Idiotics – Aussie Style


Shared by Bear Tales follower Leslie Number One. “I am a medical student currently doing a rotation in toxicology at the poison control centre in Brisbane. Today, this woman called in very upset because she caught her little daughter eating ants. I quickly reassured her that the ants are not harmful and there would be […]

via Australia has idiots too … — Bear Tales

Was An Opportunity Missed ?


On Tuesday 5th July, 22 Landscape Architects and invited guests from across the county visited the West of Waterlooville development to see best practice in Sustainable Urban Drainage systems (SUDs). The 247 hectare site has a custom designed infrastructure to reduce the risk of flooding to homes and promote biodiversity. Rain water is collected in channels […]

via SUDs Explored — West of Waterlooville

It is a well-known fact that many of the flood problems around the UK have been exacerbated by the continual building of large housing estates and associated road systems. These prevent the normal, slow soak away of rain water. Instead the water is channeled away via drains and gutters, moving the water down stream at an ever-increasing speed and volume. Ultimately dumping the water into river systems that never had to cope with this level of flow before.

So I am pleased that the developers were ahead of the game when planning the drainage system for the West of Waterlooville site. I would have expected nothing less.

However, in these environmentally aware times, we are always being encouraged to conserve water. So why does all of this carefully controlled “filtered” waste water get channeled out to sea ?

Surely, if the developers were so ahead of the game they would have designed the drainage system so that the water was pumped away to local reservoirs.

Similarly, I would expect the Welbourne developers would be looking hard at the drainage and waste water management.

 

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)


A frequent visitor to the lawns, around our gite in Serandon, was the Green Woodpecker.

A beautiful looking bird, usually arriving in pairs, very alert and very quick to take flight at the slightest noise or movement.

Kite Flying


Many of you will know that Gerry and I have just spent a month in France.  The first three weeks of that time was at a gite in the Dordogne. Throughout that time we would hear the calls of various raptors. They would be soaring out over the gorges, sitting high up on the electricity pylons and occasionally we would see one stoop, plunging to the ground in a newly mown meadow. On a number of occasions I had disturbed a couple of kites sitting in a tree, so well camouflaged were they, I hadn’t even seen them until I was almost immediately below them as I walked the lanes. Throughout our stay I had attempted many photos of these fabulous birds but had pretty much only achieved interesting silhouettes.

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Three Red Kites – On the hunt

 

During our last week at the gite, after a prolonged spell of wet weather, it was time for the grass in the meadow directly in front of the gite to be cut. I grabbed my camera, crossed the garden to stand at the fence bordering the field, my eyes scanning the skies in anticipation.

The farmer drove round and round, starting at the perimeter, steadily working his way into the centre of the field. Until his circumnavigations had reduced the potential hiding places, for any small creatures, to an island of tall grass in the centre.

Then they were there.

Well one bird had arrived to investigate. But it was soon joined by several more. There was still much of the grass to be cut. The birds wheeled and swooped over the field, as if taking a preliminary scan, then all disappeared over the tree tops and away.

A few minutes later and they were back.

There were five or six birds, although it was difficult to keep track of them as switched from soaring to low-level runs across the meadow.

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Black Kite ? – Serandon, Dordogne, France

I thought that the birds, once they were hunting or had potential prey in their sights, would largely ignore me. It became obvious that they were staying away from my side of the meadow. Unfortunately there was no where for me to get under cover and my lens wouldn’t allow me to be further back,  I was already pushing its capabilities to the limits.

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Red Kite – Serandon, Dordogne, France

So I carried on , firing away. I ended up with many similar shots but not many keepers. I learnt that I need a better equipment. This time it was a spur of the moment when the opportunity presented itself. After all, I didn’t know the farmer was going to mow the meadow, but I could have been better prepared. The following photos were all over the course of an hour.

But, at a minimum, a better lens would have helped me maximise my use of this opportunity. I should state here that I accept operator error as a huge contributor. I was having problems keeping the lens focussed as I got over excited at all the action, jumping from bird to bird. I switched from auto to manual focus to try and make life simpler, so I could have more time to frame the shot. I obviously need more practice in this enviroment.

A case in point is this photo. I did actually capture the moment when one of the kites caught a rodent …..

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Lunch

…..  better preparation, better lens, would have made this a better photo. Bottom line though, this is down to the operator, me.

And, while I’m mentioning equipment, perhaps, some kind of camouflage clothing and / or a collapsible hide. After all, I had plenty of room in the car for this holiday. Mind you that would then require me to be a better planner.

Ask me who didn’t pack his tripod, monopod or even his gorillapod for this holiday.

 

Family


After two nights in Troyes, the end of our holiday was looming on the horizon. But we still had two nights left. No dramatic sight seeing planned for this part of our holiday, we were going to visit family.

Gerry’s brother, Doug, has lived in France for many years and now lives near Arras. We hadn’t managed to get together for quite a few years. He works for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  Our timing for this visit, probably could have been better. With many Somme 100 remembrance ceremonies taking place on the 1st July he was very busy at work.

As we headed north from Troyes the weather gradually deteriorated, becoming overcast and persistently dull. The traffic also grew in density as we left the agricultural heartland behind and  got nearer to the channel ports and channel tunnel. The amount of traffic was also probably influenced by our proximity to Paris, the centre of the French spiders web road system. Still, we made better time than anticipated and, as a result, there was nobody home when we arrived. They had all headed to Lille to collect Lynn’s dad from the bus station. He had travelled down from Merseyside, by bus, leaving around midnight the night before. Now that is a trip I would not like to make. My days of long distance coach travel are long gone.

As an aside, nearly 30 years ago, Gerry and I did a coach based holiday picked out of our local paper. We travelled from Havant to Trento in Italy. The coach drivers took us on a torturous route through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland. They seemed intent on avoiding all motorways and the journey took nearly 24 hours. I recall that, at the time, I had a theory that the drivers were pocketing the toll money hence no real motorway driving. Although the coach had seats that reclined they were not all that comfortable and, for someone who is over six feet tall, not much leg room. So I do have some experience of coach travel, and it’s not something I want to repeat.

So, back to France. We  visited the nearby supermarket to pick up some alcoholic supplies to lubricate the imminent reunion. We hadn’t been back at Doug’s for very long when Andrew, Doug’s son, arrived and ushered us inside where we were soon drinking tea and coffee.

Later, Doug and co. arrived and there was much fat chewing and chin wagging. Lots to catch up on. As we all sat around the table for dinner the alcohol we had purchased was put to good use and it’s lubricity investigated.

The following day Doug had to work, returning home at lunchtime to pick up Brian, the father-in-law, for an orientation briefing related to the Somme 100 activities. Both Brian and Doug were going to be guides on the bus’ bringing guests into the remembrance sites.

Note: The above photos are from a previous visit in 2009. The weather was much nicer back then. Access during last week was severely restricted due to the Somme 100 activities.

The weather outside was awful, ranging from mizzle to full pelt rainstorms. We took the opportunity to relax, happy to not be moving for a while. Apart from a short walk, to the local school, to pick up  Doug’s grand-daughter, Maddie.

Another super evening meal (thanks Lynn), with more wine, beer and lots of conversation. Then it was heads down to sleep.

Doug and Brian had a very early start the next morning. Up at four and picked up at five to begin their “guiding”. We had a much more leisurely start and while Gerry and Lynn took Maddie to school I loaded the car ready for our journey to the tunnel.

These pictures give you some idea of the drismal nature of our departure day. It matched the sad feelings we were feeling to be leaving family. It had been nice to catch up and of course we have all promised to not leave it so long until our next gathering. After all we are all just a couple of hours from the tunnel, on either side of the channel. No excuses.

So Gerry and I bid farewell to Lynn, having said our farewells to Andrew earlier in the morning, and to Doug and Brian the night before.

Au Revoir !!

 

 

Troyes Treat


Our journey from Lyon to Troyes was largely uneventful and the satnag behaved itself. Especially since our hotel, Relais Saint Jean, gives two addresses, the satnag took us directly to the entrance for the secure parking. The other address is for clients on foot. Just take a look at the following photo’s ….

… this is Rue Paillot de Montabert , too narrow for regular traffic, and the location of the hotel entrance and reception.

The friendly staff had us very quickly checked in and,  once we were installed in our room, we set out to explore Troyes.  We were spending two nights here so hoped to get a real feel for the town. Here is what the hotel website and the Tourism Office / Departmental Committee of Tourism have to say ….

Troyes, historical capital of the champagne region, a city of Art and History, distinguishes itself by the beauty of its architecture, the timbered structures of its buildings, its gastronomy, its nine churches illuminated by their remarquable tinted glass windows.

The old fortifications which in the past protected the city have left their place to the main boulevards, which still identify the perimeters of the city and form the famous “bouchon de Champagne” or “Champagne cork” (clearly distinct from the air). Within the city there is a hive of commercial and pedestrian activity, historical monuments and buildings remarquably maintained, preserved and brought to life in order to make Troyes a pleasure to visit.

The “Pans de Bois” or wooden structures are omni-present in the city center of Troyes and especially around the Hotel Relais Saint Jean. Everywhere you can admire the tall wooden buildings, their “Colombages” and rounded features.

Our first foray onto the streets of Troyes took us around the narrow lanes nearest to the hotel. Everywhere you look there are old buildings, some with remarkable features. All have something unique, making them just that little bit different. Whether it be blatant, such as the building colour.

Or more subtle, by way of a carving in a door frame, or even the main building beams.

After our initial exploration we decided that we would eat, return to the hotel and recharge our batteries ready for a full day exploring. For our meal we settled on Les Relais d’ Alsace – Taverne Karlsbrau.

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Le Relais d’Alsace, Tavern Karlsbrau – Troyes, France

It’s possible that I had the biggest meal, ever, at this establishment. The main course seems to have obliterated my starter from my memory cells. For my main course I chose the Choucroute de la Taverne. I knew I was in trouble when the waitress brought out a wire frame and spirit heater which she assembled on our table. Shortly thereafter she appeared with a large platter, placed it on the wire frame and lit the heater. She then proceeded to load up my plate with meat, two large boiled potatoes and sauerkraut. Perhaps I should explain that, by meat, I mean a Pork Knuckle, a sausage (pork I think), a Frankfurter, several thick slices of Garlic Sausage and a thick slice of Bacon. She then started to pile on the sauerkraut. I think there must have been about a kilo of sauerkraut and she would have put it all on my plate if I hadn’t stopped her.

An american guy on the table behind me was very interested in my menu choice and I showed him where it was on the menu. He seemed quite keen to give it a try. But, I think, his wife dissuaded him and he had a burger instead.

Needless to say, I didn’t eat it all. I ate all of the meat but left the fat and skin from the Pork Knuckle. There was a lot of fat. Gerry helped out by eating the potato and I left most of the sauerkraut. I do like sauerkraut but the amount delivered to our table was really excessive.

I did enjoy the meal and the knuckle was particularly good. Back home I quite often will have bacon hock when it is on the menu. The knuckle had the same flavour and fall apart texture.

Meal over, Gerry and I, well mainly me, waddled home to the hotel.

Next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we set out again to explore the town. The Tourist Info Office is just around the corner from the hotel so we popped in there and purchased a guide and one or two other items before continuing our exploration. Here are a few other photo’s to give you a flavour of Troyes.

After much walking we stopped for a drop of liquid refreshment during which we, along with all the other customers, were serenaded by a guy and his guitar. He was really quite good although we had no idea what the songs meant. When drinking you need something to mop it up so we decided to have lunch. Gerry had a Croque Madame and I had Eggs Benedict. Very tasty, although the sauce was a very garish yellow.

As the hotel was very close we decided to drop our purchases back at our room. We didn’t make it back out. Opting to relax a little before heading out for dinner. In the end we didn’t make it out for dinner either.

I suggested room service, which Gerry was more than happy with. Our room had a balcony with a table and chairs. So we sat out there, watching the sunset over the rooftops. Gerry with her Spaghetti Bolognese, me with my usual Assiette and all washed down with a nice bottle of Bordeaux.

A lovely end to a lovely day.