Sunday, February 28, 2010

One last lurch

As we lurch from meal to meal, there was only one more lurch left today! It's Sunday so it had to be a bit special and we so look forward to eating out with little Kate.

Ben had booked at
Arenal down on the beach at Barceloneta, just in front of the Hospital del Mar, hopefully not connected. As we approached the restaurant I asked Paula whether we were eating in or out.

She said, 'oh outside, because they smoke inside.' Naturally, I was a tad confused. Evidently, when the smoking laws were introduced, such establishments had to decide whether to allow smoking or not and clearly display this. Spain is still a smokers paradise for a little while longer yet!

Anyway, what I was really looking forward to was eating some calçots. It's the season for said onion/leek vegetable and as far as I know you only get them in Catalunya. Delicious, cooked over an open fire and dipped in romesco sauce.

An excellent restaurant and one you'd only come across by chance if you didn't have the local knowledge.

Kate, as usual, was an absolute delight and a credit to her parents at only 22 months old. It was a real wrench leaving but, given all the scrumptious food we'd eaten, it was either that or burst.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Decisions, decisions

Not knowing exactly what to get for lunch, we headed down to Mercat Abaceria Central, a sort of mini Boqueria, right in the middle of Gracia.

Ben and Paula are so lucky living in this old part of town, with all its amenities. Ben had suggested various things to get for lunch so we walked around the market looking for inspiration.

We finally settled on that old Spanish favourite - sushi. A guy was making it in the back, so it all looked very fresh and appetising.

This market is amazing. The freshest fruit and vegetables and even more inspiring than the indoor market in Nimes. Grapes the size of plums, the freshest of fruit and vegetables and all top quality.

Why we chose sushi? You go figure.

Warming up

It was very cold (2C) and wet (sleet) when I left Leeds, for Girona.

I was dressed to the hilt in order to stay warm and dry. But I felt a bit of a plonker when we landed in Spain because it was sunny and 16C. I had to put the air-con on in the car to stay cool. All very weird.

Anyway, after checking into our favourite little spot on the outskirts of Barcelona it was down to meet the family for dinner and see the delightful 22 months old Kate just before she went to bed.

What a sweetie. Dinner was excellent. We started with a chopped marinated tuna on a bed of avocado and tomato. A starter to die for and even Jan who isn't a great fan of raw fish finished the lot.

It's so good I'll post it here when I get the recipe.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Last night pretty much summed up some of my frustration about living in France.

Having spent a few gruelling hours at the hairdresser, mum got back late and didn't fancy cooking. I know, I know, how could I expect my aged mother to start cooking. But it's the Italian way my friends. I'm her only beloved son and she has to spoil me. Despite me disappointing her by not becoming a surgeon, what with my surgeons fingers and all that. Bet you didn't know that surgeons have short stubby fingers, did you, but that's another story?

Now don't get me wrong, there's lots that I like about French life. They look after you medically, the weather ain't bad and they regularly pave the roads, but don't get me going on all that Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité crap. You can have whatever you want as long as it's French. And, as you peasants know, France knows what's best for you. As long as it's French and conforms to the French way, you will always be OK.

I could argue that France is institutionally xenophobic and, by default, its citizens and one of the ways that this manifests itself is in a lack of choice. Unfortunately the choice isn't always appealing but when you know no other, what do you know?

Take last night for example. Last time I was over we ate Thai and, as she had enjoyed it, mum wanted to go back to the same place. Being a conference centre and touristy sort of place there are lots of places to eat and as I'm always searching for something better I chose to eat at Orchid, 28, Swan Road, Harrogate, 01423 560425.

Despite it being a wet and miserable winter evening (France generally scores a bit better here mes braves) I decided to book.

You have to come straight away, I was told, we have another sitting at 8.45. Whoops, I liked the sound of that. They have so many customers that they have to have sittings. Most restaurants in France (near us) want to start shutting at that time.

They did have lots of customers. The place was heaving. So many people can't be wrong. Mind you that argument breaks down if you bring The Daily Mirror in the equation, but I digress.

Frankly, the menu choice scared me. They offered food from all over the far East and normally I'd run a mile from that kind of place. This is an oriental restaurant in the widest sense. With influences from China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, how could they possibly get it right? But they did. It was good, very good, the best I'd had in a long time.

OK, back to choice. I chose an New World unoaked Chardonnay, which turned out to be from South Africa. It was good, the cheapest on the list and compared favourably with something I might try at home. But here's the difference, when have you ever seen a South African wine in a French restaurant?

Some would say, 'why should you,' but I like choice mes braves and I object to being told where my wine should come from. I like to make up my own mind about some things so don't give me that Liberté shit.

Go to Orchid, you'll like it. Head Chef Poon held a Michelin star for eight years at the Dorchester in London.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Now that's a good deal

After receiving a text message containing a list of yet more bloody things to buy, day two of my very expensive shopping trip beckoned (Er, shouldn't that be a quick trip to see your elderly mother? - Ed).

The Vatican is bound to put me on a fast track to sainthood when they get wind of all this.

Anyway, it was off to down-town Harrogate this morning. Harrogate, where there are more BMWs per square inch (except Munich) and more yummy mummies per square inch than anywhere in Italy. Excellent.

Shopping over, it was over to Leeds this afternoon to take my mother to her hairdresser. That now makes me the most expensive taxi service ever! But of course I was pleased to do it, instead of putting my feet up, reading the paper and relaxing at home.

Anyway, having weighed and boxed up all the shopping it came to 8 Kilos. Now carrying that lot with Ryanair, at £15 a kilo would have come to £120, not the cheapest way of buying Marmite you may think. But I rang my newest best friends at
Parcels Please and for the ridiculous sum of £11.75 I arranged to have it picked up from mum's house and delivered to France, door to door. Good value eh, considering that it costs £11 to send 2 kilos by Royal Mail?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Saint Alex

So you wait all winter for the weather to change, and it does.

As you arrive at Girona it's sunny and a very pleasant 16C, and all is right with the world (except that I won't have time for lunch).

That is until you get to Leeds, two hours later, where there is snow on the ground and the temperature is 3C. If that isn't bad enough, after sitting on a plane for two hours and getting a very numb bum, I then have to head off to a supermarket to start on the long list of goodies (Jan calls them essentials) that I have been charged with obtaining by her indoors.

Great! But I must admit I put one or two extra goodies in the cart for me to stuff my face with over the next couple of days, just in case my mother forgets to spoil me. Well, there has to be some reward for my selfless good works!

Talking about rewards, I really pissed my mum off when I told her that I'd have to watch a very important football match tonight.

Why don't any of the women in my life like football?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


At last some small signs that the weather is getting warmer. This has been the wettest, coldest and most miserable winter since we've been here, so roll on spring (which is just around the corner!).

Still in my Apple knocking mood, I noticed yesterday they they are now into the business of censorship. It would appear that some harmless, mildly amusing, tit wobbling apps are way too smutty for us, and the gods at Apple, and they have withdrawn them. Make up your own mind
here. Ridiculous.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What exactly don't you understand?

Ha ha. It was Saturday, so it must be Sommieres and the market.

That also means a wee drink. It was an excellent table, so it turned into a 'big drink.'
Full of 'bonhomie', despite talking to people like Bryan, Peter, and Geoff, it was a good laugh. Especially when Geoff started to talk about his past life and his experiences with with 'the boys' in sarf London.

God, I thought that I was well connected. Still, we shared a mutual love of Italian food and things Italian, so that was alright then.

Talking about people who 'don't understand' (we weren't -Ed) and following recent articles about jurors who can't follow a judges' directions, I thought that this was funny. And to think that these people could send you away for 20 years or more. Scary.

They should come to the market in Sommieres, we'd sort them out!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tiger Woods

What a shambles the Tiger Woods 'apology' was yesterday.

Why does he feel the need to apologise to 'the world'? He's done me no harm. He hasn't changed the way that I behave or feel.

'Man has a series of affairs', big deal. Some (like you -Ed) might be jealous.

If you start to think about it in those terms then it makes his ridiculous, robotic 'apology' look nothing more than the money grabbing exercise it was. Basically he was saying 'sorry' to his sponsors, who were there in number in his personal audience, and indirectly trying to keep the money rolling in.

What a pathetic, disgraceful attempt at media and public manipulation.

Until that point I admired his sporting ability and basically felt sorry for him, given that his marital problems got such a public airing.

Now I think he's a tosser and I'd go out of my way not to purchase his endorsed products.

It was a PR disaster. Idiot

Friday, February 19, 2010

Powerful stuff

Thanks to Will for this. I must admit I shed a tear.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bank service

Just to continue my observations about customer service in France. I deposited money (cash) with my local branch of Credit Agricole at 16.00 on Wednesday 17th February.

Over 24 hours later, at 19.00 on Thursday 18th, it had still not been credited to my account. Is this is what a mandatory 35 hour working week does for you? Incredible

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I know I'm a late convert to Twitter (because I never really saw the point) but here's my first post cos I know you are waiting with baited breath.

"Woke up, belched and scratched my arse. Lovely. Got up and showered later. Running out of characters, gotta go, more later......"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's worse than you thought

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sorry officer - I didn't realise

Grief, it's dark at 07.00. I can't remember the last time I got up that early. Accompanied by Jane (she of Tom Tom) and her dulcet tones, it was off to Béziers airport this morning to meet friends.

Talking of Tom Tom, ever since we have lived in France the section of the A9 motorway around Montpellier has been restricted to 110 Kph. I even wrote to TT a couple of years ago to tell them that their maps show it as 130 Kph and, to make matters worse, they show a speed camera or two advising of the lower speed limit. Anyway, today, eight years later the satnav showed the correct speed. Whilst I know that France lives a little behind the times and they don't really like change, in my mind, they were pushing it a bit with that one.

If you think that living in the south of France is all sunshine and roses then think again. The outside temperature was -6C for most of the journey and reached a tropical plus 1C on the way back. Baby it's cold outside!

The airport at Béziers, which serves quite a densely populated ex-pat English area, is quite cute (serves good coffee) and is closer to our village then Marseilles. That now makes five airports that are fairly close to us and that we would consider using when checking flight times and prices. Cool.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Call me stupid

Phew, that's better. I've had a problem getting full access to Blogger over the last few days and I've been trying to eliminate possible causes. Call me stupid (any more stupid and you'd be watered twice a week - Ed) but when things don't run smoothly I get agitated and can't rest until things get fixed.

Anyway, this morning I'd had enough and called my new best friend, Keith. He had my problem sorted in no time at all. I met Keith a couple of weeks ago when I purchased a caching proxy server from him.

I'm generally intrigued with things technical and having seen his
site here, I decided to get one.

If, like me, you suffer with a poor download speed (I'm paying for 1MB but don't always get that) then I would certainly consider
this appliance.

In layman's terms, what it does is hold in its cache (store) a lot of the information that you would normally download from a website, thereby avoiding the need to download the information again and thereby speeding up the process. It doesn't improve the internet speed because that's down to good old creaky France Telecom/Orange but it does improve things considerably at your end.

I hope you're paying attention!

It does other smart things as well but, from my simple perspective, it works. It makes my browsing experience much faster. With a speed of 2Mb+ I doubt that you would notice a difference but I could be wrong.

Contact him, it worked for me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


This is a test post. I'm having problems with Blogger at the moment. I don't seem able to connect or post as normal.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Sarkozy - is he talented or what?

A bit of fun, thanks to Peter.

Monday, February 08, 2010


You may have noticed that I've had the odd pop a 'customer service' here in France. Well this article tends to agree and also attempts to explain why. It doesn't stop me thinking that 'French service' needs a big kick up the arse.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Thanks to CW for this.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Well blow me down

We were lying in bed watching the news this morning when a sports presenter mentioned that the next England (football) game is to be against Egypt.

I mumbled sarcastically 'that'll be a real test of their skill then.'

My beloved, who isn't really interested in football, preferring rugby instead, said, 'but they've just won the Africa Cup of Nations for a record breaking seven times. It shouldn't be a walk over.'

Well, I'm not usually short of words, but you could have knocked me over with a feather.

I suggested that we should celebrate that knowledge, in the usual fashion, but she wasn't having any of it! Bugger.

Still, there's lots of rugby and football on television this weekend so that's something to look forward to.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Something for nothing

I came across this source of cartoons by reading A Taste of Garlic.

They're not only funny but also free which is an unusual commodity these days. Thanks to Keith and Dave.

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Pause for thought

An interesting article. Not everyone's cup of tea but interesting nevertheless.

iFatigue 3

And another thing. (Very funny - X rated. Not suitable for Apple fan-boys.)