Saturday, 2 February 2019

264. Into February with a bang!

26th February. For some odd reason Bert Jansch's name sprung to mind earlier and for the life of me I couldn't remember the record that made his name (with me at least) in 1965. Thanks to the power of Google, here he is with Davy Graham's "Angie":

25th February. We went for a walk this afternoon around the lake at Hossegor.. It was hard to believe we were still in February..! We were tempted by the ice creams (minus the chantilly) at Tante Jeanne and so we stopped there and enjoyed one out on their terrace (in the shade!).

23rd February. There's going to be a major seismic event emanating from here later on this afternoon. This will be preceded by the hors-d'œuvre from here

22nd February. I had Nutty down to the beach at Anglet on this sunny morning and we encountered a great-looking dog (right) - an 11 month old Griffon Fauve de Bretagne - a rough-coated French hunting dog from Brittany. The two of them got on well and after running around like a mad thing, I think Nutty will be taking a load off this afternoon. The owner said that he'd been given the dog by a hunting friend as it shied away from gunfire and it was afraid of wild boars.. Despite all this, he was a larger-than-life character - full of beans - and he had me wishing we could have one.

Looking at a wild boar without a wire fence getting in the way would certainly focus my mind!
We met a lady up in the mountains in the Jura a couple of years ago with a smaller version of this breed - a Basset Fauve de Bretagne - he was equally characterful and he had the same effect on us as well.

15th February. Just back from a trip out to Ascain.. it was 24°.. This is more like it!

Just for Lesley!

I've mentioned before the forthcoming introduction of the Tram'bus here (due in service this year) - the service is being given a dedicated lane.. and so this has caused widespread disruption on the roads locally. Fortunately, everyone's fairly patient.. 

I know I could be tempting fate but I think we might just have seen the last of the endless rain that plagued us throughout January. Yesterday the TV météo showed us as being the warmest in France again.. with highs of 18° forecast for nearby Biarritz. In the afternoon,  I mowed the lawn for the first time this year, after which I dusted off the last of the Christmas puddings sent to us by friends in the UK. While it was heating up, I stepped outside and it was warm - the thermometer in the shade said 16° - but in the sunshine it felt like 20°. I set up a couple of chairs and a small table - Madame made some tea - and then we enjoyed some Christmas pudding (with some crème Anglaise she had made) sitting out in the sunshine. The simplest pleasures are often the best.

You'll be pleased to hear that there's no 6 Nations rugby this weekend!

13th February. The sun was shining today and we were the warmest in France with temperatures up in the high teens (the car said 17.5°C - 63°F).

Sorry for the heavy rugby content this month - I'll try to keep it down to a minimum.

I've been kept busy lately preparing a PowerPoint presentation on the Comet Line for a local school.. Despite trying to keep the number of slides down to a reasonable number, the total is just shy of a hundred. Two of us from our association will be presenting - and I think we'll have to give the kids a break or two. We're booked into the school for most of the day and I'll be presenting - in English - to the "European" class. We did this a couple of years ago and I think it was well-received.

11th February. Yesterday saw England continuing their excellent current form by beating France 44-8 at Twickenham in their biggest win over their closest rivals since 1911. Words like 'humiliation' are floating around in the media - but I don't subscribe to the use of this word in a sporting context. Outplayed is enough for me.

The lightning-quick Jonny May scored his hat-trick inside 30 minutes (look at his electric pace as he raced past the French defenders for that first try). England preceded this with a convincing 31-19 win over France in the 6 Nations U20 championship - and to round off a satisfying weekend for English rugby, England's women beat their French counterparts yesterday 41-26 (unfortunately no video available yet) in Doncaster of all places!

A very short comment on the ongoing Brexit saga: I would remind those who support the EU's long term aim to become the United States of Europe that one of the fundamental principles of America's great democracy was stated unequivocally by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address when he spoke of government "of the people, by the people, for the people".

Here's a link to a think-piece written by an anonymous British civil servant who suggests that the forthcoming choice between accepting Theresa May’s deal (or a version of it) or leaving the EU without a deal is a “stark binary choice” that can be summarised as one “between democracy and permanent second-class statehood”. Well worth a read. Here are two excerpts from it:
"So the choice is clear: a Brexit that restores supreme law-making powers to the UK, or the triumph of technocracy and the enforcement by a foreign court of perpetual protectionist mediocrity, to ensure that no member state of the EU is ever independent enough to question the power exercised by an unelected Politburo in Brussels, whose mission is to create the United States of Europe, by fair means or foul". 

"That the second largest financial contributor and the oldest democracy in the EU voted to leave is a damning indictment of the political failure that has marked the European Project in the last twenty years".

8th February. As the England - France 6 Nations match is being played at Twickenham this year, that means it's our turn to entertain A and V on Sunday. He's a retired French Air Force Jaguar pilot and a keen follower of the oval ball game - and, after the outstanding performance of England in Dublin last weekend, the match has all the makings of a classic encounter. Despite losing at home to Wales (after leading a 16-0 at half time), I don't believe that Les Bleus will be as generous with les Angliches as they were with the Welsh. England, on the other hand, played as well as I've seen them play for a decade or two. To give you an idea of the grip England exerted on Ireland, I read somewhere this week that Ireland only set foot in England's 22 on 3 occasions last Saturday.     

7th February. Having just been caught out by the latest sudden downpour, it set me to thinking about the umbrellas (le parapluie de berger) habitually carried by shepherds up in the Pyrenees. Looking at the price (around 200€), you could be excused for that sharp intake of breath - but as well as their general robustness, they have a hidden quality in that they're made largely from wood with the minimum of metal components to avoid the risk of a lightning strike. I noticed one of my Basque friends with one in the mountains and his featured double ribs for extra strength in gusty conditions and a really sturdy fabric covering. They are the Rolls-Royce of umbrellas. Think of one as a lifetime buy!
6th February. This is a rare film of Paris in the late 1890s before the advent of the motor car. Crossing the road in Paris on foot then was clearly just as hazardous as it is today - perhaps more so given the number of horses! Sounds have been added, the film speed has been corrected and the image cleaned up.

4th February. I came across these sample UK Citizenship tests this morning. It struck me that when we went to the Préfecture in Bordeaux before Christmas that I hadn't had to sit down and take a formal test like this - I was interviewed (in French) and asked a number of personal questions, followed by some general questions about France. If you're a Brit, try the above test and see how you rate! (I'm ashamed to say that I got two wrong)

For would-be applicants for French citizenship, I'd recommend reviewing the document shown on this French government site. My application for French citizenship shouldn't imply any transfer of my loyalties - the acid test of that will come next Saturday oops, Sunday when England play France at Twickenham in the second round of this year's Guinness 6 Nations tournament. To set a few minds at rest, let me just say that I can never envisage that a day might come when I could welcome a win by France (or any other country for that matter) over England. I applaud good rugby - regardless of who plays it - but the final result is all important.

3rd February. England (ranked #4 in the world) took on Ireland (ranked #2 and last year's Grand Slam winners) in Dublin yesterday in a match that some of the game's elder statesmen were saying was England's to win. I wasn't convinced as I thought Ireland's all-action game would be too much for the English lads. What do I know?! Apparently just about as much as former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan who claimed in the Times earlier this week that only Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje would get in the home team!

It turned out to be one of the best games of rugby I've seen in recent years - bearing in mind I'm an England supporter! (your mileage may vary). This match was a perfect demonstration of why, for me at least, the 6 Nations is the greatest sporting competition in the world - bar none. Superbly fit athletes, no simulation, high intensity, high skill levels, remarkably few instances of foul play, no arguing with the ref - what other sport could lay claim to all of that? It was full of talking points from start to finish as well. Here's a balanced match report from the Irish Times and this one from the NZ Herald! So, break out your Sunday best whisky, pour yourself a dram and sit back to enjoy this week's special offer - the highlights - brought to you at no extra charge!

In the interests of balance (as the BBC would say) here are the highlights of the Scotland v Italy match - the result of which hoisted Scotland to the top of the table (albeit by one point in points difference). Match report here.
2nd February. What a thundering start to the 2019 Guinness 6 Nations Rugby tournament as France hosted Wales in Paris in very wet conditions! France raced to a 16-0 half time lead that looked unassailable - courtesy of two well-worked tries by Louis Picamoles and Yoann Huget - followed by an opportunist drop goal by Camille Lopez just on half time. At this point I imagine that many watching would have thought "Game over" but Wales hadn't read the script. They dug deep and showed great character to fight back - in Paris of all places - to reply with three second half tries and a Dan Biggar penalty to clinch the match 24-19.
The match was full of talking points - the failure of Morgan Parra's kicking game, the chalking off of what seemed to be a perfectly good try by Liam Williams until the replay showed he'd lost control of the ball just when he needed not to. There was a moment of magic when Wales abandoned the bish bash bosh "pick and goes" as Adams cut through a static French defence before passing to Tomos Williams for a wonderful score. France had a nightmare second half in which they gifted Wales two tries - the first following a gross handling error by Huget (that should give him sleepless nights for years) and capitalised on by George North - and then a hapless long pass by Vahaamahina that George North intercepted to give Wales the lead and clinch the win in the closing minutes.. (Match report here)
1st February. We went to Irun in Spain this morning for some minor shopping and so I was let loose with the dog while Madame enjoyed some retail therapy. It was a sunny morning but with a cold wind and as I wandered the streets, I was amazed to see how many shops had closed down or were empty - I'd say maybe one in four.. and of the ones that were still open, I'd say that 80% had sales on. Sad to see and definitely not healthy. Reasons why? I have my own ideas - but I'd be interested to hear yours. Send me your thoughts via the email link - in the left hand column.

After Irun, we drove to Ascain to try our former favourite restaurant that we heard is now "under new management" - a phrase that when associated with a restaurant is often the kiss of death - but hopefully in this case, it might just be the kiss of life. Unfortunately it was still closed for their winter holiday, but there was a note on the door that said it would be open for lunch on Sunday. We're tied up then so I expect we'll be giving them a visit sometime very soon. More to follow.

Château-Vieux, Bayonne
Yesterday, I was privileged to be invited to the 11th century Château-Vieux, Bayonne - a medieval castle in the heart of Bayonne where it has played a central role in the history of the town for hundreds of years. It was actually constructed on the site of a 4th century Roman castrum (a fortified military camp). However, today, it serves as the proud home of the Officer Commanding the 1st RPIMA, as well as being their Mess, and the occasion to which I had been invited was the serving of the galette des rois & drinks. There were some impressive-looking characters there. (More here


Anonymous said...

I thought that one had to be 21 plus to stand for Parliament.
I would never be able to pass a French paper but might be able to squeek an oral. I have had to have help in completeing an application for a Blue Badge, it was posted yesterday so don't expect anything for ages. Lesley

Pipérade said...

I think you'd be surprised.. It was like: "Complete the following phrase: Liberté, Egalité and ....?" Not exactly rocket science. Yes, I thought it was 21 to stand for parliament too - and I also got the one wrong about when women received the same voting rights as men in the UK. I answered 1918 - instead of 1928.
And I've just googled to find out what a "Blue badge" is..

Anonymous said...

That film was so interesting! The Fire Brigade's matching horses, the young boys dressed like little men and the new Eiffel Tower. Lesley

Pipérade said...

Yes, the restoration brought it all to life didn't it? Someone worked hard to synchronise the hoof beats with the images.
Those poor lads had the Great War waiting in store for them.

Anonymous said...

These think pieces or articles written by experts (?) are too difficult for my brain. If I have to read it three or four times to understand a point I lose the will to live.
Glad England won, Lesley

Pipérade said...

I've been suffering from Brexit fatigue as well these last few months - but I think his point is clear. Have another go after your 'elevenses'!

Anonymous said...

Sat outside with a coffee yesterday and it felt so pleasant, not so good as Xmas Pud & Custard! I noticed that the little dog did not want to go in the water on the clip that you sent us of St J L. Lesley

Pipérade said...

Yes, I think it will be a while before we see the first hero venturing to dip a toe in the water without a wetsuit..
Having said that there's a group of swimmers (called the Polar Bears) who swim every day at Biarritz..

Anonymous said...

Wow! Love the one in a sodden onesie! I used to do a mile 3 x week in a David Lloyd pool and always backstroke, but in the sea perpendicular to the beach - no thanks. Lesley

Pipérade said...

I was tempted to join the Polar Bear Club at Biarritz for about 3 seconds. Then I remembered that it takes me all my time to get into the sea even in summer..
On a winter's day? No chance!