Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow ...

As happens about this time of year, we put on the quaint clothes, did the Masonic handshakes and gathered anxiously around The Doors for the annual ceremony of Turning On The Central Heating. We do like to make it  a family affair, but for some reason uncle Yog never bothers turning up.

You'd think he would check his email from time to time, but apparently not. (Just as well really as I do have a tendency to spit everywhere when greeting him by name, also "All hail Yog-Sothoth, Eater of Souls" is a bit of a mouthful and rather over the top, we just have a kir and a cracker with shrimp paste on it for god's sake.)

Alas, Jeremy has still not completely assimilated the concept of heating ie that it is something that happens inside a house (global warming excepted), for he went up that night into my office to turn on the light on the balcony, and for reasons best known to himself opened the French doors and the shutters. And then did not close them. So I came down in the morning to find it a bit chilly in there, despite the heating. Now at least I know why it's usually warmer outside than in, come the winter. Jeremy is generously warming the entire neighbourhood.

Strange but true: in the English language you can embrace someone, and there's a noun for that, an embrace. It's what you've given the person you've just (with any luck, pleasurably) embraced. Now I've long been aware that in French there is a verb, embrasser, which is more or less equivalent (although, naturally enough, there is a kiss involved): what I've only just recently found out that there is no equivalent noun. (And please don't bother asking exactly why this question was weighing on my mind, let it be enough that such was indeed the case.)

There is, in fact, embrasse (nom, féminin) which is, according to the estimable, and indispensable, Larousse, "un article de passementerie: une corde pour retenir un rideau". A curtain sash, in other words.

So you can, quite properly, say "I hug you, my love, before I roll off and start snoring": (je t'embrasse, mon amour, avant que je commence à ronfler") but quite frankly "One last bit of haberdashery my dear, ere I sleep" ("une dernière embrasse avant de dormir, chérie; vas vite la mettre sur le rideau en-bas") just doesn't do it for me. Unless I've lost something in the translation.

And I am supposed to believe that French is the language of romance? I don't think so.

By the way, this is not actually a free translation service, so any comments asking how to say "How about a quick snog before your husband gets back?" in French will go unanswered. Unless accompanied by cash - I can be bought. Quite cheaply, too, all things considered - the quality of the service, and of course discretion is assured.

It all has to go titsup some time soon I know, but while it lasts I have every intention of enjoying it: the weather is still bloody marvellous. OK, another ten degrees more would be nice but still, after the morning fog the afternoons are unspeakably beautiful, and I can (barely) live with 15°. A Dunedin summer, I suppose.

OK, so what with taking off to the Lubéron and self-indulgently enjoying ourselves it seems that we once again missed out on this rapture thing. Mind you, that seems to have happened to an awful lot of people. Take Beckham, for instance: for once I was thoughtful enough to warn her that it was coming, and so she made her preparations.

In which, I would like to point out, I was not involved. So Saturday I get an SMS to the effect that I'm a complete arse because she took my advice, went out drinking (doubtless, knowing her, to excess) on the Friday night and now, the world not having ended according to plan, she has the mother of all hangovers. As if that's my fault.

And of course it's coming up to All Hallows Eve: Halloween to you lot, or la fete des Morts if you prefer. This must be one of the busiest times of the year for the florists: absolutely everyone is out getting chrysanthemums (I never know when to stop spelling that word: rather like banana, especially after a couple of the eponymous daiquiris) to stick on Granny's grave.

Did you know that there are actually grave-robbers, who come along and steal the flowers from one grave to put them on another? Sad, but true. It's rare, I admit, that you see it raised to the point I saw the other day, when people come along with a trailer early in the morning (to avoid the rush, I assume), fill it up with flower-pots and drive off. And they looked such a nice old couple. Still, I may be doing them a disservice: as Margo said, maybe they just had a lot of dead relatives scattered around the place, and were doing the rounds - dropping off rather than picking up. But I have my doubts.

Whatever, pretty soon all the kids of the street will be down this way looking for sweeties and apparently I'm not allowed to put rat poison on them "because", as Margo says, "Emily loves her children" so I shall just have to put up with that. We still, at time of writing, have about 4 kg of mixed lollies in the cupboard, which Jeremy is not allowed to touch. He takes this rather hard, but life is apparently about overcoming difficulties of this sort.

So, as will happen, Margo headed off to Grenoble with one of the neighbours to look at fabric shops (very thoughtfully leaving me behind), Sophie was in Lyon getting her overdose of kulcha at the Biennale d'Art Contemporain (not sure how she found it. Made the remark that "modern art seems to be a bewildering concentrate of humour and horror", which I find rather ambiguous. Still, she's the art critic.), and it was a fine sunny Saturday: what else could I do but fritter away an idle afternoon with the usual degenerate companions?

That had been the plan anyway, but Bryan wasn't answering his phone and Beckham pleaded yet another monumental headache, so I found myself heading home with, for some strange reason, the firm intention of cataloguing the contents of the freezer.

I'd actually hoped to find some cooked pork in there, to mince and turn into steamed pork buns - which Jeremy actually likes, provided that I don't use rice flour, for this apparently gives a texture to the dough that he detests - but no such luck: there was a failed attempt at corned beef, which pretty rapidly went the way of all flesh along with a half dozen sardine fillets, three popsicle lobsters which will become homard palestine at some time, god knows how many pork roasts and a suspicious looking tinfoil package of what I think must be sausages, and tub upon tub of fruit.

Blackberries, raspberries, plums, cherries - you name it, it's probably in there. I can see that at some point I'll have to knuckle down and do some desserts, and it is the season for clafouti and crumble and stuff like that, after all.

So it was probably a Good Thing that Beckham called to say that she was feeling much better, and how about that apéro in the sun to watch le tout Chambéry go past in all their finery?

Which is how I came to learn about muffin-tops, and just how stern a critic of other women's dress sense a woman can be. Not that she spared the men either, in all honesty. And I have to admit that track-suit and trainers, whilst doubtless comfortable, do not really help an over-weight 30-something male look any more attractive. (But you have to agree that the casually knotted cravat over there is kind of elegant, in an extravagantly BCBG Parisian way.)

After a while of this Bryan made his excuses and left - to go see a Brazilian, or something along those lines, which kind of left my mind boggling a bit - but the afternoon was still young, and we are made of sterner stuff, so Beckham took me shopping (yeah, I know - I really thought I'd got out of that, what with Margo heading off and all, but it seems to have caught up with me anyway) to work up an appetite for the next bar.

Which turned out to be the Café de Paris, where they have three house whites: an Aprémont, a Roussette, and a Chignin Bergeron. And as she's trying to educate her palate, we had little choice but to try a glass of each while we swapped stories (mostly true, even if somewhat embellished) and watched the world go past.

Rather a good way to spend an afternoon that would otherwise been wasted doing something useful, I feel. But I was surprised to look at my watch and find it was 19:00 all of a sudden, and me still unsure what exactly to do about dinner.

Not that I needed to worry too much, because when I finally did get home it was to discover that neither the salmon fillets nor the lamb shoulder had defrosted (OK, so I should have been more organised and dug them out earlier) which, given that there was some ham and lardons and batusson and chevre in the fridge (along with a big hunk of poitrine, but that's destined to become bacon), and a tin of tomato pulp with basil in the pantry, could only mean pizza.

Even if I still haven't got the delivery system right yet, I do like cooking them on the slate tiles. (According to Margo they sell the things at 5€ apiece in places like Habitat which, if true, means we're sitting on a small fortune down in the cellar.) Sticking them in the oven to heat up for twenty minutes or so beforehand means that when you finally do manage to get the pizza base onto them it starts to cook straight away, and so stays thin and crispy as god intended.

A bit of a pain that they're so damn heavy, but I can live with that. Anyway, down in the garden now the leaves are falling with a sound like gentle rain as they brush against one another, and the grass looks as though it's full of yellow flowers, so I rather think I'll head down there and take advantage of it all while the sun's still shining and I don't have to kit myself out as for a polar expedition.


  1. By the way, this is not actually a free translation service, so any comments asking how to say "How about a quick snog before your husband gets back?" in French will go unanswered.

    You do know about google translator, don't you??? Comment faire un snog rapidement avant que votre mari revienne? (I am amused that the translator asked if I wanted to substitute 'shag' for 'snog' LOL).

    So I fear your dreams of cash will come to naught...

    Completely OTT - had a delightful BBQ last night: marinated pork spare ribs (so tender the bones were inclined to come out as I turned them on the grill), together with kumara (also grilled) & a waldorf salad. Mmmmmmnomnomnom

  2. 1. Is that a pommegranate bush in the last photograph?

    2. Perhaps some people get more excited than you over curtain sashes and similar items of upholstery, and for them French is indeed the language of love. Have you consulted Margo, for instance? She appears to take fabric quite seriously [insert "moral fibre" joke here].

  3. Google Translate is somewhat random, you know. Personally I'd have gone with "Un baiser vite fait avant le retour du gros porc, mon amour?". Oh blast, now I've gone and given the answer away for free anyway.

    I like spare ribs where the ribs fall out of their own accord. It is a good sign.

  4. 1) Yes, that is indeed a pomegranate tree. Beautriful fruit full of little red jewel-like seeds, but I've never worked out how to eat the little sods in anything approaching a reasonable time.

    2) Sounds perverted to me, and I'll have no part of it.

  5. Dont know what to say other than "can I please have a tissue to mop up the drool from my chin" fabulous writing transporting me to a place I very much want to be