Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wasps are invading my space

Coming from the leafy suburbs of the UK, I have never really considered wasps as much of a pest. Not so here, because the little buggers get everywhere. Last year I noticed a particularly ugly wasp like thing land on a cupboard in the study and disappear. I thought nothing of it until, one sober morning, I saw another do the same. That's funny I thought - being quick like that - and opened the cupboard to investigate. There it was, a nest, made of some clay like substance that smashed to bits as I knocked it to the floor. Inside each individual clay pot was a little cocoon. I have no idea what type of creature it was. It was wasp like, with a black extended body, the two parts of the abdomen connected by a yellow stalk and with long dangly yellow and black striped legs. An ugly brute, even though I say so myself.
Just recently, I have found two wasp nests in the garden. One, right in the middle of a potted bush and the other under the pool heating. The latter, the plumber and I found by being a bit too close when discussing the heating system. The aggressive little sods flew out at us both and stung the plumber once and me three times. I needed help on this one, so I talked to lots of people, including the nice lady at the honey farm nearby, who tells me about a spray that you can fire from 6 metres. These little monsters have to be treated with respect, so 6 metres is just about far enough for a quick getaway. You also have to spray at night when they are asleep. Anyway, last night after a couple of drinks I plucked up enough courage to have a go at the easy one. Suitably dressed in nothing but shorts and flipflops (what was I thinking of?) I zap 'nest in bush'. They made my day. I returned to my beloved a hero, and only a little shell shocked.


Jill and Harry leave tomorrow so it's a good excuse to celebrate with dinner at Le Fourneau. It was excellent as usual. Having said that they will be back in two weeks time, so now I'd better book the welcome back dinner!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Where did all the weight go

We leave for Montpellier today for a follow-up visit with my nutritionist Dr K. I am not looking forward to the impending chastisement because I have not been too good really. We are slowly starting to change our eating habits, but with all the visitors we've had recently, I am still eating and drinking far too much. It should, however, be easier from now on because we have more time on our own and can try a little harder. The one bright note is the thought of what Dr K will be wearing today and whether my blood pressure can take the starin (the last word was mistyped and is meant to read strain but I didn't correct it because I think it is actually more appropriate as starin).
Anyway, we get there and she asks me to take my trousers off (note - I only have a cough), she measures my bits, and tells me that everything is shrinking and then weighs me to find that I have lost 3 kilos. She must be joking, where did it all go? How did it all go? This is mysterious because I don't feel that I have done anything special. In fact, I have probably drunk more than usual. Who cares, she seems happy and that makes me happy. So it's time for a celebration and we look for a restaurant on the way back.


We found an excellent new restaurant, Restaurant Apicius, 266 av L Mancel, St Mathieu de Treviers, 0467 55 37 97, right on the main road through the town. The menu du jour was 18 euros but we chose the menu express (lunch times only) at 29 euros off the carte. We both started with cold Baudroie (monkfish to you and me)), steam cooked and with three additional sauces, fresh almond (surprisingly nice), broad bean (surprisingly awful, but Jan liked it) and a light tomato gaspacho. For my second course, I had tuna, cooked perfectly on a bed of shitake mushrooms with an excellent side dish of saffron risotto, and Jan had pieces of veal, again perfectly cooked with a mousseline of peas and braised artichokes. All of it first class. The home made bread was excellent. The cheapest four course evening menu was 39 euros, the next (five course) at 60 euros and the most expensive, "selon l'idee de Ludovic Dziewulski" (whatever the hell that is) at 82 euros. Go there, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

It's quiet around here

During our visit to the tax office this morning, to sort out some minor matter, we are assisted by the very lovely Mme T. How is it that all the professionals that I come across at the moment are both women and good looking? Anyway, it sure makes visiting the tax office a pleasurable experience.


It's still very hot and, unusually, somewhat humid. We are getting to the end of the month and since the fifteenth the midday temperature hasn't dropped below 30C.


Surveying the estate this evening, I notice Max eating something small and orange looking in the orchard. Yes, our beloved is eating the first of our apricots. We dash to the tree and pick all the ripe ones before Bonzo can get his paws on any more. This is quite an emotional moment for me because they are the first apricots that I have ever grown and they are one of Jan's favourite fruits. I also gather some strawberries and tomatoes, all of which are deliucious. Well, what did you expect?

Monday, June 27, 2005

It's all over now

Cara and mum leave today, so it's airport runs to Montpellier and Nimes. We really enjoyed Cara's company this week and I'm very sad to see her go.

You'd think that by way of a change we could have a quiet night in together but no, Jan has asked H & E round for dinner. I'm begining to think that she's scared of being alone with me. (I wonder why? - Ed.) However it looks like the rest of the week is free - I think.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Living in a twilight world

One obvious joy of living in the south of France is the sunshine and attendant heat. However, in order to keep your house cool, it's necessary to keep all the windows and doors shut and the blinds down, between the hours of sunrise and sunset. So there comes a trade-off, how cool do you want to be, versus how much do you want to see? Human nature wants both, but something has to give. I usually set off with the best of intentions and keep the windows shut and blinds down, but slowly during the day the urge to stop bumping into furniture and 'let the sunshine in' takes over, and so hot it is. Air conditioning has to be considered, but our main room is well over 60 sm and with a double height ceiling it would take the exhaust from a jumbo jet to power the refrigeration unit.


Today we host a joint birthday party for about 50 French friends. We erect a marquee to keep the sun off, dig out our reserves of knives and forks, spread out a sumptuous buffet prepared by our favourite chef and pour the wine. Based upon our feedback, a very good time was had by all.
Our thanks to Cara, and Ben and Paula, who assisted over and above the call of duty.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

What day is it?

We take Max for training this morning, and what a job it still is to get him into the car. It takes two of us to lift him. As soon as he knows what's happening, he sits down and braces his front paws against the ground. As we lift him, he spreads his legs out wide to avoid being bundled in. I'd love to call him a little sod, but at 40 kilos he's hardly little! Anyway, he loves it when he gets there. He is a popular dog and at one point three rather attractive young women called him, he dragged me over, and they made a big fuss of him. I was quite jealous, but I secretly suspect that making a fuss of Max was just a ruse to get me to talk to them. What do you think? (I think you need to take a reality check - Ed.)


It's Saturday, so it must be Sommieres. On the way there, mum trips over a kerb and falls into what must be the only puddle for 50 kilometers. What chance that then? So with hurt pride and a grazed knee, we walk mum, literally half covered in mud, around the market.
Half of us enjoy oysters (not me bruv) so we buy a couple of dozen for lunch. They cost a princely 6 euros 80 cents. Even Ben, (Jan's No 1 who lives in Barcelona) who always compares prices between Spain and France, can't complain about that.
Amongst others, we meet property tycoon and owner of this website, Peter Hornby, who as usual, does not offer to buy me a drink. I live in hope.


Dinner tonight started with arroz negro, a seafood risotto coloured by squid ink, which was cooked by Paula, followed by Jan's famous barbecued ribs. Two of my favourite dishes. Yummy. This was all washed down with copious quantities of Vermentino and Rose from our current favourite domain, Costeplane.

Friday, June 24, 2005

It's never too late

My mother has been here for nearly four weeks and despite many requests, she has refused to wear her hearing aid. This means that even the simplest conversation has to be shouted and repeated several times. It also means that she often guesses at what she's hearing and we frequently get involved in bizarre conversations that have nothing to do with what has been said. It all becomes quite tiring. She leaves in three days time and has just started to use the aid. Isn't that kind?


Out to dinner again tonight at Jill and Harry's. In total there are 12 of us which is a bit of a squeeze but great fun nonetheless. Sam does a very good job on the barbecue and starts to undermine my confidence. (You'll get over it - Ed.)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hot and stormy

It's very misty this morning and so, with no sun in the sky, we head for the garden to put in a palm and a couple of lavender plants. Lavender spreads and grows so easily without need for any maintenance or water. This is the ideal plant for the garden, so I suspect we'll plant a lot more. Thank goodness there weren't too many plants, because after a few minutes the sun came out and continued its relentless baking. However, it is a bit cooler today, it's only 31C, and with a slight breeze, it almost feels fresh.


Jan's No 1 son and his wife, Ben and Paula, drive up up from Barcelona to stay for the weekend and to get away from the heat in the city. They replace it with heat in the countryside. We always look forward to their visits because they are good fun and add value.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Fries with everything

Fiddling about last night, I managed to rig up Jan's computer with an old modem. I connected her to the internet using the Sagem USB modem supplied by Wanadoo when we first signed up. Needless to say, it looks like there is not a problem with the line but that my Netgear Modem Router has been the cause of my problems. The NMR does seem to get very hot when I connect it to power, so I can't help but feel that this must be connected with the problem. We shall see.


Mr France Telecom showed up this morning unannounced. I joked and said that I didn't know that he was coming. He joked and said that he didn't know either. He was very helpful, and spent time checking the line which I'd already figured was not at fault. In the end we got my computer working on its own which confirmed that fact.


A quick trip to Nimes to buy a new modem and hey presto, the network works and we are back on line again. I also take the precaution of buying a surge protector (Chris, I know you said it ages ago) which will protect not only the computer equipment but also the modem. As a matter of interest would anyone with an external modem be kind enough to check the temperature of said equipment, and maybe post a comment, because the new one is also running very hot as well. This doesn't seem right. I will also post the same question here because there are some very knowledgeable people who I'm sure will give me the right answer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I just love these "find it if you can" computer problems

Last night Cara (No 1 daughter) prepared dinner and I barbecued Dorade to a secret recipe only known to a select few (thank you Lynne) and very nice it was too. Just in case you are not one of the select few look at page 56 of this month’s Sainsbury’ Magazine. You can’t say that I’m not well read.


We lost our internet connection sometime on Sunday. I made a futile attempt to sort things out with the Wanadoo helpline, to be dismissed by someone who was brusque and who gave no quarter despite my request for understanding as a useless foreigner (feelthy Engleesh peeg). It’s at times like this that I wished that the “entente” was a bit more “cordiale”. I got nowhere. It was then that I remembered that France Telecom have an English speaking helpline. The chap who responded was very helpful, made contact with technical support, who promised to call me back when they had checked the line. It is now 20.00 on Tuesday evening and still no call. It’s that old chestnut of French customer service rearing its ugly head again. I’ll call again in the morning. Watch this space, but of course you can’t until I get back online.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Too hot to handle again

The weather has been uncompromising for several weeks now and it’s about time I had a moan. At one point today it hit 38C in the shade, but it has been regularly hitting 34C and the pool now runs at 30C without any additional heating. If this is a taste of things to come, then July and August could well be very uncomfortable. I find the ideal pool temperature is somewhere between 28C and 30C. Any less and I squeal like a pig, any more and it is not very refreshing. Right now, I get in in a very manly fashion and I’m sure Jan is very proud of me.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A new arrival

Anne, Jenny and Olivia leave today. We take a detour through Nimes for a little 'on the hoof' sightseeing on our way to the airport. The roads are quiet, well, they would be at 8.30 on a Sunday morning, and we arrive in good time. They are very nice people and we are sorry to see them go despite the fact that Olivia drinks too much and is generally very rowdy.


If by chance "New Arrival" made you think that Jan is pregnant, then think again. My No. 1 daughter arrives to day after a quick stopover in the UK on her way back from the States. This is only the second time that she has visited us in France because she has previously been in other parts of the world. It transpired that her flight was delayed by nearly an hour. I have met only two BA flights from Gatwick this summer and they have both been delayed. Prices with BA are generally more expensive than Ryanair, and I would need a compelling reason to fly with them.


I have just realised that I have a problem with my internet connection and it may take me a few days to sort it out. Watch this space.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

It's all in the translation

Jenny and Anne go with us to Sommieres for the market and we leave Olivia to cook slowly under the sun. We split up, J & A to buy pressies and Jan and I to buy food. The brugnons look particularly big this year and you know how I like big brugnons? Come to think of it the apricots look pretty big as well. I love all the soft fruits at this time of the year.


I get very irritated with tourists that don't try. There I am standing in a shop paying for a birthday card and this large (country deleted to prevent accusations of racism) woman strolls into the shop and says to the French assistant in very broken English "ave you got stamps?" No please, thank you, or any attempt to converse with her host in French, or even her own language, just arrogance and rudeness.

OK, so what are the essential phrases for a male tourist that should be translated before he leaves for foreign climes?

1 Can I have two beers please?

2 Same again please waiter.
3 Where's the toilet mate?
4 A plate of fries please Manuel?
5 And ketchup?
6 You look so beautiful, you take my breath away.
7 Of course I'll wear one.
8 You must be joking, of course I still love you!
9 Honest constable, it has nothing to do with me.

And for females:

1 A Pina Colada for me and a beer for my friend please.
2 My friend says that this beer will last her all night.
3 I'd like two more large Shingapore Shlings, pleash waiter.
4 Where's a da loo Pedro?
5 I don't want much, just a light salad, pleash waiter.
6 With fries and mayonnaise pleash!
7 I like you very much. You're not married are you?
8 Do you still love me and will you ring me tomorrow?
9 Where's that bloody waiter that works here?

This is not a totally exhaustive list, but it will help with lots of tricky little situations.


It's the hottest day of the year so far with the thermometer reaching 35C in the shade on the kitchen terrace. The pool hits 31C this afternoon and for the first time this year none of my bits complains when I get in. It has almost stopped being refreshing so I turn off the heating. In the meantime Anne, Jenny and Olivia attempt to turn a brighter shade of purple in the searing heat and a jolly good job they do too.


By popular demand I am dragged fighting and screaming to the BBQ and I'm forced to cook my barbecued lamb. Instead of olive oil in the marinade, we use colza, rape seed oil which is high in Omega 3, (Dr K said it, so I do it) but I'm not sure if it marinades quite so well. Next time we'll try 50/50 colza and olive oil. Stay tuned. As usual Jan does a great job with the spuds and veg but of course the star has to be the lamb. Amongst others, we also open a couple of bottles of Plan de Savalous from Coste Plane. This cabernet/merlot blend has been Jan's favorite for a while and I have to say I enjoyed it much more than usual. It goes really well with the lamb. Mnnnnnn.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Diets come and diets go but this one lasts forever

I'm not a fan of diets per se but what I like about my new regime is that I have to change a few things rather than avoid things altogether. Dr K called it Alimentation Equilibree Type Cretiose, as in, how people in Crete eat. There's a lot of stuff for us to digest (sorry) so more about this later.


It's the hottest day of the year so far. At 3.00pm it's 34C in the shade. The pool hits 29C for the first time - great!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

What a lovely way to lose weight

It's busy today because Anne, Jenny and Olivia arrive for a few days of R&R and this afternoon it's off to see Dr K, the nutritionist recommended by the lovely Dr J, in the beautiful town of Montpellier. It transpires that Dr K is even better looking than Dr J, and is showing a very fine cleavage. How the hell am I supposed to concentrate on what she is saying? Thank God Jan is here, at least one of us will listen to what she says. Before examining me, she instructs me to take off my shoes and trousers (which came off inordinately quickly) and amongst other things she leans over me to take my blood presure. It's a little high she says (I don't bloody wonder, I think), it must be me she says, (you have no idea, I think). Even Jan sees the funny side of all this and starts to giggle. Anyway she is very efficient and quite bossy (I realise that I quite like this) and sets me off on my route to better health. What she doesn't know is that fifteen minutes before the appointment, I had this huge piece of cream filled cake, sort of a final fling before my purdah. If she's any good she'll sort that out as well I say to myself.

(Somehow I don't feel that you are entering into this in the right spirit - Ed.)


We have never been to this part of Montpellier before and it has a distinctly Parisien feel. More to the point, we park right next door to this huge viaduct that must have been used to bring water into the large gardens nearby. Very impressive! The area is known as Arceaux (pronounced arso) and we feel we should explore it more.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I hate missing appointments

Call me neurotic but I hate being late for an appointment. What I dislike even more is missing an appointment altogether. I'm really quite anal, inasmuch as I always allow plenty of time to get anywhere, and through my foolproof diary system, I remember everything. Wrong. This morning I made two mistakes (you have no idea how hard it was to write that). The first was not looking at my diary until 10.00 am, and the second was Jan not reminding me. Now I know that the second is not strictly my fault but I will share some of Jan's blame. I had been waiting three months for this optician's appointment and will now have to wait another two and a half months before I can get there because, as usual, nothing happens in France during the month of August.


The storm last night produced a clap of thunder so loud that I swear it lifted me clean off the bed. This is not a good way to wake up. It took ages to get the plaster from the ceiling out of my nails. I put the thunder and lightning down to the gods hearing about the verdict in the Michael Jackson case and being really pissed off.


I'm into fish at the moment. Not the mermaid variety (but there's a thought) but the eating type. Last night I had Dorade (Sea Bream) which is fast becoming my favourite, and this afternoon we set off to find a recommended fish restaurant in Grau du Roi. Le Saint Pierre,1 quai Gozioso, 0466 53 20 90, is well worth a visit but is not outstanding. The menus varied between 11.50 euros and 50.00 euros and the wine list was a little on the heavy side. What I want from a fish restaurant, is the opportunity to eat a choice of fresh fish, cooked to my liking and not necessarily bound up with sauces and other accoutrements. Good quality fare, simply cooked, without costing an arm and a leg and no pretentions to grandeur. The restaurants are out there, but as always, the question is where?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Kicking around in the dirt

Jean Francis (yesterday's pique nique host) is a very interesting man and knows a great deal about the history of the village and surrounding area. He says that the next village, Crespian, was named after the first Roman Governor of Nimes who had a house there, and our village Cannes, was so named because of the canes which grew profusely in the area and from which the Romans made boats.

One day JF took me up to his plot of land overlooking the village (that I subsequently realised was where the pique niques are held) and having shown me a well that he had dug, started to tell me that there was once a roman villa on the site. Looking around at this somewhat barren patch I asked him how he knew. He started to kick around in the dirt and eventually picked up two pieces of clearly identifiable, hand made, roof tiles and the base of a large bowl or dish (I know they're local because they have Castorama printed on the underside - French joke!). I keep them and treasure them to this day.


It's cloudy today, and we're all a bit 'jaded' so whilst both the girls clean and polish, I watch the tennis. Not wanting them to feel left out, I kept shouting the score. I'm that kind of man.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

You must be joking

Today is my No 1 daughter's birthday. Happy birthday Cara, have a safe trip to the States and see you on 19th.


Phillip, a reader from Australia, wrote to ask if I would continue to praise Jan's cooking after being so spoilt by my mother. Phillip, are you kidding? It's a no brainer! My mother never reads the blog and Jan reads every single word (presumably to build her case for divorce proceedings) but more importantly my mother goes home in two weeks and I'm stuck here with Jan, as my main source of nourishment, for hopefully, a long time to come.


I take Max training this morning in order to give Jan time to prepare a pique nique. Today is the annual pique nique hosted by Jean Francis and Marie Helene. We have made some good French friends in the village, neither of us being particularly interested in mixing only with the expat crowd. When all said and done, what is the point of coming to France if all you ever do is meet the English? I have never understood that.
Boy, did we underestimate the first invite two years ago. Our idea of a picnic was a blanket on the ground, a few sandwiches and a couple of bottles of something to drink. Wrong. What we found was about 40 or so people setting up their chairs and umbrellas at make shift trestle tables, aperos (whiskey, Ricard etc.), lots of delicious food being handed around, and someone roasting a sheep over an open fire. It made our packet of crisps look pretty poor. We were very, very flattered to be the only English people invited and if my memory serves me well, the only other couple from the village. This was acceptance with a big A and we felt very privileged!
Subsequent years were just as enjoyable, with as much food and drink as anyone could manage and lots of laughs. Last year, mum was here, and I happened to mention that there had once been a Roman villa on the site. Mum, in one of those classic breathtaking moments looked around and said, "Why did they knock it down then?"
This year, JF's brother cooked paella in a pan about 5 feet in diameter. I'm not a big fan of paella, but this was superb. There were more guests from the village this year, including the mayor, who had told me privately earlier in the week that he wasn't going to go, because he gets his ear bent so much. I suggested that he went anyway, because they're good fun, and then to come and sit near us because I don't want anything at the moment. He laughed and did.
After the food and drink, the men that can still stand up, and a few that can't, (all very macho) form into teams and play boules. This goes on for a few more hours (I'm happy to be knocked out fairly early) but we leave before the end and come home to a bit of peace and sanity.
This event is one of the highlights of our year and I can't wait for next years!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Welcome home - thank God you're back

Jan returns today so I busy myself with making the bed in order to show my beloved that I'm a full, hands on, nineties man. (What century are you living in? - Ed.)

Thank God my mother's here to cook two meals and clean the house whilst I make the bed. Jan makes it look so easy! After I've had breakfast (and made the bed) I just have enough time for a quick shower before it's off to Nimes for the afternoon flight from Luton. Work, work, work, work, work, that's all it is when Jan's away.


Joe Cocker is playing in the arene at Nimes in July, so we nip into FNAC to see if there is a seating plan and purchase tickets. I say seating plan, because the last time we saw Elton John in concert, we had to sit on stone steps for the full gig, a non stop two and a half hours. This may have been ok for the citizens of ancient Nimes and Roman soldiers, who enjoyed watching people getting murdered, but not for us soft arsed folk.

There's nothing to beat a live band. The last time we saw one was when we went to see Joe Jackson in Paris. A group of us went, some from the south of France and others from England, all organised by that icon of all things computer, author, and trainee chef, Chris W. Thanks Chris, it was a good gig. By the way, if you are looking to buy a stone built farmhouse here in Gard, Chris is selling one.


Remember my little rant about French politicians on 31st May - (Where's my bucket and spade?), well take a look here. You will note that this article was written on 10th June. The moral of the story is, read this blog and you get all the important news and comment way before anyone else.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

More jobs and then tennis in the heat of the day

I spend all the morning zapping weeds. It takes forever and it's a constant battle. There must be a business in weed growing. They grow so easily with no need for water or any other attention. The area under the fruit trees, which I mow like a lawn, resembles a lawn from a distance, but it is all weed. There's a business opportunity here but I need to think about it carefully.


A nice lunch followed by tennis from Queen's Club. Lunch is simplicity itself but oh so tasty. The Italians call it 'pane e pomodoro'. Here's your free recipe. Take some old chunky bread (not slices), rub it generously with garlic and then drizzle olive oil all over until it's soft. Take your oldest, ripest, squashiest tomatoes and roughly chop them over the bread. Add salt to taste. Thank you mama.

The tennis so far this week has been good and as usual the tournament has attracted a good field. Interestingly, Nadal who has just won the French Open, was knocked out in the first round at a grass court tournament at Halle in Germany. There is not enough time between the end of the major clay events and the start of the grass court season, but even so, it shows how skilful you have to be to play on different surfaces.


We nip to a new dentist in Quissac because mum has a small dental problem. My regular dentist can't fit us in until July, which is just downright stupid. Surely they can organise themselves better than that. Don't get me going about customer service in this part of the world. Anyway, we give the new man a try. After a brief examination, he said that he would complete a temporary job and could we call back on Saturday afternoon? I might have to eat my words about service after all.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A breakfast fit for a rock star

Because the dates coincide, Jan usually nips to England for Maisie's birthday when my mother visits us here in France. She leaves me in the capable hands of mater, who normally lives alone, and who is usually in urgent need of someone to spoil. Max and I vie for her attention but needless to say, Max generally wins. This morning however, it was my turn. My mother's idea of eating well, is to eat mountains of good for you foods, but when I say mountains, I mean enough to negate the low fat/calorie content of such fare. Part of my breakfast this morning consists of at least two grapefruits, peeled and segmented and with the skin taken off the segments, no less. There was so much, I had to send half of it back to the kitchens! For a brief moment, I felt like some poxy, spoilt little rock star, and was tempted to ask her to feed me by hand - just don't ask! Being an only child does have its benefits and having now visited the realms of fantasy, albeit briefly, Jan will have to get herself sorted out when she gets back. I will demand much higher standards in future.
(Have you ever stopped to think why she really went to England? - Ed.)


We have run out of my favourite everyday white and rose, so I nip across the village to see Vincent Coste who makes delicious organic wines. The white, a Vermentino, is just right for glugging with a fish sauce pasta and his special rose is right at any time. Thank you,
Francoise and Vincent.

My mother likes to spend money. She sees French supermarkets as Aladdin's Caves, full of all the things that she knows and loves from her own Mediterranean background. On Tuesday she needed to 'stock up', so that I wouldn't go hungry whilst Jan was away. Not being exactly shy myself when it comes to 'goodies', we buy enough scallops, clams, tuna, and swordfish to feed an army. Tonight, to start, we feast on scallops lightly fried in butter, followed by 'pasta al vongole', spaghetti with clam sauce to you and me. I groan just to think of the quantities, but we made it - just. Wonderful.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A shortage of mince pies

Jan leaves for a quick trip to the UK today. She intends to be present at our grandchild's second birthday. The price of flights with Ryanair makes this type of trip quite feasible. It reminds me that, by the beginning of December last year, I had eaten all the mince pies. Pies that we had brought back with us from an earlier trip in October.

"What will we do?" I wailed. "How will we cope?"
Jan placed her soothing hands on my fevered brow and said, "Fear not, my little one," (Jan has an eyesight problem) "Mummy will take care of everything."

Superwoman then books her flight back to the UK and returns the next day with many boxes of said delights, plus other goodies, enough to keep me quiet for a day or two. Good old Ryanair! For my part, they tasted particularly good because, even with a cheap flight, they were so expensive!!

Monday, June 06, 2005

All the motivation you need to lose weight

I've just finished reading "The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith. It was first published in 1998, so forgive me if you have read it, but if you haven't, I recommend it.


Tennis first thing, followed by several hours in the garden. Mum and Jan weed the beds, whilst I do much more manly things with a petrol driven strimmer. This thing vibrates so much that it takes about an hour for the tingling in my hands to stop!


Talking about a tingling in your hands, I nip to my doctor to get my prescription renewed, to find that he is temporarily replaced by the beautiful, tall (female) Dr J. As usual she takes my blood pressure. She takes my arm and nestles it gently next to her stomach (careful, the kids aren't in bed yet - Ed.) and I'm amazed to find that it's quite normal. I must be losing it! Anyway, she recommends that I see a nutritionist - yes doctor, anything you say doctor - which is a nice way of saying that I'm a fat bastard and that if our relationship is to go any further, I have to lose some weight. Oh yes, and it will help my diabetes as well. As this is the year of getting into better shape, I'm happy to oblige. Watch this space.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

To Wanda

Today is my mother's birthday and by total coincidence, the book that my son has recently had published, arrives from Amazon. We were surprised and very, very touched to see that he has dedicated it to my mother, his grandmother. Can you think of a nicer birthday present?
At £46 it is hardly going to be a best seller but if you have any interest in immigration in post war Britain then this is the book for you.


The men's final at Roland Garros today was excellent, full of excitement and, without taking anything from Henin-Hardin who played really well, in stark contrast to the ladies' final yesterday.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Hoots mon, is that bagpipes I hear?

For some time now a French neighbour, across the valley, has been practicing the bagpipes. With the sun beating down relentlessly from a crystal clear blue sky, it feels strange and so out of place. I associate bagpipes with winter, New Years eve, Burns Night (my birthday), roaming in the gloaming and all that. On balance, I like it, not for any nostalgic reasons, because Scotland, most definitely, does not make me feel nostalgic, it's only the second place on earth that I have experienced racial bigotry, and why is it that Scots always want to go back to Scotland when they retire? How come they like so much rain?

On the contrary, it's because he usually plays pleasant tunes and not for too long. The one I like the most is the German folk tune that inspired Elvis's song 'Wooden Heart'. Mind you, you'd have thought that with such a simple tune, he'd have learnt the bloody thing by now.


I started to watch the women's final from Roland Garros, this afternoon, and fell asleep watching Mary Pierce making so many unforced errors. She had the whole crowd behind her. It was embarrassing. The only excuse could have been that she was injured but there didn't appear to be any sign of that. It was a very poor final and a great many people will have paid a lot of money to watch it. She should have given her runners up cheque to charity, but somehow I suspect that she didn't!


Another delicious meal at Les Fourneau de Clelia in Aigremont tonight. We tried to book for tomorrow, my mother's birthday, but they were full. Aubain welcomes you, waits on table and tries very hard to make your meal enjoyable. His mother, second name Clelia, does the cooking. This is our favourite restaurant within a 30 minute drive. Highly recommended.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A sterile male is worse than useless

Reading this article today made me feel very sad, because I am both male and sterile!


Jan has a well deserved lie in this morning. She is pretty pooped after all our visitors. Throughout the month, she handled herself with great dignity and self control and didn't let me down once. I'm going to put her in for the "Wife of the Month" award.


A surprise phonecall from Andy H this morning - he's over in the Marseille area and can he stop by tonight? Andy is in the process of starting a business in the south of France. He has a very talented tennis playing son and is considering moving him to a well respected tennis school near Nimes. This school provides a French education, in small groups, and is run by a highly respected tennis coach. Pretty damn near perfect really.


Mummy (this shows that I have a soft and gentle side) arrives today, so it's off to Nimes. I keep hearing stories that the airport at Nimes may close down, which would be a significant inconvenience if it were true. Ryanair have three flights a day into Nimes, so that equates to about a jumbo jet worth of people in and out each day. Unfortunately these are the only flights.
Mum walks unaided, with all her bags, from baggage reclaim and we are delighted to see her. Not bad for an 81 year old. I only hope that I will be able to trot around Europe at that age. I feel very proud of her!


I barbecue fish for dinner. Mum and Andy are in great form and we have lots of laughs. Andy and I start to work our way through a bottle of Absolut vodka after dinner, and a jolly good job we did too.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Well I never

I keep daily weather statistics for our village, because I'm a very sad person. Each month, after I have calculated average temperatures etc, I ask Jan what she believes the average for the month has been. She unfailingly gets it right to within half a degree. I asked her what she thought the average was for May, "oh between 23 and 24" she said. It was actually 23.9C. Where am I going wrong?

(Isn't it a question of how clever she is? - Ed)


We now see another 2 snakes, both recent roadkill within 30 metres of each other. From leading a relatively peaceful and boring life, I'm seeing snakes all over the place. I don't think it's anything that I'm taking!


Mike and Joanna leave today, and we'll miss them both. This means that we'll be rattling around in this place until tomorrow when my mother arrives. At various times Jan gets really fidgety because she feels that she should be preparing a meal. Notwithstanding that, we spend a nice afternoon by the pool. Bliss.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Another public apology

Following my little rant yesterday, and after a late night visitation from the French Secret Service, I am advised that I either have to apologise for yesterday's rude remarks about the new Prime Minister, or I go to prison. Prison does not appeal. Thoughts of a 280 pound toothless, French, hairy, gorilla falling in love with me and saying "I vont to kees you beeg peenk lips ma petit", sends shivers. So, without prejudice, I unconditionally apologise and I am very happy to state that "the new French PM cannot smell his own bad breath." Time to move on. Amen.


Kate and Wayne leave today so another quick trip to Montpellier Airport. We're sorry to see them go because they are thoroughly nice people, Wayne is the life and soul of the party and so enjoys his time out here. It's hot today, so we have a long lazy lunch on the terrace before a not so quick dip in the pool.