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 ForĂȘt 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.