Sunday, April 10, 2016

Death Of A Device ...

So my alarm went off an hour too early this morning, too: I had completely forgotten about going back to daylight saving, and two early moanings in a row came as a bit of a shock to the system. Whatever, I'm sure I shall be a better man for it, and it's nice to take advantage of that extra hour of daylight. Although it screws up my timetable something awful, so for a couple of days we'll be eating even later (by the clock) than usual.

Just whilst I think about La Perle Gruissanaise - I forgot to mention that it is not, perhaps, the cheapest place to eat. Mind you, that's partly because we chose oysters and lobster and even then, with a litre of white, it came to but €50 for the two of us, so it could have been worse. And the stuff is as fresh as you can get, and it would be difficult to beat the ambiance.

But if you happen to be in these parts and have a desire for shellfish, I think that I would recommend not going there on a weekend in the summer holidays unless you have a bit of time on your hands - and if you're planning on lobster, think ahead and take a small hammer, or a pair of pliers, to crack the claws. You can do it with your fist at a pinch - and I know of what I speak, for I have done this - but if you miscalculate and hit a spiny bit it hurts like hell. Just saying.

(And although there's a sign up that says "Please do not bring your own wine, nor lemons, nor aioli, because we sell the stuff and would like to turn a profit sometime, also having your head beaten in with an icepick may offend", we found that if you ask nicely and explain that you only drink red wine - which they do not sell - they will give you the nod: but take your own corkscrew.)

Typical bloody Easter Monday: neither flesh, nor fowl, nor good red herring. I had hoped that just maybe it would be fine enough to bring a barbecue out of hibernation, but sadly, no. Which is a shame, as I just happen to have a leg of lamb in the fridge just waiting for an excuse to be butterflied and plopped onto the grill: maybe next weekend? (Don't look so bloody horrified. It's a decent bit of NZ lamb that was chilled and then hermetically sealed under nitrogen, and it's rated as being good until the 16th of April. The only harm that's likely to come to me will be from my attempts to open the damn plastic packaging, when the knife slips and slashes my wrists.)

The time finally came for little Suzy to go off for her road-fitness check, so Margo tearfully left her to the tender ministrations of the serious guys with clipboards and waited, expecting the worst. To general surprise, she passed! Despite the centre rear seatbelt that is held together with spit and chewing gum, the right wing-mirror that falls off if you give it too harsh a look, and the rubber seals that protect the universal joints that are apparently spontaneously disintegrating.

We paid €8000 for her back in 2003 (less €1000 for the trade-in on the old BMW, if I remember correctly), she has notched up some 270K km since then, and we have spent virtually no money on maintenance: and let's face it, nothing major has ever shown any sign of wanting to fall off. OK, the alternator belt squeaks like a rabid mouse when it's damp, and there is a mysterious warning light that is always on - telling us, according to the handbook, that you should take your car to a garage immediately before the catalytic converter starts performing miracles - but the odd thing is that when it turns off, as from time to time it will, the engine starts to hiccup and complain. At which point your best bet is to drive directly through a large puddle, to splash some water up into the engine compartment.

Don't ask me why but it always works: the warning light comes back on, and normal service is resumed. Also, she is perhaps not the most comfortable of conveyances for long trips, and being a tall box on wheels not the best under high cross-winds - excellent on snow, mind you. Point is, she has served us well and faithfully all these years, and so it is with a twinge of guilt that we are sending her off to the garage for "Just the bare minimum, squire. Oil change, and check the brakes".

The first shots have been fired in the vide-grenier season, when the serious weaselly-faced brocanteurs and antiquaires go from village to village buying any decent stuff that might - against all the odds - be on offer, buying and selling between themselves (this is increasing monetary velocity, which may or may not be a Good Thing), and occasionally deigning to let some naive amateur pay over the odds for a very average brass lampstand with a stuffed parrot hanging from it, or a rickety sofa. They're easy enough to spot, for their hip pockets are bulging with rolls of greasy small-denomination banknotes, on the grounds that there is no point bothering the taxman with traceable transactions.

Still, at least you're being fleeced by a professional, and not by some reassuring-looking granny that wants €35 for a lurid purple stuffed donkey with a sombrero and an amusingly-hidden bottle of pastis. Must have been a riot of fun when they stuck that on the table at l'heure de l'apéro, especially if the clockwork-operated olive-ejection mechanism was still working.

I suppose we really ought to go off to some of these affairs, as we are on the lookout for furnishings for the rooms, but you really do have to be up before dawn's crack to stand a chance of finding anything half-way reasonable, and that is emphatically not our thing. Much easier to call up Old Hélène, who seems to have bought up the entire stock from several bankrupt brocanteurs, and go rummage through her remise.

We have already bought an armoire from her, and just the other day had the occasion to get a marble-topped commode (which is going to mean getting out the Xylophène again, to put any tenacious termites to the sword), and as part-payment I helped her load a few bits from the first floor in there into her beaten-up Espace. So I got to check out the stock. A couple of sofas and a few tables that took my eye and my fancy: mounds of books, any number of table lamps that probably needed rewiring but were shiny enough to attract any self-respecting jackdaw, a small pergola (don't ask me), the odd bed or two: I didn't want to explore too much, it was dark up there and I thought I might get lost, for the inside of the place is rather bigger than the outside, not to mention dim and musty, and I feared accidentally going through a wardrobe.

I never thought that it would get to the point where I could not look another asparagus in the eye, and happily it has not yet come to that, but just possibly buying a kilo of the stuff on Saturday moaning was a bit over the top. They went very well with the chicken breasts in marsala, and then with the gambas marinated in olive oil and then stir-fried in the wok, and I'm sure they'll go well with whatever it is I decide to make for dinner tomorrow: just saying, is all. Same with strawberries: a couple of kilos goes quite a long way, once you've had them nature one night, then in a cheesecake the next ...

Next thing you know it'll be cherry season, and I will doubtless start complaining about having too many of them, as well. Some people are never satisfied. But - from the cooking column - comes this particularly insensitive comment: "It's that time of year again, when the neighbours start leaving shopping bags of feijoas on your doorstep". I find that very hurtful. They are NOT that easy to find in these furrin parts.

A couple of days back, my phone gave notice that it was not much longer for this world. It's always been fussy - sometimes have to turn it off and then on again to get a signal, if it decides in its little head that there is none - but this was different, in the sense that the power switch didn't work anymore: the accumulated cruft and pocket dust-bunnies of years had taken their toll, I guess. So I certainly didn't want to turn it off, and hied me to the nearest Bouygues shop, where the charming young woman supplied me with a Huawei - and thanks to four years of good conduct, it cost me all of one euro. (Well, ten more for a new SIM card: the one I had was about the size of a credit card, and apparently they don't make phones that take those anymore.)

She also, much to my surprise, knew all about Bada (Samsung's pile'o'shit phone OS from yonks back) but very cunningly persuaded my phone to send at least the contact list over via Bluetooth - so at least that's useful for something. Just as well really, for although I still have the old Kies software that came with the Samsung, which in theory would have let me painstakingly and one by one transfer my contacts over to the PC (from whence I could probably have got them into the new phone) it is so soul-numbingly dreadful that I would have preferred to scratch my eyes out with a quill pen before writing everything down on paper and then typing them in by hand. I thanked her - warmly - and left, and now my only problem is that I have what I find to be an unconscionably huge phone.

Maybe we need a new scale for these things. Positing that a normal hand size is 1.72 Trumps, using one of these things requires flippers that are are at least 2.17 Trumps in size (although it appears that with an iThing you can get away with 1.9 Trumps, provided you have three hands for all the gestures.) Also, I can't just slip it in my hip pocket anymore.

Margo tells me that I am a Luddite. I am not a techno-illiterate, but it is true that I had a thing that just worked, and now it doesn't, and I am going to have to learn how a new thing works. This pisses me off. Still, I am going to get to fulfill one of my long-held dreams, which is to see what happens if you take an angle grinder to a cell phone. (Kids, if you're going to try this at home, do remember to remove the battery first. OK?)

Years back there used to be a French comic strip - which I vaguely recall migrating to a series of skits on what passed at the time for evening entertainment on the TV - featuring a couple of women of a certain age, wearing printed cotton smocks, cardigans, fluffy slippers and headscarves: sort of the archetypal cleaning lady. (Never actually worked out exactly what was humorous in all that, but then I never got the point of Benny Hill either.)

Whatever, I had thought the species to be extinct: this turns out not to be the case.

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