Just another week end

The incredibly mild weather is continuing which isn’t great news for those planning on going skiing. This, of course, has meant I have been out and about on the bike since my return from the Big Apple. Yesterday was the Telethon, France’s version of “Children in Need” but I was too busy with my guests to take part in the Club’s ride.

One of my English students is contemplating what to do after leaving school. French schools appear to be no better than English when it comes to dishing out career advice, so we’re lending a helping hand. I had invited around a couple of family friends for dinner. One’s an accountant and the other’s Head of HR at a bank in Monaco so they were both able to impart some words of wisdom and advice to our young friend.

Having guests for dinner’s an excuse to try out some new recipes. I decided on English cooking with a twist as my theme for the evening. I cooked a silky smooth cauliflower soup with black pudding, fish and chips with home-made tomato ketchup and for dessert, apple crumble and custard. Obviously, nothing was quite as it seemed. 

I dusted the monkfish in curry powder and fried it for a few minutes and served it with celeriac chips which had first been confit in goose fat before being fried too. The crumble was perched atop cored apple halves stuffed with rum soaked raisins and served with my home made custard, not a tin of Bird’s in sight. There was also a cheese course and my petit fours to finish. I believe the boys have quite changed their minds about English cooking.

Our young guest stayed over and rode Saturday morning with my beloved and his friends. He returned to collect his stuff and the two of them polished off the remaining crumble doused in custard. Who knew raw crumble tasted so good? Yes, the “spare” crumble hadn’t been cooked. Still both declared it ideal cycling food.  I went for a 3 hour ride after they’d left but returned too late to prevent them eating it. 

Following on from my Garmin malfunction, still waiting to hear from my LBS on that one, the screen went blank on my 7 month old Dell.  Now I’d had the same problem with my old Dell, but only after 7 year’s use. I immediately spoke to their Support Desk but I’ve got to make contact with them again tomorrow morning.

Saturday afternoon, I replaced my Blackberry. The mouse on the old one had given up the ghost. It would only work in two rather than four directions so, sadly, it had to go. Of course, the functionality on the new one is completely different and I’m still grappling with it.

Today was the Departmental pointage at Menton. We lost our crown last year and I don’t expect we’ve recovered it. Nevertheless, as M Le President was working, I was on hand to chivy the boys. After the pointage we continued on in to Italy for a coffee with a few clubmates. The coffee’s good in France but it’s cheaper and better in Italy. This added a few extra kilometers to the ride, just over 100km by the time we got back home.

We collected the papers, showered and then I whipped up a quick lunch before we settled down on the sofa to read the papers and watch the television. It’s allowed, we’ve expended a significant number of calories.

Profiting from the brief respite from live cycling, I’ve been reconnecting with the world of round balls. Football and tennis to be exact, and with mixed fortunes. My beloved boys in claret and blue lost 1-0 at home to the Red Devils, a disappointing result from a strange team selection. OGC Nice were at home to Rennes and frankly I feared the curse of the returning former manager and players. Not a bit,  the boys won 2-0 to keep them connected with those teams sloshing around in the final quarter of the league. A loss would have had unthinkable consequences.

It was the Davis Cup Final this week end, Spain v Argentina. Naturally, the boys playing on home turf were favourites to lift the cup for the 5th time in 11 years. They didn’t disappoint, despite heroic performances from Del Potro and Nalbandian, Nadal wrapped it up today with a thrilling reverse singles which swung first in favour of Argentina and then back again like a pendulum. But no one really doubted the outcome: Spain victorious again.

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.

Unwanted gift

Fortunately, things went according to plan on Friday and we arrived home to find the coast bathed in sunshine. It was still cold, but nowhere as cold as either the US or UK. Having missed a day, I spent the remainder of Friday rushing around like a mad thing. Later that evening, when I finally collapsed on the sofa, I found that I couldn’t swallow. As the evening wore on, I began to feel worse. My head was pounding and I felt feverish. Fearing I had picked up a cold, I made myself a hot toddy (whisky, hot water, lemon and honey). It doesn’t cure colds, just makes them more bearable.

Unfortunately, I had a disturbed night’s sleep thanks to my beloved’s snoring. I didn’t feel well enough to get out of bed but, if I wasn’t going to ride in the Telethon, I needed to deliver my cakes for the post-ride feast. I dressed warmly and drove down to the feed zone where I dropped off my baked goodies, excusing myself from kissing everyone as I didn’t want to pass on my germs. I drove home and hopped back into bed.

My beloved was very concerned. With me hors combat, who was going to feed him? Despite feeling at death’s door, I had driven home via the supermarket to pick up essential supplies so that he wouldn’t starve. He would however have to prepare his own meals. I felt no better on Sunday morning and hoped that the club wouldn’t lose the departmental championship by a 5 point margin which would have been my own small contribution.

After some home made soup for lunch, I’m starting to feel much improved and have moved from the bedroom to the sofa to watch Serbia v France in the Davis Cup Final in Belgrade. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a passionate, partisan crowd. Sadly, the singles matches were all one-way traffic with only yesterday’s doubles match providing any real drama. The French might have made it more of a match if Tsonga had been available to play. Nonetheless, hats off to the Serbs whose tennis budget is less than 1/10th of Great Britain’s.

Had I been feeling fine, we would probably have gone to watch last night’s water polo match, Nice v Montpelier. My beloved was a keen water polo player and, from time to time, we go and watch Nice (ONN) play. Any excuse to watch fit young guys in skimpy outfits! According to Nice Matin, it was a close game, with Nice shading it 8-7. Similarly, we would have gone to watch today’s local derby Nice v Marseille where OGCN staged a smash and grab (Fae) in the 92nd minute to beat OM 1-0. Looking at the game’s statistics, Ospina (goalkeeper) was probably our MOM. OM had 53% of the possession and 16 shots on goal to our 8. But it’s the final score that counts. After last week’s 1-1 draw away at Monaco, we’re back up to 14th spot and holding our own. Cause for cheer.