The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Thursday, 4 August 2016

A (sad) sign of the times!

As I mentioned the other day, 1st August is Swiss national day and this year they lucked out and got lovely weather to hold their parties and let off the fireworks. I have to let you into a little "in" joke though. My colleague is married to a Swiss guy and they were over at his family's for the celebrations when his cousin asked his aunt if "the fireworks were starting at 9 pm or 9.05"?  She burst out laughing and they didn't know why! Well put it this way, there is probably a very good reason the Swiss watch-making industry is so successful - I mean that potential five minute difference for the firework start time could have been really important.  Sorry if you don't get the joke but to say the Swiss are sticklers for time-keeping and very punctual would be an understatement!

Anyway, the beginning of August is therefore a busy time here in Geneva. After Swiss national day we have Geneva Lake Parade, followed by the Fêtes de Genève. I guess in total about 10 days of very well-organized celebrations (again another Swiss trait).  Now I park every morning at the border and catch the bus across town to work. I am lucky in that the no. 25 bus goes door-to-door for me so once I am installed I don't have to move again until I get to work. Yesterday, however, there were repeated announcements on the bus to say that until 14 August the two buses that normally go to my particular stop would not be going that far and that we should all get off after the train station and catch the shuttles which would be laid on. Well since about 80 people get off the bus and I'm sure the shuttles will only take about 12 people at a time I decided to walk, but to be honest I didn't really understand the whole "why" of having the bus cut short it's route. When I got to the lake, however, I realized what it was all about. Placed strategically all along the middle of the road were huge concrete barriers which would allow cars to get through slowly but no way would a bus be able to get through. Anti-terrorist-nutter barriers! How sad that we have come to this. Of course nothing will stop a nutter with a knife or a back-pack but at least Geneva is doing what it can to avoid another "Nice" situation! The lake front will be packed until the end of next week and the Swiss are, rightly, trying to take precautions. Again, how sad that we have to.

So tonight I will trot off down towards the bridge and, for the first time, catch one of the ferries over the lake to try to make up for not being able to get into town by bus. Could be interesting (I hear the ferries are great). I suppose, trying to put a positive spin on it again, if I end up walking twice a day for a while (30 minutes each way) it could help me lose some of the blubber. Who knows, maybe I will enjoy it enough to take it up long-term!

Given the fact that it is the holidays here and there is less traffic on the roads during the month of August, I have been getting home that bit earlier and taken to stopping in at "my mate Stan's" little place. In my little village we have a grand total of zero public transport, zero shops and one small (but excellent) restaurant. Basically if you don't drive here you're screwed, unless you are like some of the old-timers who walked everywhere, but when you are in a rush, as we always seem to be, it just isn't feasible to walk everywhere nowadays. I reckon it would take me an hour to walk to the local train station (which isn't exactly a major transit centre anyway) and maybe 45 minutes to the local supermarket, bearing in mind that the walk back from said supermarket with my groceries is up an alp! So that's not gonna happen. Anyway, "my mate Stan" saw potential and after much too-ing and fro-ing managed to open a little shop/cafe in the village. Basically it is just two portacabins stuck together from where he sells a small supply of basic groceries and where you can sit for a coffee or beer etc. But the pièce de résistance is that the location is absolutely spot on. To be fair, he did the grunt work of clearing the roadway and lugging the portacabins in but slowly it has become a very popular spot indeed. There is room for the farmers to park their tractors (I kid you not), the view is fabulous and Stan is well liked.

Now Stan is Nigerian, married to a French woman, and has had to put up with his share of racism, but over time has become quite the local character. My kids grew up with his kids and are close friends and I have to say that he and Martine have three lovely, well-balanced and polite kids who are a pleasure to be around. In fact OH likes going to Stan's for a drink or a plate of fries and they get yacking about Nigeria or politics or whatever is the subject of the day. In a few years Stan will retire and spend more time in Nigeria and you know what, he will be very much missed. In fact, if I had some uuuooomph left in me I would love to take over his little place, do it up and do what I have always wanted which would be have a little cafe with second-hand books, etc. I could really see the potential there, but I'm not sure I will have the energy when I retire in a couple of years. Who knows, we'll see! Watch this space.

The view from Stan's

The outside of Stan's place - painted by one of his kids' friends!

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