PHOTOS AUGUST 2010
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This is not a UFO despite what anyone else might tell you. It's been pouring down torrential rain all day with some really heavy and thick rain clouds. And as I turned into my lane coming back from Pionsat I noticed that the setting sun had somehow managed to find a gap in the clouds.
Grabbing the Nikon D5000 but with no time to find the tripod or set up the camera properly I quickly took a pic. And what with the driving rain it's not come out as well as it might. But it's impressive just the same and I'm getting to like this new Nikon camera.
But seeing this photo you can understand how some of these stories about Flying Saucers started.
Coming back from a busy Friday morning in Riom I decided to have an afternoon out at the Meandre de Queuille - where the River Sioule makes an incredibly tight turn around a promontory of hard rock - and yes, we ought to put a cafe on it - I know. I've never been here before, even though I've lived in the area for several years, so I reckoned that it was about time that I had a little meander over there.
It is something of a local tourist attraction that brings the crowds a-flocking But maybe that's the reason why I've never been here before - having spent as long as I did working in the tourism industry, my cynicism has made me immune to all this kind of thing.
The major sport, hobby and business in the area of the Combrailles is Property maintenance, for if you don't maintain your property then this is the kind of thing that can happen. I was on my way back from the Mairie this afternoon when I happened to notice this property. I've no idea how long that it has been like that because I don't go this way all that often.
This is a holiday home owned by some people from Paris and whenever they arrive here for the summer they are going to have a shock. Part of the wall of the barn has collapsed and it's taken all one end of the roof with it. Luckily the house is just about unscathed but it's still pretty serious.
A break from stone-wall building saw me at my favourite photography spot - the birdwatching point near St Gervais where there is one of the most marvellous views in the whole of France.
I was on my way to Liz and Terry's and just as I breasted the rise the sun came out from behind a cloud and shone right onto the radio mast on the summit of the Puy de Dome. It was well-worth a quick stop to take a photo even though, like most photos, it just cannot do justice to the view that we had. Nevertheless I reckon that it has come out rather well and I'm quite happy with this photo.
While Terry and I were working on my barn roof the other week, Lieneke (my Dutch neighbour) was taking a keen interest in the proceedings. And when we finished she approached us with a proposition. She has a leak in her house caused in the main by two issues
i.... the end of the roof being embedded in the house wall and not overhanging, so that the rain runs down the side of the house instead of being drained away.
ii... a flat roof on the lean-to where her bathroom is, permitting melt-water from the heavy snow that we have to infiltrate under the tiles instead of being drained away.
and could we do anything about it?
And so we did, and we have now finished, and it doesn't half look impressive.
i.... The part of the house roof from the right of the roof light has been stripped, extended (formerly it stopped level with the side wall of the house) and refitted, with much new woodwork - part of the task that was totally unexpected, but it's amazing what you discover in the woodwork of an old house once you strip the tiles off.
ii... We then repointed three quarters of the chimney, to stop it falling in.
iii.. We raised up all of the walls of the lean-to at the side where it joins the house so that it now has a pent roof, and it also has new tiles.
All in all we can be well-pleased with this. In fact our stonework is magnificent!
On my way back home one night we were treated to a tremendous thunderstorm and so I repaired to the birdwatching point at St Gervais, my favourite photography point, to watch this storm rolling across the ridge in the distance - the one behind which I live. The storm was impressive from up there and you can see in the pic the sheets of rain that were falling down.
What I had been trying to do was to take a photo of a flash of lightning, and there was plenty about too, so I set the Nikon D5000 up on the tripod and had a go. I took dozens of photos, but I wasn't quick enough with my finger. And after a while the wind swung round from the south and the storm drifted off to the north-east.
My friend Rhys, a professional photographer in the USA, explained to me the secret afterwards. Apparently you simply set the camera up on a tripod and rather than go for speed, you leave the shutter open for a couple of minutes
Just by way of a change I went to another one of these local history afternoons where Marianne and her sidekick make their presentations - this time at St Hilaire. It was more-or-less the same as the one that we went to a few months ago at La Cellette, but there were a few additions and improvements.
And just for me they had done some more research into the railway network. Still only the line between Montlucon and Gouttières, though. No mention of the "Ligne Economique" between Marcillat and Commentry. I can see that there is a book waiting to be written about that, and I suppose that muggins here will have to be the one to write it. It'll keep me out of mischief
Hot water is an issue around here - like I don't have any unless I boil a kettle or it's a sunny day. But I do quite often have an excess of solar energy that goes to waste, and so I've made the 12-volt electric immersion heater for the house that runs as a "dump load" using whatever excess solar energy that there is. It was formerly a 30-litre chemical drum that I had lying around here.
i.... I cut the top off it so that I could get my hands inside it.
ii... I drilled a 30mm hole and screwed in one of the 12-volt 500-watt water-heater elements that I sell
iii.. I then mounted a tap into the container - mounted higher than the element so that the element will never run dry when I drain the water.
iv... I fitted a connecting ring made out of old tin cans pop-riveted onto the top of the bottom half of the drum and then slid the top half over the top of the connecting ring.
v.... I wired it into the dump load controller.
Once I'm sure that it's working I'm going to seal up the joint with some waterproof tape and then wrap it in rolls of insulation to keep the water warm.
I'm thoroughly intrigued to see what this might produce. 20-odd degrees above the ambient temperature in an open bucket with 50 litres of water was what I was getting on a decent day so what will 30 litres of water in a sealed and insulated container give me? It's exciting stuff.
I went to the founding meeting this afternoon of Pionsat Patrimoine, the local history society in Pionsat, and I've found myself appointed to some kind of informal committee dealing with desktop publishing and the like. I suppose that my time (such as it was) at General Electric in Brussels will come in useful there. Up until today I had forgotten all about that, but I bet that some of my long-term readers will remember it.
I shan't say very much about the meeting except that you might probably recall my theory about workplace meetings - that is that they should take place outside, with everyone standing up, and in the pouring rain. This afternoon's meeting would have benefited from being held in those circumstances.
Generally speaking, the last Sunday in August is the Virlet brocante and seeing as it's usually a good one and that Virlet is the village in which I live (well, it isn't - it's 4kms away but seeing as there is no village closer to me than this it is used as my postal address) I feel obliged to attend.
And glorious late summer weather, loads of stalls, loads of visitors and so on, even a few people I knew from the Pionsat football club with whom I had a nice long chat. It all made for a nice day out.
Parked on the car park at the Virlet brocante was this traditional and typical "garden-shed-on-wheels", the ubiquitous Citroen H-type van that used to litter the French countryside (in all senses of the word) 15 years ago, and yet you hardly see a one rolling about these days.
It's been converted into a caravanette and from a distance it looks quite tidy, although much of that is simply cosmetic. But nevertheless I would settle for one of these like this, as long as it was fitted with the optional Perkins diesel engine.
I'm currently working on a web site of Virlet and so one late-August morning I was out and about taking photos.
There is no decent photo of the village church anywhere, mainly because the site is cluttered with other buildings, stone walls, trees and so on. And so in a flash of inspiration I nipped across to the other side of the valley, about a mile away, and took a long-hop with the 105mm (3x zoom) lens on the Nikon D5000 and later cropped the church out of the photo.
And do you know - it's come out rather well and I'm pleased with this.