Monday, 28 October 2019

Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics

Strange to think that after all the time spent painting models, creating terrain and writing up games - the stats for this blog shown that the most popular two posts of all time have been the ones about 17th Century Insults (I think they're under the Brief Digression tab). I suspect that the same principle is at work here as was demonstrated in my old school issue dictionary - which had all the rude words helpfully underlined by previous scholars. 

Anywhoo, having just packed the last of my books I came across a dog eared paperback copy of the "New Dictionary of the Canting Crew" which after a brief flick through produced some other great 17th century words and phrases words I had previously omitted. To remedy this shortfall I feel duty bound to present the following for your general edumacation.

1. Addle-plot.  
Someone who spoils or ruins the progress of an undertaking. Usually me to be honest.

2. Ambidexter.  
An untrustworthy double dealer.

3. Arsworm or Arseworm.    
A little diminutive fellow.

4. Balsam.        
Ready money or cash. Apparently linked to the healing properties of actually having money with which to buy remedies.

5. Banbury Story.
A ridiculous story or tale that rambles on without really going anywhere. A bit like my posts of late. According to etymological folklore, this was the original cock and bull story so called because of two pubs with those names close to the village of Banbury.

6. Beard Splitter.
An enjoyer of women. You knew there had to be at least one lewd one here somewhere. Had it been in my school dictionary it would definitely have been underlined. In red I suspect.

7. Chameleon Diet.
Because chameleons moved so slowly they were believed to get all the nutrient they needed from the air - and as a result a chameleon diet was a missed meal or a meagre diet. Not sure if the Current Mrs Broom has tried this one yet.

8. Chirping Merry.
Very pleasant company over a glass of good liquor. The polar opposite of the leery and violent patrons I used to observe on Birmingham's Broad Street every Friday night.

9. Dirty Beau.
A man acting or dressing more prim and proper than he really is.

10. Farting Crackers.
A synonym for trousers apparently. I confess I had heard of "under crackers" but not this one.

11. Fiddlers Pay.
Being thanked and bought a drink, but not being paid for your work. Been there. Done that. Got the T shirt.

12. A Good Voice To Beg Bacon.
The 17th century equivalent of telling someone not to quit their day job.

13. Jumblegut Lane.
Any rough or bumpy road that shakes you.

14. Mulligrubs.
A person in a faked or exaggerated bad mood. Like the wife when I don't get the game cleared off the table in time for dinner to be served.

15. Pickthank.
A gossip who spreads rumours to curry favour.

16. Swill Belly.
A heavy drinker

17. Through Cough.
Coughing and farting at the same time. Apparently it can happen. Who knew?

And finally - on a more sombre note a blog tribute to my little furry friend Lola (or Mookie Moo to me) who has over time starred in "attack of the 500ft cat" and as the "Great Cat O' the Sea" in my piracy campaign.

Lola in "Attack of the 500ft Cat"

Lola - The Great Cat O' The Sea.

Lola adopted us two years ago as a kitten and became my workmate, gun cat, and one true friend (I don't "do" people usually) but sadly she won't be coming with us back to the UK because life in a modern house with neighbours and no mice to crunch wouldn't be a life worth living for her. When friends here in France with a similar house and a similar environment offered to take her we reluctantly took them up on their offer and delivered her to them last week. Many tears were shed and TCMB and I already miss her dreadfully.

There's a great American folk singer called Slaid Cleaves who I particularly like. One of his albums is called "Everything that you love will be taken away." Never a truer word was written.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Limbo Land

Sorry… this is not a post about a theme park where people pay to spend their days dancing beneath improbably low poles but a sort of reflection of the place and the state of mind I now find myself in. It starts off a bit melancholy so you might want to go and get a glass of gin to help you through it. While you're there you can top me up.


Since all my toy soldiers are now safely packed away (pre move) I'm undergoing a bit of a self enforced "dry spell" and while I'm sure it is considered good blogging etiquette to just shut up and go away until the "dry spell" has passed, I've been amazed at how therapeutic this vanity project has become and how drawn I feel to continue posting despite this sudden (and temporary) lack of anything with a military theme to write about.

I have looked back this week at earlier entries and both cringed and rejoiced in equal measure (this one will be a definite future cringe). Though posed as a platform on which to expose my appalling generalship to the world, I'm alarmed to discover an almost diary like thread has begun to emerge, with stories of my French experiences taking up a disproportionate number of its pages. In a maudlin way I wonder how many dead peoples thoughts and actions (good and bad) are now captured and preserved on the internet for future generations of friends and relatives to pick over.

To my grandchildren I must appear a grumpy old bugger (you know the sort) - "Put that stick down you'll have some one's eye out! You don't know how lucky you are. In my day, just after the war…" etc, yet on these luminescent pages there is another side to me, and perhaps of all my fellow bloggers, that many of those closest to us, (currently uninterested in our nerdy shenanigans) will only discover in times to come. God <<insert deity of choice>> help us all.

The limbo land header actually refers to the fact that having made the decision to return to the UK I have begun to unconsciously sever my nascent emotional ties to France - before being able to build new ones in a home country I barely recognise.

Now I never thought I'd ever have a conversation with my youngest son about which is the best type of lawn mower to purchase and in the same way I never expected to be quoting Neil Diamond either, but as the Jewish Elvis so eloquently sums it up…

"LA's fine the sun shines most of the time
And the feeling is "lay back"
Palm trees grow and rents are low
But you know I keep thinking' about
Making my way back

Well I'm New York City born and raised
But nowadays
I'm lost between two shores
L.A.'s fine but it ain't home
New York's home but it ain't mine no more…"

Substitute L.A. for France and New York for Birmingham and you have it in a nut shell. Not sure I can find a parallel for the palm trees but you get the picture.

Had a tear in my eye when I heard that on the radio yesterday.

(True story - as I typed this the auto correct kept trying to change "tear" to "teat"). To be honest that might've dialled down the melancholy a bit. LOL.


Last time I posted TCMB and I were about to head off to Wales in search of a new gaff. While I'm pleased to say we found what we were looking for (eventually) the path to securing it and selling this place has continued to be a rocky one - an emotional and stressful process to which I am signally ill suited.

Fortunately Ryanair were on time for once, though it proved a hell of a squeeze for the 350 of us travelling to the UK 

The search process in the UK reminded me very much of our first viewings here in France. Conducted over a necessarily short period we had narrowed down a plethora of internet "potentials" to maybe five or six "possibles" worth a look see.

Of course when you are "in country" and looking at these "possibles" you discover the obscure camera angles the seller used to capture their beautiful cottage while simultaneously concealing the council land fill you'd end up looking at from your prospective bedroom window. There were a lot of disappointments on that trip I can tell you, disappointments and a sort of strange hostage situation.

The estate agents had let us do our own thing for most of the viewings but the young fellow from Marcon Immobilier accompanying us on our last but one seemed a little nervous. The seller, it transpired, was new to them and he would prefer to accompany us around the place "just to be on the safe side."

The journey to the property was conducted in halting Franglais and we discovered that the vendor actually lived next door to the house for sale - which had been his recently deceased mothers.


When we arrived at the place, at the appointed time, there was no sign of the guy we were meant to be meeting so the estate agent left us in his car while he went off to go and find him. We watched him go down the path at the side of the house and disappear around the corner. We chatted idly for a while between ourselves as we waited for his return. We waited. And then we waited a bit more. In fact we waited until both of us began to feel we should probably go out and look for him. TCMB (fed up with my dithering on the matter) turned to undo the door lock and gave a sudden shriek.

Pressed against the passenger window only inches away from my unexpecting wife was the face of a beaming inbred maniac, or the vendor as we should perhaps refer to him from here on in. He had approached the vehicle unseen and unheard and apparently seemed totally unaware that he'd just scared the living sh*t out of both of us. In broken English he shouted that he wanted to show us around the house. My hand hovered over the emergency door lock button until it was stilled by a "really" look from the wife.

Remind me to tell you about the night I was told to go and tell the Rugby team batchelor party across the road to turn their music down at 2am. 

Sometimes it's a curse being a man.

Sorry I'm rambling. It's the gin. Ignoring every instinct we followed this loon into the property still wondering where the estate agent guy had got to.

Now to set the scene most native owned houses out here follow a similar pattern. The owner finds a terribly out of date (for which read cheap) wallpaper and covers every surface, including the ceiling, in it. They allow a slowly maturing layer of nicotine to build up on this paper for say ten or twenty years then using the nicotine as an adhoc adhesive they add another layer of hideous wallpaper over the top to "freshen things up". They also never throw anything away. (You can buy used pairs of shoes in the newspaper for God's sake). Radios from the earliest valve sets through to snazzy 60's transistor radios  lie stacked atop each other in geological layers in every Creusois household. The history of France, from Petain to Jonny Halliday, heard through them all.

To be fair this particular house had been freshened up recently - say around 1955, so in the first room we entered the football sized clump of flies that had gathered on the ceiling was easy to spot. We moved on. Quickly.

The second room was a dining room. It had its curtains closed and the light wouldn't work but despite this we could clearly see a table set with plates and cutlery for an imminent meal. Pulled up expectantly next to it was an empty wheelchair. His mothers - who you'll recall was now dead.

The third room had a bed in it with a dirty cream coverlet. There was a lump under the covers that even as we watched began to move slowly towards us. Perhaps it was a cat.

I'd like to think it was a cat.

Yeah, it was deffo a cat.

The downstairs loo was uncomplicated. It boasted a lovely porcelain throne with a pipe that went out through the wall into the garden - which is where it stopped. Apparently any turds dropped into a gulley by the wall of the house where they would eventually be washed away by the rain. Very biologique as we say out here.

The cellar was an interesting forest of acro props and cracks. So no subsidence to worry about there then.

I suspect that the months of counselling I underwent after this visit wasn't entirely wasted money because the upstairs still remains a bit of a blur.

When we got to the kitchen our host unlocked the door, yeah you read that bit right, and there sat a table, looking very ill at ease, was our estate agent. He seemed more than a little relieved to see us. We thanked the vendor profusely for showing us around his mothers wonderful home and tried to leave.

Of course he wouldn't hear of it. We were English. We could not possibly go without having a cup of tea. There was the honour of France at stake or some such...

Careful to stay in front of us (so I assume we couldn't make a bolt for the front door) he led us back into the dining room where we were invited to sit around the same table as the wheelchair. Being English I couldn't bring myself to mention the weirdness we were being subjected to, (it somehow seemed like bad form) but TCMB who comes from meaner stock would have had no problem expressing herself had our host not almost immediately reappeared with a tray on which he'd balanced a full and delightfully dirty tea set.

After distributing the crockery he played mother and poured our beverages from the tea pot. There was no tea in the pot of course. Just cold water. We sat in terrified silence "enjoying" our tea, smacking our lips in exaggerated delight as the vendor chatted to the estate agent in a dialect the poor Immobilier clearly couldn't understand. Having apparently attended an Immobilier Academy in which this kind of stand off must have been covered, the estate agent had been fiddling with his phone under the table for a while until suddenly and loudly it went off.

It seemed he was needed urgently at the office - there had been a catastrophe there…we had to leave immediately he said. The vendor was having none of it. What we needed to go along with our tea was a biscuit. He would go and get some.

Our host departed, but for how long no one knew. The estate agent was up from the table like a rocket. "I think we go now!" he said desperately to TCMB and I. We needed no coaxing and were not far behind him as we slid open the front door and sneaked up the path to his car.

Our host appeared at the door waving the biscuit barrel…

We jumped in the car.

It wouldn't start.

The Immobilier tried it again and it caught just as our former host reached the car and tried the rear door handle.

Showering him with gravel we sped off down the drive.

He cut a very forlorn figure standing there holding that biscuit barrel.

Perhaps there were actual biscuits in it.

I'd like to think so.

That moving lump under the bed cover… It had to be a cat. Right?