Thursday, 22 June 2006

Toby ?

We went to see three incredubly cute kittens last night, one of whom (a tabby boy) will be coming to live with us in a couple of weeks. He purred when I picked him up and stroked him - hopefully the start of a wonderful friendship!

Alice has the responsibility for choosing a name, and the current favourite is "Toby", after a toy dog of hers. (Only ten days to get her to change her mind!) Seriously, she first said she wanted to call him Barney, which of course we poo-poohed. She later asked me very seriously why we couldn't call him Barney, and so I had to explain how painful it would be. Makes you think about how a six-year-old's mind works.

My suggestion was Bruno, which unfortunately cut no ice with Alice. But she really must be the one to choose, in order to foster this spirit of responsibility.

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Cars and Cats

Haven't written for a few days. Major hassle on Friday evening. when I got off the train, my car wouldn't start again. Exactly the same problem as earlier in the week. Major pain in the arse.

Anyway, Jacqueline came and picked me up, and I was resigned to having to spend hundreds of pounds at the garage after all.

Saturday, it was Alice's school fair, so we headed off there for a hour or so, long enough to see Alice dance. Then, we headed back up to the station in Salisbury to see whether my car would start. No joy. So when we got home I had to phone the garage to tell them, and arrange for the RAC to come and get the car.

RAC were really helpful, since although my car couldn't be dropped off at the garage until Monday, they got their people to come and pick the car up on Sunday. This was a big help since on Sunday the station car park was empty - on Monday it would have been full and impossible to load the car onto a truck.

Spent the rest of Saturday tidying the house and sorting out photographs. I've been really lax with the family album, haven't updated it since last September or so, so there were photos from our holiday in Wales, our weekend on the Isle of Wight and of course the recent Centerparcs trip, all just sitting there.
Sunday I drove up to the station, early, to meet the pick-up guy. Of all the bloody things, the car started right up! So I looked like a complete dick to this guy. The only thing I could think of was that it was a temperature thing (last Monday, Friday and Saturday were hot, whereas on the Sunday morning it was decidedly cool).

But even though the car was running then, I still made the guy take it since the ignition is obviously unreliable, and that's not really acceptable.

Back home, all done very efficiently since there was no traffic on the roads, where we awaited a visitation...
One of the things we've talked about, now that Barney has gone, is getting a pet for Alice. Well, you know, a pet for all of us but one that Alice can feel is her responsibility. Maisie is lovely and we all love her, but she's sufficiently smart that she never lets Alice get anywhere near her. We talked originally about a rabbit or guinea pig or something, but to be honest both Jacqueline and I would prefer something more self-sufficient, and so the question of getting a kitten came up. Fortunately, Alice went for it hook, line and sinker, and of course Jacqueline and I both love cats to bits. So, I contacted Cats Protection, and despite the fact that we'd had Barney and Maisie from them, they wanted to do a home visit. No problem, and it was arranged for Sunday.
Unfortunately the visit never happened - the woman's car had broken down.

Still, not to be thwarted, I took everyone out for Sunday lunch at the Old Beams in Ibsley. Excellent roasts, but you need to get there early to get a table. Thereon to Ringwood, where we did the weekly shop, and where Jacqueline took me for a Fathers' Day coffee.

Finished the photographs also on Sunday, am now completely up-to-date.

Monday, back to work, although of course I am reliant on Jacqueline to pick me up and drop me off, something which she does quite cheerfully although I can tell it is a burden for her. She'd arranged for the Cat Woman (for want of a better description) to do the home visit at 6 o'clock, and yet again they didn't turn up.
The Home Visit finally happened yesterday, obviously when I wasn't around. When I talked to Jacqueline about it she was very negative about the whole experience. Despite everything I'd spoken to the Cats Protection people about - and I'd been very specific explaining that Maisie still had to feel as if she were the Number 1 cat, and that for Alice's sake we wanted a kitten - the woman said that for starters it is their policy only to home kittens in pairs. Not at all what I expected - they could have told me this over the phone and we could have all saved each others' time. Very disappointing.

Anyway, Jacqueline had had forsight enough to go into the pet shop in Downton and to take down the numbers of a couple of kitten adverts, Plan B if you will. We phoned the first one and very spookily it turned out to be the woman who used to childmind Alice when she was a toddler, and whose boy goes to the same school as Alice. Almost seems as though it is fate.... She has kittens who will be ready very shortly and so when I get back home tonight we're going straight around there to take a look.

Have heard nothing from the garage about my car. Poor show. I'd have thought thay'd have at least given me a courtesy call, even if just to say that they'd got the car but had not had time to look at it yet. When I phone them, the people I need to speak to are either on the phone or with customers. You feel almost as if you're interrupting them.

Thursday, 15 June 2006

further relief

I was up in London yesterday, leaving the house at 6:30am and not getting back until 7:30pm. Boy was I tired! First day back and all that. By four o'clock my eyes were drooping and on both journeys I have a funny feeling that I was snoring on the train...

Still, some pieces of good news - the new transformer I ordered for the laptop arrived yesterday (I could have sworn I had a spare, but could I find it?), at a cost of only £20. Plugged it straight into the laptop and not only was the transformer ok, but I worked on the laptop for three hours or so and had no inkling of trouble from it. So whilst I think there may actually be some underlying problem, I think I may be able to postpone getting it repaired in the short term.

So last night I updated the blog with the entries written while I was away. I always do this offline since it seems particularly crass to announce to the world, in real time, that we were going on holiday for a fortnight and that the house would be empty!

In addition I copied all the photographs onto the main photo-machine. This is the one that stores all the originals, plus has all the software to turn my 12MB+ original images into thumbnails and into images small enough to be practical to put on the site. I'm going to need to do some work here soon, since I think I'm more than six months behind at putting photos on the web site - I don't think even the photos from Wales last October are on there yet.

On the subject of photos, I got one of those throwaway waterproof cameras whilst at Centerparcs, and snapped the film away during a session in the Dome. Must remember to unpack the camera and get the film developed and put onto CD.

Everyone very hyped up here because of the England game this afternoon. My clients have allowed one of their conferencing rooms to show the game on TV, plus I believe they are making a stream of the game available so that people can view it on their desktops. There are an enormous number of cars on the streets flying St George flags - looks a little silly I think, all very "tabloid-ish", but it keeps peoples' minds of their problems I suppose.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Normality?

Following a pleasant cruise across the channel, we arrived in Portsmouth a half hour late. First stop upon hitting dry land was the cashpoint, next stop the KFC to top up on some good old British grease! (Actually it had more to do with knowing we had nothing in the fridge when we got in.)

When we got home the fun and games started. My car, which had been lying idle for the last two weeks, refused to start. First time this has happened, so called the RAC and in the meantime unpacked the bikes and the cases. Had just finished unpacking when the chap arrived - very timely and very pleasant, but unfortunately unable to fix the car. After a variety of tinkering, we determined that the best thing to do would be to let the dealer's mechanics look at it, and the RAC would provide a flatbed to get it there. So that would completely scupper Tuesday.

I had a dream Monday night in which I went out to turn the car over, and it just started. Contrast this with the probable reality of the thing costing hundreds of pounds to fix...

So Tuesday I got an unexpected lie-in. Sent the clients an email saying I wouldn't be there, then settled in to wait for the garage to open. Having had a somewhat more leisurely than anticipated bath, I decided that before making any phone calls I would save myself from looking an idiot and try the engine one more time. And lo! The angel of the lord came down, the engine fired and within a few seconds was purring away happily! Excellent result since I can really do without garage bills at the moment.

That left the day. In the first instance I tried to find the spare transformer for the laptop, but could I? In the end I ordered a new one so hopefully by the weekend I'll be in a position to assess how functional it is, and whether I need to send it away for repair.

Rest of the day, until around 4 o'clock, spent working. I need to provide documentation for the system I've built for them, and writing some blurb was the ideal way to get back into it.

At about 4pm, Jacqueline arrived home with both infant and cat, and peace as I knew it became a thing of the past. Still with zero food in the house, we went out for a quick supermarket shop, and after that we were all totally tired. Even though I'd stayed at home I still ended up doing half a day's work on the computer.
So, a quiet night. Attempted to watch the Brasil match but could not keep my eyes open and ended up going to bed and listening to the final part of the game on the radio.

Which brings me to.....this morning. Back into the routine, getting up at 5:45am ready for the trek to London. Lovely.....Having said that, I may as well use the journey for something useful; all of a sudden my eyelids feel heavy...

Monday, 12 June 2006

Homeward Bound

Well, we're underway on the journey home having left port half an hour ago.

Saturday afternoon had a great time in St Malo, getting there in time for lunch in a beautifully-decorated creperie. I had something savoury but Jacqueline and Alice both had chocolate and banana crepes - for lunch. Tremendously hot and sunny, it was fortunate that St Malo is a town of high buildings and narrow lanes, so we were able to keep in the shade most of the time. Plenty of stops for refreshments - I had a superbly subtle Orange ice cream - but the only stuff I actually bought was from L'Occitane, and one of the main purchases there was to replace, on Alice's behalf, a large bottle of bubble bath which Alice had consumed in a single bath in Centerparcs (and we thought such antics were long left behind, nevertheless, her next few weeks' pocket money so she herself will feel the pinch).

A brief swim upon returning to the hotel, then out to a local bar-cum-restaurant for an interminable meal. Food was okay but service very slow. Just France, I guess, normally the slower the better but when Alice has to wait over an hour from her main course to her ice cream it becomes difficult. We arrived at 8 o'clock and did not finish until 11 o'clock. The restaurant was at the top of the next cove, but unfortunately the tide was in when we left the hotel so we had to travel across land (and I immediately regretted wearing pool shoes without socks). By the time we returned, however, the tide was well on the way out and we walked back along the sand. Amazing that even at 11pm there was enough light to walk by, accompanied of course by the blinking lights of the multitude of nearby lighthouses.

Another hot night with restricted sleep, certainly for Jacqueline and I. I basically left the windows and curtains wide open. Of course this meant that the room became light early bur at least we had a sea breeze coming in. And the light certainly didn't stop us from sleeping, since we rose comfortably about 8am for breakfast, all of us having slept better. Also, yesterday was cloudy, although still very warm. Spent the morning in the hotel pool - saline (yuk!) but Alice didn't care - then went out in the afternoon to Dinan, which is a charming little place very similar to St Malo and one which we must endeavour to explore in more detail on our next visit to the Cote d'Emeraude. We were even caught in a rain shower as we drove back to Dinard, although by the time we arrived at the hotel the ground was practically dry once again.

Sunday evening headed to a Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant we'd seen on the way into town. The cheapest and best-value meal of the holiday. My Duck in Mushrooms was surpassed only by Jacqueline's Beef in Ginger sauce, plus of course being Sunday the restaurant was very quiet.

Back to the hotel for a leisurely nightcap. Not much of an actual sunset because of the cloud in the sky, although the clouds themselves to the west were beautiful shades of pink.

Same ploy last night - to leave window and curtains wide open - although it was still hot. First thing I did when I woke up this morning was to shower to freshen myself up. Jacqueline woke shortly after us but helpfully Alice remained sparco, allowing us to pack all bar a couple of carrier bags in peace. I have to say that I do like the Novotel in Dinard, but the rooms are so oppressively hot that if we come again in the summer we may choose a different hotel. Even the reception areas have the warm "swimming baths" atmosphere. Although the hotel is also a thalassotherapy institute so maybe I'm expecting too much.
The rest, as they say, is history. We left the hotel quite early, made the brief drive into St Malo and had very little queuing in order to board the ferry. We were settled in and munching into a cooked breakfast each before the ship left port. Today really is a chill out day, with only the ferry to keep us amused until we dock at 6:30 this evening. However it promises to be exciting for Alice - various kids things are planned, which should be good if they're anything like last year, when Alice was shown around, met the captain on the bridge and even got to steer the ship.

Au revoir, la France, et a bientot!

Saturday, 10 June 2006

On the beach

Went out for a nice meal last night in St Lunaire, to a restaurant right on a point (Le Decole). Beautiful views across toward Dinard and St Malo. St Lunaire is somewhat like Dinard, but quieter still and with beautiful golden beaches. This part of the world really takes some beating, with the only English equivalent possibly being Cornwall.

Very tired last night, plus I was feeling achy, but we all had a terrible night's sleep. Alice simply would not go down. Plus it was very warm, and the hotel doesn't have air conditioning. Anyway, I woke up at 8:30, my aches and pains were gone but my throat felt like someone had rubbed it with sandpaper. Still, we all managed to rise for breakfast, even despite Jacqueline claiming only to have had two hours sleep.

Since breakfast, Alice and I have been beachcombing - Alice went out fully clothed and managed to get everything wet. Wonderful climbing on the rocks as the tide went out. We've just come back to the hotel, met up with a suitably refreshed Jacqueline and are now going to go out to St Malo and possibly on to Dinan this afternoon.

Friday, 9 June 2006

To the coast

Headed north-west from Centerparcs today. Quite sad - Jacqueline and Alice didn't want to get up, but of course I had to take responsibility for visiting the boulangerie and to bring the car round, not to mention loading it up. So there were lots of things to take my mind off leaving.

I must admit that once again I was not feeling 100% today - yesterday was so hot that I caught the sun despite spending only about 15 minutes outside at lunchtime, and putting creme on when we went to the dome in the evening. Still, I'm sure I can cope with a little sunburn.

Yesterday, for supper, I treated the family to a ready-roasted chicken from the supermarket, complete with pommes de terre. Lovely, but they don't know how to do proper roasties!

So the journey up to Dinard went very smoothly except for the last section up from Rennes. We'd mentioned the possibility of going to Rennes tomorrow, but on reflection... Then, to cap it all, once we arrived in Dinard there were lots of "Route Baree" signs, and indeed I had to take a massive detour to get to the hotel. Still, a trip to the bar for a nice long orange juice (beaucoup de glacons) went some way toward restoring my faith in humanity.

Journey up was the opposite of last year, when we had torrential rain to deal with. This time the car's thermometer was running up to 30 degrees, and shot up to 36 when we pulled in for a pit stop. Have just seen the weather forecast on TF1 and tomorrow looks similar, although with cloud in the afternoon.
Have spent the last couple of hours settling down for the highlight of the year - the start of the world cup. It is halt-time in the first game now, and Germany are leading Costa Rica 2-1. I'm watching it on French TV because the signal is so much better that English TV - we have a good four or five terrestrial channels which presumably we're picking up from the Channel Islands. I could quite happily go to sleep now but I've booked a meal out in St Lunaire, (allegedly, depending on open roads) five minutes westward along the coast.

Not sure what we'll get up to tomorrow. St Malo is a definite maybe - have been there countless times but never when the shops have been open. But I think we'll need to think on it after a good night's kip.

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Mother Nature

Well, yesterday went according to plan, such as it was. We dropped Alice off at Kids' Club and headed down the autoroute into Vierzon. As last year, we went to an excellent little clothes shop, where we found clothes for all three of us. Even Alice was impressed when we showed her some things we bought for her.


Back to Centerparcs for a swim, then on to La Grenouillere for an excellent meal. We ate most of it outside (until the flies became too irritating), in the garden under an apple tree. For me, foie gras followed by sea bass followed by souffle: for Jacqueline, langoustines followed by smoked lamb, followed by a strawberry millefeuille. Even Alice got in on the act, spurning the proffered "kid's dish" and going instead for rouget (red mullet), followed by homemade ice cream (peach, vanilla and chocolate). It was good from my perspective to see her appreciating the meal and the surroundings. Total cost was a whopping €170, but let's face it this kind of opportunity is quite rare for us these days, so it is worth making the most of it.

Today is a beautiful morning. For some reason I awoke at 4:15am and couldn't get back to sleep, so eventually I just got up. Looking out onto the patio I've seen innumerable birds, also three rabbits (munching on some lettuce left out by Jacqueline), a moorhen and the local (red) squirrel. I must admit that even though we didn't book in time to get the grade of cottage we wanted, we have benefitted this year from the quieter location. Whereas last year our patio basically overlooked a pathway (and a popular lakeside pathway at that), this year although there is a pathway 25 yards away, we're sufficiently remote to have seen people only on two occasions in the last ten days. Also there is far more animal activity, which again must be related to the remoteness.

On a sadder note the laptop appears to have developed a problem. I think it is something to do with the display. Yesterday and today I have had intermittent problems first of all with it powering up (i.e. nothing on the screen at all), also with it displaying hi- res graphics and to cap it all, the thing appears to hang every now and again. Yet for all this, right now it is working perfectly. To add insult to injury, this morning the transformer has refused to work, so I'm stuck on battery power. The transformer is less of an issue since I have a spare at home and, in any case, can pick one up for twenty or thirty pounds, but the display is worrying. Sending it back to Dell for repair could prove expensive.... I'll have to get a handle on the situation when I get home and have access to enough kit to be able to gauge how serious it might be. Pain in the ass.

Wednesday, 7 June 2006

Big Day Out

Long day yesterday. Out early to Lamotte Beuvron, where we intended to take the train up to Paris for the day. The only thing was that when we got there, the "train" was actually a "bus", at least as far as Orleans. Track works. As is was, we didn't arrive into Austerlitz until a quarter to one. Off one train and onto another - onto the RER train (the "double decker train", according to Alice) a couple of stops to the Champ de Mars.

Our destination? You've guessed it, none other than the Tour Eiffel, at Alice's special request. This was the main thing she wanted to do when in Paris, and the look of ecstasy on her face when the tower first came into view was one I will remember for the rest of my life. Myself, I must admit I see little point in climbing 1000 feet into the air only to come back down again, however this was not the view of our six-year-old. Braving all the queues (queues to queue, queues to get up, queues to get up further, and finally queues to get down) we climbed right to the summit.

Believe it or not this was a first for me, since I have only ever visited the second stage before. To say I was scared would be an understatement, especially when the thing was swaying in the wind. Of course, you tell yourself that the tower has been standing for over a hundred years, and in that time millions of people must have climbed it, and that even though the lift is taking you unbelievably high, it must be safe.... and that even though the piece of metal underneath your feet is flexing, it must be safe....

Anyway, first and last time for me.. If Alice wants to go to the top again, she can find someone else to go with. I haven't mentioned Jacqueline in all of this. Well, she was there but at the last minute decided not to join us, preferring instead tostay on terra firma. Chickening out? Absolutely not, she says!

Photos from the top were magnificent, however. And could not have asked for better weather. I did ask Alice if she wanted to climb Montparnasse instead, to get views of the tower, but of course in the eyes of a six-year-old there is no substitute.

Onward and upward, so to speak. After a walking lunch we took the Metro to Concorde and walked up to the Opera. To my eternal shame (I used to know Paris so well) I couldn't remember the way and was forced to have Jacqueline buy a streetmap from a news stand. Only to find that if we'd have walked a couple of blocks further we'd have been right there. Should have trusted my instinct....

By now it was around 4:30, rather late to begin the second task of the day, but nevertheless... Jacqueline wanted to visit Les Grands Magasins. After our intrepid exploits Alice and I preferred to head for the nearest cafe to enjoy an Orangina and a Coke, plus a sandwich. We then met up with mum to go to Printemps, which wasdisappointing. Thinking back, to think of the many happy hours I have spent clothes-shopping in Galeries Lafayette, I must have been knackered to pass up the opportunity!

Anyways, after the visit to the shops, that was it. No time to visit La Mouffe, my favourite part of Paris nestled at the edge of the Fifth, just straight back to Austerlitz where we did at least have time for a coffee. On the train back I could easily have fallen asleep, but forced myself to stay awake so we didn't miss our stop. Completely unnecessary, I'm sure I could have trusted Jacqueline, but......well, you know.

Fortunately this time around the train from Orleans to Lamotte was a real train, but that didn't seem to stop it running fifteen minutes late. Back to Centerparcs for just after nine, and, for me at least, straight into bed. Rest of the family must have been tired also - Alice slept in this morning until around 10:30am.

Plan for today is simple - Alice is going to Kids' Club this afternoon, during which time Jacqueline and I will head into Vierzon. Swim immediately following Kids' Club, then out (we hope - I haven't made a reservation yet) to La Grenouillere restaurant this evening. We had an excellent meal there last year, so hopefully they'll do us proud again.

Oh, on Monday, by the way, Alice and I had an excellent time canoeing around the lake. For me, the first time since childhood. Brilliant.

Monday, 5 June 2006

Changeover Day

Was woken at 6am this morning by the sound of some guy closing the boot on his car. Apart from that, the world was still and we had the makings of another beautiful day. I pottered around for a half an hour, before coming back to bed for another little snooze. Finally woke for good - along with the rest of the family - at around 8:30am. I think today will be a lazy day, the Dome should be quiet since it is a changeover day, and later Alice and I plan to canoe around the lake while Mum takes a sauna.

Yesterday Alice and I went out for a ride around the lake, as planned. It was a lovely day so I took some decent photographs. Alice is getting more and more confident on her bike (she's out riding it as I speak), which is excellent news. Unfortunately Mum is going the other way - she's so out-of-practise with her riding that her bum is sore!

We headed out, late, at one o'clock, for a place called Vezelay, which I'd been tipped about (thanks, Martin). Unfortunately I completely misread Autoroute and instead of the journey taking 1½ hours (as I thought) the journey actually took 2½ hours. Alice in particular was not happy. All Jacqueline could say was, "This had better be worth it". Despite that fact that I felt guilty about taking them on so long a journey we were travelling through the most beautiful countryside on roads which we had pretty much to ourselves - good roads where we could generally drive at at least 100kmh - and through some breathtakingly beautiful little villgaes. To cap it all, when we did eventually get to Vezelay, which is a World Heritage site, we were all suitably impressed. Wonderful little place. We even caught a performance of sections of Faure's Requiem mass (one of my favourites - something I studied for 'O' level and have never been too distant from) in the magnificent Basilique St Madeleine, by presumably one of the local choirs. Very much in the spirit of Carcassone and Mont St Michel, most especially because of the religious connotations, but smaller than these two (certainly a lot smaller than Carcasonne).

Of course it was late when we returned to Centerparcs, although we just about made it before nightfall. We even found a pizzeria in one of the little villages on the way, Boulleret, and stopped for a bite to eat. I had a delicious pizza with simply chicken and peppers on it - an unusual combination but very tasty. Alice was introduced to spicy Merguez sausage (on her pizza) and after initially deciding she didn't like them she changed her mind and scoffed the lot!

For me, a lovely drive and day out, if a little long.

Looking at the clock, must get moving soon. I can hear cars outside which hopefully means Centerparcs is emptying and that the pool will be somewhat quieter than over the weekend. We must make the most of it now since the next changeover day means us!

Sunday, 4 June 2006

Sunday, Sunday

As always, I seem to be forgetting something every time I write.

Friday was, at last, quite sunny and bright. A little cool in the breeze, but not at all bad. Yesterday, however, was downright warm. The breeze was great because it cooled, but lovely, sunny and not a cloud in the sky.
Anyway, yesterday of course was Saturday and from experience, Centerparcs at weekends can be quite manic (this was the reason for choosing two "midweek" slots sandwiching a "weekend" slot - last year we did WMW and caught crowds at either end of the holiday. True to form we went across to the pool mid-morning to swim, but the volume of people was huge and we resolved to try again later.

Time for a brief lunch before the afternoon, in which Alice was booked into Kids' Club and Jacqueline and I had planned to use the three hours to go someplace. Alice, however, did a classic. As we prepared to go out, we noticed one thing was missing - Alice herself! Fifteen minutes later she turned up having "gone on a bike ride" without telling us. I wouldn't mind, but she knew she was going to Kids' Club also. I was really angry when she got back, shouting how stupid she was in the middle of the road!

In the end, she got to Kids' Club twenty minutes late, and Jacqueline and I bombed up the autoroute for a precious hour shopping in Orleans (we each got a pair of excellent shoes, though). The time alone was good, in the end, to calm us both down, because wth Alice I feel like I am an awful parent. I try to do as much as possible for her - at the end of the day we could have dragged her out toOrleans with us and dragged her around the shops - but she always seems to come back and say "More, more." I hope when she has children she realises...

Anyway, we all met up and were friends once again at 5 o'clock, when we picked her up. Back to the cottage and quickly out for another swim, this time a little quieter, and back again to the cottage for around eight o'clock. Jacqueline prepared a sumptuous salad for supper, and next they got down to the serious business for the evening - de-lousing Alice's head! Fortunately the only role I had in this was in translating the instructions, but suffice it to say that mum combed out hundreds of the little buggers (les poux!) in the end.

Alice also took an anti-hystermine because once again she had a blotchy tummy. Its really quite sad that she keeps on getting them, but for some reason my solution - a Number 4 all round - just seems to wind her up!
Not quite sure what we'll do today. Weather is once again beautiful, or so it seems from in the cottage. Jacqueline was out early so we have some fresh bread, croissants and coffee, but it is now 10:30 and we can still hear Alice snoring! I think perhaps it might be good to avoid the Dome, go for a ride around Centerparcs instead perhaps, and possibly a visit out to a chateau this afternoon. Tomorrow will be quiet once again and Tuesday we plan to visit Paris and, at Alice's wish, to "climb" (i.e. take the lift up!) La Tour Eiffel!

Saturday, 3 June 2006

Holiday Update

In the end we went to Blois on Thursday - we didn't get out until lunchtime so didn't really have time to visit two places. Beautiful place. We'd been to Blois before, years ago, but only on a fleeting visit. This time we had a good look around and it was a lovely little place. We found a beautiful rose garden, perched on the hill overlooking the river, by the Hotel de Ville. By the time we left, however, not only was it quite late but the weather was starting to close in. We got back to Centerparcs in the rain and settled in for the night.

I should add that Alice, having met and played with some English girls in the morning, was very resentful of being dragged away from this, and consequently seemed to be on a mission for the rest of the day to ruin it for us. It is ironic that whereas last year we thought this was the perfect holiday, I am now starting to think that I am not prepared to have Alice on holiday with us again. She is just so disruptive it is hard to relax.

Friday - gosh, we've been here for a third of the break already - the sun was shining and it was quite warm as we arose, late, at 10am. Out for a swim for a couple of hours, but we needed to go out. Thursday night we noticed Alice had come out in blotches on her tummy - the last time we saw this was attributed to nits (never too far away from Alice's school!). She popped an anti-hystermine tablet to get rid of the rash, but we still needed to go to a pharmacy to get some treatment. So we headed out to Orleans. We found the pharmacy and the obligatory supermarket to replenish supplies, but also found a nice large Decathlon, where we purchased a new bicycle helmet and lock for Alice. Since she has no stabilizers she will be riding that much faster now, and her own lock gives her that little bit more freedom to go places.

Alice has been on a budget of €40 pocket money for the holiday, and this has now been spent on a myriad of tat. Next week there will be a lot of saying "No" I dare say.

Getting up at 10am is, for me, one of the highlights of the annual holiday. The ability to wake up at 7am, think "sod it", and turn over and lie in for another couple of hours. We're currently sleeping around 12 hours per day, which is unheard of at home. Small things...

Anyway, back from Orleans yesterday we went to the Experience Factory and had an ice cream. Alice played on the climbing frame, and Jacqueline and I had a "sporty" challenge - well, a game of pool and a game of air hockey! Of course I won easily, although for some reason Jacqueline said I was cheating. Can't think why...

Back to the cottage we started watching a film on the computer but again were too tired to see it through.
Just to prove that we're not in complete holiday mode, I have been periodically watching CNN and we're seeing more bad news from Iraq. Stories of US soldiers involved in a massacre of Iraqui civilians. Can it really be doubted? Can we really say we are surprised? And the US and UK are now touting for support for action against Iran too. Depressing.

On a final note, I finished The Da Vinci Code to other night, in the end a very good read. As I said earlier, would be good to see how much of it is factual. Anyway, I am now reading about the General Strike, which is totally factual, and which has already thrown up some surprises. I had no idea of the rioting that took place in the years immediately preceding the strike - in Liverpool even the Police rioted and in Glasgow when a riot took place the government bussed in soldiers from England to restore order, because they could not be sure that if they used the local Black Watch garrison, the troops wouldn't mutiny. Plus an account of the "emergency legislation" rushed in following the Bolshevik revolution, aimed at repressing civil liberties, which we can easily identify with in this post-9/11 world. Fascinating stuff, our true history.

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Filling in the details

Some background on the holiday that I omitted yesterday.

Weather has been sunshine and showers throughout the stay thus far. However it doesn't feel warm as it did last year. The ground hasn't heated up yet, so the only heat is coming from the sun, and when the sun goes away or the wind blows, it can be quite cold. We were caught in a tremendous rainstorm yesterday, whilst cycling to the Experience Factory. Fortunately the others had waterproof jackets on, only I was silly enough to come out in just my fleece.

Went into Lamotte Beuvron yesterday evening, mainly to get a new bicycle helmet for Alice now that she is riding on just two wheels. Unfortunately the selection at Lamotte wasn't very good (it is only a small town in any case), so we passed the opportunity up. Still, we did get to go to the station, where I picked up some timetables for Paris, and we saw the famous Hotel Tatin, where the Tarte Tatin was created, and finally we found a small pizzeria for supper. Back to Centerparcs for 9pm, a brief cycle from the car park to the cottage, and we were all exhausted.

I should mention that I have finally succombed. I brought three excellent-looking books with me on holiday - a history of Italy under Mussolini, an account of the General Strike and a book about the Colossus at Bletchley Park - and yet on the ferry across I still found myself buying a copy - at long last - of The Da Vinci Code. Fairy late to cotton on, I know, but in my defence I very seldom touch fiction. I think in this case the film has just come out and it is only a matter of time before it comes onto Sky, and I have always thought that a good book is far superior to anything that can be filmed. So I guess I didn't want to feel short-changed when I saw the film. In fact the book is a very good story - I think I need to do some reading afterwards to see exactly how much of it is factual - and is a very easy read, so much that I will probably finish it tomorrow.
Today has begun quite lazily. Alice is out on her bike, obviously can't get enough of a good thing - and Jacqueline and I are both lying on the bed (Jacqueline bought a book too, but not really my cup of tea). The vague plan is to go out somewhere today - we think Blois and maybe Tours, then to come back this evening in time for a swim.