Wednesday, 10 February 2016

BEER MAKING MACHINE

I bought a beer making machine. It's part of my plan to become a millionaire in France. The French have never heard of beer, you see. Thus, I realised that if I could make beer they would worship me as a GOD.
I've been staring at the beer making machine all winter and so far it has failed to produce any beer whatsoever. At first I thought it was the wrong season. Maybe it needs pollination from the bees I thought. WRONG! I have finally discovered how it works. You pour in several bottles of your favourite beer, swirl for several seconds and pour out into glasses. It's not quite as good as the real thing, but it's remarkably close.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Rabbit droppings festival

There was something going on in the town hall in Chinon so we'd thought we'd check it out. If you haven't been to Chinon you're a dick. Outside of the town hall a group of people had gathered. We approached to find they were watching a man leading a pig around with a bit of string. As entertainment goes it was still better than French television.

Inside the town hall it was going crazy. Pumped up, rich, hostile French people charged from stall to stall staring at what appeared to be rabbit droppings. We've been in France long enough now not to be surprised at anything. We thought we'd better join in.

"You have to sniff them. I've seen people sniff them." Said Rose.
I picked up a rabbit dropping and sniffed it. It was unbearable. "I'll take it!" I commanded.
"That will be 87 euros." Said the woman behind the table.
"I won't take it. I refuse to pay more than 50 euros for a rabbit dropping." I commanded.
"It's a truffle." Said the woman behind the table.
"No. You're a truffle." I responded, brilliantly.

A bell rang to signify there was only 10 minutes left of the truffle sale. The place went insane. It was truffle fever. I may one day make a novelty 70's funk album called truffle fever. Caught in the moment, we identified the smallest truffle we could find and purchased it for 30 euros after ensuring it wasn't a rabbit dropping.

Now we have a truffle. It sits glowering at me when I open the fridge - a constant reminder of the day I saw a pig on a string.

Oh come on.

.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Oysters, Lobsters, urine everywhere and 20 litres of wine

The house is awash with urine. We have recently acquired two puppies. I'm hoping the two events are linked.

I hadn't planned on getting a puppy, but when Rose went to pick hers up I noticed a tubby little loner who was only interested in food and drink and I had an immediate affinity, so we took him as well. He's called Umberto the Great. Bert for short. Currently he's chewing our coffee table. I might have a crack at it too.

Christmas in France is different to the UK. They tend to celebrate on Christmas eve, and the tradition is to have lots of expensive food like lobster and oysters. We, on the other hand, eat what is pound for pound the cheapest meat in the super market. We can learn from the French.

In order not to upset the French I will celebrate both on Christmas eve and on Christmas day. In fact I will start celebrating now by eating a box of Ferrero Rocher for brunch.

Some friends of mine took me to a wine producer who sells 10 litre boxes of wine. I bought two. They are supposed to be for Christmas but I suppose I'd better taste a few litres to make sure it's ok.




Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Spider

There was a spider the size of a terrifyingly large spider in the bathroom. It was lying on its side. At first I thought it might be dead, but when I got closer I could hear it snoring.

The general rule when faced with something as frightening and as potentially dangerous as this is to poke it with a stick. I poked it with a stick and it heaved itself onto its feet and scuttled out of the door. A few seconds later I heard the sound of a car starting up outside. No doubt it had overslept and was late for work. Things are bigger in France.







Friday, 2 October 2015

How to fit in when watching the Rugby World Cup

If, like me, you are desperate to be accepted by men with more testosterone than you, then saying the right things whilst watching a game of rugby in a pub is essential. Here is a step by step guide.

1. Find a busy pub showing rugby. Walk in with your chest out and as something climactic happens on the screen shout "RUGGINGTON" at the top of your voice. Then, throughout the game, whenever anything happens that people around you react to shout "RUGGINGTON" at a volume that you feel matches the severity of the event.

2. At certain times in the game a number huge men will jump on top of each other. This is known as a pile-on and so here you must shout 'PILE-ON!". You should then turn to the man next to you with the shirt tucked into his jeans and say "It was a good pile-on. But perhaps more guys should have piled-on."

3. There are moments in a game when a ball becomes crucial to play. Sometimes a coquettish looking chap will kick the ball towards the other end of the pitch. Here shout "KICK IT TOWARDS THE GOAL IN ACCEPTABLE FASHION!" If he fails to kick it particularly successfully towards the goal you should say loudly to the man with the shirt tucked into his jeans and wearing the brown trainers that "HE KICKED IT TOWARDS THE GOAL, BUT FAILED TO KICK IT TOWARDS THE GOAL IN A WAY THAT COMPLETELY SATISFIES ME".

4. Sometimes the ball will go out of play and two lines of men will form. This is looks for all the world like the beginning of a Ceilidh, but it rarely is.

5. Halftime. Go into the toilets, find someone you don't know at the urinals and pat them on the back. If they query your behaviour a simple wink, a glance down and a guttural "ruggington" should put you in the clear.

6. "SCRUM FOUR!" This is a good thing to shout.

7. Whenever the action stops, draw the shape of a box with your fingers and announce to the pub that you should all go 'upstairs'.

8. Unlike football, in rugby it's ok to gently rib opposition supporters without hitting them with a glass. Say things like "Your number 17 hasn't had sex in weeks! Judging by his testies."

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Cognac

I have just spent a week in Cognac. The town, that is, not the brandy. Actually both are accurate.

It seems to me to be an incredible coincidence that the drink 'Cognac' is made in a town of the same name, but when I pointed this out to the natives they seemed non-plussed.

My overriding memory of Cognac is trying to get served. On one day we spent 5 hours looking for somewhere that would serve us lunch. The problem wasn't that nothing was open. The problem was that in France, sitting in a café does not always lead to being served in a café. I remember sitting in one particularly frayed café for 45 minutes while the waitress periodically glowered at us from a distance of 12 metres without ever taking our order. Eventually we tried to leave but she said we couldn't because we had ordered. When I asked her what we had ordered she checked her till, realised her mistake and said "Ok, you can go" as if she had verified our papers at a military checkpoint.

We decided eventually to go to our local Flunch outlet. For those of you that don't know the French restaurant chain Flunch, it is the restaurant with the worst name in the entire galaxy. Flunch. It's the sound of somebody sitting on a matchstick model of the provincial headquarters of an insurance firm. Needless to say it was shut, which was disappointing, but I suspect not nearly as disappointing as it would have been had it been open. One day I will dine at a Flunch outlet and I will let you, my readers, know exactly how it makes me feel.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

French toilet seats

Long running feuds can be hard to understand. Families have been known to feud for generations over matters that to the outsider seem barely trivial. Sometimes there are feuds that have gone on for such a length of time that the participants no longer know why they are feuding and yet they continue despite neither side benefiting from it. And so I wonder then what trivial slight could have started the feud between the French and toilet seats. Bars, restaurants, public toilets, campsites, motorway service stations. You won't find a single toilet seat in any of them and like the bitterest feuds it's causing both sides to lose out and yet neither will relent.

You're going to reel out the old line about the French only having toilets that are a hole in the floor but your wrong. Yes, the French have traditionally lagged behind the British in toilet technology - it was common even 10 years ago to find a hole in the floor where the toilet should be, but here's the bit I don't understand: In recent years they've made such advances. They've really made the effort to catch up. Nowadays almost everywhere you go the hole in the floor toilets have been replaced by proper crappers (consequently the French have noticeably thinner thighs).

Admittedly they still put urinals in the same places as the English would put public telephones. In two of my favourite restaurants it's possible to wave to the people working behind the bar whilst taking a piss. Turns out they find that unsettling. Anyway, generally they've gone to the trouble of installing proper loos in cubicles with doors and locks. But this is the thing. They have gone to all the trouble of installing the loos and they have come so close to joining the rest of civilisation and then they haven't bothered putting the fucking loo seats on. There's not a loo seat in France.

In our campsite they've actually gone to the effort of installing machines that dispense paper loo seats for you to rest on the rim and flush away afterwards. JUST PUT A PROPER FUCKING LOO SEAT ON IT. Put a seat on it for crying out loud. What has the loo seat done to be so roundly shunned by an entire nation? Whatever it is it's time to make amends. Put your differences aside, France. Be the bigger man and embrace the loo seat. Then put it on the fucking loo and stop being such a prick.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Buying a car in France

I remember walking past a car at the village garage a week ago that was the most awful thing I had ever seen. It was a Renault Megane made in the 1990s – the decade that brought us two tone jeans and the Lightning Seeds. God I hate everything about that decade. You can say what you like about the 80s but at least people had passion and optimism. At least people were brave. The 90s barely even went through the motions. It started off terribly with grunge music. Grunge music. That fucking turd on a string. Listening to grunge music was like finding a shit in your butter dish - you spent the rest of the day wondering why anybody would do anything so inexplicably horrid. But at least they didn't wash. After that they sanitised everything and the rest of the 90s beiged out into the horizon. It wasn't that the music was dreadful or the style was dreadful, it was that it wasn't really anything. It was the Lightning Seeds. One day someone will steal the 1990s and nobody will fucking notice.

To say the Renault Megane was badly designed gives it too much credit. It wasn't designed. Nobody dared design anything in the 90s. It was an off-white void on wheels. It had nothing to say about itself. It was the physical embodiment of the noise you make when you chew salad. Worst of all it was an estate version. I remember thinking to myself at the time, 'at least we won't end up with that shit cube.'

I wanted to buy a proper french classic like this, a 1970's citroen:


But it rapidly became obvious we didn't have anywhere near enough money for anything road worthy, so I gave up on the 1970s citroens and started looking for modern, practical cars. But they were still too expensive. Most used car dealerships in France sell cars that are only one or two years old, so they are pretty new and the price is still high.

By now we were running out of time. I had trawled every single used car dealership for 30 miles and had found nothing. We needed a car by the end of the week as our tenancy ran out then and our next residence was a campsite 5 hours drive away in Bordeaux.

By switching our search to the internet (leboncoin.fr) we finally found something that we could afford that wasn't miles away. It was called the Fiat Doblo. It was the first in Fiat's new range of cars designed by a drunken toddler looking through a kaleidoscope. It was remarkable in that no elements of the car matched any other elements. No windows were the same size or the same shape, none of it's parts were the same proportion. The bonnet looked further away than the rest of the car. If you stared at it too long it would give you an attack of vertigo. If Postman Pat had an evil nemesis this was the car he would drive. Needless to say I quite liked it.

Curves in all the strange places


Sadly before we could buy it someone else saw the genius in it and bought it. And so it got to yesterday, the day we were due to be thrown out of the house and still we had no car. Luckily there was one car left in the village that nobody would ever buy.







Friday, 28 August 2015

New car

We are going to buy a new car. This is for three reasons:

1. It is safer to have a left hand drive car in France.
2. We might need something with a bit more room to transport Rose's ceramic pieces.
3. I crashed our current car into a ditch and wrote it off.

Something I learned from this is that once you get past superficial cultural differences human nature shines through no matter where you are in the world. By this I mean that the French mechanic who towed the car home was equally as surly as any English mechanic. He wasn't the least bit impressed that I'd managed to launch our car from a ditch into a roadside thicket.

I am taking the crash as a sign that I am integrating well as I am clearly becoming as dangerous on the roads as the French. Now we have to buy a new car. Rose is pulling for something sensible whereas I would like something that has tank tracks instead of wheels.

I've been searching the second hand car dealers of the local area. Today I found one selling a Porsche 944 made in 1980 for 1000 euros. This is remarkable because if you search online you won't find a 944 for under 3000 euros and also because if you check online you'll find that Porsche didn't start making this car till 1982.

Can anyone reccomend a sat nav with an 'Avoid ditches' option?




Sunday, 16 August 2015

Mysterious poo

Every day something poos just outside our front door. Initially I believed it to be an animal, but now I think it could simply be a human with minature buttocks. I am going to ask Rose to sculpt a tiny loo out of clay that I will then leave at the site of the last evacuation.

I thought that perhaps whatever was doing this had some sort of grievance with us. They seemed to be protest poos, placed in areas designed to cause maximum chaos. But now I wonder if the reason they always poo outside our front door is because from that position there's a wonderful view over a valley. I certainly feel very calm when I see it. It's puts one in an ideal frame of mind for a poo.

Now I am of the opinion that one can't blame whatever is pooing there. Indeed, I am surprised we only get one poo a day. If word gets out we could have people coming from miles around.

These are the problems people never tell you about when you move somewhere with a nice view, and that needs to be addressed. 





Saturday, 15 August 2015

Bread, breast implants and Seahorse viagra

If I was on masterchef my speciality dish would be french bread from our local village baker with some butter on it. I would call my dish Pain et Beurre Thermidor. If I didn't win with this dish I would sleep with John Torode as that seems to be the way to victory – I'm looking at you, Lisa Faulkner. Justice for Dick Strawbridge. We haven't forgotten.

The French have their own version of masterchef. They have one contestant on it called Betty who refuses to cook anything and stands in the corner crying. For several weeks everyone was too scared to tell her she was out of the competition so she carried on turning up.

I could live on french bread and butter. I know this because I am living on french bread and butter. But where are you getting the nutrients from? I hear you ask. Simple - Nutregena shampoo.

When you go to the bakery in France everyone says hello to you when you walk in - the customers and the bakers. And when someone else comes in you all have to say hello to them. The first time I walked unsuspecting into a full french bakery the chorus of bonjours was so loud I thought Rose had arranged a surprise party for me. I went round hugging elderly french women and pawing great lumps out of the cakes in the display cabinets with my hands. Not allowed back there.

It makes perfect sense to say hello  - why wouldn't you say hello to people? Unless they are Londoners of course. One word to a Londoner in public and the next thing you know you're phone's been stolen, your online identity's been cloned and everyone you know has received an email from your account trying to sell them breast implants and natural viagra pills made from seahorse penis. What do you mean I sent that email before my phone was stolen?

On a separate note please send me some seahorses as I like them as pets and absolutely won't powder their bits to make sex pills.

Do seahorses have bits? Genuinely can't be bothered to google it.



You had me at "4 inch beetle with deadly head-claws."

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Hornet

We had a friend to stay for a few days. When she arrived she asked if we had seen any hornets. I said 'no' and opened the door to the garden. Immediately there was a low humming sound like the Luftwaffe following the Thames into London and something the size of a pterodactyl flew over us, temporarily plunging the world into darkness as it passed across the sun before crashing into a wall, splintering stone and concrete, and then flying into the house. I'm not shitting you, this thing was monstrous. It made the windows rattle. It was like a mega wasp. I don't know why they don't just call them mega wasps.

I did what any warrior would do and ran out into the garden, locking the door behind me. I needed some me time. I needed to work out if it was possible to get a hornet into a headlock.

A few hours later I had worked out my strategy to defeat it (Judo chop to the neck or ribs) so I went back inside but I couldn't find it. Weird thing is as far as I know the hornet never flew out. The bathroom door is locked and a copy of Hello magazine is missing so I think it's still on the loo.





 

"You might want to leave it 5 minutes"

Sunday, 9 August 2015

French markets

Every Saturday in our nearest town (St Pourcain sur Sioule in case you're wondering) they have a market in the large town square. Everybody goes to it. It's a central part of life in France part grocery shopping, part biggest social event of the week. The cafes are packed and the town is revitalised for another week. They sell fresh fruit and veg, fish, meat and local delicacies as well as clothing and household goods. Better than all these things, they sell massive, massive watches.

10 euros of solid gold.


My new watch has three buttons on it. 2 of them don't do anything. At least I think they don't. I worry that every time I press them some dude in Tokyo wonders why his bathroom light switches off.

The watch is very heavy, most likely because it's made of lead and asbestos. People will respect me now.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Colin

 

 

"Hi, I'm looking for my friend Colin, he went missing a few hours ago near.... Colin? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Camel balls

Got this from our local shop. In a meeting, in an office somewhere, full of people in suits, somebody ok'd this. That fills me with joy. Liquid camel ball joy.


"At least it doesn't actually taste of camel b... Oh no. Oh dear god no. I can taste the sweat."

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Wine

We've bought our first box of wine! 5 litres in one go, all dispensed via a very efficient plastic tap. It's such good value that it is cheaper than buying water, but it does make the toothpaste taste funny.

The Auvergne region isn't famous for its wines but there is a town called St Pourcain which produces very decent wines which are excellent value. They have a large wine shop called 'La union des vignerons'. What I like most about the shop is instead of having baskets for you to put your wine into they have the kind of large, flat bed trolleys that you might find in a Big Yellow storage facility. I like their optimism.

Monday, 27 July 2015

An open letter to the mosquito that bit me on the arse

Dear Madame,

I am not a mosquito hater. I recognise that by sucking my blood you are simply trying to support your family. It is true that I think you could perhaps choose other more constructive ways to make your living - air ambulance for injured ants for instance, and yes, if I am lucky enough to spot one of you fuckers buzzing around me ready to strike then of course I will crush you between my hands, paint my face with the blood of the animals you have already bitten and dance round a bonfire chanting 'death to all of Satan's winged vampires' - we are animals are we not? War is in our blood. But we are not enemies. We may not see eye to eye but we can exist alongside each other as long as we have respect for each other's dignity. And here is the issue.

On the night of 22nd July you bit me on the arse. Twice. I mean, WHO THE FUCKING SHITHEAP DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? WHO THE ARSING BASTARD HOLE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? YOU FLYING LEECH. YOU SUSPICIOUS CRUMB IN A PAIR OF Y-FRONTS. WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING? YOU PHYSICAL EMBODIMENT OF STALE BODY ODOUR, YOU.

You maggot in a rotten maggot.

Bite me almost anywhere (not the crutchal region obviously) and I will shout a little, swear to destroy your family maybe, but I will eventually move on. These pain au chocolat's won't eat themselves, I'm a busy man. I'll have forgotten about it by my second bottle of breakfast wine. But bite me on the arse? Oh no. Not acceptable. It is this attitude of putting your own base desires ahead of other peoples dignity that is destroying this world. And it won't do. And because of this it is with much sadness, but ultimately with a nobility far beyond what you, a stupid mosquito, could comprehend, that I am going to set fire to my garden, and I suggest everyone else does the same. #setfiretoyourgarden

Yours

TR Barnes

Monday, 20 July 2015

A beer in the Loire

On Friday we paid the deposit on a house in the Loire valley. Rose says it's the perfect house to put down roots and start a family and I completely agree. It also has a barn big enough to house a small brewery. And a distillery. And I've found some grape vines in the garden. Why stop at making bad beer when you can make really bad wine.

Since we moved to France I've been sitting in cafés, drinking beer and trying to work out how I could earn a living. And then it came to me: the answer had been in front of me the whole time. The answer had been giving me wind and making me think I was funnier than I was. The answer was beer. The answer is always beer. After all, the inhabitants of one of the finest wine regions in the world must be crying out for the homebrew of a man who lives by the motto 'Is there any way of cutting some corners because I don't particularly care about the quality of the end result'.

All going well we move in in three months time. Other people in my position might spend those three months reading books about brewing beer, but I intend to cut out the middle man and spending my time drinking beer, thus for all intents and purposes jumping straight to the end of the book. By the time we move in I will effectively have jumped to the end of every book ever written on beer, several times over.

The theatre of dreams:
Pretty sure I can incorporate the bidet into the brewing process. Or it might just be a handy thing to have around.

Friday, 17 July 2015

P&O

If you have been wondering recently where all the children aged 11-14 have gone then worry no longer, for I have found them. All of them. They are on the Dover to Calais ferry.

Doused in duty free perfume, parading endlessly round the decks, shouting, laughing, crying, trails of highly charged but as yet directionless hormones like the vapour trails of unpiloted jumbo jets left in their wake as they speed from one lounge to the next, experiencing for the first time the thrill of being stared at by 11-14 year olds from different schools, maybe even different countries. The more advanced ones will be found at the bottom of a stairwell energetically snogging an exotic French teenager, the two of them joined at the mouth like the nozzles of a couple of rogue vacuum cleaners, before declaring their undying love for each other and wandering off in separate directions to over-exaggerate their achievements and potentially find someone else to face-hoover, this clumsy, self conscious dance of pubescent love taking place in front of an audience of surly, tattooed, Estonian lorry drivers.

For everyone else the ferry from Dover to Calais can only be a sophisticated attempt by P&O to reimagine hell.

We've been to London and then the Lake district for a wedding. It was a nice trip. The thing I miss most about London are the pubs. Of course the French have lots of cafes and bars that it's perfectly easy to get drunk in - they sell the same beers, the same wines, but for some reason it's not like being in a pub. This perplexed me for a little while until I realised the big difference between them is French cafes and bars aren't designed with the sole purpose of getting you shit faced.