Sunday, November 18, 2012

And The Forests Burn ...

 ... which is, as far as I'm concerned, a Good Thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some wild-eyed denier of anthropogenic-induced climate change but let's face it, if setting the Amazon (that'd be the rain-forest, not the online tat bazaar) aflame ups the sum total of human happiness I'm all for it. Not that I'm against burning the online Amazon either, given that I appear to have an entire junk folder devoted to their seemingly endless promotional offers.

Just saying, but I really do not care if other people who bought "Charcuterie" also bought "The Joy of Tantric Sex" or even "Greasy Sausage Love", and not only do I not care, I do not even wish to know. So why, for buying one book - one single bloody book - am I so punished?

I guess that their marketing robots are unconcerned, but I'd have thought that just maybe someone higher up the food chain would have realised that sending me all these emails about books I don't care about, recommended by people I don't care to know, was not only unproductive but also counter-productive, because quite frankly the only way I'll be buying anything else from Amazon would be because it's something I really need and I can't get it anywhere else (like, maybe a pocket nuclear warhead, or some weaponised anthrax), or I have rabies.

And in the latter case, I'm not sure that I really fit into their market demographic.

Although I'm sure that if I went back into the APG database through the handy SQL back-door that I doubt anyone thought to remove (mind you, they might finally have gotten around to cancelling the Remote Server account that let me pop up inside the firewall), I could slice and dice the data to demonstrate a link between barking-mad chefs and sexual perversion, but what would be the point?

In any case, over here in our little corner of Ole Yurrup, it is mid-November and the central heating is just barely ticking over - the boiler, in fact, looks rather upset, as it has bugger-all to do and it does like to feel useful. (Mind you, when that does happen, it looks really smug, which is incredibly annoying.)

So anyway here we are, like I said, mid-November and it's still around 17° in the afternoon, not yet had a frost ... the poele in the kitchen more or less heats the whole house and quite frankly, I rather like that. In fact it's warm enough that sometimes I even take my jacket off at the office, an event rare enough to be commented upon.

Usually, let it be said, unfavourably, with particularly venomous attention paid to those little white under-arm circles on the sweat-shirt, but hell, you don't want to wash those suckers too often, it just sucks the goodness out of them. Washing them is what puts holes in clothes. Apparently.

Although when I look at my mowing and market-going shorts, which have not been washed for some time (alright, epochs), and which still consist mainly of holes, I'm not so sure. But it's not a syllogism, so that's alright then.

As it turns out, I was perhaps over-optimistic when I wrote about the weather.

I headed off, as is my wont, to the market this moaning under a clear blue sky: sad to say, the closer I got to Chambéry the more it became very apparent that the place was, as so often, sitting sullenly under its very own grey cloudbank.

And when I actually got there it was swimming in fog, heavy, cold and damp, with a slightly lighter patch somewhere around where the sky would normally be to show that the sun was, in fact, up and about. Of course I hadn't bothered to bring a pair of gloves, an omission I quickly started to regret as my hands got chillier and chillier, and a playful little breeze from points further north made a few vain efforts to shift the mist around and only succeeded in biting to the bone.

Still, at least it was a rapid trip around: hardly any little old ladies at that hour of the morning. Although I note with alarm that even the younger people - younger than I, that is - are starting to use those frikking pull-along shopping caddies, usually with some sort of humorous slogan blazoned on them, and they can be even worse than the poisonous hags because not only do they have the caddy, they also have a pram and sometimes a loosely-orbiting child as well.

About the best you can say of them is that they don't stop in the middle of the alleys between the stalls and block all traffic whilst they chat with other caddy-towing families, probably because they're generally stopped blocking traffic as they vainly try to wipe snot from the nose of orbiting brat - or at least smear it about a bit, so it's not as noticeable - and strap screaming brat n°2 more firmly into the pram. And then they flick you a dirty look as a misplaced kick accidentally sends a soggy fluffy toy under one of the stalls.

But like I said, the foul weather was localised, and once I'd got what I needed and wandered off aways the sky started to clear up, and I rather foolishly decided to take the back roads to Montmelian.

Which is when I was reminded that it is also that time of year when the last of the enthusiastic velocipede-artists are out in force, clad in flashy Lycra, holding up traffic on the windy bits of road (which is most of them, almost by definition), and eventually clogging up the space between the front bumper and the tarmac. Inconsiderate of them, because it's a bitch to clean under there.

Now another random thing about the French language: over here, as in most places I suppose, you buy a ticket for your public transport of choice and then, in some way or another, when you actually get on board the conveyance or whatever you are supposed to mark your ticket in some way, to indicate that it has been used. (and just scrawling a big cross on it in crayon or marker pen is not, for some reason, considered adequate).

All this is fine and dandy, but it still seems odd that there should be several words for this act: if, for instance, you take the train, you should compost your ticket (in the bright yellow omnipresent pillars), whereas if you take a bus, it must be obliterated. In the little orange boxes, which sound like a miniature guillotine. Taking the train is definitely more ecologically sound.

Anyway, I thought that just for once I would not do any work this weekend, but instead indulge in that quintessential French activity, the post-lunch afternoon walk. You can often see whole families setting out, dressed to the nines, with kids in prams, spotty adolescents, parents, grandparents and usually a dog or two (for some strange reason the family groups have small yappy dogs, older couples tend to have Newfoundlands or something, go figure) for a bit of healthy exercise to help lunch settle down.

So off I went, camera slung over one shoulder, for a leisurely amble in the countryside, under the low sunlight slanting in and lighting everything up in shades of misty gold.

If you stick to the slightly muddier tracks there's little risk of encountering one of those family groups so it's very quiet and peaceful, and for a little while I can almost fool myself into thinking that I like the countryside.

Although then, just as I'm starting to feel good about being a child of nature and in harmony with the slow laziness of things and stuff like that, I do tend to think of that Torchwood episode, "Countrycide", and the feeling passes.

Whatever, I finished up - as quite often happens - at the cemetery at St Jean de la Porte. I like cemeteries - seeing how the names change with the years (I mean, the Euphrosines and Hippolytes are pretty thin on the ground these days), wondering just what it was that killed off a swag of children and young men in 1922/23 (flu epidemic? Particularly cold winter?), and looking at the occasionally melancholy histories of the noble families that have either disappeared or are being very discreet right now.

My favourite is still the Delachenals du Noyer de Lescheraines, who are buried at St Pierre and who seem to have made a living furnishing ladies-in-waiting to Her Majesty Queen Therèse of Sardinia, but the counts, viscounts, and assorted petty nobility of la Barge de Certeau, now definitively installed at St Jean, are pretty good too.

And in keeping with old traditions, many of them seem to have inherited the selfless dedication to their country and the utter stupidity that characterised the English upper classes, by going nobly to their deaths (probably along with their troops) as infantry captains or whatever in Indochina, back in the 30s. Those of them that survived the first world war, anyway. Must be some recessive gene, one that goes along with not having much of a chin or something.

Also, there is the doubtless less-nobby Pissant family, one of whom, Henri Alphonse, had a wife who was Sublet. To whom, the tombstone does not say.


  1. I could slice and dice the data to demonstrate a link between barking-mad chefs and sexual perversion, but what would be the point?

    SCIENCE. Science and publications.

  2. Oooh yuck, you wear your lawn-mowing shorts (more hole than short) to the market??? I'm surprised you haven't been arrested for affronting the public decency or something!

    1. That's because the shorts are so bad they even keep the cops at bay.