Well the good news is I have lasted a whole year and still have a lovely wife, mostly by my side. Yes, believe it or not, it is now twelve months since Wendy and I got 'hitched'. To commemorate such a monumental achievement, we decided to take a week's holiday for some downtime in North Africa, where we could relax by the pool, sample local food and sup a few celebratory shandies. Hmmm. What we hadn't banked on was a drought. No, not through lack of rain, just the total absence of anything remotely alcoholic. In hindsight, on the day of our arrival in Marrakech, when we were met by hundreds of sheep riding around on motorcycles, we perhaps should have twigged that something was afoot? Was the circus in town? Had the Welsh taken a victory lap of the Mediterranean after beating England? Were they taking the Mickey out of my open admissions that 'I prefer the company of sheep to most humans?' No! It transpired that this was the eve of Eid, a national Muslim festival which is celebrated by firstly executing your favourite ram in public, and then taking a few weeks on 'the waggon.' To prove your worth to your neighbours, said ram gets to be paraded around the town the night before in a swanky fashion and what better way to display such booty than strap him on to the back of your Honda 50 and tear through the streets! The bigger horns he has, the better, as well as the more dangerous. I know this now but, had I gained this information a few hours earlier, we would have taken headlong into the nearest supermarket to load up our trolley with local wine and beer and thus quenched our raging thirsts before the alcohol section was barricaded up, for 3 bloody days! We did eventually manage to secure a couple of bottles of local plonk at twenty quid a pop by back-handing the hotel barman for some of his under the counter contraband stash. Apart from that we quite enjoyed the place with its crazy street traders all purveying knock-off designer clothes and sunglasses, as well as urns, potions, sandals, authentic jewellery, spices, wood-carvings and, for some strange reason, Nazi memorabilia, all at grossly over-inflated prices and mostly manufactured in China. I wasn't quite so enamoured with the hoards of tuneless musicians all blending in to one hullabaloo of white noise, nor the acrobats and snake charmers who collectively earn more per day from aggressively scrounging from tourists than the rest of Africa earns in a month. A trip into the Atlas mountains was maybe worth it for the scenery as long as you were prepared to pay a small fortune to a licensed bandit to escort you up a perilously steep life-threatening rocky path to photograph a feeble waterfall full of litter, and then risk your wallet as you weaved through yet more traders peddling authentic tat on your way back down. Couple that with a 2 hour ride home in a taxi driven by Morocco's equivalent of Tommi Mäkinen along roads only suited for surefooted camels while trying to hold down a meal of rabbit tagine, complete with carrots, and we were quite glad to reach the sanctuary of a dry hotel!
Anyway, our stint back home in France was short and busy, as we were met by guests arriving for our annual chutney festival. The event was once again a roaring success only marred by the fact that Adele, my talented niece, rather than pay Ryanair's extortionate baggage charges, had put her entries for the competition in the hands of the French postal system. Needless to say they never showed up on time, in fact, to date, they haven't showed up at all and are currently possibly festering in the corner of a warehouse near Brussels while the posties all sit around on strike. Oh well, at least it gave the other competitors a chance and I got two first prizes!
As soon as the guests departed again, so did we, back to the land of the loch and the glen once more, as I try to cram in some work around our otherwise disturbed schedule. I will, of course be taking in some World Cup rugby, albeit without a red rose emblazoned on my chest. In fact I am a loss on who to support since that fateful day of demise of Les Anglais at the hands of the Wallabies. History would endorse the chances of the French in this contest and I may have to dust off my beret once more, but not before wearing a saltire flag and a flower of Scotland while their chances are still alive.
Along with autumn, this month also sees the beginning of 'tupping' season, as we try and time our lambing to begin in early March next year. This week I am proud to announce the introduction of a new member to the fold, 'Roger the ram'. Except that we seem to have a minor problem in that Roger isn't, erhem, rogering at all. You see I visited our neighbouring farmer and sheep-breeder in August and selected a new ram for our purpose, assumedly purchasing it on a handshake on the understanding I wouldn't require it until October. However, when I returned this week to collect the thing, he had chivalrously sold it to a higher bidder. Of course, as I took him to task on the issue, us being gentlemen and all that, he just offered me an indignant shrug and a undersized ram-lamb as a replacement. When I say lamb, poor Roger is barely out of short trousers as he bewilderedly wonders towards the ewes to say hello, totally sexually unaware, and they run away laughing. Even the Daisy-the-harlot isn't interested in what he has to offer and she isn't usually backwards in coming forwards on such matters. So all we can do now is play a waiting game and hope that Roger-the-younger grows up into Roger-the Rogerer sometime soon or it will 'rien à manger' for us on the bbq next spring. Maybe I should take him to a rugby match, as a mascot, to witness some real testosterone being flaunted? On the back of my motorbike, obviously!