Saturday, May 31, 2008
Hallelujah, after an evening of attempting to unblock a sewage pipe, the sun came out this morning and it came as very welcome relief.
For a few days recently I'd suspected that all was not well with our effluent disposal, but I knew where to start looking, so Bryan and I located a manhole, that had long been covered over, only to find that we were up to our elbows in merde. Human merde, and lots of it. Despite putting 30 metres of rods down the offending pipe we were unable to progress much further until I could buy some more.
When we first moved here I remembered seeing the next manhole in the chain but it was covered over when the garden was landscaped. Bum. Putting the rods down enabled me to measure the distance from the first manhole to the next and get a good idea of where we would have to start to dig to uncover it.
I'd put a call out to Jean-Francis, 'man with JCB' (above on a less smelly day) and at lunch time he showed up and started turning the back garden into a battle field. An hour and a huge hole later we found it, about 5 feet down. I'll spare you the very gory details but this manhole was obviously the problem and we set about unblocking it. Two hours later, after we'd flushed it out the cause of the problem became apparent. This manhole consisted of a relatively small concrete box with one pipe entering the box at right angles to the exit pipe and with no channel connecting the two. With time it was bound to get blocked. A disgraceful piece of building work.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Along with many of my age, I now need glasses for reading. Got my glasses, so no problem there. What really irritates me though is the difficulty I have telling the time when I don't have my reading glasses on. My watch becomes a shiny blurred image that is worse than useless. Why can't someone design a clear, clean watch face that blind sods like me can read without having to put glasses on. Surely it's not too much to ask.
Talking of people who can't see. The other day Jan was driving the car and she observed that the cruise control buttons on the steering wheel had small raised dots. She asked me what the dots were for. She was not amused when I said I thought that it was probably Braille, to help blind people find there way around the steering wheel. She doesn't always like my witticisms.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Last year's newly weds W & C arrived today, and when asked how married life was suiting him W said, "The sex is great." Don't you just love people who are honest and straightforward?
Whilst my beloved cooked up a storm, I did my bit by opening a storm. My saintly, sober persona took a bit of a bashing last night because we tried a couple of different Spanish wines. Both W&C know and enjoy their wine so it was a sensible time to open some stuff that had been burning a hole on my pocket, as it were. The first, a barrel aged Palacios Bornos Verdejo 2006 was excellent, (not unlike a decent Chardonnay - Mark) just my style of drinking white and the second a red Celeste Rioja from the Torres stable was right up there as well. Unfortunately we drank just a little too much, so much so that at 09.29 this morning I remembered that I'd agreed to meet Bryan at 09.30. I just hate being late for anything.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The continuous rain is becoming a real pain in the ass and, just when you need something more to read, with the exception of Mark, nobody is blogging. And, to irritate me even more the spell checker doesn't recognise the word 'blogging'. Fed up with IE7 and some incompatibility issue with Flash Player I have switched to Firefox. One of the side benefits of Firefox is that you get automatic spell checking when you post in Blogspot. And, as if I'm not irritated enough, the spell checker doesn't recognise either Blogspot or even bloody Firefox.
Let me spell this out. The Firefox spell checker doesn't even recognise its own name. How stupid is that.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
God, I feel self righteous. For, let's say a couple of years, Jan has been asking me to get the Karcher out and clean the moss and other dirt off the big terrace. Today was the day. I couldn't think of one more excuse or one more delaying tactic. Boy, it really needed doing. There was dirt/moss everywhere.
Having said that, I quite like the 'lived in' look. Moss makes a place look, er, mossy. It has that sort of relaxed, dirty feel. The sort of feel that only people who are really self confident can display. (The sort of feel that only slobs have - Ed)
Anyway, I know what you're thinking, how come it's covered in moss? Well, this small area of terrace gets no direct sunlight, ever. It's in a north facing corner and despite the heat, the moss will grow. Bring it on.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
With guests coming tomorrow I popped over to Domaine Costeplane, here in the village, to buy some rosé. Françoise and Vincent are a great couple. They're bio champions and advocates and very nice people. I'd already been told that the rosé was good and so it proved. This is the fifth consecutive year that we have decided that their rosé is our rosé of choice. They just get better and better. I'd also been told that because they lost 40% of their production last year through mildew, they had no Vermentino, but that the unoaked Chardonnay was good. It was.
Both oidium and mildew are problems again this year and the vignerons are spraying like crazy. Over a cup of tea I sympathised with Françoise and Vincent and commiserated with them about the loss of production last year. 'Ah,' said a philosophical Françoise, 'but if you never have a poor year how can you ever have a good year.'
That shut me up!
Friday, May 23, 2008
One thing I remember from my school days (and there aren't many - Ed) is that we were told to avoid using the word 'nice' in essays. The profs what tort us Engrish hated the word. This is an interesting article about the word and how it started life. In prehistoric times its meaning was the complete opposite of its current meaning. Not many people know that! Nice.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
We need to think carefully about all non-essential trips for a while. Unless of course we need to buy another bloody casserole dish!!
Following on from my sulk about casserole dishes yesterday, we're walking past Casa and Jan mentioned that she would look for a dish that she had broken, another time.
"It's not that I haven't got lots of dishes," she said.
I could have broken down and cried. It brought all those painful memories about fire extinguishers back again. I'm having another sulk. Cruel and heartless woman.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
How come women can buy whatever they want but that rule doesn't apply to men. We're in Lidl this afternoon and Jan decides to buy a new casserole dish. A new casserole dish to add to her huge collection, her mountain of casserole dishes. We have cornered the bloody market in casserole dishes. Me, all I want is a fire extinguisher. I've always wanted a fire extinguisher and there are none in the house. They had a beaut for 26 euros. All big and red and fire extinguishy. I could end up sulking about this. Anyway, the current count is - casserole dishes 23 - fire extinguishers 0. You go figure!
And whilst I'm at it, have you seen the price of diesel recently? When we arrived in France, just under six years ago, I could buy diesel for 70 cents a litre. I thought that I'd gone to heaven. Today I saw it for 1.40 euros, double the price, in less than 6 years. Might have to start riding a bike like somebody not a million miles from here.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
This is the fifth year that our village has held a clown festival. Details here. I mention the website because I had a small part in the construction. Earlier this year Christine, one of the organisers, came round and we put a framework together. Not having any experience at all I think she did a very good job.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Where to start? I'd come across the notion of a huge buffet feeding hundreds of people once before, in the Canaries, and despite my initial reservations I had to admit that it was good. When I read about BL I looked forward to a similar experience.
We were on our way back from Barcelona where we had eaten well so I was looking forward to it. There was no room for the car at the front so we drove to the car park at the back. As you drove down the side of the building you could see that the small frontage of the restaurant was going to open into a huge dining room that could sit, at a guess, between 200 and 300 people. The owners had obviously travelled well (ooh, we are sarcastic - Ed) because they had introduced little trains that would ferry the old, the infirm, the fat, or just the plain bone idle for the two minute walk from the car park to the entrance.
Now I'm not a naturally suspicious person but I wasn't happy to be met by a bank of cash tills ready to take your 15 euros a head whilst being separated from the resto by a full height wall. They must be very confident of their offering I thought to myself. 30 euros lighter we entered into this large dining room surrounded by hotplates and cold counters. It was about half full. Maybe one of the trains had broken down during the day, who knows?
Whilst Jan sat and defended our table from boarders I went for a recce. I found the salads, the fish counter, the meat counter and the pudding and fruit and returned to base to report to my beloved. I had decided that I would have three courses but let Jan go first because I needed another opinion. Now Jan and I don't normally agree on salads, she likes what I will graciously describe as 60's salads, lettuce beetroot, egg and what looks like sick. Sorry I forget the name. Me, I'm half Italian and like things a bit more exotic. Jan got her wish, though during a debrief later said that the beetroot tasted off. How did they manage that? The best thing that I could say about my salad was that it was cold. I love roasted peppers but didn't realise that they were mixed with mussels. Mussels that were hard, chewy and tasteless. The baby artichokes, out of a tin, were OK.
I'm an optimistic person so I still looked forward to my next course. I wandered between the fish and the meat counters trying to decide which way to swing. I visited both counters three times and found the food, of which there was a lot, very unappetising and mostly unrecognisable. Unfortunately so had most other people, because it was all largely untouched. Platter after platter of untouched food that several hundred hungry people had voted unanimously against. I wasn't on my own here. Plastered all around the room, in three languages, were exhortations not to take more that you wanted. It looked like everybody took this message a bit too literally. I was not alone.
If you met me you'd understand that I like food. But maybe that was the problem, where was it? I may like food but I don't take chances and neither does it appear did anybody else. In the end I settled for calamari cooked on the griddle. This dish was helpfully situated a long way from the fish counter alongside the meat. I was glad to see that they had their collective fingers on the pulse!I was about to help myself from the mountain of untouched calamari when someone in whites turned up out of the blue. Bearing in mind that we'd been there about 30 minutes already and this was the first time we'd seen him. He insisted on serving me my portion. What was strange was that they were about to either throw away tons of food (or warm it up for the evening session) but he carefully counted out my four pieces of what turned out to be stone cold calamari. In case you find this amusing can I point out that this was my lunch, I was hungry, but more to the point, I had to eat it. Assuming for a second that they weren't going to reheat this slop, I suddenly felt sorry for the pigs that were going to have to eat it.
For the final course I had fruit. Surely they couldn't do anything to fruit. They hadn't!
At 15 euros I felt ripped off. At 5 euros I would have felt ripped off. What a dump. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would go there. But they do in their hundreds. Even writing this makes me feel sick.
OK I give in, I have some good news. Despite my earlier misgivings, 18 hours later I am not suffering any after effects. If you get my drift.
Go and take a look for yourself, and bon appetit.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Barcelona was full this week, when we started to book, so Jan had to think out of the box. The Alimara Hotel, right on the Ronda de Dalt, on the outskirts of town fitted the bill perfectly and was half the price of similar hotels near the centre. So far so good.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
While on his morning walk, Prime Minister Gordon Brown falls over, has a heart attack and dies because the accident and emergency dept at his nearest hospital is too understaffed to treat him in time.
So his soul arrives in Heaven and he is met by Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. 'Welcome to Heaven,' says Saint Peter, 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a Socialist around these parts, so we're not sure what to do with you.'
'No problem, just let me in; I'm a good Christian; I'm a believer,' says the PM.
'I'd like to just let you in, but I have orders from God. He says that since the implementation of his new HEAVEN CHOICES policy, you have to spend one day in Hell and one day in Heaven. Then you must choose where you'll live for eternity.'
'But I've already made up my mind. I want to be in Heaven,' replies Brown.
'I'm sorry .. But we have our rules,' Peter interjects. And, with that, St. Peter escorts him to a lift and he goes down, down, down ...all the way to Hell.
The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a lush golf course.
The sun is shining in a cloudless sky. The temperature is a perfect 22C degrees. In the distance is a beautiful club-house. Standing in front of it is Harold Wilson and thousands of other Socialist luminaries who had helped him out over the years --- John Smith, Michael Foot, Jim Callaghan, etc. The whole of the Labour Party leaders were there ..
Everyone laughing, happy, and casually but expensively dressed.
They run to greet him, to hug him and to reminisce about the good times they had getting rich at the expense of 'suckers and peasants.'
They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster and caviar. The Devil himself comes up to Brown with a frosty drink, 'Have a tequila and relax, Gord!'
'Uh, I can't drink anymore, I took a pledge,' says Brown, dejectedly.
'This is Hell, son. You can drink and eat all you want and not worry and it just gets better from there!'
Brown takes the drink and finds himself liking the Devil, who he thinks is a really very friendly bloke who tells funny jokes like himself and pulls hilarious nasty pranks, kind of like the ones the Labour Party pulled with no referendum on the European Constitution and the master strokes with Education, Immigration, Tough on Crime promises.
They are having such a great time that, before he realises it, it's time to go. Everyone gives him a big hug and waves as Brown steps on the lift and heads upward.
When the lift door reopens, he is in Heaven again and Saint Peter is waiting for him. 'Now it's time to visit Heaven,' the old man says, opening the gate.
So for 24 hours Brown is made to hang out with a bunch of honest, good-natured people who enjoy each other's company, talk about things other than money and treat each other decently. Not a nasty prank or short-arse joke among them. No fancy country clubs here and, while the food tastes great, it's not caviar or lobster. And these people are all poor. He doesn't see anybody he knows and he isn't even treated like someone special!
'Whoa,' he says uncomfortably to himself. 'Harold Wilson never prepared me for this!'
The day done, Saint Peter returns and says, 'Well, you've spent a day in Hell and a day in Heaven. Now choose where you want to live for Eternity.'
With the 'Deal or No Deal' theme playing softly in the background, Brown reflects for a minute ... Then answers: 'Well, I would never have thought I'd say this -- I mean, Heaven has been delightful and all -- but I really think I belong in Hell with my friends.'
So Saint Peter escorts him to the lift and he goes down, down, down, all the way to Hell.
The doors of the lift open and he is in the middle of a barren scorched earth covered with garbage and toxic industrial wasteland, looking a bit like the eroded, rabbit and fox affected Australian outback, but worse and more desolate.
He is horrified to see all of his friends, dressed in rags and chained together, picking up the roadside rubbish and putting it into black plastic bags. They are groaning and moaning in pain, faces and hands black with grime.
The Devil comes over to Brown and puts an arm around his shoulder.' I don't understand,' stammers a shocked Brown, 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a club-house and we ate lobster and caviar and drank tequila. We lazed around and had a great time.. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and everybody looks miserable!'
The Devil looks at him, smiles slyly and purrs, 'Yesterday we were campaigning; today you voted for us!
Monday, May 12, 2008
Something very strange has happened. Since we met, nearly 12 years ago, Jan and I have generally drunk half a bottle each with dinner, every day. (Sometimes more - Ed) In other words we drank, on average, a bottle of wine a day. But suddenly, and for no apparent reason we have stopped. I think that I started it when, just after Christmas last, it didn't taste good in my mouth. I seem to remember that we were tasting various reds to find one that we both enjoyed and none of them tasted very good. As each further day passed we were both less inclined to drink. So much so that I rarely even think about it now, unless we're with company, and then I end up regretting it later. What's going on?
Anyway, I mention this by way of a part explanation as to why I'm losing weight. Since February, I have lost 3 kilos and frankly I don't feel that I'm really trying. So consuming less calories and more exercise, with singles tennis twice a week, equals weight loss. It's true what they say! Good eh?
Saturday, May 10, 2008
That was a bit scary. I can't remember what prompted it, but I started to review my email address book and there were loads and loads of names that I didn't recognise. Not just one or two but 50 or more. I hadn't a clue. What really made me feel miserable however was all the names that I did know and who had now died.
I wasn't happy deleting them because, as if life hadn't already delivered them a bum steer, I was about to compound the blow and delete them as well. It took a bit of doing. It didn't feel good. Forgive me guys!!
Friday, May 09, 2008
There's something very, very wrong with the laws of a country when you can't lock up or deport a dangerous terrorist (at one time the most wanted man in England) because of his human rights. What about everybody else's so called human bloody rights?
Someone needs to get a grip and sort it out quickly? It's like an open invitation to all the bandits in the world. 'Come to the UK, you're safe here!'
The article is strange in the extreme. If it was fiction, you would dismiss the story as implausible.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Bryan made me laugh the other day. He organises a monthly walk for an expat group (BritNimes) and was telling me about the next walk.
'It's one we've done before,' he said, 'but I thought that it was a bit short last time.'
Not wishing to challenge his intellect too much I said, 'but isn't it still a short walk?'
Quick as a flash he said, 'yes, but to make it longer we park further away.'
Talking about a long walk, what exactly was the point of this. I can understand people wanting to climb mountains, but I struggle with the significance of taking the so called Olympic Flame to the top of Everest.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
The bee eaters are back. Aren't they beautiful? They normally sit on the phone wires on the south side of the village and brighten the start or the end of your trip.
I half thought about telling you that I'd taken the above photo with my Nikon Digital SLR at f8 with a screw twist and falco. But you'd have known that I was lying (cos I don't have one), so I nicked it off the web instead.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
On our way back from Sommieres today we had half an hour to kill so we popped into Lidl to buy another flower climbing frame. These frames are four sided, two meters tall, well built, made of metal and cost a ridiculous 6 euros each. Bargain!
Needless to say we bought a bunch of other stuff as well (no matter what we go in for, Jan won't even enter the shop without a shopping cart) and I came across an absolute bargain. Full length fishing waders at only 5 euros a pair.
'Stop you idiot', I hear you say, 'you don't fish.'
Aha, but I sometimes need to get into the pool at a nut crunching temperature to fix something or other and these waders will allow me to wrap up warmly and help alleviate the pain. Smart or what. Better still, smart at only 5 euros a time! Bring it on.
I'm going to have to show the nice young lady above where she can buy them.
Monday, May 05, 2008
A couple of years ago, just after it was built, we had an electrician come to put lights and sockets into the garage. He did a great job and solved several small problems in the house at the same time.
During a discussion about the problems with French artisans the other day, I mentioned this to the assembled masses and said that if this electrician wanted to get on in the world he needed to remember to send people invoices and demand payment.
After a period of two years, guess who phoned this morning and popped round with an invoice? He must have bugged the bloody house! Still, the bill was less than I thought it would be so maybe he forgot half of what he did (or maybe he'll send you another bill in 2010 - Ed).
Sunday, May 04, 2008
There I was, sitting thinking about Gmail, about how good it is and how great the spam filters are when I decided to write and tell them (what a very sad life you lead - Ed). You could hardly credit it but I spent about 20 minutes trying to find a means of contacting them. I just wanted to send a simple email but eventually I gave up in disgust. Which was probably just as well because the first piece of spam for 6 months crept into my inbox just as I gave up. Sods law or what?
The best quote of the day was from the Andrew Marr show this morning. Quoting Matthew Parris he said,
"A political journalist's job, after the battle is over, is to come over the brow of the hill and bayonet all the survivors."
So I got a message yesterday morning which simply said, 'Market?'
Despite the obvious lack of grammar, or intellect, to convey a full and meaningful message, I saw who it was from and, believe it or not, I understood and replied.
We headed off to Sommieres for the Saturday shop and then wandered towards Elie's bar to meet up with the usual suspects. Peter, who must have been gagging for a drink, was already at the table and thoughtfully, for once, had a full carafe of rosé waiting for us. The market was busy and the tables were full but we managed to squeeze in. A little later we were joined by Bryan, who always arrives late, hoping to miss out on paying for a round. Anyway, after the third carafe it was amazing how quickly we solved the problems of the world. We whizzed through them, hardly drawing breath, ticking them off one by one. It never fails to amaze me as to how difficult governments make things for themselves.
Talking of making things difficult for yourself, it was interesting watching Gordon Brown defending himself this morning on the Andrew Marr show. With the benefit of hindsight, Blair was right in delaying the handover of power to Brown. He realised that he was not the man for the job but I suppose he just gave in to the inevitable. Whilst he is undoubtedly bright and hard-working, Brown lacks something and just does not have the common touch. It's difficult to see a way out and I suspect that he is leading his party to an inevitable election defeat. If Gordon could just make his way to the market on Saturday mornings, and sink a couple with us, we'd show him how to do it.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Further to my earlier post, now I can't make up my mind. Radiohead, Lenny Kravitz and James Blunt are all coming to Nîmes in July and I (we) can't make our minds if we want to see them or not. Decision, decisions. Why is life so difficult? I suppose the answer lies in the fact that we can't make up our minds.
And, to add further complications to your (my) life, are you a Lesbian?