Tag Archives: Onyx UK

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Turds

Paris Dog Poo

When I worked in the waste management industry the company that I worked for, the French Company Onyx UK  thought they had a perfect solution to pavement dog fouling.  Onyx UK were part of the French Water Company Compagnie Générale des Eaux  which through its network of companies also had responsibility for cleaning the streets of Paris.

Read the full story…

Review of The Year – 2013

Writing Paper and Pen

Please excuse me a self-indulgent blog to begin the new year as I look back over the previous one.

The top ten most hit blog pages in 2013 on my Travel Blog have mostly surprised me but then I don’t understand how search engines work.  I say hit blog pages rather than read because I am neither conceited enough of sufficiently naive to claim that a hit equals a read.

In 2012 the blog recorded 170,889 hits and the upward trend continued into January and I was optimistic that this number was just going to keep going up but then Google changed their search criteria it stopped and fell back and has never recovered.  I have finished the year with less than half of the previous year total with only 79,450 hits but in November I did manage to limp past half a million in total.

These are the Top Ten blogs of 2013:

No. 1 

Krakow,  Salt Mine

Cathedral Wieliczka Salt Mine

First posted on April 6th 2010

This post is up from number 3 in 2012 to number 1 this year with 5,030 hits. I posted this in April 2010 after returning from a visit to Krakow in Poland.  It was a good trip but I am not sure why so many people would hit on it.  It is not as interesting as my trip to Auschwitz or the Crazy Mike Communist Tour.

No. 2

Mount Vesuvius

Vesuvius still smoking and active

First posted on March 25th 2010

4,220 hits and a second year in the Top Ten and up three places.  A bit of a surprise because this is the account of a day trip to Mount Vesuvius whilst on a holiday to Sorrento in 1976 with my dad.  From my memories of the same holiday I posted several blogs about visits to CapriNaplesPompeiiThe Amalfi Drive and Rome but these have only achieved a handful of hits between them.

No. 3

Moscow and Lenin’s Mausoleum

Lenin Mausoleum

First posted on July 6th 2012

Strait in this one at number 3 with 1,740 hits.  Cameras and mobile phones are strictly forbidden because the authorities don’t want snapshots of Comrade Lenin turning up on the internet in peoples’ Blogs or Trip Advisor reviews so they have to be left in a locker room and if anyone tries to defy this and is caught by the thorough security checks then there punishment is to be sent to the back of the queue!  It seems however that a couple of visitors have somehow sneaked a camera in and I found the pictures through Google and I assume people find my post in the same way.

No. 4

Norway, Europe’s most Expensive Country

epcot-norway-viking

First posted on February 15th 2011

1,510 hits – that’s about 2,000 less than the previous year but still holding on to fourth place.  This was a second blog about my trip to Haugesund in January 2011. It contains some interesting facts and figures which might explain the number of hits that it has received but I am not really convinced that this is the reason unless top European economists are using it for research purposes!

No. 5

Travel Journal 2

Fifth place with 1,060 hits and which demonstrates the importance of an About page.

No. 6

Royal Garden Party

Palace Invite 3

First posted on June 26th 2009 and therefore the oldest post in the top ten.

1,000 hits and staying in the Top Ten and up one place from number 7.  This one has always been popular especially around the Spring and Summer when invitations to the Royal Garden Party are going out and when people are wondering how to get one or what to wear if they have one.

No. 7

Travel Tips when Flying Budget Airlines

Ryanair over the Alps

First posted on August 2nd 2011.

940  hits and also going up one place.  I first wrote on this subject in 2009 and it immediately started getting hundreds of hits and then in 2011 it just stopped completely.  I reviewed and reposted it and changed the title from the specific ‘Travel Tips when Flying Ryanair’ to the more general title that it has now and hey presto the hits started coming again.

No. 8

Twelve Treasures of Spain – Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Sagrada Familia Cathedral Barcelona

First posted on March 2nd 2013 so the most recent post in the top ten so at under a year I will be interested to see what happens to this one in 2014.

With 750 posts a newcomer in the top 10 this year.  The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope. The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited.  Tenth in the competition and the final Cathedral in the list is the unfinished Gaudi masterpiece Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

No. 9

Onyx UK and an Inappropriate Visit to the Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge Naked Dancers

First posted on August 23rd 2011.

Another post devastated by Google changes and only 696 this year so dropping like a stone from number 2 to number 9. I have written a few times about my recollections of working in waste management in the private sector in the 1990s.  All of the posts manage a respectable number of hits but this one gets the most.  I don’t suppose for one minute that people are interested in my stories of mismanagement, incompetence and rubbish collection but they do like to read about dancing on a nightclub stage in Paris.

No. 10

Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius – Living on the Edge of Disaster

52 Naples

First posted on March 23rd 2013, two days before the Vesuvius post at no. 2.

This one surprised me with 690 hits and a first show in the annual top ten because it is an old post from May 2010 which only goes to show that old material sometimes has legs.

There is a famous phrase that says ‘See Naples and die!’ which originated under the Bourbon regime and means that before you die you must experience the beauty and magnificence of Naples.  Some, less charitable, now say that the city is so mad, dangerous and polluted that death might possibly be a consequence of a visit there and my post is about Vesuvius, Pollution, Pizzas and Crime!

If you have read one of these posts or any of the 1,140 others on my site ‘Have Bag, Will Travel’then thank you very much!  I guess it proves that George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) was right when he said: “The three most exciting sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”  

Dropping out of the Top Ten this year were:  Norway, Haugesund and the Vikings,  Pula, Croatia and Onyx UK and the Dog Poo Solution

Vikings

Roman Amphitheatre Pula Croatia  Dog Mess Solution

And just ‘bubbling under’ …

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni GaudiGermany, Triberg the Cuckoo Clock Capital of the WorldTwelve Treasures of Spain – Seville Cathedral and Russia, Tsars in our Eyes – The Grand Palace at Peterhof

Review of the Year 2012

Writing Paper and Pen

Please excuse me a self-indulgent blog to begin the new year.  The top ten most hit blog pages in 2012 on my Travel Blog have mostly surprised me but then I don’t understand how search engines work.  I say hit blog pages rather than read because I am neither conceited enough of sufficiently naive to claim that a hit equals a read.

In 2011 the blog recorded 151,493 hits and the upward trend continued until May when there were 17,845 in one month and I was optimistic that this number was just going to keep going up but then it stopped and fell back and has never recovered.  I have finished the year with 170,900 hits which is an increase of 13%.

A reason for this may be that I have been removing old posts and archiving them in a separate blog called ‘Another Bag, More Travel’.  The main blog was running out of space so being a skinflint and not wanting to pay for extra space this was my cunning solution.  This blog has recorded 43,600 hits so if I add them together then the annual increase on my travel blog pages is increased to 43% which is much more respectable.

This however is nowhere near as good as performance on my memories blog ‘New Light through Old Windows’ which has increased by 84% from 100,671 views in 2011 to 185,700 in 2012.

These are the Top Ten blogs of 2012:

No. 1 (for the second year running)

Norway, Haugesund and the Vikings.  

Minnesota Vikings

I travelled to Haugesund in January 2011 and visited a Viking monument and blogged about it.  This post has had 14,755 hits which is over 10,000 more than the post in second place.  Over 9,000 hits have been recorded from the single word ‘Vikings’ in various search engines!  I have concluded that this is because there are a lot of people using the search engines to find content about the Minnesota Vikings American Football Team and they are probably disappointed when they come across my page about a wintery day spent next to the North Sea in Norway. Without any shame I have exploited this opportunity by adding a paragraph about the Minnesota Vikings.

No. 2

Onyx UK and an Inappropriate Visit to the Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge Naked Dancers

Straight in at no. 2 with 4,416 hits.  I have written a few times about my recollections of working in waste management in the private sector in the 1990s.  All of the posts manage a respectable number of hits but this one gets the most.  I don’t suppose for one minute that people are interested in my stories of mismanagement, incompetence and rubbish collection but they do like to read about dancing on a nightclub stage in Paris.

No. 3

Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

Dropping a place from last year at No 2 with 4,342 hits. I posted this in April 2010 after returning from a visit to Krakow in Poland.  It was a good trip but I am not sure why so many people would hit on it.  It is not as interesting as my trip to Auschwitz or the Crazy Mike Communist Tour.

No. 4

Norway, Europe’s most Expensive Country

Haugesund Norway

3,975 hits and up from eighth to fourth place  This was a second blog about my trip to Haugesund in January 2011. It contains some interesting facts and figures which might explain the number of hits that it has received but I am not really convinced that this is the reason unless top European economists are using it for research purposes!

No. 5

Mount Vesuvius

3,326 hits and a second year in the Top Ten and up two places.  A bit of a surprise because this is the account of a day trip to Mount Vesuvius whilst on a holiday to Sorrento in 1976 with my dad.  From my memories of the same holiday I posted several blogs about visits to CapriNaplesPompeiiThe Amalfi Drive and Rome but these have only achieved a handful of hits between them.

No. 6

Pula, Croatia

Pula Amphitheatre Croatia

2,916 hits – twice as many as 2011.  A bit of a mystery to me how this one gets so many visits.  I have blogged two or three times about Roman Amphitheatres – RomeArlesMeridaSegobriga and about larger Croatian cities at Dubrovnik and Split but this one gets the hits and I don’t know why?  The Pula is the national currency of Botswana so perhaps they are intended as exchange rate enquiries?

No. 7

Royal Garden Party

Palace Invite 3

2,625 hits and staying in the Top Ten despite dropping 3 places from last year at no. 4.  This one has always been popular especially around the Spring and Summer when invitations to the Royal Garden Party are going out and when people are wondering how to get one or what to wear if they have one.

No. 8

Travel Tips when Flying Budget Airlines

1,800 hits and new this year.  I first wrote on this subject in 2009 and it immediately started getting hundreds of hits and then in 2011 it just stopped completely.  I reviewed and reposted it and changed the title from the specific ‘Travel Tips when Flying Ryanair’ to the more general title that it has now and hey presto the hits started coming again.

No. 9

Onyx UK and the Dog Poo Solution

The third new entry in the Top Ten this year with 1,7066 hits and the second post about life in the Waste Management industry.  Some people have accused me of writing crap but others clearly like to read about it!

No. 10

Andrew – The About Page

The final new entry this year with 1,358 hits and which demonstrates the importance of an About page.

If you have read one of these posts or any of the 921 others on my site ‘Have Bag, Will Travel’then Thank you very much!  I guess it proves that George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) was right when he said:“The three most exciting sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”  

Dropping out of the Top Ten this year were: The Colossus of Rhodes, Cofete Beach, Spartacus the Gladiator and Love Locks on the Ponte Vecchio

Onyx UK and the Dog Poo Solution

“I can recall being in Paris and being so impressed with Jacques Chirac’s team of motorcycle cleaners (moto-crottes, dubbed the “Chiraclettes”). These guys looked like people from Outer Space in their near-luminous green overalls, and their motorbikes contained vacuum cleaners that sucked up the offending mess, and also a water tank and soapy shampoo, which they immediately applied to the area where the offending item had been.”                                                                  Dai Woosnam, Grimsby, UK

I believe that many dog owners are an inconsiderate breed and everywhere they should be required to take more responsibility for the  anti-social behaviour of their animals but perhaps nowhere more so than in France.

As I have mentioned here before in ‘The Chronicles of Waste’’, which is a collection of my memories of working in the waste management industry, I worked for a French Company called Onyx UK, which was part of the French Water Company Compagnie Générale des Eaux and which through its network of companies also had responsibility for cleaning the streets of Paris.

This included removing the all the dog deposits and as there was so much of the offensive mess littering the streets their research and development team was working overtime on trying to develop new vehicle solutions to tackle the problem.  A lot of street cleaning in Paris involves hosing down the pavements and flushing all litter into the water channels which are then flushed into the sewer system but even water hosing was not always capable of dealing with the sticky piles of excrement and it was simply smeared along the paving slabs or, worst of all, in between the cobbles just waiting for an unsuspecting Parisian or a tourist to step in it and spoil their day.

Onyx are best remembered for their dog poop motorbikes which as Dai said sucked up the mess by vacuum and then cleaned and disinfected the little patch of bacteria and germs that was left behind but they also introduced other innovative methods of removal including my favourite which was a two wheeled chariot like machine (rather like those contraptions that tourists can hire for easy sightseeing in big European cities) which had a container of liquid nitrogen which could be sprayed on the pile of mess and deep freeze it so that it could be more easily scooped up.  This didn’t really catch on mostly because it was extremely dangerous and there were health and safety implications in using a chemical that if administered carelessly could lead to fingers or toes being frozen and accidently snapped off.

The French were rather proud of these expensive and useless machines and attempted to persuade some of their UK clients to introduce them on this side of the English Channel.

They had a contract with the City of Westminster and tried hard to persuade the client officers there to approve their use on the streets of London.  Quite sensibly however the Council was not going to allow Westminster street cleaners to wander around the streets with liquid nitrogen!  They wouldn’t have been safe to use anyway because it is almost certain that the poor man operating the machine would have been mugged and the vehicle would have been stolen within five minutes of leaving the depot.  So they said ‘non merci’ and Onyx UK had to send all of the vehicles that they had hoped to sell in England back to Paris where they were probably returned to a warehouse and were never used.  This of course was typical of the profligacy and waste at Onyx UK and a contributory reason for them never making any profits from their under-priced contracts.

As it happens, these things are not even used in Paris anymore.  They simply couldn’t cope with the volume of poo on the streets, operating them was unpopular because cleaning them was unhygienic and smelly and when the contracts came to an end they were simply not renewed.

It also occurred to the authorities that by accepting responsibility for picking it up this didn’t deal with the problem that it is part of the French culture that dog owners seem to think that dog parcels on the pavements is somebody else’s problem even if it was their own canine companion that put it there.  It is such an issue that the Japanese even used it as an argument against the Paris bid to host the Olympic Games.

Having removed the patrols, the French authorities are now trying to tackle the problem in an alternative way but are making disappointing progress and even heavy fines, €185 for a first offence and €450 for a second, have had little impact.  It is estimated that in Paris alone there are sixteen tonnes of dog excrement deposited on the pavements every day, which is responsible for nearly five-thousand messy incidents a week and at least two seious accidents a day and removing it continues to cost €15m a year!  As Dai mentioned in his comment: ‘Well, it does not seem to be totally working in Paris.  Certainly, I encountered a small amount of such mess when in France just last month.’

If dogs are really as smart as their owners would have us believe then here is the solution…

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More Waste (Mis)Management Stories…

Cory Environmental, Blunders and Bodger

The Tendering process

First Weekend as a Refuse Collection Contract Manager

Disorganising the Work

Cory Environmental at Southend on Sea

Onyx UK

An Inappropriate Visit to The Moulin Rouge

The Royal Ascot Clear Up Fiasco

An Unexpected Travel Opportunity

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Cory Environmental and Onyx UK – The Chronicles of Waste

Bin Men

For ten years between 1990 and 2000 I worked in the private sector in the waste management industry and I have some rather good memories of that time.

When I say waste management to be more accurate I suppose I should say waste mismanagement because the two companies that I worked for were completely hopeless.

These are the complete chronicles of incompetence, extravagance and waste.

Cory Environmental, Blunders and Bodger

The Tendering process

First Weekend as a Refuse Collection Contract Manager

Disorganising the Work

Cory Environmental at Southend on Sea

Onyx UK

An Inappropriate Visit to The Moulin Rouge

Onyx UK and the Dog Poo Solution

The Royal Ascot Clear Up Fiasco

An Unexpected Travel Opportunity

Only one chapter left to go about how I returned to employment in the public sector and got my own back and that will be posted soon.

Onyx UK and an Inappropriate Visit To The Moulin Rouge

“That is the Can-can. The idea of it is to dance as wildly, as noisily, as furiously as you can; expose yourself as much as possible if you are a woman; and kick as high as you can, no matter which sex you belong to. There is no word of exaggeration in this. Any of the staid, respectable, aged people who were there that night can testify to the truth of that statement.” – Mark Twain – ‘The Innocents Abroad’

Between 1995 and 2000 I worked for a French company called Onyx UK (now Veolia Environmental Services) and they used to take us away frequently for management meetings and we stayed in expensive hotels and hung out in bars and nice restaurants but best of all was that once a year we all met up and assembled at Waterloo station and they put us on Eurostar train and took us through the tunnel to Paris for an annual conference.

Moulin Rouge in Paris…

One year when they were really showing off after buying out a competitor they took us to the Moulin Rouge for a special treat and we had champagne to drink and watched an extravagant stage show.  Although they would have negotiated a group discount on account of there being about eighty of us someone told me later that this demonstration of extravagant folly cost the company over £8,000 which was about the equivalent of the annual salary of one of the street cleaners that it employed.

To his credit my friend Mike Jarvis refused to go because of this and because he considered it inappropriate to accompany female work colleagues to what he described as a strip-club.  I did not share his lofty moral objections, satisfied myself that it was an up-market strip club, was not going to pass up the opportunity and happily sold my soul and accepted a ticket for the meal and the show.

The Moulin Rouge opened on 6th October 1889 in a building at the foot of the Montmartre hill.  Its owners were visionary businessmen who understood perfectly what Parisian society wanted at that time and they created a nightclub on the precipice of sleezyness to allow the very rich to go legitimately to the fashionable but seedy district of Montmartre where they could demonstrate egalitarian virtues and mix with workers, artists, prostitutes, the middle classes, businessmen, elegant women and foreign tourists visiting Paris.

By day the exterior of the Moulin Rouge is rather disappointing and the red windmill looks rather out of place and almost quite absurd on this busy Paris Boulevard but by night it is something completely different with glitzy lights, the whiff of gauloise on the evening air and a sense of anticipation as people turn up for the show. We arrived in two buses and were ushered through the lines of people waiting behind barriers who would gladly buy our tickets from us if we were prepared to sell and past ladies of dubious employment who would willingly accompany anyone who had a spare.

Walking along the corridor and through the doors into the interior was an awesome experience, like stepping back to Belle Époque (French for Beautiful Era) turn of the century Paris into a room predominantly decorated in lavish scarlet with rows of table lamps flickering like glow worms in a forest and columns adorned with Toulouse Lautrec posters and other appropriate memorabilia.

My first open–mouthed impression was that this was a magnificent venue with authentic mural paintings and columns with the original posters of the big name stars that have appeared here, somewhere that epitomised the European golden age of peace, extravagance and optimism all perfectly captured here in a sort of time capsule.  It isn’t especially big inside which gives it an intimate ambiance and this was emphasised when we squeezed into out allotted tables about half way back from the stage in between two rows of decorative gold barriers that separated the eight hundred and fifty diners into convenient corrals to make it easier for the waiters to serve tables.

The Galop from Jacques Offenbach’s ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’

is the tune most associated with the famous can-can dance and which is a prominent feature of the entertainment and as the room began to fill this played repeatedly in the background until the buzz of anticipation eventually drowned it out.

Once everyone was in their seats the lights went down, the music exploded into the auditorium and the dancers in lavish costumes opened the two hour show with the iconic high kicking dance.  During the show there was an average three-course corporate entertainment meal and for our table of eight there was cheap champagne and a bottle of red and white wine which proved completely inadequate and was soon consumed.  We considered buying more but it was prohibitively expensive because the management doesn’t want tables full of boozed-up louts acting inappropriately, leering and wolf whistling at the girls on stage so we stayed dry for the second half of the show with the intention of making up for it later back at our hotel.

After the show the room emptied quickly as guests were efficiently whisked away to the street for waiting taxis and transportation.  Our coaches were there and took us directly back to the hotel where Mike was sitting in the bar and over a drink or two remained stubbornly uninterested in our tales of the evening’s entertainment, he didn’t want to know about the mime artist or the acrobat who balanced on chairs and he especially didn’t want to know about the half dressed dancers, and on reflection, although I confess that I  enjoyed it, retrospectively I have to say that I agree with him – it was a scandalous waste of money.

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More tales of incompetence, waste and extravagance:

Cory Environmental, Blunders and Bodger

The Tendering process

First Weekend as a Refuse Collection Contract Manager

Disorganising the Work

Cory Environmental at Southend on Sea

Onyx UK

Onyx UK and the Dog Poo Solution

The Royal Ascot Clear Up Fiasco

An Unexpected Travel Opportunity

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Cory Environmental, (dis)Organising the Work

002

“Compulsory competitive tendering was introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s to force councils to outsource or privatise services.  Everything was up for sale from NHS cleaning and catering, to road maintenance to refuse.  The plan was based on cost and profit, not providing a service, making a profit means slashing the service and worsening workers’ terms and conditions.”    The Socialist Worker

So, contract awarded, mission accomplished, winning the work had been a piece of cake and hacking off the entire work force a relatively straight forward process that usually took only a couple of hours at a work force meeting but now came the really tricky part when someone had to plan the work.

Read the full story…