Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Byeee ...

Seems to be the fate of all blogs at some point, to be abandoned when you've either nowt more to say, or no particular motivation to say it.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Here In My Car, I'm As Safe As Can Be ...

Son et lumière, Strasbourg, Juillet 2021
Oh well, the Christmas feast has been duly digested and so, if I may judge from the fact that my upper left arm is no longer swollen and painful, has the COVID booster shot.

For us it was foie gras, turkey and chipolatas and roast spud and parsnip purée and sprouts and baked ham and godnose what else: how was it for you? At least the sun was out in these here parts, and 15° is a bloody sight more than we could have realistically hoped for ...

The saga of little Lilibeth continues. For those of you who came in late and can't be arsed reading the Cliffs Notes version, last we saw her she was up on the hoist in Philippe's garage - having had her engine removed, the gearbox unmounted and subjected to his tender ministrations, everything stuck back together and back into her body - with an unconnected lead direct from the battery to the starter motor.

Having fixed that little problem and having got the transaxles and brand-new shocks back in place it seemed like a Good Idea - at the time - to make sure that all was in proper working order: sadly, this turned out not to be the case. For lo! there was a whinge in the transmission, which is not exactly a good thing.

But having been through all this before we just unhooked the gearbox from the engine, leaving this last in place, and Philippe once again proceeded to pound his head against a wall working out how to realign the differential ...

With only a few square cm of missing skin and the odd ding in my (luckily rather thick) skull we managed to get the gearbox back in place and tidied up a few bits and pieces - like sticking hideously expensive oil into the box, installing the fanbelt that drives the water pump and radiator fan, stuff like that - and then, of course, it was time to start her again.
I should be so lucky. Turn the key, the solenoid goes "clunk!" in a very smug way, and nothing happens. It happens very suddenly, mind you. So check the battery voltage: 11V, not so good, on the charger and we'll see tomorrow ...

I have heard that one of the definitions of insanity is repeating the same sequence time after time and still expecting that this time around things will turn out differently: doesn't happen. "Perhaps" said Philippe "la batterie is morte?". Fair enough, it dated from 2014 and it had been a rather chilly few months ...

So order a new battery, hurry up and wait. As one does. Much to my surprise it turned up two days later so off I trotted, hooked it up, and oh dear! same old thing. But this brand new battery is only at 10.5V ... WTF? With feeling. Drag the charger back out ...

You were expecting a happy ending? Battery at 14.2V, start, clunk, 10.5V ... even to my befuzzled mind, something is not right here.

When insanity has failed you, you've few other options but the relentless application of logic, belated though this may be. So what was the last thing that changed? Fan-belt. OK, remove the sucker. Gosh, the motor turns over!

Now it is time to work out why, so remove the water pump and radiator fan assembly (luckily, this is held on to the engine block by but three bolts, only one of which is totally inaccessible if you don't have the right sized/shaped hands) and take a look at that: at which point it becomes clear that at some time in its past the metal shrouding around the fan has been seriously mugged - or fell down the stairs at the police station - and in its current shape is preventing the fan from turning.

My personal opinion is that it hadn't turned for years - given the state of the old fan belt, much of which we found semi-digested in the radiator ...
Cue a few hours bashing the shroud into some semblance of an actual circle - there's still a stiff point when it turns which probably means I should order new bearings and seals for the damn thing, but that's pretty straightforward. Stuff's in stock, only have to wait another week - anyway, that can be a problem for another time, because now it becomes apparent that the gearbox is pissing oil.

Fuckery! I am so not going to take that bloody gearbox out yet again: so unbolt the side cover (for once, right-hand side and more or less accessible except for two bolts which you can't really get at with a standard spanner and the head of one has been knackered at some time in its life) and pull that off insofar as possible to discover that the new gasket is not in the best of shape.

(Getting to this point, I will remind you, has already involved removing the gear selector and the right-hand mounting bracket from the gearbox so that it can be dropped low enough to get one's hands in there.)
Whatever, oil is now dripping out into a bac and in the not too distant future there will be silicon mastic on each side of the gasket and everything will go back into its appointed place and all will be well with the world, but I now see why it is that mechanics are, as a general rule, cynical bastards. Who may, let it be admitted, occasionally overcharge their clients to some degree, but I can totes understand this.

I am still hoping to be able to take her for a spin in January: hell, what else could possibly go wrong?

(Actually, I know the answer to that one. Once she is operational I shall still have to give Philippe a hand with his 2CV, which currently has her guts spilled across the garage floor, conveniently blocking the door.)

I think I mentioned a little while ago that I was planning a wine run to pick up some Uby? I decided to give myself a birthday treat and booked a room in a chateau-hotel about 3km from the winery, and set boldly off for the Gers ...

It's been a bloody long time since I took that road - maybe twenty years or so - so I was surprised to find it so familiar. But this time I boldly drove into the centre of Auch when it came time for lunch: do you know that that endangered species, the free car park, still ekes out a precarious existence there?

No prizes for guessing what I had: foie gras and a couple of glasses of a rather excellent Gascon white, walked some of it off (partly by heading back down the monumental staircase that gets you up to the old town) and carried on to Cazaubon and my rendez-vous with wine.

I'm glad I did that, even if - after a pleasant dégustation - I wound up with four crates of wine and a few bottles of Armagnac in Sarah's boot before finding the hotel.
Which was, as you may notice, very nice indeed but be warned, October can be a beautiful month but you still run the risk, in a chateau, of having a bit of frost inside the windowpanes first thing in the morning - just saying.

Dinner, incidentally, was excellent: foie gras (what else?) followed by roast quail in a red wine sauce with muscat grapes, then a rather sumptuous dessert. Sadly I don't, as a general rule, bring my phone to the table or I'd have snapped the label on the bottle of red they served me (to die for) and wound up coming back with more booze than even I'd planned on.

And as it seems to be a tradition, or an ancient charter or something, for me to rant at least once, can someone please tell me why it is that Goofle has form taking a perfectly usable product and then "improving" it until it is no longer so? Even Microsoft does it the right way round. Eventually.

It's just that the Blogger interface has become complete shite. Back in the day you could click on "insert image", select a dozen files to be uploaded and, when done, select just the one you wanted to go in such and such a place. The next time you tried, you would see the thumbnails of the files you'd just uploaded, pick the one you wanted, rinse and repeat.

These days? Doesn't work. To see the newly uploaded photos you have to select "from this blog" and then scroll down through 2000-odd photos ...

Text justification is crap - even more so than once it was - but my fave fuck-up is that when you wish to edit a post it will automatically go into "HTML view" mode. Despite your having last used it in "compose" mode.

I could live with that, the problem is that when you select "compose" mode from the menu a smug little message pops up to say something along the lines of "Your html code is invalid! You may lose content. Continue?". So basically what we have here is an editor that can't even re-ingest the html code that it itself generated. Really gives you faith, doesn't it.

Whatever, I'm going to drown my sorrows in a glass of Knut Hansen gin, from Hamburg. If ever you spot some, buy it: you'll thank me later.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

May Maggots Eat Their Living Brains ...

 ... yes, as you've probably worked out

 a) Microsoft have screwed me about again, and

 b) Margo bought a Hewlett-Packard printer a few years back.

Sadly, there is some shite which requires me to run Windoze, so for about a week I had to boot the trusty laptop up under Windows 10. Which required leaving it for a few hours as it downloaded accumulated updates and installed them ... then, one day up in Strasbourg, it decided to spend all day downloading some crap "quality of life" update that would bring me massive satisfaction with the inclusion of Paint 3D! (as if) and then, around 5pm, chose to install this huge pack.


Which was hideously inconvenient but luckily after half an hour or so it rebooted - as it will - and I took the opportunity to turn it off and hie me back to the hotel, where I let it go about its business whilst I ate ... and when I got back to the room after a couple of hours it had got up to 60% done and then, in front of my eyes, displayed the rather alarming message "Windows is trying to recover your previous installation ...": this is not the sort of thing you really need. Especially when far from the office.

Luckily for me it seemed to succeed, so I tried in every way known to man to turn off automatic updating: this is not, it seems, possible with Windows 10 Home, albeit only mind-bogglingly difficult with the other versions. But despite my best efforts a few days later it tried to reinstall the borked update ... now, when I have to boot Windows I have Wifi disabled and I unplug the Ethernet cable. I suppose I could give the thing a static IP address and set up the router firewall to ban all incoming/outgoing traffic for that address, but that seems overkill.

And as for the printer, sometime last year it decided to download a firmware update that basically bans the use of any but HP toner cartridges. Which Margo discovered when she bought some rather cheaper-than-HP "compatible" cartridges, and the beast threw a hissy-fit. She complained to the toner company who sent out replacements only to have the same thing happen: so I went goofling, as one will, and found (in addition to a large number of disgruntled ex-HP customers) a tool that should let one downgrade the firmware.

It started off promisingly enough, with first of all "Erasing" and then "Programming..." but of course things that seem too good to be true usually are not, in fact, true and this turned out to be the case because the bugger reset halfway through the process and still obstinately refuses to recognise the new cartridges. According to various forae there should be an option in one of the setup menus to enable firmware updates, but of course this does not exist on this particular printer ... also, it now comes up with a "Fatal Error 200" on random occasions, and still won't print.

So we have a borked printer, two sets of colour cartridges, and slightly elevated blood pressure - which I'm going to do something about in the immediate future. Just remember, people - never, EVAH, buy an HP printer. Call me old-fashioned if you will, but when I buy a bit of consumer electronics I do rather expect it to belong to me ...
(Just as an aside, it's now reposing at the local tip where it can contemplate the errors of its ways. Rather spitefully, I actually feel good about that.)

In other news, little Lilibeth looks a bit sad just now, up on the big hydraulic hoist in Philippe's garage with nothing in her rear end, what with the engine sitting on the floor on a pile of sawdust and the gearbox and differential disassembled on a couple of workbenches. Still, a little jaunt to Carcassonne got me three of the four bearings for the gearbox, and as it turns out the front bearing on the main shaft - which is rather difficult to find - is in good nick and doesn't actually need replacing, which is kind of convenient.

And I've found online and duly ordered the synchro slider, the synchro ring, the two springs that go with it, the spie joint for the driveshaft and a full set of gaskets (not to mention rear shock absorbers and a few other bits and pieces): all of these things should arrive before the end of the month so with any luck she'll be in running order by October. That would be rather nice ... next project, an Alfa Spider, anyone?

Ah well, there's many a slip twixt cup and lip, and the Red Guy is always there ready and waiting to throw up on my eiderdown ... looks like this is going to be a Christmas/end-of-year missive rather than the one I'd planned for somewhat earlier. Never mind.

Lilibeth is still up on the hoist: once Philippe had redone the gearbox we bolted that back onto the engine, stuck that back into its compartment, lost some skin putting the transaxles and shocks back where they belong, hooked up all the various cables for accelerator, clutch, choke ... and couldn't get her to start. The starter motor engaged, but refused to turn.

Fortunately the RTA has the full wiring diagram and it didn't take me too long to realise that we'd omitted the basic step of connecting the battery lead to the starter ... in my defence, let it be said that the lead was actually hanging hidden behind the radiator fan.

Having corrected this basic but totally understandable error she started on the second go - not so bad, all things considered - and the gearbox works perfectly: sadly there was an - unusual - noise from the diff so ...
... as it happens you can in fact, if you're correctly equipped, uncouple the gearbox from the motor and then just drop the former out from underneath. Which is what we did. I am assured that adjusting the differential on an 850 is a complete pain in the arse which, unless you happen to have the proprietary (and long-since unavailable) Fiat tool for the job, best recalls the tedious process of successive approximation for N iterations (where N is a number too large for comfort) which I had to do for maths, a long time ago. (Luckily, these days we have Excel and the like to do such shit for us.)

Whatever, it's done, she can be put back together again: sadly it's about 8° in the garage and although the entire job should take no more than a morning that's assuming that your tiny hands are not constantly frozen. So she can wait for a spell of warmer weather.

In other news, it would appear that our bar is cursed: all those that take it over seemed doomed to ... well, doom, I suppose. Let's be clear, I am sufficiently French by now to feel that there's absolutely nothing wrong with having an affair - come to that, why stop with just one, if you happen to enjoy it?

But even (maybe especially) in France there are rules for this sort of thing, and the first (and possibly only) rule is that You. Are. Discreet.

So if Sandra decides she wants to shag Fabrice (the "why" escapes me, I can only assume that he's a really exceptional lover, because to all appearances he nicked his nose from a bust of Julius Caesar and his voice from one of the cartoon extras in Roger Rabbit) then that's none of my business: not only do I not care, I don't want to know.

Unfortunately "not knowing" did not seem to be an option, and soon enough a number of people did know, and then of course Eric found out, which led to a scene ... neither the ambiance, nor the clientèle, are what they were: I might have to fall back to Fontcouverte.

Still, it's a shame. Godnose I'd not have expected anything better of the fawning little tit, but I'd thought Sandra was rather smarter than that. It would seem that I was mistaken.

On the bright side, it's given the village something to talk about for the next six months at least, so all the vicious old biddies who like to regret the lamentable lack of moral fibre in the yoof of today will be able to die with smiles on their faces.

Whatever: it has not escaped my notice that the new year is approaching. The end of 2019 was very bad as far as I was concerned, 2020 was a completely shite year that's best forgotten, and 2021 has been an admittedly mitigated disaster.
So here's hoping that 2022 will be a little brighter. Mind how you go, now. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Chairman of the Bored ...

Well, here I is in Strasbourg - or more precisely in Lingolsheim, some 10 clicks to the west - and already after only one day I am heartily bored. Bored completely witless, doing a Neville, ennuyé à mort ... the most exiting thing that's happened all day, apart from a good stretch and a discreet belch on waking up, was watching a hedgehog snuffling around on the admittedly immaculate lawn this evening.

Tomorrow and Friday will surely be more of the same (although let it be said, there's the promise of a repas gastronomique tomorrow lunchtime, shame I'm not really a fan of hearty lunches), which will give me the entire weekend actually doing something vaguely interesting ie wandering about Strasbourg and poking into its crooks and nannies before being confronted with a whole glorious week of terminal ennui, after which I can go home for a week before yet another five days of the same ... have I mentioned that it's gray, cold and damp? Didn't think so.

To be quite honest, I've already come to the conclusion that the whole jaunt is a waste of my time and their money but there you go, such is the glamorous life of the free-lance programmer. There's no Netflix on the hotel TV, no porn on my laptop, and I didn't even think to bring the collected works of the Brontë sisters to while away the tedious evenings so I shall just have to count flyspecks on the ceiling until I fall asleep.

Happy update! I must have done some good deed at some point in my life, for the client has come to exactly the same conclusion as I: namely that my presence for the next week is surplus to requirements! Consequently I shall catch a somewhat too-early train back southwards on Sunday moaning for another two weeks of basking in the sun before heading back up on the 19th, and at least for that week I should be doing something useful and actually productive, always makes me feel better.

Always provided, of course, that I can actually get my old copy of MS VB6 (from 1998, yet) installed on my laptop … at the moment it is "searching for installed components", has been doing so for at least fifteen minutes and seems set to carry on doing so for at least another half hour.

Anyways, I made it into Strasbourg and had a fine old time wandering about: place is as lovely as I remember it from 30-odd years ago. And the beer is exceptional, you really should try the blanche should ever you find yourself there (and there's a very pleasant bar on the place du Marché Gayot which will happily serve it to you, but don't forget to specify 25cl unless you're really up to knocking back a full half-litre).

And a very nice lunch at a winstüb just down from the cathedral: a little martini rosso as apéro followed by a fairly decent (if a bit under-seasoned, to my taste) foie gras with excellent toast (yes, this is important) and a glass or two of pinot gris to help it go down. The only thing that disappointed was the fact that a bowl of piping-hot frites turned up as well but I quickly shooed them away, for it would have been an abomination. Yah, I know, I'm an old snob. Guilty as charged.

Handy hint, by the way, for identifying the actual Strasbourgeois: they're the ones with the skins the exact same delicate milky white of a troglodyte axolotl. Suppose they don't really get out in the sun that much …

Getting back here, I found myself (as one will) at the bar the other day and there, sitting on the counter, was a bottle of Uby. This is a wine I've met before, fell in love with and then, sadly, forgot … I'm glad we've encountered one another again. The N° 4 is semi-sweet, which is not usually to my taste but it's so good I'm willing to make an exception, with incredible notes of pineapple and passionfruit … I think it must have been the very first wine I tasted where I could actually pick up this sort of thing. Not that it hits you about the head with it, but you can't help but notice.

I asked Eric to order me a half-dozen bottles the next time he has occasion to top up the supplies (judging by last night's crowd that'll not be far off): I suppose I could just head off to CDD at Lézignan, who have the stuff in stock, but I kind of have moral objections to dealing with them unless it's absolutely necessary (ie run out of wine on a Sunday afternoon).

Sadly, although the chateau does in fact have a website it's of precious little use to me because there's no possibility of ordering online. So I can see that at some point, maybe September or October, I shall just have to gird my loins, feed Sarah, and undertake a three-hour drive to the Gers for a proper dégustation sur place. And, being the prudent man that I am, find a decent restaurant (these are not hard to find over in Gascony) and a hotel for the night, before heading back here.

Otherwise, things are getting back to some new kind of normal: masks have become a reflex going into a shop (and I'll not tell you how bloody painful it was to have to wear one for seven hours on the train to and from Strasbourg) but out in the open not too many people bother - me amongst them, let it be said, but then we're both of us fully vaccinated so I'm not that bothered.

And the bise, or the hearty handshake, seem to have pretty much gone into retirement for the nonce.
Time has gone by, as it does, and I once again find myself in Strasbourg, although admittedly getting ready to leave at an ungodly hour tomorrow moaning. Still, it was much more agreeable to actually be doing something useful, so I don't regret it, and this time one of the blokes at the company took pity on me and offered to take me out to see the Strasbourg night-life on Wednesday night. I'm very glad I took him up on that.

Out around the old port district to start with: it's been titivated and generally had shitloads of cash thrown at it, and is now positively heaving with crowds of Bright Young Things from various startups enjoying apéros on the riverbank. I need to go back there.

Then around the EU district, to have a gawk at stuff like the Palais de l'Europe and all the other institutions that are crammed into the city, then down Embassy Row where the US and Russian embassies sit sullenly next to one another, then find a car-park to get ready for the good stuff ie wandering around Petite France and the covered bridges ...

Wound up around the cathedral at about 21:00, and so of course it was time for a meal ... Le Gruber is a winstüb which, to my admittedly uneducated palette, seemed perfectly acceptable, and I must say that I have decided that I really do like a pinot gris.

And by the time we'd finished that it was, as luck would have it, time for the son et lumière projected onto the cathedral. It must have cost a mint, but the ville de Strasbourg really got their money's worth because it was breathtakingly spectacular. Absolutely magical, and even though they don't do it justice I shall try to extract some of my shite phone photos ...

Bottom line, Strasbourg is a lovely city which has the added advantages of having a river running through it and loads of vast green shady parks and gardens (when I come back, shall have to spend a morning wandering about the parc de l'Orangerie): try not to miss it if ever you're over that way.

I should go and pack, for I have no wish whatsoever to be in a rush at 5:30 am: mind how you go.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Out on the streets ...

OK, it's been a while. Sorry. As you may probably imagine, other things have been on my mind, such as it is these days, for quite a while now ... I am now fully vaxed and feeling much happier about that as it means that I can actually go off and see some old friends that I've not seen since BC without feeling obliged to wear a full noddy suit and respirator, can go out to bars and have a merry glass of vitamins under the plane trees, and can eat in a restaurant. If I think to book ahead. Also, no longer obliged to wear a mask in outdoor public spaces ... this is definitely a better place to be.

Also, there's a new addition to the family. All Philippe's fault, of course. I'll grant you that Margo happened to mention over dinner one night that she'd once had a Fiat 850 coupé ... but then I started to get email referring to ads on leboncoin for such things ...

There was a rather nice cabriolet going for about 4 grand, but it appeared to have spent the last twenty years of its life in a stable, next to the horses, and needed quite a bit of work - also, it disappeared literally overnight.

But this one was at Montpellier so one fine day Philippe and I headed off, ate (of course) and looked her over. The bloke had paid 12K for her and was willing to sell her for 11K, so Philippe told me that as the brakes needed looking at and the gearbox would have to be dropped out to fix the "normal" whine in 4th gear, I should offer 8K. Which is what I did.

When I told him the next day that it'd been accepted, he said - typical French - "Merde! Le con voulait vraiment s'en débarrasser ... Should have offered 7 ..." Never mind. A week later I rented a trailer, borrowed John and his Landcruiser, and went to pick her up - because it was all twoo about the brakes, and the gearbox, and trying to drive her back on the autoroute seemed unadvisable (also, neither wing mirrors nor seatbelts, makes me nervous) ...

Whatever, sometime in the immediate future when the 1934 Belilla has advanced to the point where serious carpentry skills are required, she shall go into Philippe's garage and onto the hoist and get hands stuck up her skirts. And I shall learn a bit about la mécanique ...

But then, even if I can't really describe it as a mid-life crisis (that actual time being rather past in my case), what better time than in your 60s to do something on a coup de coeur? I mean, if you're still working and aren't Italian you'll have got rid of the kids and consequently have a bit of disposable income once again, so why not? Especially as you've a fair chance (despite my own best efforts to the contrary) of living another ten years or so, so as to be able to actually enjoy your little folie ...

Anyways, so it is, oh dearly belovèds, that we is got ourselves a 1966 Fiat 850 Coupé (Serie I), and rather plan on having fun with her.

Speaking of working reminds me that I shall probably be spending much of July up in Strasbourg, picking up the pieces of a turn of the century (that's around 2000, not 1900, although you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise) stock control system written especially for garages in VB6 and using the dreaded MS Access as a substitute for a database. Apparently, most of their hell-desk calls are from clients who are having problems with Access, and need to rebuild the thing ... I honestly didn't know that it even existed any more.

In any case, no good deed goes unpunished and you don't get to spend over 40 years in computing without picking up a bit of archaeological cruft which the yoof of today have had the good fortune to have avoided, so there you go: as I too am guilty of VB6, am frighteningly competent and not outrageously expensive, that, it seems, is how I shall be spending some of the summer.
Don't get me wrong, Strasbourg is a lovely city, it's just that up until now it'd not been included in my travel plans.

In other news, summer is indeed upon us but luckily the temperature has plummeted from the high thirties we were enjoying over the past week or so, and so actually doing something is once again an option. Not, to be honest, that it's an option I've actually taken, but it's nice to have the choice. "Hack out some more shite code to fix some boring once in a lifetime bug that probably no-one cares about anyway, or have another gin in the hammock?", that's the sort of problem with which I find myself confronted.

It's a difficult choice but what the hell, I can always assuage any slight feelings of guilt by telling myself that crap code can always be pounded out next moaning, when it's cooler, and in any case they always seem slightly shocked when I manage to deliver on time and I'd hate to be responsible for a heart attack or whatever by dropping off something operational and fully tested earlier than scheduled. (This is what happens when you manage to get peoples' expectations sufficiently low.)

The other thing about summer is the summer thunderstorms, which tend to be kind of spectacular around these parts, as well as sudden. Yesterday's little effort involved hailstones as well - about the size of my thumbnail - glad I wasn't actually out in it, I've enough dents in my scalp as it is.

I'll spare you the gory and admittedly tedious details, but despite the mairie's best efforts to prove that they are - collectively - a pack of incompetent arseholes who wish to have a bar that caters exclusively for the 10% of the population who are incontinent and over 90, Sandra and Eric have reopened for business.

And so not only can I seek out bad company and enjoy a (unmasked) drink or two in its presence, we may dine (and Sandra's oeufs cocotte are worth it) if it's not pissing down with rain (see note above, on thunderstorms), and I find myself once again solicited to supply foie gras.

Sadly I did not make as much as usual last winter - at the time, there seemed little point -  and there's but one bloc left in the freezer that's maybe the best I've ever made to date, involving Timut pepper and chili flakes and Bourbon, that only I and a friend who appreciates such things are ever going get to stick in their mouths, so they shall have to wait if they've another massive order (or buy the stuff from Metro, like everyone else): did manage to hand over a kilo for her salade périgourdine on Father's Day though, so that's alright.

I've still not quite come to grips with the fact that I, definitely not-from-here and in fact not even French, am generally acknowledged to make the best foie gras in the region, but there you are, I can live with that.

Completely off-topic, but I am very proud of young Moses. The other day, for the first time in his life, he cocked one leg up and pissed on a car tyre. Big, grown-up boy! (Speaking of "big" it was time for his booster shots this moaning, and I was slightly embarrassed to discover that he actually weighs in at 17.5kg. As the vet remarked, "he's not fat, but you can tell that he has a few reserves ...", so he might be moving on to somewhat shorter rations from now on.

Anyways, I hop onto the TGV to Strasbourg tomorrow for ten days of whizzo fun and games, so time now, I'm afraid, to get some of the boring but necessary stuff like billing done before packing (not forgetting the camera, and a spare battery pack because I'll not be caught out again). Mind how you go, now.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Moanings ...

 It is sad, but true, that when it comes to buying food I seem to be incapable of moderation. For Margo expressed a wish for a nice roast chicken for the Christmas feast, and with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart off I duly trotted to Maison Bertrand to get a week's worth of protein ... like chunks of pork for which the pig in question no longer has any particular requirement, tail end of beef fillet which apparently nobody but I really want, for they hock it off at - literally - half-price ie 17€/kg and I have no objection to that, rack of lamb, escalopes de veau ...

And they had some grain-fed, free-range chickens: or more to the point, chapons, and not thinking of the downside I bought one. But let it be admitted that 3kg of castrated rooster is a bit much for two ... hence Rick and Mary's presence. Still, given that the purchase was not, for once, a spur of the moment thing for that night's dinner, I had the time to brine it for a day or two and, having hoiked it out of its bath, brush the skin with molasses and leave it to dry. And very nice it was too, after a suitable amount of time in a hot oven: as tender and moist as one could wish, with crispy skin ...

The leftovers - for there were some lots - found their way into chicken and bacon pie, with decent suet pastry just as god intended, and three nights later the dogs were happy beasts because leftover leftover leftovers is just a bit too much.

One might think that this would have served as an object lesson but alas! this turns out not to be the case, for I promptly re-offended a week later, buying 1.5kg of a pork rib rack. Which also spent a few days in the fridge, having been well-rubbed beforehand with gros sel, sugar and loads of pepper ... I boned it out, as one will, before serving with slices of fried and caramelised apple and as luck would have it Caroline and Philippe were around to help demolish the meat and gnaw on the ribs - much appreciated.

... somewhat (a lot) later ...

D'you know, it's kind of hard, under the circumstances, to feel much enthusiasm for writing. Some of you lucky b'stards live in places relatively untouched by COVID: sadly, we do not. Our first lockdown started in March 2019 and lasted three months: then we got June/July off for good behaviour only to go back into another lockdown, and as I write there is still a 6pm-6am curfew which does - as you might think, and as was intended - cut down on social interaction. It is getting to the point where one might reasonably ask if it's not better to possibly die from COVID, or to almost certainly die from ennui. There are friends we've not met up with for four months.

And although I'm not a particularly sociable man - most of my experience with crowds involving the question "how do I get the fuck out of here and onto the periphery?" - let it be said that one of my simple pleasures involved heading off to the excellent boulangerie at Ferrals to pick up a few baguettes and then stopping off on the return trip at the little bar at Fontcouverte for a glass of white vitamins and a cigar on the terrace, under the brilliant blue sky and the shade of the plane trees, watching everyone else enjoy themselves. This is now a distant memory, and it hurts.

Have I mentioned that there are friends I've not seen for a long time?

Also, I've not taken the camera(s) out for yonks?

You take care ...

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Back In The Jug Agane ...

Three days into our second lockdown, and I'm already bored witless ... I also find myself with two hares and a bloody partridge in a pear tree in the freezer, and can't really invite anyone around to help eat them, which is a bugger.

Not as much of an embuggerment as trying to get used to Blogger's new interface, which is outrageously annoying and sufficiently different from the old one that I had come to know and - if not exactly love - then at least accept.

And the text formatting is broken, so it won't justify text if it doesn't think the column is wide enough, if you select some photos to upload it will indeed do this thing but when you've selected one to insert and wish to insert another it does not pop up the list of the photos you've just uploaded, oh no, you have to go into the bloody Blogger catalogue of every single photo you've ever uploaded and pick them from there ...
And sometimes, for some completely random reason, you can justify a photo left or right and a) it will not be justified hard up to the margin, unlike all the others, or b) text will not wrap around it. And I can't be arsed editing the bloody HTML - which is now, incidentally, displayed as a solid block of text rather than the halfway formatted stuff I vaguely remember from the Before times - I could go on and on, but life's too short.

We have also been more or less forced to live through the cluster-fuck of the US presidential erection, rather an unpleasant experience (like the time, some forty years ago, when I was first introduced to the business end of a colonoscope and subsequently walked uncomfortably for a day or so afterwards) but sadly, necessary, for one cannot spend all one's time watching Magnum PI on Amazon Prime. Although one can spend quite a lot of time watching Good Omens, just saying ...
On the brighter side, being in confinement does have its advantages. The autoroute is a bloody sight quieter, for one thing, without the usual constant subliminal hum of traffic, and the air is cleaner ... it makes no difference to my working day, having worked more or less exclusively from home for the past seven years or so, and as we've never taken to shopping as an Olympic sport that too doesn't really cause any problems. And let it be said that, when I do head off on the weekly outing (for one must still eat, you know), the lack of crowding is really rather appreciable.

On the down side, some little trips to quaint villages that I'd rather been planning have been postponed, and even on a glorious day such as last Wednesday I cannot pack young Moses in the car and head off for a walk somewhere else, with the enticing prospect of a bar, complete with shaded terrace, at either end ...
Oh, we have now learnt what may or may not be at the root of the arson cases and tyre slashings that have so disturbed life given us something to talk about in out peaceful little village, and as usual it seems to be Béberts fault ...
Bébert is the local mason: short, rotund and jolly, with an unfortunate penchant for nicking the mike at karaoke events and refusing to give it back until he's bellowed his way through 5 LPs-worth of la chanson française and sent half the clientèle out into the streets with wodges of Camembert stuck in their ears.

And since he divorced, godnose how long ago, he has had a tendency to pick up partners (serial, not parallel) who share his general tone-deafness: now as it happens, Bez - the owner of the Stelvio that got torched (which is definitely a crime) - knew of the latest girlfriend and thought it wise to warn Bébert that she had a certain - uh, reputation - in Narbonne ...

News which Bébert digested in his own fashion, and a few weeks later he decided to say that she was not really his type, thanks very much, and unfortunately mentioned the friendly little warning. And shortly afterwards, the Alfa went up in flames; some point the finger at Lionel, who also knew the woman in question.

Then the tyre-stabbing started, and a short while later the house Lionel was renting went up in flames, and the tyre-stabbing continued. But not for too much longer, because ...
... shortly after all that excitement, Bébart himself had his tyres slashed, sadly this was outside the bar (yah, back in the days when bars were actually open) and there was a witness and the gendarmerie nicked Lionel's daughter for the deed. That's about the only incontrovertible fact in the whole histoire.

For there are some, to whom I give equal credence, who say that the whole story is a pile of dog's bollocks.

Whatever, damned if I know, but it's probably the most interesting series of events to have occurred in Moux since they installed gravity.
Even when confined, some hunting is allowed: for the pests, such as wild boar and deer. Which is rather pleasant, for joining the partridge and the hares in the freezer there are now a few cotelettes de marcassin - just enough for two, which is good - and a haunch of venison got dropped off on the understanding that I should cook it and then take it and some Cumberland sauce around to José's to be eaten. (A totally illegal operation, of course, under the circumstances, but what the hell ...)

Luckily - as far as I'm concerned - the thing had thoughtfully been peeled before I got it: still had the hoof attached though. I suppose I could have kept it and got someone to make me a posh knife with a roe-deer hoof for the hilt, but as I don't go hunting I reluctantly abandoned the idea ...
Sadly, as middle age creeps up on me I seem to be falling to bits. Back in 2018 it was the muscle behind the knee that went: the other day I woke up to find that I couldn't raise my right arm. So I hied me to Lignère's surgery, and after only a two-hour wait was told that one of the tendons had torn ...

So I've an appointment on Tuesday for an X-ray and echography, and while I'm waiting I'm on horse-doctor's doses of cortisone, and a codeine all-you-can-eat buffet, which helps.

Just as an aside, I had to let Cla-Val know about this, for we'd a conference call arranged for the Friday afternoon and as I was spending most of that in the quack's waiting room we pushed it back to Tuesday and then I got the appointment for the radio and so it had to be pushed back yet again - so I felt I rather owed them the reason.

And all Karim could think of to say, in between sniggers, was to suggest that I either stop masturbating so much, or else to use my left hand: as he said, "Like that, it feels as though someone else is doing it for you ...". I found that rather hurtful.

Whatever. As I write the lockdown restrictions are being eased somewhat: we may now go out for "personal exercise" for up to three hours so long as we don't go more than 20km from home, and non-essential commerces are open again, although sadly bars and restaurants are going to stay closed for some time yet.

The point of all that is of course to give small shop-owners some respite by allowing them to profit from the Christmas season, but looking at the complete lack of crowds around the commercial centres, not to mention in the inner-city shopping streets, it all looks rather gloomy. I rather suspect that there's an awful lot that will just put the keys under the door ...
Same goes for places like our bar in Moux (who were already half-planning on taking on an affair some place else, thanks to the attitude of the driveling mouth-breathers who run the mairie), and the bar at Fontcouverte which always made for a pleasant stop for a glass of vitamins out on the terrace, in the sun, after getting some decent bread at Ferrals. I shall regret their passing.

It's a funny thing, but at the end of 2019 my friend B. decided that 2020 was going to be a year of health and happiness. We turned out to be rather mistaken, didn't we? Better luck next time, I suppose - mind how you go now, and take care.