20130910 – Apple Announcement At Last

Tuesday – warm, sun and cloud.

Yes, the camp sites vibrant with expectations and excitement at the Apple announcements due for 19:00 this evening. They be dancing on the pitches!

Well perhaps not. Most of them will probably be tucked up in bed with a cup of Horlicks or doing impressions of a hermit – heaven forbid some of these miserable clods should speak or smile, perhaps they’ve caught the French virus.

Sadly Apple launch no new disruptive technology. A bit of a damp squid iPhone 5C and 5S, but under the covers theres some really neat stuff. 64 bit architecture in an iPhone – wow; motion chip could open up a whole new range of exercise / healthcare apps; finger print sensor has the potential to replace all those dam passwords and combined with Passbook could be a low cost alternative to NFC; free IOS7 op system has some clever features, including iBeacon – missed that one, great potential. Will I dash out and buy a 5S. I doubt it. Wait until the iPhone 6. Us nerds have high expectations and have to realise that major new technologies don’t happen every year.

All pupils in French state schools will be reminded this week that they are not allowed to wear items of religious clothing such as headscarves or crucifixes, nor object to the school curriculum on religious grounds, in a 15-point written statement to be displayed on school walls.

The Education Minister, Vincent Peillon, says the charter, which contains no new rules, is simply a restatement of the principle of secularity , or separation between church and state, established in France 108 years ago.

The charter tells pupils they cannot object to parts of the state curriculum — such as the teaching of evolution or the Holocaust — on religious or political grounds. It reminds teachers that they are not allowed to bring their own religious or political beliefs into the classroom.

What a great idea.

French Arrogance Survival Techniques (FAST) – I thought it about time to put together a little billet doux on French life; their arrogance; why us Brits seem to dislike them so intensely; what to expect; and my Victor like views on how to survive in France.

It all starts with one basic precept, that is, “France a lovely country spoilt by the French”.

DON’T EXPECT THEM TO SMILE – most of them have a face like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle. They lack humour. Before the Revolution, the French spoke of l’esprit (wit), or la farce (joke) but the word “humour” had no equivalent. Not until 1932 did the French Academy allow l’humour into the language.

THEY’RE WINE SNOBS – they think their wine is heaven sent and the best in the World. They look down on new world wines like a Taliban looking at a Christian. Make sure you have a cork screw because the screw top is seen as the work of the devil. If you should get into an argument with them then just remind them that they don’t make the best wine? Not if you go by the infamous Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, when an English wine merchant organised a “blind” tasting before a jury of French experts. To their horror, they rated Californian wines as winners in both the red and white wine categories. The French press first denied any tasting had happened, then claimed the results were fixed. You can’t trust their wine labels either. In one 2002 case, a Burgundian vintner got jailed for rebottling 4,000 hectolitres of Algerian plonk as a much more expensive Bordeaux.

PERRIER AND BOTTLED WATER – Beware they bottle bath-water  [don’t forget they don’t bathe that often) and call it Perrier.

Wednesday – warm and sunny.

Another day in as Wendy rests the ballon on the end of her leg.

In the evening we pop down – well drive down in the SLK to save the ballon from bursting – to the Georgies in Sangat (Barry and Dot) for drinks. A lovely boozy evening and then I have to drive 100 yards back across the camp site at under 10 KPH.

More French Arrogance Survival Techniques (FAST)

HANDBAGS AND BERETS – their “men” wander around in berets and carry handbags.

FROGS LEGS, SNAILS, HORSE MEAT AND VEAL – yes they consider frogs legs a delicacy, god knows what they do with the rest – just tastes like chicken. Snails also. You don’t have to buy cheap beef burgers to eat horse meat, it’s on sale every where and if you can’t afford a racing thorough bred steak then you can always make do with a Donkey sausage. Beware of Lyon, supposed gastronomic centre, of the French universe. They love their veal down there, so much so that every part of a veals body, even down to the tendons or cheeks, are dolloped on a a plate, smothered in a cholesterol special sauce and called “Haute Cuisine” – roughly translated as “go home hungry”. The French shoot, poison, trap, crush, stuff and then eat almost anything smaller than themselves. Box-nets are laid down across the Aquitaine countryside to trap skylarks, while Languedoc hunters blast turtledoves out of the sky.

LANGUAGE – they really can’t get over the fact that French is not the International language and worse still that English is. Wherever possible just remind them and gloat on it. They even steal from us the words they lack Le weekend, Le Camping and cul de sac. And if you really want to tweak their moustaches – most of the women have one – then use the word Parking. Guaranteed to get them madder than a Muslim viewing a cartoon. Try to use your hands – you’ll find that you’ll be using a lot of hand gesturing to explain things. That’s normal and it makes everything much clearer. Maybe try to say the key words for something for example :’Where is the shower?’ would be ‘Shower?’ and maybe even act out showering if you want! 

There is an oft heard argument that you should try a few words as they really appreciate it and consider it rude if you don’t. Absolute bollox. What they appreciate about it is be able to snigger or even openly have a good laugh at your pathetic pronunciation. Never apologise for lack of language skills, they are the Worlds worst. Obvious if you think about it, if they were any good they’d speak English. Quite often they do speak English but just like their old joy at burning cats alive, they just love to torture tourists and watch them sweat and flounder. Even if you speak French, never, never argue with them in their poncie language, use English, use obscure words, use it loudly but calmly and use plenty of hand gesture. If all else fails give them the Agincourt salute (V).

Critics have accused Western leaders of being more concerned with appearing tolerant than confronting the threat posed by radical Islam. This is because while the vast majority of the world’s Muslims are not terrorists, the vast majority of the world’s terrorists are Muslims.

Thursday – warm, sun and cloud.

Wendy’s still worried about her foot. After 4 days of antibiotics it seems to be only marginally better so its off to the local sawbones.

Finally find one of the 3 open. Shuffle into the waiting room and everyone says Bonjour – is this some sort of near death experience the French have, suddenly get sociable because they’re all sat there thinking they’re going to die. Bloody hell they’ll be smiling next. Where’s the receptionist wanting to know all the gory details and ensure that everyone else there knows what’s up wi yer? Don’t have one. So we all sit there staring at the carpet on the ceiling and wondering what’s up wi one another. 

About every 15 minutes doctor opens his door, ejects one patient and absorbs another. A good old fashioned system . No receptionist; no records clerk; no practice manager; no practice nurse; no appointment; no delayed appointment. An hour later we’re invited into his lounge come surgery. 

I explain and use an iPhone translation of Wendy’s medical history. He doesn’t speak a word of English and puts me through the wringer with his French. No slow and simple. Doesn’t sound a bit like Teach Yourself French. New prescription, stop taking those antibiotics, have these and some cream. And no he doesn’t want to lance it. Keep your foot above your head – I think.

Then he has a real epiphany, in just 15 seconds he’s speaking in tongues and has  miraculously learnt English, as he tells us all about his pending trip to Australia. Don’t you just love the French!

More French Arrogance Survival Techniques (FAST)

FILMS – They claim their films are the best we’ve ever had Well I suppose Emmannuelle wasn’t bad.

PARIS & PARISAINS – Whilst the French may hate the Brits with a vengeance, the good news is they seem to hate Parisians even more. Parisians take all the disagreeable French attributes and elevate them to an art form. Parisians  have built a well deserved reputation for being a rude and pushy people, second only to New Yorkers. However, a Parisian on summer vacations can make a New Yorker seem like a Quaker at a Buddhist retreat by comparison. No Parisian will ever turn up at a restaurant before 8pm so it pays to eat early. Go to Paris for the summer holidays as it is an even more wonderful city when the Parisians are not there.

Now, bad manners and aggressive behavior top the list of causes of stress for the French, even higher than unemployment or the debt crisis, says pollster IPSOS. A total of 60 percent cited rudeness as their number one source of stress in a survey last year on social trends.

RESTAURANTS – before entering the restaurant, check the menu in the window. If it’s laminated, typed and translated into several languages, it’s clear they’re catering for the tourist with zero culinary curiosity. Move on. Look for a smaller restaurant with a handwritten menu on a blackboard – chances are the menu is changed regularly. Too much choice is always suspicious (expect frozen food heated in a microwave). Long, fancy names suggest the chef is making an effort. Never assume the restaurant personnel will be amicable. A disdainful look, snarl or grimace on entering is a safe start. This will give you time to measure up the situation. A bit like two dogs meeting. First there’s the growl, followed by a hair bristle, ending up with a bottom sniff and a tail wag. Same goes for the French, who like to know who they’re dealing with. Madame does not have to feel the feminist movement is being insulted if Monsieur opens the door and pulls the chair out for her. Old-fashioned gallantry and women’s lib cohabitate well in France. The rule of thumb is that the fairer sex is seated facing out, over the restaurant – they obviously recognise the innate nosiness of women.
It’s tricky choosing from a menu if you don’t understand a word and you don’t want to let on you’re a foreigner. The safest option, if proposed, is “le plat du jour”. As its name suggests, this will be meat or fish freshly bought on the day and cooked according to the chef’s fancy. Your waiter/waitress will be bending backwards to translate the menu into English, now you’re having a laugh. If all else fails just point out an entrée and a main (always ordered together). The cheese and dessert menu may be back later.
Unless you ask for tap water – une carafe d’eau – you will be given expensive bottled water. Tap water is no longer a health hazard, except in Brittany where the water is pollutedfrom intensive pig farming.
The French like their steak only just dead. Be precise and very firm if you don’t want it walking off your plate – a point. If you want a real laugh ask for a doggy bag. You shouldn’t need to, they’re not big on loaded plates – see definition of Haute Cuisine.

LUNCH – is another sacred institution of idleness. The only places open over lunch time seem to be hairdressers, flower shops and lawn mower shops. Even main supermarkets close and it’s not just for an hour. They seem to need at least 3 hours – 12:00 to 15:00 – the whole of France comes to a grinding halt whilst they stuff themselves. Don’t even bother asking why they can’t stagger their lunch breaks, they will not understand the concept as it would violate their total disregard for customer service. Sunday closing is endemic, they must all spend their days on their knees i church praying for a smile. And for good measure a lot of them close on Monday as well.

More from the religion of peace, love and understanding.

A member of Afghanistan’s parliament has stated that, according to Sharia Law, all who have converted from Islam to Christianity should be executed in order to stop the rapid growth of Christianity among Afghans…both within the country and beyond it.
The Afghani MP, Nazir Ahmad Hanafi, stated in a published report :

Numerous Afghanis have become Christians in India. This is an offence to Islamic Laws and, according to the Quran, they need to be executed.

Friday – grey and warm.

Another lazy day as Wendy rests her balloon.

Barry and Dot are allowed out of Sangat for the evening and come up for bread and cheese. Oh and a little wine.

More French Arrogance Survival Techniques (FAST) 

CHEESE – France has over 300 appellation controlled cheeses and they are superb. DeGaulle once said “how can you be expected to govern a country that has over 300 different cheeses”. Yes they do smell. When you open the fridge door a wonderful aroma invades the room. They’re not as snobbish about cheese as they are about wine but they do have their silly foibles. Always before dessert and never served with crackers. The biggest challenge lies in the cutting. Your education, social and intellectual status will be judged on it. The rule of thumb for this is to cut like a tart, cutting from the middle outwards, so each person gets a bit of creamy centre and crust, be it a square or round cheese.

 

COFFEE – varies from just drinkable to awful. They don’t do scalding hot, so no point complaining. The standard they dish out is an espresso, a thimble full. They can’t seem to get their heads around a decent cup size. Even if you ask for cafe allonge (watered-down) they just pull their faces and give a gallic shrug of seeming and convenient non-comprehension. Asking for Cafe Americana sends them into a cationic state of xenophobia. Best and cheapest coffee comes from MacDonalds. 

 

DRIVING – the autoroutes are expensive (Tolls) but worth it as there is no traffic on them. Put on cruise control, turn up Queen and drop off to sleep.  If you see a car coming towards you that is crammed full of people and which has a load tied to the roof of the car that is larger than the car itself, usually under a blue tarpaulin held in place with some old tyres, you should drive your car into the nearest telegraph pole thus sustaining less damage than the inevitable encounter.

 

Exhaust pipe clogged up. Don’t worry it’s another French feature. All drivers, especially lorry drivers, are exhaust bandits and love to see how far up your exhaust they can get. Be especially beware of all cars with license plates that have department numbers 75, 92, 93 or 94 (Paris) as there is a really good chance that they will try to force you off the road just to release all the aggression that they have built up since their last summer break.

 

Don’t assume zebra crossings have the same status as in the UK. They’re just another area where they can mow you down.

 

The most annoying aspect is the scooter in France, whose drivers usually take advantage of their ability to go anywhere. You may have to dodge them on sidewalks, they often head the wrong way down streets and, besides all that, they are as obnoxiously noisy as a centurion tank with a broken exhaust. Since fuel is pricey in France, they are everywhere. They park wherever they want. Speaking of which, the French will park anywhere they find a hole that will (or might) fit, even if it means the sidewalk, double parking, blocking traffic, blocking the handicapped ramps on the sidewalks, tapping the bumpers of a few cars to park, and so on. The ultimate disregard is evidenced when you see them parked lengthways on a zebra crossing.

Conservative MPs Philip Hollobone has introduced a private members bill to ban the burkha, the Face Coverings (Prohibition) bill. The bill states that:
A person wearing a garment or other object intended by the wearer as its primary purpose to obscure the face in a public place shall be guilty of an offence.

Where members of the public are licensed to access private premises for the purposes of the giving or receiving of goods or services, it shall not be an offence for the owner…to request that a person wearing a garment or other object intended to obscure the face remove such garment or object; or to require that a person refusing a request…leave the premises.

As always there is no prospect of a generally unsupported private members bill becoming law, but it affords several opportunities to get ideas publicised and debated.

Whilst I personally, for some obscure illogical reason, detest the burka I do not think it should be banned in public. As a free and tolerant society we should allow any crackpot to wear their religious garbs. However, in doors, in banks, in schools etc then it should be banned.

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