Monday, January 21, 2013

Irritated By Electronics, Again ...

So I spent some of a dissolute morning last Saturday huddling in the warmth of the Café de Paris with Bryan and Beckham, trying to help her with ideas for that magnum opus of hers, "300,000 Reasons Why I Hate The French". She seems to have writer's block. But what with the hags that queue-jump at the boulangerie, elderly people who get on the bus and fumble for ten minutes looking for change whilst blocking you, with a cunningly-placed shopping caddy, from going past because they have their beady eyes on the one empty seat, and jolly people at the market who congregate in the aisles, I flatter myself that we managed to give her some good material to work with.

Also, Intermarché still had their special on pork, so I now have a 7-kg slab of poitrine de porc fraîche sitting staring at me on the kitchen table, waiting for me to cut it up and salt it and stick it into zip-lock bags to go into the down-below fridge for ten days, before being washed and brushed with maple syrup and hung up to dry. And maybe this time I actually will get around to hot-smoking some of it.

May I just say that a bit of pig like that is going to make quite a bit of bacon? We might even have some to give to the poor boys, aka Mad Karen and her two locusts.

In other news, I see that SC is all gloaty about how people get to his blog. I has people looking for "blow jobbi cape de agde", which is so much classier.

And Margo has found a new blog, which has become her friend. Its title? "Self-Lubricating". Calm down, people, not what you think, it's all about sewing machines. Probably a good thing it wasn't called "The Self-Lubricating Reciprocating Engine" (great name for a rock band, by the way, or a patent application) for otherwise I would probably have had to go lie down for some time, until the urges passed.

Purely out of interest for your continuing edification, I can report that on at least one German train (a Grizzly 102, if you can believe the notice, currently parked at St Pierre) it is marked that it is, and I quote, "Interdit de lever les boggies sans les élingues". No, I have no idea what that could mean either, and I can't be arsed googling it.

At the moment, as you lot bask in what I gather is an unusually warm summer, we are "enjoying" a sudden cold snap, with the temperature the other morning a brisk -12° and more snow. Fine frikkin powder, just what I loves. And on top of that the previous falls had pretty much melted and then - of course - frozen, so all that lovely powdery white goodness is sitting atop a layer of ice. Don't need no stinking snow tyres, need bloody crampons on my shoes.

Whatever, Margo had to head off early somewhere around Geneva on Saturday moaning to give a class, so I reckoned I might as well get myself dropped off at Chambéry, whip round the market and then get up to Jacques' place some time later to borrow the Dacia for Sunday. May I just say that the market at 8am is quite a different thing? It's a damn sight darker, for one thing. Half the stall-holders are still setting up, others - who know me - hailed me and made pointed remarks about being unaccustomed to seeing me about at such a time. Snarky bastards. Still, made for a record trip around.

Anyway, I headed off to Nîmes to get the first-born son and his scooter, with only a pack of cigars and the GPS From Hell to accompany me. Now don't get me wrong, GPS systems are a gift from god and a great boon to the directionally-challenged, but they do have their problems.

Margo's little Mappy, for instance, needs its touchscreen recalibrating from time to time: otherwise, the button you think you're pressing is not that one at all, it's the one above - or below. Which can be, depending on the list of "Recent Destinations" you have in there, rather embarrassing.

And it was cheap, which means it wasn't really state of the art even at the time she bought it, but oh my god it is such an under-powered piece of shite. Depending on how it feels at the time it can take a couple of seconds for it to realise that you've actually pressed a key, and the worse, I assure you, is when the crap OS that is Windows CE sees the key, flashes the button to show that it's seen the key, and the GPS application does not get, or so does not want to know about, the key.

Which can lead you to hit the Cancel button furiously about five times in a row, and then all of a sudden you find yourself in a strange menu where you never wanted to be, wondering what the hell is going on and why you didn't just print out the driving instructions from Google or something.

And don't get me on to the topic of the user interface, which is, if not actively user-hostile, at least not intuitive. So you're trying to type in your destination, and at the top of the screen is a line for you to type in the name of the town, and just next to that is a pretty little flag which, if you have your glasses on and won Mastermind three years running for knowing all the flags of Europe, shows you which country you're looking for.

In my particular case, looking for Nîmes, I eventually noticed that this was an Italian flag - not of much use to me - so I tapped on it. When nothing happened, I tapped it again. Then, I have to admit, I stabbed at it. Viciously. Then again - to such good effect that the damn thing fell out of its holder and on to the floor of the car, where I took advantage of the occasion to tread on it, and then temporarily lost the bloody stylus.

Having got all that back, recovered the stylus and licked the blood off my palm (because of course the thing fought back) I finally discovered that you need to tap on the text field where it wants you to type in "": doing that will bring up a list of flags and their associated shithole countries. And as the touchscreen is still not recalibrated when you tap on one you'll find that you seem to have asked for Belgium which is not the case, but I digress. Whatever, I put it to you that this is not immediately self-evident.

That being resolved and the name of the town - in the country that actually interests you - having been typed and, reluctantly, accepted, I can only say that you should be neither pedantic nor precise. I was trying to get to rue des Compagnons, typed that it, and it found me a match: I was half-way down, around Orange, when I reflected that it had picked the town of Marguerittes, some 20km from Nîmes, as my destination.

I needed something to eat anyway (more on that later) so I stopped and brow-beat the thing. Where I really wanted to get to was in fact (it seems) le chemin des Compagnons: my mistake was in not just typing Compagnons, and seeing what that got me. I'll remember, next time. Assuming it doesn't get accidentally broken before then. Trodden underfoot.

Also, the thing seems to be vaguely related to the Tardis, in that it will sporadically, and for no apparent reason, assume that the car has jumped 20m to the left and is now travelling at a totally unreasonable speed on a departmentale which happens to parallel the autoroute at that point. So it is furiously recalculating to try to get you back on to the autoroute, which usually involves doing a 180° and getting back on either at the on-ramp 10km back or by jumping off an overhead bridge, until normal service is resumed. I can see how accidents could happen.

I said I was hungry, so after bludgeoning the damn thing I went off in search of food. I have learned that the actual cooked meals on the autoroute are pretty crap (on the other hand, if you get off you could do worse than search for a Buffalo Grill or Courte-Paille: the food may not be imaginative but it is certainly copious and, in my experience, excellent) so I wasn't going to bother with that and didn't have the time anyway and, in the usual triumph of hope over experience, bought a couple of sandwiches. Don't ask. The bread was moist - I will not say "slimy" - and the contents were as vile as you might expect.

So let that be a lesson to you: before getting on to the autoroute, go off to a decent boulangerie and get a baguette, some ham at the nearby charcuterie, and pack some butter, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. And a bottle of wine (in moderation, of course). You will eat a lot better, believe me.

Whatever, made it - more by good luck than good management - down to the maison des Compagnons and, with the help of one of his friends, wrestled Jeremy's scooter into the back of Jacques' little Dacia. And from there, we went off to the motel where he stayed.

Now some buildings decay into their surroundings with age: this one was doing it, even as I watched, just from shoddy construction and poor materials. It had had dreams of grandeur in its youth, I think, and a long circular drive (once, perhaps, gravelled but now mainly mud-pits) lead past a line of what looked like XXL toilet stalls huddled around a dioxin dump, where the toxic fallout from the pine leaves had killed any ideas the grass might ever have had.

Jerry's room had a door apparently made from cardboard, and a single shonky window that you could open (could probably only open, if the truth be told) with a teaspoon. From inside, or out. Unprepossessing, is one of those words that fair leap to mind on such an occasion.

Not really Hotel California, I'm afraid.


  1. hags... elderly people... - you'll be joining the ranks of the OAPs soon enough, my lad!

    Not really Hotel California, I'm afraid
    well, at least you can relax in the knowledge that he won't have been having orgies in his bedroom :)

  2. Not really Hotel California
    So he will be able to leave as well as check out? No doubt a great relief.