Wooden spoons at the ready

I’m really enjoying the bike training programme. At the end of last week, I was feeling a bit fatigued but this week I seem to have had a second wind. On Mondays, I ride for an hour on the flat in a fasted state. That’s essentially Cap d’Antibes and back. Thereafter, I do sets of exercises to build core strength and finish with some stretching.

Because rain was forecast for Wednesday, I swapped around Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s exercises. I rode down to Theoule sur Mer and back on Tuesday at a good pace largely thanks to my traffic-light karma which must have been in overdrive. I barely had to stop, with each light miraculously turning green as I approached. I don’t know exactly how many traffic lights there are between Cagnes sur Mer and Theoule but I would hazard a guess at around 35, not counting the 6-7 temporary ones on account of all the on-going roadworks. Too many red lights can have a serious impact on one’s average speed!

It poured down most of Wednesday, so I spent just over an hour on the home trainer doing interval training. This really works up a sweat and is quite leg sapping. For the past two weeks, I have had the distraction of the Winter Olympics. This time, I decided to cycle along to some music which seemed to better help pass the time.

Today was another session on the home trainer: intervals with alternate legs to eliminate the dead spot. I confess I find this the most difficult exercise of all but, while I may be hopelessly deluding myself, I do feel that at long last I may be getting the hang of this. Only time will tell.

Thursday afternoons, I have my English language class at the cycling club. By and large, my “pupils” have been making good progress but sadly a couple have been shelled out the back of the peloton. A situation, I’m all to familiar with and so I’m splitting the group into two. Everyone’s welcome to come to both sessions, but part one will concentrate on talking in English while in part two we’ll revisit the basics.

I have a bit of a treat for them today. We’re going to talk cycling and they’ll be delighted to learn that the vocabulary of cycling borrows much from the French. I’ve also made them a delicious (if I say so myself) lemon cake. In future weeks, I’m going to be practising my repertoire of chocolate goodies.

After the success of last month’s pancake evening at the monthly club meeting, we’re going to hold a chocolate evening next month in honour of Easter. After all, who doesn’t love chocolate? Exactly, I’m thinking brownies, chocolate chip cookies, marble cake, chocolate bark, florentines, rocky road, chocolate fondant, chocolate cheesecake, chocolate cup cakes and, as the meeting will be the day after M le President’s birthday, I’m thinking an over-the-top chocolate birthday cake. I however will be banned (self-imposed) from partaking of this chocoholic extravaganza. I simply cannot afford to sabotage my current weight loss plan. I am aiming (at long last) to get rid of that spare tyre around my middle which is constricting my lungs, and hence my aerobic capacity, before my great escapade: London to Paris.

Baking is a fairly recent passion of mine. There’s something very soothing about making cakes, cookies, bread and pastries. I also like experimenting with recipes though, of course, one has to be much more precise with baking than, say, with casseroles and also have a good understanding of how one’s oven functions.

My first attempt at baking was not a success and it would be many  a year before I wielded a wooden spoon again. I would have been about six at the time, and my younger sister three, when we decided to surprise my mother with a home-baked cake. We had carefully observed her making one the week before and decided, given that it had been so delicious, to make something a little bit bigger.

Awaking early on Saturday morning, we tip-toed down to the kitchen to start our careers as master bakers. We took my mother’s largest bowl into which we tipped a whole bag of flour, one of sugar, six eggs, a pint of milk and a block of margarine. We then tried to combine all these ingredients with a wooden spoon. At which point some of them fled the bowl, landing on the work surface, tiles, floor, kitchen chairs, us. I think you get the picture. With big blobs of margarine still bobbing around the wallpaper paste-like dough, we added a few raisins for good measure, put the bowl in the oven and switched it on. Wasn’t Mummy going to be surprised?

Half an hour or so later, my Mother came  downstairs to discover us and her previously spotless kitchen covered in the detritus of our little surprise and an ominous smell coming from the oven. The “cake” had risen magnificently covering most of the interior of the oven with a sticky gloop which was rapidly become a burnt-on crust.  To say she wasn’t too pleased with me would be  masterly English understatement.

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