There goes the neighbourhood

Strolling round Les Invalides about sixish last night we were treated to the spectacle of ten Police vans scooting hurriedly past to points unknown, scattering traffic as they went. They hung a quick right south towards the river to be joined by another ten or fourteen with sirens honking away. “The Interior Ministers forgotten his baguettes, again.” I remarked to Mrs S before we ducked down into the Metro for the ride home.

We turned on the France24 English news to find that, oh bloody hell, David Cameron was briefly in town as part of a whistlestop tour of Europe, pretending he was going to renegotiate the UK’s standing within the EU. “Well he can whistle off.” Remarked Mrs S. We’re receiving guests this weekend, and don’t want all the best Brasseries bunged up by self important politicians and their coteries of bodyguards and hangers on. Hells bells, we’re got enough armed police and soldiery on almost every street corner as it is.

Heavy sigh. There goes the neighbourhood.

We’ve also been greeted by the news that ‘King’ Blair has stepped down from his position as Middle East Peace Envoy. Well, so long as he buggers off elsewhere, we don’t really care. He can stay out of France and Canada for starters, with a big ‘not wanted’ immigration stamp on his forehead. With the Middle East going up in smoke I hadn’t noticed much peace coming out of it. So someone was falling down on the job, weren’t they?

Not that he was any good as the UK’s Prime Minister. So that should have been an employment ‘red flag’, but then the UN isn’t exactly full of towering intellects. More outright venality and low animal cunning. Rather like FIFA. If real brains were explosive I doubt they’d be able to blow their collective noses.

Something remarkable

In Chartres yesterday, picking up a minor bout of food poisoning. Mrs S has been hors de combat since last night, but the worst of it has passed me by with a brief but minor bout of feverishness and minor gastric upset. Getting back to our apartment via the late night Metro was an adventure, but we made it back safely, and that’s sufficient. I just played guard dog and nurse to my stricken other half, planted a “Don’t screw with me” expression on my face and helped her down, through and up out of the Labyrinth from SNCF to apartment. But that is beside the point.

Now Chartres is a nice looking little town. We rode the TGV to visit its famous baroque Cathedral, which is probably more impressive than Notre Dame. What we hadn’t bargained for was running into the end of a three day pilgrimage. When we arrived, we thought they were taking the banners and external sound system down. So we decided to have a look inside. About fifteen minutes into our slack jawed examination of the buildings internal majesty there was an announcement from the tannoy, asking everyone to leave the building. So we left and planted ourselves in a little bistro opposite and returned to our Cafe au Laits suitably impressed by the original medieval workmanship and state of the renovation project.

I’m not religious myself. God isn’t either. But one can’t help but be impressed at the skill and devotion generations of craftsmen have invested to produce such a grandiose, intricately engineered statement of faith in stone. Overwhelming is such a poor adjective.

However, what really impressed me was the crowds that started to arrive around lunchtime, singing as they came, filling up the edifice and surrounding square with their devotions. Phalanxes of the prayerful from toddlers to pensioners, whole Scout troupes of husky young men and girls accompanied by mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, priests and paupers, carrying banners and crosses representing their local church and nationality. All filling the streets with good natured noise. Not just French but British, Canadian, American, Swiss, German, Polish and even one Iraqi flag waved over the pilgrims heads. There were a lot of other national banners I couldn’t readily identify. All had taken a three day hike of 70 miles to get here. Their hiking shoes told the story.

Street confessionIn the square I saw priests taking confession from kneeling penitents, which to me at least, made a more powerful statement than the cathedral itself, because without the demonstrated faith, the building is just a pile of intricately carved rock. Incidentally yes, I took this picture myself and yes, have airbrushed out the identifying marks on the young ladies sweatshirt. Apart from image size reduction nothing else has been changed.

Then came the sermon. Which would have had radical lefties screaming ‘Islamophobiaaa!!!!’ at the top of their pathetically demented little lungs. Delivered in both French and English, the priest spoke of how a vacuum of faith has allowed radical Islam to thrive in the west and outlined strategies for combating its rise. I just sat and listened, ever more convinced that the ranting of morons like Choudhary and his ilk will get their wish of Religious war. Having seen the simple, quiet blue collar devotion of the Chartres pilgrims, I think the Jihadis will lose. Big time. All the radical Islamist gun and willy wavers have is murder and hatred, and while you might subdue faith with those tools for a while, it’ll always come back to bite you. Always.

Better spend my Euros then

As the creaking noises erupting from the financial corsets of the European Central Bank become ever more audible, the news that Greece cannot currently pay the IMF its June protection payment loan installment comes as no surprise. When Greece joined the Euro in 2001 it went into a public sector spend, spend, spend spiral. Now they will reap the fiscal whirlwind. As will all the other countries in the Eurozone. Well, that’ll piss off the EU. Especially Frau Merkinel.

Greek ruins Parthenon and EuroYet the Greeks want the Elgin Marbles returned? Well okay, so long as they fully reimburse the British Museum for storage, transportation, restoration, and associated costs backdated to 1816. At full commercial rates. Cash terms only. No credit. Gold preferred.

Which rather proves Margaret Thatchers assertion from a 1976 TV interview when she said “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.”

At the time then leader of the opposition Thatcher was talking about the mess left, and being made by, the Wilson, Callaghan and Heath Governments. Brown and Balls did the same for the UK from 1997-2009. The same might be said of the current Greek administration, and no matter how many riots they have in Athens, it won’t pay any of the Greek Governments debts. Simple truth; riots don’t pay bills, they only create more. Voting for more taxes on the ‘rich’. Won’t work. The real rich of course will have melted away like the Cheshire Cat, leaving only the shark tooth smile of massive accountancy bills. Then the only poor buggers with anything left, like small landlords, business owners and the self employed will be left to shoulder the whole burden of state spending. And they will lose everything. Twas ever thus.

Any ancienne route jusqu’à, I’m in Europe for the next two weeks, so maybe I should spend most of my cash Euro’s before July when they might just become worthless. Just in case. Pass the Cognac.

Trigger warnings and microaggressions

Trigger warningGood morning. This is a warning, courtesy of the Bill Sticker Institute for pointing and laughing at self destructive hypersensitivity. We have been informed by our lawyers, Lye, Cheetham and Runne that there are persons out there in interwebland whose single purpose in life is to detect things which might offend other people they’ve never met, and wouldn’t talk to even if they did because the offence takers are such delicate ickle bunnies. On the behalf of others, of course. Sorry, we’ve been told that describing people as hypersensitive should have had a ‘trigger warning‘ before it. We apologise for the microaggression that might be construed from this paragraph.

No we don’t. We lied. OMG! We lied! Well spank our nethers and tie us to a bondage bed (Yes please Monique, I’ll turn the other cheek). We’re not apologetic at all. Frankly we didn’t know that you might be offended, and can tell you in all honesty, that we do not care about your mealy mouthed, spineless victimhood. If you can’t take a joke you should stay out of the closet. Or come out of it. Whatever. Nobody of any account really gives a shit anyway about your personal ethnic or sexual sensitivities. Apart from our lawyers, who can smell a mobius twisted buck ten miles upwind in a blizzard.

Frankly, no-one cares if some immature, thin-skinned offence seeker fresh off mommies teats gets their panties in a bunch over what they thought was written that might have infringed upon their ‘rights’. Whatever those are, apart from some invented inanity claimed by emotionally stunted wankstains who had a hard time getting out of their Mother’s womb with someone else doing all the bloody pushing. A wet fart has a better right to existence.

We’re sorry, should we have inserted a warning of some sort before the aforementioned? Really? Christ on a bike, that’s sad to the point of derangement. Only in Academia could such garbage take hold and flourish like some bizarre, pointless, poisonous bloom kept alive for its curiosity value alone.

If anyone is offended and wants to send their lawyers, just try our nearest Bar Tabac in the Rue de Charonne, 11th Arondissement, Paris. Little bit of a rough neighbourhood but we like it. The graffiti’s spelled correctly. If the second hand smoke doesn’t get them first. Or the Pernod fumes. Or getting looked at in a funny way as they enter. Any resultant abuse will be free of charge and multilingual.

/rantmode

Should we have posted a warning or something……..again?

(Merry mocking laughter tinkling somewhere in the distance…)

Bullet and carrot

I read this in The Register this morning. An ‘operation’ in Northumbria taking twenty Policemen, a helicopter and no doubt several marksmen to take down one cow. Not a Steer or Bull, but a cow FFS! A milker at that.

Now I appreciate that cattle can be a risk to traffic on the highway, but shooting the poor bloody animal? Which was no doubt terrified with all these loud, whirly things and shouty black clad two legs chasing it. Now if the upper echelons of the Northumbrian constabulary ever drop by this humble blog, I have an alternative which may save their budgets. Instead of all those dramatic helicopter chases, shouting, urgent operational messages flashing through control, tracking the errant bovine via its cellphone signal and CCTV before a single crack! And down goes another enemy of the people, comrades. May I propose a solution known to all expert livestock handlers and rural Veternarians: a red bucket.

It’s a bit old school I know but when livestock escape, any old fashioned country copper would know where to find; A) A red bucket and a little dry cattle feed. B) A big, juicy bunch of grass. C) A properly trained Stockman who can be called upon to lure said errant bovine back into its enclosure who would understand the use of both. Back in the old fashioned 20th century, before whizzy Hollywood inspired Helichopper chases and brave, dedicated marksmen capable of dropping a Taliban Terrorist at a thousand metres, dealing with loose livestock was part of a country coppers daily round. At least in my neighbourhood. Livestock regularly got out because they broke down fences, were let out by ‘Animal rights’ activists, or simply wandered through a carelessly left open gateway. Sheep, cattle, pigs, Horses, chickens, Geese and even turkeys could regularly be found out of their proper enclosures. The solution was always the same. Red plastic bucket. Or a galvanised feed pail. Or call the nearest livestock farmer. Who would keep one as a matter of course.

The benefit of the proposed low tech solution is that first; it’s cheap, secondly the cow gets to live, thirdly, being a milker, it gets to dole out more of that lovely white stuff that with a little skill can be turned into smooth butters, excellent cheeses and yoghurts, or even drunk neat, if you’re not concerned about the low fat garbage some dietitians insist upon (A.K.A. The ‘cardboard’ diet).

Anyone who has ever had to deal with livestock knows the use of this high tech piece of rural technology. Red bucket, handful of gravel if no dry feed is available. Shake, rattle, let animal follow to nearest gated enclosure or pen. A bunch of grass or carrots and reassuring low pitched “Tch, tch” noises can be used, but these tools are only truly effective in expert hands, like a farm raised child of eleven. Pigs require a little more care as they do have a nasty bite, but that’s what a pig board is for.

Which is the downside of the red bucket and its ilk. It’s not dramatic. Teams of dedicated anti-terrorist units do not have to be deployed and the cost is minimal. Which, thinking about it, is probably why the Northumbrian Police didn’t look for one. What would all those highly trained marksmen and helichopper pilots do for target practice otherwise?

Scooters and stuff

In our little Arondissement (District) as well as many others, I’ve noted before how many scooters there are cluttering up the sidewalks and promenades. Particularly this type of thing and their contemporaries made by Piaggio and Peugeot. While I’m not a fan myself, I can see the utility for those who find it difficult to keep a motorcycle or scooter upright at walking speeds (You pussies).

No, what I’ve been looking at is a simple piece of kit marketed by an Italian company, mostly for scooters, but I’ve also seen their ilk wrapped around BMW LT1200’s, and having seen how useful they can be, I’m quite taken with the idea. Basically the cover acts as combo leg shield, bike cover and waterproof leggings. Not only that, but it costs less than a pair of leak proof waterproof trousers. Oh, and you have to love their advertising.

A set of these and some handlebar cuffs, and those long rainy Vancouver Island Winter months won’t seem so damp any more.

Weird shit

Okay, apart from the usual touristy sights and sounds. Today I’ve come across;

Two Gendarmes in full body armour carrying FAMAS assault rifles on their regular street corner, adjusting each others ballistic clothing and appearing to ask each other“Mon cul semble-t-il grand en ca?” (“Does my bum look big in this?”)
A hippy juggling feral pigeons in the Tuilleries gardens outside the Louvre. Honestly, they were jumping on and off his hands like he was throwing juggling balls, and he was getting ‘his’ pigeons to perch on the tourists themselves, which if they’d seen what pigeons do to all the statues, all the time around Paris they might not be so keen to have winged rats landing on their arms and shoulders. I’ve even found a Youtube video of him from last year.

This year he’s sporting a beard and shades.

We’re here for another few weeks. But I can say that we’re having a seriously wonderful time, despite a few hiccups along the way. Am currently de-dicombobulating myself with a couple of glasses of Bushmills Single Malt.

In praise of rain

What is it? Just condensed water vapour, falling from the clouds. Yet there is a poetry in it; a soft lilting cadence in even the most torrid downpour. Even when raindrops are coming down so hard they splash and meet themselves coming back up a foot above the ground, forming a sparkling fairy carpet of silver. When even trees provide scant cover against an aqueous bombardment rattling their leaves. Must be the Irish in me that sees such beauty in torrential rain.

Back in my foot patrol days, I liked being out in the rain. Unlike so many of my contemporaries, for whom the mere occlusion of a cloud over the sun was cause to stay close to base. Days when I’d go out bang on time, spending my day under trees and lurking in doorways, and having done my stint, get back to base only to find I was the last man out there. Not that I minded. Even when the rest of our crew said it made them ‘look bad’. As if I cared. Being paid to take a walk, which was my definition of the job, was my idea of heaven. In any weather. The authoritarian part of it was an inconvenience, but I was never the most enthusiastic enforcer, only resorting to that part of the job when contravention was so blatant that even the most liberal would cry “Oh FFS, Bill! Book him!” in frustration. The general dyslexic still kept me busy. Was it that long ago? Well I never.

Today I’m watching rain fall from our tiny Parisian apartment as the skies dump a cleansing dollop of airborne water over our little Arondissement. The Plane trees in the centre courtyard occasionally thrashing like manic dancers under periodic downdraughts. Cafe owners glowering up at the leaden grey and counting the Euros lost. Locals and smokers lurking under their umbrellas or in cafe’s until the pleut passes.

Then the clouds, having divested their skirts of so much water vapour, will sail sedately on like fat women after liposuction and the sun will bless the world again. Umbrellas will be returned to their stands, cafe proprietors will lay out their tables, people will stop by on their way back from work and a cleaner world will turn once more. Then there will be the warm, clean smell of wet earth replacing the odd ammoniac whiff of Eau de Tramp, garbage, traffic fumes and spilt diesel. At least for a while.

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness

Or so goes the old saying. First coined by Amnesty International Founder Peter Benenson. If you want to get all biblical about it, there’s always Romans 13:11 “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”

In this CCTV, Internet and phone surveillance daze, has the first sign that the ‘security’ pendulum is stuttering, and at last beginning the long slow swing away from total surveillance? Which was an impossible dream anyway. With the amount of digital traffic out there, even the most heavy duty filters would be hard pushed to track down bad guys as quickly as in a TV cop show.

Are we seeing a new, predawn light? Who knows? Even though the US Congress has passed the US Freedom Act by a landslide, legislation designed to curb the worst excesses of the notorious Patriot Act. Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. Providing that the Senate don’t trash it and the Golf pro currently occupying the US Presidents chair doesn’t veto it on the grounds of ‘National Security’, even though the sponsors of the original, and notorious Patriot act have admitted publicly that mass metadata collection is of little use against terrorism.

Wonder if it will catch on?

Probably not. It was a happy thought while it lasted.

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad

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