13 February 2014

Catastrophique !

This is supposed to be a blog about what it's like to pick up and move to the Loire Valley, and to live here year-round, so bear with me. I know you're all tired of hearing about it. It's pouring rain again this morning, and it's supposed to rain most of the day. It started last night — late afternoon, really — just as I was coming back from my walk in the vineyard with the dog.

Roland, a man of un certain âge who lives in the village and does all kinds of gardening work for several of our neighbors, was back, cutting down a tree and stacking logs to be used one day, I assume, as firewood. He was packing up to leave as I was hurrying home, because big fat raindrops were splatting all around.

 The Loire Valley sky in winter

« Quel temps ! » said Roland. Most conversations around here begin that way these days. « C'est catastrophique ! » His roses are starting to produce blossoms, he said. In mid-February. What in the world is going to happen next? Of course, what is happening here is nothing compared to what's happening elsewhere.

This morning's Télématin news is about events in France — Paris taxi drivers, for example, are on strike and are organizing what they call « opérations escargot » to slow down traffic around the city and upset as many people as they can so that the government will take their plight seriously. But most of the French news today is about England and the bad weather over there.

There were 85 mph winds on the northwest coast at Blackpool, north of Liverpool, last night. Gusts as strong as 110 mph were recorded in the nearby Pennine mountains. Rain is still falling in the southwest and rivers, including the Thames, are overflowing and flooding hundreds if not thousands out of their houses.

The other main story on the morning news here was about the ice and snow afflicting the U.S. Southeast right now. The main video clips shown were scenes in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. I don't know if you've ever seen the damage an icestorm can cause, but it isn't pretty, with wires and tree limbs down all over the place. I hope for the sake of the people back their in the Piedmont area of the Carolinas and other states that the storm will be over soon, and that Virginia and the Washington DC area will get only snow and not ice.

Happier thoughts: our lunch, yesterday,
of bacon-wrapped, pan-roasted fish fillets with
Swiss chard and steamed potatoes in cream


  1. So far, we've been very lucky with the weather patterns. They've mostly avoided our area of the country. We hope that continues to be the pattern, while wishing the best for the rest of the southeast.

  2. As you haven't mentioned it...
    I am presuming that your gully over the kitchen is still holding well!!?
    And not behaving like one?

    The rain is just stopping here...
    and blue skys appearing...
    for the moment?!!

    Yes, it has rained...
    but I count myself lucky not to be living in the UK this winter...
    one UKIP member said that it was all because of "these gay marriages"...
    his party...
    who are trying ever so hard to be taken seriously...
    promptly expelled him...
    and the "Monster Raving Loony" Party think he's too mad to join them, either!!
    The guy should be sectioned and locked away... nutter!!

  3. Tim, Starman, Kristi — we just had a 60-minute downpour of an intensity that we are certainly not used to here. The rain gauge was close of overflowing. The rain barrel did overflow. There is water standing everywhere, including a big puddle right in front of our front door. I can see that we are getting some dampness under one of the skylight windows upstairs, but the good news is that there is not sign of dampness on the kitchen ceiling. The downpour was the kind of test we've been waiting for, I guess. The hard rain has stopped now, so maybe it's over. Tim, I hope you don't get overflow from the river down there.

  4. The river is right up...
    the millstream, closer to the house is still rising...
    it has gone up about six pouces [inches] in the last half-hour...
    and there are 50 kilometres of cachement above us on the Aigronne.
    The satellite view shows that the rain is still falling at the far end...
    so I am expecting a flood across our meadow.
    But the meadow bank of the millstream is a good metre lower than our bank...
    and the front steps are 75cm higher still...
    But the field on the far side of our meadow...
    beyond the Aigronne, is already flooded...

    but it looks quite pretty in the sunshine!!
    Thanks for thinking, Ken.
    Glad the gully held.

  5. I'm thinking of my ex-colleagues in Georgia, they won't be equipped for snow and ice. And all our friends in Leeds, where it was pretty windy last night. P.

  6. I had a conversation with a French acquaintance the other day about the taxi drivers. He asked me to confirm that black cabs and mini cabs in the UK co-exist peacefully without stupid rules to protect the taxi drivers and I had to agree. There are rules of course, but they are to protect passengers mostly, not drivers. He thought the French taxi drivers attitude was exactly the sort of thing that gives France a bad name in the rest of the world and that they should grow up and get on with providing a service and I agreed with him.

  7. I certainly do feel for these folks who are so affected by the flooding and ice!

  8. Susan, they say it costs 200,000 euros or more to get a "licence" to be a taxi driver in Paris or other big cities. Taxi drivers go into debt for years to have the right to operate their cabs. Meanwhile, the people who run and drive the "wildcat" cabs don't have to buy a license at all. They do have to advertise their services, because they aren't allowed to stop at taxi stands or have customers hail them on the streets — they depend on people making reservations. Still, the licensed taxi drivers say it's unfair competition, considering how much they pay for their taxi licenses.

  9. Ken: Black cabbies have to do 'the knowledge' (memorise large areas of London -- a formidible feat which is widely admired in the UK) and go through a rigorous training process. I don't know how much the licences cost. Mini cab drivers don't have to do the intense training. Mini cabs are cheaper but must be booked in advance or at the company office. Black cabs can be hailed in the street or at taxi ranks. They are considered a safer more reliable option if you are a woman travelling alone, but they are more expensive. They are also a better option if you don't know where you are going.

  10. Glad your roof is fixed now, I hate to think of the damage you would have had this winter if it was still broken.

    I've not used many taxis in Paris because it was difficult to find one when I needed to.

    Sunshine here today and that makes such a difference in my mood. I hope it's headed your way now!

  11. Smartphones are quickly rewriting the rules of commerce. The apps of peer-to-peer ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar let people quickly order up a ride with the tap of a button. Practically anyone with a car can now be employed as a cabbie for one of these companies. These cars are prowling the streets of Seattle, Chicago, SF, Paris, etc. I don't know how licensed taxi drivers will ever be able to compete with these on-demand services.

  12. that LUNCH! wow. and yeah its been pretty gruesome for our southern friends. at least Atlanta got it right. the Carolinas are in the soup for sure - that ice... nothing you can do about it but do your storm preps and hang on. hope your people are ok.

    saw on the news that 2014 will be the hottest year on record. who knows whats going to happen. maybe roses in march!

  13. Wonder how CHM is doing in north VA. Sis was told not to show up for work today and she said that the streets in NW DC are empty ( buses are not running and taxis are adding a $15 flat fee on their fares - they call it an emergency fee).

  14. Dean, all it will take is a bad accident or a few cases of abuse or fraud for opinion to swing back in favor of licensed taxi drivers. Are these unlicensed cabbies insured? Trained? Supervised? Regulated? Since I never take cabs these days, I should just keep quiet, I guess.

  15. I have read where man playing with the weather may be causing some of the havoc. Who knows?! We have had mild winters in the past 20 years here in eastern NC. This year has reminded me of the winters in 50's, 60's, and 70's. I hope it is no indication of the hot, humid summer that is to come.

    Your lunch looks so delicious. You are an excellent cook. Wished I lived next door and could just happen to drop in when lunch or supper was ready!

  16. Bonjour Cousine,

    Merci for your concern. We've had a big snowfall during the night, reminiscent of that snow storm way back in 1979 for President's Day weekend. As far as I can tell we didn't have any freezing rain as yet, and, so far, we didn't lose power. I stay put, having food to last me several weeks!

  17. Bonjour, Ken. Like you, I've wondered about the liability angle of these popular, but unregulated on-line "cab" services. Uber is currently being sued by the family of a girl run over at Polk and Ellis in the Tenderloin this past New Year's Eve by a "cabbie" driving for Uber.
    Uber is valued at $3.4 billion...the lawyers will be busy with this case.


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