What a start to the 8-week ‘summer’ holidays, eh? Fingers crossed that the weather picks up or, speaking just for myself, I’ll be a dribbling wreck in two-month’s time!
Happy holidays everyone!
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw this: an Aldi in my new French village! Tucked away in amongst all the boulangeries, brasseries and other things beginning with ‘B’ was this delightful example of German budget-shopping. OK, so it’s actually ‘tucked away’ on a small industrial estate, between lots of trucks and a public toilet, but that doesn’t paint a very pretty picture, so I lied.
The interior is just a cosy as the equivalents in the UK i.e: not cosy at all, and in fact very, very grim. They do the job though. Another fantastic similarity to the UK stores is the legendary aisle of crap. So named, by myself and many other Brits, for the random assortment of goods that can be found there. The aisle of crap is always, always located in the middle of the store.
But as pictures paint a thousand words, let me take you on a tour of this cultural gem.
I will also add words too, so therefore will be painting more than a thousand words per picture. Aren’t I nice?
In case you didn’t know, that little bit of French means ‘low prices’. Note presence of an item of Star Wars merchandise. Aldi stores are regularly checked by upper-management in disguise*, if the aisle of crap is found to be lacking in at least 48 different items of Star Wars merchandise, the manager of the store in question is fired on the spot.
*Generally a middle-aged man in three quarter-length, khaki shorts, who parks his 4×4 in the ‘parent and child only’ parking space at the front of the store, to make sure he fits in.
Nothing screams ‘keeping up with trends’ like Halloween decorations in May. Place your bets now, will they still be here this October?
Books that nobody wants to buy are a common theme in the aisle of crap. In the UK it’s generally Lego Annuals that have had their ‘Exclusive’ Lego Figure stolen, and thus are doomed to gather dust till they are incinerated. Here it’s this interesting oddity, with a title that translates as ‘Football, Champagne and Evening Glitter‘. What does that even mean?
There’s a hint of sunshine in the sky, and you know what that means don’t you? SOLAR LIGHTS!!!!! There are approximately 4,567 variants of these per store. If the quantities ever dip below this figure then the manager of the store – they and they alone – must immediately restock the quantities. They generally do this while the queue – which had been snaking past the tills and up the aisles – heads towards the fire-exit.
Can’t decide between completing a jigsaw puzzle, or putting up some curtains? Well, why should you have to? Here at Aldi, you can do both. So don’t delay, come in today and within mere minutes/hours* you can be sat next to a window, while your freshly purchased curtains blow in the gentle breeze, knocking your half-finished jigsaw all over the floor.
*Dependant on queue-length
I want a treasure box for the kids’ toys, but I also want to strim the grass…if only the option of finding both of the answers to these quandaries was relatively close together…
Another feature of Aldis-worldwide are the cabinets crammed full of electrical items, with prices that have been plucked from the sky. They occasionally reduce the prices, with equal disregard for any kind of structure:
Yes, just stick a 50 Euro yellow sticker on it, that’ll shift it*
*I have never, ever seen anyone buy from one of these cabinets, here or in the UK. I suspect the manager doesn’t actually have a key.
The gap between the…cage/basket/thingies. This achieves two things. 1. It allows you to have a ten-minute stand off with a lady with blue-rinsed hair, who has approached the gap with her trolley at the same time as you, and will not budge to let you through first. and 2. Allows the goods to make the leap from pillows, to car accessories.
Can you think of anywhere else where sets of knives and bed-linen live together in perfect harmony, side-by-side, on their basket/cage/thingies? Oh lord why can’t we?*
*That noise you just heard was Paul McCartney picking up his phone to call his lawyers.
‘There’s a bit of space here boss, what should we do with it? Put some more shoes there? Or maybe some insoles?’ ‘Sod that, stick those game packs there for the kids’
‘Daddy, daddy!’ ‘Yes darling?’ ‘Why is that lady naked?’
Kill my partner, deck the garden or go on holiday..Kill my partner deck the garden or go on holiday? Choices, choices. Yes if you have ever been struggling with the difficult choice between upgrading your garden/burying your partner under the new decking or going on holiday/disposing of your partner in suitcases then come to Aldi. You can do both here!
And here, at the end of the mockery the legendary Aldi queue awaits you. I know what you are thinking ‘maybe if I just go for my 37th tour of the store all those people will go away’. But they won’t go away, and you know what? More people will come. But they won’t open another till, not till the queue reaches critical mass (90% of people in queue over 70 years of age, and the queue now has its own Facebook page).
And they want you to go for another tour of the store, because by that time your resolve will have been weakened. So that swimming pool for 15 Euros? The one you wouldn’t buy before? Your son’s constant whining will have finally eroded your will, and you will take it, from a cage/basket/thingy, from the aisle of crap, and put it in your trolley.
Then you take your place in the now even longer queue, and look at all the other unmanned tills.
Oh and the manager won’t care, he’s too busy restocking the solar lights.
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.
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
I invested in a Nintendo Switch at launch – yes I actually managed to get one! – as the only way I can play games these days is in a portable form. This is mainly due to the TV being used for family viewing – shows, films etc. Playing games has to fit around my other duties – and never the other way around.
It was supposed to just be my domain – mine alone. However my children soon persuaded me into letting them have a go. One thing that I love about Nintendo is that, by and large, their games are wholesome, I don’t have to worry about my children seeing or hearing anything they shouldn’t. This even extends to their online gaming, players are not allowed to speak to each other, just select from a set of pleasant phrases.
My children’s choice for gaming tonight? Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. I must admit to initially dismissing this as a lazy port from the WiiU, Nintendo’s ‘failed’ system (though I’d argue against that, we have one in the house and my son loves it). However I have grown to love it over the last week or so, a love that quickly spread to my kids.
How did they get on? Well see for yourselves as I give a brief description of their playing styles:
(shooting anything and everything as often as possible)
‘Shoot it! Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it! It’s coming at me! I’m getting the sea!!! Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it! Look at that guy!!! Daddy Look at that guy!!! Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it! I’m winning Daddy!!! Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!’
This goes on throughout the match, he does not close his mouth at all – except for a ten minute break where his tooth falls out (due to natural causes I might add, it’s been wobbling for a while).
(reverses slowly in a circle, holding one solitary banana skin)
Stays absolutely silent throughout and, I think, the other players take pity on her, as she still has four of her five balloons left at the end of the battle.
We had a great time playing it together, it’s a top system and I can see it becoming more integrated into family life. Not just now though, the Switch is a somewhat ‘fragile’ system and so not one that can be left alone with a very active 3 and 6 year-old. For now it will just be the odd supervised bit of fun…and the rest of the time? It will be mine..(does best Bowser impersonation) ALL MINE! BWA HA HA!!
For the uninitiated a car boot sale is an English tradition where people take their cars, full of things that they no longer want, to a venue where they then display it from said car’s boot in the hopes that it will sell.
A Brocante is exactly the same but set in France, not the UK. There are, however, several differences, I will do my best to explain these.
UK: 3.45 a.m (sometimes earlier)
France: After coffee + croissants and having read the paper, walked the dog, chatted to the neighbours, had another coffee and cut the grass a.m (sometimes later)
ARRIVAL TIME OF FIRST CUSTOMERS:
UK: 2.55 a.m (sometimes earlier)
France: Generally just after it’s opened (unless the croissants haven’t been cooked in sufficient quantities, then everybody is delayed).
CHANCES OF HAVING ALL THE CONTENTS OF YOUR CAR BOOT STOLEN BEFORE YOU EVEN HAVE A CHANCE TO GET THEM OUT OF YOUR CAR TO SELL THEM:
IF YOU SUCCESSFULLY GET YOUR ITEMS OUT OF YOUR CAR BEFORE THEY ARE STOLEN, WILL PEOPLE HAGGLE WITH YOU WHILE YOU ARE UNPACKING AND PAW AT YOUR THINGS, EVEN IF IT IS DARK*?
*They bring torches
UK: Always, always close to a sports facility. Either a rugby pitch, football pitch, or cricket field. I suspect this is because the organisers detest sport, and so hope to destroy the pitches, so they are unsuitable to be played on.
France: Side of a road, through the main street of a town, near a lake, up a tree, on the roof of a building. The French will hold a brocante ANYWHERE.
UK: If it isn’t wet, cold, windy and/or snowing the English will refuse to hold a car boot sale.
France: Generally gloriously sunny, if the slightest breeze picks up, or 25 ml of rain falls, everybody leaves.
CHANCES THAT 95% OF THE GOODS BEING SOLD WILL BE AGRICULTURAL TOOLS:
CHANCES THAT 95% OF THE GOODS BEING SOLD WILL BE RUSTY AGRICULTURAL TOOLS:
France: Extremely high
UK: Not many
WILL FOOD BE AVAILABLE TO BUY?
WOULD YOU EAT IT?
COME ON NOW, BE HONEST, WOULD YOU EAT IT?
WILL THERE BE MANY OF THESE VANS THERE:
France: Every other vehicle will be one of these.
IS HAGGLING ACCEPTABLE:
UK: If you don’t haggle they chase you off the field with pitchforks, screaming ‘Not one of us, not one of us!’
FRANCE: Not as prevalent, you will receive some glassy-eyed stares when you attempt to negotiate a better price for Spiderman AND Batman’s secret hideouts. Also they may hide behind the excuse: ‘I’m selling it for my daughter, and she said I can’t sell it for any less than 35 euros’.
IS THAT WOMAN REALLY SELLING USED UNDERPANTS?
PASSIVE SMOKING OPPORTUNITIES:
UK: Not as high as it used to be
France: Everybody smokes. Even their dogs.
THINGS TO SAY:
UK: ‘Keep an eye on your handbag’ ‘Is that meat?’ ‘Why is that lady wearing a dressing gown?’ ‘Do people really buy this crap?’ ‘Where’s my handbag?’ ‘Where’s my child/husband/car?’
France: ‘Who is Titeuf?’ ‘Is that meat?’ ‘Why are there so many dead animals?’ ‘Who buys all this rusty agricultural crap?’ ‘But I don’t need a picture of Jean Claude Van Damme’ ‘Wow, you people really like ashtrays don’t you?’
WHAT HAPPENS AT CLOSING TIME?
UK: A huge group of people – up to 75% of those still in attendance – who have had no intention of paying for anything wait with baited breath for the remaining sellers to give up, look at all their unwanted items and offer it for free. There then occurs the ‘attack of the locusts’ as the group, en masse, descend upon the boot of the defeated seller. They can strip a car boot of all its remaining goods in five seconds flat. After the dust has settled all that will remain will be the bewildered seller, his underpants and, if he’s lucky, his car.
France: The remaining people will slowly head home, many of them may hitch lifts with the sellers as everybody knows everybody. They will then add up the day’s takings, put all their unsold animal heads and rusty farm implements back in storage until the next brocante. Which will be in a week’s time.
Unless it’s a bank holiday, then it will be tomorrow.
Yes you read that right. Coffee. In Bowls. As in bowls that you normally use for eating your cornflakes in. As in bowls without a handle. As in you will need to use both hands to lift the bloody thing to drink it. Unless you have huge, massive, gargantuan hands.
Or you are King Kong. Then you can drink it one-handed.
What is this all about? Am I wrong to react this way? Was it wrong of me, the first time I sat down at my French girlfriend’s mother’s table, to take one look at the bowl filled with coffee sat in front of me, push it gently but firmly away, and look at her questioningly?
Was it wrong to feel that I must have woken up in Crazy Town, and to expect a dog to then knock on the door to give me my mail. After all, if we’re drinking out of bowls then the canines must have taken over, right?
This is perfectly normal here, in France. They all do it.
I think it’s crazy.
They then add insult to injury by dipping all manner of items in said bowl of coffee. Making it even more strange and, weirdly, even more like some kind of meal/breakfast hybrid. Like breakfast with a main course.
I can’t get a ‘handle’ on this HA HA HA HA!
But I wish someone would.
They don’t ask me to drink it out of bowls any more, they’ve learned. They know that I only eat soup, cornflakes, porridge or cereals full of shockingly unhealthy chemicals that, nonetheless, turn the milk a tasty, tasty brown (so that’s OK then).
But sometimes they ‘forget’. They did it the other day, looking the other way while I was confronted by something several times larger, deeper and with one less handle than the required amount (i.e one). But they changed it for me.
And feigned ignorance.
They must look at me, as though I’m some kind of freak, with my hand savagely holding my barbarically small cup – or should I say ‘tasse’. Muttering under their breath about this flagrant display of anti-Frenchness. I don’t care. I’ll learn your language, I’ll love your culture, I’ll love your country but I will not now, or in the future, drink coffee out of a bowl.
Oh, and I also take milk in my coffee…
I’m an open-minded kind of guy, I don’t mind what my son plays with, so when his sister had a nap and he got stuck into her Barbie collection I didn’t bat an eye.
I’m not into enforcing gender-stereotyped roles onto my children via their choice of plaything, so he can mess around with these all day long if he wants. That being said, this picture will more than likely be brought out, and displayed, to his friends on his 18th birthday. And everyone else in the chosen venue. On a massive screen. Because I’m a great dad you see :-).
I do feel sorry for Ken though, have a look for yourself, he got short-changed during this play-session:
My son wouldn’t understand the reference, and I wouldn’t use it in his presence, but I think my son has turned Ken into Barbie’s ‘bitch’. Yes, I’ve seen Prison Break, The Shawshank Redemption, Oz etc and this guy would now fit right in with the ‘cons’ in those prisons. I do hope Ken can get over it, maybe an intensive training session with Action Man will restore his masculinity.
That is, of course, unless my son gets his hands on Action Man first…
Ok, so I’m not as ‘down with the kids’ as I used to be. I try to stay up-to-date with some things for my children’s benefit, so I can relate to them and keep an eye on what they are up to. This isn’t so important now, but will become so as they get older, and their tastes ‘mature’.
I still keep my finger on the pulse of video-gaming for this reason so that, in the not-too-distant future, I will know what games are suitable for my children to play on. That’s my excuse to my partner anyway, I’m a born gamer and will probably have a joy pad in my hands on my deathbed.
That being said there will be no underage Grand Theft Auto 9 playing in this household!
Getting back to the point I’m failing to make though, I know it’s trendy for pop-stars to hyper-sexualise themselves and grab certain parts of their anatomy when they are onstage, it’s what their fans want and it drives the crowds wild. Hell, Michael Jackson was doing it years ago.
But I don’t want to see this in the toys that my children buy.
Clearly Kinder do not agree with me, as shown here by a little ‘surprise’ that my son found in his latest egg:
So you could argue that this small plastic bird is merely pointing to the ground and will then point to the sky afterwards (or would anyway if he wasn’t a lump of plastic) as part of his dance act. I don’t think so. He looks like he’s cupping himself on stage to me. As if someone has taken the spirit of Justin Bieber and inserted him into a small plastic bird.
Maybe it will be like Child’s Play, the seminal 1988 horror-film where the doll is infused with the spirit of a serial killer. Only instead of a serial killer it will be a young man with a penchant for tattoos, and (allegedly) headbutting people.
Oh I hope not, I don’t want to be woken at 3 a.m to the sounds of ‘Baby, baby, baby oooooh’ I think I’d prefer the serial killer to that.
Do I need this in the toys I buy for my kids? Do I have to explain to a six-year-old why the bird has his hand ‘down there’? No, I don’t so, Kinder, how’s about leaving the crotch grabbing where it belongs – onstage.
Cast your eyes on all this crap:
Think you can beat it? We used to get junk mail in the UK, but never to this degree. Never a day went by without at least one charity bag, restaurant menu or double-gazing leaflet dropping through our letter-box.
Here’s the rub though, if you do think you can beat this pile of papers, this is just one day’s junk mail.
The French take their junk mail as seriously as they do their lolly-pop men’s training!
Hello my friends, you may not have heard of me, but my name is Francois, Francois the fisherman. I am very happy today, even happier than when I caught the biggest fish of my life. OK it was made out of straw, and covered in glitter, but it still counts.
Why am I so happy you ask? Well because today is the day of the carnival, a celebration for me and all my life works, that takes place every year. I can’t say I recall last year’s though, but then as I am only 8 days old I wouldn’t, would I? I tried asking last year’s famous fisherman what I should do but, try as I might, I can’t find him.
Also when I did ask people they ran away screaming ‘Mummy, mummy it’s come to life ahhhh!!’ Except they said that in French of course. Ahem.
I look happy don’t I? Pity that I couldn’t have been in front of a more suitable mode of transportation for my photograph, say a boat for instance, as opposed to a 2010 Renault Kangoo. Still, I can’t complain, I’m being taken round the town followed by my wonderful fans. I’d give them a round of applause, but I’ve got no hands.
It really makes fishing quite a task.
But I digress.
Look at my incredible parade of followers, on this great day. I’m being taken through the village of Aubigny Sur Nere, France, and as you can see the kids have really made an effort to impress me. Here you can see they have dressed up as lobsters. I love lobsters.
There are also some seagulls too. I don’t know who told them to dress up as seagulls. Yes, yes they are associated with the sea, but as far as I’m concerned they are rats with wings. Rats with wings that steal your chips and take a crap on your shoulder after they’ve stolen your chips.
But I won’t let that put a dampener on my day, lord no.
Another great bunch of youngsters, all dolled-up up to celebrate ME! I think they are dressed as starfish…or maybe squids with stars on them? I’m not 100% on this one.
Notice the bell in the possible-starfish’s hand? That’s to let everyone know they are in the presence of greatness – ME! Francois the fisherman!
Here we have some more of my fans, dressed up so smartly for the occasion, with lots of different elements from the sea on display. Look at the parents however – different story there. So sombre, so dark, why anyone would think they were going to a funeral instead of a carnival, HA HA!
Notice the packed walkways? Everyone is here to see me, I feel so blessed! What a day to be me, Francois the fisherman! We seem to be heading to the park now, I wonder what other delights they have in store for me? A song from some scantily clad mermaids perhaps…
(actually mermaids smell ghastly, and they can’t survive on dry land for more than an hour – 61 minutes + and they explode, trust me, you do not want to clean up mermaid guts).
Ahh, a fitting end to the carnival, they have made me a throne! OK, so it’s not a very tall one, and it seems to be made of hay, but I will allow it.
Not sure about my new followers dress-code though, not very ‘sea-worthy’.
Now what in blue blazes is that one doing down there? Now hang on a minute…
OOOh! It’s getting a bit toasty here…anyone got any water? Ooooh it’s getting hot!!! I’ve changed my mind…I don’t want to be (HOT HOT HOT!!) king of the carnival any more…can anyone (OOOOOH HOT HOT HOT!!) hear me? Hello? HELLO????????!!!!