Sunday, July 12, 2015

Speling Is Opshunal ...

"Armchair" is a simple concept, "easychair" might be American but is understandable, and "dining-room chair" is fine, but quite frankly, a "pus chair"? There are some concepts with which my poor brain would rather not grapple, and this is one. Mind you, I can see why they might be forbidden. For godssake people, even if you have unalloyed confidence in the literary abilities of your five year-old child, you could still run it through a spell/grammar checker. Hell, even the dire attempt provided with OpenOffice would probably have picked that example up.

As will happen, once arrived at a certain age one's obsessions tend to change a bit. It's not that I am in fact obsessed by the question, but I do have to wonder - is there a "right side" and a "wrong side" for toilet paper? It's the sort of thing that I think we have a right to know. Christ, what if, all unwittingly, I've been doing it wrong all my life? That could explain a lot. I wish the stuff would come with a user's guide.

Be that as it may, over here we is suffering - in agony, I tell you - from yet another canicule. The sky is that particular shade of provençal blue, and cloudless: downstairs it's a relatively acceptable 27°, but venture out into the verandah and it's up to 32°, and I don't even think about on the terrace, shade or not. The dogs spend their time seeking out the coolest tiles they can find on the living-room floor and then just lie still: maybe I should put ice cubes into their water bowl.

We is made of sterner stuff, and yesterday being a Sunday decided that nothing would do but we have a barbecue. I had gone off and bought a big bag of vine clippings - sarments de vigne - and I have to admit that they're perfect for something quick like lamb chops, or sausages. None of this faffing about and endless waiting with charcoal, they're up to operating temperature in ten minutes and stay just as hot as you want for half an hour, which is wonderful.

C&T brought round some asparagus and there was a perfectly-ripe melon just waiting, so we ate and drank and occasionally shifted the table around so that we were still in the shade (and maybe we shall have to look at getting one of those sail things to go over the terrace, for 35m² of shade is a lot to ask from one mingy parasol) and then, I'm afraid, we slept, down in the cool.

Not for long enough, because we had an appointment at 18:00 with Richard and Mary, to pick up the last bits of the beds they're lending us, learn about swimming holes and - of course - drink some more in a shady corner of their garden, with the cicadas making a godawful racket up in the trees. We had not planned on it going on quite so long, for Rick tends to fade early in the evening, but around 20:00 we decided that a fourth bottle was not strictly speaking necessary and staggered back home, bed-bases and mattresses on our backs.

Our piratical neighbour Philippe has finally gone over to the dark side. It's a slippery slope, you start off buying one 1950's vintage Peugeot pickup truck to restore, make a mould in Fimo to recast a left front indicator (yes Virginia, they had them even back in the day), then you pick up the estate model just for spares and before you know it the courtyard is full of the damn things, up on blocks and slowly leaking oil.

The canicule came early this year, it is lasting, and even though it's supposed to cool down again for a bit we'll get another one - so they're direly predicting. It is a good thing that rosé is just a drink, not actually wine, and that if you keep white wine in the fridge the alcohol precipitates to the bottom so you just don't drain your glass to avoid intoxication.

Or so I tell myself.

Also, I don't know if we're eating more healthily, but we're certainly eating differently. The humble spud has been more or less banished from the table, the salad is held in high honour, and our olive oil consumption has gone up by leaps and bounds. (OK, only a litre per month or so, but given that I long ago swore loyalty to butter that's still quite a bit.)

Still carnivores, mind you - can't escape that in these parts - and to remind me of that fact there are not one but two shoulders of lamb defrosting on the bench, awaiting the tender ministrations of the boning knife.

One is destined to be rolled with a bit of garlic and maybe rosemary inside, then roasted and basted with a mixture of honey and ground ginger as it cooks, and the other will meet its maker in a treacle cure to become a lamb ham, cooking very slowly in the oven (for I do not yet have a smoker) after a week or so in the fridge, salting.

Whatever, André did in fact turn up - whilst I was up in Chambéry for work, which meant that he only got a tongue-lashing from Margo - and so we now have two rooms on the first floor with fully functional bathrooms. And in one of those the floor is all done, and it needs only wallpaper and skirting-boards to be put up to be complete: happily A & B do not mind the absence of these little niceties (or so they said) so we were able to put them up in relative comfort for the five days of their stay with us.

(Which occasioned yet another trip to the cave coopérative for emergency supplies, but that's beside the point.)

They've not been down in these here parts before, so one of the first things we did was put on good walking shoes and head south through tiny twisty roads (thank you once again, bloody GPS of Doom) to Peyrepertuse, one of the Cathar castles.

Perched on a knife-edged crag at about 800m altitude and accessible only by a track that even a mountain goat would be ashamed to call its own, even a trip off to the local shop for a packet of fags would take on something of the air of a major expedition: on the bright side, it would have to be a bloody determined Jehovah's Witness that made it up there to knock at the postern gate whilst you're enjoying a quiet drink on a Sunday morning.

If anything, Quéribus - just 5km away as the crow flies - is even more forbidding. I still can't think how we managed to get the kids up there when we went, some eighteen years or so ago.

And of course we made it off to Carcassonne, because if you're here you just can't not go, and that's the first time I've ever seen a selfie stick. Do people not realise what prats they look like, holding up a golf club with a phone on the end? (Mind you, the woman was one of the loud variety of American tourists, and probably thought she was still in Kansas.)

Anyway, gotta go: the hairy retards are getting impatient, and the canal is calling.

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