Sunday, July 22, 2007

22/07/07 The Swiss Weather Forecast

... is, according to the French joke, along the lines of "Fine weather, but cloudy with rain." It's not really funny anymore from where we are.

Anyway, there's half the year disappeared already and I for one feel no wiser for it.

Not, apparently, like Malyon, who got her bac with an average of 15.87 (out of 20, if you were wondering) and a "mention bien" (had she managed 16.0, she'd have got a "mention très bien"). She must have learnt something. Although she wasn't particularly happy, as the English orals dragged her average down quite a bit. Seems to have been generalised: one of the students that the lycée confidently expected to get 20/20 managed only 12/20, so some low-minded persons are pointing the finger at the examiners. Whatever, we're not worried: Malyon needed 12 to get into Glasgow so from one point of view she's over-achieved.

Right now she's trying to balance "social life" with "need for money": she still has to pay for her ticket to NZ. Fortunately most of her friends have now been taken off on holiday to contract exotic diseases or work with the poor and leprous, which makes the choice easier. As it happens, she (and Margo) are working for Upstart: the Swiss have a big order underway and if we're going to pay €4000 to someone to get it done it might as well stay in the family. So she'll probably have enough for her trip and still be able to make it up to Lausanne in August to see NIN.

Last night was really good - she landed a babysitting job up the valley (literally "up" - about 1000 metres up). A Franco-Scottish wedding, and they needed two bilingual babysitters. Scouse preferred, but English accepted. So after going off to the market in the morning for food, then down to Grenoble in the afternoon so that she could sell her textbooks; it was off to Les Hurtières at 19:00 to drop her off (the place was easy to find, lots off men wearing skirts) before going back to Chambéry to pick up Jeremy, back home and off to dinner at Sue's and then back to Les Hurtières at 2:00 this morning (circumnavigating a rather sorry-looking man in a skirt) to pick Malyon up and bring her back home. Personallly I rather feel I should get a cut of her pay, but she doesn't seem to look at it the same way.

You'll remember that Easter was bright and sunny - well, that was, apparently, summer. Since then it's been "variable", alternating hot and sunny with cold, dismal, dank and wet. Which, on the bright side, has meant a big harvest of certain mushrooms - chanterelles and trompettes de la mort - which Jacques and I found in abundance 10 days ago when we went off to check on some of his favorite spots, and which go down really well with a roast chicken, or as a garnish to a good steak. Anyway, we need the water. Get the aquifers back up to something approaching a normal level. Still, it would be nice to have a summer that wasn't worthy of a Wellington winter, with highs of 17°. Alternating with days when it's up to 28°. Haven't yet been able to dust off the big barbecue in the garden: seems sod-all point when there's one chance in two of pouring rain when the weekend comes around.

And just to add insult to injury, of the three apricots on our tree two ripened and then rotted overnight and I was practically forced to eat the third (under-ripe though it was) before it too rotted and fell off. Oh, the cherry season was a complete catastrophe as well. Just don't talk to me about it. And don't mention strawberries either.

But on one of the few fine days in the past few months, one of our clients invited ourselves (that's Renaud and I) and spouses to the 10th birthday of his company, which he planned on celebrating with lunch on the lake at Aix. So around midday on a warm sunny Sunday it was very pleasant to find ourselves installed on a luxury catamaran headed up to the northern end of the lake, then along the canal de Savières to the Rhône, then back again and down the western side and back to port. All very nice, and the food was excellent as well. Malyon accused us of bourgeois tendencies, but who cares?

When we got the house done up I didn't bother getting Jean to drag Ethernet cable throughout the place - Wifi would be good enough, I reckoned. Which is true enough, so long as all you want to do is e-mail and fairly standard browsing. But when you want to do video streaming from the networked hard-drive to the superannuated laptop that's plugged into the big TV, it just doesn't really hack it. Okay, having lots of ENORMOUS steel radiators hanging off each wall doesn't help, neither does the fact that all the internal walls on the first floor are built of bricks made out of slag from Bessemer converters, but still ...

So I ordered five 200 Mbps powerline Ethernet adaptors from Netgear, which arrived yesterday (In fact, they arrived on Friday, but the postman can't actually be bothered taking parcels with him, so rather than actually deliver anything he just drives past all the places that have parcels and sticks a little note in the letterbox to the effect that "You were not home. You may collect your parcel from the Post Office at any hour totally inconvenient for you, should we be there." I know this, because I've seen the lazy sod drive past, and he doesn't even bother to get out of the van ... just pulls up alongside the letterbox and stick the note in. I suppose we should be glad just to get the note. Otherwise we might never know.).

That was rather a long parenthesis. Anyway, I plugged in the CPL adapters and much to my surprise the whole thing just worked. Godnose how, I certainly don''t. But it does. (Footnote: your mileage may vary. I finally got around to installing the management software today and noted that the actual speed on some of the adapters was around 40 Mbps, and then spent some time swapping things in and out of various powerpoints until everyone was a bit closer to the nominal 200 Mbps. Having modern wiring probably helps, as does NOT plugging the things in behind surge suppressors, UPSs and the like ...) Anyone want some Netgear USB/Wifi adapters?

It's now the 17th and we've finally managed to have a BBQ in the garden. I had to put down a temporary bridge down to get there, as the one I so carefully made only a year or so disappeared in a flash flood sometime in the morning of the 9th (that's bridge the third down the tubes), but get there we did. And it was worth it. Just us and the neighbours, enjoying the rather belated arrival of summer. Even Henri turned up, bustling and bearing tarts - he left fairly early though, to doze in front of the Tour de France on TV. (One day I must get a photo of Henri and send it off - he's rather archetypal, an older version of Réné from "'Allo 'Allo".) We rather hope that it won't turn out to be the last BBQ down there this year.

End of the month we're off to Rome for a few days: our friend Karen has family down there and for some strange reason they think it'd be nice to see us, so we'll turn up and disillusion them. Her young cousins can show Malyon around, and the rest of us can wander sedately about with her mother, or something. Just so long as we aren't obliged to look at too many monuments. With luck it won't rain too much.

There's not much other news, really: we're just getting on with life, persuading the cat to eat less rat (it tends not to stay down), nuking the lawn and trying to encourage Malyon to pack her room into cartons because we're certainly not going to leave it as a shrine when she leaves (reminds me that we must get around to booking her tickets to ensure that she does actually leave) ...little stuff like that.

Oh, I finally got my car back. Someone in a 4x4 SUV ran into me on a roundabout and although it didn't look that bad he actually managed to shove the engine sideways by a good 5cm, which meant there was quite a lot of work to be done. So for four weeks I was driving around in a little Nissan Micra, which are doubtless excellent little cars if you like that sort of thing, and I suppose some must or they wouldn't bother making them, but they're not my idea of fun. They're surprisingly zippy if you nail your foot to the floor, but going round corners at any sort of speed is a bit of an adventure, the seats do nothing at all to hold you and the brakes are just a tad underwhelming. So I was very pleased to get the Alfa back; I like to think it was reciprocal.

Well, have a really nice winter: we'll be thinking of you as we huddle around the campfire in the kitchen. And take good care of Malyon for us, won't you?


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