Archive for December, 2006

The plan was very simple. I made a list of what I would like from Aude for Christmas this year. At the top of the list was this:

Corvette Z06

Instead of a nice, new, shiny Corvette, what I got from Aude was this:


A stinking cold. So I’ve spent most of the day sitting at home feeling sorry for myself as I battle this case of ‘man flu’ with all the brave stoicism you’d expect. In other words, I’ve been whining all day.

In situations like this, I generally turn to the Jews. After all, the religion that brought us the Kosher hot dog and the word “schmuck” can’t be all bad. And they know a thing or two about curing a cold, so I’ve decided to self-medicate with Jewish penicillin – the theory being that chicken soup will cure all ails. And it turns out that there’s some medical evidence to back up this theory

My favourite quote from the article: “It should be added that to benefit from Jewish penicillin, one need not be Jewish.”

Chicken Soup

A pot of chicken soup boiling on the stove. For any Jews making notes, the Goy version contains chicken, onions, carrots, celery, turnips, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and a bouquet garnis.

In other news, I’ve chosen the wine for our New Years Eve dinner. We’re spending the dinner with French friends in Brussels. Stubborn as I am, I’ve offered a French Chinon to go with the starter, but have stood my ground and selected a nice California Zinfandel, which should go nicely with our steak with Roquefort sauce.

Wine for New Year

A nice Chinon to go with our smoked duck salad, and a Californian Zinfandel to go with the main course.

Since this is likely my last blog of the year, I just thought I should wish everyone a Happy New Year! See you in 2007…

Despite the best efforts of the freezing fog and the bunglings of British Airways, we managed to make it to the Cote d’Azur without too much trouble. We arrived at the airport about two hours before our flight and were herded into large white tents outside to wait until our flight was called to check-in. About half an hour later, we finally made it into the ticketing hall, which was absolutely swamped with people. Between check-in and security, we arrived at the lounge with just enough time for a quick cup of coffee before our flight.

We arrived in Nice to much nicer weather than we’d left at home – warm with clear, sunny skies. Luckily, it stayed this way for the remainder of our trip. We arrived around lunchtime on Christmas Eve and spent the next 48 hours straight eating.


Aude and her parents on Christmas Eve


Aude smiles for the camera


Aude’s father gets the champagne ready to toast the celebration


Minouche (alive, well, and only a little overweight) practices her hunting skills with her new toy mice


“Open your oysters risk-free!” proclaims this clever device. Please notice the blood splattered all over the side.


Oysters to celebrate Christmas. As Gratiane said in her e-mail letter earlier this week, at this time of year the words “oysters”, “salmon”, and “foie gras” trigger a reflex movement to unbutton the first button on our trousers!


Minouche is very interested in the ornaments.


Aude’s mother shows off her desserts…


Aude’s parents’ house, looking warm and inviting in the sun


Rather a radical change for those of us from cooler places, this is what Christmas looks like in the south of France. Not a flake of snow in sight!


Aude smiles as she remembers what “sun” is…


Even Matthew manages a smile…


All becomes clear. Matthew is smiling because it’s time for more champagne!


Mandatory “couple” shot for my parents.


Aude’s father gets ready to carve the Christmas capon. Poor bastard – first he loses his balls, then ends up on our Christmas table. What a way to go. (NB: I’m talking about the capon, not Aude’s father)


Everyone’s down for a nap after dinner…


An absolutely beautiful evening looking out over the Mediterranean.

Christmas is around the corner and the big man himself has decided to come to town. I guess Mrs Claus has been hounding Santa about his diet again, because it would appear that Santa has embraced the organic food movement — at least that’s the only conclusion I can draw for him being at the farmer’s market across the street…

Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus is spotted across the street at the farmer’s market

Then again, he could be having a secret affair with the Fat Woman who sells cakes — our suspicion is that she eats as many as she sells. It seems a plausible theory, although I should highlight that it’s only speculation at this points (just wanted to point that out so I don’t receive letters threatening libel from Claus, Clause and Claws, LLP)

Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus confirms that this little boy is on the “Nice” list…

We’re off to do some last-minute Christmas shopping today, then we’ll pack and head up to spend the night near Heathrow. We’re crossing our fingers for a fog-free morning tomorrow and a painless flight to France.

The last two days have been absolute chaos at my hotel near Heathrow. The airlines have had to cancel hundreds of flights due to freezing fog and the hotels around the airport have been inundated with stranded travellers. Aude and I are crossing our fingers and hoping that the weather lifts in time for us to fly to France on Christmas Eve.

My Christmas cards are sent, and as the year draws to a close, I thought I would use my blog to reflect on the past year rather than send out a “Christmas Letter”. Mostly because I’m lazy and this is easier.

As I look back over the past year (which is easy to do, since it’s all neatly documented online), I’m amazed at how much we’ve managed to squeeze into twelve months – some of it feels like a lifetime ago, some of it feels like it was just yesterday.

At least I can take some reassurance in the cyclical nature of the world. Some things never change. Air travel is still stressful, and nothing ever works out quite the way you planned. A year ago we were waiting for Aude’s parents to arrive. The finally made it, a few hours late, but had to spend the entire holiday in what they’d worn on the plane as their luggage took in a scenic journey of Europe.

Happily, they were reunited with their luggage when they got back home a few days later. Aude and I joined them, and together we rang in 2006 in style in the south of France, this time with all of our luggage and a full complement of family and friends. Minouche, the cat, was still a kitten and kept us all entertained.

Minouche got lost, but thankfully was found several weeks later, looking fairly sorry for herself. Cats will be cats. She’s now doing well and steadily putting on weight – she’ll look like Daisy and Calypso in no time.

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to a number of friends this year including Faouzia and Alain and Julien, who moved to France, Alessandro and Virgine, who have gone off exploring the world, and countless others who have moved to Walton Oaks (!). I’ve also had to say goodbye to most of the friends I worked with on my consulting projects down here, as they’ve moved on to other clients and other parts of the world.

We’ve both moved this year – 100 metres down the road in both cases – to our new place in Canterbury where we’re finally settled in. The back garden has been a godsend and we’ve used it constant throughout the summer for entertaining and barbeques. I can’t believe I lived so long in England without a garden.

I’ve changed jobs, but that doesn’t mean very much as a consultant. I still managed to spend more than a hundred nights in a hotel this year, where I’m greeted more like a long-lost friend than a guest when I arrive. And I still seem to find the most glamorous clients slung around the far side of the M25 – meaning hundreds of miles each week in gridlocked traffic.

In March, I crashed my car. Much to my embarrassment.

We’ve done our fair share of travel this year. We’ve been skiing in France, where Aude did her impression of Les Bronzes and I demonstrated “what not to wear”. I went to Washington to visit my parents. We visited Thailand for Songkran and got absolutely doused. We visited Alsace, Basel, Zurich and saw our friends get married in Nancy. We visited Aude’s grandfather in Orbec. We visited friends in Paris and we went to Scotland to see Mike and Karen getting married, where I was so inspired that I decided to get engaged myself.

We had some visitors, too – Aude’s parents in December, Joan and Joey in July, and my parents, Dasha and Nick in November. And Aude’s brother, Jerome, who has come to see us countless times – although I’m convinced it’s only because he fancies a change from the food in the office canteen!

We’ve had plenty of good food and wine this year. I ate testicles. And frog’s legs. And I seem to have spent most of the month of December in black tie.

All in all, it’s been a very good year, and one I’ll look back upon fondly. To those of you reading this who I haven’t heard from in a while – I’d love to hear what you’re up to, even if it’s only in a Christmas letter.

Best wishes to everyone for a merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Neil was complaining that there weren’t enough updates and pictures on here recently. Unfortunately, my new client engagement has kept me very busy. I haven’t had as much time to update the blog as I would like, and the truth is that my updates would largely consist of “spent more time helping to re-engineer my client’s finance function”, which isn’t really useful for anyone.

I also don’t have many new photos to post, but as a gesture, here are two photos that were taken at Aude’s Christmas party last week.

Xmas Party

Xmas Party

It has been a while since I last updated my blog, and for good reason. I have just started working with a new client which is taking up most of my time. But I do have time for a brief recap of the past week or two before I head off for my Christmas holidays.

The weekend after my Christmas party was absolutely beautiful – it remains unseasonably warm over here, apparently the warmest year in the recorded history of the UK. I took the chance to take the Corvette out for a good wash and a quick drive to the coast – a plan somewhat flawed by the fact that I didn’t account for the short days. We were halfway to the coast and found ourselves driving in total darkness.

Sunday night I drove back to London to get ready for a series of client workshops on Monday and Tuesday with my new client. We’d had no notice of them (contract signed late on the Friday night) so it was a case of “turn up and wing it”. Luckily that seems to be one of our core strengths. The rest of the week was primarily made up of me forgetting the names of the 40-or-so delegates.

I hosted a dinner for a number of new graduate recruits on Wednesday night at our offices – the highlights of which were a stunning meal in an amazing setting (our 9th floor boardroom overlooking the river, with one of the best views in London) and seeing the genuine excitement and enthusiasm on their faces as they enter the job world for the first time. The graduate market is becoming more competitive, and my company puts on a pretty impressive show to try to win the best talent. It’s fun to be part of the process, even if it meant dragging myself in from Heathrow.

Having dragged myself in from Heathrow, it seemed only right that I accepted Mike’s invitation to go out for a few Christmas drinks with several of my old colleagues – cue 2am taxi back to Heathrow and working the next day on about 4 hours sleep!

Friday night was Aude’s Christmas party at the University of Canterbury, where pleasantly we witnessed no assaults at all. Saturday we went to Whitstable for a friend’s birthday party – and despite being in a harbour with some of the freshest fish in the UK, I managed to order a fish that had been flown in from Australia.

Woke up on Monday morning to discover that winter had finally arrived – for the first time this year, I had to scrape the frost off my car before driving up to London.

Six more days until Christmas. I suppose I’d better pull my finger out and get some shopping done.