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Some info on references in the text

Barry Jones: An Australian politician and one-man socialist think-tank was the first to put into words the notion that every technology has equal capacity for good or evil depending on how it is used. This was written in his most famous work, “Sleepers Wake!” a somewhat prophetic work about the future of labour and work.

Robert Louis [Balfour] Stevenson (1850-1894): RLS was born in Edinburgh, Scotland the son of another Robert (a successful engineer – the inventor of the system by which lighthouses can be identified by a unique system of flashes of their main light) which probably goes some way to explaining his use of his middle name. He did not always enjoy good health. As a consequence he visited many exotic locations in search of relief from his suffering, including California. He died in Samoa in the South Pacific seeking some remedy from the privations of tuberculosis. Before his health failed he undertook two innocent tours one in Belgium in a canoe and again late in the same year (1878) he trekked across the Central Massif in France in the company of a Donkey called Modestine… RLS followed his father into engineering but after only a semester/session switch to law and eventually qualified as an Advocate in 1875. His true calling, however, was for writing and he embarked upon a path to fame in this area through his engaging turn of phrase and his observation of the human condition. RLS was the author of many works of fiction, short essays, poems and other works. Undoubtedly he is best known for the classics, “Kidnapped” and “Treasure Island” but he is also the author of “Dr Jekyll and Mister Hyde”, “The Black Arrow”, “Catriona”, and “Ballantrae”. The unfinished, “Weir of Hermiston” is often considered his best work for its scope of characters and issues. RLS left no children but was the step-father to the son (Lloyd) of his wife Fanny Osbourne. As noted above RLS died when he was only 44 and the world lost forever its, “little master,” who knows what greater heights he may have reached given more time… There is a cautionary note in the early demise of so many great people, carpe diem!

Denim - The blue jeans so popular in western culture like so many other things owe their origins to France. Blah blah blah…. Have you ever noticed how the word for these ubiquitous bluse serge trousers is the French word for John. Are they originally from John’s Serge factory in Nimes – hence De Nimes, Jeans? Of course the lazy (and probably largely illiterate) factory workers in the US would contract and corrupt the spelling to be Blue Denim Jeans. I wonder…

Lyons – A potted history: Always a settlement since the earliest times the confluence of the two major rivers was first a Celtic stronghold and then a centre of roman administration. Famous for…. Blah blah blah….

Posted by plomeley 21:44 Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

Back to Business

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View Like a Jackass through the Cevennes on plomeley's travel map.

Tue 9 December 2003 Expert Config Tool Course dinner in really good restaurant near Le Meridien with Wilhelm, Harald, Silke (Germany) and Gerard (UK)

Wed 10 December 2003 Expert Config course ended at midday but stayed around consolidating. At 4PM departed on TGV for Paris (arrived 18:00 and had hotel by 18:15 and was heading to Bastille by 18:30! I love that TGV. Walked to Notre Dame and Pompidou Centre and Les Halles. Didn’t get Pompidou and didn’t like local hanging around Les Halles at 9PM. Walked back to hotel via Rue De Rivoli and Bastille (stopped for supplies of cheese, chips, wine and bread) had a great feast in my room watching the soccer live from Lyons enjoying the irony.

Thurs 11 December 2003 Woke late. Walked to bridge for photo of Notre Dame realising I was running late I then walked up to Les Halles (again) to make direct connection to CDG Airport. Went via back streets of central Paris. Very nice. At a very crowded CDG a bit early and waited patiently for plane. Plane late to leave…Almost dark by time of departure and cloudy and raining and very long taxi and wait at top of runway!

Fri 12 December 2003 Amazing scenery once light over SE China. Arrive in Hong Kong and buy ticket to centre. Very neat and well organised airport and train. Hong Kong is a 3D maze because it is on a hill. Walk through Zoo/Botanic gardens and catch Funicular to summit – nice view. Back down hill same way and across harbour to Kowloon. Kowloon seemed to me to be much more like Asia. Kowloon is bustling, noisy, dirty and Spy Philips office when looking along Canton Street – spooky. Back at airport early and enter lounge. Meet expat Pom living in Gosford wait-listed on my flight. We have a couple of beers and watch the sunset feeling warm and fuzzy.

Sat 13 December 2003 arrive at KSA 0800 and catch Taxi home. Sleep in afternoon and wake at midnight the pattern of poor sleeping continues on another continent and time zone!

Posted by plomeley 19:11 Archived in France Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Langogne and RLS

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View Like a Jackass through the Cevennes on plomeley's travel map.

Sat 6 December 2003

I spent some time trying to get best trip return time and one that didn’t return me to Lyons late for the next course to no avail. Eventually agree to return to Lyons one hour late for course start – hoping for the best. So, from Lyons on the TGV (beautiful country side, cliffs, vines, hills, forests, castles, châteaux etc and strange light in Provence) to Nimes (of de nimes fame and recent floods) nice Colosseum and cathedral and WARM and SUNNY!! Change to local train to cross more lowland plains and then climb up into Cevennes. A startling contrast to the postcard look of the lowland towns the villages nestling in the hills were shabby and apparently unkempt. Maybe it is the natural bias of viewing a town from a train that, almost by definition must traverse the poorer parts, but when a town is so small it is easy to see beyond the industrial crust to the face of the town itself. The townships and villages formed a marked contrast to the landscape which became more rugged and beautiful and the trip continued. Unhappily it is almost impossible to take good photos from a moving train so I have few images of the engaging landscape of bridges, rivers, lakes and valleys the train trundled over. For the first time on a French train we were running behind schedule and we arrived at Langogne just before dark to find a bleak and unfriendly face on the town, just like so many others lower down the hills. A short walk around revealed a slightly less shabby but still noticeably poor small town. Discover babbling brook and cross it on delightful old stone bridge. Find room in Brasserie on main street. Noticing my faltering French the Landlady asks if I speak English. Unable to summon back my practice phrase I simply said, “I prefer French.” This did the trick! After that the landlady explains complicated entry system for after hours somehow involving a side alley, where the restaurant is, how breakfast will be served etc, etc all in French! I hardly understood a word but nodded and added a feeble “Oui” or “Merci” as seemed appropriate to me at the time. I am sure my host was not taken in and was partaking in that most favourite of French pastimes – language snobbery. Anyway, she lead me upstairs to the credit card machine (“Acceptez vous les carte de credite?” – “Oui.”) and goes through the necessaries and eventually points up the next flight to indicate my lodgings would be found there – I look at my key, “Chambre Nuef.” Room Nine is a pleasant little room with ensuite and I have no trouble settling in and then I take a walk around town with the purpose of gathering supplies. By now it was only about 1800 heurs but already completely dark. There were Christmas lights up in most shops. My first problem was the apparently grim prospect of finding a machine to dispense some cash. I entered a small supermarche and made some halting enquiries. The shopkeeper failed to understand but her customer – after trying unsuccessfully to tell me where the bank was – lead me across the road to an ATM hidden in an unmarked alcove of a building up a side street! Cash is like oxygen to the traveller – life is utterly impossible without it and I was very glad to be given an extension on my corporeal lease. In gratitude I returned to the same store to spend it but I believe my gesture went unnoticed which was disappointing to me. Even in Australia I am a keen advocate of shopping locally to ensure future supply. I found some produce to my liking and asked the shop assistant to pass me one pear (mmm pears) and one pomme royale. As always my request was greeted with a quizzical, “Une!?” To which I reply in my most serious tone, “Oui, Une. Merci.” Fully victualled now, I took my supplies across the road and up to my room and immediately returned downstairs to the bar to enjoy some beer, an open fire and the feeling of freedom only felt during truly independent travel. During the evening several people either singularly or in small groups came and went. I was served some high quality olives and was not required to pay for my drinks until I was ready to leave. Back in my room I try to plan route for next day and how to get to the train on time if I stay elsewhere on Sunday night.

Sun 7 December 2003

As I am packing my small pack with all I have I am dismayed to notice it is in quite a parlous state in relation to some of its stitching and doubt its ability to serve the whole trek. Just like RLS I was starting with a poor pack. The day seemed bright enough at dawn (as best as I could tell from the small patch of sky visible from the window of my room) and so I expected not to need my jacket. I took breakfast with the other guests in the bar. It consisted of (surprisingly) cereals, baguettes, jam, juice and coffee. As always I was put off by an unexpected question. In this case the question turned out to be, did I want my milk hot or cold, although it took some time for me to comprehend. Quite delightfully, to my way of thinking, asking for something as ordinary to me as cold milk and causing a flurry of activity in the kitchen as a new carton had to be found and opened underpins the whole reason for travel. It is the desire to be challenged even over simple matters. As RLS so elegantly put it,

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off the featherbed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.”

Here, here!! Was RLS the first real tourist? Methinks so. With breakfast finished and my pack and jacket in hand I exited via the door onto the main street. It was immediately obvious that I would need my coat on. It was now not at all sunny, as I had previously imagined, and as if to write the point in italics there was a light snow falling. The jacket I had with me was carefully chosen from my seemingly vast selection – it was made of waxed cotton and purchased ten years previously in New Zealand. It had a zipper to close the front which I hardly ever used and a flap to cover the zipper which fastened with press-studs (over the years I had augmented the original three fasteners to five to ensure more complete closure but also to aid its versatility) Buttoning my jacket to the collar (i.e. using all five press-stids – which was almost unheard of at home except in the worst weather when riding my motorcycle!) but not zipping it under the buttons so as to allow it to breath I started my walk by heading along the now relatively familiar main street. As I write this it is one week after my return and of course high summer in Sydney. I have my laptop set-up on my balcony and no shirt on my back – it seems almost impossible for me to believe that two weeks ago I was seriously worried about freezing to death on a snowy French hillside!

Near the edge of town there is a side road leading down to the river and a sign above it showing bicycle riding trails all numbered (in an almost Germanic orderliness in this unmistakably French town…) for ease of reference. After studying the map for some time it is evident that two routes lend themselves to my preferred course VTT2 and VTT5 (VTT I think stands for veloped tours ____ - anyway something to do with cycle touring) and I decide to return to this spot to start my trek out of town. In the mean time I needed to find my way to the lake’s shore. A short distance further on is a sign pointing to Naussac but no mention of the lake. On foot judgement in these matters becomes important. Do I go on further in the hope of seeing a sign to the lake itself or take this turn? I chose to turn early rather than have to double back. The road is narrow and wet and I am discomfited by the speed of the local traffic and naturally enough also discomfited by the side of the road that they speed down. Against my nature I march up the left side of the tarmac to face oncoming traffic. When cars appear my fear of stepping into the icy gutter and slipping into their path is very real – in general I stop walking and step aside to let them pass. Fortunately traffic is light on a Sunday morning through the village of Naussac… There is hardly any physical separation between Naussac and Langogne but the signage indicates a gulf of attitude.

Evidently there is some tourist trade through Naussac during warmer months as there are many signs to places of interest – including the lake and a Roman temple – so that finding my way down to the lake shore is a snip.

Walk to Naussac (see lake – formed by dam – is half empty (in preparation for snow melt perhaps?)) and then join cycle trail off into the wilds.

Cows, snow, pines and river. I meet a woodsman (confusing language but clear enough directions by waving arms and repeating “pont”, “adroit” and so on…) and stumble across mountain bike race being set-up. Woodsman and other locals think I am mad walking to Le Cheylard giving me as a departing gift a snearing grin. Undaunted I fired back a haughty “au bientot!” in preference to an, “au revoir” to give an impression of confidence I didn’t really feel.
Pretty bridge across L…..
Abandoned monastery at Choisine
Finally meet RLS trail at turnoff to Luc
Imagine RLS goading Modestine up rise I am walking down into very pretty valley
Steep long climb into Le Cheylard – surprised by hilltop church and disappointed inn where RLS wrote-up his journal is closed (it is Sunday in France after all!)
Climb out of Le Cheylard and see no signs to Fuzillhic or Fuzilhac so decide to keep going to main road along route on map
Eat lunch on bluff overlooking Le Cheylard (wine, bread, cheese and chocolate – just like RLS, all that was missing was the smoke. In honour of the tradition he started I left some coins in appreciation of the view) I had much trouble opening the wine I nearly gave it up. In the end I was pleased I persisted, the wine and the cool mountain air combined to produce a feeling of contentedness I had longed for since those first moments I contemplated this trip. Happy is a man who has a nice view, fresh air, good wine, cheese and bread. Like Stevenson again all that was missing was the kind of companionship most naturally longed-for by a man away from those he loves. As I had no film remaining it is to my memory I commited the scene. Below me (quite a long way already) was the energetic little Langouyrou. This stream and its feeders were my constant companions throughout the whole day.
Long slow uninspiring walk down gently sloping main road 4 km back into Langogne and the warmth and safety of the inn. I was very tired when I checked back into the same accommodation. On this occasion the Landlady deferred to English. Perhaps she could see in my manner that I was spent and hardly in a mood to attempt translation. Whatever were her motives, I did not object.

Slept well for the first time in months! Very blistered pad under ball on right foot. (Two weeks later the pad is still blistered under the whole pad)

Mon 8 December 2003 Explored Langogne some more and was better pleased. Petit Dejuener in small café with Donkey pictures on the walls. Caught train for trip back to Nimes. As expected, the passenger numbers are low. I read RLS and reflect that he got it all wrong. Maybe the hills were less covered during his trek?
Once in Nimes I bought a chip biuttie (pan de pomme frites) and after a short wait boarded the TGV back to Lyons. As planned, I arrived late for course but it had been delayed by snow in Boston. Meet Richard McKeen (again) and we all walked down to the old city to see the Festival of Lights. I was tired and grumpy and keen to find a warm pub and some beer.

Posted by plomeley 19:07 Archived in France Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

London Interlude

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View Like a Jackass through the Cevennes on plomeley's travel map.

Thurs 4 December 2003

TGV to London - Waterloo (change at Lille) and then local trains to Reigate Resp Ctre.

Greeted with surprise at the speed of my journey. I was introduced around and set to asking questions of how things were done there and spent some time discussing matters of a job in Australia with a former engineer from our Melbourne office.

After work we had drinks at pub and Indian dinner – still trying to staff new Resp Centre. Stay at local hotel. Two young men discussing an upcoming rock concert which quite unbelievably it seemed was going to cover, “all styles really. Grunge, Thrash AND Death.” I was put in mind of the Sherlock Holmes mystery, “A Reigate Squire” and was happy to be traversing this land.

Fri 5 December 2003

Back to Reigate Resp Ctre then via first taxi, then again local trains and TGV to Lyons (change at Lille and walk around for one hour. Find out it is the European Capital of Culture for 2003!) back in Le Richelieu by about 9PM have two beers in hotel. Sitting in the train reading the section in my new book relating to RLS and his trek I resolve to recommit myself to “immersion” and to never request for English to be spoken. “Je ne pas parley anglais!”

In contrast to yesterdays connections I met delay and obstacle at every junction. There was a delay with the next train and we waited on a grey windswept and quite freezing platform for about half and hour. As cold as I was I could not help notice that school girls wearing ridiculous short skirts suffering in the near freezing temperature because they were confusing wantonness with sexiness in their own teenage beauty myth.

Once back in the hotel I work at reducing the size of the maps I will take and trace RLS’s route in highlighter.

Posted by plomeley 19:02 Archived in France Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Flights and Business

sunny 28 °C
View Like a Jackass through the Cevennes on plomeley's travel map.

Sat 29 November 2003 Depart Sydney – via Hong Kong (purchase “The Riders” at Syd Airport and read it cover to cover before getting into HK! As soon as it was dark. During departure could clearly see the city and the house at Annandale as I was in a window seat on the RHS and we took off to the north. Careful on this occasion to ensure my pocket-knife was in the checked-through baggage!

It is easy to be complacent about the town where you live but there are times when Sydney can really smack you in the face, sometimes it’s like an angry enemy sometimes it’s like a playful lover. The image out of the window was the latter rather than the former. There laid out before me were the glories of our age, that house of high culture and it’s attendant fireworks launch pad!

Because it was dark before we got to the northern coast I had ample time to complete reading “The Riders”. It was for me an absorbing book because the tale of a man struggling to find his love it was played out in a global setting. As always Winton’s characters have a strong link with Western Australia.(a place close to my heart too) in this case they originate in Fremantle. Ah, Freo! What can you say about a town that once so neglected and shabby that is now so cool and hip and vibrant – there is a place I love returning to.

Anyway transit of HK was uneventful (well, apart that is from being a little overwhelmed by the size of the place!).

Sun 30 November 2003

land Paris 07:00 local time (very cold) then TGV to Lyons. Check into Richelieu at 10:00AM local time.

Get food at nearby shop and store it in between double glazing to keep beer, cheese and wine cool.

I unpack my portable kitchen which consists of knife, fork, spoon and bowl along with a tea-towel packed in a vinyl wallet.

Monday 1 December 2003

A day off – spent sight-seeing in Lyons (park at sunrise, croix rousse, confluence of Rhone and Saone – rather bizarre monument to the new millennium (my prediction is it wont last through the next century – it already looks tired and a bit weather-beaten!)

Tue 2 December 2003

App Server Course

Ate lunch at Café on Course Lafayette where I had eaten on several occasions before.

In the morning I connected to the company network and downloaded my emails and to my surprise found I had a new boss. A man I had worked for before and found less than a happy experience. Accompanying the unhappy announcement were urgent messages from my current boss to contact him straight away. I did and learned the awful truth, my happy and fulfilling working life might be coming to an end.

One of the advantages of sleeping poorly is that occasionally one sees real gems broadcast on television. I saw Two things that attracted my attention, the first were reruns of a 1997 situation comedy from France called “Two from Three” or something similar. The star of the show was Emma Colberti whose sole purpose seemed to be to find excuses to wear a shorter skirt than last night! Very entertaining! On a serious note there was a program (subtitled) from the US called, “Inside the Actors Studio” which took the form of a talk-show in front of a live audience from an acting school in Los Angeles. I had the enjoyment of watching hour long interviews with such celluloid luminaries as Ron Howard (fascinating, truly), Meg Ryan (errr, okay), Bert Reynolds (please!!?) and others… No, the Ron Howard interview was quite entertaining and revealed a humble and down to earth man.

Wed 3 December 2003

App server course continued

I ate lunch at Quick Burger because Stefan (German Engineer) was not feeling very adventurous and did not want to spend too much as he was foregoing his EUR$8 voucher.
At night the course attendees all headed home and I was left to my own devices again. I spent the time trying to plan my time off.

Posted by plomeley 18:57 Archived in Australia Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

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