Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It wasn't what I thought

Last November I wrote about being stung by a European hornet. In fact it was an Asian Giant Hornet. (Picture is not for the squemish) These hornets didn’t exist in France until around 2004 when they accidentally arrived in a shipment from China. They are a steadily spreading throughout France. One of the main problems is that they kill bees in large numbers, have a nasty sting and it is very difficult to dispose of their nests. No one knows how to get rid of them, the powers that be are hoping that climatic conditions or disease will kill them off

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Greenpeace protest

Yesterday morning there were some special visitors who came to visit the Saint Nicolas tower– but not for the view.

This week has been the annual Summer University for the socialist parties in France. They always come to La Rochelle. The election for a new President will be next year and the socialists have to decide who amongst them will be the candidate for the parties on the left. There is much debate about this. Not much is said about what they will be doing about unemployment, crime, finance, education, health and… nuclear power stations.

These members of Greenpeace decided to ask the socialists “85% of French Socialists say no to Nuclear Power, what about you?” They are very careful about safety as you can see in the first picture. Unfortunately the wind picked up as they took their banner down.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

31°c = 87°f

That’s what the thermometer says. Fortunately I can close the shutters to keep out the sun and open all of the windows so the house stays reasonably cool. It’s still very hot though. Surprisingly enough, I’ve been seeing and hearing flocks of birds gathering. It can’t be migration time already, can it?

I’m off to look up cold accompaniments for cold chicken. We should have rain and thunder after midnight - Whew!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Time traveller II

This postcard was sent in 1915. German Officers, now prisoners of war, are being escorted separately from their men. I did some research and discovered that sunglasses weren’t worn in the 20th century until 1929. Though forms of ‘sunglasses’ have been worn for many centuries. Can you see the man wearing them? As far as I can see the card has not been tampered with.

Is he another Time Traveller?

Monday, August 15, 2011

All aboard the Transbordeur

Last Friday Rob and I went for a day out and spent some of the time visiting the transbordeur de Martrou (Transporter Bridge) near Rochefort sur Mer. The bridge was built in 1900 by Ferdinand Arnodin, who built several in his time. The bridge at Rochefort is the only one left working in France, The rest were destroyed in WW2. Passengers and vehicles were pulled across on a platform, driven by steam. I was amazed at how quiet and smooth the trip was, although no longer powered in the same way.

Since I’ve been selling vintage postcards I’ve learnt to appreciate bridges. Look at the beautiful patterns of the girders. Mr Arnodin, who didn’t learn to read and write until he was nine because he used to play truant, loved solving problems.

The bridge was in use until 1967 and also appeared in the film 'The young Girls of Rochefort' (new link) released the same year (If you watch till the end you'll see how the bridge works). Now after being restored and made safe since the 1990s, tourists can cross back and forth, visit a very interesting exhibition about the bridge and explore the surrounding countryside.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

We didn't see them go by!

Around Christmas 2009, Rob and I were having a cup of coffee...

...when Google Earth passed by

Friday, August 05, 2011

Impromptu music

Dom and J-M came to stay last weekend. We had good weather – yes, there was about one weekend’s worth. On Saturday evening we sat outside and had a barbeque. A little while before we were to start a neighbour knocked on the door and informed me that they were having some friends from Quebec. He explained that it might be a little noisy later on. I thanked him and told him that we could tolerate a little noise as he had been so polite.

We were just having a little drink while the barbeque was warming up, when I heard someone paying a banjo. A bass guitar joined in next, followed by an acoustic guitar and later some drums. While we were eating we were treated to a jam session and some blues! It was brilliant. They can make noise like that as often as they like. Once the music had stopped there was very little noise. We heard cars leaving a little after midnight. What nice neighbours we have!

I phoned Dom earlier, she was just finishing the writing of her first paper. By now she’s on holiday for two weeks. They are moving. They’ve found a new flat/apartment at the top of the road where Olivier has just moved out of. It sounds really lovely, they‘ll have an extra room that will act as an office. I hope that we’ll be able to visit them soon.

Am I the only one that thinks that time seems to have speeded up recently?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Phnd md qtuhgick!

The ‘good’ start to last week continued: On Tuesday, the Renault 5 needed to go to the garage for a service. I don’t know the way there so Rob said ‘Follow me’. It worked really well until I had to wait for 10 cars to go by before changing roads. We hadn’t discussed where I should head for if he went too far ahead. No signposts to the part of town where the garage is. I pulled in it call Rob, but it didn’t help me much as I didn’t know where I was. He advised me to head into town and go to the garage from there (I know that route).

So I was in the middle of town in heavy traffic slowing down and the car stalled. I kept calm, turned everything off, put on the hazard lights and checked that the car was out of gear ready to start up again. The car refused to start. With a lot of impatient drivers whizzing round I started to panic. A nice young man offered to push me onto the kerb, which just happened to be an empty parking space. I was so grateful. He then ran off to help a young woman who had fallen over (‘Tomorrow’s News’ or a Guardian Angel ?). With shaking hands I sent Rob a text message, the title of this post is what I wrote. He realized something was wrong and phoned me back straight away from the garage. The garage manager has been looking after us for 25 years now, so he listened over the phone while I tried to start the car again.

They both came to rescue me and our garage man replaced the spark plugs and took the car off to service. When we collected it the following day he presented us with the bill – no charge for coming out to fetch the car.

It does pay to build a good relationship with your local garage, even if you don’t know where it is. Unfortunately he’ll be retiring at the end of the year.