Friday, 31 January 2014

212. It's that time of the year again!

Thursday, 30th January. Woke up to a white world this morning - everything was covered with a carpet of hail.. (makes a change from the rain we've been having!)

To remind us all of the blue skies and warmer days that lie ahead, here's a video of the Pays Basque as seen from Bayonne. All these places are within 40 minutes of Pipérade Towers..
Now, tomorrow sees the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations rugby tournament.. for me, the world's greatest sporting competition.. This year the opening day sees fixtures between Wales (last year's winners) and Italy - a match that the Welsh should win reasonably comfortably. This is followed by the mouthwatering clash between France and England (or "Le Crunch" as it's known here) at the Stade de France. I was looking at the England selection earlier and the English pack looks pretty solid. Stuart Lancaster has some new caps in the backs - let's hope they're not overawed by the occasion. For France, Thierry Dusautoir (aka "The Dark Destroyer") is unfortunately out injured and will miss the entire campaign. This fixture has some ugly history - let's hope that we're just talking about the rugby on Sunday. Raphaël Ibanez (former French hooker) always talks sense so here are his views on the match.

Joe Marler (loose-head prop) is playing for England tomorrow and he's known as an "abrasive" character. Here he is stopping George North, the outsize Welsh winger (1.94m and 109kg) dead in his tracks in full flight - it's not often you'll see this..
Here are the BBC pundits predictions for the outcome of the 2014 6 Nations. Me? I'm going with Keith Wood's prediction and so that means either Ireland or England  to win.
The clip below is a view of how les Anglo-Saxons are seen from a French perspective. I very much regret that Stephen Clarke makes an appearance in this video. He's a British writer who's happy to live in France as it provides him with a convenient platform from which he can retail - via his various blogs and books - his consistently poisonous views on everything French. I am ashamed to say that his special brand of tripe finds a ready market with some sections of the British public.

Leaving him aside, many great former players pop up here: the late Jacques Fouroux, Roger Uttley, Philippe Saint-André (now coach of les Bleus), Andy Ripley, Philippe Sella, Paul Ackford, Raphaël Ibanez and others. There's also mention of that infamous France-England match in 1991 RWC in Paris and the 5 Nations match the following year! I think those days are behind us now.. the professional era means that players (and coaches) are free to ply their trades wherever they like and so this contributes to the breaking down of barriers/prejudices/stereotypes.
Here's some of the action from the England France fixture from recent years:
Finally, here are some good quotes on rugby..!

Saturday 1st February. I was thinking about rowing this morning but opening the shutters a few minutes ago revealed a very wet world out there.. I was down at the river yesterday and it was full of detritus from upstream - tree trunks bobbing along at speed, branches and all sorts of junk as the recent storms in the mountains swept on down. Even if it had been dry this morning, I'm not sure the powers-that-be at the club would have sanctioned any activity out on the water - in any contact between a thin-skinned shell boat and a tree trunk, there's only ever going to be one winner. I've been in several boats here that have had their rudders swiped off as a major log has rumbled underneath.. plus 2 years ago the coxless four I was in rolled over after a high speed collision with a semi submerged tree.. That was in January too! I don't need to relive that experience!    

Here's an excellent argument for unmanned lighthouses - this is a lighthouse in the region of Finisterre (Brittany) taking a pounding in heavy seas in the last day or so:

Sunday 2nd February. Just so that you don't think we've escaped the bad weather that's been afflicting most of western Europe of late, this was the scene in the centre of Bayonne at 5am yesterday morning.. as the Nive started rising to dangerously high levels..
Monday, 3rd February. We were up near Arcachon yesterday so we missed the Ireland - Scotland encounter in the RBS Nations.. but my second favourite team beat Scotland 28-6.. (must find a video of that match)

Here it is:
With doing all the driving I was able to think over the result of the "crunch" game on Saturday between France and England. We watched it with some French friends in Biarritz so I'd like to watch it again with the English commentary.. France took their opportunities well but they allowed England back into the game. In the end, France emerged with a 26-24 victory. Lots of "what ifs", "could haves" and "should haves" but they're all in the nature of the game.  I think Stuart Lancaster (England coach) will be unhappy with the result but not unhappy with the character and resolve shown by his team in coming back from 16-3 down - in Paris. Were les Bleus convincing winners? I'll leave that for you to decide. I'm sure they'll take the win and move on - just as England would have. A hard first match for both sides.

Anyway, here's the match in its entirety:

Wednesday 5th February. A Spanish cargo ship - the Luno (3500tons) - was wrecked just after 10am as it exited the port of Bayonne on the river Adour to make its way out to the open sea. More here.

It suffered total electrical failure and it was driven onto the breakwater (just by my dog walking beach) where the heavy seas broke it in two.
Fortunately it was empty but there is a risk of oil pollution from engine oil. All 12 crew members were winched to safety.   

Friday, 7th February. Took the dog down to the beach early yesterday morning to give him a run and also to have a look at this half a ship that someone has inconsiderately parked on the beach.. I normally have the beach to myself at this time of day but "sapristi knockoes!" - there were already a few hundred other people there with the same idea. The sea was raging - there's no other word for it - towering waves with the strong wind whipping the tops away in curling clouds of spray and dazzling white foam everywhere.

Walking purposefully through the throng were several amateur photographers equipped with expensive-looking cameras - most of which sported foot-long lenses. You can get the general idea of what happened to the ship in less than a second by looking at the above photos. I just wonder what these camera enthusiasts will do with the pictures once they've been taken. As far as I can see, whichever way you look at it, it's still just half a ship stuck on a beach.. If you don't believe me, look here!  

In the afternoon we drove down to the plage d'Ilbarritz (at Bidart, just south of Biarritz) as it was 22°.. I've mentioned this area before.. Overlooking the beach and dominating the local landscape is the Chateau d'Ilbarritz.. It has a story that a Hollywood scriptwriter couldn't equal.. Eccentric millionaire playing Wagner on a cathedral-sized organ at night with the windows wide open.. Details here.

Reminds me of an old joke:
My neighbours are always banging on the wall, even late at night. Inconsiderate b*****s!
Doesn't stop me sleeping though, as I usually stay up late anyway, practising on my bagpipes.
Château d'Ilbarritz

Here's a freebie for you.. Ever fancied learning/massacring/improving a foreign language? This site looks interesting.. There's a review of it here. I've just signed up with the intention of brushing up my French. The free site also caters for beginners - so what are you waiting for?


Lesley said...

The flooding of R.Nive in Bayonne clip was so like the R.Ouse in York on the Kings Staithes area. (Our old stamping ground)
We see those panels up by rivers here where the heights of the water are recorded with the date and it looks like a lot of the floods in 1930s and 50s were so much worse. I expect that there has been a small/large fortune spent to try to prevent a similar inundation.

Pipérade said...

With climate change being the reality and no longer seen as being the figment of journalists fevered imaginations, we did consider the flooding risk when we were looking for a house here (hope that doesn't sound smug). Many long term homeowners haven't had that choice though.. Being flooded must be a nightmare and it's now affecting people who have never previously experienced it.
Friends in the UK have been flooded twice in the last 12 months..

Lesley said...

Have you still got BBC reception 'down' there? 6 Nations viewing in jeopardy?
I expect that even the sandy beach is under water after all this rain.

Pipérade said...

We don't have a sat dish - online TV works fine.
We had a wet January but things seem to be drying out now.. temps are on the up too!☺