27 July 2014

As with most with E. European heritage, I like to complain about things all the time. And if life seems to be going right, don't say anything: you might be tempting fate. Years ago I used to argue with a Professor. He said never trust people, only machines. But I just don't get on with machines. Never have. Cars work every time for trivial journeys, but just when you need it for that urgent trip to the airport/hospital, that's when it decides to break down.  I worry that this laptop will do the same just at a critical moment, so I've thought of getting another one. Being an old touch-typist, I need a qwerty keyboard + English system. Dell used to do both, but will no longer change the system in France. Amazon uk won't send laptops to France, so I thought I'd buy one when in the UK on a forthcoming trip. But for security reasons flights to/from the UK now require electronics to be powered-up at check-in.  Can I do that with a brand-new, boxed-up laptop, or does it need a complicated set-up first? Him indoors says he'll just ask for a screwdriver. What? They don't sell alcohol at check-in. No, not to drink, just to open the box.

20 July 2014

Terrible global air tragedy this week. Then there's that push for so-called passive euthanasia. In France remember Dr. Bonnemaison's decision to poison 7 terminally-ill patients? What on earth's wrong with the world?  Too much emphasis on death - not enough on life!  Here's my 'cure' for the world: The UN to assist every country to become a democracy; every voter to elect intelligent, economically-astute women leaders. France could have Christine Lagarde, Germany already has the excellent Angela Merkel, Burma has Aung San Suu Kyi, etc.  Why?  All wars and terrorist organisations are run by testosterone-driven men, hungry for yet more land and power who seem programmed to kill to achieve their aims. Women would deal with problems in a very different, calmer way! Above all, get rid of all weapons - their only purpose is to kill!  My individual recipe to live longer:  Against dementia: add turmeric to all meals (known to bind to plaque in the brain). Against degenerative disease: eat tinned sardines (B12). Against cancer: 1 glass of red wine from S.W.France (something in the terroir); broccali, 75mg aspirin p.d. (G.P.s take this); lemons + baking soda; bright-coloured veg, no red meat. Always buy food 'without a label' - natural/unprocessed. Remember Him indoors:  Doctor, it's not younger I want to be, but older.

13 July 2014

French National Day tomorrow, but  you wouldn't know it around here. The Gaillacoise all look so miserable, you'd think they were English!  Don't know whether it's because France lost the World Cup, Mauresmo's protegee lost Wimbledon or simply because the weather's changed unseasonably into Autumn. Whatever. Of course the French think the 14th is all about Federalism, but the rest of the world calls it Bastille Day, a time when the mob ran riot cutting off the heads of their own royalty.  And yet look how they admire English royalty now, in June practically fawning over the Queen. My feeling is the French are fed up with 'common' Presidents like Hollande and have a desperate need to look up to someone they can respect, over and above scheming politicians. Perhaps now is the time to bring back from exile handsome and debonair Louis de Bourbon, Duke of Anjou with his young family, including a ready-made next Dauphin de France . Now that would cause a stir and revive l'esprit de coeur over here. Mind you I wouldn't be in Louis' shoes, thinking of what happened in the past. He'll certainly need a strong head on his shoulders.....

6 July 2014

Whether you call it Tzedakah, Sadaqah or Charity, giving freely to others is a wonderful thing. However, there are always some who exploit it for their own aims. Some multi-national charity CEOs pay themselves over $1m p.a., the average being $126,000.  Also there is one global charity which is actually deemed racist - the very opposite of what charity means - and that is The Red Cross. And, after 9/11, it was revealed that a large proportion of donations to them went not to survivors or family members of those killed but to other Red Cross operations!  So, be very careful who you give your money to.
It was as a breath of fresh air to see that a French project called 'Magasins pour Rien' had opened in Mulhouse, quickly followed by another in the Charente. Not a cent passes anyone's hand. People can come in and take away 3 items for nothing. Goods are given to the stores for free, the assistants are all volunteers and the premises are given rent-free by the local Maire.  Personally I'd like to see supermarkets donating all their just-past-date foods, instead of the masses taken to landfills. Mulhouse organiser Roger Winterhalter says the only profit is in bringing people and communities together and reducing waste.  Well done la France!

29 June 2014

Just messing about on the river....
Him indoors and friend Barry decided to take a little canoe trip whilst Lynda and I waited on the bench. But, things didn't quite work out as planned. I knew I should've gone beforehand and translated for the boys, but 4 hours later and Lynda and I were still waiting! We foolishly thought they would just paddle along, then return the same way...wrong.  Eventually, wet, exhausted and bedraggled the boys appeared. It was apparently a seasoned group expedition and they were complete novices. Instructions were provided (in French) but were fixed to the back of the canoe, where neither could reach en route. They had to negotiate numerous weirs, lost an oar, had to ship water when it got waterlogged and had to manoeuvre along more than 5 miles of river before being picked up and brought back to us by van! Him indoors managed to fall in the water. How did you come to fall in the water? I didn't come to fall in the water, just to canoe.  Boat may have been multi-coloured, but they were certainly marooned.......

blog extra

For all those who know Bruno, and especially those who have criticised us for not training/controlling him properly:
I've always thought that, apart from us, the only person who has experienced long-term the behaviour of our Breton spaniel is our local kennel expert, Celine from Complexe Canine de la Gravie in Le Garric - the kennel where we leave him for extended periods whilst we are away.  Well, we have just picked him up after a 12-day stay with Celine and her comments were very interesting.  I told her about all the problems we had had with our Gaillac neighbours and that we were considering installing an electric wire around the fence. She said Non categorically. She told us that, in her view, Bruno is well-trained for the normal, everyday tasks like sitting on command and gentle with people, but that he has probably experienced a great shock as a puppy from his previous owner - undoubtedly a hunter - and that an electric fence would cause him even more distress. The shock as a puppy has left him mentally-disturbed:  he cannot cope with bangs, e.g. thunder (he bent the bars of the kennel there during a storm, but was calm thereafter), he is permanently anxious, and experiences what looks like mild epilepsy (an inherited gene common in Breton spaniels) which manifests itself by mad racing around the garden, followed by sudden stops into normal, calm behaviour again.  Exactement!! Tres bien, Celine.

22 June 2014

Two friends from Birmingham are visiting and it feels so good. Although I like all the 'material' things here - the sun, quality of light, bien manger - it's the internal things I miss most like chatting to old friends I grew up with. There's nothing like kindred spirits who knew you, your family and shared things from 50 years ago.  Yesterday we took La Croisiere boat ride along the Canal du Midi in Toulouse. An interesting journey, where 3 canals merge before flowing into the river Garonne. As we negotiated the lock gates, it reminded me of the old canal in Birmingham, running past the University to Gas Street Basin. For lunch, of course, we ate at my favourite place, La Faim des Haricots, before wandering around Place Capitole, listening to all the music in celebration of World Music Day. Wonderful day. Hot, not a cloud in the sky, happy people everywhere - not like back home where gloom abounds following England's failure in the World Cup. Will just have to turn our attention to the French team I suppose. Allez les bleus! As Him indoors says: nothing To-Lose.