Saturday, December 4, 2010

An icy blast from the tundra ...

I realised on Saturday that Jeremy has not yet developed The Scowl. Wearing it I can wander around the market unmolested by panhandlers, mime artists, people with little puppies, comfortably (I cannot say "gainfully", not with a straight face anyway) employed civil servants safely protesting against whatever government reform project is flavour du jour, and even those who would sell me a little sticker that says "Hug a Leper". In fact I'm protected from everyone, with the exception of those tenacious old hags with their wheelie bins, and at least they're not trying to sell me anything, just cause me extreme physical discomfort and even that's just regrettable collateral damage in their quest to jump to the head of the queue.

It's easy enough to do: knitted, lowered brows, face set, posture that says that if you weren't on medication you'd have strangled someone by now, or stuffed leeks up both ends ... basically you want to look like a disagreeable sociopath on a hair-trigger with body odour. Steve Jobs, but smellier.

I personally have no problems with that, but Jerry can't seem to get the hang of it. He wanders around, beaming a happy innocent smile and looking as if his only purpose in life is to make others happy (and, incidentally, towering head and shoulders over all and sundry - don't think I risk losing him at the market ever again), and people press flyers into his hands and smile at him: bless him for being so good, for all I know. ("Bless you, young master!" they cry. Hmm, don't know about that one.)

I taxed him with this, and he beamed at me and said something along the lines of "I really prefer to let them believe that someone is going to waste their time reading their useless toilet-paper screeds. It's more fun". Which is, when you think about it, really quite evil. I'm reassured. Still think my way's quicker, though.

And in further non-news, it's bloody snowing. Again. Could someone please explain to me why we chose to live in the mountains? Because I've forgotten. Bloody Alzheimer's.

Whatever, because it's cold (like about -3° at the moment), and snowing, and he caught cold up at St Hilaire on Saturday night and consequently had to spend Monday at home rather than go back to the lycée (well, I had to drop him off in the evening, for otherwise his life would have been miserable and never mind that it stuck my schedule off by 45 minutes) - it apparently seemed to Jerry like a good idea to crank the heating up to red-hot and open the window wide. Sometimes I wonder. About what exactly is in fact keeping his ears apart, for instance. I've yet to come up with an entirely satisfactory answer which does not involve concrete and steel reinforcing rods.

And whilst I'm in the mood for a good whinge, I'd like to address a plea to the American people. Please, please, get over your bloody holiday season, stop watching heavily-kitted out giant microcephalics throwing their balls around, and put some decent TV back on? It's your gift to the Free World™. There's been nowt but bloody awful "reality" shows on for the past few weeks, and I for one am starting to get boils on my brain.

I mean, does anyone actually watch "The Real Housewives of (insert expletive and city name here)"? Or "Extreme Gay Plastic Surgery Makeover"? Does anyone care about the extremely boring family lives of ageing ex-rock stars who can't even string a coherent sentence together thanks to 70 years of mainlining caustic soda (or whatever)? And if so, why aren't they in an asylum? Please give us back "Bones", and "Castle", and "Fringe" ... and if you could see your way clear to a new season of "Warehouse 13" that would be much appreciated. Thank you for listening, now please just get your act together.

Have I mentioned, by the way, that it's snowing? Again? Nice fine icy powder, made for a slow trip down from the office to the VRU this evening. I really, really hate that. Especially as right now, around 22:00, it's starting to get heavy. You may laugh on the sunny side of the world, but you don't have to live with the bloody stuff.

And the next day ... I really must be turning into a blonde. It's true that there were "only" 10cm of snow on the ground when I left home, but you'd think that the number of cars in  ditches heading down to the nationale would"ve hinted at trouble to come: at least, to anyone with half a grain of sense. I'm not entirely sure how I arrived at the office up at Chambéry le Haut, but I did: to find about 50cm of the stuff all over the carpark, which was occupied by about five cars. And of course, the snowplough hadn't paid a visit.

So I came to the conclusion that if I stayed for the day I was going to be staying, like it or not, for the night, and decided to pack some gear into the car and head back home. Rather than down to the supermarket for some pyjamas and a toothbrush. It seemed a reasonable idea at the time ... one thing about the snow: it does bring out the community spirit in people. I needed a helpful push at least three times, trying to negociate the right-angled wrongly-cambered downwards-sloping turn at the end of the street: the last time half the high-school soccer team turned up. For which I was extremely grateful.

The autoroute was a bit better, but once I left that it was purely by good luck rather than skill that I managed to make it up the twisty hill and then - illegally - down our little street to get home. Some days you really do not want to leave the house. Shall have to find the right pair of chains in the garage: it's still snowing heavily and supposed to continue that way until tomorrow morning. Seems there's already a metre of the stuff up in the Bauges above us. Humbug.

Thursday, of course, things were absolutely chaotic: oddly enough for a city that likes to style itself Capital of the Alps there aren't enough snowploughs to go around and public transport ground to a halt at the first sign of a snowflake (you could be forgiven for thinking we were in Britain), so even though I made it up to the office with only a few queasy moments at the corner of doom I rather regretted it, as the carpark was still under 40cm of snow. And as everyone else had made it up too and were going around like mad things trying to find a clear park, you can probably imagine the mess. And then of course it froze overnight - and I mean froze, like -10° - so there was ice under the snow this morning (emphatically not one of my favorite things) and to top it off it snowed again this afternoon.

Better - above all warmer - weather is predicted for the weekend: I suppose I shall see tomorrow. Right now I'm not actually that hopeful. In fact, right now I'm off to bed with a nice hot cocoa .(To be completely honest, some chocolate and a glass of red. It's about the same thing. Well, there's chocolate, anyway.)

 As it happens, today dawned bright and sunny and, somewhat to my surprise, stayed that way. So I trundled off to Chambéry to do the shopping, whip through the market and - I thought, seeing as Sophie is off somewhere for the weekend - have a drink or two with Bryan to recover from the rigours of the morning. So I sent him off a text and when all was done headed off to Cardinal's. (And don't blame me, they put the apostrophe there. In fact, they call it "O'Cardinal's": supposed to sound more Irish that way I suppose. It is one of the few bars in Chambéry where you can get a Guinness, if that happens to be on your to-do list.)

Whatever, as Bryan hadn't got back to me I was sitting there nursing a solitary glass of Gascon white when the phone exterminated at me: a guy I know reasonably well from work (he's the one who keeps old OS-9 systems going) who wanted to warn me that he was getting English spam purporting to be from my phone number, and that perhaps I should speak to my phone company about it.

I was puzzled, but thanked him and made a mental note to get in touch - if possible - with the customer "support" demons from Bouygues; then, feeling rather like having a second glass but not really wanting to have it all alone, I rang Bryan to find out where the hell he was and why he wasn't drinking.

The penny dropped when Bruno answered my call. The evil Samsung software had imported all my "B" contacts with the same phone number. No wonder poor Bruno was perplexed, getting an SMS that asked him if he'd "Care to partake in a glass of the amber fluid?".

Ah well. I swear that's the last time I actually warn a piece of software ahead of time that it's going to be removed just as soon as I've had it do the one and only job it was installed for: don't need any more spiteful cockups like that. I mean, if I want something like that to happen, I'm quite capable of screwing things up all by myself, thanks very much.

Anyway, it was still a lovely day, so having loaded up on bits of duck (which are now sitting in the fridge with chopped orange peel, shallots, badiane, cinnamon and kosher salt pressed into their flesh, ready to be turned into confit tomorrow) and some noix de St-Jacques (which are destined for tonight's dinner; boring I know but I like it and I'm cooking) I thought I'd head off to Grenoble for the afternoon. Not for shopping, just for a wander - although I did wind up with some Philadelphia cream cheese and some white chocolate nibs for couverture, which are mine and in a sealed jar. I was really tempted by the milk chocolate and caramel nibs, but I thought I'd best be reasonable and anyway I can always go back.

Incidentally, now is a good time to be shopping for food. In about three weeks it'll be even better, but in the run-up to Christmas places like Aldi are hocking off my favourite popsicle lobsters and 300gm bags of frozen scallops at €3.70 a pop, which is pretty bloody good. (If you happen to like these things, of course.) And in the alleys at Carrefour people are tempting one with little treats: I went past the guy handing out wedges of foie gras poelé on wholemeal toast fried in the duck fat three times, until he started to get suspicious.
So having started at St Bruno to look around my favourite Asiatic grocery (but there's a limit to how many packets of exotic spice and sauce mixes one can have that even I consider reasonable, so I left with my hands empty) I started wandering kind of aimlessly back towards St-Claire. Well, I say "aimlessly" but really I knew that The Cake Shop was somewhere around, and sure enough I found it. That, incidentally, is where the cream cheese and the chocolate nibs came from.

So having paid my respects there I carried on through the marché de Noël in place Victor Hugo, along to rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau and thence to rue Bayard, for the sole purpose of drooling through the windows at the selection of whiskies, rum, foie gras and, incidentally, cheeses at Laiterie Bayard, which you really ought to visit should ever you find yourself in the vicinity. Unlikely, I know, but stranger things have happened at sea (as Blackadder doubtless reflected, after his little trip with Captain Rum).

And from there it's but a hop, skip and a jump to the little alleyways behind les Halles, where one of my preferred épiceries lurks (but I don't actually need any more decent curry or green-tea chocolate bars at the moment, and anyway there were far too many people in there) so I just dribbled a bit and went on my way to the Irish Boutique, where I also did not buy any whisky. The queues were out the door. Nation of bloody alcoholics.

But right now it's probably time to whip up a salad, start some rice cooking, and get out the frying pan for those scallops. Especially as I've already opened the white, on purpose like.

Next time, if you is good, thee shall have a recipe. Or at least, a picture of what it looks like.

1 comment:

  1. Love the stained-glass window in the pub!
    Our sympathies about the snow. Sort of. Here it looks like we're heading into another drought (which will be the third summer of drought in succession), which is not good if you're a dairy farmer. Or if you want to water your garden lots. Which we do, on account of we'd like it to look all nice & lush when we put the house on the market, plus there are all these things in pots that we'd like to keep alive until we move. Besides, speaking for myself, I like the cold! You can always put another thermal on, but in this weather one is limited in what one can take off (in polite company, anyway).
    Just made 6 jars of red-&-yellow pepper relish. Pak'n'Save is selling them at 99c a pepper right now, which is ridiculously cheap; even our greengrocer doesn't manage that.
    And we are slowly but steadily packing stuff into boxes. Barry keeps muttering about us having far too many books. Rosie & I keep saying that we might just want to read that one again some time (specially if we're talking Elizabeth Peters or Terry Pratchett!)
    Stay warm :)