Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Did you see stars?

I'm still trying to get Jan to call off her sex strike and I don't even let off illegal fireworks. Where am I going wrong? (How much time have you got? - Ed)

Robin Williams insults everybody

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sommieres bar in danger

We popped over to Sommieres this afternoon and amongst other things checked the state of the river. It's been raining for over 24 hours and a lot of the small bridges around us are deep under water. The picture above shows the Vidourle in full flood about 2 to 3 metres higher than normal. Under that raging torrent there's a footbridge that we normally use to get to our favourite watering hole. If it doesn't stop raining soon, then Elie's bar will be under water. What will we do then?

Cheer up

This made me laugh.


"Carolina H recently became friends with Steve H and thinks you may know Steve too.
To view this friend suggestion and request Steve as a friend, follow the link below:"

I received the above this morning from Facebook. Bloody hell, there I was thinking that they were happily married?

Monday, December 29, 2008

For all you techies out there

I've been trying for a couple of months now to install Office 2007. I bought a cheap copy of Home and Student from Amazon because the only programmes I regularly use are Word and Excel.

Anyway, the problem was that I kept getting an error message which led me to believe that it might be a security issue because my permissions were not set correctly. Despite Googling for a solution, try as I might, I couldn't get to the root of the problem and it was really pissing me off.

Bingo, this afternoon I fixed it. Despite what the Microsoft KB lead me to believe, it wasn't actually a problem with permissions. I had to get into Windows 'clean boot mode' by messing about with 'msconfig' and this allowed the programmes to install. (You really know how to bore the pants off, don't you - Ed) What a great sense of achievement. Now all I've got to do is learn how to use the new interface. Still, it keeps me out of mischief!

What am I going to worry about tomorrow?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

Christmas Day was a very different and quite amazing day for us both.

Very different because neither of us has ever had lunch on Christmas Day at a non-family house. We were 'on our own ' this Christmas because it was our kids turn to be with their partners' families and we fully intended to spend it alone (I suppose we have to imagine violins playing in the background - Ed). However, out of the blue, we were invited for lunch with Bob and Lynne. I've mentioned before about how good a cook Lynne is, so I was really looking forward to the meal.

I had no idea of how good it was going to be. They must have spent weeks preparing this feast. A feast where only superlatives could do respect to the food. The quantity and quality were just amazing. Talk about setting the bar high.

We started with an amazing array of the tastiest appetisers. Off the top of my head I'd say there were about 10 different delicious, exquisite nibbles including one which really caught my eye, small spoonfuls of jellied Bloody Mary.

This was washed down with champagne cocktails thoughtfully provided by Bryan and Gill.

The meal itself must have taken weeks to plan and prepare, never mind the dry runs that Lynne admitted to. From the medley of salmon starters to the perfectly cooked Beef Wellington and the selection of puddings, the meal was a tour de force. Thanks guys.


Best Wishes for a Happy and Peaceful
Christmas and New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Not long now

Just in case you want to know where he is right now take a look here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Always clear the snow from your car windows

Thanks to Will for this.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas starts here

Today we had a few friends round, roughly half French, half English, with Dutch, German and Lebanese thrown into the mix, to celebrate the start of Christmas (maths was never your strong point was it? - Ed).
A whole bunch of our favourite people. What a lovely group! Unfortunately, in the mêlée (or because of the drink - Ed), I forgot to take any pictures so that was a bit of a bummer, still, we have fond memories (even if a bit clouded - Ed) and would like to thank everyone who came for making it such a nice day.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What a memory

In case you missed it, here's a heartwarming tale. Just think of all the money you might get back from your kids later!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A very nice man

On a more positive note, we're having lunch in one of our favorite restaurants and D comes over and takes our order. We both order, but before I can order the wine, D says 'and a bottle of Puech Haut.' It's the only place we ever drink the stuff and jolly nice it is too.

Anyway, he said, 'look because it's Christmas wouldn't it be nice to have a few bottles in?'

I replied that it was a bit too expensive to keep around the house, at which point he said, 'I'll get you some at the same price as I pay.' 'How many bottles do you want?'

Isn't that good PR? He makes a nice chrismassy gesture, generates a lot of goodwill, sends me away happy and it doesn't cost him a penny. Smart operator.

Jan fancies him and I understand why.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Designer water

We were in Carrefour today and guess what I saw? Bottles of Jean Paul Gaultier designed Evian water at 3.00 euros a bottle. What a great wheeze. Change the shape of a bottle (down to 75cl) put a bit of frosting on it and tell everyone that it was designed by JPG and presto. Who on earth would buy it?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shane MacGowan

Many years ago I saw an interview on television with Shane MacGowan (of The Pogues). I couldn't believe how ugly he was and I couldn't understand why they would let anyone who was so obviously under the influence of drink and drugs appear on television. I must admit to being fascinated by him and if you ever wanted to show kids what drink and drugs will do to the human body, show them this. It's not pretty.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bloody Christmas

As I get older I get lazier or maybe it's just more pragmatic? (you were right first time - Ed)

I bought my own Christmas present whilst in England recently and I've been asking Jan for weeks what she would like. Running out of patience yesterday I demanded to know what she wanted. She shouted at me that she had given me lots of hints. I shouted back that I didn't want bloody hints, we are after all grown ups, I just wanted to know what she wanted.

OK, so whilst we were in Nîmes today, Jan pointed at a shop and said that's where you can buy it. See how useful that it is? What was even more useful was that I mentioned that it was a Christmas present for Jan, who was standing right next to me, and they carefully wrapped it up in sexy black paper. All that has to happen now is that she'll forget what it was and enjoy opening it on the 25th. How practical is that?

Fairytale of New York

Cards are starting to arrive and we've belatedly just sent out all ours. And for you, my dear friends, here's my favourite Christmas song especially for you.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Back to normal

We're home and the dogs will barely leave our (Jan's) side. You can be doing the most mundane thing and there they are stuck to you like glue. It's quite endearing, and irritating at the same time.

After a cold wintery visit to the market yesterday and a few glasses of vin chaud, it was time to slump in front of the fire, watch television and build up energy for today's Christmas lunch, organised by BritsNimes, at Vatel in Nimes. Excellent.

My head hurts

I was feeling fine, until I read this.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Herault Family Life

Jacqui writes a blog that Jan particularly likes. It offers an insight into moving to France and bringing up two school age children. We met Jacqui and Richard for lunch at L'Ocre Rouge (best viewed with Firefox) in Herepian and then went back to their place for a cup of tea. An excellent way to spend half a day. Thanks guys.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jan - superstar

This part of the trip has been a total surprise for Jan. A sort of thank you for being her. She had no idea what to expect until we got here. As we pulled up to Le Couvent I said, "here we are darling, a coven. Right up your street." Thank goodness she's got a good sense of humour. (She needs one living with you - Ed)

I've always considered myself infallible (please, no more - Ed) but boy did I get it wrong earlier this year. Jan correctly self diagnosed a serious heart problem whilst I told her not be silly, she had indigestion. The thought of me stuffing her face with Gaviscon, whilst she turned a nice shade of purple, still haunts me.

Anyway, back to the coven couvent. Despite a rather nondescript exterior this former convent has been beautifully remodelled and very tastefully modernised. A lot of money and attention to detail make it a very, very memorable place. A haven of good taste, peace and tranquility (until you got there - Ed) A perfect place to relax. Highly recommended.

Le Couvent d'Herepian

We had no internet last night so I'm posting a bunch of stuff as things go through my head (is that what you call it? - Ed). Late this afternoon we arrived here in time for Jan to get the first of her 'treatments'. When I booked the break Sandra offered us both a massage. Given that their masseusse was unlikely to have hands big enough for me, I volunteered Jan for my session.

My beloved has had a bit of a tough year (never mind having to deal with you -Ed), so this was meant to be a little rest before getting stuck into looking after me over Christmas.
You know you can't be too careful boys! If you want to look after your beloved, show her that you care, but more to the point build up a huge number of brownie points, then this is the place for you.
If you add into the equation the fitted kitchen in each suite, you can stuff your face with all the goodies that your beloved has left for you, whilst she gets pampered and you surf the net. Bloody excellent (you are such a slob - Ed).

My beloved

Jan just sent me this. What do you think she meant?

El Celler de Can Roca, Gerona

Wow what a restaurant. I could fill pages of superlatives about this place. My best advice is just go. It doesn't have to cost the earth. We were offered three menus at 115€, 95€ and the Classic Menu at 75€. We chose the latter and alongside the menu they bring you selected wines for each course at 25€ per head. For just over 100€ per head you get an outstanding meal at one of the best restaurants in the world. The setting and service are wonderful and we are planning to go back with some foodie friends.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Getting old

I’m such a plonker (we already knew that – Ed) sometimes I feel like I'm cracking up. As a treat for Jan I’d booked us into a hotel/spa on our way back from Barcelona so that she could have massages, facials and all that sort of girly stuff but, and it’s quite a big but, when I checked the details this morning, I’d got the dates wrong. We weren’t expected until Wednesday and today was Tuesday. Bugger.
Ah well, it meant another, unscheduled night in a hotel so we decided to stop over in Gerona. We like Gerona, it’s just off the motorway home and we always use it as our last minute shopping stop before arriving back into France. They have an El Cortes Ingles department store and below that their own very good supermarket, Hipercor, full of our favourite Spanish goodies. We’re into Spanish goodies at the moment. Legs of the sweetest ham from acorn fed pigs, Rioja, Spanish olive oil, Manchego cheese and all sorts of good stuff like that. Excellent.
When deciding where to eat, I remembered reading about a good restaurant in Gerona called El Celler de Can Roca. I also remembered reading that if you couldn’t get into El Bulli (I had already tried and failed to get a table anytime in 2009) then this was a pretty good alternative. We got a table.

Japanese heaven

It was a public holiday in Spain yesterday which had one major benefit, the shops were shut, hence saving us a lot of money. Having said that what to do? You do what the Barcelonese do, you eat out.
Today's new experience was Wok Yutaka, Rossello 307. An eat-as- much-as-you-can Japanese restaurant at 14.80 Euros a head. Surprise, surprise it was packed but at least we were smart and booked yesterday.
What was even more surprising was that the only counter that had no one around it was the sashimi and sushi counter. In my opinion, what are you doing in a Japanese resto if you don't like sushi? I love sushi, so I was in heaven, and there it was, all that I could eat for 14.80. They were going to lose out on this one!

Anyway that wasn't the end of the fun. Ben and Paula wanted to buy a Christmas tree so we headed for the Christmas market just next to the Sagrada Familia. That gave me an idea. What did I really want to make my Christmas perfect. The perfect crib figure. I went looking for a Barak Obama caganer. Til the day I die I'll never understand this Catalan custom, but custom it is so, when in Rome. It took a bit of time but we found one. Look, I know it's strange but the Catalans take it quite seriously and who am I to offend.

Monday, December 08, 2008

More than one child?

Never having been a real baby person (they give little feedback, they just eat, sleep and shit), I'm getting much more attached to Kate. She has a lovely personality and even seems to like me. (She doesn't know you yet - Ed)

We all want to be liked, right? So how does Jan express this?

I'd asked Ben and Paula if they were contemplating having anymore children when the discussion got around to only children. Jan, who wants another grandchild (as long as she can hand them back), said to Paula, "You know the potential problems with only children?" Nodding towards me she said, "Do you want her to turn out like him?" (She got it in one! - Ed)
Can I let it be known that I think only children are bloody great!

Jingle bells

On the way to the eat yesterday we had a bit of time to kill so we stopped off for an apero. Fancying a vodka tonic, Paula counselled that I ask for a small vodka because they normally pour huge ones. What arrived? A glass, two thirds full of vodka. Still, whilst that slipped down nicely, we had some entertainment by way of a busking Father Christmas. Paula's mum also ordered a bunch of nibbles including my favorite, chiperones, fried baby squid. This is the life.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Yet another resto

There are some lovely and unusual buildings around Barcelona. At the bottom of the one above was today's restaurant. Again we couldn't get in until 15.30 (for lunch) and Restaurante Envalira, Planeta 35 (Plaza del Sol) was packed. Doesn't anybody cook around here? Weekends and holidays, the inhabitants of Barcelona eat out, because there's a huge choice of high quality inexpensive restaurants.
Anyway, I'm not complaining - I got my fix of Arroz Negro. Jan, on the other hand, tried something new. An Italian style risotto which was absolutely delicious. This is the place for me.

I'm in love

Saturday, December 06, 2008

El Panxa del Bisbe

Hola! from a grey but warm Barcelona. After an uneventful drive down in the Porsche (VW model) we checked into our hotel and then shot over to El Planxa del Bisbe, Carrer de Rabassa, in Gracia, to meet Ben, Paula and grandchild Kate. Lunch had been booked for 3.00pm, can you believe that? You wouldn't even get a phone reply at a restaurant in France at 15.00 never mind booking lunch at such an hour, but this is Barca and everything happens just that bit later here.

Anyway, family Tillott were in fine form and Jan, ignoring all else, spent the first 5 minutes cuddling Kate. At which point Ben (Jan's eldest) held out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm Ben. I'm Kate's father."

This is an excellent and unusual Catalan tapas restaurant that offers just the kind of food that Jan and I like. Plate after plate of different bites kept arriving and we finished lunch at 17.00. Superb.

We love this area of Barcelona. Gracia has a great 'village' feel. Later that evening we, along with lots of other families, strolled back to the hotel in the warm evening air passing many little shops beautifully decorated for Christmas. Perfect.

Friday, December 05, 2008

You naughty boy

Jan came back from her walk with the dogs this afternoon shaking and generally in a bit of a state. Whilst they were out in the countryside, Max had disappeared for a short time and then turned up with a chicken in his mouth. He was rather proud of his effort but Jan, a pacifist, was not. He killed the chicken. Jan was not a happy bunny (but then neither was the chicken) and it took some time to get Max back on a lead so that she could examine the beheaded, ex-poulet. Jan said that it might have died of fright until I pointed out that with a missing head it was probably a bit more decisive than that.

We composed a short note to the suspected owner and went round to drop it in his postbox. I say suspected because we couldn't be absolutely certain where Max had found the chicken but we had our suspicion.

Next step was to visit the Mairie to see William and explain what had happened. He found it very amusing and said that in the past his dog had killed several chickens and that it had cost him quite a bit in compensation. Thanks Max.

Show them to me

Robin just sent me this. I've no idea why he thought I might like it, but I did.

So true

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Le Cheval Blanc, Nimes

We went to Nimes yesterday for various bits and pieces, and whilst we were there we decided to check out Bob's recommendation of Le Cheval Blanc, 1 Place des Arenes, 0466 76 19 59. What a good recommendation.

Unusually for a restaurant in Nimes, it was furnished brasserie style with waiters, who were smart, friendly and professional, to match. In addition to the carte they offered a 14€ and 26€ lunch menu. This is also a wine bar so the wine list was extensive, if not a little pricey, and we chose a Clos des Augustins, Les Gamins 2006 from Pic Saint Loup. In this kind of situation I nearly always chose a local wine because if I like it I can go buy some more. I liked it.

Jan started with a duck terrine which she thought was 'OK' and my artichoke salad was excellent. Next Jan had fish which was very fresh and well cooked and I had a very tender steak. The dauphinoise potatoes were as nice as I've ever had. Thanks Bob for the excellent advice.

On the funny side, as I was scribbling my notes about the meal, Michel who called himself "the boss of the place" came over, bypassing all the other tables, and introduced himself. He could at least have knocked something off the bill!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


In ancient Greece (469 - 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.

One day, an acquaintance ran up to him excitedly and said, 'Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?''

Wait a moment,' Socrates replied, 'Before you tell me I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test.'

'Triple filter?' asked the acquaintance.

'That's right,' Socrates continued. 'Before you talk to me about my student let's take a moment to filter what you're going to say. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?'

'No,' the man said, 'actually I just heard about it.'

'All right,' said Socrates. 'So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?'

'No, on the contrary ...'.

'So,' Socrates continued, 'you want to tell me something bad about him, even though you're not certain it's true?'

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed. Socrates continued. 'You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter - the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?'

'No, not really...'

'Well,' concluded Socrates, 'if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?'

The man was defeated and ashamed.

This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

It also explains why he never found out that Plato was shagging his missus.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Lost in translation

As we returned home tonight we met Alain the artist (above) and invited him back for a drink. Not only do we think that he's a talented artist but he has also been a good friend and source of information for us over the years.

Anyway, we're chatting to him over a glass (or two) of Coste Plane rosé when he said that he'd tasted a nice rosé from Iraq the other day. I nearly fell off my stool. 'Bloody hell', I said, 'I had no idea that they made wine in Iraq.' I said that I'd tasted wine in Tunisia (not quite the same - Ed) but I was surprised that an Islamist state such as Iraq allowed wine to be produced.

As I ranted on (bearing in mind that we'd had a few by then) Alain looked really puzzled and then the penny finally dropped. He said, 'I'm not talking about Iraq but Lirac.'

And thanks to you

Here's one for Barbara in North Carolina.

Hire that man

Girls - the perfect stocking filler for your man

Click on the picture to see more detail.

Monday, December 01, 2008


For a couple of weeks now Minnie's breath has been smelling really bad. I mean really bad, worse than mine after a night on the curry. (We get the message - Ed) This morning we had an appointment at the vet for her annual injections and mentioned the symptoms. After a lot of difficulty, the vet took a look in her mouth and said 'there's the problem.' Stuck across the roof of her mouth, between two rear teeth, was a piece of wood which blended in perfectly with the surroundings and which had caused an open wound the width of her palate. The poor thing.