Saturday, 17 February 2018

Mount Glorious

Ten days before we drove The Lions Road we were in Brisbane. My mate Matthew (whose brother it was recommended The Lions Road to us) asked if I knew Mount Glorious, and suggested it as a road worthy of the Idiot Wagon.

The view from the Western Window

He was right - the road up Mount Glorious (the Mount Glorious Road) and down the other side (Northbrook Parkway) is an amazing piece of road if you're in a car, although motorcycle riders will have to be careful of lumps, bumps, seams down the middle of a lane, and other traffic. Unfortunately, many people see the road as a racetrack, and as a consequence the road toll, mainly single vehicle accidents, is quite high. The police are usually out in force at the weekend and we saw evidence of this. There are also signs by the roadside warning drivers not to hoon (don't laugh).

Mount Glorious Road in Google Earth

Having said all that, the road really does live up to its name, and if you take time to stop along the route there are some amazing lookouts and views over proper sub-tropical (but only just) rainforest.  We didn't make many stops, as I was on the hunt for a half watermelon (long story...) and time was getting on.  We did stop at the Western Window and one or two other places, but photos just don't do it justice.

A wide variety of introduced trees (Jacaranda),
palms and other native rainforest species.

I have to admit that although I did stick to the speed limit on the very few straight parts of the road, I did do most of the corners faster than advised. In Australia yellow speed limit signs for corners are advisory, not compulsory, although one or two corners would be a challenge to do much faster than advised. Corners advised at 20km/h are usually quite tight.

Susan was hunkered down in sports car mode and I had my hands full of
steering wheel which is why there is a streetview pic here.

When we arrived back in Pittsworth, Susan's family were amazed that I lived in Queensland for almost 10 years yet had never heard of the Mount Glorious Road, but I had an explanation. As soon as I arrived in Queensland I joined a band that spent much of its time out west, so although I knew many of the dypsomanic publicans of South East Queensland, Brisbane was somewhere one went on a quick shopping trip, not sightseeing.

The music I am using for these videos are all Australia rock classic. Todays music is "Hard Road" by the late, great Stevie Wright (previously of the Easybeats), featuring the also no longer with us Malcolm Young, later of AC/DC. The second track is "Standing on the Outside" by Cold Chisel, a band which had amazing success in Australia, but virtually no profile in the wider world.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Swimming Without Sharks

The harbour at Manly has a shark net in the cove surrounding a section for swimmers who don't wish to contend with the rough and tumble (and sharks) of the ocean beach on the other side of the isthmus. The cove is wave free but the water was a little bit chillier than was comfortable on first plunge. It may be shark free, but it isn't for the squeamish swimmer. Several times I shared the shark netted space with small transparent jellyfish. They were disconcerting, but apparently harmless.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Things are Grave Part XI -- Simone Veil

When Simone Veil died last year the whole of France mourned. She had been the first female President of the European Parliament and the French Health Minister, politically active in from the 1970s to the 1990s.

No sooner had she sat for her Bac (high school certificate) than she and her family were arrested and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Veil always wondered if she had made a tragic error by sitting for her exam under her real name and that had been how the Nazi's found them. Her parents and brother died in the camps although she and her sisters survived.

After the war she trained as a lawyer and went to work in the Ministry of Justice. Right from the start her focus was women's rights, but she also worked to improve prison conditions and to protect children and the mentally ill. She is particularly well known for her successful fight to increase access to contraception and legalise abortion in France, which was won in 1975. Staunchly European she served as an MEP throughout the 1980s.

During her time as a high profile politician she had to deal with many misogynist and anti-semitic attacks. I remember reading about her describing how hurtful some of the remarks were and that she could be reduced to tears at times. After one such incident which made a reference to the concentration camp tattoo on her arm she always wore long sleeves.

The grave above is the Veil family tomb, but in fact Simone is buried in the Panthéon. Nevertheless, people are visiting this grave in Montparnasse cemetery and leaving tributes to her.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Recent Changes in Preuilly sur Claise

Roundabout: As part of the ongoing struggle to adequately cope with traffic in the Grande Rue, a roundabout is being trialed at the bottom of the street, near the Abbey. In addition, temporary chicanes have installed up the street and the plan is to widen the footpath to 1.40 metres.

Temporary roundabout at the bottom of the Grande Rue.

Post Office: From 1 September the Post Office in Preuilly will be reducing its open hours to 15 hours a week, mornings only. The commune owns the Post Office building and the Post Office is a rent paying tenant.

The Post Office in Preuilly.
Preschool Closure: The preschool (Maternelle) will be closing and the pupils transferring to the Primary School. Thanks to several new families moving into the area the Primary School now has 82 pupils (up from 75 last year).

Under New Management: The Episervice mini supermarket will change ownership on 1 March. The old owners are staying on to transition the new people. My sources tell me the new owners are of Moroccan background. The outgoing owners are from Brittany.

Change of Use: Cyril Courteix has taken over the old ambulance depot and installed his mechanics shop there (moving from rue des Douves).

New Shop: An outlet for a chocolatiere/baker/patissiere has opened on Place des Halles, next to the Restaurant de l'Image. The main shop is in Tournon and the 22 year old chocolatiere/baker/patissiere is called Laura. Her Mum runs the boutique in Preuilly.

New chocolatier-boulangerie-pâtisserie.

Milk Price Rise: Sandrine, who produces and home delivers dairy products around town tells me that milk has gone up. It is now 95c a litre.

Deaths: Our neighbour Edouard tells me that 3 elderly people from our street died while we were away. At least one of their properties is on the market now.

Chapel Nestboxes: Thanks to encouragement from me and SOS Martinets, a couple of nest boxes for Swifts will be installed as part of the restoration of the Chapelle de Tous les Saints. The chapel is currently swathed in scaffolding and tarpaulins. The masons and roofers have done some preparatory work.

 Swift nest boxes on our graineterie.

Greenway: The rails and sleepers have been removed from the old railway line and it is on its way to being a voie verte. Ultimately it will be 40 kilometres of walking track, from Descartes to Tournon. Much of the section near Preuilly runs along the Claise river.

The voie verte where it crosses the D725 in Preuilly.

Medical Personnel: The vet, Christian Martin, has retired and there is no new vet in town. The nearest vet is now Vanderquand-Lefebvre in Tournon Saint Martin or Vincent Monoyer in Descartes. The dentists, Drs Renaudie, have also retired. They have been replaced by Dr Claudius Zaharia Trofin, who has moved into a new surgery in the Post Office building. I'm told his wife is training to be a doctor and will ultimately be installed as a second GP for Preuilly.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Leaving the Bats in Peace

For the past couple of years I have gone out in January and June with a group of bat surveyors. But this year my friend Jean-Claude, who organises our bi-annual bat surveys, has emailed me to say there will be no surveying this year or next. Surveying bats, particularly if they are hibernating or raising young, inevitably disturbs them, and the local bat conservation experts feel that they need to be left in peace for a while. We have quite good data from the previous years surveys, so the bat experts can focus on number crunching and other projects.

Just in case you will miss the bats, here are some photos to be going on with:

Greater Horseshoe Bat.
Photo courtesy of my sister.
 A maternal roost of Lesser Horseshoe Bats.
Photo courtesy of my sister.
 A grounded Pipistrelle Bat.

 A Soprano Pipistrelle Bat on the wing.

Here are some links to previous posts about bat surveys:

Bat Surveying in the Touraine Loire Valley

Hanging From the Ceiling

Bats Spurn the Belfries

Monday, 12 February 2018

Monday is Queens Day: 18 Queen Mathilde

Where to start with this one...

Mathilde was born in about 1031 and was descended from most of the Royal Families of Europe - in the times when there were many Royal Families in Europe. This made her a worthwhile catch for any aspiring Duke or Baron, and the Duke most interested was William the Bastard, who as a bastard she felt was below her dignity. Stories of how William convinced her to marry him vary, but they all agree that he dragged her to the ground by her braids (quite how this helped....).

Of course, being nobility they were quite closely related: enough, in fact, that the Pope forbade them marrying - which they did anyway in, 1051. (The marriage was recognised by the following Pope 8 years later).

After William invaded England and became a Conqueror rather than a Bastard, Mathilde became Queen Consort of England in addition to Duchess of Normandy. Of course, the fact that one of the families she was descended from were the Kings of Wessex helped - she had a couple of extra clauses put into the coronation ceremony to acknowledge that it was God who put her there, and that she shared her husband's power.

She had at least 9 children, four sons, and 5 (or more) daughters. The history of the sons is well known: the eldest (Robert) becoming Duke of Normandy after his father died, and sons 3 and 4 (her second son died as a child) becoming Kings William Rufus and Henry  I of England.  Although she visited England to be crowned in 1068 she spent most of her life in Normandy, usually in Caen, which is where she was buried in 1083. The original grave marker is still in situ in the Abbaye aux Dames in Caen.

The Jardin du Luxembourg has statues of 20 French Queens and Illustrious women. The subjects were chosen by Louis-Philippe I in 1843. This statue was created by Jean-Jaques Elshoecht 1850. To see Mathilde (and her braids) you have to go here.

Eventually all 20 statues will be featured here.