Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Grateful Gonzo Vs. Hyperactive man

This Sunday was a choir practice day, with lunch (12euros). This time we had a young man in his late 20’s who as well as being a vocalist in his own right, was there to improve our vocal skills and delivery. Fortunately his voice was clear so I understood most of what he said.
We eventually made our way through 2 of the passages from Rossini’s Petite Messe that we are due to sing to an adoring public in June.
It was a tiring day but it was not without some light relief and as ever, the following information may be of some use to you if you happen to have many hectares of arable land.
C attended a seminar given by a man from Perpignan on the subject of bio horticulture. As a result he has bought a shit load of hay (it costs very little apparently) and covered huge expanses of his land under one foot of hay. The brilliance of the scheme is that you don’t have to do much more than scarify the top of the soil before piling on the straw. The enzymes, bugs etc in the straw do the rest, softening up the ground, fertilising it etc. Therefore minimal work for the grower. The straw also keeps the moisture in the soil.
What if there is a high wind? I asked. The straw is all meshed together so it does not blow away in high winds.
What do you do with potatoes? Do you lay them on top of the straw?
No, you make a hole in the straw, make a small hole in the soil, put in your potato, soil back on top, then replace straw. And this saves time!!!!
Still he is very excited about his new regime and is looking forward to bumper crops.
Did I have a garden? He asked. I told him that I had a lawn. I did not mention that I had thought about buying a growbag to plant 3 tomato plants….

In the afternoon segment. A man in a raincoat, wearing dark glasses and carrying an SLR camera and a brief case asked if he could come in and listen.
Permission was granted and he sat on a table behind us. Perhaps he was a reporter for the local paper looking for a story on a slow day?
He did not sit quietly, but chortled away and occasionally voiced agreement as the teacher made his comments.
After an hour, he left.
However at about half past 4 he returned and stood just inside the door, front, left of the choir.
Not only was the young vocalist there to teach us, he was also there to sell his CD. To this end he sang us three songs, accompanying himself on his organ.
He gave us his spiel about his first song and the stranger by the door was once again making comments to the teacher.
I could hear “Who’s that twat?” being whispered amongst the men. No one seemed to know and the teacher was taking it all in his stride. Perhaps it’s the teacher’s agent I whispered.
The teacher’s recital began and the stranger, who had now become known as Gonzo, presumably after the Muppet Show character, was bobbling his head in mysterious ways to the music, and, wait a minute, what exactly were his hands doing?
They were dancing along to the music. It was a bit like rhythmical sign language to music. Was there no end to the stranger’s talents?
The male members of the choir were now chuckling quietly and describing him in a less than polite way;
Wait a minute he also seemed to know the words and was standing unsupported, singing along, while bobbling and hand dancing, while wearing sunglasses, and no guide dog (seeing-eye dog) in sight!
And women say that men can’t multi-task…..
Unfortunately the light level was not good so the photos are blurred but give some flavour of the event.

The multimedia performance ended and after putting some chairs away, I made my excuses and left, so I don’t know if Gonzo bought a CD.
I had been home only a few minutes when Hyperactive man turned up with daughter number 3. He has been getting prices for materials for the building work that he is to do for me. He also brought along brochures for a central
heating system for the whole house for me to study and do research on the internet. It will only cost 10 thousand euros (up 3 thousand since last time).
I still only intend to have some new radiators. He will return during the week with his brother or cousin who is a ventilation specialist and a central heating specialist. So much to look forward to….

Monday, 30 March 2009


Those of you who have been following my parking area problems since last August will be surprised to see the big red Renault espace nestling on my land once more after my making it very clear to the owner, my neighbout that he must never park there.
At about half past 8 in the morning, my buzzer went. I trudged down the stairs and found Madame and my next door neighbour standing outside. Madame was the spokesperson and the conversation went something like this,
The neighbour wants to know if he can park in your parking for an hour so that his car can be fixed?
My good deed done for the day, I returned upstairs to my cup of tea.
(For the sake of accuracy I have to say that it was more like two and a half hours).
In my boite au lettres I found a letter from my bank inviting me to their annual general meeting in April. In addition to the meeting there will be an aperitif, buffet and a orchestra / band. I may well go if it doesn’t clash with any of my other evening social engagements. I do after all pay about 9 euros per month for the priviledge of using my current account. Best if I get my money’s worth.
Friday evening was also the meeting of the local friendly association led by the new bureau or committee. It was held in the wooden hut behind the school, with a kick off time of 8.30pm so eventually it started at about 9pm. There were only 19 people there, but by close of play 3 hours later…. A tentative programme of events had been identified. I now have to learn Belote and Tarot before the middle of April, when a games soiree will be held.
As with any French gathering, too much time was wasted by people deliberately misunderstanding the simplest statement, taking things as a personal attack. Still it gave them many chances to say “There’s no need to get upset” Unfortunately their next meeting to organise the details of the car treasure hunt (10 euros per person to include a meal) clashes with a choir practice.

Thursday, 26 March 2009


When people move abroad, they often moan on and on about the things that they miss. Well last week I missed queuing in the town’s post office to get an envelope signed by Miss France. I also missed an organ concert at the Abbey, which included a choir as well as Organ Morgan.
When I lived in the UK I quite often had big spiders fall from the ceiling onto my face, as I either slept or was just lying in bed.
Here the spiders are much neater but a bit more active. They seem to live in the cracks in the ceiling beams and also the gaps between the beams and the walls and the beams in the ceiling. In several places in the house, you will find little piles of insect remains which the spiders have finished with and pushed out of their cracks (excuse my French) to land on the floor. One such pile builds up on the bedside drawer unit, another in a corner of the bathroom floor etc. Not too much of a problem, you know where the piles will be.
Since S went back to the UK , piles of bits have started appearing on the pillow next to mine. Again not critical.
The night before last, I thought I could feel small bits falling onto my face, the night after, nothing.
Last night though, I was dozing and was aware once again of bits falling onto me. Next I awoke spitting what felt like a small ball of cotton our of my mouth. As I was half awake I remember thinking that it must have been a bit of fringe off the bed cover.
This morning when I switched on the light, there were little bits on my pillow, and the bed cover doesn’t have any fringes…..
I could not find any spider corpse on the floor, so it probably survived.
I have just got out the vacuum cleaner and applied the nozzle to all the beam nooks and crannies which are anywhere near my bed. The next step will be to start filling in the cracks.
Still at least I can take comfort that we don’t have spiders that hide under the toilet seat waiting to kill you, like what they do in Oz.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Burnham wood

On Sunday I made a brief foray into town to admire the spring funfair which is in town. However they were still setting up their stalls, and it was roped off from the public. The wildest thing that I could see was dodgems.
Disappointed, I made a circuit of the fair’s perimeter looking for a newsworthy photo. Nada.
Then I spotted a pile of timber on the road, between some parked cars. My brain being a bit slow, I thought that perhaps it was someone’s revenge. Instead of dumping a load of manure on the town hall steps, someone had dumped a load of wood instead.
As my brain struggled to cope, a young boy came out of the shop doorway nearest to the wood, picked up a bit of wood and began playing about with it.

Then I noted a pile of wood similar in size to the external one, inside the premises.
Still struggling, I raised my eyes to the shop sign. It was a pizza place specialising in pizzas made in a wood fuelled oven.
So now I know for certain that this place actually does use wood.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

More bin news

The weather has been too nice to spend time blog writing. Today winter has descended again though, so the shorts and sun cream have been put away for now and I am writing a few blog entries.
Just sitting around in the garden outside my tumbledown shed, I have been studying whilst keeping an eye on my parking area. Ah, the number of people who have slowed down, spotted me and set off again to park elsewhere. I have also been asked directions several time by passing motorists and pedestrians. Perhaps I should be charging for my services.
The main reason that I have been down the bottom of the garden is to keep an eye on my bin.
Last week I heard a strange noise. I looked out of my window and spotted a 20 something young lady who was suspiciously near to my wheelie bin, heading back up the road. Some time later I saw her putting her arm round my fence, lifting my bin lid and putting a bag of rubbish in. I was a bit busy at the time, but about ten minutes later, I made a coffee and set off downstairs to sit in my garden to intercept her if she should use my bin again.
I was just too late again and spotting me, she set off up the road at a brisk pace. Always one to lift the lid on a story, I opened my bin to find it two thirds full of black bags, containing clothes, cushions etc. I also noted that she had added an electric radiator to my neighbour’s crap heap but against my wall.
I dragged my bin away from the area near the pavement, and settled down on a chair to wait, should she return with more stuff. I rehearsed phrases like, this bin is on my property and is for the use of me and my tenants, take your shite and put it somewhere else please.
She did not return, (I was waiting for hours) but I noted that the house on the bend had a pile of stuff under its open windows.
Meanwhile the lady from the tip next door, had set off for the shops, spotted the radiator and had whisked it into her house.
If only wheelie bins were made of metal, you could wire them up to the mains….

Thursday, 19 March 2009


No, gentle reader, not a case of an infestation of men but a demonstration during a day of national strike action. Pronounced “Manny-fest-ass-eon”. A useful French word to get to know, as is the word for a strike, which is greve, pronounced “grev” and would rhyme with Kev if anyone is moved to express themselves poetically. If you see these words in the French press, note the dates and don’t make any travel plans for those days.
I got to French class reasonably early as I was planning to march shoulder to epaule with the citizenry. The gathering time was 10am outside the post office in the centre of town. I added in European slack time and assembled at 10.30am.

Nothing much happened until just after 11am when someone started their speech, and went, well. On a bit. After 45 minutes the assembled throng began to shuffle along, waving their banners, throwing fire crackers, sounding air klaxons. I think they were going to march on the Prefecture via some circuitous route.
There were 10,000 people in the square. This is close to the entire population of the town, but people had travelled from neighbouring towns and villages to attend. Traffic flow into and out of town was controlled by the boys in blue and was mostly at a standstill.
I took some photos from the post office steps and then decided to climb up to the castle to get more of a bird’s eye view.

The weather was probably in the 70’s by now, but I was prepared to sacrifice my comfort for the greater good.
I reached the castle entrance gates, which were closed, with a notice stating that the castle would be closed all morning due to industrial action…… Bugger!
Bee Boy’s parents have been here for about a week now. They seem to spend all day away. Presumably out mending bees or whatever bee-keepers do. Today however, Mrs B stayed “home” and did the washing and did them a midday meal. She must be fed up with the field work.

Grace notes plus the ending that I missed off last night

Tomorrow the French workers will be on the streets protesting about unemployment the rising cost of living etc so the town will be chocca. I am trying to make up my mind whether to go to French “class” or put on my Tolpuddle Martyrs tee-shirt and join them for a bit of a demonstrate. I could do a bit of both.
I went to see my mobilisation vers emploi advisor today. I know it’s only been a week, but she could not fit me in next week. My task had been to try and get a meeting with DM, to see if she could get me on the tourism course. I went along last Thursday and the main desk gave me a number to phone early this week to see if I could contact her. Her secretary was not there either.
I explained the sorry tale and my advisor rang DM.’s contact number. This time there was a message to say that the office was unexpectedly closed until 11 April. Lord knows what is going on there, but I am less than impressed. If there is a problem, they should contact attention seekers such as myself, out of politeness and to avoid us wasting our time….
I don’t have any homework to do before our next mobilisation meeting on….. April 1st.
Now an update for my mate Grace. Choir continues to be a frustrating nightmare. We are further back now, than we were by the end of last week. There are still 2 pieces of the Messe that we have not even tackled yet.
We have not sung with the soloists or musical accompaniment and the public performances are in June this year.
We do have an all day Sunday practice coming up in a week or so’s time, but there will be another 2 week school break somewhere too.
There is one Tenor who sings so loudly that the rest of us needn’t turn up at all. It would not be too bad if his voice blended in, but regardless of ppp, or forte, he just belts it out. Allegedly he often hits a wrong note, dragging us along with him, and he also likes to speed up the tempo regardless of the conductor’s timing. He’s like a snowball rolling down a steep hill.
There are quite a few faces who seem to feel that they only need to attend one practice in 3 or 4. This would not really be acceptable in any club that I have belonged to in my many long years.
So we scratch and scrape along.
At the end of the practice 10.45pm, there are always announcements. These are usually about musical events being held in local halls of villages that no one has ever heard of. Tonight’s list was a list with a twist. Our choir master said that he had an announcement to make. It was, he said, not about the choir or music, but something to do with his private life.
Ah! I thought, he is going to tell us that he is gay.
He wanted to tell us that he was “amoureux” (in love).
This got a round of timed clapping and cheers.
I thought to myself, This could get a bit embarrassing.
He continued saying that it was someone in the choir.

Pin drop time. Everybody looking round to see if they could spot who it was. Were they there tonight?
The lucky lady is an alti named Patricia.
More loud applause.
Isn’t it just typical when you are trying to make a quick getaway home.
I asked the lady in front of me (because the choir master speaks so quietly) is he getting married? Oh no, she said, he just wanted to tell us that he was in love,- shrugging her shoulders slightly.
Could it be Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sarah Brightman all over again? Of course when they fall out she will have to leave the choir. I wonder if he was the hunter or the hunted?
Ah my intuition never lets me down!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The hills and the doorway

A dull (weather-wise) Sunday, until mid afternoon when I heard footsteps clumping up the stairs. I was thinking, who wants to complain about what? As the knock on the door sounded. I opened the door and it was hyperactive man and one of his daughters. He asked if it was possible to get a cup of coffee, so I set about making him a cup and getting a blackcurrant juice for his
daughter. The daughter (probably about 12 years old) is learning French, but as usual it was almost impossible to get an English word out of a young lady who is timide. Hyperman went on to tell me about a heating system that I could install for the whole house to heat all the flats. It would only cost me 7 thousand euros and I would be able to put up the rents, as they would no longer be paying separate heating bills. I would even get money back from the government or doing it…. As I am only looking for 2 radiators for my flat and for the unoccupied little studio on the ground floor, one and perhaps a heated towel rail or wall mounted wall heater for its shower / toilet room, this is rather ambitious…. And costly.
Coffee drunk, we went down to the little studio and he poked about a bit and measured the window with a view for a double glazed unit to replace the existing one.
Then it was down the garden path to the small outbuilding with imminent tumbledown status.
This would take him 2 or three days to complete, once the existing one is dismantled. He described the shape of the building. I reminded him that I wanted a window as well… and a door. “A door?” he said, shocked. Yes, I said I would need to get into it. “But a door will be expensive, he said…
So it is still a mystery how he thought I would get my lawnmower in and out for example with no door. Perhaps he thinks I just want an opening, with no security for the contents.
Hyperactive man is returning with costings etc and perhaps a ventilation expert sometime this weekend.
Monday and it was time to take S back to the airport for her flight home. For the first time I got there and back without going off piste accidentally. The view of the snow-capped Midi Pyrenees as I drove back home, was pretty spectacular. For once the mountain chain was not capped in mist, so it was interesting to see where the peaks ended and the sky began, for the first time.
It was time to keep busy, so when I reached home I gave the grass its first cut, and swept and washed the main stairs of the house. I now have to get used to living on my own again for a while.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Another fine Mas

Driving through the tunnel was interesting. People were walking in the gloom, there were zebra crossings, a vehicle came towards me right on the white line. It must literally be murder during the summer months.
Out into the sunshine again, round a bend or so, then the straight road down to the town of Mas D’Azil.
There is a car park right in the centre of the town, and at this time of year it was quite peaceful.

The streets have great numbers of columbage houses. Many properties appear to be empty, having been workshop premises at one time.

We strolled along the almost deserted streets and found some public toilets. All that running water……
Many properties had their windows open and it was possible to see inside, without pressing noses against the windows.

In many houses the thing to do with the ground floor, is just to pile it full of lots of old furniture and other household items, and I mean pile. I don’t know if this means that the upper floors are minimalist zen centres of calm, but I suspect not.
There were several bench seats outside, and these were the preserve of ladies of more advanced years, keeping their beady eyes on comings and goings.

This town would be a very pleasant place to live, but as I say, in summer it must be one big traffic jam.
There were many interesting features to pick out. We found one stone carving
Numbered number 8, so we missed at least another 7 numbered featured.

On the way out of town I spotted this old petrol pump, still in situ so I stopped and took a photo.

On the very outskirts of town near to a College, we spotted the Tourist information Centre. How useful is that?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

How many years in a zilion?

Sun shining, washing out on the line, I spent the morning weeding, then planting my 50 gladioli and 50 freesia bulbs.
Lunch over, we set off in the car to go to the garden centre to buy some more plants. However I decided first to go and visit Mas D’Azil, so it we were once again off on the road to St Girons.
Once off the main road, it was the twisty turning roads so beloved of French cyclists and of French motor vehicle drivers. The latter being lovers of the “let’s see how much of the car we can get onto the other side of the road when we corner at speed because we own the road and nothing will be coming towards us” school of driving.
It was the first day of the trout fishing season, so there were a number of cars parked on grass verges beside the rivers. I expect the hunting season is over or something, so the birds and deer can relax and it is the time for fish stocks to be decimated.
We were meandering along when I spotted this ghostly scene to my left.

The church is the Eglise de Reynaude, and there must be a little road winding up the hill linking all the shrines, being the road of the Cross, or chemin de Croix in French. I have not been able to find out much about it, but one website in French

It gives a little snippet or two. It may well have been on the pilgrim route to that Compostella place. The most recent church ran out of money when it being built, and the story goes that Rockefeller who happened to be in the vicinity, gave the curate who was having it built, sufficient money to finish it. (Note to any Rockefellers who may be passing my house, just put the cash in my post box, no need to knock).
I will have to return to this unexpected find to explore it another day.
Back into the car and onwards to the Grotte of Mas d’Azil.

Basically the emerald green river flows through the mountain. The river Arize used to be ten times its current volume. It is a world famous prehistoric landmark in the scientific world as it is here that the Azilian culture was studied and defined. In 1887, excavations discovered a new layer of evidence of human habitation dating from between the end of the Magdalenian (30,000BC) and the beginning of the Neolithic. This was the Azilian period 9,500BC
The cave hollowed out under the Plantaurael Mountain range is 420 meters long with an average width of 50 meters. The entrance forms a magnificent arch 65 meters high. Looking up at the ceiling where small black birds were diving and wheeling. There are some pretty big cracks, so I wonder how much longer it will last. There is a windy road which tunnels through the mountain to the right of the vast entrance. The entrance to the caves where they live are round the bend, across the road and to the right.

Just imagine yourself in 9000 BC looking out from the cave at a raging torrent coming towards you. Probably a bit like sitting in the rinse cycle of the washing machine.

Cars can now travel through the mountain and on into the medieval village of Mas D’Azil itself. The road is a relatively new "improvement", replacing a foot traffic tunnel, which was Itself a modern inovation.
Inside the entrance to the main cavern, you can walk alongside the road, cross the road (bloody dangerous if you ask me)l, still it takes the mind off how that much unsupported stone can possibly stay above your head without crashing down. I am sure that the road traffic cannot be doing it any good.
When the caves are open, you can pay to go one one of the trips round the caverns lived in by the Azilians and numerous persecuted people thereafter.Another thing to add to my to-do-list then.
I will give you all a rest now and post the Village of Mas d'Azil visit tomorrow.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Strippin’ and tippin’

My blog of two days ago has obviously had some repercussions. Eighteen years after the “phenomenal success” of The Chippendales, along with some new additions, the boys are back as a new rebranded group, 'Here Come The Boys'. They describe their new show as a musical with muscles. So that’s another of my ideas for income generation whipped out from under my feet.
Unless… How does the stage name “Rigsby’s Rising Damp” sound? Is it good enough to have the audience screaming for more (in disappointment)?

On the 27th April there will be a tribunal to decide if Cloe, the local lass who is currently Miss France, is to be stripped of her title after continued complaints from the runner-up in the regional heat. The problem seems to be that people on the judging panel must have no connection with the contestants. Cloe’s parents are allegedly connected by way of business with 2 people who were on the panel…… Such an easy mistake to have made.

Some of you may remember late last year, when my neighbour dumped a fetid old mattress on the pavement in front of my house. No? Well to recap. I chucked it back onto their property and It festered there for months while further crap was added to it by them. One morning I got a phone call from the Town hall asking if it was my mattress and was I not aware that if I phoned the council they would make a special trip and collect it for free. Well I dobbed my neighbours right in, and the next day all the items had been collected. I suspect that they council never actually spoke to my neighbours (who are Moroccan), because they are bloody well at it again. It is like the Borrowers but in reverse. The tiny Borrowers collected or borrowed other peoples (s)crap and made use of it, whereas the charming folk next door take stuff that was useful once and chuck it out on the pavement or on to my property. Probably unaware that the Borrowers do not actually exist. Madame put some of their old wood that had fallen off their terrace onto my garden, back onto their terrace today.Anyway, this is the evidence of the dumpee having a dump yesterday. I have not photographed the white metal box or cooker that is now in front of my wall

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Rolling out the red carpet

Yesterday morning was a shopping day. We drove to Pamiers to have a look in the big Conforama store. We arrived at 9.30am to discover that their opening hours are 10am – noon and 2 til 7pm. The sun was shining so we strolled around to see what other outlets were nearby.The only one open before 10am was a decorating and furnishings place. I now know where to go if I want to buy wall paper, especially in shades of orange.
Conforama duly opened and we looked at the rugs for some time. Late last week we bought an off cut of thin grey carpet for 6 euros, which I cut in two and stick together side by side to make a carpet square. This was placed on the living room floor, as below.

There were some rug bargains and I hummed and hawed about an especially large rug which was reduced by 100 euros to 99 euros. It had a herd of elephants, and a herd of zebras on it, as well as other more tribal designs. Reluctantly I decided against it. I wouldn’t want anyone thinking that I had gone to Africa on safari!
I may have mentioned in the past that here in France it takes my kettle at least 4 minutes to boil. Drinking an average of six cups, that means wasting 24 minutes per day. Enter Tefal with a gizmo that filters the water then dispenses it as instant very hot water on demand.

In reviews, tea afficianados hate it. Amusingly it makes a sound like a small pneumatic drill whilst operational. Still it will give me back 20 minutes per day……
Next stop was across the road at Mr Bricolage to look at electric wall heaters. Just inside the door was a rug promo. There were very few large rugs left, but we whizzed in and grabbed the biggest red one, which was on sale for 69 euros. I like to think that it was very similar to one they had in stock for 230 euros. I was rolling it up ready to take to the till when an English bloke came along. He was saying something about only having been away for two minutes, so I think I had got the one he had his eye on. The trouble with small cars is that it is difficult to fit in large or long objects. It was a struggle but we got it in. That left us with about 20 minutes to look around before noon, when the store shut for lunch……

Then to miss the lunch rush traffic, we walked across to Carrefour and bought some mussels, cheap white wine and a few other essentials.
Home for lunch, then out again for my French lesson. What an exhausting day! Not that it was over as the rug had to be deployed in place of the grey off-cut (much thicker)

and the new water boiler washed and tested…..
"Traditional kettles are notorious energy guzzlers, representing around 27 percent of all electricity used in domestic cooking. The Quick Cup consumes 68 % less energy than a traditional kettle as it only heats the amount of water actually needed. Over a 12 month period, the energy saved by using the Quick Cup instead of a kettle would be enough to light your home for more than three months, based upon a home with ten light points using 100 watt bulbs"
How green am I!?

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Bumbles, bees, bugs and birds

The weather has taken another turn and once again it is almost summer-like. I was pottering in the garden picking up other peoples rubbish, and spotted these little beetles. I don’t know if they will show up big enough for you to see on screen. Initially I thought they were squashed flat ladybirds mating, but a search on the internet suggests that they might be
Pyrrhocoris apterus.

Apart from that I am none the wiser. The only other insects were a bee and a bumble bee.
I saw my first lizards of the year, about 2 weeks ago.
My crocuses are now in bloom and my tulips continue their green progress skywards. Right that’s the bees and bugs out of the way, now for the birds.

Entertainment wise, things may be beginning to hot up. There was this going on at a nightclub in a neighbouring town.

photo from club website

Having looked at the photos of the event on their web site (purely for research purposes), the “young” lady managed to lose all her clothes and those of some poor gentleman from the audience. Coming soon to the club

13 March

Night of luck, come and scratch!!!! Ah they do things differently here

photo from club web site

Richardson would be twizzling in his grave. His virtuous pamela held out for marriage and I cannot remember any mention of whipped cream in the novel, although she may have done a bit of cooking.
Do they still have strippers in the UK? It took me back to my first few student days in the late 70’s, when I went to the student union to see two ladies who will “dance and sing for you”. By the following year I think the feminist protest groups had caused so much trouble outside and inside such events that the Student entertainments committee stopped having strippers.
Do women or men protest outside shows put on by the Chippendales? Perhaps that is classed as art.
Note to self – Is this a possible career path? Remember to ask mobilisation vers emploi counsellor tomorrow. Pps also rememberto wear clean posing pouch and white ankle socks to the meeting.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Parking wars

Once again I feel moved to rant about the effing reading / parking habits of the French.
I have parking prive signs up in my parking area in front of my house. Admittedly there are only about 4 of them, but they are obviously too small for the average French motorist to see.
Usually it is people looking for the new medical centre. This has now finally got a sign up identifying its location, so most people drive past the sign and do a 3 point turn in my parking area or that of the flats opposite. Some just park on my land and walk to the centre.
Visitors to the flats opposite also sometimes park in my parking area. If I catch them, I explain that they are parked in my garden and that the space is for my rent boys and girls.
It could be a full time job.
Here are just two examples from the end of this week.
Lady going to view either an apartment across the road, or the vacant office unit located there.

Second one is a lady who lives across the road in the flats, being dropped off in my garden, before crossing the road and putting stuff in her boot.

On both occasions there was lots of space for them to park at the flats.
I now have 2 signs red background with white lettering which say “Propriete Privee” which I will deploy at my entrance today. I will relocate my “Parking prive” signs to make a nice row of them, on the wall facing the road so that there can be no risk of not seeing them, should lodger's vehicles be legally parked on my land.

If nothing else, it will be an interesting social experiment, which will enable me to give an astonished “Vous ne pouvez pas lire?” with follow up, head shaking bewilderment as they tell me that they did not see the signs.
Yes I have 2 power tools, and I am not afraid to use them!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Underneath the arches

On Friday morning I braved the cold and wet to seek out the education lady to discuss the possibility of me doing a tourism course. French signage is not very good, as you will quickly find should you ever visit the country.
I see a sign at the bottom of some steps near me with the right organisation name, there is another big sign with even more writing on a few hundred yards further on. I go up the steps. French fonctionaires like their offices and work spaces kept warm, not for them the penny pinching world of library council nimbyness. If the weather is cold, you have heat plus some extra.

Digression alert: The town’s prefecture central heating system was on its last legs, so a few months ago it was replaced. In a stunning first for France, our prefecture is now running a wood burning system. They have made a silo holding 35 m3 in one of the bridge arches. The wood lorry comes along with its little wooden balls, they hinge up the road, pour in the wood, and one delivery will last for 15 days of normal usage.

(Photo from LA Depeche online newspaper)

A saving over the old gas costs of around 10,000 euros per year. The whole project cost 431,000 euros, so it may take a couple of years before it pays for itself, but boy are we green. A solar heating system for hot water is the next phase. Another authority is soon to follow in our green wake.

So I went up the steps into the warm waiting area, a lady comes out of an office takes me back outside and points to the entrance a few hundred yards away.
The next door is trickier because I don’t bother reading the notice properly.
I press the buzzer pad, and push the door, I press the buzzer pad and pull the door, I press the buzzer pad and pull the door (I have spotted the tirez sign).
Reluctantly I read the sign above the buzzer pad, push the pad while pulling the door.
I finally do as I am told and enter. I expect it is not too annoying for the 2 receptionists sitting twiddling their thumbs, to have silly people pushing their buzzer all day.
I approach their sanctum and ask to see DM. Oh, they say she is here, but she is not here today. Their collective brain clicks into gear and one of them says that perhaps I would like to speak to DM’s secretary?
I say yes and follow one of them round the corner. No dear reader, it is not a ruse to get me on my own, there is indeed an office containing a lady who is on the phone. The French do love their phones.
We gesture to each other and I stand in wait.
I have time to study her. She is extremely slim, and very chicly dressed. Short well coiffed hair and must surely be feeling rather hot in her boots.
How can she help?
I would like to make an appointment to meet DM
Do I have an appointment?
No, but I would like to make one.
And so the dance goes on. I learn that DM is not there today and I leave my mobile number and email address. This is written down in an A4 notebook. I am now at the bottom of a very long list…..

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

What’s in a name?

At my last meeting with my work mobilisation advisor she decided that I should concentrate on tourism. My homework before the next meeting is to go to the employment and solidarity education centre to chat to a lady about my burning desire to become a tourism technician. It is possible that the French state would pay for me to go to Carcassonne to study for 7 months to get the qualification necessary to apply for jobs in this seasonal tourism sector. Bed and board would be paid for and I would return home at weekends. There are other locations for the training throughout France, but Carcassonne is the nearest. I think that work placement is part of it too, so perhaps I would not be home for weekends. There is usually a waiting list to go on these courses so if I was lucky enough to convince the lady that this is where I really want to work, then I might get on a course later in the year.
Unlike the UK where there is probably one category of tourism worker, in France there are about 14 or so, all minutely different and requiring a specific qualification to be eligible to apply for suitable posts which come up.
Not that there are many posts in this part of France. I would probably have to travel afar to find work.
The next person that I have to see is the Head of Tourism for the Ariege, based in the Town Hall. I have to find out what planned direction, if any, tourism is to take in the Midi Pyrenees, where the work is etc.
I also have to go to the big secondary school and speak to one of the teachers / lecturers who provide the tourism course there. I have to find out from them where the best locations to find tourism jobs in France are.
Disneyland probably has their own training school, so there is not much chance of Mickey Mouse tapping you on the shoulder and it being me.
Before I start harassing the above people, I have 17 pages of text to read about this role of “Technicien d’accueil touristique option accompagnement” entails so that I can prepare my sales pitch to try to get onto a course. The speaking 3 languages requirement will be an issue…..

Monday, 2 March 2009

Simply British

This morning we leapt out of bed and arrived at the new premises for the Simply British shop. The shop was set up about 12 years ago by Sue and her husband. Today the old shop fittings and contents were to travel a few hundred meters up the road into a new location which is much more visible to passing trade.

About 10 people in total turned up to help and everyone was kept busy up until 1pm, when we walked another few hundred yards to a local restaurant Gaia, for lunch. Lunch was vey good indeed. The restaurant is run by a Brit and his Australian wife and holds about 16 people at most. Here is a link to a review of the restaurant some months after it opened,

2 hours later it was time to start work again. S and I are old hands at shelf arranging, which is just as well as the shelves were filled, contents were then moved to another shelf, and then moved again. The shop also stocks a range of second hand books for sale and I had amazing fun putting books where I was told and then moving them again and again.

All still to do

Sue, the owner, Soopervises

Sue's husband forced to sit in the naughty corner, with the books

Don't know where the supermarket trolleys came from

Yes, Simply British is the one stop shop for all your UK favourites. Heinz Baked beans, Pataks curry sauces, Johnsons baby oil, Walkers crisps, brillo pads, mint jelly, sherbert fountains, HP sauces, crockery, various makes of tea and coffee, Birds custard powder, the list goes on and on, and they do mail order.
This is a link to the Simply British web site to see what goods you might miss should you move to France
that you can pack them into your suitcase before you leave the UK.

We finally called it a day just before 6pm, as one of the freezers was being manoeuvred through the front door.
Most of the work is done, and the shop should be ready to open on time on Tuesday next week.We were both tired, not being used to lunches with wine and having to move about for long periods of time without sitting down.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


After returning from our trip yesterday afternoon, Madame rang my bell.
I opened the bedroom window and she told me that her friend D was coming at about 3pm to discuss all the work that I need doing on the house, and the possibility of demolishing the outbuilding which is about to fall down, and replace it with another structure.
He whizzed about for 2 hours, under the house, on the roof, searching for a bouton to switch off the ventilation system. (Eet must be there by law, but of course it is not anywhere visible. He thinks it is behind a wall and when he returns next Saturday he will bring a friend who has a machine to trace wires)
It was very exhausting, and he kept on telling me the same things over and over again, quite sure that although I was telling him that I understood, he seemed sure that I didn’t.
Next weekend he will also bring a measuring tape. The outbuilding job will probably require paperwork and permission from the Town Hall.

D seems keen that Bee boy's van is pressed into service to remove the rubble and wood when it is demolished.
Madame reports that the new outside light works well, and Bee Boy also confirmed this. Perhaps the sensor only detects small, French people?