24th June 2012

Last week was the Journee du Patrimoine, its 2012 theme being food. I'd invited five new friends round to chez-nous. As usual, I panicked. It all started when we'd been invited round to lunch in Toulouse one Saturday a few weeks ago. We had a great time, walking through the beautiful Jardin des Plantes near the Esquirol metro, and meeting all these lovely new people. But now it was my turn. First worry: the menu. Our French guests had roots in five different countries, and our veggie son also had to be accommodated, so I didn't want to disappoint. Watching the culinary horrors of  'Come Dine with Me' on TV, I realised the best way was to cook everything in advance, so I prepared chilled fresh tomato soup, slow-cooked goulash (for our friend from Russia) with potato latkes and red onion pie (for our son), followed by fruit compote with cherries and other fruits from our garden. A minor disaster: one fruit compote dish fell over in the fridge directly onto a soup dish below! Fortunately, the tinfoil cover took the damage.  How did it go? T.G.: a resounding success, so much so that our Russian friend wants to buy my cookbook! But, Him indoors nearly ruined everything when they arrived by saying he was on a seafood diet: 'when I see food, I eat it'.....

17th June 2012

Nerves are jangling all over Europe. No, not the football - though being an England supporter is bad enough.
Despite beating Russia no less, have the Greeks lost their Marbles? Today's the day when we'll all find out.  I've never known an election so closely watched by other nations.  France's new leader Hollande is as nervous as everyone else.  Three days ago he was interviewed on Greece's Mega TV channel. If the Greeks vote for Tsipras from Syriza, the anti-austerity party, Hollande's in trouble. Major French banks - particularly Credit Agricole - are heavily indebted to Greek banks like Emporiki, and could even fall if the euro collapses. He's even got problems at home. New partner Valerie Trierweiler has her sharp nails firmly embedded into his cast-off partner Segolene Royal. Valerie is actively supporting Segolene's political opponent in France's local elections!
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! But surely it should be poor Segolene, his former partner of 30 years and mother of his 4 children, not Valerie?  Ironically, the famous phrase is from a poem called 'The Mourning Bride' - something I suspect Valerie, like her predecessor, will never be!
As ever, Him indoors:  It's all Greek to me.

10 June 2012

It's now a year since we moved to Gaillac, and our son is visiting.  A good time.  We decided to take him to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum in nearby Albi - the capital of our region.  The museum is very grand, housed in the stately Berbie Palace, but beware:  the prices are as steep as the steps leading to it!  There was a 'family ticket' for two adults and a child 'over 13'.  Him indoors says that certainly fitted us, but somehow the cashier didn't agree. Perhaps if our married son had been wearing short trousers?  Anyway, onwards and upwards we trekked, from one dark room to another.  I liked the impressionists the best. There's something about all that riot of colour and faces and action that really appeals. Very stimulating.
Lautrec lived in Albi, where he was born in the late 19th century, his family being descendents from a long line of Counts of Toulouse. The man himself was a bit of an exhibitionist - a bit like Him indoors really, who enjoyed the whole exhibition enormously. Well, he would, wouldn't he, with all those nude paintings and statues. But the security guard kept telling him to move along - they were stock-taking!

4 June 2012

Queen Elizabeth II. Jubilee Time.  Everywhere I go, the French mention the Queen.  Do they regret axing their own monarchy at the infamous Bastille?
I'm old enough to remember the Queen's ascension to the throne - just!  All schoolchildren in the UK were given a silver spoon and commemorative mug imprinted with the Queen's face and the date.  Wish I still had them now, but I don't think they would be worth anything as so many were produced.  Many streets had their own party, with a long wooden trestle table down the middle of the road.  Jellies galore.  But, for me, it all brought back memories of how free children were back in the 1950s.  In the summer holidays I remember being sent out to play with the rejoinder:  come back at 6.00 for your tea.  I don't believe there was any less crime:  because it wasn't much reported (no TV or media saturation), no-one knew about it, therefore didn't worry.  Today in the UK, I think people like having a stabilising, continuing monarchy. It's a comforting, familiar thing against the uncertainties of the future.
And M. Hollande for the French?  People would prefer if he married his partner!  What on earth is he going to say when he makes a state visit to countries like Saudi Arabia, where it's a crime to have sex outside marriage? Also, how credible will he be to the Pope?
On verra.

3rd June 2012

I see that France is planning to axe cheques completely. As usual, it's the brainwave of some stupid government committee - probably a new suit aiming to make a mark (or euro!) for himself. Of course, the real reason is that banks at present make no money at all from cheques. Clearly this cannot continue!  But, for the ordinary consumer, what free alternative is there?  Using plastic and holding a current account costs us a monthly fee here, and is the reason for lengthy queues at the supermarket checkout - the canny French write cheques everywhere to save a bit of money. And, how would we pay the workmen who do renovation work at the house?  I've never yet met a plumber who carries a little card machine in his overalls.
Back in 2005 when we first arrived in France, we did have difficulties. How to work out the amount in French, then spell it out on the first line; how to write the amount in the box:  where to put the comma or the dot, etc. And, we noticed that for a couple, don't even think to call yourself M. et Mme on your cheques (better to be M. ou Mme) because then, on the demise of one of you, the remaining account holder would not be able to access the funds from the frozen account.
It's all been too much for Him indoors, who says he knows why we took out a joint account - because of his sprained wrist.