Monday, May 30, 2011

And now, the end is near......or is it?

Well the world didn't end as some batty American preacher predicted so we just have to wait out the Mayans to see whether they were really right or whether they were in terminal calendar ennui by 2012.

Keith at Reluctant Housedad is hosting Kate's Listography this week (well last actually, strictly speaking) and his theme is 'Finals'. If the world was to end what would you be doing? Here are mine.

Final Meal

I'd be sitting at The Cliff restaurant in Barbados looking out over the Caribbean Sea. It is the most sublime setting, cut into rocks overhanging the water, amazing food that you eat in tiny little pieces so it lasts forever. I've been lucky enough to eat there several times and each time it just takes my breath away. Everyone should eat there before they die. Oh, and anything on the menu would do

Final View

From Barbados I'd hot foot it to Kenya to spend my last minutes sitting with my loved ones on the Escarpment overlooking the Great Rift Valley. No photo can really fully do justice to the majesty of the Great Rift Valley.  I've been lucky enough to travel all over the world which can give the false impression that the world is really a small place. I remember my first sight of the Great Rift Valley. That's when I understood for the first time how huge it really is.

Final Act

I'd dance and sing loudly as I burn my ironing pile. Simple!

Final Goodbyes

I'd get in touch with all the people I've lost contact with over the years, tell them how sorry I am to be so crap at keeping in touch and let them know how important they have been at various parts of my life

Final Words

Well the end of the world will be lived out through Social Media without a doubt so it would probably be 'how the bloody hell does Twitter work' or, to The Girl, 'Would you forever stop texting....' . Or possibly 'I hope my Mother in Law isn't waiting for us in the hereafter' but it would most likely be something along the lines of 'Oh Crap........Professor Brian was wrong. Never trust a particle physicist with Number 1 Record', although the jury is out as to whether I could actually say 'particle physicist' in the face of my impending demise.

Well you got that a bit wrong, didn't you now?

(sorry, Blogger not letting me upload vids)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I'm a twit!

Well, I've gone and done it.  What? I hear you ask, mentally listing any number of faux pas, DIY disasters and general cockups I could have made, based on past experience. Another sewage pipe perhaps? Or maybe I caught the other nipple in a pair of pliers? Flooded the house? Used inappropriate language at inappropriate times? Sold my children on eBay (now that is tempting sometimes)? Set fire to the kitchen maybe?

No, it's none of the above. Always one to embrace new technology a good few years after it's invented, I've joined Twitter.  I'm not sure why. In fact, I'm not even sure how to use it and, damn and blast, my Twitter Girl is on a sleepover so she can't even give me a quick tutorial.  Still, I remember my first trip down the information superhighway. Got lost somewhere around Watford Gap, Asked Jeeves and eventually found my way around without the aid of a sitemap.

Give me a few years, by which time we'll probably be communicating by telepathetic thought waves, and I'll have cracked it. I've been through all my favourite bloggers and stalked, sorry followed, those who have a Twitter button and I even have my first follower. Thanks Steve!  That probably makes me officially the saddest person on Twitter today but we all have to start somewhere.  If you've got Twitter and you want to Twat, err, Tweet me my hashtag (oooh, get me eh?) is @MelRiverCottage.  I'm hoping to forego the old 'my dog just ate a courgette' type of tweet and fill your days with my usual brand of learned musings and intellectual humour (What? Oh sorry, that wasn't me apparently) and all in less than 140 characters!

Twitter me up!

Just click on that button on the  right

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mother's Pride

Those loyal people with nothing else to do in their life followers of my previous bloggie incarnations will remember that I have talked in the past about The Girl being bullied at school in France. I'm not going to go into details suffice to say that she was subjected to a 6 month campaign of verbal and physical agression and humiliation from a group of girls who were supposed to be her 'best friends'. It turned my outgoing, confident, bright child into a nervous wreck, full of self-doubt and with a very poor image of herself.

When we moved back to the UK she was very, very careful about who she made friends with, starting off with one girl she felt she could trust. I wasn't happy about this 'one friend' policy but in the end she chose the right girl and she remains fiercely loyal to her, only last week taking on one of the nastiest girls in school who was insulting her friend.  She may not be particularly streetwise but she has a rapier wit that floors even the toughest adversary.

But that's not what I want to write about. She's always loved singing and has a good voice, although I could never persuade her that she did, so about 6 months ago I suggested that she might like to have singing lessons. I thought it might help her confidence. If you can lay yourself bare by singing to someone, I think you can do just about anything.  She refused point blank.  I left it for a while but the seed was planted. A short while later she asked if I would look into it. I was recommended a singing teacher by a friend and the moment I contacted her I knew she was just what The Girl needed. She was young and bubbly and she favoured pop songs and songs from the musicals over scales and arpeggios.  Even better, she was in the process of doing a Masters in music psychology, her chosen subject, 'the use of singing to build confidence'. How perfect was that?

We arrived for her first lesson with The Girl looking pale and nervous. I didn't stay but left them to it. The Girl and her teacher hit it off straight away. Over the six months she's been taking lessons I've seen her confidence return, her belief in herself grow and her circle of friends increase. She's now firmly part of a group of really lovely girls who I know will always stand up for her if she needs it. She will even, on occasion, sing for me.

A few weeks ago she arrived back with a note in her music book about a concert her teacher was putting on in town in aid of Breast Cancer Research. She's been asked to sing a solo. She refused point blank.  We talked about it but she was adamant that she would not sing on her own. She happily joined the small choir (along with me - "that's too weird, Mum") that her teacher has put together but a solo, na-ah, now way, not in your lifetime.

Sunday was our first rehearsal. We ran through the numbers that the choir is doing, Mamma Mia, Lean on Me, I Feel Good, then it was time for the soloists to stay behind to practice their songs.  The Girl asked if we could stay to listen.

At the end, just as we were about to go, her teacher asked her if there was any way she could persuade her to sing 'Castle in the Clouds' from Les Miserables. I stopped in my tracks waiting to hear what she would say. Instead of the point blank refusal I was expecting, she hesitated. "I'll sing it with you..." her teacher promised. To my absolute amazement she agreed. My daughter, the one who didn't even believe she could sing 6 months ago, was going to sing on her own (more or less) to a room full of people she didn't know.

The Girl asked me to go out into the kitchen of the hall we were rehearsing in. I felt quite sick. Half of me wanted her to do it to prove to herself she could, the other wanted to grab her and run, just in a case it all went horribly wrong.  There were some amazing singers in the room and I hated the thought of her feeling she had made a fool of herself.

I waited in the kitchen door where I could just about see her. I could see her knees shaking. Her teacher played the introduction and took a deep breath as if she was going to sing along. Of course she didn't!  After a slightly wobbly start I could feel The Girl relax into her voice. Her confidence grew and by the end of the song she was belting it out like a Diva. It was one of the proudest moments of my life to see my daughter confront her fear head on and succeed. I'm not ashamed to say I blubbed like a baby in the kitchen doorway - and all the way to the supermarket afterwards. She got a huge cheer from the people in the room, none of whom knew her story but had an inkling that something wonderful had just happened. Behind her back, her teacher, who does know her story, not that The Girl knows she does, gave me a beaming smile and a thumbs up.

Her teacher has told her that she'll leave a space for her in the program to sing at the concert if she wants to  Will she? I don't know but she's asked me to postpone a weekend away to her grandparents so she can get in an extra singing lesson.  Whatever she decides, I don't care. Just to see the transformation in her is enough. I am one very, very proud mother.

Friday, May 20, 2011

To all the boys that I have loved before... (well one actually)

Firstly, my apologies to Julio for shamelessly plagiarising his lyrics, with a little tweak here and there.

Secondly, I'd like to send my unequivocable thanks to an ex-boyfriend of mine. It was back in my Middle East days when money was no object and responsibility was a dirty word that he lavished on me some of the most god-awful jewellery in the world.

You've all been there. They produce a beautiful box, you hold your breath as you open it, wondering what it could be........ and inside is the most hideous thing you've ever seen in your life.  You hold the smile, knowing you are being watched closely for your reaction. You take a beat then turn to them, fling your arms round them and promise that it's the most beautiful chain/bracelet/ring you've ever seen, all the while thinking that no power, human or divine, will ever make you wear it outside of the downstairs loo.

I had many such moments with this particular boyfriend and while I know I'm being very uncharitable and should just have been very grateful for such generosity, we all have our standards.  Most of it never made it out of the box, never mind the house, and has moved with me halfway round the world  to three different continents stuffed at the bottom of various boxes.

In my constant quest to make my life fit into my wardrobes I decided to take it all to a local jeweller and sell it. I didn't expect much, maybe a few hundred pounds if I was lucky.  I left with a big fat envelope stuffed with crisp purple notes. He may not have had much taste but at least he bought 22 carat! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So now, what to do with my money?  A new fridge freezer? A Kitchenaid mixer to sit unused on the side?  A pair of GHDs?  All of the above? Well, so far, in my excitement I've bought a saucepan and a slotted spoon. The Husband told me to put it in the bank. 'Fat chance of that,' I thought. So, who's for a shopping trip?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The one in which I become a recording star.... oh, and a Guinness World Record holder

Not bad for a Sunday afternoon eh? 

Finally, the days spent driving the children mad with random 'ooh, ooh's' and 'aaahhhs' with the odd 'eh oh'  and 'do doo' thrown in were coming to an end. The dance moves were more or less learnt and I was on the coach to Wembley for Rock Choir Live.

It was amazing, incredible, emotional and lots of other adjectives. I won't go and get too sappy on you, I promise but it was a wonderful experience and one I will remember for a long time. I've been lucky enough to have some great experiences in my life; ballooning over the Masai Mara, standing on the escarpment overlooking the Great Rift Valley, swimming with giant turtles in Barbados, wreck diving in the Caribbean but this was up there with all of them.  If you want to know the real definition of  'a wall of sound' it's  8000 voices singing in harmony - or more or less! Let's not forget my fellow tuneless choir member from earlier posts. When people express surprise at my moving back from France I tell them it's because I want to live my life, not exist in it, and this is what I meant. I want to have these amazing experiences. The 14th July fete couldn't really compare with this, nice though it was. Interestingly there are two other people who are French refugees like myself in the choir and we all felt the same.

We arrived at the Arena at midday.  It was chaos, but happy, expectant chaos.  Hard as we tried, we all got separated in the crowds so just had to hope we would be able to sit together when we got in.  I've only been a choir member for a few months and ours is one of the newest ones to be performing at Wembley. I was the only upper alto on our coach and everyone else was sitting in a different block and so I'd resigned myself to sitting on my own, well, as on my own as I could be among 10,500 people, but by a stroke of luck I found myself being directed to a seat next to Sue, Annette and Lynne from my own choir. Hooray! Safety in numbers and at the very least, more experience members who could push me in the right direction if my swaying and snapping went awry.

The atmoshere was uplifting, exciting and the anticipation was almost palpable.  People waved madly at friends and family, trying to attract their attention, the TV cameras whizzed around filming people for the documentary which comes out next month, microphones were shoved in people's faces for a bit of on the spot reaction and the Mexican Waves came and went with increasing regularity. The posh ones from off of London (as they say in Brizzle) had their iPads charged up ready to catch every moment. I had my ageing Sony point-and-shoot which proved not up to the task as you will discover from the lack of videos taken by my own fair hand.

It seemed hours before the show started, slightly late because an entire choir had been delayed by a road accident just outside London but when it did, it started with a bang. The Rock Choir leaders performed 'Let Me Entertain You'. I think Robbie would have been proud.

I'm not going to give a blow by blow account of what we sang but here are some videos of my favourite moments.


'River Deep Mountain High'

Dancing in the Street

There was much whispering about who the special guests would be. Of course, we hoped for Robbie (Let Me Entertain You), Elton John or George Michael (see later) but instead we got this shower....

A motley collection of Rock Choir widowers, brothers, boyfriends and dads who had been rehearsing in secret to sing for their partners. They were totally fabulous and will no  doubt savour the one day in their lives when they had 8000 women screaming for them. 

The next mystery guests were not so much of a mystery, having been revealed by someone on their Facebook page. It was George Michael and Elton John, Yay 'The Soldiers' who Rock Choir supported on their last tour.

The final mystery guest was a bit of a wild card, an opera singer better known for his irritating television adverts. I was a bit confused as Rock Choir doesn't do any classical singing. When he was announced, there was an audible groan but he turned out to be a very funny man and soon had everyone warming to him. He was, of course, Mr Gio Compare himself, Wynne Evans. - and not nearly as annoying as his alter ego.

On a more serious note, because it wasn't just about having fun, Rock Choir supports two charities, Refuge and Missing People. Martin Houghton Brown, the Chief Executive of  Missing People came on stage first. We'd all previously been handed a poster of a missing person. We were all asked to hold the posters up for a photo opportunity for the charity.  We were told that each year in the UK 120,000 people go missing. Of those the vast majority turn up safely but 10,000 don't. Look around at the choir and audience at Wembley. That's 10,500 people. Just about each one of them represents a person who has gone missing in the UK in the last year. How shocki!ng is that?  As we held our posters up, I imagined how those families must be feeling. It was very emotional, so much so that Mr Houghton Brown had to leave the stage. The photo has been reproduced widely in the local press but sadly a certain French politician with a big ego and stunted willy sense of what is acceptable proved more interesting to the nationals. Bloody Frenchman, always messing things up!

My missing person is Jamie Cheeseman, who went missing in 1993 at the age of 16. For 18 years her family have been wondering what happened to her. Can you imagine?  This is Jamie as she might look today.

Rock Choir has been involved with Refuge for some time. All royalties from our recording of 'Something Inside So Strong', Labi Siffre's anti-apartheid anthem, go to Refuge who have adopted it as their official song. If you don't know the words, read them. We heard that in the UK each week 12 women die as a result of domestic violence, two killed by their partners and the remainder take their own lives. Yet the top four women's charities in the UK receive only a third of the donations of The Donkey Sanctuary. It's a very worthwhile charity but, come on!  Universal Records were going to use the even to record a live version of  'Something Inside So Strong' for the new Rock Choir album. Here it is.

Then we had to sing it without the lead vocals which gave a fantastic idea of the sound the choir was making

So there you have it. I'm officially a recording artist. Oh, and a Guinness World Record holder. Rock Choir became, officially, the largest recording act in the Universe, or maybe it was the UK.

And just to prove it's not all for 'femmes d'un certain age' the Rock Choir Teen choir has been launched and it's hoped that more will be set up over the next few years

Watch out for the soloist in the last song. She got a standing ovation and promptly burst into tears. Recording contract to follow I'm pretty sure.

So, the day was nearly over, there had been laughter, tears... and of course a loony. Sitting next to me. Why me?  There were 10,500 people in Wembley Arena and she was sitting next to me, invading my personal space, giving me her life story, a running commentary on her parents' progress from Brizzle to Wembley. "So where are your choir?" I asked hopefully.  "I can't find any of them" she replied. Not bloody surprised I thought rather uncharitably.

It was time to finish in Rock Choir tradition with a hearty rendition of Joyful, Joyful which had sounded anything but joyful at our last rehearsal.  Still, one thing I learned during the day is that when you sing with 7,999 others you can't hear yourself, never mind anyone else so our error-strewn version wouldn't really matter.  As it was it sounded pretty good, even if I do say so myself.

But not only that, I've had a horrible, annoying cough for the past 7 years (yes I do mean years). No doctors have managed to cure it but after 4 months of Rock Choir it's almost gone. So on top of everything, Rock Choir can heal the sick!

So how did your weekend go?

Ooops, I forgot our Robbie Williams moment....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we're going to Wem-ber-lee.........

Hot on the heels of such musical greats as Mcfly and Busted I will be playing Wembley tomorrow. Impressed? Well don't be. When I say I, what I mean is me and about 7,999 others for tomorrow our Rock Choir will be performing at the Big Sing at Wembley Arena. Not only that but we'll be making fools of ourselves singing in front of a camera crew from ITV who are making a documentary about the phenomenon that is Rock Choir.  Another great idea I didn't have.

For the unitiated, Rock Choir is a no-audition amateur choir or choirs which sings pop, rock and gospel (together with embarrassing dance moves) as opposed to Ave Maria and Faure's Requiem.  It started off with one choir in Surrey and now has around 10,000 members around the UK.

Every Monday night our choir leader stands in front of a motley bunch of predominately 'femmes d'un certain age' who hang on his every word, laugh too loudly at his jokes and spend an inordinate amount of time fiddling with their hair while we murder songs from Abba, Marvin Gay and a whole host of other people.  Guys, if you want to hit it off with the girls, learn to play the piano.

Our choir is in it's first year so this is our first chance to experience The Big Sing and, if our last rehearsal was anything to go by, we're in for an 'interesting' time.  I only joined last term so haven't even sung one of the songs but then, to be honest, I don't think it will make much difference.

We're singing 6 songs ranging from Mamma Mia and Waterloo, so we can get in touch with our inner Agnetha and Annafrid, to Joyful Joyful from Sister Act which we've renamed 'Awful Awful' because we are. Really, truly awful.  It's very difficult to sing with lots of key changes and first notes that bear no relation to anything we sang previously. Put this together with our little dance routines and it's a recipe for disaster.

I'm all for no audition choirs but I do think people should at least be able to hold a tune but sadly being tone deaf doesn't seem to put some people off. I had the misfortune to be standing next to someone who not only couldn't sing but danced as it she had been possessed by the ghost of Isadora Duncan.  She kept bearing down on me warbling off key ("I can't sing a note in tune, everyone knows I'm hopeless" she giggled) until I found myself standing in the aisle to avoid her overenthusiastic thrusting. Still, at least I managed to avoid her unlike the entire front row which performed a slow motion collision when people struggled with the concept of the people on the left going to the left and the people on the right going to the right.  Simple enough, you may think, but not when you are trying to remember your words, your harmony and your moves.

So, tomorrow at 8am, while most self-respecting people will still be tucked up in bed I'll be standing in a car park waiting for a coach to take me to Wembley Arena for my debut. The way Rock Choir is growing, it will be the stadium next year. And at £10 per head even to sing, just imagine the profit.

For your delight and delectation I'm posting a video of Joyful, Joyful from last year's Big Sing. Our version sounds nothing like this.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Oh Crap!

This week's Listography on Kate takes 5 is bad combinations. What things just don't go together. You'll see a common theme in my list.

1.  The Husband and Ballcocks

Many years ago I sent The Husband up into the attic to check on the ball cock in the header tank as it didn't seem to be filling up.  I said 'look, don't touch'. He touched. An hour later, as I sat in the lounge feeding out new baby, I heard running water. 'Ah,' I thought, he's doing the washing up.  A few minutes later I noticed he was, in fact, in the garden. So where was the running water coming from? I went into the hall to find water pouring down the stairs.

2.  The Husband and Ladders

The house we were living in at the time had a suspended bay window from the underside of which I had noticed a lot of wasps. I told The Husband I would call the Council to deal with it as he had a history of nasty reactions to wasp stings.  Did he listen? No he did not. He put an extending ladder up to the bay window and went up with some wasp killer to do it himself.  Within minutes he had been stung and come over all peculiar. I saw him wobble down the ladder from the lounge window, where I was playing with The Boy, who was a crawling babe at the time.  I told him to come in so I could give him some antihistamines but he insisted on putting the ladder away first. He unclipped the top section and pulled it down, not taking account of the fact that it was leaning up against the downstairs bay. As he retracted it the top the ladder smashed through the lounge window showering The Boy with broken glass. He was, fortunately, none the worse for it.

3.  The Husband and Electric Fences

When we lived in France we had to put up some electric fencing to keep the ponies in.  Posts were duly banged into the ground (without incident) and the electric tape attached. We had bought a heavy duty battery for it and The Husband was having some trouble getting the current to flow properly. After much cussing (from him) I decided to see if I could help.  We checked the circuits to see if it was earthing anywhere but found nothing.  In the end, The Husband redid all the connections, whacked the power up to maximum and flicked the switch.  I shot about a foot in the air. He had forgotten to put the earth spike in the ground and hadn't noticed that I was leaning on it

4.  The Husband and Chainsaws

Don't even ask!

And finally.....

5. The Husband and Spades

Today we decided to try and blitz the very overgrown garden. I had some extraneous aquilegias growing in the herb garden so I decided to move them into a  bed we had just cleared out. I asked the husband to dig me a hole for the plants, not too big, I said.  I went down to the herb garden to dig up the aquilegias.  "Oh no!" I heard him shout. "What's the matter?" I called.

This is what the matter was......

Holy Crap.... literally!
Meet the sewage pipe that runs into our septic tank

Saturday, May 7, 2011

W.I. do I put myself through it?

As regular readers will know I am a member of my local WI. We are a WI Lite, a contemporary twist on the traditional WI aimed at younger women. Think more Mojitos and Mamma Mia than Jam and Jerusalem.  I love it even though it has ruffled a few feathers among traditional WIs.  The WI has become a hot ticket with groups of young, sexy women getting together to learn the traditional crafts that, in previous generations, were learned at their mother's knee. Those were the days when Mother stayed at home and make do and mend was king.  If nothing else it has given me an opportunity to discover so many traditional crafts that I am totally crap at.

Take knitting for example. We have a good number of very accomplished knitters among us. People who can actually wear their creations.To launch our knitting group 'Finish the Row' (that's row to rhyme with toe, not row to rhyme with how)  they spent an evening teaching the duffers among us how to cast on and knit. Those that were slightly more capable knitted chicken vests for follicly challenged ex-battery hens. The pattern read like advanced Chinese.  I opted to make a mouse blanket, otherwise known as a square. It did come out vaguely square-like and, flushed with success I headed to a charity shop and bought some knitting needles and wool to knit a scarf. I chose some lovely thick dove grey wool and what turned out to be relatively small needles. One ball of wool made about 4 inches of scarf and with the prospect of several years of intensive knitting just to make it long enough to loop around my neck I soon lost interest.

Then there was jewellery making. Probably the less said about that the better. It seemed a simple enough task. Take a piece of silver wire, fashion it into a heart shape, attach a ring from which to suspend said heart and voila!  A piece of individually designed, origainl jewellery that no-one else will have - or in my case ever want to wear.  Suffice to say while my fellow designers were wearing their creations I was pounding mine with a rubber hammer muttering expletives under my breath.

'Not going well then?' commented one of my fellow designers, sporting her beautifully shaped heart pendant.. Too bloody right.  As the chairs were being stacked and the lights being turned off I was still trying to make my heart look like something that wasn't in the early stages of cardiac ischaemia. In the end I hastily made a pair of earrings for the Girl which required zero ability and the heart went in the bin.

Then came Christmas wreaths and, as proof that occasionally miracles do happen, I turned out to be quite handy at these. Typical, my only skill is one that you can use once a year!

So we moved on to hand tied bouquets. Easy peasy. Select your flowers. Take one central one then add your next one to the front. Turn your bouquet through one quarter turn and add another flower. Once again, as the lights were going out I was fighting with the end result of a nuclear explosion in a florist's shop.

This week we were making felt brooches. Terribly simple. Two sides in the shape of a bird. Stitch on a button Bob est votre oncle. I sat on the duffer's table where what we lacked in talent we made up for in laughs at each other's sorry attempts. This time I was the second to last to finish having decided to sew my birdie brooch together with some sort of bastardised blanket stitch.  As a final flourish I persuaded our Secretary, and all round capable person, to chain stitch some feathers on it's little wing. That was probably the best part of it.

I showed it to The Girl. "Oh look Mum, you've made a mutant pink chicken". I showed it to The Husband.  "Do you like it?" I asked.  "Err.....". I even know someone, who shall remain nameless but you know who you are, who was planning to pass hers off as the handiwork of her 7 year old daughter.

Next month we start work on an art installation for the village. We've won a grant from our local council to work with a proper sculptor to create a 'thing of beauty'. Apparently when the Parish Council were asked if we could create something to be displayed in a little corner of land known as Pound Piece they, rather unkindly, laughed!

Perhaps I'll just stick to making the teas and coffees. I'm quite good at that......

I am, I really am!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mine's a pint!

It's not a good time to be a policeman in France. First, after much pressure and many court cases the government has agreed to enforce the Human Rights Act in respect of the right to a fair trial meaning that from now on, anyone who is arrested has the right to have a lawyer present for the whole of the questioning process which will put a rather swift end to their usual methods of violence and intimidation. Followers of Spiral (Les Engrenages) which is currently showing on BBC4 probably thought the producers were using a bit of artistic licence in their portrayal of the treatment of prisoners but no, that's how it is.

In actual fact judges will still have the power to delay access to a lawyer for up to 72 hours to allow "for the collection or preservation of evidence or to prevent an attack on individuals"  in cases where the crime would be punishable by more than 5 years in prison. The organisation Human Rights Watch. more usually associated with places like Libya and Yemen. has a large dossier on human rights abuses in France and is lobbying the government to take the new regulations even further.  You can read more about the situation on the Fly in the Web's excellent blog.

Now, the CRS, the French riot police have been banned from drinking on duty. Up until now, they have been allowed to have up to 250ml of wine (equivalent to 3 units at 12% volume) or a small beer, served with a meal, but after photos appeared of them during the recent unrest swigging wine and beer straight from the bottle police chiefs have decided enough is enough.

Personally, I've always found the sight of a man with a gun in one hand and alcohol in the other rather disconcerting.  Alcohol, a loaded gun and unemployed, disenfranchised Muslim youths seems a recipe for disaster.  In the autumn and spring months our hillside became France's answer to Helmand with scores of men in hi-vis jackets marching around with rifles and mangy hunting dogs shooting anything with a heartbeat, including from time to time, each other. I would keep the children and animals in the house after lunch, knowing full well that a hearty meal had been washed down with liberal quantities of  gutrot and on more than one occasion I was confronted with a staggering man with a loaded gun and purple teeth.

According to research, 3 units of alcohol will give an increased feeling of happiness - not something traditionally associated with the CRS - but will significantly impair judgement which might lead, for example, pepper spraying children or indeed this , although I suppose you could argue that at least they would do it with a smile on their faces.

They plan to respond in true Gallic style by going on strike. Tchinn!

Mine's a pint!

Monday, May 2, 2011


As the world wakes to the news that bin Laden is dead, Fox News get it horribly wrong..........