Sunday 13 September 2015

Flip-flopping hell!

And breathe! At last I can hear the sound of silence as the final few guests departed this morning – not before helping me stack 5 tons of winter logs, I grant you – and we get a moment or two of peace and quiet for a few days. When I say a few days, it is actually barely that, as we head south to visit a few friends this weekend, inhabitants of Rock village, as it happens, and then I have to zoom off to Scotland to sort out some issues. But during those couple of days at least we get chance to listen to music we like, eat whatever and whenever we fancy – or nothing at all - and know which bed the dog is sleeping on! I have to admit I do like having guests here and this year has seen a wide variety, from youngsters just climbing onto the hamster wheel of life while others, such as Scott and Sally, who have recently had a eureka moment and exchanged the rat-race of international commerce for a trip around France in a sports car with the intention of finding themselves a new vocation. Together, the whole ensemble represents the rich tapestry that carpets the hallways of human kind – and sure breaks up the boredom.
Obviously, I use the latter word in jest, as being fed up with doing nothing has never yet made it on to my radar. Just when I think I have the decks cleared enough to tie up the loose ends of our existence, along comes yet another opportunity as a leafy avenue opens up, tempting us back down the rabbit hole. This time, a chance meeting with a Kiwi has somehow advanced me to a new role of advisor to one of the world’s richest men. No, I am not educating Mister Well-known Un-named Russian Billionaire on how to make more money but on a subject I have a little more knowledge about – sheep! Having bought a most idyllic chateau near here a few years ago, this chap now produces one of the finest and most expensive wines in the region. It transpires that one of his close friends and business partners own a vast estate in Perthshire, Scotland, and for my client’s 45th birthday he sent him a ‘wee pressie’, a flock of Scottish Blackfaced ewes. Now I have seen a few blackies in my time, mainly through binoculars, as they tends to live at 2-3000 feet up on a mountain, contentedly munching on heather in a climate that ranges from driech drizzle to out-and-out hurricane. So you can imagine how these 40-odd gimmers may have felt when they are unloaded in the middle of a birthday party in full swing, to 40 degree heat, little or no shade and not so much as a peat bog in sight!  However, hardy and adaptable as these creatures are, they have settled in over the last few years and my client is now looking to produce some premium quality lamb to sell alongside his grand-cru-classe wine. Enter yours truly, via a recommendation from a friend, as we try and put together a project plan to turn sow-ears into silk-purses via introduction of new bloodlines, a truck load of stock from Scotland and some quite intricate data recording. Shh, don’t tell the tax-office but payment for such professional guidance has been agreed in liquid format! Eureka indeed!
A few years ago I mentioned a bad experience I had with Ryanair about being forced to put my sandals on for landing and take-off, something which still mystifies me to this day. Well it seems the French government is now endorsing yet another absurdity, that of not being allowed to wear flip-flops whilst driving a car; this outlawing just about every single person behind the wheel, including myself. However, after doing some basic research, it appears that this idiotic ruling is not legally enforceable as long as, if pulled over, you can prove that you are able to be in perfect control of your vehicle, able to use your mirrors and indicators, drive at a sensible speed and be courteous to other road users – which, let’s face it, rules out all French drivers anyway!
Some may recall that, as a day job, I write books for a living and that I am midway through penning the history of the Aberdeen Angus cattle breed; a project that has taken over 2 years thus far. The creation of such a tome was the brainchild of the breed’s chief executive who had the realisation that some of the older guard were starting to disappear from this earth, taking their memories with them. For over a year I toured the country, tackling  some of the older members with a tape recorder to capture snippets of information for eternity. I am therefore extremely saddened that the very man who gave me this opportunity passed away himself this week, aged just 64, and that I never took the initiative to actually hear his own story and, moreover,  that he didn’t get chance to see the fruits of my labour.  History is a strange thing, isn’t it? One thing is for sure, we might be able to document it, but we sure can’t change it.
On a lighter note, I have a couple of appointments with large stadia in the headlights over the coming months. The first is that spectacle of sport, the Rugby World Cup, an event which Wendy and I have engaged in every 4 years over the last decade and more. This time, the hosts, England, have managed to price us out of the ticket market for their home games, with basic tickets costing upwards of three hundred quid a throw, but we will be making the trip to Newcastle to see Scotland playing those rather animalistic Polynesians, Samoa. For the trip I will dust off my saltire woolly bonnet and show allegiance to my wife’s country of origin, although I am not sure I will be putting a bet on their survival. Allez les Blanc!

Then, just a few days later, it is a short trip to Bordeaux to see one of Britain’s finest exports, that aged rock band, Deep Purple. Yes, against all odds, a few members of the original line-up have remained pickled enough to still perform such gems as ‘Sweet Child in Time,’ ‘Speed King’ and ‘Smoke on the Water.’ The excitement of it all has even provoked me to un-mothball my own guitar, plug it in to the mains and give it some welly – if only to an audience full of bewildered sheep. I can even remember the words to the latter – “dan dan dan, dan dan de dan...” Come on, you Rockers, sing along now!