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Sunday, 27 June 2010

French for a day

A beautiful sunny sky welcomed my Saturday morning & I was up bright and early to go shopping for my wife’s birthday BBQ on Sunday. Plans had been made for a run around the village shops & then a godforsaken trip to Tesco’s.

On checking the website’s ‘Whats On Diary’ I spotted there was a ‘French Market’ in Christchurch. My wife was still in her blissful beauty sleep (takes a little bit more time these days) & she was unaware I now had a new plan. As she awoke from her slumbers, she stumbled bleary eyed into the lounge. I was sitting in a blue & white striped top with nonchalantly placed beret, reading an old copy of ‘Le Figaro’. I greeted her with a cheery ‘bonjour madame’. It is always hard to hear anything she mumbles before her second morning cup of tea, but she did manage a brief ‘idiot’ in my direction.

Whilst my wife reconstructed herself for the day, I sat reminiscing of 2007 & the time we emigrated to Deauville in France. It all came flooding back; my fluent pigeon French, our beachside home, friends visiting & of course the food markets. During our time in France I considered applying for French residency & a French passport. My wife insisted that I could not do this, as we hadn’t actually emigrated, but just had an extravagant six week holiday.

My wife then appeared resplendent in a new summer outfit from her magic wardrobe that contains ‘nothing to wear’, mumbling that she had decided to join me on my market trip. ‘Ah, that’s nice, you want us to go together’. ‘Not really’ she explained, ‘The last time you went to a French market you came back with some unidentifiable fish, some goose gizzards & a book in French neither of us could read’.

On the way over to Christchurch my wife was still in the grunting phase before normal conversation had been rediscovered from the second cup of tea kicking in. This did not however prevent a number of large ‘tuts’ relating to my driving. I commented that I could not understand how I used to drive up to 30,000 miles a year without her help, but from the blow I received to my arm I think she felt I was being sarcastic. As I awaited further driving instructions, I mused as to why the French do not have their own words for things like ‘au pair’, ‘saboteur’ or ‘eclair? My wife looked at me & simply said; ‘vous ĂȘtes un imbĂ©cile’, which I believe means ‘You are so clever’.

The French market was worth the effort, although small, it was perfectly formed. First stop was the cheese stall. As we tasted the cheese offered for ‘degustation’ I chatted in French to the stallholder, but he did not appear to fully understand me. I guessed that it must have been the ‘Northern French brogue’ I had acquired. My wife thought it was more likely because I made most of the words up & just added a silly accent. I hate to admit it, but she may be right. So I decided to just shout.

After purchasing our French cheeses, we then enjoyed the aroma & colourful displays from the stalls overflowing with fresh fruit, olives, meats & pates, there were also large ‘paella style’ pans offering hot garlic prawns & other Gallic concoctions. The hot crepes stall looked irresistible as my wife dragged me past, saying ‘oh no, you don’t want one of those’. I think it is wonderful how she always knows what I don’t want, when I actually think I do. Le Boulanger had a great trailer with three fully active bread ovens baking baguettes, loaves and croissants. My wife then imposed yet another ban, as I was instructed that ‘we don’t want any cakes from the Patisserie stall’. Blimey, she’d done it again, I thought I did want some, but somehow she knew I really thought that I didn’t.

By now I was getting slightly distressed as to who knew better what I wanted, & that she was winning. My wife then amazed me by deciding she wanted to buy some loose Breton biscuits. It was quite painful watching her putting occasional single biscuits in a bag, so I showed her how to do it properly by adding lots of biscuits by the handful. I think it ended up a little more expensive than she had imagined.

Before we left, my wife ‘needed’ to buy some shoes. (To go with the other few hundred pairs she already has.) I considered saying ‘you don’t want any shoes’, but I knew I would lose that one before I even started. ‘Wait here & don’t move’ I was instructed. Of course, as soon as she entered the shop I immediately disappeared. As she returned from her ‘essential shoe mission’ I was exactly where I had been instructed to stay, but it did not go unnoticed that I was just enjoying the last mouthful of a tasty hot crepe.

Before returning to the village to get our BBQ steaks, sausages, and some extra stuff, I was informed that we had to pop into Sainsbury’s to get some bits we couldn’t get in the village. Oh no, I hate supermarket shopping.

After patiently following my wife around some strange aisles, I got my customary chastising for wanting to take a bit of time looking at the different wines. Then, wine unread, we went to the till. I have to be honest supermarket shopping is one of my least favourite activities, but what is worse is queuing at the till, what is even worse is getting out of crowded supermarket car parks. The particular Sainsbury’s were we in had decided to have their car park designed by a Hungarian of the name of Erno Rubik, & he had managed to make it even more complicated to escape than his cube. Lucky it wasn’t really hot, - oh yes it was!

On returning home our lunch took us back to our life in Deauville, as we tucked into a fresh baguette, creamy goat’s cheese, ripe camembert & Normandy brie. I thought a glass or two of Dows vintage port would be a perfect accompaniment. ‘You will be asleep by 3pm’ my wife advised. ‘Not me’ I said.  To round off a perfect lunch I settled to watch the afternoon’s World Cup match.  I was delighted to prove her wrong by being awake at 3pm for the kick off, - but I did sleep through the second half though!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Free parking going at last!

Congratulations must go to our local New Forest District Council on their recent decision to remove the current free winter parking in the Lymington Quay car park from the 1st November to the end of February.

Milford on Sea beach & cliff car parks have not been mentioned, but it would be remiss of them not to include us as well. How they have previously missed this opportunity to increase revenue in this way is not explained, but we are pleased that they have got there in the end. Perhaps in the past, car parking charges did not apply during this period to encourage people to visit the village? The problem with this, is that it results in more people visiting & spending money, but of course these additional people can make the village look untidy.

Our village centre car park already happily charges all year round and it is clever how all of the village pay machines do not give change, which we are pleased to say squeezes extra cash from people who have not arrived with the correct coinage. To ensure that this over payment is a regular occurrence I love the way they cleverly apply different charges in various car park just to ensure that you can’t remember which change to bring. I particularly commend the wag at the council who included the statement on the pay machine instructions which says; ‘Overpayment Accepted’, that’s funny, very funny. Giving official permission to overpay could perhaps also be included on council tax & utility bills then we can all make our own extra little donations on a more regular basis.

It is unclear whether our glorious district councillors have yet spotted that we still have some free parking remaining in the High Street & we now look forward to the introduction of parking bay machines & more signs to enhance the quaint character of our village.

Some local motorists may say that they already pay road tax, fuel duty & council tax, but they are missing the point, just because you pay to drive, you shouldn’t expect to also be able to enjoy the places you visit. The council will now be able to derive additional benefits should they be successful in ensuring people avoid the village, as there are substantial additional hidden savings to be made in the reduction of road maintenance & cleaning costs.

Some may ask why we charge for parking in the village centre car park when people want to pop in to visit the shops. The giants of Tesco & the like mistakenly provide free parking because they believe that charging is a significant deterrent to shoppers, little do they know that our council know a lot more than they do. In my years of running multimillion pound businesses I obviously missed out on the benefits to be made by making it difficult for customers to buy from us.

Disappointingly, the ‘park & ride’ plan we never suggested has been shelved as the bus company could not afford the parking charges to allow people to get on & off. Our further suggestion of a ‘roulette park & ride’, where everyone had to jump on & off a moving bus, has also unfortunately been rejected by our friends at ‘health & safety’.

To help the council coffers Milford on Sea Food Week did it’s bit by bringing crowds into the village during a normally quiet April week. Thankfully our local council did not just accept the additional car parking income, but also supplied a team of traffic wardens to ensure that any parking offenders got a parking ticket. We of course also paid for the road to be closed for the Food Market. We are not sure how much extra the council made from the event but with a bit of luck it was more than the donation that Food Week made to the Community Centre.

When I was explaining the car park situation to my wife she wondered what would happen when the village is full of empty shops & the council have lost the council tax revenue paid by the shopkeepers. I of course have a simple solution, they can then double the car parking charges. The slow death of traditional High Street’s is often blamed on the supermarkets, but my wife reckons the council are actually doing a better job of getting rid of independent shopkeepers than the ‘big boys’.

A council spokesman was quoted in the Daily Echo as saying: “We’re looking at making charges applicable throughout the year because we are maintaining the car parks throughout the winter and are not receiving any income.” My wife suspects that ‘Mr council spokesman’ may be using maintenance as a bit of a red herring. I am guessing that if my wife could be bothered to have a conversation with the councillors responsible for this decision she would say; “No mate, your increase in revenue is not as important as the survival of our village centre’. If he had any sense he would not argue with her & just do as she says, I have many bruises to prove not agreeing is both futile & often painful. Just a thought, can someone tell me what significant ‘maintenance’ there is for a car park?! How about we maintain the car park? We have around 40 shops, if each contributed five pounds a week that would raise two hundred pounds weekly, and I reckon we could remove any weeds & keep the white lines lovely for that amount. My wife has suggested ‘Free two hour parking permits for residents’ to make it as easy as possible for everyone to support our village shops, but what would she know, she’s just a girl who can’t park properly anyway. Have you any idea how many extra people would shop in the village with that plan, and the additional wear & tear this would cause to our pavements!

Some cynics may say that the council now thinks of itself as a business, and may have forgotten that they are public servants, there to provide and support services for the community. Fortunately the district councillors that voted for this decision appear not to have taken into account the livelihood of our local shops, as of course a few extra quid in the councils pocket is much more important. It is always a pleasure to see our council demonstrate their commercial acumen and we can only applaud their ability to focus on raising revenue to fund critical projects like the numerous twelve foot signs along the seafront warning us that there is no lifeguard & that getting in the sea may make you wet, resurfacing the High Street in a nice sandy colour and spending one hundred & forty five thousand pounds on an essential luxury toilet block refurbishment in Keyhaven car park.

Whilst it is gratifying to witness the council maximising revenue through stealth taxes, I do not personally think these additional car parking charges go far enough. So I have another idea. It seems a little unfair that some people use the village centre pavements a bit more than others, so I think anyone stopping or walking slower than two miles an hour on the pavement should incur a charge of £1 per minute. To save costs, the collection can be made by the shop keepers as they can easily spot offenders, & of course the council are helping to ensure they are not wasting their time serving customers by keeping drivers out of the village.

An insider tells me of further council plans afoot to make the main road in & out of Milford on Sea a Toll Road, and also to tarmac the village green to make way for an industrial incinerator where can all empty our own rubbish bins. The removal of refuse collection lorries visiting the village will reduce carbon emissions & little old Milford can really do its bit to save the planet. Now all we need is a plan of what to do with the old shops once the council has emptied them.

Milford on Sea Village Open Gardens

A large variety of private gardens will be open across Milford on Sea village on Sunday 13th June & everyone is welcome. The pupils at Milford on Sea Pre-School will also be showing off their green fingered efforts with plants grown most from seeds & buckets of flowers, they have also made scarecrows & constructed windmills to give the garden even more colour & interest. Selected gardens will be serving tea & cake. If you would like to make a visit you can get a ticket in advance from Gwens or from the Village Green on the day. The five pound tickets gives you entry to all of the 15 to 20 village gardens which will be open & transport between the gardens is also available. The event has been organised by Milford Gardeners Club.

Milford on Sea Club looking to Help the Heroes

The Milford on Sea club is running a Help For Heroes Fundraising Night on Saturday 26th June. The club are aiming to raise around £10,000 for the 'Help For Heroes' charity & are hoping that members bring plenty of guests to enjoy the fun. The evening will be free for members, with a £1 charity box donations for members guests. The evening entertainment will be opened by State Trumpeters from The Blues and Royals, followed by burlesque dancers, wartime act, and a late night disco. Food will be served from an army style kitchen offering a curry and a BBQ. There will also be a Super Draw, a Raffle, and an Auction with an opportunity to bid for donated gifts, including a day out at Chewton Glen and a power boat racing experience. For more information please contact Mark Ketchen on 07967 547639

Martin off to World Cup

Martin Scott, from our local estate agents Murray & Hayward, is of on an all-expenses-paid five day trip to watch England take part in the World Cup. His trip to South Africa is courtesy of the prize draw he won at Everton Hyundai Garage, and includes two tickets to watch England take on Slovenia on the 23rd June 2010.

In spite of my offer to accompany him he has decided to take his friend Rob Crouch. Let’s hope they have a great time & see our team progress in style. Everton Hyundai Garage website: