Search This Blog

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cabbage crates under the briny!

Ah oui! Demain we take the Eurostar from Lille Europe and make our way to the one of the least Euro friendly corners of Europe ie the UK. We give London nary a nod as we flit from Waterloo International to London Liverpool Street and thence to Colchester, Britain's oldest recorded town to attend the wedding of two very special people, our dear friends, Christine and Christopher. We'll be at the Rose and Crown.

Quote of the week:
to arrive at the grave safely, in a well
preserved body, but rather to skid in
sideways, totally worn out, shouting
"Holy shit, what a ride!"
- Mavis Leyrer age 83

Loving it.

Back next Thursday evening then off to Paris for the weekend. It's all aller here.

PS has anyone noticed my stunning new picture in my profile??
PPS Hens OK but still un peu shell-shocked in their new lodgings. Un oeuf would be enough but so far there has been rien.

Friday, February 17, 2006

On becoming a Henman...

In the early days of course I misheard the French and thought that I was being invited to go swimming at the local "poule". Pause for laughter. In fact it was the daily trek to the far end of the very long garden to see the hens and there to give them whatever left-overs that had not already been earmarked for the dogs (Gessy and Xena).

There is something quite calming about being with such fidgety beasts. They have almost no fear and will crowd around attempting to peck at my green wellies whilst I arrange their meal on the requisite tray, not that it stays there long as all four birds attack it with gusto and drag bits off to eat elsewhere. They seem especially to like worm-shaped food so I have taken to cutting things into that shape.

The second reason for the foray is to collect whatever eggs have been laid. Often they have managed one each and for that we are very grateful and appreciative. Sometimes when there are less, or even none, they are the target of much castigation. I realise of course that they make almost as good a target for my fledgling French as the dogs as they don't need to fully understand and they never correct!

I don't go every day, as they are really Renée's pride and joy. Yet on the days when she is otherwise engaged I take pleasure in the stroll, together with two joyous dogs, and the excitement of guessing how many eggs will await me.

I have even taken to checking on their water and grain situation and am rather solicitous of their physiological needs, not that it is likely they will ever attain self-actualization (am allowing the z as it is an American source) in quite the way that we may as humans. Perhaps they do in their own chickeny way.

At last the main point of this tale: la grippe aviaire or bird flu'. It has been decreed that the whole of France, every department, must now confine their birds. We have been giving this consideration and must act quickly for fear that a local collaborator may inform on us. We have two options: cull or confect alternative lodgings.

Watch this space.

Latest update Sunday 19th February. Hen heaven can wait! Max and I concluckeded a new shelter and the ladies suffered only a short-lived indignity of being caught and carried from the end of the garden to their new Chez-Nous! If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be constructing hen houses....

From Russia with love?

Quote of the week this week comes from Inna Svyatenko, chairwoman of Moscow City Council's security commission. Whilst not having any problem with the city's gay community she rather spoils her liberal views by saying:

"Gay people work freely in the city and are greatly respected for their contribution in areas such as retail and the creative professions.."

So that would be shopping and hairdressing then?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Quote of the week

Much as I would have liked to have awarded this week's accolade to Dame Lowri Turner, it is to another philospher we turn our attention, a chanteuse who continues to "fascinate" us at every turn, Miss Britney Spears. Her incisive comment: "I made a mistake and so it is what it is, I guess ". No comment needed, it speaks for itself.


We watched the opening ceremony of the 20th Winter Olympics last night. Many thoughts were running through my head as I looked into the eyes of athletes representing some 80 countries from across the globe. These were the ordinary faces of ordinary people who compete against each other in the name of sport. Happy, smiling, open faces of people who will experience the ecstasy of winning and the disappointment of losing, but above all the thrill of taking part and representing their home nation. You have to admire the dedication of some of these people whose homeland has never even seen a flake of snow.

As much as I am indifferent to watching the Olympics generally, I have to feel warm and fuzzy about the fact that they are taking place at all and that they do so in an atmosphere of co-operation and friendly rivalry. If they are fit and have trained enough and are good enough on the day then they stand the chance of gaining a medal in recognition. We are not concerned about the colour of their skin, their political persuasion, their religious beliefs nor their sexual orientation.

On a lighter note part of the fun of opening ceremonies at Olympic Games is to critique (slag off)the team outifits. My gold medallists, I am happy to announce, were France with the UK taking silver. Both teams forsook the tracksuit look and went for something more classic and smart. Well done! Germany stood out too but only for their vile (orange, green and white) combination of colours. A quick word for the Italian hosts - don't. That is to say , don't bother getting your togs überdesigned as it just doesn't work. Those shapeless Armani silver jumpsuits were RUBBISH and looked more like the bacofoil blankets given to those who have actually completed a race. And what was the music? I would have thought that light classical or just classic would have been perfect but what we got was 70s disco party! Sometimes you can tell when an event has been put together by committee...

Whilst there was something very attractive about the Winter Games, away from Turin, I found myself making a comparison with those who, far less attractively, feel the right to free speech has resulted in their religion being insulted. They are then prepared to resort to, at very least, assertive protest. To this they are entitled, and yet people have died (no doubt martyrs in some eyes) for this "cause". Where is the cooperation and the understanding - on both sides? It is often said that religion is the cause of most unrest in the world but that is oversimplifying. Sport and music more often bring peoples together and religion keeps them apart. Update 18 Feb: Iranians wishing to buy Danish pastries will now have to ask for "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad".

A parting note for today by way of thanks to the lovely Lowri Turner. If you can be bothered to take time off from choosing furnishing colours to read her inane Western Daily Mail ramblings (I suppose you are reading mine ) then the link is at the end of this piece.

As I say, Thanks, Lowri! You are absolutely right that the tedious and stressful job of leading our country should be the sole preserve of straight people with children, who make up the only group in our society who have any grasp of reality and any experience of what is important to "normal" people. With her wise and insightful words, Lowri has released us from the drudgery and banality of responsibility and allowed us permission to inhabit our fantasy worlds full-time , where life is so much more exciting. We can indulge ourselves fully in the enjoyment of frivolous creativity: choosing colour schemes, sourcing essential accessories, perming poodles and having a fabulously meaningless time. She should be made a Dame!!!

Read all about it! Click here

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Can a King commit treason?

Nature moves quickly to fill a vacuum and such is the case with states not possessed of a royal family. The US is perhaps the most obvious example: celebrity is royalty. Diana was their adopted princess for a while but her passing has meant a reversion to the norm. A "celebracy" is more democratic than a democracy headed by monarch or president. No one person is inflicted on the nation and you can be as fickle as you like in your choice of celebrity. Perhaps then it is not the individual celebrity but the concept of celebrity which is so powerful.
France has its political famille royale , les Chirac. Perhaps respected but hardly well-liked Jacques's "popular" vote at his re-election a couple of years ago seemingly gave him the most overwhelming mandate of modern time yet this was gained for no other reason than the fragmentation of the left which allowed Mr Le Pen, of the far right, to have the merest sniff at power. Reality came as a slap to the face and the latter received less than 20% of the run off vote. So now we are fascinated by JC (amusingly) and whether he is wearing his spectacles or not and whether that indicates a weakness. He is 74 this year, give the man a break! He has been leading the third French republic for 10 years and has another 2 to go. His wife, la belle Bernadette, is famous for her omniprescent handbag and a stiff hairdo.

I digress. The real royal in France, the souverain, has reigned for some 40 years, though more obviously as his longevity as a master of his craft was proven. He is, le rockeur, Johnny Hallyday. He graces magazine covers with his preternaturally preserved face, tanned, coiffed with blonde streaks not often (wisely) seen on the head of a man in his sixties. The never-ending light entertainment specials so characteristic of French TV would not be special without Je-on-nee's presence nor his interprétation of his latest tube*. His 60th birthday was feted in France no less intensely than the jubilee of Elizabeth 2.

The phenomenon that is Johnny Halliday needs no explanation as he has penetrated the French consciousness so profoundly that he is the male equivalent of the Marianne, the female symbol of the French state.

Johnny is more than the French Sir Clifford of Richard. although I believe he is the recipient of a Légion d'Honneur the equivalent of a knighthood. Not only, unlike Cliff, did he find the right girl, he found her four times. He shifts product as effectively as he ever did, his latest and 33rd number one feting his adopted Vietnamese daughter, Jade as she is cradled in the arms of his much younger 4th wife (29) in the audience looking adoringly on.

So what can have gone wrong in the court of this national treasure?

He has applied to become Belgian.

Betrayal, treason, disbelief. Lifelong fans threatened to burn the entirety of their Hallydalia and event which should for safety reasons be attended by at very least the local pompiers. Imagine the size of the bonfire.

Of course in this multinational, intenational age one's nationality shouldn't have that much importance certainly when this is about the person rather than the product he pushes. Yet the French feel personally slighted.

I have to admire someone who is likely to become the most famous living (and probably ever) Belgian. I have even come to enjoy some of his records. Just as long as I don't have to watch him perform.
*tube= hit

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The cost of working

How wonderful the French welfare state is! Yes indeed. Yet how much does it cost to be so very wonderful? Already I hear stories of generous benefits being handed out to those who could work but are not the full euro, or families who are living solely on what they get from the state having had the best and brightest Christmas decorations outside their homes. This is unsubstantiated of course. Yesterday, thinking I had better check out what I must do to be registered as a self-employed person, I found a website which calculated my cotisations, which are the equivalent of National Insurance contributions. It seems that the average percentage for someone employed is 35% of their salary before tax. For a self-employed person however, the total take from their earnings including tax (thankfully levied only on what is left) could amount to almost 70%. Now there must be a tiny clue in there for the French government why so few people can be bothered to start up their own businesses. I wonder what it is?? Quel horreur!! Actually it doesn't need to be quite so bad. I am compiling a list of questions for our accountant to get as much good advice as I can so as to reduce my liability, but think I shall have to be sanguine about paying more than I would have done in the UK if not bruised and bloodied. Once registered with the appropriate body and paying my dues I will get the essential Carte Vitale which means I can be ill for free. There's a comforting thought. Actually, no, self-employed people pay into the fund for sickness benefits and unemployment yet are not entitled to draw on it. So that's who pays for the Christmas lights. You don't know how lucky you are. Mmmm lovin' it?

Monday, February 06, 2006

From an isle to a Lille

Enfin! I have been promising this for months and months and just know there are people on the edge of their seats salivating at the very thought of reading my musings on life in Lille. Well mes petits choux, the wait is over and today is the first day of Le Log Lillois. Out of the window went Frog Log as being just a tad insulting (though not to the amphibians I guess) and Lillelog was just not quite right. So, Le Log Lillois it is. For the uninitiated or for those whose French began and ended at school (the majority of you I am guessing) the pronounciation is thus: Leel-wa. Have a go!

Come back soon to be regaled with words about The Greatest Living Belgian Singer: Johnny Halliday, Priorité à droite, Pineapple Punch and other delights of the galic world.