Archive for November, 2010

News from Alsace

27/11/2010

The oldest Christmas Market in France started today in Strasbourg.  Of course, when it started neither Alsace or Strasbourg were French, but as it says here the city has metamorphosed into what the BBC has described as one of the best five Christmas markets in Europe.  Today the new tram line F was due to start so to mark that and the start of the Christmas market the transport workers have gone on strike.

This week we also found out that a local line dancing team composed of able-bodied and team members in wheel chairs won the World line dancing championships in the Netherlands.  This is the first time that team members in wheel chairs have been part of a winning line-dancing team.  Next year there will be a section in the line-dancing competitions for people with a disability.

A clock was unveiled at the station in Strasbourg yesterday to countdown the 380 days from then until the improved TGV service between Strasbourg and Lyon starts on December 11th next year.  The 190 kilometres of new track  will cut the journey time to Lyon by an hour to 3 hour 40 minutes and to Marseille to five and a half hours.  A year later further work near Mulhouse will take another 25 minutes off the journey making traveling to elsewhere in France by train even more attractive, particularly one place on our list of places to go, Marseille, home of this.

It was good to read that Strasbourg won a prize this week for its efforts to make it possible for people to use electric vehicles.

In other news it was announced that filming for the Guy Ritchie directed Sherlock Holmes II will take place in Alsace in February next year.  In the same piece we learnt that although there was more than 150 days filming in Alsace this year this will be the first time that a ‘Hollywood blockbuster’ has been filmed on the city’s streets.

Here’s a piece explaining the current financial problems in Europe:

I enjoy maps.  This one shows the World according to prejudices and this from the wonderful Strange Maps blog which is on the blogroll shows how things would look if the World was reorganised according to population.  And finally, in another thing that has nothing to do with Alsace here is a video I was pointed to by Stephen Fry which as he says warms the cockles:

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What I know about Sierra Leone II

25/11/2010

Some time back I posted up a story about the work Manchester City supporters and Craig Bellamy have done in Sierra Leone.  At the beginning of this month the main person in Sierra Leone, Armani, was in Manchester.  Here is a diary of his time in the UK, and here is a video from the Club’s website giving more information about his trip to the UK:

City in Sierra Leone VIII: Bus update.

You can’t always get what you want

19/11/2010

Anyone reading here regularly will know, if not be a bit sick, about WH Smith and Waterstones stopping me from buying eBooks. (For the uninitiated who have a life-time to waste start here then here, here, here and here.)

Basically.  I love reading books and buy them.  I also have a eBookReader which allows me not to lose my shoulder from carying a bag full of books when I go on visits or to work abroad.  I used to buy eBooks from the above mentioned shops but in September they wrote to me telling me that for legal reasons I could no longer buy eBooks from them. (I am always suspicious of people who justify things they do by saying it is for legal reasons, I think they usually say that when there isn’t really any other reason.)

Anyway todays pictures are of a package that arrived for me today in the post.  No prizes to the eagle-eyed ones amongst you who identify that it is a book.  Yes, well done.  I’m afraid no prizes for the even more eagle-eyed ones amongst you who notice its from Waterstones.  Yes. I can buy a physical book and pay for it to be packaged and delivered to me here in France but I cannot buy an eBook sent by nasty electrons through wires.  Bunch of useless Canutes. (wiki)

The title of this post comes from a Rolling Stone song.  The most eagle-eyed of the lot of you will have noticed the book I bought is the autobiography of Keef.  Enjoy.

The Social Network

18/11/2010

Anyone know who Malcolm Harbour is?  No?  Well before today me neither.  I now know he is the Chairman of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee of the European Parliament.*  Today he did a live Q & A on the Facebook page of the European Parliament.  You can see a screenshot of the page on the left.

I took the opportunity to ask him a question about book sellers refusing to sell me a digital eBook when they will send me a physical book.  (See here,here, here and here)  You can see the question below.

He was quite quick to reply to me and his answer can be seen below.

It is pleasing to read that the committee is keen to make progress on these issues and that they will be producing proposals to try and deal with some of the problems inhibiting a true single market.  The European Parliament will be in town next week and I have a lighter week and I hoped to see my MEP whilst they were here.(One of the developments I talked of cryptically at the end of the last piece)  I will now write to Mr Harbour, copying the previous posts from here to him and see if I can get a meeting whilst he is in town.  I will post here details of what happens.

*I now also know he is the Conservative MEP for the West Midlands in the UK.


Hanging on the…….

16/11/2010

Regular readers will know that I’ve been taking up with various people the removal by Waterstones and WH Smith of my opportunity to buy eBooks because I live in France.(here, here amd here.)

At the weekend I wrote to fellow blogger and publisher Iain Dale and soon after he would have received my email he wrote about eBooks here.  Coincidence?  Reader you decide.

I mentioned in the last post that I’d written to the Publishers Association and at the same time I wrote to Mr Dale I wrote to them chasing up a reply to my letter.  I’ve now had one and I’ve included it below:

Dear Mr Tattersall,

Thank you for your email to the Publishers Association about the issue of Waterstones and WHSmith removing their e-book sales service from customers outside the UK and Ireland.  Please allow me to apologise for the delay in responding to your email.

Publishers want to enable as many people as possible to access their books – after all, selling books to a wide audience is what their business models are based on.  It is in every publisher’s interest to ensure that their e-books are available to as many potential customers as possible.

When a book is available for UK customers, the publisher will always have the rights to sell it in the EU.  It is not possible to gain UK-only rights, as a result of the regulations governing the EU internal market.  Therefore, any book which is legally available for sale in the UK and Ireland through a site such as Waterstones or WHSmith can legally be sold to customers residing in other parts of the EU.

Separate rights arrangements are in place for non-EU countries and may be negotiated country-by-country between the author of the work and publishers.

Many online retailers have been successfully making e-books available to international customers and there are new retailers entering this market all the time.  The vast majority of these platforms have systems in place to ensure that the correct currency is displayed for the country in which a customer is resident, that the correct levels of VAT are applied for that particular jurisdiction, and that the geographical location of the customer can be verified.

It may be that Waterstones and WHSmith do not have the appropriate systems in place to able them to ensure that each transaction is appropriately managed for the country in which the customer is resident, meaning that they have had to make a commercial decision about which countries they are able to supply.

As a result, these retailers have taken the decision to halt the sale of e-books to markets other than the UK and Ireland until such time as they have the systems in place to process cross-border tax implications of the sales, to process transactions in local currencies, and also to ensure that they are selling works into countries for which the publisher has the legal right to do so.

Publishers are working with retailers across the board to ensure that e-books and physical books are available to the full range of international audiences and will continue to work towards a solution on this issue with Waterstones and WH Smith.

Kind regards,

Emily

Head of Policy and Communications

The Publishers Association Limited

29B Montague Street

London

WC1B 5BW

I think that’s a hmmmmmmmm answer.  I’m busy over the next few days but there are some things I’ll be doing over the next weekend to take the matter further.

Another nice day for a bike ride – go West!

14/11/2010

A really nice day as the third day of a four-day weekend after the armistice holiday on Thursday and we decided to mount our bikes and head on off out of Strasbourg, go West!  The first picture shows the point where the Canal de la Bruche (wiki) meets the river that gives Alsace its name, l’Ill.  The Canal de la Bruche was built between 1681- 2 by King Louis XIV‘s fortification engineer Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban, who gave his name to the massive dam which defends the Southern approach to Strasbourg.

The canal was built to take the sandstone from the quarries at Soultz-les-Bains to Strasbourg to build the fortifications of the city including the Vauban dam and the Citadelle which are the two largest remaining parts of the fortifications of Strasbourg Vauban built and today the remains of the Citadelle are part of a wonderful park on the Eastern side of the city.

The second picture is of the first lock on the canal leaving Strasbourg its a double lock known as the Ecluse Koenigshoeffen.  The second picture is taken from the same spot looking back towards Strasbourg showing some of the many people fishing in the canal. Salmon have been back in the lower Bruche since 1996 (thanks to the transfer over the artificial Iffezheim dam on the Rhine) and Lamprey have reached Holtzheim in 2002 though much remains to be done further upstream and on tributaries of the Bruche to allow the fish to spawn.  We had just been talking the night before about having a Goose for our Christmas dinner when we ran into this group of them on the path.

The next picture is taken where the Canal is crossed by a road and is looking back towards Strasbourg.  We had just passed a sports ground where there were three football matches taking place featuring young boys.  The most noise came from parents watching the match featuring the smallest boys.

The canal was still used up to 1939 to transport wine, wood, bricks and tiles.  Because of being up to one metre forty deep it also served as a line of defence itself.

Along the canal there were sluices which would allow water to be drawn from it to irrigate the lower lying land around it.  There are a number of locks remaining along the canal.  Some, as the one here does, still have the lock-keepers house intact next to it.

The path along the canal was busy with people jogging, out for a walk, cycling and even some men in lycra cycling along the path seriously.  Although you wouldn’t know it from this picture where it looks deserted.

On the way home we took a different route on getting back into Strasbourg, which included on spot where the cycle route crossed a main road leaving Strasbourg.  Here there was a light controlled crossing so cyclists could cross the road in safety – that’s a sign of the commitment in this city to cycling.

In a park in Montagne Vert there was this memorial to the dead 1914 – 1918 and 1939 – 1945 reminding us that the four day weekend is as a result of the armistice on 11th November.

The title for this post comes because the canal heads out of Strasbourg to the West but also from the song by the imperious Pet Shop Boys, enjoy:

French protest – doing it in the road

13/11/2010

I am indebted to the wonderful Marbury blog for the picture of the two people protesting in front of the Police.  He says it is from a French protest.  I must say I think it is much more prefereable as a form of protest to hurling a fire extinguisher off the top of building with the chance of killing police officers.  The reason I reproduce the picture from Marbury relates to the caption he has on the photo;

“This must be what you get when you cross student riots with The Sartorialist. The scarf is a nice detail.”

I commented on the piece saying that scarfs are compulsory for young French people, in fact most French people.  You rarely see someone out without a scarf and it is something expats seem to have embraced too.  The mild weather of late means that my scarf has yet to come out of the closet yet, as the pictures here show, they have been worn here for some time.  I took these pictures at the visit of Patti Smith to Strasbourg which was on 19th October.

What has struck me from the time I saw my first scarf, which for the completists amongst you was before 19th October, but was convinced by the first one I have shown here is how big scarves are being worn this year.  Not only do you have to wear a scarf but there has to be a lot of it.

A friend who was with me at the Patti Smith event suggested that I start a Sartorialist type blog to highlight the French scarf relationship but I don’t really have the time to be doing another blog as well.

Picture this

12/11/2010

Second day of a four day weekend and I’ve not been out of the door so its hard to summon up the interest in writing much.  On Wednesday I had my camera with me as I was travelling around and took the following pictures.  The first three I took of a wonderful golden Autumnal tree in the Place de la République, built by the Germans when Alsace Lorraine were their territory and at the heart of the German part of the city.  I couldn’t decide which of the three picures I preferred so I put them all here.  If you have a preference let me know in the comments:

In the central square of Strasbourg they are getting ready for the Christmas market.  I took the following pictures of preparation work taking place to build the stalls showing also the statue off the man who gives his name to the square, Jean Baptiste Kléber, and also the tree being prepared:

You can get it if you really want

11/11/2010

Previously on The Flashing  Blade, I wrote twice (here and here) about the decision by WH Smith and Waterstones to stop selling eBooks to people not living in the UK after pressure, they claimed, from the publishers.

Not long after I got sent an email detailing a number of special offers from WaterstonesJTO had told me some of the stories from newspaper serialisation of the Keef Richards autobiography and it sounded interesting.  I just hope it is not the case that all the intersting stories are in the newspapers and there is nothing left for the book.  Anyway as Waterstones had the book available for half price and even with post it would still be cheaper than I could get it here in France I ordered it.  Guess what?  No problem.  Here is the email they sent me:

Home I Wish list I Newsletter sign-up I Store finder
Waterstones.com
Thank you for your order
FREE UK delivery plus FREE, no-hassle returns*
New titles Coming soon Bestsellers Offers eBooks Used books Events Waterstone’s CardWaterstone's Card
Dear The Flashing Blade,  

Thank you for shopping at Waterstones.com.

Here are the details of your order:

Order number: #3982357

Qty Author Title Price
1 Keith Richards Life £9.39

SubTotal: £14.37
Shipping & Handling: £4.98
Total: £14.37

Waterstone’s Card / Waterstone’s Gift Card / e-wallet
Please note that the total value shown above is before any Waterstone’s Card point redemptions, Gift Card or e-wallet contributions were taken into account. Where these were used, they will be deducted from the amount above before your card is charged.

This order will be billed to:
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Strasbourg
FRANCE

This order will be shipped to:
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Strasbourg
FRANCE

You chose to have your order shipped by SURFACE MAIL.

We’ll email you again to let you know when your order has been sent out.

You can check the progress of your order by signing into your account on Waterstones.com and clicking on ‘My Orders’. Or if you have any other questions please check out our Online Assistant or our Help pages.

If you’re unable to find an answer this way, feel free to email us at service@waterstones.com or contact us using this link.

Thank you again for shopping at Waterstones.com.

Customer Service Team
Waterstones.com

OK, I got away with that they will realise and not send me the book, informing me that because I live outside the UK I cannot buy books from Waterstones.  Then I received this:

Home I Wish list I Newsletter sign-up I Store finder
Waterstones.com
Your order is on its way
FREE UK delivery plus FREE, no-hassle returns*
New titles Coming soon Bestsellers Offers eBooks Used books Events Waterstone’s CardWaterstone's Card
Dear The Flashing Blade,  

Thank you for shopping at Waterstones.com.

Your order has now been shipped and should be with you soon.

Order number: #3982357

Qty Author Title Price
1 KEITH RICHARDS Life £9.39
SubTotal: £9.39
Shipping & Handling: £4.98
Total: £14.37 

Waterstone’s Card / Waterstone’s Gift Card / e-wallet
Please note that the total value shown above is before any Waterstone’s Card point redemptions, Gift Card or e-wallet contributions were taken into account. Where these were used, they will be deducted from the amount above before your card is charged.

This order will be billed to:
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
STRASBOURG
FRANCE

This order will be shipped to:
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
STRASBOURG
FRANCE

You chose to have your order shipped by SURFACE MAIL.

Just to let you know that while most items arrive within the standard delivery times, Royal Mail delays do occasionally happen. So we ask that you please allow the following length of time before contacting us to report an item missing (unless you have chosen courier next day delivery):

UK deliveries – 10 days
Overseas deliveries – 21 days

If you chose collection from store please take a copy of this email confirmation or the order number and one form of ID.

Please note: All outstanding items in your order will now be shipped to you as soon as we receive them from our suppliers, and no further shipping charges will be payable on these (unless you specified ‘Immediate Delivery’ as your shipping method). You will not be charged for any item until we have shipped it to you.

If you have any other questions please check out our Online Assistant or our Help pages. If you’re unable to find an answer this way, feel free to email us at service@waterstones.com or contact us using this link.Thank you again for shopping at Waterstones.com.

Customer Service Team,
Waterstones.com
Please do not respond to this email, as this address is unable to accept any incoming email correspondence.

Waterstone’s Booksellers Limited. Registered Office Address: Capital Court, Capital Interchange Way, Brentford, Middlesex TW8 OEX. Registered in England, Registration No:610095

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So.  I’m not allowed to buy an eBook from Waterstones because of threatened leagal action by publishers but I am allowed to buy an old fashioned paper and cardboard book from the same people and have it delvered to me in the post.  What nonsense.  I’ve already commented about the nonsense of this on the bottom of a story about the silliness of the publishing industry on the Economist.  Next week I start to hit more sites about this.

I wrote to the Publishers Association about this on 29th October but they have not bothered to send me a reply yet.  I think two working weeks is sufficient for any organisation to respond to correspondence, especially an email.  If I have not had a reply by the end of business tomorrow I am going to write to them again and post the correspondence here next week.

Remember, remember….

10/11/2010

Being English in another country helps you realise a lot of things about your country that you may not previously have thought about before.  It certainly makes you think about your identity.  One part of identity is about celebrations or communal comings together as a people.  One of the things I have realised was that as an Englishman we do not have many times when we come together as English people to celebrate as a community.  The Scots have Burns night, the Irish St Patricks Day, although the later has become more of an excuse for a global piss up.

The English Speaking Community of Alsace has three major events in the year.  A Burns Supper is one and another is an annual Bonfire Night celebration.  The celebration of democracy and the defeat of terrorism, to look at the night in a very current way, that is also appropriate for the place that is the guradian of Europe’s Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law and home to the European Court of Human Rights.  I must admit, rather to my shame, that as an Englishman this was my first Bonfire Night in Alsace whereas I have been to the Burns Night three times already.

The first three pictures show the bonfire with the Guy intact at the top, disintegrating in the fire next and the fire at its peak in the third photo.  Why is it that fires are so sexy?

One of the nice things about the evening was that it was a family event and there was a wide range of people present with a lot of families.  There was soup and baked potatoes available and at one stage there was some concern that the drinks might run out although that didn’t happen before I left.  Fortunately the rain also held off until the very end and even then it wasn’t too bad on our twenty minute return cycle trip to the airport, where we caught the train home.

I was also reminded that for quite a long time my consumption of bonfire night was at large local council type events and it was nice to get together with a goup of families in someone’s back garden for a more intimate evening.


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