Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Random Weekend ...

Elementary physics, with Malyon, who should know better ...

Q: So what happens when you put a bottle of water in the freezer?
A: It freezes.

Yes, I think we all know that. So now,

Q: What happens to water when it freezes?
A: It gets colder.

Yes, but ...

A: It turns into ice.

Good, we're getting somewhere. And the thing that differentiates water from most other liquids, when they freeze, which brings them to a more ordered state ... otherwise put

Q: What really happens to water when it freezes?
A: (finally) It expands, unlike most other liquids, which contract on reverting to a solid and more ordered state.

Good, we're getting somewhere. So ...

Q: When you leave a hermetically sealed bottle of water in the freezer long enough, what happens?
A: It freezes.

Malyon, you are missing the point here. What happens is, the water freezes, it expands, the bottle explodes, and the freezer is full of shards of broken glass and ice, and I am really terminally pissed off especially as I happened to grab the business end of one of those shards whilst trying to stock away some blackberries and by the way where are the other two tubs? Outside, defrosting? Oh, good. If I put them in the freezer, it was for a reason. Right. Don't mind me while I bleed to death.

(In a spirit of full disclosure - which actually features prominently in our mission statement, admittedly in small print below the part about making obscene amounts of money - and in the interests of truth, which I personally find can be bloody inconvenient, I feel that I really ought to point out that both the bratlings deny any knowledge of, or implication in, the above circumstances. And as both are too big to be beaten until they do confess, I suppose I shall just have to accept that. Irritating as it is.)

Whatever, at some point last night, so the great Google informs me, this blog passed the 10,000 page-view mark. All thanks to you, loyal readers. Can I have my money now?

I'd like to take this opportunity to note that the SNCF seems to have changed the objectives of their announcer training school. There was a time when they sought only to have the announcements almost, but not entirely 100%, incomprehensible, so that you, the hapless passenger, would realise that something important was being said about what was probably, but not certainly, your train, but would miss exactly what that was.

Probably just as well, because it would be a fair bet that it concerned either the cancellation, or the departure, not five minutes ago, of that train. And the great thing about that, from their point of view, was that it left you feeling guilty, and stupid, for not having understood a damned thing.

These days - at least at St Pierre - the announcements are still incomprehensible, delivered as they are through an ancient Tannoy system so encrufted with crud and animal life that every time it's fired up half a dozen spiders and a kilo of pigeon crap are unceremoniously ejected from the speakers, but on top of that they're delivered in a stentorian stormtrooper diction that can only be described as pants-wettingly authoritarian.

Anyway, just at the moment we're ramping up to get rid of Jeremy. There's a boulanger at Nîmes who's interested in him so he needs to get down there on Wednesday, and so that he won't be all on his lonesome in a big city Malyon has very graciously consented to go down with him and hold his hand until he's taken in by the compagnons on the Thursday.

So as I have, as usual, left things til the last minute I have to book train tickets, organise things so that his telephone is in his name rather than mine and Malyon's (yes, he inherited her old cellphone account all those years ago, he can look after it himself from now on), and try to get them in at the auberge de jeunesse de Nîmes for the Wednesday night.

Shall have to go down and see him at some point, once he's installed: Nîmes is a lovely old city, oozing Roman ruins and scenic stuff, it seems a shame not to go and take a look. Often driven past the place, heading to points south on the autoroute, but as usual never taken the time to stop and dive in. Truth to tell, I think the only time we've ever done that - stop for touristic reasons at some place that was not our actual destination - was years ago, when for some reason, never regretted, we halted at Avignon and took an afternoon off to look around the city of the Popes.

In other news, went past the Beer Tree the other day and decided on a whim to have lunch: the new chef is more than honorably filling the shoes of the old. The suprême de pintade, sauce aux herbes and the écrasé de pommes de terre which accompanied it was excellent. As usual.

And as I went to pay Jeff waved a brandy snifter at me and said "shame you're leaving, I was just going to have a drink with you", and as nothing was particularly pressing we wound up having a round or two of rosé on the house, and toasting everything in sight in honour of the good weather.

I really am going to miss the guy when he leaves next Saturday: I do hope his replacement doesn't require too much training up.

Poor Bryan, sad to say, was unavailable. He does, amongst other things, translation work for the EDF, and was foolish enough to take on, some time in the past, 470 pages to be delivered for the end of August.

Of course the Canadians who, having written it, were supposed to be translating the bulk of the document decided that they didn't really want to so it ballooned to more like 900 pages, which were delivered way past the original deadline, and it is all mind-numbingly technical and, unless you're the sort of person that gets turned on by the sordid details of building and maintaining hydro dams, terminally boring.

Luckily they do have a sort of lexicon of approved technical terms so that even if there are misunderstandings they are, at least, consistent misunderstandings, but that doesn't do much to palliate the style.

I agree that it can't be easy to write a racy, erotic chapter on the importance of the number and correct spacing between retaining dikes preparatory to the terminal work on the actual dam itself (two at least are required, and they should be sufficiently far apart so that the flow of water in the basin between them is notably slower than the flow around the ends, which fill and empty the aforesaid basin - or so it appears) but even so, is there really a need for an ainsi to appear in every second sentence?

(That innocuous little word just means "thus" and French Canadians seem to regard its use in large quantities as indispensable, but leaving it in when you translate into English makes the end result rather like a sex manual written by a chartered accountant. At least, that's what Bryan reckons.)

Whatever, the upshot of it is that Bryan claims to be spending his time, from 7am to 11pm, ingurgitating unreadable French engineerese and producing an equal volume of the same thing, but in English. Hopefully there will at least be no confusion over the use of metric and imperial measures, but just as a precaution I'd personally avoid getting too near any new dams in the Congo (for which this little manual is apparently intended) until time has proved that they're unlikely to collapse in the immediate future.

Just saying.

Over to the right, by the way, is the Mk I version of that peach crisp I mentioned earlier. The Mk II, made with filo and crème frangipane, disappeared before I had the presence of mind to get a mug shot.

So anyway, last night's storm seems to have marked the end of the canicule, so I might actually go out for a bit of a walk up in the mountains while it's not too hot to move. Mind how you go, all.

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