Monday, July 26, 1999

26/07/99 Frenchmen caught choking on snails ...

Time to get up your noses again, I'm afraid.

The subject comes straight from Dave Barry, who admitted in his last column that French food was very good, apart from the snails, which even Frenchmen loathe. His theory is that French people sit in restaurants pretending to eat from empty snail shells and saying things like "Yummé" until American tourists are led to order them and are brought steaming platefuls of snailshells WITH SNAILS IN THEM at which point the Frenchpersons cited above subside under their table and laugh until - I quote - "red wine starts spewing out of their nostrils".

He may well be right. Personally I can eat six or so, at which point I begin to ask myself questions like "Why am I eating garlic butter off a slug when I can eat it on bread?". I have not yet had a good answer to this question, so these days I leave the slugs for the tourists, and I've had plastic tubing installed in my nasal passages for those moments when I just have to laugh.

Found a good bit of spleen the other day which I just thought I'd share with you: a theatre review of the sort they don't really make any more - Sheridan Morley, in the IHT, had this to say -

"There is something monumentally terrible about the acting of Charlton Heston, and of course there always has been; having brought us the tablets as Moses, having won the chariot race in Ben Hur, he now appears live on stage with all the brisk, charismatic energy of a man carved into Mount Rushmore. To the Theatre Royal he comes with his wife, Lydia Clare Heston, a lady also suffering from a tragic talent bypass, reading Gurney's "Love Letters"."

"Soon it will doubtless be performed under water, or in outer space, or preferably anywhere but in a real theatre, least of all the Haymarket, which even now deserves better than this disgraceful apology for an entertainment; so far from charging for tickets, the management should be at the doors paying out recompense to all audiences as they leave, which they would be wise to do after about 10 minutes."

"The most exciting thing you can watch here are the potted plants that have been neatly arranged, as at a funeral parlour, about the Hestons' feet. There is at least the chance that they might grow, or change colour, or start talking to us, or just wither and die in sympathy with this whole misbegotten shambles."

"Anything would be better than having to watch the Hestons still inefficiently reading, despite having trailed it around America and Britain for some years, a script of such terminal boredom that even they seemed to be having trouble staying awake through it on a hot night. Nothing happens in the first half, happens again in the second, and then Mrs Heston commits a graceful little suicide which she signals with a well-bred little whimper, as though she were trying to attract the attention of a Harrods salesperson on a busy afternoon."

"As for Heston, the most moving thing about him is still his hairpeice ... No director is credited, presumably because if named he or she would never work again. The Hestons alas probably will, but with luck not over here."

As for us, we've just been fiddling around as usual. The barbecue is up, so this weekend Margo started painting the balconies on the road front while I went down and terrified the lawn again, then levelled the courtyard to get it ready for the decking. Then down to the lake for a quick dip and a cold dinner before nailing brats into bed and getting ready for another week of a French summer.

We currently have Caroline, the littler Parisian cousin, as a house guest and it's going quite well. She's little enough for Malyon to boss around, and big enough not to let Jeremy do the same. (Two years older than Jeremy, in fact, but the same size.) Unfortunately she heads back on Wednesday, which means that from Thursday on any social interaction between the kids will end in tears after about half an hour - if we're lucky. Don't get me wrong - Jeremy does love his sister dearly, and vice-versa - but they simply canot play together for any length of time: not at the same game, anyway. That's probably why all the tears - it takes them all that time to realise that not only are they not playing the same game, but the rules are different, and neither of them will accept losing.

There's not an enormous amount of news from over here - none at all, really. I will have to pull finger and start working on some of the stuff that piled up while I was away - the Swiss are back (Wednesday I head off again - not for too long, I hope), there's a little microprocessor application to straighten out, then a big SQL Server database and associated front-end to set up for the end of September.

During this time my estimable friend and colleague Renaud is finsihing off his house - in fact I think they're supposed to be moving into it this weekend, or at least shifting the furniture and chattels (from the old French meaning "small cat"). I rather hope he won't need me to help, as I'd planned on getting some work done on the decking side of things.

That's about enough rubbish for one night, I think.

Trevor & Margo

Monday, July 19, 1999

19/07/99 Sun, surf and foie gras ...

Back from our holiday, all rested and tanned, thought I'd see if I couldn't provoke a bit of envy (a mortal sin, if you recall ...)

Well, we made it down to the Gers and back without getting the car pranged this time - in fact I was rather pleasantly surprised, the BMW is a very economical car to drive on the autoroute. Averages about 7l/100km, which isn't too bad for an ancient bomb weighing in at a couple of tons.
Margo managed to put her back out again just before we left, which meant that by the time we got down there she was ready for a week's bed rest, which is about what she got. Didn't do a great deal at all, really: made it down to Biarritz (nice place, shame about all the people on holiday) and then (just) into Spain to pick up some cheap sherry and suchlike, then off to the beach to try and drown the kids and that's about all. I took the kids off to a nearby lake a couple of times - not feeling up to the 2-hour drive to the beach all by myself, Margo being laid up - and all my good intentions of taking them off to see cultural things like the Dartagnan museum went by the board as they confessed themselves to be extremely happy just puddling around in the water. Can't say I was too distressed.

Shame about Biarritz, really - I'm sure it's a nice place, but my memories are of about 50km of Tauranga suburbs in endless procession, linked by a nationale crammed full of Dutch caravans. Our fault for heading down in the holiday season, I suppose.

We did make it off to see the old farmhouse that Jacquy bought and is slowly making habitable: the kids weren't too impressed until they found the shed full of old tiles (the place was at one time owned by a mason) which they collected in an alarming selection of plastic bags and insisted on bringing back home "to do things with". I can see that we'll have ceramic place-mats and potholders coming out of our ears.

It was a nice relaxing week, which we all needed - miles from anywhere, cellphone didn't work, too hot to do anything - apart from pat the cats and type up the course I had to give on getting back - good food ... (I did actually get around to giving my course, by the way. 12000F for a days speaking but I think I earned it - I spoke so long that I managed to put my jaw out. Don't know how Malyon manages it.)

Stopped off at Carcasonne to give the kids another look at the place - Malyon probably remembers a bit of the last time we went there, with Renaud & Sophie, but for Jeremy it was as though it was all new. It is an impressive pile, I must admit. Made it back on Monday evening to find a happy cat waiting for us (a bit pissed off that for a whole week she hadn't been able to sleep indoors) and then back to work on Tuesday. (Rather to my surprise, Jeremy sobbed like anything when we came to leave Patricia & Jacquy's place.

He definitely did not want to leave his G'ma Pat, nor his favourite Jacquy. Took all of 20 minutes before he cheered up enough to start listening to Malyon's stories.)

Wednesday of course was the 14th of July, so we had a couple of people round and ate and drank excessively, as usual, before heading off to Montmelian to watch the fireworks.

The next few weeks (or weekends) are going to be busy: tomorrow I absolutely have to take a couple of car-loads of rubbish down to the tip, price out wood for the decking in the courtyard, and buy (and then put in) the sand and concrete tiles for the barbecue area in the garden. I also have to wander off with the circular saw to give Renaud a hand in the house he's building - I think he can do the actual cutting, I might get a bit carried away.
Speaking of new houses reminds me of Ian & Marie, who've just moved into theirs and who've had a minor plumbing problem: they have two toilets upstairs, and when they were installed the pressure was so finely balanced that when you flushed one of them, the contents turned up in the other. They apparently had a rather confused turd going from side to side of the house for days before they figured it out

Tomorrow evening now, and I'm feeling rather tired. I didn't realise - didn't bother to check - that 40x40 concrete tiles weigh in at about 10kg each, and I've just loaded 35 of the damn things into the back of the 205, along with two 40kg sacks of sand, and then unloaded them little by little here, taking them slowly down in the wheelbarrow. Made for a lot of trips.
Anyway, the little BBQ terrace is now installed - just needs the BBQ installed to finish it off and that's planned for Real Soon Now ie sometime this week, then there's the wooden decking to go down in the courtyard. I still have to price out the wood for that and get it delivered, but once that's done it should go quite quickly. And then we can - finally - put up Jeremy's sandpit, which he got for his last birthday. Almost a year ago.

Reminds me that the other night he was getting worried - "What will happen to me when Mummy dies?" The answer of course is "Mummy's not going to die just yet, don't worry". "But mummy is old!" At which point Malyon stuck heroar in - "Mummy isn't old! She's not even 30 yet!". All lies. Don't know howMargo got her to swallow that one.

Right, I'm off to bed - or at least to watch the end of the bad film ("The Peacemaker", with George Clooney) on TV before turning in. Goidnight, all.
Trevor & Margo.

Thursday, July 1, 1999

01/07/99 Usual blurb

Haven't written for a while so I thought I'd get up the collective nose again with some more useless information from the bottom half of the world!

Off on holiday on Monday - a whole glorious week of doing as little as possible. Down to the Gers to see Patricia & Jacquy, with no more worries than a briefcase full of papers I have to organise into a two-day course to be given on the 15th, just after we return. Never mind, it'll be alright on the night - or so I keep telling myself. I'm taking the laptop, but not the modem.

Anyway, we're slowly getting into summer mode: winding down for the long school holidays. Malyon has finished school, Jeremy follows suit tomorrow. And as Margo is working full-time at the shop, that means I get to work at home for a while. Quite pleasant really, I find I manage to get a lot done (don't know how) and there's none of this silly business of getting up at some ungodly hour when the alarm goes off.

Margo is working full-time partly because her partner, Monique, is marrying off her eldest son this coming Saturday (we're invited to the whole lot - registry office, church, drinkies, dinner & piss-up, dancing to traditional obscene French folk tunes) and has consequently been busy for the last two weeks or so making petit-fours and patés. There will probably be enough to feed a NZ family of four for about three years, which means that there'll be no leftovers.

The kids are now officially on holiday, freed from all care and worry apart from who's going to look after them when Mummy and Daddy are away working. When they were smaller we could just lock them in a cellar and they'd stay quietly there until one or the other of us came home, but it doesn't seem to work anymore. Shame, really.

Malyon bid a tearful farewell to her school and came away with the address so that she can post a few letters there when she's in NZ. She also came away with something I hadn't been expecting: every year, the kids in CM2 (ten-year olds - is that form 2?) who are heading off to lycée get a book each from Mme Carceles, their teacher. Malyon walked off with a $60 boxed set of stories of life in old China. Mme Carceles approves of us, although she has said that we'll have to make an effort and try to get Malyon to lighten up a bit.
I think I've mentioned before that my friend and estimable colleague Renaud is in the throes of having a house built - in theory they move in at the end of the month. Spent all last Sunday round at the site, helping lay the pipes for the underfloor heating. You learn a lot about house-building doing these little things, but what I haven't learnt is why exactly people actually want to do it! As far as I can see Renaud might as well get the phone surgically grafted to his ear - it'd save time - and it seems to be extra stress that anyone could do without. Still, when they sort out the problems of exactly where the sewage line is going to go (through the neighbour's garden is where the builder wants to put it, but the neighbour is - understandably - reticent) and how they're going to get a bit of flat land out of their 45° slope, it should be really good.
Just to make you all envious, it's been stinking hot all day and we had dinner out on the terrace, as usual. Supposed to carry on like that for some time, I gather. The swallows are flitting about in the evening - as are the bats - and the apple tree down in the garden is groaning under a bumper crop of worm-ridden apples (you expected plums, perhaps?) And the grass needs mowing - again.

Anyway, I'd better get back to looking up interesting articles concerning the Windows 95 registry on the Redmond CDs - you'll hear from us again when we get back, tanned and fit, from our too-brief holiday.

Trevor & Margo