Sunday, December 18, 2011

Grinch(eux) ...

Well, winter arrived all of a sudden. Got that wood stacked (thanks, Jerry) and, incidentally, regretted it bitterly for the next couple of days: the base of the spine and my legs felt as if some large uncouth animal had been walking all over them. Unaccustomed effort, I admit. Still, just as well it's done and over with, for it started to rain early Monday morning, and I'm not sure it's actually stopped since.

Of course we were arriving at the end of our carefully constructed Pile when Jeremy placed two more logs on top and the whole thing collapsed into an unorganised heap before our eyes. Shit, apparently, happens.

Still bugger all snow, and what there was has mostly disappeared under the rain, but they're promising a severe drop in temperature and heavy snow for Sunday. Just my luck, I have to head off and pick Malyon up at Geneva that day.

And of course, just to make it all peachy, we're going through - or rather under - the arse-end of the storm that traversed Britain, crossed the Channel (with no respect at all for border formalities) into Britanny (where at least they're used to rain ) and then headed for Paris, at which point it was supposed to peter out. Typical optimism, it was still doing just fine when it got here on Friday and dumped god knows how many cm of water on us.

(Incidentally, I have since learnt that the Scots, who are noted for their elegant turn of phrase, called it - thanks to its appearance on the satellite images - "Hurricane Bawbag". Better, no doubt, than "Scrotum Storm", but not by much.)

Now we know more or less how many people we'll be having over for Christmas lunch, we really need to start planning that. Can't get pintade for love nor money (well not quite true, can get it for money, lots of it) so we're tending towards a simple roast or barbecued leg of lamb with all the trimmings (and a huge ratatouille so that poor Tony won't actually starve in the midst of plenty) followed by apfelstrudel and whatever other rich sticky things take my fancy. I suppose you lot are all planning a picnic on the beach?

There's also the vexed question of Christmas decorations: personally I could quite happily consign them to the bottom-most pits of hell, but Malyon is not of the same opinion. But I'm afraid that if she wants The Tree, she can bloody well get it out of its box and decorate it herself. Come to that, both she and Jeremy will probably want their Christmas stockings.

Anyway, as usual I went off to do the shopping, and let me just say that you might feel that it's kind of romantic to go around the open market with great soft flakes of snow falling from the leaden sky, but you're totally wrong. The reality is that it's cold, and wet, and it's always just as you're trying to fish your wallet out to pay that the canvas awning over the market stand chooses that moment to empty its load of cold sleet down the back of your neck.

(Although even I have to admit that the warm lights from the shop windows, glinting off the slick gleaming cobblestones, are kind of pretty.)

And don't get me onto the topic of those old hags with the scythe-hubbed shopping trolleys and the umbrellas, which they hold at just the right height to take your eyes out if you walk uncautiously past.

Luckily, although obviously enough they're not serving out on the terrasse at this time of year, le Refuge is still open, so the gang of three met up to down a bit of anti-freeze. Beckham, as usual, was late - which meant we had to pay full price for our drinks - but being made of stern stuff we resolutely attacked the bowls of nibbles that arrived with the glasses. (Bryan's philosophy is that one should always get on the good side of at least one waitress. And if, for some reason, you cannot actually sleep with them, at least make it clear that you'd like to do so. This seems to work wonders, although I cannot personally vouch for it.)

The conversation turned, as it will sometimes, to various stupidities we've committed and thence to books like "A Year in the Merde", which celebrate them - which led, in turn, to my confessing to my continuing confusion with the French language. (Not to mention a sad tendency to alliteration.) And as Bryan said, anyone can write a book about the problems of communicating with a plumber in Paris: the bewilderment that ensues when both parties to a conversation are certain that they've understood when in fact it's the complete opposite is something else again.

So I am going to sue the arse off Bryan, should ever he go through with his threats to use my solecisms and travail with the French language as the basis for a book. I have evidence of prior publication, for gods sake! Perhaps I should wait until it becomes a major motion picture, perhaps with Meryl Streep, and there's the prospect of some money in it.

But then he excused himself to go off and have lunch with his clients that pay him to do this and speak English at them - a good job if you can get it, I think - and as our glasses were not yet empty Beckham confided what she wanted to do. Two things, actually: the first, not actually a bad idea, is to open a second-hand English-language bookshop and café, sort of place where one can wander in, get a book and curl up in a comfy chair with coffee and crumpet for a good read. I can see that working, given the right location.

The second idea, which she will go ahead with anyway out of spite, is to write a book provisionally titled "Why I Hate the French And Other Philosophical Essays: Never Sleep with Anyone Younger Than Your Boots". There'd be a market for that, although given the sheer quantity of material she might have to turn it into a trilogy.

And then, just as we were getting ready to go, the execrable Pierre hovered over to our table and served us a round on the house, which I suppose just goes to show that there's some good buried at the bottom of even the vilest amongst us. Or possibly just that Beckham has really nice blue eyes and no hesitation about batting them.

Whatever, that slowed us down a bit, and the sleet had turned to real snow by the time I got back to the car and headed off to have quiche and salad with Stacey. Who at least has a rolling-pin, which avoids getting flour all over a wine bottle. On the other hand her stove-top is high-tech and glows red, and the knobs are kind of counter-intuitive and apparently coded in Braille, and in any case it doesn't actually do what I want to, and is ratshit for gently stewing shallots.

And much to my disgust it was actually snowing when I left the house this morning to head bravely off to Geneva to pick up Malyon. And yes, I was indeed the only one stirring, although to judge from the wreckage in the sink Jeremy had already been up, scarfed a packet of chocolate-coated sugar bomb cereal and whatever bread was left in the house, and then headed back to bed.

Only a few anxious moments between Annecy and Geneva, happily - I really do hate that feeling when the tires start to slide at 130 kph - and when I did get there it was bright and sunny: unusual for a city which has always, in my experience, been gray and overcast. Dour old Calvin.

Still, it's possibly better down here than up in the stations: poor Sophie took Sév off to les Menuires as her birthday present, and so far, apparently, it's been wind, rain, snow-storms and bitter cold. Not the best weather for skiing.

So all things considered, I'm quite happy to be here, warm and comfortable, watching the big fat flakes drift down.


  1. The downside to people curling up with second-hand book & crumpet is that they might actually finish the book & put it back on the shelves, with the result that she'd never actually sell anything. Although if curled up with crumpet, I suppose no actual reading might get done, so they'd buy the book anyway?

    ... Oh, not that sort of crumpet! I see... Carry on, then :-)

  2. PS if it makes you feel any better it hosed down here from 4pm Saturday until about 6pm last night, plus the temperature in Hamilton dropped to 13o. (Actually I think it was colder than that - down in the gully, it was breath-fog conditions.)

    But it is supposed to be fine now until Christmas - although I don't actually trust the forecasts that far out - & why yes, we are planning a BBQ, how did you guess?

  3. I'm pretty sure that Beckham wouldn't go further than scones and muffins, so people would have to bring their own crumpet if they wanted any.

    And although it's snowing right now it's supposed to start raining soonish and then clear up, with bright sunny weather forecast for Christmas day, so we too might be having that barbecue.

  4. Oh, I have a pair of good leather boots that are in fact about 35. Beckham's 30. I think that's why she made that rule up.