Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Donkey Piss? Whaddamisstakadamakea

Look it really isn't my fault. I can only report what happens in my French world.
S and I had been on our way into town when we approached a car park which had recently been used for the African market, and which still had barriers up to prevent traffic entering ane the red and yellow striped stall awnings.
There was now a carpet of straw strewn all over the car park.
This then was the weekend of the medieval fayre.
It was now rather obvious that the stallholders and some of the peasants strolling about were dressed in leather jerkins, tights, funny hats etc .
It was just before midday ; so the village smith was using his «forge » to BBQ his sausages. A small play was in progress, in situ in the market.
We paused to watch. It went on and on and on and consisted of a shrill voiced woman shouting at a bloke who might have been a monk.
We left them to it and wandered through the market later in the afternoon. The phone box was now a resting place for assorted weaponry.

The majority of the stalls were selling medieval items such as leather jerkins, hats, weapons, leather purses etc, but there were other stalls selling modern jewellery etc too. There was even a fortune teller.
We came back on Sunday. The weather was cooler, verging on rain and the passing trade was almost zero. Gone too were the majority of the medievally costumed folk.
I thought that I ought to buy something, but what ?
Then beloz the counter of ye olde inne, I saw a poster, and thought that I would acquire a bottle of it for a joke present.
« Donkey piss » is how I read it and bought a bottle of it from the young wench behind the bar.
I have just looked at the bottle and hastily consulted my French dictionary. Looking at the label again, I had still read it wrong. It is not Donkey piss. Oh no. This inviting yellow liquid 12% Vol is « Anne’s piss ».
Looking at the picture on the label, I see that there is not a donkey in sight. A young couple are seated below a small cliff having a picnic. They clink their glasses together as a young lady above them on the cliff edge pees into their glasses.

An attached label with an English translation which reads « Anne, called « Anne of the three barrels » who was a barmaid inn keeper, had a distinctive feature to serve in her tavern some drinks that she was the only one to know the secret of. Those beverages were usually served in a flask made out of a pig’s bladder. Consumers were in the habit to rinse their throat with it and saying « Give me some Anne’s piss » (Pisse d’Anne because of a pork bladder)… Donkey piss might have been a difficult present to place, but a bottle of Anne's piss, that's a whole different kettle of poisson …. That's true class, in a glass...

Monday, 28 September 2009

The only Gay in the village

Well okay, it’s a town, but if I put town, the catch phrase just wouldn’t work. Also for better or worse, I am not gay. This news will hearten many but inevitably disappoint a few :-)
A few months ago, I received a letter from the ANPE to tell me that I had a new advisor. Whoopeee! And that I had an appointment to see him on the morning of 14th Sept.
My appointment was with M Gay Michael. So I went along in due course, wondering how to ask for him. There was some confusion at the desk. Could they see the letter of appointment? Turns out he is a M Michael Le Gay.
I don’t expect he got teased at school or at work much, unless people watch “Little Britain” in the original language over here.
Certainly in the UK he would have had a hard time.
My meeting with him went okay and he gave me a new lead to follow and found out a name to contact in the CCI (3rd time lucky?).
2 weeks later and I have an appointment to see a lady at the CCI language teaching centre. It may just be for a chat and to show me around though.
I also had a meeting with a lady from IFSI in a nearby town re language lessons for trainee nurses, as per a previous post, and I am fairly sure that I have 10 hours per term teaching there, starting in January.
I have also found out that there is a misspelling on my carte de visite. Missed by everyone that I showed it to, pre- printing and after, but spotted by an out of work French teacher at the weekend, who also says that the info and layout of my card is all wrong for the French market. So if anyone wants the remaining 490 cards, just let me know… Fortunately she is going to help me to draught another at choir practice. This could be difficult as she is a soprano and sits at the front and I sit it the back row with the tenors.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Fish n'pish

I was tired when I added last night’s blog and I omitted a couple of photos that I took in Banyuls. Like many churches there was a bell tower. Big wows! I hear you say, but the tower had not one, but 4 bells and the bell tower was outside the church building. I don’t know if the bells are rung by pulling on ropes, but I doubt it. I wonder what the scrap value of a bell might be…

The other thing we noticed whilst pounding the streets was the down pipes for rainwater from the roofs of the houses. The majority ended with pottery fish heads. Perhaps they are supposed to be anchovies? Some ended just above pavement height, but many ended at waist height. My advice would therefore be, if you don’t want to get drenched whilst walking along a street in a downpour, make sure that you walk in the middle of the road. Better safe than sorry and soaking.

The next stop on our homeward journey was the small but famous fishing port of Collioure. Anchovy fishing is one of the major industries here, although we did not see any sign of the small fish during our visit. Collioure is a very picturesque, trendy place to see and be seen. Parking is a real problem, and many of the narrow streets are one way or no cars, but we managed to find a spot in the railway station car park, and we walked back down hill into town. There are a couple of small sandy beaches. There is a tourist trail where one can view copies of famous pictures painted by the greats, in situ where the artists painted them but we did not have time to dawdle.

It was lunchtime, so after a quick stroll around to marvel at the light which had made the place so attractive to the fauvists, Matisse and others. It was rather bright and sunny. Here is a link to the towns tourist site

I must go back when I have more time to wander round. For those of you who are architecturally inclined the church tower is shaped like a willy! Damn. I have lowered the tone of the blog yet again. The guide books marvel that it appears to sit in the sea. There are strong historical links with the Knights Templar.

After a nice lunch in a side street, we found a shop from which to buy a fridge magnet each, then headed back to the car.
The Satnav spoilt my day by taking us right into Perpignan for a rather sweaty half an hour of fun, before we popped out once again onto the open road.
The journey takes you along roads bordered by large vineyards, and narrow, very twisty roads some carved out of the base of sheer cliffs with the cliff forming a roof over your head with the river side open, so a bit like riding on a surfboard through a tunnel made by the waves (where French “expert” drivers enjoy their God given right to drive round the bends very fast using part of your side of the road. More sweaty moments.
The route we followed was toll free main road and very scenic, but there is one major problem, a small village called Maury. Here, right in the centre of the village, the one through road narrows to one vehicle’s width for 30 metres or so. If you are lucky and traffic going in your direction is hogging the road, you can progress quickly, if you are waiting for a gap in the traffic coming towards you, it might be time to break out the tea and sandwiches. This bit of road is completely stupid, and there is not a traffic light or gendarme in sight. So get it sorted now!!!!!!

Never one to shrink from controversy the next post will probably be titled "The only gay in the village"

Friday, 25 September 2009

Road trip

One evening whilst S was indisposed I went out for a slap-up meal.
In the UK you can probably still find a Wimpy bar? where you can get a burger. Well some clever person has opened a Wompy. Yes it was everything I thought it would be, but I wanted chips, chips, chips. The humungous double burger in the photo proved to be 4 - 5 bites worth, the coke was watered down syrup and I had the usual tiny cardboard cup of hard mini-chips.

By the time we left on Saturday morning, it was too windy to sit on the beach, but still very hot.
We followed the coast road, passing through St Cyprien (must go back for a look), Argeles (Sat nav took me down side streets) which is supposed to be posher than Canet Plage, so probably more my type of place (must go back for a look), Banyuls-sur-mer, a small fishing port which we strolled around. Very Catalan as it is near to the Spanish border, it has many big wine houses, warehouses etc. There is quite a smell wine must in the air.

See the choppy sea?

We found somewhere to park and strolled into town. We crossed a bridge over what looked like a dried river bed on the town side and the beach on the right side. This was also a parking area. Free parking I think. The following notice appeared on the wall below

If there is a storm you are asked to remove your car urgently

So, a nice little fishing village with a sheltered harbour for the little boats and Russian roulette parking.
To be continued........

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The holiday

S was over visiting me for a few weeks, so we decided to book a weeks holiday at one of the nearest beaches on the Med.
We managed to get a last minute bargain, that still cost about £350 for the week.
Guided by the trusty Satnav, we skirted Perpignan and found somewhere to park a few hundred yards from out flat in Canet Plage.
The flat was on the ground floor of a small block of apartments and was pretty basic. No TV or washing machine! In high season I could have paid £500 per week.
Anyway it was about 4 minutes walk from the vast sandy beach and there were small supermarkets and shops nearby.
The resort has about 7 kilometres of sandy beach and because it was the last full week in August, and the return to school and work was imminent, the place was not at all busy.

S found a nice little sea-food restaurant, the weather was very hot, a sun umbrella was bought to protect my fair skin from the rays of the sun, and all was set for a relaxing week, during which we would probably visit the neighbouring resorts, go on a boat trip to Collioure etc.
Here is a photo of my left foot relaxing on the beach. Unfortunately the angle of the shot missed my new lime-green mankini, but it would have been tricky to get everything in.

In the evening we went for a stroll along the promenade, where we found a large crazy golf course, a large parking lot and about a kilometre of small stalls selling all sorts of jewellery, African carvings, hand decorated candles etc etc. Further along still there was a road of small shops catering to the tourist, huge ice cream counters, pizza, chips, clothes, sun glasses, pottery..... I named it Blackpool.

Alas it was not to be. S spent Monday evening and all night, clutching the toilet bowl. It couldn’t have been the fish as that had been Sunday lunchtime. We had eaten and drunk pretty much the same things.
I visited the local pharmacie and got two over the counter remedies, one for each end. S spent the next day in bed while I went to the beach for a few hours in the afternoon.
By Wednesday, she was still not up to more than going to the beach of an hour or so. The sea was becoming choppier and there was a strong wind whipping up the sand, so we did not stay on the beach for long. S is not a good sailor at the best of times, but a longish boat trip was not a very appealing prospect.
We did do a trip on the small white road train which took us up to the old town, via camp sites. A journey of about 25 minutes for 3 euros.
The old town was very disappointing. The one tourist attraction is a ruined castle, which is of course closed for renovations.
There was also entertainment in big main square just across the road from the beach. Pop music, country music complete with a "crack" line dancing club from Perpignan hogging the dance space, and the day that we left, the medieval fayre was due to start. There was also a tiny travelling circus, a tiny puppet theatre also appeared, for one night only.

Always on the lookout for shots to sum up the feel of a place, here are a couple.

What wouldn't a young man or woman do to get a ride in "Big Pimpin" I wonder how many little pots of silver Humbrol paint for aicraft kits it took to titivate this little beauty!

Just across
from the Casino (no, not the supermarket Casino)
This gentleman was obviously waiting for the pole dancing to begin, staking his seat early to get his own pole.

Perhaps this could be a caption competition photo?
To be continued.....

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Après moi....

Every day the world seems to get a little crazier. Recently, Sarko, the French President appeared on stage with people standing behind him in the background. Mr P is a comparitivly small man of around 5 ft 5, and yet he loomed large, thanks to the even more reduced stature of the gents and ladies who had been chosen to stand behind him. The newspapers had a wonderful time.

Before the summer recess he collapsed whilst out jogging and spent a day or more in hospital being monitored. I see that he is back to his fitness regeme and jogging in New York. I hope he remembered to take out travel health insurance. I wonder if there is a special scheme for frequent high-flyers?

This little video has just done the rounds of the choir email. I have no idea who the choir is. The instruction was to close your eyes and listen to the relaxing sound of the rain. I think it is more fun to keep your eyes open and your umbrella up.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Figs and the dangers of biscuits

It has been some time since my last confession. I don’t know why this should be. Is it blog fatigue? Now that I have been here for over a year, things begin to repeat themselves, namely the calendar of town events. Can I really write about the same thing again? Should I go off in search of things that I have not yet seen or done?
A lot has happened in the last month and I will try to cover some of it in the days to come. Building up a blog backlog is not a good idea. As the mountain increases, so the inclination to set off on the journey to the top of the mountain decreases in direct proportion.
Anyway, I will start gently.
It is fig season here. I know this because one of the ladies from the choir brought a box of figs from her garden to the choir agm last night.
For me, figs are a novelty, as they did not feature in the Scottish garden, but over here huge numbers of people have at least one fig tree.
I told my mother that I had been eating figs. “What does a fig look like?”
Rather than attempt to explain, I said that I would put a photo on the blog.
The trick seems to be to choose the squashiest one that you can find, split it open, then suck out the reddish, purple seeds.

In the UK most people’s only contact with figs is in the form of the “fig roll”

pseudo-biscuit (or should it be classed as a cake like the “jaffa cake?” ), or when forced to take the liquid “syrup of figs” as a cure for constipation.

Talking of biscuits. Here is a link to research carried out recently on the dangers of the biscuit.

To save you the time here is an extract from the article.

"we have the all-too-common phenomenon of dogs and wild animals snatching our snacks from our hand, and taking not only our chocolate fingers, but our index ones too. Biscuits get stuck in our throats, or we somehow contrive to poke ourselves in the eye. We fall off chairs trying to retrieve them from the top shelf (that'll be my seven-year-old) or get them stuck up our nostril (the one-year old – although to be fair, if the only biscuit you were given was a carrot-sweetened organic gingerbread man, you'd probably shove it up your nose in boredom too).
Above all, this ground-breaking research reveals the compound hazards of biscuits and hot beverages. Boffins say that a cup of tea can sometimes survive at temperatures close to 100C, and that if you plunge your fingers into it to retrieve a semi-detached Garibaldi, it can actually be rather painful. Who knew?
Helpfully, the researchers provided a league table of hazardous snacks. Henceforth, the favoured nibble of the health and safety department shall be the Jaffa Cake (and yes it is a biscuit, OK?) with a comforting Risk Rating of just 1.16, compared with the doubly dangerous Digestive at 3.14, going all the way up to the world's deadliest biscuit, the black mamba of the tea-break, the Great White Shark of elevenses: the Custard Cream, which scores a horror show Risk Rating of 5.64. According to the Bumper Book of Made Up Statistics, which I borrowed from the study's authors, this places the hazards of the sweet treat somewhere between bungee-jumping into a volcano and door-to-door fundraising for the Labour party.
The researcher behind the findings gave a full explanation of the methodology. "We tested the physical properties of 15 popular types of biscuits, along with aspects of their consumption such as 'dunkability' and crumb dispersal," said Dr Duncan*.
The government must act without delay. As a first step, all biscuit packaging should be obliged to carry a gruesome pathology photo of a brandy snap lodged painfully in an unlikely orifice, pour encourager les autres."

So beware of anyone who offers you a custard cream! That's all I'm saying.