Until the arrival of Tony Blair, New Labour and the “services” economy, the economy of the United Kingdom was built on exports. Sadly, most of what is being exported now is jobs, many in manufacturing. Many of the jobs that exist now – particularly the vast number of public sector jobs created under New Labour – don’t actually create anything. In other words, most employees are consumers of wealth, not creators.
Possibly one of the last great exports from the UK was our penchant for going on strike with the least provocation. Sure, the latest generation of union leaders are trying their hand at it now and again but, compared with the likes of Scanlan and Scargill, they are rank amateurs.
France, however, has taken on the mantle with gusto. So enthusiastic are they that they have even mobilised kids to protest at the retirement age being increased from sixty to sixty-two. For most of the students involved in the protests, the effects of the increase won’t hit them for another four decades, by which time there will probably have been further adjustments to the retirement age that will make them long for the heady days when retirement at a youthful sixty-two was still the norm!
Out here in the sticks, we have been relatively unscathed by all this kerfuffle. Those with kids were impacted by the kids not going to school, and we did notice that the post lady didn’t turn up one day. Otherwise, life continues as normal.
Until, that is, I had to drive to Paris to collect Tania’s dogs in advance of her trip to India. I know that, if I fill the Twingo’s tank at Montluçon, I can go to Paris and not need to fill up again until I reach Montluçon on the way back. I left home with almost a full tank and put an empty 10 litre can in the car, planning to fill that as backup – what is known as the Justin case. I didn’t stop in Montluçon, fearing that there would be massive queues for fuel and not wanting to waste too much time.
The first point at which I could fill the can was the Aire de la Centre de la France, about 100 km up the road. There was practically no-one there, a normal day judging by the traffic and people stopping for petrol. I filled the can and topped up the tank. I had to pay 1,52 € per litre for ordinary unleaded with 10% ethanol (2c cheaper than without ethanol). At today’s exchange rate, that equates to £1.35 per litre. That was expensive. Perhaps that’s why there was no-one there. Generally, the best price we can achieve is around 1,40 €, which is still £1.25 a litre. No cheap petrol here!
Driving towards Paris most of the services looked the same (although none of them as expensive as where I had chosen to top up). That all changed as I entered the Paris area. There are three relatively cheap stations on the road in that I follow. Each of them had major queues for fuel. That was the pattern for the rest of the way. Tania was speaking of people cruising from station to station trying to find fuel – diesel was more of a problem than petrol, but the queues weren’t discriminating. In fact, on the way back on Friday, the radio stations were giving lists of major outlets that had no diesel.
When I arrived at Tania’s block, there was nice sunshine, clear sky and temperature edging close to double figures. We spent a pleasant afternoon, and Tania proudly showed me the stack of chocolate that her friend had brought her from England.
A friend recently sent me a couple of examples of photo-manipulation using the Out of Bounds technique. I was intrigued, and wondered if I could produce work of as high quality as she had. Obviously I couldn’t, but I had a go. Here are a couple of examples of where I am so far. I promise they will get better, although goodness only knows how long it will take.
This was the first one I did. From it I learned that you really need something with smooth edges. Trying to keep the random fine hairs and so on, especially when the background is similarly coloured, is too hard for me just yet. I have never been very skilled in this kind of work, but it won’t put me off. This is one of those techniques which, like splash of colour, angled shots etc, needs to be used sparingly and appropriately. Finding appropriate shots is not easy. Here is my latest attempt, using a television rather than a paper frame, and with nothing actually crossing the boundary.
Comments are always welcome, but keep in mind that I have only just started doing this kind of thing.