Thursday, April 3, 2003

03/04/03 All about the snow, deep and crisp and even ...

Basically a foolish lie, designed to entice you into reading this. There is no snow, there's no point in coming here to find it.

At least it meant that Christmas was reasonably painless ie no need for chains to get from Pesselière to the outside world. In point of fact it was so warm that we had not one, but two barbecues.

Warm and wet: so wet that when Ian, ever the optimist, took off to look for mushrooms (not really the time for them, but as I said, he's an optimist) we managed to get the 806 stuck in the mud. Mud is even worse than snow: with snow, you can spin the wheels like mad and hope that at some point you'll break through to something solid below, but with mud the tyre treads get filled with the stuff and there is nothing more solid below, just more mud. Made for an interesting few minutes, with the wheels spinning madly and the car slithering in reverse gear all over the place, and me wondering exactly when we were going to end up in the ditch.

Made it back here for New Year, and ten days after that winter started. All rather fun, really: the last convoys of disconsolate Parisians had left, having spent a rather expensive week's holiday strolling around admiring the scenery (mainly mud), and made it to within 100 km of Paris when the snowstorms hit them. Some of them spent 12 hours or so stuck in their cars on the autoroute, and to add insult to injury they still had to pay when they got off. (There was, incidentally, a very rational - if not very public-relations-friendly - excuse given for why people were directed onto the autoroutes four or five hours after it was known that these were completely blocked. "Like that, they may be stuck, but at least we know where they're stuck. They're on the A6, somewhere between Orléans and Paris.")

All that marked the start of the cold snap, as I discovered when I went down on Monday to get the car and take the kids off to school and wound up walking them there - quickly so as not to be late - as the handbrake had seized up with the cold. Finally thawed out at about 4 that afternoon, so I grabbed the opportunity and moved the car down to the flat below the cemetery, and parked it in gear without the handbrake on. Now, after ten days or so of extremely chilly weather (when, naturally, the central heating decided to cut out on a regular basis - the burner wanted its annual overhaul) it's warmed up again and the days are starting to get longer. Hoorah!

And now that there actually is a bit of snow, Margo went up to Margeriaz with the kids this afternoon whilst I swept the chimney and did other manly things. It was fine, started snowing when they got up and they needed chains to come back down again, even then had a few hairy moments (but the BMW is a pig on snow) but mainly Margo wanted to bring up a delicate point of etiquette: how do you say "hello" correctly to friends or acquaintances you see on the slopes? Because of course this involves a kiss on each cheek, and when you're both on skis and pointed in the same direction, this is none too easy, unless you happen to be a contortionist. It seems that the person higher up the slope must ski down and then do a 180° turn bringing them up to the level of the other person, when kisses may be exchanged. Otherwise, if this is not feasible, one or other of the persons must do that really amusing ski shuffle business (usually involving crossing your skis at the front and falling over) until the same effect is achieved, kisses are exchanged, and the person whose skis are pointing uphill is left feeling a right bloody prat.


As usual, time has passed and I still haven't gotten around to sending this off. Also as usual, lots of things have been happening, none of them particularly earth-shattering taken individually.

First off, just to make Ken Ashman jealous, I went off on a test TGV: Paris-Brussels-Lille-Calais-Paris, and got to go in the driver's cabin. When you're staring straight down the tracks at 320 km/h things do seem to be going rather fast. Gets a bit boring after a while. There were a lot of fascinating details that would bore anyone but a railway buff absolutely witless so I won't bother going into that: let it just be said that we made it to Brussels in time for a beer and made it back to Chambery 2500km and 12 hours later. A pointless exercise (I can buy Belgian beer in Chambéry) but fun.

The old BMW has finally gone to the scrap-heap. Car sales being - to say the least - tepid, there are currently lots of interesting offers on the table and the one made by Suzuki - 1000 euros for your old car, no matter what shape, style or state - was too good to pass up. So Margo is now the proud owner of a demonstrably new Suzuki Wagon+, which is a sort of boxy thing with a small motor (she finds it difficult getting used to not having the effortless power of the BMW, but you can't have everything) that's perfect as a second car. And cheap, which is even better, given that there's no way I could have arranged for the company to pay for it.

On the other hand, the company IS going to pay for my next car - went and signed up for it a week ago, take delivery in June. An Alfa 156 station wagon (don't look at me like that, they look marvellous), bright Alfa red and all options (except GPS and the SpeedSelect buttons on the steering wheel), including the leather upholstery. I hadn't actually expected the leather, but there you are, it comes with the car.

And the builders have finally turned up. Haven't done much - currently waiting on our menuisier friend Philippe to turn up and put in the floor in the attic - but there's half a wall in cellular concrete, three palettes of the same, an electric winch in the door above the garage and diverse bits of scaffolding to reassure us that, even if they're not actually working, they're not going to run away either.

Finally, Malyon is currently off in England, on a school trip which nearly got cancelled, thanks to a couple of hysterical parents concerned about their darling brats going to a war zone. Fortunately good sense prevailed and off she went, with strict instructions as to the purchase of golden syrup and other such delicacies. Its been remarkably quiet this past week.

The weather's particularly foul: after a month of warm, dry weather (temperatures up around the 20s, which isn't too bad for March around here) we've been having rain (can live with that, the garden really needed it), snow (no-one needs that) and high blustery winds. With any luck things will calm down soon and we can get back to a normal life in a normal climate.

Here's hoping, anyway.

Trevor & Margo

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