Minimal exercise, maximum driving, France (plus fake arms and sleeping sportsmen)

View from the rear balcony in France. Almost interestingly, the mountains in the backdrop are the other side of the Autoroute Blanche, in the valley over 500 metres below

It snowed on Sunday night – only a thin covering here but still well below freezing on Monday morning. I was feeling suitably smug at having put the winter wheels and tyres on just last week.

I went out just after 9am to pick up some stuff from the nearest town a couple of miles away but turned back as I saw how a tiny amount of snow and drivers without winter tyres can very easily cause gridlock in rural Oxfordshire. Two hours later the traffic had disappeared like melting snow – unlike the snow itself which was still very much there.

Later we got our Covid booster jabs – all OK so far as neither of us had any reaction beyond a slightly sore arm where the jab was done.

Very early Tuesday morning we did a potentially very stupid thing – we set off for France. We had booked a few days previously – before the newest variant of the virus was identified in Southern Africa and so we had gone through the agonies of the damned as to whether we would be able to travel out (or back). New UK rules announced on Saturday introduced new isolation and testing requirements for our return (isolation being required until a negative PCR test is performed).

To be honest, it would have been easier to abandon the trip but we’ve not been to the apartment since we skied in January 2020 so a visit was long overdue. Les Carroz is a special place for us. We stumbled across it by accident but loved it and put the process of buying an apartment underway after two visits – and that’s over 20 years ago.

At least a trip down in the car and a stay in our own place was likely to be as safe as it would get and we wouldn’t be going out as the rules for getting a ‘pass sanitaire’ (necessary for going to bars and restaurants) changed at the last minute.

I’ve done the drive many (40+?) times with the skiing and, more recently, an annual cycle trip – but it’s not getting any shorter. Despite the best efforts of the M25 (London’s orbital motorway and sometimes orbital car park) we made good time to the Channel Tunnel and got put on a train an hour earlier than booked. We completed the whole 710 miles in about 13 elapsed hours with just over 11 hours of driving and just 2 stops in addition to the tunnel.

We had a really good time there, even though there were the usual clean, repair, enhance requirements to be satisfied. We rearranged the beds in the two mezzanines. With everything going on in the world, that did give me echoes of ‘deckchairs on the Titanic’ but in turbulent times, perhaps it’s carrying on with the ordinary things that keeps us sane?

I had taken running kit but it was below freezing and either raining or snowing most of the time – and the pavements were snow-covered and unsafe for running. I was sad about the running but decided to enjoy both the unexpected break from relentless exercise and even more smugness for fitting the winter tyres.

Perhaps I secretly suspected this was going to happen as I took books with me, including Haruki Marakami’s ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ and ‘A runner’s high’ by Dean Karnazes. I rarely re-read books but I made two exceptions here. They are very different books by very different authors but I love both for the simple reason that their love of running shines through.

I also took a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov which was delightful – perhaps more vignettes than stories because he clearly didn’t feel that they needed to finish with a conclusion or resolution.

On Saturday I drove the 710 miles back with just one stop in addition to the tunnel. A tough journey with the first 200 miles in heavy rain – but we made it back to Oxfordshire by mid-evening and entered isolation. In one respect we were lucky – within half an hour of getting back into England we got the news that if we had been returning two days later we’d also be required to have a clear Covid test in order to re-enter the UK.

In all, just shy of 1,500 miles of driving and away for 5 days. I’m in favour of new technologies and would like an electric car – but with range and recharging issues, I wonder how any other than those with the very longest ranges would cope with this sort of journey?

On Sunday, feeling well, we completed our PCR tests and took them to the drop-box (allowed within the rules of our isolation). We have now started the wait for the results.

A very different post from the usual tedious summary of the week’s running, cycling, gym (and possibly swimming). This time a tedious recounting of a trip to France.

To reach for some sense of normality, I nearly got on the turbo later in the afternoon – but I decided that, no matter what the personal cost might be, I would complete the week without ‘proper’ exercise – the nearest I got was signing up for next April’s White Horse Challenge sportive.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No medicine exists that can cure hatred

2. BBC News website: Former world snooker champion falls asleep during match

Mark Williams, lost in the second round of the UK championship. He said, “It was 3-2 and I was out. My head went down and I woke up and I didn’t have a clue where I was for about five seconds. It was a bit embarrassing but I was just shattered after contracting Covid-19 in October. I need to be playing in the mornings really, or afternoons. The more the day goes on the more tired I get.”

Personally, I like snooker but I expect many think that Williams was just joining most of the the audience

3. BBC News website: A long way for a postponed game

A couple from Dallas made a 34-hour journey just to see Tottenham Hotspur (their favourite football club) play – only to have the match postponed because of snow.

They were hoping to see Spurs’ next two home games but they could now be guests of honour as Spurs’ striker (and England captain) Harry Kane has invited them to be his guests at one of those matches.

4. BBC News website: Italian man tries to dodge Covid jab using fake arm

An Italian man who wanted a Covid vaccination certificate without getting the jab turned up for his vaccine with a silicone mould covering his real arm, hoping it would go unnoticed.

The nurse told local media that when she had rolled up his sleeve, she found the skin “rubbery and cold” and the pigment “too light”. After being discovered, the man tried to persuade the nurse to turn a blind eye but instead she reported him to the police for fraud.

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