Thursday, 17 January 2019

Winter Iris

I didn't know that you can get Iris plants that flower in Winter.  I was given a small clump a few years back, and I put them near the kitchen window so I don't have to go outside in mid-Winter to see them.   They seem to like it there.   Here they are, in full flower in mid-January

Sunday, 13 January 2019


The care and feeding of orchids, or of this one, at least.  Put it outside in Summer, bring it in before the frosts.  A bit of water.  It's flowering now, it seems to be happy enough, but with a few dead bulbs in the middle, perhaps it's time to divide and replant it.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

New year's nosh

The little restaurant down the road seems to be going well under its new proprietor and chef.  Corrine and Alain decided to do a new year's eve dinner and we decided to go, to take a break from the gîte and from cooking for ourselves.  It was a good meal; the carte is below.

The wines were well-chosen, and one glass per dish was plenty, we left feeling full and pleasantly tipsy.  We could have stayed later to see in the new year, but we walked back up the hill to home and watched the Paris fireworks on the telly.

Happy new year to all our readers.


Thursday, 3 January 2019

Christmas lights

The Christmas lights in Laval are a well-liked feature of the darkest Winter nights here, and people come from miles around to see them.  I had intended to stroll around them on 22nd December after doing some shopping, but there was nowhere to park, the place being so busy.

We missed the lights one year, never having got around to making the effort to see them, so this year we made a special trip, parked up, strolled around the lights, bought some fancy chocolates as a treat, and grabbed a swift burger before coming back home.

The burger place is new, calls itself "Roadside" and replicates reasonably well what you might find at an American roadside.  They even have root beer.  I can't stand it myself, but Anita, having American origins, was pleased to find it.

Friday, 28 December 2018


I went for a walk a while back and didn't take my good camera.  I had my phone with me, and it has a (digital) zoom facility, so I was able to capture this heron fishing.  The first picture is with no zoom, the second is zoomed.   The phone tends to blur or pixellate the image, but in this case I think the effect works well.

Thursday, 27 December 2018


I'm a graduate of Cambridge university, and my college was Churchill.   I think that universities are a Good Thing, especially in their old rôle of guardians and expanders of academic knowledge.   I think they are, or were, of general benefit to mankind.   As a member of the university and of the college, I get what you could call an annual report from each; they include a summary of what has been going on, news about graduates, and so on. 

The Cambridge one this year sports on the cover, and on an inside double spread, a picture of a collection of people, with banners that all read "Progress Together".  My first thought on seeing it was that it looks like a game of Diversity Bingo, but on the other hand, if the uni wants to emphasise the fact that a world-class university education is available to everyone who meets the requirements, regardless of height, weight or hair colour, then I'm all for it.

There is an article inside, about Stormzy, a black grime artist (electronic dance music), who has sponsored a new Cambridge studentship for four black British students, covering tuition and a maintenance grant for up to four years on any course.   Well excuse me, but isn't that a teensy bit, um, well racist?

The Churchill college magazine often has articles about its outreach campaign, attempting to find intelligent students who have been failed by the government education system, but who could benefit from a Cambridge education, once brought up to speed.  This is a good thing in my view.   The college is apparently, under intense pressure to admit more young women.  Churchill college must recruit at least a specified minimum proportion of science undergraduates (by statute) and since fewer young women than men currently study sciences, these two objectives are hard to reconcile.  One part of the proposed solution is apparently to try to ensure that, without reducing academic standards, more women who apply directly get in.   If the recruiters have been doing their job properly, of course this won't be possible.   Another part of the solution, as far as I understand it, is to favour women who go through "clearing", that is, they are rejected by the college they initially applied to, but might be capable of benefiting from coming to Churchill.  Excuse me again, but isn't that a teensy bit, um, well sexist?

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Friends shaking hands

We're just back from a trip to England, visiting family and friends.  Always great to see people and come away with new impressions of the place, seen from a different perspective.

We spent the first couple of nights at my sister's near Fareham.  Her hubby spent some time in Canada this summer, visiting an old school friend.  He had a fabulous time, and came away deeply impressed by the quality of life to be had there, for people with his kinds of skills.  He's taking my sister out there in 2019; I can see an emigration happening, if all the hurdles can be cleared.   A lunch with mum was enjoyable, and it's good to see her partner looking to be in good health, much better than when we last saw him.

Overnight in Lewes, and a meet-up with a friend of Anita's.  She took us out to Brighton where we went around the Lanes and had a delicious lunch in The Flour Pot.   I also discovered a new and used CD shop.  I succombed.

We went to the toy museum at Brighton.  It's mostly dedicated to miniature railways, but there are other things there too, including a great display of Meccano models.  I had huge amounts of the stuff when I was a kid, bought largely for next to nothing at jumble sales, in undefined assortments.  I had lots of cog wheels of different sizes, and learnt from practical experience the meaning of backlash in gear trains, and the fact that you can't gear up rotational speed indefinitely.

Meccano was invented by Mr Hornby of model train fame, who kept making mechanical models for his son, and wished he could buy a standard set of components that could be used in multiple ways.  It was marketed as engineering for boys.  I reckon that these days if you re-launched it as engineering for girls, it would take off again like a rocket.

On to Wimbledon to stay with our friends there.  I spent a happy hour or so at Top Wind, a specialist flute shop in London, chatting about the music world and flute world in particular.  Bought some sheet music too.  I was going to join up with my French flute tutor there, introduce her, but she couldn't make it. 

Our Wimbledon friends led us to a new-ish and excellent Thai restaurant called Patara.  They seemed to make all of their menu items from scratch, and featured many things that I had not seen before.  The best Thai meal I have had outside of Thailand.

My impression of the retail environment was that is was slow.  I'm used to having to push through crowds in Wimbledon at this time of year, but it was easy to get about.  Fareham seemed sparsely frequented, and Marks and Sparks had closed.  I can well believe that people are not shopping like they used to.

On the last lunchtime I was able to meet up with a couple of old schoolfriends in a pub.  I hadn't seen Nick for ages, although Melvin I saw less than ten years ago.  We had a good old natter, and Nick who still works full-time, was clever enough to take the afternoon off, so we talked long into the afternoon, until Anita and I had to leave to sort out some last-minute Christmas things.

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