bits of information. "For decoration only. Do not consume." Now, I consider myself fairly normal (you don't want a comment from me? - Ed.) and never in my life have I been tempted to eat flowers. I know you can eat some types but they ain't generally on my menu. Nor do I suspect that they are on the menu for anyone other than an extremist vegan, and they're not normal anyway. The only comfort that I could gain from this information is that there are pan european idiots around and that I wasn't being singled out. I'd have felt even happier if it had been printed in Spanish, Chinese and whatever the speak on the Indian sub-continent, but you can't have everything.
Anyway, this reminded me of a time, many moons ago, when men were men, and I had more money in my pocket than sense. A group of us were celebrating something or other, at what was at that time a very fine restaurant. It was called Andwells and was situated on the road between Reading and Basingstoke, just near the Duke of Wellington's pile. It was proud to announce that 'Madame soignee la cuisine' or somesuch which always made me think that she never actually did any cooking, she just shouted at the chef. They were dead posh! Last time I looked it had been turned into a Little Chef. But I digress. We were a very successful, macho and determined group of men and we taught people to walk on water, or at least that's what we thought. For the life of me I can't remember why, but the conversation got round to eating flowers. N, (I'll save his blushes) no, bugger it, he was called Neville and he just loved to argue. If you said white, he said black etc. Anyway, we're talking about eating flowers and I happened to mention that I didn't think that you could eat daffodils, whilst pointing at the huge bowl of said flowers on our table. This statement was like a red rag to a bull. 'Oh yes you can,' said Nev, true to form, and wouldn't back down until yours truly had offered him a pound for each daffodil that he would eat. We all looked on in wonderment (with more than the odd snigger) as he proceeded to eat his way through the table decoration. Eventually, he stopped at ten daffs and, with smug self satisfaction, demanded his ten pounds. As I handed over the money, I congratulated him, but deep inside I was annoyed because if I'd have known that he'd be foolish enough to eat them I'd have offered him double. Needless to say he puked it all up (including his very expensive meal) and I think that we were barred from the restaurant thereafter. No doubt Madame had to soignee the cleaning of the gents toilets as well that evening.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A great day out

In order to see an eye specialist, we took the long way round to Montpellier this morning. It was a beautiful ride, past Pic St Loup and all the outstanding vineyards. Montferrier, our destination, is a small village to the north of Montpellier and appears to have several specialist clinics, one of which is this swish, modern, eight doctor clinic specialising in all things to do with eyes. As usual I got a good going over and Dr E thinks that I might have to have drops for glaucoma, but will discuss this with my optician, who sent me there, for a second opinion, in the first place. I get the impression that I'm 'at the top end of normal' and as my mother has it as well, then treatment is probably necessary. We shall see. It's funny how your body starts to fall to bits as you get older!


As a treat for being a good boy, Jan suggested that we stop in St Mathieu de Trevier for lunch. 'Lennys' (formerly known as Apicius but had to change their name after a complaint from a similarly named restaurant in Paris 500 miles away - typical French protectionism) is right up there as one of my favourite places to eat. Jan's choice was the best. She had the 18 euro lunch menu and whilst I wasn't impressed with her starter, the swordfish main course was superb. On the other hand my starter, scallops on a risotto of Jersualam artichokes was amazing. My pork loin was good and was served with a test tube full of a beautiful mushroom sauce. We both chose the same pudding, tarte au citron, but nothing like you have ever had before. What looked like a small glass tumbler was in fact made of sugar and crumbled as I tried to pick it up and get my spoon to the bottom. Another little surprise came in the form of an inter course mouth refresher. Madame brought a small shot style tumbler which I immediately took to be full of a raw egg. Madame (the chef's wife) immediately burst out laughing because this was the anticipated reaction and one of the chef's mischievous little surprises. It was in fact a mango puree floating on a lemon and elderflower syrup. A great gag and typical of this extremely inventive chef. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Pancake Day

When are the good people of England going to revolt against this nonsense. For many years the citizens of Ripon, just north of Harrogate, where I used to live, have been holding a pancake race. This involves running with a pancake in a frying pan which has to be tossed from time to time. The bloody idiots, responsible for 'health and safety', have created so many rules and regulations that the race has been cancelled. When, oh when, is someone going to take control (back to the people) and stop all this nonsense? People of England, follow me and get some harmless fun back into your lives.


Alain came round this evening (as usual at apero time) and delivered his signed print of the painting that will be used as a poster by the organisers of the forthcoming fetes in Nimes. Cool if it's true.

Monday, February 04, 2008

What's your bar-code?

If you are going to commit a crime, and in particular a rape, then it makes sense that you minimise any easily identifiable personal characteristics. If your car registration plate and your DNA wasn't a big enough clue, tatooing a bar code on your weapon of choice is downright stupid. Here's a story about a man from Perpignan who was identified by virtue of having a barcode tatooed on his willy. You'd call him a dumb ass but that wouldn't be quite accurate.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Our big settee has collapsed again. I know, I know, it was a cheapy from Ikea (where Jan set a new record of walking through the store last Friday without buying anything) and probably still under guarantee but I can't face the hassle of taking it back, so another repair it was. This time it was a belt and braces job, not like my feeble attempt the time before. It collapsed again during last weeks celebrations and mainly because some (large) people don't bend their knees and sit on the bloody thing but flop from a great height and expect the furniture to take it. Everyone, including me, thinks that it's very comfortable so it's worth trying to keep it. Bryan came round this morning and used his considerable DIY skills to fix the beast. Thanks B.

The rest of the day was spent in front of the fire watching Scotland get hammered by the French. Generally a poor set of opening matches for the Six Nations Rugby with the French, so far, looking the strongest side.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Try anything once

A German guy approaches a prostitute and says 'I vish to buy sex vit you'

'OK' says the girl, 'I'll charge 100 dollars an hour'

"Ist goot, But I must varn you, I am a little kinky"

"No problem' she replies cautiously, 'I can do a little kinky"

So off they go to the girl's flat, where the German produces four large bedsprings and a duck caller.

'I vant you to tie ze springs to each of your limbs.'

The girl finds this very strange, but complies, fastening the springs to her hands and knees.

'Now you vill get on your hans and knees.'

She duly does this, balancing on the springs.

'You vill please blow zis vistle as I make love to you.'

She finds all this very odd, but figures it's harmless, and after all the guy is paying. The sex is fantastic. She is bounced all over the room by the energetic German, all the time honking on the duck caller.

The climax is the most sensational she has ever experienced, and it is several minutes before she has recovered her breath.

Finally she gasps 'That was totally amazing....... What do you callThat?'

'Ah', says the German, 'Four-sprung duck technique'

A new experience

I've never seen floor tiles laid, let alone be involved in laying them and yesterday I was in charge of cutting the tiles to shape whilst the expert laid them. Good preparation is all but as we were trying to fix other people's mistakes it took a little longer than normal. You'll notice that I have not complained once, unlike some people who find a bit of decorating difficult! Next week I'll have a go at laying them myself.
After a few hours of being friendly neighbours Bryan, Jan and I treat ourselves to a few beers and their special pizza at 3 Brasseurs in Odysseum. Excellent beer and the pizza is much better than the one they make in Nimes.


The chap that lost Soc Gen several billion euros recently could always use the excuse that it was an administrative oversight. It's an excuse popular in English parliamentary circles at the moment and given the fact that he is becoming a bit of a cult figure here in France it's an excuse that should go down well.