Friday, March 31, 2017

The Plot Thickens ...

... in which we learn that the imminent closure of our beloved bar is likely to be a messy, not to say depressingly sordid, affair. For claims and counter-claims are flying thick and fast, and the mysterious Me Ferrand, notaire of Capendu, refuses all requests for enlightenment.

According to the rather breathlessly excited minutes of the last council meeting, letters are being fired off in all directions: the authors are noted, but not the contents, nor the recipient, which makes it a bit tricky to work out what's actually going on. Two things seem relatively clear, the first being that Yvan believes himself to be owner of the bar's fittings and wants 55 000€ to go away: the mairie is not of this opinion. The second is that Yvan has been able to convince a lawyer that he has a sporting chance, whereas the mairie seems to have not even the vaguest idea of what contract they actually signed.

Not, maybe, so surprising, given that going over the council minutes for the last two years I am unable to find any record of the deliberations concerning the form of the contract, let alone the choice of the successful candidate.

This seems a curious omission, but it may explain why everyone is so keen to get in touch with the elusive Me Ferrand.

Actually, "imminent closure" is not really the right phrase, because I don't think there's any way of saying that in the past tense. For yesterday being Friday, virtually the entire anglophone contingent of Moux turned up, along with a number of French-persons who were willing to run the risk of incurring our Dear Leader's displeasure, and we all set about an honourable wake.

Sadly we missed out on dinner, for we more or less set ourselves the task of emptying the shelves of whatever bottles were still there - even the dusty cobwebbed ones at the very back of the top shelf with names like "Summer Peach Cobbler" and "Crème de Morve" - so after we'd done the wine Margo got onto the Baileys, I hit the cognac, and John was nursing something that looked rather like eau de Cologne involving curaçao, vodka, and - I'm just guessing here - turpentine.

The place will be missed, because it gave us all a place to meet and chat and - in my case - unwind at the end of the week, but we've decided to keep this freshly-minted tradition going by hosting a mobile happy hour every Friday. Bring bottle, and bird. Oh, and whatever glasses you like drinking from. Next Friday it'll be chez Martin and Angela, and then I guess we'll just work it out as we go along ...

Poor Sarah had a hissy-fit the other day as we were coming back from Carcassonne, telling me that she had no more ABS, nor ASR, and that if I wanted to do a hill start I was on my own, also that the engine really really needed to be checked out and on top of that the fuel gauge kept jumping to "Absolutely Empty" from time to time: so I resigned myself to dropping her off at the Alfa garage, losing her for a week whilst they rummaged under her skirts, and paying eye-watering sums for spare parts.

Given that the last time that happened, not long after I'd bought her (so luckily enough it was under guarantee) they had to replace all the injectors, it was with considerable surprise and no small amount of pleasure that I got a call yesterday to tell me that she was good to go, just an intermittent short in one of the wiring boxes and that would be 120€ thank you very much squire. So Margo dropped me off, I paid, discovered that - as usual - she'd been steam-cleaned inside and out (it's almost worthwhile just for that, truth to tell), and being just down the road from But (think low-rent IKEA), went in there.

Because in about ten days we will have been living in France for thirty years, and to celebrate the occasion the Kenwood Gourmet food processor that we bought in the first month or so of our time in Vitré decided to expire. Well, I exaggerate a bit: she still worked perfectly: it's just that the locking lugs on the plastic bowl finally broke off, and as replacements start off at about 60€ I thought that just maybe, after all those years of good and loyal service, a new one was in order. (Also, I just got paid, and reckoned that the bank didn't need all that money.)

It is not easy to find a simple food processor these days - at least, not if you want one with a decently-powered motor, more than two speeds, and a metal body. So now, apart from the cubic metre or so of eco-friendly biodegradable packaging (not including the myriad plastic bags that wrapped absolutely everything, including the power cord) I have a plastic tub full of mysterious accessories, none of which - I think - will ever see the light of day again.

There's a rather fiddly looking planetary eggbeater thingie which must be a bitch to clean and anyway I have a perfectly good hand beater for that sort of thing, and for larger quantities Yog-Sothoth the big KitchenAid is sitting out on the bench just begging to be used (yeah, I know, the food processor should be out on the bench too but Need Moah Bench Space); there is a dough blade, as if I'm not going to knead bread dough by hand; there is the usual assortment of grater/slicer disks which, if the past thirty years experience are anything to go by, I will never use.

There is also a vitamizer jug, but we already have a vitamizer, and to be quite honest it's rare that Margo needs to make up two litres of Margarita slushies. (That would be one hell of a Ladies' Afternoon.)

Is this a thing? From the Daily Fail, excusing themselves for focusing on legs, comes an apologia: it's all OK because there are 83 pages crammed with interesting news including "a health supplement devoted to women's death issues". Personally I would not find that helpful, but then what would I know?

In other news, I has sads: the huge Asus laptop that serves as my Linux development system has decided to die. Well, more a case of death and resurrection, for she will run happily enough for ten, maybe fifteen minutes before shutting down with a slight case of heatstroke: after which I must wait half an hour or so before turning her on again.

This is rather annoying, for now I must go and buy another large high-powered laptop and re-install everything on that: OK, it was on my list of Things To Do Real Soon Now anyway, but right now is not really that convenient.

Still, all the backups were up to date so it's not as though I've actually lost anything: it's just that I'll probably spend a day or so getting a new system running and transferring files and checking that everything works as I want.

Maybe it would be easier just to buy a small fridge, stick her in there and run the network cable and power cord out through the door seals. We had been thinking of getting one such for up here anyway, to hold milk and white wine: this would be a way to claim it as a totally legitimate business expense.

Whatever, it is time to go drown my sorrows: first edition of our pop-up bar Chez Réné tonight, so we'll see how that works out. Mind how you go, now.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Everything Looks Like A Dildo When You're Desperate ...

Or so Beckham said, last time I attended a meeting of the Chambery Anglophone Club And Drinking School (Friday nights, 1st floor of the Café du Théatre, Happy Hour from 18:15), and I rather think I shall just have to trust her on that one.

Incidentally, and just saying, the French still have not managed to really get the concept of Happy Hour. For one thing, sometimes it only lasts 30 minutes - which is understandable enough, given that a full hour of French-persons happily guzzling at half-price would put a serious dent in your profits.

Also, it's kind of random whether you're going to get half-price drinks, or two for the price of one, or - as at the above-mentioned establishment - you can order a standard 25cl beer if you like, but it'll cost you the same as a half-litre. Or vice versa.

From this you may deduce that I've been back up to Chambéry recently and you would in fact be quite right: I have been going up for the past five Fridays to impart of my knowledge to a select group of the yoof. I do this mostly by just sitting down and hoping they'll pick up something useful by osmosis: guess we'll find out if that works in a few weeks, when they will have to sit the exam that I have yet to write.

So anyway, what do you do on a Sunday when you've been off to IKEA on the Saturday? No prizes for guessing, of course you spend it trying to erect flatpack furniture. The handy guides show two smiling asexual figures apparently having a good time doing this, this is not my experience. Especially as the stuff we bought involved vast sheets of glass and handling that does tend to make me nervous.

But at least it's done, with very little blood, and I got around to ripping up the few bits of parquet flottant that the cat had pissed on and ruined, so I guess that's something. Also, it's meant that we've been able - after only three years - to get some of the more delicate ceramics and suchlike out of storage (which is a pretty posh name for a cardboard box, I must admit) and on display, which is an achievement.

Also, I have another four little Allen keys to add to the collection I've built up over the years.

As you've no doubt worked out by now, over the past few years I've been working pretty much full-time for Cla-Val, and recently they decided that it would be nice to have a "Setup Wizard" to guide the brain-dead and the merely incompetent through the process of setting up each bit of gear. I duly did that and sent it off, and the other day I got back a list of feature requests for the next big software package release.

Prominently featured was a request from the big cheese and CEO that all texts containing "Wizard" should be replaced by "Wizzard". I guess the guy must be a secret Terry Pratchett fan, and this would be his little joke. Just because he can. I suppose I should count my blessings that I have not yet been asked to implement a Rincewind function, whereby the gear sidles around a corner before running like hell.

On the other hand, maybe the guy just can't spell. Which would have to be a UU in-joke.

Anyways, over here in our benighted corner of Ole Yurrup Spring has sprung and the omnipresent almond trees are in flower. Soon to be followed by the dreaded savage prunes. We have also had torrential rain - enough to make some roads impassable for a couple of days - and there are still some gardens that are pissing about 10 l/m into the drains.

(For your information and edification, there are a number of big old houses around here that have been built behind thick, three-metre high solid stone walls. Or so you might think, until you realise that the walls are not normal walls - a more solid version of a fence - but retaining walls, filled with soil, and that their lawn is a metre or so above you, as you walk merrily along the road. This is why the runoff comes pouring down from above.)

What does a smart-phone look like when you attack it with an angle grinder? I do this sort of thing so that you don't have to, so here's the answer.

Now it was perhaps foolish of me, but the other day I decided that a couple of my 35 year-old knives needed replacing, having been sharpened often enough that the cutting edge was a full couple of millimetres above the base of the bolster, which makes them pretty useless for chopping. So I ordered another couteau économe and a 20cm chef's knife from the online store where I buy such things, and when they actually arrived it filled me with such elation that I wandered off to Matcol to look at saucepans. Because it's difficult to have too many.

I was innocently poking around the shelves where they have such things and spotted a nice set of three solid copper saucepans with hot-pressed stainless-steel inserts (which in principle means they never need re-tinning), took a guess at the price and dismissed them from consideration because, even if you can't have too many, there are limits ...

And then the Igor guy - who knows me - shuffled out of his cubbyhole readjusting the bolts in his neck and asked something like "What might thir'th fanthy be today?". So I told him, honestly enough, that all I really wanted was another decent-sized pan for making caramel, and he thaid said "It'th difficult to beat copper, they thay". "Quite true, my good man", I replied, "but I have no wish to take out a second mortgage at thith time".

That was my mistake, because he then launched into an explanation as to how they'd been placed there for sale by an itinerant vendor of solid copper saucepans, such as one will encounter in these parts, and how as they had not sold he had reduced the price on his next trip past, and then as they had still not sold the price had been knocked down yet again: outcome was that, once I'd wiped a fine mist of spittle off my lapels I walked out of there with a 700€ set of pans for the princely sum of 95€.

So at least I'm ahead of the game there.

There is, I admit, something that's been puzzling me for some time now, and luckily I have come across the answer: on - where else - the innatübz. Thanks to someone posting up a handy guide for the clueless, I now know that the acronym LGBTQIA stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual". In the interests of inclusivity I would suggest that we add a "H" for "hetero" to the end of that, and then I think we'll have everyone covered. (But still, what the fuck is "intersex"? And what's the difference between "gay" and "queer"? Answers on a postcard, please.)

Which for some strange reason brings to mind the committee of twats that wrote the MISRA standard. I have just had occasion to fiddle about with some embedded software I originally wrote for Schneider getting on four years or so ago (seven days pay for two day's work was just too attractive a proposition for me to turn down) and have spent half an afternoon trying to puzzle out why their fecking validator flags what is - according to their rules - perfectly valid code as non-conforming. I guess because their validator is shit.

Got up at dawn's crack this moaning only to be confronted with yet another beautiful day, and as the dogs and I returned from the evacuation exercise we met M. Martinez. He is a short stocky man with a browned face covered in wrinkles and a grin, and some kind of saprophyte that he has trained to imitate a moustache; he has two enormous (but very polite) dogs and an absolutely impenetrable accent. He is also a forager.

We meet often enough, and it's rare that he's not got a bag of something that he's picked up: a string bag of plump snails, or a mass of lactaire delicieux, or - like today - a good kilo or so of wild asparagus. I don't think the man spends that much at the supermarket. Come to that, I don't know if he even has a car: certainly I can't recall having seen him anywhere near one, and he seems to walk everywhere.

But waily waily!! and ohs noes!! for news has reached us that the bar is to close next week. One final Friday evening of drunken debauch, and that's it. Yes, our Dear Leader finally got his way and Ivan and Nadège have been driven out, their places to be taken - eventually - by cronies. We has sads.

Also, we is going to have to organise some sort of replacement facility, because quite frankly these Friday night meetings have become an integral part of our lives. Maybe a popup bar, "Chez Réné" in honour of our glorious mayor, which will - like some sort of moveable feast - appear at one house or the other. Whatever it is, we shall have to do it quickly.

Whatever, I should go start working on my tan.