29 June 2014

Just messing about on the river....
Him indoors and friend Barry decided to take a little canoe trip whilst Lynda and I waited on the bench. But, things didn't quite work out as planned. I knew I should've gone beforehand and translated for the boys, but 4 hours later and Lynda and I were still waiting! We foolishly thought they would just paddle along, then return the same way...wrong.  Eventually, wet, exhausted and bedraggled the boys appeared. It was apparently a seasoned group expedition and they were complete novices. Instructions were provided (in French) but were fixed to the back of the canoe, where neither could reach en route. They had to negotiate numerous weirs, lost an oar, had to ship water when it got waterlogged and had to manoeuvre along more than 5 miles of river before being picked up and brought back to us by van! Him indoors managed to fall in the water. How did you come to fall in the water? I didn't come to fall in the water, just to canoe.  Boat may have been multi-coloured, but they were certainly marooned.......

blog extra

For all those who know Bruno, and especially those who have criticised us for not training/controlling him properly:
I've always thought that, apart from us, the only person who has experienced long-term the behaviour of our Breton spaniel is our local kennel expert, Celine from Complexe Canine de la Gravie in Le Garric - the kennel where we leave him for extended periods whilst we are away.  Well, we have just picked him up after a 12-day stay with Celine and her comments were very interesting.  I told her about all the problems we had had with our Gaillac neighbours and that we were considering installing an electric wire around the fence. She said Non categorically. She told us that, in her view, Bruno is well-trained for the normal, everyday tasks like sitting on command and gentle with people, but that he has probably experienced a great shock as a puppy from his previous owner - undoubtedly a hunter - and that an electric fence would cause him even more distress. The shock as a puppy has left him mentally-disturbed:  he cannot cope with bangs, e.g. thunder (he bent the bars of the kennel there during a storm, but was calm thereafter), he is permanently anxious, and experiences what looks like mild epilepsy (an inherited gene common in Breton spaniels) which manifests itself by mad racing around the garden, followed by sudden stops into normal, calm behaviour again.  Exactement!! Tres bien, Celine.

22 June 2014

Two friends from Birmingham are visiting and it feels so good. Although I like all the 'material' things here - the sun, quality of light, bien manger - it's the internal things I miss most like chatting to old friends I grew up with. There's nothing like kindred spirits who knew you, your family and shared things from 50 years ago.  Yesterday we took La Croisiere boat ride along the Canal du Midi in Toulouse. An interesting journey, where 3 canals merge before flowing into the river Garonne. As we negotiated the lock gates, it reminded me of the old canal in Birmingham, running past the University to Gas Street Basin. For lunch, of course, we ate at my favourite place, La Faim des Haricots, before wandering around Place Capitole, listening to all the music in celebration of World Music Day. Wonderful day. Hot, not a cloud in the sky, happy people everywhere - not like back home where gloom abounds following England's failure in the World Cup. Will just have to turn our attention to the French team I suppose. Allez les bleus! As Him indoors says: nothing To-Lose.

15 June 2014

'Tis the season. Too hot, too many flies and England lost again. But we had a good time with our son, taking in the usual sights of Albi, Toulouse and St. Antonin.  I even managed to cook something different every night, even though he's vegetarian. Not much choice in restaurants: the French never understand. So, congrats again to Les Faim des Haricots in rue Puits Verts in Toulouse (just off Place Capitole).  Wonderful range, from the hot spinach quiches which I love, to the curry-style rice that the 'boys' liked. This time Jon took the Stansted to Rodez route. The ticket price of just 45 pounds return was just too cheap to resist, even though Ryannair takes every opportunity to charge extra for everything. I'm always good at taking the 'scenic route' when trying to find places first time, and this was no exception. Rodez was easy enough to find, but the airport? It was only at the 3rd attempt, hitting Rodez from the opposite(!) direction, that at last we hit the Ave de Decazeville and the tiny airport. For some reason it's well-signposted from this direction.. Probably cost us more in petrol than aviation fuel....oh well, old habits die hard.

8 June 2014

Son Jon is visiting this week and together we watched Britain's Got Talent last night. As usual, the one we all liked - a Sinatra-type group - didn't win. I've always liked the music of that era. There seems to be a great feeling of nostalgia at the moment, coupled with the Queen's visit to France this week. A true Francophile, HM speaks French well (albeit with an English accent). Had to smile when I learned that the usual Citroen C5 used to transport State guests to France had to be changed at the last minute for a higher-roofed Renault Vel Satis because the Citroen was too low for the Queen's hat!  Also heard that there were family ructions amongst the royals:  HM had asked for her favourite foie gras to be served, even though son Charles had previously banned it because of animal cruelty.  So even the highest families in the land have arguments! But certainly this 5th State visit had a big, big impact. Let's hope that this sense of friendship between nations, together with the coming World Cup, will give a loud message to the world:  forget old hostilities and work together with peace and harmony.....even Putin has shaken the hand of the new Ukrainian president so there's hope for us all yet.

1 June 2014

Sometimes in life you say or do something that's completely out of character. So it was last week when, in a fit of anger, I shouted to our neighbour - in my best French - that 70 years ago it was a good job Churchill was a better friend to De Gaulle than they were to us. And yet, on reflection, I'm not sorry. I'd been thinking of this Friday, the 6th, which marks the darkest day in French history.  It was a time to forget old rivalries and come to the aid of a 'neighbour' who was suffering and alone.  So it's fitting that Friday will see many Heads of State, royalty and dignitaries coming together at Sword Beach, Ouistreham to remember how it was back then. Don't forget there were many, like Chamberlain, who believed that appeasement was the answer to Germany's very different mindset.  But sometimes you have to stand your ground when you know you're right. There are times when you must fight (against a tyrant like Hitler who had to be stopped) and other times when, in answer to life's annoying, trivial irritations, you should turn a blind eye and offer the hand of friendship.  So, as Vera Lynn sings We'll meet Again, I and my family know that, but for Churchill, we wouldn't even be living today. Thank you, Mr. Churchill, for making the right decision 70 years ago. We must all do the same when standing on the other side of the fence.