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The Reverend Jeff Canvassing

May 16, 2019

Yes, I’m back! And I’m excited! It will be Friday tennis and lunch tomorrow and I can’t wait to reveal my latest success. I am now a professional photographer. One of my pictures from Kangaroo Island in Australia from about 4 years ago was recently acquired by the award winning and internationally acclaimed Getty Pictures. So I shall be explaining to the assembled multitude of silver spooner’s at lunch that apart from being a successful journalist, a successful author, the co creator of an award winning record label and playing cricket for England over 60’s, I am now a successful professional photographer!

But how do you measure success? I was asked this by The Reverend Jeff, in that measured vicar-like manner so beloved by people who believe in higher things (for that read failure to achieve) earlier in the week. He had eschewed his campsite in the Var (day release from canvassing?) and was visiting Valbonne with his long suffering but beautiful wife Nikki, so we had lunch in what were, for him, the rather opulent surroundings of Valbonne Square. You know the signs when someone is out of their comfort zone; too polite, fidgety, overawed, eager to please.  Perhaps it was the sleeveless “vest” he was wearing but I am sure he would have been more comfortable back at the campsite checking his tent pegs, or raging from the pulpit about the inequality of life, but it was good to see him to remind him of my continuing success in all walks of life and of my superior sporting prowess. My answer to his question should surprise none of my pals. “Financial return is my measure of success”, I said, so he asked how much I had received from the sale of my first photograph and seemed less than impressed that it was US$2.00. From small acorns etc… I will of course be seeking the best possible exchange rate from those lovely people at Currencies Direct. I had the conversation with the good Reverend about currency exchange but quickly came to the opinion that the scale of his international currency dealings was not worth my while signing him up.

Whilst lunching we were interrupted by Neil “I’m Free” Humphreys, where us published authors discussed the difficult 3rd book and his stand up comedy possibilities. It was a jolly occasion which I could see in the widely shining eyes of the Reverend Jeff had opened up a new world for him. I had left Tony “I Invented The Internet” Coombs at home trying to make his invention work properly but came back to find him sleeping on a lounger whilst trying out my latest hat, as todays picture shows…

Tony

So back to Friday. Sadly The Wingco will not be present for the traditional lunch at The Auberge St Donat because aged 67 he has finally landed regular employment. We had to explain to him a few weeks ago when he began work that this was a “job” and he should be pleased that he had at last found one (actually, I think it found him. He certainly wasn’t looking for it). The Master Mariner Mundell will be present at lunch but not tennis as he has a “hurty ” elbow. Dancing Greg Harris from Côte D’Azur Villa Rentals will no doubt be there trying to calm the fears of his many clients worried about the lack of summer bookings for their villas. Nick “Fallen Off His” Pearch will no doubt be very impressed and I am sure that they will all be enthusiastically congratulating and be very encouraging about this new string to my bow…

 

Chris France

New Year Blog Alert

January 8, 2019

Just as the tail follows the dog, smelling ever so slightly of poop, cometh the new year, cometh a new blog.

Regulars readers will be delighted to know that the weekly attempt to play tennis followed by a Gentlemen’s lunch is still in effect. Tennis has been rare in the last few months due to injuries, holidays, age and indifference, but lunch is eternal, and usually takes place on Fridays at Auberge St Donat, when it is not closed (twice in the last year for a fermature annual?). The major protagonists are The Wingco, who is still proud of his title of Complete C**t earned several New Years Eves’ ago when burning a hole in That Nice Lady Decorators ski jacket (long story…). Then there is the class obsessed – at least by my lack of class – Master Mariner Mundell who claims that my “O Levels” must be in Car Nicking, Burglary and Street Graffiti.  There is Dancing Greg Concorde Harris from CD Villas (Seedy Villas? Surely not?) sporting his new nose job (one would have thought the surgeon would have wanted to make it smaller rather than bigger?), Hop Along Nick “Fallen Off His” Pearch, resplendent with a new hip and Mike “Grunter” Macmillan, so named due to his Monica Seles impersonation, former banker and fellow author. Almost without exception these are clients of Currencies Direct for which they should be eternally grateful, but seldom are.

The sun going down on life in the South Of France

It is a sad indictment upon the average age of these gatherings that most conversations now start with a declaration of injuries incurred, illnesses endured and pension arrangements. In fact my picture today, which some of you will already have seen, is of a sunset in Cannes late last year,  a metaphor perhaps for this twilight period in life.  In my case it is a dicky heart, dodgy sinuses, a damaged knee, a groin strain and the fact that I will get my state pension in a little over 3 months time, sufficient to make me want to live to 100. Yippee! The humour is almost entirely black, mainly aimed at me, my upbringing and accent, my not speaking properly, my silly moustache and my dashing (my description, not theirs) wardrobe, but as they are clients, what is a man to do?  I have nicknamed this group as the “Silver Spoon Brigade”, mainly due to their public schoolboy background or their foppish assumption of those characteristics in order to score points.

Most lunches are ribald, involve copious quantities of wine and, in the worst cases such as just before Christmas, an alarming number of cognacs. In those instances I know I have been entertained but have little recollection of in whichcontext.

We had played tennis that morning but my groin strain has slowed me from whippet like speed and agility to something a little less mobile, but I was able to steer my partner on this occasion, Nick, to a famous victory, and one that I was keen to discuss over lunch. Needless to say, the losers were none to keen and quickly reverted to type, i.e to take the piss out the working class boy done good. Another irritation for the Wingco is that he is an accomplished musician who dreamed of making a living out of playing music and failed, whereas I, with no musical ability whatsoever, have made a living from it. Such fun!

An occasional diversion from tennis is walking and there exists a (lack of) organisation called the Andon Ramblers Association (ARA) with a President For Lift (it should have been President For Life but an unfortunate typo intervened) in the shape of Dancing Greg. I am not a member of this Disorganisation and have no wish to become one, which suits everyone as when a vote was taken to invite me to join, it was unanimously rejected. However, that does not seem to preclude me from joining their rambles or enjoying their rambling lunches and there is one iminently. I shall be bringing you a full report shortly, assuming I can remember anything about it.

Chris France

Alsace Dogs and wine

September 26, 2018

I don’t know if you have been listening to the radio this morning but there has been a news flash. It seems the authorities have raided Cliff Richards’ house again as they have discovered something very unpleasant on his computer. Apparently he has a new album of unreleased material on it…

I guess that is a joke in poor taste, so I thought I should exorcise that strand of humour from my psyche. The trouble is that I had to take out a loan to pay for the exorcism and I am naturally worried that I might be repossessed.

So the Arundel Festival, which has run for its 40th year this year, is over and we have departed these shores for the autumn sunshine of Provence, but even although it has been the best English summer that I can ever remember, we still had our lunch party washed out one Sunday and the last Sunday of Festival was ruined by rain, however, other than a few interludes, it has been hot and dusty, a rare combination in the old country.

On the way back That Nice Lady Decorator and I decided to explore southern Belgium and The Alsace, and what a revelation! Many villages in Alsace are stunning. See today’s picture of Colmar. Obernoi is also beautiful but there are any number of other cute towns with wonderful architecture and fabulous countryside. Even the centre of Strasbourg is beautiful. The only problems are the local food and wine.  I have never much cared for Alsatian dogs and dog is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about their wines. I am not good at white wine, I may consider a Montrachet or a Meursault if parched there is no decent red available but Gewürztraminer? The name alone conjures up images of concentration camps and the food? Now I am a bit of a salad dodger but huge slabs of over cooked meat, flaccid white sausages and sauerkraut, a huge German influence, has given me a different take on French cuisine. Basically, if you want constipation and bowel cancer, this is the place to eat. If not, bring provisions…

Colmar

Colmar in the Alsace. beautiful but don’t eat there…

After a couple of weeks in sunny Valbonne, we popped over to Majorca for a long weekend to celebrate the a 25th wedding anniversary. You know you are getting older when most of the social invitation are for 60th and 70th birthday parties and silver weddings. Next blog will have a photo taken at the restaurant that appeared in the Night Manager, a fabulous location and a decent meal.

Before we left, I had a text from Peachy Butterfield. He asked if we were in, which we were and I asked him why he was coming around “to drink the rest of that rose I started last week” was his response, and true to his word, he did just that. He tells me he is moving to Spain to escape the warm embrace of the French tax authorities. He told that he had been a bit lackadaisical recently, well,  for the last 20 years, since he made myself redundant on Oct 1997, and has decided that he needs a job. Make no mistake this is a complete life style change for the big fruity one. However, his choice of employment as an agent for Currencies Direct is exemplary.

And so, back to the daily grind until at least the weekend, then off to Malta for a week. As I am being accompanied by my accountant, Clive “Dog Biscuits” Slater, he will not be surprised to know that I have marked the trip (and indeed the no doubt swingeing expenses) as a business strategy trip and an AGM for good measure…

 

Chris France

Dog Biscuits

August 16, 2018

How do you feel about eating dog biscuits? One of my friends, who was in the passenger seat of the car on the way to play tennis, and had clearly not had sufficient for breakfast, began tucking in to a bag of canine treats, thus denying Ronnie and Reggie (our 2 new puppies – well named it seems as both of them are thieves and Ronnie is a psychopath -). The dog biscuit nicker expressed particular liking for the bone shaped titbits. He told me he had developed the taste when he was a child being brought up in the Cheshire. Now my old pal Peachy Butterfield always claims that Cheshire is a misplaced Home County, but here is further evidence that he is wrong. With that level of deprivation, Cheshire must certainly be considered as “up north” where all Southerners know it is grim. But who was it? I hear you ask. I cannot reveal the name of the miscreant except to say; think not so boring accountant who featured in a recent episode of this column, and that Clive “Dog Biscuit” Slater might be looking a bit sheepish (dogish?) when reading this.

So there I was with That Nice Lady Decorator sitting on the balcony for a cheeky beer at the beautiful Anchor Bleu at Bosham one lunchtime with a view over the bay and all was well in my world, until a delivery van appeared (see before and after pictures below) and parked directly in our view.

A Lovely view of BoshamIMG_8325

 

A crap view of BoshanIMG_8323

Having made his delivery he promptly decided to eat his lunch in his van and enjoy my views of the incoming tide. I was going to remonstrate with him until I noticed that he was about 6 feet 6 inches tall, about 20 stone, scowling and had tattoos all over his arms, mostly involving death and violence to southerners. Then I thought, live and let live… or perhaps not remonstrate and stay alive. A first world problem I think, as is which currency exchange provider to choose when moving money to and from other currencies. This week I favour Currencies Direct.

Many of you will be aware of my invention of the GAWP (Getting Away With it old Persons) card. It has been suggested to me that I should produce it in two colours, enabling some latitude between a yellow and red card offence. A good idea which I will, of course, claim as my own when it comes to fruition.

Whilst we are on the subject of cards, I have begun to think that I would like to have a card that I could serve on the political correct youngsters who, in my GAWP opinion, are gradually exorcising humour, reason and historical respect from every aspect of life. I have said it before, that us 60 somethings have lived through the best 5 decades that there has ever been, the 60’s to the Noughties. Now the world of political correctness is closing in and I want to fight back. That Nice Lady Decorator has come up with a brilliant concept; the SPUNCK card.

In this instance SPUNCK would be an acronym for Supercilious Pretentious Unctuous Nauseating, Corbynite Kids. This is brilliant and I hope that I have the courage to produce such an item, even if I am too afraid of their collective sense of humour failure to find anything amusing, ever to serve one…

One final revelation, Terribly Tall Timothy Taylor last night recounted the story of his mum aged 83 who last week had used the word “bollocks” in a conversation with her vicar. When it was suggested that the correct word was testicles, she replied that she must be hanging with the wrong crowd…

Chris France

The Not So Boring Accountant

August 2, 2018

I was talking to Terribly Tall Timothy Taylor in The White Hart last night and he told that he was thinking of joining the gym. He went in and asked the trainer if he could teach him how to do the splits. The trainer said, “how flexible are you”. He said “I can make Wednesdays and Fridays”

Actually I cannot think of anything I would like less than going to the gym. Being the whippet like shape that I am has its advantages, but as That Nice Lady Decorator notes, rather rudely I think, “you seldom see a 14 stone whippet”.

One of my most ardent followers (David knows who he is) complains that he wants stories of the many characters with whom I come into contact, which is all very well if they get drunk and do something stupid, but that so seldom happens. Oh no, I forgot, it happens all the time. For instance, my picture today is of my accountant Clive “I am not just a boring accountant” Name Withheld (but for arguments sake let’s call him Slater) who is just a boring accountant…until you get a drink inside him and then there is an explosion of madness. Think Rees Mogg when he is sober, think Spike Milligan when he has had a drink. He is shown today trying to gain entrance to my house to discuss something rather important, such as “are you coming to the pub”. He is also prone to wearing some seriously bad taste shirts, many of which I covert, having no taste whatsoever… He is however, a happy customer with currencies experts Currencies Direct, so he is forgiven.

94979ED1-3C4A-41D6-BDD7-789204FE3453

Left to my own devices one evening earlier this week, I took the dogs Ronnie and Reggie (well named it seems; they are both thieves and Ronnie is a psychopath) for an early evening pub crawl in Arundel. That Nice Lady Decorator had decided to go and see Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again, whilst I decided Mamma Mia, I Will Go To The Pub Again, admittedly not such a well known production, chiefly because it exists only in my own head. Any suggestion that I was seen in the Arundel  chip shop in the evening, whilst on my enforced diet, will be met with legal proceedings from my lawyers Messrs Fry, Batter and Mushy who will defend my integrity to the last chip. Anyway, chips are potatoes and, as such, are they not one of your 5 a day?

So to Wickham Festival this evening. I like to have at least one serious ethnic music festival experience each year. This time it is to see Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel. As proper festival goers, we have booked a fashionable hotel with luxury bathroom and shower, booked a nice meal at a swanky local restaurant and then later we will take in the Festival atmosphere. Not for long I hope, I think a cigar and nightcap at the hotel will beckon..

Finally, I have been invited to play golf with Ian “Conservitably”(sic) Lock, so called because of his inability to spell conservatively,  at Cowdray Park next week. Apparently it is rather posh and for some reason he is a little concerned about the golf attire I have in mind. Some of you will be familiar with my pineapple trousers. I say no more.

 

Chris France

Charleston charlatans

July 29, 2018

Last week, That Nice Lady Decorator announced one morning that we were going to Charleston. Dread filled every fibre of my being. “But it is in America and you know what I think of septics” I said using the rhyming slang for Americans. “Not that one, the one in East Sussex” came her reply. So she who must be obeyed instructed me to buy tickets to see where the horrid dance originated, or so I thought, but it seems this Charleston is a farmhouse in Sussex synonymous with The Bloomsbury Set, a collection of artists and writers from the 1920’s. I am afraid to say that my joke about them all being charlatans from Charleston fell on stony ground, and so I had to endure an hour-long tour of an admittedly, very attractive farmhouse and gardens, whilst being regaled with stories about this bunch of “artists”, almost to a man (or women – don’t want to have to employ a GAWP CARD click here for details) conscientious objectors”. Now regular readers of this column will know that I will have no truck with modern art. It is all appalling, without exception. The only thing impressive about it has been its ability to fool enough people for enough time for the likes of the Charleston charlatans to trouser some serious cash. The Emperors New Clothes.

Although I have some admiration for their hippy lifestyle on the 1920’s where all sorts of shagging and changes of partners seemed to be the norm, the fact remains that almost all the paintings in the farmhouse were juvenile daubs, the ceramics embarrassing misshapen rejects and the fabric designs childlike. Worse still, the house was rented throughout their tenure and they also painted on most of the walls and furniture, something that would have had the landlord apoplectic in today’s society. Delinquents all of them.

Ok, that should get some reaction!

I am now well on my way to completing my autobiography provisionally entitled “40 Years Trying Not To Get A Proper Job” which I hope will be ready for Christmas, and will be ideal opportunity for many of you to buy some copies for people you don’t like. As I am summering and simmering in Arundel, We arrived back in time for The World Cup which gave the country a lift, but imagine what it was like back in France, however the picture of the tournament for me was this chap with 3 Lions on His Chest, which I publish today.

IMG_8283

Stevie Wonder, A true English football fan

Normally, That Nice Lady Decorator and I leave France for the summer and return to Arundel to avoid the heat and to enable us to enjoy a cool English summer and get away from the summer heat in France, and save exchanging £ for euros through the excellent services of Currencies Direct. However, if you are living in England, you will know that it has not gone well.  As I write we are suffering 30 degrees again.

 

 

Chris France

Suntanned members and New Zealand

May 14, 2018

So, to lunch yesterday at Trattoria 4, the new Italian restaurant attached to the Bastide de Valbonne, to commiserate with Peachy Butterfield and the beautiful Suzanne Butterfield on the occasion of his birthday. He will have you believe that he is in his early 40’s, but that does not sit easily with his knowledge of crap 60’s pop. Check out “My Pullover” by, reputedly, his favourite singer Jess Conrad. That Nice Lady Decorator has him in his late 60’s, but I think she maybe underestimating. Suffice to say that, despite being an excellent luncheon partner, if someone was to suggest that his age had a 7 in it, I would not be surprised.

It was an enlightening lunch, the pinnacle (I may come to regret use of that adjective) being his revelation that his sunbathing habits had affected his gentlemen’s sausage. It seems that if one sunbathes naked, one must expect ones senior member, normally in repose in such circumstances, to be nicely tanned. However, when roused, it seems that the wrinkles disappear and one is left with something dangling between ones legs that resembles a raccoon. You know the sort of thing, lots of white areas interspersed with those that require suntan cream. However, that is a concept to far beyond the realms of the remit of this family blog to be considered.

I did have one mishap; I was unwise enough to leave our shopping list on the table whilst we had a sharpener Chez France, and discovered when I returned from lunch that, apparently, I needed lube, dildo batteries, edible crutch-less panties, fluffy handcuffs and Peach Juice. I think the last one could lead me to the culprit

I have not blogged for some months as I have been busy getting old myself and travelling. San Francisco was notable in that this was where our suitcase was sent on a tour of the Napa Valley rather than being left at the hotel for us to pick up on the way to New Zealand.  Two days into a world tour and we were down to one suitcase. Amongst the places visited was Auckland.  After a couple of days of acclimatisation, we set off in a hired car to visit Rotarua, pictured today, for its Maori culture and fascinating hot springs and rock pools, which were frankly fantastic.

Rotarua

The rock pools in the Governers Garden at Rotarua

The manager of the hotel in Rotorua asked where we were to visit next. “Hamilton?” he said with a degree of incredulity that I found worrying. “What’s the worst thing about Hamilton” he asked, “Its above sea level” came the answer, and he was right. Luckily were only meeting the train there but that night was long.

Despite being fascinating, it is a backward, beautiful and very annoying country. Where else in the world, apart from some of the less moderate, predominantly Muslim nations, would restrict the sale of alcohol on Good Friday? Even Jesus, I suspect, would have found it easier to get a drink than we did. It’s like this; on public holidays over Easter you are only allowed to buy a drink if you have a “substantial” meal. We had arrived in Wellington, which I had not expected to be stuck in 1950’s Welsh Methodist Church ideology.  Oh well, “2 fish and chips and two pints please.”. But it is not as easy as that. You have to buy another meal with every drink! So with more and more plates of increasingly manky fish and chips each, were ordered,  all thrown away, I worked out that by buying fish and chips each time I wanted a drink, it was costing me £12 a beer at todays Currencies Direct rates, and adding substantially to the mountain of food that must be wasted. The debris must have been visible from outer space.

It gets worse. That lost bag in San Francisco, our stop over on the way, gave me the heaven-sent opportunity to spend up to £600 each on my Amex card due to their travel insurance policy. Some insurance recompense for the irritation, I thought, so I set off for the shops for a spot of free retail therapy, however the New Zealand Government have decreed, in their wisdom,  that no shop may open on Good Friday unless it sells bread, fuel or souvenirs. There is only so much you can spend on these areas, but somehow we managed over NZ$1800, around £850 although frankly, the awful eau de Cologne forced upon me by That Nice Lady Decorator will be festering in its bottle for some decades methinks.

Chris France

Welcome Ronnie and Reggie

January 17, 2018

Some readers will be sad to note the demise of my nemesis, Banjo, the hound much beloved by That Nice Lady Decorator. His appetite for life (and stealing my food, especially cheese) sadly extended in his later years to biting people, but now he is up in that great cheese emporium in the sky and we have not one, but two replacements, Ronnie and Reggie, so with one thief gone for good, what better way to start again with eyes wide open and name them the new puppies after famous thieves? If we are able to train them not steal, perhaps I will be able to describe it is a Kray’s they are going through? But maybe not.

The future of the Valbonne underworld is in their paws

And so last week to a gentlemen’s evening, hosted by Cote d’Azur Villa Rentals, Dancing Greg Harris, even more debonair that usual now that his nose job has settled down. Well, I say nose job, but it was just the removal of a wart of some kind which was bigger than his nose. You would think that going to that amount of trouble one might have chosen a better design but personally I like a Roman nose.

It was a splendid evening, with the Dancing one acquitting himself well in the kitchen with “lapis aux pruneaux” although if I hear of a sudden increase in the disappearance of pet rabbits locally, I will be suspicious. Frankly, I am surprised I could recall the meal once we had worked our way through the 50-year-old aquavit, vintage port and fine ancient Armagnac. Some of us are made of stern stuff, and it did not stop myself and Nick “fallen of his” Pearch (at least that is what his mobility resembled ahead of his hip replacement) completing a thrashing of The Wingco and Master Mariner Mundell at tennis the next morning, (I did not even have to invoke the count back, a little used tennis scoring system I use when it is one-set-all and lunch is beckoning, for which I am justifiably known as the “countback c**t), however the subsequent Currencies Direct lunch was the most hung over I can recall, with only 2 carafes of wine between 5 of us…

The venue was The Source in Opio, a change from our usual venue, The Auberge St Donat, which is closed for “ravalement”, which translates as “cleaning”. It makes you wonder just how dirty it was.  I am hoping that it will just involve merely a lick of paint and perhaps remarking the car park spaces on the tarmac in the restaurant.  No, I am not joking, the management enclosed much of the car park many years ago with waterproof plastic sheeting and have not got around to dealing with the tarmac, and long may that last. Any change might destroy the unique ambience.

One of my regular readers *(there are several, a fact that the Wingco might find hard to understand), has asked for news of the many characters who have graced this column in the past; The Wingco still thinks it is “ghastly”, The Master Mariner Mundell is still unemployed, despite waving around some “Jet Broker” business cards, Peachy Butterfield is still too fat to kidnap, That Nice Lady Decorator has been busy up ladders, mostly held by me, John “800 years of repression” has maimed himself falling over on a green ski run (the easiest), Anthony “Dock Of The” Bay has been named as a Conde Naste expert on Provence, and I am preparing for a nearly significant birthday (actually they are all significant when you get to my age) in Portugal at the end of the month.

Chris France

 

 

I need a GAWP card

January 10, 2018

My generation has lived through the best 5 decades there has ever been to be alive. The 60’s to the Noughties were an explosion of free speech, free love, artistic licence, musical genius, new ideas and freedom of thought.  But now it is over and the creeping madness of political correctness is strangling all that this demi-decade gave my contemporaries and I.

In the current climate I need a something to excuse my attitude. An old persons card that absolves me from responsibility for political correctness, supposed racism and not being gullible enough blindly to support every utterance of Jeremy Corbyn.

Aha, I hear you say, so he’s going political. Well, maybe I am but with a small p (something that in a much more physical sense often affects older gentlemen, but I digress), as I am really beginning to dislike modern attitudes.

Over Christmas, laughing and joking on the way to Roots wine bar on Valbonne with my daughter, Charlie, I was making a joke about something I cannot recall, it may have been an Irish joke, when it became clear from her frown and that phrase “dad, you can’t say that”,  that I had once again transgressed that unwritten modern-day PC code. Monty Python fans will recall the Dinsdale Piranha sketch. It now seems that even Irish jokes are racist. “You need some kind of card that explains why you are how you are”.

Now call me old-fashioned, and I certainly am, but jokes are usually at the expense of someone or something, and in the past , we could mostly all tell a joke and enjoy a joke at our own expense. No longer true it seems. The (horribly political correct) BBC will apparently not show the very popular old series “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” due to the comedic homophobic Sergeant Major, and “Love Thy Neighbour” because of its perceived racism. The latter used to take the piss out of white people! I loved them both and I have close gay friends and have grown up and worked in a multi cultural society. Indeed I helped set up and ran the first British rap record company and I can take a joke, but the brave new world, it seems, cannot.

One has to accept that attitudes have moved on but at what expense? Universities are now often refusing to allow speakers with opinions different to the majority of students to speak? How on earth can one judge what is right of wrong or form ones own opinions when you only hear one side of the argument? I recall my dad saying something like “I may not agree with what you are saying but I would fight to the death for your right to say it”. In other words, freedom.

Then there is the sexual harassment debacle. Many sex pests deserve to be in jail (indeed I once put out a record by Rolf Harris and he certainly deserved to be incarcerated) but many innocent people like Dr Fox have rightly been cleared of ridiculous vindictive accusations, but only at huge expense, wiping out the achievements of their entire working life. To take this further; where is the line now between wooing a girl and sexual harassment? Would “do you want to come in for a coffee” now be potentially open to an accusation of  sexual harassment?. The world only survives by the interaction between make and female. I am glad that I am off the market nowadays as the whole thing has gone to pot (can I say pot? – I will check with my daughter).

A man in need of a GAWP card

Anyway, rant over. But my daughter has put her finger on it. I need a way of excusing, and I hope, explaining away attitudes of myself of my contemporaries, brought up before the world of political correctness seeped like sepsis into our lives; a Get Away With It Old Persons Card,  GAWP for short. A kind of Get Out Of Jail Free Card in Monopoly terms.

It would take the shape of a business card saying something like;

The holder of this card was born  before political correctness and so has no understanding of the offence he causes by his utterances, please excuse him (and stand him up if he has fallen over). I am having some designed and printed as I write. Shortly I shall be better armed to deal with the new world.

I do however, retain one area of expertise in the modern world and that comes in the form of my relationship with Currencies Direct, the only way to move money from one currency to another.

I hope all my readers have a great new year and that all on of my generation bear up as well as can be expected to the increasing paralysis of the new thought police, such as my lovely daughter!

Chris France

BT. I want kill someone

November 23, 2017

What does BT stand for? Bloody Tyrants is one possibility, Bastard Troglodytes is another. Many of you know I am a huge cricket fan. By cricket I mean Test Cricket, and especially the biggest international cricket contest in the sport. It is called The Ashes and is contested between England and Australia. Please stay with me even if you are not into the worlds finest game as this is an apocryphal tale.

As an example of how dedicated I am to Test Cricket (for non cricket fans read maniacally unhinged) 6 years ago, I told my French neighbour that I was about to fly to Brisbane to see the first Ashes Test of 2011. I explained that the game lasted 5 days and that it would take me the best part of 2 days to get there and then the same to get back. Some 3 weeks later I encountered him in his garden. ‘How did the cricket go”. He asked. Brilliantly I replied, “We got a draw”.

His look of utter incomprehension has stayed with me. “So you travelled half way around the world to watch a 5 day match and you are happy with a draw?” He asked incredulously. He did have a point.

Let me give this some context. England had been comprehensively thrashed by Australia on at least 4 occasions since 1968 (the last time we won) but I sensed that this time we had a chance. Looking from a distance, I can see why he was so incredulous, but it illustrates what Test Cricket and particularly that series means to me. Now, fast forward to a few days ago when the new Ashes series began, again in Brisbane. Nowadays I have a Sky TV subscription so, having done a bit of travelling this year (9 countries including the Caribbean, Norway and India, (two of them in the same trip), and being less than 18 months from receipt of a of a drinking fund old age pension of £680 a month, I decided that staying up all night to watch said series at home on Sky TV, who always have the rights, might be a bit less exhausting and financially less obtrusive than actually going to Australia and that is where my plan started to unravel.

So, an afternoon kip and then an alarm call for 12.30am ready for the start at 1am (it is staged in Australia and there is a 12 hour time difference, do please try to keep up). Select Sky TV – it is the only reason I have 2 Sky subscriptions), but, incredibly no sign of The Ashes. Eventually I found in on something called BT Sport, something that I would normally avoid at all costs being mainly a football channel for hooligans, even less alluring than The Asian Babes channel, which I have never watched, honest. I tuned in and saw a message; “you need a subscription to receive this channel”.

I think the kids expression is FFS, which is a very watered down version of the cursing that could be heard by That Nice Lady Decorator, tucked up sensibly in bed. I have subscribed for many years to the fullest possible range of channels in the Sky network, covering such unlikely programmes as Praise And Worship, Mehboobs Kitchen, Khabarnama (poorly spelt Italian programme about pasta?) and Physic Now in order to ensure unfettered access to the cricket.

But it seems that BT have recently snatched the rights to The Ashes from Sky and I was faced with having, very quickly, to extend my subscription. An unpleasant blow you might think, just pay the extra and it’s sorted. But that is where the trouble started.

A ridiculously convoluted battle with the BT website ensued. Name, address, post code, phone number, fine. Previous addresses? That’s all fine but the pedantic information required soon became so time-consuming and irksome that eventually in desperation I went around their stupid website and (an hour later) managed to find a way to watch the cricket on my computer using something called a VPL (Visible Panty Line?) due to the utter ineptitude and requirement for fatuous detail required by BT. Customer number? Who knows? What else would they have wanted? Blood group? Gender? Sexual orientation? Which football team supported? What you had for breakfast? (sorry Mr France, eggs and bacon is a no-no, it offends our vegan principles so that’s us a no to a subscription). What on earth is point of collecting hordes of useless information when all I wanted to do was to pay to see my beloved cricket? If I ever have to deal with BT again I will consider suicide, or murder.

Ok, rant over. Its been quiet here on the south of France after India, well, I say quiet, but one of our neighbours is building an extension producing a pile of rubble that could be seen from outer space, about 3 times bigger than our house and is tunnelling so deep with his hammer drills that I may be able to go direct (should I here plug the services of Currencies Direct?) through the centre of the earth for the next Ashes match in Adelaide. It was so noisy that we had to escape to the seaside for lunch. And that concludes the case for the defence…

Chris France

France to Norway to Delhi

October 30, 2017

Guinness is as close to religion that a diet can get to for the Irish, indeed it is a staple of the Irish diet,  so the news the John “800 years of repression” O Sullivan” has been diagnosed as having a wheat intolerance was as ironic as it was uplifting (for me – I was uplifting a pint of it when the truth was revealed at Roots Wine Bar last Friday). The sight of that most Irish of men in the most Irish bar in Valbonne nursing a creme de menth frappé instead of his usual wheat laden tipple (of course there was no doubt about what his wife Jude “mine’s a Bailey” O Sullivan was imbibing), took my mind off our upcoming routing nightmare.  I blame it on vegetarianism, a cruel marketing hype designed to spoil eating enjoyment, discuss.

Nice to New Delhi via Oslo. A long planned first time trip to India on Monday 30th October should have put paid to any ideas about accepting an invitation to Oslo for a 60th birthday party two days earlier, however That Nice Lady Decorator would have none of it. “We are going. Make the arrangements” was how she framed the polite request to see if was logistically possible. It was, but only by flying from Nice and then directly from Oslo to Heathrow to connect with our flight to India. “But it is 5 degrees centigrade in Norway and 35 in Rajasthan…Have you considered the packing conundrum?… Do you know how old I am?”… Do you know how much that will cost? I whimpered in a way I wrongly considered to be the best way to head The Decorating Operative off at the pass. Thus, as I write, I am at Oslo airport in my overcoat readying myself for the connecting flight to India.

It has been a fabulous weekend with our gay cigar smoking Norwegian pals Morten and birthday boy Siggy (aka Bang And Olafsun). Almost entirely incomprehensible at the dinner of course as all the speeches were in Norwegian and mine is a little rusty, but a splendid affair full of laughter and amusement, although the amusement was mainly the result of the prospect of my pensioners body dragging my wife’s and I winter wardrobe around the old Raj for 2 weeks.

A man in Norway ideally dressed for two weeks in India, with a plastic palm tree growing out of his head

And so, the next stage of the autumn adventure is about to begin. That Nice Lady Decorator has stuffed supplies of Imodium into every crevice in our suitcases, so certain is she that we will struck down with Delhi Belly.

I once used this column to extol the virtues of the services of Currencies Direct, who will give you the best exchange rate whatever the currency, but that was all going to be in the past, however it has been pointed out to me that the very tackiness of my promotion of their fine services Currencies Direct is one of the few redeeming features of this column and so click on the link to join!

New Delhi awaits. In the meantime I have arrived at Heathrow with my winter wardrobe and currently seeking to drink back the cost of my Priority Pass airline lounge cost and I have to say I am making a good fist of it (although that choice of adjective may come home to haunt me in time). I may blog again from India if not in the bog and an internet connection can be found…

Chris France

Valbonne Book Wars

December 14, 2016

Valbonne not only has its own fish and chip shop and Indian restaurant (Le Kashmir), it also has an English Book Shop at which on Friday 16th December 2016 a significant event will take place. Mr Neil “I’m Free” Humphries, (also reputedly known as Mr Somebody) who bears no resemblance (honest) at all to his camp namesake in the popular TV sitcom “Are You Being Served”(OK so his surname is Humphrey, but the joke works better that way) will be signing copies of his new book “Mr Somebody Or Other”.  It is his second book which means he has now caught up with me in one way, although curiously, unlike my good self,  he does not yet seem to have made it to the book shops’ “Local Authors” page. The Valbonne Monologues, my second opus, was self published, I think it is fair to say, to mixed reaction but with sales of well over 200 it has more than broken even leaving me able to describe myself as a successful author. Admittedly, the printing press going bust before paying the final balance did help the bottom line, but facts are facts, however unpalatable that may be to the phalanx of local public schoolboys, malcontents and the idle rich in Valbonne and its surrounds who comprise my friends, and whom seem to dislike a guttersnipe like me claiming to be an author. I did allow them to make comments about the book on the back cover and to be fair some of them are very funny.

Some examples of these comments on The Valbonne Monologues are; “50 Shades of Shite” – Peachy Butterfield, “If you want a gripping tale delivered with fine turns of phrase and evocative prose, read another book” – Anthony “Dock Of The” Bay, “As appealing as sucking warm diarrhoea through a tramps sock” – Mr Clipboard, “As intellectually challenging as reading Heat Magazine with a hangover” – That Nice Lady Decorator and “This book makes those who suggest you should never stop trying look really stupid” – Blind Lemon Milsted. I think in the main these judgments are harsh but fair.

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Whereas Mr Humphries is free, his book is not and, as I have been alerted to the fact that I may be seriously libelled therein, I shall be at the signing at 9.30a.m. sharp on Friday clutching my 10 euros and with my lawyers in tow. The services of Mssrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne have been engaged and will no doubt be set to work once I have read this new tome and I have reason to believe that a certain local estate agent (if he exists) and who if he does is a valued Currencies Direct affiliate, might also have need of their services. Dicky Fox indeed!

On this very busy day, the penultimate Friday before Christmas, I shall also be hosting a very selective Christmas lunch for around 16 people later the same day at the magnificently ethnic Auberge St Donat for some of my faithful Currencies Direct customers and affiliates.  Both Mr Humphries and Dicky Fox were invited to lunch but for varying reasons neither seem inclined to attend. I think our real estate friend is on his way to London and then Australia, which seems an odd coincidence on launch day.  Perhaps it is the requirement to wear a Christmas jumper, it being officially Christmas Jumper Day in aid of Save The Children that has sent him on his way, but Mr Somebody? of what can he be afraid?  I shall no doubt be reporting at some stage in the future how the bemused french plumbers, gardeners and labourers who frequent this restaurant reacted to a plethora of English revellers resplendent in their Xmas attire and to any unexpected events at the launch…

 

Chris France

 

Fish ‘n chips in Valbonne

November 21, 2016

One of the most evocative attractions for me to move to Provence when the opportunity arose some 12 years ago was the food. A healthy Mediterranean diet, all that olive oil, fresh vegetables, salads in the outdoors and although not by any means the only lure, it was certainly amongst them. So what was I doing in a Fish And Chip shop in Valbonne?

Like when some climber was asked why he was tackling Everest, I did it because in was there. Valbonne is already very Anglicised, a fact that I personally like because it has the best of both worlds, all the French stuff that attracts us Brits, the sun, the quality and quantity of restaurants, the ancient unspoiled village with a sun dappled square, the architecture, the sea within 20 minutes drive but you can get away without speaking French, there is even an Indian restaurant (how British is that! – very British; it is the most popular food of the nation), and now we have a Fish And Chip shop, so I felt compelled to try it and quite decent it is too.

When I discovered last week that it was about to open I was intrigued, but when it became clear that it was being run by a French family I groaned with disappointment. It is a bit like how a Frenchman might view the idea of escargots or frogs legs being served in an English pub, but they nearly got it right. Hake or cod very nicely cooked without too much batter, mushy peas, and as you can see from my picture today even supplying HP Sauce and Heinz Gherkin Relish, but the let down was the chips. However, overall a very good effort, except for the price. 16 euros for cod and chips? That’s about £13.80 at today’s excellent Currencies Direct exchange rates – it would have been half that amount the Arundel chippy, but I guess you don’t get to sit down and have a generous glass of wine with it there. If you did you might get beaten up for being gay.

I know I have not been very active with this column recently but life is still going on down here. The regular Gentlemen’s lunches have followed Friday morning tennis as night follows day. As is customary, the Wingco and I thrashed Master Mariner Mundell and Blind Lemon Milsted in two sets of blinding tennis last Friday (blinding due to the position of the sun and my judicious use of the lob), but I don’t recall what happened the week before. For new readers of this column the venue for lunch is always the Auberge St Donat which has a fixed 4 course menu including 1/4 wine for 16 euros. The operative phrase here is “including wine”. Should there be three of you dining and collectively you want red, white and rose wine (a tricolour the Wingco calls it) they bring you a bottle each. Once consumed one looks around the restaurant to see if others have left any and then careful wine minesweeping (winesweeping?) is enacted. Because of the slight nautical connotation to the word minesweeping you will not be surprised to find out that the Master Mariner Mundell is particular adept in this department. In fact I may hereafter refer to him as the Master Minesweeper Mundell.

Banter is at the centre of discussion and this collection of mostly public schoolboys generally take kindly to my presence even if it mostly so they can extract some humour at my expense . I like to think I give as good as I get, which is usually signalled by comments aimed at me such as “well he didn’t go to a proper school” or “whilst we were being educated he was out nicking cars”. This is often after discussions about spanking or having a fag (this is a particular area of deliberate misunderstanding on my part. Having a fag when I was young was about sloping out to the cycle sheds for a crafty No 6 tipped, whereas for the public schoolboys there is a very different interpretation).

As they might say “toodle pip for now, see you after the next exeat”.

Chris France

President For Lift Going Down

October 17, 2016

What better on a Sunday than to attend an “organised” walk followed by a communal lunch in the hills behind Gourdon in pleasant autumnal Provençale sunshine? Very little in my opinion and it would have been a very nice experience had it been err… organised, if lunch had been booked and if I had been invited.

The A.R.A (who knows what it stands for? – perhaps A Rabble Arrive?) was, I think, the brainchild some years ago of renowned Provençal art and history Svengali and renowned smoothie Anthony “Dock Of The” Bay who, having initiated the event, failed to appear on the walk at all.

The ARA has a President For Lift (he would have been President For Life but for an unfortunate typo a few years back) Dancing Greg Harris from Cote D’Azur Villa Rentals and Currencies Direct affiliate had inadvertently leaked details to me at the gentleman’s post-tennis lunch at the Auberge St Donat on Friday, marked by a distinct lack of tennis due to inclement weather. I have previously been denied membership of this Rabble, despite never applying for it, I think because I didn’t go to the right school or I am a successful author or something (there are just a few hard copies of The Valbonne Monologues left, although it is also available on Kindle) which of course made me more than determined to turn up. “Meet at 10 in the square at Cipieres for coffee” a beautiful old village in the hills beneath Greoliere, said the invitation and by 10 past 10 the Rabble had swelled to close to 20. It might have been a bonus for the gathering group to have had the ability to purchase said coffee but such was the organisational ability of the President For Lift (who had still not appeared) nowhere was open.

Some 45 minutes later, minus the thin grey bum fluff of a beard of which he was so proud and that had caused so much merriment for the Friday lunchers, and squirming embarrassment for our esteemed leader, the now clean shaven Dancing Greg arrived with scarcely an apology and then proceeded to take another 20 minutes to park his car. This was now becoming a worry because clearly the real reason for an outing of this nature is for what Peter Mayle, author of A Year In Provence, when asked to describe living in the South of France in one word replied “lunch”. I think it was about two miles into the walk and about 300 yards higher up the mountain when I asked the President For Lift about the luncheon arrangements. It was at this moment he pushed the metaphorical button which said “going down”.

Emergency luncheon venue

Emergency luncheon venue

“Err… Nowhere local could take 20 for lunch” he said casually and strode away from me up the hill and I could sense my life blood leaving me. Here I was with That Nice Lady Decorator and the irritating mutt Banjo, plus local luminaries such as The Master Mariner Mundell, Dangerous Jackie Lawless, Blind Lemon Milsted, and Nick “Falling Off His” Pearch on the side of a mountain at midday on a Sunday with no luncheon arrangements in place. Catastrophe!

I think I was in shock. Turning back immediately I was told by our President that the ARA did not like quitters (he seems to forget that I am not a member) when I said that I urgently needed to reach the ground floor. Suffice to say that a small select group descended the hill at a much quicker pace than we had ascended and after a swift dash to Greoliere the thirstiest and most determined walkers found solace and lunch at Le Relais. I can laugh about it now as I have forgotten the blind panic that had gripped me earlier. As to the rest of the group? They may still be on the mountain for all I know… I suspect the President For Lift is still out of order.

Chris France

Montserrat 

September 18, 2016

The words “surreal” and “Otway” have forever been linked in my little world. Having paid for the first ever recording by John Otway in 1972, and having never managed to make any money from him for the provision of countless services, money and help I have happily and excitedly provided over the some 45 years, I thought perhaps this week would provide me with some solace.

He had this ridiculous plan. Just as ridiculous as the dozens of stupid but entertaining schemes he has hatched over the years. His idea was to crowd fund and record his first new album in a decade, but in Montserrat at the private studio at Sir George Martins house.  The last people to record on the island were The Rolling Stones. Such is the value to tourism his visit has generated that he has already received a visit and endorsement from the Prime Minister of the island and the Governor is staging a reception at The Governors Official Residence.
I have always enjoyed being involved with the great scams and the entertainment working with him provides, but the opportunity to go to Montserrat to “help” him record his first new album of songs in over 10 years, and to rightfully claim it as a business expense (FC Exchange customers are all over the world) seemed just one more absurd rung on the Otway ladder to Otexcess, his own vision of success Otway style.

Once the decision on the venue had been made, a decision on when to go was next. “When is the cheapest time to visit? asked Otway. The answer was during the hurricane season. “Perfect” he said, “Let’s go!” The website advice for fans wishing to join him and his band for this trip to this Caribbean gem suggested bringing an umbrella and a hard hat.
There is a very inauspicious date on Montserrat. On 17th September 1965 a Pan Am jet crashed into a hillside on the island killing 33 people. On the same date in 1989 a hurricane hit the island destroying many of the buildings including the famous Air Studios owned by Sir George Martin and in 1995, Once again in September, The Soufriere Hills volcano erupted with such force it all but destroyed the capital, Plymouth. The 17th was a particularly bad day. Pyroclastic flows of over 600 degrees centigrade swept down the mountainside at 100 miles and hour and still it is deserted and entry allowed only under police escort.

The third floor of a building in Plymouth, now under about 30 feet  of volcanic rock and ash.

As it turned out, the 17th September 2016 was the date set for The Governors Reception for the Otway followers (about 50) who had made it to the island. Set at Government House, an idyllic building nestling by the sea, everything started so well, but then the swarm of flying ants sent most people in from the pool (yes, of course The Governors House has a pool overlooking the ocean) and then the lightning started….
Chris France

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