Swept Along by the Rhône

When we arrived, the gates of the park were closed. It happens from time to time. The wind is too strong or the park staff are delayed. At 6:30am it is better not to expect too much.

I watched a woman press the security intercom next to the gate. The buzzer rang followed by a series of tones but no answer. Not reassuring. The button had, until then, seemed like a good way to get attention in an emergency.

Megan caught up with me and we agreed to change our route. We like to know where each is running in case of problems. The river side run is not as attractive as the park but it is traffic free and not too far away.

I have something of an aversion to parts of the river side walk. It was there that I slipped and hit my head on the concrete. Those moments of blood streaming down my face and the subsequent hospital visit are memories I do not want to evoke.

Strip of pavement where I slipped.
Strip of pavement where I slipped.

Today it would another man’s turn to visit hospital.

The bridges act as markers along the route. Pass under a few bridges, turn around, and head back home. That was the plan.

The wind was strong and it blew bits into my face as I ran. The water was much higher than I had seen in my years in Lyon. Waves lapped over edge of the path. The normal metre drop from the bank to the water was gone. It has rained heavily for days now and it showed in the river’s volume and force.

Listening to music, sunglasses shielding my eyes, I ran along. Two stationary runners appeared in the distance talking to each other. As I passed they had that look of tourists wondering what to do and who to ask for directions. Just then they called out to me. Odd, runners rarely need directions.

She was a younger woman. He an older man. She spoke. A flurry of French that I understood in a vague manner. Understanding enough but taking a moment to register. “Dived?”, I countered to confirm my fears.

Her look as she noted my not being local was unfortunate. Another runner only a few paces behind joined our growing group. He was the stroke of luck she wanted; he had a phone.

For the next few minutes we found ourselves tracking a person who had fallen – or dived – into the turbulent thrashing river Rhône.

The emergency services were called, in France dial 18. The universal 112 works but 18 is better.

Staring out over the river looking for a person, we moved down following the flow. Every so often a dark shape would come in and out of view. A person? Difficult to be sure. Then the shape again. Certainly a person. An arm raised. A small figure being propelled at speed along towards the next big bridge.

Pont Passerelle du Collège, Lyon, France
Pont Passerelle du Collège, Lyon, France

They had entered the river dropping from Pont Passerelle du Collège. I hoped the next bridge might catch them. A thump certainly but a place to cling onto and hold firm while help arrived.

For after the bridge comes turbulence. Swirling, ebbing waters, choppy, white with foam. Metres of churned up water created by the bridge’s plinths.

The shape had vanished.

Flashing lights started appearing along the river bank.

An electric cleaning cart appeared beside us. The driver getting out, confirming this was the location, then driving on ahead. His tone suggesting he was aware of the situation.

We were helpless now. The emergency services were arriving further down the river. On both shores I could see flashing lights moving through the traffic and stopping at the edges of the next bridge.

We ran along. Looking all the time for the shape, for the person to reappear. Had they clung onto the bridge?

Passing the bridge, moored boats limited our view.

Then between two boats I saw him. A small helpless shape still being swept down the river. Arm seemingly raised. Seconds later a powerful boat crossed my view. The boat took a couple of attempts to grapple the soul and drag him to safety. The engine roared and the boat swept in a tight u-turn, repositioning itself for that second attempt.

I stayed by the river side wanting to see the event end. An ambulance stopped near me and as the boat approached, I could see a young man. Wrapped in foil. Alive, shaken, but sitting up in the boat. He was surrounded by emergency services and would soon be on his way to hospital.

There was nothing more to do. I had closure and I had stayed for that. The notion of leaving after the call was made had crossed my mind. What could I do? Had I left I would have wondered, always wondered, what had happened. So I stayed only until I knew the man was safe.

Bee Hotel

Our nearby park has a bee hotel. This structure, filled with drilled logs, hollow sticks and dried mud, provides a home for native bees. There seems to be lots of different varieties of bees living together in the hotel. There are the usual black and yellow striped bees around, but also some big, fuzzy ones, and tiny, shiny, black ones.

Bee hotel with central garden
Bee hotel with central garden
Hollow canes in a bee hotel
Hollow canes in a bee hotel
Bee hotel filled with different materials
Bee hotel filled with different materials

They are fun to watch as they go in and out of their little shelters, and on a warm, sunny day they are very active. They’re not aggressive; I got really close to take photos as they buzzed around me. Here’s a short video of them.

A Little Coffee

I caught up with a friend for coffee one morning this week. We met at a local square, wandered along the restaurants that encircle it, and sat down at a quieter one. We perched ourselves on stools at one of the high tables on the terrace outside, the ones reserved for people having coffee, while the regular tables were set for the lunchtime crowd. This is a fairly familiar scene, especially as the weather warms up; people dotted around restaurant terraces to have a quick coffee, or to linger a little and watch life pass by in the square.

Cafe tables in the square
Cafe tables in the square

My coffee was an equally typical little espresso. If you order a coffee, or are offered one when visiting a client, you get an espresso. Sugar is usually available to go with it; milk almost never. Of course you can order other types of coffee, with hot milk for example, but it is not the default.

I realise that I have come to take both the little espressos and the restaurant-lined squares for granted. Those tiny cups of coffee were intimidating when we first arrived. I wasn’t sure I liked them. They were strong, and they were gone in a few sips. The idea of sitting to have a coffee seemed almost pointless when you finished it two minutes later. Now, I have come to prefer them. And just because you have finished your coffee, doesn’t mean you can’t stay and finish your conversation while you watch the world go by.

Delays and Page Shuffle

It has been a frustrating few weeks. We are working our way through the legal steps to secure our future home. Last week we learnt that there would be an additional delay.

The delay was not entirely unexpected. We saw it coming but others did not heed our warnings in time. After months of getting our side ready, even transferring funds into escrow, the meeting to sign was cancelled at the last moment.

A critical document was missing from the seller’s dossier. Without the document nothing can be signed and sealed.

Born of Annoyance

The funds have been returned and we await a new signing date.

Rather than sit impotently by, I channeled my energy into something I could control. I wrote and published a new application.

Shuffling Pages

A while ago Megan asked me how she could shuffle pages within a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. She had teaching resources that she wanted to reuse but the order and content of the pages was becoming predictable.

Had these been printed bingo or flash cards, she could have easily jumbled them up herself. But these were not physical cards. They were PDF documents on her tablet computer.

Over the following hour, I learnt that needing to shuffle pages within a document is rare enough to be difficult to do. Reordering or moving pages is possible but only one move at a time. OS X even includes a shuffle Automator action but it does not shuffle, it interleaves.

I put together a small command line tool to perform the shuffle. Since then, that tool has been good enough for Megan but not ideal. Having to use the Terminal.app is not a great experience.

With the changing of the signing date, it messed up my schedule. I found myself with a short gap in my schedule and too much personal distraction to focus on anything too demanding.

I looked through my list of possible future projects and settled to write Page Shuffle.

Page Shuffle's icon
Page Shuffle’s icon

Page Shuffle is not a complex application but it serves a purpose and does it well. I picked it because of that clear purpose and the few decisions that needed making during development.

Screenshot of Page Shuffle on OS X
Screenshot of Page Shuffle on OS X

To spice the application up a little I included an Automator action that actually shuffles PDF pages, rather than interleaves them. I also included a command line interface. I doubt either will see extensive use but they are available.

Channeled Creativity

Looking back this has been a response to not having control over something very important to me. Yet, being able to see oncoming problems with no influence to avoid them. The combination feels toxic.

Page Shuffle has been a silver lining. Not what I expected from this period, but a positive when all could be seen to be stagnating.

Hopefully this delay will not be for too much longer.