Saturday, July 31, 2010
In spite of the way I deliberately misuse language in this blog (incomplete phrases a so on - see here:) I do have a reasonable proficiency in English.
After 30 years' immersion in French, I can manage OK, but it is still instantly obvious to everybody that I am a foreigner.
At various times, I have attempted to learn a bit of Latin, German, Italian, Japanese, Esperanto and, most recently, Alsatian.
In none of those have I achieved more than about 5% competence.
Every time I study a language, I am struck by two things:
1. The way every language is weighed down by its own pointless complications & irregularities.
2. The surprising absence, from each language, of some elements which other languages seem to consider essential.
A quick example of both is plural forms.
English, like most other languages, has a plural form of most nouns.
Sometimes simple (cat/cats), sometimes less simple (potato/potatoes, lady/ladies, half/halves, oasis/oases) but often irregular (child/children, man/men, foot/feet, mouse/mice…).
It would be a lot easier if at least they were all regular.
Yet Japanese manages perfectly well without plural forms at all.
And so does English, when it wants to (sheep/sheep, fish/fish etc).
Did you ever have the slightest problem in transmitting or receiving any information about any quantity of fish or sheep, from none to millions?
Plural forms are a waste of everybody's time & effort.
Easily enough absorbed in early childhood, they are persistent stumbling blocks for adult learners.
Then there is Gender & Agreement.
The only way I managed to start actually talking in French at all was to deliberately ignore gender & put up with the mockery.
Otherwise I would have needed to stop & check every other word in a dictionary before using it.
And French only has 2 genders, where German & Alsatian have three...
Only by a lifetime's immersion could I possibly master the table of German genders & agreements well enough to use it faultlessly at talking speed.
You need to consider 16 possibilities every time:
Masculine/Feminine/Neutral/Plural x Nominative/Accusative/Dative/Genitive.
And to think it is pretty much pointless…
English manages OK without genders & agreement at all.
Another little example is pronouns which, even in English, mostly adopt accusative forms:
I/he/she/we/you/they hit me/him/her/you/them.
Having "you" as both nominative & accusative never caused anybody a problem, so why complicate all the others?
Fundamentally, languages are being used for two, often conflicting, missions.
1. Transmitting historical, cultural & regional values & information.
2. Communicating as widely as possible.
The cultural part requires that all the peculiarities, of as many local languages & dialects as possible, should be maintained & learned by local youngsters.
The communicating part would be better handled by a single, universal, language.
Seen from here & now, that seems most likely to be English.
Seen from elsewhere, it could well be Spanish or Chinese.
If any existing language becomes "universal", it will cause significant & justified jealousy & resentment among native-speakers of all the other languages, who will be at a disadvantage.
Indeed, the jealousy & resentment are more than likely to prevent any existing language ever becoming universal.
Which is where Esperanto comes in.
Where all other languages evolved & accumulated.
It has to be hundreds of times faster to learn than any other language.
A wonderful effort.
But it has not developed any significant usage yet & seems unlikely to do so now.
1. Came too early, before there was globalization to make it necessary & internet to make it popular?
2. Still unnecessarily complicated?
3. Just not promoted well enough?
I think there is room for a radically simpler language.
Which would aim to become a universal second language due to its utter simplicity.
One where anybody could learn absolutely all the grammar, with absolutely no irregularities, in half a day.
Leaving half a day to learn some basic vocabulary.
So in one day, we could all communicate…
Further details in part 2.
Parting thot: "Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery." - Mark Amidon
Friday, July 30, 2010
I already mentioned that we do a lot of walking.
Apart from general touristy stuff, where we might typically wander gently for 6-7 hours in a day, we regularly indulge in organized hikes of 15-20km with a fair bit of up & down.
In the last couple of years, I have started to notice a sort of rash on my legs, after a lot of walking.
It looks like tiny blood vessels have burst under the skin.
No swelling, pain, irritation – just looks ugly.
Hardly visible immediately after walking, it peaks the next morning (I never checked during the night…) & then fades from red to brown to freckles within 3-4 days, leaving a faint brown coloration long-term.
It depends mainly on the length of time walking/standing & to some extent maybe on temperature & degree of exertion.
Not at all on clothing: trousers/shorts; boots/shoes/sandals/bare-feet; socks/no.
Nor on terrain (brushing through grass, as I first imagined) or insects (midges or sand-hoppers, as somebody suggested).
I showed it to my doctor, who did blood tests to eliminate diabetes & other nasty possibles, then said it was just one of lifes little trials I should get used to…
I prefer his approach, rather than being dosed with medicines I can do without!
Recently, we had a walking weekend in Austria with a bus-load (44) from our hiking group.
On the morning of the second day, after a hot 20km the first day, at least 10 of the 44 had my red rash – some quite a bit worse than me.
One or two said they got it regularly & for others they had never noticed it before.
Nobody had any explanation or cure.
I spent a long time Googling & eliminating lots of not-quite similar things, before concluding that it is a very common condition.
Known as "Disney Rash" or "Golfers Vasculitis".
Googling those will tell you as much as I know.
Still no real explanation or cure though.
Parting thot: "It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is." - Erasmus
Thursday, July 29, 2010
I noted last year, here:
"I suppose I have to wait until, inevitably, Shimano brings out a smaller, lighter 9 or 10-speed competitor and actually gets it into bikes in shops.
Hope I am not too old to enjoy it then."
Well, things seem to be progressing further & faster than expected.
Although I only noticed it recently, there was a flurry of information on internet around 2 Feb 2010, about Shimano's future 11-speed Alfine hub.
Gears - 11
Total range - 4.09:1
Weight - 1.6kg (less than their 8-speed)
Cost – maybe £350?
Release date – September 2010?
I borrowed the heading picture from Hubstripping – Thanks!
In fact, apart from the £350, it sounds almost perfect!
The proposed trigger operation may be a bit slower than a twistgrip for clicking back down from 11 to 1 for a restart?
By the way – did you see that bit of the Tour de France, where Yellow Jersey missed his derailleur gearchange & his chain came off?
Ho! Ho! Ho!
None of the commentators said anything about needing hub gears though…
They seemed to think the others should have stopped & waited while he put his chain back on.
Parting thot: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Yesterday, we were in Lorraine.
While there, we visited the remarkable new Centre Pompidou in Metz.
But only from the outside, as it is closed on Tuesdays…
Apparently common (but not universal) for French museums.
Took us over 30 years to notice!
Within spitting distance (pardon the expression) of Pompidou are the splendid, extravagant, buildings of Metz's Main Station & Post Office.
Relics of a previous German period, where the obvious intention was to leave monuments as outstanding & durable as the Pyramids.
Like Alsace's Haute Koenigsbourg.
Main problem (not solved) was how to get far enough back to get the whole building on a photograph – even with a 25mm wide-angle lens.
Then there was the usual white van problem, though in the case of the station it was more buses & coaches.
One piece of advice to Metz: If some facy architect tries to blister-pack your station – have a look at Strasbourg's first.
To be honest, Metz was a pleasant surprise, with its yellow stone buildings, notably, but not only, the Cathedral.
And many excellent public gardens & open spaces (mostly being worked on yesterday…).
And attractive riverside arrangements.
Well worth a visit.
But avoid Tuesday.
Parting thot: "Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent." – Barak Obama
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Over the years, we have acquired a number of tools for opening screw-top jars.
Including the 4 shown here, which are currently in the kitchen drawer.
The complicated-looking one with white handles will always open a lid, but will always damage the lid in so doing.
The green-handled one can open lids if used with care, but will also always damage the lid & can even break the jar if set to the wrong notch.
The Zyliss job is really for smaller bottle tops & is not terribly good at that.
These days, we always go for the Baby Boa strap wrench, which works unfailingly & never damages anything.
But it is fiddly to use as the rubber strap keeps falling out of its wavy slot.
All of the above have the common disadvantage of needing a co-pilot to hold the jar while the chief pilot operates the tool.
Very frustrating on the seemingly-frequent occasions when I desperately need a shot of black cherry jam while DS is out shopping, dancing, learning Spanish etc etc etc.
This has led me to tricky escapades with my Black & Decker WorkMate or dangerous Lotus-like contortions wearing rubber-soled shoes on inadequately-prehensile feet.
So now I have a second Baby Boa (theoretically for the garage) which can be pressed into service as jar-holder in emergencies.
Of course it is even more difficult to keep 2 straps in their wavy grooves than one strap, but when the reward is a jam sandwich, I get there in the end.
Like this guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYZnsO2ZgWo
There has to be a better way & of course there is.
I remember seeing, years ago, a metal wedge-shaped device with one high-friction rubber surface.
This could be fixed under, say a convenient shelf and then you only have to push the lid into the wedge & twist the jar, when the lid should be gripped in the wedge, allowing it to be unscrewed easily.
By one person, or even with one hand.
It took a lot of Googling, but I eventually found the Undo It Jar & Bottle Opener on a couple of sites for the disabled:
I like the look of it, except:
It only handles lids up to 3 inches, which is not enough.
I think the curled-over edge on the low-friction side might be a nuisance on some jars?
It costs £16 (plus postage).
Better, I found the Westmark 6-in-1 Opener available in France for €6.90 (+€5 p&p…) or in Germany for €3.95 (+?? P&p) here:
Supposedly handles lids up to 85mm which could be just enough, maybe.
But not designed to be under-shelf mounted!
How could they have missed that?
If I can find one near €3.95 then I will drill & couple of holes & give it a go.
Otherwise, there is the is the Magic Twist Jar Opener here:
That looks like a nice job & should work for all our jars.
But it's $32 (+ p&p, if available from USA).
And only stuck on with sticky tape.
And seems to be all-plastic, so maybe not very robust?
And why complicate it to cope with tightening as well as unscrewing?
Who needs that?
Or the Old Fashioned Jar Opener in solid pine (looks like plywood, so much the better) here:
Only $6 (+ p&p…)
Simple & robust, not to mention ecological.
Can't see what they use for the high-friction surface.
Hope the plain wood low-friction surface will not wear/bruise/compress…
Plus a number of similar devices, but with metal teeth instead of a smooth high-friction surface, so bound to damage lids.
In the meantime (while waiting to find, say, a Westmark at a good price, including p&p if not in a shop) I have tried making my own Old Fashioned Jar Opener.
This is the MkII prototype, which now functions admirably. (Don't ask about MkI…)
It is assembled from odds & ends from junk boxes (future blog subject?) which may explain/excuse the walnut veneer (old picture frame) & the mock-leather grain (old record-player box).
Less noticeable, maybe, are the stainless-steel low-friction face (old curtail rail) & the hard rubber high-friction face (old ski-stick wrist-strap). The fact that it is MkII may help to explain, but can't excuse, the poor design of the attachment of the rubber strap to its bit of picture frame.
If/when it fails or I feel like making MkIII then I will do that bit properly, wrapping the strap round well-radiused corners & shifting the screws out of the stressed area.
As I said, it works perfectly, so far.
At least with the designer operating it.
How many subsequent disasters have passed that point only too well?
Before crowing too loudly, of course, it would be necessary to get it tested by a panel of adolescents & old grannies.
The grannies, to see if it works; the ado's, to see if it breaks.
I tell myself the appearance does not matter as it is screwed under a shelf in the pantry.
Parting thot:"The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." – Steven Covey
Monday, July 26, 2010
Well, we really enjoyed our trip to California (& Nevada & Arizona).
Strongest impression was how friendly & helpful all the Americans seemed to be.
Of course I had worked with Americans for 40 years & visited (Michigan) dozens of times, so it was a surprise to find them so nice this time.
Everybody we bumped into seemed chatty & cheerful & looking for ways to help.
Even – big surprise – the Customs & Immigration People!
First impressions are important & you gave us a great first impression.
Even after your nice little dog found the apples in DS's bag…
Whenever we got a map out, somebody would ask if we needed directions.
In any shop or restaurant, people bent over backwards to help.
Back in Europe, everybody seems glum & uncommunicative now.
Then I was reminded how sensible U.S. driving habits are - cruise control, stick in any lane, overtake either side, turn right on red lights, respect speed limits (mostly) - it all just works easily & smoothly.
Not quite as convinced about the 4-way-stops; they work safely, but waste a lot of time & energy.
Never saw anybody zip through one though.
And better than Priorité à Droite!
Worst surprise was the weather.
I had read that San Francisco could still be cool & foggy in April, but I was not expecting to spend 2 weeks at 10-15°C with a lot of wind & cloud & a little rain.
We did see some surfers, but all in wet-suits.
Nobody sunbathing or bathing.
Another niggle was prices.
Everything was cheap for us at then Euro rates, but you had to remember that the prices did not include taxes, so the actual bill was always more than expected.
Then, in restaurants, service is not included.
Paying by credit card, you get presented with a chitty showing the fixed total, but with space for you to add a tip & the new total.
Often, they pre-calculate the tip corresponding with 12% 15% 18% & maybe 20% for your guidance.
I do have to admit that this system is probably responsible for the conspicuously good service we found in every restaurant...
Of course the Grand Canyon was magnificent, as we knew it would be, but knowing & seeing are 2 different things.
We were lucky there with the weather in terms of sunlight & visibility, where it mattered most.
There was still snow in the shady bits & the north side was not open to the public yet after the winter.
We did not go down inside, just seeing it from the rim (plenty good enough) & from flying over it (bonus).
We did finally get our flight in a little Cessna ("everybody gets a window seat") instead of in the bigger plane they are using mostly now - a long story with 31 e-mails & several hard discussions!
More surprising was Death Valley.
I expected it to be hot & non-descript.
Certainly it was hot (only 37°C though) but far from non-descript.
The view from Zabriskie Point was amazing - hard to believe it was natural & not some Disney or Las Vegas artifact.
The sharply-folded surfaces with brightly-coloured stripes was unlike anything I have ever seen.
Then there was the dry salt beds & the surrounding snow-capped mountains.
And even some vegetation.
We really liked San Francisco.
We planned to spend 2 nights there, ended up spending 4 nights & could happily spend a couple of weeks.
One good thing is the complete & varied public transport network.
We got a 3-day pass for $20 each & certainly had our money's worth, using the famous cable cars, trams, trolley-buses, ordinary buses & even a subway train which popped out to become a sort of surface tram.
The cable-cars were the most fun, especially hanging on the outside.
I suppose they will have an accident some time, either scraping people off the outside or a car careering off down the very steep hills, and will have to stop the whole thing, but amazingly it has all been working for a century now without too much bother.
The drivers seem to have to do a lot of he-man stuff with the big brass levers & pedals - I would hate to see a DFMA of it all.
Especially where cables cross!
We did not need to drive much in San Francisco, but were glad to have an automatic with all the stops & starts on the very steep hills.
We started off with a tour on an open-top bus (not included in the $20) which gave us a quick, if very draughty, over-view & included crossing the Golden Gate bridge.
That was a hop-on/hop-off service, so we could stop where we wanted, then catch the next bus 15min later.
We decided to hop off at the visitor area at the Golden Gate, mainly to grab a coffee & a cake, but were surprised to find that there were absolutely no refreshments available.
That was something we found again & again, not just in SF, that there were no refreshments to be found in places which were just obvious refreshment spots!
On the other hand, there were always lots of free loos, nearly always with working hot & cold water, soap & towels, and never any sign of vandalism.
And almost no litter - for a society which generates huge quantities of packaging waste, that is impressive.
Maybe the frequent warning signs about $1000 fines for littering help?
The real reason, or excuse, for our trip, was a nephew's wedding.
To be held on the beach in Santa Barbara!
They did manage to have the wedding on the beach, in a very strong cold wind, just before a torrential downpour which lasted for 6 hours.
Felt quite sorry for the bride & even more so for the bridesmaid, in skimpy dresses & with hair-do's undone.
Not to mention the groom in kilt...
Santa Barbara was a very pleasant place too.
Not at all the stereotype US town.
Lots of pedestrians & cyclists & joggers & dog-walkers (all picking up after their pets).
The palm trees & luxurious vegetation help too.
And the pelicans & seals (Didn't see any whales though).
And the beaches (not much used in April).
Very successful & attractive low-rise spanish-inspired architecture.
Lots of beautiful houses, many with wonderful situations on cliff-tops with ocean views.
Though the ocean views here include lots of off-shore oil rigs...maybe not for much longer?
We had 2 overnight stops in Las Vegas (on our way to & from Grand Canyon - no real alternative route).
OK - it's worth seeing once, but not my sort of place.
You have to be impressed by the sheer scale of some of the casino developments, particularly the Venetian & Paris ones.
And they were a bit less plasticky than I expected, but still ridiculous!
The best bit about LV was the cheapest motel prices we found anywhere - around $38 for rooms for 4.
That wouldn't be enough to lure me back though.
After Death Valley, we would have liked to cross through Yosemite National Park, but were warned the passes would probably be closed until well into May and so it turned out to be.
So we headed north via Mono Lake (wierd fossil stalagmites) & Lake Tahoe (big winter sports area & all-year tourist resort) but did not stay long & decided to spend more time in S-F.
After S-F, we drove all down the coast road (US 1) to L-A, expecting this to be a high spot of the trip.
Judged against those expectations, it turned out to be a slight disappointment, if only because the weather was cold, damp & windy, where you automatically assume warm & sunny.
Also, there are surprisingly few "places" there, where you might imagine a string of mediteranean-style ports & villages.
The first "place" after S-F is Santa Cruz, which turned out to be a sort of tawdry Blackpool/Southend & not worth a visit (or maybe we just missed the worthwhile bits?).
Then Monterey/Carmel, which was actually the only spot on that coast which matched our preconceptions.
Monterey is a busy, touristy port & Carmel is a very pretty, if too-exclusive, village, with no lamp-posts or big signs.
Carmel even charges you ($10?) to be able to drive through their exclusive residential/scenic district ("17 mile drive")!
Then follows hundreds of miles of (attractive enough) coastal road, between hills, cliffs, rocky & sandy beaches and cold, rough Pacific.
Must try it again in better weather...
Went through the fabled Big Sur without really noticing it.
Deliberately skipped Santa Barbara on the way back, with the intention of spending our last night in exotic Malibu.
I had pre-booked the critical motels (Santa Barbara & Grand Canyon) from France, but intended to book the rest by internet (phone wifi) only the day ahead, for best flexibility (& price).
That worked OK for L-V but by then we saw that there were plenty of motels everywhere & we prefered to choose at the last minute - paying a bit more, but being able see what we were getting.
That had proved a bit stressful when we got to S-F & drove around for a long time before finding a motel, but luckily we found a good one in an excellent position.
It all went wrong in Monterey.
We drove all along the sea shore road without seeing a single motel or hotel or even a MacDonalds where we could have used wifi internet.
Now I am back home with easy internet, I can see that in fact there are no motels on the coast road.
They are all on US101 which is 10 miles inland!
Anyway, we ploughed on into Santa Monica & again drove all along the (long) sea front, then back along the next road back, then up & down several main-looking perpendicular roads, again without finding a single motel (or MacDonalds or Starbucks for wifi).
After a long time, we found a dingy-looking motel, but the room was even dingier than the office, so I rejected that.
Fairly soon after, we saw another one & that seemed comparatively acceptable, so we spent our last night there - not at all the glamorous beach-side last night I had imagined.
We did not actually do anything in Los Angeles, either on arrival or on departure.
On arrival (very tired) we were surprised how extensive & overcrowded it all seemed.
We were stuck in 6-lane traffic jams for ages & for over 50 miles.
On departure day, we initially thought we had lots of time to see Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard etc, but found navigation difficult without a good map.
Then we had a hard job finding a shop for a map (& gave up).
Then we started to find ourselves in traffic jams & began to wonder if we might have trouble getting back to the airport in time, so just gave up on L-A.
With no great regrets - it is really too big & too crowded to love.
What did I forget?
Close encounters with Elk(s?) at Grand Canyon - right outside the motel room.
And with very-tame Squirrels & not-so-tame Chipmunks.
And prairie dogs, only seen from the car.
And pelicans - not at all the ungainly things seen in photos, but graceful formation-flyers.
Seals/Sea-lions/Sea-elephants squatting whole beaches all down the coast & their own pier (39) at S-F.
All sorts of beautiful trees, including the Lone Cypress at Carmel & Redwoods in Muir Woods Park.
Palm trees & cactus & Joshua trees & masses of wild flowers.
The long, long climbing road out of Death Valley, starting 282ft below sea level, with reminder signs at 2000ft above, then 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000ft, by which time you are surrounded by snow.
With signs warning you to turn off air-conditioning for the next 20 miles, to avoid overheating the engine.
A lot of down-&-outs, even in posh areas.
Positive beggars, laying out towels with target cups for people to toss coins into from Santa Barbara pier.
Good fish & chips!
Chips with the skin left on.
More different sorts of bread & coffee than we could understand.
But hardly any decent coffee...
Reading through this, it sounds as though there were maybe more negatives than positives, which is not at all the case.
We came back with a much better impression of America & the Americans than we had before the trip.
April is maybe just not the best time for seaside holidays!
Oh, yes – we were there at the time of the icelandic volcano erruption.
What probably seemed a matter of idle curiosity to casual TV watchers, took on a completely different aspect for people marooned the wrong side of an ocean, with talk of it lasting for months or years…
Parting thot: "If you come home as happy as you leave, you have had a good vacation." – anon.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Here in France, we have a very common method for paying recurrent bills, called "Prélèvement Automatique".
It is similar to other Direct Debit arrangements, in that you sign a couple of forms which then allow supposedly reputable organisations to dig freely into your bank account for whatever amounts they like.
I have used it for years to pay all our bills for Income Tax, Property Tax, Land Tax, Dust-bin Tax, Electricity, Water, Car Insurance, Health Insurance & even, against my better judgement, Internet/Telephone Services.
It has always worked perfectly – the correct amounts being debited at the right moment in every case.
But I have been aware, from forums & consumer magazines & newspaper correspondents, that a very large number of people have considerable difficulties, especially with Internet & Telephone Service Providers.
The problem is that once you have signed papers for a Prélèvement Automatique, you can't switch it off!
I will repeat that, in case it is not clear: You sign a paper to allow somebody to dig unlimited amounts out of your bank account, then you cannot stop it.
If you find yourself in conflict with (typically) an I.S.P. then the proper way of stopping them helping themselves to your cash, is to send them a registered letter asking them to please stop!
Imagine their reaction…
When I switched Health Insurance recently, I noticed the old company made a debit after the end of their time (I later found it was legitimate) so I asked the bank how to turn that P.A. off.
I have Internet Banking & can do almost anything on-line, including keeping track of P.A's, so I expected to be able to control my P.A's from that site too.
The bank replied that it was impossible for them to turn off a P.A.
The only possibility was a temporary opposition at €20.
I know this is true, but still find it hard to believe!
Looking at how things work elsewhere, I found encouraging information on UK & Australian Ombudsman sites:
"Customers can cancel a direct debit at any time by writing to their bank or building society."
I particularly like the clear commitment in the Australian Code of Banking Practice:
"19 Direct debits
19.1 We will take and promptly process your:
(a) instruction to cancel a direct debit request relevant to a banking service we provide to you; and
(b) complaint that a direct debit was unauthorised or otherwise irregular,
and will not direct or suggest that you should first raise any such request or complaint directly with the debit user (but we may suggest that you also contact the debit user)."
So I was beginning to think I could start to agitate with French & European banking/political authorities to drag France into line with "civilized" countries.
Then I discovered SEPA.
Cutting a long story short, SEPA is introducing common payment systems to 32 countries, including Euro Zone & UK & Switzerland.
A lot of it is working well already.
Just the new Direct Debit part is running late.
And as far as I can see, that part is based on the French system, not the UK system.
In all my digging, I see no mention of the paying customer being able to just tell his bank to switch off the payments.
Supposedly, you can always get a "no questions asked" refund from your bank, at least for a couple of months after any suspect payment.
If I designed a potentially damaging machine without an on/off switch, I would expect to be severely reprimanded & prevented from doing it again.
Do financial organisations not work like that?
I hope I have simply misunderstood the information I read, but I don't think so.
Parting thot: "Bank failures are caused by depositors who don't deposit enough money to cover losses due to mismanagement." – Dan Quayle
Saturday, July 24, 2010
In fact, this is the answer to the question posed here.
How, when cycling, to wear a small rucksack in front rather than behind you.
The advantages include: better balance, less sweating, protection from cold wind, instant access to pockets without removing bag & even without stopping, visual check of fastenings, etc.
The only problem was that the straps tended to slip off my shoulders, mainly on bumpy going (frequent) & especially if wearing a nylon top (rare).
The answer is a packet of self-adhesive silcone rubber pads, very cheap from a local hardware store.
Fixed to a handy adjustable handle on the shoulder straps, they comfortably provide so much friction that the straps never slip.
The only remaining (& insoluble) problem is the strange looks from those who don't understand the logic (everybody…).
Compounded when riding the Brompton Flying Black Banana.
Definitely not for the image-conscious!
Parting thot: "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." - Budha