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Day 83: Son Eminence Graisse as retourné!

So we’re back! And I’m re-installed in my room in the chalet. There was quite a lot to do today to get things straightened out on our return. My brother, Mr McHuge’nDong’nThong (or something, can’t remember his full name. Ah siblings) and his new girlfriend (oooh! McHuge’nDong’nThong’s got a girlfriend! Woo-oo- McHuge’nDong’nThong and MissTeacher up a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Urrggh he kissed a girl! that’s yucky!), whom I shall, and already have called MissTeacher (no prizes for guessing her occupation).

So I’ve had to completely move my office out and into my room, and that took some time in the morning. I also, kinda, may have bought Skyrim on a (Sky)whim, and the ski du fond piste didn’t look too open. Those are my excuses anyway. By the time it came to afternoon I didn’t really want to do anything else so I spent most of the afternoon just chilling out.

Back on the horse tomorrow!


Day 75: York Again

Got up early (not early enough, as I ended up rushing and being late) and got on the train to York from Kings Langley. For reasons I won’t go into, I was feeling pretty awful today, and ended up comfort eating on the train. It was only a whispa bar, and I felt bad about doing it, but it is the first time I have in 2 months or so.


As penance, after I had got into York and dumped my stuff I set off into town for a walk. I wanted to take a walk around the city walls but for some completely unknown reason they were closed.

The closed walls

The closed walls

I found out later on that there’s ice on the wall. Not such a big problem for me but h well. Instead I walked into town. I got me a nice bagel at Filmore, a really nice restaurant that uses good local fresh ingredients.

High Petergate

High Petergate

The bagel was really tasty. My plan after that was to head into the minster for a trip up the tower. I’ve been meaning to do this for months. I had planned to take some pictures from the top to take with me when I moved to France, but it was always closed when I tried.

mmm bagel

mmm bagel

The trip up was different to how I remember and had become much more health and safety conscious. For example, there was a mesh at the top.


The climb up was surprisingly steep and long. Despite my mountain training, I was pretty out of breath, although it’s not that surprising given the last couple of weeks of excess. The view was very nice though.



The rest of the afternoon I spent in the shops and headed back to the music department pretty early. About 2 hours not-very-stressful exercise with a climb in the middle so not nothing.

Roof! Roof!

Roof! Roof!

I’m staying with my lovely friends whom I shall call HoneyPie and SweetyDarling. I’m still not feeling great but it’s nice to have friends to cheer me up. And port, and I also ate some more chocolates. I should stop before this gets worse. At least I didn’t go so far as to eat the ice cream I bought and hid in their fridge :)

I took loads more photos – here they are:

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Day 68: Work day and Constitutional

Today I head up to the university. It was fortuitous that I had met up with my singing teacher, whom I shall call The Shepherdess, because I was in dire need of a lesson. We organised to meet up late in the day and in the meanwhile I would do some score editing in the postgrad room.

The walk to the university from the guesthouse is about 2-3 miles. Not inconsiderable and it does take me 45mins to an hour so I’m hoping that this will count as a constitutional. It is, as you may have surmised, quite difficult to keep up the regime while visiting, particularly in York. I’m trying to get round this by walking wherever I can instead of taking public transport. In York that amounts to a good hour of exercise most days.

I’m hoping that’s enough. However I’m very aware that I’m over-indulging a bit too, if only because of all the coffee and cake with friends. Oh Well.

Day 3: Day off :S

Last night I was feeling super tired and a bit ill. It’s hard to acclimatise to the altitude I think and I hadn’t been sleeping terribly well. We did go for a wonderful real Italian pizza in Bardonecchia, which is a beautiful Italian town about 18 miles away over the col d’echelle, which is a beautiful pass over the mountain, and something I have earmarked for a cycle adventure at some point (The climb down into Italy is breath-takingly dramatic!). The pizzeria was loud, badly lit and had a TV playing and tacky games outside. A true Italian pizzeria in fact and the amazing food was well worth it.

As was the coffee afterwords, however I think this didn’t help me to sleep and I lay in bed awake until about 4am. Today is a write-off as a result, I am a complete zombie, and I’ve been saved from exercize by a bout of rain. Instead we went to the local town Briançon, where I was left to explore while FH and GM went to help a friend move house.

Briançon is a charming town built around an old French military fort. It has many pretty buildings and shops. We visited my favourite bakery, in which you can see the baker working at a deep stone oven (see below)

La Boulengerie de Briançon

I also went on my own to a bike shop to see what they had to replace the vehicle of abject torture. My French was truly tested through this ordeal and I spoke maybe 50% French and English at the very patient assistant. I’m pretty sure at one point I said “parle-vouz un peu de Angleterre?”. Doh. He insisted I wanted a mountain bike but I was sure I didn’t. There were a couple of possibles though – a nice looking La Pierre carbon-based road bike and a part-aluminium Cannondale that were my size.

I also visited a bookshop to see if there was anything that might help my stumbling progress at “la langue francais” – lots of possibles including an interesting looking novel about someone with Alzheimers. I thought maybe comics would be a good idea but according to les ainés they are too colloquial to be of use. Any suggestions welcome!

Finally I sat outside a French cafe, drinking espresso and calmly working on a poem. I tried to complete the cliche, but there were no turtle-necks, berets or cigarillos to hand.

Day 1: Cycling

This is backdated to yesterday – I only thought of doing this blog thing last night when I watched a film about Julie Powell. At least this way I’ve got something to show for my work.

Today the Food Harpie took me cycling. I had to use Grumble Meister’s bike and this was to almost literally bite me in the arse later on, as Grumble Meister has a particularly skinny one. His blade of a seat practically cut me in two. Or twain. Twain is a good word. Also, it was a mountain bike, which to me is the worst kind of bike. I much prefer a road- or a hybrid.

Instrument of abject torture

We set off from oor wee house and our plan was to cycle to the nearby pretty village of plampinet down a long stretch of easy road. I had been told by a previous fitness instructor that it is a bad idea to do too much too quickly as it is easy to get despondent, so this seemed a good easy start to my fitness regime.

We set off and immediately I realised how much I missed cycling – the wonderful rush of air as you whizz down the road, the feeling of freedom, a feeling which continued for around 8 miles downhill, never moving from the highest gears and barely moving my legs but for short hills. I started to feel that, really, the way back was going to suck hairy balls.

Encouraged by the freedom and the beautiful weather we (mainly FH) decided to go further than originally intended and eventually stopped by Les Bois d’Alberts, a park near the end of the valley with a beautifully clear duck lake. I had only really known this lake during the winter when it was frozen over and there was a large ski-du-fond track nearby. FH decided to eschew her Harpie status for 15 minutes, and we had an ice-cream each.

I do live in a beautiful place

As predicted, I struggled badly on the way back up. I managed about 6 miles, pushing on in low gear, trying not to get out of breath but failing. It’s at this point I realised: my fitness is at absolute rock bottom. Not long ago I would have been able to do this with relative ease but that is firmly in the past. As my face grew redder and even the easy bits seemed difficult and frustrating, my mood plummeted rapidly. I was starting to get despondent and a heavy depression came over me, weighing every foot down.

When we reached plampinet, after a couple of stops, I decided enough was enough, and FH went on to fetch the car. 12 miles was certainly enough for a first go and we had been too ambitious for my first day at work. I ordered une café et un coka light at a local cafe and sat outside, trying to calm myself down and feel a bit more human, diverting myself with a poem I had been working on.

As I write this I feel a bit of a failure. It’s rare that I give up on something and I accept that some people may read this and think me a loser. I’m trying not to let that cloud my judgement though. What I didn’t want to do was to get so despondent that I would never do this again. I’ve got this logged in the back of my mind and when I can get hold of a decent bike I shall be attempting the run again and working on it until I can do it.

As a composer, you have to just chip away at things and accept that not everything that comes out of your imagination is going to be awe inspiring or good. You have to accept quite a large chunk of failure before you receive success, and you have to just chip away at it until it’s there. I felt ashamed when FH picked me up finally, but not defeated.