Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Where's my bucket and spade?

As she woke this morning Jan said, "I'm on cooking autopilot" (at least that's what it sounded like). Bless!


Mike, Joanna, Wayne and Kate went to the beach today. Jan prepared a scrummy picnic for their lunch but they will eat out in Aigues Mortes this evening. This means that Jan and I will have lunch alone together for the first time in ages. What the hell will we talk about?


Our dinner guests this evening are Glyn and Gill, our next door but one neighbours, who have just arrived for a two night stay, and Jill and Harry. If all this is starting to sound like an episode from Eastenders (hawk, spit) then I apologise, but console yourself in the knowledge that you didn't have to pay for a TV licence.


My view of French politicians is one of very haughty grandees who love to dish out advice to the rest of the world but who don't seem to be in tune, or have much control over their own population. Given that a Frenchman (VGE) drafted the document, had aspirations of becoming the first European President, and given French ambitions to to be at the centre of political power in Europe, I have to admit that I keep giggling at the French 'NO' vote to the proposed European Constitution. What I find even funnier is that Chirac, who went on TV to get his humble subjects to vote 'Yes', stays in office but then sacks the Prime Minister, presumably because he is out of touch with public opinion. Nice one Jacques! The new Prime Minister who is appointed by Chirac, is a career diplomat and, unbelievably, has never been elected to public office. He is a longtime Chirac stooge and sidekick, and would appear to have his nose so far up his own arse that he can smell his own bad breath. So no change there then.


Dinner tonight was great but then what did you expect?

Monday, May 30, 2005

Bye bye, please come back

Will and Ginny leave today and we are very sad to see them go. They leave for Marseille on their way to London. We hope to see them again soon. Just in case you missed the comment on yesterday's blog, an article describing la course can be viewed here.


It's cloudy today so the planned trip to the beach is put on hold until tomorrow. There are just six of us for dinner tonight and as usual Jan excels herself. In particular and for the first time she cooks a stuffed tenderloin of pork. The stuffing includes apricots, pine nuts and left over tabouleh. Very nice indeed.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

This is starting to get repetitive Max

Last night, Max started to eat one of the chairs on the terrace and we wake this morning to find that he has also torn the inner lining from my swim shorts (you've got competition Harry!). On top of that, Jan tries to walk through an unopened glass door and bangs her head quite badly. This is not an auspicious start to the day.


Mike ,Joanna, Wayne and Kate really enjoyed their meal at La Fourneaux last night. The cost was £30 per head, including wine, and Wayne, who has his birthday today, and who lives in central London, claimed that a meal of equivalent quality would have cost at least £80 per head. I have to agree. They don't get back until 1.30 am and I had visions of them getting stuck in a ditch somewhere. Not so, the meal went on until very late.


It is very hot today, 30C in the shade at one point and Ginny and Will head off for another golf course. Rather them than me. The pool looks very inviting at the moment. We all agree to visit Sommieres to see a Course Camargaise this afternoon. For those that do not know, it involves razateurs (young men) attempting to take a medallion or some such from the base of a bulls horns whilst it is charging at them. There were some very close calls, and generally it was very exciting but a little tedious by the end. The bulls, however, become progressively more 'frisky' as time wears on and the spectacle more dangerous. This is a dangerous sport and not for the faint hearted, in or out of the ring.


Jan cooks ribs tonight. An excellent dinner with lots of laughs. After everyone has gone to bed, Max decides that he will stay outside and no amount of coaxing from Jan will make him come inside. In the end we leave him to come in when he is ready by leaving a door open. What is it with him at the moment?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Who stole the Fougasse?

I'm out buying the croissants and remembering that Will likes Fougasse, I buy him one for breakfast. My thoughtfulness is short lived because no sooner has Jan laid the table than she notices that Max has taken it and is eating it in the orchard. Nice one Max. Yet one more thing that we now have to watch!


A quick trip to Sommieres market with Will and Ginny, who then shoot off for a round of golf. I have to nip to Montpellier to pick up Mike, Joanna, Wayne and Kate. I get there at 11.15 to find that a truck has hit the plane on the stand at Gatwick and they now have an estimated arrival time of 15.00. I decide to stay and grab a sandwich. At 13.00 I check the eta again to find that the new eta is 16.40. Bum, bum, bum! Rather than stay there for another 4 hours it's back home to sit it out. They finally arrive at 17.15 after a 6 hour wait at Gatwick. Looking at the number of carrier bags, I think the shops got a hammering.


Whilst I'm on the airport run, Jan takes Ginny and Will to an abrivado in nearby Durfort. I think that this is the first one of the year in these parts, but if you want a full list look here. They also take a quick look at Sauve. M,J,W and K go to eat at the same restaurant as we did last night so we can help them with our favourite dishes and the wines. We stay in and eat one of Jan's Indian curries.

Friday, May 27, 2005

My living will

An acquaintance died suddenly the other day and it got Jan and I talking about what to do with our ashes. I told her that when I die I want my ashes sprinkled over the swimming poo. Some other bugger can clean it out for a change!
Despite our inability to even form words correctly, it's off to Aigues Mortes for lunch. Will treats us to an excellent lunch at a fish restaurant on the east side of the main square (as you can gather I failed to pick up a card). Back home via Nimes with a quick drive past the Maison Carre and the Arene (this is how sight seeing should be done) to prepare for a meal at La Fourneau de Clelia in Aigremont. This is the second time that we've eaten there, and this meal is better than the last. We have two excellent wines, one local white, Mas d'Espanet 2003 (Denys Armand) from St Mamert (a Viognier, Sauvignon, Chardonnay mix) and the other, L'Enfer, a red Corbiere from Castelmaure scv. We shall be tracking the white down and buying from the domain. Will pays for the meal again. Thank you Will!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ouch that hurt

One of last weeks guests trained as a doctor and he told this true story.

Imagine a pompous, formidable and intimidating consultant putting his trainee doctors through the hoops.

"Hart, see that woman over there?"
"Yes sir."
"Well I want you to give her a rectal and vaginal examination."
"Yes sir."
"Ok then get on with it."
"Yes sir."
"Yes sir."
"Not both at the same time, you idiot."


Will and Ginny arrive at 6.00 pm. I panic when I see the amount of luggage that they have because I thought that they are only staying for a few days. Panic over when they explain that their next stop is London. Will was my boss for several years in a previous life, we became friends, and he taught me how to run a business. After he returned to the States, I took over the reins and the rest is history. This is the first time that we have met Ginny, and very nice she is too (I have to say nice things because I know that they are regular visitors to this page, so email me for the lowdown). Despite everything that I am told, Ginny can drink. Will, Jan and I are working our way through several bottles of Merlot and, "I never drink more than one beer", Ginny, is slowly working her way through a bottle of our locally produced rose. As the Americans say, "we were all over served".

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Why does everything involve a headache nowadays?

Up with the lark for a bit of tennis, then, having converted Alastair to their Merlot, off to Chateau des Hospitaliers to buy some of their delicious wine. Wine tashting over, we then scoot over to Jill and Harry's for lunch. It's just non stop eating and drinking this month. Where do we get the energy?

A & M leave at around 4.00 pm and then after a dip in the pool we collapse.

This evening I watched the Champions League final. I'm supporting Liverpool, but AC Milan were clearly the better side and at half-time were 3 - 0 up. It was so one-sided that it became embarrassing and I started to lose interest. Zut alors! Liverpool pulled two goals back and the game became interesting again. They got a third, three all and everything to play for. Extra time and still stalemate, and so to that most painful and gut wrenching decider, a penalty shootout. Liverpool won 4 - 3 on penalties and are crowned champions of Europe. Good effort lads, even if Milan were the better team.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Got to look pretty for the troops

We leave for the hairdresser this morning. Jan to have her her highlights done (there I was thinking that she is a real blond) and me for a short back and sides. (Do we really need to know all this petty stuff - Ed?)
Marsha and Alastair arrive. I dare anyone to try and get a word in edgeways as the two women hit the airways. The pool is up to 26C, so I suggest a manly swim. My first swim this year - very macho. Jill and Harry join us for dinner and they bring some of their local fizz. I think I prefer it to ours so will try some more. We have a fun night and talk a lot of nonsense, that is everybody except me! Bed at 01.47, I must be a teenager again! Marsha and Alastair are driving, so want to take back some wine. I feel a tasting coming on!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Now it's over - but there's more

After a big breakfast, we all head off to Nimes, for a little sight seeing. Everyone's departing flight is more or less on time, so now it's back to the ranch to prepare for Marsha and Alastair who arrive for dinner tomorrow. Marsha is a longstanding girlfriend of Jan's, from Windsor, who is staying a short distance away.

Max doesn't understand where everyone has gone. He'll learn.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The parties nearly over

Everyone is a little quieter this morning. Can't think why.

Tony H, Jenny and Gail leave today, from Nimes, on the Liverpool flight. We are sad to see them go especially because we have enjoyed their company and they have been a big help around the house. Thank you guys.

This is a day for R&R. No activities are planned.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Snakes alive - bring on the clowns

We have been here nearly 3 years and in all that time we have only seen one snake. It shot across the road, in front of the car, never to be seen again. Well, now we have seen 3 more, all in the space of two days. The first time was on the beach when Gail went off to 'spend a penny' and came running back scared out of her life. I'm really glad that she wasn't bitten because there wouldn't have been a queue to suck out the venom! Out of curiosity, Tony H and I went off to find it, only to see a yellow backed blur disappear into the scrub. That really got the adrenalin going.


Sommieres market this morning (sorry if we missed you Harry). As you may have gathered, Sommieres is hot on the visitor trail, and quite rightly so. Everyone enjoyed the experience and even us, hardbitten 'tourist guides',enjoy it as well.


We have a lazy, boozy lunch on the terrace and Jan produces her famous chicken and mango salad. Steve then offers to hold a musical quiz. Mistake! To hold an even vaguely serious musical quiz, which involves guessing the country of origin of tunes, played either on the flute or piccolo, to a drunken baying crowd is not the smartest thing. Steve takes all the jokes and insults with very good grace, which only further endears him to me. Thanks, Steve.

Sheila kindly presents everyone with a copy of an excellent sketch that she has done. Thank you, Sheila.


Three of the party are staying in the gite and have decided to hold an impromptu cocktail party. The story is that they have invited the Maire, and for various reasons he can't make it, so his substitute is "Maurice" (Pete). Pete sings several choruses of a song he has written himself to the tune of ' La Mer'. It was hilarious. Thanks Linda, Pete and Tony for their very kind gesture.


We wander back to the house for my world famous barbecue lamb. My signature dish. And bloody good it is too. Jan just about manages to rustle up a few roast vegetables and dauphinoise potatoes. Needless to say my lamb steals the show.

This is presentation evening. Our MC is Tony Moss. He was a journalist in a previous life and he gives the funniest 'awards' speech imaginable. Everyone gets a prize for their heroic endeavor over the few days. It was very, very funny.


After the prize giving we head off to the village, because this weekend is the annual Festival du Clown. This is the first of the village celebrations this year and we go to show our solidarity. The band were excellent, the dance floor was full, the bar was heaving and everybody was having a good time. We are not sure what happened in the big marquee because whatever it was it had finished but we will try and find out tomorrow. The perfect end to a lovely day.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Loads a culture

Today we have a three car convoy to the Pont du Gard.

Culture over, we head back for a lunch of quiche and salad. The rest of the afternoon is spent by the pool before we head off for a look around Domaine Costeplane, ( http:// www.costeplane.com ). Francoise and Vincent Coste make delicious organic wine and there is nothing nicer than sitting in the sun sampling their wares after a personally conducted tour, by Vincent, and an explanation of their wine making techniques.

Dinner tonight is at Mas de Roux, so Jan gets a well deserved night off. Thank you darling for all you do.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Early morning tennis and trip to the beach

I have not hit a tennis ball for nearly 3 years, so I am pleased that I have finally persuaded William to have a regular hit. Today is the first one. We start at 8.00 am and hit gently for about an hour. It's good exercise and we will now do it twice a week. I am determined this year to get into better shape and this is a good start.


We all leave for a picnic lunch at the beach. L'Espiguette is our destination, which has to be one of the largest beaches you will ever see. Tony Moss organises games whilst Jan lays out the picnic. Results and presentations for all the events will take place at the awards evening on Saturday.

After lunch we all head for Aigues Morte, the walled city that Louis IX built for himself, which used to be by the sea, and which he used to embark for the crusades in 1248.

We are home by 5.00 pm so that Jan can start on the Italian meal which consists of antipasto, followed by Spezatini (veal and potatoes cooked with white wine and garlic) and then Tiramisu. Yummy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

And what have you been doing for the last 39 years?

Last minute maintenance on the pool, this morning, before leaving with Jan for yet another trip to the airport. Jan will come back first with Ric and Sheila and Pete and Linda because they come in on the afternoon flight from Luton. I hang around for an hour and a bit and wait for Tony H and Jenny, Steve and Angela, Gail H and Tony Moss, who come in on the Liverpool flight. The group is so big that Tony H very kindly hires a third car.

It is really good to see them all again and needless to say there is lots of reminiscing.

At around 7.00 pm we start to carve a leg of Serrano ham (sorry to all you veggies out there) which is sweet and moist. This was washed down with Blanc de Blanc from the Carnas Cooperative and got the rest of the evening off to a good start. It must have been the wine, because 4 of the men ventured into the pool, which is at a temperature that I wouldn't have washed the dog in. Their reply to my astonishment was, "when you are used to the North Sea, this is pure luxury." C'est la vie!

Jan prepared dinner on a Greek theme with meze to start, moussaka for main and those good old Greek puddings of Tarte au Citron and/or strawberries. Ok smart ass, what do Greeks have for pudding? The wines, also from Carnas, went down well. This is a really good eating and drinking group!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A nice little earner, thank you

The day is spent getting ready for a big influx of visitors tomorrow. We are hosting a school re-union, for ten friends and spouses, from my time at St Michael's College in Leeds. At that time the school was run by Jesuits and I have to say that they gave us a good education. I remember my time there with fondness. The school celebrates its centenary this year but unfortunately, it will also close this year.

This is a good fun group and most of us have known each other since primary school in Harrogate, and then after that as school mates on the train to Leeds each day. I caught the train first and 'reserved' our seats by virtue of the fact that nobody wanted to sit near me/us. We had a great laugh. If we were late out of school in the afternoon we frequently had to catch a steam train that started in Liverpool and terminated in Newcastle. We developed a nice little earner by singing for home going seamen who would pay us handsomely for singing carols etc., as they traveled their drunken way back home to see their loved ones.


I nip to Quissac to buy some salt for the pool. We favour Guines Frere who deliver our gas and clean the chimney amongst other things. My bill comes to 69 euros and I only have 60. "Pay me next time", he says (I have not met this brother before) and lets me walk away with a promise to pay. How refreshing!


It's very therapeutic mincing meat! It's difficult to find minced lamb or pork at the supermarket because presumably they don't have much demand and they also have to have separate mincing machines for each meat (or so I'm told). I order Jan an old fashioned Spong type mincer from England (because I'm that kind of guy) and it arrives today. Moussaka is on the menu for tomorrow so I set too mincing a whole load of lamb. It was very therapeutic, goodness knows why.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Why does it always rain on my parade?

What is it about women and chairs and rain?

I get woken at 5.30 this morning, to the sound of falling rain, to be asked again if I have brought the terrace chairs under cover.

When I politely point out that I am a man, and that as a man I think of these things, not when it is too late, but many hours in advance, because anticipation is a 'manly virtue'. This does not go down too well with she who must be obeyed.

Female logic then really kicks in with, "now that you're awake, how's about a cup of tea?"

Now that I'm awake, I let a little male logic kick in, and for a brief moment try to remind my 'she goddess' of my manly charms. I am very quickly reminded that it is not the third Sunday in Lent, in a leap year, and that she is not properly awake until she has had a cup of tea.

I get the tea!


Just as I'm about to reveal that I really like Mozilla Firefox, (I know that you've been waiting to hear that) I read this.
Is nothing safe or certain in this world anymore? Realistically it was only a matter of time before attention was directed at Firefox, probably in line with its growing popularity. In terms of its user friendliness and flexibility, it has advantages over IE and I have to say that I like it.


We join up with Jill and Harry, who have just arrived from the UK, and head off to Nimes for the last night of the Feria de Pentecote. We have also arranged to meet Bob and Lynne near the bronze toreador next to the Arene (keep up, I'm not repeating this!). As we walk past the Arene they bring out a bull that has just been killed. A Corrida is still an integral part of Ferias in this part of France and with Arles 20 miles away, I believe that this is as far east as bullfighting is still practised.


STOP PRESS - I have just read that today's public holiday was actually cancelled by the government some time ago but not for Gard because of the Feria in Nimes, if that makes any sense! Needless to say the unions called for strike action in the rest of France so most public services did not operate. It reminds me of the UK in the eighties!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A big lunch

Today and tomorrow are public holidays in France, the fourth, fifth and last holidays in May. We have to wait until July for the next one!! How will we cope?

We spend most of the morning preparing for lunch.

We have seven guests, Andrew and Nella, Nella's father Mike, Bob and Lynne and William and Christine. Despite what the names suggest, the first five are all Brits and the last two are French. Nella and Andrew run a ranch about 10 minutes away, Nella's dad is visiting and we have never met him before. Bob and Lynne are good friends from 'scratch supper' fame (6th April). William is the mayor, not only of our village but he is also the chairman of all the mayors for a few miles around, and Christine, if I understood it correctly, works for the local authority and might even be William's boss. That may have been his joke but I'm not sure.

It's a good fun group with enough English and French speakers to keep things moving.

Jan cooks up a storm. The meal starts with poached salmon and asparagus with hollandaise sauce, followed by lamb shanks, marinated overnight in wine and herbs, potatoes and roasted vegetables. The usual selection of cheeses is followed by a choice of Flummery Drambuie, (a zabaglione delicately flavoured with Drambuie) and/or strawberries. It makes my mouth water just to think about it.

The eighth guest was Bob and Lynne's new puppy, Harry. He and Max play virtually non stop for 5 hours. They play really nicely together, despite the difference in size, and I think that they will be great friends in the future. This is the first time that a puppy has visited the house and Max was very excited (listen to me babbling on like a proud father!) but he was also very gentle, despite getting 'beaten up' by Harry from time to time.

We thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

I was just following orders

Boy, did it rain last night.

We were woken at around 4.30 am by the thunder and lightening, dashed outside to pull the chairs on the terrace nearer the house so that they didn't get too wet,
(look, don't ask me, I just follow orders!), and then took some time to get back to sleep, especially since Max thought it all great fun and wouldn't settle.

I heard this today and thought I'd share it.

A man said to his wife,
"I don't know how you can be so stupid and so beautiful all at the same time."
The wife responded,
"Allow me to explain. God made me beautiful so you would be attracted to me; God made me stupid so that I would be attracted to you!"

Why does Jan keep showing me these jokes?

Friday, May 13, 2005

What's the difference between a grockle and a Mozilla

It's raining this morning and it's a little cooler so I look like a real donkey walking around the supermarket in Sommieres, in shorts and T-shirt. Permanent residents here call tourists 'grockles'. They are identified by their penchant for wearing shorts, T-shirts and sandals, when the locals, particularly the French, wear several heavy layers at any temperature below 25C.

I suppose that makes me a 'permanent grockle'! (Expect smart ass comments from Bob and Chris - Ed.)

It turns out that there isn't a one click answer to opening a new page in a new window in IE, (if you don't have a clue about what I'm talking about, move on to the next paragraph, but more to the point why didn't you read yesterday's post?) and it looks like I'm going to give Mozilla Firefox a try. Thank you, Jon.

As I sit here typing, Jan walks in proudly, and asks me to try the elderflower cordial that she has just made. It's absolutely fantastic, as good as shop bought! (You're missing the point - Ed.) There are lots of Elderflower bushes around here so I anticipate lots more of this nectar. This high sugar drink won't do my diabetes any good but at least it contains 0.0001% of natural flavouring!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

You want lazy, I'll give you lazy

Today I take "lazy" to a whole new level.

I decided fairly quickly this morning to take my time doing a few small jobs around the house because all the recent eating, drinking, laughing and entertaining has taken its toll. I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to open each new web page in a new window and even, the usually reliable Google, isn't helping. I'm sure that all I have to do is is hit a key when opening the page but nothing seems to work. Hey ho, all will be revealed shortly, I'm sure.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Early morning decisions

I get an early morning call to help our favourite English neighbours, who are moving further west, and who have to meet their removers near the motorway to pick up some packing boxes. All goes well, and we return to ponder which house they should buy. Decisions, decisions.

Rob leaves today, so yet one more trip to the airport. As we are footloose and fancy free, we 'nip' into Truffaut for a load of garden plants and some more food for Max. This is our favourite garden centre because it has such a wide selection of everything, and they also offer a 'croc bonus card' which means that every tenth bag of dog food is free. It all helps!

Into Nimes centre to visit FNAC for the Oxford/Hachette, English/French dictionary on CD Rom because we still keep coming across words that do not appear in the concise (3 inch thick) edition. They don't have it and I have no intention of driving back to Nimes just to pick up an ordered copy. I buy it online when I get home. Why do I still mess about with shops?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

In sales mode and lots of reminiscing

We have decided to sell our lovely little other house in the village so I need to contact agents today. If you have 150,000 euros (£107,000) that you would like to invest in a fully and tastefully restored rustic village house then take a look at the details on this web page http://www.masducantarel.com/la_villa.htm A bargain for a pied a terre in this delightful, peaceful, wine growing village.

We all have a lie in, and then sit and reminisce on the terrace, after a late breakfast fry up. Stories about our times as tennis coaches abound. This one is funny and fairly typical.

Rob has been coaching a lady (let's call her B) and one very hot sunny day, whilst she was picking up tennis balls, Rob feigning surprise, and said "it doesn't look like you are wearing any knickers?"
B, not being the bashful sort, lifted up her skirt and showed him that she was.
Rob said, "oh, that's a pity!"
B said, "listen sunshine, one day I'll surprise you."
The next week, when she was picking up balls, Rob happened to notice that his every wish had come true! Surreptitiously he threw a few more down!!

Rob has never been to Montpellier, so we scrap the idea of the Feria in Nimes and head off to Montpellier by way of the tram from Odysseum and then eat at L'Entrecote, just off the Place de la Comedie for the best steak and frites around.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Will I ever tire of the trip to the airport?

Bloody right I will!

Especially after last nights barbecue. We drank rather a lot 'in aid of the local economy' so today will be known as 'fragile Monday'.

Anne, Cilla, Helen, Jane and Sue get to the airport on time, only to be met with an officious check-in clerk who insisted that they either redistribute their excess baggage (all bottles) or drink it on the spot. It was a bit too early for another drink, so knickers have to move over to hand luggage and bottles get to fly in the hold! It's just as well he didn't realise that we had lots of bottles hidden out of sight, which were going to be carried on as further hand luggage, or they might never have got away.

Later this afternoon, Jan and Rob drag me out for a 'short' walk with Max. This short walk consisted of walking over and around a mountain and lasted hours. Well, 90 minutes. You can walk for hundreds of miles in every direction, without ever touching another town, simply by staying on the DFCI's, forestry tracks to you and me. It felt like I covered most of them! Back for a well earned drink, just when I thought I'd have a day off the juice.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A right boring little horticulturalist

Rob will stay on for a couple of more days but today is the girls' last. Anne and Cilla go with me to Quissac to buy some bits for Jan. It's good to hear their enthusiasm for the countryside, because it's very easy to forget how nice it is, and reminds me of all the right decisions that we made when we first moved here. The sky is a beautiful deep blue, the temperature readout on the huge display on top of the pharmacie on the edge of Quissac says 18C which isn't bad for 8 o'clock in the morning. It's going to be another great day!

Today is another national holiday, the third so far this month, Fete de la Victoire 1945, which is VE Day to you and me. It means that the French will spend the day with friends and family, which is nice, but it also means that they leave their dogs chained up whilst they are away enjoying themselves. Some of these mutts howl and howl. It makes you want to throw some poisoned meat into their gardens, and then do something about the dog as well.

I never thought that I'd get enthusiastic about growing things. I'm turning into a right boring little horticulturalist. I spotted small caterpillars on some of the fruit trees today, so out with the insecticide to zap those pesky little critters. It's me or them, and I know who's going to win this one, even if it means the fruit is covered in nuclear fallout!

I'm not what you would call "green", more a deep shade of purple, especially if bugs get near my carefully tended fruit trees. I'd use a gun if it wouldn't make such a mess of the foliage! There I go again, showing off all my arborial vocabulary. (That's enough showing off - Ed.)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Sommieres and wine tasting - again

The girls were either coached or played tennis for over 7 hours yesterday. Makes me tired just to think about it.

Talking about making me tired thinking about it, I took Max for a walk at 7.30 am. What's going on around here?

By way of a change, we all leave for Sommieres market this morning with the intention of calling at the Carnas Cave Cooperative on the way back. They are running an open day with free tastings and organised viewings of wine production. We think that Carnas produces the widest range of good quality reasonably priced wines for everyday consumption. They regularly win medals for some of their wines and their Blanc de Blancs at about 6 euros a bottle puts most champagne to shame. What with all the wine tasting and wine for lunch, I have no idea how they played tennis all afternoon. But they did.

The pool hit 24C this afternoon and I was very tempted. So tempted that I put one foot in, UP TO THE ANKLE NO LESS, before sitting in the sun to assuage the offended appendage. Jan, of course, went straight in and nearly put me to shame, until I remembered that women have an extra layer of fat, so can withstand extremes of temperatures more easily than us men.

Thai green chicken curry tonight - yippee.

Friday, May 06, 2005

And the winner is...........

Last night the tennis group came off court at 7.00 pm and relax until 8.00. Jan then served up her famous moussaka - well famous to me. If you get a chance, ask her to make it, you will not be disappointed.

We try to stay up late and watch the election results but quickly succumb to sleep.

This morning we learn that Labour are returned to power on a much reduced majority. The next four years will be interesting and if you are reading this Tony, look at my rant yesterday and get that sorted please.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Tennis, more tennis and a big rant

Today is a national holiday in France. There are 5 holidays in May alone, out of a total of 13 for the whole year. Very strange!

Rob's girls arrive in Nimes on the early flight from Stansted. We need to get to the airport for 10.00 am, so it's no problem for us, but these poor souls have been up half the night. The flight leaves Stansted at 7.00 am, so what with check-in, and an hour and a half journey to get there, they have to leave home at about 4.00 am.

Let me explain. Rob has a big reputation as a good tennis coach and has coached these ladies (Anne, Cilla, Helen, Jane and Sue ) before. They all come here, on a girls weekend away, get coached, play a lot of tennis, eat, drink, and generally have a good time. They leave kids, husbands and troubles behind and come and let Jan spoil them. Quite a lot of this spoiling rubs off on me as well. So thank you darling!

It's the UK elections today and we are fascinated as to the outcome, but then so are lots of other people as well.

Ohhhhhhh I feel a rant coming on!

I consider myself apolitical, and don't have strong feelings about who runs the country, as long as it is done well. However, there are two issues that really get my goat.

The first is school discipline and, what appears to me, the total lack of support that we give to teachers in the mamby-pamby society that has now emerged in the UK. By definition, children need a strong, loving, positive, friendly leadership. I have taught children in a tennis environment for many years so I feel I know a little about what I am talking about. A disproportionately high number of children are currently fed an unrealistic sense of self importance and power. They seem to have a high regard for talentless celebrities, an ill defined work ethic, and have little or no respect for their parents and/or teachers. We are all to blame and we should be ashamed of ourselves. However, the government of the day has a responsibility to empower its teachers, punish errant parents and generally help to get some children back into line.

What is happening to the education system? Not so long ago, the incumbent Education Secretary went through a long consultation process, and had, I believe, the support of the teaching profession, to replace the current awards system with a European style diploma. So far so good. He was being well paid to do this, he had lots of support and I trusted him to make the right decision. He then gets moved to the Home Office, and the new Education Secretary promptly cancels everything. WHAT IS GOING ON? I make no comment about the relative merits of any system; I don't have that information, but others do, and surely therefore one of them must be incompetent?

And the second is MRSA. If I can believe the figures, more people die from hospital acquired infections than die in road traffic accidents. How dare any government put itself up for re-election, and expect to win, without having sorted that one out. It's a national disgrace without any excuse whatsoever. No blaming previous administrations, no blaming overworked and under paid hospital staff just get it sorted NOW! No excuses. Move all the police from the roads and motorways, which are amongst the safest in Europe (if you want to see dangerous driving come to France!) and have them patrol hospital wards, which are far more dangerous.

OK, the last bit was stupid but at least it made me feel better!

You know what I said about being apolitical, well I reckon that I could be a benevolent despot! Hmmm, need to think about that one.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Let the good times roll

Rob arrives today and the five girls arrive tomorrow.

He is the most non-judgemental person you will ever meet, the most laid back and has a wicked sense of humour.

The afternoon is spent laughing, reminiscing, and after Jan cooks up a great Panang curry we go to bed early.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

To lawn or not to lawn

Jan comes back from her art class where, for the first time, she had to draw a naked female model. On entering the house, she made some smart comment that maybe I had given up on the art classes too soon. Let's put it this way, either Jan has to improve her technique, or it doesn't look like I missed out on too much.

It is really difficult to grow a low maintenance grass lawn around here. The major problems are the amount of water needed, on a regular basis, and the right type of grass to withstand the searing summer heat. When we first arrived, the house was completely finished, but it sat in what can only be described as a field. Not a nice field, full of wild flowers, but a field full of builders rubble, bulldozed trees and piles of wood. Some of our first contacts with the locals made us realise that unless you are careful, garden maintenance can take over your life. Low maintenance and lateral thinking became the order of the day.

Weeds grow really well. So, under 'the orchard' (the eight fruit trees that we have planted), a weed lawn it is. All green and lush, it looks mighty fine.

Excuse me, I must go, I'm off to mow the weed.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Languedoc Roussillon or Septimanie?

The President of the Conseil Regional of Languedoc Roussillon has, for some time, been advocating a name change for the region. He wants to change the name to Septimanie, the ancient Roman name that was used until the middle ages..

Prior to moving here I could not have placed LR or any of the other regions on a map of France. And I suspect that the same applies to the French knowledge of English counties. One side of me says, well, what does it matter, but then I also have to sympathise with the already hard pressed vignerons who have been working hard to put LR on the world wine map.

A recent television advert by Marks and Spencer talked, in hushed tones, about 'a gold medal Chardonnay from Languedoc Roussillon', the first time that I have heard the region mentioned outside of travel programmes.

Personally, I quite like the new name, but I suspect that a name change would only confuse and undermine the existing efforts at promoting this region.