Is it me, or does time just go by in a whir these days? No sooner its Monday then the weekend looms. No sooner I get up than its time to think about bed. No sooner I write this monthly article than a copy of R&DN drops onto my doormat, signalling the end of yet another month, dammit. No sooner its January then old Scrooge here thinks of ways he can avoid Christmas this year. What to do this time? I have tried hiding, staying in bed, even being blind drunk, but none of these afford me the luxury of escaping those goddam annoying jingles that signify the arrival of the bearded bloke in the bright suit. No not Noel Edmonds, the other one.
Last year I gave a mention to some mysterious looking facial hair cropping up on the top lips of some celebrities and sportsmen around this time of year. This month I have gone one further and joined the Movember ranks myself and grown a ‘mo’ for the charity that raises awareness of men’s health issues. So if you see me around, or anyone else sporting an out-of-character moustache give them a few quid for their efforts. Thanks.
The late autumn at Chauffour brings us ripening apples. Louis, our (pointless) pointer, likes apples. In fact he likes them so much that he lies by the door and whines all day, a whine like a whistling kettle that goes right through you, until he is let out to go and eat as many as he can before we can stop him. An apple-a-day may keep the doctor away, but a crate-a-day can only involve some hefty vet’s bills. It did this time last year. He doesn’t just eat them either; he engages some sort of bizarre antic which involves him throwing them in the air and jumping about like a lunatic beforehand. I never have considered that he is quite the full-shilling, but it seems he has at last lost the plot altogether. A mad March hare is a sight to behold, but nothing compared to a crazy autumn sub-normal canine with a single figure IQ, doing an apple-dance. Maybe we should send a video in to ‘Animals-do-stupid-stuff’ or whatever that programme is called. Or possibly the X-Factor! Come to think of it, Simon Cowell would probably give him a record deal.
The time has come round again to give worming tablets to the animals. In the olden days this was always a tricky job as even the dimmest of animals wouldn’t eat a nasty tasting small pill. But nowadays it’s all changed as some bright scientist has realised that if you make the tablet taste nice, any animal will eat it. Except ours! Louis the pointless pointer, no problem, he will eat anything; but the scruffy one with the brains, no chance. She was suspicious from the off, noticing a packet being opened while we pretended not to look at her. First tablet she took outside and buried it in the garden. Next one, sprinkled in her dinner, persuaded her that she wasn’t hungry that day. Hold her down, shove it in, out it comes. Wrap it up in some tasty cooked meat, out it comes. A nightmare? Well, to anyone who has this problem, I can now reveal the solution. Simply give it to the cat. How dare the cat have something she hasn’t got? Dog stole it and wolfed it down in an instant. Job done. I really should charge for this ingenious information.
I note last week the announcement of the Lonely Planet awards, in which the Shetland Islands were the winners. Now there’s a surprise? You really couldn’t get anywhere much lonelier that there surely, with possible exception of Greenland or a summer day in the House of Commons. So what are these awards about? When reading in more detail, it actually says that this is one of the top regions in the world to visit next year, according to their new guidebook. Have these people ever been there? Underneath this statement is a description of the place which says, and I quote: “…a collection of mighty, wind-ravaged clumps of brown and green earth rising from the frigid waters of the North Sea…” Well, I’ll just go and pack then shall I? Should I take an overcoat do you think? My experience of Shetland is a complete absence of trees and vegetation, women with long grey hair, spinning wheels and goats. All from Yorkshire or Norfolk; except possibly the goats.
Does anyone get chance to watch Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meals on early evening TV? We do most evenings. 30 minutes they may well be, if you happen to have all that stuff in your fridge and at least a dozen pots of herbs growing on your windowsill. 30 minutes cooking, but how long shopping first? And what about the cost? “Lets take some caviar, a whole lump of fresh parmesan cheese, some prime fillet steak and fresh guava fruit...and stir it up with this lovely spoon…”. 30 minute meals? 30 quid meals more like! And while we are at it, let’s use every pan in the kitchen, along with a few gadgets. What I want to know is who does the washing up? And how long does it take? A damn sight longer than 30 minutes I bet!
The time has also come round for the opticians. Our old French farmhouse is designed to be cool in the summer, by having thick walls and very few windows. This time of year it is not only cold but, in a word, dark. Reading by firelight may sound romantic to some, but as age creeps up on me, I find halogen is the only way to go. As I type, I have a set of spotlights arranged around my keyboard like some sort of studio film set. But sadly the eyes are still straining. So a trip to the friendly optician in the local French town was required. Friendly, well she was certainly smiling as she relieved me of 150 euros for a pair of reading glasses. She will probably send me a Christmas card now; I’ll pretend I cant read it!
For the last few months in this column I have banged on about the weather in this part of the world. More specifically, that we were expecting rain any day, and last month I gaily announced that it had arrived. Not so. We had one days drizzle and then back to the lovely dry days once more. If we were in UK I am sure this would by now have sparked a panic hosepipe ban, but here nobody seems too bothered, except our fish. With only half a metre of water left in a 4 metre deep pond, the thousand strong shoal are having a bit of a housing issue. Apparently, during such crowded times, they eat each other! There you go, Grant Shapps, your UK housing problems solved in an instant. I really should be in politics!