Sunday, May 14, 2006

14/05/06 The usual suspects ...

In this case, the entire French political class.The Clearstream affair is currently at the top of the national political agenda - usual story of who knew what and when did they know it. Sarkozy seems to have been innocent - for once - but decided to say nothing, hoping that perhaps someone would bring the matter up, at which point he'd be able to play the victim. The "someone" is de Villepin and Chirac, now loudly denying involvement. Amusing, but not particularly edifying.

Add something else to the list of ballsups committed on Jacques Chirac's watch - stopping the Frog nuclear tests in the Pacific. It seems pretty evident now that they were all that stood between us and global warming/climate change, and I rather think I prefer things the way they were.

Some of you - notably Gill and Isabelle - will be aware that Gill Campbell and her mother Isabelle came to visit in April. By some strange quirk of fate it was the week in April when it was sunny and hot, and we even had the annual ceremony of Turning Off the Central Heating. Which was - as usual - a bit premature, given that spring is still struggling to arrive. Not that the wild oscillations between 13° and 23° seem to worry the paddock too much, the grass still grows. Tomorrow, if it's fine as promised, I'll be able to go down and try to give it a short back and sides, knock 20cm off it. I do wonder why I bother, it just grows back again - just one of those vicious little games we play.

Anyway, as it was fine we went off to the Choranche caves south-west of Grenoble, heading across the Vercors rather than taking the autoroute that is so kindly supplied. The caves themselves are spectacular enough, but the drive through the gorges in the Vercors is really brilliant. There are points where you're driving in a sort of notch cut into the cliff-face - not a tunnel as such, because it's open on one side - and then you get through that and there's a big wide river meadow on one side where before there was a 100m drop. Definitely worth the trip.

On the 7th Margo and I went off to Lyon to take a look at the craft market that takes place every Sunday on one of the quays along the Sâone, in Old Lyon. Took the little Navman GPS along for comfort, but it doesn't seem to like Lyon. Not to put too fine a point on it, it seems to have a hissy-fit when it gets within 15 km of the place and starts losing the satellites. It's already done it on me once before, when takng Margo through to catch the train at 4am - this time it navigated us onto the Presqu'Ile (the tongue of land between the Rhone and the Sâone) before seizing up and telling me to perform a U-turn if I wanted to get back to Chambéry. Then it wouldn't turn off, so I stuffed the thing into one of the door pockets and parked where we were, reasoning that we couldn't be that far from where we wanted to be.

Which was true enough - just a 15-minute amble along the riverbank and then across the river, which did us no lasting harm. The market, when we finally got there, was mainly paintings, a bit of sculpture and pottery plus lots of the "crafty things" like a wooden napkin ring with your name on it in poker-work - not a lot in the textile field which interests Margo. So having gone through we headed back across the river and back to the car through the produce market, which to me at least was more fun. Fruit, vegetables, flowers, smelly cheese, stalls devoted to the humble sausage, racks of spit-roasted chicken with whole baby potatoes cooking (rather greasily, let it be said) in the fat ... I like food markets.

On the way to the market I'd spotted a rather sleek little 12m yacht moored below, nothing exceptional except the name was "Itirangi" or some such, flying the NZ flag and registered in Wellington. On the way back there were signs of life so we made a nuisance of ourselves until they talked to us and explained their presence. Not a bad way to spend the first years of retirement (if you like the sea): come over to Europe, buy a yacht, spend three or four years sailing around the Mediterranean and then head lazily up to Amsterdam and ship the thing back to NZ.

Unfortunately our actual paper map of Lyon is ever-so-slightly out of date and even when it was current it was a bit hazy on minor details like one-way streets and "no-entrance" signs and things like that, so getting out of Lyon was a slightly longer, rather more complicated job than it might otherwise have been - the Navman was still sulking (although it had turned itself off when we got back to the car) and insisted that we were stationary near Place Bellecour. And so it happened that although we were not (and I must insist on this point) technically lost, we found ourselves driving round the marché au gros (the enormous wholesale markets for fruit & veges & meat and stuff) and were fascinated by the number of vans parked on the side of the road. Must have been at least a hundred.

Not in itself particularly fascinating, but all of them either had mirror glass or the rear windows painted over - in itself statistically significant, I think - about one in seven had red electric candles on the dashboard and, despite it being a Sunday lunch-time, nine out of ten had a driver at the wheel and in all cases, that driver was, technically, a woman. I suppose business was slow.

Today being - finally - fine, it was garden day. Margo got around to putting out the sweetcorn seedlings that had, against all expectations, sprung from 7-year old seed, there were the tomato plants to go out and general weeding to be done (although personally I prefer napalming, it works better and is a damn sight easier). Also the lawn to be mown: after two weeks the situation was getting desperate. Not yet to the point of actually discovering a hitherto unknown tribe of Amazonian pigmies living happily amongst the grass, but there have been reports of cats going missing and I thought it better to err on the side of security.

In another three weeks Malyon's school term officially finishes, which means she'll be at home with us and we'll have to live with that. Yech! She'll still have her English bac to worry about though, so she's not yet out of the woods. In July she aparently spends a week in Burgundy at a friends chateau, then she has two weeks picking apricots in the Drôme with Elise, amongst others. Some of those "others" will be young men, spotty or otherwise, which is a worry. Becoming a Trappist monk becomes more and more appealing - the only problem is that the poor sods don't have internet access, which would be difficult to live with.

Have a really nice winter -

Trevor & Margo

No comments:

Post a Comment