Thursday, July 3, 2003

03/07/03 The rain in Spain

The rain may, in fact, be in Spain but as it happens I don't care, the problem is that the rain is not here. Nor has it been within spitting distance for a month or so. Consequently the garden is dry as a bone - actually reduced to watering the lawn to avoid desertification - and on top of it it's stinking hot, been floating around the 30's mark for the past three weeks. All rather exceptional for June.

As usual, now that it's summer and all right-minded people are contemplating their month's vacation on the beach, the orders come in. So far I have a Windows CE platform to get up and running, a keyboard device driver for some rather special hardware under W2K, a few radio terminal/barcode reader and EDI interfaces to do for the stock-control system and a weather station to hook up to the surveillance system in Cameroon. Business as usual. A quiet summer would've been nice, but I can see that it's not on the cards. Oh, I also had to head off to Geneva again to take a look at an embedded system (under Windows 3.11) where there's a slightly litigious conflict between Gespac (the supplier, and my client) and Alsthom - had to dust off my 10-year old CDs and drag out the old DOS toolbox.

Reminds me that when at Gespac we started chatting about retirement, as you tend to do (and it's also a rather hot topic in France at the moment), and one thing led to another and Vincent, my client, asked Sandrine, one of their programmers, what year she was. The answer was 1978, and I sadly reflected that she was busy being born while I was undergoing my last full-time year at Massey. This makes me feel no younger.

A quick word for Ken Ashman - I finally got to go on the TGV trip I'd been promised by the AEF. Made for a long day: Chambéry-Paris, then on to the test TGV for a quick trip up to Brussels (riding in the driver's cabin), then off to Calais, then Lille, back to Paris and home again to Chambéry. When you're sitting in the front, watching through the windscreen as posts flash by at 320 km/h, it feels FAST. Now what I need to arrange is to go on one of the speed trials.

I know I mentioned the saga of our naturalisation proceedings: for the moment it's on hold. I did in fact write a rather shirty reply to their last request, and eventually received a form letter to the effect that if we couldn't supply all the documents required the dossier would be closed - leaving us until December to decide. The mairie and the Préfecture were very sympathetic, but said that the matter was out of their hands: personally I'm tempted to let the whole thing drop. It's not as though I need to be a Frog-person.

The work on the house is going ahead full-tit: the builders have been at it for the last six weeks or more, and two weeks ago I actually got the building permit! So now the windows have gone in up in the attic, and we can actually see what's been done. Which is, in fact, quite a lot: the floor's down, all the interior partitions are up, this week the showers and toilets go in and Jeremy's bedroom disappears (well, metamorphoses into a landing) ... we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and are pretty sure it's not a train coming in the opposite direction. I do still have to get the permit allowing us to be connected to the sewers - odd, giving that we're no longer allowed to be on a septic tank - but that should be relatively painless (although I'll still have to pay, of course).

I spent some (a lot) of time a while back upgrading various machines, thanks to getting a new Dell a the office. So as usual the old office machine came home, the home computer got downgraded to Margo's machine and Margo's old machine went to a worthy cause ... except this time I didn't just swap machines around ('cos the old office machine was very noisy, having an industrial-grade fan in it) but decided to swap motherboards. Which I did, expecting the worst. And much to my surprise, it didn't happen! Each and every machine booted up, said something along the lines of "Windows has discovered new hardware and is now installing the necessary shit" and carried on! Almost as simple as in the old days. I still find it rather difficult to believe.

It's also been new car time. The lease on the 146 ran out mid-June so I arranged for my new car: a bright red Alfa (what else?) 156 station wagon. What the French call a "break de chasse" because it looks like a station wagon but you can't actually fit more in the boot than in the standard version - I don't care, she looks beautiful and I love her very much. Only problem is the leather upholstery, which is a bit sticky when it's 35° and you're wearing shorts. Shame they don't do a convertible version of the 166 for the next time I change up. The BMW has also gone, replaced by a little Suzuki Sport Wagon (also bright red). What Margo wanted, what we needed as a second car, and hideously cheap. They actually gave us 1000 euros as a trade-in for the BMW (about 5 times what it was worth) and then they didn't actually want the thing: rather than go through the hassle of trying to get rid of it ourselves we made them pay us the symbolic 1 euro for it and they filled the tank up on the new car. More than I'd expected, actually.

Other than that life just goes on, more or less as usual. Jeremy has headed off down to the Mediterranean with Sophie, Lucas and Rémi for a week's holiday on the beach, and Jeannie & Leigh should turn up here on the 11th (or thereabouts) before we all head down to Croatia for a week. Raewyn, our bridesmaid, is turning up on Friday (that's tomorrow) for a weekend in France - that's about it, really.

Trevor, Margo, sprogs and animals

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