Tuesday, May 8, 2007

08/05/07 Albert 1er, King of Belgium ...

... gave his name to the Savoyard town of Albertville, and has no other connection whatsoever with this email apart from the fact that he died in 1934, the numerological implications being fairly evident when you recall that I was born in October 1958. Truth to tell, I just couldn't for the life of me come up with a snappy title. Sorry about that.

We've had a fairly busy time since last I wrote, and rather nice weather as well, which always helps.

The central heating turned out to be more complicated than I'd have liked, but the nice M. Damiani tracked it down to the high-tension transformer that supplies the equivalent of the spark-plug in a boiler, and which had decided to die. We also have a very temporary (and thus semi-permanent) setup with a small 20l header tank up by the boiler, because the pump that circulates the diesel up from the cellar doesn't have a constant flow which meant that the boiler was sometimes gasping for fuel for a while, which doesn't do much for fuel economy or pollution. As we're now using something like two litres a day that doesn't worry me too luch, but I am going to have to do something about it before next winter.

Malyon finally got her ID card - it arrived at the mairie a while back and they just forgot to let us know, wasn't until she went up to ask that they remembered - so she is now not only officially a frog -person but also identifiable as such, so she will be able to sit her final exams. And look for jobs, and stuff like that. Although not vote in the elections, 'cos she's still too young. Probably just as well really, she's just as likely to have voted Bayrou in the first round and the Sarkozy tomorrow and I don't know how we'd have explained that to our left-leaning friends - to say nothing of Ian and Marie.

Speaking of Ian and Marie leads me on to the Easter holidays, which we spent at Pesselière and I think for the first time ever in my life - and possibly in the history of the universe - it did NOT rain at Easter. It was in fact bright and sunny and we ate mainly barbecues, which is fine by me. It was a bit of a reunion really as the English cousins - Mandy, Jon and Laurence - turned up with Howard who was on his way to a conference in Denmark. One of the rare occasions when Jon has actually left England for pleasure rather than work - he tends to regard foreign parts with suspicion - and as he's a keen homebrew man he and Ian were able to discuss the niceties of brewing beer over the hot-water cylinder.

And as the kids were all together again they were able to cobble together yet another installment in the Random Film Production series of home videos.

Then on Tuesday I got a call from Renaud to let me know that the office had been burgled, and all the computers had disappeared - along with the coffee machine and sundry other things. The list was quite eclectic in fact - the machines but not my 21" CRT, ergonomic keyboard or trackball - stamps, a few executive desk ornaments, bottles of champagne from the fridge but not the Scotch (that got stuck in a rubbish bin) - the printer, the coffee machine and the coffee capsules but not a 4000€ console belonging to a client (phew!) nor my debugging machine (perhaps because it's half-open and oozing strange cards) ... everything was backed up (except for email) so basically we lost nothing but time, but it is really extremely annoying.

(Much to my surprise, the police actually found the guy who did it - nothing has yet been recovered, of course. Renaud had to head off to court on Friday to be present at the arraignment, as we're claiming damages of 7000€. Not that we'll ever see it, mind you.)

Last year, after eight years of faithful service, our lawnmower finally gave up the ghost - or, to be precise, the starter cord broke. Given that I've been brutally yanking on it for years, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. Naturally enough, the cord broke the last time I mowed - there is a causal relationship here and it's exactly what you think it is - and I said to myself as I stuck the mower under its tarpaulin in the shelter of our enormous tillleul (that's a European lime tree, to you) "Well, I'll get that fixed next spring.".

So when next spring arrived, as it usually does, and I noted that the grass was getting just a teeny bit aggressive, I started to think that it was perhaps the time to get a general overhaul done and that troublesome starter cord fixed. Make note to self - never, ever even think of trying to get that sort of thing done in spring. The people who do that sort of thing are either up to their armpits in work or off on holiday, if they're smart. On top of it, absolutely no-one wants to work on Briggs & Stratton engines - don't know why, but by the fifth phone call I was getting a sinking feeling when the guy at the other end asked, rather suspiciously, "What sort of engine is it?". I knew that our burgeoning relationship was headed for the tubes, and the last I'd ever hear from him would be a hiss of indrawn breath, a rather prim "We don't do those" and then a click as the line went dead.

Much to my own surprise, I then girded my loins (as it were), got out the socket set, a rusty screwdriver, the owner's manual and a printout of a poorly scanned repair manual I'd found on the web somewhere (thank you, Google!), and fixed the damn thing myself. Changed the oil while I was about it, cleaned all the filter thingies (or things that looked like they might be in need of it), rescarfed the finials and put some dangly springs back where it looked they might once have been attached. Alarmingly enough, it worked afterwards. So once again I have the privilege of mowing the lawn every weekend, and I really ought to do it more often but quite frankly I can't be bothered.

Starting with Easter, and carrying on until last week, we've been enjoying an early summer - temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s, bright and sunny and generally marvellous. Unusual for April, which is traditionally unpredictable (apart from the certainty that it will involve lots of rain, wind and cool weather). So I had actually hoped that perhaps this year, as it didn't actually snow during the blossoming and we've had neither frost nor drought, we might actually get some apricots off our tree - something to compare with the 25 or so we managed before the current run of bad luck (heatwave in 2003, snow in 2004, frost in 2005 and drought in 2006) set in. We have, despite enthusiastic blossoming and apparently hard-working bees, three. Which I'm tempted to staple to the tree to make sure they don't fall off from the shock when sparrows come in to land, or something. We'll just have to hope that they ripen one day when Malyon's not here, to avoid difficulties with sharing.

Ron & Paulette (ex-PNCC) turned up on one of their periodic tours of Ole Yurrup (off to run the Vienna marathon, amongst other things) and we had a really good weekend together. Not really long enough, but that's a problem with most weekends.

Anyway, take care and keep your noses clean -

Trevor & Margo

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