Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A Fire Prone Street

Twice we have witnessed the immediate aftermath of a fire in an apartment in rue du Commerce in Tours.

 A fire hose snakes down rue du Commerce in 2015, and a hydraulic platform is still visible opposite the burnt apartment at the end of the street. The blue fronted building on the right is the bookshop whose apartment burnt in 2017.

Back in May 2015, when my uncle Ric and his wife Sheila were visiting, we encountered the fire brigade just packing up after a fire in a building near the intersection of rue de la Lamproie. Then two years later almost to the day, we walked by to see the scorched windows of the first floor apartment above the science bookshop on the corner of rue Paul-Louis Courier being inspected by three men who may have been the insurance assessor and two tradesmen. But back up at the rue de la Lamproie end of the street, the painters were working on the property next door to the one that burnt in 2015, adding the finishing touches to a very nice restoration. The burnt out property has also clearly been restored.

 Burnt out apartment over the bookshop in rue du Commerce.

The 2015 fire was in an apartment and caused a gas bottle to explode. It happened at 6.15pm in the evening and three fire stations responded with two fire trucks and 30 firemen. The two level apartment on the first floor was completely destroyed but no one was hurt. A fireman was treated for shock after the gas bottle exploded. The fire was probably started accidentally.

The apartment which burnt in 2015 is in the building behind the object under a green tarpaulin.

The more recent bookshop apartment fire was reported at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. Rue du Commerce comes off Place Plumereau, the old centre of Tours, and the street was crowded. It took two fire trucks, 20 or so firemen and a dozen emergency services vehicles to deal with the fire. Two people, a 5 year old boy and his 69 year old grandmother, were taken to hospital with smoke inhalation. The fire started in the kitchen and the grandmother had been preparing something for her grandson to eat. The apartment was completely destroyed. Two of the occupants were out at the time of the fire, and all four have had to be rehoused. Two went to family, two were put up in a hotel by their insurer. The street was closed for two hours, so the shops along rue du Commerce no doubt lost some business. The whole building was evacuated while the fire was burning, but the neighbouring apartments were untouched. The bookshop below suffered water damage when a pipe burst.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Cave Graffiti

Graffiti from 1835.
Once again we've been shown something different on our last visit to the mushroom caves at Bourré. Above is some graffiti showing a man with a bucket, three horses and riders, a rooster and another man holding two vessels. The text translates as '1835 done 14 February one thousand eight hundred thirty five by Julien(?) Biett(elle?)'.

The photo below shows a grid with numbers. The guide told us it was a tally of mushrooms (presumably harvested).

 Mushroom tally.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Robber Fly

One of reasons I finally signed up for Facebook last December is because there are a number of very active entomology groups that use this medium. Within 24 hours of me having an account my friend Chris, a parasite fly expert who works at the London Museum of Natural History, had signed me up for about a dozen of the groups he thought I would find most useful. It was all a bit of a whirlwind and I was amazed at how much was being posted and by whom. 

Just recently, Erica McAlister, the fabulous Curator of Diptera at the London Museum of Natural History announced on the British Soldier Flies and Their Allies group that 30 March was World Robber Fly Day. She asked that as many people as possible contribute a picture of a Robber Fly. So I chose this nice example from January 2014, photographed on a farm track very early in the morning, near my home town in south-east Queensland. 

We don't know what the species is, but it looks like one in the Asilinae sub-family. Like Erica I'm a big fan of Robber Flies Asilidae. They are ferociously efficient hunters with a far higher success rate than vertebrate predators.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Alternative Frost Protection

This year many local vineyards have been hit by frost. Some have resorted to laboriously laying out and lighting dozens of frost candles in the vineyards every night when frost was predicted. Others have really gone to extreme lengths and hired helicopters to hover over the vines in the early morning.

I think the solution might be simpler, although it might need some experimentation to establish the most reliable method. The question is does the winemaker buy several sets and drape them around the vineyards at risk, or is just wearing them discreetly sufficient? Do other brands work or only this one?

In case you are wondering what I'm on about, Antigel is a line of underwear and swimwear by Lise Charmel. Antigel means 'anti-freeze'.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Some More Speaking of Tongues

Some more photos from the secret Tongue Orchid site:

On the left, a hybrid Green-winged x Loose-flowered Orchid (Anacamptis morio x A. laxiflora); on the right, a Loose-flowered Orchid.

 Loose-flowered Orchid Anacamptis laxiflora (Fr. Orchis à fleurs lâches).

 Two of five photographers all pointing at the same thing. They are not photographing the orchid, but a large bright green crab spider in the grass.

Black-veined White Aporia crataegi (Fr. Gazé) resting on Loose-flowered Orchid.

 Loose-flowered Orchids in the grass, with members of the botany club.

 A typical looking Tongue Orchid Serapias lingua (Fr. Sérapias à languette).

 A Tongue Orchid with a yellow labellum (the bottom petal or the 'tongue'). The lack of red pigment is a mutation.

Marc has asked me if I will return to the site in the late summer/early autumn to survey the Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis, and I will be very pleased to do so.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Officially Baffled

Some (unkind) people would say that baffled is my default state. And they may have a point...

Susan mentioned (about a 10 days ago) that our washing machine wasn't working. First it showed the child lock was on, then it showed the thermostat was faulty. After unplugging and plugging it in again both warnings disappeared, but the main control wheel didn't change anything when turned.

So I left it. 

Research on the internet told me how to sort out the thermostat, but it was fairly obvious that wasn't actually the problem. I was reluctant to drag the washing machine into the middle of the kitchen floor and  dismantle it, only to find I couldn't fix it.

So I left it.

Meanwhile, we took up the kind offers of various blog readers to do some washing whilst I pondered our next move. All the while the machine sat in the laundry, unplugged, until Tuesday afternoon, when I plugged it in, pressed the button  - and it worked.

So I can update my status to "baffled, but relieved".

I'm assuming the main thinky bit in the machine had got wet/temperamental/a bit fried in one of the electrical storms we've had, but has now sorted itself out. It will be interesting to see what happens next time I go to do some washing. (Update - it worked just like normal ovenight last night)