THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
On the road again
Legere et gourmande

Another wonderful run

I drove 799 km today in seven hours and nine minutes. A travelogue without jeopardy is tedious I know but my day was wonderful. I set off from home in London at 0430 am to get to Folkestone in time to board the Eurotunnel shuttle train at 0650. I was there in plenty of time. For some reason the lady in charge thought Speranza was "too wide" for the regular carriages (on which she has ridden dozens of times before) but who was I to argue as she put us up front with the horse boxes, caravans and RVs, which meant I was among the first to disembark. 

I had driven to Folkestone with the lid down. I got some odd looks but the weather was clear and the temperature a relatively balmy 16º C. I am one of those chaps (dreaded by ladies with fancy hairdos) who can't see the point of a convertible with the roof up. In Northern France, however, it was colder. At 13º C even this Northerner was nesh enough to raise the roof and turn on the heater.

I made good progress but, having eaten breakfast in London (!) found that I was craving lunch quite early. I have been on a very serious diet (I have lost 33.4 kg so far this year and hope to lose 40 kg by the end of this month). So motorway service areas in the UK are strictly off limits. There really is nothing in any of them that fits my regime and the smell of stale chip fat is too much to bear. France, of course, is a different matter. I stopped at an "aire" and had chicken with lentils. It had skin on, which is verboten, but I just left it. This, a side salad, and a pear made for hearty eating by my present standards. The only way I have broken my regime today is by not walking far enough and by not drinking the 4 litres of water my nutritionist prescribes. There are not enough "aires", even on the well-furnished French autoroutes for all the stops I would have had to make!

By lunchtime I was far enough south for the sun to be bright and the temperature high (28-30º C). So down came the lid again and I bowled along cheerfully, drinking in the air of my favourite region. My Panama hat (sitting on the seat, you can't wear something like that with the roof down at 130kph – or thereabouts, officer) got caught in an eddy of air and took off but I deftly caught it and stuffed it behind the passenger seat.

I arrived at my chateau/hotel outside Beaune in Burgundy at 3pm. I was smiling to myself at having driven past all my favourite Burgundy villages – the ones that make my preferred wines. I will permit myself no alcohol until I reach target #1 (now in sight, I hope – less than 7kg to go). Then I will be consuming moderately for the next year until I have met target #2 – my ideal weight, which I have not been since my twenties! Driving past Gevrey Chambertin at al. did not create any cravings, oddly. It just reminded me of many fine glasses consumed with dear friends and made me look forward to enjoying many more.

To compensate for my sedentary day, I swam in the hotel pool on arrival. I am trying to swim for fifty minutes, three times a week (though unlike the diet regime I find the exercise one difficult to keep to). At any rate I have done my bit for today. I don't know if my hotel in Nice has a pool but there's a fair amount of walking involved in a photo workshop, not to mention hauling several kilos of gear about in the heat. When I couldn't keep up with older colleagues on last year's trip to Tuscany, I began to realise something had to be done. I am looking forward to seeing how well I keep up this week. 

Before deciding to act on my weight/health issues, I peaked at 178.6 kg. I know! Even at 2 metres tall, that's appalling. It is enough to drive Jamie Oliver into an fascistic ecstasy of lobbying.  The simple truth is, it was always my fault. Passing manufacturers or chefs were not to blame. The late Mrs P. nagged solidly for thirty years but as long as my weight didn't prevent me doing what I wanted, I didn't care. When I reached the point where it did – and was probably life-threatening to boot – I acted. I joined Weight Watchers where various local ladies regale me with their psychological reasons for being plump (aka excuses) but it's simple science really. Put less energy into the tank than you expend, and off the weight comes. The biggest surprise this year is just how fuel-efficient the human body is. I had no idea I needed to eat so little!

To put it in contest, Oliver Norwood, who plays football for Fulham FC and Northern Ireland, weighs (I happen to know from the Fulham programmes) 68 kg. My target is to lose his entire body weight. I am half way (weigh?) there after five months of exercise and diet. My waist size is down eight or nine inches, as is the circumference of my calves!

Speaking of food, it's time to dress for my dinner at a local Michelin-starred hostelry. A waste of money, you say? Not really. A word in a great chef's ear via the maitre d' will result in a more pleasurable weight-loss meal than I can drum up at home. I am looking forward to it. It's a shame that I can't have some of the local beverages though. I am a Burgundy man through and through. And I hate to put a frown on the face of a good sommelier