Any requests for a patriotic tune?

TEMPTED though I was to bang out Land of Hope and Glory, my dear readers, just to remind those drinking in one of Toulouse's more chic hotels that England was made mighty and will be mightier yet, I felt it might not be wholly appropriate and that I would be blindingly obvious that I've turned into one of those ever-so patriotic expatriates, which, dear readers, I have.

James Marston

TEMPTED though I was to bang out Land of Hope and Glory, my dear readers, just to remind those drinking in one of Toulouse's more chic hotels that England was made mighty and will be mightier yet, I felt it might not be wholly appropriate and that I would be blindingly obvious that I've turned into one of those ever-so patriotic expatriates, which, dear readers, I have.

Instead, I tinkled the ivories, by invitation of Gregory the barman, with what I discovered is called "musique de salon", or should that be saloon?

Though no professional, I was able to soldier through a few show tunes double de clutch into The Way We Were and slide into Hallelujah before reminding everyone that I've got Blue Eyes. I managed to avoid the cliche of La Vie en Rose but I am storing it up for next week.


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Although a man of rare talents, so rare I have yet to really discover what they are, I have to admit I was rather pleased to be able to play a few numbers, joined by a lady called Canadian Karen on vocals, as I have missed the musical outlet of the Ipswich frightfully Operatic and terribly Dramatic Society (IODS).

Talking of which, my plain-speaking photographer friend Lucy tells me IODS is due to perform The Full Monty at Ipswich's Regent Theatre in April next year. I also note that my friend Lindsey, who kindly sent me a Christmas card here in French France last week, is playing the part of Molly, Malcolm's invalid mother which I'm sure she's happy about.

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In the meantime we all have Christmas to look forward to don't we? A time for families and bonhomie and mince pies and the perfectly valid excuse of "I haven't got you much this year - there's a credit crunch on and what with Borders/Woolworths/Threshers going into administration...."

Indeed, I have already been informed by my mother Susan, who has promised me homemade sausage rolls this year seeing as I live in France now, that I should expect some knitwear. To be honest this titbit of news didn't come as a shock.

The shock usually comes on Christmas morning when I see the colour and spend the rest of the day picking my moment to ask for the receipt.

When it comes to my Christmas presents the maxim applies that I can generally drink, smoke or wear them. In fact, I think smokers and drinkers must be the easiest to buy for.

Here in Toulouse I have been searching for very chic French things to bring home to Ingelterra but with little success.

This means I have been looking for things with French writing on them. The problem here is in France they think it's cool to have English writing on things, perhaps in the same way that in England using French is also considered elegant and smart.

All I know is it's ever so confusing and I'm considering gone down the chocolates/perfume route as a safe bet.

And, if push comes to shove I can always get offal in a jar at the airport if need be - they call it foie gras so it must be good.

I AM I becoming a global phenomenon dear readers?

Not only was I almost famous on the Felixstowe peninsula before upstickking to France but now I find I have a Canadian fan - a lady called Margaret Smith.

I have to say I find that rather fascinating.

Obviously, I can walk down the street here in Toulouse without being mobbed - I know I am no Robbie Williams or Madonna - but it might just be possible that my fame seems to be spreading.

I know for example of a gentleman called David in Bristol, a few French readers I have recently cultivated, a couple in Germany, another couple in New Zealand not to mention a couple in Essex who are very big in potatoes.

Are there any others? Do let me know.

I HAVE to say that the news that the NHS in Suffolk bought a farm so they can park their cars is, though small, one of the reasons I left my small flat with sea views (distant) said "sod it" to Gordon Brown and Tired Labour and decided to pay my share of the national taxation burden to the fifth republic.

The trouble is these organisations don't think they are even doing anything wrong with this particular half a million pounds of public money. The public sector is now so used to being answerable to no one, sight has been lost of whose interests they are serving.

Buying a farm is not going to make hospitals cleaner or nurses less stressed or services run better.

To hear that bosses insist it is a "sound investment" says it all. How is that an investment? And if it is why is the NHS dabbling on the property market? What does it want with a farm? Are they going to buy a combine harvester next? No wonder people are angry.

USUALLY, when I've looked in my fridge I would have found three bottles of wine, a Dairy Milk, some cheddar and a pot of onion marmalade that I bought at a farmers' market at least a year ago but didn't really like but won't throw out because it cost so much.

Today, dear readers, I opened my fridge in my Toulousain appartment with street views (immediate) and ceilings (high) to discover it looked like someone else's. Not only was there a apple compote in a pot but some ham and no less than four types of cheese. Roquefort, Emmental, soft cheese to spread and a bit of camembert. I could hardly believe it, not a morsel of cheddar in sight.

POOR Johnny Hallyday hasn't been well.

One French friend said that if he dies it would be like Michael Jackson all over again.

Perhaps, but just in case you don't know who he is, he's the French Elvis.

He's an icon here, even the president has sent a get well message.

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