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Category archive: France

Tuesday July 28 2015

Certainly in London and I presume everywhere else in Britain, when you see lots of verbiage attached to the outside of a building site, it tends to be health and safety stuff, of the sort shown in this posting, which I did here in February 2011.  (That was the very first posting I did with the category “Signs and notices” attached to it.)

In the summer of that same year, I was in France, where I took the picture that follows.  But I never got around to displaying it here.  Here it is now:

image

This is a sign that I saw adorning the outside of a French building site.

To me, it resembles nothing so much as the credits at the end of a movie.  Every imaginable contributor to the building process is painstakingly listed.  Click if you want to be able to read everything more clearly.

Although I am sure I might be persuaded otherwise (for instance by people with knowledge of the relative merits of the actual work that tends to be done in each country), I think the contrast is rather in France’s favour.

In France, everything that has been done, and by whom, is listed.  Presumably it has been done in a manner to make the people who did it glad to have their names in, as it were, lights.  In Britain, every imaginable thing that might go wrong is listed, in the form of an imprecation that people not do this.  It’s the difference between being proud of what is being done, and being nothing but apologetic about it.

Right at the end, though, it does say: “chantier interdet au public, port du casque obligatoire”.  This means (unless the internet has gravely deceived me): “access forbidden to the public, helmet obligatory”.  So, a bit of health and safety nagging there.  But that’s all there is.

In Britain, you also sometimes get a rather shorter list of the grander and more professional of the enterprises people who are doing the job, but not nearly so much is made of this, compared to all the stuff about being ever so, ever so careful.

Monday July 13 2015

imageMore Dezeen catching up.  And this time the news is that Paris is about to get its first truly Grand Chose since the Montparnasse Tower.

Paris is, in certain Parisian minds anyway, suffering from London Big Thing Envy, and they want to change the place.

“The change in regulations is a historic moment,” the architects told Dezeen. “Paris is cautiously allowing tall buildings back into the city.”

Like Ken Livingstone, who did so much to make London’s recent Big Things happen, some of the Parisians angling most powerfully for Grand Choses are socialists.

But Big Things fit right in in London.  In London the antiquarian tendency is weak when confronted by the We Want More Office Space tendency.  But in Paris, it is the other way around.  Paris already has a look that lots of people like, and scattering Grand Choses all over it will radically change that look.  London has always grown in big ugly bursts of money-making, which everyone then gets used to and decides they like, so Big Things are just the latest version of a regular London process.  Paris was kind of perfect in the late nineteenth century, and since then it has been half city, half museum.  It was then neither bombed nor redeveloped by socialist maniacs, as London was.  It will be interesting to see if this transformation of Paris can be made to stick or whether it will be stopped in its tracks once again.

The opposition is gathering.  This particular Grand Chose has already been dubbed a poor man’s Shard, and in truth it really does look like a cross between the Shard and this infamous North Korean structure.

See also this earlier posting about Paris here, here

Tuesday July 07 2015

Indeed:

image

I had this complicated posting in the works, but, as often happens, it got too complicated.  Usually, in these circumstances, I fob you off with a quota photo of that Pavlova statue.  This time I thought I’d fob you off a quota White Van instead.

Learn more about the enterprise in question here.

Saturday May 09 2015

Spent day doing other things, so quota photo time, but from the archives:

image

Taken in June 2005.  I don’t understand mobile phones, but presumably things have changed since the above arrangements were advertised.

But how about that war that either Britain, or Europe, had with France?  I don’t remember that.  Seriously, I wonder what on earth that was about.

Thursday May 07 2015

Following on from yesterday’s ruminations, in among lots of stuff that doesn’t fascinate me, including one posting about shit, is a report about Paris’ tallest building in over 40 years.

Presumably “Paris” doesn’t include La Défense, which is out on the edge of Paris.  Those Big Things are very big indeed.  What they’re talking about here is building Big Things in the centre of Paris. 

And the thing is, this Thing not very tall at all:

image

In London, this sort of thing would hardly be noticed.

But the fact that this new Thing is not that big is deliberate.

“This project is not a high-rise, but embodies a shift in attitude, and this gradual increase marks a willingness to reconsider the potential of height and will change the city landscape little by little,” said the architects.

They know that if they are to get any new truly Big Things anywhere near the centre of Paris, the first step is to make some things that are not Big, but just a tiny bit bigger.  First you get the opposition to concede the principle, with something that doesn’t arouse huge opposition.  Then you gradually increase the heights, until finally you get your Big Things, and the opposition unites too late.  And by then it’s too small, because lots of people actually like the new Big Things.  This is how politics is done.  And this is politics.

The last, and so far only new and truly Big Thing anywhere near the middle of Paris (other than the Eiffel Tower) is the Montparnasse Tower, which was completed in 1973.  Compared to almost everything else in central Paris, before or since, the Montparnasse Tower is very tall indeed.  It aroused a lot of opposition by embodying such an abrupt, even contemptuous, change of Paris skyscraper policy, and judging by what happened for the next forty years, that opposition was very successful.  This time around, those who want Big Parisian Things are going about it more carefully, as the above quote shows.

Speaking of politics, who is that geezer in the picture, in the picture?  A politician, I’ll bet.

Wednesday April 15 2015

In an earlier posting I mentioned that I had ordered Marc Morris’s book about The Norman Conquest, and I have now started reading this.  (Although for some reason the version of it that I have seems to be the American one.)

Morris takes the Bayeux Tapestry as his starting point (as already discussed here in this and (because of its elongated shape) in this).

The events depicted in the Tapestry are of course highly dramatic, but as Morris relates, so too was the subsequent history of the Tapestry:

By any law of averages, the Tapestry ought not to exist.  We know that such elaborate wall-hangings, while hardly commonplace in the eleventh century, were popular enough with the elite that could afford them, because we have descriptions in contemporary documents.  What we don’t have are other surviving examples: all that comes down to us in other cases are a few sorry-looking scraps.  That the Tapestry is still with us almost I ,000 years after it was sewn is astonishing, especially when one considers its later history. It first appears in the written record four centuries after its creation, in 1476, when it is described in an inventory of the treasury at Bayeux Cathedral, from which we learn that the clergy were in the habit of hanging it around the nave every year during the first week of July (an annual airing that would have aided its conservation).  Its survival through those four medieval centuries, escaping the major hazards of war, fire and flood, as well as the more mundane menaces of rodents, insects and damp, is wondrous enough; that it successfully avoided destruction during the modern era is nothing short of miraculous.  When the cathedral’s treasury was looted during the French Revolution, the Tapestry came within a hair’s breadth of being cut up and used to cover military wagons.  Carted to Paris for exhibition by Napoleon, it was eventually returned to Bayeux, where for several years during the early nineteenth century it was indifferently stored in the town hall on a giant spindle, so that curious visitors could unroll it (and occasionally cut bits off). During the Second World War it had yet more adventures: taken again to Paris by the Nazis, it narrowly escaped being sent to Berlin, and somehow managed to emerge unscathed from the flames and the bombs.  The Tapestry’s post-medieval history is a book in itself - one which, happily, has already been written.

What next for it, I wonder?

Saturday March 21 2015

Yes, they aren’t playing any squash today.  It’s been rugby rugby rugby all the way.

First Wales knocked up a cricket score against Italy in Rome, and took the lead in the three-way race for the Six Nations.  Then Ireland thrashed Scotland and took pole position.  Now England and France are playing a mad game at Twickenham.  At the moment it’s England 48 France 35.  How mad is that?  It probably won’t be enough, but England are giving it a right old go.  England need about two more tries, I think, and since France are also scoring tries every so often, even that might not be enough.  But.  Five minutes to go, and England have just scored another try.  53-35.  Bloody hell.  This conversion has to go over.  Then they have to score another try and convert that.  Conversion over.  55-35.  It’s on.  It all has the air of been too frantic and unreal to work.  But, maybe.

Trouble is, I’ve got a terrible headache and bunged-up face, and am in almost no state at all to enjoy it all.  Maybe too much Parma ham at Christian Michel’s last night?  That or the cheap white wine.  But, I have most of it on video.

Game nearly over.  England need one more try off, basically, the last play of the match.

No.  England attacking but France hold out.  Whistle.  55-35.  Epic fail.  But epic in a good way.

Wales were favourites after their big win in Rome, but they now have to make do with the bronze.  Ireland win it.  England second.  A great day.

Monday February 16 2015

Incoming from 6k, with apologies for taking so long to post it:

Re your Bayeux Tapestry post, please find attached a 500x18px copy of that very wide/long (9917px) version on the site you linked to.

image

Would a photo thinned to 18px in height be a record for BrianMicklethwaitDotCom?

Probably.

For some idiot reason, when I first came across the big image, sideways scrollable, at that site liked to above, I couldn’t seem to manage to download the image, and gave up, hence my request.  All I got was the entire page.  Just now I tried it again, and succeeded at once.  That kind of thing often happens with me.  6K mentioned a resizing site.  But of course, resizing images is something I do all the time, with my regular photoshop-clone.  My problem was not having the image file in the first place. (I now realise that I did download the image, several times.  I just didn’t realise where it had gone.  That also happens to me a lot.)

6k also mentions another Bayeux Tapestry sighting he recently made, of bits of it redone with Lego.

Friday February 13 2015

One of the many pleasures of visiting my friends in Quimper, i.e. Goddaughter 2 and her family, is their cat, who is called Caesar.  Is?  Alas: was.  When I said goodbye to Caesar before coming back home last January, I feared that I’d not be seeing him again, and so it has proved, all too quickly.  A few days ago his faltering liver finally gave out completely, and to spare him more grief and pain he was put to sleep.

I took no photos of Caesar when I visited for the New Year, but took several last August, when I last visited.  Here is one of those pictures:

image

I took that at the same time I took the two photos of Caesar in this earlier posting.  If you try, you can imagine from that picture that Caesar has only two legs and is standing upright.  Not that you’d want to.

He is and will continue to be much missed.

Thursday February 12 2015

Last night, seeking to illustrate a point made in the previous posting about how things on the ground look like toys, when viewed from an airplane, I failed to find any pictures of my own to illustrate the point, but I did come across this:

image

Triple Chess!!!  I did not know that such a thing existed, as a serious thing, until last night.

I took this photo in 2008, but it was one of those photos that I took and then instantly forgot about.  Then, later, when looking through the photos I took, I skipped straight over this one and concentrated on others taken at the same time, so I did not actually learn of the existence of Triple Chess, in 2008, when I photoed it, even though I had just photoed it.

Also in this photo is another strange contrivance: the Four Wheeled Pedal Board.  How the hell does that work?  Judging by the absence of any feedback at the other end of that link, the Four Wheeled Pedal Board never caught on.  Perhaps because nobody else could see how it worked either.  And perhaps also because it actually did not work?  “How far”, asks the box, “can you go without falling off?” I’m guessing that for most the answer was: not very far at all.

Despite the instructions for the Four Wheeled Pedal Board being in English, this photo of stuff in a shop window was taken in France, in Quimper, a city which regulars here will know that I often visit.

And look, there is a website. Does the fact that this Four Wheeled Pedal Board seems to be an Anglo invention reflect the continuing interest of Anglo culture in pointless gadgets, in mucking about instead of doing serious things?  Because in Angloland we think that mucking about can lead to serious things?  Perhaps.

Some might seize on all this as illustrating the fact that photography is a substitute for really looking at things.  I photoed it, but I didn’t actually look at it!  But, I am looking at it now.  And, do people who do not take photos look carefully at everything that they see?  Of course not.  The real problem with photography (as I recall mentioning in this talk I recently gave about photography) is not that you don’t look at things, but that you are liable to spend your entire life looking at things and never doing anything else.

Note also the red, white and blue accordion, bottom right.  Confirmation of the Anglophile inclinations of this shop?  Well, no, because the French are also big on red, white and blueness, aren’t they?

Sunday February 01 2015

Adverts can be very revealing:

image

I spotted this advert at a bus stop in Quimper, Brittany, on January 2nd.

The point is, this is not Paris.  Quimper is a provincial French city rather than a big French city.  So this really got my attention.

More fun being had with the Union Jack there.

Sunday January 18 2015

At that demo a week ago today, there were, of course, and abundance of smartphones being used to soak up snaps:

image imageimage image

And there were tablets being used as well:

image

But more intriguingly, and this was a first for me, I saw smartphones …:

image

… and tablets …:

image

… being used actually to demonstrate.  And as you can see, I wasn’t the only one who was interested.

I’m not sure what this means.  I simply note that it was happening.

Monday January 12 2015

Here, as promised, is a big clutch of photos of signs that I took at the Trafalgar Square demo yesterday.  If you want to, click on a square to get the original photo.  The squares have, in quite a few cases been fiddled out with to make them a bit clearer, but the originals you’ll get to with clicking are exactly as taken.

There were, of course, lots of signs (including many mobile phones and at least one tablet) saying “I AM CHARLIE”, in fact you can see quite a few such if you do some clicking.  But, here are all the signs I photographed that said something else as well, or instead:

image image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image image

Of all of these, my two favourites are “Team Civilization”, and “Down With The Tyranny of The Offended” (in French).  But demos are at least as much about quantity as quality, and I trust the sheer number of signs shown here (there were plenty more that I didn’t get to photo) makes the bigger point.  There were a lot of people turning out to denounce these horrible attacks.

Even the rather or almost completely illegible signs are an encouragement, I think, because what these signs tell us is that quite a few people were present, and feeling strongly enough about it to want to wave a sign, who had never been anywhere near such a demo ever before.

Feel free to reproduce any of these images at will, with or without attribution.  If you’d like bigger versions of any of the pictures, my email can be found here, top left, where it says “Contact”.

Sunday January 11 2015

Spent the middle of the day at the demo, taking my usual excessive number of pictures, and then the evening trying to divide them up into clumps to show here, or somewhere.

My main impression was that this was a real demo, rather than some faked up exercise in pretending to be angry about some bit of bad economic or political news that some bunch of people have just been hit by, but not very hard, with lots of identical signs all printed out by the same dubious Marxist agitprop organisation, and then afterwards lots of moaning about how the evil Mass Media paid no attention.  There were a lot of people there:

image

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of French people present, what with London now containing so many French people.  Also not surprisingly, the average age of those present was young, what with there being so many young French people in London.

image

My thanks to Goddaughter 2, now back in London, who told me that she and a friend were going to attend.  Had she not done this, I would only have twigged that it was happening when it started happening and I saw it on the telly.

I have in mind, Real Soon Now, to be posting a clump of pictures of the signs and pictures that people were holding up, along the lines of these photos, that I took of a much smaller demo in London a while back, including the one above, and also including this one, which I especially like:

image

My immediate reaction to the Paris brouhaha was not: “I am Charlie Hebdo!” It was to take another crack at reading the Quran, to check if it really is as obnoxious as I remember it being the first time around.  So far, it is, even more than I remember.

Monday January 05 2015

My thanks to Tony, for his and his family’s hospitality during the last week and more, and for this photo, which he took in Quimper recently, and kindly emailed to me a few days ago.  I couldn’t then pay attention to it, but it was waiting for me when I got home:

image

What this shows is how Quimper Cathedral looked before they put two big(ger) spikes on the top of it, in the nineteenth century, thus making it look how it looks now.

I can find nothing about this transformation on the internet, let alone any repro of this actual map.  Odd.  Odd, that is, unless it is all there and I merely couldn’t find it.  That would not be odd at all.