Nothing left Toulouse

A quick reboot from the long lost days of my murky past. Love this tune, particularly the chorus line “If it’s all the rage to be insane, let me play the fool…” Very me. Listen to the whole thing below;

So where have we been? Or in the words of Blackadder’s Lord Flashheart “Where haven’t I been!” For one, seeing more of the rural French road network than I’d bargained for, courtesy of our hire cars satnag, although driving along the plane tree lined single carriageways winding through vineyard and Hectares of Sunflowers has been very pleasant indeed. Even though we almost ran out of ‘Essence’ (Gas, Petrol, Joy juice etc) the other day when the little electronic tinker elected to take us on the longest rural short cut I’ve ever been on. Seriously, we were running on fumes when we finally found an open filling station. I swear the fuel gauge needle had been resting on the stop yawning for at least ten kilometres before we finally found fuel.

Historical note; the planting of the Plane trees along most of Frances D and N routes was begun not because they look nice, but to shade Napoleon’s troops as they marched from battle to battle. A couple of years ago there was a disease scare, but in the region of Languedoc and Haute-Girond, many of these trees form cool green corridors in the heat of midday. Which if you were one of Bonaparte’s heavy infantry would be far better than fainting in the sweltering months of Summer when his nibs packed them off to kick some rebellious peasant arse. For the trees lost to disease in 2012-5 there is a replanting programme, so the little Emperors most worthwhile achievement will not be lost to posterity.

All the way to Toulouse via Carcasonne, the impressive fortress town once home to the Albigensians or Cathars as they were otherwise known. The Cathars of this area having been massacred repeatedly in the early 13th century, one particular bout of mass killing giving rise to the quotation “Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His”, often paraphrased as “Kill them all, God will sort it out.” attributed to the Abbot of that time. Nice people, not.

Lots to see and do in Toulouse and an architectural treat to wander down some of the narrow medieval city streets. This is a town that has been around since before Roman times. There’s a fair bit of brickwork that looks like recycled Roman tiles. In our current hotel our inside bedroom wall looks like Julius Caesar and friends only packed up and left last year. Not quite as hot as it’s been, but warm enough for me to agree to visiting several shopping malls on a daily basis(!), just for the air conditioning.

I see from the FT and Times that Juncker and Trump have been holding trade talks, which is good but it does leave one question dancing through my frontal lobes; How did they keep Juncker sober enough? Answers on a mucky French postcard somewhere else please.

Heading off east now toward Monaco and Monte Carlo tomorrow. I may not break the bank, but I’ll restrict myself to a short drive around, just to say I’ve been there. Abientôt mes vieux.

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Crazy like a fox

A few months ago, I was talking with my financial advisor who recommended Facebook. I disagreed robustly, calling it a ‘bubble stock’. Which it is. Now the people who called me ‘crazy’ for not hitching my coat tails to such a rising star may be looking at the valuation of their investment right now and feeling a bit sick. A hundred and nineteen billion loss in less than twenty four hours? Ouch. So my ‘craziness’ at staying away from said stock is looking rather vulpine at the moment. Call me Reynard.

Contrarily and as a note of balance, I’ve just had a disastrous accommodation booking fall over which had us frantically searching for new digs at very short notice. Fortunately Booking.com has come to our rescue, and although I’m going to have to cut my losses and run, all is not lost here in the Sarf a France. We have money, a hire car with ‘smoking wreck’ insurance cover, places to sleep and have just had a brief sojourn in Montpelier, which if you don’t mind the graffiti, is a very nice little city indeed. Baking hot, but then isn’t everywhere at the moment? Apart from those places that usually are but aren’t at present, like Sydney in the Fabled land of Oz. Ten Celsius? In buildings with poor insulation and no real heating? Brrr.

I also keep on hearing people get all bent out of shape about next doors President doing what he’s doing and having partial or sometimes complete public meltdowns over stuff he hasn’t really been at fault for. Like the US Immigration service separating children from the adults they’re travelling with, the most iconic image of which (The crying little girl in pink on the cover of Time magazine) is a complete fake. Indeed, Trump, when the matter was brought to his attention, even signed a document saying parents and children should not be separated from their children if found entering the country illegally. Unlike Obama. Who the mainstream media, particularly CNN, gave a complete pass to. Obama in their eyes, could do no wrong. Trump can do no right. Regardless of his actions. It’s that blatant.

However, one thing is certain; Trump is not completely honest. To some people he’s the prince of lies, but and here’s the big ‘but’, his ‘lies’ are more exaggeration and the kind of half-truth you get out of a hard-sell sales person. And yes they are deliberate. A verbal sleight of mouth while he gets on with fixing the mess that previous administrations have left the USA, and to a lesser extent the rest of the world, in. Because he is doing what they would dare not do. He wants to fix an America that has been broken for a long time. Fixing their trade relationships with the bludgeon of tariffs. Which everyone else uses, but only Trumps tariffs are bad, yeah?

On the surface this is madness, a task that cannot be accomplished, but I disagree. The more I see of him, the more I see that Trump is not mad, he’s ‘crazy like a fox’ and as soon as everyone stops panicking and view all his actions and prognostications as mere negotiating tactics, the clearer idea we’ll have of what he’s actually doing.

Space oddities

One thing I’ve been looking at around during our sojourn in the ‘Dam are the odd looking little gadgets the Dutch use to get around their highly populated little metropolis. The huge amounts of sit up and beg style of bicycle common to this part of Europe for example. I’ve had to grab Mrs S between seven and nine times today to yank her out of the path of one of these speeding velocipedes. They don’t brake. Well they don’t want to and most of them expect you inconvenient pedestrians to get the fuck out of their way. I’m reliably informed the only thing that can stop a cyclist from the ‘Dam is one of the cities many trams and buses.

However, the psycho cyclists aren’t the whole story. Although only a tiny minority wear helmets and we have yet to see one person wearing spandex. Not one. Everyone cycles in ordinary street clothes. There are no Lance Armstrong impersonators. Also helmetless and spandex deficient are the majority of moped riders who speed along the bicycle lanes without a care in the world. In addition curious little four wheeled two seaters like mini smart cars occasionally whizzing through traffic like manic scalextric toys. One model is called a Canta, but there are others not listed on wikipedia. They exist because I’ve seen them. Parked at the end of a row of mopeds, scooting down bike lanes and scattering pigeons.

A word to the wise regarding hop on and hop off tours of Amsterdam; the boats are best. Failing that, trams and buses. The rest of the time walk. Forget trying to drive in Amsterdam. The buses won’t even get you close to where you want to go. Indeed, the one way system can only be described as Byzantine and the delays mean that it takes you three times as long as in any other city to get anywhere. And the best bit is that there are no bicycles on the river, just pedalos whose unskilled drivers veer all over the bloody place and annoy the tour boat drivers and passengers.

Anyway, we’re moving on now on the third leg of our European Beano to the Sarf a France to sample the liquid delights of Provence, Languedoc and Gascony. Game plan is to fly in, unpack, have a shower and several large glasses of the local vineyards finest before collapsing into a well deserved somnolence. The rest is all day trips out to Carcasonne, Toulouse and maybe a breeze down the Corniche, whichever one of the three that takes our fancy.

Amusement today was found in a Times op-ed about certain companies refusing to allow meat on expense paid for lunches. There’s a simple way round this restriction known to any exec worth his salt. Ask your friendly restaurateur to alter your bill to show a vegetarian meal for the price of a nice steak and glass of red for you and your client. I’ve done it a couple of times back in the day and no-one batted an eyelid.

Oh, and I’ve decided what to nickname our two girls. ‘North’, previously known as Youngest and ‘South’ previously called Eldest. Sounds okay to me, hemispherically speaking.

Hot and not so bothered..

Walking the markets and streets of Amsterdam in the continuing heat wave, finding shade where we could. Rather reminds me of 2003 and previously 1976. Lots of sunbathers out this Sunday afternoon as we made our way back to Amsterdam Centraal. “Don’t they look like seal haul outs?” I observed to Mrs S at the piles of tumbled human flesh adorning various canal side platforms. Some nice looking, most not. Plenty of bad tattoos, excess bulges, lobster skin and cellulite on show, which was less than entrancing. Although I suppose it is one way of chilling after a long hot day.

There were even people swimming in the canal water. Which might not be such a wonderful idea unless you’ve got your Tetanus and Weils disease vaccinations up to date.

As we went to get a spot of Tiffin, we saw notices about the forthcoming gay ‘Pride’ event in early August which spurred my good lady wife to remark. “Why are they so proud? What about? Their sexual preference? And why do they need to march to show it off?”
“Probably their insecurity. Does sound rather narrow to define your whole identity by a sexual preference.” I replied. We both shrugged. Not our problem. Then we moved on.

Amsterdam

Back in the ‘Dam again after a few years, enjoying the heat, feeling vaguely embarrassed by bozo Brits behaving like, well, bozo’s. It’s why being a dual passport holder can spare my blushes when faced by the offensive behaviour of idiots who are only there to get stoned because it’s all they know.

Frankly I think that marijuana should be legalised, licensed and taxed everywhere because it would cut the legs out from under the illegal drugs trade and take money away from organised crime. Not only that but it would cut the user base, because the illicit thrill of doing something naughty would be taken away and it wouldn’t be fun any more. Can’t stand the sickly smell of the stuff myself. The stuff in BC is less sweet smelling and is a bit more skunk like. My own drugs of choice are alcohol and caffeine and nowadays I’m modestly abstemious about those. At least until we hit the sarf a france to make a spirited attempt at draining the notorious wine lake. Then all bets are off.

On a walk up from Dam Square to our Tram stop we encountered a group of about thirty (Possibly less, I didn’t count properly) purple t-shirted women shouting and singing about women’s rights, leaving me to think that Mrs S and I have done more than all these shouty types, having raised two successful and independent daughters who are making their own way in the world, which is a better kind of feminism than all the ‘third wave’ dogma currently being touted by activists. A silver haired photographer was dancing ahead of this annoyingly loud group, taking pictures from a high angle that would make the thirty shouters look like hundreds. News management in action.

Travelling again…

Next step of our journey looms. Amsterdam and all points Dutch. A Switch of beers from Tuborg to Heineken. From apartment to hotel. A few points further south. Day trips to the Hague and similar are planned.

As cities go I’ve enjoyed our stay in Copenhagen. Very easy to walk, very flat. Picturesque, with few buildings more than seven storeys tall. Also undergoing a couple of large scale redevelopments in the centre. I wouldn’t want to drive here, that’s a certainty. This is not a vehicle friendly city, even if it is mostly a friendly city. Fine to visit, but like most capital cities, very expensive to live in.

Youngest, although she’s not a girl any more but an intelligent young woman in her own right, capable of making her own way in the world, has gone back to jolly old Londinium to continue her work of trying to sort other people’s legal lives for them. She has a solid network of friends and associates now, some quite highly placed in her section of the legal firmament, so needs very little assistance, either emotional or financial, from us. ‘Youngest’ no longer seems an adequate term because although she’ll always be the second born, she’s earned the right to a more flattering label. Something will come to me.

I notice the two minute media hate is still spewing against the President Trump who has actually been talking to those naughty Russkians instead of listening to the constant litany of ‘Russia is bad’ propaganda, which gets us nowhere. Newsflash kiddies – this is not the old Stalinist Soviet Union we’re dealing with here, they’re mostly democratic and quite capitalist nowadays and definitely not filling mass graves with tens of millions like they used to in the bad old socialist and communist days. So why aren’t we talking to them? Jaw-jaw is better than war-war, as Winston Churchill once put it. Trade better than conflict. All right, Putin jails the odd journalist, but so does everyone else. The Russians are just more open about it. They have a robust attitude, which is to their credit.

Eldest has been to Russia and recommends Moscow and St Petersburg as Summer tourist destinations. So a trip there might be worth the price of a visa. There’s a lot of Russian tourists here in Copenhagen if these old ears don’t deceive me. Just like there are a lot of Americans. I’ve picked up a pdf copy of ‘Russian for Dummies’ and over Winter will be trying to gain a smattering of Russian so we can at least navigate and negotiate our way around.

Deranged hatred

Having been woken up by spewing drunks trying to force their way into our rented Copenhagen apartment in the wee hours, I made the mistake of going online to see the news. Bad mistake. I should have hosed all the vomit from the stairwell first. But not only have I had to clean a startling display of projectile vomiting off a full flight of stairs and wall because no-one else would, but I have to listen to the unhinged ravings about Trump’s visit to the UK. A good deal of which is coming from official media sources.

I keep on hearing all the empty anti-Trump rhetoric and can’t help being bemused by the display of frothing anger. All the bad things he’s being accused of, Obama, Bush and Clinton did in spades.  Indeed Trump may be a bullshitter, but the hatred of him is so over the top even my wife and daughter, not the most political of animals, are looking askance at all the screaming nutcasery and going “Oh for heavens sake!”

Would someone please explain to li’l old thickie me, so everyone else can understand too; exactly what is so bad about what he is doing? Spare me the empty rhetoric, I want logic and reason, facts and figures. I understand this may cause unwarranted strain on certain people’s neurons.

For those expecting automatic slapdowns fear not, this is a serious request for information and I will engage with any rational and pertinent arguments. However, if I do not respond immediately, please be patient because I am travelling. For those who simply want to repeat meaningless mantra’s, my time is my own, not to be spent in fruitless arguments over whose dogma is being allowed to crap over whose lawn. Vomiting drunks notwithstanding.

Final note about the US President. Although I do not care for his style, I will confess to liking what Trump is doing for one reason only; he’s annoying all the right people. If this drives you to fits of incandescent rage, have you ever thought that most of the real problem lies between your own ears?

Update: Psychologist and Author Dr Jordan Peterson seems to have it nailed about Trump the man and President in the video below.

The big state is nobody’s friend…

When a parent can be jailed for temporarily leaving their child in a ‘safe’ location, then that child’s life destroyed by whisking it away into ‘care’, what kind of world do we live in? It seems that no-one cares. At least as far as an impromptu straw poll of Danish Museum visitors is concerned.

Went on a tour of the Danish National Museum yesterday, trailing dutifully after our tour guide. A fresh faced girl barely out of her teens who was waxing lyrical about the benefits of the big state. I got a little annoyed at her drivel, which had little to do with the exhibits, so slunk off for what North Americans tweely refer to as a ‘comfort break’. I came back to find Mrs S seated with a dark expression on her face. “What’s up love?” I asked.
“Let’s leave this group.” She said.
“Okay?” I was a bit puzzled but agreed. It was a little warm and I was looking for a place to cool off.

What my wife then recounted from the tour guides spiel actually shocked me. She told me that the tour guide had spoken approvingly of a woman being jailed for leaving her baby outside a store. Jail time? For thoughtlessness? I thought. That’s a bit excessive isn’t it? The baby was then taken away from her mother, permanently. Something, Mrs S said darkly, which met with our guides whole hearted approval.

“You know what bothers me most Bill?” My wife said as the rest of the tour group moved on.
“What?” I knew where this was going.
“No-one challenged her. No one at all.” Mrs S is a fine and expert teacher who cares deeply about her charges. She’s seen first hand the damage ‘social services’ do when families have been broken up for seemingly trivial reasons. I get that children with abusive parents need to be taken into the care system, but not for a single instance of foolishness. Besides, when I was a tiny tot it was customary for my mother to leave me outside a shop in my pram or baby carriage. In the middle of our local High Street no less. She could see me from inside the shop, and the only risk I ran was from elderly childless spinsters occasionally pausing to coo dribble all over me. Maybe times have changed, but jailing a Mother for something so frivolous? Now there’s a scandal.

As for taking the child away from it’s Mother permanently, in the UK there has been a longstanding scandal about forced adoptions as documented by Daily Telegraph Journalist Christopher Booker. Turns out there’s an adoption racket going on which the Family Court system are unwilling to address because they form part of the problem.

Yet stupid people like our tour guide wax lyrical about big state intervention at every level of life. Giving her ‘free stuff’ without a thought about where the original resource came from. Or how much this additional resource grabbing inflates the cost of the stuff she is ‘given’. Perhaps she will think differently when a moments thoughtlessness puts her in jail. But by then of course it will be too late.

Only then will she learn that the big state is nobody’s friend.

Back in the UK again

Well there I was. Back in the UK. Did the necessary family visits and with the backdrop of England’s recent World cup run, have been to the smoke for a long weekend in the fleshpots and museums before heading over to Copenhagen.

One thing made me stop and think; All of my relatives were parroting the same lines and stopped dead in their tracks when challenged. Everything they said was from the television. The idiot box, the boob tube. I was made aware how much this blaring boombox dominates their lives. Never even switched the cursed thing on in the hotels I stayed at, it was either full of the world cup or other crap.

Everyone talked about the insulting ‘Trump baby’ blimp, not that Trump will see it, he’s directly off to Chequers (Or has a deal been done at Blenheim, which is not London, it’s Woodstock near Oxford FFS!) when Air Force One touches down, then Scotland for a round or two of golf. What should he care about a country that’s doing like the UK football team? Specifically an early small success (Brexit leave vote) followed by a complete screw up (The current Brexit negotiations), but nowhere in the mainstream UK media was the news that another blimp of that ilk is being crowdfunded. One satirising the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for his crummy downmarket virtue signaling support for the Trump blimp and presiding over a massive upsurge in crime? No doubt the cameras will be pointed away, provided the Police don’t actually prevent it’s inflation.

Perhaps a similar blimp could be crowdfunded to satirise May as the PM that betrayed the British people over Brexit? Or is she, as my wife has suggested, merely playing the EU, seeming to give in to their demands and all the while setting up to crash the UK out in March 2019 with no deal, simply refusing to pay the EU any more? The latter seems unlikely.

Although I’m reserving judgement until after Trump’s UK visit because, and here’s a thought to annoy remoaners and the left wing whiners. Maybe Trump will offer May a bargaining chip against the petty Euro overlords. An out so that if the Eurocrats do take it to the wire and there’s no decent European deal available, US markets will open their arms. It’s an interesting thought. And it would work for US interests. The US needs markets on the edge of Europe, so perhaps he’ll throw dear old blighty a bone or two.

Who knows?  Update; Well we do now.  Trump has dropped any hope of a US deal because May wants the UK as a vassal state to the EU with her Brexit in name only approach.

Oh what the hell.  Copenhagen is still warm and we’re here until the middle of next week, working our way up the street breakfast by breakfast. Youngest hits town tomorrow and we’ll be squiring her around. Poor thing has been going through a rough patch of late, the dreadful mathematics of the actuarial tables has come to play Danse Macabre in her social circle so she’s feeling a bit vulnerable. I know how it feels to watch your friends fall around you and will be playing the non-judgemental parent while she’s with us. It’s a bloody hard road and I shall be doing my best to keep her cheered up.

Copenhagen

Arrived in Copenhagen last night after running the gauntlet of lift failures and the vagaries of London Underground. Notwithstanding a false positive scan at airport security resulting in a fruitless second scan and mildly annoying and pointless body search. Frankly I was too wiped out by the heat over the last few days to even care. Go on you bastards, I thought. Prod, poke all you want. There’s nothing to find. I don’t bloody give a damn.

Arrived in Copenhagen and almost found myself locked out of our accommodation with the rain beginning to fall. It was only by the happy accident of me leaning back on the wrong doorbell that found us the right means to contact our keyholder. An hour later we were all settled in and sorted.

By the by. Copenhagen as a capital city has to be the most bicycle friendly city on the planet because it was designed to be so. A major expansion during La belle epoque led to a street design of broad boulevards and sweeping corners best suited to the antiquated sit up and beg velocipede design of human powered two wheel devil machines. But no Spandex. The sensible Danes have chosen not to adopt such outlandish modes of dress, preferring ordinary street clothing.

Lots of willowy blonde girls about, smiling and looking relaxed. There’s also a male counterpart with a physique I can only call ‘Viking’.

Still tired but recovering. First impressions of Copenhagen. Expensive but very pleasant. A cross of the heritage and modern. Wide cobbled streets. Untouched 1800,s architecture. Complex cupolas and spires of copper and lead. Like a nicer version of Paris.

The etiquette of vomitus

Right. I’ve been back in the UK for a few days and one of the things I’ve noticed has surfaced regarding the drunken antics going on over a little football tournament somewhere. In particular vomiting, chundering, technicolour yawning, upchucking, throwing up, talking to the great white telephone etcetera. I’m sorry to say this but you footy fans are doing it all wrong.

There are a clear set of do’s and don’t when it comes to vomiting which separate the well brought up from the clueless oik with all the style and grace of a badly soiled toilet brush. These rules apply to both sexes whichever end of the sexual spectrum you embrace, or fail to. Whatever. If you’re drinking that much, which is sometimes called for after a tense penalty shoot out or well performed header portends doom or victory for your team, then some form of self control is called for. A good aim can also be a sure and certain aid for those who wish to fully join in the drunken festivities yet retain a sense of style.

Okay; on with the serious stuff. The guidelines for emetic eructation that will define you as a person of taste and discretion rather than just some stupid gonzo who’s overdone it.

Rule 1; The gutter. It’s there for a reason, aim for it. Preferably as close to a drain cover as you can comfortably manage. Lean on a handy piece of street signage, brace yourself and let fly. The street cleaners will thank you for it. They’re a hard working bunch. Be nice, eh? The same guideline apples to the great white telephone (a.k.a the toilet bowl) Do so with as much dignity as you can muster at that particular moment.

Rule 2; Never, ever throw up over the following:
a) Your date for the evening.
b) The bar, please remember public hygiene rules. Also you may need another beer to wash away the taste. It’s hard to get served again if you’ve just soiled the bar top.
c) The biggest, nastiest looking person in the bar, especially if he’s a fan of your opposing team. Throwing up is not a pleasant experience and needing serious dental work can extend what is a temporary indignity into expensive and complicated pain lasting several days. A similar rule applies to encounters with Police Officers.

Rule 3) Vomiting over close friends is actually permissible and quite socially acceptable in highly emotionally charged moments like a missed penalty. Indeed, the comic value of your foolish antics may pay for many future rounds of drinks and elevate your social standing amongst your peer group, but remember that timing is everything.

Rule 4) It is very bad form indeed to throw one’s guts in the presence of parents / close family unless they are all as hammered as you. In which case, all bets are off and a deeper familial bond may be formed. Remember, the family that upchucks together stays together.

Rule 5) As a means of impressing the opposite sex / sexual preference of choice, vomiting is not the most elegant way of introducing yourself. However, the following apology must be done with style. Apologise to the object of desire briefly “I am so terribly sorry..” and try to look a little pathetic but not totally helpless. Just enough to need their assistance. If you can, it is the wise thing to throw up over the person whose sexual favours you are not interested in. Like all of the above, this is not a hard and fast rule, but has been found to be mostly effective.

As my last reader may have guessed I’m in London at the moment, enjoying all the moments. The scenes following Englands 2-0 win against Sweden were the inspiration for this public information post. Thank you for your future co-operation.

Regards

Bill

Kilauea again

Want to see molten rock flowing like water? A nine (I think) mile long lava flow out to the sea with huge plumes of toxic gas from a two mile flow front? The USGS video below is from the 29th of June so it’s a bit out of date. Still pretty damn spectacular.

Map of current situation here.

Elsewhere, the Pacific ring of fire has been quite active on all sides of the map. Kind of puts all the bloviating about ‘Global warming’ in perspective, doesn’t it?

I’m a tourist get me out of here part two

Packing today. The litany of lists and suitcases with a smidgeon of “Why the hell do we need to pack that?” Thrown in. Trying to get our single suitcase down to below the 23kg airline limit. This is not an easy task and requires a few sacrifices. Fortunately we’re going premium economy most of the way which means slightly looser baggage allowances. We might also invest in a small to medium suitcase for Mrs S, despite my misgivings after she tried to shift a bag that was way too heavy for her in Paris and ended up breaking her wrist.

We’ve only a few days to go before we step onto the plane headed east and I’m starting to have strong misgivings about the ‘family’ part of the trip. Phone calls to relatives have not exactly been encouraging. Indeed I feel they were a bit ‘off’ with me. There’s no apparent enthusiasm for any meeting and even a whiff of burned bridges in the air. Well this was what I was going to find out but all the clues so far are not that positive, so this looks like being a one time thing for me. As I’ve written about previously. We live and we learn, eh?

Otherwise, we’re just living out of the fridge and making sure there are no leftovers that have been left alone so long that they have spawned strange new lifeforms and evolved into tiny, highly specialised civilisations. Then there’s the final cleaning so we come back to a sweet smelling and comfortable apartment.

Frankly, I’ll be happier when next week is over.