Friday, December 30, 2011

New Years Eve In Collioure

Every Year Collioure celebrates New Years Eve 'Rio-style' with a huge carnival on the beachfront. We've never been here for New Years Eve for the last 10 years we've been living here and so , this year, hope to party at the "jewel in the crown", the prettiest village in the PO . The theme this year is "Collioure fait son cinéma" as Collioure transforms itself into 'Colliwood" and everyone dresses up with a cinematic theme

The line up looks as follows :
- 20 h Parade from the chateau Royale with all the artists and entertainers
- 20 h 30 Aperitif with the mayor
- 20 h 45, In la foulée, bands and music lineup :  La Boutifanfare (Thuir) ; Dumb&Brass (Ecole centrale – Paris) ; La Fanfare des Bojours (Toulouse – Vic Fezensac) ; Les Bizar’s, Le Retour (Collioure) ; Fiscal Paradise (Cayman Islands) ; Scarlett Déon (accordéoniste) ; Fred Erikson (LE disc-jockey) ; and Hot Club (Tordères). L’Eden de la Mer (Marc Diaz) ; Rabbi Jacob Bodega (Odile Bouille) ; Gendarmerie « Siffler n’est pas jouer » (Les Tontons Farcis) ; Bodega Charleston (Collioure XV) ; et Saloon des 15 Bulles Perdues (Tennis-club Collioure).
- Midnight , the fireworks
- 0h20 Dj Fred Erikson… and concert Fiscal Paradise at place du 18 juin.
Bring It On! Fingers crossed the Tramontane stops blowing a gale now! 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What I miss about "home"

Super granny arrived over from Ireland about a week ago and we are just loving having her around. She brought along with her all of our favourite Irish goodies that you can't get here in the Deep South.
Clonakilty Black and White puddings, Irish sausages, Barrys Tea bags, Taytos and of course some Irish Cadburys chocolate.
It's a question people ask me all the time " What do you miss about Ireland?"
It's been over 15 years now since I've lived in the ole sod so I'm really not sure if it is the same Ireland that I knew then....
But, with rose tinted glasses firmly in place, I do miss ...
1) The people. Their generosity of spirit and their wicked sense of humour. The way we understand each other and don't have to explain our jokes. The wit and the non stop laughing and taking the mickey
2) Enterprise. Being able to start a business easily and get on with it. A market without barriers which actually encourages you to be an entrepreneur.
3) The Pub. Not that I am a big pub go-er, but it is nice to be able to pop down for "the one" and have a natter.Going out in France can be such a palaver.
4) Family and friends
5) Irish culture - the singing, the dancing, the music. Good live music and theatre which doesn't cost an arm and a leg and is often free!
6) Being me. In France, after 10 years, I still do not feel "me" when I am with French people. They don't really "get" me and I'm not fluent enough to be as witty and charming and clever as I am in Ireland ( esp after a few pints of guinness!!)
7) Floury spuds
8) Relaxed attitude - take the twittersingle for Christmas this year. I am not sure you could do something like that in France. I love that "let's do it" attitude..
9) Lack of rules
10) My Mammy!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Dip in Canet

Super Granny!
A few of us braved the wind and cold this morning and went for a quick dip in the med this Christmas morning. Cheered on by our incredulous buddies, 3 of us eegits took the plunge in Canet Nord. Thanks to everyone who brought warm drinks and tasty Christmas nibbles. It looks like it will become an annual event!!

The beach to ourselves

Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen!!

Peer Pressure, it's an awful thing

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Truffles - worth their weight in gold

Photo from L'independant today
The first truffle market of the season took place in Villefranche de Conflent this weekend and due to the scarcity of truffles, went under the hammer for just over 1000euros per kilo. Roughly about the price of gold on today's open market.
So if you're looking for something safe to put your money into, you'd be wise to invest in the "diamond of the kictchen", the tasty "truffe"
What is a truffle anyway, and what's the big deal?
A truffle, apparently, is an underground mushroom, that is found in wooded areas and is snuffed out by trained truffle hogs or dogs. There are all types of truffles; black truffles, white ones, Chinese truffles and pecan truffles, all with their own characteristics and price tags.
A white truffle was famously sold for 200,000euros in Northern Italy in 2007!!!!
Get your dogs out there folks!!!
A few years ago, a gang of us went to the restaurant, La Galinette, in Perpignan, a rather posh establishment, boasting a Michelin star at the time. The waiter came to our table, and with a flourish, placed what looked like a lump of dog poo resting in a cocoon of cotton wool in the centre of the table. All 8 of us looked around for the hidden cameras and then guessed it must be some kind of dip and started poking the stuff with the cheese sticks that had been served with our apero.
Like a frenzied SWAT team, every waiter in the restaurant pounced on our table and whipped the 'poo poo' away from the fecking ignorant Paddies. They were the prized truffles that were featured in nearly every dish on the menu... 
Oh well, That'll teach em for showing off!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

French Christmas menu

... In the school canteen today 

Mille feuilles of scallops
Sot l'y laisse ( tender turkey pieces - I had to look it up! ) served with a chestnut sauce
Sweet potato and celery mousseline
Buche de Noel au chocolat - Christmas Chocolate log

All served with jus de pommes pétillant
They certainly take their food seriously in this country!! Lucky children!
(PS My kids are 4 and 6 by the way...)

The calm before the storm

Barcares at mid day today. Calm seas and not a puff of air and an ambient 18degrees. I was thinking that the Christmas dip was deffo on the cards.
Now, 6 hours later, it feels like the house is going to be lifted out of it's foundations as the tramontane hurls around the PO. Batten down the hatches, looks like we're getting the tail end of the storm..

Mayors in the PO - Scandal Alert!

Another mayor from the PO is in the merde it seems this week, as the mayor of Saint Esteve ( a large suburb of Perpignan ) is brought before the courts. This time the charge is favouritism towards an association called Boitaclous regarding the management of the New Theatre which opened in St Esteve about 2 years ago. The prosecution is demanding one month in prison and a 5000euro fine.Judgement will be delivered on 26 Jan in the New Year.
There has been quite a few scandals in the region over the past couple of years ..
L'affaire de la Chaussette or the Scandal of the Socks!!!
During the Perpignan mayor elections for 2009, supporters of the outgoing mayor, JP Alduy, were accused and found guilty of hampering with the electoral procedure and slipping a few extra voting slips into the ballot boxes. Voting slips that they had hidden in their socks, stuffed down their pants and inside their underwear.
Having being caught red handed, the election was deemed null and void and Perpignan was effectively without a mayor until another election was called one year later. JP Alduy was duly voted in. And what did he do? Resigned a couple of weeks later! Really, you couldn't make it up!!
The mayor of St Cyprien and his fetish for art (RIP)
In 2009, Jacques Bouille, the mayor of St Cyprien killed himself in his prison cell. He had been incarcerated after being embroiled in a multi million art fraud where millions worth of art went missing or ended up in his own home. He was also accused of taking bribes and "mishandling" the town's coffers which had run up a deficit of over 40million.
Le Barcares - jail sentence for mayor
In June of this year, the mayor of Barcares received a suspended jail sentence for 18months and fined 10000euros. Her crime was "favouritism", notably to her brother. Her husband is no stranger to controversy too and there have been drug rumours hanging about him for some time.
Banyuls sur Mer - a taste for the high life
Accused of misappropriating funds and inventing expenses, this mayor has actually taken a couple of bloggers to court ( and lost) for daring to speak out about him...

Is it the case , that these mayors believed themselves to be above the law and free to do what they liked? Spending public money willy nilly and turning favours for their cohorts with deep pockets? Sounds like Ireland in the boom years!
At least they are being brought to justice in these more transparent times.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baking For Idiots.

Wannabee Domestic Goddess, ie : me

I find myself surrounded by domestic goddesses. Gorgeous women who can whip up a soufflé in seconds, bake amazing creations with their eyes closed and who make all their own flippin' Christmas decorations. Fab friends who swan around their cookie dough scented homes, puffing up cushions ( which they have made) and aligning the photos of their darlings ( home made frames), and all whilst looking effortlessly cool, calm and collected. Glammy Mammies with home cred....
How do they do it? And when did it become cool?
Ok, ok, so I can cook (and am brilliant at making salads!!!!) but baking has me beaten ... I just missed out on the baking gene. I don't know why, as many an afternoon was spent in my Granny's kitchen greedily looking over her floury shoulder as she whizzed together her old favourites; jammy and creamy luscious swiss rolls, heavenly chocolate buns ( to be eaten with a glass of ice cold milk, obligatory), fruit cakes, puddings and pies. I should be an expert, but all I have, is a memory of scraping the bowl and fighting with my sister over who got to lick the spoon.
My baking disasters are legendary at this stage .. like the time I made an apple crumble ( It couldn't be easier, brayed my buddies). It weighed in at about 2 stone and my french guests nicknamed it Canet Plage, such was the sandy texture of topping. Have a bit more cream there chérie... YUM ( Nooot ). My rock buns which lived well and truly up to their name .. many a flopped, flat and fecked up sponge and the day I made biscuits and they all merged into one so I had one giant soggy mess.
So, I'm on the search for fool proof baking recipes.Recipes that even I can master.... HELP!!!!!

1euro train

Looking for something to do in Perpignan?
Following on from the very successful "Bus à 1 euro" which was launched last year in Perpignan, we are now going to have "le train à 1 euro" from Saturday 17 December.
From Perpignan to Villefranche de Conflent ( 50kms west of Perpignan), a train ticket will cost only 1euro.
Villefranche de Conflent is a beautiful village to visit, fortified by Vauban in the 17th century. It is a fortified town, the high walls of the fortress wrapping their arms around the picturesque village with it's quaint cafés, restaurants, gift shops and village houses. Ranked as one of ' les plus beaux villages en france", it's like taking a step back in time with it's cobbled stoned streets and crumbling village houses.
Lots to see and do there, including visiting the Fort of Liberia through an underground tunnel ( not for the faint hearted).There are interesting grottes ( caves )  to see nearby and a myriad of shops and restaurants in the little village itself.
You can take the famous yellow train from there and venture further up the mountains to make a real day out of it. 
Practically for the all the commuters coming from here to Perpignan every day, the local government hopes to encourage people to take the train and not their car. 
That's one day of the Christmas holidays ticked off for me!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gaspillage à Perpignan

Ok, the last thing I wanted this blog to be was a whinging , moaning mass of words about France but one should call a spade a spade and in this case, a spade that's about as handy as a chocolate tea pot.
France is a great country to spend it's money. On crap. While all our taxes go up and up and up every year, it is infuriating to see the wastage of money ( our money ) being spent by the government.
Perpignan makes it onto the list of the top 10 poorest towns in France. There is little or no industry here, apart from tourism, wine and some market gardening, the Pyrenees Orientales does not produce much of economic value. Unemployment levels are at 13% and the average income per household is 12700euros ( INSEE). The locals here simply do not have much disposable income.( Don't get me wrong, I love this little corner of the world but it is economically backward)
So , all the more reason for the uproar with the announcement today that the main trains of the new TGV , the LGV ( Ligne à Grande Vitesse) will not be actually be stopping at all in Perpignan. This after the fact that millions and millions have been pumped into a state of the art train station in Perpignan centrale. 
"Vous n'imaginez quand même pas que ces TGV vont perdre du temps en rentrant à Perpignan ? feint d'interroger le sénateur François Calvet
In fact, the trains will be stopping in Rivesaltes , 20 mins from Perpignan where they are now going to invest even more money developing. Who authorised this spending in Perpignan and what will happen to this ghost station now? It's a disgrace.
And to those that will say stop giving out, life in great in France, what are you complaining about? I think I have the right , after 10 years in France and paying my fair share of taxes and charges etc etc etc etc , to voice my opinion and have a moan!!! So there!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Building wigwams

Canet beach still looks like a war zone after the recent storms. And what a perfect playground for children, young and old. We spent this morning there, constructing some fine wig wams ....

Hi Ho Hi Ho , It's off to work I go

Phew, tough work for four year olds.....
Testing out, étape 1

Even the Mammies can fit in, étape 2

Safe as Houses , étape 3

We did good girl! .. étape 4

Monday, December 05, 2011

I've got TCKs

No, it's not a typo and I don't have ticks... following on from my acronymic life post, someone pointed out to me that as a family with two Irish parents, living in France, my kids are TCKs ( Third Culture Kids). Intrigued, I googled it to find out that this refers "to the children who have spent a significant part of [their] developmental years outside the parents' culture" ( thank you wikipedia). As DOH ( Darling Other Half) and I are both Irish , my kids, living in the South of France fit into this category.
Again from wiki :
"TCKs tend to have more in common with one another, regardless of nationality, than they do with non-TCKs from their passport country. TCKs are often multilingual and highly accepting of other cultures. Although moving between countries may become an easy thing for some TCKs, after a childhood spent in other cultures, adjusting to their passport country often takes years."
I just had this conversation the other day with DOH about our kids having an Identity crisis. While he was engrossed in a munster rugby match, I asked them what team were they shouting for, fully expecting them to say Munster. Dylan my 4 year old started shouting "USAP! USAP! ( Perpignan's rugby team). Alannah thought "her team" was from Cork or Ireland. They genuinely did not know what mast to pin their colours to. Quite worrying.
Further research on TCKs ( from the US) has proven:


  • 90% feel "out of sync" with their peers.
  • 90% report feeling as if they understand other people and cultural groups better than the average person
  • 80% believe they can get along with anybody, and they often do, due to their sociocultural adaptability.
  • Divorce rates among TCKs are lower than the general population, but TCKs marry at an older age (25+).
  • More welcoming of others into their community.
  • Lack a sense of "where home is", but are often nationalistic.

[]Cognitive and emotional development

  • Teenage TCKs are more mature than non-TCKs, but in their twenties take longer than their peers to focus their aims.
  • Depression is comparatively prevalent among TCKs.
  • TCKs' sense of identity and well-being is directly and negatively affected by repatriation.
  • TCKs are highly linguistically adept (not as true for military TCKs).      

Education and Career

  • TCKs are 4 times as likely as non-TCKs to earn a bachelor's degree (81% vs 21%)
  • 40% earn an advanced degree (as compared to 5% of the non-TCK population.)
  • 45% of TCKs attended three universities before attaining a degree.
  • 44% earned undergraduate degree after the age of 22.
  • Education, medicine, business management, self-employment, and highly-skilled positions are the most common professions for TCKs.
  • TCKs are unlikely to work for big business, government, or follow their parents' career choices. "One won't find many TCKs in large corporations. Nor are there many in government ... they have not followed in parental footsteps".
Hmmm, food for thought. C'MON MUNSTER!!!!! Right kids?!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Thieves caught

Been burgled recently? Well it might serve you well to contact the Thuir gendarmes about their cache of goods they recovered from a gang they have been surveying for the past 6 months.
They reckon the gang have committed over 50 burglaries between Perpignan and Ceret. Their booty is quite surprising, along with the usual mobile phones, televisions, wine, sat navs, there was also a large quantity of gas bottles stolen .. they must be expecting a chilly winter!
The 4 burglars, aged between 30 and 40, have been placed in custody, while the police begin their task of finding the owners of their hodge podge of treasure.
Where was their booty destined for is anyone's guess?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

My acronymic life

Apart from cooking, ( not baking) which I love, I find myself in the role of HRH (Her Reluctant Housewife).. I never signed up for this homemaking stuff and, catching a glimpse of myself with rolling pin in hand, flour all over my kitchen and trying to make fecking stoopid gingerbread men this weekend, I thought, HTF did I end up here?
I started off as a YUPPY (young upwardly mobile professional) swanning around the world, working in Luxembourg, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. Met the DOH (Darling Other Half) and enjoyed a few hedonistic years as DINKIES (Double Income No Kids Yet) when we had LOL!! Whoop whoop!
Then the KIPPERs arrived (Kids In Parents' Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings) and life became a SITCOM (Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage). We couldn't afford an MPV and an SUV was out of the question.
If anyone asked it was always SNAFU (Situation Normal, All F----- Up), thank you very much,  Our dreams of being GLAM (Greying, Leisured, Affluent, Married) were in shatters and looking forward to being a GOFER (Genial Old Farts Enjoying Retirement ) was a NONO (no! no!).
So WTG ( where to go) from here? OAU, I say (Onwards and Upwards), we're still FAF (Fit and Forty) after all, eagerly reading our NLP books (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and planning TNBT ( The Next Big Thing). BIO ( Bring it On!)

French Acronyms & Abbreviations - Handy for texting
2 ri 1 = De Rien = You're welcome
à + = à plus tard = see you later
B1sur = biensur = of course
CAD = C'est a dire = ie
JTM = Je t'aime = I love you
MDR = mort de rire = lol = laughing out loud
KDO = cadeau
Kwa de 9? = Quoi de neuf? = What's news?
tds = toute de suite = straight away
SDF = Sans Domicile Fixe = Homeless person

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