Wednesday, 30 January 2008


Ask anyone of your family about your great grandparent's life and I bet you'll draw a blank. No details available with the possible exception - if there is a family tree somewhere - of the life span, profession and the indication where these people lived.

These great grandparents from you and me must have been born between 1890 and 1900. By all means that is not so very long ago. Nevertheless, I don't have the faintest idea what mine did. I asked my wife about hers, same answer.

I can't help thinking that's a sad state of affairs. We are not animals who vanish without trace. All these previous generations could read and write, there was paper and ink, even writing machines.

Hundred years have passed and it looks to us as if they have never lived.

To illustrate my point, I am only talking about those great grandparents. But it is absolutely sure, members of our family, yours and mine, lived somewhere when Christobal Columbus discovered America. They lived at the time of the Roman Empire, at the time of Christ and they must have been somewhere when Alexander The Great marched from Greece through Persia to India and died in Babylon.

I would have loved to know all those life stories, or at least some of them. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing.

These losses can't be made good. But at least you and me, we can do this: write down our own life story. Hundred pages or so, why not two hundred? Make copies, put it on CD-ROM, give it to your lawyer to be kept for 100 years. Who knows, maybe at that time it will be vastly interesting to the buggers living around 2110. If your text survives till then, it will be an icon, because unique. And will enter the National Library, I bet.

As to me, ay have already started some years ago. But then I stopped, because I discovered video games (Half-Life) and thought this more fun. It's a shame, ok. But the first twenty pages are on my hard disk and I wow to carry on.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008


There are very few people who are indifferent to music, like Captain Hornblower of the Royal Navy. And his excuse was to be tone deaf.

What amazes me however is the wide variation of music itself and what people consider to be wonderful (cool in neoworld language) and what this or that kind of music means to them.

For instance: my father-in-law used to start into annual vacation a little after midnight, because there was less traffic. In order to stop him from dozing off while driving he usually switched to Arabic music. "Keeps me awake", he said and never more about this subject.

Years ago, I saw an Indian movie "Jalsaghar- The Music Room" from Satajit Ray. Basically, it was about an impoverished Indian prince who loved music and dancers but had to sell some valuables in his palace in order to hire both for a performance. Somewhere during the action he hears in the distance an Indian "oompah" band playing a kind of marching music. He says something like: "everything is going down the drain, now they even play this crappy music from Europe". For him, European music was that, badly played, badly chosen, barbaric. By the way, the Indian music and dancing in this film is splendid.

As to me, I know what I like and what I dislike. However, I am totally unable to explain this. The longer you discuss the subject the more you get off the mark.

What you are invited to listen to here is certainly a YouTube sideline but give it a try nevertheless.

Meet Margret Almer, she is a yodler, a real good one. Having heard her first time, I jumped at Amazon to get the CD. But there is a difference to see her performing. When I play YouTube on the PC, my wife comes and listens with a smile though she does not understand German: "joyful music", she says, "heartwarming".

Hope you like it, too. If not, well, don't make any bones out of it, nothing personal, just rot in peace.

To know more about her, I had a look at Wikipedia. She won prices at Austrian and German folk festivals and published three CD's. But she never made a breakthrough. She is currently working at the Austrian Postal Administration. Sad, isn't it?

My blogger friend Vinod Sharma from New Delhi sent me this Yodel song from India. That's called intellectual outsourcing.

Thursday, 10 January 2008


This morning, a cloudless sky and the thermometer well below freezing level. Over here, at 550 m (about 1700 feet) that inaugurates a splendid dry winter day ideally suited for some biking.

I always owned a bike, but only last year I finally managed to get a real good one, a 24 gear hybrid with disk brakes for the front wheel. Pure bliss!

Over here, we have a lot of tarmac roads, narrow but well kept. Our village is small, 250 people it seems, hamlets included. That was not always so. In 1850 there lived here about 1200. The first hamlet I try to reach is "Les Vigues", not far away but high up. Heavy going, first gear. The old house on the left would be great for a museum but it is occupied. I would like to have a look inside but how to get invited?
1 Hamlet called "Les Vigues"

Right near this place I pass by this abandoned saw mill. Please admire the roof. On the left side
it has no supporting structure - never had since I came here - and nevertheless, the roof does not collapse. A miracle. The owner died two or three years ago. He was my first and last local enemy. Never greeted me when I met him. That was due to the fact that in the first year of our coming here he supplied me with wet firewood. So the next year I looked for someone else. He did not like it.

2 Abandoned saw mill - don't miss the roof

The road continues to climb. All around nothing but fields for the cows. Don't know how many are here but certainly two or three times more than humans. These cows are special because of their red-brown color. Very hardy, most stay outside night and day, winter and summer.
They are called "Salers", special breed only existing here in Cantal region of Central France. Have a look, see photo N° 4.

N° 3 Dirt road near "les Fraux"

This pic N°3 is only shown because I like it. Don't go there, this time, the ground must be a little muddy. In winter I am a tarmac lover.

Having passed this dirt road, I reach the top, nearly 100 m (350 feet) above the village. I am sweating profusely because of two pullovers plus one anorak. Must wear this because when racing down, the wind will be icy. The Département of Cantal has nothing but ups and downs, ups and downs. The biking fool is continually sweating, respiration wheezing followed by downhill racing where you feel the cold.

N° 4 Salers cows in front of the Cantal Mountains

Pic N° 4 shows the highest point of the village surroundings. Those mountains are good for skiing, cross country and alpine. One hours' drive and I am there. But not now. Down we go but not too fast. Because, over here, it's not only up and down but continually turning.
Except the main roads, nothing is straight. Fortunately I have a disk brake on the front wheel, a great invention.

When living in Paris and going to work on my bike, my Peugeot cycle was equipped with those crappy rim brakes. The bowden cables broke every three months and in the cycle shop they explained to me that this is normal. Those cables are wear and tear I was told. I put Peugeot on my personal black list and wowed never to buy from them anything else. No bike, no car, no household appliance. Nothing.

N° 5 The road to Pleaux

Pic N° 5 shows a road pretending to be horizontal. But it isn't. And please admire those sign posts. Some show the distance, others not, some give you the road number others not. Don't know why, nobody knows, could be a state secret.

This main road is reasonably straight. They have been doing there some serious road ironing. When biking along, I see right and left portions of the old small ever bending country road. The tarmac is slowly eaten up by weed and I imagine in 20 years from now those bends have disappeared from sight. Could be food for archaeologists, thousand years from now. Opening up this old road with the help of a tooth brush............

N° 6 The village of Cros de Monvert

This is our neighbor village. Nearly as dead as Rouffiac but only nearly. Because we have a pub!
In fact it's the only one in the area and thus attracts rural boozers from everywhere. The place is at the same time a restaurant but the food is ghastly. Don't dare to tell more about it, lawyers may be lurking to make some quick buck on me for slander.

This one is a bit long (I mean this story). The last 4 or 5 km till home feature one long uphill and a steep downhill. Photo N° 7 shows the deepest spot between our two villages. In winter the sun never shines here.
N°7 From here it's uphill, either side. Always slippery

Plus a place where ferocious farm dogs race along with me. Trouble is this portion is uphill! The dogs run and I try to go fast. Next time I'll bring my alarm pistol with me. It makes a big noise and I hope they run away, those barking devils. I'll tell you the outcome, stay tuned.

Here, at the end, a sample of the local dance "La Bourrée".