Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Smart toilet seat


    Skiing season, 6 Nations season, possibly snowy season, wow, welcome to 2019 before it roars into the next decade. This should also be the golf season for me, as I enjoy playing the sport in winter in Scotland because the courses are a bit easier. Admittedly, you do have the howling wind sending the wee ball offline, as well as rain, fog and other inclement climate variants but, for a bad golfer like myself, it is all about the 'rough', as that is frequently where my ball ends up. However, what is normally 3 foot high goose-grass in summer which will swallow more balls than a Polish hooker, in winter is cut back, so that it can re-grow and thus, with a sharp pair of eyes I manage to get round without losing a box-full of the things. Now, if only they would put a net over the sea or, better still, make golf balls that float!
    I mentioned last month we are now in our new home and are still very much enjoying life by the ocean, not least because the weather has mainly been beautiful here in East Neuk. Beach walks with the dogs have been frequent, despite Louis's obsession with rotting seagulls which seem to adorn the shoreline this time of year. On numerous occasions he has either had to have one confiscated on his return to the house, or take an involuntary full bath after he has rolled in the damn things.  Our new kitchen has been put to extensive use and, on the whole, seems to function reasonably well. I have designed and built half a dozen kitchens over the last few years but when it comes to putting one in that I want to work in myself, some serious thought needs to apply, regarding proximity of appliances, sinks etc. My only complaint is the issue of the soft-close hinge. Yes, maybe this modern invention does have the advantage of doors not banging shut or drawers being left slightly open but it has really been taken too far, with the introduction of the slow-drop toilet seat.  Now we all know the eternal age-old gender debate about 'seat up or down' which has probably instigated more sexual harassment law suits than Peter Green, but now we have this in-between state where it is neither one thing nor the other. And sometimes, you don’t have time to wait the full 5 minutes for the thing to descend, if you get my drift? Hopping up and down and gritting your teeth surely can't be produce healthy outcome - can it? Well, from now on, ours is glued down permanently, so there Mrs F!
    This month I have to go to war, with the Chinese. No, not quite the whole nation - in fact, the take-away at the end of our street actually sent us a Christmas card this year, such is our working relationship. No, my truck with them involves mobile phones or, in my case, lack of them. Just 2 months have passed since my new Umidigi handset arrived from China, only a few weeks late. And, for a while it all worked fine until, for some strange coincidence, it packed up on Christmas morning. Since then, after vain attempts at fixing it, I have emailed, written, phoned and screamed at the supplier to replace or repair it, only to be bluntly ignored. So now, I have taken to naming and shaming them on social media, each posting slightly more vitriolic than the former. Despite still getting zero response, I do wholly realise that somewhere amongst this vendetta, I may be breaching some libel laws but I care not. I have even taken to swearing at them in Chinese! However, thanks to Bing Translate, for all I know I could be ordering a chow-mein! Not until the Emperor himself sends me a full pardon, or at least a refund, will I cease with my endeavours of justice. Keep your eyes on the press for a solitary figure sitting in Tiananmen square sometime soon!
   I am not quite sure where I have been hiding my head lately, but I have only recently discovered a new phenomenon that it about to spark the 4th industrial revolution (no, I never knew we had 3 previous ones either!). I am talking about the 'Internet-of-things'. I don’t know who came up with the name, possibly a small child, but basically this is a generic term for devices that are connected to the internet, allowing them to not only communicate with each other but also gather data to improve their productivity. Sounds complicated? Well it may be but it is surprising how many of these IoT gadgets we already use in our daily life and the list is growing at an alarming rate. Let's take one of the original ones, that gadget you can use at the supermarket to pay for your shopping. It knows when you shop, what you eat, what the weather is like, how fast you walk, how much you drink, etc. And you don’t suppose for one minute that it keeps all that information to itself, do you? Of course, you don’t have to use it, and many of us choose not to for that very reason. Basically anything preceded with the word Smart belongs to this category and it is stealing all your stuff and sharing it with strangers. As well as TV, phones and cars, you can get smart hairbrushes, toothbrushes, toasters and dog collars, the list is as endless as it is, in my mind, useless. However, the reason I uncovered all this uncomfortable information is that we have just installed a new heating system and it too is Smart - well, smarter than me anyway. Now, apparently, I can control the heating in the house, even when I am not there which, er, seems pretty unnecessary. But more than that, it knows what the weather is like because the internet told it, so can control itself accordingly. And, as it knows we are in Scotland, it possibly assumes it snows all winter and asks the bank for a loan to pay the gas bill? Apparently I can even set it to switch off the radiators every time I leave the room to go to the toilet. Adding on an extra 5 minutes for the slo-coach seat to go down, obviously. Ah, here's a thought, why can't someone invent the smart toilet seat, that I can control from my phone 5 minutes before I need to go for a pony-and-trap? Come on IoT, get it sorted.


Monday, 17 December 2018

As stable as a bipolar polar bear


    What ho, everyone. Happy Festivities etc. Well, by the time this goes to print they will probably be over but hopefully you enjoyed and still are enjoying yourselves and staying optimistic about the year ahead, despite the fact that the economy is about as stable as a bipolar polar bear!
    Also, by the time this gets to hard copy, we will have moved into yet another new house, in time for Christmas. It seems to be becoming something of a habit, as that will be five Scottish houses - in five years - that we have renovated and then lived in, if only temporarily. However, this is the one we have been working towards, the one right on the beach in Cellardyke, with just seagulls and waves for company. The plan was always to be in by December but a few curve balls have held up proceedings, not least Scottish Power, a company about as useful as a chocolate colander. Finally, after digging up most of the surrounding roads and pathways, we do have mains electric into the house, but no supply yet, and are still relying on a highly dodgy extension cable from next door - our previous abode. But we do now have heating, and nice views, although as yet a little bit sparse on furniture, as all of ours is now being rented out. Of course, this house is not quite finished, as we start on a quite technical extension in the January, adding a further bedroom and south facing terrace out to the sea wall, but it is homely and air tight. Meanwhile, our two dogs are as confused as a Brexit deal, as we let them out through one door and they then sit outside the wrong house waiting to get back in. For the ‘dog of little brain’ this involves much barking to boot. At least we don’t currently have a house polluted by herds of cats, as they are all back in France, being spoilt rotten by our house sitters, who keep posting photos of them on social media sitting by the fire or enjoying a 3-course meal.
    I have spent much of the last month clearing up what was a building site, which involves trips to that place of despair, the local tip. For reasons better known to themselves, the council have changed it from an open-all-hours base to one with a strict timetable which seems to revolve every week, and hence I have to make every journey at least three times. For example, today their website says they are open but when I arrive? Nope. A sign on the gate informs me that not only is it closed, but will remain so for the next two days. On investigation, a knowledgeable man in the pub informs me that this is due to the fact that we had a frost this morning so it may be a bit icy underfoot and the power-crazed fat lazy ba*stard who works there might slip while waddling from his warm office to berate punters who put their plastic in with the cardboard. Couldn’t he put down some salt, maybe? Nope. Cut backs on salt. Cut backs on hours. Cut backs on everything. Except my council tax bill. You see, last decade’s eco-mentalist ideals have simply just imploded as the cost of recycling every ounce of household waste has spiralled so high it is no longer sustainable without a hand-out from Europe? Wasn’t it Descartes who said, ‘you cant sweep it under the carpet forever’? Well, I believe there is a simple answer? Bring back brazziers and bonfires. Or is that brasiers? I get confused.
    Carrying on with the subject of cutting back, a visit to the opticians raises yet another of my eyebrows as I am no longer allowed an eye test until I have gone completely blind. Even then, if I arrive with a white stick and Labrador I will be sent packing unless a full 2 years has gone by since my last check-up… if I haven’t walked out in front of a bus by then!
    On the good news front, we have managed to be successful in a ballot to get tickets to see Scotland playing Russia at rugby, in Japan, next October. Now I know this might sound a bit odd, especially as few folks will know that the old USSR actually play the game at national level but, you see, this is a World Cup, so anyone can join in. However, their qualification was, as is often the case with the Ruskies, surrounded with controversy as their rivals, namely Spain, Romania and Belgium, all accidentally got reported for cheating. The accusation was that a few of their players were not actually residents in their said country, thus breaking a rule which is, at best, open to interpretation, and one that has been continually ignored by home nations for a generation. Is there no stunt Putin wont pull? One has to question how he manages to sleep at night? Rumours that all the referees and linesmen are all named Karchopsky are, as yet, unfounded!
    Finally, I would like to offer some seasonal advice to Santa to bring him into the next decade. Get yourself a 3D printer, pal. They are brilliant! It can make toys, furniture, motorbikes, even houses, just at the flick of the keyboard while you sit with your size tens on the coffee table with a pint of stout. Or better still, give everybody one as a present, so we can all churn out our own stuff at will. Win win. Please, can mine be big enough knock out a small private jet so I never have to suffer the indignity of Ryanair ever again?


Suicidal rodents



     This month I pen this column from both sides of the channel. At present we are frantically packing our things into the car, in order to head north for the winter, as usual. And, as usual, new house-sitters are arriving any minute, the house is getting its annual clean, and a year's worth of junk gets tidied away. This, of course, takes far longer than it should: because for 'junk' read 'things that we didn’t want to throwaway until we had studied them in more detail'. 3 days later, old photos, letters, brochures and tax bills have all found a place, primarily in the bin but it did make for an interesting time, apart from the tax bill which I had hidden from myself in an out sight, out of pocket, sort of way. And now, it's all panic stations.
     Also causing minor stress-balls was a new mobile phone, after dropping mine in the toilet a few weeks back. This new spangly one actually came direct from China at a reasonable price, on recommendation from a friend. Except, it didn’t, as we got a message saying our package contained explosive goods or liquids such as, and I quote, a “lithium battery”. Hmm, yes, it's a phone, and they do.  So, delivery re-routed via sea and land, it arrived, today. And now I need to set it up, which is a job for experts, not numpty technophobes such as I.
     Another simple task which also needed undertaking prior to winter is the usual vermin control, despite us having a house full of useless cats. But this year, it appears the wee timorous beasties have taken it upon themselves to form a suicide pact, as my box of poison in the cupboard was completely empty. A tell-tale hole in the bottom led us to the fact that this stuff must be really really tasty, as they had actually helped themselves. Result!
    Anyway, car loaded up with wine, dogs and wife, we are off, hoping to exit France before the militants takeover, enforcing road blocks throughout the country. The exact reason for this month’s solidarity is a little unclear, but word on the street is that it is in protest of the latest tax imposed on garlic and other basic French necessities. My my, UK thought it has problems with a few minor squabbles in its ranks of power? Incidentally, does anyone else find it quite uncanny that it was actually the prime minister who put the Gove in Government, and possibly the May in maybe we’re all  f++ked?
     So, an over night ferry later and we are back on mainland Britain again, just in time to board a another ferry, this time to the Isle of Wight in time for a fine lobster  lunch. It has been thirty-odd years since I was last on this island and I have to admit it has changed somewhat. Gone is the quaint and ancientness of a by gone seafront era and, in its place, pure unadulterated shameless opulence, yacht optional.  
     The visit is only flying one, by sea, to catch up with some good buddies who have moved here from France to pursue their passion for sailing. Then its on the road again, this time to see yet another old friend, one who goes back much further. A few of you may remember the rotund figure of a young chap named Milo, as we frequented the Rock Cross and other establishments in our late teens. Our adventures back then were rarely without incident and often involved trips to casualty for one reason or another. I am not only going to reunite with my old school pal but with the school itself. 41 years have passed since I left Lucton boarding school for boys, aged just 15. My years there were not all happy ones but life improved a little when they – heaven forbid – allowed girls into the fray. They didn’t play rugger with us lads, obviously, but some of the pioneering ones did make games a bit more exciting. Now we are all more or less grown up, it will be great to review all those memories we all hold from way back when, if only to establish if they were factually correct. Did Milo really eat 100 pickled eggs and then throw up all over matron? Or one of the prefects run off with the French mistress 5 years his senior? A few stories have recently made the press, sadly involving my housemaster and despicable acts. And another declaring that one of my classmates was actually the son of Pablo Escabar, the worlds most notorious drug dealer. The only thing I can really guarantee as true is one spotty youth still has his initials carved on the sandstone archway by the main door in 1977.
     Next up, yet more nostalgia, this time of a bovine source. Exactly 42 years ago I walked through the doors into Bingley Hall, Stafford, towing an unwieldy Friesian steer behind me. My father had phoned my headmaster suggesting that a couple of days at a cattle show would be marginally more beneficial to my education than double maths and getting the stuffing kicked out of me on the rugby pitch. And so it was, that night sleeping on a straw bed amongst those well groomed beasts, that set me off on a career in cattle and sheep showing that spanned over 3 decades. For much of that time I enjoyed the pinnacle of success, hauling in the silverware as well as meeting some clever and capable people, many of whom I still consider as friends. So after a 15 year absence it was nice to once again wander amongst the familiar surroundings, watching and chatting. The cattle seemed much the same, although some of the older  handlers may have spent a bit too much time at the feed trough, this author included!

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Last Commute

Sometimes, often during the middle of the night, a sequence of rhyme comes into my head. The below poem came from nowhere, but I think encapsulates the daily grind of the London underground.


THE LAST COMMUTE


I'm not sure how I'd be in space,
Where air is thin, no human race,
D'you think that I would miss this place,
Where people turn away? 

A mountain lodge with snow outside
The sort of place where I could hide,
From seas of faces far and wide,
Where people turn away 

Shadows flicker from the sun,
A leafy path where I would run,
That leads away from this old town,
Where people turn away 

But here I sit or stand and squeeze 
When all I want is to feel breeze,
Not huddled up with folks like these,
Where people turn away 

And so it's time to make a stand,
A cottage row or foreign land,
A blowy beach with golden sand,
Where I can turn away


It sounds so easy, just to say,
That I'd be welcomed far away,
But I believe there'll be the day,
When people smile my way.


Andy Frazier - October 2018

Driverless drivers


OK, that's it, summer's over. Or is it? It certainly has been a season of extremes: wettest winter, longest summer, warmest autumn. My guess is that all of these will add up to a record of some description, and that the French wine of 2018 will be extraordinary - either good or bad. Of course the local producers will tell us the former but then, they are not going to say 'monsieur, this year's wine is merde!' are they?
Currently we are back in France after our 3-week Spanish trip, and the grass still hasn’t started growing. Thankfully, as indicated a few months ago, we have sold our entire flock of ewes, who all went off on a lorry to pastures new a few weeks ago, to start a new breeding life in the South West.  This was with the exception of Daisy Death-wish who is now nearly 7 years old, and having a few months holiday staying with a friend. That just leaves us with 5 ewe lambs and a fat pet 6 year-old, Skippy, who will also be off to spend the wet months somewhere else. Then, for the first time in a couple of decades, the whole farm will be ploughed up in the next few weeks and planted with wheat for the winter. No, we are not going into arable farming, just that the land needs a rest for a year. Next autumn it will get replanted with new grass and we should be back in the sheep business the year after, with all the renewed headaches that it brings.
Meanwhile it will soon be time for our winter exodus back to the East of Scotland. With one project completed and another nearly done we are sitting back a little and relying on a house sale or two this year. My plan is to play a bit more golf, watch some international rugby or even put my feet up now and again on the rainy days. Of course, there is still a bathroom and kitchen to tile, electricity mains to install, a holiday flat to decorate, a house to furnish, extension to build, that sort of thing, but I won't be rushing quite so fast this term, as I try and get a bit more balance in my hectic lifestyle. There's something I don’t write very often!
  Of course, before we get to that, there's the 2000-mile journey by road, something that starts out nice and easy on French motorways and gradually decays in the tarmac chaos that is Britain's road network. Around the world there is currently a debate raging about the introduction of driverless cars. Many of you will have seen that Google, Uber, Tesla and a few other conglomerates are piling the money into researching these things and every week we hear of their breakthroughs, rather than breakdowns.  So how far are we really from me being able to sit in the back of my vehicle, with my family, and let it drive me from Bordeaux to Edinburgh whilst I have a nap? On looking closer at this development I come across a bloke called Stan, from Manchester who, with only a handful of employees believes he is leading the race toward the empty driver's seat finish line. 'British brains are better than American and Chinese cash,' he quotes on BBC news, continuing with: 'yes, it's a gamble and a number of bets have to come off for it to work..!'   With his project called Five AI, whilst the others are still testing their machines on salt flats or minor roads, his prototypes are already careering around the streets of London masquerading as taxis, and that is something, on the face of it, I find quite disturbing.  I mean, Mr Boland may be an entrepreneur and all that, but does he really have authority to do this? And if he does, who else is out there having a go? Will we see Alan Sugar, for instance, sending his numpty apprentices down Clapham high street with remote control double-deckers? Is James Dyson working on a cordless motorbike whilst I speak? Or perhaps I could have a go, getting my dog to drive me home from the pub. Let's face it, she is probably a tad more intelligent than half of the idiots that I have encountered on the M6. You see, all she has to do is drive at the same speed as everyone else, stay in one lane, keep her distance, and motorways become a very simple thing to negotiate. So why is it that every f++king imbecile in an Audi insists on overtaking every other imbecile and then standing on the breaks so we all have coronaries! Well, here is my solution. If you want to make the roads safer, forget making cars more intelligent and start with the drivers?
A consistent problem I seem to meet with this time of year is that of prolonged sneezing fits, some of which can last 30 minutes or more. Normally I put it down to a common cold or change of weather but, realistically something must be attributed to the fact that we decant indoors, spend evenings on the sofa in front of the TV instead of out on the terrace with the sunset, and sleep under a duvet rather than just a cotton sheet. So, this year, prompted by advice from others, I have succumbed to the fact that I may just be allergic to something. Reluctantly I turn to the internet for guidance. Thank you the good old NHS for the following nugget: "The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the substance that you're allergic to...!" Is it any wonder the whole system is more bankrupt than a Greek builder?
After some sleuthing of my own, my deduction is that it may be feathers. So as well as burning the sofa, I might have to keep away from the birds for a while!

Friday, 7 September 2018

Libby's Spanish Odysey - week 1



Day 1 of Libby's Spanish road trip. 
Still in France, near St  Cyrien, With the med and Pyrenees as a back drop. A bit cloudy though. Good day for kite surfing....if only I was 30kgs lighter!


Day 2, Libby's Spanish Odyssey
I suppose I should explain that Libby (Sunday name: LMC Libery) is our 18 year old campervan. We bought her to see if it was a holiday lifestyle we would enjoy and, two years later, believe it is. We had even considered trading her in for a newer model but find that the solid German build of this machine is mostly superior to the newer lighter models on sale today, so she stays, for another year or so at least. 
So, we have embarked on a 3 week tour around the coast of Spain, my wife, 2 dogs and I, and this is now day 2.
Last night we stayed in Argeles, on the Mediterranean coast just north of the Spanish border in France. Although our mission is to mainly park in remote areas, known to many as 'wild camping' for the 1st couple of nights it was easier to settle into a campsite, park up and hook up, and relax a while. The spot we chose was right near the beach, so we could walk the dogs, Pooper and Louis on the sand, and then fire up the bbq. Before dinner we ventured to the bar to find it was just about to launch one of its dreadful 'entertainment evenings', something which campers, especially the French, seem to enjoy. Well not I. I am not good in company at best of times, and definitely not amongst French pop music.
Anyway, after a previous evenings party till the small hours before we left our parish in Lot et Garonne, it had been a tiring drive of nearly 4 hours so, after a deliciousl meal of bbq pork, an early night was called for, complete with earplugs to drown out the offensive.
This morning I dusted off my bike, a rusty affair which is even older than the camper, and took to the path alongside the beach for  few miles, avoiding the numerous athletes running the same course. What is it with folks that, even when they are on hols, feel the need to go running everyday? Beats me. I mention the age of the bike and suppose I have to come clean here and admit it is one I stole from an Indian, be it many moons ago. To explain further would only dig a deeper hole in the sand but suffice to say it was left lying around in an office I had been working in, so one day I rode it home without sufficient permission from the owner, one Shrikant Kanteti, a guy I knew and liked. I do keep in touch with him on social media, so SK, if you get to read this... I have your bike, sorry pal. It is alive and well and, for sure, nobody will steal it from me as it cant be worth more than 50p!
From Argeles it is a short trip across the border to Barcelona, which brings me back to the present, another campsite, this time in Casteldefels, about 10kms from the city. I have to admit that, so far, it isnt great but we will make the most of another night amongst socalled civilisation before we drop anchor somewhere more rural. Tomorrow a trip into the city is planned, by bus, as my wife wishes to show me the sights of a place she has frequented, but one that is new to me. I am not great with cities, either, but will view with an open mid and open lens. The remainder of today will be spent in a bar, on the beach, as is the remit of holidays the world over. See you tomorrow campers.
PS, my new laptop does not have any software on it, so writing this in notepad. Pls excuse the spelling, I will tidy it up, one day.


Day 3 - Libby goes au naturale..
I have never been in Barcelona airport, yet today I feel like I have lived there for a month! On the runway, in a tent!  Nowhere in the brochure for this hellhole of a campsite did it mention that it was positioned right under the main flightpath, with planes arriving every 30 seconds, delivering more hoards of tourists to pollute the area further. Couple that with enough feral children to keep the Fagin in business for a few years, except these ones all ride on brand new bikes, probably all stolen, while their trailer bound parents sit around smoking Camel and ignoring them - til one oclock in the morning. Add in a decibellia of yapping dogs and you have a situation even the industrial strength ear plugs I packed for the journey fail to negate. To top it all, stifling heat, still air, and then cacophonous thunderstorms add to the hopefully forgetable experience of this place. At least we didnt need an alarm clock to wake us at first light, so we could rapidly vacate. Asta la vista, Castelldefels, we wont be back!
Just a few kms down the road, we dropped into the massive harbour at Port Ginesta, where our friends Mike and Jane have just bought a boat. Well, to call it a boat is like calling a stretched limmo a family car; so huge is this vessel. They hadnt got the keys to it yet, so we couldnt take it for a spin, not that I would know what to do with a 57 foot yatch, although the gangplank was down and I was temped to step aboard and and at least try out the furniture.
After our poor experience in Barcelona's suburbs, with its gypsy ghettos and overhead traffic, we decided to leave the place behind us, and visit it another day in a more civilised manor, possibly by air or sea, and certainly stay more centrally in a 5 star lux.
So now, 5 hours later, we have our 1st thousand clicks behind us and are stationed up in a forest somewhere near Valencia. It took a bit of navigating to, this gravel patch in the Sierra Caldrona, part of a Parc National, but apart from a distant hum of a motorway, the only other sound is that of the crickets and the occasional cork popping. Tonights dinner is a pork tenderloin marinated in mango salsa on the bbq, with some fresh veg and cool water melon. Sadly the stream we are parked next to has long dried up through the summer months, so no outdoor bathing tonight, but have all other equipment onboard. And, of course, the doors will be firmly locked, such is the isolation of the venue. If this blog ends here, you will know we have been either eaten by bears or wolves, or kidnapped by yiks and condemned to dance and squeal to the tune of a banjo for the remainder of our days!


Day 4. Nothing to declare
What it says above. Arrived here in the midst of nowhere yesterday afternoon after 1000 kms journey. Intentions of going into Valencia market this morning evaporated after a poor nights sleep blighted by intense heat and mozzies, all of which were far more concentrated inside a campervan. A naked sortie outside at 3am did cool things a wee bit but I think the additional heat may have contributed to my wife's nasal issues, which transpired into a snuffling sound that even mother nature would have been scared to tackle around here. It May have kept me awake but certainly kept the coyotes away! Anyway, after a late breakfast, and a long walk in the mountains with 2 tired dogs, we decided that an oeuf was an oeuf  (French joke) and stayed put, spending the afternoon playing scrabble, connect 4, and a few other games that I narrowly managed to win. So a day without my bum behind the wheel has been well received.
Tonight I am gourmeting (Good scrabble word) sweetcorn with chicken in a whisky sauce, with intentions of drinking the latter later! Well, it is a bottle of Scapa, DB Clem


Day 5 - life's a beach
I have often scoffed at folks who go on holiday then sit on the beach for 2 weeks, next to thousands doing the same. Well, today we join them. Except there aren't that many around here. It is obvious we are travelling further south as we are starting to hear more british voices, but our spot here in Oliva, just north of Denia  is very quiet and, dare I say it, has a touch more class.
We never did get the market in Valencia, not for the want if trying.  For nearly an hour we manourvered Libby through its charming but clogged up streets looking for a place to park for an hour, but no cigar. Note to self...come back again, by air; Valencia looks beautiful.  
I have and never will own a caravan but, for insurance purposes only, we joined their club and am thus a card carrying member, much to my embarrassment. However it has its uses as we not only discovered this place through their website but it affords us a discount. Compared to a few other gypsy ghettos we have looked at, the campsite here at Kikoport is clean, upmarket and secure. It is so close the beach that by the time Wendy has unpacked her underwear I was already in the med, cooling my bits. A lunch of garlic prawns and various fried fish, and its a bottle of chilled blanco in a beach bar wondering but not caring what day it is.
They even let dogs on the beach, although possibly not ones who bark for hours and want to fight with the locals! Tonight I might even hoy the gas barbie down to the beach and rustle up a fishy treat, if I can be arsed.  Or even sleep there myself. 
What day was it again? Or yes, it's couldnt-give-a-f*ck day!

Basking in the sun


OK, at last a month of being in one place, the first for quite a while. Our trip to Scotland last month was a good one and it was nice to be there in mid-summer and even get a dip in the Firth of Forth on a couple of occasions. The weather was superb and our trip to the golf Open an exceedingly memorable one. Since then I have been cooling my heels in the pool in France, in insufferable temperatures which make it nigh on impossible to do any work at all. Even mowing the lawn becomes a marathon as the sweat pours. Well it did. Only now the grass has been replaced with a brown desert that has become a considerable fire risk and with this comes the problem of keeping the sheep in fodder. Thankfully we have reduced our numbers as some have been sent to that big freezer in the sky and a few more sold for breeding but we still have upwards of 20 hungry mouths to keep full. After over a month without it, the rain did eventually arrive in a spectacular fashion last Tuesday, spurring the mother of all thunderstorms and a deluge of a couple of inches of water, all of which was swiftly swallowed up by the 3-inch cracks in the ground. But at least it has cooled down enough that we can actually venture outside without the risk of sunstroke and char-burns. Currently we have family here, some of whom are muttering about not bringing their jumpers, but for once we are not having to treat 3rd degree burns each evening!
So, with the weather this week not quite perfect for sun-bathing for these youngsters, out have come the board games and boy do we have lots of them in the attic. As well as Trivial Pursuits, Monopoly and Rummikub, we have gone through Buccaneer, Mousetrap and a host of others I had not played since my childhood. With most of these exhausted in 24 hours, and many of the obscure ones far too complicated, eventually we bring out the good old playing cards. Except I find that the likes of Whist and Strip Jack Naked have now been superseded with all sorts baffling new games with names like Uno, Spoons, War and the aptly titled Bullsh*t, none of which I can understand, let alone win! So, eventually, I decided to come up with my own game. The concept is simple. You all live on an island together where you spend the first half of the game trying to annoy the hell out of all your neighbouring countries. Then you take a vote, with no idea what you are voting for, which is followed by hours of internal squabbling. Finally you now have to convince the same neighbouring countries to buy your produce. Oh, wait a minute….that’s for real!
Later this week sees the annual Oyster festival in the local town of Eymet, something we have religiously attended over the past 10 years. Except now it is now longer a few producteurs selling their freshly delivered catch of crustaceans but instead has evolved into a full-blown food fest with stalls purveying everything from horse’s entrails to raging hot Moroccan dishes full of unrecognisable ingredients. Eymet being in the heart of Dodogneshire, many of the revellers are of the ‘shuffling brit’ origin so now there are also pop-up fish’n’chip stalls on every corner to fulfil their insular requirements. Hence their snaking queues clutter up the otherwise pretty town, with their Brexit-berating chatter and ridiculous headgear, and we are forced to hide our embarrassing Britishness behind in a large plate of escargot in a secluded corner! 
By the end of the month it will be goodbye Brits in France and hello Brits in Spain as we take to the road again, this time working our way down the Med coast to see a friend near Malaga. I have to say we have both quite taken to life in a campervan so we have extended the trip to circumnavigate the whole country, working our way back up the Atlantic coast, taking in a wee sortie into Portugal en-route. This, of course, does flag up a few linguistical challenges as neither of us has more than a smattering of Spanish and zero Portuguese. Until recently I believe we could have happily got by in our native tongue but, apparently, we have done no deals with them yet over the legal use of our language, post-brexit, so English has been instantly removed from their curriculum! Oops, that’s 3 times I’ve mentioned the ‘B’ word this month. Reign it in Fraz, lets change the record!
I mentioned earlier that I recently took a dip in the North sea but I am not sure if I would have been quite so hasty to do so had I read a recent news article that suggested those very waters may well be shark infested. I was aware we had seals, dolphins and even the odd whale. But sharks, really? Yes, you read it here first, whole colonies of sharks have been spotted swimming, or more specifically basking off the coast of Scotland earlier this year. Although mainly confined to the West coast, seemingly basking sharks have migrated north for a spot of mating and, according to the article, have taken up parallel swimming, nose to tailing and going round in circles as part of their courtship rituals. Rumours that they learnt all these moves after a night out in a Fife nightclub are unfounded but one local swears he spotted a couple of them heading to the kebab shop at midnight asking for deep fried plankton!