Blog Archive

Friday, September 1, 2017

Selfish People, Older and Wiser, Toulouse Le Mirail, My First Car

Selfish People

Few things frustrate me more that people who are totally selfish and show no regard for others. There are 7 billion people on our planet and if we all show respect for strangers, the world will be a better place. If we act selfishly most of the time, evil and hatred will propagate and civilised society will diminish and eventually die.

The lady driver of the BMW blocked us in despite the space next to us and elsewhere 

Wondering what has prompted me? I regularly get angry at other people's needless selfishness,  particularly when it inconveniences others, and I have started recording these events if I can. A few days ago, I had parked my car in a small French town and went to the Boulangerie. Town was not busy and there was plenty of parking available, including a space next to me. Imagine my surprise when we retuned to our car to find that a woman had parked in the road behind us, blocking our exit. I took pictures so you can see. We were forced to wait a minute or two, completely helpless (I managed to restrain myself and not try to enter her car or start to sound my horn). Fortunately we were not in a hurry, but imagine if we were? It could even at it's most extreme have been a life or death situation. The woman came out and apologised as I expressed my discontent to her!

Older and Wiser

My birthday is in August so I have just racked up yet another year. Here are a few things I have learned over the years that have made life better and that I am pleased to share:

Go to bed earlier so that getting up in the morning is easier. Why have the early morning torture if you can avoid?

Get up 10 mins earlier take your time getting ready in the morning.

Sunrise and sunset are the most beautiful moments of the day (assuming the sun is shining). Try not to miss them if you can. Admire the colours.

Stop don't argue. Save your strength for something that really matters; something that makes a real difference. Most arguments are unnecessary.

Silence can really be golden. Don't feel you need to speak and that you need to respond immediately. Take your time to respond at the best moment with the right response, if at all.

Respect other people and you will be rewarded. Don't expect others to react or respond the same way that you do.

Celebrate difference and learn from it. Learn something new every day.

Toulouse Le Mirail

When I was a student in Toulouse in 1983, one of the areas I visited when looking for a flat was Le Mirail, a large ‘Cité’ or collection of high-rise low-cost housing to the north-west of the city. I didn’t like the place and dismissed it fast. Well it seems that the place has deteriorated massively in the last 30 or so years and has now become one of the many French ‘no-go’ zones. A relative on my wife’s side of the family had an appointment to call there a couple of years ago to investigate some potentially lethal damp conditions in one of the flats. He drove into the high-rise's car park and immediately felt uncomfortable with a number of French people of obvious North-African origin hanging around and looking at him. He noted the large piles of rubbish several stories high beside the block where people clearly chucked their rubbish and their old appliances (including washing machines and fridges) directly from their flat windows.

Le Mirail - a failure in every way

Apparently public services such as rubbish collectors and even police stopped coming here a long time ago. Despite this, he walked towards the miserable apartment block where several young men blocked his entrance. They asked in a French he could barely decipher what he was doing there and he explained what and whom he was going to see. They suspected he was a plain-clothes policeman (probably because he has white skin) and refused him entry. When he protested, one of them produced a revolver and said he would shoot him in the knee if he didn’t leave immediately. They were rude to him and used the racist insult "face de blanc de cul de bidet" (roughly translated as "white faced bidet arse") when he had been polite all the time. Needless to say he turned around to leave and was very anxious and frightened as he walked the 200 metres back to his car. He described how he was shaking so much with fear that his left leg couldn’t depress the clutch so he had to help it. He says he will never go back to this area. It is not too hard to see how a series of bad political decisions, atrocious local planning and neglect over decades has led to this situation which is replicated all over France. (Remember when President Sarkozy visited the Cités outside Paris and referred to people as ‘La Racaille’ – scum - causing a fuss). But a far more difficult question is how on earth is this issue going to be dealt with and resolved? I am sure the majority of people living in these modern slums are decent law abiding citizens and they must be the ones who suffer the most.

My First Car

My first car was an unforgettable Wolseley Hornet convertible. I bought it for £400 shortly after I passed my test. In case you have never heard of it (I hadn't) the car was a kind of luxury version of a Mini. Mine was about 20 years old and with my new found freedom I immediately used it to drive to school instead of getting a lift or waiting for the bus.

The car should have been enormous fun to drive, with the roof right down and with plenty of room inside and I do remember having fun 'racing' it down a hill with a school friend during break time. His car was faster than mine!

My first car looked just like this.

But unfortunately it had some very annoying quirks. Most annoying of all was the fact that more times than not it wouldn't start. I had to open the boot (is that really where the battery was?) and fiddle with some wires until I eventually got it started. Then best not to stall of course. I remember driving it home to my parents house one day and the horn occasionally seemed to hoot, all by itself. After paying it a bit of attention, I noticed that it hooted every time I turned the steering wheel to the left. It got rapidly worse until it was hooting more time than it wasn't which was really quite embarrassing. So I turned into a side street (left turn of course) and pulled up so that I could switch the engine off. I did that. Trouble was the horn just carried on hooting regardless! As I decided to get out and detach the battery cables, a woman came out of a nearby house and started shouting at me, saying I had woken her baby and getting angry with me. I can't remember how I eventually made it home!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I got rid of it fairly fast. Big mistake. There are only a handful of these cars still remaining today - the convertibles - and they are worth a lot of money!

Quote of the Month

“Arthur blinked at the screens and felt he was missing something important. Suddenly he realised what it was. “Is there any tea on this spaceship?" he asked.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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