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Christmas (yule) tree

Last week I ordered a DIN-rail-mount trip switch (MCB), a matching mount socket, some 14AWG electric wire, and a set of distribution poles (bus bar) to connect the MCBs together.

Sent by Amazon, arrived quickly, albeit in numerous parcels even though it all came from the same warehouse and arrived here at the same time. Weird.

Anyway, I came home, opened my parcels. Shut down the computer safely, then hit the big switch to cut off all power.

 

Using the light of a nice bright torch, I removed the original three-prong bus bar (as there were three MCBs) and replaced them with cut off pieces of the one I had bought to create a four prong bus bar (as there were now four MCBs).
I would like to say that it was an easy job to hook up everything, and it would have been if not for the stupid Hager MCB (the water heater one). While its neutral terminals were in the same place as the others, the live terminal was not. I had to use my pliers to do some origami with the bus bar to make it fit.

Of course, reading up on it later, it appears that MCBs are supposed to be wired with the supply at the bottom and the load at the top. The guy that installed this stuff originally got it backwards. Though, given it's a simple thermal trip mechanism, it ought to work either way around. I'll fix it some day, just not today.

The 14AWG cable is only rated for around five and a half amps in electrical distribution and in cable runs, but it can carry about 20A for short open air runs. That's why I picked 14AWG, it isn't enclosed, and it only needs to span maybe 12cm of wire between the MCB and the socket.

The socket is a standard earthed 16A large type socket as is used in France (and some other EU countries). This is because the only sockets at the meter cupboard end of the living room are a weird four pin three phase where the fourth pin is not neutral, and a dinky little 5A small type socket for a lamp.
The older ones among you may remember the British round-pin sockets that came in small and large sizes. The French have a similar idea that is still in use today.

 

Now that I have a socket, time to plug in a timer switch (€2,99 from the supermarket) and a set of indoor/outdoor Christmas lights (€3,99 from Noz).

And, of course, here's the outside view.

There aren't many decorations on the tree because I have to find/buy some plastic decorations. I cannot use glass ones because they'd break if the wind/bird/cat/other furry creature knocked them off. There's a nice garland of black with silvery stars. I felt that fit nicely into the yule theme.

I don't celebrate Christmas. I decided ages ago that it was hypocritical to celebrate the birth of somebody I don't believe in (and, quite likely, on the wrong day). But since everybody else considered it a big holiday, there was no reason not to join in. So just rewind the clock a few hundred years and note that there was a midwinter festival to stop people (in the days of pre-Christianity) from hacking their heads off with a rusted scythe. The festival of Yule, which coincides with the winter solstice. Or, in simple terms, this is as black and bleak as it's gonna get folks, it's all uphill from this point on. Well, until midsummer, but that's half a year away.
I am born on the 16th of December, but I actually celebrate my birthday on the 16th of June. The reason why is simple. On the original day the sun rises a little after quarter to nine and sets a little before quarter past five. This means at my current location, one can expect a mite under eight and a half hours of daylight (and only two minutes off being shortest day). When the weather is usually miserable. Rain is pretty much guaranteed. As is the high temperature being about the inside of a fridge. Snow isn't out of the question either. And if the east wind is blowing, you'll wonder if you're walking around naked because it'll just blow right through your clothing. And you.
June 16th, on the other hand, offers the sunrise just after six and the sunset just after ten. That's sixteen whole hours of daylight. Twice what you get in winter, and only a minute and a half off longest day. Temperatures can vary quite a bit, but below 16 would be considered "bloody freezing" and upper twenties are more normal. It may rain, but you won't mind getting rained on with that sort of weather. More likely, however, is a nice deep blue sky and abundant sunshine. Summer won't quite have kicked into high gear yet - heatwaves normally begin around mid/end of July and into August, just as the coldest part of the year is often the end of January and into February.
If I was to drive my dinky little car home when I finish work, I have about twenty minutes before sunset in the winter. Which means I'd go home, make dinner, then go to bed and watch DVDs or Prime Video or something I recorded off the TV earlier. In the summer, however, I can take my time. There's a good five whole hours between the end of work and sunset. Time to go home, make a cuppa, take a comfy outdoor chair into the garden, and enjoy a good book and the company of a small furry quadruped.
Now, I trust, you understand why I celebrate my birthday on the 16th of June.

 

Now I'm going to go make myself some porridge (I was going to make pizza, but then I decided to comfort-food myself with Maltesers, so I'm no longer hungry enough for a whole pizza!) and then go to bed and catch up on the episodes of Chihayafuru (4-7) that I have not yet seen. And after? Might rewatch War Of The Worlds again, the BBC drama. I'll enjoy the rose-tinted glasses view of Edwardian times and gloss over the modern mentality that permeates so many things these days. The narration has been handed over to leading lady Amy (I'm probably the saddest person alive, but I like her character) while the leading man does a good job of standing still in open-mouthed shock (see, told you it was 'woke'). Unlike the original American movie, the Martians, when they arrived, were pretty impressive. I note on the preview that "the black smoke" is featured. This was something omitted from numerous adaptions because, well, it's not child friendly. But, then, neither is a Martian invasion of the Earth when you get down to it.
The only thing that annoyed me about the first episode was the jump cuts to the red wasteland landscape. Was this Mars? Was this some time after? It was revealed at the end, but it seemed like unnecessary tension building that interrupted the flow of what was happening "now".
I shall hope that they retain the Parson/Curate. His character was deliciously unhinged to the point of being a world of ham in the musical. And for that, it was extremely funny watching a guy have a massive crisis of faith as the world ended, but as you can imagine given the source material, it goes from bad to worse. Twice. Guy just can't catch a break...

 

Car insurance

No idea if Euro Assistance has tried to get in touch. Their number is on my phone's block list. ☺

Instead, I went to the Crédit Mutuel who have (via their partner Suravenir) a policy specifically for dinky little toy cars.
It covers damage and collision, and includes professional use (as I would use it to drive to work). My damage/collision has an excess of a hundred euros, as does fire/theft. Civil responsibility (up to 100 million euros - WTF?), legal defence (up to 15 thousand per case) and broken windscreen do not have any excess. Given the age of the car, it would be interesting to see how much wiggle room the policy document (a single side of a page of A4; by contrast the house insurance is some 46 pages) gives them. That said, I'm in no hurry to find out.

What is notably missing from this policy is breakdown assistance. It may be that Suravenir doesn't fancy offering that on a 21 year old car. Or maybe they just don't? I did note that one of the other policies (I forget who) limited the breakdown cover to €150.
Something else missing from the policy is the cost. All that they offer is €50,34 a month. It's about as close to "all risks" as you can get on a toy car, for quite a lot less than third party fire and theft everywhere else.

Apparently I am covered in the EU countries including the Vatican, but there is a very specific exclusion for Corsica where the policy does not apply. I wonder why. Without a driving licence (because I was born before 1987) or with a BSR licence (for those born after 1987), one can only drive the dinky car in France. With the new AM style mini-licence (since 2013, I think? needs BSR plus something?), it grants the ability to drive within the EU. Which may be... interesting... in a vehicle limited to 45kph. It isn't as if you can go from Caen-Ouistreham to Marbella in three days. It is a little under 2,000km to cross France and Spain (which can be done in a normal car in three eight hour days travelling at around 80kph average). A sans permis is limited to 45kph, so instantly you're looking at about 44 hours. Which, if taking the same eight hour day, will require you to drive for five and a half days. But probably longer as you can't go on motorways or high speed roads in one of those cars, so you can forget any nice "direct" route that mapping software might offer.
That said, each tank of petrol (16 litres) should offer around 450km per fill, which means that it would take four and a half fills to do that slog. But since the tank is small, that actually works out to be about a hundred euros all in (based on price of €1,40/litre at local supermarket). That's probably less than everybody else would pay in motorway tolls, never mind fuel!
I don't plan to, just thought it was interesting to crunch the numbers.

Your homework, that you ought to be able to do in twenty seconds is to calculate... home to Rovaniemi (bonus points for why there) is about 4,000 km (avoiding motorways, tolls, and ferries). It crosses the top of France, through Belgium, clips a bit of Holland, up through Germany (narrowly missing Hanover), into Poland, through Lithuania, then Latvia, into flamin' Russia, enjoying the sights of St Petersberg, before finally crossing into Finland and taking a torturous route through the absolute back of nowhere to get to Rovaniemi.
Sounds epic. But not something I'd fancy doing in anything less than a big-ass Nissan four wheel drive jobbie. And even then... Russia?!? It's not an exclusion on my green card (insurance sticker, this is not America!) but make no mistake - if you want to teach yourself how to swear in Russian, just look on YouTube for any "most horrific ever dashcam compilations". Some of the accidents are truly mind blowing, and most of them happen in Russia.

 

All I need now is the car. That is supposed to be delivered to me just outside of work on Tuesday evening. The guy is "very busy" and a load of other bullshit excuses. Payment has been made, now give me the damn car already!
So... yeah... I would have preferred a home delivery so I could go on a few short drives around to get a feel for how the car handles, but I guess if I actually want to see it anytime soon, I'll have to take it when and where I can and drive myself home. As the sun sets. That'll be a barrel of laughs.
To be honest, the only thing that scares me is the roundabout by the supermarket. You see, the dinky cars are like waving red flags at a bull in the minds of most French drivers. Those who consider speed limits to be "suggestions of minimal acceptable speeds". I can imagine if I go to the third exit (as necessary for going home), with proper inner-to-outer road placement, there's a risk of some asshole trying to clip by in front of me on the right hand side. Because they'd rather risk causing a crash than be caught behind a vehicle that only does 45kph in a 50kph speed zone.
The rest of the journey isn't that bad. A bypass was built, so the small town following is fairly peaceful, just a nasty dog-leg bend but I will be taking that slowly (it's not as if I have a choice!). Then a junction, and then a big wide road through the forest. Lots of place for the idiots to pass as you and I both know that they will. Then into my commune and, well, I know the rest. I've cycled it.

Because the engine is super-noisy, I've made a special Aixam 400 CD. Let's see, Avantasia, HolyHell, Delain, Mysterya, Nightwish, ShadowIcon, and some others. Music that might actually manage to be louder than the car.
Better remember to buy myself a box of paracetamol for when it's over and I'm home. ☺

 

 

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David Pilling, 25th November 2019, 03:31
17th Dec is the day the sun sets soonest, after that it starts to get lighter at night - although the days continue to get shorter (due to dawn being later). So your birthday just about has some astronomical significance.
jgh, 25th November 2019, 04:19
Hold on, is the socket mounted *into* the Consumer Unit? How on earth did that get into French leccy regs?
David Pilling, 26th November 2019, 13:52
JGH - Hmm there's a sticker on the first mcb that says <- this socket - not something I've seen before.

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Last read at 06:55 on 2019/12/13.

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