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On Friday, July 24, 2020, I wrote about England’s mask requirement in shops, which came into effect that day.

From what I have been reading online and hearing from people I know, things could get worse for retail, because it seems as if half the population does not wish to comply. Consequently, they will be going out less often to shop.

Now they might turn to online purchases which help the economy but not the local family-owned shops.

Since I was born decades ago, there has been scope creep in all sorts of regulations on people’s personal conduct: mandatory seat belts, severe restrictions on smoking (including in people’s own homes) and now we have mandatory masks, which some rightly call ‘muzzles’ or ‘nappies’.

Yet, some people do not mind scope creep — moving the goalposts — as this tweet from ex-footballer Matt Le Tissier and the reply show:

I’m with Matt Le Tissier and the ‘No’ voters.

I grew up in a world where seat belts were either a) non-existent (yes, I’m that old) or b) optional.

I still wish they were optional — front and back.

But I digress.

Let’s look at how the scene unfolded on Twitter on Friday, July 24.

I do not think this mask regulation can be rightly called a law. A number of fines that police imposed during lockdown had to be overturned. Masks won’t be any different. The police have said so:

Then there are the arcane rules about visiting a takeaway with tables and chairs.

If you go up to the counter to purchase a takeaway, you must wear a mask.

If you wish to dine in that establishment, you do not need to wear a mask provided you head straight for a table and sit down. You will then be waited upon.

However, you cannot go up to the counter without a mask and tell the salesperson that you want to dine in.

Madness.

I took a look at supermarket sites on Twitter because, last week, rumours circulated in the media that our major chains didn’t care one way or the other.

That really isn’t the case.

Tesco might be losing footfall, but perhaps gaining an online customer or two:

That’s the sort of interpersonal conflict that’s been running for weeks, long before mandatory masks.

It’s completely unnecessary.

This must be the only time a competing supermarket has commented on a Tesco site. This comment is about Scotland, where masks were mandatory before they were in England:

Asda’s announcement illustrated how masks should be worn:

Lidl tweeted a short video about the mask requirement:

Lidl was one of the chains rumoured to not actively enforce the requirement.

A few customers are annoyed with Aldi:

If supermarket staff do not enforce this requirement, the general public will! They’re even worse!

Sainsbury’s is taking a more relaxed approach, which didn’t meet with some customers’ approval:

However, other customers were relieved:

If this is contentious online, how much worse will it be in person?

As for Waitrose and M&S, this Sainsbury shopper is likely to be disappointed (see below):

Waitrose has a thread on masks and exemptions. Well done:

Interestingly, M&S (Marks and Spencer) has no tweet about face coverings.

Perhaps that is the place for the maskless to shop in peace.

There is a fascinating thread on Guido Fawkes, posted on Sunday, March 29.

The subject of the post is cabinet minister Michael Gove saying we don’t need ventilators from the EU, but the comments are on Britons’ personal coronavirus experiences.

I found them vastly more informative and interesting than Big Media’s panicky news. I hope you do, too.

Unfortunately, Guido’s new comment system does not have hyperlinks to comments, so I cannot provide direct links.

A dash denotes a single comment, even with an additional paragraph.

I purposely didn’t edit the comments too much in order to preserve their spontaneity.

Emphases below are mine.

PPE, ventilators and the EU

These days, PPE stands for Personal Protection Equipment, not the degree known as Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

This pertains to Gove’s comments in Guido’s post. A few of Guido’s readers discussed France. One had sources:

On March 3, France confiscated all protective masks made in the country. “We will distribute them to healthcare professionals and to French people affected by the coronavirus,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter. On March 6, the French government forced Valmy SAS, a face mask manufacturer near Lyon, to cancel an order for millions of masks placed by the UK’s National Health Service.

In general, however, re the EU:

We wouldn’t get any ventilators. They’d be sent straight to the other member states.

We would pay for them, though.

More about ventilators on the Continent. I think the first comment comes from a lady in the Netherlands:

– Too right. Netherlands has 1110 ventilators, it has as of today over 1k in icu and not a sniff of any new ventilators being provided, in fact they had to fight tooth and nail to purchase gloves and masks, they managed to purchase just over 620k of them last week from outside the EU and Dutch companies who wanted up to 300% on top of the usual costs, the Dutch companies not the ones outside, including a Dutch crowdfunding initiative that purchased over 200k of them on top of the 620k these are the only medical supplies to have arrived, unless I’m mistaken they are both EU members and party to the EU ventilator scheme. The EU can’t even share basic supplies amongst its members … much needed ventilators, Germany and France even refused to send medical supplies stating their needs could be greater, not where “could be” when Italy asked for help. Note the only help currently acceptable to mutti [Angela Merkel] is for all member states that accrue financial debts over and above the EU budgetary allowance is to sign financial agreements the same as Greece did, in other words so that Germany and the IMF benefit on interest accrued on bonds, even the Spanish, and Polish governments, some Dutch MEPs are publicly declaring the lack of help coming from Ursula [von der Leyen] of any kind, note the border issue of the Greeks is disappearing from headlines at a rate of knots at the same time.

Salvini called the EU “a nest of snakes and jackals” the other day, that Italy would “get past the virus and say goodbye to the EU without thanking them”. An understandable sentiment.

Meanwhile, back in Blighty:

Mr Dyson probably could, he has an engineering center of excellence (both design and manufacturing) down there in Malmsbury, and also a mothballed production facility that until recently used to make high quality goods out of injection-moulded plastic components and electric motors. With resources like that in this country, I don’t think we’ll be short of ventilators for long.

The Italians are pissed off that Germany is refusing to sell them any ventilators, maybe we’ll soon be in a position to help them out.

More testing = more coronavirus cases

The number of coronavirus cases is increasing in many countries, because they, including the UK, are now being able to test for the virus (emphasis in the original):

– The latest data from the German Robert Koch Institute show that the increase in test-positive persons is proportional to the increase in the number of tests, i.e. in percentage terms it remains roughly the same. This may indicate that the increase in the number of cases is mainly due to an increase in the number of tests, and not due to an ongoing epidemic.

– Actually a proportionate increase in cases would be nearer to proving that the virus was everywhere anyway.

Coronavirus deaths

As of Sunday, March 29 (emphases in the original in this section):

– 2433 new cases and 209 new deaths

– Of ALL the UK Coronavirus fatalities to date, ONLY 13 had NO pre-existing conditions.

Without being insensitive, the vast majority of the fatalities to date would probably have died from “typical” seasonal ‘Flu anyway. Obviously, things could rapidly change if people ignore social distancing, but we aren’t at crisis levels for the moment.

Other deaths

Coronavirus notwithstanding, sadly, other people leave this mortal coil, too:

How many other deaths today?

– About 50,000 deaths a month is the average I believe. About 12,500 a week.

– Meanwhile other people die in less than acceptable circumstances.

A neighbour’s mother was ill in hospital and visiting was not allowed. She was discharged to a nursing home last week, where she died yesterday. Her daughter was unable to visit or comfort her. She died effectively alone in the company of presumably masked and protected strangers.

This is not humane.

The weekly death toll gets rather confusing, because some are referencing flu/respiratory deaths per week, while others are looking at the bigger picture:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EUSFPnoXgAAAEh8?format=jpg&name=large

See more here.

Dr Neil Ferguson

Dr Neil Ferguson OBE (!) of the dodgy Imperial College London numbers on coronavirus — as well as for the equally dodgy strategy on the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak — came in for criticism. This is the best of the comments about him (emphases mine):

What was never reported after the disastrous foot and mouth case modelled by Ferguson, were the depressions and suicides by farmers who not only had to watch whole herds of healthy cattle being slaughtered but losing three or four generations of their family farms. Many ended up selling to rich property developers to survive and thousands more turned their farms into industrial units.

Why wasn’t Ferguson sacked? How did he manage to survive to work on the Swine Flu … and again on Covid19?

Just goes to show the public sector are never accountable and always protected. At least Mr Trump is from a business background and knows how to disseminate good advice and bad advice wherever it comes from.

Potentially dangerous lockdown

If this lockdown extends far beyond Easter into late spring or early summer, Guido’s readers fear problems not only for Britons’ health but also for the economy. Their fears are not misplaced:

– There are many doctors saying the results of a long lockdown will be far worse than any mortality rate from this virus.

– And the tragedies arising from the ensuing economic depression will dwarf both of them put together.

– Exactly. I’m in the ‘over 60’s’ bracket but would rather risk getting a fec kin bad case of flu than see a lifetime of work pensions and savings go down the swanny because of some unhealthy eaters from China.

I agree. I’m not wasting 6 months of my life at my age under house arrest.

What, the ‘lockdown’ that the government tried to warn everyone not to do too early so that we weren’t asking the people to do too much for too long, but that the media wouldn’t listen and screamed like spoilt brats until they got their way?

That lockdown?

That leads us nicely to the next section.

BBC

BBC reporters are everywhere, not only across Britain but around the world:

– It is very important to stay at home. I know because we have just been told by a BBC reporter standing outside the Palace of Westminster.

– Have you ever wondered about all the ‘reporters’ wondering around in places like Lombardy etc. without any protection…Are they immune?

– Yes, the ghastly Mark Eaton was doing that last week. Walking the streets of London, stopping people and demanding to know why they were walking the streets of London.

It is OK for him though because he thinks he is important.

BBC news continues its Trump Derangement Syndrome:

– When will the BBC stop saying that the USA is the country with the fastest growing number of infections and deaths? It’s a bloody continent!

– They won’t stop, the BBC is anti US/UK and although the US isn’t a continent its scale and population make it comparable to Western Europe which has a far bigger problem.

– So true. If you check on some of their reporters (Twitter etc.) you will see that there is an obsession with Trump but little interest in some of the despots elsewhere. Are they afraid of the repercussions?

Andrew Marr, presenter of the BBC’s Sunday morning news show, came in for particular criticism. No surprise there:

– Marr has an anti-government agenda that is clear to everyone I hope. How this guy is still working is beyond me.

– He is a Marxist with an anti government agenda. The only surprise is the BBC has not made him Director General yet.

– There’s a fine line between questioning the government to find out information and questioning to discredit. Marr is in the second camp.

Socialist celebrities

Most people are fed up with wealthy socialist celebrities:

I’ll tell you why I’m a socialist: poverty. Poverty is what makes you a socialist. When you know poverty then you know about how we have to take care of people.” Actor Brian Cox.

Actually Brian, I’ll tell you why I’m NOT a socialist: poverty. Poverty is what results from socialism. When you know poverty then you know about how we have to take care of people and as history and experience shows, socialism is not the answer. I will go further and suggest you are actually a believer in a mixed economy which is underpinned by a healthy capitalism required for creating the wealth necessary for the public services you and me both desire. You are not really a socialist, you just don’t understand.

Someone replied:

If Cox is so keen why doesn’t he go and live in the socialist heaven of Venezuela rather than the capitalist hell of New York City?

Actors aren’t the only ones, either:

Same with singers (‘Bonio’ springs to mind). Just sing yer song and shut yer gob. Your fame does not make you an expert and your loud pronouncements are meaningless in the scheme of things.

Hospitals

There were many interesting anecdotal reports about hospitals. I have separated the A&E comments into a separate section.

This one came from Scotland:

Are we getting the true news about how the NHS and nurses/docs are coping? I see a lot of interviews and quotes from medics saying they are making life and death decisions due to ‘lack of equipment’.

However last Thursday I had to take my good lady into Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for a rather serious examination (she has risk of cancer down below). Apart from a guy at the main entrance making sure everyone used the hand gel, once at the ward we were allocated I had to wait outside in the main corridor and beside the 6 lifts in a colour red zone. One of the wards in this zone is ICU and further down the corridor it was into the Sick Childrens Hospital section. However it amazed me to see how much the nurses/docs/porters didn’t seem to have any concerns about walking around the corridors, mobile phone checking, 5 into a lift, porters not wearing protective gloves, leaving wheelchairs without wiping down the handles etc. Before anyone gets on to me I am not criticising those people just the media panic. As far as I could tell, apart from the multi storey car park being less busy with visitors the hospital was to all intents and purposes ‘as normal’.

As I say don’t berate me for posting this and I rather like the way all those staff were laughing, joking as they always do but it did seem a different world in there than what I expected.

Someone replied, saying the media were not interested in hospitals operating as usual:

There are over 300 hospitals in Scotland with 8 in Aberdeen and 11 others in the surrounding county. There are 1245 cases in Scotland (4 per hospital if shared out equally) and chances are that they would likely try and isolate COVID19 patients as much as possible so whilst the number of cases are fairly low I imagine they would try to place the COVID19 patients in as few hospitals as possible so it could be that there weren’t any CV cases at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

That will be different to London (over 5,000 cases) and the Midlands (2,500 cases) where I know that the number of cases far and away outstrips the number of vacant beds that those NHS regions reported last quarter end (Dec 31).

So I very much think it depends on whether you are in a hotzone or not and if you are not you can guarantee the national media just ain’t interested. There is no news in ‘business as usual’ in the middle of a crisis

PS You’re right its good that there is still significant normality out there and presumably the lock down will see a fall off in certain types of hospitalisations but the media are never going to try and sell that narrative. Good news is no news.

Ventilators

Ventilators came up for discussion:

I don’t think the public have understood how long you stay on a ventilator with this SARS2. It is 2-3 weeks, not the 2-3 days with normal winter ailments.

You go on to a ventilator with this she hit you’re 50/50 at best with perma damage.

– … people who need to go onto ventilators for this virus would have to for other reasons as well.

– If you go onto Conservative Woman website there is an interesting article about Matt Strauss saying that ventilators are the least necessary thing. The people who have to go onto a ventilator because of Covid19 would already need it.

Long term forced ventilation has issues of its own.

A&E (Accident & Emergency) wards

There were reports about quiet A&E wards.

This one came from one of the Home Counties, just outside London:

I might have said this once or twice before- but my wife works in A&E (for a hospital that was recently in the news) and it is very quiet in there and there is no shortages or panic.

The hospital in question is set up for the worst.

But at the moment they are dealing with the usual real emergency cases and very few suspected cases.

That is not to say some have supposedly died from Covid- but the 21 year old didn’t- despite press reports (which the Guardian has since removed). Kudos to them for once.

Here’s another from somewhere else in the UK:

My wife passed me this posted on her Military Wives Facebook group by an NHS Paramedic member of the same group. It makes amazingly good sense…

Small rant… Having spent at least 12 hours per day for the last 8 out of 9 days in and out of A&E I have noticed one thing. The waiting rooms have been MASSIVELY less busy than normal.

There is a major health emergency going on and suddenly everyone can manage to deal with their little booboo themselves. Whilst I, as a paramedic, am extremely grateful for this, please as a nation get a grip and realise this is what you should have been doing anyway for years.

You would have saved the NHS literally billions of pounds, so once this hell is over please continue to be a brave little soldier and deal with these non-emergencies yourselves!

WELL SAID & HOW TRUE

Are A&Es empty because of fear or a sudden dawning of common sense?

Most of the departments of my local General Hospital are quiet which allows their staff to be redeployed where needed. The specialist A&E a few miles up the road is also reporting almost a complete lack of people attending with trivial injuries and the ambo service aren’t getting the usual 80/20 split of unnecessary/justified 999 calls. Could it be that the time wasters are actually getting some common sense?

Here’s the reply:

Unfortunately, no.

The muppets are more frightened of being with other people than their headache.

Another account rolled in:

I can substantiate that. Over the last couple of weeks I had to go to the hospital for pre-arranged but necessary scans. On both occasions the A&E waiting area was virtually deserted apart from staff.

Truth:

The amount of money wasted on hypochondria in the NHS is huge.

Supermarkets

Online deliveries have not improved since the panic buying nearly a month ago. This holds true even for the elderly, whom, the government says, supermarkets have prioritised:

A mate of mine who is over 70 enquired last weekend about a home delivery from either Sainsburys or Tesco (I forget which one) and was told it would be delivered on 19th April. He said no thanks and drove to the shop himself.

Shelves seem to be restocked. A return to normality — for now:

We went shopping in Aldi Friday morning 8am, 30 people in the queue ahead of us but we all went straight in at 8. Bought everything we wanted including a small joint of beef, perhaps people have stopped panic buying at last. But if the Govt bring in more restrictions on movement expect the panic buying/hoarding to take off again.

Another Aldi customer concurs:

Likewise at Aldi, Whitby last Thursday, and everyone behaving sensibly.

Elsewhere:

Just been out to M&S and Lidl. Both fully stocked.

A few have installed a one-metre distance between customer and the person behind the till. Others have installed perspex shields:

Much easier to clean perspex shields and they are further away from the cashier. It’s better solution than face a mask for that particular purpose.

On the lighter side …

There were a few jokes, too.

We had tennis …

– I just got back yesterday after going to my mate’s funeral. Sadly he got hit on the head with a tennis ball. It was a great service.

– Are your tennis racket jokes free or do they come with strings attached?

… a plumber with a marital problems …

He went home recently and said to his wife, It’s over Flo.

… and the lockdown:

Wife: Are you going to sit on that sofa all day?

Me: No, I shall be sitting on the other sofa shortly.

Conclusion

I shall conclude with this comment:

If the MSM hadn`t created the panic, the authorities wouldn`t have had a population willing to have their civil liberties curtailed.

I fully agree.

Please be very careful when listening to the news and reading newspapers. There was no need, no need at all, for a shutdown or the Coronavirus Bill.

Only a week ago, life was so different in the United Kingdom.

Political pundits were analysing Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first budget and Al Boum Photo won his second Cheltenham Gold Cup. Happy days:

That said, parts of supermarket shelves were empty for the second week running of toilet paper and pasta:

Last Friday — March 13 — Paul Waugh posted an article on BuzzFeed: ‘No, Boris Johnson Isn’t Behaving Like Donald Trump On Coronavirus’ (emphases in the original below, those in purple mine):

Central to the approach of chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance – and the entire team of advisers who sit on the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (whose acronym coincidentally suggests they are offering SAGE advice) – is the evidence that imposing drastic measures too early will simply mean inevitable ‘‘fatigue’ on the part of the public

One of the cruellest charges that some critics are making today is that the government is ‘putting the economy before lives’, that they are deploying a strategy to deliberately allow some people to die in order to get the overall numbers down. Their target is Johnson, but they should stop to think that they are also really targeting public servants like Vallance and [Dr Chris] Whitty.

After this crisis plays out, we will find out just whether the government’s approach has achieved the lower numbers of deaths it is aiming for. It’s essential that everything it does is scrutinised and when mistakes are made for them to be rectified. But right now, the worst thing would be to accuse scientists and their fellow public servants of anything like bad faith.

In fact, one of the most significant things Vallance said today was this: “We should be prepared to change our minds as the evidence changes. We cannot go in with a fixed plan that is immutable.” He’s ready to change tack, as long as there is evidence to do so.‌

That day, Emeritus Professor Ian Donald from the University of Liverpool, posted a thread on Twitter:

Professor Donald did not have long to wait. On Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson began updating the public daily by instructing us not to visit shops unnecessarily. Not only that, he told us to avoid pubs, restaurants and the theatre.

Parliament is similarly affected:

How true.

Nadine Dorries MP and her 84-year-old mother are recovering well from coronavirus:

Her mother took care of her:

I agree with Ms Dorries’s mother as to what the fuss is about.

On Wednesday, Boris and Health Secretary Nick Hancock separately announced us that schools would be closed to all pupils and students on Friday afternoon March 20, except to children of ‘key workers’ and those who have a social worker assigned to them. Good grief.

Churches and synagogues are closed to public worship. This is the Church of England‘s statement:

Churches should be open where possible but with no public worship services taking place. Prayers can be said by clergy and ministers on behalf of everyone and churches should consider ways of sharing this with the wider community. See more below on digital resources that are under development and currently available.

For pity’s sake!

At least something Brexit-related got done this week:

Meanwhile, HuffPost UK was looking for more staff:

Because of hoarders, supermarkets still have empty shelves. This NHS worker cannot do her weekly shop. I feel for her. I had the same experience:

I fully agree. Even now, there are no limits on buying where I shop.

The following videos were taken at Tesco. Someone was bulk-buying bottled water. WHY?

The online supermarket, Ocado.com, shut down on Thursday. It is expected to return on Saturday. They should have limited the number of items per customer:

Access temporarily suspended to Ocado.com

Like all supermarkets, we are working round the clock to keep up with high demand and make sure all of our customers get what they need at this time – especially those more vulnerable and in isolation.

As a result, we have made a decision to temporarily suspend access to Ocado.com for a few days in order to make some changes to our service. This will allow us to better serve our customers, particularly the vulnerable and elderly.

We are fully booked and at full capacity, and will be delivering to over 170,000 households in the next four days. If you have a delivery booked for Thursday or Friday, cut-off times for editing these orders have already passed, but your driver will still arrive as expected.

We will soon contact customers with orders for delivery from Saturday onwards with details of how to edit their orders, and all customers will be able to access the website again from Saturday.

We are very sorry to cause any inconvenience. We’re managing a simply staggering amount of traffic to our website right now and more demand for products and deliveries than we can meet. Our first priority has to be to keep our service up and running and to play our part in feeding the nation.

I’d also like to take this chance to thank our amazing drivers and warehouse staff who are working tirelessly to deliver groceries to as many people as possible in these uncertain times. Their dedication and hard work is truly amazing.

Thank you for your patience and understanding at this unprecedented and challenging time.

Melanie Smith
CEO, Ocado Retail

Today — Friday, March 20 — the aforementioned Emeritus Professor Ian Donald tweeted:

The government decided some time ago not to invoke the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and is pushing ahead with new, emergency legislation — our version of the dreadful Patriot Act:

What is the government thinking?

All Western governments are doing this, however.

That doesn’t make it acceptable, though.

This is the reality of the situation — even in Italy:

As for the West’s love affair with China, it’s got to stop:

Draconian measures — and France will probably extend theirs (source: RMC) — for coronavirus are like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Sign me DISGUSTED.

In my 2013 Cannes food shopping entry, I wrote:

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in any of the shops mentioned below, only that I have found them to be reliable establishments. Also, please note that your nation’s customs laws might prohibit bringing home certain items (e.g. dairy products).

Before you leave home, pack a couple of large sheets of thick bubble wrap. Chances are you’ll want to bring some culinary items home and a few of these are likely to be in glass containers.

Also, if you have one, pack a flat chill bag, which is great for bringing home cheese and other items which require refrigeration. If you do not have one of these, Monoprix’s food hall and Casino supermarket sell them.

The chill bags and bubble wrap are essential for food lovers. In 2017, Monoprix still has the chill bags, conveniently located in the frozen food aisle. (I’m not sure about Casino, only because I didn’t look.)

In June, SpouseMouse and I checked out the smoked fish selection in Cannes. Casino’s was comprised of smoked salmon.

Monoprix’s was more adventurous with the addition of smoked eel and smoked trout.

Smoked eel — Filets d’Anguille fumée (Delicemer)

At €6.21 for 100g — enough for two people — Delicemer’s smoked eel fillets are a must.

Not only do they look beautiful, with two foot-long long strips of filleted eel (like this), they were a dream to eat.

This product is from Spain. They treat eel with love.

Smoked eel is not widely available but every foodie should definitely try it.

In England, we bought Forman’s many years ago, but it seemed very salty, even for me. Since then, I have had it regularly when I dine as a guest at a private club in Pall Mall, where it tastes rich, unctuous and buttery. Presumably, Forman’s is the supplier, but it tastes just right. Maybe they have adjusted the salt content.

I thought nothing could top that until I tried Delicemer‘s from Monoprix. It was even more unctuous and buttery. Even better, it was a fraction of the price of Forman’s. Glad I bought two, now consumed.

Although a light horseradish cream is often served as an accompaniment, Delicemer’s are best eaten plain at room temperature with a few slices of decent baguette.

This was one food memory that I’ll always treasure.

I will buy more on our next trip.

Smoked trout — Truite Fumée Pyrénées (Ovive)

I bought a 120g pack — 4 slices — of Ovive’s smoked trout for approximately €6.

Although I would buy it again, only because it is difficult for some reason to find smoked trout in England now, I did not think it was unctuous enough. I enjoy a fatty tasting smoked fish.

Sure enough, on the back of the packet it says (translation mine):

For your health, Ovive trout is 2 to 3 times less fatty than any farmed salmon.

Ovive trout has a fat content of 7.6g per 100g. Contrast this with Delicemer’s smoked eel, which has 34g of fat per 100g. Now I know why I preferred the smoked eel.

On the other hand, SpouseMouse enjoyed the trout and was not missing the fat.

Ovive’s packaging is a marketer’s dream. The text on the back is the length of a magazine article, I kid you not.

truite fuméeThe front of the packet tells you that Ovive’s production is good for nature, jobs and you.

(Image credit: Ovive)

Like the one pictured, ours also came from Lau Balagnas, one of Ovive’s three trout farms. It is run by François Pomarez, who also runs another of the company’s trout farms in the Hautes-Pyrénées.

Each site, listed on the back, has the name of the town, regional location, river and farmer’s name. You can find out more on their Facebook page.

Ovive is part of Groupe Aqualande:

Our company is located in the Southwest of France with a strong attachment to this region. Aqualande has become a European leader in aquaculture. Build on the expertise of its people, grateful for the rich values provided by nature and aware of customer expectations, Aqualande has been able to develop harmoniously in all activities of the aquaculture industry.

It is comprised of 15 co-operative members who employ 700 people based in the region:

Smoked Trout is the flagship of Aqualande. With a production of about 3,300 tons per year, Aqualande is leader on the French market. OVIVE brand is valued by its packaging assets of the company: the attachment to the region, the quality of the product and social responsibility.

Thus, our Aqualande Cooperative Group has developed an integrated aquaculture industry and is the largest in the sector in France, with a staff of 700 people in its three activities.

Historically, our company carries the same requirements :

  • strong commitments from the beginning to the end, environmental and social responsibility and product quality,
  • certification by independent third parties to validate our approach,
  • transparency and information towards our partners and our consumers.

Our commitments are our values!

I wish them well. Even though it’s left-wing, I like the idea of co-operatives, where everyone has an interest and receives a proper share of the profits.

Conclusion

I highly recommend bringing these two products home with you when you are ready to leave France. And if you are spending your holiday there and in charge of your own meals, stock up and enjoy them in your accommodation. You won’t be sorry.

When we’re in Cannes, we shop regularly at Monoprix, which is in the centre of town across the road from the railway station.

In 2013, I wrote about the terrific bread they had in their food hall:

Monoprix’s breadmaking is overseen nationally by a MOF (meilleur ouvrier de France) who has an expert knowledge of all types of flour and yeast. You can pick up a small booklet at the bakery counter in which Frédéric Lalos — the MOF — describes each type of bread.

I did not eat any supermarket bread in 2015, but somewhere along this timeline, Monoprix must have terminated their contract with the MOF, because what they have now looks and tastes mass-produced.

Monoprix’s artisanal breads used to be in the bakery section with the fresh pastries. No longer. This year in Cannes, they are in the middle of the food hall in a separate display.

The day we left, I bought a Monoprix baguette to bring home (€0.95 for 400g). We thought it would taste like an artisanal product.

It was awful.

Slicing it was the first disappointment. It had a tight, white, soft mass-produced industrial crumb, no different to what one could buy in a North American or northern European supermarket. Ugh.

Even worse, it tasted of nothing, despite the fact that the label said it had rye sourdough in it.

I should have gone up nearby Rue Meynadier to a proper bakery. Next time I will.

Here is Monoprix’s current sad selection of own-brand bread and baguettes. Even the Monoprix Gourmet line looks ordinary. It’s terrible, just terrible.

Now that there is plenty of tennis to enjoy on television, it’s the time to tuck into strawberries and cream.

Last week, I bought a punnet of strawberries at our local Tesco (£2 for 400g). I recommend these wholeheartedly. I haven’t tasted such a sweet, flavoursome strawberry in many years.

My English readers should look for the punnet with a label that reads ‘Kentish Supersweet Strawberries’ containing the variety Malling™ Centenary. (Malling is a rural district of Kent.) I put the variety in bold, because I tried another ‘Kentish Supersweet’ variety a few days later, and it was not very good.

Paul Mansfield is the grower. Well done, Mr Mansfield. You made our Pimm’s even more delightful.

Those who favour another option for their berries might want to add a dash of balsamic vinegar and finely sliced basil leaves, both of which are a perfect complement to strawberries. We had a fruit salad with those ingredients 18 years ago in Cannes at La Potinière. The restaurateur mixed the berries and basil with a tablespoon of light olive oil, a few finely sliced black olives, a scant teaspoon of sugar and cracked black pepper on top. He served it in a parfait glass with a long spoon. It sounds like an improbable combination, but it was excellent.

Here is Tesco’s recommendation, along similar lines:

Incidentally, based on customer feedback, The Grocer has named Tesco Britain’s Favourite Supermarket for 2017:

No doubt that is partly because Tesco are committed to reducing food waste and giving food to charity.

They also think of urban dwellers who would like to grow their own produce:

The accompanying article says, in part:

Now a new unique and super-productive indoor tomato plant is being launched by Tesco aimed at helping people living in urban areas without gardens.

The mini tomato plant has been naturally developed over the last five years by produce experts who have bred together varieties to come up with one that is small, compact and most importantly very productive.

By following the care instructions the small, but powerful plants can each produce up to 150 delicious tomatoes with minimal fuss.

A great idea. It looks as if the plants are small enough to be able to take home on public transport with minimal fuss, too. Perfect for summer.

This is not a plug for Tesco, but I will admit to shopping there regularly for nearly 30 years.

Jamie Oliver, who has a new television show on encouraging people to cook at home, recently gave an interview to the Radio Times in which he lauded greengrocers.

He said that you can just select the amount of fruit and veg you can afford and make a perfectly good meal out of it.

True, but supermarket prices are often cheaper and provide more information. If you’re cooking one meal, you might as well budget better and buy a slightly larger quantity. In that way, you can cook once and have enough left over for a few more days. What is more boring than having to go to the shops every day if you’re working all hours or, if not, have children in tow?

Yesterday, I stated my reasons for rarely patronising the local greengrocer. It is an instructive read.

Today’s post demonstrates why supermarket fruit and veg trumps the greengrocer’s. The same debate goes on in France. Some trust supermarket produce because, by reading the labels, they know the country of origin, grower and — often — the variety of fruit they buy. Some former market customers think the supermarket provides more information and, crucially, ‘I can touch the fruit to assess ripeness, which I can’t do in the market’. True that.

With that in mind, I would like to thank the farmers across England and Europe whose fruit and veg I have purchased over the past one or two years at two supermarket chains.

In all cases, their produce tasted the way it did in my grandparents’ day. It was a pleasure to eat — and I say this as someone who can normally take or leave fruit and veg.

Thanks to:

1/ Mr Mesi (Greece) for his delightful white flesh nectarines.

2/ Melvyn Newman (Kent) for his tasty strawberries (Elsanta, Linosa, Ichthya), raspberries (Glen Ample) and blackberries. (Second year running.)

3/ Vito Coletti (Essex) for his superb cucumbers and flavoursome bell peppers. (Second year running.)

4/ Hall Hunter (Surrey) for succulent blueberries (Bluecrop, Draper). (Second year running.)

5/ A French grower (unknown) for his sweet cherry tomatoes (Piccolo).

6/ Giuseppe Sacchetto (Italy) for his marvellous white flesh nectarines and yellow flesh peaches.

Yes, all this came from the supermarket. Yet, we felt that we had a better-than-greengrocer (or market) experience buying and eating it. This is because we could easily put names, countries and varieties to our purchases.

We would never have been able to obtain this depth of information from our local greengrocer.

This is why supermarkets trump certain greengrocers — mine, anyway.

For the second summer running — and despite the late spring — my better half and I have enjoyed delicious and traditional summer fruit.

Nearly all of it came from two supermarket chains we frequent. It was also fairly priced.

We also have a local greengrocer’s shop. The shop has undergone a change of owner three times in the past two decades. The second owner during that time continued to purchase all the unusual produce (e.g. fresh or ‘wet’ garlic in the springtime) and retained the licence to sell dairy products (good for when you wanted to buy cream for your strawberries). He also kept the layout of the shop the same so it took seconds for regular customers like me to breeze through and walk out with £10 or £20 in fruit and veg.

Crucially, those greengrocers always labelled the fruit and veg country of origin. Our ‘wet’ garlic — perfect for roasting — came from Egypt. Cherries came from France. Other fruit came from South Africa. And so on.

The current owner not only stopped stocking dairy products but also rearranged the shop as soon as he and his family took over.

Prices went up within a week. The juicy blood oranges I’d enjoyed from the previous greengrocer at 5 for £1 — his usual price — went up to 4 for £1 with the new young buck.

Worst of all, he ditched the signs he could have reused from the previous owners. All of them had the country of origin on them. We suddenly had nothing in this regard, especially when he took the fruit out of the original branded cardboard crate and put it in decorative baskets. Hmm!

And so it continues.

When he began trading, he said, ‘I hope you’ll become a regular customer.’

I replied, ‘Only if you resume stating the country of origin on everything.’

He said, ‘No one cares about that.’

I said, ‘Your predecessors managed it. Surely you would want your customers to have the same information the supermarkets give them.’

‘Well,’ he replied, ‘the previous owners were lying. How could they know the country of origin? They were lying, I tell you!’

At that point I had to turn away. What he said was incredulous. Of course, they would have known where their produce came from.

Then he said, ‘If it’s that important to you and, quite honestly, I don’t know why you need to know … just ask me.’

‘That’s an extra step. When I go to the supermarket, all I need to do is look at the punnets or labels to know if I’m buying British or other European produce.’

And this is why I rarely go to the greengrocer.

Tomorrow: Delicious — and traceable — summer fruit and veg from the supermarket

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