Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Literary Moment ...

OK, so yet another frickin tyre wheezes its last on me. Is it something I've done, words perhaps best left unspoken? I'm seriously starting to ask myself these questions, which is probably not a good sign.

I mean all I did was head down from the office to Carrefour on Thursday, and a couple of hours later, when I'm back up working busily away, some bstard  comes along to ask me if I'm aware that one of my tyres is flat.

Which is rather a stupid question because if I had been aware of it I'd have done something about it, wouldn't I? It's the sort of remark a Percy would make. (Which is, when you think about it, not bad as insults go. "You're such a Percy", whilst not actually vicious, is definitely debilitating. Saps the self-esteem.)

Whatever, cue a quick visit to the guy in the office next door to borrow his jack because mine folded up under the car last time I had to use it and of course the buggers at the garage didn't get around to replacing it, then a trip down to Feu Vert to organise new tyres and finally the pleasure of heading home not exceeding 80 kph, this being the maximum the joke spare tyres found in most cars these days are rated for.

Although looking at all the traffic there was on the roads - school holidays have started up in Paris and absolutely everyone who pôssibly can seems to have hopped in their car and headed, lemming-like, down here to get in some skiing on gravel, for there's sod-all snow - I might not have gone much faster on the autoroute anyway.

So just what the hell is a "glace portative"? Literally it would be "portable ice", which seems pretty pointless, so I'm willing to guess it just means ice-cream inna cone that you can take away, rather than in a bowl that you must consume on the premises (because they want their bowls back, and probably no longer believe that a good fairy flies around town collecting ice-cream bowls).

I suppose it must have been a pretty big deal back in the day (like, around 1910): the concept of selling people cones, rather than lending them bowls. Which the fairies never brought back.

A heartfelt thank you to the small gods of TV for "The Almighty Johnsons". Thanks also for "Mad Dogs", and "Bones", and "The Mentalist" ... Friday night is couch potato overdose night around here, it's nothing or a double helping apparently.

Will kill for bugnes
Sophie's buggered off to Brest for the weekend, and at the time of writing Bryan is booked in to do a couple of lengths of the lac du Bourget: quel bummer! I am faced with the dismal prospect of a dry Saturday (for rarely do I drink to excess on my lonesome). Things are coming to a sad pass when you have to organise an impromptu pint a couple of weeks in advance.

Jeremy is earning pocket money by helping the neighbours, Stéphane and Emily. I think Steph must be a frustrated Monopoly player, because he's slowly buying up the entire quartier: they acquired three houses over the past seven years or so and have just bought a fourth, one that's been empty since the big roof-removing storm years ago. To be honest, he's not happy unless he's renovating something, and Emily doesn't mind (to say that she actively encourages it might be going a bit far) 'cos it keeps him out of her hair.

So right now they're removing internal walls and getting rid of everything that came with the place, and that's where Jerry comes in. A bit of youthful muscle to lug stuff around. Got blisters on blisters, poor thing.

Well, at least Cardinal's have managed to redeem themselves somewhat. Not only were there plenty of nibbles to go around, but I also managed to wheedle the WiFi access code out of the hot blonde waitress. (It's 20677AB80D, should you want to know.)

I would like to point that this does not mean that I'll be spending Saturday mornings in future surfing porn in a bar (whilst doubtless surreptitiously ogling the aforesaid waitress):  it did, however, let Bryan and I settle the vexed issue of exactly who it was that wrote "Tom Jones", thanks to a quick google with the phone.

The answer, of course, is Henry Fielding. You may well think that a) I should have known that (guilty as charged, m'lud) and b) it would have been quicker to have rung Margo and asked, in which case you'd be dead wrong because when I came home I did in fact ask and she said "oh, wasn't it Andrews?". An understandable confusion of the artiste and his oeuvre, for Fielding did also write "Joseph Andrews", but that's hardly comforting when you're sitting in a bar playing double or quits and the topic is English lit.

Why "Tom Jones"? Oddly enough, Bryan brought up the topic of wenches, and I quite reasonably pointed out that to qualify as a wench you had to be a) demonstrably female, b) under 30 and c) have breasts that threaten at any moment to burst from confinement and quite possibly devastate the neighbourhood. (Being able to say "lawks" with a straight face would be a plus.) He had to agree that there was justice in that remark, and casting around for examples came up with the name (which I've now forgotten) of an actress from the film "Tom Jones" - a film which, from memory at least, was full of them. Wenches, that is. Not exploding breasts.

Hence the nagging wish to be sure as to the identity of the breast-obsessed author of the work in question. Personally I was certain it wasn't Smollet, who was Bryans' other suggestion. And give us credit, we'd both ruled out Swift.

Then, having little else to do apart from snag another bowl of nibbles and get another couple of glasses of white, he proceeded to regale me with a story that should surely have been entitled "Cunning linguists stay smarter longer": it seems that some brain-bothering boffins have demonstrated that bilingualism saves you from dementia. Their theory is that the mental struggle required to juggle a couple of languages keeps the old cortex agile or something: personally I'm more inclined to believe in Jeeves' theories as to the beneficient effects of fish.

And in any case the term "struggle" hardly applies to either of us: Margo maltreats French with casual brutality, and I long ago wrestled it to the ground and administered a good spanking, and it now does more or less what I want.

What with all that we stayed rather longer than planned, for there was some improvised street theatre when the SAMU and the pompiers turned up with blue lights flashing and all, followed by the fire engine with the great big cherry-picker. Then firemen's heads started popping out of the windows on the top floor of one of the old hôtels opposite, and we started to consider the possibility of opening a book on its being a jumper, or simply someone too grossly obese to be carted down the stairs.

Which kept us amused over yet another bowl or two of pretzels, and even more wine, which has to be a good thing. Keeps the service industry ticking over, for one thing.

But wandering around up at Montbenoit this afternoon, I do have to wonder what the future has lined up for us? Every small village around here seems to be weaponising religious statuary, turning them into pocket ICBVMs*. This is not looking good.

On the brighter side, I have discovered that you can do some wonderful things with a St-Marcellin. This is, in case you're wondering, a small round cheese that comes from a tad south of Grenoble: when properly ripe and attained apotheosis it's basically clotted cream inside a thin skin, smells like shit and tastes like an angel's armpit. Possibly an acquired taste.

Should you happen to have some of them floating around, you could usefully sacrifice one for a gratin. I started out by frying up some fatty bacon bits, then adding some 1" chunks of potatoes and the same amount of sliced leeks: when that lot's started to go golden add 300ml of beef stock and put it into the oven along with - let's say - the roast chicken you were planning on.

After 40 minutes or so the stock should have reduced and much of it absorbed: I do not believe that you can have too much of a good thing and so at this point I added a couple of heaping spoonfuls of sour cream and back into the oven with it for another ten minutes, along with the tarte tatin.

After that, use a spoon to put globs of the St-Marcellin all over it and let it finish for another ten minutes whilst you take a well-earned break. It's not half bad.

*For those of you without a copy of Jane's All The Worlds Missiles, this is an InterContinental Ballistic Virgin Mary. Payload usually measured in rosaries.

1 comment:

  1. bilingualism saves you from dementia

    So it is probably a good thing that I speak Gibberish as well as English, if not better.