Newsletter at 2 March 2002

Dear friends,

As you see by the pictures on the Welcome page of the Web site, spring is well and truly under way here. In fact, there is so much mimosa around that the pollen from it is giving allergy sufferers (including me!) a hard time at the moment. Since the last newsletter and the beginning of January, we had a relatively cold January with frequent morning frosts, which did nothing to help the plants in the garden. We had to keep a number of sensitive ones covered and have only recently uncovered them. February was milder but not enough to get things growing - the mimosas were a month late in most parts. However, now it feels more springlike and trips to the nursery are becoming more frequent. We have had a certain amount of rain, but there is still a large deficiency, with reservoir levels at the lowest for many years.

These two months have been fairly quiet, with the main item a trip by Beryl to Florida in early February to see her sister and do some shopping. She had a great time, fed well and enjoyed a number of the restaurants in the area, and shopped every day! She even had to buy a new case to bring all the stuff back! The trip was uneventful if uncomfortable, and on the return, Lufthansa were late into Frankfurt causing Beryl to miss her connection to Nice and have to wait five hours for the next flight. We won't be using them next time!

I think I mentioned before that we have had Caroline's cat, Elio, since they were here at Christmas. He has been very good, with just one annoying habit - he wants out and then 20 seconds later, he wants in again. He can keep this up for hours. I don't know if it is cat-flap training or just his nature. He only really goes out when it gets dark, and then he normally comes in again about 10 pm when we put him down in the basement for the night. Sometimes he doesn't come back so we have to go to bed and then be wakened during the night by scrabbling on our bedroom window. We get up and let him in the french door and he then dosses down on our bed (after feeding himself). This has its down side so we try to discourage it, but he is smart enough to see the up side (for him). In his honour, I have included a picture of him which you can see by clicking on the link on the welcome page.

Our neighbours have conned us into joining in an effort to put on a float for the Corso (parade) which will take place on April 7th. We have had a couple of meetings to discuss the details, and the basic set up agreed is a giant Euro symbol which will be covered with flowers, mounted on a trailer towed by a tractor, with the flags of the EU nations around the sides of the trailer. We hope to have young children on the float around the Euro, dressed up in smocks based on the EU flag. The meetings made me think of the saying "a camel is a horse designed by a committee", but hopefully it will be all right on the day.

I have bought a CD writer for my computer, mainly for keeping digital photographs and software on, but I may try making my own CDs now I have my music-making setup working. I have also been helping people get on to the Internet, and the various things that that entails, such as anti-virus programs and their updates. I had a bad experience with Dell, after recommending a friend that he buy a new Dell computer, and they then screwed up the order badly and it took us two months before it was complete and working as intended. No signs of high-speed Internet access round here yet, although it is not far away now. The Plan de la Tour Computer Club has not been giving its usual courses this year, as a result of a dispute with the commune over the subsidy they pay to keep the computers working, so I have not had that responsibility once a week. It looks as though we will restart in September with the start of the new school year.

We have a few bookings for visits this year, in April and June, so if you plan on coming to France and would like to stay with us, get your booking in right away!

All good wishes - Alan and Beryl