Reading the Papers from the Old Country

The weather in August has been, to coin a phrase, bloody awful.  The locals are saying it is the worst in living memory. Particularly after the excessive 40°+ (or gas mark 8 as a friend called it), which we had in July.  One has to feel sorry for those guests who have rented holiday accommodation from us and we feel compelled to keep them entertained by doing barbeque’s, (eating in the wine chais), and taking them to endless wine tastings, with the inevitable result that I am passing what should be the glorious month of high summer in a succession of rather hazy, not quite sober days.

One thing I have been able to do, on my more compus mentus days, (or however you spell it), is to read from cover to cover the “Sunday Times” and, I have to say, it is surprising how much it feels like I am regarding  another country and not the country of my birth which I have obviously known for so many years.  The first thing I noticed is that, when compared to the French Press, there is almost no “feel good” stories, everything is about disaster, corruption, crime etc. etc. This is particularly noticeable in the sense that quite often the headline is dramatic and appalling and then, if you actually read the story, it is not that bad at all.  

A few examples, all from the same edition: Britain is the most burgled nation in Europe”, “Hospitals botch 300 births a year”, “Brick attack on boy,4”, “Locals suffer in rip-off Britain”, “How many others can we squeeze in”, “More benefits encourage single mums”.  So in other words we are the most crime ridden nation in Europe with the largest number of teenage pregnancies who are quite likely to lose their babies because of hospital malpractice and then, even if they manage to emerge from the maternity ward with a viable baby, will not be able to find homes because we are being submerged in a wave of immigration. It is not surprising therefore that the front page headline reads, “10 million want to quit UK..”.  I felt pretty depressed myself from reading that lot and I don’t even live there!

But, not content to publish all the depressing news the press, one can only assume in an effort to increase the general feeling of despair,  goes on to publish stories like this; “Prescott Jr held talks in Whitehall”,This implies, of course, that John Prescott’s son used his fathers position in an illegal way in order to further his business career, thereby increasing the nations cynicism about the corruption of politicians and adding to the general sense of doom and gloom. But, towards the end of the article, where, I suspect, many readers don’t venture, it says, and I quote; “There is no suggestion that Prescott Jr. Estate Partnerships or its clients have done anything illegal”, right, so in which case what is the point of the article? That John Prescott’s son visited him at his apartment?  Hardly a criminal offence and the words molehills and mountains keep coming relentlessly to mind.

A guest also left a copy of “The Daily Mail’, and, true to form, there is the full quota of dreary, downbeat, every thing is wrong, oh shit we are all going to die stories, but, also, page after page, of, well….giberish, full of detailed articles about people who not only did you not know existed, but you couldn’t have given  a damm if you knew about them anyway.  I mean, if I was a tree, I would be pretty naffed off if I had been cut down and turned into a newspaper page just to carry the rather less than explosive news that some posh bird  has had an affair with an ex jailbird. No one knows who the hell she is and, frankly no one should care. Yet the story takes up a full page in the Mail.  (I should point out at this juncture that I have removed this womans name after receiving an email from her husband, who pointed out that he and their children in fact did care)!  And this should serve as a reminder that stories like this, often printed by the media merely to provide their readers with a vicarious, through the keyhole experience nearly always have the effect of causing great distress to someone connected with the principle of the article.  Not that this seems to remotely bother the great and the good of the fourth estate. 

On the other hand it must be said the people in the public eye should not really have much to complain about if, having actively courted stories which purport to show cool they are, how rich they are and how much of a celebrity they are, the media then goes on to print a story which is perhaps not quite as soothing to the ego!). Apparently old Confucious once said, “He who would try to ride the tiger will eventually have his balls bitten off”  or something of that nature!

Anyway, as I was saying, if I was turned into a newspaper to carry this sort of non story to the great British public I would be most naffed off.  On the other hand  I would have felt proud to have been turned into the page that carried the final confirmation that Sven Gormless Ericcson had finally left his shambolic reign as Englands coach. Now that would have been something to be proud off. I would have felt rather like the gallant Greek who expired after running to Athens with news of the victory at Marathon.  A valiant death!!

Back to the Times now for the final example of nonsense.  In the Culture Magazine there is a double page spread headlined, Eager Beavers“, its all about; “….a new breed of settler getting close to Mother Nature“, by buying log cabins in the Canadian wilderness.  But, once again, on reading the article,  it is not quite what it seems. These log cabins are not exactly knocked up by a weary family after months of arduous travel hauling their few possessions with them.  These cabins are built by huge, International construction companies and about the heaviest items that the new settler brings with them is their bank balance!   They all seem to be around £300,000 + and come complete with hot tubs, Wifi and other essentials for getting back to nature.  They are constructed in a wilderness that contains….”the use of a golf course, pool, tennis courts and river beach”…..or……”at a golf and ski resort with lake views”.  Not exactly my idea of getting back to mother nature or of a pristine wilderness.  But perhaps they have a different definition and in order to get to the club house they have to fight the rapids, evade renegade indians and overcome a grizzly bear!

à plus et bon courage

PS. Some days after posting this particular blog, I have noticed from my blog stats that dozens of people have been directed to it by various search engines because they have searched for, and I kid you not; “Mrs. X, (Insert here the name of the posh bird, I have just agreed to remove from the blog”) !!  Scary or what? 

I have just one thing to say, “Please, please GET A LIFE OF YOUR OWN”!!  Don’t worry about the owners of “Hello” magazine falling on hard times, I’m sure they have good pension plans.  

à plus Brian   Gites in Loire Valley       


La Grande Tablée du Saumur-Champigny

For those visitors using accommodation in the Loire Valley week commencing 29th July.  The following week is an entertaining one in terms of the various fêtes which are going on. The last Sunday of July is the Grand Prix Retro in our own village of Le Puy Notre Dame and, on the following Thursday, it’s La Grande Tablée du Saumur-Champigny in Saumur. 

This fete is billed as the biggest restaurant in Europe and, this year, involved over 4,000 people sitting down to eat inbetween the Marie and the Loire. One pays €9 for the meal consisting of all regional products and then a further €4 for a Saumur-Champigny wine glass. Once purchased you can wander up and down, filling your glass at strategic locations and tasting various vintages, on this occasion, dating back to 1989. It really is an excellent way of trying the various Saumur-Champigny vintages.

This Link is to the Saumur Champigny site which includes TV news videos of the fête.

Accompanying the eating and drinking is a music festival which features up to 10 bands, playing concurrently at different locations and, over the years, I have to say there have been some excellent “turns”, as my father would have said.

Last year one of the bands playing was a blues band which were so good that there was almost a riot when the organisers finally insisted they stopped playing.

This year was not as mainstream and featured a band playing what I think Frank Sinatra called soft jazz, another playing New Orleans, trad. Jazz and even a Yiddish band who started off with, “Wish I was a Rich Man”, and then went on to play a lot of stuff which seemed to mean a lot to their aficionados but, to me, seemed to consist mainly of them shouting something that sounded like “ROBBIE!’, at which, for some reason, everyone jumped in the air waving their arms around.  If anyone can enlighten me as to what this was all about I would be most grateful.   

There were also two guys with an on accordion and a guitar who were having a whale of a time, jumping on tables and getting everyone dancing.  I don’t think they were anything to do with the fête but it did not stop them hurling abuse at any of the “official” bands who dared to strike up near them!

Starting from about 11pm. The focus moves from alongside the Loire to La Place Saint Pierre where a stage is set up for the final band of the evening.  These were quite good with the normal band line-up plus bagpipes, flutes and other Celtic like instruments.  As I said pretty good but I could not help thinking it was a bit like Braveheart meets Jethro Tull.  For those of you who had the misfortune not to be around at the time or for those who were around at the time but cannot remember much about it!, Jethro Tull were a vintage rock band where the lead singer and flutist, for some reason best known to himself, spent a lot of time standing on one leg. I believe he now raises fish in Scotland. I assume he uses both legs!

Before and during the gig, a marching calypso band materialised from somewhere with their own group of aficionados who were dancing away like crazy to the drums and whistles.  Friends of mine who know about this sort of ethnic thing said they were very good indeed. To me it sounded like ….well…..drums and whistles, and, at the end of the day, there is only so much you can do with drums and whistles.

We were sitting in a bar in the square watching the Celtic Rock Band when Sheila, who had just gone to the toilet, returned with the bad news that, on tonight of all nights, the toilet had broken in the bar.  There then ensued a comical half hour whilst patrons of the bar tried to obtain permission from neighbouring bars to utilise their toilets and many were the discussions and heated words and no doubt many cunning plans were hatched, one can imagine; “Do you sell elephants?’

“No, of course not”,

“Well, can I use your toilet then?”

Sheila, incidentally, just walked straight in and used it, disregarding any preamble!

Which just goes to prove that the simplest plans are always the best.

à bientôt

Brian                Accommodation in Loire Valley