28th June 2009

I didn't intend watching Wimbledon because of all those grunting women players. So off-putting. But, tennis did develop in 12C France from a palm game called paume, and I had nothing better to do. And, once I'd hit the mute button, it was quite interesting.
Did you notice the uniforms that the officials were wearing? I think Wimbledon called in a so-called top fashion designer - probably one of the Queen's designers from nineteen hundred and frozen to death. All those office shirts with white collars, ties and tight white trousers....what on earth were they thinking of? These people - who tend to be middle-aged because of their years of experience in the game - have to lean forward at top speed to see whether the ball is out. (Incidentally, the ball popped out from the long skirt of one lady official like the goose who laid the golden egg). The last thing they need in the heat of summer is tight clothes, especially around the waist. What would I design? A simple light cotton tunic and loose cotton trousers (rather like hospital technicians wear) in Wimbledon colours of dark blue and green, so that they blend into the background - as do the ballboys/girls. This would also help disguise the many large-chested women officials! Why are English women so large-chested anyway? French women don' t seem to be; especially not the French player Mauresmo...but that's another story.
Did you see that other French player mid-week? He looked just like Sarkozy. But then, he did end up entangled with a young girl at the net on centre court, right in front of the cameras - no change there then!

21st June 2009

Following the terrible Air France disaster and yesterday's smaller air disaster in Eastern France, I see the investigators are still no nearer finding the reasons. Some say it was iced-up pitot tubes; others that it was the very stormy weather. What is clear is what I've always said, to much critical dismay, it remains dangerous to fly. In the air we all rely on myriads of things: pilot perfection, mechanical excellence, no turbulence, air traffic controller perfection, perfect flying by others, birds.......
So, I was interested to read about survival techniques in the Sunday Times. They talk my kind of language. 'Denial and inactivity prepare people well for the roles of victim and corpse!' So, I've very kindly listed below some survival tips for those about to gamble on flying. Ways to improve your odds:
1. Do not, like most people, freeze when something bad happens.
2. Do not follow your habitual patterns of behaviour. React instantly to the unexpected.
3. Memorise the safety card.
4. Remember where the exit doors are. If possible, sit right by one.
5. Wear suitable clothes. This is not the time to wear those 4 inch fashionista heels and tight-bandage dress. (Him indoors: please note).
6. Do not treat air travel like some kind of party in the air.
There are only 2 variables in air travel accidents: either complete disaster for everyone, or a situation where human pro-action can be the difference between life and death. Above all, think: what is your life worth?
Happy flying everyone.

14th June 2009

I was interested to see that the French euro coin still displays those historic words Liberté Egalité Fraternité. Freedom is such an emotive word. Yesterday, I was chatting to some English tourists in our local market. The sun was blazing down at 36 degrees, yet the topic of conversation was, for once, not the weather. 'You're so free here', said one. 'There are no yellow lines, no white lines, no Don't Park Here signs....', said another. Yes, she'd got it in one. But, is this just the difference between rural and urban living?
In yesterday's Telegraph, Columnist Vicki Woods compared the French capital with London. And her conclusion: 'After my trip to Paris, I long to be back with the free French'. Unlike at typical London rail stations, there were no barriers at the Gare du Nord. Taxis wait right outside the station entrance - all parked haphazardly on the cobbles bang outside, in a typically French muddle of 30 or 40 cabs, all arrayed like spilled matchsticks. There was no parking supervisor, no Community Support Officers(!) and no concrete bollards to give nameless officials their daily dose of schadenfreude. In typical joie de vivre, the cab driver threw Vicki's wheelie-bag in the back and began beeping his way out of the muddle. And in London? St. Pancras is laid out to annoy, confuse and cause the maximum discomfort to tired passengers, its taxi ranks miles away from the trains.
That's what I like about France. We don't want Big Brother cameras, yellow lines, traffic islands every few feet. Yes, life can be hazardous, but if you're brought up to respect others, man has sufficient brainpower to make his own decisions. He doesn't need them made for him to the n'th degree, as in the UK. That George Orwell knew what he was talking about.

7th June 2009

I always liked Vera Lynn, even though her songs were before my time. It was back when singers were famous for the quality of their voice rather than their dancing ability!
I was thinking of her yesterday whilst watching the news items in Bayeux on the 65th anniversary of the first D-Day liberation there. Sarkozy not only forgot to send the Queen an invitation, but also Dame Vera - both, in my view, instrumental in the allies' success, Vera winning over hearts and minds with her optimistic songs.
Surprisingly, Vera never came to France during the war to entertain the troops, although she gained her famous title 'The Forces' Sweetheart' from the British Expeditionary Forces in France. That was the result of a ballot run by the Daily Express for their favourite singer. Her programmes were heard all over Europe, people listening in cellars, haystacks, anywhere they were hiding.
She corrected her absence by buying a home in Golfe Juan in the Alpes-Maritimes, where for the past 30 years she and her husband Harry spend much of their time. At 92 she still has glowing skin and sparkling blue eyes - healthy like her French neighbours. She always felt that she would have been successful in France during the war years as "they sang my sort of song" - with a story to tell.
But We'll Meet Again is more than just a melody - it's the story of hope and courage of a whole generation, never to be forgotten.