UK Mothering Sunday: Happy Mothers’ Day

Mother’s Day seems to be a bit of a moveable feast with it featuring on different months and days around the world. Not that I need to be concerned: I don’t have any kids, just the one big baby to look after.

My mother died some years ago so I don’t have to worry what to buy her to celebrate her special day, though she was an easy woman to buy presents for largely because she used to tell you what she’d like as a gift. She would say things like: “Your mother’s run out of her favourite body lotion.” Additionally, she never wanted a card because she felt they were a waste of money. She preferred us to spend more on her gift – no flies on her! My father famously would buy her a birthday card and use it for a number of years in succession.

In case you hadn’t guessed, in our household my father was the purchaser of all cards and gifts. My mother was however very generous. If you went out with her and saw something you liked, she would buy it for you. She saw no need to wait for your birthday or Christmas.

Getting married oh so many years ago and acquiring a mother-in-law, whom I refer to as the outlaw, meant I then had to buy two presents for Mothers’ Day. As you all know, my beloved is not good at either purchasing cards or presents. The outlaw’s present was always what you might call “nominal.”

Once my mother died, I advised my beloved that I would no longer buy the outlaw a Mother’s Day card or present, though would continue to purchase her birthday and Xmas presents. Consequently, the outlaw hasn’t received a Mother’s Day card since 2011. My beloved’s excuse is that Mothering Sunday in France is in May so he can’t buy her a card in March. This is despite his regular trips to UK.

My beloved is the apple of his mother’s eye and can do no wrong, ever. She has recently moved involuntarily into a very nice nursing home close to my beloved’s brother and sister-in-law. The burden of caring for the outlaw has fallen heavily on their shoulders in recent years and frankly this long overdue move will certainly lighten their load. She’s been adjudged unable to care for herself and was becoming a nuisance to the other residents in her apartment block.

To give his brother a helping hand, my beloved has taken charge of the disposal of her property. In reality, of course, this means I’m doing it. Fortunately, my beloved along with his brother and uncle holds the outlaw’s enduring Power of Attorney. Even more fortunate, it’s joint and several, meaning one of the attorneys can act on the others’ behalf.

Thanks to Money Laundering Regulations, professionals such as solicitors and estate agents need to “know their clients.” Typically this involves seeing original identity papers such as a passport and documents which confirm one’s address. Not a problem as my beloved was over in the UK last week and could visit the solicitor and estate agent in person. However, the uncle, who’s the outlaw’s younger brother, is in his mid-80s, lives in the west country and doesn’t possess a passport, driving licence or even a free bus pass.

My brother-in-law is fretting as to whether the outlaw has enough money to remain in the home until the end of her days. She’s 93, she’s got dementia, she’s probably got sufficient funds. Plus, it’s unlikely she’ll remember that today’s Mothering Sunday. I’m  not however completely heartless, I gave my beloved a small edible gift to give to her last week when he was in the UK.

 

 

The Musette: savoury bread and butter pudding

 

Friday Photo Challenge – sacred

This is a tricky challenge. What do I regard as sacred? It’s got to be family. The picture below depicts my parents, now both dead, with their dearest friends. A life long friendship that was established when my Dad and “Uncle Clifford” undertook their military service together and bonded after discovering they shared the same birthdate.

My parents to the left with dear family friends to the right

The two couples spent many happy vacations together, and we’ve even spent a couple with the four of them in Austria, Spain and Germany. This photo was taken in Mougins on one of their (many) visits to the Cote d’Azur.

So you could say the photograph celebrates the sacred ties of both family and friendship.

Thursday doors #11

It’s yet another door from Alassio, on the Italian Riviera. Bizarrely, given how often we visit, it’s one I’ve only recently noticed. It could do with a quick clean and polish to better accentuate its handsome features.  I particularly like the door surround and the contrast with the terracotta painted walls.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Days out: Chagall exhibition

We were recently able to combine a trip to one of our favourite towns, Aix-en-Provence, with a visit to a Chagall exhibition at the Hôtel de Caumont (pictured above), lunch at a nearby hotel (Hotel Le Pigonnet) with a gorgeous garden and watching our first live cycle race of the season (stage 4 of the Tour de la Provence) in which a number of our friends were riding. I call that a definite result!

It was a pleasant 90 minute drive in glorious sunshine from home to Aix. The scenery was magnificent: from the rusty-red rocks of Roquebrune to the stern grey of the Sainte Victoire, the mimosa provided flashes of gold among the dark evergreens while the vines were just starting to emerge from their winter pruning.

We left the car in the hotel car park after availing ourselves of the hotel’s facilities and enjoying a coffee ourdoors in its garden. We wandered into town and purchased some goodies from its Sunday market before returning to the hotel for a leisurely and delicious lunch, after which we visited the Hotel du Caumont to see its Chagall exhibition.

I’ve visited the museum in nearby [to Nice] Cimiez devoted to his works several times but am always keen to learn more about someone whom I  consider a local artist. A Franco-Russian by birth, he moved to Vence in 1949 and then, like many of his contemporories, settled in Saint Paul de Vence until his death aged 98 in 1985 – a good innings!

This is an interesting exhibition that sheds light on an unexplored dimension of Marc Chagall’s work. He was celebrated as a master of colour by the artists and critics of his day but this exhibition, which is devoted to the latter part of his career, highlights his change of style in the period from 1948 until his death.

Over 100 works (paintings, sculptures, ceramics, drawings, engravings, washes, gouaches, and collages) reflect Chagall’s artistic exploration of monochrome (black and white) and his mastery of particularly luminous, intense, and profound tints. After spending the WWII years in exile in USA, he adopted a bolder artistic approach, in which the study of volume led him to explore the world of light, shade, materials, and the transparency of black and white. The study of the chromatic and luminous subtleties of black and white resulted in the use of intense and bright colours that gave his pictorial oeuvre a completely new dimension. It was an illuminating exhibition in a gorgeous location.

 

Trip to Sanremo

The first of this year’s Monuments (five oldest one day bike races), La Primavera goes from Milan to Sanremo. A parcours of almost 300km and, aside from the Turchino, all the hills are in the last 60km. I should add these are not difficult climbs, I’ve ascended them with ease having wisely eshewed the first 230km of the race route.

We always enjoy our day trips to Sanremo, particularly when the weather’s as fine as it was yesterday. We drive over early, park and head to the shops to buy all manner of Italian goodies. There are some great shops adjacent to the Palafiori which acts as race HQ for the day. We then enjoy a stroll, coffee and some harmless window shopping in the sunshine before lunch, the main event of the day.

I often choose a restaurant near the port where there are a veritable gaggle of good ones. This time I picked what is allegedly Sanremo’s finest just past the race finish. We were not disappointed and particularly enjoyed having the restaurant to ourselves. Mum and son run front of house while Dad cooks using local produce, largely fish, with the fruit and vegetables coming from his market garden. We chose the menu of the day which needed only a slight tweak to accommodate my dietary requirements.

Replete we headed back to race HQ to watch events unfold along the coast road. The views from the race helicopter were a fabulous advertisement for the Italian Riviera.

We first visited Sanremo in 2006 when it featured in the final stage of the long gone Tour of the Med. We watched the race from a pinch point on the Cipressa. The following month we stood on the finish line of Milano Sanremo, listened to the commentary, and saw Pippo Pozzato win. This was in the days before the organisers erected those lovely big screens at the finish.

I’ve been in Sanremo every year since to watch the race aside from 2011 (friend’s 60th birthday party) and 2017 (beloved’s broken leg). Generally, the weather’s been fine, aside from 2014 when it was cold, wet and snowy. Once again, it’s great fun watching the professional peloton riding on roads we have ridden on and know well. I can almost feel myself pedalling along with them – I wish!

There was a full house in the press room but we’d saved our seats early on. It wasn’t quite but almost beach towels on sunbeds! There’s always much discussion as to who’s going to win and the room seemed to be equally split between Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and the defending champion, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). I really don’t mind who wins as long as it’s an exciting race.

The race winds up as it reaches the final two climbs, the Cipressa and Poggio. Riders stop casually chatting and everyone’s on high alert, favourites to the fore, keen not to miss what might be the winning break. The traditional early break comprised of riders from ProConti teams gets reeled in, riders launch attacks and counter-attacks, everyone looks around nervously, the crowds of spectators along the route grow thicker and deeper, some are even waving flares.

The bunch starts to thin out as soon as the peloton drives up the Cipressa. All back together with 25km to go, Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli) was last man standing from the bunch of early escapees. Just 5km later and Niccolo Bonifazio (Direct Energie) sucks the wheel of a motorbike on the descent of the Cipressa and builds a slim advantage but he’s back in the pack well back before the climb of the Poggio. Now we’re into the last 10km and the peloton is flying.

The royal blue clad Quick Step team set the pace for the charge up the Poggio but their sprinter is well back so their efforts must be for Alaphilippe who recently won Strade Bianche. The Quick-Steppers are thinning out the bunch on the  Poggio, now it’s an EF-Drapac Cannondale rider, probably Simon Clarke, launching himself from the pack. Alaphilippe counters with 6km to go and goes straight past Clarke. Could this be the decisive move?

A whole host of favourites follow Alaphilippe’s wheel. The winner will come from this group. An Italian rider takes a flyer. Are we going to have another Italian winner after Nibali? Now they’re all eyeing one another as they hit the finishing straight on Via Roma. Some riders launch their sprints too early, but Alaphilippe times his burst for the line perfectly ahead of  Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) and former winner (2017) Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky). Alaphilippe falls into the arms of his soigneur, Yanky Germano, and we have tears of joy, tears of relief, and prosecco sprayed everywhere from the podium.

We had rather a long wait for the still-emotional winner who arrived at his press conference after a lengthy session in doping control, where he confirmed:

I came with the goal of winning this race. I’m just as proud of my win as I am of the work of my team today. What they’ve done for me is absolutely exceptional. I rode for the victory at the end bearing their dedication in mind. I recovered in the downhill after I sped up on the Poggio but I still thought it would be complicated to win considering the quality of the riders I was away with. I made a little effort to close the gap on Matteo Trentin as I knew he was very fast. Then I stayed calm and remained next to Peter Sagan. When Matej Mohoric launched the sprint, I knew I had to take his wheel straight away. Had he taken 20 metres, it would have been game over. I capped it off the nicest way I could. It’s pure joy.

Indeed, it was pure joy! We’d had a fantastic day out and topped it off at home with a small yet lavish supper with some of our Italian goodies. We’ll be doing it all again next week-end when we’re off to Turin.

 

Great Bloggers’ Bake-Off

I was so looking forward to taking part in this challenge but sadly this week has been too busy for me to don my pinny. Instead I have to resort to that old favourite of here’s one I prepared earlier which met the brief because it’s a sandwich sponge cake, as follows:

  • Your cake must have at least two layers
  • Your sponge cakes can be any flavour and any colour
  • You can fill your sandwich cake with any filling you like
  • We would like you to decorate the top of your cake
Chocolate and raspberry delight

This is a cake I made for a [cycling] clubmate’s 60th birthday at the behest of his wife. It was my first fancy cake and went down a treat. It was a triple layer genoise sponge soaked in Framboise liqueur and layered with rich chocolate meringue butter cream, topped with fresh raspberries and surrounded by chocolate curls. My beloved christened it my chocolate fort cake. That man has no romance in his soul!

 

Le Grand Depart 2020

In an earlier post I bemoaned the paucity of my trips to Nice but I’ve recently been there on three consecutive days. These trips were courtesy of the last two stages of the Paris-Nice cycle race, and the presentation of Le Grand Depart of the 2020 Tour de France. The latter took place last Monday in the magnificent surroundings of the Nice Opera House, one of my favourite buildings in Nice.

In the presence of a handful of ex and current riders, mayors of local towns, a small press pack and the great and good of Nice, the Mayor of Nice Metropole, Christian Estrosi –  himself a keen cyclist –  kicked off proceedings with a short film showcasing the splendours of the region to the converted. He handed over to Christian Prudhomme, the chap in charge of the Tour de France, who recalled Nice’s (limited) role in the history of the Tour.

He also reminded everyone that there’s an exhibition celebrating “100 years of the Yellow Jersey” at Musee de Sport, Allianz Riviera until 29 September.

The route of the two opening stages was left to Thierry Gouvenou, the race’s technical director, to explain and what a reveal!

The 2020 Tour de France will start with a bang. Its organisers ASO have opted for two tough opening stages in and around Nice on roads I know well, love and regularly ride. The first will be a spectator-friendly 170km route suited to the sprinters and puncheurs, starting and finishing in Nice. Though it won’t be an easy route, with four tough climbs scattered along the way and a fast finishing circuit to conclude.

Stage two will be a major departure from traditional Tour de France openers as it heads into the mountains and reaches the highest point ever seen since 1979 (won by Bernard Hinault). The 190km route goes over four cols (3,700 metres/6500 ft), firstly the Col de la Colmiane and the Col de Turini, before cresting the smaller Col d’Eze then the final test of the day, the Col de Quatre Chemins, followed by the downhill run to the line on the Promenade des Anglais.

This stage, which again starts and finishes in Nice, is a mash-up of the last two stages of this year’s Paris-Nice, and will be a test for the climbers. It’ll also ensure that two different riders will wear the maillot jaune. Nothing was said about where stage three will start but I guess it won’t be too far from Nice.

There’s always a chance that such an early test will take riders out of contention for the general classification while the race is still young. A traditional grand tour aims to build tension throughout its three weeks, culminating in a crescendo of final mountain stages, as the opportunities dwindle and contenders feel increasingly desperate to gain time on rivals. This rarely happens in the Tour de France.

Throwing mountains up front isn’t usual for the Tour. Last year, the first uphill test didn’t come until stage 6, on the short Mur de Bretagne. Realistically, the stage is unlikely to do any real damage. The major climbs are far from the finish; the final two are short. Legs will be fresh. Teams will be strong. Sure, a few contenders will fail, but that always happens!