Sunday, 20 August 2017

nosediving cycling metrics but a village incentive

There's that scene in some movies when the plane is losing height fast and all the dials are going backwards indicating an imminent crash.

My cycling stats are a bit like that at the moment. I don't have proper connections to the various monitoring systems yet (flat batteries and lack of reliable wi-fi), so instead I connected the Garmin to my MacBook by a cable to download the latest sessions.

Oh dear. I won't make my annual targets this time, (except for the most basic ones).

It's the same with the Trainerroad and TrainingPeaks monitoring, where I can see my performance has dwindled away until the point where I've restarted everything again. Tomorrow I'm going to get one of the road bikes roadworthy again (pump tyres etc) and perhaps take a spin into my new cycle friendly village.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

take it to the bridge

The local terraforming continues. Where there were three pools of water, there's now one temporary larger one. The other two have been pumped so that they can be more artistically shaped.

The water has been moved into the stream, which currently looks more like a river. Once the culverts are in place, the low end of the stream will be unblocked and we'll see the water levels drop again.

Then there's the small matter of a bridge further upstream.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

almost fixed?

I spotted the airline advert on the tube at Kings Cross.

Aeroflot declared as Europe's best airline according Tripadvisor. I suppose it is based upon on-line voting and reviews?

I couldn't help wonder whether there had been any assistance with placement?

Curiously, on Skytrax's 2017 airline review Aeroflot is rated 30th globally, with around half a dozen European airlines ahead of it. But I'm sure it is nothing that can't be fixed.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

soft landing

Arriving back in London this time was slightly different.

The house move we started back in May is now complete, so we could properly move back to our new place.

That'll mark the end of the last few months on the road, during which time we've spent time in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, in Newcastle-upon Tyne, at the Mondrian in Central London, then in an apartment in Canary Wharf, across to Hay on Wye for the book festival, then at a lakeside hotel before moving to the shack in the woods, then the barn by the alpacas before moving onward to the temporary apartment on the pretty jetty by the steam railway, then to the motel before the hotel on the Rive Gauche.

So why not spend another night away? This time at the Renaissance at St Pancras?

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

star (euro)

This is the London end.

Back from Paris on the Eurostar. Coach L ;-)

Gare du Nord to St Pancras in about 2h30. The train runs at up to around 295kph, and there's some decent stretches alongside the A1, which makes for the effortless overtaking of cars travelling at French speed limits of 130kph.

I'm already thinking about another rail trip.

Monday, 14 August 2017

roadside repair

There was a higher police and military presence around the streets of Paris during our visit. Several times I saw a group of four army types with guns on patrol quite close to our hotel.

There were also various guards stationed near to some of the well-known tourist areas. One morning we were having breakfast at a small pavement cafe when I saw the police in action. Fortunately it was for a more minor situation, and quite impressive in the way they handled it.

A truck had turned a corner and clipped a shopfront which was now bent out across the road, just where another truck might hit it. The police arrived, introduced themselves to everyone with vigorous handshakes and then proceeded to make temporary repairs to the damage.

Admittedly they had to improvise with police emergency tape, but the various people from inside the shop and the accompanying apartments were suitably impressed. As was I.

Sunday, 13 August 2017


I'll admit to only having a fairly basic grade in shopping, being rather amateur at wandering around browsing.

There's still a few shops that I will visit that flip me into a far more engaged mode, and one of them is Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussman in Paris.

The outside can look a little conventional, but inside it is a true celebration of shopping. The entire ground floor seems to be dedicated to perfumes, but my simple joy is to look up towards the roof.

There's the embellished glass dome and the mini balconies all around, beckoning one further into the retail experience.

My other tip is to go to the top floor, which leads outside to a restaurant and bar. Either area, or even the walkway in the middle, give a cracking view across Paris, with most of the famous landmarks on show and many of them quite close.

Personally, I'd visit the Galleries Lafayette and Jardins du Trocadéro to get the views of the city and leave the splendid Eiffel Tower to be viewed from the ground. I'll eventually find a closer picture of the Eiffel Tower but at the moment I'm still working from iPhone pictures until I find my camera adapter again.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

lido - Paris merveilles

Something of a last minute thing, we decided to go to a show at the Lido. There's several big spectacle shows akin to the Moulin Rouge in Paris with the Lido's one being situated around George V, in the Champs Elysee.

We booked a meal, with fizz and wine, but decided to head back to our hotel in the 5th before the show, which was due to start in a couple of hours.

Back just as the doors opened, we were shown to a table close to stage centre, and then immediately offered some champagne.

Our fellow revellers were from the USA, and we chatted during the dinner before the main show began. And yes, it was spectacular. The performance had a simple story, with a modern twist to the showmanship.

The staging was dramatic and flexible, with water, chandeliers and an ice skating rink appearing at different points. And did they do a can-can? Oh yes-yes.

And no, that dancer with the glasses didn't wear that outfit throughout the whole performance.

It sort of disintegrated.

Friday, 11 August 2017


Time for a visit to the Musee d'Orsay. It's a museum that has been closed the last couple of times I've been in Paris, so it was good to finally get another chance to look around.

As well as the artworks, there's opportunity for people watching with a surprising number taking selfies of themselves near to a famous picture.

The art works on show don't disappoint, with Monet, Chagall, van Gogh to name a few. There's many 'greatest hits' around the walls, in an altogether more manageable configuration than walking around the Louvre.

As a quick example, above is the Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Some of these particularly famous pictures can be difficult to approach, but others sit quietly for inspection aa close as the original painter.

There museum also has a great sense of scale, with larger works displayed in the one-time train hall.

There's vast sculptures as well as areas allocated to genre within this broadly impressionist era series of exhibits.

And part way around there's the bustling restaurant, under one of the faces of the Orsay's huge clocks. Time for lunch and a view across to Montmartre. It almost felt like sitting in one of the paintings.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

rive gauche to Champs Elysee

A quick iPhone snap of a Paris street scene, bustling with tourists. All the necessary components are present. Metro station, pavement cafe, art deco touches. It could almost be a scene used by Disney to model their Epcot version of France.

Then, turn a few more corners, and its deep into busy markets and individual shops selling fresh produce.

Paris has that Hausmann design overlaying its shape, but there's still remnants of medieval and older areas in much the same way as London. There's also a fine walkability to the central areas. From any Arondissment, it doesn't take long to get back to the Seine.

There's less traffic at this time of the year too. Partly because of the additional traffic restrictions around Paris. There is the need to display a vignette crit'air which indicates the pollution level of every car and essentially prevents some cars from being used at all in Paris.

Then there's the autolib, which, like the predecessor velib, set a kind of benchmark for urban transport options. The autolib are the small electric cars available for hire throughout Paris.

It's a similar but less expensive and more eco-friendly option to the London Zip-cars. The Paris variants are all-electric, and their bays are equipped with fast recharging points. The annual subscription is about €10 per month and the hire cost of the cars works out to less than €8 per half hour, which seems pretty good.

They are already pervasive on the streets although as a consequence it appears that some of the cars have seen active service and have a slightly Mad Max stealth paintwork sheen complete with dinks.

And meanwhile, certain streets stay hectic, although I can safely report that the Champs Elysee remains crossable, particularly with the diminished traffic of the summer.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

a glance at a french telly advert

I know they have been around for several years, but I've finally felt compelled to mention the French version of the the meerkats which feature on British television advertising.

The French ferrets are, let's be honest, a bit rubbish compared with the ones used in UK campaigns. I'm pretty sure that the two companies are not connected in any way and so it must be *cough* pure co-incidence that they are both advertising a comparison web-site.

The thing is, the UK meerkats have been imbued with personality and hardly even mention their real purpose which is to advertise insurance comparison websites.

The French equivalent look rather basic by comparison, like there wasn't much money for the actual puppets.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

blonde parisienne

Time for a few days in France. Paris in the the summer. Of course, many of the locals have moved out for the next few weeks, onto the adjacent autoroutes, where they will blend parking with trips to the south.

For us, it's been time hanging out around the Rive Gauche as well as visiting a few old haunts. My picture is from just around the corner from the Place de la Sorbonne. Notice the unique weave of the cafe chairs. And here, close to Simone de Beauvoir's old uni, we could muse upon the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility.

Monday, 7 August 2017

in which I use a suitcase again

Having spent the last three months living out of backpacks, it seems quite luxurious to be able to pack a real suitcase for the next few days away.

Instead of travelling by boat, we'll actually be using the train and tunnel, so I'll expect the taxi to arrive around 14:00 for the first leg of the journey.

My idea of luxury still contrasts with some others. The 68 metre yacht above pulled up opposite our temporary place on the jetty a few days ago. Lady Christine is named after the wife of its owner, the Monaco-based Baron Laidlaw. One of the largest financial backers of the UK's Conservative Party, Laidlaw stepped down from his seat in the House of Lords to maintain his non-domiciled status and therefore to avoid paying UK residents' taxes.

His boat takes ten guests and has a crew of sixteen. I wonder if that includes an accountant?

Saturday, 5 August 2017

pond, stream, bridge

Part of the reason for all of the mud is the evolution of the pond. It is still being remodelled and there's a couple of excellent digger trucks involved in the process.

One is crane like and the other more of a dumper truck. At the end of the day, the blue digger crane scoops water from the pond to bathe the yellow dumper.

The process will be continuing for a couple more weeks. As well as the ponds, there's also a stream to divert and a little bridge to create.

Friday, 4 August 2017

automobile tyre prints (2017)

I'll call this artwork Automobile Tyre Prints (2017) so that it doesn't get mixed up with that Robert Rauschenberg collaboration. His was done in 1953 and he spelled "Tire" the American way.

I couldn't manage to get to Fulton Street either, but the premise is much the same, that of doing the print outside of the current property (his was outside of his house).

I also decided to be less exuberant with the paint, so have used organic mud to create the effect. It is also a reversal of the image compared with Rauschenberg. His was a black tire on a white background. Mine is brown and red tyre impressions on a tarmac background.

I've also mixed it up a bit, using two separate vehicles instead of just one. His was earnestly American, mine are from Germany and Italy, although one set of tyres was from Britain.

Like Rauschenberg's discussions, I'm not sure whether to call this Abstract Expressionism a performance, a process piece or perhaps even a distinctive exploration of indexical marking?

Whatever it is (or becomes) it creates a transitory sense of place, before elemental forces sweep it away.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017


Just right for laying some turf.
A shame we've run out part way along.
The truck is a bit muddy too.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

less of a cycle, more of a walk

Still no furniture, let alone bikes, so I decided to explore by foot today. My route was directly into the centre and then along to the wharf.

The predominant form of transport around the wharf today seemed to be cyclists of one kind or another, worthy of a quick iPhone snapshot.

Only a few more days and I'll be re-united with my own bicycles. Meanwhile, there's other forms of transport to explore.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

indoor campsite

The latest furniture acquisition is these stylish chairs. I spotted them in Tesco and their combined price was a remarkable £10.

They are more or less our entire furniture collection at the moment until we are eventually re-united with the items currently in storage. Everything else was trucked away to a depot back in early May, so it is becoming difficult to remember exactly what will return.

The more streamlined living of the last few months has been oddly addictive, so it is possible that we'll be jettison yet more stuff as part of this relocation.

For now, I'm sitting in one of the campsite chairs with Radio 4 as accompaniment.

Thursday, 27 July 2017


The new Trump communications manager doesn't disappoint.

Worth a modest $85 million, Scaramucci is an investment banker pulling $5 million in salary and another $4.9 million from his ownership stake in SkyBridge Capital. He blames that disclosure on a leak, although it was freely available as Public Financial Disclosure Report (OGE Form 278e), which he was required to provide, when first appointed.

In keeping with the ever more Don-like moves of the President, Scaramucci has already made the Press Corp an offer they can't refuse. He threatens to fire them all if they don't behave. A quicker way to help Trump get the swamp he desires?

An early Goodfellas style Scaramucci move was to plan to dismiss Michael Short for an alleged leak. Short quit when he found out. Mooch blamed “another leak” for early news of the firing — even though he himself was the person who let it slip.

Scaramucci told reporters,“This (the leaking) is actually a terrible thing. Let’s say I’m firing Michael Short today. The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic.”

How to sound self righteous whilst making mistakes? Inverse virtue signalling? Who knows?

Next Scaramooch slid it up a gear in that Newsnight interview with BBC's Emily Maitlis. Creepy space invading patronising rhetoric accompanied with much front stabbing. Multiple 'shout at the telly' moments all within 11 minutes.

So, entertainment it might be, proper politics, it ain't.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


On the road again, having left our temporary apartment by the jetty. Now we are closing in on the new area. There's still plenty of interesting places along the way, like Alf Resco's, which is a fine place for a brunch.

We're currently in a motel, which could have been a prototype for that old Crossroads television series. Indeed, it turns out that this motel was the very first one built in the U.K. back in 1955.

The one we are staying in has obviously been refurbished since those days, and even Breaking Bad managed to incorporate a kind of homage to Crossroads in one of its episodes.

So above is the one from Albuquerque, and below is our current venue.

But only for a couple of days, then we'll be back in our own place.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

an interesting locomotive turns up at the jetty

Today, breakfast on the beach seemed like a good idea, so we headed off to a nearby bay.

Despite all the news broadcasts about traffic jams and overcrowding, we found the area perfectly accessible and just healthily busy.

Back, later in the day, to the temporary home by the jetty. I glimpsed the top of a steam locomotive chimney that I didn't recognise. A kind of elongated shape. They'd brought a special train into the station. We're in the west here, but this was very much an east coast locomotive.

My inner anorak surfaced as I noticed the engine was decked out in British Railways LNER Apple Green, with a first carriage in a rhubarb and custard paint scheme.

This wasn't a normal preserved locomotive. Ask many train knowledgeable folk if they know the last BR steam locomotive and they'll answer with Evening Star, a 2-10-0 engine once immortalised by an Airfix kit.

But this one was later. Much later. Built well after the end of the steam era on the railways. The Pacific A1 named Tornado was built from 1994, and only completed in 2008. Truly a 21st Century steam locomotive.