Saturday, 31 January 2009

The downfall of the car industry

I have decided to buy a new car. I was hoping that my ancient Ford Fiasco would last until we went to France but recent driving has convinced me that its days are numbered, my savings are doing nothing in the bank and with a crisis in the car industry I should be able to get a good deal on a car. Well, that is what I thought, so after checking my bank balance, we made a trip to the local Ford dealers prepared to spend if there was a good deal to be had. We wandered around the lot for a while with no sign of a salesman and as it was cold we entered the sales room. A couple of salesmen were engaged with clients and in a room out the back several others sat chatting. We looked around the few cars in the room and eventually the receptionist asked us if we wanted help. We asked if we could see a salesman and she scurried off to find one. However, the room of men were unmoving and dismissed her instantly. She returned and said that there was no one available and could we come back later. At this my loathing of salesmen in general overpowered me and I said we couldn't and couldn't resist pointing out to her that if they had been more willing to help that they might have sold a car that afternoon. I would have been less annoyed if the receptionist had not insisted on addressing all her comments to Ian and not me who was the person paying for and driving the car!

Time for the car sales industry to join the 21st century or go out of business!

We are looking on the Internet and have seen a good price on a new Ford KaKa!

Friday, 30 January 2009

The tower gets its hat!

Ian has just phoned in a panic as the builder had just sent him some pictures and the roof of the tower wasn't as he had imagined. (He also had a bad day at work and is getting a cold so was feeling fed up). I had a look at the pictures and I think the roof looks okay even if it isn't how he had hoped. He was reassured. It's hard to have a house built when you are 700 miles from the builder!

All in a weeks work

This week I have been rather busy on visits to students and preparing for an even busier week next week, and at the same time, trying to fit in some routine hospital appointments. Wednesday was my day for my six monthly check up at the hospital. These are usually pretty quick affairs as fortunately I have continued to remain well. On Wednesday the clinic was busy and my consultant was wandering around. He bounced over...

"Hello, how are you? I haven't got anyone with me at the moment so I thought I'd come over and say hello. Would you mind seeing the registrar today? It would be good for her to see you I think?"

"I'm fine, and no, I don't mind"

"Are you still mountain biking?"

"Well, I haven't been so much lately but I did go skiing again"

"Oh really? Where did you go?"

(there then followed a brief conversation about ski resorts in France and the loads of snow this year).

I am happy to see the registrar. As Ian said "how many people with MCTD is she likely to see in her career?"

Well, I may well be the only one for a while, and if, in a few years time when she is sitting in her surgery someone comes in with a strange mixture of peculiar symptoms that she can't quite figure out maybe she will remember me.

Of course the downside of seeing the registrar is that because she is learning she is much more thorough and concerned that she doesn't miss anything. "Shall we do another lung function test?" I managed to convince her that as I sit next to the woman who carries out the lung function tests in my exercise class and my lungs don't feel any different to anyone else's in the class then there wasn't much need. She then looked through my old notes, started to panic at the list of things that were wrong and ordered a whole host of blood tests!

The queue in the phlebotomy unit was long.. I waited half an hour for them to take blood and then popped back to the clinic to check that the urine test was okay (I knew it would be as I test it myself once a month) and then I left just before they were about to put a ticket on my car for outstaying my welcome in the car park!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

House and roof still there

On Friday night a big storm swept through South West France. We didn't hear that much about it at first but gradually realised it was pretty significant, causing much damage and flooding. As our roof tiles have only just gone on we fully expected to hear that they had blown away! Well, apparently we were lucky and according to the neighbours the builders were back today finishing off the roof to the Tower.

Apparently the commune was without electricity for 4 days, prompting Ian to look into purchasing a small generator for emergencies.

Monday, 26 January 2009

The coast road to Brighton

A very quick entry tonight as the blogging has been a little slow over the last few days. It's not that nothing has happened as there is always something to write about but just that I have not been able to get my brain clear enough to put it down in words as Ian and I are in the middle of long discussions about plasterboard walls, underfloor heating, cheap toilets on eBay, the best way to lay out the bedroom (negotiations required!) and the bathroom furniture (more negotiations)! But.. I am now back at work...

Today I drove to Brighton along the coast road and the irony of Peacehaven struck me; as it is certainly not a haven nor particularly peaceful! On the main road there was a burnt out carpet shop; probably the result of an 'insurance job'. I would imagine the recession will see many more of these types of 'accidents'. Going along the coast you get to Telscombe Cliffs; marginally better and at least there are some nice sea views! A little further on Saltdean still looks like something out of the 1930s, complete with the lido and the White Cliffs cafe and then things move more and more upmarket until you get to Rottingdean, complete with the organic greengrocer and private members club! After that I headed inland and into Brighton itself!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

You've got to laugh

A friend sent me this joke which I found particularly amusing in light of health and safety man's antics!
If we applied todays standards to the greatest sea battle in history...

The scene...The Battle of Trafalgar 21st October 1805...

Nelson: "Order the signal, Hardy."
Hardy: "Aye, aye sir."
Nelson: "Hold on, that's not what I dictated to Flags. What's the meaning of this?"
Hardy: "Sorry sir?"
Nelson (reading aloud): "' England expects every person to do his or her duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability.' - What gobbledegook is this?"
Hardy: "Admiralty policy, I'm afraid, sir. We're an equal opportunities employer now. We had the devil's own job getting ' England ' past the censors, lest it be considered racist."
Nelson: "Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco."
Hardy: "Sorry, sir. All naval vessels have now been designated smoke-free working environments."
Nelson: "In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the mainbrace to steel the men before battle."
Hardy: "The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. It's part of the Government's policy on binge drinking."
Nelson: "Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we'd better get on with it .......... full speed ahead."
Hardy: "I think you'll find that there's a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water."
Nelson: "Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow's nest please."
Hardy: "That won't be possible, sir."
Nelson: "What?"
Hardy: "Health and Safety have closed the crow's nest, sir. No harness; and they said that rope ladders don't meet regulations. They won't let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected."
Nelson: "Then get me the ship's carpenter without delay, Hardy."
Hardy: "He's busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the foredeck Admiral."
Nelson: "Wheelchair access? I've never heard anything so absurd."
Hardy: "Health and safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled."
Nelson: "Differently abled? I've only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn't rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card."
Hardy: "Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency."
Nelson: "Whatever next? Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons."
Hardy: "A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and safety won't let the crew up the rigging without hard hats. And they don't want anyone breathing in too much salt - haven't you seen the adverts?"
Nelson: "I've never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy."
Hardy: "The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral."
Nelson: "What? This is mutiny!"
Hardy: "It's not that, sir. It's just that they're afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There's a couple of legal-aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks."
Nelson: "Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?"
Hardy: "Actually, sir, we're not."
Nelson: "We're not?"
Hardy: "No, sir. The French and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn't even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation."
Nelson: "But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil."
Hardy: "I wouldn't let the ship's diversity co-ordinator hear you saying that sir. You'll be up on disciplinary report."
Nelson: "You must consider every man an enemy, who speaks ill of your King."
Hardy: "Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it's the rules. It could save your life"
Nelson: "Don't tell me - health and safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?"
Hardy: As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu! And there's a ban on corporal punishment."
Nelson: "What about sodomy?"
Hardy: "I believe that is now legal, sir."
Nelson: "In that case............................... kiss me, Hardy. (The old ones are the old ones!)

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The work of remaking America.(New year, new president)

I left work a little early today to watch the inauguration of President Obama. I am not a fan of American politics and I am sure in the future the swearing in of the first African American president and all the fuss it engendered will seem quite quaint and racist in itself, in the same way that now no one comments on the fact that their bus driver is woman even though 10 years ago that would have been remarkable. Anyway, I can remember stories of segregation, discrimination and violence in the Southern States as I was growing up, I can remember the shooting of Martin Luther King and I can remember listening to Aretha Franklin so the ceremony today had some poignancy even for me.

It certainly moved millions of Americans to stand for hours in temperatures well below freezing to witness it. Mind you, at least they could wear coats, hats and jackets! The presidential party, in their smart suits and thin looking coats must have been freezing! I hope they were wearing decent thermal underwear! Obama's daughter was taking photos of her dad taking his oath which maybe one day will appear on her own blog or in her memoirs, or just serve as a personal memento of the day. Obama's speech was as we all expected as he is a good orator. It was timely and well written (apparently the writer is only 27 years old, which pleases me to think that there is such talent in the young). My hope is that he does go on to be a different and new kind of president not because he is black but because he does the right things. In the end I hope that we all find the fact that he is black unremarkable.

One thing that I did wake up to today was just how carefully timed Israel's attack on Palestine was. It was begun over Christmas in the midst of a handover of power and declared over the day before Obama's inauguration. I can't begin to understand the Middle East Situation but whatever your views and beliefs, as people are allowed in now to view the aftermath it seems to be becoming clear that there were some dreadful atrocities. Whether all of these turn out to have been deliberate or so called 'mistakes of war' we will probably never know.

Monday, 19 January 2009

New year, new room

This weekend we tackled my bedroom! It was one of many jobs that need doing in my house and I just got fed up with staring at the faded wallpaper and grubby ceiling. On Saturday we removed all the items from the room and prepared the walls (only to discover the inevitable blown plaster, peeling paper etc). That night we slept downstairs on the sofa bed, much to the surprise and pleasure of the cats who insisted on joining us but couldn't really work out why we were asleep for so long. Sunday we painted and by the evening were able to move the furniture back. We still need new blinds, new radiator, new carpet and various other finishing off things but it does at least feel like it is on the way. Below is a picture of the half finished wall and Ian as he was at the end of the weekend after emulsioning and cutting in!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Pictures at last!

As you can see, the pictures have arrived and the house is finally taking its finished shape. The 'tower' in the middle is based on the pigeonniers that are typical in the area and were where the pidgeons were kept (for fertilizer for the vines). We will use it for something more mundane, as an office.
The final picture is of our builder, hard at work! He is really quite slim and is wearing lots of clothes because it was below freezing. It was so cold that their gas fired nail gun had stopped working!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Nearly a house but not a home (yet)

I am feeling a little left out tonight. Ian reported back on the progress of the house but as I wasn't there this time I am struggling to picture it in my head. Apparently the walls are finished and the roof is going on as we speak so it is probably looking more like a house than before. Ian took some photos but hasn't had time to email them to me and I haven't seen him since he got back. Ian met someone about building the interior staircase and a heating engineer. There are a lot of complicated decisions to make. The ground source heating is definitely the better option from an environmental perspective but by the time we have 'paid back' the cost of the installation in savings to the electric bill we will probably be ready to sell up and the technology will be dated. Most people opt for electric heaters or oil fired heating at this point (we have no room for a log burner and no source of cheap logs) but somehow I will be really disappointed if we have to make that compromise.

Some things have not turned out quite as we thought, either because of the design, the builders or they are just not as we imagined. This is just part of it I think. Some things are better, some not so good and as with all houses it is a compromise. It is beginning to develop an existence of its own from the pile of blocks we first saw.

I firmly believe that all buildings have an energy of their own. I can usually feel it when I walk in and know instantly whether I want to live in a house. Maybe the energy comes from its past and its inhabitants but what happens when something is brand new? I think that maybe the energy of those that constructed it is important which is why I am glad we chose our builder.

That is why I am disappointed that I didn't get to go in person this time as even though I can see the pictures it is not the same as being there in person and feeling the house as it develops.

Sunday, 11 January 2009


Ian left at 11.00 to go over to France for a brief visit, to meet with the builder and most importantly, as far as the builder is concerned, to give him a cheque! He set off for the airport and got his flight. Later that afternoon he sent me a message to say that he was in Limoges (and not Bergerac, where he should have been) as it had been too foggy to land the plane. Much irritation followed, including a long and cold coach ride for 2 hours and a missing car hire man, who had gone out with his mates, switched off his phone and forgotten that he needed to meet Ian with the car keys! However, eventually he turned up, Ian got the car and arrived at our neighbours (where he is sleeping on the sofa).

Bergerac apparently doesn't have a radar and so the pilots have to land the old fashioned way; by looking where they are going. His pilot had attempted to land, saw the fog and chickened out the at the last minute, when they were about 100 foot from the ground, reverting into a sharp climb. According to a more regular passenger, the Ryan Air pilots are all trainees at the moment! This theory gets more weight when you consider that the Flybe plane managed to land at Bergerac 10 minutes after the Ryan Air flight aborted!

Meantime I drove over to my mothers for a New Year visit, complete with a dinner to cook for her in her flat. We sat and chatted and she told me more about her cycling trip through France just after the war. I will write more on this later. We listened to Andrea Bocelli and when one of the tracks came on she said
"Oh, I remember my mother singing this every morning as she made the breakfast. She used to sing it really loudly and all the neighbours heard! She had a powerful operatic voice and would make my father accompany her on the piano"
I had forgotten this about her; that she had actually longed to have her voice properly trained and pursue a career in opera. She used to speak with some bitterness that she had never had the opportunities that she saw later generations get.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Roland rat and foxy loxy

The cold weather brings the wildlife (that normally finds plenty to eat up on the Downs) closer to civilization where the 'supermarkets' are better stocked! My compost heap has provided a nice warm home and source of food for a family of rats. I first noticed them just before Christmas but couldn't do anything about it until this week. The tunnels under the shed and the smell of rat urine were indicative, according to the rat man, of infestation, so it has been baited and I await the discovery of dead rat over the next few days. The rat man gave me a health and safety leaflet about the poison he had put down and we had a joke about health and safety in general.

I don't like the idea of poisoning rats but then I can't run the risk of them spreading to my house or the neighbours houses so reluctantly the rat man was called.

Yesterday morning I saw two foxes washing themselves on my lawn. I managed to get a picture of one. I hope they don't get affected by the poison or the dead rats. Rat man thought it was unlikely but did say that wherever you get rats you also get foxes.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Norma thinks again

Norma must have heard me talk about euthanasia the other day and decided that it was not her time just yet! She perked up and even ran around the living room for a while. She is begging for food again and eating well!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Back to life, back to reality

Only back at work for three days and already I am p*ssed off!. There are a couple of entries on the Health and Safety man blog for those interested. If you would like to access the blog let me know.

Customer relations

True to their word Eurotunnel replied to Ian's complaint that he made whilst we were waiting for our delayed departure. Here is an abbreviated version of the reply.

Thank you for contacting us following your recent journey with Eurotunnel.
We regret that you were unable to board your reserved shuttle as planned on 21 December and we would like to provide you with some explanation
: (In summary we are still repairing the tunnel after the fire and sometimes things run over a bit or the cars take up more room on the shuttle that we thought they would and so we run out of space).

As a gesture of goodwill, we would like to offer you a £30 supplement for travel at "high peak" time on a next Frequent Traveller ticket. This offer is valid for six months with effect from the date of this message.

Thank you for your patience and your understanding.

It would have much cheaper for them to have given us free coffee and we would have been happy with that!

Keeping out the cold

As we were driving out to my French class tonight the temperature gauge in the car read minus 6, which is pretty unusual for a coastal area like this. We also had layer of snow on Monday. My teasmade arrived just in time and it was lovely to wake to a warm cup of tea without having to get up. This is what it looks like!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Tea in bed

My new Christmas present from me to me arrived today and I am very exited! It is a teasmade so now I can wake up to hot tea in bed even when Ian is in London!

Ian had to phone up his mother today to ask her how to cook the vegetables in the steamer (I was out). I guess we are of some use to each other!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Back to work

Back to work tomorrow and the holiday is over. In many ways I like the sense of returning to reality after the New Year as it always seems a rather strange and unsettling time, but returning to work means less time and energy to think about the house in France and other things that I would rather be doing.

On my first night away I went to bed feeling a little queasy (probably as a result of something we ate on the way down). In my sleep I dreamt of being sick but in my dream the sick was 'sh*t from work'. I remember it quite clearly and woke up thinking I must not let work get to me!

Saturday, 3 January 2009


We have had a very quiet few days not venturing out much and recovering from our energetic week away! Ian discovered facebook and I was very annoyed to see that after a couple of hours he had found 46 friends, whereas it has taken me 9 months to find 35! Another thing that annoys me about facebook is that when I log in I get advertisements for over 50s dating!

Norma drags herself into 2009

Back up in London again after a quiet few days in Eastbourne. I felt quite bad to leave the cats as Norma, the old girl is looking more and more frail and has taken to howling rather loudly in the early hours of the morning, when she wakes up and doesn't seem to know where she is. She still eats although not with quite the same enthusiasm as before and when we are in she seems to want constant reassurance. It occurred to me today that it is not going to be too long before I have to think about her future. I have never had to make that decision about a pet before and it is not one I am looking forward to.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Delays to Shanghai

My sister's planned move to Shanghai is on hold for 6 months. I am not totally sure of the full reasons why but in the end they couldn't agree a package that would allow them to live as they wanted and I would guess that other things, such as his children and getting everything organised in time also contributed. The wedding however is still going ahead. So, in the end we have all got a little more time to plan and this time have some space to celebrate in our heads.

New Years resolutions

Ian and I had a quiet New Years Eve, watching the TV. We just about managed to stay awake until midnight, reluctantly on Ian's part and today we are relaxing. This is quite a contrast to my mother in her apartment block. The ladies decided to organise a party and everyone contributed some food and drink. My mother brought down some CDs that she had acquired for Christmas and they ate, drank, did a quiz and then sang and danced to Abba! How the older generation live!

I have decided to try and do some posts next year on my mother's life, as she remembers it. She had some interesting experiences, having been evacuated during the war as a child, cycling around France post war and raising a family in the 1960s. She has told me lots of stories but I can't remember all the details. I think it would be nice somewhere to have a record of her exploits.

I have no real New Years resolutions or expectations for the year. Ian is paying a fleeting visit to the land in two weeks to meet with the builder as it seems that the walls are now finished and we are awaiting the roof imminently!

So, to all readers, may 2009 bring you lots of happiness.