Sunday 26 February 2017

Limoges - The old bridge, the railway station

The town of Limoges didn't come across to me as especially pretty.  There are some attractive old buildings, and certain ones, housing for example, the town museum, and the National Porcelain Museum "Adrien Bouché", and the railway station, are seriously impressive.   But you tend have to look at the buildings in isolation, blocking off from your senses the more recent, ugly ones, or other unattractive urban developments.

The old bridge over the river Vienne that runs by, rather than through, the town, is attractive, and the river was millpond calm.

The railway station is quite magnificent, featuring dramatic architecture and stained glass.

Saturday 25 February 2017

Limoges: The first museum

We visited the Musée du Four des Casseaux, that is close by the river in Limoges.  (You get reduced entry fees to other museums if you visit more than one, so keep your entry tickets.)   This is an old porcelaine firing furnace, and nowadays it houses a collection of porcelain-making machinery.  It also had an exhibition of modern porcelain artwork while we were there.

The furnace itself is of brick, and is ringed by strong iron bands that look like they are there to hold it together.  I have the impression that they might be the result of unfortunate experiences.

The rough and powerful appearance of machines seem strangely inappropriate to the delicacy of the porcelain pieces that they create.

Thursday 23 February 2017


We spent a few days on a short city break in Limoges.  February is not the usual time for this kind of holiday, but we don't have any customers in the gite, and it's been a while since we took a break.  We figured to find out a bit about the porcelain manufacture there, as well as try out some new scenery.

It's a little more than a four-hour drive from our place, and we got there mid-afternoon on Sunday, with a couple of hours to kill before check-in time.  What to do?  Oh look, a wine fair, last day today, problem solved.  So we park up, join the queue, and, not having invitations, it looks like we'll have to pay €6 each to get in.  So we step aside for a short discussion as to whether or not this might be worth it, and the lady of the couple behind us asks us "Do you have an invitation"? "No"  "Have one of ours"  Result!  We both get in for free.

It wasn't a large fair, and there were many things other than wine there - cheese, smoked fish, macaroons, and so on.   But we tasted a fair amount of wine and came away with a small selection -   some Bourgogne fizzy, blanc de noirs very reminiscent of the Remy Jolly Champagne that we liked but with the benefit of being half the price, plus some Bordeaux made without sulphites (to be drunk in less than two years - shouldn't be a problem) and some Cahors in three varieties that we liked, because we also liked the guy selling it.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Pool maintenance

The swimming pool needs emptying and cleaning about this time of year, and I took the opportunity to replace the filter pump with a new one.

The old pump started leaking (at the bushes) about 4 years ago, after about four years' use, then it quickly siezed up.  I got it repaired, but the price of the fix plus the guy to take it away, repair it and re-install it came to about the price of a new pump.  So the plan was to get a new pump as a spare so that I can do a quick swap to fix things in case of future problems, then repair the failed pump at lesiure.

When the local pool shop had a special offer on some new pumps I got one of about the right power - it was a quarter of the price of the current one: too big a bargain to pass over.   I have just installed it as part of the pool cleaning project.  It didn't have quite the same dimensions as the old pump, but there is some slack in the connecting pipes; enough to be able to fit it.  I had to get an adapter too, since the "in" hole is slightly smaller, but it seems to do the trick.

And  I still have the old pump to use as a spare in case of emergencies.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Crémant de Bordeaux

Well, here's something a bit out of the ordinary: a fizzy rosé wine from Bordeaux.  Very pale pink, brut, 80% Merlot, 20% Cabinet Franc, it went very well with the chorizo and scallop skewers on rice that Anita prepared for Valentine's.  Brand name Balard, winner of a gold in the Bordeaux competition in 2016.

Even better, it was under 6 euro a bottle, possibly even less than 5, we can't quite remember.  Got it in Lidl, we think.

Sunday 12 February 2017


Well it seems to happen about this time most years, that I get talked into doing some kind of new exciting, life-enhancing  DIY project.  This year is no exception, the project this time being sliding doors for the wardrobes.   This will, of course, also involve painting the walls, installing new carpet, and new shelves, racks, hangers, etc for the clothes.

To be fair, I never liked the hinged doors; shirt sleeves tended to get caught in the hinges, and the sleeve buttons get crushed.

The old internal walls were constructed in some kind of lightweight brick/biscuit material, that I cut with a big angle grinder.  It made a LOT of dust, and the dust got everywhere.  It's uncomfortable working with a face mask, ear defenders and safety goggles, but I figure it's a good idea.

We have reached the point where the wood surrounds to the door frames are in place, and I have made a sliding door to check on the size.  There will be eight doors in total, four each for two separate wardrobes in the corridor.   Then we have a similar project to do in the bedroom.  Whoopee.

Friday 3 February 2017

Moving air

My ears are not what they used to be.  I remember going fishing with my Dad one evening and remarking: "Listen to those bats".  His response: "You can hear the bats?".    I could, but no more.  This leads me to the conclusion that my hi-fi needs no improvement on its current set-up, which will doubtless save me considerable sums of money.


Good loudspeakers are difficult to design and build.  Their purpose is to move air, and yet for the best sound reproduction, you don't want the speaker cones to move.  As an example, imagine that a speaker cone is flapping back and forth generating a bass note.  Now mix in a higher frequency.  The back-and-forth movements of the cone will create a Doppler effect, blurring the pitch accuracy of the higher note.   This dual requirement to move and not move is one of the many things that make design difficult.

The science of speaker design has improved greatly during my lifetime: the little battery-powered Bluetooth things you can get are astounding for their size and price.  But still, if you want to buy a pair of speakers that gives a realistic concert-listening experience, you have to spend upwards of £15,000, and the same order of magnitude for amplifiers to drive them.

On the other hand, if you are using headphones, the price is much lower.  You can get a pair of headphones that represent the state of the art, plus a matching amp to drive them, for less than, say,£4,000 all in.   Of course they don't give the same effect as free-standing speakers, especially since deep bass notes are felt as much as heard.  None the less, the "user experience" is very satisfactory.  The main reason for the lower price is that they don't have to move as much air as free-standing speakers, so they can be made much more precise.

Going on to moving the minimum amount of air possible, you can buy ear buds.  About twenty years ago I bought a top-of-the-range pair that cost me a couple of hundred quid, that served me very well until the left transducer packed up.   But recently I came across a rave review of a pair of earbuds that you can get for under 12 quid - Ollivan KZ-ATE.  I bought a pair, mostly out of curiosity. They're astonishingly good.

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