vendredi 2 avril 2021

Spring Is In The Air


It’s Spring!

The weather over the past week has been brilliant, warm and sunny with temperatures around 20 degrees in the sun in the middle of the day. Next week is predicted to be cooler but hopefully not too much so. Maybe it will rain, we could certainly do with some. Having decided to start watering a couple of weeks back I’ve found that some plants that I thought were dead have shown new shoots; so if I want to keep them alive, as I do, I have to keep on watering. It turns out that I had very few plants die over the winter so I don’t have a lot to replace.


I’m particularly pleased with my «front garden», the roadside across from my kitchen that I dug up. Only a half-dozen of the 20 or so irises I planted bloomed last year but this year almost all have. Allied to the daffodil and narcissi bulbs I planted last autumn, they have made a great display. I’m now thinking of trying to grow some ginger among them over the summer. It will be an interesting experiment. All my clematis (a dozen or so) bar possibly one seem to have survived and the only significant failure seems to be the grape vine in the back garden. That was very unexpected and as there is a climbing rose and a clematis growing through it I’ll probably have to leave the dead stems where they are. Nick, an English friend who has now departed for pastures new, left me some low rectangular pots, two of which I put on the front of my balcony filled with daffodil bulbs. These have flowered and so I shall replace them with something that shows up from below; marigolds perhaps, or petunias, I’m not sure. When I decide over the next few days the result will be a list of plants to be acquired in the Vaison market next Tuesday. The back garden, my «jungle», is now complete, so all I need is plants for the three pots in front of my bedroom window and the few spaces to be filled elsewhere. I’m looking forward to fulfilling the expectations of the village of the mad English gardener. Photos will doubtless follow.


Spring is a time for spring cleaning and although cleaning other than the essential is not my forte I definitely need a clearout. Departing English friends have left me with a plethora of things that I need to sort out. I have also had at the back of my mind for some time the knowledge that I have a ridiculous number of shoes, pants, socks and jackets (many saved because they’re still OK for gardening – well, it’s only got a small hole, tear, stain in it) that have to be culled. The same goes for technical equipment: bits of old computers, cameras no longer functional, superfluous cables, etc. I need to go to the village dump anyway to get rid of garden debris so a major clearout is indicated. I just have to get down to it……...


The fine weather has got me playing boules regularly again, mostly in Buis. I’ve been playing reasonably well but with only occasional flashes of consistent good form. The problem I find with a flash of good form one day, producing small miracles, is that people get disappointed if you can’t do the same the next day. Anyway, if the village tournament is cancelled this year as it was last year, that will mean I will have been village champon for four years in succession, surely a record for an Englishman anywhere in France.

What Restrictions?

France is still well and truly under the cosh of COVID but Patrique and Valerie at the Bar du Pont epitomise for me the French attitude to restrictions. Public spaces are closed so where to play boules? Patrique opened the Bar’s garden below the Bar by the river so that we could play boules there; it’s private ground. Although restaurants and cafes have to remain closed, apart from for take-aways, the Bar du Pont can be open for 6 hours per day for newspaper and tobacco sales. Since it can also provide take-aways, you can also get a drink there but you have to take it away, at least as far as the terrace outside. Of course the terrace is officially closed but how do you enclose an open space like that especially if, from behind the bar, you can’t see if anybody is on the terrace or not. Business (not quite) as usual.

The Jab And French Attitudes

I’ve now had one anti-Covid jab and the next is scheduled for a month’s time. The system for applying for a jab here is broken. You have to apply for one by pho ning a number that seems permanently engaged. Friend Jo made a breakthrough by suggesting she, Steve and I go to the vaccination centre in Nyons to see what could be done. When we arrived there were notices that no appointments could be made there. However, a kind nurse said that although she couldn’t give us an appointment she could ask the vaccination centre to phone us, rather than us trying to get through to them. This she did, Jo was phoned the next day and bingo!

This aligns with other anecdotal experiences to bring me to the following conclusion. In France, if an official system is broken, the people working within it know it and understand the difficulties Jo Public faces. Remain respectful and polite but dtermined and officials will themselves try to overcome your difficulties. It seems to highlight for me a difference between officials in France and in the UK. In the UK Jobsworthy seems to rule; in France officials seem inclined to regard their duty to the public more important than their duty to their employer.

The Power Of Ignorance

I resolved a while back to just let UK politics go and not comment. It seems obvious to me what is happening politically there and, I arroganlty feel, if others can’t or don’t want to see it or try to do anything about it, too bad. However I still feel a residual loyalty to the country, as a used-to-be beacon of democracy. The great far-right gamble, which was attempted but has been temporarily halted in the USA, is so far succeeding in the UK and may continue to do so. As an article in The Independent recently pointed out, a lot of people in the UK have seen through the obvious shenanigans by the government but feel powerless to do anything about them and are resigned to them continuing, resulting in apathy. Which is exactly what the government wants for it to remain in power. Satire and ridicule are powerless since the government is already itself a parody of good government.

What the government, and its servile elements in the media have done is to harness the power of ignorance. At any one time, most people are ignorant of a lot of aspects of how things work in practice. These are not necessarily stupid people but ignorant, as they must be, of a lot of things; nobody has the time, let alone the intellect to be anything else. Many people in the UK are just now waking up to what Brexit means in practice. Exploit this ignorance and you can expound all types of fantasy and get away with them. With Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in all kinds of disarray, even if you see through the fantasy, what can you do?

Flag waving is all the mode in the UK at present, particularly among the money-grubbing pygmies currently running the country. It needs true patriots to see the danger, to be vocal, to be active and to protest, to prevent the UK’s demise as a country of any worth or standing. The demonstrations of protest in the UK need to continue, if only to combat apathy. Please, Keep Britain Great.

Little Green Men

I never really believed in little green men, even in the depths of lockdown (honestly!). However, a scientifically knowledgeable friend and I have come up with an interesting (for the moment) conjecture. It is known that Einstein was wrong in some aspect of his theories of relativity but not in what aspect. So what if that aspect was the speed of light as a delimiter? The implications would be enormous. Teleporting has been shown to be possible, albeit with only a particle over a matter of yards and the time taken was probably not measurable. No one yet knows whether larger items over longer distances are possible. But what if…………………? Hesienberg said that physics is not only stranger than we think but stranger than we can think. Should be good for a few sessions over aperitifs or digestifs until someone with better knowledge can elucidate.

samedi 13 février 2021

Update: Hobbyhorsing Around


Update: Hobbyhorsing Around

I’mbeing urged to update my last post, so here goes. Some friends accused me of believing in little green men, alien abductions, etc. Well I never really gave much consideration to little green men, although little green robots are still in the possible mix. And I don’t really think I’m going off my trolley but I’m definitely suffering from lockdown; suffering from too much time to think, insufficient evidence and an inadequate brain.

Too much time and idle curiosity have got me delving into unexplained archaeological mysteries. It’s a good subject for curiosity because so little is known for sure if we go back a few thousand years. Let’s dispose of at least one case of the stone carving precision I mentioned previously, at Cusco in Peru. To recap, the mystery is how huge stones in walls were carved in complicated shapes so accurately that they fit tightly together with no mortar, inadequate tools (as far as we know) and without even a paper’s width between them. I’ve found a paper which gives an explanation. The stones were mined and the mining would have produced an acidic slurry. The paper proposes that this slurry was used as mortar between the stones. The stones are of granite with a high silica content and the acid in the mortar would have attacked and softened the silica, itself dissolving in the process. The weight of the upper stones would then have crushed the lower stones together. That explanation seems very likely to me; using mortar between stones in a wall was common practice so now it seems it was perhaps the absence of that that most needed explanation. The rest then follows.

There’s plenty more that needs explaining of course but my curiosity has revealed a few gems. One recent discovery puts back the time at which we think humanoids (not necessarily homo sapiens) made tools by some 100,000 years, which illustrate how little we really know about what was going on tens of thousands of years ago. In fact, on occasion after occasion a finding puts back the time at which the first of whatever happened by a few thousand years. There is significant evidence of the use of electricity that long ago, not that people fully understood it then but that they were able to generate and harness it in limited ways. The same goes for the smelting and use of metals, although how the very high temperatures needed were achieved remains a bit of a mystery. What I think I have learned is that crude technologies were in use much earlier than we have previously thought and that tens of thousands of years ago the earth consisted of relatively sophisticated civilisations existing cheek by jowel with extremely rudimentary ones. Think city building farmers alongside hunter-gathering cave dwellers.

Another thing I think I’ve learned is that widespread travel happened much sooner than we realised. For instance, there is quite strong evidence that the Chinese arrived in north America earlier than anybody else. tens if not hundreds of thousands of years ago, which throws our current reading of the movements of early man into the melting pot. If that is true the spotty nature of the spread of technology seems a bit strange but maybe the traveling adventurers didn’t include technologists. People moved more easily than ideas: that wouldn’t be so strange.

There’s still those aliens to account for. I’ve no idea whether they exist or not and the probability according to astrophysicist seems very low. The counter to that is, as Heisenberg has said, physics is not just more complicated than we think but more complicated than we can think. So… the little green robots. What do we send to far planets that we want to investigate? Robots; so they would liely be the first things that any advanced alien civilisation, if it existed, would send to investigate Earth. A general objection to any alien beings visting Earth is the limitation of the speed of light over the distances involved. If nothing can exceed the speed of light, as Einstein’s theory of relativity insists, the time to reach Earth would exceed the lifespan of anything we can conceive of. But…...we know Einstein’s theory of relativity is wrong, maybe only slightly so but possibly fundamentally so. The limitation of the speed of light is essential to the theory of relativity but not to quantum physics; in quantum physics could speeds vastly superior to the speed of light be possible? At the moment, it seems, nobody knows, so that’s another mystery waiting to be solved. Quantum physics in itself is an invitation to fantasy. When a theory is proposed in science, to be of any use, it also has to have an observable test proposed that would demonstrate whether it explained whatever anomaly it sought to resolve. But…….we appear at the moment to have reached the limit of size of particle we can detect; we (think) we know there must be smaller particles but, since we can’t detect them, we can only theorise about their existence and, more damningly, therefore can’t propose an experiment that would demonstrate their existence. Physics, in this sense, seems to have reached the same point as philosophy did with Wittgenstein; put bluntly, it disappears up its own arsehole.

Behind all this thinking and speculation is the little consideration of trying to separate fact from fiction, reality from fantasy, what we (think) we know from what still has to be understood. In popular discussions, scientific facts are often referred to, equally often without the realisation that scientific facts aren’t necessarily true; they merely accord with the available evidence. The only true facts in science are mathematical axioms, which don’t get you far when trying to unravel archaeological conundrums.

All through the writing of this piece I’ve tried to be very careful of my use of language. Facts, truth, reality, fantasy, what we (think) we know……...a dance of the semantics. As an aside, it throws a light on the politically correct crowd who want to control our use of language. I have a friend who has had a stroke and becomes angry if anyone tries to describe him (in French) as of disadvantaged mobility; he insists he’s handicapped. That’s the reality.

All this apart, what’s been happening in the last fortnight? Well, the daylight hours have increased markedly, which suggests gardening. Not much is yet possible but I can get down to some pruning and clearing of dead stuff. I’ve also decided to advance my cooking into the field of desserts. I normally eat fruit of some (any) sort for dessert and just get ice cream for those I invite. However, I made baclava yesterday and it proved an instant hit. My next target is a good rice pudding, with lemon, cream and a covering of nutmeg. And this morning I found some popcorn, my favourite munch whiile watching football, in the local supermarket, mid-size plastic buckets of it. Learning from last year, I bought three of them. They’ll be sold out by next week and that will be it for the year. A UK supermarket would immeduately re-order anything that sold out that quickly; here «it’s great that sold so quickly, now let’s get something that lasts longer on the shelves». There’s no sign of a COVID jab for me yet; my friends Steve and Jo, who should be ahead of me in the queue because of Steve’s handicap (sic) have been offered the possibility of one in June. So for me…….August, September maybe, and I’m in one of the priority categories. Come on France, wake up!

jeudi 14 janvier 2021

Visitations From Outer Space


Visitations From Outer Space

OK, maybe it’s just ockdown getting to me but…………………….

 Like most people, I’m sceptical about UFOs and visits from aliens (as well as ghosts, poltergeists, the devil and God in my case). But again……………….

I’m becoming obsessed (oh,oh, lockdown) with recent archaelogical findings relating to 10,000 – 12,000BC that imply the existence of advanced machine tools during that era, and also a map (an actual map, not an implied one. The unexplained phenomena are how rocks weighing up to 150 tons got moved over significant distances and how they were cut/carved with extreme precision, like down to less than a millimetre of variance, showing no signs of having been worked by primitive tools. There are still some puzzles about how the Ehyptian pyramids were built but nothing on this scale. The map from the period has a very accurate depiction of the coastline of Antartica. It’s possible that Antartica wasn’t totally covered in ice then but, even given that, who at the time knew how to draw scale maps of large distances very accurately?

Some of these discoveries are quite recent so archaeologits haven’t had a lot of time to thiink about them. Anyway they would be wary of compromising their credibility in any explanation suggested; my credibility is always in doubt, even with myself. What is needed is a hypothesis that fits the known facts. Is it possible that a human society had reached such an advanced state of sophistication at the time and subsequently disappeared without trace along with its tools? In my view it hardly seems possible so we need an alternative hypothesis. Here is my crazy(?) one. Around 12,000BC or maybe before there was a visitation from outer space. The visitors might have been sentient beings but almost certainly included robots, maybe only robots. They pissed around the planet for a bit doing whatever took their fancy but also precision cutting stones in Europe, South America and Asia, and then got homesick or were recalled. Human beings were around at the time and must almost certainly have bumped into them. So how would these human beings have reacted? Most probably (in my view) they would have created god myths to explain them. There’s something about god and other myths that corroborates this; they nearly all contain a germ of truth (with a lot of doubtful elaboration around that).

There could be questions of accurate dating of these artefacts but archaeologists don’t seem to be raising any and they know more about dating methods than I do (no jokes about dating methods, please). Anyway, even given a millenium or so of variance in dating accuracy the anomalies still hold. Implications for current UFO sightings? Yes, why not? Maybe they just want to know what we did with their stones.

OK, it could just be lockdown and I’m going off my trolley but…….come up with a better hypothesis. And it’s got to conform to Occam’s razor.

mardi 12 janvier 2021

What To Do In Lockdown


What To Do During Lockdown

This seems to have become the most common conversational topic recently, along with how your morale is doing. So this is a personal take on the questions.

Most of my time has been spent in front of my PC. You can find everything from the sublime to the ridiculous on the Internet and I have been wandering through the offerings, mostly via YouTube. Once I’ve woken up, drunk a coffee, done my wake-up-brain sudoku, looked at emails and perused the news via the news aggregator site I use, newsnow, I go to YouTube; hence my newly found interest in mankind’s early development. That apart I can’t say I have found any new interests. I bounce around between cooking, football, music, some science and linguistics, archaeology/anthropolgy of course, and watching steam trains. I can’t say I have found anything earth-shattering but I have, for instance, got some good new ideas on recipes and also been amazed at the singing abilities of some kids of tender age, 10-14.

What about TV and films, obvious possibilities? I’m not used to watching much on TV other than football and Channel 4 news and, for some reason, that hasn’t changed. French TV, the Arte channel apart, is more trivial even than British TV. Because of football crowd restrictions in the UK, more matches are televised which means I make less use of the dodgy Russian Internet site which tries to sell me Indian brides on which I watch matches I can’t get on TV. I suspect the site is run by the Russian mafia, so they do have their uses, and who cares if the commentary is in Serbo-Croat? I’ve got a second-hand subscription to Netflix but don’t seem to be driven to explore that very much. I haven’t got many DVDs I haven’t already watched but I do have loads that I’d quite like to watch again. But, mostly, I don’t watch them again. And for some reason I can’t get down to reading.

What about the world outside, the bit we are permitted to visit? My exercise has been more limited than it probably should be. Gardening is on hold. I walk frequently to the baker’s to get bread, since I love fresh bread, but the weekly or twice-weekly excursions for shopping don’t really count. And the weather hasn’t yet been conducive to long walks. My excuse is that there are 36 stairs in my house and that helps a bit. I can still invite friends to come to eat and I get invited usually a couple of times a week. That’s about it.

The news is generally depressing so I don’t spend a lot of time on it although I can get hooked on the evolving Brexit situation in Britain and its Teflon government. Whatever happens there with COVID the government can’t be blamed, as a recent survey showed; a quite large majority blame other people rather than the government for any failings. It’s people lacking common sense who are to blame. And neither can the government be blamed for any adverse effects of Brexit; people (lacking common sense?) voted for it. So who determines events, what happens next; who is in charge? It has to be the people lacking common sense. No wonder the country is f*****d.

So how is my morale? I’m not depressed but hardly full of the joys of life either. I feel I’m getting along OK, putting life on hold a bit but looking forward to the spring and, hopefully, less risk to life and fewer restrictions. What puzzles me slightly is that I seem to be feeling some kind of restlessness that shortens my attention span. Is that because life is on hold, lockdown or just advancing age? Maybe I’ll find out later on.

dimanche 10 janvier 2021

History: A New Perspective For Me



I’m not a history buff but through watching too much YouTube during lockdown I have become intrigued by some recent archaeological discoveries. There’s an analogy now between archaeology and fishing. Fishing boats no longer go out hoping they will find some fish; they go out, turn the radar on and locate the fish. Similarly, archaelogists no longer rely on a chance find as an indicator of what might be an interesting site; they peruse satellite images and know in advance what sites could be interesting. This greatly speeds the rate at which discoveries are made and there have been some intriguing ones recently. They pose some intriguing questions..

There’s an historical theory that around 3000BC human beings stopped being hunter-gatherers and became farmers, the dawn of agriculture. However, recent finds have shown agriculture being practised in some places around 11,000BC. Even more intruigingly, ruins originating around 3000BC recently investigated in different parts of the world show that a standard measurement was used in their construction that is a precise fraction of the world’s circumference. So somebody before that time had worked out the circumference of Earth. Moreover, this was in several geographically distant regions so it seems likely that this information was shared rather than being calculated separately and simultaneously in different places. So there must have been much more widespread travelling at the time than previously thought. There is evidence, for example, that the Chinese were in north America around 10,000BC There’s also evidence of some relatively sophisticated tools, such as powerful drills, used on hard stones well before 3000BC.

What does all this do to our understanding of humans’ early history? Well, it demolishes the idea of the neolithic revolution for a start. It also demolishes any general idea of stone ages, iron ages, etc. That all varies over time depending on what region and society you are talking about. It’s also clear that very primitive and quite sophisticated societies co-existed in different parts of the world many thousands of years ago, long before we realised. And that poses numerous intriguig questions. For instance, if superior knowledge was sometimes shared across large distances, why didn’t it become generally accepted and used? What happened when a relatively sophisticted society rubbed shoulders with a relatively primitive one? Most interesting for me is what a map of knowledge per century BC would look like. You would likely find, at any one time, a high degree of understanding of maths and engineering and probably town life similar in many aspects to what we know now in odd places in India, Europe and elsewhere, with people in other places living in caves and just learning to create stone tools.

Whatever this does, it smashes any idea of people across the globe progressing uniformly from cavemen hunter-gatherers to agriculture and then some form of more sophisticated society. It just couldn’t have happened like that. It must have been very much a stop-start rocess. It also smashes the notion I was given at school that knowledge discovered by the Greeks and Romans built the foundation of modern European society. Newton said that if he had seen farther than others it was because he had been able to stand on the shoulders of giants. The same must have been true of the Greeks and Romans. And, oh boy, wasn’t the history education I received at school blinkered by European eyes. So…….what exactly was happening and what had (some) people worked out thirteen centuries ago or even before? I guess we’ll have to wait for more archaeological finds.

vendredi 11 décembre 2020

Lockdown And History


If You Don’t Learn From History YouAre Doomed To Repeat It

There’s a tenable historical thesis that the «barbarians» (not the rugby side) always win. Brute force and inferior understanding always defeat more knowledge and understanding. The «barbarians» are not necessarily malevolent, nor necessarily savage nor ill-intended, quite possible benevolent, often good nd useful citizens. But they constitute an underclass in any society, an underprivileged class, less able to reason but also the majority. Their only power is collective.

If people in general were asked about the origins of civilisation/democracy/modern society, many would opt with apparent justification for the Greeks, pre-dating the Romans, who were at the time more «barbaric» than the Greeks.And the Roman civilisation was followed by what are commonly called the Dark Ages; the «barbarians» won again. But the Greeks in turn achieved their dominance by overcoming the Phoenicians, whose knowledge and civilisation were superior at the time. So the Greeks in this case were the «barbarians», overcoming superior knowledge by brute force. We know that this has happened many times in the past because we know that great civilisations existed millennia ago but that they were somehow enfeebled and that much of their knowledge was subsequently lost. In every case the «barbarians» won.

How does this relate to current affairs? Must the periodic historical dominance of the «barbarians» continue? Or can it be countered so that society in general progresses continuously. Must society always at some time take a step back? Nowadays we are not (hopefully) talking about brute force. Brute force on a global scale now means nuclear weapons and liely the end of human civilisation as we know it. Nowadays we are talking about economic force and the «barbarian» majority. Two brute force world wars were backward steps, can economic force now gain the support of this majority in order to rule? Since reason will not do it the obvious inference surely is that this majority must be fed with emotional messages that it is receptive to, that won’t be examined by reason. The appeal has to be purely emotional. So by an appeal to emotion the «barbarians» can still apparently win and so history can repeat itself. The society concerned takes a step back. Progressive civilisation is reversed, as it apparently always has been in the past. Does this have to be the future?


Travel is supposed to broaden the mind and may indeed do so but that is not;necessarily the case; people can remain effectively confined in their own cultures. At the time of the EU referendum I assumed that because so many Brits took holidaysabroad, quite apart from those who worked abroad, the British would have a positive appreciation of foreign cultures. Yet xenophobia was clearly a factor in the referendum result and, anecdotally, appears to be evident in the UK today,encouraged by some popular media and even the government. So my assumptionwas wrong. Physical masks, perhaps worn reuctantly, may filter out viral droplets but virtual masks worn voluntarily can filter out anything foreign. It seems that many free people freely create their own prisons/confinement of a sort

mardi 27 octobre 2020



Autumn has definitely settled in now, evidenced by the weather, the countryside and the clocks. We’ve had a few weeks of decent rainfall and the river Ouveze in front is now looking much less like an apology for a stream. The pots and garden have all benefited as also have I in having to water only those under the balcony. Weather at the moment is similar to classic April weather in England. There is still a fair amount of colour out front from pansies, fuchsias, busy lizzies and the argyranthemum by my front door (photo). There is colour too in the countryside, not spectacular but muted yellows, browns and greens enlivened by the occasional drift of vines turning dark red. My plants will have fewer blooms with fewer hours of sunshine as we advance towards winter but most will continue until the first severe frosts, some time in December. 


New COVID-related restrictions, specifically a 9.00pm to 8.00am curfew, mean that eating with friends will have to be at lunchtime for a while. I have no problem with that except that I find if I have a solid meal at lunchtime I can kiss goodbye to doing anything very active in the afternoon. France is experiencing a similar rise in infections to that in the UK and the government measures here are no more popular than they are in the UK. At least most people seem sensible in their attitude to them and at least the government here is not overtly corrupt.

Fewer daylight hours mean less outside activity but I have books and DVDs aplenty and there is a lot of football onTV to keep me happy. My attention turns particularly to cooking, especially as salads and light meals no longer seem appropriate to outside conditions. Last week I made a Provencale casserole, similar to any beef casserole but with olives and bacon included and this week I’m making a rabbit, chicken and bacon pie (with lots of sage) fromleft over bits; stews, casseroles and curries will no doubt feature throughout the coming months, as also will pies. The French don’t seem to do meat pies and I miss them. I generally cook only one main dish a week, occasionally two, as there is usually enough left over for another meal for me and then I’m invited out in return a couple of times. In between I experiment with Asian stir-fries or do something simple.

It’s mushroom season with many varieties in the shops and markets that I’ve never seen in England. Apart from the ubiquitous button mushroom there are cèpes, chanterelles, pieds de mouton, lactaires, girolles and trompettes de la mort (the last sound deadly but aren’t). I’ve included them from time to time in dishes in a minor rôle but never found any way to really do them justice other than in a risotto. I’ll have to search more recipe sites. I’ll also make some English sausages. French sasages can be very good but they are intrinsically different and I also miss English sausages. I have the skins from a local butcher and a mincer but the mincer motor is not powerful enough to force the meat mixture into the skins. So my daughter bought me a «sausage stuffer» for my birthday and now I’m ready to go.

I feel that the reduced hours of daylight together with the COVID sitution do need something to enliven them and cooking is one way I do that. Fortunately, the fish and cuts of meat I like are reasonably priced and vegetables are cheap. Let’s cook!