Saturday, December 25, 1999

25/12/99 Warm & Happy Xmas

Those of you who don't watch the international news roundup on TV, or read major investigative papers like the Taihape District Herald, may still be unaware of the fact that we've had our central heating in and running for the past week. Still a few minor problems - a joint in the fuel circuit which wasn't properly tightened, meaning diesel was pissing everywhere in the cellar, air bubbles everywhere in the radiators which means that when the thing starts up at 5 am it sounds as though there's a small waterfall in the room with you, stuff like that - but the place is WARM! And we don't have sheet ice forming down the bathroom walls either.

And a Merry Christmas to all of you, even if it is a bit late (for you. It's still Christmas day here, although not for long). Malyon rang this morning to let us know (amongst other things) that the weather was traditionally grotty: well, it was the same here too. Cold and wet, maybe some snow tomorrow. Better that than the oil slick currently washing up on the Britanny coast.
Traditionally in France the big feast is in fact on Christmas Eve (followed by another garguantuan one on Christmas day, but that's another matter) and so when Anne-Laure turned up last night to check something up on the Net with her mother Maryse in tow, I thought I'd better check on what they were having. Just a snack, really - salade composée with smoked salmon, snails, venison, vegetables and the bûche de Noël. Our leg of lamb crawled off into the kitchen and hid itself in shame.

Never mind, we'll make up for it on New Year's Eve, when we go around for a small party at Renaud & Sophie's (they have their central heating in and working too!). Just four couples, everyone brings a plate, and just to give you an idea, we have four desserts to bring - pavlova, brandysnaps, cassata and I can't remember what else. I think we might sleep over the night.
Anyway, Merry Christmas again, and think of us laggards when you're washing down the year 2000 with whatever it is you drink on occasions like that, andwe're still sitting around the remains of lunch waiting for 1999 to go away.

Tuesday, December 14, 1999

14/12/99 Frozen Frogs On Sticks

No, not a new type of iced dairy dessert, just a moan about the fact that it's snowed again today. Forget about the sticks, that's just in the subject to add a bit of local colour. They're not very nice on sticks anyway - trust me. Green, and crunchy (too many teeny-weeny bones. Like vertebrate shrimp).

Well, as far as we're concerned the big news is that the central heating system has finally been installed. Boris Yeltsin may have said unmentionable things about Clinton's willy (can't remember which way it twists, personally), Tony Blair and Lionel Jospin may no longer be friends, for all I care the world may have ended three hours ago, but the thing is done. Now all that remains is to start it up. The fuel gets delivered on Monday and on theory the technician should be around sometime in the week to push the button - only six months after I started organising things, a clear condemnation either of the French way of life or of my personal organisational skills, personally I prefer the first option.

Anyway, we woke up this morning to find it snowing again. A right royal pain. I had to follow a snowplough into Chambery to go to the market, a long slow trip. And of course I forgot to take the umbrella, so I got soaked. Then this afternon we all went down to Grenoble to get our Christmas shopping up to date and pick up a few necessities like Golden Syrup, good thing that the roads were clear as the BMW is a right cow on snow. Even with 80 kg of bricks in the boot.

Work is going well, perhaps a bit too well - just manage to almost get one job finished and another pops its head up. Renaud has almost finished the Nestlé breast-feeding site, and now there's an entire intranet-based document-control and publication system to set up for an insurance company: I may have to start learning about some of the technology behind all this if I'm not careful. Never mind, a couple of days reading and I can pass for an expert - bullshit baffles brains, as usual. And I'm still polishing the rough edges on my inventory-control system: reports to be created, usual problems with Microsoft products that don't respect their own guidelines on internationalisation, general teething problems ... the usual.

Tuesday night now, and I'm completely knackered as usual. Spent all day trying to track down a bug in my stock-control system only to find that it wasn't a bug in my program at all, but a bug in the Microsoft ADO library. I don't know why I'm surprised at this. Happily, the guy who's paying for the system is a developer's dream who notes everything he does, so I was able to reproduce it on my system and track it down - turned out to be the contents of a read-only recordset being modified by updates to another recordset on the same SQL connection. This completely irrational behaviour is doubtless by design.

The snow's stopped - for the moment - and the rain has set in, so the stream is running high just now. Good thing too, with a bit of luck all the crud that the peasants have chucked in (straw from rabbit cages, half-digested pumpkins, rotten tomatoes and stuff like that) will get washed down to the Isère and it won't look quite so much like a sewage station for a while. More snow forecast for tomorrow though, and the temperature has indeed dropped noticeably - at least the technician comes to push the button on the central heating on Friday!

We have a vertically-challenged Christmas tree in the hall - a real live one, with roots and all, so if we look after it it'll do for next year too - and Jeremy has spent all evening decorating it. It's very pretty, but perhaps a bit lopsided, with decorations only at the front, at Jeremy-height. He enjoyed himself. Perhaps Margo will be able to tactfully rearrange it a bit tomorrow.

Spent Sunday evening cleaning out the pantry cupboard - now that winter's well and truly in a family of mice have aparently decided to look for easy pickings, and they'd worked thir way through a packet of pistachio nuts, the stock of Basmati rice, some spaceman pasta and half a packet of egg noodles. I got suspicious when the rice (which I'd planned on cooking) turned out to have some black grains in it, which is a bit out of the ordinary. Tess obviously needs to sharpen up her act.

I can see that if we decide to treat ourselves out to dinner this year it'll be a good one - Renaud's eyes lit up when one of our friends from a company just downstairs described their little do at Bocuse the other night. The menu starts at 750 FF (for eight of them) and the first bottle of wine, an 87 Cheval Blanc, set them back 1500F. It's tempting, but I must admit the the thought of the 300 km round trip is a bit discouraging. Suppose we could always stay over the night - godnose what breakfast costs though.

Anyway, that's enough for now, and in case I don't get time to write again soon, Happy Christmas to the lot of you.