Thursday 31 December 2020

Now you see it

A short walk for the constitution brings me to this little stream that disappears in Summer.   A pretty, babbling brook, it runs into the river Erve not far from our house.

Wednesday 30 December 2020


My distrust of governments grew slowly over the decades of my life.  Perhaps that is true of most people who distrust their governments, and explains, at least in part, the differences in political outlook between the older and the younger populations.

When I drove to and from work each day, I usually listened to radio 4; the Today Programme going out, and PM in the evening.  I concluded that although it is rare for a government spokesman (GS) to be caught in an outright lie, they have been known to mislead with the truth.   A few examples will be sufficient.

There was a BSE crisis, and the government put some effort into calming the fears of the populace, while at the same time taking the side of the farmers.  Prominent people were seen feeding hamburgers to their children.  A GS came on the radio and claimed that there was "No conceivable risk" to people from eating beef.  When it transpired that there was, in fact, a risk of maternal transmission from cow to calf, and a risk of BSE in humans, the GS was asked if he regretted what he said.  What he regretted, he said, is that people took "no conceivable risk" to mean "no risk".

There was a time when the benefit system in the UK was being revamped.  At the time, child benefit, I think it was called, was delivered, in cash, through the post office by personal application.  There was concern that this help, modest though it was, that was delivered directly to the person who would spend it, would be reduced.  A GS came on the radio and said the the benefit would be paid "in the same way as before", to the relief of most people.   When the amount was, in fact reduced as everyone had feared, the GS pointed out that what he said simply meant that the benefit would continue to be paid in cash through the post office.

Hussein was said to possess "weapons of mass destruction".   This claim was amplified over a few weeks into the claim that Iraq could mount a nuclear attack on Britain within 15 minutes.  There was a nagging doubt in my mind, because such intelligence is gathered over years and not weeks, but we went to war anyway, and there they all were.....not.  My personal opinion of  Mr Campbell and Mr Blair is not publishable in a family-friendly blog.

Other examples include the use of phrases like "There is no scientific proof that.....".   This is a weak claim because scientific proof of a conjecture is very difficult to obtain.  For many years it was know to anyone with a couple of brain cells to fire together, that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer.  The fact that scientific proof of this is difficult to obtain, is why the tobacco companies got away with it for so long.   That there is no scientific proof of a claim is a very weak statement, and if it comes from a GS, then in my view, the claim is likely to be true.

A much stronger statement sometimes made by a GS is that "there is no evidence to support the claim..."  The slightest evidence to the contrary refutes this, and at one time it was claimed that the British railway system was the worst in Europe.  A GS came on the radio and said that there was no evidence to support this claim.  One of the rare occasions when the lie is clear.  The fact that Eurostar had to run more slowly in England than in France (due to the quality of the rail system) was evidence that supported the claim.

As a result of these and other examples, I have learnt to ask myself a few questions of  anything said by a GS or, indeed anyone in the news:

1) What did he say?

2) What did he not say?

3) What did he want me to conclude?

4) What do I actually conclude?

5) Did he use any qualifying adjectives and what changes if you remove them?

6) What is he hiding?

Moving on to the 19th of covid.   A nasty disease that I really don't want to catch, thank you very much.  In the early days of this illness, doctors noted that in the SARS outbreak of 2005, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) was found to be helpful, when combined with zinc and an antibiotic.  So they tried it on the n-n-19, the virus for which is called SARS-Cov 2 (note the similarity).   Glory be!  It works!  We have a cheap and safe means of reducing the death toll by at least 50% !  Let's roll it out!  

Not so fast, friend.  Hold your horses, there's mucho money to be made and populations to be scared witless and controlled.  This could all come in really handy in the upcoming financial crisis.  You're going to have to generate some real scientific proof that it works, with carefully controlled double-blind trials of thousands of patients, before we're going to let you prescribe it.   Meanwhile we're going to ban it.  Oh and by the way, our stock got stolen so we don't have any anyway (France).

And at the same time we're going to publicise fake trials run by people with connections to big pharma, to persuade you that HCQ doesn't work.   After all, we know well that a lie can go twice around the world before the truth has got its boots on.

Ivermectin too has recently been found to be effective both as a prophylactic and cure for the disease in the early stages.  Time to roll out the propaganda again.

And meanwhile we seem to have found a miracle cure for heart disease, cancer and 'flu since hardly anyone appears to be dying of these.

I know when I'm being propagandised (is that a word?) and now is one such time.   I don't doubt that the cov is a nasty disease, and I don't want to catch it.   But our beloved leaders have something else in mind, other than our protection from it.  A book I once read a long time ago suggested that one should ask oneself  in any negotiation situation "Why is this lying bastard lying to me?".  Perhaps that's not bad advice for right now.

Saturday 19 December 2020

A random walk

A nice day, so how about a walk in the sunshine?    I bought myself some weights to attach to my ankles to increase the energy burn while out walking.  I think they work; I'm a bit more tired than I would expect.

This amused me.  The road past our house leads to the river valley and the famous grottes de Saulges.   It has been closed at both ends so visitors have to park in the car park on the opposite bank, or in a small area just past our place.   The barriers are electronic, automatic and are controlled from the restaurant with the assistance of an intercom.  You press a button, Alain answers if he's in at work, and then he presses a button and the barrier rises.   Except neither barrier works, so to open the barrier Alain would have to drive his car to the barrier and let the sensor open the barrier (the leave side doesn't need button intervention).

So he hit on this simple solution.   A little red bandana tied around the infra-red light (on the short post on the left) means the machine thinks there's a car in the way so it doesn't lower the barrier.  Système D.

The stepping stones are underwater; we have had a bit of rain.  But  what surprises me is that there is a low dam a bit farther downstream that causes the water to back up and overflow onto the footpath.   Now why do they do that?   I did manage to get past without getting wet feet.

There's a small bar/restaurant farther downstream, and someone has been trying to sweep up the leaves outside.  Looks like a long job to me.   I climb up the road away from the river, and as I descend towards the end of my walk, I see this little sheep enclosure right beside the footpath, that I definitely haven't seen before.  Something new.

And so back home.   Here's a pic of the gîte I took earlier.

Wednesday 16 December 2020

The Mayor

Every little village in France has its elected mayor and ours is no exception.   When we were looking to buy our place it was Mr Mottais.  We discussed our ideas with him, he was favourable, and he helped us with the project as it continued over the two elapsed years (and 6 months of actual work) that it took. 

He got us the Certificat d'Urbanisme which is what you need if you want to develop a barn, and since Bâtiments de France were interested, he helped us liaise with them during the project.  And when the authorities refused to sign off the project when it was completed, he thumped some desks until they did.

It was clear that he was a respected and popular person in the village (with a few exceptions, as ever) and his kindness in choosing his words carefully so that we would understand, and inviting us to dinner, confirmed the initial impressions.

After the end of the project we would continue to take a coffee in some of the establishments around about, and he told me of his life and business carreer in Renault.   He was born in the village and knew its byways as a boy, and he showed me the garage where he was first employed as a mechanic those many years ago.  It was for all the world like the shed of a local house.  His career took him at first to Laval and he also spent some years in the Paris head office.  I believe he ended his employement running a dealership in Rennes.  On retirement he came back to his village.

He loved the village, taking an active part in its life, and doing what it took to secure its designation as a Petite cité de Caractère.   The festival that he organised for the 15 August was locally popular, with a steak barbecue dinner and the illumination of the village by little candles laid out along the lanes.  He got the village bistrot running again as a volunteer effort, and organised the annual oldies' lunch (not this year due to Covid).

Walking on the the byways that runs by our house, about a year ago, he felt a shortness of breath, and the triple bypass operation that he had as a result slowed him down, but he continued on, more slowly than before, until he died a couple of weeks ago.

The village put on a display of the little candles that he was so fond of, as a tribute, on the day of his restricted, private funeral.   We went to look.

As part of its programme of activities related to its status as Petite Cité de Caractère, the village has various pieces of artwork dotted around, including some silhouettes, life size, in sheet iron, of people in different places in the village.  One of them is our Mr Mottais in profile, standing beside the pedestrian bridge over the river.  Being later than usual, my afternoon walk extended into dusk one day recently, and I was crossing the bridge when I noticed someone putting a candle at the foot of our iron Mr Mottais.


Saturday 12 December 2020


 Well that's 2021 sorted, fizz-wise at least.

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