Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'd rather have moles

I took this picture in our village, this afternoon, on my way back from the airport after dropping James off. Where else would you see thirteen horses grazing on your front 'lawn'.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Crowne Plaza Liverpool Airport


It's so good to be home with blue skies and warm sunshine. The dogs went potty when we picked them up and especially when they realised that we had arrived with my son James, who loves and spoils them.

It was good to unpack the suitcases after a five hotel stay, get back into our home routine and especially to see Kevin, Debbie and family who were staying at the house whilst we were away. What kind people. They had prepared a barbecue in order to give Jan a break before she starts feeding me again.

It sometimes feels like I'm always going on about hotels and restaurants. Well, after saying goodbye to mum, Pia, Dino and my cousin Sandra, the other day, we headed off towards Liverpool for an overnight stay before our flight to Nîmes. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza hotel at Liverpool airport. From the outside, the building is not very prepossessing, but inside it's quite unusual. It has been furnished in an art deco style in keeping with its previous use as the airport terminal building. Our bed, like the one at Miller Howe, was very, very comfortable. It must have been seven feet wide, large enough to accommodate even the two of us. (Don't you mean the one of you? - Ed)

We ate very well in the restaurant and found two excellent wines. The first an Australian, Houghton 2007, Chardonnay Verdelho mix and the second a New Zealand, Hawkes Bay, Vidal 2006 oak aged Merlot. Jan's quote, "that's one of the nicest reds I've ever drunk." Praise indeed!

The UK has so much choice when it comes to wine and interestingly we never choose French wine when we eat out.

Nîmes night market


What an excellent night. In different groups, thirteen of us managed to meet up last night during the Nîmes Thursday night market. It was a lovely warm evening, the streets were buzzing and there was music of different sorts on different street corners. Bob and Lynne were in great form and it was good to see then again. Debbie and Kevin leave tomorrow so this was their farewell meal. Pizza Cerruti is where we traditionally head and last night was no exception. The guy who makes the pizzas had obviously changed but they were still good and the chili sauce, despite now being served in sachets, was better.

Whilst this was the last such event of the summer, Bryan summed up my feelings exactly by saying, 'I'd forgotten how much fun these evenings are. We don't make enough of Nîmes' facilities.'

The Feria de Vendages takes place in the middle of September so that's something to look forward to.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mummy

Dan was a single guy living at home with his father and working in the family business.

When he found out he was going to inherit a fortune should his sickly father die, he decided he needed a wife with which to share his fortune.

One evening at an investment meeting he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath away.

'I may look like an ordinary man,' he said to her, 'but in just a few years, my father will die, and I'll inherit 20 million dollars.'

Impressed, the woman obtained his business card and three days later, she became his stepmother.

Passwords

This is a funny story.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Brown, brown grass of home



A lot of our driving over the last week has been on unfamiliar urban roads through and around Manchester and Liverpool. TomTom, which I brought with me from France, has been a fantastic tool. It has worked extremely well, getting us from A to B, quickly and with no fuss. Add to that, by warning about speed cameras, of which there are lots around Manchester, I'm sure that it's saved me a ticket or two. We've been amazed at some of the routes that it calculated but it never failed. I'm a big fan!
***

An early flight from Liverpool this morning took us back to a very warm and sunny France. I'd forgotten how poor the weather can be in England. At best the last ten days have been warmish and grey. It's been the wettest August for 100 years. Grief, it's good to get back.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Miller Howe


Leaving our third hotel of the trip yesterday, we headed north to the Lake District. Jan had never visited the Lakes before so this was a trip of discovery for her.

Having missed breakfast, because we got up too late, we stopped at the first motorway service area that we came to. No smoked salmon and scrambled eggs here 'mes braves.' I thought that all motorway service areas had been refurbished. First Services at Bolton West, hasn't, it's a right dump. It was awful. It hasn’t been touched for years. Avoid it like the plague.

When we first planned this diversion we hadn’t realised that this was a Bank Holiday Monday. As we headed north up the M6 the traffic was heavy, with lots of cars heading for Blackpool, but with the majority coming towards us. What they knew, but we didn’t, was that it was raining, it was pouring down in the rain sodden Lakes.

Our target was the Miller Howe Hotel, somewhere that I’d visted about 35 years ago. It's quite a special place and chosen as a treat for Jan.

The upside, pretty much everything you'd expect from a good hotel, but the downside, it rained the whole time. That gave the stay a 'moody feel'. We had a room with a fabulous view (above) overlooking Lake Windermere (also known as Campbell Soup for the perverted historians amongst you) with low cloud and mist the order of the day.

We're all fussy about our beds, but this was arguably the best bed that I've ever slept in. I was sleeping like a log at 08.00 when our cup of tea arrived. Cool.

It's not cheap but if you want a special weekend, this is the place. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sorry

I was a bit tired and emotional when I wrote the last post and apologise if the swearing offended you.

The bloody olympics




Is it only me or does anyone else think that the closing ceremony for the Olympics is crap? What a total waste of time, effort and money? These end of games events try to outdo each other in their complexity, people organising, people moving (alla Nazi and Communist propaganda films), waste of timing and fireworks displays. You sit there and think, 'what the fuck', 'impressive or what?' and the commentator explains the symbolism to you. So what's the point of the symbolism if you can't work out what's going on? It's all a load of bollocks. Leona, who the fuck, Lewis and Jimmy Page are supposed to wet our appetites for the London games. NO THEY DON'T. Grandpa and granddaughter. It was toe curlingly naff. Naff, naff, enough.

Look, I enjoyed our success, a gold a day was a good effort. There was some really good stuff but, way ahead, the best bit for me, was the Spanish synchronised swimming team. What a bunch of good looking women, frolicking about in the water. Delicious. Tell me they're not on drugs?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Carbs on carbs


At lunch time today we had our last 'Italian' meal. My mum and her sister Pia vie with each other to feed us to death. We started lunch today with the ultimate 'carbohydrate' meal, consisting of a large bowl of rice cooked in a tomato sauce with chunks of potatoes added to give it a little extra 'body.' Pia apologised because it should really have been made with pasta, not rice, but mum didn't have the right pasta. I told her not to worry because it was probably less fattening with rice, so would fit into my meal planning perfectly. I think the irony went straight over her head!

***
Last night we stayed for one night in the Cairn Hotel, Harrogate because we had to vacate the Travelodge. This was always going to be an interesting experience because it's the first place I ever worked part time, whilst still at school. I wondered how much it had changed in the intervening forty years. Not much was the answer. It badly needs a few million pounds spending on it, a bit like me really. It's where I learnt waiting skills. It's where I learnt about wine. It's where I decided that working and holding a fistful of quids in your pocket was much more interesting than conjugating Latin verbs. It's where I was taught to steal by my mentor, BP. It's where I learnt how to behave as a guest in a hotel or restaurant, or more to the point how not to behave. It's where I learnt that hotel staff are very poorly paid and depend on your tips to help feed themselves. It's where I nearly got fired because I refused a tip of six pence, telling the tosser who tried to give it to me that he needed it more than I did. It's where I learnt that as a boss you should support your staff when someone takes the piss. I learnt a lot at the Cairn Hotel Harrogate.

After lunch we headed over the Pennines to Cheshire, to see Pia's daughter, my cousin Sandra, to a house I'd never been to before and Tom Tom got us there perfectly. It then moved us seamlessly to the third hotel of our stay (with two more to go). Oh joy! Don't you just love packing and unpacking? Oops, I forgot, Jan does all that!

Menwith Hill


No matter how often I do it, driving past Menwith Hill (above) just outside Harrogate, always spooks me. The huge 'golf balls' look very incongruous and sinister in this bleak countryside. It's a top secret military establishment and I believe that it's the largest electronic monitoring station in the world, and that it's a major link in the early warning system. It's stuffed to the gills with American service personnel who can't talk about what they do, and it strikes me that it would be one of the first places in England to be attacked in the event of a major nuclear conflict. Harrogate would be very gentile right up to the last moment!

Anyway I'm following a Smart car over the moors with a personalised plate 1 CRM when it occurs to me that the registration plate is worth a lot more than the car. How odd.

You see lots of slightly unusual things like that around Harrogate. Like a very powerful Jaguar XK, with a registration plate JT 4, showing a disabled badge in the windscreen. Now call me old fashioned, but I'd feel a lot happier if this very lethal piece of machinery wasn't being driven by someone who qualified for a disabled sticker.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Travelodge


We've been pleased with the Travelodge in Harrogate. It's relatively inexpensive, very central and you can walk to all the shops. The beds are quite big so we have been getting a good nights sleep and as long as you remember to shut the windows before you bed down you are not disturbed by the surrounding bars. Having said that we were woken in the middle of the night, last night, by a bunch of drunken Scotsmen returning to their rooms. At least the noise didn't last long. They were all obviously incapable of reading their room numbers and even opening their doors but as soon as they did get in they all crashed out.

Unable to totally get away from France, we park each night in the Montpellier Gardens car park.

***

Chris and Delphine get married today. Sorry we can't be with you guys. Have a lovely day.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gentile Harrogate


We were eating breakfast again at Bettys yesterday, sitting next to two silver haired, gentile, elderly ladies. We both ear wigged their conversation which turned out to be very amusing. The nature of the conversation told us that they weren't that close. Lady A was telling Lady B about how well her daughter was doing.

Lady A, "She must be doing well, they keep calling her in to do more work."

Lady B, "Where does she work?"

Lady A, "Oh, she works at Woolworths."

Lady A then tries to impress Lady B about her good friend Beryl.

Lady A, "Beryl is going back to Spain for six weeks tomorrow. Her man friend has bought her a new table and chairs. He's very wealthy, he's 86 years old. But unfortunately the weather has been so bad that she hasn't been able to sit out."

Lady B, "Do they live together?"

Lady A, "They both have their own houses, but yes, (hesitating) when they're in Spain they live in the same house."

Lady B, "Do they have separate rooms?"

Lady A, hesitating even more, "Oh yes, they have separate rooms."

Lady B, "Yes, that's what you want. A wealthy boyfriend and separate rooms."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Doctors

I'd forgotten to bring my eyedrops (for glaucoma) so I popped into Boots and spoke to the pharmacist who was very sympathetic but refused to sell me the drops without a prescription. Bum. It's not bloody cocaine or anything like that, so I had to sign on with a local doctor to get my prescription.



Waiting my turn to see the medic I was amazed to see how quickly people were going in and out of the consulting rooms. I reckon that one doctor saw three patients in about ten minutes flat. This doctor was dishing out prescriptions at a phenomenal rate. This compares very unfavourably with my experience of the care in France where you always get your blood pressure taken and no appointment lasts less than fifteen minutes. Interesting.



Anyway, my turn came and I got my free prescription very quickly with no questions asked, and no demand for payment, but with an inference from the doctor that the pharmacist was being a bit over cautious. Hmnnn.

Fish and chips


If you want good fish and chips you have to go to Bryan's, Headingly, Leeds. That's where we went last night. In my opinion, especially if you've got a good appetite, chose the Baby Haddock. You get three fat, juicy fillets. Excellent. That's one culinary goal accomplished.

Italians are not good travellers when it comes to food but Pia and Dino like to experiment so it's off to Wagamama for lunch today. That'll challenge them!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The mind reader


We had a bit of shopping to do yesterday morning so we split up and arranged to meet later. Given that it was raining, I was rather stupidly (not like you - Ed) dressed in a t-shirt and slipover. I started to get cold so I popped into Marks and Spencer to buy a cheap pullover. There it was, a lightweight, blue, wool jumper, in my size, for £9.50. Perfect.

When we met up as planned later, Jan proudly mentioned that she had bought me a present. There it was, a lightweight, blue, wool jumper, in my size, for £9.50. The exact same thing. What are the chances of that?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bettys




Our hotel is right in he middle of town, it was raining, so we needed somewhere close for breakfast. Bettys seemed like the best bet.
This place is so civilised. Service by waiters and waitresses in black waistcoats and white full length aprons. It's so cool. They were friendly, professional and efficient. The food was good, I had scrambled egg and smoked salmon, but if I had a crticism the coffee wasn't very good. Not to our taste at all. We should have stuck to tea.
We sat in a window and our table looked over beautiful, breathtaking flower beds. A wonderful way to start your day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Harrogate



Apart from having to deal with a kidney stone yesterday, most of the time was spent preparing for today's trip to the UK. I haven't seen my mum for eight months and whilst chatting on the phone, she even said that she was looking forward to seeing me (some mistake, surely? - Ed).

Anyway, I'm writing this from one of Harrogate's less salubrious hotels because there's no room at the inn, as it were.

We flew from Nimes into Liverpool this lunchtime where I'd arranged to meet up with my Italian aunt and uncle who had justa arriveda from Rome. My aunt, mum's sister, who she hasn't seen for three years, is staying at mum's house, hence no room at the inn. (Do we need to know all this? - Ed)
Having now arranged for my small family to get together in Harrogate, the next challenge is to get back to France without putting on any weight. The impossible dream.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

So that you understand

I think that I should explain. A couple of weeks back, on 6th August to be precise, I was in a You Tube mood. I'd watched a few videos and tried to post some of them to this blog. I tried to post several and then each one several times but nothing happened. So I gave up in disgust.

Well blow me down but they all turned up today. Every attempted posting showed up. About nine in all, so after a bit of editing I left some for your enjoyment. As you can probably tell, I'm a bit of a Joe Cocker fan.

A fat man speaketh


So there I was in Intermarché, in a sanctimonious mood, preaching to Peter H (above) about smoking and weight. Peter, who used to be slim, also smoked like a chimney. He now waddles a bit lot. I told him that a doctor had once said to me, "Let's deal with the smoking first and then deal with the weight increase later." Peter thought for a minute, looked me up and down and said, "They didn't do a very good job with the weight, did they?"


***

I'd heard this before and frankly didn't really believe what I'd heard. Did you know that since the introduction of the Euro in 2002 they don't use cheques in Belgium anymore. Everything's cash or card. Not many people know that, except the Belgians of course.

Pepsi-Italian Style

Brilliant. Courtesy of Carolina.

Joe Cocker - N'Oubliez Jamais

Joe Cocker at his French speaking best. A great song to think about your loved one or even your partner!

UP WHERE WE BELONG : JOE COCKER AND JENNIFER WARNES

Because it's good and because I can!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A happy man


This made me giggle.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ikea

Whatever you do, do not attempt to visit the Montpellier Ikea in August. It was quite cloudy yesterday and we had (and still have) a couple of things to get so off we went.

Grief. What a zoo. We usually park in the massive carpark under the shop but this time I couldn't find a single space. It's never usually more than half full but the best that we could do was drive straight through. It was madness. The number of out of town plates was amazing.

I jokingly suggested that maybe someone was advertising it as a new holiday destination. My very brainy beloved pointed out that as it was a cloudy day a lot of local holiday makers probably decided to skip the beach and head off for a bit of retail therapy. Couldn't argue with that reasoning. When all was said and done that was exactly what we were doing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Let's be careful out there

Be warned:

Over the last month I became a victim of a clever scam while out shopping.

Simply going out to Intermarché has turned out to be quite traumatic. Don't be naive enough to think it couldn't happen to you or your friends.

Here's how the scam works: Two seriously good-looking 20-21 year-old girls come over to your car as you are packing your shopping into the boot. They both start cleaning your windscreen. Their breasts almost falling out of their skimpy T-shirts. It's impossible not to look.

When you thank them and offer them a tip, they’ll say "No" and instead ask you for a ride to another store. You agree and they get in the backseat. On the way, they start undressing. Then one of them climbs over into the front seat and starts crawling all over you, while the other one steals your wallet.

I had my wallet stolen May 4th, 9th, 10th, twice on the 15th, 17th, 20th, & 24th 29th. Also June 1st, 4th, twice on the 8th, 16th, 23rd, 26th, 30th, three times last Saturday and very likely again this upcoming weekend.

So tell your friends to be careful.

P.S. Champion have wallets on sale for 2.99 each.

Control Technique


Every two years, after the age of four, a car has to undergo a control technique. The English equivalent of an MOT. So off I went to the garage. At the very moment that I walked through the door a huge clap of thunder shook the building and made the mechanic jump. You couldn't have choreographed it better. I apologised and said that it happens wherever I go, but somehow I don't think that he believed me.

The chap in front of me asked me what time my appointment was. 'Eleven,' I said. 'That's the same as me,' said the man. 'Oh no,' said the boss to the man, 'you were suppposed to be here at 10.30.' Inside I groaned, I knew what was coming. In England the chap who was late would have to wait and as I was on time I'd take my slot. It doesn't work like that in France. If you're late you get rewarded. If you're on time you get pissed off. The new chilled me now deals a bit better with these situations but more to the point I didn't want to fall out with the mechanic who was about to conduct the test.

Anyway, at the last CT two years ago, the car passed the test but they mentioned that there was something not quite right with one of the front brakes. Having done nothing about it since, because I'd forgotten, it was with interest that I watched the test machine. Sure enough at every test the front and then the rear nearside brakes showed red on the machine. Bum. But then what could I expect?

I wandered back into the waiting area to hear the bad news. I started to prep myself for the onslaught of incomprehensible technical details that I was going to have to comprehend. The mechanic came back in, took a couple of phone calls, and chatted to another waiting lady about his feckless son. It's his age I heard them saying to each other. Never mind his bloody age, I said to myself, has it passed?

It's passed he said. Flying colours. Nothing to report. For once in my life doing nothing about something, actually worked. Strange.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Air Asia


An ad that Nigel came across.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Something different

Despite recent rumours of bedlam at the bar, we set off for Sommieres market this morning. We hadn't been for a couple of weeks and well, you know, a drink with friends is important. (That's what all alcoholics say - Ed). Not that we expected to see many friends, it being August an' all.

Anyway, on the way there Bryan called and said the place was like a zoo. Too many people and no tables. Bloody tourists. It made me remember that at this time last year I swore I'd wouldn't go to Elie's in August. We agreed to meet up at the bar next to Intermarché, Brasserie Le Farigoule . There was plenty of room, good beer and a very good burger and chips for lunch. Good, hearty, weight watchers fayre. We always come away with a smile.

This afternoon it was over to Glyn and Gill's for drinky poos and then this evening it was over to Christine and William's place for a barbecue. Grief, what is it at this time of the year?

Friday, August 08, 2008

More stupidity

And because the banks were stupid and greedy and lent money recklessly they now find that home repossessions are increasing. Duh!

Fire them all and government should step in to block repossessions and ensure that the banks continue to live with their stupidity.

Banking, where idiots gather

If you were to try to measure the incompetence, sheer stupidity and downright greed of the UK banking industry you would probably run out of noughts. Pretty much like this bank who, this morning, posted a 'better than expected' six month loss of about £700 million pounds. 'Better than expected', so that's alright then. Do they learn nothing from history? What a bunch of incompetent, useless, idiots. These are the people that you entrust to look after your money. Words fail me.

David

After a two year visit to the United States, Michelangelo's 'David' returns to Italy for a well earned rest!

So now you know

EU Directive No. 456179

In order to meet the conditions for joining the Single European currency, all citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland must be made aware that the phrase 'Spending a Penny' is not to be used after 31st December 2009. From this date, the correct terminology will be: 'Euronating'.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A waste of time!

I might just be wasting my time here but I've just spent the last hour trying to post a video from You Tube. It ain't working and I'm not sure why.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

You want some tax back?


I have very simple tax affairs and recently realised that I've been paying too much tax. Not a fortune, but still too much. I wrote to HMRC in May and received a form. This I completed and returned. Since then, effectively nothing has happened, so today I got on the phone and tried contacting them that way. What a mess they are in. I'm kept holding for at least 30 minutes (I'm stubborn like that) to be told that I have to ring another number, to be told that I have to ring another number but that she would transfer my call. I was cut off. I was on the phone for nearly an hour and got absolutely nowhere.

Steaming mad I shot off an email. I felt better.

The next day a very nice lady called, had me eating out of her hand, and explained that my file was being passed around departments and its target department were snowed under with work. She gave me a direct line to call so that I could chivvy them along.

I've always said, just give me the information, good or bad, and I can deal with it. What's frustrating is not knowing anything and then letting your imagination start to work. (Not good in your case - Ed). I'll keep plugging away.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Thought for the day


Sunday, August 03, 2008

A confused old man


I feel like I'm cracking up. I'd made a note to myself, today, to 'Turn the F drive on'. Checking my diary it's set to remind me every Sunday. But therein lies a problem. I haven't a clue what it means. I've racked my brains. Not a clue.

Following on from my work life, I live my life by my desktop diary. I used to make handwritten notes, to do lists, then the filofax came along, then the Palm pda and now the desktop diary. It's the first programme I turn on in the morning. It tells me what to do and when. You could say that it took over from my mother. Then I got married and then she told me what to do! But it's much, much more gentle than being married. Only I know what it says and I can take my time. I like it, I do what it says and it's usually foolproof.

What's really worrying now is that I'm smart enough to make notes to myself but not smart enough to always know what they mean. I'm turning into a very sad git. A very sad old git. (You're beginning to see the light, boyo - Ed)

Anyway, I cheered myself up this morning because, thanks to Jan's cooking skills, I have lost further weight. I'm now down to morbidly obese! Still, it's progress.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Bob

http://www.buddhacab.com/images/pics/P1020041_bcab.jpg

Bob works hard at the office but spends two nights each week bowling and plays golf every Saturday.

His wife thinks that he's pushing himself too hard, so for his birthday she takes him to a local strip club.

The doorman at the club says, "Hey Bob, how ya doin?"

Puzzled, his wife asks him if he's been to the club before.

"Oh no," says Bob. He's in my bowling league.

When they are seated a waitress asks Bob if he'd like his usual and brings him a Budweiser.

His wife is getting increasingly uncomfortable and says, "how did she know you drink Budweiser?"

"I recognise her," he said, "she's the waitress from the golf club. I always have a Bud at the end of the first nine, honey."

A stripper then comes over to their table, throws her arms around Bob and starts to rub herself all over him. " Hi Bobby, want your usual table dance big boy?"

Bob's wife is furious and storms out of the club. He follows her and he jumps into a cab beside her.

He tries disparately to convince her that she must have mistaken him for someone else but his wife is having none of it. She screams at him at the top of her voice and calls him every four letter word in the book.

Unable to contain himself the cabby turns round and said, "geez Bob, you picked up a real bitch this time."

Bob gets out of hospital Tuesday.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Daddy, where does paper come from

Courage

http://blog.une.edu.au/itd-news/files/2007/05/oem_notebook_computer-copy.jpg
There are so many small jobs to do at the moment. Jan's new screen arrived this morning so that needed installing. Her computer was also running very, very slowly and I had an idea as to what the cause might be. I took the cover off and established that it was full of dirt and dog hair and in particular the cooling fan and fins for the processor were absolutely filthy. Bingo. I hoovered the box out thoroughly and cleaned up the cooling mechanism for the processor and now its like a new machine. Full of enthusiasm, I then cleaned out my old machine which I'm moving to the hall for guests to use. It was also filthy inside and certainly improved with the clean up. I'll tackle a reformat of the C drive later when I've established that everything has transferred over successfully to my new machine and, more importantly, when I've plucked up enough courage.

Trouble is, I don't usually have enough courage until I've had a drink and that's when I am likely to make mistakes. Mistakes like push this button and see what happens type mistakes. Still, if Chris W can do it then surely anybody can do it?