Thursday, 31 August 2017
The delivery system around here isn't working properly yet.
We've a proper address with a postcode but only about 50% of the people driving delivery vans seem to be able to find us.
On one occasion I walked through the rain to the end of a nearby road to locate the missing van, but then, after my instructions for the last 200 yards, I watched him turn off into the wrong route. Fortunately it was a dead end, so I was able to provide further instructions.
Other occasions have required me to call help desks. I've had to spell out everything, and then hear pieces repeated back to me with mispronunciations of key words. E-zeeta. Dee-von.
I'm sure things will improve, but yesterday's example was another case in point. A package will be delivered between 06:00 and 22:00 by Henry. Will it? I watched the clock flick past 10pm and there was no package, no text message, no email. The delivery web site continued to show it was to be delivered that day, although their helpdesk only had business hours until 20:00.
Then, at about 10:20pm, the message changed. The package was back in a depot. The same place that it had started the previous morning.
Today, I've received a text. Charlie will be delivering it between 16:42 and 17:42.
I wonder what happened to Henry?
Sunday, 27 August 2017
I spotted these today.
Rental bikes, with electric assistance. And they are orange.
No time today, but I'll be back to give them a try. But first I must get my own bike functional.
Saturday, 26 August 2017
Part of the house move involves the start of new utilities. We have gas and electricity switched on and smart metered. However, the new smart meter readout only shows electricity and the various tariffs don't work on it at all.
I've tried to contact the supplier, but there's a kind of catch 22. Their web-site says register online, but in order to do so I need an account number, which has not been supplied.
If I try to phone them it says that their are extra long waiting times. Their online chat service is offline.
I decided to try emailing them, but it says there are also long waits for email replies and I would be better off registering on-line.
This structural mayhem is great for the supplier, who is winning all the time this persists.
It means I am on their default tariffs, which are the most expensive. It is like a quiet tax by the supplier, despite all their leaflet claims about providing a superior service. "Great Service as Standard," they claim.
I am not convinced.
Wednesday, 23 August 2017
It's a stretch to link my recent left bank Paris excursions to this story, but I couldn't help notice that New York's Village Voice has decided to go digital only.
The Voice used to be my immediate acquisition when travelling through New York and was something that survived otherwise ruthless packing when returning to to the UK. That whole process disappears in the world of digital.
Why the Paris link?
Many would say that Greenwich Village (the origin of the Voice) was like an American equivalent of left bank Paris. Add a couple of the Voice's catalysts Mailer and Malaquais/Malakai first meeting at the Sorbonne. Back in the village, Malaquais introduced Mailer to Wolf, the second of the Voice's founders. And Greenwich village's San Remo bar is a kind of NY version of a Café de Flore, so I think my link just about works.
The Village Voice I used to pick up was a kind of pre-blogging blog with its come-all-ye approach to attracting writers, plus its Craigslist quantity of entertaining small ads, It was inevitably competed with by other formats. I expect a few other 'magazines' are looking over their shoulders.
Caught between the twisted stars
The plotted lines the faulty map
That brought Columbus to New York.
As the front cover artist featured this week would have said.
Tuesday, 22 August 2017
My iPhone converted itself into a brick yesterday. Everything is backed up, but I had that short all-over queasiness that I'd not be able to function.
It's partly brought about by not having another phone at the moment. We still don't have broadband, and the suppliers are all queuing up somewhere else to avoid connecting the fibre cable from the cabinet across the road to the house.
In full blown work mode I'd be utterly dependent on a phone, for email, messaging, conferencing, voicemail and, yes, actual phone calls.
I've gone through the Nokia phase, the two phones phase (work phone and personal phone), the Blackberry phase (years ago, but it did have a proper keyboard) and then into the single phone world of the iPhone.
I've experimented with Android phones too, and even a Chinese Goo-Phone which was a rip off of an iPhone 6, running android but reskinned to look like it was running iOS. These quirky phones were simply side projects, not meant to interfere with my main phone's use.
And my device of choice is still the iPhone, although not (currently) the latest design. I'm still using an iPhone SE. It's around two years old, but has that Apple industrial build quality that was somehow lost with the iPhone 6s.
I can remember writing about the later iPhones that it was becoming a pure marketing battle and the size of screen seemed to be winning. I didn't want to have to put a table tennis bat sized device in my pocket, but that was where it was heading.
So now, what to do? The iPhone 8 is due out in a few weeks, and that could be the point where the iPhone form factor suddenly collapses back to one shape in three sizes. My Steve Jobs phone will surely get axed as a new Tim Cook wireless rechargeable device replaces it?
For my phone, I'd already tried three chargers and a selection of different wires to no avail. Blank screen of brick.
But instead, another plan.
"Blow it!" I say.
Yes, the phone of course. I tried that thing.
The one where you clean out the apparently already clean USB socket on the phone.
Yes, I blew into the phone. A couple of times.
Then I plugged it in again.
A picture of a battery appeared, with a red line at the bottom.
Okay, 0%, but I can wait.
And : Update: before posting this, it's already up to 35%.
Sunday, 20 August 2017
There's that scene in some movies when the plane is losing height fast and all the dials are going backwards indicating an imminent crash.
My cycling stats are a bit like that at the moment. I don't have proper connections to the various monitoring systems yet (flat batteries and lack of reliable wi-fi), so instead I connected the Garmin to my MacBook by a cable to download the latest sessions.
Oh dear. I won't make my annual targets this time, (except for the most basic ones).
It's the same with the Trainerroad and TrainingPeaks monitoring, where I can see my performance has dwindled away until the point where I've restarted everything again. Tomorrow I'm going to get one of the road bikes roadworthy again (pump tyres etc) and perhaps take a spin into my new cycle friendly village.
Saturday, 19 August 2017
The local terraforming continues. Where there were three pools of water, there's now one temporary larger one. The other two have been pumped so that they can be more artistically shaped.
The water has been moved into the stream, which currently looks more like a river. Once the culverts are in place, the low end of the stream will be unblocked and we'll see the water levels drop again.
Then there's the small matter of a bridge further upstream.
Thursday, 17 August 2017
I spotted the airline advert on the tube at Kings Cross.
Aeroflot declared as Europe's best airline according Tripadvisor. I suppose it is based upon on-line voting and reviews?
I couldn't help wonder whether there had been any assistance with placement?
Curiously, on Skytrax's 2017 airline review Aeroflot is rated 30th globally, with around half a dozen European airlines ahead of it. But I'm sure it is nothing that can't be fixed.
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Arriving back in London this time was slightly different.
The house move we started back in May is now complete, so we could properly move back to our new place.
That'll mark the end of the last few months on the road, during which time we've spent time in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, in Newcastle-upon Tyne, at the Mondrian in Central London, then in an apartment in Canary Wharf, across to Hay on Wye for the book festival, then at a lakeside hotel before moving to the shack in the woods, then the barn by the alpacas before moving onward to the temporary apartment on the pretty jetty by the steam railway, then to the motel before the hotel on the Rive Gauche.
So why not spend another night away? This time at the Renaissance at St Pancras?
Tuesday, 15 August 2017
This is the London end.
Back from Paris on the Eurostar. Coach L ;-)
Gare du Nord to St Pancras in about 2h30. The train runs at up to around 295kph, and there's some decent stretches alongside the A1, which makes for the effortless overtaking of cars travelling at French speed limits of 130kph.
I'm already thinking about another rail trip.
Monday, 14 August 2017
There was a higher police and military presence around the streets of Paris during our visit. Several times I saw a group of four army types with guns on patrol quite close to our hotel.
There were also various guards stationed near to some of the well-known tourist areas. One morning we were having breakfast at a small pavement cafe when I saw the police in action. Fortunately it was for a more minor situation, and quite impressive in the way they handled it.
A truck had turned a corner and clipped a shopfront which was now bent out across the road, just where another truck might hit it. The police arrived, introduced themselves to everyone with vigorous handshakes and then proceeded to make temporary repairs to the damage.
Admittedly they had to improvise with police emergency tape, but the various people from inside the shop and the accompanying apartments were suitably impressed. As was I.
Sunday, 13 August 2017
I'll admit to only having a fairly basic grade in shopping, being rather amateur at wandering around browsing.
There's still a few shops that I will visit that flip me into a far more engaged mode, and one of them is Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussman in Paris.
The outside can look a little conventional, but inside it is a true celebration of shopping. The entire ground floor seems to be dedicated to perfumes, but my simple joy is to look up towards the roof.
There's the embellished glass dome and the mini balconies all around, beckoning one further into the retail experience.
My other tip is to go to the top floor, which leads outside to a restaurant and bar. Either area, or even the walkway in the middle, give a cracking view across Paris, with most of the famous landmarks on show and many of them quite close.
Personally, I'd visit the Galleries Lafayette and Jardins du Trocadéro to get the views of the city and leave the splendid Eiffel Tower to be viewed from the ground. I'll eventually find a closer picture of the Eiffel Tower but at the moment I'm still working from iPhone pictures until I find my camera adapter again.
Saturday, 12 August 2017
Something of a last minute thing, we decided to go to a show at the Lido. There's several big spectacle shows akin to the Moulin Rouge in Paris with the Lido's one being situated around George V, in the Champs Elysee.
We booked a meal, with fizz and wine, but decided to head back to our hotel in the 5th before the show, which was due to start in a couple of hours.
Back just as the doors opened, we were shown to a table close to stage centre, and then immediately offered some champagne.
Our fellow revellers were from the USA, and we chatted during the dinner before the main show began. And yes, it was spectacular. The performance had a simple story, with a modern twist to the showmanship.
The staging was dramatic and flexible, with water, chandeliers and an ice skating rink appearing at different points. And did they do a can-can? Oh yes-yes.
And no, that dancer with the glasses didn't wear that outfit throughout the whole performance.
It sort of disintegrated.
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 Montmartre. It almost felt like sitting in one of the paintings.
Thursday, 10 August 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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.