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Wednesday, 18th April 2018
Drones and Caterpillars
There has been much debate over drones. They can be very effective in gathering information but they can invade privacy. I am sure this debate will contine but in the meantime researchers in Cannes have found a very good use for drones.
An experiment is due to start over a 20 hectare area near the Mediterranean resort of Cannes. Drones are being used to identify the nests of the very toxic chenilles processionnaires (processionary caterpillars) and to destroy them using a natural insecticide.
The aim is to stop these dangerous caterpillars from spreading across France.
Friday, 13th April 2018
French school dinners.
School dinners are a whole lot different in France.
Packed lunches aren’t an option.
Primary school children have a choice, they can either eat in the school canteen or the children can come home for lunch. Either way, there will be no sandwiches!
At 11 years old, children move to collège which is usually a bus journey away so it is not practical to come home, so all students eat at the 'Self'
Even when they move on to lycée at 15, there still is no possibility of bringing in your own lunch.
Lunch typically consists of a starter, main course, cheese and a dessert.
There is no choice of main course. Everyone eats the same. If your child is fussy, he or she will be hungry!
I have often wondered about vegetarians. Iona knows of just one vegetarian in her lycee and she has the same as everyone else, just no meat. There are no different meals provided, if you don't want the meat, or the vegetables you can decline this part of the meal.
However, this may be changing slightly. The French Environment Minister has said that it is ' a matter of education' for schools to have at least one meat free menu a week.
This is going to be controversial, particularly in rural areas, as meat is regarded as the main part of the meal.
Tuesday, 10th April 2018
Journée Defense et Citoyenneté (JDC)
Obligatory military service finally disappeared in France in 2002. However, it was replaced by Journée Defense et Citoyenneté (Defense and Citizenship Day) which informs young people of the values of citizenship and the military. Everyone that attends must also sit a French test which is focussed on identifying participants with low literacy skills.
This week, Iona attended her JDC. As with everything in France there is a very long lead-in and the procedures enabling her to attend the JDC must be adhered to, to the letter!. It is the law in France, for every 16 year old to ‘present’ themselves to the Mairie. I think this has something to do with census. We fell here, at the first hurdle!.. We were two months late in ‘presenting Iona’ to the Mairie and were reprimanded by the Mairie’s secretary. We then received a very official document to confirm that Iona had ‘presented’ herself to the Mairie. This document must be kept safely. I have no idea why but I will keep it safe. That was a year ago now.
A couple of months ago, Iona received a letter to say that her JDC was on 27th March at Vannes Military base.
We arrived in the drizzle. The Sat Nav led us to a dead end road with concrete blocks in the road, barbed wire and a huge sign that read ‘Defense de Penetrer’.
Help. Rapid three point turn between concrete blocks.
But there was nowhere else. So we turned and ignored the ‘Defense de Penetrer’ sign. As we arrived there were 20 or so other 17-18 year olds waiting by the automatic gates.
The gates opened and 10 people were allowed through and were processed by a military man carrying a huge gun. To enter the army base, Iona need her letter summoning her to the JDC and her Carte d’Identity.
It was raining quite heavily when Iona left to join the growing gaggle of phone holding teenagers. The automatic gates opened. She moved to ‘the other side’. The military man with the gun shouted ‘Hoods Down’, as he proceeded to check their identity cards. Iona’s only concern at this point would be her hair which is straightened merciously every morning.... would now be returning to an unruly wavy mass!..
I hadn’t realised that the French Army has a long tradition of providing literacy courses for soldiers. Since the end of the 18th century and the creation of the National Army literacy and numeracy courses were given to all soldiers, typically taught by recruits with a teacher qualification. Before 1997, conscripts undertook basic skills tests. In the 1980s famous French sociologists used the test results to assess changes in the level of performance of young people. This monitoring continued until the suspension of compulsory military service in 1997.
At 5.00pm I returned to the Army base, where 100 or so students emerged through the automatic gates. But not Iona, she was lost inside the base... It could only happen to Iona!... Half an hour later, the car park was empty. Parents had arrived and left. Iona eventually found her way to the right gate!.
While participation in JDC is not compulsory, a certificate attesting to participation is required when applying for any state diploma, including a driving licence, Baccalaureate exams and university entrance so the participation rate is very high, at around 95 %. The JDC certificate is given to each participant whatever his/her test results are.
Thursday, 22nd March 2018
La Maison Bleue now has Wi-Fi
How long have we had Wi-Fi ? Not long, but we cannot live without it!
Our family camping holidays came to an abrupt end as soon as Iona and Joe realised that fields don’t have Wi-Fi!..
But, it is not only Iona and Joe that are totally reliant on constant Wi-Fi, Mark is positively obsessed with the multitude of weather apps he has on his tablet, the latest being, ‘Rain in an hour’. He fiercely defends this App in spite of relentless ridicule!..
I too, am constantly checking emails, school websites and a plethora of News Apps, so we are no better than Iona and Joe!
Would we go to a gite without Wi-Fi?. The simple answer is no, we wouldn’t.
We have had Wi-Fi in 5 of our 6 gites for several years now. So, with much trumpeting and a huge drumroll.....
We can now say that we have Wi-Fi in ALL of our gites !..
Tuesday, 13th March 2018
In the future ferries could be powered by wind.
Imagine, no engine noise when you are trying to sleep in a bunk bed from Portsmouth to Saint Malo. Just quiet, no noise (apart from the bickering children in the cabin next door!).
Well, we may not have to wait too much longer!
A Toulouse start-up company is creating a prototype for a gigantic kite-style sail that could help larger ships cut fuel consumption by up to 20%.
Massive sails will be attached by a 400m cable to large ships and cargo vessels. The sails will use wind power to pull the ships behind them.
Friday, 9th March 2018
Discover French Forests with your phone.
France has over 15.5million hectares of forest. The Office National des Forêts is keen that the forests are enjoyed by everyone. So, to reach the younger and more tech savvy population they have created a series of apps to help us discover the hidden features of the French forests!
Apps have been created for different departments and specifically relate to the forests within that department. For example, the Charente Défi Forestier app provides a guide to the Braconne forest whilst the Forêt de Fontainebleau app gives walking circuits as well as the history of the forest.
There are also more general apps, Clés de forêt which cover all of the French forests and teaches the user how to identify trees by their leaves, fruits and nuts and we can all become animal trackers as all of the animal footprints we may find in the forest are clearly shown.
So, if you are a keen walker or nature lover then check out these apps on Discover French Forests!
Monday, 5th March 2018
Floating zebra crossings!
Watch out for these floating zebra crossings!.
France is trialling these 3D effect pedestrian crossings in an attempt to slow down traffic in residential areas. The use of colour and perspective is very effective in producing a very convincing 3D effect! When drivers approach these new style pedestrian crossings they will see what looks like a row of blocks floating on the road.