Sunday, 29 October 2017

Tilting at Windmills

I live in an area called ‘Les Aspres’, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It hasn’t officially been designated as such but it is often featured in postcards of the region, showing pink cherry-blossom and vineyards with the majestic snow-capped Canigou mountain in the background.  It is a really beautiful place to live and I never tire of admiring the scenery. If you haven’t yet visited, I suggest you come very soon, as it seems a strong possibility that the views will soon be marred by 150m high wind turbines.

The first I heard of this was just a few weeks ago when one of the Mayor’s assistants delivered a letter to all the residents of the village, explaining that she was resigning because she could not work with a Mayor who was willing to accept the installation of wind farms.  I then started to notice banners appearing in a neighbouring village saying ‘Non aux eoliennes’  (no to Wind Turbines) and even some houses with signs in the windows saying ‘For Sale because of Turbines’ – hardly iikely to attract buyers but it made a point!

But I still couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about – surely an eco-friendly way of producing electricity must be a good thing, and apart from being a ‘NIMBY’ and not particularly wanting one too close to my house, I felt that perhaps one wind turbine a few kilometres away wouldn’t be too bad. 

I was wrong.

On Friday I went to an open meeting and was completely shocked by what I heard.  The project is already in the ‘planning’ stage, there could be as many as 92 turbines (involving over 600 hectares of land) in parcels of land around Brouilla, Passa, St.Jean-Lasseilles, Banyuls-dels-Aspres, Fourques, Terrats, Tresserre, Caixas and Villemolaque.  Most of the Mayor’s have voted NO, but the Mayor of my village, and two others, are ‘pro-eoliennes’.  We also heard from the residents of one of the villages that they had not even been asked their opinion; the Mayor had just signed an agreement on behalf of the village, (and apparently pocketed a large sum of money – but this is just rumour and hearsay and therefore possibly not true….).  It is true to say that the meeting was called by the ‘anti-eolienne’ lobby so all the comments were negative, but this is what I learned:

These machines can be within 500 metres of a property.
The noise from wind turbines has been blamed for health problems including stress and insomnia.
Wind turbines only work at maximum capacity for a third of time, meaning they have to be backed up by other technologies such as coal and nuclear.
The inconsistent power generated by wind farms requires the grid to be upgraded to cope with the surges in power.
Wind farms are expensive to build and only last up to 25 years.
They are not ‘eco-friendly’ to build due to the amount of concrete required.

I am open to hearing any positive reasons for why the companies are wanting to invest large sums of money to install what appears to be an inefficient and pollutant way of producing electricity, but in the meantime I am truly shocked and saddened that this idea is even being considered.  Somebody ought to do something about it.  Perhaps it will be me ...

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Driving me crazy.

I’ve just replaced my ancient GPS.  It has worked pretty well for 15 years but the fact that I couldn't update the map information was beginning to annoy me – and also the lady who reads out the instructions.  I would be blithely driving on a new bypass and the map would show that the road didn’t actually exist and that I was in the middle of a field.  The lady inside would spring into life and start screaming ‘what the hell do you think you’re doing, I didn’t tell you to turn left here, turn around as soon as you can, we’ll never get back to civilisation this way’.  (Well actually that is perhaps a tiny exaggeration as she would just say ‘Recalculating’ in a sarcastic tone of voice – but you could almost hear a very quiet ‘tut’ afterwards). 
In the new GPS I found that you could choose from a selection of people to read out the directions.  I ruled out ‘John’ (for reasons most women will understand),  ‘Jane’ pronounced the word ‘cross’ as ‘crawss’ and I didn’t want to hear that at every roundabout, so I have chosen ‘Susan’, a computer generated non-offensive voice.  So far we are getting on very well; if I choose to ignore her directions she doesn’t go mad, she just goes quiet for a while (and I can almost hear her thinking ‘wow, what a good idea, why didn’t I think of that route in the first place’), and then she highlights the new route on the screen and we carry on in companiable silence. 

‘Susan’ also very kindly tells me the names or numbers of the roads to turn onto, and also the name of the town or village that the road is leading to.  Unfortunately she seems to struggle greatly with french pronunciations and the way she said ‘St Jean de Lasseilles’ yesterday had me crying with laughter so much that I think I upset her and she has now stopped saying the names.  I will give it a while before I drive through Marquixanes and Eus!

Just one last 'topical' thought on the subject of buying a SatNav - several of the models which stated they covered 'Europe', didn't seem to include the UK.  Brexit already......?