These are lazy, hazy days of summer. Mix this with the World Cup and now the start of the Tour de France cycling and any sort of routine or scheduling has gone out of the window and melted. It is now Tuesday and I am just starting the blog. Usually, it would be published by now. But this is France and things happen in their own time. The relaxed French approach suits me fine and the blog will get completed but I’m not sure when. 
After a long day in the sun working in the garden, I am now doing the blog while watching the 4th stage of the Tour on the TV. In around an hour we are off to the bar to watch the French play Belgium. Tomorrow, our neighbours and friends John and Liz arrive for a short visit and tradition demands that we go to the L’Eveil des Sens, the Michelin star restaurant in Mayenne for lunch. Then tomorrow evening we have football again and this time England are playing.

I think it is important that readers of the blog realise that being retired and living in rural France is no picnic (well it is sometimes but mostly it is restaurants). It is tough here and trying to fit in writing the blog is challenging particularly if you add in the football.

And so it continues. The football world cup rolls on and we have arrived at the semi-finals. Remarkably England are still involved and play Croatia on Wednesday. France are also through to the semi-finals and we have continued to watch them at the bar in Oisseau.

We were all there on Wednesday afternoon for the quarter-final game against Uruguay accompanied by a barquette of frites and beer of course. The French team played well and scored twice to win 2-0. As the game kicked off in the evening there were more people in the bar and a good atmosphere and lots of excitement as France went through. We ended the evening with a large cognac as per usual. It is a great French bar with a large barquette of chips and a large measure of cognac, the perfect combination to watch football.

We are now getting ready for the semi-final against Belgium tomorrow, this time at 8pm. We reckon that we will need to get to the bar early as there will probably be quite a few there for the game. For the semi’s the bar owner Anne-Sophie has promised a Galette wrapped saucisse with of course frites. If France get through to the final we are hoping for a four-course meal!

Just back from the bar. France won 1-0 and are through to the final. A great night at the bar and the French were very raucous after the win and this time everyone joined in to sing La Marseillaise.  After several beers and the traditional cognac Anne-Sophie treated us to a bottle of red wine to celebrate. The local village Catholic priest was there to watch and had several glasses of wine and was heard to shout “merde” when a French shot was blocked. A good evening and a community event with people of all ages from young children (all well behaved) to the elderly (not so well behaved!). There were loads of people there and another TV was set up outside. Now we await the final on Sunday. Will it be England!

French fans at the Arc de Triumph 

Moving seamlessly from football to road signs - I have come to the conclusion that the designers of French road signs must be adherents of the Marquis de Sade. De Sade was an 18th Century French nobleman famous for giving his name to the word sadism for inflicting pain on other people. French road signs seem intended to inflict pain.

The most famous and widespread sign in France is the one which directs motorists to “toutes directions” meaning all directions. Except that occasionally you will see this sign with another pointing to the opposite direction and indicating “autres directions” or other directions. Does it mean you can go either way but how can you have other than all!

Is it all directions or others?

When you do get the name of towns on the sign there is a certain lack of consistency. Sometimes you get the name of a big town which could be a long way away. This is Ok if you want to go a long way but difficult if you want a local destination which is not mentioned. Sometimes there are only local towns and thus difficult if you are on a long-distance route. 

A favourite form of torture is to put a destination up on say a roundabout and then at the next roundabout to not mention the destination. Immediately causing panic and a couple of trips round before guessing which way to go. The best illustration of this technique is with diversions. Where there is a road closed there is a diversion sign. If you follow the sign after a couple of signs they decide to not put out any more. So, now you are off the main road and have no idea where you are. Of course, the local signs then don’t include any towns that you know. So, more guesswork and down to chance whether you find your way back to the right road.

There is also the practice of sign placement at junctions which turn off main roads. The sign indicating destination is located so that it can only be seen from one direction. If you approach from the “wrong” direction you cannot read the sign until you have gone past the turning! This then necessitates a judgement on whether there is another turning further on or whether to turn around. Experience tells you to turn around as either there won’t be another turning or it won’t be signed to where you want to go!

On a recent trip to Brittany we discovered a new ploy where the signs are all very small. So small that you cannot read them until you get close up. On roundabouts it means of course several tours around while you work out what the signs say. There is also a certain amount of artistic licence as to where signs are fixed. They are not always in the same position and can be hidden up against buildings and at varying distances in front of a roundabout or junction.

It could be of course that the road sign designers are on commission from the sale of satnavs but I think there is a sadistic enjoyment in creating problems for motorists. A final point on signs. I picked up a good sign for La Godefrere while on holiday. It reads “J’habite chez mon chat”. I live at my cat’s house; very accurate and now displayed (in clear vision) on the house.

I live at my cat's house!!

It is now Wednesday evening and I have had a superb meal at the restaurant. I think I may have just enough energy left to complete and publish the blog. It is almost time to start the preparations for the England game in a couple of hours’ time.

It is I think time for a drink while I watch the end of today’s Tour de France stage and get settled for the football.

Bonne soiree