Friday, June 30, 2006

We are a grandmother again!

Chris, last night's chef, but also known as Dr Keyboard, kindly helped me update a website, before Jan and he left to go to Anduze and the Britnimes book club.


In the afternoon, Neil and Lawrence came to stay for a few days so I went to Nîmes to pick them up. Fortunately for me, they both enjoy football so we settled in front of the box to watch both World Cup quarter-finals. Germany march inexorably on and will meet Italy in one of the semi-finals next week. I've been saying it to anyone who will listen that historically the 'home' team always does well, so Germany must not be underestimated. They did look good.


Just after we had got to bed, Jan received the news that she is a grandmother for the second time. Congratulations to Rebecca (above) and Trevor on the safe arrival of another little girl.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Your own private chef

Bob and Lynne, and Chris and Delphine came round for lunch today. Jan knocked up gazpacho, ribs and home made ice cream. The top photo shows Chris, Delphine, Jan, Bob and Lynne munching away, and the middle photo is very rare footage of the beautiful Lynne, who hates to be photographed, with her lovely new hairdo. Sorry Lynne, but the world has to know!


Before everyone arrived, I cleaned all the patio doors, and did what I thought was a really good job. So much so, that when Jan decided to exit the study this afternoon she failed to see that the doors were shut. We had recently finished a long lunch so that could have been a contributing factor, who knows (pun intended). In case you're concerned, there was no damage to the doors, but you can see the damage to Jan's nose. Ouch!


After everyone had left, Chris showed off his new found skills by cooking dinner. We had:
Trilogie de tomate seche, chèvre et caviar d'aubergine (trilogy of dried tomatoes, goat cheese and aubergine caviar) avec son pistou (with pesto). Selle d'agneau avec son farce mousseline (saddle of lamb stuffed with mousse of chicken breast and cream), jus de roti (gravy) et legumes de saison (seasonal veg). Soupe de peche et glace au huile d'olive (peach soup with olive oil ice cream). A couple of observations about this, first it was all very, very, good, cooked to perfection. and the second we were very intrigued by the olive oil ice cream. Sounds strange but tastes fantastic. Thanks Chris, you are welcome to stay anytime. Just bring your apron and your knives!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Phew, what another scorcher

As I write, it is over 36C in the shade and it's difficult to know how to stay cool, especially when doing jobs around the house. I down tools and head for the pool because that's the only thing that really works. The pool temperature is 29C, with no additional help, and it's been like that for a couple of weeks, but it still cools you down. As someone said yesterday, "And it's still only June."


One of the small jobs that I had to attend to today was to create a fixing in the kennel to which I can attach a chain, to attach to Max. During the party on Sunday, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black shape wandering amongst the guests. We thought that they were both contained safely in the kennel but no, Max had decided to meet all the visitors. He doesn't often try to get out but, with one leap, he can if he really wants to. And this, despite the fence being nearly 6 feet high. I will eventually put a permanent roof on the run but until that time it has to be a chain. One side of me is irritated but one side of me is proud. That's my boy!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Oh go on, let me nibble your ear

For some time now we have been wondering whether Max was gay. Actually it was me that was concerned, being a (less than raging) heterosexual. We heteros have to stick together, don't you know. Pun intended! Anyway, there are some recent signs that he considers Minnie more than just a friend. (Do we really need to know all this? - Ed.) Jan gets quite upset at the thought of a) our first born, Max, 'growing up' and b) getting his leg over with Min, her innocent young baby. As you can see she is constantly 'making up' to him, so it must be difficult for him. Bless.
In order to clean the terrace of accumulated dirt and dog hair, I have found it easiest to hoover between the joints of the paving. Apart from looking like an idiot and despite blocking the hoover pipes a couple of times it is a relatively quick and easy way to make the terrace sparkle. There you go, today's household tip.

So there I am sitting outside, in the cool, on the sparkling clean terrace when I notice that by moving a lamp, a few inches to the left, inside the house I can watch the football on the television through a window. At the moment it is often cooler outside than it is inside so watch the fut I did, sitting outside. Things went well until I realised that by sitting there, I was merely providing breakfast, lunch and dinner for all the local insects. Ah well, it felt like a good idea.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I can't see why she isn't attracted to me

Whilst Jan went off to her art class this morning, I had an even nicer time doing bugger all. I could get good at this. In order to get a bit of air circulating whilst I played with a new camera (a Nikon Coolpix L4 - seeing as you asked) I opened the window. The noise from the cicadas was deafening. Talk about background traffic noise. One of the reasons why we moved away from England was to avoid the din. I really noticed how powerful the noise from cicadas can be when we were at Tyroliane last Saturday. We were leaving, and as we closed the car doors we shut the sound out. Instant peace and quiet. It was quite remarkable. OK, so what's the upside of the noise they make? Well, the males, who make the noise to attract a female, might get laid (I've tried it lads, and it doesn't work) or warmer weather. They tend to emerge in this part of the world when temperatures remain constant at 25C or over and it has been doing that for some time now. In fact today is the sixth day with temperatures at 32C or more.


I've had to keep this quiet, being privy to affairs of State, but my sometime tennis partner William Seguin has announced that he is standing for election to the Conseil Général, because the incumbent Christophe Bouchet has died. William is presently the maire of our village, président de la Communaté de communes Coutach Vidourle and vice président de l'association des Maires du Gard. Hungry for even more power, he has decided to stand for even higher office. I'm not too sure if we can vote in this election, which takes place on the 2nd and 9th of July (don't ask, I don't know why there are two dates), anyway, if we can we will because he is an extremely nice man, has a great sense of humour, regularly has coffee here and might one day be Président de la République. Watch me name drop then, mes braves!


The rest of the day was spent either in the pool, watching a poor Italian performace against an attractive Australian side or eating. I do most of these things extremely well!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Paella for 34, and easy on the prawns please chef

We had a humungous day today. First we have breakfast at 06.30 in order to get the guys (pictured below - during dinner the night before) off to Montpellier for their early morning flight back to London and then we high tail it back because we are hosting a French friend's 45th wedding anniversary.


Our French friends turn up at 09.30 to erect some shade and lay the tables. It's 32C in the shade so what do they chose for their main course - paella - Monsieur Chef turns up an hour beforehand and, after setting up his kitchen in full sun, he starts to cook his paella on the terrace. Admittedly it had already been part cooked but I bet a bit of honest French sweat fell in at some point (oh gross! - Ed.). Having said that it did taste good! In order to cheer my flagging spirits, I sneaked off to watch England struggle to beat Ecuador 1-0. Anyway, win we did (ah it's the royal we now! - Ed.) and the final plates were cleared and the tent pulled down at 19,30. Shattered, we stumbled to bed and slept for 11 hours. Bliss!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

You're never over 45, are you?

Imagine the scene. I'm standing in Market Street in the middle of Manchester waiting for Jan. She approaches with the hugest of grins on her face.

"Que passa?" I said. She told me that she had been stopped by a woman conducting street surveys.
"Excuse me Madam," said the interviewer, but could I ask you about your hair products.
"Certainly," said Jan.
"First I need to ask you your age," said the interviewer.
"I have a bus pass," said Jan.
"I'm so sorry," said the interviewer, "I thought that you qualified but I'm looking for women under 45."

As you can imagine Jan (pictured above, as I like to remember her), was hugely flattered and hasn't stopped telling people, well, anyone that will stand still for an hour or two.


Whilst Jan stayed at home tending the flocks, I took the gang to market and to Tyroliane. Several of them attempted, and finished, the black run. This is seriously difficult and requires a huge amount of upper body strength. They completed it but boy were they tired at the finish.


Back home for more tennis and a bbq cooked by an expert, me! We started with gazpacho, prepared by Jan, a selection of meats cooked sur le barbecue, by me and Jan's famous chocolate soufflé. All this washed down with white from Domaine Arnal and an oak aged Merlot from Domaine de Baubiac. I slept well!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cry God for Harry, England and St George

There was some discussion recently, on a forum that I visit, about flags and the general hysteria supporting the English football team. Last Tuesday in Manchester it was no exaggeration to say that about 20% of cars on the road were sporting at least 2 flags of St George, many houses were covered in flags and street sellers were doing a roaring trade. If you live in England and are fed up with all the fuss, then come to France. There just isn't the same passion or support for their team and I have seen no evidence of flag waving. Having said that the French team are not playing too well and things might improve if they make the final. Fat chance!


I've no idea how these guys do it. It's 33C in the shade and they hit tennis balls all afternoon. The other thing that amazes me is the amount of food they eat. No picking at lettuce leaves here, mes amis. As we have underestimated their collective appetite we head off for an additional top up shopping trip. Zut alors!


For dinner Jan prepared a melon and ham starter, oven baked salmon with a ginger, lime juice and coriander topping and a bread and butter pudding made with panetone. It all went!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Up at 06.00 for the 09.30 flight to Nîmes. Yesterday was very hectic and I think that we were still running on the previous day's adrenalin. Gill and Glyn had been 'absolutely fabulous' hosts and we were very sorry to leave. Unfortunately we had to come back to Nîmes to pick up Floyd and his pals because their plane landed shortly after ours. Relaxing this was not. We managed an hours supermarket shop before dashing over to Montpellier to meet them. Whose idea was this?
Despite a 33C heat, these guys hit the tennis court and stayed out there until 20.30. It makes me ill just to think about it!
For dinner Jan rustles up, north African starters, a lamb and vegetable couscous and a very north African strawberry and cherry fruit salad. Well, she was two thirds of the way there! Boy, do these guys eat, so we already have another trip to the supermarket planned! It was less than 24 hours ago that we were having our eardrums bashed in Manchester. Pardon!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pure Magic

Yesterday, as the plane flew over the Wirral towards Liverpool, it made a couple of attempts at landing at John Lennon Airport. At times it felt as if we would land on the mud flats of the Mersey, but land safely we did. Glyn met us off the plane and we then drove north to their delightful village not too far from Southport. This is country living at its English best.
This morning, Glyn showed us his commute into Manchester, down the M6, which was packed with traffic. It never fails to surprise me how busy the motorways are in Britain. This road is a short step from gridlock because one small incident would have meant hours of waiting for hundreds of cars. The UK government has prevaricated for years, but still collects the car road tax, and will have to deal with an enormous problem in the not too distant future.
One thing that Manchester has in abundance, that we lack in this part of France, is big shops, and Jan is now in her element. After dropping Glyn off at work we head towards the Trafford Centre. This place is huge, you want shops, they got shops, hundreds of em and some very appealing, like John Lewis! We spent a few hours checking out what we needed, before buying it, and then headed over to Manchester centre to find Printworks. Printworks because Glyn had told us that we could eat at
Wagamama. They have several places in London, at which we liked to eat, so it was good news that they had opened one in t'north. I can't remember what we ate but Jan's white chocolate and ginger cheesecake and my wild berry sorbet were just excellent. Recommended.
Later this afternoon we had to meet up with Glyn and Gill and we had rather stupidly forgotten that England were playing Sweden, so finding a quiet, pleasant bar proved to be quite difficult. Until we chanced across 'Puremagic'. Why was this bar empty, smoke free and very appealing? The cynic in me thought that maybe it was too upmarket and smoke free for the typical football crowd. The real reason was that they had no television, smoking was not allowed but more interesting of all, it was a magic bar. The PureMagic Bar, The Printworks, Withy Grove, Manchester 0161 819 7770 was great fun and an excellent place to while away a couple of hours. Magic tricks, performed at the bar or at your table made it an excellent oasis, prior to us all walking over to the
Manchester Evening News Arena, to see The Eagles in concert. If you are an Eagles fan you will understand how good they were (click on the link and navigate to hear their music), if you have yet to hear them you'd better hurry up because they all looked bloody old to me.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pay attention at the back

Yesterday was mostly spent doing general maintenance in preparation for visitors, next week. Why so early I hear you say. Well, because we are popping over to Liverpool today to see the Eagles in concert tomorrow and we return a couple of hours before our guests arrive on Wednesday. Everything has to be shipshape by then. Are you paying attention to all this rubbish? (More to the point do we want to know all this rubbish? - Ed.)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Strange feelings

So there I was expecting to support the new bar, in the market place in Sommieres, but it had failed to open. That was the first disappointment of the day. Sitting at another bar, that was obviously open, and watching the world go by, I got this very strange feeling (Oh please, not one of them? - Ed.). I started to feel very negative towards the hordes of tourists invading this pretty little market town. Not so long ago, I was one of those tourists so it's illogical of me to feel like that. Hmnnnn, I surprised myself. Where has that come from?


Having done a recce at the Parc d'Aventure Tyroliane for next week's visitors, I popped into the Cave Cooperative in St Christol to try some of their goodies. This is a very good wine making village so I fancy that the cave should be above average. Not having the time to taste anything, I brought a few bottles away to taste at home. Watch this space.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A hot sultry curry

It had been a hot, very sultry day and so what better thing to do than go for a hot sultry curry. Reading The Languedoc Page forum, a few people had mentioned a curry house in Lunel that was providing an 'English style' curry, like wot mother used to make, or more precisely like
'The Taj Mahal' used to make.
One board member, BonnyYewTree, invited partners for a visit, so Jan and I volunteered. We have so far been very disappointed with the quality of ethnic food in this area, so a curry house that was getting good reviews had to be checked out.
Le Palais des Roses, 323 bvd St-Fructueux, 34400 Lunel, 0467 83 03 24, is the best restaurant Indien that we have found so far. The friendly proprietor, who speaks English, will adapt your meal to better suit English tastes. I asked him for a dish that was not on the menu and he agreed to cook it. It wasn't a bad effort. Because we were on a 'blind date', meeting some really nice people for the first time, not enough time was devoted to the menu, so we will have to go back, but first appearances suggest that this place should definitely be revisited. Having said that, we are making a flying visit to Manchester next week and have been promised a visit to 'Curry Mile' in Rusholme. Now that's what I call a curry!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Where's the Hallal butcher when you need one?

William failed to show up this morning. Probably because I gave him such a sound beating on Monday but more likely because he is mulling over his political future at the moment and is considering whether to present himself for other high office. He has a lot on his mind - bless.


I must be one of the few people I know who actually enjoys going to the dentist. (Is this the best you can do? - Ed.) I particularly enjoy having my teeth cleaned. You come out able to feel all the gaps in your teeth. Lovely! We also used the trip into Quissac to see if we can find a Hallal butcher. It's less about me trying to get Jan into a burkha (above) and more that we have a hallal meat eater visiting next week and we need to know where to shop. Find one we do, recently opened, right on the high street in Quissac. In searching for a picture of a burkha, I came across a picture of a camel trainer on his mobile. I'm not sure why I found this amusing, but I do.


This afternoon we visited the Notaire for the official signing on the Compromis de Vente on our little house in the village. The procedure for buying and selling a house in France can be found here and it is quite straightforward and slightly less stressful than the English system. Anyway, this part of the process involved buyer and seller sitting in front of Maitre S whilst he goes through the contract, line by line, and satisfying himself that everyone knows what they are letting themselves in for. Fair but boring, especially as it ate into 20 minutes of the England match with Trinidad and Tobago. After a very frustrating and stressful 65 minutes of frankly poor play, England started to show a bit more flair and wrapped it up 2-0. What is it with these so called world class footballers? They certainly like to hide their talent!


A few weeks ago, we received an invite to the re-opening of our favourite local restaurant, Le Fourneau de Clelia (Madame Chef has been ill). The few gatherings of this type that we have been to, show the French as a very hungry bunch and they do not stint when it comes to a free table. It appeared to us that what food had been put out had gone by the time we arrived and fresh stocks were surrounded by hordes, 10 people deep. We booked for Sunday night then we left and found a pizza place in Quissac!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Wot, another sandwich!

There I was, this morning, rereading Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island, and he was writing about coincidences. I mention this because we had to visit a Notaire this morning and we knew his address, but weren't sure of its location. On the way into the town (pop. 1500) I stopped at the Post Office and asked a group of people standing outside, (stretch your imagination because this is in French), "Excuse me, but I'm looking for Route de St Jean de Serres. I have an appointment with Maitre S." There was a slight pause and the only male in the group of 4 said, "Yes, that's me. Can I help you?" Now that's a coincidence.


I think that I'm now officially a very 'sad person'. This morning I downloaded a World Cup Wallchart. Well, at least it will give Jan some ammunition for the next few years.
Talking about Jan and ammunition, she sent me this today:

"Men have two emotions; they are either hungry or horny. If you see one without an erection, make him a sandwich."

Trouble is, all I ever get is a bloody sandwich!


At long last I've finally got the pool alarm installed and working. It has been mandatory for some time now for all in ground pools to be equipped with some form of accident prevention. This is a good site that explains the situation sensibly and in English. However, in my opinion, it's overkill. The whole of France has had to install some form of accident prevention device for the small number of swimming pool deaths that occur each year. The money would have been better spent educating French drivers in order to reduce the thousands of deaths on French roads. Or better still, follow the lead of just about every other European country in banning smoking in public places. But then pool owners are not likely to riot or go on strike are they?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The sun has got its hat on

It's the second Tuesday of the month and it's Windows Update day. As I understand it, there are up to 12 patches to be downloaded, making it one of the most important download days for a long time. Having said that, at 16.10 this afternoon they were still not available. I wonder at what time they are available in our part of the world? Presumably, when Redmond open up.


We have a hectic few days coming up so there is lots to do around the house but that hasn't stopped me watching the tennis from Queens Club or any of the myriad of World Cup football matches. Do I really care whether Togo beat Switzerland? It's glorious outside and I should be enjoying the sunshine but it's a little difficult to get enthusiastic about the sun when you know that you have at least another 4 months of it to put up with. Hey ho.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Brazil 1 England 1

Tomorrow is the day assigned to St Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of hopeless causes. I only mention this because this morning William and I played tennis for the first time in ages and he really should have been praying harder to the good Saint. I was in such good form that he didn't get one game off me and I thrashed him 6-0 (Owen, you would have been proud of me!) OK, so he had thoughts political on his mind but I was playing like a god (that's dog spelt backwards, right? - Ed.) The score now reads France 5 England 3. Bring him on.


Whilst we are in World Cup mode, Anne sent me this today, which made me laugh.

It's just before England v Brazil at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, an important World Cup group game. Ronaldo goes into the Brazilian changing room to find all his team mates looking a bit glum.

"What's up?" he asks.

"Well, we're having trouble getting motivated for this game. We know it's important but it's only England. They're rubbish and we can't be bothered"

Ronaldo looks at them and says "Well, I reckon I can beat them by myself, you lads go down the bar and have a good time."

So Ronaldo goes out to play England by himself and the rest of the Brazilian team go off for a few drinks. After a few pints they wonder how the game is going, so get they landlord to put the television on.

A big cheer goes up as the screen reads "Brazil 1 - England 0 (Ronaldo 10 minutes)" He's beating England all by himself!
Anyway, a few more pints later and the game is forgotten until someone remembers "It must be full time now, let's see how he got on" They put the television on.

"Result from the Olympic Stadium : Brazil 1(Ronaldo 10 minutes) - England 1 (Beckham 89 minutes).

They can't believe it, he has single handedly got a draw against England!! They rush back to the Stadium to congratulate him. They find him in the dressing room, still in his gear, sat with his head in his hands.

He refuses to look at them. "I've let you down, I've let you down," "Don't be daft, you got a draw against England, all by yourself. And they only scored at the very very end!"

"No, No, I've let you down! I got sent off after 12 minutes."

Sunday, June 11, 2006

British Airways, not my favourite airline!

On the way to Sommieres yesterday, we popped into the Cave Cooperative in Carnas to taste their award winning Merlot. I had been told that it should be in bottles by now. It was, and at 4 euros a bottle it's very good value. We'll let it settle and taste it soon, but at first glance it looks good.


England beat Paraguay 1-0 yesterday but it was very unconvincing. This was not a World Cup winning performance, but then from England, it rarely is. I'm depressed and finding it hard to write this. When will I learn?

There I was sitting in Windsor in 2002 thinking that the major difference between an Englishman and a Frenchman was their language. Having just read the book 'Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong', by Jean Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, I now realise how naive I was. This book is essential reading for any Anglo expat and for anyone with just a smidgeon of interest in France and its people.
Then, over breakfast this morning, Pauline mentions that her parents, as German nationals, and when they lived in Germany (they have subsequently lived all over Europe, but mostly in the UK), had to elect to not pay part of their income to the German Protestant Church. I was so flabbergasted at this notion that I asked her to repeat and explain what she had just said. It transpires that 'the German church' is heavily involved in welfare matters and gets assistance from its citizens by a deduction from income. This was such an alien concept. It's starting to dawn on me that there is an awful lot more than language that separates European countries and it's no wonder that a united Federal Europe might just be a pipe dream (not that I subscribe to the notion anyway).


I have occasionally, in the past, had a rant at British Airways and today is no exception. They run a service between London Gatwick and Montpellier but in summer months only. How they expect to develop a client base for this route escapes me, but anyway that's what they do. Many times in previous years our visitors, who have used this route, have had to experience long delays. I know, because I do the pick up and drop off. Today was no exception. James and Pauline were phoned last Friday to say that due to technical problems with the plane, they had been moved from this morning's flight to the afternoon flight. I ask, what technical problem cannot be fixed in 2 days, and I suspect that the real reason was that the morning flight was empty (as it was coming out) and that they had lots of room on the afternoon flight. Ok, not a major inconvenience but a downright lie, nonetheless, and basically an insult to the intelligence of their passengers. So we arrived in good time to check in for the afternoon flight to be told that the estimated time of departure had been moved back a further 3 hours. What is it with this company?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Look, don't touch, and listen

Into Nîmes to the Franciscan Clinic today to check out Jan's ticker. Every now and then she gets palpitations, mostly when I enter the room, but we went to check to see if there is a medical reason, rather than just hero worship. (Words fail me - Ed.) Anyway, she is fine and is gently read the riot act about losing weight and doing more exercise. At least I'm not the only one to get an ear bashing around here!
Whilst I was waiting for Jan, I read an influential French medical magazine that hailed the British company that had invented a means of installing computer chips into women's breasts. The chips can play music, and the company has developed this new procedure because women are always complaining that men look at their breasts, but never listen to them.


In order to cheer ourselves up, after the morning misery, we had lunch at Lizarran, a tapas bar in the new precinct opposite Geant, on the south side of Nîmes. The address is Zac Carre Sud, Rue Jean Lauret, 30900 Nîmes, 0466 59 32 48. They do various types of tapas and pinxos, which we really enjoyed and which would have helped our new lifestyle enormously, if it hadn't been for the bottle of wine. But hey, you can't have everything can you?


Jan then needed a bit of retail therapy, so we scoured the shops to find things that we didn't really need, bought them, and then felt a lot better for it. I cheered myself up by putting the car through a super dooper new car wash just down the road. For a relatively modest cost you can get your car back to showroom condition, and one day, I'll spoil myself and go back for the works. Very therapeutic.


If you thought that you could get away from the World Cup by reading this blog then you are very much mistaken. The football started tonight with the hosts, Germany, playing Costa Rica. Germany won 4-2 but what on earth were they doing letting Costa Rica score two goals? Underestimate any team at your peril lads.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Le Château du Port

First stop this morning was the Cave Cooperative in Pomerols. We had enjoyed their medal winning Picpoul the other day at L'Embarcadere in Cardet and decided to go see and buy. The place was busy and obviously has a good local reputation. The Picpoul retailed at the princely sum of 4 euros, so we bought some to try at home.


Next stop was Marseillan for lunch. Marseillan is a delightful, picturesque, sleepy (at least at this time of the year) little fishing port. Its main claim to fame is that it's the home of Noilly Prat. We ate at the Le Chateau du Port (middle above) 9 quai de la Résistance, 0467 77 31 67, which is owned by the Pourcel brothers of Michelin 3 stars, Le Jardin des Sens fame in Montpellier. You would expect the food to be good and it was. They had two menus 20 or 29 euros and everyone pronounced their meals as excellent. After a bit of banter with the head waiter (he was clearly unimpressed about the upcoming World Cup) he chalked on his blackboard France 2 England 1. When I complained that that was unrealistic, he added a zero to the England score and the result you can see above. He couldn't care less, and I was happy. Now that's what you call customer service.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

La plume de ma bloody tante

A couple of photos above that, for some reason, wouldn't upload yesterday. The first of James watching Madame deboning his fish, moments before I suggested that she bought her aioli. The second at the conclusion of the international rescue effort. It's a pity that we didn't take a photo of the car in the hole because it looked quite funny. A very relieved French lady, she who ditched the car, talking to the German in the red shirt whilst I stand behind the car completing my invoice for the recovery.


A good friend, Chris Ward, an ex Times of London journalist, author and all round good egg has had a mid-life change of direction and is now training to be a chef here in France. In Avignon to be precise. In his blog the other day he mentioned that he was undertaking his exams and one of the exams is in the English language. I dropped him a note the other day and wished him luck in the English exam. This was his reply, which I thought was very funny.

"I think the examiner was a bit overwhelmed - she just kept nodding and asking non-grammatical questions. Apparently, if they give you 20/20 they have to write a report so usually the top mark is 19/20 - so I'm going to protest if I don't get top marks. After all, 25 years earning my living as a writer, public speaking and writing books should stand me in good stead for an exam normally taken by 16 year olds."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Chez JuJu revisited (again)

Jan had a funny look in her eyes and was looking a bit lively this morning. When I noticed the date, I understood why. It was the sign of the beast, 6/6/6. Crumbs. On a much lighter note, this made me laugh. I quite like him, but I suppose that when I was younger he was a bit non u.


By way of a treat, we took James and Pauline to Chez JuJu for lunch today. James, who until recently was totally vegetarian, will now eat fish (which is just as well at a fish restaurant - Ed.) and the choice, like last time, was sea bass or turbot. Jan and I started with tellines, smothered in aioli, delicious but I could still taste it 6 hours later. If you don't like garlic then this aioli is not for you. I was feeling a bit mischievous (that's not like you - Ed.) and, as Madame deboned the fish, I asked her if she made the aioli or she bought it. She nearly jumped out of her skin and promptly gave us the recipe. Frankly I'm not convinced. Anyway, Jan and I had turbot and James and Pauline had sea bass. Both were perfectly cooked, as usual, in the outdoor wood burning oven. James was very brave, because even after Madame had deboned his fish, she left it head first towards him, with its eyes popping and its mouth gaping. Who's a big brave boy? An excellent meal.


We made a small detour on the way back to look at the flamingoes in this very remote part of the Camargue and, as we were about to leave, a chap came striding towards us seeking assistance. In the distance you could see that his wife had driven the front right hand wheel into a big hole, to the extent that the left rear wheel was high in the air, the car was beached and could not easily be moved. I was now in my element because I love these sorts of problems. A quick recce determined that if we could get the car level and could find a tow rope then we could pull it out. Along came a German family, who had the rope, we filled the back left hand side of the car with people, including one or two in the boot, got the car level and then gently pulled it free. An excellent example of International cooperation. This could be turned into a film. Marlon Brando could play me (don't be stupid, he's way too thin, and dead!- Ed.)
Full of bonhommie and looking for another major international incident to resolve, we drove round to Salin de-Giraud, crossed the Rhône by ferry and drove back a slightly different way. There were no more problems to be solved. Damn.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Monday morning blues

Today is not a national holiday but it seems to be a semi official local holiday which is why the Feria in Nîmes finishes today. Sometime ago, Chirac announced that, what was historically Whit Monday, would in future be a normal work day in 'solidarity' with the elderly. Naturally there were strikes and the odd riot, and now there is a certain amount of confusion, or more to the point, a lot of people just take the day off. Chirac's popularity, which is at an all time low at 17%, is bound to tumble further. There will be presidential elections next year, with a couple of strong front runners, Sarkosy and Royal. It should be interesting.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

La Feria de Pentecôte in Nîmes

My son James and Pauline (pronounced powlina because she is German) arrived in Montpellier to stay with us for a week. Their flight left Gatwick at 06.40 which means that, even though they live just down the road in Brighton, they had to get up at 04.00. Ouch!


This weekend is La Feria de Pentecôte in Nîmes, so we went in early evening today, Sunday. It finishes tomorrow and Sunday is likely to have more people around. Nîmes buzzes during these events and tonight was no exception. Having walked around the town to show the sites to Pauline, we went to the bar at the top of the Carré d'Art. Unfortunately it was a champagne only night in the bar (you will see why later), but because all the other bars were blaring out very loud, almost unpleasant level music, this is like a little oasis. The balcony overlooked the stage that had been set up to the side of the Maison Carré, so it was a good vantage point to see what was going to happen later. We had front row seats but we had no idea who was on the bill. Well, after an hour of sinking bubbly (I have to say that I much prefer the local stuff from the cave cooperative at Carnas) who came on but the Gypsy Kings. Wow, a free concert (except for the champagne), weren't we lucky?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Cherry picking

It was England's, and manager Sven's, last friendly on home soil before they set out for the World Cup in Germany next week. What good it is to play a team like Jamaica, I'll never know. England won 6-0, which I suppose gives them a confidence boost, but Jamaica were hardly strong opposition. Anyway, they had no injuries and good luck to the lads.


The Mistral has been blowing for 6 days now and it is starting to get a bit irritating. There are a couple of jobs I want to do outside but the wind sort of prevents that (in my day it was called being lazy - Ed.). At least we got to pick the final cherry harvest, but we still have no idea why one tree produced fruit a few weeks ago and the other this week. Ah, the mysteries of a horticultural life! I'm sorry I can't show you a picture of the latest cherries but we ate them all for pudding last night.


The dogs started to play rough and tumble in the living room last night and broke a lamp before I could stop them. Max, sensibly, just gets out of the way when I shout at them, but Minnie goes into a stupid 'I'm sorry routine' that eventually involves submissively lying on her back. Why can't all women be like that?

Friday, June 02, 2006

A very special Picpoul

We had lunch at L'Embarcadère today. We first visited the restaurant a couple of years ago out of curiosity. It's not too far away at 30350 Cardet and it specialises in fish. The best thing, on both visits, were moules in a curry sauce. It is not inexpensive, but then fish restaurants around here are usually a bit pricey. Before I pass judgement I will need to go back again. However, what was outstanding was the wine. We had a gold medal winning Picpoul de Beauvignac from the cave cooperative at 34810 Pomerols. We will make a trip next week to find the cave.


Despite my rant about our plumber the other day, he turned up this afternoon and straightened my upside down tap. I gave him a few other jobs to do which he said that he will complete in July. Roll on July!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Shopping to identify needs

I visited a consultant doctor with Jan this morning (she suspects an immaculate conception!). Contrary to what we were used to in the UK, making a timely appointment was not a problem. The consultation rooms were brand new, nothing unusual there, but what fascinated me was how casually the doctor and his staff were dressed. I have noticed this before with my own visits to our surgery. Dr F, who also spoke English, was extremely professional and efficient, was wearing a scruffy short sleeved 'pilot' shirt, black jeans and a pair of trainer type boots that were a cross between basketball boots and boxer's boots. His secretary, who was young and very pretty, was wearing a pink pearl choker, a sparkling pink, low cut top, suitable for a night out, and she displayed an 'elegant' small tattoo on her left breast. How different, and surprisingly refreshing.


Being in Nîmes in the morning we decide to pop into the excellent indoor market (it is only open in the morning) and FNAC. The market to buy some goodies to eat and into FNAC for me to browse. Needless to say we found things that we 'needed' in both stores, tellines and dorade in the market and a sound system for Jan's iPod in FNAC. Jan gets enormous enjoyment from her iPod and is one of the most technically savvy people of her generation that I know. Definitely a groovy granny.