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


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


I'm still alive - honest.