29th July 2012

Last week we were in England - bombarded by Olympics' news everywhere.  As expected, M25 traffic at a standstill, then had to pay for the privilege at the Dartmouth bridge toll-booth.   Inner-city road lanes much too narrow for our French left-hand drive car. The people - as usual, depressing self-deprecating characters everywhere - and that was just in our car! 
And then I saw the Olympics' opening ceremony.  That showed exactly what it's like to be English - completely mad, off-the-wall but brilliant.  No other country could have devised such a thing. 'Normal' countries would've produced something like youngsters training to be fit for the future and linking all 5 continents in a blaze of fireworks or something, but we don't seem to do 'normal'. The English production could've been a disaster but wasn't. I loved the way it moved from rural to the industrial age, using characters like Brunel, Shakespearian words and actors, reminding the world of our heritage. Fantastic. And when a torch-holder was asked how it felt, he said 'hot'! But then I saw yesterday's usual British sporting disappointments. Same old, same old. Him Indoors says our competitors must've been told to '..go Fourth and multiply...'!

22nd July 2012

Our son, like most of the younger generation, understands modern media systems much more than we do.  After all, my family didn't get a TV until I was about 10 years old and it wasn't until I was at least 14 before we even had a telephone - fixed line of course.  (You remember the type:  heavy black base with stiff dial and brown rope cord). It sat in the corner waiting to ring with bad news. Never did it occur to my (depressive) family to use it for bright, chatty reasons. There it stood to be used only for dire reasons.
So, a few days ago I told our son what I missed most from England was BBC radio - especially Radio 4.  It would go some way to combat my depressive leanings. Of course we already receive English TV via satellite, and I know that I can receive English radio via the internet or if I want to keep our large TV on all day.  But, what I really wanted was a simple, cheap radio that I can leave on all day without worrying something might burn out!  Result:  said son went out to LeClerc and bought 2 speakers (one with an off/off switch and volume contol) + cable, then expertly wired it to the satellite box.  Et voila!  It all works brilliantly, the radio stations being programmed via our TV handset. Apparently we're lucky we live on the Western side of France - it may not be possible further East.
Tomorrow's media headlines:  BBC radio combats depression - that's until you hear the global news that is.

15th July 2012

Yesterday was Bastille Day. Fireworks all night frightening the dog, and for what? To celebrate when Madame Guillotine cut people's heads off.
Back in 1889 there was even a proposal to erect a 900 feet high guillotine in Paris in its honour. Fortunately, the organisers of the Paris Exhibition back then plumped instead for a monstrous tower designed by a nobody called Alexandre Gustave Boenickhausen-Eiffel. Even so, people were just as alarmed as our dog. What? A giant iron structure that has absolutely no function at all?  Madness. And yet today, there it stands - possibly the most famous city icon of all. (Even the Statue of Liberty has the same internal iron structure). But, in today's super-tech world, queuing and ticketing problems have led the Parisians to tinker with the famous design. Because the Champs de Mars is a protected site, another two floors are to be added but below street level. So, the existing barriers and ticket offices can be removed, freeing up more space under the tower.
However, as in 1889, Parisians say it's all madness.  The giant iron legs will fall in and crush whole neighbourhoods below. And Him indoors:  I always said Parisians are in-Seine....

8th July 2012

Sometimes bizarre things happen. Saturday Toulouse was really jumpin'.  Like most of France, shops were busy with their annual sales - held nationally from 27 June 'til the end of July. Buoyed up, after saving 23 euros, we headed for the metro at Capitole. Now a dab hand at the ticket machine manoevres, we waltzed through the turnstiles and marvelled again at the wonderful synchronised doors that save so many lives at the platform.  We whizzed through the now familiar stations to the terminus at Balma Gramont. Walking towards the escalators Him indoors searched for our metro tickets. Oh, I blithely told him, we don't need those any more as all outgoing turnstiles open without them. So, he threw them in a waste bin. And there, at the top of the escalator, right in front of the turnstiles was a line of policemen!  Identity cards and tickets please, they shouted.  I went cold. This had never happened before. One approached us. Er, we don't have an identity card as we're not French. And, er, we don't have a metro ticket as we threw them away. He looked sceptical.  Bizarrely, he asked us where exactly. What?  Oh, in the waste bin down there. I pointed vaguely. So, the policeman led Him indoors away to rummage in a wastebin like a vagrant. Thankfully he found both tickets, and after checking my credentials the policeman allowed us to leave. Phew. That was a close call, said Him indoors. P'raps I shouldn't have asked if I could help him with his enquiries?

1st July 2012

July. Hot and sultry here.  Sometimes all you can do is close the shutters, switch on the air-con and watch TV. And for sport lovers, what a spectacle.  Yesterday at Wimbledon - at last a worthy British player in Murray. And today's the Euro football final between Spain and Italy.  Looks like it was their week too in politics. Not only did they get together to scupper Angela Merkel by threatening to block everything unless she agreed to do something re all that financial pain, but it actually worked without a drop of blood being spilt.  Ah, what would Churchill have said?  To jaw jaw is always better than to war war.  Yes, yes, yes! No more ridiculous bloody wars like the 100 year war between England and France.
So, as Cameron deliberates whether to agree to a UK referendum on the EU, he should think long and hard.  Joe Bloggs on the red double-decker will undoubtedly vote to come out of the EU. But, the common man doesn't always see the wider picture.  Whether it's tennis, football or summits between european nations, all that democratic aggression joined together peacefully in contained settings is far better for settling differences.   Ultimately that's the test. Why else has Europe been without war for so long?