The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Wednesday 29 March 2017

As long as we don't look in the mirror ......

..... we could be 30 again! Wow, what a lovely couple of days I've just had. My ex and I got married in Switzerland in 1985 and moved to D.C. where I worked initially for a small law firm but was then offered a job at the World Bank. I have to admit the law firm was quite a shock to the old system - I mean, coming from Europe with six weeks vacation, 10 days official holidays, medical coverage and the culture of actually going out for lunch, then being expected to eat lunch at your desk while working, getting a generous one whole week annual leave and no medical coverage - just wow! That being said, they were nice enough but obviously when the opportunity arose to work at the Bank under much better working conditions and where I could use my languages, well I just jumped at the chance, of course.

It was at the Bank that I met Angie. Angie is Indian and ended up working with me in the West Africa Section. We hit it off instantly. You know how sometimes you meet someone and you seem to be able to talk about anything and everything - well that was what it was like.  In 1987 I got pregnant with my first child and my ex pushed and pushed for us to move as he wasn't happy in D.C. So very, very reluctantly I ended up giving up my job at the Bank and moving to Pittsburgh. Now I have nothing against Pittsburgh, but frankly I didn't leave Birmingham (U.K.) to end up in Pittsburgh - that just wasn't what my dream was all about. And to be honest things didn't really improve in Pittsburgh anyway because although we were near family my ex was still working nights and weekends and I was working all hours God sends from home while looking after my son. It was just no life, so when I had a phone call out of the blue to offer me a job back in Switzerland we jumped at the chance, and moved back in 1989.

Now I hadn't seen Angie since I left D.C. in January 1988. She stayed on at the Bank and I remember getting hold of her and another friend at the time of the Washington sniper horrors and basically just wishing them to "stay safe". As a side note, I actually lived in Montgomery County and one of the ladies that those bastards shot was sitting on a bench outside Silver Spring metro station - the one I used to get to work every day! Because I knew so many of the areas where those pigs were killing people, I remember being horror-struck by it all!

After that Angie and I chatted I think a couple of times via skype and again it didn't feel like more than a few months since we had last seen each other. Eventually we got in touch via the miracle of Facebook and I got to see pictures of her (now grown) girls and she got to see pictures of my "baby's" wedding last week - you know, the one I was on maternity leave with the last time we saw each other! Well it's strange how fate works because her oldest daughter now works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was coming over to Geneva for her work - and Angie (now retired) contacted me about meeting up. And that's what we did yesterday! Despite the almost 30 years that have elapsed and the generous extra padding that comes with middle age, we both instantly recognized each other and more or less went "so, where were we"! We got to have lunch together in the company of a very beautiful peacock who was strutting his stuff through the lunch tables, and then yesterday Angie took herself off to Chamonix, Mont Blanc, which is about 45 minutes from my home (I told her to watch out for the photo opportunity with the slobbery Pyrennean (sp?) mountain dog that grossed my mother-in-law out).

Inside the glacier - where my mother-in-law was grossed-out by "slobbery dog"!

Standing on the "transparent balcony" over the glacier - she's braver than I am - I mean, just LOOK at those slippers!
The funny thing is, when I left D.C. her then-8-year-old daughter very sweetly gave me a blue plastic bracelet and I was so touched by it that I have kept it all these years!!!! Angie, like me, is divorced and, again like me, her children are grown up and out of the house. She was telling me that she took herself off on some kind of "solos" trip to visit the U.S. national parks and had a wonderful time. I was telling her that I do "solos" trips too and love them, so she mentioned that we should plan a trip somewhere in the U.S. together soon (sounds great to me). But then I mentioned that I would really like to do the Golden Triangle in India (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur), and she laughed and said "well you know I'm from Jaipur and I go home every year so why not let's make another date"! Sounds great, kinda like Thelma and Louise but without the icky bit at the end!

And all this time, Steve, who came out to visit at Christmas, is on whatsapp with me shouting (metaphorically) "DO IT, DO IT, IT'LL BE GREAT"! So you know what, I think I will!

Funnily enough, Steve called this weekend and was asking what my holiday plans were for this year. I told him I had to get the July wedding over first but then after that maybe go away for my birthday in September. He mentioned that he was going to Rhodes again with his brother and his wife, but that he wasn't staying in the same hotel as they all needed their space - so why didn't I join him out there!!! And by jove I think I will! He's great company and Greece is beautiful, so what's not to like!

I guess all this "new stuff" is why I have felt quite euphoric lately. I had no idea why really. It could be because spring is here and I love spring, but I think also the thought of just doing "something else" is what is really doing it for me. Happy times indeed!

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Happy 100th birthday to the Forces' Sweetheart!

The Forces' Sweetheart, the wonderful Dame Vera Lynn turned 100 on 20 March, and in tribute her picture was projected onto the white cliffs at Dover and a new compilation of her songs has been re-released.
Dame Vera Lynn
By all accounts she is a wonderfully classy lady and rightly deserved the title of "Forces' Sweetheart"!

It's been nearly a year since my mother died. Her funeral was beautiful, very touching, and very funny because that is what we all wanted. On the order of service we had a beautiful picture of mom and dad in uniform during WWII.  I held it all together until they played Vera Lynn singing "We'll Meet Again" as we walked out! I think given the poignancy of the times Vera Lynn and her beautiful voice will remain one of the enduring symbols of love and hope of all time!

Monday 20 March 2017

Didn't we luck out!

Friday (St. Patrick's Day) was my son and his girlfriend's wedding day, and I have to say we really lucked out with the weather. Actually it had been lovely all week but they kept forecasting rain "for tomorrow". Then "tomorrow" kept getting pushed back so we did, indeed, have beautiful weather "on the day" and "tomorrow" (i.e. Saturday) it piddled down more or less all day. I guess the Gods were indeed smiling on us!

I went to work during the day as they weren't getting married till 5 p.m. but I did make sure to leave early after having a shower at work and getting changed. The Geneva Car Show was on (what a pain in the butt that is) and by all accounts 690,000 people visited it, so I left nothing to chance and left work really early to get to their village. Maybe I'm a bit obsessive/compulsive because I was the first one there, but I prefer that since I didn't really know where I was going and the thought of screeching into the parking lot at the last minute gave me the heebie jeebies!

There were about 20 of us there and apart from the actual ceremony itself it was a very laid back affair, lasting only about 20 minutes. The lady Maire began by reading out several articles of the Swiss Civil Code (their rights and obligations under Swiss Law) and then asked them individually if they accepted the other as their spouse. After that, a few words of wisdom, a quick poem and that was it - they were married. Lovely!

With the wedding celebration already being planned for July, I had wondered why they had suddenly brought the civil ceremony so far forward but it turns out that Lily's grandfather is seriously ill and had recently taken a turn for the worse, so they brought the ceremony as far forward as they could in order for him to be able to attend.

André and Lily - the happy couple

Jordan - André's witness - and Jen
After the ceremony we all went back to their place for a very laid back dinner - "grab a seat and a glass where you can" kind of thing. Absolutely perfect to my way of thinking, to be honest.  Now onwards and upwards to the celebration in July when family will be coming in from abroad. Aaaah, one down, one to go!

Thursday 16 March 2017

Ollie the (not so) reluctant star!

Did anyone see this short clip of Ollie taken at Crufts recently. I am thinking I might get a dog when I retire in a couple of years, but have never been particularly attracted to small dogs. Ollie might just change my mind. You've got to love a dog this mad (and to be honest, the commentary is great too!)

After a rather "iffy" weekend last weekend weather-wise, it has turned out absolutely beautiful here again. I haven't been sleeping too well though (probably the full moon and upcoming events) so I haven't been out walking or exercising in general and I really have missed it. Who would have thought! So once I get this week over I intend to start up again next week. Of course I still want to lose weight and seem to be yo-yoing up and down around the same few pounds, but as of Monday I had lost 7 lbs. I have been using to track calories and was a bit surprised to see that although I was tracking my intake and "being good", I still wasn't losing as much as I thought I should be, given that I was also exercising. But then it hit me - I looked at the number of grams of sugar I was taking in and not just the calories and I was going over pretty much every day! Bingo. It wasn't chocolate and ice cream, of course, but fruit for the main part, although interestingly there seems to be quite a bit of fructose hidden in other foodstuffs that you would never imagine! I love fruit but when I saw how much fructose I was getting through I realize I may have been overdoing it, so I am going to try cutting that out to see what happens.

To say I have missed walking, also includes missing hopping off my bus on the bridge and walking to work when I can. Well today for the first time in ages I had to bring my car all the way to work and I absolutely hated it. The traffic is terrible as the Car Show is on but the thought of having to go back to driving all the way in every day would do my head in, I can tell you. And talking of bridges, I mentioned last year that the one-and-only bridge in town up to my village was going to be out of commission for a year starting last August. Well I saw this morning that they will be opening it up to alternating traffic again as from Monday! Yipeeeeeee! We still have probably another six months to go with these repairs, but at least this is an improvement on having to drive all round the reekin for the past eight months.

Looking at the weather forecast, we are in for lovely weather tomorrow, and then wet and  horrible for the weekend. Good job my son is getting married tomorrow then!!!!! Can't wait!

Thursday 9 March 2017

Roly Poly Hippo Takes A Bath!

Roly Poly Hippo Takes A Bath was one of my youngest's favourite story books when he was little (about 16 I think - nah, that can't be right. I'm sure he can read now - although you probably wouldn't guess)! You know, it was one of those books where there is one line per page and lots of pictures of Roly Poly Hippo getting nice and clean in his bath and then going outside and rolling around in the mud - much to the horror or Mommy Hippo! Now I don't suppose this has much to do with this post really but I do seem to have some kind of word-connection kinda thing going on over the events of the last few days.

The first I guess is this weekend. As I have mentioned before, the road where I live is called (in French) fields of song, not, as I originally thought, because of the bird song, but because we have loads of underground mountain springs which "sing" as they trickle down the mountain. In fact, our water is of such good quality that it is not "treated" as such, which means we get to enjoy real spring water which is so much better than some chemically treated water I have tasted.  The downside of that, though, is that if ever our little village has excess water and the local town is in short supply, we are not allowed to sell it on to them - but then I can live with that, I'm sure!

Five of us home owners recently had the opportunity to purchase small tracts of land directly backing on to our gardens, something we did just in case the field behind us (the one in the header photo to this blog) is sold for construction (although technically it is non-constructible land) and we wanted to be sure that they could not build an access road immediately backing onto our homes. What that now means is that we are also responsible for the upkeep of the land and so on, although in the 28 years I have lived here the HLM (the owners of the land) have never maintained it - it has always been the homeowners. Another point, however, is that if, on the rare occasion, the rains/spring water get too much and flood the village road, we are also responsible for taking care of that. So the five homeowners got together and have decided to bury pipes under the land in order to channel the spring water safely away from our homes and from the road. The only problem is, two of my neighbours already did this by hand-digging trenches and laying pipes, my immediate neighbour had someone in to do it last week-end, and now I have mountain streams flowing through my back garden - which sounds lovely but definitely is not! I now need to do the same thing, but can only realistically do it when my neighbour "further downstream" is also ready, and since he has a helluva lot more pipeline to lay than me I think he wants to wait until April to do it. Hence the reference to Roly Poly Hippo, because we spent the last three days sloshing round in the mud in our wellies digging ditches to temporarily channel the springs securely. Yuck! I only ever occasionally (maybe three weeks out of the year) had actual "flooding" in my garden (never in the house) but now I have a permanent stream that needs to be taken care of pretty quickly!

The other thing that made me think of Roly Poly Hippo was the wonderful show three of us went to here in Geneva last night - Tango Fire!!! Oh man, was it good. I love the passion and intensity of Argentine tango anyway, and this group were just spectacular.

When the women strutted on stage in their skimpy outfits my friend suggested I get something similar for the wedding next week - so there's another one just got crossed off my Christmas list!

It was funny though, because after the show finished, the audience started going up the stairs to the upper exits - and I swear you could hear the creaking knees (mine included) from a mile away. So if ever you feel the need to beat yourself up comparing yourself to these show girls by looking like a pregnant hippo with fat ankles - I can highly recommend this Tango Fire! Just sayin!

Friday 3 March 2017

Say what????

I have a Facebook account - there I admitted it! Not that I post much on it, but it is a good way to keep up with family members dotted all over the world - particularly nephews and nieces - who seem particularly keen on it. On Wednesday night I happened to be glancing over FB when I noticed that my oldest son was online. Our neighbour, with whom we are very close, turned 70 today so I sent André a message reminding him to wish Michel a happy birthday. He said he would and then asked if I was free on March 17th "only Lily and I are getting married that day"!!!! Say what!!!!! That is two weeks from today!!!! It's not the whole "we're getting married" business that threw me, it's the lack of notice!! Unlike the UK, church weddings are not legal in Switzerland (or France, for that matter) so typically people get married first at the Town Hall and then in Church, if that is what they want. In my case, the kids don't want a religious ceremony as neither are religious, so in July we will be having a non-religious family celebration of their marriage. My ex and I got married in Switzerland and the paperwork wasn't particularly fearsome, but with Lily being Swiss their paperwork was more complex because marriage to a Swiss confers certain rights to the spouse - I guess they are making sure it isn't a marriage of convenience. Fair enough and good for the Swiss, but heck, when was he thinking about mentioning the date to me? Bloody hell, now I've got two weeks to find something suitable to wear and no, I haven't exactly lost a ton of weight either! Kids! In fact this morning he emailed me to ask if I could send scanned copies of his brother's British and American passports to him today! Apparently the Maire who will be marrying them needs copies today of Jordan's passports to register him as the official witness. Luckily I make a habit of scanning all official documents so was able to send them but "no pressure there then"!

On the "losing weight" scene, I went walking again today and have to say it is slowly getting very slightly easier going uphill. On the way back I came through the botanical gardens again and I have noticed several times now the beautiful scents given off by some flowers in particular areas of the gardens. I try to look at the names of the flowers/bushes but can't keep the Latin ones in my head of course. Maybe I should take my ipad with me next time. But, going through a group of rhododendrons there is always the most beautiful scent - and I didn't know rhododendrons gave off a scent (not that I know much about any botanical matters really). In fact, in one part of the gardens is the "Jardin des Senteurs" ("perfume gardens", I guess, for want of a better translation). It is specifically designed for blind or sight-impaired people and has all the plant names written in brail. Some of the scents there are just fabulous! So that's another thing to add to my list of "things I want to delve further into" when I retire!

And moving swiftly on, last night a friend and I went to see La La Land. I always try to wait a few weeks when a film comes out to avoid the crowds at the initial screenings. After first going to the wrong cinema we made it to the right cinema just as the opening titles were coming up. I have to say - crikey - what an amazing place that cinema was! I nearly fainted when I found out the entrance fee was 25 Swiss francs (that's about 25 dollars) and that had even come down from the 35 Swiss francs he was charging previously. But ..... and it's a big but here ..... the cinema was absolute luxury! Imagine yourself on a plane in first class, reclinable seats, plenty of space, and with your own individual tray for drinks etc. There was a bar/coffee shop just outside and some people brought their glass of wine in with them. Frankly, although it was expensive, it was a real treat to see a film this way and. I feel, worth occasionally splashing out on. I must not be the only one to feel this way because apparently this guy has recently bought another run-down cinema and will be doing it up in the same vein! Now that's an entrepreneurial spirit if ever there was one!

As for the film, it was ok/good. Very "feel good" but not the greatest of films but by no means boring. I would give it a 7/10, to be honest.

The film is all about a young man desperate to open his own jazz club and a young woman desperate to find fame as an actress. I couldn't help noticing that while Emma Stone is not, in my opinion, conventionally beautiful, to my mind she has something very attractive about her (but of course, with Hollywood make-up artists they all look great). Nevertheless, I think she is attractive (and talented). This week, of course, we had the Oscars and while I don't watch them (9-hour time difference and no interest anyway) there was a real whoo-haa in the press about La La Land being named the best film by mistake. Not the end of the world by any means, and of course there are far more important things going on in the world, but I couldn't help noticing how dreadful Faye Dunaway looked. Yes, I know she's getting on and all that but her plastic surgery is just appalling! So then I got to thinking how hard it must be for someone who was once considered a great beauty to age, and how desperate so many seem to hold on to their looks. In the end, isn't it easier for the rest of us mere mortals not to have to "apoligize" for aging and not be examined under the microscope. Just a thought!

And finally, another thought (gosh, I seem to be having a lot of those lately)! OH and I split up in June last year after seven years together. I ended it because I was tired of never doing anything ever and felt that with my divorce well and truly in the past and the kids moved on I am just chomping at the bit to do things and he just wasn't. We're still friends in any case, and occasionally have a drink together, but we are no longer a couple and we're both fine with that. Well the other night I was having a drink with him after work and they were playing salsa music in the background. I commented on how much I love that music and ex-OH commented how much he "loathed it with a vengeance" (see how compatible we aren't!). Well I had been talking to a colleague who, like me, had previously taken salsa lessons and was thinking of going back to it in September when they start up again from scratch. The salsa teacher I had was great but like so many other women I didn't have a partner, and while she made sure we all swapped partners as much as possible, it wasn't ideal. So I was looking up the schedule for the current classes (she teaches other things than salsa) and I noticed that she gives private lessons. They are expensive but I was wondering if it might be worth treating myself to 10 private lessons so that I can get more out of it. I wouldn't just want salsa lessons either, as she teaches ballroom dances such as the waltz and the foxtrot and so on (which I tried out and loved). Normally each year I try to go away in February/March for a break from the winter, but this year, with the wedding coming up, I won't be going away until later in the year, so I was wondering - should I put some of the money I would have spent on going away into private dance lessons? Being a Libran I have to weigh these things up, not only because of the cost but because I have (happily) gotten involved in so many different clubs/projects that I also don't want to have every night taken up with going out. Aaaahhh first world problems to be sure!

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Got the monkey off my shoulder!

I didn't feel like walking today. We had a helluva storm last night and today, for the first time in ages, it was grey, windy and cold-ish. Cars coming down from villages higher up the mountain had quite a good coverage of snow and there were broken tree branches everywhere - so nah, I didn't feel like walking. But hey, I got that monkey off my shoulder - you know, the one who says "oh don't bother, just this once, it won't matter". And of course, it wouldn't matter, but I actually got off my backside and went walking again at lunchtime. Yay me!

It was too muddy to go on one of my usual circuits so I walked along the lakefront, and while it was pretty windy, it was a really pleasant walk. It definitely blows the cobwebs away and is a real mood booster. Also they usually have various exhibitions along the lake front - at the moment they have sculptures which, to be honest, are quite beyond me and my peasant heart, but previously they had photos of people from all over the world photographed in authentic, unretouched detail -  they were so interesting. OK so stopping to pour over sculptures or photos probably doesn't do much in the way of calorie burning, but at least I got out there right!

On Saturday night a friend and I went to see "Shrek, The Musical", performed by Simply Theatre, which is the under-18s theatre group. We saw them perform The Addams Family last year and they were fantastic. And Saturday they didn't disappoint either. In fact, we were talking on the way home and both agreed that we think we actually prefer them to the adult productions. Just wow, I don't know where they get their talent (or their confidence) from but they were amazing. (I have to admit to a little weakness here, but donkey could certainly have given Eddie Murphy a run for his money - couldn't find a picture on their site though. Shame!!!)

Then on Sunday I got to watch the latest match in the rugby six nations - England versus Italy. I love the six nations (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy) because it is on every year and while it doesn't last long you get to see some great rugby. Sunday's match was scrappy, but entertaining, rugby. The referee was French and usually when they want to address an issue with a specific player they shout "number 10 white", or "number 8 blue". For some reason this time the ref just called out, "hey you with the beard" and five Italians turned round! I guess you had to be there but it was really funny - and the giggling from the commentary box was a real treat!