Sunday, 10 November 2013

Chalet Le Cabri: a new Morzine retreat

Chalet Le Cabri and Tane Le Chien. With snow.
I'm lucky. One of my best mates runs a chalet business in the French Alps. I know, it's tough, but someone has to go and see her.

Angela and Damian always look after us when we go over there and now their company, Morzine Retreats, is launching a brand new chalet.

Chalet Le Cabri has spectacular views across the valley.

The view. Not bad, eh?

This humble abode awaits.
It's 600 metres from the centre of Morzine - a bustling town packed with bars, restaurants and shops - which is part of the Portes du Soleil region in the Haute Savoie.

The ski bus stops right outside. If everyone wants vin chaud at lunchtime, pas de problem. But for those that drive, the chalet has ample parking.

There are five luxe bedrooms, all en suite. The massive open plan living and dining space has an open plan kitchen. All very sociable.

The style is the best of traditional alpine with a modern twist. Gone are the cottage cheese textured plaster walls. In comes a palette of slate grey and natural wood, with modern fittings, luxury soft furnishings and contemporary appliances.

Handsome beast, isn't it?
As you'd expect, Le Cabri will have all mod cons: wifi, iMac, satellite TV, outdoor jacuzzi. You get the picture.

I'm particularly looking forward to the rotating feature log burner. With underfloor heating, the place will be toasty warm. I'll add more pictures of the interior once they're available.

But why this post? Because they've always looked after us, year in, year out. So we want to give a bit back and help promote the new Chalet.

We want everyone we know who's thinking about a ski holiday to consider Chalet Le Cabri. I want Angela and Damian to have a rip roaring first season. 

Eight weeks are already booked out. It's started snowing already. The season is going to be amazing. Think about spending a week in Chalet Le Cabri.

Le parking. Le view.
Full details are on the Morzine Retreats website.

Say hello, ask questions and follow news updates via their Facebook page.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

BUPA 10,000 May 27

Before the race last year

Cast your mind back to this time last year. We were getting excited about the Olympics and I was training for the BUPA 10,000 to fundraise for the Alzhemier's Society.

Running round central London on part of the marathon route was pretty amazing, made all the more fun by the company of Wonder Woman and Captain America en route. Despite high temperatures (25 degrees by 10am) I got round in just over 1 hour 6 minutes. Determined to get closer to my personal best of 62 minutes, I registered for 2013 straight after the race.

This year, I am running for the Friends of Della and Don. It's a tiny charity, and a very personal one. Della is a director working for Nature Publishing Group, who are members of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, my employer since July 2012.

Della and Don were caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami while on holiday in Sri Lanka in 2004. They were rescued by a fisherman from the local village. Since then, they've established a small charity to help the village rebuild and look after themselves. It's their way of saying thank you for the care they were shown. If you've seen the movie The Impossible, you'll have a sense of the devastation and catastrophe that hit all the coastal communities affected by the tsunami. There's some pretty powerful pictures on the Friends of Della and Don's website as well.

This is how your money can help
The thread of human kindness runs through their story. It's something the past Chair, Toby Green, believed ALPSP should support. We raised over £800 for them at our annual conference last September, which provided a boat for fishing village.

It's not often you get a sense of how support for charities can directly help in such a specific and targeted way. It's something that runs through ALPSP's veins: the idea of a supporting network and community of people helping each other out.

That's a good enough reason for me to proudly run for FODAD. I've set my sights on raising enough money for half a boat for the village. Can you help? Whatever you can manage, we'll be hugely grateful. Donate here.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Fold by Tom Campbell

Very little happens in Fold.

Apart from a few games of poker amongst a group of male friends.

But Fold - so tightly written it squeaks - is a compelling observation of modern manners and rivalries amongst men.

Nick is an odious narcissist with only one interest: himself. All the more surprising considering his lack of success in life. Frustrated by his futile existence, he decides to dedicate his time to bringing down fellow poker player Doug to his level.

Vijay is an accountant, whose comfortable life is augmented with the number-driven excitement of poker. Alan is a computer programmer with a fatal lack of confidence. But don't write him off: anyone can transform their life. Simon is philosopher and academic with a penchant for fine wine. His lack of academic success is mitigated by prowess at the card table.

And then there is Doug. The arrogant, pompous - and wildly successful - Doug. Bane of Nick's life and he-who-regularly-cleans-everyone-out-at-cards.

The story deftly switches from one first-person narrative to another, like a 'word-cam' strapped to each man's head. Using flashbacks and internal monologues, Campbell builds each character, teasing out their foibles, neuroses, hopes and dreams, game by game.

The lack of action is what makes this book a triumph. Because life is like that, isn't it? Often, nothing much happens at all. But we hope, we dream, we scheme, and we play.

Fold, check, call or raise.

Here's the trailer for the book by publisher Bloomsbury.

Footnote: I can't help wondering how much of this reflects the life and times of Tom Campbell. It's tempting to project elements of each character on to the author. Doubly so when you've met him. Tom recently provided consultancy work for my employer, Skillset. He'll have to tell me next time he's in the office.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

How Not to do Accommodation at the Frankfurt Book Fair

ABA Hotel Frankfurt. Where to start?

Well, first of all, with my prudence. Trying to book a hotel two weeks before the Frankfurt Book Fair in a central location for two nights for under 200 euros per night is difficult. I was chuffed to bits to see that ABA had availability. 

That was the first clue.
Location is all, isn’t it? Five minutes walk to the main station. Fifteen minutes to the Messe exhibition halls. It doesn’t get more central than that. 

That was the second clue.
The road - Tannusstrassr - is a long main road heading away from the station. There were plenty of bright lights, all red and pink, twinkling in the distance as we walked down the street. A street populated with men. Large groups of - mainly drunken - men. 

That was the third clue.
The baffled look on the face of the man at reception should have sealed the deal. You could almost hear him thinking “oh dear, another one of those publishers who booked online.” The room itself was spacious and not that bad at first glance. Until you start to settle in. Highlights included:

  • Holes in all the bed linen
  • Grease stain on the mattress
  • Carpet peeling up at the corner
  • Curtain rail hanging off the wall on one side
  • Screaming children - day and night
  • Noise from reception travelling up the stone stairwell 
  • No hot water. For two days. I sneaked in a shower just before I checked out
  • Giant pneumatic drills on building site next door from 8 am 
The room downstairs sounded like they were having fun, with friends round to watch a war film on TV. At least theirs worked. Mine switched on. And off again. That’s about it.

I would have popped out to get a drink, but I didn't dare leave the room. I decided to have some water. Only to discover there was no glass or any other kind of receptacle to drink from.

But you know what? It was so bad, it was funny. Think Bangkok hostel scene from The Beach and you’re almost there. But without Robert Carlisle. Which was a bit of a shame really. He would have added to the ambience.