Friday, 8 December 2017

The world belongs to those who check


I read this sentence somewhere a couple of months ago and it's taken up residence in my brain. As I am a checker anyway - doors, windows, gas off, crossing off elements on lists, etc, the phrase made me feel comfortable with this odd side of myself - someone often rather too spontaneous in other ways.
Anyway, a couple of days ago I had an MRI scan booked in and I didn't check what I was supposed to take until late in the preceding evening. When I did look, there was all the stuff I had imagined I would round up: medical card, forms to fill in, etc, and . . . oops, a product that would be injected into my veins that I had to go and obtain from a chemist.
Arg. Scan at 10.30; not a good idea to turn up without the required fluid as there might be much sighing and 'c'est pas possible!' - ing, from some scary reception woman. Extra stupid also as this could well be some special thing that should be ordered. Why hadn't I checked? I'd thought about it a few times, but kept putting it off until way after shops would be shut. Some internal subconscious revolt perhaps? True, my memory kept presenting me with images and  recordings of a small constricted place filled with resounding pneumatic drill noise - something I was not overly keen to revisit.
I drove to a pharmacy and the assistant searched out the required box, placing it on the counter with a frown. 'Madame, this is this bit here on the 'ordinance' but that bit there - we don't have it'.
'What is that bit' I asked. She went to check and didn't know but reiterated that they didn't have it. And then said I couldn't have the first bit as there was no signature on the 'ordonnnance'. 'But it was sent to me like that' I protested, looking a little wild as the scan RDV time was looming. After some more checking I was allowed the box without the other bit. I drove to two other chemists who also didn't have the 'other bit' and then to another where the pharmacist informed me I didn't need another bit as it was all inside the box I already had from the first pharmacy. Mm.
So, I did get there on time and the receptionist was actually really friendly, although there seemed to be some confusion over what sort of scan I was having and why I had an ordonnance for a box of blue fluid anyway. She went to check and nope, not needed, so I donated it to them in case someone like me hadn't checked what they needed to take with them, and took my place in the waiting area while trying to ignore the now vivid thoughts my brain was presenting of potholing and other claustrophobic situations.
'Madame 'Ardy?'
'Huh? Oh, yes.'
I followed the efficient assistant to a changing room, removed all metal from my person, handed her my carefully translated 'histoire' of what I personally thought they should be looking for in my neck/jaw and then followed someone else to the machine.
Things have changed since the last time I was slid into one of these things some years ago. No music in the headphones (utterly useless as the drilling, whapping sounds overpowered all other noise by 100%); more comfortable, and there was a  rubber HELP!' bell, which I'm sure I wasn't offered before.
Weirdly it was quite pleasant lying there analysing the different beats, rather like reclining after one too many mojitos in an (admittedly over-lit) techno dance club, especially as two of the medical team had a quick dance in the adjoining room that I could see into - hands above their heads, styrophome cups waving about as the pitch increased to 'donk, donk, donk, donk, don,don, don,don, do,do,do,do d,d,d,d, baaaaaaarp'.
I was removed, asked if it had 'passed well' - 'bien passé?' and shown back to the changing room.
Out in the reception area after a few minutes I was handed one of the large, beige, scan envelopes. 'No chat with doctor'? It was all in the envelope. 'Au revoir, Madame'.
Had they read my rambling notes? Possibly not. Anyway, there was nothing sinister noted, everything in the right place and no explanation for the trigeminal pains (see a few posts back).
This particular version of Trigeminal Neuralgia I negotiate around every now and then seems to be termed 'Atypical' or in fact, Atypical of an Atypical form, i.e no one has a clue what it is and/or what I can do about it, other than to smother it with fairly hefty drugs every day.
I'd rather just live with the attacks, and work out what's not good to do - another system of checking. It's rather like having a small sadistic personal trainer living within myself - check: don't drink coffee, not too much tea . . . oo, steady on, is that the third cup today? Very little alcohol, check: are you sitting in a good position, check: how long have you been sitting at the computer - enough. Get off your arse and go and do some digging/walking/looking at stuff long distance. OK, sorry. Yes, you're right. I was slumping and yes, it's time I got off this.


MIR scanner with its placid grey coating and one without. Might be more difficult to convince people to be slid into the second . . . and no wonder it's a tad noisy . . .

Monday, 4 December 2017

Things that turn out to be a good idea

This year when the chimney sweep arrived back in September he sighed at the sight of our awful old fireplace.
"Madame, il faut que vous débarrassez de ce truc. Vraiment, c'est dangereux!"
He swept, sighed more and handed me the piece of paper stating he has done the deed - with the box marked 'unfit', for the third year running.
I watched his van fart off down the road and thought, OK, I suppose we'd better do it then.


                        Bizarre fireplace we had inherited

So, we did.
The demolition was interesting, the selling of the apparatus on the 'Bon Coin' even more so. A bloke turned from Montpellier with a van and a mate. Even with them and the two builders it was almost impossible to get it in the van - the biggest, heaviest fire 'insert' any of them had ever seen. They did eventually tip it in then set off back up the motorway to install the thing, hopefully more carefully than it had been in our house.



The stove arrived. We'd gone for a 'Jotul' model, as although it was scarily expensive, I wanted something from a country where they really know about cold - Norway. It was installed, terrible 'making good' work done which had to be re-done when I complained to the shop owner (I've rarely seen a French man look embarrassed). I filled and patched up the remaining defects, painted the wall and we lit the first fire even though it was about 35 degrees outside.
Now, in December, I'm thanking the chimney sweep: no smoke-filled house, less wood used, more space in the sitting room, and above all, we are warm! all the time; it even heats upstairs by a simple operation of 'leaving the doors open'.
If you are reading this and considering buying a stove - get one. A big one, and, although it's an investment, preferably one made where they really know about cold.

More space, less soot, and total warmth

Saturday, 25 November 2017

39 years

That's the gap between the first time and the last time my bloke ate in Mac Donald's.
Here for your delectation is an interview with him on the subject:


                                                 Dr Lockett eating a small cake in Lourdes.

Me: "So, Dr Lockett. When did you first sample a Mac D's product?"

Dr L: "It was in LA in 1979 during a full-on filming session for - er, I forget the film title, one of those USA youth nostalgia things - American pudding or something. Anyway, I was in a band who were performing in a prom dance scene. Lunchtime arrived and we were bused to the place of the yellow arches - in McCarthy Vista (odd road name, eh?)
As a vacillating vegan/vegetarian/macrobiotic type. I remember feeling as if I was entering a giant plastic version of a Hieronymus Bosch painting full of hellish meat smells. Anyway, I decided to go the 'whole hog' as it were and ordered a Big Mac."

Me: "Nice?"

Dr L: Putrid. And vast. I also had strips of greasy cardboard called 'fries' and a vanilla milk shake the size of Florida."

Me: "So you felt quite full up then?"

Dr L: "Understatement."

Me: "So, fast forward to 2017, and your second Mc D tasting event. Why, in fact, did you go in one of these establishments."

Dr L: "Despite hanging around in a queue outside the 'Capitol' opera house, no-one had a ticket to sell, or rather there was some woman but she refused my reasonable offer and flounced off home to watch Netflix and probably bin the ticket rather than give way . . . where was I? Oh, yes. So I had to buy an actual box-office ticket and felt guilty about spending money on food too "- (sob).

Me: "And Mc Do was on the square, quick and cheap."

Dr Lockett: "Yes . . .yes. I admit, I entered the place."

Me: Did you see any leering clowns?"

Dr L: "No. But also few actual people. They seem to have installed sort of petrol-pump machines where you poke the screen to order what you want - or at least have resigned yourself to eating ."

Me: "Fish Mcmuffin? Locust-burger? a bag of salad?"

Dr L: "Don't hate me but . . . I did it - purely as an experiment and/or conceptual art piece. 39 years had passed so I ordered exactly the same things."

Me: Big Mac, fries and a vanilla milk shake."

Dr L: Nods. "Except they don't do milk shakes now. So I had a beer. That was OK."

Me: And the 'food'.

Dr L: "Putrid but not so vast - possibly the difference between the French and American market. I'd imagine now in LA you'd have to bring a trailer to 'take out' a Big Mac and fries."

Me: "What was the taste like:"

Dr L: "Fries - greasy cardboard - at least some things in life stay the same, eh? The meat. Oof. Right, let me think about this . . . tasteless, anaemic, steamed beige flannel, with a hint of kerosene."

Me: "Sound like the dog treats we give the hounds if they don't bugger off when we're on a walk."

Dr L: "No. Those are quite tasty."

Me: "So, will you be going into the place of the yellow arches again in 39 years time."

Dr L: "It's a date. I'll be a hundred. If I make it we'll both go and have a dystopia burger, fried grass and something distilled out of wasps."

Me: "OK. You're on. Thank you Dr Lockett for your time."


Jim Delligatti, inventor of the Big Mac. He died at the age of 98 so he must have steered well away, and consumed a lot of broccoli.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Building No 61

Building and pool - our local freshwater pool, fed by the incredible 'Alet' source that just runs and runs - even after this amazingly dry summer.
The pool is only open between July and September; its then cleaned and emptied and spends the rest of the year inviting people like me to imagine 1960s film set scenarios involving bronzed, perfectly teethed people clad in candy spotted bikinis or striped swim trunks with belts (see marvellous pic below), keep fit sessions on the poolside, martinis, and possibly Burt Lancaster passing through on his tour of residential pools in the neighbourhood.


Alet's wonderful 60s? early 70s? architecture

 A couple of groovy guys with belted trunks    And a happy spotty lady

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Taking the time

just to look - and refresh the other senses.
I have a fairly busy morning - post office, emails, phone calls, housework, editing, etc, and I nearly didn't join Mark on a dog walk, but I did, just to the point where I doubled back across the fields and they continued onwards. As a 'psychogeographic' nerd, and I don't know if this applies exactly-normally relating to more urban environments, I love to see familiar objects including people (and dogs) from far away in relation to myself.
So, I stood, or rather, leant into a sturdy cypress hedge out of the brisk northerly wind and waited for them to come into view along the sandy track that leads into the hills. I must have missed them, or they took a different path so I didn't see the figure of Mark and the three varying sizes of dog shapes pacing the path. But I did observe in detail everything else: the sunlight encroaching onto the distant hills, highlighting in green-gold every clump of brave trees that cling to their summits, the swift multi-toned clouds, black dots of birds, a red tractor - stark in contrast to all the autumn yellows and browns, the scent of cold earth and trodden grass, the sounds of nothing other than wind in branches.
It was perhaps only seven minutes or so, but nourishing for my senses about to be put back into normal daytime activities.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

I can't believe it's not, was, is, might be, might have been, maybe never again, butter

Interesting how we all act on 'scientific discoveries', or on what 'they' tell us - they being government groups set up to inform us about what we should be eating and doing in order to maintain our health.
I recall the NO FAT scare in the mid eighties? well, for the last few decades in fact. I had friends who went on scary diets where they would only drink skimmed milk, eat no fat yogurt and special no fat cereal bars, and cook with one squirt of an oil spray - not even a squirt, a microscopic misting of oil.

I was looking for an 80s diet food image but couldn't resist the sauna exercise suit . . .

We kept on with the butter - in fairly modest quantities. It tastes nice, where as Utterly Butterly, does not. We kept sloshing the oil into bolognese, stir-fries, curries and so on, and after having blood tests for a medical 'M.O.T' discovered that our cholesterol levels, etc, were fine.

It's like eggs in the 1970s. After Edwina Currie's (what sort of a name is that . . .) declaration that salmonella was present in most of the UK's eggs, sales crashed and four million hens were destroyed. It seems she had meant to say 'much' rather than most; what a difference a tiny word can make. However I think 'much' would have still had a fairly drastic outcome.

And how many veg and fruit a day is it now? Five? ten, eight and half, does that count peas? How many peas is a portion? Who decides all this and how much fruit and veg do they eat?

We're having a butter shortage in France at the moment which has been compared to shortages during the war. Shelves are devoid of the rectangular foil packets but plenty of Marge-U-Like, or whatever the French equivalents are. Apparently this is due to lower milk yields, a bad grazing year (dry weather) and massive exports of butter, cream and pastries to the newly-French patisserie-loving Chinese, who will no doubt in time be having a health crisis and told to eat, 'I can't believe it's not butter' instead.


                                                                         mm, yum

Rationing would probably be good, for our own sakes as well as the long-suffering dairy cows. Less butter, from better cared for animals. Anyway, we should all eat less of everything in our overloaded part of the world: less fat, certainly less sugar, less alcohol, less meat, more cabbage and lentils, and more education about how to cook, shop,  avoid food manufacturers hype, and take anything 'they' say with a massive shovel full of salt.


Monday, 6 November 2017