I Hate Queuing In Supermarkets…


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Image result for supermarket queues


I bet the first thing you thought when you read that title was ‘Big deal, NOBODY likes queuing in supermarkets, but you don’t see me writing a blog about it, do you?’. And you’d be right, but I’m going to write one anyway because writing about it is cathartic and also because I’ve got a bit of time to kill before I go out for my run.

Plus because I REALLY hate queuing in supermarkets, I bet more than you.

I’m at stay-at-home-dad and as such I’m frequently at the supermarket. Because If I didn’t go my kids would use my t-shirts to wipe their bums, and would have to fight the cat for food….actually that might be quite entertaining.

Not the t-shirt thing, the cat thing.

I’m using bullet points, because I want to highlight each and every bloody annoying thing about queuing, but this will probably be impossible because NOBODY can fully encapsulate all there is to hate about this horrible thing we all have to endure….

You will notice all the annoying things are in fact people, because as a famous person once wrote somewhere, ‘Hell is other people‘. I would amend that to ‘Hell is other people…in a supermarket queue‘.

All the following have happened to me at one time or another…


  • DON’T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME: You know the person, the personal-space invader who doesn’t respect boundaries and stands just a bit too close. As in so close they are literally touching you. Why are they trying to climb in my back pocket? Why do they keep touching my elbow? Do they think I want to smell their breath and thereby know what they had for breakfast? Do they like me, is that it? Well why don’t they ask me out instead of molesting me with their trolley? If they aren’t going to propose we go for a candle-lit meal for two then they can BACK OFF!


  • I’VE ONLY BOUGHT A CUCUMBER:These ones look at you full of hope and despair and their face seems to say: ‘Look at my big sad eyes, I’ve only got this cucumber, and you’ve got that big trolley full of food. Look at my eyes, couldn’t you just let me nip in front of you? Please, I promise I’ve got exact change. Pleeeeeeeassseee!’


  • I’VE ONLY BOUGHT A CUCUMBER AND I’M GOING TO MAKE SURE YOU KNOW IT: ‘I’m not like big eyes, I’m going to stand here and huff, and look at your trolley, and make sighing noises, and keep looking at my cucumber. and then at your trolley, and look at my watch, and sigh, and huff, and……’




  • I’VE GOT ONE TROLLEY FULL OF FOOD BUT IT’S DIVIDED UP INTO 32 SUBSECTIONS: Well, Clive at number 16 can’t get out so well anymore, and my brother David asked me to just get a few bits, and Sarah at the hairdressers is all out of cleaning stuff, and Louise and Alma’s car is in for an M.O.T and Dave at the pub needs some crisps getting in and yes, I’m shopping for them and I’M GOING TO PAY FOR THEIR ITEMS INDIVIDUALLY.


  • CAN I SEE YOUR PIN NUMBER PLEASE? ‘Oh you’re paying for your items? Great! Oh you remember me don’t you? I’m the one who has been touching you for the last five minutes in a manner that may well put me on the sex-offender’s register in any other context. Well I’m still here now and have moved into a position (at your elbow) that gives me a perfect view of your PIN number as you input it. Aren’t I nice?’.


  • I’M NOT GOING TO PUT THE BATON DOWN YOU PUT THE BATON DOWN: ‘I don’t care that the person in front of me put the baton down to separate their items from mine on the conveyor belt. This display of standard good manners will not extend to the person behind me, no. I will simply put my food down and then expect them to place a baton down for me. I’m that bloody lazy that extending my arm a foot is just too much effort. Oh what the hell? He’s shoved all his food close to my food and has put a baton down after his food but not mine! Right well I’ll take his baton and put it between my food and his. Squawk! He’s taken it back and told me in perfect French that that baton is his and I should get my own! Some people are so rude!’


  • I’M PAYING WITH A CHEQUE: ‘What year is this? 2018 you say? Oh well, that chip and PIN business still doesn’t sit right with me. No, I’ll stick with my cheque. How much? £1.27? OK, let me just put my glasses on. How is your daughter by the way? Oh, that’s nice. Now where’s my chequebook. Ah, here it is. Now where’s my pen…no, no, I need my pen. Now how much was it again? Contactless payments you say? Ooh no, I’ll have no truck with that. No. £1.27 did you say? Oooh there are a lot of people in this queue now aren’t there, and to think it was only me twenty minutes ago….’


  • I KNOW THE CASHIER PERSONALLY AND NEED TO TALK TO THEM IN-DEPTH DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY LIVE NEXT-DOOR TO ME AND I SEE THEM EVERY DAY: ‘…so yes, Deirdre was taking him to the cinema, you know for their anniversary, because she said it would be great for them tO get out, you know? And so they were going to see that new dinosaur film and – no love I’m paying with a cheque, I don’t trust cards – and so they got there and it was full, can you believe it? And so they decided to watch that other film with her out of those vampire films, you know the ones? It’s those ones with her from that thing with the guy from Harry Potter. Harry Potter. Yes the films with all the wizards and that nice lass from Beauty And The Beast. Oh she does have such lovely hair. It was the the third one I think, The Goblet Of Secrets. Anyway…..’


  • I WILL QUIBBLE EVERY PRICE: ‘It’s how much? No, no. That’s not what it said on the shelf-edge label, is it Mary? No, check it please. And the tomatoes too. And also these are on offer, buy one get one free. Yes they are. It said it on the poster. The yellow one in the window. Yes they are. Could you check it please? Also I’ve got 58 coupons to use on each item’.

Lost In Translation…?


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‘Why are those two people going at it in that casserole dish’ I say to my partner, showing her an illustration of said people going at it in a book. ‘It says ‘passer a la casserole’ and there’s all arms and legs being flung about in a big casserole dish’. ‘Ahhh’ says my partner, drawing on her 30-odd years* of being an actual French person ‘It means ‘the one who is guilty”. I look at her then at the image. ‘Oh’ I say ‘That’s not what the group said tonight’.

Dial it back half-an-hour and I’m sat in the middle of my French/English group, leafing through a book called Ciel Mon Mari’ which translated into English is Sky My Husband it’s a book that Isabelle the chemist has agreed to loan me and is full of literal – very, very literal – translations of English and French sayings.

The French use this book as  way of learning the English language. It’s been in Isabelle’s family since she was little, and she’s dug it out of her parent’s attic to bring it to show the group, as well as to confuse the English guy.

It works.

It’s not until I get to page 27 that one of them actually makes any sense.

‘They are very, very literal’ chimes in Christine, noticing my furrowed brow.

‘Yes’ I say.

‘And they don’t all work’ she adds.

I nod my head in agreement. No, they don’t all work.

I see one that is meant to be the representation of the English saying ‘Raining cats and dogs’. That saying means heavy rain – I know, because I’m English, but just to be doubly sure I’ve Googled it. It doesn’t mean that you go out with an umbrella, and if the weather is particularly bad, cats and dogs climb on your umbrella and urinate on you.


I notice one with some frankly odd activity on it, and show it to the whole group. ‘Why are those two people going at it in that casserole dish’ I say to them ”It says ‘passer a la casserole’ and there’s all arms and legs being flung about in a big casserole dish’.

The group draws on its 300-odd years of being actual French people to inform me that it means to lose one’s virginity. They say this while laughing.

Or maybe cackling is a more apt description.

I look at Christine, as I put two and two together.

‘So does that mean that the casserole is…..and you put the sausage in the casserole…?’

She doesn’t say anything, just sits there nodding her head and laughing along with the rest of the group at the look on my face.

The missus isn’t sure she believes this group and is going to ask her mum for clarification.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall during that conversation.


*Ages have been changed to protect the innocent**


***The term ‘innocent’ is here used in its loosest possible sense




















Team Cucumber VS Team Cheese


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Aside from the cucumbers this has absolutely nothing to do with this post.


‘Bleuuuuuurgh’ I look at the frowning face opposite me. ‘Oooooh that’s disgusting, eurghh!’ the frowning face’s eyes are now desperately looking for something to take the taste of this ‘disgusting’ thing away from the frowning face’s mouth.

The frowning face belongs to my partner, she’s sat opposite me, next to my daughter, at the dinner table. The cause of her frown? She’s just dipped her bread in the delicious sauce that was on my daughter’s plate, accompanying her meal. A delicious sauce that she herself cooked. So why the long face? Well that’s down to the addition of cucumbers to my daughter’s plate, their flavour has infiltrated the delicious sauce* and this has caused her revulsion.

You see we now live in a house divided. One which hopefully will stand. On the one side we have team cheese – my partner and my son. On the other side sit us, team cucumber, comprised of my daughter and I.

I’ve been waiting for an ally to join my side, in my love of cucumbers, for many years. I think my daughter’s love of cucumbers may even go beyond mine.

My partner also hates bananas.

My daughter loves bananas.

I can take or leave bananas.

That’s why this blog is called ‘Team Cucumber VS Team Cheese’ and not ‘Team Bananas VS Team Apples’.

My son is similarly repulsed by cucumbers, but I’m sure I can persuade him one day to try them. Maybe when he’s 26, and drunk.

Very specific about his food is my son – it has to fall into one of four categories:Bread

     1. Bread

     2. Ham

     3. Potatoes

     4. Cheese

Anything else and he is simply not interested.

So we have divided up into our two camps, and even have special call signs. They are very inventive. My team is called ‘Team Cucumber’ and eats cucumbers, and their team is called ‘Team Cheese’ and eats cheese.

The problem for them is that I also eat cheese.

They don’t like this.

They think that because of my sick love of cucumbers I should be banned from eating cheese.

I laugh in the face of their rules.

HA! I say to them as I eat a Babybel.

You should see what I’m going to do next – I’m going to make a cheese and cucumber sandwich. I think my daughter might try a bit, but knowing her she’ll remove the cheese and just eat the cucumber.

Then I will leave the cheese out for my partner, she will see it, pop it in her mouth and then: ‘Bleuuuuuurgh’ I will once again see the frowning face. ‘Oooooh that’s disgusting, eurghh!’…..

Team cucumber don’t mind stooping to dirty tricks you see, mwa ha ha ha!



*I have to keep saying that the sauce was delicious because she reads these things and so I’ve got to watch my back or there will be no more delicious, delicious sauces

The Strange Food Contest…


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We were sat outside in the fading light, enjoying a delicious meal at a local restaurant. I was busy shovelling a fruits de mer pizza into my mouth.

As another tentacle disappeared into my gob, my French friend commented on the contents of my meal: ‘English people eat some strange things’.

I looked at him, the setting sun glinting off my dark brown eyes.

I made the universal sound for a horse.

I made the universal sound for a frog.

I couldn’t make the universal sound for a snail as I’d forgotten about that one. Plus they aren’t very noisy.

Ha! I thought to myself, let’s see what my French pal comes back with now.

‘You know’ a voice piped up from my right ‘They eat crisp sandwiches in the UK’.

I looked at the owner of the voice, it was none other than the mother of my children, the light of my life, my moon and stars. Et tu Brute?

She then went on to describe, at length, how one makes a crisp sandwich, to the astonishment of my friend.

He looked at me aghast, asking with his eyes is this was true.

I held his gaze and said ‘The bread’s got to be white’, his mouth already yawning open, now stretched even further, coming within touching distance of the table.

‘And my favourite flavour is salt and vinegar*’ I added, without batting an eyelid.

I may have just lost a French friend.


*Actually it’s a toss-up between Seabrook’s Salt and Vinegar or Pickled Onion Flavour Monster Munch, but I think there are things that some people’s minds just can’t cope with.

Really Dodgy And Inappropriate Advertising On Kids’ Go Karts In France…


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We came across the following go-karts on a day out to see one of the many lighthouses on the il d’Oleron during our holiday. They were on one of those unmanned tracks where they just leave the karts and it’s up to you to insert the required 2 Euros for upwards of two minutes of mild amusement for the kids.

The first one, as you can see, is littered with lots of almost-but-not-quite official sponsors, see if you can spot them all:


I particularly liked ‘Tec Tyc’ because when I think of racing, I think of Tic Tacs.

That was really amusing though, but I found the next one not so funny:


There’s no dodgy, knock-off attempts made here. If you put your 2 Euros in this baby, your child will soon be riding round the track advertising one of the world’s most popular brands of cigarettes, with no ambiguity whatsoever.

What’s the message here? Start them young?

France eh? You’ve got to love it.

I Still Love Hunting For Crabs Under Rocks, Because I’m Just A Big Kid Really…


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This is the equivalent of finding a ten pound note to me – albeit one that you can’t spend, and can’t keep either. Alright, bad analogy.


Ever since I can remember rock pools have fascinated and attracted me. Those areas that trap a bit of sea water and contain so much life, a tiny little microcosm of the ocean. Of particular interest are the rocks themselves, because upon lifting them up they generally reveal a bounty of treasures: crabs.

I bloody love crabs.

Not eating them though, if I’m honest, never really developed a taste for them. But seeing them revealed, under a rock, and then scuttling away or – even more entertaining – seeing me as a threat and holding their claws aloft (just like the crabs in Finding Nemo).

This appetite for uncovering these crustacean critters has spread to my kids, and especially to my son.

I’ve always known he loved these crab-hunting trips, but it really came to the fore during our recent trip to Ile d’Oleron, a beautiful island off the west coast of France. We spent a lovely week there – well, after the first three days of rain had buggered off anyway – and pretty much from day one my son was pestering me to take him crab hunting.

I love when you find something that you have in common with your kids and, if I’m being honest, I was probably having more fun than they were. I was definitely having more fun than my partner – their mum – anyway. As evidenced on the many occasions when she would sigh ‘Come on! It’s tea time, let’s go!’ and we would slowly, slowly head back towards her, stopping to collect shells, or look under more rocks as her face got longer, and longer.

We didn’t just discover crabs though, my son and I, as the following photographs show. I won’t even try to pretend to know what some of these things are, they just look bizarre. I will tag them with what I think they are but, as I’m no marine biologist, apologies if I’m wrong.


I can say with absolute certainty that this is a crab.



Claws aloft, ready to bring the pain if I put my fingers near those pincers (I didn’t)



An incredibly brave/stupid crab here. Hiding under an excitable 7-year-old’s shoe is not a great idea. Happy to say that both crab and shoe are safe and sound*. (*unless a seagull ate it after we left… the crab I mean, not the shoe, nobody would eat my son’s shoes).



This one is a tad smarter, he knows I won’t hurt him, look at how comfy he looks, his face just screams ‘I have found my haven! Hurrah!’. Also he’s definitely a crab. 



This one isn’t too clear but that is actually a hermit crab on the rock, in the centre. First one my son had ever seen and, of course, he wanted to keep him. You may notice the lump of slime to the right, but that’s no ordinary lump of slime because it’s… 



….a sea slug thingy!!! Yes I can say with absolute vagueness that this is definitely some kind of slug-like sea creature. I thought it was just some inanimate slime at first till it started moving. Funnily enough, my son did NOT want to keep him.



The underneath of a limpet (I think), not something we see every day, but they are by far the most popular shell that the kids find on their shell hunts. 



Here we see, floating amongst the sea snails, a (drum roll)….possible small jellyfish, or something like that. Definitely not just a piece of floating tissue paper, or a large amount of phlegm, which was my (and your) first thought.


Back To Night School…


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Well after a brief (two months!) break for a variety of reasons including; partners working away in Paris (mine), expensive cruises (theirs), and Easter holidays (everybody’s) the English/French group was back last night.

For anyone who has forgotten (I wouldn’t blame you) this is the weekly group I attend where I speak French to a group of retirees, and they speak English to me – and we correct each other. Last night’s meeting revolved around another presentation by Christian, the retired something-or-other (I think he has told me, but I’ve forgotten, so I just imagine he used to be a lumberjack).

He was quite keen to show us a cruise around the Canary Islands, until we pointed out that he’d already showed us that a couple of months back. He seemed to disagree with this – even when I told him the name of the cruise ship he sailed on.

I think he just likes the Canary Islands.

So after he grudgingly accepted that we’d already seen it and – thanks but no thanks –  didn’t want a repeat, he treated us to a PowerPoint presentation covering his trip to China in 2001.

Christian  had travelled (by bus this time, cruise ships tend to struggle inland in China) through the country with five of his friends. I couldn’t work out who his wife was, and didn’t want to question the group…’dynamics’ for fear of causing offence, but they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Well, except for a dark haired lady who resolutely refused to smile – but there’s always one, isn’t there?

I pointed out the fact that some of the fashions appeared to be from 1991, as opposed to 2001 – and this seemed to greatly confuse the other members of the group, as they went off on a tangent about something else. I used the universal mime-symbol for massive shoulder pads, but they didn’t get that either.

It was a bit of an eye-opener to someone who has never been to China (me) seeing vast parts of the country that have remained relatively unchanged, for centuries. Using traditional methods that their forebears employed.

These traditional methods even extended to the bus that Christian and his chums were travelling on, as it had to navigate a slight ‘step’ in the road. To overcome this the bus driver used the traditional Chinese method of forcing the occupants off the bus to gather stones to create a ‘ramp’ for each wheel of the bus, so that it could pass over this hump. Then he employed the traditional Chinese method of making the travellers push it too.

I double-checked this with Christian – twice – and he said it did actually happen.

And you thought travelling on a bus in the UK was bad?

Christian also informed me that the Chinese – at this point in time – had still not seen many Europeans, so he and his friends were something of a novelty and they had lots of photos taken of them, with the locals, by the locals. I suggested that he should have charged 10 pounds for a photo, and 15 pounds for them to stroke his head. He responded – very seriously – that it was a win-win situation as they got to take photographs with the Chinese as well.

One of these weeks I am going to have the group discuss British humour – with an emphasis on sarcasm.

Littered here and there, as a subtitle on the photographs, was the term ‘long noses’. Apparently – and I’m just passing this on – this is the term the Chinese use to refer to Europeans. As I said, these photographs were taken in 2001, so they may not use this term any more. It was a new one on me anyway.

The odd spelling mistake cropped up throughout the presentation, I corrected most of them for him (not too many though, don’t want to annoy a possible-ex-lumberjack), with the most interesting one being where Christian had referred to a small street as ‘smalls street’. I explained to them – after correcting it – that ‘smalls’ in English referred to underwear. They told me the name for underwear for ladies (culottes) – which I knew, and men’s underwear, which I did not. For men in France underpants are referred to as a ‘slip’, which, I told them, was an exclusively female term in the UK, referring to a – and I struggled here with my explanation – somewhat sexy, sheer undergarment.

They immediately knew what I meant, and gave me lots of additional details.

The saucy devils.

The funniest correction of the night for me – and for the rest of the group too I’d say judging by the laughter – was learning that I had been calling my French teachers by the wrong name for the last few months*. I had been referring to them as ‘maîtresse’ when I should actually have been calling them ‘professeur’. Maîtresse is fine if you are a pupil, or you are referring to a pupil’s female teacher at a primary school in France. If you are an adult calling your teacher that at college, you are effectively calling them your mistress.

So that explains why my ‘professeurs’ kept laughing at me when I said this.

I’ve got three of them though, all ladies.

Not one of them has corrected me…



*Yes I also go to a French class twice a week,  for two hours at a time. What can I say? I obviously like having a near-permanent headache. I love this language and all its crazy ways.

Moving From Formal To Informal In France…


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Pierre works at my local bureau de poste – or post office, for people who don’t live in France. He’s a very helpful, friendly, patient man. He has had to be a patient man, because since moving to France just over a year ago I have abused the poor chap’s ears on a weekly basis with what I laughingly refer to as French.


Pierre has effectively been the whetstone that I use to sharpen my language skills on. He’s built for the task, as he stands there, calmly and politely listening to this foreigner trying to get his message across in an incredibly broken way.


It’s getting better now – although I will always, always lag behind my kids – but in the early days our exchanges probably went something like this:


ME: ‘Hello’

PIERRE: ‘Hello sir, how may I be of assistance?’

ME: ‘Send this quick. Need send quick. Need see on computer. Online track? See on computer? Yes? Send quick?’

PIERRE: ‘Of course, will you need a signature?’

ME: ‘Can you track it online? Online? See it on computer online?’

PIERRE: ‘Yes of course, do you need a signature?’

ME: ‘So I can track it on the computer?’

PIERRE: ‘Yes of course, do you need a signature?’

ME: ‘And I’ll get to track it on a computer?’


…and so it would go on for a while, until the message he was trying to convey would slowly sink into my hardened, adult brain. He never complained though, not once. Always a smile on his face has old Pierre (I just hope he never turns out to be a serial killer, because then I’ll have to say such trite things like ‘But he seemed like such a lovely man‘ ‘He never had a bad word to say about anybody*’ and all his neighbours can say that ‘He kept himself to himself‘).


As the weeks rolled along I continued to pester this man with my packages, and his smile never faltered. Even when I had to send something to the UK and needed it to be tracked AND signed at the other end.


I thought I’d pushed him too far, and at any moment his head would explode.


But it didn’t.


His glasses just got a bit steamed up.


So it was with some surprise that he said to me one day, as I was yet again posting various items and whittering away to him, that I could move from formal to informal French with him. And he sealed this ‘deal’ with a handshake. From that day on I dropped the ‘vous’ and moved to the ‘tu’ form, and have been shaking his hand ever since.


It’s not something I experience very often, and there are no clear signposts as to when you should broach the subject, or who should make the first move. It’s a bit like if you are on a date with someone, and you want to kiss them, and think they might want to kiss you, but you don’t want to risk it and be left floundering. It was perhaps a bit like that with me and Pierre – and maybe it will be like that with you, and your postman.


Only with less tongues and awkwardness.


Well, depending on your relationship with your postman anyway.


So no, there are’t really any clear signs for it here in France, or if there are no one has told me about it. The timeline for this shift in the relationship with postman Pierre has been approximately one year, I don’t know if it could have been progressed quicker, as I’m a newbie at this game. Also I’m too busy concentrating on just speaking most of the time, and so miss some of the subtleties of day-to-day life that I would pick up on in my native country.


I do of course talk to many other people using informal French, but in those instances we’ve just sort of fallen into it by accident – one day I might thank them in the ‘tu’ form and that’s it, we stay that way. Or in the case of my partner’s work colleagues I was told by my partner to use the informal with them, almost immediately. I went along with this because when you are a stay-at-home dad and your wife is the breadwinner, if her boss wants you to talk to him as a friend, you bloody well talk to him as a friend.


But I’ve never had someone specifically ask to make this move, as it’s not something that exists in the UK, it’s a whole new world for me. Back in England you just used to see someone a few times and that was it, you could be friendly with them.


Unless they were miserable bastards (lots of them around) and then you just said hello, goodbye and that was it**.


So that’s Pierre onboard with me, now I just need to work on my mother-in-law. I mean, it’s been over 17 years since I met her daughter, you’d think that by now she would allow me to start using informal French with her…



*Of course I’m saying he’s never had a bad word to say about anyone but as my French isn’t the best he could call me a big sack of shit to my face and I wouldn’t know.


** If you were lucky – the next door neighbour’s father would have his teeth pulled out through his arsehole before he said hello.

Watch Out! Watch Out! The Scam Artists Are About!


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I have endured a spate of thefts since arriving in France and I am under no illusions, and in fact know that it is being perpetrated by a couple of ex-pats.


This happens every day, at all hours and can sometimes even happen while I am in my own house, asleep.


It’s not huge amounts – but the amount is irrelevant, it’s the fact that it continues to happen that annoys me.


I’d like to warn anyone in the 18 region of France to be on the lookout for them – one is seven and the other one is four. They will be all smiles and laughs but then later on you will realise that you are 50 Cents lighter and someone’s nicked all your Ferrero Rochers.


Their usual technique is to say ‘Daddy I love you, can I have a cuddle?’ while batting their eyelids. Then while you are cuddling them the other one will be standing on a chair and hunting for your chocolates.


I have looked into this but unfortunately it appears that there is no escape, and this scam will continue, unabated, for the next 14 – 20 years and will evolve into other, more sophisticated scams involving lifts home, radio controlled cars and ‘lending’ them a few quid ‘Just till Friday’.