Back Home

Returning home after a holiday is always an anticlimax. It’s nice to be home, but we’d still prefer to be doing something different, somewhere else. The journey home was uneventful, but bitty.

After breakfast and a chat with our host, Noreen, then

  • We walked to the tram stop and caught a tram into Dublin city centre, then
  • We walked around the corner and caught a bus to the airport, then
  • We walked to the gate, via the shops, then caught an airport bus, then
  • We walked to the aeroplane and up the stairs and flew to Gatwick, then
  • We walked off the plane and caught a bus to the terminal, then
  • We walked to the station and caught a train to Clapham Junction, then
  • We walked to a different platform and caught a train to Tolworth, then
  • We walked across the road and caught a bus to Gosbury Hill, then
  • We walked around the corner, home, sweet home.

Interestingly, we walked straight out of Gatwick airport, nobody and no machine checked our passports. It was a bit of a shock to be out on the concourse with hundreds of members of the actual public.

Liesel declined my invitation to come for a walk the following day, despite it being sunny rather than the predicted wet. And walking around the streets of Chessington, I was reminded why I usually take out my phone and play music or radio programmes. The sound of traffic is inescapable, even away from what might be described as main roads. The birds around here have to squawk really loudly to compete with the traffic. Walking in the forest last week was so peaceful, heating the birds singing without having to shout. And the silence in between was only disturbed by the susurration of the wind in the leaves.

Today was the day we caught up on all of our admin, not very interesting really, having to pay bills and check bank accounts and process all the mail, throwing a good 75% of the paperwork straight into the recycling bin.

As far as the house-move is concerned, some progress has been made. We responded to our vendor’s enquiries and our seller’s solicitor has answered some of ours. One thing that is a little disconcerting, that we hadn’t previously even contemplated, is the question: Is our new flat likely to be affected by the impact of the High Speed Railway (HS2) from Birmingham to Manchester?

While away, we tried to follow the Giro d’Italia but now we’re home, we can watch it on TV, or at least, the highlights. Sean Yates has been leading for most of the race but today, he cracked on the final climb, so, excitingly, it’s all to play for! (As they say.)

Today is the final day of the service provided by Which.net, the site of my first websites and our first email addresses. Over the years, I’ve said farewell to a number of different email addresses but I still have a soft spot for some of them:

  • delphinus
  • more-chocolate
  • dark_horse
  • mickeydoodah
  • mick_the_wonder_horse
  • mickey_moose
  • mickeydoooodah
  • mickeydoodledoo
  • mick.freed (yes, one of those had to go because it clashed with an American who shares my name)
  • cc_s435 (my very first one, at Kingston University)

The Craic Was Good

BBC 6 Music is our Sunday soundtrack, usually. Not necessarily all day, but the presenters are all pretty good, the music is fab, and if we hear a song we’re not too keen on, we know something good will come along later.

Today though, there was some competition. The 2018 Winter Paralympics are taking place in PyeongChang. I have two whole legs and I can’t ski and steer where I want to nor stop when I need to. So to watch disabled skiers, some sitting down on monoskis, do their stuff is awe-inspiring.

But the most intriguing game is the Wheelchair Curling. And it made me think of Albert Einstein. Hold on, that’s quite a leap, isn’t it? Well, he is reported to have said, “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”.

Here is a game in which large stones are slid along an ice rink and points are scored in a similar way to bowls: it’s determined by how many stones are closer to the centre of the target than those of the opposing team.

Wheelchair players have to push the stones with a long broom handle. Or stick. There is no sweeping as there is in conventional curling.

So there you have it. Sticks and stones. Wheelchair Curling is really World War IV.

Oh well, back to the radio.

Amy Lamé presents a show every Sunday afternoon between 4 and 6pm. Everyone is welcome, boys, girls and everyone in between. There is a ‘French Fancy’ each week, which is great, we don’t hear much French music on the whole. But on Amy’s page of the official website, it’s billed as ‘a Gallic tunage feature’. Tunage? One of my all-time most disliked words! Ever.

Another feature was promoted on Facebook thus: “We’re celebrating music with a #NorthernIreland connection today on BBC Radio 6 Music 4-6pm GMT. What track helps you kick back, relax and get that ‘Lazy Sunday’ feeling?”

One song immediately sprang to mind, so I sent off an email very quickly.

Steve the producer wrote back and asked for my phone number so I sent it. Well, I haven’t been on air for a long, long time.

The phone rang, I spoke to Amy, talked about my Mum and about Jenny, William and Martha, and she played my suggested song. And after all that, the song still managed to bring a lump to my throat.

Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?

Palaces and Princesses

A bit of a lie-in today, Saturday, after two very long but very different days. It’s been said many times but we both feel as if we need a holiday after our week here in Paris.

We’re still coming across French or Parisian stereotypes and clichés. Watching the Olympics with a French commentary is very entertaining. I thought the ‘ooh lala’ was pretty good. But during the skiing down a halftime event, someone crashed out and we were treated to a ‘ooh lala lala lalalalala lala’.

Beware: in some restaurants, the vegetarian salad option boasts salmon as a main ingredient. Mostly though, while it’s been difficult sometimes, I’ve enjoyed the veggie food, even when it’s a bit, let’s say, unusual. White pizza is one that has no tomatoes.

We were entertained on a train by a man playing his piano accordion. A medley of French tunes which had a few of the passengers dancing in their seats.

The tickets to Versailles were valid on any reasonable route via Metro or RER. Which sounds typically French in a way. And the RER train itself was decorated to look like one of the great Halls at the palace, even the ceiling.

More people seem to smoke here than they do in London but we’ve seen very few electronic devices being enjoyed. You have to hold your breath while entering some eating places as the enclosed but ‘outside’ seating area is for smokers.

The train journey to the Palace of Versailles revealed that most graffiti in and around Paris is nothing more than tags, ugly and not very creative. Such a contrast with the artworks here and at the Louvre, for instance.

We left the station, Versailles Château Rive Gauche, to be greeted by a depressing sight of the unholy trinity: a KFC, a McDonalds and a Starbucks. Under slightly different circumstances, this would be cause for a revolution.

The Palace of Versailles is huge. Most of the halls are bigger than our house. The Hall of Mirrors is as big as Wales. The audio commentary was purely factual but in the end I think we both took a dislike to all the opulence. It could very well cause a revolution under slightly different circumstances.

One of the halls contained busts of notable men from mostly the arts. Men. Yes, apart from a queen and a mistress, I don’t think women were much good in those days. I was pleased to see a couple of astronomers and mathematicians represented, though, Cassini and des Cartes for instance.

We declined the offer of a 20-minute wait for lunch and instead walked back towards the railway station, and in particular, to a nice, small, independent coffee shop by the name of The Stray Bean. The carrot cake, pistachio cake and the coffee all scored maximum points.

We briefly met up with Monica and Neha on our return. But we went out and had dinner on our own: a surprisingly tasty rice-based veggie burger with chips.

Friday we all got together again for a day at Disneyland Paris. We were joined by a friend of Monica’s, Hannah, who’s from Ireland but studying in Lyon.

For Neha, I think the highlight of the day was the Princesses’ Lunch. While eating, we were addressed by Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel and Aurora. Sadly, no Belle. The waiter, Moez, insisted on referring to the ladies as princesses and called me Doctor. He asked a couple of times where he knew us from and given the present, young company, I’m glad I didn’t respond that I’d been in a couple of porn movies recently that he might have seen.

We walked and stood and waited in line and queued up for several rides. It was cold, though: the wind was biting, some puddles were still frozen and there were icicles in the waterfall. But Neha didn’t care, she was just excited to be there.

The Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ride was too much for my back which was beaten black and blue by the hard plastic. Don’t mind the 360° turns and being upside down but please stop bashing me on the same vertebra over and over and over again.

There were a couple of more peaceful rides , drifting along the water being serenaded by children from all around the world. The depiction of England was wonderful: a red bus jumping over the opening bascules of Tower Bridge.

Altogether, we walked over 10 miles on this day and I think we were all glad to get to bed.

During the day, three different estate agents called. One more, improved offer on our house, but we’ll hold out for a few more days. So now it’s a, it’s a, it’s a Drive-in Saturday. We’re on our way home.

I’m sure we’ll come back to Paris at some point, probably before the 2024 Summer Olympics. It’s a great place to just wander round, the signage, the architecture, the transport systems are all fascinating in their own way. It’s so easy to compare with London of course, but 40 years in London v one week in Paris is hardly a fair fight.

Not everything is real at Versailles as revealed when the green screen system breaks down.

Nôtre Dame

The first full day here started quite late. We watched some coverage of the Olympics from PyeongChang, with a French commentator. I was delighted to hear the phrase “ooh la-la” used when someone came a cropper on her snowboard.

After breakfast in the hotel, we travelled by Metro to our first destination. Not at all disappointed that there is not a free ‘newspaper’ named ‘Underground’.

We visited Nôtre Dame cathedral and climbed to the top of the towers to enjoy a somewhat murky view of Paris. The gargoyles are fab. One even looked a bit like someone we know.

The Pompidou Museum of Modern Art is interesting too, though there is far too much to see in one visit. Everything from Indian photographs to yarn-based sculptures. Even pictures which are the sort of thing I doodle when I’m on the phone.

The only Olympjcs coverage on TV in the evening was in German and Romanian. Pas de Française. But whatever the language, it’s nice to see how excited some of the competitors are when they Win.

Now, think of saffron.