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:

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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*.


 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


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!

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


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:

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.




Monday, 8 June 2015


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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.