Monthly Archive for February, 2012

Air con

Today was the first day this year which was warm enough to allow the French windows to be left open. Cato thinks it excellent since he no longer has to hurl himself against the glass and demand to be let out when he sees a cat approach the bird feeders but can sneak out and bounce them without warning. The frogs have begun to croak and it just requires the cicadas to start up before one knows that winter is finally over. My neighbour told me that it was a false dawn since it will be back down to 10 degrees in a couple of days but till then I can sit outside and begin to feel smug again.
I was consulting him about the air conditioning on the car which is not huffing out cold air as it should. He’s into cars but was dubious about doing anything about it till June. Then the garages do promos on air con. Outside the season repairs are horribly expensive. He tried to sell me a new car instead but I told him to sod off.


Amazon just informed me it’s plopped some money into my bank account for shifting copies of a book on Kindle. It’s the only one I’ve ever turned electronic. It seemed more sensible to store there than in my computer because I never managed to sell it.
At the time of looking it stands at number 249,707 on their list of best sellers. Consequently I will be unable to pay off the mortgage of the strength of my royalties. But being given any money by Amazon feels like snatching something from the maw of a Black Hole. I now feel I should consider lodging other examples of my oeuvre (never used that word before and managed to spell it right first time. I have awarded myself a gold star) up with it. The problem is that I’d need to retype them. Come to think on it, they could probably be scanned but that will require consulting some nerd since it’s technology beyond me.


I very rarely read anything that I’ve written in the past. I discovered some time ago that it could be a rather unsettling experience because it’s so often so good. This does not make me preen at my genius, but rather fills my soul with a bleak horror because I can’t imagine writing anything of that quality either now or in the future. I found out many years ago that you’re only as good as your next book. Now HMG sends me a jerry pension and life is too interesting to make very serious efforts to try to write some tome to augment it.


Driving home in the dark last night, I had to swerve to avoid a pink elephant which suddenly appeared in front of me and the car slid into the ditch, ending up at a 60 degree angle. The dog and I clambered out the passenger door and had a pleasant two-mile stroll back to the village under a star-lit sky. This morning I rousted my neighbour and we went down and pulled it out. It is even muddier than before but without a scratch. As an act of contrition, I am shortly going to give it a wash.


Abattoir floor slurry and other unsavoury bits of creatures slaughtered in the UK end up in the Great British Sausage and enormous efforts are spent to disguise any taste or texture. This partially explains why it’s such an appalling product in comparison to any other European sausage. Here, most anatomical curiosities are proudly labelled and line the supermarket shelves. Anything truly unspeakable, I suspect, ends up in the variety of pate called mousse. This morning I couldn’t face the queue at the charcuterie when trying to buy pate and bought a couple of shrink-wrapped slabs from the chilled section. One is pate de campagne and the other called pate de tete, made from pig heads. In Britain the label would be a warning. Here it must be an inducement. But I didn’t notice when I bought it.


Today has been one of those solitary days wrestling with Scots history in front of the computer when the car stays put and I see no living soul. The dog and I went round the village for a constitutional and did not even see a distant vehicle. Winter seems to have surrendered and the temp is now set well into comfortable without being warm as far ahead as can be forecast.
The bird seed I supply outside my window has a sell by date on the bag. It seems an odd addition, particularly since the Russians have grown a campion from 30,000 year-old seed.


In my French lesson today I tried to find out why Napoleon is considered a hero rather than a monster. After all he led his nation to catastrophic defeat as well as launching campaigns that resulted in the death of an estimated seven million people including 1.7 million of his own countryman. The Germans don’t reckon Hitler to be a hero, so why Napoleon? The answer seemed to be that he consolidated the egalitarian revolution, represented the people of France rather than just the aristocracy, introduced the Code Napoleon which is the basis of French law and won every battle he fought for nearly 20 years. And, of course, the perfidious British killed him with arsenic on St Helena.
I dropped in on a bilingual British friend after my lesson and, bizarrely, found myself having a conversation in French with her without noticing. As soon as I stopped to think of a construction, the spell was broken.


A car came barrelling out in front of me from a side road without not a glance in my direction. It was an example of the notorious French custom of priorit√© √† droit and it would have been my fault if I’d slammed into him. The system is in the process of changing with signs and dotted lines being installed to indicate that you must stop or give way to traffic on roads more important than the one you’re on. If anything this makes it even dodgier if you’re unused to the system because most junctions are now altered and I, at least, am ambushed by the ones that aren’t. I was done last year for failing to stop at a Stop. I still sometimes fail to stop. At one exit from the village there’s a Stop. It joins a road that has about five vehicles a day using it and the visibility is excellent. Another, much the same but a 300 yard view in each direction, struck me as simply perverse. That was until late summer when the maize and sunflowers closed it in.


Great tit, blue tit, robin, dunnock, black cap, goldfinch, collared dove, sparrow, greenfinch, cirl bunting, chaffinch, starling. This is the rather barren list of kinds of birds that are regular visitors here. At any one time there are half a dozen on the feeders with many more at peak periods. The starling was a very moth-eaten single with a drooping wing that spent the daylight hours squatting beside a fat ball, slowly diminishing it. It did that for a week and then, plump and glossy, it disappeared.


Still around are weight restrictions on some of the local roads. The French believe – and it makes sense – that you have to let the ground beneath a road thaw out properly after a hard frost. Without a fully functioning foundation, the road will rapidly turn to potholes, as in Scotland.
There are very few charity shops around. In fact the only one in the largest neighbouring town has just closed. Ask why and the answer comes that it’s the state’s job to look after the needy which is why people pay their taxes. The same applies to many other forms of charity. It’s a point of view, I suppose, but it demands more trust in the state than I would ever concede.