Wednesday, 30 June 2004

Hewitt watch, you know?

Update on, you know, Lleyton Hewitt. He's playing, you know, pretty well, you know, beating Ivanisevic and then, you know, Carlos Moya to set up a, you know, huge quarter-final match against, you know, world number 1 Roger Federer. More importantly, his interviews, you know, are going really well.

After the Ivanisevic match, you know, he managed 38 "you know"s from 15 questions. His form was a little down from his second-round interview.

However, he outdid himself after the Moya match. His 57 "you know"s from 21 questions was down from the 2nd round interview, but it included this marvelous second question. Count them.

Q. Someone mentioned to me earlier that you look as if you've got your freshness back. Did it go anywhere in that period of time?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it's hard to say. I guess, you know, I had two years there where I, you know, played so many matches, I guess. When you throw Davis Cup into that equation, as well, you know, I had the chickenpox straight after I got No. 1 in The Masters Cup in Sydney, you know, played a Davis Cup final. You know, I guess, you know, maybe that wore me out a little bit at the time.

You know, it was extremely important, I think, you know, to win that Davis Cup final against Spain at the end of last year that I took those two months off. Not a lot of people questioned whether I'd be able to come out and, you know, beat those guys who were top five in the world, you know, fresh out.

You know, I believed in my ability. I think that held me in good stead as well for this whole year, as well. You know, just staying at home, you know, training extremely hard, but then again, you know, getting a break from, you know, the grind week in and week out.

My hat's off to you, mate. Really drawn a line in the sand there. If we didn't know before, we definitely know now. Thanks to the Wimbledon web site for the transcript.

(Footnote: For completeness' sake, I checked his first-round interview, and it was a bit of a warm up, just 18 over the 10 questions)

Monday, 28 June 2004

Democrats video

Apparently the Australian Democrats have made a "short film" demanding parliamentary approval for future war activities. I have a bit of a soft spot for the Dems, in general, perhaps in an Australian barracking-for-the-underdog kind of way, but this film does them no favours. I think I can say this because I would have thought that I'm their target audience - swing voter with slightly leftist tendencies, a bit disillusioned by the major parties, etc. Unfortunately, the film itself is just incredibly bad. (Repeated attempts at witty analogy of the film's creator failed to truly capture the effect, and are omitted.)

In what may or may not have been a press release, Dems head Bartlett says:

"They don't rely on the large scale mass media to run them, but I think as Howard Dean showed, the use of the Internet skilfully can have a big impact."

Well, guess what? You have to do it well, or you just put people off. Shorts are not supposed to be pants! (Now there's a translation nightmare, if ever I saw one.)

Friday, 25 June 2004

Lleyton, you know, Hewitt

Let me get this out there right now. I flat-out love Lleyton Hewitt. I don't care what the Americans were whining about back when he won the US open, or any of the other crap that circulates - he's hard at the ball like no-one else, and I love it. He's looked good (by the numbers, anyway - I won't be seeing any TV coverage unless he or Scud reaches the final, I suspect) in the first couple of matches, and plays Goran today, and here's hoping he extracts a little bit of vengeance for Pat.

Still, you have to wonder about an interview like this one. He answered 21 questions, a bunch of them with one-line responses, and managed to say "you know" 66 times. Do you think Lleyton has spent a bit of time watching footy players provide formulaic, cliché-ridden answers in interviews? Yeah, Lleyton, we know.

Thursday, 24 June 2004

Garlic Bread!

Its a revelation! Last night I took a piece of day-old (read: too old for anything else) baguette and fairly generous quantities of butter (hmm, salted butter...) and garlic, and made what could quite possibly be the greatest garlic bread in the history of the world. My pasta life has now been upgraded!

Wednesday, 23 June 2004

flag-waving idiocy

John Howard has obviously been spending too much time in the US. Australians are pretty patriotic on the whole, and I count myself among the most patriotic of the lot; I've never once opened a second eye during a match in which Australia was playing. However, the idea of tying education funding to some display of American-style chest-beating has nothing, nothing at all, to do with the Australian style of patriotism. My primary school waved the flag, and we sang the national anthem every week, and I detested it. (Admittedly, the fact that it was the wrong national anthem - God Save Some Pommy Chick - probably contributed to my distaste). Despite that, every other sentence I start over here begins with "In Australia, ...".

If Howard is worried about our sense of national pride, let him walk into a pub when the Olympics are on, and Thorpe is swimming the 400m freestyle final, or Jana Pittman is running the 400m final, or the Kookaburras are playing the hockey final, and tell the assembled mass that they aren't proud enough of their country. National pride doesn't live in a person's relationship with a bit of cloth cobbled together from a leftover English standard and some scraps from Eureka; it lives in a person's reaction when they see another Australian losing, winning, or just generally putting in, and they say to themselves, "bloody hell, she's one of our lot, go you good thing".

Now even though I think the English ensign is a bit of a stain on our flag, it does represent our country, and I love what it represents. However, tying it to funding, for schools or anything else, is just silly stuff.

No bloody idea, Howard. No bloody idea.

Tuesday, 22 June 2004

photo blog

Mick has finally started a photo blog - despite his lack of confidence, he takes some good shots. His older stuff isn't up there, but some of the new ones are pretty good, although he seems to have a fascination with Dan as a subject :-)

Dimanche à la plage

Having done less than nothing on Saturday, I compensated on Sunday afternoon by heading out with Didier to Saint-Cast-Le-Guildo (at least, I think it was) for some sailing. I was a bit worried about the water temperature, but otherwise looking forward to it - its been a long time since I've sailed. Anyway, after some very rapid discussion between Didier and the boat guys, we grabbed a hobie 16 and headed out, me in a borrowed short-sleeve wetsuit.

The wind wasn't promising early on, but it picked up once we got out past the point, and I managed to get some quality time out on trapeze, which I hadn't done before. The conditions were ideal to learn - the wind was just strong enough, but fluky enough to teach some lessons about stability, but the waves were mercifully small. Unfortunately, by the time I had a go at skippering, the wind had died down (well, either that or I couldn't find it, but the sails looked right to me). It was a bit cold with only the short sleeves, but I was spared the real test of a capsize, which was a relief.

After the sail and a hot shower, we headed out to Fort La Latte for a look through the reconstructed fort/château, then across to Cape Frèhel for a walk around the lighthouses. It was really impressive to see the strength of the current created by the incoming tide (close to the biggest in the world, which is just to the east at Mont-St-Michel). By the time we got back to Rennes about 9, the cumulative effect of the sailing and Friday's tennis meant I was pretty shagged.

Return of the Unreliable forehand

I played tennis on Friday with the 2 Francks (F & C) and Tewfik - I hadn't played since leaving Oz, and Franck F hadn't played for 7 years, but it was fun anyway. Tewfik is just learning, but you can see the improvement even over the course of a single session. Franck C hits a decent ball, although its hard to judge standard when you're not playing a match. Also, the balls we were using were pretty ordinary, in particular the ones I brought, which were either crap when I packed them, or suffered during their recent flight from Australia. As for me, I could hardly hit a forehand to save myself (pretty much par for the course), but volleyed pretty well. The two-hour session told a little on Sunday, in the form of sore, er, leg muscles.

Friday, 18 June 2004


Dermot Brereton is certainly more qualified to talk about it than I am, poncy tennis-playing weener that I am, but "aggressive hardness" is a pathetic synonym for courage. For mine, he's right on the money; at the top level, football is as much about courage as it is about skill and athletic ability.

However, his example of the Hawthorn-Essendon dust-up from a couple of weeks ago is rubbish. A brawl is not a test of courage. Courage in football is the midfielder who keeps his head over the ball as Michael Voss' hip'n'shoulder bears down on him, or the half-back flanker dropping back into the gap in front of a leading Tony Lockett, or Jonathon Brown (or, more recently, Nick Riewoldt) running back with the flight of the ball into a pack.

If the Brisbane Lions are intimidating, its not because they are bigger than everyone else, its because the opposition knows that, when they go in after a loose ball with a Lions player, the Lions player will not lift their head. You don't see the Lions brawling.

Thursday, 17 June 2004

life quest

My life is a quest for relief from boredom. Sometimes, I distract myself in productive ways (see my work blog), but not usually.

Playing tennis tomorrow lunchtime, should fight it off for an hour or so. Cinema tomorrow night (Ladykillers, version francaise! grrrr), then sailing on sunday.

Small world

Its a small world here in Europe. I ordered some stuff for my laptop yesterday from the Apple France online store, for delivery to my apartment here in Rennes. I got the shipping confirmation this morning from Apple Europe, with an address in Ireland, and the link to the order tracking system told me that delivery was being handled by TNT Express Netherlands. I have absolutely no idea where the package is coming from. This could never happen in Australia :-)

Wednesday, 16 June 2004

coalition of the, er, yoink!

Thailand is following Spain, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic in pulling its troops out of Iraq. Mark Latham is promising to if he gets in. 35 becomes 30 very quickly...

(the word "yoink" defies explanation here, but some of you know what it means, I'd wager).

der kangaroo

Ah, now this is funny. German police chased an escape kangaroo for 4 hours and eventually caught him, and I just love this bit, using "a giant net". If it were me, I reckon I'd get sick of chasing him after about 4 minutes, and trade my giant net for a giant stein.

Also worthy of note is the caption to the picture of the mutant red-eyed roo that they stuck on the page, which reads: "Kangaroos are native to Australia (Reuters)". Well, gee, thanks Reuters, I would never have guessed - I'd always thought we introduced them from Antarctica because of their usefulness as a beast of burden that could avoid the drop bears patrolling horse trails.

Tuesday, 15 June 2004

All my online christmases seem to have come at once :)

First, via Stefan Tilkov, iTunes Music Store has finally been launched in Europe (in fact, in the UK, France and Germany), so I can buy Überjam for €10 instead of for €20, just as soon as I can convince myself that its worth it. (Cheapness is a legacy of my upbringing, that I expect to dodge later this afternoon).

Second, in what must be a response to gmail, yahoo mail has increased its quota to 100Mb (from 6Mb). I had been flirting with the limit for about 3 months, despite having cleared out my account in January. When I moved to France, I made the switch of keeping the bulk of my personal mail online, but it had been increasingly difficult with such a small quota. Anyway, problem solved.

The number of posts today probably tells you how much work I'm getting done...
It seems that Muttiah Muralitharan isn't going to tour Australia, after all. For those who either don't live in cricketing countries or have been living in a cave (literally or figuratively, from a cricket perspective), Murali is a Sri Lankan off-spinner who was called for chucking a few years ago by Darrell Hair. It was and remains a big controversy, as he has since been "cleared" and re-accused, and recently underwent "scientific tests" that actually determined that his new delivery was thrown instead of bowled.

Its all a bit weird. Anyone who has anything to do with law must be particularly confused, as I am, by the idea the idea that a bowler could have his action "cleared". In a legal sense, this is the equivalent of proving that someone doesn't steal. Not that they didn't steal at a certain moment time, or that they are unable to steal, but that they don't. Its a universally quantified determination of innocence, irrespective of capability. I imagine logicians would be equally bewildered by how this is possible.

To call a spade a shovel, a guy isn't a chucker until he chucks, and can never be "cleared" of chucking. In my opinion, he probably chucks it sometimes, i.e. he partially straightens his arm more than the allowable limit. If the WA scientists say he chucks it in controlled tests, when he knows he's being tested, then chances are he chucks it in a match. This isn't to say he means to, but he probably does anyway.

Furthermore, in the end, if he doesn't want to tour, then let him stay home like a whinger. What he should do is look at the tests and say, "Crikey, perhaps I do chuck it. How do I stop doing that?". Fix it, go back to the scientists and say, "is this better?". If it is, then great, but its still no guarantee that he won't get called again, just like any bowler.

UPDATE: The word I didn't use here but should have is 'sook', but I was beaten to it here and here.

Big girl's blouse.
This morning I've been reading book reviews and wondering why everyone (Salon, Guardian) seems to like it so much, when I was left a bit blasé. I will grant them the claims that its well written - it is - but, for me, this can never be enough. I need either to care deeply for, and feel that I understand, the characters, or to be moved by the underlying message or larger observation of the book. Otherwise, I might as well be reading a well-written recap of an NBA match.
I think my ideological/political allegiances are pretty clear, so its no surprise that this sort of rubbish gets to me a bit. The very idea that a war on terror can be "won" is, frankly, just absurd. This is to say nothing for the relative merits of fighting against terrorism, but you surely can't expect to defeat it. That, to me, would suggest that you extinguish any strong resentment of existing institutions, religions, ways of life, etc, which is at once laughably improbable and undesirable in the extreme. So long as there is freedom of speech and opinion, there will be those who choose to express themselves in inappropriate manners. Perhaps it's sad, but that's just the way it is.
Ran across this via here. Well, its a wank - swayed way towards Patrick Bateman and his ilk - but I'm a sucker for quizzes, so I did it. I don't think 49 out of 100 is a pass, is it? Anyway, as I said, its a wank. I don't have a car, so how can it be tidy? And to be frank, the only people who care what they're worth are stockbrokers, accountants and lawyers who probably use it in place of actual happiness.
When I was waiting at Waterloo for my train back to Paris, I looked at my book stocks, consisting of perhaps 50 pages of my cycling book, a skimpy-looking Of Mice And Men, and quickly decided that I would need further sustenance, if not before Paris, then before Rennes. As such, I adopted the strategy that had served me so well (viz-a-viz Chuck Palahniuk and, to a lesser extent, Bret Easton Ellis) when backpacking last year, of allowing the nearest bookshop-cum-newstand to rip me off terribly in exchange for some shiny new paperback. After agonising considerably, I eventually settled on White Teeth, by Zadie Smith, partly because its generous girth promised days or even weeks of occupation, and partly because its name rung a bell. I've found that ambigous familiarity can be a good sign. If I have read something that recommended me against a certain book or movie, then I remember it more easily, in general, than if it had recommended me towards it.

If I continue this rate I'll never finish. In short, its OK. It rambles a bit, and it kind of mumbles its larger messages a lot (being read after Of Mice And Men could contribute to that impression, I guess). Perhaps a closer familiarity (read: any familiarity beyond that relayed via Australian television media) with the nature of London youth would make for a more enjoyable experience in this regard. In any case, while it didn't ring entirely true, the writing is OK, and it occupied me for nigh on a week, which is cause for some thanks.

To a certain extent, I am enjoying good books more than "just OK" books. However, I'll take what I can get, and am still really enjoying just involving myself in something, be it excellent, as Foundation was and The Grapes Of Wrath was and Of Mice and Men was, or not so excellent, like French Revolutions or White Teeth or Snow Crash.
I finished the cycling book at about Calais on my Eurostar trip from London to Paris, and wasted no time in launching into my next endeavour, a copy of Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men that mum had tracked down for me in an Australian op-shop.

When I finished this book I damn near cried right there on the train. Its a scanty 100 pages, give or take, and not a word too short, and not a word too long. The story Steinbeck tells is lean in its expression and direction, but voluptuous in its resonance and clarity. Like The Grapes Of Wrath, he establishes a distinct and, as far as one can tell, very true characterisation of his setting, but where Grapes had drawn a picture of populations and classes, here he paints a story of people in the small, of individual traits.

This is, without doubt, the best book that I have read in a long time, and perhaps ever (warning: those who know me will know that I am prone to imperatives - the saying "perhaps the greatest book of all time" was on the tips of my fingers).
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on perspective) I've run out of books. This, in theory, gives me more time for other, more productive things (although the practice has suggested otherwise), and it also allows me to catch on the little reviews I write.

When Sandy was visiting, she was reading a book called French Revolutions, the account of an English guy who cycled the Tour de France route a few years ago. Anyway, once she finished it (well, I hope she finished it), she sent it over to me. It was good timing, because I had just run out of books, and launched almost straight into it. I haven't read anything by Bill Bryson, but I imagine it might be comparable to this book; it's fairly light, rambles a fair bit, but is generally pretty readable. Reading about the parts of France, both geographically and culturally, that I've seen since arriving, was nice, and generally pretty familiar, although there were some parts where I felt the author's English-ness showed a bit.
Some people have all the luck. Actually, this probably bears some relation to the stuff that Mick 's & Paul's mum was doing for her Phd, from what I heard about it. Anyway, I'm off to work out how MOF can be used in AFL football...

Thursday, 10 June 2004

It seems that I was confused in my previous post about Peter Garrett's entry into the labour party. This is clearly a different Peter Garrett.

Monday, 7 June 2004

Via Chris: A US military base by any other name would still smell as rancid. This conspiracy theory says, right here, that Bush gets another Australian military base in exchange for dipping his toes into Australian politics last week in criticising Latham's pull-em-out promise for Iraq. Dammit, I really hate my government...
Bob Brown's right (shock, horror): the idea of Peter Garrett running as a Labour candidate, and in a blue-ribbon Labour seat, is pretty weird. The union guys, same article, are probably right, too: there would almost certainly be a backlash from union-inclined voters. Still, I think Labour might slowly realising that the days of being solely built on the unions are gone, and that unless they can draw in voters on policy, they will fade as the unions are, I suspect, fading. All this said, I can't see Garrett running as an ALP candidate, anyway.
Well, I was wrong about the Solomons, it seems. They managed a 2-2 draw against the Socceroos, making irrelevant New Zealand's 2-0 win against Fiji, and meaning that Australia will play a home-and-away against the Solomons for the right to play-off against the 5th South-American team. Conspiracy theories will, or should, abound that Australia played for the draw to avoid New Zealand, but Farina's comments before the game suggest otherwise.

Anyway, go Solomoni :-)

Saturday, 5 June 2004

There are no surprises that Australia has gotten through to the Oceania playoffs for the 2006 Soccer World Cup. What is surprising, though, is that my country of birth, the Solomon Islands, is currently in second place, ahead of New Zealand. Vanuatu shocked the All-Whites 4-2 the other day, meaning that the second spot in the playoff will probably now be decided on goal difference, assuming that the Solomons lose to Australia, and that New Zealand beat Fiji. I mention it now, because it would be a pretty big shock if NZ didn't go through, since their +10 goal difference is vastly superior to the Solomons' +3. Still, while there's life, there's hope.

Friday, 4 June 2004

Honestly, what a beat-up. Via Tim Blair, it seems that Play School dropped a same-sex-parent family into one of its story sessions:

"I'm Brenna. That's me in the blue. My mums are taking me and my friend Meryn to an amusement park," the little girl says over images of her two mums smiling and waving.

Anyway, a bunch of conservative politicians had a bit of a whinge to the press.

That so few words can result in such a kerfuffle, if I may use that term (I'm sure Jesse would approve), speaks volumes for both the absurd sensitivity of the critics involved, but more importantly for the ubiquity of Play School in the children's television sphere. I certainly grew up on it, and if I was raising kids in Australia, they would too, I suspect. Whether their stories have 1 mum, 2 mums, or 93 mums (lets not rule out communes, here).

I suspect that the kids watching probably hadn't noticed at all, but are more likely to when its on the front page tomorrow (or today, I guess). Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I read a couple of reviews for Touching The Void earlier in the year, so I was keen to see it. When my parents arrived, I realised that they had read the Joe Simpson books, so we went along to the last screening here. (Its french title was La Mort Suspendue or something unintuitive like that). Good flick, kind of half-documentary, half re-enactment, and pretty well-made. The likeness between the actors and the real people was just sufficient, and its a pretty dramatic incident. Afterwards, however, I found myself wondering if we really should be seeing this sort of activity as heroic. There was a passing mention of the craziness of it all in the film, but its really a very important point. They went out into the wilderness of Peru, to climb a mountain that no-one ever had, for no reason other than just to be the first, all abandoning any common sense. Its a pretty stupid thing to do, really - perhaps the film should be about this sort of climbing as another form of "call for help" suicide.

Thursday, 3 June 2004

My reading continues to astonish me in its volume, but at least the books are getting smaller. I had again run out when Mum and Dad arrived, but they brought two books with them for me, and on the same day a package from Sandy arrived with another. The first from Mum and Dad was The Outsider, by Albert Camus.

Reading this book broke a rule I had made myself, because its real name is L'Étranger, and it was originally published in french, Camus being of French-Algerian descent. I always, always prefer to read a book or (more commonly) see a film in its original language, and this was particularly so when, only a few pages into the book, I realised just how many colloquialims it used. Still, the alternative was learning a lot more French, and not having anything to read, so I read it. Its a good book, but I personally couldn't consider it great. Although I could relate to the central character, the driving opinion of the book was, for me, not strong enough to be compelling. Still, its pretty good and, if the translation is to be believed, very well written.
On the last night before Mum & Dad arrived (and my holiday commenced), I went with a group to see Kill Bill, Vol. 2. It was the third day of its release in France, coming a couple of months after the US version hit cinemas there. Now, I was a pretty big fan of the original - I saw it 3 times at the cinema - and felt that its iconic imagery and mood overcame its dialogue and length problems. However, the decision to release it in two parts was, and is, a crime, and I believe that even more strongly having seen the second part. Like the first, the second contains moments of truly great cinema, but labours in its length. I don't know whether Tarantino sold out to the Weinsteins, or just fell in love with his footage and couldn't bear to cut it, but a version of these two films, edited together, and with about 30% of the crap stripped out, could have been a truly wonderful piece of cinema.
Philip Adams is someone with his head screwed on, and he's right on the money here, in an article discussing George Bush's mixing of politics and religion. I have heard it said, admittedly not from reliable circles, that Bush believes he is doing God's will, or that he believes that God tells him what to do. The presence of voices, be they of deities or not, in the head of the most powerful, and thus dangerous, man in the world, gives me the willies.
Great name for a blog. Some interesting stuff there, too, but pretty eclectic.

Wednesday, 2 June 2004

I arrived in London in the afternoon and pretty promptly found my way down to Dorking, in Surrey. There I tried calling Dad (not realising that his phone had been nicked as well as his passport), then cold-called Laurence, who we were visiting. Cold, meaning that I hadn't met him since I was about 8 months of age, a time since which I have changed fairly considerably. Anyway, he came and picked me up and we chatted, later also with his wife Jane, for a few hours until Mum turned up. A bad turn had made her 1-hour trip from Heathrow into a 2-hour exploration of the Chessington area.

Dad called later that night to say that he would get in about the same time the next day, thanks to wonderful help from Gabrielle and great credit to the workings of the Australian Embassy in Paris. To pass the morning, Mum, Jane, Laurence and I climbed Leith Hill, and went for a pub lunch at a village nearby. In the afternoon, Mum and I negotiated an unnecessarily circuitous route to Heathrow to collect Dad, before winding a similarly indirect one home. The dialogue upon arriving focussed, as had the previous nights, upon family history and the question of "what is XXX doing now", with XXX encompassing anyone and everyone who lived in the Solomons in the late 70s.

On Friday morning we headed off, in the wrong direction as it happened, towards Wantage, where we were booked into a youth hostel that evening. As we had learnt the previous day, and as was reinforced, one is not given much opportunity to anticipate turns on minor English roads, and this made navigation a fairly intense exercise. Still, the view at the end was probably worth it, and the hostel was, in all, pretty good. Its worth noting, too, that Dad is, by habit, the driver in the team, and Mum the guardian of the money, but these roles were reversed by the previously mentioned Parisien pickpocket.

Saturday morning we headed south, to a couple of small villages near Newbury called Enborne and Bucklebury. At each, we visited the local church and were greeted enthusiastically by what we assume where the vicars, both of whom were very keen to help us and to chat about almost anything, despite obvious other commitments. I have been pretty skeptical of the whole grave-walking thing, but the reception, as well as the 12th and 14th century churches, made it pretty pleasant.

In the afternoon we visited Sheena, my great aunt (via Dad), and the previous torch-bearer of the family history, as is now carried by Mum. Although pretty infirm physically, and lacking her hearing aid, she is still pretty sharp, and we spent a good couple of hours talking (well, the others did - I just listened) with her before trucking back to our hostel.

Sunday, we headed pretty directly (having grokked to some degree the map situation) across to Ivinghoe, near Luton. We spent an hour or so walking along the canal and admiring the workings of the locks, before a nice pub lunch of pie and veges: so simple, and yet, when done well, on par with most things I've had in France. In the afternoon I jumped on a train to London, where I stayed the night in a hostel in Earl's Court. The tiny box that they gave me as a bed was, I suspect, punishment for my not having contacted Sandy or Dave to arrange a better option.

The trains back to Paris and Rennes were uneventful, allowing me to finish both the cycling book that Sandy had sent me, and Steinbeck's wonderful Of Mice And Men.
We got into Paris on the Monday night, and negotiated the metro to Etienne Marcel, where we met Gabrielle. (Side note: the significant bouts of walking required to change lines at stations like Montparnasse must be a contributing factor to the lesser levels of obesity in France, although smoking is, unfortunately, probably another.)

Gabrielle is, I guess, my second-cousin once removed, which equates to nothing, but labelled herself as a sort of distant aunt, which is probably a better characterisation of the relationship. She grew up in Melbourne, and visits often, but has been living in France for almost 30 years now. She showed us to her son's apartment in the 3rd arondissement, where we stayed for a couple of days, then escorted us out to their place at La Défense. We had a great dinner, with lots to chat about. Although the main players were Gabrielle, Mum and Dad, it was also good to chat with her husband.

The next day we did some of the normal Paris tourism, past notre dame, and then around past the parthenon and the senate to the musée d'orsay. In general, the excess of tourists really put us off, and after a sandwich at the tuileries, we headed back to the apartment to watch some tennis. A combination of accumulated walking fatigue, and the fact that the coverage seemed less interested in tennis than in being at the tennis, meant that we slept through most of the afternoon. Feeling perhaps a little guilty, we struck out in the evening to the place de la republique, and grabbed dinner at an italian restaurant where the pizza was OK, but the wine was too weak.

The next morning, in an effort to avoid other tourists, we got out to the eiffel tower in good time, and were pleased to find that the strategy worked, with a much more reasonable-sized crowd. That done, we had just enough time to get back to the apartment and pack up before Gabrielle arrived to escort us to the RER for our various transports across the channel. Since the expense (400 euros) of flying scared me too, much, I left my parents on the RER at Gare du Nord. Just as I was getting off the train, I noticed a guy drop some money on the ground, and Dad bent down to help him pick it up. As I should have shouted out, this turned out to be a bad idea, as the guy took the opportunity to relieve dad of his belly-bag, and thus also his passport, mobile phone, organiser, euros, credit cards and driver's license. Of course, I didn't find this out until I was already on my way to London.
I arrived back yesterday from the tail end of my almost-two week holiday with Mum & Dad. A brief summary follows.

A couple of Wednesdays ago, I spent the morning shopping, successfully for fruit & veg at les halles, but unable to find Decathlon, let alone the camping mattress I sought therein. Picking weary parents up from the station, we visited the Thabor briefly, before a generally unpleasant walk far out into the suburbs where we eventually found the aforementioned mattress. By the time we got home and got some gallettes cooked and eaten, the day was gone.

Over the next couple of days we walked a lot of Rennes, visiting churches, parks, and the old town, the latter having a particular impact, I think. It was good for me, too, since we got to some churches that I hadn't seen, and found an hour or so to kick my newly-arrived Sherrin around a park that I'd been meaning to visit. On the advice of luminita, who I bumped into at the Marché plus, we also caught a few hours of a multicultural festival at Triangle. On Saturday morning we visited the marché at place des liçes, and bought a kouign amann, something I'll have to find more of. In the evening we caught a screening of Touching The Void, spurred on by Mum having read the books, and my having read the reviews.

On Sunday we headed out to St Malo. We did the usual beach and walls walk, had a beer in a nice little square awash with English and other tourists, and then walked out to the camping ground on the western side of town, which has a great view of the bay and across to Dinan. By the time we got back to the station around 5, we realised that we'd probably walked a few kilometres too many for the day, and were glad to get back to Rennes.

By Monday, I was pretty much out of ideas, so it was probably a good thing that Gabrielle called from Paris to suggest that we catch an evening train and take an extra half-day in Paris.

The best thing of the 5 days, other than catching up with Mum & Dad, was that the additional numbers and increased time made it much easier to eat well. We had some good gallettes, an excellent potato soup with some potatoes that were near the end of their days, a nice stir-fry Sunday night, and excellent sandwiches in between. Ironically, we didn't open the two bottles of wine that I'd been saving for their arrival, so I'll have to hang onto them for another occasion.