Sunday, September 29, 2013

Who Should I Be Today? ...

So we seem to have accidentally acquired another animal here at The Shamblings. The other night there was this incessant squalling from the place next to us, and then the next day Margo came up and said that there seemed to be a teeny abandoned kitting crying under a bush next to one of the benches ... and so it turned out. Slippery slope, you gives it a little bowl of milk and next thing ... we is suckers for littul kittons. He seems to have decided to move in, and is rapidly putting Shaun in his place. Poor dog.

Of course that leaves poor me looking after them right now, for Margo and la baronne are off at a little salon at Limoux this weekend: fortunately it's not too far and, being as it's on the other side of Carcassonne I thought I might as well whip through the market there again today.

I was there by 9:30, which probably gives you some idea as to the ghastly hour at which we left. Looking at it objectively I really shouldn't go to markets, I just can't resist buying that one extra thing - a few fuzzy peaches, a golden yellow globe of a courgette, some purple basil or some more perfectly ripened tomatoes that I know we don't really need.

On the bright side, it gives me ideas, so once I'd found some blettes and come across some fresh chèvre it seemed obvious, as I happen to have some filo sitting in the fridge, that I really needed to queue for 15 minutes in les halles to get some poitrine fumée (for I have not yet started making my own again, had other things to think about, don't push me) so that at least part of dinner will turn out to be a silverbeet, bacon and goat's cheese strudel. And remember those peaches? They're destined for a tart, with sour cream - and stuff - in the appareil that goes on top.

Last night it was fig and blackberry soufflé, lightly adapted from this site. For one thing I didn't bother sieving the fruit - just crushed it with a fork and it seemed happy enough - and for another I wasn't too sure how well it would hold up so I did in fact add another tbsp of cornflour to the blackberries once cooked, along with the orange-flower water, and let it thicken on low for another minute or so before turning it off and letting it cool. I must admit that adding cornflour to the meringue is not something I've come across before, but those little soufflés rose perfectly and, as it happened, did not have time to fall.

And as for those tomatoes - as it happens some of the last lot were starting to shrivel a bit (which just concentrates the flavour, if you start out with tomatoes that taste of something in the first place anyway) which made it a perfect time to make up another batch of Memphis barbecue sauce. Go google it yourselves - I'm not going to do everything for you - and then go make some. It's kind of addictive.

As I am no longer - for obvious reasons - a director of Upstart & Co, I have been looking into the various options for my statut social. This turns out to be rather more complicated than I would like: what did you expect, this is France.

Initially I'd planned on becoming an auto-entrepreneur, which requires no more than filling out an online form and which can present certain tax advantages - which is probably one reason why the Hollande government is planning on revising it out of existence, or at least trying to make it as unattractive as possible, like leprosy. Like I said, this is France, and if you think tall poppies are disliked in Noo Zild  then may I just suggest you come over to Ole Yurrup and see what it's like in the paddocks.

In any case, there are drawbacks: first off, although you may not charge TVA (just pretend I'm saying GST here) and thus do not have to skim it off and pay it back to the taxman, you may not reclaim the TVA on your purchases. Also, you don't get to claim a lot of charges - for running expenses on the car, meals, stuff like that ...

Secondly, although your social security bill is reduced to a merely whopping 25% of turnover (not profit, please note), rather than the swingeing 40% or so a company has to pay on top of salary, your turnover is also limited: to 81 000€ per annum if you're in the hotel business or otherwise renting rooms (why is this?) or 31 500€ per annum if, like me, you are supplying other services. Which is not nearly enough for us to live in the style to which we would like to be accustomed.

Gift-wrapped gargoyle
But the real killer, as I found out when I went off to the RSI to get myself radié (not the same as irradiated, but about as much fun) from the list of directors, is that if, as a company director, you were involved in a certain professional activity - such as software development - you may not under any circumstances set yourself up as an auto-entrepreneur in the same sector until a year has passed. This is not an option.

The nice lady gave me a little booklet, which I attempted to digest - first of all by nibbling on the corners of the pages and then, when they turned out to be flavourless, by actually reading it - on the train heading from Chambéry to Lyon to catch the TGV back home: I was confused and it made my brain hurt, but I suspect I shall have to become an EIRL (as if you cared, that's an Entreprise Individuelle à Responsibilité Limité - fits, I am definitely irresponsible).

So cue a visit next Tuesday to the Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie at Carcassonne, so that someone who actually knows about these things can explain everything to me, preferably in words of one syllable or less. So that my head doesn't explode.

You will have guessed from the hints above that I actually spent last week up at Chambéry - off to see clients and do some paper-work and discuss business with Renaud and, when I could, faff about a bit. Stayed with the generous and long-suffering Stacey, who very kindly lets me sleep curled up at the end of the sofa so long as I cook from time to time, keep myself clean, wash my own socks and pretend to be house-trained.

(As luck would have it, it was also the week in which Chambéry Metropole decided to celebrate the 20th birthday of the Parc d'Activités de Côte Rousse, of which we are - more by default than any planning, all those who set up there before us having gone unceremoniously titsup over the years - the doyens. Do you realise that the company's been going for 19 years now?)

Whatever, that is why on a fine Saturday morning I was attempting to make sense of a mind-numbingly worthy tract on my way to Lyon, where I had a four-hour wait for the TGV to Narbonne: I kind of hoped that I would be less bored-witless there than wandering about Chambéry, also I had a vague feeling that they actually had left-luggage lockers at Part-Dieu, which was kind of important to me because I was lugging around a very inconveniently-shaped 15kg of stuff in a big carry-bag. Not to mention all the usual suspects in the back-pack - two computers (including the heavy-weight Asus, portable only in name) and their associated dead rats, papers, folders, various cables and godnose what else ...

It turns out that I was right - about the lockers - so I heaved a sigh of relief and dumped the stuff off before setting out to wander about the quartier, looking mostly for somewhere to eat that wasn't going to involve pizza.

Nor a salade lyonnaise, nice though that can be - involving as it does vast quantities of croutons and lardons all fried to within an inch of their lives, and poached eggs, with the whole lot smothering a bed of frisée lettuce. Luckily I stumbled on a place that supplied me with an excellent bit of entrecôte with a cream and mustard sauce and a bit of decent salad: sad to say the frites maison probably were just that, for they were as sadly soggy as such things usually are.

Still, a pichet of rosé washes away many sins and I was feeling quite cheerful at the end of it all, despite the Aggravated Bengali Earwax from which I was suffering and had been unable - lacking hot vodka and a syringe - to treat.

The train duly decanted me off at Narbonne just before 20h, Margo kindly picked me up, and we got back home to rapturous applause from the assembled animals, who seem to have prepared a special welcoming ceremony involving buckets of warm spit and slobber. She assures me that there was nothing out of the ordinary, they'd been like that all week.

She also acquainted me with a French website, legorafi by name (which some of you will recognise as being verlan, and the others won't care), which is kind of along the lines of The Onion. To the point where this article got picked up by the mainstream Italian press, who ran with it for quite some time: yet another got picked up by The Times. Just to save you the bother, the headline reads, more or less - "89% Of the French think that a clitoris is a Toyota car". God alone knows what a Volvo would be. Also, and just as disturbing if it happened to have any relationship with reality, there's the last sentence, claiming that "45% of 12-18 year-old boys think that uterus is a planet in the solar system".

I note also that, in the traditional battling Kiwi spirit, ready to give it a go and overcome all odds as the plucky little underdogs, you lot have once again managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and leave that tin-plated spittoon in the hands of Larry "Mine's bigger than yours" Ellison. Congratulations, people. I mean, how difficult can it be to keep the pointy end of the boat heading in the right direction?

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