Monday, 15 September 2014

Alpe d'Huez cycle ride

Perhaps the biggest high point of the year was our trip across to the Alps to meet up with Wife's brother who wanted to attempt a cycle ride up Alpe d'Huez.

Brother-in-Law is in late stage cancer and it is unclear what the immediate future holds.  The long-term prognosis is not good but he is hanging on well.  He has become a fanatical cyclist and was really keen on this attempt.  I used to be a keen cyclist but had to really get back into it to be ready for the trip.  I started training seriously in July and clocked up a few hundred miles before our September trip.

We arrived in the Alps to heavy rain on the Tuesday and we drove up Alpe d'Huez to get an idea of what we had let ourselves in for.  It was far more daunting that we had thought, though this might have been due to the bad weather.

But on the next day, it was lovely conditions and we both managed the ascent to much glory.

Brother-in-Law produced a rather excellent video which is now on Youtube called "Jonathan R and Andy G take on Alpe d'Huez"

Me labouring up on my 90 minute ascent

And at the finish - I have just arrived while Andrew has had five minutes to recover!

French Holiday - Sept - Brother and Sister in law

The second part of our September holiday involves a visit from Wife's brother and his wife.  The first part of this takes place in the Alps and features our glorious cycle ascent of Alpe d'Huez.  For the last few days, we are back on the west coast and have a very nice break.

Lots of sun, some nice meals (in and out), some more cycling and much relaxing

The photos below were taken with my Go-pro video camera - a most impressive device and one that is justifiably making its mark on the world

French Holiday - Sept - Wife's parents

Our September holiday is a tale of two parts.  For the first week we are joined by Wife's parents, which has mixed results.  daughter is not greatly pleased but the week passes without too much incident, possibly because Daughter has a friend come a visit, which distracts her a bit.

Wife's parents have become committed Franco-philes over the last six months.  Not sure i'd be too happy if some of their more-far-fetched plans to spend time here ever came to fruition - But rather than worry about that now, I will just assume that they won't come to fruition.

Some nice days again as usual

And for a few days we were joined by a kitten - almost certainly the daughter of the male tabby that we used to see around the house last year.

The kitten was christened "Rosie" by daughter.  She disappeared after a week with us and hasn't been seen since.

A nice trip out to Saintes with Wife's parents

And a trip to a Sunday brocante market, where I bought lots of pictures

Daughter and friend visiting Oscar the donkey


Catch up 5 - recent reading and music

Hardly any time for serious reading this summer.  In what little time I have had, I have re-read several old favourites such as Mathiesson's The Snow Leopard, Feyerabend's biography Killing Time, Garber's Academic Instincts, Safranski's biography of Heidegger and Rowland's biography of Giodarno Bruno

Briefly I looked at the possibility of going trekking to the area where The Snow Leopard is set - apparently it is now a fairly routine trip for people to do.  It wasn't in the early 1970s!

Very few new books - one that stood out was Hellbron's biography of Galileo

My music listening has been focused on Gideon Coe's rather excellent radio shows, though I still have my monthly subscription to and download my full lot each month - I just rarely get a chance to hear much of them.  One new band I have really liked was Bo Ningen, more noisy Japanese.

Another highlight was Iggy Pop's BBC 6 radio shows.

Catch up 4 - France in July

Our summer holiday this year was spent at our main house in France just before it was then rented out for 6 weeks.  We had just about finished the renovation of Petits Chats and so were able to rent the whole house to one group for two weeks, which was good.

Overall then, our house income was marginally up on last year.

Our holiday was partly spent sorting out the purchase at Louzignac and partly on getting the main house ready for the summer - for instance we spent a lot of time cleaning the pool.  But we did manage one or two days out as well.

Wife cleaning the bottom of the pool with her broom.  Later it turned out that the best technique was to use a Karcher cleaning with a long jet attachment

Lovely weather for our stay (and for most of the summer).  Sunflowers everywhere this year.

We went brocanting on Oleron on one occasion and still see the re-sale of this sort of stuff in the UK as being a possible future source of income

And our main house looks lovely as the peak season approaches

Catch up 3 - Daughter.'s summer

Daughter finished the first year of her M Phil at Oxford and has come about one-third of the way down her year, which is borderline distinction and which she was pretty happy with, as there is a higher focus on maths in the first year, which is not her strength (such a judgement being relative to her very select peer group of course).

She then spent most of the summer in Central America on her latest tour of many countries.  So we didn't see her for some time.  But she seemed to have a very good time doing that, and made a new very-close friend.

Her next priority is to sort out a suitable dissertation topic for the second year of her M Phil and then start the process of being accepted onto the D Phil.

Finally, she was voted onto the committee of her college common room and therefore gets to stay in her current halls of residency for another year, rather than have to find a place of her own.

So all pretty good really . . . .

Catch up 2 - Louzignac purchase

The purchase of our second house in France was completed in July.  At the last minute, we also acquired a share in a field nearby, which was a bit odd.  So now we are really into the planning of the renovation - detailed budgeting, discussion with various people about specific things we can't do ourselves, etc.

I am trying to tighten up the budget a little and to do more of the work myself, rather than use other people.  Every piece of planned work is also being scrutinized to ensure that it is a value-enhancing thing to do.  For instance, swimming pools are rarely value-enhancing and so this idea has gone.  On the other hand, converting the workshop into an additional lounge with an extra bedroom and bathroom upstairs is a hugely enhancing idea as it increasing the habitable space.

So loads to think about there then

Wife having lunch at Louzignac on the afternoon we completed

Our strip of the field is about 100 metres long and 10 metres wide, roughly where Wife is standing.  We could have picnics there - or maybe a small music festival!

Catch Up 1 - House rental, etc

Rather disappointingly, we have had remarkably little interest in renting our house out and we are getting close to having to decide what to do with it.  We had rather assumed that by now we would be thinking about an imminent move to spend a year or so in France, but that might not be able to happen at the moment.

So do we go stick with our current arrangement in which Wife works in the UK and I start the new French project alone?  Or can we think of any other idea.

We have received lots of thoughts on the subject from Wife's clients, who generally seem to think that the estate agent are wholly to blame.  On the other hand, Wife's clients are also pleased she is currently not going, even thought they bought her leaving presents in the summer!

So maybe the house will come off the market in a few weeks time and we will do some more re-painting over the winter and try again in the spring.

A tremendous disappointment given what we hoped to be doing now.

First post for ages - a catching up plan

A rough idea for a catch up plan - given that things have been too hectic to post anything on a regular basis.  I will try and write something on each of the main current themes, then start again with regular posts.

But it is really busy at the moment - who knows if this plan will work or not.

It would a shame for things to just peter out . . . . .