Of Satellite TV, Advertising, Barbecues, German supermarkets French Wine, Napoleon, British Bangers and the Metric System

I love my satellite TV – over 300 channels and I can still say (hand on heart) that there is nothing to watch of en evening. Take out the news channels, the plethora of religious channels, the shopping channels and TV reality channels – there isn’t much choice left, BUT, I do get British TV. I have a direct window on British news, views and contemporary culture . I can enjoy some excellent drama and also follow my favourite soap operas. Best of all, (and the best indicator of social and economic trends) I get all the ads –

British ads are so different from the French TV commercials. They are funnier, quirkier and far more professional than their French equivalents – There is nothing better tan the humble TV commercial to highlight the cultural divide between France and Britain.

On this, the hottest weekend of the year so far, when common sense would dictate that we all crawl under a stone rather than stand outside in the blazing sun, the good folks don my street are all firing up their barbecues. Midday was the sound of popping corks, as neighbours « unplugged » their rosé wine, and come early afternoon – following a long aperitif, the air was thick with the irresistible odour of sizzling meat.

I daresay this scene is being repeated across the Channel – everywhere in the UK is enjoying unseasonably warm weather – And on both sides of the water, there will be people crawling in to work tomorrow morning with hangovers and red raw flesh burned by the sun – Yes folks, never get too drunk on a hot day like today, and never snooze off in the sun for a drunken post BBQ nap.

Back at the commercial break, I am watching an ad for that German discount supermarket with an unpronounceable name – Lidl –

The ad is doing the hard sell on BBQ goodies. I am told that at Sainsbury’s supermarket, a good bottle of French Champagne will set me back £30, BUT for the same price at Lidl, I can get a second rate bottle of French fizz, a bottle of French white and French Rosé wine, several slices of Italian ham and a Moroccan cous cous, all for £29,95. Now I am not sure that the advertisers have actually understood what a cous cous really is, and they perhaps mean Taboulé – notwithstanding that’s quite a bit of food and booze for just under thirty quid and it’s all FRENCH – Oh thank you European Single Market. Oh thank you EU trade deals. Oh thank you EU. On this, the day before Britain sends a delegation to Brussels, to being Brexit negotiations. AH, all those European garden party goodies. How much will they cost after Brexit? Food for thought indeed. BUT if you are enjoying beer, burgers and sausages – yes they might be British bangers made at your local butcher’s, but they were made in regulation with EU-inspired food and hygiene norms. As for that beer, are you sure it isn’t a continental lager ? Perhaps from Belgium?

And that was a tenuous link into my next rant which takes you (dear reader) to Belgium) and the small village of Watterlot, known to the Brits as Waterloo.

Before we head to the site of the famous battle though, a quick final word on TV ads – you would never get that Lidl ad on French TV. Under national French TV regulations it is illegal to advertise alcohol on TV.

Off to Waterloo, which was a battle that gave its name to a London mainline train station and the 1974 Eurovision- winning ABBA song.

Napoleon cartoon wih more than a littlle hint of Mr Stallone

So the Brits named a station after a victory against Napoleon, well the French did the same – Austerlitz train station in Paris, named after old Bonaparte’s December 1805 victory over a Russian/Austrian army under the command of Czar Alexander 1st (Austerlitz is situated in the boundaries of the modern Czech republic)

Now we have a phrase in French –«  C’est son Waterloo » – meaning that it is a person’s last heroic but futile stand. Ironically (more Brexit) Britain begins Brexit negotiations tomorrow (Monday 19th June) in the Belgium capital of Brussels, just 30 kilometres from the battlefield of Waterloo. Will this be the British Waterloo – in the French sense ?

Napoleon – love him or hate him – left us a few daily reminders. He was the guy who introduced the metric system to France and eventually to Europe. I noticed this week, after the tragic events at Grenfell House in northwest London, all the journalists, fire fighters and assorted experts were giving their measurements in metres.

Back t the weather – on Sunday June 18th 1815 it was raining and the battlefield was heavy going for the cavalry. On Sunday June 18th, afternoon temperatures in my corner of France hit the 34°c mark. On the Friday night BBC London News bulletin, a very voluptuous lady informed viewers that Saturday temperatures would hit a 32°c high – no more Fahrenheit on the BBC, although wind speeds are still given in miles per hour.

Meanwhile back at the Lidl advert, the bottle sizes are being quoted in centilitres and the weights are in grammes and t is all for French wine. Perhaps Napoleon did win in the long run.

Okay – time to sign off and uncork a bottle of French Rosé. Later on, I’ll be having my Father’s day treat of a juicy Aberdeen Angus steak with good old Mc Cain oven chips made in the Netherlands.

Before I go, this Sunday is polling day in the second round of French parliamentary elections – this isn’t one to bet on, Emmanuel Macron’s « La République en Marche » party is set to wipe the board a forecast puts him at over 400 seats in the 570 seat French parliament. I can’t help thinking of a recently elected British prime minister who would love a similar majority – no snuggling up to the nasty Unionists.

Of course, voter turnout has been low, everyone here is too busy at the BBQ to go and vote.

Ok it is officially wine time.

Cheers

The Election After the Night Before

Personal ramblings and flawed analysis on the Presidential blip in France and scares of a right wing victory

Monday April 24th 2017

It is a warm, sunny day of lilac and birdsong. The wisteria is thick with its long purple flowers and the lawn is pushing up daisies everywhere – seems almost a shame to cut the grass, which was the main reason I decided to take the afternoon off work. I’d vote that all days be like this.

Sunday too, was a pleasant day, just warm enough to fire up the barbecue and eat in the garden, which was what many people did before heading to the polling station in the afternoon to cast their vote in the first round of the French presidential election.

Yes, this is France, and obviously the French do nothing like anyone else , so the presidential election is held over two rounds.

In the first round a handful of minority parties for the far flung edges of French politics jockey for position with the mainstream candidates to get their point across. Call them the no-hopers or men and women, so passionate about their lost cause, that they will spend weeks or months on the election trail fighting their corner in the full knowledge that they will only get, at best, 2% of the vote. Within the ranks of the no-hopers this time around – a couple of Trostskyist parties, an anti-European candidate, an ultra Gaullist and a Farmers’ party – a candidate representing the interests of the nations agricultural/rural lobby.

A long time back, the far right-wing Front National (FN) was also a minority party – a band of ultra catholic nationalists ; nostalgic for a Franco-French Vichy-style France. The FN hovered around the 9% mark – branded as fascists and anti-semites, they never seemed to seriously worry anyone, until April 21st 2002, when they made it through to the second round of the French presidential election by beating the mainstream socialist party candidate, Lionel Jospin, into third place.

In the French two round system only the two candidates with the biggest scores make it through to the second round.

April 21st 2002 – panic stations. The FN candidate, Jean Marie Le Pen was in a run off with the Republican party candidate, Jacques Chirac. There were calls for an anti FN, Republican alliance and the left, however unwillingly, voted Chirac in the second round ensuring he won with a resounding 82% of the popular vote – quite astounding when you know that French elections are normally a 51%- 49% affair.

Now the FN are back with a 21% share of the first round vote, and a place in the second round of voting, to be held in two weeks time. Is this a disaster ? I think not, the other candidate in the presidential run-off – Emmanuel Macron, should, short of a disaster, win hands down ; however, France has changed since 2002, and the shock will come if the FN and their presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, poll over 35% – if this is the case, she will be the true winner of the election. Note that we are not voting in favour of a candidate and his policies, rather we are voting against a candidate who presents a potential danger for France, and such has been the stuff of French elections for may a year – a vote against rather than a vote in favour.

Think back to May 15th 2012. Around 8pm the official result of the French presidential election is announced – François Hollande. A real shock – this diminutive bloke with a wonky tie, crumpled suits and all the charisma of a small town grocer had suddenly become president of France. How did that happen ? I still remember the look on the new president’s face when he gave his first press conference after securing the presidency – it was one of total disbelief, he genuinely did not expect to win, but he didn’t win, the French simply turned out en masse to vote against the other candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sunday 15th May, I watched the interminable election coverage long into the night, then switched off the TV and went to sleep for the next five years. Sure the next morning, I must have been like President Hollande himself, pinching myself just to make sure this wasn’t just a dream. I used to be passionate about French politics, styling myself as a «keen observer» and blogging at length on the subject, but there was something about François Hollande that just left me indifferent, unconcerned.

Like many people I think I’ve spent the last five years under sedation. It’s not that Hollande was a bad president, he was just a non-president, and even he realised that the day that he announced he would not be seeking to renew his mandate in the 2017 French presidential elections.

Sure, a lot has happened in the past five years, a lot of tragic events – the murder of journalists in the january 2015 «Charlie Hebdo» attacks, the November 2015 terrorism in Paris, the July 14th massacre in Nice, and just a few days ago, the murder of a police officer on the Champs Elysées – and of course, the presidential mandate started with the fractious and damaging national debate on same sex marriage, where century-old religious cleavages were once again opened. What passed off peacefully, as a progressive and common sense reform in most other countries, in France was branded as a major societal change and taken up by the left as a crusade. However, despite fractious and tragic events, when we take a look back at the Hollande presidency we will seriously ask the question « What happened ? – What did President Hollande actually do? »

This time round of course we are not voting against Hollande, he is not running, but we are voting against the socialist party in general. The once venerable and mighty party with its great history and legendary heros like Leon Blum, Jean Jaurès, and François Mitterrand, only polled 7% in the first round; historically the worst score ever for the party. What happened? Where were the socialist voters?

Well over the past few years, the French socialist party has gone the same way as the British labour party – it has become an essentially middle class club for the Chattering Classes – bright young Parisian intellectuals who worry more about breaking links with the past and building a brave new multicultural society. The French socialist party has become a very Boho affair. Traditional working class supporters abandoned the party years ago and started voting in droves for the Front National, which was also the fate of the Communist Party. Many observers say this presidential election is the death knell of the socialist party and they put the blame squarely on the shoulders of one man – François Hollande – lack of any real policy, lack of leadership – an uncharismatic and indecisive leader.

So, France voted against the socialists and in a couple of weeks, we will all be heading to the polls to vote against the FN. And who are the candidates in round two?

Marine Le Pen – not really a fascist, but a far/extreme right wing nationalist and populist candidate playing on fears of immigration, terrorism. She is the French « Brexit » lady. She currently has a 21% share of the vote and could draw support from conservative fringe candidates from the first round and ironically she could als draw a lot of support from disillusioned socialist voters for her stance on immigration and French jobs for French workers. (She’s no words than, or just as bad as Donald Trump)

Emmanuel Macron – François Hollande’s ex- finance minister who left the government to found « En Marche» – his own popular/citizen movement in a catch-all Blairite mode. This is the guy who will break the traditional two party mold of French politics and «refound» France. mr macron will draw in huge support from the anti FN alliance that is quickly forming.

And finally, I should have spent the last few months giving in depth wall-to-wall, 24/7 blog coverage to the election, but I’ve just kind of lost interest in French politics. Guess I’ll need to wake up.

La Cuvée du Patron or How much will you pay for your wine?

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1000 Euros for a bottle of wine! You must be mad. I could get 50 bottle of really posh plonk for that kind of money or 100 bottles of something half decent or, if I weren’t too fussed about the quality, I could drive home from the supermarket with 250 bottles of table wine. 1000 Euros or a bottle of wine – well you certainly aren’t going to drink it – this is an investment – this is going to sit in your cellar slowly gathering dust until you can sell it on for at least double the price.

closdebeze

The bottle in question – a 2010 Chambertin-clos-de-bèze, fetched the astronomical price at last year’s wine sale at the Hospices de Beaune. Today marks the 2016 wine sale at Beaune and investors will be there to spend silly money on the best that Burgundy has to offer.

The Hospices de Beaune are (as the name suggests) is the town of Beaune in the Burgundy region. The Hospices are (or were) a medieval hospital offering care and alms for the poor, the sick and the needy. Beaune is in the heart of wine country – : Mersault, Pommard, Nuits St Georges, Chatteau Latour, Chablis – legendary wines that fetch astronomical prices at the yearly Beaune wine auction, where all proceeds go to funding the charitable works of the hospice.

In 2015, the wine sale in Beaune netted a record 11.3 million Euros, this year’s sale has only raised 8.4 million, roughly a quarter less.

The reasons are simple, it is not lack of buyers, there are more buyers than ever, it is a shortage of wine and the shirtagr of wine is all down to the effects of climate change. Thanks to weather change, there hasn’t been a decent harvest in the Burgundy vineyrads since 2010. Local wine producers reckon that over the past four to five years they’ve had in total the equivalent of just under two decent harvests. As the wines beome scarcer, intesrest from investors willing to pay serious wine money grows, leaving little place for those «amateurs» who buy the stuff to drink it, rather than keep it in a vault.

Prces of Pommard, Chablis and such have been rising steadily since 2010. In 2012 there was an incredible 50% price hike. 2014 saw a 26% rise and in 2015 prices rocketed by a further 37% rise – all good news for the Hospices (and also the auction house Christies who organise the annual sale). Bad news though for serious wine lovers. This begs he qustion, just how much would anyone be willing to pay for a bottle of wine. Prices are certainly on the rise.

We’ve just «celebrated» the Beaujolais nouveau in France – the «Bojo Noovo» is always released on the third Thrusday of November. Last year it was easy to pick up a bottle of this young wine for around 4 Euros at the local supermarket. This year the average bottle is retailing around 5 or 6 Euros – add on more of you fall the for the supposedly «organic» Beaujolais.

Reasons why people move to France are manifold – the weather, the beautiful countryside, the quality of life, the education system, the excellent health care – however (jokingly or not) most expats will cite the «cheap wine» as one of the reasons. is wine really that cheap?

When I see the silly prices that are paid in the UK, well wine out here in France doesn’t exactly seem cheap, just more reasonably priced in rapport with what you are drinking. My local wine is Sancerre off the shelf or from a local grower, prices are around 10 Euros a bottle – that’s roughly £8 sterling, in the UK though, I’ve seen bottles of my local tipple going for up to £20 UK (that is silly money for a bottle wine though it is certainly less than 1000€.

So, in my what you pay is what you get price guide, I am not sure of the current US$ vs € exchange rate, however for a half decent bottle of Côtes du Rhone – a Beaumesde Venise, a Rasteau, a St Joseph or a Gigondas, you can pay between 7€ and 10€, roughly between £5 and £7 UK pounds. £5 for a bottle of wine in the UK is peanuts, though you are probably buying a French table wine or an Esatern European plonk under the guise of «Bulgarian Country Wine» or «Romanian Bulls Blood» (Yep the marketing guys are scratching their heads to think up quality names for what are ostensibly amalgams of various table wines from different producers all served up in the same bottle with a sprinkling of chemicals.)

For a decent a drinkable «off the shelf» Bordeaux an uninformed drinker will lay out anything from 10€ to 15€ – for sure at this price you are getting something vaguley drinkable to share with guests over Sunday lunch (You may have understood that I am not a great fan of Bordeaux wines – Much ado about nothing)

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And now, my quest

A few years back, when all the British press were waxing lyrical about «Hoooooow Loooooovely it is to live in France,» one Sunday Times journalist said that she found lovely local table wine for just 2€ a bottle – so, with some ex-pat friends, 2 Euros in pocket and no more, we hit the local supermarkets and wine stores to see what we could bring back for 2 Euros – you had to find a proper botte of wine (ie a glass bottle with a cork, no plastic bottles and no screw tops) red white or rosé for 2 Euros or less – the result was «La Cuvée du Patron» retailing at 1.69 Euros – and you know, well as a summer BBQ wine, a sangria wine or a cooking wine, it wasn’t half bad. We later found the same wine on the wine menu of a local restaurant at 10 Euros a bottle – pretty cheap for a restaurant wine, though you might just be better buying a half liter jug of wine for 6 Euros – poured directly out the wine box.

Finally, over the past couple of years in France there has been an explosion of independent wine shops, all dealing with small vineyards and selling proper organic wines for as little as 6 Euros a bottle – little gems and all the better for your guests (and you) because they are kind of exclusive.

In this house tonight, beef stew and to wash it down, a Beaujolais Nouveau retailing at 6 Euros a bottle.

In conclusion, how much wine can you get for 1000 Euros? One bottle of «Chambertin-clos-de-bèze» or about 600 bottles of «Cuvée du Patron;» Not sure what you are drinking tonight, but CHEERS.

THE LONG SLOW HAUL or I NEED TO FIND A ROCK AND ROLL BAND

To start, a few words from Rod Stewart

“Wake up Maggie I think I got something to say to you
It’s late September and I really should be back at school.”

A long time ago in France, the return to school was in late September, nowadays though we go back earlier every year. A few thoughts …

Kids dragging unwillingly to school, workers crawling back to the daily grind – summer was but a blip – just a long coffee break – Nothing will have changed when I return to work; pens, papers, books, and files strewn across my desk, exactly where they landed in July when I joyously flung them across the office and ran away as quickly as possible. Conversations with colleagues will start again where we left them in mid sentence a few weeks ago. The boss will give us his traditional pep talk, and as I plough my way through the moutain of e-mails that have accumulated over the summer, I will have only one thought – just 102 shopping days left until Christmas – Yes, it is that time of year when we begin the long slow haul on the long slow road to the festive season.

«Think of all those people who don’t have a job,» snapped a friend during a summer get-together of burnt offerings and cheap wine – a babrecue – Yes, in these hard times, I have what many millions don’t – a job, a position, gainful employment, but …  I just want to go back to work.

Let’s consider the alternatives:

I could steal my dady’s cue and make a living out of playing pool.

or

I could find myself a rock and roll band that needs a helping hand

Not exactly reliable jobs with regular salaries. Guess I’ll just stick to teaching. Okay, time to sharpen my pencils an get my bag ready. Oh god – I’ve been going  through the same ritual every year since I started school as a kid 45 years ago. Sod it! Time to hit the road and find a band.

Rock In Spring and Thoughts on Bands

A Sunday morning stroll down the supermarket. God might give us this day our daily bread, but he doesn’t guarantee home delivery  so I’ve got to pull on some clothing and head out – ah, my clothing, that crumpled beer and cigarette stinking ball cast into a far corner of the bedroom. What do you expect ?  I did a gig last night and came home in that state and at that time where the last thing you do is carfully fold your clothing. So, out on the bread run. There is that unmistakable tang of spring in the air, a zest of life on the breeze, sweet and envigorating, it hits your nostrils like lemon washing-up liquid. Blosom on the trees and the first real rays of sun, defrosting the heart and soul afte motnhs of gray chryogenic torpor. I feel happy, a good gig lastb night and (wow) freshly baked bread at the baker’s . It is almost warm enough for a BBQ, and in the supermarket they are queuing ten deep at the chckout, trolleys laden with steak, burgers, sausages and bottles of rosé wine. So it is spring, it is Sunady, the air thick with the smell of grilling meat and freshly-cut grass. In my town, Spring is marked by a strange ritual – the Printemps de Bourges – France’s longest-running and largest rock festival – the first festival of the never ending summer festival season – so, here is a post that tells it all – a homsepun blog release on the festival followed by a few thoughts on the subject of bands. This is a long mispelt missive, so good luck.

BOURGES WELCOMES THE WORLD

Looking for a spring break? Why not spend a few days in Bourges? This sedate, historic, provincial backwater, nestling at the heart of France has all the prerequisite charms for the perfect spring sojourn: a medieval town centre with half timbered houses, cobbled streets and a thirteenth century cathedral classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site; chic boutiques, excellent hotels and Michelin starred restaurants, Bourges has it all, and, if you are in town from the 12th to 17th of April, you can also enjoy the delights of the spring music festival; Le Printemps de Bourges.

Now in its fortieth year, what started in the late seventies as a small, Franco-French affair, with the likes of Renaud and Higelin has now become a major international festival: Le Printeps de Bourges 2016 is six days of near, non-stop music, featuring 200 groups and artists playing in 80 concerts in venues as diverse as a circus big top, a renaissance palace (le Palais Jacques Cœur) and a medieval Church. This year, as every year, over 100,000 festival-goers are expected.

Unlike other major festivals, held on single site, outdoor locations, often far removed from civilisation, the Printemps de Bourges happens right in the historic heart of town with all concerts taking place in covered, heated and seated venues, so, no rolling around in a sea of mud, hundreds of metres from a stage, watching the concert on a video screen. For this festival, you can leave the wellies and binoculars at home.

Headlining this year’s festival is, Anglo-Lebanese popster, Mika, performing on Tuesday 12th April. Mika is familiar to millions as one of the judges on the French version of the TV talent show « The Voice»,

Other star attractions in town include the dubiously named pop duo, Lilly Wood and the Prick; electro folk rockers Louise Attaque; the enigmatic Emily Loizeau and the eccentric Dionysos. The festival closes on Sunday 17 April with a performance by French rap star, Maitre Gims. Festival organisers have also promised a 40th anniversary concert with a special guest appearance from Bernard Lavilliers. If all this is not quite your tasse de thé, Bourges is still worth a Printemps visit, if only for the unique festival atmosphere and the many free musical and cultural happenings around town

The Printemps de Bourges is France’s largest and longest-running rock festival. It kicks off the seemingly endless summer festival season. The groups and singers you see here will be performing across France throughout the summer, so, instead of rolling around in a muddy field, come and see them all first in the comfort of a covered venue in France’s historic heartland.

Festival info

Programme and ticket sales

http://www.printemps-bourges.com/

Accommodation (Office de Tourisme) from 4 star hotels to cosy chambres d’hôtes

http://www.bourges-tourisme.com

Getting here

By car – a two and a half hour motorway drive from Paris A10 to Orleans then A71 to Bourges. The A85 from Tours via Vierzon or the A20 from Toulouse via Chatearoux.

By train – direct daily services from Paris Austerlitz. 70€ return fare. Also direct rail links to Lyons, Tours and Toulouse.

THOUGHTS ON BANDS

So, it is that time of year, that my corner of small town France welcomes the world for six days of almost non-stop music. There will be plenty of bands in town, hence, I would like to take this opportunity to address the subject of BANDS.

The Essential element for a successful band

There are BANDS and there are “bands” and there those people who make music with their mates once a week in garages or cellars or any place with a reliable electricity supply, and space large enough to set up a drum kit and accessible to musicians lugging round large amps. I suppose whatever the band, longevity and success all depend on one simple and crucial factor – having somewhere half decent to rehearse on a regular basis.

No matter what your band, at some point you all have to get together and knock out a few songs – a band ain’t a band if it ain’t got songs.

Banding and Bonding

Real BANDS, rehearse all the time. “Bands” try and rehearse as much as possible, as for friends making music, well that is what they do. A few hours here and there, idly jamming away with no particular purpose, other than being together, having a chat, sharing a few beers and “bonding” because “banding” is a form of “bonding.” Tell the wife that you’re off down the local bar for a few beers with your mates and she’ll raise her eyebrows and stare at you long and hard with that piercing, “Don’t come home drunk” look. However if you tell your nearest and dearest that it is “band night” – she knows full well that you are going to have a few beers, but you won’t be getting totally off your face because in-between beers, you are actually trying to make music.

I’ve been singing in various bands for the last twenty five years. I’ve sung in real BANDS, small “bands” and I’ve done the banding/bonding thing

No Beer!!!!!

 In my neck of the woods; real BANDS are those groups made up of professional musicians, (mostly local music teachers) and motivated amateurs. Real BANDS have somewhere decent to rehearse and everyone turns up to reahearsal on time, and in rehearsal, rehearse is all you do – there is no beer, no chat, just music, and it can get very technical. (Ouch). Real BANDS don’t do banding/bonding, they just play because playing is all they do and those pros who play in the band will also be playing with at least three or four other bands. They will remain “loyal” as long as there is work. Real BANDS are not out to get famous, they work – Clubs, Dance halls, discos, private parties – you don’t get many of these bands in pubs because pubs don’t pay enough. For amateurs (such as myself) playing in a real BAND is technically speaking, good experience, but the motivated amateur (if invited to do so) should never join such an outfit on the strength that he is going to make new friends. These guys aren’t your friends, they are musicians rehearsing for the next gig. Gigs are work, gigs are money, playing a gig is simply going to work. Rehearsals though are not paid, so it’s in and out and don’t hang about.

Saturday Night Rockers

“Bands” are those groups of motivated amateurs (would-be rock stars) who want to achieve something. From the first day they ever took up music as kids (or fully grown adults in some cases), the dream has always been to play in a band (providing of course as a band you can find somewhere to play). Rather than use the term “bands” I prefer “Saturday night rockers” – the teachers, plumbers, policemen, insurance clerks, truck drivers, dentists, social workers … who will never give up the day job and will never give up the dream.

I’ve always looked on the Saturday Night Rockers as the Poor Bloody Infantry – go anywhere and play at any price all in the name of rock and roll, that vague but federating causewe all serve. Of course we also go anywhere at any price because it is a gig, a chance to play and a chance to play at being a Rock and Roll star. We all dream of being a héro, weilding a guitar, weilding a gun – rocker stars or war héros. I think the next passage sums it up

The P.B.I (Expressed in a UK English venacular)

“The poor bloody infantry, that’s us . The heavy- smoking, hard-drinking, under-paid, under-rated and over- abused Saturday night rockers and rollers . Lugging our gear from pub to club through the wind and rain, freezing our bollocks off, up the street and down again .

Go anywhere, play anything . All those Saturday nights when you could be home all curled up round your missus and a warm beer in front of the telly and instead, your out gigging. Sliding around in beer and broken glass on the grey linoleum floor of some draughty pub that feels like it’s a million miles from home . There you are, sandwiched in-between the fruit machine and the gents, the stink of persperation, piss, fag smoke and the sickening smell of those dodgey lavender blocks they throw into the bottom of the bogs ‘cos some stupid cunt couldn’t hold his beer.

There you are, the all-singing, all-dancing, musical side show, used by the landlord, abused by the punters, playing all night for a pittance to a bar full of wall-to-wall drunks, and loud-mouthed know-it-alls who wouldn’t know what a guitar was even if you hit them across the face with one, and believe me, you could often quite happily bludgeon someone with your Fender, and feel really good about it .

We’re just the poor bloody infantry . We’re not superstars, and never will be . We’re the guys in the corner you never listen to . The name on the posters that you’ve never heard of . We’re the ones you tell to “fuck off” when the music gets too loud, too fast, too slow, too much . We’re the ones who you want to play when the music stops, and to stop as soon as we start playing . We’re the guys that all the punters refer to in sneering tones as “the band” , as if they were talking about the scum of the earth . I’m the shit on your shoe, or your bad day at work, or the bloke who cut you up at the lights , but I’m not going to go away, ‘cos this is my pleasure, my fifteen minutes of fame . This is what I do to stop myself going crazy . You might annoy me, but I get twice as much pleasure knowing that I’m annoying you .

Hate us you might . But, I get the sneaking suspicion that all those of you out there, who spend the night propping up the bar and slagging us off . . . I get the feeling that you’d like to be up here where I am . In the spotlight, behind the micropohne, showing off to your mates . I think that deep down, you respect us, but you’ll never admit it, so your respect turns to jealousy and your jealousy to hostility and then, just like the big tough man that you’d like to be, you go outside and piss on our cars, or puncture our tyres or pour your beer on our amps, and that makes you “big” with your mates, it makes your girlfriend laugh, it means you might get a bit when she dishes out the rations after closing time, but will you still be able to get it up ?

Amateurs we may be, plying our tired tunes around every bar in town . Churning out mediocre cover versions of Sixties and Seventies “classics”, but, every so often, you get one of those gigs that makes all the hassle worth it . The gig where you don’t get slagged off, where the landlord slips you a bit extra for a job well done . The gig where you’ve given your all and you still want to give more, the gig where you’ve played guitar like tugging at someone’s heart strings and managed to make even the hardest bastard cry into his beer . The gig where you’ve had the punters up, flailing around like double jointed drunken dervishes .

Don’t ask too much of us though, you might be disappointed . Just ask us to do the impossible, because we’re the poor bloody infantry . Over-worked, under-paid and always under-rated . Humping our gear around in all weathers . We’ll go anywhere and do anything at any price . The foot soldiers of the music business . Tommy Atkins did it for King and Country , We’re doing it for kicks .

 

 

 

Of revolution and Global Warming.

Ah, the French summer is in full swing – the Tour de France and Bastille Day.

There was a huge military parade in Paris this morning, and this evening everywhere in France from the smallest village to the capital itself, the French will be out marking the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and the start of the French Revolution on July 14th 1789 – there will be drinking, dancing and firework displays.

Of course it might be a public holiday, however there are plenty of small shops and supermarkets open today – we are right in the middle of the summer sales. I guess French public holidays are getting more like the British ones – they are national shopping days. And at the hypermarket this morning, there was a long line of people at the checkout, all laden down with meat and wine – guess they’ll be firing up the BBQs tonight.

Public holiday or not though, life goes on, the neighbours were out early this morning in the garden, tending their vegetable patch.

« It’s a bad year for veg » muses my neighbour Michel – scorched earth and puny veg. He doesn’t so much put it down to the weather. No, this is the fault of the ozone layer – or the lack of it. « Earth’s to dry for water » says Michel. « You can Water the plants all you want, but the earth won’t retain the water and the water won’t get down to the roots. »

Michel’s magnificent vegetable patch is looking pretty misérable – puny pumpkins, miniscule melons, tired tomatoes and all the plants have dried or burned leaves.

Seems like even in the garden, we are finally reaping the results of global warming.

« No point watering then » I inquire.

« Not really » says Michel, so we crack open a ciuple of beers and sit down to watch the Tour de France on TV.