Saturday, 27 May 2017

Stray South Africans

The other day I got an email from my friend Christine. She asked me if I'd encountered a South African couple called Jheanne and Joy in the street in Preuilly. She told me they had borrowed a house at the top of our street and were here for three months, with no car and no French. So at Christine's suggestion I made contact with them. A few days later they were passing and we were in the garden, so they stopped for a chat and a cup of tea. As Christine says, they are très sympa.

They aren't the only stray travellers we've been directed to recently. On 8 May at the ceremony for Victory in Europe Day there was a couple attending, standing diffidently at the back of the group around the War Memorial. I didn't recognise them, and neither did Gérard, the deputy mayor. He went over to introduce himself and discovered they were Australians called Christine and Geoff, travelling around France, who had seen the ceremony as they passed by chance and stopped. Christine spoke some French and was very interested in the World War II history of the area, especially the Resistance. She had been reading Robert Gildea's Fighters in the Shadows, and her own father had been in the Special Forces in Borneo. Gérard made sure we were introduced and we joined them for the vin d'honneur and talked about the war.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid

At the moment we have an old fashioned string mop wedged into our fence. It was put there to dry, but now we can't remove it because we have noticed that a pair of Gold Finch Carduelis carduelis (Fr. Chardonneret élégant) are stealing fibres from it.

The couple must be building their nest in a neighbour's garden. As you can see in the first two photos, only the female collects nesting material. The male perches nearby in the clematis keeping guard. He isn't protecting her from predators, but from other male Gold Finches who may attempt to mate with her. According to Tim at Aigronne Valley Wildlife, he probably has several females in a sort of harem.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Steve is Dead

Unfortunately our Siberian Iris, Steve, didn't make it through the winter. I don't know what the problem was. He'd been transplanted into a nice new blue ceramic pot that matched his petals beautifully, but obviously he just wasn't happy. I suspect it was lack of water, and therefore our fault.

A Pseudo-Steve Siberian Iris in the back garden.

So it's up to the Pseuds out the back to keep the flags flying. Which they are doing admirably at the moment.

Another one.

The above photos were taken on 22 May by me with my old Fuji. The photo below was taken yesterday by Simon with the Pentax that Tim gave us.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Hole-in-the-Wall Pizza

This place, in rue du Commerce in Tours, used to be a perfectly ordinary pizza takeaway restaurant. Now it is a vending machine. What is the world (or at least central France) coming to? I didn't look at it closely to see exactly how it works. Can one buy a pizza at any hour of the day or night I wonder? Rue du Commerce is in Vieux-Tours (ie the old medieval heart of the city of Tours, with lots of surviving medieval buildings). The residents include lots of students and it is where many tourists choose to stay. I imagine this pizza machine is probably well used and the owners are congratulating themselves on a smart business decision. I'm still dubious about the idea though, and not just on aesthetic grounds.


Simon has been busy, redesigning the website for Loire Valley Time Travel. He started at 9am on Sunday and with the exception of going to a picnic on Sunday afternoon worked through until 11pm on Monday, at which time it was "just about there".  Yesterday he slept until lunchtime, and then spent 10 hours testing to make sure it did what it was supposed to do, and (hopefully) correcting all the typos. Then he sent it live and spent another 3 hours testing it still worked in the wild.

The website is here: and theoretically will work properly no matter what computer or device you are using. It's called responsive design, and until Sunday he knew what the concept was - nothing more. He says if it doesn't work properly for you he would like to know, but that it might make him vewwy cwoss with technology.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A Fire Prone Street

Twice we have witnessed the immediate aftermath of a fire in an apartment in rue du Commerce in Tours.

 A fire hose snakes down rue du Commerce in 2015, and a hydraulic platform is still visible opposite the burnt apartment at the end of the street. The blue fronted building on the right is the bookshop whose apartment burnt in 2017.

Back in May 2015, when my uncle Ric and his wife Sheila were visiting, we encountered the fire brigade just packing up after a fire in a building near the intersection of rue de la Lamproie. Then two years later almost to the day, we walked by to see the scorched windows of the first floor apartment above the science bookshop on the corner of rue Paul-Louis Courier being inspected by three men who may have been the insurance assessor and two tradesmen. But back up at the rue de la Lamproie end of the street, the painters were working on the property next door to the one that burnt in 2015, adding the finishing touches to a very nice restoration. The burnt out property has also clearly been restored.

 Burnt out apartment over the bookshop in rue du Commerce.

The 2015 fire was in an apartment and caused a gas bottle to explode. It happened at 6.15pm in the evening and three fire stations responded with two fire trucks and 30 firemen. The two level apartment on the first floor was completely destroyed but no one was hurt. A fireman was treated for shock after the gas bottle exploded. The fire was probably started accidentally.

The apartment which burnt in 2015 is in the building behind the object under a green tarpaulin.

The more recent bookshop apartment fire was reported at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. Rue du Commerce comes off Place Plumereau, the old centre of Tours, and the street was crowded. It took two fire trucks, 20 or so firemen and a dozen emergency services vehicles to deal with the fire. Two people, a 5 year old boy and his 69 year old grandmother, were taken to hospital with smoke inhalation. The fire started in the kitchen and the grandmother had been preparing something for her grandson to eat. The apartment was completely destroyed. Two of the occupants were out at the time of the fire, and all four have had to be rehoused. Two went to family, two were put up in a hotel by their insurer. The street was closed for two hours, so the shops along rue du Commerce no doubt lost some business. The whole building was evacuated while the fire was burning, but the neighbouring apartments were untouched. The bookshop below suffered water damage when a pipe burst.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Cave Graffiti

Graffiti from 1835.
Once again we've been shown something different on our last visit to the mushroom caves at Bourré. Above is some graffiti showing a man with a bucket, three horses and riders, a rooster and another man holding two vessels. The text translates as '1835 done 14 February one thousand eight hundred thirty five by Julien(?) Biett(elle?)'.

The photo below shows a grid with numbers. The guide told us it was a tally of mushrooms (presumably harvested).

 Mushroom tally.