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  • There's an Irish pub in Mongolia.

    Oh dear, I've been away for so long (or just enough time for it to seem a long time) - time for some St Patrick's day ponderings.

    On this St Patrick’s Day eve, I am moved to ponder the question of the Irish pub – is there a town in the world that does not have one ? In my corner of smalltown France we have numerous establishments all claiming to be pubs, though only one that could be qualified as « Irish » - or ersatz celtic – the O’Briens – all furniture and fittings from Ireland – the wonders of archtectural salvage – though furniture and fittings at the O’Briens were all ripped out of Irsh school rooms and country Post Offices – the place doesn’t even sell Guniness, but it’s as Irish as you’ll get around here., and come tomorrow night the place will be heaving with St Patrick’s revellers, htough not many of them Irish – there is a distinct lack of Irish ex-pats in my corner of France.

    So, why, in a small French town, with little or no Irish connexion is everyone out celebrating St Patrick’s day ? - Well, it’s a good excuse for a drink, and pretty much like that other imported festival, Halloween, a few years back, it just became fashionable to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Unlike Halloween, which no one really celebrates anymore, old St Pat is still a good occasion to let the whiky and beer flow.

    And talking of beer (or stout) …

    Guinness in France – well until the late 90’s, the only place you could get draught Guinness in France – outside of Paris – was Lourdes – barrels of the stuff would be flown in to slake the thirst of weary Irish pilgrims – then somewhere in the 90s we had the Guinness explosion – draught Guinness ecen made it down to my provincial backwater – in the mid-noughties the Guinness pumps ran dry, and all we could get was Murphy’s stout – Begorrah ‘twas a sad day.

    Back to my research – is there a town in the world without an Irish pub. Well, St Tropez has its own Irish pub – The Kelly’s Irish pub. Looking further afield – with récent évents in Ukraine, I perused the web for Irish pubs in Sevastopol and there are two establishments : the Artishock Brewery and the Pena pub – both claiming to be pubs, though no hint of Irishness. What about Mongolia ? There ‘s sure to be no irish pub there –
    Welcome to the Grand Khan – what appears to be Oulan Batour’s (or Ulaanbataar – as the locals say) only Irish pub. The website is well worth a visit

    http://gk-irishpub.mn

    Happy St Patrick’s to you all

  • Unblocked

    A pick axe
    A high power hose
    5 litres of bleach
    Some neighborly advice
    and a queasy moment when I wrenched off the drain cover ...

    I've just unblocked my drains

  • Get Your Kids to Drink More Wine

    Some excellent advice on healthy living from the rock band Radiohead

    Fitter, happier, more productive,
    Comfortable,
    Not drinking too much,
    Regular exercise at the gym
    (Three days a week),
    Eating well
    (No more microwave dinners and saturated fats).

    I wonder if « do-gooders » in the French Senate haven’t been listening to Radiohead whilst compiling their recent report on healthy eating habits. First though, a definition of « do-gooders » - those men and women who set themselves up as guardians of the public good – those people who want to do us all good by limiting our daily intake of those items which procure us some sense pleasure – those foodstuffs, drinks and substances that might give us some feeling of moral well being whilst in the long term are actually harmful to our physical well being, if taken in vast quantities – it’s like the old Marie Lloyd music hall classic « A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good » - and so it does – a glass of wine to wash away the rigours of a hard day, a nibble on a bar of chocolate, a cigar at the end of a good dinner … even a glass of soda.

    So, the do-gooders are trying to reduce our consumption of those items that might make you feel good so that in the long term we will all be fitter, healthier, happier (and suspect their main reason – more productive). And just how do you discourage people from ingurgitating vast quantities of those feel good goodies? Why, they are slapping huge taxes on them. The latest item in the sights of the do-gooders is fizzy drinks – pop or soda if you prefer. In a list of recommendations of public health, the members of the French Senate Social Affairs Commission have suggested a whacking 15% VAT increase on fizzy drinks – or rather those sodas with high sugar content. Tax on sodas is currently levelled at 5.5%. The Senate commission is recommending that this be increased to 20%, which in real terms will add roughly 20 Euro centimes on to the price of a 1.5 litre bottle of Coca Cola. The price hike will not be applied to sugar free drinks – those containing aspartame or other such artificial sweeteners.

    Hang on though … isn’t aspartame supposed to be dangerous? – A quick perusal of several health websites reveals that heavy consumption of aspartame can cause – giddiness, memory loss, brain tumours, cancer …. All it takes is four cans of Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi a day and you are on the road to …

    Take my advice, stop the sodas and drink milk – far better for you, though milk prices are also set to increase by 4%– not for health reasons though. It is quite simply that the nation’s 70,000 milk producers want more money from the giant retail chains. The nation’s hypermarket and supermarket bosses are quite happy to pay dairy famers more quite simply by passing on the increase directly to the consumer. – an average increase of 2 Euro centimes on a litre bottle of milk and 6 Euro centimes on a pack of four yoghurts.

    Perhaps even more of what you fancy will actually leave you financially better off – the Senate Health Commission have backtracked on a proposed increase in wine prices.

    Now, there was a time when the French would pretty much drink wine from cradle to grave. For generations (when most French people still lived in the countryside) mothers would not be averse to putting a few drops of wine in baby’s bottle – a good way to ease digestion or send kids to sleep. (So what ! I got gripe water as a baby) – It was also quite common for kids from quite a young age to get wine cut with water at meal times – the water wasn’t designed to take down the alcohol content of the wine, the wine was added to take away the taste (or some might even say, purify) the water. Of course, wine is now classed as being bad; however, having personally done a few detox days – I can honestly say that the recommended daily intake of 1.5 litres of mineral water doesn’t leave you feeling much better – mind you what is detox? No more than drinking or eating vast quantities of liquid of veg that have you running for the toilet every few minutes.

    Drink more wine folks.

    Ah, these detox, no-fun do-gooders making themselves feel good by banning what makes the rest of us feel good. Nowhere has the doing of good been more done than in the nation’s schools. So France isn’t quite as bad as the UK where crisps and chocolate bars are banned and teachers carry out packed lunch checks, however vending machines are now banned as are break time snacks. In many primary schools, kids used to be served a mid-morning « collation » - a fruit juice and a bun or a croissant – BANNED – it makes kids fat. Mind you the school day in France is very long – kids quite soon burn off their morning snack – and just imagine working through the morning with nothing more than carrot sticks to look forward to in your school lunch.

    Hey, if wine is healthier than all those sodas or hi-energy drinks, kids should be getting red wine and not Red Bull

  • Have a Nice Day Granny

    Grandmothers … those diminutive, crinkly individuals who look after the kids when the parents are at work. Always vaguely pink and shiny, smelling of toilet water and wrapped in numerous layers of clothing in winter and summer alike. Presumably we’ve all had one or two grans in our time and, one day (for female readers at least) we might become grandmothers.

    Today in France, families everywhere are celebrating Grandmothers’ Day. As with all such “lobby” days, there is no real religious, cultural or historical basis for the occasion, this is yet another of those “traditions” invented by clever marketing executives - a ploy to get us to spend yet more money on those we love because we love them. A bunch of flowers and a box of chocolates and a card for your Gran - that’s not going to break the bank - of course, this «invented» tradition comes hard on the heals of that other most commercial of celebrations: Valentine’s Day. (and then you did break the bank).

    You might have though that Grandmother’s day was the brainchild of a greeting card manufacturer or a sweet company or even a national chain of florists - the idea though was thought up by a coffee company - the very aptly named «Cafés Grand’Mère» part of the Kraft Jacobs Suchard group. (Not sure if you’ll be buying much coffee on Grandmothers’ day, but you’ll certainly be buying plenty of chocolates, which will have the sales executives at Suchard smiling big chocolatey smiles.)

    Since it’s first «outing» in 1987, Grandmothers’ Day has been celebrated the first Sunday in March. It took a few years for the trend to take off, but after some serious lobbying of calendar makers by the publicity department at Cafés Grand’Mère, the festival has become a tradition - Yes, just like Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, Grannies too now have their official day marked into most of the nation’s calendars and diaries - and with 7 million grannies in France, it is big business.

    A thought though for those with no vested commercial interest in this new tradition - the nation’s nursery and primary school teachers, who have spent hours over the last couple of weeks churning out «grandmother» presents with their kids during art and craft lessons - from experience (my mum was a primary school teacher for a few years) I know just how hard it can be to find inspiration for easy-to-make and not-too-crap Mothers’ Day and Fathers day presents - however, what the hell do you make for a Granny? Paper flowers, cards, bookmarks, hand-painted boxes for the keeping of useful trinkets therein .... in the case of the latter it is often the teacher who ends up re-hand painting all the boxes so that they don’t look too awful. Teachers - your reputation is on the line here.

    To end, I would ask that in this land of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, that (in the name of equality) the government react and forthwith proclaim a national Grandfathers’ Day to be held ... erm, looks like someone has beat me to it actually - there is already an official Grandfathers’ Day that falls on the first Sunday in October. This is not a joke or a masculin backlash, merely yet another marketing ploy - the brainchild of the French postal service - an effort to get us all to send more cards.

  • Back to blocked drains.

    Home from the slopes

    View from the chalet

    Nothing quite like a week on the slopes for « getting away from it all. » Sure, lying on a tropical beach, and soaking up the sun does have its undeniable charms, but, somehow, sliding down a snowy mountainside with two bits of wood strapped to your feet is far more fulfilling and certainly more exhilarating, especially for very average skiers such as myself. The pure adrenalin rush and the joy of making it to the bottom of the slope with all limbs intact and without falling over … Of course, good holidays make it even harder to come back, especially when you return to a leaking roof and blocked drains. Be sure that if shit happens, it always happens when you return from holiday. So, tomorrow, first thing – call the plumber and call the roofing specialist, and just hope today that it doesn’t rain and that nothing nasty pops out the plughole in the bathroom. I suppose this post signifies that I am back on the blog after a long absence – due to weight of work, a bout of flu and of course a change of Alpine air. Now all I have to do is find something interesting, entertaining and offbeat to write about.

  • May The France Be With You

    Ah, after tonight, Tuesday nights will never be quite the same. For the past six weeks, French TV channel M6 have been giving a welcome back-to-back airing of both Star Wars trilogies. Tonight we finish with the Return of the Jedi, not the best of the six. More or less the same story line as Star Wars a New Hope – Rebel forces trying to destroy a second Imperial Death Star. Things get a bit cheesey when Luke « saves his father » . What ruins the film for e though are those annoying teddy bear like créatures – the Ewoks. The film though is saved by some reasonable special effects and a half decent space battle seen. I much prefer the Empire Strikes back – far more sinister.

    Of course, living in France, Star Wars is never very far from my thoughts – just look art French politics and history. There have been Empires and Republics – The first French Emperor was Napoleon Bonaparte, though some might like to cast him in the rôle of the original Darth Vador.

    As republics go, old and new, we are currently in the fifth one., and at the current time we have a thriving rebel alliance – taxi drivers, militant Catholic groups, Breton farmers and business leaders …

    Not sure who is the current Dark Vador, though back in the days of our last President, Nicolas Sarkozy was dubbed as Sark Vador.

    Who is the French Luke Skywalker ??? Possibly not François Hollande, he’s definitle an Ewok )more Ewok than wookie anyway) Julie Gayet is up for the part as the new Princess Leia (without the silly hairdo). As for space craft, fighting machines and such, we don’t have many in France. I’ve just heard that our only Aircraft Carrier is possibly going to be mothballed.

    I’m off to switch on the TV.

    Oh and before I do, here is my French Presidential Star Wars casting

    Charles de Gaulle Han Solo (because he went solo, a rebel but not always in the Alliance)
    Georges Pompidou An Ewok with Wookie tendancies
    Giscard d’Estaing Luke Skywalker
    Francois Mitterand Yoda
    Jacques Chirac Chewbacca the Wookie with a hint of Obi Wan
    Nicolas Sarkozy Darth Vador meets Luke skywalker with a hint of R2D2 and the charm of C3PO

    For princess Leia you can onl

  • AND I DON'T CARE

    On the beach
    Out to lunch
    Pretty Vacant
    No one home
    Comfortably numb
    Swilmming round in the same fish bowl year after year.
    AND I DON'T CARE
    I think that nothing could be finer ,than having my ham and eggs in Carolina.
    Is that all there is? (is that all there is my friends?)

    Ten out of ten if you got the songs.

  • Gooselievrepâtégendertheoryweathergrumble

    WRACKING OR RACKING ?

    Well, I’ve worn out all my thinking caps. I’ve scratched my head until my hair fell out and I’ve racked my brain until I needed a large dose of aspirin. I’ve almost given up looking for bright writing ideas, my imagination dulled by the grey leaden skies and any spark of creativity, extinguished by the torrential rain. Not even the slightest damp squib of inspirational genuis.

    There is plenty to write about, but nothing vaguely offbeat or entertaining. Do you really want to read about the weather ? France’s Atlantic coast lashed by some of the worst storms in living Memory seven or eight metre high waves, gale force winds and … well it’s probably the same where you live, unless you are slowly roasting in record summer températures.

    BOYS WILL BE GIRLS

    You might be vaguely interested in the sociétal change going on in France – new laws on the family and medically assisted procréation for same sex couples (can you sat Medically Assisted Procreation in English ? Come to think of it, when you do rack your brains, is it with an R or a W ?). There are also new teaching programs in French school to reinforce the idea of equality. There is even a nasty rumour going round that Gender Theory is being taught in French primary schools. Erm… what is Gender Theory ? Well (according to its detractors) this is where you tell boys they can be girls and girls they can be boys – boys play with dolls and girls play with trainsets and soldiers. In some parts of France there have been school boycotts – parents withdrawing their kids from class when the aforementioned Gender Theory lessons are taught. So what if boys play with dolls – they always have played with dolls – Action Man and GI Joe were dolls, weren’t they ?

    STAY IN THE STATES

    Anyway, be it protesting parents, taxi drivers, Breton peasants, traditional Catholics … everyone seems to have been out on the streets at some point protesting against François Hollande – who is currently on the other side of the Atlantic on a state visit. He might be just as well staying State side – with a 19% popularity rating, he is the most unpopular French President in living memory. Ah yes, for a few days, Mr Hollande roused the nation’s interest when it was revealed that … well we all know the story. Our uncharismatic président having an affair with the very attractive Julie Gayet. « What does she see in him? » we all asked. And then a couple of weeks later, he chucks Valerie Trierweiler, his long term partner in a short 18 word press statement that had all the style and compassion of a text message.

    THE RAMASY PATE BAN

    One item of news from the weeken papers did grab my attention – sweary TV chef Gordon Ramsay, banning foie gras from the tables of his Parisian restaurant. READ ON – OK, don’t get too excited. Mr Ramasy is simply trying to distance himself from his former foie gras supplier after a secretly-filmed vidéo releasde on You Tube showed workers at the Foie Gras producers being « cruel » to the geese.

    Okay, to make foie gras, you literally stuff a goose with grain until the poor créature is on the point of exploding – at which point you kil lit and remove its liver for which the foie gras is made. So, there is nothing cruel about shutting a goos in a wooden box at feeding time, then sticking a large funnel down its throat and pouring in grain – hey that’s the say we feed our own kids all the time in France (but we don’t eat them). Of cousre we wasy nothing about the cruel methids of foie gras production because it is « traditional » and if we banned foie gras production, hundreds of country folk would be out of a job. So, Mr Ramsay is changing supplier on grounds of cruelty – seemingly Mr R’s supplier was being more cruel that the already cruel (sorry, traditional) foie gras production method. Do we really care ? I personally hate foie gras – just to annoy French friends, I refer to it by the English translation « goose liver pâté ». IT’S NOT PATE !!! my friends scream back. IT’S FOIE GRAS.

    YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR

    Foie gras is traditionally eaten around Christmas and New year – though most French people will wolf down a few slices whenever there is an excuse for a huge meal. Good foie gras is expensive and the stuff that most people seem to eat is the crappy mass produced supermarket sold stuff. It’s a bit like smoked salmon and champagne – the decent stuff costs an arm and a leg, so we all buy the supermarket crap – pink plastic Norwegian smoked salmon, fresh from a fish farm from someone’s back garden is in Oslo. Champagne – if you want something that won’t give you acid attacks and a stonking hangover, you’re going to have to spend a little more than 9 Euros on a bottle.

    NO MORE GRUMBLING.

    Ah, after twenty five years in this fair land, I have finally learned toi grumble as onmly the French know how – we are a nation of expert grumblers and there is plenty to grumble about at the moment. However in récent weeks, I have noticed a noticeable décline in grumbling. Seems like with lousy weather, tax hikes, madcap family policy, a lack lustre président, unemployment, budget cuts … oh the list goes on … it woild seem though that with so much to grumble about, the French have grumbled themleves to a standstill. – or is there a government pla afoot to tax grumbling ? Yes, at work, no more grumbles, just long despondent faces, the far away unconcerned look of resigned indifférence. « It can’t get any worse than it is now ? » So, it could be a time of hope. When things are this bad, they can only get better, and I’ll know when things are better, we’ll all be grumbling again

  • Those Little Blue Pills

    Their official title is « erectile aids » to be taken for what the French call « la dysfonction érectile » We are of course talking about Viagra – those little blue pills that help older men reach their full potential in relations of a sexual nature. Retailing in pharmacies at 72 Euros for a pack of four pills, cheaper viagra is available on line for around 58 Euros. If prescribed by a doctor, then Viagra is, like all prescription drugs, reimbursed by the « sécurité sociale » (which in English terms means you can get Viagra on the French National Health Service, providing that your shortcomings are diagnosed as an illness and not simply a lack of male pride.)

    My Viagra musings come in light of a recent survey carried out by the makers of the little blue pills. Of the 22,000 pharmacies that stock Viagra nationally, sales figures were taken from a sample of 4600. The results … France’s biggest Viagra users are the Corsicans. Parisians are ranked third. In a geographical distribution of Viagra use, there are more users in the east of France than in the west. Since the product was launched in 2008, Viagra sales have increased by 23%.

    So, originally designed to help all those males of the species who experience erectile problems, Viagra quickly became the preserve of « oldies » who couldn’t quite go the full distance. What does this say about the Corsicans though, who have a Viagra consumption three times above the national average. The Viagra survey gives consumption figures, but there appears to be no breakdown of use by age group. What can we conclude therefore? Are Corsican pensioners more promiscuous than their counterparts on the mainland? Despite the Corsican cult of Mediterranean Machismo , are most Corsican men all mouth and no trousers ? or quite simply does all that sun, wine and easy living have adverse effects on performance ? As for higher consumption in the east of France, one might conclude that all those long cold Winter nights in Alsace simply make for earlier nights and more intimacy – oldies cuddling up under the duvet to cut down on heating bills. Who knows? As for the Viagra news – these statistics are culled from my local paper, which is over a week late with the news. From this last fact I can only conclude that we come far later in deepest provincial France.

    Finally, whilst still in presidential mode – that region from which François Hollande hails, has the lowest Viagra consumption of all.

  • French Expose their Undies

    This weekend (24-26) January, Paris will be hosting its International Lingerie Fair at the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Centre. So, to follow a few French lingerie facts from the Institut Français de la Mode.

    Lovely in Lou 1962

    In the year 2012/13, the French lingerie industry was worth 2.6 billion Euros. French women spent an average of 97 Euros on lingerie. The amount spent varied on age. The biggest spenders on underwear were the 15 to 24 age group with an average annual spend of 144 Euros. The next highest spenders were 45 to 54 year olds with an average spend of 133 Euros. The lowest spenders were the over 65s with just 48.50 Euros. In terms of what the ladies bought – bras accounted for just under 40% of sales, knickers 30% and “vêtements de nuit” just over 18%.

    Sensible Undies 1910

    French men seem less preoccupied with their underwear. An average 33 Euro spend. The most popular male underwear item – boxer shorts, representing 67% of male underwear sales.

    Reinforced for Drivers 1960

    Where are people buying their underwear? It seems fairly well balanced with 20% of purchases being made in supermarkets and hypermarkets; 19% in high street stores and 18% online. Department stores accounted for 10% of purchases.

    As for trends – according to the Salon de la Lingerie website, 2014/15 will mark a return to “the codes of classic British elegance” and a “1970’s carefree party mood.”

    http://www.lingerie-swimwear-paris.com

    To good an opportunity to miss for a few musings on how French ladies are filling their cups or into what Gallic Gents are slipping their credentials and I find one website claiming that bras are at best useless and at worst dangerous.

    These are the findings of a scientific study made over 16 years by professor Jean-Denis Rouillon at the University of Franche Comté in Besançon. Since 1997, the professor has been carrying out tests on 300 women. Imagine what you will, but all the professor did was spend 16 years measuring the Buffon Triangle on the ladies involved in his study. The aforementioned triangulation is the distance between the nipples and the distance from both nipples to the navel.

    In his findings, published in October 2013, Prof Rouillon concluded that the wearing of a bra lead to soft, sagging breasts, whilst those ladies in his study who stopped wearing bras reported firm breasts with a definite upwards turn. Was it all really worth it?

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