Monday 7 November 2011

Who the heck is Auntie Florette?

    Computers. They drive you mad all day, with their temperamental-ness, randomly losing things and having go-slow days. I threaten mine with violence on a regular basis; it teases me so much I am convinced it has a mind of its own. If it were a human, I would have given it the sack without statutory sick-pay. But then, as if out of cussedness, all of a sudden, it breaks down and dies. And now I miss it and want to apologise for all the bad things I said to it. Well, to be precise, I miss all the files, emails, writings and things that I won’t know that I have lost until I need to look for them. But most of all I shall miss our 1000 photos from last months trip to New Zealand, all of which have been lost in the pile of techno-mush that was, until yesterday, my computer’s hard drive. Oh well, all the more reason to go back to NZ and take some more?!
    As you may guess, we are now back in the Northern hemisphere and once more ensconced in our French farmhouse, waiting for winter to arrive and the rain to start. It’s official. The continued drought that we have endured since February this year is the longest and driest in living memory. Drier than an evening at my Auntie Florette’s, as one local put it, or at least I think that’s what he said. (I had never met his Auntie Florette, so I couldn’t comment.) But all this extreme weather does get you worried doesn’t it? We constantly hear of earthquakes carving up places where they never were before, or freak floods washing away entire townships. I have never been an ecomentalist who buys the whole global-warming ideology and, despite all the media hype, I think it quite conceited of the human race to believe the current problems are all of our own doing. But, I have to admit, climate change appears to be happening wherever we look and things are indeed warming up. Will it soon become too hot for us to live in France anymore? Ooo, possibly a major problem to face up to? Maybe, it will be for some of the knotted-hanky sandals-and-socks ex-pat brigade, but it’s fine by me. Who knows, perhaps in a few years time they will have sun in Scotland and they can all move there? Or possibly Greenland? Meanwhile, I will exchange the sheep for a few camels and bask on my sun-lounger for as long as the fridge manages to maintain ice for my gin and tonic.
    Joking aside though, the ground here is so hard it needs a chain-gang to break it up. While we were away, our two dogs managed to escape through the hedge and (again) terrorise our neighbour’s chickens. I did feel sorry for our house-sitters when they told us of how they were confronted by our ornately tattooed gypsy neighbour at the door, along with his entire family, who came round in a lynch-mob to report the escapade. The dogs were confined to leads after that. On our return home, my first job has been 4 days fencing and, armed with wooden posts and a sledgehammer, that has been no mean feat. I now have a stooped back and biceps the size of barrage-balloons after managing to drive 50 steaks no more that 6 inches into the ground. It will be spring before I can complete that job.
    The long winter evenings inevitably bring us round to the nights in front of the TV once again. We now have somewhere near 700 channels to watch. Or not watch, as the case may be. How is possible to put so much rubbish on our screens? Every evening, I scroll through the listings, avoiding Strictly-come-x-factor and Ross Kemp on Alien-Nutters, in a vain hope of finding something remotely intelligent to watch, only to eventually give up and read a book. Or write one.
    I am actually reading an excellent one at present called 1000 YEARS OF ANNOYING THE FRENCH!, which is a highly amusing account of Britain’s differences with France over the ages but, obviously, told from a British perspective. It covers, with great satirical detail, many of the wars in which our two nations have completed, including the BEEF wars of the late 90’s, a subject close to my heart. The lack of edible beef in this region has been well voiced before in this column, but I do believe that when it comes to importing Les Rosbif from UK shores, the French are still hiding behind the stooshie that was once mad-cow disease! The irony that they have the nerve to brand Britain with ‘mad’ cows when our small farm is surrounded by these towering deranged hot-footed Blonde d’Aquitaine bovine creatures is not lost on me. C’est la vie. We will just have to carry on eating the lambs from the field (or in future, curried camel?) until it is resolved.
I couldn’t come back from the Rugby World cup without bringing at least one rugby story with me:
    The All Blacks were playing England, and after the half-time whistle blew they found themselves ahead 50-0, Ritchie McCaw getting eight tries. The rest of the team decided to head for the pub instead of playing the second half, leaving Ritchie to go out on his own.
"No worries," Ritchie told them, "I'll join you later and tell you what happened." After the game Ritchie headed for the pub where he told his teammates the final score: 95-3.
"What!!!!" said a furious Graham Henry, "How did you let them get three points??!" Ritchie replied apologetically, "I was sent off with 20 minutes to go!"
 As each day shrinks with the cold, that dreaded word ‘Christmas’ looms on the near horizon. Yes, that time of year when old Scrooge hides his head in disgust, as the world fritters away its borrowed money on pointless gifts. Except, no! This year, this old entrepreneur has decided that everyone should buy books for children as Christmas presents. Because, you see, children seem to be losing the ability or inclination to read. It appears that X-Factor and X-Box have now taken up positions well in front of the good old written-word for 8-14 year olds, and parents are doing diddly-squat to combat this decline.
Once again, Andy Frazier has a solution. About 7 of them to be precise, all reasonably priced on my website ( or Amazon! So go on, keep a poor underpaid author in cheap grog this year, and invest wisely in the wellbeing of a child near you. They are, after all, the future of our species!

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