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A nice day in Châteaubriant

I got up at twenty past six, fed the furry and made a tea. I drifted off to sleep again, planning to get up about nine-ish.

I wasn't expecting to pick up my phone and see the clock telling me it was half ten. Oops! But, honestly, I feel good. Rested. Not a big deal, it wasn't a work day, so I just leave an hour and a half later than planned. It's good to be able to sleep until your body feels like waking up, without an alarm going off.


Crazy cyclist

As I left a nearby little town en route for Châteaubriant, I passed a group of lycra-clad cyclists. As I went by, one swerved out and entered my slipstream. I was doing 47kph and he could well have been holding onto my car's spoiler. He wasn't, I don't think. But he was close enough that if I put on the brakes he'd be a goner. He kept on my tail for about four kilometres, drifting back as I approached a roundabout.
I honked twice and waved out the window. He waved back.
Crazy-ass dude, but, well, he'll have a lot of extra drinking time at the pub. His compatriots? Nowhere to be seen.


Between the barricades

Passing through a forest, one side of the road was lined with men wearing orange jackets and carrying rifles. This forest is a common spot for organised boar hunts, so this wasn't a surprise.
It wasn't lost on my the irony of driving through that situation while Spandau Ballet was singing "Between The Barriacades".


Action, Gémo, Districenter

I didn't bother. Sales have been on for a week and a half, so I doubted I'd find any bargains. I pretty much didn't look at sale stuff at all in the supermarket either.



I did my usual shop there, picking up the usual stuff in the usual way. It's all quite predictable. Thankfully I've now mapped things out in my mind (after their redevelopment) so I know where I need to go and the aisles I can skip over. For instance, I don't need slippers and I am the wrong gender to need to worry about bra sizes.
An oddity that I noticed was that they seem to have a bio (organic) section in a corner, but the shop doesn't stock fresh organic semi-skimmed milk. The only organic milk is Ribot (buttermilk) and a selection of UHT products.

As I was walking around, I noticed that the magic-wand thingy for scanning purchases was Experiencing Difficulty.

ScanAchat isn't responding
ScanAchat isn't responding.

I really wanted to tap on Close app to see what happened, but as you might know the Covid rate in France (and other places) has hit stupid numbers, and the place was quite crowded. I just wanted to throw my shopping into bags and get the hell out. So I tapped Wait. Everything froze for a couple of seconds, and then normality was restored.
At any rate, two observations are that it's some sort of Android app, likely running on underspecified hardware - my freebie tablet does the same thing a lot as it's slow but it doesn't seem to realise that it is slow. ☺ It's quite fun when it reports that the problematic app is System UI and one taps to close it, at which point Android panics.
The second observation is an English language France.

Thankfully "the system" had trust in me (perhaps because I didn't kill the app?) and so it handwaved me through. Actually, I went to the information desk to pay as I could leave everything in the bags. I then pushed my trolley out the in (which was by the kiosk) and noticed a cute little girl staring at me. Yup, this dude with crappy hair loaded a bunch of things into his trolley and was just pushing it out the in. Refuge in audacity, right?


Gifi and the not-sales

I went to Gifi to get myself a slide scanner, as I have a bunch of slides of a holiday in Israel taken a long long time ago. The man was asking a tenner but didn't seem to want to part with the photos. That was, until mom talked about her time in Israel. Which was back in the early sixties (I think, I can't ask her). She spent a summer over there in a kibbutz (I'm guessing some sort of tent?) in a place with a name she said as "bear-shiva". That's probably the place called "Be'er Sheva" bang smack in the middle (I'm looking at Google Maps). She was there to participate in a hydroponics programme - basically making stuff grow in a desert. If you look on Google Maps, it looks like an unforgiving environment. But, on the other hand, when things do grow in Israel, the climate tends to make things impressively oversized. She said to me that the avocados were quite something.

I tried to take some photos with my phone by placing the slides on an LED lightpad, but the results were... iffy. This is after manually correcting distortion from not having the phone directly flat over the photo, and messing a lot with the contrast and different brightness levels (like enhancing the darks and shadows).

Israel - somewhere
Israel - somewhere.

My interest isn't specifically Israel, it's a place mom knew better than I ever would. My interest is for the same reason I like old postcards and pictures of Japan (and, for that matter, anywhere). It's the "here is how it was then" aspect of a changing world.

So I was intending to get a slide scanner from Gifi for €25, on sale from the usual price of €36 (-33%). Turns out that the sale price is only available to people with Gifi loyalty cards. So, in other words, not a sale at all. Really they should mark that something like "VIP PRICE" rather than trying to pass it off as a "SOLDE". I paid the higher price, declining the checkout girl's offers of a loyalty card. I hardly ever go in there, I just happened to see this thing years ago and they still had it. Plus it works with XP which is rarer and rarer these days.
I reminded myself that looking for these things on Amazon would have cost me the same for a little plastic bracket that I put my smartphone on.
This scanner... isn't going to be great. It claims two megapixels, so I would guess something along the lines of 1600×1200? I'm installing the software as I'm writing this. It's stupidly supplied as a 120MiB file on a dinky CD, so it takes time to load that.


Au vide grenier

I actually went to Gifi after spotting in Google Maps something called "Au vide grenier". Looking to see what this is, it's an interesting idea to replace the vide greniers that haven't been held due to the unforgiving plague.
Basically, it's a big sort of warehouse split into sections. Each section has a table. You can rent a table for one, two, or three weeks. And if you don't sell anything, you'll get a free week until you do sell. Their tariff is something like 35% (about ten percent less than the usual charge for a brocante).
Indoor vide grenier
Indoor vide grenier.

It's not quite the same as a real vide grenier. You can't haggle prices. Some stuff is overpriced. Other stuff, less so.

Vide grenier purchases
Vide grenier purchases.

I got a little Walkman tape player with long play, recorder, tape counter, built in speaker and microphone, and speed adjustment... Sony too. There was a tape inside. Music to pray to. Uh... Anyway, this was a good find and it cost two euros.
I also got a Siemens Gigaset E360 DECT telephone for three euros. It didn't seem to want to hold a charge, so after cleaning it up, I popped the back and saw two regular alcaline AAA cells inside. Wouldn't it be funny if it was given to be sold off cheap because it wasn't charging properly, and that's because some twit put the wrong batteries into it? I'll have to get two NiMH of around 650mAh... scratch that, found four AAAs, NiMH rated 800mAh for a fiver on Amazon. They'll be here on Wednesday.



Now here's the thing that got me excited. Upon tracing the best route from the vide grenier place to Burger King, I spotted a little marker that said "Picard".
No, surely not.

Yup. Châteaubriant now has a Picard.
It's as if God (other mythological sky fairies are available) understood that, in my little car, going down to Ancenis wasn't really feasible (it's like forty-odd minutes to drive to Châteaubriant and Ancenis is twice as far with some pretty major roads) so he/she/it/mom decided that the best thing to do would be to bring my reasons for wanting to go to Ancenis to Châteaubriant.
Burger King, then Picard. That's it, actually. The two reasons mom and I used to go to Ancenis (when we weren't going Down South).

Picard is like Iceland (the shop, not the country), only upmarket. It's easy to make a pretty harsh dent in your wallet in that place, but your taste buds will thank you. And since most of the stuff is specifically made for Picard (there's practically no branded stuff), it's all pretty good quality. If you want rubbish packed out with E-numbers, go to one of those four-letter-name German discount supermarkets.
I set myself a budget of fifteen euros and two days - this is because I don't have a freezer, I have a one-star cold box at the top of the fridge.

Oh, yummy!
Oh, yummy!

Actually, finding the place was a trauma. Google did their usual crap with putting it in the middle of the road (lengthwise), so it was flagged as being in the middle of an industrial part of town. Helpfully, the shop owner included a sign showing the outside.
I recognised the building design as either being the place where the optician is, or the Jardiland place. I picked Jardiland. It was the optician. <sigh>
Still, I'm a fast walker so it was only a couple of minutes between the two. The man overseeing the shop was really friendly and helpful, and he pointed out that everybody says that it's marked as being in the wrong place. He tried to correct it himself to no avail.
I have corrected it, and Google sent me an email to say that my change has been accepted (but it'll take time to trickle through). What did I do different? I took a GPS tagged photo from a little further away showing the shops on either side, so they can see it's between this and that, and not down the arse-end of town.

That stuff in the freezer-box? Tomorrow... patience... patience...

Actually, the man said that he tried the pulled pork, and it was "très particulière". I replied that it was American, and Americans are "très particulière".
In both senses, that phrase was a polite way of saying "weird".
I've never had pulled pork, but mom used to mention it a number of times and since it was on special, why not?
The best thing I ever had from Picard was a special they did. A half kilogram pack of Mac&Cheese, made in... Delaware, I think? And imported. Sadly it isn't a regular item, it was part of "America week" or something. But, Gorram, you want a solid Mac&Cheese, get it from the source.
There is Mac&Cheese here in France, it's a pretty common/easy thing to make, but fail one is "oh, it's special, it has Comté in it". Now Comté isn't a bad cheese, it is similar in concept to cheddar except for two major differences. It is stringy. Like really stringy. And it is usually not aged, or they make a big deal of it being ages for three months. Which is about half as long as it takes for a halfway decent cheddar to 'become'. That's why good cheddar is crumbly, and this stuff is sort of rubbery. It's just too young. And stringy? Who wants a stringy Mac&Cheese with the slightly metallic taste of a young cheese? You might as well toss in Leerdammer or Edam, stir, and hope for the best.
No, you need a proper aged cheese. One that will impart a taste to flavour the meal in a way that lesser cheeses just cannot.

Actually, I suspect this might be part of France's obsession with Emmental (which isn't even French!). It seems that in things (like grated emmental on a croissant), it's mostly there for decoration. Emmental doesn't really taste of much. It's mildly nutty, but like eating chewy pieces of paper.
In the Anglophone world, the cheese is not there for decoration, it's a major component of the harmony of the meal. Think of cheese on a jacket potato. If you're a Brit (except you, Mick ☺), you'll know exactly what that will taste of, and potato will not be the major flavour.

I know what yakisoba tastes like. I don't know what Sichuan chicken tastes like. Looking forward to finding out. The chicken in one of them comes from Thailand (the meat ID label on the side says TH at the top).
Oh, I've just noticed, the Sichuan chicken has edemame. I like those.


Burger King

I only went in here today because I could get a free meal with my points. If I thought I'd be spending fifteen euros on a burger meal... well, all of the above from Picard cost sixteen so, yeah, I mean, come on. I'm now going to have to think hard about whether it's a burger or something from Picard whizzed through the microwave...

Anyway, you can't personalise free meals (which is a really idiotic restriction). So I went to the counter and said that I don't want tomato in my burger. I told him I can't eat tomato. It's a lie, I just don't like the damn things, but people tend to ignore personal preferences. Saying "can't eat them" sounds more...important.
He tried on two different terminals to edit the order, but it wouldn't let him. So he asked a manager, who said to give the order number and modification to the cooks. So off he went.
When he came back I paid for the extra onion rings.

While I was waiting, I figured out what the screen at the end of the front desk was for.

Burger King placement
Burger King placement.

Both Burger King and McDonald's have table service. You make an order from a big touch screen, then take a little dodah that stands on the table and shows a number.
Here's where the two places differ significantly. I've seen the girl in McDonald's wander around in circles looking at all of the tables. I've even had her ask "forty three?" while there's very clearly a different number showing on my table.
Burger King, on the other hand, the girl picks up the order and comes over to this screen. She taps the number she is looking for, and a little pulsing blue circle shows where this number is located, so she can take the tray directly to the correct table.
You can see in the photo that number 16 is selected, and see the blue dot just above the entry door (on the right of the restaurant).
She cleaned a table after dropping off the order and picking up the number. It looked as if it updates every thirty seconds. Probably to save battery life.
But, still, it's a much better solution than walking in circles hoping to spot where the number is. McDo is slow enough as it is, without that!

My burger arrived after a bit of a delay.
With two tomato pieces. I decided it just wasn't worth saying anything. I wonder if somebody else is going to go up and shout about "where's my damned tomato!". ☺

I drank the cherry coke, a half litre of it, on the journey home. Well, I pulled over twice. Didn't fancy wearing it. As for the onion rings, trundling along the ring road at 47kph munching on those while they were hot, paying no attention to the queue of cars behind me.

Upon returning home, I repurposed the 500ml cup for tea.



Now for something special. I got the scanner software installed, after updating some obscure version of .Net, rebooting, and having some bit of .Net fall over. Typical.

Still, it got installed and a picture on the screen. It looks like it is some sort of high resolution video camera (like a webcam) in a special little box. There are two options in the control software, 1800dpi and 3600dpi. Both are bullshit.
In 1800dpi mode, the images generated are 3264×2448 which by my reckoning is nearly eight megapixels. So I think it's interpolating a smaller image to make itself look more impressive. It also saves eight megapixel images in file sizes in the order of 700-900K, so JPEG artefacts are rather visible.
To show what I mean, here is a non-scaled close-up of mom's face, you'll see this in a photo below, but it'll be scaled to fit here.

Mom - close up to show distortion
Mom - close up to show distortion.

The scanner also seems to cut off a fair bit of the edges of the photos. I've not made any measurements, but it 'feels' like about 10%, which is quite a bit.

Still, plug this gizmo in, load the software, poke a button, and out comes images of what is there. It has a carrier tray for 35mm film, and a second carrier tray for slides. The software allows easy selection between positives (slides) and negatives (photos).
As it's a video device, I wonder if it might be possible to use this on RISC OS? Hmm, probably not.


I can't scan any of the Israel slides, they're out in the shed and since it's cold out, they can stay there. I reached behind me for a bag containing numerous pouches of photos. Mom gave them too me on the last day she was able to get up and walk, telling me that there's plenty of family history in there that might interest me. I've not looked at any of them, as many photos are missing (probably in albums) but the negatives are there. The problem with negatives is that they aren't so easy to look at. You can see where I'm going, right?

Here's a photo from October 1973 that my father had written on it as "fat & preggy Jenny". He had such a way with words...
This photo was horrible. The hue was all off, the contrast was a disaster. Not a fault of the scanner, the original film was not good. It was also some weird square-frame film with sprocket holes beside the gap between each frame, rather than regular like 35mm film. A quick Google suggests it might be a film type called "126". I'd not heard of that before, but given my parents, I think it's safe to say that mom would be more than capable of dealing with loading a 35mm cartridge (there's a Pentax SLR around here somewhere), while my dad is probably safer with a drop-in cartridge that you literally can't cock up. ☺
That being said, it was a colour photo. You'll notice the rest are black and white.

Jenny, preggy. That's me inside!
Jenny (mom), preggy. That's me inside!

Speaking of my father, here he is scaping ice off the car. I think this might have been in Dunblane. It looks like he might be wearing heels. Well, it was the early seventies.

Terry (dad) and an ancient-looking car
Terry (dad) and an ancient-looking car.

Here is mom, shortly after my birth. No idea who the other woman is. I suspect it might have been my father's mother, who was by all accounts batshit crazy (and a large part of the reason why my father wanted mom to look for work in the south of England!). That wallpaper, holy crap, that wallpaper. I bet it was like lurid neon orange and yellow and green.

Jenny (mom) and some crazy old biddy
Jenny (mom) and some crazy old biddy.

There's somebody missing from all of this.


Before I show this picture, just know that when it comes to my birthday, I never blew out the candles when I was born, I blew them out four minutes later.
I was born at 10.04pm. But I was blue and, well, stillborn.
Now here's the magical bit. Mom was not supposed to use the Queen Mother's hospital in Glasgow as there's a hospital closer to where she lived. However as an employee (nurse) at said hospital, she could elect to have me born there. Which she did.
The nurses delivered me, with some degree of panic because blue is not a good colour unless it's a Na'vi giving birth. The matron/sister in charge ran down the corridor and straight into the end of a massively overrun convention of paediatricians that were supposed to have wrapped up at six but were still there. Well, they dropped everything and I got pretty much all of Scotland's best child doctors making it their personal mission to get me going. Which they did, at 10.08pm. I was dead for the first four minutes of my life. Born premature, it obviously took time to grab a soul and install it into the body. Just imagine that little spinny circle above my head... 10%, 15%, 20%... ☺

I have mild dyspraxia (that means, do not invite me to be on your baseball team) and dyscalculia (like dyslexia but with numbers). I'm also very likely "on the spectrum", but I was never tested as when I was a child, "autistic" was considered another way of saying "retarded".
That said, all things considered, I turned out pretty good. Literally a handful of seconds more and we'd be looking at a life in a wheelchair drooling over myself, or - worse - never having a life at all.

So here I am in a hyperbaric chamber (oxygen tent), after a tumultuous start. The photo is captioned "Wah's first days". As a toddler, I was called "Wah", which stands for "Wet And Horrible". You can tell I was their first (and only) baby, can't you?

Rick (me) in my first home, a little plastic box.
Rick (me) in my first home, a little plastic box.

Looking at the thing shoved up my nose, I wonder if being born early might explain my asthma? I haven't needed any medication since becoming an adult, but as a child I had... Beconase? Becotide? Basically some steroid stuff. One went up my nose, the other down my throat. The nose one stopped me being a mouth breather, and the throat one? Well, that was for the really bloody scary moments when my lungs would just stop working. Like, nothing. Try to breathe and nothing would happen. So, scared and getting dizzy (and in some measure of pain), I'd have to carefully time hitting myself in the chest (to knock out air) with squirting this in to get things going again.
Only one person - the school matron - understood that if it didn't work, I'd need CPR to try to get everything working, otherwise I'd suffocate to death.
I think what was happening was a muscle spasm that interfered with the normal cycle of breathing. Not sure what triggered it. But it was very rare (thank god), and the last time it happened was when I was fourteen (I think).

The funny thing is, I'm living here in an old farmhouse. It's cold, damp, and there's probably a billion mould spores floating around for most of the year. Apart from a mild persistent cough, I feel better than I did in the UK (where it was petrol fumes from all the roads).


So there's my secret. I'm from Glaz-gee.

However my somewhat odd accent is a mixture of mom (Baltimore), Hampshire, and varying degrees of the Estuary English and fake RP spoken by people at boarding school in Sussex.
Why Hampshire and Sussex? Because mom found a new placement in a little hospital in Hartley-Wintney. So I lived in Scotland for about six months, and then grew up with the crazies down south (except for a year in Catonsville).


I'm 48 years old. So are those films. It's kind of mind boggling to think that all the times mom has moved, she kept these little bits of history with her). I wonder if she wanted me to someday see what my father was like when he was still a reasonable human being?
Now I have a way of visualising the negatives, I can start to look at all of this.



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J.G.Harston, 28th January 2022, 02:51
Was one of the hunters a tall rotund chap, and the other a short wirey chap, both with huge moustaches, by Toutatis? :)

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