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Today is a public holiday, so I'm not at work. It is "Ascension", which is (if I remember correctly) when Jesus finally decided "screw humans" and went up to heaven.
The metaphor being, I guess, that the route to eternal happiness is to be brutally tortured to death, murdered by a bunch of arseholes for being "different" where different is interpreted as "something that threatens the way things are".
Two thousand years later, plus ça change...


Vide grenier

I didn't sleep well. Got up and fed kitty at half five, had a tea, went back to bed.
Had to get up at quarter to nine. It was either that or wet the bed. I put the kettle on again and decided to look at the vide grenier site to see if there was anything worth going to that wasn't so far away.
There was. A town called Essé. I remember this was a big one mom and I used to go to.

So I got dressed, looked for a bag, borrowed a hundred from piggy again, and headed out. Just as I was about to turn left to go down the driveway, I swung a sharp right and pulled up by the front door to grab my phone.
At the end of the driveway, I remembered I hadn't shaved. Stuff it, this'll have to do. Well, it worked for George Michael.

I did tell you I wasn't a morning person. ☺

Actually, this was mostly because going was a last minute plan so I didn't prepare ahead. I don't like impulsiveness, stupid things (like shaving, phones, brain, etc) tend to get forgotten.

I got there for about quarter to ten. I parked in town, a little confused as to where the vide grenier was or even if it was being held. I saw a little orange hand-made sign so I locked the car and followed it...

...for about half a kilometre. Note to self, don't buy anything heavy!


Lots of tat on offer
Lots of tat on offer.

I walked around fairly quickly, looking at endless amounts what can only be described using the poop emoji.
Let's see - a pair of women's court shoes that were not only mouldy inside, but the tops and soles were coming apart. The person was asking €15.
A broken bike (bent front fork, no back wheel) for €50.
Endless amounts of plastic tat for children that was so awful it made the Happy Meal junk look classy.
And if I spoke Romanian, I'd understand what a large number of people there were saying.
But, all in all, people were trying to flog stuff that was basically built to be landfill. An Android tablet, 800×600, Android KitKat (which is a sneaky way of saying 4.something from a decade ago), €100 no offers.

I saw a cute bright orange rotary dial telephone. The guy said it was "vintage" (I rolled my eyes) and that it was €80 (I closed my eyes and muttered something not terribly polite).

The arrangement was doing my head in too. Passageways that went nowhere. Rows of stalls but only on one side. And in one part it suddenly switched direction. I habitually "look on the right" and by simply following the stalls I can pretty much do the entire thing like that. It likely will involve crossing the road when I get back to the starting point to do the inner stalls walking the other sense (always looking to the right).
But this arrangement? Oh my god.
If I was in charge of that exposition, I would have made a photocopy of the plan of the field, cut up some pieces of paper in a size matching how much space everybody got (it looked like 3×3 metres including car) and arranged them to determine the optimal placement.
The people actually running the show? Painfully obviously must have just pointed and said "over there somewhere".

As I was nearing the end, I saw a little old dial phone. I asked how much. €6. The woman's daughter said "mom, why such a weird amount" so the offer was revised to a fiver. I tried the dial and it stuck where I left it.
The woman shrugged and said "I'm just trying to get rid of this old stuff, take it".
So I did.

A few stalls further along, I saw a Silvercrest multicooker. But this one was a little different. This one used steam.
And the woman, who couldn't decide if she paid sixty or eighty for it new and ended up arguing with herself in a rather comical way, suddenly realised she was doing this in public. A cough, a quick rearrangement of various bits of clothing, and then she said fifteen.
Which was fine by me.

Rick, you twat, didn't you tell yourself not to buy anything heavy? Pressure cookers are overengineered so they don't blow up like they used to once upon a time. Which means solidity. Which means weight.

I gave the last row a miss and headed back to the car. Came home via an ancient megalith, had a bath and washed my hair, and some clothes, and I'm now sitting outside in the hammock with the Android laptop on my lap to write this.

An unusual way to write
An unusual way to write.

Actually, I gave up on writing and instead just spent a couple of hours laying back watching the clouds.


Socotel S63

And, here, again, is an S63 telephone. This was the standard French phone for decades. Available in numerous styles (wall mounted or desk mounted, rotary dial or push button) it is pretty much what everybody had from the mid sixties until the mid eighties.

This version, it would appear, is from around 1975. It can be dated by means of the automatic variable resistance (the third revision of the phone) and the fact that it still has a rotary dial.

It is in pretty poor shape. Judging by the rust on the screws of the phone socket, the owner's house is far damper than mine.

Old phone
Old phone.

The handset contacts are another indication of corrosion.

Years of dampness...
Years of dampness...

I got the dialler working. A very quick test with a few carefully applied squirts of lithium oil spray and it's behaving more like it should.
I'll have to buy myself some cheap toothbrushes and q-tips in order to give this thing a good strip down and clean. Well, except the mechanism of the rotary dialler. For that it is far better to try to clean it without stripping it down, as messing with the spring or governor will require a recalibration which is really fiddly. If I remember correctly, the nominal rate of pulsing is set to ten pulses per second, though in reality exchanges are less strict in their requirements. I have in my younger years been able to bypass a payphone's insert-money blocking by dialling a number by tapping the cradle button. And I also once tested a British exchange (a System Y if I recall correctly) by modifying the parameters of pulse dialling on my modem. The fastest the modem could do it, the exchange was like "yup, okay".

The phone itself does work. I hooked it to the Livebox and used my DECT phone to dial the answering service. It's a little quiet, but it works.


Lidl (Silvercrest) SSM 1000 A2 Pressure Cooker

Everything was present in the box. The instructions were a bit manky, but Google found me alternatives in Greek (not so useful) and English (useful). Of course, there are many pages of dire warnings, but the entire front half of the manual is all Greek to me.
Come on, you know I had to work in that lame gag. Anyway, here it is, fresh out of the box.

Pressure cooker and pieces
Pressure cooker and pieces.

I took it into the cowshed and plugged it into the extension lead that I used for strimming/battery charging and nearly burnt myself. It heats up really quickly.

After giving the thing a good clean and disinfecting the insides, I poured in half a litre of water and set it to the soup option to let it do it's thing otherwise empty.

The controls seem to be fairly simple to use. You press the button for a programme (rice, meat, steam, etc) and then adjust the time if necessary. The amount of steam (high or low), and deferred starting can also be set up. You then press the start button and it'll build up steam and start to count when the pressure has been reached.

Cooking in progress
Cooking in progress.

"Normal" indicates the cooking time. The alternatives are "Less" and "More".
"High" is the pressure/steam amount. "Low" is the alternative.
The diagram of a pot with 'P' means pressure has been reached. As it is heating up, the diagram is on the other side and there's no P in it.
The thing at the bottom is an endless animation of the bars growing out from the middle, rather like those annoying animations that blighted audio systems aimed at teenagers in the late '90s (I swear I've seen less gaudy looking pinball games than some of those all-in-one HiFi units).

The lid is a fit-and-rotate type that clicks in to place. There are two pressure valves. The primary one is simply a weight that sits over a nozzle. There is a button to nudge the weight up, so steam can excape. In normal use it is down, and in normal use there is no steam escaping as the microcontroller is taking care of things. It's more a release of things overheat.
And, since these devices had a tendency to violently explode in days of old, the second pressure valve is a little silicone boot that presses upwards to nudge a little red lug up. This has a dual purpose. The first purpose is to block the opening mechanism so you can't open the lid, and the second purpose is to be visible so you know you can't open the lid.

However, there's also a third purpose. If the regular pressure release valve should become blocked (which is unlikely as it is protected by a metal mesh basket so nothing can accidently stick over the hole), the silicone boot has a thinner part in the middle. It is quite likely that, by design, too much pressure will destructively rupture the boot, blowing the little red indicator out of it's hole, and allowing steam to escape that way. It's a fairly thin hole, so - and this is just a guess - it might also be designed to whistle to let you know that something has gone badly wrong (so unplug it now).

There is also a little opto-sensor at the back that will say "Lid" on the display if the lid is present, but not clicked into place.

After the test, I decided to give it a whirl with some linguini. There was no mention of pasta in the book, so I picked the soup programme and set it for five minutes. Although, to be honest, given that it essentially makes steam to maintain pressure, I'm not sure why there are a dozen programme buttons. As far as I can tell, the only real difference is how long the timer runs for...

Anyway, just over a litre of cold water and a handful of rinsed linguini (broken in half so it fit) and I let it do it's thing. It took about six minutes to heat the water. It is rated 1000W, so yes, it'd take about twice as long as the kettle. The pan itself is solid stainless steel with a multilayer base (probably a thick piece of copper bonded to the bottom for improved heat transfer). It's not crappy aluminium. This thing is made of solid stuff.
Steam happened for the scheduled five minutes.
At the end of that, the pressure was released manually, and I opened the lid. The linguini was still a bit hard. So I went back to the soup programme, this time without the lid, to gently boil the water. A couple of minutes later, the linguini was ready.
Which is about how long it cooks in a pan, so I'm guessing pasta doesn't really benefit from pressure cooking?

But, whatever, I had tea and linguini. That's comfort food, right there.

How to make a Rick feel better
How to make a Rick feel better.


Pressure cooking works in two ways. The first is by building pressure, which causes the water to become superheated. It is known that water boils below 100°C in high altitude places, so in Denver it takes longer to cook linguini as the altitude (about two and a half kilometres up) means water boils at 92°C. Pasta is doable. Rice and beans (and possibly other boiled vegetables) just don't cook properly.

Why am I talking about Denver? Well, if lower pressure reduces the boiling point of water, then higher pressure will increase it. And that, right there, is the fundamental principle of the pressure cooker. Mine nominally works at 70kPa, which is the same as 0.7 bar which is the same as 10psi. Accordingly, the water temperature should be around 116°C which mans that things ought to cook in around a third of the time it would normally take (though pinch of salt, it depends greatly upon what is being cooked).

The second way the pressure cooker works is essentially the process of creating the steam forces out the air inside the cooker (that's why the boot for the visual pressure-reached indication is initially open until forced shut by the building pressure). This means that inside the cooker is loads of scalding hot steam. Unlike an oven that needs to heat up air to convect heat into food, which isn't terribly efficient, the steam will condense on to the food which will transfer it's heat energy directly into it.


I've never used a pressure cooker. Mom didn't like them, but then she was old enough that she will have grown up with monstrosities that had bolt on lids, sat on the top of a stove, and every so often exploded.
Which means that my only knowledge of pressure cookers is knowing that they exist. So I think I'm going to have to hit Google to find out more about what I can do with this thing.

Hey, Lidl, a little recipe booklet wouldn't have gone amiss, huh?


I did try Amazon, but some of the books (I downloaded extracts of the Kindle versions) put me off. Obviously self-published by people who never bothered to properly proof-read.

Here is Exhibit A.

Spot what's missing
Spot what's missing.

How about "4½. COOK IT!"?

Exhibit B.

So grammatically awful I figuratively couldn't read it
So grammatically awful I figuratively couldn't read it.

Let's see... a weird possessive apostrophe after every "sausages"... referring to "sausages" (plural) with "it" (singular)... or being so utterly patronising as to feel the need to point out that cooked sausages, sorry, sausages' will "look different".
If this was a book I actually owned, it would quickly fill up with annotations and corrections in red ink, and commentary that would get increasingly swearier.
Now, I'm not perfect. I make mistakes and typos. But you aren't paying me to read this crap. And, besides, that much wrongness in one sentence really does not bode well for the rest of the book. There's more to making a useful book than just bashing out something in Word and uploading it to KDP.

This final, Exhibit C, slew me. I think this is a great example of using a bog-standard template and not paying attention. It ranks right up there with submitting homework or coursework that begins "I'm sorry, but as an AI language model...". ☺

Uh-hu, right
Uh-hu, right.


La Roche Aux Fées

"The Fairies' Rock", so named from a legend that the rocks were placed there overnight by fairies, is a dolmen. It is comprised of more than forty stones, and a legend states that if a newlywed couple walk around (in opposite directions) counting the stones, their marriage will be a happy one if they count the same number of stones. If you look on Wikipedia, you'll see it mentioned as "40 to 42 stones". I counted 41 in the main structure, with another lying off to the side.
It is also aligned to the south east, in such a way that the sunrise of the winter solstice comes right in to the back of the structure. This, clearly, was no accident.

The entry way
The entry way.

This is the entry portico. Built of purple schist quarried from about 4km away, some stones weighing around 45 tonnes, and hauled across uneven ground, this was quite an undertaking for what appears to be a kind of a posh house.

Looking forwards from the back
Looking forwards from the back.

Sadly, it was not a house for neolithic people. This is an interior structure, and it would have been covered in dirt, and then many smaller stones, to leave only the portico visible.
It was a burial mound. A tomb.
It was constructed sometime between 3,500 and 2,500 BC, or "about five thousand years ago".

Looking along the right hand side.
Looking along the right hand (north east) side.

Looking along the left hand side
Looking along the left hand (south west) side.

Bear in mind that this was constructed in the days when tools would have been flint axes. Before metal was a thing. So while modern day reconstructions managed to roll a stone on a set of logs, pulled by ropes, we need to consider how exactly a group of people managed to quarry these rocks, and move them to this particular site using... well... what? Pieces of chipped flint and animal bones? Maybe fairies were involved?

Just how the hell did they...?
Just how the hell did they...?

There was a dad with some children. I asked if he could take my photo, and then asked if he could do it landscape as he was one of these people who took photos the wrong way up.
When it was done, one of the kids asked "Who was that?" (in French).
I replied "Juste un anglais".
The girl asked "English?".
I said that I was. I wasn't going to say I was Scottish or make any reference to the messy British politics as, well, she was like six or something.
"Hello, nice to meet you", she said. In English.
"Hello, it's nice to meet you too", I replied.
"Thank you, bye bye."
And I walked off, my faith in humanity slightly restored. ☺
...then I thought about how many British people, never mind six year olds, could do that in French.

Me, generally failing at passing myself off as human
Me, generally failing at passing myself off as human.
(but little girls and cats think I'm okay, so that's a start)



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J.G.Harston, 19th May 2023, 00:43
In my collection of telephones I've got a couple of 1920s neophones, which worked fine plugged into the Virgin Media POTS when I last tested them. I keep seeing them going for ridiculous money on the Bay of Fleas and wonder if I should give in to temptation and sell them. One of mine even has the bellbox, which is super R@RE! 
Zerosquare, 19th May 2023, 01:18
Besides the lack of support for pulse dialing, another compatibility problem you may encounter is the phone not ringing when it's called. Those old phones use a mechanical ringer, and some ISP "boxes" don't provide enough power for it. 
There are electronic gizmos that solve those problems, but they cost 10 to 20 times the price you paid for the phone, so...
David Pilling, 19th May 2023, 12:58
That phone looks remarkably similar to a UK phone of the same vintage. Bet the numbers to letters system is different. 
Encountering a French family on a caravan site, and being anxious to demonstrate what I had learnt at school: 
Me: Bonjure! 
Them: Bonjure 
<difficult silence> 
<walks away> 
Anon, 19th May 2023, 23:31
Crikey. Rick - you got old! And grey!
Rick, 19th May 2023, 23:52
You know, tomorrow I celebrate twenty one years here in France. 
Twenty one. 
So yeah, I'm old and grey. I'd like to say distinguished and wiser, but, nah, there's only so far reality can be stretched. 😂
J.G.Harston, 20th May 2023, 00:18
Yeah, every time I have my hair cut, there's more brown left on the floor than on my head. :(
Anon, 20th May 2023, 00:36
In fairness, I went to the RISC OS show up in Bradford a bit back. Or should I say the "Raspberry Pi and old BBC Micro hardware" show. Seems there's a lot of crusties now, all pushing retirement age. 
"You loaded programs from CASSETTE? You don't know what you've got, lad... we used punched cards and paper tape, not that new-fangled magnetic stuff!"
Rick, 20th May 2023, 08:55
Punched cards? You don't know how easy you had it. We had to input the program directly byte by byte using toggle switches... (etc)
J.G.Harston, 20th May 2023, 12:54
Magnetised needle and a steady hand.... :)

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