The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

More this and that!

Or odds and sods really. Not a lot going on this end. Saturday, of course, was Bastille Day in France so people let off fireworks on the Friday night in anticipation of having the day off on Saturday, which was just as well really as Saturday evening was wet so the fireworks displays would have been spoiled. Then Sunday was the World Cup final which, in my opinion, France deservedly won. To say my local town erupted would be an understatement. I actually had the sound turned off on the TV but knew when France had scored because of the roars from my local town 3 km away! Good for them, anyway. I was sad to see England go out but like most people I thought this young team did us proud. They are young and have plenty of room to develop and improve so I'm looking forward to the next round of Euro matches. Well done the three lions!  Onwards and upwards!

Then of course we had the visit of the Donald to the UK (and other parts). Beerrrkkkk is the only way I can describe how I felt, and most others seemed to have felt the same way too. At first I had misgivings about "Baby Trump" as I didn't feel it was respectful to the office but then as one of the organizers put it "we didn't put a US flag on it - we have every respect for the office, but we are just showing him the same respect as he shows others, i.e. none!" Fair enough in the end I suppose.

Thank God Melania is classy though, I mean, if she behaved the same way he did it would be a real old bun fight wouldn't it.  Then to have the Queen invite him to inspect the guard of honour and him walk right in front of her!!! Good god man, have you no manners. She is this diddy little lady (whatever her rank) and he just plops his ruddy great bulk down in front of her while she is inspecting her own guard! She is used to handling this kind of thing of course after so many years, but I really wish she had just taken his legs out from behind with her handbag!

And I really feel for the people in Scotland - apparently the costs for security while he was there for two days ran to £5 million - and as they so rightly put it, why should we pay for his security when he is coming to play golf on his own private golf course? Thank God it was such a short visit, is all I can say. I hear the reception was no better after that but as for the meeting with Putin!!!! Wow, just wow! You only have to look at the caricatures in the world's press to see what people think. I tell you, I wouldn't want to be part of that world for all the tea in china!

In other matters, 10 days ago I was fast asleep when I woke up with a start at 4 a.m. thinking there was someone in the house. I got up, turned all the lights on and went downstairs. Nothing! So I went back to bed but when I got up in the morning to go to work I looked at my phone and there at 4.08 a.m. was a text message from my ex asking about a recipe for "pâté campagnard" - a pâté made from pork!   What the f.......!!!! It's not as if I ever made this pâté and there was an ancient family recipe, but to send a text asking about something he could easily google and at 4 a.m. knowing that I have to get up for work!!! I was furious, but decided the best response was no response. You just don't engage in those cases. I mean we've been divorced almost seven years so why contact me about such rubbish!! Then on the Monday evening he sent me another text asking if I had got his previous message, so I just said "oh the one you sent at 4 a.m. knowing full well I had to get up at 6 a.m? Oh that one? Yeah I got that one. Thanks for that"! Geez, will he ever leave me alone!

In other matters, my car started playing up last week. I had difficulty getting it to start and thought it was a flat battery but no. I managed to hobble to Ford and they thought it was the ignition button so I had to wait a couple of day until they had ordered a new one. I managed to crawl to work for three days but on the last day before I was to drop it off every bloody light on that thing was going nuts - flashing indicators and so on as I went down the motorway. Honestly, you would have thought it was a presidential motorcade (see above) - but no, it was just me! In the end they kept it for two days (they lent me something that looked like a can of beans on wheels in the meantime) and they were telling me that they pulled loads of stuff apart and put it back together again but couldn't really say what it was. There was, however, evidence of a "fouine" attack inside. Now a "fouine" literally translated is a "weasel" but I think "fouine" is a local animal, something like a weasel but probably only about three inches or so long. The little buggers get inside your engine and nibble away at anything they can find, although in my case not the wiring thankfully. In the end Ford got my car working again but they have no idea how!!! Still, all's well that ends well - while I was waiting they were having their end-of-day apéritif so I got invited into the back office with a couple of other clients and we all had an apéritif together - vive la France, as they say!

And finally, I got round to telling my immediate boss last Wednesday of my plans to retire - he was stunned and asked what they could do to make me stay! Then on the Friday I told my director who was also stunned. I apologized for springing it on them but explained that it had nothing to do with work but everything to do with my dreadful commute. The director asked me yesterday to change my mind but I told him I would think about it until October, when I have to give three months' notice. I have an appointment with a tax advisor at the beginning of September to make sure my calculations are correct. I'm pretty sure they are but there is one tax called "contribution sociale généralisee" that I'm not sure is already counted in my tax calculations. If not, that is another 8% tax to think about and may put the spanner in the whole works as I just can't afford an additional 8% tax on top of the 22% I have already calculated. As I say, I'm pretty sure it's already included in the 22% but will have to wait until September to find out. In the meantime, I am still waiting to hear back from the French bank about the final pay-off for my house. I understand that they really won't be wanting me to pay off my mortgage 10 years early but really .... as soon as I get those two figures I can go ahead and hand my notice in. But gosh it's hard sitting around waiting isn't it!

Monday, 9 July 2018

This and that!

Isn't it absolutely wonderful that they are finally bringing those young Thai boys out of that cave after such a horrific ordeal! As I am writing right now they have brought eight out - I keep flicking back to Sky News live for updates. And what absolute heroes the rescue teams are, in particular the divers, for going to hell and back themselves in order to save a group of what must be obviously terrified young boys. The sheer danger of it must surely be brought home by the fact that a brave Thai Navy Seal died of lack of oxygen before even the first boy was brought out. A brave and selfless man - as are they all!  Let's hope they get the remaining five out and quickly!

Brave Saman Kunan
In other news, it's cycling season here (actually it's cycling season pretty much all year round in France!) and you can't move on our small back roads for gaggles of cyclists heading, usually, towards Grand Bornand (that's where John Kerry fell of his bike and broke his arm). Hat's off to them for wanting to do that - I don't think I could even make it down to the bakery in the next village in this heat even with the promise of a pain au chocolat at the end. What I do wish, though, is that they would bloody well cycle in single file on these small roads, rather than drivers having to queue up behind them to get past! I can see why there is often animosity between drivers and cyclists to be honest, particularly in cities, but I'm not sure it's a case of the cyclists always being wrong or the drivers always being wrong - I'm sure there is selfish behaviour on both sides. That being said, when we made an earlier than usual start the other Sunday to go exploring Chanaz it was because they were blocking the road through our village from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a cycle race. As I said above, our village is the scenic route that leads up to Grand Bornand so that's why they schedule races through here. Fair enough I suppose, but then yesterday (Sunday) our village road was closed from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. for a bike race expected to number 17,000 cyclists!!!! Once that road is blocked off we can't get out. I gave up in the end and just decided to have a day at home pottering in the garden - and very nice it was too. I hope that's the last of the bloody things round here for this year though!

In other news, I've mentioned before that I'm not a particularly big football fan (much preferring rugby) but since England was playing on Saturday I thought I would take advantage of my enforced immobility to watch the match and it was great - well I say that because England won of course, but I really did enjoy it.  What gets me though, is that when Sweden did something amazing (which wasn't very often to be honest) they panned in to some beautiful Swedish fan cheering.

But when England did something wonderful (which was much more often) we got this lot:

Oh well, maybe that's a fair reflection of the state of play off the pitch but really!  Come on England!

While I was flicking back and forth watching TV last night waiting to hear if any more boys had been brought out of the cave, I started watching a programme called "Rich Kid to Skint" - poverty porn I suppose - where they took some rich little princess and had her stay overnight with a single mother of two on benefits in her one-bedroomed flat. My God!!!! What crap TV. Now I don't know why the young mother was single but she came over as pretty decent but Princess Twinkletoes!!!! If she was mine I would be ashamed! But then again, it's obviously mommy and daddy that made her like that, isn't it! OK, they have money and spend it on their kid. That's their privilege, but she was such a vacuous, monosyllabic amoeba it was embarrasing. Massive hair extensions, one inch long false eyelashes, one inch claws attached to the end of her fingers. Again, her choice, but she could barely string two words together, flailing her claws all over the place, playing with her hair, taking selfie after selfie, it didn't seem that even a single brain cell was firing in that tiny mind. What happened to having a personality? What happened to hard work? Why do they all end up looking like something from TOWIE or Keeping Up With The Kardashians? It beats me, and I really do fear for the future of these characterless individuals.  My goodness, now I know why I shouldn't have been channel hopping! It makes me so mad!

And finally, I have definitely made up my mind to retire at the end of the year. My boss was in Japan last week so I wanted to wait until I had a chance to speak to him before I spoke to my director. Trouble is, the boss is "a bit stressed at the moment" (it's a permanent state so I don't worry too much! My mind is  99% made up, even though I have an occasional wobble and run the figures (yet again) through the number-crunching machine and I know I can do it, buuut just this weekend I discovered a lovely blog called Miss Mazuma - a young woman aiming for early financial independence and how she is going about it. Is it ironic then that as I was having yet another wobble about retiring I came across this quote from her blog:

"But, seriously.  Coming up against “the norm” in life is difficult.  I mean, who doesn’t want to commute an hour to work [I WISH], put in 40+ hours a week at a boring job, drive home in traffic, eat a shitty meal in front of the TV, then head to bed before doing it all over again every weekday (minus 2 weeks vacation!) for the next 40 years.  Who? Sounds exhilarating!! Why would anyone want to stray from that path?"

Thanks for the kick up the butt Ms Mazuma!

Tuesday, 26 June 2018


I've been missing in action for a while due to the frantic pace of things here. It's not unexpected at this time of the year and I don't mind at all - but hence the reason I haven't posted much lately. I know when my busy periods are and can work around them but it does mean that sometimes I am just too tired to blog!

So what's new? Oh yes, the Fête de la Musique is over and my goodness what an event that was. There are music events all over - here in Geneva and in France too of course. It's pretty much constant for a few days - one solid, jam packed session, if you will. What I think is a nice touch is that in Geneva they put out pianos on the pavements for people to play if and when they feel like it, and there was a lovely video in the local newspaper recently of a Swiss police officer playing (rather well, I thought) at Geneva train station.

I read in today's newspaper that there were 550 events in 28 different locations attended by approximately 200,000 people. Not bad eh!

Talking of the local newspaper, this morning when I got on the bus I just made it ahead of a gaggle of school kids - about 30 of them I would say, around 10 years old. Oh the noise - it sounded like a fishing trawler coming back to harbour! Not that I mind as I like kids really. Anyway, I was flicking through the local "20 Minutes" freebie newspaper on the bus to check out the weather when I realized two young lads were surreptitiously trying to read over my shoulder! In the end I just handed them the newspaper and said "here you go". Well the one started complaining that "why couldn't he read the newspaper" so I fished my book out of my bag and handed it to him. (The Last Tudor, by Philippa Gregory). It took him about five minutes to realize that it wasn't in French - though I'm not sure quite why it took so long to figure that out. Then the other young man asked if he could read it, so I handed it to him and he could seemingly read a little English. He ended up keeping my book for the entire length of my journey. The teachers were laughing because they were absolutely silent trying to figure my book out. The funny thing is that the ticket inspectors got on and I had since picked up the 20 Minutes again and was doing that little puzzle - you know the one where there are two seemingly identical cartoons and you have to spot the seven differences. So here's me struggling with the "spot the difference" cartoon and Little Billy next to me reading "The Last Tudor". Irony at its best!

In other matters, some time ago a colleague had given me the names of various beauty spots that were worth visiting in the local area. I always write down the names of these places but recently decided it was time to get back into exploration mode. I decided on a place called Chanaz, which is about 75 km from here. So on Sunday two friends and I set off down the motorway towards Annecy to try to find it. Now I didn't want to follow my GPS which was trying to take me through a place called Rumilly, so decided to take another route which seemed to be more direct! Ha, it was more direct all right - it took us over a mountain pass called Col de la Chambotte, and while I don't mind mountain driving I swear if there had been another coat of paint on my left side the cars coming up the pass would have taken the side off my car!  Talk about tight!  But, buuuuuut, oh my goodness, when we got to the top we had a view over Lac de Bourget which just took your breath away! I mean, I have been here over 35 years and this place is still capable of taking my breath away!

Col de la Chambotte
Eventually we made it down the other side and in about 20 minutes we found Chanaz, and again it was absolutely stunning. I can see why my colleague had been telling me to visit.  It is located on the Canal de Savières, which leads directly into the Lac de Bourget, which is (apparently) France's biggest natural lake!


We had actually planned to visit Chanaz last Sunday but for some reason didn't get around to it - which turned out to be a great piece of procrastination in the end because, unbeknownst to us this Sunday was the day they were holding their annual Venetian Carnaval parade - and we arrived right in the middle of it!  Of course we didn't have a snowflake's chance in hell of being able to eat on the waterfront since it was "by reservation only" so we scrambled up hill to what turned out to be a delightful little outdoor restaurant serving a very limited menu but of wonderful food.

By the time we had finished eating the Carnaval procession was just setting off so we were again in the right place at the right time! Aren't they fabulous!

They all looked wonderful but goodness knows they must have been so hot in those costumes as it was scorching. After that we decided to have a little "shufty" in one of the local gift shops which was beautifully presented on a stationary barge. I bought a couple of things as Christmas presents (I like to pick up Christmas presents all year round), and a lovely bag of hand-made chocolate for work.

The Sale Gosse gift shop!
After that we took a 90 minute boat trip along the canal up to the lake - again very pretty!

And finally, on the way back to the car, we got to see the lock being used to raise and lower boats in and out of the lake and onto the canal. No matter how many times I see it I am still in awe of the engineering!

Our boat coming back from the lake to the canal.
What a beautiful day that was - like I say, some days really are just diamonds!

In other news, I am still looking into the figures for possibly retiring early - that is to say at Christmas this year. It is coming as quite a shock to me even as I have always had it in my mind that I will go at end 2020 and now here I am (potentially) just six months away from retirement!  Our pension fund has confirmed my calculations and I keep running the figures through the French tax system to see if there will be any nasty surprises but so far nothing. The last thing I am waiting for is confirmation from the French bank of the total amount payable in Swiss francs in order to pay off my mortgage in January 2019. Depending on that figure (and I have pretty much calculated the worst case scenario), then it is up to me, but I am very much leaning towards leaving! It's a bit of a shock actually as I really hadn't given any thought to it until about two weeks ago. I will lose around €1,000 a month, which is enormous of course, but I will still have a reasonable pension. So many people have said "just do it" so I really am inclined to go for it. I can take the stress at work as it really doesn't bother me but having not been well the other week and then with my friend dying suddenly I really think it would be good to go in order to get away from this awful commute, which is currently at three hours a day and rising!  More to follow!

Friday, 15 June 2018

This and that!

Oh it's been a really busy couple of weeks here so I haven't had time to blog or even read my favourites blogs - still got a lot of catching up to do!

So where to start? Oh yes, last Saturday we had our latest board game evening at my neighbour's house. Although it threatened rain all day (all spring frankly!!!) we really lucked out and had a lovely afternoon and evening. We ended up simply splitting into two groups this time and playing card games all evening, which made a nice change. D has loads (and I mean loads) of plants, pots, decorations, ornaments and so on in her garden and it all takes an awful lot of work, but like I commented to her, just occasionally all that hard work comes together and you get a snapshot of just what a stunning garden she has created!

Jordan and M playing rummy!

Then the next day we had our annual "clean up the neighbourhood" get together, where our small group of (around) 24 houses all spend an hour cleaning up the area around our homes - to be followed by the annual  "let's all get together to eat and chinwag for the next eight hours" - so that's what we did! I must admit, for the little bit of effort that we all put in our little neighbourhood really does look lovely afterwards.  


Jumping on to totally different news, there seems to be some kind of "push" from the powers-that-be in the UK at the moment to promote weight loss in a bid to cut levels of diabetes II - or at least, that's what it seems like to me as there have been a few, very interesting documentaries on lately promoting pretty harsh calorie-restricted diets in a bid to achieve rapid weight loss and lower the risk of diabetes. The one programme, which I think was called The Fast Fix, took a group of volunteers who showed a higher risk of developing type II, and relocated them for four weeks in a test programme on a strict diet of 800 calories a day in a bid to lower their risk factors. Now a couple of them weren't even fat, which just goes to show that heredity can also be a big risk factor. It was a tough diet to follow but they all succeeded in significantly lowering their blood markers (I can't remember the "proper" names for half this stuff) in addition to dropping weight. One thing though, that kind of diet might be feasible in a control situation like they were in but I, personally, couldn't see me sticking to it if I had also to be looking after kids and a family and going to work. However, the guinea pigs were then asked to follow the same diet once they left the control centre. It was difficult, of course, but they all did it and the results, from a diabetes standpoint alone, were amazing. It was a diet along the lines of the eight-week blood sugar diet or indeed the "Fixing Dad" diet I mentioned in a previous post. All very interesting, to me at least. They mentioned that if you wanted to find out what your own markers/risk factor looked like you should measure your waist at its narrowest point (just above the belly button) then divide that measurement by your hip measurement. Guess who did it! For a woman your result should be below 0.85 (mine was 0.97) in order to be out of the "risk" category, particularly if you have a BMI of 30 or more (I just come under that but "yikes" all the same!)

I can understand why the government would want to push this as the UK is now, justifiably in my opinion, the fat man of Europe and type II diabetes treatment is apparently costing the National Health Service millions! Makes sense doesn't it!  So with that in mind, I have been browsing through pinterest looking at different fitness regimes (well that and the cake recipes and patchwork patterns!!!) and I stumbled across some amazing pictures of older women bodybuilders. Just wow.  Take a look at this lady!

The lady on the left is the amazing Ernestine Shepherd - now 82 years old!
Ernestine in her younger days!

Quite the inspiration, isn't she!

Since I have been really busy (I don't mind at all) I didn't exercise last week and you know what, I missed it. I only managed to walk the last 30 minutes to work three times this week but hope to get back to the gym also next week. Oh, and did I mention that in a bid to get rid of my bingo wings I have been lifting a few (rather puny) weights!  Nothing to write home about but you've got to start somewhere haven't you.  

Image by Shutterstock

Anyway, last weekend I went to the local sports shop to buy some weights. The nearest weights to the ones I wanted were 5 kg each so I bought a box of two - and almost fell over when I picked the bloody box up! I see there is work to do then!  Ernestine can rest on her laurels just a little longer!

Only slightly linked to the above, I wrote a recent blog post on the sudden death of my friend, Ian, and what a shock it was, so with the uncertainty of the future brought home so abruptly to me I started taking a look at the maths and have come up with the notion that I could, if I wanted to, actually retire at Christmas! That's quite an amazing thought after 40 years of work, I can tell you! It would mean I would have to take a lump sum from my pension in order to pay my house off and thus have a smaller pension but it certainly is feasible. In all honesty I am looking at going in two years time at the age of 62 because although my house will be paid off it does need work doing and I want to save up for that first (complete replacement of the heating system to start with). So knowing that I could leave the rat race at Christmas if I wanted to is a very nice feeling. As I said, I'm pretty sure I won't go then but .... Add to that that I want to help out with my son's wedding next year (we booked the château in the village last night - it is beautiful) and that his contract as an apprentice expires end July I will be staying on for a bit, although in reality an unemployed plumber has got to be an oxymoron hasn't it!

"Kick me" (to leave the rat race) - image by Jonathan Marsh
That being said, my sister-in-law's sudden death two years ago knocked my brother for a six and I think brought home to him that life is moving inexorably on. He now has a very dynamic lady friend, also a widow, who seems to be a little ball of energy dragging him (well he's going along willingly) here, there and everywhere! There is such a change in my brother it is amazing. And it's no disrespect to my sister-in-law - she was the dynamo/the doer in that relationship - but, like I say, I think losing her brought home to Phil that life was for living now because you never know!


Phil and M at Rockley Park

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

A different kind of happy memory!

Thank you all for your lovely comments in reply to my last post. I have to admit learning of Ian's death knocked the stuffing out of me but it has also brought home to me the urgency of living life in the "now" rather than for one day in the future. Of course, all that has to be within reason, but if Ian hadn't taken the plunge and gone to Bulgaria in 2011 he might still have been waiting for "the day when" .... which of course, in his case, never came!

I remember years ago at college our shorthand teacher gave us all a round disk with the word "TUIT" on it. When someone asked what it was she said it was to be used on those occasions when you were putting things off until you got a "round tuit"! Clever huh! So with that in mind, I went ahead and booked my 60th birthday trip for September. I do not want to be at work for my 60th if only because I can't stand the fuss so had planned to book a holiday in Spain that week. Unfortunately, as I hadn't got a "round TUIT", when I came to booking it that particular trip was fully booked so I had to "settle" for Sicily, although going to Sicily doesn't actually involve "settling" at all does it. It is another one of my solos trips and does therefore mean having to fly back to the UK and then back out to Sicily but I don't mind spending the night before in London. Then for my next winter break I finally cracked and have booked a trip to Sri Lanka at the beginning of March. This trip is with the company I went to Costa Rica with and since I can book my own flights and do not have to go via London I managed to get a pretty good deal with Edelweiss Air from Zurich. Oh how I love my trips! That being said, I can't wait to have more time (i.e. retirement, God willing) so that I can spend more time rediscovering the UK and maybe more locally in France, but all in good time I guess.

And on the basis of "don't wait until you get a round tuit" I booked myself on another vegan cookery course for next Tuesday. Hopefully it will be better than the last one, but I reckon it should be as it is with an up-and-coming vegan restaurant here in Geneva. I am neither vegetarian nor vegan but am interested in both, so last night I thought I would try out a vegan recipe from Deliciously Ella. It wasn't bad but I certainly hope the whole vegan experience is worth all that washing up! Crikey, I don't think I have made such a mess in the kitchen in a long while! Anyway, while I was crashing around in the kitchen I missed a call from U, an old friend who retired back to England five years ago. When I had finished cleaning up Armaggedon (a.k.a. the kitchen) I called her back for a natter, as we hadn't had a good chinwag in ages!

I worked for HR for 20 years and many of those years overlapped with U being the Chief of Personnel's secretary and man did we have a laugh. I obviously can't go into too much detail here but some of things we saw had us in stitches.  Such as:

-  we had a Norwegian chappie who applied repeatedly but unsuccessfully for various vacancies. He was obviously a keen fisherman because every time he applied to us he attached a photo of himself, and in it he was holding a fish he had just caught! Only thing was, with every fresh application the fish got bigger and bigger! Sadly we never recruited him but we both liked his style!

-  then there was the guy who attached a photo (which was pretty usual in those days) but obviously didn't have time to get a professional head shot done. When we looked at his photo he had obviously just taken an old photo of himself at a party or somewhere or other and had cropped the other people out of it - all, that is, except for the hand of whoever was standing next to him with his arm draped mysteriously over his shoulder like something out of the Addams family!

- in "the good old days" every single application got a reply - a "no, sorry", a "let's give this one some further thought" or a "let's take this one a step further". It was a tremendous amount of work and eventually we had to put a disclaimer on vacancy announcements just saying "if you don't hear from us .... sorry"! Anyway, one time U's boss was sifting through the mountains of applications and had put one guy on the "no, sorry" file. Now looking at his photo U decided that he was pretty cute, so she put his application back on the "maybe" file. After which the boss put it back on the "no" file. Rinse and repeat a few times and eventually the boss just had to tell her "nice try, but it's still a no"! Oh well, you can't say she didn't try! Sorry mate!

Now in our company we work in English (mainly), French and Spanish so applicants can apply in any of those three languages. Sometimes, though, you would get letters in purporting to be in English but which had obviously been run through some kind of  "google translate" (had it existed at the time - it didn't) and which was completely undecipherable in any language, so U would put on her best "foreign" accent and read it out to us. Politically correct? Probably not but you have to laugh sometimes don't you!  And then there was the guy who "desperately wanted to work for your organization because he had always wanted to work with mentally disabled people"!!!! Say what! I mean, if this were Doctors Without Borders or something just maybe but really!!! In the end, looking at some colleagues who were around at the time maybe that wasn't so far fetched. Another time we had a lady apply who had no relevant qualifications whatsoever - in fact she had a long-term career as a midwife. Very laudable career of course but not something that would have been particularly relevant to a United Nations-type organization (we're not the UN, but you get the idea).

I remember one time I took a call from a lady in France who worked for XXXX Mairie in France. She spoke so quickly that I didn't really get the gist of what she was saying, but assuming it was a staff member who needed some administrative paper for France I let her continue. Turns out she had a son who "wanted to go on mission". So I asked what kind of qualifications he had - "he just wants to go on mission"! "So is he an economist?" "No, he just wants to go on mission!" "Is he a lawyer specialized in X?" "No he just wants to go on mission!" "Well could he work as a translator?" "No he just wants to go on mission!" In the end, I had to tell her I didn't hold out much hope for her son but he should fill out an online application and we would see. Oh, and by the way lady, assuming your son is over 13 years old, it doesn't really look that good to have mommy phoning trying to get him a job (I didn't say that last bit but I was very tempted! Ever polite me!)!

And finally, at one point I shared an office with an Australian colleague who handled the main input for applications for various vacancies. We would always have a laugh and a joke but she would never tell me anything about who had applied for what - and for that I respect her. It was confidential after all! Buuuut one time she burst out laughing and said "oh the poor sod". When I asked her what she was on about she said that this same person had applied for two vacancies in our company - one as Chief Economist and the other as a delivery driver!!! You know, a bit like "can I apply for the position of Governor of the Bank of England, but failing that are there any openings in the mailing room?"

Happy days indeed. I didn't know until last night but U told me that she reads my blog so in case you're there "hallo matey, good to chat again"!

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

RIP my partner in crime!

I had my patchwork lesson last night and (seemingly as usual nowadays) there was an accident on the way there so it took me 2 1/2 hours instead of one to get there and then the heavens opened on the way back so I didn't get home till 11.30 p.m. When you leave home at 7 in the morning and don't get home until 11.30 it takes its toll I can tell you, and as I can never go straight to sleep (I guess patchwork is just that exciting - adrenaline rush and all that), I decided to play a couple of games of Words With Friends on Facebook. So you can imagine the shock I got when I happened to click on an old friend's page to learn that he had died suddenly on 7 May at the young age of 58!!! He hadn't been on FB very much lately but since he had mentioned that he was going to give it a rest for a while I didn't think anything of it, but there in front of my eyes were pages and pages of posts from friends sending their condolences to the family!

Ian and I grew up on the same council estate in Birmingham, about 100 yards away from each other. Right from really little we hit it off and by the time we went to infants school we had become "best buddies". I guess he really liked "older women" because I was a whole, oh I don't know, 10 months older than him so we used to walk to school together and then play together after school.

One time, I remember, we decided we were going to set up a snail hospital "to help all these poor snails that we kept finding in my back garden". So we gathered as many snails as we could, lined them all up on our back fence and then dipped them all in a washing up bowl full of soapy water to "get rid of all that gunky stuff". We never could figure out why they all kept dying!!

His dad died when he was 40 leaving his mom a young widow with five young children to feed. Times were tough for everyone but particularly for her, as I'm sure you can imagine. I found out many years later that she worked four jobs just trying to keep those children fed! She later found happiness with a Polish man who I understand was very good to her and the kids, but for many years it was tough going indeed! I remember Ian told me one time you always knew what you were getting for Christmas because his mom would be knitting away and all of a sudden she would say "stand up and put your arm out"! Many years later he also told me the story of how she must have bought a second hand scout's outfit from some old dear so that he could go to scouts - problem was the legs were waaaaay too wide for his scrawny legs and he ended up looking like Eric Morecambe!

The outfit was also the wrong shade of green so when time came for a general inspection all the other scouts closed ranks around him! Another time I happened to mention that one of the older ladies in our local area had a beard (I was a little kid and I was fascinated) and had he ever spotted her, when he said "oh that would be Mrs. Skull who lived in the flats opposite us". I almost fell off my chair laughing and asked if her late husband had been Mr. Crossbones, but Ian said he thought she must have liked her beers somewhat as he used to go round to her house to collect the empties in order to get the 1p back on each bottle and give it to his mom!

As I say, Ian and I were great buddies up until the end of junior school (so from ages 3 to 10) when it was no longer "cool" to be friends with a girl - or at least not until a few years later when being "best buddies" with a girl was probably all you could think about! I left school at 16 and went to college, eventually emigrating to Switzerland at age 21 and Ian joined the army, absolutely hated it (said it was worse than school) so went into the construction industry as a labourer and worked his way up. We lost touch until one day, 36 years later, I spotted his name on Friends Reunited and contacted him. It was great to get back in touch again after so long!  He told me that he was sick to death of England, the rat race and chasing after the eternal ££££££ so taking his courage in both hands he rented his house out, bought himself a Postman Pat van and headed off to Bulgaria with a couple of mattresses in the back and his tool box, for no better reason than "because he heard it was cheap". He wasn't interested in chasing money out there either - he wanted to make just enough to "live" so that's what he did. As a builder it would have been pretty easy and he could have had more work than he could handle had he so wished. But he didn't want that - he wanted to live a little!

Anyway, we chatted back and forth for a while and in 2011 he asked what I was doing that summer. When I said "nothing" he said "why don't you come out to Bulgaria so we can catch up"! My husband had not long left me so taking my own courage in both hands I thought "what the hell" - and that's what I did! Now my elderly mom rightly said "you knew the boy but you don't know the man" so I booked myself into a hotel on Sunny Beach and flew out to join him. But oh my goodness, you wouldn't know it had been 36 years since we had last seen each other! We laughed so much I thought I was going to get lockjaw!!!!

Anyway, we got along so well that we decided to set off and explore Bulgaria in his Postman Pat van for a couple of weeks, and it was a blast! You know when you have grown up with someone and you know all the people in their past - well we had so much catching up to do! We had both learned Russian at school so could decipher some Bulgarian words - and on that basis we decided we had to go to "Cозопол" because we loved the sound of it - that's Sozopol to you and me! You see even then we both had the same sense of humour!

Out and about in the Postman Pat van!
Now we both have strong personalities and just as when we were young we clashed a couple of times, but I have to say that while nothing further came out of our travels we remained friends until the end.

Not politically correct now but Ian is 4th from right at the back and I'm 2nd from the right at the back!

Both members of future Team GB! - 1969

I knew Ian had always liked me and one night he told me that under the wallpaper back in their old house was written "Ian C loves Anna T"! I told him "I know, I saw it"! And that makes me want to cry! I'm so glad that your final years were happy ones. RIP my old mate!

Monday, 28 May 2018

Another lovely (but exhausting) weekend!

Just as I was getting into town on  Friday night my friend sent me a message to say that one of our neighbours was organizing an impromptu get together in support of the neighbours' fête. Now this is an artificial fête (of course) but I happen to think it's a great invention as it gives people an opportunity/excuse to get outside and meet up with their neighbours. It may sound silly but I do believe from what people have told me that many people don't actually even know their neighbours or rarely - if ever - speak to them, and I think that is so sad. I remember my friend Steve telling me that he always says good morning to a couple of his neighbours when he is out and about but that's about the extent of it - and Steve is about as sociable an animal as you could ever wish to meet! I think that's a sad state of affairs really. OK no-one wants to get that involved with their neighbours and end up living in each other's pockets, but it's nice when people are friendly and look out for each other. Goodness knows, that was the way it was in my neighbourhood when I was growing up. My mom pretty much never had to take us kids grocery shopping with her because there was always another mom around to keep an eye on us!

Anyway, C very kindly set up a table on our little island and bought out drinks and snacks, with about 10 of us quickly following suit. I only found out about it 10 minutes before arriving home so I had to take along whatever I had in the house - which turned out to be a few beers and some peanuts. Still, we stayed outside and chatted for a couple of hours and had what turned out to be a rather nice time. In a few days we have our annual "clean up the neighbourhood" Sunday in any case, where we all spend an hour or so cutting grass, weeding and so on and then all eat together, but hats off to C for going that one step further.

I had intended to get so much done that evening too, but that went by the way. I had to be up at 4 a.m. as my friend and I were going on our (now annual) trip to the market in Turin, and while I hate getting up at the crack of dawn we both agree we really do enjoy this trip! We made it to Turin around 10.30 a.m. and had until 3.30 p.m. to wander around and fill our little wheelie bags with lots of goodies. Since it is Jordan's birthday on Thursday I was able to pick up a few extras for him too, in addition to the wonderful fruit and veg. Just perfect. It was very hot - up to about 30° - but thankfully it remained relatively overcast so we didn't feel the full power of the sun. Around mid-day we headed off to a little restaurant we had spotted and had the most excellent lunch of (fresh) tuna salad in my case and grilled salmon in D's case. It was stuff to drool over, I can tell you. Looking at the prices I actually commented to D how rich we would be if we took our pensions and moved to Italy as it is so much cheaper than the region of France where we live - which is expensive because of it's proximity to Geneva!

All in all it was a lovely (if very tiring day) - well that is until we neared the French border on the way back. Just before the Mont Blanc tunnel we stopped at the lovely ski resort of Courmayeur but the heavens opened and it absolutely pelted down - but just for about 15 minutes and "poof" it was gone! Really weird but it does go to show how you can't trust the weather in the mountains.

From this ......

to this in the space of about 10 minutes!

The Mont Blanc tunnel is quite the piece of engineering, I tell you. 11.5 km long cut through the Mont Blanc it took us 16 minutes to drive from one end to the other - so you enter in France and exit in Italy!

The next day we were up and at it again - this time down to our local little town where for the first time they were hosting the "foire aux tissus" - a fabric fair! This was a pretty big fair with such a choice of materials I just couldn't make my mind up. The traders come down from Holland and Belgium to sell their goods and it was just eye watering for me! You could easily spend a small fortune in that place! I think the powers that be have realized that our little town is the perfect venue for something like this given the exhibition facilities and its proximity to Geneva and all the money there!

After that it was back up to our little village, which was hosting its annual vide-grenier. They changed the date from September to May in order to take advantage of the marquee that had been set up for the village fête the other week. Very often we get bad weather in September so I think changing the date might well be a plus. Apparently it wasn't such a roaring success though because Sunday was also Mother's Day here in France and I guess a lot of families were eating together rather than going out.

And finally, I saw a rather lovely video this morning of a young man risking life and limb to save a little boy who had managed to get himself hanging over a fourth floor balcony in Paris!! The young man is a recently arrived immigrant from Mali who was hoping to make a better life for himself in France. Judging from his heroism he is just the kind of immigrant that France needs don't you think!

Anyway, President Macron was so impressed with his bravery that he had him over to the Elysée Palace to meet him, and I believe his request for French citizenship will be expedited. And it turns out he has been offered a job in the fire department! It's nice to see something good coming about for such a brave young man isn't it!