Monday, 30 January 2012

St. Denis, to the north of Paris, where we spent the last few days, is famous for its Basilica.

It is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of the  Gothic  style of architecture in France and the model for Notre Dame in Paris.
This influence can be seen in the flying buttresses at the eastern end of the cathedral.

Legend has it that St. Denis converted France to Christianity and the Romans beheaded him at the Butte Montmatre. Denis (as he was known then) picked up his head and walked with it to the village where the town of St. Denis now stands. The village, in recognition of this great feat, changed its name.

This  is also illustrated in the carving over the north door of the cathedral.

The town of St. Denis grew in population and reputation with the establishment of an abbey and all the supporting trades.

Its standing was further enhanced by the monarchs of France all deciding to be buried in the Basilica of St. Denis.

Their sepulchres can be viewed on payment of seven euros but their remains were scattered around the countryside during the various revolutions which France suffered.
(They also renamed the city Franciade for a time)

It is quite possible to see many of the sepulchres without paying as the striped tape does not provide a particularly effective visual barrier.

The architecture of St. Denis is not all Gothic in style, however.

In the 1970s the town was brought up to date with this shopping development.

A few decades later the heritage bug appeared and the  town hall was given a new glass extension which also incorporated  a chapel at lease 1000 years older.
Incorporated may be the wrong word - attached probable reflects the process more accurately.

There is an interesting and informative self-guided walk which takes in the history of the area from the 6th to the 21st century.  As we followed it we came across this sign which, given some of the events over this period should be taken seriously.

The message on this disabled parking sign translates as:

If you take my space, 
take my disability

Sunday, 29 January 2012

May the Year of the Dragon bring
Health,  Happiness  and  Prosperity 
to you all
For more information about the Lunar New Year 
see my blog entries for last year
£99 Trip to Pairs
Last week we took advantage of a very special offer which came our way through what used to be Driveline but which is now AA Getaways.  We had three nights B&B in a hotel in Paris and return Eurostar trip for £99/head.  This was very much the headline price and as soon as we booked we were asked if we realised that the hotel was a loooong way from the centre of Paris.  I knew where it was and was very happy with the location.   Hotel Sovereign is located on the banks of the Seine on the St. Ouen/ St. Denis border. With a 20 min walk to the nearest metro station and another 20mins on the train to the city centre, it may not suit everyone. 

It does  benefit from the views over the river.

By night

or day,

the view from our bedroom
was enjoyable.

We tend to use the buses as there is more to see than stuck underground being pestered by east European beggars on the metro.
We did experience a new technique whilst viewing the Pont des Arts on  Thursday morning.  A young lady approaching us stopped and picked up a wedding ring from the ground in front of  us, and after a little banter, offered it to us. This was the pre-cursor to asking for money for food.  She appeared quite honest and our initial reactions reflected this belief but we soon became suspicious when she said she could not sell the ring because she was not French.  As we walked through the Tuilleries gardens a little later an altogether less honest looking guy found an identical ring immediately  in front of us.  What a co-incidence.  French men must be very careless dropping so many wedding rings in such a small area.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Calling my Asian Readers
I am trying to identify a marble Chop or seal with the following imprint.
Can anyone identify what this is and what its purpose or meaning is?

I am assuming it originates from Asia somewhere  and that it may be an official stamp of some kind but I do not recognise the characters.  If you can help please add a comment to this blog posting.

We are off to Paris for a few days so will not know if someone has come up trumps until the end of the week.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Canal Boat Fire
Unfortunately fires on canal boats are not uncommon.  It seems that we hear of one every week.  In 2010 we cruised the Macclesfield Canal and came across the small town of Bollington. 
Click here to read what we thought of it
It was sad to learn of this recent fire on a boat in Bollington.
Click here for a video of the fire

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Dredging the Aylesbury Arm
Aylesbury, the county town of Buckinghamshire, is at the end of an arm of the Grand Union Canal. Six miles long, it drops down through 16 locks from Marsworth into the Vale of Aylesbury.  
As it does so there are lovely views of the Chiltern Hills which the government has just decided to carve up by buuilding HS2 - the high speed rail link between London and Birmingham. This has been justified on economic grounds which assume that all time spent on a train is unproductive and by valueing the 20 minutes saved on the journey by every businessman who might travel that way over its lifetime then it will repay its costs 200%. It is obvious that no-one in the government has ever travelled  on a train and made use of the free wifi or his laptop. In 25 years time when it is built we will probably not be taking the train to meetings anyway.
Poto from  Arla !

 This may be the last time you see this particular view as ARLA have plans to build a giant milk processing plant here with 20ft high walls.  British Waterways supported this destruction of the rural view because Arla will improve the towpath for those who want to take their Sunday walk alongside a milk factory.

 The Aylesbury Arm is being treated to a spell of dredging.  I know it must be a treat because back in November when they started up at the Marsworth end the contractors unearthed seven unexploded WWII bombs.  So they can't have dredged that bit for about 60 years. Perhaps if they had not invested £2.6m in a pub venture which failed the treat could have come sooner.
Today there was much (sporadic) activity in the basin as Land & Water, the dredging contractors, were removing the shallow-draughted dredger to send to the Mon & Brec in Wales.

 First we lift the digger ashore


 Then we put the pontoon on the lorry

Then we put the big dredger into the canal

Then we find it is too wide to get out of the basin because we have left the floats out.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Grand Union Water Loss
On the way back from Luton yesterday I jumped off the bus at Marsworth to take a look at the locks since BW has lowered the water level in an effort to find the leak(s).
Apparently 60 million litres of water ( that's over 13 million gallons to  Imperialists like me) are escaping from the Tring Summit EVERY  WEEK

Startops Reservoir is
looking very short of water

Lock 39,
at the bottom of the flight ,
is chained up to prevent its use

Above Lock 39
the level is noticeably  low

Below  Lock 41
some of the pounds
appear relatively unaffected

But as you approach the top
Water levels are
well below norm

Below lock 45
the top lock
things are quite dire

Monday, 16 January 2012

My Desert Island Disc
BBC is celebrating 70years of Desert Island Discs by asking ordinary people like you and me to tell them about our Desert Island Disc.
My chance came today when I went to Three Counties Radio in Luton to be interviewed by Lorna and Simon who broadcast on that station every weekday from 6-9am.
 What a lovely couple:
or was Simon making a special effort to impress a face-to-face listener?
For more information about the broadcast follow this link

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Nocturnal Ramblings

I made the mistake two nights ago of gong to bed when told to by She who must be obeyed.  It was too early for me and consequently I was  wide awake again by 1.15 am. Some words came into my mind and they rhymed

She slipped beneath her chosen wave
And said farewell to handsome Dave
Dave, meanwhile, was out with Mave
And did not see her smile and wave.

By breakfast time I had grabbed some more sleep and forgotten the words as one does with dreams.
Last night I woke again during the night and the words suddenly came back to me.  This time I scribbled them down thus:

No more selfless pandering
Since Dave had taken up philandering
She left a note and her ring
On the mantle piece in Havering

Dave's excuses were getting lame
"Lost the keys", "Met Georgie Fame"
She could no longer bear the shame
Nor tolerate his tawdry game

The little life inside her tummy
Would never ever call her mummy
Or kiss her, with face all crumby
Or snuggle up, smelling yummy

A wobbly face obscures the light
Strong arms drag her, short and slight
On the beach she looks a sight
But she's far too weak to think of flight

Now she cuddles her son Larry
And her husband, lifeguard Harry
Whilst Dave has gone to live in Barry
With a checkout girl he calls Carrie

Someone said they were in the style of John Betjeman which I take as a compliment to me and an insult to JB.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

G I G O 
This post is for CH who, as a medical professional, will be interested but not surprised by its contents
In the early days of business computing this was a popular acronym -
Garbage In - Garbage Out
This is a snappy way of conveying:
The integrity of computer data output is dependant and significantly  reliant on the quality, accuracy and relevance of the data entered.
When we arrived in Aylesbury I registered with a local doctors' practice.  On my first consultation with the GP I encountered a touch-screen check-in interface module. By confirming my date of birth and sex (or *Gender as they insist on calling it) all human interaction with the receptionist, to whom I had been required to divulge my medical concerns before being granted an appointment, was eliminated.  This device, however, rejected me because I had naively entered my correct date of birth unaware at this time that the international date line passes through Aylesbury and that I was in fact one day older than I thought. When I pointed this out my records were adjusted to make me exactly one year younger than my parents had led me to believe.
It was a few weeks before I appreciated that this had been achieved by setting up a second record for me and recording appointments, diagnoses and prescriptions randomly against these two records. I was a little suspicious when the GP refused to believe that I had visited her six months before despite my having the results of a blood test she had requested and two boxes of pills she had prescribed. In my ignorance I presented a prescription at the pharmacy claiming exemption from charges on the grounds of my age.  The pharmacist, however, could read numbers as well as words and refused to dispense the medication as the prescription showed my age as 27 years younger than qualifying age. Like many incredibly handsome men I can be vain sometimes but even I would not have tried that one.
Before the days of computers when information was recorded by hand and figures added up in the head with cross-checks to maintain accuracy I learned that if the difference between two figures which should be the same was divisible by nine, then the error was likely to be one of transposition.  Hence the error on my prescription was clearly evident to me.
I advised the practice manager of my diagnosis and the remedy was put into the hands of a specialist.   The result was that I now had a single medical record with the correct date of birth.  Surgical procedures often  have unexpected, or unexplained, consequences for the patient. So it was for me: the unwanted record was removed but along with it went all my medical information, historical and current.
I am sure there is an appropriate medical term for this condition but as a layman I can only think of decidedly non-medical expressions.
I have been told that all is now well as the missing information has been recovered from archives, waste paper bins etc and re-input into my record.
Why am I not re-assured by this prognosis?

The application of the word Gender to people and animals is questionable in my view. People and animals can be divided into male and female sex.  There are three genders - masculine, feminine and neuter. it can be appreciated that the word sex and gender are not interchangeable. 

Monday, 9 January 2012

GU To Close
I understand that British Waterways is about to announce the closure of the summit level of the Grand Union Canal due to water leakage.  Apparently the canal is losing 60 megalitres of water each week.  The reservoirs capacity is 2000 megalitres but they are only 36% full at present. If  you do the maths that means that the reservoirs would be completely dry in 12 weeks if the leakage is not stemmed.
No point in making plans for this year if we cannot get out of the Aylesbury Arm.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Xmas Communications
A strange thing seems to have occurred with our Xmas messages this year.
A fair number of people we sent season's greetings to and have been  in contact with for many years do not appear to have reciprocated.  This phenomenon has manifested itself both in the virtual world of e-card and also the terrestrial snail mail.
Most puzzling!
Furthermore we have received cards from two people we do not remember.
Perhaps things will become clear during the year.
More H
If you have access to the winter edition of Narrowboat magazine  take a look at page 40 where there is a photo of Horace Foster and his dad, Charlie, working  Princess Ann and Sapphire through  Catshill Stop Lock at  the junction of Daw End Branch and the Curlie Wyrlie in 1966.
We shall be on the BCN this summer for a couple of weeks and will think of H many times I am sure.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Going,  Going,  Gone !
The high winds last night werre so strong that the boat next to us has pulled its mooring ring away from the jetty.

It has also whisked away the loose letter A from the theatre next door.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Unplanned  Obsolescence?

Last January  I highlighted the poor construction quality of the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury.Doesn't look like they have learned much in the past twelve months

I hope Waitrose and Travleodge which are both due to built on the site are not using the same contractors.