samedi 12 mai 2007

Life's surprises

Maybe I was too pessimistic about the cynics. My son is now back before I take him to the train in a few minutes. He is absolutely exhausted because the little nippers went to bed at 3am and were up at 6 am. The camp was a major camp for all the scouts of our small town. There were 150 people in all. Up from a previous record of 110. So maybe scoutism is being revived. People are seeing that capitalism isn't everything.

The interesting thing about one’s children is how they turn out really different from what you were at their age. Now I have never been a great supporter of scouting. The Baden Powell thing really stuck in my throat as a quintessential English activity. Imagine my dismay when my elder son, who is 25, expressed a strong desire to become a scout 15 years ago.

Er well yes, good ideals, healthy activity, why not. I always wanted my sons to discover their own way in life, hoping that by being a model (impure admittedly) of honesty, decency, discipline and fairness, the path that they would choose would be different from mine but one of which I could be proud.

So if the lad wants to be a scout, a scout he will be. Anyway it is a passing phase and he will go on to other things. So every couple of weeks he would be off to the scouts hall, playing games and preparing camps. Every two months it was off to a camp somewhere or another and I would drive him and his friends to their camping location, the car piled high with tents sleeping bags, cooking equipment.

The years passed by, a cub , then a scout, then a pioneer. There were trips as far as Morocco where he helped to clean irrigation channels, a month in Burgundy rebuilding a monastery, a summer camp in the grounds of Giscard’s chateau where VGE came and had a chat.

For three years they competed in the regional scouts motocross competition. My garden became their testing ground and pits, to the restrained annoyance of our neighbours. The first time they came last by a mile and won the future promise award. On the third occasion they won with so much ease it was embarrassing.

Time marches on and my son is a young adult. His friends are ending their scouting careers one after the other as education and girl friends impinge on week end activities. My son rushes home Friday evening, I collect him from the train station, only to disappear Saturday morning for his beloved scouting. Lo and behold leadership weekends are beckoning. Three full weekends in Normandy, Picardy, and the Paris region. Leadership qualities are learnt. Legislation, safety, communication, ideals. A much valued extra badge on that bright yellow shirt. My son can now lead his own little platoon of louveteaux.

After several weekends of fervid preparation, this weekend his platoon is holding their spring camp. I drove him to the meeting point where all the louvetaux congregated for the bus to transport them some twenty kilometres to the grounds of a large house where they are camping this night. I saw all the young parents with their beloved child smartly turned out in their scout kit. I discreetly watched from the sidelines as my son welcomed all his acolytes and chatted with the parents.

So yes I have changed my opinion on scouting. It has been an enriching experience for my son who has found enormous pleasure over the years. He is now voluntarily giving back to the next generation all the benefits he has received and gaining still more satisfaction as he is doing it. Am I so old fashioned to think that it is a real shame that in today’s world this type of activity is totally scorned upon? Roundly decried by all those who can only see it as an activity for sexual perverts.

No I have not changed my mind about all things English. French scouting is far superior to English.

jeudi 10 mai 2007

Our partner

Just a few headlines about what the Anglo Saxons are bringing to the world :

Algarve 'haven' for paedophiles
its relaxed policing has made it a magnet for sun-seeking paedophiles from Britain

Two teenage girls strangled their 15-year-old best friend with electrical wire after a Saturday night sleepover.
Their victim, Eliza Davis, was reading in the next room when the girls woke up and began discussing what it would be like to kill someone. They agreed that they would feel no remorse in murder and to prove their point they crept next door and set upon Eliza.

For me, Blair’s worst sin has been to make the entire political class seem deceitful, and so to erode people’s trust in the political process.

Cancer survival rates worst in western Europe

About 200 lawyers at City legal practices will this year earn more than £1 million, reflecting the dramatic increase in mergers and acquisition work.

Is this the sort of partner we want in Europe????

lundi 7 mai 2007

Mashed potatoe

Well of course you read the results of the French election first on Sologne and I do not apologise for my canny knack of anticipating events. It is pathetic to see old stooges like Antibes and Slocomb trying to catch onto my train, which left a long time ago. See their articles on the pitiful state of democracy and freedom in the UK.

So France has a new head of state. Of course other countries get new heads of state as well. Quite recently the UK got their latest version, in 1952 or was it 1953 before the young lady finally completed her hols and took up her life’s work. I don’t remember much about 1952 and the death of her daddy because he smoked too many cigarettes. But I do remember 1953.

There were not too many tellies back in those days. The local aristocrat generously set up her 13 inch black and white in her garage and we all trouped in. Dad was ‘too busy’ to go, I was young enough to believe him. Anyway it was endlessly dull and boring.

Soon after, the coronation games took place on the local green. I was entered into the egg and spoon race. Those were the days before the Brits came up with salmonella eggs by feeding the chickens their own shit. So eggs were still valued, and we got potatoes instead. I got a nasty looking example. It was misshapen with a large overhang which made it inevitably unstable on my wooden spoon. Further there were not too many competitors for the races so we were divided into little and big. I was the littlest of the little. But I was already smart. I scooted off with my ‘egg’ and but for a misfortune in the last meters I would have won. Finally some big slob got over the line while I was putting the handicapped spud back on the spoon and came second. First prize were specially minted crowns, second was a lousy half crown.

But I was not downhearted. I had done well in the circumstances and I felt sure that the next time I would win. I checked with my Mum, a young and beautiful woman, when the next coronation games were scheduled. I was of an age when I had never imagined that those two pillars in my life, Mum and Dad, would, one day, no longer be around. Imagine my consternation when my mother announced that there would be no more coronation games in her lifetime because Liz 2 was her junior.

Imagine the sense of injustice that welled up in that small frame.I would never get a fair break in life; I would never have a round spud on my spoon.

samedi 5 mai 2007

Now for the Elections

The election is over and Sarko has won. Yes the people do still have to vote but with the accurate opinion polls that we have in France there is no longer any doubt. No there will not be a ballot paper which says that you have two votes which you can cast for either candidate providing that you use only one of the two and only vote for one candidate. Unless you vote for neither in which case you can use both votes. So at 8 o’clock tomorrow evening you will be able to tune in to the tele and get the result. One wonders if the Brits will have finished counting the votes for their Thursday election by that time.

But that won’t be the end of elections. No we will immediately move on to the June legislative election. In the good old days we had Mitterrand saying, before election, that he wouldn’t dissolve Parliament if elected, only to do so once he gained power. Since the President now has a five year term the Presidential elections coincide with those of the legislature (though constitutionally they don’t have to) so we have to vote for new representatives anyway.

Once Sarko has been elected he will appoint a Prime Minister. Currently reckoned to be François Fillon, (Welsh wife to boot, so expect that we will go for Welsh independence once we have secured Scotland) who has been active in Sarko’s election from the earliest of times. (He was fired from the government by de Villepin because he couldn’t fire Sarko, such is politics) Fillon and his government will have only one objective, win the legislative elections for UMP. There will be political interest in seeing which measures he will push through before the election. A few of the popular ones no doubt, but don’t expect pension reform nor a reduction in bureaucrats.

For UMP the election should be pretty straight forward and the population generally gives a majority to the elected President. Though I suspect that it won’t be a landslide. A lot of people are nervous about Sarko and won’t want to give him carte blanche. The only issue for UMP will be how many seats to give UDF.

Bayrou will go ahead and set up his new party and rapidly disappear from serious politics, like every other person who has set up his own party. Chévénement, De Villiers, Mégret. In fact the only person who has succeeded is Le Pen. But then he had the good fortune to have an issue, massive immigration, which made his life reasonably simple. Not everybody wants to live next to a Brit family with the fish and chip fryer on 24 hours a day.

My eyes will be on the Socialists. What’s going to happen? There will be a few elephants with extremely long and sharp daggers out for Ségo. (Fabius, Emmanueli, Lang?, Strauss Kahn?) On the other hand the party has a large influx of new members who adhere to Ségo’s ideas. So I think it will be a fascinating session of good old fisticuffs. Of course the person who should lead the election campaign of the socialists is none other than Ségo’s common law husband, Hollande. Will he go with the pacte presidential, will he rubbish it? Anyway it is difficult to imagine there will be a united party behind a coherent programme. The most telling point for the future will be whether the new Ségo line is retained or whether we will return to crypto communism. I personally believe that the Socialists are finally going through their social democrat transition but will need a few more years in the wilderness before being electable.

It would be nice to see Ségo at least as Prime minister in a few years time. Who knows, if Sarko tips everybody into the street, he will have to dissolve parliament, the Socialists win the elections, and Sarko and Ségo finish up cohabiting. That would beat reality TV.

lundi 30 avril 2007

Service with a smile

Of course on the Anglo Saxon blogs and journos we get the continuous criticism of the French public services. Bureaucratic, unionised and what have you.

Well last Friday I put out our wheely bin for the biweekly rubbish collection Saturday morning. Mid morning Saturday I see our bin has lost a wheel and have difficulty in bringing it back in. In the wheely bin was a polite notice apologising for having eaten the bin and advising me if I call a certain number I’ll get a new bin. I dump the notice on my wife’s desk and get on with a man’s business. My wife after a weekend in Paris reappears on Monday morning and calls the number. Because the bin is only slightly broken the rubbish service come out Monday afternoon and hey presto I now have a repaired bin ready to be wheeled out Tuesday evening all for free.

And is it only rubbish? NO it isn’t. I put a letter in the local letterbox with a quotation for a customer. I quickly realized I had made a big error. What to do? Inform the customer that I had made a big mistake before it was put into the decision process? Maybe, but it wasn’t going to cover me with glory when I was fighting for the contract, especially since I had miscalculated the postage and the customer would have to pay a fee to receive my mail. No much better to put a post it on the post box, Cher Facteur and ask that he return it to my letter box. Having held off on informing my customer I was relieved to find the returned letter in my letter box that evening. Yes I do give a tip to my facteur, this year it will be a bit bigger. I got that contract.

dimanche 29 avril 2007

Claptrap and hogwash

Actually I am getting rather confused over this rubbish issue. I seem to have difficulty in following the tripe printed by the English gutter press. If I understand rightly Gordon Brown, a Scot, seeking to leave Europe, is convinced that Scotland, who don’t belong to Europe but want to join Europe, will have their application vetoed by England who belong to Europe but want to leave and other such balderdash. Any way he has decided having spent a fortune on public health, wrecked the country’s finances and made a wasteland of people’s pensions, to now overload the hospitals with people sick from maggots, vermin and rodents running in the street after paying a call to the London sewers or other such dire drivel.

Although it may be that he is trying to create a divertissement for the junk projections that were given to the Olympic committee, garbage in, trash out. Anyway he seems to have got himself into a bottomless cess pit of crappy numbers which should, run and run, as with diarrhoea.

The up tick is that the army, which has got itself into a shithole in Iraq following Blair’s bunkum and eyewash, has a problem of soldiers mixed body parts. They are concerned that Gordon’s maggots will get into the rotting coffins of the young soldiers before they have time to sort out the DNA. The matter is creating a foul stench since it will later be necessary to get the right worm into the right coffin. And that before the royal dreg comes along to the cemetery.

Meanwhile Bliar in an attempt to create international sympathy and to pinch development funds from deserving countries has declared Kent a trashed county as a result of an earthquake of .001 on the Richter scale. Tragically, litter baskets have been wrecked, but no support is forthcoming. Hard crap living in a detested tip of a country.

As they say, where does the rubbish begin and the trash end*. Meanwhile over here we are splitting our sides laughing as the rosbifs are sinking in their own detritus.

(*Official answer John O’Groats and Lands End or vice versa)

samedi 28 avril 2007

We liked Porto very much. Above is a photo taken from the opposite bank of the Douro looking towards Porto. The river bank on which I am standing while taking this photo, is the bank where all the famous Port cellars are located, Sandeman etc. I enjoyed a 30 year old porto at a small bar. On the Porto side of the river is the old town. It is an area with a lot of pleasant restaurants. We enjoyed a delightful Dorade later that evening accompanied by a vino verde.

Porto is obviously a city that has seen better times. Indeed I suspect it was once a rich town. This steel girder bridge was erected at the beginning of the twentieth century. An ambitious and expensive project at that time. Today there are quite a lot of buildings which could do with a substantial renovation.

What I suspect has happened is that the town did extremely well out of it’s port at one time, but the fashion of fortified wines has passed and the town has not developed new sources of wealth.

Of course port was very much an English drink. Many of the famous brands bear English names. The drink was really boosted through the slave trade. The British ships coming back from America would drop off, in Liverpool, the raw materials produced by the American slave plantations. A few drunken nights in Liverpool and the ship headed off to Porto to pick up the necessary alcohol. The crews on the slave ships were not a happy lot. Inevitably the nature of the trade led to many psychological disorders in the crew members. It was well known in the trade that the crew on the English ships would get drunk on lashings of port before gang raping the slaves, both sexes. The inconvenience was that they passed on their venereal diseases, syphilis mainly. The market became very depressed for English slaves. Obviously the American plantation owners didn’t want to catch English crabs from their slaves. So the City of London seeing that profits were declining decided to pull out and came up with the Wilberforce line of spin.

This unfortunate connection with the English seems to have rendered the inhabitants of Porto rather lazy. They seem to think that they can just get away with marketing spin, cost control and delocalisation. They really have the English disease of never making the effort to improve the product. The time of fortified wines has passed. In the days of long unhealthy sea voyages and drunken crew it was a good solution. But today we prefer natural wine, lighter and more energising to the taste buds. Come on Porto, get rid of those dishonouring English names, build on the brilliant natural wines of the Douro valley. Cast off your infamous brush with the Anglo Saxons, Europe welcomes you.