Saturday, June 10, 2000

10/06/00 On visiting the police station and other subjects ...

Thought I'd at least get an early start in on this, even if it does take me three weeks to get finished. Reality has come home and it's only two weeks now before Malyon arrives back in the country, so we're working like mad in what little time we have to get the upstairs kitchen converted into Jeremy's bedroom. The plumber comes round tomorrow or Wednesday to cut off the sink so that we can lug that down to a cellar waiting for us to put it up elsewhere, and I have to organise a couple of healthy friends to give me a hand shifting the wood-burning stove downstairs as well. While waiting, Margo has been having fun with my big jack-hammer drill (and an SDS+ masonry chisel attachment) getting rid of the tiles around the sink and most of the cement under them so that when the sink actually disappears we can plaster over the holes and paint. Be cutting it short, but we should be able to do it, and at least it'll mean that at long last Malyon and Jeremy will have their separate bedrooms. (Don't really know why I say "at long last", 'cos it's been de facto the case for the last 10 months, but there you are ...)
I wasted last night (until about 2am, in fact) reinstalling Windows 98 on my new machine. Trying to find out more about these bloody video cameras I installed the Unibrain software, and when I didn't learn anything new I deinstalled it and discovered that I no longer had any video devices at all.So I grinned, bore it, and reinstalled Win 98 (the English version this time, at least) and after rebooting 5 times (at least) things fell back into place. Then, as this machine is destined to replace the home machine, I thought I'd better at least install the modem and Outlook Express ... you'd think I'd know better. Perhaps I should just reformat and stick NT onto the thing - only then I'd have to pay for fax software. 
Been looking over offers and I've decided to get an Alfa 146 as a work car - as long as I fall in love with it on Friday, when I'll head off to look one over. A Fiat Barchetta would be better (from a fiscal point of view) as I'd be able to claim the GST back (being a two-seater, it's classed as a work car) but it's a bit impractical. A shame. 
Well, that's one week lopped off my three-week timetable to get this out. Margo has been busy plastering and tomorrow the last layer goes on and then we can sand it back, put on the undercoat and finish painting. 
Yesterday we had a big BBQ: the English class she taught at Voglans finished up for the year and so we hosted an end-of-course bash: everyone sprang a bit of cash and we bought vast quantities of food and wine and I brought the big BBQ in the paddock out of hibernation. I must have lost about 5 litres sweating in front of it, it must have been about 35° and I'd stuck on at least 20 litres of charcoal, so it was HOT. 
Everyone had a great time, the kids went exploring in the stream (almost dry already, we've had an exceptionally dry spring so far, not really relieved by the small thunderstorm that's just passed over), and we managed to detail the four biggest, hairiest males to get the wood-burner down into the end cellar. Unfortunately - such is the dismal level of male talent in France - I qualified as one of the four. And let me just say that it was bloody heavy! Luckily one of Margo's students was a rugby fullback or something in that line, 2.5m high and built to match and he took the heavy end down while the rest of us nancied around at the other end. No-one was permanently injured, and the thing is now residing in the cellar and if anyone wants to move it from there they're welcome to do so and I will quite happily watch while they rupture themselves. 
Anyway, everyone had a good time and we'll really have to do it again sometime - soon, preferably. But maybe on a Saturday, so that we'll have Sunday to recover. I also have to find some spare time to reorganise the computer situation here. There are currently five machines squatting the place: one for the kids, one for Margo, mine (on which I'm writing this), my office machine, and the new one which is destined to replace this one. When that happens this machine becomes the machine for the kids, the kids machine gets dumped off on friends who don't know an obsolete PC from a paperweight, and Margo hangs on to her machine which, whilst obsolete, is her friend. 
Other than that I should get my nice shiny new car sometime this week: I did go off on Friday to look at it and I did indeed fall in love. Being unreasonably promiscuous I also fell in love with the bright red Spyder pouting in the show-room but once again it's not entirely reasonable. I'd have liked to try one of the models with the gearshift buttons on the wheel (à la F1 racing machines) but that's only on the top-line models - perhaps in a couple of years. Got flashed by a radar on the autoroute on the way home too - I was only doing 140, can't think why it snapped me. Have to wait and see if I get a little note from the gendarmerie in the next week or so. If I do I'll be rather hurt - it's not as though 140 is really breaking the limit. Honestly, we're not even talking 10% over here. And lots of people were going much faster than I.  
And after getting photographed on the autoroute last night Margo hauled me out of the shower this morning crying "The gendarmes want to see you!" "What, so soon?" I thought, as I looked about for suitable prison garb (unfortunately the cast-iron codpiece and chastity belt ensemble was at the cleaners) but I needn't have worried, just her sick little joke, yes the gendarmes were in fact hanging around in the street but just to get an appointment to interview me for our request for Frog citizenship. I must say that it's moving quickly. Only three months since I dropped the completed dossier off, and they're already on to the police checkup! (This, for those that don't recognise it, is sarcasm.)  
And Malyon rang - the last phone call before leaving for Kuala Lumpur and then, eventually, Lyon. I must admit that I'm rather wondering what she's like now. Grown a bit, I suppose. And she's getting to an age when music ("French music is crap! You'll have to buy some decent CDs") and fashion ("Should I paint my nails purple?") are becoming Important Things in Life. A big thank-you to Ali & Barry for looking after her and generally putting up with her. Now I suppose we'll have to do the same - after almost a year's leave of absence. I suppose that after a while we'll get back into the swing of things and having two kids again.
I suppose I'd better get this finished and sent off or it really will be three weeks since I started. We've each had our little interview with the commander of the local brigade of the gendarmerie - the "enquête morale" of which the main aim appears to be getting us to say things that we've already written down on the papers that got sent off to the Préfecture. They also try to work out whether or not we've a criminal record, check that the kids aren't maltreated and try to determine if we've "integrated" into French society. With our wine consumption I think the last is pretty much a walkover.

They even asked if I took an interest in politics - I replied that as I wasn't allowed to vote anywhere in the world I didn't actually bother following it that closely. And in France it's too depressing anyway. A Green député just recently claimed that Jacques Chirac (unbelievably president) was, when mayor of Paris, elected partly thanks to the votes of people who turn out to have been technically dead (vitally-challenged? existentially-deprived?) at the time and got slapped on the wrist for revealing Parliamentary secrets. Jacques Tiberi, current mayor of Paris, is standing again ("auto-succession") is the term in French, if anyone cares), despite the mud being flung about his own crowd of loyal-unto-death-and-even-beyond supporters (some 18000 voters being no longer with us) and false billing and make-work jobs for the boys. This against the official mayoral candidate of the (dis)united right, Phillippe Séguin. Séguins' competitors for the post (including Edouard Balladur, ex-prime minister and onetime presidential hopeful - against Chirac) have withdrawn with much noise and bad grace, not perhaps too surprising given that the choice seems to have been made behind closed doors in a game of "Dip dip dip my little ship" by the RPR leadership. Cynical souls are saying that Séguin got the nod to get him out of the way before the next presidential election, as he'd have been a strong challenger to Chirac's bid for a second term: he will either have won, and be running Paris, or have lost, and been exiled to the political wilderness.

It's not just the right that are in disarray, mind you - they're perhaps just more visible. The left have their own problems, with bloody-minded investigators digging into the Mitterand years (back when Elf, the big petrol firm, was Mitterand's personal slush fund) and the rather creative financing of the Socialist party. Roland Dumas (once Minister of Justice) seems headed for jail, Strauss-Kahn maybe, and there are at least two other investigations underway into sitting ministers.

All of which might explain why, when yet another scandal is published with great fanfare on the evening news, people tend to lean back in the sofa and say "Yeah?".

Margo has been busy - not ony getting the bedroom ready but also doing translations for a client of ours in Geneva, Axe Communications. First it was a user's manual for a moulding analysis program from Dupont, then an offer to redevelop the UNDP website. If she can keep doing that she'll be pleased: light work, all done via the net, and pays well. Can't complain.

And I certainly can't, because I picked up my new Alfa yesterday. The first car I've ever owned that is actually technically, verifiably, new - with only 200km on the clock. I'm quite pleased with it, and I must say that I do appreciate the air-conditioning. You lot may laugh, but over here it's very nice to have. So now we will in fact be able to pick up Jeannie & Leigh & Malyon from Satolas on Tuesday and bring them back in reasonable comfort. And as Margo got Jeremy's bedroom finished today (have to move him in tomorrow) everyone will have somewhere to sleep.

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