The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Monday, 24 July 2017


Everything went absolutely perfectly for the wedding! I still can't believe it.  More to follow!

In front of the Matterhorn
On cloud nine!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017


I got it finished. By "it", I mean the quilt I decided to make for my son's wedding in a fit of insanity (wedding is next week). By "insanity" I mean, if you have never made a quilt before why would you suddenly decide to make one for your son's wedding? Which implies (a) a deadline, and (b) it can't just be "n'importe quoi" - I mean, it should be reasonably well done right? I must be nuts.

Anyway, I had already given them money as a wedding present since they have everything they need as they have lived together for nine years already. But, I thought I would like to give them something a bit more personal and decided to make a quilt. I had just learned how to transfer photos onto fabric so decided to incorporate some into the central panel. I also knew I wanted a photo of each of them as toddlers so while I already have photos of my son when he was little, obviously, I had to go on to Facebook and steal one of Lily (the one and only toddler photo of her) from her FB page. That bloody quilt took me ages, all the more so since I was unsure what I was doing and was kinda learning as I went along. But, despite chewing my nails down to the quick and making quite a few blunders (I won't point them out to you), I finally got it finished this weekend, which is just as well as I will be fully occupied from here on up to the wedding.

There are loads of cock-ups but I have to say I am rather proud of it - I just hope they like it!

And moving swiftly on, in other news, I mentioned recently that my Uncle Frank - my dad's last surviving sibling - had died recently. The funeral was in England and I couldn't go but sent my condolences to his son, Simon. So yesterday I received a memorial card back from Simon in memory of his dad, which kinda triggered a memory of something my brother said at my mom's funeral last year.

I was very fond of my Uncle Frank and, compared to some of the other brothers, I always considered him rather more "restrained" - quieter, if you like. But my brother Phil told a story of Frankie in his younger days when he might have been slightly less "restrained". Dad and Frankie both played football, and apparently Frankie was quite gifted. Moreover, he was a "left footer" - something which was quite prized because (apparently) most players are "right footed". So one day, local talent scouts arranged to be at a match to check Frankie out. Well seemingly Uncle Frank had been "out on the razzle" the night before, played about 10 minutes then walked over to the side of the pitch and threw up. And that, as they say, was when he saw a glorious future filed firmly behind him!

Uncle Frank is in the front row, seated second from the left. And, parenthetically, my dad is in the back row, standing, first player on the left - you know, the one wearing the odd socks!

And talking of pictures (we were, weren't we?), now that the quilt is finished my next job on the "to do" list is to start sorting/purging old pictures. I have an idea for my boys for Christmas where I want to sort out a few photos of them when they were younger and make them into photo albums using Snapfish. I experimented with Snapfish for the first time recently with the few photos I have of my trip to Cuba. The quality wasn't great because my photos weren't great but at least I got to play around with the formatting (it isn't easy) and was able to send off for my album. My boys love the old photos so I hope they will like what I put together.

And again on the subject of photos, my neighbour was in my house the other day and asked me why I still had my wedding photo up since I have been divorced nearly six years. To be honest, I barely notice that photo since it is tucked away on a corner wall, but I thought "she's right", I don't need to have photos of my ex on my wall since there is no love lost between us.  At the weekend I told my sister that I was dreading seeing him again next week at the wedding and was praying to God he wouldn't just show up at the house "because we're all great friends you see" - err, not! She said not to worry as she would answer the door for the week!!! Yay, for sisters. I have already re-programmed my doorbell to play the theme music from "the Good, the Bad and the Ugly" for the week just in case. On top of that, until I get a photo from my son's wedding to replace my old wedding photo, I used my Photoshop skills - to great effect, I think. I hope you will agree!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Neighbours are a wonderful thing - well in my case at least!

I think I mentioned that last year I decided to employ someone to cut my grass. I was sick of doing it myself because while I don't have much land, trying to cut grass on the side of a mountain in searing heat just wasn't my thing, so I called the guy who cuts my hedges and he jumped at the chance. He is pretty reasonably priced and it seems to be working out with him cutting the grass about twice a month - depending on the weather. What a relief that is!

Well the grass was getting a bit long as we had had quite a bit of rain recently so while we were having our neighbourhood clean-up on Sunday I hesitated to cut in front of my house but then thought no, that is what I pay him for. And yay, when I got home Tuesday evening it had been done. It is a lovely garden with a beautiful view so when the grass is cut it is quite stunning. And as an added bonus for my gardener, my neighbours also decided to employ him - I guess things kinda snowball like that don't they.

Anyway, at the top of my garden I have a few raised beds where I have planted what is laughingly called "my veggie plot". I could plant a lot more as I have the room but I honestly don't have the time to take care of any more - maybe when I retire. And next to the raised beds I planted a peach tree, which amazed me by actually producing a few (very small) peaches last year - I had assumed it was too cold, and some red currant, raspberry and gooseberry bushes. Trouble is, between all those bushes the weeds were growing at a rate of knots so I had decided that this Sunday I would get out there and tackle that. Buuuuut, when I got home last night I saw that the weeds had all gone. It was weird because I don't remember my gardener doing it and he normally doesn't but .... As I was stood there pondering, my neighbour tootled over and asked if I would mind if he cut the hazelnut tree back, then the mirabelle plum tree, and how about the honeysuckle and the lilac????? Only he wanted it to be "nice for the wedding" in two weeks!!! Wow, I told him it wasn't necessary but he insisted. The way he put it is, he spends 10 minutes chopping away and the next 30 watching the Tour de France so it is no big deal! I tell you, I have great neighbours (all of them in fact) but I think I am particularly lucky with both sets of immediate neighbours. Of course over the years we have always helped each other out - I was dropping his wife off at the hospital once a month on my way to work for a while - but hearing what some people have to put up with (One Family, One Income I am talking to you), I really appreciate having such nice people around, all the more so as I live on my own now.

Oh, and off on a totally different tangent, this morning I thought I should start getting my backside into gear and get back to walking more, even if it is otherwise too hot to exercise. So I caught the express bus which dropped me at the train station in 20 minutes and hopped off to walk the last 30 minutes to work. The hotels around the train station are particularly popular with Japanese tourists for obvious reasons and traffic being heavy around there, when you want to cross the roads you really can't nip over between traffic - you have to wait for the "little green man". So a whole bunch of people were standing waiting for the lights to change when I spotted two (Japanese?) women standing partially on the road waiting to cross but totally absorbed in their phones. After a couple of minutes the "little green man" appeared and everyone scooted over to the other side. While I was crossing I watched the women tapping away on their phones and continuing to do so for the minute or so that we had to cross. By the time they had looked up the lights had changed back to red and they were stuck there again. A younger woman just looked at me and laughed saying "now that was surreal", and yes indeed it was!

Monday, 3 July 2017

This and that!

It's been a while since I last posted but that's because the days just seem to be flying by. I have been really busy at work ahead of our 24th July meeting but most of the gruntwork is done so my feet have time to touch the floor now! The bloody traffic has been dreadful of late and I really don't know why but hopefully with the schools breaking up soon it should be a bit calmer. And the weather!!!!! A week ago last Friday as I was driving home the external temperature sensor on my car showed 37 degrees C (98 F). Then last Friday it flashed up at 14 degrees C (57 F)! A drop of over 20 degrees in one week! Crikey. Not that I minded too much because 37 is just way too hot for me, particularly since my office is in a beautiful old (protected) building (so read "no AC"). Yuck that was miserable. And of course, over here unlike places that routinely get much hotter, homes don't have AC either (or none that I know of anyway) so you really are trying to make the most of any little thru-breeze you can get. It's back to about 25 at the moment and so much more bearable!

We had some sad news on the home front too. My dad's last remaining sibling, Uncle Frank, started to suffer from Alzheimer's a few years ago. His wife had had a severe stroke a couple of years ago and needs full-time care so their only child, S, made arrangements for her to be moved into a home in the south of England near him. For Uncle Frank he had changes made to his own home so that dad could move in with him and his family. Three weeks ago they decided to give Frankie a break and take him away with them on holiday to Wales. Frankie got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, got confused about how to get back to his room and fell down the stairs, breaking his back and dying within 24 hours. So very sad. I know Alzheimer's is no fun (dad had it) but it just seems such a sad way for him to go when things were finally starting to "look up for him a bit"!

Then the weekend before last, on the Friday evening, one of my two sewing clubs held our end-of-year dinner in a lovely restaurant near me. Quite by coincidence, the other Monday-night sewing club chose to have their end-of-year lunch at the same restaurant the following day, in addition to springing a surprise farewell lunch on a lovely German lady who was leaving our region to move to Brittany to be nearer her sons. She and I got along well as the two "foreigners" and she was quite tearful when she realized what they had organized. And this being a patchwork club the ladies had had an all-day "sew-in" and made her a beautiful quilt as a souvenir. It really was stunning. I, of course, couldn't take part in the "sew-in" because I was at work so I bought her a beautiful book of post card images of Haute Savoie (the region I live in) as a reminder! She was moved to tears. Then she started threatening not to move to Brittany at all .......

But the sad thing that put a real damper on her leaving do was that one of the other ladies' husbands had been killed in a freak accident just two days earlier. He was only 64 and had been towing a 1,000 litre water butt out to the field when it moved, fell off the trailer and crushed him! Absolutely tragic and of course the shock of something like that must be unbelievable. While I'm sure losing someone you love to illness is appalling at least there is some knowledge of what might happen, but to lose your husband like that just doesn't bear thinking about! So very sad.

Getting back to my rotten commute, last Friday the traffic in Geneva seemed to be easier than normal at leaving time, but once I got through the border and pulled off the motorway to head home I got stuck in nose-to-tail traffic for another hour. The roads were completely blocked and we all got told to turn around and take little back roads!!!! Aaaarrrrkkkkkkk! It turns out it was a demonstration by local farmers using their tractors to block the roads. Much as I love France I have to say the French are very good at going on strike (I'll never fly Air France - they always end up going on strike at Easter, the school holidays, Christmas you name it). I suppose the other side of that coin is that they are not afraid to fight for what they want. BUUUUT on Friday night I wasn't impressed I can tell you. Turns out though, that they were protesting because they wanted something done about the "travellers" (gypsies by any other name) who would just park up on their land and seemingly would only move when they were good and ready. I guess that changes my opinions of the farmers' actions now! While we get a couple of groups of travellers round by us who do leave the fields clean, some are just disgusting pigs. There is a more or less permanent site near Annecy's small airport and they are filthy tips. I saw an article one time about how a group of travellers parked up on a hospital car park in England and it took ages to get them moved so I can understand the farmers' frustration.

Well, the good news is that a group of travellers cut through one of the farmer's chains protecting his field and installed themselves there. So what did the farmer do? He called up a few like-minded friends and they went down to the field and sprayed liquid manure all over them!!! You gotta love that one haven't you - and they moved off pretty sharpish by all accounts! I do so love a good ending.

And finally, on Sunday we had our annual neighbourhood clean up - a little later than usual but it seemed the last available date before people disappeared on their summer hols. It honestly doesn't take long to have our little place looking spic and span - and then we all pitch in and eat together on our little island. There was waaaayyyy too much food but hey, we all had a really pleasant day, we met two new sets of neighbours and the kids (and one dad!!!) had a blast!

He was definitely outnumbered!

Princessing is hard work!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A girl needs all the support she can get!

Just this week a comment on another blog about buying underwear (you know, the kind of thing you discuss transatlantic with someone you have never met) reminded me of a "bra buying" story I had all but forgotten about!

Some years ago my oldest sister, her daughter and I decided to go to Marks and Spencer's in Dorset to be properly measured for a bra. We have always been "well stacked" in my family (well the female side anyway, although apparently cosmetic surgery for "moobs" (man boobs) is now the fastest growing cosmetic surgery for men, but I digress). Anyway, we went in to be measured in turn and all three of us came out in fits of giggles. As is pretty common, we had all been wearing totally the wrong size of bra for years! Of course the "right" size bra ended up basically looking like two wheelbarrows welded together, so not exactly a turn on, but my niece said that as soon as she started wearing the correct size bra her back pain totally disappeared! Ha, who wudda thunk!

A few years later the same sister had to have an operation on her shoulder. Shortly after the op she decided that she would like to be re-fitted for a new bra, so back to Marks and Sparks she trotted with her husband (who was driving) and my mom in her wheelchair (who was just along for the ride).

When her turn came to be measured she went into the changing room with the lady but with her shoulder operation being so recent the lady was afraid to touch her in order to take a proper measurement. In the end they called my sister's husband into the changing room thinking that he could help very gently move my sister's arm/shoulder in order for the lady to measure her.

After a little while they finished up and my sister and the assistant walked out. At that point, my brother-in-law stuck his head out from behind the curtain and called out "Who's next please? Professionally qualified bra fitter at your service!" They said the look on the waiting ladies faces was a sight to behold, and my mom went into a fit of the giggles! Oh, and did I mention that my brother-in-law was a cop!!!! So ladies, if you are looking for a professionally-qualified bra fitter and you're in Dorset, you know where to go!

Monday, 19 June 2017

And even busier!

And still as busy as ever, but at least on the positive side, I know that this will be my busiest period so I know what to expect. That being said, added to the general exhaustion of last week, the weather was scorching and the traffic was awful. I mean, one night when I didn't work late, I left work at 5.30 pm and made it home at almost 8 p.m.!!! Not sure what that is all about but I am so looking forward to the kids getting out of school and there being less traffic on the roads for a couple of months!

Add to that, the state of my house has been getting to me and when I get like that I always feel like I am chomping at the bit to do something about it. By European standards I have a fairly large house with an enormous basement, and of course when you have all that space you fill it up don't you. Not just me of course. At one time we were five living here but as the kids (and one gf) moved out and the ex left me, my house became the repository for all things unwanted, particularly an entire three-bedroomed farmhouse' worth of stuff that my ex left behind two years ago. Admittedly my kids took what stuff of his they wanted but that still left me with a shedload! Oh, and does anyone else have the same problem that when you switch from summer tyres to winter tyres, all the leftover tyres get dumped back at your place! Then of course, nobody can really recognize whose are whose summer tyres to put them back on when summer rolls around! Urrggghh!

I'm not totally blameless of course. I love to cook and for more than 20 years subscribed to the BBC Good Food Guide. Trouble was, I went through the magazines and either highlighted recipes or ripped them out, meaning to get around to trying them later. Well you can imagine how that went can't you, and while I have discovered some fabulous recipes, if I live to be 1,500 years old I would never get around to trying them all. On top of that, being just me at home now, why would I want to cook Ken Hom's full Peking Duck menu!! So to that end, I vowed to not only attack the basement but also start going through the house, and much to my shame, the picture below shows the recipes "I was going to try out" taken from just one drawer!!! (Man, this is like washing your dirty underwear in public!!!) Shame on me!

I took quite a large load to the tip on Saturday - stuff I could donate or give away I will advertise on Facebook or take to the local charity. It's amazing though how just getting rid of one small pile of stuff instantly lifts your mood isn't it!

Still, not being too hard on myself, I have to show you my "major achievements" this weekend too. Every time I go on holiday I tend to pick up little souvenirs but with the intention of actually bringing back something "useful", or at least not just a dust collector. For instance, the table runner you can see in the above picture I bought on the Floating Islands in Peru four years ago. I had a few things I fell in love with in Greece last year that I wanted to put up on my external walls, but had no drill to put them up with (the little drill I bought after my ex left was not strong enough).  Anyway, having cleared some stuff out of the basement I came across my ex' power drill so thought "sod it, I'm gonna put those things up". I tell you, it was hard going as I was drilling into solid concrete, sometimes with metal inside it (I hit that in a few places), but after much sweating and swearing, and a couple of my neighbours looking on laughing (they did offer to help), I managed to get six pieces put up in about an hour, so if anyone needs a "handywoman" just give me a call!

I thought, living in France, my little frog was quite appropriate!
My little lizard is actually very, very brightly coloured - but the sun drowned the colours out!
And after the terrible events in the UK in the past month (two terror attacks in London and a loser blowing himself up at the Ariana Grande concert, plus the tower block going up in flames) it felt nice to find a small bit of "joy" this weekend. My next door neighbours have three grandchildren. The nine year old is down's syndrome and then there are two five year olds. Well, I was out in what I laughingly call my "veggie plot" attempting to take it back from the encroaching field, when the three kids came "to help". I think in reality they were more interested in watching the horses galloping around (you can see them better from my garden which backs directly onto the field) but the excuse was "to help me"!

Anyway, the two five-year olds eventually left but the oldest, the little DS boy, stayed to "help me", and eventually, with the help of his dad, he was able to tell me that he now knew when he had to go pee and could tell his mommy and daddy! I was shocked because, I suppose, not being in their situation, I had never given it any thought how long it would take to "potty train" him. But, he was as pleased as punch, and for the first time ever I got a big kiss!

Oh, and if I really want to be a nasty cow (I do), I stopped in at Stan's for a coffee on my way back from shopping on Saturday and as I walked in just routinely said "bonjour" to the couple who were waiting to pay him. Turns out, it was the dumpy, fat-ankled little cow that my ex-husband ran off with in 2010 and maaaaaaan has she got fat! I asked Stan if she was pregnant (she looked about eight months) and he said of course not as she is nearly 50 (she is 10 years younger than me). I had been working in the garden that morning and looked a bit of a mess but decided to clean myself up before going shopping - good thing eh - bumping into her like that. I must ask her when the baby is due next time! (Yeah, strike me down I know)!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Busy, busy, busy!

As I have mentioned before, my work is very cyclical and right now we are busy gearing up for a big meeting in July. I don't mind at all because I hate the "down" times and get a real buzz out of being up against deadlines. Ok, I wouldn't want to be like that all the time but it certainly makes the days go faster.

So, what's new? Well although my oldest got married in a civil service in March (they bought the wedding forward in order for Lily's granddad to be there. Thankfully they did as he sadly died shortly thereafter), the big celebration will be in July. As the best man, it was up to my youngest to organize the stag do. I only got to see the one photo posted on Facebook but I saw a couple on my youngest's mobile phone - and it was quite a do! One of the girlfriends found a "Heidi" outfit for him but by the time they had added a red cape apparently he looked more like Little Red Riding Hood. As they were about to set off though, one of the girls decided that his make-up wasn't quite right so they set about putting that right!

After a few drinks (nobody was driving) they went off to play "balloon football". Berrrrrkkk. The thought of a few drinks in me then running round a field playing balloon football doesn't bear thinking about, but apparently he was fine (at that point at least)!

Next up was a trip to the local go-kart place where I'm given to understand his stomach didn't make it past the finishing line at the same time as the rest of his body! Oh well, you only do it once right? That's where he lost his Marilyn Monroe wig too apparently. Man, I have to get hold of some more photos!

After that it was back to Max's place (he of the tattooed arm in the photo) and BBQ and partying till 5 a.m. when they all passed out until about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. All good fun I guess. On a side note, Max is a friend of both my sons as they play in a band together. His father has his own plumbing business and took my youngest on as an apprentice a few years back, so technically Max is Jordan's boss too. To give credit where credit is due, Max bought a run down old house on around 10,000 square metres of land and over a period of about three years has slowly done it up to what is apparently a stunning home now. Not bad at the ripe old age of 27 but hey, he put the hard work in and is now sitting pretty, something I hope my youngest will be able to do in a few years when he has acquired more skills.

After that it was Jordan's turn. He turned 25 last Wednesday so his girlfriend organized a surprise party for him at a bar about 200 metres from their home. She got him there by saying that the bar was doing a special that evening and how about they just go out for a quick drink before dinner. Well when he got there she had arranged with a whole bunch of his friends to be hiding inside the bar! Apparently they had a great evening!

It's so nice that these kids have been friends for so many years and still make time to get together or go hiking or skiing when possible. The bar is called the "684" because it is 684 metres above sea level, just in case anyone is asking!  Oh, and the handsome young black man kneeling down in the red T-shirt is my friend, Stan's, son, the professional rugby player. And again, another party. Daniel had been chosen to play for France in the rugby sevens held in the UK the week before so his girlfriend organized another surprise party last Monday for when he got back. Lovely times indeed!

In other news, I am starting to see all the little things that need fixing up in my house and realize I should get round to having them done. So a couple of weeks ago I had the chap who painted my house take a look at my external balcony, which is in a very sorry state. The cement had started to leak and the underside paint was starting to chip because of it. It didn't make any difference to the inside of the house but it was looking pretty shabby. I was therefore somewhat shocked when he came up with a quote of €1,800! I mean the balcony is probably only about 7 square metres and I am not asking him to do the barrier at all. So thinking that was a ridiculous quote I went out to the DIY place and bought a few basic supplies to have a go myself. Cost me €140 for the lot and that included some of the tools that I would need. Anyway, while I was chipping away at it my doorbell rang and my friend had sent over a guy who does work for her - reliable if a bit pushy. So I asked him to take a look but made the mistake of telling him what the other guy had quoted. His response was "oh, that's about right, but did he mention you would have to do this, and this and this too?" Turns out his quote would come in at around €2,000 but he "would do a better job"! So still not convinced, next time I went up for a drink at Stan's I happened to bump into Philippe, who is in the business, and asked him to give me a basic quote "off the top of his head", given that he knew my house and had already seen my balcony. He came up with about €400, and that included the supplies! When I showed him the written quote I had he nearly fell off his chair. As he said, "they can see you coming can't they!" I hate the thought that these people are taking advantage of me (a) because I'm a woman and (b) because I'm alone. So to make a long story short, Philippe is going to come and do it for me - we just have to set up a time.

And on the subject of the balcony, the wooden barriers are also pretty shabby having been exposed to the elements for so long. My sons have a friend who has his own sheet metal business so tonight he is coming to give me a quote to get that done. My house looks out onto a dairy farm so I have an idea of what I want for the balcony itself.  What do you think?

And I want him to give me a quote for putting in a gate at the side of my house. So far my gardens have been totally open but as they are building more and more in the village and I have had a little sod come into my back garden and steal my decorations (the neighbour caught him and gave him a bollocking), I think I may as well go ahead and get the gate put in. At least that way it would be "fenced off" from the front, even while still being open at the back, although to get into the back they would then have to go through two other neighbours' gardens. For the side gate I have seen a picture of a gate made by this same young man with a cat chasing a mouse. We'll see - I guess it depends on the price!

As I said, all the little bitty things that need doing around the house have been getting to me, so amongst the pile of junk in my basement I finally managed to track down my ex' heavy duty drill. Over the course of my travels I have picked up lovely little souvenirs that I wanted put on my walls but never got round to it. Well now Jordan has shown me how to get the drill bit in right (yeah, I'm that good), last night I decided to get a few pieces put up. Trouble is, all my souvenirs stand a chance of being put up at eye level because I "ain't getting up no ladder!"

And finally, a bit of a rant. I don't rant very often and tend to keep my political opinions to myself but I was horrified at the insensitive, oafish tweets that the tangerine buffoon posted about Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, in the aftermath of the latest atrocities. I don't remember him being so offensive to the Mayor of Manchester - oh right, Sadiq Khan is muslim, not that that's got anything to do with it of course. Thankfully, people have come out overwhelmingly in support of Sadiq Khan, who at least knows how to conduct himself with class, which is more than can be said of you-know-who! And to think he has the code to the "big button"! It's downright scary!