Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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- Giant cat head worn by a human
- BMdotcom abusive comment of the day
- Made-up London detectives in real London places
- Marc Morris on how the Bayeux Tapestry ought not to exist
- Fantastic day
- Another use for a drone
- London is getting more colourful
- Don’t mention The Wires!!
- CATable at the Building Centre
- Pepper-spraying drones
- Photoing the old London model
- The receiving station at Swains Lane (and the previous version of it)
- Bad taste
- Ships on a roof
- BT Tower - trees without leaves - blue windows
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Category archive: France
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.)
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?
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.
Incoming from 6k, with apologies for taking so long to post it:
Would a photo thinned to 18px in height be a record for BrianMicklethwaitDotCom?
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.
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:
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.
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:
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?
Adverts can be very revealing:
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.
At that demo a week ago today, there were, of course, and abundance of smartphones being used to soak up snaps:
And there were tablets being used as well:
But more intriguingly, and this was a first for me, I saw smartphones …:
… and tablets …:
… 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.
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:
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”.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
The error messages have continued, so all I will do this evening is post this. Back home tomorrow evening, and I hope things work better there. The temptation to attempt another picture posting is huge, but I will resist.
No I won’t. That went so well, I’ll give it a go:
Like I said, see you tomorrow.
I love to photo things in shops, because that way you can enjoy them indefinitely, yet never buy them.
Cats, for instance:
Uploading all of those took an age. I keep getting messages saying things like this:
PHP has encountered an Access Violation at 01BEA37F
Very informative. But if I just keep trying, eventually it works.
If it isn’t one stupid thing, it’s another stupid thing. It will bear repeating again and again that no two computers in the entire world are exactly alike. Get used to one, and you ideally want to keep using that one, always. Switch to another, and life just becomes relentlessly more difficult and annoying.
The message of all the cat stuff I do here is that blogging is fun and that if you are a blogger you should never forget it. Sadly, this evening, blogging has not been fun.
In Quimper, as opposed to the world, the Twin Towers still stand, in the shape of the two identical spires of Quimper Cathedral.
When out and about in Quimper, and in among photoing roof clutter, I also made a point of trudging up the shady, frigid side of the long hill that overlooks the river valley that is Quimper, to try to photo Quimper and its Cathedral from there.
I have tried this before, but have only previously been here in the summer, when the trees are all smothered in foliage. I had been thinking about this since before I came here this time around. This time around, I thought, I might be able to really see Quimper and its Cathedral properly, with branches and twigs intervening somewhat and rather decoratively, but with no leaves to spoil the view. I earlier photographed the Cathedral in gaps between the leaves, but this time I wanted to get both the Cathedral, and its place in the entirety of Quimper.
And I got it:
Branches and twigs intervening decoratively, but no foliage to spoil the wider view.
I didn’t want you people thinking that the only thing that interests me about foreign places is foreign roof clutter.
Also: see this piece about all the speakers I had at my Last Fridays, last year. I had to step on it a bit yesterday, because you have to do end-of-year pieces like this before the year ends, even if nobody besides Paul Marks reads them until several days later. It’s the rule. But despite all that, and actually somewhat because of it, I have had a very Happy New Year so far, and I hope you are having one also, and that your happiness continues.
My journey from home to Quimper in Brittany involved a nervewracking change in Paris. I only had an hour and a half to get from Paris Nord to Paris Montparnasse, during which time I had to buy a Metro ticket as well as do the actual journey. The Metro ticket was the scary bit. The Metro ticket selling system at Paris Nord is or at least looked that day like in-your-face fuck-you nationalisation, on full throttle. Three windows for selling. One imperturbably relaxed seller, at one open window, like in a British high street bank of the sort that is bullying you to do everything online. A queue like something in old Moscow when a meat shipment was rumoured to have arrived, caused by two trains having just arrived at Paris Nord, mine being one. Luckily there was also a slightly shorter queue for a machine, and by begging help from the lady in front of me, I managed to extract a ticket from the machine, and I then sped to Montparnasse. On the way back, I will buy a ticket on the train from Quimper to Paris, which I can apparently do. I will have four hours to make that work. Should be enough.
At Montparnasse, I of course had an hour to kill, and although I had a good book with me, I killed the hour by taking photos like this:
That was taken quite high up in the Montparnasse station, through thick glass, hence the linear interruption and the yellow reflections. But, being high up, I got a better view of a little of the magnificent roof clutter that Paris offers. Those chimneys, with their pointy tops like something in a fairy tale book, are unlike anything I have seen or at any rate noticed in London.
Here is another picture which I took just before the one above:
Here we see a roof clutter refinement which I do not recall seeing in London much either, namely an illuminated sign right in front of whatever other roof clutter is behind it, advertising the business down below. Given how I adore roof clutter and am also very fond of signs, this photo gave and gives me deep pleasure.
In among more formal expeditions to local beauty spots, I have got to walk around a bit in Quimper, of which I am very fond. Back from some walk on the beach, somewhere or other, I had my hosts drop me off in the centre of town and I walked back in the amazing late afternoon sunshine.
In among much else, I took more roof clutter pictures, like this ...:
… and this:
The first is good because it shows more chimney pots. The second I include for artistic impression. I just like how it looks.
But what interests me about this clutter, aside from mere prettiness, is that whereas the chimney pots seem to be specific to France, the electronic stuff is the sort of thing that I recognise from the UK. It would appear that a TV aerial is a TV aerial, anywhere in the UK or France. Ditto a satellite dish. How much do these things vary in the rest of the world?
I have swapped one kind of computing confusion, too complicated even to describe, for another, and am now using a French keyboard, but telling the computer I am using that this keyboard is really British. This means various letters on the keyboard being in the wrong place, such as the Q and the A, which are where the A and the Q ought to be. There are other confusions, of a more serious sort.
This is a very peculiar experience for a touch typist like me, because it means that I can now only touch type. I cannot pause and go find the correct letters, because I do not know them, or not the ones that cause all the trouble. Only my fingers do.
So it is touch typing, or no typing at all.
Which is better than French typing, but still very imperfect, because some of the regular British things are things which my fingers are not that good at, most notably inverted commas, both single and double. This is why I said it is in the previous paragraph rather than abbreviating it, and why I am saying it is in this sentence, twice, without any inverted commas to indicate that I am quoting myself.
I seem to recall that faced with this dilemma on a previous French expedition, I had to make do with the computer recognising the French keyboard I was using as French, which meant switching As and Qs, etc. The alternative arrangement is somewhat better, but only somewhat.
Luckily my fingers know how to do two important things, neither of which are in the same place on these keyboards, namely commas, and full stops.
Another oddity is that the spellchecking in my blog input process demands that all words be recognisably French, and so underlines most words, because of them not being French, thus rendering itself inutile, and yes that is how you spell inutile. But, sorry about all the other spelling errors in this.