Monday, February 29, 2016

Blogathon Day 29 - Happy Bisextus

So here we are on the 29th of Feb. Last day of the Blogathon. And bisextus. An alternative name for an extra day inserted into a calender. It also covers an extra month inserted into a calender which happens in the Hebrew calender from time to time. I was rather hoping there might be some exellent tradition in France whereby a woman presents a man with a snail encrusted Brie and he in turns pours a bottle of wine over her head. But there isn't. So I drew a blank there.

Still, I heard someone earlier make a slight error in describing it as bisexual day.

So I think the three of us have made it. 29 Blogposts each. Perhaps we should start a new term. Blogsextus. As long as none of us make a mistake and go for a blogsexual!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Blogathon Day 28 - Sunday Subject

This week we visited the village of Montelieu. I may have mentioned it before. It is a village of books, rather like Hay-On-Wye upon which it is modelled. One of my favourite things is this sculpture. I like it just to look at but I also like it because you can see what the sculptor wanted it to represent. Trees make books and both trees and books have leaves. You can see the progression and it's pleasing to the eye, or at least mine. Not for me a lump of granite which a sculptor thinks "represents man's inhumanity to man and shows the disenfranchisement of the masses in the face of a dictatorial regime. My tree is literal and all the better for it.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Blogathon Day 27 - Words Don't Come Easy

as F R David once sang.

Most of my words today have had to be written in my pool course assignment. Not my favourite pastime. I tend to agonise with things like that as to whether I should be succint in answering the questions or try to write absolutely everything I know about it just to prove I know about it. I'm hopeful I have hit the middle ground succesfully. Hopefully this will score enough that, along with exam part, I have enough aggregate score to pass. And all I will find out as far as I know is whether I pass or fail. No score, just the two extremes. Actually, there is a middle way, refer. I think I'd rather fail then get a refer but I'll probably be fine. I might have to wait 6 weeks to find out.....

Anyway, we managed to pick up a new owner today, not too far away either which is good. They are both lawyers and we thought they might turn out to be a bit of a pain and we've discovered they are actually great. Very down to earth and a bit of a laugh. Providing we don't screw up their house and garden I can imagine them turning into friends.

Time for bed and to let all the words fall out of my ears whilst I sleep. Night night everybody, night night.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Blogathon Day 26 - Calling a spade a shovel.

I've had an epiphany. That's a chocolate bar like a Topic but with glace cherries instead of hazelnuts. I jest. But if they did do that chocolate bar I'd definitely have it. Anyway, back to the epiphany.

Now, I might have thought of this before but forgotten, or I might be the last person to realise, but during a conversation about something totally different today I worked out why there is a continual problem over the migrant problem and their presence in the UK. Not from the extremes for they will always be extreme, but for the middle ground. Those who believe themselves not to be racist but are made to feel racist because of some of
their views.

When we discuss modern British society and the ethnic mix of much of the country we describe it as multicultural. And that is the wrong word for this silent majority or slightly vociferous majority to deal with. When they start saying that they are not happy with a multicultural society they are classed as racist but what they would be happier with is a multinational society. And there is a big difference.

We have had a multinational society for many, many years. In fact, centuries. But what we haven't had very often is a multicultural society, and when we have it has always led to unrest, usually war.

The big difference is that a multinational society is made up of people of many nations, and whilst perhaps practicing their own customs, these are kept for private occasions or occasional public performance or meetings. Multicultural society however, gives images where there are a number of cultures trying to get along side by side on equal footing, and that is always going to upset the host culture. Why should their own culture be destroyed or watered down? A further problem then comes that some cultures will wish to be dominant either through where they perceive themselves to be, or should be, or because they are driven by a belief that they should be.

When we came to France we wanted to live in France with, good or bad, French culture. Our next door neighbours are German, and the next village to us has many nationalities considering it only has about 300 residents. I know of Swedish, Norwegian, German, Belgian, English and Dutch residents. And I think they even still have some French people there, but they all blend in. That is why most of the French here are happy to have us around. It can be annoying when you are trying to rush off in the morning and then you have to say hello and have a conversation with neighbours and acquaintances between you and your car, but you do it because that is what happens here, and not to do it will do you no favours. Why should the French give up 2 hour lunches which they've had for years just because the Brits only want half an hour for a sandwich?

When I was at secondary school, we had 1 West Indian, 1 French, 1 Indian, 1 Malawian and 5 Polish boys. That's 9 boys out of 30 who were non-British. And it didn't bother us a bit. They were exactly the same as us, just with slightly different accents or different skin colours. I know that when they were away from school some might go to a Polish youth club as well as a local one, but that is integration. They didn't expect us to go to the Polish youth club because that way they could do some of their cultural stuff, we didn't feel we were left out, and although we might occasionally go to something there because a mate was taking part, they didn't make a big thing of it. No-one resented us being there, no-one resented us not being there.

So, if I was campaigning, whether for the EU refendum or any other vote, I think my mantra would be "multi-nationalism not multi-culturism".

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blogathon Day 25 - And they say kids cost money!

We are back to the UK in March for a family wedding and when we return we are bringing my mother. Even though she has a new pair of knees which are serving her well, our stairs would probably be a bit too much for her and as the only downstairs bathroom is a bath and not a shower we are having to convert that as she can't get her leg over any more if you know what I mean. So as Chris is doing our kitchen he will then change the bath for a shower and all will be well, except for our bank account.

Unfortunately, the sofas we have at the moment are probably going to be too low and soft for her, not so much to sit comfrtably, but to stand up easily again. So we have been chair shopping. And it hasn't proved easy. We managed to get down to a probable chair from Ikea and then went to check a couple of shops in Limoux just to rule them out before we went ahead. The first one didn't have much until we found an electric recliner whcih they had in a sale. down from a 1000 euros down to 750 euros. The colour wasn't really one the Magnificent M wanted but it was a good deal and we might be able to live with it. Now we had to think which of the two we might have. The Ikea chair, with footstool and delivered to us would have been around 450 euros. 300 euros extra for what we thought might be a little more comfortable and with electrics. And there is also an eye on our future as well, our knees aren't getting any younger! So off we go to the last shop just to rule it out, which we pretty quickly did as they really specialise in made to measure chairs for the poeple buying them. The young assistant was trying hard to sell us something but realised we weren't going to be doing anything. So he re asked what it was we were trying to achieve, a chair for my mum which will only be an occasional use chair. "Come with me" he said and he led us out of the side door. Across the way was another warehouse and he beckoned us inside. There were a few rcks of one off chairs and sofas. These he explained were where they had sets of furniture where maybe the sofas had been sold but the customer didn't want the chair. And the prices were good he told us. And they'd damned well need to be compared to ones in the main showroom. And they were. We tried a few but ended up going for a brown leather manual reclining chair for 350 euros. Result! Except for our bank account.

She's only coming for a fortnight but she's costing us a fortune. At least we've got a suitable bed. At least I think we have....

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Food of the future

There is a programme on TV looking at the food of the future. Some of the ideas are "interesting" such as printing food using 3d printers. I really can't get my head round how that works. There is also a table that recognises what food stuff you put on it, say a tomato, with the first item it offers suggestions as to what other food stuff might go with it such as mushrom, basil, hamburger, onion, and then when you pick one of those and put it close procimity to the tomatoes and it starts to suggest recipes. As you add another ingredient it refines and suggest other recipes. This seems quite a good idea, particularly when you have a limited number of "main" ingredients.

There was one section of the programme which struck me as the opposite of new ideas, it was food replacement with bagged protein to make into drinks. This is something you would see on Tomorrows world in the 70s and I suspect even in the 60s as we knew that astronauts had to have freeze dried food and meal replacements when flying to the moon. There was never enough space in an Apollo capsule for all the ingredients for a roast dinner or five. They ran an experiment to see how people got on eating it for a week. And the answer was pretty much the same as every experiment that's been done on this subject. No-one seems to think getting rid of food and living on liquids is a good idea, which ought to tell diet gurus something. It certainly wouldn't suit me. It didn't suit the astronauts. It hasn't suited other people in experiments either. I would venture that if they try this again they will get the same conclusion.

I'm afraid I'm old school, I want to sink my teeth into a burger and chips, not suck it through a straw!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Blogathon Day 23 - Job Sharing

I have discovered that many ideas that the UK Government are "covertly trying to bring in" thereby destroying everything good about the UK, because, as we know, that is what the Tories do. You only have to look at Facebook to realise that as you can't move for posts saying that the Government has destroyed this, that, or the other. Anyway, I digress, as Ronnie Corbett would say.

I have already mentioned that it is cheaper to see a doctor and get a prescription here than it is in the UK even though we have a dreaded pay for health system as oppose to the good ols free NHS, which isn't free. Admittedly, the sticking point is that it is free at the point of access in the UK. Though to be quite honest I would think the majority of people could afford to pay £20 to see a doctor and get a prescription and get £16 refunded a week later, but there you go. Anyway, I digress again.

What I intended to blog about today was another thing that the UK government has suggested which happens here but has caused much outrage in the UK and that is the idea of Firemen acting as paramedics. Now, I know that part of the controversy is that they are talking about merging the two systems whereas here, if firemen are nearer to an injury than paramedics, the emergncy services will send the firemen.

Our builder and colleague Chris has experienced this for himself via a friend. One of his mates, having had a somewhat overindugent liquid birthday celebration managed to fall down 8 concrete steps and landing on his face. It hurt and his head decided to issue forth with much blood. The blokes wife decided to call Chris to see what to do so he went round and discovered he was definitely still breathing so rang the emergency services. (Not sure why the wife didn't do that, but heigh ho). The despatcher sent a local firecrew. Now, by chance, when they got there 10 minutes later, a doctor had just beaten then to it but once he had done an initial check he left the firecrew to deal with it. They spent an hour going over the guy from top to bottom, trating everything they could at the scene to make it easier to transport him to hospital and then they organised the ambulance to take him to Carcassonne, the nearest hospital.

Now, he had suffered a broken collar bone, broken eye socket and broken nose apart from a number of other head traumas but the firebrigade were able to deal with all that in the way the paramedics could which meant a) he got treated quicker than waiting for paramedics, b) the doctor could go to something more serious knowing he was in good hands and 3) despite the French loving a good strike, nobody felt that someone had done someone else's job.

Of course, the UK doesn't want any of these damn foreign ideas, which is a good thing to remember when you next wait an hour for an ambulance to turn up.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Blogathon Day 22 - Counting the Pennies

Or the Cents.

The French tax year ends 31st December and so when we found our accountant last November he asked us to see him late Feb so he could work on our tax returns before he got really busy as all papers have to be filed by end of April and he tries not to let everyone leave it to the last minute. Anyway, today was that day.

The first pleasing thing is that it is just 4 sides of A4 paper and there are large bits where only one part needs filling in depending on how your business is set up. I think on the whole form there were only 12 boxes filled in and 5 of those were zeros. Even I can cope with the idea of that. It doesn't however stop the French complaining about how arduous it all is. When we were on our course last October we took in a UK tax return form just to prove they don't know when they are well off! The next good thing is that if you are "self employed", an auto-entrepreneur here, although you keep records of expenses you don't need to take too much notice as the tax authorities allow you 50% of your income for expenditure. You should be well inside with what you actually spent, indeed, if your costs are more than 50% you probably aren't an auto-ent but a small company, (Sarl), and then you do accurately claim your expenses, so again the tax system works the best way for you, not for the Government.

In the end we were with him for an hour whilst he did both our returns, which would be fast if it wasn't for the fact that half an hour was spent discussing the Magnificent M's pension, so was in effect even quicker. The problem with the pension is that she worked for a local authority and thus it is a government pension and thus she should pay tax in the UK on it. It has been complicated though by the fact that local government stopped running their own pensions and let Capita run them. Now, a pension paid by Capita is classed as a private pension which for an ex-pat means you pay tax in France. Luckiy he had some guidance notes which say, be careful if you have a government pension paid through Capita that you pay in the correct country. The only problem is it doesn't tell you which it should be. So our accountant did what you hope he will do. He has decided that as the pension has so far been taxed at source in the UK then for the year 2015 we pay there, which is good because in the UK, lump sum pension payouts are tax free but taxed in France. Now he is going to check whether from now we can pay in France because if so then the monthly pension would be tax free. Fingers crossed!

And good news, I haven't got any income tax to pay either because the allowances are quite high here and I didn't earn enough. Which is fine by me.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Blogathon Day 21 - Sunday's Subject : Mountains

Since I first visited Switzerland in the mid-70s I aways wanted to live with mountains. Preferably in them. Then when I visited Austria in the mid 1980s I reckoned that, if it was ever to happen, then Zell am See in Austria would be my ideal place. A mixture of mountains and lakes.

But now I find myself living about 45 minutes from the Pyrenees but not actually in them. And I'm satisfied. I have the benefit of seeing them virtually every day and being able to drive into them in about 45 minutes. Just over an hour and a half away we could be in Andorra. But I don't need to live in the mountains to be happy with them.

This is one of the things about The Aude that makes it special. We can be in the mountains in 45 minutes and at the coast in about an hour. We have a great deal of history within an hours drive and massive underground grottoes about an hour way. It could be said to be the "Jack of all Trades" of an area rather than the master of any but I think it gives you all you can want in relative close proximity.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Blogathon Day 20 - Back Home

And so I have returned home from my sojourn in the UK. Home where I physically live. Home where I emotionally feel most at home. And home where the heart is.

I passed the exam part of the course which is good and have all the information I need to do the assignmant which I shall try to break the back of tomorrow and send off this week before I forget everything. Obviously I hope I pass, although if for some reason I don't, I am in the lucky position that my job doesn't depend on it. I got what I needed from the course and hopefully all the pools will have a good year this year whether it's by luck or good management.

I didn't find many subjects at school easy, particularly the sciences. But like many things, I do better now that I have an interest in the subject and I scored about 70% higher in this chemistry based exam than I did in my mock O'level. I still have a tendency to tune out when chemical names are bandied about, hydrochloric this and chlorinate that, but at least I now have a big fat manual to refer to every time there's a problem.

Now all I have to do is wait for the weather to get warmer and then I can open the pools and see which of my chemistry marks was the truthful one and which was the fluke.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Blogathon Day 19 - The Real Thing

Well would you believe it, you wait all your life to go to Harpenden and then you go twice in a week.

Following the meeting with Masher last Sunday, (see how the EU leaders have failed to have any enthusiasm for their talks when they know they were so badly eclipsed?), I returned once more to Harpenden to meet my brother at Godfrey's Fish and Chips.

OMG! As young people like to say these day. Or at least like to text. They are damned good fish and chips. They are possibly the best fish and chips I have had outside Yorkshire. and if not the best, then certainly the second best. So good was the haddock I had, and the batter so crispy and dry, that I was convinced they were cooked in solid fat. By which, I mean as a Yorkshireman, in lard. So when we paid for them I asked and, although they are indeed solid fat fryers, it is solid vegetable oil. As Victor Meldrew said, I don't believe it!

This now means I have a decent fish and chip shop within a thousand miles of where I live. Excellent, even if a bit of a long and expensive round trip to get them.

Now, if I can just get them to skin the fish completely.......

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Blogathon Day 18 - Joint Enterprise

So the Supreme Court has decided that the Joint Enterprise law interpretation was wrong. Well then they need to toughen up a series of other sentences. Because it looks to me that if you get the crazy notion to murder someone, and even better if I give you that crazy notion, I can egg you on and get you to murder someone. Then providing you don't admit it and I don't shop you, there won't be a conviction for murder. And the more of us in the group then it's even less likely.

Because this is British Justice. Where you can be murdered and as long as the Police are unable to identify the actual person in a group who gave the death blow, no-one will be convicted.

Ah, say the liberal lawyers and others, what if one of the group was looking the other way or perhaps wasn't aware that the person was going to be murdered? Well the answer to that is that everyone else in the group should name the killer. And if you don't that is why you have made it a joint enterprise! It's not rocket science. But no-one names the killer because he might come after them. Precisely, that's why he is a killer. But if he gets banged up for life you might well be ok. Although that means he'll probably be out in about a fortnight but that's another gripe.

If you don't name the killer then that has to be perverting the course of justice. Which has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. So use it. Then people will start naming the culprit,

"But if they were looking the other way they wouldn't know who it was". Yeah, right, because none of them would talk about it amongst themselves afterwards.

"But that would be hearsay evidence and not relevant!". True, but if everyone named the killer you would have a probablitity that not everyone was ganging up on them. And to be honest, the people involved in this normlly haven't suddenly decided murdering someone might be a good idea for a Tuesday evening, they are usually known to the Police. And most of the group are a group all the time. It isn't a murderer who has convinced a bunch of innocent bystanders to come along and just throng about whilst he kills someone.

The age old argument is that it is better that someone guilty gets off than an innocent person goes to jail. But all that does is to make sure that if you can protect the guilty then society gets no justice let alone the family. Nobody wants an innocent person to go to prison, well unless you count criminals who would rather an innocent person went to jail in their place.

I'm sorry, but if you are in a group of people that murders someone, you should have legged it before it got that serious. And until people take responsibility for their own actions, and whilst some sections of society gives them the excuse to absolve themselves, there isn't going to be any great reduction in violent crime.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Blogathon Day 17 - Five Fine Foods

I certainly enjoy the food down in the South of France but there are some things you just can't get that neccesitate a visit when I am in the UK.

1) Fish and Chips - There is a fish and chip van comes to Limoux in the summer and we got quite excited, We aren't any more. They were crap. And French restaurants, even when they do F&C, don't have the concept nywhere near right. The big Fish and Chip visit will be in March when I am back again and can go to Nash's. I probably blogged about them 2 years ago when I was last there.

2) Pie and Chips - Pukka Pies. You can't beat them. Preferably Steak and Kidney. The french don't do pies or at least not as we know them. They do a frozen oone in our supermarket but we haven't plucked up the courge to try it yet,

3) Chinese - They do Asian which covers Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese with the emphasis being Viet. You can't get a proper sweet and sour for love nor money.

4) Indian - 8 months and we haven't found one yet. I'm not a big curry fan but I like a Korma. Not because I don't like heat but because I adore coconut.

5) Pizza - OK, they do pizza and some of it actually looks like a pizza as we know it. The problem is, because of my allergy to cheese, the only one I can eat is from Pizza Hut. Lord knows why but there you go. I have no idea where the nearest Pizza Hut to us is except I know of one in Paris about a kilometer from Gare du Nord which makes it approximately 600 km from us.

Until recently I might have put Sausage Rolls on the list but a couple of weeks back I found some which I think are pretty damn close to ones here except they have a slightly higher meat content. (i.e. there is actually some meat in it).

On this visit I have sampled numbers 2 and 3 so far. I can last till March for Number 1, just depends if I can do 4 or 5 this time, March or suffer until November when I am back after the season.

Today's handy "Oh my God I am surprised any of us are still alive" slot from the course. You know when you sometimes think you are going down with flu but it never really materialises? And sometimes it's a few days after coming back home from a fortnights holiday? It wasn't flu at all. It was a slight bout of Legionnaires Disease. And you almost definitely got it from your house!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Blogathon Day 16 - Pool of Information

So, that's the first day of the course done and we've all been given enough information to make sure we never go in a public pool again. It's all you lot's fault and your dirty habits. Tomorrow we are going to discuss the treatment of water where diarrhoea may have been a contaminant. I'm not sure many of us will be having much lunch!

Here's a couple of bits of information for you -

If your local pool still has a footbath, and it really shouldn't, avoid it like the plague, otherwise that might be what you catch.

If every pool user actually did shower before they went in the pool, as they are meant to, then pool contamination would be minimal and you'd all have a much nicer time. And it tends to be the adults rather than the children who don't pre-shower on the way into the pool.

Who knows, I may regurgitate more disgusting facts for you tomorrow!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Blogathon Day 15 - Big Business Old & New

As a wise Blogger once said "I went down to that London today".

Christ in a bucket, I forgot what a complete pain in the derriere the traffic is. It would have been quicker to drive to Greenwich from Loupia than from West London. Then again I forgot what a pain everything is in London. Anyway, I'm now firmly ensconced in the Ibis hotel which is a relief becaue I was convinced I was staying in a Holiday Inn Express and I couldn't find it. I haven't been down Greenwich way for many a year but it hasn't changed a lot but it does appear to be tarted up a bit more than it was, although I've only seen it in the cover of darkness so far.

I can actually see this view from my hotel window although I came down the road to get a slightly better shot. On the right is the Cutty Sark. The fastest Tea Clipper to have ever set sail which made a fortune in it's day. You may remember it burned down or whatever ships do when caught in a conflagration, a few years back and it now has a nice glass visitor centre that it rests on. In the background is Canary Wharf, seat of the money grabbing, blood sucking, bankers and others, (other sites of money grabbing, blood sucking bankers are available). Both are symbols of big business and interesting to be able to see them together like that.

And now I must make a confession.

It's my first time in the big city on my own since we left and I knew there was something I needed to do as soon as I got a chance. I signed in to the hotel and as soon as I could get myself ready I went on the hunt. Even in modern day Greenwich, at night it didn't take long for me to espy a likely target. And I couldn't believe I'd scored with my first attempt. Now, things always go a bit smoother, and one is less nervous if you haven't done it for a bit, with a glass of alcohol, So I asked a local barman for a pint of Kronenburg which he duly delivered for £4.50, less than I thought it was going to be and then with a quick slug of the amber nectar, (wrong marketing message), I sidled over. Checked I had not just enough money but the right money. Slowly I fumbled towards the goal and slotted it home. The firt pound coin was in and the quiz machine was all mine. 8 months since I've played. A little rusty I must say, my knowledge, not the machine, but by the end I was £1 up on the evenings entertainment so I'm satisfied with that. But now I've had a taste of it I know tomorrow night I'll be back again.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Breaking News

Following the historic meeting yesterday between Pope Francis and the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, the first meeting between the heads of the Western and Eastern Christian Church since the schism in the 11th Century it has emerged that they also brokered a deal in which two of the greatest Bloggers and Geocachers of all time, Masher and Kennamatic, have finally held face to face talks.

It is understood that Kennamatic flew into the country yesterday under the guise of an old bloke coming to attend a Pool Operators course and then disappeared but we believe he has taken up temporary residence in St Albans, a place he first visited when just a child of seven to see the ruins of Verulanium. Masher left his house this morning to attend a small gathering in honour of his nieces birthday and then slipped away from the prying eyes of the World's media via the back door where it was assumed he had left for hospital in order to have surgery on a recently announced rectal problem.

We now understand that he made his way to a secret location in North Hertfordshire where a car arrived shortly after and a person, believed to be Kennamatic, hurried in, where they finally met to discuss the World's problems and their solutions to them.

As yet no pictures of this truly great moment have emerged other than one below showing a feast of cheese and chive crisps and two pints of Shandy with which each toasted the other.

The talks lasted for some time and a spokesman said that the meeting was cordial. The staff at the location have all been issued with gagging orders and no further details are expected to emerge.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

French Pop

I've managed to tune in to quite a bit of French radio as I've driven about. In general it is pretty dire as we know. There are a few good singers about, Zaz, Vianney, Louanne, the latter whom we may go see in concert later this year. But there is one song that drives me completely batshit. It's Ex Fan Des Sixties by Jane Birkin. Now, I grew up with Je t'aime (moi non plus) which she recorded with her lover and svengali, Serge Gainsborough, and it spoke volumes to a teenage boy. The breathy voice she used in that record is full on in ex-fan but not sensual. Good looking girl but not exactly the best singer.

Anyway, it's really the song itself that incenses me. In it she reels off all the acts, apparently of the 60's who have passed on to the big stage in the sky. Amongst the number are; Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Elvis, Janis Joplin and then..........T Rex. T Rex! Who the fuck is T Rex?! Do you mean Marc Bolan you stupid bint?! Apart from which they had hits in the 70s. Was Serge so drug addled that he forgot and you didn't have any idea?
And not only that, it repeats it in the chorus three or four times. Aaaaarrrggh!!!!

Je t'aime, Oui! Ex Fan, Non merci!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Blogathon Day 12 - Health, but not as we know it.

I learnet something new about our French Pharmacy today. I don't know whether it is just them or if others are the same. I had to pick up a repeat prescription this morning before I fly back tomorrow. As always they were on the ball and dispensed it within about a minute, partly due to the fact that Friday is market day in Limoux and they have 5 people working the counter. That wasn't our only interaction though as we didn't understand why one of our claim forms had been returned for our prescription charges, so we asked the nice lady behind the counter. She had a look at it and gave the Gallic shrug that peppers any conversation. "I will ring them" she said, but in French. so she went off and rang the authorities on our behalf to find out what the heck they were playing at. 5 minutes later she came back to inform us that my social security number has been changed and the last claim form had my previous number on. She then got a new form and filled it all in for us, including date of birth, resulting in her pointing out that she and I share a birthday but she is two years younger.

Now, I have had really good pharmacists in the UK so, helpful as she was, that was not the interesting bit. The other thing about going in on a Friday moring is that they offer all their cusomers free croissants, pain au chocolat, pain au raisin or choquettes. No healthy glass of wheatgrass or slimming biscuit here but a nice butter laden pastry. It probably doesn't help with the weight loss, although it won't have added that many calories, but their customers go out feeling happy and that is surely a dose of good medicine.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Blogathon Day 11 - Le Croix de Cathare

The Cathar Cross is everywhere down here. We are in the middle of Cathar Country. For history buffs of the crusade period there is more history than you can shake a trebuchet at. But there is one croix de Cathare that beats all the rest. And that's available at one of our local boulangeries.

Shaped like a thick lumpy version it is made of a scone like pastry incorporating caraway seeds and glazed with sugar syrup and sugar crystals. MMMMmmmm! The caraway seed gives it a slightly aniseedy flavour and would be more savoury than sweet if it wasn't for the sugar topping. They don't make them all the time and normally it is a sunday afternoon treat but I had to pick up some bread for tea and they had some. Unfortunately I had eaten half of it before I remembered I should have taken a photo of it first. I'd hate you to miss out on that, so I might have to go buy another one tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Blogathon Day 10 - A Woman's Work is Never Done

The Magnificent M is in charge of all our work admin, or at least quite a bit of it. She is also in charge of cleaning the houses etc for turnarounds in the season. Apart from that she obviously needs to keep me fed and watered. But now she has a new talent. Plasterer.

As part of the remedial work we are doing at one of our houses we needed to re-plaster part of a wall. I obviously can't do it. (I refer my learned readers to the wombat analogy I gave some posts ago). Marj on the other hand had all the neccessary credentials - a partner who could tell her what she should be doing, even if his advice was crap, but more importantly, she used to ice cakes. Wedding cakes. Cakes that require a good finish to the royal icing. And this appears to a transferrable skill. She has filled the wall, including a concave curve, to perfection.

She took some persuading that she should have a go at it but my hunch was right, particularly the hunch that said she would be a damn sight better than me. And she enjoyed it. When I get back from my week in the UK I suspect our own dear house is going to plastered to within an inch of it's life.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Blogathon Day 9 - List the Countries You Have Visited

Yet another one of the listography lists. You'll notice a distinct lack of long distance travel.

England - Yes, now when I am in England I am only visiting.
Wales - A few times from 1973 swimming tour up till about 4 years ago when my sister-in-sin left North Wales. I will be there this October though.
Scotland - Only the once. 1982. Perth for a training course.
Eire - 1994 for a weekend I won in a works sales competition.
France - Innumerable times
Belgium - from 1968 till the last time in 2010 only about 4 times.
Holland - Once in 1967 on a school trip. We visited Keukenhof, Edam, Delft and a place where the houses were on stilts.
Germany - 1968 and then a couple times in the early 1980s.
Austria - 1968 and then again in 1985.
Switzerland - 1968 and then again in 1972 on a school christian union trip. (One of the teachers who went with us has just been jailed for sexual offences against boys at our school in that period. He obviousy didn't like me despite my boyish good looks.
Italy - 1968
San Marino - 1968
Monaco - 1968
Balearic Islands - 1973 and 2005
Portugal - 1986 for my 30th Birthday.
USA - Houston in 1987 for my Dads re-marriage.

And I think that's it. If I hadn't gone to America I don't think I would have travelled more than 1000 miles from home. Still time though. Roll on retirement!

Monday, February 08, 2016

Blogathon Day 8 - Put The Gun Down

When we knew we were coming to La Belle France and whilst watching a TV shopping channel back in the homeland we decided that the one thing we needed because it would be a massive help was a Wagner WallPerfect Flexio 867.

Now, having been here 8 months, we have a large painting job and I need to spring into action and amaze everyone with my paint spraying skills.

The problem is I probably don't have any. As I'm sure I've said before, I have the artistic ability and manual dexterity of a retarded wombat.

It's a bad start when something incorporates the word "perfect" in it's title. The pressure starts to mount up at the very thought it should give even a good finish, let alone offer perfection.

It also delivers the paint by a gun system. I'm not overly accurate even with a spray bottle of water when cleaning windows so a couple of litres of paint being delivered at high pressure is a disaster waiting to happen.

I shall report back if I ever work out how it fits together!

I have previous with a "gun". In this particular case, the delivery of mastic to a letterbox surround at a clients house many years ago. I remembered to cut the end off the nozzle and attach it to the tube, I loaded the tube into the gun, and with the letterbox in place I proceeded to squeeze the trigger, build up the pressure and deliver a fine bead of clear mastic to seal against wind and rain.

So I squeezed, and squeezed, then squeezed a bit more. Eventually the trigger wouldn't move another millimetre and still no sign of the mastic.

Then I remembered, I hadn't cut the end off the tube. Not a problem, I took the nozzle off and proceeded to cut the end off the tube. Unfortunately, having forgotten to take the pressure off the gun. Vesuvius would have been proud of the resulting eruption. Into the air it went and then about half a tube came rushing out and down the gun, covering my arm whilst I ran around panicking about how I was going to clean the mess up. I just about managed to clean my arm with my jumper and got the excess off her door. By now the tube was de-pressurised and I was actually able to finish the job. All would have gone well if she hadn't wanted me to write my name on the cheque she was giving me.

It's not easy to write your name when the cheque keeps getting glued to your hand!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Blogathon Day 7 - Sunday's Subject

Let's all pile in and nick Mashers idea.

Limoux has a carnival. It lasts 3 months. But only at the weekends. Each Saturday and Sunday a different "guild" dress up and three times a day they parade around the square. It's supposedly an Occitan festival to keep traditional Occitan alive and each group pretty much performs in the same way but the masks make it different once you get into it.

The girls above are from the guild Les Feminas. Despite the fact you cannot see an inch of flesh, bar a well turned ankle, and the masks don't allow any expression other than that moulded onto it, they were incredibly sensual. It's the arm movements I think. They were just very smooth in all their movements, almost catlike.

Other groups have been jolly or, in the case of one lot, rather boring, but at the end of the carnival we all get to vote for our favourites. It's going to take a hell of a good guild to wrest my vote away from Les Feminas

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Blogathon Day 6 - List Your Biggest Sins

I bought my brother a book called Listography for Christmas. It just a list of questions that you answer at your leisure. I was gong to use it as a basis of the 29 blog posts for Feb but, even though I had the full list since last October I didn't complete any. I shall however dip in and do some on various days.

I am of course sinless, (cough), and the seven deadly sins are way too easy to achieve so I'll check how I'm doing against the 10 Commandments.

You shall have no other Gods but me. - As someone who believes that all religions are worshipping the same God, whatever they think, I'm pretty much onside here. Virtue 1 : Sin 0

You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it. - I was useless at art. There is no way I can make make an idol for myself. I can't even borrow one, I know of two, the green eyed yellow one just north of Katmandhu, and we've never been formally introduced and secondly, Pop Idol, which is long gone and I only flirted briefly with it. Virtue 2 : Sin 0

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. - Ah, I think I know what he might be getting at. I shouldn't think many will get past this one. Time to move on. Virtue 2 : Sin 1

You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy. - To be fair I can normally remember it's Sunday. And in fact since coming to France it's certainly a quieter day as nearly all the shops are shut, bar the bakers for our daily bread and a handful of others. As for keeping the Sabbath, it's not as easy in a staunchly Catholic country being nominally Anglican but our little local church only has a service every eight weeks and going is part of integration into the village. Hmm, I think that's a draw. Virtue 2.5 : Sin 1.5

Respect your father and mother. - When you talk about general respect for them, then I am a product of my generation, and respect is something we had for our elders. When you look at respect for each individualy then I respect my mum but always find it harder to respect my father for some of the things he did yet for some of his achievements I respect him greatly. On balance, a virtue. Virtue 3.5 : 1.5

You must not commit murder. - I can't vouch for the add ant or a million but I'm pretty clear on the human front. Virtue 4.5 : Sin 1.5

You must not commit adultery. - Well, you have to be married to committ adultery so that's quite a small window of opportunity but as that's how I met Linda I'll have to hold my hands up. Virtue 4.5 : Sin 2.5

You must not steal. - Oh. I have a bit of form. I was a little bit naughty when I was 10. W H Smiths in Ealing ended up a bit light of items as did Bensteads Book Shop in West Ealing. Virtue 4.5 : Sin 3.5

You must not give false evidence against your neighbour - Oh dear, I seem to be on a bad run. In 1972 me and my best mate were walking home from school when we were stopped by a group of boys from our rival school. We got seperated and although I was a bit shook up I was ok but they beat my mate up. Cutting a long story short, the boys got nicked and I ended up in court. Under evidence I swore that the sharpened comb one of the guys had was a knife to increase the possible sentence. Going forward about 5 years I was in the stands at Brentford when I ended up staning next to the guy with the comb and he recognised me. He was friendly enough but was at pains to explain that it really wasn't a knife but a comb. So I let him know that I knew it was. He was somewhat surprised so I explained to him the simple fact that if you hurt my friend I will cause you as many problems as I can. I might not be physically strong but there are other ways to get even. Virtue 4.5 : Sin 4.5

You must not be envious of your neighbour's goods. You shall not be envious of his house nor his wife, nor anything that belongs to your neighbour. - Ah, the old covet thy neighbours ox, eh? I'm certainly clear on the ox front. But have I coveted other's goods. Hmm. I'm trying to think of an example where I have and I can't think of one. Well, not since I was a small kid and my friend had a Johnny 7 gun and I wanted it but I think that might be forgivable. In general I aren't jealous of other people and what they own. I might wish I had millions but I'm not jealous of those who do. Virtue 5.5 : Sin 4.5

Well, that's a close one. I'm just on the side of the Angels but I better watch my step!

Friday, February 05, 2016

Homme Toutes Main

I am coming back to the UK.

But only for a week and actually only four of those days are crucial. As a "man of all hands", as the French insist on classifying me, I have a restricted number of jobs I am allowed to do and a timescale within which things should be done, e.g. no single job should take longer than 2 hours. Of course, I, along with my handyman brethren, all take absolutely no notice of the law and carry on doing what we want, declaring as little as we can and calling the government all the names under the sun. This is a very French attitude and proves I am assimilating well into a French way of life.

One way of "improving ones lot" is to pick up specialities which allow you to legally carry out specific jobs. Technically, when I look after our pools I am only supposed to check the chemicals and clean the pool. Anything else requires a specialist. So I have decided I might as well become a specialist since I already do all the stuff. To that end I am coming over to carry out a Pool Operators Course in the UK. I was told about it by a guest who stayed in one of the villas this year as he thought the content of the course might be useful, specifically the bit about the chemistry of swimming pools.

So I am flying into the UK on Saturday 13th, managing to avoid Valentines Day, whoops, and going back to France the following Saturday. I shall spend the first two days with my Mum in St Albans then on Monday move down to a hotel in Greenwich for three nights then back to St Albans on Thursday and Friday nights. The course is in Dulwich, at Alleyns School who have a pool. And it is a nostalgic trip for me as I swam in that very pool, or it's predecesser, when I was at school. Alleyns and Trinity, Croydon were our great swimming rivals. If I can manage to ruin the pool it will only have taken the thick end of 40 years to wreak my revenge for any defeats I suffered!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Blogathon Day 4 - Friends across the Ether

Good lord, it's 15 years since I started blogging. Not 15 years today but in a few months time. I won't remember when it comes to the exact date so I'll mention it now. There are any number of meets for Bloggers in and around the Capital, back home in dear Old Blighty but i managed to miss all those so, after some 5000+ days, I have only met one other blogger, Graham from Grayblog and spoken to a second on the phone. Alistair of ScaryDuck, Oh, and I've just remembered I'm a friend on Facebook with a third, Lynn, from the now defunct Bacon Cheese and Oatcakes.

In some ways it's one of the most sociable ways of meeting people. You are often in contact every day even if it is only a one way conversation. You know quite a few things about them even if it is only the face they want to show although I think Bloggers often post more on their site than they would tell their real life friends. Now I am in France, the bloggers I read and converse with are the friends I am most in contact with, even compared to Facebook as although I read I rarely comment and very rarely post anything, although I'm not exactly bombarding anyone with my blog posts either.

It can be a therapeutic relationship. And particlarly for men. We don't have the same sort of friend relationships as women. Someone who visited us earlier this month was amazed to find out that when I am with mates and her other half is with us we don't all sit around discussing the negatives of their relationship. sometimes being able to say things on blogs are the only outlet you have. Not that there is anything I need to say at the moment just in case you thought it was heading that way.

I've never been able to keep a diary, I go on for a few days and then it all goes to hell in a handcart as it does for many who decide to chronicle their lives that way, along with the other New Year resolutions people make. But, sporadic as it might be, the blogging does make interesting reading for me looking back at things I'd forgotten or realising things I thought were important or not were in fact the other way round.

A bit of an introspective post, as I've felt for much of the day. Maybe tomorrow will be lighter.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Plates of Meat

When we moved to France I decided I should eat things I haven't eaten before as long as they were in the French style. That way, if I didn't like them at least I know they were cooked correctly. So far I have tackled escargots and I can report that I like them. Chewy little blighters they are but the sauce they come in is nice where we eat them. Really they are a bit too fiddly to be dealing with but heigh ho. Today though I tacled something else.

Pigs Trotters. In Breadcrumbs. Or Pied du couchon a pane as they call it here.

As you can see, they are bony blighters but the meat is very tender and has a bit of a taste of tongue. I wouldn't rush to have them again but I wouldn't avoid them if necessary.

Frog Legs and Tripe still to go.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Blogathon Day 2 - I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

As mentioned I went to the seaside yesterday. However, because everything is very quiet there I'm not going to blog about it. What's the point of living in the South of France if I can't tell you how exciting it is and making you jealous. So instead I'm going to list my favourite seaside locations and a brief word why. I can't do everywhere I have been otherwise it would be way too extensive and I'd have to include such places as Wells-Next-The-Sea (rather pretty and lots of shops of sea related bits and pieces) and also Happisburgh, (pronounced Hazeborough as my dad was always pleased to point out.

10) Whitby Haven't been there often, although I do remember seeing both the castle and the giant whalebones, but more importantly, it was the seaside town where my Grandma got stuck in the lavatory. Oh dear, what can the matter be......

9) Littlehampton A place to visit in my teenage years. Much as I don't like to admit it, I was very shy when I was young and going to an all boys school didn't help when it was time to approach young ladies. Anyway, I went to a party at a friends house and thanks to Dr Alcohol, and it's effect on me and possibly the girls involved, not ony did I cop off with one girl, when she went home I then copped off with another. This was my most successful 24 hour period of picking up girls in my life to date. Anyhoo, before the first girl left I persuaded her to come to Littlehampton next day on the youth club outing. Unfortunately I forgot to invite Dr Alcohol and I couldn't muster up the courage to speak to her. (anyone who knows Raj from the Big Bang Theory will get the picture). It was her friend whose party it was the night before and was also on the trip. I got a right earful from her when we got back.

8) Margate Ah! Dreamland. Went a few times on days out and then a good friend had a weekend stag party there. 14 of us went. We drank so much on the train going down that the first round in the hotel bar was all soft drinks!

7) Great Yarmouth As a youngster, having been in hospital a lot, I never really liked being away from mum. I had been a to a couple of cub camps but was always a bit homesick. My nest friends family took me camping to Great Yarmouth for a weekend as part of a bigger plan. I can't say I was overjoyed to be away but I obviously enjoyed it enough not to be homesick which made a difference some 12 months on.

6) Galveston Visited here when my Dad got remarried in Houston. Interesting architecture but not a wildly fascinating sea side town. But I knew the song and just to visit it has always meant I've enjoyed the song more as I can visualise it.

5) Weymouth A couple of years after number 9 I had a girlfriend and we went as a crowd down to Weymouth. It was a really lovely day and perhaps the one I remmeber best from our time together. Years later, in fact about 8 years ago, I visited again with some friends, one of whom had been on the original trip and liked the place just as much. A proper English seaside town.

4) Rimini The reason for going to Great Yermouth was to see if I coped away from home as the family planned to take me with them camping round Europe for 3 weeks. We went to France, Italy, Germany and Austria and is still one of the best holidays I ever had and propbably the second most important one. Rimini is memorable partly for the place itself but mainly for the lemon curd filled doughnuts which to my 11 year old tastebuds was the best thing I'd ever tasted. (Other than Leeds fish and chips of course).

3) Lyme Regis/Ilfracombe/Budleigh Salterton The first holiday I went on with the Magnificent M. We booked a week off and set sail, wel, set tyres and drove down to Dorset with no plan other than turning up in places and hoping there was a bed and breakfast somewhere. A mini adventure which she would never have done before with her ex.

2) Narbonne Plage From the moment we both visited this beach, 11 years ago this year, we knew we wanted to be there as often as possible. It was the beach here as much as the rest of this bit of France that made us realise how much we wanted to be here if only when we retired. Even ysterday, when it was pretty deserted and we couldn't even get a cup of coffee, it was nice just to walk on the beach, knowing that in 6 months time it will be packed to the gunnels. Not that we will see it then, we will be too busy, but we will get there before and after the season for a bit of a swim and a sunbathe.

1) Blackpool For me, the ultimate seaside location. People either love it or hate it. Every holiday in Leeds visiting my Grandma would entail a day trip to balckpool on a Wallace Arnold coach. When my brother did well on his o'levels my mum took us to Blackpool for the weekend. It had always been important to her too as it was to many Yorkshire people before and after the war. Then, 17 years ago I went back to Blackpool with a mate who went every year and had been nagging me to go. I had a bit of an epiphany and realised that maybe things might be able to be changed in my life and the upshot of that became being with M adn ending up in the South of France. I love the illuminations, the donkeys, the tackiness. Just everything.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Blogathon - Day 1 - A Pathetic Start

Good God! Is it a year already since the last mayhem that was Blogathon. No, actually it's only 11 months if you count the last day to now. But I'm not here to post about statistics and temporal spans but to entice you with teasers for all the things you might be reading about....

Erm, well, there's bound to be something about something or other, definitely a piece about the thing I meant to blog about the other week but I lost the will to live before I finished writing about it. I might even have had a guest blogger for a day but the Magnificent M just raised her eyebrows and shook her head in a somewhat disparaging way when asked.

I do have a possible idea what tomorrows might be about because we are off to the seaside today. Yippee!