Saturday, January 21, 2017

I Get Mail ...

And not just any old mail, but a letter from the URSSAF, that dread organisation charged by the French state with making a wild guess at how much I should be paying to support the widows and orphans of France, multiplying that by the amount of the gross national debt and adding the annual NASA budget, and then dividing that by the population of Iceland (excluding walruses). And then making me pay this ridiculous sum, with way too many zeros at the arse end, even if I happen to be clinically dead.

(Note, incidentally, that the URSSAF is not a government department. It - or rather they, for they are grouped by region - are private companies to whom the state has farmed out the job of estimating and then collecting social security taxes. Their methods are - to say the least - opaque, there is no recourse, and they are answerable to no-one. Do not ask me why this peculiar situation exists: tax farming goes back at least to the Roman Empire and doubtless before, so it is a time-honored tradition. Also, asking me about it causes anxiety and I tend to froth at the mouth, which is both unhygienic and unsightly.)

Anyway, I got a letter. A gentle reminder asking me for details of my income for 2015 (which, I admit, I had not supplied, despite their pleas and entreaties). You'd think that they could just go ask the tax department for these sordid details, but it appears that to do so would be wrong, and possibly illegal.

But I shall have the envelope framed, and hang it in my office. It is rare that one sees such careful attention paid to hand-writing these days, and it's nice to know that their employees are considered harmless enough to be able to use sharp objects like biros, rather than coloured crayons. It will be even better when their motor skills develop to the point where they don't have to use both hands to hold a pen, but I think we're taking baby steps here. (Margo suggests that just maybe it was one of those "bring your kids to work" days. I think that's so sweet.)

Anyways, Gristlemouse and the New Year went off with no particular problems. We ate - not to excess - and drank moderately (for a value of "moderately" that includes "vastly") and enjoyed the bright sunny weather, and occasionally moaned about how damn hot it was out in the sun ... also, I got an unexpected Christmas present, in the form of getting into the car to go shopping and finding that all the warning lights were flashing at me and she would not start.

So I dragged out the multimeter and checked the battery, and lo! it was all of 11.2 volts and as John remarked, in that lugubrious tone of his, "That's not so good, is it?". (Mind you, the battery was stamped with its date of manufacture as "2003", so I suppose I can't complain too much. Although I do, anyway.)

Rather more usefully, he gave me the URL of an apparently reputable company that supplies car batteries, and after typing in Sarah's make and model it suggested a Varta battery which I duly ordered. Two days later it arrived at the doorstep, so for the price of 94€ and a few self-inflicted stab wounds from a small screwdriver trying to get the transport plugs out, I have a brand-new battery. Also, as I was running through the menus to reset the date and time, I discovered that I can stick the lights onto "automatic", and have her turn them on when she thinks it's too dark. Only took me three years to discover that. Maybe I should just read the manual?

I could have jump-started her, driven off to a garage and got them to do the deed after a three-hour wait, but they'd have charged me 160€ for the battery plus time and labour, so even with the blood I think I came out ahead of the game.

Luckily my other Christmas present arrived in the post at about that time, for I had at long-last found - and ordered online - an egg-poacher! Which is nothing more than a pretty decent stainless steel sauteuse - of which I already have five or six, but no matter, an extra one can always come in handy - with a little stainless steel stand that sits in it and six silicon cups that sit in the stand, each ready to receive an egg.

The last time I saw one of those was when I was a kid, and it must have dated back to the 40's for it was made of pitted, oxidized aluminium and, of course, no silicone. But the principle's the same. Whatever, I can now make luxurious eggs Benedict for six with a damn sight less hassle. (You try poaching six eggs, one after the other, by slipping each one into a whirlpool of simmering water, fishing them out, sticking them into iced water to stop them cooking whilst the next one cooks, and then reheating them very gently when needed. Go on, I'll wait.)

So anyway, Margo arrived safely back from NooZild and promptly went to bed to try and get over jet-lag at about the same time as the cold front from Siberia arrived down here.

The sky is blue and bright, the sun is shining valiantly, but the high is supposed to be about 3° today and when you factor in the wind-chill that would probably be about -5° (for the Cers is only blowing lightly). Still, it's better than the high of -8° that they were "enjoying" in ChambĂ©ry a week or so back.

And in totally unrelated news, unexpected things to do on a Saturday. First, and probably the most stupid, would have to be going off to IKEA at Toulouse - along with, to all evidence, absolutely everyone else who happens to own a car. Going up and down the inside of a four-floor carpark looking for a park for what seemed like hours did nothing for my good humour.

Whatever, after much mumble-fucking we managed to get the assorted bookcases that we'd actually gone there to get in the first place, loaded them into the surprisingly small boot (I mean, she's a bloody wagon) and headed back home, and I was pottering about in the kitchen when Martin called.

To say that he and Angela had taken delivery of half a wild boar, in one frozen chunk that was slowly defrosting in their inadequately-sized fridge, and did I have any suggestions?

So I wound up going round with the sabre saw (and a clean blade) and we sliced the poor beast into rather more manageable chunks, and I came home with a 4.5kg leg of marcassin which will come in handy the next time we have about 16 guests, although I rather suspect that when the time comes I shall have to marinate it in a rubbish bag because I do not have a container big enough to hold it.

Still, if ever you find that you need someone with body-disposal skills over in these here parts, you know to whom you may turn.

Mind how you go, now.

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