Sunday, April 13, 2014

How Hard Can It Be?

I always look forward to April Fool's Day here at The Shamblings. Although sometimes it can be difficult to work out just who the joke is on. Usually, I guess, it's on me.

Anyway, the more alert of you - those who've had their morning coffee - may have noticed a brief hiatus. This is nothing sinister, just due to the fact that once again I headed off to Chambéry for a week's worth of working, and for once that meant exactly that - sod-all spare time for anything else.

The general idea was to recuperate Jeremy, the eldest son, and bring him down here for a few days: he actually had a week's holiday, and has never even seen the place, so it seemed a reasonable concept. The idea was simple, as always: reality tends to be messier. He went off to a party on Saturday, ETA chez lui sometime Sunday afternoon, so we arranged to meet up there at 16:00 before heading back down.

Let it be admitted, I was late - all of fifteen minutes late. No sign of life, I rang and I wandered around Montmélian until I was thoroughly bored and still no Jeremy. Two and a half hours and five calls going straight to voice-mail later I decided to call it a day, but for some reason as I was heading down the hill towards the autoroute I gave one last call. "Oh fuck" squawked my phone, as the son awoke.

Only fallen asleep on his sofa, hadn't he? Margo had suggested that I count to ten and take a couple of deep breaths and it worked because four hours later (admittedly, three hours later than planned, which kind of screwed my ideas for dinner) we were home, without mayhem being committed. Mind you, we're neither of us great ones for chatting in the car, which probably helps under such circumstances.

On the bright side, I had at least gone round on Saturday and we'd loaded the oven hood from St-Pierre (which, for some reason as yet unknown to me, had wound up at his place - go figure) into the boot of the car on the grounds that it might eventually turn out to be useful (we'll see about that one) and there was also a good kilo of decent Beaufort lurking in a chilly bag, awaiting its imminent date with destiny.

For Jeremy, you see, has realised that good cheese Costs Money, which he would rather put to other purposes, such as the purchase of mildly illegal mind-altering drugs, and so he no longer falls, like a wolf on the fold (although, to be fair, rarely have I seen him gleaming, whether it be in purple and gold or anything else) upon the cheese in the fridge, for there is none in his apartment. Cheese, that is, for a fridge there is: I know it well, it must be twenty years old or so and once adorned our cellar in St. Pierre, relegated to the noble calling of keeping copious amounts of wine and beer at a reasonable temperature. And it still does sterling service, even though in its dotage the temperature regulation is a bit iffy, so things are either tepid or half-frozen, but given what Jeremy keeps in it this is not really a problem.

Whatever, we finally left around 18:30 and I was starting to feel a bit peckish when I pulled in to the service station at Mornas, so it was a shame that when, having fed Suzy, I went off to do the same for myself, I discovered that the decent-ish sandwich joint was closed (it was, I admit, Sunday, but even so ...) and that my options were to buy a sorry-looking Vienna roll enclosing a bit of limp lettuce and sad watery ham all wrapped up in cellophane, or to go hungry. I have learnt my lesson, sometimes Experience manages to stop Hope getting up with the simple expedient of a quick kick to his balls, and we carried on.

At Tavel even the coffee bar was closed, so I got a watery café americain from the vending machine out back, promptly wished I hadn't, and drove off into the night. Fortunately at that point we weren't too far from home, and when we arrived Jeremy spared five minutes to make the acquaintance of the dog before retiring to the kitchen, where he appropriated our solitary baguette and set about some serious work with butter and cheese.

It is sad but true that this is that awful season where we have but limited choice in fruit and vegetables: right now, for instance, we are more or less obliged to subsist on asparagus and strawberries. It is hard, but we force ourselves, for one has to eat. To add to my misery I had to go off to the supermarket this moaning - happily, there is one open at Lézignan on a Sunday - to get food for five, as we got a phone call last evening from a niece to say that she and friends were hitch-hiking to Morocco and could they stay the next night? (Assuming, of course, that they manage to get from Bordeaux to Carcassonne.)

Now not only have they reorganised the Intermarché there, so that things are no longer where they once were AND none of the helpful signs that hang from the ceiling indicating the contents of the aisle actually correspond anymore to what you will in fact find down there - and come to that the price tags are more or less random as well - it is barbecue season and they have cut back on their meat selection so my vague plan of a leg of lamb went out the metaphorical window and I was forced - forced, I tell you! - to buy some coquilles St-Jacques instead. Hope no-one's allergic to the little sweeties.

And as I was swallowing my disappointment at life's little cruelties and getting ready to pull out and drive back home I found myself with an unexpected ten minutes of time to dedicate to further contemplation, as about a hundred or so OAPs turned up on their shiny throbbing Harleys to fill their tanks, paralysing the parking lot.

(Yer French bikies are not the fearsome crew that you lot tend to get, and I suspect that their only ties to the drug trade are in the form of purchase of industrial-scale amounts of Viagra and haemorrhoïd cream. The only ones who can possibly afford to buy - and to run - a Harley are those with large amounts of disposable income, which pretty much rules out anyone under the age of 65. Sometimes it brings to mind that Python sketch, with the evil grannies.)

Be that as it may, nothing too depressing that it couldn't be cured by sitting out in the sun on the terrace for a bit, wistfully imagining what it will look like on the day it is actually finished and has real tiles on it and everything. (For at the moment, although it is now waterproof so that even if it does rain heavily we will not be able to take showers in the garage underneath, there are only two lines of tiles down because Cédric turned up yesterday afternoon to get started on that. Maybe for next weekend ...)

Around the church, the little place next to us where the yoof of the village tend to hang out during those long sunny evenings of the summer holidays is littered with sticks. Crows are lousy architects and worse builders, and given that they apparently think that a beakful of two-foot sticks, some of them with the original thorns still on them, make a good nest I'm rather surprised that the species is still a going concern.

Or maybe it's just the male of the corvidae that labours under this impression, and in his eagerness to woo (and get around to doing the fun parts of reproduction) thinks that quantity rather than quality will do the trick: what we find on the ground are the results of careful selection by Mrs Crow, who sees little point to brooding with an acacia thorn up the jacksie.

Anyway, I shall make a gigantic leap of faith here and believe that these young persons are really going to turn up some time in the more or less immediate future, which means that I really ought to head off into the kitchen and start work on a few minor trifles, such things as might help stave off imminent death by starvation. Mind how you go, now.

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