French prisoners Ride Tour de France

A Week is a Long Time in..

Peparing for the Tour de FranceQ.  In What?

  • In prison – yes obviously
  • In politics – yes
  • In a relationship – well yes, especially the past week for me
  • In Between News Items….

Yes! That’s the one!

Last week it was announced to the world that 196 convicted French prisoners are going to cycle this years Tour de France route.  See the Reuters News item here which originally reported the story: What could possibly go wrong?

It’s an enlightened bit of prisoner rehabilitation.  The 196 inmates plus 124 obviously fit guards are doing the 17 stages, stopping in towns each night that all have a prison, but staying in hotels.

Now contrast this with the report last month about the shocking state of French jails (Prison guards’ strike hits packed French jails).

In fact, there is no contrast.  It’s the French guards who are protesting about the poor state of things, with five to a cell etc.

Taken in this context, the cycle ride does not sound so strange now, does it?

Today the Ride Sets Off

Penal Tour de France pedals offMany news organisations have reported the start of the run today.  They are all using the same copy, many using the same images as well.


FILE - This Wednesday June 4, 2009, file photo shows a pack of convicts, joined by their jailers, preparing to take the start from Villeneuve d'Ascq to Valenciennes, northern France, of the prologue of the "Tour de France Penitentiaire" for the jailed. Most days, they live behind bars. But last week, a pack of convicts, joined by their jailers, a police escort and a string of support vehicles, embarked upon the inaugural two-week, 2,200 kilometer cycling trek across the Gallic countryside, organized by French prison administrators. (AP Photo)
Penal Tour de France pedals off

They all report that 194 prisoners are doing the ride compared to the fact that they all reported that 196 were going to do it last week.

So what happened to the 2 men? !!

Did they, as all the news outlets so humourously remarked, go on a “breakaway sprint” which “are obviously not allowed”?  Or maybe they feared they’d have to cycle through Mulhouse which has this interesting cycle lane to negotiate.

Keeping cycle lanes clear of parked cars is a problem the world over. This design from Mulhouse in France provides a self enforcing solution; yellow bollards have proved to be much more effective than yellow lines at deterring illegal parking. Picture from Warrington Cycle Campaign

Austrian Toilet

Difference between shelf and standard toilet pans

Not being a frequent foreign traveller, my recent stop in Eisenstadt, Austria, at a 5 star hotel open my eyes a bit.  A peculiar quirk, for me, was the toilet, with a shelf, in the room’s en-suite bathroom.  I’ve since found that it’s called a “shelf toilet”, a German invention to ease the inspection of one’s droppings and save water.

It turns out it’s not that peculiar and is quite common.

There are various pros and cons for the system, one main con being that it limits the library function of the loo…

German Toilet
German Toilet

Because yes,  the main con is the pong! Your molehill sits forlornly on the shelf until it’s flushed away, thereby negating the prime reason for J. G. Jennings’ invention of underwater plop disposal by his wash-out design with a shallow pan and the U-bend.

Cunningly, the five star hotel had placed a huge jet-engine-like suction tube placed about a foot from the shelf to suck the noxious odours away.  What such a bog would be like without that on a hot summer’s day, I can imagine.  It was bad enough in winter, with a fan.  Unfortunately, although I intended to take a photo – I forgot;  one of the many things I forgot to do on that trip.  So these pictures here, are from elsewhere.  It also means my well-known bad taste is on break, so a poop picture on a shelf can be found here, if you’re interested.

A safety feature of the suction tube was that it had gauze over it so that if you fell backwards against it, your giblets wouldn’t get sucked up onto the hotel roof.

Anglo-Indian ToiletIn this page at Banterist,  the posting and cumulative effect of the subsequent comments had me in stitches.  I’ve since added an extra shit type here because of it.  It’s mentioned as being common in Holland but my passage through Schiphol relieved me of that pleasure.

As a matter of toiletry interest, my favourite bogs are nice clean French crouchers – they are the wash-and-go of the crapping world.  My least favourite type, apart from a specific, memorable,  wasp-ridden open dry toilet (with a 12 foot poop drop) near Plan de la Tour in Provence I encountered, is any (of which there are plenty) dirty motorway “aire” toilet in France which need wellingtons and a shovel to visit.  They’re most common down the A7 near Montelimar (say) or round certain industrial towns near Paris.   One in particular near Bollene I’ve visited at New year and in August, and the defects are not seasonal!  The only difference was that in winter the piss lake was frozen.  It’s definitely the area  –   I’ve been to some marvels of public hygiene on the French autoroute system.

I’ve never tried the Anglo-Indian toilet pictured but it looks interesting, but not when you’re drunk.

Don’t Shake Hands with the Office Boss if you Live in Newcastle

Don’t Shake Hands with the Office Boss if you Live in Newcastle, (But You Can Shake Hands with the Window Cleaner or the Toilet Cleaner)!

Shake Hands
Shake Hands

Amazingly, this is all true.  The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has done hand swabs of commuters across the UK and come to these key points:

  • Northerners‘ hands are up to three times dirtier than those living in the South
  • Women’s hands are generally cleaner than men’s, but not always
  • Manual worker’s hands are cleaner than those of professionals, students, retired people or the unemployed.
So if you are a recently unemployed financial services man, living in Newcastle, who just left University or are about to retire, you are one of the shittiest, dirtiest people in Britain!

And that’s tough on you,

And that’s tough on you,

And that’s tough on you,

Ha. Ha!  It’s all in the news here: Faecal bacteria join the commute

But if you are middle aged female lavatory cleaner from Clapham, you are the tops!  But you knew that anyway, didn’t you?

Tories Join in Spreading Fear and Doubt with the NHS

Hospitals ‘infested with vermin’

In the latest bout of the fear and gloom sweeping the country, (BBC link above), this time it’s the tories mixing facts and data up with proper information – and typically, the media are going along with it because it makes good copy.

Read the article, illustrated with a picture of a rat……..

on some grass!

They say that “cleanliness is threatened”.  Make what you will of that one – it’s a nonsense sentence bereft of actual meaning but loaded with dread….

The gist of the article is that hospitals and NHS Trusts are doing lots of pest control inspections.

That’s all.

Not that they’ve found lots of pests and have to get rid of them; just that they called pest controllers in.

The article has hundreds of lines of FUD (fear and doubt), and even a link to insect infestations – of the home(!!), but only six lines of real information.

I quote them here (my emphasis in the quote):

Health Minister Ivan Lewis said that hospitals were responsible for ensuring their buildings were clean and that patient safety was not compromised.

“The Hygiene Code requires NHS bodies to have a pest control policy that anticipates and manages this issue.

“Trusts should take rapid action and follow through with surveillance in place to avoid pest incidents and minimize hazards.

“Use of pest control is a sign of good proactive management.”

So in other words, the tories are criticising the hospitals for doing their job properly!

Have they done a similar question and answer session with that organisation of finance and private health, BUPA, of whose many failings I delved into in an earlier post this year?  …er, well no.  They can’t because as a private company, BUPA isn’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act from which the tories got their “data”.

How convenient.

I really think more people should be aware of the very real difference between data and information.  They are definitely NOT the same!