Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A small world

Recently, Jack wrote on his blog (which is linked from this one) about how he seems to run into people in bizarre ways, either because they're people he knows but in bizarre places, or because he thinks he doesn't know them and promptly discovers they know some of his friends.
Now I know people are always pointing out that I know too many people (this might, partly, come of having been at school in both cambridge and oxford), and my sister maintains that whatever the usual degrees-of-separation theory is, in my case you only need one or at the very most two people to link me to someone else. I'm not sure I'd quite agree with that, but I certainly seem to know a lot of people–sometimes I just think it's because I have a better memory for people I met only once and/or a very long time ago. Anyhow, I thought I'd entertain you with a few coincidental rencontres this year. The world is *very* small.

Firstly, there's Claire. I may already have told you this story…you've certainly heard about her a fair bit. Claire is an assistante just like me but in a different school. I first met her, with Chiara (an Italian assistant) in a pub in vieux lyon where I had gone with my flatmate Gareth. This was about a week or two before our induction day so we met up again then, and with a couple of other assistants we went and drank tea at the Epicerie. It was very lovely, and absolutely hilarious, because Nick (an american assistant) who was absolutely convinced that Britain was so small that all British people must know each other had his theory spectacularly well proved. Claire lives in Cambridge. So do I. Her mother is a Classics teacher. My parents are both classicists. Her mother teaches at one of the schools I nearly went to, in fact, she interviewed me for a place there. Claire went to school with several people who I went to sixth form with, and also with a few of my university friends. Meanwhile, she is now at Oxford for university where she is good friends with several people I know through either music or school. She is now on her year out in the same place as me doing the same job. I've a feeling there's another link I've missed…but you get the general idea.
Secondly there's Laura. Laura was a good friend of mine all the way through primary school, but we both left for different schools when we were 11 and lost touch. One day Victoria (who's at Selwyn with me and also in Lyon this year) said she'd met a lovely girl called Laura, and I happened to notice on her facebook wall a few days later that this girl was called Laura Brodetsky. Well, thinks I, there can surely only be a very few Laura Brodetskys my age around…and sure enough, it's her! Amazing!
The third coincidence of the year also involves Victoria. When I was going home for Christmas and my plane was delayed by two hours I got chatting to a lovely girl called Fiona, who is bilingual, studying hotellerie in Lyon and was on her way to visit her boyfriend who is a designer in London. At the other end of the christmas holiday, Victoria ended up sitting next to Fiona as they travelled back to Lyon. Coincidence or what?!
Incidentally, that same night when my plane was delayed, I hitched a lift back to Cambridge. The lovely people who drove me home were a couple fetching their sister who was just back from the first term of her year abroad in Bilbao, as she's studying french & spanish at manchester, but she'd been at hills road in the year below me. Her big sister teaches English at Melbourn village college.
Is there a fifth? Doubtless there is even if I can't think of it right now. As Jack said, if these are all the people I have met, how many more people are there out there who I pass in the street without realising I know them? Far too many methinks!


Yesterday I discovered that my lovely "prof responsable" at the lycée took her bac in 1968. Today I mentioned that to Claire and she said "1968? what's special about 1968?". Now I know we English believe the French are always going on strike (and they are), but in 1968 they *really* went on strike. Even more than in spring 2005. That wondrous fount of knowledge wikipedia introduces the topic thus:
"May 1968 (in this context usually spelled May '68) is the name given to a series of events that started with a student strike in France. It turned into a general strike which paralyzed parts of the country and caused the collapse of the de Gaulle government. Most of the protesters espoused left-wing causes, communism or anarchism. Many saw the events as an opportunity to shake up the "old society" in many social aspects, including methods of education, sexual freedom and free love. "May '68" was a failure from a political point-of-view; however, it can be argued that it had an important impact on French society and its values."
It goes on to tell one a lot more about the events, and even includes many of the slogans used by campaigners. I feel it's something one ought to know about, and it might tell us something about why the French think strikes are so normal…

Either way, my 'prof responsable' was taking her bac in Lyon and she didn't take part in the demonstrations because she needed to work, as she wanted to pass her exams. As it is, ironically, she'll never know if she passed because she deserved to or because it was 1968…though we can suppose the former!
This week my terminale students are taking their mock exams, known as "le bac blanc" (why a mock is white I am not entirely sure). At Claire's lycée, which is the biggest and best in Lyon, the teachers have boycotted the bac blanc and so the students are not having mocks this year. I feel there are two things to remark on here: firstly, it seems a stupid way for the teachers to campaign, as it is not the students' fault that the education system is changing, nor will anyone except the students really notice the absence of the bac blanc. Poor things.
Secondly, on the other hand, I can understand that the students need the practice and that in the long run they would regret not having done a mock but I know for sure that we'd have been over the moon if someone had cancelled our mocks…yet these french students seem upset about it. I think that's a bit odd.

Following the yellow blob path

On Friday Claire, Rebecca and I went on an adventure. The adventure began with buying mini brioche at the Brioche Dorée, and taking the metro to Vaise, but managing to leave Rebecca stranded on the platform at Bellecour (it was okay, she took the next metro). At Vaise, we took bus number 84 to Poleymieux aux Monts d'Or. Bus number 84 turned out to be a minibus with 8 seats and a bit of standing room. The card bleeper was broken, but in any case they didn't seem to care whether one had a ticket or not. The journey was about 15 minutes, given that the distance is not that great and the minibus bombed along the tiny windy country roads at a rate of knots. Amazingly, we managed to get off said bus at the right stop, just next to the church in Poleymieux, where we were pleased to find a noticeboard telling us about walking in the Monts d'Or…after all, that's what we'd come to do but since none of us had been before and my map was a bit stupid (more on this in a moment), we'd have been a bit stumped without any signs. From a little home research I had already discovered that the Monts d'Or (which are not mountains, in case any of you were wondering, but rather diminutive–but pretty–hills) have many many walking/mountain biking paths but these are organised into circular routes most of which are about 6km long (a nice sunday afternoon stroll but not a day's adventure), and two of which are more like 30km (a day's adventure, but sounded like a lot to us, we'll do this next time). There is nothing in between, and most importantly, there is no map which has them all marked on, so deciding to do part of one walk and part of another is a fairly complex affair. Actully, it's more complex than that: the mont d'or maps themselves never cover the whole area but do mark separate circuits and tell you in what colour they are "balisé" (signed). I managed to find an OS map (well not OS but you know what I mean) which had the whole area and all the paths on it, but ALL the signed paths were marked in dark pink. So when you saw "red route this way, yellow route right" you had no idea which was the one you were following, or indeed what would happen if you took the red one instead. However, with some map-reading and a little common sense, and a few real signposts telling you where each path was headed, we managed to do exactly what we'd planned. It was about 10km, so pretty short but as a result we had time to take it at a most leisurely pace, and even to stop for a drink in a mid-way village where we found a very french village bar in a square where the old men were playing boules, and which had tables outside in the sunshine. Aaaah. It was very sunny and very pretty. A good adventure.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Poems #2 (words from my wall)

Here in Lyon I have a medley of things on my wall, including a selection of my favourite photos, my PACE flag (yes, that's Peace with a missing E, and not because I can't spell but because it's in Italian), a couple of posters for this and that, a calendar, lots of reminder notes and all the postcards I've been sent this year. In amongst all of this I also have three poems stuck to my wall. Well, two poems and a not-quite-poem.

Poem 1. is a poem that my sister has had pinned to her pinboard (which now resides in her little kitchen) for several years now, and which she herself wrote out in lovely silver calligraphy on a black card, presumably just for fun because she liked the poem. Mine is not silver on black, however. It's by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and it goes like this:

What if you slept,
And what if, in your sleep,
You dreamed,
And what if, in your dream,
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if, when you awoke,
You had that flower in your hand,
Ah, what then?

The second is a poem that makes me happy and sad all at once, if that is possible. It's beautiful. If I was good at composing I would write music for it. As I'm not, it's just on my wall. It's by Robert Bridges and it goes like this:

Thou didst delight my eyes:
Yet who am I? nor first
Nor last nor best, that durst
Once dream of thee for prize;
Nor this the only time
Thou shalt set love to rhyme.

Thou didst delight my ear:
Ah! little praise; thy voice
Makes other hearts rejoice
Makes all ears glad that hear;
And short my joy: but yet,
O song, do not forget.

For what wert thou to me?
How shall I say? The moon,
That pour’d her midnight noon
Upon his wrecking sea;—
A sail, that for a day
Has cheer’d the castaway.

The not-quite-poem is a christmas-time 'dedica' that my wonderful friend Laura sent me a year or two back. For those who read Italian, here it is:





ma si sveglia

sempre di buon

umore. A chi saluta

ancora con un bacio. A

chi lavora molto e si diverte di

più. A chi va in fretta in auto, ma

non suona ai semafori. A chi arriva

in ritardo ma non cerca scuse. A chi spegne

la televisione per fare due chiacchiere. A chi è

felice il doppio quando fa a metà. A chi si alza presto

per aiutare un amico. A chi ha l' entusiasmo di un bambino

ma pensieri da adulto. A chi vede nero solo quando è buio.

A chi non aspetta Natale

per essere più buono.

Poems #1 (reminiscences of English Lit GSCE)

I thought it would be quite fun to put some poems on my blog from time to time. So here are two to begin with.
The first (which is kind of relevant for this time of year) is a valentine's poem by Carol Ann Duffy that was part of our set texts anthology at English Literature GCSE. In general, I didn't get along very well with English at GCSE. But this one was fun–thanks to Miss O'Neill–and I even wrote a poem based on it, which must be the most successful poem I ever wrote. It was (unsurprisingly, for those who know me) not about an onion, but a button. Sadly, although I believe it was rather good, I can't remember how it went and I never managed to retrieve my english coursework folder, so I suspect it is lost forever in a sea of shredded paper somewhere in the recycling archives of Oxford High School (or perhaps now part of an oxfordshire wormery). In any case, here is the original poem:


Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

As far as I can remember, the only other poem I really enjoyed studying at GCSE was Auden's 'Stop All the Clocks'. I even taught two lessons on it to one of my classes this year! Today is Auden's centenery. So I suppose I should include it:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

A busy week

I'm now back in Lyon after my week at home in Cambridge (and not back before May Week, if then). It was a great week, though it felt very odd being back in term time–a little like I had graduated…but didn't. Très bizarre. Lovely to see everyone though, and nothing has changed in Cambridge while I've been away! The only difference is there are a few freshers around.
I spent my week dashing from place to place seeing people left, right and centre, rehearsing (and then giving) my recital, and even (shock, horror) doing a little academic work. I even fitted in giving a punt tour on Friday! Even then I didn't manage to see all the people I would have liked to…but then, a week is not really that long! Thankfully my recital went rather well and lots of lovely people came to listen, so the week ended on a very good note.
I returned to find the flat without any French people in it for the first time this year–Antonia and Jérémie have gone home for the holiday, and Mylène has run off to Paris to be a cabaret dancer (yes, really!), so just Max, Gareth and I are here (and Alex, who's staying for a few days). It feels quite different, but lots of fun. Last night we played Lyon monopoly with a huge bunch of Germans. Unfortunately, the French had also left us to deal with a significant plumbing problem that had resulted in everything that went down the kitchen sink returning in the bath. Mmmmm. So the plumbers came at 8 this morning and (fingers crossed) they've done their job properly. Still need to clean the bathroom though…
Today many exciting things are happening. Claire is back from Prague, the photos for decorating our kitchen and living room are finally printed, and I've heard from Antonia that we might even get a contract for our flat next week (pigs might fly).

Monday, February 12, 2007


On Thursday there was a teacher strike. On Friday all the kids were dressed up in carnival outfits, as it was the last day of school before a half term. And in February, French children get not one but *two* weeks of half term, because it is skiing time. So on Saturday, we went skiing!
"We" were me, Rebecca, Hattie, Elsa (a French friend from choir) and Thomas (her Belgian boyfriend)–Hattie had never skiied before, Rebecca had done one week with the ENS a couple of weeks ago, Elsa and Thomas are pretty seasoned skiiers. We went (on Elsa's recommendation) to Arêches-Beaufort. The coach left Bellecour at 6am, rather too early for our liking, but with the advantage of depositing us in the ski station at 9 so that by 10 we were all set with skis and (in my case) snowboard, and could head onto the pistes. Hattie took 2 hours with an instructor, while the rest of us trundled along a long flat snowy path to the other side of the station where there were a more suitable selection of slopes. There we re-discovered what it was like to ski not only with loads of snow on the ground and a decent angle of slope, but also with snow falling-at times in great quantity-for the rest of the day! Hattie joined us for lunch (mmm sausage) and we did a big blue slope together (it was so white we thought the chair lift was taking us to the end of the world) before taking the long red back to the bus at the end of the day (an annoying piste that was flat, then very steep, then flat again. Grr I don't like flat). All in all the day was muchly fun, and it was lovely to get to know Elsa and Thomas better, and good fun to tease Thomas with tales of mint chocolate (the belgians can't stand even the idea of it…)
Photos of the day can be found in the second half of this photo album (the first half is previous ski-day in january): Snowy fun

A recital, and half term

I mentioned a while back that I would be home in February in order to be able to give a lunchtime recital at the Fitzwilliam museum. Well, I am now back–for a week–and looking forward to catching up on all the news from the last 6 months.
The recital itself is on Sunday 18th (that's next Sunday) at 1.15 in the red gallery that is straight up the stairs as you enter the Fitzwilliam. It's free, will be over by 2pm and the programme, which is attempting somehow to be a musical picture of my year abroad, will range from Purcell and Vivaldi to Debussy and Poulenc. It would be nice to see some of you there, if you can make it.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Doorbells and letter boxes

In Britain, if you want to send something to someone who lives less than 15 minutes away from your house, you generally don't bother posting it. Even though you know that if you did, by first class it would definitely get there the next day. So you pop on your bike or your own two feet, and slip it through the letterbox of the house they live in. If they live in a block of flats, there is still, usually, some kind of general letterbox that gets sorted later, or at the most awkward, a doorbell marked "traders" or "postman".
In Italy, people often had their letter boxes outside, and if they didn't, there was some kind of general hole through which you could put things, for the whole building.
In France, despite the fact that the postal service is useless and won't get your letter there the next day unless you pay them €30 at least, people don't ever seem to deliver by hand, or at least, if they do, I'm flummoxed as to how. Letter boxes are in the main hallway, inside the main entrance door. Usually the postman has a key, or knows the code to each building. If not, as here, he has to ring the bell for every flat until he finds someone in who can open the door for him. But an individual wanting to deliver something is stuck–there is no "let me in please" bell, and often not even named bells but just some numbered bells or worse still, just a number pad for an entrance code you don't know. So you end up standing around outside wondering when someone will turn up and open the door for you–hence my conclusion that they must just never deliver things! How odd.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Colour burst

As you will have noticed, my blog has gone colourful. Alex said the previous colour scheme made his eyes go funny. So I'm hoping this will be a change for the better–do let me know whether you like it!

New ventures and doing Good Things

This year in general, and especially recently, I have been doing new things. After all, what is the fun of having a new life, new friends, new places, new jobs, etc, if you don't take it as an opportunity to change how you do things. So far in my new things list (in no particular order):

1) I play football most Sunday afternoons, with "the girls", who are mostly English or German.
Most of you will know that I am *not* a football fan and probably never will be but it's great fun to play.

2) I go to student parties to meet random French people (see a few posts back).
Not just that, I have also learned to drink beer and we have been to a 'peniche'.

3) I went rowing.
Once. Who knows if I'll go again, but it was jolly good fun!

4) I'm improving my snowboarding
(this is not entirely new but doesn't happen in Britain)

5) I've been to see both Snow Patrol and Razorlight live, in little French venues, which was fantastic. I probably ought to go to an entirely French gig at some point!

6) I go running with Claire (and sometimes Hattie)…
and the two of us are going to do a 10Km charity run in April!

7) I am expanding my knowledge of French music, gradually
with the help of Jérémie's enthusiasm

8) I am trying, for the second time in my life, to learn solfège (stupid foreign system of music notation)

oh and not least
9) I am teaching.
I have never wanted to become a teacher.

Number 10 in the new things list has got to be about doing voluntary work. Since Christmas on Bellecour there has been a colony of Quechua tents. And yes, it's been very cold. These are not some kind of freak tent-lovers, but homeless people that the state can't house, including a number of young people around our age. There was a lot of press about this at new year and so the colony has gradually got smaller as the city made an effort to house some of them, but the rest are now stuck there, and people have generally lost interest in them. The other day I was in Carrefour and realised that a single duvet cost only €10. A moment's thought told me that split between 6 of us, the cost of this was nothing, and so we could replace the old one we use for guests with a new one, and donate the old one to the tent people. So I got it, and last night Mylene and I popped over with the old one, and met a young couple. She was called Vanessa, I forget his name, and they were nice, normal people, to start with I even thought that he was helping out rather than living there! Intelligent, polite, really very normal. They've been homeless for two months (we didn't discover why–maybe we will next time), and in the tents for one, but they're not mad, or alcoholic, or dirty like a lot of the older tramps they live with. They were very grateful for the duvet and chatted to us for a while about life in the tents and how people were gradually losing interest and stopping bringing them food etc. Mylene and I, on our way back, wondered just how it was that they came to be there, but it certainly makes you think about how comfortably you're living, just two minutes away. We won't be wasting any food in this flat now! Interestingly, this venture came just a day after Claire and I had been talking about voluntary work and decided to investigate whether there was something we could help out with just one or two hours a week. Of course, we have dissertations to write, but if you're keen to do something new, as we all are this year, then this is a good way to go about it.

Absence (and presence)

Le Rochefoucauld once said that absence diminishes minor passions like wind to a candle, and increases big ones like air to a fire. (I paraphrase, clearly, his phrase was much more eloquent). This is my second year 'away' from home, in the sense of 'far away'. The second year in which I've, effectively, left behind an old life and created a new one. Actually it's the third if you count moving towns, the fourth if you also count university as a new life.
The first was in 2001-2002, when I left behind everything and everyone I knew apart from family, and built a new life in Cambridge (the difference with this one, is that I wasn't going back to the previous life afterwards). The second was 2003-2004 during which I escaped to Italy, and here I am in France doing something similar. And what these years all have in common (apart from the usual–learning, new experiences, new places, new people) is that they allow you not only to discover who you are, and what and who matters most to you, but also to discover a lot about the people you already know, most of whom are people you would generally call "friends".
Now this is going to make a lot of you laugh because "friends" is something I have lots of, in part precisely because of all these 'building a new life' moments, and I sometimes joke about how I should try to get rid of some as I have too many.
But anyway, recently I've been noticing something I noticed on my gap year, but that is perhaps even more pronounced this year owing to the fact that most of my uni friends are not themselves making new starts this year, and that is that even in the world of instant messaging and emails and so on, the people who keep in touch –by which I mean at all, even intermittently, whether by phone, email, msn or snail mail, are not those you most expected. Of course, some people you hear from you knew you would. And some people you don't hear from, you knew you wouldn't. But often, there are surprises: people you thought you'd hear from occasionally by email who write long letters regularly, and people you thought would stay in good touch who you never hear from.
In my gap year it was the first situation that struck me most–who it was who sent letters, or emailed often, or replied to yours. Surprises about who did, more than who didn't.
This year, it's the other way. The surprises are most about who I don't hear from. I suppose I had an illusion of university, whereby it is there that you make your 'friends for life', there that you meet people who you really click with, "like-minded" people, people who, being adults, are mature and developed individuals with whom you can build lasting relationships. An illusion of college whereby the close-knit community would help you to make close friendship groups and share all sorts of fun experiences. Apart from a few people who've been out to visit Lucy, I've not seen any Selwynites for over 6 months. I keep up to date with their lives by reading their facebook photo albums, and some of them at least keep up to date with mine by reading this! On the other hand, I can count the people (from college) who've actually been in touch either to talk to me, or by writing letter/email/facebook message here and there, on my ten fingers. A lot of them I fully understand why–and know it's not been deliberate. But it's still surprising, to me, that the people who take the time either to reply to me, however briefly, or even to write to me when I've not had time to write to them, are mostly people who I saw less often, and a lot of the people I spent nearly every day with for the past two so called 'formative' years seem to have turned out to be those 'minor passions' of Rochefoucauld.
At least the people who think I have too many friends will be happy!
And no, this isn't a rant against my friends–and I'm sure I've not kept in as good touch as I should have either– just an observation on how being away from home affects your views of friendship. For those of you reading this, I am really looking forward to being back next week and seeing you all EVEN if I've not heard from you all year!!


I don't know whether I had theories when I was little. I suppose I probably did, though perhaps not so much theories about the world, the universe and everything as theories about earthworms and goldfish and other little things that fascinated me. However it was, these days I have Annie Theories (with a capital T). Other people also have Theories, although not everyone. Recently, some of the theories I've been talking about with friends and acquaintances have been about the environment (as it seems to be a 'hot topic' at the moment).
Last Thursday, when I returned from singing Mahler in the Auditorium, it so happened that I was chatting to Jérémie in the kitchen of our flat (I think he was doing the washing up, which needs doing a lot here!). Jérémie also has theories, and I forget where the conversation started, though I know mad cows came into it somewhere. Either way, he expressed an interest in hearing more about my theories, so I decided he should hear what is probably my most extreme Theory, which is about how we should take drastic action to save the planet, and stop faffing about reducing carbon emissions by some piddling percentage in the next goodness knows how long. I don't think Jérémie was expecting it to be quite so drastic, but it made for a good discussion (although when Mylene came in she thought we were having an argument, rather than a theoretical debate).
In a recent "silly thing" that I posted on my facebook profile I wrote "I hate…the way we are consciously destroying the world". This is what my Theory is about. It's not a practical theory, in the sense that modern society being what it is, there is no way it could become practice. BUT my theory says:
1) We are destroying the world
2) We KNOW we are destroying the world
3) We all think it would be nice if we weren't destroying the world

and proposes
1) That we simply remove cars and aeroplanes from our world. Totally. Utterly. Altogether. Buses, trains, trams, bicycles and boats can remain.
2) That every house be fitted with solar panels to its roof, every floodplain not with houses but with windmills, etc.
3) That we stop putting food in ridiculous amounts of packaging and content ourselves with making that little extra effort, for example, to shop more often or to wash up a few bottles and tupperwares.
4) (a little aside) that Playstations and suchlike cause unnecessary production of useless equipment and should be removed. If babies can play with cotton reels then big boys can play with a football or table tennis ball, read books, play cards…
5) That if we can produce clothes and food within 100km of our house, then we shouldn't buy stuff from 3000km away.
6) In other words, NOT that we should return to the middle ages but that we should remove the aspects of modern life that are made ONLY for our superficial comfort and ease, and that achieve something we could just as well achieve by another means.

Of course, I expounded (what a nice word) this Theory to Jérémie and he said "but you can't do that!" where he in fact agreed entirely with my 'ideals' but, like 99.9% of this world, believed it to be impractical and therefore no point even considering it. Well, says I, it's clear that if everyone takes that line, then there is no point.
Amongst his other thoughts were "but what do I do if I want to go to America?" and "never mind if we ruin the world, it's ours to ruin and we'll go and live on the moon". Obviously the latter is as radical as my theory to start with, and I won't report on our whole discussion here, but perhaps it will make someone think anyway.

Two further things to say in this post:
Firstly, part of the reason why this became and Annie theory and why few other people feel they can adopt it must be that I grew up with no car (for which, see also recent post on "how to be green"). And so yes, I honestly do think that it would be possible to run a country in which there were NO cars. Incidentally, I worked on a french island with no cars two years ago and (although it's small and has a tiny population) they managed just fine. Obviously one would hope to have a better public transport service, but if everyone were using it that would be much easier to put into effect.
Secondly, on Friday, I met up with Richard Van Noorden, who went to nursery with me way back when, at St Anne's College Oxford (to which, incidentally, I went by bike). These days he is a reporter for Chemistry World, and he had popped over to Lyon for the weekend to visit another friend, also a teaching assistant. We went to the Epicerie for lunch and had a great time talking about all sorts of things…including Theories. Apart from the big theory hereaforementioned, I also mentioned my Soya theory–that, not only is soya a big mistake, but is probably the cause of CJD and all sorts of other modern health problems, and is an example of how modern science throws itself into "new solutions" without properly pausing to think of long term potential consequences. Suffice it to say, it interested him so I shall be intrigued to find out whether he discovers anything more about it in "real" science.

I have another theory that has emerged this year, which is that a lot of people, especially the French, don't seem to realise that medicines are not always either good for you or a solution to a problem.