Thursday, November 25, 1999

05/11/99 Ohmigod I'm really for it now ...

I can see that the coming week is going to be a difficult one: virtually everyone I know is going to assume that, for some bizarre reason, I really care, and they're going to try to rub my unshapely nose in the fact that the All Blacks lost humiliatingly to the French today. We have three choices:
  • pretend that we bet heavily on the French to win, knowing that the All Blacks were going to pull the game
  • say that we expected it all along, as being 90% Labourites they didn'twant to help Jenny Shipley
  • admire how well the French played
Can't say that any of them are particularly appealing.

On top of that daylight saving has just ended, which means that it's night at about 6pm now - at bit too early for my taste. Still, we did get an extra hour's lazing in bed this morning, which was much appreciated - especially as Jeremy wasn't here, having spent the night with neighbours up the road after a kids' Halloween party.

The plumbers have been through the place and by the end of next week the central heating will be all installed, with the notable exception of the radiators, which is a bit of a shame. Seems they're having production problems in the factory, which fails to impress me. Too bad. We've got two tonnes of wood arriving in two week's time, which ought to tide us over if necessary. But I'm still looking forward to the time when we'll be able to go into the bathroom in the morning without putting on an overcoat. (Makes showering such a messy business.)

And after looking through the neighbours' place last night (when dropping Jeremy off) we came to the conclusion that turning our third cellar into a party room wouldn't be such a bad idea. Just needs decent wiring and a concrete floor put down and we could hand it over to the kids as their very own. An appealing thought.

Monday night now - All Saints Day over here - and we've had a regular procession all afternoon down to the cemetery to drop flowers off on especially loved-one's graves. (Or, in some cases, rearrange existing flowers that some thoughtful person brought down but inexplicably forgot to put on the right tombstone.) If I'd thought ahead I'd have set up a small drinks and hot-dog stand at the entrance, would've done good trade.

Been another lovely day, bright and sunny, and first Brian Lovell (ex-pat NZ) dropped by on his bike for a drink and a bit of a rest before heading back the 20km or so to St Baldoph, then Jean-Christophe & Babette popped around for the afternoon. All very nice and relaxing (even if their eldest son, at 11 years old, is headed into some sort of adolescent-cusp crisis which is raising merry hell around their place).

Well, it's Friday now after all that - sorry, been too busy too keep this up - and I gather that the All Blacks lost again. A sad state of affairs, no? Not that we care too much - come to that, I've not even had too many remarks about the French debâcle and all of those were sympathetic, so I'm really counting my blessings.

Anyway, there's a hard week of SQL coding over (with not too much to show for it, apart from the ability to import the existing database with no glaringly apparent errors, which isn't too bad for a start) and the major Frog news is the sudden disarray in the ranks of the government, occasioned by Dominique Strauss-Kahn's quitting. He (call him DSK from now on, the French all do and it's so much shorter) almost overnight got involved in a party finance scandal when some unspeakable little git from the biggest students' mutual insurance society accused him of taking large sums of money for undisclosed (and apparently non-existent) "consulting" services, accusations which have since resulted in some upstart investigating magistrate taking considerable interest in the affair.  DSK and a number of other persons, more or less prominent, have been "invited to help the police with their enquiries", as the phrase goes - all good for a laugh.

The business of phantom jobs (ie large salaries and fees for work which is never actually carried out) as an arm of political party finance (and, of course, personal enrichment) has been receiving quite a bit of attention here ever since the revelations that the City of Paris, first under Jacques Chirac (now president, last time anyone bothered to check) and since him, Jacques Tiberi, has had about 10000 full-time employees who never showed up: all of whom, coincidentally, held full-time posts at the RPR (who wasn't paying them). It became juicier when it came out that the Mayor's wife had been paid 200000F for a 50-page report full of elementary spelling mistakes and no research other than what could have been performed by a semi-competent Labrador on a bad day. Didn't help, either, that Alain Juppé's family benefited from rent-free apartments (in the 16th arrondissement yet - we're talking Embassy Row here, none of your Khandallah slum district stuff) thanks to the Paris housing agency, headed at the time by one Alain Juppé (ex Prime Minister).

At the time, the RPR cried foul: everyone was doing it, it was legal at the time (true, I think) and why blame them? There was even wild talk of indicting Chirac, but the constitutional issues involved get rather thorny (and besides, everyone WAS doing it, so why rock the boat?). But the Socialists, of course, were Mr. Clean personified, and so now the RPR are sticking the boot in with some pleasure. Bit of a shame really, as ministers of finance go DSK wasn't that bad - had almost Anglo-Saxon tendencies really, wanted to improve labour flexibility and reduce the tax burden on companies, stuff like that - godnose who they'll drag in to replace him. So long as it's not Martine Aubry, Mother of the 35-hour working week.

Chatting with the accountant the other day and his opinion was that the major problem with the French economy (apart from minor sectors being able to hold everyone else to ransom by blocking roads, ports and toilets, or burning McDonalds restaurants - can understand that last bit) is that there is no finance market for small companies. The ENArques (think MBA, but high-class) who still supply the government with its technocrats are trained to go through government and then collect directorships at big companies, and of course the French tradition, ever since Colbert, is state corporatism, so basically if you're a big company that doesn't need cash you get it thrown at you by the bucket-load, whereas small companies (1-10 employees) can maybe get a 20000F loan and an overdraft facility after signing over the owner's wife as collateral.

Speaking of minor sectors holding the rest of the economy to ransom, there was a nice bit on the news last night: Breton poultry farmers are demanding subsidies because exports have plummetted to about 30% of their normal level, thanks to revelations that European poultry is often nourished on a diet containing 30% refined shit (literally) with added dioxin. Not only do they want to kill us all, they want us to pay for the privilege!

Damn, spleen's working overtime tonight. Usually does at the end of the week, before I have time to wind down. Sorry. Better than on Tuesday nght anyway, when I looked up a particularly irritating bug on MSDN and found this reassuring line from the fairies of Redmond "Error 80000e23: SQL Server crashes with GPF after INSERT involving a JOINed table. This behaviour is by design."

Okay, that's it for this week (and last week too, sorry about that).

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