Wednesday 29 November 2023

Like for like

I have been thinking that to help me keep my seed potatoes from sprouting over winter, a fridge might offer a good solution.  So, finding myself at a loose end in a supermarket recently, I was wandering around looking at the fridges.

I was intrigued the other day by a poor energy rating (F) given to a highly efficient light bulb (an LED), so I paid attention to the energy labels on the fridges.   I saw two apparently equal-sized fridges, one rated F, the other rated E.   According to the label, the E one consumed 141 KWh per year, that is more than the F one that consumed only 112.  They both appeared to be the same size.   What is going on?  

Aha!   The E one has a freezer compartment inside at the top, the F one does not.  The fridge compartment is therefore a bit smaller than the F one.  So, apparently, fridges with a freezer bit are assessed differently: they are allowed to consume more electricity and still get a better rating.   Not comparing like with like.

Wandering on, I found a tall fridge with no freezer compartment but a bigger capacity (263 litres instead of 127 litres - twice as much as the F one above.   It consumes 133KWh per year vs 112, that is 18% more.   Energy rating also F.

So a fridge with twice the capacity for only 18% more electricity consumption doesn't appear to be more efficient?  On marche sur la tête.

Beware simple labels.   I ignore "nutri-score" labels for much the same reason.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Walking on your head

In France, the phrase "on marche sur la tête" is used to indicate that something crazy or idiotic is going on.   The idea is currently being used by farmers to protest the increasing difficulty of growing or producing food, due to growing constraints and regulation by the state.   The method?   Turning village road signs on their heads.   Simple, non-destructive, easy to do, and it gets the point across.

Monday 20 November 2023

High energy

It so happened that I needed to replace a light bulb in one of the gîte toilets.   The old one had failed after about 15 years, so it was time.

LEDs are the technology of choice these days, since they are many times more efficient at converting electricity to light than the old incandescent bulbs.  So I was surprised to find that the LED bulbs that I had selected had an energy rating of F, that is the second-worst of all possibles.   

I checked, and yes, the LEDs had a power consuption of just 7.8 Watts, a bit more than 7 times more efficient than a 60W incandescent bulb.  7.8W hardly registers on the electricity meter.   Curious, I looked around, and the best energy rating I could find for a similar light bulb was C, on a 60W bulb that consumed only 5.9 W, and that, incidentally, cost twice as much.   A quick calculation tells me that perhaps, over the 15 year life of the bulb, the more expensive one would pay for itself, just about.   But hey, I'll take the saving now, thanks; I might not be around in 15 years.

You can still get incandescent halogen bulbs that are slightly more efficient (about 5% more) than the old standard incandescents.   They get an energy rating of G, presumably because the scale stops at G and doesn't go on to Z.   People could take that to mean that the halogens are only a bit worse than LEDs when in fact they consume 7 times as much electricity.    On the other hand, the change from energy rating D to F in this case indicates an increase in energy consumption of about one third.   Nuts.

(There are three bulbs in the €9.49 pack, one in the €6.59 pack)

Sunday 19 November 2023


There's a strong community spirit at St Pierre sur Erve, and one of the manifestations is the existance of a Whatsapp group for entraide.   Need help?   Got anything to offer?   Make it known on the group, and you have a good chance of getting or giving help.

My neighbour needed some work done on the gable ends of his roof.  A short message on Whatsapp, and 4 extras came on site to help.  The jobs were: breaking rocks, mixing the mortar, getting the stuff up onto the scaffolding, and finally putting it all into place.   Done in half a day.

Come the crash, St Pierre sur Erve is better placed than many.

Sunday 5 November 2023


I suppose that value, in the general sense, is a subjective thing.   I don't mean price, I mean the worth, the benefit that something offers, and what that represents to the individual.

My sister uses a lot of wine for cooking, and since we will be seeing her in England shortly, she asked us to bring from France all the wine that we are permitted, at no more than €2 a bottle.   It's getting harder to find drinkable wine at that price in France, but it can be done.

As it happened, we found ourselves in Laval recently, where there is a Noz, what the French would call a "hard discount" supermarket, that is, a cross between a low-end supermarket and a rummage sale.   We went in on a wine hunt.

One of the things about the French is that when it comes to wine, they tend not to drink "foreign rubbish".  This means that if you can find it, good quality non-french wine can be had at low prices.   So it turned out to be in our Noz, and we stocked up with 20 bottles of wine, portugese, italian, spanish, and some french, for about €37.50 in total.   There's a risk of some duds, of course, but it's good odds.

There was coincidentally, a wine tasting in our local bistrot the other day.   An independent producer, growing his own grapes (grenache) and making his own wine.   He told us about the different terroirs that he managed, and presented a bottle from each of three different areas, all growing the same grape variety.  The first we thought was a bit rough but as described; fruity with strong cherry notes.   The second was very pleasant, round and smooth, and the third was somewhere between the two.

Now any event in the bistrot tends to be a social affair, and after the first bottle was tasted, one of our locals decided that he wanted to buy a bottle and share it around.  Our vigneron refused to sell until he had finished his spiel and had everyone taste all three.   A small rebellion ensued and a bottle of supermarket bordeaux was opened and shared, stage left, while the tasting continued centre stage.   As you can imagine, there was an "atmosphere".

I have done some selling in a previous life, and I know that giving a spiel is easy, and closing a sale is difficult.  So when someone says, in effect, "shut up and take my money", that is exactly what you do.  Spieling can always continue later.

Anyway, the rougher wine turned out to be available at around €17 the bottle, while the stuff we liked was over €40.   I like to support the little guy and am prepared to pay a bit over the odds to help him along.  But there are limits, and I'm sure that the subtleties of a €44 bottle vs say, a €10 bottle are lost on me.   We didn't buy any.   And I'm sure my sister will get more pleasure out of 20 bottles from Noz that she would have from one bottle of grenache.

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