Back To Normal Today

Wednesday 28th May

Well I recovered, and recovered some lost time too, painting the whole back of the house.  It looks great, clean and almost white, and making the windows and doors look even better.  There is nothing in life better than the satisfaction of a job well done.  There is a feeling that no matter what else one has no control over, that whatever perceived or real failings one may have, that even though you ache when you get out of a chair and are reminded of your age, the doing of something really well is wonderful.  So what if it will have to be redone in two years time, for now it looks great.

We are having un petite soiree tomorrow evening, inviting a few friends both English and French round for drinks and snacks.  So we have been buying blinis and smoked salmon and cheeses and cold meats.  We are quite good at parties I must admit, but this is our first French one.  First of many I hope.

Tonight we are going to the Pizzeria in town and I am looking forward to the best pizza in Eymet, and for miles around too.

A Migraine Headache

Tuesday 27th May

I woke up yesterday feeling awful.  A headache and a sort of weakness in my whole body which I couldn’t really explain. I tried to rouse myself with a shower and took the dogs out for a walk, even though it was raining.  When I got home I felt really quite sick, nauseus, that rising up of anti-peristalsis, the contraction of the throat.  I thought I was going to be sick, but not quite.  I felt so bad I took to my bed and tried to sleep it off.  But this developed into the dreaded migraine, which in the end lasted all day.

I barely slept, tossing and turning, feverish, too hot then shivering with cold, and all the while my head was banging.  Eventuallly about midday I was actually sick and after that I could sleep a bit, though the headache hung around the rest of the day slowly diminishing but still there even the next morning.

A wasted day.  And though I get migraines every now and then I still don’t know what triggers them.  I had been painting for a few hours the day before, and in the sun.  Who knows, but it is definitely linked to being sick, so maybe it was the food I ate (roast chicken and veg) or maybe some alcohol but I had only a glass of wine.  Anyway whatever it was I ate them.  Apart from the pain and the discomfort it is such a waste of a day.

Painting, painting, painting

Sunday 25th May

Well, it has been a day for painting.  Weather set fair – a bit moody at times, but then gloriously sunny after about four.  Last night (Friday) was musique a la Gambetta.  Geoff Barker singing early rock’n’roll and blues; lots of Elvis, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry, with a few Beatles and Stones numbers thrown in.  The first half was acoustic and ended with a rousing chorus of “Bye Bye Miss American Pie” – all nine minutes of it.  The second half Geoff strapped on his electric and was joined by Kelly Clarke, ace harmonica player and Rupert the bar owner on vocals and the place really rocked.  Great great stuff.  The whole evening including a meal and a lot of wine was twenty euros each.  What value.

Today I have managed a coat of Green Glade on the woodwork and scraped a lot of the old waterlogged tile paint off and painted the walls with magnolia exterior masonry paint.  Very clean and tidy, though the floor still looks a total mess; tomorrow if the weather looks good I will paint about half the balcony floor.  Fingers crossed because every time I have done it before it rained…

Tonight we are eating in Pieds sur Terre, and after all that hard work I am rather hungry, speak later.

Strange Weather

Saturday 24th May

We are back in France.  We drove down on Thursday, through warm sunshine, torrential rain and then warm sunshine again.  And today it has been the same, one minute really warm and pleasant and five minutes later heavy rain.  Hopefully it is now clearing up and from late afternoon it will be pleasant again.

We have been watching the news to see how the polling has gone and again it is very strange weather.  So far Labour have made good gains and the Tories and LibDems are losing about equally.  UKIP is doing well, especially in Essex, and a few Northern Areas.  But the only show in town according to the news reporters is UKIP.  The smiling face of Nigel Farage is everywhere.  They don’t run a single council anywhere and have not won anything like the number of seats which Labour have and yet Labour have done really badly according to the commentators.  Strange, but news is news and Labour winning back seats just isn’t as exciting as a party from nowhere doing well.  And this is going to continue now all weekend as UKIP are bound to do well in the Euro elections which are counting on Sunday.

I suspect that they have done better in these local elections partly because of the Euro elections happening on the same day anyway.  The big question is how well they might do come the general election, when one hopes that people’s minds will be a bit more focused; they will after all be electing the Government not a talking shop in Brussels or who runs the local council.  We will see, but the real problem for all three major parties is how to respond to UKIP; attacking them simply gives them more publicity and not criticing them leads to charges of complacency.  If like the Tories you try to be more right wing then them, this only seems to push more people into their camp.  Strange weather indeed.

Does Voting Matter?

Thursday 22nd May

I have watched many many elections, and a few demand a recount.  But in all my experience, except maybe in small council ward elections, one vote has never made a difference – in fact I have never encountered a tie.  So in that respect voting doesn’t matter.  And the truth of course is that in the vast majority of constituencies there will be no change.  The marginal seats are only a handful really, maybe 50 to 70 out of 650.  Mind you with the emergence of UKIP, which if they even get 10% of the vote may well upset a lot of calculations.

More and more people I fear are deciding that voting doesn’t matter, if for no other reason than that the potential voters see no point; even if the other lot get in things won’t really change – in their opinion.  And there may be some truth in that.  However any change even in the size of a majority, or lack of one will and does make a difference.  If the LibDems had not gone into Government with the Tories then we may have had a minority Tory administration which might have been far more careful about what they decided to do.  They may not have lasted that long either.  Of course the LibDems would argue that they have ameliorated the worst of the Tory policies, and introduced a lot of their own policies.  Fat lot of good it will do them.

But there is a far more important reason for voting, more important than the result, either in your constituency or overall.  That reason is that you are taking part; you are a part, a very small part admittedly of the Governance of the country.  Anyway how can you possibly complain about the Government you get if you did nothing to elect it.

Stories that never disappear

Wednesday 21st May

And there are some stories that never disappear:

Madeleine McCann; poor innocent child who is almost certainly dead, but the mystery surrounding her disappearance keeps getting new leases of life.  I don’t think we will ever find out exactly or even approximately what happened.  And where once I was almost sick of her parents harrowing faces I now am bored with it all.

Princess Diana and the whole Duke of Edinburgh conspiracy thing.  Was she pregnant with a Muslim baby?  Did she know stuff about Charlie boy that had to be hushed up?  Were here kids actually Charles’s in the first place.?  And linked in with that the whole “Will Camilla ever be Queen” stuff.  Far too boring but this stuff keeps getting a fresh airing every so often in the press.

And of course the whole Celebrity “Who is shagging who” nonsense, footballers wives and girlfriends and one-night stands with escort girls, and ridiculing the size of their willies.  Too, too boring I am afraid.

These are the stories that I wish would disappear,  but I guess the sad truth is that the papers have to be filled with something…

Stories That Disappear

Tuesday 20th May

Just like the Mystery of the Malaysian Jet stories that are one day all over the papers seem to disappear.  The story of the jet which so excited us has gone completely leaving less than a ripple in the ocean it probably dived into.  All those conspiracy theories, was it the pilot, was it a mechanical failure, was it a suicide bid of some sort, are of no interest at all now.  It seems that we have all accepted that it is somewhere under the sea and that maybe one day it will be discovered; no news now emerges of the daily searches, of the ships rushing to the area, of the beeps from the black box.  All is quiet.

Oscar Pistorious is slightly different, the trial has been going on so long and with so many interruptions that many of us have given up on ever getting a verdict.  Oscar is now apparently undergoing psychiatric analysis to see if he was temporarily insane at the time he killed Reeva.  And as the trial trundles on what was the hot topic for all of us, most I think fairly sure that he killed her in a fit of rage, has died.  Does anyone now care what he did or how it happened or what his penalty will be?  All is quiet

And then there is the phone hacking trial.  This was huge a few years ago, and had the potential to almost bring down the Government.  An inquiry was set up, Rupert Murdoch was questioned, the News of the World was closed and Rebekah and Andy Coulson were put on trial.  Andy you will remember was Cameron’s Director of Communications and was protected for a while.  Now the trial has been going on for months with no sign of an end.  I suspect that the verdict, when it ever comes, will be a one day news story, hardly bothering our consciousness at all.  All will be quiet again.

The Rich List

Monday 19th May

Every year The Sunday Times publishes The Rich List.  This started off with ten, or maybe twenty and now includes probably a hundred or so.  It is supposed I think to say something about the Nation’s Wealth.  But personally I think it tells us far more about our poverty.  As usual the very rich are getting even richer at an even faster rate than ever before.  And this at a time of Austerity, of ‘We’re All In It Together’, of cuts, of ‘we cannot afford to pay people benefits to sit on their backsides’, of rationing in the NHS, of food banks serving more and more people with the basics of life.  I mean how much pride do you have to swallow to apply for free food, to admit that you haven’t even enough money to buy food for your kids.  And not all who apply even get accepted – you have to be really poor to get food for nothing.

I grew up in a time when talking about money was considered vulgar, nobody would have dreamt of asking how much one earned, or how much a person was worth.  Now it is de-rigeur, no-one is ashamed in surveys of ticking the box bracketing their annual salary, and with more freedom of information we know far more about how much people earn.  There is a new vulgarity now – of being proud, secretly or otherwise of being in The Rich List, and it has become an item on the news – who is up and who is down, how many billionaires are on the list and so on.  I find it all a bit disgusting, and of course a true reflection of the fact that although they try to deny it, the Tories are hauling the country back into the Thatcher “Greed is Good” era.

So, I shall not be reading “The Rich List”, I am not even mildly interested.  Maybe they should publish “The Poor List” next year; however they might need a newspaper the thickness of the Bible and very small print to do so.

The Weekend is a time for work

Sunday 18th May

I used to think that the weekend was for relaxing, for taking it easy after a hard week at work.  But I was wrong.  Once upon a time it is true I would buy the Saturday and Sunday Independent and read them from cover to cover in my leisurely weekends of old, but now alas I barely have time for a glance on-line.  The weekends I have discovered are the time for work, for all that work you neglected in the week, for the gardens (three remember) which grow ferociously and atrociously, respecting no borders, weeds twice as fast as plants, nettles springing up alongside dandelions and bushes growing almost before your very eyes.  So this weekend it was Walton, for the first time in about four weeks and everything needed trimming, snipping, cutting back, pulling up and generally tidying.

But before that, as this is also the last weekend before France, there was buying of paint and cheap disposable brushes and all those little things either so hard to find or ridiculouslessly expensive over there; H.P. sauce, Heinz beans, light bulbs.  Yes the humble light bulb is amazing expensive across the channel.  So it was a trip to the range and Wilkinsons and the famous 99p store.  Also a few clothes as again I have neglected my summer wardrobe this year until now.

Other jobs included re-potting a huge cactus and taking a rhododendron back to London.  So far it is only Saturday, and of course Sunday promises to be just as busy.  I will have to go back to work on Monday for a rest….

The European Elections

Saturday 17th May

Every five years all over Europe there are elections to the European Parliament. And the weird thing is that here in Britain it is a vehicle for a largely anti-European vote.  UKIP has done well in both the last two elections and is widely expected to top the poll this time.  We are ostensibly voting for legislators to a parliament which will help to make the EU a better place for its citizens and yet we regularly vote for a party that wants nothing to do with Europe, that wants us to leave in fact.  And even if every single one of the seventy three Members of the European Parliament were from UKIP, they could no more achieve their objective than if none were.

So, the big question is, “Is this simply a protest vote, or will it be business as usual in a year’s time at the General Election?”  In other words will UKIPs expected success in these fairly “harmless” elections carry over into the “important” one which will decide who runs Britain.  Of course Nigel Farage would probably say that until we leave Europe then no-one in Britain runs Britain.  I would like to think that of course, everything will return to normal at the General Election, that UKIP is just a protest vote, which will burst before long.  But the reality is that it probably won’t.  It may deflate somewhat come the General Election, I would be surprised if they get more than 20% of the vote.  Nick Clegg who had what many considered a very good election in 2010 did rather less well when the votes were actually counted.

Mind you 20% or anything approaching that would be devastating for both Labour and the Tories.  With our out-dated first past the post system anyone polling around 20% will upset the apple cart.  With four parties vying for votes and all in with some sort of a chance anything can happen.  MPs could well be elected with less than 30% of the votes cast on the day.  So, all those clever mathematically weighted predictions go out of the window, and there are bound to be more than a few rogue results.  I fear that we are heading for another Coalition, which could well be a Tory, UKIP, LibDem mix.   Unless Labour get their somewhat messy act together they can no longer rely on the Tories messing up.  In fact it is looking decidedly likely that the Tories may get the largest share of the vote, if not the most MPs.  Dangerous times ahead, and these Euro elections could well be a pointer towards that.