Friday, 11 August 2017


Time for a visit to the Musee d'Orsay. It's a museum that has been closed the last couple of times I've been in Paris, so it was good to finally get another chance to look around.

As well as the artworks, there's opportunity for people watching with a surprising number taking selfies of themselves near to a famous picture.

The art works on show don't disappoint, with Monet, Chagall, van Gogh to name a few. There's many 'greatest hits' around the walls, in an altogether more manageable configuration than walking around the Louvre.

As a quick example, above is the Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Some of these particularly famous pictures can be difficult to approach, but others sit quietly for inspection aa close as the original painter.

There museum also has a great sense of scale, with larger works displayed in the one-time train hall.

There's vast sculptures as well as areas allocated to genre within this broadly impressionist era series of exhibits.

And part way around there's the bustling restaurant, under one of the faces of the Orsay's huge clocks. Time for lunch and a view across to Montparnasse. It almost felt like sitting in one of the paintings.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

rive gauche to Champs Elysee

A quick iPhone snap of a Paris street scene, bustling with tourists. All the necessary components are present. Metro station, pavement cafe, art deco touches. It could almost be a scene used by Disney to model their Epcot version of France.

Then, turn a few more corners, and its deep into busy markets and individual shops selling fresh produce.

Paris has that Hausmann design overlaying its shape, but there's still remnants of medieval and older areas in much the same way as London. There's also a fine walkability to the central areas. From any Arondissment, it doesn't take long to get back to the Seine.

There's less traffic at this time of the year too. Partly because of the additional traffic restrictions around Paris. There is the need to display a vignette crit'air which indicates the pollution level of every car and essentially prevents some cars from being used at all in Paris.

Then there's the autolib, which, like the predecessor velib, set a kind of benchmark for urban transport options. The autolib are the small electric cars available for hire throughout Paris.

It's a similar but less expensive and more eco-friendly option to the London Zip-cars. The Paris variants are all-electric, and their bays are equipped with fast recharging points. The annual subscription is about €10 per month and the hire cost of the cars works out to less than €8 per half hour, which seems pretty good.

They are already pervasive on the streets although as a consequence it appears that some of the cars have seen active service and have a slightly Mad Max stealth paintwork sheen complete with dinks.

And meanwhile, certain streets stay hectic, although I can safely report that the Champs Elysee remains crossable, particularly with the diminished traffic of the summer.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

a glance at a french telly advert

I know they have been around for several years, but I've finally felt compelled to mention the French version of the the meerkats which feature on British television advertising.

The French ferrets are, let's be honest, a bit rubbish compared with the ones used in UK campaigns. I'm pretty sure that the two companies are not connected in any way and so it must be *cough* pure co-incidence that they are both advertising a comparison web-site.

The thing is, the UK meerkats have been imbued with personality and hardly even mention their real purpose which is to advertise insurance comparison websites.

The French equivalent look rather basic by comparison, like there wasn't much money for the actual puppets.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

blonde parisienne

Time for a few days in France. Paris in the the summer. Of course, many of the locals have moved out for the next few weeks, onto the adjacent autoroutes, where they will blend parking with trips to the south.

For us, it's been time hanging out around the Rive Gauche as well as visiting a few old haunts. My picture is from just around the corner from the Place de la Sorbonne. Notice the unique weave of the cafe chairs. And here, close to Simone de Beauvoir's old uni, we could muse upon the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility.

Monday, 7 August 2017

in which I use a suitcase again

Having spent the last three months living out of backpacks, it seems quite luxurious to be able to pack a real suitcase for the next few days away.

Instead of travelling by boat, we'll actually be using the train and tunnel, so I'll expect the taxi to arrive around 14:00 for the first leg of the journey.

My idea of luxury still contrasts with some others. The 68 metre yacht above pulled up opposite our temporary place on the jetty a few days ago. Lady Christine is named after the wife of its owner, the Monaco-based Baron Laidlaw. One of the largest financial backers of the UK's Conservative Party, Laidlaw stepped down from his seat in the House of Lords to maintain his non-domiciled status and therefore to avoid paying UK residents' taxes.

His boat takes ten guests and has a crew of sixteen. I wonder if that includes an accountant?

Saturday, 5 August 2017

pond, stream, bridge

Part of the reason for all of the mud is the evolution of the pond. It is still being remodelled and there's a couple of excellent digger trucks involved in the process.

One is crane like and the other more of a dumper truck. At the end of the day, the blue digger crane scoops water from the pond to bathe the yellow dumper.

The process will be continuing for a couple more weeks. As well as the ponds, there's also a stream to divert and a little bridge to create.

Friday, 4 August 2017

automobile tyre prints (2017)

I'll call this artwork Automobile Tyre Prints (2017) so that it doesn't get mixed up with that Robert Rauschenberg collaboration. His was done in 1953 and he spelled "Tire" the American way.

I couldn't manage to get to Fulton Street either, but the premise is much the same, that of doing the print outside of the current property (his was outside of his house).

I also decided to be less exuberant with the paint, so have used organic mud to create the effect. It is also a reversal of the image compared with Rauschenberg. His was a black tire on a white background. Mine is brown and red tyre impressions on a tarmac background.

I've also mixed it up a bit, using two separate vehicles instead of just one. His was earnestly American, mine are from Germany and Italy, although one set of tyres was from Britain.

Like Rauschenberg's discussions, I'm not sure whether to call this Abstract Expressionism a performance, a process piece or perhaps even a distinctive exploration of indexical marking?

Whatever it is (or becomes) it creates a transitory sense of place, before elemental forces sweep it away.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017


Just right for laying some turf.
A shame we've run out part way along.
The truck is a bit muddy too.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

less of a cycle, more of a walk

Still no furniture, let alone bikes, so I decided to explore by foot today. My route was directly into the centre and then along to the wharf.

The predominant form of transport around the wharf today seemed to be cyclists of one kind or another, worthy of a quick iPhone snapshot.

Only a few more days and I'll be re-united with my own bicycles. Meanwhile, there's other forms of transport to explore.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

indoor campsite

The latest furniture acquisition is these stylish chairs. I spotted them in Tesco and their combined price was a remarkable £10.

They are more or less our entire furniture collection at the moment until we are eventually re-united with the items currently in storage. Everything else was trucked away to a depot back in early May, so it is becoming difficult to remember exactly what will return.

The more streamlined living of the last few months has been oddly addictive, so it is possible that we'll be jettison yet more stuff as part of this relocation.

For now, I'm sitting in one of the campsite chairs with Radio 4 as accompaniment.

Thursday, 27 July 2017


The new Trump communications manager doesn't disappoint.

Worth a modest $85 million, Scaramucci is an investment banker pulling $5 million in salary and another $4.9 million from his ownership stake in SkyBridge Capital. He blames that disclosure on a leak, although it was freely available as Public Financial Disclosure Report (OGE Form 278e), which he was required to provide, when first appointed.

In keeping with the ever more Don-like moves of the President, Scaramucci has already made the Press Corp an offer they can't refuse. He threatens to fire them all if they don't behave. A quicker way to help Trump get the swamp he desires?

An early Goodfellas style Scaramucci move was to plan to dismiss Michael Short for an alleged leak. Short quit when he found out. Mooch blamed “another leak” for early news of the firing — even though he himself was the person who let it slip.

Scaramucci told reporters,“This (the leaking) is actually a terrible thing. Let’s say I’m firing Michael Short today. The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic.”

How to sound self righteous whilst making mistakes? Inverse virtue signalling? Who knows?

Next Scaramooch slid it up a gear in that Newsnight interview with BBC's Emily Maitlis. Creepy space invading patronising rhetoric accompanied with much front stabbing. Multiple 'shout at the telly' moments all within 11 minutes.

So, entertainment it might be, proper politics, it ain't.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


On the road again, having left our temporary apartment by the jetty. Now we are closing in on the new area. There's still plenty of interesting places along the way, like Alf Resco's, which is a fine place for a brunch.

We're currently in a motel, which could have been a prototype for that old Crossroads television series. Indeed, it turns out that this motel was the very first one built in the U.K. back in 1955.

The one we are staying in has obviously been refurbished since those days, and even Breaking Bad managed to incorporate a kind of homage to Crossroads in one of its episodes.

So above is the one from Albuquerque, and below is our current venue.

But only for a couple of days, then we'll be back in our own place.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

an interesting locomotive turns up at the jetty

Today, breakfast on the beach seemed like a good idea, so we headed off to a nearby bay.

Despite all the news broadcasts about traffic jams and overcrowding, we found the area perfectly accessible and just healthily busy.

Back, later in the day, to the temporary home by the jetty. I glimpsed the top of a steam locomotive chimney that I didn't recognise. A kind of elongated shape. They'd brought a special train into the station. We're in the west here, but this was very much an east coast locomotive.

My inner anorak surfaced as I noticed the engine was decked out in British Railways LNER Apple Green, with a first carriage in a rhubarb and custard paint scheme.

This wasn't a normal preserved locomotive. Ask many train knowledgeable folk if they know the last BR steam locomotive and they'll answer with Evening Star, a 2-10-0 engine once immortalised by an Airfix kit.

But this one was later. Much later. Built well after the end of the steam era on the railways. The Pacific A1 named Tornado was built from 1994, and only completed in 2008. Truly a 21st Century steam locomotive.

Friday, 21 July 2017

watch that train come down the track

I said I was staying above the train station, so here is a better picture from one of the windows.

It's raining right now, so the view isn't quite as clear into the distance. There's a black locomotive on its way to connect back with the front of the train. It's a GWR Hall class 4-6-0, but painted in the BR livery of black with red lining rather than the characteristic green of the GWR.

It's possible to zoom into that top picture, but here's more of a close-up taken at the other end of the line.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

coal fired

It would be silly not to investigate the railway that is downstairs from the temporary apartment on the jetty. As well as the passenger ferry and the adjacent small car ferry, we have the steam trains departing about every 45 minutes.

It is even possible to check the approach of the next train via a handily positioned telescope, then saunter downstairs to be in time to catch the arriving train, whilst the locomotive runs around the rolling stock to the front ready for departure.

So what better thing to do than to head along the river and then out towards the sea, maybe to pause a while on a sunny beach?

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

paperless office with reckless abandon

I don't really care whether David Davis returned to Britain after an hour or so in Brussels because of a Commons whip or because of the in-fighting for leadership.

That he returned at all after what was effectively his second day in the front-line for the Brexit talks is appalling.

He and his team may look unprepared without papers. But we all know has a special silver briefcase with secret locks and that thing about 'don't show papers to the press' etc. It's still just like the other day when he sat in Parliament trying to laugh off Emily Thornbury's challenges. It isn't clever, it's insulting to the electorate. He's not showing leadership, and his ex colleague and erstwhile EU sparring partner Barnier must be quietly smiling at the incompetence.

May is finished, although the Tories can't tip her out yet. Davis arrogantly considers himself in the running as a replacement, along with other comedy turns like Rees-Mogg, Johnson and Gove. Hammond is being heavily briefed against, so presumably we'll get a newbie or a stitch-up (possibly both).

The Brits can't have another Referendum about Brexit, but by now there must be a dawning realisation with the negotiating team about the futility of the process against the already dwindling time-frame.

Parliament will stagger on for a few more days but then hits summer recess. I'll be watching to see how much time Davis, Fox and the others spend doing actual Brexit things during the gap. No-one will be able to resist playing games leading up to the September conference season.

Most of Britain doesn't even notice all of this stuff; Game of Thrones has restarted and there's a new Doctor Who, as well as loads of sport to watch.

Meanwhile the UK is doing all kinds of irreversible things with no-one even tacitly at the wheel.

Corbyn's lot should bite the bullet on the 52:48, declare reckless endangerment of the country citing Cameron, Osborne, May, Johnson and Gove and put a stop to the madness.

I expect I'll return to this theme from time to time. I can't help it.

Monday, 17 July 2017

finding my jetpack, oh okay, jetty

We've left the temporary barn now, moving instead to the temporary apartment close to the jetty. It wasn't very far, although the introduction of a ferry into the journey added a whole extra element.

And it was one of those ferries where the cars travel on one boat and another one alongside is used to pull it through the water and steer it into the right place.

Then to find the actual apartment, which is part of the recent series involving the shack in the wood and the barn with the alpacas. This one has a telescope, which is quite handy for looking at the steam trains along the jetty.

For a Monday morning, the train seemed very popular, and once I noticed it, I was able to get from the apartment to the trackside in good time to take a picture or two.

It also gave me a chance to discover the shortcut from the apartment to the jetty, which is all of two minutes away.

Not to mention the various other ferries that seem to ply the river. I'd better plan a route using some of them over the next few days.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

tap turns on the water #CCS #SS7 #nothingtosee

Like a series of Homeland, Breaking Bad or House of Cards, I'm finding the the ongoing White House saga a bit too suitable for binge viewing.

One of Trump's old mentors, the rather unsavoury lawyer Roy Cohn, gave advice to Trump along the lines of 'Never leave a paper trail.' Other advice included the formula 'Attack, counterattack and never apologise.'

Paul Manaport, Trump's one-time campaign manager was also good at the 'no paper trail' idea.

That certainly seems to be the case, along with the Cohn formula.

Ironic then, if true, that Manaport's phone was subject to FBI surveillance.

An old 1975 phone routing protocol called Common Channel Signalling (CCS) is still used today as the basis of phone call interception, by re-routing the call (e.g. to a surveillance desk) and then onwards to its real destination. The protocol is supposed to be used for roaming and mast handovers, but the Americans with their Plain Old Telephone Service can also use it for wiretapping.

Now, there's a small group of peopler alleged to have had this wiretapping switched on Manaport ~(frequently at Trump meetings), James Comey (who Trump sacked from leading the FBI) who asked for it to be enabled on his own work phone and (oo-er, via Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

What I can't understand, however, is that if this was true, then where are all the recordings? The basic use of CCS-SS7 can TRACK a phone, the more extensive use would provide fuller surveillance, from which there should thus be recordings.

For Comey, I can understand if there's nothing forthcoming. He's ex-FBI and also writing a show-and- tell book. For Kislyak, it could be immensely embarrassing to be seen to be bugging a foreign diplomat. Manaport could be fair game, but there's nothing in the open.

So, given the scrabble to go to the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and the lack of published files, it somehow suggests that Donny Junior's team were still short of proper information related to ways to assist their election prospects?

The complexities of this all require a proper flow chart or detective crazy wall to join things together.

Add in the curious Trump server ( which seemed to spend most of its life chatting to Alfa Bank in Russia and we start to have quite a three dimensional crossword. Of course, the investigations themselves are now polluting the findings. That server was spammed heavily just before it was taken down, which has helped to cover the tracks.

Incidentally, the server is back online now, but gives out droll error messages, presumably whilst monitoring who has taken a peek at it.

And now I speculate slightly. A combination of, say, a profiling database and a DNC campaign database would make a great start for who to influence. Ring any bells? That huge Facebook hack, plus the DNC database theft? But who to analyse it all? Trump's strategist Steve Bannon is a friend of Cambridge Analytica who could offer such services and - wait- are owned by Alfa Bank.

In the other direction such a server could provide access to funds (suitably laundered) which could then be used, say, by a botnet to create messages to those targeted voters.

I'd suppose I'd base the botnet in Russia although I could offshore it to say, Florida, for the irony.

And to keep things dramatic, Trump Junior has now retained Alan Futerfas as his attorney. "He's a good kid," as Trump Senior describes his 39 year old son, whilst helping him obtain the same veteran New York criminal defence attorney used by mafia crime families.

But. No tapes, no papers, no story?

Here's CCS playing 'tap turns on the water, See the water flow. Acorn makes a forest, see the forest grow.

Saturday, 15 July 2017


An incidental feature of the temporary barn where we are staying is the range of bugs that appear inside from time to time. Butterflies, moths and an occasional bumblebee.

The bumblebees don't seem to very good at Velux windows. They can fly up to them but somehow try to push the glass instead of simple dodging out around the edges.

It's like an unseen force trapping them until we oblige by using a long stick to help pilot them back outside.

There's a similar unseen force pushing down on that Donny Junior character at the moment. I'll admit a certain fascination because of the way the 'information' is trickling out in stages. First Donny Junior didn't remember the Russian intel meeting which took place on 6 June 2016. Then he remembered it was with the Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya who didn't provide any information. It initially sounded like a private meeting. The later versions are now putting seven people in the room.

They include Jared Kuschner and Paul Manaport, but are now also beginning to show the presence of the casually attired Rinat Akhmetshin the 'alleged' ex Russian counterintelligence GRU agent who operates as a Washington lobbyist with links to the Fusion GPS pro-Russia group. Add Natalia'a translator and we get to seven.

There's also mention now of the the paperwork that Veselnitskaya is said to have handed to Donny Junior. That isn't coming from Donny however, its coming from Akhmetshin, who has decided to break cover on the whole situation.

It is supposed to include a printed out dossier of payments related to Democratic party intelligence leakage. Akhmetshin is even showing up on Wikipedia now, although it's not clear how long that will last because there's already a wiki note debating deletion of the page. I'm guessing it won't be long before the American administration tries to cover er tracks on Akhmentshin's modus operandi, not least because they would consider him to be a foreign agent engaged in lobbying. There's a US restriction own this through a declaration known as FARA. Although, confusingly, it also appears that Akhmentshin nowadays has US citizenship.

The difference between the trapped bumblebee and Donny Junior seems to be one of intent. The hapless bee keeps doing the same thing until the stick appears to help guide a route. For Don Jnr, the approach seems to be to try many different stories, even as a stick approaches.