Thursday 11 September 2014

Break a leg

Wow, what a great September, for a change. Gotta love those Indians; thanks chaps. But the extended warm weather is not without its problems here in France as the grass fields are as brown a Louis the pointer-dog and any tiny shoot of grass that does poke its way through the rock-solid soil gets snapped up by Daisy the sheep and her pals. Yes, Daisy Death-wish is still with us, albeit in her currently slimmer form, heading for a third lambing. If I were a betting man, I would have lost a bundle on her not making it to a first birthday – but some things defy the odds.
Here’s another bet that has a poor chap hoping. One irresponsibly wealthy person – in London – has bet 800k of his life-savings on Scotland’s not gaining independence. By the time this goes to print he will either be 200k better off or in the dole queue. I have to admit that from my standpoint – and being a house-owner in Scotland, we have a valid one – that the whole thing has been a complete farce and a waste of money for a country which claims to have none. As one wag put it: ‘spending all your money on a saw to hack off the hand that feeds you will not only leave you armless, but penniless too!’ One assumes, despite poor lads and lasses in the schemes in Glasgow believing that their YES vote will mean they get salmon and sturgeon on the menu in their local chippie (can I get a fried mars bar and a poke o chips wi tha’?) that enough people without saltire-coloured glasses on will turn out on the day and make sense of it all. Otherwise, we may be fleeing south like Kind Edward himself with our jimmy hats on fire!
 On the subject of Scotland, we have recently got the keys to a small terraced house in Fife which we put in an offer for back in February. As the delay suggests, it wasn’t the easiest of conveyancing process which culminated in one of the lawyers involved having to search gravestones in a local cemetery to trace a long lost owner who died in 1916!   Needless to say, the property requires some moderate renovation, once I can weed out the cowboy builders and get one to turn up on the right day and stay until the job is finished. Ah, no, hang on, I think Alex Salmond has more chance of becoming Pope than I do with that task!  Meanwhile, I have been trying to get the building insured and stooped to the bottom of the pile by using that service advertised by some prat on TV with a large moustache whom everyone hates. With my eyesight failing a wee bit these days, I left it to Wendy to read the small print, and a good job she did. You see, hidden in that very print are tiny exclusions such as, and I quote: ‘property is not insured for fire damage if it is caused by electrical or gas heating appliances and/or naked flame (eg the cooker). As if that wasn’t enough, the next line reads: ‘property is not insured for damage by storms!’ The place is by the North Sea, FFS, of course there will be storms! That’s like saying your car isn’t insured if you hit something, or you life insurance doesn’t cover accidental death! Thankfully we are covered for terrorism and rioting, obviously prominent in tiny seaside villages in East Neuk? Maybe they are covering their back when we have to barricade ourselves in once the SNP start their ethnic cleansing process!
Having mentioned annoying adverts, can I have a grouse about how TV no longer manages to offer me anything I would be remotely interested in. Years ago, I am sure at least a few adverts took my attention, targeted to the audience of the program that sandwiched them. You know, like selling us wellingtons and woollies during the breaks in a program advocating holidays in Britain. Or crisps, beer, fags and knuckle-dusters at half time in football games. Said programme I was watching was Grand Designs, whose target viewers are probably fifty-sixty-something, perhaps on the sunnier side of the poverty line and a decorum of common sense. Do I really want to buy hair extensions, microwavable chicken nuggets and cheap nappies? Wouldn’t they be far better offering me building materials, luxury cars and fine wines? That’s what they do on the internet, isn’t it? Go online to buy a book on gardening, next thing you have pop-ups everywhere offering you a lawnmower, hedgecutter, some weedkiller and a night out with Charlie Dymock after she’s had a wash. Why hasn’t the same technology reached TV yet? So when I buy a new flat-screen, I can tick the boxes of things that interest me (such as the said Charlie D) and switch off the rest, barring them from my screen altogether. If there weren’t enough adverts on my chosen subjects, it could fill the gaps with some pleasing music and a big sign saying ‘go put the kettle on, and don’t spare the hobnobs!’ Come on Murdoch, get with the programme!
Meanwhile, our own programme has again been a hectic one. In early September we were back in the Midlands for a wedding, of a local from Rock, as it happens. And from then to Scotland to a masked ball, which was somewhat fun. I must admit I hadn’t fully read the invite and got a few disturbing looks when I turned up in my Hannibal Lecter outfit and a nice bottle of Cianti! Then it’s back to France as fast as Ryan can muster, stepping off the plane straight into a dress rehearsal for a show I have been roped into singing in. It is pretty much ten years to the date since I last trod the boards in front of an audience and I have to confess it is enjoyable to be back. Over that time spent in a country with cheap gin and wine, I openly admit my voice has faded significantly and I am well out-classed amongst the talented bunch of 12 artistes, and two great directors, but I will give it my all. Then I have just a single week to remove the rotten tomato stains from my suit before heading back north again.
All things going to plan, by the time this article has hit the information highway I will now be at last living with an honest woman. Not that Wendy has ever told porkies;, just that we have been engaged to be married for over 5 years and, on 27th September we will have tied the knot in a small hotel overlooking the sea in East Lothian, Scotland, possibly with the rain lashing down and YES campaigners crying in the corner. It will be a privilege to welcome her into the Frazier family – a pretty valuable asset I am certain. The event will be slightly marred by my mother being unable to be there due to ill health, but we will raise a glass, along with a few other close friends and swing the kilts in fine style until we drop. Possibly we may find time and energy to squeeze in a few days away on the west coast before charging back to France to host the 6th Annual Chutney Festival and all that it entails. This year’s judge is being flown in specially, all the way from my home village of Rock!
Immediately after that it will be time to put the rams with the ewes and last year’s crop in the freezer, prune the garden, mend the roof and generally tidy the place away for winter. Where did that year go again?