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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 the best currency exchange company F.C. Exchange, 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

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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 FC Exchange.

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 FC Exchange, 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 FC Exchange. 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 FC Exchange 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 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 FC Exchange, 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

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