January 2007

Wednesday 31st January 2007- Red faces.MrsF and the two dustbin lids had a good days skiing. On coach vomiting by other members of the school were at an all time low. The weather had been glorious but there was not enough snow really and the ski station is closed now and will not repoen unless there is a major dump of snow. They all had bright red faces despite the walrus lard factor 7000 sun cream they had allegedly applied liberally all day. MrsF looked as if she had a blood pressure problem. The last snow drought I remember like this was 18 years ago. Apparently we might get some snow tomorrow afternoon. I wont hold my breath.My poor old knee has got worse and MrsF has had enough of me clumping around like Long John Silver, and is carting me back to see the specialist. He is going skiing at the end of the week, though God knows where, so it wont be until the 19th.
Tuesday 30th January 2007- Love and PeaceI forgot to mention this in my ramble on Saturday. The High School Musical Karaoke made my brains go funny. As you may or may not know we have a commune of new age travellers who live just up the road from us.A very genial bunch they are too who live in a interesting selection of vans and in Tibetan yak herds tent known as a yaourty. This translates as yoghurty- I jesteth not. I have had my fill of living in hides and holes in the ground and personally wouldn’t fancy living so close to nature on such a permanent basis, especially when it is nippy like it is at the moment, but I would defend their right to do so and have done publicly. They don’t do any harm to anyone and just want to be left alone. Some of the old gits in the ares would like to see the the back of them. They are known locally as “Les Love and Peace”. That’s les as in the French word not as in Dawson.

Alors, every now and then loads of vans appear from all over Europe bringing with them beucoup des Love and Peaces and they have une Rave. We have been to a couple of these dos in the past and should explain they are not a proper raves with decent lights, sound system and the KLF that pounds its way into the early hours of the morning ala Cap D’Agde, but they run a fairly reasonable shindig none the less in a sort of Love and Peace way. Man.

So last Saturday I was bringing Billy the Fish back from football (which is another tale in itself, suffice to say the I think we may have a new Gary Sprake on our hands or should I say in the net. My brother still has night mares and flash backs to those Classic Sprake goalie moments). Anyway we could only have been about 100m from home, when we came round a bend and there in the middle of the road in the woods leading to our house there was a large crowd of Love and Peaces. I reckon there must have been between 50 to 100 which for this neck of the woods is as near as you will get to a throng. They made quite a colourful contrast to the white of the heavy frost on the trees as it was the temperature had not got above zero all day.

I know quite a few of the local Love and Peaces and having such a distinctive jam jar as Frank the Multipla quite a few waved in a cheery manner. Me and the lad smiled and waved back but I had to stop the car because there was so many of them in the road. It was just dawning on me that some of the ladies in the group were somewhat scantily clad for the time of year when suddenly one exceptionally beautiful young lady ran towards us. “Jeez Louise she is almost naked” said the voice from the back of the car and slap me with a fish he was right. Naked might be putting it a bit strong but her magnificent female charms were barely contained. WOOOHHOOOOOW. I mean that in an equal opportunities, Homer Simpson, non sexist way.

I naturally opened the window and she ran up to the side of the car and promptly gave me a mega kiss on the lips and told me she thought I was tres mingon (pronounced minyon and means very cute) and that they loved me for being nice to them. She is right of course about me being minion, but its not often a semi naked wood nymph kisses me and tells me she loves me and I must admit that I was slightly taken aback and for once was lost for words. So in response I smiled inanely and the boy wonder and I waved back as we drove on through the crowd of smiling happy people waving to us. I was filled by their warmth and humanity when The Fish broke the reverie.
“Dad,….. do you know her?”
“Don’t think so son, why do you ask?”
“I didn’t think you did,………… but that’s what happens when you take drugs and drink too much alcohol”
“What happens?”
“You say and do stupid things. I am never going to touch drugs because you never know who you might end up kissing and she was pretty and you are certainly not mingon”.
“Thanks son”
“You’re welcome”

N.B I noticed the Fish made no mention of leaving drink alone. Not that me or MrsF have ever set a bad example by drinking too much and I certainly don’t remember saying or doing stupid things after a few drinks. As if we would.

Childhood Sweethearts
An elderly couple who were childhood sweethearts had married and settled down in their old neighbourhood. To celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary they walk down to their old school. There, they hold hands as they find the desk they shared and where he had carved “I love you, Sally”.
On their way back home, a bag of money falls out of an armoured car practically at their feet. She quickly picks it up, and they don’t know what to do with it so they take it home. There, she counts the money and it comes to fifty-thousand quid!
“We’ve got to give it back,” says the husband.
“Finders keepers,” she says, and puts the money back in the bag and hides it up in their attic.
Anyway the next day, the old bill are going from door-to-door in the neighbourhood looking for the money and eventually the knock on the door of the childhood sweethearts. The couple open it, and the policeman says: “Pardon me, but did either of you find any money that fell out of an armoured car yesterday?”
She says: “No.” but the husband says: “She’s lying. She hid it up in the attic.”
“Don’t believe him, he’s getting senile,” she says, but the policemen sit the man down and begin to question him. “Tell us the story from the beginning,” he says

“Well, when Sally and I were walking home from school yesterday …”
The two policemen immediately stand up and say “Sorry to have bothered you madam

Monday 29th January 2007- Its School Ski Time.Flora and Billy The Fish are going cross country skiing (ski du fond as it is known here) with the school tomorrow which is great news for them. The bad news for MrsF is that she is going is as well. Its the thought of herding a load of kids round a mountain that puts her off. Once she is actually there it is worse. The little buggers go 50m and then say they are knackered, then they fall over and can’t get up and by 10.30am they want to stop for lunch.Then there is the obligatory sad specimen. The kid who is unfit over weight and cannot do any kind of physical activity whatsoever. No matter which country, what the language, religion or colour every class in every school throughout the world has what in my day was called the fat kid…. Actually living in Yorkshire we were more PC and sensitive so they were known as fat spaz. Mr Blair and doctors tell us that obese kids are a new British invention but that is bollocks. We had them in the sixties and they have them in France too, although maybe not the quantity. I could mention names but wont, no names, no packed lunch drill. They go on these school trips armed with enough sweets to give bloody Willy Wonker a run for his money. Invariable one of the is tom and dick on the coach either going up the windy mountain roads or down on the way home or if they are really lucky both.

The saving grace is that the spot they go to for the skiing is really beautiful and although it will be cold first thing the Meteo says it will be blue skies and sunshine. Even so I think it fair to say she is not looking forward to it.

Three tortoises, George, Dick and Don, decide to go on a picnic.
Dick packs the picnic basket with beer and sandwiches.
The trouble is that the picnic site is ten miles away so, it takes them ten days to get there. When they get there Dick unpacks the food and beer. “OK, Don, give me the bottle opener.”
“I didn’t bring it,” says Don. “I thought you packed it.”
Dick gets worried. He turns to George. “Did you bring the bottle opener?”
Naturally George didn’t bring it. So they’re stuck ten miles from home without a bottle opener.
Dick and George beg Don to go back for it, but he refuses because, he says, they will eat all the sandwiches while he’s gone. After two hours, and after they have sworn on their tortoise lives that they will not eat the sandwiches, Don finally agrees to go get the bottle opener.
So Don sets off down the road at a steady pace.
Twenty days pass and he still isn’t back and Dick and George are starving, but a promise is a promise.
Another five days and Don still isn’t back, but a promise is a promise.
Finally they can’t take it any longer so they take out a sandwich each. Just as they are about to eat, Don pops up from behind a rock and shouts, “I KNEW I COULDN’T TRUST YOU … I’M NOT BLOODY GOING!”

Saturday 27th January – Squeaky Girls.
Not to be confused with The Cheeky girls and for the matter the amorous doings of a Lib Dem MP. Nice to see they had a mini heterosexual scandal for a change. Tonight Flora has about 6 friends staying overnight. To say they are excited is not doing it justice. Its like being invaded by giant mice with beaucoup de giggles and laughing which when combined sounds like a cross between a nasal snore and a squeak. To add to the mayhem MrsF made a Crazy Frog Birthday cake so everyone was going bringidibringdidi bring brahhhdady bring. You get the drift. They are currently having a karaoke session to High school Musical – in French and it is just bloody awful. As the room they are in is next to my office, I have no intention of staying her longer than necessary, however this does link very nicely to the following amazing bit of info I picked up on t’internet.

A professor of acoustics engineering at at Salford University recently conducted an on-line survey, allowing people to vote on different sounds so they could determine the worst sound, or noise, in the world.
The genius behind this research project is Trevor Cox, who set up a website where visitors could listen to, and vote on, a variety of 34 different sounds over a 1-year period. In that time, over a million people listened to some terrible sounds and rated them.
Here is a small sample of the sounds he provided: Fingernaials being dragged down a blackboard, scraping and squeaking train wheels, microphone feedback, a dentist’s drill, crying babies, and vomiting, to name six of the 34 sounds.
I think you will agree that there was a fairly competitive list and one of the sounds listed above won, but which one do you think it was?

  • Fingernails being dragged down a blackboard came in 16th. No way
  • The dreadful sound of the dentist’s drill finished even lower in 20th place.
  • Crying babies and Scraping, squeaking train wheels tied for third place.
  • Microphone feedback finished in second place.
  • And the No. 1 worst sound in the world as voted on by 1.1 million website visitors was, by process of elimination: Vomiting.

Makes you sick doesn’t it, But I see squeaky 10 year old girls don’t feature in the list.

“From a scientific perspective, we really don’t understand why some sounds are so horrible, but our reactions are part of what makes us human,” Prof. Cox told reporters. “If, as engineers, we can learn what offends people then, in some cases, we may be able to engineer them out of existence or at least reduce their impact.”

Friday 26th January 2007 – Travelling is half the Fun!It was -7.5 this morning when I got up and was -9.5 yesterday morning. Far more seasonal temperatures. Although there was some snow there is not a mega amount.Death and two of his mates were due to arrive yesterday at Pau airport for a weekends skiing. Sans moi of course due to dodgy lung, knackered back and gammy knee – I don’t think I have missed anything off the list. Pau is an hour from us and they should have arrived at about 1.30 ish. At 1pm we got a call from Death saying that the were on the tarmac at Bergerac due to an incident at Pau. Bergerac is well over 3 hours away. It transpired that an Air France Fokker with 50 odd people onboard was taking off in fairly icy conditions when a bird flew into one of its engines. The plane failed to take off, skidded off the run way collapsing the undercarriage and somehow – though I am buggered if I can see how, hit a lorry on a service road within the airport perimeter. Gezzer in the lorry brown bread crew and passengers all got off safe and sound. So it was safer to fly than go by road in case of this little episode.

Anyway this left Death, Pete the pilot and James stranded a long way from where they wanted to be. There were no hire cars to be had and the airline could not arrange coaches. More like could not be arsed. So I drove off to pick them up. It was clearly one of those days because I was nipping along the snow covered countryside and making very good time when I was over taken by a young lady going at mach10. She was going like a friggin loon and was in my opinion an accident waiting to happen.

Not long afterwards I found myself in a little queue of traffic caused by said woman having driven into the back of a cement lorry. Cement and crap everywhere and a very sorry looking car. The Gendarmes have a fairly laid back attitude to fatal accidents where someone kills themselves and so we were not kept waiting long. Just goes to bear out two of the Met driving school adages 1. Better to get there slightly late rather than not at all and 2.Nothing is so urgent as to justify an accident. Not that everyone always paid attention to these wise words of advise. Anyway I am pleased to report that the rest of the journey was long but uneventful.

Claudia came back from her ski trip with the school. She had a good time and enjoyed herself. I think it was marred a little bit by a falling out with one of her friends. Teenage angst and I am sure it will all blow over as quickly as it started and nothing a good cuddle and some hot chocolate cant help put in perspective.

Wednesday 24th January 2007- WinterMinus 4 with light snow showers. That’s more like January. Although it snowed quite a bit yesterday it did not lay here as the ground was too warm, however further north there is quite a bit of snow on the ground. There is a cold front moving over and it is due to be -10 to – 12 for the next few days BUT they say it will be warmer next weekMrsF is working on the chicken stall tomorrow at Tarbes market. I would go with her but there is some bod is coming to talk to us about solar energy.
Monday 22nd January 2007 Happy Birthday FloraApparently 22nd January is the most depressing day of the year – but not in this house if you exclude all the bills and stuff. Although Ribs had to go to school I did her a spag bol and some little fairy cakes for tea.Claudia has gone on a ski trip with the college. King ada she took some stuff with her including a bloody pillow. The good news is that she wont nick the remain mince pies from my not so secret stash. Mind you they are getting a bit beyond their best. We have scoffed the hot cross buns so there is no chance of those going past their best!

You will have seen over recent weeks that I keep banging on about how warm it has been – no rain- very unlike January well it has started snowing and the forecast is for temperatures down to -12 by the weekend. Best I get MrsF busy chopping wood!

Sunday 21st January 2007 Winter BBQsI got a bit of sunburnt nose yesterday afternoon watching billyboy play football, the sun was that strong. Claudia had some friends over for a girlie night of Pizzas and DVDs and she asked if we could have BBQ for Sunday lunch. Fuelled with a spring like feeling I decided it was a good idea and bought in bits and bobs to cremate. It rained today for the first time in ages but that didn’t stop me – oh no, once I decide we are going have a barbie it has to be pretty bad for me to change my mind. We ate inside of course, I am not totally stupidClaudias Birthday cake was an angel and is based on a French Album cover by a French singer whose name I have temporarily forgotten. MrsF was not over happy with the results but I thought it was really good and more importantly Claudia was delighted. So what the rest of think doesn’t matter. To be far I don’t think the photos does it justice.

Kevin’s stay went well apart from the fact I knocked one of his teeth out this afternoon whilst wrestling with him -oops. The goods news is that it had been wobbling for ages and just would not come out so he was glad to see the back of it. However for a brief second when I saw the tooth on the floor I did want to rush to find the superglue to stick it back in. Kevin says he is too old to believe in the tooth fairy (actually it is a mouse in France) but he took the €2 slush money anyway and has promised not to grass.

Friday 19th January 2007 A day of firsts.This will be our first weekend as a foster family. The boy is called Kevin – yeah I know its not a very French name but I didn’t name him! He will arrive at about 6pm and be with us until Sunday night.It is also marks the first hot cross bun of the year. You dont get them in France and these ones were bought from Sainsburys by Julias mum and dad. No doubt the shops are full of Easter eggs already – my life. I thought the whole point of hot cross buns was that you had them on Good Friday! Mind you I am very partial to both toasted tea cakes and hot cross buns as is Claudia

There is yet another meeting tonight to discuss the school. As predicted the motion to accept the proposals from the inspector of the academy was won by a small majority, but a majority none the less. I think they will regret the decision but there you go. However I have drafted a letter to said smiling assassin which reads as follows.

Mr Inspector

With reference to your meeting at the mairie Galan on Thursday 18th January 2007.

Although we should be pleased that you met us I wonder why it has taken you so long to do so. I regret that I found your approach and demeanour arrogant and condescending and that I think your handling of the situation at Galan has left a lot to be desired.

I put several questions to you at the meeting which you rather rudely declined to answer. I would now like these questions answering in writing.

  1. You said at the meeting that you took the decision to create a half post at Galan with M Lereede before the rentre 2005. I believe you lied for the following reasons.
  • On the day of the rentre 2005 no teacher reported for work at Galan on the first day
  • I was part of delegation of parents who spoke to M Lereede and he made no mention of the fact that a half post had been created.
  • Lereede actually said there was nothing that could be done there and
  • It was a several days later that M Majarou was contacted and told that the new half post had been created and he and the rest of the staff were not aware of the new half post until then

Please clarify when was the decision taken to create the half post and provide the appropriate documents to support this.

  1. You said you were told you need to loose 6 post in the Hautes Pyrenees and you tried to make sure no posts were lost for people standing in front of pupils”. What posts were lost?
  1. How many times and how has the case for the fourth post been put to the two committees you referred to?
  1. If it has been put please provide us with the documentation to show how it was put? If , the case for Galan has not been put then please explain why not?
  1. Why has your department and in particular you, not responded to the parents communications, especially those in September 2006.
  1. Why did you department conceal the fact that in September 2007 M xxxxxxx was being considered for a full time post at another school and that consequently we were going to loose another teacher from Galan.
  1. You told us that there were strict budget restrictions in your department and that you had already cut posts to save money, so how can you justify having a car and chauffer?
  1. How much does your cost to purchase and run?
  1. How many similar cars are operated by your department?
  1. How much does the chauffer cost the department?
  1. How many other chauffers are employed by your department?

As you apparently have studied the case for Galan so attentively then you should be in possession of all the required information and consequently I require a written response along with supporting documentation to reach me by no later than Monday 5th February.

We await a response.

Thursday 18th January 2007 School Days, School Days never let me go!The battle reached a new level today when the inspector of education for our department had a meeting with the parents in the Mairie – Mayors office. He was met by the Mayor of Galan and they scuttled inside for a quick pre fight chin wag before we were ushered in. There were three other mayors in attendance in support of the parents and a number of press reporters. But what they did not expect was the 50 odd parents and grandparents who turned up in the middle of the working day.Mr Inspector who is a smarmy bastard with a false smile and an arrogant disposition was shitting hot conkers and he started to baloney us about budget cuts and how he had to cut jobs etc. He sort to reassure us that he never axed teaching posts etc etc. However he did not explian why he had arrived in a chauffer driven car. Not just any car but a top of the range citroen C5 – €40,000 worth. He had clearly been briefed about the leary Englishman because every time I tried to pick him up on something he rather rudely cut me short. In the end he proposed to release someone to cover 2 half days and promised to have the case for Galan looked. As the children only go to school for 4 days this is an improvement BUT it is not really good enough. I suspect that we will get the shaft but most of the parents cannot afford the disruption of taking the kids out of school so I suspect they will capitulate.
Tuesday 16th January Claudia and BevClaudias birthday today but as\she is having a couple of friends over at the weekend. so we are having a little birthday tea tonight.Happy Birthday Bev – the big four zero.

Yesterday I went to the lung specialist following the problem on new years eve. I had a battery of lung function tests and x-rays. The results were almost the same although there has been a slight deterioration since the last tests in 2001. He is fairly sure I had an embolism and it seems the problem originated as a result of my knee and being unable to move my leg properly. I am booked in for a scan on the 3rd February. As I am not dead I will take that as a bonus.

The weather continues to be unseasonably mild and we have had clear blue skies and sunshine with 22c. It is not even cold at night!

The fight over staffing levels at the school continue. There have been meetings and protests almost everyday. Last Friday there was a public meeting in a local village hall, attended by a vast number of parents and granparents, the Headmaster of the School, the Mayor of Galan plus about 6 of the other small villages that make up the Canton. The local education inspector Mr Lereede should have been there but his mother had died. This is indeed odd because he was unable to meet us back in October because his mother had died. How many mums does this bloke have?

Anyway the Headmaster spoke for about 5 minutes and outlined the problems for both staff and pupils. His talk was received with mutterings of support and much head nodding. Then the Mayor of Galan got up and did a load of vote catching, insincere, politic speak ie there is not a day that doesn’t go by when we don’t think of you and the problem blah blah blah. He had done lots to help – yeah my fat arse. Silence total silence. He shuffled about a bit then sat down. Then I was called upon to address the assembled masses. My French is not bad but not perfect so I started saying Please excuse my French and I hope you understand everything I say…..” Known for my tact and diplomacy I outlined the history from the parents position. Then I got the thumbs up from Domonique the chairman of the group and took it as a red light to put the boot in, so I did. The lies and dishonesty by the Mayor and the local inspector the arrogance at departmental level etc etc. I concluded by saying I have had enough, we have had enough and it is time you listened and did something about it-finger jabbing at the mayor and empty seat where Mr Lereede should have been. From the ovation that I got including from several of the Mayors I had clearly got the message across. The mayor of Galan did not look like a happy chap but that was his problem not mine.

Saturday 13th January 2007 – Forest Fire.Just got this shot of a fire in the mountains. Just to get a perspective the mountains are about 20km away and there is not a cloud in the ski everything you see is smoke.

Tuesday 9th January 2007- Of Mice and MeaslesNow then pop pickers there are a few bits and bobs to tell you about. None of them are what you would call breath taking, so don’t reach for the Zantac just yet.Flora has got measles. Just go to show how well the vaccines work. To be fair she may not feel that great but she is not as tom and dick as she would have been without the jab. Having had chicken pox last year (for the second time in my life) I am much more sympathetic with these childhood illnesses.

I still have not got round to doing anything about the mice and so they remain an irritation. I found one in the food processor yesterday. Inspired by then old joke “what’s green and then goes red at the press of a button” – “Kermit the frog in a liquidiser” being the answer of course. I was tempted to zap the little brown bastard.

My left lung is still sore after my apparent embolism on New Years eve. I am very tired and don’t feel marvellous but I aint dead, although MrsF says my feet smell like I am dead. I don’t know how she knows what dead peoples feet smell like, but maybe I am better off not knowing.

Billy Boy tells me it is going to be cold and snow after the 16th Jan. I don’t know where he gets his information from but he seems pretty convinced.

The school saga rolls on. I saw the mayor of Galan who gave me the same old song about it being out of his hands and being unable to do anything. I told him he might be right and that he should not worry as most people intend to look for a new mayor soon anyway. He justified his position by saying he had not been well over the festive season due to some dodgy oysters. Shame, but what the hell has that got to do with the price of coal?

Anyway, all the children in the affected class are being removed by the parents. We have a roster in place to look after kids whose parents are working. We also intend to invoice the education department for our time. They wont pay of course, but it will piss them off no end. There is another meeting tonight to discuss future strategies and I am sufficiently recovered to go. I fancy the idea of a moving road block in Galan enabling us to to hand out leaflets and slow down the bloody Spanish lorries.

On a lighter note I have been sent the following little joke by a regular visitor to the site from Sacramento.

A distraught Australian woman rushed into the local police station claiming she had been raped. The Desk Sergeant calmed her down and asked her to provide details.

She told him that it was a man of average height dressed in white and that he was wearing protective pads on his legs and forearms, additionally he had on a helmet and gloves.

“That sounds as if the man was a cricketer,” observed the policeman.

“Oh, yes he was,” replied the woman, “and what’s more he was an Englishman”.

“I suppose you guessed that because of his accent ,” said the Sergeant.

“No,” the woman said, “it was because he didn’t stay in very long.”

Very witty indeed.

Our thoughts are with all those Poms down under at this sad time and especially my old mate Jim in Queens land.

Saturday 6th January 2007-The sun continues to blaze in the sky and it refuses to rain or more commonly at this time of year snow. We did have a bit of drizzle the other day but it was not much. It is a bit parky in the morning but not as cold as it should be. All very odd.The lung continues to give me stick and I am seeing the specialist in a week. They have said if i have any more bleeding I should go to hospital. I have also been advised to refrain from any strenuous activity. Thus today being Saturday, I will drag my wasting corpse into the living room and assume a reclined position in front of the box to watch the afternoons rugby.

The kids go back to school on Monday BUT the problem with the education authority continues. For full details follow this link . A teacher has been posted from Galan school to a school nearer his home. Good news for him but he has not been replaced and surprise surprise the additional teacher we were promised by that lying, two faced, bastard of an inspector M. La Raid, has not materialised. I did tell them she wouldn’t. In addition 4 more children have been accepted into the school by the local mayor-Dickhead. This means that Billy the fish now has 36 children in his class. The norm is 24. The absolute maximum in exceptional circumstance is 30 and the considered acceptable upper norm is 28.

Anyway it has been decided that we will withdraw our children from school in the afternoons. Feelings are very high and we now intend to blockade the main road in the afternoons as well. I have made contact with a number of news agencies and they Billy the Fish does not know that he is not going to school in the afternoons and somehow I don’t think he will be too disappointed.

There is a meeting on Tuesday evening to see what is going to happen. Due to m y happy smiley disposition and advanced people skills I have been elected to confront the Inspector and his equally bright superiors. I am sure that will make me feel better.

Wednesday 3rd January 2007

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ONE AND ALL

It has been a long New Year but very agreeable apart from the fact that I suddenly felt rather unwell and breathless and developed a very painful left lung on New Years eve. Then the next thing I started coughing up bright red frothy blood. Well I think you will agree that you didn’t need to be a medical genius to work out something was wrong. I retired early and have not been feeling too good. Today MrsF took me to the quacks and it seems I may have had a Pulmonary embolism. I am feeling better but not great, and am very tired. I am now waiting to see the lung specialist some time next week.

Its a bugger starting the new year like that but shit happens and I am lucky not to be shoving up daisies.

I have been asked by someone to post a picture of the Christmas Cakes MrsF did. I baked the cake she decorated it. Sorry for the short and less than cheerful post.

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