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Archive for May, 2007

The two-week gap since my last entry is a good indication of how busy things have been recently. I’ve been frantically trying to get a piece of work out the door in the face of client requirements that seem to change by the minute. At the same time, I’ve been asked to act as a subject-matter expert for another client, and to lead a piece of business development for a third client. It means that I’m trying to do eight days of work in a five-day week.

After ten beautiful, sunny days in the US, we’ve come back to several weeks of grey, rainy weather in the UK. The garden looks great – Aude spent most of the weekend before last getting all of our flower beds planted, I took care of re-seeding the grass and getting everything trimmed. But the grey weather overall is a bit of a drag.

The weekend was spiced up a little bit by a Eurovision dinner party thrown by a friend of ours, although we still maintain that the UK was robbed.

Most of this weekend was tied up with wedding preparation courses – overall not quite as dull as I’d expected, although I did learn rather more about the sex lives of our hosting couple than I really would have liked. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.

It’s another busy week at work this week – tying up loose ends on one client engagement on Monday & Tuesday, off to Croydon on Wednesday to assess the presentations of all the graduates at the end of their 18-month graduate training programme, then off to Paris on Thursday / Friday for a training course of my own. I’m taking Thursday morning off to race around Paris securing the various pieces of paperwork I need for the wedding.

Still, even a trip racing around Paris is a good trip. They’re taking us out for a slap-up meal on Thursday night, which makes the trip worthwhile in itself.


One of the things I love about New Orleans, especially during Jazzfest, is all of the street music that you come across. Buskers on nearly every street corner in the Quarter, playing and singing for tips.

A warm welcome to Jazzfest from one of the locals

A warm welcome to Jazzfest from one of the locals

A little jazz on the corner of rue Royal

A little jazz on the corner of rue Royal

Without a car, this bassist suddenly wishes he’d taken up the flute instead…

Without a car, this bassist suddenly wishes he’d taken up the flute instead…

A little more music down by Jackson Square

A little more music down by Jackson Square

And a competing group on the opposite corner of the Square!

And a competing group on the opposite corner of the Square!


No visit to New Orleans would be complete without a few beignets and a cup of coffee at Café Du Monde. So we made it our first stop and got tucked right in!

Beignets at Café Du Monde

Beignets at Café Du Monde

Beignets at Café Du Monde

Beignets at Café Du Monde

Beignets at Café Du Monde

Beignets at Café Du Monde

Aude nearly spit out her coffee when she saw this article in the paper the morning after the first round of French elections. “Publish that article in France,” she said, “and you could guarantee that Royal will win the election!”

Just as well we live in Britain. L’entente cordiale and all that…

An American take on the French election

An American take on the French election

One of the nice things about getting married overseas is that you get the chance to celebrate everything at least twice (or in our case, thrice – England, USA and France!) Since we were going to be in Washington for a few days, my parents took the opportunity to throw an impromptu engagement party for us. Some peanuts and cocktails, perhaps?

Nope. Six racks of lamb and all the trimmings. You know, a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing.

We had a great time – a great excuse for a party and a chance to catch up with lots of old friends.

Jim and Sima listen to Raymond tell a story

Jim and Sima listen to Raymond tell a story

Marta, Aude, Carol and Jim

Marta, Aude, Carol and Jim

Andy smiles for the camera

Andy smiles for the camera

Joanne, looking like she’s about to get into mischief

Joanne, looking like she’s about to get into mischief

Carol, captured by someone’s storytelling

Carol, captured by someone’s storytelling

The cat is unimpressed by the whole affair…

The cat is unimpressed by the whole affair…

More vacation updates: When we got back from the Chesapeake Bay, having stuffed ourselves with crabs, it was soon time for more food. My mother made a chicken and lentil tagine. We sat out in the garden until quite late, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.

"Momcat" in the kitchen

“Momcat” in the kitchen

The next morning was a bit of government-sponsored sightseeing. In order to get married in France, I need to attach an Apostille to my birth certificate, effectively certifying that my certified copy is genuinely a certified copy (a certification of a certification, if you will.) Initially I thought that I could get the Apostille done at the Department of State, but it turns out that they only issue them for federal documents. State documents, like my birth certificate, need to go back to the state where they were issued.

Since I was born in Washington, I thought I would find out if the Apostille could be issued in person. Luckily, it could – all it took was a quick trip down to the Mayor’s office and for $10, they prepare the certificate while they wait.

It all seemed so simple. And it was, until I read in the fine print that they only accepted cheques, money orders, or bankers’ drafts. No cash, no credit cards.

This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but I don’t carry my US chequebook as a matter of course. So I figured I would buy a money order at the post office. Only I assumed that there would be a post office on every downtown corner, the way there are in the UK. I was wrong – it was 17 blocks to the nearest post office!

Once I finally had the money order sorted out (which took all morning), the actual bureaucracy in the government office only took a few minutes. One more thing off my list of things to do before the wedding.

In the afternoon we went to Alexandria for lunch and to tour the Torpedo Factory (where the one gallery we really wanted to see was unfortunately closed!) We spent the rest of the afternoon down on the Potomac River, watching the planes take-off and land from Washington Reagan National Airport, which took me back to doing the same thing as a child. I am amazed, post 9/11, that they still allow you to get so close to the runway.

Planes landing at Reagan National Airport

Planes landing at Reagan National Airport

Planes landing at Reagan National Airport

Planes landing at Reagan National Airport

Planes landing at Reagan National Airport

Planes landing at Reagan National Airport

Reagan National Airport

Reagan National Airport

From there, we went out to Hains Point to see what was left of the cherry blossoms, then back home for an engagement party that my parents had arranged…

An old couple looking out onto the Potomac

An old couple looking out onto the Potomac

Aude at Hains Point, overlooking the Potomac River

Aude at Hains Point, overlooking the Potomac River

Matthew & Aude pose for a photo at The Awakening at Hains Point

Matthew & Aude pose for a photo at The Awakening at Hains Point

Matthew poses in front of the cherry blossoms

Matthew poses in front of the cherry blossoms

Washington cherry blossoms

Washington cherry blossoms