Monday, October 19, 2009

Fuck you, penguin

From "Fuck you, penguin"

French for penguin is "pingouin".

Except if you call a penguin a "pingouin" in France all the french people will shout at you and tell you that what you are looking at is not a "pingouin" but a "manchot".

They are very pedantic about it, "pingouins" come from the arctic and are auks and can fly, and there is only 1 species left. What everyone else on the entire planet calls a penguin, those tuxedoed bastards, come from the Antarctic, can't fly and are "manchots".

Now put "manchot" into google language tools and it will tell you penguin. Put "pingouin" into google language tools and it will tell you . . . penguin.

Bloody French.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Don't Re-install Windows

Unless you have a clue.

I only have a bit of a clue.

This old Dell has been running slower and slower. It's hard drive would chatter away while it figured out what to do. I'd sit in front of the little hourglass slowly going nuts.

Over the last 4 years so much crap has been installed and removed off this poor PC that it doesn't know its arse from its elbow, so I thought a clean install would make things sweet.
I slapped an external hard drive onto it, backed up the whole shebang, and then rebooted it in DELL mode an chose the re-install option.

The good news is that it is much happier.

The bad news is that the back up did me no good whatsoever. Sure, I've got my data, but it's the software that's a pain in the arse.
From the new config I had to re-install the various SPs for Windows XP, download AVG antivirus and remove Macafee. Remove Microsoft works, and discover I don't have Office install CD. Download Java virtual machine, Download Vuze, rip a copy of Office off Pirate Bay and install.

Biggest pain in the arse is all my old mail is incorporated in Outlook Express. Apparantly what I should have done is export all my mail first so that I can import it back into my newly installed Outlook Express.

So, mixed success.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Last Night on the Tiles

That's it. It's all over.

I've found a new job near Angouleme, starts Monday 6th July.

No more shifts, no more weekends missed. And with le Tour starting Sunday that's just as well.

It's all a bit strange because I've been working there for nearly 5 years, and the tile factory pretty much defines who I am in France. Now that's all finished and a new adventure starts.

My last nightshift coincided with a couple of colleagues' birthdays. So we decided to have a BBQ during the midnight break. I brought cider, Charentaise prunr tarts and the cups and plates, Stephane provided the saucisses and merguez, and Jean-Francois brought tyhe bread, cognac & schweppes and wine.

Here we have all the guys from "E" Team:

This is me giving my old faithfull press Mulder a last farewell caress. Comment elle etait capricieuse, la saloppe!

And the "Loubert Quatre" team: Pascal: responsable, Didier: transbordeur, and Stephane: attrapeur like me. Pascal, Didier & I have been together the whole 5 years. They have worked at the factory for over 20 years.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

20 words for snow

People often say that the Esquimeaux have 20 words for snow.

I've never been particularly impressed by that, after all; the English probably have 20 words for rain:
cat-and-dog weather, cloudburst, condensation, deluge, drencher, drizzle, fall, flood, flurry, hail, heavy dew, liquid sunshine, mist, monsoon, pour, pouring, precip, precipitation, raindrops, rainfall, rainstorm, sheets, shower, showers, sleet, spate, spit, sprinkle, sprinkling, stream, sun shower, torrent, volley*, wet stuff, window washer

In English there also exists these cunning things called adjectives, so in effect there's no need to have a word for every nuance of something because you can qulify the noun with adjectives: heavy rain, driving rain, cold rain etc.

Anyway, what got me onto all this is that I love andouillettes: sausages made from pig offal. I love them, but Fiona can't stand the smell (they smell like pigshit) and I'm only allowed to cook them outside on the barbeque.

So I was reading the list of ingredients on the packet and it's not complicated. Pig's stomach, pig skin, and "chaudins". Illoked up chaudins in the dictionary because I didn't recognise the word and found:
En France, en vue de son utilisation en boyauderie, le côlon de porc est divisé en deux parties; le chaudin, boyau bosselé, épais, tendre, rose clair, et le suivant, non bosselé, lisse, tendre, rosé ou blanc

"In france, because of it's use in sausage stuffing, pig intestines is divided in 2 parts: the large intestine, bumpy casing, thick, tender, light pink, and the small intestine, not lumpy, smooth, tender, pink or white"

That's the French for you: 20 words for pigs intestines.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The mother of all storms!

After another day of wasted effort on my part: I spent a day spraying grass and weedkiller around the stock yard only to have it all washed away in the mother of all storms.

Those pics, and the following is translated from Charente Libre, the local paper. I had to pay a Euro for the benefit of downloading the artcle.
An apocalyptic vision! 1000 hectares of vineyards in the Cognac shredded and Rouillac. Hailstones three cms in size in drifts in much of the Charente. A land that looks like a shroud. Roads turned green with shredded vegetation. Lights broken. Cars damaged. Houses flooded. Roofs blown away. Fleurac, Mérignac, Foussignac, Vaux Rouillac, Rouillac devastated. The storm swept the Charente from west to east between 17:30 and 20:00 yesterday. A storm of unprecedented violence.
"I've never seen that in thirty years. I crossed the courtyard tee-shirt to go to secure the vehicles. It ripped the skin from my arm. The power was impressive. The hail damaged the bonnets of the cars" said Alain Reboul, a wine grower in Fleurac, who has lost its 15 hectares of vines.
He finds himself with five of his colleagues at the Bois-Noble at Fleurac. The facts are bitter. "And the prunings are destroyed. We can do nothing for two years. We must wait for nature to resume its cycle. This is catastrophic" he said, still in shock.
Anger was mixed with dismay. "It's 80 to 90% of our income that has gone. We have already lost everything with diversification. We lose everything with the weather. "The same thoughts come back. There is talk of huge damage not covered by insurance."

Technicien à la Coopérative agricole de la Charente (ACC), Jean-Paul Dupouy attempts to take stock. He puts forward some figures "Six million, just for the vineyard. But there are also oilseed rape, wheat, the barley, sunflowers, which are destroyed."
The specialist had never seen a such vast area, stretching down from St. Cybardeaux touched.

Rofs made in Everite fell to pieces. The Center for adults with disabilities in the Gachère is plunged into darkness. The hairdresser at Marcillac Lanville a foot in the water. The market square at Rouillac green with sheared leaves
"Outside, it is like in January in the snow. On the roads, it is slippery" said a resident who does not believe his eyes.
A house collapses in Soyaux
Having attacked the Cognac, the storm continued its progress towards the south of the department and Angoulême before slipping late in the evening to the east and Charente Limousine. "The hailstones were as big as pigeon eggs. It was an unusual violence between 19.30 and 20:00" said a Rupificaldien. Telephone lines were cut. At Mornac, hail went through the roof. Smashed computers. Glass gave way. Around the church, the flood.
At Touvre, a few hundred meters away, the Montbron road is blocked by a meter of mud The council had to call out the backhoe excavators.
At Soyaux, firefighters broke down a home cut through by lightning at Mimosas Close.The first floor has fallen. The occupants, who were watching television, got out on time.
At Angoulême, La Grand Font tunnel was closed. Floods prohibit access.
At Villebois-Lavalette, residents of the old people's home took refuge on the first floor. There were forty centimeters of water at the ground floor. At Roumazières, the roof of the car dealership collapsed under the hail. The gardens are crushed. "Tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, there's nothing. It has just started to calm down. "It was crazy" said a resident at 22:00.
The storm has flashed into the heart of the night. The stuff of nightmares

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Voyante Véronique

Confusion reigns in your household today because Saturn is ascending in the sixth house, and the Moon is dominant.
Confusion also reigns when you try and speak french because your accent is so shit.
Marteau, monteau, moto, mouton, menton and matelot all sound a bit similar to the English ear. But unless you want to try say that you hammered a sailor on the chin while wearing a sheepskin coat on a motorbike, best practice first.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

More Jobsworthyness

After the debacle with the gate our next mission was to paint the inside of the mould workshop. We took most of the first morning preparing the site, moving stuff away from the walls, sweeping out etc.
We wee supplied with 4 10 litre pots of white paint, 3 tired rollers and some cheap paintbrushes. The walls we were to paint were unfinished grey concrete blocks. when this workshop had been built, instead of plastering it or painting it, the machinery and stuff had been moved into the unfinished room, the water pipes, power lines, enormouse water resevoirs put in place in front of the unfisnished walls. As a result the room has always been dim and dingy because of the raw grey walls.
The unfinished cement just drank our paint. I'd dip the roller in the paint, roll it down half a metre and ther'd be no paint left.
I tried diluting the paint. It rolled onto the wall better, but the grey came thru and the coverage was too poor.
Because of all the pipework, machinery and elecric cabling we were buggering about with paint brushes in the areas where the rollers wouldn't fit. By the afternoon we had painted a small corner of the room and used a shit load of paint.
Once again the director came by and told us to stop. He got on his mobile and ordered some more paint, exterior stuff that should cover better. We packed up for the day.
I missed the next day because of leave and when I went back, the guys had got hold of 2 spray guns. What a difference! with the right tools you can really get a job done. We whipped thru the rest of the white paint and then went around again with a 2nd coat of the exterior paint to finish. the place looked much better.
After finishing we were told that some guys would be coming round with a high pressure water pistol to clean off the floors.
AFTER we'd painted the walls. the hose will blast crap all over the work we've done! Cart before horse again.
With the workshop painted and the sun shining it was time to retry the gate.
Now we are armed with spray guns, but the factory air lines won't reach the gate, so we wasted more time while a compressor was found.
A dinky 50 litre compressor, that couldn't keep up with the demand of 2 guns. So we took turns painting until we had run out of paint. The gat looked quit smart, all white and fresh.
Now, the hollow bars of the gate take water in the rain, andthen, full of water, in winter they freeze and it bursts the the bars. So our genius chef tells us to get a drill and pierce holes in the bottom of the bars to let the water escape.
We do so, and black, stinky water comes pouring out all over the undried paint of the gate leaving it stained and nasty.
The cart firmly attached to the front of the horse again.
Ils sont même pas capable d'organiser une fête dans une brasserie is the English expression which doesn't translate too well in French. Un bordel de merde is the French phrase that doesn't translate at all into English

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Have a go . . . - How Dumb Are You? - Fun Hard Quiz

The quiz setters are USAian so cut them some slack. BTW the number on a bottle or Rolling Rock is 33. Apparantly everyone in the world knows that.


Lazy Workshy Jobsworths

And now I'm one of them.

Since the factory has stopped production we are all supposed to be on maintenance duties. I've been assigned to the "environment" team, painting gates and fences and stuff.

Everyone has an attitude of "don't rush to finish anything, they'll only find you something else to do"

In our little team of three, our first assignment was to paint the big steel automatic gate at the front of the factory. It was pretty rusty and nasty. We would first have to get rid of the rust and the flaky old paint.

Clock on at 8:00 am. Meet at the maintenance yard 8:05. Put the cafetière on and talk bollocks while the coffee comes thru. Fill the wheelbarrow with rags, gloves, paintbrushes, paint, sandpaper and traipse down to the gate. 8:30

Boss decides we need mini angle grinders to get the rust off. We stand around in the sun while he goes off to get the machines. 9:00 he's back. Hooray! We have nifty grinders to get the rust off. But no disks, so we do some more sun bathing while he goes off looking for disks. 9:15 and hooray, we have disks, but no extension cable, so moer sunbathing while he goes off to find one.
Just before 10:00 and we finally have everything we need to get started, but 10:00 is coffee time so we traipse off back to the maintenance yard to put the cafetière back on ...

By the end of the day we had de-rusted half of the gate. This was a Friday. It rained all week-end and rusted up the work we had done. The following monday saw the same chaos and us runing back and forth between the gate and sheltere everytime it started to rain.

The paint was water-based white paint for metal, but it was cheap nasty stuff that even after 3 coats still wasn't covering properly. The factory director (called "Mickey" because he always wears a safety helmet with integral ear muffs that look like Mikey Mose ears) finally told us to stop wasting time and money with this rubbish paint and find something else to do.

So they decided that we would paint the inside of the mould workshop. And thus started another week of farce ...

Friday, May 08, 2009

La Fesse

There's a comic on the French radio station Rire et Chansons called Jean-Yves LaFesse. His schtick is telephone gags. I heard this one the other day and it had me laughing out loud.
He's making out to be an old lady hard of hearing and he's phoned these people pretending to be a friend of the family. As she mishears the conversation she gets at cross purposes about the health of the couples' mother and as they try and explain it gets worse and worse.
When they say "Elle n'a rien" She mishears "rein" and thinks the mother has kidney trouble. When they say that there has been no "accident" she pics up on "dent" and thinks the mother has problems with her teeth. "rien de grave" gets misheard for "greffe" or graft. And finally, as the woman on the phone breaks down with laughter Madame Moisan thinks she's crying.
Have a listen, it'll be good for your French.

Trouble at t'mill

The economic crisis continues to bite.

The factory's stock yard is nearly full of tiles and we aren't selling enough. So We stopped all productopn on the 24th April and will ot start again until the 13th May.

The stoppage is no doubt linked France's tax system whereby companies are taxed on their stock. That's right, their stock is taxable. In June. So the bean counters want the stock as low as possible at the end of May. This is also the reason why we keep so few spare parts. Those parts would be stock and thus taxable. The companies that make the parts don't want to keep them either because then they'd be paying the tax. As a result, large portions of France's stock is permanantly hidden "in transit".

Another reason for the bean counters shutting down the factory now is that May has 2 long weekends. By putting all the production staff onto day shifts the company doesn't have to pay out the extra dosh for the shifts that would have worked on the public holidays.

To give them some credit tho, at least no one's been laid off. Yet. We've spent the last 2 weeks cleaning and generally wasting time.


Friday, March 20, 2009


Here is today's lesson:
When using a chainsaw, always use two hands to hold the chainsaw, and wear gloves.

I should be relieved I didn't cut my bloody hand off. Quel con!

In full Spring mode, I had cut back a hazel nut tree and was using the chain saw to cut up the trunks and branches for firewood in a few years. My chainsaw is quite light, it has a 40 cm blade. Fiona was using shears to cut off the smaller branches, some of which we'll keep for kindling and the rest will be put on the bonfire.

I had developed the lazy and dangerous habit of sometimes holding a slimmer branch in my left hand and the chainsaws one-handed in my right, and using the chainsaw to trim off twiggy bits.

Suddenly the chain bit into the junction between twig and branch and pulled the branch (and my hand) into the chain.

Some choice swear words followed, followed by the immnse relief that my stupidity had only inflicted a small wound and not left me handicapped and unemployable.

Because I'm a craven coward I decided immediately that I didn't have to see a doctor. A doctor might decide to stitch it! Lots of thick dark blood pouring out of it convinced me that it was flushed clean. Obviously I wasn't going to be catching tiles at the factory the next day. I phoned in to tell them, and the next day saw the doctor to get signed off for a day or two. The toubib signed me off for a week! Happy days! The weather report says subshine through to Sunday.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

I don't shower in your toilet...

Jesus some people are disgusting pigs.
We had our monthly meeting last week. Every month the bosses get each tem in and discusses safety, quality and performance figures with them. It's actually quite useful. They often bring in examples of the tiles made by each team, and show what was wrong with them and how many had to be chucked in the bin. Anyway. At the end of this meeting we get to the stage of "any other business". All this stuff is written up on a board in front by the way, so we get a chance to read ahead, (and think up excuses). At the bottom of the board in the "other business" section is written. "some of the teams have a cleanliness issue in the showers" It turns out there is someone who is shitting in the showers.
In the men's block there are five shower cubicles. What is this sick bastard thinking? If the showers weren't cleaned what was he going to do after day 5? The lady who cleans up is a lovely young woman from Madagascar. Another case of immigrants doing the work that locals think is beneath them. I swear this cleaner is the most valuable employee the factory has. This poor lady has to occasionally face a turd in the showers. Her job is rough enough having to clean the toilets and showers and change rooms as it is without facing the filth of some sick bastard.
I swear if I was management I'd get everyone to sign a paper agreeing that it's an instant sacking offence and then locate the bastard. It can't be too difficult. A check on the showers at the start of each shift will quickly identify which is the guilty team. Once that's done it should be easy to find out who, in that team, showers. I never use the work showers (people shit in them for a start!) I'd rather have a bath when I get home. It should be straightforward to narrow it down to a handful of people. From there, questioning colleagues and knowledge of people's character should be able to narrow it down further. What happens when the shitter goes on holiday? Suddenly the showers are clean for 3 weeks until he gets back? Disgraceful behaviour.
Back to this meeting. It's held in a little office near the kilns. And this time, the air conditioning wasn't working. And the meeting was held as we started our middday shift. So the team before us had just finished their meeting and had spent 45 minutes in this room before us. When we filed in the air was thick. There's your main problem I thought. Not that "some of the teams have a cleanliness issue in the showers" but more like some of the teams never seem to shower at all.


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Monday, February 23, 2009

La Créativité dans la Cuisine

Vous prenez deux pommes de terre dans son filet. Vous prenez également un saucisse de Strasbourg. Il faut que les patates ne doivent pas trop grandes. Si leur peau est un peu ridée tant mieux.
Puis, vous faites de votre mieux pour être aussi créative que possible. Reflichissez bien des toutes les possibilités.

Moi, je me suis régalé.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Caption Competition

OK, I'll try and make this a regular thing. People come to visit, and they bring airport novels with them and leave them behind. I love books and can't bear to throw them away, even pulp fiction. Most end up at a book exchange.

But I'll send one to you if I like your submission for a caption to the photo below of our glorious statuesque president and his rather dowdy wife.

Give me a winning caption and If you win you can later email me your address and I'll send you your choice of one of the following books:
Alan Titchmarsh: Rosie
Jonathan Tropper: How To talk To A Widower

Sarah Harrison: The Grass Memorial

Marcia Willett: Winning Through

Andrew Goss: The Dark Tide

Hey? What? How's that for Red Hot? Big Prizes!! Fame and Fortune!
Remember you can always stipulate that I DO NOT send you one of these books if you find them all equally horrible. But Spring is on its way and you need a pot boiler to read while you sit in the deckchair with a hankie hat on your head.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Financial Crisis & The Tile factory

"La Crise"

What with La Crise & the erosion of our "pouvoir d'achat" the french are more depressed and pessimistic than usual.

Pessimists! I swear, every time I go into the café to ask for advice or opinions all I get is "o la la" and hand waving. Like when I was after advice on installing an arial aireal aereal une antenne. But that can be another post another day.

Because of the big recession, nobody is building any new houses. So the demand for roof tiles has dropped. We have a yard full of product and sales are way down. So the factory has to cut production. But it would be mad to have staff hanging around being paid to do nothing, so the first thing they did was drop all the interim staff. That enabled them to cut a team.

We usually run with 5 teams and the presses turning 24/24. Last year on the accessories lines we even had a sixth team running during day shifts. In January it was announced that they need to lose 18 more people. If they can find these 18 through voluntary reduncancy, early retirement etc then there won't be any need to fire anyone.

The worrying thing for me is that I was one of the last people taken on full time contract. So if the operate a "last in, first out" system I'm at risk.

Rumour is that they already have eight or nine who have agreed to leave. In the meantime though I'm going to get the whole family down to the dentist and the optician to get the maximum out of the company's medical aid just in case I am axed.

The last few months I've been really hating this job, but there's nothing like the threat of "chomage" to make you appreciate employment.

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