Just another day at the office

We’re filling in travel insurance forms today to ensure the paper trail on Mrs S’s injured arm is up to snuff and all treatment gets paid for. Our travel insurance company is coughing up like a good ‘un, but we’re still covering our backs just in case someone, somewhere down the line says; “Oi! Mon-sewer. Vous n’avez pas paid for this!” and sends us a large demand with added Garlic (and Gallic) menaces.

Filling in forms has never been one of my favourite occupations. I always find myself asking the question; “What on Earth do you want my Mother’s old cats maiden name for?” Especially if it’s for a Dog licence. Fortunately the depth of information we’ve been asked for this time round is simply to do with Mrs S’s little tumble and subsequent treatment. We’ve copied all the original treatment documents, which are in French, but easy enough to get the gist of if you’ve spent any time working in and around hospitals. Although having carted all said treatment notes and prescriptions back across the pond, we’re still wondering what to do with the X-rays. No-one here seems to want them, so I toyed out loud with the notion of having them framed. To which Mrs S simply said; “Bill. Get them framed by all means, but I won’t let you hang them on my wall. Or anywhere else in the house.” When she said that, she had that certain, how shall I put it, uncompromising look in her eye which I know of old. So like the wise fool I am, I’ve backed down and squirreled the offending black and whites in our refurbished closet along with all our old photographic negatives.

As she’s having trouble typing, having only one effective hand, the fracture being well up the forearm towards the wrist the cast itself all but immobilises the fine motor movements needed for keyboard work. Seeing as I have no urgent jobs on, this means I’ve become my wife’s ‘Scribe’. Effectively, I sit at her desk and type up whatever reports she tells me to. Which has been an education in Educationalese, and has provided a few moments of innocent merriment as I have been learning to read between the lines. Oh what a tangled web. Then there’s showering, and a host of other little things she needs help with, like getting dressed, putting in ear rings (Which is a pet hate of mine – no idea why) and a whole raft of other personal tasks short of going to the toilet. There’s also been the interrupted sleep when she unconsciously thumps me with her cast clad arm in the wee small hours and around the back of my head. At times like these the night time sofa beckons, as a nights uninterrupted kip is well worth the price of a stiff neck in the morning. It’s better than bruises.

Nevertheless, the tasks aren’t onerous, I’m getting an extra beer ration, so no real complaints. We’re off ‘oop norf’ to our old homestead up island tomorrow to see some friends and make some work related house calls. So probably no posting. Unless something really dramatic happens, in which case I’ll be back nose to keyboard like a flash.

Anything else? Not really. The cast comes off next week, and Mrs S starts physio. We’re planning a cross border road trip to see how our Southern cousins are doing first hand and maybe do a little bit of shopping if the prices are right. The sun is shining, and for the moment we’re still ahead of the game. So, no complaints.

TTFN

Bill Sticker remembers……

……The industrial 1970’s, back when I was but a callow youth. Not a mere stripling, but a fairly average working stiff.

I come from North of Watford gap, amongst other places. And having read the little narrative over at Anna Raccoons about the Miners vs Police fixture back in 1984 being too far back to prosecute wrongdoers, thought I’d put down in a blog post what I can recall from those times.

Here’s some I-was-really-there information. I began my working life on the factory floor as an Engineering apprentice in the mid / late 70’s. We weren’t cheering the miners on. Far from it. Our attitude was more “Oh fkucing hell. Not another bloody strike.” We saw the pointless battles between Management ‘them’ and Union ‘us’, the petty industrial sabotages that along with near continuous industrial action eventually killed whole factories and the communities that depended upon them. We didn’t much care for the notoriously less-than-competent British Management and their cheese-paring old-school-tie ways, but people like Scargill and Red Robbo were even worse.

One of my uncles, a mining explosives specialist by trade and Mine Union rep turned in his union badge and went Tory back in ’79 / 80. He’d seen the writing on the wall and ended up serving as a Conservative District Councillor after years of being a lifelong Socialist. My Uncle Jack thought Scargill and his fellow travellers were idiots for repeatedly calling political strikes. So he got out ahead of the game.

Many of us at the time were pissed off with nothing working. I recall working all through the ‘Winter of discontent‘ helping wire a power station, waiting days for strike delayed supplies, major strikes every week, 90 days to get a phone installed (If you were lucky) by the notoriously semi-retired GPO ‘Engineers’, the threat of fuel rationing, rolling power cuts throughout two very cold winters, having to be in a Union before you were allowed through the gates at most industrial sites. For that job I had to join EEPTU. I was an AUEW member at the time, but apparently that wasn’t good enough, so I had to get nominated for membership by a workmate at the once weekly Union meeting that evening. Had they turned me down I’d have lost the very job I’d just been hired to do the Monday before. As for people I’d never met calling me ‘Brother’ or ‘Comrade’ – that stuck in my craw. Then there was the “Not in the (Insert Union name here) Brother? Sorry, this is a closed shop.” Sometimes even when you were a member of an affiliated Union. Of course if the Union rep and his deputy had bunked off for the day fishing (As was often the case – especially at one of the big sites), you often didn’t get challenged. Other times you did and it was “Sorry comrades.” And out we’d go.

Then there were the times we were sent to a site to begin a job, only to find ourselves facing a ‘secondary picket’. Not necessarily at the factory we had been sent to, but the Union militants didn’t seem to care. Then having to schlep back to base (Having first phoned the boss from a public phone box that had been used as a toilet) via the pub, having lost a days wages. Some months actually went by without a major strike and for once we got some work done. Others didn’t.

I remember the ‘closed shop’ and all the abuses like ‘ghosting’ (Getting a mate to clock you in and out). Blokes who seemed to spend their entire working day in the toilet with the Daily Mirror and a stack of porn magazines. Whole shifts who came in to do night work, then settled down for a nights kip. We’re talking factory workers here, not Firemen waiting for a ‘shout’. Then the Union rep calling everyone out in a wildcat strike when Management finally found out and tried to fire the offenders. For us the Strawbs ironic little number “You don’t get me I’m part of the Union” wasn’t so much a song title as a pain in the arse fact of life. Especially when you were pig sick of doing someone else’s job for them.

Many of us felt nothing but relief when the power of the Unions was finally broken in the mid 1980’s. We’d had it up to our eyebrows, but by then British Industry was too far gone. The 60’s and 70’s had seen to that. So no, we weren’t cheering the miners – we were cursing them. We weren’t cheering on the Coppers either, but that’s another matter.

Old 1970’s / early 80’s joke.
First worker; I see the Daffodils are out.
Second worker; Yeah, Scargill’s just brought the Miners out in sympathy.

Having a nice day

Well, no matter what the doom and gloom in the Lamestream media, it’s a glorious day here in sunny Victoria, British Columbia, and instead of my usual grumpy old guy posts, I thought I’d do one on some of life’s little victories. Our collapsing closet is fixed, so we no longer feel like we’re living in a charity shop. The loo has stopped leaking, Mrs S is healing nicely, she’s had a nice smart hairdo and the sun is shining. Isn’t that nice? We have had a very nice brunch, picked up one of those digital photo display thingies for a relative song, and having downloaded three or four hundred holiday snaps onto it, I’m enjoying a well deserved beer.

So, you might comment; it’s been a nice day so far Bill, now watch some bastard try and ruin it. Well not so fast my fine fetlocked fellows. Despite all the catastrophes we’re constantly told that befall us all if we don’t do exactly what we’re told, I’m feeling optimistic. The whole Global Warming thing continues to fail to happen. Rogue asteroids whizz past as they have done since time immemorial. Massed ranks of Jiahdis have so far failed to invade the downtown core. Was there a tidal wave? Not on my beach. Massive volcanic eruption. Not today. Has the Earth moved for me? Well yes, but only in the nicest way possible. No shark attacks or invasion of creepy crawlies. The zombie apocalypse can be watched downtown first hand as the junkies and beggars wobble their addled brains around for the entertainment of all and sundry. The global financial system is still intact, the powers that be will continue to kick the economic can down the road because they’ve got way more to lose than the rest of us put together. We might lose some of our savings, but we can still work. Their heads have a lot further to fall and they know it. So yes, I’m feeling optimistic, providing I keep my eyes and options open.

The bills are paid, we’re ahead of the game for once, and it is such a nice feeling I think I’ll do it all again tomorrow.

Things that go bump in the night

Stuff that goes bump….Wake you up. In my case wide awake and on my feet and swearing before my brain has twitched a single dendrite. It’s a hell of a way to reset the old jet lag. Not that these things scare me, they’re just annoying and bring Spike Milligan‘s little epigram bounding gleefully into my forebrain.

Things that go bump in the night,
Should not really give one a fright,
It’s the hole in each ear that lets in the fear,
That and the absence of light.

Half past five local time, with my body clock not so much ticking as going ecky-ecky-twang-tock-boing-cuckoo there was a godalmighty thump as the wardrobe rail collapsed in the closet. Clothing all over the place and my Fender Strat, still in it’s gig bag, may need tuning. No other damage apart from to my sense of personal equanimity.

First the toilet starts leaking like a aged dog with incontinence, now this. Mrs S has to go see the quack to let him know she’s broken her arm. Polish Landlady peep will be informed (“The apartments attacking us! Make it stop!”) and hopefully problem will get fixed in double jig time. In the meantime we’re short on closet space, and haven’t got much to go on (Old joke alert).

Oh yes, WordPress have been up to their usual tricks, altering the link text editor function so you can no longer put in the text you want to describe a link. Even in plain HTML. WordPress! STOP FIXING THINGS THAT AIN’T BROKE! It’s very irritating.

Next thing you know there’ll be a self censorship function buried in the text editor which will really piss me off. Write anything even vaguely swearwordish, and no doubt a little window will pop up, ‘correcting’ the text and admonishing the blogger for ‘WrongThink’. In which case I’ll be looking for someone to ‘SwearBlog’ at. And I have a line in Anglo Saxon invective that can strip paint. After that, the prissy little mealy mouths will no doubt take this blog offline for being ‘offensive’. God damn their spavined little souls to the depths of Hades. Bloggers are an indirect source of advertising revenue for WordPress. My advice to WordPress is this; do not piss on the fire that heats your home or the traffic that pays your rent will dry up as people switch blog platforms.

For the record; no one in their right mind likes the silly ‘Beep,beep, boop’ post editor. Now I will be digging out my old HTML5 textbooks and writing the code from scratch, like I used to.

Just another little adventure

Well wasn’t that fun young Bill? Well, sort of. If you’re the kind of person who’s into into applied masochism. You know the sort of thing, whips, barbed wire underpants, nipple clamps and strange, constraining lingerie. Which I’m not incidentally. Sorry chums, but I’m a fairly straight and staid old cove. Such things have never really appealed. Colour me boring.

Holiday snapThe past weekend and a bit has seen broken limbs, interminably long periods hanging around hospitals, fretting over flights and whether they’d actually let my wife on board. Drug reactions (the vomiting was quite spectacular), and the occasional (But rare) nice meal after yet another day straphanging down the noisome Parisian Metro. As for holiday snaps, I never thought we’d end up bringing home copies of X-Rays, both before and after.

Big Kudos to Air Canada staff under difficult circumstances, our French Landlord, French Nurses and Doctors who put up with our still slightly strangulated French, our travel insurance company, the Paramedics of the Sapeurs-Pompiers, and a purple uniformed young lady at Heathrow who got us down to our flight in one of those buzzy little electric truck thingies.

Asshole of the month award is a tie between French SNCF platform staff and Stanley Tucci lookalike waiters in tourist trap bistro’s. Seriously, see a waiter with a shaven head at any Parisian restaurant or even a Starbucks, no matter how hungry or thirsty you are, walk on. The drinking / dining experience will not be a good one. For better food and service, go to one of the less well tourist trafficked areas and you will not be sorry, and neither will your wallet. A few steps extra, turn a corner and it’ll all be there. Good food, discreet service (None of that silly “How is your meal” demands when in mid mouthful.) The rule of thumb being; when in Paris, go where the locals go and ignore the graffiti. The choice is almost staggering. As for SNCF, be on your guard, because these people aren’t. ‘Nuff said.

So now we’re safely back in our little British Columbian domicile. Trying to sleep off the jet lag and clean up an inexplicably leaky toilet (It wasn’t like this when we left), and in my case failing to sleep. Which is why this post is getting written at four in the morning Pacific Standard time, or midday in the UK. It’s lunchtime in Paris, and I’m bloody famished.

All things said and done we’ve had an awesome (but expensive) time. The experiences from which we will take with us on future journeys.

There will be a short break and a word from our sponsors..

…Which I don’t have. Mrs S took a tumble and has broken her arm. Posting will grow more limited for a short while, during which travel must be accomplished with yet more scrap metal to set off airport security devices.

Watch this space. Or don’t. As the mood takes you.

We are celebrating her release from hospital tonight with a nice meal and a couple of glasses of wine before we hit the road tomorrow.

Interesting question

Well our guests have returned to blighty in safety, with many a sigh and parting hug. Over petit dejeuner at a cafe yesterday, we hopeless old romantics were greeted with the news that all the padlocks on Pont des Arts over the Seine are being removed, and the easy to padlock to steel mesh replaced by solid panels.

Locks and hearts brokenThis news sparked a short lived philosophical discourse about reverse causality, and the disastrous effects on all those relationships ruined by the locks removal because of the well known principle of metaphysical consanguinity. Lock represents relationship, therefore using the symbolic shamanistic principle (upon which all such beliefs are founded) the symbolism of the lock being broken or scrapped ultimately means the relationship symbolised by the cheap security device in question will fail.

Have the local authority in the city of romance and light ironically unleashed a wave of broken relationships? Perhaps divorce lawyers will be heard singing “Happy days are here again.” as their business undergoes an uptick. Could this prove the stimulus the worldwide economy needs? Enquiring minds would like to know.

Update: What the Pont Des Arts looked like about 5pm June 3rd 2015. Is there an art critic in the house?
The new look Pont Des Arts Paris

The Ring cycle

Every so often I’m hit by a big dose of Deja vu. An internal nudging grin saying, “Well young Bill, you’ve been here before.” Yesterday’s attack of semi nostalgia came when I was busily lining up to take a picture opposite the Palais Garnier.

While getting ready to take my second shot, I was approached from behind by a fat, middle aged, middle European accented woman, who palmed a heavy gold coloured ring at me, appearing to pick it up off the floor, pressing it into my hands, saying how lucky I was. Which caught me off guard. Up until that moment, my brain had been happily going “This is nice. Hello trees, hello, flowers, hello Mr Sun, what a lovely Parisian day.” I’d just had a lovely Steak dinner with a beer and was about as relaxed as I ever get.

From what I could make out, she wanted me to ‘share’ my good fortune with her by giving her money so I could do what I wanted with a very heavy feeling man’s gold(ish) wedding ring. Had my old street senses been online at this point, I would have given her a tight little smile, waved her off and walked on. As it was, I wanted another shot of the building from my chosen vantage point at the pedestrian crossing’s edge and didn’t really want to budge.

Now I’ve seen this particular scam before, and this was one of the finer examples of the art. The ring was almost convincing, and even had me pulling out my reading glasses to examine it. But the question bubbled up in the vestiges of my nasty suspicious mind; why the hell wasn’t she taking this ‘lost property’ to the Police, instead of pressing it on a total stranger? Memory provided the answer. I’d seen this before. The Ring Scam. So I said, “No, no, you take it to the Police. It’s not mine.” And made to place the offending ring on the pedestrian railing. Ooo Sticker, you cunning old SOB. At this point I became acutely aware that I wasn’t watching my camera bag and pockets as closely as I should. My internal mental compass spun and suspicion gyro’s lit up, senses sounding for any unusual intrusions around my pockets. I’m acutely aware these guys often work in teams. So I quickly pushed the ring back at her, insisting that she hand it to the Police as lost property, making it plain that no cash was coming her way from my wallet. To my internal amusement she was getting quite shirty at this point. Then I ducked my camera into its bag which was zipped pointedly closed, managing to convince the scam artist that I wasn’t going to bite. I’ll give her this, she was persistent. She just didn’t seem to know she’d been rumbled.

Abandoning hope of getting another shot of my target, I moved across the street with a bunch of other tourists, catching up with Mrs S, who had gone ahead of me while I was being a happy snapper. My good wife asked (as wives often do); “What was all that about?”
“Con artist tried to pull the old ring scam on me.”
“Oh, so that’s what it was.” Mrs S has often been regaled by my tales of street life, and recognised the term immediately. We moved on. It was too nice a day to dwell on it and the bars were open.

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.

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

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