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Thursday, January 13, 2011

aPart - New Year's resolve

How times flies even when you are not really enjoying yourself and yet much has occurred since last I properly put together a few words for the enjoyment of, I suspect, merely a handful, of readers and, yes, tomorrow would mark a gap of four months. Not that I have been débordé  exactly but the motivation to add another volume has been missing.
Was it really three months ago that we were, again, enjoying the sunshine of Anfi del Mar courtesy once more of our lovely generous friends C&C, currently sailing around the world on the good ship Arcadia? Yes indeed it was and I can hardly imagine that we even took running gear and ran almost every other day for at least half an hour and, memorably, along the beach from Maspalomas once at sundown and once as the sun was reascending following its sejourn on the other side of the globe. Since then the opportunity for running has diminished given the lack of daylight, Max's work commitments and general malaise/malady. So the newest toy in the Newman-Legros household is a running machine (the term "treadmill" had rather negative connotations) followed swiftly by a device that can convert a normal bike into a fixed gym machine. Have yet to install the latter but have eased myself slowly into the former whilst the rain drilled down outside.

After our flight to the sun we had a gorgeous weekend with our friends the 3Ds in Civray, they are almost the 4Ds these days if you count Dog though dog's name is Willow. They are over in France "giving it a go" hoping that they can make la vie française  work for them. And if anyone deserves to find, if not fortune, then, a successful life in the calm of rural France, they do. Though a job as a goatherd did not come off that must be because something else is around the corner.

Visit number nine (?) from the ever welcome, Janet, who treated us to tickets to see Nouvelle Star winner  and now big recording artist in his own right, Christof Willem. He gave a fantastic concert at the new Casino and we'll be looking for his latest CD in les soldes that started yesterday. Amazing how times and circumstances change: twenty years ago I would have just gone out and bought the CD, these days I feel almost geriatric for a) awaiting the sales, b) not downloading it.

Then gloriously a first visit from dear Rani. It had taken a while to entice her over but our three days were a whirlwind of introductions to and catching up with. Hoping that she will feel the urge to come over again soon. We took in the La Route de la Soie  exhibition on loan from the Saatchi Gallery which seemed an appropriate thing to do given Rani's line of work as a rights advocate in the developing world.

November saw the celebration of Tatie's 70th birthday with a dinner at La Maison Rouge in Noeux les Mines not far from the Bopes'. It's a surprisingly upmarket hotel for a town whose roots in mining have cost it dear over the last quarter century. The food was nice though owed a little too much to nouvelle cuisine: the accompanying vegetables to my fish were légumes oubliés , in other words the kinds of root vegetables that have lost favour, though still pack a punch flavour-wise,  such as parsnip, rutabaga (swede I think ?), and Jerusalem artichoke (OK not strictly speaking a root), which were, rather pretentiously served in a liquid purée form in a glass mug. 'Nuf said.

Another first visit, albeit less than 24 hours, from Mr Marshall making the most of his route back from Winterberg in my home state of  Nordrhein-Westfalen, in Germany. Danke schön lieber Freund. We adored your presence.

Then all that snow. Well, not exactly, as we only had a couple of cms in Lille but, boy, was it cold! Feel-like night temperatures were in free-fall down to -17C.

Two weeks back in the UK first to celebrate another 70th, this time Toper of C&C - do all our couple friends have the same initial? - up where the worst of the weather had left the ground still covered with the white stuff. Our visit was an added bonus since we had intended leaving for the UK and going direct to Grantham on 21st and yet we were blessed indeed having made the change to our travel arrangements since the weather on the original date was such that Eurostar was in major disarray and the East Coast line ground to a halt. The angels were certainly looking after us as we were safely ensconced in Grantham by then.

Christmas visits always fly past and this was no exception. Highlights include taking Jude and Savannah to see the Rocket the Reindeer Experience and finally capitulating to a cocktail of lurgies we had been exposing ourselves to. Recovery took time and may take till spring to be fully realised.

Back in Lille on 30th December with an extended Réveillon to organise. Tatie and Henri were checked into the five star and very interesting L'Hermitage Gantois, an old convent. They were less impressed with the food that evening as it was not only poorly cooked but hugely overpriced. Luckily then they only had to endure breakfasts thereafter as they were being fed here at table hôtes Hellemmes.  Despite feeling like death warmed in the microwave we both soldiered on and allowed ourselves to collapse on the Sunday afternoon when everyone had departed. A quick taster of the menus: scallop risotto, Moroccan Spiced Pie and Heston Blumenthal's Hidden Orange Christmas pudding. Remerciements  to the wonderful Lidl for their truly spendid individual mise en bouches that we enjoyed both as the clock chimed 2011 and pre big New Year meal at lunch time on 1st.

Oh yes, it was Max's birthday on New Year's Eve too. It usually is.

So, 2011. A veritable tsunami of enthusiasm washed over me earlier in the week, that just as quickly dissipated and today a clarity of thought on next steps that I am hoping will stay with me.  The water metaphor is appropriate given its life sustaining and renewing qualities, but this week has also been one of worry for those in Brisbane, especially Polly and her family. I believe them to be safe and sound having perused the internet extensively and been reassured that their suburb would not be overly affected.  And C&C are all at sea too, so water is very much part of my ongoing and everyday thoughts.

Too long apart  from what is going on around me I need to become more a part of it again. As they say in that rather clichéd way: watch this space!

Photos and corrections to follow...