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.
|Zermatt (with the Matterhorn in the background)|