Saturday, April 30, 2011

Help needed

The birds around here must be bloody starving. Is nobody else feeding them?
I quite like to watch birds in the garden and listen to bird song through the window so we bought a bird feeder and hung it from a tree in the garden.
Grief they get through the bird seed at a real rate of knots. We seem to be  filling the feeder every few days.
Will you tight arse Yorkshire folk help out a bit and buy some bloody seed. I can't afford to feed em all!

Friday, April 29, 2011

I want one

I woke early this morning full of boredom excitement at the forthcoming events. The news was pushed aside for more tedious coverage of the wedding.
The highlight for me so far has been the interview with Claire Jones the royal harpist to Prince Charles (yes you read that right).
She stood there at 07.25 in a strapless evening gown, plugging the shops and jewellers that had lent her her outfit and she won't actually do anything until some time this afternoon.
It was a seminal moment for me because in a blinding flash of light I realised that I wanted my own harpist. In fact I think that every family should have one.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A good day

After dropping our visitors at Leeds Bradford Airport this morning we headed over to DVLA on the far side of Leeds to start the registration process for the two cars.
I must admit that I was getting a bit stressed about all the paperwork, what with finding all the information in different places and not being totally happy that I'd filled out the forms correctly.
I'd spent ages trying to find an engine number for the Jeep and even woke at 05.00 this morning thinking of new places that I could look. The support sheet said 'get it from the vehicle' so that was a clue but where. All I could find was the VIN (vehicle identification number for them as don't know) so I was getting pissed off. Finally I called Jeep this morning at 08.00 just before leaving for Leeds to be told that there isn't one.
Every engine has one said the expert at DVLA and whilst I secretly agreed with him I suggested that he fight this battle with Jeep because I'd done as much as I could and frankly couldn't be bothered to look any further. He muttered something and went away.
He never asked for the information again and the very nice lady gave me the new (the old) registration number for the Golf and it turned out that we have to wait for the registration number for the Jeep.
I've got to say that I left the place feeling quite elated.
Good guys  1 - DVLA 0.
In fact I felt so good that as soon as I got home I started on the form to change our driving licence back to UK ones and found that the form was even easier and at no cost.
Good guys 2 - DVLA 0.
Form filling and admin generally has historically never been a problem for me but maybe I'm just a bit scarred from our time in France and that's almost certainly down to a language issue.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bank Holiday

I can't get over the fact that all (most) shops are open today.
When deciding what to do earlier in their trip I'd said that as the shops would be shut on Monday it would be best to take a drive in the country.
It appears that I was wrong (you have no idea how hard it is to write that). 
Coming from France where any excuse is taken to shut up for the day, this has come as a bit of an eye opener.
To me it makes sense. If I'm a shopkeeper then the best time to be open is when lots of people are at home kicking their heels. Mum wants to get dad out with her to 'share the experience', Dads go to the shops to keep their wives happy and the kids can get Dad to buy something to stuff into their angelic little faces.
Everyone wins, including the shopkeeper. Admittedly he would prefer to be home rather than at work but if he has to be at the shops he might as well be earning some money. Seems simple to me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I gave Jan her own personal guide to the royal wedding this morning.
OK, she might be a republican and it was a freebie from yesterday's paper, but there was no reason to throw it back at me.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The rise of feminism in Afghanistan

Barbara Walters once did research on gender differences in Kabul well before the Afghan conflict and she noted that women customarily walked three paces behind their husband.
Several years later she returned to the country and despite the Taliban having left Kabul she noted the same behaviour.
Fascinated she approached one such group and asked them why they continued this custom. Without batting an eyelid they turned to her and said, 'Land mines.'

Thank you will do

So we're sitting at the breakfast table and I passed something to Paloma (10 years old) who said nothing.
Her mother admonished her and reminded her to say 'thank you' in English.
Without missing a beat, deadly seriously,  Paloma said, in French, "I didn't want to mix up 'thank you' with 'fuck you,' so I didn't say anything."
Isn't that sweet?

Friday, April 22, 2011

You're wearing what?

If you are religious I suggest that you don't read the following you might not like it.
If, like me, you are an atheist then click here.


Neither Jan nor I had been to York for a long time and we felt that a trip to York would interest our visitors. I did however go one better by inviting our next door neighbour's daughter who has hit it off with our young visitor. Little short of a stroke of genius if you ask me.
Anyway, first stop was the Park and Ride on the outskirts which makes getting in and out of York a breeze. The bus stopped near the Minster which was a good place to start but with heavy organ music and the choir belting out some 'cool favourites' (not that you would know - Ed) and the longest procession of clerics I have ever seen, headed by the Archbishop of York (seen chillin above), we knew it wasn't going to be easy to get in and gawp. So, after a quick snackette of M&S sandwiches we headed over to the Yorvik exhibition via the Shambles.

With the culture bit out of the way we let the girls let off steam and have a go on some trampolines, hitched up to bungee cords, which they enjoyed and then headed over to Bettys in Stonegate, the only place for miles for a decent and very civilized, refreshing cup of tea. God, I sound old.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Teach the United Nations how to do it?

Christine and her daughter Paloma flew in from Montpellier yesterday. Our first French visitors. Real 'French' as opposed to 'from France', if you get my drift.
One concern that I had when thinking about this trip was entertaining Paloma who is 11 years old. We would need to make the days interesting with the right balance between doing 'boring' things and something that would interest a girl of her age.
What a waste of my brain that was. Within 20 minutes Paloma had made friends with the girl next door who is the same age and despite neither speaking the other's language they played together until nightfall.
Who needs the United (useless) Nations?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The move to change to AV

There's some very poor coverage of the issues over the proposed new voting system. Some would see it as a much fairer system but I don't necessarily agree.
There is little information or discussion about some fundamental issues.
First, there is no compunction to make more than one vote. You do not have to show your preferences in order.
Second, bearing in mind that the UK is basically a three party state, is anyone who traditionally votes left, or right, suddenly going to think I'll vote for the other side. I don't think so.
The only party that can hope to gain is the Lib Dems because, despite being a left wing party, their politics are a lot more fuzzy than the either the Conservatives or Labour. Faced with a list of three choices, because that's basically what you've got (I discount all the fringe parties because no one is ever going to vote for them in any number) a Conservative might vote for a Lib Dem but never for Labour and the same applies to a Labour voter who would never vote for a Conservative but again might vote for a Lib Dem.
In practice we will all place one vote, like before, and nothing will change. So I would argue, why change?
This is the best article that I have read so far.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Beer and mystery

It was off to Masham to visit the Theakston Brewery yesterday morning. This was a trip for the adults with a trip for the young ones booked in the afternoon. I've never been a big lover of Theakston beer so this was an opportunity to try some different brews and find one I like. Lots of the pubs around here are either Theakston or Black Sheep and whilst we rarely go to the pub it would be useful to know which beers made the mark.
After lunch at the King's Head in Masham we headed towards The Forbidden Corner near Leyburn as a treat for the children. We'd never been before and were relying on word of mouth recommendation. It was good and very different, a strange sort of fantasy land with lots of unusual bits, although the 7 years old had a bit of a strop and didn't really enjoy it.
Just in case we hadn't had enough food for the day, at dinner time, we headed down the road to the Wetherby Whaler to let the southern poofters taste real fish and chips cooked in artery blocking beef dripping and not some healthy, tasteless, groundnut oil rubbish. Job done.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fountains Abbey

After a lunch of rib roast with all the trimmings it was off to Fountains Abbey which is about 10 minutes from home.
What a wonderful, peaceful place. Them there Cistercians knew how to pick a spot.
Josh, (Jan's third child) a history teacher, managed to keep the girls amused with lots of historical background.
I took a few snaps. See if you can spot the old ruin.


We have a house full this weekend with two of Jan's children and their families, as a bit of a dry run for visitors from France later next week. The weather's good and the dogs are getting lots of attention from two adoring children, so all is right with the world.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Good news and bad

'S' came round to the house yesterday. He does lots of odd jobs for folks and he's a very kind and Christian man.
For instance, after it snows and without being asked, he visits several elderly folks in his neighbourhood and clears the snow to make a safe footpath. One of the people he helps is my mother. How kind is that?
He's a joiner by trade but he can turn his hand to most things and we (Jan) had lots of things for him to do, mostly associated with storage.
We're still trying to get '5 into 4', so optimizing storage space is essential and we haven't even started on the garage and garden shed yet. Both are packed to the gunnels with boxes and we can't start to empty boxes until we have somewhere to put stuff. It's proving to be an exercise in creative thinking.

The long arm of French bureaucracy continues to haunt me. I noticed a  withdrawal from our French bank account yesterday. It was a payment for our mutuelle insurance so I got onto the broker to ask what was happening. This despite already notifying him that we had moved and that he should cancel all insurances.
'Ah,' he said, 'I need a formal letter from you asking me to cancel the insurance together with proof that you have sold the house.' He knows all this stuff because I've already told him and now I have to prove that I'm telling the truth! I know it must be something to do with age but I find this sort of pedantic behaviour more and more irritating. Rules is rules mes braves.

At the time of writing we still have outstanding several issues from our stay in France.
1 We still haven't been able to cancel Jan's phone contract with SFR.
2 We still await the Certificate of Conformity from Chrysler France (without it I can't register the car in England).
3 We still haven't received reimbursement from two French savings accounts, and no doubt other things that I haven't thought of and have yet to bite me in the bum. I don't really mind administrative stuff but when obstacles are put in your way and companies don't listen or respond it really pisses me off.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


This might sound strange but I'm glad it's the Japanese dealing with the problems at the Fukushima nuclear power station and not the French, or English come to that. The thought of some Frenchman giving the Gallic shrug as he decides to stop saving the world and then tucking his bib in at 12.00 for his two hour lunch sends shivers down my back. I wonder if a French attempt to save the world would be hampered by the 35 hour week?
I couldn't believe it when I heard that the Japanese have got a kamikaze squad who are prepared to risk their lives and get in close to deal with things. How cool (or hot) is that? That's what you call above and beyond the call of duty.
Nipping it in the bud as it were (pun intended).
Added to that, if things go wrong, the boss is likely to have to top himself. Quite an incentive to get it right I'd have said.
I don't remember too many wankers bankers committing suicide after the recent banking fiasco and half the world is still paying for that.


Hit 'em where it hurts. This is funny.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The royal family

Peter found this, and I nicked it because I knew he wouldn't mind.


We brought our ancient Dyson with us from France in the knowledge that it needed an overhaul. Whilst it worked well on tiled floors (the vast majority) it didn't pick up on carpet, the tiny bit that we had.
We had it serviced in France but frankly they didn't do a good job and even accused us of picking up 'builders rubble' with it. As I did the majority of the hoovering and, despite looking hard in every corner, I never found any builder's rubble. Jan could be messy, as could the dogs, but not even I could accuse them of leaving 'builder's rubble' lying around. I'd go so far as to say that our house was bereft of builder's rubble. It was a rubble free zone and frankly I wasn't best pleased at their comment.
Anyway, I decided to give them (Dyson) one last chance and I phoned the Dyson service centre here in England. I had a lovely and very funny chat with a nice lady and she booked us an appointment with one of their service engineers. Did you know that they had their own men who made home visits?
Anyway, Simon turned up, took our machine to bits and started to rebuild it from scratch. Not only did he replace a whole raft of parts but he also ordered a new body because he'd spotted a crack that had in fact been there since we sent it away in France.
A fully reconditioned machine for the modest (in my opinion) outlay of £73. Now that's what I call customer service.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Portion control

The relative size between French and English women people is no myth. English women people are, on average, much bigger and,  in my opinion, it's down to two things.
Despite all the nutritional information that's bandied about, the English diet is much more reliant on fat (taste), and carbs (bulk). Loads of both.
The other factor is the size of portions. When we ate out in France we rarely felt too full after a meal and nor did we feel we were eating unhealthily, despite a paucity of vegetables. We never quite figured that one.
Here you can really struggle to finish the main course after you've eaten a starter and all the bad stuff tastes so good.
Take the other night. In our non-stop endeavours to find a decent local curry we ordered a takeaway. We each ordered a starter and main course. I felt the food was quite good, Jan less so, but the portions were enormous. All in all, over the next few days, we ate a total of six individual meals from an order of just two. It was great value, but if you were determined to finish what was initially delivered it would have been way over the flop top.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I need sunglasses

Look, it may be sunny and very warm in the south of France but it ain't that bad here.
What is funny here is the vast swathes of snow white flesh on show as the good folks of Yorkshire change into shorts and skinny tops as soon as the sun appears.
Frankly, it isn't that warm and not only is all the snow white flesh blinding, it's also not a very pretty sight but then I suspect that the good folks of Yorkshire probably couldn't give a toss what anyone thinks.
Vive la différence.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Max and Min

Looking at this picture today, which was taken shortly after Minnie came to our house in France, reminded me of how gentle and patient Max was with her when she was little (there's about two years in age between them).
Despite her own bed being right next to his (you can just see it to the right) she used to climb into his bed and he then found it difficult to settle down. Quite often he climbed out and slept on the floor, leaving her to it.
Not much has changed really. She still gets her own way. She still adores him and he pretty much lets her do what she wants.
Now what else does this remind me off?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A different kind of Lidl

On this basis, Jan should live forever. Mind you, I'm a bit partial to the old retail therapy myself. Even if it is popping to the supermarket for her indoors.
Talking about shopping, we popped into a Lidl in Knaresborough the other day, mainly to see what the difference is between an English one and a French one and, as Jan pointed out, I might still be in the market for a cheap crash helmet.
You could definitely see the similarity but in Knaresborough there was a distinct lack of centre aisles bulging with all the goodies that you never knew you needed and a bit more fresh food. I think it's fair to say that in an English one you could do your weekly shop, not what we felt in France.
Don't get me wrong we liked the Lidl in Sommieres, it's just a bit different here.
Now if you stop yawning at the back I'll tell you more, but not until you stop. Do you hear me?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I knew there was a problem

We needed to get the headlamps changed on the Golf, get an MOT for it, as well as report an annoying noise from one of the wheels.
Sytner Harrogate VW just outside Knaresborough is very grand, very smart, all chrome and glass, full of lots of expensive cars. The sort of place an old scruff like me feels uncomfortable walking into (I keep telling you - Ed).
The showrooms and workshops were cleaner and smarter than our house and the staff are exemplary, friendly, knowledgeable and smart.
Anyway, after a few hours they phoned and reported some minor problems which needed fixing which was good and reported that the rear nearside wheel was hanging on with only one bolt.
WTF? Jan had driven the car from France like that, despite me reporting the same noise to a dealership in Nimes. The foreman was however quite reassuring because he said that we'd have spotted the problem as the wheel sailed passed us one day on the highway.
I did see the funny side.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


We have tried, unsuccessfully, three times now to cancel Jan's mobile contract with SFR.
Her first letter was in the same envelope as mine and, as they've cancelled my contract, they must have received it. It was just ignored. She has sent two further letters one from France and one from England.
This article came as no surprise. Even Vodafone have decided to get out of France, albeit that they walked away with a few billion squids and we're still stuck paying the poxy contract.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Keep up

Courtesy of Carolina an excellent sketch about new technology.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


My son, his wife and their little girl, Clara, my first blood granddaughter are staying with my mother at the moment and we are doing lots of family things.
Guess where she gets her good looks from?

Friday, April 1, 2011


Humour's a funny thing.
As part of Jan's ongoing campaign of trying to get a bit more culture into me we headed to Harrogate Theatre again last night.
We'd never heard of this guy, Count Arthur Strong, but the reviews were good and we thought that we'd give it a go. The audience, we'd noticed, were a bit older than last time we went so we were intrigued to see what would happen. When I say older you have to remember that this was Harrogate, where you have to prove that you're over 60 before they'll serve you a drink!
Anyway, CAS started his act and the audience around us were laughing there heads off. Jan and I looked at each other in puzzlement because we couldn't see anything funny at all. It's fair to say that we didn't laugh once in 45 minutes, so much so that we decided to leave at the interval.
It reminded me of the last act we'd seen, Mark Steel, he was making the audience laugh a lot and I noticed a chap at the end of our row who didn't laugh once. I kept checking and I don't think that either he or his partner laughed at all.
Funny thing humour.