May 12, 2020

My week — Happy birthday to me, and other stuff

Today is one of those milestone birthdays. Not, as you would expect, one divisible by ten or even five. This one my sixty-sixth, puts me into the ‘over-65′ camp. Yes, last year’s was significant; it meant that the State pension started coming my way and all that kind of thing; but when filling in on-line forms, I could still put my mark in the whatever-65 box. Now, I have to tick the over-65 box. That makes it significant. Enough about my birthday except to say that, as a special treat, I shall take up temporary residence in the Hôpital Privé Saint François where, on Tuesday, I shall undergo surgery that the medical profession describes as routine and minor, and that I described a few weeks ago as “pee-hole” surgery. I expect to be back home before the weekend.

We lost our Livebox (ADSL modem) in a thunderstorm on Wednesday. There had been some gentle rumbling in the far distance, which seemed to have faded into the nothingness from whence it came, so we didn’t bother to unplug anything. No point; no thunder meant no risk. Suddenly, out of the blue (more accurately, out of the dull, overcast, varying shades of grey) there was an amazingly loud crack that sounded like it came from inside the house, close to the kitchen, and the house immediately reverted to the pre-electric era. I reset the main feed, which brought the lighting and heating circuits back on-line, but the general circuit, the one that covers the wall sockets, needed separately resetting. Everything then worked except the ADSL modem. It took two sixty kilometre round trips to arrange a replacement.  The Livebox was one we bought after we had enormous difficulty getting a replacement a couple of years ago. The first trip to Montluçon was to a few outlets, hoping to buy a replacement. None to be seen. The sales assistant in one of the shops we visited told us that Orange no longer allow sales of the boxes; they can only be rented, and only from Orange. The Orange shop was closed by the time we reached it. Were it not for the fact that we need the Livebox to give us IP telephony, we would have stuck with the Cisco modem/router that is our standby for emergency situations such as this.

The second visit was to the Orange outlet in Montluçon. We decided to go early, so we could catch them before they became busy. Having planned to leave for the 40-minute drive by 8.30am, we eventually got away at nine, pulling up outside the shop at 9.40. It was closed. It doesn’t open until ten. Sounds like an excuse for a touch of café culture and a quick coffee.

Once we got in to the Orange shop, we had to explain that the Livebox had died and we didn’t have it with us (we did, but didn’t want to confuse them too much) because it was one we bought, not a rented one. The very pleasant lady assistant, a lady from Alsace, told us that they don’t sell them, only rent them; and that we’d have to go to a general retailer to buy one. She wasn’t aware at the time (though she is now) that Orange had stopped delivering them to retailers for sale. We agreed that we would have to add a rental Livebox to my account, at 3€ per month.

While setting that up, she said that the tariff we were on was somewhat outdated, and offered to shift us to the latest one. All features would be unchanged, except that I would have unlimited calls to fixed and mobile phones in France, rather than the 60 minutes currently allowed each month, and the cost, including the Livebox, would be 5€ per month less. Result.

All is now well, except that I lost almost a full day’s productivity.

Our foster-dogs continue to surprise us, sometimes more pleasantly than others, but that’s how it goes, developing a relationship with new animals.

Trevor is totally rubbish at catching moles. Great at digging holes, but that’s where it ends. Elise, though – wow! I saw her, one afternoon early in the week (before the storms), dig a hole, stuff her head down it, pull out a mole and eat it. Good girl! That may cut down on the forty or so new mole hills we get each day! That the hole is larger than Trevor is something of a dampener, but we’ll live with it. Between these three and Gypsy we have so many holes in our patch that I thing we shall need, at some stage, to pay a farmer to plough and harrow the whole area.

Later in the week, Elise and Trevor disappeared under the camper. Elise came out with a face full of pigeon, which she promptly proceeded to eat.

Trevor has been much excited by a couple of fledging pigeons that have contrived to use our chimney as a way of losing height, rather than relying on their wings. Unfortunately for them, the descent makes them somewhat mucky, and there is no way back up. We have to lock Trevor outside, despite his very vocal protestations, so we can free the bird from its position at the top of the wood-burner, capture it and release it through the back door (while Trevor is still screaming outside the front door!)

For some time, my Asus Windows 8.1 tablet PC has been misbehaving. Specifically, it has refused to charge up overnight, sometimes being connected for three or four days and still not charging (even though switched off, not just put to sleep). Indeed, on more than one occasion, the battery has actually discharged while attached to a power source, and with its charging indicator lit – all night. I finally decided to call it a day and buy a new tablet. The instrument I chose as its replacement was a Lenovo A8-50, retailing at Amazon France for 120€ (just under £90).

Would you believe, the day after I committed my order, the Asus decided that a charged-up battery might be fun, and it has behaved impeccably ever since.

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DSC_0099Its goose, however, was cooked. The Lenovo arrived, I configured it and loaded the apps I felt I would need. With its 8″ screen (good image quality and excellent speaker system) it has a significantly smaller footprint than the Asus and is lighter to carry. I am now comfortable with it for most of what I want a tablet to do: email, browsing, facebook, reading et hoc genus omne (that’s the poser in me using the Latin for “and all that kind of stuff” or, in yoof parlance, “an’ sh*t like that”). One or two minor functions are easier on the Asus, but they are mostly done on my PC anyway, along with the serious stuff for which I find a keyboard and mouse indispensible.

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Its rear camera is okay; possibly not as good as the one on my phone and certainly not up to the Asus; but I prefer to use a proper camera anyway, so that’s not an issue. Its front camera suffers from the same limitation as may tablets, the Asus included: it’s field of view is just too narrow. Sitting at a ‘normal’ distance from it for Skype video-calls, you have to choose whether your correspondent sees your eyes or your mouth. Its microphone is sensitive enough to allow you to stand back from it enough to show your full face, but then you lose the immediacy of the image of the person you are talking to. Again, my phone is better for that, but again, I prefer to use the Macbook or PC.

And finally, a few pictures from the past seven days.

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