Archive for March, 2007

I may be complaining about the dark starts in the morning, but at least I’m getting some lighter nights as compensation. Here’s the view as I stood on the platform at Tonbridge at around 7pm.

Train at Tonbridge

The sun setting over a train at Tonbridge

I had one of those moments yesterday that made me feel very old and out-of-touch with popular culture. I jumped onto my normal train home last night and looked over at the chap sitting across from me, thinking to myself “he looks a little scruffy to be sitting in First Class.” But he showed his ticket to the conductor and that was that…

…or so I thought. As we neared Canterbury, he was surrounded by a number of young women, all keen for his autograph. Turns out he’s a rock star — Tom Chaplin from Keane.

Tom Chaplin

Tom Chaplin, from Keane

There I was, brushing elbows with fame and fortune. And I just figured he was a university student with rich parents.

Edited to note: I can’t believe it. I’ve had to edit the post after I realised I misspelled the name of the band. Now I really am showing that I’m out of touch.

Well, so much for my predictions of spring having finally arrived. Last week featured snow, hail, fog, and generally cold and crappy weather. Our clocks went forward this weekend, not only depriving me of an hour of valuable sleep but also leaving me in the darkness each morning. Much tougher to drag yourself out of bed when it’s pitch black outside than when the sun is coming up, and I was just getting used to light starts to my days.

I got home from church last night to discover that Aude had caught the earlier train back from Paris (she couldn’t resist my charm and had to race back as soon as she could). I earned brownie points for bringing back several of her favourite French goodies – even bringing the chocolate Easter bunny she’s been hankering for over the past few weeks. She, on the other hand, went to Paris – and I didn’t even get a lousy tee-shirt.

Aude has been in Paris on a training course for the past four days, so I decided to use this weekend to get some of the errands run. Our stocks of wine are running low, so I decided it was time for a quick run over to Calais to replenish our supplies. Thinking that I had plenty of time, I decided to take the ferry rather than the train to save a few quid – a mistake in the end.

White Cliffs

The famous white cliffs of Dover…

I went over with Seafrance, who have much nicer ferries than either of the other companies. But I picked a rough day with a very choppy crossing, and a fair number of the passengers spent most of their time throwing up. I’m fairly immune to sea-sickness, but there’s something inherently unpleasant about being surrounded by people being sick.

Wine Society

The Wine Society’s shop in Montreuil, or ‘Mecca’ as we prefer to call it…

First stop in France was at the Wine Society. I’d preselected my wines on the ferry, and handed over my completed order form. Ten minutes later and a few hundred euros lighter, the friendly lads at the Wine Society had loaded my car and I was on my way back to Calais to do some food shopping. And aggravating quite a few French drivers at each of the tolls, as I had to get out and run around the car to fetch my tickets (as my steering wheel is on the wrong side and I’ve got no passenger to reach out for me.

Low car

The car is riding a little lower on its suspension, its boot full of wine!

From Montreuil, it was back to Calais to stock up on all the foods that we can’t get in the UK – veal, good coffee, chicory, cured meats, cheeses, and so on. Several hundred more euros later, and the boot was full to bursting.

Cite Europe

Off to Carrefour for a little grocery shopping…

Finally back on the ferry, the rear end of the car scraped over every speed bump I crossed. Next time I’ll rent a van!

Fully laden

The car fully laden, I managed to scrape the rear end going over the speed bumps getting onto the ferry…

The return ferry was much more uneventful than the outbound crossing. I had a nice dinner on the onboard restaurant, surrounded for some reason by loads of Australians. One of whom did her country’s reputation no favours by ordering a steak, well done, and then asking the French waiter if she could have some ketchup to go with it.

And I thought it was only the Americans who were renowned for these sorts of social gaffes.

After fighting with British Airways for her luggage, Dara finally made it down to Canterbury around 3pm yesterday. Looking surprisingly sprightly despite her long flight from the States, we decided to do a little bit of shopping in the afternoon, followed by dinner at home – then out onto the town to celebrate St Patrick’s day in style.

Matt and Dara

Matt and Dara in the back yard, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather we’re having right now


Dara relaxes after a long journey…


Daisy spent most of the weekend looking slightly alarmed


Like all of our favourite guests, Dara has just bought a new camera. There were more flashes than the paparazzi.

Relaxing after dinner

Aude relaxes after dinner


Visits with old friends call for champagne. Matthew happily assumes his role.

We ended up at a local jazz club where we were promised jazz music with an Irish flavour – the only Irish flavour I could find was the Guinness spilled on the floor. After an hour of that, we headed out to our local Cuban bar to catch a little salsa music and a few mojitos – having given up entirely on the Irish theme.

Having lured Dara down here on the basis of a proper Sunday roast, I had to drag myself out of bed this morning to deliver the readies. I bought an entire cow – well, 3kg of cow in any case, so we threw an impromptu dinner party for a few friends to help us eat it all. We locked Daisy out of the kitchen, and she spent the entire two hours we were eating staring through the door at the rib of beef. Poor thing!

Highlights of the meal included me setting fire to a napkin and Aude dousing the table with a pitcher of water. Never let it be said I don’t throw an interesting party.

Also noteworthy was Daisy’s long-running hatred of Dara, the reasons for which we still cannot understand. But there was loads of unprovoked hissing and baring of teeth – most uncharacteristic!


Daisy seems to have reverted to kittenhood.

A rest...

A well-deserved rest after cooking the Sunday roast.

Hard work

Guests are hard work. The girls take a break after a weekend of entertaining.
Daisy files herself

Daisy decided to help with the filing

In preparation for Dara’s visit, we are having a bit of a clean up around the house. Aude decided that she would file away some of her paperwork. Daisy decided she would pitch in, and has helpfully filed herself.

In the days before the internet, you would have had to sit around the house waiting for your own cats to do something cute. Now, with the advent of technology, all you need to do is log on to your PC if you want to see cute kitten antics.