Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cheese


I like both hard a soft cheese and you'd think that after several years of living in France I'd have eaten all the cheese there was and, frankly, had had enough of the stuff.
Amongst my favourites, when we were there, was a lovely creamy Brillat-Savarin which from experience has to be eaten 'young,' when it is fresh and creamy but it wasn't always available in the local Carrefour and this gave it an extra caché. I'm not sure you can get it here.
Anyway, apart from a lovely creamy Lancashire cheese that we've recently tried, we have found a new French cheese (or at least one that we've never tried before) at our local supermarket, Booths.
D√©lice de Bourgogne is similar to the Brillat-Savarin and equally as nice and  looking at the 'recipes' for the two cheeses the similarity is that the texture is creamy and that they add cream in the process.
You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The bum test



We're not great cinema goers but my social secretary decided that we should go to see a film the other night and she chose 'One Day.' She told me that we'd already heard the story as an audio book on one of our car journeys between England and France, but not to worry I'd enjoy it. I love it when she's masterful.
Anyway, we headed off to the Odeon in Harrogate where I used to go as a young child on Saturday mornings. My mother and father worked all day Saturday and rather than leave me 'home alone' to burn the house down I was given the funds for the Saturday morning kids club. Cartoons, Buck Rogers, Cisco Kid, Flash Gordon ('Flash, I love you and we've only fourteen hours to save the world' - one of the best film lines ever written) and all that good stuff.
I only mention this because I was astonished at how small the cinema foyer appeared and that as a small child everything looked so big.
But anyway back to the film, after about an hour I whispered that I couldn't remember any of it, was she sure that we'd 'read' it? 
'Shut up,' and watch the film I was told. So I did.
But then it started. I started to fidget. We'd booked into the premier seats because I like plenty of room and I take the view that if I fall asleep I want to sleep in comfort.
But, and this is the rub, if the film doesn't grab my attention then it will fail the bum test. I have a very sensitive bum and if I'm not engrossed in the film my bum will start to hurt and I will change cheeks frequently.
This film failed the bum test (2 stars out of 5) and if I were you and you wanted to know what all the hype's about I'd buy the book and save yourself a bunch of money.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

English but not as we know it



There has been quite a lot of discussion lately about words being added to, and dropped from, the Oxford English Dictionary. I'd been meaning to ask Jan for help for the meaning of one word but kept forgetting (such is my age). She who knows everything was bound to set me in the right direction.
The issue was a word that I kept coming across but frankly didn't know what it meant. The word is vajazzle (now highlighted as I write because it's not even recognised by my on-line dictionary).
Now, I'm not too proud to ask Jan anything, especially when it comes to matters female, as I'd worked out that this word referred in some way to female bits.
It might just be a symptom of my reading material but this was a word that needed investigating. And, before you start scoffing at me lads, do you know exactly what it means?
Anyway, Jan replied that she wasn't 100% sure but that she reckoned it had something to do with adding jewels 'down there.' This prompted me to Google it and it turns out the she was right.
How weird. What a strange thing to do.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bargains galore



I have always banged on about how uncompetitive shops are in France and how, frankly, the good folks of France pay way over the odds for all kinds of simple things.
As an example of how competitive things are in England, this is interesting.
I decided to unlock one of the myriad of obsolete phones we have in the house and use a cheap call company like Lebara to make calls at an upcoming wedding in France.
So off I popped to the market because I'd noticed a stall that sold phone accessories (nothing new there then) that would unlock phones as well. Mr Unlocker took one look and with the usual sucking in of air through the teeth told me that the phone was too old and he didn't have the software to do it.
Deflated but not beaten I approached the phone shop on the high street and asked them if they could unlock it.
'Sorry guv,' said the manager, 'can't do it, not allowed to, but I can sell you a brand new, unlocked phone with £10 of credit loaded for £20.'
WTF, I was prepared to spend £20 to get the original phone unlocked.
What a bargain.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

A dog that tells the time



We never fail to be amazed at how smart the dogs are, well Max rather than Min. She just tends to follow him.
At a couple of points throughout each evening they get a treat, a chew, and one of the treats is around nine o'clock.
Last night we were both engrossed in something and I noticed that Max had sidled up and had settled his head on Jan's lap a sign that he wanted something. I'm not sure why but I looked at the clock and sure enough it was nine o'clock.
How does he do that?
Some treats are triggered by our actions which I can understand but how does he tell the time? Spooky.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The best of Yarkshire



Whilst it has been pouring down in t'south, the weather here, in God's own country, has been glorious. So much so that we ventured out for a little drive up Nidderdale this morning but not before we explored another part of Fountains Abbey.
The traditional entrance to the Abbey involves quite a long walk, so, I was looking for something a little less strenuous, (what with Jan's war wound and all), and found a really spectacular approach in a different direction to normal.
Anyway, job done, it was then off to Pateley Bridge because after a delightful gift of Lancashire cheese from my new cheese supplier yesterday (thanks Ivan), I'd developed a yearning for a beef and onion pie from our award winning favourite pie shop.
"I've been dreaming about these pies," I said to the pie man.
"Things that bad?" said the pie man in his laconic Yorkshire drawl.
As I giggled I said to my beloved, "shall we eat the goodies down in the park?"
"Nah," she said, "let's go to the Sportsman Arms for lunch and have them this evening."
So we did.
All in all a very, very nice day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Triage



Given my advanced years and profound wide ranging knowledge, it wasn't until I took mum to A&E for something minor not too long ago, that I'd ever heard the word triage.
Now I find that if you want to make an urgent appointment at the doctor you also go through a phone version of it.
God, how things have changed in the few years we've been away.
Just in case you don't know, and please forgive me if you do, triage is, to quote the dictionary, 'the assessment of wounds or illness to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients.' I understand why its used in a hospital A&E Dept. but I was a bit surprised to see it in use at our local doctor's practice.
If you want an appointment that day, for man flu and the like, the receptionist will get a doctor to call you back who will go through your problem and then decide if you can have an urgent appointment. Actually, I quite like the idea. It would hopefully stop hypochondriacs cluttering up the surgery, or people with a bloody cold, when there might be more urgent cases, like man flu.
It's all a bit different to calling the doctor in France when it was more a case of 'when can you get here and can you bring a plastic bag for all the medicine I'm going to give you?'

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

That's alright then



I come across this sort of thing time after time nowadays, making me ask questions of myself.
A headline in today's Independent was 'Taylor Momsen quits acting.'
Who the hell knew she'd even started?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Is this better?

Whilst still licking my wounds after Jean's admonishments the other day, I hope she approves of today's little offering?  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I only arsked


I sometimes have great difficulty talking to Jan.
There I was, making idle conversation and all I said was,
"How are you getting on with your Vitamiracle rejuvenating body butter from the Champneys Collection? It contains a rich, non-greasy blend of vitamins, butters and natural extracts for softer, smoother, younger looking skin (probably a bit too much to ask there!)."
Well, if looks could kill. She just froze me out.
I'm gonna have to think of something else to start a bloody conversation. Bugger.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just a thought

I suppose a shag's out of the question?

Local riots

It's been an absolute nightmare around here, especially outside number 61.

Luciano

I caught Jan giggling this morning as she flipped through some old photos. I asked what was funny and she pointed to the photo below.
"Do you remember this?" she said.
"It took me years to get a bloke to walk out of my left ear," I said.
"Don't be stupid," she said, "It was your butch Italian phase, and as soon as I said you looked like Pavarotti you shaved the beard."
"Nah," I said, "it was when some bloke came up to me and asked me to sing Nessun Dorma that did it."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Now do you understand?

As usual, The Daily Mash hits the nail on the head. And again here and here.

Some things never change



I've been giggling all morning after I heard on the news this morning that Labour's Deputy Leader Ms Harman blamed the riots on the increase in tuition fees. She might find this useful.
This is the person (not allowed to call her a lady) who will run the country in the Labour leader's absence.
You have been warned.
Miliband, to his credit, immediately distanced himself from such a crass comment.
What we need is more of this.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Values

I don't normally do nostalgia, cos life moves on, but with all the crap going on around the country at the moment Ivan reminded me of a different set of values, so I've nicked this from him.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Just a little rant



I haven't had a rant for a while and this is a good one.
I have finally managed to cancel our house insurance, seven months after selling the house in France but I am still in the process of cancelling our 'mutuelle' insurance' five months after leaving France.
This all boils down to one thing, trust.
French bureaucracy automatically assumes that you are either an imbecile or a liar. You always have to prove that what you are saying is true! This extends from government through to commercial enterprises like insurance. I first came across this when I decided not to renew the insurance for the dogs. In the UK if you fail to pay your renewal premium your insurance is cancelled. Simple.
In France, unless you give two months notice in a prescribed format (a formal letter which has to be sent recorded delivery) of your intention to cancel, your insurance will continue and you will owe the following year's premium. They will not accept it any other way. It's the law!
They appear to go out of their way to make it difficult for you to cancel. With this in mind I alerted AXA France in November of last year of my intention to cancel all my insurances prior to leaving France but, in the case of the house insurance, because the insurance was only half way through its term I had to send official proof that the house had been sold from the notaire (solicitor). They can't take your word for it because you are presumed to be a liar.
I am still in the process of cancelling my health top up insurance. They seem to make it as difficult as possible for you to make any change and take premiums from you in the meantime.
For those not familiar with the French health system, this is (I believe) a mandatory insurance that covers the portion of medical costs that the state does not cover (approx 30 %).
OK, in order to cancel this insurance with AXA I need the piece of paper sent by CPAM (French Health Service) that states that I am no longer covered. That's the first joke.
The notion that CPAM, who are notoriously useless when it comes to doing anything practical or useful (and famous for losing documents), is nothing more than a fantasy and to receive a piece of paper from them to an address abroad is even more fantastical.
If you ever want to see the Gallic shrug just visit a French government office. French civil servants are notorious in their lack of compassion and go slow attitude. I say this from personal experience.
If I can't provide evidence from CPAM that I am no longer covered by them, I have to prove that I am covered by the NHS. That's because I'm assumed to be either lying or stupid or some combination of both.
Have you ever heard of anything more ridiculous and frustrating than this?
The story continues.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jesus makes you calm



Grief, back to reality, what a change. I feel like I've been beaten up by a myriad of 'good things'.
Whilst I enjoy driving the train journey back made me realise how much more relaxing it is over a long journey. I would normally still expect to be tired today but I'm not, so that's a result.
At £14 each for the return journey, Harrogate to London, that sort of cheers you up as well. We're going to do that again. What a bargain.


I'm not sure if you've ever been into a health food store but if you have, have you ever noticed how white, pasty and ill looking the customers are? The perfect customers really.
Talking about people who are a little out of touch with reality, there was a chap in Booths car park this morning who was very clearly a shit driver. Seriously bad at driving but seriously good at pissing all the other drivers off. The Christian message on the back of his car said, 'Jesus makes you calm,' which made me laugh.
What it should have said is, 'My driving is so shit it's going to seriously piss you off but have you ever considered that Jesus will make you calm?'
Anyway, there's so much doom and gloom in the news at the moment, you'll be pleased to know that all is well. The football season starts soon!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Holly and Alan

The whole purpose of the last few day in London was to attend what many guests thought was a birthday party. Our friend Holly's 50th birthday party, but it was in fact going to be a surprise wedding. Let me explain.
A whole bunch of people had been invited to a 'party' at Mosimanns in Belgravia.
Mosimanns, which is an exclusive private members dining club, as you may or may not know, catered the evening meal at Buckingham Palace after the marriage between Kate and Wills, (so you see I now have a royal connection).
The other surprising fact is that you can get married at Mosimanns, so Alan's idea was to propose to Holly during the 'party' and they would then get married.
I was given the honour of being 'best man', the whole thing worked like a treat and was such good fun. Only a handful of us were in on the secret and if I've been 'out of sorts' recently I must admit that I was a little nervous at having to give a speech to a group that included a very prominent former cabinet minister.
Anyway, as you would expect, the food was outstanding and another fabulous treat was that throughout the wedding, and the party after, we were entertained by 'Tenors Un Limited.' God they were good.
When the party entered 'the chapel' at the top of the building, for the wedding ceremony, as a total surprise, the tenors sang the duet from 'The Pearl Fishers.' This was hair on the back of your neck stuff.
Throughout the rest of the party, at various break points during the meal, they sang a mixture of opera and more recent fun songs. They were so, so good, so entertaining. What a very clever idea.
A fabulous, memorable day and a public heartfelt thanks to Alan and Holly.

My best friend Rupe



Wednesday evening, after aperos at the Ritz, (sorry Craig but this is how you do it), we headed off to Sheeky's for a fish supper (Jan calls it dinner).
Now, I'm not talking about a fish supper a la Wetherby Whaler here (as good as it is), but one of the best fish restaurants in London. Yummy.
As usual, Jan let me down by talking so loudly at the Ritz that she put the guy on the next table off his cream team (at seven in the evening - silly prat) but she behaved in an exemplary fashion at Sheekys that is until Rupert Everett sat at the next table to us.
Now, my friend AJ, who is not afraid of anything or anybody, asked Rupe (as we now know him) to join us for drinks, and he obliged. What a lovely man (eat your heart out Craig). Jan was in seventh heaven. Her hero, from 'My Best Friends Wedding,' chatted to her and kissed her hand. Needless to say she ignored me for the rest of the evening.
What's he got that I haven't got, apart from very good looks, a film star persona and a shed load of money?
Just don't see it myself.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Memory lane again, again


Over 50 years ago, when I were a little one, 11years old to be precise, I started taking the train from Harrogate to Leeds, to St Micks, my Jesuit secondary school (Read down the old boy list and you'll see three of my contemporaries, Tony Hart who got the train with us (now deceased), Paul Cavadino and Dave Prentis). They all went on to be leaders in their field. Er....not like me, who didn't.
None of your namby pamby cotton wool coddling of your kids here. It took me and a few more of my catholic mates (Steve, Tony, Richard and Neil) about an hour and half to get to school, choking all the way on diesel fumes. Still, we had fun terrorising the other hapless passengers throughout the journey, never mind copying our homework from anyone who had bothered to do it.
This morning Jan and I took the same train on our way to London for a party tomorrow.
I took advantage of the journey to help Jan with her elocution lessons. She will insist on saying Caastleforrd instead of Casulfud. Getting her to talk proper is taking longer than I thought but I'll persevere for her sake.
I'm writing this from The Mint in London. Well, not the Mint, cos I'm sure they wouldn't let me in, but a hotel of the same name in Westminster and jolly nice it is too.
I'm not sure what the poor people are doing tonight but we're off to the Ritz for drinky poos. I knew it would be useful getting Jan hosed down yesterday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dog washing

I feel somewhat embarrassed to say this, but we have never had the dogs washed. I had always felt that unless they washed naturally you should leave them to it.
Since we've been here both of them have been in the river nearby, Minnie as a matter of course and Max, who tends not to like water, now and then for a paddle.
By chance, we established that one of the kennels near us had imported an all singing and dancing dog washing machine that would deep clean the dogs in less than 10 minutes. The fact that it would be short meant that it would be a quick torture for Max so we decided to give it a go.
Grief, what a good job it did. Their black coats changed from black/grey to deep black and you could easily see their skin by parting the coat. Amazing.
I'm a convert and it only costs £10 for each dog.
Jan's next.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ramadan

We were discussing the murder of Syrian protesters by government troops this morning and the issue of Ramadan and how this all tied in to Muslim ethics.
What we agreed was that it was OK to shoot people dead during Ramadan but you couldn't eat a sandwich whilst doing it.