Tuesday, July 31, 2007


After such a late night last night, it was hard getting up this morning to pick up the pooches from the kennels. Minnie was due at the vet by 09.00 to go under the knife. Jan, who has been spayed herself, (I'm lost for words - Ed.) was not a happy bunny and shed the odd tear, knowing what Min would have to go through.
When we picked her up late afternoon, the little mite (if you can call a 40 kilo dog little, or a mite) was very groggy and you just couldn't help feeling sorry for her. Bless.

Joe Cocker in Carcassonne

Yesterday was a very, very long day. Jan and I, and Gill and her two children Katie and Tom, set off for Carcassonne (above) at 10.30. After a one hour stop over at Ikea to pick up a few decorative bits for the wedding and then a pique-nique lunch at a motorway service area near Narbonne (who says I don't know how treat a woman right?) we eventually got to Carcassonne around 14.00. The place was heaving. Full to overflowing with tourists (like you - Ed.) and not at all pleasant. Jan and I had been once before, a few years back, in the middle of winter, so pretty much had the place to ourselves. This was something altogether different and not something that I enjoyed. If it wasn't for the concert that evening I'd have left pronto. Anyway, it took Jan and Gill the best part of 15 minutes before they dived into a shop and muggins here stood outside for the best part of half an hour. When they had finished, and after a quick corrective interview, they had both learnt the error of their ways so it was back to the nearest bit of shady ground for a communal snooze until 18.00 when the urge for a drink took hold.
The concert didn't start until 21.30, so we had a quick dinner in Brasserie Le Donjon, 4 rue Porte D'Aude, Carcassonne, 0468 259572 which turned out to be very good. Jan commented that the onion soup was as good as hers, as was my tomato tart. I followed with an excellent faux filet and the others had cassoulet. Recommended.


The Theatre Jean Deschamps, just inside the city walls is a first class, modern amphitheatre with the ancient walls as a backdrop. The seats were laid out in such a way that everyone had a good view, which was just as well because with the seating being placement libre and, even though we turned up a full hour before the concert started, the place was already three quarters full when we got there.
Joe Cocker started, just like he did in Nîmes two years ago, quite slowly and 25 minutes in, lifted the tempo with a few old favourites. After an hour everyone was on their feet and we all rocked away (after three encores) until just after 23.15. Katie and Tom, who had recently seen the Arctic Monkeys in Nîmes, were very impressed. Whilst this was music from an altogether different era it was their first concert of this type and hopefully JC has a couple of new fans for the future. A good day!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Life's little pleasures

There are times when you feel negative about the French but mostly you are pleasantly surprised. We dropped the dogs off at the kennels in the village to find that Eric has built an extra big kennel so that both dogs can fit comfortably inside. Then Claude insists that we take a jar of home made apricot and blueberry jam. Wasn't that nice? As Jacqui said our quality of life is much better since we moved away from the frenzy of the south of England.

Joe Cocker

Despite it being a two and half hour drive, we're off to Carcassonne today to see Joe Cocker in concert. We saw him two years ago at the arene in Nîmes and it was an outstanding night. More about the trip tomorrow.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Who thinks of these questions?

I'm getting really fed up with some of the inane questions being asked by (BBC) news desks to their reporters in the field. This morning's stupid question, whilst covering the flooding in England, was, 'well Mr Reporter, the rain last night was much lighter than expected and didn't cause any further problems. Were the residents pleased?'
The perfect reply would have been, ' Well no, they were extremely disappointed, just when they were looking forward to even more devastation and an even longer time with a flooded home and no drinking water, the rain then goes and plays this cruel trick on them.' In fact the reporter ignored the ridiculous question completely and did his usual piece.


Jan got inspired the other day when Glyn cooked a paella outdoors, so we popped into Weldoms yesterday to buy a pan. Neither of us are big paella fans but Jan is keen to have a go. I can't wait.

Note the essential cooks tool of a glass in one hand. The finished article below.

Many thanks to Jacqui for showing me how to manipulate these photos.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dress down day, everyday

The question of what to wear each day is simple. Is it the beige shorts or the red, the white t-shirt or the striped and flip flops or flop flips? After wearing a suit and tie for far too many years, shorts are now the order of the day, and I love it. Jan despairs a little and would like me to dress a little less slovenly but she is also very understanding and is getting used to the new look.


Sommieres was heaving this morning and Elie tried to cope with the bar on his own. A big mistake. We had to wait ages for our beers and there were far too many tables not drinking. I'd love to take over the waiting on tables (and even gently suggested it) because I reckon I could double his profits, even allowing for all the beer that I would drink. At the moment it's not a very pleasant experience.


Glyn and Gill very kindly invited us round for aperos this evening, then all seventeen of us headed off to Le Castelas, the relais in Montmirat. How do they do it? A tasty four course meal for 11 euros. Having said that, I'm beginning to suspect a liberal use of msg because my ears were thumping in the middle of the night. Mmnnn, might need to watch that.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sounds fishy

It seems like we just can't stay away. A few weeks back, Bob and Lynne suggested that we take a trip to Chez Ju Ju with Bryan and Gill. Today was the appointed day so off we all went. Jan made the comment that it's quite a long way to drive just to eat fish. My view is that there is nowhere nearer that cooks fish, perfectly, in an outdoor wood burning oven. Or to be more precise, there is nowhere that we have yet found that cooks fish anywhere near as well as Ju Ju.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

All alone again

I thought you might like to see the latest fashion from England.
Whilst Jan was out enjoying herself at her craft club, I got to correct all yesterday's mistakes by visiting Quissac and getting the medicine that helps keep me alive (I though Jan had hidden it? -Ed).

Tim, Sue and the family are all out at the coast and I can't find that essential ingredient, bread, for the sandwich that Jan very kindly said I could make myself.
It was nice to hear the happy sound of laughter coming from our neighbour's gardens but, despite my heavy heart, I ploughed on regardless.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Crispy Chicken

I've got to mention what Jan cooked last night. We call it crispy chicken and it has now become my all time favourite way of eating the poulet (apart from Kentucky - Ed.) The recipe (as if we want to know - Ed) is on page 222 of Jamie Oliver's book, Jamie's Dinners. Highly recommended.


After a somewhat fruitless trip into Quissac, I could mention why but Jan would be pissed with me, it was back to attend Katie's birthday lunch. Katie is our delightful neighbour's teenage daughter and because the family are always here in summer we get to celebrate her birthday with her. I have a particular soft spot for Katie and it has been a pleasure in seeing her grow from a tomboy into a beautiful young woman. Anyway, the birthday party consists of a huge lunch, where Glyn cooked a paella, outdoors, in his huge new pan, with lots of of wine to wash it all down. We stumbled home at seven, very happy bunnies. Now that's what I call a lunch!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Salmonella free

You can always tell when Jan's relatives are coming to stay, because she insists that we 'take all the bottles to the recycling centre'. Or, to put it more succinctly, 'get rid of the evidence'. I have to constantly warn Jan about the dangers of excessive drinking and, after two full carloads, she may now be getting the message. I tried to emphasis my point by shouting 'Jan' every time I smash a bottle in the bank. I don't want the neighbours to think it's me!
The other big clue is that appliances like the fridge, shelves and the oven get cleaned. No complaints there then. At least it will keep the salmonella (above) at bay for a while.


Tim, Sue and the girls arrived from Luton, ahead of time, in Nîmes this afternoon. On leaving the terminal, they couldn't quite believe the warmth and sun shine, but there you go. Having said that, it promises to get up to 35C by Friday so I bet they then start moaning about the heat. I know I will.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Water, water, everywhere

It was cloudy this morning which, for me, is always welcome as a relief from the incessant sun and heat. But I must admit that I felt just a tad ashamed when I thought of the 350,000 disadvantaged people in the UK who are suffering without any drinking water as a result of the current floods. Sorry guys!

Having said that they won't be reading this because their house is under water - whoops.


After much consideration and angst, we made the decision this morning to have Minnie spayed. We believe that they would have excellent puppies and I've been putting out feelers but have got nowhere. She is likely to have nine or ten pups and it's important to us that they go to good homes. We couldn't afford, nor would we want, to keep that many, so it looks like she will go under the knife.


This is a cautionary tale for all those who think that it's safe to smoke outside.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A small world

Before taking J&P to the airport we had to pop into Nîmes to pick up translations of some of their documents. This would then finalize the paperwork for the wedding. Did you know that you could get a Certificate of Non Impediment (to confirm that you are single) from the Registrars in England? This was one of the documents that had to be translated, but why it isn't issued in several languages, or more to the point, the languages of the countries that require it, beats me. Anyway, what was interesting was that the French lady translator lived near Harrogate, for 14 years, where James was born. How weird.


Having finally tired of family and parties, we did nothing but slump for the rest of the day, and I was particularly happy because I got to watch the German Grand Prix and an exciting final to the golf at the British Open. Bliss.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Two very pleasant evenings

J&P very kindly offered to buy dinner last night so we were lucky to get the last table at Le Fourneau de Clélia. Whilst mum cooks, Aubain runs the tables and, as the night wears on, the service can slow a little. We'd been there an hour, had our first course and the table that arrived just after us was being given the menus. My point being, get there early and be on time or prepare for an early morning finish. James chose the white, a Clos de Marie which I wasn't too keen on, given that it had a slight taste of petrol, so I chose my present favourite red, L'Enfer (Hell), from a cave cooperative near Corbiere (I think). "Mnnnn that's nice," said James, so I suspect that my son and heir is slowly getting used to the idea that his ol' man knows a little about wine (especially when it comes to drinking it - Ed.)


There's an argument that I should call this the Sommieres Journals. Anyway, it's Saturday so it's off to the market to get the remaining goodies for tonights feast. J&P cry off claiming work pressures and a dodgy foot but us oldies soldiered on regardless.


Dinner tonight was all about really nice people. (That was very tactful - Ed.) Carolina and Steve, with daughter Serena, we have known since we first moved to France 5 years ago and it has taken us all this time to invite them for dinner. Goodness knows why. Whilst I feel ashamed to admit this, I feel better in the knowledge that they have never invited us either. Probably something to do with not feeling comfortable with Jan. We'll never know. Tara and Jamie, on the other hand, we have known for a relatively short time and as they are about to move away, so for them this was a hello and goodbye party.
Jan pulled the stops out with a starter of hot and sour prawns and a recent favourite of mine, pan fried salmon on a bed of noodles and fennel with a lemon velouté sauce. Cheeses followed by home made peach ice cream with liqueur soaked fresh peaches on the side. Mnnnnnn, a good effort. (Is that it, a good effort? - Ed.)
The evening ended with Steve wrestling on the floor with our two very happy, but bemused, dogs. A good evening.

Friday, July 20, 2007

If you can't remember her name!

The above will probably upset a few of my feminist friends, but I thought that it was funny. An additional tip, - if you don't have any Post-it pads handy, you could always write her name on her back.


Part of the process of getting married in France is the requirement to have a blood test, so James, Pauline and I popped to the doctor this morning. Not realising exactly why, my understanding was that they would both need a test. Not so, said the stand-in doctor. Only the female, to check that she has antibodies against x, x and x. He said the names too fast for me to understand. He took the blood and said, get yourself immunised if anything tests positive. He stamped the certificate and that was it. Great, it saved me a planned trip to Sommieres.
Next stop was the flower shop, which really tested my patience. So whilst the choice, colour and size of flowers, postions, ribbons etc. was determined, I decide to kill myself outside.


A Mexican bandit made a specialty of crossing the Rio Grande from time to time and robbing banks in Texas. Finally, a reward was offered for his capture, and an enterprising Texas ranger decided to track him down.

After a lengthy search, he traced the bandit to his favorite cantina, crept up behind him, put his trusty six-shooter to the bandit's head, and said, "You're under arrest! Tell me where you hid the loot or I'll blow your brains out."

But the bandit didn't speak English, and the ranger didn't speak Spanish.

Fortunately, a bilingual lawyer was in the saloon and translated the ranger's message. The terrified bandit blurted out, in Spanish, that the loot was buried under the oak tree at the back of the cantina.

"What did he say?" asked the ranger.

The lawyer answered, "He said 'Up yours, gringo, I spit on your mother and your sister."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Le Ciel de Nîmes

As expected, we went to check on the numbers of plates, knives and forks etc. (such joy) that had been ordered for the wedding in September, together with booking hair appointments and cornering the market in English and German tourist brochures for Nîmes. Lunch at Le Ciel de Nîmes was the highlight for me with lunch being washed down with a couple of bottles of Chateau Puech Haut rosé. Denis, who runs the place is such a nice chap and has got the place buzzing. This has to be the best place to eat in the centre of Nîmes and I intend to keep it a secret.

The pool temperature has just hit 32C for the first time this year, which for me is little short of bliss. I normally scream like a school girl when the water hits my bits, but this was excellent. As an aside, Jan happened to mention that she had recently read that 32C was the perfect temperature for babies (to learn to swim). (She got that one right! - Ed)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Keep your eyes on the road!

In your wildest dreams would you think that a woman could be thrown off a bus because her cleavage was distracting the driver. Well, look here. I wonder how many men click the link on the bottom right?


James and Pauline arrived today to finalise things for their wedding in September. That means that muggins here will be very busy driving here there and everywhere sorting out knives and forks, blood tests, refrigerated lorries and other mind boggling minutiae. Mind you, a nice lunch at Le Ciel de Nîmes is planned for tomorrow, so it's not all bad.


Bryan, who I don't think is Welsh, sent me this under the heading "Never forget you are Welsh."

A farmer was out on his Welsh hillside tending his flock one day, when he saw a man drinking with a cupped hand from the stream which ran down from one of his fields. Realising the danger, he shouted over to the man,

"Paid a yfed y dwr! Mae'n ych-y-fi!" (Don't drink the water. It's disgusting!)

The man at the stream lifted his head and put a cupped hand to his ear, shrugged his shoulders at the farmer, and carried on drinking. Realising the man at the stream couldn't hear him, the farmer moved closer.

"Paid a yfed! Dwr ych-y-fi! Defaid yn cachu yn y dwr!" (Don't drink. Water's disgusting. Sheep crap in the water.)

Still the walker couldn't hear the farmer. So finally the farmer walked right up to the man at the stream and once again said,

"Dwr yn ych-y-fi! Paid a'i yfed!". (Water's disgusting. Don't drink it!)

" I'm dreadfully sorry my good man, I couldn't understand a word you said dear boy! Can't you speak English???" said the man at the stream in a fine English accent.

"Oh I see" said the farmer. "I was just saying, that if you use both hands you can get more in..."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What a lot a food

Glyn and Gill (above) our lovely next door neighbours arrived yesterday afternoon, for a summer visit, and came round last night to help finish off all the leftovers. A culinary visit down memory lane, with nice people.


After a well deserved lie-in we met with Jill and Harry for lunch at Alexandre in Nîmes to celebrate Jill's birthday. We'd been looking forward to the visit for several weeks. Alexandre is the best restaurant in Nîmes and very worthy of its two Michelin stars. We all chose the menu Dégustation (72 euros) and afterwards couldn't agree on how many courses (we included the 3 little offerings they bring you with your aperos). In total it was either 10 or 12. Excellent food, excellent service an excellent restaurant. We were last to leave and in trying to pay the bill we were told that the credit card machine was not working. No problem they said come back tomorrow. As I said, an excellent restaurant.


Thoroughly stuffed and looking forward to a night with our feet in the fridge we met Alain on our way back into the village and he invited us back for a drink. Bugger. Of all the things I wanted to do, drinking was right at the bottom of the list, but hey, he's a lovely man, on his own at the moment, so a drink it was.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The joker

Holly and AJ left this morning and we were very sorry to see them go. As Jan said, when looking pointedly at me, "Who's going to make me laugh now?" I know what she meant. AJ is one of the funniest people you will ever meet. His non-stop banter is formidable and any airs and graces are quickly crushed. His clever, dry, observational humour cuts to the quick and doesn't hurt even if you are on the receiving end. A very funny man, and I'm proud to call him a friend.


When is this going to stop. We now get weekly warnings about the dangers of all and any foods. Foods that, as all things in life, if you eat in moderation will not only do you no harm but can do you good. Why are we all treated like idiots? Marmite, because of its high level of salt, was recently added to a list of banned foods. The amount of Marmite eaten by any sensible person will do them no harm at all. Do we really need to be spoon fed all this scaremongering?


The Lloyds arrived this afternoon and because I couldn't get hold of them by phone and I had to go and see the lovely Michelle in the Marie, I drove round. Boy, did I get mad. The streets in our village are few and narrow, and there are workmen digging trenches to bury the overhead electricity cables. One particular joker blocked three key roads by leaving his tipper truck at an intersection and walking away. With just a little bit of forethought, and consideration for others, he could have moved his truck 5 metres and and left everything clear. What an inconsiderate prat.
A Swiss man, looking for directions, pulls up at a bus stop where two Texans are waiting.
"Entschuldigung, können Sie Deutsch sprechen?" he asks. The two Texans just stare at him.
"Excusez-moi, parlez vous français?" The two continue to stare.
"Parlate italiano?" No response.
"¿Hablan ustedes español?" Still nothing. So he has a final try:
"Tatakalamaani bil arabiyya?"
No reply, so the Swiss man drives away, pissed off.
The first Texan turns to the second and says, "You know Bubba, maybe we should learn a foreign language."
"Why?" says the other. "That guy knew five and it didn't do him any good."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

For the wings of a dove

I know that you shouldn't laugh at the thought of murderers escaping from prison, but I laughed when I read this today. Pascal Payet is making the prison authorities look like total idiots.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


To celebrate a birthday, we all went out to Le Fourneau de Clelia, in Aigremont last night. The meal was, as usual, superb. This is the best restaurant within 30 minutes of us. Highly recommended.


Sommieres got a double hit today. This morning, to show our visitors the market and eat cheap oysters, and again during the evening to let them see an abrivado, eat out and then watch the 14th July fireworks. The bulls were a bit tame, there were one or two hairy moments which everyone enjoyed but the restaurant was poor. We paid 28 euros for a poor choice three course meal which everyone compared to the 33 euros, fantastic meal the night before.
These guys then continue drinking and laughing until 3.30 in the morning. Not for me though, I know I'm getting old and I like my sleep and, more to the point, have to get up early for the bread and croissants.
Pictures, from the top, the gardians parading before the bulls were released, AJ receiving the order of the prawn (don't ask) and AJ and I at the end of a boozy dinner.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Time out

I'm embarrassed to say that we put out 17 empty wine bottles this morning. This is a group that likes to party. Thank goodness they've all gone out for the day. It gives us a chance to recover and catch up with a few jobs. Having said that, last night was a really good laugh.


Needing to transfer 160 euros to an Italian company, my bank wanted written instructions, which is understandable, but also a copy of my passport. Who makes up these stupid rules? That small amount of money could hardly be called money laundering.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Party time

My old friend and very funny man, 'AJ', arrived today with some of his family. I know what's coming and I get tired just thinking about it. It's going to be one non-stop party. I hope we can keep up.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Restaurants in Nîmes

We had been asked by friends to recommend a restaurant for dinner with them in Nîmes. We naturally took this request very seriously because we are going to eat the food, so we decided to do some research. After an hour on the Internet we came up with a list of six places to investigate. Off to Nîmes we went. The first place, we eventually found, had been closed two years. Great! Another didn't reopen until 25 July after their hols (doesn't it make more commercial sense to close in the off season?) and we didn't relish the thought of three others. So Restaurant L'Antigone, 36 rue Fesque, it was. They have a little outside courtyard and, as luck would have it, we grabbed the last table in the place. It has only been open a month and a half, so they were trying extra hard and the portions were huge. To start Jan had ravioli stuffed with foie gras together with girolles mushrooms and citronelle. I had scallops with a fig jam. Excellent. We both had fish for main course. I expected dorade fillets en papillotte and actually got a whole fish. I can't imagine that they'll keep that up, but you never know. By this time I was quite full but was then faced with an enormous chocolate pudding about 9 inches high, which frankly put me off a bit. It was very elaborate and somewhat unnecessary but if you are a pudding fan then you'd have loved it. This was washed down with one of my favourite roses, Domaine Henry 2005. The bill came to 88 euros, so not cheap, but very good nonetheless. Recommended.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I need to lie down

Two major shocks within 12 hours, but happily I survived them both. First, my son James called last night at midnight. Now I don't know about you but phone calls at midnight are not usually good news. Either someone is in trouble and they need help or someone is drunk and they need a smack in the mouth. It was the former. James had been talking to my mother on the phone, they got cut off and James feared that something had happened to her. Needless to say we both tried to call her back but the call diverted straight to the BT answering service indicating that the phone was 'off the hook'. To cut a long story short we managed to get hold of her at 10.30 local this morning and explained that we had been fearing the worst. Don't you just hate it when people say, "Sorreeeee," in that whiny way, indicating that they don't really mean it?


The second shock came this morning. There I was reading this and stumbled across a description of making 'spaghetti alla carbonara' with peas. Well, I nearly fell off my perch and banged my head. What an awful mistake As any fule no the ingredients for a carbonara sauce contains only eggs, parmesan and pancetta. What's the world coming to? Get a grip woman, and you a trainer as well. Goodness knows what information you fed those poor mutts?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A conspiracy theory down the drain

And there I was thinking that tall long legged blonds were taking over. Maybe I'm not too smart when it comes to conspiracy theories? Well done Venus, the best player won!


Jill and Harry came round for dinner last night and Jan excelled herself. We started with a fig, parma ham and mozzarella salad with a lemon and honey dressing followed by a seafood ragout with black pasta. Cheese and an upside down apricot cake rounded it off. At ten to nine the following morning, Jan reminded me that Jacquo, from next door, was coming to borrow the lawn mower. It's just as well that she said something because I'd still be in bed and he'd still be knocking on the door!


I must admit that I didn't want to go, but, at 12.30 we headed for lunch in the village to Alain and Christianne's. This was the third day on the trot that we were meeting with friends and I'd just about had enough. OK, Alain is the village artist (both piss and paint) but she is an excellent cook and he always produces very drinkable local wines. As Jan said afterwards, the invitees were our favourite village people, plus some of their delightful family. Twelve of us in all. Aperos consisting of home made tapenade, peperonata and taramasalata, under the trees outside and then into his studio to munch on baby squid in a tomato sauce, lamb and an excellent ratatouille, cheese and a uncooked chocolate refrigerated cake. We finally got away at 7.00 pm, which isn't bad for a 'lunch'. In all our time in England, which was considerable, we have never had a meal with a mayor, an artist, a landscaper, and a Parisian leather technician (he repairs leather opera costumes - belts and shoes).
Whilst all this was going on I missed the men's singles final from Wimbledon and the Grand Prix from Silverstone. Before we went I said to Jan that we should get away by 2.30 pm and, you know what, we so enjoyed ourselves I didn't miss either event all. The sporting events will come round again but lunch with such good company was very special. We feel so privileged to be invited to a French only gathering and had a wonderful time with lovely people.


Having only just finished eating, neither of us were very hungry when we got back so Jan made a salad for dinner. A watermelon, feta and black olive salad. Sounds horrible but tastes great. Highly recommended.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hot, hot, hot

Out for dinner at Bryan and Gills last night. As usual the meal was excellent, with filo parcels of goat and feta cheese with onion, to start, followed by barbecued meats. Then for pudding a very unusual, but excellent, melon and lime soup. Thanks guys.


I used to know the Marketing Director of the London Rubber Company, the then makers of Durex condoms. When I saw this article it made me laugh because it was just the kind of wheeze that he would come up with. Having said all that, I have to say that I hate the bloody things. "It's like eating a sweet with the wrapper on," as someone once said.


It hit 34C in the shade this afternoon. I like it warm but this is pushing it a bit. Having said that it is a very dry heat so not too debilitating and with a similar temperature forecast for tomorrow the pool is starting to look very inviting.
Talking about the pool, the water temperature hit 30C this evening so I suppose I'd better turn the heating off. Mind you, at that temperature it's much easier to get into the water. I might leave it for a day or two, we'll see.
Having said that Rosemary wrote to say that it had hit 100F (37.8C) in Salt Lake City. OK, I give in, you win, I can't beat that.

Spot the gay groundsman

Friday, July 06, 2007

Gordon needs a tonic

I used to enjoy listening to Tony Blair. He had a great way of presenting his facts and making you listen closely to what he was saying. When he spoke, I listened. Whilst somewhat sceptical of the war in Iraq, I listened to the argument that he put before parliament and he won me over. He was a good orator, well rehearsed, often amusing and knew his subject well. Even if you disagreed with him he put his case well and he could make you think. But now, how things have changed. Do you suffer from the 'Gordon Glaze'? The difference between Blair and Brown is amazing. I read an article at the weekend that expressed my feelings excactly. Try as I might, I have never heard the end of a sentence that Gordon Brown has spoken. He has the ability to make me start thinking of something else immediately. Alison Pearson in the Mail at the weekend, put it like this:

"our new Prime Minister could not shout 'Fire' in a blazing building. As the flames licked around his brogues, Gordon would rumble Scottishly: The British people expect me to be resolute, and I'm entirely resolute, in setting in place rigorous procedures to combat this conflagration which is burning my trousers, and indeed all communities must be united in mounting a robust defence against fire, a fire that gets to the very heart of my trousers and what it means to be British."

He has no idea how to present his facts in an interesting, amusing or blokey kind of way. He is, at best, exceedingly boring. I don't doubt for a second that he is very bright, works his socks off but purleese save me from this man. There was a time when I would have argued that how you dressed and what your personality was like, counted for nothing, but I was wrong. If you can't listen to a politician without falling asleep then he (or she, for my feminist friends) might just as well not say anything at all. And then you wouldn't be a politician!


And the moral is, never accept an invitation from friends in Belgium. You never know what might be served up. When I was younger I used to eat snails. I particularly remember eating tiny ones in a rich tomato sauce at the orphanage next to my Italian grandmother's place in Foggia, in southern Italy. In sending me to eat with the kids in the orphanage, they were probably trying to tell me something but I never caught on. Anyway, after one trip to Belgium that all changed. I was served the biggest, chewiest, most disgusting snails imaginable, and that was it. Snails were off the menu.


Talking of snails, we've been inundated with the pesky little critters this year. They climb up anything (like the apricot tree), as you can see above, and not just in ones and twos. Nobody seems to know what they're called. I've got a name for them!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A wedding feast fit for a king

Before we left for France, Jan and I drank nothing but new world wines. We particularly liked to try different Chardonnays, so it was with pleasure that we started again during our recent trip to Brighton. Like most wines, some we liked and some we didn't but some were as good as a good Meursault, for a fraction of the price. French wine growers have dug themselves into a bit of a hole and it's not easy to see how they will get themselves out. I'm not sure that trying to empty the wine lake will do anything more than putting more French viticulturists onto a subsidy regime that they can never break from. It's all very sad but it amply demonstrates that in a changing world if you sit back and do nothing then it can really hurt you.


Talking about sitting back and doing nothing, did you see the recent criticism of Sarkozy, in the French press, concerning the fact that he exercises in public (he jogs) and how undignified it was? According to the article that I read, he should behave with more decorum and more finesse. I suppose a little like Chirac who did nothing for the last ten years of his reign other than take the country down the tubes. That kind of finesse? Sounds to me, that if that is the only thing you can accuse the man of, then he must be doing a pretty good job.


A few weeks back we were invited to a wedding in Cornwall and, as a joke, I suggested to the bride and groom that, to give the wedding that authentic Cornish touch, they should serve Ginsters pies because they are made in Cornwall. In the good old days, when I travelled a lot, I ate many such pies on petrol station forecourts all over the UK. This is how I developed a cast iron constitution and my gourmet tastes. Anyway, for a joke, Jan bought me a Ginsters Chicken Slice when we were in Brighton and served it for lunch today. A sort of gastronomic trip down memory lane. As I walked into lunch, I noticed that she was checking the sell by date and I had to point out to my beloved that the filling would get me well before any exposure to sell by date. She was not amused. But if you want a laugh, the lunch consisted of a very elegant vichyssoise soup, gently flavoured with lavender flowers from the garden. Dead posh and very tasty. This Epicurean delight was followed by my cold Ginsters Chicken Slice and salad. Who says we don't live well?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Airport security, again

Given all the extra security at airports at the moment, we left in good time to get through all the inevitable hassle and get back to France. I'm still amazed at how stoical everybody seems at the loss of their personal dignity at airport security. As we approached the terminal the police had stopped a car at a roadblock and were questioning an elderly black guy. Once inside we had to queue for ages for the dubious pleasure of passing through security. Security that involved five people gathering around the x-ray screen as the operative wanted to log off, then another five to help the next operative log on. In these people's hands is our well being. Whilst all this is going on, the x-ray machine is not working and we all stood there like a bunch of lemons. Yet again I had to gather up my belt, shoes, laptop, carry on bag and tray with coins in it with one hand, whilst holding up my trousers with the other. And, just in case you were wondering, they didn't stop or catch any terrorists!


Talking about extra security did you see this news item?

Liverpool airport was closed for four hours today after police found a suspicious car parked outside. It was taxed, insured and still had its radio.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Conspiracy theories

I can't be the only person that has noticed this, but has anybody else noticed the similarity between the female, ex Soviet block countries, tennis players at Wimbledon? In the main they are all blond, sultry, tanned, very good looking, with very long slender legs (for goodness sake stop dribbling - Ed) and know how to hit a mean tennis ball. I want to be the first to start a conspiracy theory. The similarity between these girls reminds me of the film The Boys From Brazil. I'm convinced that there is a farm somewhere in Eastern Europe that is populated by blond amazons, both male and female, and they are churning out these kids in order to conquer the female tennis world. But where are the boys? I think that it's very spooky. We need to be told! Any takers?


If proof were ever needed that the National Health Service is in a mess you just need to look at the recent terrorist activity. It appears that the perpetrators are, in the main, 'foreign' medics that work for the NHS. We need to hope that they're better doctors than terrorists. They're all bloody useless at blowing people up.
And, another conspiracy theory. Could they be linked to the incidence of MRSA in British hospitals? More people die from infection caught in UK hospitals than from road accidents!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Fresh vegetables

After a couple of hours in Marks and Spencer, it was back to the flat to indulge in some of their goodies for lunch. Later this afternoon we went over to the nursery to take Maisie (in pensive mood above) out to the park and stuff her full of cholates and ice cream. I must admit that we joined in a bit as well.
One of the things that I really miss when travelling, which obviously involves a higher number of restaurant meals, is salads and fruit. We made up for that tonight by eating a huge greek salad and blue berries and raspberries for pudding. The best meal so far. Thanks Jan.
It's still raining!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Family time

At long last smoking in public places is outlawed in England. Just why has it take so long? For a long time, despite liking the odd drink, I have avoided pubs because of the compulsory fug, which leaves you and your clothes reeking. As an ex smoker I suppose that's a bit hypocritical but until you stop smoking, and your sense of smell is restored, you have no idea how bad it is. The thought of kissing a smoker (the thought of you kissing anybody makes me feel ill - Ed) is quite a turn off .


After a lazy morning reading the Sunday papers and then after a long lazy lunch, we all took off down to the sea front. Because it was slightly unusual to get Jan with three of her children together at the same time, I took the above snap down by the windy beach. From left to right, Luke, looking like he was hiding rasta locks, Rebecca, Jan and Josh. (This is not what you would call hard hitting travel journalism! - Ed)