Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kate and Wills

This, made us both laugh out loud. May they have a good life together.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The final delivery

OK, that's it. We took delivery of the final three containers of stuff from France today and we just managed to squeeze it all in.
I have to admit that all the house clearance that we've done over the last few weeks was done knowing that a load more was arriving and we were both worrying about where it was all going to go. Mind you, as I said to Jan, 'we've lived without this stuff for over six months now, so there has to be a strong argument that we should dispose of it all.' I feel an argument coming on.
By way of a little surprise, when rooting through some of the boxes, I discovered that we have three power drills. As I only use one drill, albeit very intermittently, I suspect that two will be out of the door sooner rather than later. The downside of my drills arriving is that I now can't put off all those little jobs that need doing. Damn.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ferrets to France

Will, who was intrigued by the title of this blog, sent me this link.
Can you believe that there's a forum dedicated to ferrets and even a discussion on taking them to France. So funny.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I need to tell you something

I know I spend a lot (too much) time sitting at the computer, fiddling, but when Jan put the attached notice on the door handle to the study I know she was trying to tell me something.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Too much cardboard

Recycling in France is a bit more sophisticated than it is here.
Recycling became part of our daily routine and the amount of rubbish that we actually 'threw away' was quite small.
What is very noticeable here is the amount of packaging that we seem to collect for which there is no recycling means of disposal, other than driving it down to our local recycling centre which sort of loses the point when you consider all the small individual journeys and petrol costs.
Added to that we have lots of packaging to dispose of from the move.
Anyway, I still haven't figured out what to do with all our different bits yet but, needless to say, the household font of all knowledge already has it all figured out.
'Are we recycling cardboard,' I whined the other day.
'No,' said the oracle, 'it goes out with the rubbish.' then she said the most erudite and philosophical thing I've heard in a long time.
'There's a lot of cardboard in life,' she said.
Could become an official muse our Jan.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Give the man a drink

This is fun. Not only is it an exciting end to a game of basketball but you've got to laugh at the commentator who nearly has a heart attack with all the excitement.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Good news

There aren't many blogs that I read regularly, because there aren't that many that are genuinely interesting or funny and so often folks don't write stuff for weeks, months and that's very off-putting.
With that in mind I was really fed up the other day when Craig decided to stop. Jan was too.
He has now changed his mind which has made my day. The old lucky penny is still working eh? Thanks Craig.

The dentist

Having now been to the doctor and started all the palaver that goes with it, we've both now got visits to the dentist coming up. By sheer coincidence Jan received this yesterday and even though I've seen it before it still made me laugh.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A trip to Wensleydale

We've been here about two weeks now and I can't stop looking at the time (on television news) and asking myself, 'I know it says 08.30 so it must be 09.30, or is it?' I realise it's a sign of old age, but irritating nonetheless.

It was a beautiful, warm and sunny spring morning so off we went up to the Wensleydale Cheese factory in Hawes.
Jan oohed and aahed all the way as we drove through picturesque villages, Jervaulx Abbey, Middleham, Masham, Wensley and Bainbridge.
The factory bit of the cheese making process was fairly uninteresting especially as we had first seen a video of the process at the beginning of the tour. What was good however was the cheese tasting at the end.
I can't begin to describe all the different sorts of cheese they make but several stood out including a smoked one, one with ginger bits, one with apricots and one with chillies. In the interest of food research I had to keep trying and retrying them all, which made me feel kind of stuffed.
This meant that I struggled with lunch at The White Bear in Masham on the way back. I thought I did rather well and just kept struggling. We didn't have time on this trip, because we had to get to Bedale to pick up the Jeep, but we'll fit in a trip to The Theakston Brewery soon.

The MOT check in England would appear to be bit tougher than the CT in France. It only just passed but as soon as I get the certificate of conformity from Chrysler (now Fiat) France, I can get it registered. Making progress.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A real treat

What a good night we had, last night.
One of the things we missed, or at least thought we missed, when we were in France, was the theatre. Our French was nowhere near good enough to enjoy French theatre and the longing about not being able to do something naturally makes the missed opportunity more desirable and 'longed for.'
The truth is that we only went to the theatre infrequently when we lived near London. Even in those days prices were becoming extortionate and, more to the point, a seat at a more reasonable price was at best uncomfortable and at worst painful.
To my mind the London theatre going public were/are getting ripped off big time. The seats 'in the gods' were designed for either midgets or seriously deformed people and if you weren't deformed before you went in you sure as hell were deformed after. That and the need for oxygen and counselling for vertigo, made it all together an unpleasant experience no matter how good the show.
The only way to go to a London theatre was to extend your mortgage and treat yourself to the private wing, in the stalls. Fine for tourist visits or expense accounts but not too good for regular folk.
On the other hand Harrogate theatre is lovely, as befits a theatre in gentile Harrogate and many miles from London.
Now, I don't do a lot of culture. I'm not a philistine but I can get culture fatigue just reading the Sunday papers. Two hours max at an art gallery does me and, the more artistic of the two of us Jan, feels pretty much the same. So with that in mind we booked something not too strenuous as our first foray into theatre-land.
Mark Steel was excellent. Very, very funny. He did a two and half hour stand up routine, with non stop laughs, in excellent seats in the circle for £15 each. We spent a lot more than that for the curry after the show. A very clever and very funny performance. Excellent.

Now a plug for the Indian restaurant that followed.
For all the good things that anyone can say about France one common moan from all ex-pats is the lack of  decent ethnic food. Frankly, even when you could find one, Indian and Chinese restaurants are, and I suspect always will be, crap. The French are not good at different cuisine. Theirs is the best, full stop, no arguments. They're not a nation open to a foreign culinary change or challenge.
Last night was a good example of how ethnic food has evolved and changed in England and in a very positive way.
I know it was eleven o'clock at night so I wasn't really surprised when we were turned away from a Thai restaurant that we'd spotted on the drive in but we'd passed a half decent looking curry house whilst walking to the Thai so decided to give that a go instead.
What a treat. What a find. Such great new and unusual food. I remember visiting Shabab in Leeds many, many years ago and, since we've been away, they've opened one in Harrogate.
As Jan waxed lyrical about her starter she leant over and said 'this is a real find, we've got a new favourite.' We were served by an extremely pleasant young man who I suspect was connected to the owners. We chatted away and allowed him to chose for us. Wow, was he good. With one exception we had food that we'd never eaten before and that frankly blew us away. Recommended.
We'd got used to our favourites at our regular haunt in Windsor some years ago but in the relatively short time that we'd been in France, Indian cuisine has moved on a whole new level. The last time that we'd eaten this well was at The Red Fort in Soho during a quick trip to London (thanks Kevin).

The Salvation Army

I've always supported the Salvation Army. Not because of any religious convictions but because they are generally good people and they do lots of good works for the disadvantaged.
With that in mind, after our move to England, we had a lot of stuff to give away, mostly duvets, blankets and other textiles. The nearest Salvation Army  shop is in Thirsk so it was there that we went this morning.
It's a long time since I'd been to Thirsk, mainly because a journey up t'north has for a long time involved the A19 town bypass. What a quaint, pleasant place it is. Especially the market place. Jan, whose early memories of the north were Coronation Street and dark satanic mills, was oohing and aahing as we drove around.
'That were reet nice,' she said, as we headed back home, reet nice.'
I sense the woman is changing to a bonnie northern bairn.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Confused of Ripon

We made a special trip over to Harrogate yesterday afternoon to pick up some medicine for my mother and buy her any provisions that she needed.
'Hi mum, how are you?' I said as we walked in through the front door.
'You're not wearing those baggy jeans again are you? I hate them', she said.
'Can we deal with my question first?' I said, ' how are you, then we can deal with what I'm wearing.'
Jan, of course walks in gets an effusive hug and a kiss and pleasant conversation. I sometimes wonder whose mother she is.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Now for the lottery

I must admit that I was a bit worried. The Jeep that we brought with us from France needed new headlights to conform to UK regulations, so I tried the local main dealer and he told me that there were no headlights to be had anywhere in either the UK or Germany.
That was a bit of (OK a big) bombshell. Without headlights it couldn't be MOT'd, without an MOT it couldn't be insured and without insurance it couldn't be registered in England. Without it being registered I couldn't keep it in England.
I called the garage again yesterday but they weren't at all hopeful. All they could suggest was that I tried eBay or a breakers yard. Bugger.
A couple of minutes after the conversation I was searching on the internet. One place came back quickly with a zero but a couple of minutes later I got a call from a Chrysler breakers yard in Osbaldtwistle, Lancashire to ask when did I want them delivered? I was dumbfounded.
I think my lucky penny is still working for me. Did I mention my lucky penny? Some time back we met the Ripon Hornblower. What I didn't say was that he hands out 'lucky' wooden pennies. When Jan and I met him that cold and dark night he gave us one each. I didn't mention it because you might think that I'm an idiot (you got it in one - Ed) but ever since then I've had lots of good luck, well OK, less bad luck. Good eh?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A real northern lass

Peter has very kindly sent Jan a picture of a well dressed northern woman. Something for Jan to aspire to methinks. I'm just not sure about the stockings.

Thanks Peter, Jan will be pleased.

New tricks

Jan continues to be intrigued by a neighbour, the woman opposite, as do I. Jan, because the woman is extremely house proud and even brushes clean the street around her house and me because she is very attractive. Jan mentioned the sweeping and I replied by pointing out that cleaning was an old English custom and that cleaning the street was the modern northern equivalent of scrubbing the doorstep. Some habits are just very deeply ingrained.
In the short time that we've been here they have installed new street lighting opposite and this nice lady even swept up after the workmen even though I thought that they'd done a very quick, neat, clean and tidy job.
Jan, who isn't big on cleaning, is fascinated and, as her newest expression is 'Eee ecky thump,' she might just be becoming a true northern person.
She just needs to start sweeping the road around the house, finding a step to scrub and wearing curlers. I'll point her in the right direction.

Fancy a giggle

This made me laugh.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A birthday treat

It was off to Leeds this morning to buy a belated birthday present.
Jan likes shops (in case you hadn't noticed) and Leeds has lots and, as I hadn't been back for many years, we both looked forward to it.
I spent my secondary school years at a Jesuit college in Leeds, which has now ceased to be, and I also spent some time there with early jobs, so it was a trip down memory lane for me.
I used to know Leeds quite well so I was interested to see how it had changed.
First stop was lunch and, as Jan likes Japanese food, we popped into Fuji Hiro, at the side of the Merrion Centre on Wade Lane. It's a very basic Japanese café, a noodle bar, good value. It might be a birthday treat but there's no point in being stupid about it is there boys?
We then wandered around the town centre looking for Jo Malone, Jan's favourite perfume house of the moment. A nice shop to the side of Harvey Nicks, so you get the drift!
A lot of pounds lighter but definitely smelling a bit better we then headed home.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stupid or what?

It's been a long time since we had carpets. The French house was wall to wall floor tiles and we threw down the odd rug.
Chez Ripon is different, it's wall to wall carpet with the added inconvenience of a couple of dogs.
Whilst we were already mentally prepared for mess, the amount of dog hair and staining from muddy paws has already had a negative effect. We now have wall to wall paw prints.
You'll never guess what we've ended up doing. We put carpet on the carpet to protect the carpet.
I'm still trying to get my head around the stupidity of it all but there you go.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What, no post office

When you just have to send a letter! This is a cool idea.

Ripon market (again)

There I was waxing lyrical about Ripon market, before we set out yesterday, only to find that there were exactly three stalls open.
Admittedly it was blowing a gale, a real hooley, so I suppose that's a bit of an excuse.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ripon market

I really miss the market in Sommieres. Not just for the kebabs, with my mate Bryan, but because it's an authentic French market stuffed full of French folk with the odd foreigner (some very odd) and some good quality stalls. Not cheap though.
I much preferred Sommieres to Uzès market. Not because Uzès wasn't a good market, it was, but because every second voice was a Priscilla or a Henry (with the statutory panama hat). Not only wasn't it French enough it was always heaving. Not much fun really.

S'funny how habits are difficult to shake off. I still look at the Languedoc Page Forum every day mostly because some of the posters there are funny and with a few insults (boy's stuff) flying around, it usually makes for an interesting diversion. Peter, who runs the page, became a friend over the years and I'll miss his very funny stories about his in-laws.
Still, before I break down in tears, we have our own miniature market here in Ripon every Thursday. It's very small with just one of each type of stall selling good stuff at reasonable prices and not a panama hat in sight, only flat caps and whippets. True Yorkshire grit.

Happy Birthday

It was Jan's birthday yesterday and, whilst we initially planned a trip to Leeds (there's lots of shops in Leeds), we decided to stay around Ripon and go for lunch to the Bruce Arms. This is our third visit and we have never been disappointed.

Monday, March 7, 2011

You've left it where?

I couldn't believe it.
I'm partial to a bit of chocolate. I think my doctor once said that's it's good for diabetes, or something like that, and ever since I've had the odd nibble.
So, last night, I started to hunt for some and eventually had to give up and ask the oracle because she knows everything and in particular where the chocolate is likely to be stored.
'Oh,' she said, 'you put me under so much pressure not to have too much to carry with us in the cars on the drive back that it was sent with the removal men.'
Can you believe that?
Then, to cap it all, I asked the same oracle what she'd done with my lifesaving medicine. The stuff that I have to take because I eat chocolate and she said,
'Er, I think that I've left it in the fridge in France. Sorry.'
Methinks that the oracle has an agenda here and I'm determined to find out what it is. I might even have to start doing some of this stuff myself.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The maid of the tea

The first change to our weekend routine will be to get the Sunday papers delivered and be able to read them in bed with a nice cup of tea. We might need to go the whole hog and get a Teasmade, if they still exist, but for the moment the tea's maid is me. (Don't you know anything, look here, they do exist -Ed).

Look, I know it's a small thing (it's about time someone told you - Ed) but one of the issues that we're constantly having to battle with is the (lack of) time difference. After eight and a half years of living one hour ahead, as it were, we had got so used to watching programmes an hour later than broadcast in the UK that we need to stop and think before deciding what we're doing. Thank god I've got Jan to tell me what to do (and when - Ed).

Two very different brains

I think I might have posted this before but I saw it again today and it made me laugh.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kim Jong il - you know he makes sense

I came across this site today. It has made me smile non-stop for ages, well OK the morning, well OK for several minutes.

First impressions

Yesterday it was sunny but cool. But enough of the weather forecast.

This far from a scientific survey but when we arrived the other day we needed to stock up on some provisions. A quick trip to Sainsburys ( it's nice to see a smile back on Jan's face) and we seemed to get an awful lot for our money. We'd felt for some time that grocery bills were quite high in France, which is pretty tough on the locals, when there aren't too many jobs and wages are generally lower.

This morning it hit me. I wouldn't be going to the market and slurping up the juices from a mouth tingling kebab with my mate Bryan. Strange not going to market and even stranger not grabbing a kebab. Who or what is going to fill that void? We shall see.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Journey

I had two minor concerns about the trip. The first was getting through pet passport control with the dogs and the second was getting through the toll booths at the Dartford Tunnel crossing.
With regards the first, my concern wasn't that it might be difficult, just that we had missed or misunderstood some essential part of the process and that the dogs wouldn't be allowed in. We hadn't and they were. There was one small moment when the machine that they give you to read the microchip couldn't locate Min's. but eventually I found it. I was worried for about 20 seconds. Sorted.
With regards the Dartford Tunnel, I knew that it's quite narrow when you drive through and as I was in the left-handed Jeep I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to open the door to go round to the machine to pay. As it happens a man had shown up to help some hapless motorist (like you - Ed) about two cars in front and he stayed there until I drew level. I then handed him the toll by stretching across through the passenger window. Sorted.
The other small issue that I hadn't considered was connecting to the internet when we arrived in Ripon. B T's info said that it would be straightforward but it wasn't and B T's help desk was hopeless, advising me that I had to employ a computer specialist. I know a bit about computers and I knew that it wasn't going to be a difficult issue. Who ya gonna call? The man who I have found to be an absolute star with these kinds of things is Keith Eckstein who very quickly established that all I had to do was change my default gateway IP address. Sorted. Thanks Keith. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Elvey Farm

This is one nice B&B. We chose it primarily because they take dogs. Like the dogs, I need a bit of pampering from time to time, but irrespective of that, it's a super place.
It's quite isolated with nice walks all around. The accommodation and general service are all top notch. If you are ever in deepest Kent then this is a pretty good place to stay.
The last leg beckons but it shouldn't take long. I guess around five hours.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Min takes chillin to a whole new level

The vet very kindly gave us some tranquilisers for the dogs, before we left Languedoc, with dosage instructions.
We decided to give them each half the maximum amount and see what happened. Frankly I’m not sure that it made the slightest bit of difference. Max, who’s the more hyper of the two, sat upright for several hours at the start of the journey, whilst Min, the more chilled, lay down straight away.
Anyway, this morning as we were leaving the hotel we put the same dosage for each of them in two lumps of cheese. Neither of them would eat but they always eat cheese and hiding pills in it is quite an effective way of giving medicine.
So there they were both sitting in the back of the car and I gave them the cheese. Max immediately spat his out, he won’t eat when he’s upset and sitting in the car is, for Max, a major upset.
Min, who eats anything without hesitation or question, immediately pounced on Max’s cheese and scoffed that as well.
We were about to have one very chilled dog. She was taking chillin' to a whole new level!
I envisaged that when we got to our next stop, Elvey Farm, we’d have to pour her out of the car. We’ll see.

I couldn’t stop laughing and of course Jan blamed me for incompetence.