The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

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!