dimanche 28 mars 2010

Kentucky fried lap-tops and other springy thingies

You may of course wonder what a hot lap-top has to do with a pic of a pot of winter-flowering pansies.

Well it's all to do with the spring thing, which is happening intermittently outside my window even as I write.

One minute it's bright sunshine, the next it's belting it down with persistent glee and bloomin' freezing.

The lap-top in question belongs to dear old Mick, AKA the crownéd King of Fa and it really was hot, not nick-tastically but thermally.

Being a bit full of the joys of the aforementioned and lightly alleged spring, Mick decided to nip off for a couple of nights burgeoning with romantic intent.

Being somewhat anxious as to the security of Casa Mick during his absence, our hero concluded that the last place burglars would look for a computer was in the oven. Unfortunately it was also the last place that he looked for it after switching on the oven to make dinner when he got back from his hols.

The plastic case was just curling up and turning nice and crispy as Mick tore open the oven to rescue his lap-top. Amazingly it still works, which says a lot for the power of modern electronics . . .

Elsewhere Fa continues in its own particular rich and idiosyncratic dialect, as best beknown only unto itself. Well, obviouslyment, as Dave the Underdog (formerly known as barman) put it this week in a flourish of newly-coined and particularly fragrant or possibly flagrant franglais.

Me, I'm sticking with the winter-flowering pansies. I've become most intrigued by these simple et pas du tout prétentieuses fleurs, which have been cheering up the view outside my front door for the last six months.

I couldn't help thinking that winter-flowering was just a touch of an exaggeration after watching one tiny bud take about a month actually to flower.

Rather more interesting is the way these plants had of faking death during each of the three snow, storm and tempest cold-snaps that we had last winter.

As soon as it freezes, they turn into a slimy heap of wet spinach apparently not long for this world. The first time this happened, the only reason that the pansies escaped bung-ment dans la poubelle was because I was too lazy to bung them.

Then I was amazed to find that with every thaw they magically stand up straight again and carry on pansying. And now when I thought they would be completely past it, they've suddenly burst into a blaze of flowers. Absolutely brill, except that I've no idea where to put them when eviction becomes necessary for my customary summer cultivation of basil.

Serious moral dilemma Batman . . . because you can't beat basil straight off the plant and into the pasta.

mardi 9 mars 2010

And it really is White Hell III, the director's cut . . .

I suppose it was all my fault for musing with the Met; that's to say the sunny/rainy/foggy/freezing/Michael of the Fish People-type Met rather than the Pavarotti starving in his garret (wot, no enticing snackettes in New York?) variety.

Probably I shouldn't have lightly reflected on the possible return of rampant white-out, just on the strength of a couple of rogue flakes observed by girlfriend Claire on the top of Col de Saint Louis.

Because we promptly had White Hell III. This is the scene where the aliens, disguised as meringues géantes, capture a Ford Fiesta, in order to sacrifice it to the Evil Thargs of Groink.

Actually I'm not sure why a Fiesta with knackered valves and suspected piston ring failure would be deemed to have Sacrificial Virgin Status on Planet Groink, but this is a B Movie.

I really wanted girlfriend Claire to be chased in her bikini and fall over just at the point where mega tonnes of white Merovingian digestive slime pour all over the Fiesta, wiping out all life forms within range.

But Claire famously feels the cold at anything much below incineration temperature so I had to settle for a Hell-Hound of Fa being brutally vaporised in mid-piddle on the rear wheel.

This was probably just as well because Warp Drive failed on the Rescue Ship Kangoo (interstellar handbrake cable frozen solid again) and my beloved girlfriend would indeed have been abducted by Giant Green Lizard Aliens (disguised as meringues, anything to stay in budget). It was bad enough having to walk to work as it was.

*The producer would like to reassure readers that no real hell-hounds, giant green lizards, girlfriends or dodgy Ford Fiestas were harmed during the making of this blog.

dimanche 7 mars 2010

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious . . .

. . . summer. We bloomin' well 'ope. Beware l'hiver: Winter dans ce petit coin de la belle France, like Henry IV, tends to come in two parts; though if global-warming has its way, it may start to come like Henry VI, in three.

It's fairly normal to have a break in the winter around here in early February. This leads recently-arrived and naive English persons to believe that winter is over and that's it's time for shorts already.

No sooner have they imagined this than it's blow winds and crack your cheeks (well, if you will wear shorts) and March gives you a good 'iding; a prolonged part two of meteorological vileness, even into the darling floods of May.

Actually I thought this pic was going to be a bit of con. It was taken by my old schoolmate and photo correspondent David Moore, during the outstandingly heatless weekend of February 13/14 but took longer than expected to arrive due to murky obscurities (technical).

I loved this delicious filigree of ice and snow in the at-any-time spectacular Gorges de Galamus and was just scraping the bottom of the barrel for an excuse to use the pic, when girlfriend Claire rang up to report that there had been snow on the neighbouring Col de Saint Louis on her way home and that yet more of the tedious white stuff was forecast for Perpignan tomorrow. Sometimes you can win 'em all . . .

You never know from one minute to another what we're going to get next. At lunchtime we at last basked again on the sun-drenched and limpid terrasse du Cafédefa, at tea-time it was persistenting down with great dampness and tomorrow, who knows, maybe White Hell III, the director's cut?

Talking of our beloved café, alert readers may have vaguely noticed that Fa itself hasn't had much of a mention in recent despatches. This is probably because the café has been shut for repairs to both building and proprietor, thus depriving me of news and gossip. Marie, l'adorable chef, has had to recover from hospital treatment while Dave the Underdog (formerly known as barman) took the opportunity to wreak the Revenge of the Killer Piano.

Departure of the piarnofor-te, as Max Wall would have put it, offered Dave such an inviting expanse of virgin wallpaper that he couldn't resist banging a brand-new doorway through it into the old bar on the other side, a room long concealed in the dim mists of, well, dim mist really; though evidently poised for a triumphant comeback.

However the village trundles on in its accustomed cycle of ducks, old, young and roasted; the daily mantra of bread runs, school runs and men from the mairie doing things with lorries, strimmers and instruments of destruction.

Just to remind us that we are indeed a pulsing and vibrant community, hotly seething beneath the vigorous shadow of our legendary Tour Visigoth, one of the village sweet young things held her 18th birthday bash on Saturday.

The ponderous thud of techno beat against the doughty shutters of 5 Boulevard de La Pinouse, reducing them to metaphorical splinters, just as girlfriend Claire and I were thinking of going to sleep, ha-ha.

I have often admitted in this very tome that I am not averse to making a bloody racket, which I ingeniously attempt to pass off as music. Now is the moment to admit that I am a total bloody hypocrite when it comes to putting up with other people's racket.

It's not so much the noise but that techno is such crap dance music. What possible rhythmic pleasure could there be in bonk, bonk, bonk with not so much as a thirteigh, fourteigh? Bugger, I am officially old, I have finally admitted it: They don't write tunes like they used to . . .

lundi 1 mars 2010

Spring awakening . . . do as you would be Donne by

I thinke that sprinnge doeth bee sprunnge. I know this possibly from an unaccountable desire finally to go out and discover John Donne, and more probably from finding myself stuck behind my first camper van of the year.

As you may recall, the mere glimpse of a camper van dawdling criminally in the middle distance is enough to have me reaching for the crucifix and garlic.

On reflection, a stake in the back tyre would be more effective, or even a silver bullet . . . May potent poodles piddle on all their wheels. Naturally this loathsome wraith and apparition occurred on that Golden Road to Samarkand otherwise known as the D117 to Perpignan. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately crétin doing 30km par heure in the middle of la rue decree . . .

It's possible that this is one of the lines famously missing from Kubla Khan because the postman or similar alternative plonqueur turned up and broke the dear old stoner's train of thought while he was writing it.

Or perhaps not, though of course the camper van driver certainly acted like he'd been rifling Samuel Taylor's stash. Some things never change; as Prévert would put it: "Je suis qui je suis . . ." though I'd like to think that exotic, leggy slappeuses from Paris bars would never dream of doing something as profoundly uncool as driving a camper van. Incidentally that's yer man Coleridge pictured, in a moment less smashed.

It has to be said that girlfriend Claire and I are pretty much united in our deep hatred of the D117. One or other of us has to trog up and down it most weekends and it rates high on our Top Ten Linear World Enema Sites. End of rant.

Spring started unconvincingly enough near Canet-en-Roussillon (chez Claire) on Saturday with a howling gale. One became acutely aware of the gathering typhoon while driving Renault's hot contender for the America's Cup. You may not know this but Kangoo is an old French word which means Four-Wheeled Spinnaker. One of these days I may fit it with lifebelts in case I run out of road.

But somehow on Sunday the wild and gleefully thrashing wind died to a still and distant shadow. The seaside morning market filled and swirled with the unbearably-appetising smell of tagine and paella. That cheery Arab guy was again selling great green bunches of fresh coriander for only €1.50 a shot so I nabbed one quick.

With all this food on offer, the traders were clearly expecting someone to turn up. And turn they duly did, even unto the shoe-horning of the car parks for the first time since last October.

And all was no longer frozen even in Fa (40km north of Canet crow flies; if you use the D117, it's another 397). I cautiously shed a layer or two of superannuated jumpers, thus recalling surprising quantities of long-concealed and dimly-remembered flesh.

We're at last getting to that weird time of year when you accidentally open a window and are amazed to discover that it's actually warmer outside; one of our more beloved phenomena here in SW France.

If this goes on much longer, I shall be forced to out out with the disc-grinder and remove the Lloyds'-certificated welding that keeps the kitchen door compulsively, nay even compulsorily, shut . . .