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.

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