Sunday, December 17, 2006


The tele's gone on the blink and it's because we're trying to save the planet. I rang Darty and told them that because we were trying to save the planet by turning the tele off rather than leaving it on stand-by, the on/off button had been used way beyond its capacity, and had given up the ghost.

Luckily, when I bought the tele, I had taken out the 5-yr extended guarantee recommended by the salesman who must have known that teles in the houses of young boys are subjected to more than their fair share of rough treatment, and so as to avoid expensive repairs, an extended guarantee is worth two in the bush, as it were. Added to that, you get preferential service, which means it's quick. The guy is coming tomorrow with a new on/off switch.

You might think that we would be in despair at the prospect of a tele-free weekend, but no, we are made of sterner stuff than that. One reason for my relaxed attitude was that it was a boy-free weekend, so the darlings would be tele watching chez their dad and would just have to cope with Monday morning pre-school. Hardly a gargantuan effort...

Me? I was having a party, so spent Saturday moving friends, shopping, and flaking in bed being ill, as you do when you have a party. I had spent Friday afternoon in bed too, so I was not being a slacker, I assure you. When I came back downstairs for a cuppa, the room was transformed and clean, thanks to the RA (ResidentAdolescent) white tornado.

I had invited a few friends for a pot luck apero. This 'pot luck' term is one I've picked up from working with Americans. In the UK I think we'd refer to it as PBAD, as opposed to PPAB ('please bring a dish'? and 'please bring a bottle') although PBAD doesn't preclude PBAB as well. It did mean I wasn't having a fit of the vapours moving friends, being ill, and preparing a party for 15 all on my tod-some.

We finished putting up the lights, moved the furniture around, made some spectacularly delicious mulled wine, and yes, I did add a clementine stuck with cloves à la Jamie Oliver on the Sainsbury's advert but I'm not sure it made a lot of difference; and put out charcuterie and various bits and bobs. It was a very jolly evening and a lovely start to the Christmas season.

Today, we braved the centre of Montpellier with a quaking credit card for the annual purchase of glacé clementines. The woman who served me recognised me from last year, but didn't add an extra one for being such a fidèle client... The Polygone shopping centre was open as were many other shops, and we strolled around the Christmas market on the Place de la Comedie. We went over lunch time, wisely, because by the time we left at 3.30pm, the place was heaving and the carpark was full. Along the edge of the Esplanade is a row of flower shops where I bought some holly to adorn my DRK paintings, and mistletoe (hehe).

When we got back, we started packing presents, especially ones for the boys, taking advantage of their absence. Naturally, as soon as they bounced back in after a fun weekend with dad, they wanted to open the presents immediately.

They were quite put out when I said no!

Tell me, why is the only place you hear lovely Christmas music in the form of Christmas carols over the speakers of the local Intermarche?


  1. There's been a lot of nonsense in the media about the TV standby, and how it's destroying the planet.

    Here's a typical misuse of statistics courtesy of the Sunday Times (Nov 5th):

    Under the heading: Saving the planet begins at home, one reads:

    1. Switch off appliances

    Leaving televisions, DVDs and computers on standby, rather than switching them off, emits four million tonnes of CO2 and wastes £740m a year.

    Note the way they lump together the TVs with things like computers. We all know laptops use large amounts of energy, because they throw off large amount of heat, whereas there's very little heat from a TV on standby.

    Then there were two excellent letters to the Times on July 17, under the heading: "Is it worth banning TV standby buttons ?"

    Both made good points, but especially, in my view, the second one:

    Sir, The standby facility on my new television consumes a trivial 0.5 per cent of the in-use power. Calling for this useful facility to be outlawed is an overreaction, which in any case will not reduce electricity demand. Nothing will do that.

    Sir, Someone has apparently calculated that standby buttons consume 8 per cent of our national electricity production. That figure may or may not be accurate, but I question the assumption that making us turn the equipment fully off will lead to a saving of 8 per cent in energy consumption, and thus lower carbon emissions.

    I estimate that most houses in the UK need heating for about three quarters of the year. The thermostat in my house keeps it at a reasonably constant temperature and does not mind whether the heat comes from the oil-fired boiler, an electric fire, a coal fire, sun shining through the window, lightbulbs, bodies or my television and video recorder. If any of these other sources of heat are present, my central heating boiler will come on less frequently.

    So at least 6 per cent of my saving in electricity will be compensated for by my oil-fired boiler; likely to be far less efficient and with dirtier emissions than power stations ought to be.

    There is another downside; electronic equipment does not like being frequently turned on and off. Circuit boards have to heat up and cool down, which apparently reduces their life.

    Abersoch, Gwynedd.

    Be that as it may, Season's Greetings to you and your boys, Sarah. And to your partner. And to Diane. And to your pets. Merry Christmas to you all in that little bit of paradise you've madefor yourself. It may not be authentic France or England (ref you comment yesterday on Salut!)but sounds quite idyllic all the same.

  2. Thank you Colin. The tele button being off is part of me trying to reduce my carbon footprint, and includes using low energy bulbs, keeping the heating down, and using A grade appliances. I don't fly much, and do about 1000km a month in the car which is one full tank's worth.

    Thank you for the Christmas greetings. You've no doubt found mine to you on your blog. Have a Happy English Christmas!

  3. I agree about adopting a responsible attitude to our energy consumption, but as that second guy said, one's got to look at the total equation, and avoid creating needless discomfort that lowers the quality of life.

    I hear what you say about energy-saving light bulbs, but exactly the same applies to them as the tv standby button. Let me explain.

    If it weren't for the Riviera hot and sticky summer evenings, I would not bother with energy saving bulbs. Why not ? Well, it's like this. On most winter evenings we use just one of our electric wall heaters. When it gets a bit colder, one's first instinct is to put on the second. But there's an alternative, which is to switch on every light in the living room. 500 watts of electric power from an assortment of light bulbs gives roughly the same heat as the same amount of energy from the convector heater on the wall ( since filament light bulbs are so inefficient at producing light). Personally I prefer to have my heat from jolly lights than a thing on the wall!

  4. Hello there Colin & Sarah...Yes a very Merry Xmas it will be indeed....thanks to very near and dear ones, with or without tv's!!! My Internet is back so I can keep up with the blog.

    I used to turn off all my stand by buttons - but when I do that on my goes hysterical on me when I try to turn it on again..and blows, or gives me funny messages I don't catch on to, and only Sarah copes by pressing the right buttons to get it back in order....(Alsheimer beginnings on my behalf......?)

    So lovely to read the blog and nice little chats from Colin - I was missing this treat before going up to bed every evening!


  5. Welcome back, NG!

    Colin, I realise that the whole equation of carbon footprinting is far more complicated that it seems at first. However, I will continue to do my little bit without compromising on comfort overtly. Pullovers keep out the chill and a nice cosy blanket is great while watching the tele.

    If you have to wear a tee-shirt in the middle of winter because the house is over-heated, then it's too hot IMO.

  6. Don't forget the nice hot cup of cocoa. Central heating!


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