Saturday, 30 July 2011

Baguettes Bite Back

Today I cut myself on a baguette. I was told to be careful about the food when traveling abroad, but I didn't think it extended to baked goods. That being said, it took me twenty minutes to staunch the bleeding from a gash in my lower lip. For those of you who have seen me eat, and are wondering why I don't cut myself at every sitting, I will surprise you by saying this doesn't happen very often. Also, I was able to recover enough to dispatch said baguette in the traditional fashion. Thank you for your concern.

Now that the weather is approaching what I've been told is the norm (high 20's celsius), Ann has set high expectations in terms of beach attendance. The local beach is pretty sedate in terms of surf so one must wander further afield to get waves exciting enough to break your neck. And we all know it's no fun if the 'potential death' setting isn't at moderate or higher. Fortunately, Biscarosse plage would dial in at about 8 on a good day so that's where we headed after work yesterday. Don't be confused. I meant after Ann's work. Perri and I went to the 'You Pick 'Em' blueberry farm in the afternoon. I had no idea blueberries could grow so plentifully, and some of these looked like concorde grapes. Sadly, the season is closing this weekend, so we got 3 kilos. Coincidentally, Satan's baguette mentioned above was peanut butter and fresh blueberries.

After consuming our body weight in blueberries, and filling the container, we went on to the beach to meet Ann.

This isn't considered busy as you can still see some free sand. Granted, it was already 6 p.m..

Around 7 we decided to look for some dinner. At the beach, apparently, civilized people have snackies around 4:30, then retire to the condo around 7 to clean up and have a few aperitifs, and then go for supper (no earlier than 8). At least it wasn't hard to get a table, although they may have had to call the cooks to come in early.

The after dinner stroll through town drew us to the town square, where something momentous was occurring...

Quite a crowd was gathered to watch a competition, which, at first glance, and perhaps a second and third glance, was difficult to determine. Only after staying for a few minutes did I realize this was the world pinecone tossing event. There were trophies of considerable size, as well as certificates legitimizing the event. There may possibly be a number of unsanctioned pinecone tossing competitions along this coast, and, typically, the French like to keep things above board. Again, my earlier comments on the quality of local television will explain why there was a goodly number of fans.

Today, in keeping with Ann's beach quota, we biked 7 km's down to the Dune du Pyla - the biggest gob of beach sand this side of the Sahara . Sixty million cubic meters gets you this...

At over 100 meters high, 500 meters wide, and almost 3 km's long, she's a brute! Ann tells me there's a legitimate geological reason for its existence but I got sleepy when she tried to explain. Geology tends to affect most people that way (that should encourage some comments). The dune goes right down to the water so we had a nice lunch at the beach, in spite of the dearth of nudity.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

And now the hard part - living.

So, three weeks in and I'm getting the feeling that: "Yes, I could get used to this. After all, it's not so different from Calgary." I will learn not to set myself up for these fate-tempters in the future. Needless to say, Ann and I decided to go for a nice walk along the beach yesterday. Lo and behold, the tide was going out with a vengeance. Locally, this means the huge sand spit just offshore becomes visible and accessible for non-swimmers. So Ann and I decided to wander along to see what we could see at low tide and began to understand the occasional bag of something being carried back to shore contained clams. Yummy. I like fresh clams fried up in butter and garlic served on a nice fresh baguette as much as the next person. Sure enough, we realized the next time we came for a walk at low tide would require a small digging device and a plastic bag. Then things got interesting. Ann remarked "Oh. That's sad. A garbage bag washed up on shore". And, I'll admit, being from Saskatchewan, and not a marine biologist (not even a pretend one to impress women), it looked to me a bit like a garbage bag. However, as we got closer it became obvious that this particular garbage bag was alive, and squishy, and, and, I'm not really sure what else. I regret not having my camera this once as a picture might have helped. That being said, I know I'm not in Kansas anymore when there is something about the size of a shoebox sitting in front of me that defies definition (a mutant sea cucumber?). In Canada, at least the part I'm familiar with, anything that big or bigger, when alive, can usually be identified within a moment or two. I guess I shouldn't get too comfortable just yet. A trip to the local supermarket seafood section helped secure that feeling as there were many unidentifiable objects available to purchase and consume.

I threw in this picture because we've been riding past it each day on the way to Perri's sailing school. It made kind of a nice shot but doesn't represent any historically significant church (as far as I know). Also, by French standards, it's really quite new. We can here the bells when they chime on the half hour, if we're sitting out front.

And, speaking of sailing school. We browbeat Perri into attending for a week so she'd stop watching old tv episodes of 'The Office' on the internet. Sadly, the classes were all full, but we put her on the alternate list. Once the weather forecast for the week hit the local papers, the phone rang immediately. Apparently, people on vacation aren't interested in having their kids learn to sail in hurricane conditions. Well in Canada, we don't care how dangerous it is for our kids. True to form, the wind was howling through the rigging on the boats as I dropped Perri off. It did not go unnoticed by Perri that every kid was wearing a wet suit, except her. Luckily, the weather improved as the week wore on (she still got a wet suit).
She'll be the one standing up on the catamaran approaching shore.

The weather is getting more summery with every passing day, although I've been impressed with French's 'c'est la vie' attitude toward the weather. Even on the foulest rainy days, you could always find families outside doing...  stuff. It wasn't until after we finally got the local cable feed that I began to understand. The television here is so awful that nothing short of a real hurricane would encourage anyone to stay inside and watch. I think we have 120 channels - the basic cable feed - and, with the exception of the occasional sporting event, nothing to my tastes. To be fair, I haven't checked out late night programming to confirm rumours of less family-friendly viewing. Stay tuned, I may devote an entire commentary should I find something interesting.

I have alluded to car-hunting expeditions: some successful, some not. The following is a representation of our success:
I know! I thought the hood ornament was the Ferrari thing too. But after further investigation and a re-examination of the list price, I remembered we'd been to a Peugeot dealership. Still, I'm happy with it and the fuel consumption is unbelievable. Also, never let it be said the French are inefficient. Our salesguy knew we would be by to pick up the car at 2:00 p.m. sharp. Perri and I arrived a little past 2:30 and the car was ready promptly at ten past 5. Fortunately I knew there was no way it was going to be ready to go at the appointed time, so Perri and I were able to do some exploring on our bikes while we waited. We were able to find the local manifestation of blackberries, growing in volume along one of the little country roads nearby. In a few weeks, we will return with buckets.

We had also considered a used Peugeot crossover that had been used by its previous owner as a giant ashtray. Sadly, after a serious steam cleaning, the vehicle now smelled like an industrial cleaning agent facility... which had been used as a giant ashtray. Plan B was immediately put into effect and thus we are the proud owners of another brand new Peugeot 3008, which will be ready to go perhaps next week, or certainly the week after that.

As the weather is now cooperating, I expect to give our shiny new kayak a try this weekend, in spite of the treacherous currents awaiting me just off shore. This may be the last post on this blog. Also, Perri and I will be checking out the "U pick 'em" blueberry place tomorrow. Everybody loves blueberries!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Royal Visit.

I may have tempted fate in my first blog when I asked "What could go wrong?" when referring to leaving a 14 year-old in the hands of Air Canada.  The important thing is she made it, eventually.
For those of you parents who decide to release your children into the wild, as it were, I have a few words of advice:
1. Always wait at the airport until the flight leaves the ground. Perri's flight actually got to the 'taxiing to take off' point before conking out.
2. Be sure to book summer flights out of Calgary in the morning. Perri's second-try flight (same day), this time to Frankfurt rather than Montreal, was delayed a few hours due to thunderstorms, thereby destroying any hope of making connecting flights.
3. This is the important one - always be sure the cell phone you've given to your child continues to work throughout the course of their trip. I accidentally had the phone plan cancelled half way through Perri's adventure, so she relied on her wits when she landed in Frankfurt to a dead phone. Thanks Dad.

However, I give her all the credit in world for negotiating the dangerous waters of airline customer service and living to tell the tale. I'll admit I may not have been able to achieve the same level of success under the same circumstances. In my version, the Frankfurt airport security officials wrestle me to the ground after I take a swing at the customer service staff. And, as a bonus, her bags arrived the next day at our front door. Pretty good considering she made no attempt to retrieve her bags at any stage of her trip.

OK. So now we're all here and adjusting well...

Perri has a way to maximize the effectiveness of the cats on a cool day. It can be difficult to know if a teenager has gotten over any jet lag issues as sleeping for extended stretches is time zone inspecific. I'm guessing Perri has recovered but there's no way to be sure.

I did drag her off to the market yesterday where she was required to get her own toaster-shaped bread. Apparently baguettes don't lend themselves to being toasted in a traditional toaster.
Don't be fooled. I'll have you believe we get all our food this way. And to be clear, a person could rely on the little farmer's markets for their groceries, if they didn't mind the hassle of speaking French every time they wanted something. However ... shortly after we wandered through the market here, we went to the giant grocery store a few blocks away (think Great Canadian Superstore with French subtitles).

Needless to say, we are settling in with a full compliment of family members. Now for the next challenge: guests. For those of you considering dropping by, I'll advise you to book early to avoid disappointment.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Language: it separates us from the chimps

I've been dodging the language question up until now. How is my French language adjustment coming along? Hmmmm... Short answer: ok. Long answer: Well, it's like I pass through each day in a little bubble where all intelligent meaning is filtered out. Little things like driving, or shopping for groceries take longer as I try to interpret labels, which is what any sane person would expect. However, the real fun starts at the till. For example, when my backpack set off the alarm at the big grocery store yesterday, with only twenty people in line behind me, I was pretty sure I was in for a difficult experience. When the 16 year-old cashier asked me what I thought was "could you take off all of your clothes?" and later turned out to be "could you take your backpack through the security sensor one more time?", I seriously considered dropping everything, running for the door, driving to the beach, and drowning in a vane attempt to swim to England. Then today, after I thought I had all of the obvious cashier questions sorted out, I get another "blah blah blah blah?" after handing over a crisp 20 euro bill. Is it a counterfeit? Do they not accept 20 euro bills on Tuesdays? Don't laugh, in France this could be a union protest thing. Needless to say, I'm baffled, as is the cashier after I lock up after being asked if I have 35 cents to make the change more simple. I don't expect to be invited into any political or philisophical discussions with my French neighbors any time soon.
Yesterday I took a walk along the beach when the weather conditions would be politely described as blustery.  Not surprisingly, the place was quite peaceful: not a screaming baby in sight. And, as the pictures attest: no one in sight.
This walkway is usually packed and even on bad days there are usually at least a few crazy, but determined vacationers intent on making the most of their beach holiday. After walking down the pathway for a while, I finally came upon one guy who understood how to take advantage of the serenity, such as it was.

I imagined his large extended family jammed into the smallest rv you've ever seen arguing over when grandpa was coming back so they could all go to the local McDonalds. Don't ask me why, but McDonalds here is extremely popular. Perhaps the local populace craves a minimum level of toxicity after being exposed to too much unprocessed food.

Tomorrow I get a royal visit of my own as the reigning princess of the household arrives. Perri unwittingly holds the key to the success of the whole venture in her delicate little hands. Who knew we would bet the farm, as it were, on the ability of a 14 year-old to adapt?

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Tours and detours - pics have been added

So we’re not even here two weeks and we have started on Ann’s dream list. First stop: the Tour de France. Since the tour started about a week ago, it seems every guy old enough to own a bike but not too old to ride one (and here that means really old) is out personally reliving their favorite moments from tours past. It turns out we’re only 3 ½ hours from the Tourmalet, one of the most renown legs in the tour’s history because of its nastiness. While we were packing up the bikes two days ago I was assuming we’d park somewhere and have a leisurely ride to a suitable viewpoint, complete with a traditional French picnic lunch. Only later, as we approached the Pyrenees, was I informed of Ann’s plan to park somewhere nice and take a somewhat less than leisurely ride to the tippy top of the mountain (a picnic lunch was still included but required someone to act as pack animal).

Arriving in town, I discovered the locals have reinvented the principles of parking cars in such a way as to place four cars into spaces where perhaps two cars would normally be. Fortunately, we got lucky and found a spot where these new theories did not need to be put into practice. There was a true carnival atmosphere with thousands of biking enthusiasts decked out in every way imaginable to support their favorite competitor, their country, or their favorite dinosaur (I didn’t get the last one either) For the first ten minutes I genuinely believed I would have a pleasant and invigorating experience capped off with an even more pleasant lunch. Even after I saw the first sign indicating a mere 16 km to the summit and a reference to a grade of 9-10% I still had hope. It wasn’t until I noticed most of the other people grinding up the steady incline wore fairly serious expressions and only the people sitting in lawn chairs along the road were actually having any fun. At the eight kilometers to go mark I asked Ann when we’d take a break. “No breaks” said Ann. “If I stop I won’t get started again”. Great. We then entered ‘epic hill  climb’ territory, and as we rose above the tree line I realized this is the sort of adventure that gets guys my age in the obits.
a pic goes here 
At the one kilometer to the summit mark, I did my best to convince Ann that we were essentially there and getting to the top would be nothing more than an academic exercise. Little did I know the Tourmalet is Ann’s Everest. 

About 200 meters from the summit the gendarmes stepped in front of us to convey in the strongest possible terms that the road is now closed to bicycle traffic.  I considered the effort a technical success.

Then, drenched in sweat, we sat down to enjoy our much-deserved lunch while waiting the two short hours for the race to arrive. Shortly thereafter the wind picked up and the clouds rolled in. We were in the south of France in July. How cold could it get? At 1500 meters: Very, as it turns out. To save you all some pathetic details, I’ll fast forward through the mild hypothermia, the actual race, and the 16 kilometer downhill ride at breakneck speed in the wrong lane (the right lane was full of cars, but not moving ones), to a local restaurant and a proper meal compete with friends and wine.  All’s well that ends well (?).

One more thing: there’s some weird stuff that goes on at the tour, most of which you see on tv, but not all. For example, one guy was dressed up as a giant penis complete with testicles. It was really quite good and I’d have a picture if I wasn’t going up a particularly nasty pitch at the time. Why would you dress up like that to watch a bunch of guys ride bikes up a hill? Curious.

The last picture, when I put it here, will be to illustrate how close we were to the racers and how happy a professional cyclist can be after 3 hours of riding when not quite at the top of the second nasty hill of the day.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

There's no place like hoe

Today the freight container arrived. No more camping out, although I have to say it makes killing the big, arachniphobia-style spiders much easier if you can see them coming from half a room away.  The truck and moving crew were booked for a 9 a.m. start which would allow Ann and I to enjoy a leisurely start to our day, and I’m not sure I know what that means, but for Ann it generally means sleeping until 8:59. Contrary to all natural laws governing human behavior in France, the truck and crew arrived more than an hour early, causing no problems for Ann, but left the cats and I bit rattled.  All it took, however, was for one familiar object, in this case a painting of a mountain landscape, and the house began to feel like home.

As the rest of the significant pile of cardboard and tape gets unwrapped, we are recognizing some gaps in our attentiveness during packing. For example, Ann just opened a box containing a pile of restaurant flyers for various establishments in our neighborhood in Calgary.  Perhaps this represents thoroughness on the part of the packers. Still, I’m not sure we had to bring our recycling.

To catch up on things, we ended up buying one new small car, which will only take a couple of weeks to be ready even though we were careful to order one of the models they have in stock.  I’ve learned it's best not to even ask in these situations, which allows me to work on my non-verbal French: the eye roll and the look of exasperation. We’ve also put a hold on a larger road-trip vehicle, which suffers one small problem: the former owner was a poster-child for Phillip-Morris. We have asked for a complete detailing and the first right of refusal if it stinks like a giant mobile ashtray. Personally, I don’t give the used car guys much hope. Plan B is to spend more money and buy a brand new one. So far the plan B’s have been winning out at a rate of about 10-1. Ann assures me we won’t run out of money any time soon, and, as a trailing spouse, it isn’t my place to ask questions.

There have been some comments recently concerning my choice to take my golf clubs as a checked bag (although we were only allowed two) rather than putting them in the freight container, and it’s time to put the whole discussion to rest.  Those of you who golf will sympathize with me when I explain the items in the freight container would disappear for at least six weeks. In Calgary, six weeks can represent up to half an entire golf season. I thought I would exceed normal golf exposure limits up to the date of departure, and then lay off the game for a while until we got settled in (it's just a hobby, I can quit anytime). So, when the offer to play came up yesterday, almost a full week since we arrived, who could refuse? To be honest, I expect I was set up by Ann so I don’t complain too much during the upcoming Bastille day road trip. Phew! Now that I’ve cleared that up we can move on.

Tomorrow: road trip #1.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Lord's Day Act - custom fitted

Today was without question our laziest day to date. Fortunately, the local bakery does not get caught up in silly rituals like observing the sabbath, or perhaps they have their own interpretation of such things. I better leave that one alone. Needless to say, it was a good, slow start comprising of yummy baked goods and misinterpreting the headlines of the local paper (apparently there is a bit of a drought in the area - thanks Ann).  I’m not sure what happened to the morning but just after noon we walked down to the nearest pier to catch a boat across the channel to Cape Ferret (not pronounced Ferret, judging by the look on the girl’s face in the ticket booth).

The little town on the cape is reminiscent of Amity Island (remember ‘Jaws’?): 2 months on, 10 months off. But sister, let me tell you, they really go to town on the tourists for those two months. Also, they have a great beach with big ol’ concrete bunkers from WWII. Typical of the French, they even make those look pretty good. I don't know who that guy is, but he gives some sense of scale if you believe he's normal sized.

In one of the parks nearby, the old guys play boules (also called petanque).  Just imagine playing bocci ball with your grandfather and a bunch of his friends and a whole bunch of cigarettes and you pretty much get the idea. I’ve noticed just about every large park seems to have designated boules zones, some with scoreboards. I look forward to being properly retired so I can be accepted by the local old guys into the game. As a domestique, I don’t think I qualify, yet. I also had a picture of the local lighthouse, but I’m not allowed any shots misrepresenting the size of Ann’s butt in a deleterious fashion (deleterious means bad). 

We also wandered down near the water where they keep the oyster farms, or whatever they do with oysters (ranches?). I took a picture of one of the traditional oyster harvesting boats and I’m guessing, although cut me some slack here because I am from Saskatchewan, that it is low tide. Those of you with more nautical backgrounds may wish to correct me if necessary. It may take me some time to get a grip on this low-tide, high-tide business.

We finished with a nice overpriced meal at a restaurant right on the beach and walked home. But not before Ann stopped at the beach hut advertising sailing and board sailing classes for kids. Perri doesn’t know we are adding some structure to her summer. 
Ann goes to work tomorrow so I’m on my own. Pray for me

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The bloom is off the rose...

Ok. So we've been here for a few days and my experiences are so far no different than any college student arriving in a new town a few weeks before classes start, except I can't understand a word anyone is saying, and I'm in a parallel universe where the writing on everything is in Klingon. So, we've got to get a few essentials to get by until we can get some furniture, and kitchen stuff, and some bedroom furniture, etc.. So all things considered, not so bad. Three more days until the shipping container arrives so we continue to camp out in an empty house.

I was asked yesterday how I was dealing with the jet lag and I responded by saying it doesn't affect me. However, I've noticed I tend to lose focus for  bit around suppertime every day (See picture)... And the bottle on the table has nothing to do with it, really.

We spent a few days looking at cars and, not surprisingly, the french have found a way to take the fun, what little there is, out of that. We decided we liked a couple of cars at the local Peugot dealership, took them for a test drive, and then settled into some good old-fashioned haggling. I asked the salesman if he could cut us a deal since we were likely to take two cars off his hands and, after scratching his ears, and tapping at his calculator, he said he might be able to pay for the registration fee for one of the cars (about a $50 cost). I countered with a "Really?! That's the best you can do?" and he responded that he might be able to sell us a trailer hitch bike rack at the employee discount, maybe. Clearly, I'm not in Kansas anymore. I got the distinct impression he wasn't really interested in getting rid of any cars. He then went on to say we had better act fast because these cars could both be gone by Monday. At least that part sounded familiar. My plan is to go back Monday and offer him a few thousand euro below list and walk away if he doesn't take it. I expect I'll be riding my bike a lot in the  next few weeks.

Yesterday morning, around 7 a.m., we were awakened (awoken?) to the soothing sounds of the street cleaning equipment going past our house at least twice. I was told they come by every week and Ann suggested the locals could take a lesson from the city of Calgary, who undertake the same task only once a year. They both can't be doing it right and I expect that neither of them are. As a point of interest, the street looked pretty much the same after the clean as before. At least in Calgary most of the gravel seems to disappear.

Today was a quieter day involving a leisurely drive into Bordeaux to check out the Ikea (which is just like the one in Calgary, only bigger) and meeting a friend of ours  for coffee (three glasses of wine really) who has taken up with a French pastry chef and was passing through town.

Ann has to go to work on Monday so the umbilical cord will be officially cut while I face the reality of housekeeping without an interpreter. I already have a honey-do list which will involve a trip to the bakery, grocery store, and post office, all of which are within walking distance. I'm starting to feel less embarrassed about getting the French wrong, so I think I can mange it

Tomorrow is Sunday and I expect we will party down like the locals, who are overwhelmingly Catholic, by mostly doing nothing.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

It's Official! I'm an expat!

I didn't think it was possible, but here we are. Two slightly drug-addled cats and one set of golf clubs, plus a few other bags with stuff like clothes, all arrived safely. The trip was relatively uneventful, save for the toddler in coach setting a new record for high-pitched screaming (almost an hour). Fortunately, the headphones provided in business class block out almost everything. Still, I found myself sympathizing with the unwashed masses in the cattle car, knowing full well the next flight would not be underwritten by Ann's company. At the airport in Bordeaux, we rented what we thought would be a car big enough for three large suitcases, a set of golf clubs, four carry-on items pushing the allowable limit, and two cat containers. Upon arrival, I would have bet the farm on having to abandon at least two pieces (the cats?) in the rental car parking lot. Ann's countless hours wasted at 3-d tetrys finally paid off (see picture).
In spite of the jet lag (or jet leg as my daughter prefers to call it) we were able to get to the new house and settle in with the limited provisions we had. Fortunately, our new landlady, a cross between Mother Theresa and Ghandi, has left us with a few essentials for supper including a couple of bottles of wine. Julie is truly an example for all landlords to follow. While we were enjoying our first dinner on the back patio, we were visited by a neighbor's cat, who is the alter-ego of one of the cats we brought with us. If I had known we could enjoy the affections of at least one cat for no extra cost, I might have left mine behind. The spooky part is this cat looks exactly like one of ours only five or six pounds lighter (everything in Europe is smaller).
The first full day has been busy, busy, busy, as apparently there are a bunch of things we need to buy to make this place functional. What happened to my holiday by the sea? Oh, well. I guess I knew there would be some effort required. Two car dealerships, one cat supply store, two house accoutrements stores, a superstore (for lack of a better name), and a MacDonalds for the free wi-fi later and we've got a  car full of stuff. I can't help but see the irony in the shopping trip for all the things I was desperately trying to get rid of in Calgary over the last few weeks.

 I finish this instalment with a picture of our first of many breakfasts of champions: a couple of pan au chocolate, croissants, and yogurt. Ann ordered me to the local bakery around the corner this morning where I found it completely empty. What an opportunity to try my newly minted Berlitz level 2 French certificate! As I walked up to the counter, confidant with my newly acquired French skills (and lack of an audience), 5 more impatient customers arrived and promptly filed into line behind me. Suddenly the pressure of international competition was revealed to me as I verbally expressed my French limitations to a hostile crowd. I did manage to leave the store with correct items and only a vague feeling of unease, vastly exceeding my expectations. How many more sleeps until I go home?
Tomorrow: more chores.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The last long night

I'm quickly discovering preparing for this adventure is a metaphor for life: I always thought I'd have more time. That being said, we're down to the last 12 hours and I'm pooped, frankly. The last 24 hours involved a five hour drive to a YMCA camp near Sundre, an early flight to Vancouver to get visas from the French consulate, a delayed flight coming home, followed by an additional 5 hour return drive. Now all I have to do is pack. I know what you're thinking: 'all the Hoo's down in Hooville will all cry "Boo Hoo". It's true. I have nothing to complain about, what with the sugar momma and the kept man situation in the south of France until some later date.
Still, the long drive(s) gave me some unwanted reflection time and one can't help but stew about things and people soon to be missed. Calgary has given both Ann and I a deep pool of good friends and neighbors who are also good friends, many of whom we hope will visit. Ten or fifteen years ago I imagine an expat assignment was much like a stint on Devil's Island (please rent 'Papillon' for those unclear on the reference). Now, email and Skype can eliminate those nasty feelings of isolation generated by a separation of eight time zones. Still, there's no replacement for live human contact, although some people, and you know who you are, might argue there are some internet sites that are close.
Enough of the lonely hearts club, it's time to look forward to the real adventure: taking two angry cats to the airport and getting them to another hemisphere alive. I expect I will take at least one Gravol for every one I give the cats. I'm pretty sure they will survive, but I can't help thinking about how I will explain a new kitten to my daughter when she arrives in two weeks, should it become necessary. Any advice on this matter will be greatly appreciated.
That pretty much covers things for the moment. As they say in France: Sayanora!

The next transmission will be from the dark side...