Monday, March 17, 2014

Vegecide ...

You know how some dogs tend to be tightly defined in time and space? Take a Rottweiler, for instance: this is definitely a point source. Contained, the wave-form collapsed. Jack Russells are much the same, except that they yap, and their bark is nowhere near as bad as a Rottweiler's bite. Classic Newtonian physics, they just move around in straight lines and their only interactions with other things are banging into them and bouncing off. (Or, in the case of a Rottweiler, savaging it.)

Shaun, on the other hand, is much more quantum. I think it's the hair. He has a lot of it, and about 95% of it is strictly localised about him, but the remainder just seems to go on, possibly to infinity. Hard to pin down.

Occasionally as I'm skiving off researching I get dragged into the dark archives where the old things lurk - and yes, Virginia, there are computer systems older than I, not that many of them are functional, but some would argue that I'm not either - and the other day I got reminded of BeOS, illegitimate spawn of Jean-Louis Gassée, once of Apple. You have to wonder about what passes for a sense of humour amongst those who write operating systems for a living: it had one system call which was is_computer_on() (returned 1 if the computer was on - the result was undefined if not) and also is_computer_on_fire() which, it seems, returned the temperature of the motherboard if the computer was on fire. If this turned out not to be the case, it returned some other value.

Now as will happen around here on a Saturday, I once again dragged myself from bed sometime around the crack of dawn, walked the dog, guzzled a coffee or two out on the terrace with a cigar, and then headed off to the market at Carcassonne. And as will also happen, it became clear to me as I wandered around poking and prodding innocent vegetables that nothing would do for dinner but something involving mushrooms, because really it's been yonks since last that happened, so I wound up with a kilo of shitake, pleurottes and plain old champignons de Paris at the top of the basket (along with the big bunch of fresh flat-leafed parsley that they kindly chucked in), nestling in there with some baby wild asparagus because I am a sucker for that.

It also came to my mind (such as it is) that the huge hunk of rouelle de jambon that was sitting in the fridge waiting to be marinated and then barbecued would be lonely without something to go with it, so buying a kilo of saucisse de canard, neatly rolled up and skewered into a disk, seemed like a no-brainer. And the huge plump artichoke, the poivrons, the poireaux and the chèvre frais just jumped into the basket of their own accord: I did not lure them with honeyed words or sweeties, it is Not My Fault.

Mr. Brain slowly ticked over and, as we headed out of the place, stopped me urgently at the Arab butcher and wholesale food place on the outskirts of town, because with all those mushrooms and the bit of leftover chicken meat (if Margo hadn't devoured it for lunch) a mushroom strudel seemed the only reasonable thing to do, and I was pretty sure that there were only two sheets of filo left in the fridge and with my luck they'd be going green ... come to that, those pears that had followed me home were crying out to be turned into a pastis.

I really shouldn't be allowed into places like that unsupervised because when I left I not only had the filo pastry but also two huge côtes de veau rose, some bourguignon (for a carbonnade, which is made with beer, actually, but let's not get picky), lamb leg steaks, two souris d'agneau (not some unspeakable bastard hybrid between a mouse and a lamb, but lamb shanks which are absolutely wonderful when braised) and a certain number of cuisses de poulet fermier, which just happened to be on special and can go in the freezer anyway, so that's alright. Not My Fault!

The concept of the barbecue seemed like a Good Idea at the time, which is probably why the clouds started to roll in and the wind got up, just to spoil my day. But at least even if they are direly predicting gusts up to 83kph (I know, I know, just a light breeze around Wellington) it is making sure that we are not suffering from the pollution that plagues Paris. Where public transport is currently free, I gather they're putting in alternate days for car driving, and the very young, the elderly and the pregnant are encouraged not to go out unless absolutely necessary.

Actually, the only real problem with the wind is that when we go out for a walk, I'm convinced that it gets up Shaun's bum and goes to his head, which makes him all excited and even more of a bubble-head than usual.

Sadly, it does not discourage the velocipede artists, who seem to thrive on the stuff and have all come out along with the flowers and the fine weather, and are a general menace on the back roads. Which reminds me - I know there aren't that many of our friends and acquaintances that could be accused of living an actively healthy lifestyle, but if you do ever turn up and feel that way inclined, it's a great place to do a bit of VTT. Just stay off the roads, will you?

Also, rain is not, it seems, on the agenda, so with luck Cédric will indeed turn up as promised on Monday to finish off the terrace. Which would be rather nice.

And the electricians are supposedly available this month, and as most everything else is kind of waiting on them, that would be rather good if they did in fact put in an appearance. Once they've done that and festooned the place with cables Cédric and André can get back to putting up the gib-board and installing some of life's little necessities, like showers and toilets, and then I can start putting down the parquet flottant, and do some tiling. Oh, and the velux need to go in too.

Then some basic painting, and we'll finally be able to install ourselves upstairs, whilst the first floor gets demolished, and then rebuilt. It seems unlikely that we'll actually be open for business this summer, but that's alright. No rush.

In other news, it seems that Number One son should be down for a visit at the beginning of next month, having finally managed to wangle some holidays. (This would not be a good time to mention the notoriously generous holidays enjoyed by most French-things, minimum five weeks paid leave per year. In the hotel trade, this tends not to happen.)

Somewhat later ... we were enjoying the first barbecue of the year, relaxing with the neighbours and the smell of burnt flesh and wine, when we got a welcome phone call: the electrician, ringing to say that he'd be turning up Monday moaning as well! So the weather's looking good -  bright and sunny, with occasional workers. Good stuff.

And as it happens, everyone did in fact turn up. The electricians are happily burping or whatever it is they do up at the top of the house, and Cédric and his apprentice are out on the terrace with a blowtorch, putting down rolls of what looks suspiciously like tinfoil and tar to do a definitive job of waterproofing it before putting down a layer of cement and then tiling it.

Which goes some way to explaining how it was that Margo and I found ourselves at Lézignan late this afternoon, placing an order for 37 m² of exterior tiles: thought we'd better get the damn things before it snowed, or Cédric came down with a gastro, or something.

I missed most of the fun, had to head off to the préfecture at Carcassonne to pick up my new carte de résident and, with any luck, my new driver's licence. Got there, waited patiently until I got to the head of the queue at reception, where the woman who bites the heads off chickens for pleasure snarled at me that she'd already announced that the service étrangers was closed, due to a panne informatique, and couldn't I bloody read?

Whatever, I eventually got buzzed up to the first floor to find that my licence was in fact waiting for me (and why the hell couldn't they have sent me a letter to say so?) and then puzzle, on the way down, why for godsake they ask for colour photos when what they put on the card is snazzy gray-scale - and then, back on the ground floor, saw someone actually sitting behind a desk at the service étrangers.

I very politely asked if by any chance she could see if my card was there - she agreed that it wouldn't cost her her job to look, did so, and walked out with yet another miniature B&W plasticized photo of me in my wallet. I knew you didn't need a computer to find a folder in a filing cabinet.

And on top of that, the sky above is a dome of deep blue, the sun is shining bravely, and there is no wind. A good day, all in all.

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