Not a shewee, but nicer

When Mya mentioned that she had something for me on her blog I thought it might be a shewee, something she had written about recently. The manufacturers of this object describe it as “a portable urinating device for women .. a molded plastic funnel that provides women with a simple, private and hygienic method of urinating without removing clothes whilst standing AND sitting.” How clever is that?!

But no, Mya’s gift is not a shewee, but an award:

Now, isn’t that kind? The last and only other award I earned was for French, when I was eleven, so thank you very much, Mya, I shall treasure this one. 🙂

A confession

Yesterday I took a visitor shopping for wine. “You’ve lived here for so long, you must be an expert,” she said.

No, I assured her, I was not.

“But you must know what’s good?”

No, I do not.

Because, you see, I am not a wine connoisseur. I don’t, to be utterly truthful, particularly like wine, and I know next to nothing about it. I wouldn’t walk a hundred metres to buy a bottle. It’s OK stuff, but unless it is something really outstandingly, exceptionally special, they all taste pretty much the same to me and I’d far rather have a glass of Baileys or Dooleys.

The exception is the Château d’Yquem a friend very generously shared at Christmas; now that‘s a wine I could drink every day.

In our local supermarkets there are dozens of different wines on the shelves. Prices range from negligible – €1.00 a bottle, to significant – €150 a bottle. It is most likely that I would be able to distinguish no difference between any of them.

However, I do balk at wine from a plastic container; it just doesn’t seem right, even to somebody who wouldn’t be able to tell a Bordeaux from a Burgundy.

You’ve had a good life, so now I’m going to kill you

I must be incredibly naïve. Recently I followed a blog about somebody’s chickens. They are different, and in some cases rare breeds, handsome, with a beautiful house and all mod cons. Their owner is proud of them. I enjoyed seeing the photos of them maturing from chicks into adult birds. I thought they were being bred for their beauty, and their eggs.

A few days ago, I read that as they had reached their prime, their owner had despatched them – personally, ineptly and painfully, to convert into meals.

A debate followed, the gist being that if an animal has had a good life, then it can be killed with a clear conscience. Now I find that a really peculiar concept. I would think it more humane to kill something that had lived a miserable life; then it would be a blessing to have that life ended. The justification that because you have raised a creature with care you are entitled to kill it when you are ready, is one that I am unable to grasp

“Now that I have given you a good life, I am going to take it away from you.”

I haven’t ever understood how anybody can nurture, feed, name and care for an animal, and earn its trust, and then kill it without any compunction. It seems so treacherous.

I’m glad I’m a vegetarian.

Where’s my line?

On a Wednesday morning, in the dining room of a local restaurant, as I shuffle, grape-vine and scuff around the floor, I have to hide a wry smile as I think back to my arrival in France twelve years ago. Then I imagined that I’d be the only étrangère in town, and would spend my days beneath perpetual sunshine, sitting in the shade of the great walnut tree, writing books and dead-heading the roses.

Instead, here I am stomping it out with about 30 other British females, while the rain beats down outside, as it has done for most of this summer.

I go along for the exercise, the fun and the wildly enthusiastic company of the line-dancing group who call themselves the Heartlanders. In less than a year they have progressed from a discombobulated collection of fuddle-footed individuals into a cohesive and slick bunch dressed in cowboy boots and hats giving polished displays in public.

When I was a small girl a teacher told me that I was far too uncoordinated ever to dance. I believed that for the next 50 years. I still believe it, as I am seldom in sync with the others, but on those rare occasions when I am, I feel a great burst of triumph and I wish Miss could see me now.

Allez, les Heartlanders! 🙂

Plus ça change …..

Not that long ago, I could go into our local branch of La Poste and draw cash from a friend’s account, simply by asking the cashier. They knew I was authorised to do so, and there were no formalities. I asked for the cash, they handed it over, I signed for it.

Now La Poste’s is a “proper” bank, things are less casual. Today a bent old lady with swollen ankles and wearing pink carpet slippers, wished to withdraw €60 from her account. The usual cashier, known as “The Turkey” to her colleagues, for some very French reason that I don’t understand, is on holiday, and her replacement said she would need proof of the old lady’s identity. Never before had the old lady been asked for that. The temporary lady explained that the computer insists on the production of a pièce d’identité for all withdrawals. The old lady stared suspiciously at the computer, and rather forlornly said she would return another day. For about five minutes they discussed how computers are running peoples’ lives, then the cashier said something in French that sounded like “Bugger the computer”, handed over the €60, saying: “Oh, never mind, just remember to bring your card with you next time.”

I asked for a sheet of ten stamps for which I had waited so patiently.

“Twelve stamps” she said with a cheerful smile, handing them over.

“Well, actually it was ten,” I replied. “But if you would rather I have twelve, that’s fine.”

She laughed. “They come in sheets of twelve now. It’s more convenient because of the centimes.”

Of course it is! Why be difficult? I don’t want to cause the smallest inconvenience to La Poste. 🙂

Fenix shall live

Horses are being transported from Spain into France, where they are fattened up. Once they are fat enough, they are sent to abbatoirs in Italy, to be converted into meat. These animals travel for long, long hours in horrible conditions – many of them pregnant mares with foals at foot.

Some are luckier than others – they are rescued by people prepared to give them loving homes and a future. It’s a gamble taking on a horse whose history and temperament are unknown, you don’t know what you may end up with, but there are those willing to take that risk.

Fenix is a pink horse who will not be making the journey to Italy. He’s one of the fortunate ones who has been bought by a horse-lover. Fenix will need a lot of love and time to build his trust in humans. He needs quite a lot of food, too, because he has arrived at his new home in a very poor condition.

This is Fenix:

You can follow his progress here: http://fenixafarat.blogspot.com/

After-sales service, French-style

“French after-sales service” tends to be an oxymoron, as many expatriate residents will bitterly testify. There are exceptions, but generally it is better to expect the worst and then you won’t be too upset or surprised.

I mentioned the DVD recorder a while back, which after four months is still unrepaired, and for which I have lost all the documentation, including the receipt, so bracing my upper lip and summoning the tattered remnants of my British bulldog spirit, I telephoned Leclerc’s after-sales service department.

I fully expected it to be a lost cause. I couldn’t quote any dates, serial numbers or any other pertinent details except my name. So I was quite taken back when the SAV gentleman immediately located my file. The reason for the long delay, to which there was no end in sight, is due to the machine being out of guarantee. I agreed that while the guarantee had probably expired by now, it had still two months to run when the machine was returned. “Mm” said SAV. “Yes, you are quite right! In fact there is a two-year guarantee, but the first year is the manufacturer’s guarantee and the second year it’s Leclerc who guarantees it. There’s a misunderstanding, I’ll sort it out.”

Could he, I asked, when sorting it out, give the repairers a bit of a poke to get a move on? He would. Could I have his name, a reference number, something for my records? No need, leave it with him. Which I did, with few expectations of any progress.

Next day, blow me down, he called me to say he had spoken to the repair shop, and although there was no knowing how much longer they would take, particularly as France is on holiday for the whole of August, if I would like to call in he would be happy to lend me a machine.

One Brownie point to Leclerc.