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Saturday, October 23, 2010

No Shortage of Spiders

Wow, I have some serious de-cobwebbing to do here! It's been three months since I've had time to post.

I'm no stranger to de-cobwebbing as anyone who lives in rural France well knows. Spiderwebs breed with lightning speed and I'm in danger of joining my compatriots in shrugging them off with the rationale that they're keeping the other bugs at bay. (France actually sells brooms specifically designed for spiderwebs, lest you think I exaggerate. And they're impressively efficacious!)

The cold weather in particular has spiders coming inside for warmth and not all can be ignored. Some are ethereal-looking and keep to themselves at ceiling height but others are just plain scary and prefer the floor. Invariably it's those, roughly the size of Delaware, which find their way into my bedroom, camouflaging themselves on the Oriental-style rug or blending in atop the dark, oak beams. Failing that, they surprise me first thing in the morning against the contrast of the white kitchen sink as I make my way downstairs to innocently set an empty water glass inside, causing me to shriek and potentially shatter the glass on the tile floor instead.  (I'm getting rather tired of sweeping up glass first thing in the morning.)

But it's silly to talk of spiders when there are so many other more pressing dangers now. Take, for instance, the gas shortages. France has been protesting mightily the recent austerity measures in raising its full retirement age from 65 to 67 to mirror other countries offsetting the dwindling work force versus the growing population of soon-to-be retirees. Regardless of inconvenience, I have to admire the French for their willingness to stand up as virtually one to be heard.

Still, it was disconcerting enough to see petrol stations sans diesel (gazoil, as it's called here). It made me glad I was driving a car with standard unleaded requirements. (Many French drive diesel cars because France makes its diesel prices attractive. I suspect all the farm equipment in this agricultural nation runs on diesel, although I have yet to see anyone point out the shortage effects on farmers, despite the fact that they're still harvesting their sunflowers and corn around here.) I was up in the city of Tours a few days ago and what we thought at first were traffic jams--unusual in and of themselves--were actually queues to gas/petrol stations. Then we saw empty stations with posted prices of 00000 which really gave us pause.

At one point as many as one in three stations were reported as completely dry and of course Sarkozy is implementing police and military forces to break open the strikers holding the fuel depots closed. I got as far as throwing half a dozen 5-litre plastic jugs that once held kerosene/paraffin into the back of my car but have yet to actually fill them with petrol. However, as the departure date of my parents looms ever closer (1st November), I fear the likelihood that even if their flight to the USA isn't cancelled and even if I manage to get them up to Paris for it, I won't have enough fuel for the ride home. It's a sobering thought indeed. But we have a few days yet to see whether the strikes will dwindle now that the Senate has passed the bill.

Makes those spiders seem a relatively minor inconvenience to contend with.