Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hot and Sweaty Science ...

I read these things so that you don't have to, and I'm pleased to announce that the august pages of Ars Technica have informed me that there exists a "phenomenon called superlubricity". The mind - mine, anyways - fair boggles. Yer bog-standard lubriciousness I wot of, but this seems to be carrying things to a higher order. As usual, it seems that it involves diamonds.

Tom: should you happen to be reading this by mistake, know that we finally got around to opening that bottle of dessert wine from the Clearview winery that you brought over a few years back. It went down very well with a pear and caramel cheesecake, just saying.

Exceptionally we both headed off to Carcassonne this moaning - the object of the exercise being to take Margo off to Robert's boutique (for he also enjoyed the wine and the cheesecake). So as Margo is bored witless by the market, she stopped off to poke around a museum whilst I went off to get my fill of fruit and tender young vegetables, from mother's womb untimely rip't. As it were.

Looking for her on the way back, I stuck my nose into the permanent collection (17th - 19th century) at the musée des Beaux Arts. They knew how to paint back in those days, and they certainly knew what they liked: acres of breasts as far as the eye can see. Also, bored, malformed (due to misunderstandings about perspective) kinglets, and the odd 30 m² canvas depicting amusing dogs cheating at cards. Or a naval battle, with the obligatory tits and cannon.

We headed off for rue de la Republique, going via place Carnot, and happened upon Rick and Mary seated on the terrace at their favourite bar. Personally I have never been able to see the attraction of the place because the waiters were obviously schooled by the execrable Pierre from le Refuge at Chambéry, and a man could die of thirst waiting for a drink to turn up. In fact, the last time I went I just parked my arse at a convenient table and waited for ten minutes before lighting up a cigar, which generally brings someone up in rather short order. Twenty minutes later I'd finished my nicotine dose and trotted off, looking for somewhere that didn't seem morally opposed to actually serving people.

Be that as it may, we chatted, as one will, and once we'd got over the usual mutual "hell, been meaning to invite you round for apéro/snacks/dinner sometime but ..." Mary confided that they're off to County Cork to see a fourteen year old grandson, of the existence of whom they were completely unaware before a week back.

How does that happen, I wonder? I can understand that in the heat of the moment, with all the stress attendant on childbirth and whatever, one could neglect to call one's agèd parents to let them know that there was a new addition to the family. And sending an invitation to the christening is something that could so easily slip from mind. But you'd think that after a few years of no Christmas or birthday presents turning up, one would start to ask a few questions. Apparently not: whatever, I can only wish them luck with their first meeting with a surly adolescent who was completely unaware of their existence.

Anyway, on the way back home Margo suggested we try the back roads through Comigne which apparently winds through a pretty little valley: I say "apparently" because I still cannot say from personal experience. I firmly believe that road signs are for poor people (note to self: get one of those bumper stickers that read "Actually yes, I rather think I do own the road") and so rather than heading off to Comigne (in my defence, let it be said that the signpost was not actually visible until we'd gone past it) we found ourselves going along a narrow twisty goat track into the Alaric.

We went up, and over, and came down into the plain between the two ranges that head east from Carcassonne, and eventually came across Montlaur, where another road sign (this one lying on the ground) pointed us towards Fabrezan, so we went that way. The sign also said something about the gorges de Congoust, which turned out to be an added bonus.

As gorges go it's no match for the Grand Canyon but it is extremely beautiful, if rather savage, and the little river that winds its way through makes swimming holes behind the natural dams formed by the rock outcrops that look rather attractive, and I guess would be even more so in the height of summer. Especially as the countryside is kind of deserted, so you wouldn't have to fight through a crowd to get to the water.

Of course I didn't have my camera with me so I shall just have to go back there one weekend in the not too distant future. Recommended as a side trip, should ever you find yourselves here with a couple of hours to spare. (And for fitness fanatics, you can do it all on a VTT if you really insist.)

When things go titsup here at The Shamblings™, which they do with alarming regularity, we at least try to ensure that they do so in style. I had occasion to go into Carcassonne yesterday (ran out of nicotine, if you must know) and bumped into Robert, who very thoughtfully invited himself round for dinner: and a while later, he turned up with an enormous tajine full of potatoes and carrots and poivron and tomatoes and chicken breasts stuffed with spicy Basque sausage.

Having had a bit of warning I had actually thought to open and decant the very last bottle of the '98 Maltoff, which was surprisingly drinkable, so we ate and drank, discussed the weather and the lamentable state of French politics ...

Never discuss politics with family, by the way. Not if you're French, anyway. There is a peculiarly French mind-set which holds that the best possible job you can get is that of fonctionnaire: failing that, you should be salaried.

The self-employed are held by all right-thinking people to be no better than scavenging parasites on the rotting corpse of the body politic, to be treated with opprobrium and disdain and, where possible, pelted with vegetables. This does not, if you happen to be self-employed, make for pleasant family dinners and explains why certain topics of conversation are banned at Pesselière.

Luckily he's kind of atypical in that respect - maybe spending twenty years in Quebec had something to do with it - so we had a very pleasant evening and I eventually rolled into bed in the wee hours of the moaning and slept the sleep of the just.

From which I awakened with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart, and tottered downstairs to the kitchen in search of coffee, where it took me some time to notice that the floor was awash.

As with many places down here there is - was - a water softener built in to the plumbing, and this had decided to spring a leak. There were taps fitted to cut it off, and another tap to open a bypass in case of emergency: I decided that this was, in fact, just such a thing but sad to say the bypass tap, doubtless installed sixty years ago, was rusted solid and had no intention of turning.

"No matter", quothed I, "I shall just call a plumber who shall come and perform his little miracles and all shall be well.". Finding plumbers that are actually available is not an easy job, but eventually a guy turned up from Fabrézan and I knew that I was not going to be happy when he starting doing the sucking of the teeth and the gloomy scratching of the lip. Then he started mumble-fucking, and headed back out to his van a few times to get plumbering stuff.

Of course I had been too distracted to think to attach the dogs, so the first time he went out Indra seized the opportunity and buggered off, and the second time I just had time to spot Shaun's great hairy bum waddling up a side street ... I followed him, and suggested in my nicest voice that I had doggy treats in my pocket if he'd like one, but the bugger just finished eating a choice bit of fresh catshit, looked at me and smirked, and lumbered off up the road with a surprising turn of speed.

Whatever, something to look after later ... when I got back to the house the plumber was swearing mildly, which I took to be a good sign, for he had successfully removed the leaky adoucisseur and stuck a bypass in its place (because you just can't get the parts, you know).

So he made relieved noises, and went to open up the mains tap to restore water to the house: imagine the looks on our faces when the tap handle came off in his hands. The thing is blocked, closed tight, and as it is between the mains and the water counter it is legally the property and the responsibility of the mairie and he is not allowed to touch it. Also, as the plumbing on the mains side of the tap is old lead piping, I suspect that he would rather prefer not to do so.

Luckily we have a separate water supply for the verandah and the garage, so I can at least go fill up the toilet cisterns with a bucket, and I guess I could always have a bath in the horse trough. But this is not entirely satisfactory, nor viable in the long term, so tomorrow morning's little job is going to involve going to the mairie and getting them to send someone around - hoping like hell that they pull finger for tomorrow is Friday and Monday is a public holiday. Five days without a shower is pushing it a bit.

Never mind, the dogs turned up a bit later: at least, Indra came back of her own accord, looking a bit embarrassed, and I went off and found Shaun just where I thought he'd be, up at the terrain de foot mumbling disconsolately at a bit of fallen branch. Had I left it another fifteen minutes he'd probably have got bored and come back by himself. Bastard.

In late-breaking news, it would appear that Viagra has other uses than what you're thinking of - which has to be good news. Also, this means that Bill Gates is helping fund your erections, which must be good for a late-night snigger.

Goodnight: I am going to go fill a few buckets. Then I shall go get some water.

1 comment:

  1. tomorrow morning's little job is going to involve going to the mairie and getting them to send someone around

    I'm sure you can just wander across the road and strike up a conversation with your neighbour Le Maire, or park your car in his time-honoured parking spot, or have a conversation out on your roof after the hour of 9 p.m. so as to get his attention.