Monday, July 23, 2012

Bugger! With Feeling ...

I sometimes wonder. I mean that people come here looking for "bottle stuffed anal" I can, at a stretch, understand, but that someone would be looking for "self needle amater torture" rather boggles my imagination. Does no-one learn how to spell properly these days? I blame it all on SMS and Twitter.

Anyway, I checked out the price of an Olympus 40-150 zoom, to replace the one that died in Glasgow, on rueducommerce the other day, found it acceptable and that they had it in stock, and then let the matter slide because I couldn't for the life of me remember the password for the site, such things all being stocked in the faithful old Palm which sits permanently on its charger at home. (After 12 years of good and faithful service - I remember writing my diary on it when I was in Cameroon - it's slowly dying. I'll be saddened to have to abandon it at the recycling.)

So on Tuesday I suddenly remembered, had the password to hand, and logged in to order: none in stock! I don't know why, but this left me feeling incredibly frustrated, and I just had to have one. Or at least, know that one was going to turn up in the mail really soon.

Which is where I made a foolish mistake. I headed off to the FNAC in the centre of town and up to the first floor where all the cameras and electronic gear live, and looked at the lenses. It was hot, I was sticky and sweating, and the nerdy salesperson (who at least seemed to be semi-competent) was servicing some twit who knew only that he wanted a bunch of megapixels ... and there was only one Olympus lens on the shelves, and it wasn't the one I wanted.

Finally the twit hove off, still perplexed about exactly what an aperture was and what to do with it, and it was my turn. So I stood there dripping sweat and popped the question: I felt somewhat like the customer in the cheese-shop sketch. And I got the answer I'd rather been dreading: "Sorry squire, fresh out. Can do you one for Friday ..."

That, I'm sad to say, was when I snapped. It had become vital, I absolutely needed to have a replacement zoom that very minute or else I would burn up with frustrated desire ... five minutes later - no self-control, talk about instant gratification - I was walking out with a 70-300 zoom that was kind of more than I'd bargained for. "Don't bother wrapping it", I said, "I'll just fondle it as I go."

Which I did. It is, let's face it, more than I need, but I can always justify it to myself on the grounds that it'll be really great for picking up the finer detail on shots of buildings and such. At least, that's what I tell myself.

Completely off-topic (does this little diary of mine actually have a topic? Or even a plot-line?) I'm happy to say that I seem not to be too allergic to hornet stings. I moved my foot the other day - something that sometimes happens - and managed, through inadvertence, to put it right next to one of the little buggers. (Not true - the "little", that is. The sods are huge.) For a very short while - until I squashed it - it was most unhappy with me.

Which it showed, in the traditional bloody-minded manner typical of the species, by leaving an entry wound a couple of mm in diameter and pumping my foot full of whatever particular toxin it is they use, but at least it didn't swell up like a balloon: as in, I've been able to wear shoes. A bit of a tight fit, mind you, and feels rather odd.

So anyway, Saturday started off well enough: I had my new lens and was happy, picked up Stacey and went off to the market. Can you imagine, she's lived around here for as long as we have, and she's never been there? I can't think how that could happen, although it is evidently possible.

And to her credit she did very little moaning as I whipped through from stall to stall trying to satisfy my needs for fresh fruit and vegetables and, above all, fresh piment d'espelette or even better, Italian pepperoncini. (Stiff out of luck there, sad to say. We've had such a gross summer, please feel sorry for me.)

Still, there was rougette and tomatoes and cucumber and baby carrots and fresh herbs and butter beans and aubergine and flat Italian peaches (which have to be amongst the best in the world) and I managed to get the apricots back to the car without squashing them, which has to be good.

Then, having little better to do, I said I'd make lunch, and discovered that if you find yourself with enough spare bastard puff pastry on your hands, you could do a lot worse than to roll it out and sprinkle heavily with sugar and raisins (or cranberries are good too) and fold the two long edges in to the middle, then repeat the performance and cut the log thus obtained into two-inch slices which you will then put into the oven for about 15 minutes, until they're crispy and puffed and the sugar's caramelised. (Note to self: do this on parchment paper next time, avoids critical remarks on the state of the baking tray afterwards.)

We got onto those - they turn out rather like a Danish pastry if you do it right - and around 14:20 Stacey remembered that she had a wedding to go to: coincidentally, at 14:30. Cue a mad rush as she clambered into her glad rags, thrust a set of keys into my hands and asked me to clean up and then lock the place as I left.

I dutifully did so, and rather to my surprise as I went out the back door, found the keys still in it, on the inside. Just goes to show what happens when you're in a hurry, I guess.

Anyway, as she's a bit paranoid about her arsehole ex I took her keys with me rather than stuffing them in the mailbox or shoving them under the mat, and headed home to unload the car.

So far so good: a pleasantly lazy afternoon under the sun and so of course, in accordance with tradition or something, it was at about this point that things went titsup.

Wedding and drinkies apparently over (of course she got lost going to the reception afterwards, sometimes I wonder how she manages to do that), she found herself at home with no way to get in, so I said I'd go past and drop both pairs off.

I turned out to be mistaken in that. About 500m down the road, a moment of inattention and a brief altercation with a tree and there I am, the car lying on its side across the road, a popped airbag in front of me (I never realised before just how much they look like a sad condom) and a kind of bloody Rorschach blobby thing on my left forearm: carpet burn from the seat belt, I guess.

Car's a total write-off, I suspect, but what the hell. I do have to admit that I really did not plan on having that happen, and it did kind of mess up my evening. And I do hope that the garage finds the battery for my cellphone somewhere in the wreckage.

Whatever, worry about that one on Monday. I suspect it'll be a busy day.

So today, in between checking up on various places for sale down in the south and south-west of France, and a visit to the gendarmerie to fill in some papers, I think I'll grab the camera and go for a bit of a walk up in the hills.

Maybe up to that Sardinian avalanche dike, haven't been up that way for years. Come to that, haven't been for a walk anywhere for years ...

Well, that was fun. L'adjutant Saleh was friendly and competent, I do think it's a shame though that her colleague was gendarme Blot. Not a name I would have picked myself, mind you I suppose he had no choice in the matter.

As for the car, I never cease to be amazed by the French. Usually so bloody-minded and, generally incompetent, it is a shock to find an insurance company that actually works. I rang to see about making a declaration du sinistre, thinking I'd have to go off and wait for hours in their offices before retelling everything at least three times to some bored old hack noting it all down on a grubby scrap of paper, but no. It took about three minutes on the phone, and within a minute of hanging up I had a text on my cellphone with the file number and contact details, and to let me know that the expert would be going past tomorrow. Kind of a shock.

Whatever - mind how you go, now.


  1. Not at all happy to hear that you had a close encounter with a) tree & b) airbag (although I would be less happy if b) had not been involved. As, one suspects, would you! Happy to hear that you have escaped relatively unscathed.

    And, considering your scathing remarks about the quality of driving in the furrin parts you inhabit, I suppose one should be grateful this has not c) happened earlier & d) involved another large piece of fast-moving metal :-)

    And very lucky regarding the hornet. Last time I had a beesting my foot swelled, my lower leg swelled, & when the swelling went down I was left with interesting black-&-blue bruising. And that was *with* antihistamines & ice-packs...

  2. No photographs of car-crash scene? Imagine my disappointment.