If trees could talk

If ancient trees could talk they’d have so many tales to tell, stopping us on our walk with their stories, would they stop us in our tracks.

“If trees could talk” Lewesdon Hill, West Dorset.

LewesdonHIll

http://www.treecouncil.org.uk/Press-News/National-Tree-Week-Nov-2015

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Beyond rural infinity

Hurrah! Fibre broadband has landed in my village. Is this the end of slow Skyping yokels? Or is there a catch?

Hurrah! The Fandango Fibre broadband has landed in my rural village.

BeyondRural_Infinity

No more photos uploading at night to avoid Mr Franglais’s moods over our precious bandwidth when he needs to have a conference call over the net. At least I can upload at night, Mr F is sick and tired of looking like a scary slurring yokel or a frozen pile of pixels.

Scary-Yokel

Hell O . Ha Who Ee Z It Go Ing Too Day In Sing A Poor?

Speed and efficiency on my mind, I contact my supplier, Utilities Warehouse, and ask them to switch to fibre. UW being more of a broker than a direct supplier, I assume they can buy the Fandango Fibre from OpenReach since I know that BT can provide the magic speed.

Only, I don’t want to go to BT.

“Let me see”, says the very polite UW man on the phone, checking the fibre offering at my postcode.
“Sorry, Mrs Franglais, we can’t provide you with fibre. BT may have installed it, but if they have, they have not enabled us to use it yet”.

Oh.
If ?
BT have installed it.
I spoke to the nice man digging the road behind my house.
Or is it OpenReach?
You know, that BTish company that is not quite BT because BT got too big; but kind of still is BT.

BT guarantee 74 megabytes.
Seventy four. GUARANTEED.

I am now perfectly puzzled.

The Mr and Mrs Franglais of the English countryside will sign a 12 months contract, with no superfast alternative. I thought this was called a monopoly. Hasn’t there been some kind of Monopolies Commission in the UK since 1949? Who else will protect these rural households and businesses, busy working hard and making work pay, trying to live within their means, when they are hooked to a contract that will just roll on and on, for months and months, with their easy monthly direct debits coming straight out their bank accounts?

I had sworn I’d never get back to BT.
You too?
I know, there are so many of us.

But I have no choice. Believe me, I slowly searched for hours during the day in between Mr F’s conference calls.

Virgin are not fibre friendly in my village. Sky, even more of a big NoNo than big bad BT in the Franglais household are nowhere to be seen round’ere anyway.

Nor any other supplier that I could find.

Begrudgingly I investigated this Infinity 2 Fandango Fibre Optic. Mr F was not only adamant that he needs this super speed for his conference calls, he was rather keen on the free Sports package. And what a great package it is too. Football fanatics and rugby nuts can equally jump for joy in front of their fibre enabled televisions when England scores. No mean feat.

As we want unlimited access so the whole family can finally jump into the 21st century after five long years at the end of the line on top of windy hill, we have to take the £30 Fandango package. The advertised everywhere £10 BT offer is slower and allows you less download. Oh, and we now need a BT landline. That’ll be another £17.99.

Thank goodness we get a free double ball BT Sport with the Fandango package.

Wait there.
What’s this under the word FREE?
£49.
One off fee.

So I asked Kirstie, who offered her BT help via a chat screen, whether Sport would then be free forever after.
“It is free on a 12 months contract” she replied.
What happens after the 12 months?
“The price could remain the same, and it could change also”

Puzzlement pursues.

Is the meaning of free not quite the same for BT than for others? Do they not have British in their name to help them with language? Does the English word free now mean a one off fee in our free market world?

Never mind. Let me get back to my free to a point £52 per month package that does not facilitate HD nor allow me to use more than one TV at a time (they’re extra) BT tell me that they can change their tariffs when they feel like it, once I’ve signed on the virtual dotted line.

You can leave if you don’t like it.

I wonder, once I’ve tasted the Fandango fibre, and if nobody else offers as speedy a service in my village due to some kind of monopoly, will the competitors’ offers ever taste good enough?

Am no business guru, clearly, but I do understand that BT, who are not a charity. have just forked out millions to enable fibre here, there and pretty much everywhere in England -in a coincidental twist of fate that they should win almost all council contracts in England- have to recoup their huge investment.

But hang on a minute, where did that £1.2 billion come from, and that further £250 million?

Taxpayers’ money I hear you say?
Well. Yes. So it is.

I need to go and do some research.

How did one subsidised company get all the contracts, bar exceptions to confirm the rule, then kept the fibre facilities for themselves in some places? And many more questions.

Great thing is, give me a fortnight or so and I’ll be able to do that research in no time. Mr Franglais will watch his sport. That’ll keep him quiet. Or shouting at the TV screen when England scores. I’ll try not to get distracted by all these new channels I don’t really want, although I can’t wait to watch that American channel I’ve heard lots about: Fox.

Mr F and I can have a shouting at the tv competition.

But hey, it’s a free market, in a free world. If I don’t like it, I can go back to Slow And Stop When It’s Windy Broadband with another provider. Maybe EE (formerly T-Mobile and Orange, formerly part of Deutsche Telecom and France Telecom).  Ah yes, I forgot, it is now BT/EE,  as allowed by the Competitions and Market Authority (the latest incarnation of the monopolies commission).

OK, Talk Talk then (who bought Tiscali UK and AOL UK) BT’s main competitor who dared attack the giant for monopoly practice. Not very safe with your personal details and bank accounts though are they, hacked as they were by 15 year old teenagers.

Weird how when the news of BT/EE came out, we were all busy Talk Talking about scary hackers.

Conspiracy theorist me?
No. Stop saying that. I’m not.
Coincidences amaze me, that’s all.

Anyway, next time I post I’ll have Fandango. I’d love to find an alternative, and maybe I will. My village has an amazing community that runs a community shop. Not sure they’ll go as far as an alternative to BT Fandango though.

But you never know.

Brexit: what does it mean for this franglaise?

What does Brexit mean for the Europeans who have lived in the UK for thirty years?

I’ve never questioned that funny colour passeport Européen of mine. Since 1987 I’ve totally taken it for granted that I don’t need a visa to live in the Dorset countryside, no sign in at the Home Office miles away in the capital city as my mother-in-law had to, pre-EU. With my British husband and our lord-knows-what-next-British-English-you-tell-me sons, we can quick hop across the Channel and say bonjour Papa. We don’t often enough, but we can.

So what happens to me and my family when the UK leaves the EU? How is that going to work?

It’s just dawned on me.

Yes I’ve been kind of wondering “mmm, what does it mean for companies that export to Europe, will the UK become closer to the US or will the US be peed off to lose a best friend at the European table? Will it be good for my farmer friends who always moan about the Frenchies because they get way more money out of the EU than British farmers do; and these damn Southern Europeans who don’t ever seem to apply the same rules?

You know, that kind of thing.

But hey, pardon my selfishness, what does it mean for me? What will happen to us Europeans this country was kind of happy to welcome up to now, for whatever reason, for marrying their Englishmen (sorry about that, there are a fair few of us), for plumbing or cleaning at fantastic value for money, for decreasing the average age of the population. And the doctors, and the nurses. OK, you get the picture.

Taking jobs too, I know. I can see the dilemma for small companies and employees, of course I do. And our living in a way-too-small-housing-stock country.

It is quite a pickle isn’t?

Thing is, I have a feeling that when it comes to the referendum it will come down to people voting on immigration quite a bit, do the opposite of what careless corporations say is the right thing to do a fair bit too, and after a year or two of a totally Tory government some people will vociferously vote against the government, because that’s what generally happens when we get a chance to get to the polls; if we bother. Just now, we have no idea what the government will do, or offer, you know, put on the voting table as such. So what will happen?

Does anybody know what we are going to say yes or no to?

What actually happens in Brussels on our European behalf?

I don’t even know if I’ll be able to vote on that referendum. Probably not if the Scottish referendum is anything to go by, but then again, Scots and British politics are two different things aren’t they? On that I bet they’ll agree.

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re on a Leftie or a Tory (we know how you feel if you’re UKIP, get another pint in). If you try and get any sense of the EU in the papers, it’s overwhelmingly bad news, gloomy stories of invasion and red tape. All those bloody Brussels (and stupendously silly Strasbourg) paper shufflers, all these frightfully foreign Eurocrats, that incomprehensible troika that seems to rule an unruly continent crumbling under the weight of euro-scepticism. Sigh.

Pardon my Franglais but I love all my foreign friends who have married Englishmen, our mixed blood and mixed culture children who feel British but know not what to think of Britishness, I love the Erasmus programme that gets kids to travel within Europe, I enormously relish that I went to Germany as a child and would never think of Germans as enemies. I so want to keep that. I so don’t want to ever think of other Europeans as enemies. Please can we keep what Europe has built. However imperfect it is. Can we build a better Europe rather than get rid of the good it has brought?

Well, I can’t be the only one in a wondering state of mind about Brexit. Do please get in touch if you have any answers to any of my questions. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Pourquoi venir dans le West Dorset?

Portsmouth, Weymouth et Plymouth vous connaissez de nom, ce sont les ports de ferry pour les Français. Pour les Anglais et leurs vacances c’est le Devon, les Cournouailles et le Dorset de l’Est. Ben nous, on est au milieu. On a pas d’autoroutes et le ferry le plus proche est à Poole. Une petite heure en voiture pour arriver à Bridport. Et là c’est réellement le dépaysement.

D’abord il y a la Côte Jurassique qui est classée à l’Unesco (d’Intérêt Naturel Mondial, donc à préserver) pour sa diversité et sa beauté. Les falaises passent du gris au rouge (Charmouth ou Burton Bradstock), les plages sont de galets ou de sable fin, celle de Chesil est à perte de vue. Les petits ports de pêche approvisionnent la région en poisson frais (Lyme Regis ou West Bay).

Mais le West Dorset c’est aussi le vert des vistas du haut de ses collines. Tel un patchwork de verdure rappelant les bocages normands avec la mer en contrefont, les vues qui récompensent les marcheurs sont paisibles et sereines. Les sentiers balisés sont nombreux mais jamais bondés, juste quelques ‘hello’ de temps en temps.

Si la France est la championne des produits du terroir, le West Dorset n’a pas grand chose à lui envier. Oubliez cette image ancrée de la viande bouillie et insipide. La région a un amour de produits frais du coin qui attire les chefs et gourmets depuis longtemps grâce a un climat plus doux que le reste de l’île. Les restaurants ne sont pas classés chez Michelin et les nappes blanches sont rares. Mais les poissons sont frais et servis sans cérémonie, la viande -du chevreuil à l’agneau- est succulente et vient du boucher voisin, on privilégie les légumes de saison. Les restaurants ne comptent pas sur des touristes qui ne reviendront pas pour gagner leur croute.

Bien sur, la tradition du thé n’est pas perdue et les villages ne manquent pas d’offrir leurs petits salons où les grand-mères se tiennent au courant des affaires des voisins. Le soir, les hommes se retrouvent au pub pour la même raison et pour discuter rugby ou foot.

Et puis il y a les villes où il fait bon vivre comme Sherborne, Beaminster, Bridport ou Dorchester. Ce qui fait le charme du Dorset Occidental c’est que le département ne fait ni publicité ni relations publiques pour attirer les touristes. Mais la télé anglaise semble faire de plus en plus de programmes par ici. J’espère qu’ils vont pas nous gâcher le paysage. Faudrait pas qu’on devienne la nouvelle mode.

£6 for 2 decent lunches on Dorset’s Coast

Great value for money lunch this winter on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

When the husband discovered this little hotel down the road with a nice Cellar Wine Bar that do lunch for £6 per couple, I thought we’ve got to give it a try. I was expecting soggy vegs and microwaved mush. I was wrong.

The Manor Hotel in West Bexington is an attractive stone building with a veranda and a cellar turned into a Wine Bar. A few steps from Chesil Beach on the Dorset Jurassic Coast, it’s the kind of place I’d happily spend a quiet weekend.

We ordered a fish pie and a shepherds pie and fifteen minutes later we had a couple of piping hot meals with crunchy vegs, just as I like them. My fish pie had decent pieces of fish and sliced potatoes on top in a tasty creamy sauce. Husband’s shepherds pie was equally enjoyable and a good portion for lunch. I mean if that’s not great value for money, what is?

They also have an evening menu “eat as much as you like for £8.50”. Normally I stay away from the principle of eating as much as I like. It sounds like gluttony and conjures up cheap produce. But with this lunch in mind and with a bouillabaisse of local seafood on the menu as well as local squid with chilli, ginger and garlic (husband’s vote), I will have to try. Their neighbours, the Michaud family are famous in the chilli world for growing the Dorset Naga -hottest chilli in the world, allegedly- but that’s not the one they use for the squid. Thankfully.

Being a cold and wet winter day, I must admit we were the only ones there this lunchtime but the fire was going and the atmosphere of the place was friendly and warm. Just one annoying thing, they insisted on putting the noisy dishwasher on whilst we were eating (and even chatting to the landlady at the bar) which surely could have waited half an hour. But hey. Husband kind of felt guilty at spending so little, so he had 2 drinks and some peanuts to make up for it. Which took us to the grand total of £12.

Looks like West Bexington is going to see us more often this winter, just around lunchtime.

Super rapport qualité-prix dans le Dorset

Un bon repas de midi pour 6 livres par couple près de la plage sur la Côte Jurassique du Dorset. Incroyable mais vrai.

Repas de midi pour deux £6. Oui, £6 soit 3 + 3.

Le midi, comme je suis devenue Anglaise, je me contente souvent d’un sandwich mais quand mon mari m’a dit qu’il avait découvert un petit hôtel resto près de la plage qui font un repas de midi pour 6 livres par couple, bien sur il a fallu aller goûter. J’imaginais déjà des légumes surcuit et de la purée au micro-ondes. Ben j’avais tord.

Le Manor Hotel à West Bexington est un hôtel agréable, en pierres locales, avec une véranda et un bar à vins en sous sol. A quelques pas de la plage de Chesil sur la Côte Jurassique du Dorset, c’est le genre d’endroit où il fait bon passer un weekend tranquille.

Nous avons commandé un ‘hachis Parmentier’ (avec de la viande d’agneau) et une tourte de poissons (avec des pommes de terre). Simple, bien cuit, sans léser sur le poisson, chaud à point avec des légumes frais et croquants. Portions juste assez pour ne pas partir avec la faim sans se goinfrer (souvent un problème en Angleterre). Etonnant. Cote rapport qualité prix, franchement difficile de faire mieux.

Ils ont également un menu ‘buffet’ ou l’on peut manger tant qu’on veut pour £8.50 certains soirs (il faut réserver). Ça me fait toujours un peu peur ce genre de proposition mais leur bouillabaisse de poissons du coin me tente et mon mari voudrait goûter à leur calmar cuisiné avec du piment, gingembre et ail. Il va falloir retourner. Leurs voisins, les Michaud, sont d’ailleurs très connus dans le monde du piment car ils cultivent un des piments les plus forts du monde le Dorset Naga. N’ayez crainte, ce n’est pas celui qui accompagne le calmar.

J’avoue que nous étions les seuls dans le resto aujourd’hui, mais bon c’est l’hiver, milieu de semaine et il pleuviotait. Pour autant l’atmosphère était sympa, la cheminée nous a réchauffés. Le seul truc que j’ai pas compris c’est pourquoi ils ont pas attendu pour allumer leur lave-vaisselle qui faisait un boucan pas possible. Mais bon.

En bon Anglais, mon mari a culpabilisé et s’est vu obliger d’acheter 2 boissons plutôt qu’une et même un paquet de cacahuètes en apéritif. Coût total: £12.

Je crois que West Bexington viennent d’acquérir des nouveaux visiteurs pour le midi…