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Processionary caterpillars

Posted on March 17th, 2016

We have seen no real winter this year, even though it snowed briefly last night.  Spring has arrived early with unseasonably warm weather. Unfortunately this means high numbers of dangerous chenilles processionaires, or processionary caterpillars. Pine processionary moths lay their eggs high in pine trees. After hatching the larvae develop and grow, eating pine needles and building white silken nests in the trees to survive winter. Nests are sited on the sunny side of the tree and may contain hundreds of caterpillars, who go out at night to feed on the host tree, returning at dawn to the sun-warmed nest to digest their food. When fully grown the caterpillars leave the nest, normally in late March, and move down the tree in nose-to-tail formation. These processions…

The Catholic Church

Posted on March 8th, 2016

The Catholic Church in France has so far managed to evade the extensive exposure and furore over sexual abuse witnessed in the United States, Australia and Ireland. In France the issue is presented as a number of isolated instances rather than any systemic abuse and cover-up, but the church has long fought access to church documents and few judges have taken advantage of a ruling against the church in 2002. Likewise there has been no official government inquiry, though evidence is mounting. Nearly one hundred priests have been imprisoned, and one month ago Cardinal Barbarin of Lyon was forced to admit that he allowed a predator priest continued access to children for over eight years, while failing to report him as required by law.…

Back in France

Posted on March 1st, 2016

We have returned to Lacoste after spending most of January enjoying summer in Sydney. Meanwhile France remains immutable: A French railway worker called Charles Simon has been paid around €5,000 a month to sit at home. After raising concerns about fraudulent practices at his workplace, he was sent home and told another position would be found for him. That was twelve years ago. Over at the national postal service, La Poste, a group of trades unions has been administering an employee social fund known as Cogas with an annual budget of €212.5 million, paid for by La Poste. Among its activities are thirteen Avea holiday camps for children and adolescents, where every postman’s child is guaranteed a place. Despite a 9% decline in the…