Maslow v Internet … cont.

Continuing the theme I started back in June of comparing Maslow’s (1954 + 1970) hierarchy of human needs against our current 21st century needs I thought that I’d record our week-2 experiences in France. [Other notes on our holiday being here]

We’d not done too bad in Sancerre during week one, with a modicum of slow WiFi being available in the apartment, week two in St. Gengoux le National was however, considerably different.

Back in June, when we’d visited Spain with my brother and Debbie, his girlfriend, we’d had no internet access whatever and I detailed the sort of things we missed at that time. On July 1st however, T-Mobile our ‘mobile’ provider introduced a scheme where we could buy limited amounts of connectivity – so our visit to France could easily be covered by buying into that.

£2.50 per 10meg or £10 per 50meg didn’t seem a bad price for being able to access emails etc. while on the move abroad. So I bought a £2.50 package to see how far it would go. I have to admit that I pushed that first package hard and it lasted about 24 hours! My fault (on purpose) I suppose because I posted several picture to Instagram. I don’t suppose the seven pictures I uploaded were too bad @ around 30p each. The next package I bought, used almost exclusively for emails (I still had some ‘work‘ to do while on holiday) lasted for over a week. Sharon’s packages were similarly long lasting. However

Once we arrived at our gite in Burgundy we found that even T-Mobile’s cost effective package would be no use. In the house itself we had no connectivity whatsoever, except late at night a cloud of ‘E’ floated in and out at whim! ‘E’ = EDGE.

I’m not sure that EDGE ever caught on at home, I barely noticed the difference between it and GPRS and once you’ve experienced 3G (or more especially, super-fast broadband via WiFi) you  find it grindingly slow. Yet the entire region only had EDGE access, even walking up the road meant a tiresome wait for downloading emails (i.e. 2-3 minutes rather than fairly instant). Finding ‘stuff’ on the Internet was similarly slow – we had to go for a drive, to find some 3G so that Sharon could research cures for a small medical problem.

Which is where we come right back to Maslow. Both lower levels (safety and physiological) are different in the 21st Century to what they were 50+ years ago. We no longer rely on the doctor to tell us everything; we also look it up on the Internet. I wanted to express my love (mid-level) by taking us on a TGV trip to Paris but couldn’t access the site! Most of the simple ‘online’ things we now take for granted were not avaialble to us.

Now, I realise that connectivity is not something everyone want when they go on holiday, but an ever increasing number of us do. 

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Signage

It occurred to me whilst we were driving up from Lyon to Sancerre that we really do rely a great deal on signs and signage in our lives. When one (like me) doesn’t have full command of a language, one has to rely on well-considered signage to receive relevant (and irrelevant) information, which might otherwise have been received aurally. The language I’m meaning could be just that – a language (in my case French), but it could also be anything new; anything that we are learning is just like a new language, so if we teach, we should also understand signs.

I’d been thinking of our stay in the hotel the previous night. Much of the signage around it prevented me from having to ask difficult (given my mastery of French) questions. The signs around the hotel and the restaurant had sufficient semiotic links to allow my full comprehension.

In the motorway service stations however, signage for the toilets were as obscure as ever with a great deal of thought being required before deciding which one to enter. It’s the same at home though, various places use toilet signage that beggar belief. How do we decipher these signs? What is it in our cultural make-up that determines the difference between one sign and another? No one ever taught me the difference between those male/female symbols (circle + arrow/cross) but I eventually worked it out and tested my theory against common practice. But that needed time – when you’re dying for a pee you have precious little time to decide whether the goat with horns or the goat without is Ladies/Gents!

I did however, work out the difference on the service station we’d stopped at for a coffee.

The two images were so similar that it took a short while to work out. The working out didn’t take too long but the checking my theory against practice took slightly longer as the door of my choice seemed to have women queuing outside. Still – full of confidence (not), I entered the loo and found a slightly shorter queue of women standing outside the cubicles, whilst the urinals stood empty. My theory had been proved by the sight of urinals but confused by the queue of women (and the small group: 2 men and one woman stood talking just inside the door).

The situation I found myself in reminded me that despite the short distance between our two countries, France and the French way of life is very different to our own: If the Ladies is closed for cleaning, then the Ladies will use the Gents – why not?

The Aussies prepare to leave

It’s hard to believe, but in about 24 hours, I’ll be 24 hours from Tulsa. Another Stateside sojourn is in the offing, but this time I’m taking (a lot of) work with me. Mind you working on the Internet with 25mbit broadband is more appealing than working with my maximum 4mbit but often less than 2mbit BT Broadband at home! I also think that the 35-40c degrees of fine weather will suit me better during my time-off days and evenings (A/C permitting) than the intermittent grey cloud and rain we have here.

So we’re taking my brother and his partner back to the airport on Tuesday evening and staying there ourselves for a first-thing Wednesday morning flight to Tulsa via Dusseldorf and Chicago. It really doesn’t seem like a month since they arrived here from Australia.

The last two weeks have passed in a frantic haze. First of all work, and my preparations for the work I must do whilst in the States, took up a lot of my time and then, because Andrew and Debbie (especially Debbie) had wanted to experience France, we took off last Wednesday for a three night stay in Boulogne. Now, I’ve been to Boulogne before and I’ve stayed there overnight before, but have never toured the area surrounding Boulogne and Calais. So that led to an interesting two days driving around.

Our first morning’s objective was to amble over to Watten, on the canal just north of St. Omer. First of all, I hadn’t realised that there was such a network of canals in this part of France, nor that the back roads were so beautiful. We passed through Ardres, where it was market day, so we stopped and had our first ‘real’ coffee. St. Omer was the eventual destination for the day (a place from which you need a compass, SatNav and informed passengers to get out of) before touring the valley just south east of Boulogne (I’ve forgotten the name) and finishing in Montreuil-Sur-Mer.

Our second day saw us on the coast just inside Normandy, at Cayeux-sur-Mer (which is just next door to Brighton!) and in Abbeyville. It had rained fairly hard before we got to Abbeyville, so it was a damp walk around the town – which is probably worth a longer look some day. Cayeaux was a complete surprise as it was quiet, clean, warm (we had lunch in the town square) and easy to park. Once again, the trip was a real taste of France, something I’d not expected this far north.

None of the food we ate on the trip was worth writing about, we just had the usual stuff which is served up for tourists (along with the derision one often feels the French reserve for the English in this part of the world – I don’t feel to be an inconvenience elsewhere in France).

The worst part of our trip was the journey through England. En route, it took 40 minutes to get from the back of the queue for the Dartford Crossing to the toll booth and coming back, about 20 minutes. But then we had roadworks on the M25 which sucked up 40 minutes and a queue to get out of Bishop Stortford services that lasted for 20 minutes. Does anyone think we’re over populated (bearing in mind that France is five times the size and has roughly the same population)?

iPad in France

[This wouldn’t ‘send’ from the WordPress iPad App – grrrr]

I’m writing this on the iPad. We’re home now from our short sojourn in France and I can start using it properly again. I still don’t have 3G but I suspect that that’s just because I’ve not been here to rattle anyone’s cage yet. Monday!

So it wasn’t much use on France. The hotel had free WiFi but the login procedure required me to enter a mixture of letters and numbers each time I wanted use it during a 24 hour period – which was a real pain (because on the iPad keypad, like all the other ‘i’ products, you flip between letter and number keypads). Without 3G it is very much like a house cat – not much use outdoors!

Anyway, as I say, I’m typing this into WordPress on the iPad and it’s really cool, I’m managing a fair rate or words that don’t need re-spelling or correcting Unlike my typing on the iPhone, I can do it with two fingers too which speeds things  nicely.

I’ll blog about Boulogne and my next few weeks later – on the Mac.