Monday, January 31, 2011

A medical emergency

It was Sunday afternoon and Max had lost the bandage from his leg whilst out on a walk. He has quite a long stitched wound which is still raw in parts and it has to be kept covered for several days more. I knew what we needed to cover it and asked the resident medical person to bring me the necessary.
It transpired that we had a roll of stretch, self sticking tape but no gauze and nothing to hold the covering in place. Even though I say so myself, whilst I'm not too good with stuff like blood and babies being born, in an emergency I'm cool and objective.
I racked my brain. Where could I get what I needed? Bing - we had a small first aid kit in the car. It was bound to contain what we needed. I came back triumphantly. I'd rescued the day.
So what did it contain? I couldn't believe my eyes, there were no bandages, no gauze, just a handful of safety pins, a few plasters covered in Disney characters, some rehydration powder and enough Immodium to deal with an outbreak of dysentery over a hundred mile radius.
We might have limbs hanging by a thread and be bleeding to death but there was no way we would get the shits. Ever.
Added to that all the names and instructions for the medicine were written in Spanish. So useful for the next civil war but little else. Bugger.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Getting busy

There's a lot of pressure on us now with less than four weeks to go before we leave. Within that time we also have trips to the UK and Spain to squeeze in.
Ugh, why do we let things evolve this way?

One for the road

One thing we will definitely miss when we move back to England is the Saturday morning meet at Elie's bar in Sommieres.
Not only is it a very good market but we usually meet up with friends and chew the fat. Bryan and I had already decided that we were going to have a kebab so despite the fact that it was very cold and pissing down and most of the stalls had packed up and gone home a few of us hardy souls sat under the not so green outdoor heater and supped our vin chaud whilst sorting out the world's problems.
For once there was no problem getting a table because all the sensible people had decided to either give it a miss or go home early. In fact we were the only hardy souls sitting under the arches and, as a measure of thanks, Elie offered us all a drink on the house.
What he was actually saying was it's time to go folks and I want to pack your table and put it away so drink up and get lost. Still, who could resist the kind offer?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

That's a yellow son

Followers of English football might have a giggle over this.

Sort it out

Based on our own experiences, this article is spot on but it raises an interesting dilemma. When do you refuse drugs when they are prescribed for you and who are you, an 'unqualified person,' able to make such a decision?
There's no question that I walk away from the chemist once a month with a carrier bag full of medicines, but surely I have to trust my doctor to be making sensible decisions.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where have they gone?

So we were standing in the vets waiting to be attended to when we could hear a dog barking in the background. The barking started just as we were at the counter and the dog could hear us.
I said, 'It sounds like Max to me.
Jan said, 'No the bark is much higher than Max.
I said, 'Jan he's just had his nuts cut off. What do you expect?.'
Jan said, I wish they'd done you at the same time.

I was right, on both counts. Poor Max.

Nuts or no nuts. That is the question

You're supposed to have a lie in on your birthday but no such luck today. We had an early start to take Max (his birthday was yesterday) to the vet for a minor op. I suspect that vets are much cheaper here in France than England and as he has had a minor recurring problem on his leg we decided to get it fixed here.
Added to that, I remembered a conversation that we had some time ago with an elderly Australian vet. He said that he had castrated all his male dogs and that as a result they had no health problems in later years. The only dog he didn't neuter had problems.
So I will discuss this with the vet as well.

In a previous life you were entitled to a day off from the company on your birthday. I don't remember taking too many days off cos that was for wimps.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back home

We were having an excellent dinner at The Sportsman's Arms last night and I mentioned to mum that we'd seen the Ripon Hornblower and that he'd given us a 'lucky' wooden penny. I'd got one for her and gave it to her.
She was tickled pink, as you would be when someone gives you a small piece of wood, and was interested in the story that the ceremony had been enacted without break for over a thousand years.
Mum's reaction to this piece of news? "So it's not always the same man then?"

Anyway, when we left Ripon this morning it was cloudy, dark, damp and 6C. When we arrived in Carcassonne it was sunny but very cold with a biting wind and 2C. I don't suppose it's very often that it's warmer in Yorkshire than the south of France, assuming of course that Carcassonne qualifies as the south of France.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Ripon Hornblower

We met the hornblower last night. 
As we walked across the market square it was freezing cold and there was nobody about. It was cold and dark but there he was, George Pickles the Ripon Hornblower, by the obelisk in the market Square.
We were his sole audience and  we watched him blow his horn in four places around the obelisk and then doff his cap to the house on the corner. Intrigued, I asked him what he was doing. His explanation (click on the link for a full explanation) was that he was acknowledging the imposition set by the first mayor of Ripon in 1604. After we finished chatting he set off to find the current mayor (at home) and he would proclaim outside the mayor's house that the watch had been set.
This ceremony has been enacted without a break for 1100 years. Fascinating.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Getting there

Wow, Jan has done a great job and the house (in Ripon) is nearly ready to move into. When we finally move from France, because we will have the two dogs with us, we have to be able to move right in and now we can. That's one more little hurdle jumped. The biggest problem is the size of the new house. It's much smaller than the monster that we're used to and that will take some adapting to. There's no getting away from the fact that you get a lot more home for your money in France.
The other little hurdle was getting the house connected to broadband. As opposed to France, where everything has to be done in writing, in triplicate, I ordered the service on-line and we were connected yesterday. I was kept informed all the way by email and everything worked to plan with no hiccups. The good folks of England need to stop complaining and realise how good things are here. Mind you, I suppose it was the complaining that got it this way. Interesting.
Competition also plays a huge part, something that I feel is sadly lacking in France. People pay way over the odds for all kinds of things in France, including food, but more about that later.

Writing about a chicken jalfrezi the other day gave me a yearning and last night I had the yearning fulfilled. But - back to the curry. There are three curry houses in Ripon which will all need checking out. The Balti House, 16 Kirkgate, Ripon, is a dry restaurant which means you can take your own booze, which we did. Instead of paying £15 for a bottle of wine we headed to Booths and bought a decent bottle for £4. Excellent.
The other nice surprise was the bill. We both stuffed ourselves for the grand sum of £25. Double excellent.
One thing that has become apparent, after several trips to Ripon, is the size and price of foodstuffs. Take for instance a baguette sized beef sandwich from Booths, the meat cut freshly from the joint and loads of it stuffed into the bread all for the princely sum of £2.95. It is so big, so full of meat that we have to share one. Triple excellent.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A new discovery

The main idea behind setting out the day before for a distant early morning flight was to avoid having to get up too early. As I sit here typing at 02.56 what seemed like a good idea at the time is just a dim and distant memory.

I sort of knew it but greed took over. As a yoof, when I was learning about wine, and, more importantly trying to get my girlfriend drunk so that I could have my wicked way, I tried and liked wine from Corbieres. Carcassonne is Corbieres country so for me it was less about getting drunk, it was more a trip down memory lane.
Unfortunately as I have got older, if I drink a lot of wine with a meal instead of putting me into a soporific stupor it tends to make me wake in the night for the toilet and with a thirst. Bugger.
Still, one good thing came out of it. To quench my thirst I made myself a cup of Lipton's Lime Tilleul infusion. Apart from the plastic spoon melting in the boiling water, it was excellent.  
See, you knew that I could cook! Jan will be proud of me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Exchange rates

Waiting to check in, I was standing behind a little Asian lady at reception.
She was changing money and she was obviously quite agitated.
I heard her say, 'Why it change? Yestaday I get too hundra uros for yen, today I only geta huna eighty. Why it change?'
The receptionist shrugged her shoulders and said, 'Fluctuations.'
The little old lady said, 'And fluc you white people too.'

Not long now

As I left home today it was very sunny and 18C and it occurred to me that as I was heading for cooler climes this wasn't maybe the smartest thing to be doing. The other thing that occurred to me was that I had something in common with Gene Pitney.
He was 24 hours from Tulsa and I was 24 hours from Ripon. We were both legging it to see our loved ones but, whilst the temperature might be quite a bit cooler where I was going, I had the added advantage of being able to shove a chicken jalfrezi down my neck in the not too distant future. Something I'm sure that is in short supply in Tulsa.
So mes braves, Bon soir from Carcassonne. I'm on my way to Ripon via Carcassonne and Leeds to see my beloved and, more importantly, get a good feed.
I'm sick of eating cold food. I know, I know, I'm a lazy git but I just can't be bothered to cook. It isn't as if I don't know how, I just can't be arsed and no way will I compete with Jan. I'm a better driver and she's a better cook. Each to his own.
Anyway, back to Carcassonne. The nearest direct flight to Leeds is presently from Carcassonne and, as it's an early morning flight (10.15 is early to me), I set off this afternoon for the flight tomorrow.
Why get up at 05.00 and 'suffer' a 2+ hour drive when it can be done in a relaxed manner the previous day with no time pressure. And, as a bonus, I have the perfect excuse, as if one were needed, to have a slap up meal somewhere new and not have to put the dishes away.
Gene got his leg over on the way but I doubt that I'll be so lucky otherwise it's win, win, win.

I need my vitamins

So the conversation goes like this.

ME (in France): Hi love, how ya doin'?

JAN (in England): Fine, I'm getting on well. Do Max and Minnie miss me?

ME: Yes, they mention it all the time.

JAN: Don't be sarcastic.

ME: Talking about M&M, some bad news, they caught and killed a cat last night.

JAN: Oh no, oh no. (Jan likes puddy cats.)

ME: What exactly did you think they were going to do when they caught one?

JAN: Are they OK?

ME: Well Max was looking a bit funny at my leg last night but I don't think he's got the blood lust yet.

Bla, bla bla, twenty minutes later.

ME: OK, I'd better go now. I need to see what little delicacy I can rustle up for tonight's feast.

JAN: Give the dogs a kiss from me and tell them not to be naughty and that I love them.

ME (trying my hardest to sound sincere): Sure honey, will do.

Twenty minutes later I had to stop when I found myself telling the dogs that Jan didn't approve of their killing but that she loved them anyway.
See what a lack of nourishment does for you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A good plumber

As I write I'm waiting for the plumber. Why do we always have to wait for a plumber? It has to be the best profession for those who want a blue collar job. There are never enough good ones around.
My daughter Cara once told me that she was thinking of a plumbing career specialising as a female only plumbing service. I have to say that I encouraged her but eventually she developed a successful, desk bound, career in a very large software house.
Anyway, one strange feature of the otherwise lovely house that we are currently living in is that one of the upstairs toilets has been plumbed with hot water.
I know a good plumber here and based on what I have seen him investigate so far, it isn't going to be easy to change it over but I know he'll come up with a solution.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

We have got to do something

I must admit to being a little confused. There has been a move recently to call women that act, actors.

When I were a lad, when men were men and women weren't, a man was called an actor and a woman was called an actress. What has changed? Who authorised this change to the English language. I must have missed something.

When I start my new religion, (application forms will be available shortly), a religion that involves me receiving a lot of money and sex (and not necessarily in that order), I will set up a very influential department, headed by my mate Bryan, or anybody else who outbids him, to control the language and stop any unauthorised changes. A bit like the sterling work done by the Académie Francaise.

All and any changes to the English language will be approved by me and Bryan (know now and forever as the two immortals) who will sit in judgement and have the final say. There will be no more of this sloppy LOL business. Join me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

How to lose weight

With Jan in Ripon unpacking boxes and me on my ownsome in France looking after the dogs, you'd think I'd starve. Not so mes braves. I haven't actually yet cooked anything cos I'm not sure how to operate the cooker (all you've got to do is turn a knob you idiot - Ed) but what's wonderful is I eat what I want, when I want.

Last night for dinner, much to Jan's disgust on the phone, I had a piece of cheese and a fruit. I just wasn't hungry. Today however it was out for lunch with a friend, the first hot food since Tuesday. A low fat, low calorie, pot au feu, which was virtually tasteless. With a plate of boiled to death meat, veg and potatoes I'll lose a lot of weight. Excellent.

The bar at the market in Sommieres beckons tomorrow so I'll have a kebab (eat your heart out Peter H). That's my kind of hot food. Even more excellent.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A new national anthem

I can't remember what game it was but I do remember being recently embarrassed at the UK national anthem. I think it was a football match and they played the opposing team's anthem first. This anthem was bright and breezy and quite uplifting. They then played God save the Queen and I remember thinking that it was terrible. A slow, painful dirge.
Which got me to thinking about what would be better. When you add to this the need for all the team to sing and 'bond', I came up with the following.
The team wouldn't have to remember the words and could join in with the dance. Can you imagine this. It would be hilarious, be one in the eye for Johnny foreigner, totally incomprehensible to them and great fun. Take a look at this and imagine Wayne Rooney doing it.

If that doesn't rock your boat how about this next one? Remember it has to be something appropriate, that eleven grown men can perform and be uplifting for the thousands who have paid good money to see them getting humiliated in the game.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A question

Has anyone figured out what exactly he won't do?

What a bitch

We were in the pharmacy to get a prescription from the vet dispensed for one of the dogs. The prescription clearly showed that it was from a vet.
The woman behind the counter, who we had never seen before, looked at the prescription and said to Jan, "Is this for you?"
Jan turned to me and said, "I know I can be a bitch at times but that question is ridiculous."
We had a good giggle.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


There's a new programme on television called Zen. I like it, it's an expensive production, it's beautifully made and revolves around the beautiful people of Rome. You have to suspend a bit of belief but so far the plots haven't been too bad.
Prior to watching it the other night I said to Jan, who fancies Rupert Sewell the lead male, that I fancied the leading lady Caterina Murino. She turned and said, 'I don't mind as long as you don't dribble.'
Isn't that kind?

Monday, January 10, 2011

A problem solved

Ever wondered where the idea for the Lord of the Dance came from? Well look no further.

Thanks to Will for this.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A problem to solve

We don't use the Golf much. For large parts of the last few years it has sat in the garage for use as emergency transport with a monthly trip out to keep the battery charged.
Now normally one side of me would say that this is a good thing but yesterday the other side realised that there are complications with this.
The car finally needed a rear set of tyres so I used to order a new set and went to one of their fitters in Alès to change the tyres around and get the new tyres fitted. Everything went well until they tried to remove the last security bolt on one of the wheels. The wheels hadn't been removed for a long time and this bolt had jammed solid and, as a result of trying to remove it, the security key sheared. The bolt had to be removed by brute force which involved a combination of drilling, hammering and praying.
Needless to say the praying didn't work so the car is now stuck in a garage in Alès with a few people scratching their heads.

Friday, January 07, 2011


I've said it before, but I do like Nîmes. I just love the old quarter, the Maison Carré which has been beautifully cleaned, the arène and the shops.
We popped in this morning to get some goodies at the indoor market which reminded us how good the market actually is. At one point Jan asked a butcher for some veal escalopes which he cut perfectly and then beat out nice and thin. A true artisan.
Jan had already mentioned that she fancied a coffee so as we were heading to the coffee bars in the Cupole I noticed a chocolatier advertising all things chocolate. Deroy is a posh looking chocolate shop/bar and as we had recently both had excellent hot chocolate at Segafreddo in the Geant shopping mall, a hot chocolate sounded good. We sat and ordered two chocolates and a pain au chocolat for Jan.
'Sorry sir, we don't have hot chocolate or pain au chocolat,' said the nice lady behind the counter.
Somewhat perplexed I told her not to worry we'd have two grande crèmes and cake instead. 'Certainly sir,' she said and a short while later brought us two expressos.
Even after all this time I still shake my head in wonderment at customer service in France.

Thanks to A Taste of Garlic

I had no idea. None.

Until Keith over at A Taste of Garlic mentioned it this morning. Today is the sixth anniversary of this blog. Thank you Keith for your very kind words, they're much appreciated. It makes the lonely toil, messing with words in the wee small hours, really worthwhile.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The second goodbye

I went to get my prescription renewed this morning and, because she gives me one that lasts for three months (there's a joke there somewhere), I realised that I wouldn't see my doctor again before we leave for England.
Dr N has been very good to me and I feel she has taken good care of me.
Our experiences of the health service in France are second to none.
Thank you Marianne.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A seismic event

OK you smart asses. How come you're so quick to mention the earthquake in Ripon?

It's not the sort of earth moving event that I was hoping for, but there you go.

Free hugs in Italy

Turn up your sound. I found this surprisingly uplifting.

Monday, January 03, 2011


I first tasted a Nespresso coffee when we were down at B&P's in Barcelona. I was deeply suspicious being of the 'old school' when it comes to coffee. However, despite my reservations about not using a traditional coffee machine and ground coffee, I was very, very pleasantly surprised.
With this as a background Jan very kindly bought me a Nespresso machine for Christmas and we've been working our way through the sample coffees that came with it. We really liked three of the different coffees (one of which came from India) and all of which have an excellent creamy head.
Today was the day that we needed to place an order for more coffee. So far so good. Now rarely do I shout at the computer screen, I consider myself fairly long suffering, but today was different. In order to buy coffee you have to join their bloody 'club' and the club joining process was tortuous. They need to know exactly where the machine was bought, the exact model (of which there were many to choose from), the bloody serial number of the machine and then your choice of the various coffees which has to be purchased in multiples of 50.
Talk about grabbing you by the balls. I hate this type of merchandising. Listen you assholes, all I want to do is buy some bloody coffee. I'll let you know when I want to marry you.

French New Year

We both commented on how quiet it was during our outing on Saturday. Throughout the thirty minute journey we probably saw six cars. It was eerily quiet.

The French, like most, take New Year's Day as a holiday and, from our brief perspective given that it was normally market day, they seem to take it more seriously than any other holiday.

The only thing moving was a wee brown dog that seemed to be trotting along with purpose.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The first goodbye

I guess it had to start sooner rather than later.
P&M very kindly invited us for an excellent lunch yesterday and we then realised that because they are about to leave on an extended trip to the southern hemisphere we wouldn't see them again in the near future. That's so sad.
We have met some really nice people during our last eight years here (and one or two weirdos, but more about them later) and, even though we don't leave for another two months, this was the first of several heart wrenching 'goodbyes.' They are a lovely couple and we'll miss them, especially P's words of wisdom during our Saturday morning meetings at the bar in Sommieres market.

So now you know,  an American pop idol teenager is more influential than anyone else. Think about this before you post your new tweet.

Happy New Year.