The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Monday 27 April 2015


There are many great things about working in Geneva, not least of all the beautiful scenery, Lake Geneva and the mountain backdrops.  Because of the many multinationals, the banks and the international organizations, it is also a highly multicultural city, which I happen to love.  I mean, if you want to make Korean food you can find Korean ingredients.  If you want to learn belly-dancing you can find the lessons, if you want to speak Mongolian .... you get the drift.

One of the great things about being multicultural is that there is an enormous anglophone community.  Now, I love living in France and am happy to speak French every day but there is something about being able to go to the cinema or theatre in English that is just great.  When I say "anglophone" I don't necessarily mean native English speakers, but for every foreigner here who doesn't speak French there will be at least one who speaks English fluently, even as a second language.

We are fortunate to have two excellent organizations - GAOS - Geneva Amateur Operatic Society and GEDS - Geneva English Drama Society - who do a great job of putting on play-readings, shows and even the traditional Christmas panto!

This weekend a friend and I went to see them perform Cabaret ("Money makes the world go around") and what a great job they did, particularly bearing in mind these are "amateurs" and most have full-time jobs to boot!

I had seen the Liza Minnelli movie of course many years ago and while the music was excellent I never really understood it, indeed found it bizarre.  This time round and being that much older I understood the significance of it all and I was very, very impressed, not only with the story behind the story but also the wonderful job done by the Geneva team.
A couple of years ago my two sons and one of their girlfriends went to the U.S. to visit their grandparents in Pittsburgh and then flew to New York to spend a couple of days in the Big Apple.  They wanted to see a show on Broadway but the only one they could afford was Mary Poppins. Well as you can imagine the boys weren't too thrilled about going to see Mary Poppins, but Lily (being the boss) insisted.  The boys later admitted it was absolutely amazing and said that they thoroughly enjoyed it (even taking into account the Italians sitting next to them laughing and clapping and loudly shouting out "Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo"!)  They were delighted.
Taken outside the theatre on Broadway!

I'm not sure they have developed a taste for the theatre (boys being boys - or maybe just "my boys being my boys") but for me, it is a little piece of escapism that I thoroughly enjoy.  Who knows, one day when I have more time I may even get involved - I'm sure they need more people to help move the furniture around (that being the extent of my "artistic" talent!).  Strangely enough, it was only when I came to Geneva that I realized how "weird" we Brits must look at panto time.  But I mean, when the beautiful princess can't see that the handsome prince is really a young woman in knickerbockers, and the wicked stepmother is ALWAYS the one with the pointy nose with a wart on it, and nobody notices that the ugly sisters are actually men, despite an amazing tendency towards designer stubble, AND the actors can never see the plastic dragon that is always "behind you" - I mean, what's not to understand!  Maybe we Brits aren't weird - maybe it's "them"!

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Beware Yogi-Bear

For as long as I can remember I have been interested in yoga, alternative medicine, naturopathy, etc.  I have no idea why but if all you had to do was read a book on it I would be an expert.  I didn't realize you had to actually put this stuff into practice.  Even as a kid I distinctly remember being fascinated by yoga in the 60s/70s and devouring books on it.  I think maybe there was a weekly/monthly magazine series they were plugging at the time as well as a few TV programmes.  I actually tried it out a little and even then I was impressed!

One particular programme I remember showed the advanced yogis in India doing all kinds of miraculous things, tying themselves in knots, etc.  It wasn't just the "bendy bits" of course, but it was a really interesting programme on their beliefs as well.  I remember being with my dad and watching as in order to "cleanse" himself one yogi poured what would effectively be saline solution up one nostril, tipped his head back and then had it come down the other nostril (sorry if you are eating while reading this).  Then he took a kind of cloth and (somehow) managed to push it up one nostril and down the other to "complete" the cleansing.  Yum.

At the time dad was suffering severe ill health.  I think he had his first heart-attack at 48 - not sure of the exact age but young in any case.  He had other problems linked to this and was, therefore, I believe willing to give anything a try once.  He also smoked at the time and had the hardest time before eventually quitting.

One day I heard a noise as I was walking past mom and dad's open bedroom door, looked in (naturally) and saw dad sitting up in bed with a teapot shoved up his nose!  He almost choked when he saw me and swore blind afterwards that I had seen no such thing!!!  I don't think we ever used that teapot again - and we never did find the tea-towel!!

Monday 20 April 2015

Rain stopped play - or not!

Well I didn't make it to the Cascade yesterday as the hike was called off due to an "80% chance of rain".  As it turns out, it didn't rain - well not at home anyway, although it may have rained nearer the waterfall.  Still, the weather can be so changeable in the mountains that it would have been foolhardy  to venture up there.

At least I now know the route that we would have taken so I will take a trip out there and have a go myself (hopefully soon).  The upcoming hikes are classed as "medium" to "difficult" so I will give them a miss for a while, until I get my Superwoman outfit repaired.  "Know your limits", is the expression I think.

I would like to lose between 10 and 15 kg, truth be told (22 - 33 lbs, according to Mr. Google).  Like many women, I carry more than one bag to work each day.  I have my regular handbag and then a rather lovely backpack that I bought in Marrakech where I keep books, shoes, make-up, lunch, umbrella etc.  A fairly typical woman's bag I suspect (ha, ha).  This morning, as I was getting my stuff ready to leave for work, just out of curiosity I weighed the two bags.  Not far off 8 kg!!!!  Crikey, that really does put things in perspective!!  If I would like to lose twice the weight of my bags it really brings home what I am lugging around on my body in excess blubber!

All the more motivation (I hope)!

Thursday 16 April 2015

Throwing down the guantlet - to myself!

Is it just me or does weight-creep affect everyone?  While my weight tends to go up and down like a bride's nightie, lately it is more "up" than "down" and when I saw that I was approaching the weight I was when I gave birth to my second son 22 years ago (!!!!) I knew something had to be done.  I mean, I had actually put on 23 kg with that pregnancy!  Good grief.

I have never actually minded going to the gym and we are very lucky to have a gym at work. What I use it for is exercises that work my back and arms to relieve stress from the poor posture known as "typist's hump" engendered by too long sitting at a computer.

In a fit of madness last year I joined a local hiking/skiing group and NEVER WENT ONCE.  I get so mad at myself because the possibilities are endless here and I just didn't go once.  While I'm no longer that interested in going skiing, I keep pretending to myself that "I will go hiking".  And what do I do about it - zip, nada, zilch.

Soooooo, to cut a long story short, I have actually enrolled in a hike this weekend to a local place called Cascade d'Angon.

It is classed as "easy" and supposed to take around 3 hours.  For that I guess I should read between 4 and 5 hours for me.  I'm not kidding here but ...... my neighbour tells me it is beautiful (it certainly looks it).

So, barring bad weather (you don't go out in the mountains in thunder storms) I will be out there huffing and puffing on Sunday.  By posting this on here I am hoping to hold myself to ransom and GET OFF MY BACKSIDE.  The thing is, once you do these things you never, ever regret it right?

Wish me luck.


Wednesday 15 April 2015

Beware the ninja Grandma

My ex-husband is from Pittsburgh and after we met and married in Geneva in 1985 we moved from Switzerland to the U.S., first to D.C. for a few years and then on to Pittsburgh.

Pap (FIL) died a few years ago but both pap and "Ammy" (as MIL came to be known by the grandchildren because they couldn't pronounce "Grandma") were good people, with Ammy in particular being really good fun.

One time we were driving along on the outskirts of Pittsburgh when Ammy stalled her car at a red light.  No matter what she tried she just couldn't get it started again.  In the meantime, the car behind her started honking and honking his horn.  MIL is only short but eventually she had had enough, so she got out the car, walked back to the guy behind, and drawing herself up to her full 5 feet tall said, "Sir, I'll happily sit here and honk your horn if you would like to go try start my car"!  I was just doubled up laughing.  Way to go grandma!

Sunday 12 April 2015

Some days are diamonds

And today was one of them.  What a beautiful day.  In fact, what a great week-end all in all.  I try to get as much done during the week and on Saturday so that I can have Sunday to do whatever I want.  Well, the car boot season is starting up again here in France and what a perfect start.  In fact, in France they call them "vide grenier", which means "attic emptiers" so there aren't necessarily many cars around but the same principle obviously.

A friend and I went out to a place called Thyez, about 20 minutes from here.  Neither of us are early birds so we left here at noon and as we were both hungry when we got there we decided to have a hot dog.  The bad news was the hot dog machine wasn't working, the good news was that the restaurant about 20 metres away was open!  The car boot was being held in an area with a couple of lakes and a camp site so it had all the facilities, including this restaurant.  I mean, look at this for a view while you are having lunch!!!

What's more lunch was delicious, although I suppose going to car boot sales to save money probably doesn't include having lunch in the restaurant.  Still, it was definitely worth it.

There were quite a few people there but not as many as I thought there would be given the wonderful weather.  Plenty of stalls too.

And this is my haul!!!!
After that we drove back towards home about 5 minutes up the road to a place called Bonneville where they were having a "nature day".  Again not too many people (so much the better for us) but lovely and I bought myself a couple of lettuce plants and beetroot plants, which are now happily sitting outside in my little plastic greenhouses. 


All in all, a perfect day.

Friday 10 April 2015

What's it gotta do with you?

When I first started this blog I told how a lovely older lady I met in Turkey had encouraged me to "write it down while you still can".  Anyway, I piddled around not doing anything much about it until I met a lady called Chris in March of this year.  This is Chris' anecdote which finally pushed me to start this blog.

Chris and I and two other ladies met and got yacking on a holiday we all took in March.  We didn't know each other beforehand but within a few days we were lolling on the beach putting the world to rights, as you do!  Anyway, Chris got to telling us that her mother had started hand-writing an account of her life in England after WWII.  Chris knew she was doing it but after mom's death she took the diary and typed it up, spelling errors and all, and had it bound for her brothers and sisters.

One of the stories mom told was when Chris was born a neighbour asked mom if she had a pram, and when mom said no, the neighbour said she knew where she could get one from.  In fact, they had an old pram in the chicken coop!  Well the way mom wrote it, and the way Chris transcribed it, was as though nobody even bothered to clean the pram before baby Chris was put in it.

Anyway, one day mom took Chris in her pram and went off to the butcher's.  Being just after the end of the war rationing was still in place,  BUT, since mom was friendly with the butcher she always got "a little something extra" wrapped up with her rations.

As she left the shop she put the parcel in the bottom of the pram when a woman called out "What did you get?"  So Chris' mom said "A piece of beef, what's it gotta do with you?"  To which the lady replied "No, I meant the baby.  Did you have a boy or a girl?"

It was so funny the way Chris told it that I thought I really have to get going on this "writing it down" business.  So that's how this blog was started.

Chris, if you ever get to read this, full credit to you and your mom for a lovely story.


Wednesday 8 April 2015

Benefits Britain

Have any of you been watching the series on "Benefits Britain"?  I guess this is quite an inflammatory subject but this is my take on it.

I feel that producing programmes like this is designed to rabble-rouse and set the country against these "benefits scroungers".  Goodness knows they certainly pick "suitable" candidates don't they?  I think it was Jane (I hope I got your name right) over at Shoestring Cottage who recently highlighted the case of an older disabled lady, unable to work, who by virtue of losing money due to the "bedroom tax" was in a very dire situation indeed.

You know, I think the aim of these programmes is to pave the way for more cuts in the system and by highlighting some (though not all) "benefits scroungers" as foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, lazy, fat b***stards" the powers that be are trying to make cutting all  benefits acceptable to the rest of us.

Now while many of the people on these shows do need a bloody good kick up the backside, some, through no fault of their own, are caught in the benefits trap.  My own family lived for over 30 years in a 4-bedroomed council house while we kids were growing up (and all now working I would add).  If my mom and dad had not been able to buy it many years ago, my widowed mother might well have ended up in a position of having to move away from the neighbours and neighbourhood she had known for so many years because, (like the "Shoestring" lady), the council couldn't find her smaller accommodation.

I realize of course that the country is in a mess and the issue of benefits is hugely controversial.  I had a friend staying with me one weekend last year when one of these programmes was on and he was getting more and more furious watching it.  But to my mind, the makers of these programmes were getting the reaction from him that they wanted in order to push through their own agenda.

There are many foul-mouthed scroungers who have no intention of ever working - of course.  But conversely there are many, many people in seriously difficult situations often through no fault of their own.  Obviously when you look at the hundreds of "refugees" and "asylum-seekers" desperate to get through Calais to Britain you can see that there is something very wrong with a system that would encourage them to want to come to the UK and start claiming.  And while I feel for the people of Calais these refugees/asylum-seekers should indeed not make it further than their point of entry into Europe - which obviously will never be Calais.

I don't know the answer but it seems the politicians don't either except maybe to make cuts for the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.  I recently read an excellent book called "Chavs" by Owen Jones.  It makes a great read if you are at all interested in this subject.  When did the working class go from being the salt of the earth to the scum of the earth?  Particularly while being robbed blind by certain people, for example those involved in the "expenses scandal", who will never know what it is to go cold and hungry.

Anyway, not quite sure where this post came from but I felt I just had to get my thoughts down on paper to get it clearer in my mind.  Again, this isn't meant to be inflammatory but I'm buggered if I can figure it out.  A

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Knickerless shorthand (not what you think)

I got my first job as a young secretary in Switzerland in 1980 at the age of 21.  In those days it was normal to take dictation and I have to admit, even today when you don't "need" shorthand, it is still a wonderful skill to possess.

Nobody liked taking dictation from one of our Indian bosses for the simple reason that he was capable of dictating sentences that were a page long and you had to try to decipher them.  To give him his due, often they did make sense but man was it difficult to get it all back on paper.

This one particular day I was just getting over a bout of bronchitis when I got called in for dictation.  It started with a small cough, then got worse until I was spluttering and coughing like nobody's business.  Eventually I asked him to excuse me while I got a drink of water.  Thinking it would be more appropriate to regurgitate a lung in private I dashed off to the toilets.  While I was there I thought I may as well have a pee so shot into the loo to do the necessary.  The only problem was, as I was sitting there the cough got worse and worse until I eventually couldn't contain it any more and I actually threw up - right into my knickers.

Now what to do with underwear full of chuck-up can be somewhat of a dilemma.  So not knowing what else to do, I took them off, rinsed them and threw them in the bin.  Of course I then had to go back to taking dictation, minus my knickers!!!!  I mean, what the heck!  But what else could I do?  Needless to say, I kept a very demure pose for the rest of the dictation.

Thursday 2 April 2015

Gwladys Myfanwy

Otherwise known as mom.  And with a name like that guess where she comes from (Betws-y-Coed in North Wales in case you're curious).

Mom and dad had been married 63 years when dad died in 2005.  Mom is now 93 and although "forgetful" she is otherwise great.  She has retained her sense of humour, can be quite witty and is a really good sport! The picture of her on the motorbike was taken on her 93rd birthday.  Note the carefully coordinated slippers and motorbike!  The other one is of mom and me taken in March 2015.

Like many of their generation they did not have an easy life but they worked incredibly hard having seven kids and very little money.  It was only as I got older that I began to have some idea of how hard they worked and I take my hat off to them.
The stress we have today is very different from the stress of their times.  Not more, not less nor worse, just very, very different.  The saving grace in their time was that we were all the same - nobody had any money - or at least none that lived near us - and people helped each other out more and watched out for each other.
I hope I live to a ripe old age, healthy and happy like she is and to be such a blooming good sport!

Wednesday 1 April 2015

The shoe thief

I was born in 1958 in central Birmingham in what everyone referred to as "the yard".  It was typical inner city row housing of the time, built round a central yard with loos down the garden.  The advantage of being built in a yard (according to mom) was that the kids could all play outside with just one "goalkeeper" at the entrance to the yard looking out for them.  As far as I remember this was often a lady called Ruby, a lady who terrified me because she had crossed eyes.  (I was just 3 when we left the yard so I guess everything and everyone a bit "different" was terrifying).  In any case, none of the kids ever got past Ruby.

For some time Dad was working nights and trying to get some sleep during the day.  Problem was, there was a dog that kept on barking and barking and he couldn't get any sleep.  Dad was a gentle man but I guess this one day he really had had enough so he ran outside and aimed a kick at the barking dog.  Missed of course (probably intentionally), but his shoe flew off, at which point said dog picked up the shoe and ran off with it - with Dad having to chase him up the road to get his shoe back - and all the kids in "the yard" having a great old laugh at his expense!  Happy times.

Dad and Judy