The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Are you a tortoise or a hare?

Things at work have started to calm down now that my meeting is done and dusted. I am now working on another report that has to go to translation in January but at this point we are actually well ahead of the game. Work and traffic is quiet as schools are out and many people have extended their Christmas holidays, so I am actually quite enjoying getting ahead. Christmas is prepared, presents wrapped and I know what I am making on Christmas Day (not turkey for a change, I hate having to make a specific dish for a specific day so I have decided instead to cook rack of lamb plus potato gratin, plus a few other sides). After Christmas I have my friend coming over from England for a few days, so hence the reference to the "tortoise and the hare".

My house has been getting me down as it is pretty cluttered since I seem to be the repository for everyone else's junk, and while I keep it clean it honestly could do with a good scrub. Logic seems to suggest it is better to get rid of stuff and then clean, of course, so I am trying to do a little bit at a time. However, with a 40-hour working week and a minimum daily commute of three hours, as you can imagine I'm not exactly chomping at the bit to start cleaning when I get home from work.  My ex was the kind to throw everything out of a cupboard/room, charge into it and keep going (and yelling at all and sundry) until it was done. The problem with that, of course, was that apart from the fact that the urge to clean didn't come over him too often, being an ex-Marine he used to bark orders at everyone since he seemed to think everyone should pitch in and be "available" and at his command. My feelings are that if I feel like doing something I just get on and do it, that way it is not really a chore for me. Plus I stop when I choose to and just do a bit more another day. I am out on a Monday night so on Tuesdays and Wednesday I have been spending up to an hour each night scrubbing/pitching stuff in the kitchen. UUUUUGGGGHHH you wouldn't believe the state of the extractor fan - you know, on top the bit you can't see unless you are 6ft 8! Yuck! I climbed up a ladder to change a light bulb and could see just how grimy it was, so I spent one hour one night cleaning the top and one hour the next doing the underneath. Then another night would be a specific cupboard and so on, and if I felt like quitting in the middle of it I just did - no-one was there to yell about it. I have the Marie Kondo book on decluttering and while I think she is madder than a bag of rats I have to say I respect some of her methods - it's just that they are not for me. (In any case, someone who has made so much money - presumably - telling people how to declutter can't exactly be that mad can she). So bit by bit I am getting stuff done and in reality it doesn't take that long to see progress.

Other than that, there hasn't been much new here. I went to my son's school the other week to see him pick up his plumbing diploma (so if anyone needs a fully-qualified plumber give me a shout). Glad I made it actually even though it was very low key. What did strike me though was how respectful the young lads (and a few girls) were towards their teachers - it was so nice to see. Jordan will be doing another two years apprenticeship to qualify in heating/air con installation so then we will really be talking (and hopefully making a bit more money, but I am pleased for him all the same).

In other news, the Russian National Ballet are giving a tribute performance of Ravel's Bolero in February here in Geneva so I bought tickets for that. I also enrolled for a one-time evening class on how to put together a vegan buffet, also taking place in February. It's funny really, because as I would like to lose some weight before the wedding in July I have been looking at the Dukan diet and that seems to be strongly based around eating lots of protein/meat - and here am I going on a vegan cookery course! Oh the irony! Here at work quite a few people lost a fair amount of weight on that diet but to be honest most put it back on too. Not sure I can stomach it but I will see how I feel in the new year. I'm also not sure I would be that drawn to a vegan diet either to be honest, but vegetarianism is something that has always interested me. Indeed, I actually gave it a shot a couple of times many years ago, and I have to say I felt wonderful on it - and then went off to England to visit family and screwed up with the "full English breakfast" trap! I might give it some more thought though depending on how motivating I find this course.

Last weekend I got up on Saturday and thought "hey, I don't actually need any shopping, I don't feel like doing anything" so I decided to do bugger all and just lounged about on the sofa all day and read - and you know what, it was great! It is something I have never really allowed myself to do - take a day "just for myself", but in the end who do I have to answer to anyway? Actually slobbing around for a day is fine very occasionally for me, but not something I could do very often as I tend to get ants in my pants. That being said, it was a rare treat - I must remember to do more of it!

So on that note, if I don't post again before Christmas I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2017.  I had wanted to mention the atrocities in Berlin yesterday but what can anyone say anymore about such barbarity - or about Aleppo (those poor, innocent civilians), or about ...... wherever these monsters work their evil. In fact, I have a colleague/friend who retired to Nice a couple of years ago and she was actually in a beach front restaurant when they killed all those people on Bastille Day. In order to get back to her apartment she had to walk past all the dead and injured - of course the horror is still with her and will most likely remain so forever!

So stay safe and my best wishes to everyone for the new year.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Looks can be deceptive!

On Sunday I went over to visit my oldest son and his girlfriend as it was Lily's birthday and I had a gift for her. So I finally got to hear a bit more about the wedding plans - no thanks to my son though of course! What is it with young men, or maybe just men in general? I mean, we women can probably natter about anything for hours but do you think he has told me anything about how the plans were going?  It turns out that they have booked a venue not so far from where I live (about 40 minutes I guess). They had wanted to book something in Switzerland but the cost was prohibitive (no surprise there then) so they have booked what looks like a renovated barn complex and very nice it is too. In fact, I know that area quite well because "in the day" we used to take our camper down to the Parc National des Bauges every second weekend to go fishing. Good times actually, as we made friends with quite a few French couples who kept caravans there all through the season so that the men could spend as much time fishing as possible and the women seemed quite content just taking walks or chatting. It was pretty nice for the kids too as there was a well-thought-out camp site where they had the river and park to play in and plenty of friends to run with. Then of course they got older and didn't want to come with mom and dad any more so that kinda put the kibosh on that!!!

Les Bauges
In fact, on New Year's Eve 1999/2000 about five couples from the fishing group came up to our village where we rented the village hall and had a fancy dress party. You ain't seen nothing until you have seen two fat, elderly French fishermen dressed as Asterix and Obelix!

Anyway, I digress, but as Lily's mom will be dressed in traditional Korean dress, I have to come up with something to wear that is also somewhat formal. Question: I have seen the most beautiful dress but it is silver and I'm not sure that that would be appropriate to wear to a wedding. I know only the bride is supposed to wear white but I'm not sure about silver. I suppose it would be ok if it was jazzed up with a colourful shawl or something, and come to think of it Lily did actually show me an outfit she liked for me and that was pale grey, so maybe it is a possibility. Oh and I just need to lose about 15 kg too - forgot about that minor detail! Thankfully I have some time but right now the blubber isn't exactly falling off or disappearing subliminally!

I tell you what though, André is pretty damn lucky he has Lily organizing this (what on earth did we do before the internet?) as she is a natural organizer and obviously enjoying it - well for the time being at least. I have offered to help but she seems on top of everything for the moment.  André has also seen the most gorgeous suit which is pretty darn expensive, but as it is Italian we were both nagging him to drive down to Milan (the home of fashion!! and only about four hours' drive away), and check that out too. I mean, with the recent referendum in Italy the euro took yet another hit so it would be to his advantage to either look there or, indeed, fly to England for the weekend and look around.

Lily mentioned that they had booked someone to come over and do hair and make-up on the day and that "I should feel free to come over". I hadn't even thought about that, I mean, I did get my hair done the day I got married but it never occurred to me to have someone do my make-up! (Yeah, tell me I'm sounding like a dinosaur - I know).

Talking of "make-overs", many, many years ago, when said dinosaurs actually did still roam the earth, I took six months leave from my job and back-packed around Australia (wonderful time - the subject of another post I suspect). Anyway, I was just 24 and my friend and I were in Brisbane waiting for the next bus going further north to our next stop. Trouble was, we had about three hours to wait so since we were in the city centre my friend suggested we had a shufty round the local department store and get a "free" makeover. Of course the aim is to get you to buy their products but we did get the makeover. Well .... we were both young, in shorts and T-shirts and lugging backpacks - and we came out looking like two hookers! You know, pile it on with a trowel and strip it off with a blow torch kinda thing. We both dashed straight to the nearest loo and washed as much of it off as we could but heck, it took some scrubbing!

Photo by Cindy Sherman
I have a lovely colleague who took a month off to do a course at the London school of make-up so she offered to give me a free tutorial since, as she pointed out, she needs to practice too! So she did my make-up the other day during my lunch break and hey - I didn't look quite so bad. It's amazing what can be achieved in the right hands isn't it! And it does bring it home how so many celebrities might not be quite so stunning if they didn't have the help of make-up artists, stylists, hairdressers, back-lighting and good old photo shop.  To be honest though, there is such a "fashion" now for the ultra-white (false) teeth, the hair extensions, botox etc. that so many look identical. Shame really, because the most interesting faces (in my humble opinion) are the ones that have a bit of character to them. Ah well, I'd better be off to see if I can re-produce what my colleague did - wish me luck!

Thursday 8 December 2016

Slum Britain

Did anyone see the programme on TV the other night called "Slum Britain"? I found it so very sad but also very thought-provoking.  Fifty years ago, photographer Nick Hedges went round Britain taking photos of families living in poverty in various cities around the UK. Birmingham was probably what interested me the most (although not necessarily the most soul-destroying) because that is where I grew up and I knew some of the areas he had photographed. I believe he was commissioned by Shelter - the organization working on behalf of homeless people - and the programme took a look, where possible, at the current lives of some of the children from those photographs 50 years ago to see what had become of theme.

Photo by Nick Hedges
The living accommodation (if you can call it "living") was dire - damp, cold and over-crowded, and of course many, not yet having access to contraception, had large families, with ever-more kids coming along each year and often no way to take care of the ones they already had.

I was born in inner-city Birmingham in housing somewhat similar to that portrayed in the film Billy Elliott. It was nowhere near as appalling as that shown in the Hedges' photos of course, but cramped and depressing nevertheless and our home was, in fact, bulldozed as a slum when I was three years old. I obviously have very limited memories of that home but I do have some (I remember describing things to my mom once and she was stunned that I could remember so much detail!). 

Billy Elliott
We were moved out to a council estate to what, in comparison, must have looked like a palace to my family, with four bedrooms. Even then, in the six terraced houses in our new little block there were 40 kids! How our parents managed to keep us all fed and warm is beyond me (but I suppose on the positive side, we always had someone to play with).

Dad and Judy (down the "old end")
The overwhelming feelings I got from watching the programme was of hopelessness but also stoicism. As one man put it, "yes we were poor, but then so was everyone else and we knew no different". I understand that absolutely. Another sad, but very telling comment, was that in those days everyone pulled together and there was a sense of community, which is sadly missing nowadays. But I think the comment that struck me the most was that where previously people were short of "stuff" today people are short of "hope"! That really hit me.

They highlighted the case of a few of those "children" (now adults) whose current situations were pretty dire. At first it annoyed me somewhat because in some cases they were drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and had pets (one was even shooting up) and I thought if they could afford all that how come they were using a soup kitchen? But as the programme went on I got a better understanding of how - when you remove just one brick from that security wall - the hole thing comes down and your life and future can be lost just like that. In fact, someone recently mentioned to me the movie "Cathy Come Home" which gives a vivid portrayal of just this.

Another man described how he had skipped school, joined the army and worked hard at every job he subsequently had because there was "no way he was going back to that"! 

I have always been interested in these kinds of issues. I remember reading a book called "Around About a Pound a Week" which (and I paraphrase) detailed a survey of how people in the 1930s (I think) in similar circumstances as described above tried to manage on "around about a pound a week", with the inevitable large families and poor housing. One of the salient points, to my mind, was that the more they were able to afford in rent (i.e. live on the ground floor), the less likely they were to have to live in dank, depressing basements, and hence the less likely the children were to get sick (and possibly even die) - the catch-22 situation!

I also read sometime ago (and I can't for the life of me remember the title of it) a book written by an American journalist as she tried to survive on minimum wage jobs in several different US states (for six months, I think). The biggest take-away from that book was that, as with the English survey mentioned above, accommodation was pretty much the deciding factor in who would survive and who would go under, because if you couldn't afford a kitchenette, you couldn't cook for yourself, so were more likely to live off junk food and hence more likely to get sick and so on and so forth. Depressing stuff I suppose but something that fascinates me.

Every week when I am shopping I pick up a few items for the local Red Cross-run food bank, and when I have a case full I take it down there when they are open on a Tuesday night. I am also the treasurer (i.e. I have a little tin with the "takings" in) for our second-hand book store at work and occasionally we meet to discuss where we would like to make donations to. (Last time we were able to fund two wheelchairs in Peru for an organization close to a Peruvian colleague's heart). I suppose because I work in such a wealthy city as Geneva the difference between the "haves" and the "have nots" is more striking, although I'm sure the same could be said of any big city, to be honest.

I am hoping to retire in three-four years time (when my mortgage is paid off) and I am already giving thought to how I would like to spend some of my time working with these kinds of organizations. Many of my colleagues already work voluntarily with various aid groups here in the region so I will have opportunities to see where is the best fit for me (they are currently working with local refugee groups - of course - a battered women's refuge, a local soup kitchen, two orphanages in Uruguay and I am slowly introducing the idea of working with the food bank in the small town where I live).

I actually had an idea for another post in my mind today, but watching this programme last night really brought home to me how someone only has to lose just that one brick in the wall and the whole lot can so easily come tumbling down!

Wednesday 30 November 2016

All quiet on the western front!

There's not much going on here at the moment. All the work is done in preparation for the big meeting next week and then ..... probably bugger all to do until Christmas (or very little). I prefer to be busy but that's the way my work goes - very cyclical. Still, with all the stuff I have to do in connection with reverting to my maiden name I suppose it's as well to have some down time too. Talking of changing my name though, I have to admit it has really been pretty easy so far.  I stopped in at the Mairie (the local "town hall") on Saturday to register my change of name now that I have my new passport and it took about three minutes - two of which were spent just chatting! It was funny though because the lady pulled out a paper sheet from her drawer, put a pencil line through "B" and inserted my new name of "T" and that was it! Talk about high tech. Well actually she laughed and said that she would input put it into the computer also but probably "after coffee"!

I emailed a copy of my new passport to the French bank and received my new cheque book about a week later (on a side note, they haven't used cheques in Switzerland for 13 years now) and then I stopped in at the Swiss bank - having waited until my salary went in in my old name - on Monday and today (Wednesday) I have already received my new bank cards! Very impressed. Electricity, mobile phones, water bill - all switched.  Next up is my driving licence, although that does already have both names. Still, it's about to fall apart at the seams being a paper licence so I guess I should drag it into the twentieth century (at the very least) and get the credit-card-style one too. But so far, as I said, so good.

I'm still not sure what my kids are doing for Christmas this year. I didn't see them on Christmas day last year as they had other plans - but that was ok with me as we got together on the 29th. My youngest said he will be up home as his girlfriend will be working (she is a psychiatric nurse) but I don't know what the oldest will be doing yet. And, devil that I am, I don't think I will cook a turkey. I hate having to do/eat something just because it is a particular day so I am thinking lamb this year. Not sure yet but I am leaning that way.

Oh, André (the oldest) and his fiancée (am still getting used to that word) flew to the UK recently and had engagement pictures taken just south of London, and how lovely they are. (These are pictures of pictures so maybe not the best quality but good enough for me until I can order copies) and Lily tells me she found her wedding dress on her last long week-end in London!

To think that when my ex left I bought myself an expensive camera (in the duty-free at the airport) and took photography lessons and I am still crap. I lugged that bloody thing up Machu Picchu in Peru (and admittedly got some beautiful photos) but it was so heavy that I ended up taking most of my photos on my ipad! Still, I'm sure I have other qualities.

Talking of Peru, amongst the many people I met on that trip was a lovely Yorkshireman called Steve. He and I have stayed in touch over the last four years and now he is coming out to spend New Year here with me. He has been out before, although only briefly, but as we were chatting the other day we ended up arranging for him to come out again. I told him to bring his cozzie because I plan to take him to Lavey-les-Bains hotsprings on New Year's eve (via Vevey/Montreux on the way out and Evian on the way back - i.e. the scenic route). I did this once years ago when my family came over and I think it was the best New Year's I have ever spent - so totally different. (I don't suppose there's much chance I can lose 15 kg between now and then though!). Anyway, he is good fun so it should be great, particularly as my employer (very generously) closes between Christmas and New Year!

So on that note, I will love you and leave you. Just a shout out to Sonya Ann though who has been off the radar recently. Hope you are feeling better my dear - blogworld is a very quiet place without you!

Wednesday 23 November 2016

My first pub quiz

Last Friday my colleague invited me to join her for my first ever pub quiz! Yes I was a "quiz virgin" - but even though it was a heck of a trek for me, as it sounded like fun I thought I would give it a shot.

Her mom and dad had just arrived from Ireland and being the dutiful daughter that she is she got mom to baby-sit (on her first night and her birthday to boot) while dad came out to the pub with us for the quiz (though to be fair, mom loved the chance to baby-sit little-un as she doesn't get the chance to see him that often, of course). Anyway, dad's name is Charlie so our team name was - you guessed it - Charlie's Angels (I like to think we looked the part but that might be wishful thinking or beer goggles on my part)!

Anyway, it was well organized and well-attended, and was being held to raise money for a local refugee charity called "Foodkind". A lovely young Scottish girl gave a short presentation on how the charity works and a local (minor) celebrity DJ was the compere. Actually he was very good and sharp-witted (giving the team called "The Brexiteers" quite a run for their money).

To be honest, the questions were very much "locally-oriented" and maybe not quite what I was expecting, but then as the profits were going to a small, local refugee charity I suppose that should come as no surprise really. I mean, how many of you have ever looked at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) website? Nah, didn't think so. Me neither. Oddly enough, it's amazing what you "think you know, but don't really", if you know what I mean, although I was quite chuffed at myself for correctly guessing the name of the third goal-scorer on the 1998 French World Cup winning team (well this is France after all). Still even though we didn't win (well didn't actually come close) it was good fun and Charlie was an absolute doll, so I think I will give it another go. Apparently Paddy's Irish Pub in the local town runs a quiz about once a month (where I guess the questions might be a little less specific) so I might give that a shot next time.

Then on Saturday night my friend and I were out again at the local GEDS (Geneva English Drama Society) presentation of Noel Coward's "Relative Values". As always, they do a wonderful job but I have to say how much I enjoyed the actual play itself - never having seen a Noel Coward play before. Very drôle!

Actually, as much as I would like to fly into London or wherever to see some of these plays (and even though you can get some pretty good deals from here), being able to see these "amateur" performances has allowed me see theatre that I would otherwise never get to see, and I have had some really good experiences.

Actually they are putting on Puss in Boots for the Christmas panto. Don't think I will be going to that as it really is for young children but who knows - maybe when grandchildren come along ......!

Altogether now "HE'S BEHIND YOU"!!!!!!!

Friday 18 November 2016

That was fast!

I wrote a couple of posts back about how I had gone the Deed Poll route of changing my name back to my maiden name. I had wanted to do it for ages but was put off by the amount of work that would be involved getting everything changed to be honest. And then, of course, I still had another six years to run on my current passport so kept saying "I'll do it when I have to renew my passport" and so on. Trouble is, if I waited those six years I would (hopefully) be retired and would, I think, probably be even less inclined to go through all the hassle. But then, as I mentioned in my earlier post, I was working late one night with my colleague and when we took a short break I thought "sod it", went on the Deed Poll site and changed my name "just like that"!

I also went the Deed Poll route because apart from being a perfectly legal way to change my name, according to their web site the Deed Poll was all I needed in order to get my passport changed. If reverting to my maiden name, the alternative, according to the passport office, was to submit God knows how many different papers (all of which I had) but in the original copy and all in English! Well I knew I wasn't going to be sending off my original birth certificate, marriage certificate or divorce judgement anywhere, and I certainly wasn't going to bloody well pay to have the 14 pages of my divorce judgement translated officially into English when all my paperwork showed my maiden name as "T" - so hence I stuck with the Deed Poll route.

The problem was, the passport office wrote back and said they also needed "x", "y", and "z", so I emailed them copies of my birth certificate, my marriage certificate and divorce judgement, my French driver's licence (showing both names) and an attestation from my employer giving both names and still it wasn't good enough. When I complained that (a) I crossed the Franco-Swiss border twice a day and despite Schengen I could still get stopped, and (b) I had been led to believe that the Deed Poll act alone was enough, they told me they couldn't be responsible for what was on the Deed Poll site!!!! Talk about frustrated. I mean, it's not like I was trying to change my name to Elvis Presley or anything, I just wanted my birth name back.

So next they said they would accept an attestation from my employer stating that my name was now "T" and not "B" so I told them that neither my employer nor the Swiss authorities (for my work permit) would change my name to "T" until they (the passport office) issued me with appropriate photo ID in that name! My God, I felt like the puppy chasing it's tail! I am pretty placid as it happens but I thought my head was going to explode. Their response to that was to get my employer to submit another attestation confirming that neither they nor the Swiss would issue me with new papers until I got my passport back in the name of "T"!!! So I drafted an attestation to this effect which my employer happily stamped and BINGO - it worked! While I understand that passports aren't (nor should they be) given out lightly, you can only imagine how frustrated I was. That being said - and to be fair to the passport office - I mailed my old passport off to them on 2 November and had my new passport back on 16 November so despite all the hassle the turn around time was pretty impressive. I also, despite my frustration, remained polite because they were only doing their jobs and to be honest, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar anyway. I mean, if someone who holds some kind of power over you really wants to screw you they can - so why tempt fate.

That little "chip" at the bottom of the passport means that it is an e-passport, which means that I can go through the automated customs control when entering the UK as it has all my details micro-chipped. I think I was coming back from Turkey the first time I went through the automated passport control and while there were occasional blips I think it works pretty well.

This morning I contacted my Swiss bank for an appointment to change my salary account etc. over to my new name and we will do it the day after pay day (wouldn't want my pay to end up bouncing around in cyber space), and the lady told me that I will have my new bank cards, etc. in three days! I then contacted my French bank and she told me to email her a copy of my new passport and she would take over from there - just like that - I didn't even have to go in! I don't know what I was expecting but I wasn't expecting anything quite so efficient. I am actually pretty organized and have been making lists of everything I need to change and the appropriate phone numbers. I'm sure I will forget a few things, but at least now the the ball is rolling. Trouble is, my married name was so much easier for the French-speakers to pronounce than my maiden name - ah well!!!!

After that, once all is in order, I will give more thought to applying for French citizenship. That alone could take about two years by all accounts but I reckon I would still have time to "outrun Brexit"!

Tuesday 15 November 2016

It's been a while

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been frantically busy these last few weeks preparing for a big meeting in mid-December. While I'm still busy at least I got my last big report (250 pages) off to the Translation Department (they must be thrilled) so I am finally able to catch my breath, a little. All that to say that not much has been going on in my life lately (although WHOOOOAAAAA to what's been going on in the rest of the world)! Crikey - Trump! Who would have thought it. I have no great affinity for Hilary either but the thought of the US having Trump represent them on the world stage just makes my mind boggle! Still, it is what it is, as they say, and like it or hate it we now have to deal with it.

My boss was telling me that they were watching the news on the day the results came in and his five-year-old looked at Trump on the TV and said (in Spanish) "is it Darth Vader papa?" Dad just cracked up (and no, they're not Mexican). In fact, my lovely Mexican colleague has just been shaking his head in disbelief, while sending round some rather funny pictures. There was a great one about a new sport in Mexico that shows a bunch of athletes running up to a wall and scaling it with ladders, but I couldn't figure out how to load it.  Then there were these:

The "Mexican" Trojan  Horse!

Trump, Mexico salutes you!

Talking of kids, the weather has been beautiful here in Geneva and when I can I hop off the bus on the Mont Blanc bridge and walk the 30 minutes to work through the park. When my oldest started his first year in the international school, we had him riding the school bus to school from the stop outside my work. He was only five but since I could stand with him at the bus stop and it was the last stop before arriving at school we knew he would be OK. So on the first evening I asked him how he had enjoyed his bus ride. He said it was fine and "I got to see the man's willy"! I nearly fell over and asked him to say that again so he did - "I got to see the man's willy"! I didn't really know what to think but Mother Hen here was already mentally drafting an email to the school about the pervert driving the school bus. Anyway, the next day as I was driving to the bus stop my son shouted out "look mommy, there's the man's willy"! Talk about relief - I guess the moral of that story is take a deep breath before you fire off an incendiary email!

Anyway, our drive in to Geneva was hell (still is) because of the sheer volume of traffic on the bridge. Problem was if you missed the school bus you had to drive all the way out the other side of Geneva to school, thereby making you at least 40 minutes late for work so, as you can imagine it was pretty stressful. One time, however, my ex made it to the bus stop in really good time so he parked the car and was standing waiting for the bus with my son when said son asked if daddy thought he (the five-year-old) was strong enough to push the car. Dad said why not let's give it a try, so making sure the handbrake was on, dad and son went to the back of the car and started "pushing" to see if the car would move forward. After a couple of minutes of pushing, little 'un looked up and said "oh daddy, there goes my bus"! Way to go dad, get there 20 minutes early and still end up chasing the bus all the way to school!

Which reminds me of my lovely friend Joyce telling me the story of how many years ago two of her three young children also caught the school bus and between her and her husband they had to juggle picking the kids up at varying bus stops depending on ..... So one time her husband said to her son Kevin to get off the bus at the Pickwick. Well her husband was waiting at the bus stop and when Kevin got off dad asked where Steven was (the youngest), so Kevin said "well you didn't mention anything about Steven" - so yet another dad had to chase a school bus - this time to recuperate their youngest who had been left on the bus by his older brother! 

Talking of school days, I remember when my oldest (still five years of age) was in the school Christmas play and, still being on maternity leave with my youngest, I was able to go watch. Frankly he was crap. I mean, some kids are gifted actors right from the get-go, and then you get the kids like my son who should just move the scenery around, to be honest. He ended up being a "shepherd", muttered his lines with his thumb in his mouth and that was it - until he spotted me at the back of the room and shouted out "it's OK mommy, we've finished now - can we go to McDonalds?" and everyone burst out laughing. Happy days eh!

Friday 28 October 2016


It's been a while since my last post, but I have been working late quite a bit and by the time I get home I haven't felt much like blogging, to be honest. More to the point, there hasn't been an awful lot going on besides work either so I guess there was no point posting anyway. I don't mind being busy or working late because I can pretty much judge when those times will be and my employer is very decent about it. Nobody looks at the clock when I arrive (I have a dreadful commute) and I don't look at the clock when I leave so everyone is happy  - swings and roundabouts really.

So let's see, what's happened since my last post. André's girlfriend, Lily, is in London for a long weekend at the moment "wedding dress hunting". With the pound being through the floor against the Swiss franc and London having so much more choice than Geneva I think she will have a fun time scouting out bridal shops. Of course, they're not just in London, but London is her "first" foray into serious wedding dress hunting. She and André are still getting to grips with the horrendous prices being quoted for their "ideal wedding", and I think, from the little my son has said so far, they may be coming round to something much simpler and I would think - to be honest - a nicer wedding than a big formal do.

Well on to the "ouch" in the subject line. Under the terms of my mortgage, the only time I can make an extra payment on my loan is if I pay a minimum of 10% of the total original loan amount, so you can imagine that takes quite some saving up. I made the first such payment a year ago and have just made my second additional payment this week, so "ouch" is pretty appropriate when I look at my savings account now, but that is balanced by the warm glow I get when I look at the amount of my outstanding mortgage! By my calculations, I am right on track to pay off my mortgage in just under four years, as opposed to another nine years, as originally planned! Happy days. With that paid off it will mean I can retire, as while I have a decent pension it wouldn't be enough to retire and continue to pay a mortgage.

To be honest, I am happy to work as I enjoy the contact and the work is fine, but I am truly tired of the minimum three-hour commute each day, so will be looking forward to quitting and moving on to other things. My house is actually too big for me I suppose so I could look at down-sizing. I imagine it makes sense to do that in the future at some point but for the time being I love where I live, my neighbours are wonderful (all 20 of them) and being on my own that is so important, plus I know pretty much everyone in the village, having lived here 27 years. On top of that, to downsize to something smaller would mean moving in to the local town - which is fine - but the prices there are so much higher than out in my little village that I'm not sure I would actually pay off my mortgage by downsizing. Something to be looked at for the future I guess but certainly not for the time-being.

In other matters, Rambler made me laugh with her comment on a recent post where she described cranking her old car up to start it and "did I remember those funny little indicators that used to shoot out of the side of the car when you were turning?" (Yes I do - but only vaguely). But her comment got me thinking about when we kids learned to drive. At the time, dad taught us and (very bravely) leap-frogged all the way up the road in the passenger seat with each of us as we crunched gears and stalled while learning (and this in a major city)! God he was brave (or maybe totally nuts) but either way he saved us all a small fortune in driving lessons.

Of course, mom and I (me being the "baby") used to make an "outing" of it every time dad took one of the older kids out for a lesson. I mean, how much worse could it be trying to navigate your way round a large city with your mom and little sister sitting in the back?  Pretty rotten right, but we never thought anything of it. I remember my brother-in-law taking my sister out one time and trying to get her to do a three-point turn in one of the smaller back streets. She executed her three-point turn "perfectly" and waited for him to say something. So he said "shall we just try that again" and off she went, forward, back and forward again, and pulled up level with the curb. On her third attempt he very gently said "well that was very good, but aren't we supposed to be facing in the other direction"!! (Smart arse)!

Another time, my older brother was out with my dad. Now R was the nervous one in the family and could not get the hang of this driving malarky. As usual mom and I were sitting in the back (I'm surprised we didn't take a picnic actually) and R was messing up terribly. Eventually dad lost his temper and told him to switch seats with him and he would show him what he wanted. It was absolutely pissing down with rain as my dad jumped into the driving seat and wound down the window to look in the rear view mirror before pulling out. Right at that moment a truck went past through a huuuuuuge puddle and chucked a bucketful of water straight through the window and into my dad's face. To say mom and I had to stifle our giggles would be an understatement!

But back to Rambler's comments about the little plastic indicators/turn signals. When my brother R was taking his driving test for the first time, the examiner said for him to imagine his indicators weren't working and what should be the hand signal given if he wanted to turn right (bearing in mind that we drive on the left in the UK). So R put his right arm out the window to indicate that (a) his signals weren't working, and (b) he intended to turn right. So then the examiner asked him what hand signal he should make if he wanted to turn left. The correct answer, of course, was to again put his right arm out the window but to make circling motions with his arm to indicate that he was turning left. R must have been pretty "hot and bothered" though because he flung his left arm out - and smacked the examiner straight across the face! Needless to say, he didn't pass. In fact, both my brothers took several attempts to pass whereas all the girls passed the first time (and my sister did it in Denmark on the "wrong" side of the road to boot) - yay for the ladies!

And finally my brother-in-law's mom used to tell the story of a friend of hers who was taking her driving test many, many years ago in her own car. As she came up to some traffic lights the car in front went through on orange, so she followed on behind him. The examiner made her pull up at the nearest bus stop and asked her why she had "gone through a red light", to which she replied that she had simply followed the car in front. So he turned to her and said "well I'll tell you right now that you have failed your test, so this exam is over". To which this lady turned round to the examiner and said "well, I'll tell you right now that if that's the case I'm not taking you back" - and they both had to get out and catch the bus back to the driving centre! You've gotta love an old lady like that!

Tuesday 18 October 2016

The engagement lunch!

This weekend was the engagement lunch for my oldest son and his girlfriend at their place. It was also the first time for me to meet Lily's family and I have to say what a lovely family they are. I had no idea what to expect, of course. My own family are very close and down-to-earth and we laugh a lot. Turns out Lily's family are just the same - except they speak French! Well actually her mom also speaks English as she was raised speaking it so another plus.

It was a very relaxed affair where I also got to see another side of both my sons - very confident and sociable. In fact it was nice to hear from other people what nice lads they are. I knew that of course but it's nice to have it confirmed!

Jen, Jordan, André and Lily
Lily's family are Swiss and after some debate on the US presidential candidates the subject changed to "the Swiss"! I have to say they took some good-natured ribbing very well. André repeated what I think was a  Robin Williams sketch about "the Swiss". Apparently the Swiss army is the only army in the world where the soldiers have a bottle opener as part of their knives.

So André does this impression of a Swiss Lieutenant strutting his stuff along the lines of enlisted men saying "now men, I'm going to show you how to open a bottle of Chardonnay properly!" Like I say, they took it very well. Certainly my family don't mind having the p.... taken out of them so it was nice to see Lily's family reacting the same way (in fact, I thought dad might bust a gut he was laughing so much)!  (A propos of nothing, I have carried a Swiss army knife in my bag for over 30 years and they are wonderful!)

A bit later the boys got to talking about a recent "gig" they had done. They are in a band and while I think they are good musicians I really can't stand the heavy metal music - but them I'm an old fogey of course!  They played two nights in Germany, one in Belgium and one in the Czech Republic. Jordan was explaining that after their gig in the Czech Republic they decided they wanted to go out clubbing and found a night club down a little back street - big metal door with a spy hole in it - think "speakeasy"! Anyway, they were let in and went to the bar to get a drink. Max is actually Jordan's boss but is the bass guitarist in the band too. He is not particularly tall but being a plumber by trade and in the process of renovating his own house he is built like a tank - with the muscular, tattooed arms to go with it. Anyway, Max was out on the dance floor strutting his stuff when it finally sunk in to the others that there were no women there. Max, of course, became the centre of quite a bit of interest until it finally dawned on him that things "weren't right". Jordan then did a perfect imitation of Max scuttling back to his seat while they all sat there demurely sipping their drinks before doing a runner.

Oh, and my graffiti cake didn't turn out too bad. I didn't quite get the spun sugar right but the taste was pretty good - you just had to be careful not to break your teeth on the toffee topping!

And finally, I have a lovely Mexican colleague who sometimes forwards me funny stuff like the one below. I think I will sign OH up for "Guiding Hands" so that he can still see the cricket results on his phone while pretending to listen to me!

Friday 14 October 2016

Peter Kay - The Last Parkinson

My TV went on the blink the other week - for about four days I couldn't get it to work. Now sometimes it plays up if we have storms in the mountains but this time I couldn't seem to "wait it out". I did all the usual girlie things - you know, unplug it, thump it, turn the electricity off etc. I even got the instruction manual out, took a photo of how the wires at the back were hooked up to the Freesat box etc. but still nothing worked. So I gave up. Usually I read a lot anyway and just have the TV on as background noise, but I must admit it felt a bit weird sitting there in complete silence. So I got on to youtube and initially started off playing clips of the wonderful Robin Williams! He was such a motor-mouth and so funny (God rest his soul). Eventually I ended up with a clip of Robin Williams on the Michael Parkinson (talk) show and he was hilarious. In fact, over the years Parkie had some wonderful guests on - what a fabulous job to have eh! Anyway, I eventually got to the final Parkie episode before he called it quits. He had some of his favourite acts back on (always Billy Connelly of course), Michael Caine, David Beckham (who is an amazingly good sport - get the pun!!!), David Attenborough and Peter Kay. For me, Peter Kay is a relative newcomer - I say newcomer in that I have only known about him in say the last five years and I just love him. No swearing, very drôle, with just a very sharp narrative on everyday life (particularly in the north of England). I wanted to share one of his jokes which just tickled me. It would be interesting to see if others find it funny because humour is very personal and specific but this one just tickled me.

PK  "Me and my nan are really close. They were really different that generation - they didn't complain they just got on with things didn't they. Not like us lot, always complaining and feeling hard done by. Anyway, one day I got a phone call from my nan".

Nan  "Peter love, I've had a fall"

PK  "What happened nan, are you all right?"

Nan  "I don't know love, I think I might have broken my wrist".

PK  "But what happened?"

Nan  "Well I had just got off the bus with my shopping when I tripped and fell over and I hurt my hand."

PK  "So what did you do?"

Nan  "I got back up and managed to walk home with my shopping."

PK  "Crikey nan, tell you what, I'm on my way but in the meantime have you got any ice to put on it?"

Nan (looks in the freezer)  "No love, I haven't."

PK  "Well have you got any peas?"

Nan  "Yes love, I have that."

PK  "Well put the peas on your wrist and keep em there - I'm on my way."

Nan  "OK love, I'll just go and get the tin ......"

I don't know, it was probably more to do with the way he told it but it just tickled me.

Oh and as for the TV, I had pulled a chest of drawers out in my bedroom to clean behind it - and managed to dislodge the connection cables - so now all is well!  Happy days.

Thursday 13 October 2016

Blissful poverty!

As I mentioned in my last post, we had a celebration lunch for my youngest son and his girlfriend on Saturday and this Sunday we have the "getting-to-know-the-future-in-laws" lunch for my oldest's engagement. I'm looking forward to it (Lily was telling me how excited her mom is that her only child is finally getting married - they've been together nine years). They are aiming to get married next July but the younger two will be getting married "when they can afford it". It speaks volumes of course - weren't we all broke when we got married? But not necessarily unhappy because of it!

That got me to thinking about my sister and her husband. They had been married a few years when their first daughter came along. Then of course the whole "buy a house", "need a car", "down to one salary" business happened. Things became tight. My sister quit work when she had her daughter so they were indeed down to one salary and money was not exactly growing on trees. But, having a baby, she also needed a car to get around, so having a fair-sized mortgage and next to no money they ended up buy her an old Daf! What a clunker! More like a sardine tin on four wheels powered by a large elastic band!

This isn't her car - but you get the picture!
Anyway, she came over to mom and dad's one night in her "new" car and offered to take me out for a spin in the old bone-cruncher. I was a teenager and had just gotten out of the shower but she said "no need to get dressed, just put a towel on and your dressing gown". So I did! How bloody mad can you be. Here's us tootling round our housing estate in her old clunker with me just dressed in a towel! The very next time she came over in that car with her baby the bloody thing broke down. I know it might be selfish but I'm so glad she broke down with the baby in the car rather than me in the "altogether"! That would have been a fun walk home!

When I was talking to her recently about their exploits with old clunkers she told me about the time they had bought a "switchback" (don't ask, I have no idea except to say it was a crappy old car), and that when they opened the hood to look at the engine there was a vibrator strapped to the battery with sellotape and busy charging! Yes one of those kinds of vibrators!!  What the hell - I guess someone didn't want to get caught short!

But the best one was when they bought an old clunker that ran on cooking oil! I would never have believed it but it did in fact run on cooking oil! So what did they do - they went up the local chippie and bought his used oil for a lower price! Every time she drove off in that thing the whole blood road smelled of fish and chips!  They didn't keep it for long and have since moved slightly more "upmarket" - but happy days eh!

Monday 10 October 2016

It's all go!

I mentioned in a previous post that when I was sitting at Geneva airport waiting for my flight to Greece recently my oldest phoned me to say that he and Lily had gotten engaged! The youngest was already in the process of getting "paxed" so pretty much all I could say was "crikey"! (PACS is a civil partnership in France, but they intend to get married also so both are effectively "engaged").

So this weekend Jordan and Jen invited a small group to lunch at her mom's place. Jen and her lovely girlfriend did all the work but her mom surprised them with the blue and white balloons - I thought it was lovely gesture. It was the first time I had seen either couple since they got "engaged" so I got to admire the rings too!

It was a lovely day and at one point I found myself standing outside with both couples so took advantage to shoot a short video of them all singing "happy birthday" to Ammy (grandma in the States - it's her birthday this week), and then I took a photo of the two happy couples!

Jordan, Jen, Lily and André
Next Saturday we have lunch with Lily's parents. I am going to try to make Lorraine Pascale's "grafitti cake". My sister already made it and said it was pretty easy, and I suppose if I drop it nobody will be any the wiser - but wish me luck anyway!

This will be the first time I have met Lily's parents too so it's all go here. Both the girls are only children so the biggest contingent for the weddings will be made up of mine and my ex' family. I was talking to my oldest about their wedding plans (they are aiming for July 2017) and they said they almost fainted when the wedding planner gave them an initial figure. My feeling is you start with that and work your way down, but I did stress that they shouldn't worry at all about not inviting people from my side as everyone will understand and it is their day after all! They can always celebrate with my family when they go over to the UK next. The other thing I pointed out was that in my opinion they don't need to pay a fortune for a beautiful "special" venue (demeure in French) because God had already seen to it for the special venue by giving us a view of the Mont Blanc from my back garden with Lake Geneva as a backdrop!

I think Lily was a bit relieved when I told them that the wedding was not about the amount spent but about the people you spend your day with. André is coming over one night this week so we can have a look at the list but I really will encourage them to whittle it down. Gone are the days when the girl's parents pay for the wedding (at least over here) and I personally think spending thousands of pounds/francs on a large wedding that neither of them want is madness. My ex and I paid for our own wedding (although both sets of parents were also generous) and I figure if you want a HUUUUUGE wedding you can go ahead and pay for it yourself - otherwise, be reasonable. It is so much better to put that money into their future - and thankfully they seem to agree with me.

I have to say it's pretty exciting though ......

Friday 7 October 2016

Just like that!

My work has very defined cycles. Our unit is responsible for two meetings a year - one in July and the other in December - for which we prepare two very large reports each. Preparation for the December meeting has already started and workload begins to build-up from September onwards. This week has been pretty hectic already but I have to admit I now realize that I really do enjoy the build-up. Assuming all goes to plan (!) I get quite a buzz out of putting it all together in time for the meeting, and that in turn, strangely, gives me more energy at home to get things done. I suppose it really boils down to "if you've got nothing to do, you usually can't be arsed to do it!"

On a slightly different note, ever since my divorce I have been wanting to revert to my maiden name, but was just so put off by the sheer volume of paperwork that that will entail. In the UK you can actually change your name easily by Deed Poll, but of course once that is done everything else has to follow on - new passport, new bank account names, new driving licence etc. It's all the rest that was making me drag my feet to be honest.

Anyway, back to the original subject. I work very closely in the build-up to our meetings with C, and to be honest, we couldn't do it without him. For as messy as his office is, he must have a brain like a computer because somehow or other he just pulls it all together. On Wednesday he and I worked on over 300 excel files in order to have them ready to be sent out for verification. As you can imagine, it was a helluva job, if only because of the wear and tear on our eyes.

Around 19h I said "look I've got to give my eyes a rest - how about we take a 10 minute break". He said "fine, I'll just go off to the loo and see you in 10". So while he was gone I again clicked on the Deed Poll site. It just seemed so easy to go ahead and change my name so I thought "sod it, let's just do it". Within less than five minutes I had filled in the necessary information, put in my credit card number and ordered five original certificates of my changed name. These should arrive within two weeks. It is perfectly legal and as of now my name has legally changed - I just have to do the follow-up!

When C came back after 10 minutes he asked what I had been looking at and I told him that in the time it had taken for him to go the loo I had legally changed my name. He couldn't believe it so I showed him. I told him he'd better not go to the loo again or I might decide to get married!!

It is actually quite scary I suppose because I had every right to change my name to anything I wanted and of course, as I said to my friend, I could have put her name and date of birth in and I would effectively have become her!! I did put under "comments" that I was simply reverting to my maiden name, but in any case the Deed Poll office doesn't question it, as long as the new name is not considered to be outrageously ridiculous!

So in the words of the great Tommy Cooper, I have now changed my name


Wednesday 5 October 2016

The pros of getting older!

This morning as I was on the bus to work, two "swarthy" looking men were already sprawled across the back seat and speaking (shouting?) to each other really loudly in what I took to be an Eastern European language. The one in particular was totally scuzzy looking and seemed to be getting really angry with the other one. They made no attempt to move over and let other people sit down and they really gave me the creeps. I always wedge my handbag between me and the wall in any case, but today I made sure that I had it looped round my arm while I was reading too - you get the idea. Thankfully they got off pretty quickly and you could hear people breathing a sigh of relief.

It is quite strange really to see cultural differences because in Switzerland people tend to be polite and quietly spoken in order not to bother others. That's not always the case of course but this kind of loud, intimidating behaviour is not the norm. Of course the two men (who I took to be Roms) probably couldn't have given a you-know-what anyway, but you could see that no-one wanted to get anywhere near them.  Unfortunately, a couple of stops along another big guy got on with his breakfast. I have seem him before and he inevitably has an egg and tuna sandwich (lovely smell at 7.30 a.m.) but this morning he also had what looked like a slice of pizza and a large orange juice. I suppose he bothers me because of the stink. If remember correctly, you are not (or at least were not) allowed to eat on a bus in the UK in any case, but I suppose that could have changed.

Then there was a rather lovely young woman who, in the 30 minutes it took her to get to her stop, applied her full make-up and styled her hair. I was fascinated actually because she did a really expert job and transformed herself but I did wonder where my eye-liner would end up if I tried to put it on on the bus.

I suppose what I am really on about is what people find acceptable or otherwise to do in public. I mean, if I felt my toenails needed clipping on the bus is that ok? For me, that sandwich was just too smelly to inflict on people sitting right next to you, and I, personally, wouldn't dream of putting my make-up on on the bus either but that's a matter of personal choice/convenience right? In fact, our previous, horrendous HR director (she of the white porsche, power suit, high heels, and attaché case but dreadful personal hygiene) used to apply her full war paint when she was on the train and somehow I didn't think it was appropriate! As I say, I suppose it's just a question of personal choice in the end.

Anyway, yesterday's bus ride in was entirely different and, for the most part, much more fun. When I say "for the most part", I mean that the traffic was bloody awful (took me two hours to get to work) but otherwise it was quite a laugh. You see, one of my colleagues happened to hop on the same bus and, like me, can talk the hind leg off a donkey! I don't know how we got round to it (do you ever?) but we ended up talking about how each generation has a different attitude to technology. Her parents are coming over from the UK and I think her mom was having trouble with her ipad. So K said "don't worry, while you're here you can use mine". To which her mom replied that while she liked K's friends she wanted to be able to stay in touch with her own friends!

I suppose that equates to my mom - when my sister was leaving to start a new life in Denmark - telling her to buy a TV while she was still in England "cos that way you can get English television"! My kids roll their eyes at me too of course, because they were born into the internet and ipads era weren't they? Anyhow, somehow I got around to telling K that there were some good programmes on TV but sometimes on too late for me and that I had never figured out how to record them!!! I know, I know but I just didn't get it! The only thing my bloody ex left me with when he left was a bunch of instruction manuals and you know how if you're not that interested you just don't get it! - hey that was his job - he didn't have many!

But I digress. Since K had the same system as me she started explaining to me how to do it. I recognized the man sitting next to her as someone from work although I didn't know him personally but I could see him trying to stifle a giggle as we were going through it! The conversation went a bit like this, only on a bus instead of a horse.

But you know what, I didn't care how stupid I sounded because you are entitled to that with the passing of the years aren't you!

I think I mentioned previously how much I enjoy the company of older people. Well many years ago - I was just a teenager working my Saturday job in town - as we left work it started to rain. While I was standing at the bus stop waiting to go home, a "really old lady" (i.e. probably my age now) walked up to the bus stop with a large paper bag on her head! She had just been to the hairdresser's apparently and since she didn't have an umbrella she took the next best option!  I thought it was great, she obviously couldn't give a you-know-what - but I think if it had been me I might have cut some eye-holes in it!

Another time, again at the same job, another "really old lady" came in to work and was complaining that she thought she had a hole in her boots because her feet were wet and cold. So one of her friends said "well if you just have to run out at lunch-time why don't you put a plastic bag on each foot - at least it'll keep you dry for a bit"!

When this lady came back from lunch she had two plastic bags on the outside of her boots! I swear she skated in like Torvill and Dean on their way to Olympic gold!

Happy days!

Thursday 22 September 2016

Ha, how about that!

Hey after her comment on my blog I just clicked on Wendy's profile to hop over to her blog. Now usually it pops up as "user profile" or "blogger profile", but since I am at work (in Switzerland) all this stuff comes out in German, so Wendy you are coming out as "nutzerprofil". So hi from one nutzer to another!

A bit more about Greece

I wanted to write a bit more about my trip to Greece when I got time as it was such a lovely trip and I think, out of all the "solos" trips I have done so far, possibly the nicest group. I would say the youngest was about 45 and the oldest was 85 (and he was an absolute blast). Charles, the 85-year-old, was totally with it and very drôle. He had a gammy left leg that used to seize up on him occasionally and he would wander off in an anti-clockwise circle in order to try to free his leg up. Seriously, he would just say "don't mind me, I'll catch up with you all in a minute" and then do his little circular dance until he got his left leg coordinated with his right leg again. That being said, he was still able to walk and more than kept up with everyone else. One day he actually climbed up to the top of a volcano (I didn't!) but on the way down he slipped and fell, hurting his ankle. That is no reflection on his age, by the way, he just slipped on loose shingle. So our guide shot off back to the boat and took all the ice to put on Charles' ankle. When someone on the boat asked for a gin tonic with ice the guide explained why they had no ice, so Charles took his sock off, filled it with ice and said "dip that in your drink"!

Another chap, a widower of around my age, was on his first "solos" trip and seemed a little quiet to begin with, but by the end of the trip he had really come out of his shell. One night we started talking about the stupid stuff that had happened in our lives and he was telling us about the time when as a young man he had just passed his driving test and his dad lent him his car. He felt like "Jack the Lad" driving round in his dad's car trying to look cool. One night he was pulled over by the police for a routine road check and they asked him to open the boot. Well John's dad was a greengrocer and when he opened the boot there were about 50 cabbages in the back! The cops, doubtless thinking there was something hidden underneath, proceeded to take out all the cabbages one-by-one and put them on the side of the road. Of course there was nothing for them to find so they jumped in their patrol car and drove off - leaving John to put all the cabbages back into the car and looking decidedly uncool!

Another, older John - Geordie John - commented one night that while Greek food was lovely you couldn't beat blackberry and apple pie with custard. So John No. 1 said - "oh you mean toenail pie"! We all cracked up laughing at that but seemingly his mother referred to it as toenail pie in reference to the bits of apple core that sometimes got left in the pie and "tasted like toenails" - now how would she know? Of course it could have been that John's mom had really dodgy hygiene standards but I prefer not to go there .....

I also hit it off with a 74-year-old lady called Cath and have given her my email address. I hope we get to keep in touch as she was such fun and it is nice to stay in touch even if infrequently. When I got home I spoke to my brother (who had originally been planning to come with me) and told him all about it. While I understand why he backed out of this trip I'm hoping that my latest experience will give him the courage to go out and do the same - somehow I think it will.

And a few photos:

My hotel in Mykonos

And finally, talking of my oldest son's engagement, he told me that he had asked his younger brother to be his best man. J's reaction was "oh shit"! Nuff said I think!

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Exciting stuff!

It was very difficult for me to post from Greece on my ipad so I had to wait till I got back home (and back to work - berkkkkkkk). I shouldn't bitch I suppose because work is what pays for everything, but it's tough going from lazing on a beautiful beach in Greece to getting up while it's still dark, and it's cold and raining!!!! To be honest though, the rain was only on the weekend and it is actually lovely again now. Anyway, here I am back at work, slogging away over a hot computer and excel tables of HS tariff codes!

It was my son's 29th birthday on 30th August and though I wasn't able to see him on his birthday I met up with him later at "band practice" near my home to give him his birthday present. He told me that he and his girlfriend had spent the night in a château near here to celebrate so he was a bit "fragile"!  So, I gave him his present and said I would see him when I got back.

On Monday I left my car at work and caught the bus to Geneva airport for my flight to London. Once I had gotten through security I had a couple of hours to wait so thought I would treat myself at their snazzy "smoked salmon-ish" kinda place. You know the place where the food tastes really, really good but then you have to sell a kidney to pay for it - but I digress! While I was sitting there I looked at my phone and saw that I had missed two calls from my ex in the US and two from my son. I thought "oh my God what has happened" so called my son back immediately (never bothered calling the ex back - tee, hee)! It turns out that André and Lily had actually gotten engaged over the weekend and the little shit hadn't told me when I gave him his present (hence the night in the château)! I'm embarrassed to say this but I actually shed a tear. "Embarrassed" because I'm not usually sentimental but this just felt so good. Lily is Swiss and they met at college and have been together nine years I think. More to the point she is lovely so I guess I can be excused a little soppyness.

André and Lily in Iceland

I have never actually met Lily's family (she is an only child) so we are having a get-together brunch on October 16th (what do you think are my chances of losing 4 kg by then? Shave my legs - oh right!). Actually, her maternal grandmother is from Guyana (granddad was Austrian but died a few years ago) so that set of grandparents only ever spoke English to each other. Not that it is a problem as I speak French anyway, but I am looking forward to getting to know them.  They are planning to get married next September/October time so that gives them a year to sort out what kind of wedding they want. As sod's law would have it, my other son and his girlfriend are getting PACSed this month (civil partnership) and then will be getting married when they can afford it - just hope it's not next September/October time!!! I have already put in an order for three grandchildren each (and am definitely looking forward to that prospect), but I may be jumping the gun a bit I suppose.

I have mentioned before that I go to a patchwork club on a Monday night. I am very much a beginner but I reckon if I start now I might have a baby quilt ready in due course - or am I getting ahead of myself?

Anyway, while I was sitting at the restaurant in the airport I saw another English woman sitting opposite me. She started talking to a man eating his lunch next to her and it turned out he was Iraki. She then proceeded to very rudely berate him for "all that is wrong with the way women are treated in Irak, and she should know because she works for a charity that saves parakeets"!!!!  WTF!!! She went on and on in a very loud, posh English voice and the poor bugger kept trying to eat his lunch in peace. I think if it would have been me I would have politely told her to piss off. Who the hell did she think she was. Of course there are problems in Irak but talking to this poor guy trying to mind his own business like he was Satan's spawn was appalling! It turns out in the end she wasn't English (thank God) but Danish (her English was that good), so Denmark you get the kudos for that bore unfortunately but at least the parakeets are safe!

The flight to London only takes about 90 minutes and I was booked in to spend the night at an airport hotel in order to get a very early flight the next morning to Greece. On the way out the terminal I thought I should just get a bit of money from the ATM. I punched in my code but after a few minutes of gurgling by the machine no money came out. There was a chap standing next to me and he said that he could witness for me that the machine had malfunctioned so I went straight to the desk and explained that while my account had been debited 200 pounds no money had come out. The girl there really wasn't that interested (very poor customer service attitude) so I asked her for a form to fill out to document what had happened. And yes she did have such a form so why the hell didn't she volunteer it I wonder. When I got to my hotel I immediately sent an email to their customer service saying what had happened but couldn't do anything more about it as my UK bank details were all at home. It makes me wonder though what would have happened if that was the only money I had access to. I would have been totally screwed.

So this morning I called my bank and got the never-ending "for deposits, press 1, for internet banking, press 2, para espanol, marque el no. 3". Those things drive me MAAAADDD but it seems you never get through to an actual person any more do you! Eventually I did get through to India (I suppose) and to be fair a very helpful lady went through all the details with me and said that they would sort it out and re-credit my account. When I hung up, my colleague burst out laughing saying that while I would probably get my 200 pounds back, that call alone would probably cost me 300!! Yeah, thanks for that!

Anyway, I spent the night at the Premier Inn at Heathrow's Terminal 5 and I have to say I am very impressed with their efficiency. The rooms are basic but spotlessly clean, the restaurant has good food and the staff hustle (again 50/50 Brits and Eastern Europeans - Brexit be damned)! I had to get up at the crack of dawn to get my flight the next day and while I was waiting for the "Hoppa" bus back to the airport I got talking to the desk clerk. He told me that he was (also) Iraki and had got out of Irak 10 years ago and managed to come to the UK. He was incredibly polite and helpful so I didn't bore him with how it was all his fault the way women were treated in Irak. Yet again I think that while the problem of immigration is indeed very real, the gutter press making out all immigrants to be sponging scroungers does nobody any favours at all!