Friday, 5 August 2011

160. Big feet, bagpipes & bullfights

5th August 2011. Finding shoes in my size here in the Pays Basque is a constant struggle - most shoes top out at size 44 or 45. My feet, however, continue on beyond that to - but modesty forbids..! You know what they say: "Big feet? Big socks..!"

Whilst over in Seattle for work in the 90s though I came across a Florsheim factory outlet store and found some business shoes made to a quality unobtainable in the UK at the price - and they were available in my size. I dust them off now and again and they still look good. Desperate times call for desperate measures and so a week or two ago, before we left to go to the mountains (see here), I clicked on the Nordstrom web site (a chain of department stores across the US equivalent to John Lewis in the UK). As luck would have it they were having a sale and - lo and behold - they had some Florsheim shoes that fitted both my feet and the bill. I ordered a pair as the price was still attractive (just) even with the postage from the US to France.

I picked them up from DHL at Biarritz airport yesterday morning only to find that I had 33€ (almost US$47!) outstanding to pay in VAT.. ouch..! Then when we got home and I tried them on, I noticed some small print under the tongue - Made in India.. Now, I have nothing against shoes or any other products from India or anywhere else for that matter - but I think any product description should include a statement of exactly where it was  manufactured. I was labouring under the misapprehension that Florsheim shoes were US-made. Florsheim are not alone in this - many major brands have re-located their manufacturing operations to Asia and elsewhere..

I'm a big fan of L.L. Bean who sell products with that quintessentially American look via mail order and trade on their Maine heritage.. but look at where some of their range originates. It's the same story for Lands' End - they too sell clothing with that relaxed All-American look. Their products used to be 100% American made at Dodgeville, Wisconsin - but in recent years the word 'imported' has crept in more and more. It appears that Florsheim has gone the same route. One of the reasons for buying a distinctive brand is for the perceived values that it uniquely offers - part of which lies in where it's manufactured. For example, would you consider buying a Greek Volkswagen, a Taiwanese Rolex or a Brazilian single malt whisky? No, I didn't think so - which is why companies like L.L. Bean and Lands' End avoid being too specific and use only "Imported" in their product descriptions. As manufacturing is increasingly out-sourced to low labour-cost regions of the world, it makes me wonder how the US - and other major western economies who do likewise - are ever going to manufacture their way out of recession.

Right - enough of that - time for a tingle! If you can tell me that this next clip honestly has no effect on you, then to my mind you need to think about seeing your medical professional! Was it the Duke of Wellington who said: "I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they frighten me."

This is a clip of a Scottish massed pipe band leaving the Edinburgh Military Tattoo - I like the way they segue into the "Black Bear" at 00:36.. it always gives me a shiver.. Crank your volume up:
With the Rugby World Cup starting to loom larger on the horizon, I reckon if the NZ "All Blacks" (a great side even if they were fast asleep in deck chairs) feel the need to pump themselves up prior to a match with the aid of their 'Haka', then the Jocks should be allowed to return the compliment with a rambunctious "in yer face" pipe band rendition of the "Black Bear".. And I say that as an Anglais! If you believe in a level playing field, let's have it level!

Let's have one last look at them - they show the rest how a proud military unit should leave an arena.. (The Royal Marines should take note..) If you just want to hear those pipes again, fast forward to around 01:50.. and turn that volume to max again - and wait for the goose pimples!
Just noticed - not much about the Pays Basque in this post.. Never mind - rescue is at hand! Here's a segment of Jean-Luc Petitrenaud's cookery show (Les Escapades de Petitrenaud) we sometimes watch - this is a two-parter set in the Pays Basque.. and she's making a pipérade. And yes, you're right, J-L P is annoying! Part 2 follows on after this..
6th August 2011. Ab-so-lutely knackered this afternoon! Went down to the river this morning and had an long outing in an VIII sculler.. Rowed virtually non-stop to Villefranque where we turned around. It was very warm out there and there were more than a few red faces when we returned.. My T-shirt was wet through. Did 18km. (Running total: 906km) Back home and after a long cool shower, we fired up the plancha and had a few sardines out on the terrace with some sangria.. and a Turkish coffee and my last cigarillo.. Now I think a tactical snooze might be on the cards!

There's a piece in the Daily Telegraph that caught my eye asking whether expats are drinking themselves to death. Not me - I belong to the group described in the paragraph beginning "By contrast there are those retirees..."

As the day approaches l'heure bleue - it's one of the day's pleasant little rituals to set out the olives and the nuts, break out a handful of ice-cubes, drop them into a couple of glasses and pour out the sangria. Garnish with a slice of orange and/or lemon. The first one hits the spot.. Sometimes - but not always - there might be a second. Never a third.

6.45pm. I'm writing this as the bullfight takes place about 300m away.. I can hear the jeers, the applause and the stupid triumphalist music as the poor beasts are tormented one by one. Then, 5 minutes ago, after grey clouds blew in from the Bay of Biscay and the wind freshened, there was a sudden downpour and yes! I thought.. all those ghouls who watch the bullfight will have been soaked. And better still - the bullfighter's enemy - the wind - is blowing in gusts - all the better for the bull to see the matador hiding behind his cape. Disgusting practice, doesn't belong in France and should be banned. And some parents take their children along to the bull ring.. 

If bullfights are to continue in the 21st century, they should be run along these lines..


Lesley said...

Love the SHOUT in The Bear and, for those of us who used to see the ad., can't help singing Scots Porrige Oats with Scotland the Brave.
Both Husband & I are ex-RAF it does still 'tingle' with all military bands and we are amazed at the inclusion of 'wimmin' in kilts and a fair number of short men. Times change...

Anonymous said...

Bonne idee! We have 5 weeks in the Pays Basque in Sept/Oct. Would be interested to read about your experiences wine shopping in the PB -- where to find reasonable quality and a good range.
thanks again,
S and B

Pipérade said...

Lesley - don't you think the Jocks should play either of those (or both!) prior to a rugby match in preference to that dreary Flower of Scotland.. yeeurghh! Something to get the blood pounding..
But with one caveat - an all-male pipe band and all should be over 6'.. no dwarfs! Nothing to touch the skirl of the pipes and the rattle of those side drums..
I'm ex-RAF too..

Pipérade said...

For S & B,
5 weeks in the PB! Lucky devils..
Wine shopping..? I'm assuming you're staying in a gîte so you'll be trying what you buy as you go.. unless you're thinking of taking some back to Oz? I'd suggest one trip to the Cave d'Irouleguy here:
Try the Gorri d'Ansa. Irouleguy is the real red wine of the PB.. Right up there with Madiran - altho' to be honest, we haven't had one to compare with that Bouscassé we had the other day.
Probably for the best selection you should try Carrefour - but be aware that some would say it's better to buy from a Nicolas shop.. I think nowadays the major supermarkets do a good job in keeping their wine in optimum conditions.

Lesley said...

Re the Spanish bullfight. Did the bull 'just' get shot instead? How humans can be so sadistic to any animal.

Pipérade said...

I stopped watching the clip before it got as far as that. There is a kind of irrational primeval fear of fighting bulls (bred specifically for wildness) that provokes a cruel response from some.
The practice (along with other bloodsports) really has no place in modern Europe and I think it's shameful that it's tolerated here.
Fortunately tonight is the last night before a few in early September.