Saturday, 25 April 2015

Anzac Day - 100 Years On

Goulburn War Memorial was inaugurated in 1925, as a memorial to the men of this New South Wales shire who served in the First World War. It stands on Rocky Hill overlooking Goulburn and district. Visitors can ascend to the viewing platform on top. This photo was taken from the train as we trundled past in 2012.

Today is ANZAC Day.
25 April 1915
Lest we forget

The infamous Gallipoli campaign began 100 years ago today and was a disaster for all those involved, with appalling casualty figures which include Simon's great uncle William Schlitt, born 1897- died 6th August 1915, a Private in the Essex Regiment service no. 3/2098.

 (from wikipedia)

There is an interesting set of photos of Anzac Cove on the Guardian Newspaper web site (if you can make them work). Thanks to John for sending the link.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Knife Making in Chatellerault

We visited the Chatellerault Motor Museum when Simon's brother was visiting a week ago. Part of the museum is given over to an exhibit on the arms and cutlery making industry.

In the 19th and first half of the 20th century Chatellerault was home to an enormous arms manufactory, known as la Manu. Nowadays divided between an adult training centre, a circus school, military archive storage, a car museum and a hydro-electric plant it is the remnant of a long history of industry in this place.

From medieval times to the early 20th century, and particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries Chatellerault was a centre of knife-making. The industry ranged from large well regarded establishments such as Pagé frères to much humbler and smaller scale cottage manufacturies.

Cutlery made in Chatellerault, from the collection of Camille Pagé.

The director of Pagé frères was Camille Pagé, who became the chronicler and historian of the trade in Chatellerault as well as a serious collector of knives and related cutlery. His firm participated in the Paris Exhibition of 1878 and supplied cutlery to fine households. 

The small scale manufacturers were obliged to submit their wares to an authority which judged their quality, but they were essentially making workaday knives sold cheaply to travellers on the street. The knives had a good reputation for being nicely finished, but their 'temper lacks hardness'. Chatellerault is on the Vienne River, on the main route from Paris to Bordeaux and women and children would hawk their cutlery to the many people passing through the town.

The making of table knives, scissors (and nails) was a family affair. Each house in some streets had a forge and each member of the family worked making cutlery, engaging in all the processes required. As a result the industry wasn't terribly efficient and families just barely scraped a living from their endeavours. This was different to in the large factories like Pagé, where each process was a specialist task and the product was passed from artisan to artisan until finished. As a consequence the factories used proportionally less fuel and their output was higher.

According to Camille Pagé, the Chatellerault table cutlery was stylistically much influenced by the presence of the large arms manufactory in the town. Although not made for the outdoors, the cutlery often looked like hunting implements, and workers migrated frequently between civilian and military spheres.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Badger Highrise

Badgers appear to be thriving in the southern Touraine, although they are declining in many places in Europe. Within a kilometre stretch along the Claise river near Chaumussay there are at least 3 large badger setts. This one, built into the roadside bank, is like a multistorey apartment block, with more than a dozen entrance/exit holes at varying levels up the bank.

Badger hunting is allowed in France and they are widely regarded as vermin (although not officially designated as such). The main reason is the damage they do to banks like this, undermining the stability of the upper edges and steep slopes.

Setts are not the only signs of badgers that one commonly sees. Recently we wrote about seeing tracks near Richelieu, and paths made by badgers regularly traversing the grass and undergrowth criss-cross the countryside all over the southern Touraine.

European Badger Meles meles (Fr. Blaireau européen) is unmistakable, with a stripey black and white head and the deportment of a miniature bear. They are about 75 cm long and 15 cm high, weighing around 10 kg. They are tremendous diggers, excavating a burrow system known as a sett, with at least 3 entrances (sometimes several dozen). The setts can be for occasional use, or the type which are occupied for years by multiple generations. Foxes and wild cats will often take them over once they are abandoned by the badgers.

Badgers emerge from the sett at dusk and after checking for danger sit around the entrance grooming themselves. Once it is dark they trot off in search of worms, insects, fruits, bulbs, grains and possibly small animals in the forests and neighbouring fields.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Setting the benchmark

Chaumussay may be a small village with a population of only 253, but to our minds it punches well above its weight in many areas, one of which is the amenities it offers to visitors.

Not only does it have two recharging places for electric cars (something Preuilly sur Claise hasn't yet managed to install)

but it also has one of the most accessable picnic benches I have ever seen.

Not only does the picnic bench allow wheelchair drivers the chance to join their family at the picnic table without making them sit at the end, it must also be cheaper to make and install.

Now that's a win....