Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another boring day!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Do I stand or do I sit?

A school in Thailand has opened a new toilet block for transsexuals. Maybe they should open one for all those that haven't quite made up their minds! The list could go on.

A lucky man

You'd have thought that walking the dog was quite a harmless activity. Not around here. Bryan was out with his dogs yesterday in the garrigue behind his village. He noted that they were widening the tracks that he was walking on, presumably to make them more efficient firebreaks, when he saw this big cloud of dust ahead. He called the dogs and got them under control when this huge tractor pulling an even bigger flaying device turned around about 40 metres ahead of him. Suddenly this cricket ball size stone came flying towards him and struck him on the side of the head severing the cord holding his sunglasses and causing some damage to his otherwise impeccable features. He was a very lucky man because had he not turned his head at the last moment the stone would have hit him full in the eye. He returned home dazed, very sore and almost certainly concussed. So much for a quiet stroll in the country!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More toys to play with

Late yesterday afternoon my new toy arrived. Whilst on its way here, it seemed to spend a few days in the north (near Lille), presumably in customs, however it was delivered by UPS as promised, and on time. That's pretty neat really.

Anyway, then started the 'fun', transferring all the settings from the old computer to the new. It's a job that is time consuming and boring so I let it run through the night. At 05.30 (during an unscheduled night time run to the bathroom) I noticed that the transfer had finished so I set about installing all the rest of the gunk that would make my life easier (and happier). I finished at about 12.30 today.

It's been such a long winded process that I'm already bored with my new toy and I'm off to play with the box that it came in!

Monday, July 28, 2008

More friends to play with

Our next door but one neighbours, Glyn (above), Gill, Tom and Katie arrived yesterday evening for a summer break. That made nine of us for a barbecue meat fest of lamb steaks, pork kebabs and saucisse. Excellent. Whilst I normally don't drink red wine in summer, this time I remembered to get some out to lower its temperature. In addition to the Gris from Domaine du Grand Chemin, we tried three different reds from a local cave cooperative in Carnas. They were all nice but one was a stunner so I'll nip over to Carnas soon and see if they've got any left. When I've bought my fill I'll tell you what it's called!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

An Italian tale

This one's from Will who thought about Jan digging the veg plot.

An old Italian lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard.

His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Vincent:
I am feeling pretty sad, because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.
Love, Papa

A few days later he received a letter from his son.

Dear Pop:
Don't dig up that garden. That's where the bodies are buried.
Love, Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.

That same day the old man received another letter from his son.

Dear Pop,
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under
the circumstances.

Love you, Vinnie

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Show me yours and I'll show you mine

Ben, Paula, Ave (Paula's mum) and 3 months old Kate arrived last night for a long weekend.

So, it was off to Sommieres market this morning for a picnic lunch at Elie's bar. They (the Barcelona contingent) find it strange that you can eat your own food at someone's bar and I must admit that I found it strange at first. All Elie wants you to do is ensure that you drink his stuff with your food. That's the easy bit!

Elie is such a nice man, which reminds me that I still haven't paid him for the 90 litres of beer that he let me have nearly a year ago (August 2007) for my son's wedding. I keep offering to pay and he keeps saying that he'll phone me when he works it out. Great for me and not so great for him. Still, there's nothing more that I can do. I wonder if I can put today's drink 'on the tab'?

It was great to see how many people came up to Jan and commiserated with her about her heart problems. We didn't realise just how many people liked her. Bob W, of course, had to point out that he'd had two stents inserted last year. A sort of 'mine's bigger than yours' syndrome. When my time comes, I'm going for nothing less than three. That'll show him.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dyson, now that's what I call service

We have one of the first Dyson cleaners, and at a guess I'd say that it's about 8 years old. It works pretty well but just lately hasn't been too good on the few bits of carpet that we have. I called Dyson France and the lovely Veronique (you are so easily distracted! - Ed) asked me to parcel it up and Chronopost would collect it the following afternoon. If my beloved hadn't been a bit of a hoarder, god knows how we'd have boxed it up, but she disappeared into the garage and came back with an enormous box. Despite waiting for Chronopost, all afternoon Tuesday, they finally called at 18.42 to say that they'd pick it up the following morning. This they did at 10.46. That was Wednesday morning.

Grief, the vacuum arrived back this morning, fully serviced with lots of new bits, all the way from Paris. They'd received it, serviced it and returned it the same day. Now that's what I call service!

Don't do as I do

I think that I should point out to all my friends that you are safe. Just ignore this advice.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Don't blame the messenger

On the theme of upsetting women.

A plane passed through a severe thunder storm. The turbulence was awful, and things went from bad to worse when one wing was struck by lightning.

One woman lost it completely.

She stood up in the front of the plane and screamed, 'I'm too young to die.' Then she yelled, 'If I'm going to die, I want my last minutes on earth to be memorable! Is there anyone on this plane who can make me feel like a WOMAN?'

For a moment, there was silence Everyone stared at the desperate woman in the front of the plane. Then the man from Australia stood up in the rear of the plane.

He was handsome, tall, well built, with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. Slowly, he started to walk up the aisle, unbuttoning his shirt as he went, one button at a time. No one moved. He removed his shirt. Muscles rippled across his chest. She gasped...

Then, he spoke...

'Iron this -- and then get me a beer.'

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A miracle

Jan's recovery is just amazing. She started digging over the vegetable patch yesterday and this afternoon she finished it! Naturally I helped. I shouted encouragement from my hammock on the terrace and that seemed to spur her on! (That's guaranteed to wind a few women up - Ed)

A new toy

I finally cracked. My computer is about 8 years old and actually not in too bad a shape, in the scheme of things, but it hangs and becomes unstable a bit too easily and something fundamental is broken because it won't show videos. I'm not talking about 'special interest videos', as Chris W calls them, but You Tube stuff, news clips et al. I could probably change this but it needs stripping back to the metal and a clean install of everything to get it back into shape. Given that an up to date copy of Windows would costa plenty and I don't want to spend the rest of my life updating software and, even more importantly, If I attempted to do it myself it would probably leave me without a machine for days. These things are never straightforward. As much as I would like one, I can't afford a Mac. So it's back to Dell. In the past I have bought three Dell machines and been very pleased. They do what they say on the tin.

With Dell France you used to be able to order on-line, in France, for a UK spec machine. Not anymore. If you try to order on-line in the UK you have no choice but to input a UK address. In the end, and after a lot of frustration because I could never get through on the 0844 sales line, I called Dell head office in the UK and they put me through to a chap in India.

I ordered the machine on Monday, it was built on Tuesday and left Limerick in Ireland today, Wednesday, with UPS. So far so good.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Spam again

That's it! Did it! No spam overnight.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bella Italia

I've finally realised what I miss about Italy.

Apart from my aunt and uncle whom I will see in August, I miss:

The countryside
Hilltop villages
The architecture
The 'centro storicos'
The roads
The cars
The anarchy
The motorway service areas
The crazy driving
The triple parking
The chaos
The happy people
The joie de vivre
The food
The obsession with food
Fresh ricotta
Fresh mozzarella
The restaurants
The hospitality
(That's enough - Ed)

I was driving through Nîmes this morning, through some very narrow back streets, on a diversion, when I got this wonderful cooking smell in the car. It made me realise that when you drive near houses in France you rarely smell food cooking, a gross generalisation I know, but in the same situation you seem to smell it everywhere in Italy. The smell that I love, which reminds me so much of my youth and my time in Italy, is the smell of a big pot of slowly simmering tomato sauce. A smell, along with that of freshly made espresso, so typical of southern Italy. It makes my mouth water just thinking of it.

Anyway, I picked Jan up from the hospital and, via a cholesterol inducing lunch at the relais, got her home without mishap. It's good to have her back.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A different perspective

Isn't modern medicine wonderful? I knew that Jan was feeling better the moment I walked through the door. Despite Nîmes still being a nightmare to drive across, as they clean up after the Tour de France, bloody cyclists, I walked into her room and put my cheeriest face on. Without a, 'nice to see you', 'missed you last night' my beloved started barking out her orders. It's so good to see her getting back to full health again. I've been so worried. God it's good to have her back.

It was only then that I realised how pleasant and peaceful it has been in the house. My poor love must have been so bored, not having to organise anyone or dish out orders. You can always rely on me to fulfil (don't you mean ignore? - Ed) her demands!

On a slightly different note, if I had a pound for every email or phone call that I've received, wishing Jan well, I'd be a very wealthy person. You are all very kind. Thank you! I'll let you know when I'm not feeling too good!

What's the French for........?

We had hoped that Jan could leave hospital today, but it will now be Monday.

She was visited by a very nice senior female cardiologist yesterday who spoke perfect English and who answered all Jan's outstanding questions. In fact they got on so well that the cardio started to ask Jan's advice about having more children and asked her to help find an au pair to help her young children with their English. Yet more proof, if proof were ever needed, that if you put two women in a room together they can and will talk about absolutely anything.

Whilst we get by with speaking and reading French when we start to listen to technical language that's when it becomes more difficult and you start to rely more on your sense of what's being said. That's why we both attend non-routine doctor's appointments. The old four eyes, four ears principle. Anyway at 08.00 this morning I'm sitting at the computer (see what the bachelor life leads to), when Jan calls. She is also awake early and is bored already. After all the usual small talk she got round to the burning question of the moment, "can you look in the dictionary and tell me the French word for constipation." Not a terribly technical term but an important one nevertheless. For the linguistically inclined amongst you, it's the same word but said with a French accent.

Friday, July 18, 2008

You're going to put it where?

Things have been a bit hectic recently and in particular the last few days.

A few weeks ago Jan complained about mild chest pains and, after several very quick tests, she was admitted to hospital in Nimes. Yesterday she had an angiogram. This showed that she had a partially blocked coronary artery and this morning they inserted a stent. A miniature bit of expandable scaffolding (above) that will keep the artery open. It has all happened so quickly that we have hardly had time to think. But then again, who's complaining?

As I write, she is recovering well in the Les Fransicaines, a hospital specialising in heart conditions, just opposite the Foreign Legion barracks on the outskirts of Nîmes.

Talking about the the Legion Etrangeres, this is the same barracks that was featured on the television programme about the foreign legion this week. This is a bunch of soldiers that are best kept on your side!

Anyway, as you can imagine, it has been quite a tense time and I can't wait for my beloved to get back home. I promise that this has nothing to do with the fact that I'm bloody starving and I never want to see another sandwich again, ever!

In fact I lied. It was late when I got back last night and I couldn't even be bothered to cook (make a sandwich) so I emptied a back of leaves into a bowl, poured on some dressing, and ate some fruit. Some would say the perfect, easy to prepare (you mean lazy - Ed), low everything meal.

Nearly out of spam!

That's something of a record! Overnight I received exactly one spam email. Ever since I combined Mailwasher with a Gmail account the amount of spam that I receive has got less and less. I regularly now receive less than 10 overnight (with a few more during the day) but last night was a record. Excellent.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who'd be a golfer?

As I watched some of The Open this afternoon on television, with the wind and rain sweeping horizontally over the course, I thanked heaven for small mercies and took a sip of my pina colada before I headed out into the blazing sun to check whether our peaches are ready for gathering.

Whilst I'm in Farmer Giles mode, I think that I should mention that I'm still not sure if the mildew will ruin the grapes. It'll be touch and go. Heaven knows I've sprayed them enough but it's such a pesky fungus that it's difficult to protect against never mind prevent. With such erratic and variable problems to deal with, who'd be a wine maker? Not me. As I dozed fitfully this morning at around 05.00, I could hear them working in the vineyards, presumably spraying. It nearly made the rain at Royal Birkdale seem appealing. Errr - just kidding.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Aux Plaisirs des Halles

Nîmes had a strange, quiet feel to it today. I presumed it was all connected with the Tour de France that stops there on Friday. There were road signs everywhere advising you that the centre would be closed to traffic. It appeared to me that everyone was taking them a bit too literally and had abandoned the town early.

With time to kill before my doctor's appointment, we decided to have lunch and settled for Aux Plaisirs des Halles, 4 rue Littré, 0466 360102. We had eaten there several times before always at lunchtime and had liked it, but the last time we ate there it was in the evening with friends and were frankly disappointed. We decided to give it another try. Thank goodness we did. The food was excellent, Jan having the 21 euros menu and me the 27 euros. The food was well cooked and well presented and the service was a little stiff but efficient. Recommended.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Party, party, party

Ooooh, I hurt. That's five nights on the bounce, partying every night and we have one more to go to tonight. I've got to learn to pace myself! Still, it's fun, and we usually meet really nice people. Last night we sat on a friend's terrace, munching on barbecued meats and sipping wine, watching the Bastille Day firework display in Anduze several kilometers away.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thunder and lightning

That was scary. I was standing in a house not far from home chatting to a couple, when a big storm gathered overhead. Thunder and lightning raged, shaking your inner core, when suddenly a big explosion cracked into the room not two metres from us. My immediate reaction was that the electrics in the house had violently shorted when in fact the electrics were fine. What had happened was that we'd been struck by lightning. Oooo er.

The couple were new to the area and had just arrived for a holiday. You should have seen the look on their faces. You could see them thinking, what kind of place is this? What made it funnier was the wife who said, 'we normally get this kind of weather at home. Is it always like this here?' Feeling sorry for them because frankly it's not everyday that you get struck by lightning, I had to reassure them that the next day would be fine. It was.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Man from Morocco

William and Christine came round for dinner last night. It's always good to see them and even more so when William gave us the djellabas we had asked him to buy on his recent trip to Morocco. See Jan modelling hers above.

Having not played tennis for a while we rather stupidly (after a couple of bottles of rosé) decided to have an early hit this morning. The weather has been fantastic for the last few weeks, in fact too hot to play unless you get out there early. So 08.00 it was. At 08.05 the drizzle started and shortly after that, the rain. What a bummer.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Daily Mash

Kevin pointed me in the direction of this site which I find very funny. After my bit on Max Moseley, take a look at this and for poking fun at the French take a look at this.

Trouble ahead

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Along with what seemed like the rest of Nîmes, we popped into Decathlon this morning to buy some typical summery stuff. Whilst Decathlon doesn't have quite the same sex appeal as Gucci or Armani, it's a shop that makes you feel sporty (with weight loss just around the corner) and it's a step up from Man at Lidl or Man at Millets. And I nearly forgot, it's also very cheap!

Where to start? I headed for the cheap t-shirts first. This is one of the few shops that sells XXXL size clothes, which in modern parlance means that it's made with with normal people in mind. (You mean normal, as in abnormal? - Ed)

Next came some open sandals. Why, in regular use, do they get to smell so bad? Comparing notes with Bryan the other day we both agreed that our sandals smelt awful in daily use when it's not the case with other shoes. (Do we really need to know this? - Ed) You'd think it should be the other way round. But hey.

I love shops like Decathlon. They cater for so many different interests. I love just mooching about and looking. However, I knew it was time to leave when, as I passed Jan in an aisle selling some rather natty swim wear that I'd chosen, I heard her mutter, "What now, a bloody snorkel?" She can be so cruel, our Jan.

She needs to get out more

34FF - it's a wonder that there was room for anything in there.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


We're recovering. After 7 weeks of friends and family, and everything that goes with that, we are taking a deep sigh of relief.

However, just when we were starting to relax, Max (or to give him his full name, V'Max du Murier de Sordeille - how posh is that?) became lame in his front offside paw (doesn't that depend on which side of the road you're driving on? - Ed)). We couldn't see an obvious problem so it was off to the vet to check it out. Ms Vet, who has previously had a bad experience with a Beauceron, loves Max and repeatedly states how well he behaves. She made the point that if she tries to touch a sensitive area, (on the dog, not me), then how the dog reacts is a good indication of its temperament. I noticed that in the next room a grumpy old bitch had to be muzzled before the other vet could give it treatment. Max, like his namesake Mr Moseley, will pretty much allow anybody to do anything to him.

Talking about Max Moseley, I noticed in the newspapers today that part of his complaint about the News of the World article was that he'd been married for 48 years and that it came as a great shock to his wife and kids who knew nothing about his sadomasochistic sex life. His, no doubt, expensive lawyers must be having a ball thinking up all this shit. Sad if it wasn't so funny!

It also turns out that he gave each of the female participants £500 for their part in his wonderful experience. Can I let it be know that I'll kick his arse for £400. Cheap or what!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

It's tiring watching television

What a great afternoon of sport on television. It kicked off with The British Grand Prix and then a sensational Men's Single Final at Wimbledon. I was exhausted at the end.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Police Nationale

That was interesting. We met a French policeman and his Italian wife at Elie's bar in the market in Sommieres today.

I arrived early (I don't suppose beer had anything to do with it? - Ed) and sat at a large table with the couple who were eating their oysters. After I started kidding about with Elie, the man joined in with the banter and the chat carried on from there. It turned out that he is a policeman with the Police Nationale. Being a bit ignorant about these things, I asked him about the difference between the Gendarmerie and the Police Nationale. He further complicated my understanding by stating that the PN only operate in Nimes, Tarascon and Alès. In other words only the large towns in Gard and that the Gendarmerie operated in other areas.

If you aren't already bored enough then Wiki explains it. Anyway, one thing lead to another and, after he claimed that his wife was a great cook, they invited us for dinner next week for a 'real' lasagna. How nice is that?

Friday, July 04, 2008

French drivers

I have always said that each time I take to the roads around here I see a serious driving incident. Well this morning I saw three, the last one involving me.

The first was a woman driving towards us up a one way street. She was met by the car in front, also driven by a woman, who stopped to remonstrate with her. As the woman who stopped to remonstrate drove off she was so angry that she drove straight into a pillar at the side of the road. She then got out of her car to inspect the damage and locked the driver's door. After she had climbed in the other side, I could tell that she was not a happy lady by the way that she was throwing her possessions around in the car. The driver, who was coming up the street the wrong way, continued in the same direction after we had all squeezed past her. She did this rather than reverse for about 30 metres.

The third incident involved a car, driven by a woman, overtaking as she came towards me on a blind bend. I only just missed her.

There's a common denominator here, but to point it out would only open myself to an accusation of sexism!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

And the answer is?

An amnesiac walked into a bar. He said, "Do I come here often?"

Kentucky fried blogger

I'm in the pool cleaning the water line with a new gel that I was trying out and Bryan (above left) was using his leaf sucking machine to gather up bits around the pool. As I beavered away I heard B say, 'whoops'. I turned to see the flex from his mains powered electric machine lying in the water. The same water that I am standing in up to my neck. 'Whoops, bloody whoops, is that all you can say as you try to kill someone?' I shouted at him. 'Bloody whoops'.

To add insult to injury the flex was covered in bits of grass and other garden detritus which involved a considerable amount of further pool cleaning.

He had this slight grin on his face for the rest of the afternoon. I'm going to have to watch that Bryan!

Anyway, he made up for it last night but producing a meat feast on his new barbecue. Er, we also drank a bottle or two.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Frank Feldman

A man hails a taxi passing by. He gets into the taxi, and the cabbie says, "Perfect timing. You're just like Frank."

Passenger, "Who?"

Cabbie: "Frank Feldman. He's a guy who did everything right all the time. Like my coming along when you needed a cab, things happened like that to Frank Feldman every single time."

Passenger: "There are always a few clouds over everybody."

Cabbie: "Not Frank Feldman. He was a terrific athlete. He could have won the Grand-Slam at tennis. He could golf with the pros. He sang like an
opera baritone and danced like a Broadway star and you should have heard him play the piano. He was an amazing guy."

Passenger: "Sounds like he was something really special.

Cabbie: "There's more... He had a memory like a computer. Could remember everybody's birthday. He knew all about wine, which foods to order and which fork to eat them with. He could fix anything. Not like me. I change a fuse, and the whole street blacks out. But Frank Feldman, he could do everything right."

Passenger. "Wow, some guy then."

Cabbie: "He always knew the quickest way to go in traffic and avoid traffic jams. Not like me, I always seem to get stuck in them. But Frank, he never made a mistake, and he really knew how to treat a woman and make her feel good. He would never answer her back even if she was in the
wrong; and his clothing was always immaculate, shoes highly polished he was the perfect man! He never made a mistake. No one could ever measure up to Frank Feldman."

Passenger: "An amazing fellow. How did you meet him?"

Cabbie: "Well, I never actually met Frank. I just married his fucking widow."


Editors Note: Believe it or not, if you google Frank Feldman you come up with the picture above.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


We were invited to the social event of the season in Sommieres today. Champion, our new 'local' supermarket, had just opened and posted a big notice by the side of the road inviting a few selected individuals to view and buy all their goodies. It wasn't quite as select as I thought it might be, the place was heaving. There were long queues at every check-out. It looked as though people had decided to take their holidays there. It was ridiculous.

Anyway, we had enough time to conduct what we call 'the coriander test'. Jan uses a lot of coriander in her cooking and it is quite difficult to come by. If a shop sells coriander it comes high on the list of 'good shops'. We established that Champion doesn't sell fresh coriander. Bum. Having said that, the diesel was quite cheap, if you call 1.40 euros a litre cheap, and it looks like a store that we could use, especially when you realise you need something on Sunday morning.

Being curious I popped into Intermarché to see what impact it had had. The place was nearly deserted. They don't sell fresh coriander either. See what happens when you don't look after your customers.