30th June 2013

All is chaos and confusion here. What's new, you say? Well, the family is visiting, but it's not that. The day before they arrived, we picked up our two dogs from the kennels where they'd been staying for a week. All seemed fine, but the following day Tina, the gentle Springer, starting bleeding from the mouth - lots and lots of blood. We rushed her to the vet, who said she had been poisoned. Was it the neighbours, we thought?  They have been pretty condemning of us and our dogs lately. But the vet said he thought it was a bite from a viper. A venomous snake, you say, said Him indoors.  Then, it could still be the neighbour!  Anyway, Tina has needed to stay overnight at the vet's clinic and this morning we helped the vet give her a plasma transfusion, as well as antibiotics and vitamin K1 tablets - especially good for poisoning cases.
So, I'm very worried for the dog but also need to go out with the family. We are in constant touch with the vet via cell phone, so we'll see what happens.  In the meantime I must subtly teach the vet that the English word for how the dog responds is 'reaction', not 'erection' - hardly a normal word for a female dog!  More news next time......

23rd June 2013

Everything was set. The long-awaited Birmingham guests were arriving. Nothing could go wrong...Sunday rose with glorious sunshine. Friends arrived, all smiles.  First trip: the capital of the Tarn region, Albi - Cite Episcopale, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum was good, we gazed at the Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile, the largest brick cathedral in the world, and we were lucky to see a bride and groom. But then the wind blew and the mini-train was cancelled. Literally, a blow. Tuesday we did Toulouse, the pink city because of the sun's rays tinting the red bricks. But, all was not well.  The boat was cancelled due to floods. Black clouds loomed, thunder and lightening snaked down, so we ran to the metro. Disaster. Someone had pulled the emergency cord and all the trains had stuck!  How to get back to the car? Absolutely no taxis anywhere, so we asked and asked, eventually finding Bus No. 14 in the rain and gloom. Yesterday our friends wanted to treat us to dinner. Surely nothing could go wrong there. But....they have a special diet, one can't eat gluten, and fish was preferred. Not wanting yet another salad, we found a nice place. We ordered:  must be ordinary white fish, absolutely no crustaceans. A strange rubbery concoction arrived. Him indoors being intrepid cut off a sliver, then promptly spat it out - calamari, squid. Urgh!  And, I had to argue to get a big reduction in the bill. Today can only be an improvement, but with my luck....

16th June 2013

There's a local Riviera blog which says that quitting the EU could spell expat disaster. Well, yes!  Disaster for us certainly. Why? An EU withdrawal for British expats in France would be vindictive and severe. So, life for us would be a hassle - more than normal! Years ago Britons needed a Titre de sejour and queued for hours (or even days - so what's new) at the Prefecture alongside a rowdy mob of Asian and African immigrants all seeking the necessary papers to live legally here. British driving licences were not recognised so Britons had to switch to a French licence within 12 months or take the French driving test - yes, in French. Professional qualifications were not mutually recognised (in many cases they still aren't) so much was off limits and a working permit was near impossible to obtain.  And, the French Secu wouldn't cover either British visitors to France nor British retirees like us for mutual healthcare benefits - unless you could prove solvency and had your own private health insurance. Right. Have you ever looked at insurance rates for the over 65s? I told Him indoors all this and reminded him that he wasn't getting any younger. 'It's not  younger I wanna get, but older!' says he. Some things never change.

9th June 2013

For Him Indoors, it's LOL time again. We're meeting some friends at a charming little bistro in Verfeil, Tarn et Garonne. Its name?  La Seye et Vous, on the river Seye.  Normally, the French aren't known for their humour - you only have to look at po-faced M. Hollande.  At school we were told to 'Asseyez-vous'...hence La Seye et Vous.  Right up Him Indoors' street. But, this corruption of English into franglais is outraging some defenders of the language of Moliere, even though we're all doing it. At English railway stations 'the buffet is open', whilst in France 'Le snack bar est ouvert'.  How clever we think we are when we say things like 'it's de rigueur', only to hear the French themselves say 'c'est le must!'  Oh, the irony.   And nowadays there are endless opportunities in the fields(!) of sport and technology:  'le goal average' and 'scorer' (instead of 'marquer un but') and 'email' (instead of le courriel).  But you just can't substitute the irreplaceable 'bon appetit' for 'good eating' which we've heard recently, or even 'saumon pave' for 'salmon pavement'! However, we're all at it. When some English friends arrive next week we plan to take them along the River Garonne in Toulouse for 'le booze-cruising'.  Just try to scotch that, says Him Indoors.

2nd June 2013

What shakes me up more than anything else?  People coming to stay. Don't get me wrong - it's lovely having people round, but the 2 weeks before?  Panic.  I think of those awful TV programmes like Come Dine with me, where guests go round the house whilst you're busy in the kitchen, surreptitiously looking for dust on bedroom shelves, under beds etc. There's nowhere to hide, but where to start?  I sometimes think the 'worst' kind of houses are old French stone houses like ours.  Nothing quite seems to fit. Doors don't quite shut. Electricity isn't always reliable, the plumbing gurgling at night.  But, at least we've now had guest bathroom fittings installed - even though the ceiling height means those over 5' 10 will need to shower sitting down! Outside too, there are so many little wooden log cupboards, dog niches and the like - all full of spider webs and gecko-retreats. So, if guests expect the English norms of shiny brass door fittings, deep-pile carpet and patio doors that glide to perfection, they're in for a bit of a shock. There're other differences too which I've yet to fathom.  Why are French houses so often sited at angles to the road?  Sometimes they're facing sideways, like ours, and I've seen others with their backs to the front, if you see what I mean.  Bizarre. So, am I excited at people arriving?  Yes!  But are they prepared for the obvious culture shock - that's the question.