Thursday, March 26, 2020

Day 11 Covid 19 How do you pass the time?

Day 11 and I'm getting into a sort of rhythm which it will probably be difficult to quit once the barracks doors are reopened. You know the score... just when you're at cruising levels of containment activities, it'll be back to work and we'll be in shock all over again!

But that is all in the future, something to look forward to.

In the meantime there is telework, exercise and finding things to do.

We are allowed to go jogging beyond the front door but I've always hated jogging, so I'm currently congratulating myself at not having thrown out the mini trampoline I bought over a decade ago and haven't used in almost as long. It's proving to be a merry little activity, bouncing in various ways for 10 minutes or so at intervals during the day. I've even got the instruction leaflet which I found when I was going through a bunch of papers. Glad I never invited Kendo Bled (?) into my home to throw out stuff that no longer brought me joy. You never know when it might bring you joy and much needed exercise relief in the future!!

Finding things to do

Housework is very very boring, and there is a whole internet out there to explore. I've drifted into a daily theme. One day I might be listening to some of the excellent podcasts on Radio 4, such as File on Four or Out of the Ordinary, with lots more to explore on Sounds.

The other day I watched video after video of Dame Emma Kirkby, enjoying the brilliant lightness of her soprano voice singing early music, plus a masterclass that she gave which was very interesting. There's a wonderful recording of the Messiah from 1982 with Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient music performing in Westminster Cathedral. Emma Kirkby's voice is that of an angel. Here she is singing some Purcell.

Another day the theme was ballet and I watched a number of beautiful performances and discovered the videos by a former Royal Ballet Company dancer Claudia Dean. I am no ballerina. I had some ballet lessons when I was knee high to a grasshopper but was convinced my teacher didn't like me. At the end of each lesson we finished with a butterfly dancing in the middle of a circle of the other dancers. I always wanted to be the butterfly, but her choice was based on who had been the best pupil, and obviously even at that young and tender age, it was clear that a career as a ballerina was not going to be my path in life, and I never got chosen. Even on my LAST DAY! I've never forgotten it (as you can see...).

Anyway, I'm sure my whole life would have been different if I'd had Claudia Dean as my teacher. She is motivating and fun. She is no longer dancing, but is now a ballet coach and she makes these merry videos not just of coaching, but dealing with ballet issues, messing about with her sister (who is not a dancer), and doing little tests. One that I enjoyed was testing the English way of dancing to the Russian way. I didn't know there was one, but now I do!

Starting the day with humour is definitely one way of beating confinement blues, and I have a good laugh watching Tripp and Tyler videos. If you have ever participated in a video conference, you'll recognise this:

Finally, I've also been watching L'atelier des Chefs chef Nicolas Bergerault who has been making cooking videos from his home. He is stuck at home, like the rest of us, with his family, and so his daughters are filming the cooking with a phone, and he cooks dishes that he can rustle up easily from the stuff in his cupboards. On day one he made a salad of frozen peas with lardons and a homemade curry mayonnaise. On another day he made a spinach lasagne, and on another day he did pasta with an anchovy and caper sauce. His daughters amuse themselves adding the odd silly filter and giggling behind the camera. It's all very homely and merry.

Fun times!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Day 7 Covid19 Lunch

I'm going to lose track of the days, I just know it. Unless I do something organised like count them off on a calendar. Or I could even scratch bars in groups of 5 on the wall... May not go down well with the rental agency when they bring round prospective buyers after-this-is-all-over though, whenever that may be. If ever.

Anyway, I told the boys it would be a good idea to share the cooking. My youngest immediately offered to do a barbecue. My eldest muttered something like 'yeh if I must' in one of those 'at your own risk and peril' voices.

We have a barbecue but needed everything else, so my youngest who can now drive armed himself with the Gestapo-approved food-buying attestation, hopped gleefully into my car and drove to Intermarché. He came back with everything he needed plus one or two essentials such as iced tea.

I remember last year he and his friends wanted to do a barbecue by the river, so I took them to Intermarché, stocked him up with sausages etc. and drove them as far as I could. They had a great time and became great barbecue experts.

So it was with total confidence that I abandoned lunch into the competent hands of my son.
Barbecue champ at work
Actually, when I say 'abandoned lunch', if we were to eat anything other than sausages, it was up to me to rustle it up, so I kept it simple and did pasta and salad. Then we actually sat round the garden table and ate. You might think this is no big deal but my boys wage an anti-table campaign, extremely successfully, and meals are usually taken together but on the sofa. I wage other battles...

A rare experience
We had a nice lunch, talked and chatted and I said how lovely it was to eat and chat around the table, and was told that, yes it was nice, but I shouldn't expect it to happen too often because it would cease to be a pleasant, extraordinary event, and would become boring and annoying. So that put me in my place.

I am, however, grateful for small mercies and will treasure this rather extraordinary UK date Mothers' Day (it isn't until June in France) thanks to the little bugger of a coronavirus. Every cloud, as they say...

Friday, March 20, 2020

Day 5 Covid19 - Shopping

We were out of crisps, and running low on various essentials so instead of waiting until Saturday to do the weekly shop, I went on Friday thinking that there may be fewer people.

If you thought you could still pop to the shops for a quick shop, think again. The supermarkets have instigated a restricted flow of people, no more than a certain number inside at any one time. I had to wait with my trolley outside in a nice orderly line. This being France, you might expect a disorderly line, pushers-in and so on, but no, we were all meekly waiting with our barrier-trolleys ensuring a distance of 1m between us. The over-70s and infirm could legitimately jump the queue and were invited to by kindly security guards as they watched over us...

I waited for an hour to get inside. Luckily the sun was shining and it was nice and warm. I worked on dosing up my vitamin D levels and texting my son on which specialised shampoo he wanted.

Once inside the hallowed halls, we were exhorted over a loud-speaker to hurry up and get on with it so that the people outside could have their turn. No dawdling please, no perusing every single aisle. Just grab what you want (in sensible amounts) and go!

I found just about everything on my list, and chucked in a leg of frozen New Zealand lamb at the end because by that time, I'd been there for 2 hours (including waiting) and was aching for something to look forward to.

When I'd finished I went to the checkout. I had to stand at one checkout, and ping my little hand-scanner at the one next to it. When the woman ahead of me went to pay, she walked down our line, went through the security gate then crossed over to the checkout with the caissière in order to pay presumably so we weren't breathing all over her. She also had a plexiglass barrier between her and the customer.

I felt quite queasy after all the stress of a simple shop and could practically feel my temperature rising as I walked out of the side door to avoid the queuing shoppers. It's a brave new world!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Day 4 Covid19 - A Little Ditty

Coronavirus stalks the earth,
With current killer Covid-19
Targeting the old and fragile
Without discrimination.

We are 'en guerre'
Says Macron
Who speaks solemnly
And in as deep a voice as possible
(Though not so deep...).

No longer free to move about
We're confined to barracks
With outings just for food and meds
And a signed paper,
And fines for those who flout the rules.

The aged mutter of Vichy France
As they do their market shopping outside
Too close together.

Meanwhile, supermarkets
Are stripped of pasta, rice and
Toilet paper.
Just in case...

The neighbourhood is quiet,
A bit like Christmas Day
But with better weather.
Birds are singing and we can hear them
For once
Without the constant rumble of
Society in action.

When will it end?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Day 3 Covid 19 Confinement

Kittypoo (NotMyCat) teleworking

Thus spake the Prez unto the nation - thou shalt not go out except to purchase victuals and toilet rolls. It is now Day 3 and we are bearing up under the pressure of teleworking in our PJs, watching Netflix, Prime Video, reading books and playing computer games, etc..

Frankly, it could be worse.

Kittypoo has made herself very much at home and is enjoying the Covid19 crisis enormously. She is helping everyone with their teleworking, providing solace and a source of snuggles.

My eldest has set up a whiteboard outside propped up on the shutter catches.

Meanwhile, Wednesday afternoon is my afternoon off so I've made some waffle batter because it looks like we're going to take to comfort-eating and tomorrow is another day. Last night we tested out the pizza delivery options. There were none, but we could pick up at a distance swapping boxes for cheque in a parody of a dodgy spy scene.

People on Facebook have been sharing useful sites where you can watch rare films, shows from l'Opéra de Paris currently free online, and virtual museum tours. Maybe later... Plus things to do with kids inside. Not my problem any more. My youngest is watching an action movie with the woofer connected which is shaking the house to its foundations (and the neighbours' probably), and my eldest is on the XBox. Thank goodness the internet is Covid19-proof!

Here in France there is no going out any more unless you have a signed paper which states your reason - and it had better be a good one! Going to buy food, okay; going to the pharmacy, okay; going to buy cigarettes, okay... but not okay is wandering aimlessly about in search of inspiration. You can do that at home.

I have set myself a little challenge to do 30 minutes of exercise per day. I found an exercise mat when I was sorting out the very dusty top of the cupboard in my eldest's bedroom and it has some suggestions printed on it. So I'm doing a mélange of those exercises, some yoga and the plank. I tried to do some press-ups yesterday. Managed two lots of 3, then tried to do a series of 5 and collapsed at four and a half. Something to work on...

Time for a cuppa and a waffle. Stay safe and well and tune in again for another fascinating insight into a life on hold confined to barracks.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Almost-fully-fledged motarde

My new bike. Photo courtesy Florence Joffre
I passed my motorbike license in August. Took the road test on a Thursday, got the result on Saturday morning and on Saturday afternoon I was trying motorbikes. Motivation moves arses.

In the end I bought a new Honda 500 CBF in stylish grey and pale bronze. I had wanted the version in fluo yellow but it was produced in 2017/2018 and all the second-hand bikes available were located in the north of France. A bit tricky to deal with, and the price used was not so different from the price new once you'd added the cost of getting it.

The photo is is of me on my birthday, on my new bike. As you can see, I look very chipper. It not only looks good, it's great fun to ride. The biggest difference is being able to keep up easily with my biker buddies while out on rides. I'm no longer flat out going up hills, I can just sail up with a little touch of accelerator.

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with my WIMA / WRWR buddies and we spent the weekend in Haute Loire. I rode a total of 707 km over the three days. We stayed at a "relais motard" which are biker-friendly hotels. Some are better than others. The Hotel Rives de l'Allier is definitely one of the better ones. Owned and run by a biker couple, it has everything the travelling biker needs - video-surveillance in the ample car-park, couple of garages for bad weather, a workshop, comfy beds and delicious food, and very good value for money.

We stopped for coffee in Lavoûte-Chilhac which turned into a picnic lunch on the handy picnic tables in superior surroundings.

Wet weather gear fashion parade
The weather was pretty kind even though we had some drizzle. The wet weather gear was useful for keeping out the Auvergne chill too. We had a lovely ride up, but it was great to arrive and get into the warm in time for the apero. We ate extremely well, with all the food freshly made with local produce.

Clyde - my bike is called Bonnie
I couldn't resist this little bit of Chinese silliness. He quacks, and flashes on and off if you press him.

Viaduc de Garabit
On the Saturday, we had a bike ride out into the region which included a stop at the impressive Viaduc de Garabit built by M Eiffel. Practice run I expect.

Lovely Auvergnat view
and another...

A horse, a horse...
We ate our return picnic in the shadow of Château de Montréal where we saw this suit of armour clutching a flower in one hand and pretending to type on a sky blue laptop with the other. Unusual...

When I'm not going off on a biker weekend, I'll be going for local rides with local biker buddies. You wouldn't believe how many biker groups there are around here. Most can be found on Facebook, and many get together regularly to ride together for the day or less. Recently I enjoyed a ride along the Gorges de la Vis, with a stop at the St Laurent le Minier waterfall which looked very atmospheric with its autumn colours and soft lighting.
St Laurent le Minier waterfall looking very autumnal and mysterious

If I'm not riding, I may well be joining in events with the FFMC34. Most recently we did the Relais Calmos for bikers going to and coming back from the Bol d'Or. We had a very merry time and met lots of bikers who were very grateful to take a break with coffee and snacks available.
Guess which is me

My bike license is provisional for two years. After then, I can do a day's training in order to obtain the full biker license. Currently I'm limited to a bike of no more than 47.5 HP. If I do the training in two years' time, I'll be able to ride any bike. The sky's the limit!

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Looking back on my first year as a Motarde

It's the end of my first year as a bike rider, or 'motarde' as they so beautifully put it in French. What a year of adventure, new friends, new experiences, and a wonderful feeling of freedom. I take my bike everywhere - everyday to work, and for weekend fun - a total distance of 16,000 km.
Me and my Honda 125 cc plus new helmet

After my training forays to Millau and Gordes (already written about before), and my big trip to Loupiac for the Horizons Unlimited Adventure Biker weekend, I started taking part in demonstrations organised by the FFMC34 which coincided with the now infamous Gilets Jaunes demos.

At Christmas, there was a more lighthearted parade in aid of charity when we all dressed up in Santa costumes.
Ready for the FFMC34 Santa parade in aid of charity
A sea of red Santas

Having enjoyed the camaraderie of the group and the friendly welcome I received even with my little 125 cc I decided to join the FFMC34 in January and have participated in the monthly meetings ever since. The demonstrations gave way to roadside Relais Calmos in the nicer weather to encourage bikers to stop and have a rest, cup of coffee, and chat about bikes, equipment and maintenance.

Demo in Sète to protest about the state of the roads in villages
We also attended the Cevenn'Oil gathering of old bikes where we provide fun and laughs for the kids with mini motos. I of course had to have a go...

Recently we spent a weekend on a motorbike-only campsite near Lunas in Haut Languedoc, with lots of winding roads and beautiful views to get there.
First tent camping I've done for 16 years! The tent was ready-mounted with a mattress inside..

5 of the 22 happy campers; we took up almost the whole campsite
In May we went to a giant picnic at Lake Salagou organised by le Gang des Motards where there were over 900 bikes and 1200 bikers.

On Ascension Day, a day off, we got together for a barbecue at HQ before the monthly meeting. The Hérault FFMC is very active and they're a great bunch of bikers both motards and motardes.

In February, I learned about the Women Riders World Relay which is taking place this year. A baton is being passed around the world by women bikers - different ones along the way - and riding to a strict schedule so in rain, wind, even snow, whatever the conditions! It's an amazing adventure and one I wanted to be part of, but with only a 125 cc, I couldn't join the official relay. So I volunteered to organise the France-wide off-shoot, the Ripple. We have a flag rather than a baton and it is going around France so that all the women who wanted to join in the relay but couldn't can participate in the Ripple.
WRWR logo
Through the WRWR, I met a group of amazing women bikers who were the riders for the official relay. I was there when the baton passed through Montpellier, and with my Ripple hat on, I was part of the group that stayed overnight nearby. They were such a friendly, fun bunch, we all stayed in touch and have been riding and getting together ever since.

Thanks to the WRWR, I learned about WIMA the Women's International Motorcycling Association and WIMA France. WIMA France helped me with the start of the Ripple during the Touratech Travel Event held in Orange.

Start of the WRWR France Ripple in Orange 18 May 2019

I was camping in Chateauneuf du Pape over the weekend of the event with my WRWR buddies and had a fantastic time with them and the WIMA motardes. The campsite laid on superior aperos each evening with local (Chateauneuf du Pape) wine producers which gave us a superior state of merriment...
Camping in Chateauneuf du Pape (mobile-homing at least)

Although it rained on my way there and on the way back, the rain kindly held off on the Saturday when it was all happening!

This year I also participated in my first ever Poker Rally which was organised by MCT2000 who are based in Clermont l'Hérault. Another merry group of bikers, they organise biker rides in the region and beyond. The poker rally involved solving clues to the names of local places which provided the itinerary for the circuit. I was hopeless, but got teamed up with another woman who was a bit more with it, but we needed the kind and generous help of others if we were to get off the starting blocks. At lunch time we all stopped for a merry picnic together, and someone sat on a ripe banana which of course set us all off (again).

For International Women's Rights Day, I joined about 500 other women including WRWR and MCT2000 buddies in Nimes for Toutes en Moto.

There was a lot of pink about...
Nice piccie taken by Yagura Photos

I'm currently taking lessons to sit the motorbike licence test. I've had such fun on the little Honda, but I'd like to be able to keep up better with my buddies who have bigger bikes, go further and have even more adventures. It's been an amazing year. The biggest thanks go to my former DB who bought me the bike and encouraged me to become a rider rather than remain a passenger. It's changed my life. So have all the people I've met, and especially the great friends I've made and had such fun with.

Easter Day FFMC34 operation 'nid de poule' to protest about the potholes ('nid de poule') in the roads