You either TMS or you don't. For those of you who don't, TMS stands for Test Match Special. Still in the dark? Then lucky you!
When we came to France about twenty years ago, I very quickly became a fan of BBC Radio 4. For a start it was in English which meant that I could understand what was being said. As years went by the language became less of an issue but I was hooked and stuck with what I knew. In this house you are never more than 10 metres from a Radio 4 outlet.
However, in rural France Radio 4 is a luxury. It exists only on long wave and we are constantly under threat of the last couple of transmitters going out of service. We nearly lost R4 LW in the 90's but public outrage erupted and Auntie backed down, thank heavens.
And so we pay for our privileges. We pay an extremely high price. All those years ago I would occasionally turn on the radio only to hear men talking about silly legs and Jack Russells on the field. It was all gibberish. Listen a bit more and these male voices all had odd names: Johnners, Blowers, Agers, CMJ. And they would talk for hours and for up to five days at a time.
Sometimes it would be raining and I thought we would go back to something familiar. But no, Blowers has a penchant for bird watching and would tell us about the pigeons flying in front of the commentary box, of the red buses going down the road.
In those days, England never seemed to win any matches. If at any point we were heading for a win the rain would arrive and (eventually) stop play. It wasn't until we won the Ashes in 2005 that I began to see the point of cricket. It was a very exciting series. Unfortunately, Radio 4 LW plays TMS live so you get the very boring series well. Ball by ball. Only ever to be interrupted by the shipping forecast and even that can be delayed if something might happen.
Things improved with the Internet. If I missed The Archers I could read a résumé on line. If I missed a play, well, too bad. If something dramatic happened in the world we usually found out about it through discussion between Aggers and. Blowers and then would wait fretfully until a news bulletin eventually told us what was going on in the world.
But now I have an iPad. I bought this with advice from my son Guy expressly so that I could have a form of Internet radio in the workroom when the wretched cricket blotted out everything else. I've had the iPad for two months in eager anticipation if sticking two fingers up to TMS. Nothing. I was beginning to think Aunty had realized that five days of cricket was just too much.
Sure enough, miracles are not that easy and this morning it started again. YES! My moment had come and I was able to listen to Radio 4 all day without hearing Geoff Boycott droning on and Aggers trying to keep the peace. I was able to enjoy Woman's Hour, listen to the news and then just have it on as background.
I'll miss Aggers and Blowers (but not the droning Boycott) and might even occasionally check in for an update on the pigeon population or the state of the Barmy Army. Or even the score. But not that often!
I used to run. I used to run a lot and when I stopped it was something I missed. With two marathon medals hanging in the kitchen, I always wanted to run a half marathon but twice I failed to get to the start due to injury in the last month of training. Frustrating.
All that was about eight years ago and I finally gave up the running and started playing tennis. A lot more sociable and because I was so fit from running, I had a lot of fun playing in local tournaments.
Then last week arrived and whilst having dinner with friends a fellow guest, who hunts with my husband, started describing his latest half marathon. I was astonished that my husband had never mentioned that Jacques runs but then I saw Max's face and realized it was not something he knew about either. Not surprising as Max breaks out in a rash at the mere mention of running.
Jacques clearly saw the longing on my face and so he lay down the challenge. Spring 2014. A half marathon in the Vendée. How about it? A quick calculation in my part and I worked out that if I started NOW I would be able to train for a very slow half marathon in the spring. Actually, I don't mind if I have to walk it; I just want to start - and hopefully finish!
So I have started. Tipsy (our bearded collie) thought she'd died and gone to heaven when she realized what was going on. I am starting slowly and using my old friend "Couch potato to 5k" to get started.
I'm not as unfit as I was when I started all those years ago so I am starting with week three. I will let you know how I get on.
I am experiencing a steep learning curve at the moment involving hotels and my disabled mother. She is 82, to all intents and purposes wheel chair bound and suffering what is probably Alzheimer's. I have been planning a five day break with her in June and started looking for hotels that could accommodate my mother, her two carers and me.
I realized that plenty of places would not be suitable - pub accommodation for example. I also took off my list any hotel that had a photo of a discotheque since it was not something we were likely to require!
Prerequisite was a room with access for a wheelchair and a bathroom with strong grab rails. Beyond that I could be very flexible.
Looking at the hotel websites I was able to learn a huge amount about the welcome visitors are given, how wonderful the hotel cuisine is, how much I would enjoy my morning coffee overlooking beautiful grounds. The bedrooms all looked gorgeous in the photos but not one website gave any information about disabled facilities or access.
I learnt very quickly that the hotel telephone number was frequently not at the hotel and the person I was talking too had no idea whether the "disabled access" room was accessible without having to negotiate stairs. "Oh, I should think so as it is disabled access." Just for the record this thought is not always accurate.
Secondly, I discovered that if you asked a question and the person didn't know the answer you were put on hold, with or without musak, for an indefinite amount of time. Sometimes someone would pick up the phone, say "Oh, yeah" and put you back to the original person, sometimes they didn't pick up the phone at all - or not before I hung up anyway.
So I changed my technique a bit. As soon as the call was answered I asked not to be put on hold UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES! This was hotel number five I think. The girl on the other end giggled a bit and assured me I was safe from the dreaded hold button. Good sign number one.
Followed by good sign number two - they had a disabled room with grab rails in the bathroom, she knew because she'd seen them, the room was available on the dates required as were two further rooms. I had other questions and she answered them. The question she couldn't answer (no, I wasn't testing her although it was almost tempting) she referred to her manager and gave me the answer less than thirty seconds later. It's booked.
What is the point of this post? It is NOT a rant that all hotels should have wheelchair access - there are many reasons why this might not be possible and there are, anyway, plenty of hotels that DO have good accommodation for disabled people.
No, it is only a plea that the person at reception - and indeed at "bookings" - should know what facilities there are for wheelchair users. This could be in a file marked "facilities for wheelchair users" with all the information required (plus photos if necessary) to answer telephone enquiries.
I bet you anything there's a file marked "annoying people who ask difficult questions, to be avoided at all cost."