He had a wicked sense of humour, a Broadspeed VW Beetle (which had a dozen extra dials to tell you about oil temperature and such, and was prone to making farting noises and spending time at the garage), and was one of the best cooks I've ever known. In fact, he's probably the one that inspired me to start cooking. And his authentic RAF punch was positively lethal.
Anyway, Sunday night it was on to the TGV and off to Paris to see my mates Jean-Pierre and Denis at the SNCF, in Vitry sur Seine. It always involves them paying us money, which is good, and J-P handed over a couple of pots of his own honey, so I'm definitely ahead. On the other hand he's had to stop the piggy stuff (complicated story, falling out between the supplier of the pig and the person who arranged the slaughterhouse - they were lovers and it turned sour, didn't ask for details) which means no rillettes nor confit de porc and at this rate I might just have to supply him with some lard paysan.
On the other hand, there is an enormous radiator on the wall to which there is (loosely) attached a knob, which I would normally assume to be for turning the heat up and down. It seems to go round, in either direction, for as long as you have the patience to keep turning it: I guess it's not actually connected to anything useful. The beds are actually warm just from the ambient heat, because however you turn the knob it's always about 45°.
Also, just saying and I'm not sure I really want to know, there are these people coming into the dining room and words are exchanged in low tones and then thick wads of bank-notes also change hands. None of my business.
Whatever, we went off and lunched at a new Lebanese restaurant (you can tell J-P has climbed in the SNCF hierarchy, it's not the staff canteen these days) and in between nibbling at the mezzés and sipping wine we took time to lament the passing of honest French restaurant cuisine. How, he asked (don't worry, this was metaphorical or rhetorical or something and I didn't actually have to answer, just nod my head and drink) can a restaurant offer a choice of twenty different plats?
Anyway, it's Saturday now - only a few more days until Christmas - and I headed off with the firm intention of just whipping through the market and avoiding Carrefour like the plague. A good resolution, and I even managed to stick to it, so around 11am I found myself at the Beer Tree, and for once not empty handed: I'd thought to bring along a bottle of Bruno's excellent Uby as a Christmas present.
Given the hour the place was empty, not even officially open, so it seemed like a good moment to open it and have a little apéro: sadly, the cork seemed to have been glued in place, for they ruined three corkscrews on it, without success. So as Simon the cook busily rolled out pastry in the tiny kitchen, we settled for a glass of gewurtztraminer on the house, and toasted everything in sight.
Still, as I left she pressed a couple of bottles of artisanal bière de Noël on me, so there's no way the day was wasted. Well, apart from the fact that I was really looking forward to not seeing any old hags about the market, due to the Apocralypse and the world supposedly having ended yesterday. Got it wrong again, I see. So when's our next chance? 2017?
PS - I see I failed to mention the festivities at the local supermarket this evening: probably short-term memory pushed it screaming into that scabbed-over area somewhere in the hind-brain where we keep such things. Briefly, there seems to be a group, called Les Coyotes Danseurs Savoisiens, who get their kicks by dressing in what they fondly imagine to be authentic cowboy duds and committing line dances in public, doubtless with intent. And to Kenny Rogers music, at that. It's a rather ghastly spectacle.