Fair thee well, sweet blog.

I have felt, for a while now, that this blog isn’t quite what I wanted it to be. So I’m moving house, so to speak, to a different blog. THIS blog, to be precise. I’m hoping to update it about once to twice a week, so you might see a bit more action over there.

Basically, I think the new blog will be a bit more focused and maybe more worth having a look at. Take a gander, anyway.

It’ll still be me though, obviously, so it’s unlikely to be too hideous.

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Day 7

Today is the penultimate day of holiday. I would feel sadder about this if we hadn’t just about reached the last number of times I’d be willing to drive around those damn bendy roads in a car built by a moron.

I digress.

It’s market day today but only until 12, so we needed to get our skates on to go to the market.
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There were a lot of stands selling olive oil and honey. We bought some of both of those things, so I think they liked us.

I have discovered there are two ways to make a market stall person like you

1. Smile and say “bonjour”
2. Buy things

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This man is do stilling some kind of essential oil and then selling it.

In case you couldn’t tell.

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As part of the obligatory drive around the mountains, we encountered the river at the bottom of the valley. It appeared docile, despite the warning of flash floods.

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St Cesaire from the other side of the valley. For the last time…?

Day 6

Today marked the breaking of the fellowship. Two of our number went Into the Valley, while the other two went into a different valley.

The first two spent the day walking down a mountain and back up the mountain, pausing only to swim a little bit in the river at the bottom.

We will be following the story of the second two.

The planned destination was Antibes. Obstacles included the immense size of the car and the tight bends along the way. Unforeseen obstacles included the ability of the driver to get lost on a straight motorway.

“Moo-john. D35. Moooo-jawn,” I said. This was my single goal and task for the journey.

My pronunciation of the word Mougin did eventually improve.

Antibes was very nice. We finally succeeded in our goal to buy an olive oil bottle, and snagged 6 bars of soap. We went to the top of a castley bit and looked at a wedding party as they left a cathedral.

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And then things got a little bit exciting. We were enjoying our ice creams under what seemed like a train station roof, when I began to feel a bit sick. Shrugging it off with English stoicism, we continued on to the sea facing wall. Le mer Mediterranee.

It was there that I felt even more sick. Mutually we decided to go back to the car. I staggered along, breathing through my nose, until all the blood went into my feet and I had to have a sit down.

A very nice lady asked if I was feeling alright. Dad said we’d be alright thanks.

And then I was all better again.

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Day 5

Today was a little different. The bell-ringing person, intent on demonstrating that today is a holiday, rang the bell with rather more gusto than xir normal lackadaisical bell-ringing style. As ways to wake up go this was one of the stranger, although I would probably rather this than an alarm.

I took care of my menagerie; Bobby the Shih Tzu proved to be highly skilled at the agility competition, while Kerry the Cavalier excelled at frisbee retrieval.

I finally started reading the Song of Ice and Fire series again. The Cousin’s War series was better though.

We went to Grasse in the afternoon. There were dogs and a cat and a delicious Nutella crepe with nuts on.

In the evening we had lots of food and split a melon four ways.

Today was good.

Day 4

Today has been a lazy day; a little walk to the bakery to buy warm crisp baguettes and soft buttery croissants. A walk to the Carrefour to buy the essential milk and ham for lunch, followed by a gentle nap in the sun.

The afternoon was spent rambling about St Cesaire. I saw: three cats, two water fountains, one tall tree.

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The temperature is 29 degrees; in Marlow it would be 20. I can hardly believe it’s the same sun.

Day 3

Today has been a lazy day, apart from a quick walk to the supermarket to buy mozzie relief and nail clippers. We’re being eaten alive by particularly vicious mosquitoes, but I guess that’s what we get for holidaying on the Mediterranean.

While the rest of the Holiday Gang climbed a mountain (absolutely mad, the lot of them), I took the opportunity to do some ever important blogging, reading, and looking after my ever growing menagerie of virtual pets.

Because I’m reasonably certain most of the rest of the week will involve millions of photo opportunities, I’m going to use today’s photos to show you the house we’re staying in.

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Those stairs are there to demonstrate just how uneven and steep they are. There’s nothing quite like running up two flights of steps of variable height. Bonus points for doing it in the dark with both hands full.

Day 2

Today we did a great many things. First on the agenda was the organising of a shopping trip, which ended up requiring a great deal of planning in and of itself. A full and comprehensive list of all the things was required before we could even leave the house.

So we ventured forth from thisplace to go to the E. Le Clerc! Excitement! Adventure! A car that’s way too big but surprisingly small on the inside!

And got a teensy weensy bit lost.

After a few dodgy turns, one count of ignoring the stupid right of way and a terrifying narrow bit, we managed to find our way to the caves. (Take note)

We admitted defeat and went to the supermarket in whatsitsface.

Later that day, we attempted to return to the caves, only finding them just as I was about to suggest trying to go to the Le Clerc to see if that helped.

Fortunately the tour guide spoke reasonable English. Very impressive.

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Interestingly, the caves maintain a constant temperature of 15 degrees Celsius all year round. This made a nice change given it was about 400 degrees Celsius outside.

I may melt.

We had ice cream outside on the terrace. No bears were in evidence at this time.

Day 1

Today we flew over to Nice. I could tell you all about how we were upgraded to business class (again), and the horse with a lampshade. I could regale you with tales about getting lost in the windy roads of the south of France, or amuse you with anecdotes about the flight.

I will do none of those things.
Because I think you’d all much rather see this sunset.

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This brings me nicely to my challenge I’m setting myself. Five photos maximum per day. No frivolous selfies, no photos of baths, just photos I’d actually want to keep.

Given the surroundings, I don’t think that’ll be difficult.

Real Life: Now in 3D

Real life is not a story. It isn’t a play, or a video game. It isn’t a song or a book, a film or a recital. Real life does not have a rewind button or a stop. It has an eject button, but there’s no way to uneject yourself from life. There is not overarching plot, or narrator with all the answers. There probably aren’t all the answers, or if there are, they’re all over the place and by the time you get to them you’re at the end of your tiny little life and no one else knows what they are anymore. Not everyone is your friend; not everyone will be your friend. Some people are dicks, and some people think you’re a dick. That guy you poured coffee on might be a superhero in a suit. He might be a criminal mastermind. You may never find out which. You might not even meet the man again.

Is that upsetting? Do you find it to be an upsetting picture? You shouldn’t. It really isn’t.

Here’s why.

In stories, there’s a Plot. The Plot moves with plot devises. Characters move around at the whim of the author. Ok, you basically know the protagonist is going to be ok (usually) but there are so many other little cogs in the great Story Machine that just don’t get their happy ending. They don’t get any ending at all, unless the author is especially kind. There is Fate. The characters don’t really have any control, and when you think about it, they’re pretty two dimensional.

This is not a plot device. It is just a mountain. I may never see this mountain in real life.

This is not a plot device. It is just a mountain.
I may never see this mountain in real life.

I wouldn’t want to live like that.

In real life everything you do has meaning. If you make a mistake, things go badly. There is no deus ex machina to get the story back on the rails. Things stay like that. If you do well, on the other hand, they may not stay that way for the sake of your happily ever after. Then again, you might just get lucky. Chance might be on your side.

Or you might be run over by a bus.

Real life is exciting and bewildering and confusing and beautiful. It is incomprehensible because human meaning is derived from human action, and human action is not comparable to the universe. The universe is random and amazing and I love it more because it’s not planned. Just imagine the implausibility of this multiverse amongst all the other possibilities, and tell me it’s not brilliant with a straight face. We invented music. We invented boredom. How did we even do that, in this world with so many things to look at and fall off and trip over? Is it a stroke of brilliance or sheer stupidity? I don’t even know!

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This cat has the brains of a brick. He had quite a difficult start in life, being an RSPCA cat.
Look at those lovely eyes.

It’s easy to think, because we get the third person perspective so often in games and films, that in real life there must be some overarching truth; some higher order or meaning to find. Maybe there isn’t. Sometimes, the truth is not discovered. There isn’t always a miraculous videotape to save the day, people lie on the witness stand and get away with it. Everybody dies. Beyond the Earth, most of space is cold and empty.

Just don’t think for a moment that means life is miserable.

Day 1-2: Travel

15:30: Arrive at Aylesbury

We arrive at 3:30, which is the time suggested in the email. But surprise surprise, we’re one of the last to arrive. Not entirely unexpected. As I lug my heavy case (made heavier by virtue of the fact it has my music stand inside) and bassoon over to the coach, I find myself wishing again that I’d chosen to play something smaller like the piccolo.

16:00-19:15 Travel to Dover

The coach journey is, by and large, uneventful. After a brief interlude where a blue thing falls off RedCoach and we go back to get it, we don’t stop at all until we reach Dover. ElderlyCoachDriver, who seems a bit too doddery to be doing anything as strenuous as driving a large coach, explains that the bridge we’re on has two pillars. At least his vision’s still alright.

We change drivers at Dover. The new ones are from Durham and they are extremely cheerful. I expect they’re looking forward to the 18+ hour coach journey to Plzen. Because they’re mad.

“Rule 3: We are making these rules up as we go along.

Rule 2: Remember Rule 1.

Rule 1: Wear your seatbelts.”

Remember those rules. There may be a test later.

20:15-22:45 Ferry Crossing

Don’t get confused. The crossing was only an hour and a half. Seems a bit excessive for that crossing.

Fish & chips for dinner. This may be my last proper food until we get back from the Czech Republic. For all we know, we’ll be eating cabbage and boiled veg all week.

22:45-00:00 More travel

We watch The Dark Knight. I don’t really see much of this film, because two things block my view. The first is the girl in front’s head. The second is the mirror in front of the nearest screen. It’s ok though; I couldn’t have heard it anyway, because the sound is excitingly low. Maybe we should start a game of “guess the dialogue”.

The film ends at midnight. Everyone’s making tired noises. I expect we’ll probably get some sleep soon.

Damn this inflatable pillow. There’s always a bit you can’t get air into.

00:00-??:??

Or not. The people in the two rows in front have apparently decided to be noisy all night. This, as you might guess, makes me extremely happy.

Extremely.

Happy.

As I drift in an out of consciousness (mostly in), I hear them play I Spy and 20 questions. EngineerFriend (aka RidiculouslyTall. He got an upgrade. So sue me) confuses them (and me, if I’m honest) by making his 20 questions answer Ian the conductor. This is bewildering for two reasons: 1) He wasn’t playing 20 questions. and 2) Ian is not on the coach. In fact, he isn’t even in Europe right now.

It is too early to think.

6:30-15:30 Travel through Europe

I must have fallen asleep after all. The last I remember was glaring sleepily at the noisy redhead. It was 4:30 then and it was starting to get light.

It’s still too early to think. So early in fact, that the rotating toilet seat completely throws me. Metaphorically, not physically. I’m not still on the toilet seat when it rotates, is what I’m basically saying.

Breakfast is a roll and butter and a cup of hot chocolate. It’s pretty average, but then again, it is just a bread roll. We’re in Germany now, so a lot of people have chosen ham options. What I’d really like would be a bacon option. Failing that, I’d like a direct teleport to the Czech Republic option. At least it isn’t as far as Italy. Then again, nowhere is as far as Italy. I suppose Russia might be.

15:30-16:00 Dithering

We arrive at the hotel two hours after we’re expected. They haven’t got our rooms ready, so we spend approximately half an hour moving cases and instruments randomly about the hotel. RedCoach performs an exciting pirouetting maneuver, thrilling everyone.

I steal FirstBassoon’s bassoon, panicking the member of staff tasked by FirstBassoon to look after it. FirstBassoon, like a third of the orchestra, will not be arriving until this evening.

Bastards.

16:00-18:00 Swimming and suchlike

After an extremely awkward few minutes getting changed into our swimming costumes in a massive hall in a communal sort of way, I’m left with but one question. Why on earth did the adults stay in the room for this?!

Swimming is a nice way to cool down though, even if I do get the sneaking suspicion my face is burning. At least I remembered my arms and legs, even if I did forget that stupid exposed circle on my back. Damn that exposed circle.

I am of course delighted to hear that I’ll be rooming with LoudGirl from the coach and BassGirl. BassGirl I know from school. She is nice. LoudGirl cannot shut up to save her life. She whines a lot.

After a quick, slightly scalding, alarming shower, it’s time for dinner.

18:30-20:00 Dinner

The first course is chicken soup with weird balls of pasta. It’s ok. The onion makes it hard to love though.

The second course is mystery meat (probably pork) with salad and undercooked potato. It is hard to love.

Pudding is cheesecake. By this point I feel sick from too much food.

20:00-22:00 Rehearsal

Oh God this rehearsal goes on forever. My vision is blurring by about 21:00, which adds much needed excitement to the pieces. Ian is either waving or weaving. Who knows which anymore.

ThirdBassoon is no help. Then again, he might not even be there. I could be seeing double.

22:00-23:00 Waiting for the adult to tell us we can go the **** to sleep

It is too late for thinking. Once we’ve managed to turn on the fan and snuggle under a sheet (much too hot for blankets. Idiots), IrritatingAdult knocks on the door.

She says a lot of condescending things to us. I manage to be a vaguely polite human being.

Yes, it’s a struggle.

LoudGirl is much less irritating when she’s not with a lot of other very noisy people. She spends all her time on her laptop anyway.

Once we agree to WAKE UP the next day at 8:00, it’s time to tackle the pillow,

I can’t quite work out what’s weird about the damn thing, but it’s probably a question for another day.