French music

Last time I was down in this part of France, Joe le Taxi and Glen Medeiros were at the tippity top of the Hit Parade.

And yes, I’m aware that only one of those is French. But it was the other one that was getting all the airplay on the French Exchange Trip to Dornes. A meeting of English city kids and French country folk. And Glen Medeiros.

Interesting dynamics. Halcyon days.

I loved it over there. My exchange was less happy in Sheffield.
I looked him up recently – the guy whose farm I stayed on back in 1987. He now does something in insurance in Strasbourg. I guess the urban lifestyle got him in the end.

But I digress. Often.

You came here for French music, and I’m glad to say that it’s moved on a bit since schoolgirl Vanessa and her Uber guy. Charlotte Gainsbourg (yes, that Gainsbourg) is where all the cool cats are at now.

Here’s her second offering from the album Rest. (This was the first.)

Limited French on this particular track, but plenty on the rest of the album.

C’est bien. C’est bon.

French railway workers strike: an update

‘Update’, ‘alternative opinion’, ‘unfeeling porcine capitalist viewpoint’… whatever.

You choose.

I wrote the other day about the public sector strikes that are sweeping France at the moment and how it might affect our upcoming trip there. In doing so, I wasn’t (intentionally) belittling or trivialising the issues at hand. I recognise that the striking individuals feel that they have grievances and they’re exercising their legal right to strike. That’s why I touched on the reasons why they are striking instead of just being irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday.

It’s good to be informed.

At the same time, I’m pretty much powerless to assist them in their crusade, so I am actually irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday. Fair play to me too then.

And then, I received an email with a link to this article on the strike:

Now, for the record, je ne sais pas what the general political standpoint or reputation of news site thelocal.fr is, although their coverage of Asian Giant Hammerhead Worms invading French gardens is quite superb.

That’s for another time though, ok?

Anyway, the first thing I noticed when I logged on was this headline:

Oh. Great.

Anyway, thelocal.fr seems to feel that the French railway workers – les cheminots – actually have a pretty good working life:

President Emmanuel Macron’s government unveiled plans to push through reforms of France’s mammoth rail system.
But the plans have not gone down well with rail unions who are threatening all-out war against the government, or in other words major strikes.

What has really angered them is the announcement that new recruits will no longer benefit from a special employment status of rail workers, which is fabled for the perks it offers.

What follows is a list of those perks, which include (but are not limited to) early retirement, guaranteed employment (no retrenchments), automatic career advancement, free rail tickets for family members, excellent pension benefits, above average wages, plenty of annual leave and subsidised housing.

Yes, it does seem very good. It seems very nice.
It does seem like they enjoy some sort of special status.

There are a number of thoughts that stem from this, none of which I’ve suitably ruminated over and I’m about to disappear back into the lab, so I’m just listing them here.

Firstly: why should the cheminots enjoy such special employment status? There are a lot of other jobs out there that are arguably more important (TB scientist, for example), more worthy (er… TB scientist again) and demand better qualifications to enter (cough… TB scientist) (not that sort of cough, I hasten to add) than working on the railways, but which have far less favourable working conditions.

Secondly: but then, shouldn’t we (humankind in general) be working towards having these sort of special conditions as standard for workers, rather than constantly dragging standards down to the lowest possible levels? I recognise that this is a pipe dream, but still, it’s surely not a bad way to start any process like this.

Thirdly: of course, on the flip side of this is that if there are going to have to be cuts across the public sector, then surely you cut from the ones that have the most, first. That does seem to be the cheminots.

And fourthly: the unions represent the interests of their members. If they simply stood back and allowed these cuts to pass with no objection, then they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. You can argue the validity of their claims and efficacy of their methods, but as unions, protesting against this kind of thing is basically what they’re there for.

And finally: I would just be much happier if this was all sorted before we go over there. (Spoiler: it’s not going to be)

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!

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.

Sorry, I’m busy

While I’m stuck at home mending my leg, I thought I’d finish off the organisation of our trip away in June/July. It’s “only” 102 days away and I’m hoping to be mobile again by then.
There are a couple of overnight hotels to book, a train journey here (and back again) to organise, seats to choose on the flights – the details.

And then there’s the boat.

We’re going for to live on a boat for a week in the French region of Burgundy. They do wine there. It’s going to be great. Part of living on the boat will be taking the boat along a canal there. A leisurely trip along a waterway, from pretty point A to picturesque point B. It sounds heavenly, and I’m sure it will be, but there’s a bit more to it than I thought.

Their Captain’s Handbook PDF is FORTY pages long. There are Youtube videos on how to tie up your boat, how to steer your boat, how to get on and off your boat, how to approach locks, how not to approach locks, “waterway etiquette” etc etc etc. There are waterway signs, several different kinds of traffic lights and I’ll be honest, it’s got me a little panicky.

The section of “How To Start Your Engine” is five paragraphs long.

I have plenty to read and plenty to learn.

Normal service here may be mildly truncated in the run up to our trip.

Sorry, I’m busy.