Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hay fever

May has been spectacular. Just the right combination of rain and sunshine has made this a Spring to remember. The garden is fragrant with wisteria, honeysuckle and roses. The cherries are ripe and juicy. A far cry from the wet, cold and windy month of May that Paris has endured.

The down side has been the bumper crop of pollen. Residents and tourists alike have their share of red eyes and sneezes. We need another night-time thunderstorm.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Music music music

My American friend Libby regards herself as a protector of la vraie France profonde, railing against the onslaught of asphalt, the invasion by the Brits and shops staying open at lunchtime. I confess that I am grateful for shops that stay open between noon and 2, even if they are mainly patronised during that period by the Brits.

What irks me more is the ever-louder canned music. Of the three largest supermarkets in Cahors, two (Carrefour and LeClerc) broadcast relatively unobtrusive American pop music. The advertising at Carrefour is infrequent and pre-recorded, but LeClerc's PA system is taken over by a fairground barker manqué, who loudly and monotonously reads today's specials. Intermarché has very loud female singers warbling away, with copious and repetitive ads. Intermarché, by the way, is the only one of the three to close at lunchtime.

Americans know by now that supermarket purchases are not bagged in Europe by minimum-wage employees: you do it yourself. What may surprise them more is that disposable plastic bags have not been available at checkouts since last year. If you forget your bag and cannot carry the goods loose, you have to pay for a reusable bag. And don't forget to keep a one euro coin handy in case you need to borrow a shopping cart.