Archive | November 2012

Days 63-66: York Again!

Sorry everyone, I’ve not found it easy to update the blog, or indeed to exercise, so far since I’ve been in York.

I have had an amazing time though. I visited the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival on day 63 to see a friend’s premiere as part of the Professional Composers’ Developmental Scheme, something that I was involved with a couple of years ago, writing for the dutch group Nieuw Ensemble. The concert went really well and I have a good catch up with my friend. In general sine I have been back I’ve also had the luxury of being around musicians and talking about musical things which has been great.

On day 64 I had a supervisor meeting and lots of coffee and lunch etc. with friends again. My supervisor is very sanguine about the length of time it’s taking me to finish the orchestral piece and has advised me not to rush it. It apparantly doesn’t make too much difference if I spend a couple more months than expected on it, and a lot of his students have all submitted at the same time, which means he could do with more time. No problem there. I don’t want it to drag out myself, but equally it would be nice to free myself up a bit and spend some time over detail without always feeling that I’m getting nowhere fast.

On day 65 I got a much needed haircut and spent some time with some of my sillier and lovelier friends, crashing a Gilbert and Sullivan Pirates of Penzance rehearsal. It’s fun to just have a bit of a sing sometimes and I did. Drinks were also had and much hilarity ensued.

Day 66 was the day of the wedding, which was absolutely brilliant and involved spending time with some very lovely people, who I miss a lot. Much food was eaten and drink imbibed, opinions expressed, gossip passed, shapes thrown, in a breugelian fantasy of fun. The bride looked absolutely beautiful and everyone was on great form. Extremely happy for my two friends and so glad to have been there for their wedding!

And here I am on day 67, which has yet to unfold. I might go for a walk along the walls to start to pick things up again. It’s much harder here to keep up with exercise. It’s so easy when you have a mountain on your doorstep and less jerky weather. I have been, unfortunately, very indulgent this week and am feeling bad about it, however it has been fun. I’ve also drunk a lot more than I have in the last 62 days, which will make a big difference.

It’s probably time to cut down a bit and I probably will. Let’s see how it goes.

À bientot dear readers, or as we’re in York, Later dudes.


Day 62: Back to Blighty

Hurrah! Today I head back to the UK on a flying visit, mainly to go to a friend’s wedding, but also including a whistle-stop tour of other UK locations, an 88th birthday for my actual dad (GM is a step-relation) and the desperate process of trying to finish my PhD while I’m here.

I’m really looking forward to seeing my friends again, and York, which is where I hang my proverbial hat. It’s also great to be able to get away and assert my independence again, and feel like a real person with free will. Essentially I needed this change for a while.

I haven’t forgotten about the regime though, and I will be doing something everyday, as much as I possibly can while travelling about the countryside.

We got up at 5am and headed to Turin. The plane journey went of without a hitch. The alps as I flew over them looked like mere ruts in a rocky ground, easy targets for the errant foot.

As we came in to Stansted, there was a huge cloud over Britain, which didn’t bode well. By 3.30pm I was in York, in an extremely pokey B & B room with a terrible shower featuring 0% hot water.

Ooh look! It’s one of those special clouds that mean that the weather in the UK is going to be lovely.

My exercise for today was to walk around York (which was by that time in darkness) and up the hill to the university, probably about 6 miles in total, and a couple of hours, so not nothing. After so much sitting down and with my cold, I felt pretty graisse today.

Nope, yucky.

It didn’t help that I didn’t have any dinner and so decided to do the “meal for one” thing at a pizzaria, which made me feel a bit sad really.

There is one thing that I particualarly wanted to do today on the first day back in Yorkshire, and after 56 days of mainly tee-total behaviour I ended the day with a couple of pints of nice Yorkshire Ale.

I miss living here.

Day 61: Constitutional down the road

I felt I had to get out today. I did manage to finish the section that I was inputting int the computer, but didn’t really want to do much, and was aware I needed to start packing for the trip to the UK tomorrow.

I took a walk down the road, to the valley this time instead of the village. The weather has been very nice recently and it has been tough being inside a lot of the time. To make things worse I’m coming down with a stinking cold that has made me very phlegmy and not a little bit cranky.

It was not a particularly exciting walk, but I felt better for getting out. The jeans I was walking in, originally a hurried purchase that was a full size too small for me, were now hanging off of my thighs.

I was listening to music and a bit groggy and bunged up, so I was frequently surprised by cars tearing past me. They certainly speed a bit round here and it’s probably not a good idea to walk along the road like I was.

It was pretty cold, and I got pretty rosy-cheeked walking, but I felt a lot better for the walk, if only because it got me away from the house for a while.

I used to hate French cheeses but, I think I’m about ready to make my piece with them (piece = sandwich in scottish)

I walked for a couple of hours this time, and got about 3/4 of the way to Plampinet and back.

Day 60: Admin/Work Day

So I had to get on with some work today, partly thanks to the skiing expedition yesterday. Again it turned into a work/admin day as I decided to buy myself some manuscript and equipment to help me compose. Particularly, I needed an A3 printer to replace the really useful University machine that I had been using for the last 8 years. It was a difficult decision so I had to take quite a lot of time over it, and it had to be now, so les grumblies could pick it up in Scotland, where they’re going while I’m in England.

On another note, it’s becoming hard to live with les grumblies recently. They’re very supportive and great for making sure I have the right equipment and opportunities, but I’m beginning to feel a bit suffocated. Les grumblies are, of course, my parents. I characterise them as Bike Fairy and Grumble Meister because, well, because it’s a bit sad to be living with one’s parents, no matter how temporarily, and how comparatively nomadic and rock-and-roll the lifestyle is.

It’s best I don’t go into details really. Safe to say I’m looking forward to a change for a while.

Day 59: Skiing (Hells Yeah!)

Yesterday BF, having mentioned previously that the ski-du-fond pistes were opening early, asked if I would like to go skiing with the grumblies, and a tiler they had brought over from scotland to work on the new extension. I had assumed that she meant ski-du-fond, and I wasn’t up for it. SDF often ends up being too long, cutting too much into my time, and not worth it unless you take it quite seriously, which I wasn’t prepared to do while I had the orchestral piece woes circling my cranium.

However, it soon became apparent that she meant downhill skiing, and that the local resort, Montgenevre, was opening early for a weekend with limited number of runs.

My resolve dissolved instantly. “Just two hours” was the cry that went up. Which invariably means The Whole Day.

Oh skis, I have missed you so

Anyway, I really, really love downhill skiing so I couldn’t pass it up. We quickly dug out the salapets, ski trousers and boots from the attic. I was very happy to be reaquainted with it, especially my bright blue trousers and Nordic boots.

Looking across the border into Italy at Claviere

The resort was surprisingly busy, and well skied. A number of the locals had already “skinned” up on rando ski’s (not as druggy as it sounds) and taken a lot of the good powder by the side of the slopes. The lower pistes were pretty scraped, but the higher ones, up the rocher de l’aigle, were really very nice indeed.

At the top of the Rocher de l’aigle

I had, of course, completely forgotten how to ski. I got back into it though, and enjoyed remembering and working on some technique.

Montgenevre is sooo beautiful

On the way back we shopped for some wedding presents for a friend, who I’m told enjoys this blog. I hope they like them :) When I got back it was late, and I was too knackered to work.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 58: Work/Admin Day + Choir

Well today I ad to get on with work, as is becoming an annoyingly frequent occurance and won’t stop until I’ve got this damned monkey off my back. What prevented me exercising today was spending about 3 hours organising my complex UK trip and buying al the tickets and accomodation.

I’m at least getting near to the end of inputing this section into Sibelius, which is progress, but frustratingly not enough. Writing an orchestral piece is hard work.

One thing did happen – BF had arranged for me to meet the organisers of a local choir that meets in briançon to find out about it and whether I could get involved. I’ve been trying to get something like this because it’s becoming increasingly lonely with just the three of us and nobody of my own interests, or musical activities.

The couple we met were extremely welcoming to their house, where we met, and I instantly warmed to them. My French however deserted me completely during this liaison and I ws frequently in the dark. What I gleened was that it was a choir for anyone to come to, with no pressure to attend all the rehearsals, that the repertoire was very easy and they’d be happy to have me along. In fact it seems the equivalent of a choir that I conducted for 6 years, a fact I didn’t mention because I didn’t want to appear above it all really.

It sounded charming and I’m going to attend when I get back from the UK. If nothing else, it’s a great opportunity to make friends and to improve my French, which, judging by that meeting is in dire need of improving!

Day 57: Nevache in Snow

I’ve decided to start computerising what I’ve got of my orchestral piece. I’ve got the backbone now and I need to be able to see the detail a bit more intimately to add some of the other layers.

To that end though I’m beginning to freak out about it. I decided to go for a “boring walk” today and just head along to Nevache up the road. I had some thoughts of walking up to the upper valley for a peek, as it’s closed now and snowy. Apparently one of the nice things you can do is take touring skis up there and then ski back down the road, which sounds great!

cool wee snow mobile

But as I set off I started to feel really anxious about pretty much everything – my PhD, the orchestral piece, the fact that I’m not currently “In the ring” i.e. I’m not engaged in applying for composing opportunities or working with any other musicians or basically doing all the things I usually do. Admittedly that is a bit silly because I can’t do any of those things while I finish this damn degree.

Anyway, in the end I just walked up to Nevache and back, walking briskly, partly because of the anxiety. When I got back I went straight up to the office to work. I was too despondent by then though so had to have a calm-down break before I could do any more work.

Anyway, at least I got some exercise – 1h10m today.

You may not be able to see it, but that’s a cat climbing a ladder right there…

Day 56: Cold Feet

I decided to be a bit more adventurous today and do a walk that incorporated a bit of a climb. On the way up to the Chalet des Thures (one of my favourite walks) there is a nice loop around La Damoiselle which would ordinarily last around 1h30m.

I was wondering slightly whether it would not be prudent to have snow shoes on the way up, but the jury was out, so I just ended up wearing my heavy duty water-proof walking boots.

By the time I was halfway up, my boots were already sinking underneath the surface of the deep powdery snow. I followed a track of, yes, snow-shoes on the way up the track as the snow got steadily deeper and deeper.


The stream was also a lot higher after a week of snow and rain, and was beginning to resemble the river in the film Return to Oz (a film which terrified me when I was young, and still kinda terrifies me now), both in hue and in rapidity, although luckily still kinda shallow.

I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more…

When I got up to the start of the loop round to the Damoiselle, the snow was clear above my boots and completely clean. Nobody had come this way, and it was somehow scary.

To make matters scarier there were a number of trees uprooted and lying across the path. I kept on anyway, snow starting to creep up my calves.


After I passed the Damoiselle the snow started to get thicker still. The path on the other side of the loop doesn’t travel immediately down and, although I had thought that the snow might be thinner in the trees, it turned out that the extra shade had just prevented it from melting. At one point it went up to my knees.

By this time snowballs were forming behind the tongues of my boots and my feet were getting cold and wet. Every step started to squelch.

Nobody apart from me had walked along this path, although there were a set of ski tracks trailing a dare-devil path through the trees. The snow was virtually untouched, except by some deer.

Luckily there were marks on the trees to show where the path was or I would have easily lost it. As I started to descend the snow got shallower and at one point the path got pretty indistinct.

wh– where was the path now?

I saw a deer bound off at this point – they rarely stay for a photo unfortunately.

So I squelched my way down the rest of the path. It was a nice walk and good to get out, but definitely snow shoes next time!

1h50m in total today. Not bad.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 55: Constitutional

Today I headed out for a short constitutional along the river at the bottom of the valley. Instead of heading into the forrest as I have numerous times before, I followed the track to the left of the river down to the road.

On the way there I noticed a couple of men in hi-vis orange vests carrying large poles. This officially means winter is upon us. The poles are to line the roads so that they are clearly marked above the snow-line.

Hooray skis!

I also saw the first ski-tracks of the season, carved through the field. The snow was pretty crusty today so I’d guess they were a day old.

The track follows down the river past the hut of the man that breeds huskies (the huskies barked at me today, luckily from behind a wire mesh. What is it with me and dogs all of a sudden?)

The track also passes a little chapel that I’ve always had a fondness for. It reminded me of visiting this place with my ex-girlfriend a couple of years ago. It’s been long since I last went out on any sort of date really. Hmm. Perhaps I wont go into that.

The track led to the main road (the route that I have nicknamed “The Usual” for cycling). After trailing a little down it I decided to turn back, as it had been just over 30 mins (am still on an hour-or-so exercise a day) and walked back up the road.

In the end it was an hour and ten minutes. Better than nothing certainly.

Day 54: Here wabbit

So today I’m starting my sucky minimal-exercise-while-I-desperately-try-to-finish-the-PhD phase. Each day I’m only doing an hour to an hour-and-a-half of exercise, and trying to make up for it by being brisk. I’m feeling pretty lame for the last week, which, although not all my fault (weather and illness did conspire somewhat), has nevertheless left me feeling pretty disappointed in myself. It’s hard going from scaling the aguille rouge for fun to just ambling out along the road for an hour.

At least I’m feeling the guilt though, and trying to make a conscious effort to do what I can, albeit this is not very much. If you’re paying attention you’ll notice that I’ve started reducing the frequency with which I update this blog. I’m just trying to be economical with my time at the moment and focus as entirely as I can on finishing this damn orchestral piece. Normal service will resume once I’m shot of it, and when I get back from England around the 8th December, the Ski season will have started, and I’ll have a whole load of new things to update the blog with, and no other obligations for the time being (fingers crossed).

A quick note on eating – since more people have started coming around (we now have a tiler resident and sharing meals with us) BF has been cooking and buying more pudding-y stuff, which is starting to prove a problem, socially and in terms of conscience. The cooking smells alone are driving me a bit mad.

So much snow!

So today I went for a constitutional up the now-closed-due-to-snow-until-next-year col d’Echelle. The snow was really thick on the ground and just about ski-able. It’s often hard to call how cold it is going to be on such occasions and I left the house with a jacket that was way too warm. Luckily I also packed my handy strip-pole and a boom box with “voulez vous couchez avec moi, cet soir”, otherwise the inevitable stripping of layers could have been awkward.

I was originally thinking of going to the top of the Echelle and then checking out a bit of the path down to Plampinet. As I reached the bottom of the road though I noticed a jeep and a sign which I didn’t understand but had a picture of a boar running on it.

Chasse— what?

As I climbed up the col I realised what it meant. The road was lined with hunters, each standing very quietly and aiming their rifles over the edge of the road into the forrest below. I became very aware of the loud clumping sound my boots were making in the snow as I went past them. They didn’t seem too bothered by my presence, giving me a “bonjour” as I passed, so I kept on going. When I was about halfway up and I could see the third huntsman ahead I decided to turn back. It’s a bit freaky being around live arms and I didn’t want to disturb their hunt or worse, get caught in the crossfire.

I took this picture covertly as I passed.

To make up for time I made a look round the floor of the valley and headed back up to the house.

Sorry for the lameness of these updates. Just want to get this PhD over and done with now.

Sigh. Really wish I’d thought of a less complicated piece to write.