France 2015: 6

Here's a picture of a cat so that my blog becomes popular on the internet.

Happy now?

This is the cathedral just round the corner from me:

The bridge over the Loire at Tours that the trams and cars go over:

Faded grandeur:

But wait, there's more!


France 2015: 5

Dave and Andy have asked me to take some photos of trains for their website. I protested that my camera's not very good and that I'm a rubbish photographer. Anyway, against my will here are some tram-related photos. There seems to be just one long track, stretching as far as the eye can see in either direction:

It says 15mins until the next tram. Not very frequent.

While walking over the bridge by the tram track, this graffito caught my eye:

A tram approaches a stop:

The eagle-eyed tram spotter will have spotted that while there are overhead wires on most bits, there aren't any on the bridge. It must have batteries or something.

The Au Lapin qui Fume restaurant is excellent. Here's their signature entree, lapin terrine:

I know that this says: No Swimming, but what does the bit underneath say?

Il fait pleut. It's just a light rain, not cold, but it caught me unawares and I ducked into l'Indian Bar Cafe. Did I tell you that I like rain? Setting the scene, the usually bustling Rue Blanqui is all but deserted. I'm the only one sitting outside under the awning. A rubbish lorry came by and one of the guys waved a hearty bonjour, to which I replied enthusiastically. Of course, they had been waving at the cafe proprietor behind me. Awkward.

A man in his sixties comes out to smoke. He has a phlegmatic mien. I remark, man to man, that it is raining. He doesn't understand. I try again and this time he understands what I've said, but not why I've said it. He goes back to his rollup, his weary view of humanity undisturbed.

Oh God, Blue Shirt has arrived. Before I know it I've welcomed him to my table and bought him a coffee. Why, why, why??

He's not a popular man. If I carry on encouraging him I'll become unpopular too.


France 2015: 4

Every morning we stand in a queue for water at the pump...

The Romeo and Juliette style balcony just outside my front door.

Looking back, this photo was taken at the time I stepped in a huge dog turd.

This is a monument built by Americans to thank the French for their help with supplies during the first world war. There's a marble statue labelled Procurement.

A long walk by the Loire to get the dog poo off my shoe.

An accordion player just walked past. A bit awkward as I was sitting outside eating and couldn't avoid him. Things got worse as he homed in on me as a vulnerable tourist. He serenaded me and then I felt obliged to give him two Euros. Note to self: remain resolute when faced with buskers.

Blue Shirt had made a reappearance. He sprang to my side and shook hands like a long lost friend. He reminded me of the coffee I had promised to buy him, and I rashly said that we'd go to a bar and I would buy him a coffee. The owners of the bar were well acquainted with Blue Shirt, and expressed scepticism about his ability to pay. At that he gestured to me and announced, 'the English will pay!'. He made a nuisance of himself at the café, butting in to other people's conversations and generally being annoying. He kept asking me for money and I kept refusing. I made an excuse that I had to go back to the house, but in fact I'm studying Kyle Brooks' tutorial on logic on a nearby bench. I'm anxious about him finding me.

I don't know what this place is. It's near me and you can see it says Murder Hamster on the door.


France 2015: 3 - The Langford Kebab

My friend Andy challenged me to solve the Langford Kebab puzzle. I'm not clever enough to work it out, so I wrote a computer program to work it out by brute force.

France 2015: 2

Bought a big bottle of cognac because that's what they always drink in Balzac. I'm in Balzac country now. I don't even like cognac.

Stopped off on the way back for a limonade. It's the same price as a pression. Talking of booze prices, the price of whisky is about 2/3 of the price it is in the UK. Yet the UK has a bigger alcohol problem than France. Alcohol tax seems to be another way of taxing the poor.

Finished reading Simon, The Genius In My Basement, by Alex Masters. I find it reassuring to read about someone infinitely more odd than me. Simon Norton did have the consolation of being a genius. Although perhaps it's more accurate to say that he was a prodigy. The received wisdom in the maths community was that in about 1985 he lost his brilliant and became mad and troubled. According to the biography that isn't true. Norton is happy and still making mathematical contributions. It's true that he's odd, but then some people are, and nobody's bothered, least of all him.

The cappucino was milder and creamier than we get in Bath. Beautifully presented with a carafe of water.

If you're wondering why the photos look so bad, it's because I'm using the latest instagram filter for making it look like the camera's been damaged. BTW, that book on the right is Centuary Rain by Alasdair Reynolds. As the regular reader of this blog knows (hello Bill!) he's one of the greatest sci-fi authors alive and any book by him is a real treat.

 This is a quick oil painting I did while standing with my easel on a bridge down river of this one.

 On crossing the river I sat down on a bench in the shade of some trees and took this photo. There was a water stand pipe just to the left of the picture. A child started to go near it, but his father stopped him with a remonstrative bark, afraid that it wasn't drinking water. A few minutes later the boy came back with his mother and they played around splashing the water everywhere.

 Stop me if I'm getting tedious, but I took this photo for Andy. It's on the Rue Blanqui, the same street that my house is on. Blanqui was a socialist who advocated armed rebellion and who said, 'he who has iron, has bread!'

This is the sort of thing you stumbe across down a side street in Tours.

There's a great deal of smoking here. Everyone smokes and drinks a great deal, lounging around in bars. I feel at home here.

After having lunch outside (in fact I've *only* eaten outdoors at restaurants) I sat in the square. A guy in a blue shirt came up begging for money and I said I'd buy him some food. Blue Shirt really wanted money to buy it with, but I insisted on actually buying it. Then he said he wanted some money to buy coffee instead. So I went to the nearest coffee shop and bought some porte coffee. When I got back Blue Shirt had disappeared, so I went back to reading my book and started to drink the coffee myself.

Actually, this story's going on a bit longer than I thought it would, bear with me.  So then this other guy, late fifties, smartly dressed in a white shirt came over and peered at me intently. I grinned nervously and he carried on a bit, then turned to me and said in English, 'are you English?', when I said I was he seemed pleased and got out a folder of papers and asked me to check a translation for the instructions for a Paris flat that he rented out.

I assented, but when we were half-way through the translation the first guy, Blue Shirt turned up again and demanded some money. I explained to Blue Shirt what had happened with the coffee in broken English, while White Shirt looked on bemused. I asked Blue Shirt to wait for five minutes while I finished translating for White Shirt, but Blue Shirt started arguing and then stormed off. White Shirt commented drily that I seemed to have made friends in the town very quickly.

As I go on to describe another incident with somone begging for money, you might get the impression that there are lots of homeless people in Tours. You shouldn't get that impression, it's just that we tend to attract each other. Anyway, a man hailed me from the pavement where he was sitting amongst his homeless friends (including a dog, which I was sad to see he didn't treat very well). He asked for money, and I asked him if a sandwich would do. I bought him a sandwich and he and his friends were grateful, and now I get a friendly wave whenever I walk past his gang.


France 2015: 1

I'm feeling sad. Can't concentrate to read a book. It's a passing thing, and I'll feel silly at writing it later on.

The awkward turtle has seen plenty of action. Knowing only a small amount of French seems to guarantee that I generate at least one profoundly awkward moment during each conversation.

When I arrived at the flat, the owner asked in French if I planned on visiting the local Châteaux. I confidently replied in French, 'no, it is me only'. She adopted a WTF expression.
The thing is, I thought she had asked, 'will you be having any visitors to the house?'

There are a thousand incidents like this, and many more to come.


I think I have ordered moules a la creme, a bier and a glass of water. Success!