Thursday 14 March 2013

Pope Argie the first

So, at last Argentina has something to shout about. After 150 years of trying to nick our Falkland Islands and nearly as many unsuccessfully attempting to beat us at rugby - although I admit, they have won the odd game of footie -  they have now secured a Pope.
Yes, when the white smoke finally arrived through the Vatican roof yesterday, the secret Cardinals had all agreed on the world’s first non European Pope.
All hail Pope Francis.
Francis!? What sort of a name is that for a Pope?
The one thing I enjoy about the papal election is the self-appointed names that the head of the Catholic world appoints themselves with. We have recently had Benedict, which sounds like a mouth-wash, and before him we had Beatle-loving Pope Jean-Paul – who was only lacking George and Ringo to make up a full set.
Over history we have had a dozen Gregorys, Augustines and Alexanders - mainly Italians, all from Europe. And now we eventually get a South American and he calls himself Francis!
Come on man, where’s you imagination? You might have well called yourself Barry? Or Dave?
Argentina has some wonderful Spanish names in its culture. Where is Garibaldi? Or what about Diego Maradonna? And then there was that brilliant rugby paring of Philipe Contepone and Augustus Pichot. Sounds like a pair of bank robbers, admittedly, but it is a bit more highbrow than bloody Francis?
This got me round to thinking that, were I elected as Pope, what would I call myself? Not just me in fact, but all of us.
Let’s play a game where we get elected to one day of religious fame – and have to come up with a name?
Well, I would dump Andrew for starters. For all its regal connotations, it makes me sound like a right dull bastard. My middle name – James – that would be out too. James the millionth? No ta.
How about Archibald? Nah, too old fashioned – I want to be a modern Pope.
It needs to sound upbeat as well, but not too chavvy. Kevin, Robbie, Darren, they’re not quite right for all that splendour are they – in fact Daz would have probably had it away with that gold tea-service by lunchtime and fenced it for 40 Marlboro and a zippo lighter!
Needs to be original, too – don’t want any numbers after my name. Gerald? Has there been a Pope Gerald? No? I can see why – the boring git!
Here we go – Silicontine. What do you think of that? Has a nice sort of cyber tone to it? No? Pope Packard? Maybe Pope Google? Then they could sponsor me – although you wouldn’t really need much sponsorship in the Vatican, it’s kinda cash-rich.
Pope Elevate? I quite like that. Stands on high ground, doesn’t it? A bit too pompous perhaps?
Christopher, Lawrence, Benjamin, Nathaniel – all a bit run-of-the-mill, really.
You know, actually, this game isn’t as easy as I thought. Maybe he should have just gone the obvious route and pre-empted what everyone will call him from now until his death.
Arise – Pope Argie!

Monday 11 March 2013

Fireproof Pope

I have always been of the belief that whatever time of year I lambed the sheep, the weather would turn on me at that specific date. Be it November, Christmas or May, blizzards and tornadoes are always lying in wait to challenge the ovine newborn’s chance of survival to the very limit. And so it is that, on the day the first one hits the ground this year, we have that tornado, or hurricane, or whatever the French call the extremities of Le Vent, to contend with. Although I prefer the sheep to live and lamb outside, we do have the backstop of a 30x10 metre polytunnel for them to shelter out of the rain and snow, if required. Well, we did until last night. Now it is more like a climbing frame, as the entire ‘poly’ part of it departed north at 50 kph. At this moment, I have no idea where it has gone, and only hope it hasn’t reached the main road and gift-wrapped a lorry causing accidental deaths.
The irony of this freak 3 day storm is that we have just arrived back after a couple of months on the Scottish coast, where the wind off the North Sea would normally saw you in half faster that David Copperfield with a Husqvarna, but which was positively calm this year. Not only that, but this wind is coming from the South East which is very unusual for us down here – hence it made its way into the opening of the afore-mentioned polytunnel. The only thing it has in its favour is that it is quite warm, perhaps due to the fact it is arriving from the Sahara, and is very handy for drying the washing. Whoops, looks like that has gone north as well. Maybe my England rugby shirt will be in Paris for the weekend’s annual game, before me!
On the subject of sheep, I am happy to report that the famed Daisy-Deathwish is not only still alive – against some quite slim odds - but has this week produced a lamb of her very own. To begin with she was none too sure about it and kept running away from the poor thing every time it stood up, but now she has at least accepted responsibility for the gangly creature. Meanwhile, her mother has produced 2 lambs of which she is only able to rear one, the other one now relying on us with a milk-bottle. Hopefully we can someone locally to take pity on it and relieve us of the tiresome 4 times daily feeds.
In our few months absence we seem to have once again accumulated some more damn cats at Chauffour. Why two more grey stripy felines have rocked up here, I have no idea – maybe because it has been dog-free during that time - but I wish they would turn the noise down if they are going to stay around. One of them - definitely a tom – growls like a grisly-bear at all the others for hours, while another – I think female – sits in the rafters and swears profusely at the dogs. Occasionally, when they are done jibing at each other, they embark on a mass brawl in the attic, screaming blue murder while they hack lumps out of one-another with their scissor-hands. I am not sure if our own two get involved in this wrangle as well, or whether they just spectate from their seat in the stands. I would suggest it’s like a scene from Fight Club – except that the first rule of Fight Club is ‘you do not talk about Fight Club!’
Meanwhile, Louis (the pointless pointer) hasn’t quite worked out which ones to chase first. In fact a dog-with-two-cats is even more confused than the proverbial dog with two other appendages!  
I suppose at some stage these animals may all get around to living in harmony, and will diplomatically elect one of them as the top-cat in the conclave. Perhaps we should keep an eye out for white smoke appearing from the chimney in the next few months, before normal silence is resumed.
Coincidentally, isn’t it great to see that even the Pope isn’t above the laws of ridicule that are commonly referred to as Health and Safety. Yes, over the last few weeks, a little man with a hard-hat and highly important clipboard has instructed that, if Cardinals are to sit around playing with fire in the Sistine chapel, then they had better do it safely or they will damn well be reported to a higher authority. So it was that we saw a new chimney being fitted – by fire-fighters, according to the press -  to comply with the latest safety regulations. One assumes that, inside the highly secret conclave, they have all been kitted out with flame-retardant high-viz cassocks, fire-proof gloves and highly sensitive smoke detectors, as well as being rehearsed in fire-drills by him upstairs? There’s a thought? Who stands in as fire-monitor while there is no Pope in situ? Does he get secretly elected by 115 cardinals too?
This brings me neatly round to another absurd rule which is just about to be enforced here in France. Yes, with nothing better to do, our new leader has now instigated yet another law in order to protect ourselves from ourselves: that of having smoke detectors fitted in every household from 2015. The entirety of the new ruling is as yet unclear, with debates still raging about the number of devices required in each household. At present, it is thought that only one would be required, but the positioning of it will be determined by a fire-officer – in a hard-hat. A suggestion that it be fitted directly next to the open-fireplace has not been ruled out although other sources seem pretty sure it should be above the electric-toaster or over the barbeque. Inevitably, a further law prohibiting householders to smoke cigarettes in their own homes is just around the corner, for fear of it setting off the alarms. Apparently, 33 million of new ‘Joan-of-Arc’ devices will be supplied by French manufacturer – ‘Hollande & Hollande’ - over the next two years!
Yes, chivalry is a French word!

Friday 1 March 2013

A nagging suspicion

History will probably document that this decade has advanced more than any other throughout time, with the possible exception of the Romans and, maybe, Telford’s industrial steam iron
Here we now are in an era that can track us all by satellite, no matter whether we are on the run or on the toilet.
The question remains - should we embrace this advance or fear it?
Well, assuming we are innocent of nothing more than a parking fine, then we should have nothing to fear and be comforted that, were we lost, someone knows where we are.
Today we are back in France after three months in UK, which is no big secret.  If it were I am sure I wouldn’t post it on the internet. What information I would like to retain in a little more personal locker is where I have been, who with, how, when and why. Not because there is anything sinister about that either, just that it is my own business and not anyone elses.
So when I am singled out of a traffic queue at the HM Customs by some power-crazed short legged blonde with a pony tail and a Thatcheresque frown, and questioned on my recent exploits, I don’t feel obliged to play along. No problem, I’ll just have some fun and give them a few sarcastic fibs with a wry smile. We all know how this game works.
But when did they suddenly have the right to take swabs from my door handle?
She thought I hadn’t noticed her henchman in my offside mirror taking tiny samples from the passenger side door, while I was being I was being detained through the drivers window with inane questioning. It is quite obvious she wasn’t listening to me either, when I gave my occupation as circus freak and my home address is Abersandwich. In fact it was only when I drove away that I realised that I had actually just been violated in such a way.
You see, what he had just done was taken my DNA without my permission. That will now be filed, against my wishes, with the reg plate from the car. So whoever has opened this car door within the last week or so will now be stored on file. If they choose, they can now not only track our car by satellite, but follow our DNA trail too
And that bothers me.
If, next week, an innocent tourist has been murdered by a mad axeman in Cyprus, these records will be checked. Even if someone steals a bag of sweets or potentially puts their hand anywhere in the world, the SOCO samples can be checked against me. FOREVER. Basically, I am now a marker for crimes committed worldwide to be checked against.
And that bothers me a fucking-great deal. And I reckon it may even be illegal?
A few months ago the extent of our advances in DNA recognition hit the headlines during routine checks were made on a few beef-burgers. Yes, in that instance, it did lead to better things as it uncovered the pirates who have been filling our pies with horsemeat over the last 20 years. But then, immediately, a witch-hunt started which as usual the media stirred up into a shit-storm. We then find that traces of horse DNA turns up all over the place, as evidence of the tiniest contamination show up everywhere. Not just horse either, but pigs, goats, lamb, all killed in same processing plant that have left their miniscule evidence behind them, despite things being washed down after they have long gone in vac-pacs. You can run, piggy – but you can’t hide!
Here’s a supposition. How long before the bloke that lifted that carcase off the meat conveyor leaves his own DNA behind.
Impossible? Not at all.
Very soon we will see the headlines CANABAL NATION. The vegan brigade will love that one.
But now, let’s move on
What if that bloke I gave a lift to last week had been handling the stuff? Would my car be tracked down to our village in France?
Would the police be worried maybe I have been put into burgers too? After all, this FRANCE…they eat all sorts of shit?
Will my sister be reading the headline that her charming younger brother had just been eaten by an eighteen stone skinhead from Manchester with chips, peas and gravy?
Will hoards of well wishers attend a funeral of an empty Findus box that was once a renowned author with wailing tears, while I am obliviously sipping gin in the Atlantic sunshine?
Maybe my dogs DNA will be found as well. Poor pooper, how tragic that the world may believe you have ironically ended up in a tin of pedigree chum!
I am sure to most this may sound as far fetched as 1984 was to anyone post-war who wasn’t fitted with a straight-jacket? You will be thinking that, as per usual, this madman is cantering around on his hobby horse on the back of the beef horse, but I swear that big brother has long since stopped watching us and now is gathering our genetic finger prints without our agreement.
Well my vote is that each and every one of us should be demanding that it stop before we all end up in the hands of the lawyers, and that we should all demand more clarity on the whole DNA issue. At the very least we should be given the opportunity to smile and brush our genetic hair before the snapshot is taken to preserve us in eternity.