Friday 7 September 2018

Basking in the sun

OK, at last a month of being in one place, the first for quite a while. Our trip to Scotland last month was a good one and it was nice to be there in mid-summer and even get a dip in the Firth of Forth on a couple of occasions. The weather was superb and our trip to the golf Open an exceedingly memorable one. Since then I have been cooling my heels in the pool in France, in insufferable temperatures which make it nigh on impossible to do any work at all. Even mowing the lawn becomes a marathon as the sweat pours. Well it did. Only now the grass has been replaced with a brown desert that has become a considerable fire risk and with this comes the problem of keeping the sheep in fodder. Thankfully we have reduced our numbers as some have been sent to that big freezer in the sky and a few more sold for breeding but we still have upwards of 20 hungry mouths to keep full. After over a month without it, the rain did eventually arrive in a spectacular fashion last Tuesday, spurring the mother of all thunderstorms and a deluge of a couple of inches of water, all of which was swiftly swallowed up by the 3-inch cracks in the ground. But at least it has cooled down enough that we can actually venture outside without the risk of sunstroke and char-burns. Currently we have family here, some of whom are muttering about not bringing their jumpers, but for once we are not having to treat 3rd degree burns each evening!
So, with the weather this week not quite perfect for sun-bathing for these youngsters, out have come the board games and boy do we have lots of them in the attic. As well as Trivial Pursuits, Monopoly and Rummikub, we have gone through Buccaneer, Mousetrap and a host of others I had not played since my childhood. With most of these exhausted in 24 hours, and many of the obscure ones far too complicated, eventually we bring out the good old playing cards. Except I find that the likes of Whist and Strip Jack Naked have now been superseded with all sorts baffling new games with names like Uno, Spoons, War and the aptly titled Bullsh*t, none of which I can understand, let alone win! So, eventually, I decided to come up with my own game. The concept is simple. You all live on an island together where you spend the first half of the game trying to annoy the hell out of all your neighbouring countries. Then you take a vote, with no idea what you are voting for, which is followed by hours of internal squabbling. Finally you now have to convince the same neighbouring countries to buy your produce. Oh, wait a minute….that’s for real!
Later this week sees the annual Oyster festival in the local town of Eymet, something we have religiously attended over the past 10 years. Except now it is now longer a few producteurs selling their freshly delivered catch of crustaceans but instead has evolved into a full-blown food fest with stalls purveying everything from horse’s entrails to raging hot Moroccan dishes full of unrecognisable ingredients. Eymet being in the heart of Dodogneshire, many of the revellers are of the ‘shuffling brit’ origin so now there are also pop-up fish’n’chip stalls on every corner to fulfil their insular requirements. Hence their snaking queues clutter up the otherwise pretty town, with their Brexit-berating chatter and ridiculous headgear, and we are forced to hide our embarrassing Britishness behind in a large plate of escargot in a secluded corner! 
By the end of the month it will be goodbye Brits in France and hello Brits in Spain as we take to the road again, this time working our way down the Med coast to see a friend near Malaga. I have to say we have both quite taken to life in a campervan so we have extended the trip to circumnavigate the whole country, working our way back up the Atlantic coast, taking in a wee sortie into Portugal en-route. This, of course, does flag up a few linguistical challenges as neither of us has more than a smattering of Spanish and zero Portuguese. Until recently I believe we could have happily got by in our native tongue but, apparently, we have done no deals with them yet over the legal use of our language, post-brexit, so English has been instantly removed from their curriculum! Oops, that’s 3 times I’ve mentioned the ‘B’ word this month. Reign it in Fraz, lets change the record!
I mentioned earlier that I recently took a dip in the North sea but I am not sure if I would have been quite so hasty to do so had I read a recent news article that suggested those very waters may well be shark infested. I was aware we had seals, dolphins and even the odd whale. But sharks, really? Yes, you read it here first, whole colonies of sharks have been spotted swimming, or more specifically basking off the coast of Scotland earlier this year. Although mainly confined to the West coast, seemingly basking sharks have migrated north for a spot of mating and, according to the article, have taken up parallel swimming, nose to tailing and going round in circles as part of their courtship rituals. Rumours that they learnt all these moves after a night out in a Fife nightclub are unfounded but one local swears he spotted a couple of them heading to the kebab shop at midnight asking for deep fried plankton!  

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