The problem of making collective decisions

I see the vultures circling over Bitrague hill. Given today’s wind direction there is probably an updraft there keeping them aloft but in this hilly region, it’s certainly not the only place with a suitable updraft. There are about ten vultures. How did they collectively decide to circle over that hill and not somewhere else? I suspect they didn’t all have an equal voice in the debate. Perhaps they all follow a lead vulture. Or perhaps there’s a more complex hierarchy in which each vulture follows its superiors. I notice that they look content with their choice, wheeling around on the wind, each bird moving independently but staying in touch with the others. Continue reading

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A hill route between Laval and Quillan

Here I describe my run-walk outing with a local companion into the spectacular hills above Laval.

Mr D, a neighbour of ours, generously offered to show me some of the harder-to-find tracks up into the hills above Laval. I had already done a fair amount of exploring myself but had not found the route I guessed would be there. I sought a track, or at least a marked route, connecting Laval with Quillan. They are not far apart as the crow flies and my guess was that there would be in the hills an alternative to the 5 or 6 km on the flat road route. Continue reading

Hunters in the hills around Quillan

Another winter day in paradise begins. I’ll start with a morning jog – that is sure to set me up for a good day. There’s a cold wind so I’ll seek a sheltered route in the bush. I’ll explore up the track across the creek. I want to know how far up the hill it goes. The map shows the track going most of the way towards the ridge. If it continues to the ridge, or if I can bush-bash the last bit, that will be my shortest route to town. I get about 50 metres from the front door when a gunshot echoes around. Then another. I slow, then stop. It’s Wednesday: hunting day. Continue reading

A one- to two-hour loop around Laval, St Julia-de-Bec, Moulin de Balence, and Chateau Marserau

This 11 km route is on sealed and unsealed roads. There is a gentle climb up to St Julia-de-Bec and down the other side, but nothing too strenuous. It’s open country and the views are great. I used my new bluetooth beanie to listen to some podcasts of David Deutsch being interviewed about his book The Beginning of Inifinity from a few years ago – I’m reading that at present – but you could probably listen to anything or nothing on this route. Continue reading

Setting up is not remotely easy

We have had our house closed up since we took possession at the end of August, and are abut to head over for the first time, to get it set up for renting. Now is when things get real fast. It turns out that when buying a house in France, buying the house is actually the easy part. When it comes to furnishing the place, I am reminded just how much work is involved in turning a house into a home.

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Pitch perfect

After years of thinking about it, months of writing, weeks of editing, and days of anguishing over every last detail, I have finally finished the book and am ready (maybe) to pitch it to publishers.

It’s not perfect, but it’s about as perfect as it’s going to get without the eye of a professional editor and I have to accept that if it is ever going to stand a chance of seeing the light of day beyond my computer, I have to let it go. Let it go.

Will it be any good? Does anyone want to read it? Since my pitch is premised on the idea that there’s interest, I certainly hope so!

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A snowy weekend in Andorra

A long-planned weekend in Andorra with my three boys. In January? Expect snow.

I’m posting this report reluctantly because it reveals my dubious decision-making. On reflection, I perhaps should have called off the trip at the start, given the weather. But with a no-refund hotel booking and boys who would have been bitterly disappointed if unable to go, my judgment was biased towards proceeding. Continue reading