Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tis the Season, So It Seems ...

... for udder implants (don't ask), laser beams, Barbies in compromising positions, and shapeless stuffed animals.

Yeah, it's the season for brocante and braderie de printemps and godnose what else, when sad-faced little children are whipped down to the market-place and sit there with folding tables covered with half-eaten Barbies, Transformers with half the bits missing so that Optimus Prime can't even give a Decepticon a Chinese burn,  plastic bags of chewed Lego blocks, a few spare tyres and a 1960's Garrard stereo until they learn one of the basic principles of economics, which is that if no-one wants it, they're not going to pay very much for it. It usually ends in tears, in my admittedly limited experience. And very few of them go on to learn about the miracles of arbitrage ...

Sad too for the parents, especially those who've had the misfortune to have had three kids in, let's say, the space of eight years, and consequently get what must feel like a life sentence of going off to the things, once the first brat has reached the age of ten. Mind you, at least they always have the solace of alcohol.

We went around this morning, before the rush and the rain forecast for the afternoon: of course the professional brocanteurs had scoured the place for anything worthwhile and under-priced hours before, but that's not really the point. There was a decent meat cleaver that took my fancy, but the handle was a bit loose and the wood was a bit split around the blade: not the most hygienic and you certainly don't want half a kilo of steel flying around without warning. Shame, it was a nice blade. (Not, I admit, pretty - basically a big slab of steel, obviously forged by someone with only limited equipment and a tenuous concept of plane surfaces. But heavy, and a good edge.)

Margo was more successful, scoring - drum-roll, please! - a spinning wheel. For €25 instead of €30, by the simple expedient of lying and saying that that was all she had on her, rather than owning up to the presence of two €20 notes. Didn't even have to haggle.

Now our neighbour, young Stéphane, has a Cunning Plan to own all of St. Pierre before he reaches fifty, and then retire to a life of luxury on the rental income. Not a bad idea, really. But for it to work he needs to buy even more properties, so when Jerry mentioned in passing whilst emptying the concrete mixer or whatever that we were planning on leaving, Stéphane's ears pricked up.

And as it happens he has a child-hood friend who is an estate valuer, and he was keen enough to ask if it would be alright if he spoke to her about getting a valuation done ... I must admit that if we could arrange things like that it would be extremely convenient for all concerned. Might even accelerate things a bit, although I suspect we'll still stay in our initial time-frame.

Given that we have to find somewhere, take legal advice on the best way to set things up, crawl to a bank about a loan, stuff like that. In between trying to set up a business plan (one that does not involve fluffy rabbits or the Underwear Gnomes as part two of the three-part plan, parts one and three being, respectively, "Start a gite" and "Roll in the cash"), put out feelers in the States and elsewhere to take the temperature for tours, all those boring things.

As I said before, we've been studiously going through various property sites looking for something that takes our fancy: the good news is that there are quite a few at very reasonable prices. If we go a bit further west than we'd originally planned, could even buy an established place (yes, with a swimming pool: that's more or less obligatoire these days) and have it going for not even half a million. (It's just a number, remember? Nothing scary about it.)

Whatever, as I was wandering amongst the strawberries and the salades and all the rest of the lovely spring fruit and vegetables at the market I came across these tiny asperges sauvages.

Too pretty to let pass, you must admit, even if they were going at something like €40 the kilo - luckily you don't need too many. In fact, I was sufficiently overcome to pick up some epinards as well: not something I usually do, but that's another meal ...

So anyway I was feeling a bit weak after all that but nothing a brief stop at l'Arbre à Bières couldn't put right, after which it seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea to stop off at Stacey's on the way home, given that Beckham was in Tignes, Brian apparently working in Aix, Sophie otherwise occupied and covered in paint (don't ask, I'm sure it'll come off in the wash), and make lunch.

Luckily she had eggs, and a half-used pot of cream that had not yet actually turned greenish, and butter: unfortunately her only non-stick frying pan is crap and the base is warped outrageously, which makes cooking with the damn thing on her frikkin' radiant stove-top a right pain.

Still, I eventually convinced the water to come to the boil with sugar and butter, and stuck the asparagus in until tender and everything else had reduced to a buttery glaze.

Fish that lot out and grate some cheese: add more butter to the pan, swirl it around and sprinkle the cheese on top, then pour the eggs and cream over and let that cook gently.

(The omelette is a bit of a bone of contention around here. Margo likes hers fried until crisp: I, like all right-minded people, cook them just until soft and creamy. You see what I have to live with?)

Be that as it may, put the asparagus on one half, flip the other half over to cover and slide the whole thing onto a warm plate: can't be beat, with good bread and a salade Sophie on the side.

As for that spinach, it just got chopped finely that night and cooked briefly with a slosh of cream and a bit of gros sel: a perfect bed for a couple of pavés de saumon, with more asparagus. I do so like spring. Especially as the apricots and nectarines are just starting.

One thing, luckily, I did not get a photo of: Stacey's tabby cat having sex with my jacket. Godnose why she does it, but she seems to have this urge to leap on it, subdue it, bite the armpits and then, when it's quietened down, she goes to sleep on it. Kind of odd. And yes, I do shower regularly, so it's not that.

For those of you who wonder about such things, Malyon's finished her final exams and is, I assume, passing her time in drunken dissipation. In common with just about everyone else in Glasgow.  All the time, they don't really seem to need an excuse. On the other hand she did make noises about how it'd be good if one of us could turn up for her graduation; as Margo is going to be very busy organising for the next salon in the Aveyron (to which I'm supposed to be going, mainly to look at interesting possibilities) that person might turn out to be me.

Fly over on Monday, be there Tuesday (not sure I'll be at the actual ceremony, she gets one ticket for Tony and spares are allocated by lottery), fly back Wednesday. Still, not every day your daughter gets an honours degree.

Winding back to the weekend, as it started to clear up I took the time to wander around a bit and just happened to head down avenue de Boigne. Where, somewhat to my surprise, a new shop had opened up, selling beer. Not, in itself, unusual, I admit, but they were special beers (think bent old Belgian monks lovingly spooning hops into bottles, or however it is it's done) and on top of it, they had beer kits.

These can only recently have become legal in France, for I can still, rather blearily, recall that at one point Ian had to get them smuggled into the country in a diplomatic pouch, courtesy of Simon Upton.

WANTED: One White Persian Cat
I also found the time to wander into one of the little hole-in-the-wall electronics shops that seem to sprout everywhere around here (for some strange reason, there is not and never has been the Frog equivalent of Frys, or Circuit Valley) and picked up the cheapest case with power supply I could find.

Mounting motherboards is no problem - managed that with nary a screw left over (apart from the ones from the RS232 port, with which I decided not to bother) - but the right pain is trying to work out where the front-panel connectors need to go.

Still, trial and error is a time-honoured technique, and after swapping around the power and reset connectors so that the front-panel buttons worked as advertised, Jerry had a computer again. Next time, he can do it himself. Although as soon as he has enough cash, he wants to get himself an Alienware gaming laptop: that would be quite a lot of cash.

There's an old tradition around these parts (truth to tell, I'd thought it was more Swiss, but never let it be said that Savoyard peasantry would not stoop to stealing folkways - they'd steal anything else that wasn't actually nailed down, and even then your mileage may vary) of la bataille des reines. This is not chess, but the occasion for two cows to kick shit out of one another. Or so I assume, for I've never seen one, and am unlikely to head off to Chamousset across the valley to see the one that's promised for next weekend.

I've no idea what the rules are - if there are any - nor of the actual proceedings and any associated ceremonies, nor do I know what happens to the loser (although Margo did tell me that she'd eaten one of the winners from a Swiss contest - some years after the fight): I can imagine, however, that the radio commentary must be absolutely stunning.

Another long weekend - Pentecost or something - but as there is, proverbially, no rest for the wicked (for we have so much more to do than the virtuous, as they is lazy sods) and as Sophie is somewhere in Provence, Brian off gardening in Aix, and Beckham godnose where, I thought it might be a Good Idea to head down to the garden with 150m of extension cord and Sue's electric weedeater.

It wasn't. Of course I'd spent half an hour trying ot work out exactly how you're supposed to thread new nylon cord onto the thing (and got it right too, except that I wound it in the wrong direction 'cos there was no handy arrow anywhere), so it seems only natural that on getting down there it should work for five minutes before the motor overheated and decided to sulk, apparently permanently. Bugger!, with feeling.

On the bright side, that means it's still only 4pm, it's bright and sunny, and I have asparagus, strawberries and a whole salmon in the fridge with which to amuse myself. But before getting into that - and before the thunderheads roll over the valley from the Bauges behind us - I rather think I shall just check on the state of the white wine supplies. Temperature, things like that: you know.

And there's some bottles of 2004 chardonnay in there, better check it's still actually drinkable. Would not want to be disappointed.

Mind how you go, now. Have a nice winter.

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