May 24, 2014

Down south again

I journeyed back down south again yesterday. This time I travelled by rail so I left home in a taxi at 11.30am, which took me across to the railway station at Le Buisson de Cadouin, the place just south-west of Le Buge that I flew over a couple of weeks or so ago. Then came my big shock of the day. The taxi that took me there came from Rouffignac and the journey only took half an hour or so as the distance to Le Buisson from my home is only 33km. When I got the fare, I almost fell over, as it was 66€! I could hardly believe it because my (concessionary) rail fare for the whole journey from Le Buisson to Carcassonne was only 38.50€, and not only that, after changing at Agen they’d even very kindly allocated me a 1st class seat for well over half of the total distance!

Anway, I just had to bite the bullet and cough up, but I’ll remember that for the future although hopefully I’ll not have much need for a taxi again after this. Not having travelled in France before by train, I’d hoped that I’d be able to take quite a few photographs of the journey. However, I was to be disappointed because the weather was dull and wet the whole of the way. The rain stopped briefly when I was waiting on the platform at Agen for my connection to Carcassonne and I just took a few shots as a kind of flavour of the journey.

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As usual, my experience of travelling from Le Buisson to Agen was not without incident. When I picked up the ticket that I’d booked and paid for previously over the Internet, from the booking office at Le Buisson, it turned out to be two tickets, one for each leg of the journey. Not knowing the form, naturally I just jumped onto the train with them and sat down next to an elderly French lady who, it turned out, was returning to Marseilles after having spent several days with a group in the Dordogne visiting a number of local chateaux. The train we were on was a little two-coach diesel local service that had a driver and a conductor who walked down the train checking the tickets of the new people who boarded and announced each station that we were stopping at as we approached it. I handed him my ticket for the Le Buisson to Agen leg which he punched several times before handing it back to me and solemnly informing me that I should have ‘composted’ it before boarding the train. I just gave a suitably non-committal reply and after he’d gone, asked the elderly lady what he’d said.

She and another charming middle-aged lady who spoke some English together explained that at each station there’s a yellow machine that you have to shove the end of your ticket into before boarding the train, carefully making sure that it’s the right way round. It’s some kind of anti-fraud measure that prevents a ticket being used more than once, apparently, and if you don’t do it, the conductor, they told me, is entitled to impose a surcharge on you. So naturally, after I arrived at Agen, I asked the elderly lady, who also had to change and wait for the same incoming inter-city train as me, what I had to do. She suggested that I dashed off the platform into the main ticket hall where I would find the said yellow machine, ‘composted’ the ticket to Carcassonne by shoving it into the appropriate slot, and then dashed back to the platform we were standing on. And that I needed to make it pretty quick as well, as there was only a delay of nine minutes before the second train was scheduled to depart.

So I found someone to take care of my case for me and duly legged it. It turned out that all ‘composting’ involves is having a date printed on your ticket so it can’t be used on another occasion and obviously if I’d known about this, all I would have had to do was find the machine at Le Buisson and ‘compost’ both of my tickets to cover the whole of the journey to Carcassonne. In fact I subsequently found out that all of my efforts sprinting down and up and down and up steps at Agen were totally unnecessary because no conductor came along to check our tickets on the inter-city train in any case – at least not where I was comfortably ensconced in First Class anyway 🙂

What else was memorable about my journey by ‘local’ train service? I think it was how relaxed everything was. On several occasions along the way, the train stopped at little local stations and several passengers alighted from it. They then frequently just descended a short ramp down from the platform and walked directly across the tracks to the station exit on the other side, in front of the train as it stood there, with some of them occasionally bidding ‘adieu’ to the driver with whom they were obviously acquainted. The train itself was very up-to-date, comfortable and modern but passengers must have been doing this ever since there was a rail line running through their little villages. Such is the charm of rural France with its intriguing combination of the new with the old traditional way of doing things. I thought to myself as I watched people walking across the tracks with their shopping bags, brief cases and knapsacks, what ructions there would be with the Health and Safety brigade in the UK if someone even suggested that such a thing should be permitted there, let alone tried to do it. They would brand them as being practically insane, whereas such things just happen here without incident as a matter of course.

As I hadn’t requested either, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had been allocated both First Class and a reserved window seat for the onward inter-city leg to Carcassonne. The carriage had a side corridor with direct entry into a clean and bright compartment seating six people. I sat in a very comfortable seat upholstered in beige leather facing a small table below which there were two plugs for powering lap tops or charging mobile phones. The seat had a switch in its arm that allowed me to make it recline automatically and as the tilting train hurtled comfortably and fairly quietly southwards, save for a hoot and a loud thump on the window each time a train passed travelling in the opposite direction, I thought to myself just how pleasurable the journey was. And how, unlike in the UK, I had also been able to make it without totally breaking the bank. Well done SNCF, you have apparently managed to unravel mysteries to do with rail travel that have baffled both British Rail and a succession of governments on the other side of the English Channel for years!

I was met at Carcassonne by my friend Val and it was lovely to be back in her company as we strolled back to her car parked just down from the station in what was a rare break in the rain. The purpose of my return journey south to the Languedoc was to pick up the car that I’d spotted on Le Bon Coin, the French small ads web site, and had made arrangements to buy, and that we did today. Here are a few shots I took of it a bit earlier this afternoon while it was parked in the little lay-by just up from Val’s house.

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This is the first car that I’ve bought in France and first left-hand-drive car that I’ve ever owned. I’ve not had a chance to drive it that much yet as I’ve only had it for a few hours, but I love it to bits already. I’m hoping that it will be the ideal vehicle for my needs, but we’ll have to wait and see and I’ll keep people posted as my experience with it progresses 😉

May 22, 2014

Strange day

This is what I was typing to post on here yesterday…

The forecast high for today was 25 degrees Celsius and although I don’t think we quite got that, it was within a couple of degrees or so. However, it has been cloudy all day with very warm winds from the south gusting over 70 kmh at times and visibility has been limited by a white haze, which I guess could be airborne dust and pollution. With the sky a sort-of milky white, there has been a weird quality to the atmosphere today.

The winds have actually been quite damaging. Having cleared my front lawn up after the winds of a couple of days ago, it’s now covered again with a lot of debris from the big old lime tree in front of my house, but the difference this time is that it includes some small branches in full leaf that have been snapped off by the winds. And the telephone wire to my neighbour’s house at the rear of mine that usually passes over my lawn at a height of about ten feet or so has come down to touching distance, so I guess the engineer will have to come along at some time to sort that out. Sadly, one of my next-door neighbour’s old cherry trees that stands on land that he owns on the other side of the road to his house has also been a casualty and has been blown over onto 400 volt power cables that are on poles along the side of the road and he is out cutting it up while I am typing this.

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It’s becoming quite dark actually and with the winds still gusting pretty hard, I’ve just heard a few large drops of rain hitting my back door. So it looks as though we’re now probably in for a thunderstorm as the lights have been flashing every now and then for the past few minutes. Luckily, with the winds coming from the south, 56NE is sheltered by the trees behind it, so I should have nothing to worry about on that score. Even so, I won’t be sorry when this little bout of weather has passed through and blown itse

…and it was at that point that all the lights went out. A highly localised and quite violent little thunderstorm raged overhead for about half an hour with some very severe gusts of wind but the power was off for about two hours. When it came back on again, I found that my SFR Neufbox wouldn’t connect and that I’d therefore lost both my telephone and Internet connections. I tried re-booting the box several times without success, so I made a couple of calls on my mobile to tell a few friends and family that I’d be incommunicado for a while. I didn’t mind too much as I’ve had so many problems with SFR that I’ve given them notice of termination and will soon be switching to Orange with a new telephone number so was resigned to leaving things as they were. However, I had another go this morning and this time I got my green light back. So far, I’ve only got Internet, which has enabled me to finish this posting, but possibly the phone will come back on during the day as the diagnostics are saying that the line itself is not working. Anyway, given my experience of SFR, especially in recent months, I’ll believe that when I see it.

Before the power came back on again yesterday evening and while it was still light, I drove across to Galinat to check on 56NE. As the wind was from the south and 56NE was protected by the trees behind it, I was pleased but unsurprised that nothing much had moved. I also noticed on the way that whereas there were a few trees down and other signs of wind damage on the Plazac side of the valley, there were few signs of the storm on the Galinat side. I have to say that I would always prefer it to be that way all the while 56NE is tied-down outside.

May 18, 2014

To Gourdon

We had a lovely day today with clear blue skies and a high of 26 degrees Celsius. The gusting winds that we’ve been getting for the past few days were forecast to abate somewhat and sure enough, although not completely calm, we had southerly breezes of no more than 7-8 mph. I’d got myself ready to go last night so as not to waste too much time this morning as my aim was to get airborne by late am to avoid the increasing turbs that the hot sun would inevitably start to throw up. But before doing anything, after the recent attack on 56NE, I first had to give it a very thorough inspection and I’m glad to say that I found nothing amiss. My destination was Gourdon to the south-east with a return via Sarlat, as shown by the following image of my intended route.

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I got away from Galinat just before 11.00 am and as I turned onto track, I knew that my decision to fly earlier than usual had paid off because the ride was almost completely smooth. There was the odd bump but you have to expect that when you fly over such large areas of tree-covered hills the way that we do down here. I made my way to Gourdon via a chateau that’s marked on the chart but I’m blowed if I could find it. I’ve tried once before and I’m beginning to think that it’s either a mistake or some kind of anomaly.

When I drive south, I usually go across country via Sarlat and pick up the ‘payage’ a little way north of Cahors. The route takes me through Gourdon which is a charming little town and I’d been thinking for some time that I’d like to photograph it from the air. In fact, the results were rather disappointing, mainly because I didn’t fly close enough so the shots don’t include enough detail. It was my own fault so I’ll have to make a return visit some time, but for now I’ve just shown the one pic, below, of the town, showing its bathing lake in the foreground next to the road south from Sarlat.

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I then turned around to head up to Sarlat with the Aerodrome de Sarlat Domme over on my left. I took the next couple of shots of the Dordogne river as I was approaching Sarlat from the south.

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Unfortunately, I have no idea of the name of the beautiful chateau that’s visible in the shots on the north bank of the river. Sarlat itself is a bit of a mish-mash of architecture and styles. It’s an ancient town and the second city of the Perigord after Perigueux itself. As a result, it houses official administrative services in modern office blocks and has also attracted a large number of commercial and retail organisations, most of which are located in the southern parts. LeClerc have built an enormous new hypermarket there which only opened this week, on 14 May actually, and you can see what I mean from the next two photographs.

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The central and northern parts of Sarlat do contain some newer buildings, but those areas are where most of the older and more traditional ones can be found. The final two photographs show just how different the northern and southern parts of the town are.

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The whole flight only lasted for 55 minutes, and that included a circuit over Thonac to line up for a long approach to Galinat. But it was good fun and the up-side was that by doing it early, I had the time to laze in the sun for a change, this afternoon 😉

May 16, 2014

Nice surprise, nasty surprise

Isn’t it funny how just when you think things are going so well, life always then lobs you down a curved ball. First the nice surprise. My old Vauxhall/Opel Astra estate is now over 14 years old and I didn’t pay much for it when I bought it over three and a half years ago. Since then I’ve used it and abused it. I’ve spent almost nothing on parts – just a set of front tyres, windscreen wipers, stuff like that – very little on maintenance except for items like oil, and absolutely nothing on any other form of servicing. Yet it has rewarded me by being what I think must be the most reliable vehicle that I’ve ever owned.

I drove it quite extensively in the UK and since coming to France I’ve put many thousands of miles on it, including twice returning to the UK, involving a lot of high speed motorway driving, plus journeys all over the place in search of materials for the house, furniture and just visiting friends. And still the old girl hasn’t let me down. Except for a few weeks ago that is, when the alternator drive belt snapped over in the Gironde when I had a chest of drawers and a bedside cabinet on board, another chest of drawers in my trailer and a wardrobe on the roof.

And I suppose that’s what started me thinking, really. Well not exactly ‘started’ because I’d already been thinking that I would soon have to consider getting hold of a replacement vehicle. One or two things have started to go wrong – the air conditioning has never worked properly since I’ve had it, but recently the heater blower also stopped working, which made driving last winter rather unenjoyable and tricky at times when I couldn’t de-mist the windscreen properly. And little electronic warning indicators keep appearing on the dash display every now and again – I have no idea what they’re for but I bet they mean that a fairly large bill for something or other is just around the corner, they generally do. And that’s not all – I lost the rear exhaust box when it was clobbered by the road works in Plazac at the end of last year, it’s approaching the mileage when its timing belt will need to be replaced for the second time and to top it all, the front tyres are now down to the legal limit.

So realistically, it’s just about coming to the end of its economic life, as I couldn’t possibly justify spending the amount of money on it that would be needed to rectify all of those problems. However, it’s not that easy to find a suitable replacement here in France. As far as we British are concerned, as with several other things, the French have a blind-spot when it comes to used cars. Compared to the UK, the whole French used car market is grossly over-priced. After all, how can anyone be asking over 1000€ for a 1997 car (no, model as it was actually sold in 1996) even if it does have a CT (the French version of the UK MOT road-worthiness test), but the small ads are full of them, as they are of cars with gearboxes and engines ‘HS’ (hors service ie knackered and not working), which are advertised by sellers for a few euros less than the ‘normal’ price because they can’t be bothered to repair them themselves. But they expect you to after buying it off them without having any chance of knowing if what they say is wrong actually is, and if it would run even after repairing what they say is the problem ie only the gearbox, or the crankshaft, or the turbo or some other ‘minor’ thing, according to them.

So I’ve been casually looking for another car for the last few weeks, but without much success. My next car has to be left-hand drive but it would be difficult for me to get it from Belgium or Holland the way that some people do because the prices there are more reasonable compared to France. I would also prefer a diesel because the fuel is so much cheaper in France than petrol/gasolene, making for considerably reduced running costs. I thought therefore, that I might go for a diesel Renault Scénic, that was until I read the English internet owner forums and the small ads more thoroughly.

I’m afraid the conclusion that I came to is that French cars are just not that reliable. On the English forums I frequently read of huge electronic problems – Scénics and Clios whose electronic key cards had arbitrarily ceased to work, rendering vehicles totally immobile, requiring them to be re-programmed or have parts of their systems replaced at huge cost. Nice-looking, low-mileage Citroëns (C5, C4, C3) with so many complex electronic problems after less than 10 years use that even the manufacturer’s agents couldn’t solve, necessitating the owners disposing of them for scrap or ‘parts’ at huge losses. And I have been gob-smacked by the number of Renaults and Peugeots I’ve seen that in their short lives have had head gaskets replaced, new water and fuel pumps, new turbos, new central locking and new electric window motors to name just a few, all of which their proud owners, who are trying to get rid of them, say that they have a wad of invoices for. And then I’ve looked at what my little Astra has cost me in the time that I’ve owned it and despaired.

And my Astra is far from being an ‘old banger’. It’s the Elegance model that comes with features such as cruise control and alloy wheels and as it is also automatic, I was becoming resigned to taking a bit of a climb-down for my next car. That was until just the other day when I was speaking to my mother on the phone. I was just talking about these kinds of problems, as you do, and saying how I was searching for another car that would meet my needs but that with my budget, I’d be unable to buy the car that I’d really like. To my complete surprise, she said that in that case, she’d let me have the difference, as a kind-of belated birthday present, if you like. That was the nice surprise and that’s the reason why I’m about to become the proud new owner of the little beauty shown below.

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It’s a Kia Sportage, a car that I’ve always loved. Not only is it not French but it’s also one of the most reliable cars manufactured anywhere in the world. The one I’m buying is a 2006 model with a 2 litre diesel engine and an automatic plus sequential gear box. It’s also the ‘XS’ version which is the top of the range with cruise control, heated leather seats, climate control and other ‘goodies’. It has electronic 4-wheel drive, which will be very handy down here in the Dordogne if/when we get heavy winter snows again and also on the airfield so I should at least never get bogged-down again the way that I did earlier this year. And it has a reputed top speed of just under 110 mph, not that that was a factor as far as I was concerned, with an overall fuel consumption of around 38 mpg, which definitely was.

I had hoped to get the sale sorted within a few days, but in France this seems to be well-nigh impossible. The transfer of ownership is a tortuous process. If you lose the registration document or it’s stolen before it’s put into your name and you can’t, for some reason, contact either the previous owner or the garage you bought it off, it’s technically impossible for you to get hold of another and the car is therefore rendered practically worthless even if it’s only a few years old. Also, although a CT (compulsory French road-worthiness test) lasts for 2 years, when you sell a car, you must have another CT done for the new owner if the existing one was done more than 6 months before the date of the sale. And finally, all cars with ‘old style’ number plates have to be re-registered with ‘new style’ plates in the name of the existing owner before the car is sold and ownership transferred to the purchaser. So whereas I thought I’d be able to pick the car up and pay the outstanding amount within a few days of seeing it on Wednesday, it appears that it could take anything up to two weeks for that to be possible, for goodness sake! But nothing can be done to speed things up – after all, this is France 😐

OK, you say, so what was the nasty surprise? Well, I switched on and used my PC quite normally this morning, then switched it off and went off for a couple of hours to do a few things. When I came back aqnd switched my PC on again, it failed to boot up. It’s now not recognizing the boot (C:) drive and Windows has just decided without any warning to stop working. I can’t say that this is the first time this has happened but in the past, when I was still running my business, it was much more fraught because if I hadn’t done a recent back-up, it meant that I’d lost my accounts, Office files and all of my email records. Now it’s not so important but it’s just so ruddy annoying and pathetic that software designed and created by so-called professionals and that you have paid good money for, can in this day and age behave in such a way. God Bless Microsoft – NOT 🙁

It’s Saturday May 17 and I’ve just come back to say that after trying to boot my PC several times yesterday and having given up, this morning I tried to boot from the CD to see if I could repair my XP operating system. It wouldn’t have it, but after a couple of tries the PC entered set-up mode. It wouldn’t do that yesterday so that was encouraging and sure enough, after I’d gone through the set-up procedure, it booted up normally. So for now I’ve got my PC back, although experience says to be very wary, back up everything important and then wait for it to pack up again in the near future, probably terminally. The last thing I want to do is shell out for a new motherboard and processor but it looks as though I’m going to have to bite the bullet and do so in the very near future 😡

May 12, 2014

Cavarc visit Sunday 4 May

I’ve now finished the video I mentioned in my earlier post and put it up in the Videos section of My Trike. To save time, you can see it if you wish, by clicking on the above link or the following image.

Cavarc Visit

Cavarc airfield is in the Lot and Garonne region some 40 or 50 kilometres south-west of where I live in the Dordogne. After take off, the video shows how flat the land is around the airfield and the early stages of the flight show mainly villages and small towns surrounded by open fields and woodlands. However, as the flight progresses, the scenery gradually changes and you can see how the glaciers, originally, and subsequently the rivers Dordogne and Vézère have carved their way through the hills of the region we now call the Dordogne creating rocky hillsides and cliffs and broad areas of flat river plain where the towns of the region became established and grew to become what they are today.

Following the dismal news contained in my last post, I’m pleased to report that 56NE has now been repaired and, subject to my giving it a really thorough inspection to make sure that nothing else was interfered with, is now ready to go again. Victor unfortunately missed his tour of the area this time, but they’ll be other opportunities in the future. I reported the incident at the local Gendarmerie this morning and now intend to put the incident behind me because if I don’t, it’ll give some kind of victory to whoever caused the damage. However, I will be extremely vigilant with my pre-flight inspections in the future and I also intend to make a new, bigger engine cover that hides all the wiring etc from sight. But if there should be some kind of repeat in the future, I will regrettably have no choice other than to relocate 56NE elsewhere as I can’t afford to build a closed hangar for it at the moment. But what a sad day that would be if it actually came to pass 🙁

May 8, 2014

Totally stunned

I was going to take Victor as passenger today in 56NE for a flight to view the local area and we met up at the airfield while I was removing the aircraft’s covers before doing a re-flight inspection. Next thing he drew my attention to something he’d found while I was just folding the last wing cover. I was stunned to see that since I’d parked the aircraft on Sunday, someone had come along with a knife and severed all of the four wires connected to the voltage regulator/rectifier.

Cut wires

Cut wires

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We didn’t go flying, of course, but I was stunned that someone could have done something like this, and to an aircraft of all things. Cutting the wires in this way would not have prevented the engine from starting but would have stopped it from charging the battery and would almost certainly have caused an engine failure during flight if we had not noticed and just taken off. On the way home, I dropped in to show Christian, the airfield’s owner, and he said that to his knowledge it was the first time anything like this had happened at the airfield. He also said that as it was so serious, I should inform the local police tomorrow, as today was a holiday here in France.

I don’t know whether this was just a random act or was directed at me personally but I’ve just phoned Regis to warn him to check his aircraft carefully before he next flies it, just in case. I’m still absolutely gob-smacked while I type this 😐

May 6, 2014

Sunday’s pictures

I thought I’d started up the camcorder before I took off from Galinat on Sunday but only found out when I arrived at Cavarc that evidently I’d not pushed the button for long enough and had therefore failed to record anything on the way down. However, I took a shot of Les Eyzies as I flew past, which was unfortunately from the ‘wrong’ direction ie from the north, so you can’t see the caves, and against the sun. Nevertheless it came out pretty well.

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I successfully recorded a video of the take off from Cavarc and the journey back to Galinat, which I’m in the process of editing, but all of the rest of the pictures that follow in this post are just still photographs.

First, a few general shots of Cavarc and 56NE parked on the apron.

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After taking off to head for home, I initially flew north from Cavarc to take me past Beaumont du Perigord and Lalinde. Beaumont has a fortified church and a fine chateau but I failed to spot either and ended up taking no photographs. Maybe next time. Here’s a shot taken as I was approaching Lalinde, which is on the Dordogne river.

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I then turned east to follow the Dordogne for a few miles and the next couple of shots were taken just a short distance from Lalinde. I’m pretty certain that the buildings in the bottom left of the first of the two pics are a local prison 🙂

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A few miles further on is the village of Limeuil which is famous as it’s located at the confluence of the rivers Vézère and Dordogne. The following pictures are of the point where the rivers join, with the Vézère coming in from the top to join the Dordogne. I think that it’s interesting to see from the colour of the water that the two flows remain quite separate from each other for some distance after the rivers have actually joined, before the Vézère finally becomes absorbed into the Dordogne.

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And here’s a closer shot that I took of Limeuil as I flew past, heading east along the Vézère towards Le Bugue

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Le Bugue isn’t very far from Limeuil and was clearly visible in the near distance. I’ve already taken some shots of Le Bugue, which I’ve included in some previous posts, but as I was approaching the town from a different direction, I took a few more on Sunday.

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Once I’d passed Le Bugue, I was on the home leg for Galinat and I was almost ready to put my camera away. But it was lucky that I didn’t, because before I realised it, I was flying over a beautiful chateau that I’ve seen many times from the road when driving to and from Sarlat and which I’d wanted to photograph from the air for a long time. And here’s the result – the Chateau de Marzac, which is close to Tursac, that you can see in the distance on the road between Les Eyzies and Sarlat.

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Apparently, all of the houses in its proximity are the property of the chateau owners and are let out as luxury family holiday homes. I think that it’s one of the prettiest of all the chateaux in the surrounding area and I was really pleased to get the above shot, which was the last that I took on Sunday. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to shoot some more, now that the weather is beginning to pick up at last. Mind you, today hasn’t been too bright, but it can’t go on forever, can it 😉

May 5, 2014

La Scutigère véloce

I had a bit of a bad night last night and had to get up twice with an attack of indigestion, so you can imagine that my stomach wasn’t exactly more settled when I awoke this morning to find this little chap sitting staring back at me in my kitchen sink.

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He’s what’s known as ‘une Scutigère véloce’ and with his looks, only his mum could genuinely claim to love him unless, of course, you happen to be another scutigère of the opposite sex. He’s a warm-climate centipede with 15 pairs of legs and he’s called ‘véloce’ because when he sees you, he can run like the clappers. I’ve only found two others of this sort of size (approx 3cm) in my house before, one of which escaped into a hole in the wall in my bathroom never to be seen again (this one maybe?) and the other on my bedroom wall shortly after I moved in which, to my shame, I ended up killing.

I say ‘to my shame’ because depending on who you listen to, this little beastie poses no threat to humans at all and in fact uses it’s special talent for legging it at very high speed in order to beat a retreat as soon as it sees a human. At the same time it uses all sorts of ploys to evade capture – like hurling itself off high walls and hitting the ground (or floor) running, jumping down onto lower objects before disappearing into small gaps and generally displaying remarkable skill and intelligence in order to survive. Meanwhile it spends its time in your house ruthlessly and ravenously hunting down and devouring insects, like flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches and so on, all of which we humans thoroughly dislike but which drew him into your house in the first place.

So the French argue that if you find him in your house, either leave him alone or kill the insects that originally attracted him there. But we British and some other Northern European races who are not used to seeing such large insects in their houses, are unfortunately not quite so tolerant. We read scare stories on the Internet about these things dropping from walls onto the faces of sleeping people in the middle of the night and we shudder, which I confess is why, true or not, I chased and euthanised the one in my bedroom.

We are also a bit more squeamish of large, squiggly-looking insects, especially when they look like the scutigère, bristling with arms, legs and feelers, the more so when we’ve been told that at the business end they have a pair of fangs that they use to inject their own particular brand of venom into their insect victims in order to quickly despatch them, and which reputedly can affect humans much in the same way as a wasp sting.

So today I decided to do the decent but prudent thing, which was to chase the little scuttling creature around the bowl of my kitchen sink with a large rolled-up duster in my hand until I could plonk it down on top of him and pick him up. Then I took him a decent way away from my kitchen door and released him back into the wild. In the meantime, my house will probably begin to teem with all kinds of nasty bugs and insects, but if ‘la scutigère’ is half the insect that I believe he is, I reckon he’ll be back inside in half a shake of one of his 30 or so legs. And if he is, next time he’d better keep out of my kitchen sink because otherwise I might not be quite so easy on him 😉

May 4, 2014

Worked out well today

The weather turned out more or less as forecast – wind 8 gusting around 12 mph from the north with clear skies in the afternoon and a temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius. As a result I got my flight in to Cavarc where Victor was working on his Rans until about 4.00 pm. I mounted the camcorder again and although I thought I’d started it up just before I took off at Galinat, in fact I can’t have held the start button for long enough. I found that out after I’d landed at Cavarc because it had powered itself off and there was also the dreaded ‘No Scenes’ message, meaning that it hadn’t recorded anything. Here’s the route I took, out and back.

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However, I did manage to take a few photos on the way down despite it being a bit bumpy and I made sure that the camcorder was working when I took off again at Cavarc and although I haven’t yet had a chance to take a look at it, I know I’ve got some recorded material that I hope will make a reasonable video. Trouble is though, it will include the landing back at Galinat, which I’ve already got a clip of, which is why I especially wanted to have the landing at Cavarc. Anyway, too bad, it will have to be at some other time.

The other reason why I wanted to go to Cavarc was to get my French licence endorsed for passengers. It turns out that the instructor doesn’t sign it, rather he signs a paper that you send to the DGAC with your licence for them to officially endorse. But no matter, Francis the instructor was there and I did get my paper, so I can now offically take pasengers in 56NE. I’m very pleased and hopefully, apart from renewing 56NE’s registration at a cost of 20€ this autumn, that’ll be all the admin and paperwork that I’ll have to do. All I can say is, ‘Vive la France!’ 😀

May 1, 2014

Déjà vu all over again, Rodney

I am typing this at the end of the day and when I looked out of my window a few minutes ago it was still quite light. I realised that although today has been the Mayday holiday here in France, I’ve been indoors almost the whole time with my little fan heater running to keep me warm. So although the days are getting longer, they’re slipping by because of the horrible cold, wet weather that we’re getting that’s keeping us from going outside very much and, more importantly, from flying.

I thought I’d take a quick look back at what was happening this time last year and lo and behold I was saying almost the same thing. On 12 May, I was posting about how temperatures in the region of 11 degrees Celsius were anticipated in the days to come and how long the rain had been going on for, so it looks as though we’re getting a bit of a re-run of last year. The difference however, is that last year I had several jobs in and on the house that were tying me up quite a lot and I also had neither a flyable aircraft nor my French licence, so even when the weather did begin to pick up, my opportunities to get airborne were rather limited to say the least.

So this year I’ve decided that things will be different. OK, I will press on with the jobs that I have to do, like building my new shelters for my firewood and garden equipment and fixing my wood burner flue, which are, admittedly, a bit difficult to do all the while the rainy weather continues. But I’m also determined to get as much flying in as I possibly can. This means that other jobs, like putting in a new path along the front of my house, will have to wait. But so be it. I can’t do everything at once and flying was, after all, one of my priorities when I decided to come to France. So after the measly few hours that I got in last year, I have a bit of catching up to do, and as soon as the weather changes, that’s what I intend to do. Even if that won’t be until the beginning of June if last year is what we’re having to go by 😐