Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ask Not At Whom The Finger Points ...

... it points at that other bugger, hiding over there behind the aspidistra.

As you may have heard there was - as there is wont to be, in the Alps, in the winter - a rather massive snow dump in Savoie just after Christmas, which royally screwed up traffic and left 15,000 people trapped in their cars en route to the ski stations. This is obviously unacceptable, and so now the Snarky Finger of Blame is being pointed in all directions.

One ex-minister seems to have pointed it in the right direction, saying, more or less, "if the French, being warned that heavy snow is likely in the Alps, choose to head off to ski with neither snow tires nor chains and totally unequipped for the conditions, just what the fuck can you do?" Fair point.

Down here we is not worried by such things as the sky is bright and blue: true, the thermometer is down to about 5° and the wind-chill factor takes that down to -10°, and 100+ kph winds are expected soon enough, but do we care? Yes, actually, because it means muffling yourself up like Peary just to take the retards out for a piddle.

Here is our Gristlemouse tree. It is not happy, what with being from mother's womb untimely rip't etcetera. As you can see we still have not found all the decorations, which are in a box somewhere, also they were fresh out of sapins de Noel so we had to take what we could get.

I tried sticking the fairy on top but her feet touched the ground and she wandered off whilst I was looking for the sticky tape. Also, Bad Santa did not leave us any presents.

Furry New Bear, anyway.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Very Shambling Christmas ...

Something a bit more comfortable ...
 ... with NO ZOMBIES. Honestly, I am sick up to here with zombies. Shambling around, no skin tone - not that I have anything against the grey-coloured, on some things it looks good - no dress sense and limbs dropping off randomly: honestly, you'd think they just didn't care. Just let everything go, that's what it is: a complete abdication of personal responsibility.

Also, just between us, they smell. Fair enough, it's not always easy to mask the aroma of decaying flesh, but still - could make a bloody effort just once in a while. Like when you have to go off to the Post Office, f'r'instance.

That'll be a kilo of snails to go ...
As one will from time to time, to complain about the tardy delivery of mail down here, and the fact that you have to go pick up that palette of depleted uranium in the back of the car because for some pettifogging bureaucratic reason they won't deliver to the doorstep - some nonsense about Health & Safety - or just to check that the pension payments for Auntie Mabel (deceased) and the rest of the cousins on that side of the family (also deceased, sad to say; an unusual accident - the coroner actually used the word "incredible", which is kind of flattering -but then god apparently moves in mysterious ways) have indeed come through.

But do they? Bloody bogroll they do. As a general rule the undead vital-sign deficient and I get on well enough - each to his own, I say, and if someone has to change into a bat each evening and suck a virgin (for preference) then I'm not one to judge - but you have to draw a line somewhere. And I'm sorry, but eating brains is right out. They can't even be arsed frying the damn things in beurre noir, just goes to show how much they care.

Actually, what I had the intention of writing about was how much I know you've been waiting eagerly for the seasonal State of the Nation report charmingly illustrated by the amusing antics of our friendly woodland folk and the Playmobil Racist Front.

I have a confession to make: when we left St Pierre it was in kind of a rush and we didn't actually have that much room, I know we said something about coming back up in a few weeks but you know how it is, time just flies by and I'm sure they're happier up somewhere they know ... To be quite honest, we don't have them around any more.

Not that we abandoned them, that would not be good: let's just say that we thought it was a good idea to let them find their own personal space, develop fully and find themselves, you know. I think we even sent them a letter to that effect at one point: at least I'm pretty sure I can remember us writing a letter, although I cannot swear that we put a stamp on it. Not that that should make any difference, the Post Office is a bloody public service or supposed to be, not that you'd know it from the lip they give you if you so much as mention the fact that the alligator was poorly when you got it and it clearly said on the packaging not to hand-feed. Or not to feed it hands, can't recall, it was a while back.

Anyway, it was unsolicited junk-mail from Nigeria and I can hardly be held personally responsible for their approximative grasp of written English, now can I? Hardly my fault if the postmistress invited the kiddies from the primary school in that day for "work experience", or whatever they call it these days. And I can't see what that has to do with them signally failing in their obligation to deliver a letter entrusted to their care.

A word to the wise, if you know what I mean: should ever you come visit us, there are tables, for godssake: put your glass on one of them and do NOT stick the damn thing on the floor. Unless, of course, you like to share. But even were that to be the case I suspect you'd rather not share with Shaun the Dog, who seems to have developed a taste for red wine.

As Bryan found out last night. Sad to say, Margo does not believe in milking a situation for all it's worth and felt obliged to let him know before he took another swig, which I personally find a shame.

It seems we have been nice rather than naughty, for only yesterday we received not one but two visitations: Cédric The Destroyer and his little helper Gordi turned up to finish demolishing the first floor bathroom, and André appeared to finish off the bathroom in my office!

And as I'd put in a herculean effort over the weekend, tiling the floor and the shower, sticking in the grouting and the silicone, Bryan gets his own bathroom which at least means that we will not be martyrised at midnight by his prostate.

Sadly the huge old radiator in the office does not in fact work: André got it hooked up and it started to dribble persistently. At some point in its voyaging it must have been scraped on a rough surface, which was just enough to damage the brazing ... who'd have though that fonte d'acier would be so delicate?

We also got spoilt as both Cédric and André bore gifts - partly, I suspect, to apologise for the slow advancement of the work - and we got wine and pâté and goat's cheese in olive oil and cassoulet and some decent foie gras. As if we didn't have enough of the stuff: I'd already made one lot and had just finished cooking another which is even now maturing in the fridge.

Not so sure about the jar of cassoulet either, although I have to admit that it's at least a more manageable quantity than I made, which involved 500gm (dry weight) of dried haricots Tarbais and about one and a half kilos of diverse meat.

Or maybe I have been naughty, or at least not as nice as I thought, for my little Linux laptop chose today to go titsup on me, with bad disk sectors and, when I look at the logs, the CPU temperature getting up into the 80s. I get the funny feeling that the fan is not working. Bitch.

Yes, I have backups of course, for the source code anyway - which reminds me that one of the external hard drives also seems to be failing, so I must copy all that onto another two - but if it does crash and die in a spectacular fashion I shall be really, really pissed off because then I shall have to get another machine, reinstall everything, cross my fingers and hope for the best. And all this in only 24 hours, for of course all the clients have buggered off on holiday and are expecting to find a delivery on their desktops at the start of January ...

Still, I've been through worse - like the time I wiped out the general ledger run back in the days when I was technically engaged as an operator at the PNCC. That really screwed up my weekend.

Mind you, that was back in the days when I was a DINKie (that's Disposable Income, No Kids, to you) and still had weekends, and interesting things to do with them. Nowadays I do have disposable income, and The Shamblings is a kid-free zone, but the notion of spare time is one that I find an interesting concept. Heard of it, but not often come across it.

Except for right now, when we are all profiting from Saturnalia to indulge in traditional excess, bloat, and general doziness. After the cassoulet and then last night's little effort with coquilles St-Jacques à la nage, a light salad and a steamed lemon pudding to follow we tried to be more restrained today.

Which means that when Neville and Reets turned up bearing gifts around 11am this moaning I was only onto the first glass of white for the day.

Thankfully Margo, Bryan and the retards turned up not too long afterwards so we were not obliged to drink alone, and I retreated into the kitchen to look after the roast leg of lamb, the potatoes and kumara, and the brussells sprouts: good thing Margo got the pavlova ready ahead of time.

And on the brighter side, we're managing to get through a lot of the more elderly bottles in the collection. I must admit that the '95 Cotes de Nuits was definitely drinkable, and the '98 Maltoff from Coulanges-la-Vineuse was still alive. Another three bottles to go, and I'll have nothing left from the last century.

Whatever, a Hairy Gristlemouse and a very Furry New Bear to you all: mind how you go, now.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Conversations With Your Kids ...

The heraldic ravens here at The Shamblings
Hey Dad!

Yeah, hi.

I'm hungry!

Yeah. You only have about 3kg of Kitty Kibbles there in your feeder, and you got a TV dinner this morning.

OK, true, but you have to watch me!

Yeah. Why? You do tricks?

Nope, not that you'd notice, but if you don't watch me then no-one sees me eat and then who's to say that I've eaten?

Hey, that's pretty existential for a cat. But I would like to point out, if I may, that even without being watched 24/24, 7/7 you have still managed to put on quite a bit of weight. Not to put too fine a point on it, you is one big fat ex-kitten, and keeping that tub of cat-food brim-full is playing merry hell with my mortgage repayments.

Let me out now? Before Indra starts licking me? Please?

Also, you are not as cute as you used to be. You may think that the incident the other day, when I pranced and screamed ever so slightly as your needle-sharp claws sank into the good old gluteus maximus and the left testicle, was amusing: but I beg to differ. Have you considered going out and getting a job? No, I thought not.

Damn. Hey, I'll fuck around with all your piles of paper and put them all over the floor, and then I'll convince dickhead Shaun to come piss on them.


Kids or cats, the results are rarely what you expect. At least with cats you can have them sterilised and no-one will bat an eyelid. Kids are beyond the pail. (No, that is not a typing error. From Whackywheedia: "beyond the pail: an expression dating from C13 (citation needed) when a pail was placed on the floor of the Great Hall on the occasion of a high feast. Those seated above the pail were permitted to enjoy the same privileges as the lord and lady of the démeure, and could crap on the steps leading up to the main entrance: those 'below' (or 'beyond') were obliged to relieve themselves in the pail, often to raillery from their fellow diners but always to the pleasure of the gardener, whose perquisite it was to fertilise the potager with its contents.")

S'on the innernetz - or will be, as soon as I hit "Publish" - so it must be true.

There is a song - sung, if my doddering memory does not mislead me, by Julie Andrews on one of her better days - which goes something along the lines of "Climb every mountain/Ford every stream/Molest each furry bunny/Until you reach your dream" and I can proudly say that, Margo and I together, this morning we attained that. Yes, we have achieved the seemingly impossible: armed only with a screwdriver and a large hammer, we succeeded in putting together a flat-pack cupboard that we had previously taken to bits!

It was left here in The Shamblings when we bought the place, a great thing made in the pre-IKEA Bronze Age of malicious furniture à monter soi-même: back in the days when men were indisputably men, cast-iron was considered a viable alternative to particle board, and such items came with a handy pack of splints and bandages for the inevitable injuries sustained in putting the damn thing together.

We took it down with much cursing, for as I think I've mentioned before the previous owners - or their predecessors, or those before them - seemed to believe that although, in the words of the poet, "the centre cannot hold", it bloody well would if held together by enough three-inch crosshead screws and a couple of bolts, such as you might find protruding from the neck of your poorly stitched-together neighbourhood monster given a semblance of life by the vital electricity from a lightning bolt.

Anyway, now Margo has her office we found a use for it, so we slowly heaved its component pieces back up the stairs to the attic, and put it back together. Much to my surprise we had lost none of those curious little bits that turn and lock other curious bits together into a semi-rigid structure, also Margo had thoughtfully taken photos of it in its tumescent state: still, I had gloomily expected rather more blood. Now it's up, I don't think we'll be taking it down again in a hurry.

As you may have noticed, even down there in Upside-Down Land where you are probably preparing your barbecues, Gristlemuss is impending and the marché at Carcassonne is full of jollity and foie gras and people trying to sell you dodgy pine-trees that are so fresh they only fell off the back of a lorry this very morning.

Or at least I guess it would be, were it not for the fact that an ice-skating rink has been installed slap in the centre of place Carnot, and the actual market itself has apparently been dispersed to the four corners of Carcassonne. Which is a bit of a bitch, because the urge came upon me to make a cassoulet - and even, maybe, to buy a cassole to make it in - and it would have been a fair trot to gather together the necessary piggy products.

Cuisses de canard confites I have, of course, in the freezer, and I have a couple of kilos of haricots Tarbais - the only ones, it seems, which may be used for an authentic dish - in the cupboard, but there's still saucisse de Toulouse and some saucisse à l'ail and a bit of poitrine de porc and maybe some lamb shanks to be obtained by one means or another: a good cassoulet can feed a family of four for some considerable time. (Have I ever remarked on just how fond of meat, in gargantuan quantities, the southern French are? You may have this idea that everything is olive oil and vegetables, and these are indeed important parts of the cuisine, but they are still at heart unreformed carnivores.)

Still, it is also the time of year when the truffle comes into its own, and soon enough at Talairan and Villeneuve-Minervois there will be the truffle fairs. I have no idea what the things will cost (a fib, the going rate is currently anywhere between 600 - 800€/kg depending on where you are and how advanced the season is) but a 10gm truffle will not break the bank and will add its - particular - flavour to any number of meals. So I rather think I shall head off to share the fun.

Our elderly friend Bryan will be down here for Christmas but for some reason he's decided to turn up on the 23rd and head back to Chambéry, god and the SNCF permitting, on the 27th and so will miss all the excitement. Not to mention what I confidently expect to be serious eating and drinking.

Anyways, this has been short and and we are definitely scraping the bottom of the barrel in the photo department: things have been rather busy, and right now I am exhausted by the act of being polite erecting recalcitrant furniture. Things will get better. Mind how you go, now.