Sunday, December 28, 2008

28/12/08 DNA testing exonerates Ms. Claus ...

... but police are still holding three reindeer and a garden gnome of undisclosed gender for further questioning in this rather sordid case.

I assume that got your attention. As you probably know, the festive season is rapidly approaching and it's with difficulty that I can be restrained from biting small children and scowling at old ladies. Not that they'd notice. Still, a rare smile did flit across my face at the market on Saturday when I saw one particularly unpleasant specimen of the genre get hopelessly entangled in her scythe-wheeled shopping caddy, from which I hope the emergency services took their good time cutting her out. I really, really hate those things.

Of course, for you lot Christmas means barbies on the beach and time to get a sun-tan: over on the wrong hemisphere it means -3° in the morning, soaring heating bills and, of course, snow. Which I also dislike intensely. Because it is wet, and cold, and a right bitch to drive on. Why we can't just banish it back to Siberia where it belongs I don't know, but apparently we can't and so we just have to live with it. Whatever.

It is not, I admit, actually snowing at the moment down here, but the weather forecast is not particularly promising. We're supposed to have another couple of days of fine, sunny (hence, cold) weather before it turns to - you guessed it - snow. Time to look at getting new tires on the front perhaps, the Alfa is tending to get a bit wandery on roundabouts under the rain at anything over 60kph, which as far as I'm concerned is walking speed.

I seem to have failed to mention that we had Thanksgiving up at Karen's. I'm pretty sure that we came away with more turkey than actually went in to the oven: some sort of loaves'n'fishes job, I suspect. But I still find it difficult to imagine what people see in yer traditional pumpkin pie - an inch-thick layer of spiced pumpkin purée on piecrust makes me quiver, I admit, but not for the reasons one might wish. And personally, you can take your chestnut stuffing and stuff it where - oh, right, that's what you did. Um. Just don't expect me to eat vast quantities, that's all.

Jeremy had hoped to play fluffy bunnies - which I expect you know about but of which I was blissfully innocent: apparently you stuff marshmallows into your mouth until you can no longer say "fluffy bunnies", and shortly after that you either throw up or go into a diabetic coma. But when we proposed sticking plastic rubbish bags over their heads to minimise the mess, the kids backed out.

Malyon is well, if extremely poor, and - apparently - working harder than ever. Getting good notes, too. There was apparently a bit of tension in the flat over kitchen hygiene - some people apparently thought that washing-up was something mums did whilst Malyon, who's a year older and has already cohabited for four years, thinks that it's not, and that three-week-old bacon grease is gross, not cute. I can't argue with that.

Whatever, she speaks a lot about food. On her return in January we shall load her down with pancetta (note to self - do not wrap it in tin-foil, don't want anyone thinking it's Semtex) and maybe some confit de canard (well wrapped, so as to avoid grease explosions in the baggage hold).

Jeremy is alive and happy, and his latest school report gives us every reason to be so as well. Definitely an improvement to see his marks in English shoot up to top of the class (where they bloody well should be, all things considered), his French marks are very encouraging - in fact, everything is improving. We're very pleased. On top of that, I found a small hole-in-the-wall joint at Chambéry today that actually makes decent burgers (including one I must try - the Savoyard - which involves potatoes and cheese and cream) so he now knows where he can go on the days when he eats lunch in town. It's cheaper - and probably healthier - than Flunch or Quick.

It's now the 13th, and its only gone and bloody well neiged again. Wednesday and Thursday we had about 40cm down here - great gloppy flakes - and there's supposed to be more coming. Which is good for Jean and Howard, who turn up on the 19th - they might even have a white Christmas - but as far as I'm concerned (see above) I'd be happier if global warming turned out more as advertised. Burn the rainforests, I say! Oh, and nuke the whales. And joss-stick burning people who listen to whale-song CDs, while we're at it. Did you know, by the way, that the right whale has the longest penis in the animal world (at about 2.3 meters) and lugs around one tonne of testicles? (We're talking about the male of the species, here. I assume that the female right whale is suitably adapted. She probably has monumental headaches, too.)


As this was supposed to be a "happy christmas" mail and not a new year's one, I thought I'd better get on with it and send it off. So here goes with our Christmas celebrations: I hope yours were at least as pleasant.

Jean & Howie arrived on schedule at Chambéry on the 19th, although I must admit to a moment of panic when I turned up 10 minutes late (bloody last-minute phone calls) and couldn't find them. They'd got stuck in a lift, or something. Then on the Sunday I headed up to Geneva to pick up Malyon. Who also arrived on time, although she did take 45 minutes or so to whip through customs and pick up her baggage. And I'd like to give a big round of applause to the cretins responsible for the signposting around Geneva, who have arranged it to direct the innocent tourist by the most circuitous route possible onto the Swiss autoroute. If I'd wanted to go on the bloody Swiss autoroute I'd have stumped up for the damn sticker (because you need one in order to drive legally on the things) and gone straight onto it, rather than head into the centre of Geneva only to be misdirected onto it anyway. Next time I'll trust my nose.

Whatever, that's just what I did for the return trip and it worked out quite nicely - straight into the centre, across the pont du Mont Blanc and through to Annemasse, where we got back onto the French autoroute. And I finally got to see the famous fountain against a clear blue sky - every other time we've been to the dump it's either been blowing a gale or gray and dismal. Then we drove straight through to Jacques' place to meet up with the others and devour (literally, in Malyon's case - she hadn't eaten since 5am) some terrine de sanglier and his famous vol-au-vent (which is not something in a nancy pastry case, but a rich stew of veal, veal quenelles, bacon, croutons and as many mushrooms - especially morilles - as you can fit into the dish).
Accompanied by vin d'Arbois, the lot followed by raspberry tart and wild blueberry tart ... mmm.

We made it up to Pesselière more or less as planned on the 23rd and, as usual, spent most of our time either preparing or devouring food in meals I can only describe as Rabelaisian. A small sample: Christmas Eve, oysters, foie gras, smoked salmon, chapon (that's castrated cock to you), followed by bûche de Noel and Christmas cake; Christmas Day rather more simple, just foie gras, cuisses de canard confites with salad and pommes dauphiné, cheese and more bûche; Boxing Day, scallops in white wine and cream sauce, jambon à l'os caramelised with honey and mustard, cheese and still more bûche.

To go with all that lot Philippe made a heroic, if misguided, attempt to start emptying the cellar (have to make room for new arrivals) so we were more or less forced to polish off an alrming amount of ten-year old Burgundy and Bordeaux, punctuated with Sauternes and vendanges tardives. Without mentioning the bog-standard rosé and Muscadet we used to wash lunch down with.

All of which left me personally feeling a bit pear-shaped, so I tried to work a bit off by strolling briskly around in the icy wind direct from the tundra which blew over the beetroot fields for the entire time. At least it was bright and sunny.

Ian has a little Piaggio mobylette (or cyclomoteur, I don't know which) stashed away in one of the various junk rooms there and Jeremy fell in love with it. Having persuaded Ian to let him ride it (by the simple expedient of greasing up to Marie) he was out and about on the noisy thing at every available opportunity, despite the aforementioned arctic gale. I suppose it's a good place to start - there's virtually no risk of coming across any other traffic - and he did discover that trying to do a hard turn on gravel may not be the best of ideas. Good thing, too, that the little beasts run on the smell of an oily rag - although they do have the pedals, so if worse comes to worst ...

We left yesterday, in a number of flocks (as it were): I had some stuff to do in Chambéry and Jeremy wanted to go get his bloody Xbox 360 so we left at the crack of dawn (not literally true, we left at 6am which is about 1:30 before dawn - which was, incidentally, quite spectacular), then Margo and Malyon around 11 and everyone else headed back to Paris that afternoon.

We made quite good time: got into a park at Chambéry at 10:15 with only one incident en route - got a bras d'honneur from some Parisian twat who was evidently in a hurry to get to the ski fields and couldn't see why I wasn't overtaking at 160. Didn't like it when I touched the brakes as he was about a metre behind me with lights on full, but personally I felt much better for it: haven't pissed off a prat for a while now, and I was wondering if I wasn't out of practice. Margo and Malyon, on the other hand, didn't turn up here until after 19:00. Ski bunny traffic jams, as usual at this time of year.

Got back to find the house still standing, central heating still running, and the dog comfortably (and totally illicitly) installed on the sofa. She didn't even have the grace to look guilty: just rolled on her side and stuck one leg up in the air to have her tummy scratched.

Whatever. Hope you had a happy Christmas, hope you have a good New Year - we'll spend ours quietly (noisily) eating and boozing here with a few friends. Spare a thought for us as you're recovering from your hangovers.


No comments:

Post a Comment