Sunday, August 10, 2014

RSI: Really Stupid Idiots ...

I had kind of hoped that Indra (or Spare Other Dog as I suppose we shall have to call her, in the three-letter acronym style favoured around here at The Shamblings) would be slightly less dim than Shaun - not really a high standard to aim for - but sadly her brain too seems to be only running on 6V.

There are balls to play with, what little is left of Rasta Ted (who actually looks more like the Flying Spaghetti Monster after a really bad accident these days), a gross and slimy green rubber bone - so what does she pick? Go out to the terrace, lovingly lick up a microscopic piece of grit and then come over to you to deposit it - after careful mastication - onto the chair if you're lucky, up the inside of your shorts if less so. Then you're expected to throw it.

She does have good eyesight, I must admit: nine times out of ten she manages to catch it on her tongue. Then she swallows it, which at least means a five-minute truce whilst she snuffles around trying to find another microscopic bit of grit so that the game can continue.

And then Shaun has, virtually overnight, become middle-aged: walks that exceed requirements for a good piss and a healthy bowel motion are out of his comfort zone, and when he gets back home you can see him metaphorically putting his slippers on before settling down in a shaggy heap. If he could, he would wear a knitted waistcoat and smoke a pipe. And the nice old lady who does for him (for he is one of nature's bachelors) would complain about the hair clogging up the shower.

At least Indra is still up for a decent trot, which means I get out a bit, which also means that I'm reminded of just how long this area has been inhabited. No matter where you walk around here, in the garrigue or up in the hills with the scrub oak and the scraggy pines and the juniper, you can see the ancient drystone walls.

You may or may not be aware of this, and I suppose that maybe you could care more, but over here in Ole Yurrup if ever you actually manage to make some money the state  - via its incompetent organs - are pretty insistent on wanting some of it. How much? Just let them think of a figure.

Fair enough, I'm an independent and so it seems reasonable enough that I should pay, along with income tax, money for my retirement (they're bound to turn a profit on that one) and health insurance. These last are collected extracted (with a maximum of pain and fuss, they've learnt nothing from Colbert) by one of the afore-mentioned organs, possibly the most incompetent of all: we are talking about the RSI here.

So they sent me a bill a while back for 8000€, which was the sum they'd calculated conjured out of thin air representing what I owed them for 2013. I tried to ring them, I really did, and eventually I did in fact get through to one of their droids rather than an answering machine that just keeps you on line (at 80c/min) before hanging up on you after ten minutes and endeavoured to put across my point of view.

"I have sent you" I said, "my declaration des revenus 2013, and I do feel that asking for 8000€ cash is kind of excessive ..." "La situation semble compliquée, je note votre numéro et quelq'un va vous rappeller ..." Of course, no-one ever rang back, but I did get a letter asking for my declaration des revenus 2013 and on the grounds that it probably couldn't hurt I sent a copy off again.

A week ago I got two letters from these people (I am using the term loosely here): the first was to inform me that they'd recalculated plucked another number out of thin air and that I owed them 360€ and that they'd send me a letter Real Soon Now telling me how much I owed them. I can't complain, because it's quite a mark-down from the initial sum. The second letter was to ask me for my declaration des revenus 2013. Go figure.

Whatever, today dawned bright and sunny and a bit fresh, thanks to last night's thunderstorm I guess, so at least I'll have fine weather when I'm stuck in the bouchons on the autoroute heading up to Chambéry.

As it turns out, that was too gloomy by far. There was indeed a lot of traffic, and in the vallée du Rhône between Orange and Valence - the traditional choke-point for vacationers - it was moving slightly faster than a brisk walk. Going south. Northwards - my way - was fine, so having left early expecting the worst I arrived unseasonably early. OK, I admit to a five minute slowdown at the Valence péage but that's par for the course.

All of which left me at a loose end, so I had no choice but to seek a dissolute drinking companion (hello, Bryan!) to see whether or not the service at O'Cardinals has improved. The answer is "marginally", I still think that it's a shame they tarted up the inside and got rid of the cracked old leather seats so that it looks like any other slightly up-market bar. Personally, I preferred it shabby. The only thing to do is sit outside, where you don't get to see that, and learn to live with the fact that the servers only come out there once every half-hour or so, and then are totally unequipped to give change ...

The other drawback to that is that when the heavens open, as they did halfway through the second glass of vitamins, you tend to get rather quickly soaked through. Which brought our otherwise agreeable evening to a rapid, sodden end.

It is said, somewhere or another, that the Devil makes work for idle hands: in my case he appears to be making me write cheques. Like the other day, when nothing would do but I buy a semi-professional deep-fryer from Matcol, in Lézignan. Margo had been past the place and saw that they had one: eight-litre capacity for only 230€, so I felt it my duty to go take a look at it.

Twas cheap because second-hand: the first owner had bought it, taken it back to his restaurant, tried it out and bought it back the next day, saying something along the lines of "I need a bigger one!" but for my humble purposes I rather think it will suffice. Haven't yet fired it up - for one thing I don't happen to have that amount of oil hanging around in the pantry, and for another it's too damn hot to even think about making chips - but I'm sure I'll get around to that Real Soon Now.

In other news, we are currently enjoying the company of Bryan and Beckham. I drove her down on Monday, pausing but briefly to top up the supplies of beer and wine once we got down to civilised parts, and then Bryan, pleading that he had work to do and that the world may well come to an end if it weren't done, took the train down Friday night.

Luckily I'd planned a cold meal that night, for Margo toddled off - without, of course, her phone - to pick him up from Narbonne and of course it was shortly afterwards that I got a phone call to say that although the train had indeed left Montpellier it was currently stuck in Agde, waiting for the gendarmerie to finish the job of stuffing a rubbish sack with whatever bits they could find of the inconsiderate sod who'd taken it into his head to got for a walk along the railway tracks.

I mean, if people really want to commit suicide then I've nothing against that per se, and I guess that being smeared over the landscape by a train going at 110kph is probably quick, and certainly definitive, but you'd think the buggers could at least have the common decency not to inconvenience honest taxpayers such as myself, who find their dinner plans put on hold indefinitely.

Speaking of which, you can see that there's a glut of tomatoes around here just at the moment, so I suppose I'd better go think of something to do with them. Mind how you go, now.

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