A little bit of France

A largely sleepless night. Too much time to think. World seeming particularly cold this morning. In need of a lift. For some reason the run didn’t work today. Just a freezing slog. A slow 30 minutes and then the motivation battery completely drained. So back home even colder and still in need of a lift.

But then salvation. Old photographs. Memories. Great Memories.

Back to 2001 which finds us in the Loire.

Chateau de Chenonceau was built over the River Cher in 1576. It’s French Renaissance Architecture at at finest. The chateau has a fine collection of masterpieces, tapestries and renaissance furniture. The long Grand Gallery stretches over the bridge and across the river. It’s a stunning place. Inside and outside.

As much as the chateau brings back great memories one photograph lifted my spirits. It reminds me how truly blessed I was to spend time with this special person. Always in love. That makes me smile.

Little things

A beautiful little thing from warmer months.

Unfortunately many little things are not so enjoyable.

Little things are sent to test us. The one day when it had to be a full day at the work base would also have to be the day the office heating failed. The heating failure had to be on the coldest day of the year so far. In the morning the thermometer was resolutely stuck at -2C. In the afternoon the thermometer reached the heady heights of 1C. Sat huddled over the computer with a coat stretched like a tent over me and the screen. Inside the makeshift tent hoping that the hot tea and the heat from the CPU would fend of frost bite. Lovely

Little things are sent to test us. Maybe it’s the frostbite but as soon as I got into the car a warning light came on. Car Key Battery Low – Change Battery. Not a problem as we have a vast collection of various types of batteries at home. Guess what. Having ransacked the house I found 11 different types of battery but unbelievably not one which would fit the key. So let’s hope the key has enough juice left to allow me to get to the shop in the morning.

Little things are sent to test us. Like WordPress being most vexing. For the last 6 months the WP Ipad app has been hopeless. Well not sure what has happened but it is now firing on at least 3 cylinders. Best it’s been for a while. Not saying much but at least it’s partly working. Unfortunately we come to the Yang. Now my WP email updates are a disaster. They arrive as normal but it’s impossible to do anything with them. That leaves trying to read and comment using the app – that is the cylinder which is misfiring. How can it be so difficult to leave a comment or just like something. Just so frustrating.

Little things are sent to try us. Spelling Tests for a Dyslexic. If son doesn’t sit the test then he will be given zero marks and this will rule out any chance of him moving up sets this year. But if he does sit the test he will be given no help and no marking adjustments – setup to fail. As son has decided to try the test he has been practising the words. After much frustration (from both child and parent) Son announced.

This is not happening. I’ve got a photograph in my head of all the words and will just see what happens on Thursday. I can find better things to spend my time on. I can name every English Monarch since 827. Their main achievements, notable events, claim to the throne and how they died. I know it been no use at this school but it’s fascinating. So I’m going to do the same with the French Monarchy. Much better use of my time.

And off he went on his quest. If a child has a passion then that passion should be given every opportunity to flourish. Our bureaucratic education system has forgotten this. Thankfully kids and many parents have not. That’s why there is always hope. Hope in little things.

France 1

Before we just focused our holidays on beautiful Switzerland we had trips to France. Some great times. Times before our son. Times before grief rode in. Times even before digital. So occasionally I’m going to do turn the clock back to the start of this century. Go down memory lane.

This was a long weekend trip. A car trip from Yorkshire to the Loire Valley. We pre booked the accommodation but didn’t quite expect to be staying in a mini chateau.

Even before brexit the English always received a warm welcome in France.

Inside was just staggering. I was under strict orders. ‘Don’t touch anything in case you knock it over’.

The chateau stood next to the Loire River.

It must have been hot. No jumper.

Why the long weekend. Why the 620 mile drive. To watch the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours.

Not the greatest of views but the budget had been blown on the accommodation and petrol. It was hot. Mid to high thirties. Wow it was noisy.

The race was won by the great Michael Schumacher.

Creaky World Tour 4

Currently not allowed to run due to knackered body (but starting to ignore medical advice just a little) so was in desperate need of a new fitness hobby to stop me going stir crazy. Came up with the idea of seeing how far I would get around the world powered only by my stationary exercise bike and walking with Pokemon Go….plus just an occasional run.

The creaky world tour left us in Lille (France). We started out in North Yorkshire.

So on this leg of the expedition we have managed

Bike – 475km

Pokemon Go – 35km

Run (don’t tell the Dr) – 15km

So where do these numbers take us?

To the beautiful city of Strasbourg. Located on the eastern border of France close to Germany. It is the formal seat of the European Parliament. The city is dominated by the imposing gothic Cathedral.

Photo from Wikipedia

Back in 2015 we visited Strasbourg. Unfortunately some wazzock forgot to bring his camera and his mobile was as flat as a pancake. So no photos and lots of housepoints lost. On that trip I became addicted to Flammekuche. A very thin pastry tart topped with creme fraiche, onions and other toppings. Bacon is popular.

The BBC kids comedy series Horrible Histories did a bizarre sketch about Strasbourg. It’s based on the real incident of sporadic mass dancing, called the Dance Plague which took place here in 1518.

Horrible Histories YouTube clip.

So its goodbye to France and where next?

Creaky World Tour 3

Currently not allowed to run due to knackered body so was in desperate need of a fitness hobby to stop me going stir crazy. Came up with the idea of seeing how far I would get around the world powered only by my stationary exercise bike and walking with Pokemon Go….

The creaky world tour left us in Rochester.

So on this leg of the expedition we have managed

Bike – 280km

Pokemon Go – 30km

So here we go.

First stop is to a little favourite of mine. Not been here in over 25 years – I hear you scream but you are only 21. We find a way to the Isle of Sheppey after a 28km trip. A small island just off the northern edge of Kent. My sister used to live here. Apparently the first Britain flew an aeroplane here in 1909. A few years later here I got chased into Sheerness by a gang of ducks after they decided they wanted more bread from me. Ended up taking refuge in a pub. To be polite I had to try a pint of the local brew from Shepherd Neame. To my Yorkshire palette it was a shocker.

Now let’s get some distance covered. A hard 90km get us to Dover. First thing that comes to mind now are the 350ft tall White Chalk Cliffs.

Thanks to TripAdvisor for the photo.

The Ferry Port now opens up our world tour. Passport is ready and in a blink of an eye and after another 190km we find our French destination. It’s the city of Lille. It’s a wonderful city. Great history, great art, great markets. It’s a wonderful place to eat as well. It also happens to be the home of a contender to the title of the worlds stinkiest cheese. Maroilles. It’s a tasty one.

On my first overseas holiday with my partner we had to change trains at Lille station. So excited to have left Britain behind us for a week. To completely forget our life’s for a while. Then a booming voice.

“Now Bonny Lad. Wat are yee doin here” – imagine deep Geordie accent – think Brian Johnson from AC/DC.

Unbelievably the guy who sat behind me at Newcastle United matches was randomly stood next to us on this faraway French Platform. He was off to Bordeaux to see his French mum.

Downsize

Do you think I should downsize? You didn’t know I had a decent size fish pond.

“dans mes rêves

I dread to think how much my house insurance would go up if I did live in a French chateau. I suspect my little hover mower would struggle a bit. The dog could do some serious digging here. Space and isolation would certainly not be a problem for our son.

Having a garden big enough to go for a long run would be fun. We could even be like Professor X and set up our own school here then we could tell the government to stuff off with its targets.

We were trying to do some work for our son’s end of year maths tests. Not one but two tests. It always fascinates me how his mind works. For example practicing some multiplications. I would write them down old school while he does them almost faultlessly in his head. How on earth can he do 55×23 or 78×33 in his head. That would be beyond me.

He can see numerical progression sequences so much quicker than I can. Working out ratios and percentages are easy for him. He can work out modes, medians and averages again in his head whereas I again have to write them down. This will cause him problems going forward in exams as he will need to show his workings.

Yet he just can’t process decimal points. Introduce a decimal point into the simplest of calculations and his onboard processor stops working. So for example 1897648+987985 can be done in his brain really quickly yet he is lost with 1.4+1.7. Similarly ask him to round up 14356965 to the nearest thousandth and it’s done instantly. Yet ask him to round 1.23 to one decimal place and again he is lost.

He’s got other black holes in maths. Apparently no clear rhyme or reason to these. A Clinical Psychologist referred to these as his Number Dyslexia. Another label which is not really understood. It wouldn’t be a problem if we lived in that French chateau but in our reality we will need to find a way of solving these riddles. It’s added to our to do list and we will crack on with them – at some stage. But first I need to go and clean my 1000 windows.

Muttley

Before our son was born we loved to visit the Loire Valley in central France. A lovely part of the world. Hot (but not too hot), fabulous wine, fine food, fascinating history and many glorious chateaux. Plus the French Grand Prix at Magny Cours was close enough to justify a visit – managed to convince her just once….

Usually we would drive from a Yorkshire. Only way we could get the shed load of wines back. Partner didn’t like driving in France. It’s not easy as we drive on the other side of the road…. So partner would navigate and I would drive. A perfect combination except for one small detail.

I struggle with LEFTS and RIGHTS….

My partner got seriously cheesed off with repeated “I said the LEFT turn, why have you gone right”.

So we devised the perfect solution. We would put my toy Muttley on the left side of the dashboard and on the other side we put a toy Bagpuss. Then instead of saying ‘turn left’ my partner would simple say “turn to Muttley”. Absolutely foul proof, it was even me proof. You don’t get that sort of quality motoring advice from The Grand Tour and Top Gear…..

Thanks Muttley and Bagpuss. You saved our relationship.