5 July 2015

It's always the ordinary man who suffers.  Today almost ten million Greeks are urged to vote for 'catastrophe' or 'even more catastrophe'.  At the same time, thousands of Africans are either massing at Calais's Sangatte camp or risking their lives in leaky boats across the Mediterranean into the foot of Italy.  And what does the world do?  Sits and watches.  In Britain the Education Minister sends in 'super Heads' to take control in failing schools. In EU countries on the point of collapse, like Greece currently, the EU should send in a 'super Economist' to turn things around. In repressive and poor African countries where thousands are fleeing, instead of allowing continents like Europe to be overloaded with immigrants, the UN should send in 'super teams' whose mission is to help failing countries by providing economic and democratic solutions in situ. Is anyone brave enough to do these things?  Him indoors says the world should be determined, calmly efficient and dignified, whatever the outcome, like the Frenchman who lost at Wimbledon yesterday and not make 'a Tsonganddance about it!'

1 July 2015

Sorry for delay - been busy with visting friends Barry and Lynda below.  After a wonderful party for Barry's 70th, yesterday we decided to have lunch at La Corniche restaurant in Brousse, near the village fleuri, Saint-Antonin in Tarn et Garonne.

Sounds normal, but on the dessert menu were several items with Grand Marnier liqueur and the local delicacy, Armagnac brandy!  That was fine with us, particularly Him indoors, but we and the neighbouring French party at the next table became increasingly aware that the French owner and waiter was drunk - in fact, very drunk. We were served the coffee ordered by the French party, with all the coffee spilled in the saucer!  Soon the noise of splintering plates could be heard from the kitchen.  When the l'addition was asked for, we were presented with a practically indecipherable bill for 198 euros!!  I queried this and was asked to step inside to the dark interior, so I foolishly did where I was actually touched up by the inebriated man!!!  Eventually he agreed that the bill was too much and lowered it to 120 euros for the 4 of us - probably a little too low for haute cuisine but he was totally incapable of discussing it, throwing his glasses on the floor.  We left. Him indoors says if he'd wanted a Basil Fawlty sketch, he'd have switched on the video.

21 June 2015

C'est un fosse que sera franchi lorsqu'on aura l'audace de le tenter. (Just a ditch to be crossed when someone has the nerve to try it.)   Bonaparte 1803
Thursday saw the banner headline in Le Monde, aimed at the UK: 'Just as in 1815, Brexit is your Waterloo.' I agree. It's been a week of commemorations. Not just Waterloo (200 years) but also 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta. Both are significant water(!)sheds historically, as is this week's anniversary of de Gaulle's 1940 speech in London. Should the UK have held commemorations of Waterloo at all?  Until all nations eliminate glorying in past battles against current allies, encouraging nationalism, no progress towards world peace will ever be achieved. Have we learned nothing at all from history?  Of course, I understand only too well that sometimes evil dictators like Hitler have to be stopped at any cost. (If we hadn't stopped him, I wouldn't be writing this piece now!) But, past land-grab battles - especially against current allies - are best left to history and the different mindsets back then. What should be commemorated are anniversaries like last month's 106th birthday of Sir Nicholas Winton, who organised the rescue of 669 Czech children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. His knighthood was one of the very few I actually agree with and which was richly deserved. Happy birthday Sir Nicholas!

14th June 2015

Living in France is often a struggle.  Some simple tips:
Mosquito bites:  if no net but lots of wild mint growing in the garden, rub exposed skin before getting into bed. Also, lie as close to a whirring fan as possible. Mosquitoes can't fly in a wind.
Dogs: Add a capful of cider vinegar to the water and a little grated garlic to their food every day. Pests will run a mile. If your dog is a chasseur and can't live without meat, try a product called Dogodor from Intermarche freezer. Cheaper and better than tins. Mix some into dry meal.
New French law re donor organs:The French will remove your organs on death unless you tell them otherwise!  And, from 2018 they won't even ask your family first. To register 'No', go to dondorganes.fr. Click on Etre donneur ou non apres sa mort. Then Comment exprimer son refus.
Renewal of EHIC health card: Tinyurl.com/renew-EHIC. Scan form, complete then email to nhsbsa.ehicenquiries@nhsbsa.nhs.uk.
IT: If email recipient has an accent in name, type address all in capitals. If you don't know their email address, go to their Facebook page, click on Messages and a tiny window will appear on the right. Your typed message will then be private just to them.
Him indoors:  No, donor organ law is not just in Ayrshire (inertia)...

7th June 2015

So, that well-known Swiss anagram Sepp Blatter has finally done the honourable thing and resigned. Trouble is he hasn't yet stepped down from Fifa - he's actually been allowed to continue until next March! Have you noticed too that he never mentions exactly how much he earns in the post?  Imagine the noughts on his bank account. In my humble opinion he is an arrogant, conceited, womanising, incompetent little man who is quite happy to deal in as many corrupt practices as possible as long as it improves his own standing and personal wealth.  Instead of Fifa, he should have headed Mafia.com.  Rather like my own (fictitious) character Professor Darnand in 'Third Degree Murder', perhaps someone should plot his deserved downfall, but who?  The husband of Blatter's married girlfriend, paraded for all to see in the newspapers of the world?  A sports minister of a failed World Cup bid country, whose job may now be in jeopardy?  All the ordinary football fans of the world, who buy season tickets they can ill afford for their favourite teams, who've had their faith in the sport quashed?  This is a story that will run and run.

31 May 2015

On Thursday we went to a Franco-Britannique quiz held at the beautiful Chateau de LasTours in nearby Lisle sur Tarn.  As a writer I always like to bring different cultures together (see  http://ailsaabraham.com/2015/05/26/incoming-swan to read a recent interview about my writing), so what could be better than a light-hearted evening where the French and English pit their wits on each other's geography, history, culture and, of course, gastronomy!  And, whilst we were wracking our brains, we enjoyed the wonderful wines - grown in the Chateau's own vineyards alongside, and live singing from Martin St. Martin, who includes Sinatra, Elvis, Ray Charles etc. in his repertoire. My favourite charity has always been cancer research, and I'm delighted to report that the club Entente Cordiale, who organised the quiz, raised over 400 euros on the night. The following day, Friday, was la Fete des Voisins.  How better to get to know one another than to enjoy each other's company and raise funds for charity at the same time. Long may it continue.

24 May 2015

You know what the best thing is about being over 40?  All that embarrassing stuff in your life happened before the internet and iphone cameras!  Imagine having to re-live all those stupid things you did when you were young, and know that the whole world can see and laugh about it too.  But, when I watch global news on France24 tv, I often think about the poor people who live in the 'third world'.  There they are living the kind of traditional lives their forefathers always lived:  unpaved roads, flimsy shacks, no sanitation etc.  Yet, some young people there are shown with iphones. How can they not compare their lives with those of us in the west and feel intensely aggrieved?  In the past they would have just soldiered on. Ignorance is bliss.  But now?  What can they do?  You can't just skip over centuries of lost opportunities of technological advances.  It can't be done.  Decades ago I remember that old English tv advert: Clunk-click every trip.  Today I make mistake after mistake by clicking too quickly and then can't retrieve what I've sent. To the people of the third-world:  enjoy your lives. Think twice before you click.