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.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

A visit to the bank

When attempting to open a bank account in any country, the first question one must always ask oneself is: if I was a bank manager, would I give a bank account to a man who has only done his shirt up to his navel?
On the one hand he's confident. He's got something about him. He's going places, a game changer, a man who makes things happen. On the other hand, although he's clearly the kind of guy all men want to be, is he too much of a loose cannon? Will he write cheques his butt can't cash?

I decided to go with the 'shirt done up to below the navel' option, revealing a tantalising glimpse of what I had to offer as a new client – a gamble that I felt sure would pay off with the offer of a huge overdraft and several credit cards, but then Rose said she'd refuse to leave the house with me unless I buttoned up my shirt so I did that instead.

To open a french bank account you need proof of identity (passport/ driving license) and proof of address (utility bills). This can be a problem as often to rent properly (and thus get utility bills in your name) you will be required to have a French bank account. In our case we are in a long term holiday let, so we didn't have any bills. Our landlord wrote us a letter instead, which did the trick.

Opening a French bank account is like opening an English bank account in that they ask you lots of questions you don't understand and you sign a load of papers that you haven't read. After half an hour of watching our bank manager fill in forms on the computer he handed us a wad of print outs and shook our hands so I think we opened an account, but for all I know we might have just signed up to the French foreign legion. It will be interesting to see what arrives in the mail, a bank card or orders to depart to the Sahara for basic training.


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

40 degrees

Tomorrow it's going to be 40° C in the Auvergne. While the rest of Europe will be hiding in the coldest darkest corners of their houses only coming out in the evening when the garden furniture has stopped melting, we intend to take on the heat full in the face. Rose likes to call it 'aggressive tanning'. We do it because we are British and the sun is to the British as bad career choices are to Rebecca Loos.
 

 I will put my speedos on, cover myself in goose fat and lay on the outside table humming hymns from my childhood.

By the end of tomorrow, if all has gone to plan, I should be looking something like this:

Article featured image

Monday, 29 June 2015

White Renault hatchback

If you are driving along a country lane in France, even if you haven't seen another car in days, within twelve seconds you will find a white Renault hatchback millimetres from your rear bumper trying to overtake. You can speed up if you like. By all means speed up. Go at 100 miles an hour. It won't make any difference. The white Renault hatchback will still be there, and it will still be angry with you.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

This is a winery. Where is the wine?

We've been over to Givry visiting my parents for a couple of days. Givry is a small Burgundian town dating back to the Gallo-Roman era and it's famous for its listed buildings and wine, but you don't want to know about that. You want to know about the night of the four accordions.

There was some kind of wine and music festival taking place. All sorts of interesting things going on. Despite this we managed to get tickets to see four Portuguese accordionists. On the plus side it was taking place in grounds of a famous winery - chance if ever there was one to get drunk on top quality gear.

The setting was spectacular - a grand winemakers court yard flanked by vineyards. The sun falling over the hills. The movers and shakers of southern Burgundy dressed to the nines.

We strolled in through the large gate. Where is the wine? I thought immediately. Nobody had a glass in hand. We sat down at that back. My father always recommends sitting at the back and close to the exit in case the event is dire. This is a winery. Where is the wine? A flicker of panic. I reassured myself, This is a winery. Any minute now they are going get a fire-hose out and soak the entire audience with their finest Burgundian red. They are going to throw buckets of chardonnay over us from the branches of the trees.

Four plump, swarthy, well dressed men emerged at the back of the crowd, shirts undone to below the chest, surveying us with disdain. Oh fuck. The accordionists have arrived. Where is the fucking wine? It was too late. I looked desperately at the trees above us. Nobody with a bucket in sight. I had the terrible realisation that we were in an event too posh for boozing. But... But... this is a winery? The Accordionists strode onto the stage as if they had been crafted from the ego of god. They gurned and made furious noises from their instruments for an hour. Everybody clapped. Nobody had any wine. As we left we noticed the winery setting up for some kind of wine tasting, but it was too late by then. They had broken me. We went home and I rubbed red wine into my eyeballs.

I asked my mother what she thought of the event: "Needed more accordionists."


Monday, 22 June 2015

Féte de la Musique

I went to the village's annual Féte de la musique. Rose was back in London so I was on my own. I was blown away with the thing. Whereas similar events in Britain nowadays are solely concerned with generating maximum profit, the French, in a move that will strike British events organisers as utterly baffling, still put the emphasis on actually having a good time.

The Fete was free. The beer was cheap. You could see the stage. And this was the best bit - where as events in Britain tend to be segregated by age (a British teenager would sooner throttle themselves to death than attend a social gathering with their family), at the French fete everyone was there: teenagers, young children, parents and really, really old people in wheel chairs. Everyone was mixing together, chatting, having fun and dancing to what was one of the dirtiest, loudest heavy metal bands I have ever encountered. I shit you not. Don't get me wrong, this band were good. Not enough spandex and giant hair and 1980's rock for my particular tastes, but they were still good. But man were they heavy.

At one point the singer was singing a song that was specifically about her backside while a group of primary school children gleefully span each other round at the front of the stage. Every now and then the singer would hold her microphone out towards the crowd and the children would, as one, shout something back that could well have been 'ARSE'. It was fucking brilliant. If I had any criticism of the gig at all it's that I was the only one throwing glasses of urine at the stage*.


"ARSE!"


 In the UK it's more important that you're seen to like the right sort of music than to actually have fun. That metal band would never have got a gig like that in England. Over here they are open minded. It could have been happy hardcore and there'd still have been grannies dancing around in their wheel chairs. It's a much better way to be. I suppose what I am really trying to say is you should all give up your prejudices and embrace 1980's poodle rock. OK. Fine. It was worth a try.


*I didn't really.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

***NEW*** MUST HAVE GADGET

I just bought a cannon that holds a brandy bottle! We've also just bought a house in the Loire Valley, but mostly I've just bought a cannon that holds a brandy bottle! I mean come on! Are you kidding me! It looks like a cannon but it's brandy!


video

It's kind of like the new ipad

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Barry White

I noticed two lizards on our wall staring at each other from a distance of about a metre. I decided I was witnessing some kind of Romeo Juliet moment, each lizard desperate to be entwined in the lizardy body of the other but neither having the guts to make the first move. We've all been there, except not with lizards. Some of us with lizards perhaps. I'm not here to judge, just as long as you take precautions.
10 minutes passed and nothing happened so I decided to help things along by putting my speaker outside and playing some Barry White music to oil the cogs of lizard love (Good name for a band). To my surprise they responded. It turned out that they weren't engaging in a mating ritual, what I was witnessing was an aggressive stare down over a piece of turf and I watched on, helpless, as a gruesome battle to the death ensued to the sound of 'You're my first, my last, my everything'.

"Is that a tail on your ass or are you just pleased to see me? Oh, it's a tail. Totally cool with that."

Friday, 19 June 2015

Thursday, 18 June 2015

French language school 2

I have somehow marked myself out as the class weirdo. Today I accidentally announced that I sometimes wore lace and nobody seemed surprised.

I am also the worst french speaker in the class. Seeing the look of despair on those poor teenagers faces as I spend 20 minutes attempting to explain why I like pizza is heartbreaking. When the last person into the classroom realises the only empty seat is on my table they'll often let out an audible gasp. At least I'm improving their punctuality.

I'd imagine being in a french language class with me is as irritating as being trapped in a room with a man telling you a never ending run of misremembered jokes. Except I've been punctuating my attempts at french language with misremembered jokes so it's worse.

Tomorrow is our last day at french language school. I may be wrong but I think I saw them taking in a delivery of fireworks.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

French language school

I'm doing an intensive french language course.
There's nothing like being in a class of teenagers to make you realise how far you've let yourself go.

We had to write about a dream we'd had. The teacher said that it should be bizarre as dreams often are bizarre. She didn't say how bizarre though, and now nobody will look me in the eye.

There's an Irish woman in my class who speaks quite good french but in a thick Dublin accent. "I'll learn your words but if you think I'm going to sound like a Frenchman you can fuck off" I'd imagine is her view. Tremendous.

The animal is back in the roof. My mum and dad are coming to stay next week. I think it's good timing as it sounds like it's renovating the loft.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Level crossings

If there's one place where you need clear instructions on whether you should stop or go it's a level crossing right? Wrong! In France they like to give you a flashing amber light which signifies that you'll probably be ok.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Sausage

At the local market today the man at the sausage stall was explaining what each sausage was made from. He didn't know the english for one of them so he attempted to mime the animal in question. "Is it a donkey?" I joked. "No" he said, pointing at another sausage, "This one is donkey."

Friday, 12 June 2015

House hunting in France

Our estate agent was called Luc. He kidnapped us at 11am and released us around about 5pm after showing us 9 properties across an area the size of Wales. I have nightmares about trying to keep up with his silver Citroen van as it careered across roundabouts, scattering children and terrified pensioners, while he sporadically pointed out of his window with one hand and ate a baguette with the other. I couldn't tell you what he was pointing at as we were traveling at the speed of sound. I couldn't tell you what he was steering the car with either. Sheer desire maybe. What you've got to remember about French estate agents is they are house showing machines. At one point he began showing us houses that weren't even for sale. I thought at this moment that his head was going to start spinning round before exploding, a stream of business cards spraying into the air from his neck.


When do we move in?


Whilst driving round France we have become addicted to a French radio station called Nostalgie. It plays a mix of old English classics and old French class... songs. However it is not possible to receive it in all parts of France so we are targeting our house buying areas on where Nostalgie reception is impeccable.

Most of the houses we saw were shit, but one had a turret and an island so Luc didn't have a complete shocker.

Luc insisted 28 times that we should make a list of the factors that are most important to us when looking for houses. My list looks like this:

Turret.
Island.
Radio Nostalgie.
Proximity to giant baguette machine.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

1980's rock

It turns out what we have living in our roof is a rodent called a Loir. They are supposedly harmless, although I'm not convinced as I'm sure I could hear it dragging a corpse around yesterday afternoon.

The way to get rid of them is to play loud music. I played my extensive collection of 1980's rock all afternoon. I was secretly hoping it would still be there when I'd finished as it would be nice to finally find someone who likes 1980's rock as much as I do, but by the time I had exhausted my catalogue of W.A.S.P, RATT and DOKKEN albums the little prick had fucked off. Rodents, like humans, have no taste in music.


LOIR

 

RATT

Monday, 8 June 2015

Ego

No sign of the snake this evening. It appears I'm not nearly as attractive to reptiles as I thought.

Rural

I think we may have to move house. When we first arrived the house was generously supporting two ants nests and 4,000 spiders. After a couple of days of hoovercide we had just about rid ourselves of the ants and spiders and I felt like Rose was coming round to staying in the house for the three months. Then France's most venomous snake staged an occupation on our terrace. We are back from 5 days in Provence and we can hear something living in the roof. Your first thought when you hear something living in the roof is 'rats'. However, judging from the noise it's making up there, my current thoughts are 'minotaur'.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Extra Large

I bought a t-shirt. The only one they had was a large size. I thought this would be too big for me as I like to buy medium or sometimes even small (clothes that are too small for you make you look bigger from a distance). Rose insisted that large in France is actually medium and that if anything it might be too small for me. She said I should try it on. I steadfastly refused. The man in the shop was also concerned and tried to convince me that I needed to try the t-shirt on before buying it, often talking directly to my stomach, but once again I steadfastly refused, demonstrating true British grit. When I got home and tried it on and it was much too small. Either the French are shrinking or I am getting bigger. Either way it's certain I will soon dominate the french landscape.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Outlaw

There were nuns in the cafe this morning. I have noticed several nuns following us around. At first I didn't know why, but I read an article about french by-laws which said it is illegal to mow the lawn on the afternoon of the sabbath. I spent many, many hours in the Loire mowing the lawn on sabbath afternoons. I believe I have become an outlaw, hunted by nuns, the police women of God.

Back on the Cours Mirabeau today but in a cafe called Les Deux Garcons. Service here was impeccable. Favourite part of the lunch was watching french waiters unsuccessfully attempt to operate a bottle of heinz ketchup.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Cézanne

Back from lunch in a café on the Cours Mirabeau in the heart of Aix-en-Provence. Apparently Cézanne spent a lot of his time in the cafes of the Cours Mirabeau, which leads me to believe he derived much of his artistic inspiration from appalling service.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Provence

We are staying in Aix-en-Provence. In Aix-en-Provence there is nothing to do but sit in cafes watching people walk by. Presumably they are making their way from one cafe to another. In one cafe we sat next to a man with 'my life is krazy' tattooed on his arm. My initial thought was if you have to have a tattoo telling people your life is crazy, it's probably not that crazy, but then I noticed he had spelt crazy with a K. Touché, cafe man.

Many of the towns in Provence have had a defining influence on the modern world. The town of Orange is where the Orange fruit was invented. The town of Gap was of course the birthplace of the gap and the town of Apt was where the concept of aptness was realised, which is apt because it is called Apt. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Certain death

Great news! The asp vipers only come on to our terrace in the evenings! I mean, what the ruddy fuck?
The french need to get control of their asp vipers before I take the law into my own hands and run for my tubby little life.


 Asp viper? Ass wiper more like! Ha ha!... yeah... don't tell it I said that.


I realise now that everything in rural France wants to eat us.

Shops

Our current village is operating the classic french system of making sure that on any given day at least one shop will inexplicably be shut. While my French isn't brilliant I'm fairly sure the timetable of when the bakery is open, told to me by a friendly lady in the newsagents, veered at times into a discussion of quantum mechanics.

It's mystifying that they seem to know what shop you particularly require on any given day before shutting it. I'm going to sweep the house for bugs. Talking of which, does anybody know any good mosquito deterrents? They don't respect my yellow belt in Ju Jitsu and so far I've been unable to get any of the little fuckers in a headlock.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Buttons

Rose says you can tell how long an expat has been in France by how far down they unbutton their shirt. A newbie like me will only unbutton to just above the chest region revealing a tantalising glimpse of hair, but presumably a veteran will continue unbuttoning as far as they can go. That's why the longer you stay in France, the more important it is to wear trousers with a zip fly.

Last night we played Boules. Like darts, boules is a game designed specifically so that you never have to put down your drink. The object of the game is to throw large metal balls at each other's feet. Rose won.

We went to Vichy today. Vichy is where Nazi's set up a puppet French government during their occupation in the Second World War. They make nice mints though so it's cool.

Everywhere you go there in Vichy there are Vichy mints. They attract tourists from miles around. The town of Extra Strong take note.


Sunday, 31 May 2015

Auvergne

In many ways people in France are the same as people in London. The big difference I've noticed is in France they don't use the fact that you haven't yet been acquainted as a reason to despise everything about you.

We've moved to the Auvergne. It's volcano country. Apparently there's a volcano theme park so we are already winning on several fronts. Our new village is home to an historic Abbey. All very well you might think, but the nuns hog the mini golf course. 



So proud of his spicy urine he put it in a sachet

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Pubs.

We went back to London for a few days. I don't miss much about London, but I do miss the pubs. That's one thing the French will never do better than the English. On paper it's not that hard to do a pub. Serve beer, don't offer table service and yet I've been to countless French bars and they all get so close until you sit down at a table and some fucker comes over and takes your order and you think to yourself 'They've ruined it'.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Windy

It's windy [something about too many beans in the casolet if that's your sense of humour - I'm not going to make that joke - way too classy]. Weather in France is like English weather but ruder and more arrogant. Sometimes with good reason. A large branch has fallen down. I'm not really sure what to do with it. There's a chance I'll throw it into the neighbour's garden. A problem shared etc.

This morning the croissants from our local bakery weren't up to their usual standard. I'd imagine a frenchman would probably take his half eaten croissant back to the bakery and rub it into the baker's face, but seeing as they were still 10 times better than anything you get in England I rubbed them into my face.

This wine was made by the French easy listening singer Michael Vouvray.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Fuck you, London.

I note that London is currently hosting a coffee festival. Well fuck you, London, because here in Braslou (pop. 115) we are having an Asparagus festival. Has London decided to hold the coffee festival at the same time to steal our thunder? Almost certainly. Will it work? Put it this way, the man drinking white wine in our local bar at 10.30AM doesn't think so.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Birds.

You wouldn't normally associate anti social behaviour with rural France, but a bird just flew into our kitchen and did a shit on our floor. I don't advocate revenge, but let's just say that bird has a little treat waiting for it when it gets back to its nest.

Monday, 27 April 2015

French drivers and 100 litres of wine.

'Let's be honest here. Let's all get our nuts out on the table'. That's a phrase I'm trying to bring into polite conversation.

French drivers are on the whole better than the English, but annoyingly they don't thank you if you pull in to let them past on a narrow road. Now if they stop to let me past to demonstrate my gratitude and spread goodwill I've taken to pulling up alongside them and giving them a double thumbs up for up to a minute. 

We've moved to the Loire valley. It's fucking hot. I have set an all time record of getting sunburnt 27 days in a row. One day I sunburnt myself purple. I have several tans.

The house is the height of luxury. We have a four poster bed and an area in our bathroom where you can lay down and dry naturally. No bidet though. I'm improvising using a garden hose and a ride-on lawnmower.

Insects everywhere. That's country living for you. I've found a website that tries to reassure you by telling you how good they all are for the environment. Radiation is good for the environment up to a point, but I wouldn't want it in my bath.

The other day someone gave me the address of a wine producer where you can buy a 100 litre vat of wine. I'm currently scouring supermarkets for a bigger glass.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Hair by Phil


Got my hair cut by the French. I took a picture with me so I could point to it when the hairdresser was asking me how I wanted it done (if I knew when he was asking me how I wanted it done). The hairdresser was the spitting image of Phil Jupitus.
Phil Jupitus asked me how I wanted it done. I pointed to the picture I had brought. Phil Jupitus looked at it disapprovingly and pointed to a picture of a man with an extreme haircut on the wall. I pointed back to my picture. Phil Jupitus paused for a moment as if weighing up his options and then pointed to the picture on the wall. I realised at that point that Phil Jupitus only does one hair cut. On my way back to the car I noticed other men who got their haircut by Phil Jupitus. 
Earlier in the week we stayed in a hotel by the sea. It was the same hotel that featured in the legendary french film La vacances de M. Hulot. Me neither. 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

PARIS and the Hyper U

People often describe Paris as the city of love, but both times I've been I got the shits so make of that what you will. having said that, it is a beautiful city. If you haven't been it's like London but they have cafés on every corner meaning there are more places to sit and watch the squalor rolling by. We're just back from a three day break there.

 

Parisian architecture - second to none.



Other trips we have made are:
  • City of Rennes x 1
  • Mont Saint Michel x 1
  • Hyper U supermarket x 26.
Rennes was very nice, Mont Saint Michel was spectacular, but neither of them come close to our local Hyper U. We go all the time, regardless of whether we need to buy anything. And you can buy anything there. My most recent acquisitions were two pairs of pants from the brand 'Urban Way', an electric razor, some firelighters and 1kg of yoghurt. I identify with the brand 'urban way' because it shares my core values of being urban and living in supermarkets.


 Pilgrims travel for thousands of miles to worship at the giant tap of Mont Saint Michel.


Last night we went out for a friday night boozathon in the local village. We were home in 20 minutes. Of the two bars one was empty and the other had deftly managed to distill everything that's wrong with the English into three middle aged expats sitting round the bar. One man in particular was completely unacceptable. He spent the 20 mins we were there chatting up the woman behind the bar in the crudest terms at the top of his voice with his wife sat next to him. They were all so bored. It was a timely warning - learn the language or you'll be forced to hang around with people you can't bare because they are the only people you can communicate with.

The novel is coming on well. It's pretty much finished. It's already being described by critics as "I haven't read it yet" and "what novel? Why are you standing outside my house." 

Rose made a giant horse.

Next week we go to the seaside. I'm going to tear the seaside a new a-hole. It's the urban way.

I'm catching on.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

First dance with the ruddy Frenchies.


We have found ourselves in a hamlet in Brittany. Closest city is Rennes. There are 10 other houses and no shops in our Hamlet. Whilst trying to find the bins I met a farmer called Didier. He was very friendly. I think that we will soon be best friends. I had no idea what he said, but we shook hands and he didn’t set his dog on me which in France is considered a term of endearment. The conclusion I have drawn from my initial encounters with the French is that they don’t speak very good French. Luckily for them I have arrived so that I might guide them. One day I will be the Prince of France.

Nearest village with a shop is called Bazouges La Perouges (translates as Bazooka that Veruca). The pizza van turns up in Bazooka on Wednesday evenings. Who needs London. 

 
 What is this sorcery? The French have interbred horses with goats to create some kind of super animal.

 I am certain the French are preparing for another invasion, but they have been very friendly to us since we have arrived, presumbably because we are already here so there’s no need to invade us. Sometimes it's eerily quiet over here though so probably planning an invasion.

 
 Came across this scene on a path by a lake. One of the things I admire most about the french is their liberated attitude to sex.