Friday, 31 January 2014

Wot, no sun?

Just a couple of days ago I posted pictures of views on our journey home from Les Lavandes.  That's what we called our cottage down there in deepest France - Les Lavandes.  It was the nearest we could get to a translation of Lavender Cottage and actually translates literally as The Lavenders.  But that's another story.

Looking back at what I have just typed I realise I lied to you.  I do apologise; lying is something I hesitate to do, especially when I know darn well that I'm going to be found out in very short order.  I didn't post those pictures a couple of days ago - I posted them about 10 days ago, scheduled to appear on Wednesday.  It was on Wednesday that we drove back.  The first hour and a half or so was in fog.  Come to think of it, the fog lasted longer than that - more like two hours.  Then we had some fitful... well, not sun, but not fog.  Overcast.  Then rain on and off.  Until we left the train at Folkestone, after which it rained continually for the remaining 90 minutes drive.

Our journey home takes us on a different route from the outward trip.  Well, it does for about half the journey.  We leave our village and head for Rennes, the biggest city (I think) in Brittany, after which we turn towards the north-east.  If we are lucky, we get a distant glimpse of Mont St Michel.

From there, we head almost due east, parallel with the invasion beaches, through the hilly Normand bocage.  The views along this stretch are stunning - when it's sunny.  On Wednesday this was the best on offer - it looks much better in sun!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Digging in

I do enjoy our sojourns over the other side in la belle France - except for one thing.  The morning after.  That is, the morning after our return.  There always seems to be far too much to be done: there is the wine to stow in the under-the-stairs wine rack (let's get our priorities right!), the pile of post to be sorted into three separate stacks (think about, deal with today , and bin straight away), possibly a message or two on the answerphone that might need dealing with in similar fashion to the post, put one lot of washing in the machine (and as this was the first lot to go through the new machine, also read the instruction manual), check e-mails (same procedure as the letters),and trawl through the vast and ever-increasing number of blogs I like to read (and this time there were far too many comments I wanted to leave for me to waste time indulge myself and my fellow bloggers), and so on and so on.

One of the bigger jobs in (surprise, surprise!) connected with Lions.  Not long before we took ourselves off I was chatting with one of my fellow Lions - the one who used to investigate grant applications - and he said that he saw little point in continuing his membership of the Lions Club as he now had nothing to contribute and no job to do.  I suggested he should revisit an idea we discussed briefly a year or more ago - funding some sort of project for young carers.  Geoff being Geoff, I now have a great stack of paperwork - all to back up a proposal that we pay some £2,500 to provide a short residential break this summer for a dozen young carers in the 8 - 10 year age range.  I have no doubt we shall get this approved very easily at the next business meeting.

And now I must get the dog out for her afternoon walk.  More tomorrow.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Heading north

Many French motorways have very little traffic - like this:

The trouble is that it can become boring with so little traffic and one's mind starts to drift.  It's even worse at night when it's raining and the wiper blades become hypnotic!  At least there is the scenery to see during daylight.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Last full day

The weeks in France do speed by.  We would very much like to stay longer but there is just too much to be done back in Brighton.  This being our last day for the time being, we will almost certainly eat at this restaurant tonight as it the Old Bat's favourite.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Reviews? Bah, humbug!

I may have said before that I can't remember my last visit to the cinema.  I would have said that my last visit to the theatre was even longer ago but I suddenly recalled going to the pantomime once some years back when the Lions took a party of schoolchildren.  And there was the time the Old Bat and I stayed with our daughter and she took us to see Miss Saigon.  The distaff side raved about it but, in all honesty, I was bored.

Given our non-attendance at both theatre and cinema, I can't see much point in wading through the reviews in the paper.  Granted, there are occasions when we might buy a DVD and watch a film but by then the film is so old that almost everybody else has forgotten it.  I do, however, glance at the television reviews.  Sometimes.

I have yet to work out if those reviewers the papers use are the same sort of people that I meet on a day-to-day basis.  It seems to me that when the reviewers give wild acclaim to a forthcoming show, both the OB and I disagree with them.  Perhaps the problem arises because the reviewers are arty types whereas I like to think that the old Dutch and I are plain, down-to-earth types.

And it's not just reviews published before a show is aired.  I sometimes glance at what the newspaper reviewer has to say about the previous evenings television.  I only do it sometimes because I am not really a masochist and reading the purple prose about a programme I watched for all of five minutes before pressing the 'off' button gets me agitated.  Or maybe, as was the case recently, the reviewer is just so . . .  Grrr!  Only the other day the writer was scathing about a programme, calling it 'twee', and going on to say, patronisingly, that he (or maybe it was a she) supposed it amused the masses - or words to that effect.

What's so special about reviewers, anyway?

Just think how awful it would be if, one day, I found myself sitting next to a reviewer at a dinner.  I would find it very difficult to bite my tongue but would have to try for the sake of my host and hostess.

Sunday, 26 January 2014


This is a corner of the living room at Les Lavandes, our hideaway.  Both the writing desk and the chair have been recycled.  The desk was from an interview room at a branch of the bank where I worked.  When the room was revamped, this was to be thrown out.  I rescued it and used it as my desk when I left the bank and worked, self-employed, from home.  The chair - which is a lot more comfortable than it looks - was in the far corner of a junk shop in the Dordogne, covered in dust and cobwebs.  I know it is comfortable because there was one night when I could not lie comfortably due to arthritis and I managed to sleep pretty well in this chair.  Apart from simply brushing off the dust and cobwebs, I had to give the chair a good rub down with wire wool and methylated spirits to clean off the residual dirt after getting it home. Indeed, I had to rub it down several times. And that wasn't particularly easy as the chair has numerous tricky bits as you can see from the picture below. Both the chair and the table were stripped (by me) and re-polished and they get the occasional touch of beeswax to keep them looking good.

I haven't identified the wood the chair is made of but I think it is oak. What is not obvious from the picture is that the arms curve. Now in a modern chair I would expect the wood to have been bent, but that wasn't done with this chair. Those arms were actually carved to shape. The seat is covered in a sort of leatherette - what was, I think, called rexine - which might help to date it. I suspect that it was made in the 1920s.

Saturday, 25 January 2014


Fluffy was a small, white dog, a small, white dog with a particularly fine, feathery tail - hence his name.  He was owned by a couple who ran a village pub, a childless couple who regarded Fluffy as their surrogate child and treated him as such.  Sad to say, the day came - as come it must for all dogs - for Fluffy to head off to that large kennel in the sky.  The publican and his wife were distraught; they just could not conceive of a life without their precious Fluffy.  The regulars at the pub were upset as well, Fluffy having been a favourite of them all.  So the publican decided to cut off Fluffy's beautiful feathery tail and nail it up behind the bar.

When Fluffy arrived at the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter took one look and, aghast, exclaimed, "But Fluffy, what has happened to your beautiful tail?"

Fluffy explained how the publican had cut it off to act as a reminder to him, his wife and all the customers at the village pub.  Saint Peter looked upset.

"You can't come into Heaven like that," he said.  "You'll just have to go back and get your tail."

"But how can I do that?"

Saint Peter explained that if Fluffy walked along the lane he would come to a layby and in that layby would be a cloud.

"The driver will be there," said Saint Peter, "so all you have to do is tell him where you need to go.  But you must be back here by seven o'clock in the morning!  Don't forget, now!"

Sure enough, Fluffy had not been walking very long before he came to the layby.  As Saint Peter had promised, there was a cloud parked up with a driver dozing on it.  Fluffy climbed aboard and told the driver where he needed to go.  Without a word, the driver - a taciturn sort of chap - entered the details in his sat-nav and off they set.

When they landed on the village green everywhere was dark.  It was so late that even the street lights had been switched off.  But that didn't deter Fluffy, who knew the village very well - and besides, dogs rely more on scent than sight.  The pub, just like the rest of the village, was in darkness but Fluffy made his way unerringly to the back door, his usual entrance.

He scratched at the door.  Nothing happened.

He scratched again.  Still nothing happened.

Taking two paces back, he sat down, threw back his head and howled as loudly as he could.  A window flew open and the publican stuck his head out.

"You're right!" he called over his shoulder to his wife.  "It is Fluffy.  What are you doing, Fluffy?  What do you want?"

Fluffy explained how Saint Peter had said he couldn't go into Heaven without his tail.

"Could you just stick it back for me, please?"

"I can't do that now," replied the publican.  "You'll have to come back tomorrow lunch time."

"Please," said Fluffy in his most pleading voice.  He went on to explain that Saint peter had told him he must be back before seven o'clock.

"I can't help that," said the publican.  "You've been a pub dog all your life.  You know very well that I can't retail spirits after hours."

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Fingers crossed

If everything works out as it should, yesterday we will have done this

 and passed through here

 to arrive here, where we will remain incommunicado while recharging our batteries.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Buffalo Theory

Otherwise known as the survival of the fittest.  And it nothing whatsoever to do with a chain of restaurants in France called Buffalo Grill.

We regularly stop off at one of the chain on the way to our hideaway because it's convenient.  They do attempt a "wild west" theme and insist (usually) on playing bad country and western music.  They are supposedly open from 11.00 (or maybe it's 11.30) until 23.00 (or maybe 23.30) but, this being France, that isn't always the case.

On the way home we used to stop off at the Calais branch before catching the train but the service there has become so lackadaisical that we have transferred our allegiance to a different eatery.

Anyway, this has nothing whatever to do with the Buffalo Theory.

It is a well-known fact that buffalo move in herds.  When a herd is panicked, the animals follow the swiftest and fittest, with the slowest, oldest beasts at the back.  It is those more decrepit animals that are caught by predators, thereby ensuring the survival of the fittest.

It is also a known fact (according to some kill-joys) that alcohol kills off brain cells.  But if we combine the two facts, we see that what alcohol does is kill off the brain cells that are already on their way out, so ensuring that the fittest brain cells survive.  It follows that the regular consumption of alcoholic beverages will ensure that the brain stays at its best by killing off the duff cells.

Will you (hic) pash the bo... bot... bottle, pleash?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A breath of fresh air

We - that is the Old Bat and me - decided the time had come.  Actually, this being a small decision, I took no part in it and the Old Bat made the decision on her own.  It had been part of our life for almost seven years, but having to call out the engineer every week was just a bit too much.  Besides, the manufacturer has gone bust and part that really needed replacing is not available anywhere.  So we now have a new washing machine.

It arrived just after lunch, by which time I was out with the dog.  As it was a really glorious afternoon with much blue in the sky and not a lot of wind, I spent a few minutes staring from the bedroom window to see if there were sheep in the second of the fields I wanted to walk.  I could see quite easily that there were no cows in the first and the second looked clear as well, so that's where we went, up Scare Hill and on past the Chattri.  The views are magnificent.  This isn't what might be called "serious" countryside, but the views up the Standean valley and across the Downs are somehow calming, and looking back the sea was shining silver.  I thought how little this might have changed, not just since a hundred years ago, but even two hundred.  Then I thought again.  Back in the early years of the 20th century much of the South Downs, this being sheep grazing country, was open and unfenced.  At least, that is what I have been led to believe.  Now there are fences and almost as many cows as sheep.

Standean valley
One thing would stand out as being different: the Chattri.  This is a memorial to Indian soldiers who were injured on the Western Front during World War I and brought to Brighton, where the Royal Pavilion had been turned into a hospital.  53 of the soldiers who died were cremated at this spot.

The Chattri has been cleaned since I took this picture.

A distant view of the Chattri.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Can spring be far behind?

It was Percy Bysshe Shelley who first asked that question and it's one I ask myself quite regularly about this time of the year.  Winter in England - and by 'winter' I mean the months of November, December, January and February - tend to be dank and dreary with none of the crisp, blue skies that we associate with, say, Switzerland.  But neither do we get the snow that they have in the Swiss Alps.  Not usually, anyway.  At this time of the year it is hard to imagine myself walking the dog in t-shirt, shorts and deck shoes without socks.  (That would be me wearing the clothes - not the dog.)  The Old Bat assures me that it has happened!

Mind you, this winter has not been cold.  Wet, certainly, but not cold.  Although I have taken to wearing a cap and gloves when walking the dog I have not yet brought the scarf out of mothballs.  As I say, it has been wet.  No doubt we shall be hearing that last month was the wettest December since sometime in the past, although I would have expected that to have been news by now so maybe it wasn't.  It just felt like it - especially to all those poor souls whose houses have been flooded.  And still this past weekend there were traffic diversions and rail delays due to flooding, and that was in Sussex, hardly a county prone to the problem.

It has been noticeable that there have been fewer birds such as goldfinches and greenfinches in the garden, presumably because there has been ample food for them in the countryside.  I have seen the first daffodil in bloom (those outside Tony's house are particularly early every year - sometimes even before Christmas) and the bluebells have sent leaves two or three inches out of the ground.  There are robins singing in the park all year round but they have been joined now by blackbirds, it seemed like dozens of them this morning, and I have seen a wood pigeon performing his courtship routine.  Or maybe he was just practicing.

But we must not be complacent.  There is still plenty of time for winter to hit us!  These pictures demonstrate that.  The first was taken on a Saturday afternoon in February 2012 as we were driving through Normandy, the second the following morning only a few miles away.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The green, green grass of home

There has been a spate of blogs about towns people have lived in, the charge having been led by Buck who was closely followed by Skip and the Old AF Sarge - and quite possibly others whom I have yet to come across.  I did think about following suit, I even started drafting something, but then I decided that nobody would really want to read here about the dump small town where I was born.  The most exciting thing to do on a Sunday evening was to watch the traffic jam of people trying to get through on their way back to London after a day at Margate!

It all led me to ruminate once more on one of my chief worries.  Although perhaps to describe it as a worry is putting it a bit strongly.  It doesn't bother me enough to keep me awake at night and I don't think it will really come to pass before I'm pushing up the daisies.  Or, more likely, fertilizing the roses.

My worry is this: what will happen when every village has swollen to become a town and every town has swollen to become a conurbation?  I live in Patcham, right on the northern edge of the city of Brighton & Hove.  Less than a hundred years ago, Patcham was a small village.  Back then, Preston was an even smaller village about halfway between Patcham and the wicked city of Brighton.  Since then, Brighton has swallowed up Saltdean, Rottingdean, Bevendean, Patcham, Preston and other what are now areas such as Hollingbury, Hollingdean, Coldean and Moulsecoombe.  What was the small town of Hove expanded to take in Aldrington, West Blatchington, Hangleton and even the town of Portslade.  Now the coastal conurbation spreads a distance of some 30 miles, from Littlehampton in the west to Seaford in the east.  How long will it be before Littlehampton joins up with Bognor and Seaford with Eastbourne?

England is already the most densely populated country in Europe - after Monaco, Vatican City, Malta and San Marino and I'm not sure that, Malta apart, they count as "real" countries.  And our population continues to grow, due, very largely, to immigration.  We already have a shortage of housing and more homes are needed to house our existing population.  With people living longer, a net inward migration and the increase in the number of broken marriages, there is going to be more and more pressure for house-building to be allowed on green belts.  And a growing population will need more than just houses.  Schools, hospitals, work places, water treatment facilities, power stations, roads, shops - all add to the destruction of England's "green and pleasant land".

I know we won't see the complete concreting of, for example, the South Downs in my lifetime, but what about my grandchildren?  Will their children ever see a wood or a green field?

That's my worry - and there seems to be precious little I can do to ease it.

I don't think I can do much more than enjoy the view while it is there, like this summer scene looking across the Downs from High Park Wood.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Always paddle your own canoe

That's the second line of an old proverb written many years ago in my autograph album by somebody I don't remember.  But the first line is what I really wanted to focus on today: Love many, trust a few.

They (whoever 'they' might be) tell us never to trust what we read in the papers.  And yes, I would tend to go along with that.  Certainly our local paper has a reputation for getting things wrong!  But more about newspapers shortly.

Another class of people I tend not to trust are weather forecasters.  Young Alexis told us last night that today would be a crisp winter's day.  Hmm.  As I set out to walk the dog after breakfast, the rain started.  Granted, it lasted only a couple of minutes and wasn't exactly heavy during those minutes, but we still - a couple of hours later - have 10/10 cloud cover and it's more muggy than crisp.  But I suppose things could always change.

Getting back to newspapers, I thought I read on Thursday in our local free-sheet that the seafront is still covered by the beach after the recent storms and that the Council are waiting until after the spring tides before bringing in machinery to put the beach back where it should be.

"Ha ha!" thought I.  "This is my opportunity."

I had refrained from going onto the sea front to try photographing the waves during the storms so, having read (or thinking I had read) that the pebbles on the sea front were up to the level of the seats on the benches, I decided to take a trip to the front.  I guessed there would be time after doing the shopping at Sainsbury's and collecting to Old Bat from the MS Centre yesterday morning.

And what a cop-out!  Mind you, the sea itself was quite impressive.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Rainbow's End

Discussion at a Lions Club meeting about a possible children's outing reminded me of something that happened quite a few years back.

It was in 1990 that we received a letter from Salisbury Lions Club.  They had written to a number of Lions Clubs, of which Brighton was one, asking each of the clubs to write a letter as if it was from a gnome who was travelling round the country.  The letters were to be sent to a bed-ridden lady in Salisbury, who was in considerable pain, in the hope that they might brighten her days a little.

As it happened, Brighton Lions were organising a day's outing to an activity park at Bognor Regis for disadvantaged children.  This seemed an ideal subject for a letter from the gnome, who wrote:

"Wow! What a weekend that was! I finally made it to Brighton - a place that I have wanted to visit for years. The weather wasn't really beach weather though, and in any case the beach is all stones. At least, that was all I could see, but the locals assured me there is some sand when the tide goes down a bit.

"The Lions Club felt it might give you the wrong impression if I told you that I spent the weekend in Brighton, so they very kindly took me on an outing they had arranged for disadvantaged children from the town. Apparently this was the second such outing this year. They must be mad! There were over 50 children involved this time and the Lions took them to a large playground-come-activity centre called Rainbow's End in Bognor Regis, which meant an hour on the coach each way.

"It was after lunch that the fun really started. One little boy - only about 4' 6'' tall, but 10 years old - claimed he had been pushed into the pond by a duck. After consoling him, one of the Lions suggested he should sit in the sun for a while to dry off. No fear, he said. He was 'going back to kill that bloody duck!'"


I have no pictures of ducks, but you might like to try this.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Submerged in paper

Almost drowning in it, in fact.

(As an aside, Blogger is playing up - again!  That little bar across the top offering "next blog" and "new post" etc has disappeared.  It's been doing that quite a lot lately.  Could it just be me?)

But to get back to the paper.  It's all a result of last night's Lions meeting.  This was the first since I took over responsibility for grants and donations and I had three proposals to put to the meeting plus one other case to be discussed.  I'm pleased to say that the three proposals were accepted nem con or maybe even unanimously so we easily spent some ten grand - £5000 to Martlets Hospice, £2500 to Leo House at Home and £3000 to Brighton & Hove Community First Responders.  The first two are for general use: we have supported Martlets since even before it was open, and Leo House was set up by Brighton Lions.  The £3000 will cover the cost of two kits needed by the volunteers, plus a bit extra to cover things like parking permits, vehicle signage etc.

I was slightly surprised how easily the club agreed to the other request.  I had been undecided and I full expected there to be a lot of discussion and an almost even split on whether to give the money requested by an out-of-work man who had been an alcoholic drug user and has lived in Brighton for only a few months.  He wanted us to pay for a course which, he hopes, will enable him to get work helping others.  Now all I have to do is arrange for the course providers to accept nearly £1300 from the Lions and apply it to his course fees, and write to the others sending them their cheques.

There's even more paper relating to the Housing Society.  We had wanted to change the rules - the Society's constitution, the equivalent of a company's Memorandum and Articles of Association.  But what a palaver!  The new rules have to be approved by the Financial Conduct Authority, a government quango, and I as secretary had to go to a solicitor to swear a statutory declaration.  We had the proposed changes to the rules looked at by a (different) solicitor who thought them OK, only to have them turned down by the FCA.  I have now redrafted them and have a whole wodge of paper to resubmit to the FCA.

So I had better get on with it.


Skip posted a pic of the main north-south railway in Anderson and I expressed surprise that it was single track.  It seems that is the norm in the States whereas here in England, at least two tracks are usual.  This is the London to Brighton line as it enters the tunnel under Clayton Hill.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The 7.39

It was at the beginning of last week that Auntie Beeb gave us the much-hyped two-part 2014 copy of Brief Encounter, being The 7.39.  In case you were on another planet or maybe just not able to watch the BBC or had a better offer anyway, I'll give you a synopsis.

Man catches regular train to London, stands by seat to put coat on rack, woman sneaks into seat.  They row.  Next day, meet again and chat, thereby breaking Commuters Rule No 1. Do I really need to go on?  I have to admit that my telegazing didn't get too much beyond this stage.  It just didn't seem to have the je ne sais quoi of the Celia Johnson/Trevor Howard original.  But it did jolt into the forefront of my mind a few memories that I had thought long forgotten.

It was a bit over 25 years ago that I started commuting from Brighton to London.  For the first few years, I caught my morning train at Brighton's Preston Park station.  I don't remember the actual time it was due at Preston Park but it must have been somewhere about twenty to eight.  The train having started only at the central Brighton station, I had no great difficulty getting a seat.  I fell in with a group who also, for the most part, came from Brighton although the last two boarded at Hassocks (I think).  This was back in the days when trains had both smoking and non-smoking carriages and we were all smokers.

From London Bridge station I took the Northern Line tube to Old Street and then had a five minute walk to the office, but after some time I realised that I could catch a bus at London Bridge which took me closer to the office, so that is what I did.  There was a very attractive woman - I almost wrote "girl" but she must have been in her mid-30s - sometimes caught the same bus.  Whence she came - other than from the railway station - and where she went, I have and had no idea.  But I was on a diet  so a bit of a nibble on the side was right out of the question.  Pity, really, because she was extremely good looking.

I never did speak to her so that's as close as I ever got to a brief encounter or a 7.39 moment.


Am I dreaming or was it really sunny yesterday?  Today it is dank and foggy, not exactly the best of weather in which to go walking.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Food, glorious food

I am most decidedly in a state of eager anticipation as the Old Bat is cooking steak and kidney pudding for tonight's dinner.
Steak and kidney, steak and kidney, steak and kidney pud,
That's the kind of lovely grub that really does you good!
I like steak and kidney pie as well, but for me, the pudding has the edge.  Mind you, I can fully understand why folks living in the semi-tropics - or even in an English summer - don't eat it; it really is a gut-filler, just what is needed on a cold day.

We had a frost again this morning - just.  It was only on the cars, though, with a faint trace on the grass in the park.  I see the temperature is forecast to stay at about 3 degrees today (that's Celsius, by the way) here in sunny Brighton (and the sun is shining) but we have not yet had any really cold weather.  There's still time, of course.  It has been noticeable that there have been far fewer birds on our neighbour's feeder this winter than the last couple so I presume the absentees are still out in the fields and woods foraging for themselves.  Long may it last!

But to get back to the main topic:  food.

I have memories, though I would hesitate to describe them as "fond", of eating in English restaurants about 50 years ago.  It was about that time that a chain of restaurants became popular - Berni's.  There's was a simple menu:  prawn cocktail for starters, steak and chips for the main course (although they did introduce surf and turf - something I never tried) and Black Forest gateau for dessert.  Oddly enough, although both the prawn cocktail and the Black Forest gateau went out of favour for many years, they have re-appeared on menus recently.

I am happy to say that English catering has come on a long way since the days of the Berni brothers!

I'm not sure about the mushy peas in this pic I've copied from Google, but doesn't the pudding make your mouth water?

Monday, 13 January 2014


I’ve not yet had the time to look far into this morning’s newspaper but I suspect that somewhere in its pages will be reference to the French President, François Hollande.  It seems that a French magazine has published details of an alleged affair he has been conducting and it made the front page of yesterday’s paper with further details inside.  Well, the front page simply had a large photo (did I really mean “simply”?) of the attractive lady with whom he is supposed to have been playing postman’s knock and even saucier party games.  Maybe it was just a slow news day for that to feature on the front page.  Perhaps I’ll just give the editor the benefit of the doubt as I, and I’m sure most Englishmen, don’t give a tuppenny damn about the French President having it off with whatever woman is silly enough to get into bed with him.

There is a rather peculiar relationship between the French and the English.  I don’t count the Scots or the Welsh as foreign so, apart from the Irish, the French are our nearest foreign neighbours.  Indeed, for we who live in the south-east of England, the French are far and away our nearest foreigners even if the Welsh, Scots and Irish are included.  But for centuries the English and the French have been at loggerheads.  And those loggerheads have been pretty violent, with the 100 Years War and the Napoleonic Wars, perhaps, at the forefront.  Those pesky Frogs even raided Brighton at one time!  And to add insult to injury, they sided with the Yanks when we were at war with them back in 1812 or 1813 or whenever it was.  Even now, when we have been allies for at least a hundred years, there is a love/hate relationship.

I can’t be absolutely certain, but I think that the love/hate bit is more on the side of we Rosbifs with the Frogs being shoulder-shruggingly phlegmatic.  Most of the time.  As far as we English are concerned, we love France.  We love the warmth of the south, we love the food (or most of it), we love the wine.  There’s just one fly in the ointment.  Or rather, 65 million or so flies.  The general attitude is that France would be wonderful – were it not for all those French people living there!  And those French farmers will block roads with their tractors when they all too frequently want to protest that the Government or the EU or somebody is not giving them enough subsidy.  And the fishermen blockade the ports to stop we English getting into the country simply because we have the nerve to complain that they are allowed to fish in our waters whereas the British aren’t.

 Having said that, the foreign country most visited by the English is . . .  You’ve guessed it – France.  And the country where most English people settle as ex-pats or buy second homes?  France again.

Oh well, that’s the English for you.


Those clever clogs at Google have added to the photo I posted on Saturday: