30 July 2010
I could talk about my lack of excitement at the forthcoming football season probably because I fear that my team, Rangers, will not do so well given that they've got rid of half of the players who won them the league last year. I could talk about poor old Shadow having hip problems but I don't want to tempt fate - we finally found his 'doggie health book' a few weeks ago and discovered he was actually 12 years old instead of 10-11 as we believed and his type of dog only have a life expectancy of about 13 years.
I could go on ad nauseum about my lack of motivation in tackling the brambles as there's always something else to do - yesterday it was my car, today I'm going down to the coast to pick up J and her sister, but I know that when the visitors stop and the weather becomes cooler, I'll be down there slashing and burning as normal.
I could have another go at the French but as they start their mass exodus on holiday this weekend I'll leave them alone. I'll also try and stay off the roads as the traffic doubles or trebles on Saturday and Sunday as the northern French head south to the coast and the southerners head west, and inevitably there are thousands of accidents. Poor Kitty will lose all her friends as they head off on vacation and she'll mope about the house wondering what to do next.
My weekend will probably be determined by my visit to Carrefour (supermarket) where I'm returning a portable tyre compressor which stopped working after only a couple of months. I'd lost the receipt so there was absolutely no chance of a refund or even a replacement so I bought another one last week and will use that receipt this morning when I go back with the 'old' compressor - the problem is they'll probably offer me another one and what would I do with two identical compressors? C'est la vie.
Have a great weekend everyone.
29 July 2010
Three, or even four abreast, they weave along the roads making life an absolute misery for those in cars strung out behind them. They are completely oblivious to the mile long convoy trailing them as they laugh and joke with their lycra-wearing mates knowing that even if they threw themselves (and their bikes) under a car, the poor motorist would be prosecuted under the unwritten French law that says cyclists, particularly of the elderly variety, are sacrosanct and cannot be touched.
When I left in the car on Tuesday to take J and her sister to Cagnes station for the first stage of their travel to the Islands, within 5 minutes of leaving the house, I had to tell them that we would miss the train. The road was clogged with hundreds of multi-coloured, blue-bottle looking cyclists, weaving their way to the next water fountain where they’d just stop in the middle of the road, casually move their bike to the side and then wander slowly across the road as if they had a divine right to bring the entire village to a stop.
I’d love to roar right through the middle of a pack of them one day, scattering them and their bikes all over the place but I know the law would catch me and since we were dragged in front of the mayor by the police a few years ago for building issues (the house was 4 inches too high!), I’ve managed to keep a clean slate despite mooning in my kilt in the village on my wedding day and I’ve no intention of falling foul of the law again.
But back to the cyclists - those perennial pains in the ass, who I’m sure, have a strategy deliberately set to destroy the goodwill of locals and tourists alike. As I’ve said, they virtually block the road and when they come to a long straight stretch which gives motorists the chance to pass them (with THE finger), they seem to double up, completely blocking any chance of a passing manoeuvre.
The scooter is great though – it allows you to pass a few and join them in the middle of the group where I slow down and completely disrupt their carefully synchronized little blockade. Despite yelling at me, I just point to my crash helmet which prevents me hearing most things and then either shoot past them or if they’re in a loose formation, through them. Ha ha.
The recent Paris to Nice cycle race went through Tourrettes recently. Indeed, Tourrettes was the 6th stage and the stage finished in the village, but those racers who did not check the route would have been in for a shock. The race would have been over 180km long when they would have passed through Tourrettes, but hanging above the main street was a sign only the French could come up with – Finish Tourrettes/Finish in 42km! What this actually meant was that as the racers passed through the village they still had a mountain section of 42km to do before returning back to Tourrettes for the finish line!
Those who know Tourrettes will recognize the pharmacy sign in the background. Tenuous I know but never mind.
28 July 2010
Now I know what you’re thinking – he’s been partaking of the alcohol again and we’ve no sympathy whatsoever. And that’s fine. But most of you don’t live here and have no idea the social pressures I’m under to sip a glass, or six, of rosé and at this time of year with visitors galore, I’ve just got to help them enjoy their holiday. What sort of host would I be if the 10 litre box of nicely chilled Grenache wasn’t brought out of the fridge?
But, even by my standards, the last few days have been a bit manic. Tim and Keren’s on Friday. Cindy, J’s sister, arriving late on Saturday night and wanting to spend her first night sipping wine and having a few cigarettes on the terrace as one does. And then the coup de grace – Tan’s seemingly weekly 12 hour BBQ on Sunday.
Now I was particularly keen not to be the first to leave on Sunday (as I usually am) so I started the day on wine and lemonade and that seemed to work. By my usual departing hour (about 9.30pm), I was still going strong and I think I was even able to talk but then things got a bit hazy and the next thing I knew it was 11.30pm and I was aiming for my usual spot – under the table on Tan’s terrace. But to my credit, I’d told everybody who was prepared to listen that I was wearing my best white shorts and my favourite Brooks Brothers polo shirt (light lilac and white horizontal strips in case you’re wondering) and that on no account were they to let me sleep on the floor.
And then it was 8am and my head hurt! Like hell!
In order to work out what state I was in the previous evening, I only need to look at my clothes. If they’re folded up on the chair, I was ok. If they’re near the chair but on the floor, I was quite inebriated but if they’re all over the place like they were on Monday morning, I start to get my apologies ready – I’m bound to have upset somebody! It seems that I was placed on the bed fully clothed by a couple of Samaritans and I stayed like that until some time during the night, whereupon I probably felt my belt digging in to me and so stripped off, throwing garments in every direction.
We had arranged lunch out for Monday so I managed to drag my senses together and off to La Source we went where I reckoned one of their extra big steaks would sort me out, but no. By late afternoon, I was still very quiet and then J decided to inform me that we had a couple coming round for ‘aperitifs’ early evening. It’s strange how no matter hung over you are you can still think rationally about murder!
John and Linda arrived full of life as usual and all I could do was support my head with both hands. Then it came to me – a hair of the dog. I forced down a couple of glasses of Prosecco and a couple of cigarettes but I felt even worse. Maybe a ‘hair of the dog’ only works in the mornings?
John and Linda left, with me saying no more than a few words and then J and Cindy demanded some rosé and cigarettes and I felt that I should keep them company. And that was it – I was back to normal. Magic!
With Tuesday being dedicated to getting J and her sister onto a train which would take them to Cannes, and with nobody in the house, I was heading for a nice quiet, booze-free evening, bliss (believe it or not), and then the door opened and there was Tan. ‘C’mon over and help us celebrate Angie’s birthday’, he said. ‘But her birthday is tomorrow’, I replied. ‘Yeah – but we’re going out for dinner tomorrow, so we’re having it tonight.’ Here we go again!
And finally, a quote from George Burns: “It takes only one drink to get me drunk. The trouble is, I can't remember if it's the thirteenth or the fourteenth.”
27 July 2010
J and her sister Cindy are off to the monastery just off Cannes for some solitude and reflection although the bottles of wine, cigarettes and bars of chocolate they've been secreting in their bags seems at odds to the whole purpose of the visit. No doubt there will be stories to tell when they get home but in the meantime, here is a report of J's trip to the monastery this time last year.
Yes ! She’s Retreated.
I mean, of course, J. She’s off (and please don’t laugh), to a monastery for three nights of solitude, soul seeking, meditation and whatever else a ‘retreat’ offers. Let me explain.
Just off the coast of Cannes lie the Îsles de Lérin, comprising two islands, the Île Sainte-Marguerite and the Île Saint-Honorat. Visitors flying into Nice airport may have noticed the two islands just before the plane lands. You cannot miss the crystal clear, bright blue-green shallow water between the two small bits of land which is usually filled with sleek yachts seeking an anchorage just off Cannes.
The Île Saint-Honorat has had a monastery since 410AD and it’s to there that J and her pal, Lynn, are going – some old relics visiting an old relic I hear you say! Being a ‘retreat’, for the most part each day is one of soul-searching and solitude but as J cannot stand being on her own, even in times of self-reflection and self-imposed silence, she’s taking her pal with her.
Of course, whilst they will be subject to the ‘silent order’ of the monks (it’s a working monastery), I’ll be luxuriating in my own ‘silent order’ at home – the kids are in Eire – it’ll be wonderful.
All sorts of jokes having been uttered by me since I found out that J (and Lynn) were going off to Saint-Honorat. ‘You’ll have to leave your dirty habits at the front door’. ‘The monks will be impressed by your knickers – they’ve got a saint’s name on them – St Michael’. ‘J will be at holy communion several times a day – it’s the only place she’ll get her daily intake of wine’. Ha ha !
And then, of course, there’ll be the discussion as J and Lynn appear at the front door of the monastery:
Thud, Thud – (the door has big knockers apparently - so Lynn should feel at home!)
Yes – who is calling at the Lord’s door?
It’s me and Lynn – we’re here to try and keep our mouths shut for 3 days and nights.
Ah you must be our retreat guests – a Mrs Hellon-Evans-Cupples and a Mrs Pattinson?
Yup – that’s us Father, now where’s our suite?
Actually, I’m the Abbot and I’m sorry but there are no suites in the Lord’s house. You have been allocated single cells in the basement beside the interior well and the septic tank. I’m afraid our retreat guests usually prefer the cells with stone beds, no interior light and a basic toilet facilty.
Oh – Thomas has told me about that – there must be a ‘retreat’ near Maidenhead Police station. He’s always going on about the stone bed, no light and metal toilet with no seat.
And of course Mrs Hellon-Evans, there’s no paper provided.
Oh – and I was hoping you could get me the Daily Mail delivered to my room each day.
No – I meant there’s no paper for the toilet. Oh never mind. Let me help you with your cases. I must say Mrs Hellon, you’re case is rather heavy.
Yeah – it’s all me make-up and stuff like that.
I just hope that there’s no chocolate or alcohol in here Mrs Hellon. The Lord does not like guests in his house partaking of pleasures. We’re all here to suffer under the Lord’s guidance. And may I remind you that dinner is communal and we expect our guests to be naked except for the habit we provide. No make-up. No hair or other bodily adornments.
You mean I’ll have to take my belly-button piercing out before I come down to dinner?
I’m afraid you will Mrs H.
And my toe ring?
That as well Mrs H.
About dinner Reverend? Can we pre-order and Lynn and I want to share the bill for the wine so can you make sure the wine waiter knows that.
I’m afraid you’re under a misapprehension Mrs.H. Dinner is whatever our monks have gathered from the fields during the day. The Lord’s gracious offerings. And I’m afraid we only serve water from the well.
What you mean - there’ll be no Rag Puddins or Sausage Curry? Chips or mushy peas? And no Blossom Hill chardonnay?
I’m afraid not. We pride ourselves on self-sufficiency. We do everything for ourselves.
Ah yes – Thomas is always complaining about having to do that.
So getting back to the rules Mrs H – dinner is at 6pm and then lights out is at 7pm. We expect total silence between 7pm and breakfast which is at 5.30am. Breakfast will consist of an apple left outside your cell door.
Wot – no Full English with black pudding and hash browns?
No – I’m sorry. Just an apple. The only sustenance the Lord gave to Adam and Eve.
Would you just Adam and Eve it – ha ha - that’s a joke Abbot. So when’s the next boat then – the next boat into Cannes so Lynn and I can go and do a bit of karaoke?
I’m afraid there isn’t one Mrs H. You’re now here in our silent order for the next 6 months.
How come – I know there’s at least one boat a day back to Cannes.
I’m afraid somebody has fully booked every place on the boat for the next 6 months. I’m told he sounded like he had a Scottish accent!
26 July 2010
One of the nice things out here is visiting other people’s houses to see their view. Virtually every house has a view of some sort or the other and even houses not far from our own have quite a different view – from Tan and Angie’s, terrace, only about 30 yards from our own, you see quite a different perspective on the valley.
I was therefore looking forward to going to Tim and Keren’s on Friday night. I’d been past their house, located on the old railway line, several times but had never been inside and when I arrived, the first thing I did was to go out on their terrace and look right up the Gorge du Loup. It was stunning. And perched 1,000ft above their house was Gourdon, a hilltop village which lights up at night and must perplex tourists when they drive down the main road and look up and see lights in the sky.
J and Kitty had been learning (from Keren) how to make sushi and when I arrived it was placed on the table with all the usual accompaniments. J, I think, had informed Keren that I wasn’t too keen on ‘cold rice and raw fish’ and so whilst the others tucked into several varieties of the Japanese food, I wolfed down my bbq’d chicken sausages! Am I a philistine or what? I did try some sushi but politely declined any more much to Tim’s pleasure as he professed to being able to eat plate loads of it at a single sitting.
Anyway – back to the view. As we sat on their terrace and the sun fell and the moon rose, it cast an eerie white glow on the cliffs of the gorge making them look similar to the white cliffs of Dover.
Then it was stargazing and drinks before zig-zagging my way back home on my scooter. And you know the annoying thing about riding a scooter – you can’t scratch the mossie bites you get all during the evening.