Saturday, June 1, 2013

Need My Eyes Checked ...

A quick feel-up on the battlefield
When we left New Zealand all those years ago we were laden down with many gifts from friends and well-wishers anxious to see our backs, such as plastic tikis, "humourous" pukekos, and souvenir tea-towels depicting typical scenes in NZ life. Immediately upon arrival in Ole Yurrup we distributed the tikis as second-hand presents to our effusively grateful and seemingly feeble-minded hosts and abandoned the pukekos to their own sordid devices in a mosquito-ridden swamp south of Vitré, where for all I know they continue to thrive, but we kept the tea-towels: a good thing too for we were impecunious in those days, also too lazy to go down to the supermarket when a late-night need came upon us, and later on they made good impromptu nappies.

Have you seen my dagger?
They've been washed since, of course, and most of the stains have faded, and many of them still adorn the kitchen here, spread out over various benches and things to stop dust getting on them, for we can be quite fanatical about having clean, dust-free Formica. One such, depicting "Rock-pool Residents Of Our Country", is draped casually over the dishwasher, rumpled in an interesting way, and as I sat down last night for my solitary quiche it caught my eye and I read "fuck poo sid".

And that is all. I have no idea how that came to be, I merely report it.

So I had lambasted (not the same thing as basting lamb) our favourite son for the crime of polluting his computer, if you recall, and just last night I had occasion to turn on the old W2K tower that sits in my office at home, which acts as a secondary backup for photos and such, and which hosts projects for which the tools are so certifiably ancient that they won't run on any other flavour of Windows ... it also has an obsolete but still perfectly functional scanner connected to it, over the parallel port (think I must have bought the very last motherboard that still had one of them things), and the occasion was in fact that I had some stuff to scan and then e-mail off.

And I scanned the stuff in, sent it off, and then as the thing was on thought I might as well look at porn go check out a few blogs do some research and so what happened? Damn thing couldn't even find Google. Hum, thought I. This being W2K had to do things the old-fashioned way, so remembered where the Device Manager lives, uninstalled the network adapter, reinstalled it, and lo! I have internet again. Now should I, I thought, look at that vintage Andrew Blake movie, or should I try my luck? Feeling lucky, punk?

Of course I made the wrong decision, and about three minutes later it became evident that once again, there was no internet. Having better things to do I delved into that, and discovered that I could in fact ping other machines on the home network, but not the router, or anything behind it.

Now I is confused, and probably befuddled, and definitely clueless. No way you will get me to believe that two network adapters can fail in the same sort of erratic way in such a short interval, so I can only think that some sort of stealth update to the bloody router has left it in a psychotic state where it's dropping connections for W2K machines. Bugger me if I know.

At least there are still a couple of tins of foie gras in the fridge, despite our best efforts to get rid of stuff before we move out, and there are some potatoes, which lead me to make Rossini-burgers.

I thought I would make at least a token gesture (a rude one, admittedly) in the general direction of healthy eating, so rather than using actual burger buns I grated those very potatoes, squeezed as much water as I could out, mixed them with some salt and grated cheese and then fried them in incredibly healthy duck fat into what we call paillassons (lit. straw doormats) but you might know them better as rösti or latke.

When these are lightly browned and nicely crisp the actual assembly is a breeze: place a mound of caramelised onions, preferably deglazed with some balsamic vinegar, on one doormat and top that with some crisp lettuce, tomato, a thick slice of foie gras and sauce béarnaise with chives. Stick another doormat on top and eat. Margo reckons that just with the liver it's too rich, and that I should really have stuck some steak in there as well: she could well be right but what the hell, I was hungry and managed to down mine. With asparagus on the side.

Once again, we are baby-sitting the retarded Irish setter for the weekend. Weekends seem to be getting longer, by the way: I used to think it was just those two days when you didn't spend all your life at the office, but things have changed - Angie turned up on Wednesday night and leaves on Monday.

Anyway, more to the point as Margo is off working tonight until some ungodly time in the wee hours, I am baby-sitting the beast. At this moment, at any rate. The day started off as well as could be expected: I opened the front door, stepped out, turned around to get the umbrella and before you know it the damn thing (dog, that is) is standing excitedly in the middle of the road, barking at clouds and hoping to go walkies. I had to go catch a train so went up, woke Margo, let her know that the dog was out and headed back out: as soon as I opened the front door he came straight back in, obviously a bit let down that no-one wanted to play.

So anyway I got home that night, sidled carefully in to find that Margo had put up the old baby barrier so that he was shut in the living room. Took that down - not really any point now, I thought - and negotiated the barricade of old armchairs to get into the kitchen. Get out the makings for a hamburger (with the left-over foie gras from the other night, decadent I know but I don't care), start making the buns and then suddenly notice a total Absence Of Dog.

Living room, empty - apart from the usual junk. Hall: empty. Suddenly suspicious I headed off upstairs, and sure enough, there he was, lounging on the mat in the TV room. Sad to say the poor thing has not yet worked out that stairs are bidirectional and so does not believe that he can actually get back down, which is probably why, until I get up the strength to carry him bodily down, I am stuck with him sitting with his nose snuffling my privates as I try to type.

I stand corrected: Angie does in fact know how to get down stairs. It's a variation on the old problem with which so many of us are familiar, "how to get the donkey down from the top of a minaret?" The answer, of course, is that you just have to persuade the donkey that it really, really, very urgently wants to get down from the top of the minaret, and nine times out of ten it will do so completely of its own accord and without leaving a donkey-shaped rustic carpet splattered on the street thirty metres below.

Of course, in a few rare cases there may be some collateral damage, but there is that old saying about omelettes and eggs, and in any case there are plenty of donkeys. Look on it as improving the species.

But what I was trying to say that Angie can easily be persuaded to come down the stairs: it suffices to go up there and put his leash on, at which point, convinced that he is about to go walkies, he will happily find his own way down and sit whining at the front door until you actually do the deed.

Which I eventually did, and decided at one point that I might as well go whole hog and broke out into a run. The dog, of course, thought this was a wonderful idea and loped along at my side, still only in third gear but happy to have got out of a trot until, getting to the uphill bit, I thought "bugger this for a game of soldiers" and let him drag me up.

And eventually, through the mysteries of topology, we arrived at the top of our street and headed back down, the damn dog not even breathing heavily, so I broke into a sprint. All well and good, until about half-way down my phone leaped from my pocket and fell heavily into the gutter just ahead of the storm-water grating, then split into three - phone, back case, and battery.

Had I mentioned it was dark at this time? And I was sure I saw something shiny jump down the grating and disappear with a sad gurgle. Happily it apparently did not belong to me, because I managed to collect all the bits and dry them nicely in the microwave (just joking children, you really do not want to try doing that with your shiny new iPhone) and slot them back together. Gave me an excuse to clean the screen too, which was in some need of it. They can talk all they like about their fantastic oleophobic glass but it's crap if you ask me, the damn things are always covered in greasy smears. One reason I have to really restrain myself from biting when people reach out with their fingers to try and point something out on my computer screen.

Must have been the Zombie Big Day Out today, if the ashen-faced shambling hordes at the market were anything to go by. Either that, or they'd decided to have a spring-clean at the Parkinson's ward in the hospital, and had pushed everyone out for a quick shuffle whilst they vacuumed under the beds.

Whatever the reason - and I admit I arrived later than is my habit, what with Morpheus clutching me to his bosom and all - they were there in multitudes, elderly, grey or blue-rinsed, muttering quietly or shrieking "bonjour" in harpyish hoarse whispers to old acquaintances glimpsed between the legs of those taller than themselves, and all towing their goddamned shopping baskets behind them as they shuffled slowly on. Ice ages are mere mayflies in their lives, come or go, they'll still be there.

I take revenge as I can, politely open doors for them just because at least I still can, but I fear it's a lost cause. They out-number us now, humanity is doomed. We all know about that inverted age pyramid, what I'm not looking forward to telling Jeremy is that the ones at the top all have Partial Death Syndrome, and there's a hell of a lot of them.

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