Thursday, 31 May 2007

Man in kilt!

This is for princesse ecossaise. She (understandably) finds that a man in a kilt is a fine sight to behold.
My man was a man in a kilt for our wedding. And he was indeed a fine sight to behold. :)


Hubby's mum went off on one rather badly when he said he was getting a kilt for the wedding (she's a bit ... narrow-minded). But even she was forced to admit that he looked pretty good. We had many men in kilts at the wedding, Brits (Scottish and English), French and an American. It was fun.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

On the bookshelf

It's about time for another book. In fact, it's been so long I'll do two for the price of one.

First up is If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things, which I actually read ... hmm quite a while ago but I forgot to post on it. It's good. It's a bit frustrating because none of the characters have names, and it's not really about anything so it's hard to follow at times. But some of the passages are really, really well written and it's just a good read.

And I finished The Crow Road not long ago. I really enjoyed it, it made me laugh. Not all the way through, of course. It's like a detective story but without any detectives. I also enjoyed that it was set in Scotland, some of it was very Scottish.

Running around mad

This time it's me not esteemed brother. Managed to get the grass cut this evening after work. Yay! It was starting to rain even as I finished up. Glad I got it done though it was starting to be jungle like again out there. Flippin' weather is such a dead loss at the moment.

Then I made Mrs Miele get busy with some more washing. Where does it all come from? When did we acquire all those clothes? Is there a whole entire secret wing to our house where mystery guests come to stay, leaving behind mounds of dirty sheets and towels?

Then I got busy with the Dyson. Sorry this is a huge brand plug, but I LOVE our dyson. It's amazing. It sucks up doggy hairs wherever it finds them. In record time.

Hubby is busy ironing. I am blessed with a hubby who irons. This is a new thing, only since the ankle. He started doing the ironing when he was off work and he's actually quite good at it. It's wonderful in the morning to not be ironing my shirt in a hurry before work, because it's already done. I wonder if that's what hubby likes most about the ironing too?

And that's about all there is to it. Days are just whizzing by right now I don't know where the time goes. Well, I can account for it last night. We met Stéph at Decathlon and Stéph and I bought our bikes. Then he came round here for dinner. So none of the ever-lengthening list of household tasks got done then. But it was nice. And I have my new bike. :)

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Telly addict doggy!

This is SO cute I have to share it: Big Cat Diaries is on tv right now and doggy is sitting on the doggy rest (initially a footrest but she's made it her own), just gazing at them big cats on the tv. She's fascinated. Probably if I go for the camera she'll stop... I do love my doggy.

Running mad

My esteemed brother has set himself a challenge. He has decided to run a 10k race. I have both admiration for him and a suspicion that he's a nutter.

Now it's all very well to get into the old training routine and be going out for your run three times a week and all that. But even the most unlikely runners (yours truly) can find it does turn into a bit of an obsession. I speak from experience. I've got over my running obsession though, and have returned to levels of fitness that would require a time allowance of about 2.5 hours to see me complete 10k. Oh, and an A&E unit at the finish line to administer oxygen and rehydrate me and provide any other emergency care I'd almost certainly need!

You have been warned, esteemed brother, you might well get bitten by the running bug. I'd offer to come and train with you next month but I'll certainly slow you down. People can walk faster than I run.

Maui skies

Found this photo blog just with photos of Maui skies. It's quite lovely and of course brings a little escapism to the day. Maui is a truly wonderful place where we enjoyed a pretty unique holiday (photos), maybe we'll get back there someday. I'll be forever grateful to Jeni & Andreas for deciding to marry there (more photos), otherwise we would never have gone!

New links to explore

I've added two new blog links, Adi's Allotment Adventures and Miss Despina. Adi entertainingly recounts her gardening successes and ... challenges. Miss Despina is counting down to her life in Prague and admirably coping with everything Manchester can throw at her in the mean time. :)

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Butter-fingered washerwoman

I seem to be going through a particularly clumsy phase just recently. On Thursday I saw fit to drop a nearly full bottle of perfume on the bathroom floor. I got it out the cupboard and then my fingers just sort of stop gripping it. Of course it shattered glass everywhere, and left a perfume puddle. Decided I didn't have time to clean it up and just shut the bathroom door and left it until I got in from work. The house smelled lovely and perfume-y.

Then last night I decided to shake my bottle of toner but without the lid on and having failed to put the cotton wool ball over the top of it. Grr. I either need to invest in cheaper cosmetics or I need to get a grip.

It would appear however that I've now moved on to kitchen items. I threw my spoon on the floor this morning for no apparent reason. I wonder if I'm getting mad cow disease.

Anyway, apart from the spoon incident I have managed not to drop or spill anything else yet today. Even managed to get two loads of washing on and all the detergent in the machine where it should be. I sorted through all the washing this morning. For just two adults we seem to generate a huge amount of dirty laundry. I don't know where it all comes from. I can't remember wearing all those clothes. I didn't even realise we owned so many clothes. I think Mrs Miele is going to be working hard this weekend. Of course, doing lots of washing means that tomorrow there will be lots of ironing to do. The pleasure of seeing the dirty laundry basket empty is tempered somewhat by the morale-zapping sight of a full ironing basket. Hey-ho.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Cute doggy

Lovely doggy is curled up on a cushion in doggy foetal position. Unfortunately I disturbed her when I went to get the camera. Some who know doggy would say she's disturbed anyway. She definitely has a couple of loose screws. The French have a funny and quite imaginative expression: she has a spider on her ceiling. That does describe doggy fairly well.

Talking of her behaviour, I got told off by Le Postie the other day. You see doggy rather hates the mail and tries to savage it as soon as it comes through the letter box. I think Le Postie is worried that she'll mistake his fingers for the gas bill one day in her excitement. Anyway, because we're such DIY-people, we just fitted another letterbox flap to the inside of the door. Now she can't get her little doggy nose right up against the door. She still savages the post though. Quite often in the summer she takes it outside. She's a funny thing.

Tea is the king of drinks

Something many of us have known for years anyway:
http://mrpete.wordpress.com/2007/05/21/i-was-right/
I wish I could have got a big fat research grant to "discover" that...

Thank Crunchie

Oh, Friday at last. This has been the first time in... a while I've actually worked a full week. It's tiring, let me tell you!! So much so I've not really had any blogging time this week. Plus hubby keeps monopolising my computer!
I'll try harder this weekend to reclaim my laptop and blog a bit, also to catch up on the blogworld. I have a new link to add. :)

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Seen on Boatwoman's blog - a little about me

Right, I'm posting this then I'm done with the daft question things.

Are your parents married or divorced? Married, for nearly 34 years!
Do you believe in heaven? I do
Have you ever come close to dying? I don't think so.I've come close to a couple of nasty accidents though.
What jewellery do you wear 24/7? None.
Do you eat the stems of broccoli? No.
Do you wear makeup? Of course, have to have my warpaint on!
Would you ever have plastic surgery? I hope I'll never be horribly disfigured and need any.
What do you wear to bed? My jim-jams.
Have you ever done anything illegal? I regularly exceed the speed limit on the motorway.
Can you roll your tongue? I can.
Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend? I have a husband.
Do you believe in abortions? I agree with Bill, they should be "safe, legal and rare".
What is your hair colour? Brown.
Future child's name, boy and girl? Boy-child and girl-child.
Do you smoke? Nope. I fume sometimes, but usually that's when the first car in the queue falls asleep at the lights.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? Back to Hawaii, and also New Zealand.
Do you sleep with stuffed animals? No, I sleep with a live animal!
If you won the lottery, what would you do first? Treat my parents.
Gold or silver? Gold.
Hamburger or hot dog? Homemade beefburgers like we had today.
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? It would be a short rest of my life! Can I have "any food Mum cooks"?
City, beach or country? - Beach with mountains, like north western Mallorca.
What was the last thing you touched? I suppose we exclude the computer keyboard from this? The dog.
When was the last time you cried? When I watched that thing on BBC 2 about widows.
What colour are your pants? It depends. Today they are ... stripey.
Ever been involved with the police? What, the Polis? No. I don't speed fast enough.
What's your favourite shampoo/conditioner and soap? This is a silly question. I'm using Boots Botanics at the moment, and Dove shower gel. I don't have a favourite.
Do you talk in your sleep? No.
Ocean or pool? Ocean.
What's your favourite song at the moment? Me and My Monkey - Robbie Williams. My iPod is stuck on it. :)
Have you ever had a cavity? Yes.
Window seat or aisle seats? Aisle, slightly more leg room.
Ever met anyone famous? Yes, more than once.
Do you feel that you've had a truly successful life? I haven't finished it yet!
Do you twirl your spaghetti or cut it? Twirl.
Are you self-conscious? To an extent.
Have you ever ridden in an ambulance? No.
Last gift you received? A chicken from Hélène.
What occasion did you receive your gift? No occasion.
Last thing you spent lots of money on? Qualify "lots". 3 cases of Bordeaux wine. My wedding dress. Maui. The house.
Where do you live? In my house.
Last wedding attended? Mine, 26 Aug 2006.
Favourite restaurant? Curry.
What is your favourite kind of car? Oh bad question. In my total-and-complete-fantasy world, it would be an Aston Martin DB9. In my fantasy world, it's an Audi RS4. In my slightly-less-fantasy world it would be a flexfuel V50, in a-bit-closer-to-reality world a Scenic, and in real life I LOVE my Renault Clio.
What's your least favourite chore? Ironing, it is the devil's idea.
Favourite drink? Tea.

Check out Jo's answers here.

In my garden

I have raspberry foetuses in my garden! I'm hoping they'll grow big and strong soon. There are a lot more this year, I think raspberry plants (bushes?) need a couple of years to settle in. There are actually two different raspberry ... things. One is near the patio. I planted the raspberry thing there first but realised it wasn't really in the right place so I moved it. The darn things spread everywhere, so it has sort of remained and thrived in its original location and its new home too. I like to think that means one raspberry plant for me and one for the birds. :) Can't wait for the fruits to be ready. I love raspberry, it's my most favourite berry. Of course, I won't be doing anything impressive like making jam or anything. Heavens no, I'll just be scoffing them all. I might share some with hubby. But then again, I might not. Heh heh.

The blackberry plant is thriving too but has no foetus blackberries yet as it's far too early in the year. I wish we had room for a cherry tree...

Three things ...

Got these via email from Jen. Thought I'd blog it too.
3 jobs I've had in my life:
1. Teaching English to professionals (hated it)
2. Waitress in the food court of Waverly Mall, Edinburgh
3. Translator (for a publishing company, IT editor, sporting goods retailer & producer...)

3 places that I've lived:
1. Dalkeith, UK
2. Salford, UK
3. Villeneuve d'Ascq, France ... and a few others along the way

3 TV shows I like to watch:
1. Top Gear
2. EastEnders (that's my sad secret)
3. The Apprentice
I liked to watch Life on Mars too but it's not on anymore :(

3 places I have been on holiday:
1. Hawaii, USA
2. Barcelona, Spain
3. Gothenburg, Sweden

3 of my favourite foods:
1. I think tea counts as food
2. Cheese
3. Anything Mum has cooked

3 places I would rather be right now:
1. At Mum & Dad's
2. In the Ardèche, at Paulette's
3. In the garden enjoying the sun and a book ... but none to enjoy today!


Obviously, when you receive it by email you reply to the person who sent it and also send it on. Just one of those pointless but fun but silly things.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Oh bum

UK MPs and freedom of information

Having been able to feel smug ever since Chief Thief Chirac passed some decree or other to prevent French judges (equivalent to the CPS or Crown Office in Britain) criminally investigating any French president while he/she is in office merely to protect himself from an ongoing investigation into the embezzlement of party funds and creation of fictitious jobs at the Paris city hall (gosh long phrase), I know need to help myself to some humble pie. Ah yes, in my land of birth the representatives of the people decided yesterday that they didn't have to comply with the Freedom of Information Act because ... well, because why?

Some I must say lame attempts to excuse the outrage by saying that it would prevent confidential details of constituents' affairs being released. But surely that's what the Data Protection Act is supposed to do?

This disgraceful exercise just tramples over an already fragile piece of legislation. I'm disgusted that the people who are supposed to work for "us" think they can choose to place themselves above the law as it applies to everyone else. It's a slippery slope they embark upon.

Cup final day

Hauled myself to the chemist today to collect Hubby's prescription. More needless expenditure for the French healthcare system but there you go.

After that I went down the path with super doggy. I had intended to just drop her back home then go straight back out but she was on to me because she loitered in the open doorway and snuck back out with me. She's a so-and-so. We went to collect the bbq from Leroy Merlin (DIY spot similar to B&Q or Homebase).

Back home to cut the grass. Having had nearly three weeks of this: Rain, we now have had this: Partly Sunny since yesterday. Have been able to finally cut the grass and stop the garden looking quite so much like a wasteland. Didn't quite get round to doing any weeding though because the temptation to sit in the sun and read just overcame me. ;)

Now I'm installed on the sofa with some freshly popped popcorn (thank you Rich & Hannie for our popcorn popper). Did you know plain popcorn is actually very low in fat? Must be quite calorific though I think. And also have some beer :) Am "enjoying" the FA Cup final build-up. TV listings folk must love cup finals. No worries wondering what to show, just broadcast live from Wembley from 9.40am onwards (I exaggerate - only slightly).

Enjoy the match.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Home alone

Hubby is away playing his gamey things. So I'm home alone with my ferocious guard dog. We had thought about running away or changing the locks, but it all seems like too much effort. So I found something more worthwhile to do (pic). Heh heh. Have also been scoffing some comté and sharing it with doggy. She thinks I should share more with her.

So here I am all alone drinking my anti-cholesterol medicine and munching rocket salad (got to assuage my conscience after all that cheese you see), waiting for EastEnders (ah, my sad secret is out!).

Cheers :)

Thursday, 17 May 2007

This one's for Matt

Here is a pic of the gnome's alien friend. I think he looks like Sid out of Ice Age but now I'm wondering if he's not more like Mr Bean... His real identity is Patrick Devedjian (sp?). His eyes are too far apart. In real life he *does* look like Sid. You just can't see it very well in this pic.

Anyway, I told Matt I'd try and send a photo but I'm posting one instead. So what do you think, Mr Bean or Sid?

New clothes

I do love getting new clothes. I've a new dress and a cardi for Anne & Garry's wedding and for Jean-Paul's 60th birthday party.

Ta-dah:

I should of course be saving my pennies so I can go on a spend back in Edinburgh (am fancying a new shirt from Pink), but hey. Had to have this dress. Hubby says it looks really good.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

De-casted

Hubby had his cast taken off today. His leg feels relieved. His ankle and foot are still very swollen. I hope that will go down and he won't be disfigured forever.

He'll have six weeks of physio starting on Tuesday (couldn't get an appointment sooner), and sees the consultant again in July.

While we were waiting at x-ray and then to see the consultant, we got talking to a chap who was hobbling along with some strange opened-toed shoes. He explained that he had six broken toes and a dislocated toe (apparently he had a pin in this one to hold it back in place). This bloke explained how he'd been in a car accident, on his way to work. A car travelling in the opposite direction hit him head on. The driver had 2.5g of alcohol in his blood apparently. 2.5g!! I wouldn't even be conscious if I was that drunk. The guy had lost control, hit one car, swerved back to his own side of the road then came back and hit broken toes man.

The police say the drunk was travelling at 110km/h at the first collision, so probably 80km/h (about 50mph) at the second collision. Broken toes man showed us a photo of his van, it was utterly crumpled at the front. He said he'd seen the first collision just ahead and had enough time to sort of draw his legs up to his body before the bloke hit him (some preservation instinct kicked in). Lucky for him he did, because apparently the engine finished up in the footwell and up against the driver's seat. When you think he only had broken toes, it's just amazing.

How to get a doggy cuddle

If you'd like the dog to come and sit on your lap, here's how to proceed:

1/ Choose any chair or the sofa
2/ (optional but helps) Get the footrest and put your feet up
3/ Get the laptop out and open it, on your lap
4/ Move the laptop to one side because doggy has just turned up and wants to cuddle.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

And that naughty dog

I caved in and gave her a stick. You see you cannot reason with a 4-year old dog. She had a bit of a play and settled down after that.

I suppose a stick is better than sweets!

Life without you

Have been watching a programme on BBC 2 called The Widow's Tale with six women talking about the (early) deaths of their husbands. I will admit to some slight salty eye leakage happening.

It's so impossible to imagine that I would be able to live without "Monsieur Lis". I know I complain about him and give him stick and sometimes we fall out a bit. But he is my lovely lovely man and I want to keep him forever.

I think these women have so much super-human strength to be able to carry on breathing in and out without their "other halves". That's such a tired old expression, but when you've found "the one", they really are your other half.

Naughty dog!

The dog is sitting on the floor (for once she's not on the furniture) and trying to browbeat me into giving her yet another stick. She's been sitting doing her little doggy dance and saying "hummmh" in her doggy way. She probably won't give me any peace until I give her a stick. The fact that she just had one about seven minutes ago has escaped her.

Naughty dog.

On a slightly less frivolous note, I've noticed she has two little cysts on her sides (one on each side). Must remember to mention this to the vet. Don't let me forget.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Dear Mr President

Thanks to Marianne for bringing this to my attention:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45IZWvPdA-A
Pink with some pointed questions.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Still on the subject of Maddie McCann

I really don't want to be accused of being hard-hearted or unsympathetic, and I cannot even begin to imagine what sort of hell the McCann family is living through right now, nor I can pray hard enough that Madeleine is reunited with her family sooner rather than later and that she has come to no harm... But (you knew there was a but).

I am uncomfortable that the mainstream media and commentators seem unwilling to question the wisdom of leaving three children aged 3 and under unsupervised. Yes, I know they popped back to check on the kids every half hour, but as events have so heartbreakingly demonstrated, thirty minutes is more than enough time for something awful to happen.

My mind is troubled by these questions:
If one of those children had somehow got to a window and climbed out, falling to injury or death, would the media be so sympathetic and loathe to criticise?
If the apartment had caught fire and the children died from smoke inhalation, would the media be so sympathetic?
If the McCanns were not so middle class and respectable, would the media not be readier to raise the uncomfortable question of the wisdom of their actions?

I can't emphasise enough how much I'd like to see a news bulletin announcing that Maddie has been found and she's OK. But I'd also like to say that I find the decision of her parents to leave their young family unattended while they enjoyed a meal together quite upsetting. When you decide to have a family, you also decide to put your children first. That means sacrifices, it means eating in or paying for a sitter if you want a dinner out à deux. Please, parents everywhere, your children are a most precious gift. I'm not advocating wrapping them in cotton wool, but don't leave them alone and vulnerable.

The greater tragedy

It's not that I don't care, but there are much greater tragedies happening every minute of the day than the Maddie McCann story. Not for the poor girl's family, but for humanity: "Slinky Vagabond" and an eye-opening statistic.

Wabbits

Been up to the park. Saw some rabbits.

La Belle Saison: Bloggers Unite!

La Belle Saison: Bloggers Unite!
The above link will lead you to Princesse Ecossaise's one-woman campaign to get bloggers all over to post about missing 3-year old Maddie McCann. UK-readers will certainly already be aware of the story. Click the link to find out more and maybe add your support.
We live in an ugly world but you can stand up and show you care. Thanks.

Hidden talents

This man:
Makes this:


From this:


And it's pretty damn yummy!

Stéph brought some sticks round here this afternoon. I've made crumble I hope it won't be too sweet. Like it when it's tart.

Why cork wine stoppers are best

Anyone who knows me will already know that I tend to turn my wine snob's nose up at bottles with plastic corks or screw-cap closures. This distaste is has two sources.

1/ As any wine lover will tell you, wine breathes, ages and evolves better in a cork closed bottle. Why is this so? Well, for a wine to continue to mature once it's been bottled, there must be a continuing exchange between the wine in the bottle and the air surrounding the bottle (if you're lucky, this will be the cool and relatively humidity-stable air of a good cave). Plastic corks and screw-caps hermetically seal the wine meaning it cannot age. This is fine if the wine is intended for consumption within... max 2 years after bottling, but it is equivalent to suffocating a Saint Estèphe or a Vosne Romanée.

2/ Environmental issues. A plastic cork is just downright bad for the environment. It's made from petro-chemicals. It doesn't biodegrade and probably most plastic corks end up in the household rubbish bin with no hope of being recycled.
A traditional cork, however, is good from beginning to end. Natural cork is harvested from cork oaks (Quercus suber), with the largest production areas to be found in Spain and Portugal. The cork oak forests are ancient mixed-farming areas, combining forest and grazing pasture. Because the harvesting of the bark is done using traditional methods and involves no mechanical techniques, the habitat is preserved. Animals such as the endangered Iberian lynx and Spanish eagle rely on these forests and suffer from their conversion to intensively-farmed agricultural land.

To help preserve these essential habitats, and ensure a future for cork oak farmers in Europe and elsewhere around the Mediterranean, you can make a difference by choosing to buy wine with a natural cork stopper and steering clear of plastic and screw-caps. Some UK retailers are now indicating the type of closure used on their wines either in their online catalogues or in store. But they are also applying pressure to their wholesalers and suppliers to provide wine with plastic or screw-cap closures. You can help by just not buying these wines, writing to the supermarkets and retailers, and writing directly to suppliers to give your views. Consumer pressure does make a difference.

And the biggest thing you can do to help is boycott all wine from Morrison's. Or better still, boycott their stores altogether. This is because Liz Robertson, former head of wine for Safeway (now Morrison's), is stupid. She said "We think that plastic stoppers are good for the environment because they relieve pressure on the cork groves and prevent over-harvesting.” Clearly, she has NO IDEA at all. Cork oak farming is probably the only form of farming in Europe today that doesn't involve over-harvesting. And yes, something made from hydrocarbons and that doesn't biodegrade and isn't recycled is obviously good for the environment. Of course.

Some links to find out more:
Newsmonster article
RSPB articles
Independent.co.uk article
Real Cork campaign
Environmental news service article
WWF Mediterranean Cork Oak conservation project

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Attitudes to drinking #2

Came across this article about attitudes to allowing children to drink at home at scotsman.com. It would seem I'm not alone in my thoughts. I would even suggest that more people see sense in the "Mediterranean" approach than in the prohibitionist nonsense from Alcohol Concern.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Night in

Nice to have a night in. Not that I don't get lots of those anyway :D. Last night was out for Big Boss's leaving do.

Quick update on work, for those not in the know:

My service is (was) part of International HR, headed by FD, the group HR director. On ... some day in March we learned that the MD and Chairman had put their little heads together and dreamt up a whole new organisation for the Group, and FD's job was being zapped. So we'd lost our boss and our team was being broken up!

So last night we had a night out to say goodbye to dear old FD. He's staying with the company, which I think takes a bit of courage actually, but not in HR at all. Last night was fun, FD's immediate underlings did a sketch and heartily took the mickey. Well, when you're the boss you have to expect it. Didn't actually start to eat until 10.30pm!! So late-ish night. Of course, I didn't make things any better by reading until gone 1am ... Was a struggle to get up this morning.

So all that to say having a night in and it's nice. Think I might hit the sack early. I'm passed it.

Smelly smokey smell

Went to the Maison Commune* twice today. Went for lunch. Was a pig. Then went back for a drink after work. Usual suspects there.

Was very pleasant, except for the smelly smoke. It's so nice now that smoking is banned at lunchtimes, but then it's such a sort of let down if you go after work for a drink and it's smelly. My clothes stink. And no one at our table was smoking! Even the dog was whiffy. Having said that, she's whiffy anyway. She had to have a mini-shower this afternoon because she had found something noxious to roll in. Naughty doggy.

So all that to say that smoking is smelly.

*The Maison Commune, for those not in the know, is a local café/bar/lunchtime eatery. They do traditional Nord food, most of which probably packs on 100g of LDL with each forkful :) And the owners, Michel and Christiane, are lovely.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Peg leg works!

Hubby went back to work today. In his words "I don't like it" (said Andy-from-Little Britain style).

Online archive of life on earth

Saw this article about the Encyclopaedia of Life project. A praise-worthy undertaking, I'm sure you will agree. However, I think that 10 years to catalogue the 1.8 million or so plant and animal species is cutting it fine. Or maybe they're going to start with South China tigers and white rhinos, for example, to make sure they catalogue them before they disappear from our fragile home?

As an aside, why can't Americans spell? It's encyclopAedia. ;))

Am I a grown up?

Been browsing Princesse ecossaise's blog and I stumbled across these words of wisdom. Bless young princesse, she's summed up exactly the way I feel like I've always approached adulthood, looking from the outside in and wondering when will I feel grown up.

And when push comes to shove, I don't want to feel grown up. I can feel adult, and have adult responsibilities, but I don't want to feel grown up! I want to stay silly forever. I pity the folk who are born old!

Franco-Scottish royalty?

Or just another blog of note by Lis? Check out princesse ecossaise just because her screen name is so very cool.
Princesse ecossaise is a student at Edinburgh (yay). She is intending to move to France upon graduation (remind you of anyone?). Good luck princesse.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

True colours?

It would appear that some people just don't know how to cope when things don't go their way. A fair few incidents of unrest across France following the gnome's victory on Sunday. That's just not a good move on the part of the protesters. Listen children, you were given the chance, along with the rest of the electorate, to express yourselves. Turns out there were more people who disagreed with your choice than agreed with it. That does not mean you can go about burning people's cars and smashing up shops. It means you just shut up and put up with it. You will have another chance only next month to express yourselves, during legislative elections. You are lucky, because how many countries just impose a government, and how many others rig the elections, and how many others restrict suffrage to a privileged few? Feel blessed you live in France and not Zimbabwe, or Nigeria, or Turkey, or Syria to name just a few.

Also cheered to notice the unions are already threatening to throw their toys out of the pram come the autumn. Some things never change.

New bike

Hubby and I went to Decathlon Campus to look at the bikes. I've been pondering the idea of investing in a new hybrid/town bike for cycling to work. Much as I love my MTB, it really isn't comfortable for riding on cycle paths. It's a proper off-road bike you see, where one is constantly leaning forward over the handlebar. Gets so that your back hurts after a while (and your bum).

So I'm wondering about getting a hybrid bike. A town bike would be nice, but there's a bit of up on the way from here to work... :-| This is the one I have my beady little eye on:

b'Twin 7
Well, it's not actually this particular one. But it's mostly like this, except it's blue.

Of course, I should have made this purchase a month ago to be able to enjoy the lovely weather we had in April, shouldn't I?? Also, with Hubby now going back to work and certainly unable to drive for quite some time, when exactly I think I'll get the chance to bike to work I don't do. Maybe he'll be allowed to bike too? Probably not. Still, the point is it will make me feel green and make me look less tubby.

New doggy toys

Cléo (who is not spoiled AT ALL) has TWO new squeaky toys. Lucky doggy.

Blair & Cameron sing

Brilliant clip on YouTube with your favourite two twits singing Bowie.

I laughed. :) It'll be a while before I can listen to Changes without seeing those two clowns.

Monday, 7 May 2007

The SNP question

Saw the result of an ICM/Scotsman poll on scotsman.com today. If the SNP's planned referendum on Scottish independence were held now, only 35% of voters would answer 'yes' to this question (this is the wording the nationalists want): "The Scottish Parliament should negotiate a new settlement with the British government so that Scotland becomes a sovereign and independent state. Do you agree, 'yes' or 'no'?".

But the loonies aren't loosing heart:
A spokesman said: "The circumstance in which an independence referendum will be won is by the SNP building trust and credibility in government, and delivering solid achievement. That positive process will move support towards the independence position."
Yeah, right. Difficult to see exactly how they'll manage to build "trust and credibility in government" or deliver any "solid achievement" in what will probably be a minority government with unionist opposition parties determinedly dogging their every move in order to paint them as incapable of running even devolved government. Four years of inertia is undoubtedly not a good thing for Scotland. Shame.

Full article.

Rain!

It's doing this today:
Rain
Current temp is 15°C. Feels quite cool...

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Don't go to Cyprus either

Why? Try this for a good reason. Another country that cares little for wildlife conservation, feeling it is more important to give blood-thirsty hunters a better chance at killing higher numbers of a species that is already declining in Europe. What flippin' chance do the birds get?!

Holiday destinations: where NOT to go

May I suggest nobody takes a holiday in Malta? I would personally not want to fund the economy of country where this goes on (don't look at the pics if you are of a delicate disposition, or if you hate needless killing of wildlife).

I find this all very distressing, but am heartened to see that good old Europe (!) might be stepping in to stop this. Of course, this activity is already illegal under EU law (see directive 79/409/EEC), but the Maltese government seems to be unable (unwilling) to enforce this. Now let's be clear, I am not all out, blanket anti-hunting. What I deeply object to and find quite sickening and repulsive, is the needless slaughter of so many increasingly rare species just for fun.
The Federation for Hunting and Conservation Malta argues that spring is the best time of year to enjoy the countryside.
Oh right, I didn't realise "enjoying the countryside" entailed the mass and unnecessary murder of some poor feathery creatures who just happened to fly by. It would seem I'll have to get me a gun if I'm to continue "enjoying the countryside".

You can find out more about the Birdlife Malta campaign to put a stop to this destruction. I was hoping for an online petition but there doesn't seem to be one. Still, worth a look.

No SNP-Lib Dem coalition

So the Lib Dems won't be jumping into bed with either the SNP or Labour. Where does this leave the Holyrood parliament? Looks like a minority government made up of the loony nationalists and two greenies. The greenies should be ashamed of themselves.

At least the Lib Dems haven't compromised themselves this time. The allure of having a share in power has not overcome their fundamental opposition to an independence referendum. Good.

Hubby back to work

Hubby's arrêt maladie runs out tonight. Because Tuesday is a(nother) public holiday, he'll be going back to work on Wednesday. I was initially unsure about him going back to work, but in the last ten days or so his energy levels have gone up hugely and he's managing to get around on the crutches a lot better than he had been doing. He's even been upstairs a couple of times (goes up and down the stairs on his bum!).

Hubby has an office job, where he sits on his backside for most of the day, just like nearly everyone else with an office job. So going back to work will mean that instead of sitting in our house and playing that stupid computer game, he'll be sitting in the office and doing stats in Access and Excel. Lucky him.

Seen from this angle, I have no real and serious objections to him going back to work. If he finds it too difficult and he's too tired and sore after his first day, on Wednesday evening we'll go back to the doc and get another sick line. When push comes to shove, he is a grown up and he can decide these matters for himself. I know he emailed the surgeon, who said there was no medical reason why he couldn't go back, and that he should just be sure he kept his foot up all day.

Of course, his meddling mother cannot accept that Hubby has decided against what she has decided. She keeps calling him and nagging him, "oh you mustn't go back to work, I don't know anyone who has ever heard of a person going to work when they still had the cast on, blah blah blah". When I was a school I remember kids breaking various appendages and coming to school with the cast on still. Come on! Fact is, I repeat, Hubby is a grown up and he can decide for himself. Indeed, I trust that he isn't rushing things. Rather unlike I would be doing. I'd probably have demanded to have the cast removed already, I'm so impatient.

Maybe I should ask Mum when Irene came back to work after her two ankle breaks? Irene's advice has been "make sure you do physio". She knows what she's talking about, having broken her ankle twice. What would Macleod say? Don't know if Macleod reads my bloggings...

I suppose in truth this post is an attack on my meddling mother-in-law, poorly disguised as news about Hubby's continuing recovery... :-\

Mind your manners!

Grrrr. My mother-in-law really is rude. She just rang here and I took the call because Hubby wasn't close to the phone. She just says "can you pass me [Hubby]". In actual fact, I don't even know if it's as polite as "can you". In French "tu me passe [Hubby]" which probably more accurately translates as "pass me [Hubby] will you?". Not "hello, how are you, I'm fine thank you". Just "can you pass me [Hubby]". And never a please or thank you. She does that every time.

Gnome is president-elect of France

So that's it. France has decided and it's chosen the gnome. Not a huge surprise. Hey-ho. I suppose now if I don't want to be expelled, I need to start getting up early. I already go to work so that's not a problem. Still, it's worrying, I mean, I can't go back to Scotland now can I?! Having said that, I have a network of friends willing to offer me refuge, Anne Franck-style. ;)

A few thoughts on this result...

I think the French, faced with a tough, "rock and a hard place"-style choice, have chosen the lesser of two evils. Turnout may have been high, but when one combines abstention and spoiled or blank ballots, more than 20% of registered voters chose to not choose. Mr Sarkozy's actual share of the vote is around 40%. Not a clear "moral majority" then.

That said, I think that Ms Royal was not the right choice for France, not now. Watching DSK, a "heavyweight" of the French left on TV just now, I find myself wondering if the Socialists didn't go for the wrong candidate after all. I would have voted for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, I think. A thought.

Commentators seem to be rushing to say that the French Socialist party, having failed now three times in a row to get someone into the Elysee Palace, needs a shakedown and a facelift. That I agree with. I don't think the party as it stands today fits with the economic (primarily) and social reality in France today. As time passes, electorates all over Europe are leaning more to the right. The perfect example of this is Britain, where a popular parlour game consists in spotting the difference between Labour and Tory policy. Just kidding (but then again, who does David Cameron remind you of? Cast your mind back eleven years...). No, seriously, there is a gradual swing to the centre-right. Is that because people are (relatively) better off? Is it caused by the media? Is it caused by globalisation? Who knows. I think it's certainly in part because we are "richer" than previous generations, but that's just my view. Given this context, labour and socialist parties need to soften and move more to the centre in order to appeal to a wider spectrum of voters...

It's also worth bearing in mind that France returns to the polling stations in a month's time for legislative elections. It is not impossible that they choose a lefty government. That'll be fun.

A fair analysis of France's labour situation

Nothing to add really:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6582707.stm
This is a pretty reasonable analysis of what's wrong with the employment market in France.
The jury remains very much out on how to fix it.

Clouds!

Yesterday the weather was like this:
Partly Sunny
Today, it's like this:
Partly Sunny
More of the white (even grey) things than the bright yellow-y thing with blue background.

French police on "riot alert" in the banlieues

Saw this on timesonline:
But the possibility of a Sarkozy victory has put police on riot alert - the hardline former interior minister has never been forgiven for his pledge to jetwash "the scum" when young immigrants in the Paris suburbs started rioting two years ago.
It's a terrible shame. Unfortunately, if there is unrest in the housing schemes on the outskirts of France's big cities following a Sarkozy win, this will only serve to prop up his arguments. He will be pleased. He'll be able to say "look, see how they react when things don't go their way. They destroy their neighbourhood, their local shops and other people's property." The intelligent choice would be to abstain from violent street unrest.

Many thousands of disaffected youths registered to vote for the first time in these elections. They have participated in the democratic process and expressed their opinions and allegiances through the ballot box. That shows a (newly developed) sense of citizenship which can only be admired. I really truly hope no one spoils it by kicking up a fuss if the result doesn't go how they want.

New look blog

At last, after months of umming and ahing, I've finally upgraded my blog template. Quite pleased.

Accomplishing one's civic duties

Well, Hubby has been able to discharge himself of his duties as a citizen. I'm not allowed to. Maybe if the fascist gnome gets in I'll be sent packing anyway?
Well, the French will find out at 8pm this evening. Anyone with access to internet will find at 6pm this evening when the first forecast results are published by "foreign" websites (such as Belgian national telly news, or the BBC). In France, there is an odd law that says no French sources can publish the results before 8pm, when the last polls close. Huge big fine if you dare to transgress. But if you have an internet connection you can just go online and find out from a non-French source. Funny.

Friday, 4 May 2007

It rained!

That's my fault, for having washed my car. :-|
Outside, it smells of "hot pavement that's been rained on".

Chance of Rain
22°C | 12°C
Mostly cloudy 15°C

The day started off fair enough, clouds forming the morning and then a front must have rolled in during the afternoon. Hey ho. Forecast good for tomorrow and Sunday though.

Salmond

Just had to add this. Just seen that little teletubby on Reporting Scotland. He's so self-important he flew down to Edinburgh in a helicopter after looking pleased with himself when the Aberdeen constituency result was returned and he was elected. Not very green is it teletubby man? Of course, I spotted McConnell using the same ultra-environmentally friendly means of transport the other week too... >:-|

But it's not all bad

At least that prat Sheridan didn't get in.

Scottish parliament results

This:

Party

+/- Tot
After 122 of 129 seats declared
SNP

+20 45
LAB

-5 43
LD

-1 16
CON

-1 15
Others

-13 3

could mean that smarmy little man will be Scotland's next First Minister. [Cringing]

Of course, what smarmy little man fails to have understood is that people didn't vote FOR him, but AGAINST Labour. Dimwit. Still, can't blame people for voting against Labour...

See also scandal and uproar at the shambles surrounding the new STV voting system and the new vote counting machines and the record numbers of spoiled ballots (some estimates put the total at 100 000)...

Start-Stop system on cars should be mandatory

This afternoon, after work, I treated the car to a carwash. Probably not very eco-friendly in terms of water use, but it's something we do maybe once a year, soooo...

Anyway, when I arrived in the queue, there was a car in the carwash, and two cars ahead of me waiting. Just after I parked up a car arrived behind me. I had turned off my engine, because if you are going to be stopped for more than 30s, it's best to switch off, as you'll inevitably use more fuel idling your engine than you will restarting it. So I waited in the queue and waited, and finally it was my turn. And as I stood at the machine thing where you choose your wash programme, I noticed that the chap in the car that had arrived after me was running his engine. In fact, he'd probably never switched it off since he'd been queuing. That was probably FIFTEEN MINUTES of waiting time!

There are two aspects I haven't been able to get my head around. 1/ He must be really well off if he can waste fuel so wantonly; 2/ He must never have heard the words 'carbon footprint', 'greenhouse gases' or 'climate change'.

My idea: bring in legislation requiring ALL new cars sold in Europe to incorporate technology to the Stop and Start system offered by Citroen (sadly only on one of its cars). Would need some fine-tuning (like not relying on the sole use of the footbrake to keep the car stationary at lights) but it's a good start. Because I see far too many blithering fools sitting in the car with the engine running when they are clearly not going anywhere. And it would go some small way to achieving carbon emissions targets.


Thursday, 3 May 2007

My very own "blogs of note"

Right I don't know how good I'll be at keeping this up, it certainly won't be a daily thing but let's hope I remember to do it from time to time.

Anyone familiar with Blogger will probably know what Blogs of Note are (is?). I'm starting my own version. Heh heh.

As the first blog that caught my attention, let's try Polly Vous Français. Polly is a US citizen living in Paris and here she shares her thoughts and experiences. Worth a look.

Weather report

Today there were some white things in the sky. But it has been windy and they have all been blown away now. Wonder what they were?

Mostly Sunny
21°C | 11°C

Fair, 13
°C

Living in a dream world and French healthcare

Came across this post on a HYS forum on news.bbc.co.uk (topic is who you think should be next French prez):

The one who guarantees me that health and education will continue to be free for the next five years.

Marie-Estelle, Paris

Hmm. I think Marie-Estelle has misunderstood how her national healthcare system is funded. I, like nearly all other residents of this land, have private complementary health insurance. The policy I have costs 37 euros a month. That's on top of my salary contributions. When I visit the doctor, I pay 21 euros. The state health insurance thing refunds 14 euros, and my private policy refunds 6 euros. So if I didn't have the private insurance, every visit to the doctor would cost me 7 euros. Doesn't sound very "free" to me... [scratches her head]

In fact, the French system is quite clever. Doctors, dentists, ophthalmic specialists and so on are all private. When you visit them, you pay for the consultation. The state system then refunds around 60% (this varies). Everyone has private complementary insurance to top up this refund. So the system is publicly and privately funded. It means you rarely have to wait more than 1 day to see the doc. Good, eh?

Unfortunately this does lead to huge regional discrepancies for some "specialists". Because they are private practitioners, they set up business wherever. Which means all the ophthalmic specialists and gynaecologists go and work in the south where the weather's nice. Here in northern France it's not uncommon to have to wait up to 6 months to see the eye doctor or the dentist! That's one of the downsides.

The other major downside is prescription drugs. There has been a big push to encourage pharmacists to give people generic medicines where they exist, which are much cheaper than the brand drugs. But the patient can still refuse the generic and insist on the "name" version. I advocate that this freedom of choice should remain, but all drugs be refunded on the basis of the cost of the generic version, so when patients want the brand drug they can pay for the difference themselves. Fair, no? Also, chemists don't prepare prescriptions at all, they just dole out pre-packaged blister packs of drugs. If your prescription is for 1 tablet twice daily for 10 days, and the medicine is sold in packs of 15, then you get two packs (ten more tablets than you need). Wasteful, no?

Big hospitals are public, where the staff are paid by the state. You still have to pay for any care you receive here, even if it's emergency care. Usually your health insurance combined with the state insurance covers all the costs and you have nothing to pay, and there's no horror scenario where they refuse to treat you if you don't have insurance! Then there's a myriad of private clinics. In public hospitals the standard of care is probably comparable to most other big European countries. Private clinics are a different matter, some are very good and highly regarded, others are far too concerned with the finances and patient care suffers.

Still, the NHS could benefit from the introduction of minimal private "top up" insurance, and asking for a contribution (could be as little as five or ten pounds) when people visit the doctor, let's say. Before I lived in France I always reacted in horror to the idea of bringing private funding into the NHS, but I do now think it should be seriously examined.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Back at work but another bridge soon

Didn't much like it. It doesn't matter how much or how little time you have off from work, when you go back it's always rubbish. Still, it's May, the month of public holidays (in France).

The French have a pleasant habit that works thus: when a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, it is quite common for employees to take the Monday or Friday off too, making for an extra long weekend. They call it "faire le pont" (making a bridge). With the 35-hour week and the extra leave that came with it, a new custom known as the "viaduc" has arisen, whereby folk make an extra extended long weekend by taking the two working days before or after a Wednesday public holiday.

May is the month hors pair for public holidays. Three altogether, Mayday, Liberation Day (8 May) and Ascension (always a Thursday, so always a "pont"). Until a few years ago there was also Whit Monday (or Pentecost).

Many people now work Whit Monday as a "Day of Solidarity". This was set up following the August 2003 heatwave which precipitated the deaths of many thousand old people (most of whom, it is heartless but not unrealistic to say, wouldn't have made New Year 2004). The government, stung by criticism that while the nation's oldies were dying of heatstroke they were busy sunning themselves, had the bright idea of abolishing a public holiday. The claim was that we'd all work an extra day (but not get paid...) and instead of paying us, our employers have to contribute our salary for that day to the government (a not-very-stealth tax then). They would have had us believe the extra economic output would generate sufficient funds to pay for measures to protect oldies and other persons in difficulty (handicapped people mostly), in order to prevent another public health disaster like August 2003. Economic indicators have since shown that this extra day has no discernible effect on France's economic output.

And following this brief diversion, here is the weather:
Clear
21°C | 11°C
Sunny, 18°C

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Scotland will soon be voting

Don't vote for those silly Nationalists! See David

Anyone but Sarko

Here in France it would appear that a fair few voters are so anti-Sarkozy (the rightwing candidate) they'll vote for socialist Ségolène Royal even though she doesn't represent anything they believe in just to bar his path. And it seems that Royal's campaign team have tapped into that sentiment and are currently demonising Sarkozy as some hardline, pro-US (the greatest evil in France), liberal free-market, anti-immigrant police-state proponent.

It's a tough one. Nicolas Sarkozy frightens me with some of things he says. He is hardline on issues such as immigration, integration and civil "unrest" amongst often 2nd & 3rd generation immigrant, French youths. I don't know how much of this rhetoric was just that, rhetoric to court the far-right vote, or how much of it he really holds dear... Like many residents of this country, I'm deeply concerned by what Sarko might do once elected.

Ségolène Royal on the other hand, absolutely terrifies me with the idea of what she won't do. She won't reform the bloated civil service, she won't stand up to labour unions that hold power and influence far outweighing their actual member numbers (significantly lower than in Germany and even the UK), she won't push for badly needed pension reforms. She'll just put up social contributions and taxes. And people like me, stuck in the middle (not scraping by, not comfortably off either), will foot the bill (as happens across the Western world, I feel).

Sarko might be scary but Royal would be bad news for France. Domestically she'll just let the rot spread. And internationally she will have zero credibility in the eyes of people like Putin and the future US president. I never thought I would feel like this before I came to live in France, but if I were to have a vote in this presidential election, I'd use it to vote on the right, something I've never done before and never thought I would do. The problem with the Socialists and Royal is that they are living in the 70s still. The world and the global economy have moved on since then, and they must stop with this illusion that we're all still working in steel factories and down the mines.

If France chooses Ségolène Royal I only hope that I and many other doubters are proved wrong when she pushes for badly needed reforms, and doesn't back down to the syndicats by giving their coddled members even more unnecessary privileges.

I never really wanted to get Political with this blog. But please France, don't elect that woman.

Aside from the weather

There is not a lot to report from exile. The dog has been giving us subtle messages like going and standing by the car. This means she thinks it's time for a walk in the park (the path being fine for weekdays, weekends requiring something more substantial). Maybe I'll take her this afternoon if she's good. She think she's good all the time :)

Current weather

I think I might try to make this a daily thing, the weather. It's a good way of recording it.
So today it's:
Clear
21°C | 8°C
Sunny, 18°C