Thursday, September 28, 2006

Do not trust the horse

As Virgil – the famous British airline – said to the Trojans: ’Do not trust the horse. I fear the Geeks, even when bearing gifts’.
This is about what are laughingly known as online HELP Lines. HELP is a link even less useful than CONTACT US. Is it just me, or do others find the advice they give totally incomprehensible? If I could understand that stuff I wouldn’t need the HELP line. (I don’t even understand the questions.) The answers are written by geeks for geeks, who see incomprehensibility as their job security. I pay my taxes just like everyone else: is it fair that I, someone of reasonable – I thought - education and intelligence, should feel chronically inadequate? I only wanted to make a minuscule change to my template: but it will have to stay as it is.

Did I mention rain? Nonsense – the weather is perfect: blue skies, calm blue sea and a similar forecast for the weekend. Everyone told us to relaxez-vous, so we are. We picnicked among the olive trees on top of Mont Boron yesterday. It looks down on the Bay of Nice to the west and Villefranche to the east, and on the summit, near the Radio/TV transmitters, lives Elton John. Chateau Elton is harder to enter than Fort Knox, but as we came past his entrance, someone was about to drive in, so we tried to sneak a look inside, hoping to see his personal Schutzstaffel armed with AK 47s, but I drove by too quickly and all we got was the clang of iron gates.

Our neighbours recently invited us for an apéro – short for aperitif. The abbreviation seems to imply politely that you need not stay too long. French abbreviations not only save time, they save newsprint. You’ll rarely see ‘adolescent’ in a French newspaper headline: ‘ado’ is enough. ‘Profs’ are teachers, ‘bac’ is graduation, and so on. Acronyms are also permitted, but can be confusing: NATO being OTAN and the UN being ONU.
But don’t try it with someone’s name, especially writers and politicians: Brits may have their Toms, Dicks and Freds, but Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean-Luc Mendès-France must remain precisely and polysyllabically that. We have a friend called Marie-Yvonne, whose name you abbreviate at your peril.

You probably know about boules – the game played by French males on cigarette-end-strewn patches of rough ground to prove their manhood and exclusivity. There’s a national boules tournament with a difference going on in the next town, Beaulieu. It’s called boules carrées, and is played with square balls – honest.

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