Monday, February 6, 2006

06/02/06 The random babblings of a disturbed mind ...

Truth to tell, I just couldn't come up with an apposite title (not that I've ever been able to do so). First of all, hope you all had a good Christmas standing around cooking prawns on yer bleeding BBQs and laughing over the plight of the poor sods in the freezing dark up North, and a happy New Financial Year to all.

Some of you know, and no doubt many will have guessed, that as usual, we went off to Pesselière for Christmas. Enough food for an army but these days I just can't hack it - the very idea of sitting down to foie gras, smoked salmon, oysters, snails, stuffed capon with puréeed chestnuts, both traditional and ice-cream bûches, and Christmas pudding makes my liver tremble. There's also the logistics involved in getting 12 people, half of them demonstrably French and one third of 'em under 18, up to the table when the meal is ready rather than half an hour later, when all the possible options have been discussed and the absence of soup pointedly noted.

Summer is definitely a better time of year for Christmas: you can have a simple barbecue thus avoiding both organisational problems and the prospect of massive renal failure, it's warm and sunny, and the options for filling in the afternoon void extend beyond a 5-mile hike through muddy beetroot fields or the 7-hour director's cut DVD of a stand-up comic (and having given up smoking, I can't even go out and do my bit for air pollution with a Corona). Lolling in a hammock in the sun would be a favourite.

Anyway, January/February are typically the coldest months of the year and this year is - surprise - no exception. Everyone's moaning because it's so cold,or it's been so cold for so long ... whatever, it's definitely chilly. Be more pleasant if we got some of the brilliant blue-skied freezing days that make winter - if not comfortable - at least bearable, but with a few rare exceptions it's been grey and dismal. And foggy. Bah.

Whatever. Done a bit of reorganising around here - getting into training for summer, when we've promised ourselves to restart work on redecorating. Not that it'll help, 'cos what I've been reorganising is the computer situation, and that's not going to help much when it comes to wallpapering and such. Still, it keeps me busy.

First of all I started to run out of space on the system disk (all that downloaded music ...) so had to go get another hard disk to stick alongside it, then the antivirus went silly (problem in the virus signature database, I suspect, which got fixed literally overnight) and started telling me that some of my Windows files were infected and when I told it to fix the problem I could only boot in safe mode. So I went off and got another hard disk and did a clean install onto it, sucked all the useful data and personal files and such off the old disk and spent a happy weekend reinstalling all the software.

Then I got annoyed at the huge screens cluttering up the place and went off and got a couple of 17" LCD screens for the kids (one apiece) and a USB sound system for Malyon's old Gespac industrial computer (sound cards for that sort of thing being rather rare). Then my big 19" CRT died two weeks ago, so I went off and ordered a 20" LCD screen to replace that, and being unwilling to stop there I took the plunge and ordered a new laptop from Dell, to replace the old HP that I originally bought to accompany me to Cameroun five years ago.

Of course the laptop came with Windows XP pre-installed. I'd always planned on getting rid of it and putting W2K in its place, but I knew that I was absolutely going to have to do that when the thing suggested that "we spend a few minutes quality time together to finish the installation of Windows XP". I had to pull the battery to get it to stop. So I did all that, which was reasonably painless, and now Margo has the old HP which is fine so long as you're no more than 5 minutes from a power point.

Malyon's busy busy busy - doing the dummy runs for the bac (baccalaureat - the Frog equvalent of what UE was in my day, I suppose) at the moment and on top of that she's involved in the English-section school play again, production this year. She comes home on Fridays, logs on to MSN to catch up on her far-flung friends and acquaintances, does her homework (I assume), and occasionally emerges, alone and palely loitering, just so that it's quite clear that we have absolutely no idea about how hard it all is. Although recently she hasn't come home on Fridays 'cos the play's on in a week (yes, we get to go - couldn't get out of that one) so Saturday evenings, after rehearsal and other social activities are over, seems more reasonable.

We're not too worried about the academic side of things for her - I went down to Grenoble for the parent-teacher meeting a few weeks back and the general consensus was that she'd have no problem. They doubtless say that to all the parents, for the simple reason that they can - they get to pick their students. I think their pass-rate for the bac is not far off 100%.

On the other hand, I must have looked a bit out-of-place - plastic bags hanging from every available appendage and a faint whiff of curry. I'd parked the car at Grand'Place to the south, taken the tram and changed lines at St Bruno - the only problem is that when you get off the tram at St Bruno there, in front of you, is "Carrefour d'Asie" or something like that, a big Asian grocers. I got five different types of sugar, I topped up on satay spice mix, I got some Chinese sausages, a few more gallons of sweet chili sauce, more char siu marinade ... need to go back with a backpack.

Jeremy seems to be doing OK - he's not exerting himself but managing to get a 12/20 average. For the time being we're not going to force him too much. And he heads off skiing every Wednesday afternoon with school, and after the February school holidays he's got the whole week up at Valloire, paid for by the regional government, le Conseil Général. Seems that not enough Savoyards go skiing (fair enough, they can't afford to, for one thing) and they're trying to rectify the situation. Jeremy enjoys it, anyway. Which is good.

Anyway, that'll do for now.

Look after yourselves

Trevor & Margo

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