The Russians are coming…..


The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

This used to be the Cold War warning which would cause any American child to check under his bed anxiously.

Well, they (the Russians) have arrived and are currently sunning themselves in the most exclusive and expensive hideaways in the more fashionable resorts of Sicily. Just like C and I.

Now I do not wish to tar a whole nation with the same brush…..but as long as they continue to invade their neighbours, dope their athletes, and keep that idiot, Putin, in power, I am willing to make an exception for the Motherland.

In any case, they (the Russians) like some Borg-like collective, appear to have assumed a certain stereotypical caricature of themselves – older (often much older) and more rotund (nope – think bigger and rounder than that….), quiet and surly men with pretty and much younger (think Woody Allen) trophy wife/partner.

In fact, and this may be doing a great disservice to the magnetic personality, intellect, wit and sexual prowess of your typical Russian oligarch (or not), but, I suspect, that some of these young Soviet lovelies might have been paid to accompany their hirsute speedo-wearing comrades.

The Russians are almost legendary in Sicily. Our tour guide asked if there were many Russians at our hotel and when we said yes, he stated “they are either engineers or drunk. Nothing in between”. They are also renowned for their rudeness, richness and, for their appetite.

Let me describe our first breakfast here and the Russian couple who sat at the table to the side of us.

She, let us call her Olga, was about seven foot tall (its the doping…) and model-like glamorous – not unlike King Ragnar Lodbrok’s second wife in the Vikings, if you can excuse the Scandic reference. Boris, well, not so glamorous. He was older and, therefore, obviously rich and/or a connected oligarch with the demeanour of a pot-bellied, surly Muscovite taxi driver on the way to a drug deal.

I trust I’ve painted the picture adequately…..

Olga brought a plate which would have impressed any aficionados of Nandos or a 1980s “as much as you can eat” Pizza Hut salad bar. In the American style (and Russian apparently) meat, fish, pastry, fruit, cheese and scrambled egg were all piled high onto a single plate. Olga retreated only to return with extra salamis, cake and a bun with a huge dollop of cream.

Boris brought a similar feast himself but did not set it down until he had made the waitress change the already clean tablecloth (for this is the type of upmarket, nay swanky establishment C and I have become accustomed to frequent….). He too went back for more food, juice and a couple of glasses of Prosecco (I will miss breakfast when we return to Blighty). He ordered poached eggs on the side and coffee – one espresso and a cappuccino.

We kept expecting other guests to join them. But no. The pair simply sat and chomped – she more glamourously than he – their way through mounds of food which would have been enough to feed a small army on its way to occupy the Crimea….

And it is not just their culinary appetites that are huge….apparently.

C and I are currently sunning ourselves next to a huge Russian guy – think Daredevil and Spiderman’s nemesis, the Kingpin. 
He is fat and conjures up images of the Southern Comfort ad with the guy in his speedos as he struts up and down the decking beachside. The wood is groaning slightly under his weight.


He is in the company of two (TWO) scantily dressed pretty young girls and, I joke not, a small Pomeranian toy dog which insists on taking the shade under C’s sunbed.

This guy reeks of Bratva (Russian mafia). Even the other Russian oligarchs scattered here and there around us looked on a little embarrassed, awed, and intrigued as to how the dog had been smuggled into Italy in contradiction of strict quarantine laws. And, how much they would need to pay for a second playmate for themselves.

We tried to avoid eye contact and retreated to the relative safety and normality of the pool area where C turned to me and asked “do you think he’s killed anyone…….with a meat cleaver? And, do you think they take turns.”

We both hope that the threesome and their dog are not in the room next to ours……

La dolce vita……

September 14, 2016 at 2:11 pm 2 comments

#SavingLabour

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Jeremy Corbyn is a principled man. I get it. He is a democratic socialist. I get it. He is loyal to his supporters. I get it.

But, he’s not too bright is he? Maybe two grade Es at A-Level and dropping out of Poly after falling out with his tutors (he doesn’t like the establishment methinks…) don’t quite hack it as credentials for leading Her Majesty’s Opposition. But maybe, to give him the benefit of the doubt he has more than made up for his academic failings by learning in the “university of life”. Supposedly. Maybe. Maybe not.

Let’s forget all the flimflam about wearing a tie, bowing to the Queen and singing the National Anthem. That just means he’s scruffy, rude and unpatriotic. Not the most endearing of characteristics but not worth hanging the guy for. Maybe.

I can even see why he felt it necessary to schmooze up to the IRA and the Palestinians, but I would question his timing (after the IRAs mainland bombing campaign of the mid-1970s) and the need to do all of that in the glare of the TV cameras and contrary to the wishes of the Labour leadership at the time.

I can see why he might want to unilaterally remove Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Although I disagree with him on that too. I do understand those who would rather wave welcomingly at Putin bare-chested, strident atop of a T-14 tank and throw rose petals into his path as he trundled his way down the Mall rather than invoke the ultimate deterrent of mutually assured nuclear annihilation. But, it would not be a credible threat if, in some parallel universe, Corbyn was to ever be put in charge of the nuclear button.

I can also see why he may have chosen to vote against the wars in Afghanistan and Iran. Indeed, many of us true Labour supporters are angry and feel a little betrayed by some of the justifications touted by Blair at the time. But, declaring yourself a pacifist makes it a tad difficult to stand steadfast against some of the more belligerent threats that our country faces. Not least the rise of extreme left and right-wing nationalist (and racist) groups across Europe spurred on by that disastrous folly which is Brexit. Drinking a Coke while teaching the world to sing has never been a very credible defence strategy……

In fact he’s not much of a team player at all is he? Indeed, he is the second most rebellious Labour MP of all time, voting against the Labour Government of Blair and Brown no less than 428 times and ignoring the Party whip many, many more times when in opposition. Hardly a soldier for the Party – not when it isn’t aligned with his own petty politics.

And, he’s certainly not much of a leader either is he? When not in his comfort zone addressing irrelevant lobby groups such as the Durham Miners Association; Dennis Skinner; or like-minded left-wing socialists such as Unite; or, enjoying a pint in the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club with Ken (I’m not an anti-Semite) Livingstone, he is totally incapable of moving beyond protest towards persuasion. 42 resignations from his shadow cabinet speaks volumes….

Let’s be clear, he’s not a Labour supporter. He’s to the left of the Party. He’s some form of “-ist”. Far left. His views, principles and methods are not universally shared by the Parliamentary Labour Party. Indeed, and more importantly, they are not shared by the wider populous whose support is needed if Labour is ever to regain power – the people wobbled in the face of Red Ed Moribund so will surely fall down in the face of Corbyn.

And without power all the grandiose principles and positioning are little more than protest and posturing. Mr Corbyn, if you care about the working man, the impoverished and the disenfranchised then step aside and let someone else lead. Let someone else oppose. Thank you for the kick up the backside but please retreat to the dimly lit corners of politics, wearing your Leninist cap and Che Guevara t-shirt with pride while writing your column in the Morning Star and chewing over the “good old days” with Diane Abbott….

And, talking of the disenfranchised, I am appalled at the decision not to allow a vote in the Labour leadership election to those who joined the Party since January, unless they pay an additional £25. Many of the people I know joined to ensure that Corbyn was not re-elected. So much for Labour Democracy…

Stop being small world, little Britain and stubborn and step aside Mr. Corbyn. For the sake of Labour. For the sake of the country. Please….

July 16, 2016 at 3:08 pm 2 comments

Should we stay or should we go?

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Please vote to remain.

I admit that neither side of the Brexit campaign has showered themselves in glory. Farage, meanwhile, has been consistently abominable and is the tip of very dark, divisive and dangerous and dangerous minority. The future is by its very nature difficult to predict. The number of “facts” about the impact of staying or going is indeed small, disputable and debatable.

But, why would we take the risk of leaving?

We are doing pretty well as we are. We already punch above our weight on the global stage at least diplomatically, militarily, if not in the world of football (well done Wales!). And, our economy is doing better than most.

We are still British and Northern Irish while being European. Our pork pies and Stilton cheeses are protected. As is Sterling. And English remains the dominant language around the world, at least in terms of business. And, he Union Flag still flies proud over Westminster, Holyrood, the Synedd, and Stormont.

What is so great about a fictitious world outside of Europe that is worth the infamous “leap into the dark” or killing an MP for? Why would the UK be so much better run by a government headed by a self-serving Boris or his sidekick, Gove?

Who would you trust the most, those backing the Remain campaign including former British Prime Ministers Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major, the Labour Party, the Lib Dems, and the SNP? While you might not like their politics, you have to admit that it is an impressive body of support from our political leaders, past and present, and a fairly broad political church.

And…

Organisations who exist to fight for jobs, workers rights, and a better society want us to remain, including the TUC, our six largest trades unions, and the National Farmers Union. Workers unite. Farmers unite.

And…

The vast majority of “serious” economists and independent financial institutions such as the Bank of England and multiple international businesses including Ford Motor Company, Toyota UK, GKN, Diagio and Rolls Royce. Nissan is actually suing the Vote Leave campaign who, incorrectly, claimed the company favoured Brexit.

And…

The people who live and breathe the much beleaguered NHS also want us to stay, such as the Chief Executive of NHS England, and the Royal College of Midwives.

And…

Most of the “credible” world leaders also want the UK to be part of the EU, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Angela Merkel.

Against this persuasive body of opinion are rallied such “great” leaders as Boris Johnson, Michael Gove (remember what he did to the Education system in this country?), Neil Hamilton and Nigel Farage, all being egged on by the BNP, UKIP, and the Sun newspaper! Oh, and Donald Trump…..Oh and, James Dyson, who moved his vacuum cleaner factory to Malaysia….

Given the overwhelming body of political, and economical support for remaining in Europe, why on Earth is anyone considering that the world would be better if we left? Please don’t be fooled by the rhetoric and lies of those spouting leave…..

I absolutely agree that we shouldn’t be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. That we should decide our own laws and how we spend our own money. But, according to the House of Commons Library Report, only 7% of our laws were generated in Brussels. They don’t govern us, or set our laws. The UK does manage its own budget and sets its own taxes and determines how it spends the revenue it raises, including how much to invest in health, education, policing, the military, and border control, etc…

And it is a two-way street. The UK has been able to influence many European laws that have brought great advantage to our fellow European citizens living in other countries. And laws that might protect us from pollution, global warming and terrorism, etc. are certainly less impactful if they only ever get implemented in one tiny island off the north west of the Continent.

Yes, we are a net contributor to the EU. We do pay in more than what we get back. But so what? It’s a good thing to help countries that are poorer than ours, isn’t it? Some would argue that one of the reasons why Europe has enjoyed such a long period of relative peace since WW2 is because of the raising of standards, economic stability, and the spread of democracy across Europe, driven in part by the EU.

And you also need to look closely at the numbers that are being banded around. Yes, we do pay £350 million a week to the EU. But, after our rebate and money spent in the UK by the EU, this reduces to a net UK contribution of just £100 million per week, which is just 0.3% (yes, note the decimal point) of UK GDP, or, about 36 British pence per person per day. I’d like to continue to pay that to avoid another European war and secure UK jobs, especially as spending that same 36 pence to improve UK public services would, frankly, amount to pissing in the wind! Put that on the side of your battle bus Boris…

Leavers claim we will continue to be able to access the single market in Europe if we leave, but, Germany’s finance minister has made it quite clear this won’t be the case. We may well face tariffs on our exports to the EU.

And then there are the migrants. Turks and terrorists of the wrong religious persuasion wading ashore at Dover and living their lives contrary to our Great British culture, changing life in Little England and the colour of this green and sceptred isle forever.

Bollocks.

I am more afraid of the people who are afraid of immigrants than the immigrants themselves. More afraid of people who can stand in front of a poster of desperate refugees fleeing a civil war in Syria with the banner “Breaking Point”.

Forget the broad history of beneficial immigration to this country over the centuries, even since joining the EU the vast majority of immigration to the UK has been from outside of the EU. Now it is true that this balance has swung somewhat the other way in recent years but even in 2015, some 270,000 EU citizens immigrated to the UK, and 85,000 returned to the EU, giving a net contribution of 185,000 people. In a country of 64.6 million souls. Their addition is hardly going to see us slide into the sea even if they all jump up and down at the same time in the same corner of Kent!

And, most importantly, (I say again most importantly) these migrants to the UK pay more in taxes than the cost of the public services they use, to the tune of a positive contribution of £20 billion a year (versus the £5.2 billion a year net contribution that the UK pays to the EU!). Most are of working age and most work, bringing in important tax revenues at a time when our native population is becoming more and more elderly with the obvious additional strain on pensions and the health service. These immigrants, economic or otherwise, help to pay for our schools, our hospitals, and they build them and work in them. If there are not enough school places or you have to wait too long for a doctor’s appointment then blame Westminster not Brussels, and certainly not the migrants!  Incidentally, that is exactly why Australia has a points based immigration system – to attract a younger, working population who can make a positive contribution to help fund services to an ageing population.

And, remember there are 2 million Brits living in Spain, France and other parts of Europe. We call them ex-pats but, in reality they are the EU’s immigrants from the UK. Most are retired and many have holiday homes – drawing on the public services. And, there are 30,000 British nationals claiming unemployment and other welfare benefits in other EU countries. It’s a two-way street…

For sure, if we Brexit, our economy will suffer, at least in the short term. The pound will devalue – indeed it already has as the polls begin to show that the threat (and I chose that word deliberately) of Brexit is a possibility has had a negative impact on the Pond and the Stock Market. “Great” some may say as the basic laws of economics mean that a devalued Pound means the goods that we manufacture will be cheaper and we will be able to export more.

Bollocks!

What do we make here any more? Thatcher killed off all of most of our manufacturing decades ago and Osborne seems intent on finishing the job. We are largely a service industry and a financial services industry. We make skinny lattes and burgers. Those things we still do still manufacture and export such as oil and foreign brand cars for foreign-owned companies, are reliant upon integrated European-wide manufacturing process and distribution systems and are likely to be hit by tariffs of a scale that will offset any exchange rate benefit. And your holidays in the Euro zone will become more expensive. And a falling currency normally leads to inflation, which the Bank of England usually guards against by raising interest rates – so, your mortgage rates will go up! We will all be worse off…

The question is are you willing to risk all or any of the above happening?

Nicholas Soames MP, grandson of Winston Churchill is a prominent Remainer. He has been criticised for not backing Brexit, with many claiming that Churchill would be turning in his grave.

Would he?

Churchill, addressing the Congress of Europe in 1948 said: “A high and a solemn responsibility rests upon us here … If we allow ourselves to be rent and disordered by pettiness and small disputes, if we fail in clarity of view or courage in action, a priceless occasion may be cast away for ever. But if we all pull together and pool the luck and the comradeship – and we shall need all the comradeship and not a little luck … then all the little children who are now growing up in this tormented world may find themselves not the victors nor the vanquished in the fleeting triumphs of one country over another in the bloody turmoil of … war, but the heirs of all the treasures of the past and the masters of all the science, the abundance and the glories of the future.”

That’s the spirit of Churchill. That’s the spirit of Great Britain. That’s the spirit of Europe.

You can keep my 36 pence a day. It’s a price very much worth paying.

Please vote to remain.

June 21, 2016 at 10:16 am Leave a comment

Springtime in Paris….

 

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I have been working in Paris, the City of Light, for a few weeks now and, as the flood waters of the Seine have now retreated and Euro 16 is in full swing, I have been reflecting on how it feels to be a visitor here; how the capital city of our nearest continental neighbour differs from London, the Smoke, and other places in the UK.

On the positive side, unlike the impression that your average Daily Mail reader and Brexit campaigner might have (#Remain), there are not migrants (or immigrants) behind every corner or terrorists under every bed. And the streets are not disappearing under mounds of uncollected refuse. There are no blockades of burning tyres or burning sheep manned by “grévistes” in a city gridlocked by rail, metro, air traffic control strikes and failing fuel supplies. And, thankfully, I have yet to see a Russian or English football hooligan in the flesh! Although, to be fair, security seems to be being taken seriously given recent events. There are armed soldiers outside of the local Jewish school and patrolling the airports and stations. Surprisingly, many of the armed soldiers are women.

And, I have discovered that France is also, like the UK, a nation of dog lovers. But unfortunately not big lovers of pooper scoopers apparently, which is a shame because it sounds so great in a French accent….. There is dog excrement everywhere. Dragging a trolley bag around Parisian pavements is a veritable obstacle course in bio-hazards. But, they do seem to hose most thoroughfares down in the morning in an attempt to keep the worst of it in check, or in the gutter at least.

But, it is different here.

They speak French. Almost everyone does. It is like walking around South Kensington (London is apparently now France’s sixth biggest city). So, pour moi, understanding and being understood can be a little “difficile” (did you see what I did there?). But I do occasionally try to dust off my A Level French and holiday Franglais. I am at least talking louder and slower (thanks for the tip, dad) while trying to perfect the Gallic shoulder shrug cum head tilt and the “pfftt” sharp exhale of breath through pursed lips. My hands are slowly becoming a little more expressive, but, I remain very much a work in progress on the speaking the language front….

And, thankfully, the Anglo-Saxon work ethic has yet to cross the Channel. While they work quite late (7ish) nobody starts work here before 9am and everyone takes at least an hour and a half for lunch. Coffee breaks are compulsory and frequent (coffee drinking has been perfected as an art form), and emailing and phone calls out of hours are frowned upon. At least until Monsieur Hollande’s new labour laws are accepted…..

A work/life balance is expected here and family is important. Almost important as bread and patisserie.

Croissants taste different here. Baguettes taste different here. They are fresh as fresh thing could be and they melt in your mouth. The day of a Parisian begins with the trip to the local boulangerie for breakfast rolls and his working day ends with a trip to the local boulangerie for the bread for the dinner table.

The staff of life aside, however, I cannot say that I have eaten particularly well in Paris as yet. But then again the room service menu at the Novotel Porte D’Orleans is neither extensive nor representative of French cuisine as a whole. The croque monsieur served cold last night was an absolute disgrace. Malakoff, where the office is situated, is not known for its Michelin stars. While the fast food invasion of McDonalds, Burger King, and Starbucks remains stoically resisted here there are plenty of Chinese and Japanese restaurants and pizzeria to be found.

Navigating the streets of Malakoff is difficult at the best of times. All drivers of taxis, cars, motorbikes, trucks, and all cyclists are seemingly oblivious to any Highway Code and make up their own rules while ignoring red lights, the flashing green man and supposed safe passage of a zebra crossing. Crossing the road can be tricky. And, you are just as likely to be taken out on the pavement by a dog on a lead, a wayward child distracted by a bread-based snack, or a grown man on a scooter – not the motorised type but the one that kids back in the UK would use; those which allow you to exercise the muscles in just one leg at a time.

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But I definitely would not want to drive here. La Peripherique  (the ring road) reminds me of a sign that used to sit above the taxi rank at Euston station back in London which warned visitors from Milton Keynes that “the traffic conglomeration you are about to enter is known as a traffic jam. Do not panic and do not attempt to leave your vehicle”. The Peripherique is the road to nowhere accompanied by the constant sound of car horns, police sirens and cries of “merde!” It makes my experience of junction 14 of the M25 (half an hour to travel one mile to Terminal 5) seem like a regular Sunday afternoon outing in the countryside….

imageWhile I have seen the occasional beret, usually on an older man, stripey t-shirts and garlands of onions have so far been lacking, even on the many cyclists. Indeed, it is true to say that people dress better / different here. Parisians are definitely fashionistas. The women all look like Jane Birkin or her daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Kind of shabby chic. Sexy without having to try too hard (much like C back home….), with a toy dog of some variety clutched under one arm, and a cigarette hanging nonchalantly from rouged lips.

And the men have all mastered the floppy haired and stubble look set-off with a scarf or maybe a pullover (again it sounds better in French) draped over the shoulders and tied around the neck. Think David Ginola before the bypass. Brown shoes are “du jour” even with blue suits! And, like the women, the men smoke. Everyone smokes.

Almost wherever you go in Paris you can catch glimpses of the Eiffel Tower, the roar of the Peripherique, and lose yourself in a heady aroma of baked bread mixed with the scent of Channel Number 5, strong coffee and the sweet odour of Gauloises Blondes. And dog shit…..

I kind of like the place.

#Remain

June 15, 2016 at 5:52 pm Leave a comment

Home is where the heart is….

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It has been just two packed weeks of unpacking since moving South.

I must admit that I do not do change easily, and have found the coming together of a new job with a new company (I feel very much like the new boy in school); the move from Cheshire; a new house; the new experience of renting while trying to sell; commuting to London; driving to Heathrow to catch a plane to Paris; and traveling to Gatwick to fly to Malaga (I am on board the plane on my way to the company convention in Marbella as I write) all very disorientating and challenging.

C has been a rock throughout and has quite simply done everything. Including putting up with me….just about. So to be fair, the hardest thing that I have actually had to do so far is to cope with a couple of days without wifi (access to wifi should be a human right!); orientate myself around a new Waitrose; get to grips with a new oven (I’ve never had to consult manuals so much in my life); and, try to get my head around a new recycling regime, which requires the separation of food waste from plastics, tins and bottles and another bin for everything else.

The move itself was actually very efficient but, after fifteen years in our beautiful Cheshire home, it was really hard quite literally watching our life be packed and packaged and transported in boxes…..

Locking the door of an empty house was quite upsetting but, at least, I have begun to realise that a home is more than just the bricks and mortar, a view, and a location. It is all of those things and much more. It is the people and the memories shared in that place.

Home was meals shared around a welcoming table with family and friends. Croquet, marquees, parties, barbecues and drinks on the lawn. Holding C’s hand watching fireworks sparkle all around us at New Year.

It was the furball baby asleep under the oak tree; hares dancing on the lawn; the occasional mouse (and the one that I flattened in particular); the bats circling the courtyard and the couple that strayed indoors; and, the buzzards, owls and sparrow hawks patrolling the skies.

It was the Cheshire hunt and cows and sheep in the fields around – foot and mouth aside, when they all went on holiday….It was the special privilege of living in a house with a history, having being built as a boys’ prison housing murderers and absconders and locals just seeking an education or apprenticeship. It was a sense of community with an annual horse show, a village hall, and carol singers gathered in the hallway.

But these memories still exist in my mind, in photo albums and in my blog. Moreover, new memories such as these can still be made wherever C and I travel to.

And, I should also try to remember that Bradwall was also the place where I lost most of my hearing in one ear; where my eyesight faded; and my waistline expanded. Time moves too fast. So, carpe diem. I need to live more for the moment than for the snooze on the sofa!

And, I am very happy to report that the new house is really lovely although C does have a snagging list the length of my leg. We’ve managed to fit most of our stuff in so it feels homely, although the bathroom is quite small and the shower is a disappointment. And, the oven is smaller than the drawer I keep my smalls in….we may be eating out a lot! We are, however, still surrounded by boxes – mostly books, with no shelves for a home.

The neighbours are friendly (and quiet!) and the village is to die for – two fab pubs (one owned by the Stig!), the Dabbling Duck cafe cum deli, an ice cream shop, a Co-op and the church which appeared in Four Weddings and where Bridget Jones got married just two minutes walk from our front door. The surrounding area – the Surrey Hills – is lovely and we’ve already found two Waitroses, three Pizza Expresses, and a House of Frazer….phew, and relax. Who’d have thought the south would be so civilised?

June 6, 2016 at 2:21 pm 2 comments

Shere delight…

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It has been a surreal, emotional, strange, unsettling yet exciting and fulfilling week- the week of the big move South.

Today I found myself in Dorking’s Waitrose, which is the size of an airport terminal.

It is seemingly frequented by yummy mummies dressed for the promenade at Cannes, Monte Carlo or Brighton (it’s hot); and retired gentlemen wearing light-coloured linen suits and fedoras, being herded around by their partners who all looked like retired headmistresses….the stern type.

Waitrose was a mixture of the familiar meets the unusual with the most impressive selection of gin brands I have seen this side of the mother-in-law’s bedside cabinet (only joking).

Yesterday I attempted my first commute into London. It was all relatively smooth and took about 2 hours door to door.

Some have already pointed out that they have done the same journey in the same time door to door from Birmingham. I did point out, however, that they would have done so at considerably higher cost AND it did require them to live in Birmingham (only joking).

The morning car park spaces at Clandon were plentiful and the purchase of tickets was hassle free.
The platform was empty and so was the train, pretty much, and punctual to boot.

As I spread myself across my four sets I began to wonder what all those professional southern commuter-complainers (you know who you are) had been going on about all these years. But, after about the fourth stop on the line (Horsley) the carriage began to fill up. By the time we arrived at Waterloo it was a veritable sardine can and as hot as a hot thing could be.

People were slowly turning a lobster red – I fitted in pretty well for a change – and looking tired, irritated and dozy as they tried to lose themselves in their smartphone or tablet of choice.

There was actually a small delay of fifteen minutes apparently due to an “altercation”!on a train ahead of us. News of this was greeted with a collective, irritated shrug of the shoulder and a roll of the eye and the briefest of eye contact and a tut with which to share a “here we go again” moment.

The new house is already feeling more homely now that we have our furniture in place. Although I am sure that C will play with many more configurations in the days, weeks and months to come. But there are still plenty of boxes to unpack and a garage brimming with those deemed surplus to requirement.

It is very quiet here and the village, Shere, is lovely with a couple of excellent pubs, restaurants and cafe cum delis.

Despite the dire warnings from our northern neighbour, Janine, everyone seems very friendly, although I suspect we may encounter a strange mixture of Wicker Man meets the Women’s institute in days to come – like living in Hot Fuzz.

The staff at the Dabbling Duck allowed C to use their wifi at her leisure so she could submit a job application. This foray to “the Duck” was necessary as we are still without landline and internet due to the incompetence of BT. Indeed, the lack of access to Amazon Prime has been the biggest burden to carry so far….

So, so far so good and we have a long weekend of discovery (key cutters and light bulbs as a priority) and entertaining family and friends to look forward to!

And then the dreaded commute Heathrow to Orly on Tuesday……

May 27, 2016 at 5:15 pm 1 comment

A Brazilian anyone….

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Brazilian

brəˈzɪlɪən/
noun
1. a native or inhabitant of Brazil.
2. a style of waxing a woman’s pubic hair in which almost all the hair is removed, with only a very small central strip remaining.
adjective
1. relating to Brazil.

My flight to São Paulo, Brazil from Manchester via Paris, Charles de Gaulle was fairly uneventful.

Incidentally those words “Paris, Charles de Gaulle” should always be spoken in a French accent, otherwise one tends to come across like a pompous or uneducated Brit abroad.

Which I am not.

Indeed, sometimes, I like to embellish the words with a little shoulder shrug and blowing a little air through pursed lips “phtttt”, or use the destination “Roissey” instead. On a good day I can almost pass for a native.

A native-born in Birmingham and speaking French badly using un-rounded vowels….(RIP Mr Rolands).

Manchester Terminal 3 was busy, especially in the bars and lounges, which were thronged with United fans (mostly Paddies) heading home early after the game had been abandoned due to a suspect package left at the ground.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many had managed to grab an earlier flight home and how many others had just chosen to take advantage of an unexpected 24 hour window in which to drink themselves stupid.

The flight to CdG (also to be spoken with a French accent) was made all the more entertaining by the drunk Scouse couple sat behind me (behind the curtain of shame which separates business class from those less fortunate) who were clearly off to Paris for a dirty weekend.

The woman was literally sobbing and slurring such things as “I’m so happy.” and, “This is the most romantic thing ever.” The cabin crew were clearly paying special attention to the lady and chose to quieten her down with a free glass of champagne. I thought this was a dangerous tactic but at least they declined her request for vodka as an alternative….

I think I got a glimpse into the weekend that they were going to be having when, upon landing, her romantic partner leaned in and declared that their hotel, apparently, was just a ten minute walk from the airport. More joyful tears….

Thankfully the flight landed early and my connection for São Paulo was in the same terminal, so I was quickly at the gate where I met a colleague that I am traveling with for the very first time. I immediately felt like a novice traveler.

Which I am not.

For, while I had checked in a suitcase the size of a small skip; was sporting a rucksack with which I could easily have undertaken a trek in the lower Himalayas; and a bag full of duty free cosmetics to replace those I had so ingloriously had to abandon in my sprint across CdG just a couple of weeks ago, he turfed up with just a trolley bag almost identical to that which I had left in the spare room.

The flight left on time. The seat in business class was comfortable enough but it wasn’t quite an A380. Nor was it Emirates or Ethiad. There was no bar at the back….

Indeed I believe they may have been rationing the booze. One glass of fizz upon boarding – which they do just to piss off all those in economy they make trail through business class. That’s the only reason why they let business class passengers board first. And just one glass of red with the meal.

Nevertheless I was tired and retired after watching the quite entertaining Deadpool and having taken the hint after they had dimmed the cabin lights.

And then there followed several long hours of cat napping between the snores of my fellow passengers; people rummaging for things in the overhead lockers; announcements telling us to strap ourselves in due to turbulence (it was quite bumpy); and, my own ragged breathing due to an untimely and unwelcome bout of sinusitis. I have a mucus brick inside of my head right now….

They turned the lights on with a couple of hours to go (why?), served us breakfast and the regaled us with announcements about imminent death as a result of various mosquito-borne maladies….

Welcome to Brazil! Now, which bag did I pack the repellent in?

 

May 17, 2016 at 12:57 am 1 comment

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