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The old and the new

Posted on August 30th, 2012

A thousand metres up on the Plateau d’Albion, near the town of Sault, the Sirene Observatory enjoys panoramic views and clear starlit nights. But the observatory has a darker history. Not long after his election in 1958, General de Gaulle expelled NATO headquarters from Fontainebleu, withdrew from NATO integrated command, insisted that all troops on French soil must be under French command and began to develop an independent nuclear strike capability. Eighteen missile launch silos were spread across the Albion plateau and placed on alert for over thirty-five years. The last nuclear warheads were finally removed in February 1998 and the silos dismantled and buried. All except for one, now the Sirene Observatory, ranged around the massive metal covers of the underground missile pit.…

La peste

Posted on August 14th, 2012

We have a plague of field mice, called mulots. Fifteen have been trapped so far in cages baited with peanut butter, in our two cellars. But one fell into a bathroom sink and was unable to climb out. Summers are very dry here – sometimes the mulots are so desperate to reach water they fall into the swimming pool and drown. Trapped mulots are released four hundred metres away among the vines. We wish them well. But why a plague this year? Perhaps we have sinned. In April 2012, Stephen Green, leader of Christian Voice in the UK,  claimed that an infestation of mice in Tesco’s Covent Garden store was god’s retribution for the supermarket’s support for Gay Pride. So far as I can remember, there is not…

Signs, signs and more signs

Posted on August 6th, 2012

Visiting a skin specialist in Cavaillon, we were overwhelmed by signs, twenty nine in all. This blizzard of notices directed patients up the stairs, to turn off mobile phones, not to smoke, to prepare before phoning, not to open the window and so on. They seemed to say “We could run an efficient practice, but for the patients”.