Thursday, 28 February 2013

202. Coming up for air..

18th February 2013. I'm probably going to tempt fate here but.. I think we're just about done with winter - down here at least! After a very wet January and early February that left the garden totally sodden, we've had our first few dry days and over the weekend the temperature took a decided hike upwards from around the 10-12° mark where it's been lurking for a while. We went to Saint-Jean-de-Luz yesterday afternoon and we weren't the only ones to have had the idea..

It was a warm, if breezy, 18°.. and after walking through the throng we had a coffee in the sunshine at the Place Louis XIV..
Place Louis XIV, Saint-Jean-de-Luz

After 5 years here, we still relish the sights, smells and sounds of this blessèd corner of France. The white-painted Basque houses dazzled as they reflected the sunlight, and a silver mist hung lightly on the distant mountains - there's nowhere else that does it for us quite like the Pays Basque.       

I don't think it will be too long before we'll be ordering some of these - at which point I'll have to ask you to either join us or take a turn along the beach for half an hour or so while we do the necessary!
So what's it to be..?

28th February 2013. I spoke too soon! Yes, we've had blue cloudless skies and sunshine but in the mornings the temperatures have been hanging around low single digit values, warming up in the afternoons.

Went to see "Lincoln" the other day and I think that the Oscar given to Daniel Day-Lewis for the starring role as Lincoln was richly deserved. He is Lincoln.. Worth a look.

Last weekend was Le Big Crunch between England and France in the annual 6 Nations Rugby. This was a match where the result was always going to be more important than the manner in which it was achieved. Wesley Fofana of France scored a wonder try but it wasn't enough to hold out England who, in the end, looked good value for their win. I think the substitutions made before the last quarter decided the outcome. Anyway, see for yourself..
3rd March 2013. Into March now but we still have these low temps.. This morning it's still only 3°.. (at 1030am) having said that, the TF1 weather forecast last night said that we're going to be the warmest in France today at 17°! Think we're slowly creeping into Spring here. Can't come soon enough for me..

Meanwhile, there's a new film out here called "Boule et Bill" - the central character is an English Cocker Spaniel - golden of course (what else!). He's the spitting image of our pooch and so - being cocker daft - I think we might just invest in a couple of cinema tickets.

Here's a reminder of ours:

17th March 2013. On Friday night the rowing club had another soirée in an old vaulted cellar built in the ancient ramparts that surround Bayonne. Great fun - good company, lots of wine, charcuterie and cheese..

Yesterday saw only my third sortie on the river since the New Year.. It took me till mid-January to shake off the flu and then we had more or less constant rain for a month. I'm always glad to see the back of the first three months of the year and this year will be no exception. I went out in an VIII - and it turned out to be a seriously vigorous sortie. We did ~20km and we were all fairly beat up at the end. 

Saturday afternoon saw the concluding round of matches in the 2013 RBS 6 Nations rugby tournament. The stage was set for a monster game at Cardiff between the hosts - a resurgent Welsh XV - and an England XV that was attempting to win their first Grand Slam for 10 years, having won all their 4 previous matches. In a depressing spectacle (if you're an England fan) it soon became clear that Wales would triumph as they played their ferociously competitive brand of rugby. 

I think England's problem was that, unlike the Welsh, they played without passion. I'm convinced that the English coaching staff had told the lads prior to the game to just go through their well-practised drills and the result would come. Played with passion, rugby can be a thing of beauty.. Without it, it just becomes a series of rituals.

We English have been brought up to be emotionally continent - unlike the French, the Welsh, the Scots, the Italians and the Irish - all of whom use passion to add that added sparkle, that extra dimension, the unexpected, the extra gear that helps them in extremis to raise their game. Very few English sides have had that ability - they just work harder and harder.. 

There were one or two moments yesterday when England played with some fluidity and pace and without sticking to the script.. Alas, they didn't last long before they were sucked in by a mighty Welsh side whose collective will-to-win was irresistible on the day. 
When England trotted out on the field, they didn't looked hyped up to me - they looked calm. And I'm sure that comes from Stuart Lancaster - who is calmness personified. It's a great quality to have but there are times when passion and warrior spirit is called for. Yesterday was one of those occasions. That win will warm Welsh hearts for a generation!  

It hurts me to say it - but well played Wales!

Here's a short clip of the highlights - fortunately it was the only one I could find!