Sunday, 30 November 2008

Shanghai surprise

My sister has some hard decisions ahead of her over the next few weeks (although I think in truth the decisions have already been made and it is more about living with them). About a year ago she became re-acquainted with a former flame and the romance has re-bloomed. Jon is now a divorced father of two, who has his children every other weekend and has a successful career in sales. There-in lies the difficulty. Supporting two children is expensive and making a living in sales over the next couple of years in Europe is going to be difficult.

After he parted company from my sister 14 years ago Jon traveled quite widely throughout Asia and hence when his company saw an opportunity for developing a new market in China I think his name was top of the list. As the year has progressed what started as a romantic dream has moved towards reality and slowly the potential problems have been weighed up and now he is seriously contemplating taking a two year job in Shanghai. The implications for my sister are that she either goes with him or faces the end of the relationship and as they both seem quite happy at the moment the latter has not been an option for either of them. So, as it stands Jon will most probably go out to Shanghai in January followed by my sister a little while afterwards, once they have sorted out their respective affairs here. For my sister it means giving up her job, her way of life, her friends and her contact with her family and starting anew in a new country, where her role will be primarily that of supporting her partner until she can find a niche for herself there. During trips home she will no doubt be involved with collecting and caring for Jon's children as well as trying to look after their respective UK homes and somehow try to fit in her family commitments; especially to my mother, who has become quite dependent on her since she moved. Whilst I can see that this could be a great experience for her to see a different culture and to travel I think that it is quite a lot to ask of someone who has never lived outside of Middlesex and still has the same group of friends that she went to school with. When talking about it, she gives it an up-beat and positive spin but I know her well enough to see that underneath she is quite worried.

So when she announced to all of us that she and Jon were getting married next year as well, we did not automatically respond with messages of congratulations and great joy, our concerns at the trade off that she has had to make between being with someone that she loves and giving up everything else that she knows perhaps being paramount in our minds.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Half century

Tomorrow I celebrate 50 years on this planet, most likely more than half of my life. We are going out for dinner tonight with family and then tomorrow we are going over to Brussels for a night (while Ian works on the Monday). I decided to buy myself lots of birthday treats! Yesterday I had my haircut and this morning I had a pedicure and manicure. I have never had diamond bits put on my nails before so I did that as well, and the owners of the nail shop (aptly called the Nail Fairy) gave me the diamonds as a Birthday present! (Well, they are not real diamonds; just sparkly bits!)

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Definitively winter

Autumn progresses, the weather gets colder and colder and the days get shorter and then one day you look out the window and you know that it is winter when the trees look like this. If you look closely you can see that there is just one leaf desperately clinging on!

The mystery of the immune system

I am currently unwell. As my birthday is in November I am usually unwell on the day so it looks like this year will be no exception. However, one thing about having a b*ggered immune system is that coughs and colds etc don't seem the same anymore! It has taken me a while to work this out but the normal symptoms that we get with a cold are really due to the immune system doing its job of fighting off the virus. In my case my immune system doesn't really do this properly as I have to take medication to suppress it; so I don't really get the sore throat and runny nose bits of a cold. You may think that is great but at least those symptoms tell you there is something wrong! In my case I wake up and feel like I have been beaten up by a gang of thugs and can't work out why! Usually a few days rest does the trick but I have to notice that something is wrong and not do what I did last week and put it all down to my hormones and the weather. I am learning...

I find it quite weird to have a illness that no one really understands. In fact, the mysteries of the immune system are slowly being unravelled only to uncover more things that they don't understand; a bit like exploring deep space and coming across a black hole. No one can really explain why one day, out of the blue, my body decided to take up arms against itself and begin to attack my healthy cells. Treatments are being developed all the time and in a notorious case when healthy volunteers were injected with a new medication being trialed for rheumatoid arthritis they developed a severe and life threatening auto-immune response in a matter on minutes suggesting that the balance between an ordered and disordered immune system is incredibly delicate. Also of interest is that the more aggressive flu viruses that are likely to cause pandemics such as avian flu, are thought to over stimulate the immune system and produce a severe auto-immune response in healthy people. Strangely, if there were an outbreak I might fare better than someone with a better immune system!

For this reason I have been particularly interested in watching the TV series 'Survivors' on the BBC. In the story a worldwide flu pandemic kills 90% of the population and the story is of the 10% that survived. I remember watching the original in the 1970s and being particularly taken with the story and disappointed that it was never shown again. However I enjoyed the first episode of the remake and look forward to episode 2 tonight.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Happy Christmas 2008

For regular readers, this is my alternative to those Christmas round-robin letters!

One good thing about writing a blog is that the annual Christmas letter is much easier as I don't have to rely entirely on memory to go through the year's activities! Last year has not involved any major decisions or life changes but has been more about trying to implement the ones that we have already made and move towards a life in France (this being a little difficult as although we did have a builder at the end of last year he had not really commenced any building!) So, we have had several trips over to France to get things moving. Our first visit however, was in March, at Easter when we went skiing. Easter was early and the snow was great and I was really delighted that I could manage a few days skiing without any serious consequences. We stayed at my brother's Chalet in Le Grand Bornand with the family and had a really nice time.

We visited the land on several occasions, the first being in April, then again in the summer for three weeks and finally in October for a week. The prime reason was to try to keep on top of the project as, as with builders everywhere, they need encouragement to keep going and not get distracted by other tasks! It is slowly paying off and below is details of our progress (although note we have yet to acquire a roof!)

Still, the good news is that things are progressing and this time next year I hope we will have clear plans about when we will eventually move there to live.
We have also not been idle at home as we have decided that we will most likely rent out our current homes (as the recession and property collapse makes the idea of selling at the moment rather difficult). Therefore we have been painting and decorating to get the places rentable. There is still a fair bit to do and I expect next year will be more of the same. Anyway, this focus on DIY has meant that my cycling has become a bit more functional in the last year. We did a couple of charity road rides, which I enjoyed and I have gone out on my own some weekends. We also cycled quite a bit on our holidays in the summer. This is something to work on next year as the danger of having a two year plan is that you spend most of the time working towards it and not enough time living!

Next year will see some changes in my family as my sister is planning to get married and although not confirmed it is quite likely that she will go and live in Shanghai for 2 years. This will be a big change for her and maybe I will get a chance to visit! We will also have to give some thought to how to support my mother as she has been providing a lot of care for her over the past year.
Fortunately my health continues to be relatively stable with no real problems to note although an attempt at reducing my medication was not successful. It's quite hard to realise that you still need to take medication when you actually feel quite well.
Work has continued. I can't say that I have enjoyed it all of the time as it is hard to maintain an interest when you have made a decision to leave and it makes it hard to take on anything new. I have not really done much of great excitement or very different from usual except a trip to Ireland in may where I am an examiner.
I am continuing with my French classes as I can't imagine living in France and not being able to communicate. I passed my intermediate certificate last year but this year have been concentrating on conversation classes. It is really about finding the time to practice (which I might be better at if I didn't spend so much time blogging!)
I celebrated my 50th Birthday last week which was a little scary as it does seem very old (especially at the moment when it is winter and we are all trying to fight off colds and flu!). This Christmas we are going skiing with my brother and sister-in-law and coming back for New Year, which hopefully will be a time to rest and recover.
Wishing you all the best for your own Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Seasonal affective disorder

It's a cold, sleety, grey, dark miserable day in London in that depressing period leading up to Christmas; where your exposure to natural light reaches dangerously low levels! I am trying to think of some positive things to do to lighten the mood.
1. Go on a bike ride (but probably a bit too cold to make it bearable)
2. Make a cake (requires walking up the hill to buy some eggs)
3. Do my French homework.
4. Do some work work such as marking (but this will just make me feel more depressed.)
5. Write my Christmas blog entry.
6. Do Ian's ironing (see 4.)

Only number 1 will significantly affect my exposure to daylight!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Banking in France

Ian has been trying to organise a small loan with a French bank to tide us over the poor exchange rate. We first applied in August with a personal visit to the bank where we met Emma, the English speaking financial advisor. Although Ian speaks fluent French we had to see Emma as we are English and she is employed to deal with the English clients (even though this required an additional trip to Bergerac). She was very positive and we started off the application. All was progressing smoothly (or so we thought) until the banking crisis, when we were told that the loan we had applied for was no longer available (even though Emma had told us it was okay). Anyway, it seems that Emma's promises are meaningless once the paperwork gets as far as head office.

Here is a sample of the emails that have been going back and forth!

Hi Ian

Head office need a quote from an electrician for wiring the house and a quote from the workman who will be putting in the windows… and hopefully then I will just have to push the print key and send the « demande de financement » direct to the address you gave me in France…

I will be in my office until about 3 o’clock your time and I will try to call you again tomorrow morning if we can’t get in touch before then.


Emma Bertillon

Banque des Fermiers
Financial adviser/Conseiller particulier anglophone

De : Envoyé : jeudi 16 octobre 2008 15:28À : Cp-en-ligne (CR824)Objet : RE: TR: RE: Home loan information: Quotes/Contracts

Hi Gemma

I tried to ring you, but you were away from your desk.I have no quote for the electricity since I envisaged my friend would be doing it with my help and then we would have it inspected by the Consuel.The windows will be installed by Batiman (I thought this was in the quote?)I hope this is sufficient.

Kind regards



For the electricity I need an “attestation sur l’honneur” basically a letter saying that you are going to do the work, to make things easier here it is:

Je soussigné M Ian BARTON né le 09/07/1960 au Royaume Uni certifie que pour la future construction de ma résidence principale à SAINT EULALIE D’EYMET je ferais les travaux d’électricité moi-même.
Je m’engage à ensuite faire inspecter la maison par le consuel.

Sign and date the paper and then mail to me.

For the windows I need a quote for the main d’oeuvre from Batiman (the quote I have is just the material).



Dear Emma
Please find attached the attestation

When I looked at the Batiman quote I can see for each item the line “Pose et fournitures diverses” which I think mean installation?

Kind regards



Dossier back from head office, we need the following things:

The devis must all be less than six months old, the only one that is is for the menuiseries exterieurs.

The permis de construire is dated 2004 which means it is no longer valid, we need a new “recipissé de depot de permis”

We need to know where house plans came from, if they were done by you we need an attestation confirming that you did them

And while we are here, I am going to ask you for an original attestation for the electricity (same as the one you scanned and e-mailed me) just in case they decide they want one of them later (precaution)… Please send to me at 25-27 rue St Catherine, 24100 BERGERAC.



Hi Emma

This is starting to get rather silly, it has been a month since the last round of questions. How much longer are they going to take? I said previously that it was important to have this moving since the builder will need paying shortly. If the process takes much longer I will not need a loan since I would have already paid him.I am not going to get quotes less than 6 month old since I already engaged the builder back in October 2007.The permis is valid because the work started in November 2007 prior to its expiry (declaration d'ouverture de travaux sent to the Mairie).The original house plans were signed off by the architect and formed part of the dossier for the permis de construire - I wouldn't have got the permis otherwise. I will send you the original of the declaration since your head office seems to be incredibly difficult at the moment.

Kind regards Ian

The tension is beginning to show!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Winter sky and sea

This afternoon I was visiting further down the coast near Hastings. After days of grey rain the sun was out and I left just as it was beginning to go down (3.30 this time of year!). The picture doesn't really do it justice.

Pudding time

I attempted to make a Christmas pudding tonight. I am 50 years old in two weeks and I have never made a Christmas pudding before! I realised that the fuss is in the cooking and am now experimenting with the slow cooker as I can't face the idea of steaming for 10 hours as the kitchen will get like a sauna! I am making two types of pudding; one traditional and one from the recipe below which is chocolate and panettone Christmas pudding.

100g ready to eat dried figs (chopped)
150g each sultanas, raisins and currants
50g dried cranberries
1 large apple, peeled, cored and coarsely grated
Finely grated zest of one lemon
50 ml of brandy (I added a little more!)
150g self-raising flour
2 tsp ground mixed spice
175g unsalted butter, melted
200g panettone, torn up
3 large free-range eggs, beaten
100g soft light brown sugar
100g plain chocolate, chopped

1. Mix dried fruits, apple, lemon zest and brandy in a large bowl. In another bowl, sift together the flour, spice and a pinch of salt. Pour the butter over the dried fruit mix. Stir in the panettone, eggs, sugar, chocolate and spiced flour.

2. Spoon into greased pudding bowls (I used two 1 pint bowls and had enough over for a small one). Steam.. for 3 hours; only I am trying it in the slow cooker.. will await outcome eagerly!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Pirates of the new millenium

I thought that the last time pirates ruled the oceans was back in the days of Jack Sparrow but it seems that there has been a recent resurgence in pirate activity as I heard on the news that two ships (one of them an oil tanker) had been captured by Somali pirates. It seems that modern day piracy has come on a bit since the days of the jolly roger and is now a bit more hi-tech and almost a recognised profession in some parts of the world.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Upstaged by my mother

I was telling my mother about my glimpse of someone who I thought might be Vinnie Jones. Name dropping makes no impression on her now however, since she is quite settled in her apartment in Windsor. Together with all the other residents, they keep a watchful eye on the local goings-on and generally try to keep up to date. One of the ladies was in an art shop in Windsor today and looking around she came across a group of young men and thought that one looked familiar. Realising that she had been staring for some time she thought that she may have appeared a little rude and turned to one of the young men and said

"Oh, I'm sorry if I have been staring but you do look just like Prince Harry"

"Well I am actually", came the reply.

"Oh, I'm really sorry. I was actually just looking for some candle holders"

"That's all right, they're just round the corner on the right"

Now I don't know whether I believe all of this story or not but my mother made it sound convincing!

Nearly famous

Ian spent yesterday doubling the security on his garage and I decided to go out for a bike ride. I have a nice little route now, heading out towards the Darenth Valley and then back via Crokenhill. It is a strange area. Nearer Darenth and Hextable you can see the Dartford bridge and although the countryside is unspoilt in places it doesn't always feel the safest place on earth and I generally hurry through without stopping too long at traffic lights! Yesterday was no exception and as the rain started to get heavier I thought I would attempt a short cut. This took me through the delights of South Darenth. In the East End of London all the gangsters moved out years ago and I suspect they moved there. It was no surprise then to see a film crew in the car park of the Three Bridges filming what looked like the latest gangster movie. At first I thought the blokes milling in the car park were the locals until I saw the camera and realised that they were extras. I was trying to make out the leading man, who looked to me like Vinnie Jones. However, I then had to move as the director did not think that a middle aged cyclist crossing the road would be good background material! The real locals looked even more grungy than the paid ones! The rain got heavier and I realised that my short cut wasn't really a short cut and arrived back an hour later, soaked through!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Community policing

We have had a little bit of excitement this weekend, if you can call it that! I arrived at Ian's on Friday evening at about quarter to nine with my bike and he went to take it round to his garage as usual. He came back a few moments later to say that he couldn't open his garage door as the lock had been bent and it looked like at least three of the other garages had been broken into as the doors were open. The garages are behind the flats and as they were built in the 1960s no one worried about lighting or security at the time so they are an easy target on a dark evening for people looking for an illegal way to make a few pounds to fund their evening's entertainment. After a quick debate and a discussion with one of the sensible neighbours we decided to report it to the police. Now we were aware that this was not a life threatening emergency so we initially called the community support officer on his mobile (where I live they call them teletubbies because they are dressed in yellow and round!) Anyway, he did not reply so we tried the local police station. However that is closed at the weekend and they are looking for community volunteers to staff it! In desperation then we called the emergency services! Fortunately they put us through to our local 'call centre' and we reported it. We were then told that this would be dealt with by the 'telephone investigation unit' and we duly called the following morning by said service and had to repeat all the details again!

After this Ian dropped a note into the doors of all the neighbours telling them what had happened and asking them to check that nothing was missing, resulting in a flurry of activity around the garages. Many of Ian's neighbours are elderly and a bit upset so within seconds some one's son arrived and another lady came over wearing her nightdress, giving the whole thing the air of a pyjama party. They had rummaged through one lady's garage and gone through her personal possessions but she couldn't tell if anything had been taken.

As we were leaving to go shopping for a lock and a security light the 'scene of crime' officer arrived; a woman in her 30s. Predictably there was nothing for her to examine. She told us that what she really needs is blood so that she can get a DNA sample and that although we weren't to say that she told us, the best way to protect the garage door and make her job easier was to put a strip of carpet gripper along the bottom edge!

In the evening the doorbell rang and the two police community support officers were there to introduce themselves and tell us all about their job! It was my introduction to modern policing in the Met!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


Today was armistice day and after our recent visits to the Somme I thought about it a bit more deeply. At my French class tonight the teacher told us that in France it is a public holiday (but then there are many public holidays in France!). However, more French soldiers were killed than any other nationality and as a percentage of the total population it was a literally a generation killed. When I was younger and more idealistic I used to disapprove of these commemorations as the glorification of militarism and used to think that wearing a red poppy somehow condoned that. I preferred the idea of the white poppy to symbolise peace. Now I think that it doesn't really matter what bl**dy colour the poppy is as what we are doing is acknowledging the immense loss and tragedy of war. Perhaps continuing to remember armistice day will ensure that younger people who have never experienced such events get some appreciation of what man can do.

Post script: Ever since writing this post I have been looking everywhere for some pictures that I took a couple of years ago. On our way back from France Ian and I stopped off to visit the war graves of the Somme..well just a couple; the whole tour would take the best part of a week. I eventually found them last night.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Memories of other bonfires

Whilst looking through my old Japan pictures I remembered another event that at the time bore a strong similarity to the Lewes bonfire festivities that I attended last week. When we were there it coincided with the Kurama Himatsuri or Fire Festival, which takes place towards the end of October every year just to the north of Kyoto. We went there by train, and as with the Lewes festival the trains and the streets were packed. The origins of the festival were to light the way for the spirits of the dead but my guess is, like a lot of these autumn festivals, it was a way of marking the approach of winter. To start fires are lighted in front of homes and children dressed in traditional clothing march up and down carrying small lighted torches. As the evening progresses the men follow dressed in traditional costume which leaves their bottoms naked to the air (not a pretty sight!). They march up and down chanting and marching to the rhythms of drums, carrying larger and larger torches. Finally they march up the hill to the shrine and then seem to roll themselves down! In many ways it is just like Lewes!

Welcome to Obama

I saw on the News that the town of Obama in Japan was celebrating after Barack's victory! This rang some bells in my head. In 2004 I went to Japan on a 2 week cycling holiday. It was a kind of 'trip of a lifetime' type of holiday and I had saved both money and annual leave to enable me to go. We were the first group to go on this trip and had the dubious pleasure of being followed round for the first week by a well known holiday programme and a rather famous former BBC News reader!

We started off in Osaka and then headed off across Japan to the sea coast, ending in the town of Obama. I remember the weather being rather like it is here today, wet and windy!

The town was grey and the hostel was spartan but the town put on a special treat for us and treated us like royalty with a full Japanese banquet, gifts, games and a presentations! We left the following morning but were hampered a little in our journey as the road had disappeared during the storm two days before we arrived!

After that we took the ferry to Kyushu and the BBC left us in peace! The memory prompted me to search out some old photos taken by me and fellow guests!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

A nice link

There is a nice link the the last three posts. I didn't stay at the bonfire parade long enough to see all of the effigies that are paraded through the town and then burnt on the bonfire in ceremonial fashion. They are usually topical and after much hunting in the Internet I have just discovered that this year the Cliffe effigy was a giant Alistair Darling with Barack Obama dressed as Uncle Sam and holding a dollar sign. Alistair Darling was holding an Iceland receipt listing Lewes, East Sussex and Kent councils along with Sussex Police Authority, (a reference to the fact that they all had millions of pounds invested with Icelandic banks which collapsed last month). The source was the Argus.

God save The Queen

Apparently at a meeting with the London School of economics the Queen asked why no one saw the credit-crunch coming. I think the answer to that is that they did but they shut their eyes and waited for the impact rather than try to change gear and put on the brakes!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A new broom

I'm not a great fan of American politics but I was moved when I heard that black American voters took pictures of their dead parents and grandparents with them into the ballot box to be with them when they voted for the first black American president. I was too young to really understand what was going on the the 1960s in the United States but when I saw Jessie Jackson with tears in his eyes as Barack Obama swept to victory I got some sense of what it might have meant.

Lewes bonfires

I am now happily sitting in the warm, at my computer, after a trip to the Lewes bonfire night celebrations. It is traditionally held on Guy Fawkes night to mark the discovery of the Gunpowder plot, but actually encompasses much more including the commemoration of the memory of the Protestant martyrs, the history of the town, remembrance day and a whole host of other more pagan traditions! I went with a work colleague who had not been before. Despite the efforts of the local councils to deter visitors the trains arriving into Lewes were packed and the streets busy , mostly with young people. We followed the one-way walking system and made our way to the bottom end of town where the Cliffe bonfire society has its torchlit procession (one of 6 going on in the town).

The Cliffe procession is generally thought to be the most traditional and also the most radical. As we approached the crowded streets were lit with the glow from burning crosses, 17 in all representing the Protestant Martyrs. The members of the Cliffe society dress in traditional costumes depicting Tudor times, pirates, soldiers, zulu warriors; all representative of the rich history of the town and parade up and down the main street, each time more exiting than the last. There are explosions from cannons, fireworks, flaming torches and bangers thrown into the marchers. The atmosphere is light hearted but deadly serious and there is an undercurrent of tension throughout. Add this to the crush of people all trying to get across the narrow bridge with the police desperately trying to keep control, and you begin to get the picture. The marchers themselves are from all ages and all walks of life, some in pushchairs and some in wheelchairs and some too old to march so they stand and watch! Every year they burn effigies of Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V and also effigies of someone or something more topical (This year there was WALL E, the robot from the Disney film) .

Attempts to control or restrict the parades are generally ignored ! We stayed and watched 2 or 3 processions and then had really had enough of things exploding near us and crowds of people so, not wishing to have to queue to get the train home, we left early! It is an weird event and one that everyone should see once if they can!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Warmer in the water than out

Yesterday morning I went swimming before driving back from Ian's. One attraction of the health club near him is that they have an outdoor heated pool so I plucked up courage and dashed outside into the winter air in my swimsuit. Once in the water was lovely but I had to adjust my swimming stroke to make sure my arms did not spend too much time out of the water. as the outside air was pretty chilly! Getting out the pool took my breath away, but I am sure it was good for me. There were three other ladies in there. They didn't seem to mind getting their hair wet!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

I don't believe it!

I don't really understand what all the fuss is about with regards to the incident involving Jonathon Ross and Russell Brand and the answerphone message and I certainly don't understand why it was headline news for 3 days running! Here is my opinion on the matter.

Jonathon Ross and Russell Brand phoned up Andrew Sachs (the actor who played Manuel in Fawlty Towers) and when he wasn't in they left a string of messages on his answerphone that by all accounts were a little childish and offensive and were subsequently broadcast on the radio show. I didn't listen to the programme and when it was broadcast it received 2 complaints. However Andrew Sachs complained to the BBC about the nature of the messages, this news seemed to get out and then the wonder of the Internet and You Tube meant that everyone who hadn't heard the show the first time could listen to it to see what all the fuss was about. This led to a total of 30,000 complaints, which personally I would discount since if they thought it was going to be offensive they didn't need to choose to listen to it! (I thought I should also listen to it to see what all the fuss was about and after 2 minutes decided it was rather boring and silly and so stopped). It seems that Andrew Sach's granddaughter (who sings in a band called the Satanic Sluts) was particularly put out by the fact that Russell Brand had said that he had had 'intimate relations' with her! Now as this turned out to be true I think that she only has herself to blame here for having the bad taste and bad judgement to sleep with him in the first place as he is not known for his discretion nor for his chastity. Andrew Sachs was offended by various comments made, perhaps rightly, but then this is the man who was made famous by using all sorts of racist stereotypes to portray a dumb Spanish waiter so if he was offended then that's too bad but in the end it isn't that important in the context of 'shit things that can happen to you in life'.

The consequence is that two people resigned and one person is suspended but for Russell Brand and Jonathon Ross it isn't going to make too much difference to their career prospects and Andrew Sach's granddaughter has had some good publicity for her band and the BBC executive will probably get a job for Sky. I am just amazed that with an American election next week, a bloodbath in the Congo and the economy in collapse that this minor story got so much time! Perhaps it is a conspiracy!

Whatever happened to autumn?

It's hard to believe that the photos taken in France were little over a week ago; when we were working in shirt sleeves. Autumn has seemed incredibly short this year. One minute it was almost like the summer that we never had and the next moment the trees were bare. Today it is dark, cold and wet and last week seems a lifetime ago! Still, the good news is that there has already been some snow in Le Grand Bornand and that is where we are heading at Christmas!