Friday, 20 May 2011

Friday, 13 May 2011

One of those weeks

It's been one of those weeks.

Monday. Car goes to local garage (40 minutes walk back and there) for annual service.

Tuesday. Car has developed  flobalobalobalob type rattle underneath. Back to local garage who predict a loose engine cover (almost every Citroen has got one. We lost one altogether once, on the autoroute). Collect car. Still flobalobalobalob-ing merrily.

Wednesday. Back to local garage. Take technician for a ride. Instantly and without looking he diagnoses worn suspension hangers, or some such thing. Amazingly, in spite of ultra-rural location, part arrives by lunchtime; job done by 4.30pm. Collect car. Rattle ceased. But ....

While driving car home attacked by flying stone on the only 250 metres of route with oncoming traffic. Nothing visible at first. 4 minutes later large crack has appeared in windscreen. Phone Carglass (Carglass répare! Carglass remplace! Ah ... the power of advertising ....). Answer 1001 questions relating to colour of car workers underpants when he installed windscreen in 2003 and what he ate for breakfast that day. Discover that only local-technician-who-does-callouts is occupied until sometime in next millenium. Fix appointment for next day at nearest Carglass agency, in Toulouse.

Thursday. Drive to Toulouse. It's 32 degrees. Spend 3 hours walking round commercial centre while windscreen replaced. Wilt. Drive home. No rattle. No crack. New (free) windscreen wipers. Bliss.

And found this in my emails, sent by friend. Usually ignore/delete these round robin 'funnies'. For once, didn't.

There's a car upside down in the water. See the guy standing on it?

Could have been a worse week, it seems.

Today: Friday 13th. All goes swimmingly. Hmm.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Eat your weeds

When I was ten, I would do almost anything to get out of eating greens. Mind you, in retrospect I think I was displaying precocious good taste, my mother’s use of the word ‘greens’ being very probably an offence under the Trades Descriptions Act because green they certainly were not. No, given the kind of treatment that only my mother could inflict, they were a kind of dirty grey-brown, smelly and slimy. Appetising, non? All the more bizarre, then, that my mother’s whinging, foot-stamping daughter has turned into a green freak, mad about growing them, cooking them, eating them … and, er, gathering them (come on, if nature is going to provide me with food without me slaving away over hot soil or crawling round in the soil by moonlight picking off slugs, then who am I to argue?). 

Having been somewhat preoccupied with other matters, such as fitting The Most Complicated Shower Door In The Universe, we've been neglecting the potager somewhat of late, so that its lovely, pristine, dug over and manured state has turned into a field of weeds. But as I noticed this morning as I was standing nearby painting three concrete posts (don't ask), they're not just any old weeds. They're fat hen weeds. 

Also known as Lambs Quarters or by its botanical name Chenopodium Album (but you knew that, didn't you?), fat hen is apparently one of the most ubiquitous and widely distributed plants on earth: it’s been a staple in the diets of many countries for thousands of years. And it just loves potagers and allotments and vegetable gardens of all kinds - I think it sees them as a challenge. It can be used in the same way as spinach, and is good simply cooked with butter and nutmeg, or in a gratin or tart. In the resto days when I actually (sigh) had time to cook (and people paid me ... sigh again), I used to make fat hen gnocchi; at the end of a long hot réno day though that just felt like one fiddle too far, so tonight it found its way into a frittata with some local cheese, the last of last year's crop of butternut squash, a handful of left over corn and some crème fraîche. And tomorrow it will turn itself into a fat hen risotto, made using stock from the weekend's roast chicken (aaargh - I'm beginning to sound like Nigel Slater).

And then it will meet an unhappy end under the hoe.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Dastardly doings down here in the woods ...

For the last couple of years we've been experiencing some strange phenomena here at Grillou (and no, I don't mean the builders). In a nutshell, things disappear, and then they reappear again, usually in exactly the same place from which they disappeared.

You might, as I did for quite some time, put this down to normal absentmindedness. I mean, everybody loses things from time to time, don't they? Even me, in spite of being anal-retentive-obsessive-compulsive about everything having its place. But I know now that that's not what's going on.

It started with my clothes. First of all a pair of my favourite brown jeans disappeared along with a pink tee shirt. I turned the house upside down. John turned the house upside down. Several times. They were nowhere. Six months later, both items reappeared in the exact places from which they'd disappeared. Other items of clothing did the same thing. Only ever mine, never John's.

Last week, quite by accident while having a big rubbish removal session, I found a vital part for attaching a half-pedestal to its washbasin that had been missing since last October. We'd spent tens of hours searching for it, and finally ended up ordering a new part from Villeroy & Boch. There it was, at the bottom of a huge  box, underneath a huge pile of old sheets and blankets. The box was underneath several other boxes on the first floor of one of our barns. All the boxes had been stored there, untouched, for two years.

Nearly three years ago, I lost a pair of prescription sunglasses. I knew exactly where I'd last worn them: on a chilly October Saturday when we'd gone to the market in St Girons and on to have lunch at a restaurant on the quay, where I changed into normal glasses. When I got home, my sunglasses were nowhere to be found. Having checked back with the restaurant and turned the house upside down (again) I decided they must have fallen out of the car, and reluctantly wrote them off. Today, I found them. They were in my laptop bag. Only problem is, I've only owned that bag for a year. It probably wasn't even manufactured when my glasses disappeared.

Now this is all getting fascinating, but a bit bizarre. It's not however, unheard of: a quick Google produced something called Disappearing Object Phenomenon, which seems to happen to a surprising number of people. So what's going on? Is it some kind of paranormal activity? Is Grillou home to what Native Americans call the Little People, a race of spirits who you may sometimes glimpse just out of the corner of your eye and are here to teach us Big People lessons - such as not taking life too seriously, for example. Or is there some kind of dimensional shift going on? A crack in the fabric of spacetime? Parallel universes? Or some other kind of quantum phenomenon - a change from particle to wave mode, for instance? Or photons suddenly vibrating at a different rate so that an object becomes temporarily invisible, or dematerialises-rematerialises?

Or am I just losing the plot altogether? Where's Doctor Who when you need him?