Friday, April 24, 2015

The Devil In A Black Dress ...

It's an odd thing, but cat doors seem to be an effective metabolic enhancer for our feline friends. A few weeks ago I put one into the pantry door (because behind it is where the kitty kibbles lurk) and now that we can just leave the door closed all the time you'd be amazed at the dramatic fall in the consumption of cat food, and yet neither of them seem to be losing weight. Certainly not EBK, anyway.

I guess the effect is purely homeopathic, but the dogs also seem to be hungrier at meal-times. Pure coincidence, I suppose.

After a well-watered barbecue on Saturday night with Mary and Rick Sunday dawned gray, sullen and damp so having nothing better to do (apart from tiling, stripping wallpaper, chipping away at recalcitrant cement on floors, whatever, you name it) we headed off to north-west of Carcassonne to Bram (not named after a Stoker) to take a look at an exhibition of paper dresses, the work of one Catherine Cappeau.

Not Prada, nor Chanel, but very interesting. A bit too sculptural, I'd have thought, to be worn with any degree of comfort - but then what would I know, and in any case I personally cannot see how any normal human being can wear anything you see stitched onto a mannequin on the catwalk and hope to feel comfortable in it. For one thing, your left breast is constantly poking out to one side (and not necessarily the left), with a nipple malfunction imminent, and some of them must scratch something awful.

Also, being suspended in mid-air by what I suppose I shall have to call a hat or head-dress cannot feel natural, and it would be a right bitch trying to get to the canapés or even just getting a refill of champagne. Unless you had a sympathetic puppet-master.

Margo just tells me that I am an irredeemable philistine, and given the number of syllables I am willing to take that as a compliment.

Whatever, having poked around to our heart's desire it seemed only reasonable to head off to see where the paper was made: a place called Brousses, up in the foothills of the montagne Noire.

Up there the landscape's completely different from here in the Corbières: some bits remind me a bit of the Desert Road (complete with military base) and then you get a bit higher up, onto the little windy roads that apparently disappear into gorges.

More hills, and a lot greener: stark and savage in its own way, with great rocks jutting out of the greenery and villages huddled in the valleys, but not at all the same sun-burned timeless land where the lizards play. Kind of got used to the wide-open spaces under the bright blue sky.

In any case, there's a lot of water up there, rushing about in torrents, and although I suppose they could have set up a tannery (for which you need an awful lot of water, only partly to get rid of the effluent) the locals decided that watermills were a good concept, and hey! why not a manufacture de papier while we're about it?

And so it happened, and the paper factory is still there some three hundred years later - and still using some of the original equipment, by the looks of it. I get the feeling that the most recent acquisition was the Dutch beater, bought back in the 1840s. (Mind you, in my experience tanneries are about as innovative. Some of the gear in the one at Anonnay dates back to at least the early 1900s and is still working, thanks to duct tape.)

I have to admit that I tend to be fairly rapidly saturated by industrial museums because it's just obsolete technology and anyway paper's paper, innit? and also hanging around waiting for half an hour until enough people turn up to constitute a guided tour bores me witless, but it actually turned out to be quite interesting.

For me - and the other ten-year-olds on the tour - I still feel that the highlight was when the guy explained about the different varieties of paper made from crap. Elephant pooh was apparently particularly recherché, due to the long fibres. File that interesting fact away for Trivial Pursuit.

And thanks to the technological marvel that is the innatübz I am informed that NooZild has continued a fine and longstanding tradition of erecting Prime Munsters that, seemingly effortlessly, make themselves look like complete and utter prats. Rob Muldoon used to drone on and on in his ridiculous whiny buzzsaw voice about a "New Bretton Woods" until even Ronald Reagan could no longer stay asleep and had to go and hide behind the curtains in the Oval Office, disguising himself as an aspidistra.

At least David Lange did no actual damage, it's just that world leaders pretended to be busy with an excessively painful bowel motion when they saw him coming, for fear of being on the receiving end of a handshake sufficiently vigorous to leave their brains rattling around inside their skulls for days. Not to mention a booming "Hello" echoing from ear to ear long after he'd left.

But now it seems that John Key has managed to make even Tony Abbott appear not entirely ridiculous - which takes some doing, but no-one has accused him of being a hair fetishist. Yet.

I mean seriously, "PM Pulls Ponytail"? (Also, sends a couple of bottles of wine to make it all better?) A bit of light-hearted non-gender-specific banter is one thing but ... I bet Obama, at this very moment, is busy on the line with his social secretary and checking his Rolodex so that he can inconveniently come down with the plague before the next G20 meeting.

It used to be that we could always take some comfort in the fact that Joh Bjelke-Peterson would be impossible to beat and it's true that Abbot seems to have a pronounced taste for his own shoe-leather but anyways, congratulations and well-done, you lot.

As a general rule I am not one to go around making ecstatic moans and far-fetched comparisons over a wine's bouquet. For one thing, people who stop to talk of such things often don't get a chance at a second glass, and for another I usually just can't see it. I mean, "a subtle hint of blueberry with cinnamon overtones; an overarching vegetal finish" does absolutely nothing for me. Maybe I'm drinking the wrong wines.

But anyway, I had occasion to go past Robert's place the other evening, just to say something along the lines of "But of course I will be present at the opening of your wine shop in Carcassonne on Saturday evening: free booze and nibbles, wild horses couldn't drag me away" and one thing led, as it will, to another, and once we'd sampled a couple of the two hundred or so different bottles of beer he'd brought back from Germany we fell to discussing wine.

At which point he mentioned that he had, of course, made it a point of honour to try the Moux wines: La Baronne of course is excellent and Chateau Mansenoble, despite being owned by Belgians, produces an estimable vintage, but had I tried Sainte-Marie d'Albas?

Sadly, I had not, but he still had half a bottle sitting around somewhere and so whilst Lova somewhat grumpily shared her marrow bone with Indra we tucked into that.

It was indeed excellent, but the point I'm trying to make here is that it was the first time in my life that I've been able to smell a wine and say "Hey! That spicy note really reminds me of golden syrup!". Never mind your bloody whiff of strawberries and stone fruit. I can see that I shall have to totter up the street a ways and pick myself up a crate, to stick away in the cupboard under the stairs that is currently the closest thing we have to a cellar.

Anyways: this, I'm told, is what a troll version of Kermit the pissed-off frog looks like at the moment it penetrates the interstitial void between two adjacent and currently tightly coupled dimensions. Although I'm also told that "penetration" is not really the word to describe the act, it's more like osmosis.

Due to there being more trolls there than here, and so they sort of leak through, correcting some sort of cosmic imbalance. Apparently.

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