The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Friday, 16 April 2021

This and that!

The past couple of weeks have felt pretty long to me - just dragging by - or maybe it's just that this lockdown is feeling longer than the previous couple. We're two weeks into a four week lockdown "lite" and I'm guessing everyone is feeling pretty much the same! Still, time moves on, lockdown or no lockdown! The other day André finally received the good news that his loan application to buy his apartment has been approved. We were pretty certain it would be anyway (he's already picked out the kitchen units and flooring), but of course it's never over 'til the fat lady sings is it. His loan will be in Swiss francs, while the apartment is in France (think euros), but that makes sense as he earns Swissies and so will not have to worry about exchange rate fluctuations. I think more and more he's seeing what a good idea it was moving back into France (he originally wanted to stay in Geneva), because he realizes how much cheaper it is this side of the border, how beautiful it is (although he knew that anyway, having grown up here), and he has just as many mates over here (if not more) than he had when living in Geneva. It's amazing too to see that his monthly repayment will be just SF 1,100, compared to the SF 1,000/month he paid as his share of the rent on the one-bedroomed apartment he and Lily rented in Geneva. Of course he'll have all the other bills to keep up with on his own, but it's more than doable if he's sensible. He's also become more aware that one of the best guarantees of financial security in retirement is to own your own home outright. So yeah, he's stoked! What with that and stashing the cash to buy all the stuff he's going to need - it'll be fun to go out shopping with him! He also finally received his carte grise (title/log book?) for his car, which will allow him to switch his Swiss plates over to French. You're supposed to have these switched within three months of moving into France (he's been here 10!) but I guess there's not much they can say when you've done the necessary and yet still not received the corresponding official paperwork from them!

We've had snow three times over the past few days but honestly nothing to write home about, although the temperatures have dropped quite significantly again. I went down to the market in my local town of La Roche yesterday looking to buy some new tea towels and veggie plants, and while I got a few plants, the bric-a-brac stand wasn't there, so I decided to head to the market in Bonneville today to see if I'd have better luck - but again, he wasn't there. That's when I realized, of course, all the non-essential stores are in lockdown so they're not allowing non-essential market vendors to trade either!!! In fact I would say Bonneville's market was operating at about only one-third capacity, so life has got to be hard for some of these stall-holders. I've been tracking the number of covid-related deaths in both the UK and France, since both countries have a pretty similar population size. France is due to hit 100,000 deaths shortly and seems to be tracking at 30,000 fewer deaths than the UK on a fairly consistent basis, so who knows which government got this lockdown business "right"! While I was at the market it struck me how nice it must be to just be able to wander out of your home and have the shops/markets right there, within walking distance. I know I'd be in heaven if I could do my shopping at Turin's market every day! While I have no plans to sell right now I realize at a later stage it might be an option for me to get an apartment in a small town round here in order to be able to walk everywhere. I already dislike driving in the snow and getting a small place in town would definitely have it's appeal, it's just that while my house is nothing special, the view from my back garden is just glorious, so I don't see me selling up just yet - but who knows what the future might bring!

Bonneville market place!

The other day I managed to break a tooth so I'm going to have to cross the border next week as my dentist is in Geneva. As I'm going to be in Switzerland anyway I thought I'd book up another couple of check-ups to get them out of the way too and hopefully be done with doctors for the year! After I got off the phone fixing up my appointments, André called me to come and take a look at the dishwasher, which was "fizzing" away nicely. Turns out I'd put washing machine tablets into the dishwasher (????) by mistake! I guess that's one way to get the floor properly clean isn't it!

Yesterday I drove over to baby-sit the Munchkin so that Jen could have a few hours to herself (ladies, remember the luxury of being able to have a shower and wash your hair with the bathroom door shut?)! He'd just slurped his way through 120 ml of milk (up from 90 ml) and is going great guns, although the fact that he actually seems to "hoover" his milk is giving him a bit of tummy trouble. I can't say it's colic as it doesn't seem that severe, but since Jen's started giving him a fennel/camomile-based drink also it does seem a bit better. Oddly enough I remember my mom telling me that "in the day" they used to put a piece of coal from the fire into boiling water, let the water cool down and then give it to the baby as a colic remedy, and it worked pretty well. Makes sense, I suppose, since charcoal is in many "tummy upset" remedies. But isn't it amazing how so many of these old wives' tales turn out to be bang on? Anyway I played with the babe, who is now starting to open his eyes more, and babbled away to him for ages. Poor kid, he's probably wondering about the black and white fuzzy thing in his field of vision and the bunch of cobblers she's telling him! Still, it was lovely to spend some time with him, and at least Jen got to have a few hours to herself!

Then the other night I was watching Mary Berry's Foolproof Cooking on TV and since I like Mary and so many of those recipes looked good, I decided to throw caution to the wind and order the accompanying book - and to hell with the expense! Well all €7 of "expense" really, since I went online and bought it second-hand. Not that I really need another cook book but if I ain't going to either Thailand or Mexico this year ...! I've also been continuing to enjoy more of Grace and Frankie. While the series is fun, I'm absolutely loving the music that goes with it, so I decided to go through the entire series and, using my superior technical skills (ha!), have been downloading the songs I really like to my Amazon Prime Music account! Anyone else love Dorothy Moore's Misty Blue or Candi Staton's Young Hearts Run Free? I mentioned before that I want to get rid of about 200 CDs I have cluttering up my house (most of them being my ex-husband's), so I'm going to pick out the one or two songs I like on each CD to download and then box them up for André to take with him. Win/win right? Then André was telling me that if I got an "auxiliary music cable" I could plug my phone in downstairs or in my car and play my own playlists anywhere. Who wudda thunk (see previous note about my technology skills)! Well since I didn't know what an "auxiliary music cable" was in French, and typing "musical thingy" into Amazon France doesn't seem to get me anywhere, I went on to Amazon UK and rummaged around, then went back to Amazon France to order. I no longer order anything from the UK thanks to Brexit because I'd have to pay extra for the customs paperwork and, potentially, customs duty on the items ordered. But this morning, just before I set off to the market, I got a message on my phone saying my parcel was being "held up due to unpaid customs duties"! I had to think for a minute but then realized it was a scam. Everything I've just ordered I ordered through Amazon France, and even if I had ordered anything from the UK, the grand total was about £25 and I wouldn't need to be paying customs duties on such a small amount. It can't just be a coincidence that I've just been on Amazon UK and Amazon France and all of a sudden someone's trying to scam me about "parcels". Makes you wonder though - that's pretty sophisticated scamming somewhere along the line isn't it!


Friday, 9 April 2021

The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish ...!

Well André and I kept the Munchkin here for five hours on Wednesday while mom and dad did a lot of running around, registering his birth with all the different agencies and so on and he was an absolute doll! It helps that André is even more ga ga than I am, so much so that after he'd given him his bottle I got the kitchen timer and put it on the table so he'd know when his "time was up" holding the babe! Ha! But seriously, he was so easy. Jen asked me to make sure that he held off on his next bottle for four hours as she really wants to get him on a schedule and I'd guess we only had about 15 minutes of him getting a bit restless before we could legitimately give him his next bottle - hence me walking around with him singing "the wheels on the bus go round and round" ... and I hate that bloody song! Still, it worked, he was as good as gold and Jordan and Jen got everything done that they needed to! Any time, kids, any time!

While they were out my front doorbell rang and I opened it to two young men who thought they had an appointment to do an "insulation evaluation" of my house, but when they saw me they realized they'd got the wrong address. I had to laugh when the first guy said "oh, sorry, I must have the wrong address because I made the appointment with a young person" (!) and when he asked if it might be next door I said nope, they're even "less young" than I am! I did point out that if they were hoping to make a few sales they might want to finetune their doorstep patter a tad, but we all ended up laughing anyway. A little later André took me down into town to pick up my new compost bin and I'm dead pleased with it! I know, to think I used to love going clothes shopping and now I'm all excited about a compost bin. It was really easy to assemble but you needed to be two people as it was heavy and unwieldly, but we got there in the end. Not bad for €15 huh?

Then, bugger me but didn't I get another whingeing email from bloody Chantal, she of the "let's hide behind the cauliflowers" fame. Why she thinks I care about anything she has to complain about is beyond me, but apparently she had just received a plaque from work to commemorate her 30 years of service to the organization and "had I received one, and wasn't it a load of rubbish, and what a stupid thing to waste their money on" .... and so on ad nauseum! Damn it woman, if you don't like it stick it in a cupboard or throw it in the bin but stop bloody moaning! (On a side note, I actually quite like mine and have it in a display cabinet)! Needless to say I never responded to her, but her constant whingeing gets right up my nose!

And finally, Prince Philip's dying shouldn't really have come as a surprise to anyone I guess. I mean, he was 99 after all, although it's a shame he didn't quite make it to 100! He had lived a very dramatic young life, being smuggled out of Greece as a baby in an orange crate, his mother being diagnosed with schizophrenia (I believe) and ending up in a psychiatric institution and his pregnant sister and her family being killed in a small plane crash. However "privileged" he might have been by birth, that's a hellluva lot for any young man to live through. But I liked him. I believe he was a force to reckon with and an absolute rock for the Queen. I also like the fact that he was irreverent and apparently had a great sense of humour. I guess most of us thought he was perennial because he'd always just kinda been there - and yet now he isn't. I'm also assuming his passing will knock quite a few stand-up comedians off balance for a while. But however much they made fun of him I genuinely believe he was held in a lot of affection by greater numbers than those that disliked him. I, for one, think he'll be sadly missed as one of the last real, true characters!

Monday, 5 April 2021

All good stuff!

Did anyone see the amazing pictures coming out of Cairo yesterday where they were moving the sarcophaguses (sarcophagi?) of 22 Egyptian pharoahs to a new museum? They made a huge show out of moving the bodies of 18 kings and four queens to their new resting places and oh man, would I have loved to have seen that! Birmingham, where I grew up, had the most amazing library (goes with being a big city I guess) and what to me, as a young girl, was the most fabulous natural history museum. Before I got my Saturday job and was forever working, my mom used to let me catch the bus into town and wander round the city. I would go with my friend, Joy, with a whole 50 pence (I know!!!!), 16p of which would go for bus fares and we would spend the rest of the day wandering round the museum, the library and then on to Birmingham's Bull Ring market where we'd wander round the "rag market", take a few naff photos in a booth and then catch the bus back home. But the highlight of my day was always the natural history museum, and the ancient Egyptian section in particular. They had at least one complete mummy (that I remember - there may have been more) and displays of the jewels and barrettes that the ladies would wear in their hair and all I wanted to do was pick them up and handle them - which I wasn't allowed to do of course. That would be like taking a bone out of the T-rex exhibit's leg I guess! I know that part of the Cairo show was intended to generate interest in Egypt as a tourist destination, but I swear if I could have flown to Cairo yesterday I would have done! It's only a few hours' flight after all (damn the coronavirus)!



The other day I had a call from my friend, Marilyn, who wanted to know what she could send as a gift for the Munchkin. I've mentioned her before but Marilyn (American) was married to Philippe (French) and lived in the house opposite when we moved into the house where I still live. Times moved on, Philippe was head-hunted and they moved to the States where, sadly, he became seriously ill and eventually died. Marilyn's daughter is now married and working in London and Marilyn moved to Ireland with her son when he was transferred to Cork for his job. Her son is now married and has a step-daughter but it has long been all their ambitions to move back to France which, since Marilyn also holds French citizenship, should not be a problem for her. Well we spoke on the phone today and her daughter-in-law found out her transfer request to France has been approved and they are looking to rent in Annecy, where Marilyn and Philippe already owned an apartment which they rented out. So the good news is that Marilyn will be moving back to France, into her own apartment in Annecy, hopefully sometime in the summer. I am so looking forward to it as we have been friends for over 30 years. Circumstances separated us for a good many years but our friendship always remained solid. So I guess as soon as she moves back we will be careening round France like a geriatric Thelma and Louise (but without the yucky ending)! As long as we don't look in the mirror I guess we can pretend we're both still 30 again! I can't wait!

And the even better news is that Jordan just sent me a message to ask if they could leave the Munchkin with me for a few hours on Wednesday afternoon as they have a few appointments in town. I asked if he was out of nappies already but it turns out he might be a bit slow. André said to tell them no because he'll get no work done (he is even more gaga about that kid than I am), but yay me, he's only a week old and I'm already getting to babysit. Does life get any better than that? I don't think so!

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Here we are again!

As of Saturday at 19h the whole of France has been put back into lockdown. Not as severe as the first two we endured, but lockdown nevertheless. All non-essential shops are to shut again, I'm not quite sure what's going on with schools/universities as I don't pay much attention to that, the 7 p.m. curfew is being maintained and people are being required to remain within 10 km of their homes unless there are mitigating circumstances and they have the required attestation with them. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to get on with it won't we. At least it's not "one hour to exercise per day within 1 km from home and with a permission slip" again, so I guess that's a positive. It strikes me that countries impose restrictions/lockdowns, the numbers go down and then as soon as they start easing out of lockdown the numbers start shooting back up again. I guess I'm just curious to see how many "waves" there are going to be before we get to the end of this nightmare!

The vaccine situation in France is woefully poor, and I'm not sure whether it's EU-cock-up related or for some other reason, but either way, they are way behind other countries in getting people vaccinated. Just out of curiosity I went on the government's website to do a "simulation" of when I could expect to get vaccinated and by the time I got to the end of the simulation, the site basically burst out laughing and said "see you next autumn sometime". I can't say I'm bothered one way or the other. If I have to stay home then so be it - that really doesn't bother me too much - and when the time comes that a vaccine is available for me, well then I'll take it. There's not much else I can do anyway is there!

When I went shopping the other day I noticed that some of the supermarket shelves were emptier than they had been, but I'm pretty sure it's not panic buying. I mean, everyone knows now that the stores are staying open and there is no reason to over-stock, so I was wondering if it was linked to the backlog of cargo ships stuck in the Suez Canal. Maybe - who knows - but if so, it would kinda show just how dependent we in the west have become on goods from Asia wouldn't it!

So with another lockdown ahead of me for the next month, I've been looking through my cookbooks and trying out new recipes. I've also decided that however far off my interview for French citizenship might be, now would be a good time to spend 30 minutes a night going through the potential background questions I could be asked if I ever get a date for my interview. A "baffle them with my knowledge" kinda thing! Of course I have the luxury of not worrying about money because I'm retired, and both my kids and Jen are also pretty safe, and I realize that is not the case for so many people. It got me thinking, though, back to my trip to Rhodes with Steve a few years ago and how we used to chat to the waiter at our hotel every day. He worked in the tourist industry during the summer months and as a fisherman during the winter months and he told us how the cost of the licence to sell his catch at Lindos (beautiful place) had doubled overnight, and while he could maintain this work schedule for the time being as he was still young, he didn't know how he was going to manage as he got older. Well seeing how the tourist spots have been hit by the travel bans, I was wondering what had become of him and his family. They and so many others will surely be having a difficult time, which brings home to me just how lucky I am!

I've also been continuing to watch Grace and Frankie and have to admit I'm liking it more than I originally thought I would. It was hard to stick with at the beginning as I thought it was so contrived, but it's definitely improved over time, so thank you to those who told me to hang in there!

With spring blossoming here my allergies are starting up again and even though they're not too severe it's bloody annoying when my left eye (always my left eye) itches like hell and swells up like a gargoyle for about an hour. It happened to me the other Thursday when I was on my way to meet Biboo for the first time (I guess he'll have to grow into the name Charlie because at the moment it's still Biboo or Munchkin). Oh man is he sweet, but I hate to think what he thought meeting Grandma Redeye for the first time! I actually don't remember the last time I held such a tiny baby - you know where their bum and back fit into the palm of your hand - but it surely was precious. With the new 10 km travel limit I won't be able to go to visit him for a month as they live 30 km away, but as Jen said, they make exceptions for child care, so I can use that reasoning a couple of times with me looking after babe so they can go out and do their running around without taking him along. Sounds good to me!

I did finally get round to meeting up with Marysette from sewing club on Tuesday and we managed an 11 km walk along the Arve river, which was a new one to me. It was a nice flat walk but I somehow managed to burn my right arm as it was so hot (I must walk with a list if I only managed to burn the right arm, I reckon). Then on Friday my lovely Dutchman came over and we did a 12 km walk into Cluses again and sat on a bench in town to have a picnic lunch, and yet again he loved it (I can see I'm going to be seeing more of him)! And then yesterday Isabelle, my neighbour, asked if I wanted to take advantage of our last day of "freedom" to go back to Passy for a walk, and while it wasn't what I had planned I'm so glad I did. It was pretty cold and the wind was howling but it was so, so pretty. There were a few people wind- and kite-surfing, and even one (fool)hardy (mad?) soul swimming! Not for me but why not? I'm so glad she suggested it as I got in another 12 km walk which was so invigorating!

The lake at Passy yesterday!


When we got back Isabelle was bemoaning the fact that we'll be limited to 10 km from home for the next month, so I took her round to my back garden and pointed out that Cou (one of the mountains you can see from my back garden) was well within 10 km from here and the hike up to the Chalet de Balme could easily be our next outing. I hiked up there many years ago in about 45 minutes but I reckon I'd be looking at about two hours now, what with me being older and fatter but who knows. If you don't try you'll never know, will you!

Cou (as seen from my terrace)!

The chalet at Balme!

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Biboo!

Biboo arrived safe and sound at 12.50 this morning - well what should have been yesterday evening I guess because we put the clocks forward today. The first 12 hours were apparently horrendous as Jen threw up with every contraction but then an angel in human form descended from above with an epidural in his hand and both Jen and Jordan got to enjoy the rest of her 21 hour labour, with Jen being allowed to pull the baby out herself. Turns out Biboo is a little boy (I was right!!!!) and weighed in at 3.2 kg. When I looked up "3.2 kg to lbs" it suggested cooking time for turkey (ha) but that's just over 7 lbs, so a good weight for a first baby, particularly given that Jen is so tiny. His name is Charlie, but I suspect he'll be Biboo to me for quite some time. Oh and tonton (uncle) André is so totally in love already it's something to behold! I'm now officially the (second) happiest woman in France today (with Jen being the first)!




Saturday, 27 March 2021

Life's little pleasures!

André had his appointment in Annecy on Thursday to hand in his paperwork for his resident's permit. I was going to go with him since I've already been to the Préfecture twice and with Annecy being all dug up at the moment I thought it might help. That was when he told me it wasn't necessary as he'd be fine (he was), but I had to laugh 'cos I guess you never stop being a mom do you. I mean, I moved to Switzerland at age 21 for a job and I travelled around Australia for six months with a backpack and a $50 tent when I was 24 (the parents of every young woman's worst nightmare I imagine) and here's me fretting about my 33 year old son finding his way round Annecy, which is all of 30 minutes drive away! Ha ha, do ya think I'm turning into Howard's mom in The Big Bang Theory? Anyway, everything was in order so he should get his permit in a couple of weeks. Hats off to Annecy though because they seem to have done a great job dealing with the extra workload caused by Brexit and have been very efficient. I think he had the same young black woman handling his dossier as I did and she was a real sweetheart. So that's one thing crossed off his endless to-do list at the moment!

Today he was going to lunch with a mate and then on to band practice afterwards so he asked me if the ski pants he'd borrowed last week for the trek up to La Clusaz would be dry by this morning. They were, but it's a good job I checked them because I'd just bunged a whole bunch of dark clothes into the machine together and I found three pairs of my knickers stuck to the velcro at the bottom of the leg of the ski pants so I'm sure Max would have done a double take when he handed them back. Or maybe not - I don't know - Max might think he'd become a "kinky" dresser - who knows!

Then the other day I got a message from the MJC (community centre) where I do my Italian lessons and it looks like they'll be reimbursing us for most of the course pretty shortly. I'm assuming my other courses will also be doing the same then, although for the independent young yoga teacher who is not part of a major organization I'm more than happy to let that pass. No-one could have predicted covid and if not reimbursing me helps her then I can live with it. That being said, I should also be looking at about €1,600 in reimbursements for our cancelled trip to Holland and Germany last year. Now that I will be very glad to receive back - it's a lot of money after all. With that in mind, I decided to take a trip out to a large garden centre near here where André had gotten me a gift voucher for Christmas. So I toddled round to my neighbour as I knew she wanted to go out there and we headed out together. She never goes anywhere (even pre-covid) so I know she thoroughly enjoyed herself and since I'd managed to get her out I then told her we'd be taking a trip to the fabric store and again she was like a little kid in a sweetie shop. I think she's just grown so used to never doing anything different that it's hard for her to accept that yes, she CAN go out occasionally and NO she doesn't have to ask anybody's permission! I went a little nuts because while I was only looking for a few plants I actually went slightly crazy and bought a whole new set of wine and water glasses. Mine were ok but very much a hotch-potch and my new ones are lovely. And then, since I'm obviously going mad anyway, I stopped in at a lovely shop and bought a complete new set of dishes in very, very bright colours. I didn't need them, of course, and it does make my decluttering exercise a bit moot at this point, but I thought "why not". Since I haven't travelled in over a year, and am unlikely to do so for another year, I may as well go slightly nuts and get a few things I've wanted for some time. I then stopped in another store and bought a couple of baby things to keep at my house, as well as a flower arrangement for Jordan and Jen's balcony and a fluffy Easter bunny for Biboo's first Easter. So yeah, my bank card is creaking a bit right now but gosh it felt good!

These are the kinds of plates/bowls/dishes I bought in three different
colour configurations. They're much prettier than the picture though!

Jordan was asking me the other day how he should go about registering Biboo at the US consulate. I told him he'd got time as they would need specifics - name, dob, sex and so on, and that's when I got to telling him about my experience at the British consulate in Geneva. André was born in the US but Jordan was born in Geneva (although he's not entitled to Swiss citizenship). I handed in all the paperwork to get him a British birth certificate and passport and they told me it would be ready in about 30 minutes so to just take a seat. Thank God I checked this stuff before I left because the birth certificate had his date of birth down as 21 May, when he was born on 31 May, and when they handed his passport over he was down as "female". Can you imagine trying to correct this stuff after the event - although André said I could always have raised him as a girl and not gone through the hassle (ain't big brothers rotten)!

Then two days ago Jen sent me a message to say that Biboo had been accepted for a place at the crèche 100 metres from their home as from August so all is well with the world - 'cos ya see, Biboo is on his way. Mom and dad have been at the hospital since 4 a.m. this morning and it's now 4 p.m. and I'm still sitting here waiting, and waiting and excited as hell!

Monday, 22 March 2021

This and that!

It turned into a lovely weekend this weekend, both weather-wise and socially, with the weather being just glorious, if a bit chilly. André was invited up to a friend's family chalet in La Clusaz with the mates in his band for a birthday celebration. He showed me pictures of the chalet and it was lovely - not modern at all but rather a rustic old chalet which has been in this friend's family for many years. It was actually located right on a ski slope, so I'm guessing it would be worth quite a bit if they ever wanted to sell, but that doesn't seem to be of any interest to them from what he was saying - they get too much fun out of the place. Because the ski lifts are still not running (to discourage crowds), they had a 90-minute hike up to the chalet carrying all their supplies with them - now that's dedication! I think he said there were eight of them in five bedrooms so they weren't crowded at all. While a few of the lads set up ski jumps, the others got the BBQ going on the terrace and started getting dinner ready. André was saying he now realizes exactly how unfit he is because he was the last one to make it to the top, but then he has to realize most of these kids have been doing this all their lives, and while he actually grew up in this region, he's spent the last 10 years living in Geneva "going soft" (as I so kindly put it). Still, it's motivated him to go to the sports shop to get kitted out with winter gear because - as he admitted himself - he was woefully ill-equipped for the weekend and trudging through 60 cm of snow! Ha, and to think I've got brand new snow shoes sitting downstairs and we never even gave them a thought? He did say though that there were loads of people in the resort snow-shoeing or doing cross country skiing - and even a few hardy souls lugging their skis to the top of the mountain in order to get just one run in! I'm pretty sure you wouldn't see me doing that - I couldn't imagine trying to hike up to the top of a mountain in heavy ski boots and carrying my skis! Those days are long behind me!

That being said I got a message from my lovely Dutchman on Wednesday asking if he could come over the following day and do the 8 km walk along the river I'd told him about!!!! I know!!! The daft thing is, I knew that once I'd got him out here just once on a local walk he'd want to do it again! He lives in France on the other side of Lake Geneva at the foot of the Jura mountains and they are also really beautiful, but I just don't think he's ever taken the time to get out there and explore. When we first came back from the U.S. in 1989 we lived in Switzerland for a year just below the Jura and there, again, we were out exploring every weekend with André as a little kid, so I know there are some lovely walks out there. This time we drove out to the lake at Thyez and then did a walk along the River Arve which had been measured out at 8 km. We managed to get a coffee in the town of Cluses (had to drink it outside and standing up of course) but it was a pleasant walk, totally on the flat, and we ended up walking for about two-and-a-half hours. I got in almost 14 km total that day, or over 17,000 steps, and was well pleased, but he kept banging on about how his phone mis-measured his km (most likely true, they say smart phones show an approximate 10% under-estimate in the distance walked), but I told him surely the only thing that mattered was that if you walked 7,000 steps a day last week then the aim should be to walk 8,000 steps a day this week. In the end I told him if he didn't shut up he'd get more steps in than he bargained for because I'd leave him there and it was 25 km back to my place! Still, we had a good time together and I sense he'll be more amenable to other walks once the snow starts melting. I also sent a quick message to one of the ladies from my sewing club asking if she wanted to go out walking sometime now that the weather has picked up. We had planned to do this last year (she knows loads of great hikes round here) but covid happened, then lockdown, then winter, so it's only now that we can really think about it. The end result is that I'm going over to her place for lunch on Tuesday and then we'll head off out for a walk near where she lives. She and two of her sisters get together every Thursday for lunch followed by a walk/hike, so she invited me to join them next time, which is really nice as I've known her one sister for several years through the sewing club and I really like her. So it seems like things are starting to fall into place again - or maybe that sense of optimism is just spring starting to break through!

Then yesterday I had a call from Carol, a lady I met when I went to Sicily for my 60th birthday. We clicked immediately and had plans to visit each other (she lives in London) before covid intervened. Still, it was nice to chat with her and make tentative plans to get together when it's safe to do so! She's already been vaccinated as the U.K. are way ahead of France in that respect (I'm still just a tiny speck on the covid vaccination list). That being said, my nephew was telling me that his partner had her first jab the other week and has been violently ill with it, almost to the point of needing hospitalization. That's not very reassuring as she's only in her early 50s but she already had covid at the start of the pandemic and was very ill with it for about four weeks. Thankfully she's getting better now, but it seems to bear out the theory that those that have already had covid are the ones having the strongest reactions to the vaccine!

In other news, yesterday I was out putting peelings in my neighbour's very swish new wooden compost bin (you know, after I melted the other one) and asked his wife how much they'd paid for it because I wanted to pay half. When she said €15 I thought I'd misheard, but it turns out that the local community of villages (they call them communes here) is offering rather nice wooden compost bins to local tax payers for €15, with the commune picking up the tab for the rest of the cost. Splendid initiative right, so I've gone ahead and ordered one of my own so that we can have two on the go at the same time. I'll have to make a concerted effort not to burn these two down!

I've also taken to watching various series on either Netflix or Amazon Prime for about an hour before I go to bed. At the moment I've watched the first few episodes of Grace and Frankie as I heard rave reviews about it, but as yet I'm not sure. It seems to be a bit "formulaic" (is that a word?) to me so far. You know, just take a standard formula, stick a few different actors in it and basically punch out another cookie-cutter comedy series. I hope I'm wrong but right now I'm not feeling it. You know, as much as I loved Friends, when you see something like The Big Bang Theory afterwards it just strikes me as "take six people - three men and three women - stick them in an apartment eating - unbothered by trivialities like having to go to work, write some smart-arsed script and voilà, you've got a new series on your hands". Anyway, I'll watch a few more episodes to see if it improves, otherwise I think I'll just move on!

Yesterday I was invited up to my former neighbour Valérie's place to spend a few hours playing board games. We haven't had a board game evening since last October, for obvious reasons, so seven of us got together at her place to play for a few hours. She's got a huge place overlooking the mountains so we were well spread out, but it was a nice way to spend a few hours, even if we did have to be back home by the new later curfew of 7 p.m. I stopped in at the supermarket on the way there as I had volunteered to bring the bread and cheese. Maybe I'm just becoming a crab but I have to admit it does annoy me when I see older kids sitting/standing in shopping trollies when they have no business being in them. Toddlers and babies, of course, but to see a kid of about eight standing in the cart with dad pushing him around kinda turns my stomach as I'm thinking "how much muck is on the bottom of his shoes and then someone's going to be putting their groceries in there afterwards"? There was nothing wrong with his legs either, as was proven when he pushed the trolley back through the mud to the trolley stand! I guess it's just one of my pet hates and there's not much I can do to change it so I'll just have to like it or lump it!

The view from Valérie's living room!

Her back garden!

So all in all it was a nice week, and an even nicer weekend. Last night I watched the programme Secret Eaters on TV, mainly because there was nothing else on. You know, all these people who can't for the life of them understand how they've put on so much weight because "they don't eat that much", and then the TV crew follow them around and secretly film them for them to see just how many calories they really were getting through. With that in mind I went on to the Myfitnesspal website to check out the calorie content of some of the stuff I've been picking at in the evenings these last couple of months - out of boredom really - and oohhh errr, I think it's a good job I've got some long walks lined up because man was I in denial!!!! So no more snacking for me I guess. André too from the looks of it. We'll see how long that lasts but so far (day 1) it's working a treat! Ha, just another how many days to go?