Sunday, July 10, 2011

Anything once, except folk dancing and incest ...

... as once was said, it seems, of one of the various Morleys. Possibly apocryphally.

Doddled off to Aiguebellette to get the dearly-beloved son, and waited as he bade teary-eyed farewells to all and sundry. (I exaggerate a bit. More a case of shaking hands, clapping shoulders, and "see you one of these days". That's the yoof of today for you.) So now we're stuck with him - and, while he's at home, his mate François, who seems to look on our fridge as his.

The restaurant gave him 100€ under the table (which was nice of them, it's a stage non-remunerée and they didn't have to) and offered him a job over August, which he turned down. It was service rather than cuisine, and in any case that's his busy social month. Never mind, he's got plenty to do with Stéphane next door.

Two legs good, four legs better
Over that side of l'Epine the daylight hangs around a lot longer - here we tend to get the light cut off by the Bauges around 20:30 or thereabouts, and Chambéry is worse - and so even late evening there were still plenty of people jumping off cliffs and sailing lazily around.

Which is all very well I suppose if you're into that sort of thing, but I'm not. I rather like the reassuring feeling of having something under my feet, even if it is only a couple of planks.

Still, that's not the only option available: you can just lie on the beaches and soak up the sun, or take out a boat, and the more mettlesome can even go swimming.

Not, incidentally, something I do very often. Not that the water isn't clean or anything, quite to the contrary - it's just that I always seem to manage to get a bit of duckweed or something floating into one ear, which then gets infected and requires massive doses of antibiotics. And being a bit retarded, I've not yet worked out how to swim whilst reliably keeping my head out of water.

Aiguebellette was where we first discovered that, in France, there's no such animal as public foreshore - not as far as lakes and water-courses are concerned, anyway. There are still a few stretches of water-front - all rather rocky, and tending towards the inaccessible - where you can, if you can get there, go paddle your feet in the water for free: for the most part, it's plage payante. Can't complain too much, at least someone gets paid to keep the grass tidy.

Like I said, this weather is not really conducive to grande cuisine. The salad consumption goes way up (happily, there are many ways to accomodate the humble lettuce, at least if you start off with a good one, like my favourite rougette which has thick, crunchy, flavoursome leaves) and we tend towards simple stuff that doesn't require complicated utensils like knives and forks to eat.

Like a decent chili con carne, for instance, with salad on the side and tortilla chips. I cannot tell you how happy I am that these have become almost universally available over in these benighted parts.

It used to be that you had to hunt down a few sad packets in some specialty store and pay through the nose for them - I guess the French have embraced le mondialisation at last, at least as far as food goes. (Actually, that's true. Even back in José Bové's glory days the French were enthusiastic eaters of le fast-food, and now, at least in Paris - I know, that's not really France, but never mind - Mexican, American and Indonesian grub, to name but a few, is pretty easy to find alongside the Asian cuisine that's always been available. In the 13th, anyway.)

Why, even in the countrified bourgeois backwater that is Chambéry, any restaurant that aspires to trendiness seems to feel obliged to offer their variant on the hamburger. (Incidentally, the one at le Modesto isn't half bad. Still no beetroot though, perhaps I should offer a few suggestions.)

Which reminds me that I forgot, a while back, to mention Eléa's Café but then this is an on-going research project, isn't it? The eggs benedict aren't bad (although the industrial sauce béarnaise is that rather startling yellow that can only be achieved by overuse of industrial colorant E605 or whatever) and they do a pretty decent BLT.

I have seen people order a burger there too: I have never been tempted because, quite frankly, it would feed a family of Biafrans for at least a month and I know I would be incapable of eating it. In fact, it's so massive I'm not sure I could even fit it in my mouth, and I will not eat a burger with anything other than fingers.

We're well into July now, and that can mean only one thing: it's the Mondial Folklorique at Chambéry, with all that entails. There are of course spectacles ambulatoires, wherein oddly-dressed people stop, clear a space large enough for the delights to follow by the simple expedient of tuning-up, perform a brief cacophony (may involve pigs' bladders onna stick) and then bugger off to the next place of torture.

There is folk-singing, which makes me very happy that my grasp of French is not perfect. There are costumes involving - usually - acres of flounced starched linen, cutely embroidered caps, stockings, gaiters, and a beard. (This last apparently essential, no matter the sex of the participant.) And then there's the inevitable, lugubrious wheezing of quaint instruments, usually constructed around parts of a goat's anatomy that the goat in question would probably be happier still possessing.

All of which leads to monumental pile-ups on the pavements as folk who have better things to do try to get somewhere that they can do it in peace, struggling through the masses of stunned-mullet gawkers gathered around the troupes, wondering what worse could possibly follow. (I must admit I wonder myself sometimes. It is, inevitably, worse and I don't know how that's done. I hope it's an asymptotic approach to some hypothetical nadir rather than a straight geometric progression, for the outcome of that would, were the festival not limited to one week, be dire.)

In any case, I can definitely see the attractiveness of the Patrician's attitude towards the proponents of street theatre, and would myself happily chip in towards the construction of a municipal scorpion pit. (A public amenity that seems to have been inexplicably omitted from the plans for the reconstruction of the covered market.)

Another thing is the enormous increase in the number of weddings going on - you can tell this, even over the roar of the mower down in the paddock, by the processions of cars all honking like mad, followed shortly afterwards by the full-volume recording of bells ringing out as the victor is declared. And then up in the village the next day the streets are covered in sawdust, for in Savoie for some strange reason you get strewn with sawdust rather than confetti. Perhaps just a reflection of the notorious parsimony of the peasants, who saw no point to wasting good paper, but had plenty of wood to hand.

I'm not entirely sure why this happens, but I suspect it's something to do with the consequences of those chilly October evenings with nothing else better to get up to.

I really do not like funerals. I can't think of a damn thing to say (I mean, just how many ways can you say "Oh, sorry about that" - more to the point, how many times could one stand hearing it?) and I feel like a complete prat. Still, noblesse oblige and all that, so when I got an email from StockIt to say that Réné's wife had died suddenly - aged around 35, yet: cancer's a filthy beast - off I went to sit through the whole Catholic affair. Did not make for a particularly cheerful Tuesday. At least it wasn't in latin.

Whatever. I have some basse côte in the fridge: I think I shall go marinate it overnight in some Memphis barbecue sauce so it's ready to meet its maker on Tuesday night. With a couple of baked potatoes with sour cream, garlic and chives, and the inescapable salad, should go down a treat.

Hopefully, it'll be more successful than last night's quiche. My fault, I know that Jeremy cordially detests the things, but personally I love them and from time to time I let myself cook for me. I suppose I really should wait for some time when everyone else has buggered off, but sometimes I gets certain urges ...

Headed back to Medipole to see Jacques again - the old fool got himself readmitted, having insisted on being checked out too early. So they didn't spot that some sutures hadn't taken or whatever, so his bladder wasn't exactly watertight any more ... gave us the chance to catch up some more in between the comic nurse interludes à la Benny Hill (yes, that really does happen), mustn't complain. His middle son, Vincent, is apparently to open a replica of his Geneva bar/resto, "Au Coin du Bar", in Chelsea - paid for by English clients. Wonder if we could ship Jeremy off to London?

But getting back to my principal preoccupation, as I nicked some rosemary from Stacey's place yesterday (I have never been able to keep rosemary alive here, don't know why - it's always died in frightful circumstances. Burnt by drought, eaten by beetles or, like the last lot, literally mown down in its youth.) it might be lemon and rosemary chicken tonight.

Enjoy your winter, we're thinking of you. And no, those are not mine. No matter what Smut would try to have you believe.


  1. Enjoy your winter, we're thinking of you.
    HA HA over in the UK at the moment and drinking liver-jolting quantities of Fullers ESB.

  2. Is that a picture of bras in a tree? Why are there bras in a tree?

    And tell Jacques from me to take good care of himself!

  3. Would you believe Stacey took her bikini off and hung it up to dry? That's my story, anyway. Jacques is a lot better, by the way: they let him out - again - a few days ago.