July 30, 2014

They came, they went

The scouts, that is. What an adventure those kids were having, all the way from the industrial town of Lille in northern France to the wild Perigord countryside down in the south-west. And they were obviously having a whale of a time. When I went out first thing this morning to make sure they were all awake and either hauling themselves out of their sleeping bags or were about to, one of the kids in the big tent farted like a trooper. Funny that, remember how there was always one in every tent you ever shared as well, wasn’t there 🙂

I told them last night that there were to be no shoes inside the tents (so as to avoid cutting the sewn-in groundsheets) and sure enough, there was all their footware stacked up in heaps outside. None of them were too concerned last night about washing before jumping into their sleeping bags in their clothes but this morning I made all of them wash their faces and hands before they had breakfast and they all did without any complaint, queuing up in the bathroom to use the washbasin and the old towels that I’d put out for them. They eventually decided that they’d like to buy some bread for breakfast, so I said I’d take a couple of them down in my car to the little shop in Thonac. One of them flashed his wallet that was otherwise empty but for a fresh 10€ note that I guess his Mum had given him before he left and they insisted on using their own money to buy it. I dropped them off while I turned the car round and then went in to see how they were doing. From the look of it, I thought that they must have bought up nearly the whole bread stock, because in the usual French way, they had bought enough bread to feed a whole brigade (with no change from the 10€). By way of explanation, they said that they’d bought some for their mid-day meal as well 😀

I have to say that the two in my car smelt a little bit niffy, but that’s boys for you and mine were the same when they were that age if left to their own devices. When we got back, I gave ’em all knives and plates, glasses for their orange juice and milk, a bit of butter and jam and a bread knife and left them to get on with it and they all sat round the table in my garden chattering away like parakeets. They politely asked if I’d like to join them for breakfast, but I smiled and said that I’d already eaten. This surprised them because they didn’t think that anyone could possibly have got up any earlier than them! Afterwards they offered to help me take the tents down ‘so as not to disturb me’ (ha ha – bit too late for that!!) but I said that I’d do it myself when they’d gone so they could pack all their stuff up and get themselves organised. Surprisingly, they eventually did, although we did have a minor crisis when one of them spotted a small spider on his rucksack and wouldn’t pick it up until it had been dealt with. I don’t think he’ll be a future candidate for the French Foreign Legion 😉

So some time later there they all were with their rucksacks on their backs, some almost as big as the small boys underneath carrying them, and their scout hats on. They all thanked me very politely for having them, bade their farewells and went straggling off down the road looking like a bunch of refugees clutching their bread and sundry other objects that they hadn’t managed to get into their rucksacks. Oh to be able to return to the innocent (if somewhat smelly) pleasures of youth. I have to say, I did have to give the bathroom a good old clean up and spray round when they’d gone 😕

Here are the first two of some pics I took this morning showing the tents that I’d dug out of my ‘cave’. They must be around 40 years old if they’re a day, but fortunately still managed to save the day (or night, actually).

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The last shot is of them having breakfast in my garden this morning. That’s the older one at the end of the table who I guess was ‘in charge’. He didn’t have much to say for himself, funnily enough, unlike the other lot who were full of questions about everything. Just couldn’t shut em up 🙂

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Rural life in France – what can you say eh? I bumped into my neighbour Jean-Claude’s wife, Chantalle, just after they’d gone. She’d seen that I’d had visitors last night and I said that yes, it had been very amusing. She said that they’d knocked on her door before mine and that after she’d said ‘No’, she’d seen them then go up to my door, and had thought, ‘Oh dear, if Roger says ‘Yes’ to them, I wonder if he knows what he’ll be letting himself in for?’ I told her that it hadn’t been too bad, but that if she thought there was a chance that they might come back next year, I might have to consider moving 😐

July 29, 2014

Good fun

The scouts arrived as planned just after 7.00 pm and then promptly disappeared again leaving their kit on my grass. Just a short while ago I got a knock on the door and there was a young man clutching 3 giant cans of ravioli and asking if I could heat it up for them in my microwave. As I type this, they’re all sitting round in a circle stuffing their faces with the stuff which they needed plates, well bowls for, actually, and spoons. Then they asked if I could let them have 6 glasses – one is drinking his Oasis straight from the can, apparently :-). They asked if I had any bread, but that I couldn’t help them with. So it’s all great fun and going swimmingly, apart from the tent, which is still lying flat on the grass. They’d better get a move on otherwise they’ll be putting it up in the dark, which won’t be many laughs as it gets really dark here if there’s no moon. And I suppose the next thing is that they’ll all be queuing up to use the toilet and bathroom before turning in 😀

They’re a lovely bunch of kids all aged around 11 I’d say, looked after by an older one of about 15. They’re all ever so polite and have all had a go practicing their English on me. What an adventure – it takes me back to when we used to camp out in our back gardens at the same age 😉

It’s nearly 10.30 pm and I’ve just come back to say that I eventually found out that they are almost totally disorganised! There are 7 of them and the tent they have has no poles or pegs. It seems that they thought they could all just lie on it under the stars with half of it pulled up over them to shelter them from the weather. And we’re expecting a bit of rain tonight as well 🙄

Luckily I had two tents in my ‘cave’ – both with flysheets, one that will sleep 5 and the other that will take 2. We whizzed around an hour or so ago to get them put up and I’ve just left them all chattering away as they settle themselves in for the night. As expected, they all needed the toilet but when I asked them if they needed to clean their teeth, it appeared that they had all ‘forgotten’ to bring their tooth-brushes with them. I wonder if their Mums back in Lille know 😐

They told me that they expect to get up at 7.30 am tomorrow morning in order to be able to leave at 9.00 am, which rather surprised me. Until one of them asked me that if they all over-slept, would I be able to go out and wake them all up as they don’t have an alarm clock between them. So it looks like an early start for me too – all good fun eh 😕

July 28, 2014

Something different

I’ve just had a knock on the door and standing outside were two French boy-scouts. They told me that tomorrow a group of 7 of them will be out trekking and wondered if I could allow them to pitch their tent on my front lawn for the night. They even started to speak very politely in English when they found that I wasn’t French, so how could I possibly refuse. They’ll be arriving at around 7.00 pm, but I just hope that they don’t expect to light a camp-fire 🙄

July 27, 2014

To Rocamadour

I’ve been promising myself a visit to see Rocamadour for some time, but we were unable to go when my mother and family came over last year as my sister needs a wheelchair to get around, and Rocamadour isn’t the place for that as you’ll see later from the pics. Also, the weather wasn’t kind enough to make it worthwhile going when my son and his girlfriend were here a week or two ago. I’ve been watching the weather for several days in the hope that the visibility would improve but we’ve been stuck in a kind of murky-bright phase that doesn’t look like changing very soon. There hasn’t been too much wind – far from it, André came chugging over my house quite happily yesterday evening in his Balerit before the sun finally went down – it’s just that there’s a horrible haze wherever you look and if you’re also under a lump of thick cumulus cloud, even though the sun is shining all around elsewhere, what you’re looking at (or taking a picture of) at the time looks very dingy. And it’s even worse, of course, if you happen to be looking towards the sun, which for some reason lately, whenever I’m taking any photographs or a video, I always seem to be.

So I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer and today would be the day. Rocamadour is to the south-east of where I live, in the Lot and here’s a pic showing the route I planned to fly.

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I also planned to take in St Julien, of which I knew nothing before the flight, and Souillac, which I flew past and took a picture of when I first started flying 56NE and exploring the area surrounding Galinat. Today wasn’t the hottest July day that we’ve had by far, but at 28 degrees Celsius with patchy lumps of cumulus cloud, there was still plenty of potential for lots of bumpy thermals, so I put off taking off until later in the day. After checking 56NE over and fuelling up, I actually got airborne just after 5.05 pm and the air seemed less turbulent than I’d expected. I turned left and climbed almost over the field to take up my heading for St Julien and too late, I realised that I should have used the opportunity to take an overhead shot of Galinat.

The leg to St Julien was quite smooth and pretty uneventful and the village came up at just under 14 minutes after take off. It’s in a very pretty location as the following pics show.

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I then turned slightly left and continued on for Rocamadour over some quite spectacular dry, rocky scenery.

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I was approaching Rocamadour itself in the last shot, above, and I arrived there about 13 minutes after leaving St Julien behind. The view I had was spectacular and the photos I took would only have been possible, I think, from an ULM/ultralight aircraft or, perhaps, a helicopter. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

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Rocamadour was built over the centuries on the side of a steep, rocky gorge and as I flew past, I found that the air over the gorge was extremely turbulent. Luckily despite this, I managed to fire off quite a few shots because as I found out afterwards, several of them turned out to be very blurred because of the extent to which I was being thrown about. I did just the one pass by Rocamadour and then turned to head back on a north-westerly heading towards Souillac. On the way, I passed the very picturesque Chateau de Belcastel, which is situated high on a rock overlooking the spot where the small river Ouysse joins the Dordogne.

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Then Souillac, which I arrived at some 10 minutes or so after leaving Rocamadour behind me. Without doing Souillac a disservice, I think that it has little to commend it beyond being known as the place where you join the E9 ‘payage’ to head north for Brive and beyond or south towards Toulouse and Spain, or can catch the train on the main line north or south. Anyway, here are the pics I took as I flew past.

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I hadn’t been paying too much attention to my flying while I was taking the above shots and in doing so, allowed myself to descend to around 1200 feet. When I turned back to concentrate on the next leg heading back towards Thonac, I realised that not only was the ground ahead totally tree-covered but that it was also rising quite sharply. So I had to immediately begin climbing, which I had to continue doing for a couple of minutes or so. Although the Dordogne has a reputation for being a huge expanse of tree-covered hills with few areas to land in should your aircraft develop some kind of engine problem, as soon as you start flying here, you realise that actually there are usually lots of places where you could put it down should the necessity arise. This is not true, though, for the area to the north-west of Souillac, unless you follow the course of the little river heading in that direction up the valley, which I chose not to do, so I found myself flying over dense woodland for more or less the next 10 minutes. On the way, I flew past a lovely little mini-chateau that I guess is privately owned by some lucky person.

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20 minutes or so after leaving Souillac, I eventually turned final to land back at Galinat. The whole flight took 1 hour and 5 minutes and I think that I can look back upon it as being one of the most spectacular that I’ve made since I came to live and fly here in the Dordogne.

July 27, 2014

Video of flight to Sarlat-Domme and Cavarc

On 1st June, Wim and I flew down to Cavarc to meet up with Victor, stopping off at Sarlat-Domme along the way and also flying past the airfield at Belves. I videoed the flight including the approaches and landings into both Sarlat-Domme and Cavarc and although it’s taken me a while to edit the footage that I shot, it’s now up in the video gallery. To save going there, you can view it by clicking on the following image that is taken from the video and shows the final approach into runway 33 at Cavarc.

Cavarc Final

I flew the leg down to Sarlat-Domme and the take-offs and landings but Wim flew everything else, which allowed me to take a few pics in a more relaxed way for a change. I put those up in a post about the flight some time after it took place, so you’ll need to look for the date in the heading if you would like to view them. As it was only two or three posts back that shouldn’t be too difficult, but I really must go back and start tagging all of my old posts to make searching easier… 😕

July 26, 2014

Oh oh…

When I got up this morning and went to fill my kettle to make my morning tea, lo and behold I found this little chap staring back at me from the bottom of my sink.

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It was a tiny little shrew and he’d obviously found his way indoors and dropped into the sink during the night while exploring. Being naturally of a cautious disposition, I decided that although I wanted to move it out, pronto, I shouldn’t rush into it. And just as well too, because I’ve since checked on the internet and found that shrews are pugnacious little blighters and despite their diminutive size, are willing to take on pretty much any opponent. This means that you’re very likely to be on the receiving end of a nasty nip if you don’t take care picking them up, and as they don’t take the trouble to clean their teeth using a good quality tooth-paste or use mouthwash, you can end up with a small but infected wound. Some shrews, I found, are even venomous to assist them in catching prey larger than themselves but I doubt that that would have included my little varmint.

Anyway, I dropped an old duster into the sink and it instinctively ran straight under it to hide, giving me the opportunity to wrap it up and take it outside, wriggling around all the while that I did so. I took it some way from the house before placing the duster on the grass and when I lifted it up a bit, the little terror scampered out and hid in some long tussocks. I just hope that this is the last that I’ll see of it because if shrews are anything like mice, quite often where one goes, others are bound to follow. I just hope that this isn’t the start of a shrew invasion 😐

July 20, 2014

Andre’s Balerit

One of our pilots who is based at Galinat is André who is still regularly flying at the venerable age of 91 years young. You’d never guess his age when you meet him especially as he’s still got a brain like a bear trap and a huge interest in life in general. The only flying concession he makes now compared to years ago is that he’s not keen on getting airborne either when the wind has got up a bit or when the air is bumpy with thermals but he still thinks nothing of taking off from and landing back on Galinat’s narrow, sloping grass strip, something that pilots much younger than he is might find a bit daunting.

André has owned and operated the same ULM since the mid-1980’s, a Balerit which is based on the venerable Pou du Ciel (Flying Flea) design of the early 1930’s (1933 to be precise). The design has been slightly updated over the years – Andre’s includes quick-folding wings, for example – but in essence it’s still the same tiny, quintessentially French aircraft that first flew all those years ago. It has a weird welded tubular fuselage with a 532 Rotax mounted low behind the pilot in pusher configuration but as it’s so low down, it has to be connected to the propeller, which is mounted more or less on the axis of the aircraft, by a rubber belt arrangement. In its open cockpit it has a pair of yoke-type steering devices but as this is a ‘deux axes’ (two axes) control aircraft, there are no ailerons and the controls only work the rudder and elevator, which is probably why André isn’t keen on flying from Galinat when it’s a bit windy, especially if there is much of a cross-wind component.

André is now keeping his aircraft in the hangar at Galinat and when Wim and I got back after our flight on 1st June, he’d got it out to give it a hose-down and a clean. This gave me an opportunity to take some photographs of what is a vintage and nowadays quite rare aircraft and I hope readers will find them as interesting as I did. They’re also up in a gallery of their own here on My Trike and possibly more will be added as I get the chance to take them.

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A few evenings ago while I was sitting outside a very pleasant restaurant in St Léon sur Vézère enjoying a meal with my son and his girlfriend, we heard a buzzing overhead and there was André in his Balerit sedately heading out from Galinat. Some time later we saw him heading back again, the aircraft appearing very stable but unusual yet with it’s two pairs of weirdly positioned wings. Only in France? Probably 😉

July 19, 2014

Flights 1st June 2014

I failed to mention at the time that Wim and I flew down from Galinat to Cavarc on 1st June with a landing en route at Sarlat-Domme. It’s taken me until now what with everything that’s happened in-between and the computer upgrade problems that I’ve had to deal with to process the shots that I took at the time, but now I have done and here they are. We flew together in 56NE and although I flew the leg to Sarlat-Domme and the landings, Wim did the rest of the flying, which allowed me to take a few photographs in a fairly relaxed way. This meant that it was quite easy for a change to get the horizon horizontal in the viewfinder.

First, the shots that I took after we’d landed at Sarlat-Domme, which provide a reasonable impression of how informal things are there. And for the benefit of those UK readers, no landing fee of course 😉

The local aero club have quite a large clubhouse close to the tower, but visitors like us go down to Air Chateaux at the other end of the apron.

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Here they offer air-experience flights and there’s also a parachute club and school based in their hangar.

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Outside their hangar there’s a very pleasant area with seating and shade where you can buy coffees and cold drinks.

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Opposite Air Chateaux air-side and on the apron itself is where privately owned aircraft are parked. We parked 56NE some distance away from the apron in the opposite direction where there used to be an ULM school, but sadly although the hangar is still there, the school now seems to have disappeared.

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The parachute club uses the German registered Cessna 172 Skyhawk that is shown behind the other aircraft in the next photograph.

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Finally, I couldn’t resist taking a shot of this beautiful Beechcraft Kingair that was parked on the edge of the apron. You can also see the parachute club’s Skyhawk more clearly in it too, which was being re-fuelled at the time.

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After taking off from Domme, I handed over to Wim who was then navigating by Mk I eyeball. I mostly still need my GPS/Satnav but Wim has flown for so long in this area that he knows the towns, villages and other landmarks like the back of his hand. And so we initially headed off in the direction of Belvès, which soon came up on my side (left) of the aircraft.

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Just to the west of Belvès is its aerodrome, which has a very active Group A aircraft aero club and isn’t, apparently, that ULM friendly. Nevertheless, Régis and Wim did get permission to test-fly Régis’s Zenair there after he’d finished rebuilding it (he acquired it as a damaged airframe) so maybe they are not that ULM unfriendly. They did insist on a radio, though, so they borrowed my Vertex for the day.

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Wim then changed course to head for a fairly large and therefore almost unmissable, village named Beaumont du Périgord. Before we got there, we flew past a small village called St-Avit-Sénieur which is very pretty and has a notable, and quite large, church at its centre.

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Before arriving at Beaumont, we’d already spotted the lake just to the north of Cavarc airfield, so we headed straight for that before spotting the airfield itself soon after. I took over for the landing, which was fairly uneventful except for a large dose of sink during the latter stage of the flare which set us down with a bit of a bump. It seemed that I was not the only one to experience it, so although there was no harm done, maybe next time I approach the field from the south, I’ll add a little bit more airspeed to prevent it happening again.

I didn’t take any shots at Cavarc because I’ve already done a few and a video as well, but after handing over to Wim for the flight back to Galinat, I was able to take a pic of the TV antenna on the top of a hill between Le Bugue and St Cyprien as we flew by. That’s Le Bugue in the background.

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As well as the pics I’ve included in this post, I also did a video of the flight leg from Galinat to Sarlat-Domme, including the landing in a fairly vicious cross-wind, and the leg after taking off from Sarlat-Domme to Cavarc (OK, I admit, I forgot to press the camcorder start key…) including the landing. As soon as I’ve finished editing it, I’ll put it up here on My Trike.

The reason for flying down to Cavarc was to meet up with our friend Victor who is now close to getting his French ULM ‘brevet’. He already has his own RANS S12 and when he has done, which won’t be long now, maybe we’ll all be able to fly together as the Aquitaine ULM squadron 😀

July 18, 2014

Out of the loop

It’s been a busy couple of weeks during which flying has had to take a back seat. Val came to stay for a few days following my last flight on 2nd July and while she was here, some friends dropped in while on their way back to the UK. I then had to fix a small leak on the power steering of my car in readiness for a visit from my son and his girlfriend and fortunately for me, my friend Victor kindly agreed to give me a hand when things got sticky almost as soon as I’d started the job.

I’d got hold of a second-hand power steering pump from Ebay and I’d also bought a Haynes workshop manual that was supposed to explain exactly how to replace the existing leaky unit. The only problem was that although the manual claimed to cover my model, the text and pictures in the appropriate section bore absolutely no relationship to my vehicle. A quick internet search also showed that although there are several Youtube videos and other articles showing how to remove the alternator and power steering pump on Kia Sportages, none of the vehicles in question are quite the same as my car. So it was back to first principles and lucky for me, when I phoned him Victor very generously dropped everything he was doing and said he would help me out. He’s a skilled engineer and spots things immediately that take me a minute or so to work out so whereas I’d been struggling for what seemed like ages to remove the alternator, he had it out in a few minutes and the whole job was completed in a few hours. So thanks Victor, I really don’t know what I’d have done without you.

My son and his girlfriend arrived the very next day and I was relieved that my car was totally 100% for their visit, as it was the first time they’ve visited me here in France (and the first time I’d seen him for nearly two years) and I wanted to show them a few of the local sights. We visited Oradour sur Glane, the martyred village destroyed with 642 of its inhabitants by the Germans on 10th June 1944, which was lucky for me as Val and I had gone on the previous week end and I’d lost most of the camcorder footage that I’d recorded. So not only was I able to re-shoot it, but I was also able to share an important event in local history with my son, who had never seen anything like it before. We also visited the Maison Forte de Reignac which I’ve taken several people to see before from the outside without ever going in, so that was a first for me too.

Son and girlfriend left for home on Wednesday and now my house is my own again, but it feels a bit empty and lonely now they’ve gone and I miss their company. Val also left a few days ago for the UK where she will be with her elderly mother for three weeks, but I’ve got lots to occupy me in the meantime. In the middle of all of the above, I finally upgraded my PC to run Windows 7 without constantly freezing and crashing. I suffered a bit of a hiatus in the middle of the process when I found that my old PC used DDR2 memory sticks and my new motherboard would only accept DDR3, so I had to wait for them to be delivered from Amazon (who ship to France promptly at competitive prices unlike other UK and French companies) together with a new wireless network card. Luckily, I still have a ‘spare’ PC that I could reconfigure and use in the meantime for basic internet and email. I completed the process yesterday and it’s a huge relief to at last have a stable machine again, but I know that I lost several emails yesterday as a result of having to recover my Thunderbird profile and I suggest that anyone reading this who sent me an email yesterday afternoon and is expecting a reply should send me their message again.

I plan to return to the UK myself in a few weeks time but first I have a job that I must do. That’s to rebuild the wood shelter on the end of my house in preparation for this coming winter. At the moment it isn’t anywhere near weather-proof enough to store wood in and the only way to make it so will be to take it down and rebuild it. Then I’ll have to order a couple of ‘stères’ of dry oak, which probably won’t be enough to see me through (I reckon I’ll need about 4 stères) but that’s about all I’ll be able to get in. ‘What about flying?’, you ask. Well, we’ve had a couple of lovely days following my son’s departure (compared to several cool and some downright wet days while they were here, unfortunately) but although I could have flown yesterday, I elected to give my computer priority. I bought fuel and had planned to fly early today but it was a bit misty and breezy and the sky has a ‘whiteness’ about it. So it appears that the weather is ‘on the turn’ towards the thunderstorms that some forecasters have predicted for this afternoon (and others for tomorrow) and it looks as though I will have to wait a little bit longer. In the meantime, while it’s still dry, my grass badly needs cutting… 😉

July 2, 2014

To Excideuil

After my exploits yesterday with my wood-burner flue, I thought that I at least owed myself a flight in 56NE, especially as I hadn’t flown since 1st June. However, the day dawned warm but a bit dull and overcast, so it looked as though my hopes were in vain and I turned my attention to other things. Then on my way to the supermarket, I noticed that while I hadn’t been watching, the day had transformed itself, with a bright blue sky covered with fluffy white clouds, visibility transformed out of all recognition and, best of all, no wind. So it looked like Plan A was back on again and as I already had a flight loaded into my satnav, I got myself across to Galinat for a late afternoon take off.

My planned flight took me north via Montignac, la Bachellerie and St Rabier to Hautefort once again, where I then planned to turn north-west to head up to Excideuil. I passed it when I flew down from England in MYRO but haven’t visited since, so I was looking forward to the experience. I then planned to head south-west along the River Isle, which eventually passes through Perigueux a few kilometres further on, turning south after a short distance at the little village of Mayac to return to Galinat via Thenon. Here’s a shot of my intended route.

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I took off at 17.55 pm and could tell immediately that this was going to be a flight to remember. The sky was beautiful, visibility was good and there was very little wind to worry about. But the best thing of all was that because it was late in the day, there was no thermic turbulence to contend with and not even many patches of lift or sink to distract from the wonderful view from around 1700 feet. I took quite a few photographs during the flight and the best thing is just to let them tell the story. First, the village of la Bachellerie, which is just on the south side of the A89 motorway that links Brive and Bordeaux and can be seen in the top part of the pic.

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Then on to St Rabier, which is almost in the corresponding position to la Bachellerie on the north side of the motorway.

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I then flew past the tiny village of Chassaignas but didn’t take any photographs until I arrived at my next waypoint, Hautefort. I took several shots of the village and its impressive chateau a few weeks ago and included it in a video at the time, but it looked so stunning in the sunshine today that I couldn’t resist taking some more pictures.

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Although my intended main destination was Excideuil, I think that Hautefort turned out to be the highlight of the flight for me and I’m so glad that I included it in my flight plan. Next turning point then, Excideuil with it’s castle.

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Not long after, I turned to head back to Galinat. I planned to take in the village of Thenon, and I’m glad that I did, because although I took a few shots some months ago, today it looked transformed in the sunlight topped off with blue sky and white clouds.

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I was amazed to find that from Thenon I could see Galinat quite clearly in the distance and from that point on, I was almost (but not quite 😀 ) flying a very (very!) long final. I landed back at Galinat exactly an hour after taking off and I was able to reflect on what has to have been one of my most enjoyable flights since I started flying down here in the Dordogne. I hope that you enjoyed the pictures and can see why 😉

July 1, 2014

Can you believe this?

I’ve been able to find excuses for several days why I should do something else instead of sorting out the blocked flue pipe of my wood burner, which is all very well except that it had to be done at some time. Anyway, today they all ran out so after lunch I found myself back on my roof removing the slab from the top of my chimney so I could release the clip holding the top of the pipe. Then I had to go back downstairs so I could dismantle the flue length by length and take it out. Like many jobs that we dread before starting them, in fact it didn’t turn out half as bad as I thought it was going to. I thought that I’d get lots of soot falling down, but actually what did end up in my fireplace was particles of dry clinker that could be easily swept up without making much mess at all and in only half an hour or so, I had all six lengths of pipe standing on their ends outdoors.

In the process, I was able to recover the little sweeps brush that had been left up there when the cheap and nasty plastic tube posing as a rod that it was attached to had snapped but I was more interested in finding out what had been causing all of the smoking problems that I’d been experiencing as the winter wore on. And I didn’t have to wait too long, because as soon as I took out and examined the third length of tubing, the reason was obvious as the following image shows.

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There was a solid plug of clinker completely blocking the upper end of the pipe. I initially gave it a couple of taps but there was no way that it would budge in either direction and no wonder, as I later found it to be about 6 inches thick. There was no way that any smoke was ever going to get past it when the stove was lit so it was hardly surprising that I had been getting so much smoke coming out into the room, because basically there was nowhere else for it to escape to!

I then compared this tube with the one above it and found there to be no comparison, as the following picture shows. The blocked pipe (length 3 above the stove) is on the right and the next length up (length 4) is shown on its left.

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There was a similar story with the length below it (length 2 above the stove) which, although it got the smoke and fumes from the stove before the affected one, was surprisingly a lot cleaner, as shown below.

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There’s obviously quite a bit of science involved here, but on the evidence, it appears that for my flue, the gases rising from the stove stay too hot to condense up to a height in the flue of about 3 metres. At this height, however, they do start to condense, apparently over a flue height of about a metre. This appears to be so because as the second image shows, the top of pipe length 4 is relatively clean and clear of clinker or ash of any sort.

Obviously condensation has occurred at quite a high rate in my flue for the amount of clinker produced to build up to such an extent that it could not only completely block it, but also grow to a plug of thickness about 6 inches. The question now is how to avoid the same thing happening in the future. My neighbour Jean-Claude told me some time back that he’d had the same problem and that what you had to do was seal the top of the chimney from which the top of the flue pipe emerges. This would obviously lead to more heat being retained around the pipe and have the result of moving the condensation point higher. Even so, I doubt whether it would be enough to move it right to the top of the pipe so that all of the products of combustion escape into the atmosphere, the ideal solution, so even when I’ve done it, I’ll just have to make sure that the flue is regularly swept every few weeks when its in use, to avoid too great a build-up of clinker before a blockage occurs.

I now understand why people pour Vermiculite insulation down their chimney to fill the space inside around the flue pipe, as this would keep even more heat in and raise the condensation point even higher towards the top. However, I decided in the beginning not to do that and I’m glad that I did. Imagine if I’d then had to dismantle the flue as I did today – it would all have fallen down in a dirty great heap in my fireplace and all over my lounge floor. That I can well do without 😐

July 1, 2014

At last – new gallery software!

I’ve been searching for ages for gallery software that’s ‘just right’ for me. And at last I’ve found it! It’s called Hero Themes Gallery Manager and as far as I’m concerned, it’s brilliant in its simplicity. It can be downloaded for free from the usual WordPress plugin site (see above link) and not only is it a piece of cake to use but it also produces superb results. At least I think so, anyway 😉

I tried lots of alternatives but many were just thinly disguised attempts to get you to buy a ‘premium’ or ‘paid-for’ product but failed dismally because what they were offering as a ‘light’ version was either too difficult to set up and configure or, from my experience anyway, didn’t work properly! Quite often they were trying to do too much and ended up promising a lot but delivering very little. And who in their right mind is going to spend time fiddling with software that doesn’t come with some kind of user guide and requires you to join some user support forum or other to find out how to set it up and use it? Not me, that’s for sure!

Anyway, I’m now a very happy bunny. Instead of the rag-tag display of thumbnails that I used to have in my gallery I’ve now got a neat array of matching images that open on a single click, allows you to page through the original pics using backwards and forwards arrows, lets you see the full size originals immediately and allows you to exit ‘just like that’. My gallery was something that’s been bugging me for a little while and I wanted to sort it out before I posted shots of the places that Val and I visited in the Languedoc at the end of May. Now I can go ahead knowing that I’ll be able to present them in the kind of way that I wanted to and I’m glad that at last I’ve been able to put it to bed 🙂