February 2007

Tuesday 27th February 2007 – Back to Normal?If you looking for a post full of fun frolics and Eastern promise you will be disappointed.  What I can do, is bring you up to speed – almost- with what’s being occurring at chez nous.

Well the Kids are back at school and the ski season visitors have all left.  We had a good time with the Deaths although it got a bit frantic towards the end of the week as other people arrived.

First thing to mention is Jamie got his two star ski badge.  Well done that man and on not so great snow either.

I did not get to see JH and his tribe which was a shame ,but they were up skiing in the mountains and I was stumping around like Douglas Bader.  MrsF managed to get a few days skiing in with the kids and so got to ski with JH and Death.  Some tosspot skied into her which put her off.  Too many people on too few pistes.  They claim there is 70% of the domain open.  Bollocks.  There are in fact only 46% of the pistes open which is not the same thing at all.

The dishwasher is still broken and I am about to ring the repair people and get the hump.

The deaths were here until Friday night, then on Wednesday evening, the Flying Arab rang to say that the wicked witch of the west (his ex wife in case you had not guessed)  had rung him to say he could see the children and have them for a couple of days as of Thursday.  Because The Fish and Hugh are such great friends and because the FA lives in a one bedroom studio he normally brings them to us.  I will be honest and say that I was not delighted at the idea of the FA coming.  Its not the kids its him.  He has the heart of lion and the brain of a …well something or other, and if I am really honest I felt like saying no, and actually started to say no, but the I do know how much he has missed his kids and how much H & the Fish mean to each other.

Thursday at noon the FA arrived with Marion, Hugh and Celia.  Mrs F was out skiing (lucky bint) and William was at the shops with Mrs Death. I went out to greet them and Hugh was beaming from the back of the car like his face was going to split.  The car just about stopped, he ran towards me, jumped up and threw his arms tightly around my neck and snuggled into me and said “I have missed you so much”.  I am not ashamed to admit it, but it brought tears to my eyes for two reasons.  The first was a little boys unswerving affection for somebody and the second because I felt a real slag for even contemplating not letting them come.  If he acted like that with me, how did he feel when he saw his dad for the first time in seven months?  I can be a right arse sometime.   However my greeting was nothing to one when William came home from the shops.  They hugged each other and laughed and cried and then ran down the garden to do little bloke things.

Friday morning was spent with Jamie, H, the Fish and the FA building traps and snares in the garden.   Friday afternoon the FA got a telephone call from said wicked witch saying he could have the kids until Saturday afternoon so he ended up staying for lunch.

We then had a visit from Gabrielle.  She lives in Pau and first came to stay with us 12 years ago when we were in Sunningdale.  Suzie was 2 and Claudia was 3 weeks old.  In fact she came to stay with us for three months for the years after that before we moved to France full time.  This time she brought her baby.  We were 14 for lunch so I fired up the old barbeque and grilled some pork chops and sausages.  Who gives a shit if it was raining.  Here’s a quick French lesson. Barbeque means bearded arse.  Hohoho how very amusing.

Everyone cleared off in time for the Rugby.  Hats off to the Irish they were superb.  They played rugby like it should be played, unlike England, who were playing a very 60s game and were totally and utterly c**p.  For the armchair pundits, who kept saying that as soon as Andy Robinson had gone all would be better, this must have come as a shock.  Sadly, not for those of us on planet Earth.  England have to face France next who are on for a Grand Slam, does anyone really expect England to be able to stop them.  Congrats to the Italians who played very well against Scotland.  Slightly biased here despite my Scottish roots as I know the Italian coach.  He played for Lannemezan and lives near us.  France Beat Wales, which was not a shock, but it was a good, if not physical, game.

I have now got a hum dinger of a cold and chest infection so yet another trip to the docs.  He has got all the reports back form the relevant bods re my scan and blood thingies.  He is happy that the tumour in my chest is benign but they will continue to monitor it.   Another carrier bag of stuff from the pharmacist to keep me staggering on.  I think I should just get my pension paid directly to those two and they can send me what’s left.

Last drivel of the day.  I have a few snaps to load up from the last week or so, but David Curew a really good mate of mine in Oz thought I should share this picture of his favourite cheese that he uses in his flame grilled cheeseburgers.   Don’t know why he thought I would find it of interest!

Thursday 22 February 2007- Typos“Dear Bill

Have you noticed how close y and t are on the k/b, the number of times I have had to backspace to stop from signing myself Rat.”

Hi Rat
Funnt tou should menyion the ketboard yhing.  Iy seems yhe more I ytpe yhe worse iy geys.All yhe besy

Billt

Yesterday (that looks OK) was one of those days.  Not a bad day, just full.  On Tuesday night we were out to a 60th birthday party and did not get in until about 2am.I was up first at 7.30am to get everyone who was going skiing fed and watered and out. But for a whole host of reasons which I wont bore you with,  I didn’t get to the shower until 5pm.  I were a right sweaty betty I can tell you.  You really wanted to know that didn’t you?

The dishwasher bloke has not been back and there has no news as to what is happening.  I was going to ring the insurance company to find pout what the SP was when they rang me and asked for an update.   This is all rather disconcerting, because the repair geezer was supposed to have been in touch with them to order the new part and sanction the repair.  A good Job I brought the 20year old Bosch dishwasher over from the gite.  It looks like it is going to be a long drawn out saga.

With the aid of Rocket Ron we managed to run the new weather proof plastic pipes into the gite kitchen yesterday, so I hope to have the plumbing repairs sorted soon.

My first Solar water heater which is very billy basic has worked OK.  Granted it is not very practical and to use MrsF’s accurate but unkind  description “Looks like a pile of crap outside the front of the house”.  It consists of a black metal bucket behind three old glass shower doors facing sort of southish.  I knew those doors would come in handy. Anyway Billy the Fish and I are going to have a go at something a little more elaborate today.  Only a little more, and no son it wont fly.

Talking of flying or not to be more accurate, Christophes leg is much better after his roof diving escapade but he is still on crutches.

Monday 19th February 2007 – Lucky escape.One of my best mates Christophe,  had a lucky escape when he fell 5m of the roof of their house on Saturday.  He missed a big concrete pot and the patio and landed on the grass and has only sprained his ankle.  Granted it is swollen and very black but he was a very lucky bloke.  Quite what he was doing poncing about on the roof I don’t know and in the circumstances I thought it best not to ask.

I said on Saturday I was going to have some time off from being examined by doctors.  I forgot I was seeing the specialist about my knees today.  Hohum.    My left knee is fine but right knee is very painful and I ant bend it so you will no doubt be a surprised as I was to be told that my left knee is, how did he put it, shagged.  However because of the inflammation and this that and the other I have to have a course of treatment before they will consider surgery.  What they are going to do exactly remains a mystery.

We are well in to the school holidays now.  Suzie went up skiing with Death yesterday, but despite the fact that it snowed at the ski stations yesterday she was not too impressed with the conditions.  The other kids are going to go up later in the week, snow and weather permitting.

I am not going to be posting much this week as I have a few things I need to do with the children and around the estate.  Claudia wants to start getting the veg patch tided up for the next season.  There is not much down there at the moment apart from the leeks and some garlic we over wintered.  I have planted up some coriander, basil and rocket in pots to bring on.  God I love the smell of fresh coriander, just devine.

Saturday 17th February 2007 – DeathDeath is back for a week with MrsD and the children.  Ostensibly here for the skiing I suspect advanced rock hopping maybe on the cards.  JH is also due down as well sometime today. I was going to say that best I dust off the fishing rods and ring the fishing lake but I have just spoken to someone in the mountains and they say it is snowing like stink.  The problem is that People turning up from different departments and countries without snow chains and consequently they are getting stuck and so the roads are blocked and the ploughs cannot get through.  Bloody Muppets!

Having got yesterdays medical visits out of the way I have decided to have at least a week off from being examined.

Last but not least.   ELDERLY drivers, pressing the pedal on your right will make your car go a little faster. Forget all that rubbish about suffocating at speeds above 15mph, it was all a myth.  Guess who had a frustrating drive home yesterday,  MrsF who is usually a  very patient woman was snarling like a wild dog by the time we left Tarbes!

Friday 16th February 2007 – Poxy Dishwasher II & Solar EnergyWell the repair homme turned up and said it is the programmer on the dishwasher that is en panne not the element.  He will need to speak to the insurance company and then they might be able to order one.  If and when that happens and the new bit arrives he will come back and fix it.  When will that be? shrug of the shoulders.  Best we get the DW over from the gite.

A few weeks ago we had a chap come to give us a devis (estimate) for installing solar water heating panels.  He spent a goodly amount of time telling us there are substantial grants and tax relief to be had on installing these solar panels.   In the end he could not put off the moment of truth.  The total cost was 16,000 Euros.  WHAT!.  Ah yes monsieur but you must remember that from that 16,000 Euros you need to deduct grants and tax relief which brings the price down to around 8,500 Euros (approx 5,750 GBP or 11,150 USD).   I think this is just far too expensive, so I have been looking on t’internet and have found two possible alternatives. 

The first is to buy them from somewhere like Greece where you can buy solar heaters that will do up to 300Litres of water for as little as 750GBP which is about 1,100 Euros or 1,450 USD.  That’s a bit more like it.  Granted you have to pay shipping and install it but even so.  For a large family like us it would probably pay for itself in 12 to 18 months.

The second alternative is to build your own.  There are quite a few very good ideas from the states and three people have sent me designs they have come up with and built.  I have looked at a couple of designs and am working on a basic unit to try out.  I will be honest and say that my initial announcement to the family of my intentions was met with raised eye brows and mutterings, but I think they are slowly coming round.  I have not worked out the cost yet, but it could be as low as 300 Euros (200GBP or 400 USD) for a 300litee system.  Of course I don’t know how well it will work for that price but I think it might be worth giving it  a whizz.  Any way, I have rigged up a black metal sheet with some antifreeze in a plastic bottle as as first experiment to see how well that heats up on a south facing wall.  I will keep you posted.

Had my follow up appointment with the lung specialist today following my recent scan.  He is fairly sure that the tumour that the scan showed up is innocent, going by size, shape and something else more technical, but has written to my doctor with a view to me seeing some other geezer and monitoring it over the next few months.
 
I will also need to see a kidney and or liver specialist for some of my blood results which are off the scale.  This has probably been caused by some of the medication I have been on but they want to make sure.
 
As for the exploding bleeding lung on New Years eve,  he doesn’t know what caused that.
 
In other words we are not quite sure what is, but the good news is that it does not look as if I am quite ready for the off just yet.  Even better he didn’t charge me.   All in all not a bad day.
Thursday 15th February 2007-Poxy DishwasherMy mood is not good.  I have just got up in a bad mood.  No reason for it all.  In fact the sun is shining the mountians look beautiful the kids are all playing happily and have done most of their homework, but I could fight with my own shaddow.

Anyway, there are no prizes for guessing what today’s post is about!   The bloody dishwasher has been tottering on the brink for a while and now it would seem the element has gone.  The idea of washing dishes for 11 people three times a day for the next ten days does not fill either me or MrsF with DJ (Deep Joy).

Now I know I that I need to keep this in perspective and when I compare it to the problems many people have in life it is really nothing and in fact, I Know that I am really being a total arse complaining at all.  When I think that for thousands of years mankind washed up sans dishwashers I know I am beingng a right wooly wufter.

BUT I’ve started so I’ll finish

What rags me off  is that the DW is an expensive make and model, and was bought less than 3 years ago.  I parted with the beaucoup de extra wedge – much against my better Yorkshire judgement- because of the reputation of quality and reliability.  However I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the expression “You get what you pay for” is a load of old bollcocks.  Now I accept that our dishwasher does go on at least twice a day but that’s why I paid three times as much as I could have done.  Thieving bastards.

I have discovered that the likelihood of your domestic appliances breaking down in the first five years are as follows.

Washing machine – 72% likelihood of breaking down

Dishwasher – 68% likelihood of breaking down

Fridge – 27% Likelihood of breaking down.

Television – 21% likelihood of breaking down.

Fills you with confidence.  Mind you the dishwasher in the gite is 20 years old and is still going strong even if it is a little noisy.  Noisy is better than broken.

Anyway not to worry because I was wise Virgin and bought an insurance policy that covers all our domestic appliances for breakdown, which takes care of the cost of repairing the damn things.  Alors when I first rang they said nobody can get here until next week as it is school holidays etc.  I can tell you that was like a red rag to a bull. Fat lot of use that is GRRRRR rant rave gnashing of dents, what the hell am I paying for? blah blah blah. 

I think I must have bored them into submission because they then managed to find an engineer who will allegedly be here tomorrow morning.  I should bloody well think so!

Yesterday a hurricane passed across central France.  The bulk of the storm passed over the Charente and that neck of the woods they had winds of 150kph.  Although it was bloody windy here and severe weather warning was issued there doesn’t appear to have been any major damage.  Today is bright and sunny and like spring.

Wednesday 14th February 2007 – MrsF

Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you theres no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, thats what you do

Oh the morning sun in all its glory
Greets the day with hope and comfort too
And you fill my life with laughter
You can make it better
Ease my troubles thats what you do

Theres a love thats divine
And its yours and its mine
Like the sun at the end of the day
We should give thanks and pray to the one

Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you theres no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, thats what you do

Theres a love thats divine
And its yours and its mine
And it shines like the sun
At the end of the day we will give thanks
And pray to the one

Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you theres no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, thats what you do

Take away my sadness
Fill my life with gladness
Ease my troubles thats what you do
Fill my life with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles thats what you do.

Thank you MrsF

Tuesday 13th February 2007- Give your Hair a TreatDrew and Oonagh/Nicky/Janet/Bunty have headed for home.  We had a real hoot and I can’t remember having such a good laugh for ages.  Of course they made us stay up late and eat & drink far too much.  The good thing about having someone stay with you who uses several names is that your almost bound to get one of them right at some stage of their visit.   Audrey make sure your daughter comes over in the summer.  If she doesn’t I suggest you give that young lady a severe talking to and stop her pocket money.  4 years between visits is just not on.  Point made.

Oonagh/Nicky/Janet/Bunty and MrsF have decided that they are going to become Tongan women, which Something to do with larger women being revered.  Their words not mine. 

About a year ago a blogger called Masher decided to try going for a year without washing his hair.  He finally ended his experiment.  You can read more from this excellent blog by clicking hair

Any way, last week I received an email from an old colleague of mine which read as follows.

“Hello billy you old git.  I was in for an early job last week and found this article.  I misread it to start with and though they were talking about you.  When I showed it to Bob D he pointed out I had mistaken the u for an i.  It was an easy mistake to make as it was early but it gave us all a good laugh”

Here is said article.

Women who want their hair to be “wonderfully soft and thick” need to use a little bull semen on it.

That’s the word from Hari’s Salon in Chelsea.  They claim that it can give women’s hair the ultimate shine by treating it with a mixture than includes semen from thoroughbred bulls.

The salon offers a 45-minute “Aberdeen Organic Hair” treatment that involves massaging a protein-rich mixture of bull semen and a plant root into the client’s hair.

Owner Hari Salem told media that he tried hundreds of products – including wild avocados and truffle oil – before hitting on bull semen as the elusive element in a formula for making hair look gorgeous.

“The semen is refrigerated before use and doesn’t smell,” Salem told reporters. “It leaves your hair looking wonderfully soft and thick.”

Now I know I have a reputation for being a mercenary, and am usual willing to turn my hand to anything (if you’ll excuse the expression), but why on earth my mate thought I would be going round donating semen to hair salons is a bit of a mystery.  But the whole thing is just very odd indeed.  I mean for starters how how do you get the stuff from the bull in the first place?  Yes I know what you have to do, but that’s the big question, who in the their right mind would want to….well you know a bull.  Its not as if its a bloody soap dispenser is it.

More to the point who first tried it and even worse what on earth made them think of putting it on their hair.  I was trying to imagine such an event and it just conjures up all sorts of images, none of them too pleasant.

“Oh Mrs Farmer your hair looks really nice and shiny”
“Well Gladys I was masturbating that big prize bull we have in yonder top field when ejaculated on my head”
“He Never did!”
“Oh he did and so as you can imagine I was wiping it around my head and bingo it made my hair all soft and lovely”

No I am sorry it is too just too bizarre, I am sticking with le ‘ed et Showers or whatever it is that upstairs in the shower.

Monday 12th February 2007. – Happy Birthday Sam & What’s in a name Part IIMany happy returns to my youngest brother.  His name is actually Mick but we call him Sam.  Why do we call him Sam? well it is a bit of a long story which I wont go into that, in case I find myself in a Big Brother racist row. 

This post is being types amid a stream of tears.  My tears.  No I am not upset, well yes I am in away but not sad upset which leads me to today’s top tip on hot Chillies.  These are hard to find in France, and they will often describe things as being hot when they aren’t really by our standards.   So I was delighted to find some North African “HOT” Chillies which had some bite to them.  I bought quite a few and decided I would freeze them.  Now I have to be honest here and say I did not get round to freezing them straight away so they have dried ever so slightly and this has increased the zing factor by a few degrees. 

This morning everyone was out so I could spend the morning doing some bits in the kitchen and one of my tasks was to get those bloody chillies frozen once and for all.  So there I was cutting and deseeding said chilies in between interruptions either from the dog and bone or people turning up unannounced and uninvited.  I was getting a bit grouchy towards the end of the morning.  I know its hard to imagine me being grumpy,  but I must admit that I was more than a bit tetchy with the last prat who turned up to see if I was in.  Eventually they were all done, and I was about to blanche them when I realised it was 12.15 and thus way past lunchtime.  So I knocked up a bit of grub  and sat down to eat.  It was at this point that I discovered that I had not washed my hands as well as I might and that the chillies were indeed rather feisty.   I didn’t get it in my eyes but I did manage to get it in my mouth and somehow up my nose, hence the tears.    So my tip is this, be warned if you find chilies in France and they say they are hot, it is wise to believe them and don’t forget to wash your hands really well.  Good job I didn’t go for a jimmy riddle!

The French Meteo service used to be very good but over recent years its gone to a right can of worms.  The forecast for Saturday  was for some wind and light showers.  Which is why we had gale force winds and torrential rain.  Sunday it was 22c – bloody Muppets! you’d think with all this technology and science they could get it sort of right. 

The forecast for the next week is for rain and shower but very mild with daytime temperatures of 19c.  Best I get ready to be snowed in.

I have got an appointment with the lung specialist for Friday, so I will see what’s what with yonder doubery in my chest.

The plumbing in the gite is going slowly, but it is at least going and there are now four holes cut into the plaster board in our attempts to remember where exactly I had run the bloody pipe work 10 years ago.  MrsF had said at the time about keeping g a sort of rough plan for the future.  An indignant Huh had been my response or was it something else.  Probably something else and a  bit stronger.  Any road up she were right.  Damn her.  The good news is that there is water flowing to the bathroom and toilet and it is in pipes!  On the other hand, the 5 minute job of running plastic weather proof pipes through to the kitchen is proving to be just a tough trickier than anticipated.  Why am I surprised?

If you thought the story of my brothers two names was a touch odd, I have also discovered that Janet / Nicky has another name at work which is Bunty.  Bunty, I ask you.  However last night over dinner it emerged she would really like to be called after a newsreader on LBC radio.  We don’t get LBC radio too well in the Pyrenees, but apparently the lady in question is a sexy sounding Irish lass with the name Oonagh Divine.  Oonagh is pronounced OOOHNARRHH apparently.  I am reliably informed that she has a very sexy, unctuous, silky smooth, voice with a soft Irish accent.  A bit like a pint of Guinness then.

I have found in my archive of photos a picture of Oonagh/ Nicky/Janet/Bunty doing some charity work with some elderly people in old coats.  I have to say this photo does not do her justice and she doesn’t look in the best of moods, unlike the old lady with the tea cosy on her head.  what is the bloke in the brown coat at the back of the group holding in his hand.

No, She is not the one in the hat!  Ha Ha, I bet you didn’t know I still had this did you?

Talking of things Irish, which I was vaguely, yesterdays match between Ireland and France was a nail biter.  I felt very sorry for the Irish, as the result could have gone either way.  It does go to show though that you cannot give the French and respite.  Both sides attacked vigorously and it was non stop action.  Sorry England but I think you winning streak of two games is about to come to an end.

Saturday 10th February 2007 – What’s in a nameOn Thursday I reported we had a burst pipe over in the gite, actually it was in the pool house.  The repair went really well apart from the the 3 hours of drilling to re route the pipe work so it did not happen again.  What I didn’t know was that there were at least another three leaks.  That would explain the water cascading down the wall and the back door of the gite. Bugger.  I now have no alternative but to re plumb using plastic weather resistant pipes.  The good News is that we have two very good friends staying with us and Drew is a plumber and has offered to help.

I got the results of all my recent blood tests and scans.  The bloody is more or less normal, but I have some kind of small “Tumour” in the cavity between the lungs.  The term tumour seems a bit excessive for something that 8.5mm in size.  It could be anything such as an abscess or scar tissue from my accident,  to Hodgkin’s disease,  or one of about 20 other things in between.  I suspect it is nothing to be concerned about and will let the specialist work out what it is and what, if anything, is to be done, after all, that’s what I am paying him for.

Anyway as I have already said, Nicky (real name Janet) and Drew arrived last night.  Although Drew comes over at least once every year for a bit of skiing, Nicky has not been over for about four years.  As always she looks fabulous and has a great sense of humour.   Now then I should explain that although we call her Nicky her real name is Janet.  How the hell do you get from Janet to Nicky?

Any way this is a special hello to Audrey, Nicky (or is it Janet)s mum. She has been a very good girl apart form here excessive drinking and swearing.  Drew and I have blushed.  Of course I blame the parents.

For a variety of reason I will not go into Nicky and Drew did not get here till late on Friday and consequently we did not eat till about 10pm.  I fired up the plancha* in the barn and we had Toulouse sausage, home made burgers, steak and matchstick frites a la Bill.  The problem was I got the quantities wrong so it was a case of FHB – family hold back- whilst the second batch of chips cooked. All very low calorie NOT.   We only drank in moderation which is why we all professing undying love for one another at about 2.30am.  MrsF alleged I told my parka on the banister that it was  miii beshtisht friend everrr eber ebderrr in the hurllll wide wurrld. Hic.

Its all lies I tell you.

And now to the review of the England Italy match.  As you may or may not recall, I pointed out that France had scored 5 tries against Italy and predicted England would not do the same.  Boy was I right.  Yes they won, but it was not an easy match.  Again had it not been for Johnny Wilkinson the match would have been closer.  I think England are going to get taken to the cleaners by both Ireland and France.  I suppose the arm chair pundits will still blame AR. 

*A plancha is a Spanish griddle.  Heated by gas it is an alternative to barbequing.

Thursday 8th February 2007 – Happy Birthday Bizzy LizzyShe leads a mad cap life does Lizzy D and as a result I have not spoken to her for age and ages and ages.  I tried a few times, but alas to no avail.  MrsF says maybe she doesn’t love us anymore but I know that’s not the case.  Happy Birthday Liz and I hope MrsF can soon knock you up one of her mind altering Pousse Rapiers.  Why did we make soooo much coffee last time?  I don’t even drink coffee.  I feel nauseous just thinking about it.

I hate plumbing.  I actually hate plumbing with a vengeance, because I am crap at it.   I know what to do and how you are supposed to do it but I am just such a “Cack Handed Arthur” as my mum would put it, that it is always a right pain in the arse and takes three times as long as it should.  Now you will see why I was so delighted to find we had a burst pipe in the gite due to the short lived cold snap a couple of weeks ago.  It was not actually in the gite, which was a result but in the pool house next to the gite.  It happens every bloody year, because this lean too affair is almost entirely open to the elements and the wind chill just freezes the pipes.  I am doing yet another temporary repair jobby and then I have decided that in the spring I am going to use plastic.  I would rather not have to do the repair now but I dont have much choice as we have people in the gite at the weekend and I am presuming they would like some water during their stay. 

Its odd that when people come on holiday you want them to have a good time and you want it to be perfect for them.  No matter what you do you cannot control the weather and you cannot enjoy peoples holidays for them.   Fortunately the people coming at the weekend are experienced skiers and all round good eggs and so know what the score is but we are not always that fortunate.

Off to mend the pipe mutter mutter mutter snarl grrrrr mutter buggerybollockyshit!

Wednesday 7th February 2007 – Wind.After the self opening cupboard episode both MrsF and I were hoping for a full nights shut eye.  Denied.   First off we got to bed at about midnight because we had stayed up watching some film.  I dozed of and then MrsF woke me to complain about the ticking of the alarm clock, which was under my side of the bed.  I did not take being woken up to well and was just a touch tetchy.  Eventually I got back to sleep until about 3am – can’t be sure of the time because the clock was now buried under a cushion under my side of the bed so as not to disturb MrsF.

The wind chimes were going ten to the dozen, which is a general sign we are in for a big storm.  I got the idea of using the chimes as a sort of storm warning from Twister and the wind chimes, which are very melodic and tuneful from Scarborough.  Is melodic and tuneful the same thing?  Dunno, but the system works well.  Anyway I got up a and yet again  I donned the very warm, but  slightly gay looking dressing and went round securing shutters and making sure we were bolted down.  She, who was disturbed by the inaudible tick of the alarm clock, was conspicuous by her absence as she was fast asleep.    I cant complain as its usually me that sleeps through these things.  

By morning the wind was really giving it what for.  The temperature was actually quite mild around 9 or 10C but it felt really cold.  Now, we don’t get much wind in the Hautes Pyrenees, but when we do by heck you don’t half know about it.  I get wind but that is a different story, and one you probably don’t want to know about.  Today would have been a very good day for staying in, which is why I went out, and hobbled about in great pain on the top of a very high very exposed hill.  Prat.  A friend of ours is having a house built and he need one of us to liase with the architect, the builder and himself which is why I was out not in.

The big piece of news is that we have tidied the office.  I did not know the floor was tiled but there it is.  Of course I wont be able to find bugger all now but hey ho.

There is a strike tomorrow so there is no school. YEEEHHAAAA we get a lie in, sliding cupboards, wind chimes, banging shutter and gale force winds permitting.  For those of you in Blighty the country will be at a halt tomorrow ‘cos its going to snow.

Tuesday 6th February 2007 – RainLast night it started raining.  Proper rain not just drizzle.  This morning everything smells wet, fresh and damp – that’s outside I am pleased to say. 

Although when we first bought the house in 1992 the roof was not exactly water tight!  Storms and rainfall were met with with excursions into the roof space armed with all manner of suitable containers for catching drips.  When we got the roof down there were enough buckets and pans up there to open our own hardware shop. 

The barn roof is till a bit suspect.  Someone asked me why we did not have the barns done at the same time as the house, and the answer is simple.  Money.  It cost about £10,000 to do the house roof which was quite cheap by comparison to some of the quotes and it was going to be another £15,000 for the barns.  I should say that was about 9 years ago.

These houses are big and everyone tells you that they are great value and really cheap and you would not get a house this size in the UK for that sort of money blah blah blah.  But what they don’t take into consideration is the sheer scale of renovating these old houses.

The quantity of materials is greater and as the jobs are so much bigger there are  more manpower costs.  Materials are about the same price in France  maybe a little cheaper and manpower is certainly cheaper but it easy to forget this when faced with a £25,000 quote for re doing the roof.

I know of three families in the last month or so who have gone bust because they have run over budget and were just unrealistic about what they could afford.  It is very easy to get carried away.

As for the quality of the workmanship in France, well that varies just like anywhere else although it does seem to be either very good or very crap.  We have been very happy with Monsieur Fuchs (Jose) who is a multi ticketed artisan.  An electrician by trade he is also registered to plumb, build and plaster which makes him a very handy chap as you don’t find yourself waiting for other tradesman to turn up thus delaying progress.

I was going somewhere with all of this but I have forgotten where exactly.  I will try to come back to you when I remember what the hell I was going to say.  Its the drugs man. Prescribed of course.

Monday 5th February 2007 – Things That Go Bump In The Night.I had to go for a blood test this morning.  7.45am.  I was up at sparrows fart and out again with no breakfast.  IOts a conspiracy I tell you.  Anyway, there I was being drained of my valuable blood by a charming young lady.  She, the phlebotomist, twigged I was English and made reference to Tony Handincock the famous British comedian and the bloody donor sketch.  I grinned like a lune but to be honest its hard to whip up enthusiasm  for Tony Handincock at 7.45am with an arm full of needle and no breakfast in my tummy.

On Saturday night MrsF dreamt that we were burgled.  She woke me up in a right two and eight which is not like her at all.   She told me someone had broken in through the office and was going round the house.  I knew immediately that it was a dream, because my office is so full of crap that nobody could break in and get past the patio doors without standing or slipping on something which would result in serious personal injury.  I keep starting to tidy up but it is a big task and a man in my weak condition should not be subject to too much stress.  Actually I did throw out three old PCs – computers that is not old colleagues- last week.  They were knackered and very out of date so I am buggered as to why I have kept them so long.  Probably because I thought they would “Come in handy” one day.

Last night we were knocking out Zeds when at about 3am there was a loud KERASCHHH.  I awoke with a start and said “My word what was that”  or words to that effect.  MrsF was sitting bolt upright, and I am sure if I could have seen her eyes they would have been like the proverbial organ stops, but it was pitch black so I am guessing. 
“Did you hear that” she hissed
“Of course I heard it, I am not bloody deaf”
“what was it?”
“How the **** should I know”
“Its my dream – about the burglary”
“Don’t be bloody daft, its probably the cats poncing about in the barn”  But to be honest I knew it was in the house.

Nothing for it, but to go and investigate.  I donned my very warm, but slightly gay looking dressing gown and went to confront the wicked wobber – That’s a technical old bill term for naughty people.  I proceeded in a downwardly direction and on entering the kitchen area confronted the culprit.  The sliding larder cupboard was open.  How strange I thought could it be a wicked wobber aft all or SAS mice with super human strength.  I pushed it closed and had went to look around,  but before I had got out of the kitchen KERASCHHH. It had slid open again on its jack jones.  Poxy Ikea!  Still at least we had not been burgled.  I did check the office floor just in case some miscreant had been stupid enough to run the gauntlet of death that is the office.

To be fair the door has not sat or opened properly for some time, and to be honest, I had been meaning to do something about it for the last couple of years but somehow had never quite got round to it.  Now there was no pore procrastination and so Monday morning was devoted then to adjusting said larder door and sliding mechanism so that it would

  1. shut and then
  2. Open when we wanted it to.

Not as easy a task as you would think. 

We had to empty it and boy was there some stuff in there.  Nothing out of date, as there are too many of us for anything to last that long, but strewth I never realised how much we kept in that cupboard, and I do the bulk of the cooking!.  Then MrsF just had to get the vacuum to clean out some dust and bits which was followed by a second wave assault with a wet cloth and several cleaning agents. 

In the meantime I tried to work out why the door was not doing what it should.  You would think this would be a relatively simple task as it is a door on a runner.  But this is not ordinary door on a runner this is an Ikea door on a runner.  I wont bore you with the full 3 hour escapade but at one point I went to get yet another tool and MrsF had vanished.  I went off for a stress break and when I came back still no Mrsf.  It was then that I heard the muffled mutterings coming from the larder.  She had got in with a torch to see what was going on from inside.  The door had got jammed somehow and voila she was stuck. 

She was not best pleased that it had taken me so long to work out where she was but at least  she had been able to see what the problem was with  the mechanism (or to give it its proper Ikea name bollockyslidygizzmothingy) and thus able to work out a solution to the problem.  I only swore once all morning, although I did use every naughty word I could think of in both French and English.  I felt better after that.

It works like a dream now.  Good job jobbed

Sunday 4th February 2007 – A wise Virgin & Johnny WilkinsonFlora came fourth in her first Archery competition which was very good.  It was even better when you consider the dopey doris had her bow put together the wrong way round for the first seven shoots/quivers/rounds or whatever they are called.  Will post a photo when I sort out the camera.

We were definitely wise virgins for not going out last night to the Football club repas .  I spoke to Christophe this morning who told me he was dying and he thinks me must have had a dodgy kebab.  Good excuse apart from the distinct lack of Kebab shops or any shops for that matter.  He claims his watch malfunctioned at around 2.30am which is when he was no longer able to see the face and hands moving.  It was short conversation as he need to “Faire un report” as the French would say “Parlez avec God sur le grande telephone Blanche” Suffice to say he was not too disposed to discuss at length the previous days rugby.

“Beel Why did you not come to ze bar tur watch ze march”
“I wasn’t well after my scan, I felt sick”
“Bullocks, that eez a bard excuuze”
“The word is bollocks Christophe and it is a good excuse”
“Bollocks – iz zat  bedter”
“Yes”
“You mezzd a gret ting,  Wen wikison went on to de peech ze orl bar stuud up and claperd.  An wen e left ze Pitch we stuud urp agern and clapped.  Peraps zis year ingerland will give urz a proper gamme”
“I hope so”
“zorry I murst go arnd ………………”  The sound of feet disappearing to the small room could be heard.

How unsympathetic of him and his illness was self induced.  But so it was, that Johnny Wilkinsons return to the England team was greeted in the Pyrenees.  Was it a try? Should he have been allowed to stay on the pitch when he was bleeding? Who cares?  No one here that’s for sure.  Despite the love hate relationship the French have with the English, there is nothing more important as Rugby in this neck of the woods. 

France had already played Italy and won convincingly by the time England took to the pitch at Twickenham..  There was sympathy for the Italians especially as the Italian coach is French and Lives in Lannemezan our nearest big town.  When England won the world cup you would have thought I had played.  People rang us to congratulate us and shook us by the hand when we went out.  Very touching but a little bizarre. Last years France/England match was embarrassing, but now Johnny is back and  all is well in the world and the French are hoping for a proper game unlike last year. 

If you are not bothered about rugby don’t bother reading the next couple of little paragraphs.

As for England’s performance on Saturday here are my views.  It was a good win and it was great to see Wilkinson in such fine form.  England played better than they have done for quite a while and thank God we did not conceed an interception try.  YEEEHAAAH.  However did the final score really reflect the true nature of the game?  I am not sure that it did, because if you took Wilkinson out of the equation what would the result have been? A much closer result I have no doubt.  I ask this, bearing in mind Johnny ” 43 minutes”  Wilkinson’s injury record.  I  don’t want to sound too gloomy, but it has to be a consideration and as for bringing in retired players this does not bode well for the future.   Furthermore England just cannot get out of this kick for goal mentality, which is more than fine when you have a consistent kicker in the side, but loose him and you are stuffed.   Scotland were about 5 yards out and ran the ball from a penalty and score a try as a result.  Points make prizes and you get more points for a try than a goal.  France ran in 5 trys against Italy this weekend.  It will be interesting to see how many England score or whether they go for goals. 

England have what should be an easy match next week against Italy and after that it is show time.  Ireland, France and Wales are all very good sides and I think the crowing that followed Englands victory on Saturday may well sound a little hollow.  I hope I am wrong. 

Saturday 3rd February 2007 – Surrender Monkeys & TurkeysMy scan went OK and will get the results on Monday or Tuesday.  Felt a touch weird after the injection but not too bad.  Thanks you to all those who emailed me with their best wishes.  I didn’t know you cared.

One of my favourite blogs is the excellent Iamlivid.com hosted by none other than MrAngry.  This week he has been regaling us with his stories of his weeks skiing in the French Alps.  It would be fair to say that his experiences as a holiday maker in the Alps were a touch unfortunate.  However he wrote with wit and humour about his altercations with the French.  I think that in his story posted yesterday 2nd February he came second.  However there were two comments left in response to his post which were not funny.

I think it’s the same person in pathetic disguise and they did not have the balls to leave a link so there was no way to follow up to a blog and see who this tosspot is.

“Amy Says:  I hate the cheese eating surrender monkeys. They contribute fuck all to the world.”

” Casper Says:  Lefty, garlic-stinking, nazi-sympathising surrender monkeys. What else did you expect?”

I saw Amys post and chose to respond in what I considered a restrained and polite manner – for me anyway.

“Amy are you a yank? Not that I give a fuck, but did you know that the American war of Independence was financed almost entirely by the French? Furthermore without the French fighting the British at the same time there would have been no independence. Thinking about it the French do have a lot to answer for”

Mr Angry told me off – albeit nicely,  which I thought was odd because I wasn’t actually angry just miffed. 

In my response I am of course assuming that the contributor was American, but I just don’t understand where the American venom towards the French comes from. As I said, without the French the war of independence would have failed.  As for being surrender monkeys, well, clearly many have forgotten the last days of Vietnam. At least the French left there with dignity, which is more than can be said for the evacuation of Hanoi. 

Any road up and more importantly, I am lucky to have met so many kind, intelligent, humorous and genuinely warm Americans whom I count as friends. The American men who landed on the beaches of Normandy did so in the face of terrible opposition.  Lets not forget or underestimate their sacrifice.  So why is it then that  only the dim witted wankers who make themselves heard. It is these people that the rest of the world think of when you say American, which is a real shame. 

Now before you think “what the hell has this ramble to do with life in the Pyrenees?” let me tell about something relevant to all this that happened yesterday.  Hoorah I hear you cry. 
 
Claudia is doing a a project about America at school and came in looking for stuff to take in on Monday.  Before I go any further, I should explain that Claudia appears to think almost entirely in French and translates back to English.  Although she speaks perfect English I think there are a few times when like a lot of children she does not always grasp the more intricate implications of things said in English.
 
Anyway I have a book of Bushisms – you know the sayings of George such as “90% of all American imports come from outside the USA” and “The French don’t have a word for entrepreneur”  etc and on the front of the book is a photo of Geedubuah himself. 
“Daddy Can I borrow this please?”
“Of course you can, but what do you want it for?”
“My project on Thanksgiving, I want to use the picture of Mr Bush”
“Why do you want a picture of Mr Bush for a project on Thanksgiving?”
“Well everyone keeps saying he is a real turkey and they eat turkey at Thanks giving”

Although mildly amused I did explain – under the gamma death stare of MrsF – that Thanksgiving is a very important time for American families and that it is not right to be disrespectful of their holidays and traditions.  I meant what I said otherwise we would be no better than the likes of Amy and Casper.

My application for Big Brother has been returned due to the shows uncertain future and due to my socialist leanings.

As for the allegation that French cheese stinks. Well yes it does, and so do some of the dried sausages but they taste good.

Off to watch the Fish play football hopefully followed by the six nations. He’s not playing in both by the way.

Friday 2nd February 2007- le weekend & Electricity.Well here we are in February deja.  The end of next week marks the start of our ski season visitors,  which also coincides with two weeks school holidays.  An exciting weekend lays ahead.

We had been invited to the football club dinner on Saturday night, but for a variety of reasons we are staying in. For a start off it is nippy, well actually its not really that cold for the time of year, but I am being a big girls blouse, and the idea of going out sur le razz just doesn’t appeal at the moment.  I wonder why we say blouse I can think of better garments. 

I digress.  At 8am on Saturday  I have to have a body scan in Tarbes because of the popping lung syndrome.  The scan itself is no problem but the radioactive isotope or whatever it is they inject you with,  can make on feel a touch off.  Plus I have to get up early and get MrsF to drive me to Tarbes without any brekky, as it is a nil by mouth jobby.  This disabled lark is not all its cracked up to be I can tell you.  On Saturday afternoon The boy wonder has a football match and of course it is the start of the six nations.  May just be able to sneak a repose devant le telly for that.  Last but not least, Flora has her first archery competition on Sunday and I don’t want her failing a random drugs test because she had been out boozing the night before.

I have been following the Global warming conference with interest.  Here are a couple of small facts.

1.  If you re-cycle one aluminium can it will save enough electricity to power a TV for 3 hours.  That’s a telly by the way not a transvestite.

2.  If every household in England replaced three ordinary standard light bulbs with energy saving bulbs there would be enough electricity saved to power every street light in the United Kingdom for a year.

We Brits are very wasteful with both power and water.  The French make the Scots look bloody extravagant when it comes to power.  If you drive through France at night you would be forgiven for thinking the place was totally deserted.  Granted most people shut their shutters, but they don’t leave lights on when the don’t need to.   I am sure Pompom our neighbour is part mole, he lives with almost no light.  It is not because they are environmentally friendly it is because electricity is supplied on a different basis to the UK and is expensive.    In France you pay for the amount of power coming into your property and as the amount of power coming in goes up so does your basic tariff and the price per KW.  The minimum is 3KW, which in modern household terms is bugger all.  It then steps up to 6KW, 9KW, 12KW and 15KW.  In some cases it is possible for a domestic user to get 18KW but you have to have a survey done by the EDF the electricity people as to why you need so much.

As we have to run both the house and the gite we have 15KW and I can tell you it is not cheap.  It does not help when the kids think we are running a bloody light house and leave every damn light on.  ARGGHHHHH.  Every night I sound like that Mr Hodges the air raid warden in Dads Army “Will you turn that bloody light out!”.

Its the same way with water.  We have a 300 litre hot water tank in the house and a 250 litre tank in the gite.  When our tank was first fitted over 10 years ago it worked fine for the first few days and then one evening no hot water.  By heck I were right cross and rang M. Fuchs. 

“Hey Fuchs something is wrong with the hot water tank”
“Ah Monsieur Bibill you have no hot water? I know what the problem is”
“What”
“You”
“Me”
“Oui”
“Pourquoi?”
“Because you are English”
“So what has that to do avec the price du poisson?”
” Malheuresment Monsieur Bibill the English run their hot water taps and think nothing of running off lots of hot water.  It wastes water and electricity.  There is nothing wrong with the tank, tomorrow morning you will have hot water”

The bastard was right, but we learnt a lesson and have not done it again. 

Now when we have people staying in the gite we tell them how the water heats over night and that there is more than enough hoot water for a family blah blah blah.  We usually conclude by warning them they will probably run out of hot water and they always assure us they wont, but they do.

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