Archive for January, 2009

There goes the neighbourhood


On the way back from the decheterie yesterday I took some pictures from the one road I had to walk along to get back.  It was not of all the things which struck me, there were some other things I saw, but it just shows the wonderful diversity of the place I live in.  The first is of a car mechanic, I love the strapline, “L’Automobile a visage humain”:

p1010857The bridge behind carries the railway that goes to Germany and you can just see a clock on the wall of the building behind the railway, I can’t see any reason for it to be there but I am pleased when I pass it on my way to work.  The next photo is of a pink building with shells every floor:

p1010858The next is one of my favourite buildings in our area.  I really like Art-Deco buildings, In Riga this would not stand out as it is so full off them, but here it does.  The damage to the front is recent:


On strike


This year was the first Christmas spent here in Strasbourg.  It was also the first p10108462ever we had bought a real Christmas tree. (Sapin de Noel)  As we should it was removed from the flat on Epiphany (I’ve written about local Epiphany traditions here) but it has sat out on the balcony since whilst I tried to find out what to do with it.  Notice it in the picture on the left, with a tram passing.  I’d not had much luck until Tuesday when JTO found this article in the local paper.  I had been afraid it was a case of strapping the tree to my bike and trying to cycle it to some far off decheterie, the last one I had been to was some distance off.  I checked the website of the Council and found that luckily there actually was one just around the corner.  As a bonus I found that it p1010847took corks.(bouchons en liège)  About a year ago when we received a calendar from the local council I found that they recycled corks to make things like cork boards.  I thought what a good idea it was and we’ve been saving corks since and the number we had has got a bit embarrassing.  So, I was pleased to read that I could take those to the decheterie too.  So, armed with the tree and the corks it was offp1010848 round the corner, down the street and under the motorway, turn left under the railway and there it was on the left.  After a bit of inspection of different receptacles for different items I was pointed to the one for garden waste containing Christmas trees and here on the left is the tree just as it is about to be crushed.  After getting rid of that I looked around again for the p1010851container to deposit the corks.  Again I was pointed to the appropriate place and I was able to get rid of the corks.  It was a bit embarrassing that the number of corks in the bin tripled when I emptied my bags out.  It is such a relief to have got the two bags out of the kitchen and that the corks will be being used for something useful rather than going to landfill.  The bin on the right is the receptacle where they were put and in front of them are the now empty bags.  The decheterie I went to was the one featured in the article linked to in the article above, and here.  It is on Rue de l’Abbe Lemire on the edge of the part of Strasbourg called Koenigshoffen.  It has the A4 – A 35 alongside one edge, a p10108521main railway line along another side and  the rest is surrounded by allotments. (Jardins familiaux)  I have already had my eye on a site on the same side of the motorway as us in the former ramparts of the defences of Strasbourg but the ones around this area look like they might be worth thinking about.  The sites all seem to come with a nice big shed and a water supply.

En greve

Whilst working today we saw the demonstration start out on its way round Strasbourg.  Today was a national general strike and, according to the local paper, there were about 10,000 people on the demonstration.(Manifestation)  Here it is reported on the BBC.  Going on strike has so much become a past-time of the French that it is what the artwork to celebrate the Czech Presidency of the EU featured France on strike:

_45373569_greveafp1I will post up here later a sideshow of the pictures I took of the demonstration whilst around in Strasbourg today.

Steamed up before the Ambassador’s reception


A previous post, that was already self referential,(Does that make this self referentially self referential?) talked about problems discovered once the weather thawedp1010768.  It showed pictures of some steam coming out of a drain opposite the Musee D’Art Moderne et Contemporain.  I speculated on it being the consequence of a leak in a pipe coming from the laundry or similar  of the building on the right which, according to my map of Strasbourg, is the Compagnon Du Devoir.

There I thought it would be left until coming home yesterday when I saw that what had been one bit of steam emerging to the surface had become a large hole in the ground.  p10108381This was just being readied for the workers going home in the evening and some wood had been put over the pipe.  Earlier it had been possible to se that the pipe had had a hole cut in it and that was why steam was issuing forth over the road.  But that wasn’t all though as, on the opposite side of the road, at the side of the museum , there were two further clouds of steam rising from the ground.  On going over to it I found p1010843that one lot of steam was coming from a hole, where the cover had been removed, picture on the left, and a further hole which had been dug and contained men working on the problem, actually closer to the site of the original photo, but in this picture further on.  The picture below makes it look as if the men are working in amongst the steam, but in fact, the pump you can see at the bottom on the right is taking all the steam out.  It is just the way this picture was taken, who says pictures never lie?  So, what was originally a little bit of steam rising from the pavement has become two holes and a third source of steam, where the lid p10108411has been removed from a manhole.  There I thought the story would end but no, there’s more. (Can you take the excitement?)  Today, on my way home I saw a further hole had been opened and there was another source of steam.  You can breath easily because I did not have my camera with me so you will not have to look at a further picture of a hole in the street in Strasbourg emitting steam, with or without men working in it.

The Ambassador’s reception

The reference in the headline is to the advert for Ferrero Rocher chocolates:

The reason for the use of it was this picture I aso took yesterday on my way to take the pictures above.  At present the Parliamentary Assembly of the p1010837Council of Europe are in session.  Lots of the delegations from different countries are going to receptions, sometimes with  members of staf in their own permanent representative, sometimes with that of another country together with the delegation members from that country.  For instance I happen to know that the UK delegation went to a reception with the Dutch last night.  The car parked outside the hair salon has CD plates.  An ambasador or their partner getting ready for that night’s reception?

And the Word was good


As an ex-pat I’m frequently asked what I miss about being in the UK.  There aren’t many things I can reply with.  Obviously family is a main thing but in taking the decision to move I knew we’d be going away from them  To show there aren’t many things those that I do come up with are, reading Sunday newspapers on Sunday, going to a pub on early Saturday afternoon and having something to eat and a bottle of wine that’s not too expensive and staying for a while with friends coming and going.  The third is easy access to the Word.  A magazine about music mainly but also other culture things.  I could get it on subscription and I’m strongly thinking of doing so but what I used to like was coming across it without planning to and buying it then finding some marvel in it.  The magazine always has a free CD on the fr0nt with 12 to 15 tracks and I always find something I really like.  The last one I bought had a track from Ida Maria on it and I’ve just bought the CD, here she is with the CD opener:

The other CD on rotation play at the moment is Little Jackie’s ‘The stoop’ which contains the track, ‘The World should revolve around me’, obviously the song was written about me:

Blowing in the wind


A previous post had talked about the freeze and included pictures of

steam rising

steam rising

Strasbourg in the frost.  It also talked about the cold weather breaking.  Well, when it freezes sometimes things happen and it being frozen covers things up, you don’t know there was a problem.  The picture on the right shows a pool of hot water which has risen to the surface at the side of the road.  In the basement of the building not seen on the left of the picture there is what is clearly a laundry.  It would seem there is a problem with a pipe taking away to the drains the water used to clean the clothes, possibly which was caused by the freeze, and it was p1010769frozen whilst there was a freeze so it wasn’t known about.  Now that things are no longer frozen, like the tides moving back to reveal some long forgotten wreck, we can see the problem.  Thankfully, I passed the site later in the day today and it seemed that the problem had been resolved and the steam had gone, without the road having to be dug up, traffic halted etc. so that’s a good thing.

It’s a long way back to Germany

From a quote from a Bob Dylan song to the Ramones (Particularly here), this blog takes them all in.  The predecessor site to this talked about how much better the French were about urban living.  I illustrated the post with someone moving from an upper floor of a building and the contraption that existed to do it,p1010772 in this case a mechanical lift that collected things from the upper storeys of buildings and delivered them down to be taken away.  On my return from work I saw this happening, a group of men struggling to get a ladder up to an upper storey window.  The ladder did seem to have some sort of pulley system to lift the items up to the window of the flat they were clearly being moevd to, but I could not see how the ladder would be fitted to the window of the flat.  You cannot see in the photo that the possessions of the people moving in are on the roadside, waiting for the movers to get their ladder up to the required floor.  This group of German removals might be cheaper, their vans were clearly from Germany, but it’s causing them trouble to get the ladder up to the window.  The French automatic ones seem to work much better.

The Singing Detective


In the mid-1980’s I was a big fan of the Dennis Potter TV play ‘The singing detective“(Also here and here.). It was about a man suffering from the skin complaint psoriasis in hospital whilst having hallucinations about his youth and a detective story he is reading. The piece, like other Potter plays, features songs, including a hilarious version of ‘dry bones’ .(The second here above from wikipedia has a run down of all the songs in the show.)  The problems caused by severe psoriasis feature heavily in the show and are said to be heavily autobiographical, at times Dennis Potter had to have pens tied to his hands so he could write and this is something which happened to the main character.  One of the memorable parts of the story involved the main character having moisturiser applied to his body by one of the nurses.  The psoriasis affects his whole body so some sensitive parts have to be moisturised.  Much is made of the things Philip Marlow tries to think about in order not to be aroused.

This whole piece has been as a result of now having psoriasis myself.  Thankfully it is not as severe as that suffered by Philip Marlow in the story, I only need a special shampoo and a treatment applied morning and night.  It might be worth having it if  I was looked after by Nurse Mills……

I’ve got my vision on.

The title is from Jonathon Richmond’s hit Road Runner.  Vision On was also the name of an art programme on TV when I was young.  The host of the programme was Tony Hart.  I was saddened to hear of the death of Tony Hart.  I was one of generations of children interested in art by the way he made creating things so simple on the programme Vision On.  I never had an artistic bone in my body but he made things seem so simple that I tried to do more than I otherwise would.  Here is the second part of a Vision On programme from 1975.  I include this part because it contains the ‘gallery’ where they showed pictures sent in by the people who watched the show, early interactivity?

The music behind the gallery is something that has stayed with me from the programme.  It had been intended as a programme for the deaf and had extensive signing, something which made me more aware that there were others in the World different from me.  Here he is being interviewed, and made to make something artistic out of everyday household items, by Whitley’s finest:

Foggy bottom


Normally on a Friday night when Le Racing are at home it is don lots of layers and down to La Meinau on the tram but on Friday neither of us felt like going.  This is the first time in almost eighteen months we have missed a home match when both of us were here and able to go.  Lucky for us.  The stadium is built at the edge of former marshes which were drained and are now a suburb.  However, they still have fog come across and it did so on Friday night.  The players came out, the crowd were saying we can’t see anything, the ref was saying he coudn’t see anything.  So they had to wait 45 minutes before the game was cancelled.  I’m so glad I didn’t go there only to have to stand and watch nothing for 45 minutes then go home again.  What I did miss was that the game was re-scheduled for 15:00 yesterday (Saturday).  In France football takes place at 20:00 on Saturday or, in extreme, at 20:30.  It has just about been accepted that, as a result of the relegation of Strasbourg, football is now on a Friday evening at the same time.  Some times the television covers a match in the second division and the day is changed to Monday which results in a demonstration at the match from the ultra supporters, as the regular supporters are called here, about how football is not a product to be sold. (eh?)  So, a match at 15:00 would cause outrage amongst the locals but just be normal for me, but I didn’t know it was taking place.  From what I saw on the TV of the crowd there weren’t many other people there either.  I’m surprised as I’m on the e-mail list of the club and they didn’t contact me to let me know about the change of time and date.  As it happens I doubt it would have made much difference as I slept in on Saturday and might not have got an e-mail in time anyway.  Also I think it was the second  lucky event of the weekend as the result was a 0-0 draw.  The manager on the le Racing site complains about the conditions.  So this weekend I avoided turning up for 45 minutes to not see a match because of fog on Friday night and missed a 0-0 draw on Saturday when I was doing more interesting things.  Life is not too bad.   At the same time Manchester City beat Wigan 1-0 in a ground out victory despite being reduced to ten men.  Life is good.

Everything’s gone green


Well, not quite, there has been a thaw and today the temperature’s been above zero and is expected to be through the night but we’re not seeing the green shoots yet.  The link refers to a previous use of the ‘green shoots’ analogy by Norman Lamont.  At the time the interweb thingy didn’t exist so I could only bother a few friends with it but the fit with the gardening analogy in the brilliant Peter Sellers film Being There was a source for humour missed by the illiterate satirists.  In the film a childlike person, Chance the gardener, who has worked as a gardener for almost all his life gets made redundant and sent out into the World and, through a series of coincidences, ends up as the confidant of the President of the US.  This is mainly through people taking his recitation of gardening knowledge as sagacity about the political situation facing the World, e.g. ‘there will be growth in the spring’.  This has long been a favourite film of mine, showing how easy it is for people in politics to adopt a herd mentality and follow the latest fashion.  I was interested to see it was directed by Hal Ashby as last night I watched Harold and Maude, which is another favourite film of mine, and he directed it too and I hadn’t realised.  Clearly I’ll have to watch out more closely for Hal Ashby films in future.

Arbeit macht frei

The title for this weeks post relates to this week’s dress down Saturday.  It was the title of the second song from last weeks fellow Mancunians, New Order.  I had heard about Joy Division and heard some of their songs on the John Peel show.  I bought their second album ,Closer, then their first.  For my eighteenth birthday I was given the last song by Joy Division, Love will tear us apart, and the first by New Order, Ceremony, as a present by a very good friend at the time.  I saw them in the students union at Reading University on the first tour after the end of Joy Division and had a great time.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a video available of the song from the time so here’s a film somebody shot later:

The title of this piece is from the gates to Auschwitz. In German, work makes you free.  There has been a lot of speculation about fascist sympathies amongst the band as Joy Division was the name given to a part of a concentration camp where the inmates performed services for guards etc. and there is something in that piece relating to it.  New Order too was what Hitler referred to as what the Nazis were seeking to create and what would follow them.  In fact a google search for the band comes up with a bunch of Nazis in America claiming to be heirs of Hitler amongst the top ten.  I’m not linking to it as I don’t think it needs any more publicity.  The next video is of Shellshock.  I lost touch with New Order for a while and was reminded by a girlfriend in 1986.  She brought me to this for which I will always be grateful:

The sound at the start is a bit tinny for what should be a powerful start, just like Ceremony.  It was on a tape I was given and was just such a joyous celebration of life.  I loved it when I saw the band with friends not long after, again at Reading University, and this was played as an encore, despite the fact the relationship had ended and I was not happy about it.  I’ll finish with what was probably one of the best England football World Cup anthems ever, World in Motion.  There were lots of other fabulous New Order things, go explore:

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind’s blowing…


Leaving work at five this evening my heart was lifted that it was the first time this year that I was leaving work in the daylight.  Hands up, five is a bit early to be finishing work and it is only on Tuesday that I leave that early.  Even so it has been in the dark of late and it was in the light.  It was the first time I noticed the Observatoire Sunday 11 January 2009change in the light as a result of passing the equinox on 22nd December.  Today has also been the first day above zero for the best part of a week.  It has just been too unpleasant to go out because of the cold.  I know that here in Strasbourg we have not had the monopoly on the cold as this cold snap has swept through cenrtal Europe and southern England.  Also, for me, this started with New Years Eve in Vienna which Pont Corbeauwas well below zero.  Picture on the left is of JTO outside the park surrounding the Observatoire showing the frost on the trees.  The park really contains an observatory as well as a planitarium open to the public.  The picture on the right is looking over the pont Corbeau to the place Corbeau and the Cour de Courbeau an old inn, the Hôtellerie du Corbeau (14th C, picturesque courtyard), once a posting station, where many notable people stayed between the 16th and 18th centuries, including Frederick the Great in 1740.  Criminals were sewn into sacks and thrown from the bridge and witches were dunked in the river or thrown off the bridge, according to who you listen to.

Too early to take a day off…


Only a week into my re-birth, can I really afford to ake a day off from posting? Well, as far as I’m concerned the answer is yes because of the precedence of a family occasion, so if you’ve been waiting breathlessly for the latest posting from the flashing blade, sorry. If you haven’t nothings been missed has it?

Job of……….er half a year…

You have to admire the Queensland Tourism Board. For the outlay of some PR person’s time and people doing media handling they have got coverage worth much more than any budget they may have. There is also the budget of £70,000 pay for someone to work for six months and the opportunity cost of their accommodation, but the coverage I’ve seen on two UK media outlets will have covered that without looking at the coverage elsewhere in the UK or the 17 other countries they are pushing this story in, or taking account the visitors attracted by the pictures of the Great Barrier Reef accompanying the articles. (OK I’ll admit I did think I would not post about this as it might attract more entrants and prevent me from winning, but then a realistic appraisal of my chance of winning, and seeing that it was already the most iewed item on the BBC site and was likely to be covered in a massive way by the TV made me realise how much of a marginal difference me writing about the matter would make.)

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