Sunday, June 17, 2012

Les Filles de Joie Sont Arrivées ...

Klingon bird of prey uncloaking over the Alps
... with apologies to Rouget de Lisle, who was not, incidentally, a fish (not a red mullet, in his case). Did you know that the rouget is also called the woodcock (or snipe, or bécasse or whatever) of the sea, due to the fact that discriminating gourmets prefer to eat it, in common with the bird, with the contents of its intestinal tract and rectum intact, rather than gutting and/or drawing it as would seem correct? If you did not in fact wish to know that, please feel free to forget about it.

Also, it has absolutely nothing to do with what we rather euphemistically call "working girls", who are admittedly quite busy down on the nationale these days. You'd be surprised at the number of Audis pulled up there. Or maybe not.

So blonde moments seem to be coming closer and closer together: this should probably worry me. Having had the White Van™ repaired it started to develop an alarming clunking noise, which eventually even I could not call normal, so I went back to the people who had supposedly repaired it.

"Oh," said the mechanic on hearing the various noises, "that's not right. Something is deboulonné. Leave it with me, squire ..." And so he gave me a little Peugeot 205, along with a grim warning not to try to lock the doors ("if you do, you'll never get back in and there's nothing worth nicking in there anyway") and I happily drove back home.

Enjoying the sensation of what might loosely be called a car, in which acceleration is not measured in m/sec² but rather feet/fortnight² and top speed in furlongs/week, where the clutch was apparently implanted from a combine harvester, and the brakes work if you agree never to ask them to do so. Still, the windows actually went up and down when I wound the handles, so that has to be good (and, quite frankly, better than the old Alfetta called Sarah, where if you tried that trick on with her you'd lose an arm to a piece of stray steel cord. A lovely girl, but with a vicious streak).

And the piece of steel plate, bolted on under the steering wheel as an afterthought to hold the ignition which would otherwise have fallen on the floor, was a nice touch.

Somewhat to my surprise I actually made it home, which was a bit of a shame really because I'd just pulled up when the garagiste called to say that I'd only gone and forgotten to leave him the keys for the Fiat, hadn't I? And sure enough, there in the front right pocket ... a quick trip back to Frontenex; still, it let me make friends with the gearbox. Good thing, actually, that I could still remember the pattern from 15 years ago, the pommel having fallen off the gearstick.

And you try telling the yoof of today about the Plasticine Era, before they invented power steering.

Of course, when I went back to Frontenex to reclaim it on Friday night, I got stuck behind a frikkin' Aixam. You will not have come across these, for they are peculiarly French, and you are doubtless better people for it. I say this because if there is one thing guaranteed to send you directly to Hell, no passing Go, no $200, it is being behind one of those things.

They are little boxes on wheels (well, casters really, and with the particularity of having been designed by someone who believed firmly that the value of pi was exactly 3, so a circle is not quite ... round), powered - if that's the word - by a 150cc diesel and capable of a top speed of about 60kph: they are much in favour amongst the elderly, the infirm and the Alzheimer's-ridden as you do not need a driving licence to umm - drive - the things. As a result, feeling themselves competent, capable and secure, and no doubt empowered or whatever, you get old senile people driving the little piles of shit along the nationale at the amazing speed of 50kph, and doubtless feeling very pleased with themselves for bogging up traffic for miles behind.

I mean, what are they actually doing there? Where are they going at this huge speed? Have they run out of senior-citizen nappies and have to head off to the only supermarket in a 50km radius that stocks the things, or are they just blissfully oblivious of the pain they are causing to actual human beings? For all I know, they think they're just walking downstairs in their slippers to pick up the morning paper.

If I had a steamroller I would happily flatten them into the ground, with prejudice: and yes, a steamroller would go faster than they do. Had I thought to order the missile-launching attachment for the car I'd have wasted a couple of Hellfire missiles, just to teach them a lesson (but I would feel so good about it). A CIA black-ops team would've had a Predator in there in short order. Were I Dis, they'd be having their livers perpetually eaten by hungry vultures, with extra mustard, and ketchup just to add insult to injury. And rabid feral pigeons, crapping down their backs and in their mouths.

I can see that my attempts to be a Happy Zen Person are not entirely successful. I will work on this, and try to be a better person. Some time, real soon. Right now, I have some adorable fluffy kittens I need to stuff in a sack.

Whatever, it seems we're going to have at least three days of summer. Starting today, and counting down. I really had hoped for something a little better, but quite frankly after what seems like a solid month's worth of rain (I know, I know, I'm exaggerating a bit) I'll take whatever I can get. And with luck there'll be at least one fine weekend in July for the traditional barbecue - provided, of course, that I can get down to the garden some time soon with a weedeater.

So anyway, Margo decided it was time for a bit of spring-cleaning, and she roused the lares and the penates from wherever it is that they lurk to do a bit of work around the place. For once, idle little buggers that they are. Now she said that they were supposed to be getting the rust off the shutters on the balcony, but personally I'm not convinced that they've really got the hang of the concept. Mind you, they seem happy enough.

And now it's Sunday, must be at least 32° and the sun is beating down: probably not, despite the old adage, the best time for going and making hay but I thought I'd better get onto it anyway. So I have just spent three hours down there and am taking an extremely well-earned break to get some feeling back into my arms before heading back. I am so looking forward to a shower.

NOT a crown of thorns, pigeon defence
But do take the time to spare a thought for our little furry friends and all the happy woodland folk, whose plans for today probably did not involve having it terminated by a yellow nylon cord whizzing through the brain-pan. They were in arrears on the rent anyway, maybe this'll teach them what the words "Final Notice" mean.

On the other hand, I note, upon closer inspection, that I have apparently been attacked by Genghiz Ant and all his angry buzzy followers, and judging from the fruit content a swallow has crapped on my head. That shower is going to be so appreciated. At least the paddock's starting to look a little less like something out of a van Gogh and a bit more like somewhere you might want to sit and eat a nice bit of grilled meat. Especially now that there's not a dog wandering around to scarf it if it looks neglected.

And Mimosa the donkey, to whom we have apparently promised the cut grass, should be bloody happy. I've not yet worked out how I am going to persuade Jerry to rake it all up. Would brute force work, do you think, or will I have to offer payment? 'Cos I kind of doubt that the pleasure of a simple job well done would be considered adequate recompense.

So now we also know where Jeremy's not going: Lyon. The compagnons apparently don't like them being too close to family, suppose it makes escape look like an attractive option. So it'll be Nîmes or Perpignan, both of which - no matter where we end up - will be suitably far away. One down, no more to go. Definitely the right time to sell the house.

In other news, someone is gardening at us: surreptitiously and, I suspect, with intent. It started a couple of weeks ago, when I wandered out onto the balcony to find a small pot with a weedy-looking plant in it sitting on one corner.

Then a week later it had been watered - not something anyone around here is likely to do - and someone had stuck a toothpick into the soil and carefully tied the stem up.

And then this morning, once I'd headed off and got a baguette and a pain au chocolat aux amandes (you really owe it to yourselves to have one of those before you die, you know: they are just so good especially if you're looking for a sugar fix in the morning) and wandered out to have a coffee and wake up a bit before doing manly gardening things (did Hemingway ever write about that, I wonder?) I found the damn thing had been repotted.

So someone is trying to surprise us: we've interrogated Jeremy but even the jumper leads from the car battery produced no results (well, apart from a few screams) so we're tempted to believe that he is not, in fact, guilty: I am starting to suspect Emily and Elise from next door. Maybe I should set up a webcam out there, try to catch them in the act. Because I don't think Margo would accept the jumper leads, under the circumstances.

OK, I've moaned and bitched and now my prayers have been answered: our trans-atlantic cousins seem to have got over their fixation with silly ball games (incidentally, the technical documentation for the Telit GE-863 modem has a section enticingly entitled "Balls Array", don't get your hopes up though as it's a BGA package and has nothing to do with what you were doubtless thinking) and have started pushing out good summer television again. So "True Blood" has started up again, and now "Burn Notice".

So I am going to be able to slum it in style as the temperatures creep up into the high thirties, slumping in front of the TV and letting Monkey-Face (as Mad Karen so cruelly calls the poor bugger) amuse us.

Just need a bit more trivia-with-violence, and I will be a Happy Person. Who knows, maybe I'll even smile at an Aixam.

And of course, it's being June, there are now certain things available at the market, many of which are affordable and, in most cases, legal. Things like nectarines (which, for some reason, the French insist on calling brugnons) and pêches blanches which are absolutely delicious and also go well in a tart, cherries (OK, those are still hideously expensive) and strawberries and, still, asparagus. And great bunches of mint, and parsley, and basil, and coriander if your tastes happen to run that way.

On the other hand, the coquilles de noix de St-Jacques are going at about 49€/kg, which is a teeny bit excessive. I think I shall rely on the frozen ones from Carrefour - OK, it's out of season but I don't care, I love the damn things. As does Margo: good thing they make Jeremy vomit, otherwise I'd be bankrupt.

Even the tomatoes are staring to have a bit of taste, which is always pleasant (especially with a bit of basil and goat's cheese, or just lotsa mint), there are lots of baby carrots and the courgettes are no longer agricultural-society monstrosities. And thanks to the miracles of modern agriculture, there are still rougette available.

But the aubergines are not yet quite what they should be, which is sad because I'm rather looking forward to a decent ratatouille.

And meals tend to become quite light. I got some pork chops the other day but as Jeremy is heading off to "do some revision" with a friend and then sleeping over at her place before his exam tomorrow there seems little point to a barbecue: we also have some shrimp in the fridge so a stir-fry with asparagus and salad seems like a good idea.

Can't be arsed with dessert, mind you. Ice cream is always good.

In any case, s'been a good day. My arms are still limp appendages, I am pink and bumpy all over and the paddock is still only half-done, but what the hell. I don't seem to have broken the debrousailleuse (a first, for me), summer's here, and I for one rather plan on taking advantage of it.

And if that happens to involve eating out on the terrace a bit more often, with a little flan aux tomates et au chèvre and a bit of decent bread, not to mention some nicely chilled rosé, I can live with that.

1 comment:

  1. You'd be surprised at the number of Audis pulled up there.

    They could all have just broken down, you know. Or the drivers are asking for directions.