Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A bad day....

Today is not a good day. Today I learned that my best friend's sister died in a tragic drowning accident in Brussels at the weekend. A young woman, a mother of two young girls, a wife, a talented singer. Can it really be a year since we were all together in France?

Daughters aren't supposed to die before their parents and mothers are not supposed to die before they've had the chance to see their own daughters grow up and flourish, to have their own daughters and their own lives. To hold them when they cry over broken hearts, to cheer them on their way in life, to see the tiny thing they held in their arms grow into beautiful young women. Wives are supposed to have the chance to grow old gracefully, or even disgracefully with the loves of their lives, to plan that cruise round the world when they've got purple hair, to spend their kids inheritance, to doze off in front of daytime TV with a nice cup of tea.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, governments plan to bail out the rich and greedy, the people who cared not one jot for the lives they were ruining in the pursuit of profit. The people who will still have their second homes and foreign holidays and cellars full of vintage champagne while the rest of us worry about how to pay our bills and how to keep a roof over our heads, even how to bring up two young girls alone. You tell me where the justice is?

For Richard and the girls, especially Clara who is 4 today, for Susie and all your family, we are with you in spirit even if we can't be there in person and we send you all the love and support in the world

There is a place that we call Memory -
A province by itself which,
though unseen,
is home and haven to the heart -
and there,
in peace and beauty,
are those with whom
we shared our yesterdays.

Hold your loved ones just a little bit closer tonight.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mamma Mia!

Yesterday was DD's birthday. I can't believe that 11 years ago I was sitting in hospital wondering if they had made a dreadful mistake and stitched my navel to my knees (it certainly felt like it!)

Actually, I was probably wondering where she was. I had a difficult end to the pregnancy and she was whisked off fairly quickly to be checked over - but they forgot to bring her back! The CH arrived with the Grandparents..

Ta Da! Here's our new......... where is she?

I.... blub..... don't..... blug.... know. They .....blub....took her away....blub..... ages ago.

Right, he said. And off he headed, a man on a mission to find his newborn daughter.

He returned a short while later clutching a Polaroid.

No, no! When they took her she was round and pink, this is flat and white. It's not the same! Where's my baby?

I've always dreamed of a government initiative where they took they away at a year old and returned them at 21, potty trained, through puberty, acne and first girlfriends/boyfriends, well mannered and with a job but this was ridiculous!

Well, unfortunately she had to go into Special Care for a few days and, dreadful mother than I am, I looked on it as a bit of a bonus. No waking up for nightfeeds, I could just rest. Of course I hadn't banked on other people's babies.

They just kept waking up and wailing. I mean, how's a girl supposed to get some sleep?

"Oi, missus, can't you keep Jade Chelsea Chardonnay quiet down there?". My own baby isn't keeping me awake so I don't expect yours to!

And thus it continued up to her 11th birthday, where I continue to not quite cut the mustard on the motherhood front.

A list of my transgressions this birthday are....

1. Having been entrusted by the Grandparents with getting her birthday present I completely forgot to order it. So completely that it wasn't until her birthday that I realised.

2. Left leaving ordering her present till so late that I had to pay for an extra pigeon to try and get it here in time.

3 Failed to be in when the pigeons tried to deliver it on her birthday so we couldn't pick it up until the day after

4. Forgot where I had hidden the present from her best friend in the UK

5. Forgot to wrap her presents necessitating an 'Ohmigod' wake up at 5am so I could hurriedly stick a bit of wrapping paper round

6. And worst of all, failed to get the CH home for her birthday. It's the first one he's ever missed and she cried for an hour when I told her he couldn't be there. But honest, that wasn't my fault.

On the plus side, I did take her and some friends for an afternoon shopping, followed by Pizza and Mamma Mia at the cinema. I had no idea that Meryl Streep could speak French so well!

If you haven't seen it, go (if you are a girl. If you are a man, go down the pub instead).

What a lovely bit of escapist nonsense it was but boy do I wish I'd seen it in the UK instead. I was dying to get up and sing and dance but when I had a little singalong at the end, the young French girls in front turned and looked at me as if I'd passed wind in the middle of a Requiem Mass. We sat and watched it in that very French anally retentive way. Hands on laps and studious expressions.

The subtitles of the songs were brilliant. Half the time they bore absolutely no relation to what was being sung. But people.... Pierce Brosnan? What was that about? The man just can't sing.

I told the children that I was going to model myself on Julie Walters and wear silver flares and platform shoes and behave outrageously. They looked at me slightly nervously..... because they know, deep down, that it's quite possible!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Prize Giving

Better late than never but it's my turn to hand out some awards to bloggers I enjoy or who I think deserve it. Having received 3 of these awards I think I'm supposed to be nominating 21 other blogs but I think I'll struggle as I don't read that many. Anyway, here goes. I'm going to cheat a little and give people the choice of which one they want to take and ask them to nominate up to 7 other bloggers and link in to their blogs.

In no particular order....

1. Debs from the Lehners in France. Hers was the first blog I read and I shall miss her while she makes the transition from a blogger in France to a blogger in the UK. I'm sure the posts will be just as brilliant.

2. Lindsay - Queen of the Supertrikes!

3. Dulwich Divorcee because her blog is great

4. Manu, because he spends his time working out new ways to break things. Fabulous!

5. Jaywalker because she is, without doubt, the most hilarious Eurodrone and vegetable carver in the known blogworld, possibly even the world

6. Blogthatmama because I love her blog and she's trying to sell her house too so sisters must stick together!

7. Marmite Toasty because she's a fellow Marmite lover (and an inspiration)

8. Shakespeare's Housekeeper - a new blog I found through the Black Boxes but whose blog is really entertaining

9. Sandi McBride because......... I don't need a reason

10. Working Mum because she has millions of balls to juggle and most of the time she doesn't drop them!

Chose your award and pass it on all you clever people!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Welcome to the new official French sport of..........


Yes, in their bid to regulate every single facet of our lives (well, not mine obviously) the French government's microscope has fallen on the crazy world of linedancing. How could they, for so long, have missed an opportunity at screwing money out of a band of happy amateur dancers? How could they have let it go unregulated or so long? How very un-French!

Linedancing is the new French revolution with, apparently, thousands of 'femmes d'un certain âge', clad in unflattering swingy skirts or showing off their muffin top above obscenely tight jeans, shod in dodgy cowboy boots achy-breakying their way around France, with new clubs starting up every week.

I've even heard that in Paris they are planning to try and beat the world 'mass linedancing' record which was set a few years ago by 1780 dancers.

In their own particular gallic way, the French government, the only one in Europe apart from Greece to regulate leisure activities, has proclaimed line dancing a sport. Clearly they haven't been to our local 'danse country' or they would instantly realise the error of their ways. I've seen more sport in the Embassy World Darts final or possibly even an amateur coarse fishing contest.

From now on, teachers will have to take a state run exam, a Brevet d'Animateur Fédéral, in order to show a few step-hitch-kicks to a bunch of mamies - and the odd papy too. No doubt anyone who fails to comply will be fined at best, guillotined at worst.

The new course will last a week and cost 180 euros which goes straight into the pocket of the government and all the dances will have to be officially codified in order to be taught. Any new dances will have to be approved and notated by the Linedancing Police before they can be taught.

Now I know why the next Olympics are in London. The International Olympic Committee were probably worried that the French may try to get Linedancing admitted as an Olympic sport.

Lover of the craze worry that it may collapse under a vast heap of administrative red tape and be regulated out of existence.

Well, we can only hope!

Appearing soon at a Salle des Fêtes near you!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

You know that life is over when........

1. Your bedtime reading is an article on the implications of different colours of chicken poo

2. Your 'must do' chore for the following day is finding out how to make your chicken vomit

3. You spend the whole of the next day trying to make your chicken vomit

4. Your single estate cold pressed extra virgin Olive oil is now being liberally squirted down the throat of a poorly chicken.

5. You are closely inspecting your chicken's poo

6. You only score 1/50 (well two if you count my funky Italian neoprene wellies) on Jaywalker's Times List of 50 things every English girl should have.

That's it, my life is over.........

Monday, September 15, 2008

Scammers and Spammers!

Well, no-one said selling your house in this market would be easy but so far the interest has been 'dubious' to say the least.

"Muuuuuuuummmm, there's someone on the phone about the house" called DD yesterday.

Marvellous I thought, envisaging selling the house to the first person through the door. (Now, I know that's not going to happen but I can dream can't I?). My thoughts are in italics.

"Good morning, muh name is Mr Kuchak, You want to spik Eenglish or French?"

"I can speak either, whichever you prefer" I replied.

"Ah, you are Eenglish?"

Must be the name that was a giveaway eh? No flies on this boy!

"I spik English then. Ah am very wanting to buy yoore howse"

Oh dear, maybe we should have stuck to French!

Uh huh......

"I spik to my property expert and he say me I cun buy yoore howse 100%"

Well, that's a relief as I'm not planning to sell it in bits

"Mah property expert seh it good for muh portfolio. Ah im nationality Israelian"

Now, would that be Nigerian Israelian or Ivory Coast Israelian I wonder?

"Oh yes"

"Ah am in Milan wid my fader. Ah am buying big bilding. Big luxury hotel"

Ah, well I can see how an 18th Century French farmhouse would slot right into your portfolio then.

"Oh yes"

"Ah cun pay cash"

Hmm, wonder if the printing ink on the notes has dried yet

"... but ah don't like to talk money on de phonne. You know what ah min"

Boy, do I ever. You don't want to talk about money because you are trying to scam me you foolish little man.

"oh yes"

"So, you fly to Milano and we talk money"

As if.....!

"No, I'm very sorry but I've got no intention of flying to Milan. If you want to buy my house you come to France and see it and discuss money. Flying to Milan is out of the question"

Bang. Bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Oh dear, he seems to have hung up!

Never mind though as I checked my special e-mail account set up to deal with property enquiries and there was this nice one from Mr Ebas

My name`s are Mr Mohamed Eisa Abas, a legal practitioner with EISA
& CO in
Seremban, Malaysia.

I saw your contact and profile and decided that you could cooperate with me in this proposition.

I have a client by Name Mr. Nelson xxxx who was deceased in November, 2005, in
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am contacting you because you have the same surname as my deceased client and i felt that you could help me in the distribution of funding that were left in my deceased client's bank account. This funding is closed to be declared un-serviceable by the bank as there were no indicated next of kin or next of beneficiary of the funding in the bank account.

The total amount of cash in the bank account of my deceased client is US$ 12.5 Million ( Say, Twelve Million, Five Hundred Thousand United States dollars Only ),The bank had issued to me a notification to contact the next of kin of my deceased client for either to re-activate the bank account or to make claim of beneficiary, of the funding in the bank account, with a month surcharge of 6% to be deducted as an Escrow safe keeping fee of the bank account, so as to avoid the indefinite closure of the bank account. My proposition to you is to seek your consent, and to present your kind self as the next-of-kin and beneficiary of my deceased client, since you have the same last name with him.

This means that the proceeds of his bank account would be paid to you as his next of kin or the legitimate beneficiary. When the proceeds in his bank account are paid to you, we would share the proceeds on a mutually agreed-upon percentage of 60% to me and 40% to your kind self. All the legal documents to back up your claim as my client's next-of-kin would be provided by me. The most important thing I would need is your honest cooperation in this proposition.This would be done under a legitimate arrangement that would protect you from any breach of the law.

If this business proposition offends your moral and ethical values,feel free to back out. Please contact me at once if you are interested reply through
my personal email (eisa_abaschambers@mail2world.com
Barr. Mohamed Eisa A.ESQ,
Senior Advocate/Solicitor.

(Offends my moral and ethical values? Clearly dear Mr Abas does NOT read my blog and knows my moral compass is permanently fixed on magnetic north)

So Malaysian Mr J dies and his next of kin, a blonde haired, blue eyed English woman, turns up to claim his 'fortune'. Well that's really going to work isn't it. Looks like I'm just going to have to say no to Nelson's millions. Tant pis!

Is it going to get any better than this?

Seeing Double

For a moment I thought that I'd been on the sherry and was seeing double but no, it's the same lovely award from the wonderful Dulwich Divorcee. Thanks so very much!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Another Award

Thank you to dear Tartetartan for this lovely award. You are too kind.

The Immobilier's Visit Part II

I feel that, like any decent sequel, this should have some 'kick ass' name like 'The Vendeuse Strikes Back' or something but for the moment I'm not feeling inspired so I'll just stick with Part II.

First things first though. Anyone seen any black holes yet? Well, apart from the one in my purse whenever I open it anyway. Yes, today CERN starts to try and recreate the beginning of the universe with its Large Hadron Collider. Is it just me or don't you think a giant piece of kit like that with all that it's capable of should at least have a name that includes words which actually exists in the English language. I mean, what's a collider when it's at home? And is is a LARGE Hadron Collider or does it collide large Hadrons? I think these scientific chappies are missing the point. Even if it does create anti-matter it should have a decent name that sounds a bit scientific.

For those that don't understand what it's all about, here it is in layman's terms.

Well you have this big ring thingy, only it isn't really circular it's made up from a series of arcs. It's 27kms long, so if the experiment fails the Swiss can always use it as a velodrome and practise for the next Olympics.

At various points it has detectors which are looking for a) the Higgs Bosun or God particle (CMS), anti-matter (LHBc), Dark Matter (Atlas) and the moments after the big bang (Alice). How come the only female name in the whole thing comes after the word 'bang'?

In the tunnel ring thingy, particles of something or other called protons (not to be confused with the car) are pushed round at huge speed and smashed into the detectors. (Sounds like a normal day out driving in Southwest France to me). The Alice detector uses electrically charged lead atoms and scientists hope to re-create a state of matter called quark-gluon plasma which existed just after the Big Bang. Now if that's not a name from Star Trek then I don't know what is!! The whole point of this is slightly lost on me but it cost billions and lots of overgrown boys work on it, so there must be a reason, eh?

So, is this the end of Creationism as we know it? Did all those years I spent at Sunday School really mean nothing? Does anybody except for CERN, a few boffins (and my brother) really care? The Doom Mongers, who can always get jobs on the Daily Mail and the Sun if all else fails, claim that it may mean the end of the world and YouTube is awash with computer simulations of what could happen if it goes horribly wrong.

On the plus side though, the Earth has so far failed to be sucked into the black hole that is my purse and the CERN one will be child's play compared to that, and, even if it did, it would take my credit card bills with it, so perhaps there would be a God after all! So there you are. Clear as mud.

On the minus side, I spent days creating a website for our house sale and I'll be really, really peed off if the world ended before I'd had a chance to publish it!

Which brings me back to Immobiliers. After the cock up on Friday, I did manage to get an estate agent round, the lovely Suzie from Agence Passemard and also my friend Jen from Bacchus and so the fun begins.

Today I had another 'rendez-vous' planned with Stephane from Quercy Blanc Immobilier. Things got off to a bad start when I dropped the children at the bus stop to discover a) no bus, b) no other children and c) the road out of the village blocked because they are laying new water mains. The children haven't been getting the bus as DD still hasn't got her bus pass - no doubt another casualty of the French postal system. This morning though, with the rendez-vous planned I was planning to ask Bastard Bus Driver if he could possibly please, I know she's not on the list yet but her bus pass is in the post, honest, take her too so I could get back and have a final clear up before Stephane arrived. Apparently though, due to the road works, the bus leaves from another part of the village 15 minutes earlier than scheduled. Well thanks for the head-up guys!

I dashed the 23kms to college, slowed down slightly to throw them out of the car, and sped back home. We've been really good about keeping the house tidy so there wasn't too much to do. 5 to 10 and I'm all ready. Quick dash to the loo is all that's required.

I may have mentioned earlier about our bathroom windows. There are 12 of them, all large. Normally it's not a problem as the bathroom is not overlooked. Unless that is, it's by an estate agent who's not familiar with the layout of the property and so finds himself wandering down the path between the house and the cottage looking for the front door.

There I was, relaxing mid-pee, when I hear the crunch of gravel and look up to see Stephane, all suede jacket, Levis and funky specs, sauntering down towards the bathroom and me in full view almost, knickers round my ankles. Fortunately there is a courtesy wall (one of those half walls) that shields the toilet itself but still I can't stand up and zip up without being seen. In fact if he looks now he'll see my head popping up above the wall! Damn, damn and thrice damn! I fling myself on the floor and commando crawl towards the bedroom, jeans still round ankles. Well what's a girl to do? Have you ever tried doing your jeans up while lying on the floor?

I just hope to God that he doesn't decide to peer in the window. Quite what he'd make of a middle aged English women, bare assed, crawling across the bathroom floor is anyone's guess. Actually, he's probably just assume that I'd started early on the wine, such is the reputation of the Brits among our French neigbours! I can't even bear to look up just in case! Please, please tell me this happens to you too. It can't be just me......... can it?

I make it to the bedroom, sort out my clothing, a quick squirt of perfume as I'd broken out in a sweat and I walk casually to the door.

'Bonjour Stephane, enchanté', I say nonchalantly.

Stephane tells me I write French very well. He's also brought a copy of my e-mail to show me the two small mistakes I made! How very French! Actually, he's very charming and I didn't once bristle when he corrected my spoken errors. Never mind, when I'm Presidente, my first job will be to simplify the French language for the benefit not just of foreigners, but of the French as well. It will do wonders for the illiteracy rates in France!

We wander around the house, the cottage and the gardens. He's trying to get the lie of the land. We find ourselves back on the path by the barn.

'Ah yes,' he says, 'the bathroom'.

Do you suppose he did see me?

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Immobilier's Visit

Phew! That's the summer holidays over. The rentree (start of the new term) was on Tuesday for DD, who has moved up to college this year, and Wednesday for DS, who is now in his third year there.

The last week of the holidays is always madness and as usual we made it to the first day of term without my having put the washing on so on the first day, DD has no trousers to wear (my suggestion of 'make like Beckham and wear a skirt' didn't go down too well) and DS has, well nothing much really.

I'd had a giggle the night before listening to DD taking fashion advice from DS, who was determined that his nerdy little sister wasn't going to embarrass him! DS is heading into that pre-teen demi-Goth dress in black and grow your hair long period, although thankfully he is still well acqainted with the shower, so I feared the worst. 'Nothing pink' he told her. 'No, that's not cool'. 'Don't EVER wear that'. In the end, a suitable outfit that was neither too girly nor too Goth was found and everyone was happy.

So, with the children safely out of the way, so I have at least a fighting chance of keeping the house tidy, it was time to call in the Immobiliers and get the house on the market.

The first appointment was for today so I started early yesterday de-cluttering, tidying up, finally repainting the cupboards and door in our bedroom which actually took most of the day. As luck would have it, the CH is making an unscheduled and unusually long stay chez nous so I was happy to have an extra pair of hands. With almost every room in the house in dire need of sorting out, he had an enormous choice of domestic chores. So...... he cleaned out the barn! All day. We now have the cleanest, tidiest, most orderly barn in the whole of the Southwest of France, nay, the whole of France possibly. You really could eat your food off the floor. It's the barn of someone with serious anal retention! While I think it's fabulous that we have such a shining example of a barn, I would personally have preferred some help in the house. Call me old fashioned but.........

So, by the end of the day, CH is slumped in front of the TV and I still have the rest of the house to do by 10.30 this morning.

What choice did I have but to get up at 5am and press on. Cleaning before the sun comes up is so incredibly sad that no-one should have to do it but needs must. CH got up and got the children off to school while I cleaned and polished and tidied. DD's bedroom looked like the aftermath of a nuclear explosion but within an hour it was shipshape (just don't look under the bed or open the wardrobe!). By 9am I was onto DS's bedroom. He's by far the tidier of the two but his bedroom still has that whiff of pre-teen boy, so I changed the sheets and tidied and polished, half a can of Oust and it passed muster.

By 10.10 I was doing the last bits, still, however, in my nightie. Not the best look for greeting the Immobilier. At 10.15, the shelf in the kitchen gave way. That serves me right for piling up with 'desirable' cookery books, most of which I've never personally opened, but you mustn't forget, you are 'selling a lifestyle', unfortunately, most of ours was now on the floor! CH did a quick repair and removed half the books. So far so good.

I dashed to the bathroom for a quick shower and by 10.25 I was ready for the immiment arrival of the Immobilier.

I put some coffee on - got to get those nice aromas going. By 10.40 I was feeling just a little peeved that I'd run around like a headless chicken (sorry chickens) for over 5 hours and the little sh**e was late. By 10.50 I was spitting blood. Bloody estate agents!

Right, let's get him on the phone. I brought up his e-mail to get the phone number.

'Dear Mme VLiF

I am please to confirm our appointment for 10.30 on Friday 12th September.


Bugger, bugger, bugger!!