Sunday, September 9, 2012

Giving To The Poor, Also Helping SC ...

There must be something about the air in railway stations. It seems like every time I go into one there are people kissing, and not just in a perfunctory manner, this is full-on osculation. The other week, as I was sitting outside a bar opposite the station (yes, the train was 30 minutes late, so I thought I might as well take advantage of the fine weather) there was a couple going at it - full tonsil exploration - for a good fifteen minutes.

Which was pretty good, and then last night whilst waiting for yet another late train there was a couple squatting one of the shelters out on the quai and I will swear that what they were doing was not just kissing. I will admit that I could not see just where her hands were, but one can guess.

Unfortunately, just around the time I planned on sauntering cautiously closer (purely for informational purposes, you understand) the SNCF guys starting tweeting madly on their whistles, and I understood that my train was about to leave and as I had no particular wish to be trepanned on arriving home I thought that perhaps I should leave with it. So, sadly, I cannot give any further details: you'll just have to make them up for yourselves.

No longer being one of those traditional nuclear families due to the diaspora of kids, one of the things we notice these days is that we have jam in the fridge that actually belongs to us again, and does not disappear within three days. The cheese, too, actually has a chance of maturing. We also find two-year old packets of cereal, opened and returned to the cupboard open-side down, not so good. Especially when one pulls them out, to see exactly what there is lurking in there.

And Margo has been very brave, exploring the other bathroom. Amazing, the things one finds up there. There are knives and plates that never belonged to us, a myriad of plastic tubs and tub lids, none of which seem to go together, and odd socks which have crept away to die in peace.

So I guess it was probably a Good Thing that I did not have the camera with me today, as I wandered around and found an unusual (not that the poop itself was of itself unusual, in fact it looked pretty ordinary as such things go, just that these things are no longer as common as muck) pile of dog crap with a beer-bottle cap just next to it.

All things being interconnected (apparently by quantum, although Margo could not see that) I instantly worked out the situation: someone had taken a jack terrier or something in their arms and, rather unhygienically, had opened a beer bottle with its arse. (Hey, in Cameroon I used to use the edge of a table. A step up, I suppose.) The animal, understandably terrified and possibly in pain, chose that moment to empty its bowels, which neatly explains the little tableau with which I was confronted. Would not, personally, have cared to drink from the bottle, though.

As an aside, and I cannot vouch for its authenticity, you could do worse one Friday night than stick three cups of flour (or two cups of flour and one cup of fine semoule) into your stand mixer, make a well in the middle and drop a few tablespoons of honey in, then pour in about 200ml of warm water and add a sachet of yeast.

While that's doing its business chop some dates and when you turn the mixer on, add those and about two tsp of anis seeds and, if you're feeling luxurious, a bit of orange-flower water. (You will note that I'm using nothing that the average household will not have in the pantry.) Oh, add a bit of oil as well, you'll notice the absence of any other fatty stuff.

Once the mixer has done all the hard work for you, stick the lot into a bowl and put into the microwave on defrost for a minute or so, just to heat it to blood temperature: after half an hour's rising, you can cover it with glad-wrap and stick it all in the fridge. Then go to bed, happy in the knowledge that Saturday's breakfast is mostly ready.

When finally you escape from the arms of Morpheus (or whoever it is you actually share a bed with) as the sun rises and lights up the house with its warm glow, go down to the kitchen and cut off a chunk of dough, knead it a bit and roll it into a long thin log, about a foot long and maybe half an inch in diameter. Then form that into a spiral, and flatten it out a bit with the blunt instrument of your choice to form a disc.

Incidentally, depending on your circumstances and living arrangements, you might want to get dressed before doing this, or at least fling a dressing-gown on. Jamie Oliver notwithstanding, some people are, perhaps understandably, unimpressed when they come down to get coffee and find a naked chef orbiting the kitchen.

At this point, those of you with proper bread ovens (which you've thought to fire up a couple of hours earlier, doubtless to make a batch of croissants or something) will be feeling rightly smug (and probably extremely tired) because without a bread oven, these little suckers need to be cooked twice. Once, in butter, in a hot frying pan, until light-brown and blistered on both sides, and then in the oven until they've risen nicely and the inside is properly cooked.

Eaten, in chunks, with butter and honey, these are not to be missed. You hear me? Also, once made into discs they freeze well and can be defrosted just before cooking, so there's no excuse for not offering breakfast in bed next weekend to the partner of your choice. (Except around here, I'm excused 'cos Margo cordially detests anis.)

Sadly, the central heating boiler seems to have realised that Jeremy is no longer with us and has, in its monomaniacal microcontroller brain, decided that we no longer need all that much hot water, certainly not at half-past one on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Personally I beg to differ, and I will take a shower when I feel like it, but it's difficult to argue with a small squat plastic and metal cuboid that just sits there and blinks at you like a sullen adolescent Borg mother-ship.

I suppose it's time to call in the nice M. Damiani who does such things, and get him to do one last révision before the winter, and before we leave the place, at which point it will become Someone Else's Problem. We, of course, will then have to cope with the idiosyncrasies of the heating system wherever we wind up: with luck it'll be something simple enough that, like with a 2CV, you can fix most problems by belabouring the thing with a short length of pipe.

And whilst I think of Jeremy, he's actually sent a mail with a bit of news. Along the lines of "Dere mum & dad hope youre all well I am too plz send money". OK, I exaggerate, somewhat. On Monday he signs his contract with a boulangerie which, he says approvingly, makes good bread - and could we please send him a tie. Because the compagnons are very big on the yoof being at least presentable, so hoodies and holed jeans are a big no-no.

This also means that I can dispose of his old boat anchor, thus getting rid of yet another bit of obsolete computer gear from around here. Got quite a bit of a clean-up to do in that department actually: the screen on Margo's old Samsung cracked and died, although it still works perfectly with an external monitor so that goes into the TV room for streaming TV series, like Dr. Who goodie goodie, and she bought herself an Asus. Jeremy, at the same time, got a laptop too because he really does need something, which leaves me with two hulking underpowered boxes.

Not to mention various speakers from the time when hissing and crackling were acceptable substitutes for high-quality sound, a box of backups on diskette (I think I still have a machine somewhere with a stiffy reader, but I'm none too sure) which can also go, and the cable box full of knotted IDE cables, various connectors and assorted power supplies, 10Mbit Ethernet cards, two tin cans and some string dating back to when networking was for real men, and sundry other crap is long overdue a quick one-way trip to the dechetterie. There are also installation CDs that only work under Windoze 95, and I rather doubt that I'm ever going to set up a virtual machine just for the dubious pleasure of listening to Reader Rabbit again: those too will be inhumed.

A little something for SC
All of that just to say that although Mad Karen From Mumblefuck actually has a laptop, she also has an ancient Compaq pizza box running (or hobbling, more like it) under Win2K which she still uses for something, god alone knows what as there are far more efficient and attractive door-stops available, but anyway the point is that her kids also use the thing and she would, for some reason, prefer that this were not the case.

Hence a happy hour or two passed the other night, nuking the least clunky of the two boxes from orbit, re-installing and re-registering my authentic copy of Win XP and then installing all the service packs and security patches that ever there were before sticking a pathetic little note on it "I have been abandoned. Please take me in" so that it's in a fit state to be pushed out the door. I must say that I won't be regretting its departure.

Whatever, I find myself with a couple of nice lamb shanks on my hands - they looked so sad, waving mutely at me from the rayon agneau in Carrefour - so I guess I shall have to work out what to do with them. Maybe confites, which is going to involve long slow cooking with wine and juniper berries and onions and carrots and whatever herbs and spices happen to take my fancy - or maybe with honey, thyme and garlic.

(Incidentally, in frog a lamb shank is une souris d'agneau. No, I have no idea why: nor, let it be said, do I particularly care.)


  1. That puffball is well past the edible stage, even by my standards.

  2. er, I suspect that yer average kiwi kitchen does not have orange flower water on its shelves. (Although I notice that Nosh, those purveyors of fine foods, do have it on theirs, so I may yet rectify my culinary sin of omission.)