November 30, 2012

Really excellent news

Bertrand, from whom I bought the X-Air, is an ULM instructor. A few days after I’d brought it to Plazac he kindly contacted the French authorities on my behalf to get a definitive statement on what I was required to do in order to acquire a French licence. After a follow-up email to spur them into action (this is France, after all ;-)), this is the message that he received back and passed on to me a few days ago.

Il n’y a pas de passerelle pour convertir une licence ULM anglaise en licence ULM française.

Si Monsieur …. est titulaire d’une licence de pilote d’aéronef, délivrée par un Etat membre de la Communauté européenne ou un autre État partie à l’Espace économique européen, conformément aux normes de la convention relative à l’aviation civile internationale, il est dispensé de passer l’examen théorique commun. (cf. arrêté du 4 mai 2000, relatif aux programmes et régime des examens du brevet et de la licence de pilote d’aéronef ultra léger motorisé.)
Il peut, dans ce cas, passer seulement la partie pratique auprès d’un instructeur ULM français.

Bien cordialement,

This is good news not only for me but for anyone with a UK licence who is thinking about moving to France. What it says is that all you need to do is present yourself to a French ULM instructor and undertake a GST. That’s all, no other formalities, no exams or anything like that. When I compare this to the 100 or so pages of complex gumph that the CAA has produced on the subject of ‘licence allowances’, I find it so refreshing. It’s also great to know that once I’ve done what is asked for, I’ll be free of the tyranny of annual permits and inspections, weighings that the BMAA then uses to beat you over the head with by suggesting that your aircraft that conforms to Section S (and always has done) is over-weight and cannot therefore be flown, the farce of annual medical declarations that many UK doctors refuse to sign despite their being required to do so and having no responsibility for anyway, the mod system that treats you like a numpty and charges you a fortune for the privilege and all of the other paraphernalia tied up with owning and flying a microlight in the UK that allows you to be milked of cash and puts the cost of what could otherwise be a popular leisure activity out of the reach of all but a privileged few.

No wonder there are more microlights and more microlight flyers over on this side of the Channel! We are expecting a bright but cold day tomorrow and Victor, Wim and I are off to the airfield at Castillonnes. Victor hopes to get an hour or so of instruction in and Wim and I will probably just stay on the ground and enjoy the visit. However, I’ll be taking my UK licence and the email I got from Bertrand with me, checking in with an instructor to get some information back from him and maybe making some plans. It could be a big leap forward for me and I’m really looking forward to it 😀

November 29, 2012

My new panel

We’ve got northerly winds the same as the UK, part of the same Arctic weather system actually, and it looks as though they’re going to stay with us for a few more days with even a few snow showers possible on Sunday. It’s been too chilly to do much outside today so I’ve been doing the same as everyone in the UK – staying indoors and keeping warm. The layout of the X-Air’s current panel is a complete mess and I’ve been thinking about the layout I’ll adopt for the new one. I’ve now come up with what I think will probably be the final version, although you can never say ‘never’, can you. I’ve done a picture of it, not up to my usual level of quality, I’m afraid, but it’ll do.

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Everything is shown to scale and the GPS, Vertex transceiver etc are the actual items. It uses as many as possible of the instruments that are currently in the X-Air with a couple of exceptions. The main one is the airspeed indicator, which is currently a small diameter one showing airspeed in kmh. I have a spare unit of the right size showing mph but much as it pains me to think of stripping it out, I think I’ll use the one from MYRO instead, which is a nicer looking gauge. Although it’s marked up with the AX3’s critical speeds (Vso, Vne etc), the X-Air figures are more or less the same. Anyway, I’ll decide when the time comes, but in any case, I will have to use MYRO’s VSI as the X-Air currently doesn’t have one at all.

I want to position the Vertex and VXBox in the centre of the lower console because both headsets plug in directly and the headset leads are only so-long. The compass (a Silva Type 70) is currently panel mounted and as I do not want to buy a replacement, it will have to go more or less where it is at present, in the centre at the top of the panel. This means that the switches, LEDs and starter button will have to go below it, leaving no space for any other gauges in the centre console.

I want to have my little Satnav/GPS velcroed to the panel in front of me and this more or less dictates how all of the other instruments are laid out. The aircraft currently doesn’t have a fuel pressure gauge and as I think one would be a good idea, I’ve positioned it over on the left of the panel near to the in-line bulb that you use to pump the fuel up to the carbs, and also, incidentally, where MYRO’s one was. This will mean moving the water temperature gauge over to the right of the compass on the main panel and also moving the engine hours gauge even further over to the right, as it’s not an instrument that is needed while in flight.

My Vertex transceiver doesn’t need a power supply because of its long battery life. It’s not an approved radio for use in France, as it wasn’t in the UK either, but this is one of the few areas where the French authorities are more strict and are known to carry out ramp check inspections at larger airfields. Luckily, in the areas where I’ll be flying the most, I’ll not need a radio anyway, most of the time, so all I’ll be doing is plugging the headsets into the VXBox which works as an intercom as well as a voice interface for a camcorder.

Although the Vertex doesn’t need power, the Satnav/GPS does. I’ve therefore earmarked two positions, at the extreme left and right of the panel, where I might fit a suitable cigar lighter socket. Who knows, as I’m no longer subject to the tyrannies of the UK BMAA Mod system, I might even fit one in both positions and use my own common sense to fuse them accordingly to the electrical load permitted by Rotax, without anyone assuming that I’m a complete numpty, need them to tell me what to do and how to do it and then charging me an extortionate amount of money for doing so. Three cheers 🙂

I had a cigar lighter socket and two DIN sockets in MYRO but never used either of the latter. I think I might therefore just fit the one DIN socket, just so I have one, and use the space I’ve earmarked in the pic for panel-mounted fuse holders for the various circuits.

The layout also allows for ‘expansion’ in the future. This would allow a passenger, for example, to have their own GPS in front of them if they wanted, but more importantly, the space on the right will also allow for the additional gauges to be installed. I’m thinking maybe of an exhaust temperature gauge, which although MYRO had one, I’m not thinking about fitting currently as it would need a new exhaust manifold with tappings for the sensors. What would be nice, though, would be that one day I might be able to afford a panel-mounted Mode S transponder and the planned layout leaves plenty of space for that to be dropped in should that situation arise 😉

Oh, and just in case you don’t believe me when I say that the X-Air’s current panel layout is a mess, here’s a pic I took of it the other day…

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November 28, 2012

Wide views

A few months ago I played around with varying success, stitching together several series of shots taken with my little Pentax camera to make a number of wide or ‘panoramic’ views. They’ve been sitting on my PC hard drive ever since and after I’d cut my grass on Sunday, I decided to have another go at it. The pictures I’ve created aren’t exactly comparable because the shots used in each series have not been taken from the same viewpoints but I thought I’d share them so you can see how much the place has changed over the intervening months. Some of the images are pretty big so ideally you need quite a fast broadband connection, which we don’t have here, to view them. In each case, the most recent image is shown first followed by the comparable picture from June/July.

First, a view from the northern, kitchen, end of the house showing both grassy areas at the front and back.

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Now a view back towards the house taken from the north-eastern corner.

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And now a view taken from the south-eastern corner.

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The next image is of the view over the hills to the east across the field opposite my house.

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And finally, this last pic is one that I did for fun. If you can imagine standing where I took the last pic from and turning round to face my house, this is the view that you would see. It is rather distorted as it covers a view of 180 degrees and although there is a slight curve in the road, it doesn’t bend anything near as sharply as this picture might suggest 🙂

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November 25, 2012

Lucky after all

The fates were kind to me after all! When I got up this morning and looked out, I was pleasantly surprised to see that although it was dull, there was no sign of rain. So I had a quick breakfast, took the dog around for his morning constitutional and got the mower out. I finished cutting the grass in well under an hour so that’s another job crossed off the list. Now I can concentrate on other priorities – my floor tiles and fireplace and the X-Air 🙂

My garden has changed quite a bit over the months since I’ve been here, not because I’ve made many of my own changes to it up to now, but just because everything I do gets it tidier and more under control. And also because of the changes brought about by each season. When I first saw the house it was mid-Winter and when I came back to sign the papers to buy it, there were heavy snows. I made the move here in the late Spring and then saw the Dordogne turn lush and green in the following weeks. Then the Summer drought took hold and everything became dark green and brown. Now although my lime tree has lost all its leaves, most of the trees around here are still clothed in oranges and gold and so the cycle continues as we head towards Winter again. As you can see below, at this stage of the game I think that the best I can say for my place is that it’s ‘tidy enough for now’.

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Although the forecast drizzle has not materialised, earlier I did feel a few light spots of rain on my face. I bumped into my neighbour who’d been out gathering mushrooms and chestnuts in the woods behind our houses but he said that there’s hardly any crop now compared to a few weeks ago, another sign that Winter is just around the corner. But Benjamin and Aurelie’s cat, Scratchy, wasn’t too concerned about that. He has known Toddie right from when he was a tiny kitten and knows that he won’t do him any harm, so he came across to us and started to hunt in the flower bed under my bedroom window. After creeping forward and then standing motionless for ages, he suddenly leaped forward, flicked his paw and tossed a little mouse up in the air! But he didn’t harm it as far as I could see and it hid under a clump of greenery. Scratchy then turned his attention to a hole in the ground where the mice probably live and began digging down and shoving his paws in to try to winkle out his prey.

Toddie and I left him to it and went indoors with me looking forward to a hot shower and lunch and Toddie just looking forward to… lunch. And so life goes on here in the Dordogne 🙂

November 24, 2012

If only…

If only I’d started sooner! One of my old schoolmasters used to offer wise advice whenever he saw someone wasting time and putting off what they should be doing. ‘Procrastination is the thief of time!’ he’d say, occasionally bonking you over the head at the same time with the book that you should have been using to do your work. He’d never have got away with it nowadays, he’d have been up for assault with huge damages awarded against him, but he was absolutely right, of course. And today was a classic case in point. I’ve mentioned several times recently that I wanted to get my grass cut for the last time this year but it’s been too wet even when it hasn’t been raining to think about getting the mower out. But today was different. The forecast hadn’t been that bright but even when I got up and felt the grass outside the back door of my ‘sejour’, it was dryer than it had been for many-a-day recently and was only likely to get better. But as usual on a Saturday morning, I fiddled around, read emails, made a couple of phone calls, caught up with the forums and drank more tea. And then it was time for lunch.

Afterwards I had the idea of cutting my grass in the back of my mind but thought it would be a better idea at that moment to take my rubbish and recycling up to the ‘poubelles’ just up the road. We don’t have household rubbish collections down here. Instead here and there where there are houses we have rubbish collection stations in the form of large commercial size plastic bins at the side of the road. After collecting our waste at home, where if we’re responsible we keep rubbish, recyclables and glass separate, whenever we choose, we just pop them in the back of the car (my estate is perfect, of course), drive to the bins and drop them in. It’s a good idea because the local council only have to visit each waste station rather than every house, thus keeping the cost of rubbish collection down. But I digress – see, it’s so easy to, isn’t it! When I drove down to the bins my car temperature gauge indicated a reading of 17.5 deg C and even I could see that I just couldn’t let such a glorious day go to waste. But by that time it was well past 2.00pm and sunset down here was at 5.18pm today, so I needed to get my skates on 😐

I got cracking with a vengeance and as I got the grass down at the back where the X-Air has been patiently waiting for me to do the work on it that I need to do and for which I have had the parts for several weeks, I could have kicked myself for leaving it to so late in the day. Pretty soon I was down to a tee shirt and after a short delay while I had to un-stick the choke cable when I had to restart the mower engine, eventually I was standing back admiring the back grass (I can’t call it a lawn, it’s just too tatty…) which was down to the lowest it had ever been. Then it was the turn of the front. The lime tree has by now shed all of its leaves and apart from filling my front gutter, there are what looks like tons of the damn things on the ground beneath it. I’d already picked up all of the old wood that I could find nestling in the grass since although the mower seems to deal with it without causing itself any harm, the crashes and bangs it makes in the process make you wince a bit, so I got going without any break as I thought that if I stopped, I might not start again.

I ploughed up and down the lawn for what seemed like ages with grass and mulched leaves flying in a trail behind me, but I could sense that the afternoon was drawing to a close. Quite frankly, I felt knackered by this time, but I still kept ploughing on out of breath and with back, arms and legs beginning to feel the strain. At one time I thought I might stop for a rest and a cool drink but still I refused to give in as I knew I’d never be able to start again afterwards. Then I thought that the fuel had to run out some time soon, so I’d call it a day when it did. But it didn’t, so still I carried on. By this time I was beginning to really feel it. Not that long ago I had a really thorough medical including lots of heart tests including some pretty gruelling treadmill work so I was pretty sure that although I was pushing myself, I was unlikely to come to any harm on that score. Seriously, you have to think about these things when you reach a certain age, and up and down I went.

Well, you’ve probably guessed how it all ended. With the light fading and just the last bit of lawn left, the mower engine sputtered to a halt. There was no way that I’d have had enough time to fill up, restart the engine and finish off, so that’s how things have ended up. I would imagine that the lovely warm day that we enjoyed today was the result of a warm front passing through, and we all know what follows a warm front, don’t we. Rain. If I’m lucky and the front is weak and slow-moving, I might have just enough time to finish the front lawn off tomorrow. But I doubt it, because the local forecast is for light rain to start in the early hours tonight and to continue on and off all day tomorrow. So my old schoolmaster has been proven right yet again. The wisdom of ages – if only I hadn’t procrastinated I’d have got the job done and dusted when the time was right, and I don’t think that keeping my fingers crossed is going to help me finish it off now 🙁

November 16, 2012

Quite a day!

I started the week by setting out a few plans for what I needed to do. One of them was getting my satellite TV system working and I managed to do that straight away. The trouble was that after buying a TV and connecting it up, I then proceeded to waste a day (alright, two really…) just sitting in front of it flicking through the available channels and watching anything that caught my interest. So I thought I’d better get my act together as there are other things I need to sort out. For example, I need to cut my grass for the last time this year. Also the X-Air has been sitting in my garden for some time and I’ve had the bits I need to do the jobs on it that I want to for several days. I also need to buy some floor tiles that match as closely as possible the ones I already have in my house and yesterday that was the job I thought I’d tackle.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently I saw some tiles that might be suitable on the Internet. But the only way I could be sure would be to see them for myself – and that meant driving about 500 kms (approx 300 miles) each way to the warehouse in Caissargues just south of Nimes. I left yesterday a bit later than I wanted to at about 10.00am after plugging the journey details into my satnav which I’ve found to be the best way of finding my way around France, especially on longer journeys. I didn’t even own an up-to-date French map until yesterday. Due to mountains and things, often there is no direct route from A to B in France and yesterday was a case in point. Although I wanted to go in a south-easterly direction, I had to start by heading south towards the Mediterranaean and Spain. After just under an hour I arrived at my first ‘gare de payage’ (toll road station) and as my car is right-hand-drive, I usually get out to get the ticket from the machine. Yesterday because I had an impatient lady driver right up behind me, I decided to open my passenger window and lean right across the car. In doing so I not only broke my satnav power lead but as I found out later, also the car cigarette lighter socket that I use to power it.

This was a disaster – what to do! I knew roughly where I was but still had hundreds of kms to go. I reasoned that if I bought a map and switched my satnav off, I could then switch it on again when I was close to the end of the journey and use the power it still retained to find my destination. After all, we used to do that all the time before satnavs without any help from electronic gizmos of any sort!

And I got away with it! My route (now unplanned) took me in a giant sweeping arc all the way down past (not through as in the old days) Toulouse, Carcassonne (the magnificent mediaeval walled city), Narbonne, Montauban and Montpellier before arriving at Nimes. On the way I spotted the old names, Aigues Mortes, Sete etc, that I last saw when we were on our last family holiday down there in 1986 – 26 years ago. It made me feel very nostalgic.

I found a petrol station after leaving the ‘peage’ at Nimes and asked a young guy who was filling up his car next to mine if he knew where the tile warehouse was. It turned out it that was just up the road! Unfortunately the trip was wasted in that respect because lovely though the tiles they had were (and also the people selling them amazingly kind and helpful), they did not match mine closely enough. Then it came time to think about the trip home. I thought I’d try what looked to be a more direct ‘cross country’ route that would take me north from Montpellier via Millau to Rodez and thence the Dordogne. And Millau, of course, is world-famous for its stunning viaduct – designed by a British architect – that spans between two hills about 900 feet above the ground.

The drive out of Montpellier was something of a nightmare in what was the worst traffic jam I’ve been in since leaving the UK. And French drivers give no allowances for not knowing which exit you need from roundabouts and are quick to lean on their horns if you hesitate for a moment and inconvenience them in their dash from work to home! After a drive north on mainly good, fast roads, I arrived at the ‘Viaduc Millau’. Unfortunately when I drove across it, it was dark so all I could see by my headlights were the supports that towered above the roadway and the barriers at the side and the centre of the road. But fantastically, spread out on the ground below were the lights of the town as though you were in an aircraft flying over them. An amazing experience – one that I must do in daylight some time.

French roads have come on amazingly since we used to come on holiday all those years ago. The motorways are very smooth and modern with speed limits of either 110 kmh (70 mph) or 130 kmh (83 mph). Much of the route I took home was motorway standard even as it climbed higher and higher into the mountains, not much of which I could see unfortunately. When it became particularly bendy either going up or down, then the speed limit was reduced to as low as 90 kmh or even 70 kmh but on the whole you could be speeding along at 110 kmh in what I am sure would have been stunning scenery in the daylight.

Toddie and I, for I had to take him with me of course, got home some time after midnight, so it was a long day. He crashed out straight away and was still taking it easy and sleeping as I began to type this this morning. Not surprising as he’s an old boy now – a bit like myself, although I was just being a bit lazy and choosing not to do the things I really should have been doing today 😉

November 13, 2012

Job’s a good’un!

And, yes, I’m as surprised as anyone! Yesterday I finished running my satellite cable through the roof of my ‘grenier’, down the side of the chimney up there and through the floor into the corner of my ‘sejour’ where I wanted to have my television. In the process, while descending the outside wooden staircase, the bottom two stairs that were obviously a bit rotten, collapsed, so I already have another job lined up 😐 At the end of it all, I faced a classical dilemma. I’m already well up on my monthly budget having laid out a wad of cash on the X-Air bits I recently purchased but I would have no idea whether all the work I’d done installing the satellite system was worth it or not unless I connected something to it.

I thought about buying an inexpensive tuner card for my PC on Ebay to test it with but couldn’t see the point of doing that because I didn’t really want it. It would be a waste of money, and it would have taken several days to be delivered anyway, so I rejected the idea. All the while I had a little green devil on my shoulder reminding me about the gorgeous 42″ Panasonic LED TV that I’d seen on Promo at Boulanger on Saturday but I kept telling him to buzz off. Until about 5.30pm that was. In the meantime I’d checked the TV out again on the Boulanger web site and been impressed yet again by it’s specification compared to other similar models at around the same price (OK, OK, just a little less maybe…) at Leclerc and elsewhere and also noticed that the ‘magasin Boulanger’ at Trelissac stays open until 7.30pm. In the end the little green devil got the best of me. He reasoned that, what the heck, you only live once… so Toddie and I found ourselves shortly thereafter heading off in the car with destination Trelissac. With the day almost over, there was hardly anyone else in the shop and the young chap who served me was a bit bowled over by how easy it was to make such a hefty sale! A few minutes later he and I were loading the TV into the back of my car – together with the complementary pen and plastic shopping bag so generously provided by Boulanger 🙂

Now, if I was to pretend that it was plain sailing getting the system connected up and working, I’d be telling a little fib. I tried to use the set up instructions that came with the TV but kept ending up with the ‘no signal detected’ message. I disconnected my mum’s old Freesat box and tested the signal it was receiving using my precision Chinese satellite signal detector and was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a signal down at the TV end – a bit lower than up at the dish, but that wasn’t surprising as now there were about 30 metres of cable in between. But with the blue light glowing on the Freesat box and the TV connected, I just couldn’t get anything on the TV at all. I then realised that I’d used an accessory lead to connect the SCART from the Freesat to the AV1 port on the TV, but after changing the setting on the TV and several more minutes of fiddling, still nothing. I then decided that it was time to give up and pressed the button with the blue light on the Freesat box to switch it off. When I did so I immediately got a fantastic picture with sound of the Federer – Djokovic tennis final at the O2 in London! Obviously the blue light showed the box was on standby and the light goes out when it’s switched on. How stupid for the instruction booklet that came with the Freesat box, that I have, not to mention such an obvious thing 😐

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When I got into the Freesat box system menu, I was pleasantly surprised to find that against a minimum acceptable signal strength of 50% my system was showing a reading of 75%. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert as a result of this – I think that the web site I found that shows you where to point your dish to find your chosen satellite has to take the most credit – but I am nevertheless very happy with what I’ve managed to achieve with kit that I originally bought for use in the UK and which some people told me not to bother wasting my time carting all the way down through France. I still have a lot of exploring to do with the system, but I now have a brilliant TV system with all of the free-to-air UK satellite stations. As Sky uses the same satellite(s), I now also have the option of adding a Sky subscription service in the future since although Sky are not supposed to provide a service outside of the UK, they turn a blind eye to the many thousands of ex-pats all over Europe (the world?) who have systems set up to receive it. But anyway, at least I’ve managed to tick one of my to-do boxes for this week 😉

November 12, 2012

Looking forward

It looks as though we have a great week coming up – the weather forecast is totally rain-free with some chilly nights (hurray, will kill all those mozzies off!), low wind speeds and temperatures around 20 deg C (nearly 70 deg F) in the latter half of the week. My first job will be to finish off my satellite installation and I might drive the 250 miles each way later in the week to get my floor tiles. But what I would really like to do is make a proper start on the X-Air – fit the new trim and brake cables and front wheel bearings and start on the new panel. With those done it won’t need very much to get it back together again and flyable. Then I must chase up the guys in the French CAA about getting my French licence. Oh yeah – and while it’s dry, I must give my grass a final cut as well. There always has to be a ‘downer’, doesn’t there 😐

November 11, 2012

By jove, I think I’ve got it!

Look, this satellite stuff is all new to me. When I bought my installation kit on Ebay months and months ago I also acquired a second-hand ‘satellite signal detector’. To be honest, it was more in hope than expectation because when you receive this kind of stuff that you’ve found on Ebay, half of the time it doesn’t work. And not only had this been left in my garage in the UK for many months, it had also then been dumped in a box with a load of other stuff and subjected to a trek across half of Europe. So I hardly expected to get much out of it.

It looks like a bit of 1930’s laboratory kit, but can’t be of course, because satellites haven’t been around that long. And the rather amusing Chinese-English in the accompanying 4-page, ie a single sheet of paper with a fold down the middle :-), ‘user manual’ also gave the lie to that. But it said quite emphatically that all you had to do was roughly line up your dish with your chosen satellite, if necessary using the compass provided (that’s a laugh for a start as it’s only 1″ in diameter!), connect the signal detector, waggle the dish from side to side and up and down and tweak the sensitivity knob on the unit until you got your signal. Sounded easy enough, even though I’d be stuck up a ladder while doing it and holding the signal detector in one hand, its battery pack in the other and waggling the dish with another. Eh?

Amazingly enough, guided by the green line on Google Earth as shown in my previous posting, it didn’t take me very long to get a signal and after adjusting the sensitivity knob and waggling the dish in the manner prescribed by my Chinese advisers, I tightened the nuts on the dish bracket and descended the ladder with a look of quiet confidence on my face which, sadly, nobody could see as I was alone. Except for Toddie that is, and he by this time was thinking more about his lunch-to-come than anything to do with satellites or satellite dishes. And I must admit, I was a bit suspicious of how easy it had all been – too easy if you get my drift. So after Toddie and I had grabbed something to eat to keep us going, I went across to the corner of my neighbour’s out-house over which the green line was supposed to pass on its 38000 kilometre journey to the Astra satellite and looked back. My face fell. It was obvious that the dish had got a signal from somewhere, but it certainly wasn’t from Astra and if I had connected my box up to it, who knows what TV stations I might have picked up! The dish was directed much too far south and I had obviously been far too over-confident in my new-found satellite detecting skills 🙁

I came back indoors and fired up my computer to see if I could get some kind of clue to what was going on. Surely there couldn’t be that many satellites in that direction… Er, yes there are. The web site had listed them in clockwise order going from east to west and if I wasn’t mistaken, it appeared that I had managed to lock onto Eutelsat Hot Bird 13A. This, according to the blurb I unearthed by doing a Google search, carries more than 500 free-to-air TV stations but hardly any of them in English. So, back to the drawing board, or more correctly the satellite dish. If I’d managed to get my dish so closely aligned in the beginning, using the corner of my neighbour’s out-house, how come I’d not managed to pick up Astra when I did my dish-waggling? The answer was in the sensitivity knob. The lesson in all this is believe your web site, it’s there to help you and to ‘Trust Your Green Line!’ After I’d slackened all the nuts again, re-aligned my dish, connected my signal detector and turned my sensitivity knob, BINGO, there was my signal. Remember, we’re dealing with digital stuff here, none of your old-fashioned analogue nonsense, so you either have it or you don’t. And I had it. I then began to carefully reduce my signal detector’s sensitivity in the manner instructed by my Chinese experts who had crafted this superb piece of precision kit, while simultaneously waggling my dish to pick it up again until the kit and I had attained our limits. Then I knew that the job had been well and truly done 😉

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Obviously, I won’t know that that’s the case until (a) I connect my mum’s old Freesat box to it and (b) buy a TV and hook that up to the box, but I’m quietly confident. You know what they say, if it looks right, it probably is, and I reckon I’ve got it on the button.

The rest of the afternoon was a bit of an anti-climax in comparison to the technical dramas I had triumphed over earlier on. Toddie more or less lost interest and kept reminding me that it was getting close to his dinner time (it wasn’t, but he does that whenever he’s bored with proceedings) while I ran satellite cable from my newly-illuminated ‘grenier’ along under the eaves of the house to the dish. The highlight of the afternoon was when I heard the unmistakable sound of a Rotax 503 two-stroke engine approaching my house from far off at low level and Wim flew over giving me a cheery wave from the cockpit of his single-seat AX3. It was a perfect day to be flying – bright, sunny and almost windless – and he reminded me of what I’m missing while the X-Air is parked covered up in my back garden and I am busying myself with all these other jobs. They have to be done, but I’d rather be flying… 😕

November 9, 2012

Almost forgot!

Yesterday was a good, positive day and I was pleased with how things moved forward a little bit more with the satellite dish and stuff. But that wasn’t all. There was something else that also brought a smile to my face that I forgot to mention in last night’s long post. I sent Rand-Kar a list of items that I needed prices for for the X-Air several days ago and ordered what I need just now earlier in the week. I was on the phone in the morning when there was a knock on my back door. It was ‘la Facteuse’ with a parcel, so I’ve now got what I need to start putting the X-Air back together again. It doesn’t look like much as you can see in the pic below but now I can really start to move forward again on the microlight front. This is more like it 🙂

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The package contained the new wing tensioning cables, new brake and trim cables and new bearings for the front wheel. And although I could have made do with the original, I also ordered a new panel front. The current instrument layout is a bit of a mess and although the new front has cost just over £70, not only will it give me great pleasure to make a new panel but I think it will also greatly improve the appearance and ‘feel’ of the aircraft. Anyway, we’ll have to wait and see. And now I must get back up my ladder to see if I can align my satellite dish and pick up a signal 😉

Update at 5.30pm local time – I’m back and typing this while enjoying a refreshing glass of Pelforth Brune, a brown beer that’s quite similar to a British brown ale but which develops a head in the glass that’s a bit like a Guinness but not quite as thick. Well, I didn’t get the satellite dish installation finished off. I got very little done on it at all actually, although I did line it up according to the web site pic in the previous post by standing at the corner of my neighbour’s out-house and adjusting it until I was looking straight down the LNB boom. But that’s all, and I’ve just put the ladder, which has been standing up against the wall all day, back in my cave. The reason was that I have a satellite signal detector that takes 10 AA batteries and although I started charging the first batch of 4 yesterday evening, I had to finish the second and third batches today. Unbelievably, the third batch is still not fully charged and as a result I’ve been unable to use the meter!

But the day has been far from a dead loss! When I run the satellite cable, it’ll need to go through the floor of my attic, or ‘grenier’ into my lounge above where I wish to have my television. That’s fine as far as it goes, but my grenier is not only filthy and containing loads of junk that the previous occupant of the house left behind, but there was also no light up there so you could see what you were doing. I planned to use a cable that was formerly used for an outside light near my kitchen door as I mentioned in a previous post, for a light in the grenier worked from a switch in my kitchen, so I decided that today was as good a day as any to get the job done. And the job turned out well, as you can see below.

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Having a light up there will be great anyway, for when whoever I get in does the work on the roof. But now I’ll also be able to think about getting the place cleared out, which will be an excellent thing in itself. And as an aside, what a great space it is, isn’t it. One day I hope to be able to afford to have a couple of extra rooms up there including a new bedroom with an en-suite for myself. After all, after all the work I’ll have done on the place, I’ll deserve a little bit of luxury I reckon … 😉

November 8, 2012

Of tomettes, X-Air and other things

We’ve had an extended period of rather bad weather, at least I think so. As of today I’ve had the X-Air for 4 weeks and in the whole of that time it has hardly stopped raining – a succession of horrible grey, damp days, one after another. The Dordogne has a speciality – not drizzle and not proper rain. It’s like spitting but quicker, just slowly and gently pitter-pattering down and it manages to keep doing it all day long, non-stop. Just enough to make you not want to go and do anything outside, but luckily I’ve found enough things to do indoors to keep me occupied.

The weather’s really strange (for me anyway) at the moment. We’ve still been getting daytime temperatures of around 60 deg F which means that the bugs aren’t dying off. When we used to come to France on holidays as a family, everyone else used to get bitten by the mozzies except me. But this time around I’m being eaten alive and it seems I’m not the only one. I went to the supermarket the other day and thought that I’d pick up a couple of cans of spray so I could give the whole house a couple of good blasts. It turned out that they were sold out – not a can of spray for ‘volants’ of any brand on the shelf, so I got one of those little electrical plug in ones with a bottle on it, like room freshener but with ‘anti-moustique’ in it. Now I’ll have to see if it works but the signs are good as I keep seeing dead mozzies and midges around the place and I don’t seem to be suffering the way I was! I’ve put some lights up on the front of the house because it’s pitch black here otherwise and when I went to take the dog out last thing the other evening there were literally dozens of mozzies and midges around it and some really big ones too. No wonder I’m covered in bites 😕

So for the whole of the last 4 weeks, the X-Air has stood pathetically under covers in my back garden, being constantly rained on. This was it the other morning seen from the back door of my ‘sejour’ but the picture has hardly changed in all that time.

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By the way, the corrugated iron you can see behind the trees in the background isn’t because there’s a scrap yard behind my house. It belongs to my neighbour and as is the normal practice here, it covers an enormous stack of logs, all about a metre long, that need to be kept dry ready for use when needed in their wood-burner. Everywhere you drive here there are stacks of sawn wood by the roadside, some of which has been there for many months while it dries out. But nobody would ever think of pinching any of it though 🙂

Yes, that’s MYRO under the cover behind the X-Air. Previously its wings were lying on the ground under a cover behind it but with all the rain we’ve had, I found that the cover was collecting pools of smelly stagnant water full of decaying leaves. There was a gap in the rain that was long enough for me to move them in so they are now standing covered up against the rear wall of my house. I have various future options for MYRO which I want to retain so I don’t want it to deteriorate in the meantime, so this is a much better arrangement. I also need to refit the cabin doors to stop muck getting inside, which is happening at the moment but I didn’t have time after moving the wings before the rain started again.

The weather is changing, of course, as we go through into the Autumn and start to approach the Winter. The night-before-last was very cold and although I’ve seen a bit of ground-frost a couple of times when I’ve looked out in the early morning, yesterday was the first time that I’ve seen ice on the bird-bath. The day continued a bit on the chilly side but was bright and clear and I had the pleasure of having Sophie and Wim drop in for a cup of tea while they were out walking in the afternoon. I expected another cold night last night and put a heater in my bedroom and also left a bit of heating on in the rest of the house but in fact it wasn’t anywhere near as cold as the night before.

Today was a glorious warm, still sunny day which I made the most of. When my mother left her bungalow to live with my sister, she gave me her Freesat box and while I was living in Kent I bought a satellite dish and installation kit that I never got around to installing. Luckily I bought a dish that was larger than was strictly necessary for the south of England, so when I moved here I brought it with me. My original plan was to have the dish mounted on my chimney, but now my roof work has been put back while I see about getting my fireplace and flue ready for a wood-burner, Wim suggested that I could mount it on a pole in my garden. The problem with that, though, is that my neighbour has some large trees in his garden and although there’s a gap in them in the direction in which I need to point the satellite, there’s actually no suitable spot to position the pole on that line. So I thought to heck with it, why not just mount the dish on the southern end of the house and be done with it, as although I’ve been watching a bit of TV on my computer (not an edifying experience because the Internet here is just so slow :-() I’d like to have satellite TV before the Winter evenings set in.

So today I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve been waiting for a ladder that I wanted to buy to arrive in stock at Brico Depot and at last I got hold of one, so today I went up it and fixed the dish on the wall. It’s a while since I’ve been up a ladder like that, let alone while drilling holes into a stone wall, but pretty soon I got used to it and got the bracket and dish up there. I didn’t take a pic as I couldn’t get the whole job finished before the end of the day, but here’s a screen shot taken from the really handy web site I found that tells you which way to point your dish so it finds your chosen satellite. Where I’ve mounted the dish, I’m hoping that I’ll be aiming it right through the gap in my neighbour’s trees 🙂

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I may or may not be successful in getting the system to work, I’ll have to wait and see, but I’m giving it a shot anyway. If it doesn’t work I can soon get someone in locally to install a system for me, but I’ve decided that I’m going to get my satellite TV before the Winter one way or another.

Now what about my floor tiles? The sample arrived from Toulouse and as expected, as you can see from the following pic in which I’ve placed it on top of an existing tile, it isn’t quite close enough to the existing ones.

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The tiles from Toulouse are all in that same colour. It’s quite close to the ‘average’ colour of the existing floor, but the whole point is that the floor is made from traditional old tiles that are highly variable in colour. This means that an area done with ‘new’ tiles would stand out rather oddly. Wim suggested that in that case I should do the job in a completely different way, by using bricks on edge, for example, in order to create a feature in front of the fireplace. I’m not that keen on the idea and although doing a ‘matching’ job will depend on finding tiles that blend in perfectly, I think I may have found exactly what I need. A few days ago, Sophie suggested doing an Internet search using the term ‘tomettes’, the old French word for floor tiles. When I entered it into Google, several suppliers that I hadn’t found before came up, including one with the following image on their web site.

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That looks pretty dam’ close to my floor to me! The tiles in question are 50% more expensive than the ones from Toulouse but so what – the job only has to be done the once. The main problem is that the supplier is a long way away, over to the north of the Riviera, and I really need to see the tiles for myself before I buy them. But I don’t have anything else more important to do with my time, do I. Life’s such an adventure these days 😀