Saturday 31 October 2015

October 31st

I don't think I can remember an autumn of such colour depth as this year. No frost yet so a slow turning of leaves from their summer greens.
Photo taken on favourite walk in the hills, soaking up the last rays - I read earlier that the coldest winter for 100 years is being predicted in Europe . . . hope that's an exaggeration. Think I'll just go and check the woodpile level . . .

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Same price - new size! 'Green marketing' cons

We were so pleased when we discovered that we could re-fill our ink cartridges for our Brother printer - no more wasted chunks of plastic (or at least a lot less), much cheaper, and of course better for this maltreated spherical rock we all cling to.
So having lulled us all into feeling we were making some teeny weeny pathetic gesture of environmental goodness, Brother then decide to keep the same price of the product but reduce the quantity of ink by 50% . . .
More plastic, more expense and a rather sad feeling of being taken for a eco-ride:
'Oh . . . so these massive companies don't actually really care at all,'
stupid us.

Sunday 18 October 2015


It's good isn't it? - I mean in so many ways: colour, taste; funkily arranged on a plate, or slammed in a bowl and shovelled away in front of the T.V while the rain pisses down outside . . . fuel for life, you are what you eat, etc.
I suppose food takes up about thirty percent of an average day in The Hothouse; whether it be discussing what to eat, searching in cupboards, cycling down to the local shops or driving a bit further to the scary planet of over-consumption, and finally cooking and eating the amassed molecules.
We stayed with a family in Cuba years ago. They probably spent about the same amount of time over food, although it was usually chasing up some rumour that someone had a stash of oranges; or sitting for hours picking over rice to take out the unknown mysterious bits, or trying to vary the statutory stew by adding a larger portion of yam in relation to carrot, or whatever was available.
At the other end of the scale exist places where you can spend about the same amount of time eating one meal . . .
Yesterday I was alerted by Trip advisor that the World's Best Restaurant had been nominated.
In order to avoid dealing with some annoying bit of office work, I investigated and discovered it to be in Spain, which then led to some tangenty behaviour of looking at daft menus of the Top Ten restaurants with meal prices that would buy you two weeks shopping: a head.
Why would anyone want to spend five hours eating twenty-two courses?
Is there not something completely obscene about this behaviour when most of the planet's inhabitants are concerned with trying to find anything vaguely edible, let alone a square, round or otherwise, meal?

    A chocolate and gold sundae, created in New York, at a cost of round about 25,000 dollars - but it does have diamonds in it . . .

Ooh, two please. Actually, no, think I'll re-roof the house and update the car. Hold the order, thanks.

We once visited a chateau in the Lot Valley and were shown the banqueting room. On the vast table were an array of tableware from that epoch: lethal looking knives, a few bowls and an odd, metal tube with a sort of plunger on one end.
The tour person elaborated:
    "Eet is somezing zat was used to make more space in ze stomach of ze revellers - after so many courses, it was possible avec ce thing to 'how you say' make some more room in ze bowel."
    "What you mean, an enema?" I said, and retched into the moat, or whatever it was surrounding the building (almost).
But is this so different from the twenty-two course business? - just a little 'waffer' thin mint, Mr . . . whoever it was in the Monty Python film.
Reading on, my jaw hit the desk at one reviewer's comment on, I forget which Michelin-starred eatery from the top ten.
    I usually find myself completely unsatisfied when leaving a Michelin-starred establishment, blah, blah  . . .
Hang on - usually? How often do you eat in these places? and why bother if you find them unsatisfying?
I have never yet had the opportunity to discover if I would be unsatisfied, completely, mildly or otherwise, and probably never will as there are so many wonderful and characterful places in wish to slake one's food-lust in, without having to re-mortgage anything

Friday 16 October 2015

The winter collection

Following on from the last post with regard to our rescue dogs.
The woman who kindly 'hosted' our new one while we were away knitted neck warmers for all our hounds (long necks/little hair type dogs) even for the runty one . . .

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Forget the gym - get a rescue greyhound (or two)

Or, in our case, a Galgos (Galgas) the Spanish version - used to run after hares, and abused horribly.
Since we have given a home to 'Bali' my walking pace has increased furiously, and the slightly lazy walks I was doing twice a day have become somewhat more than brisk zooms up hills and round fields.

          Our original Galgas - Gala, on the left, Bali on the right, son getting exercise in middle

The first few days were actually a serious challenge; walking with two galgos is energising to say the least, but when one of them (Bali) has never been on a lead it's almost impossible. All my joints ached, and a few times I was nearly pulled over slopes and under cars.
In slight desperation I asked Google about how to stop the lead-wrenching, and up popped an ad for 'Canny Collars'.
Being a total ad sceptic, I nearly ignored it but the testimonials were too good, so I ordered one, and a training lead of eight meters (you let them run, with the help of someone, I assume, in order to not let your arm actually leave the rest of you, then call them back with the aid of Frankfurter pieces/cheese/whatever).
The parcel arrived, and obedient person that I am, ignored it for three days thinking it was a birthday present, and opened it on my birthday. It was actually about the best present I could have received.
After attaching it (complicated on first trial) to the dog, we went for a real walk: no tugging, no hauling me into ditches, and walking at my pace - which as before stated, is really not bad now.
I'm still not sure how a simple band crossing the dog's 'nose' - in the Galgos's case - a very long area, works, but it does.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Building 52

I have passed this ancient windmill, or rather the walls of a windmill many times while driving to Toulouse.

This morning, on a dog walk, we decided to actually walk up to it, and could instantly appreciate why it was constructed there, being completely to exposed to all species of wind - east, west, north and south.
If a building could think and recall, I wonder what its visual and audial memory of the landscape would be.
The field it sits in is currently ploughed up for winter; the residual brown stalks and seeds of sunflowers still scattered across the clods. The sounds are of an occasional car speeding along to the next village. Perhaps, when the mill was functioning the view would have been wheat and woodlands and the distant mountain chain; the sounds, millstones grinding and horses hauling grain sacks.

On the doorway's stone blocks I noticed this beautiful carved name: early graffiti? or perhaps the mill owner or worker's signature; someone who had sat enjoying the view of the grey-blue Pyrenees at the end of a day's work. The same view we appreciated this morning on a perfect, early autumn day.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Have a nice day

I'm not sure what the French equivalent is - oh, yes, 'passez une bonne journée'. It exists: I know this as I have heard it uttered a few times in shops/garages/post offices . . . no, stop - never in the post office, or not our one anyway. I'm not actually too keen on 'have a nice day' for the sake of it, but a friendly 'bye' or 'thank you' can be reassuring and make you want to go back to the shop - or bureau de poste in this instance.
In UK post offices, people are generally smiling, helpful and non-flustered; I'm sure there are exceptions but I don't remember any particularly. In France, or at least in our local branch there seems to have been a special training to make people feel uncomfortable - you are a nuisance; something that could potentially disturb the staff's comfortable chat over rugby or last night's TV.
When there is a necessity to visit the afore-mentioned place, a small cloud of angst appears on the horizon, rather like a trip to the dentist, slightly colouring the day with foreboding.
Surely they don't want to install this in their clients . . . do they?
Last week I had to go there - Mark having the car, thus negating the possibility of driving to another branch, and the package being too heavy to cycle with. So, I turned up with my eBay package all lovely and brown-taped, correctly addressed etc, and presented it to the small, round woman with madly over-coiffured hair.
I knew there was going to be a problem.
"Madame, you cannot send this with drawings of a glass on it, or arrows pointing upwards."
She twisted me around brusquely, wrestled me to the floor and beat me about the head with a pile of bubble-wrap envelopes. Well not quite, but I'm sure she did in her mind. She then snatched an unsuspecting biro from its resting place and proceeded to cross out my drawings.
I gawped, then said: "But, supposing someone throws the package into a room upside down, surely it is better to indicate that the contents are fragile, and should be placed the right way up, N'EST-CE PAS?"
"It is not allowed. You should have sent it by courrier."
Then I got quite cross, which is unusual, and people stared.
Anyway it got sent, and arrived unharmed according to my eBay rating.

Talking of ratings, I happened to look up the bureau de poste yesterday to check opening hours and found two quite vitriolic reviews of one star: and I quote: Dès que l'on met un pied dans cet établissement on sent immédiatement la mauvaise humeur ambiante qui s'y dégage. Les guichetiers sont infects avec les clients. 
Or - pretty much what I said, including that the counter staff were disgusting with the clients! The other review was about a page long and full of exclamation marks.
I'm still trying to work out what the problem with drawing arrows on the box could be.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Once again

our kettle has been saved from the bin.

A plankton sized piece of information . . . but in our house the kettle is of vast importance. This particular junk shop item has been with us for about ten years and has had many other 'lid-knobs' in its time.
I think the original one was probably bakelite - polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride -apparently, then followed a series of corks that disintegrated, then a rather beautiful brass curtain rail finial which can be seen - if you really have nothing else to do - on my post-materialism site; then . . . err, ah yes, a lead penguin, then this (above) lead sheep, although without its modernistic wire construction - this added when the wire-wrapped-around-belly-design finally failed.
Unless the vessel itself melts through being boiled dry - something my mother excelled in, I think it will be with us for ever, the knob being changed every six months or so when the last one fails, or something else presents itself as being a super alternative.