Underdogs on top

Woke yesterday morning to find it was raining, rolled over and went back to sleep. When I finally woke, it had stopped raining but I was too late to set off for the pointage at Beausoleil. I decided to go for a run along the seafront before heading to collect the Sunday newspapers. A quick coffee (quelle surprise, OGCN had beaten St Etienne away from home) then it was off to the airport to collect my beloved on his return from Chicago.

After a light lunch, we both changed into our matching Qatari Airways jimjams and settled back for an afternoon of full-on sport. Firstly, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and then the League Cup Final: Arsenal v Birmingham City.

The sun was shining (weakly) in Belgium and most of the Dutch and Belgian riders were in shorts and short sleeves with a couple of notable exceptions. Tom Boonen (Quickstep) was no doubt feeling the chill after his trip to the Middle East and was wearing leg warmers, arm warmers and thick gloves. I was mesmerised by Stijn Devolder’s (Vacansoleil-DCM) thick fluorescent yellow gloves which clashed with his Belgian Champion’s outfit. Try black next time, Stijn.

There was the obligatory group of escapees who, having ignored the barrier at a railway crossing, were subsequently disqualified. The mild weather and lumpy parcours seemed to encourage breakaways but none stuck, the sprinters’ teams were too strong and too determined. In the end, Chris Sutton (Team Sky) had the best organised train and, with 200 metres to go, was launched across the line  to become the first Aussie winner. He finished ahead of Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ) and Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto). Interestingly, none of the leading trio had raced the day before.

Meanwhile over in Switzerland, Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) dedicated his win in the GP Lugano to his late trainer, Aldo Sassi. The French racked up yet another win in Les Boucles du Sud Ardeche. It was none other than last year’s viral star, Arthur Vichot (FDJ). Yesterday, according to Sport+, the French had won 24 stages to date while the Italians are in 2nd place with 19 wins. I’m not sure how this has been calculated, they didn’t explain.

After the excitement of the cycling, we settled down to what we were sure would be an Arsenal win. Frankly, as AVFC fans we were bound to support whoever played against the Blues, our arch-rivals. The Blues got a goal against the run of play, in the 28th minute. Arsenal equalised 11 minutes later with a terrific goal from Robin Van Persie who was later to retire with a knee injury.

During the second half, Arsenal had their chances but couldn’t convert any of  them. In 89th minute, a miscleared ball by the Arsenal defence gifted the winner to the Blues. Truly, it really was one of those balls from which even your granny would have scored.  Unbelievably, our bitterest rivals, who had knocked us out of the competition, had won and will be playing in Europa League next season. On the one hand, it’s good to see the underdog win but why couldn’t it have been us last season against Chelsea?

Softly whipped

Much as I love spending time with my beloved, I also enjoy my own company when he’s away. Largely because when he’s home he tends to dictate my daily routine, more by accident than intent. Yesterday, having spent the balance of our Amazon gift vouchers, I had another big fat delivery which I shall be enjoying for some time to come.

I love reading books in bed, but I can’t do this if my beloved is home. He cannot sleep with the side light on. I, on the other hand, can sleep with all the lights on, no problem. Peversely, while he’s quite happy for me to go to bed before him, he hates me coming to bed later than him. He claims I disturb him. Generally, I find he’s snoring his head off and it’s me who’s disturbed.

So I snuggled down in bed late yesterday evening and read Bradley Wiggins account of last tear’s Tour, “On Tour”. It’s only a slim volume and I’m a quick reader. It was an enjoyable and interesting read but it  might have been more insightful had it been written by Michael Barry, his team mate. The book is nicely illustrated with plenty of untypical black and white shots of the race, the cast and on-lookers.

In the introduction, Brad  said his intention was to provide the reader with “a comprehensive snapshot of modern-day Grand Tour cycling.”   He gives us his perspective on the key days of the Tour, but it doesn’t resonate with me. I can’t get any real sense of what it’s like to ride the Tour, even though I rode over parts of some of those stages. He’s also included short pieces on Lance, Cav, Sean Yates, the Mechanics, Rooming Alone, his Tour Playlist, His Favourite and Least Favourite Tour Climbs, Chaingate, Best and Worst Days,the Tour Bus, Rest Days, Sir Paul Smith, Steve Cummings, Michael Barry, Unsung Heroes of the Peloton and the late Txema Gonzalez, his team soigner who tragically died during  last year’s Vuelta. All very interesting and I’m in total agreement with him on Chaingate and the Go-Slow,  but you get the sense that these are stocking fillers, necessary to pad out the book to the desired length. I would have liked much, much more about the Tour although my favourite piece is the one written by his wife.

I was up and out early this morning, disappointed to discover that clouds had hidden the sunshine and it was rather cold and damp. Nonetheless, I had an enjoyable ride stopping off at my usual watering hole to quaff a coffee and read the newspapers which, not unnaturally, were full of today’s game at Twickenham which ended in a home victory, leaving England gunning for the Six Nations.

I rode home, showered, changed and set off for my cookery class in the kitchen of a well-known local restaurant. It was great fun, just 5 participants, so we all had an opportunity to get stuck in and wield the spoon, the whisk and spatula. We made a genoise sponge decorated with cream chiboise, fresh cream and strawberries, mille feuilles filled with white chocolate cream and red berries, plus some little lemon and mixed fruit cakes. Better still, we got to eat the fruits of our labours. Sadly, we didn’t get to lick the bowls.

I think this’ll have to be this week’s “eat anything you like day” and I’d better skip dinner. It was amazing how many tips I picked up from the professional kitchen which I’ll be putting to good use in the coming weeks as I make (and freeze) cakes for the forthcoming “Gentlemen”.

Arrived home to watch the rain-soaked Omloop race which I’d recorded while out baking. Dutchman Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) just edged it over defending champion, Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) in a two-man sprint. The latter’s team mate, Matthew Hayman, was best of the rest. Langeveld went on a solo attack with 53km remaining while Flecha dropped an 11-man break at the 25km mark, catching up with Langeveld 10kms later. The two co-operated to keep the chasers at bay but ultimately, Langeveld prevailed, just. Let’s see what Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne serves up tomorrow.

I then checked the football scores to discover my boys had beaten Blackburn 4-1 at home – brilliant. Let’s hope OGCN can grab at least a point away at St Etienne this evening. If not, we might be looking for another manager come Monday.

Slipping, slipping, gone……………………

In my mind, the necessity to wear reading glasses signals the onset of middle-age. As you know, I’ve been able to avoid (postpone??) this by having my eyes zapped by a laser. The next big hurdle is old age. Maybe not so much a hurdle as a slippery slope. One minute you’re falling and the next you’re “having a fall”. That’s it, that’s the dividing line.  We always seem to refer to elderly folks, generally in lowered voices, as having had a fall, rather than just falling over.

Yesterday evening my cycling coach invited me to the signing of an agreement between local businesses and sports, at Nice’s business school. My interest was two-fold. I’m always keen to gain a greater understanding of how things function in France and thought it might shed some light on how to attract greater funding for the cycling club.

I’m not familiar with the part of Nice where the school is situated and, having parked my car where advised, frankly feared I would require GPS to locate it again. I was early and decided to go for a short walk to explore the neighbourhood and enjoy the late afternoon sunshine. While I was gazing all around I forgot to look where I was going and tripped over a bump in the pavement. Even for me, it was a fairly spectacular tumble in front of a number of concerned witnesses. Nothing was damaged but my pride and two gallant French men helped me to my feet.

As I brushed myself down and checked that all moving parts were still functioning, one of my rescuers tarried and started chatting to me in English. He must have heard me swearing although it was only “damn”. He was a baker who had worked in French bakeries in both Dublin and London and was keen for any opportunity to speak English. It seemed churlish to refuse so we walked for a few hundred yards; him talking, me listening. He then excused himself as he was meeting a friend. I carried on walking until it was time to turn around and walk back to the University.

As I approached the spot where my rescuer had left me, he reappeared saying he was glad I had come back as he’d forgotten to get my number. Lest he get the wrong idea I explained I’d merely been taking a stroll as I was early for a meeting at the Business School, which was where I was now heading. He continued to walk alongside of me and suggested we went for a drink after my meeting. I have to hand it to French men, they are nothing if not persistent. However, he was easily young enough to be my son and I have to ask “what’s this fascination with older women?” According to the glossies, women of my age have become invisible, well not in France.

Firmly, but clearly, and in French, I explained that was not possible and I gratefully shot into the foyer of the Business School. Thankfully, he didn’t follow me.

The event was interesting, the speeches were easy to understand and they have given me food for thought. I left a few brochures for the Kivilev and returned to my car, no sign of my coach, but then he’s not easy to see in a crowd. Despite my misgivings, I found the car easily enough and drove home to a bowl of delicious home-made soup.

This morning I have a very large purple bruise on my left shoulder,  a sore left thumb and a slight bruise under my left eye where my cheekbone made contact with the pavement. For the time being, I think we can safely say I fell over.

Handily poised

Having devoted yesterday’s post to a round up of the cycling, today I felt I should turn my attention to the football. I will, of course, firstly address the two clubs closest to my heart: namely, AVFC and OGCN. The former didn’t play at the week and as their would-be opponents were involved in a replay. Unsurprisingly, they’ll be playing Manchester City in the next round of the FA Cup. My beloved boys in claret and blue are the filling in a Midlands sandwich. They’re lying in 16th place with 30 points, the same as Birmingham who are above us thanks to a superior goal difference, and a game in hand. Below us, on two points less, are WBA. To put this in perspective, the league leaders, Manchester United, have twice as many points. OGCN lost 3-0 at home to PSG. They’ve played one game less than Villa and are on 27 points in 17th place, just above Monaco, who are in the relegation zone. The similarities are alarming but I don’t believe either will be relegated.

I will now turn my attention to the Champion’s League which tends to be a bit of a closed shop. There’s 4 English sides (Man U, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal), 3 Spanish teams (Real, Barca, Valencia), 3 Italian teams (Inter, AC Milan, Roma), 2 German teams (Bayern, Schalke), 2 French teams (OL, OM) plus 2 others (Copenhagen, Shaktar Donetsk).  Following the results of the first leg, there’s only one side which looks likely to be eliminated: FC Copenhagen who were beaten 2-0 at home by Chelsea.

If we look at the results from the remaining first legs, there are at first glance some surprising results: most notably Spurs winning 1-0 away at AC Milan and Manchester United drawing 0-0 away from home at OM. In other instances,  while the favoured team lost, they do have that all important away goal as in Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona, Lyon 1 – 1 Real Madrid which should provide the platform for a home, and overall, win in the next leg.

At this stage, it’s not easy to forecast who will win. There’s so many variables not just the opponents in the forthcoming rounds, domestic situations but,  more crucially, the availability of key players. However, I’m all for sticking my neck out and I’m going to predict that the last 8 teams will be Spurs, Schalke, Shaktar, Barca, Real, Chelsea, Man U, Bayern. I would have liked to include Arsenal in that list but cannot see them beating Barcelona at home. I hope, in this case, I’m proved wrong.

 Of course, it’s difficult to work up enough interest if your own team isn’t playing, nor shows any sign of qualifying to play Champions League in my remaining lifetime. I will however always be able to treasure the moment when Peter Withe’s knee struck the ball in Rotterdam and put in the back of the Bayern net enabling my beloved boys to bring home the trophy in 1982. I watched the game after barracading myself into the tv lounge of the hotel where I was staying in Taunton while auditing Somerset CC.

Out the loop

I was only in London for a few days but, away from all that is dear and familiar, I felt really out of the loop on my return. Races had finished without me knowing who had won and, even worse, races had started and finished without me knowing the victor. Of course, I could have checked on the internet but I was trapped in the wedding bubble and couldn’t break free of the programme. There’s little if nothing in the UK newspapers on cycling, although, as the wedding coincided with the World Cup races in Manchester, there was some mention of Britain’s track superstars.

I’ve been so busy catching up that I’ve had little time to reflect on the past few days of racing. However, one thing is clear, the promising young guns of the past few years are starting to emerge more strongly. Witness Gesinks’s (Rabobank) win in the Tour of Oman, a hilly parcours than last year, intended as a counterpoint to the earlier sprinters’ fest in Qatar.  Joining him on the podium were Edvald Boassen Hagen (Sky) and Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini – Neri Sottoli).

Over the weekend the Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var, with a title almost as long as the race itself, was won by perennial French housewives favourite Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), second was Julien Antomarchi of VC-La Pomme Marseille and, another former yellow jersey wearer, Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R) was third.

Further south in the Volta ao Algave, Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) took the final day’s time-trial and the GC ahead of Tejay Van Garderen (HTC) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil). The defending champion Alberto Contador (SaxoBank Sungard), in his first race back since his suspension,  faded into fourth place on the final day.

This week it’s the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol which kicked off with a 6.8km prologue around Benahavis won by Jimmy Engoulvent of Saur-Sojasun. Jonathon Hivert (Saur) won Stage 2’s 161.8km print into Adra while Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) won Stage 3’s sprint into Jaen. Markel Irizar (RadioShack) leads on GC from Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharam-Lotto) and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack).

Over in Italy at the Trofeo Laigueglia, Daniele Pietropoli (Lampre-ISD) beat off Simone Ponzi (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Angel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli) in a sprint for the line. The Giro di Sardegna got underway this week and in yesterday’s 138km first stage from Olbia to Porto Cervo, Peter Sagan proved too strong on the uphill finish for Allessandro Ballan (BMC) and his Liquigas teammate, Daniel Oss. Sadly, very little of this afore-mentioned action has been televised.

I haven’t even glanced at what’s been happening in the Tour of South Africa and Vuelta Independencia Nacional. A girl’s got to draw a line in the sand somewhere. Meanwhile, I will be looking forward to this week end’s Belgian semi-classics: Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Without a hitch

The wedding was wonderful, everything went according to my sister’s meticulous plans and everyone had a very enjoyable time. As soon as my beloved has time to edit his photos, I will post a photo of the happy couple.

There were a couple of  wardrobe malfunctions. No, not my beloved who thankfully was reunited with his luggage and wedding finery well before the big day. The most critical one involved the bride who had spent a sizeable sum on a truly magnificent dress made specifically to fit her. My other sister had been coached on the correct way to get the bride into her finery.

Saturday morning I was summoned to the bridal chambers to assist. The hook and eye at the top of the dress had pinged off: not a good start. My sister was having trouble holding the bride in the corsetted dress while simultaneously zipping and doing up the unfeasibly small hooks and buttons running down the back. In the end, it took four of us to effect the insertion. We were thankfully assisted by two old hands, or should that be two pairs of old hands, the two female registrars. My one sister pushed from the front, each registrar held a side while I inched up the zip and closed all the buttons.  Thank goodness we all had our own short finger nails.

This was the second malfunction of the day. I had earlier donned my wedding finery to discover that I had brought the wrong underwear. I simply did not appreciate that the fit of the bra I was wearing when I bought the dress had been so critical. Sadly, the look now was decidedly aging porn star which would have had the male members of the congregation warming their soup spoons in case I popped out while eating our starters. I considered a mercy dash down to Rigby & Peller but there really wasn’t time. Fortunately I had travelled in a smartish outfit which went with my hat and most of the guests were none the wiser, it was after all my sister’s big day, not mine.

Importantly, my parents enjoyed the wedding. My mother had been decidedly crotchety the evening before at dinner but clearly enjoyed dressing up and watching all the goings on firmly ensconced between her two other son-in-laws. Everyone was really kind to her and while I’m not sure she truly appreciated what was going on, she obviously enjoyed her day.

As father of the bride, my father’s speech was given first. He really excels at this, making it look very natural lacing it with plenty of gentle humour. He’s a hard act to follow. My other sister, the poet laureate of the family, had written a poem for the occasion which was both delightful and amusing. The others, just didn’t stand a chance but struggled on bravely. Fittingly, the groom’s mother won the sweepstake and donated her winnings to Cancer Research.

It was good that the event was held indoors as the weather was decidedly British all week end: grey, overcast and drizzly. I had left Nice bathed in warm sunshine and landed in foggy Gatwick. Although I enjoyed living in London, that train has left the station. I would never go back. I love the French way of life, the weather, my friends and my cycling far too much. It’s the one place I’ve truly felt “at home”.

Bike tale

I have recently read a delightful book called “It’s All about the Bike” by Robert Penn. It’s a slim, illustrated volume which takes us through Robert’s quest to acquire his dream bike interwoven with the history of the bicycle and snippets from his own experiences on the bike.

There are several things that struck me about the book. First and foremost, I thought it was a great idea to write a book about the process of assembling a dream bike from the best, bespoke parts because it’s all tax-deductible. It’s part of the research for the book. You can tell I’m an accountant. Secondly, I love reading about the social and economic history of cycling. Lastly, there are passages in the book which really sing to me. Such as this one:- 

“If you’ve ever experienced a moment of awe or freedom on a bicycle; if you’ve ever taken flight from sadness to the rhythm of two spinning wheels, or felt the resurgence of hope pedalling to the top of a hill with the dew of effort on your forehead; if you’ve ever wondered, swooping bid-like down a long hill on a bicycle, if the world was just standing still; if you have ever, just once, sat on a bicycle with a singing heart and felt like an ordinary man touching the gods, then we share something fundamental. We know it’s all about the bike.”

That’s exactly how I feel, thanks Robert for penning (pun intended) it so eloquently.

Corners of my mind

I had a bit of a trip down memory lane this week. I have an embarrassingly, extensive collection of scarves and shawls which occupies three very large trunks. Each item is individually  stored in plastic bags while the more expensive ones are also wrapped in special tissue paper. Lavender sachets are scattered throughout the boxes.

The collection dates back to my early teens. My father bought me my first  scarf, which I still have and wear, to go in the neck of a dusky pink shirt-waister which I wore to the Davis Cup semi-final at Edgbaston: GB v W Germany. The Germans won (they went on to lose 5-0 to USA in the final). I had the pleasure of meeting them before the match as we had dined in the same hotel.

The next addition to my collection was the scarf I’ve been wearing this week. It was one my father bought my mother when they were in Paris, on their honeymoon. It’s a denim-coloured, silk square lightly patterned with grey and black flowers. It goes beautifully with jeans. Initially, I just used to “borrow” it and then I took it away to university with me and it’s never been back.

You might wonder why I have such a large and extensive collection. It started largely thanks to my parents who, after trips overseas, would reappear bearing gifts of jewel coloured scarves in an array of shapes and sizes, just the thing for livening up any outfit, which I have added to in the intervening years.

The collection really took off once I started working. Scarves are a great way of adding colour to a sober work suit. If you like, they’re ties for women. When I was working in investment banking, it was not uncommon for the Japanese banks to hand them out at signing ceremonies – Hermes of course.

Scarves are also the perfect present to pick up in an airport. Many of my Hermes scarves were bought by my beloved.  I generally then went and changed them for something more to my taste at my nearest Hermes shop in Cornhill. He was none the wiser.

Lest you think they are all expensive, the collection comprises scarves in every price bracket though from time to time, as they have lost their lustre, the less expensive ones have been sent to the nearest charity shop. I can still remember where I bought each one and even recall the price. At times this gift  comes in handy.

About 10 years’ ago, my collection took a direct hit in a flood (burst water tank) and while only a few were damaged (thanks to the plastic bags) together they represented a rather substantial investment. Fortunately, the insurance company didn’t so much as bat an eyelid, probably due to the amount of detail I supplied relating to their acquisition, and I spent a very pleasurable day seeking replacements.

Inevitably, I have a number of favourites. Many of these were gifts from my dear American friend who lives in Asolo and who has exquisite taste. A large number were purchased either in Liberty’s department store in London (still a fertile hunting ground) or at the late-lamented Takashimaya in New York. I confess I’ve often bought scarves, intending to give them as presents, which I have then hung onto because I liked them so much.

Since moving to France, and spending most of my days in lycra, I’ve rather gotten out of the habit of wearing scarves. Now, thanks to Rapha, I have a collection of small, silk squares that I wear rather jauntily round my neck when cycling and this has prompted me to investigate once more the contents of those large boxes.

One box contains my Hermes scarf collection plus the more expensive silk scarves, including the one which was designed, made and embroidered with bike parts by a very dear and gifted friend.  Another, even larger box, houses silk shawls, pashminas and cashmere scarves. The third, and final box, shelters the  remainder. In total, I have around 750 and their collective worth equates to a studio apartment in an unfashionable part of Nice.

The collection has only minimally increased in the six years I have lived in France. But scarves are like shoes, you can never grow out of them. They fit you whatever your dress size. If they go out of fashion, put them away and at some point, they’ll come back into style and  you can just go shopping in your closet.

Guns for hire

Sadly, we had a couple of resignations this week. One of our racers who, with another of his clubmates, was leading a race last week end, felt somewhat aggrieved when a third clubmate led the peloton up to them thereby enabling someone else to nip off the front of the bunch and win the race. To complicate matters, the winner was a former teammate of our guy doing the leading.

I must confess, I can see his point of view. Instead of occupying top spot on the podium (the only place that counts) the club took the next four places. This is a situation I am never likely to have to deal with. If I were leading  a race, it would be safe to assume that the only other entrants had either punctured, had mechanicals or fallen off and given up. 

Unfortunately, there was no Directeur Sportif to articulate the race strategy. He was working, no one assumed his place, and clearly a free for all ensued. It’s also quite difficult to have a coherent team strategy when there are different levels racing together. Does one race for the scratch or individual categories? As a consequence, we have lost two racers who generally collect quite a few podium wins and, more importantly, column inches and photos in the local press. Manna from heaven for our sponsors.

The club experiences a surprising turnover of members although, in the past two years, we have gained a large number of new members. Often, these are the result of people just moving around the area. Sometimes it’s riders getting back into cycling after a layoff  or they join us because a number of their friends or family are members. Our reputation, has also attracted many  racers but it’s sometimes difficult to accommodate everyone, particularly the younger ones, even though they span a large number of race categories.

I have tried to ascertain why riders join us one year only to leave the next. For some it’s a case of what one might call “New Year Gym Syndrome” for others they’re looking for more sociable group rides. We don’t do coffee stops, nor do we wait for laggards, I should know.  Fortunately, we seem to attract more than we repel and so membership is growing. 

Our biggest current challenge is finding enough volunteers to staff the Kivilev. Adding the cyclosportif this year requires more road marshalls and members who might normally have volunteered want to ride. I’m suggesting that every club member who does ride has to provide at least one volunteer: wife, mother, father, brother. We don’t mind. They’ll get a goodie bag, a ticket for the tombola and invites to the pre and post-event  BBQs.

Here comes the bride

The days are rushing past and soon “The Wedding” will be upon us. I am referring not, as you might suppose, to the forthcoming Royal Wedding. No, it’s that of my youngest sister. Having taken an unconsciably long time to find her Mr Right, she’s, not unnaturally, determined to have her day in the sun. I have forgiven her for choosing a date that clashes with the Tour du Haut Var.

I have to hand it to her. She has meticulously planned absolutely everything, leaving no stone, not even a pebble, unturned. I, for one, am looking forward to it. It should be a truly splendid day. We don’t often get invitations to weddings these days, not like in our 20s and 30s. Still, I enjoy any opportunity for dressing up and wearing a hat. I have ordered a bespoke hat, and beaded hairband for after the service, from my favourite milliner (http://thehathouse.co.uk). The wedding and reception are being held in the same central London location negating the need for outer layers, usually so necessary at this time of year.

My sister, and future brother-in-law, have enjoyed their respective hen (Dubai) and stag (rugby in Edinburgh) dos and are just counting down the minutes until “The Big Day”. We’re all converging in London tomorrow  evening. Or at least that’s the plan. My beloved is due to fly back from the States tomorrow morning, it will be a miracle if he and his luggage are reunited in time. Yes, I have received word from him that, sadly, BA were not able to get him and his luggage onto the same outward flight. Knowing his luck it’ll arrive after his departure. When you log as many airmiles as he does, this is an all too common occurrence. He would have been travelling with hand luggage were it not for the need to take his wedding clothes with him. Or at least some of his wedding clothes, he left his shirts behind!

Weddings are also an opportunity, for me at least, to catch up with my ever dwindling circle of family and close family friends. It was rather sobering to glance at the wedding party photos from my and my other sister’s weddings. Most of the attendees are no longer with us.

It’s only a flying visit to London, leaving little opportunity to catch up with anyone else. I’m arriving in time for cocktails at The Savoy, followed by dinner at our hotel. The service is the following day at 14:00, giving me time to check out the hotel Spa. Carriages are programmed for way past my bedtime thus, like Cinderella, I shall be taking my leave before the witching hour. The following day, we’re heading back home.

Three bike-less days are more than enough for us, particularly since it’s been raining non-stop all this week. Still, it has given me an opportunity to practice the dreaded one-legged cycling on the home-trainer. This morning the rain abated so I was able to ride with my trainer: sprint intervals around the Cap.

Of course, as soon as we set off the heavens opened. We rode on bravely doing our best to ignore the cars splashing us from head to foot as they drove past. He was putting his new bike through its paces, a Specialized S-Works. While he’s pleased with the bike, he’s less thrilled with the Specialized tyres after almost slipping over a couple of times in the wet conditions. I had no such problems, secure on my Continentals.

I arrived back dripping wet, feeling chilled to the bone, and treated myself to a soak in a hot bath. I’m now feeling nice and warm in my Qatari Airways jimjams and dressing gown. No more outings for me today.