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Mushroom Hunting in Paris

Not The Cruellest Month

According to T.S. Eliot, April is the cruellest month. 

Well, he may have been a great poet, but Eliot was a rotten meteorologist. 

A lot of nice things happen in April, at least where I live (France, and hence the northern hemisphere, when April is in the spring), and it has always seemed a very forward, uplifting time to me. 

If I had to nominate the most difficult month – and I still wouldn’t call it cruel – I would have said November. 

Compare the two: My Mom was born in April. Likewise VC, SD, JL, AM and many other of my friends. That is hardly meteorology. But still, so many nice people, what’s not to like? April, and the period surrounding it, is a time for hopeful anticipation, because it provides the transition from cold winter, through spring and into warm summer. 

November is the inversion of all that (although I do know some nice people who were born in November). It is too late for Indian Summer. Any colourful leaves have long since fallen. The clear, vibrant cold days of full-blown winter have not yet arrived. Any precipitation falls only as rain.

Around my house, nothing ever really dries out properly. The bathroom is chilly, the house, in general, difficult to heat. It is the month where the sun struggles most. When streams and rivers are most likely to overflow their banks.

For this and other reasons, I was feeling rebellious this November, and decided to take a quick break in Paris, a city I hadn’t visited in a very long time. 

To begin with, I resolved to remain light-on-my feet and book at short notice when the first period of four to five clear days was forecast. But as the month wore on – that November weather again — it was obvious those good days were unlikely to happen, and in a “to hell with it” moment late one Thursday afternoon, booked the whole thing, transport, hotel, kennel for the dog and all, and at 06:00 on the morning of the next day, was shaking the rain off my shoulders while standing in a train that was just pulling out of the station at Aime. I felt a bit like Bogie, in the train scene from Casablanca, but somehow in reverse. Unlike him, I wasn’t leaving Paris. That train would take me to it. 

And I wasn’t heartbroken.

To Paris. 

To the City of Light.

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On Saving the Planet and the True Calculus of Transportation

In October 2023, I finally took the plunge, and made one of my regular trips to the UK via train rather than plane. It was a first for me.  I wanted to help somehow save the planet.

Initially, it didn’t seem like such a good idea. 

By crude calculations, the train would take more time and be more expensive. A lot more expensive. The cheapest train tickets I could find were three times more costly than flights from Geneva to London. Saving the planet suddenly seemed like a rather costly proposition. And a flight would have me in London very early in the morning. The train could only get me there around midday. So how could I justify the train?

But my friend VC urged me to be logical and look at the door-to-door times, the true costs when you factor in parking, fuel, péage, stress, useful-as-opposed-to-wasted time, and so on. 

Despite her admonitions, it still seemed a losing proposition. But I did it anyway, for the first time in October, from home to London and back via local train and Eurostar. In November I did Paris by TGV.

And it was brilliant.

A planet worth saving?

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Tour des Stations 2023 – An Impressionistic Approach

The Marmotte

On the 5th of August 2023 I did another Marmotte, once again the Tour des Stations, based around Verbier, Switzerland, and was going to write it up.

But my cycling blog entries are all starting to sound alike (if even your friends won’t tell you, you have to tell yourself), so this time around I thought I’d do something different, drop the narrative arc, and just offer some impressions, some vignettes. All scrambled up. So…

A Scary Opportunity

The first descent:

It was cold on that first climb to the Col de Lien, I saw 4ºC on the bike computer. I passed the col and got a kilometre or two of descent under my belt, and for a while felt very alone, before a swarm of hornets passed: the best riders from the second pen had caught me up, and were leaving me behind.

At an intimidating speed.

But I saw the scary opportunity, and latched on to two riders. Their speed was well out of my comfort zone, but being in front, they proffered a kind of x-ray vision of the route ahead: as they disappeared around turns, I could sense from their braking, or lack of same, whether anything was coming up and if there was danger ahead, well before I could see it myself.

Descent to Sion

Perfect for a fast descent

You had to trust, you had to leap, but ohhh, was that leap fantastic.

It was the best cycling descent of my life.

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Réboussolé : Cycling Tour du Mont Blanc 2022

Why – What – Where – When


When you train many months for a big event, as I did for the Marmotte in July 2022, and then finally do it, although there may be a great sense of achievement — it all depends on how it went — there is inevitably a very flat period afterwards. 

You are what the French call déboussolé: “boussole” is the French word for compass (in the sense of that little magnetic direction-finder, not the pointy, hinged thing-gee you used to stab yourself with accidentally in math and drafting class). You’ve lost your compass, your sense of direction, as the thing you are aiming for is now behind you. There is nothing in front. You’re left with the question,


Compass – the painless kind

What next?

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