The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Friday 29 July 2022


I have been offline for a few days because, well frankly not much has been happening anyway. I don't like the bleh feeling I have at the moment, but when I think about it, I always get like this in the heat of the summer, and boy have we been having a humdinger this year! I don't know for certain but I would guess it hasn't rained for about a month, and we've so far had temperatures as high as 36°C (97°F) round here, bearing in mind that most homes don't have AC! Oh a few people are putting in AC in maybe one room now, but whole house AC, nope! I haven't done it because until we hit 36° I was able to cope with it, you know, by keeping shutters shut and opening strategic windows to create an air flow, so in the end it hasn't been so bad - even if I hate the heat. And to think I was once considering retiring to Spain in order to retire earlier! Ha, the joke would have been on me wouldn't it! Today as there was "a 90% chance of rain" I was almost jumping for joy. And then it happened, all 15 minutes of light drizzle and we were back to where we started. Still, at least for a few days it should be down around 30° so I'll take that!

As in so many countries there have been massive wildfires breaking out in France (in the Gironde they have lost over 20,000 hectares so far). They're also breaking out in other southern départements too, although in one case a volunteer fireman has been arrested for arson! What the flip!!! What kind of lunatic does that? I sure as hell don't know!

Moving on, I had to laugh the other day because I've been watching a British journalist/Youtuber for some time now and I've come to realize he's a bit of a Mrs. Malaprop, not only mispronouncing words on occasion, but sometimes using a completely wrong word. I've often thought "oh he'll cut that and rerecord it", but nope, he just plows on - and I find it pretty great! When I actually looked up the origins of Mrs. Malaprop (Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals, apparently), I came across this quote which was attributed to Mike Tyson - although I'm not sure I'd have laughed at him!

That put me in mind of an incident 20+ years ago where I worked. There was a massive negotiation taking place regarding our pension fund. I was in the thick of it - as a grunt, not as anyone important - but it did mean I got a ringside view of what was going on. Anyway, when the negotiation was finally successfully concluded, the big boss - who was Italian - called the staff to a meeting to announce the outcome. I was sitting opposite my friend when, with all the innate theatricality of an Italian, he stated that "it was the most difficult negotiation in which I have NEVER participated"! Of course English wasn't his first language but I looked at my friend and we both had to put our heads down to prevent from bursting out laughing!

On another note, Youtube randomly suggested to me a video about the demolition of slums in the late 1950s in Birmingham, England (where I was born) in order to replace the many insalubrious homes that were either just old or had been bomb damaged during the war. I had always heard that Birmingham City Council were (and still are, apparently) very proactive and even if some of the high-rise flats were later demolished, I still remember moving out of our house in the city centre into the new "posh place with two toilets", even though I was only three years old when we moved. I honestly didn't recognize much (if anything) from the video but when I sent it to my sister, my BIL knew most of the places shown as he had been a young copper on foot patrol in that area for many, many years! What's weird though is that dad came from inner city Birmingham and mom came from the prettiest little village in Snowdonia National Park (North Wales) and travelling between the two as I was growing up was surreal - but then as mom said, there was no work in North Wales and you had to go where the work was!

From my memory, these places look "posh"
compared to where I was born!

Moving on again, I recently received notice that I would shortly be getting the breakdown of my annual electric bill and so far my consumption is down 44%. Yay me, and yay André for moving out. Likewise, my last three water bills went from a consumption of 43 cubic metres, to 51 cubic metres - to 14 cubic metres! Again yay me and thank you André! Mind you, given how energy bills are increasing it's probably just as well that my consumption has been going down, isn't it!

Then the other day I noticed that things had been kinda quiet round at my neighbours, so when I heard her out in the garden this morning I stopped round to see if they were okay. She told me that she had ended up at the emergency room because she'd taken a drink of water and hadn't noticed that there was a wasp in her glass - which promptly went on to sting her in the mouth! Since she is allergic to wasp stings, her face swelled up immediately, the only saving grace being, I guess, that it had stung her on the inside of her cheek and not at the back of her throat! She's okay now, thank goodness, but I'd say that was a close call!

And finally, we had our latest board game evening on Saturday and it was again a really nice time, playing a game that for once interested me called I Know!

The next day Jordan and Jen set off for three weeks in Brittany, staying with Jen's friend and then moving on to Jen's grandparents! From the pictures/videos they are sending they are having a wonderful time at the beach and it's nowhere near as hot as here! Then this Sunday André and three friends are heading for Slovenia via Switzerland by car, and will figure out a way back depending on where the almost Europe-wide farmers' protests are located (in support of the Dutch farmers) blocking the main highways! I hope they all have a good time, and hopefully with the cooler weather I can get some decluttering and maybe even some walking done too, as I'm failing miserably at that so far this year!

Wednesday 13 July 2022

This and that!

When I got up the other morning the internet was down (shock, horror). First thing I do when I get up is read the news with a cup of tea in my hand, so you can imagine this was seriously going to mess with my day! Oh, I could still get the internet on my phone but I really don't like reading on that so after about 15 minutes of piddling around I gave up. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how your day suddenly becomes about four hours longer! I think I'm pretty aware how much time I waste on the computer but even so, the fact that I went out and got a week's worth of grocery shopping done and the internet hadn't even been restored by the time I got back really brought home to me how much time I waste! I reckon if I could knock that on the head and get to bed by midnight I'd score a whole extra eight hours a day!

My friend is having her balcony rebuilt by the same young man that did mine five years ago. He does excellent work, is very friendly and he and my kids apparently have a couple of friends in common, one of them being Max. Anyway, when I stopped to check my mailbox, he wandered over to me and asked if it was correct that Jordan was a plumber/heating engineer. When I said it was, he handed me his card saying that he routinely gets clients asking if he knows any reputable plumbers and to have Jordan give him a call if he's interested. So I explained to him that at the moment, Jordan's biggest problem is lack of tools (that stuff is expensive), but he said not to worry as he had pretty much everything Jordan could need! How nice of him! And talking of Max, Jordan told me he sent him a message the other day to say that he (Max) hoped they would remain friends despite everything, that he realized just how much work Jordan had voluntarily put in when Max was renovating his farmhouse (he was over there most weekends), and that if he ever needed to borrow tools to work on his own place to just let him know! Wow, that was nice wasn't it - now if only his brother hadn't been such an AH to work with!

Things at work are going fine for Jordan. He's been at a different site these past couple of weeks and said the site manager is a bit of a jerk (he said the heaviest tool he's seen him pick up so far is a pencil!!!) but that the other guys are nice enough. There are three Romanians and a Polish guy on site, and while the Romanians kept themselves pretty much to themselves, he and the Polish guy got along well. Then, when the Romanians realized that he wasn't in fact French they started asking him to translate English words into French for them - and now they all get along just fine! The temp agency also said they want to extend his contract for another month but he told them he'll be taking leave come August and then they could see what happens after that. That's not a problem apparently!

I had Charlie again on Friday and as it was really hot, after a trip to the farmers' market I went to a bar and sat outside in the shade with a bottle of Perrier water. He loves drinking out of bottles, so he had the other clients cracking up every time he took a slug of my Perrier and then made the funniest faces when the bubbles went up his nose. And again, I have to say just how much I like their town as it has everything you could need right on your doorstep within easy walking distance - something that is very much lacking in my little village! It was a bit of a pain in the butt on Tuesday for them though as the main road was blocked off all day when the Tour de France came through town - but since that only happens once every few years, I'm sure they weren't too put out!

The clock tower in St. Jeoire

Then on Saturday a group of us neighbours were invited to my favourite neighbours' daughter's house for lunch. It was scorching hot, they have a pool, and a wonderful time was had by everyone. The husband next door had his legs operated on yet again this week, but the surgeon has told him they can't put any more stents in his veins as they are "too far gone" now, so he is looking at by-pass surgery in the near future. And to be honest, he looks dreadful, terribly thin and stooped now - much older than his 74 years. His wife was telling me that he now struggles to get up the stairs and while he is talking about building an extension onto the house, she's talking about selling up, him taking his share of the proceeds and she'll move back to the west coast of France! Doesn't sound great does it!

I like both the son and the daughter from next door very much, so again I was shocked when the son and his wife arrived to see how gaunt and tired he looked at just 45! He works in catering for a large company in Geneva and when the pandemic hit they laid off four of the seven employees. In the meantime the company expanded and now they can't get staff back to keep up with demand, so he's working 14 hour days, servicing cocktails in the evenings, and he looks dreadful. He asked me if there was any way André could get him in where he works, but how do you let somebody down gently and explain that he doesn't really have the relevant skills for where André works. Years ago my organization outsourced the guards, then the messengers, followed by the catering and most of the IT staff so the trend really is leaning heavily towards outsourcing (although to be fair to my employer, they never laid anyone off - anyone who wanted to stay was found alternative employment). I really hope he can find something else as it does seem to be a buyers' market at the moment - companies are crying out for staff and are not able to find them!

While I was there I got a message from my American friend who lives in Annecy. She was mortified a couple of months ago at having to "uninvite" me to her son's destination wedding in Spain because I'm not vaccinated and there would be medically fragile people there. I was perfectly fine with that because hey, it's their wedding, and in any case, I didn't want the hassle of the ever-changing rules and restrictions regarding foreign travel and covid. Well as it turns out, the entire wedding party (with one exception) came down with covid, including her very pregnant daughter and the daughter's FIL who had a liver transplant earlier this year. Thankfully it seems everyone is fine now, but I wonder how many of those guests unknowingly jumped on planes back home before they knew they were covid-positive. Either way, I wouldn't have fancied the idea of trying to find accommodation and/or rebook flights because so many of the flights were cancelled anyway due to staffing shortages. I'm relieved that everyone was ok in the end, but also so glad I was already uninvited, for obvious reasons!

The young salesman came by on Wednesday to give me the info on solar panel installation (strictly speaking, photovoltaic panels) and I've gone ahead and signed up. It's weird because the cost and the projected savings would seem to align exactly with what my sister in England is experiencing, so that's reassuring. It's going to cost me €12,000 to install and he reckons that at today's prices I should knock around €1,000/year off my bill, without taking into account what I can sell back to the grid. So it occurred to me I'd have to live another 12 years to get my money's worth out of it - although I hardly think I'll be on my deathbed yelling "damn, I wish I hadn't had those solar panels installed", do you!

I also took an executive decision this week regarding money I am holding as the treasurer of our little second-hand book store at work. There were just three of us handling the logistics of this bookshop so a while ago I sent a message to the other two saying that I thought it was madness for me to be sitting here with €1,000 in the kitty for over two years when the local food bank was crying out for help, and did they mind if I took €300 and made a donation? Well I got a "greetings from Peru" message from one lady and the other guy didn't respond at all, so on Tuesday, when I took my usual crate of food down to the food bank, I also handed over €300 in cash to them (I got a receipt of course - not my money). Still I don't think anyone will object, I just wish I could have gotten a "go ahead" first!

And finally, I see Bojo finally got his "et tu Brutus" moment, after being stabbed in the back by his own MPs. It probably should have happened ages ago but I don't think anyone is surprised. The problem now is who will replace him, and while I didn't like him playing the buffoon on the international stage, I'm not sure if any of the potential candidates will, in reality, be any better! That being said, I don't know much about British politics so was interested to look up some of the names involved and again, while I don't know this lady or her politics, when I first listened to her speak I was very impressed with her poise and how articulate she seems!

Kemi Badenoch

Can you imagine if she got in as Prime Minister - wouldn't that just upset the apple cart of the old boys' network!!!! Oh, and I just had to post this - a letter from Bojo's former tutor to his father regarding Boris!

Martin Hammond, who was Johnson’s housemaster and taught him classics, spotted early on that the prime minister showcased a certain irresponsibility and inattention to facts.

Writing of him in a school report in April 1982, he said: “Boris really has adopted a disgracefully cavalier attitude to his classical studies . . . Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility (and surprised at the same time that he was not appointed Captain of the School for next half): I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.”

So yeah, hopefully things could be achanging in the entitled old boys' network. Macron got his a$$$ handed to him in the legislative elections last month, and while he still has a relative majority in the National Assembly he no longer has an absolute majority, and so will have to actually negotiate instead of just having his legislation rubber-stamped from now on!

At the G7 summit in Madrid recently. Divulging
 "confidential" information regarding Middle Eastern oil production?
Macron: Oh my goodness, are those cameras?
Biden: Who the hell was that!

Sunday 3 July 2022

Andy scores an own goal!

For some reason I felt a bit meh last week (better now), so only got the bare necessities done as I wasn't motivated to do much more. Being retired I have the luxury to do that, of course, but I was really annoyed at myself because I ended up wasting a fair amount of fresh fruit and veg that I'd bought the previous week because I was just too lazy to do anything with it. I think part of the problem is that I get carried away when I see all the beautiful produce and think "oh I'll make this, and then I'll make that" and I go into fresh food overload. Since I also tend to go grocery shopping just once a week I have this compulsion that I must buy all the ingredients for everything I might want to cook just in case. Well that blew up in my face last week and I'm annoyed as hell at myself! If I don't shop at the farmers' markets I go to a wonderful shop called Fresh which, as the name would imply, only sells fresh stuff. It's the kind of place where you're just bursting for someone to take a look in your shopping trolley so you can feel smugly self-satisfied because it's full of "virtue", whereas in fact anyone shopping in that store has the same kind of shopping cart because they just don't sell junk. It's all fresh fruit, veg, meat etc. with nothing pre-packaged and it's lovely!

So then I had the bright idea that maybe if some of my shopping choices were taken away from me I might get inventive and actually use up some of the stuff I bought. I've seen UK bloggers talking about buying "no waste" boxes for a couple of pounds - boxes where you have no idea what you'll get but it's heavily discounted because the store needs to get rid of it. In fact France passed a law in January (of 2021 I think) whereby supermarkets are no longer allowed to throw perfectly good food away - they have to make arrangements with soup kitchens or other outlets to take this stuff - or they can offer it to the public at heavily discounted prices. I'd seen a couple of these at LIDL once or twice but they looked a bit mangy, whereas some of the UK bloggers do really well with these boxes. Out of curiosity I googled the Too Good To Go app and bingo, they do the same thing here too - only it's called anti-gaspillage - no waste here - and lo and behold there are maybe five places locally that use this app to sell off goods that are nearing their sell-by date. To be honest I'm not interested in buying bread/pastries because I don't really eat that stuff, although I suppose if I had room in the freezer it might be worth freezing the bread. There are a couple of the health food stores that also do it, and then I spotted a new-to-me store that had no waste boxes available for €6, so I decided to give it a shot. I signed up for one, paid my €6 and had to go into town the next day to pick it up. As I said, this shop is new to me and I was delighted when I found it was an organic bring-your-own-container place, although honestly, I'm not totally sure my little town is big enough to support four of these places. Still, the lady was very nice and went into the back to bring out what she had put aside for me. Now I was expecting maybe a bit of fruit and veg but when I got it home and unwrapped it it contained: 1kg of rice flour, 1kg of semolina, bee pollen (????), organic chicken bouillon and sun-dried tomatoes! Not what I was expecting at all, and when I think back to the UK bloggers planning a whole week's menu around their surprise box I had to laugh because unless I want to eat sun-dried tomatoes cooked in organic chicken stock for the whole week, I'm buggered! Still, as I actually shop in these kinds of places, I was very pleased with what I received and I certainly got more than my money's worth - it was just not what I expected! A local supermarket also recently offered a last-minute no-waste box but I couldn't be bothered to drive down there to check it out. I might do so next time because I'm sure the food bank would be more than glad to receive the packaged/canned goods (if any)! While I can see that prices are rising, at the moment it's not so in-your-face - except, that is, when I went to buy my weekly treat of a Starbucks coffee. Crikey, they used to sell for €2, then they went up to around €2.10 - and then this week they were asking €3.10!!! Sod that, I'm not paying an extra 50% for a Starbucks coffee - they can go off in the freezer for all I care!

Someone mentioned that as a result of her no-waste box she'd decided to cook Jack Monroe's "sort-of paella" so I decided to give that a shot too. It wasn't bad actually, but I would use less tomato if I make it again. But it was good to get back on Jack's site as it was a blog I read quite some time ago when she first hit the scene. Yes Jack is a woman! I remember reading her blog A Girl Called Jack years ago and admired her very much. She was (is?) a single mother who, if I remember correctly, had worked as a fire department despatcher before her son was born. When she tried to go back to the fire department on the night shift in order to accommodate her child-care needs they refused and she ended up unemployed and broke. She was at great pains to point out that while she did not live with her son's father, he was still very much involved with his son, but at one point she found herself with empty cupboards and completely skint. It was at this point that she wrote Hunger Hurts - which kinda took off and fame sort of found her. She is an ardent and articulate supporter of the working poor and did not hesitate to take on MPs who paid lip service to helping but then did bugger all about it. The trolling and hate she received took a toll on her but to this day she continues to fight for the less fortunate in society! 

Jack Monroe

On a completely different note, four of us and two kiddos took a trip out to a place called Le Grand Parc d'Andilly today, which despite the fact that it is only 30-45 minutes from my home, is a total new one for me and it was lovely! It's a fantasy land with giants and elves and goblins set in so many acres of woodland. The website doesn't do it justice because it was so much better than I expected and even if it really is for little kids, I had a great time over the almost seven hours we spent there!

Telling the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge
and A Christmas Carol

Tree-top walkways!

Elf houses built into the trees!

The magic owls!

My friend on the giant's rocking horse!

Thankfully the giant was still sleeping!

At elf school!

Sitting in the shade "at the beach"!

The woodcutter's house!

I can't believe I've known about this place for years but never been before. I guess I was thinking it's just for kids (it is) but there really was so much to do and take in that we could easily have spent another couple of hours there if it hadn't been so hot!

And finally, how about that Andy guy then? For those of you who haven't heard of Andy, Halifax Bank in the UK recently decided to spend a fair amount of money to "urge their customers to declare their gender pronouns"!

Frankly anyone that wants to wear this kind of name badge
should feel free to do so but if Halifax obliged me to do so
for my job, I would not be pleased at all! What's more, I know if 
I had to have dealings with "Gemma", I'd spend all
my time transfixed by her chest!

Well apparently quite a few of their customers felt that Halifax's money could be better spent and wrote in saying that as a bank they would rather that money be spent keeping rural branches open, or maybe lowering their interest rates. To which Andy, from Customer (non)Service replied that customers should feel free to close their accounts if they didn't like it. So that's what they did - in their thousands! One man wrote that he had closed a £450,000 investment with them and some quoted as many as 10,000 other customers followed suit!

Whatever you think about this issue, I'd say Andy has quite a bit to learn about how to address sensitive issues with customers wouldn't you. Anyone want to take a bet on whether Andy still has a job or is now joining the ranks of the unemployed?