Monday, June 13, 2016

Apologies To Bryan Ferry ... *

Over here in Ole Yurrup sumer is icumen and all: you can tell because, as is so often the case at this time of year, the air is heavy with the smell of burning tires and tear gas. Yes, another summer of discontent with more unrest and rioting so the SNCF and RATP are on strike and the CGT are blockading the oil refineries: students, having nothing better to do anyway, are out in the streets protesting. You got it - another law to liberalise ever so slightly the ridiculously rigid French labour laws is supposed to be passed.

I honestly don't know why they don't schedule these things better - push the damn thing through in dead of winter, for instance, when rioting is so much less attractive.

Also, you sometimes have to wonder how it is that in a supposedly civilised state a small handful can try - and have, in the past, succeeded - to hold the entire country to ransom by cutting off fuel supplies. Me, I don't know, but I do recall reading an article a while back which opined that as France has no long tradition of civil society, and change has only ever come through usually-violent upheaval, that is considered to be the "normal" way of getting what you want.

As it turns out our estimable President, François Hollande (current popularity rating about 15% lower than a six-month dead otter) must have called our slightly-less unpopular ex-Pres Nicolas Sarkozy (rating up there with a live skunk) for advice, and subsequently used high-pressure hoses to clean up the blockades. (Sarko is particularly famous for once saying that he would "take a Kärcher to the suburbs" to clean them up of "the rabble". He was not known for his bleeding-heart sensitivity.)

Mind you, the French - although a nation of râleurs - seem willing to put up with all sorts of inconvenience in the name of solidarity with the working class (although to be quite honest, the CGT could give a fuck about the appalling rate of unemployment amongst the yoof and are quite simply, and very cynically, trying to defend the "jobs-for-life" that their membership grew up with) there are some things where they draw the line. And I rather think that the dunnykin/garbage-collectors strike in Paris might cross it.

It must be pretty fragrant down in the Métro by now, just saying.

Still, May 30th is upon us now, and it seems that this is a Bank Holiday in the UK. A festive occasion during which, according to the innatübz, "In Endon ... the villagers dress their well ... and crown a girl as the Well Dressing Queen. In other places ... Morris dancers [are] put on displays." Fascinating stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. Although much and all as I loathe folk dancing in all its splendoured glory, I do feel that stuffing (I assume) Morris dancers and using them as some sort of centrepiece for a cabinet of curiousities is going a bit far.

It came to me, the other day, just how to make my next million.

Simple in the extreme, as such things are, yet brilliant: we shall create a social media site reserved for French men, and the punters will pay to upload selfies or videos of themselves peeing on the side of the road. (Note to self: could we have a free service where people can upload photos of other people peeing? Could work.) Or possibly, they will pay to have them removed. (If uploaded by someone else - see above. YES! Is blackmail legal? Talk to lawyer.) We shall call it - drumroll, please - "YouPee!". (Note to lawyer: possible trademark issues here.)

GPS tagging: spot the piddle point, win a prize. Tourism possibilities - check with Conseil Regional - link with routes vertes jaunes etc. Possible tie-in with Michelin: autoroute rest stops to avoid. Security and privacy issues - check with lawyer (what, again? - this will cost a bloody fortune) but fuck that: hell, you're taking a leak on the side of the road in full view of all passing cars and campervans, and you expect privacy? Anyways, should be no problem if no username and password required for logging on, so long as possibly recognisable penises are pixelised.

We're still a bit in the underpants gnomes phase here, but you know, I really think we're onto a winner. What could possibly go wrong?

Right now in Moux the streets resemble a battlefield after a particularly bad hair day, for we are having gravity installed the ancient cast-iron water pipes replaced throughout the village. Which means that there are trenches everywhere, some roughly filled with gravel and others still gaping, and I am always concerned that one day I shall stumble upon one such brimful of little old ladies, who have fallen in by accident whilst out and about on their blameless little-old-lady activities. (Such as harassment, spitting on yoof, tedious pettiness, boring conversation, writing spiteful letters to the editor and blackmail.) One of the few good things, I suppose, about living opposite M. le maire is that place St-Régis will be the last place to be opened up, and the first to be resealed, so let's hear it for favouritism.

Also, they are promising us fiber-optic in the near future. They'll probably close up all the trenches for the water, then come back a few months later to dig the whole place up again and lay the fiber. I shall have to head up to the mairie to see little Jérome and enquire about the price of connection: I don't mind paying and I would be very happy with thunderingly fast downloads, but if - like getting hooked up to the sewage - there is a €2300 connection fee, I'll stick with POTS thanks very much.

In Paris, as you may have noticed, the Seine has burst its banks. At least like that they no longer have to open the fire hydrants at the top of the streets every morning, to flush the crap down into the sewers. We seem to have escaped that, although I must admit that the Aude is looking very brown and muddy at the moment: thick enough that you could probably plant a small vegetable patch on it. It would slowly drift down to sea, I guess, but by the time it got down to Beziers the strawberries would be ripe.

Whereas here it feels like the first days of summer. Long hot days with a cloudless blue sky, all those things that we came down south for. Right now we leave the doors open, for here at The Shamblings™ the ground floor is cool and dim and it is considerably warmer outside than in, but soon enough we'll get back to the summer routine of closing the place up after 10:30 so that it stays cool inside, because 35° is all very well out on the terrace under a parasol, but a bit too much inside when you're trying to work. It's bad enough as it is, trying to get motivated.

The barbecues have been dusted off, and a few months of l'apéro of an evening out on the terrace beckon.

Adding to this general impression of time dilation at work (because time does indeed slow down in these parts) is the fact that you can still hear the "clonk!" of boules and the gurgle of pastis around 23:00, when it's cooled down enough to play (boules itself is not a particularly strenuous game, but there's a bit of heavy lifting involved with the bottles), and also the vide-greniers. We had ours yesterday, and I trotted up in the moaning and came back with a couple of wonderfully OTT chandeliers fair dripping glittery stuff - all for the princely sum of ten euros. Now I shall just have to work out where to put them, for the ceilings are relatively low and I do not want to have to live walking around a chandelier hanging from its chains and suspended at about waist height. (Alternatively, I guess I could hang it in one of the bedrooms and we could reserve that for dwarfs. Sorry, the vertically impaired. Or "The Pit And The Pendulum" cosplayers.)

Also, hearty nourishing stews have been banished from the kitchen and the table, and the first person who asks for a cassoulet will get what they deserve, which explains perhaps why I made this the other day. I'll save you the bother of flying to Google Translate for the recipe, if you can call it that, is sufficiently simple to be well within my capacities: basically, you take a large slab of fresh meaty pork belly (2kg works for me) and remove the skin. Then you rub salt and pepper into the flesh (you'll need more salt than you think: a good teaspoon of flaky sea salt would be a good start) and smear it with a mixture of chopped garlic, rosemary and thyme - and bay-leaf and sage, if you happen to have that around.

Roll it up tightly using both hands, then with the other hand wrap its skin back around the roll, and then with another hand tie it neatly before sticking it in the fridge overnight. Then roast at 180° for about three hours, basting regularly: you can eat it hot (if you must, we did - at first, but as two people, well-intentioned as they might be, still can't make much of a dent in 2kg of meat, we had it cold later on. And again, the night after.) but it is quite divine cold.

Let it not be said that the Germans have no sense of humour. You are doubtless aware that the name "Bimmler" comes from the German, meaning "the ringing, or a ringer, of small bells" (from which I must deduce that my ancestors were either petty functionaries or people who went about bawling "Bring out yer dead!") and so now, whenever our neighbour Johann comes round, good Saarlander that he is he tinkles the little bell that hangs at our front door and proudly announces "Heh heh heh! I have rung your Bimler!".

May the record show that I never said it was a good sense of humour.

*For those unfamiliar with the canon, that would be the eponymous track off "Let's Stick Together".

1 comment:

  1. I am reliably informed that in some regions at least, 'Bimmler' has the broader meaning of "a petty functionary" -- like the guy on the tram who rings the bell to signal the driver to start driving again. And would do it for free, as long as he gets to wear a uniform.