Sunday, May 22, 2016

RIP ...

Good old John Donne ("Dunnybrush" to his friends) wrote quite a bit about mortality - part of the job description I guess, what with him being a metaphysical and all - but somehow he never got around to writing about the huge hole it leaves in your life when you see your dog lying dead on the slab, with the last few dribbles of blood coughed up from his lungs in pools on the stainless steel, and there's not a fucking thing you can do about it. Can't think why - never trust a bloody poet, they always take liberties with the truth and put it down to "poetic licence". Whatever, I need to go clean out the car.

Give it time, it'll scab over, but right now it hurts like hell going downstairs in the moaning to take the dogs for their walk and realising in my sleepy mind that there's only one of them now, and that I'm not going to get a friendly leap and a slobber from the big hairy one. Come to that, it also hurts like hell in the evenings, and also at unexpected times during the day: generally speaking, it hurts a lot. Doesn't seem fair, really.

And I'm angry too: angry with him for being so stupid and getting himself killed; angry with the driver that killed him and didn't even have the decency to stop; and angry just on general principles because there was nothing I could do.

Shaun, you great stupid hairy lovable lump, we had hoped to have you around a lot longer, and miss you more than I have words to say. Goodbye, my friend.

Taking my mind off that for a while, we finally got around, a few weeks ago, to buying some halfway decent outside furniture for the terrace here at The Shamblings™, and having better things to do today and no particular inclination to do them I went out and started oiling the wood. I can totally see why people do this once, just to show willing, and then stump off inside muttering something along the lines of "sod it, we'll just buy new stuff next summer". Because quite frankly, it is an insanely boring job.

Still, I live in hope that an iceberg will arrive in Moux, for our wooden deckchairs are all lined up, freshly oiled and waiting on the terrace, ready for just such an eventuality.

It also means that the rather distressed plastic table and chairs that we inherited with the house can be thrown over the balcony, loaded into a car and be driven off to be loosed in the wild - more precisely, to roam the slopes of Old Hélène's bit of pinède over by Ferrals. I think they'll be happy there.

Did I mention that, amongst other things, there are the first blueberries at the market? I am feeble and infirm of purpose when it comes to such things, which means it became a moral imperative to buy some, which means this! I don't think you'll be disappointed, even though with the amount I bought I had to double the recipe and then bake two batches, just to get rid of them.

It's a lesson you'd think I'd've learnt a long while back, but somehow I always wind up forgetting: never, ever, under any circumstances, volunteer the information that you are "in computers". And when asked point-blank exactly what it is you do, far better to say that you're a sex worker specialising in goats or something and look a bit ashamed, and mumble some excuse about the sores.

To date I have located and installed a very light-weight Linux distro for old Nev, who stubbornly refuses to buy a computer worthy of the name and prefers to use a twelve year-old laptop with an 80386 inside on the grounds that like that he is refusing to be oppressed by the system, and is somehow sticking it to The Man: I have been accosted by John, who installed a copy of AVG on an ancient desktop system still running XP for the simple reason that he has an eight year-old copy of Adobe Creative Suite running on it, only to discover that after deinstalling it the mouse no longer worked properly: only yesterday I went past Rick and Mary's to set up the remote control for their automatic garage doors.

Mind you, it's probably even worse if you happen to be a plumber, or an electrician. They're the sullen taciturn ones at parties, drinking a lot and hovering by the door so that they can be off at short notice should someone come up to ask what line of work they're in.

Still, it's usually good for a drink or two of a Friday afternoon, when those who feel like it meet up at the bar. It's getting to be quite lively these days, and we seem to have managed to avoid driving away the natives. For me it's a good way to mark the end of the week: close the office, leave the phone at home (on the grounds that there's no point taking it with me, as there's no signal to speak of in the bar), and wind down a bit.

Anyway, dinner seems unlikely to get itself ready so I suppose I'd better let you resume normal lives and go give it a hand. Normal service will be resumed.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

No Funny Title ...

I don't feel like writing much just at the moment: lovable hairy idiot Shaun ran off and got hit by a car, and his heart gave out ten minutes later, just as we arrived at the emergency vet. He leaves us with a doggy-shaped hole in our hearts rather bigger than he was - because he was rather like the Tardis in that respect - so please excuse me. I have some grieving to do.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Beer ...

Gormenghast Chateau Corbeau
A few months back, M. le maire ordained that mesh grilles should be put up over the various crooks and nannies of the church, so that the pigeons and crows who infest the place should no longer be able to nest there. It therefore seems fittingly ironic that a young breeding pair of crows, evicted from the ancestral trailer camp, should choose to build - loosely speaking - their nest in a little opening in the attic of his house.

For the moment he seems blissfully unaware of this act of lèse majesté but he'll notice eventually, when he starts to stumble over the small piles of sticks on the pavement outside his front door.

Post-note: he noticed. And had the idiot nephew turn up in the mayoral pickup truck to remove the pile of branches - an admitted fire hazard, were crows in the habit of smoking in bed - and stick some chicken-wire over the opening. Could probably do him for abus de pouvoir, if only we could prove that a) he didn't pay and b) he'd refused the same service to others who, like Hélène the Younger across the road from us, are also suffering from an attack of crows.

(Their stupidity obstination tenacity stubbornness is actually quite impressive. In Hélène's place they are building in a tiny slit - almost a meutrière - which must be all of 9cm across on the outside, and despite its apparent insuitability there's a couple there every morning, hanging on to the wall for dear life as they push a couple of branches in there before squeezing in to rearrange them into something more comfortable.)

Goofed off the other day and headed down south: to Figuères, just a shade south of the Spanish border, and then over twisty narrow roads to Port Lligat and casa Dali. Let's face it, why not: s'not as though it's the other side of the world. It's interesting, even if the guy did have a predilection for stuffed animals. Which would, really, rather put me off. Still, I suppose that if you're looking to shock, it does the job ...

And oddly enough, the place seems relatively unspoilt. You'd think the place would be crawling with tourists but no, it's still an isolated bay with a small harbour and a few tiny working fishing boats. (Including one small blunt-ended thing that must have been almost two metres long and called, with an irony which must be particularly Spanish, "Queen Mary".)

Part of that, I guess, is because the place is in fact not that easy to get to. I said that the roads were twisty and narrow: I meant that the roads are almost wide enough for two cars, and sufficiently twisty that the speed limit over the last 30km is 40kph. Which seems a bit optimistic, to be honest.

Still, it leads me to my pet peeve: menu translations. I mean, why would anyone trust their eight year-old with Google Translate and a dictionary? I can see absolutely no reason why the Spanish aperitivo should mutate through French to become "mouth amusement". It's not as though the French translation was even "amuse-bouche", 'cos that I could've understood, sort of. No, that too was an amusement of some sort.

This too, is an amusement. Maybe I spend too much time looking at The Register. I should try to become a better person.

In the "Things You Really, Really Do Not Want Department": as it might be, having guests turn up and then finding the kitchen flooding when they inconsiderately decide to use their toilet. Believe me, you do not want that. Especially when you're busy cooking dinner.

As it turns out, the down waste-pipe from that bathroom goes down through the kitchen, and a T-joint was put in so that if ever it gets blocked (due, say, to someone flushing an entire bogroll in a moment of enthusiasm) it could more easily be unblocked with the aid of one of those handy flexible wire thingies that plumbers always seem to have about their persons: the problem is that although it had, as it should, been capped (I think), the cap had fallen off into caverns measureless to man. Leaving us with a gaping hole in the pipe through which water (I hope) dribbled, and a vaguely unpleasant aroma of Eau de Sewer.

Of course this would happen around 19:00 on a Saturday evening, a time when all self-respecting hardware stores have closed for the weekend, and in any case a fine butter sauce will not wait. So we stuck the ever-handy "Crime scene: do not cross" tape over the toilet, welded the taps shut, and told Beckham and her man to use the bathroom in the other bedroom, whilst waiting for clear heads and wiser counsel to prevail.

Which saw me, at 9am on the Sunday moaning, trotting down the road to see if, by some happy chance, Terry didn't have some 90mm PVC piping, an angle joint and a cap. Much to my pleasure - and considerable surprise - he had not only all that, but also some neoprene adhesive, so about an hour and a few skinned knuckles later I had bodged up a temporary fix, so that to Beckham's delight she could go wallow in the bath that evening.

Waily waily and ohs noes: bird flu has hit the south of France, and as from this very day there will be no more ducks in the abattoirs. Which means that once my meagre supply of confit de canard and foie gras and magret has disappeared, there will be no more! How in hell am I supposed to make a cassoulet, is what I want to know. (On the bright side, I did manage to whip past Carrefour on hearing the news, and picked up the very last shrink-wrapped packet of duck legs to go into the freezer: so we're not completely destitute.)

A few weeks back it was the poor Finns: now, looking at the stats again, I see that it's the Russians that are being scammed. I really do not want to know the business model behind a site called "", nor why they should push punters in my direction. Sometimes, it is a mystery. And it shall remain one - for me at least - for I am so not going there.

A while back, in a fit of feeble-mindedness such as strikes me from time to time (usually in-between a couple of gins), I signed up for LinkedIn, which appears to be some sort of Facebook for professionals. They keep sending me emails, which I generally ignore, but having some time today I thought I might as well actually set up a profile (duly done) and go through the backlog of notifications about people who wish to know me and various job offers that they think might suit me.

It rather amused me to find one for a "Senior Non Functional Engineer", which sounds right up my alley, but sadly it's in the Paris region and if I'm going to be non-functional I'd prefer to do it at home.

In the nearest village to us - St. Couat, just a couple of km to the north, across the nationale (and don't ask why I still call it that: force of habit I suppose, because the state long ago reclassed most of them as départementales to push the maintenance costs onto the départments and so routes like the N6 are now but storied memories) there recently opened a small brasserie. Having no good reason not to I went in there a month ago, and found a young guy who brewed his own beer in a couple of 20l plastic bidons, and had decided to start selling it ...

I duly tasted, and left with a half-dozen bottles, and then what with its being a fine day yesterday and having the yoof with us (also, despite - or perhaps because of - even the blonde being a deceptively treacherous 6.6%, we had finished it all) I thought I'd go back and get some more. Much to my deception, of the thousand or so bottles he'd had, there were but sixteen left, so I did the only reasonable thing under the circumstances, and walked off with all of them. Plus an unmarked bottle: one of a batch he'd set aside to age, and which is now a year old. When - if - the next fine day comes (for at the moment we've a week's worth of grotty weather forecast) I shall take some pleasure in drinking it.

As I left, he returned to his work, installing four 150l stainless-steel cuves, which means that in future his production will be better-suited to our consumption: a Good Thing.

Anyway, we have had an entire week of eating and drinking perhaps rather more than is, strictly speaking, necessary or even healthy, culminating in a meal last night at Martin and Angela's which damn near finished us. Don't get me wrong, it was excellent, but Martin seems to have as many bottles of gin (and whisky) as he does years of age, and takes this as a personal affront. So he is sad if we don't manage to get rid of at least one bottle of each in the evening: before, during, and after the wine.

So I think that I shall now go and whip up a very light stir-fried rice, and get a carafe of tepid water out to accompany it.