The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Thursday, 21 September 2017

How to stay young

..... is the title of a BBC series I came across last week. The second episode was last night and I have to say it was pretty interesting. It had nothing to do with miracle creams and liposuction and so on, but was an interesting experiment aimed at the "hidden" dangers within our bodies and courses of action to do something about it.

Each programme follows the story of three volunteers, mostly in their 40s and 50s from what I can see, who agree to follow a 12-week programme devised to tackle problems that are causing them to have bodies which are biologically older than their actual age - which I guess could probably include most of us, unless we are ultra-fit and healthy. Well it definitely includes me! They start off putting the volunteers through a series of tests to assess their percentage body fat, their strength, their blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and so on, and then based on statistics for others the same age, the "guinea pigs" were shown the difference between their actual birth ages and their body's biological age. As you can imagine, if they had agreed to participate in this experiment it was because all these people had "issues", but to be honest, not obviously so. One lady was 57 and very slim and so was shocked when her percentage body fat showed up as 48% (I think the maximum should be no higher than 25%). She admitted she was lazy - for instance she said she would drive to the nearest shop which was "minutes away", and indeed when the presenter asked her to walk with him to the shop and timed it it turned out it was 1 minute and 20 seconds away on foot!  According to the strength tests she was in the 3 percentile for muscle strength - that is to say, weaker than 97 other people her age out of a hundred - and her biological age indicator showed her to have the body of a 75 year old!

Another man was 51 and obviously overweight - although again, not excessively so. He was a chef but said that chefs often don't have the time to eat properly so he spent his time picking at fries, eating pies - and also admitted he loved his beer. His biological age worked out to 90 - again another shocker. So the three guinea pigs were put on a 12-week programme to address their various issues - one lady had depression, another had sleep problems - none of it was about losing weight for the sake of it. Many of the techniques used in the programme were of course similar - walking for an hour a day would probably never do anyone any harm would it! And at the end of the 12 weeks they revisted all the tests they had done and in every case, their baseline figures had improved. All that in 12 weeks! It was very motivating, I can tell you, and they all looked to have gotten some "ooomph" back. Of course most of them also lost weight but they never announced what their weight loss was because that was not what they were focusing on. If you think a 51 year old with a 90 year old body was shocking, apparently next week they will showcase "the worst age gap" they have had on the programme, so that should be interesting.

I hate to think where I would be on that scale - it would be interesting to find out though. On that note, I have done well so far this week with exercise (five times since Monday). My fitbit already confirmed that I am pretty sedentary, averaging only around 6,000-7,000 steps a day if I don't do any extra exercise. If I want to make it to the 10,000 recommended steps it means I have to add in at least an hour of walking per day - which in my case means lunchtimes, because I'm not getting up any earlier to fit in extra exercise (and in any case I am not a morning person) and lunchtime is the easiest time for me. Anyway, so far so good, and if nothing else I am already enjoying it.  I'm looking forward to next week's programme in any case.

On another note, I have been a busy little bee in the kitchen lately. I made pumpkin soup, ham and split pea soup and Dorset apple cake this weekend. On top of that, since Sunday's vide-grenier was a bit of a wash-out my neighbours brought round some of the rather nice looking sausages that were left over from the BBQ stall. So last night I threw together what I am laughingly calling my version of "cassoulet", using the sausages and a few odds and sods I had hanging around. Threw it all into the slow cooker this morning and we will see what it tastes like tonight, 12 hours later. I suspect the person who "invented" cassoulet will be spinning in his grave though!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Giants are coming ....

..... and I'm gonna miss 'em! Bugger it! In all my time in Geneva I have never seen this display (although I think they did visit once before) and I will be away on vacation when they visit!  Darn and drat!  From what I can tell they are magical visitors who will shortly show up in Geneva "owing to an incredible alignment of stars and a shower of meteorites rushing to earth." Quite coincidentally the city's Mayor had been forewarned that the clock at the Museum of Watchmaking had stopped for a few seconds, as had all Swiss watches. Happily a few seconds later, all was back to normal .... except everyone had lost a few minutes.  Fortunately, the world’s greatest scientists, gathered at the Geneva research center and working on the acceleration of the particles of the Higgs Boson, discovered through ancient writings the possible existence of Giants living behind the Planck wall, before the Big Bang. After intense study of these writings, they have concluded that Geneva will be visited next week by Great Grandma Giant and Little Giant.  While Great Grandma Giant can speak, only her Lilliputian helpers can understand her, so they have to come along for the visit!

I believe Great Grandma is 8 metres tall and has been sighted in other cities around the world, but this is the first time she will make an appearance in Geneva. I am sooooo sorry to be missing this as it really is right up my alley - just like Les Flottins at New Years. Oh well, the thought of flying off to Rhodes assuages my angst somewhat but really, I would just love to have seen this. And as I have said before, I am so grateful that there are people around with the enthusiasm, ability and dedication to put these kinds of shows together!

In other news, I weighed myself again on Monday and again hadn't lost a single pound. I'm not totally surprised though as last week was hectic with meeting-related stuff and I got out of my routine. It's a good job I lost 3 lbs the first week I guess as that still makes it 3-for-3, but seriously, I have to get moving on this weight-loss business.

This weekend was quiet-ish with nothing planned (I love weekends like that). Even though the weather wasn't great I still got outside and hacked back bushes and trees to my heart's content - I told you, I love this cold weather!!! Then on Sunday my village held its annual vide-grenier (car boot, flea market??? - attic emptier in French), which, sadly, was a real disappointment. There were hardly any stalls there, but then they had forecast bad weather so you can't blame people for not wanting to set up stalls in the cold and rain can you. The sad thing is though, in the end the weather was fine and sunny, if cold, so it could have gone so much better, but hats off again to the volunteers who pull these things together.

The view looking at the Mairie in my little village is absolutely spectacular and I had always wanted to try and capture it (you can see way into the alps at the back) but all I managed to get on Sunday was this shot with the clouds blocking out the mountains. Oh well, another time I guess.

Very poor turn out for the vide-grenier
After our short stint at the vide-grenier, I had seen a patchwork/embroidery exhibition in a local château which was on its last day so we decided to give it a shot - and we definitely weren't disappointed (to be honest, we never are)! It was held in what must have been, at one time, a barn belonging to the Château, but the barn was beautifully renovated and of course the needlework was oh so beautiful!
Château de Chilly - now a restaurant

The symbol of France

Les demoiselles

Birds of paradise
There were many more, larger and more traditional patchworks but with the lighting in the barn I wasn't able to do them justice, but I think you can probably get the general idea of just how much work goes into this.  Funnily enough, my patchwork club started up last Monday and my other sewing club started up again last night (I alternate Monday nights), and last night Thérèse, who has been the "Présidente" for quite a few years, asked for a volunteer to take over. Now I am one of the few ladies working full-time and I have the commute from hell, plus I have only been going - I think - three years, so I really don't think I would be the best person to take over. She said there's not much to do ..... and I'm not totally clear what all it involves - but nobody else would volunteer. I didn't volunteer either (for the above reasons) but I may have to re-think. She said there are two meetings you have to attend each year (they only last about an hour) and then ..... everyone has a drink afterwards - so guess who might be volunteering after all!!! Anything for a free drink! So from now I should like to be referred to as "Madame la Présidente". Yay, get me. How can they possibly turn down my request for French citizenship after this!!!!

And finally, I mentioned in a previous post how useless my brother is with technology. Well I had spoken to him on Sunday and he was a bit down (there are days like that I guess) but yesterday at work I got a Whatsapp message from him saying "had a great night's sleep, feeling better today, miss you and can't wait to see you again". Oh dear, he screwed up again (obviously thinking he was talking to his lady friend). I just wrote back and said "glad to hear it but you might want to get your glasses fixed". Still haven't heard back from him!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

No change!

I actually did do my Monday weigh-in on Monday but have been running around like crazy so haven't had time to post for a couple of days. No change in weight sadly - although I'm actually a little surprised it hasn't gone up because we had a four-day weekend last weekend (the last public holiday until Christmas) and I really didn't make much of an effort with the diet, to be honest. I had plans to do this or that and so on but in the end did pretty much bugger all. I had made an appointment to get my car in for a service on the Thursday since that way I wouldn't have to take a day off, so that pretty much put paid to any running around on Thursday. After that I just pottered really, which in and of itself isn't a bad thing but sometimes I do get annoyed with myself for not taking advantage of these days off to go somewhere or do something out of the ordinary. Oh well, I guess my body was trying to tell me something because frankly I could sleep for England at the moment.

A funny thing happened on the Wednesday evening though. As I was sitting down reading there was an incoming phone call from the Pittsburgh area - a number I didn't recognize - but I picked it up anyway just in case there were problems in the ex-in-law family. As I picked up my ex started speaking to me in French and prattling away. I tried several times to explain to him that it wasn't necessary to speak to me in French and that I wasn't Jen but ..... So that wrong number meant I got to speak to my ex for about 20 minutes.  And guess what, he's (I guess "they") coming back over in November for the Marine Corps Ball to meet up with an old friend!!! Yikes. Not that there is any reason I have to see him anyway, but ..... he must be haemorraghing (sp?) money at the moment. Anyway, we chatted a bit and he mentioned something about our youngest. I told him I helped him out financially since he earns less than the minimum wage, being an apprentice. Well he usually makes around the minimum wage as he does a lot of overtime, but he's not exactly rolling in money. I had told my son I would take care of his car as long as he was an apprentice so recently had to put new tyres on as they had worn, and then on Monday had to spend € 900 to replace what I think is called the cam shaft in English. I know it's expensive but apparently if that screws up you can kiss your car goodbye - and round where we live you really can't get by without a car. On top of that I'm also paying for his schooling and other stuff so ex asked me why he (the ex) wasn't sending money - so I said, I don't know, why aren't you helping your kid out? Sorry, I just couldn't help myself. I know what he makes as a pension and he makes as much as I do in salary so why he can't throw a couple hundred dollars his kid's way is beyond me, all the more so because I am on my own with the same kinds of bills but he and gf both have incomes. We'll see I suppose, but I won't hold my breath!

I stayed up as late as I dared on Sunday night watching Hurricane Irma. Gosh, what a frightening thing Mother Nature can be. I have a dear friend in Havana and haven't heard from her but I have no reason to believe she is other than OK. She is Irish and married to a Cuban and they usually go to Ireland for the summer as Cuba is just too hot. Trouble is, they have an elderly dog and the past couple of years she has not wanted to leave the dog, so unless the dog has since died I suspect she will have been in Havana. Those poor people on the islands though, some of whom lost everything. Then I have friends in Fort Myers (which is the reason I stayed up so late Sunday as the hurricane was working its way up from Naples). Mark was posting regular updates on FB and had retained his sense of humour because while they were expecting flooding, being at "the nose-bleed-inducing height of 21 feet above sea level" ...... they figured they would be ok! That's funny because they used to live over here in the alps and I, personally, live at over 2,400 feet! Still, I haven't heard word from him/them since so while I'm assuming they are ok I don't know how much damage they might have suffered (if any). Luckily my friend in central Florida reported back about 36 hours later to say they were fine, although there was quite a bit of damage and debris around. But, she had nothing but praise for the front-line workers who restored electricity in about 30 hours and were already removing debris. So while I am on that subject, Nathalie, shout out to you - I hope you and yours are ok!

On another depressing note, yesterday was the first day of one of my meetings. The "big" meetings for me are July and December but these meetings are also important. I guess the team spends about 18 months preparing the meeting and then a delegation flies in from capital and the meeting takes place. Anyway, I left home at 6.30 a.m. in order to be well in time for any last minute things that might pop up before the meeting. Got stuck about 1 km from the border and then crawled into Switzerland, which was made all the more weird by the fact that traffic on Wednesdays is usually lighter. But not at bit of it yesterday. Eventually I managed to make it to the car park but then found out that the road up ahead was completely blocked by a horrendous accident and even the buses were being re-routed back into France!!! Crikey, so here's me thinking you work for 18 months to get the meeting ready and then show up late!!! But in the end, what can you do about it? It turns out there had been a fatal crash up ahead and I'm not quite sure how a single crash (at 6 a.m. no less) can close such a wide road but ..... Sadly, a young motorcyclist died in a head on collision with a car at exactly the same spot as the young female cyclist died in January. Absolutely tragic. In fact, there were two fatal motorcycle collisions in Geneva at around the same time here in Geneva which tends to put life and "things" in perspective, I can tell you. No-one is going to put on your gravestone "was always on time for meetings" are they? So in the end I just thought, to hell with it, every possible thing that could be done in advance I had already done so my colleagues would just have to pick up my files and trot on down to the conference centre. Quite by chance, I actually made it there only 10 minutes late (but three-and-a-half hours after I had left home), but again, the world wouldn't have stopped rotating if I hadn't would it. My colleague was telling me this morning that the young man killed was a colleague of her husband's, although he didn't know him very well as he was a relatively new recruit. Only 30 years old and there was talk that the driver of the car was drunk!!! At 6 a.m.!!! I guess we won't know the truth of that for some time!

But not wanting to end on such a gloomy note, Sam was recounting her "prat fall" in her latest blog post - you know, that time when you went "arse over tit" (as my dad would say) in front of everyone. We've all done it I suppose so I was trying to think which one of my prat falls I would consider my most public, though not necessarily the most spectacular. And I came up with a time I was down in Annecy looking for a kind of small deckchair thingy for my garden. As I was wandering round I spotted exactly the thing so decided to try it out. When I sat down I went straight through the fabric of the chair and ended up getting wedged in the wooden frame! I had to call out to someone to help me up (it must have looked pretty funny to him though). But, I actually didn't break the chair - I reckon someone had either broken it and wrapped the fabric back over the wooden support or, more likely, had deliberately cut it through as the cut was very clean. Either way, I wasn't at my most elegant with my backside stuck in this deckchair I can tell you. Which brings to mind another incident which actually made the TV in the UK a few years ago. There was a rather large lady on a beach in the south of England (Brighton I think but can't be sure). Anyway, it was a pebbly beach and with her weight her chair started sinking further and further into the sand, all the while she was stuck in the chair. Unfortunately the tide started coming in so they had to call the emergency services to get her and/or the chair out of there. Now on the face of it, it was your typical fat lady funny with plenty of spectators, but while it indeed had the makings of comedy gold, I can't help feeling how dreadfully humiliated that poor lady must have felt. Urggghhh, life/people can be cruel sometimes can't it!

Monday, 4 September 2017

3 lbs down!!

Yipee, I'm down three pounds since my weigh-in last Monday. Although to be honest, I kinda wished I had taken yesterday's figures because I was down 6 lbs then!! Can you believe it! Well I guess it's probably just as well I didn't go with yesterday's reading because that would probably only mean I would be way back up again anyway, but it just goes to show (for me anyway) exactly how "hormonal" I am! I was feeling really bloated the other week when I hit my new "high" and last week I already felt so much better. I don't know if it was laying off the fruit, more exercise or a combination of the two, but either way I'll take it. I still don't think I'll feel like I'm actually "losing weightt" though until I get another 2 lbs or so off - what I would consider "real weight" as opposed to hormones. Still, I'll take 3 lbs.

What's kinda stupid really, though, is the fact that I just signed up for a cake decorating course in October! I must be nuts, but to be fair, I have always wanted to know how to decorate cakes properly using fondant icing and I finally ferreted out a one-day course right down the road here in Geneva. In any case, I can always bring it in to work and it will go in about 10 minutes flat. Years ago, my dear old mom used to make her Christmas cake well in advance of Christmas and "feed" it regularly with whiskey. Then she would try to make a smooth icing topping but always cocked it up, at which point she roughed it all over with a fork and it became a "snow scene"! Ha! Not that we cared of course because it tasted good anyway, and it all tastes the same on the way down doesn't it.

In a previous post I had talked about how my friend and I got all kitted out to "go hiking" when we went down to the Cascade de Seythened and the grotto, only to find that it was a 30-minute stumble through the grotto all told! Oh well, we didn't know did we, but I suspect we were a bit overdressed! My oldest son was four when his brother was born, and I remember when the baby was 11 days old we took a drive down to Sixt, Fer à Cheval. The oldest, André, decided that since he was the big boy now he wanted to go hiking with his dad, while mom stayed at the café with the baby. So we got him all dressed up with his boots and waterproof and his little backpack, and off went the Dynamic Duo - only to return again about 10 minutes later! I had only just had time to change the baby's nappy and get him re-dressed when they were back. Come to think of it, that just about sums up André's attitude to exercise even today I think, although I hear he was swimming every day before the wedding in an effort to lose some weight! The youngest and his girlfriend regularly go off hiking but not so much the oldest. Although it did used to tickle me when the kids would hike up to spend the night on the Plateau de Cenise. They would drive up as far as they could and then hike the last bit in order to camp out in their sleeping bags on top of the Plateau but - get this - Jordan would actually take a heavy wooden garden chair strapped to his back! When I told him at the very least to take a lightweight fold up fishing chair he said no as he preferred the wooden one! Oh to be young again. They go up there at least once a year though to sleep out (they don't even take a tent) but what is nice is that they always take flowers to scatter where the ashes of their friend Hugo were scattered seven years ago after he, and another friend, were killed in a car crash. It's so lovely that they still keep Hugo and Kevin in their hearts!

Plateau de Cenise

Friday, 1 September 2017

Throwing down the gauntlet!

In my previous post I was talking about my latest gung ho decision to get into some kind of shape and lose weight. I have been thinking for some time that apart from the weight gain that seems to blight most women at menopause, I am pretty sure my love of fruit (and all things fructose-related) might have something to do with my weight gain. I know fruit is good for you but apparently the fructose can really play havoc with "insulin response" (I couldn't explain that all technically if I tried). I had been debating leaving the fruit alone to give it a try and this week I have done just that. It was difficult the first couple of day, what with all those beautiful peaches and nectarines at the market, but after seven days I am not craving it quite so much. I then decided to re-watch the Fixing Dad documentary (I have mentioned it before) and on the strength of that documentary I bought the book and re-read it last week. It's a very easy read and combining that information with the very-easy-to use "" it was quite an eye-opener for me to see just how much sugar I was getting through, even when, apparently, the calories were quite low. MFP recommends keeping to under 45g of sugar a day and I was going waaaay over that. So I have had to have a total re-think on that one. My first weigh-in will be on Monday so we'll see how that goes.

I had also mentioned previously that I wanted to start getting out and exploring again, so when we had the post-wedding brunch in a small hotel about an hour from home I picked up some of their touristy info available in the reception. I had seen a leaflet on a waterfall called Cascade de Seythenex not too far from here which was located right next to a grotto. So a friend and I set off not really knowing what to expect but all equipped to "hike a little" and explore.

Thankfully I wasn't expecting too much (and so I wasn't disappointed) but the waterfall was quite small and the grotto -  had we not been held back by the guide having to give explanations in both English and French - we could have done the whole thing in 15 minutes!  Oh well, at least we made the effort. That being said, it was a very pretty little spot and a glorious day so we didn't actually "lose out".

I couldn't quite catch the zip-liner in the background!

Pretty little "dolls house" (about 6 feet high) at the restaurant

Inside the grotto - we had to hunch down all the way
Since I have a somewhat Gary Larsonesque sense of humour I thought the photos inside the grotto came out looking much like what an ear, nose and throat specialist much see every day! Well, actually, I have a pretty dirty sense of humour so that wasn't my first thought - but I'm trying to keep it classy here (fat chance)!  So while the waterfall and the grotto weren't exactly that exciting, coming back along Lake Annecy we took the lake road rather than the highway and I had my first, ever view of Talloires, which is at the opposite end of the lake from Annecy itself, and it was beautifuil! It is just a small town, as opposed to the tourist magnet which is Annecy, and I just loved it.

When my brother came out in May and we took the dinner/dance boat trip on the lake, it must have been Talloires that they was all lit up at the far end - and very lovely it is too. I have to get my backside into gear one weekend before the weather turns and get back down there - I mean, it's only about 90 minutes away!

And finally, an old friend from my first days here in Geneva called to let me know that she had bought tickets to the "Simply Youthful Theatre" (the under-18s anglophone theatre group here in Geneva) and did I want to go (she still supports them because her daughter used to be involved with them)?  You can tell we're getting old because we actually went to the three o'clock matinée!!! but that was intentional as (a) it wouldn't be so crowded (this particular theatre gets extremely hot) and (b) we had time to go out to dinner afterwards and have a good old chinwag.

They were performing "Legally Blond". I had never seen the movie because it just wasn't the kind of thing that appealed to me but while it wasn't the best performance I have seen this group put on (that accolade is still unbeaten by their performance of The Addams Family), they were still very, very good, with the young Reese-Witherspoon lookalike hamming it up for all she was worth. Well done indeed kids.

Turn that frown upside down!

I suspect I might be a bit weird but I always feel rather glad when the summer months of July and August start drawing to an end. It's most likely because I don't like the heat, and although it's still in the 80s and 90s here at least in the mornings it is cooler. I guess I'm just not made for the tropics!!!

Anyway, the last couple of days I have hopped off the bus on the bridge and walked the last 30 minutes to work - still a bit sweaty but nothing like it has been. Yesterday morning I was stopped by a man who asked me for some money "for something to eat". I hate it because I genuinely don't know what to do in these cases. He looked perfectly fine, not skinny or dirty and didn't seem to be a Roma but still I didn't know what to do so I just said "no". I never give to the Roma since the time I saw a woman sitting on the floor outside the supermarket with a sleeping baby in her arms (drugged up I suppose) and the next day I saw a different woman but with the same baby! So that's me done with them! A few years ago, when I was still driving all the way in to work, I would often see a Roma man panhandling at the traffic lights, a pitiful look on his face and pleading eyes. One day I was stopped at the red light where he was panhandling when a police car pulled up behind me. The pitiful look disappeared, the cap went back on his head and he trotted off down a side street, completely forgetting his limp! We do see quite a few obviously very disabled beggars here - but it makes me wonder if these countries are sending all their disabled beggars here or if there is just a disproportionate number of these people born disabled. I can't figure it out!

On the other side of that story, a few years ago I was in a supermarket parking lot with my friend when a very skinny young lad came running up to us and asked for money. I said "no" and got in the car, but my friend said "we both have sons his age and he looks like he hasn't eaten for weeks, what do you think?" My response was "what about drugs" and she just said "well let's give him the benefit of the doubt", so we handed him five Swiss francs. I hope he got something to eat, and in the end I agreed with her. Then two Saturdays ago I was coming out of the tobacconists and saw a man, probably in his 40s, sitting on the floor begging. I don't know why but I just gave him one euro. Then last Saturday, coming out of the same tobacconist's I heard the emergency services pull up and they were ferrying the same man away on a stretcher - and that's when I noticed the empty booze bottle sitting beside him. I figured it was booze anyway with him and I honestly have no rhyme or reason as to when or to whom I give as I still haven't quite figured it out. I think I mentioned before that I pick up stuff every week when shopping and when I have a crateful I take it down to the local food bank. Well this week, as I went in to drop off my donation, the older chappie there gave me a big smile and said "oh thank goodness, we are getting to that time of the year again, and the ladies have just been out shopping". I noticed last year, towards November, they were starting to run short of supplies before their legally-allowed canvassing in front of the supermarket in October (they are allowed to do this two days a year). I will always continue to give to them (run by the splendid Red Cross volunteers), but as for individual beggars I just don't know.

On another note, I sent off an email to the French authorities at the end of July asking what formalities I would have to complete to request French citizenship. I was starting to get the impression that France must be full up because four weeks later I still hadn't had a reply, but this week I finally got one. The in-joke is that if you want to invade France you do it between 12 and 2 pm because everyone will be at lunch (true) or during August because they are all on holiday - also seemingly true.  We'll see. I started reading up some of the stuff they request and yikes - just yikes. Of course I can get it all done but I just thank God I am "administratively minded" because that is one helluva lot of paperwork to ferret out, and even then, I am looking at about two years before it would go through (just in time for Brexit or thereabouts).

And finally, now that the kids are starting back to school, the bloody traffic is already hell. It took me two hours to get home again the other night!! Anyway, as I mentioned above, I have been starting to try to get in some walking now that the weather is cooler, but last night it started to rain and of course the traffic as I was about to leave was already gridlocked. I work on the north side of Lake Geneva and the train station is also on this side, so my bus gets to snake its way up to the train station and then loop back round to come across the bridge to the south side. Just getting to the train station can sometimes take an hour (it only takes 25 minutes to walk it!!!) but you don't know what it's going to be like until you are already stuck on the bus. Anyway, last night I thought I might once again hop on the ferry boat to take me over the lake, but I missed it by about three minutes. So, I decided to just keep on walking and in 40 minutes I was past the train station, past the end of the lake and over the bridge!!! Not bad eh! I actually don't mind walking but realize it might be time to get some waterproof shoes if I'm going to keep this up! The farting noises coming from my wet shoes was quite embarrassing!

Still, what with my son just turning 30 I realize I will be 59 at the end of this month!!! Which means ..... drum roll please .... bloody hell - 60 next year! And at the end of last week I was feeling really bloated (hormonal/water retention/just plain fat after pigging out?) and made the mistake of stepping on the scales. YIIIIIIKES! I had actually hit the exact weight I was when I was nine months pregnant with my second son 25 years ago and I had put on 23 kg with that pregnancy!!!!! Shame on me! So calculating my 59th birthday on 24 September 2017, ergo my 60th birthday on 24 September 2018(!!!) that would pretty well give me 52 weeks to lose a pound a week before my 60th right? (Actually, I don't need to lose 50 lbs as I was quite tiny up until about my 46th birthday (I know I weighed 66 kg then), but 40 lbs off wouldn't go amiss. I know people seem to want to get "fit at 50" but obviously that ship sailed aaaaages ago, but oh well, here goes. Let's see how I get on!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Happy birthday André!

Although we got together as a family the other Saturday night, today is my oldest son's actual 30th birthday. Wow, talk about weird - having such an old guy for a son!!! When did that happen?

Anyway, he went from this:

Ah, how cute!
To this:

And even cuter!
Much love to them both and I hope the next 30 years bring you health, wealth and happiness!

Old dogs and new tricks!

What a joke that is! I'm talking about my brother and teaching an old dog new tricks but, on an only slightly different level, I guess I could be talking about myself too. I can't say I am particularly interested in technology, don't have to have the latest gadgets and only learn how to use something when I either have to or it interests me. I learned how to use my new sewing machine because it interests me - my iphone - nah, not so much. In fact, the only reason I have an iphone is because the Blackberry I had kept dying on me so I thought I had better "upgrade". As to all the functionalities, I'm not that interested, although I have to admit it can be a bit embarrassing when I am out with friends and we try to set up another date - they all check on their phones and I have to think really hard to remember because my appointments are all written down in my diary! Of course I use a computer extensively for my work and am forever grateful that I know how to use it, but in and of itself, I'm embarrassingly disinterested.

That being said, I positively look like Bill Gates compared to my brother (or both of them, in fact). When his wife died suddenly last year, in addition to being absolutely devastated P was also in the unfortunate situation of "being the one who didn't know where anything was". In fact he told me that one of the hardest things was figuring out such things as where she ordered the heating fuel from and so on, as he had no idea.  I do remember trying to get my ex involved in this kind of stuff but he too just wasn't interested. Every so often he would do his nut about how "someone was obviously draining the bank account" (I guess he meant me) because we had no money, but during our divorce I was able to demonstrate extensively just where all the money was going - and it sure as hell had nothing to do with me! Don't laugh but I also always did our accounts basically on the back of an envelope because I knew how much was going into the bank and I was supposed to know how much was going out. This didn't quite work out when I was married because he was constantly spending and I had no idea what on. Since I am on my own, however, I am pretty much spot on. (On a side note, my friend Steve, who came over from England over Christmas, laughed when I told him I do my accounts on the back of an envelope and have envelopes in a tin under my armchair with all the money divied up for various bills.  He was incredulous that "you have a Swiss bank account and do your accounting on the back of an envelope"!)  Note: it's not that kind of Swiss bank account but yep, that's about the truth of it!

Anyway, back to my brother. When his wife died he didn't have a credit card, barely knew where the cheque book was, didn't have a mobile phone and couldn't use the internet or email.  He was supposed to go to Greece with me the first year after her death but wouldn't book it himself through the English travel agent because "I don't have a credit card and I can't use email"! So I booked it from over here using my credit card and then he wanted to send me a cheque in pounds!!! I told him they haven't used cheques in Switzerland since 2003 (true) and a cheque in sterling was no good to me. Talk about hard work - sometimes he's like pulling teeth!

I used to phone him every week to see how he was getting on and after the first year, when all the "first" anniversaries were over he began to do a little better. He told me that he desperately missed female company and while he has made friends at his widows and widowers club, he misses being able to chat to a woman over dinner and so on. Not that anyone would or could ever replace his wife, but he just wanted some companionship - as do we all I suppose!

Well finally he seems to have met someone who makes him laugh again. She is his age and also a widow. It is in the very early stages and they won't be seeing each other an awful lot since she lives 150 miles away, but so far they seem to be making each other happy.  His new lady friend, M, is also trying to drag him at least into the 20th century technology-wise (she can forget the 21st century I think), so he has now got a phone, can reply to an email as long as you write to him first, and got his first look at Facebook the other day and was stunned to see pictures of his recent trip out to France to visit me. He loved it. And most recently, M has got him turned on to Whatsapp so that the hours they spend on the phone every night are no longer costing them a fortune!

So all seemed to be going along swimmingly - until last night, that is! I had just got into bed to read at 11 p.m. when I get a Whatsapp message from my brother.

P - "that thing I was saying about the shoes, why did you take them, now I have nothing" (or something along these lines).

Me - "Say what?"

P - "I only bought those shoes because I thought they were smart.  Blah, blah, blah"

Me - "Come again? Hey, who do you think you have been chatting with for the last five minutes?"

P - "You, M, of course!"

Me - "Ha, bloody ha. You have been divulging your deepest secrets to your sister since, oh, about 11.05 pm!"

P - "Oh, shit, please please forget we had this conversation. I'm going to take myself off and give myself a good talking to"!

Me - "No worries, it's forgotten already. Night!"

Except I didn't forget it - I just wrote it down here so that I would never forget that conversation!  Tee hee! Actually there was nothing raunchy or super-secretive about the conversation at all (much to my disappointment) but he sure as hell wasn't making any sense to me, until I figured out what was going on when he sent a photo of what looked like an older lady and two younger females (turns out it was his lady friend and her granddaughters).  But - and I'm sure we've all done it - it just goes to show you have to be really careful before you let that trigger finger loose!

Old dog and new tricks!

Monday, 21 August 2017

More this and that

Not at lot has been going on round here lately. The traffic is starting to pick up as families are heading back home after their holidays and preparing for the new school year. Oh how I used to hate it in England when school would finish towards the end of July and before you knew it the bloody shops would start pushing their "back-to-school" supplies. It seems like we had only just gotten out of school and here we were heading back already! Of course compared to the 10-12 weeks summer break the kids have round here (as compared to - what - 6-7 in England) - we really were almost heading straight back! Later, as a working parent, I came to appreciate how difficult it is to keep the kids occupied during those long school breaks, but at the time it sure didn't seem fair to me!

So what's new? Oh yes I got a call from my youngest son's gf the other night asking if I wanted to come over on Saturday night for dinner to celebrate my oldest son's 30th birthday (you know, the one who just got married). Actually his birthday is on 30 August but both couples seem to be pretty booked up at the weekends so this was one of the few times we were all available. It was a lovely, simple evening and I thoroughly enjoyed it. After we ate, Jen got out a board game called "Cranium" - a new one to me - but actually quite fun. Because three of us (my sons and I) had grown up with a more anglophone culture, we skipped over some of the more difficult French-based questions, but found plenty to keep us going. For instance, I had to get my team mates to say "Mr. Bean" by miming him (got it in one!!!) and another time I had to mime "work interview". I didn't mind this stuff at all, but, for example, the "tooth fairy" in English becomes the "little mouse" in French so we had a few crossed wires mixed in with the giggles. There was also one card where I was blind-folded and I had to get them to say "Mont Blanc" by drawing it. Guess what, I managed it! I drew round my finger on the paper so I knew where I had drawn Lake Geneva (in order to put the Mont Blanc further south) but when I took my blindfold off I have to admit Lake Geneva looked more like a penis (but luckily no-one came up with that one)!

I think I mentioned previously that a few of us are going to host a monthly board game evening and with that in mind I had already bought a few fun games. I bought a new game called "Pie Face" where basically the loser gets "tarted" with whipped cream! I had to nag my sons into playing and I so wish I could figure out how to put the video on here as the video of the two of them playing and roaring laughing when the eldest got hit in the face with the cream was great. Something else to figure out I suppose. But it was great fun - oh and I got "tarted" too, by the way!

André knows already that Jordan is too good for him!
André's response to getting "tarted" - hey, I like this game (slurp, slurp)!

On the Sunday, I had spotted a vide-grenier taking place at a place called Thorens-Glières. It had been ages since I had been up there so a friend and I took a trip out there. For once I didn't buy anything (except a huge hamburger) but she did quite well with a lovely bag, bracelet and tiny, leather slippers for her great nephew. Very pretty.
During the second World War, there was a huge battle between the occupying Germans and the French resistance on top of the Plâteau de Glières, so I think I might take a run up there next weekend to re-visit the museum, time and weather permitting, of course.

On the way back, my friend asked if I would stop at the little church called La Benite Fontaine (the Blessed Fountain) so she could fill up a couple of water bottles of spring water/holy water. I don't know that it is really holy water, but it is certainly untreated mountain spring water and she, very touchingly, wanted to get some water for her beloved labrador who, we suspect, is on his last legs. She knows the time is coming but thought a little "help from God" wouldn't do him any harm either would it.

A little shrine at La Benite

One elderly lady was there filling up about 10 bottles with the water and I asked her if it was good - she said "well it's natural spring water and I'm not doing so badly on it am I" as she trudged back up the hillside with her two carrier bags full of bottled water.

"Thank you" plaques addressed to the Virgin Mary

At the spring
It's actually a lovely spot to picnic too!
Church of La Benite Fontaine
France is a Catholic country and I'm not Catholic - but you can't beat a beautiful church in my opinion!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

I was in a really good mood until .....

The temperature here dropped quite a bit last week, much to my relief. I really don't "do" heat - I mean, if it is cold you can always get warmer by moving, can't you, but getting out of the heat can sometimes be difficult, to say the least. So any puny exercise regime I might kid myself I am following soon falls by the wayside once the summer hits. In the spring I had gotten into a fairly regular routine of walking either to work or at lunchtime and going to the gym, but once the temperature gets up into the 30s and above (around June) I just can't cope with it. I failed miserably in my attempt to lose weight in time for my son's wedding in July. Oh, I absolutely did lose about 10 lbs but probably put 8 back on so not much cheer there. Anyway, with last week being a bit cooler I did manage to exercise five times in all, and I know I've said this before, but I always feel so good when I do this. Beats me why I ever quit of course, but if anyone knows where you can buy bottled motivation or willpower please let me know.

For today, at least, I am on track though, as I got off the bus and walked 30 minutes this morning and plodded my way round a pitifully hot Botanical Gardens at lunch time, so I will be well over my 10,000 steps today. And it is such a lovely walk - well I have three lunchtime routes in fact. The first is to the Mont Blanc bridge and back (all on the flat). The second is three times round the Botanical Gardens (which includes a slight uphill part), and the third is up to the US mission, which is perched on top of a hill and which, though I huff and puff all the way to the top, I am actually beginning to find easier with every attempt I make.

As it was so hot I decided to take my time today and take photos (well that's my excuse). I made it three times round the circuit nevertheless, but crikey - was I sweating!

Kiddies' carousel in the Gardens
UN Beach
I had lunch at the UN beach restaurant that you can see in the distance with a friend last week - it's been ages since I have eaten there and it really feels like you are on holiday when you eat there.

I loved this tree (being chased by a pterodactyl?) but couldn't get the whole tree in - the trunk was beautiful.

Young goats play fighting - very cute!

This walk takes me about 45 minutes, which gives me 15 minutes to get back to work and into the shower. But .... and here's the bit that pissed me off, I had gone up to one of the shower rooms away from the main exercise rooms since they get quite crowded at lunchtime. I was the first in and left my clothes on one of the 10 clothes pegs in that room - a room which has only one shower. When I got back from my walk though, I saw that my clothes had been moved out of the shower room and into the general toilet area - frankly that is a no-no to me since there were nine other places to hang your clothes up other than mine. The shower was already running when I got there so I waited .... and waited .... and waited .... and - you get the idea. In the end, I timed it and the person in the shower actually had the water running for 20 minutes after I had got there. Bloody hell! I don't take 30 minute showers at home and can be in and out in five minutes, so what she was doing for well over 20 minutes is beyond me - assuming she doesn't work down a coal mine - which she doesn't. Well eventually the shower stopped and I thought "oh goody, I can get in there in a minute"! But no, another 15 minutes to huff and puff and get herself dry and whatever else she was doing. For me this is just not on when there is only one shower and we have 60 minutes for lunch. So after 30 minutes she finally came out and when she saw me said "oh I moved your stuff outside in case you wanted to go to another shower room". I pointed out that no, I really wanted to use this one since this is where I left my stuff so please don't move it in future (I may also have muttered something about "keeping the bloody shower short and sweet in future too", but I can't be sure!!!) Hell I was ticked off but you know what, in the end, I figured hey there are more important things to get mad about and having to wait 30 minutes for a shower is really just a first world problem isn't it. So all's well, I'm back "in the zone", but jeepers you should see my frizzy hair!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017


I'm not in the slightest bit artistic or creative. That's not false modesty - it's just the truth. I can and do enjoy learning crafts but as a "self-starter" - well that's just not me. You know when people are creative because it's just there from an early age and for me that wasn't the case. Oh don't get me wrong, as I am getting more and more free time to myself, I am thoroughly enjoying taking patchwork lessons, cookery lessons and so on, but it doesn't come naturally or easily. I take that back - I actually can cook and enjoy it - the lessons are more about discovering different cuisines and ingredients.

I recently discovered a small haberdashery store not too far from home where they offer patchwork lessons pretty much any time, including Saturday mornings. They also offer knitting lessons and I would love to do that later, when I am retired. I have this thing about making myself a beautiful pair of woolen socks some day. Who knows, that may well happen. In fact my mom was a beautiful knitter - she could and would knit anything up until she was almost 80 years of age, when her eyesight started to fail her. Of course, with that generation it was often of necessity. I remember her unraveling old sweaters and knitting them back up as "new" (oh my aching arms - having to hold them both out so that she could wrap the wool around them). In fact, about five years ago my childhood friend, Ian, decided he had had enough of England and just upped sticks and went off to Bulgaria to live with no fall back plan (note, he's still there and loving it)! When my ex left me in 2010 Ian invited me out to Bulgaria to meet up. Now his father had died at the age of 40 leaving his mom a widow with five young children to support so money was tight! We laughed so much on that holiday about "the old times", but one of the funniest things I remember him saying was that you always knew what you would be getting for Christmas because your mom would be knitting away and all of a sudden she would say "stand up and put your arms out"! And he was right¨

Anyway, where was I going with this ramble? Oh yes, creativity. I think I mentioned in a blog post about my son's wedding that one of his closest friends showed up in a bright orange suit - I mean, really garish - and his brother showed up in a matching canary yellow suit because "they said not to wear black or white"! I have a pretty wacky sense of humour so I loved it.

See if you can pick them out!
My youngest son tells me all the women love S because he is like a great, big, red-haired teddy bear - and he's right. He is a lovely person and a very talented wrought-iron worker - now working for himself.  Well my external balcony has been badly in need of some TLC for quite some time - in fact, the mason started dismantling the balcony and working on the cement part of it just yesterday. Quite by coincidence, S called me and said could he come over last night with his ideas for my balcony and the side gate I want to put in.  We had already talked about what I want and he came over with his initial sketches - which I loved!

This will be what my wrought-iron balcony will look like (he is going to give me a white cow with black spots on the left (sorry, I'm not good with "breeds") and the one on the right will have brown spots - the one chewing the grass). And when I asked him "where are my rats?", he is now going to add a couple of rats running along the handrail! I should explain my home backs on to a dairy farm so this for me was just so spot on (yeah, I know I'm nuts!)

For the side gate he came up with this:

I'm not too sure about the cat on the right (he's green) so I am thinking of having him take a look at the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland (oh, and he's going to add in a couple of hedgehogs too). I can't wait!

Cheshire Cat - from Alice in Wonderland
I love it! I love bright colours and I love "wacky". I know it might not appeal to everyone but hey .... one of the great joys of paying all your own bills is that you get to choose everything right?

On an only somewhat similar note, I watched a lovely documentary the other night celebrating comedian Billy Connolly's birthday where they had invited three different artists to create pictures of Billy, which would eventually be displayed in the art museum but also on buildings around Glasgow, to celebrate one of Glasgow's favourite lads! The young lady who created the really wacky (as you can see, I love that word) portrait of him took her inspiration from his various - often "potty humour" - jokes and I think she really managed to capture the very spirit of him.  All three were wonderful (as is Billy), but wow, what talent!

And finally, I also saw Grayson Perry on TV the other night. He is a (happily married) artist who just happens to be a transvestite. "Odd" I guess is the way he might be described, or more likely "outrageous" but what came over so strongly in this programme was what an intensely funny and interesting man he is. I'm not sure that his art appeals to me, but his unconventional side certainly does!

Grayson Perry (left) and his wife!

Monday, 31 July 2017

Memories of a lovely day!

My son and his wife are back from their honeymoon and started back at work today (berrrrkkkkk!!! is how he put it). But they had a wonderful honeymoon in Croatia (in the Split region), which makes me think a long weekend in Croatia could be in my stars too.

Back to the wedding, I really can't believe how perfectly everything went. Even the weather, which threatened rain off and on, remained perfect all day (if a little too hot and humid, but I'm not complaining).  The setting for the ceremony was a lovely place called La Médicée, a kind of old mansion house which had been renovated but had retained its oldy-worldy charm. I have rummaged around for photos but can't actually find any that do it justice. I think what I really loved about the place was that it was "rustic" rather than pristine, with wild flowers blooming everywhere, in addition to the pots and pots of cultivated plants.

My sons are both in the same band and although there is a four-year age difference, they have many friends in common. The "mates" were just starting to show up as we got there and I had to laugh when I saw Sylvain, the rather gorgeous young red-head who is going to be re-doing my balcony soon. He is a "mate" and had decided to wear a bright, bright orange suit with matching hat - I mean it literally hurt your eyes to look at him in the sunlight - and a young man (who turned out to be Sylvain's brother - I should have known), was in a matching outfit but in canary yellow! What a sight those two were! I went up to say hallo and complimented them on their "discreet little outfits" - to which they both just grinned and said "well they said no black or white"! And you know what, I loved it - just my kind of humour. The young people all looked very handsome though all dressed up - which is not something I often see with that lot.

On to the wedding, I have to say the ceremony was just fabulous, even though I was having to try to give a running commentary to my family as the main part of the ceremony was in French - although where possible people took it in turns to speak in either English or French. The basic gist of the ceremony was that "while people seemed to think that André and Lily met in 2006, they were wrong. They actually met around 400 years B.C.! You see, in those days there were "men", "women" and "androids" - beings made up of a male and a female half joined together at the back, but having two heads, four arms, four legs and two bodies. Sadly, over time it seemed that these androids became vain and started thinking they were more important than God, so Zeus became angry, took his sword and split them down the middle, forever to wander the earth looking for their other half. Now Aristotle had this theory - that somewhere in the future it would be possible for these androids to find their other halves - so taking the time machine (that he very handily happened to have available to him), and plugging in the GPS, he time-warped himself to Geneva in 2006, to the Academie de Langues et de Commerce, where he passed himself off as both a janitor and a professor of Greek history at the same time! Well one day he was busy painting the walls (in his janitor capacity) when André happened to glance over and spot Lily, at which point Aristotle shouted "eureka (side note: I know that was Archimedes but it was a commonly used expression in ancient Greece) and he realized that André and Lily had indeed found their other halves". So he had managed to prove his theory you see!

I tell you, the lady celebrant made this such a fun story that everyone was giggling. She then went on to re-enact André getting down on one knee to propose last September and the completely unaware Lily thinking he was stopping to tie his laces! As I said, the ceremony was lovely. I think I may have mentioned before that Lily's mom is originally from Korea but came to Switzerland at the age of eight. There were a couple of sweet "nods" to mom's Korean culture during the ceremony, but one that moved us all was that they had tied cards to the nearest tree with the names of loved ones who were no longer with us physically but who were there in spirit! At the end of the ceremony they bowed to each other, bowed to their guests and then bowed to the lost loved ones!

Both dads were blubbing their eyes out but somehow Lily's mom and I just looked at each other and rolled our eyes!

After an initial apéritif, which allowed the photographer to work his magic (the photos above are just ipad photos) we went in to the beautiful hall, wonderfully decorated, and were served a really good five-course meal. I think the caterers might have been recommended by la Médicée but in any case they were excellent. After that there were a few games and the dancing started at around midnight. At this point we old foggies were getting tired so we left around 1 a.m. I understand they partied on until 5 a.m. so there were a few bleary eyes the next morning but hey - as long as no-one was driving who cares.

The next day André and Lily had organized a light brunch for anyone who had stayed overnight in hotels in the local area (I drove my family home but we came back again the next day).  It was again scorching hot and difficult to get out of the sun, but it was nice to see the mates all turn up again on so little sleep.

My family and I ended up sitting on the same table as my ex and his new gf but actually it was all right. Everyone was polite and chatted so I am so glad it went well. He had phoned me on the Monday night to see if "we" wanted to go out for a drink with them but I just said I would rather not, but that I would see him at the wedding. Phew, thank God that bit went without a hitch!

The photographer was a young Englishman (now a friend) who the kids had flown out from England and who they put up at their apartment. He is going to make them a website (I can't wait) but as it isn't ready I thought I would post a couple of his lovely photos. Oh, and it had been one of his dreams to do a photoshoot in the Swiss alps (although with the French alps right there I wonder why not do it there - maybe he hadn't heard as much about the French alps). Anyway, on the Saturday the three of them drove up to Zermatt, caught the little train up to the village, then the rack railway up to Riffelsee and hiked round to the most beautiful vantage point for taking pictures of the Matterhorn. They caught Lily unawares as she was changing back into her wedding dress though - ha! Another one for the album!

Photo by Ap-Art Photography

Photo by Ap-Art Photography