Friday, 27 April 2018

May Mayhem - it's Holiday Month!



France seems to have so many bank holidays that I just can’t keep track of them.  Often the only advance notice I get is when I see a sign on a supermarket door stating that they will be ‘exceptionally open’ on a certain date – which is a sure sign that just about everybody else will be closed that day and it is a public holiday.  I don’t even know how they manage to find the time to work the 35 hours a week that they are all complaining about, when most places are closed on Sundays, lots of places are closed on Mondays, and as many places as possible seem to close at lunchtime.

In the UK, if a public holiday falls on a weekend it is shifted to a Monday - in France, if Mayday is on a Sunday then that is just your back luck that you get a ‘day off’ on a day that you would not be working anyway.  But the french do find a brilliant way to compensate in other ways; if the public holiday falls on a Thursday or a Tuesday, ie close enough to a weekend, they then take the day in between and call it a ‘bridge’ – therefore taking 4 days off in a row!

May is always a minefield of public holidays – with some years as many as 5 falling in the same month. This year there are ‘only’ 4 – but if you count all the ‘bridges’ there is every possibility that some people will manage 15 non-working days this month! 

This reminds me of an occasion several years ago when I asked a french lady what the public holiday was for on 30th November.  Immediately understanding that I was English (I’ll never lose my accent…) she informed me that it was ‘Zee festival of zer Deaf’.  It was only several hours later that I realized she was trying to tell me it was the Festival of the Death – more commonly known as ‘All Saints Day’! 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Tilting at Windmills

I live in an area called ‘Les Aspres’, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It hasn’t officially been designated as such but it is often featured in postcards of the region, showing pink cherry-blossom and vineyards with the majestic snow-capped Canigou mountain in the background.  It is a really beautiful place to live and I never tire of admiring the scenery. If you haven’t yet visited, I suggest you come very soon, as it seems a strong possibility that the views will soon be marred by 150m high wind turbines.

The first I heard of this was just a few weeks ago when one of the Mayor’s assistants delivered a letter to all the residents of the village, explaining that she was resigning because she could not work with a Mayor who was willing to accept the installation of wind farms.  I then started to notice banners appearing in a neighbouring village saying ‘Non aux eoliennes’  (no to Wind Turbines) and even some houses with signs in the windows saying ‘For Sale because of Turbines’ – hardly iikely to attract buyers but it made a point!

But I still couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about – surely an eco-friendly way of producing electricity must be a good thing, and apart from being a ‘NIMBY’ and not particularly wanting one too close to my house, I felt that perhaps one wind turbine a few kilometres away wouldn’t be too bad. 

I was wrong.

On Friday I went to an open meeting and was completely shocked by what I heard.  The project is already in the ‘planning’ stage, there could be as many as 92 turbines (involving over 600 hectares of land) in parcels of land around Brouilla, Passa, St.Jean-Lasseilles, Banyuls-dels-Aspres, Fourques, Terrats, Tresserre, Caixas and Villemolaque.  Most of the Mayor’s have voted NO, but the Mayor of my village, and two others, are ‘pro-eoliennes’.  We also heard from the residents of one of the villages that they had not even been asked their opinion; the Mayor had just signed an agreement on behalf of the village, (and apparently pocketed a large sum of money – but this is just rumour and hearsay and therefore possibly not true….).  It is true to say that the meeting was called by the ‘anti-eolienne’ lobby so all the comments were negative, but this is what I learned:

These machines can be within 500 metres of a property.
The noise from wind turbines has been blamed for health problems including stress and insomnia.
Wind turbines only work at maximum capacity for a third of time, meaning they have to be backed up by other technologies such as coal and nuclear.
The inconsistent power generated by wind farms requires the grid to be upgraded to cope with the surges in power.
Wind farms are expensive to build and only last up to 25 years.
They are not ‘eco-friendly’ to build due to the amount of concrete required.

I am open to hearing any positive reasons for why the companies are wanting to invest large sums of money to install what appears to be an inefficient and pollutant way of producing electricity, but in the meantime I am truly shocked and saddened that this idea is even being considered.  Somebody ought to do something about it.  Perhaps it will be me ...