01 September 2010

Morienval, seasons, and computer keyboards

Morienval is a town in the Oise département in France, less than a 90-minute drive north of Paris and about 20 km/12 miles south of the big town of Compiègne. I was there in July to see the old abbey church, on my way with a friend up to the WWI battlefields of the Somme. The pictures in the this post are of the Morienval church. See my post yesterday for more.

Meanwhile, here in Saint-Aignan it's September. I guess that's true pretty much everywhere. The weather yesterday was beautiful, but the wind was definitely nippy. Jean and Nick of A Very Grand Pressigny stopped by in the afternoon for a cup of coffee and a chat. They came on their motorcycles from Le Grand-Pressigny, which is about an hour's ride.

The unusual rear twin towers of the church at Morienval

Jean said the weather was nice but in her opinion a little "back-endish" — meaning the same kind of thing they mean in French when they talk about the « arrière-saison » — the "back" season. It's the end of the summer, and you can feel it in the air. It feels like fall.

My photo of the Morienval church

I don't yet want to make a big deal out of it, because there is still a good amount of touch-up work to be done, but we actually finished painting the new upstairs space yesterday. We'd been working on it for a month. We won't really celebrate until the floor is cleaned and we've moved furniture up there. We also need to have the radiators re-mounted on their wall brackets and hooked up to their pipes. We're having the kind of weather that makes you think about the rapidly approaching day when you'll need to turn the heat on again.

Meanwhile, the tomatoes and eggplants are ready to harvest — at least a lot of them are. The grapes are too, I'm sure, but I haven't heard anything about the timing of the vendanges and I haven't yet seen any sign of harvesters out in the vineyard.

The choir stalls at Morienval and details
of their carved-wood decorations

My Compaq laptop has given up the ghost, according to the people at the local computer shop. They say it's not the hard disk but the motherboard that has failed, and that didn't surprise me. The symptoms seemed to indicate that diagnosis. The good news is that the hard disk is not ruined and I can save what was on it.

What a piece of junk it was, that laptop! I bought it in the States in October 2007, so it wasn't even three years old. After one year, the wi-fi adapter failed. Tech support at Compaq said that the reason for that failure was a motherboard problem. They offered a free repair but it wasn't practical for me because I am in France. It would have cost a fortune to send the computer to the U.S. and then have it sent back to France.

« La Vierge de l'Annonciation », art populaire, mid-1500s

I for one will never buy another Compaq or Hewlett-Packard computer — HP owns Compaq now. It's not worth it if the motherboard is only going to last three years. The computer shop over in Noyers-sur-Cher says a repair would cost between 400 and 500 euros. That's the price of a new portable computer.

I want a laptop with an American or at least British keyboard and I'm not sure that will be easy to find in France. I don't know if you've ever tried to type on a French keyboard, but if you have you'll understand. A lot of the keys are in different locations — the M, Q, Z, A, the comma, and so on. You have to shift to type numbers and even to type a period. That takes some getting used to.

Details of the « Vierge de l'Annonciation », above

I once learned to use a French keyboard — every country has its own "national' keyboard layout — but that was three decades ago. I'm too old to start again now. After that experience — three years in Paris typing on a little French manual typewriter — I returned to the States and had to re-learn the U.S. keyboard layout.

I have now found an Amazon-affiliated vendor in England that will ship me a laptop computer to France. The British keyboard layout is only slightly different from the American one. I actually use a British keyboard with my desktop computer and I'm fine with it.

An 1840s-era print of the Morienval church

I do touch-typing, without looking at the keyboard, but often I need to type some special character (@, $, &, etc.) that I have to look at the keyboard to find. When I look at the U.S. or British keyboard, I have a general idea where to look. When I look at a French keyboard, I'm completely lost. All those characters on the upper row of keys and around the periphery of the keyboard are scrambled, compared to what I'm used to.

Such is life in France for this American. It's the little details that always throw you for a loop.


  1. Hi Ken,
    Your computer problem is the same as Sue's laptop. The power cord that connects to the motherboard is faulty and that means a new motherboard - we currently are replacing it with a 2nd hand one out of a Compact that has a faulty screen - never again, like you. Maybe an Asus next time.
    Autumn, winter - open fires, scarves - all seasons have their highlights.
    Meanwhile us downunder have spring rains.

  2. Hi Ken,

    Sorry about your laptop problems. My experience with HP, however, is the total opposite of yours. I've owned a succession of HP computers over the past 20 years and never had a single problem. I only upgrade every 5 or 6 years when Windows demands it for reasonable performance.

  3. Bill, I remember using Compaqs way back when in Silicon Valley, but I've never owned an HP. I know that many Compaq and HP laptops have had wifi problems related to motherboard capabilities. I got burned. Wasted my money and time. Now I've ordered myself a Samsung laptop from a vendor in England who is willing to send it to me in France.

  4. Leon, I ordered a Samsung laptop. We'll see how that works out. Enjoy your rains. We are having -- and predicted to have for a while -- sunny, breezy, dry, cool days. Hi to Sue.

  5. I'm glad to hear your motherboard is saved! I remember when you bought that laptop- it should have done you better.

    The abbey church at Morienval is just lovely.

  6. More wonderful photos :)) I am really drawn to the old, hand-carved carved wood like you show here. There is a set of carved pews similar to these in the Cluny museum in Paris (oh, you know, its full name is something to do with Medieval :)))

    It's exciting to have a new Samsung coming your way! Did you say... will it have Windows 7?

    Aren't the Swiss keyboards rather like the U.S. ones? I have a French friend who lives on the border of France and Switzerland, and so he works in Geneva. He has one kind of keyboard at home, and another at work.

    Congrats on the painting!!


  7. If you're using an American keyboard now, how are you able to put the accents on when you write in French? Is there are function key for this?

    I can't believe you got your laptop in '07 and it's already fini.

    Interesting story about South Africa's vineayrds in the UK press today - I guess baboons go after the fermenting grapes: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/southafrica/7969313/Drunk-baboons-plague-Cape-Towns-exclusive-suburbs.html

  8. Hi Evelyn, no, the motherboard is fried, but the hard disk is fine. I was able to hook it up in my desktop computer today and copy off the little bit of data it held. That was nice. And I ordered my new laptop from England today.

    Diogenes, I use the US-International keyboard layout, which makes it easy to type accented letters. You install it in Windows to replace the standard US keyboard layout. Then when to press the single quote and then the e, for example, you get é. Etc. You can find out more about it by scrolling down to the information in this long, detailed Wikipedia article about all the different keyboards.

    Judy, yes, Windows 7.

  9. Ken, dabs.com have two hard drive enclosures at a very reasonable price and they ship to Europe.
    One is for a 3.5" drive [http://www.dabs.com/products/dynamode-3-5--sata-superspeed-usb3-0-enclosure-71ZY.html]at £24
    and the other is a 2,5" drive enclosure [http://www.dabs.com/products/startech-com-infosafe-2-5--usb-2-0-ide-drive-enclosure---hi-speed-usb-4MHF.html]at £7... but you will have to ring them to arrange shipping!
    But either of these enclosures [and it depends on your drive size - probably 2.5" in a laptop] will allow you to continue to use the drive as a back-up/external drive.

    On another note... I think the carvings on the choir stalls is superb! ['scuse the pun!]

  10. Maybe Compaq has declined fairly recently? I am still using, although for writing only and not online, a desktop Compaq that's 8 or 9 years old.

    Earlier this summer, I got an Asus notebook for travel, and it's a cute little toy. Not very good for extended use, though.

  11. Congratulations on reaching a landmark in your huge project! And thanks for more photos of this beautiful church. It is an amazing sort of almost forgotten treasure. Would you have ever gone there without your friend to show it to you?

  12. Hi Tim, and thanks. My little computer shop over in Noyers-sur-Cher can get me a USB case for the hard disk, which is a 2.5" drive. It costs only about 15 euros. I have ordered a Samsung laptop from the U.K., however. It's a Pentium with 3 GB of RAM, a 320 GB hard disk, a memory card reader, wifi, etc. etc. I'm eager to get it.

    Emm, I think Compaq has declined since the HP buy-out. And I think HP has declined under recent management, with so much dissension and so many scandals. It's too bad.

    Kristi, no, I would likely never have heard of Morienval and many other fantastic sites and sights in France were it not for CHM. He has been my travel adviser for nearly 20 years now. France is just full of wonderful things to see.

  13. The picture of the towers in the trees is beautiful. It makes me think of Conques. And the face of the stone virgin is quite unusual, isn't it? Do you think it's very early? The hand is lovely. I really enjoy the posts in which you share photos of old churches you found. Merci!


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