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Day 106: Day off

Today again I really didn’t feel like doing anything. Again with the bad cold, tiredness, aching ribs, missing people etc. blah blah moan moan.

I’m ashamed to say I spent the whole day playing computer games. I’m also behind with my work and updating this blog. I think I just need to shake this and then get back on it again. Hopefully, by the time you read this, I will be back to my cheery working self (I am – a week later, and having to update about 22 blogs in a row).

hopefully better tomorrow for some more skiing fun.


Day 93: Off Piste

One thing I forgot to say about the skiing yesterday – the Serre Thibauld lift was open. This is my favourite part of Montgenevre – the other side of the mountain, a lovely easy green along a dramatic ridge, some lovely swooping blues and reds and a fantastic couple of steep black pitches to cut your teeth on.

We went back to Monty G today for the last day of skiing before the pistes became overrun with people. The conditions were really excellent on the piste. I was given first pick of the runs so we head up the Rocher de l’Aigle for a warm up, down the Brousset black and then the up the Serre Thibauld (my favourite bit of the mountain!).

A couple of things put me in a bad mood today though. While I enjoy the encouragement of Les grumblies and Bawsaxx, who all assert that I am a “natural” at skiing (their words), for a time Bike Fairy has been pressuring me a bit to do some ski touring. Ski touring is basically walking up mountains on Skis (with skins on the bottom and a special detachable heel) and then skiing down any which way. It’s often guided and usually off piste.

I have two problems with this – 1) I am definitely not confident off piste yet. I’m sure I have the technique, but I have nowhere near the experience. By the end of this ski season I definitely will have that experience (through playing off the piste on resort) but I am currently terrified of heading off into the wilderness. 2) I have already been bought a new bike and lots of equipment, I do not want Damocles to hang yet another financial sword over my already guilty head, in the form of yet more ski equipment.

In short, fueled by an argument a few nights ago, I felt like I was being pressured into something I was scared of, and although I was getting on well with some off-piste play as we went down the Rocher de l’Aigle, I couldn’t help but feel that there was an ulterior motive behind BF encouraging me to do it.

Up the Rocher d'Aigle

Up the Rocher d’Aigle

Before I go on, something very nice did happen to me today – I bumped into my ski friends Claire and Andrew and their two children. Those two had been in two ski classes with me in the last couple of years, and they seem to be coming back every year to montgenevre. It was really lovely to see these friendly faces, although I felt a bit guilty for having advanced somewhat ahead of them in technique (largely I’m sure down to the amount of time I am able to spend out here – Claire is especially good I think and they do very well for the short time they’re able to come out for).

After that niceness though bad things started to happen. Not so much bad, but anxious. There is a fantastic bit of off piste up the Serre Thibauld side of the mountain – a big off-piste bowl between the ridge and the piste, which is often skied, and it was in great condition. I chanced my arm at a shallower point of the piste.

I made it! It was scary, but I managed a couple of turns and got back to the piste ok. I followed les grumblies off to the left from the piste after that and followed them down to The Gully.

The Gully I’ve heard of alot as a good fun thing to do – basically it’s quite a long section of half-pipe-like gully with no stream at the bottom and a pleasant riding-and-falling path down to the piste. Lots of people ski it, although I never have. Slightly bouyed by my success at the bit of off piste, I followed the grumblies into the gully for my first time.

For the most part, it was fine. I was completely terrified, but soon got on with the fun side of the gully – picking up speed down one side then losing it on the next ascent. The powder was beautiful to ski down and I began to see the appeal of it.

However, right at the end it all went wrong. I hit an icy pocket made by a snow board and one of my skis fell off. My body shot forward and I Face-Planted into the snow, unwittingly eating a good deal of it.

Normally, I would be fine with such a fall (it’s a regular part of skiing), however I was so anxious and felt so pressured about the ski touring thing, that it put me in a stinking mood for the rest of the day.

We went up Serre Thibauld a second time – I was thoroughly fed up by then. At the top I tried the bowl again and ended up stuck waist deep in the snow right at the top (I think I just chose the wrong spot to head off piste). I finally got free and managed a couple of pretty good turns before I got back on the piste again. I didn’t do the gully again.

Afterwords we headed into Claviere in Italy (about 1km from Monty G) to the Sandy Bar. We had a Bombardino – something that is a bit of a tradition for us when we go skiing, although a little indulgent. It’s a shot of coffee, something very alcoholic which I’ve forgotten, and about 2 inches of squirty cream.

I had it out with Les Grumblies about the Ski Touring. Thankfully, they’re not going to push it any more. I feel glad to have the pressure taken off. It jsut goes to show that skiing is 50% confidence and 50% technique. Within a reasonable expectation regarding risk v. gain, if you’re really totally not happy with doing something, you shouldn’t.

Day 88: Shmistmas

Today took some planning. After a long discussion née argument which was not at all awkward the previous night, we decided on a plan which would allow us some skiing in the morning and then back in time to cook a turkey for Shmistmas! The fake, tofu-based christmas alternative.

We decided on Shmistmas as BS and MM are not around for long and we wanted to do something christmassy. The plan today was that we would head down the valley to Serre Chevalier (the next valley on basically) – a large multi-part ski resort. Those Two head off for a lesson on the cheaper beginner slope (at MontG there is annoyingly no beginner ticket) and then me and Les Grumblies would head off for a ski de fond at the top of the valley.

All went well but we were all completely buggeroonificated. We stalled a bit in a cafe while Those Two went off for their lesson. My legs just didn’t really want to do anything today.

On the way out of the cafe I chanced to see Ms Minx fall over. We later found out that she had decided skiing was not for her. I guess it isn’t for everyone!

I’ve been up to the area we went to (The Villar d’Arene) on foot during the autumn before. It’s a huge wild area with lots of really nice walking and beautiful views. On our way up we saw some para-skiers (combination of parachuting and skiing) on the slopes, but mainly we saw fog, and clag, and I steadily felt less and less like going skiing today.

It didn’t let up while we got out of the car and put our skis on. The piste didn’t look open actually – it had big “ferme- risque de avalanche” signs over each of the pistes. I think we figured in the end that the pisteurs were probably off duty, because there were people skiing back and forth.

yeah.. um, so, in this one, you can see... um

yeah.. um, so, in this one, you can see… um

The snow was pretty weird on the piste – not quite consolidated, my skis kept on sinking in at odd moments and throwing me off. There were also strange red dye stains on the track. We head up quite a steep track, past some pretty hefty holes in the piste where people had obviously fallen over on the way down.

er... Actually this one was right before I fell.

er… Actually this one was right before I fell.

On the way down that was exactly what I did. Twice. Bleargh. The second time I twisted and my ribs landed heavily on my pole. It was pretty sore but I didn’t think I have broken anything. Little did I know that it would stay sore for the next couple of weeks! (yes, I’m writing this later – well behind on the blog right now!)

Finally the mountains begain to start revealing themselves on the way back, and were beautiful into the bargain. By then I was ready to give up though. While Les Grumblies went for a bit more of a ski I stopped off in the local refuge and had a conciliatory chocolat chaud.

After that we picked up Those Two and thereafter Shmistmas commenced! It was a very merry shmistmas indeed with some expertly cooked shmistmas food and lovely presents :).

Day 76: Introspective – Being “Graisse”

No let up in my mood today. I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. I did some exercise today – about 40 minutes walking to and from town. It’s hard to really quantify that as exercise as it’s not exactly deliberate and it’s not a lot. While I was in France, I would have days when I would do just that but it was more of a something to do.

I have at least not been eating much today – just a bagel for breakfast and a bowl of soup for lunch. And lots of coffee from the wonderful Spring Espresso on Walmgate. I planned to walk back along the river giving an extra 20 mins or so to the walk and some pretty views, but the path was blocked by a load of sandbags (York has been hit by some bad floods recently). I would go swimming, but my trunks are locked in the house I’m staying in.


I don’t really feel like anything though. I’m beginning to feel like I did before I headed out. I’m feeling the need to pair down my life again to just exercise and work. If there’s one thing being lonely in France did, it made things simpler, and easier to deal with important things like my weight.

The more you socialise, the more you get caught up in the melée of relationships and other peoples lives and how much better or worse they are. The more it matters that I am “graisse” (even if I have lost some weight – I was called “svelte” on Monday which cheered me quite a bit, but I don’t think I am really). It gets hard to watch couples, and talk to more attractive people about their fabulous (or even existent) love lives.

I think most people would say that they aren’t shallow or don’t care about appearances or similar. It’s just not true. Everyone does. I do. It affects how you initially think of someone. We can spend ages trying to hit on the beautiful girl, the hunky guy. I can watch even a mild interaction with such people and think “ok, those two are going to do it” and I’m rarely wrong. It doesn’t mean the graisse and the insecure don’t get anything, but attractive guys do get a lot more attention. It’s frustrating and demoralising to watch. It comes to something when you hear “I just don’t see you that way” more than 5 times in a decade, and never have to say it yourself.

Which brings me to another thing. Media and literature have a lot to answer for. It’s easy to forget just who wrote these things and why. Is Heathcliffe real, or is he the embodiment of the burning, savage and animalistic passion that burns at the bottom of every obsession and crush. Is Sydney Carton a realistic person, or is he just an authorial attempt to capture the extreme difficulty and sacrifice needed to get past a breakup or unrequited passion? Isn’t the “far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done” more the negation of self and desire for the happiness of someone you care about? Both are grotesque characters really. Nobody has that kind of resolve.

However romance novels tell us otherwise – Austen, for example, is the queen of second chances. Colonel Brandon, nobel, sacrificing and conceding to the young Marianne’s intemperate and passionate crush on the philandering Willoughby, finally accepted after the revelation of W’s ambivalence. Darcy, of course, spectacularly dismissed by Elizabeth Bennett upon revelation who then after the bombshell finally realises her love for him.

Shakespeare too – Beatrice finally acceding to Benedict after no particular sign that the two have any real history or crush on each other, until it is revealed independently, and as a joke, that each has a crush on the other.



How does this all relate to me? Well, apart from the fact that I’m pretty well read, and a romantic, I have yet to encounter a real world situation where it even vaguely resembles these things. I don’t think it’s any wonder that we leave our bodies to languish and escape into a world of fantasy and comfort, which is what they are.

Being single is hugely depressing, and so is this blog. Sorry folks, I’ll be back to my cheery self again soon :)

Day 51: Struggling

Well, today I was originally going to do my 100km cycle ride (after the original plan to have it on my Birthday on Monday. However, that ride is looking more and more unlikely this year for a few reasons:

1) I am getting REALLY anxious about my work, and have about a week to finish this big orchestral piece, so need as little distraction as possible.

2) After I finish this and the rest of my PhD stuff, I’ll be visiting the UK for about 3 weeks for various reasons, including the wedding of two very dear friends. By the time I get back, it’ll be ski season and too cold to cycle.

3) Today, I had a SPLITTING migraine.

As usual, my migraine started as a mere headachey feeling when I woke up, accompanied by tiredness and feeling grumpy. I started stressing about work as well without being able to do anything, so I did have the presence of mind to get out for a walk and try to clear my head.

It was at least a lovely day :)

I just took an hour’s constitutional along the valley floor on the other side of the river. There’s a nice wooded section there that I hadn’t explored, except on ski-du-fond skis in the winter. It was very pretty and I did feel a bit better for the walk.

Nice river scene

On the way back though I was set upon by an enormous black dog that bounded down from its house as I entered the Sallé commune where we live. at first it looked like it was just coming to say hello, but as it drew nearer it started barking loudly and bearing its teeth. I was terrified and took a couple of steps back, raising my hands in submission. After a short while it bounded off again. I thought it had let me off so I continued on, but then saw it stalking me along the side of the road, so I turned back, mouthing an oath, and head round the longer way to the chalet.

The incident had me shaken up, and it’s the third time now that I’ve been almost attacked by the dogs of the village. Non of the owners were around to control their dogs either. I haven’t been scared of dogs for years but now I’m starting to be.

Little signs were dotted around the trees for kids learning orienteering

The rest of the day I spent in bed. By dinner time my head was absolutely killing me. It was a complete waste of a day.

This looks like the inside of my soul.

I’m struggling to keep all the plates spinning, so I’m afraid exercise has to take a back seat for now. Nothing is more important to me than getting this PhD, which I’ve spent six years of my life completing, over and finished with. From now until I’ve finished, the goal is to do the minimum of exercise, i.e. 1h-1h30m of whatever a day. I’ll try and make it count by walking/cycling briskly, but I absolutely have to focus on my work.

I could totally do with some cheerleaders right now to spur me on…

I shall continue to blog though and you will hear of my 1h30mins/day, and I’ll try take some nice pics. For now, à bientot!

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Day 48: Sickness and Sand

Well, I couldn’t sleep last night after a late night playing games, watching TV and enjoying the birthday cheer while it lasted, and I woke up this morning feeling pretty tired and cranky. Part of the problem I think is that I haven’t been able to do much work while the birthday was happening and am getting pretty anxious about it.

During the afternoon I had thought to go cycling. I was feeling (perhaps irrationally) that I’d let down the side the last few days, so I felt I couldn’t do nothing. The plan originally was to do a 100km cycle on my birthday, but it is being slowly pushed back due to weather and building arrangements. However I thought it would be a good idea to ge some practice in in the meawhile.

Val des Pres

So I headed out on Bikesalot for “The Usual” loop round the lower valley, but as soon as I set off I started to feel really fuzzy and sleepy. By the time I got to Val des Pres I was feeling pretty cold and ill so I radioed for help and Bike Fairy picked me up.

Church tower!

Not a great bit of exercise really. I went to bed after that and was soon feeling heartily sick in the stomach. I did however help out with the unloading of about half-a-ton of sand from the trailer later in the afternoon, so I didn’t do nothing today.

Felt horrible though. Headed straight to bed after dinner. Bleaugh.

Day 44: Migraine :-/

Well, today has been a bit of a write off. I couldn’t get to sleep last night and woke up with a headache. What usually happens (and did) in this situation is that I get a migraine and the rest of the day is gone.

It wasn’t as bad as usual, but it was persistent and I spent the whole afternoon in bed. I did manage to get a walk to the bakery in though, which is an hour long walk so not nothing.

I’m glad this hasn’t happened so far – 44 days without a migraine is pretty good for me.

Oh well. More interesting post tomorrow I promise.

Day 40: Swimming Fail :-/

Today has been quite a strange day. I did do some exercise so it is all ok. In the morning I walked down to the bakery to get the bread for lunch. It’s an hour’s walk and not nothing so technically I’m still winning.

During the afternoon it was still cold-ish out (although sunny), there was ice on the ground and work was going well so I wasn’t in favour of a long outing really. Work is in general behind and when the wind is favourable I have to sail, as it were.

So during the afternoon I worked. Grumble Meister was to pick me up late afternoon to go swimming in Briançon. At one point in the afternoon I needed a break – I was feeling tired and a little weak, so I got out a computer game I’ve been playing – The Walking Dead.

This is an excellent zombie horror point-and-click adventure series with just the right balance of interactivity, awesome plot lines, characterisation and atmosphere. It’s very immersive and for some reason today it really freaked me out. A tip if you play this game: if you have a kettle that produces a high pitched whistle to say it’s boiling, don’t make yourself a cup of tea while playing this game, it is terrifying.

All in all, when GM poked his head round the door to pick me up, I felt really paranoid and a little bit weirded out, which didn’t bode well for exercise.

When we got to the pool, the signs were ominous – I found it hard to find a cubicle, and noticed I had forgotten to bring a euro piece for the lockers. As I returned to the front desk to get change, an entire coach load of teenagers arrived. As ill luck would have it they were an advanced swimming class. I managed 30 minutes of swimming next to 3 lanes-worth of constant, fast, splashy butterfly stroke, feeling more an more ill from the excessive chlorine in the pool before I decided to give up the ghost.

I waited out the remaining 30 minutes I had planned to swim by relaxing in the leisure pool and practicing my French verbs.

I think I’ve decided that the pool isn’t really worth it. Apart from the frequent business which does ruin swimming a bit for me, the pool is far too chlorinated and I feel really sick after swimming. I think I’m going to have to find an alternative.

So not a complete fail on exercise today, but I’ve been put off one type off exercise for the minute. Hmm.

Day 28: Swimming!

Today has been a reasonably productive day – 2 more scores down, 3 to go before I get on and finish the orchestral score. The afternoon was quite entertaining as we played hunt the gloves! Basically, I got home tired the other day, put my cycling gloves down somewhere, and completely forgot where. I spent the entire afternoon going through all of my belongings, emptying all of my many bags and pockets (discovering several ones I didn’t know I had in the process) and searching every possible place they could be.

I finally found them in my washing hamper. Doh!

So most of the day gone, and it being too chilly to cycle, Bike Fairy dropped me off at the pool for a wee swim. Surprisingly, the lane pool was totally empty today; I had the whole place to myself, which was lovely, apart from 3 small kids who decided to use the whole lane pool as their play-pool, and seemed to move into whichever lane I moved into to get away from them.

Eventually I said “Excuse-moi! Jouez dans le autre ligne s’il vous plais!” and they did. Yay for knowing more French!

It was great having the line to myself – it’s so competitive usually that you get out of breath feeling that you have to take really quick strokes. I worked a lot on my glide and stretch in long slow strokes, front crawl and breast stroke. I was able to connect up more lengths (4-5 this time) and I worked a lot on my breathing, trying not to look up in breast stroke, and trying to breath with half of my head under water for Front Crawl.

They must have just chlorinated the pool because while I was practicing my breathing I must have inhaled half of it. It soon made me feel pretty sick and I gave up after 45 minutes or so. I then had a nice wallow in the play-pool. It’s quite nice just letting the water push you around for a while (they have currents, jacuzzi shelves and jacuzzi booths) and felt good on my legs, which I’ve been using a lot recently.

Managed not to leave anything at the pool this time. Afterwards we went to the local Carrefour supermarket to get passport-photos for my ski season-pass! Hurrah! Looking forward very much to skiing. However, the photograph was as usual AWFUL, and made me look like a butcher.

One thing I’ve never quite understood – why do photographers always make you turn to one side and then look at them? Bizarre.

Anyway, à bientôt!

pretty sunset when we got back

(can’t take photos while swimming sadly)

Day 20: Nice walk, only got a little bit lost

When I woke up today everything ached. Seriously. And continued to ache into the afternoon. I was pretty tired too. In the morning I went to Briançon with Grumble Meister – we both had secret missions there (or rather the same one) which we weren’t entirely successful with. Bike Fairy had gone to visit a friend for the day.

Dramatic lighting in the valley courtesy the reasonably bad weather this morning

After we got back and had lunch I retired to my room for some R & R. It wasn’t until around 3pm that I felt able to get up and do something. I had my eye on a walk which looked great the other day when I was heading up the Blacons de Nevache. The walk heads up to the Chalet des Thures. I had been warned that it might be a bit longer that I wanted it today but my thought was I’d turn back if it got too late. I have a pile of work to do (which I should be doing now, and will be doing next) which arrived in my inbox this morning and last night.

The track leading up into the forrest

So I head off up the same forrest path I had before and turned right instead of left this time. I made good time and got much less out of breath than last time I had taken this quite-steep path, which was gratifying. I came out onto a valley with a lovely forrest path that swooped down by a stream, up another ridge and down again, this time into the enormous dry river bed that I had noticed a few days ago.

au-jordhui, tournée a droigt :)

The scenery was wonderfully dramatic, with a large sand ridge to the left and a huge furrow carved out of the bottom of the gully. I took a couple of beautiful pics and head up a small path winding up a steep slope. The path was actually tiny and traversed the sandy ridge and the descent down that ridge on the other side was scary! The view was fantastic though.

Stunning sand ridge – I stood (or wobbled) on top of this

really scary sand-ridge with two signs – nevache on the right, Les Thures on the left

The path then threaded through the wood and started following a stream up with a sign to Chalet des Thures. At this point though it was getting quite late and I decided to take the path down instead of going all the way to the Thures. Here’s the thing though. I came across a small shed and number of picnic tables called “Chalet Forestiere” which threw me out completely. Whereas I thought I was on a path that would take me on a long route through the Bois de St. Hippolyte to the Col d’Echelle, I was actually on a path which lead directly down into the valley and directly back to the chalet.

erm… a bit lost.

I had no idea how I made this error and am trying to work it out now. It turns out the path I followed from the start wasn’t on the map atall, which put me in the wrong place completely, but on a very similar path – I wasn’t far off! At least it wasn’t my fault (thanks cyclemeter for clearing that one up!)

back home safe and sound :)

In many ways it was a blessing coming down when I did – the sun was going down (it gets cold very quickly here) and I had to do the aforementioned work, which I should get on with now.

On a final note – I emailed Abvio last night to thank them for the excellent Cyclemeter app, and ask if they’d link to my blog, and then an hour later noticed my stats suddenly leap up and people from all over the globe accessing my blog. It turned out they gave me a shout out on Twitter which I’m really grateful for and is really fantastic. It’s got me thinking about how to spread this a bit more. It would be good to have more of an audience and have some sort of dialogue with people of similar interests. Let me know if you have any ideas!

Lots of extra pics today:

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