Thursday, January 23, 2014

Objects, known to be useful, considered to be beautiful - # 1

This artlessly artful composition in reds and black greeted me on the table top as we were preparing to leave for Mayenne.  Form following function, gear, tackle and trim, and the happy, serendipitous riffing on the colours, the way the ensemble seemed to be making a cheerful, glowing stand against winter and its vicissitudes, all filled me with such delight I brooked rolled eyes at the dilly-dallying and reached for the camera. It features the famous sock wool scarf, and a pair of Norwegian patterned fingerless mitts I made to keep it company for Christmas.  They were badly done, Emma, badly done, since my tension in the stranded work (the different colour patterns) was tight and snaggy, and I tried to follow an unnecessarily complicated pattern which insisted on counting all the stitches all the way round every time instead of just those involved in the making of the thumb, an act of repetitive numeracy my easily-distracted brain wasn't up to, so the stitch increases for said digit are all over the place and not pretty.  Never mind, with black wool and fierce blocking these things don't show too much, and the recipient likes them, seems to feel ill-at-ease now driving without them, and looks kind of adorable wearing them with the scarf and a chunky black hoodie (sorry Tom - yes my wife knits, why do you ask?) And from them I have learned where I went wrong, have come to understand the structure, sorted out a basic template and now have mittens more or less sussed.

The jump leads just make me happy anyway.  I went to my car the day after Boxing Day, it started, but one back wheel entirely failed to go round, and dug itself into the gravel of the drive in protest.  Nothing to be done but get the garage out.  The slip of a lad who hoisted it up on the truck neatly and kindly smoothed the gravel over with his boot, saying that they would probably need to replace the 'garniture'.  Quite what application this culinary term has to do with the car I'm still not sure, but I later gathered from the bill it meant pretty much the whole breaking caboosh. But they managed one or two workarounds to keep the price down without compromising safety or legality (quite), as they do, and had it done before I needed it on the Saturday.  I drove it back without any problem on the Friday evening, but come the next morning, the battery was as flat as East Anglia, so Tom had to drive me to St Brieuc (no, I don't drive his car, I'm a wimp and he doesn't trust me to; spare me the grown-up feminist disapproval). Tom was able to put his hand on the jump leads, which we have never had occasion to use since living here, but they were crappy lightweight plasticky ones and one of the clamps was hopelessly broken.  So it was back to the garage, who didn't have any in stock to sell us, but lent us a set enormous and heavy enough to jump start a combine harvester (literally, it's a garage that deals with as much heavy agricultural plant as domestic vehicles), went over the procedure for applying them (it had been a long time since Tom had used jump leads, I don't remember ever doing so) and ordered us a new set.

They are really quite lovely: heavy and firm and solid yet with a smooth, satisfying action and flexibility. They're glossy and sleek and smell rather good too.  We will probably never have to use them again, and will almost certainly never have to buy another set as long as we live, but I feel inclined to keep them on show somewhere purely for their beauty.

I like stuff, some of it.


marja-leena said...

My favourite colours of red, black and blonde wood!
I love the Norwegian pattern on the handwarmers.

the polish chick said...

love the gloves - love, love, love!

glad your car troubles got sorted out relatively painlessly. and believe me, to find a garage you trust is a rare miracle! i'd offer up burnt sacrifice, if i were you.

Catalyst said...

SWMBO ordered a round rug for our front entry to cover a rather distasteful crack in the tile flooring. She said it was red and beige in an Oriental pattern and that I would love it. I'm looking forward to it. BTW, I love your juxtaposing the jump leads with the woolies.

Roderick Robinson said...

I wonder if GMH ever suffered a flat battery? With jump leads, the thicker the better; it has to do with Ohm's Law which, I am pleased to say, outranks the law of the land. Even that of pragmatic France,

You say (am I wrong to suggest your tone is almost dismissive?) that you've never used them. That is as it should be with modern cars and modern batteries, although the owner can go even further by garaging his/her £15,000 car overnight rather than his/her £500 lawnmower together with a load of discarded furniture. Jump lead are similar in this sense to parachutes - how put out you feel when your plane decides to respond to the earth magnet and this is the day you left your parachute at the dry cleaner. The function of the car - however beautiful, however powerful - is to go; it is as Basil Fawlty has clinically defined "so basic". Even so the jump leads are not there so that you may borrow amps from elsewhere but as a theoretical specific for that much more pernicious English ailment, fear of embarrassment. Chances are you'll never need them but, better than that, they also provide the wherewithal for you to patronise a Frenchman who has extrapolated "never need" to "never have".

I know I should have expatiated on red and black (I am, after all, presently reading the eponymous book) but you don't want me here for my aesthetic sense.

Lyse said...

J'ai roulé en arrière sans aucun problème le vendredi soir, mais viens le lendemain matin, la batterie était plate comme East Anglia, si Tom a dû me conduire à St Brieuc (non, je ne conduis pas sa voiture, je suis une mauviette et il ne me fait pas confiance (ça c'est la traduction du net)
Tom ne serait il pas un peu macho ? Pauvre de nous les femmes!
Tu as trouvé de beaux objets de déco! il fallait y penser.

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

ML- Really, your favourites? I'll bear that in mind!

PC - I still miss our old garagiste, M Turbin, who was closer to hand and stood rather in the same relation to us as the family doctor or vet, though he could be a bit rougher and more inclined to take the piss. This lot are good though, I'm getting used to them.

Bruce - red is good with neutrals generally, though I prefer a grey and perhaps a more russet, or generally lower saturation, shade of red. Tom seems to be on a bit of a red and black kick lately! The composition of objects was there already, which is what caught my eye and my fancy, though I may have shuffled them a bit...

Robbie - I suppose the Terrible Sonnets emanated from a kind of state of spiritual flat battery. Or rather worse really. Embarrassment is not absent when one has to be driven about by one's husband like a 1950s materfamilias, but that's just false pride really, at being a 'mauviette' (adorable new word, see Lyse's comment) with a car-proud, doubting husband. I am grateful to live in an age when, along with the existence of really good dental anaesthetic, jump leads and flat batteries are very largely no longer a fact of life.

Lyse - bonjour! Non, non, je dois défendre mon mari! Il n'est pas macho, vraiment, mais il a peut-être raison d'être un peu méfiant et peureux de moi au niveau de la voiture, et le pauvre homme a besoin de garder quelque chose à lui. J'adore le mot 'mauviette' que je ne connaissais pas avant, et qui est vraiment plus jolie que 'wimp'!

C'etait mon premier essaie de tricoter des gants/mitaines, et très imparfait, mais il les aime bien néanmoins.

Roderick Robinson said...

I checked it out immediately; found personne chétive, which pleased me a lot. I first encountered the adjective in the diaries of Alan Clark, the Tory MP who was also a satyr. However, just to be sure, the online dictionary included: "(anglais), wimp". Two essential words, then.

Also liked your au niveau de la as a possible substitute for that ever odd verb s'agir de.

Zhoen said...

Pleasant collection of colors and textures.

Lucy said...

Robbie - 'chétive' is also rather good, though not one I remember hearing in conversation. I have never been certain about how to use 's'agir de' though one hears it often, so I avoid it. 'Au niveau de' seems to me to translate approximately as 'when it comes to' which is useful. The phrase has been firmly in my mind, ready for use, ever since my elderly neighbour, complaining that remarks which her bitchy contemporaries had, allegedly, made about her were unfair, since she had, she said 'une nature froide au niveau de la sexualité' (not something Alan Clark would ever have said). I was so astounded to be the recipient of this confidence that I memorised the phrase and have never forgotten it. She was an odd woman; even more notorious was the time I gave her some jam and she brought the empty jar back the next day. Had she eaten it already? I asked, surprised. No, she said, it had pips in and was not pleasant, she had thrown it away. I never gave her any food I'd made ever again. Last heard she had lost her marbles completely and was living near her son in the Avignon region.

Zhoen - thanks, yes, I thought so!

Roderick Robinson said...

You know I'm going to steal that, don't you?

Lucy said...

Help yerself!