For anyone still not bored into indifference by the subject, we have – if not exactly won the Great Canal War – won the latest battle. In my hysterical call (34cents a minute) to the laughingly-named ‘Help’ line, I at last heard them say ‘go to your Canal dealer and have them replace your decoder’. Not having a Canal dealer in our town meant a bus ride to Nice and an argument with a dealer who insisted there was nothing wrong with the decoder. I would have to buy a new TV because, he said ‘the solder in one of the connections must have come loose’. ‘Solder’? (I should add that our TV, if not exactly plasma technology, is only about four years old – so definitely post-Flintstones.) So I took it to another dealer, jolly-good-old-British-owned Darty - failing to mention my experience with the first dealer. Darty, without even testing it, gave me a new decoder.
I fit it with trembling fingers, fearful lest dealer #1 be right and the box be broke. And – joy unconfined! – we get the rest of the Wimbledon Finals in peace and can watch Swiss, French, Spanish, Serbians and Americans battling for the British title when the last Brit candidate went out in round two. And the tennis was great - not just the power game now, but power plus guile.
Garbage wars In the current controversy about whether councils should collect rubbish weekly or fortnightly, it’s worth mentioning that in Villefranche they take it away every night. Our garbage gatherers in Wiltshire, the Kennett Council, are much more sniffy. They collect fortnightly, and although they supply ‘recycle bins’, they will not accept cardboard, plastic bottles or anything with plastic attached, ie. most packaging. The bin men sort out the garbage at your doorstep and leave behind what they don’t want – which you then have to take to the council tip five miles away. As you can imagine, all these enforced tip trips cause increased use of petrol, greater CO2 production, and considerable traffic congestion – especially at weekends – so much so that they have to employ extra staff, not to mention a traffic controller. But they still boast a 50% recycle rate.
Minuty on the Bounty One of the great things about shopping in France is the food shops. OK, there are supermarkets like anywhere else, where you buy your toothpaste, beer and washing-up liquid, but the little food shops that specialise in different food and wines – that we in UK banished long ago – still seem to thrive there, as do the street markets, boulangières, fromagiers etc. On the other hand, we in the UK do have greater choice in wine: in the supermarket, in addition to the usual French, Italian, Spanish, etc., there’ll be departments for most wine-producing countries – Oz, Enzed, South Africa, California, Argentina and so on. But in France and Italy, under the heading ‘Foreign’, you won’t find much more than Ernest and Julio Gallo and Rioja. The wines of Provence are still the best-kept secret: Bandol might be getting a little over-exposed and over-priced, but our favourites are still good value - like Château Roquefeuille (only available in restaurants) and Château Minuty. As this is an anagram of ‘mutiny’ I can't supress a mental image of Charles Laughton wiping his lips – the original cinematographic ‘wipe’ – and saying ‘Minuty’s an ugly word, Mr Christian’.
Absinthe makes the heart go Before we leave, a last 45-minuty drive to San Remo in Italy for a seafood lunch and a farewell shop to top up on the Parmigiano, Olio Extra Virgine (truly Italian oil, not Algerian), pasta, shirts and booze. For this, the last stop is at the supermarket in Latte, a mile before the border, where Jack Daniel’s is 34 Euros (£22) for a 1½ litres and the Amarone de Valpolicellas and Barolos are less than 20 (£14). Most of the cars in the car park have French number plates: come to load up with (French) Pastis.
Then back to Windsor to watch the rain fall and wonder when the grass will be dry enough to mow. Oh yes, and we missed garbage day – guess we’ll have to take it home with us… That'll raise a few eyebrows in Security.
Talking about security, I just found out what's been happening to my lemons:
I'd know that arm anywhere.