Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dances with wolves



The weather was miserable, cloudy, cold and wet so I decided to have an afternoon off (what another - Ed) and watch a film.


Dances with Wolves was on so I sat and slobbed whilst Jan busied herself as usual around the house. The film got to the part where they named Costner, 'Dances with Wolves'.


I said to Jan, "do you know what they call me?"


"No," she said.


"It's, 'Still Waiting For His Dinner'," I said, "what do they call you?"


"Living with a prat," she said.

A classy joint

The roads were very busy travelling south through France. I guess it was a mixture of business and holiday traffic and, despite previous observations, I saw some really bad motorway driving. Local roads are usually the problem but this time problems had spread to the motorways. Added to that, today we saw some idiots driving really fast around car parks. What's up with folks?


In contrast to the idiots outside, the shops were really quiet, eerily so, in stark contrast to the mayhem at the shops in Brighton. Talking about Brighton, as a bit of a joke one morning, Christmas morning I think it was, I said to Jan that I wasn't going to dress before breakfast and that I was going down in my pyjamas. She giggled a bit and told me not to be stupid (nothing new there then - Ed) Needless to say I didn't but as we left the breakfast room coming out of the lift were three women dressed only in their pyjamas. Later we saw them still in their pj's outside the hotel, smoking. Classy or what?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Phew, not a scorcher

With a lot of snow between Rheims and Troyes it made for a slow journey back. The road was down to one lane most of the time and the iced, rutted snow made overtaking trucks a heart in the mouth type experience. I think we picked up a ticket for exceeding 110 Kph in one section below Lyons but if that's the worst that happened then so be it. We made it and there's only one more car trip to do this winter. Flying and hiring a car is the way to go.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The best laid plans

I prefer the Channel Tunnel because a) I'm not a good sailor and b) it's quick. Simples.


So we left Brighton early (well early for us) and arrived over an hour before our check in time. We were warned of a delay at the booth. OK, so no big deal we'll have a coffee and chill. We're quite good a chillin'.


What! The place was heaving with massive queues (50 people long) just to pay for a newspaper. What a shambles. If you wanted a coffee you'd have died from thirst before you got it. It was hopeless.


Added to that we were delayed by two hours from our original departure time. The reason they gave - 'capacity restrictions'? That much was bloody obvious. There is usually a train every 15 minutes but the service this morning was running no quicker than every half hour. That, coupled with a lot of seasonal trippers made for absolute pandemonium.


In the normal course of events it's no big deal but when you add the hours time difference, we didn't enter France until about 16.00. So much for our early start. We only made it as far as Rheims where we stopped for the night. Bon soir!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A short intermission

Lot's of family stuff today but having to drive a bit too much. With our return to France planned for tomorrow I could have done without it. See you soon!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

New experiences


You'd think that by my venerable age I'd have experienced most things in life but this morning saw two new experiences (do we really want to know this? - Ed).


The first was a lovely meal last night at Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant in Brighton and the second was waking up in an hotel on Christmas morning.


We were at a loose end on Christmas Eve, again not something we are used to, so it was a question of where to eat. When I googled restos in Brighton, JO came near the top. Yippee we both thought. We like his books, we like Italian food and we had never eaten at one of his restaurants.


We weren't disappointed. He has an obvious affinity with Italian food. It was an important part of his training (at the River Cafe) and the mouthwatering menu was full of all the stuff that we both know and love. When looking at the menu it was a question of where to start. So much of it was 'favourites' including a dish with burrata, something you rarely see in England. We were in heaven. 


The second new experience was waking in a hotel on Christmas morning. For various reasons there was no room at the inn (there's a good story here - Ed) and we got a really good deal at a Premier Inn (£26 per night) in the centre of Brighton (which also happens to be a very good hotel at the price) which meant that we could easily walk to shops and other places of interest (ie. a bunch of shops for Jan). It was nice to be able to walk to a resto and drink without worrying about driving. All in all, two good choices.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas

It's Christmas so I offer again my favourite Christmas carol of all time. 


Incidentally Jan thinks that Shane McGowan is better looking than me. Charming! 


The other downside to this tune is that I hum the bloody thing for hours/days afterwards. Still, I hope you enjoy it.


Spooky



Life throws up yet another eerie coincidence. We're sitting having an excellent dinner in The General Tarleton and mum and Jan are chatting. They get on really well and mum has always told Jan all kinds of things that she would never tell me. The conversation gets round to me as a baby (they were obviously getting bored - Ed) and mum told Jan that Ripon is where I was conceived. Just a tad too much information for my liking but there you go. Jan finds it hilarious.


 How weird is that? Not only mentioning it, but that we are now moving there. Obviously an eerie primeval instinct took us back in that direction a bit like salmon returning to their spawning grounds.


Anyway mum starts to talk about me as a baby and mentions that the first time the nurses brought me to her, after my birth, I smelt 'wonderful.' Jan took a quick sideways look at me and said, "Are you sure it was the right baby?"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A night in Bed

We were having a nice meal in B.e.d. Restaurant last night when Jan poured herself a large glass of water. Excellent, I thought, she's seen the light but oh was I wrong. After pouring the water she picked up her wine glass and emptied that. We saw the funny side.


We had decided to take mum for a Christmas treat because we leave tomorrow for Brighton and won't see her again until next January. This restaurant came No 1 in tripadvisor's list so I decided to give it a go. I guess that it normally feeds off the conference trade, being right next door to the conference centre. As it is Christmas party week I thought that we might have a problem getting in but it looks like we got one of the last tables. The place was heaving. A good sign and even better when I looked around town later to see all the restaurants empty. And I mean empty. Not a soul in site. It felt very strange. I know it was -6C outside but the empty restos felt really weird. Maybe the good folk of Harrogate are starting to believe some of the hype put out by the media.


Anyway, back to Bed. The food was good, there was a good choice, well cooked and came to the table hot. Service was prompt and friendly and the only thing that mildly irritated me was the jokey menu. Other than that I'd recommend it. What was more important for me was that mum enjoyed it so much that she wanted to go back the following evening. Praise indeed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The ultimate irony



Politics aside, to my way of thinking Assange doesn't come across as a very likeable person. Others may disagree but this made me laugh out loud. The ultimate irony.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The journey (so why not me as well?)



Well that was an interesting journey. Everyone (except Bob) will be pleased to hear that we made it. Yesterday's journey was the one that I was dreading but whilst it took about twelve hours it was relatively trouble free.


The major problems were in northern France where the roads hadn't been cleared. Getting out of the forest was the first hurdle with long straight roads of pristine snow and ice, then later, large sections of motorway needed to be cleared. Admittedly we had to spend long periods of time following snow ploughs but I guess the road network in France is so big that they must have a problem keeping up. It snowed for the whole of the five and half hours it took to get from the hotel to Calais. A journey that shouldn't take more than four hours.


In fact the only irritating part of the journey was sitting for over an hour waiting to put the car on the train at Calais with no information about what was causing the delay. Most people can accept problems and delays cheerfully if they have the information. It seems to be a continuing problem.


We had been watching and listening to the dire predictions of the weather forecasters in the UK and had come prepared, but our journey via the M20, M25, M11 and A1 was smooth and trouble free. I drove from Folkestone to Harrogate in four and a half hours which, with a short stop, was right on the button. I'm sure that there's lots of snow elsewhere in the UK but we didn't see much during our journey.


Anyway, mum was cooking pasta e piselli, one of my favourites, so we had every incentive to complete the journey quickly!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

And while I'm at it

Now that I've taken the pledge, I sleep well with no disruptions and being sober means that you can more easily see other people making a fool of themselves. Last night I had a drink. For me it was a big drink, egged on by you know who.


The result was that I woke at 04.00 and that's why I'm sitting here posting at 05.59. Let that be a lesson to all! (It's taken you all this time to figure that out? - Ed)


And, whilst I'm at it, what the hell has ex-foliating soap got to do with anything? All I want to do is wash my hands not rip them to shreds!


That's this morning's (early morning) lesson over with.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The first part


As we left the south it was very cold but dry and sunny, which really didn't prepare us for the snow further north. It was kind of weird when it happened. All the way up to Lyon, nothing, then, as we exited the tunnel through the middle of Lyon, we saw snow on the ground for the first time.


The contrast was quite stunning. One side of town dry and sunny and the other under a blanket of snow. I wonder if the houses to the south of town are more expensive? Just a thought.


Anyway it got colder and the snow thicker as we travelled north (what the hell did you expect - Ed) and it wasn't until we left the motorway near Troyes, and drove through the Forêt d'Orient, that things became a little tricky. Our hotel, chosen because it's where we'll hopefully stop with the dogs next year, is on a golf course and right in the middle of the forest.


The drive through the forest was beautiful, the snow laden trees giving it a magical atmosphere. As we pulled up to the hotel we could see some great walks for the dogs which really confirmed our choice. With two dogs in the room, Jan might have to sleep in the car but I'm sure she'll be fine.


Anyway, as I write, the snow is coming down heavily so a lot depends on how things look tomorrow. Could be fun.

Intrepid (stupid) travellers



Something inside me says that we're mad, because we set off for the UK this morning by car. There's snow forecast pretty much along the whole route. 


Tonight we're scheduled to stop near Troyes for a slap up meal and a good night's sleep but just in case we are never seen again, Happy Christmas you lucky folks, it was nice knowing you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Feeling good



Today, 16th December is the feast of St Alice.


Like you, I had no idea that there is/was a St Alice.


St Alex - I know there's one of them.


All this information and all of it free! You lucky people.


With a trip coming up later this week, we cleaned out the car this morning.  I love a clean car and I love cleaning it, and I want Jan to share that feeling so we both got involved. The upside of this is that she might get to like it so much that I never have to clean it again. You can only live in hope.


Not only do I feel better, but I'm sure the car drives more quickly and more smoothly. ( I know someone you should talk to - Ed) Anyway, the weather isn't looking too bright for the journey at the moment and as it's hardly a life or death trip then we will attempt it and stop if it gets too hairy. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Scenes you seldom see


Take a long hard look, this isn't something you will see very often.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nigella Lawson


I had a giggle over this today. If you like food and tits then she's for you.

Scruffy



We were driving into Nimes this morning and on the outskirts we stopped at some lights. This is where there's usually a lot of begging or cleaning windscreens (same thing).


Anyway, standing by the side of the road, not begging, was the scruffiest tramp you have ever seen. He was wearing several layers of absolutely filthy clothes and had obviously not washed for a very long time. He was the king of tramps. He was a tramp's tramp. This tramp outshone any other tramp I have ever seen. I was sitting there worrying about him being cold and filthy when he did something that made me crease up with laughter. Standing there, he started to brush down the front of his clothes as if they had crumbs on them. 


Bloody hell, crumbs were the least of his problems. It was oh so funny. I don't usually give money to vagrants but he deserved some money just for making me laugh so much, but before I could react the lights changed and we had to move. Next time my son, next time! Excellent.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gap Ya

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bored

It's Sunday, and I'm bored.


Whilst it's sunny outside there's a north wind blowing and it's very, very cold. So cold that your hands quickly start to become numb which makes outside work a tad difficult.


We're in a sort of limbo living here, there are jobs to do, and things are planned, but we intend to complete a lot of the jobs next year just before we travel to England for the last time, leaving the house in good shape for our very kind hosts.


I'm pretty much up-to-date with my admin and I've read all the news. Still, there's some football on television this afternoon so it's not that bleak.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Not quite what it used to be



I feel like I'm falling to bits.


Over the last twelve months my teeth have started to crumble. Not massive breakages, but small pieces falling off. This year I have already had three crowns and there's another one to do. Appointments are already set up for next year. What's going on?


I think it's fair to say that this last twelve months I've been starting to feel a little less perfect. (Get a grip, you have no idea what perfect is - Ed) I know, I know, you're very surprised, but not as surprised as me. One minute you're god's gift to the world and the next you are starting to disintegrate.


I first noticed that things were changing about three years ago. Small memory gaps and that sort of thing and now my bloody teeth are falling to bits. Shit!


I stopped smoking about 13 years ago and nowadays I hardly drink so don't lecture me, I have been trying. (I suspect that it's all a bit too late - Ed)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Rise up mes braves



If there's one thing I hate, more than anything, it's unnecessary rudeness and wasting my time. I had a big run in with my bank recently, because we are in the house of a friend and have no utility bill in our name, to get them to change our address. I eventually managed it with a signed affidavit from our previous mayor.


In anticipation of a similar problem with our local Prefecture, when trying to change the address on my carte grise (car log book - because the insurance company wouldn't issue a new certificate without it), I asked the mayor of the village we currently live in to do the same. He very kindly obliged.


Armed with all my bits of paper, I wasted money and a full morning, travelling to Nimes and back, in order to get the address changed.


The Prefecture is situated in an old part of town and it's difficult to park but I found a space. The next hurdle was going to be waiting in line but I couldn't believe how quickly I got served. That's where my jubilation and good luck ended.


The sour faced woman behind the desk threw the mayor's letter to one side and said 'that's not acceptable.' No explanation or help, just total disdain. No amount of discussion from me made the slightest difference.


On the way out, spitting blood and ready to seriously injure someone, I managed to calm myself sufficiently to ask someone what documentation would be acceptable. I was told that I needed a letter from the person who owns the house, a copy of his passport, proof that he owns the house and some form of confirmation that ties me to the address.


Despite spending a lot of time searching, there was no mention of this on the Prefecture website. What a bunch of wankers! All I wanted to do is change the bloody address for the car.


It appears that the individual in this country is not trusted by 'officialdom.' 'Officialdom' sets up such tight rules and regulations based on the assumption that everyone is trying to screw them. They trust no one. It would have been so much easier to not do anything and keep shtum. It just doesn't pay to be honest here. It's no wonder that the French like to revolt.


Rant over.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wikileaks


I'm not convinced about Wikileaks motives and frankly hiding behind journalistic rules is, for me, laughable.


The so called 'great and the good' came out to offer their support for Assange's bail and one of them defended 'the public's right to know.' I think that's bollocks. Nobody has the right to know everything. This all 'human rights' nonsense and has nothing to do with why he was in court anyway. Conspiracy theorists will no doubt disagree.


Very little of what I've seen so far is real news. Any sensible guess would have come up with the same information. The US were grossly negligent in allowing this stuff into the public domain and Wikileaks are nothing but mischievous in releasing it. If anybody gets hurt as a result of 'the leaks' then they deserve to be punished.


Hacking attacks like this only add to my uncomfortable feeling about Wikileaks.

It were doomed



This was either a huge wind-up or it appears that the majority of people are slightly more intelligent than the very wealthy Eric Cantona who, it appears, did nothing at all.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Doomed to failure?

This is 'interesting.'

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Fill her up!


And there I was naively thinking that it was just petrol that was cheap!

Please don't bring me the menu!


As if life isn't bad enough being trapped by snow for eight days, I have eaten at this pub and I was not impressed.


Two reasons why they might want to get the hell out of there!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Sorry

I've just bought a new aftershave that smells of breadcrumbs.


The birds love it.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Efficient French bureaucracy


As most of you probably know the Control Technique (MOT) for a car is done every two years here in France (yes, we're in FRANCE Jean). The centre that I use in Quissac normally writes to me and warns me that it's due, which is a good system and one on which I have relied over the years.


Well this year they didn't, and I didn't find out that I had a problem until I was having the Golf serviced and the mechanic pointed out that it had expired.


'It can't have,' I said.


'Oh yes it has,' he said. And he was right.


So I was getting the CT done yesterday in Quissac and I mentioned to the tester that they hadn't written to me as normal. 'Oh, we had a problem with the software,' he said.


More like you were trying to save money I said (to myself.)


Still, he passed the car so he's not all bad.


Whilst I was sitting there it dawned on me that I had no idea when the Jeep was due so I asked him to check. 'Oh that's expired as well,' he said.


So I'm back there again this afternoon. The moral of the story is, there is no such thing as efficient French bureaucracy, but then you already knew that didn't you? It's back to making notes in the diary!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Stop whinging

In the normal course of events I'd have a whinge about the exceptionally cold, wet, windy and miserable Autumn we're having but taking a look around the rest of Europe, it looks like it might not be so bad here after all. Today it's 10C and sunny. Better be thankful for small mercies.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Like a what?


Looks like we got out of England just in time. I called Harrogate this morning and was told about the huge fall of snow they've just had. Phew. We flew out of Leeds yesterday which was icy but clear and landed in a fairly warm Barcelona.


It was a real pleasure driving back from Barcelona last night. Stick the car in cruise control, point and go. Motorway driving is quite pleasurable in Spain and France especially on Sunday night with few trucks around. Even local roads aren't bad with the exception of a few idiotic drivers. In the short time it took for us to drive from the house to the supermarket and back this morning we saw two dangerous incidents. Unfortunately par for the course.


The roads in England are much less of a joy, being jammed full of traffic, but at least they feel safe. I drove a lot of miles last week in and around Harrogate and Ripon and even though the roads were packed I never once saw anything dangerous or stupid.


Anyway, as we were sitting on the tarmac waiting for take-off yesterday Jan, who was looking at a girly magazine, asked me which of the following categories she fell into, 'prom queen,' 'uptown girl,' 'hollywood idol' or 'disco diva'?


I replied that she reminded me more of a 'land girl.' Even she thought that was funny. It's a good job she's got a sense of humour. (Careful, you'll get Jean on your case again - Ed)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shut up and eat


We had various jobs to do today so we split up, Jan to the shops in Harrogate and me to Ripon. I arrived back at mum's, before Jan, with the idea of taking a thirty minute break to read the papers before heading out to the shops to pick Jan up.


As I walked through mum's door she said, 'have you eaten?' I said, 'yes thanks, I grabbed a sandwich.


'Ah well then you'd better have some soup,' she said.


'Mum that's fine, I don't need anything else but I'll happily warm up some soup for you,' I said.


'Oh, yes please, there's some nice brodo in the fridge and I've got some ricotta and porcini stuffed tortellini to go in it. I'll make it for both of us.'


It's no use arguing, if you want a peaceful life you just shut up and eat.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's hard being lazy and perfect


Jan and I are somewhat different. I think she's very admirable because as a general rule she just gets on with things whilst I take my time and think about the issues and try to figure out the smartest way to do something. I hate double handling something, I've always been like that and I suspect that Jan has as well.


The net result of our behaviour is that Jan gets things done quickly and I take my time. If she was being cruel she might also say that I don't do anything whilst she slaves away. She would probably say that I over think things.


With all this in mind  there are a mountain of boxes to unpack and, in order to get on quickly, without too much thought delay, I'm sent out on inconsequential little errands. I don't really mind, I understand. She manages to plough on regardless and  gets things done and I'm half useful as well. From her point of view at least I'm out of the way.


Anyway, I get back back from my little errand yesterday and notice some of the stuff that she's put into the airing cupboard, but it wasn't until this morning that, in a very delayed blinding flash, it dawned on me. In her admirable haste to put things away, the first items in this cupboard were some old blankets. One of which looked like it had been used to keep soldiers warm in the trenches of the 1914 - 1918 war.


Now you can call me pedantic but I'm definitely not stupid. I stopped to consider the last time that we'd ever used a blanket, never mind a very old soldier's blanket, and it didn't take me long to figure out that not only had we (as a couple) never used a blanket before but that we were never likely to use or need one.


The other thought that I had was how much more rubbish lurks in this mountain of boxes stuffed around the house. Look, I know that I over think things, but we had just paid someone a lot of money to collect, store and deliver it from France. There were nine huge crates of the stuff (with more on the way.) 


My next very difficult thought was how to deliver this message to my beloved without starting a blazing row. This will take some skill but I'd better think about it first! I might mention it tomorrow.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Breaking and entering


We had a really good laugh today.


I'd invited a chap 'S', who does some work for mum, to take a look at the Ripon house because I want a door knocking through between the house and the garage. I suspect that we'll need access to the garage from time to time when we want to keep the dogs under control and occasionally they will need to sleep there.


Separately, I'd also done something to the garage door lock and couldn't lock it, and because we'd put some stuff in the garage it needed securing. I asked him to look at the garage door lock as well. S took the door handle and lock to bits and fixed it. After that he put the handle back together again and he came outside the garage. I closed the door, and we tried to open it. Nothing. It wouldn't open. He hadn't put it back together correctly and we were stuck outside with no means of getting in. We looked at each other baffled. (Nothing new there then - Ed)


'You know that door you want putting into the garage from inside the house,' he said, 'I think I'd better start right now.' With that he started to knock a hole from inside the house into the garage, big enough for him to clamber through so that he could open the garage door from the inside.


It was the highpoint of an otherwise snowy, cold and tiring day. Very funny.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You gotta laugh

Back to last night, - I've got to say that there's nothing like fish and chips cooked in beef fat (dripping). It gives it that je ne sais quoi taste, as well as clogging up your arteries. If you have to have your arteries clogged there's no better way, this is it. And, add to that, a slap up meal of the freshest haddock and twice cooked chips (with all the bits) coming in at the princely sum of £28 for three of us. Excellent.


Anyway, bearing in mind that we're in deep (but not the deepest) Yorkshire what caught my eye was a little note written on the bottom of the menu and the immortal words, "All salads are served with a portion of chips." Slimming the Yorkshire way! Twice excellent!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giddy with excitement


The day just got better and better. First, because we had a large bed surplus to requirements and, wanting to replace the minuscule one that mum had, we had the new bed and bedding delivered to her house.


Not only was the old bed small but it was also ancient and uncomfortable (a bit like you - Ed). It was my bed from when I lived at home (bloody hell, it was that old - Ed) If you didn't mind bed springs poking you at every turn you could just about get a nights sleep on your own, but with two of us in it, not only was it uncomfortable, it was a big struggle not to fall out. I have spent many a night literally hanging onto the side, clinging on for dear life as Jan decided to invade my territory. Very restful - not.


But tonight mes braves I will sleep the sleep of the just.


Secondly, later in the evening, giddy with the excitement of the forthcoming nights sleep, I found a place to park right outside the fish shop.


Life just doesn't get any better.

Moving in but not living in


Bloody hell. There are a total of nine crates of stuff to go into the house and they only managed to deliver and unload four of them today. We were struggling to find a home for what they had delivered so far so I'm really not sure where the next five are going to go.


Still, the problems really start next year when another two/three crates arrive from France.


This might seem insignificant to you but my problems are about to get worse tonight because Jan has decided to cook fish pie (and when Jan decides, she decides, you just go along for the ride) and I'm not the biggest fan of fish pie.


Historically, the pie she used to make consisted mostly of mashed potato, another of my 'not loved' ingredients, and a bit of fish, but I soon put that right. At least it now contains lots of different fish including lots of prawns. I don't quite understand why I've got to get involved to get a decent meal around here!


News update! News update!


We're off to the Whetherby Whaler for dinner. Fish and chips, now that's what I call a decent meal!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Way too slow


My racing snail was not winning races any more, so I decided to remove his shell to make him more aerodynamic.

It didn't work.

If anything it made him more sluggish.

You can blame Nigel for this one.

Nice neighbours

An exciting day full of hard work. We got the keys to the house in Ripon this morning and then proceeded to start decorating a couple of rooms. The furniture arrives on Wednesday so we're using this time to decorate with an empty house. But before we could start I had to get to grips with a fairly complicated heating system but the previous owners had kindly left a lot of instruction booklets so it didn't take too long. 


A little later the next door neighbours who are keeping an eye on things until we move, popped over to say hello. This family, who we have never even met, are neighbourly enough to keep an eye on the house until we move in. Isn't that kind? Folks are really friendly around here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yet another meal. Get me outta here.

One of the tactics we adopt when staying in Barcelona is to chose a hotel with wi fi and secure parking and then use the underground to get about.

Our usual choice, on the outskirts, is the Alimara which is easy to get to and right on the tube line that gets us to Ben and Paula's house. Unfortunately they wanted too much money so we looked around and found the Tryp Apolo, a business hotel, was dumping rooms for the weekend and it was also right on the tube line we needed. It's actually a better hotel so drinks all round! Anyway, this morning (Sunday) I had to drive right across Barcelona in the Jeep. A vehicle which is fine on the main roads but a bit of a nightmare on the very narrow streets in Gracia where were headed. Still, we made it and eventually found a place to park, probably the last one for a hundred miles.

After a short excursion with the little one (Kate) we headed up the side of the mountain overlooking Barca, just below Tibidabo, to eat at a great little restaurant with fantastic panoramic views. The speciality of Can Mardi, Pge. Font del Mont 4, 93 406 91 95,  is meat cooked in an open wood burning oven.

We arrived at 13.30 and the place was already filling up and, as we ate, hords more without reservations, tried to get in as well. There was a lot of sulking that they couldn´t just sit where they liked and in particular at the panaoramic windows. Stupid people. Under no circumstances shouild you try and find this place yourself. It´s approached up the steepest, narrowest little roads imaginable. Get a cab. 

Next stop Leeds courtesy of Ryanair. Bring it on.

The place for seafood in Barca



After some family time with the lovely young Kate and in particular a trip to the castle on Montjuic by funicular and cable car, we queued outside La Paradetat El Born for lunch. This is a very popular seafood restaurant which only opens for lunch at the weekend and it was busy.


The format is simple, as you enter, in front of you, is a large fish counter where you decide what you want and how you want it cooked. The selection is huge with all kinds of fish and shellfish. Having been given a ticket you then move round to the next counter where you pick up your covers and order your wine.


As your food is cooked they call your number and you go to collect it from another counter. There are no waiters so you clear your own plates. We ate fresh crab, tallarina (tellines), steamed muscles, chiperones (deep fried baby calamare), cockles, prawns and a bottle of their cheapest wine (Turbio from Gallicia) all for the grand sum of 41 euros for four people. When we left at 2.30 they were queuing 6 deep outside. Excellent value and highly recommended.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Restaurants near Girona



Greetings from down-town Barcelona.


One of the joys of living where we do is the opportunity of being able to drive to Barca. And, one of the joys of liking to eat (Jan not me) is that driving to Barca means we pass three of our favourite restaurants all quite close to each other.


Leave the AP7 (the motorway between France and Barca) at junction 8, the turn-off for Girona airport, and head east towards the coast (the C65 I think) and you will pass in this order, on the right hand side, La Roca Petita, Can Barris and Can Xiguet all within five kilometres of each other.


For no particular reason we headed for the middle of the three Can Barris, but finding that it was shut, we drove on to Can Xiquet. At 1.30 in the afternoon we were only the second couple in there but it slowly filled up with many people arriving around 2.00. Whilst that's strange for us coming from France where you would be turned away at 2.00, it takes the pressure off the journey from home.


The menu choice is very good with both of us saying that we would be happy with any of about twenty starters but in the end I chose calamares cooked simply in garlic, oil and parsley and Jan had the pata negra ham with tomato toast. Such simple food with little or no embellishments, cooked well, and letting the ingredients speak for themselves. (ooo-er, get you - Ed) 


Next I had veal fillet with a garnish of caramelized apple, figs and onions and whilst I'm not the biggest fan of fruit and meat this was just perfect. My mouth waters just to think about it. Jan had salt cod with purées of ceps and spinach. Jan didn't have a pudding, cos she's a saint, and I had crema catalan.


For the wines we started with a Martivilli Rueda Verdejo 2009 followed by a half bottle (now I'm the saint) of Legaris 2006 Ribera del Duero. Excellent and highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another royal announcement

Yippee, we are a grandfather. The first grandchild born on my side of the family arrived in Brighton today. Mother and daughter are both well and father is hanging on in there. More news when I get it. Many congratulations to James and Pauline.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Taralli

I can't speak highly enough of the medical system here in France. I took Jan to the 'Centre for Medical Imagery' this morning for a scan on some potential plumbing issues and whilst she's in there they establish that she's got a stone in her gall bladder.


I love the system where you go to an independent specialist unit for different things. We both go regularly for blood tests and from time to time for X-rays and ultrasound. You make your appointment at the specific establishment, there's little waiting and you get your results very, very quickly. In the case of X-rays you leave with the X-ray and a letter to your doctor describing the findings. So efficient.


Anyway, whilst she's doing this I popped into Lidl to establish what my current needs were. They're just starting to get their Xmas stuff in. Marrons glacé for 4.49, panforte at 2.29 and, something to keep my mum happy, taralli biscuits (below), something that I've never seen outside of Italy and which I know will keep me in her good books for at least 10 minutes.




For me they are completely tasteless and should definitely stay in Italy but I know that they remind her of her dim and distant youth so that's OK. Loads of brownie points for this one.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Psychiatrists sharpen your pencils



Look, I know I can trust you not to snigger but I've got to tell you about my dream last night. It was really weird, even for me.


It seemed to start with a connection to royalty. I was befriended by Prince Charles who wanted my expertise on some stuff. Something to do with knowing where to go and how to get there. (You were a bloody chauffeur you idiot - Ed) As a result of that I had an 'access all areas' pass so was treated quite deferentially.


Anyway I was wandering around the grounds of some palace or other with stone walls and trees when I came across a lion, or two. One of the lions started to take an interest in me and seemed to be viewing me as the lion equivalent of a bit of sushi (if you get my drift), a bit of sushi minus the dipping sauce, so I started to drag up all my lion taming knowledge. That didn't take me long! I looked around for a chair and a whip but couldn't find one and had started to resign myself to the inevitable and hoped that it would be quick.


Suddenly I was saved because a lion tamer came along and knew exactly what to do. I so like England because there's always a lion tamer when you need one. A little while later I woke up and, after a checking around the room, I wandered off to the toilet. Phew.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Con te partiro

If you like water and Andrea Bocelli then you might like this.

X Factor



It's amazing how, over the years, Craig and I have agreed on so much and, in the light of that, Jan and I decided to watch X Factor last night. Well, OK, it was the least uninteresting programme on television.


What a load of rubbish. It was no better than a pub karaoke and only two of the 'acts' could actually sing in tune. This is prime time television. What a mess.


The so called judges spat out their platitudes with bon mots like 'you have tried your best' and 'you've bounced back from a poor performance last week.' What happened to the bon mots, 'you can't bloody sing!' Based on this weeks performance, last week must have been abysmal.


All this to the backing of mindless, screaming, teenagers, who wouldn't know if their kebab meat was lamb or turkey. If you strip away the fancy set, the orchestration and the slick dancers you are left with absolutely nothing. A huge void filled with squeaky, tuneless, hopelessness.


Is this the cream of British talent? Simon Cowell has made a fortune on this tat. God help us all. Never again.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

French delicacies



In the land of haute cuisine you'd think that I'd be shovelling some beautiful French delicacy into my fat face at every opportunity. Not so mes braves, because the thing that I crave each Saturday morning, beyond everything else, is a kebab from the land of kebabs or, more to the point, 'the kebab shop' in the Place du Marche in Sommieres.


What a sublime delicacy, salad, tomato, onions (very healthy - Ed) and lamb with two shots of both 'white sauce' and harissa. Just hot enough to make your mouth tingle and as you finish that last mouthful, wiping left over sauce from around your mouth, you have to say, 'shit, that was good, I can't wait until next week.' Or words to that effect.


I bet your mouth is watering.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mustn't look at her ass



Mustn't look at her ass, I mustn't look at her ass, I mustn't look at her ass..................................

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nuisance calls

It's early and I'm upstairs trying to get my left lens in when the phone rings downstairs. As I move to the stairs I realised that the lens was inside out but ploughed on regardless.


It's too early for a call from England so it must be France and I put my mind into French mode. Blinking furiously I reached the phone just as it stopped ringing. Bugger, bugger and thrice bugger.


Why don't I just let the bloody thing ring out but after many years of trying to answer a call within three rings in a previous life, it's hard to do. Anyway I took the phone upstairs thinking that if it was important they'd ring again and I'd be ready. Nothing.


Lens fixed I wandered downstairs and dialled 3013. The number that rung was 0177 69 04 01 and I recognised the number from previous missed calls so I decided to Google it. Quite a few sites referred to this number as a nuisance caller. How weird.


And there you were thinking that I didn't lead an exciting life!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our little sweetie



Bryan and I spent a huge chunk of today trying to stop Max disappearing over the wall into the neighbours garden. Minnie, on the other hand, doesn't try to emulate his antics and just stands back in wonderment and adoration (a bit like me and Jan). It's probably just as well.


The stupid woman next door feeds wild cats and her garden is overrun with at least seven at the last count. The smell of cat shit from her front garden is terrible.


Anyway, we had to put up two fences, about 20 metres in total, to prevent our little darling chasing cats into the garden next door and from going for a stroll down the lane at the back. I recently saw him walking along a very narrow wall between us and next door with an eight foot drop on one side.


Seeing him with his ears pricked and in 'hunt mode' is quite scary and no doubt prompted the neighbour to come round and complain about our 'Category 1' dog being loose. The idiot tried to scare and bully me into calling the Gendarme. I not so gently pointed out that he was behaving as stupidly as he looked and that the breed isn't category 1 (dangerous) but category 3 (normal). I offered to dial the gendarme for him.


One of the reasons why we chose a Beauceron was that whilst they are good guard dogs, they also look quite scary and we knew from experience, research and close observation that these dogs are very gentle and are known as 'the gentlemen of the countryside' for good reason.


Go Max, bite his stupid, ignorant arse.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Silver surfing - the next level



Having finally persuaded mum to install broadband at her house in Harrogate, so that I could more easily stay connected when visiting, she sent me an email yesterday.


How about that! When I was last there she asked if I was going to leave her a laptop.


"What do you want a laptop for?" I said incredulously.


"Well, how else am I going to learn?" she said.


This takes silver surfing to a whole new level. It will be zimmer zorbing next!


Having said that she got her friend (now secretary) to type it for her. But cool eh?

l'Olivette Sommieres



A bit by accident we were looking for somewhere to eat at lunch time in Sommieres yesterday. God, the place is a ghost town on Monday. There was very little open. No shops, no eateries, nothing.


Anyway, after looking around for a while we found that l'Olivette, 11 Rue Abbé Fabre, 0466 80 97 71, was open. We had only ever eaten here once before but had a good memory so in we went.


What a pleasant surprise. We had the €12 menu with a choice of two for each of three courses. We both chose exactly the same, which I guess happens after you have lived together for a while, and really enjoyed it.


Our normal lunch 'cheap and cheerful' up the road in Montmirat is a bit predictable but good value but what set l'Olivette apart was not only the tasty food but that some cheffy thought had gone into it. Excellent.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Her Royal Tweetness



Now that the queen has decided to join facebook I mused as to what her first tweet might be if she joined Twitter. Given that you are restricted to 140 characters or so I guess it might look something like this:


Dear Subject, unaccustomed as I am to tweeting, my husband and I have decided to join the rest of my subjects with this new fangled tweeting.......


Er, that's it.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

You dida what?



Two friends, an Italian boy and a Jewish boy, come of age at the same time.


The Italian boy’s father presents him with a brand-new pistol. On the other side of town, at his Bar Mitzvah, the Jewish boy receives a beautiful gold watch.


The next day in school, the two boys are showing each other what they got. It turns out that each boy likes the other’s present better, and so they trade.


That night, when the Italian boy gets home, his father sees him looking at the watch. “Where did you getta thatta watch?” asks his father.


The boy explains that he and Sammy had traded.


The father blows his top. “Whatta you? Stupidda boy? Whatsa matta you? Somma day, you maybe gonna getta married. Then maybe somma day you gonna comma home and finda you wife inna bed with another man.


Whatta you gonna do then? Looka atta you watch and say, ‘How longa you gonna be?’”

Friday, November 05, 2010

The block



Grief! The pressure.


I've been inundated by several (oh, alright two) people demanding that I entertain them. Living in this media spotlight is very debilitating. I need my space, stop flashing those light bulbs at me.


I have no idea where the money went and have no recollection of sleeping with that man/woman/child. I must have been drugged or at the least very, very drunk.


The truth about the lack of posts is much more mundane. I have writers block and a distinct lack of stimulation. If only my mother was here, I'd have tons of amusing stories, but alas she isn't.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Hi

I'm still alive - honest.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I wonder?

This reminds me of someone but I can't for the life of me remember who.


I'm sure you know who you are!