Sick Again

Seasonal tradition – the pre-festive flu


Body aching like I’ve been thrown several times against a wall. Head hurting like it’s been clamped firmly in a vice, and someone is still turning the screw and I’m coughing like an old tramp nurtured on full tar cigarettes and left out for several days in the rain.

« Can’t give you any antibiotics » says the doctor,

« Just stay home in the warm. Take plenty paracetemol and above all, do nothing. »

And with a flourish of his drug company-sponsored pen, the doc signs off « Here you are » he announces and with a big beaming smile he pushes a form a across the desk

« What’s this? »

« A médical certificate for a week’s sick leave. Doctor’s orders, stay home for a week and do nothing. »

« Nothing ! »

Yes, those are the doctor’s orders – nothing.

Now, there are some people I know who would simply ignore médical advice, and, even with a médical certificate, would crawl into work and work, just to prove to everyone else, that what they do is so important, that no one can do without them, and it is thanks to such « heroics » that a everyone else gets sick.

I am going to firmly follow doctor’s orders

YES you’re ill. You’ve got flu or something nastier and though you are not going to die, you certainly feel in a state close to mortal demise.

Get it into your head that you won’t be fit for work

Doctor’s orders – DO NOTHING.

And that is exactly what I do for a week. I do nothing.

I head home, a shivering wreck. I pop a fistful of paracetemol, pull on a grotty old tracksuit, fill a hot water bottle and then wrap myself in a huge duvet and settle down in front of the TV for a week of nothing.

Yep folks – I’ve spent all week watching TV

The news channels, the soap channels, the shopping channels, the kids’ channels, the vintage re-run channels, the religious channels, the crafting channels.

I’ve watched watched North Korean Missiles tests with non stop beaming faced images of « Rocket man ». I’ve seen Laura Ingells comes to blows with Nelly Olsen, I’ve cruised on the Love Boat, I’ve solved murders with Angela Landsbury, I’ve been to Southfork and back via Falcon’s Crest. I’ve learned how to make « lovely » Christmas décorations and « scrapbooking-style » Christmas cards. I’ve learned how to cook the perfect turkey. I’ve drooled over everything from hot rocks and cool diamonds on the jewelery channel to power vacuums, slow cookers, fitness machines and stairlifts on the shopping channels. I’ve watched Christians, Moslems, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs all ranting their rants – I’ve had calls to prayer, calls ro reason and advice to bring me closer to God.

And in-between the programs – commercial and more commercials with slippers, surgical stockings, death insurance, more bloody chairlifts, exercise aids for the elderly, Christmas chocolates and incontinence pants and checks for colon cancer and urinary probems for older men

AAAAAGH – If I were old. I’m only 52 and in every bloody ad or programme or propoganda slot for the « elderly » it is echoed and re-echoed «NOW YOU ARE OVER 50 … »

Yes I must accept that at 50 you turn into a gibbering, slobbering, incontinet, piss stinking, disabled, semi senile , pyjama-wearing, slipper shuffling wreck. AAAAAAAGH.

Oh Thank God, I’ve found Boomerang TV on the satellite – re-runs of the original Hanna Barbera cartoons – Scooby Doo, Flintstones, The Jetsons …

Hey, If advertisers think I should be senile at 50, might as well watch some kids TV.

What I have loved about this week in the Twilight TV sickness world – all the mid morning ménopause unf*** your f****d-up life TV –

Forgotten second rate stars back from the grave with a book to sell and a career to relaunch.

The youngish, late fortysomething replastified bimbo looks caringly and meaningfully into the UV gaze of the late sixtysomething soap survivor –

« Tell me how did …


breast cancer

the loss of your pet dog


Drug addiction


Sexual breakdown


affect your life ? »

« And what is the subject of your new book ? »


And in this week of TV watching, I have loved all these heart-tugging broken family shows – like Jeremy Kyle

Get a mid morning TV slot, when all the world’s misfits are just rolling out of bed, and wheel some obese, loud-mouthed, no-brain, white trash dysfuntional families into the studio, get them screaming at each other, and you’ve got one shit hot TV show.

The Usual stuff :

Mother sleeps with daughter’s boyfriend a few weeks away from the wedding.

Husband-to-be is sleeping with his fiancé’s sister.

Father-in-law having a fling with his future daughter-in-law.

And after a venomous slanging match it all ends in tears and a big hug.

When I hear people at work reeling off about their perfect lives and their perfect kids, I always feel that I have kind of failed somewhere in my life, but it takes a week of watching Daytime TV to show me otherwise – aspiring and subscribing to the dreams, hopes and fears of the stay-at-homes – for whatever reason people have to stay home.

It takes all sorts to make up a world, and we all need some kind of place in this crazy world.

Back to work tomorrow – fighting fit and one thing is for sure – the first thing someoneis going to say « Did you enjoy your holiday ? »







It happened on Sunday 9th September – my faithful old Macbook pro just decided to give up. Monday morning, off it went to a savvy local Mac technician for a spot of major surgery and now after a heart and brain transplant, the Mac is back – all this to explain why this post is over two weeks late and perhaps has little or no relevance, but I enjoyed writing it, so here is 11/9 (European date configuration)

Sunday September 11th 2016

Thank God for normality. The boring grind of a slow Sunday. The weekly trip to the supermarket, filling up the trolley in the same old systematic, Stepford wives way – I spare little thought for what we’re going to eat, I just sling the stuff I always buy in the trolley because I know exactly where it is in the aisles, and if I try anything new or different, I will be forced to leave my well worn supermarket circuit and embark on a voyage of discovery. This is Sunday! I don’t want an adventure because Sunday is not an adventure kind of day. (and what if I get lost?)

Please, nothing too adventurous or physical on this, a day of rest. I don’t want t have to have to reach up or bend down to find new products, that are probably exactly like the ones I take already, which are nicely set in the middle of the shelf, so I can just reach out and grab them with a minimum of effort. No, I sure don’t want to make any efort, it will take time I haven’t got and besides, by taking those packets, tins and boxes arranged at mid-height, I spare the poor underpaid supermarket shelf filler. If I take too low down or high up, then the wheezy old arthritic lady (well past retirement age) who stacks the shelves, will be obliged to reach up or bend down – My unimaginative shopping ritual is saving her aching joints. String at the contents of my trolley as I pass through the check out, I’m not sure if there’s actuallu anything in my shopping that might make a decent «square» meal.

So, back home to corrections and lesson preparation – the fate that befalls all teachers, Sunday is already Monday.

Thank God …. not quite the right turn of phrase when I consider those terrorist acts perpetrated in France over the summer,in the name of a God or a religion. Let us say thank goodness (if there is any of that still left), thank goodness for normality as the first rays of sun penetrate through the shutters and I lazily turn over and let fly an enormous Sunday morning fart, then shake the duvet to air the bed and allow the onion gas from the night before to escape. Never have onions for dinner, bad breath, stomach acid and flatulence, that is all they are good for.

Oh what a rude awakening, but I have been awake for some time, raised from my slumber by the gentle sound of gunfire – shotguns popping off in the local woods. No, this is not some Daesh offshoot shooting off – this is the first day of the hunting season and all game is fair game (though there are strict quotas). Our local woods are bristling with bristly boar. As hunger pangs begin to gnaw, I begin to hanker after a slice of roast boar. The good old hunting season, I hope the morning news will be full of hunting stories, those good old perennials. Every year, prominent members of the pro-hunting lobby pop up on prime time news to slog it out with those who defend animal rights – hunting is cruel. Oh please let us have a good old hunting debate rather than the summer long, tawdry, fastidious, burqa-burkini row or the wall-to-wall coverage of the war on terrorism. Let us have a day off. No chance though, Sure this is Sunday September 11th, but the world is gearing up for a week of rememberance, this is the 15th anniversary of 9/11. What were you doing on 9/11? asks the sombre-voiced journalist on the morning news – «ring in and tell us where you were on September 11th 2001» – I guess we all remember where we were, but I can’t imagine that anyone would have thought that we would be where we are now.

After breakfast, a trip down to the mail box; no postal delivery on a Sunday, but it is stuffed to overflowing with junk ads from local supermarkets, car dealerships and clothing retailers. It is that time in the retail season when not much is going on. The kids are back at school and have all been kitted out already, so those who want to sell us stuff that we don’t want, have to come up with new exciting shopping «events».

New Year is not until January, yet, September in France has beome the unofficial new year, back to work and back to school after the long summer break.

New year, new car – local dealerships are offering unbeatable deals on new models, and this Sunday they are open for viewing and test drives – not so exceptional in other countries, but this is France where national trading laws are such, that everything is closed on a Sunday, and for years an unholy alliance of clergy and labour unions have fought to keep it that way – no one works on a Sunday, save teachers and those who man the tills in the increasing number of supermarkets that are now open on Sunday mornings, because they sell «perishables»

I don’t need a new car, but the glossy little «magazine» from the local supermarket reminds me that their annual wine fair revs up in three days – I even have a voucher for a 5 Euro cash back when I spend over 30 Euros on wine. Better still, next week, (like the hundreds of other people who have had the sale junk thrust through their letter box) I have a personal invitation to the local supermarket’s inaugural wine fair evening. I went to one of these a few years ago – we all squeezed into the wine section of the supermarket for a glass of cheap red plonk and a slice of pâté. We were entertaiend by a local folk group, plying drunken versions of traditional tunes and jigs and suchlike. A memorable evening. Most of the musicians had been on the wince well before. The singer kept slurring his words, the fiddle player could kept missing the fiddle with his bow, and three members of the accompanying dance troop were so drunk that they fell over. A good time was had by all.

The supermarket wine fair – they’ve been around for twenty years or – a commercial initiative to cash in on the grape harvest. From Bordeaux to Beaujolais, the noble fruit of the vine is being harvested by nimble fingered students, eastern European immigrants and retirees trying to augment their meagre pensions. So, this is the time across the land when supermarkets stock up crates of wine from floor to ceiling and the customers pour in for cheap deals on quality vino to stock up their cellars. I am an adept of the wine fair, but nothing ever stays long stocked in my cellar – wine is for drinking now. can’t see the point of keeping bottles for ten or twenty years for someone to drink when I’m dead.

The normality of those everyday French things – hunting, wine, and as I head into the supermarket, I see that the local goatman has set up stall in the entrance – and is selling cheese that is literally fresh out the goat.

Normality – back home to unload the shopping before sitting down to prepare new lessons. Every week I attempt to imagine inspiring and beguiling ways to impart the Queen’s English to my students – and before you know it, it is that time on early Sunday evening when you think about cooking dinner, or doing the ironing or having a bath and contemplate the evening’s TV viewing. Which US police show will I watch tonight? What tired old films are the TV schedulers offering up tonight? I would like a comedy, however old, however unfunny, however many times I have seen it before. I just want something that might raise a feeble smile because at the moment there isn’t much to smile about.

My Treasures, Your Rubbish.

It’s that hard realisation. Your cherished possessions, your gadgets, your technological toys, your digital cameras, your i-pods, i-phones your laptops, your super slim flat screen liquid crystal telepathic titanium TVs – your frivolous science fiction fantasy toys that you have bought with your hard earned cash are all worth NOTHING and even LESS THAN NOTHING.

“But it’s a 12 million megapixel 12 times zoom all singing all dancing digital camera that even makes the tea,” I tell the mean bespectacled Cash Converters operative.

“I’ll give you tuppence,” says the bespectacled bastard

“Yeah, but look it’s got a built in GPS, mobile telephone dictaphone function.”

“Still tuppence.”

“It belonged to Picasso when he was working for Magnum.”

“Who’s Picasso? And what the hell if he worked for an ice cream company!”

“I need the money for my daughter’s brain transplant. PLEEAASE. GIVE ME MORE MONEY.”

And it’s no go.

We are Tuesday lunchtime at Cash Converters in small town France. In the waiting room, the usual selection of humanity trying to sell their worldly goods. Track suited and baseball capped white trash hawking their mobile phones. Hard done by seniors with bags of family heirlooms that they want to shift to get some cash before they die. Educated middle class types selling books and board games. Spotty youths selling gadgets to get enough cash for their next fix – all the world is here. The place is not unlike the waiting room at the local hospital’s Accident and Emergency unit. There’s a TV clamped to the wall and tuned into to a music channel. There’s a coffee vending machine – 50 Euro centimes for a cup of ersatz Cappuccino. No one is partaking – the price of a coffee is just about as much as you are going to get for your worldly goods.

I’ve been waiting for two hours. The line of hopefuls is longer than a soup kitchen queue in the darkest depths of the Great Depression. One after the other we drudge our way up to the counter, we lay out our worldly goods, only to be told that we have nothing more than a heap of crap, BUT, the smug speccy bastard takes our crap and next door in the sales room, just as many people file in for a “cheap deal” on reasonably priced, but slightly dated consumer durables. Hey! Don’t buy a new i-phone, wait until some financially hard pressed geek or unsatisfied follower of tech trends sells his or her outmoded model for a pittance so you can buy it for next to nothing.

Technology? Possessions? I want less and less and just more cash. Here I am, trying to sell some recent but now antique technology to raise enough money to buy a new TV, and this is the reason that, risking a quadruple hernia and total ridicule that I have lugged my old obese Sony Trinitron TV to Cash Converters so that I can get enough cash to buy one of these new, sexy anorexic models.

The Cash Convertor man smiles a smug smile as I plonk my mammoth TV on the counter. He eyes the TV up and down, side-to-side, back to front.

“It works.” I tell him, at a loss to know what he’s looking for.

“Can’t find the nozzle for the gas supply,” he says

I’m lost. “Gas supply???”

“Yeah,” sneers Mr Cash Converter. “It’s just that your TV is so old, I’m wondering if they had invented electricity when you bought it.”

I know my TV is old. It was the last major purchase that I made in Francs before we all switched to our great European Monopoly money – the Euro. My TV works though.

“Does it get programmes in colour?” asks the man.

From his sledgehammer wit, I have worked out that the Cash Converter man doesn’t want it, and so, to avoid more ridicule, I take the TV set back to the car. I guess I’ll just keep the TV until it finally blows up, besides if I buy a new sexy flat screen TV, that will probably die on me within two or three years. I believe they call it “pre-programmed obsolescence.” Your bright new TV is designed to die after a couple of years, or at least of it doesn’t die, it is so expensive to fix, that you might as well buy a new one.

I should have walked out there and then, but either I am a glutton for punishment, or just stupid and naïve enough to think that my apparently Jurassic items might just interest the Cash Converters man enough to throw a few farthings my way.

“House phones!” he laughs. “No one uses them any more. I couldn’t even give these away.” Yes, a nearly new set of house phones – those we use for our landlines. Three sleek, discrete ergonomic handsets, hardly used simply because when we needed a new phone, my wife and I didn’t consult on the purchase and each bought a set of phones.

If I am to believe a report in a recent edition of the UK newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, only about 50% of UK households now have a house phone, and of those that do, only 28% of calls are made using the landline. So, if no one is using house phones anymore, why the hell are shops still selling them? Why are those who manufacture phones still making the damn things?

Next up, some DVDs – “No one buys DVDs any more. If you had some blu rays …” It’s the same with the CDs. “Of course if you’ve got any vinyl I’ll take that,” says the man.

“Vinyl? What old 33rpm LPs?”

“Oh yeah, all the rage with youngsters. I can’t get enough vinyl.”

I’ve got a moral dilemma here. Do I sell my sizable vinyl record collection while it might still be worth something? A collection of 500 albums lovingly built-up over the years. I could still pretty much tell you when and where I bought each one. All that pocket money I saved as a kid to buy records. All those hours I spent in record shops buying the latest releases or looking for bargains to build up my collection artist by artist. Al those hours I spent at record fairs, tracking down rare pressings or live bootleg albums (most of which are actually very dubious sound quality – I have a live Led Zep bootleg from a 1975 show in Dallas, where you can really only hear the feet of the fans – never put your recording device on the floor.)

Oh dear. Downsizing. Getting shot of what you think is valuable. My treasure is your rubbish.

I leave Cash Converters under clouds as heavy and grey as those in the sky that are about to unleash torrential rain upon us. Outside the queue of cash hopefuls is as long as ever. I make the mistake of nipping into the sales room to see what Cash Converters actually sell. My camera is already on sale for 100 Euros – four times more than the measly 25 Euros I got for it. Along the far wall there are shelves of TV sets – all of the slim line science fiction variety. To my left, locked glass cabinets are full of Smartphone’s. Nearly new Laptops, tablets, I pods … It’s a wonder that anyone has kept this stuff long enough to use it seriously.

Somehow, I feel that I’m missing the plot in our new ephemeral throwaway society. I suppose I’m one of a dying species – those people who buy stuff that lasts. Those people who are willing to pay a little extra for quality and durability. On my numerous visits to the local dump with a car full of garden refuse, it pains me to see people throwing out perfectly good gadgets that still work, simply because they are “passé” – like my TV.

I suppose I am out of touch. I really shouldn’t be blogging anymore, I should be tweeting. I shouldn’t ne buying films on DVD, but downloading them to watch on my i-pad. As for music, I should be downloading that to listen to on my phone. BUT, I am part of that generation that likes to possess things – by the size of your record collection shall ye be measured. I don’t want to read books on my Smartphone – I like libraries – long shelves bulging under the weight of books. I like a real camera. Phones are for phoning, not taking pictures, moreover, I still use my mobile phone to actually phone people rather than sending them a text message.

Out of touch and out of time with a box of house phones and a fistful of DVDs, I head across the car park, through the pouring rain – a lonely Luddite heading back to his cave.

In conclusion

I suppose what shocks me most in all this – all those people, hard pressed for cash, selling their worldly goods for a few extra pennies who have to face the humiliation of the smug, know-it-all, Cash Converters employee. What if we all just sold our stuff on the Internet? What of we just stood on a street corner, like those hawkers of old, trying to sell our worldly goods to passers-by? If we all did that, the Cash Converter man and people of his ilk would be out of a job. But at Cash Converters, you get instant cash, no questions asked and in the end, we all need the money, unless of course you are rich enough to give your worldly goods to charity – that is of course if the choosy local charity shop actually want your stuff.

I remember clearing out mum’s flat after she died, I took all her worldly goods, clothing, books, ornaments etc – down to the local charity shop – giving them away to a good cause – Cancer Research. I was shocked when I took the final car load of mum’s stuff to the shop, to find most of what I had given to the shop I, the dumpster out the back. I protested to the shop’s manageress, who just looked at me coldly and said “We only keep what we know we can sell.” My cherished possessions are someone else’s rubbish. Just goes to show that life is cheap.

Camping Thoughts

A few rambling thoughts on camping in France

Holidays in France.

Chances are you’ve come for a couple of weeks by the sea, possibly staying in a rented mobile home on a vast campsite just a few yards from the beach –

Oh dear. It all sounds very downmarket.

I imagine hundreds of mobile homes, cheek-by-jowl, in a field that is actually a very long walk from the nearest accessible beach.

I imagine a sprawling campsite, not unlike a refugee camp with water points and washing blocks. A campsite shop that looks more like a food distribution centre and mobile homes and caravans in incestuous proximity. Open your toilet window for a view of next-door’s BBQ area. We are so close that we can shake hands bedroom-to-bedroom with the neighbours. We can share in all those high-tension holiday feelings that come with close quarters living and the general stress of actually being on holiday. We are so close, that even the hushed, late night conversation next door might have you calling up the local branch of the Noise Abatement Society.

Curious is it not. We work hard all year for our place in the sun and year on year, we pay our hard-earned money to go and live in a space that is barely bigger than the spare bedroom. We live on mosquito-infested campsites, sharing every waking minute with total strangers. We try not to stare at the family across the way having breakfast. We try our hardest to greet everyone that passes by as we sit out on our small terrace, and as we pass by, we try not to stare. BUT we are CURIOUS. We really DO want to know how the other happy campers spend their lives. We have temporarily joined this ephemeral summer campsite community. We might merely be camper vans that pass in the night, but we like to know about our neighbours. GOD FORBID though that we actually try and get to know them.

Perhaps French campsites are not like those in other countries. To start with we don’t say campsite but “un camping” and even that is going out of fashion as the humble “camping” becomes “Un hotel de plein air”(An Open Air hotel) Inspired by Club Med you can’t go camping now if your site doesn’t have a couple of swimming pools, several bars and restaurants, a mini shopping mall, a gym, beauty salon, watersports and above all – nightly entertainment to keep the punters happy. An exaggeration? – well many camp sites might not all have the gym or the beauty parlour, but they’ve got the rest

Ah for those campsites of old – a far-flung field with a wash block like something out of a gulag and a basic campsite shop and nothing to do in the evenings other than sit round the gas lamp, fight off the mosquitoes, read a book, play a board game and then retire to your flimsy creaking camp bed at some unfeasibly early hour when most people would just be thinking of going out for the night, but you are camping you poor bastard. You are in the middle of nowhere and once it is dark there is nothing to do but go to bed.

Of old camp sites used to be fields in the country or fields by the sea. Some canny farmer with a spot of land would install a few chemical loos and water points and open a camp site. And then holidays got expensive. Those nice little cottages or apartments by the sea started to cost serious money, so everyone went camping, but people wanted all those services on a campsite that they might get in a holiday apartment. Washing machines, dishwashers, satellite TV, BBQ areas and above all they wanted something to do – bars, restaurants, shopping ; entertainment – and so the luxury campsite was born. Pitch your tent at near camping prices but with electricity, wifi, on site everything and more besides – Hey, once you have got here, you want all your creature comforts but you still want camping prices.

I suppose the evolution to “camping resorts” started in the mid 90’s when real holiday rentals got too expensive and we all went camping to save money but stim wanted all the materiel comforts of a real holiday resort.

As things stand in France, you can still pitch your tent in a rural campsite for as little as 5 Euros a night. You might get some very basic gulag-style washing and toilet facilities but above that that there is nothing. OR you can go for the upper end of the market – glamorous camping or “glamping” with a mobile home rental (wifi, aircon, washing machine, TV, shower, separate bedrooms, microwave) for ….

Well it all depends where you go. On the northern coasts of France you’ll be paying 500€ to 750€ a week in high season (14/07 to 15/08) down south in the Gulf of St Tropez, a mobile home will set you back 1500€ a week. So, you know where I go and I am seriously looking at my holiday strategy. BUT, I get a lot for my money.

So, time to sign off for tonight, because I have to confirm my last minute “Luxury Holiday Lodge” reservation (because that is what a mobile home

France Grinds to a Halt for Football

Football (or soccer) – the French national game. The only sport (apart from cycling) with more or less everyone seems to follow, or at least seems to be away of. In just under an hour, France will grind to a halt to watch the French national soccer team in their World Cup quarter final match against Germany.

Making it to the quarter finals is already quite achievement, when you consider the Frenc team’s dismal performance in the 2010 World Cup and this current team’s lack of experience. However, this quarter final is against the old enemy, Germany. France haven’t played Germany in the World Cup since a notorious and acrimonious semi-final match back in 1982 during the World Cup in Spain. The match was badly refereed and the French team took numerous knocks from their Teutonic foes. The French oct the match and were knocked out of the World Cup. This evening’s encounter is being billed in the media as the “Revenge for 82”, and it comes with even more “piquant” in this anniversary year of D Day and the outbreak of WW1 – yes the historic parallel has not been lost on the French media.

So, off I go, like the millions of other French men and women – to camp in front of my TV for the next three hours or so. Pundits forecast a 2 – 1 win for Germany.I’m not a betting man, but this would seems fair bet.

For any foreign powers looking to invade France or anyone wishing to commit a major bank robbery or other similar activities – now is the perfect time. There will be no one about.

Allez les Bleus