Thursday 27 November 2014

Stupid inventions of our time: the leaf blower

Sorry if you have one, but I must share my feelings of incredulity over this particular piece of equipment.

Pros and cons of The Rake.                              

Will rot down in time when eventually discarded
Silent, apart from a satisfying small scratching sound
Good exercise, unless you suffer from tennis elbow (leaf-raker's elbow)
Psychologically-non damaging: the operator can listen to birdsong, chat with someone who
might have been beguiled into leaf-help; think about life, leaves, trees, food, whatever, lulled by the peaceful and useful motion of raking an sweeping

Cons: Standing on rake and it flipping up into one's face as in Tom and Jerry cartoon

Pros and cons of the Leaf-Blower
(Writer rubs hands, flexes fingers and grins) Right:

Pros: Er . . .

Won't rot down when discarded, or certainly not within our species lifetime
Horribly noisy
Embarassing, unless you like wearing yellow plastic ear muffs while holding a vibrating rigid grey tube (there are sites for people like you, in this case)
No exercise value - tendonitis and back ache more likely
Very polluting - both in noise and fumes
Psychologically damaging: trapped in ear muffs, no birdsong, etc, element of stress from noise and fact that someone might creep up on you in your leaf-blowing world
Possible climatic alteration from all the leaf blowing-winds added up . . .

Great picture I found on the web apropos the War on Leaves.

Also a good example of the waste element. Leaves are meant to fall and create leaf-mush for the soil, so why remove them from the area around the tree? The patch that SEVEN men are homing in on
could be cleared in about five minutes with a rake or broom. Maybe it's part of a scheme to provide work: great, but why waste the petrol? Pick up a rake.
Yesterday in our town the annual leaf war has started.
Three guys with afore-mentioned equipment and a sucky leaf truck. The sucky leaf truck seems a good idea on the whole: a truck with caged sides and giant hoover tube on the back. So why not just have the guys with rakes and brooms - for all the reasons above? It was especially 'Huh'? when the wind got up adding to the leaf-blowage, creating attractive brown and golden spirals; then to redistribute the piles over the road and into shop doorways.

Right, better load up car with rake and other human-driven tools and get over to my gardening job where I shall listen to birds and think about other useless inventions.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Building no 46

At last I went in this café!


Every time I go to Mirepoix, (about half an hour from us) I pass this building and waver dangerously in the road for a moment wondering whether to stop, such is it's allure for me - an ardent fan of ancient eateries and bars.
This time I stopped as Ezra wanted to go and look at the ghost tracks of the railway that would have traversed the landscape between Bram and Mirepoix (why, why, why did they dispose of this incredibly useful connection . . . subject of another post.)
We hesitated by the doorway while I asked if we could bring the dogs in. The owner looked unimpressed, but softened as he noticed the tiny three-legged runt dog. Satie has his uses . . .  Once you get beyond the, "Mais, Madame . . . what happened to his leg?" questions, you can ask lots of others back, like: "how long have you owned the café, is that a picture of you hunting with your own faithful hound, and do you serve chips, etc.
The owner and his mates were so taken by both dogs that The Wife had to be called to inspect them. We had a long chat about dog types, what The Spanish do to their hunting dogs (Gala, see previous posts, is one of these) and life in Moulin Neuf.
We finished our drinks, took photos of the wonderful interior and bade a cheerful goodbye, after suggesting they should never change so much as a drawing pin of the place. He assured us that nothing would ever be replaced, painted or disposed of while he was captain there.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Building No 45

A toilet . . . in an olive grove. I assume it's a loo, or perhaps a slim potting shed, or just a small human-sized space for standing and contemplating life in.

The elegant Whatever It Is stands in a bountiful-looking 'potager' (veg patch) and olive field just outside a village near us. I've often driven past the land and wondered who owns and looks after it so methodically.
This time I stopped and walked the dogs up the road.
On returning, I saw the owners: two rotund, elderly men; buckets suspended from their shoulders, each holding a small, yellow plastic rake; their voices somewhat raised. Suddenly I had the feeling that I had stumbled into a chapter of Alice in Wonderland - Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee arguing over whose rake is the most attractive . . .
They proceeded to the first olive tree and stroked the laden branches with the rakes, thus dislodging the crop into the buckets. Brilliant notion: I might try it on the straggly trees that line the hillside next to our garden . . . or, probably not, as I still haven't found out how you prepare olives to make them remotely edible.
I said hello, and discovered that the olives would be destined for oil production. I wanted to ask them why they appeared to have part of a train sitting on top of another building near the toilet, but they were not effusive beyond 'Bonjour' and 'yes - oil production', so I did a sneaky bit of vegetable- reportage photography, noted the beauty of their cabbages and crumbly loamy soil, and went home to think about constructing a dry-earth loo in the garden.

Friday 7 November 2014

NON, c'est pas possible . . .

But it is. I always thought of here, (France) being quite sensible about the Christmas onslaught.
Usually, the consumerism madness commences within the sacred month of December . . . well, perhaps a few hints from the larger companies, especially the global types such as Amazon - Bonjour, madame. We notice you have been looking at Star Wars figurines, (uh? I have?) therefore, why not get your Christmas purchases out of the way?
This year, sadly, there have been increasing signs of early festive enthusiasm. The streets are already hung with (unlit) strands of coloured lights and annoying LED figurines of happy elves, etc; and I've noticed that a lot of villages leave their 'Bonnes fetes' signs up all year now: grey plastic ghosts of Christmas that seem incongruous to say the least on a rampantly hot August day. I suppose it saves money, the town caretaker not having to get his ladder out twice a year - but it does somewhat quash any real festive spirit that might be lurking in HUMBUG people like me.
Anyway . . . the real reason I felt instantly depressed at the thought of all the twinkly, nightmare stuff still to come appeared on a trip into our local hardware 'shed'. I only went in to buy a light bulb, but was transfixed with disbelief as I stared at a Santa's Grotto type shed, surrounded by hideous, useless items such as statues of fairies, polar bears, Ho-Ho-Ho water bottle covers, etc, etc, and presided over by a gyrating cuddly reindeer singing 'Santa Claus is coming To Town'.
'The fuck he is,' I muttered, and hurried to the lighting section fearing I would never again be able to smugly say - 'Oh, we don't really start all that rubbish until at least December the first, here'.

Monday 3 November 2014

unheralded stupidity

We all have moments of it, I'm sure. Yesterday I had slightly more than a few moments - about four hours.
It amazes me that I can set off on a route: mentally and physically sometimes, actually, quite often, without thinking things through.
This route was the motorway to Toulouse to pick friends up from the airport (about an hour and a half each way). I removed dog hairs from their car's upholstery (they lodge the car with us) checked I had necessary route equipment: banana, snacks, tin of sardines, water, map, etc, and set off with the flight info in mind.
The car radio didn't seem to work so I looked at the autumn trees, wondered about number plates and arrived in good time. I parked, looked for the gate number and walked through the echoey marble arrivals area to wait for them to arrive, laden down as usual with many mysterious black-bagged shapes (art photographer/sculptor - he is).
After falling asleep for an hour on a rather comfy leather sofa I realised that the time had well and truly gone for them to arrive, however much baggage, and thus, questioning, they would have been confronted with.
I went to INFORMATION and was told there was another flight from Portugal coming in at five. My phone, that I thought I had charged, was showing a merest drip of battery juice left. I called Mark from a payphone (they still exist!) and he said something like: 'you idiot - check your emails more carefully. Come back!'
Yes, the wrong Sunday. How had I not seen the date? or registered it? Mysterious workings or non-workings of the menopausal woman's mind perhaps. I said lots of stuff like 'bollocks' and headed to the car park ticket machine, which then ate my debit card. I went to find assistance - a rotund man, who insisted on asking all his colleagues that he passed where they were going for lunch, escorted Sweating Me back to the machine.
'Stand aside, please, Madame, I will deal with this,' he said, in manner of bomb-diffusing expert, and fished out my card.

I once again looked out at the autumn trees and thought about number plates as I headed homeward. In fact it was quite a useful time, once I had put all the calculations of wasted petrol/parking/tolls/time, etc, aside. I visualised a cover for my next book, worked out story lines and then stopped to open a tin of sardines on top of a hill in a village I had never visited before. I watched the clouds scudding across the crests of the black mountains, and wondered how Mark would greet me on my return.
As I stomped up the steps to the house, he came out, eyed me wryly and said, "Good trip?" Quite generous I thought.