Monday, July 7, 2014

The Salmon Run ...

 So let me get one thing straight right from the start, I have absolutely nothing against the Belgians as a species. Apart, that is, from the fact that they are, more or less by definition, Belgians, and that every time spawning season comes around they feel this irresistible urge to return to the ancestral breeding grounds - in the south of France, apparently - and they need to get there in the ancestral Mercedes. Preferably, towing the ancestral caravan. With two bikes hung off the back, and what looks like a year's supply of potatoes strapped to the roof. (For it is a well-known fact that you just cannot get decent potatoes for making chips in France, and no self-respecting Belgian holiday-maker would be without his/her steaming-hot moules-frites under the baking sun at midday.)

Whatever, they will drive down in convoys, in the fast lane, at the breath-taking speed of 110kph: maybe, being notoriously dim-witted, they have not noticed that they have left Brussels. Also, they are unaware of the existence of rear-view mirrors, or they prefer to ignore them, and so do not see the long line of traffic that has built up behind them. Sadly, although the Alfa has just about every option under the sun, I have not yet found the rocket-launcher control.

At some point they will arrive at their destination, park the caravan and erect the awnings, and boot the kids out to go play at "Bury the Body" on the beach: whilst Madame is preparing the moules-frites Monsieur will stroll around, shirtless - unfortunately - and beer in hand, to exchange a few words with the neighbours at the camp-site, whom he has not seen since they all left Brussels together about ten hours earlier.

Completely off-topic, but sometimes I feel an urge to find out just what is going on in your little green and pleasant land - even if only to catch up on the doings of your alien reptile overlord. And in so doing I came across what is, I feel, the stuff of which proper journalism is made - this is what deserves a Pulitzer - I can only stand in awe and refer you to the headline which read "Man falls from roof, hits head". Deathless prose.

(Yeah, I know, the guy died. I'd be pissed off if that was my epitaph.)

As a general rule, the French celebrate Bastille Day (and don't ask me why that is pronounced "Bastee", it just is) on July 14th, but here in Moux it is done on the 13th. The reasons are not clear to me, but I suspect that it has something to do with the fireworks and the food, which the mayor's idiot nephew bought just after the official celebration a year ago, when it was on special, coming rapidly up to its use-by date.

Whatever, I toddled off to the mairie the other day to buy our tickets, the guy at the desk dragged out the seating plan and said "where do you want to be" and I replied something along the lines of "I could care more". Apparently the English contingent around here usually buy their tickets en bloc and so get seated together and have to talk to one another: I am not sure I want to go there.

(Update: I have since learnt that the idiot nephew has unilaterally decided to stick all the known English-speakers together anyway, I suppose to stop them bothering anybody else. Turns out for the best I guess, as it appears that Beckham will be turning up, I shall have to get her a ticket, and we do not want her molesting any of the studly young things.)

For one thing, there will be more than enough time to mingle and chat if so inclined whilst we're swilling wine and nibbling on the quivering masses of quiche, pizza, pissaladière and godnose what else that are set out just to whet the appetite for the real meal, and for another, I can think of  better things to do. Just suppose, for instance, that I get seated next to Anthony and Sarah-Jane: WTF am I supposed to say as an ice-breaker? "Sold any good ships lately?" Can see that going down like a cup of luke-warm sick.

I should perhaps point out at this point that Anthony is, apparently, a ship-broker. Buys an oil tanker or so once a year, sells it on, and the margin is enough to keep up the house here, the chalet in the Alps, the little baise-en-ville pied-à-terre in London and the holiday home in  the Caymans. Or so I'm told. Have actually met the guy - once - but I got the distinct impression that my native charm failed to impress, and that he thought I was a poorly-trained trick cockroach.

About this time a year ago - give or take a couple of days - you'll recall that we were still frantically stuffing things into boxes and taping them shut: I'd say about 90% of them are still stacked, unopened, in what will eventually become the dining room here at The Shambles. The other 10% are stacked, also unopened, out in the verandah because the putative dining room is only about 35m² and I do need to be able to get at my desk.

And this same time, this year, I'm out on the terrace under a sun umbrella, with a soleil de plomb above in the bright wide blue sky. So it's been almost a year we've been down here now, and neither of us regret the move. We put up, albeit grudgingly, with the inconvenience of sun and hot weather, and being obliged to have barbecues: after all, that only lasts for eight or nine months of the year, and it's a burden we're willing to support in exchange for relief from the snow.

It helps, too, that I don't wake up in the morning these days dreading what shit is going to fall on me when I get into the office. I get up, get the coffee ready - studiously trying to ignore Needy Kitten who insists that he hasn't been fed for years and WANNA NOW! - and take STD out for his morning trot under the sky before getting back and out onto the  terrace for coffee, fruit juice and nicotine. And, finally, giving Bloody Kitten some Gourmet Cat Jelly With Lark's Tongues.

Don't get me wrong, looking at the spreadsheet where I note down my hours I actually work more than before but a) it's all billed and b) it's at my rhythm. Stuck on a problem? Take the time to think about it, preferably with another cigar. Bored witless? Take the dog off for another walk, enjoy the countryside. Or bone out the leg of lamb and get it in the marinade ready for the evening. It works for me.

I can see we shall have to buy yet another bloody Kindle, for Jeremy The Destroyer has struck again. I've said it before, our eldest son is not, it seems, able to live with electronics. A couple of motherboards, three power supplies and a few other bagatelles later I am convinced of this. (Mind you, using his keyboard as an ashtray may not help.) But still, I have to wonder how he does it.

This time he was walking home from work, with the Kindle that Margo so nicely got him and stocked up with books in his backpack, when he got overtaken by a thunderstorm. The backpack got damp - as it will - and somehow the Kindle got water up its USB port and died - how does that happen? For godsake, I've had snow in the Ethernet ports of various laptops, and they just laughed it off.

And as luck would have it, just a few days before he called with the news Margo -knowing him as well as I - had ordered a fancy waterproof case from Amazon: sadly, it has not yet turned up. I guess he gets an early birthday present this year. (But still, WTF?)

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