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.

Friday, January 11, 2019

January: On The Agenda

The coming of another new year brings certain responsibilities. Not to waste as much time in the year ahead, for example, as during the year gone by. Particularly not with the sands running out so rapidly. Why is it that they appear to speed up nearer the end, do you suppose? Even Albert Einstein would have struggled to explain it. Figuring out the speed of light was a doddle in comparison. I believe it has something to do with perception, but that's about as far as I'm prepared to go. 

I deal in stuff like metaphors rather than theories. The SPV, for example. That's a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle, for those who were never attuned to the wonderful miniature world of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. Captain Scarlet, Lieutenant Blue and the other uniformed puppets would travel around the papier mâché landscape of Supermarionation in their SPVs, moving rapidly forward yet sitting at the controls facing the road receding into the distance. I think that's marvellous. The Andersons certainly nailed the visual part of life's complex equation. 

Anyway, I'm frittering away more valuable time, so I'll leave the philosophical dilemmas to others. Let's just reiterate that, for whatever reason, time passes more quickly the older you get. So, at New Year, the pressure is increasingly on to do something with life before it drains away, not with a bang but a gurgle. The decorations are down and the warm glow of Christmas is consigned to the bank of happy memories. The serious stuff of living has started all over again. 

Resolutions are again on the agenda. This year, I resolve to... I resolve to... What exactly? Keep my desk tidier? Good luck with that one. No, that's an impossibility and I learnt from a programme the other evening that by exerting willpower on something that you don't necessarily want to do dissipates the willpower needed for something dearer to your heart. 

It was a programme about keeping fit, actually. A subject that's germane at my time of life. A staggering amount of money annually is squandered on subscriptions for gyms that are either unclaimed or seriously under-used. The message was that one should not waste time and willpower on activities (like lifting weights or running on a treadmill) that you simply don't enjoy – particularly when new research shows that there are just as effective and far less time-consuming ways of keeping fit.  

I'm not sure that playing more golf counts, but since I've verified that I can sit down and stand up without the use of my arms 10 times in under 18 seconds, I feel that I've passed a test of sorts and can therefore sign up for a sport that's not that physically demanding (no matter how mentally taxing). That said, after playing with my pals Tim and Steve on Monday afternoon, I sat down with a book and promptly fell asleep for half an hour. I think I've spent too much time watching the domestics. Their propensity for sleep is amazing. Too much petting pets makes Mark a dull and dozy boy.

As I hadn't played the merciless game since late summer and I was feeling roughly like the Burton Albion players must have felt travelling to the Ethiad Stadium to face a Manchester City team (that would put nine past them), I was quite relaxed and resigned to defeat. Besides, I don't generally do sport to win, I do it to battle my demons. Nevertheless, my shoulders were loose and my swing, such as it is, was fluid. I made a point of keeping my eye on the ball, which I've found always helps, and consequently played well enough to confirm that I'm not a cretin. Flushed with success, I've resolved to sign up for an annual membership and to look for some golf shoes in the sales. Yes, this year, I shall play more golf. Other retirees do it, so why shouldn't I?

Last year, I fully intended to buy less music, but it just didn't work. My heart wasn't in it. With retailers and junk shops virtually throwing away CDs now, it's like trying to resist an open treasure chest. Anyway, I can kid myself into believing that they're also an investment. One day, they will be valued again – as LPs are once more. Besides, I've already subjected myself to the sales. I was there bright-eyed and bespectacled soon after opening time on the second Wednesday of the month to plunder the bins. Given bargains like a double-orange-vinyl-with-free-CD set of Amadou & Mariam's Dimanche à Bamako for six euros or a seven-CD set of John Coltrane's 1961 European tour for the same price, what can a compulsive collector do? My wife understands me, even if she can't quite see the worth of seven different versions of Coltrane's transformation of 'My Favourite Things'. The first interpretation, at the Paris Olympia, has already transported me into the kind of ecstatic state normally reserved for whirling dervishes, so I don't see it as over-egging the pudding – which may sound a little tragic to those who are only familiar with the Julie Andrews version from The Sound of Music.

So, no. E'en if the hills be alive with the sound of it, I won't resolve to buy less music. As a youth, I used to smuggle my vinyl purchases into the house to avoid Checkpoint Mother, but now I'm past shame. After all, I spend far less than a smoker does on tobacco or a drinker does on alcohol and it's cheaper than a life-support system. Instead, I shall resolve instead to do something that doesn't come naturally to a hoarder: to get rid of some old things to make way for the new.

Where does that leave me? If there's any time left from all this hunting music in bargain bins and gadding about golf courses, then I shall resolve to do more writing. Now that the French government is paying me 90 bucks a month to be old, I can concentrate on writing for pleasure rather than writing for gain. It's high time I knuckled down to the business of writing something of substance. And since I generally do my best work in bed, nor should it matter too much my quest to get a little fitter fails in the process.

And with that in mind, I must be off – for five minutes of brisk star-jumping, squatting and running on the spot. Who needs to go to a gym, anyway?