A big thanks goes out to our very good friends in Lymington - Rob and Beck, oh and Alex, for their fantastic hospitality during the week we spent back in the UK. Always good to hook up with friends you've not seen in a while and even better when they organise a party so that you can catch up with loads of people you have not seen in a long time. I guess the nice thing about going back to the new forest (our friends moved there a couple of years ago) was the break from city life in Montpellier - I did not realise just how much I dislike apartment blocks and the concrete jungle. I always find it amazing how the Mediterranean's have adopted to apartment high rise life yet in the UK sky rise blocks are synonymous with poor, run down lifestyles... Maybe that says something positive about French mentality??
Moving on briskly - our week in and around the Solent was a really great break. We had the good fortune to get to ride on Solent Charter Ribs and spend a morning on a pretty deluxe motor cruiser which came right out of the blue and was the icing on our cake for our trip. The weather was very agreeable considering the amount of rain the UK has had in the last couple of months, so a special thanks also goes out to Alex and Stuart for their nautical hospitality.
It's been a while since I posted my last blog and the most noticed difference between time spent back in the UK and now being home in France is the added strain of having to think about everything you say in French. You soon forget how effortlessly it is to communicate in your mother tongue as you have nothing to compare it too once you are in a foreign speaking country. Whilst I was back in the UK every thing was second nature, just like driving a car - you're on auto pilot all the time when you speak consequently conversation is a real breeze and a joy. My French is reasonable after 2 years of living here, and being married for 10 years to a French chick, so I can communicate about any number of subjects; yes I make grammatical errors but I've grown used to that and so have the people I speak with. I suppose the the flip side is that one has to continually think whilst speaking a second language and this results in being slightly more worn out at the end of the day - if you're having to use your brain continuously it's bound to have an effect on wearing you out that is until you achieve a fluency with the language where you don't have to think so much (I'm hoping that will arrive in the next 12 months, the sooner the better :o)
Yesterday the fireworks were firing on cylinders - freedom, liberty and fraternity. Yes 14th of July is Bastille day and the French certainly know how to burn the publics dough when it come to firework displays. All of the ports along the bay of Montpellier had massive shows. Some even did Friday and Saturday night!! I was with some friends between Lunel and La Grande Motte and the sky was ablaze between 10 and 11.30pm in fact it sounded more like military arsenal than a celebration. 1 hour and 15 minutes approximately at La Grande Motte - a gigantic WOW factor and goodness knows how much of the local public purse strings were burnt. However, on the flip side the visual spectacle must have been incredible - I unfortunately pitched up for an aperitif with some French friends which turned into a full blown dinner with another couple and six week old baby!! Tricky one to get out of so I missed the fireworks - I must be going soft in my old age.
We're now into the Estival season - so all of the local villages have their fetes and bull running craziness through the streets. I've have tried to comprehend why without any success on numerous occasions so I just accept that this is part of the culture and bulls running in the streets is perfectly normal for this part of the world. On the flip side - if you down here visiting make sure you park your car outside of the village centre when there is a fete taking place otherwise... You run the risk of having your car severely battered by a wild 'toro' (bullock) in a charging madness.
All fun and games and completely normal for the south of France - long live the Pastis and Charging Toro.
PS. My buddy Pete Close is climbing onto his bike tomorrow for an really tough Charity ride - the most difficult leg of the Tour de France through the Pyrenees Mountains - his link is on the left, he's trying to raise in excess of £1000 for prostate cancer so please log onto his site and make a donation every penny counts and I'm confident that he will succeed in this extremely tough challenge that he's set himself. Good luck buddy.