28th October 2012

An unsettled week - in mind and body. Following our neighbour's faux pas in calling the police on us, we watched as a steadily-growing heap of leaves and branches rose next door.  Sure enough, last Monday the unmistakeable smell of pungent smoke. Our hypocritical French neighbour had lit his own fire!  'Momzer' shouted Him indoors.
To take my mind off things, I decided to watch the Miranda programme on TV. She's a tall, ungainly English comedienne, whom everyone tells me is just like me!  Every time I watch her, all the inner gaucheness and inferiority of my youth come to the fore.  Arriving at a grand occasion in posh wrap-around gown, she slammed shut the taxi door, a bit of the dress caught and the taxi drove off with dress flying along with it - leaving her just in her underwear.  My worst nightmare.
So, TV was no good.  I know, I'll hang up our new curtains that good friends had made up for me.  The rail was too high, so I fetched the step ladders - ensuring the lock was tight - and proceeded to climb up.  Said step-ladders must have been faulty, ladders and me collapsing in a heap on the floor.  Now bruised not just in pride but body also.
Meantime, Him indoors - still smarting in mind and nostril - marched down the garden to confront the neighbour. Having just read about the classic Dreyfuss affair, and feeling confident about French history, he shouted what sounded like 'Jack Hughes, Jack Hughes!'  What?  What?  Oh, you  mean that condemnation by Emile Zola 'J'accuse'.  Said neighbour continued blithely on with his gardening.

21st October 2012

So the Scots are to have an in/out referendum on being part of the UK.  I fear this is the stepping stone towards one for the UK being part of the EU.  We all know what the answer to that one would be. I remember a certain phrase from the past:  Maggie, Maggie, Maggie - out, out, out!   In times of uncertainty, people cling to their own little tribe - a warm, cosy unit where we all feel safe.  But, politically, it's an illusion.  Things have changed.
As an ageing expat I realise that the England I miss isn't really the one I left behind. The England of my youth seemed so much better than the England of today. Fond memories of respect for our elders and authority, coupled with the absence of global TV, meant that our ignorance was bliss.  But now no-one wears rose-tinted glasses any more:  the harsh reality of life is laid before us every minute of every day. Today's British youth have never experienced the appalling casualties of war - and the ones who did are now almost gone.  We must never forget - ever. The recent Noble Peace Prize awarded to the EU is very timely. Current EU inequalities, with some democratic tweaking, can in time all be ironed out. For centuries life in the old tiny, nationalistic countries proved disastrous.  So, if we get an in/out referendum on the EU - vote IN, loud and clear.....much better than the alternative.

14th October 2012

No smoke without fire.....
We've had some lovely warm days lately, so even I was tempted outside. When's the best time to light a fire? I asked Him indoors.  Always a difficult question, as the French law seems so unclear. Each departement has a different code.  Some say a garden fire is o.k. if it's at least 200m away from the nearest house, others say more than 50m, whilst some areas have no discernible law at all.  Some expats on bonfire night each year invite people around (including the Maire!), and light a huge bonfire. All year we regularly see fireworks exploding in neighbouring gardens - presumably for family celebrations.
.....so we both agreed - should be o.k. to light a fire; do it during the day so we can be sure to put it out before nighttime. Soon a plume of sweet, grey smoke was blowing lazily sideways right at the bottom of our very long garden - well away from any houses. I resumed my weeding until Him indoors shouted 'The police are at the gate!'  You're joking?  For once, he wasn't.  'We've had a call. You must put the fire out', they said.  'Who on earth called you?' They looked sheepish.What kind of person calls the police on a neighbour?  In my book you should never, ever make an enemy of your neighbour. They are often the nearest person to help in times of crisis. I'll never understand the French mindset.

7th October 2012

One of the first things I did when we arrived in France was to buy a giant English:French dictionary. It's not just the words I needed to know, but the phrases.  But for Him indoors, all he needs is the free catalogue from Brico Depot.  Armed with this and the phrase 'avez-vous quelque-chose comme ca?', he's happy.  One of the reasons he liked this house in the first place was its proximity to this store. Our railings and gate were rusty and badly in need of freshening up  so last week we set off to buy some blue paint. Now, you'd think that because so many houses in the Midi-Pyrenees region have blue shutters, this colour would be easy to find.  Wrong.  Even Brico didn't have any, but what they did have was this amazing, computerised mixing machine.  I'd never seen one before, but it seems they take a tin with some sort of colourless liquid inside, put it into a kind of kiln, type onto a keyboard a magic reference code, and voila - out comes a tin with blue paint.  Back home at chez-nous, the job was going well until Him indoors tried to fix the tin to a hook on his ladder....you guessed it, the tin fell, and a pool of bright blue paint went all over the concrete in front of the garage!
Neither he nor I needed a dictionary or the Brico catalogue - the language was already blue!  Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'the job needed doing badly'......