Thursday, November 1, 2007

01/11/07 Of graven idols, and bowing before them ...


For yea! and it did come to pass that it got colder, not to say bloody frigid, and so they got them up from where they were (which was in fact the comfy chairs) and they berobèd and bedizened themselves with all manner of dizens, and laved them they did also, even under the armpits so as not to smell pooey. And when all this was done, and it was good, did they get them to the landing, and there did they open the first of the three doors that were before their idol. And they did bow before it, and address it they did to the sound of the harp, and of the tambour, and of the Peruvian nose-flute, for their idol had sod-all taste in music. And the words that they spake went something like "Where the hell's the bloody instruction manual? How do you expect me to remember the right bloody knob? Oh, I think we just turn this one from the little hot-water tap onto the picture of a radiator".

And thus the central heating was turnèd on, and they returnèd them to their comfy chairs, and it was good, for there were no longer icicles in the bedrooms.

I must admit we've had a bloody good run up until now, but virtually overnight we went from a relatively balmy 14° in the morning to around 2°, so yesterday evening I did in fact go up and turn the knob and now the house is heating up nicely. Which is good, because outside it's pretty damn chilly, especially in the wind, and as at the moment we have the bise - the northerly from Siberia - blowing, that means you're always in the wind.

You may not actually need to know this, and it's true that the question is unlikely to come up in Trivial Pursuit, but did you know that there is an Austrian logistics company called - and I am not making this up - "Fluckinger Transport"? No? I thought not.

Another question you may not have asked yourself - "exactly how difficult is it to take photos of yer side mirror when going down the autoroute at 140 kph?". Well, I do this sort of thing so that you don't have to, and I can tell you that the answer is, in fact, "not very". But do try to make sure that you are more or less alone on the autoroute (because you will wander a bit), and focus on the mirror (well, on infinity, more or less) so that you get a nice shot of what's behind you (hopefully a really nice sunset or something) rather than a picture of the actual mirror itself, which would not be very interesting at all, now would it? Do try also to ensure that the driver's window is relatively clean and free of birdshit, if not the results may be disappointing.

Under nomal circumstances I probably wouldn't have seen Herr Fluckinger's enormous ... truck, nor would I have tried taking photos through the side mirror, but as it happens I went down to Grenoble on Saturday for emergency spice refuelling. So off to St. Bruno and the Carrefour Asiatique for sesame oil and marinades and spice rubs and dried mushrooms (and I always wind up with a few packets of something that I've no idea how to use, and the instructions will be sod-all use because I don't actually read Chinese, but never mind) and then, having half-filled the backpack, amble vaguely back to Ste-Claire and the Irish shop (to get a new coffee mug for Margo), the posh grocer's whose name I can never remember (for decent curry powder and other goodies) and diverse patisseries for cornes de gazelle and bakhlava. Had I known that my faithful trackball was going to die on me I might also have stopped off at the FNAC to pick up a replacement, but I didn't - so I didn't - and have to use a mouse until Amazon send me a Logitech trackball. (Microsoft no longer make one. Which is extremely annoying, as they were very good. Bah.)

The business about cornes de gazelle reminds me that it was the end of Ramadan last weekend, which explains why, when I popped into the butcher's on my way to the market, I had a large cup of very hot, very sweet mint tea stuck into one paw and a plate of extremely sticky things stuck under the other. I nobly drank the tea and nibbled on a sticky, because I wish to stay on the right side of my butcher. He's the only one I've come across (apart from the long-gone Vertongen's in Palmerston) who trims and prepares the meat before weighing it.


As a general rule, Saturday is pretty quiet around our way: after the market in the morning and the apéro at lunchtime with Renaud & Sophie there's the buzz of lawnmowers (in summer, anyway) and the blue haze from the cows as I contemplate an afternoon's doing nothing. Unfortunately, yesterday was not like that. I'd planned on heading up to the office in the afternoon to do a few final tests for the SNCF, and I set off with a spring in my step, a smile on my lips and a song in my heart as I plucked innocent young vegetables from the stalls and dropped them into my basket to nestle (perhaps uncomfortably) with the peppered goats cheese. Unfortunately it all went rather pear-shaped when I got back to the car and found it leaning forlornly on one very flat tire.

An annoyance, but not a great problem, so after a few minutes I worked out how to get the hi-tech emergency kit out of the boot, jacked up the car and discovered that the spare is one of those stupid half-width pancake things. Stuck it on (there not really being any other option), let down the jack, and curse as the spare reveals itself to be flatter than the tire I'd just removed. Quel bummer. (I might point out that while all this was going on I provided wholesome entertainment to at least ten families who drove slowly past to gawp - wholesome, that is, if you assume that they couldn't speak English and understand some of the words I was using.)

Much to my surprise, when I went down to the carpark office, the young man in charge came up with a foot pump and pumped the tire up (to 4.5 bar yet!) despite my protests that I could
at least do a bit, before disappearing again - having expressed the wish that I should have a really nice afternoon. Damned if I know what the country is coming to.

Of course my afternoon was not quite as I'd planned it, because of course I wasn't going to be able to get the tire fixed before the garages reopened at 14:30, so I went off and helped R&S get rid of a bottle of wine and some lasagna. By 17:00 - when they'd finished replacing both the front tires (well, they were just a little bit bald) it was pretty clear that I could forget about the office, so we headed back home to unload the groceries and I got collared into helping Emily, the neighbour, get their ADSL connection working.

Our Australian friend Sue had naturally enough chosen that day to drive back from Montpellier with Vél, picking up Zeina at Grenoble en route (forgot to mention that it was the first day of the Toussaint school holidays) - arriving to find that their central heating had broken down (which, at this point in time, is NOT good, believe me) and their computer was having a hissy-fit. So they turned up for dinner, which was rather convenient actually as it gave me a chance to try out some obscure chicken rub I'd picked up somewhere - it turned out very nicely, if you're interested. Turkish, I think it was.

Otherwise, we're back to winter time: a bit more light in the morning, but night closes in around 18:00, which is far too early as far as I'm concerned. At least it hasn't snowed yet - give it another three weeks ...

If any of you are interested, we're watching Reaper (motto: "the Devils' biggest tools"), Pushing Daisies, Criminal Minds (season 3), Supernatural (ditto), Bones (ditto again), second season of Ugly Betty and the fourth season of Desperate Housewives. Plus a few other bits and pieces. I will personally have to find the time to watch "Star Trek - Enterprise" again (well, I liked it, even if no-one else did) and the "Borg Collective" episodes.

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