The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

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!

Friday 16 September 2016

Home sweet home!

After an extremely tiring journey back from Greece I got home yesterday absolutely "Christmas crackered" (knackered in Cockney rhyming slang). I managed to unpack and throw all the washing in then off to bed where I slept a blissful 12 hours straight. Feeling much better today I got all the shopping and running around done so I'm looking forward to a peaceful weekend before heading back to work on Monday. I will leave you with a couple of pictures tho - beautiful Greece. Will post more soon.

Church in Mykonnos
And beautiful Oia!

Wednesday 7 September 2016

It' so difficult to post with the ipad

Well it was REALLY tiring getting here. I flew from Geneva Monday night but guess what - while I was waiting for my flight my oldest son called me to tell me got engaged! Little bugger - made me cry at the airport. Lily is a lovely Swiss girl but my fat fingers and Greek wifi mean I will have to write about that I get back. My youngest is already doing the paperwork for a civil partnership with his lovely French girlfriend but again - the old fat fingers! I suspect it will be an expensive year (but well worth it)!

So I finally got to Mykonos and I have to say it is probably one of the nicest groups I have travelled with. You soon home in on the people you have the most affinity with and to be honest it hasn't been difficult. Anyway this is too much like hard work so I will leave you (I hope) with some lovely pictures - I'm off to the pool!

Saturday 3 September 2016

Well it is France!

I had an appointment with my bank in town this morning at 9.30 a.m. to set up an extra mortgage payment. In order to be able to make an additional payment I have to pay a minimum of at least 10% of the initial amount of the mortgage, so you can see that that is not something that happens every month. I am pretty much on track to do that once a year though now in a bid to get my mortgage paid off early (and hence be able to retire) but as you can imagine there will be a gaping hole in my savings account once that goes through. I also intend to revert to my maiden name when I come back off holiday so I had a few questions for her about that too. I have been divorced almost five years and put off changing my name back because I didn't have the energy frankly. It is a lot of work - the passport and bank accounts being the easy bit - the hard work is all the rest of the paperwork. So I wanted to be sure that while I was getting everything sorted, the bank wouldn't "bounce" my electricity debits, for instance, if the name on the electric bill no longer matched the name on the bank account for a brief period. It only took about 30 minutes to set that up so afterwards I had time to head off to the local tip with my grass cuttings and back towards home where I played the lottery for next Friday's euromillions. I play every week - not much - just for the fun of it. When they put the price up about 18 months ago I thought no way am I going to increase the amount of money I give them to play "my" numbers, so I just dropped the numbers down to end up paying less. It doesn't matter to me as I am not superstitious about numbers and I'll be damned if I am going to give them more money. Still, playing a few euros is a nice little way to daydream. It's actually quite fun thinking about what I would do "if" I won, and to be honest, while everyone talks about what they would do if they won the big one, how great would it be to say win 20,000 euros - wouldn't that put a big smile on your face? Or even 1,000? You know what I mean, anything would be lovely.

After that I headed back home. I didn't go to the market or supermarket obviously since I am leaving on vacation on Monday, so having nothing better to do I stopped in at Stan's for a coffee. There were about eight people there discussing local events and putting the world to rights. Stan's son - the professional rugby player - had apparently played a blinding match last night down in Montpellier so he was dissecting the match with one man. A couple of others were discussing the "stupid way they have gone about closing the bridge" - the one-and-only-bridge across the river into town. I mentioned previously that it will be closed for at least a year and it is already a nightmare with buses, trucks, cars etc. having to go miles out of their way (down the "forestry road" no less - you can imagine how wide that is), just to get back into town. I sat next to Philippe - a friend who has retired but still does a few small construction/DIY jobs on the side. He is going to come and work on my balcony before I get new railings, etc. put up. And then finally there was the old "pepe" talking about how to improve your soil for your veggie patch. He was deep in conversation with our postman and while it was only 10.30 a.m. they were both having white wine! I guess the postman getting up really early this might have been his lunch break, but they had two glasses each while I was sitting there - and at about 11 a.m. the postman drove off to finish his route! Vive la France, as they say!

Thursday 1 September 2016

Just one more day!

Just one more day at work and then I'm off for two weeks! Yipee! Well actually I fly to London on Monday in order to catch a flight back to Greece very early Tuesday morning. It seems like madness I know but the tour company I use for these solos travels is UK-based so they have to fly out of the UK. Oh well, not to worry. When I fly in the winter I fly direct to Bournemouth so I get to see my family first (Easyjet only do direct Geneva-Bournemouth flights in the winter because of the skiing). In fact, by doing that I got to see my mom for the last time just a few weeks before she died so it was a definite plus, but otherwise it is quite a pain to have to fly west to the UK before flying east to my next destination, but hey, first world problems right?

This time I fly with a group (none of whom know each other BTW) from London to Mykonos, spend four nights on Mykonos and then over to Santorini for five nights. Then back to London, another night in a hotel in London (we get back too late to guarantee a connecting flight to Geneva) and back to Geneva the following day. I am really looking forward to it. I went to Crete many, many years ago and it was beautiful but I haven't been back to Greece since and I just know I will love it - the scenery, the food, the weather (although the weather is great here too). What's not to like?

I finally got round to going to the hairdresser on Tuesday. I haven't been in over a year as I have just been hacking bits off it myself when it got on my nerves. It tends to have a slight wave so (I delude myself) you really can't see what an amateur job I have been doing. It's hard to cut the back of course but then I really don't care what impression I make on people when I'm leaving anyway (that's also a good enough excuse to only polish the front of your shoes too)! But still, I have to say a professional cut is nice for a change. Just wish I had a bit of a tan but since I don't tolerate the sun I suppose that's not going to happen and I can't seem to get the hang of spray on stuff - it always looks a bit streaky and who in the world's palms of their hands are streaky anyway?

I'm not worried about "bikini waxes" and all that stuff 'cos I just don't go in for that. Yuck. I'm lucky that I'm not hairy anyway so just a disposable razor and I'm hot to trot. It's weird though, but since I have become, ahhm, of a certain age, I get just one bloody whisker on my chin occasionally. Just one! I mean who does that? So it is hardly a problem preparing for a holiday in that sense. When I die and I am in my coffin I must just get one of my boys to promise to get that whisker!  Not much to ask is it?

So I have tomorrow to get my work up-to-date, which shouldn't be that difficult, and then two weeks of bliss before the long hard slog up to the dreaded 'C' word!  I imagine internet connection won't be too bad so I will post when I can. If not, "see you" when I get back!