Willkommen Bienvenue Welcome

Welcome, gentle readers.

This is an everyday tale of regular folk, who moved from Sheffield to the deepest Corrèze in France Profonde and thence to the rather more cosmopolitan Lot in search of something… different. We certainly found it.

The Lot is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Reputedly, a famous TV globetrotter was asked where, of all the places in the world he had visited, he might return to. He answered, ‘The Lot’.

Fans of Channel 4’s Grand Designs will know that we built a somewhat quirky straw bale house-with-a-view here in the Lot, not far from the celebrated Dordogne river. You can read all about it in my book,
Bloody Murder On The Dog's Meadow, or watch the re-runs of the programme on More 4, or view it on You Tube.

After a break in the proceedings to write a book or two, this blog now takes the form of an everyday journal. Sometimes things happen, sometimes they don't (but the art school dance goes on forever). I hope it will give you an entertaining insight into what it's like to live in a foreign country; what it's like in the slow lane as an ex-pat Brit in deepest France.

I shall undertake to update this once or twice a week, unless absent on leave. Comments always welcomed, by the way, but I do tend to forget what buttons to click in order to answer them.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stop the Week 10

The week started off with a bang, but certainly didn’t end with a whimper.
Jimmy Cagney is Cody Jarrett!!
The bang was the sudden accidental information I picked up while navigating through my BBC home page, bound for somewhere like The Guardian. The injury-hit Green Bay Packers had mashed up the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome. It sent me into surprising paroxysms of joy. I wanted to simulate Jimmy Cagney at the end of White Heat by climbing out onto our roof and bellowing, ‘Made it Ma! We’re in the NFC Championship Game next Sunday!’ (Then hoping that I wouldn’t be blown to kingdom come by a cataclysmic explosion: VAROOOM!!)
How strange and illogical it is, this business of backing a team. ‘Heaven knows, Mr. Allison’, I’m not even American. Moreover, Green Bay is the capital of Wisconsin, the rural heartland of America. In other words, a place full of bigoted red-neck farmers who soak their crops with poisonous pesticides and rear their ‘beasts’ in batteries. For all I know, the original packers could well have been the packers of animal hides, delivered by cold-hearted, pusillanimous Davy Crocketts, who trapped and skinned their furry victims, oblivious to the agonies of their long, drawn-out, agonising deaths.
Yet there I was sharing my exhilaration with wife, daughter and anyone else who was prepared to humour me – and all because the team wears a natty combination of yellow and green, plays in the frozen north and is publicly owned by a fanatical body of supporters who wear polystyrene cheese-hats on their heads. What’s wrong with me?
Worn out by our respective travails, my wife and I settled down the other evening with a DVD lent to us by friends, who obviously have stronger stomachs than we do. We watched the acclaimed Wolf Creek with an awful feeling of impending carnage. Something appalling was going to happen to those nice young guys ‘n’ gals at the hands of inbred Outback Aussie sheep-shearers, bush-wranglers, wombat-rapists or whatever they were.
As a dad, I couldn’t stop seeing my daughter in the guise of one of those soon-to-be-violated back-packers. We decided to call it an evening and consign the DVD to its box. I remember the case only too well and there seems something morbid and immoral about effectively forcing the parents to confront their tragedies once more in the name of art and commerce.
On Wednesday morning in Brive, my addiction took hold of me once again. I nipped into another multi-media emporium in the town centre while waiting for my daughter to finish her scholastic morning. I found many more musical nuggets, each for the price of a derisory euro. Pick of the bunch was a beautifully packaged set of 80th birthday recordings by the legendary Cuban pianist, Bebo Valdes (father of Chucho, founder of Irakere). The idea of a European octogenarian playing music as gloriously funky as this would be inconceivable.
We must be turning into a sad bunch. Tilley found Dave Marsh’s book of ‘The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made’ and initiated a game where we take turns at picking a song at random. I then have to find it among my records, tapes and CDs, then play it. Easy so far: Harold Melvin’s sublime ‘Wake up Everybody’ and Jimmy Ruffin’s ‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?’ Saddest thing of all, perhaps, is that I’ve read the book from cover to cover.
Anyway, despite the pressure of work this week, I went out in the freezing but extraordinarily dry cold on Saturday night – alone because both ‘girls’ were too knackered – to DJ at a party in Beaulieu, further up the river. It was in the same Scottish-owned restaurant where we all celebrated New Year. There was no food this time, it wasn’t so crowded and everyone danced. Much as I love hosting a radio show, you can’t see your (possibly single-figured) audience at the other end of the radio waves. When you’re behind a mixing desk, you can witness the unadulterated joy on people’s faces of dancing to good music. It’s good for the soul and good for the ego.
‘Made it Ma! To the top of the world, Ma!’

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mark,
    I was also in delirium about the Packers reaching the Superbowl.
    I live in the UK with my brother, his American wife, Jessica and their daughter Freya.
    Jessica is from the small town of Sherwood in Wisconsin, about 40 minutes drive from Green Bay.
    I thought that I'd share a bit of info about Wisconsin and the Packers from my numerous brief stays with my American Inlaws.
    Firstly, Green Bay is not the State Capital. That honour falls on Madison in central/west Wisconsin. A university town of about 70,000 people which doubles in size when the Badgers are playing at home (American football team for the University of Wisconsin).
    There are a number of small towns (Appleton, Grand Chute, Little Chute, Kaukana, Neenah, Menasha)along the Fox River leading down to Green Bay. Green Bay is also a small town (less than 100,000) sitting on Green Bay which sits in the enormous Lake Michigan. To give you an idea of scale, the Lake has breakers rolling onto the shore and a ferry crossing from Manitowoc in Wisconsin across to Michigan takes 8 hours!
    Back to the Packers....
    Pretty much all 4 million of the residents of Wisconsin follow the Packers. It is the only NFL franchise that is wholly owned by the fans and there is a 30 year waiting list for season tickets. Most families put their new born's name down for season tickets for the future.
    The Uniforms of the Packers are green and gold. I made the mistake of calling it Yellow and was roundly chastised for my indiscretion!!
    Finally, yes it is a largely farming state (it is called americas dairyland)and it is easy to find the redneck types if you go looking for them. Interestingly though, they have a very strong northern european heritage (mostly german, the state music is Polka) which makes for some very hard working, hardy, beer drinkers (largest per capita beer consumption in US)!
    My favourite memory of Wisconsin is a typical gameday at the Inlaws house.
    Approximately 30 people including children, teens, adults and grandparents dressed in green and gold. Food and Beer in grand quantities and a wonderful camraderie watching the game in a rather large basement/snug.
    Complete lunacy but ever so fun and friendly.
    From my visits to Wisconsin I can confirm that although quite provincial, the populace in general is super friendly, unlike in the larger population areas such as Chicago.
    Finally, my thoughts go out to them this time of year because it can be frigidly cold (minus 25 degrees celsius plus wind chill). I have never experienced temperatures like this in europe.
    standing outside, smoking a cigarette and seeing your bottled bear turn into a slushy is a real eye opener!

    fraternal regards