Tag Archives: le mans

The Parisian Floor-Watchers

I wonder if anybody remembers the four Yorkshire men. “When I were a lad…” the saying used to go. Perhaps a relative, probably a grandparent, who has not only been around to see World Wars but also witnessed the televising of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon and/or later still missions to Mars!

I suppose my own generation are those of us who were ‘privileged’ enough to have owned Cathay Ray Tube Black and White Televisions with a screen full of static and a Test card picture that began when the televisions stopped broadcasting at around 10pm?

These days I can reflect on those old pre-gaming televisions and sit back in awe at how far technology has gone… indeed is still going, and how fast! Sitting here in Northern Europe, Finland to be precise, typing away on my tablet with my better half beside me similarly busy on hers, one cannot help but wonder if we are travelling through the ‘techno’ age too fast and indeed if it is still a healthy progression for the younger generation?

On the plus side Jennifer Lyon, who is now halfway through a world tour, attempting to learn and experience different methods of eco-living and permaculture, could not have set out on her journey through eleven countries without the use of the internet. She would have been out of touch with friends, loved ones and relatives and it might have literally taken years of planning to secure places with hosts interested in eco-living simply by writing to them by post. I indeed do recall, “when I was a lad…”, sending Christmas cards to my aunt in Australia in early December each year and receiving a reply in late June the following year thanking me for said card which had arrived at its destination around Easter time!

For sure there are many benefits of such technology which now enable me to have face-to-face conversations with the same aunt over apps such as Skype, instantly and without charge… One might say that’s a serious improvement.

But what of the downsides? Try asking a youngster to do fairly basic arithmetic without the use of a PC or calculator, and the likely response is more often than not going to be “Why? I have a computer to do that”.

Perhaps worse, how many teenagers could manage without such technology for even a day and what is their primary use of such technologies anyway… ermmm gaming perchance?

Back in January of this year I embarked on a trip to France, essentially to meet a couple of Jenny’s friends who are currently looking after her two handsome felines; Hamlet and Frankie.

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Her friends Pat and Christian are wonderful French country folk who have rescued and look after a mini-menagerie: eight cats, two Shetland ponies and a border collie. The internet connection in their centuries-old country house is slow but we hardly missed it, opting instead for the traditional modes of entertainment i.e. socialising, visiting new places and experiencing new cultures.

Before reaching Pat and Christian’s house we had to drive down through France to their neighbourhood: nearest town Culan, bang in the centre of the country. There were of course several stops en route to check on feline welfare, and a food stop in good friend Perry McCarthy’s old haunt of Le Mans, but before we knew it we had reached the residence of Jen’s friends who were set to look after the boys during her time globetrotting.

Christian and Pat quickly allowed us to take the reins (excuse the pun!) as they disappeared on a pre-organised trip to visit friends and collect a motorbike which they had left six hours southwest of Culan prior to their own move a year or two before. But it was business as usual as far as Jen and I were concerned; assist the boys to settle in with their eight friends (Frankie and Hamlet have been housed by Christian and Pat’s on many previous occasions), get out into the countryside and do some walking!

During our stay we took a brief road trip of our own to visit the nearby town of Bourges and its cathedral, the oldest in France.

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Completed in 1195 AD it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and if one arrives there with enough energy it is possible to access the roof of the cathedral by climbing the spiral staircase consisting of exactly 400 original stone steps! One might even hazard a guess that here is where the graffiti phenomenon began, as there were some quite beautiful – and VERY old – love messages and etchings in the walls on the way to the top! The views from said rooftop were astounding…

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Having spent several days with Jen’s friends it was time to leave and say goodbye or ‘au revoir’ to both Pat and Christian and of course Hamlet and Frankie. Once again with the use of modern technology we were able to access a car share website and organise a 300km lift more cheaply and comfortably than if we had used the traditional method of public transport. That was a first for me and something I would recommend strongly as an alternative to those considering traditional ‘hitch-hiking’, as the drivers are reviewed, graded and have profiles that one can check up on before deciding whether or not they are reliable, pleasant and/or trustworthy!

It wasn’t really until we reached our Paris destination that the technology question reared its ugly head again! It struck me as nothing short of astounding… Here we were at the heart of one of the cultural capitals of Europe, and whilst Jen stood in the street calculating the route to our next destination my eyes were drawn to a different phenomenon: the ‘floor-watchers’.

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Now, I am fairly certain this is a unique expression, although I am happy to stand corrected, but to me the floor-watchers (as I refer to them) appeared to make up 80% of the people that passed us by during these few minutes. 80% – or for younger readers that’s eight out of ten people who passed me – were not looking at the beautiful architecture, nor were passing groups of people talking to each other. Eight out of ten people appeared to be looking at the pavement… But of course they weren’t, they were looking at mobile phones. Or if their gaze was NOT fixed on that little phone screen, they would have a device pressed against their ears and be talking into it. I have often wondered who in their right mind would opt for a PAYG bundle that for a minimal fee would allow 3,000 free text messages per month (which appears to be the minimum these days). I mean that assumes one would text 100 times per day. Who has time for that? I guess Parisians are amongst those catered for in that respect.

Anyway, we headed off up the Eiffel Tower, choosing to use the stairs rather than elevators as the queues were so incredibly long and… well, if you’re going to visit somewhere so special just the once why follow the crowd? Now, I’m not trying to be all high and mighty or claim that Jen and I shun technology in its many forms; indeed, we’re at least as reliant on it these days as anyone, especially while travelling as it’s essential to our planning! But certainly it seems to be used these days in ways and for reasons that I personally find deplorable. I was once asked by a company to test the ‘selfie stick’ and post the results on my blog! I thought perhaps it was a joke… If I were to travel alone to a place of natural beauty and felt a sudden urge to be in a selfie photo there, well by definition it wouldn’t be one, as I would simply ask the closest competent-looking passer-by to take the picture for me. But, hey… Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and you find an abundance of people wielding selfie sticks. They seem to have become the ‘must-have’ accessory for teenagers these days and simply another way for the younger generation to avoid social contact with their peers…

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Well, that’s probably enough ranting from me for one day. I do hope readers enjoy the pictures and perhaps might leave their own opinion about how technology affects their home and/or work lives? Is it positive or negative how quickly these ‘advances’ are being made?!

Meanwhile Jenny and I are heading off to Stockholm shortly but I will be posting soon about a great week spent volunteering on an eco-build about an hour west of Helsinki (Finland). Oh, what fun we had with thespian and art director Carl Renlund… But, all will be revealed about that little adventure some time soon.

Simon Duringer is an award-winning blogger, interviewer and author. His own books can be found on Amazon too by clicking any of the following icons…