Showing posts with label tourism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tourism. Show all posts

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Postman needs a vacation

This true story about a French thief is similar—on the surface—to the anecdote described in my recent blog post entitled Lovers lanes for an ex-husband [display].

In the city of Moselle (province of Lorraine), over the last ten years, a middle-aged postman has stolen 13,000 items that he was supposed to deliver. Amazingly, he stored all this stolen mail in his attic, where it was discovered in a more-or-less intact state. The most intriguing aspect of the thief's behavior was his predilection for simple postcards, of the trivial kind that tourists send back home to their loved ones.

Not surprisingly, psychiatrists concluded that the postman was a compulsive kleptomaniac, but he's thought to be totally responsible for his acts. In other words, he's by no means clinically crazy. The postman himself is incapable of explaining objectively why he committed all this theft, but he admits that he has always been fascinated by the kinds of simple family letters and postcards that he stole.

The poor guy is likely to be sent away on a three-year vacation for theft, accompanied by another three years for a fuzzy crime described as "violation of the secrecy of private correspondence". I would have imagined that, in our Internet age—where organizations and individuals are constantly sticking their noses into other people's business—the latter concept would have become somewhat obsolete.

I hope the authorities will give us the guy's address in jail, enabling well-wishers to send him friendly postcards.

This story has a happy ending. The postal authorities are in the process of forwarding all the stolen mail to its rightful receivers. Since we live in the best of all possible worlds, I'm sure that many people will be so thrilled to receive this long-overdue mail that they'll spontaneously dash off a thank-you postcard to the postman.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Painted-canvas scroll from Mumbai

When Christine, our daughter Emmanuelle and I were returning from Sydney to Paris in 1969, we stopped over for a couple of days with French friends in Mumbai (then known as Bombay). One of the objects we purchased there—with the help of our hosts: the French commercial attaché and his Breton wife, one of Christine's school friends—was a painted-canvas scroll, 1.25 meters in width and almost 5 meters long. Upon moving into the house at Gamone, I became the guardian of this treasure, since I happened to have three adjacent walls that were disposed in such a way that the entire scroll could be viewed.

If I understand correctly (which I surely don't, because my awareness of Indian culture is on a par with my knowledge of Australian Aboriginal languages and traditions), the images are intended to depict and celebrate the glorious achievements of an ancient maharajah whose forces rode to battle, not only on horses, but also on elephants. This is the fellow in question, at the center of the scroll:

We see him here, elsewhere in the vast scroll, riding in parade on a splendid black steed, surrounded by guardsmen mounted on pale ponies, while a pair of his subjects are applauding as if they were watching the Bastille Day parade in Paris.

Oops, it probably wasn't a parade. The maharajah was no doubt riding into a pitched battle! We see the brave nobleman, in the following segment of the scroll, attacking warriors mounted on an elephant. Just behind our hero, the severed head of a tiger has fallen onto the ground. To the left of the elephant, a little blue man appears to be messing around with brightly-attired women, but I don't know what he's doing, and whose side they're on.

In the following segment, our hero appears to be moving through seaside territory (blue water with white fish), accompanied by exotic beasts that might possibly be multicolored camels.

I'll leave off there, because there are many scenes in the scroll, but my ignorance of what exactly is happening prevents me from acting as an intelligently-plausible guide.

Maybe Christine and I should put this scroll on the market, in the hope that it might interest an expert capable of appreciating it seriously. Meanwhile, the maharajah and his cohorts have been gallivanting around on the wall behind my TV set at Gamone for nearly two decades. I'm ashamed to say, though, that they make so little noise—in spite of the horses, elephants, tigers and camels—that I'm barely aware of their spectacular presence.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Roadside encounter

The day before yesterday (Wednesday), I ran into a South African couple, Andrew and Brenda, at the petrol station attached to the local supermarket in St-Jean-en-Royans. They were driving a luxurious Fiat camping car, with German license plates, and wanted to find a cylinder of propane gas for their stove. And this product didn't happen to be stocked by this supermarket. Since it was nearly 7 o'clock in the evening, there was little chance that any other stores would be open. So, I suggested that they might follow me back to my place where, if they ran out of gas, they could always use my kitchen to prepare their evening meal. As things turned out, they did not run out of gas, and actually invited me to share their fine dinner (prepared in the camping van), seated in the warm semi-darkness in front of my house.

They told me that they were thinking of selling their bed-and-breakfast business in South Africa, and setting up a guest house somewhere in Europe. So, they were keen to see what kind of possibilities existed around here. Yesterday morning, I took them along to the excellent guest house in St-Jean-en-Royans operated by Roger Dunne (a former UK cyclist) and his wife Teresa. They've done up an old water-mill on the edge of the village, and transformed it into a high-quality base for visitors who can go out bike-riding in some of the most magnificent landscapes that cyclists could ever imagine.

[Click the photo to visit the website of Roger and Teresa]

When Andrew and Brenda finally drove off (heading up towards the monastery of the Grande Chartreuse), they had several good contacts with local real estate possibilities.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Visiting Madagascar on a mobylette

Let me explain, for readers who might not know, that a mobylette is a hugely popular moped (lightweight motorbike) made by the French manufacturer Motobecane. A few decades ago, for countless French teens, particularly in suburban and rural environments, this vehicle was a symbol of emancipation: an initial step towards adult liberty. My son François Skyvington created a book on this theme, presented in a French-language website [display].

In my article of 30 May 2008 entitled Birthday of Moped Man [display], I mentioned that François was working on a documentary film concerning a mobylette excursion to Madagascar. Well, this 52-minute film will be shown on the French channel Voyages at the following dates [Paris time]:

-- Saturday evening, 24 January 2009, 8.40 pm
-- Sunday afternoon, 25 January 2009, 12.50 pm
-- Monday evening, 26 January 2009, midnight
-- Saturday morning, 31 January 2009, 10.30 am

In the latest Télérama weekly, there's a fine review of the film:

Le Monde selon ma mobylette [The World from my Mobylette] by the journalist-photographer-moviemaker François Skyvington is all about roaming through Madagascar at 35 kilometers an hour. In the lazy rhythm of the national route 7, which crosses the island from one end to the other, the rambler takes his time, while sharing with us his conception of the expedition. One can understand why TV channels are attracted to this style of reporting, which is now recurrent. Viewers can easily identify themselves with the journalist-presenter, often more like a tourist than an investigator, who provides them with access to an exotic universe. Obviously, the constant presence of this personage tends to obscure the frontier between a genuine reportage and a simple vacation video, since he stirs up intense admiration for the marvels of the country he is crossing. François Skyvington avoids tactfully all errors of this kind. Admittedly, as soon as he straddles his mobylette, he is filmed from every possible angle, but he also knows how to disappear behind the camera as soon as we have opportunities of observing Madagascan folk. The documentary is composed of short sequences on subjects such as a factory that produces soccer tables, and a sapphire-mining rush that gave rise to population changes. The resulting film does not claim to be a complete and divergent portrait of Madagascar, but it is hard to avoid being carried away by the specific rhythm of this journey.

This review was written in French by Thomas Richet, and I've translated it into English.