[T]he village of La Haye-de-Routot in Normandy…, just south of the Forêt de Brotonne, would probably have been founded some time around the 10th century by Anglo-Scandinavian settlers. It is likely that the two yew trees, which grow in the church cemetery, were part of the original forest in the area.
The two yews in question, one at 14 metres tall and the other at 16 metres, are estimated to be over 1400 years old and have diameters of over 10 metres each. The church was built in the 13th century, with several reasons given for the yews being retained in what would become the cemetery. One is that the male yews (which both of these are) are extremely toxic to humans and animals. Local farmers would, therefore, have been loathe to graze their livestock on the church grounds. The other was a more spiritual reason. For centuries, dating back to the times of the druids, the yew was a sacred tree used in pagan practices. It is said that the early church often incorporated them in order to assimilate non-believers.
Many old yews are actually hollow inside, as their cores often rot and fall away. In the 19th century, the cavities of our yews became so large that the clergy decided to turn them into places of worship. First, in 1866, the “Chapel of St. Anne” was installed in the eastern yew, followed by the “Oratory of Our Lady of Lourdes,” in the western yew in 1897. Sadly, in 2013, the eastern yew (the one with the chapel) was sprayed with glyphosate herbicide and is now half dead.
The quality and species of firewood matters to me, because my Pennsylvania log cabin has a stone groundfloor. The two-foot-thick walls keep it nicely insulated, but also tend to make it chilly as a well in cold weather, so I pretty much have to keep a log fire going from October to April.
Softwoods, like pine, burn too fast and release too much creosote, drastically upping your likelihood of chimney fires. Insufficiently aged wood, or wood cut live, is heavy to lift and hard to get to burn. You rapidly run through your tinder, starting and re-starting the fire as the moist log smokes at you.
They used to sell wood by the cord –4′ by 8′ by 4′, but nobody really measures in cords today. We buy now by the pickup load.
Jeremy Clarke, in the British Spectator, buys wood in France by the stère, and talks hunting (Outline gets around the paywall):
The other day we ordered a stère from a woodman recommended by an expat English friend. He dumped his load at the foot of the path and climbed up to the house for payment and a drink; €70 a stère is the norm. He wanted €90 and a whisky, ice, no water. I made him a belter and passed it over along with the cash. Would he like to sit? He consented to perch on the arm of the sofa. Our elderly bitch, deeply asleep on the sofa, was woken nostril first by the combination of rare and unusual scents emanating from this thick-set man in his mid-fifties.
He managed his heavy-bottomed whisky glass with an exaggerated delicacy that looked a bit like parody. But his expectant conviviality suggested a previous acquaintance with the expat English bourgeoisie, who, for all their faults and absurdities, offer strong spirits at 10 o’clock in the morning and defer obsequiously to the opinions of a man of the woods and forests. Then Catriona came in and sat and accepted a whisky also.
The woodman had noted with approval the stuffed boar’s head wearing Ray-Bans fixed above the side door. This moved the conversation in the direction of boars and boar-hunting and it turned out that we were entertaining the president of a local boar hunt. He owns 19 hunting dogs, a small arsenal of rifles and shotguns, and only yesterday had organized an 80-gun shoot followed by a wood-cutting session and piss-up. Another whisky, young man, we said? The empty glass was smartly presented while our old dog fastened her nose to his trousers.
Catriona interrogated him about his sex life. He was currently living with a much younger woman, an obstreperous vegetarian, he said. Then, suspiciously: we weren’t ecologists, were we? (An ecologist in his book was a shorthand term of abuse for an animal rights supporter.) I put it on record that I was not an ecologist and in fact had taken part in a boar hunt in which the chef had one leg shorter than the other and three dogs were gravely injured by boars’ tusks during the course of the day. Ah, said the woodman. His dogs were fitted with Kevlar jackets. Expensive but he no longer spends half the time sewing up his injured dogs.
Original footage by the LumiÃ¨re brothers, this snowball fight from Lyon, France in 1896 has been upscaled and colorized using the open-source AI tool, DeOldify, a deep learning-based project for colorizing and restoring old images and video.
One day back in the 1980s, I stopped for a bite to eat at the Burger King in Brookfield, CT, and was astonished to see a local cop tricked out with an enormous Model 92 Beretta (the US service pistol) and carrying on his belt five 15-round magazines. We’re talking 91-rounds here altogether and a ton of weight to be lugging around all day. Such was the result of the police fashion that took hold in the latter decades of the last century, in which law enforcement agencies all over the country read up on two rather unusual (and very bloody) shootouts and responded by retiring all their six-shot .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolvers and switching over to Glocks and other semi-automatic pistols with large-capacity magazines.
You never know. A Zulu impi might show up at any time and you’ll need 91-rounds.
The Groupe dâ€™Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, better known by its abbreviated name GIGN, which translates to National Gendarmerie Intervention Group in English, remains France’s premier counter-terrorism and hostage rescue unit. Since its founding shortly after the terrorist acts in Munich in 1973, GIGN has risen to prominence among the world’s counter-terrorism community. But one piece of gear in particular not only differentiates the unit from others, but it is also deeply ingrained in its lore and traditionâ€”the revolver, and in particular, the French-built Manurhin MR73. …
The revolvers are issued to each GIGN member for symbolic reasons as well as utilitarian ones. A passage from a 2014 issue of the official Gendarmerie information magazine states:
“Respect of human life and fire discipline have always been taught to group members since inception, and each new member is traditionally issued with a 6 shot .357 revolver as a reminder of these values.”
GIGN’s deep relationship with the revolver gets pretty intense beyond any outright symbolism. Apparently, the unit still practices a ‘trust shot’ as part of new member initiations where a team member wearing body armor puts a clay pigeon over their center of mass and the newly minted GIGN operator shoots the disc from 15 yards.
This morning arsonists seriously damaged a 15th century instrument of white supremacy, the Cathedral of Nantes. It had survived the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, Nazi bombing in WWII, and a 1972 fire.
Heightening the drama, RibiÃ¨re was to be married the following day, though he could expect to live to see his own wedding, Defferre having vowed not to kill him but “wound him in such a way as to spoil his wedding night very considerably.”
A sprawling Art Deco reinforced concrete building, casually tucked away in the quiet backstreets of Parisâ€™ 13th arrondissement, has been guarding the furnishings of government buildings and royal residences since the dawn of the Second World Warâ€¦
Behind its bunker-thick walls, youâ€™ll find everything from the 82 foot-long 17th century carpet that was saved from the Notre Dame blaze, airing out in the main reserve, to a selection of 20th century presidential desks that reflect the changing tastes of each decade and leader.
A large inventory of Napoleonâ€™s foot stools sit under plastic sheeting beside a pre-revolutionary collection of royal vases crated away and carefully inventoried on industrial shelving. In the basement, you might find a stack a French flag poles and red carpets waiting to be pulled out of storage for Bastille Day or for the Queen of Englandâ€™s next visit.
At the same time as carefully conserving over 130,000 decorative items; the reserveâ€™s mission is also to restore and manufacture. The site is home to numerous artisanal workshops, where some of the nationâ€™s finest craftsmen are busy at work, entrusted with fixing the minor wear and tear on an antique commode from a government waiting room to restoring priceless works of art rescued from beneath the collapsing roof of a national landmark.
French hunting is different. They call their hunts “Rallyes” or “Equipages.” Their hunt uniforms are more complicated. They use circular horns and lots of people carry horns where for us only the huntsman has a horn, and where our huntsman only blows a handful of conventional signals, they play fanfares. We hunt foxes and coyotes. They hunt hare, wild boar, roe deer, and even red deer. People too old to ride car follow over here. In France, they have a load of bicycle followers.