Sunday, May 31, 2009

31/05/09 Are we all sitting comfortably?

I am - now - the side-effects of a one-metre fall flat on my arse have finally worn off. The blow to the head which is, in any case - or my case anyway - much less delicate, wore off a lot quicker. But I can now sit down without occasioning great discomfort.

You know we've fallen on hard times when Ukrainian hookers are obliged to work the roundabout at Chignin. I went through there this afternoon and spied a couple, miniskirt down to about there (actually, up to about here) and white vinyl boots trying to meet up, fishnet stockings in between (good thing the weather's fine) - I got waved on, there was already an Audi A6 and a Peugeot 607 pulled over. An Alfa just doesn't do it these days. Plus, there were only two of them, they seemed fully booked.

Helped Stéphane, the neighbour, erect his barbecue last weekend and this weekend it was the turn of the bread oven. Under normal circumstances he should have left it for at least 10 days before firing it up but he couldn't wait, so tonight we had pizza "au feu du bois" and it was rather nice I have to say, blistery around the edges as it should be. Not, unfortunately, crispy in the middle, but that's a question of mastering the heat in the thing and that comes with a bit of experience. And learning how your oven works. I'm looking forward to next weekend's effort.

Just by the way, my ham is coming along very nicely. Another month or so, I reckon, and it'll be fit for purpose. James and Lucas (4 and 2, respectively) came round to see it hanging in the cellar, and were suitably impressed. Especially when I trimmed a few bits off for them to eat. Not squeamish, these French kids. Neither, unfortunately, are flies, which is why it's now enveloped in an enormous muslin bag as it finishes curing.

Getting slack, aren't I - it's now the last day of May, and I've still not sent this off. Not for want of stuff, to say, just lack of time, really.

By the way, those of you who want to know what I really get up to on Saturday mornings might could do worse than go off and take a look from time to time at, where I contribute the odd recipe from my Saturdays with Sophie. And others. (Other recipes, that is. Not other women. Just clearing up that little ambiguity.)

Whatever, we managed to get rid of Jeremy for a week for a trip to Germany. What they call a "séjour culturel" rather than "linguistique", probably just as well as apparently they wound up speaking English all the time. Got to see a lot of chateaux (including, I think, Mad Ludwig's edifice), and Jeremy came back with a 1.5 litre choppe and a bottle of decent beer to put in it. Which he didn"t even have the decency to offer to share with me. Yoof of today - no respect.

He's quite decided that he want's to go and do cooking, so we've put his name in for the lycée professionnelle at Grenoble, second choice Thonon and third choice (far down on the list) at Challes-les-Eaux. He'll just have to get his marks up if he wants to get in to Grenoble (or Thonon, for that matter), so now it's up to him. I must admit, he'd probably do well in the hospitality business - though I say it myself he's actually a very thoughtful, sociable kid. Even if we do have to remind him every five minutes to pull up his jeans so that we're not obliged to get full-screen coverage of his knickers. (Or take yesterday morning, when he completely failed to notice that his shower was overflowing and there was 1cm of water on the floor. He finally noticed on getting out of the shower, at which point Margo gave him a mop and a couple of towels and left him to clean up. When he and I left for Chambéry I did have the wit to ask "I assume you've put the towels in the wash? And put the mop away?" Quick as a flash came the reply "Oh, Mum didn't say anything about that ..." Cue a ten-minute delay in leaving whilst he receives detailed orders and executes them ...)

I left him with Sophie yesterday, and as we were munching our way through lunch he started off a rather elliptical conversation - "I don't suppose that by any chance you have some pasta?" "Why yes, I do" - replied Sophie - "why do you ask?" "It's just that my Dad has absolutely no idea of how to do a decent gratin aux pates, and you do it so well ..." When I left she was checking up on the sour cream and grated cheese in the fridge. Learnt this morning, when we picked him up to head off to a BBQ, that he'd wolfed down about a kilo of the stuff before attacking the ice-cream. On the bright side, Sophie really does need to defrost her freezer, and like that there's a lot less in there to worry about.

Anyway, we headed off to this BBQ at Karen's, in Frangy (or as she will insist on calling the place, "Mumblefuck"). I have to admit, it is a bit of a godforsaken hole, all of 1600 inhabitants, many of which are clinically dead. But that doesn't matter so much when it's fine, as it certainly was today.

Did I mention that we've been enjoying temperatures up in the 30s? Thought not. It's actually rather nice. You lot can all wrap up warmly, we're fine.

Whatever, after starting in on the rosé then scarfing grilled piggy bits and salad and bread, I spent much of the afternoon lying on my back under a tree, waiting for cherries to fall into my mouth. Which they obstinately refused to do, I was obliged to rise from time to time to pluck a half kilo or so just to keep the wolf from the door. I think that for once in my life I may actually have eaten too many cherries. And gooey chocolate brownies. (Just to reassure you, I actually stopped drinking around 2pm. The Alfa pretty much drives herself, but she occasionally does silly things ... like overtaking at 140 kph on solid white lines in a 90k zone... so it's best if I'm relatively sober.) We made it back here around 19:30, and quite frankly I couldn't be arsed getting anything ready for dinner and in any case the only person that was hungry was Jeremy, so we left him to fend for himself with left-over bits from the fridge.

I did threaten to tell you the tale of why we've changed our e-mail addresses, and I've calmed down enough to be reasonably coherent, so here goes. We used to be with Tele2, which worked fine and never gave me problems: but in February I got a letter from SFR telling me that as they were merging with Tele2, and given the number and nature of our contracts, they were obliged to cancel them effective May 20th. A month or so later I got another letter saying that someone would be in touch with me, then we each got e-mails saying that our Tele2 mail accounts had been shifted to SFR ones, and that the username and password details had been posted out.

Yeah, like shit they had. I spent quite a lot of time on the phone being shuttled from one hot-line to another: apparently we no longer existed in the Tele2 database (apart from for billing purposes) and did not yet exist in the SFR database. Apart from fort billing purposes. One support person at Tele2 even advised me to change providers, as it was all going to hell in a hand-cart. As time went on I got very rude, even by French standards.

The final straw came when I got through on yet another hotline to someone who told me that it was quite normal that our contracts were to be cancelled, as SFR didn't offer ADSL at Chambéry-le-Haut (where we'd been enjoying it for the past 7 years). So I headed down to the local Orange/France Telecom boutique to organise a switchover. Which, I was pleased to discover, went rather rapidly and quite well. Went down on Thursday and signed the contract, on Monday a guy turned up at the office to switch us over. (Did not, unfortunately, go swimmingly - took until Friday to get all the wiring changes done at the exchange.)

I'd also switched the contracts at both houses, and Margo rang to say that Internet access had gone down at home: indeed, they'd swapped out the Tele2 DSLAM and connected us up to Orange. But no ADSL box! So I spoke gently to the nice man and to his boss, and around 17:30 we went around to the back of his van and he gave me two Livebox, saying "saves me a bloody callout, doesn't it?".

As, indeed, it did. I set one up for Sophie and then came home and did the same here, and lo! it worked. On top of it, it tells me I'm getting 20Mb/s download here, which I must admit I find hard to believe but it does seem quite snappy. On the other hand, the telephony seems to have a hissy-fit occasionally, so I might have to look into that. Because "free calls" (well, included in the price) is quite attractive, isn't it? For info, it's 65€/month, which includes the phone line, internet (no download cap) and phone. Is that good?

The only thing left for me to do is to write an extremely snarky letter to SFR informing them that, as they've cancelled our contracts (copy of their original letter in evidence), I do not expect to be receiving any bills for their services after May 20 and, if I do get any, I certainly won't be paying them. It's petty, I know, but it'll make me feel much better.

OK, you can all go back to sleep now.


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