Thursday, October 25, 2007

An Unlikely Duo

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss???

Yes! Go to iTunes and check out the tracks on Raising Sand.

Alternatively, the Daily Telegraph have a free download of Killing the Blues if you happen to be able to play WMV files. Because the Telegraph is Apple-unfrendly I am not inclined to pass on a link. Sorry about that! Oh, you really do want it? OK!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Travel ain't Glamorous!

To all the people I've ever met who think that modern air travel is glamorous:

Ooh! You're so lucky having the opportunity to sit in an economy seat all the way to Kinshasa

May I recommend this sad tale.

Stolen!!

On our return from France we have discovered two garden statues have been nicked. Here is one of them, thoughtfully captured on Flickr some time ago:
Backyard Adonis
The other is shown here:
STOLEN!
It carries quite a story even though it is only a piece of moulded concrete. When we moved into a townhouse in Houston ten years ago, we went looking for a garden statue but garden center after garden center could only offer religious statues and we wanted something a bit more interesting! Finally we found a small garden center in Montrose run by a very nice gay guy. The statuette subsequently followed us to our apartment, then into a container for shipment to England. Most recently it found a temporary home in our front yard. That is until some evil person took a shine to it while we were away.

So, if you should see either of these at a boot sale, please send us an e-mail with the details! I am quite sure the lady will be unique to this side of the pond.

Exploding Flowers!

One of the most attractive plants in the garden where we stayed in Languedoc is what I have called the "Bottle Brush Plant". This example is a beautiful shade of red:
Exploding Bottle Brush
I took this shot with the wonderful Micro-Nikkor 60mm f2.8 lens. The flower isn't, of course, actually exploding, but the way the petals emerge from the buds certainly gives that impression. Time-lapse photography would be impressive.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Observations on Roadside Picnics

Having just returned from France we were struck by the huge differences in their roadside amenities compared with the UK. This particularly applies to the Southeast of England where it is difficult to even find a place to pull off the road to read a map, never mind eat a picnic lunch.

OK, we're old-fashioned. We like to picnic when traveling. We like freshly prepared food, clean tables, comfortable blankets, our own picnic hamper. We also like to stretch our legs, to use clean toilets. In fact, we try to do what the road signs tell us: "Take a Break, Tiredness Kills". (BTW, Google came up this link from Salford City Council!)

Take a hypothetical, yet very common type of journey toward the Channel Tunnel. For most drivers, there will be only two motorway service stations between the far side of London, say Oxford on the M40, and Folkstone. One of these is on the M25, an orbital ring road that is often a parking lot, where cars and trucks can be stuck for hours after an accident. The other is at Maidstone, not far Folkstone.

Approaching lunchtime on October 4th we left the M25 and went in search of a picnic spot somewhere on the Sussex/Kent border. But they don't even have lay-bys in this area! Eventually we saw a sign to Chartwell, Winston Churchill's home, now owned by the National Trust. Free parking (for members and non-members), clean toilets and picnic tables overlooking fine scenery. Salvation!
Chartwell
In France the situation is very different. On the toll (péage) autoroutes the facilities are generally first class, but even on the non-toll autoroutes the facilities will include toilets and picnic tables some distance from the noise of the traffic. The first photo below is of an aire southwest of Paris, on the L'Aquitaine Autoroute.
French Autoroute "Aire"
The second is at the other end of the country, on the La Languedocienne between Narbonne and Bezier. In this case we shunned the picnic tables and spread out a blanket on the pine needles.
Getting Close!
Now, I am sure that the first lame excuse to be offered by the UK authorities is that land in the UK costs so much more than in France. Maybe so, but why have those signs exhorting us to take a break when tired if there is no place to go?

Back in the Nanny State!

We arrived home from France last night, tired but well and truly recharged. And 108 bottles of good French wine should keep us in fine fettle during the winter months ahead.

But what do we find upon our return? This article sums up what we were missing in France. Yes, the nanny state! We don't smoke but we do understand that others do and as such have the right to smoke without being classed as "registered addicts"!

I will probably never use the correct letters on the keyboard but this is, simply, f***ing stupid!

And having got that off my normally conservative chest, let me observe that the jerk who proposed this idea is a Government consultant who probably gets paid far too much for thinking, even more for writing and speaking, and who then has the gall to suggest a £200 fee from each smoker that will cover his expenses and fill the Treasury coffers. By the way, he has other ideas on how to impose his ideas on you, so do take a look at the first link to get an idea of what is also being proposed.

You know, the French really do do things differently!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

In case you were wondering. . . .

We are in France. Lots to come but rare Internet means this is it for the time being!