What’s happening to the French?

Just been there and before I go on about them let me say that there’s something I like a lot about the French. In fact, there are many things that I like about the French. They tend never to apologize, we are always saying sorry. They tend to think that the response to something going wrong is, of course, your fault. It may well be, but in France, it is always the case. Even when it’s not.

Another thing I like about the French is the food and their attitude to it, but here something is going terribly wrong. The French are able to cook like almost no other nationality, and they have exported their skills. We’ve learned a lot of them, and put them into practice. We’ve learned from a lot of other people, as we had no one to learn from over here. Apart from Saint Delia and that geezer wot is saving our kid’s school dinners. Elisabeth David brought us olive oil, and a load of recipes from the Med, when the prevailing wisdom here was that olive oil should inserted in the ear for an earache. Now we actually use it on salad in place of salad cream which was not cream and was not pleasant. Our salads were n’t up to much either.

One could get a decent meal almost anywhere in France, and motorway service areas served food that was passable and coffee that was so strong it would enable the sleepiest of drivers to stay awake and alert for at least 400 miles per cup. And it was served in a white china cup. Not anymore. Service areas are awash with coffee machines and if you do go and get a ‘cup’ from the counter, it will more than likely be a paper one. Whereas over here our Service Stations are better than they have ever been. The one in Gloucester, where there is no branding of any kind is a beacon of good taste and a magnet for local people searching for good food items.Take a look or call in Gloucester Services and these days one does not have to go far to search for good food in the UK. It’s everywhere. Whereas in France they have taken backward steps.

It’s time for them to learn a few of their own lessons from us. To import what they exported to us: the love of food and coffee. I am naturally hoping that their new President will be reading this and will be taking steps to improve matters quickly before it’s too late.

I’m not expecting him to apologise. They never do. That’s one thing that will never change.


 

Another feature of my trip was a meeting with a French woman who was an English teacher. She spoke superb English without the slightest Fench accent. Yet we have Frenchmen over here who’ve lived here for years, like that chef Raymond Buerre Blanc or whatever he’s called, sounds like e as joost left le bateau een Porsmoof. Now there’s a word in English that the French can never pronounce: Portsmouth. It’s torture for them. They get their own back by naming a French south western seaside town : Royan.This is a word beyond the ability of an English person to pronounce properly. So we’re even.

Au revoir. Vive La France!

Meandrain

This is me in typical French holiday fashion gear, it was chucking it down.
As we say: We brought the English weather with us. Yes, I’d packed it with the
shorts I’m wearing now I’m back in England.

 

 

Is it only coffee?

 

I think not these days.

I remember  way back when I was a teenager many years ago, that a coffee bar opened in the local town: Preston in Lancashire. It became the place to go to and all they served was coffee in little glass cups. It was almost exclusively a young place. The coffee was unexceptional, but it was the first coffee with froth on the top, so we thought it was cool.

I’m a coffee fan, not an addict, but I like a good cup of strong coffee and on journeys through France, it was an ideal way to rest and recover. The strong coffee had mileage attached, about 3 hours of alert driving for every cup. Well the French have gone to pot. Many of the motorway halts in France now serve up coffee from a metal machine. Now I’m no absolute purist but this is really an offence against the state, and says much about the state of France. They taught us how to cook properly all those years ago and how to serve decent coffee to the masses on the move. Now it’s just corporate grim.

Over here we decided that motorway coffee was yuk, and now corporates have got a grip on the trade in a totally different way to France. You have to queue for a cup at a Costa’s or similar, whilst the barista makes you the coffee of your choice. We’ve shown the French how it should be done and we learnt it from them in the first place.

Out in the town the coffee reaches even more heights of sophistication, with a ready choice of smart ( but not too smart: “Make it look like it was warehouse please”) places that serve coffee of almost every description. To cap this they even have ‘tasting notes’ in some places and guest coffee. The temptation is to say this is all b*ll*cks, but it’s really not. It’s got to be better than a French machine generated undrinkable sludge. So well done us, we came near the top in the Olympics and we’re good at coffee. Perhaps the two are related.

Coffee final.jpg

This is Tamper in Sheffield, where they serve excellent coffee, why not try a few and stay awake for a week. A few cups could get you to the South of France without having to stop.

Tamper Coffee


 

Coffee

Yes, that’s tasting notes folks on a guest coffee! Try asking for that in France.


 

I’m having a short break from posting cartoons and will be posting photos and other hopefully interesting stuff for a short while. Sharpening the pencil for later. Summer is not drawing weather for me. Wet days and dark evenings make for more drawing time in my book.

Thanks for visiting.

 

Free beer, stained glass, and Alice’s invention of screen wash.

If you are in the US then look what we’re giving away in sunny downtown Cheltenham, sound too good to be true? It is. You only get one on the day and you’ve got around 3,000 miles to come to get it, and don’t forget your passport.

freebeer

I had a day out yesterday in nearby Gloucester where I was going to a talk given by Tom Denny, who has designed two sets of the wonderful stained glass windows, the first illustrated in detail here is well worth the 3,000 mile trip and a joy for me just 8 miles away. The second is a more recent project celebrating the works of local Gloucester poet Ivor Gurney and is no less stunning than this first project. Mr Denny was erudite and very interesting and it was fascinating to hear how he came to design the windows, his thought process and some details on how the glassmakers create his brilliant drawings and designs into the finished article. The Friends of Gloucester Cathedral organised the event in the Cathedral and I was lucky to get a seat.

denny window

I also had a first class seat before the event to watch the parade through Gloucester celebrating armed forces day. Sitting outside The Crow’s Nest, a tiny little salad bar on Westgate Street where you can get probably one of the best salads in the area, and the coffee is also excellent. Gloucester is not a wealthy city, struggling with inner city deprivation, homeless people and at times it shows its bleaker side, but I always enjoy a trip there and the very best thing about it is the friendly people. Don’t pass it by.

trumpeter

The band following troops were lucky to have this player following wearing regulation wooly gloves!

Then back to Cheltenham, friendly Gloucester bus driver, and back into Montpellier, Cheltenham’s poshest area. Unlike Gloucester, Cheltenham is the opposite, with one of the wealthiest town centres, but with some notable exceptions the people are a little aloof. It was the Montpellier Street Fair, and was complete with some vintage cars and here’s an English / United States contrast: the American car was from roughly the same age as the English car, which is an Austin A30.

I’ve always claimed that it was my Aunty Alice who invented the screen wash as she had a little Austin like this and whenever she went out took with her a full squeeze bottle of soapy water, so she could lean out of the driver’s window and spray the windscreen. She told me she’d invented it, who am I to disagree.

CorvetteAustin

So, back home, calling in on the way at a bar for a beer, sadly not free but worth every penny. The young man in front of me elicited no reaction from anyone passing with his green hair, I wonder is he was inspired by a traffic light. Perhaps he changes it every week: Red, Amber, Green.

Greenhair