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Friday, 19 December 2008



My skin just doesn’t fit me anymore
The trouble is, I can’t be sure
If it has stretched or I have shrunk
Those anti-aging creams are so much junk.

The truth is somewhere in-between
I’m just too old for certainty.

The world just doesn’t suit me anymore
The trouble is, I can’t be sure
If I’ve journeyed lonely and too far
or if the city’s knocking at my door.

The truth is somewhere in-between
I’m just too old for certainty.

The loves I had are there no more
The trouble is, I’m never sure
If I ever loved them quite enough
Or if loving me was just too tough.

The truth is somewhere in-between
I’m just too old for certainty.

Thursday, 18 December 2008


We’re on the crease
We’re off the page
We’re spiral bound
Without a Tom Tom
Don’t say it loud just whisper it
So we can’t hear - ‘We’re marginalised.’

The print’s too small
The scale’s too big
Both pairs of specs
have been mislaid.
Don’t say it loud - just whisper it
So we can’t hear - ‘We’re too long-sighted.’

At 65 we’re free and gratis
There is no reason
For anyone to bother us
We’re out of season
Do say it loud - please make it clear.
We enjoy ourselves too much to care.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008


Here we are House-Hunting in France and here is John hard at work house-hunting. It is a pity that I can't put these together as a flash animation. The rest I will leave John to describe.

Adding to the joys of House-Hunting we have had a serious revolt by the Wheely Cabin herself. Apart from the internal farting habit she developed everytime we set off on a new journey she suddenly got mean with the water we had loaded her with. First she disgorged all the hot water outside the van when we turned the pump on. Next she simply refuses to let any water in or out either through the taps or the overflows or the dumping system. All of this at a camp site that has a freezing sanitory block and only cold water from push buttons. Then the gas is harder to obtain as we can't use the bottles we have and had to buy a new bottle and regulator so when the gas gave out we gave up and spent a night in a Formule 1 hotel. All the repair places are busy and all the camp sites closed. We drove 50 miles to Perpignan for hotwater and internet, Hopefully the Wheely Cabin will be fixed for Christmas!


Well - I must do as I promised and talk of community cats.

In Nice I borrowed this cat to use as a hotwater bottle while ill as John would simply not lie still.

I dislike stray dogs as I am from Africa and always think of Rabies and bites. Community dogs are interesting however though not necessarily any safer. They attach to communities as pack animals just as they attach to individual homes when they belong to you. They don't become wild loners as cats do just a little more like teenage kids attach to family.

In Bulgaria where community dogs wear ear tags (I think )we were surrounded by circling dogs and cats at the camp site. They went round the wheely cabin just outside the circle of light - then gradually came in closer and closer! It was a little unsettling but the dogs were a lot more civil about leaving when asked. Cat simply leapt on the table and made off with the bread!

Both cats and dogs worked the campsites like professional beggars but were only occasionally a nuisance. We think a community cat we met was actually a manipulative stowaway who pretended to be abandoned.

For several weeks we had a community fly as a companion. John subjected a large number of flies to rigorous testing with his electric tennis raquet swatter. This one was outstanding and travelled with us from Turkey to Sicily where it decided to follow Ulysses to see Scylla. I still miss him every morning.


I never did write that piece about community dogs and cats! Florence cats are fat - at least on the steps down to the city from the camp site. Here we saw this fenced area with cat 'Safe houses' where 4 year jail sentences are given for hurting cats!
Other Florence pictures here too.


By the time we got to Florence the weather was really cold but our campsite above the city meant that we had the most magic view of Florence and the snow on the hills behind. We did not spend long in Florence but it is a wonderful city to visit out of season. The Botticellis in the Uffizi are as fantastic as they say - no hype about them at all. There are very beautiful buildings and we even found good food in pleasant eateries that we could afford! Wonderful wonderful Florence Boing! Booiinnng!


We left autumn and the sun behind in Sicily and travelled through fog and rain on high mountain passes while the shore far below was lashed by giant waves and strong winds.
We gave Montecasino a miss because it was shrouded in mist. John's father was taken prisoner there by the retreating Germans in 1944. He didn't get home for nearly a year as they retreated so far..
Actually this bit comes after Pompeii where we fetched up next camping in an orange grove right next to the site but in cold wet weather so our photos look dull. Its a shame as Pompeii was fascinating.
We of course got the photos from the bordello but won't blog them - there is a photo of the gladiators quarters. Our visit to Ephesus gave us an interesting insight into the purpose and function of gladiatoral combat its worth researching.

These pictures were taken showing John at the tavern before the eruption, street signd pointing the way to the brothel and I hope, indicating the depth of the ash - as high as the Roman wall!
Also a view of new Pompeii from old Pompeii and copies of Roman statues with Vesuvius behind.

Monday, 15 December 2008


M is for Mulled Wine, and that kind of stuff, and
E is for Eating and having Enough.
R is for Rudolph and Reindeer as well, and
R is for Repeats (televisual hell).
Y is for Yule Log, which never goes out, and

C is for Carollers, who wander about.
H is for Harry, you know what I mean? and
R is for Robins who’re everywhere seen.
I is for Italian which I thought I had mastered, and
S is for Scrooge, a tight-fisted bastard.
T is for Tim who was ever so tiny, and
M for Médoc which is wondrously viney
A is for Alaska, occasionally baked, and
S is for Sherry by which thirst can be slaked.

And so Ruth and John in the year which is ending
Hope in this New one your spirits you’re mending.
As their move to a new home draws rapidly near
They sincerely wish you a Happy New Year!

Saturday, 13 December 2008


What’s in a name? Well, quite a bit of money and amour-propre, if a recent report is to be believed.

Actually I don’t know that there is any recent report, but there probably is and the chances are that some journalist has seen it and is cobbling together a space-filling article which will claim some authenticity by linking itself to the report. You know the sort of thing - “Scientists/Academics (or – if it’s a local paper “boffins”) from Nether Herdovit University have shown for the first time that what you and your mates thought was bleeding obvious was, in fact, first observed by Professor Baggins and his university research team in the course of a three-year EPSRC study. And, by the way, can they please have some more money to carry out lots more career-creating research, the results of which only they and the other 57™ academics worldwide who have any interest in the topic will read?”. But I digress. (Bit of a shock, eh?)

Actually, before I finish this digression (I will, I will), there’s something that puzzled me in my brief flirtation with the life of academe. It’s that the funders, who actually pay for the research - Research Councils and private sector organisations alike - seem to have practically no interest in the results of the research, once it has been published. They just go ahead and fund something completely different. Unlike the academics who keep quarrying the same seam, rewriting the same articles, tweaking them here and there, quoting each other in academic journals, until it is time for them to retire and forget the whole subject. Like everyone else did, years before.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes, the ownership of names. Do you remember that case, long ago, when Harrod’s™ department store, in London’s fashionable Knightsbridge (who was the knight in Knight’s Bridge, I wonder?) sued, I think it was Roy Harrod, the owner of a hardware(?) shop in a dorp in New Zealand. They alleged that people might dismount from their sheep, walk into Roy Harrod’s shop and, seeing the sheep-shearing equipment hanging from the nails on the beams alongside the galvanised buckets say,”’pon my soul, old thing, that Egyptian chappie’s letting this place down a spot, don’t y’ know?”

That’s the same sort of confusion that the manufacturers of American Budweiser™ beer tried to prevent when they attempted to stop the Czech brewers in Budweis calling their beer Budweiser™™, from which the US product had taken its name, in case drinkers bought the original beer by mistake, thinking it was the same thing. The same thing! One of them tastes like carbonated Lysol™ and the other tastes like the Nectar of Elysium™! I couldn’t possibly say which is which, for fear of being sued. (You can see that they had made their case though, as my Spellchecker™, thought “Budweiser™” was OK, but questioned “Budweis”.)

Of course, that was in the days before Transcendental Meditation was called TM™.

A Couple of Things about Ruth

We were sitting here in our mobile home (or le Camping-Car, as we say in France), being buffeted by the icy winds of a December late afternoon, thinking how great (and grate) it would be to be sitting in our own stationary home, roasting chestnuts over our own fire, instead of hearing the wind whistle through the door, cracking my nuts, when Ruth remarked that, aside from a mention of her hair-raising hair cutting experiences or her pursuit of hirsute bears, I hardly ever write about her in the blog. So, here’s a couple of things I have learnt from her.

Thing No. 1 Don’t overuse words such as “always” and “never” in conversation, such as “It always goes wrong when I do that” or “You never let me do that”. It’s seldom true and usually annoying.

Thing No. 2 When we were camping in Romania a bear came out of the woods and rummaged through some waste bins on the edge of town. Ruth wasn’t in the least perturbed. She never grudges bears.


You knew there was something about me, didn’t you? How many times have you thought,” That John Corley, I’m sure there’s something hidden there. Nobody can really be that much fun, that much excitement, that much fantasticness without there being some amazing hidden history. For one thing nothing is known of him before he got married in 1967 in East Coker parish church, a small village in Somerset where T.S. Eliot’s heart is buried. Surely the truth will come out some day?” Well, friends, that day is here. Now that I have reached retirement age and quit the boards, hung up my scale rule and guitar, it’s time to own up. I am the same person who deducted 43 days from my age (in a salute to the Emperor Claudius who invaded Britain in 43 A.D.) and donned the burnt cork which would accompany my first professional career behind the footlights. Intrigued? Well, here is the entry on my early life, as recorded by Wikipedia™:-

”The Fantastic Johnny C (born Johnny Corley, 28 April 1943, Greenwood, South Carolina) is an American soul singer. Discovered by Jesse James while singing in a church choir, Corley adopted the stage name "The Fantastic Johnny C" and scored a top ten Billboard Hot 100 hit in 1967 with "Boogaloo Down Broadway", written by James, which peaked at number seven, followed by a minor hit, "Hitch It to the Horse", a year later.”

After that, I became a quantity surveyor.

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Usual Abnormal Service will be Resumed as Soon as Possible

Blogging has rather come to a stop in the last few weeks. We left Sicily about a month ago and, stopping over to enjoy some of the delights of Florence (salacious remarks resisted with difficulty but success), we arrived at a site just outside Narbonne in South West France two weeks ago today. Since then we have been looking for and at property. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted and where, and now have an ugly bad idea of what our investments and shrinking currency are worth. We have been trying to pull the two ideas closer together and now have one or two candidates under consideration. We leave for Spain next weekend, where we are spending Christmas and the New Year, before going on to Portugal from where we shall return to France some time in January when, hopefully, our settlement plans will have some shape. We are going to UK in February to see friends, family, doctors, pub landlords etc. and hope to be in our new home in the Spring. I wonder......

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

One Problem - Two Solutions

The Problem

Your motor scooter has broken down and you need to get it home or to somewhere where it can be fixed. What do you do?

No. 1 – The Romanian Solution

You get a friend with a scooter to attach a tow-rope to the front of your scooter and to the back of his to tow you through the rush hour traffic.

No.2 – The Sicilian Solution

You get a friend to ride closely behind you on his scooter propelling you forward by resting his foot against your rear number plate. This gives you the advantage of using his lights in the dark as yours obviously don’t work.

Thursday, 27 November 2008


Siracusa was a Greek colony. Aeschylus premiered here and Archimedes ran down the street shouting 'Eureka'.One picture is on his reputed tomb. Clever and arty people lived here a very long time ago.
This is where Arethusa was turned into a spring in order to escape some demanding god's attentions. The spring has papyrus growing in it.
Carravaggio escaped here from prison on Malta. He apparently named this cave as the 'Ear of Dionysus'. Certainly the acoustics are great in it. I think you could hear a whisper.
There is a Carravaggio in the Basillica of St Lucy. It is of her internment after her beheading but Carravaggio has kindly given her only a nick on her neck. The pillar in the Basillica is supposed to be the actual one she died next to. The Siracusa cathedral has a relic of her arm. Most of the other bits of her were stolen and ended up in Venice


We arrived in Sicily in the rain and the dark and got lost. In fact we found ourselves in a cul de sac in Giardini Naxos where someone was just getting a drug hit. Another quick reverse was used to escape.
Sicily we liked. Giardini Naxos has a great camp site and is a pleasant small place. Greek ruins and lava flows from Etna. We woke in the morning to see Etna over the camp site - its peaks covered with snow and smoke coming from its crater. One night we watched a lava flow from the same place.
John insisted I take photos of Etna from the moving van - I think I have a couple of good road signs.
We also took a photo of typical Sicilian parking for D! Right on the Zebra crossing!
They also have a saint in Sicily called Pancrazio!


I have always wanted to visit Calabria ever since I read 'the Dilemma of Love' which describes the olive harvest there in the 1930's. John found this wonderful place to stay - the Carabineri took us some of the way because we did get lost. Salvatore and Maria and their daughter Rosa made us welcome and cooked us a wonderful Calabrian meal made entirely from their own farm produce. They ar self-sufficient. The pictures are of the farm, wild fruits used for making liqueurs, their animals their views of Cerchiara and of me trying to learn about harvesting olives. They keep pigs, chickens, bees, rabbits, a horse, and goats and a small nervous dog called Magister.
There is a grotto with a natural swimming pool in it and thermal springs extradordinary pine trees in the Pollina National Park nearby. Go there if you can!