Oh for the wisdom of Solomon

This morning I went to the local post office to send off three packets. It’s a tiny narrow place, about the width of one telephone box and the length of four, and as well as myself there were six other people, a man, a very tiny little woman, and four simple people. I am sorry that I do not know the politically correct term, I am sure it is not simpletons, but that is what they would have been called at one time. They were not seriously mentally handicapped, as far as I could see, but they were just a little simple. They had been delivered in a large van, and were there to withdraw their money, I imagine for their weekly spending.

The very tiny little woman was their guardian, and watching her trying to control/help/shepherd her flock put me in mind of my efforts with a Rubik’s cube. It wasn’t easy. Full marks to the cashier – known to her colleagues, for some mysterious reason they cannot or will not explain – as The Turkey. She showed unlimited patience as her customers laboriously read every single word printed on the receipts, turned the papers upside down, back to front, counted their notes several times, asked questions and then stood wondering what to do next. The shepherd did her best to organise them, but as quickly as she took each processed customer out to the van and turned to the next one, the previous one was back in the door with another question.

It was obviously going to be a long morning, so I crushed myself into a tiny space behind the man ahead of me, and waited patiently. One of the simple people, who had been served and placed in the van managed to slip back in behind the shepherd who was dealing with one of her flock who was getting rather frustrated over something or other and had just been quite rude to The Turkey, who was wagging a finger in a warning way.

The escapee forced herself through the throng until she was next to me, and thrust a handful of paper at me. What she wanted to do, she explained, was to divide it equally between her two purses. As far as I could understand there was no reason for having two purses except she had them, and it was important to her to fill them equally. She had five 10-euro notes, a receipt, and a leaflet about postal tariffs.

While we pondered upon her dilemma, she told me about a dog called Chippie, who is a cross between a chien de la chasse and a Setter, who runs very fast.

The seven pieces of paper would not divide evenly between two purses, no matter which way we looked at it. I suggested that she could abandon the leaflet and pick it up another time, but she clutched it possessively and shook her head.  I felt her frustration, and my own inadequacy in not being able to gruntle her. The shepherd, having succeeded in getting all the rest of her flock into the van, came back and persuaded my new friend to join them, promising to sort out the division problem in the van.

It was only after they had gone that the solution came to me. All we had needed was another leaflet.

T-d-c du mois

Despite tales of French rudeness, I have found it very, very unusual indeed. Our experience since living here has been of a people who are extraordinarily polite. Thus on those rare occasions when we come across it, it always comes as something of a shock.

So it was today, at a certain supermarket in St Junien, in the Haute-Vienne département of the Limousin region. Specifically the person who is employed there in the little counter where they sell jewellery and mobile phone accessories. At first this person was not there at all. After being summoned over the tannoy, he arrived after seven minutes, with no apology, but an angry scowl on his ugly face. I realise he cannot help being ugly, any more than he can help being a t-d-c, but the scowl was unnecessary.

With him was a customer apologising for the fact that whatever he had bought did not work. The angry ugly man tutted and muttered as he prodded it with a penknife, then slammed in onto the counter and took a moment to glance at me.


“I would like to buy a SIM card for my mobile telephone, please.”


He snapped something at the apologetic customer, who left dejectedly. Then M. Ugly-Angry served another gentleman who had arrived after me, and having done so asked what I wanted.

Speaking slowly and clearly, I asked for a SIM card for my mobile phone, again.

“Passport,” he snapped.

“I don’t have a passport with me, would my driving licence be acceptable?”

“Not unless it’s French.”

“It is.”

This was clearly a defeat for him.

“What package do you want?”

“The Mini, please.”

His moment of triumph: “We don’t have any! You will have to come back in a week. Or fifteen days.”

He turned to another unfortunate would-be customer, indicating that my shopping experience was over.

So, you pathetic little excuse for a vendeur, you kept me waiting 14 minutes to tell me you didn’t have what I wanted. Given that you knew instantly, without having to check, presumably it is fair to say that you could have mentioned it when I first asked. But you didn’t, because you are a prime fuckwit. Bravo.

Go back in a week, or fifteen days? Is he having a laugh?

Wednesday WOrd


This is a delicious word that I found on Netty’s German blog.

It is not one of the four German words that I understand, so I had to use translation tools to find the meaning. Google Translate helpfully gave the English translation as “wimperklimpernd,” but a couple of other sites came up with  “lash-tinkling”, or “eyelash-jingling.”

What a wonderful expression.


If it’s stressful, you’re doing it wrong.

There’s an article in today’s Daily Wail claiming that having a dinner party is more stressful than working. I don’t know what kind of work is meant – there must be jobs that are more stressful than others, and I can’t remember ever finding my own stressful, although if I’d been a miner I probably would have. Be that as it may.

If entertaining causes stress, then there’s something inherently wrong, and it must be the company, surely? One of our greatest pleasures is having friends for a meal, which we try to do at least once a week. Sometimes it’s a challenge, financially, and we have to cut back on the Sevruga and the lobster thermidor and have bubble and squeak instead, but I’ve never thought of the event as an board examination of my culinary skills or lack of, or a display of matching crockery and the best silver. It’s about spending time with people of our choice, exchanging ideas, hearing their news, and generally enjoying their company.

I’m an experimental cook, and like trying out new recipes. They don’t always turn out as I might hope, but well-mannered guests will usually eat what they are offered with good grace. That’s what we were taught (made) to do as children, being reminded that it was very kind of somebody to take the trouble to cook a meal for us, and the least we could do was to eat it politely (and let us not forget the little starving children worldwide who would have been grateful for it.) That’s a tenet that I’ve stuck to throughout my life, in the face of some pretty nasty meals on occasion.

I think none of our regular guests are the kind of people who would be ungracious enough to complain, either directly or subsequently. Whilst I always try to cater for individual likes and dislikes and to serve dishes that are healthy, nourishing and enjoyable, there will inevitably be occasions when somebody will find something not to their taste. In those circumstances I was brought up to eat a little and leave the rest as discreetly as possible, and that’s what I expect guests to do.

We have one friend who has been known to have a grumble about the food to other friends, and have simply removed them from the list of invitees. They are still a friend, just not a dinner guest. No stress.

The first time we invited some French friends to dinner, they didn’t eat very much, and when I asked afterwards if they hadn’t enjoyed the meal, they replied that as they had heard how awful English cooking is, they had eaten plenty of toast before they came. 😀  However, they continued, they were amazed at how beautiful the food was, and hoped they would be invited again, which they are, and they don’t fill up on toast any more. 🙂