Friday, 26 December 2008

25.12.08 Blogging off ‘til early January

I think that you all deserve a rest from my ramblings so I am taking a break from blog posting. I hope to resume round about the second week in January 2009 if I can think of anything to say.
So until then Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to family, friends, followers and lurkers everywhere.

Of course if I think of anything meantime I reserve the right to write.

I will leave you with my favourite haiku (i.e.the only one that I know) written by John Cooper Clarke. There is no mention of mountains or blossom.

“To convey one's mood

with seventeen syllables
is very diffi”

Thursday, 25 December 2008

24.12.2008 - Castles in the air

On Monday evening it was cold outside. Looking out of my window I could see the chateau sparkling in the dark distance.
He’s finally lost it I hear you say, but no I haven’t. For this festive season the castle has been lit up with an eerie light blue light. The window slits in the three towers have been illuminated and blue lights which have been places at various locations on the facades twinkle on and off at random.
I noticed this state of affairs some nights ago and meant to go out and take some photographs. So in the words of Rod Stewart, “Tonight’s the night”
I wrap up warm and add a wooly hat to my ensemble.
Exposures will be long, so I take up one of my trusty tripods, which I last used in the early ‘90’s. I do not pick up one of my SLR film cameras with all the lenses and filters. I have not lugged them about much since I went on holiday to Sidari in Corfu in 1991, when armed police surrounded me at the Greek airport as flash gun grip handled bracket in my camera bag looked like a pistol. As an aside, the camera bag squeaked when I walked and the weight of the bag hurt my shoulder.
Anyway, kitted up I left the house and headed for the bright lights.
At the first viewpoint I found a man there already. He had an enormous tripod. We exchanged a few pleasantries. I took a few shots and moved on, leaving him to his contemplation of the castle. I had not seen him taking a single photo. Can yo be a castle voyeur? Did he even have a film or memory card in his camera?
Next stop was up a hill where I had photographed the castle from recently. There in my spot, was another bloke with his camera bag and SLR camera.
I whipped out my small digital camera and attacked it to the tripod. I asked him if he was in a camera club and told him that I had just met another photographer.
No he was not in a club, he had searched for one in town, but had not been successful.

I went to other vantage points, principally photographing the castle, but also a couple of other scenes. They can be seen by clicking on this link.
A perfect evening then? Not really. Readers who have been with me from the beginning will remember me going on and on about the amount of dog shit on the pavements. This is difficult enough to avoid during daylight, and impossible to see in the gloom.
I choose to look upon the good fortune that only one shoe was royally christened.
YUCK!!!!!! Bastard lazy dog owners!!!!
Good night.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

23.12.08 Tuesday – Away in a manger

I think that Madame likes Christmas. I mentioned before that she has decorated the square panes of glass in her patio doors with Christmassy type images. I had been going to tell her that really “leoN xueyoJ” should be facing the other way, so that people loitering on her terrace get the message, but I have not done so.
She wants to know if I have any CD’s with English Choirs singing Christmas carols.
I take her up to my flat whilst I search through my music CD’s and cassettes. She also likes Russian choirs singing carols. Unfortunately I have neither category. She asks me to see if I can obtain some for her, if I remember. Obviously it is too late for this year. I will tie a knot in something to remind myself.
She is expecting a lot of people for Christmas and / or New Year for food.
I suspect that the huge potted palm will have to be put back outside again to make some room..
Special menus have been appearing in the press for St Sylvestre meals. These seem to range from 55 to 75 euros per head.
I bought a French pocket diary yesterday and I now know that as well as being Restauration de la Republique Day it is St Sylvestre’s day too.

In France the New Year’s Eve celebration dates back to Roman times. New Year’s Eve is also called the Saint Sylvester’s Eve. The Roman tradition of New Year’s Eve entailed eating as much food as possible until the New Year arrived. The more you ate, the more prosperous you would be in the coming year.
So now you know!
!. ST. (POPE) SYLVESTER I (c. 270 - 335 A.D.)
St. Sylvester I from whom the well in Old Street takes its name was Bishop of Rome in 313 A.D. History best remembers St. Sylvester through his connection with Constantine the Great (C. 280 - 337 A.D.). Constantine, suffering from leprosy, had a dream in which St. Peter and St. Paul advised him to visit Sylvester I, who restored him to full health. It became clear to Constantine that a faith, which could perform such miracles, was worth cultivating and in 313 A.D. he issued the Edict of Milen, proclaiming total freedom of religion for all. Prior to this Constantine had been attached to Judaism and Sylvester suggested to him that the whole question of Religious Faith should be disputed before a collective audience of Jews and Christians the topics for discussion included Paganism, God, Christ and the Ten Commandments. A leading Rabbi by the name of Zamberi volunteered to perform a miracle, as proof of his faith and approaching an ox, whispered the name Jehovah in the animals ear, whereby the beast dropped dead. Legend has it that Sylvester retaliated by pronouncing the name Christ, which restored the ox to life. Thus was Constantine re-affirmed in his new faith - A 13th Cen. wall painting in the Church of San Silvestro in Tivoli, near Rome pictures this "conversion" scene in minute detail.
St. Sylvester I is also reputed to have slain a dragon (more likely a crocodile), not by the sword as St. George is often depicted, but by the power of the name of Christ. To overcome a dragon was little more than an allegorical assertion of sainthood.The feast day of St. (Pope) Sylvester 1 is celebrated on December 31st.
Taken from

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

22.12.2008 Monday – To be thick as a brick

Another super sunny day after a frosty minus 3 degree start. I set off into town to tell the Prefecture that I am living in France. I noticed that the front door was not locked.
I gave Prefecture until 2pm (as they re-open at 1.30pm) before I entered the building. I now know where the citizens go. The place had a queue, there was an electronic numbering system in operation. Perhaps I will try again tomorrow..

My car insurance windscreen square has still not arrived, so I had to go to the bank for my 5th temporary one which will last for another month. This is becoming a nuisance.
Back home, bee boys car has gone and the front door is still unlocked. I lock it and go upstairs. About half an hour later my door buzzer goes and I trundle down the stairs to the front door. I unlocked it to find Madame there with a man and a woman, who it transpires are relatives of bee boys, down from the Loire. He has told them to wait for him in his studio and did not mention that they would need a key for the front door.
I ask them what they are going to do until b-boy arrives. It is not a problem they say, because he has left his keys in the studio and it is unlocked…..

I can see that getting him to lock the front door is going to be more difficult than I thought.
Here they perceive themselves as living in the countryside and there is no security issue. Where I have lived previously in the UK, premises security is a big problem.

Later I watch as he loads up his car with all kinds of crap and a guitar. Madame told me this morning that b-boy would be going to the Loire for Christmas to his parents’ house. He drives off. I go down to check if he has locked the front door. No, as usual he has not even pulled it closed behind him. His parents obviously did not beat him sufficiently as a child.

I lock the front door. On my way passed his studio door, I knock then try the door handle. He hasn’t locked that either. Does this mean he has not gone away for the next few weeks? As long as I keep the front door locked all should be well.
I gave Madame a key for the main door this morning. I hope that if he does return this evening, he does not bother ringing door bells to get back in.

I expect that a lot more of my hair will fall out overnight waiting for the door buzzer that may or may not buzz..

Monday, 22 December 2008

21.12.2008 Sunday – Merry-go-round

Well things are hotting-up here, both literally and figuratively. The sun shone in a clear blue sky, and it was good drying weather once again. I know this because bee boy hung out at least 9 t-shirts on the washing line.

Today was special. It was one of the 5 Sundays when French shops are permitted to open. I think that this may change to 10 Sundays next year.
In the afternoon I headed out to town to see how busy it was.
Gasp! Instead of the usual empty streets of one or two people per street, the numbers were well up on the usual Sunday afternoon. There was no thronging in evidence though. No shoving to get to the bargains. Perhaps because the shops I went into didn’t have any bargains.

In the main square there were more wooden huts clustered round the merry-go-round. One hut was selling hot food such as crepes, another was selling hand made pottery, another notebooks and paintings another jewellery. The last hut was closed so I do not know what delights it concealed.
The green wire mesh had been removed from round the merry-go-round and there were even some children sitting on the ride.
Another fairground ride, billed in the press as a toboggan ride was set up in the car park and a handfull of kids were on that.

Yesterday I left a note on bee boys door telling him that the front door must be locked for insurance purposes. As I did not know for certain that he has a key, I did not lock him out.
When I returned from town, he was fiddling about with his car. I asked him if he had got my note about locking the door and he said that he had. He said that he would have to make it a habit.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

20.12.08 Saturday – Three wheels on my wagon…

Walking into town the other day, I passed this car parked neatly at the side of the road. Could this have happened to my car if I had not had my tyre fixed? The car’s other three wheels were all okay.

I have recently noticed that Monsieur next door has not moved his car from his driveway for some time. I have also seen him and his wife waddling off in the direction of town a few times.
Walking home today I passed him in the road. I said bonjour and he seemed to want to engage in conversation.
Is your house full? (Meaning is your rentable accommodation all full) I said incorrectly that it was all full. Well there are a lot of cardboard boxes in the downstairs studio, so technically I have no further rentable space available.
What he was asking in a non-asking way was, if you don’t have your full complement of renters can I park on your parking area?
Now we went all through this in June, and I told him that he could not park in my garden / parking area.
“My car is broken” he said. “Oh dear” I said.
“It is the height of the entrance that has broken it” he said.
I have a small area of dropped kerb outside my house, he has not.
Now why did they never teach you the French for “Have you asked the council if they will lower the kerb?”
Anyway he was able to understand my question. He has asked them a long time ago, but nothing… (Welcome to France mate)
I hate these Mexican stand-offs. He was content to stand there all day waiting for me to cave in and beg him to park his rust bucket at my house. No way!
I am sure that he is now my very best friend after me telling him that it is healthier to walk and for pointing out to him that at least the rain had stopped.
But it is forecast, he said as I walked away.
Here is a photo of him, his car and his wife in “happier” times, when the car was not en panne.

Now that the council has cleared all his crap from his drive entrance, perhaps he will do something about his manky terrace, manky garage containing manky old car, manky driveway etc and stop letting their rubbish fall into my garden……Looking more closely at his property I can see that at some time in the past the front boundary wall has been demolished (to make room for an entrance and a garage built.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

19.12.2008 Friday – Starac - Gregory Lemarchal

Today’s blog was supposed to be a brief note about a TV talent show, but as you will see, it turned into something else.

Perhaps one of the best ways to learn about a nation and its culture is to listen to the music that they make. It can also help you to pick up some of the language.
Last night was the final of Star Academy, or Star Ac as we locals call it. This year it was a contest between the beautiful, fragile Alice (pronounced Aleece) and the much stronger vocally young man Mickels (Michaels).
After 3 months in the Starac house, getting to sing with the top French artistes including the veteran (Belgian) star Jonny Halliday, as well as James Blunt, Tom Jones, Beyonce (all of these sang live), the aloof, miming (badly) Britney Spears etc, the viewers’ votes would decide the winner.
Mickels won with 52.?% of the vote. Unlike Alice, he managed to sing in key for most of his songs.
The programme dragged on for ages and included a segment about the previous 7 winners.
It was pretty mediocre stuff, then a young man called Gregory Lemarchand winner of Starac 4 appeared on the VT screen. Now here is a voice worth listening to, I thought.
Then the anchorman said “We will never forget you Gregory”
That’s a strange thing to say, I thought, he can’t be dead.
Unfortunately he is. Gregory died tragically of cystic fibrosis aged 23.

He now has a charity in his name researching the disease and supporting sufferers and their families.
It seems that In 2006 they played a segment in the final show, celebrating his life and raising awareness of the charity. The show was watched by 10 million people, and as a result 6.5 million euros were raised.
Last night a similar segment was shown and one of his musical contestant friends is selling his latest CD to raise funds for Gregory’s charity. Incidentally he won his final with over 82% of the vote!
Hearing Gregory’s clear voice singing, it was very sad. Such a waste of life and talent. It was an emotional moment for the viewers and the academy students and teachers who had been involved in his academy year.
So be thankful for what you have folks!
He only had time to make about 3 CD’s but I shall be buying them from in the new year. If you don’t listen you won’t know what you missed!

There are many links for Gregory on YouTube
Here is one of him singing a duet with Lucie Silvas (in English and French)
with nearly 1.5 million views

There is even a video of Robbie Williams singing a tribute to him

That’s it for today.

Friday, 19 December 2008

18.12.2008 Thurs – Clou less at last

Up relatively early thanks to the noisy bin men waking me up at 5.10am. The weather is still dull, but no more rain after last night’s showers.
I noticed that the neighbour’s manky old mattress and all his other junk has been removed from his drive / my wall.
I got a phone call from the Commune on Monday. Did I know that it was forbidden to dump items on the pavement? I said yes I knew that “Is that your mattress on the pavement?” “No I said, it is my neighbour’s. What is his house number? What is his name? I told them that I did not know the answer to either question and that we were not best buddies due to me not letting him park his car in my parking area (as long time readers will be aware).
I don’t know if they managed to contact the lazy sod, but the junk has finally gone after lying around for months. Hooray!!
I am starting to feel fitter.
This morning’s task was to have my slow leak investigated. Before you get too excited, it is one of my tyres that is leaking.
“Vulco” removed the tyres to investigate. The tyre mec quickly spotted a small nail located right in the middle of the tyre.

While I waited I took a photo of one of the businesses across the road.
Viewers of the TV comedy “Only fools and horses” will be familiar with Del Boy. I don’t know if the owner is a Brit or just a French fan, but I would have thought that connotations of Del Boy total incompetence and ‘ookey gear (goods of doubtful provenance) "Transports DELBOY" might not be the best marketing ploy ever.

The man in the tyre office was very keen to try out his English, which is unusual as most are too shy to try.
Tyre repaired, I parted with just under 30 euros, but now I don’t need to worry about remembering to pump up the tyre every week.
The bad news was that I could not remember the PIN for my carte bleu. Fortunately I had my big cheque book with me.
After going home to check my PIN, I headed out to Intermarche for a bit of shopping.
The sea food counters were groaning under the weight of the number and variety of fish on sale. There were also lots of boxes of oysters on offer. I didn’t see anyone rushing to buy them though. The big tank with the huge live crabs seems to have disappeared for the moment.
I don’t know about you but I prefer my supermarkets not to have crabs.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

17.12.2008 Wednesday – Welcome to the Hotel de Ville

After many days of rain, at last we are having a dry but damp spell. Time to poke my head out of the door and get some things done.
Dressing up warmly and sporting hat and gloves, I set off to register to vote.
Of course I went to the Hotel du Departement first instead of the Hotel de Ville, but having my trusty camera with me, I took this photo of the snow on the neighbouring hills/mountains.

Next stop was the Hotel de Ville. Up the stairs and along a varnished wooden floor to the office of the Secretariat General.
A very friendly lady took a photo of my passport and electricity bill, asked me lots of questions and discussed what she thought I might be having for Christmas dinner, including ze Kreesmas poodeeng. Whilst dealing with me, she also took about 5 phone calls. I think that one of them was arranging to meet someone for lunch. I got my paperwork back and signed 2 electoral forms and I asked if that was everything completed. Yes she said.
I reached the top of the stairs and she came running after me waving two pieces of paper. One for the European elections which are taking place in June? 2009 and one for perhaps municipal elections (I cannot remember).
Will I need to keep these to be able to vote? I asked. No, she said, they would send me information through the post at the appropriate time.
So I now have 2 more pieces of paper to file away.
The sun was shining when I left the Town Hall. Next stop was the Prefecture to register my presence in France. The opening hours on the wall indicated that they would be closing at 11.30am. It was now 11.16am, so I turned round and headed off again. Nothing official involving paperwork ever got completed in France in 14 minutes!!
In the town I bumped into my 86 year old friend Rene, so we had a little chat. He told me about his sciatica and a story about someone, but he was speaking so fast that I did not have a clue what he was on about. Not having full hearing yet in my right ear did not help with comprehension.
There was more evidence of Christmas coming. More Christmas trees were standing beside business entrances with more foil bows, but now that the rain has ceased, many shops had a piece of Christmas carpet spread on the road / pavement outside their entrances.

As I wandered around, I could hear music. Wait a minute, I thought, you don’t normally hear music in this street. The town appears to have sprouted a tannoy system covering many of the streets. No Christmas tunes were playing though. Perhaps it is still too early?

Tonight is choir practice, so I decided to have an afternoon siesta.
My singing voice is still a croak (some people would say that it always was) so much to Michel’s annoyance I did not do the physical warm up or the vocal warm-up as I would have had no voice left by the time it came to sing the Petite Messe.
I managed to last out the full practice and was privileged to receive the information that if you feel flu coming on, you have to sit in a bath of extremely hot water for 20 minutes.
Well that’s the singing over until 7 January so I can rest my voice till then.

Monday, 15 December 2008

14.12.08 Sunday - EfFin' Kulchur - John Cooper Clarke

Here are some of the other photos that I took yesterday. One house seems to be built between a huge piece of rock and the rock face on which the castle is built, the other sits perched upon a huge piece of the castle rock itself.
In one of the small gardens around the corner, there is a massive chunk of masonry which is larger than an average shed (not shown), which must have fallen from higher up on the castle rock face. I don’t think that I would like to live so close to a potential squishing.

When I was a student in the late 1970’s I remember going to see the punk poet or Bard of Salford John Cooper Clarke. He was pencil thin, dressed in a dark suit and big dark glasses, and with lots of black spikey hair. The crowd was a potentially difficult one, drunk students more used to a disco in the student union on a weekend night than a poet. He was also English with a strong nasal twang and an accent. His style of delivery was fast.
There are some live videos of him to be found on YouTube but many of them are from the last few years. He now looks rather wasted after his years of fast living. That he can remember any of his poems at all is astonishing.
Some of my favourites are Beazely Street, Hire car, Kung Fu International, Tw@t and Evidently Chicken Town
Both these clips contain slight use of the "f" word and parental guidance should not be viewed by the under 18s. i.e not for mum and dad or the nephews or niece to watch.
The first clip shows John’s delivery of his poem “Evidently Chicken Town

The second clip is Christopher Eccleston reciting Evidently Chicken Town in a film and is completely different. Fans who only know him as the last but one Doctor Who might get a shock. Which version works best?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

13.12.2008 Saturday – Cliff’s throne?

A grey day but not raining now despite last night’s precipitation.
I see the postman putting some envelopes into my post box. Something to look into once I return from a trip into town to buy bread and to see if frenzied Christmas shopping and other activities are finally taking place.
I saw one advert in the free newspaper that will be opening specially on Sunday for the next two weeks!
But in my little town on a Saturday, most shop keepers round about noon say sod it, that’s it for another week!, and the rest follow suit at half past. Many don’t re-open their shops until the Tuesday of the following week.
Down by the river in the shadow of the castle, I took a couple of photos. I will post the others tomorrow. In this one the castle is on my right, high up on its rocky perch.
This is a more modern throne room. The river can be seen to the left below it.
I do not know if it just empties into the river but surely not..
I think that the black receptacle to the left of the door is a litter bin and not the urinal.

Once back from my stroll, I found a Christmas card and finally, my first electricity bill. I was even more excited when I saw that including charges, it was only 132 euros for the last 6 months. However, I had taken meter readings last week and they are approximately 100 euros too low in their bill estimate.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

12.12.2008 Friday – Bitz and pieces

Cliff Richard will not be appearing in the UK Celebrity Big Brother House as his request to have his own personal toilet facilities away from the main house could not be met. What was he thinking of even entering into negotiations with these people?
Shops now have posters in the window to celebrate how proud they are that local girl Chloe has been crowned Miss France. Her village is just over 3 miles away from my house, so she is indeed a local girl.
However all is not well in the French beauty world as one of the contestants in Chloe’s Miss Ariege competition is now complaining that the competition was rigged and that it should have been her and not Chloe who won.
This week I missed the one bit of excitement in town. The secondary school children went on strike and over 150 of them held a demonstration at the Town Hall. They are unhappy about some new educational reforms which are being spoken about.
They were a bit disorganised at this stage and when they set off to their next demonstration point, the Prefecture, the march organisers had to tell them to “Slow down or we’ll be there in less than 5 minutes” and the disruption to normal life would be minimal, reports the local paper.
The paper also intimates that this is a soft introduction for the pupils to their future role in the many French strikes in the adult world. There was also a lot of texting and flirting going on….

Friday, 12 December 2008

11 December 2008 Thursday – Douleur

“Got up, got out of bed, had a shower, dragged a comb across my head”
Just some lyrics that I am working on.
When I raised the electric blinds and opened the curtains the world was white. More show fell during the night to replace what disappeared yesterday.
Unlike yesterday the sun came out to shine.
The pound continues to reach new lows against the euro with the prediction being that £1 will equal 1 euro by the end of the year. A massive drop over the last 18 months when a euro was worth only 76 pence.
I therefore changed several thousand pounds and got such a poor exchange rate that I dare not write it down here. And as I said it is scheduled to get worse.
I set off late afternoon to post the necessary cheque, which must arrive at the currency exchange by noon on Monday next week.
En route I dropped into the doctors to make an appointment to get my ears syringed. I finished the drops that the chemist gave me last week and I still cannot hear much.
The receptionist looked at the doctor’s appointment list. I can come back tomorrow I said. No she said, there is no tomorrow. I said are you closed on Fridays? No she said, but the doctor is not in tomorrow. She then phoned him to see if he could fit me in.
10 minutes later I was back in the doctor’s room. This is where it gets technical. In my UK doctor’s practice this sort of routine is done by a nurse in the attached clinic. Here the doctor does it. In the UK they use an electric machine which shoots a pulsed stream of tepid water in your ear to expel the built up wax.
He produced a metal object and proceeded to stick it in my ears in turn and scrape. It was fucking sore, not to mention dangerous. I said to him that in the UK doctors use water and he replied that they did in France too, but this often did the trick.
Before I carried out my inclination to retaliate due to the pain he was causing me, he stopped the poking and scraping and got out his little kidney dish and a plastic tube with a squeezy bulb at the end.
This finally did the trick and I now have completely clean ears.
The good news is that I can hear again normally in my left ear, but still only have about 10% hearing in my right ear. I hope that my right ear will settle down soon. I hope his zealous scraping has not done any lasting damage.
Sticking a small ball of tissue paper into each ear, I went out into the cold to post my letters in the main post office in the centre of town in the hope that this will ensure my post reaches its destination in time…
Having missed the weekly choir practice for the third week running last night, I will also miss a supplementary practice which has been hastily arranged for the men at someone’s house in Ganac at 8.30 this evening.
They will be chucking me out of the choir next..

Thursday, 11 December 2008

10.12.08 Wednesday – Cliff face

Awoke to a light dusting of snow (outside) and at around 11am it started to snow heavily. Not what you want to see when you have planned to go shopping to Pamiers at 1pm.
Fortunately the snow only continued to fall for about 20 minutes. So I was able to escape on time. Still the only signs of Christmas in the huge Leclerc store are 2 aisles of toys for children, and an aisle and a half of chocolates, ranging from the small packet to the large box of chocs.
What do people buy each other at Christmas in France? There don’t seem to be any special Christmas gifts. Perhaps, as it should be, they are happy with a satsuma, some nuts and a Toblerone?
As I wandered the aisles seeking food inspiration, Sir Cliff (Richard) sang to me. “It’s so funny how we don’t talk anymore”. Well Cliff, all you have to do is pick up the phone. Action is the thing. Singing about it just isn’t going to make it happen, OK?
I remember being at school in the highlands of Scotland when Cliff came to our school. I remember that for some reason we watched a short film featuring the Typhoo tea monkeys. Lord knows why. I expect that Cliff was with us in evangelical mode to spread the Word of God.
I expect that this thing would not be allowed these days. This would explain why I have not heard of him visiting any schools recently. He is probably too busy rehearsing for the
50th Anniversary Reunion Tour with the original Shadows late 2009. He (Harry Rodger Webb) was born 14 October 1940.
I believe that he also used to preach at the BishopsTron Church in Glasgow in the mid to late 1970’s. Perhaps he has been stalking me all my life?
Apparently when I was very small and Television was black and white, whenever he would appear on the screen singing “Living Doll” I used to run up to the TV and kiss the screen.

My excuse is that I was only a 2 year old at the time.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

9.12.2008 Tuesday - A dull boy

A Mizzly, drizzly day today so I stayed in listening to books and ploughing on with revising workbook 2 of my teaching english course. I phoned the TEFL company yesterday to find out how much it would cost me to complete the course as I had not completed within the 18 month time slot allowed. So I am now £80 poorer.
Perhaps once I have completed the final 2 workbooks, I will do an intensive 4 or 5 week CELTA course.
Still no news about the electricity situation by the close of office hours. The lawyers firm that manages my lettings has now sent me a 2 page copy of a document reminding me of my obligations as a non-residential landlord. I have not got a clue what it is about.
She also sent me a 33 page document regarding Daveed’s rental contract.
The French love paperwork. Do the French themselves read all the documentation?
Still no second paint quote. The value of the pound against the euro continues to fall at an unbelievable speed.
I am finding it hard to get motivated into listening to my choir homework disc. The choir webmaster sent out a document to all choir members today. It shows which vegetables grow well when planted close together and which ones do not get on at all. I am sure that I will find it very useful if I ever acquire an allotment or potager, however at the moment I haven’t even got a potager to piss in!
If anyone should want a copy of this vegetable pdf file, send me your email address and I will supply you with one.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

8.12.2008 Monday – is washing day

A very foggy start to the day then suddenly blue sky and sunshine so washing machine boy swung into action again.
A trip into town followed to buy staples (for my stapler) and to stroll around in the sunshine.
I bought an olive loaf from my favourite bakers but it was an overcooked one and quite hard.
While in the book / stationery shop, I tried to find an A4 pad of paper which was either blank, or had lines on the pages. It seems a simple ask but it proved to be impossible. They are obsessed with calligraphy over here, and yet when you see the spidery handwriting that it produces you have to wonder why. Thus you can buy paper which is completely covered in small squares, or paper which is filled with slightly larger squares inside which there are about 5 horizontal lines. The latter must be for calligraphic reasons I suspect.
So I will need to use printing paper and punch holes in the side if I want to make usefully readable notes.
The French lady who works in the office of the previous owner of the house is investigating the electricity situation and will get back to me, but by the end of the day, I have had no further information.
On my way back from the town, the painter who is supposed to be providing a second quote for the house, and who is still painting the bungalow opposite, waved me over and introduced me to the paint consultant / supplier who says that the front of my house will need plastic paint as well as the side otherwise the cracks will open up again. There would be a guarantee of 10 years on the work.
God knows how much his quote is going to be. Perhaps they will offer to give me a huge reduction if I display advertising for their workmanship, on my boundary wall.
Reading wise, I finished listening to Sepulchre by Kate Moss some days ago. It was very tough going and rather dull for the first hour and a half, but I persevered and it was worth staying with it until the end. From the Amazon reviews I suspect that many of the people did not actually read all of the book, as their summaries are factually inaccurate. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse was partially set in my town and locations round about. It also featured Carcassonne and Montsegur.
Sepulchre was set more in Paris, Carcassonne and Rennes les Bains.
Kate’s next book is due out in 2010.
I have also just completed listening to “50 success Classics – Winning wisdom for work and life from 50 landmark books” by Tom Butler-Bowden.
I think repeated listenings will be required for this one.

Monday, 8 December 2008

7.12.2008 Sunday – Telethon

The last few days / weeks there have been dull telethon programmes on the TV. Today there is a vide grenier (empty attic) sale in the main public square. In the afternoon I take advantage of this spell of warm weather to walk into town to catch the air of excitement that must surely be whipping local residents up into a frenzy.
There are 2 small canvas stalls joined together. Behind the barracade of two or three trestle tables, with items placed on them, I can see three women. No one else is in sight.
Instead of scenes of people fighting over house clearance items, I took some photos of the more extensive Christmas decorations in evidence in the town.

I received a couple of nice emails today. One from Martine. the elle presidente of the choir, seeking to find out if I have shaken off the flu yet, and if they will see me soon.
The other was from AM with whom I used to work in my previous life in the UK and who is getting her Christmas lights up.
Nothing seems to have improved in my old job, but another qualified person will be retiring early next year. Oh how I miss the witty banter that the workplace provided.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

6.12.2008 Saturday – Future plans and Miss France

Well here I am in France. My living quarters are now habitable, just some rather expensive external painting to be done, ventillation and dampness issues to sort out.
Thoughts turn to how to make some money. I will need to visit the ANPE (job centre) at some point to register as seeking employment.
A couple of years ago I attended a 20 hour teaching English as a foreign language course over a weekend.
I then started on the follow up 80 hour correspondence course, which for various reasons I have not completed within the required 18 months. I have started reviewing the two work books that I did complete and will phone the company (if it still exists) to find out if I can carry on with the course, and if so, how much it extra it will cost me.
I could then do a 4 or 5 week TESOL or CELTA qualification in the UK or abroad, at a cost of approx £1.5 thousand. Would the outlay be worthwhile?
I also started a personal coaching and a corporate and executive life coaching courses, which I did not complete within the required time span. Should I pursue this / these qualifications at the extra £!k plus that this would cost?
Anyway I will plough on with the teaching english workbook for the moment.
I went for a walk into town in the sunshine to clear my head, if not my ears.The evening the Miss France competition was televised. I went t bed well before the end of the competition, but Chloe Mortaud. the 19 year old local contestant Miss Albigeois Midi–Pyrenees won and will be Miss France 2009!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

5.12.2008 Friday – Blocks and current affairs

Yet another night of torrential rain. I managed to complete my doctor details form and mid afternoon I took it along to the CPAM Health office, which luckily for me is at the end of my road.
The rain was still holding off, so I went into town and stocked up on cereal, tea, bleach and batteries.
Next I went back to my chemists and paid 7.30 euros for some ear drops to try and clear my partial deafness due to bouchons (corks) situation.
If that does not clear my ears within 5 days, its back to the doctor to get them syringed.
I also email my lettings agency to find out why I have not received any electricity bill since taking ownership of the property.
The reply was not encouraging. I will probably have to contact EDF, my electricity supplier, to find out if they have my details and what to do about paying electric bills.
Meanwhile I have now sent an email to the former owners to find out if they passed on my details to EDF when they terminated their contract as the house holder.
I suspect someone has cocked up somewhere, but finding out who and sorting it out, could be a long process. Especially if I cannot hear very well.
I hope that they do not cut my supply off!
Apart from that, everything is just tickety-boo.

Friday, 5 December 2008

04.12.08 Thursday – Provisions and a quote

I got up early and drove to the Intermarche. There were none of the plastic shoppers with the extendible handles to be found so I had to carry a basket round with me.
Lots of special boxes of Christmas chocolates and specially packaged alcohol boxes were on view, as well as a double aisle of children’s toys. No blaring music. In fact I was aware of shop announcements going on whilst I was in the store, but with my new deaf- ears status I probably missed out on being their lucky one millionth customer.
I now have a supply of choclatines for my elevenses and pizzas were on special offer!
Snow now adorns most of the peaks around Foix, so I am surprised that we are not experiencing really cold weather.
Back home, and being a man of action, I pick up my christmas cards and head out to the post box in my road. No use. The cards will not go into the tiny box unless I fold them in half. I walk on into town and find a larger post box.

Nestling in my own post box when I return, is a quote for the external painting and crack filling. It is 3 times as much as I was expecting. I could almost buy a new car with the money. Another firm of painters are still at work on the bungalow opposite so I type up a list of what is required, based on the outline of the first quote and I take it across to see if they can also give me a quote.
A painter comes across the road with me. I explain what is required and give him my piece of paper. He will come back and measure the walls then supply a quote.
All this and it is still only 11am!
Time to test the choclatines for quality.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

03.12.08 Wednesday – Christmas ahoy!

Well I am up and about today. No antibiotics left and it is time to get the body moving about again.
I still have sinus pain in the right side of my head and face, and my left ear is sore and blocked.
What do you do in France if you need your ears syringed? The doctor told me my ears were blocked, but he did not give me anything to remedy the situation. If anyone knows, please let me know.
While I was in bed, I could see a patch of the sunshine and blue sky that I was missing. Now it is dull and drizzly.
The hallway and stairs are all muddy. What does bee boy do? There is a door mat and a long strip of carpet / mat but perhaps he avoids them as you would avoid a crack in the pavement perhaps?
In fact his van has not been around for a couple of nights. It is choir practice tonight and they will have placed orders of spiced cake Pain d’epices (ginger bread to you and me) at 4 euros per so many grams to aid the bees in distress.
I am still awaiting my quote for the crack filling and the painting.
I did manage to write my Christmas cards yesterday and now all I need to do is to go to the post office and post them. I was going to do it today, but the rain….
I will not be giving out so many cards this year, no being in employment. Many of the cards that I am sending are to people who will not even be aware that I have left the UK for “sunnier” climes.
This will be the first year that I have not attended at least one Christmas staff night / meal out since 1978!
Ah happy days! Even the disastrous ones, like the meal / disco at Mr Grumms in the early 1980’s when the gas went out for a few hours at the venue whilst we waited for our Christmas meal. We shared the venue with a large contingent of female hospital cleaners who were legless by the time the disco eventually started. Of course the drunkest one of them kept making a bee-line for me to dance with. She kept falling to the floor. At least my staff and I were able to laugh about it later.
The French do not seem to be a nation of Card senders. Unlike the UK where there seems to be at least one card shop on every street, you have to hunt for the small selection of cards available from the supermarkets. They are very expensive too, even the small plain ones cost upwards of £2 each.
Having been out of circulation for a while, I do not know if Christmas cards have suddenly appeared in the shops.
A few trees have been decorated in people’s gardens round about. Well one tree, in the next road. This has had huge red foil bows tied on it. Will lights follow?
There has been no Christmas music blaring out in the shops. No Slade singing Eeets Krrrissttmassss!
Some weeks ago the owner of the Simply British shop said that she was under pressure from clients to do a Christmas display for her shop window. She felt that November was too early. I wonder if she has now got into Christmas mode.
I will need to go to the Intermarche to buy food tomorrow as I have almost exhausted my supplies. The bread ran out a few days ago now.
Friends and relatives know how much I love Christmas, so here is a photo of me as Father Christmas in 1993, just before I did a Christmas storytime.

Monday, 1 December 2008

28.11.2008 Friday – Down at the doctors

Worse night so far last night. I wrap up warm because although the sun is shining in a blue sky, the computer tells me it is minus 3 outside.
Clutching every document that I think I might need, I walk the few hundred yards to the nearest medecin generaliste practice. I give the receptionist the form that I was sent by CPAM to use to register with a doctor. She gives me my form back and looks concerned. Can you come back at 11am? she asks in French. I say that I can and I set off on the long trek home.
At 11am I am back at the medical centre. Some details are required, Name, address, telephone number, date of birth. That’s all she says, returning to her interrupted telephone call.
What am I supposed to do now? I wonder. Her call finishes and she waves me to a seat to wait.
About 5 minutes later a young man who looks about 23 years old, comes down the corridor behind his previous patient, says my surname. I get up and he shakes my hand. I follow him back to his room.
He ask me for my symptoms and I do the best I can. Who would have thought that to cough would be tousser, but I looked it up before going to the doctor.
Then I have to lie on his examination table and he takes my blood pressure, temperature, peers down my throat, into my ears, then he gets his stethoscope out.
I reassemble my layers of clothing and he prints out a prescription with 8 items listed on it, complete with instructions. He then goes through them all with me so I am sure to take the right number at the right time.
He finishes. What about my gluey eyes? I ask. He had forgotten about them, but writes another line on the prescription.
I give him my carte vitale and I hand over the 22 euros for the consultation.
Then its off to the chemists.
I choose the nearest one, which is just inside the medieval quarter. There is a queue and about 4 people serving. My turn and I hand over my prescription. Some of these are not reimbursable – she says. “C’est la vie” I say and she smiles. She has obviously not heard that one before.
My carte vitale is in her card reader while she scans in the barcodes of the various products. Time to pay another 25 euros or so. How will I pay.
I show her my top up assurance bank card, which is what I am sure I am supposed to use. She has not seen one of these before and disappears. Reappearing she asks if I have the paperwork to go with it? No I say. They cannot use this card. I hand over my carte bancaire. She is sorry as their machine for reading cards is broken. Do I have cash, or perhaps a cheque?
I give her my cheque book, and she processes on which I duly sign, date, and list the name of the town in which I am writing the cheque, as required.
Job done. My drugs are handed over. Goodbye she says. I remind her that she still has my carte vitale in her machine. Almost 2 – 1 to me I think.
I will have to go to my bank to find out what to do with my top up assurance bank card, but not today.
I buy bread and head home.
How does my experience today differ from the English health service.
I would have had to come back the following week to see the doctor having made an appointment whilst at the doctor’s reception. Or I could ring very early in the morning to see if I could get an appointment to come and wait until a doctor could see me at some time during the day.
In the UK I would not pay the doctor for a consultation. I would have been lucky to get a dose of antibiotics. If I could persuade the doctor to write a prescription it would cost me about £8 per item on the prescription.

Back home I number the boxes of medications to correspond with the numbering on the doctor’s prescription, which the chemist gave me a stamped copy of.

I have a throat gargle, eye drops, ibuprofen, nasal spray, I have to put 25 drops of an essential oil / salt solution into a big glass of water and drink it. Yuck! The cough medicine is nice, there is a 1 gram paracetamol effervescent tablet to add to water and drink. By now I am shivering, probably due to drinking all the water. Now the antibiotics.
Just the eye drops to do. I don’t notice that I have not done the nasal spray until I re-read the instruction in the evening.
All except the antibiotics have to be taken 3 or 4 times a day over the next several days. I must be ill!
Bed for the next few days then.