Sunday, October 12, 2008

12/10/08 Cow-pat cake and other delights

We got back at some ungodly hour this morning from Sophie's birthday - I'm a gentleman, and consequently don't know which one it was, nor would I dream of asking. I actually turned up around midday with three huge pizzas, wound up being roped into assembling her surprise present (it was the only way to be allowed to open a bottle of wine) and finally left for home to mow the paddock (maybe for the last time this year, he said hopefully?) and make a couple of foret noir for dessert.

To follow the plot you should know that Sophie has two close friends - Séverine, another teacher in a rather messy relationship, and Kris, a small angry androgynous lesbian with the energy of a tiger and a very extended family in Marseilles. She's also an amateur alcoholic, as opposed to Sophie and I who are professionals. Whatever. They organised the affair, we just turned up and did what was required of us. Which was, for the most part, eating and drinking.

When the French decide to do a party they at least do it properly. At midday we emptied the lounge and set up the sound system and the video projector so that dancing could be done in the proper surroundings, which generally means really loud music. I don't get invited to many parties (don't know why, I think I wash often enough, even scrub my pen protectors when necessary) so I did wonder whether the two 300W speakers were really required but it turns out that they were only just up to the job in a 30m² lounge.

Which brings me to the business of dancing. Either the French learn ballroom dancing when they're 5 and it never leaves them or, like negroes, they got natural rhythm. From a waltz to headbanging through Kris' blonde and rather rapacious aunt's pornographic exercise with her black-clad toy-boy, it all seems to come easily. Must be genetic. Whatever, boobs are flying and - let's be fair, we're all in our fifties or approaching it - bellies as well, but it's so well done. Part of it, no doubt, is due to the fact that the French consider it a truism that anything they do must be well done - it's part of being French - so it's simply not possible that it could be bad. Personally, I feel ridiculous, but then I'm not French.

There was also karaoke. I'm not necessarily against this, provided it's done in private between consenting adults, but I still find it personally distasteful. Especially when it involves Johnny Hallyday singing "The House of the Rising Sun" in French. I mean, can you imagine "Il y'a une maison en Nouvelle Orléans - qui s'appelle le Soleil Levant - " I've not the courage to go on. Frightful.

We turned up with our dessert and a bottle of wine: a 1998 Maltoff burgundy, as it happens. Sophie and I took a first sip and it was absolutely ghastly - sour and alcoholic - so we poured it into a spare vase (that being all that was available) and half an hour later it was magnificent. Note to self - decant wine into a flower-pot before drinking. Let it be a lesson to you all. As for the foret noir, the classic cherry one turned out fine but the second one, with rasperries and blackberries, turned out rather like a dark brown cowpat - my own fault really for trying to slice a fallen chocolate soufflé into three layers before reassembling them with whipped cream and fruit. Oddly enough, it was the cowpat that won the popular vote.


I am now officially fifty, gifts of cash will be gratefully accepted. Margo being in England it was a quiet affair: I took Jeremy, some home-made confit de canard
à l'orange et au badiane and a kuchen mitt streussel (and wine, of course) round to Sophie's and we caroused until 10 pm ('cos all the lads have school in the morning). The confit de canard caused a bit of a ruckus because I took it out to defrost the night before and unbeknownst to me the cat had managed to sneak in that evening - Wednesday morning, on discovering a few drumsticks missing, the cat and I had a full, frank and open exchange of views which left me retreating to the bathroom looking for the antiseptic spray. Quel bummer.

Whatever, it was a really nice evening and I definitely enjoyed it, compliments all round for the duck (no leftovers, for once) and the dessert disappeared with alarming speed. (What more can you expect from three boys, 13, 14 and 16?) Kind of made up for hitting 50. At least this time we decanted the wine an hour or so before actually attacking the meal (had to drink rosé while we waited) so it was excellent.


Well, today we've had what the French would describe as a "journée de merde" - a shitty day. Started out well, mind you: lovely weather, off to the market and then as Jeremy had ballroom dancing rehearsal at 16:00 and I'd promised Sophie to transfer all her old e-mail and suchlike onto her new laptop I dropped him off at Chambéry-le-Haut then went back to start copying files. Unfortunately her wifi network is hideously slow (must look into that at some point) and it had almost finished when Jeremy rang to get picked up. So I arrive and there he is, white-faced and bleeding profusely - managed to split his thumb open whilst dancing! (Actually, that's not true. After dancing, he was leaning elegantly against a wall with his thumb in the jamb of a door when someone tried to close the door. That's what really split his thumb open.)

So we headed directly off to A&E. Do you know of anything more boring than A&E? I certainly haven't found anything. I mean, picking your nose gets boring after a while 'cos it's always the same sort of crud that comes out, and airport lounges are mind-numbingly soul-destroying but A&E is definitely more boring than that. And three and a half hours of it on a Saturday evening just has to be a winner. And all he needed was a couple of stitches. On the bright side, I was definitely the best-dressed male around - I'd put on a decent shirt and tie (to frighten small children and little old ladies at the market), and at least I wasn't covered in blood.

On the down-side, we got back here after 10pm - still without having finished what I'd promised to do for Sophie, and not having checked Rémi's English homework as I'd also swore I'd do - went down to feed the slightly frantic dog and stepped deep into a nice fresh turd. Poohs! (Once more, with feeling!)

Whatever, Jeremy's installed at his new collège - Notre Dame du Rocher (yes, it is nominally Catholic) and is enjoying it. It is a private school and they do expect the students to work, and oddly enought they do. Whereas at St Pierre they don't have time to look after all the pupils and so the only ones that get ahead are the self-motivated ones, and Jeremy doesn't really fall into that category. It seems to be working - we're pleased. He even managed 12.5 in French "expression écrit", which is a good three points up from what he was getting and is starting to approach his capacities. On the other hand, he managed to lose his phone. Again. Luckily for him, it was someone from the neighbourhood who found it lying in the grass, and they rang the last number he'd dialled which just happened to be mine. So he got it back. We shall either have to staple it to his forehead or stick Velcro on all his pockets.

And it's getting colder. Autumn is upon us, the leaves are getting gold (or red, or slimy, depends on the tree really) and soon it'll be time to turn the central heating on. But today it was so nice I'd planned on a BBQ - too bad I had a wounded son to look after.

Love to you all

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