Sunday, 19 February 2017

Off for a Walk

My family head out for a walk along the New South Wales coast.
Our posts on Sundays have an Australian theme. If you would like to read more, click here.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Retromobile 2017

As is our wont, we went to Paris last week to do some business and to attend Retromobile.

It was certainly the biggest edition of Retromobile we have yet been to, and would really have required two days with plenty of beer breaks to appreciate everything properly. As usual, there was plenty of eye candy, most of which would require you to be a lottery winner to buy. Having said that, there was still some serious coveting going on. Susan's most coveted cars were:

Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic Coupé. An original one of these will set you back
well over 35million US dollars. There was only 4 made, 2 are left

Bayard a Clément AC4r from 1904. There were a number of cars in use during the day, 
and this wasn't the oldest

One of the car dealers had a display made up completely of Bentleys and Bugattis, which understandably attracted a lot of attention, much of it from me. I am less certain about which cars I covet the most, but these two are amongst the front runners.

1924 Bugatti Type 23 Brescia. This car is currently for sale, for a fraction of the
price of Susan's Bugatti - less that half a million Euros

I love the crocodile skin interior

 1931 Bentley 8 Litre Short Chassis Vanden Plas 4-Seat Tourer, custom built for
Bentley Motors chairman Woolf Barnato for his honeymoon in the USA
(although Speed Six "old number 2" in the background is a strong contender)

I have posted a lot of photos on facebook - you shouldn't need a facebook account to look at them and decide if we were coveting the right cars... Album 1  Album 2   Album 3


Since arriving back from Retromobile I have been a bit poorly. I don't know if I picked up a germ in Paris, or if it was coming back to a cold house, but for some reason on Monday I had a bit of a cough, which by Tuesday afternoon was raging bronchitis and non stop coughing. On Wednesday I admitted defeat and we made a Doctor's appointment (for the same day, of course) and after starting taking the drugs cocktail (4 prescriptions) I was instantly feeling a lot better. Today I am still feeling where it is, and if I move too quickly (not unknown...) I break out in coughs, but I am on the mend - hooray.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Qui est cache derriere ce journal ?

We went up to Paris on the train on 8 February. Simon needed to renew his Australian passport and the classic car show Rétromobile was on so we stayed a few days in the big city.

We took the 'slow' train up, which pootles along the Loire Valley at a mere 200km per hour. This train has a number of carriages with old fashioned style compartments. We ended up in a compartment with another couple. He was reading the popular weekly satirical newspaper Le Canard enchaîné.

We got chatting and I felt confident enough to ask him to pose with the newspaper so I could photograph it/him. I thought it was a good opportunity to write about a paper that is a household name in France. It's the French equivalent of the British Private Eye or the American Onion. Curiously, there is no Australian equivalent that I am aware of.

The edition he was reading was particularly juicy. Presidential candidate François Fillon had just informed everyone that he had done nothing wrong by paying his wife tens of thousands of euros from public funds as his 'assistant', and what's more it's nobody else's business how much he chose to pay her. He is not going to renounce his candidature so his party can just put up and shut up is his attitude. Technically, apparently, this is true, in that what he did isn't illegal, but it has shocked and disappointed the French public to the core because it sure isn't in the spirit of public service, and he has campaigned as the 'squeaky clean corruption free' candidate.

The man on the train was disgusted with Fillon's behaviour, and disgusted that this sort of rort was even possible in France. He was sure it wouldn't be tolerated in Germany, Britain, wherever. The headlines in Le Canard enchaîné say things like 'the investigators found no material indication of Penelope doing any work, but there is a record of her redundancy payment', and 'one more proof that Fillon knows how to cash in!'.

Le Canard enchaîné is based in Paris and specialises in political and business investigative journalism. It was founded in 1915 and was a direct response to the closure due to censorship laws of Georges Clemenceau's paper L'Homme Libre. The name of the paper is a clever multiple word play, which can be interpreted as 'the censored paper' or 'the inside whisper'. Today the paper is non-aligned politically, anti-clerical and anti-aristocracy. It is fully funded by subscription, features a good number of satirical cartoons, some reporting on the arts and social issues and interviews (some real, some satirical inventions). The paper does not take advertisements and is privately owned (partly by the employees).  It pokes fun at anyone in public life, especially politicians, giving them nicknames and relies on anonymous sources who are clearly very well placed in government circles. Investigations carried out by Le Canard enchaîné in the past have included details of Paris Chief of Police Maurice Papon's role in the Holocaust and corruption during Jacques Chirac's time as mayor of Paris. As a result of the way it is run it is one of the most highly regarded, widely read and influential newspapers in France.

I have to admit, I don't read it. Satire is fun in small doses, but an entire newspaper devoted to the art is not my thing. Despite having immense respect for its longtime editor Ian Hislop, I didn't read Private Eye either, when we lived in England.

So, who is hidden behind this paper? A well educated, politically aware, middle class, interested and interesting, humorous, late middle aged French man, a good sport about being photographed with his newspaper of choice, with a daughter who lives in Cirencester (England) and who was travelling to Paris on the train with his wife. He took my business card and checked out Days on the Claise on the spot! I really enjoyed meeting him and his wife and it made the train journey much more fun.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Storm Damage

In early February France was hit by a series of severe storms, with lots of high winds. The middle one, which hit on Saturday 4 February was called Tempête Leiv (tempête is the equivalent of 'cyclone').  Wind speeds in some places in the south-west were recorded as 150 kilometres an hour.

Render on the ground.

I had to go to Blois that day so I watched the weather forecasts and reports carefully the day before and only made my mind up to go at the last minute. We had an orange weather warning ('be very careful, dangerous phenomena envisaged') and I needed to leave before dawn. In the end I decided to go, and drove off at 6.45am, in the dark. The wind turned out not to be too worrisome on the drive up, but there was a lot of water on the road, and on one occasion on the Loire levee I hit an invisible sheet of water and the car jerked in the direction of oncoming traffic. By then it was light, but I could have done without the experience.

The render fell from the section above the cable that crosses horizontally.

The drive home in the late afternoon was a doddle, with blue skies a lot of the way. When I got home I went to turn into our courtyard and realised that there was a pile of shattered render lying where I would normally park the car. I parked the car parallel to the street instead and took photos of the debris.

Simon tells me that about 3 minutes after I left there was an almighty crash. He thought it was me having forgotten something, coming in the back door and the wind catching it and slamming it. He called out to me but when there was no response decided he'd better investigate further. He went outside and looked around, but didn't notice the render on the ground (!).

What it looked like several years ago. As you can see it was already a bit patchy, but the remaining render did at least appear to be attached to the wall.

We are extremely lucky that I had left. If the car had still been there the render could have smashed the windscreen and certainly badly dented the roof and driver's side. If I had been sitting in the car when it happened it would have been thoroughly terrifying. Phew!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

La Grange du Rivaux

The Grange du Rivaux.

About six months ago blog reader Michel Brouard emailed me to tell me about la Grange du Rivaux at Mairé. Grange means barn and this one houses a collection of antiques and brocante for sale. It's open Friday to Monday, 3pm to 7pm (Saturday to Monday in winter, 3pm to 6 pm).

The float chook frame.
He also mentioned that the garden was rather quirky, and in particular there was a large wire mesh chook out the front. He believes it was made for the village of Chaumussay's float in the 1999 Comice d'Agricole (Agricultural Show) parade in Preuilly.

A once lovely wrought iron bed and a load of quite good glavanised tubs and troughs.
We had never been there before, although I had heard it was rather a good brocante (second-hand goods shop). The other day we happened to be passing, and had the time to call in, so we took the opportunity.

View down one half of the barn.
We got chatting to the woman who owns and runs the place and it turned out she knew exactly who we were. Michel had told her about us.

Vintage linens in an armoire.
We discussed the possibility of bringing clients to visit the Grange for some French antique bargain hunting. The prices and quality of the stock are both attractive and I think many people would enjoy a shopping trip into the French countryside to buy an antique or two.

Pewter vessels.

Salt glazed stoneware.

Drinking glasses on a sideboard.

Not everything in the shop demonstrates good taste and style.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017


Deep in the heart of the countryside, geographically buried right at the centre of France is the aptly named Saint-Valentin, a tiny village of just 300 souls.

 A metal tree from which couples can hang engraved hearts dedicated to their love.

Somehow it has forged a connection with a Japanese Buddhist temple dedicated to love and peace and the town of Saint-Amour in the Jura moutains. Between them they have created a celebration of the festival of Saint Valentine. Dozens of couples come every year to have their wedding vows affirmed and commemorate the occasion by hanging an engraved heart in the Jardin des amoureux ('lovers' garden').

A Japanese chef heads up the team at the local restaurant Au 14 février and it is the only Michelin starred establishment in the département of Indre. 

'Saint-Valentin, village of lovers'.

When the Post Office issued a special Saint Valentine's Day stamp designed by Raymond Peynet, it was at Saint Valentin where the first day covers were released. The artist, who had become famous for his cute cartoonish drawings of Les Amoureux ('lovers') and is big in Japan donated a drawing to the town every year from 1985 to his death in 1999 (obituary in English here).

Love hearts on the metal tree in the Lovers Garden.

I am continually astonished by how rich and varied the old province of Berry is, how many bizarrely unexpected things one encounters there. On the surface it seems like a complete backwater, with its big horizons, endless rolling grain farms and secretive swamps. Who would have guessed that a village which, in the words of the mayor himself, was not the home of anyone famous, doesn't have a historic building, isn't by the sea, isn't in the mountains -- in fact, a commonplace little village that sits isolated in the boring Berry plains -- could have carved an identity out for itself in such an extraordinary way?

We do think they've missed a trick by not having a stall selling padlocks, with a nearby bridge, though...