Thursday, September 29, 2011

Work dulls your senses

My strong advice to anybody who works is to stop. Give it up.
I'd forgotten what hard work entails, the ravages to your body but more importantly the ravages to your mind.
There I was ambling along without a care in the world and this work business reared its ugly head.
We get up at 06.15 which is the first shock to the system and leave the house at 07.20 which is the second shock and the morning progresses from there.
It does get a bit better however. Our first job is to let all the pooches out for their first stretch of the day and some, most of them, are so pleased to see you and make a big fuss (more than I get from Jan).
The second job is to feed them all, each with his own particular diet, in fact it's amazing how many different variations of food there are.
Almost no two dogs are the same but they all seem healthy and happy nonetheless. After a quick cup of tea, all the dogs are then continually exercised for the rest of the morning with other pooches arriving and some leaving.
It's a full on job with no time for rest or play other than to play with the dogs in the field which isn't really rest either.
We get home a lunchtime shattered and brain dead (even more than usual I presume - Ed). Thank goodness it's only occasional work.

Monday, September 26, 2011

You came from where?

Following a local television news item and, being partial to the odd curry, we decided to visit the World Curry Festival in Leeds.
Leeds is rather a long way to go for a curry so we were hoping for something a bit different. It wasn't, at least what we had wasn't as good as we can get locally. There were a couple of stalls that we would like to have tried but after stuffing our faces in an £8 all you can eat buffet we weren't up to it.
It was busy, there were lots of queues but we now have a better idea for next year.
We ate a sit down meal in one of the marquees and shared the table with a couple of guys who had travelled all the way from Cambridge, a hell of a journey, just to check it out. Amazing. Made our one hour trip pale into insignificance.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

There ain't nothing like a Dame...nothing

Watching an interview with Helen Mirren this morning made me realise that I hate the title Dame.
The male equivalent Sir is much more magisterial but Dame conjures up, however fleetingly, the image of an overdressed, over made-up pantomime figure with huge spotty drawers.
Sir, on the other hand, commands respect.
Now neither of these titles affects me (yet) but in case any of you have pretensions, and feel like I do, then we need to get started and get the title Dame changed.
In today's PC world a lady (if I'm still allowed to say that) should probably be called Sir as well (they're all called bloody actor n'est pas) but I'm fairly open minded.
Siree is good for me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Working in a chain gang

Yesterday was my first full day as a working person for quite some time. Came home shattered. Not much fun this working lark.

Still, I've got my love to keep me warm.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Being French

I can't get over what people wear around here. Or, should I say, how little they wear.
It was bright and sunny this morning, as it seems to be most mornings, and, whilst on a brief expedition into the garden to feed the dogs, I noticed the nice lady across the way sweeping her drive.
Neither Jan nor I, sluts that we are, have ever swept the drive. And even less have we ever swept the drive in a skimpy top. A top more suitable, in my humble opinion, for the beach.
It wasn't freezing but it sure as hell wasn't warm. It was on the blue side of cool which to my delicate nature verges on bloody cold. I had in fact recently just retrieved my Doc Martins and was thinking about getting some dubbin on them to protect my feet from the upcoming elements. This is definitely not flip flop weather.
It seems that the mores around here is to shed all your clothes at the merest sign of the sun and then, presumably because it was a good memory, keep the summer clothes on until someone points out that the white stuff lapping around your ankles is snow.
It would appear that we've become more French in our habits. We could never get over seeing the French walking around in hats and coats in 20c+ weather whilst us grockles were wearing flip flops and shorts. I think we've been brainwashed and become ever so slightly French.
Anyway, we popped over to Fountains Abbey at lunch time to meet friends who were visiting the area and, sure enough, there were more strange folk walking about in shorts and t-shirts whilst the sensible amongst us were wearing woolly hats and padded gilets.
The rest of the day was excellent with lunch at the Bruce Arms and then a visit to the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham marred only by getting soaked with an unexpected squall. Top day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Obstinate women

Reading this news piece about trying to get Vegemite into the US reminded me of the time that my family (including my mother) took a holiday in Hawaii. We flew via Denver, where we refuelled.
As this was the first port of call that's where we went through immigration formalities.
So, there we were standing in line and I checked with my wife and kids that they had nothing that was likely to be confiscated by Ag and Fish (or whatever they're called).
When I got to my mother, deep down inside I knew that I would have a problem. My mother was (and still is) an elderly Italian, from an era when you travelled with food. In her day there were no roadside snack bars or motorway service areas, you had to carry what you were likely to need to eat and drink.
'OK, what have you got Ma', I said?
She looked a bit sheepish (I knew it) but she eventually admitted that amongst her various food stuffs was a melon. She had hidden it. I got angry because I had told her but also because I knew how tough they can be at immigration and if she failed to declare something, and they found it, we would all get turned over and we might even miss the onward connection.
My mother HATES throwing food away. She just couldn't accept that they wouldn't allow her food into the country.
What a row we had and that started a sulk that lasted almost another week. Never again I said to myself, but needless to say I did.
Now I've got Jan, who mum likes, who's very diplomatic (with the patience of a saint) and who mum listens to, to help me. Yippee.

PS That's not my mum, I just like the photo.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A discerning viewer

Look, I do try.
Jan has this notion that I dislike costume drama, but she's wrong.
I dislike boring or uninteresting costume drama.
A series I love is the Borgias (on Sky Atlantic) and you don't get more costume or drama than that. It's very, very good and holds my attention throughout the whole hour.
The costumes, the intrigue, the history lesson (it puts the Borgias, Machiavellis, Sforzas etc into historical significance) and cinematography are all excellent. The actors are good and, for good measure, there's a decent amount of fairly explicit rumpy pumpy. Excellent.
Some of the same adjectives can be used for Downton Abbey but with the fairly important added proviso that it's bloody boring.
I sat through an hour and a half of this guff, trying so hard for my beloved, to show her that I'm not backward, want to share her enjoyment, and to get into her cultural frame of mind, but it was frankly downright boring.
Don't worry if you missed it, I'll sum up the plot for you, man's at war, man comes home from war and has faint dalliance with woman (not even a snog)  and then goes back to war. There's a very mild sub-plot and that's it.
I sat through the whole 90 minutes (well almost). It took them 90 bloody minutes to tell that story.
I have found a single fifteen second micturition more fun.
At most this is a 30 minute series and they could show cartoons for the other hour.
Look I know that some people will think that I'm a moron but maybe, just maybe, I'm right.
If Downton Abbey turns you on then I'd suggest that knitting would be a better use of your time and at least you'd get a bloody jumper at the end of it!

PS. Admit it, you had to look it up?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Get a life

Most Yorkshire men are taking time off this morning (well actually only one)  from leading Lancashire to win the county championship for the first time in 77 years. So it was a nice surprise to see that they were 'doing' the weather from Harrogate this morning on the BBC news.
The presenter was at the Flower Show which also featured humongous vegetables and other things horticultural. Not any old vegetables mind you but grotesque over grown monsters like the one above.
What's all that about?
These people have obviously only ever heard of genetically modified crops (not that it worries me) and their one aim in life is to grow the biggest of their chosen vegetable. They're all barking.

And, whilst I'm at it, what's the problem with me eating sweeties in the car? My all time favourites are M&S fruit gums, but you don't always see them, they're a bit rare (that's because you are always eating them - Ed) so when I do see them I buy several packets. So far so good.
The next problem is that when we get home, Jan hides them. She doesn't like me eating sweeties in the car, she says I make a lot of noise! She has an absolute mountain of them (and a few choccies as well) hidden somewhere. But can I find them? What's all that about?
It's like living with the bloody Gestapo.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A change of life

We (me) didn't get any sleep on Tuesday night because Max pestered us to let him out of the house, every half hour, because he had the squits.
Whilst I appreciate his attitude to keeping a clean house I also appreciate my sleep because I feel awful if I don't get my eight hours but, more especially, as Wednesday was my first day as a 'kennel lad.'
It all started a few weeks ago. We were picking the dogs up from the kennels that we like and I happened to mention to the harassed lady looking after the dogs that if she was ever in need of some emergency help to give us a call (I could always send Jan).
Well a few weeks later, after I noted that they were advertising for some help, I repeated my offer.
I really should learn to keep my mouth shut.
Today was a 'trial day.' My first experience as a 'kennel lad'.
So, not only did I not feel well through a lack of sleep but the 7.45 am start came as a bit of a shock to the system. On top of that I had a sore throat and I had man flu.
The cynical amongst you may think that I'm looking for sympathy and for once you'd be dead right.
The picture above is what it would look like if I was a) female and b) if I thought it was a good idea to read a book to a dog.

Monday, September 12, 2011


You'd think that six months after leaving France we'd have severed our connection by now. Not so mes braves.
We have only just managed to cancel our mutuelle insurance and have now received a substantial cheque to reimburse overpayment. So far so good, but then, out of the blue, we have also just received a bill for assainissment (water treatment).
Seeing as we sold the house in France last October you'd have thought that by now these things would have been sorted. Frankly I can't be bothered to investigate the ins and outs of it especially as the bill has been redirected by a (very good looking) friend from the Marie, so it's safe to assume that it is payable.
I only mention this to highlight that living in France is nowhere near as simple or as straightforward as living in England.
As you head towards France, to your idyllic new lifestyle, with your Anglo Saxon head on your shoulders and rose tinted glasses, I caution that life isn't quite as straightforward as you might have been used to.
In France there are 'rules,' many of them, some obscure and to a simple mind like mine illogical but, of course, 'rules' have to be obeyed.
Liberté isn't all it's cracked up to be!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


This year we've been to three wonderful weddings when we've not been to that many in the last fifteen years and then, within the last week, we have been to two hog roasts when we've never ever been to any before.
How weird is that?
The first hog roast was last Sunday in France (mentioned previously) and then the nice lady who runs the kennels that we favour for Max and Min very kindly invited us to one last night.
This could catch on, it's no wonder I'm putting weight on.

Shine a light

The inability to buy 'old fashioned' light bulbs really irritates me but this post put it all into perspective and made me laugh.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Federazione Italiana Rugby

Whilst watching a bit of Japan v France this morning in the Rugby World Cup it became apparent that not all the players for Japan looked Japanese.
This made Jan and I giggle because we had always laughed at the Italian team which has a fair proportion of what you can only describe as 'not Italian'.
Names like Paul Derbyshire and Luke McClean are a clue.
I had to point out to Jan that the qualification for playing for Italy relies not on a blood test or some other such nonsense but on how many types of pasta you can name. If you remember to mention spaghetti then you're in. Simple as that. It's not difficult. The ability to play a bit of rugby is a bit of a bonus.
New Zealand born coach Nicky Mallett looked first at the Italian population and soon realised that he would have to expand his search criteria. Like most coaches he wants to win and trying to do this with a bunch of prima donnas, who still live at home with mama, was not the best place to start. He then scoured the world, using the criteria above, and found a few likely souls that hadn't been picked for their own national team and that might be able to help him out.
They are the ultimate underdogs and will forever be my first choice.
Forza Italia!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Another disappointment

I was scanning the headlines this morning and I thought 'bloody hell' they're talking about me.
Naturally I had to investigate and read further, but was I disappointed, it wasn't about me at all. It was yet another stupid 'best of' list from The Independent. The range of 'best of' lists is unbelievable. The other day they had '10 best men's trousers' or somesuch.
Surely they write this as a joke. A group of bored newspaper people sit round a table and have a really good giggle thinking up a new list and then some poor hack has to go away and write about it. I assume here that there is no real testing as such.
Having said all that I particularly liked number six, an absolute bargain at £47.95.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A different planet

With over twelve million hits you might already have seen this but I hadn't. You have to smile when you watch the drummer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Itsara again

Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, to give it its full name, is a very attractive town. You approach through a ‘forest’ of pine trees with expensive looking holiday homes nestling within the trees. It’s also quite an expensive town with most of the shops selling high end designer gear. The buildings are generally very attractive and, as befits a seaside town, very white.
Jan feels very comfortable here as befits a woman from the posh south but your scraggy arsed correspondent from Yarkshire thinks ‘this lot have got more money than sense.’
I like a bargain (but then who doesn't?) and I like space so we checked back in to the above B&B  but this time into the Delhi Suite. In some ways it was nicer than Marrakesh which we stayed in on the way down. The suite was just as big but a little lighter but with it being on the first floor there is no access to the garden. Recommended.
However, the real reason for stopping in Le Touquet (we had to stay somewhere in either France or southern England) was to eat at Perard which is one of the few places where I would always try to eat fish. They offer a big selection of marine life most of which doesn't interest me (like bulots and oysters) but they also cook fish simply which is how I like it.
They've been doing it for a long time and the place is always full (we couldn't get in last time) so another 'recommended.'
We have one final stop to make, in Harpenden, this lunchtime, before we arrive back in God's own country this evening and see the dogs again tomorrow. Yippee.

Monday, September 5, 2011

French chocolates

Yesterday was the last leg. We were staying right in the middle of Azay-le-Rideau at a comfortable hotel just near the château. But nothing about this wedding allowed us to stay in one place for more than a few hours.
First we had to take a pressie for our terrific hosts.
I vetoed Jan's idea of a box of Milk Tray and we stopped at a little patisserie in the middle of town that made scrumptious cakes and handmade chocolates. Madame appeared a little grumpy and slow to me, and at one point I thought that she was going to fall over. It was then I noted the little handwritten sign saying that they were going to close the next day for a couple of weeks.
Madame's mood hadn't improved much by the time she had wrapped the chocolates so in an attempt to improve Anglo French relations I wished her a pleasant holiday.
Well, her face lit up and she was instantly much more cheery and animated and she went on to tell me that she and her husband made the cakes and chocolates and that it had been a long season. I decided not to remind her that the sign in the window promised 'hand made everything' because we were, by this time, getting on so well.
Whilst my attempts at an entente cordial were good they weren't good enough to get anything off the huge price of the bloody expensive chocolates. It'll be Milk Tray next time!
The morning's drive was taking us for a long trip into the country for a 'hog roast.' I tend to take some of these predictions with a pinch of salt, especially when the information comes from my mate Bryan, but blow me down when we got there, there it was, a pig turning slowly over a wood fire. A pig that had turned a beautiful shade of brown and that looked delicious to even my jaded eye.
The 'chef' knew exactly what he was doing and had started the fire at 6.00 that morning. If I'd known about that I'd have sent Jan along to help. Excellent.

By the time you read this we'll be wending our way up past Le Mans and Rouen (pig to drive through-thank god for Tom Tom, why no bypass?) for a brief sojourn in Le Touquet before arriving home on Tuesday. A bientot mes braves.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

When will I ever learn?

The realisation that you are a mere mortal is not something that comes easy. As we start the third day of partying there's a strong argument for pacing yourself. Yesterday was a case in point.
The day started hot and very humid which is the kind of weather I hate. The thought of wearing a suit and tie in such conditions filled me with dread.
Anyway, after lunch we headed off to Saché, to the most beautiful village church, where the blessing took place (under French law you can't actually get married in church and have to have undergone a civil ceremony first, all part of the separation of church and state which is of course a complete nonsense because the state celebrates religious holidays, but there you go) and from where the bride and groom in all their finery left for the reception a couple of miles away.
What a venue. What a tradesman's entrance. We weren't allowed to drive the cars up the gravel driveway of this posh pile but were directed to the back of the property. No cluttering up the front aspect of this imposing pile mes braves.
No wonder there was a revolution in France!
This was a private residence, a friend of the family, with a tradesman's entrance to out shine all other tradesman's entrances.
We approached the huge terrace at the front of the property (unsullied by the view of any cars) through large gates and down the side of this majestic pile.
We then got stuck into a gentle three hour stint of canapés and champagne.
When they called dinner at 7.00pm I groaned at the thought of any more food. I'd stuffed my face. What a mistake, when will I ever learn?
We were then directed to the marquee, a huge marquee, which had been 'squeezed' into the inner courtyard of this not so council house.
It was all a bit too much for Jan who had ditched the dungarees, put on a party frock and who looked stunning. Such a change for someone who had started life as a daughter of Scargill (a champagne socialist), if you get my drift.
I just about managed the starter, scallops and stuff, which was absolutely excellent but the pheasant main course was lost on me. I'd out greeded myself. I had to admit defeat.
We left around midnight with everything in full flow, such party poopers, but safe in the knowledge that it all started again tomorrow.
Such kindness and such incredible hospitality but many years of debauchery and watching my old mate AJ disappearing into the mist at the crack of midnight had taught me about the need to pace yourself. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I've got to mention a comparison between driving (on the motorways) in France and England.
England, particularly in the south, is a nightmare. The roads are massively overcrowded and once or twice I actually felt scared. And I don't scare easily. Don't forget, I live with Jan, so a little physical violence and scaring (should that be scarring?) is nothing to me.
The M25 is, as has been previously described, 'the road to hell.'
In contrast the motorways in France are an absolute pleasure to drive on. Set cruise control to your desired speed, point the car to your desired destination and wake up when you get there. Excellent.
The only major caveat is having to deal with those fuckwits in Brussels.Why, oh why, does every motorway in France have to have an additional (and sometimes two) 'European' road numbers? The same bunch of highly paid, useless idiots who couldn't set up a European currency without remembering that everyone in Greece, Italy and Spain retires at the age of 12. And earlier if the weather is too hot!
Not naming any names, I know a woman who works for one of those countries in a senior regional governmental position. She takes time off whenever she wants and spends months visiting her daughter in the US whenever she feels like it and nobody misses her at work.
You pay for this mes braves!

Friday, September 2, 2011


Well, that was interesting. For our overnight stop in Le Touquet we booked at a chambre d'hote called Itsara, for no other reason that it was rated first of all the hotels (and there are lots) in Le Touquet, by TripAdvisor.
Whilst I realise that TripAdvisor has rating issues I felt that I'd give it a go.
Mr Darmon the proprietor recommended the Marrakesh Suite which is the most expensive of the rooms but, as we were about to find out, with reason. The space is huge with a large bedroom, with a big bed, a small study and a fair size bathroom.
Even more attractive was the access to the garden which was where we had an excellent breakfast.
If you require a bar, restaurant and lots of personal service then this place is not for you but what it is is small, quirky with free wi-fi and right in the middle of town near all the action.
If you arrive late Mr D will leave the key for you in the post box. The only disappointment was that we couldn't get into my favourite Le Touquet restaurant Perard but we'll try for the return trip. Recommended.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Then three come along at the same time

For the fourteen years between 1996 and 2010, Jan and I have only been to three weddings including the one for my son James which we arranged and hosted in France.
In 2011 we were invited to a further three, two of which we have already been to and as you read this we will be travelling to the third. This last one involves a trip to France and the Loire valley in particular with an overnight stop in Le Touquet where I should have an internet connection.
A bientôt.