Prioritie a droite

This is a bonkers rule which allows traffic in France and Belgium to come from your right, from a tiny little road and onto a main road without stopping or even looking left!

It can make driving a tense business to say the least.

In Brussels, there is a relatively steep hill near where we lived and I used to take the 71 bus up and down it quite a lot.

There are also numerous side roads off to the right and it made for a sometimes entertaining trip as the bus careered down the hill, only to skid to a halt sending passengers falling backwards like dominoes whilst a little car sailed breezily out of the right with nary a backward glance.

There was a theory expounded by one Belgian we knew, who said, in all seriousness, that the prioritie a droite meant all Belgians were very careful drivers and there were fewer accidents…..

At least in Brussels the rule is religiously followed and so you know the deal.

In France, there are a plethora of masonic-like road signs which tell you whether there is prioritie a droite or not. You have to be inculcated into French culture to even see them, leave alone know what they mean.

A yellow diamond means there is no prioritie a droite whilst even more confusingly, a yellow diamond with a cross through it means there is prioritie a droite.

Oh yes, my friend, it is true.

Whilst on the topic of driving, I got done for speeding the other day. I was doing 35 mph as I entered a 30 mph zone on the outskirts of Swansea – caught on camera.

I thought briefly of naming my best beloved as the driver but it was a short-lived Chris and Vicky moment which I dismissed.

But I was a bit miffed as I am a very boring driver who is usually safe, stodgy and smug.

Anyway, I mentioned this is upholstery class the other day and was amazed to find that every other woman there – apart from one – had been done for speeding and taken the speed awareness course option.

Who would have thought those middle aged women patiently tacking their hessian to the seat of grandma’s old nursing chair were secret speed freaks……


Vote Tory

You may have heard me mention that I live in an area that is heavily Tory – and indeed alarmingly UKIP.

Anyway, as the election draws near, there are posters being put up hither and thither in the countryside.

On the way into Petersfield, there is a farmer who had put up a series of posts with an attached picture of the local (of course, Tory) MP on the verge of his land.

Imagine my delight when a few days later, they had all been torn down. I worried for a moment that this might be the work of extremist UKIP supporters, but I hoped fervently, that instead it had been night-time action by – dare I say it – Labour supporters.

A few days after that Damian Hinds, for he is that MP, was back but this time the posts had been put inside the farmer’s field.

Now Damian peeps a little nervously over the hedge at you as you drive past.

Going on Holiday

I’m sure that a ‘what I did on my holidays’ is one of the lowest forms of blogging but that seems to be pretty much all I have done for the last few weeks – and yes, I do know that boasting about your holidays is also pretty low too.

Anyway, should you want to skip a few blogs on the basis that this is not for you, feel free, but here goes with some holiday notes.

Packing used to be one of my skills. When I was young, oh so many years ago, I had a job which demanded a lot of travelling and so could pack a neat bag with all the necessary requirements for any situation in about 10 seconds flat.

Now, oh so many years later, I am hopeless. I over-pack and come home with a lot of unused but badly creased stuff, or I pack the wrong things and shiver or sweat, or I take all the wrong earrings.

As a woman who likes her jewellery (let me tell you about the Accessorize necklace which was smuggled out of Russia during the revolution, sometime,) I do like to have the right bits with the right clothes.

Anyway, as the holiday before last, we were glamping, the choices were fairly easy and indeed you do need things you can pull on the tramp across wet grass for the first pee of the morning. And stuff which you can get off easily and hang up to avoid getting it wet on the shower floor.

This last holiday (a few days in Normandy) was a bit trickier not least as we have a rough and ready attitude to planning.

We get a guide book or (some) off the shelf, book a crossing or a flight, get a car or take ours and that is it as far as planning goes.

The flight or channel-crossing are the times to look in the books and decide what to do.

(This has worked well for us on the whole, but it has meant some rather dodgy accommodation – as well as amazing places to stay – remind me to tell you about dinner with the Mafia in Sicily sometime.)

We decided to drive down past Rouen and stay in a place called Conches, recommended in our old Rough Guide to France.

All was fine. (French motorways are a delight compared to ours. Their surfaces are nice, they are quiet and people generally use lane discipline – what more can I say.)

We found a Logis and although the room was basic and there were a lot of dried flowers about the place, the food was lovely.

Though I have to say that in Normandy it is a choice of whether to have cream with your cheese or cheese with your cream – not exactly on-plan when you are supposed to be losing weight, but hey ho.

Over dinner, we got out an Alistair Sawday guide to France dating from 2010 which had appeared from somewhere on our shelves back home.

There was an entry for a B&B run by a woman who used to be an antiques dealer – that was enough for me. I like a woman who has spent her life around Brocantes and would watch Antiques Roadshow religiously if they had it in France.

It turned out to be in a very nice but isolated village ( see all of inland Normandy) and there was a collection of houses in a large garden.

Our large room had a (very large) en suite bathroom with walls covered (very interestingly) in striped, bright orange silk.

We had our own dinning room where we were served a very nice three course meal on both nights, with very nice bottle of wine and Calvados to take to bed – all of six steps away….. and it came in at the princely sum of 200 euros all in for both of us, and the dog, for two nights. Not bad at all.

Now, I must say that I am a fan of the Rough Guide but I do take issue with them on one point.

There was mention of a Monday market at a town called Vimoutiers. There was also mention of a Richard the Lionheart castle the other side of the region.

One morning over breakfast we had a sotto voce tiff over whether to walk up to the castle and get some exercise or to go to a French market – I do like a market.

In the end we agreed to do both though it involved several hours of driving.

Castle, fine, as described and indeed lovely views. (There is some historical debate about whether those who finally took it came in through the toilet or an open chapel window and it takes no time at all to think about which would be preferable in a Medieval castle.)

Market, not so fine. I should have realised that a market on a Monday was unlikely but the French will have a market at the drop of a hat, so it should have been OK. Infact it was a market but of the tattiest bling market clothes you ever did see. Not a fresh fruit or veg in sight. Thank God, I agreed to do the castle or I would never have heard the last of it.

And it was the market that lowered that bit of Normandy from a promising B to a C+ and in fairness, a lot of the blame for that lies at the door of the Rough Guide.

A is a place you would move to at the drop of a hat. B is a place which you wouldn’t be sorry to be sent to. C is a place which would cause a deep intake of breath, but you know you could make the best of despite a few things which are not at all right, and D is the equivalent of being sent to Walsall or indeed Warsaw.

I am sure everyone has those kinds of ratings and you probably didn’t need to know mine, but I give them in a spirit of generosity to anyone who has made it to the end of this bit of tales of my holidays. Thank you