Strasbourg's airport has yet to welcome in any of the low cost airlines, thanks in no small part to French protectionism. If there had been such a thing as a French low-cost carrier, I'm sure we would have had at least a direct link to Brussels in operation by now. So if you want to fly direct to Strasbourg from the UK you have no choice whatsoever. The only service that exists is run by a firm called Britair (who occasionally outsource the actual flight operations to Scotair) who run the Air France route between Strasbourg Entzheim and London City. As far as the service goes itself, it's top notch. A dinky plane, usually half full, takes you straight into the heart of London, without the inconvenience of a five mile hike to the arrivals hall, nor having to find your way to London proper via train or coach. The downside is, it can be rather pricey, particularly if you need to travel during an EU Parliamentary sitting. There is one other option nearby, which is about as convenient, [...]
Ok, so this has nothing to do with Strasbourg, but I've got a blog, and I need to whinge. Microsoft have persisted with this frankly second-rate software product for a five years or so, and having tried both the 2003 and 2007 versions - I can safely say that they should just throw in the towel. On Wednesday night I spent 80 minutes on the phone to Microsoft support, (you get up to 90 minutes for free) to find out why BCM 2007 wasn't doing what it was supposed to. After deleting everything and starting again, twice, the support engineer finally demonstrated that it does in fact do what it's supposed to do - sometimes. "So it's a bit unstable then?" I asked the engineer. "You could say that, but that's not what I'd say." he replied, knowing full well that the call was being recorded, and any admission to this end would most likely result in the loss of his job. So there you have it a blog that's out in the ether, finally, spelling it out: if [...]
We finally received our 'list' for our eldest's first year at school. It seems that 3 year olds don't have much need for stationery: exercise book 320mm x 240mm with protective plastic cover (and name on) portfolio booklet with at least 40 sleeves (and name on) daps (with name on the in-sole) two boxes of tissues two rolls of absorbent kitchen roll one bar of soap and some plastic bags a cheque for 45 Euro to cover tea breaks a cheque for 30 Euro to cover school trips school insurance certificate One can only assume that by the time he's sixteen that things like soap, tissues and kitchen roll will no longer be a requirement?
[This article was written for 'What England Means to me' in November 2007. To read more article on the subject of 'Englishness' please visit www.whatenglandmeanstome.co.uk] I first discovered I was English the day I met a Scottish Nationalist (in Darjeeling of all places, but I digress) and while I am sure beneath her sour veneer she was genuinely a nice person, she seemed to take great pleasure out of telling me just how ashamed I should be of my race - given what my forefathers had done to her forefathers. It seemed there was little doubt in her mind that one of my ancestors had been complicit in the butchering of Scottish innocents and the eradication of much of Scotland's native language and customs. Quite an accusation I thought, and hardly something I should be expected to agree with; but even so I felt it would be easy enough to distance myself from the macabre events of yore; for I, like her, was British rather than English; and to that end we were united fellow-countrymen (or countrypersons) - [...]
That's it. I'm now in the system for good. When the cops type my name into their central database - bang - back it will come. Hulley, Barth; one speeding ticket, 3rd August 2008, travelling at 11km over the speed limit on the northbound A35 at Geispolsheim in a rented Fiat Bravo. Speed cameras eh - doncha love em? 11km for goodness sake. I have sent off my cheque and now await the judiciary's decision as to how many points they will opt to put on my license. Though luckily it should be zero - as I still have my UK permit!
The first time we visited Strasbourg, way back in 2004, we stumbled across Baggersee beach and, along with many other things here, we listed it as yet another good reason to move to Strasbourg. So move we did. Baggersee Plage is a well hidden, white sandy beach set beside a small lake not far from Central Strasbourg. Easily accessible by tram, it is free to use, a short walk from the Auchan hypermarket at Ilkirch, and therefore, understandably, a popular destination during hot weather. Contrary to popular belief, the water is crystal clear and clean enough to support the hundreds of little fish that swim in the shallows (and that have thus far refused to nibble at my toes whenever I go for a paddle). During the summer season there is a permanent lifeguard, a beach patrol, a café, open-air showers (v. cold), volleyball nets and plenty of space to spread out. So although Strasbourg might be as far from the seaside as you can get, just about everything you get at the coast is here. Except of course [...]
Twice a day Monday to Friday (I think), at midday and fifteen minutes later at precisely 12.15 the peace and quiet of the Contades district of Strasbourg is shattered by the sound of an almighty air-raid siren. Well, it obviously can't be an 'air-raid' siren, because there aren't any air-raids, but it is a siren nonetheless. Loud and brutal. The question is : where is this noise coming from, and why? Is it the official lunchtime toll? Is it a pigeon scarer? I need some help here. Can anyone solve the great air-raid siren mystery of Strasbourg?
There is a highly impressive advert on TV at the moment for Oxford exercise books. It's an expensively produced commercial that utilises the latest technology to combine computer generated images with a montage of exciting scenes - as imagined by the young girl featured in the ad. There are explosions, monsters, collapsing buildings and all that kind of caper. At first viewing you think 'nice ad'. Then it hits you, how on earth can a manufacturer of note books afford to show possibly one of the most lavishly produced commercials of the year across hundreds of prime time TV slots across the networks? Answer: La rentrée. The week leading up to the first day back at school is know across France as 'La rentrée'; literally 'the re-entry'. It is at this time of year that parents in a near state of panic drag their protesting offspring to the nearest stationers or supermarket to tick off everything on the school shopping list - as provided by the school. While in the UK it is school uniform that we are blackmailed [...]