Sunday, June 3, 2012

Another White-Hot Day ...

La belle faucheuse
So, Margo was off at the AGM of the coopérative of which she is part, Sophie was off at a rock concert or something in which young Rémi was playing (rather well, it seems) the guitar, so it seemed to me that the only reasonable thing to do was turn up at Stacey's with the makings of a quiche and some salad.

As you can probably tell, up until recently, when her friend Gilles turned up with a faux (that's a scythe, not a false) her lawn was in even worse shape than ours. And while I admit that there are no good health & safety reasons to cover up when bringing in the hay, it really does take a Californian to do it in gumboots, heavy gloves and a bikini.

And then for some reason she decided that I needed a shower, which is totally unjust even if I had spent the morning walking around a bit over-dressed in the 35° heat, which gets me on to one of my gripes about the French. Now in my opinion towels are supposed to be big, like about two square metres, and fluffy so that you can actually dry yourself on them.

For some reason, over here it is considered more hygienic (or something) that they be threadbare swatches of fabric that I personally wouldn't use to scratch floors with, and almost, but not quite, big enough to cover up one's privates. There's certainly no way you could dry your back with one (even if one were long enough, it'd be more like scraping barnacles off a hull).

It's kind of odd because apart from the dour Scots, the stern Swiss and those Lutheran Nordic types there's not really any great tradition of self-mortification: maybe it's to remind people of Lent. Or, more probably, maybe no-one actually uses the things, preferring to air-dry or perhaps just skip the  whole shower business.

Cook, and bottle-washer
Getting back to the point, I'm willing to admit it was hot, and I'd doubtless sweated a bit, but I had taken the precaution of stopping off at l'Arbre à Bières for a cooling glass of rosé and a chat with the cook and bottle-washer. Being a habitué has its advantages: they've a very generous hand when it comes to filling the pichet of wine when Margo and I turn up for lunch as we do most weeks, and I don't think I've paid for her dessert for some months.

Sad to say the cook is leaving in a couple of weeks, I do hope they find someone as génial to step into his shoes. I did ask if they were hiring, and from the answer I think Jeremy would probably have had a good shot if he cared to apply (I did have to explain that it wasn't for me), but that is not going to happen.

For one thing, I'm not going to eat anything somewhere that I know my son is in the kitchen looking disapprovingly at our choice and possibly making sure that our salad contains the biggest, juiciest slugs he can find, and for another, he'll soon be leaving.

Because he has been accepted by the compagnons, some time this month he should find out where he's going to be spending the next year as an apprentice, and then any time from July on he will become Someone Else's Problem. Which more or less clears the decks for us to get on with our lives, after all these years.

Oddly enough, the first time we went off to see the compagnons he was very dubious about postulating and doing the whole tour de France thing so as to actually become one of them and get the sash and the ring and all the rest of the mediaeval accoutrements: just the year's apprenticeship, he said, and then he'd be off around the world ... he seems to have realised that he can do the world trip as part of it, and he sounds a lot keener.

If he does go ahead with that, he'll probably wind up making more money that enyone else in the family. Little bugger.

And I've managed to find suitable flights between Geneva and Edinborough, which means I'm doomed to head over to Glasgow for Mal's capping. (She only got 2,1 instead of the 1, whatever she'd been hoping for, but given that she paid her own way through university with no help at all from us, and has emerged debt-free, and with an honours degree, I think that's actually a rather creditable result.)

Love. So sweet. Wanna fwow up.
Whatever, in the course of the ceremony, she will (and this bit, whilst of questionable hygiene and utility, is apparently true) be struck on the head with a hat made from one of John Knox's trousers. (The Arch-Chancellor's hat, anyone?). Sadly, history does not report exactly which bits of the pants in question went into the making of the hat, but I'm prepared to asume the worst.

So I've reserved a place on their sofa, which she claims to be comfy, if small: just so long as there are no bed-bugs I'll be happy enough. I doubt I'll get away with wearing my painting shorts for the posh bits, so I will doubtless have to take some hand luggage: a shirt and tie, a few cleanish socks and a toilet bag ought to suffice.

I will still look out of place next to Tony, who will doubtless be kitted out in full kilt and sporran, with a dagger in the sock, but even if I am entitled to the tartan (thanks to an honorary Scottish grandfather, or something along those lines - I get a bit confused sometimes) I am so not going to do that. All those men wearing dresses and hairy codpieces, with brightly-polished, reflective shoes - I don't think so.

In other news, Stéphane and Sébastien turned up on the doorstep on Monday with a friend of theirs: an estate valuer. We gave them all the full guided tour, and some time in the near future we will find out what she thinks. (Coincidence department: she spent a year in New Zealand, which may explain how she spotted us straight away for what we are: the jade, and the bare feet, were apparently dead giveaways.)

Otherwise, it's got to that dreadful time of year when our colonial friends across the water decide to numb their brains for a month or two with baseball or football or whatever, and there is sod-all TV worth watching. We still have a few episodes of "The Almighty Johnsons" put away for a rainy day (note to self, must try to hook Karen onto that, also loved the concept of the whiney tall dwarf and the midget giant) but otherwise it's pretty dire. What did people do in the evenings, before Al Gore invented the interwotsit? Play Scrabble? How madly exciting.

Reminds me that Mad Karen from Mumblefuck is going to have to change her sobriquet soon: not because she's getting any saner, just that her mother (yeah, that's the one that thinks I'm god's gift to just about anyone female and of Italian origin) wants to stump up some cash so that she (Karen) can put an offer on some enormous place in Seyssel.

Which is still a god-forsaken hole, but it's close to Geneva, which is good for Philippe, and as the house they're looking at is huge they can probably reserve an entire wing for Sylvia when she decides to come over from New York, thus reducing the chances of them actually meeting for any great length of time.

(I am not, incidentally, going to go into exactly why it is that Sylvia is now in NY rather than Los Angeles, which is further away from Yurrup, and consequently safer. Suffice it to say that it involves sister Liz, new baby, and a healthy dose of neuroticism which would keep Woody Allen in scripts for the foreseeable future.)

Heroic cloud sculpture of Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il
Getting back on track here, Sane Karen from Seyssel does not work and is also, strictly speaking, untrue, so I can see I'll have to put some serious work in on this one.

And then with Bryan having opened up this language school at Aix, it's getting pretty hard to find someone with whom to have a drink post-market on a Saturday. I mean it's all very well working and actually having clients who want lessons in the weekend, but it's kind of selfish when you consider all the times I've forced myself to loiter around under the sun with a glass.

Not that Beckham's much better, she's switched into summer mode which apparently means crawling from bed around 14:00 after a difficult Friday night's drinking in whichever bar will still accept her, and then going shopping for a few grocery essentials (like Chateau Carton white) with the rest of the flatmates.

Gratuitous cat cheescake photo
Whatever, now that I think of it it really does feel like summer, time perhaps to drag the barbecue out again for some Chinese-style marinated pork fillets with salad and potatoes, sweetcorn and goat's cheese cooked en papilotte over the embers. Something to cheer me up before, in three weeks time, the longest day of the year comes around and it's all downhill again.

And having come across the recipe earlier in the week here I was inspired or credulous enough to actually buy rhubarb at the market - not something I've ever done before - with a view to trying it out. (Also - finally - managed to find some decent mint, which you'd think would be easy enough but let me tell you it's not. Yes, parsley and tarragon and basil and dill and chives are all over the place, but a lot of the mint is of the decorative sort that looks pretty and smells OKish but tastes like crap, so if your favourite Arab stall-holder is out of North African mint you are pretty much out of luck.)

Anyway, there's still time before I have to go off and do the cooking thing, so I'll just leave you with this little reminder of just why it is we're still over here. Mind how you go, now.


  1. Congrats to Mally & congrats to Jeremy as well. See, they've turned out well in the end :-)

  2. What Alison said.
    When I'm in Glasgow in July I will be VERY DISAPPOINTED if Mally does not accept the offer of a celebratory dinner of fish & chips.

  3. full kilt and sporran, with a dagger in the sock

    Has to be a proper Sgain Dubh, too; your favourite cheese knife would probably not pass muster.

  4. Incidentally, Cameron of Erracht is apparently what you're entitled to (via Mum): Rather a pretty variant. Funnily enough it seems that the Notts & Jeannie Vickridge are related through that Cameron lineage - 7 degrees of separation & all that :-)