Grève situation

I was just running through a few of the train times for our upcoming Europe trip. Google was full of warnings.

Information: En raison d’une grève nationale SNCF, la circulation des trains sera perturbée. La liste des trains sera disponible chaque jour à 17h sur le site SNCF pour vos trajets du lendemain.

Une grève is a strike.
Une grève nationale is a national strike.
Une grève nationale SNCF is a national railway strike. 

You can see that circulating trains will be perturbed. Understandably.

Basically, if we were trying to make this journey today, we probably wouldn’t be able to. So why are the unions so furieux?

Well:

Nine public-sector unions representing 5.7 million public service agents have called for strike action and demonstrations to protest reforms and voice salary and staffing concerns in the face of a government that has pledged to cut 120,000 public-sector positions by the time President Emmanuel Macron’s term ends in 2022.

More than 130 demonstrations are scheduled nationwide on Tuesday, with the Paris march due to set off from the Place de la République at 2pm and head southeast for the Place de la Nation.

..and this is, apparently, day 1 of the eleventh! 2 day strike by rail workers.

Given the exorbitant price of tickets (even when you book them in advance), I’d much prefer the Japanese bus strike version of things.

But I guess we can only hope that there’s some breakthrough in the talks this week – or at least before we get there. I’ve been researching some alternative methods of getting to where we need to get to and firstly, there aren’t any, and secondly, that means inventing our own way of getting to the middle of nowhere and it’s going to be ridiculously pricey.

Sacré bleu!

Pre-planning

It’s not long until our trip abroad, and I have been doing plenty of pre-planning (see here and here for examples).

I’m lucky enough to be well used to the odd weekend away and in the week leading up to my trip, I often plan blog posts for the couple of days that I may be out of internet range, writing time or indeed, any sort of inclination. I’ll normally pre-post a couple of short blogs which are carefully constructed (lol – like I ever “carefully construct” anything on here) not to have too much current content in them, simply to ensure that they’re not wildly outdated by the time they pop up.

It might seem like a silly thing, but I feel that there’s some weird value  in keeping this record of a blog post every single day since… ag… whenever it was. Also, there’s no going back once you’ve broken that run. And I’m not prepared to do that just yet.

Anyway, all this preamble is just delaying our arrival at the point of this blog post, which is that I don’t have a couple of days to pre-blog for for this trip: I have 3 weeks.

Yowzer.

And so the plan is this: preserve the precious record by writing and scheduling a few posts now, and augment the overall content when and where possible when away, with exciting missives from Burgundy and correspondence from London. (A better writer would have magically managed some amazing alliteration here. Not me.)
That way, you might get more than you ever bargained for when you log in while I’m away. (Although I know you weren’t bargaining for much.)

If you have anything you think might need blogging, which will work despite having been written a few weeks early and which fits the overall character of 6000 miles…, you’re more than welcome to get in touch.

No news is good knees?

A quick update on my knee situation (backstory here and here), because the cashier in the supermarket was asking about it this morning and she’s had bladder problems for 6 years now and even though she’s seen a specialist (he’s the best one in Constantiaberg, you know) and had several operations (including trying botox) it’s still not any better and she needs to take drugs every month and yes the medical aid does cover it, but it’s expensive and debilitating and… hasn’t the weather turned cold?

Actually, it all started because she asked me why I was wearing shorts on such a cold, wet day.

Now, I can wear long trousers, but because of the continued swelling and sensitivity of my knee, it’s a lot more comfortable if I don’t. And so I have been wearing shorts. Fortunately, my work allows me to wear shorts, the only issue being that when wearing shorts under a lab coat it can appear that I’m not wearing anything at all. But that’s actually just a minor concern, because in fact, I am wearing shorts under the lab coat – you just can’t see them.

Safety first.

Wearing shorts was, until recently, quite beneficial too, as the Cape Town summer waned slowly and lazily towards heady autumnal days. I sneered at men in longer, less practical trousers as they sweated their way around the Mother City. Now they’re laughing at me.

Not, I must point out, that the Cape Town “cold” bothers me. I was brought up… hang on… [cue the Dvorák]… ah, that’s better. Now, as I were sayin’, I were brought up in t’ Yorkshire Pennines. I din’t even know what t’sun was ’til I went darn sarth when I were 14 an’ t’clouds broke up just past t’Toddington services.

What I’m trying to say is that what passes for “cold” here in SA was actually pretty decent weather for us on all but the hottest day of summer.

And, due to the continuing inflammatory processes within my knee joint, I have my own little heater on board anyway. It (my knee) actually gets so hot sometimes that ailing power generation SOE, Eskom got in touch to ask if they could attach a steam turbine unit to it, but I declined, fearful that it might make an awkward-shaped bulge under my lab coat.

We may have load-shedding again this winter, but I insist upon maintaining some small degree of near respectability.

But I digress. Often.

My knee is improving. There are good days, there are bad days. But as with any recovery process, it’s worth noting that the good days are slowly but surely beginning to outnumber the bad ones. I’ve been off crutches for weeks now, and I can almost walk down stairs without looking like I have suffered some sort of recent cerebral trauma.
Walking is fine, running is not. Football remains a pipe dream.
And I’m single-handedly propping up the SA non-steroidal anti-inflammatory market.

The thing is, I could possibly expedite my recovery by working harder and doing more, but equally, if I did that, I’d be more likely to hurt myself and set myself back n weeks, like I did last month. And so, it’s a balancing act. As an aside, my balancing is actually pretty good.

The goal is to be mostly completely mended by the time we head off to Europe next month. To be still struggling then would be annoying.

In other news, I’m happy to report that my bladder is fine.

Drone homework

I’ve been planning ahead for our trip to Europe later in the year. Part of that planning is working out where I can safely and legally fly my Mavic.

It’s reasonable to say that there are differences in the approach to drone rules and regulations between differing countries.

Take, for example, the Isle of Man:

Basically, with a few provisos here and there, together with a dollop of common sense and a healthy respect for other people, you can fly your drone up to 120m high anywhere outside that red circle.

You need to employ those same provisos, that common sense and respect in France too. But it’s a bit more complex than the IOM.
Here’s a map of the bit of France we’re going to:

Right.

Easy stuff first: no flying in the red bits; but yes flying (up to 150m, nogal) in the uncoloured bits. No problem.
From there though, it gets complicated. Pink areas allow flight to 30m altitude. You can fly up to 50m up in the orange (or is it peach?) areas. Even better, in the peach (or is it orange?) areas, you’re permitted to fly at 60m up from your takeoff spot. I’m not sure why they have this 10m difference. Presumably, something important happens (or is likely to happen) in this narrow strip of airspace in orange areas that doesn’t happen in the peach areas. Oh, and then in the yellow areas, you can fly up to a height of 100m.

I’m happy to comply with all of this, of course. It’s just that it’s massively complicated given that we go through a constantly changing kaleidoscope of colour as we wend our way downstream, so I’m going to have to keep a digital, zoomable copy of this map to hand.

The other thing is that for a lot of these restricted areas, it’s not very clear why there are restrictions. That doesn’t matter, of course – if it says not to fly, you don’t fly. It would just be nice to know what that bizarre mirror image of a question mark is bottom right. And why there’s that huge, weirdly shaped peach (orange?) swathe right across the middle of the map.

Obviously, I’m going to follow all the rules and regulations. There’s more than enough opportunity to get some decent shots and video in between all the bureaucracy.

But it’s going to be much more simple to chuck Florence the Mavic up once we get over to the Isle of Man.

Look North

What to do when your son is invited to a birthday party on that side of the mountain and you have a couple of hours to kill? Head down to the local beach and take some photos, of course.

It wasn’t the best day weather-wise, so the photos must reflect the drama and the moodiness of the prevailing conditions. White sand, grey skies, black mountains: it was almost monochrome, so that’s what I worked with. I’ve only had chance to edit and upload a couple of images so far, but this one defines the afternoon quite nicely:

See it bigger and better on black here.

I have ordered a new ND filter for the camera, but I won’t actually get it until June (it was 4x more expensive in SA than in the UK, so I’m picking it up when I get over there). In the meantime, I’m limited (even on grey days like today) to 1/8″ – so that sea should be smoother. Still, I do kind of like it.

I’ll pop a link up to the other images I took today once there’s something to actually link to.
Aaaaaand… it’s here!