Sunday, February 21, 2010

The elephant in the closet ...


Or, the big thing that we all know is there (the manure is a dead giveaway) but don't mention in the hope that it'll eventually go away. Or die of shame. Or something. In our case, it's winter. Not getting any better, I'm afraid. Had to go off and see a client in Lyon last Thursday, and hit the snow after the Tunnel de l'Epine. Which persisted until exiting the Tunnel de Dullin. Of course the snowploughs hadn't woken up early that day, so I drove through two or three cm of slush for quite a while, and that is not fun. I suppose it could make you more aware of the possible brevity of life, which is doubtless a Good and an Uplifting Thing, but personally it just annoys me. Intensely.

As I write Margo's still up in Paris, so there's just Jerry and I (and, of course, the livestock) here at the moment. Kelly the dog is being a right pain - missing her goddess/mother figure - so she transfers all her affection to whatever bipedal life-form happens to be available, which in the morning is me. Not being a morning person (and bitterly hating those who are) this fails to please me. Having a lump of defrosting liver (aka dog's nose) thrust into the back of my neck whilst I'm trying to down my second mug of coffee and get to the point where I can actually face the world does not do a lot for me.

And of course it's that time of year again where the autoroute is unthinkable after 9am on a Saturday. Unfortunately on Saturday I was running late and didn't leave the house until 10, which meant that I didn't get into Chambéry to the supermarkets until about 10:40 and when I did they were full of English-persons making cheerful remarks about how cheap the wine was and why not get some more porridge while we're at it, then of course that made me late to the market so there was sod-all left in the fruit and vege department (and my cheesemonger had run out of batusson and cendré as well) which really pissed me off. At least the bitterly cold weather had kept most of the little old ladies at home: unfortunately Darwinian selection meant that the ones that were out were incredibly robust or incredibly stupid (or both). Either way, I lose.

Still, I made it up to Sophie's for the after-market apéro - where I admit with some (but not too much) shame that we demolished a bottle of Côtes de Blaye blanc over a sesame baguette and some fresh chèvre, whilst discussing cinema, literature, and the unfortunate tendency of kids to grow up so fast that we just don't see the years go by, and before you know it we'll be getting on for middle-aged. About par for the course, really. What do you do on your Saturday middays? Check out the prices on second-hand zimmer frames?

And what about Saturday afternoons? Me, I got myself a slight head-wound from a ham. I'd bought the damn thing up from the cellar thinking like that we'd be more likely to eat it, and hung it up in the pantry: straightening myself up after spooning pap into the cat's bowl I rather regretted that, as I took the end of the bone straight on my bald patch. (Although "patch" is perhaps not the appropriate word. Think "vast expanses of wind-blown desolation" ie the Sahara, for instance, and you're getting close.)

And on a completely unrelated topic, I think I'm still looking rather good for my age. Got some bank papers to sign, and I'm down as "Bimler, Trevor - né à Napier, Nouvelle Zélande, le 8/10/1858". Which makes me going on 152. I'm in pretty good shape really, all things considered. But perhaps it's time for me to consider getting one of those pull-along shopping-trolleys of death for the market.


Another week gone by ... still don't know where. Jerry woke up on Saturday having decided in the night to change bedrooms, leaving the nice big airy one with Malyon's imposing old bed in it as the guest room to go back into his old snug (or to put it another way, "small") bedroom. He tried to make out it was in a spirit of noble self-sacrifice, but I personally think he just no longer wanted to put up with being separated from us only by a rather thin partition. (Note to self - next time you get your house redone, make sure that the builders think about internal soundproofing.)

In addition to allowing us to find old jars of salsa and tortilla crumbs lurking under the bed, not to mention various piles of decomposing stuff that may once have been socks and, for all I know, the last resting place of the lost tribes of Israel, it also gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my manly DIY skills by repairing the bed. Which he and his mate François (who was supposedly "helping" the move) managed to break, god alone knows how. Although I suspect that bouncing heavily on the poor thing may have had something to do with it. Luckily, nothing that a bit of splinting and a few 60mm screws couldn't put right, as I didn't really feel up to undoing the whole damn thing and trying to reattach the ancient spiral springs ...

By the time I'd finished there were vast piles of dust, dislodged from its cosy decades-long rest inside the bed base, so we took advantage of the occasion to get Jerry to vacuum absolutely everywhere and then, in a fit of madness, to wash the floors whilst he was at it. Especially in the toilet, as cousin Caroline turns up tomorrow from Paris and it was explained to him that, being a girl, she probably does not look with favour upon brown marks and suspicious stains on the floor in such places.

Life's otherwise back to normal, as Margo returned on Monday and so made the dog absolutely ecstatic. Which means that I'm left more or less in peace in the moanings, apart from the occasional attempt by the cat to ingratiate herself. Before you ask, the salon didn't go as well as she'd hoped - but then they rarely do - but she came pretty close to meeting costs and met some people that it's apparently good to know in the little world of textile art. So, not too bad. On top of that, she landed a job teaching English to someone with my old friends Data Environnement (the crowd with whom I went to Cameroon, if you'll recall). Which the company that organised it wishes her to bill Right Now (so that it can get re-billed to the appropriate state bureaucracy before the time-limit on their continuing-education scheme runs out, or some such) which is rather handy as it does represent 1800€; not to be sniffed at.

And down in the garden the snowdrops are popping up in clumps, and there's one brilliant orange crocus making a spectacle of itself. And the daffodil shoots are - well, shooting, so winter must be on the way out. Here's hoping, anyway. At least the past few days have been good - starting out fine and sunny, although admittedly ending in gray, overcast, and rain - but hey, when it's raining it's not snowing, and at least now all the snow has finally melted down here and the temperature's are starting to nudge 11° (my car is optimistic, and tries to tell me 15°, but I don't really believe that).

Okay, I'd better slope off and start getting things ready to feed the masses. Something Chinese, I think - I've got some nice piggy escalopes which are just crying out to be stir-fried and be smothered in some sweet'n'sour sauce ...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

On climate change, and why it is A Good Thing ...


God, I hate snow. What the hell am I doing, then, in a part of the world where it will insist on snowing in winter? Still trying to work that one out. Whatever, I woke up with a start in the office around 6pm to find that the world was - once again - getting covered with a layer of white stuff, which can make getting home rather difficult. And you can sort of start to understand road rage as you head down the hill following cars doing 20kph because, I assume, they're afraid of something bad happening. Like, running over a snowman? I mean, if they're that scared, why don't they just walk? They'd have got wherever they were going (doubtless some dismal retirement home, which I suppose might explain why they didn't really want to get there) a damn sight quicker, and I wouldn't have had to sit behind them wondering why I didn't have the forethought to get the Executive version of the Alfa with rocket launchers behind the headlights. Nor would I have fervently wished to eat their livers raw, with a plastic teaspoon.

Mind you, the autoroute was a bit gross. Three or four cm of slushy snow means that traditionally snappy manoeuvres like pulling out and overtaking have to be done in slow motion, as you can no longer depend on your car just going wherever you point it. Which is a bit of a bugger. (Although I must admit that if you remember to turn off the ASR the Alfa's not actually too bad in snow.)

And the summation - a bit gross - pretty much applies to the whole day - at least for Margo. She's become the Frog distributor for SewEzi sewing tables, and she was supposed to receive a truckload today. Which did eventually turn up - unfortunately GPS systems only recognise the top of our street (the bottom part, where we actually live, is apparently consigned to the nethermost pits of Hell) and of top of that no-one had thought to mention that it is, in any case, a narrow street. So the truckie backed down as far as he could (about 30m up from our place, couldn't get any lower as the overhead power-lines were too low) and then off-loaded 6 cubic metres of poorly put-together stacked palettes straight from China onto a little side alley, and left Margo to deal with them.

Which she did - unloading the palettes, sticking the boxes into the arse-end of the little Suzuki and shuttling them down to stack them up in the garage - until the car battery decided to die. (Spending the previous night out in the cold probably didn't help.) Definitely a bummer. And of course I was up at the office with a client all day, and Jeremy finished lycée at 13:00 and wanted to be picked up and brought home before being taken back in to Chambéry to sleep over at a friend's ... some days are better expunged from the calendar.

Incidentally, I note that when I catalogued Glaswegian cuisine I forgot to mention one of the highlights - deep-fried pizza. That has to be just so revolting.


Things have got no better, it snowed again this morning. This is getting boring - so boring, in fact, that I decided to let my beard grow a while back, just for the thrill of it all. So much more fun than watching the septic tank back up. After a week I've decided to get rid of it - back when it was red I could always stick an eyepatch on and pretend to be a pirate, but now that it's mostly gray I find I look like a rather overweight old Labrador, and I can do without that.

The biggest thrill of all would have to have been Thursday, when we woke up to find that the central heating had decided to shut off in the middle of the night. And it stayed that way until Friday moaning, when the nice M. Damiani came around and fixed it. Which was much appreciated, as it was starting to get rather frigid upstairs. And I do like to have a shower in the morning - all part of my little ritual for becoming human. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, or something like that..

And of course, now that it's February and the school holidays are coming up, it's ski season. Which means that you really do not want to be taking the autoroute if you can possibly avoid it. I was lucky heading into Chambery, apart from the odd squished backpacker and one or two Parisians afraid of the snow it wasn't too bad, but come mid-day it was absolutely frightful. The usual 20km traffic jams. This is not my favourite time of year.

At least, with the snow, there were fewer old ladies with their frikkin' towalong trolleys at the market, which is good for both my ankles and my blood pressure. On the other hand, the lettuces were frozen - again - and there was some sort of oompah band making foul squeaky noises and committing tootling: something which would, if I were in charge, get them thrown in the scorpion pit. If only, of course, we had one. I must put that in the suggestion box at the mairie. At least I managed to pick up some batusson at the cheesemonger - now I need to get some more filo and introduce the one to the other (with an eye to a goat's-cheese mille-feuille or something along those lines) before Jeremy eats it all. (Because if cheese suddenly turns up in the fridge it is apparently a gift from god, and he must eat it before god gets pissed off and makes it disappear again, as silently as it arrived.)

Spent much of the afternoon helping Margo get ready for this big salon up at Paris next week: first up to Jacques' at La Chambre to pick up his Dacia van which he's kindly lending her (driving there through snow yet, gross) so that she can go up like some sort of Gypsy Queen with all the stock in the back, then shifting about 90 sewing tables from the garage down into one of the cellars. Ninety trips up and down the stairs from the terrace down to the courtyard may not sound like much, but I reckon that it comes to at least 1 km walking on a 45° slope, and my little legs are tired. Oddly enough, Jerry wasn't around to help; he'd doubtless scented something in the wind and disappeared to watch a handball game up in the village. Great timing.

Whatever, that's it for now. The days are getting longer, it's no longer pitch-black when I get up or when I get back home; Spring can't be too far away. Have to keep an eye out for swallows.