Boots, Boots, Boots, Boots….

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Boots. upon the availability and solidity of which depended the British Empire as its small professional armies marched to support the interests of the Lancashire cotton barons and the monopolies of the London Stock Market against the wild hopes of native leaders to exploit their peoples in their own interest without having to share the profits.

In this post imperial age, boots were to play their part in our journey back to Costa Rica from Spain.

My husband is into boots – and before the back row of the stalls starts slavering I mean gardening boots, not thigh high horrors in latex, whose existence only became apparent to me when trying to buy boots in his size on eBay.

There is a whole world on eBay which is unknown to me and which, with a bit of luck, will remain so.

While the size of his feet posed no problem in the U.K., lesser breeds without the law first in France, then in Costa Rica, seem to go in for small feet. His size is unobtainable.

While we lived in France he would buy his boots – and shoes – on visits to England….and then occasionally would find a clutch of them in the end of line shops: Noz, Mille Stocks, Moulin des Affaires, who would knock them out for absurd prices given that no Frenchman worthy of the name would sport feet which took size 47.

In Costa Rica there is no chance….though he did once find a cache of boots on a trip to Nicaragua and made the salesman’s day as he bought up the entire stock. Costa Rican customs officers – more accustomed to cocaine and heroin in their rummaging activities – were very puzzled, but no doubt put it down to mad gringo syndrome.

His health had been very poor in the last few years in France, whose much vaunted health service had let him down very badly, so by the time we left for Costa Rica he could no longer wear gardening boots, the weight being more than he could bear. Accordingly we left them behind and, as the dishonest caretaker took a smaller size, they were still at the house when we exchanged it for the house in Spain and so came down with the removal van last year.

He greeted them with delight…there were four pairs, steel toe capped, all weighing a ton…and they became the footwear of choice, offering as they did firm support for his ankles.
Given the tiled floors you could hear him coming from a long way off which gave rise to the more irreverent of the party goose stepping to the strains of ‘Die Fahne Hoch’ or the ‘Panzerlied’ as he arrived in the kitchen to cries of ‘Godverdomme!’ and a brisk exchange of ammunition in the shape of almonds from the trees in the garden.

The family gone, our holiday nearly over, it was time to pack.
Travelling in sardine class we had only carry on luggage and one suitcase in the hold…23 kilos limit.

What to do about the boots? Let alone the books?

Come to that, how to weigh the suitcases?

Luckily the gentleman who looks after the house could lend us his bathroom scales and at the first attempt it was apparent that not only were we well over the limit but that we would risk a hernia trying to move the suitcases more than an inch at a time.

What to discard?

Not the marble pestle and mortar.

Nor the books.

Nor the ceramics.

It had to be the boots.

Two pairs were put aside for the next trip…one pair was packed and one pair would be worn.

We were just under the 23 kilos.

The gentleman who looks after the house and his lovely wife – a real English rose – were to take us into town to catch the bus to the airport….and they were kind enough to show us a caff in the port area for a light meal….it was a perfect end to our holiday…a balmy night, simple food, good wine and better company and so in high good humour we settled down in the bus station for the couple of hours remaining.

As you do we surveyed the (limited) action in late night Castellon de la Plana.
A series of dustcarts came and went…a few beggars tried to tap us for money (no chance)…other passengers arrived for buses to the ferries to Morocco…and a light went on in the window of one of the flats opposite our bench.

For the next hour or so we..and the other occupants of the bench… were the spectators of a floor show as a young lady changed her garments and donned and doffed pairs of elbow length gloves. No nudity, but a great deal of suggestion.

Someone should put her on Tripadvisor.

Our bus arrived.
A surly eastern European driver who refused to load our suitcases for us.
People sitting in our seats to be ejected.
Stuffy overheating.
A halt at a miserable service station for forty minutes.

Finally we arrived at Barcelona airport…but at which terminal?

The driver had not elaborated…and it is a long trek between Terminals 1 and 2.

Leo descended to ask..got a dusty answer and called me to unload our luggage as it was clear that the driver had no intention of offering assistance.

Luggage unloaded we headed for the zebra crossing to the departure area.

But the driver was blocking the way, scratching and yawning.

A polite request to pass got us nowhere….so Leo went ahead, stamping on the driver’s feet with his gardening clodhoppers in passing. The path was clear..the driver displayed more activity then heretofore revealed to us…and we were on our way.

The clip below is so familiar to me…not just the music but the surroundings…I hope you will play it and enjoy the pleasures of a past age.

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Filed under Costa Rica, holidays, holidays, Spain

Blazing Loos, Gilded Fossils and When Did You Last See Your Trousers?

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Which is to say that I have been, indeed, still am, on holiday and will be so for another week to come. The last of the visitors have departed in a deluge of rain which has prevented me from washing the bedding and we are on our own, eating the leftovers and chewing over the lessons learned from giving the house a trial run under real life conditions.

We swapped our house in France for this one and although I spent some time here last year, it was not long enough – nor extensive enough – to see how the house would stand up to visitors, so the descent of the tribes was designed not only to have the pleasure of seeing friends and family again but also to see how the systems coped with seemingly non stop use of swimming pool, showers, baths, washing machines and loos and the effects of same on the electricity bill.

Our journey had not been uneventful.
Leo had booked a seat in the exit aisle of the ‘plane and was informed by a stewardess that he was in charge of the door. In the event of the pilot calling ‘evacuate’ three times he was to seize the handle and pull it sharply upwards, at which point, she said, the door would fly off entirely.
He spent the flight wondering why suicide bombers bother to carry bombs in their underpants if all you have to do is book a seat in the exit aisle and pull the handle to have the entire contents of the ‘plane sucked into oblivion.
And if that is all it takes, in the interests of security might it not be better for airline staff to keep such knowledge to themselves?
All through the flight he kept eyeing that door….

Still, we arrived unharmed in Barcelona and took the shuttle train to the Sants station to book our ticket.
The clerk fancied himself as a comedian when dealing with foreigners and managed, first, to bugger up electronic payment, then to issue only one ticket and finally, as I discovered when queueing to go down the escalators to the platform in the overheated bowels of the station, when finally issuing two tickets had given us seats in different carriages.
Leo had been tiring….it had been a long flight…thanks to the clerk we had only ten minutes to catch the last feasible train….but the discovery was like lighting the blue touch paper.
With a terse, explicit and unflattering description of the clerk he was off like a harrier to the ticket office, the queue parting like the Red Sea, to obtain redress.
The lady clerk – perhaps used to her colleague’s little ways – made no demur and issued new seats immediately so we caught the train for the two hour journey south.

As the gentleman who looks after the house told us on arrival, there had been a violent thunderstorm and the electricity was down in the village and surrounding areas….but as we drove through the pass, lights suddenly came on in the dark countryside below….all was well.
We made a cup of tea and went to bed.

Pottering the next day, there was another violent thunderstorm which drove us indoors and when it cleared we heard a helicopter overhead…backwards and forwards between the village and the pine clad hillside above our house. There had been a lightning strike, a blaze, and the fire brigade were into action immediately, scooping water from the communal swimming pool and dumping it on the fire….
Might be an idea to get insurance…..

The day after that the first visitors arrived….and the water gave out. A bucket chain was set up between house and pool to get water to flush loos, and the men went into conclave. Pipes were traced, blue plastic reservoirs were found, fuses were flicked on and off – and water reappeared.
Only to give out again.
The gentleman who looks after the house was consulted.
The next visitors to arrive were warned to bring wipes.
A plumber could not be found until after the weekend.
The gentleman who looks after the house gave it more thought and remembered that the water board had been at work recently alongside the property.
He hunted around and found that not only had the water board changed the position of the water meter but that they had also turned it off.
They had, it seemed, thought it best as the house was empty.
He had saved us a fortune in plumbers.

Water restored, we relaxed again, apart from rescuing visitors who had become lost in the maze of rooms, stairs and corridors.
One wandering soul found wailing in the third kitchen was given the watchword ‘turn right at the dresser’ to find the stairs to her room and could be heard in the evening repeating it to herself as she turned the corner that cut her off from the rest of the house.
Tables and chairs were set out on the terrace, in the courtyard and by the pool. Mussels were consumed in quantity. Wine descended gullets. More mussels were consumed.
We went to bed at peace with the world.

I was woken by a cry of horror. I ran to the loo where Leo was standing, his hand on the cistern.

‘It’s hot!’

I put my hand on the cistern. It was indeed hot. Very hot, and filling with more hot water from the immersion heater.
Scots blood turned to ice. Flemish blood was not far behind it.
Not only metered water, but heated metered water had been flushed down the loo.

‘Quickly! We have to try them all before anyone flushes anything!’

Visitors could have been forgiven for thinking that it was a police raid as their doors were flung open, the lights went on and Leo galloped to inspect the cisterns. Those with hot water were turned off at the tap and, inspection over, we all foregathered in the kitchen in various states of night attire to drink tea and discuss the problem.
Tea drunk, biscuits eaten, someone remembered that there was some ham in the fridge to make sandwiches and the committee decided that the best thing would be to switch off the electricity to the immersion heaters which seemed to be supplying the loos and drew up a rota for morning showers so as not to waste the water already heated.

The gentleman who looks after the house was consulted the next day…and reluctantly said that we would have to have a plumber…and possibly an electrician….
Good job he saved us all that money when the water gave out!

Disasters apart, life went on.
The fossil expert discovered fossils of coral on the steps to the courtyard and, rooting in a cupboard, came up with something like a giant snail, painted gold.
‘Vandals!’
It was a fossil, a large fossil, and is gradually being scrubbed free of paint to take its place under the almond tree in the entrance.

We went to the local mushroom fair where we bought shoes, honey and a truffle…

We went to the seaside…..

We went to see our lawyer……

We visited small villages, roamed on roads made from crushed limestone covered rapidly with an asphalt carpet which led up into forbidding mountains, bumped on rocky tracks to visit remote chapels…

We had a great time, exploring…

Visitors came and left, with shifts in the shopping…red wine took over from white, pork from mussels…and then it was time for me to go to visit my mother in Southampton.

She had a list of things which needed attention, so it was an intensive shopping session – thank the Almighty for John Lewis and the helpful staff – and we sat up talking into the evening, with a consequent late start to the morning.

Up before mother I had been making tea and offered to bring her a cup. She was sitting by the window in her dressing gown, the curtains drawn across.
I made to draw them back but she stopped me.

‘No! Leave them alone!

‘But it’s dark like this…’

‘Doesn’t matter! I’m in my dressing gown and you can see this window from the vicarage!’

Given that there is a belt of trees between the two and that only by hanging out of mother’s window at risk of your life could you see the vicarage back door I felt that mother was exaggerating, but she was adamant.

‘But the vicar has other things to do than to lurk at his back door to see you in your dressing gown!’

‘That’s as may be, but leave those curtains alone!
I’ve never taken to him…he doesn’t visit like the last vicar…
And he’s into vestments…I suppose he’d be happier in Rome but with all those children he’s had to stick to the C of E….’

Remembering the previous incumbent whom I had always considered to be the C of E’s version of Ian Paisley, while being a loving, caring man, assiduous in visiting his parishioners, I began to wonder what social revolution had taken place in the parish.

Mother had the answer.
‘Of course, we old people are dying off and you’ve got the new types…found religion to get their children into church schools and they want value for money….plenty of show and no substance!’

Clothes bought, a new television ordered, I leave at 1.00 a.m. for the coach to Gatwick….and return to the house to find that I can find nothing: neither in the kitchen nor in the rest of the house.
Desperate for a shower and some lighter clothes I look in vain for my old pair of corsair pants which I had left in the machine for the next routine wash….

Nowhere to be seen.

Enquiries are promulgated…one person remembers hanging them out…another remembers seeing them in the laundry pile…no one knows where they are now….

I shall have to rename them my Scarlet Pimpernel pants:
They seek them here, they seek them there….

And until they are found I can’t get up to weed the terraces…

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Filed under family, holidays, Spain

Where are the men in underpants when you need them…..

john major
You know who I mean…the Superheroes who wear their underpants over their trousers, flying to the rescue in the nick of time.

So where were they yesterday, I should like to know, when I was clambering ungracefully in and out of stream beds in the pouring rain, feet slipping out of my shoes and mud plastering my shins.
A pair of underpants descending from the heavens would have been very welcome but, of course, when you don’t need men…even Supermen…they are tripping you, wanting cups of tea and wondering where you have put the screwdriver last seen in their possession.
When you do need them they are in the loo.

I had gone up to the building site to have a quiet think about what to do about the area below the pool….I would like to look down on flowering trees, but have to take their future height into account if not to damn myself to scooping out leaves for ever after.

The pink fleshed guava was dropping fruit wholesale, so I was filling my ancient Asda shopping bag when a car pulled in behind me.
It was the owner of the goat farm further down the valley, with his wife and family….they had called in to tell me that one of my sheep was loose on the road down towards their place…and that they had found her lamb in the ditch further up.
They had taken the lamb and put it just inside the gates to the house but they could not catch the mother.

As I went down the hill the heavens opened and the dogs rushed ahead to shelter only to come to an abrupt halt at the clump of poinsettia by the gate.
There was the lamb – a little tricoloured chap clearly just born – tucked in underneath, so I thought I’d best take him indoors first, putting an old towel in a cardboard carton to make a bed and shutting him in the office, safe from canine curiosity.

Now for mother.

It’s a long walk on a stony path and it feels distinctly longer in the rain, but I could see the ewe ahead searching along the stream edge and then had a horrible thought that perhaps she had had twins so started loooking out carefully as I walked on.
I was in luck…she did not move away as I reached her…so I made a fatal error…I did not get her on the move back up to the house immediately.
I found where she had escaped, and got down into the stream to see if there was any sign, any trace, of a lamb on the banks.
Wet, dirty, but satisfied that there was not I climbed back up to the path….to find that the ewe had disappeared.

Then followed a game of ‘now you see me now, you don’t’ as she emerged from the bamboos on the other side, perched on a heap of decaying wood, only to plunge back into the bamboos as I reached the summit, which, inevitably, crumbled under me.
Into the stream, out of the stream…in the bamboos, out of the bamboos….tantalisingly close but never quite in reach.

What I wanted to do was to drive her up the path…but getting her on to it was something else.

Then, a brainwave. What about my bra? If she let me get close again I could chuck it round her neck and haul her onto the path so I struggled out of a wet T shirt, removed the bra and struggled back into the T shirt.
Bra at the ready I stalked the ewe.
Into and out of the stream….in and out of the bamboos……and I got her!

She was off like a rocket….stage one (me) dropped off early in the flight. Stage two (bra) was discarded half way up the hill to be recovered as I plodded up in her wake.

I was worried that she would hare past the gates but found her waiting for me just inside, sniffing under the poinsettia….and luckily the other sheep started to call so she was willing to head for the pens.

I closed the gate and strawed up one of the pens I use for the hens, then went to fetch the lamb.
I put him down in sight of the ewe…and he bleated. High and strong.
The ewe turned and came to him straight away, her bleat low and reassuring and they were reunited. He got to his feet and made for the milk.

But where were The Men while all this was going on?
They had gone into town, and not finding me at the house on return had assumed I had taken shelter from the rain up at the building site.
Accordingly they had decided to get ahead with rounding up the poultry, so we must have been replicating a Whitehall farce with me entering the front door to fetch the lamb as they left by the back door to bang up the ducks.

The first job is always to recover the eggs which both hens and ducks lay under the perpetually broody yellow duck who lives above the door to the duck pen.
This involves mounting an old kitchen chair armed with a broom to shove her off the nest while she attacks with beak and claw…but this time Danilo had had a brainwave of his own.
He decided to use his sombrero to immobilise her while collecting the eggs which is why when I arrived with the lamb in my arms and followed by the ewe I was greeted by the sight of a sombrerod duck launching herself from the top of the pens intent on mayhem while The Men dived for cover.

Still, all’s well that ends well….and here is a rather bad photograph of mother and son displaying the usual ovine obstinacy in that he has his back to the camera and she is lying on the only bit of floor not covered with straw.

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Filed under animals, Costa Rica

An Apology

I am fuming.

Not like a heap of manure in winter, warm and sweet…think, rather, active volcano, sulphurous and aggressive.

I follow a number of blogs…and have had trouble commenting on posts on Blogger.
Eventually it sorts itself out.

In the last week or so I have found that my comments on WordPress blogs are not appearing…I see them on the screen as accepted, but on returning to the blog posts in question find that they do not figure.

I am always ready to accept that I have pressed that which should not have been pressed, or ommited to press that which should have been pressed, but I see no such problem in my usage.

I contacted the laughingly called ‘support’of WordPress and was redirected to a forum. I formulated my problem..only to see that something called ‘admin’had closed down my thread before it had begun.

So…if you have any idea what is happening and how to sort it, please let me know.

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All The News That’s Fit To Print

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The Men have now accepted that the car has to pass the M.O.T. this month so are out and about ordering parts which may materialise when pigs take to the air and visiting the Cuban electrical genius to get the window opening mechanism sorted.
This latter visit may or may not have been pushed up the ‘to do’ list by my trip to town with Danilo yesterday.
Lulled into a sense of false security by the recent unseasonable days of heat and sun he had left the driver’s side window down and when the cloudburst hit us half way up the hill the mechanism failed and he was rapidly becoming soaked.
With a cry of ‘Puna!’ (polite version of ‘puta’) he reached into the back and dragged forth the plastic inner of a feed sack which he then draped over the window. Fine for protection….not so good for all round vision as at the junction he had to lift it to peer out for traffic coming down the hill towards us.

As in their absence the calls for coffee and the anxious enquiries as to the whereabouts of items last seen in their possession have decreased in frequency I have had time to
A Listen to the Test Match undisturbed
and
B Catch up on local events via the Facebook page set up by a chap who clearly finds the town hall version somewhat bland and uninformative.

So I thought I might give you a glimpse of what goes on in the area…a little bit skewed as the canton is celebrating the one hundred and forty sixth anniversary of its foundation.
Why the one hundred and forty sixth?
That’s our council for you…

So what has been going on?

Computers and suchlike equipment were seized from a house where a woman was suspected of copying child pornography for distribution in the U.S.A.

puris someone's built a house where he souldn't...Someone has built a house where he shouldn’t have, thus undermining a retaining wall just completed by the council, whose offices are in chaos as the police investigate some two and a half million colones (about two and a half thousand pounds) which grew legs and disappeared in the course of three days….and there were protests at two suspects having been named by the alcalde (mayor) as this is a small place and everyone knows them and their families.

puris busThere were further protests when the person who has managed to hijack the bus company’s radio frequency, thus obliging the drivers to switch off in order to spare their passengers impassioned diatribes of an improper nature, was described as a sexual obsessive.There were no protests at the suggestion that the same person was responsible for a bomb hoax which closed the company’s terminal in the capital.

A man in his seventies was killed when his sister in law – in her sixties – resisted what she took to be an attempt at rape by throwing him against the wardrobe.

puris a bridge over the virilla to piedras negrasA bridge has been flung over the river on the road to Piedras Negras…
puris pilgrimage to la negrita piedras negras
just in time for the annual pilgrimage in honour of La Negrita….

puris traffic accidentsThere have been the usual plethora of traffic accidents….

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and some roads have finally started to be repaired.

puris marijuana in the parkA whopping packet of marijuana was seized from someone in the central park…..

puris drunken teenagers
While two fourteen year olds were found reeling drunk in a shop in town and attended to by the Red Cross.

The church has installed a credit card machine for donations….no more excuses there, then…

Deputies in the National Assembly came down to the celebrate the canton’s anniversary; one stating proudly that he had been down three times since being elected in May….

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The anniversary was celebrated with rock concerts and traditional dancing….

puris the earthquake on july 24
There was an earthquake or two….

And someone lost to all sense of decency poured paint over the statue of the town’s mascot, symbol of the local farming community.
puris sapo
A cane toad.

The mind boggles.

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Filed under cars, community, Costa Rica, culture

The Lamps Are Going Out

tower of london poppies demilked.com
On the day on which, one hundred years ago, Great Britain entered a war against the empires of Germany and
Austria-Hungary in support of the alliance between the bourgeois republic of France and the Russian Czarist empire, there are many comemmorations.
Church services….ceramic poppies tumbling from the Tower of London…lights replaced by a solitary candle in public and private buildings all over the country…radio and television programmes following the course of that war – to become known as the Great War before succeeding madness relegated it to being merely the First World War.

I do not doubt for an instant the sincerity of people comemmorating the start of that war….surprising how close it is in terms of family lost – people we never knew, but who were known and loved by those we knew and loved.

I do doubt the nature of the comemmoration itself.
The latest brand of the royal family in Belgium…French President Hollande embracing his German counterpart; choreographed public remembrance.

What has that to do with the men who entered that hell?

Men who went willingly, on a tide of nationalism..patriotism as they saw it.

Men who went reluctantly….threatened with the loss of their job and the inevitable eviction of their families from the tied cottage if they did not join up…in the later years shaken out from ‘reserved occupations’ as the war of attrition threatened to turn Germany’s way.

Not every man was an angel – a veteran of those years described to me the line of men waiting outside the other ranks’ brothels in Amiens, trousers doffed and folded over the arm to save time once admitted.

Not every man was a hero….old sweats would advise new boys to abandon the underpants soiled under the first experience of bombardments. Quartermaster sergeants became plump in the pocket…but nothing to compare with the industrialists safe at home.

Those who survived remembered their mates, both the living and the dead….because government certainly did not.
The land they returned to was not, in any sense, a land fit for heroes…a Victoria Cross might get you a job as a commissionaire – if you kept your mouth shut, your nose clean and your hand ever ready to touch the brim of your hat.

We hear a great deal of ‘sacrifice’. A weasel word which covers the nastier one …….
‘Killed’.

I worry that we are comemmorating by gesture, not by action.

These men went forward against terrible odds….fell…rescued each other under fire…assaulted and took positions that were deemed impregnable….because they were in it together.

A true comemmoration of this war would be a revival of solidarity and decency….decency which recognises that governments who deliver ‘suspects’ to torture under ‘extraordinary rendition'; governments which abandon translators for their armies to the vengeance of their enemies; governments which send their young men to war on behalf of commercial interests have to be brought to book..and only solidarity will achieve this.

That generation faced bullets and bombs from an external force: our generation faces police ‘kettling’ and false charges leading to imprisonment from a force within our society….our own government.

Blinded by gesture…by the formalities of respect…by elevating these very ordinary men to the status of demi gods – we betray them.

We have forgotten that we are in it together, as they were…

Revive that memory…..remember them, but not just their fate.

Dido’s Lament

Cherubino

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Filed under #world War I

Look, Mum! No Hands!

driverless car mouse2house.uk

driverless car
mouse2house.uk

Driverless cars are about to be tested in the U.K., it seems…and if they work what a boon that will be for those who drive from necessity rather than pleasure, though what pleasure can be obtained from driving is beyond me unless on a single track road with passing places in the Highlands – or a German autobahn.

But doubts assail me…..when in France we lived in a sort of GPS Bermuda Triangle. Visitors would get as far as the nearby town and ‘phone in for directions, which was easy enough at the Christmas period when the area was illuminated for the festive season…not just the Santa Clauses making SAS raids on walls and roofs of private houses, but real illuminations: a windmill with revolving sails…reindeer and sleigh running across the tiles of a pavillon…champagne bottle with cork bursting forth on another…sinister purple and green icicles – they had only to follow the trail to arrive at the family fastness, dourly unlit safe for the security light, guaranteed to blind the driver as the car pulled up by the well chained gates.

Not so easy in other seasons. There is a phenomenon in rural France first described to me by an estate agent who had sent me out to visit a house I could not find.
You are, he said, approaching it from the wrong side.
I followed his detailed directions and saw what he meant…you had to approach your goal on roads on which the direction signs were visible – bar an overgrown tree or two – from the side on which you were approaching…not the side in which you might, if lucky, get a glimpse of something in the rear mirror in passing.
So directions had to amended accordingly….disregarding the most direct route in favour of that with visible signs and landmarks. So instead of the reindeer and icicles it had to be ‘leave the town in the opposite direction to that which seems sensible, cross the bridge, pass a chateau with searchlights sweeping the grounds, turn left….third left at the roundabout and if you see a bar on your left you have left it too soon…’
Well, you get the idea…but will the driverless car get it?

And even if they solve the GPS problem, what about local issues?
Not, I suppose, too much of a problem in the U.K., but what about France?

When I moved to rural France, while many people had ‘normal’ cars, and farmers drove around in little white vans,there were two other contingents in evidence.

The first – and least dangerous – was that of the ‘sans permis’. This car, a sort of box on wheels with limited engine power, could be driven by those who had lost their driving licence for over enthusiastic indulgence in bars, beer and assorted additional booze. Should you have any doubt about this, the said boxes were liberally adorned with stickers advertising said bars, beer and booze, variety being provided by other stickers of a dubious nature which indicated that, in France, there were some parts of the human anatomy that beer and assorted booze could not, indeed, reach.
As far as I am aware, the ‘sans permis’ still exists….but even if it could be converted to ‘driverless’ status can you imagine the ‘driver’ trying to download instructions to it at the end of a convivial evening….a bar full of troubled clients asking the patron to set it all up for them…. and even if he succeeds being sure that they are on the wrong road halfway home as it will take them on proper roads and not the tracks they generally use to avoid the gendarmerie patrols.
I foresee doctors’ waiting rooms full of alcoholics with nervous breakdowns…
Doctor, I have lost my way….

The other contingent is, unfortunately, no longer with us.
It consisted of elderly gentlemen – the papys – who had grown up in an era when the mode of transport was the bicycle and who had transferred the learning thus acquired to the 2CV they bought in later life…the model with the suicide doors.
They also imagined that the traffic was the same as when they were riding their bicycles, so would emerge at speed from track or minor road, looking neither to right nor left and go on their way, each one a Fangio crouched over the wheel.
Local knowledge was imperative…so that you knew that M. Dixneuf was likely to emerge onto the bend at the Salle de Fetes, Papy Georges from the track by Les Planches and to watch out for that lunatic Archambault at the mill on the river – especially after lunch.

As I say, these gallant gentlemen are no longer with us, but, in France, local knowledge is still vital to your survival on the roads…and how will the driverless car cope with this?

There were..and probably still are… three systems of priority in force.
Priority to traffic coming from the right.
Priority to traffic on major roads.
A hybrid of the two.

As far as I am aware there is no notification of a change of system…you find out the hard way and I’m unable to see how the driverless car will cope with this.

How will it distinguish between a white bollard at a road junction indicating that you have right of way and a white bollard with a red stripe indicating that the combine harvester approaching from your right can flatten you at will? Especially as the said bollard is probably in the ditch following the last passage of the combine harvester.

And what about the traffic light controlled roundabout where you enter on the green light only to find yourself obliged to give way to a stream of traffic entering from the right?

Or the unsigned change from department – priority to major road – to town – priority to the right?
Perhaps there should be an app indicating towns where the mayor’s brother in law runs a repair garage…

Or places where cars are parking on the roundabout, closing other exits, in order to buy their bread from the bakery situated there…

And what about narrow bridges where, nomatter what the arrows indicate, the driver of the big van will always drive on to force the car that got there first to reverse….

And what about the technology to be used?
With all the current emphasis on ‘buy French’, from striped jerseys to red Breton bonnets via salmon pink corsets, the likelihood is that it would be supplied by Orange – the name under which France Telecom hides its shame.

In which case…it’s back to the driver, drunk or sober…and remembering always to approach objectives from the right side.

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