Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Le Grand Bornand

This is the subject of my presentation. I have my second French exam coming up soon and for this we have to do a 10 minute presentation in French on a subject related to an aspect of French life and culture. I am doing it on Le Grand Bornand and the Haute Savoie, including details of the local produce, the buildings and the love of the cow. (Le Grand Bornand is the world capital of cow art!). It is where Ian and I went skiing at Easter. I have spent several evenings preparing in between blogging and think I have got it sorted. Although it may be basic I think my presentation in French will be more interesting than candidate 1's presentation to the troops!

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

May blossom

The trees are in blossom at last. This is on the lawn at work.

Monday, 28 April 2008


At the weekend my neighbour and Ian cut down a very ugly hedge that separated our two gardens. It was about 2 metres thick in places and 2 metres tall, spiky and messy and I am glad it has gone. We will put up a fence and plant something more attractive. I was looking up on Google to see if I could find out what sort of hedge it was. I couldn't find it but I did find this site, hedgeline; which is a whole group dedicated to the
Campaign for Effective Legislative Control of Problem High Hedges of all species, in residential areas of the UK
advice and information for Hedge-Victims, drawing on the experience of thousands of membe

I wonder if H&S man is involved!

Back-handed compliment

Finally could not avoid meeting candidate 1 as we were getting our lunch. As she put her pilchards on her plate I smiled and said "well, did you go out and celebrate all weekend?" She replied positively and I commiserated about how hard the day must have been. Okay, it was not a congratulations but it was the best I could do!

Friday, 25 April 2008

Shopping for compliments

I have been trying to bring myself to congratulate candidate 1 on her success but so far I cannot guarantee that I will be able to sound genuine enough so I was taking the cowardly way out and trying to keep out of her way until I had mellowed a bit. This was relatively easy at work and I finally left at 4.30 to go shopping, heaving a sigh of relief! I expect you can guess the next bit.. who should I see going into the supermarket but the very person! Well, at least she couldn't say anything about me leaving early but I really couldn't face a congratulations session over the cooked meats so I spent the next hour ducking in and out of the isles, checking carefully before I approached the veggies that she had not got there before me! It was like something out of a comedy show! I will have to get over my reticence soon!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Le fermier

I have been wanting to write about the farmer for a while. I first met him about 2 years ago when I went to the land with Ian for the first time. He owns one of the neighbouring farms and when we are over we pop over to say hello and keep him informed of what we are doing. Well, mostly it has been me sitting there nodding while Ian and him speak in French and I act like a blond! This time however, my French had improved a little and although I can't yet join in much of the conversation I can understand a fair bit of it. Monsieur Mulatier is what everyone would imagine a French farmer to be. He is stocky, with a round and ruddy face and grey hair. He has a gap where one of his front teeth once stood and wears blue cotton farming overalls and an American baseball cap. He speaks with a kind of nasal and drawn out local accent which Ian tells me is quite mild but which I find quite hard to follow. He lives in a small and unmodernised farmhouse with his wife. The job of the farmers wife is to deal with the books, money, paper-work and the affairs of the house, while Monsieur Mulatier deals with the tractors. He has at least 5, of which only three are working. When Ian went round he had the parts of one of them spread all over the garage floor.

Ian and Monsieur Mulatier discuss tractors, farm equipment, the local politics and the gossip (Mr Mulatier likes to know all he gossip about the English families). He then invites us in for an aperitif (which Monsieur Mulatier enjoys a lot and may explain some of his ruddy complexion). I am always offered one but it would not be polite for me as a woman to accept and it would be rude for Ian to say no!

I had to drive for the rest of the afternoon as Ian was too drunk!

Five candidates

There were 5 candidates for the important job of leader supreme of our little enclave. The job is primarily a managerial one; obeying high command and leading the troops into battle. ‘The troops’ were looking for an inspirational leader that would raise their banner and lead them forth into new and unconquered territories. The 5 candidates were asked to present their manifestos to the troops and the troops were asked to write copious ‘feedback’. This feedback was collated and given to high command after they had made their initial decision about the 5 candidates. After listening to 5 speeches the troops had a headache!

Candidate 1-told the troops how wonderful they were and how she wasn’t going to do anything without asking them. Candidate 1 presented high command’s policy as her own and was seen as a ‘safe bet’. The troops yawned and were uninspired.

Candidate 2- presented lots of ideas and lots of information on pretty pictures. She mentioned lots of names of important people that she met last week. The troops would have been inspired if they had been able to follow what she was saying.

Candidate 3 – had mastered the technological aspects of PowerPoint in an almost scary way and blinded the troops with techno power which for a while fooled the troops into thinking that there was some content. Candidate 3 did a great presentation for a job that wasn’t the one he was applying for.

Candidate 4- came across as a nice man. His presentation was entertaining and the troops liked him. His speech was full of clich├ęs and sound-bites but candidate 4 was able to inspire some of the troops with his rhetoric.

Candidate 5 – wasn’t able to look at the troops as she addressed them which scared them. She mentioned some inspiring things but there was ‘something of the night’ about her so even though the troops thought she was a good leader no one wanted her to lead them.

High command gave the job to candidate1. The troops were depressed and wondered whether the headache was worth it!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

How to be happy in France!

I can't help being a little cynical about the new psychology of happiness movement and those of us that have worked in the business for years realise that it takes more than a weekend with a cognitive behavioural psychologist to cure a lifetime of misery! Still, it is a nice past-time for the worried well!

The move to France was meant to take me out of all the psycho-babble talk and back to a more simple and straightforward life. Okay, I know that is naive but one can dream! My dream was shattered however when I came across this advert on the tourist information board in the village in France!

How to be Happy

a Seminar at:

Le Sarment
47350 Escassefort

10th and 11th May 2008

International speakers, live music, good food and local organic wine...
Plus a chance to relax in rural South West France...
There is no escape!!!!!!

Another thing I learnt this weekend

11. Oil seed rape is grown in the Dordogne as well as in Sussex!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Llama treking

When I tell people about the llama idea I get the following questions.
Don't they spit?
What do you do with them?
Can you ride them?

I try to explain what a llama trek is but most people don't get it. This is quite a long clip but gives you an idea of what you can do. We will probably not go as far as camping overnight but carrying the picnic will be a good start!

I don't believe it!

Well, this needs no comment; bearing in mind that the plastic soap dish has no electric connections of any description. (Mind you, I suspect that someone might have been playing a bit of a joke!)

Progress so far

As mentioned in previous posts, the purpose of our recent visit to France was to galvanise the builder into action. The building was meant to start in December, then February, then Easter, then in quinze jours! We sent an email to say that we were coming on Saturday and on Thursday this turned up together with a pile of bricks and the drive way was laid. Two holes were dug and then the rain came and the builder discovered rock! The hole filled with water and the builder went home! We met with the builder and discussed when he could finish, we went home! We are arranging another trip shortly having learnt our lesson. Ian had told the builder that he was not under any pressure to finish (big mistake!).

10 things I discovered this weekend

1. Renault Clios are cr*p! We hired one in France. The woman from the car hire told us exitedly that we were going to drive a brand new Renault Clio. We hated it. The brakes are so sensitive that passing your foot near them causes the car to do an emergency stop!

2. Builders in France, like builders in the UK, only work when you have got them tightly by the boll*cks.

3. There are red squirrels near the land (we saw one cross the road in front of us).

4. There are small rodent like creatures with big eyes and stripey tails in the woods near the land. As yet I have not been able to identify them!

5.There are lots of deer near the land (we saw one nibbling grass at the side of the road).

6. At Bergerac airport there is a bird of prey that thinks it is a boeing 737!

7. We only have 1.7 metres of top soil on the land (before we hit granite!). (We need another 1.5 metres for the cellar).

8. 'Priority boarding' with Ryan Air means nothing as everyone who doesn't check in a bag gets priority boarding. We were still at the back of a very long line.

9. France is not cheaper than the UK.

10. I really am looking forward to living there!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Interview with butterflies

This relates to entry 2 days ago and is the interview on the BBC with Seana's family. It requires no further comment.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Builders (and other workmen)

We are going to France this weekend. It isn't particularly glamorous. We are going to 'meet' the builder to see the progress on the house (which I suspect will be quite minimal) and basically to provide the needed prompt to get the building started. He is trying to tempt us with romantic notions of 'laying the first stone' but I am not falling for it! I will try and get some pictures this time!

I suspect that builders and workmen are the same everywhere. I ordered a new back gate from a local timber merchant. He came here and I showed him where the old gate was and we went through what I wanted. Last week he came round to put up the wooden posts to hold the gate. I was at work but when I returned the gate posts were a good six feet away from where we agreed. When I called him and asked him why he said he had just put them where he would have liked them to go! Unbelievable! As my neighbour said, I should pay him what I would like to pay!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Llama cake and Fanny's farm

I quite like my new site feed gizmo thingy as I can see how many people are visiting and how they are getting there. The posts that attract the most traffic and come up in people's searches are the banana llama cake (as I assume people are looking for ideas on how to make a cake like a llama unless it is a euphemism for a drug!) and fanny's farm! I can guess why but 'Fanny' really is a girl's name and Fanny really does own a farm in Reigate where she sells cakes and you can have tea! Honestly! (And if you have got to this page because you were hoping Fanny's farm was something else..serve you right!)

Choose and book (or not!)

I think I am one of the first patients to try the new 'choose and book' system of arranging your out-patient appointment. I saw my GP on Friday and on Saturday a letter arrived with a reference number and a password. Fortunately I have a computer and so could access the on-line booking system so at midnight last night I started my hunt! In reality I have a 'choice' between 4 local hospitals but two of these are totally inaccessible unless you have a car! I looked for availability at all the hospitals. My nearest one had no available appointments although I suspect that was because they have not managed to get their computers to liaise with the 'choose and book' computers! I could have phoned but decided that if they can't get their act together to get their booking system sorted then what will they do with my case notes! In the end I 'chose' a slightly longer wait to go to a hospital where, although the buildings are run down, the standards of medical care are pretty good. Two things amused me. Firstly I got a message saying this appointment is not confirmed until you get a letter from us and secondly the bottom line of the letter from my GP states

The Patient Care Advisory service is your local point of contact for any queries relating to your appointment. Please do not ring the surgery as we are unable to assist you with these matters.

Do you think they are anticipating problems?

(actually I have just looked at the 'choose and book' website. The section on 'technical queries is great and includes the following gem!

Why doesn’t Choose and Book work with my web browser?
The Choose and Book patient application currently supports Internet Explorer version 5.0 and above. Internet Explorer is used by over two thirds of all Internet users in the UK, and whilst we accept this does not make the site accessible to everybody at this time, we are working hard to ensure 100% accessibility as soon as possible. Later this year there will be more enhancements, including access for those patients who prefer to use the Firefox web browsers

Heaven help us! Do you think they have a 'deal' with microsoft!?)

A reminder

I haven't written about my illness much apart from the occasional mention of blood tests, medication and my gratitude that I have been able to return to a full active life. The truth is that although it is always there it is fortunately no longer a big part of my life. However, over the weekend a couple of things happened to remind me of how ill I was and how lucky I have been!

On Friday I visited my GP as I wanted a referral to a specialist for something that has been bothering me for a while (and is unrelated to other illnesses). As he dictated the letter he read out my past medical history. It went something like "interstitial lung disease, disseminating intervascular coagulation, nephrotic syndrome, connective tissue disease, polymyositis...." After hearing this I said 'God, when the consultant reads that he will think I can barely walk.'.(and, I should have added..will probably say that I am imminently unsuitable for further treatment for my other complaint as that may bugger up his success rates). My GP then kindly reminded me that in fact when I was ill I was barely able to walk and he was just pleased to see that I was well and able to laugh at things now. Even now I can't really get my head around how ill I was so sometimes it is good to be reminded as I then treat life a little more preciously.

My second reminder came yesterday. Ian and I cycled into town to watch the London marathon (I was staying at his place). We had a special reason and that was to cheer on his colleague and 3 of her relatives who were running round in yellow with purple wings. They were running in memory of their daughter who died suddenly from Lupus at the age of 26 and were fund raising but also trying to raise awareness of the disease. I have posted about her before and how I was just luckier than her in that my GP did the right tests and eventually got me hospital. However, this was after I had paid for a private consultation with a rheumatologist as I was not convinced I would survive the 2 month wait to be seen!

Ian's colleagues were interviewed by the BBC and it was broadcast in the evening's edited highlights. The most poignant statement was when her father said how last year she had been handing out water at one of the refreshment stations and this year she was dead. He has written a narrative of the event.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Being a professional

A little while ago I turned into the corridor to go to my office to see a woman lying on her back on the floor. Now students often wait in the corridor to see various tutors but usually they stand or at worst sit on the floor. I had never seen one lying on her back before and so I thought I'd better ask her if she was okay and if she was waiting for anyone.

'Oh yes, I'm fine, I'm waiting to go in there' (pointing at the nearest office door..and as if by way of an explanation, added 'I prefer to lie on my back'.

I went into one of the offices where a group of fellow tutors were talking and asked if anyone knew her. It seems others had been concerned and also asked her if they could help but she had declined and somehow had not taken that as a hint that it might be more appropriate to remain upright! We left and fortunately the tutor she was waiting for appeared. I did wonder at this behaviour and our acceptance of it as weird but okay! This student is training to be a health professional, where she will be dealing with the public in all sorts of situations and circumstances and yet she seemed to think that there was nothing wrong in lying on her back in a public corridor because she preferred it! God help the general public!

Monday, 7 April 2008

Bedside manners

I had to go for a routine blood test today. Normally I just take my chances at the local hospital and hope that the queues are not too long (don't time them at the same time as busy outpatient clinics or first thing in the morning). Today I walked in and there was no one waiting so I took my number and went straight in for the first time ever. I expected to find the phlebotomist happy about this as usually they have a string of people, but despite my attempts a sociable conversation she was having none of it! She got on as quickly as she could, she didn't ask me the standard questions that she is meant to to ensure that she is taking blood from the right person and she didn't say 'sharp scratch' before she inserted the needle (not that that is anything like what it feels feels like a needle going in your doesn't particularly hurt but it definitely isn't a sharp scratch)! I was in and out in under two minutes, dealt with swiftly and brusquely and for the first time ever I have a big bruise on my arm! Just go to show that bedside manners are important sometimes!

News from Tibet

I heard from my student Libby again. She sent me some work for me to look at. She told me that things were interesting in Tibet at the moment and that communications are a little erratic. She did not say anymore and I didn't ask as I do not want us to have any kind of communication that may somehow make her position in Tibet difficult. I am just glad that she is okay.

The next day

People are still excited but the snow is melting fast! These were taken from my back window this morning. The blue line on the horizon is the sea!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Whiteout 2

Well, the weather deteriorated from my earlier pictures but most people seemed to see it as a positive thing. It snowed all day. Ian and the neighbours ended up having a major snowball fight and others went up on the downs to go sledging. I walked down to the shops and two grown men were talking about how exited they were about the snow and as I walked back an elderly man came to his door and looked excitedly out at the snow in his garden. By the afternoon it began to melt although there is still a fair bit left that has now frozen into sheet ice. In Hastings they had twice as much as here and in Worthing there was nothing! Here are a series of photos, including Ian in a snowball fight, next doors dog and some poor flowers!

Spring is not quite here!

I take it all back! The blossoms are now under 6 inches of snow and more is falling as I write.

These pictures were taken about an hour and half ago!

Team building!

After the all-day staff meeting a couple of weeks ago it seems that the 'management team' (and I put that in quotes because I have never seen any evidence of management in the 5 years that I have been there) decided that we needed some team building activities! We all got an email last week asking us if we were interested in taking part in a school choir or Tai Chi on the lawn! Now, don't get me wrong; I appreciate the thought and I appreciate the fact that someone is thinking about my well-being, albeit in a somewhat misguided way. However, these would not be my choice of activities! I can appreciate the therapeutic potential of singing and in deed was a member of a very successful community choir for 10 years when I lived in London. I am also aware of the tremendous hard work non-singers need to put in, in order for it not to sound like a bunch of cats wailing and I eventually 'retired' from my singing career when I realised that the kind of hard work I needed to put in would preclude having a full time job! Now Tai Chi might be nice in the mornings. I tried a course a few years ago and it takes about 6 months of regular attendance to master the moves in a way that makes it look a little effortless but never- the-less if we could all get to that point it might be good for us! But on the lawn..first thing in the morning! Today it is April and I am looking out of my window at 6 inches of snow!

I have not expressed an interest!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Spring is here

For a long time it has felt like winter but this morning I noticed that the cherry tree in my garden is in blossom, (not that I have ever got any cherries from it as the birds always beat me to it). This afternoon I had to go over to Brighton and I went with a colleague who drove the scenic route through the villages of Southease and Rodmell. We noticed that the oilseed rape was just beginning to come out, turning the fields bright yellow. I must try to get a picture to put on the blog as it is a lovely sight! Until then following the link here will lead to the page of another blogger where there are some nice pictures. The blog is quite interesting as well!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

A herd of llamas

We got an interesting offer today. Someone we had been in contact with in France offered us a ready-made breeding herd of llamas for 20,000 euros. This consists of one stud male and 4 females. Three of the females are pregnant and the fourth is a baby herself (and they are not pregnant by the stud they are being sold with, meaning that any female off-spring could be bred with the stud). This sounds like a lot of money but it is actually a very good price as once the babies are born we could sell each one for between 1000 and 2500 euros each and we have a ready made herd! For an additional 1000 euros we could also have two males, suitable for trekking (one fairly old and the other a youngster). They would come complete with halters, transport to the new location and three days hands on training. The other plus is that they are the brown and white ones, which Ian really likes! Only downside..we are not ready to go over for at least a year, having no house as yet! We have been doing some serious thinking about whether we could find someone with a field and some interest in them to have them for a year (maybe Ian's friend who lives in Burgundy). The downside is that without regular handling and attention by the time we are ready to go over we may have a wild herd to manage! It's a very difficult decision and at the moment we are thinking about it. I guess in the end we have to think about the well-being of the llamas and maybe we would not be the best owners for them. (However, if no one else can be found to buy them we may be better than any other alternative as the sellers are 4 weeks away from selling their farm and moving to Bulgaria- they were let down by the buyers of their farm who could no longer afford to purchase the llamas along with the farm). So, we will make some enquiries and think some more and hopefully make the right decision!

On another note, we have been chasing the builder who says he hopes to start the house in 'quinze jours'. This is french for in a fortnight but is also a bit of a builders euphemism for 'sometime soon'! Consequently we have arranged a trip over in a couple of weeks to meet up with the builder, go through the plans with him and lay the first stone. (He will then probably forget about us until we nag him again!)