Persona Non Grata

This article is an opinion piece, and might be contrary to your own opinions. If that is a trigger for you, then you might want to wait for the next article where I will probably talk about walking the dog and show photos from the village. If you’re fine with that however, then feel free to read on.

Yesterday was my last day as an “ordinary” citizen in this wonderful country. I could do most anything and go most anywhere. I could go to a café, or the pub. But that was yesterday. Today I am Persona Non Grata. I have had one dose of Moderna vaccine, and therefore am no longer deemed “safe” by the authorities. I have to have my second dose, wait two weeks, and then I will be in possession of the “passe sanitaire.” My next jab is on the 24th of August, then I will have to wait two weeks until I can re-enter mainstream society.

In many ways this will be a mere annoyance. If I really want I can have the famous PCR test and have a probe inserted into my nostrils and then receive a code that I can scan into my phone, to show everyone how safe I am. I can then go to the pub, and even have dinner in a restaurant. Not the most pleasant of medical procedures but it will afford me a certain liberty, and normality. But I also happen to have a healthy disrespect for authority. Sorry Mummy!

For the moment these nasal insertions have been free, or rather covered by the Social Security and Health Authority contributions that come off my salary each month. Also it has allowed people to be tested for Covid and know if they are infected or not. As the President said on the 12th of July “Cet automne, les fameux tests PCR seront rendus payants, sauf prescription médicale, et ceci afin d’encourager la vaccination plutôt que la multiplication des tests.” This Autumn, the infamous PCR tests will be charged, except in the case of a medical prescription, so as to encourage people to vaccinate instead of having multiple tests.

I get the logic behind this. Each test is billed 50€ to the Social Security, and they want to reduce costs and get people vaccinated. I, unlike others, have nothing against vaccines, except for Astra Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson, where being a Catholic I can’t support something that used aborted foetuses to make them. However, I am against the obligation to vaccinate, and wish it could remain a choice. In France all Medical staff will be required to be vaccinated by law and those who wish to exercise their right to refuse a medical intervention, will be declared inapt to work, and will be eventually fired.

I can hear people already up in arms telling me what an irresponsible fool I am for being an anti vaxxer, and how I will be responsible for the spread of the dreaded lurgy. But this is not Twitter. This is my blog where I am allowed to say what I think and I would invite you to re-read what I have written thus far. Right, now we can continue.

It’s so easy to get on your soapbox and talk about all kinds of codswallop. Words like dystopian society spring to mind when I read governmental policy. Another would be coercion. The authorities can be there as a guide, but as soon as that guidance translates into more interventionist policy, maybe the authorities have overridden that guidance role. When governments get that far, are they serving the population that voted them in, or are they serving themselves? I’m not just accusing Macron and his government. The finger could be pointed just as well to Boris… then there was the evil villain Trump, followed by the rather weak Biden. I am worried about this becoming a global political trend.

The next statement will be the most controversial in this article. I believe the majority of humanity has the same goal, which is the desire to look after his family in the best manner possible. I am a father, living in France, and I bet that a father living in Afghanistan just wants the same thing for his children that I do. IE that they will be happy and live in a world of peace.

Wow, that wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. For the more liberal of you, you could insert community, etc for family. I’m a moderate conservative. I like to think that just because I don’t fully espouse your views, I don’t hate you. This can be quite a radical notion in a society that likes to pit people against each other. Read a newspaper and you will see that through its reporting of events that it is trying to divide more than unite. This is impervious to the political leaning of the publication. I think it’s even worse on the Internet. There are so many videos from the very conservative, that are there telling how to destroy a liberal through argument. How awful is that? Why should I seek to destroy my opponent? Should I not try to convince him of my position respecting him as a human being just like me, with dreams and hopes for the future?

Hello Dear Reader

It has been a quiet three weeks over here in France.  I went to see my wife’s family in Brittany, and strangely enough I was able to go out, take some pretty photographs, and not get any grief from my mother in law.  Yes, miracles can happen. 

England and football had definitely come home just before buggering off to Rome.  Those three poor lads who missed penalties and got so much flack for it.  Disgusting.  I listened to the match on the radio in the car on the way home, but got home before the penalties, which would have been too horrible to listen to.  At least we got further than France, and beat Germany.  Small mercies people, small mercies!  

My eegit son got back with his ex-girlfriend, but apparently with “different rules,” and “different bases,” and asked me to accept everything wholeheartedly.  Very optimistic, that boy!  There are more red flags in that relationship than in the last Congress of the Chineese Communist Party… And to quote the genius that is Forrest Gump, “and that is all I have to say about that…”  I’ve been forbidden from saying anything else. It happens I suppose…

I have been jabbed once.  I think there is definitely a conspiracy about the COVID vaccinations.  Why don’t the injections hurt like hell, the way they used to when I was a child???  What is this utter madness?  As of the 21st July, the “passe sanitaire” has been imposed, firstly on theme parks, cinemas, and libraries, where more than 50 people can gather.  As of the 1st August, you will not be able to go to restaurants, cafés, shopping centres, and basically anywhere where everyday French life happens.  The President is sounding like a scratched record, vaccinnez vous, vaccinnez vous!  Strangely enough, people are starting to feel a little iffy about the whole situation.

There are now huge demonstrations against this “passe sanitaire” and people are comparing it to the “Ausweis” that people had to carry about during the Occupation.  Has Macron committed political suicide?  Many are hoping so.  I’m for people being vaccinated but want it to remain a choice.  Aren’t we free to refuse a medical act?  Have Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité, just disappeared from France?  Many think so.

A friend had his 26th birthday, so the weekend before I took him up to Nantes to buy him his present.  As we are still allowed to frequent cafés etc, we enjoyed ourselves and only had two teas, and one visit to the pub.  Such restraint!  I was amazed.  I could have taken him to at least another two places.  He dared to tell as we were ordering tea number two, that he was no longer hungry!  I quipped, you don’t need to be hungry to eat this…  These youngsters!

I am still allowed to wander the streets of France, and might keep doing it and my goal, this week, is to take some photos of the Voyage à Nantes Art festival!  I might not be able to sit down and have a pint, but I’ll be a brave boy about it! Yipeeeeee!

The Olympus Trip 35

After the success of my review of the Fuji Film X100F, I thought I might have to present another camera to you.  For the non-techy of you, don’t worry, this camera is a doddle to use, and my daughter was using it when she was a seven year old!  It won’t get complicated. 

I wanted to use a film camera to do it.   I will presume that you have no experience of using a film or vintage cameras also, so Millennial friendly, and after a certain age, you will be meeting an old friend.  I would like to introduce you to the Olympus Trip 35.

As the name might suggest the Olympus Trip was a camera designed for travel photography and for the mass market in the 1960s and 1970s (production stopped in 1988).  A point and shoot.  No gimmicks.  Although this is not a style or fashion blog, this camera is a beautiful object, and if you thought you had people coming up to you and telling you how sexy your camera was with the X100F, then you’ll get even more people coming up to you telling you how gorgeous your camera is.  It is one of those timeless cameras that just oozes sex appeal.  I replaced the original wrist strap with a more chunky and comfortable version from Amazon.

There are some things that you will not be able to do with this camera.  You won’t be able to add another lens.  You get a 40mm Zuiko F 2.8, however the 40mm focal length will have you covered for the majority of situations for your photographic trip, and also gives beautiful results, especially with modern emulsions!.  Just look at the X100F photos and it will be self evident.  You won’t have all the modern conveniences of a Modern DSLR or even mirrorless camera, but you won’t have any problems with batteries.  There aren’t any.  The power for the metering comes from the selenium cell (which contrary to appearances isn’t a New Romantic group from the 1980’s).  You will have get film for it.  It take film from ISO (or ASA) 25 to 400 which, for when you’re on the road is fine, and will cover most eventualities.

Loading film is so simple that a child of seven could do it, and my child, when seven years old did it easily.  Then basically, you’re ready.  Off you go and explore.  I haven’t talked about how to focus the camera.  So….  The camera uses the principle of zone focussing.  You turn the lens and you will see a face, a couple, a group of people, and then a mountain.  If you turn the camera around so the top is the bottom, and the bottom the top (Pride reference, even if I am slightly late), you will see the distances marked out: 1m, 1m50, and 3m to infinity, but not beyond.  We’re talking photography, and not a film based on Ants, or Seven Samurai.

There are two shutter speeds, 1/200th of a second and 1/40th and the camera chooses which one it uses.  But 1/40th with a 40mm lens shouldn’t give camera shake.  So you can cover light from F22 at 1/200th of a second to F2.8 at 1/40th of a second.  You will see an F stop dial on the camera, and that you will see in the viewfinder.  When not using a flash, just put it to A (automatic).  If ever there is not enough light, there is a little red flag that pops up into the viewfinder, and the camera shutter won’t fire.  It’s idiot proof!

I will include a video from YouTube to show you how to load the film as it will be easier than describing to you in written language.   

So get out there and start taking some photos!  Go on the streets.  Go on a Trip.  Just get out there and start using it.  Have fun and share photos if you want!  Mine are from a trip to Portugal and the Canary Islands from 2016 taken on Ilford HP5 Plus.  Make of them what you will…

The Father

I’m not going to talk about the new film with Anthony Hopkins, where we see the effects of Alzheimer’s on an elderly man.  No, I am going to talk a little bit about my own father, as everyone in the family knows, is destined for the Sainthood.  I have been made to swear by my mother not to talk about private lives of family members, so I will try not to give too much away.

I phoned my parents on Friday and everything was great at home, my mother going out to play golf, and my father going out to play bridge with the boys.  I said I would phone them later during the week. I hear people complaining that they haven’t seen their parents for x months over COVID.  I haven’t seen my parents since August 2019, so please, for the love of God, stop complaining and count your blessings!

On Tuesday night, after work, I called home.  My mother answered the saying how they had had a bit of an“eventful weekend”, and that my father had had a heart attack.  So having stolen my father’s thunder, she said she would pass him over; John do have the phone upstairs?  He did, and we started  talking.

As you may know, I live in France, and I don’t think I’m giving too much away saying that my parents live in the UK.  In some respects it could be on the other side of the world, seeing as how we can’t see each other.  But over lockdown we have “heard” each other.  But what about the now ubiquitous “Zoom” meeting I hear you saying.  You can “see” each other with that.  My mother, bless her, is a technophobe and zoom is something from the realm of science-fiction. 

So, I was allowed to talk to my now thunderless father, and asked, what did I just hear?  Have you been trying to be interesting again?  I was given the low-down and got all the medical details.  I still don’t get it.  He was a high level athlete as a young man, not a huge drinker, nor a total abstainer, we seem to mistrust them.  He is not what one could call a “big lad” as I am.  He eats very healthily.  It was just bad luck, and blocked arteries.

It’s the kind of situation that puts you right up against your own mortality, and I have friends of my age who have lost their parents, and not in the fishing aisle in the sports shop. I am constantly aware of how far I am and how helpless that makes me feel. I love both my parents with all my heart, and dread “that” phonecall and hoping that althought enevitable, I will never have to face it. I asked as politely as I could if he could possibly refrain from dying please, until I actually manage to get over to the UK for my next visit, next summer.  He said he would try and I hung up, knowing that everything was fine with him.  It was as if the weekend had been less eventful, verging on the boring.  But it does give you a bit of a scare.  It’s not always nice living so far away.

Post Scriptum

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

A certain Ben Franklin

The envibility of death is ompnipresent in our world, some being closer to it than others. Do I want to die? Not really. Am I ready to die? As a Catholic I woud prefer to get to confession first. Some see death as a deliverence, and I think it was Voltaire who said, “The man who, in a fit of melancholy, kills himself today, would have wished to live had he waited a week.” I think he also said it was the only real way to say Merde, to God. Death is part of life and I think not to be feared. But I would prefer that certain people would hang around for a little longer so they can share even more of their wisdom, their sense of justice, and above all, their love!

 

It pays to be a winner

At school I wasn’t a winner.  Not really.  There was one time at prep school when I won the First form prize, which was a book about birds.  I still have it! I once entered a competition to win a first day cover of stamps featuring various fish native to British rivers, and won the first day cover as well as postcards of the stamps.  I wasn’t a great sportsman, something which seems to have followed me through my life and therefore didn’t have the chance to win a cap for my school.  Whilst I used to wear green for a living, I would often hear the phrase, “It pays to be a winner gentleman,” being yelled by certain junior NCO’s.  I was of course never that winner, so would have to repeat the exercise with all the other losers.

You get used to being a loser.  In certain respects, it’s great because you don’t have to bother yourself with that maternal ambition that was imposed on you.  It lowers your expectations and you get used to accepting your fate in life.   You ramble along, as you may have seen and read Dear Reader, I am a rambler.  I was fine with that.

Then of course I moved to France.  Try being English in France.  Then again maybe don’t.  It’s worse than being French in the UK.  They lost WW2, yet celebrate VE Day every 8th May.  Oh sweet Caroline, I mean irony!  But that’s fine.  It’s in their mind-set of being the inheritors of the Glory of France.  Then the bastards went and won the World Cup in 1998.  They are ghastly when victorious, and I remember saying to myself, they’re going to talk about this for 20 years…  20 years came and went, and they only went and won the bloody thing a second time!!!

Whenever they beat us at rugby, I am inundated with mentions of how great they are, and yet when we beat them, I am allowed to remain silent and hide in my office!  This losing does have a tendency to teach you about humility.

Now I will talk about the B word, yes, Brexit.  As I may have let slip, I am a remainer, and therefore “lost” the vote in 2016.  Since that time, my life here in France has been in suspended animation, suspended rather than animated.  My future was dependant on a “deal”.  Then Boris came along.  I was going to be buggered one more time, yet despite the odds, we “won” an agreement that would allow me to stay here.  But knowing the French, nothing was certain.  That uncertainty doesn’t help a guy’s mental health and Brexit has taken it’s toll on me.  But less of the grumbling. 

On the 22nd June, 2021, I receive an email from the prefecture telling me to come and see them on the 9th July, with this mail, my old carte de séjour, my residency card, which allowed me to remain in France, and will allow me to remain further.  I arrived here in France on the 9th of July 1994, to start the rest of my life.  I got that mail, read it, and had tears welling up.  For the first time in 5 years, I was turning into a winner.

That week I entered a competition on Instagram.  One of those things where you win a basket full of samples from a shop, and you have to like the post, post the names of two people on the comments, and they will announce the winner in a story.  This was for a shop that sold CBD products and I thought why the hell not.   Well when the story came out announcing the winner you’ll never guess who won.  Yes me!!!  So for a perpetual loser like me, this was amazing.  I was high on the positive vibes.  Things are calmer at home and at work, and I have less pain in my arthritic knee.  Maybe it does pay to be a winner after all. 

I am not a fan of Shadenfreude, except when France is the cause of it.  In the Euro 2020 competition, happening in 2021 because of Covid, no winners there really, France was knocked out of the tournament by Switzerland. I haven’t said a word about it at work.  Wouldn’t be cricket after all.  Oh and we beat Sri Lanka in the Cricket too!  On Tuesday night there was the fateful match, between Germany and England, and I don’t want to hear anything about two world wars and on world cup!!  Even though…. We beat them, for this first time in a tournament in the knock out stages since 1966 when we beat them in the world cup…  The English side of me was very happy, and yet I have been gracious in victory and not mentioned it at work to my French colleagues despite the desperate urge to do so.  Even if I were to mention it, it would be wasted on them and wouldn’t be cricket!  Damn you gracious VICTORY!

Hello everyone

Hello everyone, and by that I mean people who actually read this blog and seem to enjoy it. Here I will not be facetious or try to be funny, but in the contrary be deadly serious. Well, maybe not deadly, but definitely a little serious.

I have a question for you. Why do you follow this blog? It can’t be for my great looks, charm and obvious charisma! I’ve been looking at my stats and have found the article I wrote about the X100f to be very popular. And I have to admit to being surprised. It was an article that was too long according to my mother, so that has to be true. It may annoy the shit out of me, be she is often right about these things, but I see people coming back to it again and again.

Is that kind of thing interesting to you? Is it the camera, is it the way it makes feel when using it? What about using different kit? I’m talking about the helios lens, or maybe the 16-35mm lens. Would you like to hear more about that too?

These are sincere questions and I’m interested in what you might have to say. Are there any other subjects you would like me to talk about?

Yeah, I know, it’s all soul searching, but if I can share things that interest you, then it might be a more pleasurable experience reading me as I ramble on. The idea after all is to write something that will interest you, interest me, something that I have a minimum of knowledge of, maybe have a laugh together, etc.

So, give a shout in the comments and let’s try and make this, whatever it is, a two way, sharing, experience that can benefit us both.

As I said, this is an article, hors du temps, and is trying to strike up a conversation. Don’t be scared, firstly because this is the Internet and people can, and often do say what they think in a most forthright manner, and secondly, I don’t bite. Thanks for stopping by…

PS your weekly article will be out on Friday 2nd of July at 17h French time. It pays to be a winner…