Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sister Jill

Yesterday was the 60th birthday of my sister Jill Skyvington, who has just spent Xmas here at Gamone with her husband Kim Taylor, their lovely daughter Indiya and Indiya's friend Kyle. During their stay, I wasn’t particularly active at a photographic level. I was otherwise busy, while sensing that my family friends were taking care of images through constant Facebook activities. A single photo emerged from my old Nikon, but it happens to be superb.

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On the slopes of Gamone, Jill grins with glee, surrounded by donkeys and the dog Fitzroy (held by Kyle). In the background, a giant walnut tree had been toppled on the previous night by an unexpectedly violent Xmas tempest. My old donkey Moshé is the rightmost beast, observing calmly the scene. For Jill, Kim, Indiya and Kyle, this was indeed an authentic vision (amongst others) of my home at Gamone.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bon appétit !

This Dawkins fellow has an amazing talent for finding the right arguments, the right words and the right ideas. I would designate him, in a nutshell, as a scientific poet, a poetic scientist, a great poet who also happens to be a creative scientist, whose various books on genetic themes are masterpieces of adventurous thinking.

I agree entirely with the gastronomical slant in the title of his autobiography. Dawkins is a master chef who proposes us countless delicious dishes that are all variations on a single theme. Their basic ingredient is indeed the wonder of science.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gamone Press first copy

It arrived by mail this morning from the printing house in England: the first copy of the first book to be published by Gamone Press.

The look and feel of the final product are fine… although I can still see room for minor improvements.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fire in Choranche

There are no longer many old buildings in the village of Choranche. So, it’s a pity to see one of them destroyed by fire.

The shabby Café du Centre was run for years by a charming lady, Paulette Chomette, who died earlier this year.

I had often thought that it would great for the life of the village if this old café were to be restored in one way or another. For the moment, I have no idea of the extent of structural damage to the interior of the building, but I guess it’s too late, sadly, to imagine that the old café might be brought back to life.

Here's an image of the café taken by Google Maps in May 2013:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

There will be smoke

Yesterday morning, my new chimney at Gamone became fully operational for the first time. And the dense column of smoke arising from the rooftop chimney was a friendly sign.

I lit up the stove and fuelled it with two or three sturdy chunks of extra-dry firewood. Then full steam ahead! During the first hour or so, I was anxious… like the captain of the Titanic looking out for icebergs. My imaginary “icebergs” would have been spots (literally hotspots) in the vicinity of the stove where the temperature might have appeared to be excessive and dangerous. In fact, there were effusions of all kinds, both from my recent paintwork and from the iron stove itself… but nothing of an alarming nature. The stove even emitted a wonderful “song” brought about by mysterious metallic vibrations. After an hour or so, everything seemed to settle down into a kind of harmonious cruising state. And Fitzroy took advantage of the delightful warmth that was permeating our ground floor.

Driving down towards Pont-en-Royans, Tineke and Serge noticed the smoke, and they drove up here immediately with a bottle of fine wine to celebrate the new warmth of Gamone. In fact, they came upon me in a state of turmoil, trying to unblock the kitchen sink. Serge helped me rapidly in the search for a solution to this problem, brought about primarily by the disastrous plumbing carried out by an unpleasant local "plumber" (hired in 1994 by the Grenoble architects in charge of the restoration of Gamone)… who hasn’t spoken to me for years, ever since I told him frankly that he was a lousy tradesman. The basic problem is due to the fact that the waste-water evacuation tubing—integrated into the reinforced concrete slab beneath my house—isn’t sufficiently sloped, and the slightest muck blocks it. Happily, I can live with this plumbing problem, provided that I respect a certain number of constraints.

PS It's Wednesday morning, and I've just had an opportunity of confirming an interesting aspect of this particular stove (the Bradford model from the French Invicta company). If I place three or four chunks of wood in the stove before going to bed, they burn slowly all night, keeping the house warm. Then, this morning, I found that the wood was all burnt, leaving a layer of hot coals in the stove. All I had to do, this morning, was to put more wood into the stove, and it blazed up within a few minutes. Incidentally, I've just ordered (through the Internet) some obligatory instruments.

The device on the left is a smoke detector, and they are now obligatory in all French homes. The slightly more complex device on the right is a carbon monoxide detector, and the presence of such a detector is highly recommended in any dwelling that burns fuel (inside the dwelling) for heating. When the ordered goods have arrived (within a day or so), if the Good Lord has saved me between now and then from being consumed by fire or gassed, I intend to install such a pair of devices at two strategic spots in my house: on the ground floor (where the stove is located) and on the upper floor (with the bedrooms).

Friday, December 6, 2013

Habemus invictam

Trying to capture an image (for posterity) of the very first wisp of white smoke emerging from my new chimney at Gamone is like taking photos of a polar bear in the Arctic snow. At this time of the year, almost everything in the sky of Choranche looks like wisps of white smoke.

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To obtain this proof that smoke does indeed go up the chimney that I designed and erected (with constant help from my friend and neighbor Serge Bellier), I burned no more than a bit of paper and a few wood chips, because I’ll only be taking the stove up to its operational temperature over a period of a week or so, to give the metal time to gradually expand and creak itself into shape.

My only blog reader who’s likely to understand the title of this post is my son François, who also installed a French-manufactured wood stove of the Invicta brand. I was almost going to write Habemus poelam, but Christine would have lost no time in correcting me. The modern French word poêle can indeed designate either a frying-pan or a wood stove, but the ancient Romans only used poela in the first sense. They did not use metal stoves for heating. Their domestic heating installations were based upon steam generated in the cellar by a hypocaust system associated with a furnace (in the style of a pizza oven).

This is the same kind of system that was used to heat up water in a pool—called a caldarium—in the splendid Somerset city of Bath.

At Gamone, my living room is already well heated by my fireplace… provided that I keep the glass cover down, instead of raising it so that I can warm my toes while watching TV: a great pleasure, which I often share with Fitzroy, lying in my lap. Incidentally, talking about Fitzroy, I bought him an elegant cushion yesterday, which I promptly lined with an old pair of ski pants that I’ve outgrown.

For the first time in ages, Fitzroy spent the entire night on the kitchen floor in his new bed, which he guards jealously as if it were a bone that an evil passer-by might try to steal.

PS Don't be too alarmed by the grubby state of my kitchen floor. Apart from the fact that I'm only slowly emerging from the lengthy period of construction of my wood shed [display], not to mention final operations concerning the installation of the wood stove (during which time my tools were often left lying upon the kitchen floor), the current dirty state of the floor is due above all to the fact that the evacuation system for used sink water is clogged up once again. I'll fix that tomorrow, and clean up the mess in the kitchen. One thing at a time...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Robespierre on stage

On the extreme left-hand side of the political chessboard, Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a brilliant orator who has been trying to persuade us that a remake of the French Revolution of 1789 is about to unfold. At times, though, one has the impression that Mélenchon tries a little too hard. Last Sunday, for example, he tried to persuade TV-viewers that vast throngs of leftist militants had assembled on the Avenue des Gobelins in Paris, to take part in a protest march concerning tax injustice. In an interview conducted by the distinguished journalist Claire Chazal of TF1, we can see members of this supposedly huge crowd in the background behind Mélenchon.

The problem is that somebody up on the balcony of a nearby apartment building took a photo of the global scene, which actually looked like this:

Clearly, there were no throngs of militants, merely a few dozen friends of Mélenchon who were happy to behave like movie extras, grouping themselves together to form a dense background giving the visual impression that they belonged to a huge crowd of similar militants.

Needless to say, Mélenchon has lost a lot of his dwindling credibility as a consequence of this staged affair  One wonders, too, why the people at TF1 apparently condoned this unethical media behavior. Retrospectively, however, we can understand what must have happened. The people in charge of the TV crew, finding Mélenchon all alone on the empty avenue, must have said to themselves that the forthcoming interview would be somewhat ludicrous unless they could enhance the setting a little...

Dylan meets Springsteen

It’s rare to see an image of Dylan looking happy. This encounter between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen took place at New Haven in 1975. The photo was displayed on the French GallicaBNF website.

Condemned to owning the latest iPhone

Readers of my Antipodes blog will have no doubt gathered that I’ve been living for the last two decades in a context (mountainous slopes, etc) that is potentially dangerous, and I increase the risk of accidents by doing potentially dangerous things such as wandering around on the slopes and working on various building projects (carport, firewood shelter, wood stove for heating). For these reasons, I’ve always known that I should carry with me, at all times, a portable phone. In many ways, this is a somewhat peculiar necessity, because I’ve lost, almost totally, my former (Parisian) habit of talking with friends on the phone. The underlying problem, here in Choranche, is that my circle of friends has been reduced drastically, and that I no longer have any personal or professional contacts that necessitate the use of a mobile phone. To put it frankly, the last time that my life style might have derived benefits from the presence of a mobile phone, this gadget hadn’t even been invented yet!

Another factor that plays a role in my lack of enthusiasm for mobile phones is my writing activities, which extend from this humble blog through to more in-depth preoccupations. See, for example, my previous blog post, entitled My first publication. As far as I’m concerned, these writing activities necessitate a fully-fledged iMac computer… although I imagine that certain bloggers do in fact succeed in blogging from an iPad or an iPhone.

My Internet connection is with Orange, who also take care of my satellite TV. This company has just suggested that I should integrate my mobile connection into a global contract with them. Cost-wise, I can do no better. And, since I’ve been using an iPhone 4S, they immediately suggested that I trade it in for an iPhone 5C. So, I find myself condemned (as it were) to owning the latest iPhone. Poor me!

My first publication

I’ve just sent off an order for 5 copies of the very first book published by Gamone Press. It’s a hefty novel of 388 pages printed as a Demy Octavo paperback. Here’s the cover spread:

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I believe that copies can be ordered through the international distribution channels of Lightning Source. For the moment, though, I’m not yet aware of how exactly this operation is carried out in the various countries.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Great dance mashup

It’s three decades since the companions of Ivan Doroschuk—of the Canadian Men Without Hats group—pranced around the village on their virtual pogo sticks, performing the strangely-named Safety Dance.

Earlier this year, an imaginative and finely-tuned mashup illustrated this celebrated song by means of images from dozens of different movies, of all kinds.

If ever an extraterrestrial were to acquire and view this mashup, he would surely form the opinion that we earthlings are weirdly-agitated creatures, who never stand still. Well, maybe we are