This year was the year when I became convinced of the value of winter tyres. We had just set off for the airport when the snow set in. As we drove down the gorge towards Grenoble the snow got heavier and heavier. We got onto the motorway without difficulty but then the traffic slithered to a standstill. A combination of three inches of snow and an incline left anyone on summer tyres completely impotent. Cars in front of us sat with spinning wheels and sliding sideways. Drivers got out in their shirtsleeves and knelt in the snow fitting chains. Every time a gap opened up we edged forwards, driving if necessary off the carriageway into deeper snow. It took two hours to do what is normally a one hour journey.

Getting back up the mountain was even more interesting. The normal road was blocked so I took a smaller, steeper, higher route.
At the bottom of the hill the police were stopping everyone to check if they were equipped for the climb. The snow was getting deeper as I left behind the suburbs of Grenoble, and negotiating hair-pin bends on a steep slope evoked a few twitches from the rear of the car. After I left the village of Saint Nizier du Moucherotte I drove through forest where the overhanging trees were heavily weighed down with snow. It was a beautiful journey, only slightly impaired by the thought that I might get stuck. It took three hours.

This year also saw the first time I have been mistaken for a Frenchman. Until this year the greatest compliment paid to my French-speaking was when someone on a ski lift asked if I was Swiss.

I had called in to the supermarket looking for one specific item. I couldn't find it on the shelves and asked the shopkeeper. She couldn't find it either. The conversation then went something like this:

"Are you British?" "Yes."

"From what part?" "The West Midlands. Have you been?"

"I'm going there for my holidays this summer." "Oh, Where are you going?"

"I don't know. Where do you recommend?"

At this point she got out a brochure of Brittany.
I shrugged my shoulders in ignorance and crept out of the shop in embarrassment. In her defence, I was wearing my Breton beret at the time, but when I consider how often Debbie and I have been in that shop talking English to one another I remain somewhat surprised at her confusion.

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