6th February 2011. Those of a sensitive nature can skip the first part of this post..! Walking into town for the bread with the dog on this fine sunny morning I needed one of those small black plastic bags that the Town Hall has thoughtfully provided around town for dog-owners. Pulling one out of the dispenser, I couldn't help noticing the sign provided for our edification. With customary Gallic disdain for any terminological inexactitude coupled with their predilection for linguistic precision (Sir Humphrey would be proud of me!), it announced that these bags are intended for "déjections canines". It's clear that a sizeable number of the populace are having trouble even comprehending the sign, judging from the copious amounts of déjections canines that decorate the streets. Given that France has the highest dog population in Europe, this adds up to more than a "hill of beans" - as Bogart might have said. You only need to look at this site to recognise that it's a problem in France.
It's not helped by the fact that many dog-owners live in flats in the centre of town and thus don't have gardens where their pooches can roam. Bayonne is otherwise a clean and litter-free town, as can be seen from this quasi-live video feed. Phew - let's move on!
As it was a sunny and bright afternoon, we drove south down to Saint Jean de Luz to have a stroll in the early February sunshine. Along the distant horizon, the Pyrenees and the pale mass of La Rhune and the Trois Couronnes emerged above the silver blue haze like the faintest of shadows against an even paler blue sky.
Saint Jean de Luz was busy.. with many people sunbathing on the beach and even a couple of brave souls in the sea. We found a small gallery that was open that was showing some very interesting portraits by Joachim Hidalgo, a Madrid-based artist.. slightly reminiscent of Gustav Klimt.
7th February 2011. A few weeks ago I mentioned here the disturbing story of the decline in numbers of the world's honey bee population. Before you glaze over and move on, it's worth remembering that almost a third of global farm output depends on animal pollination, largely by honey bees. These foods provide 35% of our calories, most of our minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants, and the foundations of gastronomy. Yet the bees are dying – or being killed – at a disturbing pace. More here.. For those who can access UK TV, there's a Channel 4 film "The Last of the Honeybees" here. A quote from Albert Einstein on the matter: "if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live". In my view, the disappearance of the honey bee is a greater threat in the short term to the continuance of life as we know it on the planet than those posed by global warming, ozone holes, depletion of oil supplies, terrorism or whatever you want. The strange thing is that the fate of the world's honey bee population doesn't seem to be too high up on anyone's political agenda, anywhere.
The media buzzword for this phenomenon is "Colony Collapse Disorder" or CCD - which doesn't sound quite so threatening - so if you are lucky enough to hear CCD being discussed, at least you'll know what it stands for and why we should be so concerned. Like to know more..? Start here, here, here, then read what the USDA says here, and the Scientific American here, a report from the Congressional Research Service here and finally here's what the EU is doing. I'd suggest you write to your elected representative without delay to:
1. Make sure that they are aware of the threat posed by CCD;
2. Ask what they are doing about it.
Does the word Bugatti mean anything to you..? A couple were sold over the weekend by Bonhams in Paris for a substantial wodge. There's a nice little story and a video clip of one of them being driven here.. I'm unable to post the clip here unfortunately. I must say that I twitched when the narrator said the cars were Italian - I'd always thought they were French but looking at the Wiki page, I think you could be excused for saying Italian French or even German. These beautifully built, jewel-like cars were the Lotuses of their day.. built with lightness being the key to their performance. I think it was Ettore Bugatti himself who, at the time of the domination of the Le Mans 24 hour race by the supercharged Bentleys, declared that they were "the fastest lorries in the world!" From an English perpective, that's a real knuckle-clenching comment to absorb brought up as we are with the Bentley Boys legend - but unfortunately it's true.. The modern Bugatti company is now owned by - would you believe it - Volkswagen.