December 29, 2010


Bonjour mes Amis.

Already I am planning NOT to take another coach holiday, and definitely NOT to take a Ferry crossing.

I only had a short walk with my luggage to meet the bus in Bradford at 01:45 outside the Hilton. A 30-seater mini coach collected about a dozen of us, the last pickup being Barnsley and we all haD room to spread out. But then we stopped at Doncaster and were asked to transfer to a larger coach that was already full of folk from Newcastle. Result - no room to spread out, and only having an aisle seat I knew there was no chance I could get any sleep as I didn't have a window to rest my head against.

We set off and were scheduled to take a 45minute break at Grantham Services, but this was changed because the driver's tacho hours were awry so instead we stopped at Blyth Services. There was b*gg*r all open at Blyth at 3am, so I just bought a packet of crisps, and our halt was limited to 30minutes. We headed south seemingly not using any motorway until we hit the M25, Dartford Crossing, with a quick 'comfort stop' at the A20 Services for a driver change. Pity, coz our driver was the double of 'Brendon' from the TV programme 'Coach Trip'.

So to Dover, where we sat for 6hours. First of all we had to wait for more than a dozen coaches from all over Britain to gather so that all the luggage and people could be swapped around. I was on Coach 1 which had started at Newcastle and would end up at Lake Garda, and now I had to transfer to Coach 35 which had started at Blackpool and would end up at Annecy. A couple of the coaches were late arriving which meant that the whole 'interchange' could not take place until they did. Maybe get some breakfast; no, no, not a Dover, there was just a WH Smith and a Burger King. I joined an enormously long queue for BK and after more than ten minutes waiting for the single spotty 16year old Burger King to serve people I realised that BK don't actually do anything for vegetarians, so I saved myself 30minutes and joined the queue at WH Smith to buy yet another packet of crisps.

Look, there are 3 million people out of work in Britain, why aren't more students dragged off their Playstations and forced to serve fast food or take the cash for copies of the Daily Mail etc? This is a business model that is WRONG; there should be maximum staff when there is maximum demand.

Anyway, even when we had 'interchanged' we still couldn't go anyway because our boat was now the victim of something that had happened several hours earlier. "Yesterday 287 coaches, 6,000 lorries and 36,000 people embarked at Dover" said the sign. Well at looked as though there would be as many people right now on just our boat.

Eventually we are loaded, more than 2hours late. Having been warned that there would be a severe queue for any hot food on the boat, I hotfooted it from the Coach Deck to what turned out to be the Langham Restuarant. There was no queue and I saw something I liked, so fearing there wouldn't be another chance for hot food I sat down and took nine quids worth of Cheese and tomato Ravioli. Actually I'd finished my meal very soon after we had sailed through the gates of Dover. I was given a double table to myself, and I offered then the chance to use the spare place but they told me that "it wasn't allowed". So whilst people queued outside the door several singletons occupied double tables, and even some pairs occupied foursomes. Crazy.

As we hit France the winter night began, and I realised that I had spent the daylight hours either waiting at Dover or sailing to Calais. Phillip drove us to a Campanile Hotel just east of Rheims, pausing en route for us to discover how continental service stations outclass those of Britain. The Campanile Hotel is quite comfortable, and even at 21:30hours managed to give us an optional hot meal; Salmon with wild rice and two puddings; 14 Euros but well needed after 24hours on Crisps!.

There are some right Old F*rts on this bus, and I shall need to quickly discover the more entertaining folk or it's going to be a dull holiday. The 2 men behind me on the bus talked incessantly about previous trips; one guy seems to do about 4 Battlefield tours every year, WHY? Another guy seemed to have a weird interest in mass murders and the macabre, and I suspect he might be the next "Crossbow Cannibal". There are several women who are incapable of even getting up the steps onto the coach, and one has already lost her "medications". Already I wish a week with Juris without any hot food, ha ha.

This Blog continues after the Photo


I suppose today, Thursday 23rd is the FIRST day of our holiday, though it feels much longer.

Slept well at the Campanile and enjoyed a good breakfast. A 9 O'clock departure was not unreasonable, especially given the kilometrage to Annecy, but it still proved impossible for some of the old crones, and Paul the driver was distinctly irritated (worse was to follow). One old lady who seems to have misheard everything said to her so far and then engaged in conversations about matters that were nothing to do with the launching remark simply because she got a word wrong. Anyway, conveniently she had not heard the driver's explicit instructions about bringing your own suitcase to the bus in the morning for 08:45hours. Of course, somebody went and fetched it for her - I've met this type many times before.

So we set off late in awful gloom with deeply grey skies depositing deluges of water upon us as we departed Autoroute de l'est and picked up Autoroute de l'Anglaise heading south to skirt Troyes. We paused at a small 'Aire' (Motorway Service Station or MSA) where a lovely young man with perfect French gave me a delicous Chocolat Chaud, merci. I managed to photograph a Goddess here, by which I mean the car not the young man.

Then to Beaune for lunch and sight seeing. Very much a forgotten little town, it has a very old Hospice with ornately tiled roof, but was closed for lunch. Many of the party headed into bars and restaurants whilst I mananged to take a few shots in the pretty streets instead. 90minutes is scarcely enough to have lunch in France, let alone sight see, as discovered three of our ladies who did not appear 40 minutes after the scheduled departure time. I volunteered to go and find them, as did a couple of colleagues, and they were eventually retrieved after they had phoned Travelsphere in the UK who phoned the courier to tell her which restaurant they were in. We left Beaune one hour late.

The rain stopped for our foray into lovely Beaune and the sun almost shone; ah things are looking up. Now we're heading hard for Les Alpes in a blueing dusk that is DRY!

As a postscript, we arrived at Annecy in reasonable time and enjoyed a lovely meal of 3 cheese tart, Salmon in Filo pastry, and Tarte au Myrtille - suited me fine. Then I went a walk into the old town and snapped a couple of Christmassy shots - Enjoy!

This Blog continues after the Photos


Christmas Eve was a quick trip down to le Vieux Ville de Annecy in the coach, which took longer than walking but I suppose the old crones needed the ride. There we met a local guide - when she bothered to turn up - and walked in the falling snow around the Old Town and into the Château d'Annecy.

Sometimes called the Castle, the Chateau dates back to the 12th century, although most of what you see dates only to the 1950s restoration. The Chateau suffered years of desecration and finally a fire in the 1940s when refugees from the Second World War who were living in it let their cooking fires out of control in the Grand Salon. Disappointing, but it looks nice.

Then back down to the town with its pretty narrow streets and ancient arcades. Finally to the Palais de l'Isle which is the Flat Iron shaped building you will see on EVERY picture of Annecy. It was built as a Prison and a Courthouse, and served the Nazis well in World War Two, and served the Nazis somewhat less well once Annecy was liberated and the Resistance were able to settle a few scores. The pointed building its actually the Prison Chapel.

Then free time, and I latched onto Meredith (of more later) and we headed straight into a tiny restaurant in an arcade for un repas A Savoyyard. Meredith recommended Tartiflett, a true dish of the Savoy region, and this was duly ordered including a vegetarian version (sans Lardons). Basically sliced potatoes baked in a cheese sauce, and of course in this part of the Savoy it was Reblochon cheese. Very tasty, but it was only later I realised that I had paid fifteen pounds for it; don't tell Juris he'll never forgive me spending that on a small lunch. But the company was good and I will describe Mildred and Samuel later.

After lunch, brief time to buy gifts for 'Secret Santa', and then back to the coach. We then made a rather pointless circuit of Lac d'Annecy, about 40 Km, but the falling snow ensured no views across the water, and the driver didn't pause anywhere to give us photo opportunities. Back to the hotel for a rather long afternoon in the hotel.

Biddi has asked me about the hotel, and I will say I don't have any complaints, but there aren't any cute waiters. "Best Western", as we have discovered on previous trips, operate hotels after they have become some other chain's WORST western hotels; they are a little out of date and a little tired looking, but the room is warm and my toilet at least works.

Christmas Eve dinner was the main meal, and I found it rather disappointing, certainly so after several gorgeous and engorging Italian Christmas dinners, Pate Foie Gras (Salmon Pate for me), Venison (local fish for me), local cheeses then Christmas Log and Coffee. There was no razamatazz or performance at all. This hotel probably deals mainly with business men from companies that pay small expense accounts.

After a pause I walked a few colleagues back through the snow to the old town for midnight Mass. Roberta is a Firemen, but is otherwise fairly feminine if you don't look too closely. We reached the Cathedrale in good time and so I lit a candle to my father at the shrine to St Francois de Sale. Earlier in the day I had lit a similar candle in St Mary's which I illustrated in the Xmas light sequence. The midnight service was fairly jolly in a half filled church, and I enjoyed the small choir even though they were mostly teenage girls. However when they sang 'Silent Night' (in French), I knew Christmas had come. Magical. I left the service soon after and walked slowly through several streets of the old town to soak up CHRISTMAS in capital letters. Ahh, I so love Christmas. It was a further hour before the religious ones were released from the service and I was in bed by then.

However, before I went to my seventh floor room, I joined the bar folk in time to see Samuel make an exit. Samuel is the traveller who I told about his interest in the macabre; but he also has a great knowledge - not necessarily accurate - about a great number of quasi scientific or technological subjects. In other words he is a bore. When he had joined us for lunch there was some disquiet about his presence, and whilst I was at church he had attempted to hold court with many of the travellers. They had tried to sideline him or shut him up, but even being directly rude to him didn't knock him off track. However he had now left for bed, and reappeared at breakfast rather less chatty.

Mildred is a large Welsh lady who had amused one of the Christmas Market stallholders by responding to his French Christmas greeting with the same in Welsh. The stall-holder then asked her to recite the name of the longest Welsh town name, and she barked out "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch" without any hesitation - and I never thought I would find myself writing that in a email (thanks Google). I spent Christmas Day with Mildred because she was quite amusing, and she wanted to tell me about having half her face removed due to skin cancer, and how she sometimes dribbles because she doesn't have the right muscles anymore. She has a large fur coat which leaves me convinced that either there is a naked Womble somewhere in Wimbledon, or else a dead skinned one!

Meredith is a farmer aged about 70 who has told several people in my hearing about his 'messy divorce' five years ago which cost him one point five million pounds. Apparently he had a farm in France for about 15 years milking 2000 cows, 3000 sheep and 4000 goats every day - probably by Meredith himself I have no doubt. Anyway the wife did a line with the accountant and siphoned off the funds and had to be divorced. There is another side to this story, but I don't think we'll ever hear it. A clue is given by a relationship with a woman he 'helped' on returning to the UK and then proposed to; she suddenly disappeared and when he tracked her down she had fled the country and married someone else. Meredith had returned to UK with 50 quid in his pocket, he's now salted away 250,000 and crows about the fact that he is the first Englishman to have ever got his French cheese accepted by the French!

Christmas Day was cancelled, or at least the planned excursion to La Clusaz was because the French Police were not going to allow coaches up there in the snowy conditions. We headed instead to Evian (where they make the bottled water), pausing at delightful Yvoire en route. When we got to Evian you couldn't stand up because of ice (not snow) everywhere. So we parked on the shore of Lac Leman whilst Catherine ran a relay into the only cafe found to be open and brought back dozens of Croque Monsieur for 5 Euros each.

Evian done, we drove back to Annecy stopping for 15 minutes in Thones ! Pointless. But nothing was open, however the Col d'Aravis was quite spectacular, and the ice covered trees on the flanks of the steep rocky chasms a fairy vista. All too quickly the coach was returning to Annecy. I walked back to the Old Town determined not to waste daylight hours sitting in a hotel room.

Boxing Day dinner was an attempt at a 'traditional English Turkey dinner', which my vegetarianism spared me. The chef did produce three "Christmas Cakes" thickly coated in PINK (!!!) icing. Inside was a pale 'sponge' with many brightly coloured candied fruits; quite strange but tasty.

This Blog continues after the photos


Happy Christmas

It snowed in Annecy today, nasty wet stuff, but it is still snow on Christmas Eve.

We took a walking tour of the Vieux Annecy, very interesting in daylight, of course I had already seen it in darkness last night.

I captured this little Santa and thought it might amuse you. The other rather chilly shot includes the famous old Annecy Jail (just beyond the bridge) which has is shaped like a ship, and the prow (towards the camera) is actually the prison chapel. No comment is made on the final shot which is a POrk Butcher's way of celebrating Christmas.

Overheard at breakfast: "I had an upset stomach all night long and my toilet didn't work - it's a right mess." I heard this 4 times in ten minutes. Then next I overheard people talking about their pills and potion: "I have to take 8 tablets a day." "Oh that's nothing, I have to take 14." I gave up listening when someone claimed 26 was their dosage, and I suggested everyone should put their tablets on the table and swap them.

Tomorrow is cancelled. The Police won't allow coaches up to the 2 ski resorts we planned to visit because of the snow, so they've got to find a substitute.

Tonight, Christmas Eve is the main Feast, which is a secret, although someone has leaked that a Deer has been killed and is hanging in readiness.

Happy Christmas


(High, Higher, Highest)

Today we woke to find clouds evaporating and blue sky revealing. We drove to Chamonix, and the plan was to park in Chamonix at the Gare de Montenvers and catch the Funicular (train) Mer De Glace to Montenvers.

I say "that was the plan" because I had decided in October that I was going to go way higher than the meagre 1900metres that my party were going. I almost ran off the bus as it halted in cruelly crisp Chamonix where even the finest twig or line was white coated and clearly frozen.

My memory almost took me directly to la Station Telepherique l'Aiguille du Midi, which I had been to at least 8 times in my life. 42.50 Euros saw me ticketed Aller-Retour (return ticket) to the very top of the small pinnacle that faces the Giant White Mountain (Mont Blanc). As we rose towards our heavenly destination I knew nothing was going to get in the way of the finest views anywhere in Europe. I resisted the temptation to unbuckle my camera; you can't get good views through the dirty scratched perspex of the Telecabine and I knew my camera would be unobstructed at the top.

Change Telecabines at Plan du Midi, and then arrive at l'Aiguille du Midi ('The needle in the Middle') at about 3800metres. But I'm not done yet, and now there is the Piton which is climbed using l'ascenseur (lift) to attain 3842metres (or 12600feet). There's not much higher than us around this spot, although Mont Blanc does top us by almost a full thousand metres. You cannot get higher than this in Europe when using publicly accessible transport systems.

The camera clicked and my eyes nearly popped out of my head because I didn't know what to look at, or to photograph, next. Of course I've been here many times before, and I just add to the hundreds of previous images, but I CANNOT get enough of this place. I was able to see Le Cervin (Matterhorn) which is 60Km distant, so clear was the view.

However, the air temperature was below -10degrees and the air was so thin that I was getting light headed. So after an hour I decided to retrace my cable car links down to the valley. Overwhelmed by all this, I was reminded of the French word "Incroyable" to describe such beauty, made even more perfect by all the snow and the frosty air. I became emotional, and as I descended and thought how could such beauty exist, I came to remember a photograph my mother took of my father by the very same height sign (12,602ft), and suddenly both my parents were with me at the highest place in Europe.

I took a Pizza in the valley and rejoined the train goers for our return to Annecy, where again I explored this lovely town before our Boxing day meal.

As to our fellow passengers, I haven't told you about Shirley, a girl unlikely to have close male friends and certainly not me. On seeing my first photos she declared that I should do this and that and then that to a certain image, and I looked into her pale grey eyes beneath her freakish maroon hair and thought to myself: "what the feck do you know?" Then she declared she was head of photography at some school or other, but she didn't actually do photography. Exactly!

You'll remember Samuel the Macabre; well he turned up at Christmas Eve dinner wearing a daft Santa hat with flashing lights. On Christmas Day his need to get attention saw him drape multicoloured Christmas lights that flashed on and off over his jacket beneath his flashing hat, Oh Dear!.

Meredith the farmer confessed tonight that he had "helped out" a long held man friend. This friend has been castrated due to testicular cancer and called Meredith to "service his wife" due to his inability. Meredith obliged for 4months until the man's wife turned up one day with her clothes and Meredith decided to end the arrangement.

That's about it really. we've ended on a high - an even bigger high for me. Tomorrow we return with a stop over on the outskirts of Paris. Not sure whether i will be able to do any pictures or report from Paris. Then we make our way back via Calais, Dover and reach Bradford 01:15 on Wednesday.

This Blog continues after the photos.


I just found an excuse to send you a few more photos of lovely Chamonix.

As you know I went on my excursion separate from the rest of my group, but I was not alone. I talked to people from China, Brazil, Dublin and many other countries. A girl from China took my photo against the sign and I took photos for many others. In the cable car I insisted that people moved in front of me so that they could get a better view for themselves. Goodwill to all Men - especially the lovely man with pale blue eyes from Dublin !!!

Last night we had Secret Santa, where we anonymously donated small gifts onto a table and then randomly collected one in return. I put in a metal 'Annecy' key ring and a small jar of Conserve de Myrtilles, and found a delightful little glass Angel.


On Tuesday we transferred to a Campanile Hotel (like Travel Lodge but a bit better) near Paris after leaving Annecy at 09:00 reaching there 17:30. Only a couple of stops at Motorway service stations - no visits to attractions etc. My room was cold and I did mention it to the staff; "be patient the heat will come." But it didn't.

We were served a meal which was basically chicken cooked in a sauce with chips preceded by an extensive buffet salad, and followed by 3 small sweets. Very Good. They automatically gave me Salmon instead of chicken which was nice, but curiously served me green beans instead of chips - amusing but lovely.

At 22:30 I adjourned to my room, and in spite of having left the thermostat on 32degrees for 5hours the only air emitting from the heater unit was cold air. I returned to reception to tell my story, and I thought my luck was in when the lovely Sebastien escorted me to room 403. But he went into a sulk when he saw that I had removed the grille from my heater (it wasn't really attached anyway) and I proved to him that that was no warm water anywhere in the radiator system and therefore no heat could come out. Sebastien suggested I use both the duvets, and he admitted he was powerless to change the situation. I retired to a cold sleep, interrupted after 15minutes by loud knocking on my door; no, not Sebastien to try and warm me up, but his female boss bringing and electric fan heater. I found at breakfast that heating for the entire hotel had failed before we had arrived, and it was dishonest of the Campanile Hotel to pretend that anyone would have a heated room.

Our Campanile Hotel was at Argenteuil on the banks of the Seine, and it was from here that we set off for our final transit across France. Starting with a whistle-stop tour of Paris, we paused to consider the Eiffel Tour, turn around l'Arc de Triomphe enough times to make us dizzy, saw where Napolean was buried, and where Moaning Lisa lives, and the Opera House. Stops were limited to seconds, and it wasn't light yet. Enough to whet my appetite and want me to return. About an hour from Calais we took lunch at a Service Station, where I enjoyed a Toastie avec trois fromages which was nice but expensive at 7euros (including bottle of pop).

We arrived to Calais in such good time that we dived into a Pidou Supermarket which sells cheap wine and beer. What a ghastly place, solely designed to sell cheap plonk to British Plonkers, yuk! Then we queued for the boat, and were admitted the FIRST of all our 20 or so coaches. People from Germany, Switzerland and Lake Garda have much longer transits than us. People from the Harz mountains have had to be rescued as the snow got to the top of the coach wheels on Christmas Day and they have been stranded until another coach could be sent from UK to rescue them. As soon as the coach wheels stopped on deck (right on the prow of the boat) we dashed upstairs to get food before the other 5000 travellers. Fish, Chips and baked beans for £7.99, which was fresh cooked and very tasty. Within ten minutes the shelves had been stripped of sandwiches, drinks and other packeted food - and we hadn't even untied from the dock.

The "interchange" then had to be re-done, so that everyone would swap over to the coaches that would return them north, and south and east and west. We had been recommended to split into pairs, with one person heading straight for their coach and bagging the seats, whilst their partner would bring the large luggage. I found one lady on my tour who was returning to Newcastle on my coach and she suggested we pair up together with me being Sherpa Tensing and she being the runner to bag the seats - it worked !

There was little delay, and even the announcement that the M2 was closed by an accident didn't slow us (we took the A2 instead). At services on the A2 we swapped drivers and the new guy wore a smart but ill-fitting uniform that he'd probably worn for 50years. It was well past his bedtime and this pensioner really didn't have any ideas about the bus he was driving. Our bus was scorching and various people approached him to get the heating reduced. In the end he headed into another service station and then phoned for advice. The heating had been set to '99' when it should have been set to '10'. Wheels rolled and we headed north again with the insistent and ignored ring tone of a mobile phone. After a brief pause the ring tone sounded again and some old bag from Barnsley behind me said to her husband "Some silly bugger's alarm clock is going off, why don't they turn that alarm off" I corrected her: "Excuse me, that's the driver's mobile phone and he can't answer it because he's driving." That shut her up, and the phone was shut up by the driver passing the phone to a front seat passenger so that a shouted 3-way conversation could take place. The Feeder Coach driver was trying to arrange the meeting time at Doncaster.

Eventually we hit the Morrisons car park in Doncaster, almost ten minutes early, where a huge number of cases were decanted onto the pavement. I grabbed mine and headed over to a small coach, the old fuddy duddy driver gave us no instructions. I checked with the new coach about 'Bradford' and he confirmed this. There were 2 Bradford-bound passengers on this 17seater coach, which was a little strange because there had been 7 on the outward. After starting towards Barnsley the driver's phone rang and he certainly wasn't shy about answering it. The Bradford passengers were wrong, and it seems there were 5 Bradford folk now heading to Ferrybridge on another bus. Our driver tried to head us up to that one, but gave in and took us to Bradford himself, after Barnsley and Woolley Edge. He wasn't a happy bunny and tried to suggest that we two were wrongly on his bus; no sir, I had not been given instructions and I had checked with him before boarding!

Our fellow passengers included a 78year old woman and her 50something son - nobody will every marry him, and he's too boring to be gay. I don't know his name, and I don't think anybody else will. There are 4 large ladies from Rotherham who are quite course and entertaining.

Daniel has joined us for meals and seems to have had a nasty accident when very young. He talked of having gone to a school for the disabled, and walks awkwardly. But he's doing everything, doesn't moan or cause trouble, and is obviously living an independent life, working as a Civil Servant in London. All credit to him really for getting on this trip.

There is a 60year old man whose main claim to fame is that he is a scout leader, but he's bored the pants off one of our number with his scouting tales. An 80year old woman from Austria has managed to mishear everything said to her, and I am suspicious of her war record. 33 people were on this bus, and those I haven't described I simply haven't noticed.

Our Courier was Catherine a 40year old woman from Calais. She's very French with a strong accent, and a little scatty, but quite nice enough. I liked her idea for Secret Santa, and also she got the singing of a few Carols, though not around the town centre Christmas Tree - which is my preference. She also gave us a numbered card with her phone details on, the numbers were then drawn in a lottery and 4 people won prizes, Quite switched on.

Phillip was the driver from t'North. Very northern and easily gets 'a Cob on' if things don't go the way he wants. But the way he cut away through Paris was truly impressive, and he was almost the fastest vehicle on the Peripherique.

France has disappointed me, although my experience is partly due to the poor weather and perhaps the boring hotel we had in Annecy. Italy is the place to go for Christmas, although Austria and Switzerland might run close.

Probably you want to know how this all ends. Well Samuel the Macabre ended up sitting on his own at the evening meal, which was rather a shame. In spite of his many personal faults he at least was genuine, and the only harm he did to anyone else was to bore them.

Meredith the Farmer had insisted that he would make the driver/courier collection and do the presentation and yet on the final evening I saw him make his own personal gift to them both. Apparently his attitude had grated on a lot of passengers at the rear of the coach and a verbal altercation had taken place. So he took his bat and ball home, and didn't even tell anyone else. I stepped into the breach, but managed to get a rather large jolly lady from Rotherham to do the actual presentation. Meredith's parting shot was that he was PAID to do a report on the tour, and that he'd travelled on Concorde 4 times, and he'd joined the 'mile high club' ..... I don't believe you Meredith!

Mildred had become increasing inseparable from Meredith, and it was a rather strange pairing. Certainly Meredith would not have any sexual interest in Mildred, but perhaps they both had common interest in telling tall tales. In the Pidou supermarket one of our less switched on old biddies asked Mildred if she knew where the Sambuca was, whereupon Mildred spotted a solitary bottle just there on the shelf and immediately bagged it for herself and then bragged to me about her prize.

Will Mildred and Meredith have a future together? Don't be daft, they must both realise that they had a temporary and convenient alliance for the duration and that no useful purpose would be served by continuing beyond the final wave as coaches split for Wales and for the Midlands. In the cold light of day Mildred and Meredith would dislike each other almost as much as they disliked all the other passengers.

If this had been the TV "Coach Trip" then Samuel would probably have been red carded on day one, for being odd, and a few others given les Cartes Rouge for moaning or being miserable. Mildred and Meredith would have survived rather too long, but in the end they would have been replaced. Would I have survived to tell this tale? It's up to you to decide.