Monday, November 24, 2008

24/11/08 Concerning significant others ... or whatever else escapes your spam filters

It has come to my attention (there has been some moaning from the cheap seats) that I've not mentioned Margo enough recently. To some degree this is her own fault: she's been gallivanting off to Alsace and England, so that when I finally got up the courage to turn fifty she was in London and when Jerry got his thumb smashed she was in Glasgow (I think. Or it may have Milton Keynes.). So there. But I'm ready to admit I've been remiss, so here we go for a bit of Margo-related news.

Basically, she's been trying to get her website up and running, which involves learning how to use Joomla! and other such pretty content management tools. It also involves me trying to learn Joomla! so that I know what the hell is going on and can try to be of some use in the process. All this learning stuff takes some time, and both our brains are full.

She also has her blog - textile related, and which she doesn't keep as up to date as she should - and teaching (still!) and sewing, all of which fills time. On top of that she got a call from the Banking Fraud department of the bank the other day to say that they'd spotted suspicious transactions on her credit card, and the upshot of that is that her card has been cancelled and she's had to go back through all the transactions for the past few months to find those which aren't hers in order to contest them. A right bummer.


Into November now and today is a public holiday - Armistice 1918. We don't do dawn parades over here: it's more around 11am so that the municipal band can wake up sufficiently to tootle on time, and it's all followed by a hot meal and copious quantities of rouge for the local dignitaries. Good day to go up to the office: no phone calls, no interruptions, and I can finally get a bit of paperwork out of the way. It's also persisting down, has been since last evening, so somehow stacking the wood that Stéphane delivered on Sunday seems an unattractive idea.

As it happens, on Sunday I went off to see Jacques and we came back down from the mountains with about 2kg apiece of chanterelles. These do not go well with a salmon/sour cream pizza, so I decided to dry them and I now have two big glass jars full of smokily aromatic dried mushrooms, ready and waiting to go in the pan juices with a bit of roast beef or a chicken in cream sauce - or why not, a boeuf bourgignon? Whatever, I managed to miss the wood delivery and so Jeremy had to hump it all down the path and on to the decking, where it sits under a tarpaulin even as I write, just waiting to get stacked away.

Friday we had a little party oop't t'office. The very first edition of the now-traditional mid-autumn fête. A lot of wine, rillettes de lapin, cheese, good bread, more wine ... and a blind tasting courtesy of one of our neighbours in the building that was absolutely exceptional. Just three whites: one I'd have put as a rather good Pouilly, the second as perhaps a sweet southern job, the third a Trockenbeeren Auslese or some such. But no. They were all Marestel, from Yenne - about 30 km from here: a dry 1996, a vin de paille and a 199something vendange tardive. I didn't know anyone did vendange tardive around here! Amazing. Then three of Jean-Charles' paysan mates from Yenne turned up: one whipped out an enormous home-made saucisson from his overalls (you do not want to know which pocket), another one did a conjouring trick with a peppery cheese, and the third apparently was afraid that there'd be insufficient wine and plonked four more bottles of white down on the table. I piked out around 9:30, what with not having a mattress ready in the office and all, but apparently things went on for quite some time, although interrupted momentarily by having to move the tables into the entrance hall of the building to stop the alarm going off. At last count there were 16 empty bottles which, for twelve people, is hardly excessive.


Toddled off to Jerry's parent-teacher meeting, where everyone was extremely positive - which is nice. The difference between the public and private schools was fairly apparent: his history/geography teacher congratulated him fulsomely on his participation and oral work but said that the written side needed more work - so she gave him her email and suggested that he write up his work, mail it off to her and she'd correct it and send it back in the evening. Maths and German along the same lines, and his French teacher has decided she likes him (now that she knows he lives in an exclusively English-speaking household) and on top of it he's working hard. Even giving up TV-watching to do his homework.

The only one to rip into him was his English teacher (whom he does not appreciate) for being rather arrogant at the start of the year ("I am a native English-speaker, what can you teach me?") and for having no ambition to higher education. She made the excellent point that you're always learning something new about your language (unless you're clinically dead, or a member of the Academie Française, which is more or less the same thing) and that with his talents there was absolutely no reason for him to cut himself off from going further. I think he'd rather have eaten dead rat than admit it to her, but he has decided to carry on.

Shortly after that he had his "stage en entreprrise" at the resto routier (truckie's restaurant) 10 km up the road, at Coise - went very well. He came out of it knowing how to prepare iles flottantes in the microwave (I must admit I'd never have thought of that one), get salads ready, operate the big machines (yes Virginia, restaurants have some big, scary machines) and with 30€ in his pocket and maybe a summer job. The owner is a friend of Stéphane (the neighbour), good to know that we won't have to go around and apologise.

I also had a bit of computer repair and recovery work to do (non-paying, unfortunately - Rémi & Lucas, and Pierre). AVG unleashed a buggy antivirus signature file which marked our old friend USER32.DLL as a Trojan, and kindly offered to stick it into quarantine, which resulted in an endless cycle of boot, BSOD, reset, boot ... had to set up a bootable Linux distro on a USB key to fix that one. A right pain. And on top of it the weather's grot. Not proper winter yet, just cold and damp ... not nice.

The 13th, you'll recall (those of you with PDAs and an organised lifestyle anyway) is Margo's birthday, so I managed a little filet de boeuf Rossini for dinner. Always goes down well. Shame about Jeremy slouching about at the table - sort of spoils the candlelit effect. Whatever.

On the more miserable side, some of you may remember our old client Data Environnement (the one I went to Cameroon for). They've spent the last 8 months or so setting up a degassing column in lake Kivu, on the border between Rwanda and Congo, and the other day, on a calm night, about a week before starting the thing up and (hopefully) getting methane out, the whole kit and kaboodle went to the bottom. 350m down, which is not exactly a Sunday stroll. Not as though you can stick a fishing line down and drag the lot back up.

Update on that one: it seems that the Rwandan government has decided to find another 1.5m euros to restart the project. It may - or may not - have been sabotage, it appears that there were internal politics involved, but Pres. Kagamé has apparently decided to fire a minister or two and carry on. Which is good news for all concerned, not least for the Rwandans employed on the project who risked losing the first jobs they'd had in their lives.


Bloody typical, cows in't frikkin' paddock again! Margo finally managed to find the farmer's phone number to let him know, and he complained how late it was - he finally sneaked in at some ungodly hour this morning and extracted the cows, but naturally enough didn't actually bother to get rid of the cow-shit, fill in any of the holes in the lawn, or stick the garden chairs back upright. Next time I think we call the butcher straight away, cut out the middleman. Must remember to make some room in the freezer.

When I have time I go through the approximately 10 Gb of photos on the machine (not too much, considering I went digital in 2003) and stick them up on Picasa. Anyone who's interested just needs to point their browser at to see what's up. (Not much at the moment, but I'll get more, I promise. Once I sort them out.)

This is getting ever more fragmentary - now the 24th. Had a big party up at Karen's at Frangy on Saturday night, fell into bed (luckily we were sleeping over) and fled into the morning mist at 10am before anyone else woke up and asked us to help with the cleaning-up. Of which, let it be said, there was in all evidence quite a lot to be done. I don't feel guilty at all, which is probably a symptom of a diseased mind, but there you are. It was a good party - I even danced! Dragged out the old Billy Idol and Gary Numan and Sisters of Mercy CDs from the car, and cranked up the volume. Luckily they have no close neighbours.

And then last night, faithful to the rendezvous, it snowed. Small fine flakes and then big fat lazy ones: woke up to about 5cm of the stuff this morning. Bugger. And once more, with feeling.


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