How come when you buy an electrical appliance in UK you get instructions in German, Russian, Mandarin and 3 dialects of Arabic, yet trying buying a new phone in France and you get, er French. That’s it, nothing more, unless, of course you phone a premium helpline, which is also in French. I will admit, after 8 years living in France my language skills should be better than they are but generally I can get by ordering plasterboard, concrete and food – but the Livret Utilisateur (instruction manual) may as well be in Gaelic. For all I know, it possibly is! To be fair, it is not just a new phone but a complete internet system with satellite dishes, routers and modems all making baffling beeping sounds, and doing bugger-all. Anyone within 2 miles of Chauffour may have heard a few more beeping sounds, coming from me, as I tried to configure the whole charade – all in a effort to get a usable connection to the cyberworld, rather than the lamentable service we have at present, which is little faster than the old dial-up.
Anyway, this month in France is always an endless chore of battling with the overgrown garden, roof repairs and academic workload, prior to summer. A new swimming pool pump has also added another 500 euros to the cost, something else which had me scratching my head as I converted 3 phase to mono and 60mm fittings to 45mm. Why aren’t things standard anymore. I blame, er, the French…
Today is my first, and possibly last, day off this year, while I sit in the sunshine, trying to relax with a spot of Marler and a Pimms, as summer has well and truly arrived a few weeks early. Forecasters tell me to expect some soaring temperatures and inferno-esque days for the next week or two. Typical, as we are just heading back to UK. This latest trip is for more renovation work on the cottage in East Fife, taking in a couple of days at the World Snooker championships en-route. Keep an eye out for me during the semi final at the Crucible – I will be the one asleep in the third row!
When I get back, tired and thirsty, in mid May, the house will be full of guests and doubtfully dry, as they all huddle by the log burner with their mouths open waiting to be fed. And so it continues, this merry-go-round that appears to go faster each year. No, of course I am not complaining, how could I? I am aware some folks would give the eye teeth for our lifestyle, especially with emerald-tinted glasses on. What are eye-teeth, anyway? Or is it i-Teeth? Ha, sounds like Apple getting into the denture market! Thankfully, one thing I will manage to escape is the battle of the idiots known as a general election, as I stuff cotton wool in my ears to blank out the lies. That is, of course, if there is any cotton-wool left over since the whole House of Commons has their heads full of it! I would like to think, as a resident of France and Scotland, I am exempt from the perils of a British government enough not to care a hoot who gets their feet under the cabinet table but, in our latest business ventures, a wrong-un could still push a stick in the spokes of my front wheel, so I suppose I will have to put my cross somewhere. But therein hangs another tale; as an overseas resident I am reliant on the French postal service to send in my vote, who will obviously be on strike that day. The reason for their militant action will be in sympathy for the poor hard-done-by air-traffic controllers who are about to wreak havoc on my travel plans, as I spend three nights in a sleeping bag at Bordeaux Airport. No doubt the bin-bags at home will be piling up at our gate as well, while we all contract dysentery from the expanding rat population who dine on rancid poulet-pot, but we are unable to get into hospital because all the junior doctors also realise that they earn less that the bloody air-traffic wardens in the first place. In truth, I have no political preference, but one thing I do note, sheep-mentality Socialism is extremely disruptive to the honest man.
On the subject of sheep, after last year’s barrier breakdown, I have taken evasive action on the fencing front. As I write, potatoes, onions, courgettes and tomatoes are all growing nicely, within a few feet of the sheep field, since I moved my entire vegetable patch nearer the house this year. At present there is plenty of grass growing in the field and the sheep generally seem content – well, as content as one can be with a few dysfunctional brain cells. Each evening, as the lambs gamble and skip in the sunshine, all the ewes make a daily pilgrimage up towards the fence and then stand in a line staring longingly at my tomatoes. Honestly, it’s like a soap-opera to them, only mildly more inventive. If I could credit them with any intelligence at all, I am sure they are trying to hatch a plan to break through and cause carnage, like they did last year. Occasionally I catch a glint in the eye of the ringleader, one Skippy, that gives me a hint that he may have the body of a mere sheep but perhaps underneath it, there is the mind of a criminal genius? So, for once, I am one step ahead of them, as I have wired it up to the mains! OK, that might sound a little drastic but needs must when Aries is at the gate! Let’s just hope we don’t get barbequed lamb before the summer begins.
Which brings me neatly round to something else that has been bugging me. Mastermind. Can someone please explain the criteria that constitutes a special subject? Name? Barry. Occupation? Bricklayer. Specialist subject? The life and works of someone so obscure, nobody has even heard of them! I swear, in this year’s final, one bloke answered questions on one 200 page novel and another one on his granddad! How difficult is that? That’s like me answering questions about my next door neighbour? Or about myself? Name? Andy Frazier. Specialist subject? Andy Frazier? Having said that, there are probably some things about me I don’t even know myself…. Anyway, I have decided to enter next year, answering questions about the ‘thoughts of my sheep.’ If they are still alive by then.