26 July 2015

Thursday was our 48th anniversary. In those early, heady days we would leave our Birmingham flat at 10 p.m. and head out to the smoky Elbow Room where we'd dance to Wilson Pickett 'In the Midnight Hour'. But that was '67, a lifetime ago, and this was France. Despite this being the land of le bien manger, lately we haven't had much success.  First there was the drunken waiter at Brousse. Then there was the vegetarian restaurant La faim des haricots in Toulouse. Unfortunately they've moved their premises to the opposite building and said we must now eat downstairs, where it was damp and impossible to balance our food on frequent trips up and down the stairs. Albi fared no better. Our favourite Le Tournesol was inexplicably shut the day we arrived, and at Le Vigan brasserie - well - we walked out. Enough said.  So where?  We ended up in the place that we feel the most comfortable, not a French place at all really, the Buffalo Grill in Le Sequestre. It never lets us down. The most wonderful oven-baked jacket potatoes and desserts anywhere.  Sittin' on the dock of a bay? No, but it suited us.  Cheers.

19 July 2015

Interesting week. Who'd have thought that a small, insignificant socialist called Hollande could - just maybe - have saved the whole of Europe from disaster by helping Greece.  75 years ago another small, insignificant socialist called Arthur Greenwood persuaded the British war cabinet to make the right decision:  not to appease Nazi Germany.  It was 1940 and the newly-elected Winston Churchill was chairing an urgent meeting.  At the table was Lord Halifax, a man supported by the King - who thought that he rather than Churchill should be PM - who said that the best plan for Britain, one that would save many lives, was to negotiate with Hitler.  However, up stepped insignificant socialist Greenwood who said No, never. Europe would be finished.  TG he swung the vote the right way.  In their way both Greenwood and now Hollande could well have saved Europe from absolute catastrophe:  not by fighting on the beaches but by saying the right word to the right person at the right time.  Something worth remembering.

12 July 2015

Needed a break yesterday from all this Greek brinkmanship and watching a large woman at Wimbledon showing her underwear (no, it wasn't me!), so with drink in hand was reliving twelve days ago.  It was Barry and Lynda's last day with us and we wondered where to go.  I'd heard of a steam train ride at a little place called St. Lieux les Lavaur, off exit 7 of the A68. Trouble was that I read it only ran on Sundays, and it was a Wednesday.  But when I looked at the date, I realised that it was now July and the train runs every afternoon in high summer.  If you want a really nice day you could lunch at Le Colvert 3star restaurant before going to the tiny station house round the corner.  The mini-train ride was wonderful on a warm day, with a cooling breeze blowing through the open carriages. The terminus is at the lovely Jardins des Martels, with its georgeous gardens and animal farm. I particularly liked the turtle pond. Afterwards the train driver showed Barry and Him indoors the steam engine. But then we all ran out of puff....just like Greece really. Is it the end of the line?

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)...