Favourite Biscuits

When this picture popped into my in box I was surprised. Are these really Britain’s favourite biscuits? Should I feel so inclined, it’s relatively easy to buy British goodies either via the internet, from one of the larger local supermarkets or from Geoffrey’s of London in Antibes. We rarely eat biscuits, particularly not shop bought ones. Not that I’ve got anything against biscuits but I now prefer to make them myself. Obviously, I’m not going to make Hobnobs or Custard Creams. Instead, I’ll make chocolate chip cookies, or something similar, particularly if I’m expecting guests.

This picture got both of us thinking about our favourite childhood biscuits. My beloved is particularly partial to chocolate biscuits and he has fond memories of tins of Fox’s Chocolate Biscuits at Christmas. Remember those? Biscuits covered in white, milk and dark chocolate. My favourites were the coffee sandwiches in thick milk chocolate while my beloved claims he liked them all. Which is your favourite?

 

Like me he was also partial to a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer – who isn’t? – and enjoyed the odd Wagon Wheel. If I recall correctly Tunnocks always came in packs of six and my mother would send me with a pack or two every time we went on a school trip. Not to scoff myself you understand, but to share with my classmates. My packed meals always contained enough food for a dozen people, no wonder I always got a place on the back seat – class-mate cupboard love.

My mother always used to have a large  biscuit tin for visitors which may have gone some way to explaining my apparent popularity. If there was a crowd of us, there was never any question of whose house we were going to for refreshments. In addition, my mother never minded whether I turned up with four or fourteen friends. everyone was welcome. It never mattered how many biscuits we ate, the tin was never empty.

I seem to recall my favourite biscuits were lemon puffs, coconut cream sandwiches and Garibaldis which I later discovered were in fact named after Guiseppe Garibaldi!

The biscuit selection in the header photo above reminds me of the free biscuits handed out by my last employer. As the company grew, both organically and through acquisition, I parlayed the free biscuits into better (and free) coffee machines. However, some of the staff will no doubt always remember me as the person who did away with free biscuits!

What were your childhood favourites?

My perfect hotel bedroom

I’ve stayed in a lot of hotel rooms in my time, running the gamut from luxury 5+ stars right down to null. So I thought I’d write a post entitled the 10 must-haves in my perfect hotel bedroom. But guess what? Turns out there are a minimum of 21!

In no particular order:-

1. Can easily be found using GPS. If not, please send me an email telling me how to find the hotel/guest house/B&B.

2. Is family owned and run. These people have a vested interest in ensuring you have an enjoyable stay and will return.

3. Sound-proofed.

4. Clean, after all cleanliness is next to godliness. When I say clean, I mean spotless.

5. The bed has white, 100% high thread count, cotton sheets. I have a particular aversion to poly cotton sheets which go bobbly.

6. A supremely comfortable bed, minimum queen-size – this is, after all, the reason why I’m here – in which to sleep.

Oh dear!

7. Fluffy white (only) towels which should be stacked in the bathroom where you need them and not artfully arranged on the bed.

8. A minimum amount of furniture and soft furnishings in the room and no knickknacks, they only collect dust. Aside from the large double bed, a desk/table and two chairs, two bedside tables and lights.

9. Tea and coffee making facilities and a small fridge.

10. Great, free WiFi all over.

Loving that wooden floor

11. Hard floors, carpets hide a multitude of sins.

Pretty much spot on

12. Decorated in soothing colours, preferably not blue, a colour I’m not overly fond of anywhere.

This would give me the blues

My parents were once upgraded to the Villa d’Este’s main suite which was decorated in blue. My father had to go back down to reception and ask for another room. To say the staff were shocked was putting it mildly. But I’m with Mum on this one.

No, no, no!

13. Bathroom separate from the bedroom, I’m not a fan of baths in the bedroom, and preferably without a sliding door, which typically indicates it’s going to find its way into my  opus magnus “The World’s Smallest Bathrooms”

14. A power shower, rather than a bath.

15. A toilet separate from the bathroom as I’ll inevitably be sharing it with my beloved. I’ll spare you the details.

16. Adequate task lighting and plenty of spare power points to charge our Macs, iPads and iPhones.

17. Free car parking.

Now, that’s what I call a view!

18. A view from the bedroom window would be a bonus.

19. A lift, if my room isn’t on the ground floor, or someone to drag my luggage upstairs. I know I travel light but I’m getting on!

20. A minimum of 4 wooden hangars per person in the wardrobe and at least two generous drawers or shelves per person. Preferably within reach. I’m average height and have lost count of the wardrobe rails that are out of my reach, even on tippy toes.

21. A small safe for my valuables.

Is there anything I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments section.

Reflections on the Tour de France 2017

There’s always a sense of loss the week after the Tour finishes. You have months of anticipation and speculation, three weeks of enthralling racing – yes, even the snooze fests – and then it finishes in a blaze of glory on the Champs Elysees. It doesn’t really hit you until the Wednesday, given Monday and Tuesday as extended rest days, plus the tv channels running various highlight programmes and everyone doing their lists of “Things we learnt from the Tour.”

Mind you after watching 21 stages from start to finish, I’m feeling catatonic. However, it was great to see the podium suspense maintained into the last week-end. As always, I loved the stages where riders enjoyed their “first ever…..” victory/grand tour win, seeing the winners’ emotions, watching the spectacular scenery, fabulous property porn and so on. I did not enjoy the many crashes and rider withdrawals, nor Peter Sagan‘s wholly unfair (IMHO) disqualification.

Five things are now patently obvious to me:-

  1. You cannot do well in both Giro and Tour
  2. You’re unlikely to end up on the podium unless you have the support of your entire team
  3. Money talks, though teams on limited budgets  – I’m looking at Ag2r, Sunweb and Cannondale – can still do well
  4. It’s not about winning big, it’s about losing small or not at all
  5. Unless you can time-trial well, you’re highly unlikely to win a grand tour

Each race always throws up some surprises, that’s one of the allures of cycling, its unpredictability. Before the event started I poo-poohed another blogger’s suggestion that Sagan wouldn’t win a sixth consecutive jersey. He said he felt his luck would run out. He was right, it did. Few cycling commentators would’ve accurately predicted the podium, a few may’ve picked Chris Froome and Romain Bardet – two out of three’s not bad. But I bet no one, other than his team, wife and family, backed Rigoberto Uran.

I did enjoy watching the stages from start to finish, though I may have been MIA or working during bits of them. I felt it was instructive to see how, where and when the break formed and appreciate the work some riders do on the front of the peloton for hundreds of kilometres. Riders like that are worth their weight in gold, cherish them. I was impressed with Froome’s closely fought victory. I thought his focus, coolness under fire, failure to panic and knowledge that he had the best team (mates and support staff) were the deciding factors.

Sunday, we also (knowingly) waived goodbye to Haimar Zubeldia and Thomas Voeckler, who completed their last ever Tours. I wish them well in their future careers. I said knowingly because there were probably others who have also ridden their last Tour de France but have yet to acknowledge it. It’s always exciting watching the peloton hurtle round Paris. I speak from personal experience when I tell you that riding over those cobbles is painful. I only had to do it once and after riding a mere 500km. However, it was a very special moment and one I will always cherish.

For me it’s not so much a sense of loss this week but one of realisation. The season is fast winding to a conclusion, there’s only one more Grand Tour to enjoy. Of course, there’s the bonus of one of my favourite races, the Clasica in San Sebastian – a place I don’t need any excuse to visit – which is held on the Saturday after the Tour concludes. It’s typically won by a rider who’s just ridden the Tour and has come out of it in great form. Looking at the start list, there’s plenty of likely candidates.

This year’s Vuelta is handily starting not too far away from us in the ancient Roman city of Nimes, a place we’ve yet to visit. We normally only see its cathedral and concrete sprawl from the motorway. So that’s something to look forward to though I’m hoping (and praying) it won’t turn out to be another Carcassonne. We’ll be in Madrid in September for an international Dental Exhibition  – I know, I lead such an exciting life! – and thereafter we’re heading to Valencia for a complete break, so sadly our path won’t cross again with that of the Vuelta. Which just leaves our annual pilgrimage to Lake Como for Il Lombardia, our last race of the season, which has such an air of finality about it.

You maybe wondering why I’ve omitted the World championships being held in Norway in late September. Aside from last year’s in Qatar, I’ve attended 10 consecutive championships. You may regard this a heretical, but I’m not a fan of Scandinavia – been there, have no desire to go back. Hamburg is about as far north as I like to venture. However, I will be going to the one’s in Innsbruck next year.

 

Trip to Aix-en-Provence

 

We spent much of last week-end in Aix-en-Provence, principally to catch a couple of stages of the Tour de France but also to enjoy some time in one of our favoured spots. Typically, I meet up with friends in Aix a couple of times a year as it’s pretty much the mid-way point for both of us and we have an enjoyable day out.

Friday we drove to the centre of Salon de Provence, the finish for 19th and longest stage of 104th Tour de France. We were billeted in a sports centre, 500m from the finish line, which did not have air conditioning. It was mighty hot and humid. On the plus side, it had refreshments, toilets and television. We avoided the press buffet by lunching beforehand at a restaurant near one of our dental clients on the outskirts of town.

It’s always much warmer inland as it doesn’t have our cooling littoral breezes. The stage from Embrun passed through some idyllic countryside, much of which we’ve cycled on previous trips to the area. My mission was to deliver cakes to the riders I know who are still in the race. I confess my projected bake had been much pared back (sadly) due to abandons. One team is down to three riders. I think you can guess which one that is. Their cakes (gluten free organic brownies and organic vegan banana loaf) should last with ease until the final stage in Paris.

Salon is famous for being the home of the French Red Arrows and we heard them buzzing overhead while we sat melting in the heat. We could certainly have used one of those ice vests which we saw the teams using in Saturday’s individual time-trial. I did have some ice-packs but they were keeping the cakes cool.

After dropping off the cakes at the coaches, watching the sprint finish followed by an aerial display – probably practising for Sunday in Paris – it was with some relief we returned to the air-conditionned car to drive back to Aix-en-Provence where we were spending the next two nights.  Our hotel is right in the centre of town, overlooking the Cours Mirabeau. It too has air conditioning, a necessity in this weather.

After lunch, I wasn’t overly hungry and neither (unusually) was my beloved, I blamed the heat! Instead, we elected to have cocktails and nibbles at our hotel before a long stroll around Aix. Okay, the shops are all closed but I do enjoy a spot of window shopping.

After a really good night’s sleep we woke at 08:30 and walked to the market to buy vegetables for Sunday’s meals. Aix has a brilliant market and I buy tons (slight exaggeration) of different coloured beans and masses of fresh herbs. The perfume of the basil is positively heady, I’ll make an avocado/basil pesto dressing for the bean salad. After a leisurely breakfast, I have to explore the two bookshops in Aix, one either side of our hotel. Both have an extensive selection of cookery books but none that I absolutely had to add to my collection.

We left Aix to drive to Marseille to watch the penultimate Tour de France stage, a short individual time-trial starting and ending in the Velodrome, home to Marseille’s football team. We noted with some amusement that the route visited the best bits of Marseille. When going to a stage start or finish, you have to follow a certain route, usually well sign-posted and just when we despaired of finding the right road, we chanced upon it and the Velodrome.

Despite the heat, there’s a fantastic atmosphere ahead of the final stage of the La Course, the ladies’ two-stage race, being held before the men’s time-trial. We cool off in the press centre which, this time, is blissfully air-conditioned. We’re now reluctant to leave and settle down to watch the racing only popping out from time to time to catch it live and encourage our friends, none of whom are entertaining any thoughts of winning this particular stage.

It’s also an opportunity to catch up with friends among the press pack and check who’ll be at the Clasica, the one-day race in San Sebastian the following week-end. Many are facing a long drive to Paris for the Tour finale. Others are heading home. The time-trial threw up some surprise performances with the winner having to sit tight in the hot seat for almost three hours and one of the podium contenders hanging onto his third-place by a single second.

We swiftly exit the Velodrome and drive back to Aix. The town’s buzzing, it’s a very popular tourist haunt. We eat oysters at one of the well-known restaurants on the Cours Mirabeau, allegedly a favourite haunt of Cezanne, before a relatively early night – spectating’s tiring!

The following morning my beloved enjoyed a relaxing breakfast in the sunshine while I wandered round taking photographs with my iPad – so much easier when there’s fewer people around. I adore all the honey coloured stone buildings with wrought iron canopies and balconies. I love wandering up and down its cobbled lanes. There’s a massive architectural dig in the centre of town which has revealed more of the town’s Roman origins and I note there’s an art exhibition which I’d like to see before it closes mid-October.

Aix, a bit like Alassio, is the perfect spot for a few nights away. There’s plenty to see and do, it’s pleasurable to wander around, there’s plenty of bars and restaurants and it’s just a 90 minute drive away. The hotel had pretty much my perfect hotel room (post on that coming soon) and was a charming blend of old and new. It was a very enjoyable couple of days and we’ll be back to sample Aix’s delights again soon.

Seen, but not heard

As a childless couple you could be forgiven for thinking we don’t like children. Au contraire, we love children but have never felt the need to have one of our own. However, we much enjoy spending time with our friends’ delightful, young children.

The other week-end we attended the birthday party of the young son of some friends. We’ve been to all of his three previous birthday parties and we’ve much enjoyed seeing him develop and grow over the period. Now that he’s started to speak French we can even have a conversation with him as previously he’s spoken only Russian. Of course, you don’t always need to speak a language to understand what’s being said, though it helps.

I recall going to his christening which seems like only yesterday at the Russian Orthodox Church in Nice. It was my first visit to the church, although I’m familiar with its tiled onion topped roof which is readily visible from the Nice bypass, and my first orthodox ceremony. I had been pre-warned that I would need to wear a scarf to cover my hair and, horror of horrors, a skirt. Remember, I generally only wear trousers or cycling shorts. Neither of which would have been appropriate.

The christening party
The christening party

The scarf was no problem. The skirt proved more of an issue. I only have two skirts both of them evening wear, so neither were suitable. I have a few dresses. A couple for throwing over my swimwear to go down to the beach and a couple for more formal occasions. I had to opt for one of the latter but covered it with a short black raincoat, to match my black cashmere headscarf, so that its bright colours were less obvious.

It was a short  – less is always more in my book – but intimate ceremony conducted by a priest who kindly explained everything to us beforehand in French. Only the priest and the godfather had speaking roles, the rest of us, excluding the baby being christened, were interested bystanders. There was no music nor, thankfully, any hymns. But, given the priest sang the entire service, they would have been superfluous.

The entire service was in Russian and I didn’t understand a single word, but it didn’t matter. We sat during the first part of the service, and I’d been warned not to cross my legs, though I’ve still no idea why, and stood facing the altar for the last bit. The baby only had one-god parent, his older brother, and frankly I doubt whether his parents could have chosen anyone better even though they were constrained by the need to choose a god-parent from the Orthodox church.

The Godfather
The Godfather

I have to say, the priest cut quite a dramatic figure and brought a real sense of drama and occasion to the event. He even disappeared in the middle of the service for a quick costume change. The baby got dunked naked in the large silver font, containing warm water.  No need then for elaborate christening robes. He was wholly mesmerised by the priest, much enjoyed his splash about in the font and being anointed with oils. Indeed, he took a real liking to the priest and didn’t at all mind being carried aloft by him. In truth I think he just loved being the centre of attention. Who wouldn’t?

He was back at the church the following Sunday for his first mass and I hear he eagerly partook of the communion wine – or is it vodka? There were repercussions. The alcohol rendered him quite vocal, aggressive even, until he fell asleep for hours on end, for much longer than he normally sleeps in the afternoon. No word on whether he awoke with a hangover.

I should add that he’s now very much seen and heard. As the header photo shows, he was delighted with his birthday cake so much so that he wasn’t prepared to share the four small cakes decorating the main cake with any of the other guests. Luckily, there was enough to go round sadly it wasn’t vegan!

The Musette: a riff on ratatouille and caponata

I generally love shopping daily, finding inspiration in the local shops and markets for the day’s meals. However, when I’m on my own, I’m quite happy to make a pot of something which I can use in a number of different ways for a variety of meals. Often necessity is the mother of invention and the dish comes from whatever I have sitting in the fridge.

I love Ratatouille, a dish hailing from Nice, because it’s one way of using the abundance of summer sun-ripened vegetables. As a general rule, I use equal quantities of each vegetable – tomatoes, peppers, onions, courgettes and aubergines. I would generally sauté each vegetable separately in olive oil and assemble them at the end, as in my lasagne recipe. This guarantees that each one retains its colour, flavour and texture. However, on my regime I’m not supposed to sauté vegetables in olive oil plus I didn’t have any courgettes, so I opted for a mix of the Niçois dish with some ingredients from one which is typically Sicilian, Caponata. Note, I used passata rather than fresh tomato sauce because I was also out of fresh tomatoes!

Ingredients (serves 6 as a side dish, or 4 as a main)

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (neutral flavoured)
  • 2 small aubergines, cut into 2cm (1″) cubes
  • 1 large red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli pepper, finely chopped, or tsp chilli flakes
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks or small fennel bulb, cut into 2cm (1″) pieces
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 150g (1 cup) black olives, pitted
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  •  500ml (2 cups) passata or 4 very large tomatoes
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method

1. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place them in a  saucepan with a pinch of salt. Gently bring to the boil and cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened. Strain through a food mill or large-holed sieve to remove the skins.

2. Heat 1tbsp coconut oil a large saucepan, sweat the red onion, red chilli pepper, red pepper and garlic over a medium heat for 10 minutes until lightly caramelised. Add 2 tbsp of tomato paste and cook lightly to get rid of its raw flavour.

3. Now, add the diced aubergines, strained tomatoes or passata, and season. Bring to the boil, cover with greaseproof (parchment) paper, clamp on the lid and simmer gently for an hour. The parchment paper prevents the mixture from drying out. You’ll need to cook it for this long to soften the aubergine. Alternatively, fry both aubergine and pepper in olive oil and cook for only 20 minutes.

4. If the capers are salted, soak them for 2 minutes, then drain. If brined or in vinegar, drain and rinse. Add the capers and olives, stir and leave to sit for at least 2 hours, stirring gently once or twice. The finished dish needs to rest for at least an hour – ideally three. It’s even better the next day, and keeps well in the fridge for up to four days.

5. This dish can be served either at room temperature or cold, as a main or side dish. I also love it as a sauce with penne or heaped over some sweet potatoes or cauliflower rice.

6. You can make it more Sicilian by adding a handful of raisins, toasted pine nuts, a tbsp of sugar and 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar for a sweet-sour hit. I’ll often do this a couple of days later to give it a slightly different flavour.

Another one bites the dust

I was inconsolable in 2010 when I discovered that Takashimaya had closed its Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan. I must have stood for a good 10 minutes checking that I was at the correct spot – 693 Fifth Avenue. This had been a beautifully curated collection of men’s, children’s and women’s fashions, and homewares spread over a number of floors with a great restaurant in its basement. I had spent untold hours (and dollars) here and it was always my first stop on any trip to New York. I immediately contacted my American friend who had introduced me to this wondrous emporium. She too was shocked and saddened. Trips to New York haven’t been the same since and I always go back to the shop’s location  in the hope that it will have miraculously re-opened.

I was similarly distressed on my first visit to Japan in 2007 when I visited Takashimaya’s main store in Tokyo. It was nothing like its Manhattan outpost. Stuffed full of European designer goods, redeemed only by its wondrous displays and fascinating basement food hall. I was shocked to find departments with clothes for cleaning the house, particularly as the Japanese live in small houses, and don’t get me started on the nightwear department. There in a nutshell was the reason for Japan’s low birthrate. Forget about importing French patisseries, import French underwear!

News reached me this week, that another concept store I hold dear, Colette’s in Paris, is to close in December. This is another store I’ve enjoyed browsing around and it was often the high point of any window-shopping stroll along the pricey rue Saint-Honore. The owner Colette has decided to retire although her daughter will continue to run the company’s webshop. The place is a mecca for all things fashionable and on trend. The three-storey emporium always has an eclectic collection of goodies, the latest designer clothing and a brilliant bookshop which carries all the major fashion and design magazines, and let’s not forget the basement water bar with over 100 brands of bottled water. Now, I’m a big fan of internet shopping but sometimes you just need to see and feel the goods.

It’s not just major shops in meccas such as New York and Paris that are closing, one of my favourite bread shops has closed. The shop had opened in the mid-forties and black and white pictures of the current owner’s grand-parents decorated the walls. I assume the owner wanted to retire and her kids no longer wish to pursue the family tradition. So the supplier of some of the best croissants and brioches in the area has closed. Unlike many bread shops, it also sold coffee and cakes and, aside from being a breakfast favourite, we also liked to pop in for afternoon coffee and cakes. It’s always sad when shops such as these close. No one has yet taken over the shop which occupies a large corner plot on a major shopping street.

Of course, since we’ve been living here, any number of shops have closed though many more have changed hands, often for the better. A rather run-of-the-mill bread shop in the centre of town, after three changes of ownership, now sells the most fabulous cakes, pastries and bread. My beloved needs no excuse to visit. Meanwhile, over the road the purveyor of the very best donuts we’d ever eaten, full of crème patissiere, changed hands and stopped selling donuts. It was probably a blessing for my waistline and now such wonders fall under the category of strictly forbidden. Luckily, in the same period, the shops closest to us have all prospered and expanded their range of produce. The only disappointment was the fish shop which opened and closed within a month. It had a brilliant selection of fresh fish but we’re already well-served by other fish shops (and the port) and clearly demand was insufficient. It’s hard to argue against market forces though I shall continue to support my local shops.

Melt down

This is not a reference to the warm temperatures we’re enjoying here on the Cote d’Azur, but rather my own mental state. Last Thursday, just as I was poised to watch the afternoon’s transmission of the Tour de France stage, because I was on review duty for VeloVoices, the internet went down, rendering me impotent. A quick re-boot and I was back up and running, although only for a short period. Another reboot and it worked, but at a snail’s pace. I assumed it was just a temporary glitch. Not so, as on Friday, after the return of my beloved, the service was once again sporadic and back into the Dark Ages. It continued into Saturday and perked up a bit on Sunday but didn’t resume its former dizzy heights.

I keep hoping and praying that the Domaine will get fibre. Orange have offered to fit it for free but I suspect the issue may be that only two years ago we renewed the tarmac on the roads leading around the Domaine and no one’s keen for them to be dug up. So we have unlimited broadband but it has suddenly become limited, very limited. A quick check on the website revealed that the whole system was updated at the end of June and we should now be enjoying improved levels of service. We’re well into July and we’re not.

Orange do have a 24/7 service whereby you go through various options before you’re finally, and only if you’re very lucky, through to a technician. Because of the huge numbers of non-French, they do offer an English speaking service. Obviously, it’s 9 to 5, week-days only and, as I’ve discovered, three-weeks of learning English on Babbel may render you capable of saying a few key phrases in English but not responding to technical questions. I now take my chance with the French language service.

I call only to discover the service has changed. I now have to explain my problem to IA,  voice recognition software – fortunately I speak French with a reasonable accent. She tests my line, tells me it’s fine and sends me a link to go on line (again) for further assistance. I then go through all the steps on line and finally get connected to a chat line. After more remote testing and answering the same questions, Abraham  – probably not IA – thinks we need a new Livebox and so we’re off to hell on earth, the Orange shop in Cap 3000, clutching our code for a new box. Wish me luck, I’m going to need it. My beloved is delighted as he’s out at a meeting this afternoon, then off to Toulouse for two days, leaving me to deal with any fall out. He is, of course, expecting me to have solved the issue by the time he returns!

If I’m honest, I really want a technician to come round and suggest ways we might boost the signal beyond the office. It used to work in the bedroom, dining room and even on the patio but since last Thursday, its reach has also much reduced. However, it doesn’t go through or even round our reinforced concrete walls. We have an extender but that was a total waste of money! Abraham thinks the new Livebox will also solve this problem – let’s see.

But that’s not all. The freezer bit of the fridge freezer threw a wobbly, blew a gasket and the entire fuse board overnight. Fortunately, service has been restored to the rest of the kitchen after switching off the electricity supply to the fridge-freezer. Fortunately, the freezer is very low on supplies. In fact, apart from two bars of chocolate (my beloved’s) and some coffee beans, it’s empty. The fridge however is pretty much stuffed to the gills, largely because of the number of bottles and jars in there. Not alcohol, just in case you were wondering, sauces, flavoured oils, chutneys, jams, mustards and so on. These can fortunately be decanted into the empty drinks fridge and half-full wine fridge. Providing my beloved doesn’t keep on opening it to check on its temperature, the few vegetables and today’s meals should be fine.

Bright and early this morning, I rang the only official service provider in the area for my fridge-freezer. Luckily, as I’m an existing customer, they can send an engineer tomorrow. I said I was sure it was a similar issue to last time, a faulty circuit board, but sadly it’s no longer under guarantee. The company’s call-out charge, plus first hour or part thereof, is Euros 150,00. Time-wasters need not apply! Still that’s cheaper than a replacement fridge-freezer. However, I was due to deposit my beloved at the station tomorrow morning so I’ll have to call on our uber-reliable (nothing to do with Uber) car service for that chore.

Of course, if the new Livebox doesn’t live up to its billing, this might be the last you hear from me for quite a while!

Postscript: Down at Cap 3000, I discovered I was number 19 in the line! I returned home and will struggle on for the next couple of days. Thursday, I’m dragging my beloved down there 30 minutes before the shop opens so we can upgrade to a Pro Internet service which will give us instant attention. I can’t do this on my own because my beloved is the sole owner of our company. I’m pleased he’s not getting off scott-free!

 

Things my beloved says: I could do that!

We were watching the magnificent Classical Concert from the Eiffel Tour on Bastille Day,  Le Concert de Paris, featuring the great and the good from the world of classical music playing and singing a selection of Greatest Hits Arias. This is the world’s largest outdoor concert, held during the world’s largest annual sporting event, the Tour de France. During an early number, my beloved spotted the person playing the triangle. I suppose it was one of the many percussionists. Immediately my beloved said: “I could do that!”

I replied that he’d probably get distracted, miss his cue and fail to strike the triangle when necessary. I said an ear for music and an ability to concentrate for long periods of time were probably two of the minimum requirements. Plus, you probably needed to play other instruments. Frankly, it’s doubtful my beloved would cut the mustard. I sensed he was about to argue but thought better of it and decided to agree with me. Yep, he’s definitely getting wiser in his old age!

His comment got me thinking. Why is it we always assume we can do things which look easy on the television! Making something look easy usually takes that oft quoted 10,000 hours of practice, the right attitude and plenty of application. We are after all talking about a man whose mother forced him to endure hours of piano lessons – delusions of grandeur on her part – and who can now only remember how to play Chopsticks, a tune I too can play without having received any piano lessons, let alone passing a couple of piano exams.

The truth is that I can read music and still play the descant recorder but that’s where any musical ability starts and finishes. Neither of us can hold a note which is why whenever we’re obliged to sing, out of consideration, I mime. Not so my beloved who’ll attempt (and fail) to belt out a tune.

Anyway, back to the concert, the audience estimated at around 400,000 was no doubt enjoying the world’s largest picnic on the grass as the sun gradually set. Before darkness fell, we were treated to magnificent views of the City of Light which always looks fabulous from the sky as you can clearly see its urban master plan. The concert was followed by a truly wonderful fireworks’ display, a fitting end to a special day and (thankfully) so very different from last year.

Of course, cycling fans would probably argue that with Warren Barguil winning stage 13 on Bastille Day, we’d already had plenty of fireworks. This was the fourth French victory after those of Romain Bardet, Arnaud Demare and Liliane Calmejane with the exciting  prospect of maybe more to come.

Things my beloved does: loses stuff, lots of it

To be honest this subject is worthy of its own blog, only because in our 40 year’s of marriage he’s lost so many things. I’m fond of saying “I’d be a wealthy women if I had a Euro for everything my beloved has lost.” In reality, I’d be even wealthy as I’d have saved the cost of the replacements too. Of course, we all lose or more generally misplace things from time to time. No one’s perfect, even me. But I’ve yet to meet anyone, other than my beloved, who loses or temporarily misplaces something most days. My late mother used to say my beloved could lose anything not surgically attached to him. And that pretty much sums him up.

Now I should clarify what I mean by lost. I mean things that are irrevocably lost, not things he’s temporarily misplaced (again) or left somewhere where he regularly visits. I can’t tell you how many telephone calls I’ve had from hotels or family and friends over the years letting me know they’ve found my husband’s toilet bag, shoes, jacket, jumper, mobile phone, wallet, keys and so on and will keep it until his next visit or will send it on. Similarly, I’ve – yes, it’s usually me – had to ring countless places enquiring if when they his cleaned room, whether they have  found something my beloved might have left behind. At this point, I should add that it’s invariably something relatively new and inevitably expensive. The type of loss that might be the subject of an insurance claim but probably won’t be because he can’t remember when or even where he lost it.

You may be wondering how he manages to leave stuff behind in hotel rooms. Doesn’t he check everywhere before he leaves? The answer to that is, no, he doesn’t. Additionally, he invariably gets absolutely everything out of his case and populates the entire room with his stuff, rather than confining it to the wardrobe and a couple of drawers. I’ve even tried to make it easier by sending him off with say four of everything so he can check when he re-packs. However, he just stuffs everything, clean or dirty, back into the suitcase. When we travel together, I check everywhere in the room before we leave, particularly the top shelf of the wardrobe where he often lobs his dirty stuff.

He’s also lost or misplaced his passport on numerous occasions yet I’ve still managed to get him either in or out of the country he’s been visiting – I’ll explain how in another post. And, there we have it in a nutshell. My beloved rarely has to cope with the consequences of his actions, or lack thereof. He can rely on me to smooth out all the bumps while he sails serenely onwards and upwards. I suspect it’s all part of his “just in time” management. My beloved likes to leave everything until absolutely the very last minute. I can never get him to do anything unless he deems it to be both urgent and important for him. Yes, we’re total opposites in that respect.

You may have heard of the Kuebler-Ross Model, explaining the five stages of grief. Well, my beloved and I go through the five stages of acceptance of loss, as follows:

  1. Denial – His first reaction is always denial. At this stage he believes I’m mistaken and he has merely temporarily misplaced the object in question. He clings to a false, preferable reality.
  2. Anger – When he recognises that denial cannot continue, because he cannot locate the item in question, despite turning the place upside down. I too become angry that he’s lost something and that I will have to replace it or arrange for its replacement, plus tidy up the mess he’d made looking for it.
  3. Bargaining – The third stage involves negotiation for a replacement where my beloved promises to never ever lose said item again. I’ve recently introduced the “three strikes and you’re out” rule. Whereby I’ll replace lost item twice and thereafter it’ll be a much cheaper replacement. My beloved lost three pairs of Oakley sports’ glasses, he now wears those from Decathlon.
  4. Depression – My beloved gets a wee bit down about his ability to lose so many things but probably not as depressed as I get about constantly having to replace stuff he’s lost through repeating the same errors.”Will he ever learn?” I think we all know the answer to that question.
  5. Acceptance – He’ll say: “I’m not the only person who loses things.” To which I’ll respond that it’s probably true but I’m not married to other people.
    Finally, we both accept that at this late stage in his life he’s sadly, unlikely to change and I’ll just have to put up with it. Here we both embrace inevitability with a calm, retrospective view.

Because my beloved loses or misplaces something most days, I have a raft of stories some of which I’ll be sharing with you over the coming weeks, months and years. Yes, he’s lost a lot of stuff!