My ongoing Fibre saga

Cue party hats and balloons! It’s been a long and tortuous process with many a false start but finally, yes finally, we received confirmation that Fibre was available in the Domaine.

Overcome with excitement, we made an appointment at our local Cap 3000 Orange shop and found a(nother) very helpful assistant. In only two hours, we had our new iPhones, a new contract and an appointment for Fibre to be connected. We were happy bunnies!

We’d chosen the first available date for the installation, Good Friday – not a Bank Holiday in France. We’d opted for the 08:00 – 11:00 am slot. Not that we were expecting anyone at 08:00, we knew the engineer would have to deal with any emergencies first, and assumed he’d arrive around 11:00.

I’d already confirmed the appointment, twice, but started to get twitchy as 11:00 approached and passed. I received a call from Orange Ground Control, our technician would be with us shortly. However, they were unable to define how long was « shortly ». Evidently, our lone technician was having a particularly taxing morning but would be with us soon.

Just before midday he rang to say he’d be with us after lunch ie at 14:00. He arrived on the dot of 14:00 and ferreted around in the cupboard on our communal landing to feed through the fibre cable to the office. It was relatively easy to feed the cable through to the entrance hall but no further. No, that’s not true. It would go further but it wouldn’t go to our chosen destination. I even had him try it in reverse ie from the office out, but to no avail. He left us empty handed and Fibreless.

Of course, we had hoped Orange might send us the engineer who had fitted our WiFi extenders, but no, it wasn’t him. Instead, this one kept telling us that he didn’t know how to connect them up to the Fibre service. Not particularly auspicious as I’d advised about the extenders and even named the technician who’d fitted them when we’d made the appointment. I then had the job of explaining to Orange Ground Control why Fibre had failed us.

Luckily, I still had another trick up my sleeve. I contacted the business branch of Orange responsible for fitting the WiFi extenders and explained my dilemma in detail. An inspection visit was booked and within what seemed like next to no time this engineer had correctly identified the problem and come up with two solutions. It appeared that our electician, as a short cut, had run the telephone line through the same channel as the electricity cable, an ill-advised move. Although it was possible to feed the Fibre cable through the same conduit, the presence of the electric current would probably interfere with the Fibre service, meaning it would be a sub-optimal solution.

The alternative, and naturally more expensive one, relied upon the Fibre and Liveboxes, plus another extender, sitting discretely behind the storage in the entrance hall, feeding left and right to my existing extenders. This solution has the added advantage of giving me WiFi throughout the entire apartment and Orange TV and CANAL Plus to both televisions. It was a win-win all round!

 

Windows on the world

When we first moved into the apartment, I briefly considered renovating the windows and putting in double glazing. My beloved said there was nothing wrong with the existing windows, so I didn’t change them. However, it’s something I’ve since regretted and had planned to replace them either this year or next. Recently, our building’s management committee proposed everyone have windows that meet a specific standard so that we can reduce the building’s carbon footprint, and its heating costs. The vote was passed by a massive majority.

This has occasioned lots of noise over the past year as most owners have had to replace their windows to meet the standard. I’ve been dragging my heels a bit as I’ve tried in vain to find a self-cleaning glass. Keeping 10 large, floor to ceiling windows clean is one of the banes of my existence. It’s supposedly one of my beloved’s chores but I’m lucky if I get him to do it more than twice a year. From time to time, I find someone prepared to clean the windows but they soon lose interest in such a tough job.

I have bought my beloved various tools with which to clean the windows. He’s got a steamer and one of those Karcher window cleaners but he makes such a mess cleaning them inside and out, it’s often quicker and easier to do it myself! Somehow I think that’s the point he’s trying to make.

As many of my neighbours have now replaced their windows with all-singing-all-dancing double glazed windows, I’ve been able to check out the results. My philosophy tends to be that if I’m replacing something, it has to be superior to the existing product. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything with self-cleaning glass, but I did want improved function and greater security.

The frames have to be aluminium with champagne (gold colour) exteriors but I can have any colour I fancy on the interior. Most of my neighbours have gone for white but that’s too bling, bling for my period interiors and off-white window frames. So I’m replacing like with like, champagne inside and out. It’s champagne coloured aluminium all the way through rather than being painted that colour.

We’ve gone with a firm nearby in Antibes who are the local partner for a German window manufacturer. We had their windows in both of our flats in Germany, and I loved them. Many of the neighbours opted for windows from Italian companies which generally prove to be a less expensive option but this firm is closer, has a superior product and excellent pre and post sales service. It’s a long-established family firm whose employees have been with it forever. Quite my favourite type of firm!

So I’ve signed the contract, paid a deposit and my windows are now being made with fitting planned for the week beginning 21 January – can’t wait. Meanwhile, I have no chance of getting my beloved to clean them.

 

A few observations on Aussie cycling kit

I don’t normally write about cycling kit, preferring to leave that to our  in-house expert Panache, over on VeloVoices. However, while down in Australia, where cycling is a strongly growing sport, it was interesting to see what kit riders wear, aside from their club kit. The Australian market appears to be not too dissimilar to that of the US and UK. It’s a  predominantly white-collar sport where its proponents ride seriously expensive bikes and demand high-end co-ordinated kit to match. It’s rare to see someone wearing a mismatched jersey and bibs. Indeed, many will be totally co-ordinated from head to toe with matching socks, caps and gloves.

By comparison with our trip last year, I noticed that local brands, such as MAAP, Lumiere, Pedla and Black Sheep Cycling, are seriously challenging Rapha’s seeming stranglehold on the Australian market. What these brands all have in common, is their determination to break with tradition and use innovative colours and patterns allied to leading edge fabrics, with all the performance bells and whistles. I particularly like their use of navy or grey as the base colour for bib-shorts with their colourful matching tops and bottoms. Now I say this as someone firmly wedded to black bottoms and silhouette slimming dark jerseys. Some of the brands have international distributors and all of them have webshops which ship internationally.

These newish brands are particularly popular with the ladies, who represent about 40%  – hurrah – of all cyclists on the Australian roads. Not unnaturally, it’s often the ladies who demand more fashionable, stylish and colourful kit which, of course, also helps make you more visible on the road. So, purely in the interest of research, my beloved tried on one of these brands to check the sizing, and came away with a new outfit!

image

He usually takes an XL in Rapha and Assos but moves up to an XXL in many of the Italian or French brands. Here he’s wearing an L in the shorts with an XL jersey, along with the matching socks. Of course, he just had to try it out the following day and said it was really good at wicking moisture and the pad was extremely comfortable. He then started muttering about maybe he should have gotten a pair of the bib shorts in grey too. That man will be the death of me and my bank account.

Weighty matters

I leapt on the scales yesterday morning to check my weight ahead of next week’s meeting with the nutritionist. I am relieved to report, it’s the same as it was before Xmas. Sadly, my modest(ish) alcohol intake over the period has ensured that I’ve not lost any more weight. But maintenance is fine, regression would not be.

The outlook for the next few days is not good: rain and more rain. As a consequence, I may be forced to spend more time in the gym and on the home trainer, not necessarily a bad thing. It’s so chilly at the moment, that I find 2 hours on the bike outdoors is sufficient.

I was lulled into a false sense of security yesterday morning when the sun appeared briefly at around 11 o’clock. As I left the Domaine, I realised it was colder than I’d appreciated. By the time I’d circumnavigated Cap d’Antibes a couple of times, I was more than ready for a cup of coffee at my regular watering hole. 

This morning I awoke to find the coast shrouded in mist and, on hearing the steady pitter patter of rain, turned over and went back to sleep for an hour or so. I got up, eventually, and did an hour’s one-legged interval training. The rain’s quite heavy today and will be tomorrow, but it’s forecast to be much lighter on Saturday, before turning heavy again on Sunday.

On Tuesday night down at the club everyone was moaning about how much [cycling] time we’ve lost this winter to wet weather. Now, it’s official, as reported in today’s Nice Matin, it’s the worst winter in 40 years and the 3rd consecutive “bad winter”. “Bad” being  defined in terms of rainfall, absence of sunshine and the temperatures. Since few, if any, of my readers hail from sunnier climes, I’m probably not invoking too much sympathy here. 

Over the Xmas period, I had the annual sort out of my dressing room. If I haven’t worn it for the last year or two, then it’s off to the local Red Cross. With my weight loss over the past couple of years, the Red Cross has been the grateful recipient of large swathes of my wardrobe.  Also, a  lot of my cycling kit is no longer a snug fit. In fact, scarily, some of it now provides me with the proverbial suit and overcoat. This is despatched to Burkina Faso where it’s probably re-cut to re-equip the entire team. With my birthday fast approaching, I’m going to be treating myself to a new water/windproof top. The question is, which one?

Should it be this one?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Or that one?

Slim and black
 
 
 
Tough choice!

Timely

My beloved has departed until tomorrow evening, and not a moment too soon. I like to leave more than adequate time to arrive at the airport while my beloved thinks I can get him there, whatever the time of day or the condition of the traffic, in 10 minutes. He thinks he operates “just in time”. But as soon as we’re in the car, en route to the airport, he’ll remember (too late) that he’s forgotten something. I, who place great faith in planning and preparation, would have had everything (including printing off my boarding card), ready the night before. My regular readers will know that my beloved never learns from his mistakes. It’s like we’re locked in a perpetual “Groundhog Day” scenario every time he leaves the country.

Having dropped him at the airport, just in time, I drove home, leapt on the bike and sought solace in the surrounding countryside. I don’t attempt to put the world to rights while on my bike, I just enjoy the moment: me, my beloved bike and the open road. I returned feeling so much calmer and set about clearing my lengthy “to do before I leave for Oz” list.

I have sorted out what clothes I am taking with me. My long-term mistrust of all airline carriers means that I only travel with hand luggage. Having flown extensively, I now have this down to a fine art. My sisters would do well to heed my advice. I take less luggage for 3 weeks than they would contemplate for an overnight.

Here’s my basic guidelines. First, ditch the small sub-branch of Boots. You can’t take much in the way of toiletries in hand luggage, so buy them on arrival and use samples on the plane.  Second, stick to a limited colour palette so that everything matches and you can manage with one handbag and one (comfortable) pair of shoes, aside from the training shoes (necessary for walking, standing to watch the cycling, running, gym work and bike riding). Lastly, accessorize with scarves, they take up so very little room.

So what have I packed? Two sets of running and cycling kit, 3 pairs of black trousers, 5 t-shirts, a nightdress, 3 scarves, underwear, a swimsuit and a pair of black ballerinas. I shall travel in cream trousers, trainers, cream short-sleeved cashmere sweater and black fitted rain jacket. In my spacious handbag, I’ll have my cashmere shawl, as I always find planes a little on the chilly side, laptop, iPod, two books, camera, Blackberry and charger,  adaptor,  notebook, pen, sample toiletries, passport, paperwork for the trip (you don’t think I’d entrust it to my beloved, do you?) and a couple of cycling magazines. I’m all set, but you can bet my beloved isn’t.

A welcome addition

With guests arriving this evening, Bob and I have been busy ensuring that the flat is truly welcoming. While I’ve been tidying up, changing bed linen and towels, Bob has been working away, relatively quietly, cleaning the floors: no mean task in a 200 sq m flat. Generally, I just leave him to get on with it however I do keep an eye on him as he has a tendency to escape onto the balcony (cleaned yesterday)  and, very occasionally, gets stuck under one of the cupboards.  

My mate Bob, every girl should have one

Who is this paragon of virtue? He’s an automatic floor sweeper and he’s made my life so much easier. If only the same company made one which ironed! Yes, the ironing mountain is starting to build ahead of the Vuelta. At the moment, it’s composed largely of shorts and polo shirts. But once my beloved has been on a few business trips, formal shirts will be added to the growing pile.

Meanwhile, back to Bob who’s still circumnavigating the flat, sweeping up today’s accumulated dust. I should add that he also leaves the marble looking really shiny. I’m sensing that Bob gets a wee bit lonely all on his own and that I may be forced to acquire him a mate. More specifically a mate who washes floors after he’s swept them. Isn’t it wonderful that us girls can acquire all sorts of hardware to alleviate the drudgery of housework, and give us some pleasure. Who needs boys?

Fashion advice

Any fashionista will tell you that you can’t skimp on quality when wearing white. Cheap simply doesn’t cut it. The same goes for cycling shorts, as white appears to be the choice for the summer months. Now, you don’t see many women wearing white cycling shorts, those that do tend either to have the right size butt (small) or it’s their team kit. Men, on the other hand, seem to have no such qualms. Nor apparently do they possess mirrors.

So here’s my guide on how to wear white shorts. First off, throw out all those shorts that have turned grey from repeated washing and those from which the lycra has fled. Buy the most expensive pair you can afford and please ensure that they are lined. If your butt is bigger than Alberto Contador’s, choose white shorts with  black and/or coloured inserts such as these which give the illusion of a skinner butt.

Recommended

Do try to avoid wearing them in the rain. Wash after each wear, on a cool cycle, with other whites, to preserve the colour.

Some of my female readers who are  unfamiliar with  the world of cycling may have gotten quite excited on seeing this photo. Please don’t, this model (sadly) looks nothing like the average road cyclist. Indeed, if more of them looked like this I suspect the number of women taking to two wheels would rocket exponentially.

Postscript: As the mercury climbs, please do not be tempted to a) ride without a jersey or b) ride with your jersey unzipped, unless you’re wearing a vest underneath. The obvious exception to this rule is anyone with a torso similar or better than the man in the photo.

Negative brownie points

Xmas Day

Santa left me just what I wanted: a dry, sunny day for riding. After a slap up breakfast, which included my delicious home made muffins, we set off on rapidly drying roads to enjoy a few hours in the saddle. As we left the Domaine, we noted that one of the fir trees had been felled in last night’s storm. Either that or Santa and his entourage had crash landed before making their deliveries.

On a clear day, you can see forever

The sky was a vivid blue though the sea was green rather than its usual azur. The storm had cleared the air allowing you to see for miles around. There were plenty of cyclists out enjoying the morning as well as loads of families trying out the bikes, trikes, scooters and skates left them by Santa.

As usual, we had opened our presents on Xmas Eve. Earlier in the week, my beloved had uttered those dreaded words “I’ve got you a couple of things”. Dreaded because I hadn’t actually asked for anything, meaning he’d used his initiative aka I would be getting something which he would like. 

I can’t claim to have been disappointed, more resigned, as befits Mrs Scrooge. He had bought me a small and a large desk diary for 2010. He said he thought the latter could be useful for the office. I don’t need to tell you that buying your loved one a “gift” for the office is unlikely to win you any brownie points. Indeed, you’re far more likely to end up in “the dog house”. Obviously, my beloved had failed to observe that I already have my 2010 diary, the same one I buy every year, and which I’ve been using for the past few weeks!

In case you’re interested, I bought my beloved a Panasonic Lumix combined camera and video, a waterproof carry case for his mobile phone, money, licence etc when he’s riding and a new razor/hair trimmer. Fortunately, he’ll be able to make reparation as my birthday is only three weeks away.

Companionship

I habitually ride on my own. Even when I ride with my beloved, or my club mates, I inevitably end up riding on my own. You might conclude that this was because no one can hold my wheel but, sadly, it’s the other way around.  However, from time to time it’s nice to ride along, shoulder to shoulder, chatting with someone who rides at the same pace.

I got back last night from dinner in Nice to find a message from my friend, she wanted to ride with me today. When I left the Domaine this morning it had just finished raining and the sky was not looking promising. However, my traffic light karma was in overdrive. There are twelve sets of traffic lights between us, over a distance of 5kms, and each one turned green as I approached. I covered the distance to the meeting point in record time and, on account of the dark clouds, we opted for a number of circuits of Cap d’Antibes – quicker to get back home, should rain fall.

As we navigated our first circuit of the Cap, the sun started to break through the clouds and began dancing on the waves. We didn’t need to say anything to one another, we just smiled. It’s just one of the many reasons we both chose to live in this beautiful part of the world and why neither of us likes leaving it for too long.

 There weren’t too many other cyclists on the road but we bumped into one we both knew and who rode with us for a while – the owner of our LBS. He’s recovering from a recent accident (contretemps with a bus) and man flu, so we promised to be gentle with him and ride at his pace! He has a new toy, a power tap. Every time we ascended, he kept telling us his wattage and, since we kept pace, ours too.  

We were making plans for the forthcoming season: which sportifs we were going to take part in, which live races we were going to watch and how many kilos we were going to shed. We had a coffee together before I headed back home. She’s coming round tomorrow evening to raid my extensive library of cycling books for something to keep her company over the Xmas period.

I shall be adding to this collection in the coming weeks as I’ve received a number of Amazon vouchers as Xmas presents. Some think vouchers are a cop-out, but I love them. It means I can justify buying some expensive tomes that I’ve been lusting over.  Remember, I’ve got another big book case to fill.

Cool kit

I have read various reports that Cervelo Test Team’s kit was the best-selling and most popular of the season. It’s hard for me to comment. Round here most wear their club kit, all the time. There’s very good reasons for this. Generally, one wears club kit when riding with one’s club. Also it’s the cheapest kit you can buy. It’s either sold at cost or at a subsidised price if, like us, you’re lucky to have plenty of sponsorship. For example, we pay only Euros 27,50 for a short sleeved cycling top with a full-length zip. Probably, the next most popular brand is Bwin, very reasonably priced kit made by Decathlon. Sightings of premium brands such as Assos or Rapha are rare.

While you do see people sporting pro kit it’s either because they are pros, they live next door to a pro (and it’s a freebie) or they won the kit in one of the many club tombolas. No local sportif or randonée would be complete without either a goody bag or tombola. As a consequence, hands down, the most oft-sighted kit here is that of Astana. I suspect that this is what may have led Lance to conclude he was now more popular with the French when he was staying in Beaulieu-sur-Mer earlier this year.

Aesthetically, the Cervelo kit benefits from its paucity of sponsors and simple colour palette. My Swiss friend is a big fan of their kit. He has both versions, here he is in the black one. He’s not a member of a cycling club, rather he rides with a group of like-minded friends who also acquired both versions of the Cervelo kit. Coincidentally, he lives in the town where Assos is based but possesses not a single item of their range. This is a man with a seriously extensive cycling wardrobe.  I should know, I have seen it.