Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Now what to watch?

We've just finished watching all 86 episodes of the Sopranos. What a fabulous series.

Throughout the winter I would light the fire around 17.00, put the shutters down and we'd settle to watch a programme. It was very self indulgent but so satisfying.

Having now watched both The Wire and The Sopranos (HBO)
this article showed up yesterday.

I know, I know, we're discussing TV programmes here and neither series will be to everyone's taste but we loved them and, after Hill Street Blues, the best programmes of their type that we've ever seen.

They make BBC output (and I'm a big fan of the BBC) look amateurish by comparison.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

As if proof was needed

Read this to allay your fears. I knew it all along!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Advice for the Pope

A simple way to stop child abuse by priests.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The French health service

The difference between the English and French health service was further highlighted yesterday. I now have Jan's horrible violent hacking cough, so I decided to visit the doctor.

'Sorry doc', I said, 'I realise that this is probably viral so not much can be done but can you give me anything to mitigate the cough?'

He checked me over and concurred that it was viral then proceeded to prescribe a whole bagful of medication. The most important of which was a mains powered nebuliser that I use twice a day to get a mix of stuff (cortisone) into my lungs to reduce the inflammation and stop me coughing. It worked immediately. Excellent.

The care and attention to detail is second to none.

If only the French could drive as well.

And, before you say it, I know that I'm looking younger!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pragmatic but stupid

The day the phone wires were stolen outside our village, I remember having a conversation with Bryan about the length of time that we would be without phone or Internet.

The conversation also covered how, with so few men on site, they could make a quick repair and that we were likely to be out of action for several days. I had however a sneaky suspicion as to how they would solve the problem, and I was right.

We were up and running within the day. Excellent.

What they did was lay a few hundred metres of new cable along the ground to bypass the problem and then made a connection, using cheap and cheerful connectors (photo), at either end.

If anyone wants several hundred metres of expensive, top quality cabling that just needs picking up off the ground, I can point them in the right direction.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

That feels better

This morning I pulled onto a road entering our neighbouring village, Crespian. In the far distance was an old Peugeot which eventually came screaming up behind me flashing its lights.

The car overtook me and pulled into the side of the road.

'Ah ha,' I said to myself, 'a driver who wants to discuss the merits of French driving. This should be fun.'

I pulled my car right alongside him (to stop him getting out and attacking me) and in my best Franglais asked him what his problem was. He was French and let out a stream of invective finishing by calling me a connard, at which point I knew that I'd won the argument.

Putting on my best 'look as if I was on day release from a lunatic asylum', I told him that he was wrong on three counts.

First it wasn't a Stop sign but Give-way, second this was a 50 Kph limit and that is exactly what I was doing and third, I wasn't French so I couldn't possibly be a connard.

The last bit did little to help Anglo French relations but the look on his face made me feel a whole lot better.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mixed emotions

A day of mixed emotions. When I dressed this morning I managed to get into jeans which are a size smaller than normal. This , after stuffing my face in England for a week. Yippee. The female in me said that I am losing weight through worry and stress and the male in me said that I am ill with an incurable cancer, or at the very least a man cold. We shall see.

The first thing I do each morning is check my email (to see who has written to you in the middle of the night, you idiot – Ed) and noted that we had no internet. This is a bit unusual but not impossible so I shrugged it off and left for Nimes to return yesterday’s broken television.

As I was leaving the village I noticed that the phone lines had been cut in several places and my first thought was that France Telecom were finally burying the cables and hadn’t done a very tidy job at removing the lines. Not unusual for workmen around here, but having said that, it did look very strange.

Anyway, Boulanger were very good, took a quick look at the television and offered an exchange. I deferred and bought a different make with a small price difference, all no problem.

On the way back I tried to call the house to let Jan know what had happened but could get no reply. This started to smell fishy so I popped round to the Mairie to tell them what I’d seen only to find a big note on the door to say that the phone lines had been stolen in the middle of the night (have you seen the price of copper?) and they would be fixed later in the day. Great, that means no phone and no internet until FT get round to reconnecting us all. Still, the TV worked fine when I got it home.

Around 17.00, FT had reconnected the village. Sometimes I can't help but feel it's a bit third world around here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

This really is for England darling

The things some people will do to get elected!

One step forward

It's funny how small things can irritate you and change the (simple) order of your life.

We have a television in the bedroom, no big deal, but we quite enjoy listening to the news first thing in the morning or late at night. Could we live without it? Of course we could, but watching the news in English stimulates the brain cell and keeps us up-to-date with what's happening in the world. Better (and easier - Ed) than French television.

Anyway, it stopped working recently so it was off to Boulanger this morning for a new TV. We snapped up a bargain and brought it back home. I fixed it up and it worked perfectly for about 15 minutes after which we lost the picture. Is that a record?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Belated St Patrick's Day Greetings

Thanks to Carolina.

Anagram London underground map

I'm sometimes accused of having too much time on my hands. Well, what about the person who put this together. Click for a bigger picture. Thanks Peter.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Well, maybe not

Given that he's just been fired, I gather the board didn't think it was a good idea!

A good service - Parcels Please

Further to this post about a cheap parcel service from the UK to France (doesn't work in reverse), the parcel arrived intact. It was picked up as arranged on Friday 26th February and had arrived in Nimes for delivery the following Wednesday. I'd say that's a pretty good service.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A little gratitude

During our recent trip to England we were standing around chatting (sorry, I can't remember the exact circumstances) when the subject of our non stop car journey came up.

Jan was talking to one of her feminist friends (the multi-tasking variety) and happened to mention that I drove the whole way because, 'he's nervous when I drive. You can tell from his white knuckles! Ha ha.'

Being a pathetic male, of the broad shoulders variety, I let it pass but mentioned quietly afterwards that, if on a long journey I'm tired, then she's likely to be tired as well. A bit of the old, pathetic, male, common sense coming to the fore there, mes braves.

Anyway, about half way through the fourteen hour journey back I remembered Jan's kind sentiments and, because I felt sleepy, I asked her to drive for a bit. She was less than enthusiastic but agreed.

Being a kindly soul and sensitive to my truelove's feelings I sat on my hands so that she couldn't see my knuckles.

An hour or so later later, whilst sitting on my hands and listening to the radio, I noticed that the car had drifted over the rumble strips, at the side of the road (meant to wake you up in case you fall asleep), and was heading at about 90 degrees off the motorway. Being unable to contain my excitement I turned to her and woke her up.

Now, when I first met Jan she took great pains to mention that only women could multi-task and that men were generally the inferior species. I suspect that she had been talking a little too much to her feminist friends because 'my dears' I can say with all honesty that driving and staying awake is not one of those multi-tasks.

Not only did I save her life which, in my book, is worth a load of brownie points, and should keep me in maid service for the rest of my life, but I suspect she'll never mention my nervousness at her driving again. I rest my case.

She never even said, 'thank you - Sir!'

Monday, March 15, 2010


The last few days have been really hectic with little or no time to update or even get internet access.

Back to last Thursday. At lunchtime, we met my daughter Cara in London. She has just returned from a six months tour of Africa and is now trying to settle back into some sort of 'normal' life.

Later that afternoon it was over to Chiselhurst to stay with Holly and AJ and eat dinner at Due Amici with the lovely Laurie and John. What great people. AJ was, as usual, in sparkling form. Just great hospitality.

Friday it was back over to Brighton for lunch with Rebecca after which Jan babysat whilst I took the train over to Eastbourne to have dinner with my old mate and coaching partner, Rob.

Saturday, Jan's son Luke came down from London and we exited en masse for lunch at the Ginger Pig. (I feel tired and bloated just writing this!)

Saturday night we tried to relax, pack and get psyched up for the journey back the next day.

Throughout all this, Jan has suffered with a hacking cough and cold and has been feeling very poorly. By the way I've now got the cold (man flu) so who's going to look after me - he said bitterly.

A few special mentions, in chronological order:

Thank you to Pauline and James for letting us use their house as a hotel and looking after us so well.

Welcome home (safe and sound) to Cara.

Holly and AJ, thank you for your very kind hospitality and for reminding us how nice Laurie and John are.

Rob it was great to see you again, thanks for the chat. Had forgotten how easy it is to sort out the world's problems.

Rebecca and Josh thank you for looking after Jan on her birthday.

Luke, thank you for travelling down to be with us all on Saturday.

I think that's it, and sorry if I've missed anyone out.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A mixed day

A visit today to the walk-in clinic in Brighton highlighted the difference between the English and French health service. Worried that Jan might have a chest infection we attended the clinic near the railway station. After an understandable wait of 1.5 hours we were seen by a nurse who pronounced that the infection was viral, Jan's chest was clear and, apart from the usual painkillers, there was little that could be done. No charge and thank you very much.

In France we'd have left with a prescription for a bagful of medicine. Still, Jan feels very rough and we had to cancel all remaining plans for the day. Notwithstanding that and keen to get into the fresh air we took a ride up to visit Constantin's grave and back to Brighton via Lewes.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Family duties.

Lots of running around with the grandchildren over the last couple of days, visiting their schools, which they seem to appreciate. I don't remember wanting my parents visiting my school when I was a bairn (that's because they'd have problems getting over the wall! - Ed) still if you can spread a little peace and happiness (and chocolate) that's what being a grandparent is all about.

Heard on the grapevine that the village had a 15 cms snow fall on Sunday night, amazing for this time of the year in Languedoc, and according to our neighbours picture above, it seems like we didn't get off lightly. Hope the dogs (in kennels) are not too pissed off, Hmmmm.

Last night James cooked a very interesting anchovies in tomato sauce with pasta (pasta con acciuge e pomodoro) out of Jamie's Italy cook book. Excellent. You wouldn't think that anchovies would go with pine nuts and raisins , but they do. It's a Sicilian dish and you can see the north African influence.

As it's Jan's birthday today, a group of us ate out at
The Giggling Squid. Good food made all the better because Jan's kids paid.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Hero or zero?

That was one long drive. Home to Brighton in one hit, a journey time of 14 hours. Normally we stay the night somewhere but macho man was under instructions, by the boss, to 'go for it'.

Altogether it was a clear run with snow flurries in the south of France but generally the roads were clear and dry. For the whole 1175 kilometres the temperature barely got over freezing.

The only time it got really uncomfortable was near journey's end. I started to sweat because the fuel was running low. The needle was well below the empty sign. Anyway we limped to a service area and filled up. Grief, the tank holds 76 litres and, guess what, I put 79 litres in. It must have been running on fumes. Having said that, getting 79 litres into a tank of 76 is my new record (78 was the previous record). Does that make me a hero (no, a prat - Ed)?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

C'est la vie

It's Saturday so we took Tom and Friedi over to the market for a bit of 'local culture'.

Talking about 'local culture', it's amazing how much easier it is to understand Peter, Bryan and Chris when you've got half a bottle of red inside you.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Move over

Not only are the local roads around here narrow but they are also bounded by deep ditches on either side and, when passing other vehicles (that rarely slow down), it's often quite difficult to judge whether or not you are on firm ground.

On my way out this morning I passed a big lorry, with trailer, that had slipped into a ditch. God knows what a lorry of that size was doing on such a small road.

On the way back, the same road was then fully blocked because they were transferring the load from the stricken vehicle in preparation for a huge crane to lift it out of the ditch.

You take your life in your hands when driving around here.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Something new to try

Ever since MP Stephen Milligan died when his 'game' went wrong, I've wondered about auto-erotic asphyxiation. This was the first time that I'd ever heard of it. Evidently Milligan was found with a plastic bag over his head and an orange in his mouth.

this article the other day raised my curiosity again. I was chatting to Jan about whether I should try it (cos I like fruit and particularly oranges) and would she help me?

My mind was finally made up when she said 'would you trust me to remove the plastic bag?'

Anyway I was reminded this morning by Robin that you can still have sex at 74 and, as I live at No 68, there wouldn't be far to walk home afterwards. Boom, boom.

Alex 'Gasper' Hampshire.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Getting answers

We saw blossom on the drive up from Barcelona on Sunday and we have finally seen some around here yesterday. Hallelujah, it's at least two weeks late. Still that's a sign that things are improving.

Talking about improving things, I recently wrote to the famous (but young) agony aunt Holly Harper under a pseudonym (Dirk) and she published
my question and her answer.

Hope this helps you.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Redressing the balance

Read this boys, there is a god!