Showing posts from October, 2020

A week of holiday, then confinement

 We've had a week of holiday this week, during which I have studiously and furiously avoided anything resembling work. We didn't actually go away, but we signed up for some guided walks in Bordeaux. On Tuesday we did "Bordeaux, the plague and coronavirus". It was fascinating. We walked the old town walls and saw some streets that were so badly infested with plague that the city authorities just burnt them down. We saw how the city was ravaged by successive waves of plague and of cholera, how the water supplies were easily contaminated, how the gates were closed to any outsiders and how the level of deatsh in the surrounding areas so deprived the city of nourishment that the Bordelais resorted to eating the moss off the trees, the dogs, cats and rats and, allegedly, the dead. Wednesday brought "300 heads in 300 days" and we saw the traces in the town of the amazing "Year 2" of the revolution, otherwise known as "The Terror" when the calend

What a weekend!

David and Goliath for Deeside tomorrow morning. Frances' and Benjamin's wedding tomorrow afternoon. "Free to not" on Sunday. I get all the best moments!

Bordeaux and the curfews

 France has imposed curfews (in French - couvre-feu) on the most seriously affected areas of France. Almost all of New Aquitaine escapes curfew - only the Atlantic Pyrenees department, right down in the south on the Spanish border is under curfew. Curfew means that from 9pm to 6am you have to be at home. It is designed to get people out of bars and clubs and restaurants and all places where you mix socially, hang around and snack and drink together. It also curtails concerts and shows, of course, as well as the life of churches and other groups midweek. For the moment we're OK. Our stats are mixed just now, some improving, others deteriorating, but we're hopeful.

Les espaces verts, continued

 Work continues apace on the future Jardins de l'Ars. Here's some photos, including a pile of old railway tracks.

A dreadful murder

 France is reeling from the decapitation in the street of a history teacher in Paris who became the target of a teenage religious radical. I only know what the news madia is telling us, so for more information on what happened you would do better to look there, but I'll make one small observation. A couple of weeks ago the French government announced a plan to try to combat radicalisation of young people. The plan includes making home-schooling illegal. All children would have to attend schools that are contracted to respect the national curriculum.  Some parents think it is very important to teach their children at home and there have been protests against this projected law. 

On words

 Nightmare. One example. Casserole. Here's the French definition : 1. Ustensile de cuisine de forme cylindrique, à manche ; son contenu. 2. FAMILIER Mauvais piano. It means a saucepan with a handle. You can get a batterie de casseroles , but let's not get too ambitious. I grew up in South Wales in an English-speaking household. From time to time my mother would cook a casserole, which was a kind of stew, but cooked slowly in the oven typically in a "Pyrex" oven-proof glass dish often referred to as a Pyrex Casserole.You could make chicken casserole or beef casserole and you'd know what you'd get. You could buy a set of Pyrex casseroles for a wedding present so people would start their married life with a matching set in different sizes. American friends understand something completely different by the word casserole. They make "green bean casserole" and I don't have any idea what that means at all. Now that's just one word, but in our vocabul

Les espaces verts

 So it's confirmed. What we suspected. Hoped. Watched for. Hailed from afar. This morning when Patricia left the flat she saw a guy in a yellow vest and a hard hat directing affairs. When she returned he was still there. So she asked him what stage the project is at. And he said that in the far corner they're about to begin construction of the new school of cinema, and everywhere else they're working on the gardens (les espaces verts). Here's two photos, one from about a week ago and one from today.

'Flu jab

 Both Pat and I get letters telling us to get a 'flu jab. I guess I've been having them for about 20 years or more thanks to being asthmatic. Anyway the letter came the other week. Here in France the system has changed over the years.  At first :  Take the letter to the doctor. Get it stamped. Take the stamped letter to the pharmacy. Get the vaccine. Take the vaccine to the doctor. Get it injected. Two doctor's appointments. Then : Take the letter to the pharmacy. Get the vaccine. Take the vaccine to the doctor. Get it injected. Then:  Take the letter to the pharmacy. Get the vaccine. Get a nurse to come to the house. Get it injected. Then two years ago: Take the letter to the pharmacy. Get the vaccine and get it injected. A one-stop vaccine shop. The problem was that people don't get vaccinated. Even with the one-stop shop we only achieve a 50% take-up rate. That may change this year, though, of course. Meanwhile even if you aren't called for a vaccine you can get

A hard decision

 In France we can sing together, on condition that we be masked and keep our distance. So we sing in church and in choirs. However there is some discussion about the utility and even the danger of masks. In one choir there was a full and frank email discussion about the dangers to the brain of a build-up of carbon dioxide and the toxins that we naturally exhale. I weighed in applying my training in biology and the observation that surgeons regularly work for hours masked with no ill effects to their brains - and we entrust our lives to their skill. This may not have been wise on my part. Enough said. But we sing masked. In the choir I usually sing with I was sat about halfway to the back and noticed at least four people singing but with the mask below the nose. Had I been at the front of the room singing I would not have noticed them at all, of course. Conducting I may have sene more. I'm not that afraid of catching the virus. But I am very keen to avoid generating a cluster of inf

When the lift doesn't work

 One thing about living in a flat is that it is flat. I don't know if that's why we call it a flat, but it's flat all the same. In a house you go up and down and climb stairs, but not in a flat. From the bedroom to the kitchen to the balcony to the office - it's all flat. So those days when you don't leave the house - and there are too many of them - mean that you hardly move at all! Thus it was for me yesterday and the day before when waiting for some things to arrive from Amazon. We've had some issues with Amazon delivery recently so when they said something was coming I decided to stay in and wait.  I'd checked the mail already - our mailbox is four floors below us so we either scamper down the stairs and scramble back up or we take the lift. This time I trotted down and scuttled back up, but the box was empty. (Aware of too many days when I go neither out nor come in, I like to run up the stairs.) Then came the call. "Amazon delivery. We're in f

Waiting patiently for my hospital appointment

 Having worked through my horror, then dread, then terror of the screening that I must undergo, I came to terms with it by remembering my father's illness that resulted in his death at the age of 69. His last few years were punctuated by one surgical procedure after another. If screening might enable me to avoid a similar course, then let's do it!  However, my procedure is a screening where there are no symptoms of disease. Covid has doubtless caused delays in dealing with people who do have symptoms, so a wait is to be expected.  A few things should be certain, I should get an appointment within three months of seeing the anaesthetist, and I should get at least a week's notice because I have some preparations to accomplish before the procedure itself

Les Jardins de l'Ars

 It is difficult to resist the strong impression that the work on landscaping the gardens has begun. Many diggers are moving earth around, piling it into numerous large lorries that then take it away, we know not where. A roller rolls. Some new piles of soil have appeared. Walls have been demolished. Fencing panels are piled up alongside small heaps of gravel.  It could conceivably be the works for clearing the space for the new school of cinema which will be built somewhere around here, but no holes are being dug for foundations. I guess that we will find out in the next week or so.

Brighter before bedtime

A couple of things have helped.  Catrin came round and clowned around with music. A future bride came round to eat, and to plan her wedding in three weeks' time. I listened to Vaughan-Williams' Fantasia on a theme of Tallis.* I took a nap. I needed it, too, after a short and disturbed night. My preparation for tomorrow morning and for Sunday. * one bright spot in the covid experience has been the artists finding new ways to reach the public with their music: the pianist Igor Levit's micro-concerts, Voces8 and Apollo5 and so on with their chamber choir stuff, orchestras performing from unusual halls, the Wigmore Hall broadcasting wonderful singers. I can't always spare an evening or the cost of a ticket for a concert in Bordeaux but here world-class music has come to our homes, and I'm very thankful.


 "Covid-fatigue fuels the second wave in Europe" read the headline.  I know whereof they speak. In every sphere of life you're hitting against walls of regulations and weighing risks and priorities.  A wedding - what can we do and what can't we do? How many can eat, where and how? Can people wait outside to greet the couple?   In a choir one guy sings with a visor rather than a mask. "It's better." he says. In another choir various folks have adopted the "under the nose" manner of wearing their mask - the cloth-stache. Have folks to your home and they're supposed to keep 1m apart. That means no meal round the table, no games, no proximity. So today I have covid-fatigue. But tomorrow, by the gace of God, I'll be up and at them again.