Saturday, May 5, 2012

Arizona Quail Egg Identification ...

So there we were, Bryan, Beckham and I, lazing in the after-market sun inhaling a few vitamins as she tried to work out which bar she really wanted to be at. The choice is not really that simple, sad to say: Bryan refuses to set foot in le Modesto ever since he was served what he considered a sub-standard and above all not full-enough glass of white, besides that he considers the waitress to be snooty, and out of some misplaced sense of solidarity she too will not go there.

Personally I've no problems with the place; they're always cheerful and I've certainly never been served anything I wouldn't want to drink. Which is not, I admit, setting the bar very high, because I'll drink most things so long as they're not actually diesel, but just saying ...

Chez Liddy is fine as far as I'm concerned, but she doesn't like that either - truth to tell, she has - uh, issues with bar-owners. The older male ones are all staring at her breasts (OK, I can understand that), the matronly female ones are doing the same, but disapprovingly, and she has problems with the serveuses who are young and almost as pretty as she is (dunno, maybe they're competition - are blondes territorial? If so, just hope they don't mark it in the traditional manner).

Whatever, there you have matronly bar-owner and pretty young waitresses, so the chemistry is not good. The last straw was when she got served her tomato juice (hard night out, I suspect) in an impeccably clean glass just out of the dishwasher and the waitress stuffed ice in it with her bare hands! That could only shock an American.

So ironically enough we wound up 50m away at le Refuge, where the execrable Pierre presides over a service that is just as glacially slow, and Bryan got the drink of water that accompanies a coffee around here in a dirty glass that had a marvellous lipstick kiss on the edge. So much for improved hygiene, not that Beckham batted an eyelid at that. "There's no point complaining", she said, "they'll only spit in it next time." Sometimes I wonder: she goes apeshit over hands touching ice-cubes, but sharing lipstick onna glass is OK ...

But anyway, she was laying out her plans for next weekend and I must admit I got a bit lost. Between Scottish Adam, Irish Tim, Scott the American, Welsh Roger and S&M Whisky Boy - not to mention bi-sexual Cédric - things get rather confusing. Not helped by the fact that I missed half the conversation, due to a phone call ...

Then it was his turn, so Bryan recounted how, after a year or more, he finally got around to unpacking the container-load of stuff that he'd sent over to Noo Zild when he moved "definitively" back there, and then had sent back here when he decided that it was no longer chez lui. For some strange reason he thought he'd start with his obsolete (ie seven year old) computer, and breathlessly opened the box purporting to contain the LCD monitor to find it full of socks. They were, at least, his socks.

The box marked "Computer" also had socks in it, and some underwear (also his), and a chunk of metal (which wasn't) just to make up the weight ... the old laser printer, on the other hand, was still where it was supposed to be. Which was probably a shame, as it's a discontinued model and a toner cartridge for it costs about three times the price of a new printer.

Makes one weep at the iniquity of warehouse personnel, does it not? S'not the money, more the data he had on the old hard drive. In which case, as I pointed out, it was a bit silly of him to send that off around the world rather than taking it out and keeping it on him, or at least making a backup - and in any case, computers with IDE interfaces are becoming kind of rara avis these days, so it might not have been much good to him in any case.

Actually, May is a rather good month this year. There are three or four public holidays, starting with Labour Day on May 1st, something on May 8th, then Ascension and Pentecote; and by a strange quirk of fate they all fall on a Tuesday or a Thursday, which means that the intervening day between the weekend will often be taken as an informal holiday as well. All those three-day weeks: no wonder the French tend not to have heart attacks, despite all that alcohol and the artery-clogging consumption of fat in its purest form, as foie gras.

Anyway, after a few sessions with the shrink which ended when he said that I seemed to be a) eminently sane and b) aware of what I needed to do, Margo and I have made a few decisions. Seemed like a good idea at the time, still does. Basically, Plan A (there is no Plan B, don't bother looking) is to sell up here, head a bit south or east and set up or buy a gite and/or a little restaurant, and then go slowly wrinkly in the sun, with nothing to worry about but stress, ulcers, mortgages, the sky-rocketing price of rosé and prostate cancer.

Well, it's not quite that simple ... Margo is making a name for herself in the incestuous but moneyed world of textile art and has people wanting courses in fabric dyeing and suchlike things: there is a definite niche market there for somewhere with ten to fifteen beds and an atelier capable of hosting two- to five-day workshops in such matters. Combine that with gourmet food - why not, cooking classes too, and promising English immersion - and this could work if correctly situated.

There is also a market for small company meetings and so on: three days away from the stress of Paris for the in-house training sessions of the Nose-Pickers and Allied Trades Union, for instance.

The first thing is to travel a bit - something we've not really done together a great deal - as Margo goes off to shows around the place so that we can look at places we'd like to be. Sadly, some of the most savagely beautiful are a bit off the beaten tourist track, but we should be able to find somewhere not so far away that they're unreachable. We'll not miss the mountains anymore, and certainly not the snow.

And now's as good a time as any and better than most: Mal's left, Jeremy's leaving as soon as he can, and we're not yet so decrepit that a drastic change in lifestyle is a frightening and insurmountable obstacle.

Well, told Renaud: now I just have to 'fess up to Sophie. Not looking forward to that: I will doubtless be in deep shit. Shall do it Real Soon, some time when there are no knives to hand. But should ever you hear that I've been taken out by a Hellfire missile from a rogue CIA Predator on a black-ops mission, you'll know who to blame.

I honestly did not know, by the way, that there were in fact quail in Arizona, and why someone would be so anal-compulsive as to wish to definitely identify their eggs escapes me. Nor would it make a particularly good name for a band, I feel. Still, it makes a better title than some of the queries that wind up here (yes, Virginia, threadworms are still a favourite. Australians seem keen on them this week, godnose why that should be.).

Just because the headline is so good: Biennial boner blights Beemer biker. It is, of course, El Reg, whose dedicated journalists selflessly spend their time boldly going where no-one else particularly wants to go, honing their alliterative skills and fetching back gibbering tidbits such as that. You have to admire what they do, especially as, as I understand, they get paid sod-all.

You may have heard - even over there in the quieter backwaters of the Pacific - that there's a presidential election going on over here: Sarko vs Flanby. (You wouldn't get that. Flanby is the name of a sweet but bland wobbly industrial custard dessert, and has cruelly been applied - with some justice - to François Hollande, the Socialist candidate.) So after the first round talk in the office turned, as it will, to this sort of thing, and the secretary was explaining why she was afraid that Hollande would get in.

It's because he would, it's feared, legalise current illegal immigrants and open the door to still more. Not that I was looking to start an argument or anything, but I did mildly point out that NZ is a country of immigrants, and that I myself was an immigrant: of course that's not the point. She doesn't mind immigrants: probably loves us cuddly étrangers. Turks, Poles, Portuguese, whites in general, no problem! It's the muslims, with their crazy religion, locking up their women! I suspect this is code for "anyone but Arabs", but I could be wrong there.

On the other hand, seeing what the second- and third-generation beurs around Marseilles have done to the kebab, maybe she has a point. A decent kebab is a thing of beauty and especially if done with decent amounts of extremely garlicky sauce blanche and maybe a bit of harissa it'll stay in your memory for some time, but the Marseillais version is, I'm ashamed to say, made with half a baguette and invariably has frites stuffed in it. It's enough to make one cry.

So, you see what comes of not keeping your mouth shut? I was happily sitting behind my desk the other day when in walks one of the superfluous functionnaires "employed" (that's in quotes 'cos usually employment means doing something useful) by Chambéry Metropole around the place to ask if anyone would be around next Thursday. I had to admit that I would indeed be there, and before I knew what was happening he'd whipped out his clipboard and was taking my name down.

I got to be an evacuation guide for the next fire drill! Not, apparently, too onerous a job: I hang around until a few people have collected and am supposed to lead them - calmly - off to the point rencontre. Wherever that may be. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to shout "Panic! Follow me! Women and children later!", but must remain calm and orderly. Bummer. Where's the fun in that?

Anyway, some of you might remember years back when I went over to Cameroon with Michel Halbwachs, sort of the epitome of the scientist-adventurer, with an amazing talent for rubbing almost anyone up the wrong way. Well, he's managed to do it again, big time: he was awarded the légion d'honneur for his services to science and, very publicly, in an open letter to Alain Juppé, turned it down. On the grounds that having a little sash tri-colore was all very nice, but it would be better, and less hypocritical, if la France actually put its money where its mouth was and helped out with a bit of cash. I can see that going down like a cup of warm snot in certain quarters.

And as it turned out, I escaped more or less unscathed with Sophie. Abject coward that I am, I sent her a text the other day and got a remarkably calm reply: so we met up for lunch and a long talk under the parasols at l'Atelier on Friday. Upshot is that so long as I promise not to disappear completely from the radar screens, I'm allowed to go off and follow Plan A if I insist.

Deceptive packaging
That did come, I admit, at the price of promising her a Spring lunch next Saturday (when hopefully it'll be fine): little asperges vertes, pois gourmands, salade and some mendiants au chèvre. I can happily live with that.

Actually, Friday turned out to be quite a social day: Margo and I wound up by having Irish stew (French pronunciation: "Eerishstou") and beer for dinner at l'Arbre à Bières, with a band of Irish musicians who'd come over specially for Irish Tim's birthday. Even Foul Ole Ron turned up, apparently after his biennial bath, doubtlessly scenting the opportunities for bludging a few handrolled fags.

Oh, I know I mentioned that it was going to be obligatoire to have an alcotest in the car come June: well, Margo thoughtfully went off and bought some the other day. The brand name could, I feel, have been better chosen: would you care to blow into the business end of a Turdus? Me, not so much.


  1. IIRC, 'Turdus' is a blackbird or starling when it is speaking Latin. I was hitherto unaware that these birds are noted for their judgement of alcohol levels in one's breath.

  2. I did wonder about the picture of a jolly little birdie on the packet, but took it no further. Whatever, I shall be hiding it away in the glove-box, for at first glance it looks like a packet of condoms and I don't need any more remarks ...

  3. Which is the business end of a blackbird? Thinking about it makes me all faint and I will go lie down.