Thursday, May 21, 2009

Getting sex right

I don't claim to know the sense of the concept of "getting sex right". We humans, like many living creatures (those that exploit sex to procreate), have always been obliged to take sex seriously. A priest, accompanying tourists to the Holy Sepulcher, was faced with a naive question: "So, the tomb's empty?" He replied: "Madame, if He's in, then we're out." Similarly, in a fabulous creationist Procreation Park, in the midst of joyful evocations of rustic Neanderthals getting sodomized by randy dinosaurs, we might imagine a profound question from a troubled visitor: "Is sex serious?" The guide, if he were truthful, would be obliged to reply: "If sex stops, then so do we."

On the other hand, I know what it means to get sex wrong... and that's apparently what has been happening for decades, according to a damning report, in Catholic-run Irish institutes for children. The situation involved sexual abuse that was so disgusting that I refrain from evoking it explicitly. If you happen to be interested in Ireland (for genealogical reasons, say), I advise you to touch this sad land (which I have never visited), like I do, with antiseptic gloves, with a long pole, or maybe solely through memories... by means of the Internet.

Soon, in a final chapter of my document called A Little Bit of Irish, I'll insert the following anecdote, which I've often related to various friends in emails. Long ago, in Paris, I got to know a charming Irish girl named Marie. This happened during a period of my life in Paris when I used to spend my evenings playing the guitar and singing folksongs in a café called Le Petit Gavroche. I seem to recall that Marie had probably married a French guy, but I forget the details. In any case, during my short but delightful relationship with Marie, she talked to me a lot about her home land, since she realized that I was intrigued by the Ireland of my ancestors. One day, lovely Marie decided to teach me a wonderful lesson, which she prefaced, almost solemnly, in the following terms (approximately, as well as I recall her words, and supplemented by facts):

William, I'm going to give you a little novel: The Poor Mouth. It's the English translation of an Irish novel, An Béal Bocht, written in Gaelic by an Irish journalist named Miles na Gopaleen, who calls himself Flann O'Brien in English. Knowing you a little, William, I'm fairly sure that you'll be thrilled by this little novel. In my opinion, William, you happen to have an Irish sense of humour, and I'm convinced that you'll find The Poor Mouth one of the funniest stories you've ever heard. But I'm not giving you this little novel to amuse you. I want you to read it for far more serious reasons. This novel will tell you, in a way, the story of your ancestors, William. You don't know exactly who exactly these ancestors were, and where they lived. Besides, you'll never be able to know such things. For all traces of them have disappeared forever. Your Irish ancestors have left no records, and their places have disappeared. But The Poor Mouth will tell you exactly how they lived, and how they thought. The novel will tell you everything you need to know about the spirit of your ancestors. One final word: If you're sensitive to The Poor Mouth, as I predict, I hope you'll never make the mistake of wasting your time and energy by setting foot in modern Ireland. That would be totally unnecessary, and it could only have a negative effect upon all that you've learnt from the novel by Miles na Gopaleen.

Marie was a prophet. I lost track of her. But I read the amazing novel. And I learned the nature of my ancestors. I've avoided visiting modern Ireland, because we descendants have nothing to learn there (on the contrary)... because our likes will not be there again.


Today is a public holiday in the historically Catholic but formally laic republic of France. Why? Well, believe it or not, we're celebrating an archaic act of magic. At an unspecified date during the first century of the so-called Christian era, a man in flesh and blood named Jesus, who had been recently nailed to a cross until he was assumed to be lifeless, suddenly took off skywards, like a hot-air balloon.

I shall always remember the lovely image of my future wife, when we were innocent students (?) at the Cité universitaire in Paris, trying to communicate with an English friend who couldn't understand why the French nation went suddenly dead for a day, for no obvious reason, in the middle of May. Christine attempted to use her elementary English (which has improved a lot since then) to tell the fellow that France was celebrating a magnificent ascension that took place long ago, but the uncouth Pom simply couldn't understand what she was trying to say. So, Christine turned on her miming talents, and she fluttered her arms in a vain attempt to inform the English numbskull what the sacred aeronautical Ascension was all about. I've often imagined that, after Christine's convincing demonstration of a holy bird taking off from the gardens of the Collège Franco-Britannique in Paris, our English friend no doubt became an awed monk, and spent the rest of his life in a state of Christian sublimity, maybe in charge of the pope's private jet. I really must ask my friend Graeme Henderson, specialized in aeronautical history [display], to look into that question...

Dog logic

My first contact with the intellectual discipline known as logic was in 1957 at the University of Sydney, where I attended the classes of John Anderson, whose overall style and behavior might be described as Victorian. That was probably one of the last occasions in academia for an alleged philosopher to ramble on for an entire year about logic without ever going an inch beyond Aristotle [384-322 BCE].

Retrospectively, I find it preposterous that such a course could have still existed in the second half of the 20th century, and been taken seriously, in a philosophical world that was already impregnated by mathematical logic of the subtle kind invented by thinkers such as Bertrand Russell [1872-1970], Alonzo Church [1903-1995] and the genius Kurt Gödel [1906-1978].

Concerning the latter man, I had the privilege of talking to him on the phone for about ten minutes, when I was visiting the USA in the early '70s, and attempting vainly to persuade him to be interviewed for French TV. Gödel insisted stubbornly that his contribution to mathematics was minimal, and that no TV viewer in his right mind would be interested in watching him. Maybe he was right on the second point, because the celebrated incompleteness theorem is not necessarily ideal stuff for what used to be called (unjustly, to my mind) the idiot box.

Talking about the teaching of philosophy in Australia, I often had the impression that it could be weirdly sex-oriented at times, as if philosophy—in the minds of many observers—were a synonym for sin. While I was at university in Sydney (for two short years), a terrible scandal of a typically wowserish Aussie kind (you might need to look up that adjective in a Down Under dictionary) erupted in Tasmania because the professor of philosophy Sydney Sparkes Orr [1914-1966] had seduced a female student. As for John Anderson himself, biographers inevitably draw attention to trivial anecdotes about his advocacy of so-called "free love" (casual adultery)... which sounds very much like what countless inhabitants of the planet Earth are practicing regularly these days, without even bothering to give it a pompous name.

Concerning the substance of Anderson's courses in philosophy, which I would generally describe as light-weight, I did however appreciate his drawn-out analysis of the trial and execution of Socrates for his allegedly corrupting the youth of Athens.

I often thought that the mumbling old Scotsman, attired in a black academic gown, liked to imagine himself as some kind of latter-day Socrates, persecuted by the straight-thinking citizens of the Antipodes. To me, that sounds like a nice summary of the situation... except that nobody at the old Royal George pub in Sydney's Sussex Street, hangout of a mindless sect known as The Push, ever got around to offering the professor a middy of hemlock. [Click the above image of Socrates to access an excellent Wiki article on beer in Australia.]

As far as Aristotelian logic is concerned, I'm convinced today that it's so trivial that my dog Sophia masters it perfectly... in spite of the fact that she never had an opportunity of studying under Professor Anderson. [She did get involved in free love, long ago... which resulted in the birth of Christine's dear dog named Gamone.]

I'm often impressed by demonstrations of what's going on in Sophia's head. She understands perfectly the logical concept of negation... which was a Big Thing for Aristotle. When Sophia sees me getting dressed and closing doors as if I'm about to go out in the car, she analyzes the situation patiently. If she hears the ritual command "Guard the house" (in French), Sophia realizes instantly that there's no way in the world that she's going to accompany me in the automobile. But, if a certain time has elapsed without this formula being pronounced, Sophia suddenly deduces that the absence of the "Guard the house" command means that I'm indeed inviting my dog to accompany me in the car... and she's already jumping excitedly alongside the door of my archaic Citroën. To my mind, Sophia's capacity of interpreting a non-existent prohibition as a positive incitation is truly remarkable. Once Sophia's brain has calculated the reasonable lapse of time during which the absence of the "Guard the house" command can be interpreted as an invitation to a car excursion, it would of course be unthinkable for me, out of forgetfulness, to attempt stupidly to change Sophia's mind. I don't want to have a schizophrenic dog. In this way, my smart Sophia earned herself car trips when she wasn't supposed to accompany me.

Recently, I've been amused by a new manifestation of Sophia's reasoning power: the ability to count from one to two. I don't know whether I've said already in this blog that I'm a huge consumer of French cheese. It's fine that I should be residing alongside both the Saint-Marcellin and Vercors cheese-production zones. Often, I buy a big chunk of hard creamy cheese manufactured in the neighboring Haute-Savoie region. Each time I cut away a slice for a toasted sandwich, there's a small segment of dry crust at each extremity of the slice. Sophia, of course, loves this stuff. Well, I was intrigued recently by the fact that, when I was preparing a sandwich in front of my toaster, and cutting off the crust of a piece of cheese, Sophia did not pounce immediately upon the first bit of cheese crust that fell to the floor. Instead, she hesitated unexpectedly, leaving the piece of cheese crust untouched on the floor, just in front of her snout. She knew that there's a crust fragment at each extremity of the master's morsel, and she waited for the second bit to fall to the floor before gathering up both off them in one fell swoop. This reaction links up with Sophia's delightfully confused behavior whenever I confront her with a pile of several pieces of meat. Her general plan is always to get that food out onto the lawn as rapidly as possible, where she can consume it in a leisurely manner while lying on the grass. But a terrible existential arises in Sophia's mind: Maybe, a chunk of meat might disappear mysteriously, either on the kitchen floor, or out on the lawn. I can see her performing some kind of canine calculation, trying to decide which piece she should carry out, and which pieces must be left for later. Indeed, the seriousness of a dog's calculations concerning food take us back magically in time to the early eras of Creation, when Sophia's ancestors (and mine, too) had to get their act right about such matters. Otherwise, they starved, and neither Sophia nor I would be here today to talk about such archaic ancestors' tales.

The most amazing instrument in Sophia's anatomy is, of course, her snout: a precision molecule detector of a kind that modern science and engineering would have trouble duplicating. Like any dog, Sophia uses this high-tech tool as a shovel, to bury bones. In this domain, the respective intellectual conclusions of Sophia and me often differ.

First, although we humans realize that a dog's snout is precious and fragile, and we do our maximum to optimize the working environment of this fabulous device (I love to wash mud off Sophia's fine face), it's a canine mistake to imagine that Homo sapiens tills the soil in gardens, for example, in order to facilitate the burying of bones.

Second, although we humans—particularly atheists like me—consider that there's nothing "sacred" in the bodily remains of a dead creature, and that anything of a meaty nature deserves to be eaten, I disagree with my dog when she believes that the bacterial action of the soil in my future medieval garden is likely to transform magically a horn from our dear departed billy-goat Gavroche into something akin to a juicy steak. Apparently Sophia still has a Christian streak in her genetic upbringing, which makes her believe in miracles, whereas I have lost all such superstitions. I try to convince her that she errs, but it's not easy to discuss metaphysics with a dog. In spite of that slight discord, Sophia and I—not to mention the distinguished professor John Anderson—would appear to agree basically on the primitive intellectual processes of Aristotelian logic.

In a forthcoming chapter of this philosophical essay, I shall demonstrate that Sophia is in fact Cartesian. Clearly, she thinks, therefore she is...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Speaker to stop speaking

I don't know whether the Poms actually invented perks for politicians, but they seem to have brought it to a fine art. For example: thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money claimed for the cleaning of one's moat!

As they say in the classics, it's a bloody crying pity that, were it not for a chance investigation, this droopy old Glaswegian named Michael Martin could have carried on eternally walking ceremoniously into the House of Commons behind the woman carrying a mace. He must have gone on a gigantic ego trip every time he waddled in this way into the chamber. Silly old bugger! He should have kept a check on expenses. It's all very well to waddle, but somebody has to weigh the wealth of all those honorable gentlemen sitting in the Commons, and often claiming uncommon personal benefits. And this was Michael Martin's job. As things stand, he's obliged to resign.

The web reveals outrageous financial benefits accorded to British members of parliament. Michael Martin grew up in harsh conditions. Why didn't he remain close to his origins, instead of strutting around in London in golden robes? I have neither pity nor nostalgia for archaic Poms who see themselves as historical fat cats. I'm tremendously proud to be a citizen of the French République!

Hang-gliding history

For years, I've accompanied efforts aimed at demonstrating that the fabulous phenomenon of hang gliding was born in Grafton NSW.

Click the photo to access the John Dickenson website.

Recent experimental tests in England confirm that the famous wing designed by John Dickenson—built with plastic banana bags and towed by a speedboat—could indeed have flown and glided. In the context of the history of Grafton, this is a wonderful story. I shall continue to publish news in this domain, as it emerges... thanks primarily to Graeme Henderson.

Our concestor Ida

Like countless Earth-dwellers, I was moved by the fabulously beautiful image of our concestor Ida.

Even Google got into the act immediately, which proves (if need be) that the discovery and presentation of the fossil is a cosmic happening:

The term "concestor" was introduced into the terminology of tribal history (or genealogy, if you prefer) by Richard Dawkins in his monumental The Ancestor's Tale. It stands for "the (latest) common ancestor". For example, when a Skyvington in Choranche encounters, say, an individual named Skivington over in Canada, it's quite possible that their concestor was a 17th-century farmer named George over in Dorset, England. Researchers concerned with individuals X and Y are interested, above all, in identifying the latest concestor: that's to say, the common ancestor whose offspring split into two forever-separate lines, one of which ended up producing X, and the other, Y.

Juvenile Ida ("lovely Laura in her light green dress") looks a little like a modern lemur:

Let's say that 47-million-year-old Ida was almost a lemur... like our human ancestors, for that matter. But certain telltale features reveal that Ida had jumped onto the human, rather than the lemur, band wagon. She was surely one of us: an ancient member of our human tribe. Welcome aboard, Ida!

Of mountains and men

I would not normally go out of my way, as a tourist, to visit the Mount Rushmore abomination:

But that's because I don't have starry striped blood flowing in my veins.

This giant bust of Ataturk, currently under construction in a suburb of Izmir in Turkey, looks pretty impressive from afar:

Unlike the American kitschfest, Turkey's monstrosity is not carved out of the mountain, but built of concrete on a scaffolding. To my mind, that's worse.

In a nightmare, I see myself waking up one morning, looking out my bedroom window, and discovering with horror that they've carved Sarko's effigy in the limestone cliffs of my beloved Cournouze.

Popular Australian vocalist in France

This is not a particularly flattering photo of the Australian singer Tina Arena, but I had to operate rapidly with my Nikon, while she was being interviewed on national TV today.

Why is she so popular in France? The starting point, I think, is that Tina herself seems to have a quite European personality, and she likes France to the point of having learned the language. French media people automatically pay great attention to visiting celebrities who've gone to the trouble of learning to express themselves in French, because this suggests immediately that the individual in question is likely to have affinities with French culture and the French people. So, here's my advice to the McClymonts, mentioned in my blog of Sunday, April 12, 2009 entitled Country-music sisters in Australia [display]: If ever they wanted to become a hit in France (and why not?), start by learning French!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sarko-slanted persuasion

The French government has the right, indeed the duty, to persuade citizens that they should take the trouble to visit the polling booths on June 7 for the European elections. And it's normal that they use a video clip to get their persuasive message across. Naturally, any evocation of Europe is going to allude to a long list of legendary political figures who have played a major role in the building of Europe: Robert Schuman, Charles de Gaulle, Konrad Adenauer, Georges Pompidou, Simone Veil, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, François Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl, Jacques Delors, Jacques Chirac...

At the end of the video clip, the briefest glimpse of a certain French would-be Euro-historical personage appears to be premature...

The Socialists Harlem Désir and Benoît Hamon have asked France's Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (Audiovisual High Council) to suspend the broadcasting of this video clip, which they see as blatant publicity for candidates from the political party of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

School in Paris

At the age of 12, I started secondary school in my native town of Grafton, Australia, and I left for Sydney at the age of 16. Aged 23, on the other side of the planet, I spent two months working as a sailor, first on the Greek cargo Persian Cyrus from London to Kuwait, then back to Rotterdam on the BP tanker British Glory. My basic schooling then took off once again in a totally different context, in Paris, as an assistant teacher of English in one of the most celebrated secondary schools of France: the Lycée Henri IV in the Latin Quarter of Paris. I spent some two academic years there, from November 1963 up until my marriage with a girl from Brittany in May 1965.

Truly, my destiny as a future resident and citizen of France was sealed when I set foot at Henri IV. It was the school of Guy de Maupassant, André Gide, Jean-Paul Sartre, Georges Pompidou... In such a high-powered historic and intellectual context, it was unthinkable that a young Australian, fascinated by existentialism and all things French, could resist the attraction of being adopted by this great nation and people. The catalyst was an exceptional individual: Christine. And the rest is the story of our life...

I've spoken already, in this blog, of high points in my life at that time. In a roundabout way, my post entitled Concept "bling-bling" [display] evoked a precious encounter of that epoch with a splendid young man named Benito Italiani, who was my Italian-language counterpart at the Lycée Henri IV. Benito was far more than a colleague. In his subtle Adriatic style, he taught me the meaning of European culture.

Considering Benito as one of my most marvelous friends in those formative days in the City of Light, I was stupefied to be informed by his American wife, in the winter of 1964-1965, that my former colleague at the Lycée Henri IV was no longer in the land of the living. He had been frozen to death in an Abruzzo skiing accident.

Yesterday, I was overjoyed to receive a blog comment [display] from Michael Italiani, Benito's son. Soon, maybe, I hope we shall meet up with one another and become friends...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Megalithic evening

Throughout the afternoon, while working in my future garden, I was aware that my TV evening was likely to be a back-and-forth affair between the acclaimed BBC documentary on Stonehenge [article] and the final of the French soccer cup.

The former was a must, in that Stonehenge has continued to fascinate me ever since the time I was writing Great Britain Today (Jeune Afrique, Paris, 1978).

As for the soccer cup, one of the finalists was the local team in Christine's corner of Brittany, the tiny town of Guingamp.

Finally, I spent a great evening zapping from one channel to the other, and I was able to appreciate two huge upsets. Several millennia ago, Stonehenge was apparently a pole of pilgrimage for people wanting to be healed magically... much like modern-day Lourdes. And this evening, in Paris, Guingamp beat Rennes in a style that reminded spectators of Astérix defeating the Romans... were it not for the fact that both finalists were Breton.

In a distant regional corner of France, the maverick politician François Bayrou, no doubt a serious contender for the next presidential election, has just published a devastating attack upon Nicolas Sarkozy. A journalist asked Bayrou to sum up what was wrong with Sarkozy's handling of the French Republic: "The French have never accepted the domination of the most powerful."

Well they did, in a way, some observers might say, under Philippe Pétain. But we all know today that Vichy was never the authentic République. France has always been Guingamp. And it goes without saying that Rennes has always been France. It's a subtle nation. That's the secret of its grandeur...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Future garden layout

My recent article entitled Spring renaissance [display] included a photo of the freshly-plowed rectangle in front of my house: a future garden of flowers and herbs. Here's an updated photo of this rectangle:

Between the two photos, separated by a fortnight, there are three subtle differences:

• On the left, I've removed the vegetation that grew against the old stone wall below the windows of my house. This was a mixture of archaic grape plants (of no great value) and recently-planted honeysuckle/jasmine vines.

• Following the intervention of Pierrot Faure and his tractor, the soil—comprising bulky clods of earth and grassy tufts—was not yet of homogeneous garden quality. I spent yesterday reworking the earth with a powerful Husqvarna garden tiller.

• In the modified layout, surrounding the future pergola (whose location is not indicated explicitly in the new photo), each of the two garden squares will be composed of four 2m x 2m plots. This means that my future garden will have a very symmetric look: a rough hybrid of familiar entities described as a medieval garden, a clergyman's garden, or simply a geometric so-called French garden. To clarify matters, I intend to name it simply a William's garden.

As for my dog Sophia, who has contributed to my gardening efforts by using the loose soil to bury remnants of the skull and horns of her old companion Gavroche, her layout is constantly beautiful.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Personal defects

People swear that they're prepared to talk openly about their personal defects, but they generally find subtle ways of avoiding to do so. And I'm no exception. So, don't expect to find me revealing the truth about myself, the whole truth, etc. Worse still, whenever I decide to mention one of my weaknesses, it's often just a pretext to hit back with an explanation concerning one of the more positive aspects of my character. I give the impression that I'm opening my front door and welcoming you in... but, meanwhile, I'm sneaking out of the house through a back window.

Let me start with a weakness that is totally undeniable: I would be a lousy worker on a construction site such as that of the Eiffel Tower.

I'm simply scared of heights. Once, when I was holidaying with my children in Bangkok, I was suddenly overcome by vertigo at the top of a stone staircase, just a few meters in height, in a Buddhist temple. My legs were jelly; I was so giddy that I could no longer even stand up straight. Consequently, my children, along with other tourists, were greatly amused to see me bumping down the steps on my backside.

Now, here's the exit window. Many years ago, when I was a student in Sydney, I got a vacation job working as a welder's assistant on a construction site. My boss, a friendly German guy named Horst, was erecting steel staircases and platforms around an industrial boiler. My job consisted of following him around with his tools, and I was generally draped in coils of rubber tubing connected to oxy-acetylene cylinders. At one stage, I told Horst, naively, that he didn't seem to be generous with the amount of welding he was applying to attach the steel platform to the façade of the boiler. He said he was using a rule of thumb that consisted of applying a centimeter of welding for every meter of platform. To me, that rule didn't sound serious, because the weight of the platform clearly varied from one point to another, depending on whether or not it was supporting a section of stairs. I let the matter drop, since I imagined that Horst knew what he was doing. Suddenly an entire ection of the platform dropped to the ground, and I was left dangling in the rubber tubing: my first and last taste of something akin to bungee jumping. I was not injured in any way whatsoever, but Horst and the people handling the site were frightened that I might be wounded internally (which could lead them into a costly damages situation), so they preferred that I should remain seated and do absolutely nothing during my remaining days on that job. Incidentally, a humorous conversation has remained in my memory ever since that experience. With his charming accent, Horst had described to me his attitude towards working as a welder in Australia: "I do it, not because I like welding, but to make money. When I arrive at the factory site in the morning, I deposit my brain with the gatekeeper, and I pick it up when I knock off work in the afternoon." Horst also taught me how to say, in perfect German: "The only rays of sunshine in a worker's life are fornicating and boozing." Needless to say, Horst was happy in Australia...

Getting back to my personal defects, I have no memory for faces. This works in two directions. On the one hand, I can fail to recognize a person I've already encountered. On the other hand, I can imagine that I know somebody who's in fact a total stranger. Let me relate two trivial anecdotes, both of which concern women. Once, at an outdoor Bastille Day ball in Paris, I overheard a girl speaking Greek, and I was immediately convinced that I had met up with her a few months earlier on. So, I started talking with her (in French) as if we were old friends... and we soon did indeed become very close friends. The next morning, in bed, I asked her to remind me where it was that we had initially met up. She was surprised but amused: "Last night was the first time I ever saw you. It's a fact that I found you exceptionally affectionate for a stranger..."

The second anecdote dates from yesterday. For my regular medication (run-of-the-mill stuff for blood pressure and cholesterol), I decided to change to a pharmacy at St-Laurent-en-Royans, a little closer than my usual shop at St-Jean-en-Royans. The female pharmacist welcomed me warmly: "I worked for years in the pharmacy at St-Jean, and I have a wonderful recollection of your visits, because you had the habit of rambling on about all kinds of things, quite unlike most customers in a pharmacy. I always had the impression that my contacts with you were... enriching." Wow! Now, guess how I reacted to these nice words from an attractive young lady. Sadly, you'll see that I've lost my touch since the evenings in Paris when I was capable of picking up an unknown Mediterranean damsel. I said to the pharmacist: "That's funny, I don't remember you at all." What an idiot I am! That's no doubt one of the worst statements a man could ever make to a woman. Fortunately, I have to purchase pills once a month... so I should have time to redeem myself. Meanwhile, let me crawl back into my house through this open window.

Friday, May 1, 2009

By the roadside

The other day, on my way to St-Marcellin, I came upon the scene of an accident on a stretch of country road where there's never much traffic.

In fact, I've often noticed that certain local drivers, taking advantage of the fact that there are hardly any vehicles on this road, step upon the accelerator, ignoring the presence of several tricky little bends where the macadam hasn't been designed for speed.

The scene was a symphony of glaring red, orange and yellow.

Even the crushed automobile was red. I was impressed by the calm behavior of the accident personnel. They moved around in a determined but unhurried fashion, without even the sound of voices. Then the silence was interrupted by the motors of a waiting helicopter, which had just been loaded with a human form on a trolley.

I asked a gendarme what had happened. He told me that a local 32-year-old lady—alone in her little red automobile, and alone on the road—had simply failed to get around a minor bend, no doubt because she was driving too fast. Her vehicle left the road and bounced off the embankment. Apparently she had her seat belt on, and wasn't severely injured. In the future, she'll certainly need to buy a new car, and maybe drive a little more cautiously.

PS I've asked my neighbor Madeleine to obtain the name and address of the injured driver, so I can send her a little souvenir collection of roadside photos in dominant tones of red, orange and yellow.