Monday, 11 December 2017

Social music

Playing in a harmonie wind band isn't just about the music, it's about the social aspect too.  It's a good opportunity to meet with like-minded people and increase the circle of friends and acquaintances.  And on top of this, there is the opportunity to combine with other harmonies and groups in exchange visits and concerts.

This year, for our end-of-year concert, our harmonie at Ste Suzanne combined with three others to give a concert with 120 musicians on Sunday.  Four harmonies in total; four conductors who took turns at conducting the different pieces.  A good time was had by all.  The programme was of film music, starting with the dramatic Also Sprach Zarathustra, used in 2001 A Space Odyssey.

We of Ste Suzanne will be off in January to join the same groups for a joint concert at Bouguenais near Nantes.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Showery weather

A little walk today where the showers, heavy clouds and low sun made for some lighting effects.

Sunday, 3 December 2017


The déchetterie is where you take stuff to be recycled or disposed of, that is for whatever reason, not suitable for the smaller local bins provided.   For example, you take used engine oil there, half-empty paint tins and garden waste.  We have been going there a fair bit recently with garden waste.  Normally I shred and compost all the waste from my garden, but recently we have been cleaning an area that contains a lot of wild clematis.

Clematis is vile stuff; toxic and with a sap that, if you shred the plant, ends up in a fine spray and does nasty things to your eyes and lungs.  So we take it to the dump from where it is shredded along with other garden waste in industrial quantities by huge machines, then composted and distributed (sold?) to local farmers.

Our déchetterie has had a revamp recently.  It's much bigger than it used to be, with a big tarmac on-ramp, plenty of large containers for the rubbish, each one for dumping a different type of material.  There is a container for card, one for plastic, one for metals, and so on.   Much of it gets recycled.

Generally I'm in favour of recyling efforts, although I do wonder how efficient they are.  Does the Earth-saving value obtained from recycling my bins of plastic, glass and metal compensate for the use of diesel to drive there?  How about if you take into account the energy needed to build the place?  Would the planet be better off if I just let the clematis dry out then burn it?  I have no real idea.

Friday, 1 December 2017

First flurries

The UK is apparently under a blanket of cold, and France is getting a bit chilly.  The east of the country is apprently under several inches of snow and we have had the first flurries here.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Crisp day

A bright and crisp autumnal day, so an opportunity to walk around the lake at the Gue de Selle.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Useless units

The petrol pumps at our local supermarket have been upgraded.  There is now a button that you can press on the diesel pump to give a fast delivery.   You unhook the nozzle, press the button and you get diesel at the super-fast rate of 5 metres cubed per hour.

This is handy to know if you need to fill a 5 metre-cubed fuel tank; you can do it in an hour.  Or even a one metre-cubed one; you can fill it in 12 minutes.  The time to fill a normal car fuel tank of capacity say, about 80 litres needs a bit of calculation.   I hope you have a calculator handy.

5 metres cubed per hour is 5,000 litres in 3,600 seconds, or about 1.4 litres/second, or say 10 litres in 7 seconds.   So you can fill an 80 litre tank in just under a minute.

A posted delivery rate of 1.4 litres/sec would be helpful;  7 seconds for 10 litres might be even better.  But 5m per hour is useless.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Paris via Le Mans

I had not come across the word dystonia until August of this year.  I was at a flute course/holiday when our tutor (Philippa Davies, an amazing flute player and lovely person) discussed the symptoms of one of her colleagues, and I was forced to observe "that sounds like what I've got".

It started when I noticed that certain of my scales on the flute were no longer regular, as in regular as clockwork, that is, with the notes evenly spaced in time.  The problem was in moving from A to G going down the scale, which is achieved by the fourth finger of the left had pressing down the G key to cover the A hole.  (No jokes please).  The fourth finger, instead of just going down onto the key, was going up before going down, and I was completely unaware of this.

No problem, thinks I, a couple of weeks of careful practice in front of a mirror so that I can see what's going on, and all will be fixed.  Well I got the finger doing the right thing, but since then, my left hand stiffens up when asked to do certain specific actions, which results in incorrect rhythms and wrong notes.

After discussions with my doctor, other flute players and a pianist who has suffered a similar problem, I went to see a neurologist in Paris.  A lovely guy, a New Zealander, specialist in musicians' problems, and he confirmed I have a focal dystonia.  Basically this means I have to reset certain aspects of my playing technique from zero; correction takes a long time.  Researching online finds, for example, a guitarist who claims to have emerged completely from the problem, after 7,000 hours of practice.

This could be a problem, given that 7,000 hours represents about 20 years at an hour per day which is my usual rate of practice, and I'm 61.  I might have to re-think my participation in various activites to ensure that I'm only involved in things that I can actually do.
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