Windmills in the Head

Georges Michel. Windmills at Montmartre
Georges Michel. Windmills at Montmartre
They formed part our historic landscape in all their manifestations and together with water mills fed us and clothed us before we turned to other means to our ends, careless of the balance between pollution and production.
Now that we are reaping the consequences of our lack, first of knowledge and then, unpardonably, of care we are looking back to natural sources of energy: sun, water and wind.

And what do we end up with? These monstrosities.
wind turbines

Flying over Spain white rows of the things mark the line of every hilltop…beautiful Lake Nicaragua is desecrated by them…
Wherever they are placed they are aesthetic crimes.

But we can become accustomed to aesthetic crimes….we quite like old mill buildings once it is not our generation feeding the maw of the looms and we can browse arty crafty boutiques run by crafty arty people before stopping for a sustainable if not sustaining lunch.
In time we will be accustomed to wind turbines too.

But why should we be? They are inefficient, their unpredictable output requiring power plants to be on permanent stand by…..and they are a scam in which the taxpayer is scalped to produce private profit.

As may be plain, I am agin them.

They were making their appearance as I was leaving France…and locally a group of farmers seeking to install these horrors on their land were threatening people living in the lotissement downhill of the proposed site with consequences should they protest. Those wind turbines were going in!
Luckily, the lotissement dwellers took umbrage at the bullying.
Now that the French have discovered commuting, the traditional village power brokers don’t have it all their own way any more…..people moving out to live in the country hold down decent, responsible jobs…they don’t have land in the commune…it’s more difficult to threaten them.’
They banded together and all these years down the line they have finally won. Those wind turbines will not be going in.

The resistance to the installation of wind turbines is growing. Especially after the hike in the price of electricity paid by the consumer in order to subsidise them….fifteen percent on your bill in these days of straightened circumstances tends to get your dander up, after all and if that doesn’t rouse the somnolent dander it is guaranteed to spring to life on learning that the very people on the local council voting for wind turbines to be installed are those owning the land where the said installation will take place and for the which installation they will be handsomely paid.

Decentralisation of power, for which France has so often been congratulated, is nothing more than an enlargement of the trough so that more snouts can find fulfilment at the expense of the taxpayer – that rara avis who has less than the tax efficient three children, hasn’t enough money to be able to hide it in investing in fictitious resorts out in the Dom Toms or in three legged racehourses at Chantilly and is not able to reduce his liability by having several publicly funded posts the income from which is counted separately when arriving at his liability to tax.

Decentralisation of power has meant that people making decisions are very close to the action….and that requires an advanced appreciation of ethics – something not necessarily conferred on maires together with the tricolour sash of office.
Usually their activities are greeted with the Gallic shrug of resignation….
What do you expect? Of course he’s going to feather his nest….

Sometimes it goes wrong.
In February 2010 a violent storm hit the Atlantic coast of France. At La Faute sur Mer, in the Vendee, the sea wall gave way and 29 people – mostly elderly – died, drowned in their houses.
Stones were inevitably turned….it appeared that the maire and his deputy had actively pursued development in an area which was known to be prone to flooding.
That the deputy’s son in law was the estate agent pushing the sales.
That it was stipulated that the houses had to be on one floor only…where flood risk regulations demand two floors so that people have a chance to escape the flood waters even if taken by surprise….

After the usual kerfuffles – it was argued that it was the fault of the purchasers for purchasing where they did but that time honoured chestnut did not wash this time…the case came to court and the maire has been sentenced to be jugged for four years. He is horrified, and is, of course, appealing the judgement.

But that he came to court at all marks a change from the virtual immunity of elected officials from prosecution and it is this which is worrying the lobbying organisation representing the promoters of wind turbine installation in France…France Energie Eolienne….which has written to all the Deputies in the National Assembly to warn them of the terrible consequences if the law which governs the behaviour of elected officials is not changed.

It appears that consumer groups have been advising those who resist the installation of wind turbines on how to bring their maire to book….shock, horror, outrage on the part of FEE.
If this goes on, maires will be too frightened of being taken to court to permit more installations.
Something must be done!

Their answer is to relax the law which governs the actions of elected snouts in troughs….so that maires will not be inhibited from setting up wind turbine installations on the farms of their grandmother’s cousin once removed…or even on their own.
Considering what the snouts have managed to do while the current law is in force relaxing it looks to me like a recipe for rampant corruption…

But there is always hope.

Hope that their action in lobbying to free maires from the fear of prosecution might bring about two desirable objectives.

To take a closer look at what passes for local government in France, a closer look at the magouilles, large and small, which favour the staus quo and those with status.

And to take a much closer look at the wind turbine industry…its efficiency, its value for money.
Never mind the eco publicity on recycled loo paper….follow the loot.

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.