Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The big gas hunt and other tales

Here is, at last, a shaggy dog story from the week before christmas:
It is monday evening (dark and not stormy, but rather cold), at about 5.30pm. Max is in the kitchen beginning to prepare things for a big dinner, and I, having returned from school and being somewhat tired, am sitting at my computer writing email (or something of the sort). "Annie," says Max, somewhat hesitantly, "do you feel like going for a little walk?" "Yes," says I, "why not?" "Are you sure? We need some more gas…" "Ah," says I, "now I see what you did there." But up I get, willing to go and do the duties, on the grounds that the boys are going to cook exciting dinner. I should explain–we have no mains gas in our kitchen so buy it every month in a returnable bottle. I check the map for where the gas shop is–only a short walk away really, but I decide I may as well get the metro one stop down the line and then depending how heavy the thng is, perhaps walk back. So off I go. Around the corner, I begin to have doubts: the place looks awfully shut. Sure enough, it doesn't open on Mondays. Thanks to Orange unlimited numbers, I call Max's mobile. "Annie!" he says, brightly. "Max, c'est fermé" "Non! Impossible!" Max sounds as if the end of the world is nigh as he has visions of his feast going to pot, as it were. "See my computer on the table?" I say, "go to www.pagesjaunes.fr and search for quincaillerie." Several minutes later, after much swearing at my computer for being a mac, and a few fusses with how to search the whole of Lyon, we discover that the next nearest is at Place Guichard. Three metro lines later, I step out of the metro with my gas bottle and trot to number 82 rue de la Part Dieu. A sinking feeling grows as I approach what looks remarkably like a locksmith. "Bonsoir, est-ce que vous faites le plein de gaz?" "Non, désolé" "Merci, au revoir". As I feared. I retreat out of the door once more, retrieve my phone from my pocket and at that moment receive a message from Max that hadn't delivered as I'd been in the metro: "I just rang them, they don't have it." Great. So i ring him again: "okay, where do I go now then?" It turns out I don't really want a quincaillerie, but rather, a petrol station. Racking my brains for where I may have seen one, I decide it's better if I just stay put and get Max to do the work. 15 minutes later, he and antonia have been on the phone to a few and the nearest bet they reckon is some unknown shop in the shopping centre. So i pop on the metro, arrive in a heaving shopping centre in full pre-christmas swing, and am just studying the floor plan to see quite where one might find gas refills, when Antonia phones: "We just rang the reception and they say impossible, there's no such shop." Another twenty minutes go by: I am beginning to think that if I have to get somewhere before it shuts at 7, I'd jolly better get going. We consider the option of getting a double-sized bottle from one place that's run out of little ones, but that weighs 13.5 kilos and we'd have to go back to that place next time to change it, so we're not too keen. Eventually I am sent to Sans Souci (two more metro lines) where I am already famous, as Antonia has spent a good 15 mins on the phone to this petrol station. "I'm going to give you propane, not butane" he says. "And it makes no difference?" The reality appears to be that despite it being "déconseillé", it will make no difference…but we must remember to change back to butane next time. Slightly dubious, I thank him and set off home with the wrong sort of gas, and just over two hours after beginning my 'little walk', I step through the door of the flat to loud cheers from my flatmates. Here's to hoping we don't blow the flat up. But so far so good.

And it made a VERY good dinner. So good, in fact, that we were not hungry again for three days! A starter of duck, spinach and goat's cheese salad was followed by beef cooked in duck fat and butter with a buttery onion sauce, a very creamy potato gratin, and haricots verts. For dessert, a mango sponge finger tart-like thing made by Max–and that's not to mention cheese, papillotes, and plenty of wine. The quantities were absurd– there were five of us (Gareth, Greg, Max, Antonia and I) but there was enough food to feed at least eight or nine people. Mmmm.

That was Christmas, more or less. Although the next evening Gareth decided we should be introduced to Quenelles, and so Max, Rebecca and I savoured the delights of these bizarre fish-flavoured dumplings. Odd, I think was the general conclusion. Just odd. After this very Lyonnais experience, Rebecca and I trotted off to see the new Branagh film of the Magic Flute (La Flûte Enchantée) at the Astoria cinema. With Amy Carson (recently of Trinity College Cambridge) in the lead role as Pamina, we were happy to find ourselves in the company of only a handful of other people, so could get as excited as we liked about our rather distant claim to fame (I once played in a concert she sang in; Rebecca had lectures with her). The film has a screenplay written by Stephen Fry, and is set in the 1st world war. Odd. But superb–definitely a must-see. See also Becca's blog for more about the film (link on right hand side of this page).

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