Wednesday, February 17, 2016

C'était Mieux Avant ...

... as I was reminded this afternoon, sunning myself and doing my bit for global warming out on the terrace, when a couple of old grey-faced guys shuffled out like arthritic zombies carrying on a conversation that had evidently been going on for some time.

"Eh bien, c'était café calva tous les jours!"
"Et oui, c'était bien ça."
"Puis les bières!"
"Bien, la bière, j'avoue."
"Et le rouge - un verre, ou deux ... puis le 51*."
"Pas mal, le 51, quand il fait chaud."
"Et rebelote pour le calva!"
"Et comme on mangeait! Le matin, le soir, même le midi - à deux heures du matin des fois!"
"Bon, c'était mieux, hein?"

*51, for those who wish to know, is a particularly foul specimen of pastis, which is by nature completely undrinkable in any case. The French, for some reason - probably from sheer contrariness, or just being sufficiently miserly to not allow themselves to buy decent whisky - pretend to like it.

I have to admit I damn near busted my gut listening to that lot, but I managed to stifle the gales of laughter and propped myself weakly against a wall until they'd tottered on elsewhere, doubtless discussing the relative merits of a cassoulet against a bourguignon. But they'd faded into inaudibility by then; probably just as well for my health.

There's quite a group of us these days up at the bar of a Friday night: there's us, of course, then Rick and Mary, Angela and Martin, Cash and Terry, Johann and Sylvia, and even old Charles the ex-vigneron showed up last time. Johann and Sylvia are the token Germans around Moux, and we headed off to their place the other night for a little apéro dinatoire - which put the kybosh on my plans for a cassoulet but never mind, that'll wait for another night. I mentioned the war once but I think I got away with it: he'd been out hunting dolmens and didn't notice.

You don't really think of the Languedoc as being megalith territory - I mean in Brittany you can't move without tripping over one of the damn things - but it is so. Mostly a bit north-west of us it's true, but if you take a good look at a decent Ordnance map you'll see they're all over the place.

Whatever, we ate and drank and chatted, then did it again and kept the rinse/repeat cycle going till around midnight, at which point Johann - good Saarlander that he is - insisted on a couple of shots of schnapps before we left. I had not expected that, and I certainly wasn't expecting to have to down two 8cl glasses of 60% alcohol in a gulp.

We also learnt that according to village rumour Jérome - the secretary at the mairie - is having it off on a regular basis with the female half of the couple that are running the bar, and that this may go some way to explaining just how it was that they landed the job. Personally I can neither confirm nor deny, and in any case it is of purely salacious interest, but I thought you might like to know.

In other news, here at The Shamblings™ we has finally got round to wallpapering the landing of our apartment, up on the top floor. Not only that, but we are both still alive, and no blood was shed, which is doing pretty well for us. As a general rule we tend to work together on such things like a pack of drug-crazed cats, and harsh words and some personal injury are more or less a given, but rather to my surprise this turned out not to be the case.

In point of fact the only real casualty was Shaun who, finding that I'd absent-mindedly left my carpenter's pencil on the floor for five minutes whilst going off to fetch the spirit level, decided that the only reasonable thing to do was to eat it. Margo caught him before he could devour the whole thing so now I have a truncated pencil with puncture wounds, and I am so not looking forward to inspecting his bowel motions in the moaning.

So we dragged the top and bottom halves of our enormous old buffet rustique out of the garage, where it's been happily slumbering for the past two years and more, and when exposed to the light of day it became evident even to one such as I, unskilled in such matters of art, that a tribe of woodworm had started building quite a flourishing civilisation in there. Luckily, these days there exist such things as Xylophène, so Margo drove off to Lézignan to get some whilst I made a start on the surface mould and brushed all the cocoons off, and then we put them to the sword.

And then I headed off to see if Cash would let me borrow her husband for a bit, so she made him a packed lunch of banana and honey sandwiches and a flask of rouge, made sure he was wearing his back brace and that the pacemaker was turned on, and we turned our attention to getting the bloody thing all the way up to the second floor. The stairs are narrow and twisty, and trying to get large rectangular solids around the corners is an exercise in advanced topology - also, the thing was made in the days before they'd heard of plywood, or MDF for that matter.

Don't get me wrong, it was well-made and to all evidence by someone skilled in his trade - I'm just saying that the back of the base on its own consists of five thick planks of solid walnut. We couldn't get the shelves out either, to lighten the load a bit - they'd been built in. Heaving and panting we managed to get that up, and then we went back down and repeated the performance with the top half: at least that was a bit lighter, the doors being merely glassed.

Next time I swear, we're getting flatpack kitset stuff from IKEA.

Sad to say, we have lost EBK. He was there one day, gone the next - along with all the stray cats in the place. I went off to the mairie to make enquiries - result zilch - and Margo more cunningly spoke to the elderly women of the village: it appears that there is a person who does not like cats.

To the point where, every few years, (s)he puts out poisoned food to get rid of them. Sadly, no-one knows who it is and those that do know are not saying, which is kind of a shame because I would really, really like to return the favour by sticking something particularly gross/toxic in his/her breakfast. Gods damn it, I was his person, and some shithole peasant saw fit to kill him. I am not pleased. BASTARD! Bloody peasants.

Did you know that Debbie Does Dallas is available on Whackymedia? I certainly didn't. The film quality's not great but then I guess it would do justice to most 70's porn movies - remember watching Deep Throat with Margo a long time ago, and mostly giggling. I mean, it looks like a bear mistakenly shagging a bathmat. Christ, what were they thinking of back then?

Right now it is the time, the tramontane has started to blow again. This is, as I've said before, that lazy wind: the one that can't be arsed going around you so it just goes straight through. We are "looking forward to" ten days or so of clear bright blue skies, only with the wind-chill factor that will take perceived temperatures down to about -5°. Still, better that than a month of gray gloomy Sundays where you have only the choice between a rollup and sullen drizzle outside, or sweet industrial sherry and conversation with Auntie Doris* inside.

(I come from a family with seemingly endless numbers of aunts and uncles with farms, and somehow when you go to visit them it's always a Sunday, and always dismal, because that's traditional. Being too young for a fag or a sticky excuse for sherry, the only alternative was Auntie Doris. That, or excusing yourself with diarrhoea and going off to listen to old 45s of Elvis Presley, which was at least slightly less boring than watching paint dry. Under no circumstances would you actually use the toilet, even to add some semblance of verisimilitude to your feeble excuse: it had a three-metre stud, was painted institutional cack-green, haunted by spiders and - in what passes for the mind of an eight year-old - other things possibly even worse, and in any case the actual plumbing was merely approximative.)

Damn, I have digressed again. But it's all true, and it gets worse (of course). Crank up the fast-forward dial a few years, and it's still a rainy Sunday, you're still not old enough to smoke or drink, and even the ducks have abandoned the tennis court because the water's got too deep; so some well-meaning but apparently slightly retarded spinster aunt, or an elder cousin, will have a brilliant idea: "Why don't you all go off and play a board game? I think there's Monopoly, if you think you're too old for Happy Families ..."

Although the elder cousin would not have put it quite that way.

I guess it was good training. The last time I ever played a board game it was "Dune" (yeah, this was back in the 80s) and I was playing the Atreides family and by a combination of bad luck and sheer incompetence got cornered in the mountains by the Harkonnens (up till that point, a good friend). Having no other choice I detonated the Family Atomics, thus wiping out myself, the Harkonnens, and incidentally (collateral damage, people - hey, shit happens) everyone else on the board - which kind of put an end to the game. No great loss, and since then no-one has ever asked me to play a board game.

In other news, a couple of Hat Fridays back (Friday evenings at the bar a hat is de rigeur) we learnt that there is a project afoot to install some wind turbines around Moux. I mean, it's not as though we're short of wind - but let's face it, the things are frikkin' ugly, noisy too, and for a supposedly ecological energy source they do rather tend to ravage the local wildlife, especially the bats. (The poor little buggers cunningly avoid the blades and fly safely between them into the low-pressure zone behind, where their lungs implode and they bleed out. So they say.)

We personally, not being EU citizens, have sod-all say in the matter in any case but I'm willing to bet that it's pretty much a done deal: yeah, there have been a couple of PR meetings organised by the company concerned and there will have to be a popular vote, but given that the prospective sites for the things - which may bring in a lucrative rental - just happen to belong to the ex-maire and to his ex-adjoint I am not expecting there to be an overwhelming "non!". But I may be pleasantly surprised.

* Name changed to protect the not-yet-proven-guilty, if you must know.


  1. then we put them to the sword.
    I believe you are stealing a line from Willie Rushton there.

    51, for those who wish to know, is a particularly foul specimen of pastis, which is by nature completely undrinkable in any case.

    I say we should line it up against Gammel Dansk and Riga Black Balzam, and have a taste-off.

  2. Unashamedly so. "Never fear", he said, "Rentokil shall put them to the sword." Being an Old Etonian an' all.

    And sod the taste-off, they doubtless all taste of shit anyway.