No internet today

This morning I stopped at a supermarket to do my shopping. A notice said ‘no bank cards’. I tried the cash machine – no service.

Hmm. With just ten euros I bought dog food and decided to treat myself to lunch at one of my favourite haunts,’Chez Fatou’. I reckoned I deserved it as this morning I nearly fainted during a rather painful physio session in Ganges. (Not the physio’s fault and he quickly had me stretched out with my feet in the air to recover.)

At Fatou’s I learnt from fellow diners that nothing was working in le Vigan –  cash machines, banks and  internet were all down.  I had been lent cash by a friend I bumped into for my lunch. Not necessary said Fatou, I could have just paid when I next had cash. (Sounds horribly like someone who eats out too often!)

Two years ago we had no internet including banking services for nearly a week when someone accidentally cut the cable between Montpellier and le Vigan. Life came to an absolute halt for several days.

Nobody knows what’s happened this time. Others in the restaurant suggested le Vigan was the target of a cyber attack. I said a broken cable was more likely. (This underlines there should really be a second cable bringing internet services to Le Vigan. ) Later, one of the guys at our local diy store confirmed that I was right.

But this experience does both rely how dependent one is on internet connectivity. My reflex action is to reach for my iPhone to find the answer to questions. Not now. I don’t even know when I can post this.

Meanwhile I need to hunt down my cheque book, normally used just once a month to pay my cleaning bill.

Several hours later
My cheque book is not needed.  We are back in business.


Whey hey, it’s raining!  Well, at least it was when I started writing this.

I can’t remember any rain since I came back from London a month ago and the last few weeks of canicule, with afternoon temperatures often rising to near or over 40 have been tough. The ground is brown – and we are still in June.  Poppy has been wilting as much as me.

Of course I may start moaning in a day or so, as the weather forecast is pretty variable for the next ten days (and then back to sun, sun, sun). But at least it’s great to feel a bit more energetic.  I’m going to tackle a smelly fridge, full of ageing food, left untouched when it was too hot to eat much.  Then I might even sort out the general kitchen area.

My one regret is that the temperature in the bassin will not doubt go down.  It has been wonderful floating around in water which is at least 30 degrees. The downside has been struggling to stop the algae spreading.  Jacky only filled the pool a week ago, but a hitch with the automatic ph regulating gadget plus this incredible heat has encouraged a sudden growth.  He has promised a couple of fish for the plant pool and hopefully they will gorge themselves on algae.


Rééducation – long, slow haul

It’s over seven months since my shoulder replacement. By now I should be able to do things like reach up to pick a packet off the mshelf, put my hands behind my back, or pull open thse freezer door (which is a bit of a stickler). Well, I can’t.

But about two weeks ago I suddenly realised there had been a slight amelioration. I noticed that I can
(usually) open a door with my right arm. I can hold a jug of water without spilling it and when driving I can now place my hands in the preferred 10 to 2 position rather than 10 to 6 (ie I can now lift my right hand up).

The next challenge : to play music again

A couple of times I have got my cello out of its case and attempted to play. But it was a thoroughly depressing experience. I tried again. I still couldn’t move the bow to play a long note on the A or D strings.

Nevertheless, I decided to rejoin the Ecole de Musique and play in their two concerts- on the 21 June (part of the Fete de la Musique) and next Wednesday (the end of term concert.

It was lovely being greeted with such warmth and friendliness by everyone, especially my fellow cellists (all adult) and my teacher, Anne. They all spoil me, carrying my cello up the difficult stairs, and rushing to put up my stand and find me a chair.

Ever optimistic that my arm is going to improve, Anne has given me two pieces to work on over the summer, one of which, Saint Saen’s Swan, I remember well from listening to pupils play it at Jude’s music school in Edinburgh.

I warned my cello friends that I would be playing mainly pizzicato during the concert. I was hoping to sit at tghe back, mais non, my fellow cellists insisted I took my usually place as leader, at the front.

The concert went reasonably well, though I blew the last piece by starting off at twice the speed of the others (misinterpreting the conductor’s beat).

Let’s hope I deserve it better on Wednesday. Bad sign, the arm is suddenly very painful, I don’t know what I did. I hope some painkillers and doing nothing tomorrow will prepare me for tomorrow’s rehearsal.

Heatwave continues

This is really extraordinary weather for June.  I can’t remember when it last rained and temperatures soar to 38 every day – 42 if the car is parked in the sun.  And as the day progresses, the weather is often oppressive. Not much fun if you are wearing full length thick compression stockings.

The best time of the day is early morning: with all doors and windows in the house open, the bedroom is delightfully fresh. I wake with the dawn chorus, the nightingale and an exceptionally loud blackbird, at about five, and lie in bed dozing and reading for a couple of ours.

I feast on the panoramic view from my bed, of which this is just part:

Hot, hot

My car display said it was 38 degrees when I returned from my daily visit to the physio pool in Ganges. I can’t remember when it last rained, it is getting hotter every day and it does not cool enough at night.

My jacuzzi is still out of action (I’m going to have to get an engineer from Nimes) and the pool is not yet running (again, I await Jacky to empty, clean and refill).

So, no way to cool off except in the shower.  And that is occupied by Poppy, who has been unwell since this morning and is feeling very sorry or herself.

Now I must go inspect the garden round the house and track down the hornets nest.  I get at least one visitor a day.  They are alarmingly large, not easily seen in this picture.


French parliamentary elections

Today is round one of the elections for the French National Assembly.

The French have a two-stage election process. In stage one there are usually a large number of candidates, from both national parties and small, local groups.

Unless someone gets more than half the votes, those candidates who have received more than 12.5 percent of the eligible voters go on to stage two, which takes place next week, when the person with the most votes wins.

In France there has also been a dramatic change in political alliances, but not potentially as catastrophic as in the UK.  Macron, head of a party which did not exist a year ago, is expected to get the most seats.  But to be able to carry through his programme, he needs to get at least 289 of the 577 seats. He is expected to get a landslide victory (but so was Theresa May!). Nobody is quite sure how well the extreme right Front National and Marine Le Pen, and the hard left party of Mélenchon will do.

Although I’m not a fan of Mélenchon, I hope he does quite well, in order to hold Macron, who is after all a ‘centrist’ who seems happy to work closely with the old right, in check.

I stopped by to say hello to the local councillors staffing the voting centre in Serres. Its wall was covered by this motley collection of posters.  I don’t know how the French know who to vote for: the parties seem to change their names regularly – for ever longer and more grandiose ones.

Monday morning

Well, it looks like a Macron landslide.  While I am delighted that Le Pen has won little outside the Marseille area, I am disappointed that Mélenchon (given that the Socialists were effectively out of the running) did not do well.  Incredible, really: like in Britain, the old tribal loyalties of the electorate have gone by the board, in the desire to see a new fresh face that will suddenly solve all France’s problems. The south west of France, for example, has always been Socialist.  Now it is just one colour: La République En Marche.

I’ve just had a phone call from my friend, Mireille, in Paris.  She is very depressed at the collapse of the Socialists and says she can’t bring herself to get on with anything.  I pointed out that it could be worse: Macron is not May. It didn’t seem to cheer her up.

Britain in political chaos

I’m still recovering from the night of the election results.  I had my iPad tuned into BBC1, propped up beside my bed all night.  I drifted in and out of sleep and each time I awoke, it was to yet more dramatic and unexpected (until the exit poll announcements) dramas.

Our old home in Edinburgh, Labour when we lived there, remains in the hands of the SNP, but chinks in the SNP stranglehold of Scotland emerged as the night progressed, with Alex Salmond and Alex Robertson both losing their seats. One or two constituencies returned to the Labour fold, but the big story was the Conservatives going from 0 to 13 seats.

In Richmond, where I grew up, the last few heady months with a Liberal MP came to an end as the unpleasant Zac Goldsmith won back the seat with a majority of 45. More exciting, in Kensington, where I spent my early childhood, Labour just got in, with a lead of 20 votes.  An unimaginable but satisfying result.  And in Brighton, where I had the right to vote until last July, Caroline Lucas the Green candidate deservedly increased her big majority.

Overall the map is depressingly blue; only the big conurbations (and university towns) stand out in red. There does look to be a close relationship between the Brexit and general election voting, at least in England.

The big difference is that the young came out, not just to vote but to be active in the election campaign. This is exciting and promising for the future provided they continue to participate.

But what of the immediate future?  For me the time bomb is the Brexit negotiations.  It makes me anxious and depressed as I see no way out of a Tory-led negotiating team, and in even more disarray and unprepared than before. What can be done between now and the start of the Brexit negotiations? I fear, nothing.

Any idea of Labour having the right to form a government is surely a pipedream.  The Conservatives (318) and their unpleasant stablemates, the DUP (10)make a majority of 328.  Labour (262), even backed up by the Liberals (12), Greens (1), SNP (35) Plaid Cymru (4) and northern Ireland Independent (1), can only scrape 314.

I suppose much depends on whether Theresa May is booted out. God forbid that she should be replaced by Boris Johnson, as hinted in the Tory press. So, not good times ahead.  I dream of some magical solution like a temporary national coalition government (as during the war) to work exclusively on a soft Brexit deal. But the most we can hope for is a cross party informal coalition by those who – in the absence of any hope of abolishing Brexit – push together for as reasonable a deal as possible.

This should start with an immediate announcement of protection of the position of EU citizens in the UK, a government commitment to continue to meet the health bill of British citizens in Europe (assuming the EU announce existing citizens could remain where they live), and adecision to come to an early agreement on both the UK bill to the EU and a settlement of the Irish border issue.

Then comes the more contentious issues.  I fear I preferred the Liberal position on Brexit to Labour’s – but look at how that led to Nick Clegg falling on his sword.  Labour has been ambivalent or unspecific about its exact position on freedom of movement, and therefore continued membership of the single market and customs union.  I hope we can get as close as we can to maintaining the status quo! We also need to ensure that Britain continues to be beholden to the European Court of Justice and to stay in EU education and research projects such as Erasmus.

All this means not only Labour getting its act together, but working with not only the opposition alliances but also with Conservative remainers, particularly powerful figures like Ruth Davidson. One reason for Labour’s remarkable turn around in fortunes was the arrival of young activists and voters.  This could continue to tell against the Tories unless they change policies and attitudes before the next general election. Let’s hope they realise – and fast – that they have to listen and accommodate.

Oh well.  I can dream on.


Strange times – between Trump, Macron and May

What an unreal world we are living in since last year’s Brexit. At present I feel we are waiting for the next chapters to unfold.

Will the charlatan in the White House finally get his comeuppance?  I fear not; it is not clear that the House of Representatives would vote for his impeachment. And now he is creating yet further havoc with his ambivalent and contradictory antics concerning Qatar and his consistent support of Saudi Arabia, turning a blind eye to the dangers of Sunni aggression, led and funded by Saudi Arabia.

Will Macron get the much needed majority in the parliamentary elections, whose first round is on 11 June?  Everybody seems to think he will.  Will he continue to play the shiny new player on the presidential block, not putting a foot wrong? Maybe.  (Although one could argue that his famous “make our planet great again”, combined with his handshake, may have contributed to Trump’s rejection of the Paris accord.) Let’s not forget also that many voted for him to stop the FN.  He may be the golden boy, but what is Macron – more Blair than Corbyn -going to actually do in the coming years? The Left are already muttering.

Will Theresa May win this evening?  I regret to say, probably.  But let’s hope that it is not the feared landslide and that the incredible surreal election campaign will have done considerable damage to her position.  It’s strange watching the election from overseas (and without a vote) but I have become more and more repelled by her – and her empty and soulless views – with every interview watched.  And of course, like many, I have become more and more entertained and surprised by the (relatively) fluent performance of Jeremy Corbyn.

There may be questions about whether the sums add up (at least Labour offered some figures) but bravo for a fiery manifesto which spoke of so many of the old Labour principles that I have always supported, as well as my penchant for keynesian economics. Nice if talk of renationalisation is no longer regarded as a dirty word, and how refreshing to read some good bits of social democratic stuff after years of new Labour.

The electorate is being offered a real alternative, even if they decide – this time – not to take it.  Now, time to make some supper, before logging onto  (illegal, given the BBC’s stupid marketing policies) the television on my computer.

Normal routines resumed

It took me the usual day or two to return to my normal life after my UK visit.  Not that my normal life is particularly scintillating at present; I do find the three trips a week to Ganges to do shoulder exercises in the physio’s pool there take up three whole mornings.  The round trip is after all 50 km.  I have given up hope of getting a place in the le Vigan pool, where it seems to be whom you know rather than your need that gets you a place in the pool.  It makes me very angry.

After editing a publishing – just for my Oxford friends – the photos of our reunion, I was all ready to do other things, but then got ill.  I had another bout of what the doctors at Ganges last year said was probably kidney stones rather than gallstones.  Whatever it is, extremely unpleasant, and one day I suppose I will have to consider whether something more than drinking lots of water and waiting for the pain to recede should be done.  At any rate this morning I woke up feeling quite different: the latest bout is over.

Better still, my physio, Joceline, said that my shoulder did seem to be markedly more mobile and less painful.  She is cautiously optimistic that some inflammation may at last be receding. The annoying thing is that I still get acute pain – like knives in my arm – without any warning.  At least the pain stops as soon as I stop moving.

Yesterday I joined my friend Dessa and her brother and nephew who are visiting from America in a winetasting trip.  Getting to our chosen destination, Montpeyroux, is all part of the experience, particularly when the weather is so beautiful.  I love the journey over the wild lime Causses and then over the plateau till one reaches the descent down to the coastal plain, with its patchwork of vineyards below.

My favourite restaurant in Montpeyroux was full up – I should have booked – but after a pleasant enough meal in nearby Aniane, we visited two wine producers, Mas de la Séranne (we all loved the whole range) and – back to Montpeyroux – Domaine l’Aiguelière (whose wines I did not really like, despite their winning medals.  They tended to be predominantly syrah or cabernet sauvignon, whereas I liked the wider range of graphes at Mas de la Séranne.

This was not just a wine experience: it was my first day spent in the company of American Republicans!  They knew my politics; as Ryan, the nephew said, it was what they expected of Dessa’s friends. We kept off political discussions and had a jolly time together.