Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Goodby Humphrey

Humphrey Richard Adeane Lyttelton 23 May 1921 – 25 April 2008

I'm a relative youngster (compared to Humph anyway) and as I only came to the UK in 1990, I only discovered I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue towards the end of its run.

I'm still very saddened that Humph has gone. His delivery was so good.

Here is an episode from 1995 replayed by the BBC in tribute.

Have a listen, it's excellent as usual, and shed a tear for an era gone forever.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Brasserie de la Rainette

A jewel, a veritable jewel.
In the UK I had occasionally dabbled in home brew, and I was thinking about brewing some beer here in France. But I didn't know how to source the material - malt, hops, or even a beer kit. In the UK I would just pop into Boots. I searched the net, and found some French suppliers, but the delivery costs were high.
I then joined a forum for amateur brewers, and through them discovered that there is a brewer here in the Charente.
Only 20 minutes from me, the Brasserie de la Rainette is run by Alain Mitteau.
I can't recommend the place enough. It's in the village of Chazelles, in an ancient water mill.
Alain had no brewing experience, he's ex-military, and on retiring decided to give it a go. He had to completely renovate the mill. He dredged out the old weir and rebuilt the weir wall. He renexed the mill wheel and works and, after some research went straight into setting up a serious little brewery.
He said he researched and created the recipes for his four beers, and has never had a failure, and not changed the recipes.
And, let me tell you, his beer is good. Very good. He makes an ambrée - brown complex, tasty. A sweet stout, dark and burnt, and a rarity in this part of France. A bitter ale that is superb, and a white beer that is hoppy and flowery.
Fiona and I spent the afternoon with Alain and his lovely wife Sylviane, with the sound of the water over the wier, talking about everything and tasting his excellent beer.
He makes about 4000 litres a year, and only sells it from the brasserie. He says he doesn't want to get into supply contracts with supermarkets because he brews for the pleasure of it. Once he's tied into production contracts it'll stop being fun.
If ever your in the area, you could drop in because between June and August he's open every day except Mondays, but outside of those dates give him a call, and he'll be able to organise a visit.
But I'd recommend, rather than just dropping in, make a day of it, visit the chateau at La Rochefoucauld and spend a few hours by the river, drinking Alan's superb brews.
I decided to wait a day before writing this, in case it was the effect of the beer that was fueling my enthusiasm. You know how you have a lovely bottle of wine at a restaurant on holiday, so you buy a bottle, and when you try it back home it tastes awful, because the relaxed holiday ambiance isn't there?
Well, lunchtime today we opened a bottle of Alain's bitter ale, and it is just as excellent as the stuff we had yesterday.

The weir at Brasserie de la Rainette
The dredged and renovated weir.

Mill Wheel at Brasserie de la Rainette
The mill wheel

Mill Mechanism at Brasserie de la Rainette
The mill's mechanism. Alain uses the river water to cool the wort. It also generates electricity.

Chewing the fat.

The master brings another beer for tasting.

Their dog is thespitting image of Santa's Little Helper from the Simpsons

Happiness is a bag of beer

Friday, April 25, 2008

French Taxman supports gay marriage

I wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry.

In today's Charente Libre newspaper is the story of Mr Gérard Chaillou, a habitant of Cognac. he is divorced with one child. As such he is entitled to a family allowance.
He has a friend, who lives alone in a large house. "My mate had a very big house in which he lived alone. He invited me to move into one of the rooms to avoid paying a rent."
This Gérard did, in October 2005, and being a good and conciencous citizen, he noted on his tax forms, that he was staying rent-free.
But he then received a letter from the hôtel des impôts saying that this benefit is only applicable to widows, single parents or divorcees, and "according to their information" Gérard was living "en concubinage" with the man who owned the house. Thus, equivalent to married, no single parent benefit.
Gérard is very bitter about the way he has been treated by the female civil servant in charge of his file. She had always refused to meet with him to discus his case.
"Basically, she's treated me like a homo" said the sixty year old through gritted teeth. The "according to our information" suggests someone had had shopped him.
He moved out of the house, and through a mediator was re-embursed the missing allowances, amounting to about €100 per month.
What has made him bitter was that he received no apologies or any recognition that he has been treated badly.
PS - I've taken some liberties with the translation, not being au fait with french fiscal terms like CSG, RDS and une demi-part fiscale, but I'm not far off the sense of the thing. Anyone who can clarify is welcome.

So civil servants have absolutely nothing against same-sex unions, provided there is some kind of tax to be gained from it. This is the way forward for equal rights. Don't bother arguing about social justice or equality, just find a way to point out to government that they can earn revenue from it. Man those equality laws will be on the books before you can say "ooh get her!"

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A superb language resource

I give you the Le Grand Dictionnaire from the Office québécois de la langue française.

It is a very good technical French/English/Latin online dictionary. Technical terms and phrases.

Let's give it a whirl. I know many technical words in french that I learned in France. I don't know the English equivalents, because I learned everything about tile production here in France.

For example, the suspended trays that carry the tiles to the other part of the factory are called balancelles. The dictionary gives me "suspended tray conveyor" with the synonym "swing tray for overhead conveyor". Spot on, that's exactly what it is.

Last week, on the DTP press, a "goujon" was replaced by the mechanics and they put in the wrong sized "goujon" and as a result all the "bagues" on the "moules" were pushed out of place. Bagues is ring, of course, and moule is mould but "goujon"? The dictionary gives me "stud" with the explanation "A round, headless, bolt-like fastener with threads on both ends. One of its ends at least is intended for a nut." Exactly.

In the field of plumbing I come across "soupape" often. The dictionary defines it as a valve and gives an illustration of a tap and all its parts. I've also learned the the English for "bride" is "flange".

So, forget Google's language tools. before you go down to BricoDepot, or BatiLeClerc, or Brico Marché or whatever, find out the right technical term for what your looking for in Le Grand Dictionnaire

On a technical note, I leave you with the Two Ronnies classic - Fork Handles

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Good weather coming

Look at that outlook. 26 degrees and days of sunshine on the way.
That's the preview for our postcode.
Try yours at La Chaine Meteo


La douche de merde

Yesterday morning I was looking into a tank of stinky water.
Some neighbours had returned to their holiday home to find that their fosse septique was misbehaving.
To be precise, the fosse itself wasn't the problem, it was the overflow tank next to it. This tank has a submersed pump that pushes the excess water over the road and into a sand filter in the garden. The pump wasn't working and the tank was full of water. It seems that one of the pipes was leaking and needed repairing, as well as having the pump sorted out.
But before any repairs could be undertaken the tank would have to be pumped out. It had been pumped out a couple of days ago using a neighbour's petrol driven pump.
We got the pump out of his barn, attached the hoses, dropped the suction hose into the tank and fired up the pump. It ran noisily for a while but didn't pump anything.
I checked the hoses were connected the right way round, and read the instructions on the side of the pump.
"Ensure the pump casing is full of water before starting the pump"
Ah! It need priming. I took the cap off the top of the pump cover and disconnected the outlet hose. No point walking backwards and forwards to the end of the pipe to see if water is coming out. I carefully pointed the pump away from my direction, and fired up the pump.
Still lots of noise and exhaust, but no water coming out.
Now this tank is full of the overflow water from the fosse septique. No solids, but it's pretty manky water all the same. Quite ripe. That rich smell you get from sewers on a hot day. Clears the sinuses.
The problem with the pump, (it seems obvious to me) is that the suction pipe has air in it and it needs to be full of water before the pump will start to pull. So I pick up the little pump (while it's running)and lower it into the tank so that the suction pipe can get filled with water.
Unfortunately, I had not reconnected the priming cap, nor the outlet hose.
My premise was correct. As soon as the suction hose was full, the pump started to work. And pumped a pile of nasty water over my head.
I was speechless for a few seconds as the enormity of the event sank in. Luckily most of the mess was on the 2 sweatshirts I was wearing, the shirt underneath them was dry.
It's one of the risks involved in plumbing, I suppose, I've been knee deep in the stuff before, but never showered in it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

La Vallée des Singes -

Totally worth it. (Even tho it is a bit pricey - €13.50 for Adults and €8.50 for under 12s). It is well signposted from Civray.

Most of the monkeys are free and running about, and in the trees around you. The bigger nasty brutes like chimps, gorillas, mandrills are on their own islands.

The guides/keepers fed the animals at displayed times and gave a little schpiel, describing the troops, who were the dominant males and females, describing their behaviour etc. I learned a bunch of stuff I didn't know before.

The park has been running for 10 years and many of the monkeys and apes have been bred there. There were spider monkeys and capucins, chimps, gorillas, howler monkeys, lemurs, gibbons, tamarins, marmosets and colobus.

When the sun came out, the lemurs all trooped off to a sunny bit of lawn and sat facing the sun with their arms open and eyses closed. Very Zen. They were right amongst us and you could have reached out and touched them.
Lemurs sunbathing

Blogger won't let me upload pictures for some reason. I just get error codes.
Zen-like lemures and cute as pie squirrel monkeys will be on display when Blogger gets its act together.
update: Lemur pic uploaded, More later

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

La Vallée des Singes

The weather forecast shows 1 afternoon of sunshine today in amongst all this rain.

So today we're off to La Vallée des Singes. The eggs are hard-boiled, the sausages cooked, the sandwiches packed. I just have to download directions (I've never been, but Fi says they got lost last time they went) and we'll be off for a trip to the Vienne in about half and hour.

I hope the weather comes right. I was up at 7:00 this morning to go to town for a blood test at the Cabinet des Infirmières (Hypertension, cholesterol - full MOT) and it was thick fog and cold. It's still chilly outside now at 10:45

Not too far from La Vallée des Singes is this place. Go on, check it out. These tree houses look like the most romantic place to stay. I want to go.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

French Stand-up Comedy . . .

. . . is surprisingly good.

I give you as a sampler -
Gad Elmeleh

Anthony Kavanah

Florence Foresti

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Come on you blues!

Bordeaux's win tonight against Caen brings them back to 4 points from league leaders Lyon.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

French Love Phrases

Looking at traffic to this site, I find that lots of people get here via a google search on "French Love Phrases".
So far they will have been disappointed, but I like to provide a service, so, for all those cheesy casanovas who have been searching the net for romantic things to say to make the poor girl think you're a suave, sophisticated man of the world, here are some French Love Phrases.

Je t'aime
I love you
Je t'adore
I love you
Je suis fou de toi
I'm mad about you
Je suis morgane de toi
I'm crazy about you
Tu est belle comme un coeur
You're as pretty as a picture
Tu as de beaux yeux
You have beautiful eyes
C'est le coup de foudre
It's love at first sight
(Do not confuse or mispronounce "foudre" with "foutre")

Il faut que je t'embrasse
I have to kiss you
Kiss me
Je te veux
I want you
J'aime ça
I like that
N'arrête pas
Don't stop
Baise-moi plus fort
Fuck me harder
Ca Alors!
Oh yeah!
Je viens
I'm coming
C'etait super
That was great
Je ne veux plus te revoir
I don't want to see you again

Oops sorry, I got a bit personal there.


Friday, April 11, 2008

It's no longer "global warming"

It's been a while since the pundits & the media have used the term "global warming". They cunningly switched to the term "climate change" a while ago.
And a good thing too, because with last year's miserable summer, and all the rain we're having right now anyone mentioning global warming will get lynched.
In today's Telegraph "Climate experts predict temperature drop"
He said it was likely that the La Nina phenomenon would continue into the summer. If his forecast is right it would mean temperatures have not risen globally since 1998 when El Nino warmed the world.

Sort it out guys, is it El Nino causing the warming, or us?

And the phrase "temperatures have not risen globally since 1998" kind of gives the idea that temperatures haven't dropped either.
However, it seems temperatures peaked in 1998 and have been dropping ever since.

Data taken from RSS

The laptop fiasco

My wife's internet business is slowly picking up. She is a reseller of murals and DIY mural kits for kids rooms.
Magic Mural Factory
She also has some of her own work on the site.
It means that the internet, and the PC are crucial for her work, and she saved up her profits to buy herself a laptop. No more fighting for for the PC, no more fears that the kids will download some virus and wipe out all her work.

We researched on the net, and in the shops, to figure out which would be the best laptop to get, and via a french site CDiscount.com chose a Toshiba Satellite.
CDiscount also offered payment over 3 monts, interest free, so she chose a spec more expensive than she could afford, reasoning that she will earn the difference during the 3 months of payment.

CDiscount, being a french site, is all in French. No problem, for us, we're fluent aren't we?

Laptop chosen, along with keyboard and mouse, because those touchpad things are fiddly, we get past the payment stage and onto the delivery page. they offered a range of delivery options from rapid, to your door, expensive down to 1 week cheap.
On the cheap option it said "for our customers in the Bordelais, you can choose to have your goods delivered to our store in Bordeaux". Didn't bother me, because I'm not Borderlais, I'm Charentais, so I won't choose that.
When the order was finalised the screen said "Thank you for your order. Your goods will be delivered to our store in Bordeaux"
So I phoned their customer support. (This was about 7:00pm on a Friday) Amazingly I get a reply, although at 30 centimes per hour I should hope so. I wanted to get them to change the delivery details and debit my card accordingly. The ever so friendly lady told me that that couldn't be done.
I was so stunned that I said thanks and hung up.
This is madness! So I called them back. Same nice lady. Could I cancel the order and redo it? Certainly she said, she will cancel the order, but could I please wait until I get an e-mail confirming the cancellation before I re-order? Otherwise I might get debited twice.
No problem. A bit annoying because it means we'll only get the laptop in a couple of weeks, but hey, it's better than driving into Bordeaux.
So, I waited for the email, and sure enough, a few days later a mail arrived from CDiscount.
"We are pleased to inform you that your goods have arrived for collection at our Bordeaux store"
So, I had no choice but to drive the two and a half hours to Bordeaux. To avoid cock-ups I checked the CDiscount website for the requirements when collecting. I was armed with driver's license, passport and a letter from Fiona authorising me to collect on her behalf. I printed out an itenerary from PagesJaunes (Yellow Pages). I follwed CDiscounts advice and checked my order online to make sure everything had arrived.
I managed to find their store (after getting lost on the motorway and backwardsing and forwadsing on various exits) and presented my paperwork. The nice man went off and came back with a big boxed laptop. Super.
And the mouse and keyboard? He went off for another look.
They haven't arrived yet.
Was I in Bordeaux for they day, he asked, could I wait? No I couldn't.
Could they forward them to me when they arrive I asked? No they couldn't.
How long will the mouse & keyboard stay in their store before they get returned to wherever the came from?
1 year!
Great. So I left without them, bought a mouse & keyboard at a hypermarket on the way home, and sometime, in the next year, if ever I'm in Bordeaux, I'll collect my mouse and keyboard.
All the money saved by buying on line burned up out of the exhuast pipe of my Peugeot 106


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

An appeal for help - Stroke victim support.

Two weeks ago, a friend and neighbour suffered a stroke at home. He is 68 and has retired here in France, and lives with his wife.

Neither he or his wife speak any French (despite having been in the country for 4 years). So when he had his stroke, he was collapsed on the woodpile in the barn, his wife couldn't phone 18 for les pompiers or 15 for SAMU because she didn't know of those numbers, and wouldn't have been able to describe the problem, or give directions if she had known them.

So she called round her English friends, most of whome were out, because this happened on Easter Sunday.

Fiona & I have been helping when required with translations and stuff.

I've been trying to find out if there are support groups for English stroke victims in France because, for example, a French speech therapist would not be of great help to an English speaker. So far, no luck. I've located the French equivalents and had a few discussions on their forums, but I havn't found anything yet.

I can't believe that he is the first English immigrant to have suffered a stroke and be treated in France. I want to contact others so I can put them in contact with each other so they can share their experiences and make the best choices.

If no such support group exists, then I reckon I'll have to form one.

So what I'm asking for is: do you know of any English people, living in France who have suffered a stroke or an aneurism?

The following are just a bunch of keywords to help anyone searching for the same thing to find this page and contact me.

Stroke, aneurism, apoplexie, AVC, accident vasculaire cérébral

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Friday's Favorite French Things

Ok, it's not Friday, but when you're late, you're late.

Pollarded Trees.

A big kiss for whoever can tell me what kind of trees these are. You see them in avenues, town squares, in front of the hôtel de ville. In summer they are full of leaves, but in winter and spring they get pollarded and at this time of year you can see their fantastic gnarled shapes.

We call them "Titeuf trees" after the catroon character Titeuf

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Weddings in France

A new little girl appeared in our daughter's class, and Briony was put in charge of her while she learns French and settles in.
Her mother organises weddings and wedding receptions here in France, and my wife, Fiona, has created the website for them.
It is called 'L'Orangerie at La Tuiliere'.
It's a superb venue and Tamsin is great at getting things sorted out.
So, even if you aren't looking to have a wedding in France, or a wedding reception in France, have a look at 'L'Orangerie at La Tuiliere' to see how good Fiona's web skills are!

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Don't just read the headlines

I saw this in today's Telegraph and thought that homosexuality had become a crime in the UK:

My apologies for the long delay with no posts. Life has been getting in the way. I hope normal service will resume. At least I have a pile of stuff to write about.