Sunday, March 18, 2012

In The Land Where the Lizards Play ...

There must be an amazing number of loonies and generally mentally deranged people in Chambéry, if the difficulty of getting an appointment with a shrink is anything to judge by. March and April seem to be their busiest months, at least according to the one that Laverré recommended. Still, he reckons that he should be able to fit me in before the end of the month, which would be good.

I mean, just how barking mad does one have to be to get a little bit of attention in this place?

Our eldest son finally deigned to honour us with his attention: just a brief text to let us know that he'd arrived but had no network coverage. I don't really expect to hear anything more from him until he returns, but Margo did forward the contact number off to Malyon, who wants him to come up to Glasgow one weekend. God knows why, but I rather fear the worst.

Sometimes I forget just how good simple food can be. We were a bit desperate the other night, but we did have a couple of pork chops (would've preferred them to be thicker, but Mr B. is about the only butcher I can be arsed going to and he's hardly likely to be selling pork, now is he?) which got fried up with a sprinkling of herbes de Provence and then covered and left for a bit to melt down and make some nice burnt crusty bits.

Added cream and some whole-grain mustard for a quick sauce, served with Brussels sprouts and potatoes  mashed with butter, the rest of the cream, and an egg: it doesn't really get much better than that.

Except for the day after, with even less in the fridge and what there was mostly vegetables, so I peeled and thinly sliced some potatoes and used them to line a pie dish and stuck that in the oven, with melted butter drizzled all over, to bake. And while that was going on I fried up the only meat there was in the place - some bacon bits - added some sliced leeks to that and left them to soften, then flour, beef stock and some white wine for a quick sauce.

Ladle that into the prepared potato pie crust, top with parmesan and bake a bit more: with cubed aubergine fried up in olive oil with tomatos, poivron and heaps of basil it turned out to be surprisingly edible.

Mind you, it did leave me minus the skin of the tip of one finger, the result of slightly too incisive a gesture with a knife. My own fault, I do know better, but on the bright side blood always comes in handy for thickening a sauce, provided you remember never to let it boil.

Sad to say we're a somewhat diminished family these days: Margo had to have Kelly put down on Thursday. About the only thing she had left that actually worked was her sense of smell and when she started getting jaundiced, anaemic and incontinent, mainly blood and water, we decided that it was about time, before she started to feel too much pain. The cat doesn't seem to have noticed yet.

We still have those moments where you've a nagging feeling that there's something you really should be doing, like letting her outside or going for walkies, but that'll doubtless pass.

Saturday evening we're off to see our mad friend Karen for her partner Philippe's 60th birthday, someplace around Geneva. Sadly  neither Sylvia nor Liz will be there, so it might not be such a bundle of laughs as usual.

Part of Jeremy's plans for world domination involve him doing one more year at lycée to do a specialisation in boulangerie: at the end of which, as a bi-lingual French-trained chef and boulanger the world should be his mollusc. (Or, if you prefer, his huitre.)

Which is why, as I headed off to the market - once again, avoiding the autoroute, which was moving like a backed-up sewer - Margo went off to the lycée concerned, in St. Alban-Leysse, as they happened to have their open day. She chatted with the prof de boulangerie, and the general consensus is that when Jeremy gets back from bloody Blackpool he'd better go out and find a stage ASAP (which should not, it seems, be too difficult) and get back to the lycée.

Cuisse de canard confite, riz aux champignons, salade verte
So anyway, there was a quorum of four when Margo, Bryan, Beckham and I met up for the usual Saturday noon meeting of the Wine Label Appreciation, Cork-sniffers and Allied Trades Society (although Bryan, by virtue of having rather over-done things the night before, was recused and permitted a beer).

Chez Liddy was closed for their annual holidays - seems even bar-keepers get them these days, what is the world coming to? - and the Bar de la Place was full with happily eating families, so we wound up, as one will, sitting outside in the sun at l'Arbre à Bières, for all the world like a pack of wrinkled (Beckham excepted) lizards soaking up the warmth.

At about that time, as we were going over the minutes of the last meeting, the Maharajah - that being the excellent Indian restaurant across the alley - started cooking up a curry which, as it does, started the old gastric juices flowing. And then the guy sitting at the table next to us - another regular - had ordered the plat du jour, which quite frankly looked rather tempting.

So it didn't take us too long to decide that what we really needed to do was have lunch, so it was a pichet de blanc for Beckham and I, a glass or two of red for Margo, another beer for Bryan, and slates of cuisse de canard confite with timbales de riz aux champignons all round. Again.

And while we ate and drank in the sun we took in the street entertainment provided by the yoof of the quarter, which is kind of low-rent.

Definitely a working-class street, and I guess there's not that much to do of a Saturday afternoon apart from lounge around in the hotted-up Peugeot 206 for which you can't afford the gas, and maybe deal a few soft drugs out of the back seat.

Their sartorial sense is also a bit misplaced: I mean OK to the Adidas track-suits if you must, but honestly, with one leg rolled up to mid-calf? Beckham, who apparently knows about these things from her youth in Salt Lake City, said it was so 90's, and I would have difficulty arguing with that.

The advantage, I suppose, of the track-suit pants is that they allow incredibly easy access should you have the urge to discreetly scratch your balls, which apparently took them every five minutes. Not too surprising, there don't seem to be that many young women in the district, and those that are are sometimes a bit zoned-out and wander past nicking a few cigarette butts and sugar cubes from the unoccupied tables.

Then Foul Ole Ron turned up, doing the rounds and requesting cheap red wine with menaces (he got a big mug-full from the Maharajah, which does rather give me pause as I wonder what the clients get, let's be charitable and assume they keep it for sterilising the dishes) and the Likely Lads dispersed, which pretty much put a stop to the street theatre. A shame.

Whatever, we eventually called it a day around 15:00 as Margo had to pack the van for a little show on Sunday and we both had to get our glad rags on for the evening's entertainment.

Sifting through the wreckage ...
Which turned out to be very Swiss, or old-style French, come to that. Back in the day, one never invited people to one's home for such an occasion, but always to a restaurant, and so it turned out to be.

I took the precaution of looking up La Croix-de-Rozon on viaMichelin before we set out, and in fact we found the place easily enough and crossed into Switzerland through a frontier post you wouldn't know was there were it not for the fact that they close it at 19:30, but once we got there, no sign whatsoever of Place de Brunes and the Café Babel.

Of course the GPS refused to recognise that the place existed, and it was only thanks to a nice young man at a garage who told Margo that you had to specify it was in Bardonnex that we finally found the place, at the arse end of nowhere in some forsaken hole.

And when we did get there, it was to discover aunts, uncles, cousins and diverse descendants in attendance: everyone but the cat, really. Still, the cousins who cannot stand one another were seated apart, the business partner's wife who insists on flashing her (admittedly rather attractive) breasts was quite restrained, and the meal was excellent.

But right now, having arrived home some time after midnight, our week of wonderful weather seems to be over, as it's howling with wind and raining horizontally: I shall go and light the fire, I think.


  1. So very sorry to hear of Kelly's demise; there will be a large dog-shaped hole in your lives for a while. (I still miss Bella & it's been 2&1/2 years AND I have Ben!) Hugs all round.

  2. Hello,
    Such a nice picture...........