Friday, June 15, 2018

Morning Regrets ...

One of these days I shall successfully integrate the knowledge that I am not as young as once I was. It's all very well, in your thirties, to stay up drinking wine and then whiskies until 2am whilst listening to Motorhead with the volume turned up to 11, and even now it seems like a Good Idea at the time: the only problem is that when the time is past, and the morning has brutally flooded the bedroom with light, you start to have second thoughts about the wisdom of the whole thing. Ben's good company, and I'm not actually regretting it, but just saying.

At least I've worked out what to do with that bottle of balsamic vinegar (heavily) flavoured with truffles: you can put a few drops of it onto your asparagus spears once they're cooked. (As an aside, this would have to be one of my least favourite times of the year, for the only things available at the market are asparagus and strawberries. You cannot begin to imagine just how sad this makes me.) And how many ways are there to cook asparagus, anyway? Not that many, really.

Also, when we shifted down South five years ago we had a chance to start a new life, one at which I really should have jumped. I would have had but to explain, when asked, that I was a male prostitute, sadly unemployable due to leprosy of the vital member: anything but say that I was "in computers". You pay for your mistakes; most recently I spent a few hours helping a neighbour set up her home Wifi, which has not been working for the past two years - not, in fact, since the day she took home the sparkly cardboard boxes. Can't say I'm surprised.

For out of the box, the Freebox sets up an open Wifi network with no Internet access, and that's it. Which is at least pretty secure, but also about as much use as a cardboard barbecue. RTFM, people. Please?

You can tell that the winter of our discontent has ended, for the French have set aside such pastimes as rugby and enthusiastically embraced the national summer sport of rolling strikes and protests against whatever reforms it may be that the gubblemint of the day tries to sneak past. (You can tell Macron's an amateur at this game, else he'd have snuck them in July/August, knowing full well that no French-thing worth their salt would ever waste a day's paid holiday doing something as unrewarding as protesting.) I sometimes think that if the government tried to introduce a programme involving a 10% pay increase across the board and an extra two weeks of paid holiday per year the French would be out on the streets en masse.

And just saying, the evils of auto-correct mislead us to believe that there are some medical men who do not rent out rooms in their houses (just to make ends meet, I assume). At least, if you can believe the article in Ars Technica which had "Médecins sans Frontières" down as "Doctors without Boarders".

Whatever, we've had some pretty seriously shitty weather recently: what seemed like incessant rain, and chilly enough that, having turned the central heating off some time ago, I was obliged to lug buckets of pellets up from the garage and start up the fire of an evening. At least things are now back to normal for these parts.

Johann rang the other day to suggest a little three-hour walk around le Roc Gris, which is part of our end of the montagne d'Alaric. Now had it been Mary I would have been highly suspicious, for she has a tendency to fabulation when it comes to little details like time and distance, but as a German engineer I was more willing to trust Johann: so having other, more profitable, things to do I naturally accepted.

So at 13:00 a few days later five of us, plus Emma, set off past old Henri's mausoleum, under the autoroute, and then unleashed Emma and went along a track to the west, which takes you up to a point above the huge quarry that was set up back in the eighties, purely to provide stone for the autoroute construction. From thence to a cave where, it seems, bodies got chucked at the time of the Black Death (Emma was very happy, she found a bone), then on and up to the summit at about 490m - where there is a dolmen. At least, the remains of one.

I really need to get more exercise: climbing only about 410m should be a doddle, but in my defence it was over only about two km, and much of that was on loose and very slippery scree. And truth to tell the going up is not so much of a problem, it's the coming down that's a killer. Still and all it was worth it: a magnificent view all over the Corbières, and found some beautiful spots that I hadn't suspected even existed, just ripe for a picnic some fine day.

As no good deed goes unpunished, I am condemned to dine tonight with an elderly Dutch couple, at the ungodly hour of 6 pm. I mean, can you imagine? Whatever, about a year back this couple turned up in Moux: they'd bought one of the Huc mansions - the Huc family being one of the principal landed gentry families around here - and for months they brought stuff down from Holland in an enormous trailer; then they'd empty it, go back to the polders, rinse and repeat ...

The last time they came back with over a dozen double-glazed windows in their frames, each weighing in at about 60kg if I'm any judge, and as Johannes seems to be constructed from sticks, string and spit and moves by kicking a leg out vaguely in the direction he wants to go, falling that way and then kicking the other leg out to avoid the ground, Johann and I gave them a hand unloading the bloody things and shifting them around.

As recompense for which we were both invited for a good Dutch meal, at a good Dutch hour. I only hope that Johannes does not expire from an excess of excitement, and keel over with his head in the soup bowl.

UPDATED: despite my forebodings, Johannes survived. He spent much of the festivities with a nondescript yappy dog in his lap, shedding fur, fleas and - for all I know - scrapies madly. (The dog, not Johannes.) I too survived; happily I was rescued at 8pm by a fortuitous phone call from Mad Karen, which I was able to pass off as a work call from the US which required my urgent attention. And so it was that I was spared the rest of the bottle of sticky sweet Californian rosé, smelling rather like grenadine. Vile stuff: I'm told that - for reasons which quite escape me - the Dutch prefer their wines that way. Bloody Zinfandel, complete crap.

We seem, with Widdling Emma, to have acquired one of the ancient gods, more particularly Dog-Sothoth, Eater Of Socks. For some reason she has taken to sneaking into the dining room where, by one of the armchairs by the window, I tend to leave my boots with my socks stuck into them, and then she trots out. If I am lucky enough to be present I may notice that she is bustling about with a sock in her mouth and an air as though butter would not melt in it: if not, I will find it out in the verandah, or abandoned somewhere on the terrace.

Wailies, for the asparagus season is now more or less over. We are now condemned - for a short while - to subsist on snow peas, butter beans, strawberries, cherries and apricots. You lot just don't know how lucky you are.

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