Sunday, February 26, 2012

Le Sacré du Printemps ...

Well, now that the snow has melted we can see the primeveres poking their heads up through the grass down in the paddock, and in another irrefutable sign of spring's imminent arrival there are hordes of lycra-clad buttocks on bikes making the little side roads a misery for those of us who just want to be about our business and avoid the tourist-clogged autoroutes without having to stop every five km to scrape stuff out from underneath the front bumper.

No swallows as yet, but they're a tardy bunch and unreliable as harbingers go, in my experience. In fact, some of the buggers don't even bother migrating anymore: come over to France, settle into a nice cosy little state-owned apartment and stay here for life.

Anyway, the snowdrops are out too, the pussy-willow is having kittens, there are twice as many crocuses (crocii?) in the lawn as there were last year (don't get excited, that means there are two, which could be either a linear or an exponential series, too soon to tell) and the first trim folded leaves are starting to come out on the noisetiers along the stream and over the barbecue. So Margo can look forward to a couple of months of hay-fever.

Incidentally, we were idly looking over the ads in the real-estate agents in town the other day, and it came to our attention that for all their linguistic snobisme, the French are just as capable of committing dreadful neologisms as their cross-channel cousins. I mean, "piscinable"? OK, so you could stick a swimming pool in or on the lawn but honestly, there has to be a better way of saying that.

Some Dutch pervert is looking for pictures with the keywords "human testicles cut off". Why do they persist in doing this? Especially when they must be sadly disappointed.

Beckham made it back from Bristol, or so it seems, although apparently she was in no state or mood for drinking on Sunday afternoon when I met up with Bryan at Cardinal's, which he seems to have adopted as his week-end office. Perhaps she'll be better this Saturday, although given how the pair of them tend to pass the Friday evenings I'd not bet money on it.

And as it turns out, I was right to be cynical. Foreseeing problems, Margo and I went off and did much of our shopping on the Friday night, when Carrefour is, although beastly, still bearable, which left plenty of time on Saturday morning to admire the traffic jams - from the exterior, I'm not stupid. Yes, I took the back roads - early enough that the cyclists hadn't yet hit them - and it was with some pleasure that I noted the jam started at the Chignin péage, carried along the autoroute and snaked its way through Chambéry along the voie rapide (no, that's not sarcastic), and then turned solid at the northern autoroute access. That's about 20km, which is kind of impressive, and it was the same in both directions.

So I was feeling understandably smug as I went about my business at the market, staggered back to the car with my arms lengthening from the weight of the shopping basket, thankfully unloaded it and headed off to the Arbre à Bières to meet Bryan. Who was, when I arrived, comfortably ensconced with a book and a chardonnay, but no Beckham.

Turned out that she'd found a new love interest and had headed off to Lyon for the weekend: at least, as I said, if she gets chucked out for not putting out it's still a damned sight easier to get back to Chambéry from there than it is from Geneva.

Still, the visit wasn't wasted: the chardonnay was excellent and as I'd thoughtlessly left home without a single drop about my person the cook very kindly served me up a couple of shots of whisky ("No point in Laphroaig, J&B will be fine", said he, "just for a flambé, and I can't ask you to pay for that") in a small bottle - which did rather look as though I was wandering around carrying a urine sample, but food is food.

When we left he asked what I was planning on doing with it, so I told him; heat through the cuisses de canard confits that I'd brought along, dust them with flour, flambé the suckers and then let them simmer gently in gewurtztraminer with grapes and some jumbo golden raisins. "And just what", he asked, "do you plan on as an accompaniment to that?" "A young, beautiful woman", I replied - not strictly true for Sophie is 50, but let's not quibble about mere details.

The cook had the good grace not to laugh too heartily, but Bryan subsided into a fit of muffled snorts: I think he's just jealous, sad to see how petty it can make people.

And as we headed back across Carré Curial, they were getting the stages set up for carnaval and running a few sound checks. As Bryan remarked, it always seems such a shame that they spend so much money on the sound gear, and none at all on music lessons. Still, as he lives just a couple of hundred metres away, he'll have a chance to see whether or not things get any better as the evening wears on.

So anyway, he headed off to have a few more adventures with DIY shelving and kitchen units (and, no doubt, to buy some earplugs), and I went to get lunch ready. I still think I got the better end of the stick.

Being of a kindly disposition, and also feeling totally unable to face yet another meal of left-over choucroute, I'd brought what was left  (a considerable amount, really) in a plastic tub and confided it to Sophie, who was cooing with glee as she went off to hide it in the fridge at the far end of the cellar, so that Lucas would not find it. (That fridge has done pretty bloody well, really. We bought it in Brittany in '87, it came down here with us in '88 and gave us years of faithful service before we donated it to Sophie about ten years ago - and it's still working. They just don't make them like that anymore.)

The duck turned out fine: it had cooked for three hours or so in its own fat on Friday night and was just about ripe. So as Sophie was getting all hot and bothered discussing les options d'orientation with Rémi (this is nothing more frightening than working out which uni courses to take in order to preserve a maximum of choice for the future, maybe get into a really good school - France is very elitist like that - and, just possibly, get a job: but it's far more important and let's be honest, anguished over here than I remember it being for me) I squatted a corner of the dining-room table and an empty wine bottle to make some feuilletage rapide for the baked apples before starting on the serious business.

Unfortunately I chose a moment when Sophie was looking up (doubtless rolling her eyes to heaven) to set fire to the whisky, which earned me a reprimand for reckless endangerment of human life and a good scolding as she wiped non-existent soot marks from the kitchen cupboards.

Whatever, there was no lasting harm done. And the best thing, I have discovered, about wearing a tie is that you always have it conveniently to hand should you need to clean your glasses. Or wipe a knife blade.

Sadly, the duck was alcophilic or deliquescent or whatever, for by the time it was ready there was nowt left of that bottle of gewurtz. There was, on the other hand, a gorgeous syrupy sauce of reduced wine, grapes and brown crispy bits which Lucas, at great personal cost, undertook to eliminate, armed only with most of a baguette. And Sophie had some rosé to hand, and a Tautavel, so not all was lost.

On another subject entirely, it appears I was right about Jeremy. He confided to Margo that on turning up to his stage at Briançon, almost the first words were to the effect that the daughter of the house was strictly off-limits.

And in other news, it appears that fairly shortly it will be required to have an alcotest in the car, along with the reflective triangle and the jacket. The principle, I suppose, is that you can hardly claim ignorance of the fact that your blood alcohol is through the ceiling if you have, in the glove-box, everything required to find out. A case of auto incrimination, as it were.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Fleeting Fame of Threadworms ...

Time for another episode of Life in Ole Yurrup, and I suppose we might as well start off with a bang - as it were: the search terms hall of shame. Hungary and India (an honourable third place goes to Brazil, looking for "Hello Kitty" which they're not going to find here) seem to be the main sources, which makes me wonder exactly how they occupy their free time over there.

So, lifted with some discretion from Blogger, and not necessarily in that order:

   big rose beef
   latex hentai
   enema time
   if you strangle yourself does your face bloat
   spanking kids

Number 4 is perhaps an honest question, posed out of intense (if rather morbid) interest - could also, on reflection, be someone panicking and wondering if their perfect murder disguised as auto-strangulation might not come unstuck due to the victim's face being bloated - or not. Although why Google thinks that I might have the answer rather escapes me. But numbers 2 & 3 are definitely insulting. And I can make neither head nor tail of number 1. What sort of question is that?

And for some really strange reason, this seems to have become the blog of reference for threadworms. Why this should be so is totally beyond my admittedly limited comprehension, and I have to say that it doesn't really worry me: anyone who winds up here looking for such things will find only factoids, these being facts which are not, strictly speaking, true.

Such as that the threadworm grows to 30m in length, is bright pink, goes "Bloort" when tickled and, should you ever get a cut on your abdomen or, gods forbid, in an armpit, you'll soon find out if you have them as they are attracted to the light and will come swarming out, possibly suffocating you as they slither all over your prostrate body.

(This last factoid is, in my experience, particularly good for relating to small children of a nervous disposition. But not at table, please.)

But honestly, who goes googling photos for pictures of  "threadworm eggs" or "dead threadworm"? Come to that, who googles "diesel powered nose hair trimmers"?

I've spent happy time with that WD hard drive, poking around on forums and turning over the mossy stones of the intartoobz, to discover that mine is not an entirely unknown problem. It may happen that, for reasons best known to itself, your drive may go autistic: Windows sees it as a hard drive (alas, the Fedora boot USB that has saved me on several occasions does not) but will not mount it as such, because it thinks it's unitialised.

So on the principle that it can't do too much harm I tell it to go ahead and initialise the sucker, at which point I am informed that it's read-only, so stiff luck there. Tried a couple of data recovery programs, all of which gave me nothing but sector read errors: maybe the thing is cooked after all. A b'stard, although there is not, as the Frogs say, "mort d'homme": it was only TV series, after all. But it still kind of makes me wonder if I shouldn't go back to 9-track tape for my backups.

And on top of that, it's still bloody frikkin frigid. The high today was -3°, which in my opinion is about 20° too low although, on the plus side, it was at least sunny. And without that vicious bise. Still time for comfort food though: forget la grande cuisine, want hot heavy calories. Which goes some way to explaining why we scarfed down tagliatelles with cream, bacon, onion and blue cheese sauce tonight. (Sadly, when I went looking, it was to find that Jeremy had - at some point in the preceding 24 hours - finished off the rest of last night's dessert, as well as the last of those diots, so I was bereft of blackberry torta della rose. Life can be so full of disappointments.)

Truth to tell, I am getting to the point where I firmly believe that once you've managed to get your kids out the door, you should never let them back in. Except on strictly defined occasions, under armed watch, and for pre-arranged periods: three days at Christmas, for instance. Otherwise you're just asking for trouble. It's rather like having worms: an autonomous parasitic life-form that sneaks out at night to empty the fridge. But at least for worms, you can take pills - can do that for kids too, but unfortunately it's not retroactive.

It has been drawn - forcefully - to my attention that today is the 30th anniversary of my marriage. Thinking to shift the blame I asked Jeremy what he'd bought us as a present: I suppose you can imagine the answer. "Oh, didn't know. Wasn't invited." True enough, but still ...

Whatever, it's still thirty years we've been together, with ups and downs, as will happen - but we are still together, which might be just a statistical blip but if so it's a happy one. I for one am not complaining.

Had an unexpected house guest for a couple of days: Stacey rang on Monday night to say that all her heating seemed to have gone off and the house was cold, so we persuaded her to come over on Tuesday. Of course the chauffagiste couldn't come until Wednesday, and when he did turn up it was to suck his teeth reflectively, in the manner of tradesmen everywhere if they're preparing to let you have the bad news, and then say that the circulator pump for the geothermal heating had died, and there seemed to be something broken in the backup gas burner, he'd see what he could do for Thursday but wouldn't hold out much hope, just can't get the wood these days ...

And as it turns out you can't: the manufacturers of the geothermal system and the burner have both gone out of business, so spare parts might be problematic: maybe some time next week. Whilst waiting it's about 3° inside her house, so she's definitely better off elsewhere. (And just to stick the cerise firmly on le gateau, she wailed "and I unplugged the microwave and now it won't turn on, and I can't turn the fridge off" ... not a good moment.)

Although it's starting to warm up. Sufficiently so that it snowed on Wednesday - not too heavily which is good, as I had to head off to Monthey at the arse end of lac Léman on the Thursday - and right now, Friday midi, we're luxuriating in a positively balmy 6°. This should continue, if it doesn't I shall be highly annoyed.

Whipped through Carrefour to pick up a few necessities for the chili con carne that's tonight's meal (I know there were plenty of tortilla chips in the pantry, but as Jerry's back with us that sort of thing tends to disappear and does not turn up on the shopping list in a timely manner) and came across something I really should go back and get a photo of: a rather strange-looking electric massage pillow. Unfortunately it resembles nothing more than a pair of fake boobs made by an extremely amateur potter, and seems to have flashy LEDs implanted randomly in it, for what purpose I cannot imagine.

Cunningly avoided the autoroute this morning - the first chassé croisé of the holidays, where one lot's headed up to the slopes whilst another lot's headed down - and although the départementales were a little better that's still not saying a lot, so it was about midday before I'd got everything done and could consider a well-deserved and reviving glass or two.

Which leads us to another excerpt from the Beckham Diaries, as once we'd frightened some old ladies away from their table and installed ourselves, Bryan explained to me that the reason we were drinking alone - or at least, bereft of feminine company - was that Ken the rich Australian had sent her a plane ticket for Bristol, which she quite reasonably took as an invitation, and used it.

So we were sitting there glumly reflecting on the perfidy of humanity in general, and more particularly that part of it which happens to be female when Bryan's brand-new smart-phone (with which he's not yet really come to grips, but that's another story) emitted a discreet belch to indicate the arrival of a new text. Which went, more or less, as follows -

"Hi guys, he chucked me out because I wouldn't sleep with him: changed my flight, now arrive at Geneva at 20:10, after the last train for Chambéry. Help? Beckham."

This is of course, as I opined to him, the problem with having pets: you just can't leave them by themselves for any length of time in case they get into trouble, and if ever there's a mess it's you that has to clean it up.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

They're Not Like Us, You Know ...

The Dutch, as opposed to the Belgians, are as a general rule sedentary by nature, leaving their putrid reeking polders to spread dismay and destruction amongst the neighbours only between the months of February and November. Their preferred means of locomotion are the camping car and the caravan, to the despair of those who wish simply to be able to drive from point A to their destination at point B: a convoy of Low Country caravans is certainly one of Nature's more impressive sights, but coming upon the wrong end of one on a twisty route nationale is hardly an uplifting experience. Even Genghis Khan might be deterred.

They are territorial and return religiously, year after year, to the same camp-sites - always those with the best view, which is odd given that they don't seem to enjoy it and in fact go to great lengths to avoid it, or to turn it into a rubbish tip. It has been known to happen that, during their absence, these have been taken over by the native campers: in such cases the Dutch become slyly passive-aggressive, and after a few days of petty sabotage and mean-spirited public drunkenness the presumptuous usurpers soon leave.

Sharlotka - should you be wondering
They tend to be large, blond, well-fed and smug, and their children as unpleasant as those anywhere else in the world: like the English they are susceptible to the watery rays of the feeble sun in the Nord Pas-du-Calais, and so are often sunburnt. In supermarkets they quickly become the dominant species, displacing all others and hogging the shopping trolleys as they lay waste to the rayon vin et alcools.

Agriculture is virtually unknown: in the place of fruit and vegetables they have developed technological marvels of tasteless plastic or cotton substitutes which are exported around Europe, as they have the advantage of never going rotten, no matter how long they lie at the bottom of the vegetable drawer. Their "tomatoes" are considered a particular success, having a bright cheery red colour but neither taste, scent, nor texture. They may safely be eaten, but with no great pleasure.

Although amongst other Protestant virtues the Dutch are thrifty they are not especially miserly, which leads one to wonder as to the origin of the phrase "going Dutch". Enlightened etymologists ascribe it to their sexual habits, which we'll not explore further, this being family entertainment. Basically both parties, even consenting, are supposed to pay for the privilege, which is remarkably egalitarian. The cash thus raised supposedly goes into trust funds for the eventual offspring, but is often spent on schnapps.

The Dutch are not considered comestible, mainly because of the disagreable taste which mixes tulips, pig-shit (the national industry), and the foetid water of the stagnant canals which constitute 90% of the country. This being said, there are those who affirm that the Dutch of Rotterdam are somewhat finer.

Is there, do you think, a market for anthropolophagic travel books? I feel one trying to come out. Just wait until I get on to the Germans.

And while we're more or less on the subject, there's been some interesting cross-cultural fertilisation going on over the last 25 years. One of the staple "entertainments" around here is Guignol, the traditional and very lyonnais version of Punch & Judy. Like its British counterpart, it lets kids get all excited and bothered at the sight of small people hitting one another on the heads with big sticks whilst uttering falsetto shrieks: the parents sit glumly in a stuffy tent through all this and wonder why the only drinks option is warm beer.

The interesting part is that it has now become, for some reason, Guignol and Winnie-the-Pooh. I really cannot figure that one out. Maybe French children just like seeing fluffy toys get beaten.

Headed off to Sorhéa at Lyon to get a bit of work done, and as I was sitting there doing it my phone rang. Rather to my surprise, someone in the lab - on hearing the dulcet Dalek "exterminate!" tones - turned round and said "oh, you like Dr Who too? I've tried to explain it, but no-one seems to understand". So apart from apparently having a policy of hiring only left-handers (something you notice in meetings, when everyone"s taking notes) they also hire sad geeks.

Anyway, Saturday at the market and even more frigid, if possible, than last weelend. It made for a quick trip around: there was virtually no-one outside - not surprising, most vegetables are probably frozen right now, apart from our old friend the leek, and possibly the parsnip - which meant a rapid pass through the inside for clementines and a few bits of greenery before heading off for the usual post-acopalypse glass with Bryan.

Then, of course, there was all the fun of getting home. I hit the voie rapide and sneered at all the poor twits trapped in a 10-km backup to get onto the autoroute for points north, carried on barrelling along and of course, it's always after the last possible escape point that they stick the little vans with the helpful signs saying "bouchon". (Which is indeed a cork, or if you happen to be in Lyon a restaurant, but also means traffic jam)

So ten minutes later, spent inching along in a seething mass of Dutch and Parisians, I made it to the Montmelian exit and took the nationale: I'm not certain that that was a good idea because I fairly quickly caught up with some old git in an Aixam who was doing all of 50 kph and no chance of overtaking him because of all the oncoming traffic, mostly - I assume - people who'd come down from the ski stations and who had - understandably - decided not to risk it on the autoroute.

My blood pressure was getting up when I finally made it back to the house, so it was probably a Good Thing that I'd bough some diots just before leaving the market: they fairly quickly got stuck in a frying pan with some sliced onion, carrots, herbs and white wine and left to simmer whilst I unpacked everything else from the car. They were just starting to get ripe when Margo turned up with Jeremy, who proceeded to hoover one up and stick it down the middle of a hunk of baguette (do not ask how he made the hole for it to go in, you really do not want to know and I can tell you it's not a pretty sight) for the Savoyard equivalent of a hot-dog.

All in all not the best of days because the Western Digital hard drive that has all the TV series on it decided to go titsup, which leaves us with unrecoverable unwatched episodes of various bits'n'pieces, then I dozed off in the comfy chair (diot overload) with a glass of wine wedged between my thighs and the cat decided that there would be a nice place to sleep. As it was, until she rearranged herself, dribbling red wine all down my legs.

Some days, one just should not get out of bed. I told myself that as I was heading in to Chambéry this morning: maybe next time I'll listen to my wiser self.

PS - for a more objective view of our Dutch friends, go look at this.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What A Senseless Waste of Human Life ...

Who would have thought it, an international criminal mastermind, intellectual-property theft facilitator and penis-spammer found hiding in a spectacularly vulgar and tasteless Auckland McMansion? (Who the hell ordered that thing built, by the way? And why haven't they been arrested for crimes against good taste, and the builders executed, pour encourager les autres?)

How times have changed since the Good Old Days™, when the international press and the eyes of the world turned to our beloved country only to report on, and gloat pruriently over, the scandalous bedroom antics of some lesser-known politician and a convalescent rabid sheep. And now the shame, our proud nation's good name sullied, dragged through the mud with the full knowledge and connivance of the political elite - I can stand it no longer. (Hurried footsteps, door slams, sound of gunshot off ... "Damn!" - second gunshot ... this could go on for some time)

But seriously folks, it is making it damn difficult to find places from which to download decent TV series. I bet they never thought of that when they arrested the guy. The consequences will, as usual, be unintended. (Bonus conspiracy theory for no extra charge - yes, I have actually heard it, not making it up - Dotcom was arrested at the behest of The Music Industry, and probably Big Pharma too, to put the kibosh on their planned paying streaming service, which was going to deliver singing Viagra to millions of porn-hungry, tone-deaf Americans by the technological miracle of MADTRIPE*. Believe it or not, but remember - you read it here!)

Another one of our false friends is the word "déçu". You really would think I'd know that one after all this time but I'm apparently slower than even the rest of my sadly cynical family believe, for I didn't. In my defence, the difference is subtle ... "tu dois être", wrote Sophie, "déçu de ne pas me voir ce samedi" - WTF? Deceived into not seeing her? By whom? Is there an international conspiracy, involving dubiously made-up aliens and Area 51, and operating only on weekends, of which I am an unwitting pawn? Sophie, what is going on?

Of course I didn't bother to check before replying, too bad really because the word simply means "disappointed", and quite correct all things considered. Especially with all those choucroute ingredients on my hands (although that did work out alright in the end). It's always the little things that trip you up. As Alice Cooper once remarked, albeit in another context.

I rather foolishly bought a large chicken on Saturday, being as it was on special: totally neglecting, as one will, to glance at the best-before date - which turns out, on closer inspection, to be today, Sunday. I am not going to roast the poor beast and let it wither and dry in the fridge until Margo turns up, and I have nothing suitable with which to stuff it, otherwise I would perhaps bone it and turn it into a ballotine. My options are somewhat constrained: I could either poach it, let it cool in the stock and then do something interesting with the meat, or turn it into a stew of some sort. Decisions, decisions ...

After considered reflection, it's been a long time since I had a decent chicken pie, and come to that there all sorts of things crying out to be done with juicy shredded chicken meat and tacos, or pita bread - I rather think I'll boil the bugger. And at least like that I can freeze the leftovers, and reincarnate them as spicy stuffed dumplings at a later date. Sounds good to me.

On the other hand, I also have two rather large saucisses de Montbéliard in the fridge, originally destined for that choucroute but there was so much meat already in there that even I could not find the heart (nor, to be brutally honest, the room) to stuff them in. Quite frankly I'm seriously tempted to slum it and treat myself to something Margo won't eat - bangers and mash leaps to mind - but this talk of dumplings has got me all aroused**, so it may have to involve sauce, in which I can cook those as well. Why does my life have to be so full of choices?

(But I rather think I've had enough pig to last me for a while. Say, until next weekend.)

While I think about it, I met up with Bryan today, bobble-hatted as befits an ambulatory garden gnome (him, not me you fools), as I trudged through the snow in the centre of town, and discovered just why it was that he and Beckham felt themselves unable to eat choucroute on Saturday night. It turns out that once I'd left them heading off in search of a pizza and a couple of glasses of rosé to wash it down things degenerated: they wound up at Bryan's place and discovered - to their astonishment - that there were still a couple or three intact bottles, saw that this was a shame and finished them.

When Bryan chucked her out so that he could get a bit of a nap, Beckham headed off to Cardinal's for some serious beer-drinking and, hopefully, a pick-up: she tried all the males at the bar, lost her wallet (some kindly soul apparently stuck it down the loo), got chucked out for being D&D, and fell off her bike on the way home.

So you see, there are worse than me.

Anyway, got a phone call Wednesday to say that there were forms to be filled in for Jeremy before he left for his stage in bloody Blackpool, and that he needed to sign them before Friday. Does no-one talk to others at that damn lycée? I mean, surely someone there must know that he's currently on stage for three weeks in Briançon. Pissups - breweries, in - organisation of ...

So I went there this morning to sign for him and glumly admitted that I was a complete idiot for not having brought with me a photocopy of his carte d'identité (which of course he has on him), nor an autorisation parentale de sortie de territoire, which I had no idea he needed.

Perhaps encouraged by my passivity the secretary got quite chatty (truth to tell, I was hoping to get out as quickly as possible) and confided that there ware at least six families in the same state as us and some of them had got quite shirty. "But", she said, "I'm only doing my job". I thought vaguely of reminding her that that defence has been tried before and found wanting, but she seemed to be of an age to be able to personally remember the Nuremberg trials, and of a humour to have been on the wrong side of the bars, so I let that one slide.

And I got a phone call from my friend Denis, of the SNCF, who's off on some trials up in Metz. Just a few little problems, but he mentioned in passing that the temperature inside the rame was all of 10°. Attacking a keyboard with woolly gloves on must be an interesting experience. Mind you, 10° would still be a luxurious 25° warmer than outside, which rather puts it in perspective.

Here we had a relatively balmy -7° outside, but I must admit that the wind-chill factor from the vicious bise made it feel colder. (That is indeed the word for a kiss, but applied rather sarcastically: it is close-up, on the lips - and everywhere else - long enough to feel like forever, and very cold.) If this keeps up I won't be spending much time outside at the market on Saturday before repairing to somewhere cosy where sustaining drinks may be bought.

Let's be honest, things are not getting any better. Nine degrees below this morning when I left for town, and still that brutal wind. Mind you, after half an hour or so, even with a greatcoat and gloves, you can hardly feel anything at all in the extremities (especially the ears, don't know why this should be so), which I suppose has to be a good sign.

Had to be one of my quickest trips around the market on record, though. Half the stallholders weren't there (wimps!), no salade (probably frozen), and even Goat Cheese Man was AWOL. There weren't that many clients around either, truth to tell: I suspect that most intelligent people - and even the little old ladies - had decided to stick around in their nice heated apartments rather than go out and get transformed into Popsicle-Person.

Whatever, they apparently have enough clients chez Liddy to still be able to afford heating (even if the door-handle is held on with string) so Bryan and I could at least thaw out a bit as we nursed our glasses.

*That's MAtter Disassembly, Transmission and Reconstruction, Internet Protocol Extension, for those of you that don't get out much, or keep up on the Internet RFPs. Which is, let it be admitted, most of us.

**Yes, I know, it's sad. Still, food plays an important part in erotica, and for most people - university students excepted - having a stable food supply is more important than sex. Mostly, anyway. And the Scots could always console themselves with dreams of tepid porridge***.

***Clinical tests have proven that this is not, in fact, an aphrodisiac. Which rather makes it stand out from other foods, which are.