France Layby Petrol Scam

I just thought it might be useful to share something that happened to us the other day. We were driving in France on the way back from the UK and stopped at a small country layby to stretch our legs.

Scarcely had we got out of the car when a large BMW SUV with Bulgarian plates arrived rather fast and drew into the layby behind us. A large dark-haired man got out, used a pretext to start a conversation in French with us, got very enthusiastic and then said he didn’t have any petrol in his car and could we help him either by accepting some rather dubious cash notes in return for some euros or by following us to a petrol station and allowing him to fill up on our credit card and pay us back later. He said that his credit card was blocked in France and everything was closed as it was Sunday. He was going to start work in Zurich the next week and could phone his future employer to help him the next day.

While Brigitte was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, it all seemed pretty fishy to me. I said to the guy that I thought it sounded like a scam (de l’escroquerie) and we got back in the car and drove away.

I take the time to write this because after doing a little research on the internet, it appears that this scam was in operation about ten years ago. Please see the following link:

which also references this article from the UK in 2009:

Perhaps there has been a resurgence of this sort of scam.

Anyway I hope you don’t fall for it wherever you may be.

May your life never become an endurance test.



It Might Come In Useful

The 2 litre beer siphon.

Spring has arrived – although you wouldn’t think it from the weather – and with it the fearsome and inevitable spring cleaning.

My wife thinks I’m a terrible hoarder. There are a lot of piles of books and this and that around the house. I counter by asserting that, although there are a lot of things in the house, they are of high quality. The fact remains, however, that when we try to grab one thing, something else, or several other things, usually fall to the ground.


Sufficiently exasperating for it to be time to do something about it.

So I started to put things up for sale on FB Marketplace.

Let’s be honest here.

If we haven’t used something for five or even ten years, then it’s really time to get rid of it unless there is a high emotional charge attached.

If you too are a hoarder, I can already hear your reply:

“But it might come in useful.”

I’ve often said this to myself.

But what if you change the refrain to this:

“It might come in useful – for someone else.”


I inherited a large 3-D mounted map of Switzerland from a business I ran with a partner over twenty years ago. That map has been propping up the wall at the end of our bed ever since we moved into the house in 2004. I would get up every morning and look at it and say to myself, “I really should sell that.”

Well, a few weeks ago I finally got around to putting up an advert on Marketplace. I knew perfectly well that otherwise the map would continue to prop up the wall for another ten years and that I would continue to look at it every morning and say to myself, “I really should sell that.”

It was time to allow the map to continue its useful life with someone else.

The person who eventually bought it was a huge fan of 3-D maps and was going to put it up in his home. Great!

When I became a naturalized Swiss citizen in 2017, I received a number of presents including a 2 litre jar of beer. Now this jar has a seal and was meant to be re-usable, but I discovered that as I drank the beer it got progressively flat. So I never re-filled it.

What to do? It seemed too well made (see photo above) to throw out in a glass recycling bin, and I thought it might come in useful – for someone else. At first, I put it up for sale for a derisory price, but still didn’t get any interest. So I decided to give it away for free. Instantly five people were interested, and one came through.

One less object around the house.

And so the process continues….

What I would say, and I’ve talked about this in another post entitled “Mental Clutter,” is that it’s actually not a good idea to wait ten or twenty years to get rid of something that you’re not going to use. Going back to the 3-D map, the fact that I looked at it every morning and thought it would be a good idea to sell it involved not just physical clutter but also mental clutter. The thought itself was clutter. And the longer you wait to get rid of the physical clutter, the longer the effects of the mental clutter will remain.

Now I get out of bed and look at the space where the 3-D map was and think, “What a good thing I managed to sell that!” The relief of having finally done something about it may be more positive than the “I really ought to sell it” thought, but it’s still mental clutter or scarring.

Much better not to be thinking about it at all and have more space in your mind for something useful.

The takeaway from this is that the sooner you make up your mind to get rid of something you don’t use, and act on it, the less physical – and mental – clutter you will have to deal with.

So the next time you look at something at home that you don’t use and say, “It might come in useful,” try changing the refrain to:

“It might come in useful – for someone else.”

It may help you to move on.

May your life never become an endurance test.



Russo-Ukrainian War

Photo by Julia Rekamie on Unsplash

Here’s a thought.

How about this for a negotiated settlement?

First, Russia pulls its army out of Ukraine completely.

Then fair and true referendums without any tampering are held in the Donbas and Crimea under the organisation and inspection of a third-party state decided by agreement between Russia and Ukraine.

If the real result of any of the elections shows that most people in that oblast genuinely want to be part of Russia, then Ukraine cedes the territory.

If however, the residents wish to remain as part of Ukraine, then Russia relinquishes all claim.

End of war.

Too simple?

May your life never become an endurance test.

My best wishes to all of you for Christmas and 2023.


Support me at:

Brigitte and myself at the crater of Seongsan Ilchul-bong, Jeju Isalnd, South Korea,
22nd October 2022

Think For Yourself

© RCM Sheep and a Trampoline, Combremont-le-Grand, Vaud, Switzerland

I heard that a lot at school.

“Think for yourself.”

It took me years to realize that thinking for yourself is the last thing that people want, that society as a whole wants.

In fact, it’s actively discouraged.

Even in school or at university, there are actually very strict rules in place, and you have to follow those rules if you want to get the highest grades. If you write a paper for an English class, for example, no one gives a fig for your opinion. You have to refer to every Tom, Dick or Harry’s thoughts about the novel you read, synthesise their viewpoints acceptably and then: bingo! Good grade.

Silly me. I actually thought that when people said, “Think for yourself,” they meant just that.

But what people actually mean by thinking for yourself is “observe the rules and play the game.” These are the people consistently lauded by the majority of citizens.

Not that I’m complaining. Thinking for yourself makes life at once simpler, richer and more complicated. I wouldn’t want it any other way. But I do get exasperated by the double-talk.

Example: be very careful when your boss asks you what you think at work.

Does (s)he really want to know what you think or does (s)he simply want confirmation of her/his ideas?

In my experience, there are very few people in positions of responsibility who really want to hear what you think. They can’t handle it. If your viewpoint diverges from theirs, they see it as a coup d’état.

I would go further. As long as a relationship is power-based, there can be no real communication.

I have been living in Switzerland for over thirty years now and I’m often asked if I miss England, the land of my birth.

I usually state the obvious – that if I really missed England, I would be living there and not in Switzerland.

If I’m pressed for details, I go on to explain that life in the UK is complicated on a relationship level.

Why is that?

At that point, I explain that it is impossible to have genuine communication between a person who says what he thinks and a person who says what he thinks you want to hear.

Believe me when I say that the person who truly says what he thinks is in a very tiny minority.

Most people don’t know what they think. They respond to how those around them behave. Not unlike sheep.

Take tattoos, for example. Goodness only knows why this has become such a fad in recent years, but I bet that a huge majority of people got a tattoo because someone in their entourage got one.

Beards. Another sudden craze. Did you grow one because it suits you or because everyone else started growing them?


So much for thinking for yourself.

“To thine own self be true,” as Polonius put it.

Difficult to do if you don’t know who you are.

So start by identifying the voices.

You know, the ones in your head.

Now which ones really belong to you?

By sorting out what belongs to you and what doesn’t: parental voices, voices of friends or not-so friends, co-workers….

Remove the clutter and then you can think for yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you got a tattoo or grew a beard or whatever crowd pleasing activity you may have indulged in, as long as you acknowledge that you were following the crowd and not yourself.

Only by checking those voices, those impulses on a regular basis can you eliminate what does not belong to you and find your way back to yourself.

If thinking for yourself is what you really want to do….

Have a great week and may your life never become an endurance test.



Breakfast with a butterfly, Zakynthos.

Support me at:

Synthetic Medicine

Photo: Myriam Zilles/Unsplash

It always half angers and half amuses me when people talk about “traditional medicine.”  

Traditional medicine in its true sense is what our ancestors practised for thousands of years using animals, trees, plants and roots and their extracts.

There’s nothing traditional about the popping of pills manufactured by huge multinational pharmaceutical companies that our current health system is based on and encourages.

Let’s be clear about this.  

When doctors, the press and people in general talk about traditional medicine, they really mean synthetic medicine.  For without the process of chemical synthesis, those huge pharmaceutical companies cannot register and protect a drug and make the exorbitant profits that they do.

You cannot put a trademark on something that exists in nature already.

Once you realise this, you can’t look at the current health system in the same way.  It’s not based on what is best for the patient.  It is based quite simply on making money.

There is a clear conflict of interest here.

How many times has your doctor suggested that you take a natural remedy and not a synthetic pill?  Probably none.

And why is that?

Because doctors are actively encouraged by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe their products.  In some instances they are even bribed to do so.  Doctors may receive a significant financial kickback when they prescribe a course of chemotherapy drugs, for example.

A natural remedy is often much cheaper and has fewer or no side effects.

Everybody is always complaining about the rising costs of health insurance and expenses.

So why not do something about it and use natural remedies instead of synthetic ones?

May your life never become an endurance test!



The Most Humble of Commodities

Photo: © RC Morgan

Yes, what is it about loo rolls in what the BBC describes as “these unusual times?” 

Diarrhoea isn’t one of the symptoms. 

Brigitte suggests it may be for wiping off surfaces as it’s cheaper than kitchen roll, but loo paper has a tendency to disintegrate so it wouldn’t be the best choice.

Still, this is definitely the moment to go into details about this most humble of commodities.

My mother has two toilets in her flat and at any one time there are approximately twenty rolls of toilet paper in each toilet.  She lives alone. (I’m talking about normal times. I don’t know what the situation is at the moment.)

Seems like overkill and B and I have laughed about this on more than one occasion.

However, I am of the opinion that good toilet paper appreciably augments the quality of life. 

But so little of it is good. 

I once discovered an excellent toilet paper in – wait for it – Rome, Italy, which is sold in very large rolls indeed.  Back in Switzerland, I expressed my desire to the manufacturer of obtaining some, but I never got a reply to my request. 

I also used some excellent toilet paper once on a camping site in France, but there was no indication on it which would have enabled me to order.

And then about four years ago, we went to a village called Mürren up in the mountains here in Switzerland for a few days and the hotel toilet paper was pretty good.  So when I got back home, and was disgusted with the latest purchase of “high quality” paper from the local supermarket, I finally rang up the hotel and asked them where they got their toilet paper and they were kind enough to tell me. 

Only slight drawback – industrial supplier so minimum order 280 rolls.  But I went ahead and ordered them sometime in June 2016, put the two cases delivered by lorry in the garage and have been as happy as a sandpiper (or is it sandboy?) for these last several years.

However, it does rather put the forty rolls at my mother’s flat into perspective….

We still have some fifty-six of the order left.  We changed the roll on Sunday morning and we have just changed it this morning (Friday.)  So one roll last five days.  This means that as we still have 56 rolls left from our order in 2016, we have enough for 280 days. 

No reason to panic then.

There are only two of us, of course, so a family would need more.  But panic buying them in bulk doesn’t really make sense.

Unless, of course, one has been searching for a really good toilet paper and finally found it….


And there are other ways of cleaning one’s rear.

The Romans used small sponges which they dipped in running water. The sponges were communal which might have made it a less hygienic solution.

In the middle ages, they used rounded stones. Haven’t tried that. Don’t know how satisfactory it is. I imagine they washed them and re-used them as well. Communal stones?

The British cut up newpapers and used that during World War Two. My mother experienced that and survived to tell the tale. I smile, imagine being able to read the headlines on people’s butts, British newspaper print being notoriously shedding.

And I’m sure that now we’re in the 21st century with all our wonderful technology, we ought to be capable of coming up with a few more ingenious ideas if the world runs out of loo paper….

May your life never become an endurance test even with coronavirus about!



P.S. I have just read somewhere that the average person uses 200 rolls of toilet paper per year.

Can this be true? The mind bog(gle)s.

If our consumption is one roll every five days, that adds up to 73 rolls in a year between two of us, or 36.5 each.

What are people doing with the other 160 odd rolls?

How to Make Coconut Oil in Your Home

Hey guys in this video I’ll share how to make
your own coconut oil. With the numerous health benefits and uncountable
uses of coconut oil, you should be making yours at home. You will need just coconuts! I’ll be using 3 coconuts for this demonstration. Break the coconuts with a heavy blunt object. I love coconut juice so let’s take a commercial
break while I drink some! When done, pry out the coconut meat from the
coconut shell. Once the coconut is mature, the coconut meat
should come out of the shell easily. Rinse them very well. And cut into small pieces like this to help
your blender. Next, boil some water. Extracting coconut milk with moderately hot
water gives you more coconut oil than when you extract with warm or lukewarm
water. Don’t even think about using cool water for
the extraction. Then grind it in a blender till smooth. I diluted the hot water with cold water to
bring it to a comfortable temperature that I can safely touch with my bare hands as you will
see later. Pour in a sieve to separate the coconut milk
from the chaff. Then press with your hands to squeeze out
the last drop. I grind the chaff a second time to extract
more coconut milk. I’ll be using this sieve with a finer mesh
to sieve the coconut milk to remove the tiniest particles. When done, keep it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, you can see that the coconut
oil has separated from the water and caked beautifully like a frozen lake. Take the white part that’s the oil and place
in a clean dry pot. It is advisable to use original stainless
steel pots for this. Cover and start cooking on low to medium heat. Meanwhile what do I do with the coconut water? I pass it through a sieve. And pour whatever I catch in the sieve into
the pot because that’s coconut oil. You can use this water to boil plain white
rice, to prepare Jollof Coconut Rice and White Coconut
Rice. In fact, you can use it in any recipe that
calls for coconut milk because even though we have removed the coconut oil,
this water still has some coconut taste in it. Keep an eye on the pot and watch the coconut
oil go from this … To this … To this … I cooked it for a total of 1 hour 15 minutes
on low to medium heat to get here. If you notice some smoke while cooking it, you can reduce the heat to very low. Then set the pot aside so that the coconut
oil can cool down to a comfortable temperature. Sieve with a cheese cloth to remove the charred
bits. Due to the sediments at the bottom, I sieve
again with a paper towel. That’s it! Use coconut oil for cooking, for your hair
and body. Google for other uses of coconut oil. Bye, see you soon!

The Tree of Life (4)

© Richard Morgan

As you may well know by now, I’m a fan of coconut oil and its many valuable uses.

Here’s a link to a clear and informative article by Claudio Caldeira at Glo Beauty which contains some unusual tips on using this precious oil:

May your life never become an endurance test!



Lunch Boxing

Our Lunch Boxes

In an interesting article by Kelli Gardener from entitled Eating at Home vs Eating Out, she talks about the fact that we often can’t choose the size of a restaurant portion and that pushes us to overeat.

I’ve been eating out quite a bit at lunch time in recent years.

Brigitte (my wife) works in a school about half an hour away in Yvonand and I often drive over and we go for lunch somewhere in Yverdon, which is the nearest sizeable town.

We’re lucky because there are a number of good restaurants in the area near the ice skating rink and parking is easy.

Something that was beginning to bother me though, was that we’d often take food home with us in cardboard or aluminium precisely because we didn’t want to overeat at lunchtime.

I’d order a pizza, for example, eat maybe two-thirds of it and then take the rest home in one of those take-away cardboard pizza boxes.

The sheer wastage of these pizza boxes, destined to be thrown away as soon as we got back home, started to get to me.

So rather than compromise and eat more than we wanted to, we got some varying sizes of food boxes and now we take home the pizza and other food portions in those.

It seems the perfect way not to overeat and act against wastage at the same time.

Of course, you have to wash the boxes after use and remember to put them back in the car and take them with you the next time you eat out.

Sometimes we forget.

In spite of this, I think we’ve managed to cut down considerably on wastage from eating out.

After all, there are only two solutions if you want to avoid overeating. Leave the rest on the plate or take it home.

If the food is good, it’s a waste to leave it on the plate. It will only get thrown away. It deserves a better fate than that.

We frequently get an extra meal in the evening out of a lunchtime restaurant portion with the result that eating out is not so expensive after all. It’s often little more expensive than buying a sandwich and I’d much rather have a hot meal – or two – for the same price or less.

So if you find that the portions in restaurants are overlarge, don’t hesitate to ask to take the rest home. You might feel awkward asking to begin with. You might even be afraid of what other people might think. But it’s a mark of respect for all the work that goes into preparing that food, from field to kitchen, and towards the food itself.

And if you bring your own boxes, you don’t even need to ask.

You can just put the food in the boxes yourself.

The link to Kelli’s article again:

Eating at Home vs Eating Out

May your life never become an endurance test!