Gendarmes, Police and Faulty Speedos

gendarme photo
The kind of road the Gendarmes like to catch speeders on. Pic: Rod Fleming

 My friend Antoine the potter had a little incident with the Gendarmes from Bligny not long ago. Now before I begin this tale, I feel I should put to rest a belief that has become, apparently (according to my children,) current in the UK in the last few years.

This is that the Gendarmes in France are not real police. Well, they are, and this is a classic bit of Anglo-Saxon, er, confusion. I believe it has even been aired on that odious arch-slimeball Stephen Fry’s television show; not that that would make it any more the truth.

 So let me explain. Continue reading “Gendarmes, Police and Faulty Speedos”

Hot Cross Buns–Cakes for the Goddess

 

hot cross buns are bull buns
Hot Cross Buns are eaten every Easter, Pic: Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Used under a Creative Commons Licence

Hot cross buns. That’s what this article is about. So why do I have a picture of a Roman sculpture of a bull’s head here instead of a nice snap of some hot cross buns?

 

Well, hot cross buns actually originated in Assyria as a part of worship of the Moon Goddess Ishtar. At least that is the earliest record we have of them. The Egyptians continued the tradition of offering cakes to their Moon-Goddess Hathor. They decorated the cakes with bull’s horns, as the ox was the preferred sacrifice of the Goddess. The cakes, therefore, were symbolic of the sacrificed bull, whose flesh would be eaten by worshippers.

 Hathor has been identified with Ishtar and Astarte. Astarte is Ashtoreth, who was worshipped by King Solomon, as mentioned in the Old Testament (1 Kings 11, 2), and to whom he erected a temple or shrine in Jerusalem. Continue reading “Hot Cross Buns–Cakes for the Goddess”

Slugs and Snails and Tomato Plants?

 

tomato photo
My surviving tomato plant

Tomato Plants on the agenda again

Tomato plants? Well, spring in France this year was the worst I can remember, and so far summer has not been much better. By this time I should be on first-name terms with the community of lizards that live in my courtyard, but this year, hardly a hello. They’re all still hiding.

 

Mind you, it’s not been so bad for all the critters in the yard. My pet hate, les limaces, our delightful Burgundian slugs, are positively thriving. I mean, these ones are not shy, they don’t even try to hide, and they’re bright orange anyway. Maybe it’s a warning that they taste disgusting. I’ll let someone else find out. What I do know is they like my tomato plants. Continue reading “Slugs and Snails and Tomato Plants?”

The Realpolitik of Islamism

 

Realpolitik
Realpolitik: the Battle of Vienna

It is now over twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall; for many young people, the Cold War, of which it was the most compelling symbol, is no more than a history lesson. In my desk here I have a small piece of concrete, with paint on, which was recovered from that wall and sold as a tourist trinket. It is perhaps the most telling one I have.

Our children do not, as those of my generation did, live in daily fear of being blown to pieces by atomic bombs or dying an agonising death from radiation sickness. They do not walk into their schools to find posters saying “Better Dead Than Red” on the walls, nor do they crowd around flickering television sets alongside their anguished parents, watching as Kennedy drew his line in the ocean, and curled his finger around the trigger of nuclear Armageddon. And for this we should all be very, very thankful indeed. No child should have to live with nightmares like those. Continue reading “The Realpolitik of Islamism”

Palawan, Philippines, 2012

Crissy at Palawan, Philippines 2012
Crissy at Palawan, Philippines 2012
Crissy at Palawan, Philippines 2012

Palawan is an island in the west of the Mimaropa Admistrative region of the Philippines. The Phils is divided colloquially into three regions, Luzon in the north, Visayas in the centre and Mindanao in the south. Palawan is on the far west of Visayas.

philippines-map
The Philippines. Palawan is coloured brown on the west.

It forms the northern boundary of the Sulu Sea and is only some 70 kilometres from Malaysia at its southern extremity. It is served by two airports, the larger being at Puerto Princesa, the main town on the island.

I had come to the Philippines because I had met, on-line, a transpinay called Crissy José and I wanted to meet her in real. At the time I was still recovering from the end of my marriage and a brief and failed affair with a women close to my age. (Which was an unmitigated disaster.) I’d been chatting to a couple of women but here was a click with Crissy that I didn’t get with the others. So I booked my ticket.

Spring and summer of 2012 I had passed sailing my yacht Misty around the coast of Scotland. She was sold in September and I wanted something I hadn’t had in a long time — a good chillout holiday and plenty of sex. Well, the Philippines trip got me one of those.

That first visit to the Phils was only three weeks — back then you only got 21 days on the automatic tourist visa. I had made my base at the Oasis Paco Park hotel in Ermita, Manila, and Palawan was the second exploration trip. The first was to Boracay, which I write about here.

(As an aside, I again highly recommend the Oasis Paco Park. It’s reasonably priced, clean and the staff are super-friendly. It also has a really good, if a tad pricey, Italian restaurant.)

We had booked our tickets for the Palawan tour through TravelTeam, and found ourselves on a Zest Airlines flight out of NAIA at 0700.

Palawan Gallery

Why French Men Watch the News

Ever wonder why French men watch the news? I did a piece a while ago about ‘Why Americans Go To Church’ which was stimulated by some or another piece of typical septic-tank arrogance but was really meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Kinda.

 

Anyway this is also meant to be a bit of fun.  Did you ever wonder why it is that so many French men seem so very well versed in current affairs, news, and general what’s the buzz? It has nothing to do with the Bac de Philo or anything like that.

 

This is the REAL reason:

I give you

Mélissa Theuriau

And she’s just one in a long long line of stunning French newscasters. Makes the eight o’clock news worth waiting for.

Continue reading “Why French Men Watch the News”

Poaching the River in English!

Poaching the River cover
Poaching the River

 Poaching the River is back on the shelves, both physical and virtual, so I have been addressing the next issue.

 

 Poaching the River was written only partly in English, or at least the Scottish version of it, and all the dialogue is in authentic Mearns Doric. That is my native tongue of course, although I didn’t really know it until I was at school.

 

 The book was written as a homage to that culture, but it is a sad fact that there are few of us left who understand Doric, or can speak it. Ever since Poaching was first published I have had requests to translate it into English, something I have always resisted, for a number of reasons.

Continue reading “Poaching the River in English!”

Poaching the River Back in Print and Ebook

Poaching the River cover
Poaching the River

Poaching the River was my first published book. It’s back in print! (and ebook!)

Buy it HERE from Amazon.co.uk

or

HERE from Amazon.com

ISBN:978-0-9554535-0-2

 

Poaching the River tells the story of a sleepy Scottish coastal village where the tranquility of life is literally blown up in the air.

Acclaimed as a ‘true classic’ of humorous fiction, Poaching the River opens, after introducing the heroes, Big Sye and his pal Peem, with the return of the beautiful Rae Swankie to the village of Auchpinkie in Scotland. Continue reading “Poaching the River Back in Print and Ebook”

Ice (Part One)

The Ice World Ilos photo
The Ice World Ilos

I was right in the middle of my steering watch

when suddenly a blinding streak of white light whizzed at us from over to the right. I knew what it was, of course, stinger missile, aimed straight at us. Eosha had her eyes glued to the Infra-scopes, as usual, and she saw it coming before I did. I pulled the control stick and turned the anti-grav tank towards the missile, to reduce the target area, and stood on the mag-brakes, bringing the tank to a halt under the shelter of a small hillock of ice and setting it down. Continue reading “Ice (Part One)”