Home advantage

For the first time this year, everything fell into place. My beloved was home, OGCN were at home and the weather was glorious. As a consequence, we decided a trip to Stade du Ray was in order.

We parked our car at the tram terminus and hopped on the tram for the two stops the stadium, to pick up our tickets. There’s never any problems buying tickets on the day. We had some time in hand, so we retired to a local bar for some fortification.

Three days after qualifying for the quarter-finals of the French Cup at Drancy, OGCN were back on home turf taking on Sochaux, a team with whom we’ve had some memorable encounters in recent seasons. And when I say “memorable”, I should add that the result has generally not been in our favour.

We started brightly with several shots on target in the first 20 minutes. Frankly, we weren’t looking like a team staring down the barrel of relegation. Our efforts were finally rewarded by a goal in the 29th minute from Nemanja Pejcinov, following a 45m free-kick from Anthony Mounier.

Sochaux lost arguably their best player (Anin) in 44th minute following a second yellow card after a handbags at dawn set to with Clerc. There was barely a reaction from the 18 Sochaux fans (yes, I counted them) in the away enclosure.  

During half-time, we’re generally treated to a shoot out between two local junior sides. This evening, we were also afforded a bunch of nubiles dancing to opera. I’m not sure that it was truly appreciated by the fans. Just stick to the football.

In the second half, OGCN failed spectacularly to exploit their advantage. Indeed, on a number of occasions I did a quick headcount just to check that Sochaux only had 10 men on the pitch. Early on in the second half, Sochaux had a goal rightfully disallowed, for a foul on the goalkeeper.

Sochaux, however, continued to press their disadvantage and, in the final 20 minutes, looked as if they might score. Particularly, as their substitutes kept barging into and knocking flat our goalkeeper. These were all the size of players who in the UK would prompt the chant “Who ate all the pies?” Pies are not served at Stade du Ray: pizza, pissaladiere, club sandwiches and tourte aux blettes, but no pies. I’m not sure whether these are the preserve of northern French clubs, but I suspect not.

In any event, we held on to take all three points and now lie 14th in the division. The same place as occupied by my beloved boys in claret and blue, after their regrettable 2-2 draw with Fulham.

Today’s ride started under climatic conditions similar to last week: wet and damp. However, the sun soon burned through the clouds, heating us up and drying out the roads. Today’s pointage was in Valbonne village, always an enjoyable ride and an opportunity for a little window shopping as we ride through the village.

I lingered at the pointage just long enough to exchange greetings with one of the home club’s members, an American lady who’s lived here for over 20 years and who’s a pretty good rider. I decided to return via a different route and then headed for my regular watering hole for a coffee and the newspapers where I settled down to wait for my beloved to put in an appearance.

We returned home for lunch and an afternoon spent dealing with various work-related matters. We decided to turn on the new all-singing, all-dancing, HD television and, much to our surprise, it worked. We travailled happily side by side enjoying the Chelsea v Liverpool match, followed by Real Madrid v Real Sociedad. I have to be honest, this TV has been one of my beloved’s more inspired purchases.

Playing hookey

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what’s prescribed in the training programme, the weather just beckons. It did today. The last few days the weather’s been steadily improving and today was positively balmy. Break out the sun-block. I could no more take a rest day than I could remain indoors.

I headed out with my beloved around lunchtime for one of my favourite circuits: Vence by way of l’Ara, returning via La Gaude. Regular readers will know that my current record for ascending to Vence, set last year, is 51 minutes. This early in the season, I’m not aiming to get close to that figure.

There’s something very uplifting about being out in the open air, bathed in warm sunshine, without a care in the world. Not only that but my traffic light karma was working well. I coasted through 5 out of 6 sets of lights: always a promising sign. On the way up to La Colle sur Loup, the weather was so warm I was beginning to regret wearing my windtex jacket. But I was sure I’d appreciate it’s thickness later on when descending. I did.

As we wended our way ever upwards, to my right I caught glimpses of the sea through the trees, always a calming influence. As I glanced ahead, I could see the walled village of St Paul de Vence. It’s usually on this particular stretch of road where, in the spring and summer months, I encounter hoards of Japanese tourists, heading towards St Paul, having just disembarked from their coaches. They usually become quite animated when they see me and, inevitably, take my photograph. I often wonder how they explain me away when showing their holiday photographs to friends and family on their return. We didn’t have to dodge tourists today, only the school buses.

I made good time up to the base of l’Ara despite having to stop several times to blow my nose. I am getting better at doing this one-handed while continuing to pedal, but it’s a job best done with both hands, and that’s still beyond me. A glance at my Garmin revealed  it was unlikely I would beat my best time, however I would at least be close to it. And I was: 52mins 23secs.

We rode through Vence and along to St Jeannet. The road was surprisingly quiet, bereft of both cars and cyclists. We stopped to enjoy a coffee in the sunshine and lingered over the newspaper.  I noted that my beloved boys in claret and blue had been bought down to earth 3-1 yesterday evening, at the Theatre of Dreams. The Red Devils, courtesy of Wayne Rooney, had scored in the first minute of the match and we were 2-0 down (Rooney again) at half-time. Darren Bent got one back in the second half, but then we conceded another. It read as if we put up a spirited, but ultimately doomed, defence.

You might be wondering why we didn’t watch the match on my beloved husband’s all-singing, all dancing, new, oversized HD screen in the office. That had been the plan. However, he has had problems accessing the connection via the internet. Meanly, I have left him to sort it out. He visited the Orange Shop yesterday afternoon where he learned that, thanks to an administrative oversight, he was given the wrong access code. As a consequence, the connection was cancelled and it will now take 7 days to be re-established. We’ll get there eventually.

The lack of traffic facilitated a swift descent back home where I quickly rustled up some lunch before sitting down to plan this evening’s English class. After last week’s session translating song lyrics into French, I’m going to find an article on travel to discuss and translate. I find it’s always better to pick topics which will hold their interest.

Postscript: Got back from the club to discover OGCN had beaten Drancy 0-1 to advance to the quarter-finals of the Cup.