The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Monday, 30 January 2017

A veritable heatwave!

When I left to go to work this morning it was +1°!!! My goodness, after the last three weeks or so of well below zero (-9° last Wednesday) it almost feels tropical! This weekend we were so lucky to have temperatures above zero and bright sunshine. You could almost be forgiven for thinking spring was on its way, although realistically I know we still have the crappy weather to come in February and March. One thing I did notice with the dry weather though is that I keep getting shocked by static electricity. My colleague was explaining that it was because there is no moisture in the air (it snowed two weeks back but nothing since) so every time I touch the car or the tap to fill up the kettle I get a shock. Yuck. She said don't feel sorry for yourself, imagine how my bloody cat feels!

Picture by Bianoti

On a positive note, I weighed myself this morning and I have lost 4 lbs! Yipee (and finally. I have been pretty good since new year exercising and such but for three weeks my weight wavered back and forth around those same 3-4 lb. I have to admit it was getting a bit frustrating to be making a sustained effort and see no reaction from the scales, so this morning's weigh-in felt pretty good. I have been exercising at lunchtimes three or four times a week since the beginning of the year but seemingly with little effect, so in order to get somewhere I knew I had to sort out the "calories in" too. My friend is following the Dukan diet and doing pretty well so far but the big "but" there for me is the lack of fruit. I have my reservations about that diet anyway but you know how when you are desperate you will try anything. I checked it out online (from the UK site) as I already have the books, and by their calculations I should hit my ideal weight by May 2017. For the privilege of joining up and receiving online support though, they wanted £232!!! I couldn't believe it. When I looked at Slimming World online (the meetings are not available over here) or Weight Watchers they were pretty much of a muchness price-wise and I think both of them are pretty good systems. Dukan, however, wanted £232 to cover online support for just that 16-18 week period until I would supposedly achieve my goal weight. Thankfully I didn't sign up in my initial spurt of enthusiasm because I only stuck it out 36 hours before I caved and ate fruit. Going on a total protein diet just wouldn't do it for me, even if the results are (initially) very good. I crave fruit so decided to give it a miss and have signed up for a wonderful site called myfitnesspal.com. It has a free calorie and exercise counter plus online support and forums etc. I think in the end the only way I will lose weight is to do it sensibly and slowly, and looking at the calories in certain foods does bring home how the "extra" calories seem to slip in. We'll see I suppose, but so far I am enjoying it.

On Saturday I stopped in at the local jeweler's - a Harry Potter kind of oldy-worldy shop in town - supposedly to pick up a cheque for a necklace I had sold him three weeks ago. On my 50th birthday my ex bought me a pendant gold necklace with precious stones in it. I never wear necklaces (and he knew that) because I hate anything around my neck. Moreover the marriage was already on the rocks (he left me four months later) so I finally decided to take this necklace down to the jeweler he bought it from (I had the receipt) to see if I could get something for it. He was only interested in the gold so told me to come back next week when he knew the price of gold and he would have a cheque for me. So I stop in three weeks later and I wait 45 minutes while he is dealing with a customer. And you know what, I actually don't mind the waiting. I think I have spent so many years working full-time with young kids and a three-hour daily commute that finally arriving at a point in my life where I can just stand around and daydream is fine by me. Except of course, when it actually came time to serve me he explained that he hadn't had time to remove the stones so could I come back next week? It does baffle me a little that he couldn't have told me that 45 minutes earlier though, but oh well. I guess I have become zen in my old age.

For some strange reason, while I was daydreaming I got to thinking about a post by John over at Going Gently. He asked if people had ever "made a scene". Being "very British" it's not something I would typically do although I can think of one instance when I made a very justifiable scene in a French shop, but that I suspect is a story for another day. No, this story relates to my mom and dad's old neighbour. When they first moved to Dorset they lived next to an old widow named Vera. Eventually Vera died and her son decided that rather than sell her place they would rent it out. Now the only reason I "knew" the new people (or had any dealings with them) was because they owned a home in France and asked me to help them with the French while they were trying to sell their place. Eventually they moved out and the son went in to the house to clean it up for the next set of renters. Apparently the place was a pig sty although you would never have guessed it to look at them - all "butter wouldn't melt in their mouth" types. He was furious. He knew that the wife worked in a local charity shop so one day he went into the shop with a very large bin bag, plonked it on the counter and said "oh you left this behind at my mom's place" and walked out! When the woman picked it up he had cut the bottom out of the bin bag and filled it with all the crap and dirt that he had had to clean up after them - which subsequently spilled all over the floor and counter of the charity shop! Well done him is all I can say, I just cannot believe people can be so filthy.

And finally, now I am back in my work/home/work routine I am, as ever, getting plenty of reading done on the bus part of my commute. I am an avid reader and tend to have 3-4 books on the go sometimes, depending on my mood. I have just finished a lovely book by a Swedish writer called Frederik Backman. If you want a feel good, beautifully written, easy read I can highly recommend "A Man Called Ove". Utterly charming, is about the best expression I can find for it.




Wednesday, 25 January 2017

A couple of busy weekends!

These last two weeks have been pretty busy socially. I mentioned before that I am trying out different clubs/courses in a bid to get more involved in my local area before I retire. While I am social enough, I am also quite content in my own company and as retirement is looming tantalisingly close I feel I need to make the effort to meet people outside the work environment (either that or get a dog when I retire!!!)

Shortly after my husband left I decided to go on my first "solo travellers" holiday to Turkey, since I had always loved travelling and now, being free, was the perfect opportunity. It was wonderful - I love Turkey and can highly recommend solo travelling to anyone, no matter whether they are shy or more outgoing. These groups cater for everyone.  Anyway, on my way to London to join up with the group, I ended up buying myself an expensive camera in the Geneva airport duty free shop because since I was obviously going to become a seasoned international traveller I was logically going to need a good camera to document my travels! Of course I hadn't got a clue how to use the bloody thing so booked in for a three-month evening class on photography, and you know what, I hated it! Oh the teacher was great but I really wasn't interested in learning about photography, and in any case (apparently - according to the teacher) since my new camera was the Michael Schumacher of the camera world I couldn't possibly take a bad picture with it anyway!

After that, I took salsa lessons for about a year, which I thoroughly enjoyed despite having two left feet and no sense of rhythm. We were all around the same age (in our 50s) and frankly terrible but it was such good fun. I didn't go back after the first year though because having to drive back into Geneva of an evening, particularly if it was snowing, was really not something I wanted to do after a long day at work.

So moving on, I think I mentioned previously that I have now joined a "board game" group with my former neighbour. It seems to be quite popular here in France (and in Geneva apparently) and people of all ages meet up about once a month to learn different kinds of board games. Well two weeks ago we met up with our local group on the Saturday evening. Valérie knew one of the ladies who was there with her 10-year-old son so we ended up playing a new board game which another lady very kindly spent a fair amount of time explaining to us. I was absolutely useless though. Now in my defence I will say I was sitting on the wrong side of the table so was reading upside down and in French, but all the same I kept getting hammered by the others, particularly the 10-year-old! We then played another game which was all about speed of reflexes and again we all got clobbered by the 10-year-old. He was playing so fast I joked that he was probably cheating, but he actually wasn't - he was getting the answers right pretty much 100%! Crikey, that makes me feel old.

Then late on the Sunday afternoon a friend and I drove in to Geneva to watch Ravel's Bolero being performed by the Russian National Opera and Ballet. I had never seen Bolero before but of course the music is absolutely haunting (it takes me back to the magnificent performance by Torvil and Dean in the 1984 winter olympics). The dancers were simply amazing of course and made it look so easy, but just try flinging your leg behind your head and see how long it takes before you end up in the emergency room!





Then of course on the Monday night I had my usual sewing club (I alternate between two clubs as they both meet on the Monday night) and on Tuesday my once-a-month patchwork lesson. It gets to be quite full on when everything happens at the same time but I try to make the effort because otherwise I feel like all I ever do is get up, go to work, drive home, rinse and repeat - and I'm sure I'm not the only one to feel that way!

On Christmas Day my oldest son mentioned to me that the Irish comedian, Dara O'Briain, was playing in Geneva so I got seven tickets to go see him and he certainly didn't disappoint!

Dara O'Briain

My friend volunteered to drive as I had driven last time and on the way in we saw that the motorway was pretty busy so decided to take a back road. Round here Sunday night traffic can be pretty busy with all the skiers coming down from the mountains so it's better to take the back roads if you know them. As a slight aside, some lunatic almost hit us just as we were getting off the motorway - he didn't even attempt to stop as we were navigating the traffic island and how he didn't hit us (I had my legs pulled all the way up to my chest in case) I have no idea. The frustrating thing is, have you ever wanted to slam on the horn at some dangerous nutter but only succeeded in hitting your turn signal or slamming the windscreen wipers on!  Very frustrating.

As I had all seven tickets for the show I called my kids to arrange a time to meet at the theatre only to find out that they were coming back from a weekend in the Valais (a mountainous canton in Swiss Germany). Since they would not hold the tickets for them at reception I told my kids DON'T DARE be late because once Dara starts his show I am NOT getting up to come out and give you the tickets! Can you imagine, suddenly becoming part the show if Dara spots you getting up and walking out! Anyway Jordan made it with five minutes to spare thank God, and Dara was wonderful, as long as you are capable of listening at 150 miles an hour. Yes, he talks that fast! But the theatre was packed and the show was great, although I'll be glad of a few days doing nothing at this point. As an aside, I understand Dara was at CERN last night (the European Centre for Nuclear Research), which is only about 10 km from here, presumably giving another show and, as a nerd himself, digging up potential material for a future gig about nerds and their toys, a.k.a. the hadron collider!



Monday, 23 January 2017

A coat well travelled!

I first came to Geneva to work when I was 21. I was young, skinny and suddenly had what seemed like an enormous amount of money to spend and since I had to look presentable for work what did I do ..... what most red-blooded young women did .... I shopped! I suppose for many of us being young was when clothes shopping was fun - before the weight gain and old lady dresses that looked like they had been made from your mom's sofa fabric and but which went nicely with the curtains thank you very much!

One winter I remember I bought myself a rather nice pair of boots and a woolly coat which I thought made me look a bit like a sheep but boy did that coat have a lot of success!

Taken on the quai in Conwy, 1981

In February of that year I flew to Denmark to see my sister. One day we decided to take the kids on a day trip to Sweden - she had a two-year-old and a new born. So new coat and boots to hand we caught the early morning ferry. It was cold but sunny as I remember, so we decided to have a wander along a lovely little deserted beach. All of a sudden the two-year-old shot off and charged straight into the sea! IN FEBRUARY! IN SWEDEN! My sister screamed, I tore after him fully clothed and hauled him out. To be honest it wasn't that deep because he hadn't had time to go far but it was deep enough for me to get bloody soaked in my fancy new boots and coat. The little sod!!! We had to strip him off and wrap him in whatever we had to hand in the car and I just had to sit there and wallow in my misery. That little sod is 36 now - I must remind him of that incident one day!

Anyway, in 1985 I married and we moved to DC where I worked for the World Bank. I remember getting off the metro one evening and a lady came running up to me to ask where I had bought the coat as she loved it! I had to let her down gently and explain that I had bought it in Switzerland but hey - more success for the coat!

Then in 1989 we moved back to Switzerland and a couple of years after that my sister-in-law was saying how much she loved that coat. I didn't wear it much anymore so I told her she was welcome to have it. This was the sister-in-law who sadly died unexpectedly a year ago last week. So at the weekend I called my brother to see how he was doing after the one year anniversary of her death. In actual fact he was doing fine so that was a relief all round. But, he was telling me that he has got a job, on a voluntary basis, for two days a week working in local hospice care. Then he laughed and said that after her death he had had the hospice people come to the house to take her clothes for their charity shops. She had loads of clothes (I can't remember if he said 30 or 50 coats but you get the idea). Anyway, they took everything away so that he didn't have to deal with it. And last week, on the anniversary of her death, he took a long walk along the quai at Llandudno - and what did he see walking towards him - yep you guessed it, my coat! I told him I think that was his wife's way of poking fun at him ... I'm sure she is, but boy has that coat done some travelling!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The ongoing saga of brrrrrrrr!

Following seamlessly on from my previous post, my fuel supplier managed to make it out to my house on Monday to deliver 2,000 litres of heating fuel (despite one of their trucks being out of action and despite it not being possible to go through town because the bridge is out - so kudos to the fuel company for that). When I got home Monday night, I ran downstairs to turn the furnace on and luxuriated briefly in the hot air coming off the radiators before I had to run out to go to sewing club. Got home at 10.30 p.m. and there was no bloody heat!!!! Whaaaaaatttttt???? I ran back downstairs and restarted the furnace and went to bed - and woke up the next morning freeeeezzzing again! What the *!*!*!*!*!!?  So again I got on the phone to my maintenance company who promised to come out the same day. They called later and left a message to say that the fuel guy must have flipped an inlet valve on the fuel tank to the "off" position as no fuel was getting through to the furnace!! Bloody hell. So now I am going to get billed for two call-outs by the maintenance company since neither call-out was for an "emergency" or break down. One bill will be for them to point out that I had no fuel in the tank, and the second because the supply valve had been turned off! Oh well, I honestly don't care at this point as I am just so glad to be warm again (did I mention that it was minus 9°C this morning?)!

Yesterday morning I was talking to my boss. He hasn't been feeling well lately but with two young children at home (five and one), it is never a good time to get sick. He was telling me that he had been ill all weekend and thought his oldest was coming down with the same flu-like symptoms! His kids seem to have been continually sick for the past year, which I guess is probably down to the oldest starting school and the youngest starting day-care, as mom has just gone back to work. Well yesterday he called me from home to say that he had to take off in the afternoon as he had a funeral to go to. I reminded him that he had a meeting scheduled at 15h with visitors from Australia! Oh sh*t! So he had to scramble around to get a colleague to stand in for him at the last minute. Then he gets a call from his wife to say that her car has broken down. She was able to get it to a garage and get herself home but they still needed to work out how to pick the kids up later. So immediately after the funeral he had to dash to the garage to get a car seat out of it. Problem was he was on his scooter. He said it was almost lethal trying to get home on a scooter with a car seat strapped to the back in a howling wind!

And just to keep the brrrrr saga going, the weather here has been below freezing for about a week now. We have a wind that sometimes blows in Geneva called "la bise" - it really howls and makes the wind chill factor pretty unbearable, I have to say. On the positive side, it blows all the clouds away and leaves the lake looking absolutely stunning.

Lake Geneva during the bise
This was taken in front of my office building

Would you like ice with that?
My journey to work involves driving to the border and parking in the P&R, and then hopping on the number 25 bus, which takes me door-to-door. Last night I hopped on the bus but the traffic was awful, (as it was in the morning) because when the bise is blowing the ferry boats across the lake don't run. So commuters who would normally park on the south side of the lake and hop a ferry (usually over to Lausanne), have to take their cars and trudge through town, hence the dreadful traffic.


Again it was blowing a hooley so I was so glad to get on the bus and get a seat. About 30 minutes into the journey a voice comes over the tannoy saying "due to traffic delays, this vehicle will not be going to the P&R but will end it's journey at bus stop "Weber"! Frickin hell! Anyway, I dutifully hopped off the bus a little earlier in order to be able to get either bus number 5 or the next number 25 that came along. I stood with two men and we were all stomping our feet trying to keep the cold out. The one gent had an enormous package and a carrier bag so for him getting on and off rush hour buses was no mean feet. After a couple of minutes the number 5 came along, so the two of us and "Mr Big Parcel" managed to insinuate ourselves onto the crowded bus. Not two minutes later we hear over the tannoy "due to traffic delays, this vehicle will not be going to the P&R but will end its journey at bus stop "Rieu"!  One bloody stop further. You can't make this stuff up. I suppose the only saving grace is that this always seems to happen when it is raining and I will take the bise over freezing rain any day. So the three of us, including Mr Big Parcel, trudged off that bus and stood waiting for the next one, stomping our feet to try to keep warm. At this point you either laugh or cry - thankfully the three of us ended up laughing about it. To be fair the next bus came along in less than 10 minutes and we eventually made it to the park and ride. But have you ever had that feeling where you think "if just one more thing goes wrong ......"


Friday, 13 January 2017

It's Friday 13th - ho bloody ho!

I'm not at all superstitious but I have to say the start to the new year is surpassing itself so far!  My friend, Steve, left on 1st January and when I ran down to the basement just before he left I found that my water heater had started peeing water all over the place and flooding that section of the basement. Bloody hell! I had to take Steve to the airport but before leaving I sent a text message to my son (the plumber - yay me) telling him what had happened. When I got back from the airport Jordan had been over and taken a look at it. It seemed to be a valve problem but since the shops were closed and there was nothing we could do about it until the next day, I had to make do with buckets and frequent trips up and down stairs. Anyway the next day Jordan was able to change the valve and while it still drips (it always did - apparently it is normal for that older kind of boiler), it is now much more manageable. It used to take about a week to fill a bucket with the drips and now I guess it would take about five days so at least it is livable. He was saying though that since I am on my own now, if I want to go ahead and change the heater, I don't need a 300 litre tank, but could get away with a 150 litre tank, so I think I will go with that and have him install it for me later when the weather improves.

Then I get home last night - bearing in mind it has been -6 degrees here and they are forecasting -12 - and I have no heat!!!!  Again bl*****dy hell. I checked to make sure the fuel lines were open and turned it on and off a few times but there was nothing doing. One time a cat must have gotten down in my basement and somehow managed to sit on the fuel tank and flip the fuel supply line to "off", but that wasn't the case this time.

I have a maintenance contract with a very professional local company so I called them immediately and left a message. They called me back at 7 a.m. this morning and the first thing he asked me was if I had fuel in the tanks! Well, of course I do, you moron, I always start the winter season with 2000 litres and when it gets down to about 1000 I order more. Anyway, the guy came out this morning and they called me at work to say that I had indeed run out of fuel (so who's the moron now?)! Well talk about feeling like a bloody idiot. You know the old joke about the woman who goes to the garage complaining about a clunking noise in her car and it turns out there is a golf ball in the trunk! I couldn't understand it as by my reckoning I should still have about 400 litres in the tank (you can't actually see how much is left in the tank). Then I remembered that I had had a leak in the summer and I guess I lost quite a bit more fuel than I thought so the tank was indeed empty. I put in an emergency order this morning but I don't think they will be able to deliver until Tuesday as one of their trucks has had an accident. Thankfully I have a few electric heaters and a paraffin heater so I was ok last night, although I will admit to having what must be the quickest shower in living memory this morning.  Still, what with the heaters and an extremely fetching pair of long johns, I think I will survive until I can get this whole fuel tank/water heater system replaced!


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The trials and tribulations of being a woman!

Yesterday I had lunch with a group of friends/former colleagues. We have all worked together over the years and as time goes by we, as a group, are passing from "active" to retired colleagues.  I started working with Janet in 1980 when I first came to Geneva and she retired about three years ago, so we go way back. I have to admit we had an awful lot of fun in those days. In fact, we all worked hard but were able to have some great times along the way too. It has always been a very friendly place to work but as time went by and the number of employees more than doubled it has become difficult to maintain that kind of friendly, family atmosphere. Don't get me wrong, it is still a great place to work, though just not as "familial" as it used to be.

Anyway, the girls were asking about my preparations for my son's wedding in July so I was telling them about how I had seen a beautiful dress, how I was definitely going to lose 16 kg (yeah right) and that I was thinking of getting a spray-on tan for the event. I had had one many years ago - oh, about 20 I would guess - and it turned out lovely. It was one of those shower-type salons where you go in there starkers except for your shower hat and then get sprayed on all sides for about 20 seconds. The tan was very subtle as I am not dark skinned and I looked really "healthy" as opposed to tanned. Trouble is, it was quite expensive and only lasted about five days so I didn't bother going back.

I am fair skinned and tend to go from lily white/blue to bright red with freckles then back to whitish/blue. In fact the only time I ever had a decent tan was when I back-packed round Australia for six months so my tan had six months to build up. I tell ya, when I landed back in London on December 14th 1983 (see how I remember the date) in my shorts and t-shirt (freezing my buns off because all my clothes had got soaked in Jakarta), very briefly I was probably the most tanned person at Heathrow Airport! That feeling of smug satisfaction lasted all of about 10 minutes until I got outside in the freezing snow and cold and had to try to fish out something not totally sodden to wear on the journey back to mom and dad's!

Anyway, fast forward to about seven years ago and they opened a new beauty salon directly over the road from work, I decided to give it another shot.  Of course, I was expecting something like the last set-up so I got the shock of my life when she handed me something that looked like a condom, told me to take all my clothes off and "put that on" (the condom - turned out it was a two-inch square of plastic to "cover my modesty"), and "would you mind if Françoise comes along to watch as she is a trainee?"  What!!! Who was going to be watching me looking like a beached whale wearing a condom?  But of course, being a wimp, I said yes. They actually sprayed/sponged me all over with the fake tan, the crowning humiliation of which was when they asked me to lift my boobs (off my knees) so that they could get under there! Oh the shame. I have to admit though that yet again it looked good, but, again, it only lasted about five days.

So when I told the "ladies that lunch" about my plans one of them reminded me of her experience at the same salon. They sprayed her with the fake tan and when she woke up the next morning, instead of a beautiful allover tan she looked like a leopard. Apparently some of the holes in the spray nozzle had been blocked and she ending up covered in polka-dots. I mean, seriously! Of course it's hysterical now but at the time she didn't find it very funny. Another friend was telling us about the time she tried it before going out that same evening (she's a redhead so doesn't tan) and somehow she managed to get covered in what can only be described as "dripping paint". She spent the afternoon locked in her (absent) boss's office trying to scrub herself down to get rid of the drip stains. She said she ended up bright red all over and scratched to hell!

Oh my goodness, that has given me food for thought. I think I might just try one of those gentle sprays you can buy over the counter, just for the bits that you can see. After all, I don't want to end up looking like Ross in that episode of Friends!


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Finally!

In a bid to become more involved in the local French community, I decided to join two evening sewing clubs. Unfortunately they both meet on a Monday night so I have to alternate between them. One is a club where you can just make anything you want and the ladies will help you out - or like some do, just bring your mending along and have a good natter. I think that's a great idea, it's social, cheap (€40 a year just for the room rental) and who knows, you could actually end up learning something. The other club is much more "serious" and more patchwork oriented, which is something I am really keen to learn. Again in this club, one of the older ladies rarely actually sews anything but just comes along for the natter. I was at the patchwork club last night and while we had snow predicted I was really hoping it wouldn't fall until later as some of the ladies won't go out in the snow. Anyway, I made it and have now almost finished the "pochon" that I am making (kinda fabric bag thingy). I had wanted to finish several of these to put Christmas gifts in for my sons' girlfriends but they never got finished in time. There's always next year I suppose.

This isn't mine - but it is something similar
When we finished up at 10 pm I was just arriving at my village when I thought I noticed something move. We are out in the sticks and there are no lights in the run-up to the village so I slowed right down, and for the first time in nearly 28 years I spotted a deer.


Yes I know everyone knows what a deer looks like but I couldn't resist! And then about 30 seconds later another deer. Luckily there was no-one behind me so I was able to slow right down and admire them. I know to many this might not seem like a biggy, but as I said, I have been in the house almost 28 years, we are in open countryside and have forests all round and I have never spotted a deer. Foxes and even wild boar but never deer (ha, I initially spelled that "bore" and not "boar" - that conjures up a Gary Larson cartoon in my twisted little mind)!

"Wild bore" - image by emfrey
My friend used to get them wandering up to her back garden but us, never. I saw boar coming back from a restaurant one time (I was coming back from the restaurant, not the boar) and my son once saw one running through our back garden but we have never had deer. It was a lovely sight I can tell you.

My ex in-laws lived not far from Pittsburgh airport, and although it was near the airport it was actually quite rural. If we took a particular favourite backroad up to their place we could almost guarantee coming across deer.  Every year we went back after that it seemed like they had stripped more and more of the woodland to build shopping malls and it was not uncommon then to see deer running along the highways dodging traffic. Very sad I thought, as their natural habitat was being destroyed with each year that passed. I suppose it also begs the question how the heck could all these shopping malls make money. I mean, when I lived there I used to drive about 30 minutes to a shopping mall, and in the space of what seemed like 15 years there were new shopping malls springing up every mile or so. Not sure how they could compete to be honest.

Anyway, that was just a by-the-way. Tonight I have my once-a-month patchwork lesson down in a place called Cluses. I have to go straight there from work as it is quite a trek and of course we got snow today so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the roads will be ok. We are in the process of making a patchwork quilt and I am hoping to be able to incorporate into mine three photos taken of my son and his fiancée for their engagement. Apparently you can photocopy a photo onto special fabric and incorporate it into the quilt. Now being a bit of a novice I am going to need help from Lydie, my teacher, but my aim is to get this quilt finished, personalized with their initials and give it to them as a wedding present. Wish me luck, because my sewing output is stupendously low.

On another note, in a bid to lose some weight I have been really good about exercising since the New Year and have exercised every day except one so far but have I lost any weight? Have I heck. I haven't moved an ounce and it is so discouraging. The only positive I suppose is that I have realized how much I actually enjoy exercising. Well, to put it more accurately, I enjoy the way I feel after I have exercised. A bit like banging your head against a brick wall I suppose - it feels great when you stop! As the weather has been great - cold but sunny - I have tried to get outside and walk for an hour at lunchtimes. I have never minded the cold, although the other day it was -6 and with the wind blowing I hate to think what the wind chill factor was. Nevertheless, I conjured up my stiff upper lip, donned four layers of clothing and trudged out at lunchtime.  Trouble is, the cold always makes my nose run. It isn't really the done thing to stop and ask someone to blow your nose for you because you can't bend your elbows is it! Gotta work on Plan B I think.


Thursday, 5 January 2017

And the rest of Christmas

Christmas 2015 was a lovely break. The weather was mild and I got an awful lot done but you know how sometimes when you don't actually do anything fun it seems to feel like less of a break than if you actually let your hair down a bit!  Well this Christmas was definitely different. I had a lovely Christmas Day lunch with my family and a friend. I made rack of lamb and gratin, which turned out pretty well, followed by fruit salad because I find the food over the holidays way, way too heavy. My oldest mentioned that the Irish comedian Dara O'Briain was appearing in Geneva at the end of January so seven of us have booked tickets for that. Dara is hilarious and it will be so nice to go out with my kids so I am really looking forward to it.

Then, as I mentioned yesterday, Steve came out from England for the new year. As he arrived early in the morning we went straight from the airport to Annecy (trying to pack in as much as possible of course). The Christmas market was still on so we had a lovely time, eating tartiflette and wandering round the market and the old town.

(I couldn't get a decent picture of the stands so I have just included a shot of what was the old prison "in the day" as the market takes place all around that area). While it was busy it wasn't heaving so that proved a nice start to his stay.


The next day we headed up to my favourite ski resort of La Clusaz (about 40 minutes from home). Again beautiful weather but no snow. La Clusaz is a medium-sized report and they just don't have the capability to manufacture snow on such a large scale so I hate to think how much money they would be losing. The daily ski lift was €37 and someone mentioned that they could expect 20,000 visitors (per day? per Christmas week?  - I'm not sure) but in any case it must be fairly catastrophic for the lift operators, the seasonal workers, the restaurants etc., not to mention how disappointing it would be to people who had reserved accommodation for the Christmas week. There were a few small groups of ski classes but only for the toddlers as there just wasn't the snow (although the kids looked great all decked out in their ski gear). We decided to take the cable car up to the Plateau de Beauregard which should have been covered in snow but there was none! We had a lovely lunch outside on the terrace and while admittedly our restaurant was packed ... oh my goodness, how much money must they have been losing over the Christmas break!



At the Plateau de Beauregard
I posted yesterday about the lovely time we had on New Year's Eve at Lavey and Evian so on New Year's Day, as we had stayed up till 5 a.m., we decided to spend the day at home slobbing around and putting the world to rights. Since we can both yack for England that wasn't a problem!

For his return flight I had told Steve to book as late a flight as possible just in case we got hammered by snow/traffic. That gave us time to have a wander around Yvoire (a medieval village on the lake) and then a quick lunch in Geneva's old town before I took him off to the airport.

Photo by Matt Rees
There was hardly anything open at Yvoire, of course, but we were still able to have a walk around and a coffee.  Very few shops were open but while everything was pretty, all Christmasy and so on, this lady mannequin caught my eye!


It was kinda scary thinking that if I don't do anything about my weight before my son's wedding I might end up looking like that so now it's time to get serious (to be fair, I have been good so far since returning to work, exercising, walking, gym etc. - so just another 180 days to go then!).

Place du Bourg du Four, old town, Geneva
(not my picture, sorry I can't remember the name of the photographer)

It's Steve's birthday next week and as I was taking down the Christmas cards I had a wonderful idea! Steve and I are both divorced and while we have had relationships both of us are pretty adamant that we will never get married again, nor will we ever live with someone again (I know you can never say "never", but I'm pretty sure "never" means "never")! We both own our own homes and neither of us are of an age to start again or feel inclined to say to another "significant other" during a second divorce "here, take 50% of the home I bought with my own money"! He refers to himself as a king in his own little castle, so I guess that makes me a queen. So after cutting, sticking and pasting (all with my tongue sticking out), I just sent him this birthday card (I had to black out his last name for obvious reasons).  Happy birthday Steve!

The first page of his birthday card!

The inside - hope he likes it!






Wednesday, 4 January 2017

What a magical New Year's Eve!

Do you know how some day's are just diamonds, how some days just seem to work out! Well New Year's Eve was just one of them. It was obviously a good visitor's combination trip because I followed the same route some years ago with my family and we all agreed it was such a great way to celebrate the New Year.

As I mentioned previously, I had a friend over from England for four nights. We met in Peru four years ago and had remained in touch.Steve had even been out to visit me once previously when he was on business in Zurich. Turns out he is still just as much fun as I remember and we had a wonderful time. On top of that, the weather cooperated 100% - though not for the skiers of course, but for we lesser mortals it was just fantastic.

On the morning of 31st we headed out to Lavey-les-Bains which is a hot springs about two hours from here. We took the "scenic route" (although to be honest around here all routes are "scenic", following Lake Geneva on the north side in order to arrive high up above Vevey, Montreux and the Château de Chillon. Again we lucked out as it started out foggy but as we got to the highest point on the motorway the fog started to lift!

Château de Chillon - image by Incotrade
Another 45 minutes and we were at Lavey. It was freezing cold out but the springs, of course, were steaming and sooooooo relaxing. It wasn't too packed considering and at one point I was standing under one of the pressure jets having my back pummelled when I looked at the man next to me and recognized a work colleague with his young son (don't usually see 'em with their clothes off do ya!). We had a chat and he told me that his wife - who is also a colleague - had gone off to Strasbourg with their daughter. Steve and I had been talking about just how you should never assume you won't be caught out if you are having an affair because I mean, what were the chances of me bumping into a colleague (fair, I suppose) but again what were the chances of my standing next to him in the steaming mist of Lavey?  Of course he was there with his son and not his mistress but crikey it's a small world isn't it!

After about three hours we headed off back home via Evian, which is on the south side of Lake Geneva. I knew the "Festival des Flottins" was on but didn't really know much about it, although I knew that Steve would like Evian anyway. Well what a lovely surprise "Les Flottins" was! And here, for your greater delight is their story!

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"Listen, listen! And you will hear.  And if you want to believe, you will believe! Wherever you are... sprinkle a little pixie dust around you and tune in to the sound of fairy bells!

Since the beginning of time, fairy-folk of all kinds from throughout the Alps, including elves, sirens, nymphs, witches, fairies, pixies and hobgoblins, have been washed up on the beach in Evian. From snowfalls to avalanches, from trickling springs to streams to rivers, from small rivers to the majestic Rhone, they are carried along on their driftwood rafts according to the whims of Mother Nature, until they finally reach the banks of Lake Geneva, a magical place where they find rest. These tiny creatures are known as Flottins…”

Every winter, Flottins flock to their village, built entirely from pieces of driftwood washed up by the river. In their bright, cheerful world, these joyful travellers lead a peaceful existence. But one November evening, as Santa Claus set out on a practice flight over Lake Geneva, a squabble between the leading reindeer forced the sleigh into an emergency landing on the water. Panic stations! The inhabitants of the village immediately swam out into the lake to save them and, that very night, they set about building a magnificent cabin from driftwood for their marooned visitors. Since then, Santa Claus pays a visit to his Flottin friends once a year before setting out on his big trip...


* * *

These magical creatures were all over Evian and kids were allowed to climb and play anywhere they wanted.








The whole town was filled with these things and the nearer you got to the casino (which of course was beautifully lit up) the more there were. It was just stunning and I can't even say it was that crowded. After a couple of hours and a few hot drinks in Evian we headed off home to spend New Year's Eve in front of the TV watching comedy shows, eating smoked salmon blinis with a bottle of champagne. As I say, some days are just diamonds!