Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's A Beautiful (Green) World ...

The amateur Sherlocks amongst you will be pleased: we have managed to resolve the Mystery of The Pot Plant, and without resorting to tortured deduction Or, indeed, torture. "Oh", said Jeremy blithely over dinner one evening, "you mean that pot plant." It is, in undeniable  and unmistakeable fact (now that its leaves have formed), a pot plant: "it's for my 18th birthday", he said. Fair enough, I suppose, so long as he doesn't go all industrial-scale on us.

Like, for instance, Stacey's brother Chris, who years back apparently managed to convince their innocent mother that the crop out in the back garden was in fact Tibetan mung beans, or something along those lines. Seems she never thought to wonder about the plastic sheeting and all that, until one day the police turned up.

Still, it was fascinating to find out that if you bring water up to precisely 67°C and fling fresh pot leaves in it, then add some butter, this will extract the THC which will not evaporate off at such a temperature but will then bind to the fat, so after cooling down you have cannabis & chlorophyll butter. I did not know that, I must go and get a decent thermometer. For research purposes, you understand.

So anyway it's the summer solstice tonight, which means la fête de la musique, and as Margo was heading off for dinner with a friend and Jeremy's plans, after his final exam yesterday, most emphatically did not involve staying home, I kind of thought that perhaps I'd grab a quick meal and head off into Chambéry to see just how crap the music was.

Dinner being nothing more complicated than searing strips of duck breast, fishing them out of the pan and then reheating them in a sauce of spring onions, ginger, white wine, lime juice and redcurrant jelly, was over rapidly, which gave me plenty of time to sit out on the terrace and have a cigar as I watched the thunderheads roll in up the valley. As they seem to do, every year at this time. And once the downpour started, I thought that perhaps I just wouldn't bother, after all.

Let's face it, seeing someone spewing water out of their tuba is fun once, but the second time it's not quite as droll.

It's true enough that that initial downpour only lasted 20 minutes or so but still, it was probably a good thing really that I decided to vegetate: not only would I have had to park the car somewhere about 5km from the centre of town, but the second downpour, around 10pm, was definitely a serious affair.

Not that it seemed to put too much of a dampener on the whole affair. I saw Renaud briefly the next day - he'd been playing, and could only manage a 30 minute appearance at the office - and he told me how, at about 3am, he'd met up with a group of acquaintances, each with a fresh bottle of rosé and a glass ...

All a bit much for me, these days, I'm afraid.

Whatever, Jeremy's had his final exam and is now a free man, pending being called up by the compagnons to go off to where-ever he might be placed. Which leaves us the pleasure of his company for anywhere between one or two months, and a perpetually-empty fridge for the same period.

Unless, of course, he takes up the possibility he got offered of a two-month job up in the Chartreuse, as cook and responsable de cuisine for a holiday chalet. (The French have this wonderful idea of what they call colonie de vacances, where kids get sent off to some centre out in nature to have organised Fun with activities and everything, whilst the parents thankfully hit the pastis and lounge around, enjoying the sadly temporary peace and quiet and trying to work up the courage for an extra-marital fling while the nosy little sods are away. I suppose it's the Yurrupian equivalent of summer camp.)

Sad to say he's not too sure about that: he fears that as responsable it may entail  - gasp - paperwork, which is not one of hs favourite insects, plus he would, not unreasonably, like to have at least a semblance of holiday for his 18th birthday and before going off for seven years hard slog.

We're trying to persuade him that he should perhaps see if he could organise to do it just for a month: not only would it get him out of our hair for a bit, in any case he could do with the money to pay off his fine. (Silly bugger decided to be a smart-arse and hop a free ride on a bus: unfortunately he chose the same bus at the same time as the heavy squad of enforcers, and got a €45 fine. An expensive free ride. Teach him not to mess with the STAC.)

In other local news, you are perhaps vaguely aware that for more or less the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic (can't be arsed googling it, sorry), the Socialist party control all the levers of power: presidency, senate, assembly and the regions.

I do hope this means that taxes will go down (except for the rich and businesses), pay will be doubled (idem), the retirement age will be set at 45 across the board, the national debt and unemployment will be miraculously wiped out by the simple expedient of employing 500,000 more uncivil servants, and there shall be a unicorn in every garden, but I have nagging doubts.

Come to that, as Hollande's not particularly beholden to any of the far-left fringe (who really, seriously, meant it about the unicorn thing), there may be a few grand gestures for the headlines but then, after closer examination of the books and the ritual cries of shock at the absolutely parlous state of the national finances - due entirely, of course, to the complacent profligacy of the previous administration - it'll be announced that everyone must accept that rigour is required, for the sake of la patrie (and there's an odd thing, you really would think that "fatherland" would be a masculine noun but apparently not).

So plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose and all that, and at least they can always blame Sarko for the situation in which they find themselves and the choices they're constrained to take. Everyone else does. And who knows, might even lead to a slightly more normal relationship with Germany. That would be interesting.

But more cheerfully, all that rain on Thursday definitely cleared the air and Saturday turned out a beautiful day: I love the light in the early morning when the sun's just coming up over the Belledonnes, just a shame it is, in fact, early. Come to that, the light at the end of the day as the sun goes down behind the Granier is bloody marvellous too, and at least I'm awake enough to appreciate it.

Anyway, on with the daisy dukes (as Beckham will insist on calling them: I admit that they are only notionally shorts now, being more hole than actual fabric: kind of a rather shabby Platonic ideal) so as to frighten little old ladies and off to the market for more nectarines and peaches and apricots and the eternal rougette for salad.

Sadly, cherries are still out of my price range, but I still manage to snaffle a few, under the pretext of checking to see whether they're acceptable. Try a couple, frown disapprovingly, and then move on to the next stand ... a time-honoured custom around these parts.

A shame that you can't really do that with strawberries, as these are not often sold en vrac, but that's too bad.

Still, summer makes for a quick trip around: there's not that much choice and if you get there early enough - as I did - there's not that much of a crowd. The only problem, really, is getting all that sun-gorged fruit back to the car without it turning into jam: the only way I've found to ensure that is to carry a heavy cane in one hand and slash viciously at people who look as though they're going to jostle you or lurch into the panier. And then, for appearances, apologise profusely.

Upshot was, I wound up at l'Arbre à Bières just after mid-day, I can see I'll have to train up the new chef because he has not yet learnt what a proper measure of rosé is as far as valued clients are concerned.

Drinking alone, unfortunately: Bryan's school is working sufficiently well that his Saturdays are rather circumscribed, Beckham was trapped in bed (don't ask) and at that exact moment Sophie was busy wielding an electric cattle-prod 350km away, herding fifty children onto a bus for the return trip from the classe de mer down south.

Which left me with little choice other than to return home and try attacking the paddock again. Either that, or feign heatstroke, and sadly enough that little trick no longer works very well with Margo. I think she might have caught on to it.

Anyway, we spent a lovely afternoon in the sun: young Stéphane next door decided that it was a perfect day to fire up the bread oven, and as there were six adults plus Jeremy, thought that two calzones and fifteen pizzas would just about be enough.

I think he erred on the side of pessimism, myself. Still, once Jeremy had buggered off to the lake to dunk with his mates we heard a bit about him: "il a", said Seb, "une tête sur ses épaules", which came as a bit of a surprise to me, I'd always thought it was a paperweight but there you are.

But right now, I suppose I'd better go and pack the one bag that is allowed me on the flight: seems I'm not obliged to wear a suit which is a relief as they're a bitch to stick in a backpack but I shall at least take the Victorian ponce coat, in order to make a good impression. Or at least, show willing. And, under pain of pain, I shall take the camera. Which I had hoped to leave behind, after all I've already got photos of Glasgow, but it seems it's needed.

As Malyon said, they'll just think I'm eccentric, which is acceptable, and if it comes to the worst I can always try to get away with a thick cod-Frog accent. And in any case, Tony's family are apparently even worse than us, so it's not as though I'll be worrying anyone. Call it a case of lowered expectations.

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