I’m not the most observant of Catholics. That’s why this post is going up nearly a week after Lent has ended, and not the next following day or so. I also started my social media sojourn early, and finished late. Again, because I’m not the most observant of Catholics.
Why did I choose to forego Facebook for 40 days? Because I always choose to give up things that I think will cause me discomfort, I don’t like taking the easy option. So I’m not going to give up chocolate for forty days because, honestly, I wouldn’t really miss it that much.
As a member of the current generation of ‘linked in’ social media people that walk the earth, and there are many of us, I was also curious about how this abstinence would affect me.
It was great.
It’s funny how Facebook insidiously infects your thoughts and actions. What’s even funnier – or more disturbing – is how much more you notice it when you stop. It’s almost like one of those toxic relationships that you are so locked inside that you can’t see the problems until you are outside of it, looking in. You are blinkered to a certain degree.
So after I quit, and after the first few days of ‘cold turkey’ I actually noticed how my thoughts were my own. I wasn’t thinking up things, just to share with strangers (and I appreciate the irony of typing that sentence in order to just share it with strangers*). Likewise I didn’t whip my phone out to take a photograph of a lovely scene, or particularly enchanting sunset, because I thought it would garner me 52 ‘likes’.
No, my thoughts were mine, and mine alone and anything I enjoyed I enjoyed for what it was, and not for what it would gain me.
And now I’ve had this time apart and have finally delved back in it’s changed. It’s like it’s become this odd thing that I can now view from a distance, and observe it coolly. A bit like the invaders from Mars in War Of The Worlds. Except I have no plans to let it kill me, figuratively speaking, through (re) infection.
No, I think I’ll make the most of this opportunity and recognise the gift that I’ve been given for what it is, a social-media detox.
Every year I give up something new, but I don’t always get something new from it. This year has been different, and I will always try to remain grateful for that.
Maybe next year I will try giving up alcohol for Lent.
Oh wait, I’ve just remembered, I have kids…so maybe not.
Many times have I tried to use sarcasm in France. Many times have I failed.
‘Why do you keep doing it?’ my (French) partner has asked me, again and again ‘Just stop. They don’t get it!’ she always adds.
But I still try.
So imagine my delight today, upon finishing singing a traditional English carol to the 8-year-old kids in my English class, to receive what was undoubtedly my second* round of sarcastic applause.
This really has reaffirmed my faith that sarcasm is alive and well in France, and is just waiting to be uncovered with the correct prompt.
Oh and if you doubt the veracity of my claim, please feel free to drop round – any time -and I will ‘treat’ you to ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ in its entirety.
You will then agree that anyone applauding this godawful noise must be doing so sarcastically.
(*First time was for singing ‘What’s New Pussycat?’, Hotel San Eloy 1999, Costa Brava)
I thought I would draw attention to a little-known and underappreciated sport in my new country – French Mole Rugby League. I took a few photographs of a match currently being played on a pitch local to me today, in order to show people what they are missing.
As you can see in the first photograph the home team – Jasper’s Jets – are playing fantastically well. Their prop-forward – Bob ‘The Burrower’ Brown – is just about to make a pass and has achieved a remarkable distance in what is a new record time for the sport of mole rugby-league (7 weeks).
On the other end of the pitch it’s a different story altogether. The visitors – The Taupe Terrors – are looking distinctly disorganised as they have yet to even get started, and some may argue that they appear to be moving backwards.
Further adding to their embarrassment is the fact that their star player – Dave ‘The Digger’ Dawkins – has been sidelined for the second time in as many matches after he was caught smuggling illegal, performance-enhancing equipment under the pitch (a trowel).
Rules are strict on this kind of behaviour and could see him hit with a two-match suspension, meaning he may not see the light of day till 2025, and his sponsors (Moleborough) may put an end to his lucrative advertising deal.
The tension is truly mounting here and for more on this up and coming sport tune back in the same time next year for the half-time update.
‘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
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
Here’s a couple of oddities that have crossed my path this week in the land of love and wine. And cheese.
They just seemed a bit…odd – see if you think so too…
I saw this in my local Intermarche, a chain of French supermarkets that sell just about everything, however I think they may have overstepped the mark here:
Selling an overpriced fridge adorned with a Union Jack… is the manager having some sort of a bet as to who can sell the craziest item in our town? If I go to my local Aldi will I find a washing machine for sale decorated with the German national flag for 350 Euros?
I then Received my first batch of contact lenses, from Vision Direct in France, excellent service, arrived really quickly and they are settling into my Anglais eyeballs a treat. I do, however, have to question their choice of free gift that came in the packaging. 10% off voucher for next time? Complimentary bottle of contact lens solution? No, they went for something a bit different….
How old do these people think I am? But, more importantly, one packet of Haribos? Do they know what will happen in my household if the kids see this lonely item? Do you remember the scene from The Dark Knight, where the Joker, after defeating a fellow crime-lord and staring his three lackies down, informs them he has an opening in his gang, but there’s only one place? He then gives them a broken snooker cue, and tells them to fight it out.
Well, the results of the one-pack-of-Haribo situation will be just like that.
Only with more violence.
Estate agents and agence immobilieres, one based in the UK, the other in France. They ostensibly perform the same function: to sell your house in the quickest possible time or, alternatively, to help you find that dream home.
There are however a few key differences between the two…
Estate Agent: 20 – 30
Agence Immobiliere: 60 – 70
Location of business premises:
Estate Agent: Centrally located in heart of city/town/village
Agence Immobiliere: Centrally located in heart of city/town/village
Likelihood of finding dogs on said business premises:
Estate Agent: Very Low
Agence Immobiliere: At least one.
Will they smoke on said business premises?
Estate Agent: Smoking on business premises is illegal in the UK (so not while you are there)
Agence Immobiliere: Smoking on business premises is illegal in France (so not while you are there and occasionally while you are there)
What’s the lighting like inside said business premises?
Estate Agent: Bring sunglasses
Agence Immobiliere: Bring a torch
How they will greet you the second time you enter said business premises:
Estate Agent: ‘Hello, can I help you?’
(Translation: ‘What do you want? I’m nearly at level 80 on Candy Crush Saga!’)
Agence Immobiliere: (after warmly shaking your hand/kissing you on both cheeks) ‘Bonjour Monsieur/Madam (insert surname here). Ca va?’
(Translation: ‘Hello Mr (Insert surname here) how are you today?’)
How they will greet you the fourth time you enter said business premises:
Estate Agent: ‘Hello, can I help you?’
(Translation: ‘What do you want? I’m trying to upload my photos from the Ibiza trip to Facebook!’)
Agence Immobiliere: (after warmly shaking your hand, kissing you on both cheeks) ‘Bonjour (insert Christian name here) voulez vous une cafe, ou une boisson?’
(Translation: ‘Hello (insert Christian name here). Would you like a coffee or something to drink?’)
Likelihood that your agent will be related to someone else in company:
Estate Agents: Low
Agence Immobiliere: Them and that other person over there, you know the one that looks like a younger, female version of them? They ARE the company.
Routes to market for your property:
Estate Agent: Targeted email campaign, Facebook campaign, personalised brochure, open house days, local area leafletting, placement on multiple websites.
Agence Immobiliere: Placement on website of agency, discussion in queue at bakers, discussion in queue at butchers, discussion in queue at gunshop, discussion whilst out walking dog (s).
Number of Photographs that will be taken of the properties:
Estate Agent: a minimum of 10 or so photographs, depicting the interior, the exterior and everything that could possibly show the property in its best light.
Agence Immobiliere: A minimum of 1 or so photographs, sometimes the same photograph, 3 times, showing the same aspect, just slightly closer each time.
Will the agent ever take photographs as if they were taken by someone who has had a restraining order imposed on them and is not allowed within 100 ft of the property and thus has to resort to taking photographs when the house is fully shuttered on an overcast day from quite a distance away?
Estate Agent: Never
Agence Immobiliere: All the time
Will you move furniture around to get a better shot?
Estate Agent: Yes
Agence Immobiliere: No
Will they move people/animals out of shot?
Estate Agent: Yes
Agence Immobiliere: Sometimes
Have they mastered the art of taking a photo in a room with a mirror without appearing in said mirror?
Estate Agent: Yes
Agence Immobiliere: No
You are selling a house for over 200k, do you think people will want to see more than 3 photographs, one of which is of a bush?
Estate Agent: Yes
Agence Immobiliere: No
Do you think this looks like a good photo to have on your website?
Estate Agent: No
Agence Immobiliere: No
So why is it there Agence Immobiliere? Don’t you understand the term ‘correct photo orientation’?
Estate Agent: (Sniggers)
Agence Immobiliere: (shuffles feet)
I don’t know what you are laughing at Estate Agent, here’s one of yours:
Estate Agent: (shuffles feet)
Agence Immobiliere: (Sniggers)
Do lots of your properties look like they are haunted?
Estate Agent: No
Agence Immobiliere: 75%
If you are selling a property who will accompany the prospective buyer?
Estate Agent: Ostensibly the estate agent will arrange all viewings, with the promise that you will not interact with the prospective buyer at all. In reality they will text you to tell you that they have ‘gotten held up’ and ‘could you be a gem and show the house for me?’. The buyer will then arrive 30 minutes late (or early) because the estate agent hasn’t relayed the correct information to them. This will only happen 8 out of 10 times though.
Agence Immobiliere: The agent, his/her son/daughter and his/her dog (s).
Potential timescale for the sale of a property?
Estate Agent: Days/Weeks/Months
Agence Immobiliere: Months/Years/Decades
How they will greet you when you enter their business premises after the successful completion of your sale/purchase:
Estate Agent: ‘Hello, can I help you?’
(Translation: ‘What do you want? I’m bidding on an ab-toner on eBay and it ends in 2 minutes, I need it to look good for my next holiday to Ibiza!’)
Agence Immobiliere: (after warmly shaking your hand, kissing you on both cheeks) ‘Bonjour (insert Christian name here) voulez vous une cafe, ou une boisson? Comment vont les enfants? Merci encore pour votre enterprise’
(Translation: ‘Hello (insert Christian name here). Would you like a coffee or something to drink? How are the kids? Thanks again for your business’)
Bought some furniture, decided today would be a good day to build it. Mother-in-law suggested I might like some help from her partner.
He has a short fuse. I have a short fuse.
Not a good idea.
I don’t like building flat-pack furniture with other people. The instructions suggested I should build this item with other people:
If I built this unit with 2 other people I would soon be on the front page of the French newspapers for killing 2 other people.
I really, really don’t like building flat-pack furniture.
I had an idea, maybe my new feline friend could help me:
He didn’t seem too interested, and repeatedly failed to pass me any dowels, either of my screwdrivers and not one single screw.
He was a ‘silent’ partner throughout the process. Probably for the best really…
Furniture built + cat still alive = result.
I still really, really don’t like building flat-pack furniture.
….you just put your lips together and blow. That was sage advice from Lauren Bacall to Humphrey Bogart, and seemingly easy to follow. I mean, everyone knows how to whistle, don’t they? I certainly do, although if you asked me who taught me I’d be stumped. This won’t be a problem for my son though as I have, seemingly without really meaning to, taught him how to do it.
It happened during a brocante – a French car boot sale that I’ve mentioned a few times before – that we were attending with my in-laws and their friend. They were actually selling that day, much to the chagrin of my father-in-law. He wasn’t too fussed about doing it, but that was nothing compared to his partner’s attitude. She had a stall, full of items that weren’t drawing much attention, but this lack of attention may have had less to do with their appeal and more to do with her stony face.
All evening long she sat there (well, until my son sat in her chair and promptly emptied his drink all over it, then she stood) with a face as long as your arm. ‘How’s it going?’ my partner had enquired, approximately 2 hours after the brocante had started. ‘It’s awful, I hate it, I want to go home’ responded my (almost) mother-in-law.
Yet even though the brocante wasn’t a financial success I will never forget it, as it was the day I taught my son how to whistle. I was sat there, whistling to myself when I realised he was mimicking me, and not doing a half-bad job. Every now and again you could hear a little squeak, as a tune desperately fought its way out from between his lips, like some kind of animal trapped in a pothole. We sat there for the duration, him trying again and again to make a tune, me earnestly watching him, and giving him pointers on his technique.
I should point out at this juncture, that I’m no whistling expert. I can do the three basic whistles 1) pursed lips 2) that one where you sort of whistle with your bottom lip 3) the ‘Wolf-Whistle’ as it’s called in the UK, which involves you rolling back your tongue, inserting your thumb and forefinger into your mouth and letting rip. It should be pointed out that the Wolf-Whistle is incredibly loud, if done correctly (If done incorrectly it just sounds like a wet fart), and so I had to wait for a lull in the people not buying goods at our stall before I demonstrated it.
I’ve no idea what the non-purchasers passing our stall thought of us, a young boy ostensibly blowing air through pursed lips into a middle-aged man’s face – but we didn’t care. He’d pretty much figured out the technique by the end of the evening (it was a late evening brocante) and he spent the trip back to the car, and the return journey, saying the same thing ‘Listen to me daddy!’ and there would then follow the sound of air being blown between lips with the odd – but increasingly frequent – tuneful note slipping out.
As I tucked him into bed that night and gave him a kiss he looked at me and said ‘Thank you for teaching me how to whistle daddy’. I closed the door quietly and then slipped back downstairs, already thinking I would have to write a blog about this occasion which, while not being up there with learning to ride a bike, still warranted commemorating.
The warm, fuzzy feeling lasted approximately 5 minutes after which I had to go back upstairs and separate my lovely son from his lovely sister. Great kids but, like so many things in life, left in close proximity to each other – which we have to do when we stay at the in-laws – they just fight.
And guess who has to go up an referee it, using a ‘whistle’ of sorts? Yup, muggins here.
Yes, while I love being a dad, every now and again it blows…
So today, to celebrate being with my partner for 16 years, I have decided to dedicate a blog to her…
We are writing to you in response to your letter regarding the performance of your 1976 Model ‘Phil’. We are pleased that you have chosen to continue using the services of our company, and are happy to answer the questions that you have included in your recent correspondence.
- Unfortunately madam the legs of your Phil will get no more muscular. Due to an error in the production line the model you have had its legs switched out with that of an 11-year-old girl. We are, however, working on an update to correct this flaw. The update should go live in October of this year and will give all model 76 Phils new legs. Of a 14-year-old girl.
- It is perfectly normal to go through ‘up to 35 pairs of slippers per year’ (your words). This is actually slightly lower than the average for that model of 46.
- I do not know what they do with their socks, we have tried to work this out ourselves. We have concluded that they must eat one sock and leave the other one to annoy you.
- The continued requests ‘for anal’, while annoying, are necessary. This is simply a glitch inbuilt by the programmers giving them a ‘back door’ (no pun intended) to allow them access to the Phils’ interface. Without this they would not be able to upgrade the legs to the bulk of a 14-year-old girl in October.
- No, they will never understand washing machines.
- Yes, he is more than likely having sex with the vacuum cleaner while you are at work.
- The wrist action of the 1976 model Phils, while more than adequate for masturbation, does not have the requisite strength of later models. Thus the tap will always drip, as they are unable to apply sufficient pressure to turn it off.
- Yes we are aware of the ‘declutter’ issues. the 1976 model Phils have a flaw in their programming. This is due to a small file being transferred from the same year’s model ‘Glynis’, our very popular Grandma model. So he will indeed try to make your home resemble a show-home. Please do not interfere in the running of this program, or he may attempt to kill all the Sarah Connors in the phone book.
- Those stains on the sheets are perfectly normal it is just ‘lubricant seepage’ and happens when they reach their 40th + year of operation. At least, this is what every 1976 model Phil we asked told us.
- We always recommend never looking at their feet. Or smelling them. Just try to pretend their legs end at their ankles.
I hope that this has addressed you concerns in this matter Madam, but if you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.
With regards to your enquiry about our ‘Young, Hot and Italian’ part-exchange program we do have the model you requested: ‘Pablo 1998’ in stock, however we do not have it in the colour you requested: ‘Black’. Please resubmit your order and we will be only too happy to fulfil it.
For and on behalf of the Perfect Fiancee Corporation,
Miles B. Dyson