Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Joy Of Boilers ...

One of the things I really like about the marché, place Carnot at Carcassonne, is that there's any number of people selling stuff out of their gardens. For some reason parsnip is popular this year: it, along with a number of other root vegetables, fell out of favour after WW II due to its being ineradicably linked in the collective psyche with war-time privation or whatever, but there's some sort of trend these days for les legumes oubliés and the bloody things are making a come-back.

(Funnily enough, this vegetable amnesia never extended to beetroot, turnips, or celeriac. Why this should be I shall maybe never know: personally I cannot understand the attraction of celery root, and the flaccid over-cooked beetroot that one usually finds is always disappointing, not to mention unfit for pickling. As for the turnip ... less said the better.)

But as I was saying before being so rudely interrupted, these people turn up with a folding table and plonk whatever they have down on it - the very last of the season's tomatoes, bundles of herbs, beautiful yellow courgettes, whatever - and I came across this guy selling kaki (that would be persimmon, to you) and also, to my great delight, feijoa. Which, for some reason, the guy also called "Peruvian guava", which I'm not so sure about.

Whatever, I made it away with a kilo or so - at €4.20/kg it wasn't going to break the bank - to Margo's delight, and as the guy reckoned he'd be selling the stuff for the next month or so we shall be happy persons. Apart from being delicious just like that (you may not think so, but you also may not have spent 27 years deprived of feijoa) it makes an excellent filling for a bretonne (which is very much like a gateau Basque, only with more butter, and a classic French dessert) so maybe I need to preserve some as a compôte. For when it's out of season.

In case any of you have drunk the Mayle Kool-Aid and believe that Provence is a land of perpetually blue and sunny skies, let me help you into this nice padded waistcoat - yes, the one that does up down the back - and get your medication ready. And I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. If you could just be so good as to sign here, and maybe here, before your hands start to shake too much.

Right now, for instance, the street lights are flickering on and off uneasily as the rain pelts down and the lightning flares spectacularly up north on the montagne Noire. Luckily the worst of the storm is headed off towards Narbonne. Well, the worst of this storm anyway: more are forecast, with up to 70mm of rain on Saturday night.

Also and exceptionally, along with the torrential rain came a strong easterly, which of course meant that we had rain coming horizontally onto the eastern façade of the house. Which is where the verandah is. And that, possums, is how we learnt that where those typically Provençal terracotta tiles that roof the verandah join onto the house wall is not, by any stretch of the imagination, weatherproof. Oh, I suppose it must have been at one time, but that was a while back in the day and the cement has weathered ...

Happily, one of the first investments we made when we moved in was a Karcher (you know, one of those sort of reverse hoovers that spit out a jet of water at some unimaginable pressure) and they threw in a cheap industrial vacuum cleaner, which is quite happy vacuuming up water. To say that it has seen some use in recent days would be an understatement.

We probably got off lightly. I am willing to admit that at midnight water was rushing in great sheets down the streets, and by the looks of the little road that leads down to the départmentale this morning when I took the retards off for their trot ... let's just say that last night would not have been a good time to choose to go anywhere.

Our central heating has been an on-again off-again affair for some time now. It was working when Margo went off to NooZild in early October and then it stopped, for reasons best known to itself, a few weeks later. A new fuel pump got installed (because here at The Shamblings™ we do not like things to be too simple, so the cuve is in the cave and the pompe pimps the fuel up to the burner, about 8 metres higher up, in its own little room up in the attic) and that worked happily for a bit until I noticed that it was pissing diesel down in the garage.

So André eventually consented to turn up, and attacked the recalcitrant thing with spanners and such until it leaked no more: then two days later it stopped working, hardly surprising as it had decided to commit suicide by blowing its own guts out through the wall of the unit.

Once again I had to resort to cargo cultism to get André to appear again: pictures of wrenches and cisterns and U-bends torn from the pages of glossy magazines such as House & Garden, and left lying around the place. Maybe I should just have bought a copy of "Gay Polish Plumbers French-Polish London", but I'd have had some explaining to do in the tabac.

But it worked, for only a week later he came back again with a new pump, one that sucks rather than blows, which is apparently better. I do not really care about its technique, I just want the thing to do its job. And right now it has been hung on the wall next to the burner and both are purring contentedly, and all the radiators in the house are glowing white-hot as we rush about turning them down.

Also, now that that is done and we actually have hot water upstairs and flooring and skirting boards and all the other appurtenances of a civilised life, we have actually moved up into our apartment. It is the case that my office and adjoining bathroom remain to be finished, that Margo's office must be emptied of cardboard boxes and suitcases of clothes, that there are a few planks of parquet that I cannot put down until Cédric finishes with an upright and that the hall has yet to be floored, but I could care more.

It is also admittedly true - for a given value of "true", one involving the words "brutal honesty" - that although the walk-in wardrobe exists, is painted and floored, and has a good percentage of the skirting-boards actually in place and held up by more than faith (personally I put my faith in heavy-duty glue) I must admit that it is noticeably lacking in such amenities as shelves, and drawers, and rails such as one might use for casually slipping a few coat-hangars on.

But these are not nice thoughts, and to talk of these things is impolite and leads to bad feelings, and is most certainly not conducive to such happiness as we could hope for, so let us turn our minds to other things, and gaze steadfastly at the bright new future that awaits us (preferably to the stirring accompaniment of the Third Concerto For Tuba And N° 37 Tractor Factory Joyous Worker's Collective, composed and directed by Kim Jong-Il).

And now for something completely different: totally gratuitous photos of our bedroom. In its new, improved, and more or less livable state.


  1. "Peruvian guava"

    Botanically near enough. All these Myrtaceae look alike.