Monday 12 May 2014

Men in tights

This month I have to report yet another absurdity in French law; that of my French driving licence. Last week I went to collect a mini-digger from the hire-shop to find that I didn’t need a licence to drive it, but I did to tow the thing home. Unknown to me, my ‘permis-de-conduire’ does include the permission to tow a trailer but that part of it expires every two years and I now need to take a medical - cost 43 euros - for the privilege of renewal. The daft part about this is I can still ride a powerful motorbike, drive a high speed car and even a 32-tonne truck with my failing eyesight and dicky-heart with sky-rocket blood pressure, but a 1 tonne trailer? Non monsieur! However, the same week, I drove onto the autoroute and found it chocka with dangerously weaving caravans, all on British plates, and re-considered. Perhaps Mr & Mrs Bearded-bank-holiday-maker really should also have a medical health check every time they pull their 14 foot Sprite out of storage, possibly with a mental health inspection and an annual driving test to boot!
Incidentally, a new law over here has just been passed stating that drivers on UK plates caught on speed-camera in France after November this year will get their subsequent fine through their British post-box, enforced by the local police. Is this a step towards a bit more unity between our two loggerheaded nations? Well no, actually, because Britain has not opted to adopt the same EU law in reverse because they consider it racist. This means while Mrs Davies is being hauled into court in Manchester for doing 51kph in a Parisian suburb, M. Yves St-Maniac can rip through the Yorkshire Dales at breakneck speeds, texting on his phone, drunk, with no seatbelt or insurance - without recompense. Suits me chaps, let’s see how fast I can get our French registered Audi up the Bewdley by-pass! Allez-zi!
It appears we have our very own version of that flagship TV show, Rabbit Watch now running into its fourth week here at Chauffour. Starring Louis (the pointless pointer) as Bill Oddie and Pooper (scruff-bag terrier) as Kate Humble, the day-long episodes involve 2 dogs sitting at the patio window, waiting for a solitary half-grown rabbit to periodically venture out from its new home in the polytunnel for a bite of grass. When the poor thing appears, what follows is like a scene from Charge of the Light Brigade, as the two of them go ballistic, clawing the door open and giving tongue. With well-formed ears like that, evidently the rabbit isn’t deaf and hotfoots it back indoors to the safety of the wood pile as soon as it hears the door click open. Louis then spends an entire hour barking loudly at the giant pile of firewood in a vain hope to talk it out of there until they both get bored and retire back to their vantage point on the sofa to repeat the whole process. To begin with, this was mildly amusing but now, as Louis, the stupidest dog in canine evolution, has magically learned to open locked doors it is becoming a tad tedious! Seriously, when he is not barking at said rabbit, he goes looking for it inside the house, systematically opening all the bedroom doors upstairs until he manages to get locked inside one of the rooms.  Thankfully he isn’t gold-medal material at canine hide-and-seek, giving his whereabouts away by the telltale trail of muddy footprints that follow him onto the duvets!
While on the subject of footprints, what is it with animals and wet concrete? Over the last month I have extended some of our terracing around the house, only to have my painstakingly smooth efforts pitted with paw-marks as the dogs, cats, squirrels, birds, even the bloody rabbit, all decide that they simply HAVE to walk over that bit of ground within the hour, despite never having travelled on that path before. Honestly, it’s like a geography field-trip in the Wyre Forest out there!
As spring rapidly advances into summer here in our rural little French spot, my time seems to evaporate with the sun. Mowing, pruning, sheep-shearing, fencing and building all seem to take the place of the few excess hours I thought I had left during which to write. Subsequently, I am months behind with my latest project. What was it that Douglas Adams once said: ‘I love deadlines, especially the whooshing sound they make as the fly by!’
But to add to my workload, this year I have been persuaded back onto stage, after a ten year absence. Yes, I will be partaking in a three night show in September called ‘Musical Box’, singing along with 30+ classics from old musical shows such as Kiss Me Kate and West Side Story. Although only doing three solos, as part of the 14-strong chorus I have to learn every word of every song, all 32 pages of them, so I can harmonise in the right places. This in itself is never an easy task but coupled with a forty minute each way drive to rehearsals, twice per week, it’s a miracle I get any sleep at all as the tedious tunes revolve around in my head like a badly tuned merry-go-round. Anyway, nearer the date, I may be forced to mention this once again, in a hope that someone might turn up to watch it. Oh, and to make matters worse, I might have to suffer the indignity of wearing tights during a Shakespearean number!
Anyway, as the ever-PC Clarkson would say, ‘On that Bombshell.....’