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I'm on holiday!


Only a week this time. And, well, the weather has taken a definite brutal gear change heading towards that winter feeling.

Speaking of gear changes, there was a car behind me. An Audi I think (the logo that's a set of rings?) as I was driving down the back road to Big Town this morning. He was flashing his lights, honking his horn, and weaving over to the other side of the road any time there was a straight bit, only to chicken out. Eventually there was a bendy bit but with a long visibility, so he leaned on the horn and swung out to overtake, with the obligatory roar. He only made it to come up beside me before appearing to slam on the brakes and veer over to the side.
My initial reaction was surprise, as I didn't expect a person that drives like that to bother to pull over for a phone call. But, whatever.
Now, at the time I was enjoying "La Cantata del Diablo" by Mägo de Oz, and being sort of folk-metal-prog-rock (and twenty one minutes of it ending with a brilliant spoken part), I didn't hear that much.
Which is why, on the way home, I got a second surprise. No car, but sand all over the road, and what looked like rather a lot of oil splashed around where the sand wasn't.
What the hell did he manage to do to wreck his car in the process of trying to overtake something that goes about as fast as a tractor?
I didn't feel schadenfreude, I just felt worry. That twat has a driving licence...


So, yeah. Got up early and went into Big Town.
Well, that was the plan.
Got up early, had a tea, went back to bed. Much better plan. ☺

Eventually I got there. I think about half eleven or so. The place was packed. I put my headphones on, selected the Epic Rock Radio stream, and tuned out the world.

I didn't bother arranging my stuff in the bags, as they would ask me to put it through the checkout.
They didn't ask me to put it through the checkout. I mean, surely it's been a long time since they verified that I can count to twenty seven (items) costing eighty (euros)?

I got my first 2024 calendar. Here's a front and back of it.

2024 calendar
2024 calendar.


I had been looking for replacement ink rollers for the printing calculator. The user guide I found mentioned the model number, something like T100? This didn't seem to exist, but there were numerous of a different type (T40?) that did and to be honest they all looked alike. But given the prices (the dirt cheap ones were six euros), I didn't feel inclined to get one just in case it wasn't the right thing.
It was a fairly similar situation on eBay.

So I popped into a place called Bureau Vallée, which sells office/school equipment. I guess it's a bit like a small scale Staples?
The man there asked me if I had the calculator. No, I didn't.
Did I remember the brand and model number? Not without looking it up on my blog.
He sighed.
So I told him it was a little plastic thing with two tiny rollers, one with black ink and a thinner one with red ink. The plastic moulding had a rounded hood that went over the top of the little rubber wheels that do the printing, and there were sort of lumpy wings on each side to clip it in place.
He walked to one of the aisles and picked up something, telling me "you just perfectly described this".
Indeed, I had.
And at €2,60 each, I got two.

Calculator ink cartridge
Calculator ink cartridge.


I also stopped at Maxi Zoo to celebrate Anna's birthday.
Actually, I think she's a midsummer cat as she came to me on the 15th of August 2020, which means I think she was born sometime in early June.
But since I don't celebrate my birthday on the right day, we can apply the same logic to the little furball. The day I picked is the same day as Elsie's birthday, the 31st October.
Here's what I got for around that time.

Cat food
Cat food.

Let's see... first of all, this is quality cat food. It's not that "meat-like-stuff" and four percent what-it-says-on-the-pack that you get in regular cat food.
Seriously, this is from the box of Whiskas, badly translated by me:

Cod: meat and other animal by-products (33%), fish and other fish by-products (including 4% cod in the lumps), cereals, mineral substances, by-products of plant origin, sugars. Lumps representing approximately 40% of the total product.
Felix and other brands of general purpose cat food are roughly the same. So now you know why the brown slime always looks and smells the same. It's only four percent what it's claiming to be. And the rest? Frankly, I don't want to know...

Now, the two on the left. On top, tuna fillet (34%), chicken fillet (34%), and mozzarella (6%). I note that they've added 1500mg of taurine, so she'll be a bit gonzo after this. To put this into context, a 250ml can of Red Bull contains 1000mg of taurine (and some other stuff like caffeine).
Below? Chicken fillet (67%) and egg (6%).
The square thing that says 99% and pure chicken, it's 70% chicken (from hearts, stomaches, livers, and 5% meat) plus 28.8% chicken broth. 1% minerals, and 0.1% stinging nettles. <shrug>
The other two tins are white chicken (75% chicken breast, 24% broth, 1% rice) and chicken&shrimp (55% chicken breast, 24% broth, 20% shrimp, 1% rice).
And finally the two pouches. What I went for. Something special, as if eating better than me wasn't already special enough.
Wilderness "Dark Fjord", containing 32% wild boar (hearts, lungs, liver, ~5% meat), 32% duck (hearts, stomaches, and necks), 28.8% duck broth, 4% flippin' reindeer (meat and derivatives), 2% apples, 1% various minerals, 0.1% linseed oil, 0.1% cactus fruits. And, yes, a can and a half of Red Bull built in just to ensure she shows her appreciation by climbing the walls, the trees, and with that much taurine kicking around inside she'll probably be able to climb things that don't even exist.

Obligatory cat picture:




There's a new film coming soon (tomorrow, I think) to Netflix called "Anna". It took a little bit of detective work (looking up the name of the girl) to discover that "Anna" is the American title. Elsewhere it was called "Mindscape".
Now, I get that Anna is a very popular girl's name. A major character in my SIBA stories is called Anna (link on the right, in desktop mode). My cat is called Anna.
But when you're looking for a movie? There's a Russian hitgirl ("Anna"), a drama series about a woman's made up life ("Inventing Anna"), historical drama ("Anna Karenina"), precotious clones ("Anna to the infinite power"), Jodie Foster ("Anna and the King"), Zombie musical FTW! ("Anna and the Apocalypse"), a young girl on an island where a virus killed off the adults ("Anna" - Italian, looks interesting, six episodes).....

So, as you can see, looking for a film called "Anna" is... going to find me Luc Besson; and if I look for "Netflix Anna", it'll find me Anna Delvey.


Fuel / driving

My kilometre meter said 374.9. My fuel gauge said ----II (that's two bars). A filled up, wasn't watching, just wanted to fill it, and it came to exactly twenty euros.
So twenty euros gets me 375km (give or take, the price of fuel varies). I think I could probably get about 450km from a tank of fuel (16 litres, if I recall correctly). I'm sure you can appreciate that rural France is not the place to play around and see how far one can go before the little petrol pump light comes on, as it can be further than a person would care to walk between petrol stations.
Anyway, 375km? That's like to Sézanne (to the right of Paris) or Marmande (by Bordeaux) if heading south. Twenty euros in the tank and that again? Could get me to Barcelona (south) or the outskirts of Frankfurt (east). Which means, at today's price, I could in theory go to either Frankfurt or Barcelona for forty euros of fuel.
We'll gloss over the fact that it would take 16 hours, there are bloody big mountains in the way, and I'm not permitted to drive my toy car outside of France. But asides from that, the theory holds. ☺

Somebody nudge me when an electric car has a range like that, and can be 'refilled' easily enough that charging won't mean actually staying someplace. From where I live to Málaga is about 1700km. It is driveable. Mom did it, in three days. Home to Bordeaux, Bordeaux to Soria (I think?), and Soria to the apartment she had down there. For me? About 38 hours. If I hack it for about six hours a day (which is probably way more than my concentration could deal with, but let's just go with it) it would take six days, going about 280km a day. That's sort of the upper limit of range of a new electric car, isn't it?
Of course, I won't be driving to Málaga, sadly. There are no warrior nuns, mom no longer has an apartment there, mom no longer is, and as I mentioned, couldn't get beyond the border. Plus, the longest distance I've intentionally driven is about 40km. My unintentional distance is probably a little more, when I went to Janzé for a parcel and, well, road closures and a magical mystery tour might have added up to a little further, but I was certainly frazzled afterwards.

I (still) haven't looked into getting a licence. Driving is a necessity. I live in the back of beyond, so a car is obligatory. Doctor? About 8km away. Work? 12ish. Supermarket? A naff one 8km, an okay one 12ish, and a bigger town 25km. Or 35km in a different direction, or 40km in the opposite different direction. My nearest burger joint was about 25km. So you can see that walking is a non-starter. Hell, it's 2km to a postbox. And it would have been 2km to a payphone, but those things are anacronisms these days.
A car is a necessity. But I don't like driving. I've only had a couple (literally, two) actually enjoyable journeys. One when I went out for the hell of it and took pictures of that wind turbine. And the other, going to a not-so-close vide grenier (that was a bit rubbish, but it was a nice trip). I don't know why I enjoyed those days, but I did. Suffice to say, I'm been driving since November 2019 (so nearly four years) and two trips in four years just isn't great odds really.
My main problem is my concentration. I can now more or less do the work commute on autopilot, but roads I don't know, I'm right back to that hypersensitive looking at and noticing everything and it's bloody tiring.
That's one of the reasons why Big Town is a special day out (like today) and not a Saturday routine (like it used to be with mom) because it's major roads, plenty of aggressive drivers, and I don't feel comfortable with the route even though it's a simple enough one. It's quarter past eight and I'm yawning even though I got up late, and had several calming teas when I got home. I just "had to drive" and it overstimulated my brain. I think I'll turn in early and listen to some calming music...



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Zerosquare, 14th October 2023, 21:57
Your remark about taurine in cat food intrigued me, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. 
Apparently, cats can't synthesize it, and if they don't get enough from their diet they can suffer from severe health problems. So that explains it. 
On humans, despite Red Bull marketing, it has never been shown to be necessary, or even to have any effect at all. The stimulating effect of energy drinks is because of all the caffeine in it, not the taurine (and in countries where it's not a legal food additive, Red Bull sell the same drink without the taurine).
David Pilling, 14th October 2023, 23:37
I remember, driving lesson number 2, was going around a block again and again, an hour of it left me exhausted. Same thing first time on a motorway. 
It gets better because you offload a lot of the mental effort to your subconscious and you learn where the danger is, rather than trying to look everywhere all the time. 
Learning to drive, you're taught what to do in various situations - rather than make it up every time. 
Not that it all sticks - eventually one does what one gets away with, until the day one does not. 
jgh, 15th October 2023, 06:30
Anna and the Apocalypse is the best film to come out of the Scottish industrial belt since, I don't know, FOREVAH! :D
jgh, 15th October 2023, 06:37
I used to live 10km from the shops and the bus stop, and cycled there while learning to drive. Once I passed my test, every now and then I'd drive 600km to family in about 8 hours. Now, about two hours' driving leaves me shattered and needing a day off.
C Ferris, 15th October 2023, 10:58
Bicycles seem to fall on deaf ears - last time in France I found drivers gave more room than home here :-( 
Not thought of taking car driving lessons! 
I thought France was part of Euro zone.
C Ferris, 15th October 2023, 11:09
Are there no coach firms doing long trips from your area - all that is needed a Cat box and bag :-)
David Pilling, 15th October 2023, 15:20
Golden rule of overtaking, change to a lower gear first, if you don't you're left praying that the car picks up speed fast enough. Anyway low gear, floor the gas pedal. That puts a lot of stress on the gubbins. Middle of overtaking is a bad place for mechanical failure. 
Also don't underestimate what you're overtaking. 
Also look in the right hand mirror first - the guy behind may have spotted the opportunity. 
Rick, 15th October 2023, 16:01
Colin: You're supposed to give 1.5 metres clearance around cyclists (road permitting). What's the rule in the UK? 
Uh...? France is part of the Euro zone. The ink roller price is in euros, as is the reference to the fuel price to drive to another country...? 
The only bus around here is the school bus. And even that's a bit variable (it seems the school supplies the bus, so if your child goes to a school outside of the bus catchment area (typical for private ones; also some schools have a limit that children closer than 'x' can't take the bus) then the parents have to work out how to get their child to school. 
As for commercial bus routes? Sure, if I drive 25km to a large town that's a connection hub...kind of defeats the purpose though, don't you think? 
Plus...bedbugs. Something of an item right now. 
Rick, 15th October 2023, 16:10
David: I was speaking to a friend in the UK a little earlier, and he wondered if the guy didn't hammer the engine too hard and blow his big end sending wreckage through the sump. It certainly looked like a catastrophic engine failure, but if his behaviour was any indication of his driving habits, then the engine was likely habitually mistreated. 
Heh, I bet he's one of those people who dicks around with his gears to make the tacho behave like the ones on the Fast/Furious series. 
I mean, one can shift gears to belt the engine from 3 to 5 or 6 thou, but just because one can doesn't mean one should... 
Anon, 15th October 2023, 17:21
"I drive an Audi and..." 
Yes, the 4 rings is Audi. About the time I started driving one, all the cocks switched from BMWs to Audis. Which meant I got rather unfortunately tarred with the same brush as the muppet you describe at the top of this entry. 
Fortunately all the cocks (around here at least) have now switched to Teslas, which means I can now drive my Audi again without people automatically thinking I'm a cock just because of the four rings on the front. 
At current fuel prices in the UK (and diesel has gone up again) it's costing me about £20 per 100 miles around the town and B-roads, or £15 per 100 miles on motorways. I was quite impressed a couple of weeks back when I drove from one side of England to the other (I was visiting a friend and we were going flying, but that's another story). Left home with a full tank of go-juice, when I reached said friend's house I'd used less than a quarter of a tank. Basically motorway all the way, with a bit of dual carriageway A-road (built to motorway standard) in the middle. 
As for the muppet you describe - not sure what he was playing at. My understanding is that your car couldn't rip the skin off a rice pudding (which is why you can drive it without needing a licence, so absolutely no offence intended!). Any half-competent driver ought to have been able to overtake you perfectly safely, and without blowing their engine to bits. 
Yes, I do 'block change' the gears, both up and down the box. On a motorway slip road I often accelerate quickly in 3rd, get it up past 70 then knock it straight into 6th. Or drop from 6th to 4th if I'm going for an overtake. 
Have to say though, having spent some time playing with a vehicle fitted with a 79-litre V12 engine (the Paxman 12RP200 'Valenta' series), all car engines seem underpowered. Even the Bugatti Veyron is 'only' 1,000bhp, the Valenta kicks out 2,500bhp. And there's another Valenta at the back pushing as well.
Rick, 15th October 2023, 18:13
Only seen one Tesla around here. Ugly bastard, innit? 
"couldn't rip the skin off a rice pudding" - PMSL! :-) 
C Ferris, 15th October 2023, 19:25
Not warp drive - but sips the Diesel:-) 
Pony and trap - might be the way forward.
C Ferris, 15th October 2023, 19:32
Bicycle passing distance - 1.5 inches - if you are lucky! Some find this funny. 
Car drivers perhaps if they cause a accident before getting their license back - ride a bicycle on the road for 2000 odd miles.
Anon, 15th October 2023, 19:44
A few years ago, I got the opportunity to drive an Audi RS4 saloon around a well-known racing circuit. At the time, my daily driver was a 2003-model Audi A4 Quattro, with the 1.9 litre diesel engine (the 130bhp version). Which was no slow-poke. 
The RS4 has a 4.2 litre V8 that pushes out 420bhp. So I figured it would take off a bit quicker than mine, despite being a fair bit heavier. 
All I can say, thinking back on it, is 'holy crap!' - I somewhat underestimated just how much 'a bit quicker' actually was. 
Let's just say that not only could that have easily ripped the skin off a rice pudding, it could have pulled the skin off the type of rice pudding that got served in most boarding schools in England in the 80s and early 90s. (Rick - you'll know what I'm talking about!) Without breaking sweat. 
It also drank petrol like a Scotsman drinks single malt. So no, at 8 miles to the gallon (on the track!) I won't be getting one. But it certainly ranks up there on the list of "the most things I've done with my clothes on". Which include: 
- Driving a train (nearly 5,000 horsepower from twin V12 diesels) 
- Flying a small aeroplane (Cessna 172), albeit for about 5 minutes before handing back control 
- 'Accidentally' getting chased by the 5-0 up a motorway at more than double the speed limit whilst driving a courtesy car (an Audi A3 with the 3.2 litre VR6 engine) - when I saw the blue lights I shot into the services, went for a burger then drove out of the service road. (I was a lot younger then!) 
The Tesla SUV-type things are hideous. The ones that look like more 'normal' cars are less ugly. The biggest problem is the type of people who buy them, at least round here. As for the whole 'green' thing, I'd hazard a guess that the environmental footprint of keeping my current car (2007 diesel) running until it becomes 'life expired' is much less than scrapping it and buying an EV.
C Ferris, 15th October 2023, 19:55
A electric car seem to have taken out a ship in the North Sea - and I suspect it was a parked Electric car that took out the car park at Luton Airport. 
It seems to be very difficult to put out a battery fire :-(
Anon, 15th October 2023, 20:18
A friend has just bought himself an EV. I've been in it a few times (not driven it yet). A Skoda Enyaq. He went for the more powerful one in its RWD version as it has a bigger battery and therefore a longer range. "Longer" being around 330 miles. It then takes him about 8 hours to recharge at home using a 7kW charger. If he's lucky and finds a fast charger (130kW) when he's out and about he can charge it in a couple of hours. 
Whereas when mine flashes up the yellow fuel warning, I go to a garage, fill up the tank with some refined recycled dinosaurs, and within 5 minutes I'm good for another 600 miles.
Rick, 15th October 2023, 20:25
Colin - "when the bomb drops", ponies might be all we have as I rather doubt any of this electric stuff would be worth a damn... 
Yeah, I think people are going to have to seriously rethink urban parking with electric cars. There are many tower blocks (of varying heights) that have offices and residential units with basement level parking. 
Plus, in America (I think it is banned in the UK?) there are homes with small bedrooms (therefore often for children) over top of the adjoining garage. Couple that with a prevalence of what is essentially wooden construction and... yeah... 
Anon - the most exciting thing I've ever handled is a minute or so of piloting a Westland Lynx. The army came to school and they brought a helicopter with them. As I was small, somebody decided it would be a good idea of me to sit on the co-pilot's lap. Well, I was up front and the guys where like "here, hold this and move it SLOWLY". 
Of course it had the training wheels on, but still, me an unofficial pilot for a minute or so. 
Accidentally getting chased? Double the speed limit? No, I think that chase might have been intentional. ;) 
Good job on losing them so effortlessly. It's as if they weren't even trying. 
Colin (again) - the problem is "thermal runaway" where the battery pack undergoes massive chemical changes that result in an essentially unstoppable increase in temperature that is extremely difficult to put out and has a tendency to reignite. About the only tactic that's useful with them is to douse everything else to try to contain the damage... but as you might have noticed, by the time the fire trucks turn up it's already a lost cause. If that was an electric car battery failing, imagine the damage when it's a car park full of the things and one fails triggering a vehicular Kessler event. 
C Ferris, 15th October 2023, 20:52
There are rooms above garages around here - I think the garages are supposed to be linined with fireproof cladding. 
But these battery fires are vicious. 
A van cought fire down here - burnt the front of the house - melted the plastic front door. 
I think the van was dragged down the street - what a mess.
Rick, 15th October 2023, 21:06
7kW? F**k that. My electric supply is only rated for 9kW! 
The Citroën Ami's charger is 1.8kW, and I thought that was a lot... 
I don't think I've managed anything like that. The most, I think, was around 6kW with the washing machine, water heater, and kettle all running at one time together. 
Anon, 15th October 2023, 21:50
"Accidentally" as in "I went past a marked police car whilst doing 140mph"... 
I was about 3-4 minutes from the next services (at 70mph - so just over a minute at the speed I was doing), so not wanting to be picking up the soap for Bubba for the next few months, I did what any person with no sense of fear would have done in that situation... 
...floored it. 
(Yes, you heard. At 140mph I wasn't 'flooring it'. It was barely breaking sweat.) 
Those things are supposed to have a 155mph limiter on them. I was once told by an Audi mechanic how to defeat it. So, needless to say, I did. Hit something over 170mph for a few seconds, put enough distance between me and said marked police car that he'd lost sight of me, then pulled into the services for a burger. 
Even if they'd clocked the registration number, it would have come back as "Audi roadside assistance". And I'd have denied all knowledge, of course. 
Like I said, this was a fair few years ago. Wouldn't do anything like that again. Plus watching the needle go down on the fuel gauge at a fairly rapid rate isn't fun these days. 
That car proves that the Germans do, in fact, have a sense of humour. Anyone who can shoehorn a 3.2 litre V6 engine delivering 250bhp into a small 3-door hatchback clearly knows how to have a laugh. And clearly the fact they bothered to fit that car with 4-wheel drive also proves that the Germans aren't actually sadists. 
I got 170 miles out of that car before the fuel light came on. It averaged about 17mpg in the week I had it. There may be one or two ways of bankrupting yourself that are slightly better than that, but not by much. 
Anyway, back to electrics. My main fuse here is 60A, although the meter tails will take 100A. So that's about 14kW. My base load is between 1 and 2 amps (so between 230 and 460W). I suppose if I had the washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher running then decided to boil the kettle, I might be able to push it up to about 6-7kW. Which, of course, leads to another issue with EVs. If everyone has them, and everyone wants to charge them overnight, the grid won't handle it. 
I had solar panels fitted last year (might have mentioned in a previous comment). Over the course of the last 12 months, my net electricity usage has been negative. Unfortunately the export tariff is a lot lower; I'm paying 27p/kWh for import and being paid about 16p/kWh for export. But the system does cover the majority of my daytime usage (making coffee, keeping servers running etc). 
I don't think I need a 3-phase supply here just yet!
David Pilling, 16th October 2023, 15:16
Audi == Auto Union == the four rings representing the companies that united. 
Re Luton fire "Investigators believe the blaze was started when a diesel car, thought to be a Range Rover, suffered an electrical fault or leaking fuel line." 
Rick, 16th October 2023, 16:02
Diesel? You mean the stuff that won't combust if you tip some in a tray and toss lit matches into it? 
The cynic in me wants to say "given the push to get everybody to use EVs, if it was one that randomly caught fire, it would be hushed up or the EV push would be dead in the water... 
Anon, 16th October 2023, 18:57
Yes. Diesel. The stuff that won't burn unless the vapour is highly compressed with the correct air:fuel ratio. 
Rick: I wasn't going to say that... but you did. :)
Rob, 16th October 2023, 21:41
Hmm. I grew up in estate, probs built 1960s,where every house had a built-in garage.. Nothing between the garage and the upstairs rooms other than the usual wooden rafters and floorboards. I have no idea if regulations have changed since. A lot of houses had converted them to extra living rooms, as was ours, but as we were on a slope, the previous occupants had replaced it with a double garage *under* the old one.. 
Next door did the same, then converted *that* to living space too...
jgh, 17th October 2023, 05:17
Improbably, the Germans do do humour. I discovered this recently. Put down the tea before watching: 
Klaus The Fork-Lift Driver's First Day
David Pilling, 18th October 2023, 02:22
"Andrew Hopkinson, chief fire officer at Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service, previously told the media: “We have no intelligence at this stage to suggest that this was anything other than an accidental fire that started in one of the vehicles that had not long arrived at the airport. It was not an EV. This was a diesel powered vehicle." 
You can imagine that the vehicle still being hot was enough to get the diesel to burn, or that the Daily Mail where the original quote came from embroidered the above a bit. 

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