Friday, 22 September 2017

Here starts Autumn

The Equinox is at about 9pm (21h) tonight. That means goodbye to summer (hah!) and hello autumn. In reality it's been feeling like autumn for most of this month so we won't notice the change, except that for the next 6 months we will have more dark than light. Cheery thoughts...

In a month's time we will have this

and in two months this. 

And then suddenly it will be February, we will have a week of sunny warm weather, and everyone will be saying "isn't it amazing, winter's over early".

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Beating the Blue Train

The Calais-Méditerranée Express was a luxury French night express train which carried wealthy passengers between Calais and the French Riviera from 1922 until 1938. It was referred to as "le train bleu" in French and the Blue Train in English because of its dark blue sleeping cars.

In 1930 a very unofficial race was held between a Rover car and the train. Although the car was stopped by heavy fog 5 hours into the run, the team decided to drive on to St Raphael (near Cannes, on the Mediterranean coast) and race the train back. This they were able to do, beating the train into Calais by 20 minutes. After that there were a number of other "races" notably involving Bentleys and Alvis cars.

 Yes please! A 1927 Bentley 4½ litre (the blue car, No2)
behind No3, a 1928 Bentley 4½ litre Blower (supercharged)

These days people who own vintage and classic cars can join the "Blue Train Challenge", a six day event from Deauville to Cannes. This year there was a scheduled stop at Angles sur l'Anglin, so on Sunday I collected Pauline in Célestine and we wandered off to see what was happening.

No23 is a 1937 Bentley Derby Open Tourer and No8 is a 1932 Alvis Speed 20.
The enormous cream coloured car is a 1938 Chevrolet Fangio Coupe

There was lots of cars (and spectators) and although Célestine isn't exactly a vintage GT machine people were just as happy to see us as they were to see the Bentleys, Alvises, Aston Martins, and a bevy of other 1930's, 40's and 50's exotica.

No8 Alvis passes a 1936 Buick Special Convertible (No18) and a 1934 Aston Martin MkII

No48, a 1954 Arnolt Bristol Bolide leads off a 1948  Bentley Le Mans 8

A full list of runners and riders is here.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A New Footpath

18 months ago Susan wrote "A Greenway to Replace the Railway". A meeting was held about 12 months ago to discuss the project; specifications, financing and the like, at which number of options were put forwards.

I don't know which option has been taken - either 2 metres wide, pedestrian only, or 3 metres wide pedestrians, bikes horses and skaters, but I do know work has started. I hadn't heard anything further on the project since last October, but I met TimB and Gaynor for a walk last Friday in Chaumussay and was rather surprised.

This is looking from Chaumussay towards le Grand Pressigny

 Looking from Chaumussay to Preuilly
Most of the track has gone from this section 

I will have to keep my eyes open - I hope there will be some sort of announcement about the opening, but you can't take these things for granted.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Look Out for Swallowtail Caterpillars

On Wild Carrot Daucus carotta in our vegetable garden October 2016.

On the roadside above the Claise near Chaumussay, on Wild Parsnip Pastinaca sativa, September 2013.

In our garden on Wild Carrot, September 2014.

On French Hog's-fennel Peucedanum gallica, on a forest ride near Luzé, September 2012.

On Wild Carrot in our orchard, September 2015.

Caterpillars of the Eurasian Swallowtail Papilio machaon (Fr. Machaon) can be observed on their food plants in September. They are busy fattening themselves up before winter, which they will spend as chrysalises, having wrapped themselves up before the cold weather hits.

They will leave their food plant and move to a sturdy upright stem where they will attach themselves and make a chrysalis. Depending on the surrounding vegetation the chrysalis could be green or brown, to blend in.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Fun with Célestine

On Thursday Susan and I had dinner in Amboise, and then I drove Célestine home. It's the first time in almost two years I have driven Celestine in the dark, and boy, did she let me know who was boss....

The problem was electricity - with the headlights on she was drinking it like it was going out of style, and she wasn't recharging the battery. This means that by the time I got home 75 minutes later the headlights were little more than glow worms in a tin, and once the motor was off that was it - she wasn't going anywhere. Which was peeving, because I had plans.

Anyway - a day on the charger later (yesterday), Tim and Gaynor arrived to go to the Bouchonne de Ste Maure with us, and this time Celestine behaved impeccably. Yes, it rained, yes there were probably less cars than there could have been, and yes, many people didn't stay to picnic on the road (we did).

And yes, we had a great day. Here are some pics:

So now I have to sort out Célestine's electrics. I have a suspicion the battery isnt good.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

See Yesterday's Post

I know we have posted this photo before, but it still makes me laugh. It is also appropriate given that today I am taking part in a deliberate traffic jam.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Traffic Alert for Tomorrow

Tomorrow Célestine and I will be at Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine for the biennial bouchonne on the N10 for cars built before 1977. We went two years ago and had a great time. This year, Susan is working, so I will be going with TimB and Gaynor.

This year, once the traffic jam on the main road (10.30 - 12.30) is finished we will be parking wherever we find ourselves stopped, for a picnic on the old Route Nationale N10. It's on occasions like this I wish we had a roof rack and vintage deck chairs.

What to expect...

This means that if you're planning on travelling through Ste Maure you will be diverted all day until about 17.00. But that's just your bad luck - we like heritage traffic jams and this one is part of the European Patrimoine weekend, because automotive history is important here.

Friday, 15 September 2017

More Breezy Times

Last time it was breezy, (March) the front wall of the garage attached to ours was blown in.

Wednesday was a very breezy day too - with winds of about 80kmh (50mph). This time the damaged neighbour's garage wall was blown out - once again the Ford survived because it was parked elsewhere.

I will have to speak to the council, and find out the next step - no-one has heard from the owner since we contacted him about  the Damage in March.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Hotel Solar

When we were in Paris last weekend we stayed at the Solar Hotel, a very green establishment in the 14th. Everything is green and bio (organic) and ethical, and it is the headquarters of Sea Shepherd in Paris.

Although it is more expensive than the hotels we normally stay in outside Paris, the prices are very reasonable by Paris standards. It's also in a great part of town, in the 14th near the Catacombs. Not that it's the catacombs that make it a great area: rue Daguerre is just around the corner, an excellently typical pedestrianised Parisian shopping street with plenty of specialist food shops and restaurants of all ethnicity.

It is also very close to the Denfert-Rochereau Metro and RER station, which means direct RERB to Charles de Gaulle Airport, and direct Metro 6 to Montparnasse Station (from where the TGV departs to our neck of the woods). Very convenient.

I am sure Susan will have more to say about the hotel when she has a chance, and we will certainly be posting more about the area. Once again, we have a new favorite area of Paris

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Take the Slow Train

Susan and I spent the past couple of days in Paris. We went up by the "slow" train from Amboise - the ordinary Inter-City Express - rather than the TGV from Saint Pierre des Corps. The trip takes about 40 minutes longer, but is more scenic.

 The InterCity train pulls into Amboise station.

When we found our reserved seats we had a surprise - I had booked tickets in first class rather than cattle class and promptly forgot about it. I am not normally that extravagant, but the first class tickets were 20€ each, only 3€ each more than second. So why not. I know you don't get there any faster, but a little treat is a treat nonetheless.

First class seating - wider, plush seats, more legroom and 2 arm rests each

On the way back I thought I would confirm what we have suspected all along - we should be calling it "the slower train" rather that "the slow train".

200kmh aboard the slow train. The concrete structure you
can see out of the window is the Aérotrain track

Tuesday, 12 September 2017


You learn stuff, and after you learn it sometimes you want to do it too...

I was in the new and impressive car park at Villandry on Wednesday, and parked across from me were a pair of decidedly ropey 1970s looking cars, apparently out on a rally (or raid). The crews arrived just as I was leaving, so I gave them a friendly toot and wave and went on my way.

Złombol is a fundraising event for an orphanage in Poland, open to cars built behind the iron curtain before 1989 and bought for less than 1000zloty. That's about 230euros. The rally always starts in Katowice (Poland) and this year was heading to Noja, in the Basque region of Spain. This year there were 530 teams "competing" in what is now reputed to be the biggest event of its kind in the world. The official website is here (in Polish)

The news from Poland (in Polish)

Needless to say, now I know what it is about I am interested...

Monday, 11 September 2017

Shopping at Savebag

For years we have been driving in to Loches via Perrusson and so for years we have been driving past the Savebag factory. We didn't think much about the place. It's a not very prepossessing white building. We assumed they made plastic bags.

It turns out they make luggage! I discovered this when a Facebook friend made a comment about their biennial sale. The company was created in 1963 and is still family owned. They make leather goods, luggage, sports bags, satchels, school and laptop bags. There are 200 employees working at the factory.

In 2014 they were accredited as an entreprise du patrimoine vivant ('a living heritage business'), a label which recognises their knowledge and the excellence of their product. Due to their commitment to passing on the skills and to constant innovation, they are seen as a business that is continuing the tradition of French luxury goods. The products are all designed on the Perrusson premises, but not all manufactured there. The factory workshops tend to focus on the higher end goods. They manufacture bags under their own brand, and for big names like Louis Vuitton.

As well as the big sale the factory has a shop which is open Monday to Friday. Prices are 20 - 50% lower than retail. The staff are very happy to provide advice and after sales service.

We needed a new suitcase and after some research on the internet Simon decided that visiting the shop at Savebag would be worthwhile. I had to go to Loches for a mammogramme on Thursday. My appointment was at 9am and by 9.30am I was out again, with a clean bill of breast health. I went to Intersport to look at sports shoes on special. I didn't like any of them, so didn't purchase. So I had time to pop in to Savebag on the way home.

I parked in the visitor carpark and as requested on the sign on the door, buzzed and entered. I greeted the receptionist and asked about the factory shop. She rang someone called Sylvie upstairs, telling her 'there's someone for the shop'. I was told to go upstairs and wait at the top for Sylvie, who would take me to the shop.

Sylvie turned out to be a lovely and friendly blond woman who was happy to leave me to look around in the shop. I checked out all the suitcases in the size we wanted and chose a yellow rigid case. The price, for a 75 litre capacity, was €31 (retail price €48). When I'd chosen my suitcase Sylvie was nowhere to be seen so I ventured out into the corridor. I encountered a tall, dark and handsome youngish man heading for his office, but entirely prepared to be sidetracked and sell me a suitcase. At that moment Sylvie emerged from the big room at the other end of the corridor so he was saved the trouble, but my impression is that it is an extremely pleasant and friendly place where they care about their customers.

In 1951 Marcel Vignaud was a leatherworker in Tours, designing, making and selling leather goods and luggage. His success was such that he built a factory and registered the business name Savebag in 1962. In 1976 all his hard work really paid off, with a contract to work with the prestigious fashion house YSL. Once the east Asian factories began undercutting his business, Savebag had to regroup and reorganise. They concentrated their production at Perrusson and worked on gaining new markets. Nowadays they export and communicate directly with the public to better position themselves in the domestic market. They now have multiple sites and a total of 485 employees. The management concentrates on maintaining the quality of their manufacture, diversifying their market and ensuring the technical expertise of their staff. They've developed their own brand, built up their proportion of manufacture and distribution under licence and increased their role as sub-contractors.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Fungi in the Rainforest

Here is a selection of fungi that I photographed in Ravensbourne National Park, south-east Queensland.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

August Aperos

Left to right: Bertrand, Gaynor, Sweetpea, Dauphine, Adrian, Zita (with Brandy the dog), Alice, Géraldine, Tim and Dorothée.

Our monthly apéro party was very kindly hosted by Lisa in Boussay. About 25 people came, and the venue was just about perfect for the event. A big thank you to Lisa (and she will get to host again!)

Sandra playing the harp and singing a medieval song for everyone -- a surprise bonus.

Sadly, due to unforeseen circumstances, the September gathering has been cancelled. But you can all look forward to the October event which will be at Chris's place near Martizay.

Balthazar and Sixtine keeping themselves entertained by playing a board game.

 Clarisse and Zita dancing to Sandra's harp music.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Coconut Ice Time

It's that time of year where the grounds of the hotel "la Tortiniere" are full of cyclamen.

If you don't understand the title of this post, this may help.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Families of Anzeling

One day in May our walking club began their walk in Buxeuil and parked at the bakery there. On the wall of the building next to the bakery is a plaque which says 'The families from Anzeling were welcomed here on 7 September 1939'.

Anzeling is a town in Moselle and was right on the Maginot Line at the beginning of the Second World War. At the outbreak of war the inhabitants, fewer than 400 people, were evactuated to Buxeuil. One of the families seems to have been housed in one of the outbuildings of the Chateau de la Roche Amenon, 8km west of Buxeuil on the Creuse River. It is not clear if some of them stayed in the building in Buxeuil with the plaque, or whether they were simply welcomed to town here in the square.

Apart from that, there does not appear to be any further information online about what happened to these families. No doubt if I knew the right local person to ask the story is still known by a few, but with our existing resources we failed to discover whether these people ever went back to Anzeling after the war, what they did while they were in Buxeuil and where else besides the chateau they might have been housed. (Update: I asked the baker next door to the plaque and he says the families all went back to Anzeling after the war, but he doesn't know where exactly they were housed when they came to Buxeuil.)

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A Thing We Didn't Say

Last month the Comice was in Preuilly, and the town was decorated for all the visitors, and especially for the Grand Parade.

One thing we neglected to mention was the thousands of flowers, hand made by members of the Comite des Fetes, dozens of volunteers and I believe a smattering of retirement home residents and some students from the college. Here are some of them, adorning the hedge near the arboretum. The rest were woven into fences, bushed and lamposts all around town.

Congratulations to all involved - it looked like a massive undertaking. and really brightened the place up.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Another Sign Summer is Ending

Young House Martins Delichon urbica (Fr. Hirondelle de fenêtre) begin to gather into flocks after they have fledged. They are bonding in preparation for flying off to Africa for the winter. Dozens of them will perch on the electricity wires in our street at this time of year, and for a few days they took to perching on the string course just under the eaves of the house across the road. I wonder how many of them will make it back in the spring?

Monday, 4 September 2017


Looking for stuff on the internet over the years I had seen the 19th century photos showing a magnificent gatehouse for the Abby of Villeloin-Coulangé, but although we have driven through the village a number of times I had never actually seen the gatehouse. I just assumed it had fallen down in the meantime. Which was a pity.

But no - it still exists, and on Saturday we took clients to see it. We have decided that it's a perfect photo opportunity, because even if you park in the middle of the road for 15 minutes no-one much will be inconvenienced.

So now when we travel from Loches to Montresor we have another little surprise. Or maybe not so little!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Sydney Silhouettes

This is the view you get from the Manly Ferry when you're heading back from the beach on a summer's evening. These days the ferry has free wifi, so I wonder how many people notice.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Scaffolding Goes Up

I ran into my friend Christine at the market on morning Thursday and she alerted me to the fact that Bernard was down at the chapel supervising the erection of the scaffolding. Yes, restoration work on the Chapelle de Tous les Saints has started! We've raised the money! 

When I got down there in the afternoon the masons were just packing up for the day, one level of scaffolding was up, the site taped off and the side road blocked. The masons, Jaillais, are a firm from Chinon. The young man I spoke to said he was a tailleur de pierre (stone cutter). I'm not quite sure what the difference between a maçon and a tailleur de pierre is, but I assume it's experience or qualifications.

For the back story to this restoration see our previous blog posts about the chapel.

Friday, 1 September 2017

At the Employment Office

On Tuesday I spent the afternoon at a session for people who are job seeking. The Maison d'Emploi in Beaulieu lès Loches where the workshop was held was still showing the scars of a drunken rampage that occured in mid-July. A young man had used an outdoor ashtray and a large rock to smash his way into the centre during the night and cause tens of thousands of euros of damage, breaking doors, windows, computers, photocopiers and a fridge. The event truly shocked the staff, who had never experienced anything like it. The newspaper report (with a photo of the mess) is here.

 A temporary grill and some plastic cover the broken windows at the front.

Anyway, six of us plus an employment councillor from the agency Aksis, which is contracted by Pôle Emploi in a private-public partnership, adjourned to the big meeting room with the smashed window in the middle of the building. Our councillor Peggy introduced herself (she is hearing impaired so we needed to speak directly to her, for example), then the group introduced themselves. There was a signwriter, the only man; a secretary who had left her last job due to health problems; someone who had recently retrained as a leatherworker (Fr. maroquiniste); a bookkeeper with no formal qualifications who was told in a recent interview that they were looking for someone younger; and a receptionist who had been working at a police station which had been merged with another. I was the only one there who was simply seeking to supplement my existing work. The rest were all unemployed and seeking full time work. I was also the only one who wasn't French, but despite a couple of minor language hiccoughs where I had to ask for something to be explained, I got on just as well as everyone else, contributing to the discussion and mostly keeping up.

Peggy gave us an overview of the employment scene in Indre et Loire, and it wasn't promising. The two biggest sectors are agriculture and tourism. The next biggest is pharmaceuticals, and there is quite a push by the authorities to create the 'Cosmetics Valley' along the Loire. The general opinion is that it will outstrip tourism in the not too distant future. But until it does, the bad news for my companions on the day was that 4 out of 5 jobs in the area are seasonal. Not a problem for me particularly, but a blow for those who want stable full time work. Peggy also pointed out that if you are an employer these days and recruting, you can count yourself lucky if 10% of applicants meet your criteria.

 The smashed window of the room in which we met.

She wasn't all doom and gloom though. In fact she was quite feisty and motivating (I guess that's her job, really). She encouraged us to send our CVs off speculatively and use our personal networks (often a job offer comes from someone who knows someone who knows you). Thanks to her I now know about a bunch of websites which tell me what industries are looking for workers (the Besoins de Mains d'Oeuvre report), how to tell what activities a business is engaged in by its APE code, how to find the contact details of managers (on the Observatoire de l'Economie et des Territoires de Touraine website), and how to identify key words relating to skills (using the Fiche ROME on the Informations Marché du Travail section of the Pôle Emploi website).

Most importantly of all, for me at any rate, she offered to cast a professional eye over my CV (it's not colourful enough and the nuances of my compétences need work apparently). She will also help me with writing lettres de motivation. I have access to her and the programme until 19 October, so I'd better get cracking.