The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

This and that!

My whole little spiel yesterday about people's behaviour on buses was brought about by what was quite a funny incident yesterday morning - and then I forgot to mention it. I think I'm becoming a bit batty but I don't actually mind. Truth be told I'm actually quite enjoying  that side of getting older!

After the chaos of digging up my garden last weekend I spent about four hours on Saturday pressure spraying my terrace to get a year's worth of accumulated muck off it. I don't mind doing this at all as it is so instantly satisfying but, while the weather was beautifully sunny there was quite a strong wind, so standing outside soaking wet all afternoon ended up with my feeling like I had been kicked in the kidneys by the time Sunday rolled around. I knew then that I had better get back to exercising as it instantly relieves the aches and pains and lifts my mood. Anyway, yesterday morning the weather was nice and I made it to the Mont Blanc bridge in good time to be able to hop off the bus and walk the last 30 minutes to work. Just as I was waiting to get off the bus, however, I spotted a woman sitting close to the door - about my age but much heavier set - and noticed a big white label sticking out of her top - she had got her top on inside out. What to do? I guess it's like do you tell a man that his fly is undone or what? Well to be honest, if it was a male colleague I would most likely tell him his zip's slipped but a stranger? So the question was do I tell this lady or not? In the end I decided it was kinder to discreetly let her know.  She was obviously embarrassed - although to be honest it's easily done right - but I was very discreet about it, so it was all the more amazing to me that she promptly turned round, took her top off and put it on the right way - all while sitting on the bus!! Now even I wouldn't have done that as it wasn't so glaringly obvious her top was inside out. Wow! I mean, she did have a kind of thermal undershirt on but all the same to just sit there in your bra and vest .... there's nowt so queer as folk!

Anyway, this morning I again made it to the bridge in time to hop off the bus and start walking to work - only for the heavens to open up and me to have to do a runner up a back street where I ended up catching the same bus a bit further along. The bus has to go round via the train station so by cutting through the back streets I was able to catch the same one - the driver must have thought I had gone nuts though! At least, just walking that short distance allowed me to see how far the park people had come along with their planting already. Beautiful!





And talking of bad backs, it's like the walking wounded here at work right now. The boss of my unit is Danish. He has two young children and this being spring break he and his family went away for a few days. They arrived back from their trip late Monday evening exhausted, all the more so since they had to hang around at the airport because their luggage had got lost. Now lost luggage is not the end of the world but when you have small children in tow it isn't pleasant. I was asking him this morning how things were going and he commented that his mother-in-law had arrived back ahead of them "so that she can spend the rest of the week finishing my sentences".   Eeew, anyone else sense that all's not quite quiet on the western front? Actually I think he is going through a rough time at the moment as the kids seem to have been continually sick, his wife has come down with some kind of virus but has to go into work today (short-term contract) and mother-in-law is in the house to crack the whip!!! Yikes, Not sure living alone is so bad now! Then C, my other colleague who I work most closely with, started walking round clutching his back. He is a runner and particularly in periods of intense stress needs to run to keep his stress levels down. Only thing is he hurt his leg and hasn't been able to run for a while, and now seems to have put his back out - something he again puts down to stress.  Crikey, if it goes on like this much longer I will soon be the "last (wo)man standing" (chocolate being my preferred form of stress relief)!

In other matters, last night I had my regular Monday night sewing club. I am working on two projects - tote bags for my sons' girlfriend/wife - and the one I was working on last night is really intricate. I enjoy all the embroidery/bead work but goodness, I worked for two solid hours last night and only finished a small section of the bag. Talk about over-estimating how much you can get through. Then when I got home my brother (the one who just lost his wife) had left me a phone message. You can see more and more how much his wife used to do because I don't think Phil has ever used an answering machine before. The message was something like "START OF MESSAGE, I've got my euros so am all set for next week. STOP. Looking forward to it. STOP. Will try you again tomorrow. STOP. END OF MESSAGE"! It makes him sound like a resistance fighter in World War II leaving cryptic messages for the Allies in sodding morse code! Aaah, bless him!

And finally, Sunday was the first round of the French elections - which proved interesting to say the least. It ended up with centrist - Macron - going through to the final round with right wing Marine Le Pen. What a weird situation that is. I mean, picture elections in the UK where neither the Conservatives nor the Labour Party made it through to the final round - or in the US where the Republican and Democratic parties were scuppered in the initial stages!!! That's what we are dealing with here in France.  I would have bet against Trump getting in and I would have bet against Brexit so you can see how well my political instincts are honed, so while I would say the right wing Le Pen will never get in - who the heck knows!!!  Of course, the fact that Macron's wife is 25 years older than him has given plenty of fodder to the gutter press. But hey, does anyone remember the uproar about Trump being 100 years older than Melania? No, me neither!  I guess we will just have to wait and see then!

Monday, 24 April 2017

On the buses!

I have mentioned before that I really dislike having someone eating their breakfast or whatever when sitting next to me on the bus. Maybe it's just me - I guess we all have our little niggles right - but I hate the elbows in the ribs and the smell of someone's breakfast all within 10 inches of my nose that early in the morning. I posted previously that there is a chap who gets on and always has his tuna-mayo sandwich followed by a slice of pizza and coffee, so you get a varied array of smells depending on how far along his route we are. Well on Friday the guy sitting next to me seemed to have a bottomless pit for a bag. First the crackers, then the sandwich, then the banana, followed by more crackers then another banana - in the end I had to smile because it just put me in mind of the scene where Mr. Bean is sitting an exam and has the never-ending bag of supplies, or indeed Mary Poppins' bottomless bag (you see, I really am easily amused)! The only thing missing from this banquet was the flip-down table!




Whinging apart, there are worse places than Geneva to be on a bus, as witnessed by the elderly couple on the bus on Friday evening. The gent didn't seem to be completely with it and it was obviously the lady's job to take care of him. Immediately people jumped up and helped him to a seat while the lady was trying to explain to him that she would be getting off at the Museum as she was going to Paulette's but that he must get off at the next stop and make his way home. He seemed a little confused but I have seen them on the bus before and I guess this is the way it rolls for them - it can't be easy for either of them. Anyway, the lady got off and when the gent went to follow her a couple of young men stopped him and explained that "she was going to see Paulette and that he should get off at the next stop", and then took it upon themselves to make sure he got off safely at the right stop, at which point he seemed to get his bearings. Sad really, but at least there were decent people around to take care of him. I make no judgement on the lady (his wife?) leaving him on the bus as I would guess this is their norm, for the time being at least, until one day it won't be!

I also mentioned in a post in January about a young cyclist (she was 27 I think) who had been killed on my bus route having gone underneath the wheels of a truck as it was turning. Her loved ones put up a tribute which still remains, although the dead flowers have now been replaced by candles. What amazed me though is that a cycling helmet had been left amongst the tributes, and three months later it is still there - no-one has taken it! It warms the heart a little, I must say.

In other matters, I had great plans for the Easter weekend, none of which came to fruition because, apart from being woken up at 4.40 a.m. by a telemarketing company, unbeknownst to me my neighbour had set up with his friend to come over with his digger to dig out the ditch which would re-channel the underground springs in the garden. So I was woken up to that unexpected joy at 8 a.m! This is what my back garden looked like over Easter, and where I spent my time humping stones out of the ditch in order for them to lay the piping. Happy days! Still, to be fair, it ended up costing us less than half what our other neighbours paid!


My sister made some smart-arsed comment about how if I really didn't want them to visit in July I should just tell them rather than digging a moat, but I explained that while the ditch was for the underground springs I thought the anti-tank guns out front would suffice to keep them away!

This is the top end of my garden leading down to the neighbours' where the springs would have ended up if I had gone ahead and started without them. I don't have much land (and for that I am thankful) but am lucky enough to have the field behind which is agricultural land so even better. I think I only have about 350 square metres, but frankly that is more than enough. It's sad really but when we first moved in in 1990 the farmer was selling a riding lawnmower and my ex desperately wanted to buy it! I mean, you have a plot of land about as big as three handkerchiefs and he wants a riding lawnmower!!!! And worse still, I would have given in and let him get it if we had had the money, but having just bought a house and paid for a move from Switzerland to France we were broke! How stupid would he (we) have looked on a riding lawnmower having to do a 350-point turn just to turn around and go in the other direction!!! I don't know if it was just because he was used to that kind of thing in the U.S. where people have bigger gardens but really .........????? He also bought a ruddy great roto-tiller to turn over a patch of ground as big as my underwear so we could grow veggies (my 80-year old neighbour just leaned on his shovel and smiled benignly). And then the lawnmower - everyone else's cost maybe €400 and we had to have one that cost €2,000!!  I never did understand but I sure as heck discovered pretty fast why we never had any money! More importantly, he never took care of anything so it really was money down the drain. When he moved back to the States and left me to empty the farmhouse he had rented, he had three strimmers/weed whackers rusting in the garage and he didn't even have a garden of any description! Nothing. He had, I think, four rose bushes at the side of the house, no grass at all, and that was it!  One day, he came to the house and said he needed to borrow the aforementioned expensive lawnmower. When I asked what for he said he "needed it" but I knew he was just going to give it to one of his buddies so I said his buddy could borrow it when he replaced the hedge trimmer he had lent him last time which he then broke and never replaced! Grrrr, those bloody mates drove me nuts - but at least I don't have to deal with them any more.

And on a slightly different note, in connection with a programme on UK TV about people who were living "mortgage free", Jane over at Shoestring Cottage was talking about "saving money" and one of her commentators mentioned the moneysavingexpert.com website where you can calculate how much interest you would save by making overpayments on your mortgage. I started overpaying my mortgage three years ago but couldn't be bothered to work out the back details so I input my info as though I was starting overpaying this month and - just wow! According to their calculation table, I would save myself around €72,000 and almost eight years on the mortgage by doing this. When I did a rough estimate of the three years that I didn't take into count I reckon it will be nearer €100,000! Just wow!

And finally, it's a small world isn't it? I follow Anne's blog at New Happenings at the Table. She is based in Alabama and one of the ladies who commented on her blog (Nathalie) put in a mention to me about how, while she lives in Florida, her dad lives just up the road from me in a place called Thônes! Blogging world really is small isn't it!



Thursday, 13 April 2017

F"*稨èèg cold callers!

As of today I am off for four days for the long Easter weekend and have been totally looking forward to it before work shifts up a gear in the coming weeks. Last night - or more precisely at 4.40 a.m. this morning - I get a cold caller on my mobile!!! I was able to pick it up quickly as my phone is next to my bed but 4.40 am????? Nobody answered so I called back and got an answering message for "Media something or other" who are doing a survey on my media use!!!!! I have no idea how they got my mobile number  - probably just random computer dialing but bloody hell! I have blocked that number in any case, which is something I can't do on my house phone (I mentioned in my last post how I got a cold caller at 11.15 pm on Tuesday night! These people are a damn pest!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Oh to be creative!

This week is one of the weeks where I have sewing evenings twice in one week. Every Monday night I go to one of two sewing clubs - I have to alternate as they both meet on Monday - and then once a month I have my actual patchwork lesson on a Tuesday in a town called Cluses. I love these lessons because patchwork is something that I have always been fascinated by and I have to admit I'm improving, albeit very slowly. I'm not a natural by any means and I really don't see myself as creative because I depend on my teacher an awful lot to help pick out and coordinate colours and so on. It's a gift I wish I had but I genuinely don't. Of course when Lydie puts it all together I think "oh yes, that's perfect, why didn't I see that"! Of course it's her job to be creative and how she makes her living but again I wish I had that creativity naturally!

Our last project was working with jelly rolls (I am still in the process of making a quilt with my last effort) and at the moment we are making a cloth bag with all kinds of appliqué, embroidery and decorations on it. Last night our teacher started showing us how to use rubber stamps/dies. When I was thinking about writing a post about this I was talking to my colleague and we realized that in French a rubber stamp is called a "tampon" so I was chatting away to her and explaining how we had been using "tampons" to put pictures onto different fabrics and so on. It's weird when you live outside of your own country for any length of time because you end up effectively losing some of your own language and speaking - in my case - Franglais. For instance, a collapsible plastic crate (that you might use for carrying groceries) is called a "cagette", a basement is a "cave" and so on and when you can't instantly think of a word in English you just use the French word because everyone understands anyway. I noticed my sister (who lives in Denmark) does this also, just throwing Danish words into the conversation when she can't think of the English word. Anyway, if I ever start writing about making pretty pictures with tampons will someone please send me a comment!

Well my project is coming along pretty well and I picked out a few images to rubber stamp onto my fabric which I will later embroider. Lydie was explaining that you have to be careful to wipe off excess ink before you press it onto your fabric as it will run and spoil the look. So I explained that many, many years ago, when I first came to Geneva, I worked in the Budget Unit and was responsible for sending out hundreds of invoices which were all typed on the typewriter and had as many as six carbon copies. Well one time I must have been using carbon paper and touched my upper lip. Nobody said anything to me but as I walked down the corridor my friend gave the Nazi salute and walked off. I had no idea what she was on about until I walked into the bathroom and saw ...


Of course the obvious choice of photo there would have been Hitler but there's no place in my blog for him, so better Charlie Chaplin I think. And to think they had let me walk around all afternoon looking like this .....

I am usually pretty tired by the time I get home from this class as I go straight there from work and get home around 11 pm. So last night I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed when the phone rang and it was BLOODY TELEMARKETING COLD CALLERS! I get at least three a day and I was furious that they had the nerve to call at that time of night. OK I wasn't in bed yet but they didn't know that! Unfortunately, by the time I had picked up ready to give them a piece of my mind they had hung up. I had looked into getting a phone that could block calls but the only model that seemed to fit the bill didn't have a very good write-up as an actual phone, despite having the facility to block certain numbers. And the problem of course is that these buggers just keep changing numbers anyway. Since they are usually calling from an overseas call centre I can't block them through France Telecom either and for some reason I can't get my phone to switch to "silent". So when I want to have a siesta at the week-end I now have to turn the bloody phone off! These people are a real pest, and while for me they are more of just a nuisance, I can easily understand how older, more vulnerable people can be bamboozled by them. Ugh!!

Monday, 10 April 2017

KABUT!

Car boot (garage sale/yard sale) season has started up again, only over here they call them "vide-gerniers" (attic emptiers). And yes I know I don't need more "stuff" because I already have way too much of it to begin with it, but I like to think of it as having a nice afternoon out at very low cost while temporarily "renting" the stuff I purchase before handing it back to the charity shop! Convoluted much? Anyway, this Sunday was one of my favourites, at a place called Thyez, which is about 20 minutes from home. It is set in a stunning location and the good weather meant that the place was packed.

Thyez
There were quite a few families around picnicing and I thought what a lovely place to let the kids have a run and burn off some energy (says she looking back fondly to our afternoons in the local park with just a bottle of water and jam sandwiches). I can see why parents want to get the kids out running around for sure!  There were also the usual food and drinks vendors and the lovely restaurant where my friend and I had eaten last year, but this time it seemed to be fully booked. Not to worry though, as neither of us were hungry anyway.

To be honest, there wasn't an awful lot of stuff that interested me, although that didn't stop me from buying of course. My friend found a beautiful candle-holder similar to one she had picked up in Mexico a few years ago - man, I wish I had beaten her to it - it was really pretty!

So here is my haul.


I picked up the lovely picture in the background for €2. I may (or may not) repaint the frame but think I would like to hang it in the spare bedroom. The two "coils" in the front are actually belts for me. I needed belts because mine are starting to fall to pieces (probably pulling them too tight to get them round my belly) and yes, I know, who the heck wants a plastic "Noddy car"? Well me, it turns out! When my oldest was little he was car mad (as was the youngest, to be honest) but his absolute "favourite car in all the world" was "doggy car". It was a yellow plastic car with Dougal the dog from the Magic Roundabout driving it (a bit like this one only the other two "passengers" had fallen out).


Doggy car went everywhere and the little bugger actually managed to throw it off our third floor balcony the day we were moving from Switzerland to France. It landed in gorse bushes and guess who ended up scrabbling around looking for doggy car while the movers just looked on in amazement. But hell, there was no way I was "emigrating" without doggy car! I found it and am pretty sure we still have it somewhere (I would never have thrown it away), so when I saw this car at the vide-grenier I jumped at it - and I'm going to give it to my now-married son for Christmas! (He has the same warped sense of humour as I do luckily)!

I mentioned very early on in the blog that when my husband left I ended up back in contact with "my best friend in all the world from the age of three", Ian. He was also my neighbour and as toddlers we played together, walked to school together - everything, until we drifted apart when we went to different schools at the age of 16. When I got back in touch with Ian we hadn't seen or spoken to each other in 36 years! A few months previously he had decided he had had enough of England, the rotten weather, and "chasing pennies" so he bought himself what I call an old Postman Pat van (there's a definite theme developing here), re-vamped it, threw his tools and a mattress in the back and buggered off to Bulgaria for the simple reason "that it looks cheap to live there" (he didn't know the first thing about Bulgaria)!


This isn't really his van!
In July of that year he said "Anna, if you've got nothing better to do, why don't you fly out to Bulgaria and we can get together"! So I did - call it my Shirley Valentine moment or whatever you want, but I bloody well did it - and we had the most fantastic time together, my jaws hurt so much from laughing! While we definitely weren't meant to be together long-term, we remain friends to this day. Ian has stayed on in Bulgaria, which he loves and recently posted a clipping from the local Bulgarian newspaper entitled "We did it!". I ran it through google translate and seemingly the expat Brits had successfully pulled off the first ever KABUT in the local area. It took me a while to figure out that KABUT was actually "car boot" - it seems it was a great success so well done Ian!

And finally, I was talking to my brother yesterday evening. He has now started volunteering at the local hospice two days a week, is still going regularly to his widows and widowers meetings (which he loves), had just been out for Sunday lunch with the group and was looking forward to starting their walking tours. Also this week he had been to his first afternoon dance meeting with the group. He said he hasn't laughed so long and so hard since his wife died. As usual the women way outnumbered the men so he got waltzed off his feet all afternoon. But his absolute favourite was an 81-year-old widow who had him up and dancing constantly. He said he had never trodden on so many women's feet in such a short time and he LOVED it! All I can think is GREAT - if there have to be widows and widowers I, for one, am delighted that they can still enjoy life after so much sadness!



Friday, 7 April 2017

Fixing Dad!

Every so often I come across a book recommendation, or a website that looks interesting so I jot it down on a scrap of paper and leave it next to my computer at home. Sometimes I get to doing something about looking it up and other times, when I have too many scraps of paper piling up, I just throw them all in the bin because they are making the place look mess(ier)!

Well last night I finally sat down about 9 pm and thought "I don't want to spend the evening on my computer or watching rubbish TV (although last night I discovered the wonderful Channel 4 programme "Walks With My Dog" - to be followed up as it was lovely), so I actually picked up one of my "scraps" and it read "Fixing Dad". It certainly didn't disappoint!

It is the true story of two brothers who are desperately worried about the state of their dad's health, particularly his type 2 diabetes. In addition to that he has heart problems, high cholesterol - you name it - and he is only 62. They realize that the lovely dad that brought them up all those years ago was now a shadow of his former self and basically decided to "bully" him into doing something about it. After one scene where a man in the next hospital bed to dad reveals that he had a foot amputated due to diabetes, the shock enables them to get dad on board, They sought medical opinions wherever and whenever they could and, in the words of Baldrick, "devised a cunning plan".  They narrowed their goals down to "fitness, nutrition and mind", and started from there.

It was lovely to watch them sparring with each other - something of an understated Laurel and Hardy routine - and that made it all the more pleasurable to watch as they were just so normal! In one of the scenes at the beginning you had a shot of 17-ish stone dad (about 250 lb) dressed up in lycra shirt and cycling shorts setting off on his first park ride on a very wobbly bike! Cue a quip from one of the brothers - "That's comedy gold right there"!  The brothers realized that spending so much time "bullying" dad into doing something about his health was also taking away time from their own families and there were the inevitable tensions and bickering. At one point they are in a taxi and one of the brothers is speaking on the phone to someone about their "dad project" when dad tells him to get off the phone and basically keep his business private. So the brother replies "she's calling about our project, what am I supposed to do, hang up on her? you miserable old git"! But you know what, it was also actually a sign of how very affectionate and comfortable they were with each other!


Eventually they pay for a private full check-up for dad which reveals another, non-diabetes-related blow (don't want to give too much away here) but while this knocks them for six, as a family they get on with it and eventually come out the other end of a very long, dark tunnel. One very telling realization though is they realize that before the project dad seemed to have just "given up" because he was depressed and lonely - something they hadn't thought of before.

Eventually they all do a 100 mile bike ride around London in aid of Diabetes UK, and you see dad standing up to give a talk in a large auditorium about fighting back against diabetes. It's a smashing documentary, about an hour long and very "feel good"!

In fact, it was Ilona's comment on a Dr. Michael Moseley article in the Daily Fail that made me look up this documentary. Dr. Moseley was basically saying that it was time people fought back against type 2 diabetes, rather than just looking for a magic pill - which just isn't going to happen. In his opinion, diabetes in the U.K. (and presumably elsewhere in the western world) is a ticking time bomb.

They had a stock photo of an obese man in the article and I mentioned to my colleague how mortified I would feel if I actually recognized myself as "that obese person" in the Daily Fail article. Some of the clothes worn in these photos are pretty distinctive so I guess it would come as a helluva shock.


I'm overweight, although not shockingly so, and I seem to have been bobbing up and down with the same 7 lbs since Christmas. I had set the goal of losing weight by the time of my son's wedding in July, but that ship sailed when they bought the civil ceremony forward to March! Oh well, there is still the "party" side of the wedding to aim for in July, so I guess it's time to get back in the saddle.

On another note, I am the Treasurer (read "I keep the money in a tin under my bed") of our small group that runs the second-hand book shop at work. Whenever we get a reasonable sum together we meet to decide where to allocate the money. One time we managed to buy two wheelchairs for a hospice in Peru, and this time we have donated to a young man's trek across Mongolia in aid of a muscular dystrophy charity. Since we still had a little left I asked that we donate to a food bank in my local town run by the Red Cross. Every week when I shop I pick up a few items for them, and when I have a box full I take it down. Towards the end of the year their stocks start to run very low as there are strict rules about when and where they can collect. So I took our donation down to them on Tuesday and while they are used to people making financial contributions I don't think they were expecting as much as we were able to donate. To say they were surprised would be an understatement.

I was so glad we were able to give just a little back, all the more so since I actually spotted one of my neighbours picking up a food parcel! I just said hallo and went about my business. It's a strange world we live in sometimes isn't it!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

As long as we don't look in the mirror ......

..... we could be 30 again! Wow, what a lovely couple of days I've just had. My ex and I got married in Switzerland in 1985 and moved to D.C. where I worked initially for a small law firm but was then offered a job at the World Bank. I have to admit the law firm was quite a shock to the old system - I mean, coming from Europe with six weeks vacation, 10 days official holidays, medical coverage and the culture of actually going out for lunch, then being expected to eat lunch at your desk while working, getting a generous one whole week annual leave and no medical coverage - just wow! That being said, they were nice enough but obviously when the opportunity arose to work at the Bank under much better working conditions and where I could use my languages, well I just jumped at the chance, of course.

It was at the Bank that I met Angie. Angie is Indian and ended up working with me in the West Africa Section. We hit it off instantly. You know how sometimes you meet someone and you seem to be able to talk about anything and everything - well that was what it was like.  In 1987 I got pregnant with my first child and my ex pushed and pushed for us to move as he wasn't happy in D.C. So very, very reluctantly I ended up giving up my job at the Bank and moving to Pittsburgh. Now I have nothing against Pittsburgh, but frankly I didn't leave Birmingham (U.K.) to end up in Pittsburgh - that just wasn't what my dream was all about. And to be honest things didn't really improve in Pittsburgh anyway because although we were near family my ex was still working nights and weekends and I was working all hours God sends from home while looking after my son. It was just no life, so when I had a phone call out of the blue to offer me a job back in Switzerland we jumped at the chance, and moved back in 1989.

Now I hadn't seen Angie since I left D.C. in January 1988. She stayed on at the Bank and I remember getting hold of her and another friend at the time of the Washington sniper horrors and basically just wishing them to "stay safe". As a side note, I actually lived in Montgomery County and one of the ladies that those bastards shot was sitting on a bench outside Silver Spring metro station - the one I used to get to work every day! Because I knew so many of the areas where those pigs were killing people, I remember being horror-struck by it all!

After that Angie and I chatted I think a couple of times via skype and again it didn't feel like more than a few months since we had last seen each other. Eventually we got in touch via the miracle of Facebook and I got to see pictures of her (now grown) girls and she got to see pictures of my "baby's" wedding last week - you know, the one I was on maternity leave with the last time we saw each other! Well it's strange how fate works because her oldest daughter now works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was coming over to Geneva for her work - and Angie (now retired) contacted me about meeting up. And that's what we did yesterday! Despite the almost 30 years that have elapsed and the generous extra padding that comes with middle age, we both instantly recognized each other and more or less went "so, where were we"! We got to have lunch together in the company of a very beautiful peacock who was strutting his stuff through the lunch tables, and then yesterday Angie took herself off to Chamonix, Mont Blanc, which is about 45 minutes from my home (I told her to watch out for the photo opportunity with the slobbery Pyrennean (sp?) mountain dog that grossed my mother-in-law out).





Inside the glacier - where my mother-in-law was grossed-out by "slobbery dog"!

Standing on the "transparent balcony" over the glacier - she's braver than I am - I mean, just LOOK at those slippers!
The funny thing is, when I left D.C. her then-8-year-old daughter very sweetly gave me a blue plastic bracelet and I was so touched by it that I have kept it all these years!!!! Angie, like me, is divorced and, again like me, her children are grown up and out of the house. She was telling me that she took herself off on some kind of "solos" trip to visit the U.S. national parks and had a wonderful time. I was telling her that I do "solos" trips too and love them, so she mentioned that we should plan a trip somewhere in the U.S. together soon (sounds great to me). But then I mentioned that I would really like to do the Golden Triangle in India (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur), and she laughed and said "well you know I'm from Jaipur and I go home every year so why not let's make another date"! Sounds great, kinda like Thelma and Louise but without the icky bit at the end!

And all this time, Steve, who came out to visit at Christmas, is on whatsapp with me shouting (metaphorically) "DO IT, DO IT, IT'LL BE GREAT"! So you know what, I think I will!

Funnily enough, Steve called this weekend and was asking what my holiday plans were for this year. I told him I had to get the July wedding over first but then after that maybe go away for my birthday in September. He mentioned that he was going to Rhodes again with his brother and his wife, but that he wasn't staying in the same hotel as they all needed their space - so why didn't I join him out there!!! And by jove I think I will! He's great company and Greece is beautiful, so what's not to like!

I guess all this "new stuff" is why I have felt quite euphoric lately. I had no idea why really. It could be because spring is here and I love spring, but I think also the thought of just doing "something else" is what is really doing it for me. Happy times indeed!


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Happy 100th birthday to the Forces' Sweetheart!

The Forces' Sweetheart, the wonderful Dame Vera Lynn turned 100 on 20 March, and in tribute her picture was projected onto the white cliffs at Dover and a new compilation of her songs has been re-released.
Dame Vera Lynn
By all accounts she is a wonderfully classy lady and rightly deserved the title of "Forces' Sweetheart"!





It's been nearly a year since my mother died. Her funeral was beautiful, very touching, and very funny because that is what we all wanted. On the order of service we had a beautiful picture of mom and dad in uniform during WWII.  I held it all together until they played Vera Lynn singing "We'll Meet Again" as we walked out! I think given the poignancy of the times Vera Lynn and her beautiful voice will remain one of the enduring symbols of love and hope of all time!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Didn't we luck out!

Friday (St. Patrick's Day) was my son and his girlfriend's wedding day, and I have to say we really lucked out with the weather. Actually it had been lovely all week but they kept forecasting rain "for tomorrow". Then "tomorrow" kept getting pushed back so we did, indeed, have beautiful weather "on the day" and "tomorrow" (i.e. Saturday) it piddled down more or less all day. I guess the Gods were indeed smiling on us!

I went to work during the day as they weren't getting married till 5 p.m. but I did make sure to leave early after having a shower at work and getting changed. The Geneva Car Show was on (what a pain in the butt that is) and by all accounts 690,000 people visited it, so I left nothing to chance and left work really early to get to their village. Maybe I'm a bit obsessive/compulsive because I was the first one there, but I prefer that since I didn't really know where I was going and the thought of screeching into the parking lot at the last minute gave me the heebie jeebies!

There were about 20 of us there and apart from the actual ceremony itself it was a very laid back affair, lasting only about 20 minutes. The lady Maire began by reading out several articles of the Swiss Civil Code (their rights and obligations under Swiss Law) and then asked them individually if they accepted the other as their spouse. After that, a few words of wisdom, a quick poem and that was it - they were married. Lovely!

With the wedding celebration already being planned for July, I had wondered why they had suddenly brought the civil ceremony so far forward but it turns out that Lily's grandfather is seriously ill and had recently taken a turn for the worse, so they brought the ceremony as far forward as they could in order for him to be able to attend.


André and Lily - the happy couple


Jordan - André's witness - and Jen
After the ceremony we all went back to their place for a very laid back dinner - "grab a seat and a glass where you can" kind of thing. Absolutely perfect to my way of thinking, to be honest.  Now onwards and upwards to the celebration in July when family will be coming in from abroad. Aaaah, one down, one to go!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Ollie the (not so) reluctant star!


Did anyone see this short clip of Ollie taken at Crufts recently. I am thinking I might get a dog when I retire in a couple of years, but have never been particularly attracted to small dogs. Ollie might just change my mind. You've got to love a dog this mad (and to be honest, the commentary is great too!)
 



After a rather "iffy" weekend last weekend weather-wise, it has turned out absolutely beautiful here again. I haven't been sleeping too well though (probably the full moon and upcoming events) so I haven't been out walking or exercising in general and I really have missed it. Who would have thought! So once I get this week over I intend to start up again next week. Of course I still want to lose weight and seem to be yo-yoing up and down around the same few pounds, but as of Monday I had lost 7 lbs. I have been using myfitnesspal.com to track calories and was a bit surprised to see that although I was tracking my intake and "being good", I still wasn't losing as much as I thought I should be, given that I was also exercising. But then it hit me - I looked at the number of grams of sugar I was taking in and not just the calories and I was going over pretty much every day! Bingo. It wasn't chocolate and ice cream, of course, but fruit for the main part, although interestingly there seems to be quite a bit of fructose hidden in other foodstuffs that you would never imagine! I love fruit but when I saw how much fructose I was getting through I realize I may have been overdoing it, so I am going to try cutting that out to see what happens.

To say I have missed walking, also includes missing hopping off my bus on the bridge and walking to work when I can. Well today for the first time in ages I had to bring my car all the way to work and I absolutely hated it. The traffic is terrible as the Car Show is on but the thought of having to go back to driving all the way in every day would do my head in, I can tell you. And talking of bridges, I mentioned last year that the one-and-only bridge in town up to my village was going to be out of commission for a year starting last August. Well I saw this morning that they will be opening it up to alternating traffic again as from Monday! Yipeeeeeee! We still have probably another six months to go with these repairs, but at least this is an improvement on having to drive all round the reekin for the past eight months.

Looking at the weather forecast, we are in for lovely weather tomorrow, and then wet and  horrible for the weekend. Good job my son is getting married tomorrow then!!!!! Can't wait!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Roly Poly Hippo Takes A Bath!

Roly Poly Hippo Takes A Bath was one of my youngest's favourite story books when he was little (about 16 I think - nah, that can't be right. I'm sure he can read now - although you probably wouldn't guess)! You know, it was one of those books where there is one line per page and lots of pictures of Roly Poly Hippo getting nice and clean in his bath and then going outside and rolling around in the mud - much to the horror or Mommy Hippo! Now I don't suppose this has much to do with this post really but I do seem to have some kind of word-connection kinda thing going on over the events of the last few days.

The first I guess is this weekend. As I have mentioned before, the road where I live is called (in French) fields of song, not, as I originally thought, because of the bird song, but because we have loads of underground mountain springs which "sing" as they trickle down the mountain. In fact, our water is of such good quality that it is not "treated" as such, which means we get to enjoy real spring water which is so much better than some chemically treated water I have tasted.  The downside of that, though, is that if ever our little village has excess water and the local town is in short supply, we are not allowed to sell it on to them - but then I can live with that, I'm sure!

Five of us home owners recently had the opportunity to purchase small tracts of land directly backing on to our gardens, something we did just in case the field behind us (the one in the header photo to this blog) is sold for construction (although technically it is non-constructible land) and we wanted to be sure that they could not build an access road immediately backing onto our homes. What that now means is that we are also responsible for the upkeep of the land and so on, although in the 28 years I have lived here the HLM (the owners of the land) have never maintained it - it has always been the homeowners. Another point, however, is that if, on the rare occasion, the rains/spring water get too much and flood the village road, we are also responsible for taking care of that. So the five homeowners got together and have decided to bury pipes under the land in order to channel the spring water safely away from our homes and from the road. The only problem is, two of my neighbours already did this by hand-digging trenches and laying pipes, my immediate neighbour had someone in to do it last week-end, and now I have mountain streams flowing through my back garden - which sounds lovely but definitely is not! I now need to do the same thing, but can only realistically do it when my neighbour "further downstream" is also ready, and since he has a helluva lot more pipeline to lay than me I think he wants to wait until April to do it. Hence the reference to Roly Poly Hippo, because we spent the last three days sloshing round in the mud in our wellies digging ditches to temporarily channel the springs securely. Yuck! I only ever occasionally (maybe three weeks out of the year) had actual "flooding" in my garden (never in the house) but now I have a permanent stream that needs to be taken care of pretty quickly!

The other thing that made me think of Roly Poly Hippo was the wonderful show three of us went to here in Geneva last night - Tango Fire!!! Oh man, was it good. I love the passion and intensity of Argentine tango anyway, and this group were just spectacular.


When the women strutted on stage in their skimpy outfits my friend suggested I get something similar for the wedding next week - so there's another one just got crossed off my Christmas list!

It was funny though, because after the show finished, the audience started going up the stairs to the upper exits - and I swear you could hear the creaking knees (mine included) from a mile away. So if ever you feel the need to beat yourself up comparing yourself to these show girls by looking like a pregnant hippo with fat ankles - I can highly recommend this Tango Fire! Just sayin!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Say what????

I have a Facebook account - there I admitted it! Not that I post much on it, but it is a good way to keep up with family members dotted all over the world - particularly nephews and nieces - who seem particularly keen on it. On Wednesday night I happened to be glancing over FB when I noticed that my oldest son was online. Our neighbour, with whom we are very close, turned 70 today so I sent André a message reminding him to wish Michel a happy birthday. He said he would and then asked if I was free on March 17th "only Lily and I are getting married that day"!!!! Say what!!!!! That is two weeks from today!!!! It's not the whole "we're getting married" business that threw me, it's the lack of notice!! Unlike the UK, church weddings are not legal in Switzerland (or France, for that matter) so typically people get married first at the Town Hall and then in Church, if that is what they want. In my case, the kids don't want a religious ceremony as neither are religious, so in July we will be having a non-religious family celebration of their marriage. My ex and I got married in Switzerland and the paperwork wasn't particularly fearsome, but with Lily being Swiss their paperwork was more complex because marriage to a Swiss confers certain rights to the spouse - I guess they are making sure it isn't a marriage of convenience. Fair enough and good for the Swiss, but heck, when was he thinking about mentioning the date to me? Bloody hell, now I've got two weeks to find something suitable to wear and no, I haven't exactly lost a ton of weight either! Kids! In fact this morning he emailed me to ask if I could send scanned copies of his brother's British and American passports to him today! Apparently the Maire who will be marrying them needs copies today of Jordan's passports to register him as the official witness. Luckily I make a habit of scanning all official documents so was able to send them but "no pressure there then"!

On the "losing weight" scene, I went walking again today and have to say it is slowly getting very slightly easier going uphill. On the way back I came through the botanical gardens again and I have noticed several times now the beautiful scents given off by some flowers in particular areas of the gardens. I try to look at the names of the flowers/bushes but can't keep the Latin ones in my head of course. Maybe I should take my ipad with me next time. But, going through a group of rhododendrons there is always the most beautiful scent - and I didn't know rhododendrons gave off a scent (not that I know much about any botanical matters really). In fact, in one part of the gardens is the "Jardin des Senteurs" ("perfume gardens", I guess, for want of a better translation). It is specifically designed for blind or sight-impaired people and has all the plant names written in brail. Some of the scents there are just fabulous! So that's another thing to add to my list of "things I want to delve further into" when I retire!

And moving swiftly on, last night a friend and I went to see La La Land. I always try to wait a few weeks when a film comes out to avoid the crowds at the initial screenings. After first going to the wrong cinema we made it to the right cinema just as the opening titles were coming up. I have to say - crikey - what an amazing place that cinema was! I nearly fainted when I found out the entrance fee was 25 Swiss francs (that's about 25 dollars) and that had even come down from the 35 Swiss francs he was charging previously. But ..... and it's a big but here ..... the cinema was absolute luxury! Imagine yourself on a plane in first class, reclinable seats, plenty of space, and with your own individual tray for drinks etc. There was a bar/coffee shop just outside and some people brought their glass of wine in with them. Frankly, although it was expensive, it was a real treat to see a film this way and. I feel, worth occasionally splashing out on. I must not be the only one to feel this way because apparently this guy has recently bought another run-down cinema and will be doing it up in the same vein! Now that's an entrepreneurial spirit if ever there was one!

As for the film, it was ok/good. Very "feel good" but not the greatest of films but by no means boring. I would give it a 7/10, to be honest.


The film is all about a young man desperate to open his own jazz club and a young woman desperate to find fame as an actress. I couldn't help noticing that while Emma Stone is not, in my opinion, conventionally beautiful, to my mind she has something very attractive about her (but of course, with Hollywood make-up artists they all look great). Nevertheless, I think she is attractive (and talented). This week, of course, we had the Oscars and while I don't watch them (9-hour time difference and no interest anyway) there was a real whoo-haa in the press about La La Land being named the best film by mistake. Not the end of the world by any means, and of course there are far more important things going on in the world, but I couldn't help noticing how dreadful Faye Dunaway looked. Yes, I know she's getting on and all that but her plastic surgery is just appalling! So then I got to thinking how hard it must be for someone who was once considered a great beauty to age, and how desperate so many seem to hold on to their looks. In the end, isn't it easier for the rest of us mere mortals not to have to "apoligize" for aging and not be examined under the microscope. Just a thought!

And finally, another thought (gosh, I seem to be having a lot of those lately)! OH and I split up in June last year after seven years together. I ended it because I was tired of never doing anything ever and felt that with my divorce well and truly in the past and the kids moved on I am just chomping at the bit to do things and he just wasn't. We're still friends in any case, and occasionally have a drink together, but we are no longer a couple and we're both fine with that. Well the other night I was having a drink with him after work and they were playing salsa music in the background. I commented on how much I love that music and ex-OH commented how much he "loathed it with a vengeance" (see how compatible we aren't!). Well I had been talking to a colleague who, like me, had previously taken salsa lessons and was thinking of going back to it in September when they start up again from scratch. The salsa teacher I had was great but like so many other women I didn't have a partner, and while she made sure we all swapped partners as much as possible, it wasn't ideal. So I was looking up the schedule for the current classes (she teaches other things than salsa) and I noticed that she gives private lessons. They are expensive but I was wondering if it might be worth treating myself to 10 private lessons so that I can get more out of it. I wouldn't just want salsa lessons either, as she teaches ballroom dances such as the waltz and the foxtrot and so on (which I tried out and loved). Normally each year I try to go away in February/March for a break from the winter, but this year, with the wedding coming up, I won't be going away until later in the year, so I was wondering - should I put some of the money I would have spent on going away into private dance lessons? Being a Libran I have to weigh these things up, not only because of the cost but because I have (happily) gotten involved in so many different clubs/projects that I also don't want to have every night taken up with going out. Aaaahhh first world problems to be sure!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Got the monkey off my shoulder!

I didn't feel like walking today. We had a helluva storm last night and today, for the first time in ages, it was grey, windy and cold-ish. Cars coming down from villages higher up the mountain had quite a good coverage of snow and there were broken tree branches everywhere - so nah, I didn't feel like walking. But hey, I got that monkey off my shoulder - you know, the one who says "oh don't bother, just this once, it won't matter". And of course, it wouldn't matter, but I actually got off my backside and went walking again at lunchtime. Yay me!


It was too muddy to go on one of my usual circuits so I walked along the lakefront, and while it was pretty windy, it was a really pleasant walk. It definitely blows the cobwebs away and is a real mood booster. Also they usually have various exhibitions along the lake front - at the moment they have sculptures which, to be honest, are quite beyond me and my peasant heart, but previously they had photos of people from all over the world photographed in authentic, unretouched detail -  they were so interesting. OK so stopping to pour over sculptures or photos probably doesn't do much in the way of calorie burning, but at least I got out there right!

On Saturday night a friend and I went to see "Shrek, The Musical", performed by Simply Theatre, which is the under-18s theatre group. We saw them perform The Addams Family last year and they were fantastic. And Saturday they didn't disappoint either. In fact, we were talking on the way home and both agreed that we think we actually prefer them to the adult productions. Just wow, I don't know where they get their talent (or their confidence) from but they were amazing. (I have to admit to a little weakness here, but donkey could certainly have given Eddie Murphy a run for his money - couldn't find a picture on their site though. Shame!!!)


Then on Sunday I got to watch the latest match in the rugby six nations - England versus Italy. I love the six nations (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy) because it is on every year and while it doesn't last long you get to see some great rugby. Sunday's match was scrappy, but entertaining, rugby. The referee was French and usually when they want to address an issue with a specific player they shout "number 10 white", or "number 8 blue". For some reason this time the ref just called out, "hey you with the beard" and five Italians turned round! I guess you had to be there but it was really funny - and the giggling from the commentary box was a real treat!


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Switzerland

This week has been one of my quieter weeks and I must admit I have quite enjoyed not having much planned (for a change). I weighed myself on Monday and there was no change - so while disappointing at least it was back to "normal" rather than the seemingly overnight 5 lb weight gain of the other week. It really is slow going considering how much I am exercising but I think I might be all right with that.

Yesterday I got to Geneva in good time so managed to hop off the bus and walk the last 30 minutes in to work. It was absolutely beautiful - bright sunshine and not even cold - and I saw a young woman at the end of one of the jetties sticking out into the lake doing her yoga practice. It was lovely to see. In fact, you do see quite a few "fitness" groups exercising outside in the parks round here - what better backdrop for your fitness regime. Last year, during the good weather, we also had a gent practising the bagpipes in the park outside every Wednesday, and then salsa music playing later in the evening outside one of the stately homes just near here. Sometimes I forget I'm actually at work!

When I walk in to work, I walk through an area called Pâquis, which is central Geneva, but not the "posh bit" (you know, where Sophia Loren lives - that's over the other side of the lake). I like Pâquis though as it has character, although over the years it has been dragged down and what used to be called "full of character" is now a bit less salubrious. At the hotel on my first night in Geneva in May 1980 I met Gill. She was starting work at the same place as me and we became (and have remained) friends over the years, even though she subsequently left my employer to work somewhere else. Well Gill and I rented a studio together in Pâquis for the first three months while we were looking for our own place. We went out together recently and walked past our old studio and both laughed when we remembered the dirty old dog that lived opposite our studio who seemingly, casually, always ended up standing on his balcony when we got home from work. We, of course, would dash in, have a quick wash, change our clothes and then dash back out again - without realizing that the dirty old sod could see straight through our net curtains when the lights were on!! Well, I guess if it gave him a thrill so be it, but we started changing in the bathroom after that once we realized what was going on!

A couple of months after I arrived, Gill very kindly moved out to allow my parents to come and visit for a week. One night my parents and I were walking down towards the lake when my dad commented on "what a lot of people there were out"! I started laughing because I hadn't thought to tell them about the "main industry" of Pâquis! So I asked my dad if it didn't strike him as strange that so many of those "people" were sitting on cars! You see, Pâquis is the main prostitution area of Geneva! I'm not sure if prostitution is legal or just tolerated in Switzerland but either way it is regulated and you really don't get hassled walking down there. Tell a lie, I think I did get propositioned once in all that time but I just laughed in the guy's face.

Anyway, since it was mom and dad's first time in Switzerland a friend suggested I take them up to Zermatt for a long weekend. I didn't have a car yet so booked us on the train. The only thing was, I knew we had to get the train as far as Täsch and then change for the little rack railway that takes you up to Zermatt (only locals are allowed to drive in Zermatt so it is pretty much a "pedestrianized" village).  Once we got past Montreux I knew to be on the look-out for Täsch but didn't know how much further it was, so when we stopped at one station I asked my mom what the name of the station was and she said "sortie" - at which point half the train burst into giggles. You see "sortie" means "exit". In fact, I think my mom and dad were part of the entertainment on that trip as they bounced back and forth from one side of the train to the other going "Ted come and look at this, no Mannie come and look at this". Lovely times indeed.

When we eventually got to Täsch and on to the little train we encountered what I can only describe as a typical British battleaxe! You know the kind, probably lived through the last days of the British Raj and totally bombastic. It was mid-July, scorching hot and a group of young people had opened a small window on the train to let some air in. Well they were told in no uncertain terms to close it again as she was cold! To give them their due, they did shut it but the rest of us almost suffered from heat stroke on the way up! Anyway it turned out that "Miss Crawford" (the battleaxe) seemed to be quite taken with my dad so she invited us to have a drink with her that evening. Being polite we did, but then she wanted to get together for every meal thereafter, so we spent the next few days dodging Miss Crawford, or as my mom would put it "Crawfie to the left" and we would all dodge into a doorway as she was such a crashing boor.

On a friend's recommendation I had booked us into a lovely little hotel called the Hotel Romantica. It was small but spotlessly clean and the owners were very friendly.

Hotel Romantica
Zermatt (with the Matterhorn in the background)
I hadn't realized, because nobody had told me, but my dad had just come out of hospital with another "heart episode". He had had several heart attacks over the years and, I found out later, it was touch and go whether he would be able to come out to Switzerland this time. But manage it he did and we had a lovely time, taking the cog railway up to the top of the mountains, stopping for lunch and then either walking or getting the train back down. Somewhere I have a lovely picture of him lying in the grass at the top of the mountain, lapping up the sun. I don't know if Switzerland actually did him good or just the fact that he had a tan when he went back made him look so well, but I have to say that trip was one of the best memories I have of time spent with my parents!


Friday, 24 February 2017

Beginning to get the hang of this exercise malarky!

Five weeks in and I think I'm beginning to get the hang of this business. My weight is not down as much as I would like despite the fact that I have been counting calories as between hormones and water retention my weight still tends to go up and down like a yo yo. Still the general trend is down so I guess I need to stop myself chomping at the bit. Last year I had some credit with Amazon so I bought myself the cheapest fitbit I could find that would sync to my phone, and I have to admit I am loving it. They say you should walk at least 10,000 steps per day for optimal fitness and my fitbit really brought home how sedentary I was/am. I guess on an average work day I am hitting around 5,000 - 6,000 steps, so in order to hit the 10,000 I need to hop off the bus 30 minutes from work and walk in and walk at lunchtime. A tall order some days, although to be honest once I have got my backside into gear I have enjoyed it. The trick for me is not to look up too much when I am going uphill as it is a bit soul destroying to see how far you have to go yet. I have to admit though it it is getting a little easier - not a lot, but we're getting there. Walking in in the mornings also brings home to me how slow I walk. Seriously! Even when I was young and relatively fit I was always a dawdler and not much has changed, although I'm told if you take your hands out your pockets it does help you speed up!!

When we lived in D.C. my ex and I didn't get to spend much time together since he worked nights and weekends and I worked the opposite schedule. When we did have some time, however, we liked to go to Washington zoo, where I think my favourite animal was the sloth! And don't get me started on Sid in Ice Age - what's not to love? They are so cute and seemingly laid back, so maybe that is where I get my dawdling tendencies from!

Sid


Anyway, this morning a Tunisian colleague caught the same bus as me so I made him hop off the bus on the Mont Blanc bridge with me and walk in - well I got to run alongside him as his legs are much longer than mine. Imed is a great friend and always good for a laugh, so it was a pleasure to get a chance to chat to him too. We met many years ago at work when he had come into my office to help a colleague with her computer. All of a sudden there was a loud "ping". My colleague didn't notice but Imed did and looked up. Seemingly my bra had finally admitted defeat and the strap broke, flinging a plastic bit out the top of my shirt. Imed looked at me with a "what just happened" look on his face, so I waved my bra strap at him. One big, cheesy grin from him later and we have remained great friends to this day!

It is weird though being able to go out walking over here when I see the damage being done by storm Doris in the UK and Ireland. The weather was supposed to break here today but it really hasn't. A little rain (snow in the mountains - always welcome at this time of year) and that's it apparently for the next week or so. Long may it last, is all I can say is I love spring.

Talking of "springs", the subdivision where I live is called "Fields of Song" in French not, as I originally thought, because of the bird song, but because we have loads of underground springs which apparently "sing" as they make their way down the mountains. Well since several of us homeowners bought the small plots of land behind each of our properties recently in order to prevent an access road being built if ever the field behind the houses is sold for construction, some of the neighbours have laid pipes through their land in order to channel the springs properly and keep the water off the road when the heavy rains come. I haven't got round to doing mine yet so at the moment I have a spring flowing through my veggie plot, which is fine if it is contained, but I guess I had better get moving on that too, unless I want an impromptu swimming pool appearing!

And finally, a small group of us at work run a second-hand bookshop, the profits from which are donated to various charities of our choosing. I am the treasurer and last year, for instance, a Peruvian colleague asked for 500 Swiss francs to take to Peru where her chosen charity was able to buy two wheelchairs with that money (you certainly wouldn't get even one wheelchair for that over here). Anyway, Yoli also collects plastic bottle tops which she takes with her when she goes home to give to the same charity since she gets $250 for every 250 kg of plastic! So yesterday as I took a plastic bag of bottle tops up to her office she laughed as she told me that last time she went home she was entitled to take three suitcases with her, so she filled one completely with bottle tops - and then got stopped at Peruvian customs! The customs officers told her they thought they had seen pretty much everything, but Yoli proved them wrong! I am very interested in recycling, organic farming etc. and would love to get involved with a Transition Network group but have yet to find one locally. But the thought of French bottle caps being lugged to Peru to end up buying wheelchairs for a charity definitely appeals to both my sense of good husbandry and irony!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Ooohhh la la!

Last week we started a new project at my monthly patchwork course - "I ❤ Paris". It is a kind of tote bag and we are going to learn how to appliqué pictures, add different kinds of decorations and so on. I am going with the theme "I ❤ Paris" because our teacher has tons of ideas for it (and she's from Paris incidentally). Our task this month is to embroider a lamppost onto one of the panels and the Eiffel Tour on another, just to get the hang of the kind of needlework/stitching she wants us to do. Next lesson we will be adding in a panel with a photo on it (I still have to chose my photo) and she also asked us to find small snippets of fabric with a "Paris" theme to it to add later. Now a couple of the ladies have the same fabric for this with pictures of stiletto heels, leather handbags and so on, but do you think I could find anything similar? No, of course I couldn't. What I did find was fabric along similar lines except it was beach-themed - sunglasses, parasols, beach balls and so on. Yeah, yeah, I know, Paris isn't on the ocean so please don't tell anyone, but I think the little cutouts might be quite nice anyway so I'll just have to go with what I have.

In order to make this bag we had to pick out six different, coordinating fabrics. I am useless at this stuff as I really don't have an eye for colour, so I decided to nip down to Cluses to ask Lydie, my teacher, for help, with the proviso that she does not allow me to chose anything pink and green or orange and green or yellow and green! I love those colours so tend to gravitate towards them all the time but this time I wanted something different. Anyway, she did a great job and we picked out a really nice selection of strong, bold colours that are not green and something!  Actually her shop is a little Aladdin's cave for anyone who likes that kind of stuff (we don't have the same selection as in the U.S. or the U.K.). But, I totally forgot to look for the "I ❤ Paris" fabric so last Saturday I decided to run out to a local "chain store" fabric shop a bit nearer to me.

Mondial Tissus ("World Fabrics") exists throughout France (I believe) and is a kind of generic fabric store, as opposed to Lydie's Aladdin's cave where she really specializes with some beautiful (if expensive) stuff. Anyway, Mondial Tissus is located in a commercial area about 20 minutes from home - you know, the kind of place that houses every shop/garden centre/garage possible. The trouble is, since all the roads/roundabouts tend to look the same to me I tend to go shooting past the "Mondial" turn off..... except that I now have a fail-safe trigger - yes, it's the sex shop right next door! No kidding, they share the same parking lot - Easy Love and Mondial Tissus! Or I guess more correctly, Mondial Tissus has about six parking spaces and if they are all full you just walk round the corner and use one of the 50 or so Easy Love parking spaces! You can imagine the look on some of the little old grannies' faces can't you!




Actually, that right there could be a business opportunity - buy all your kinky gear in Easy Love then nip into Mondial Tissus and have your alterations done! Who said the entrepreneurial spirit is dead!

Now I don't know what got into me but as I was heading towards my car I thought "what the heck, why not", so decided to have a quick look in "the other place"! I have never been in a sex shop before and since I am technically an adult I talked myself into going in because "I have every right to go in this shop and no I'm not the slightest bit embarassed and don't I look like a woman of the world" kinda thing right! Well I went in and had to go up some dingy stairs that made it look a bit like a speakeasy. I got to the top of the stairs, took a deep breath, one good look around (still standing at the entrance) and dashed out of there. Honestly, I think I made more of a prat of myself by doing that than if I had just wandered nonchalantly around! Maybe next time! Actually, the first time I had ever seen a sex shop was when my sister moved to Copenhagen in 1979 and we went past a sex supermarket!!!! Can you imagine grabbing a trolley outside and filling that up. To be honest, what was I thinking - "oh I'll just buy these fluffy handcuffs and handcuff myself to the bed"! What a pillock!

So, moving seamlessly on, on Sunday I drove over to my son's to drop off some paperwork I had for him. As it was a lovely day I decided to take a trip out in the car afterwards to try to find the departure point for a hike up the Môle. It's not a particularly arduous hike (apparently) but there are several different departure points for it so I decided to try and find one of the them for the day when I get my act into gear and actually hike up it. I found it eventually and while I was up above the snow line there wasn't much snow and there were loads of people making their way back down it on such a glorious day.

The Môle is the smaller mountain on the left
Departure point for the hike
One of my goals for this year is to get out into the mountains more. Well, that and lose weight in time for the wedding. I had been really, really good last week, watching everything I ate and exercising every day, so on Sunday I weighed myself and was thrilled to see I was down 6 lbs from my starting weight. Problem was on Monday (weigh-in day) I was up 5 lbs!!!!! What the flip!!!! So I tried again today and I am down 3 lbs again! Crikey, talk about hormonal! It can be so discouraging, particularly as I have been so "good" but I have to keep the faith I siuppose, and in all honesty the exercise alone was making me feel wonderful anyway. Time to get the nose back to the grindstone I think. Actually, when my friend Steve was over at New Year we were both moaning about how unfit we had both become compared to when we met in Peru four years ago, so we have a bet that next time he comes over we are going to walk up the mountain behind me to the Chalet de Balme. It's not a particularly difficult hike but I guess you have to get started somewhere right?

Chalet de Balme
Let's see if I can put my money where my mouth is!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Oops!

As I mentioned previously, I have been looking around for groups to join locally in order to get out more and meet different people. So finally, after many years of diddling around, last Friday I went to the first meeting of our local "village committee"! This is the group that organizes most of the events in the village (village fête, the annual car boot, Papa Noel comes to school, dinner for the "oldies") and a damn good job they do too. Our is a small village and compared to some of the villages on the other side of the Lake, we are relatively "parochial" (i.e. read "poor") and our village fête looks nothing like some of the other village fêtes where there are quite a few wealthy inhabitants. Think "deepest France" (to cobble a line from Paddington Bear) or "la France profonde". But you know, it is actually lovely. Nothing fancy, as epitomized by kids trying to catch trout in a barrel with their bare hands! Anyway, for several years I have diddled about saying "oh I must join in" and done nothing about it, but last Friday I bumped into my neighbour as he was heading off to the meeting and decided to tag along finally. They are desperately in need of new and young blood so all I can say is hats off to them for doing as much as they do. I'm not sure how many hours I can put in as I am gone at least 12 hours a day, but I will most certainly do what I can - which is only fair when you think of it. I mean, I have lived in this village for 28 years now (I only lived in the UK for 21) so time to pitch in I think.

I also went on a vegan cookery course the other week, given by Migros in Geneva. Migros is the Swiss equivalent of Wal Mart or Tesco, i.e. they are a supermarket but have a finger in every pie, and over the years I have taken many of their evening classes, particularly when I was single. This course wasn't actually that great, nor was it actually that "vegan" given that one of the deserts was made with chocolate made from cow's milk, but since I am not looking to become vegan and am only interested in doing more interesting things with non-meat products, I thought I would give it a shot. Problem was, one of the young women managed to explode the soup while blitzing it so we ended up spending at least 20 minutes wiping walls and floors to get the soup off. As I say, it really wasn't that good, but at least I have tried it right!  I see Migros are also offering a one-off Persian cookery evening that looks interesting, plus vegetarian Indian cookery so I'll have to check them out.

In France, the local "night school" (they call it the MJC here - Maison de Jeunesse et de Culture), is where I took the infamous tap dancing try-out (in over 100 degree weather). They are all over France and offer some interesting possibilities also. As I was leaving my board game evening the other night, I noticed that my local town is hoping to set up a jardin partagé - something which interests me very much. Now I'm not sure exactly what they mean by "jardin partage" but I take it to mean "communal veggie plots". Not allotments exactly but something along those lines, and they are hoping to bring in people to teach organic gardening, if I understood exactly. Valérie, my former neighbour and board game evening co-conspirator, is also interested in this so we have agreed to meet up for the next meeting on this project. It's all go isn't it - but as I said before, I like "all go", and now that I am single and my kids are moved out, I am looking forward to doing more of this kind of stuff. In fact, I remember as a single girl in Geneva, during the five years before I married I never, ever spent one evening at home in all those five years! Crikey, it looks like I'm heading that way again.

On Thursday as I was heading to work I stopped to let school kids cross the road and they were all dressed up for Carnaval. This relates to mardi gras (which is on 28 February this year) but local schools spread out the celebrations over a couple of weeks. I have to say I liked seeing the teenagers dressed up as rabbits, clowns and so on. Halloween hasn't really taken off over here (I don't see any reason why it should either), but Carnaval has always been part of the local traditions.
I obviously couldn't be taking pictures of the kids crossing the road while I was driving!
And finally, a bit of drama the other Friday. I work directly opposite the Israeli Mission which, for obvious reasons, has huge concrete bollards outside it and armed guards. Well apparently there was a bomb scare last Friday evening, the police were called and an untended suitcase was eventually blown up. Turns out it was just someone's suitcase left at the bus stop, and my colleagues think it could have been "one of ours". We regularly have training courses for groups from various geographical regions on the work of our organization. They suspect a group of trainees was running to catch the bus at the end of one of these courses and someone must have ran over to get his ticket while the others held the bus up for him. End result, he forgot his suitcase and his underpants and toothbrush were blown to smithereens! Still, better an unfortunate incident like that than a real bomb any day.

And on that note, I am looking forward to a quiet weekend. No news as yet from the Nutty Professor or the mailbox name-plate Gods. Weigh-in on Monday. I have been really careful counting calories and have exercised every day but I don't actually feel as though I have lost any weight. Damn and drat. Fingers crossed!