Wednesday 29 June 2022

Tulle - The Maugein manufactory

The Maugein factory in Tulle is the only remaining manufacturer of accordeons in France.   They were started when the founder won an accordeon in a competition, took it to pieces and decided to go and work for the maker.   They had a parting of the ways when M. Maugein proposed that they should make the new-fangled chromatic accordeon instead of the traditional diatonic ones.   The boss disagreed, so the Maugein brand was born.   At its peak the factory employed just under three hundred people, and the record production was about 1,000 accordeons in a year.   These days they have about 13 staff for a production of about 250.

An accordeon needs two reeds to resonate when you press a key: one for when the bellows are sqeezed and one for when they are opening, since the air flow is in opposite directions in the two cases.   On the diatonic accordeon these two reeds are tuned to different notes, on they chromatic they both play the same note.  So to play a diatonic accordeon you need to press the right button and either open or close the bellows depending on which note you want; on the chromatic it doesn't matter.  So the diatonic has fewer reeds and is a smaller and simpler instrument.   The newer chormatic device would have appeared to be overly complicated, needing twice as many reeds for the same number of notes.

The accordeon skeleton is usually plywood, a stable and workable material, but solid wood ones can be custom-made:  there was a beautiful walnut one waiting to be worked on.   The finish paint job can be customised, and gives rise to some beautiful designs.  We discovered later that an artist who makes ladies' bags and boxes makes a range based on the Maugein accordeon designs.

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Tulle - The accordeon festival

I discovered the existence of the accordeon festival at Tulle, via Facebook, I think.   Since I'm trying to learn how to play this instrument, we decided to go down there and listen to some experts, and immerse ourselves in the universe of accordeons.   The town of Tulle straddles the river Corrèze in the département of Corrèze, in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.   Not a big town, and not especially remarkable, but it does house France's only remaining accordeon factory, the Maugein brand, hence the festival.

There were paying concerts, plus numerous open-air performances that were free.  Plus, on the smallest scale, individual players toured the streets on the backs of vintage cars, playing as they went.   There were musical options to be had at all hours of the day, and much of the night for those with any energy left.

We had bought tickets for four paid concerts, but one was cancelled due to one of the quartet having caught covid.  Each concert was excellent, and presented its own special highlights.  On the first night, the Tango Secret group deserves a special shout-out for the pianist Céline Bishop whose subtlety of phrasing was amazing.  Marc Grauwels the flutist played with a ravisihing tone and lightning technique.   Accompanied by the accordeonist Christophe Delporte, he played many pieces usually associated with the flute and piano, the rounder attack of the accordeon gave a very different view of the pieces.   The jazz concert featured two different performances; Frederick Viale opened with a solo recital, and was followed by an accordeon/baritone sax duo of Daniel Mille and Eric Seva.   The highlight was when the three musicians played together at the end.  Something special happens when musicians playing by heart synchronise their improvisation just by looking each other in the eye.

Monday 20 June 2022

Another two firsts

I went into Evron with the Renault Espace and while I was there I filled it with diesel (the tank, not the car).  The pump took my credit card and indicated that I could have up to €120 worth of fuel.   It wasn't enough money to fill the tank (that wasn't empty, either).  Well, that's never happened before.

On a different but related topic, this little turd of a document arrived chez nous the other day.   It purports to be about Eco-friendship, and is headed "Eco Attitude" but what it's actually about is a new tax on household rubbish.  Except that it's apparently not a new tax because it will replace an old one.  Fine logic going on there.   The upshot is that they will be charging residents for every time they open a bin to deposit (up to 50 litres of) non-recyclable household waste.  And that it will cost more than the old tax.

The justifications include the eco-friendly narrative, but also other, more intriguing ones.   There is apparently a mandate to reduce household rubbish by 15% by 2030.  Really?   They don't say who decided this, but I'm wondering who voted for them.  Also there is planned to be a large increase in the tax due on products said to be polluting, so the household tax will have to rise in keeping with that.  Again, who decided this tax and how do we get rid of them (legally)?

Incidentally, private individuals can use the local recycling centres for free but businesses have to pay.  As a consequence, fly tipping is a serious problem in parts of the country.   Well, guess what?

Saturday 18 June 2022

New roof

The roof leaked when it rained hard, and needed repair after every Winter.  Time for a new roof.   We have a very good roofer lives in the village, and we booked his services earlier in the year.  

We also bought the material to fix the price in these days of high inflation.   We were lucky to have done so.  The recent hailstorm smashed about half the roofs in the area, and he has work now to last through 2024.   He started work here last week, and has done the first side.


Next week, the other side.

Wednesday 8 June 2022

A couple of firsts

One of the things you can do with a hybrid car (or an electric one) is charge it up at a public charging station.    For whatever reason, you can't wander up to any old charger, wave the credit card at it and charge up (like you can for a tank of petrol).   Oh, no, you need to subscribe to a service, pay for a special membership card, and then use only those chargers that accept it.  A great step forward, I'm sure you will agree.

Regardless, it happens that our local Leroy Merlin, a DIY chain, has two chargers in the car park (solar powered, how green can you get?), each good for two cars.   So we thought we'd check out our new charger membership card to see what happens.   (The first first)   We waved the membership card at the first charger and it told us it wasn't acceptable.   Oh well we thought, perhaps our card isn't good for this station.  But we tried it on the other one and it worked.   We plugged the car in and went into the shop.

We were in there for about half an hour, came out and unplugged the car.  I think we got abot 4Km extra electric range in that time.

The second first was parking the car in a confined space using the backward-looking camera.   This will take a bit of getting used to, regarding the scale, but it did work well enough.

We got home and looked up our charger card account to see how much the charge at Leroy's cost us.   It was free!   Can't be bad.   Unfortunately, we worked out that lingering in the shop over a coffee, say, so the car could charge up a bit more,  would result in spending more money than the value of the electricity.   Still, I'm not complaining.

Thursday 2 June 2022

Influenced by no-one

I believe that "influenced by no-one" is Peugeot's strapline for the new 308 hybrid.  I haven't seen any ads myself so I don't know, but in any case I hope it doesn't mean they've been ignoring all the customer feedback they've been accumulating over the years.   Regardless, my old 308CC was showing its age and I traded it in for a 308 hybrid rechargeable.   Here's a few impressions.

First and foremost, it's a fine car to drive.  Quick, quiet, with good handling and light steering with good feedback.   A very nice drive.   Could be that it's quicker than the old 308CC, but perhaps with slightly more wallow (but not much in any case).

The on-board electronics takes some getting used to.  It's complicated.  It took us about 45 minutes on the way home from the garage to work out how to turn the radio off.  After ages spent pressing icons on the screen we discovered an honest-to-God knob that you press to turn the radio on/off, and turn to adjust the volume.  Just like the real thing!

I'm not sure about some of the driver assist functions.  If you engage the cruise control, by default you get  the "safe distance" management system that stops you getting too close to the car in front.  You do get to choose the distance between close, medium and far, but that's it, as far as I can tell.  Problem is (driving on the right) if you are following a right-hand curve and there's oncoming traffic, the system can think you are about to collide, and (sometimes) brakes quite hard.  Similarly if curving left and there's a line of stationary cars to your right it can think you are going to hit them and brakes hard.  Both of these have happened to me, and I think it's dangerous.   I have to disable this function every time I set off.

There's lane assist too, to keep you on the straight and narrow.  It defaults to "on".   Problem is, I drive a lot down narrow country lanes with tall grass to the side.  If there's an oncoming vehicle, I have to pull off onto the verge, and the lane assist tries to put me back into the path of the oncoming vehicle.  I think it's dangerous, and I have to disable this function every time I set off.

Despite the fact that the screen tells you "hybrid system loaded" when you start, the default is electric only and you have to choose hybrid to use the I/C engine when needed.

So in setting off, I have to:

  • Put on seat belt
  • Press and hold brake pedal
  • Press "start" button
  • Press "B" button for higher regenerative braking (optional)
  • Press "Car" button
  • Select "disable lane assist" on the screen
  • Press "confirm"
  • Select "disable speed control" on the screen
  • Press "confirm"
  • Press "Home" button to get default screen
  • Select hybrid drive (optional)
  • Select "D" drive gear (Or reverse, which takes an extra step)
  • Go
This makes 12 steps before "Go" and seems a bit complicated to me.   The system offers "user profiles": I'm not sure if it's possible to save all my preferred settings to a profile that loads when I start the thing up.  I'll have to read the manual.   BTW, how cheap is it not to provide a paper printed manual with a new car costing upwards of €35,000?  We had to pay extra for one from a third party.  (Delivered by the post)  Eco-friendly?

And here's some customer feedback for Peugeot: I don't think I should have to do anything at all to stop my car behaving dangerously in any situation.

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