Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Highlights

So, it was Frog's first English Christmas. And low and behold he didth enjoyeth it. Which was no surprise to me, even if it seemed to be to him!

The Christmas album can be viewed here.

We have always had the same Christmas rituals in our house:

8am Get up and open stockings from Father Christmas (who also generously extended his visit to include the Frog. I think a little 'bird' helped him out with that).

9am Traditional English Fried Breakfast (don't be thinking that means a lighter lunch).

10am Start screaming that we'll be late for church if we don't leave in the next 15 minutes.

10:35am Arrive late for church and tiptoe to the back pews. Mutter at the rector's sermon and his inane pompous stupidity. This year's was a new form
of literary criticism based upon the premise "Literature written by christian authors, good. Literature written by non-christian authors, baaad."

Take annual communion. As soon as the service ends see how quickly you can drag mum out the church whilst she tries to catch up with people who look at us 'kids' and for the 20th year in the row, tell you how much you've grown.

12pm Home, open first gift from under the tree whilst battling with sprouts and a blunt knife.

1:30pm Sit down for a fabulous lunch. Roast potatoes, sprouts, chestnuts, parsnips, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, huuuge turkey, carved by Mum and lovely glasses of chablis.

3pm Retire to the sitting room and agree that pudding will be later. Begin to open gifts under the tree. One at a time, person by person.

5pm Hit the Christmas pudding

6pm Finish unwrapping gifts and slowly fall asleep in front of the telly.

I had a wonderful time as usual. Until I overate and my stomach decided it couldn't handle any more rich food.

But what was the verdict from the Frog on his first English Christmas?

Frog's Highlights:

  • More (great) gifts than he ever expected to receive
  • Christmas lunch (the food & crackers)
  • The walk on Tuesday around Corfe Castle
  • Resting after the crazy weeks leading up to Christmas

Frog's Lowlights

I know. I'm gutted. I thought the new version was cool (this was my first opportunity to see it). The Frog just did not get it. Ahh well. Can't have everything!

So - Frog Family Christmas Dinner #2 tomorrow night. I'll be cooking for all the family who will descend on our flat to exchange gifts with us. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


We have eaten our way through Dorset's food and wine stocks. We'll be winding our way back to France tonight on a night ferry across the channel.

A bientot!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Have yourself a ...

Wow. This week has flown by. I have mostly been pottering backwards and forwards from the flat to the shops. I can't carry more than one bag at a time, so Christmas shopping has been a slow and rather more dull experience than usual!

Frog has been a bit of a rare species in the flat these last two weeks. This is the heaviest period for champagne sales, so as part of a small family company that are well experienced in multitasking, he is currently van driver extraordinaire across France. 3am, 4am starts have been usual, with him reappearing at 12:45am last Friday night. In fact, after one return at 3am this week he ended up simply sleeping at his parents' house, next to the production and cellars.

Every so often I text him to 'take care', 'please drive carefully'. To which he replies it's okay he's just drunk another half bottle of coke. If a blood sample were taken there would be pure sugar and caffeine running through his veins, I'm sure.

But! We're off tomorrow lunchtime. A four hour drive to Le Havre to take the evening ferry to Portsmouth and then an hour down the road to Mum's. Before he retired to bed last night (this morning was a lie in at 5am) Frog thrust two CDs into my hand which he asked me to copy over to the ipod: "We've been too busy to get in the Christmas mood, so that's what we'll do on the drive to Le Havre".

The Christmas Album and Christmas Hits: 50 Festive Favourites are now dutifully copied. With just a tiny bit of editing. I'm sorry but no, Whigfield's rendition of Last Christmas did not make the cut. Neither did Robson & Jerome, I Believe.

But The Wombles, Wombling Merry Christmas did!

Happy Christmas! We'll be back for New Year's Eve.

Monday, December 19, 2005


We are rapidly heading towards becoming the clichéd couple embroiled in wedding guest list disputes.

So, I address this to my friends who may not receive an invitation. You'll understand, it's imperative that the Frog family plumber and his wife is invited, won't you?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wedding Update

So... all the fun of the wedding planning is really completed. Boxes have been ticked for:

Priest & Church
Village Hall

It makes it a little easier when you're in a relatively small city with lots of family contacts. We live above the florists, the caterer is Frog Father's cousin, the dress shop is where sister-in-law recommended, the invitations are homemade, the priest is involved in Frog's old school and the village hall costs €300 for the weekend rental.

So, now we're onto the bureacracy... think that the European Union makes things easier for a Brit to marry a Frenchman? Think again...
  • Medical Certificate: dated within 2 months of the wedding file registration at the town hall
  • Copy of Birth Certificate: dated within 6 months of the marriage date
  • Translation of the Birth Certificate
  • Certificat de Coutume: in person request at the British Embassy in Paris with a cheque for €65*
  • Declaration (on honour) that we live in Reims
  • Proof of residence (a photocopy of a bill)
  • List of witnesses and a copy of their identification papers (they must be able to speak French)

We then have to both take this to the Town Hall to register our wedding dossier in person, with identification.

The Mayor's office also said that I needed a carte de séjour européene. In fact, they scrawled the request in biro across the bottom of the official Livret d'Information sur le Mariage. Well that was news to me as I've been resident in France for nearly three years without one. An hour in the Foreigner's Office at the city Sous Prefécture and it was also news to the people who are responsible for giving out the carte de séjours. In a classic French moment, the woman behind the desk, shrugged her shoulders, consulted with a colleague and 'boffed' :

"I don't know why they would say that. Did the Mayor's Office really say that? It hasn't been needed for three years. You don't need one. Why are they saying that? If you have problems when you register your dossier, tell them to call us".

Call me a cynic but I see trouble ahead on that one. French bureacracy is never that easy.

This afternoon's task is to find a translator and next Tuesday will see me queuing at the British Embassy. Happily, I see it's close to the WH Smiths on Rue Rivoli.

Next week's wedding blog update will be the menu. All five courses. Now, that's why we're marrying in France!

* I think this is a document that says that as a British Citizen I am allowed to marry a French citizen and the role of British law on my status. Or something...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Le Dos Strikes Back

Well it was all going well until Monday 12th. A great weekend with friends in London, another baby to meet, mulled wine, Covent Garden market, Sunday roast and odd antics between Santa & a couple of nubile bellydancers.

We got back late Sunday/Monday morning and I was all ready to go to Hamburg via Paris and an early morning osteopath check up. Then my back struck back. I managed to hobble to the osteopath, still planning to take a later train to the airport.

After a very painful session, the osteopath looked at me and said "You're not going any where for at least the next three days" and then more warnings and cautions about what I was doing to my body.

And it turns out he was right. By the time I'd made it home, I couldn't move, stay still or do much to bear the pain.

Two days later, sleepless nights, painkillers, warm compresses and a very patient Frog and Mother Frog (who has cooked for us) and I am just about back on my feet. A couple of short potters around the flat, a quick check of emails and I feel like I'm reconnecting with the world.

I'll also hopefully catch up on a couple of hours work today before all my projects go down the drain.

I'll save the story of Santa and the bellydancers till next time...

Thursday, December 08, 2005


I am like a streakng blur across Europe. A peek at my diary this month:

November 30th Copenhagen
December 1st Reims
December 2nd Reims
December 3rd Reims
December 4th Reims Enjoyed these 4 days. A lot.
December 5th London
December 6th London
December 7th London
December 8th Reims
December 9th London
December 10th London
December 11th London
December 12th Paris / Hamburg
December 13th Hamburg
December 14th Reims/London
December 15th London/Reims
December 16th Paris
December 17th Reims Looking forward to these 3 days
December 18th Reims
December 19th Reims
December 20th Paris
December 21st Reims
December 22nd Paris
December 23rd Reims/Portsmouth
December 24th - 27th Mum's in Dorset

I think. I just think that New Years will be in Reims. Others might dream of jetting off for a weekend away. I cannot wait to spend more than three nights at home.

I'm not complaining, I haven't lost my sanity yet, the frequent flyer miles will pay for the honeymoon flights and my lovely Frog is quite patient with me.

And the other good news is that my contract just got officially extended for another month in January. More trips ahoy and pennies towards the wedding funds. February? That's another month, another worry. Not tonight's. Me, I've got bags to pack...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I am sat at London Waterloo waiting for the train to take me back to France. Three days of meetings in the UK, I've been staying with my sister and her boyfriend, seeing friends and otherwise running around like a busy chicken.

People might have been forgiven for thinking it was snowing here. Yesterday, as I got up from a coffee with a colleague, I reached for my coat and scarf. The coat is black and the scarf a lovely new big cream woollen wrap. The wrap has been slowly shedding fluff, moulting all over my coat and black jumper and trousers. To the extent that as I stretched to put the coat on, a flurry of fibres floated through the cafe, my colleague trying not to laugh.

The third and final day away, on my way home, my coat is not so much black as grey and my eyes pink with the irritation. I shall be heading to the dry cleaners tomorrow morning. We'll see if Frog recognises the cloud that will enter the flat, on my return tonight.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Saturday lunchtime was my birthday treat from Frog. And what a treat!

We walked our way in the drizzle towards the restaurant in the grounds of Pommery, Les Crayères. Frog was grumbling that I'd strongly suggested we walk. However, I had my eye on the end game which involved drinking glasses of fine wine and supporting a heavy stomach home.

After a thirty minute walk, we arrived at the entrance, where our coats were whisked away and we were escorted to a cosy salon and seated at a low table by the windows that overlook the Pommery park. My choice of champagne for an aperitif (Moet Chandon Rosé 1996) was stunning. A clean bubbly taste that left a fruity trail. We were brought some nibbles as we perused the menu. A deep fried ball of escargot which when you bit into it gave a hot liquid garlic buttery reward; a small pastry of brie and spinach and a 'cigarillo' of smoked soft cheese wrapped in a single crunchy pastry.

The waiter came to take our orders and the sommelier gave us advice on our accompanying wine. Once our orders were taken we were able to to relax and left to throughly enjoy the surroundings.

When the kitchen was ready to serve us, we were walked to the dining room. A rather grand room with five metre ceilings, but we were still relaxed (although that might have been the effect of the aperitif!). A basket with a trio of breads, fleur du sel pastry, levain and d'olive
was brought to us by our lovely waiter, who insisted through the meal that we make sure to try each one. These were accompanied by a choice on the table by pats of demi sel or non salted butter.

Before the starter we enjoyed an amuse bouche of a chunk of pan fried salmon in a light frothy emulsion of cèpes mushrooms. If I'd been at home I would have licked the small dish clean.

For the starter, we shared a demi-bouteille of Laurent Perrier Brut 1998 with:

Oiseau: LANGOUSTINE ROYALE en chaud et froid, nage coraillée, noix, pistache, amande

Langoustine cooked three ways - cold and wrapped with thin vermicellli type pasta, very thinly sliced with spices and hot fried with walnut, pistachio and almonds

Frog: ANGUILLE échalotes/cèpes/pomme-verte, relevée d'une matelote

Eel served two ways, warm with a dark sauce and cold, layered with apple, shallots and mushrooms

Again, we shared a demi bouteille of a lovely smooth, Saint Emilion. I say 'shared' but Frog only took a few sips and I believe I finished the rest off.

Frog: TURBOT DE BRETAGNE à blanc, réhaussé de poivres,pomme à pomme aux échalotes

Piece of turbot with pepper, potatoes and shallots.

Oiseau: DOS DE CHEVREUIL frotté de genièvre, salsifis, potiron,endive, sauce poivrade

Venison with juniper, salsifis, pumpkin and endives.

My venison was so tender and delicious. The vegetables weren't so memorable but the meat more than made up for that.


Oiseau: CARAMEL au croustillant de pralin, rafraichi carambar

A roll of caramel ice cream with a centre of soft caramel, with chocolate and praline pieces. A small glass dish on ice, inside créme fraiche with caramel topping.

Frog: ANANAS, fruit de la passion, biscuit amande, coupe Pina Colada

Frog really lucked out with his choice. The dessert came in three stages. There was a plate with a small tower of pineapple, passion fruit and cream on an almond biscuit. This was joined with a pina colada glass with pieces of soft rum marinaded pineapple coated in a coconut foam. As you popped one in the mouth, it melted on your tongue. A third small bowl held mini doughnuts to dip into a sweet coconut cream sauce.

On the centre of a table, to share, was a plate of three different mini patissieries. A religieuse, a sponge 'fairy cake' and a chocolate biscuit with chocolate cream topping. Two each. Blimey.

Café & Petits Fours
By this point we were ready to roll back to the salon for a small strong coffee and more chocolate in the shape of six petits fours to share.

Total time elapsed: 3 hours

The service was wonderful. Nothing ostentatious, very relaxed, helpfully guiding us in our choices. I especially liked our waiter. He must have been in his fifties and clearly a man who has made service his métier.

A wonderful dining experience. I have to say the food was great - but the outstanding parts were the fried langoustine, my venison, Frog's dessert and the rosé champagne. Overall though, it was the experience, service and 'moment' that really made it a birthday treat. It felt like a clandestine, exclusive afternoon.

Oh, and the company was pretty good!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Like a Child

I have always loved birthdays. Well, who doesn't? Gifts, attention, best wishes and cake. Bring them on!

Everyone has always known when my birthday is because it gets dropped into conversation, several weeks in advance. I like the event and I want everyone else to share in it. But then this year - I don't know if it's the wedding planning, busy work trips or just the plain old fact that I'm a couple of years into my thirties - it caught me by surprise this week.

I thought to myself, I must be more mature. This is what being in your thirties means, another year, a smile, a kiss and gifts from close family and friends.

Then yesterday, whilst I was sat in the Copenhagen office, briefing the agency team on a (rather exciting) project, it seemed to spring to my lips every few minutes. By the end of the day, I'm not sure if there's a person in the ten kilometre radius who didn't have it drummed into them...

It's my birthday today!!!

I went to the post office this morning to pick up the parcels that were waiting for me. I opened the couple of gifts and cards that had been propped up on the mantelpiece for the last couple of weeks. I bought a chocolate macaroon on the way home so I could have that with a cup of tea as I unwrapped the cashmere jumper, the book and the shiny new kitchen knife from family. The cards are propped up on the dining table and I'm just waiting in anticipation for for my swanky lunch on Saturday with the Frog.

That's it, I thought. And then the email messages, cards and messanger notes popped up. The fact that I've spent the past years ranting on means that no-one gets to forget even on a quiet year like this year. It's been tattooed on their brain! And I've quite gotten carried away with the birthday spirit, receiving an urgent "Where are you" call from a colleague who was waiting with four others for me to dial into the conference call line, and open a meeting as chairman of the call. Ooops.

Late afternoon will be a hot chocolate in a café with this lady and then a relaxed cosy evening with the Frog.