The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Friday 28 April 2017

Mental health

Most evenings, if I'm not going out, it is usually around 9 p.m. by the time I sit down for the evening. Last night I saw that the second part of "Mind Over Marathon" was on, so I sat down to watch it. It had caught my eye a couple of weeks ago so I had set it to record but hadn't got round to watching the first part, therefore I won't know the whole story until I watch that tonight. From what I gather from the second part, seemingly the documentary team had recruited 10 people with "mental health issues" last year and started them on a training schedule with a view to running the London Marathon.

The London Marathon took place on 23 April - St. George's Day (the patron saint of England - you know the guy that killed the dragon).

St. George
Of course there were the usual wonderful nutters dressed up as dinosaurs and so on, and many, superb individual achievements. I have nothing but respect for the people that give it their all and do this!

This runner almost collapsed 150 metres out, so another runner helped him across the line!
People can and do run in aid of any charity they wish but the official charity this year, supported by Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge, was "Heads Together" - a mental illness charity.  Without having seen the first part of the documentary, I believe all ten of the people in training had suffered from some kind of mental issue. The one man who dropped out seemed to suffer from agoraphobia, some from depression, but the one that really touched me was a lady whose three year old son had died from pneumonia - and five days later her devastated husband committed suicide as a result!  It was horrendous, but she wanted to run the marathon in aid of the charity and to do something for herself after living through such a devastating turn of events.

The documentary follows the group's training, their ups and downs, over a period of six months, and then at the great day itself. Kate, Wills and Harry came out to see them in training at one point and then were there to officially start the race as well as cheering the runners on throughout the race. It was such a moving documentary. I don't think I'm giving much away by saying that the chappie with agoraphobia dropped out BUT - and this is a a big BUT - he was able to travel down to London on the train by himself to cheer the others on, so he was also one of the success stories, but in a different way. It was a very moving, feel good documentary and well worth an hour of your time if you want to get motivated!

On a slightly less impressive note, I am enrolled with two friends on a 13 km walk this weekend. I think the organizers' aim is to promote local cuisine, farms, cheeses etc. so the walk will follow a route where the walkers are welcomed to various pit stops along the route. 13 km doesn't sound that much to me but as my friend pointed out, "you do realize how hilly it is round here don't you"?!!! I mean, we live in the alps so chances are it wasn't going to be flat was it!! Oh well, we will play it by ear and I will report later.

As I mentioned previously, I went on a "Persian cookery course" on Wednesday night and while it was a great improvement over the vegan course I had taken, I was a little disappointed in the dishes we cooked. Oh, the lady demonstrator was great, very dynamic, but somehow the dishes disappointed. I can't help feeling there are much more tasty dishes than that in (in this case Iranian) cuisine!  Still, at least I got to see certain techniques and use a few ingredients I hadn't used before. Sometime ago I bought a beautiful cookery book by British-born Israeli Yotam Ottolenghi, so hopefully I will be able to use a little of the knowledge gained on Wednesday night in some of the wonderful recipes in his book.

And finally, this morning I dropped my youngest and his girlfriend off at the airport as they are spending a long weekend at a friend's in Brussels! Gotta try their wonderful beer, if you go to Brussels. I don't know Brussels much but I understand it is beautiful. I will know more when they get back. So on that note, I wish you all a wonderful weekend and if I don't get back from this walk by 10 p.m. on Sunday please send out a search party!

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Say cheese!

Nathalie's comment on my last post about "save a piece of reblochon for me" got me to thinking about cheese (as you do). This might sound like heresy but I am not a great fan of cheese for some reason. A little is fine but I suspect I might have an intolerance because too much cheese (hard cheese in particular) brings me out in a sweat! Weird right. Chocolate has the same effect so I really do think it might be a slight lactose intolerance. Anyway, that being said, I think my most favourite food in all the world has got to be tartiflette! It is pure, unadulterated stodge that sticks to your ribs and turns the world into an even more beautiful place than it already is.

Traditionally tartiflette is is an alpine dish made to be eaten after many hours hard skiing or, in my case, after a day sitting around on my backside during the winter then looking for a treat to cheer myself up. I did used to ski many moons ago but as I found happy hour starting earlier and earlier when I had to sit around looking after my toddler I kinda gave up. I was never very good anyway - extremely enthusiastic but not an awful lot of control! But tartiflette .... a slice of heaven on earth. Strangely enough, local folklore has it that fondue is a Swiss invention and raclette a French invention, but I understand I might be committing heresy here.

Anyway, tartiflette is traditionally made using a local cheese called reblochon. Very creamy, pretty smelly but delicious.I remember one year deciding to drive to England when my kids were about eight and four (I must be mad - about 1,000 km with two young kids in the car) and I decided to take some reblochon cheese with me so I could make tartiflette for my parents. Despite my best efforts, the car was pretty stinky with the cheese in the back but we made it all the way to the port at Cherbourg, parked the car and I had just got out to stretch my legs when my youngest threw up all over the back seat!!!! I mean, we had, at that point, just driven about 800 km and he waited till we stopped at the port to throw up over the seats! Not even a chance of opening the window or stepping out of the car - no, it all went over the seats. So I cleaned up as best I could but when we pulled onto the ferry he did it again. I can tell you no-one wanted to park next to us, with the smell of sick and cheese everywhere. Luckily I always took a cabin so I was able to hose the kids down but the car .... not so much!

Talking of insanity, when I was on maternity leave with my youngest I again decided "it would be fun" to drive to England to spend some time with my family. My youngest was about six weeks old at the time so we were just starting to get into some kind of routine at night. The oldest was four so I had to make frequent potty stops along the way and to feed the baby. At one point I was in a service station and was a bit stuck. I needed to use the loo and I needed to take the baby with me. Of course I couldn't leave the four-year-old either so I decided I would take him with me into the ladies but started drilling into him that he waited outside the door for me and "no matter what, he was to stay there. And even if the nice man or lady offered him some candy, he was to stay there. I would be less than one minute, but he was to stay there". You get the idea. So just as I was going into the toilet I said "so what do you say if the nice lady offers you some candy to walk away with her?" And he looked at me and said "merci beaucoup?"! I give up! Anyway, I got to pee and nobody kidnapped him so I guess all's well that ends well right, although horror of horrors, on the way back the ringroad around Paris was closed so I had to drive through central Paris with a newborn and a four-year old! You gotta be young, or insane, or both!

As I mentioned before, cheese (and to a lesser extent chocolate) disagrees with me on occasion, sometimes more dramatically than others (if you know what I mean). Anyway, before I married my ex I dated a young man who, at the time, was a medical student. He qualified while we were together and eventually became a surgeon. He asked me to marry him but I refused even though he was adorable and a very decent man, but I just felt that he was too "staid" for me, despite us having spent five very happy years together. Anyway, Karim and I split and I married my ex. When I came back to Geneva, a friend's son had to have emergency surgery on  Easter Sunday and her husband recognized Karim from years before. That set the wheels in motion for him getting in touch with me. We have had lunch a couple of times and agreed to meet up for dinner one evening. He is married and it was all perfectly above board - we are just old friends. So we agreed to meet in my local town and had a really pleasant evening. I ordered tartiflette and guess what - the "unfortunate reaction" kicked in!!! TMI, I know, but I was dropping Karim back at his car when I felt my stomach start to rumble. I knew I then had to show him the way to get back onto the motorway so I dropped him at his car and shot off like a bat out of hell towards the motorway. Considering we had just spent a lovely evening together when I kicked him forcibly out of my car without hardly saying goodbye he must have wondered what the hell had happened😌! I was so stressed that I actually got lost on the back roads (the same back roads I have been driving round for the last 28 years) and only just made it home!! Bloody hell. Still, I think we are good enough friends that I can explain what happened next time I see him - he is a doctor after all!

And finally, my youngest in particular was never a great fan of cheese but as his tastes have changed he has started to develop a liking for it. Not so long ago they drove up to Alsace to see Jen's grandparents (about a six-seven hour drive) and he called me to say that they had introduced him to the greatest cheese - "it's called abondance" - which they make in a place called Abondance, which is about 20 minutes from here!!!! Kids!!

And Nathalie, talking of Les Flottins, I wrote a post about the exhibition in Evian over New Year (see my post dated 4 January). It was beautiful.  Am off to a Persian cookery class tonight organized by Migros (the local equivalent of Wal-Mart). The vegan cookery course we went to wasn't so great but I have high hopes of this one. Will let you know how it goes.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

This and that!

My whole little spiel yesterday about people's behaviour on buses was brought about by what was quite a funny incident yesterday morning - and then I forgot to mention it. I think I'm becoming a bit batty but I don't actually mind. Truth be told I'm actually quite enjoying  that side of getting older!

After the chaos of digging up my garden last weekend I spent about four hours on Saturday pressure spraying my terrace to get a year's worth of accumulated muck off it. I don't mind doing this at all as it is so instantly satisfying but, while the weather was beautifully sunny there was quite a strong wind, so standing outside soaking wet all afternoon ended up with my feeling like I had been kicked in the kidneys by the time Sunday rolled around. I knew then that I had better get back to exercising as it instantly relieves the aches and pains and lifts my mood. Anyway, yesterday morning the weather was nice and I made it to the Mont Blanc bridge in good time to be able to hop off the bus and walk the last 30 minutes to work. Just as I was waiting to get off the bus, however, I spotted a woman sitting close to the door - about my age but much heavier set - and noticed a big white label sticking out of her top - she had got her top on inside out. What to do? I guess it's like do you tell a man that his fly is undone or what? Well to be honest, if it was a male colleague I would most likely tell him his zip's slipped but a stranger? So the question was do I tell this lady or not? In the end I decided it was kinder to discreetly let her know.  She was obviously embarrassed - although to be honest it's easily done right - but I was very discreet about it, so it was all the more amazing to me that she promptly turned round, took her top off and put it on the right way - all while sitting on the bus!! Now even I wouldn't have done that as it wasn't so glaringly obvious her top was inside out. Wow! I mean, she did have a kind of thermal undershirt on but all the same to just sit there in your bra and vest .... there's nowt so queer as folk!

Anyway, this morning I again made it to the bridge in time to hop off the bus and start walking to work - only for the heavens to open up and me to have to do a runner up a back street where I ended up catching the same bus a bit further along. The bus has to go round via the train station so by cutting through the back streets I was able to catch the same one - the driver must have thought I had gone nuts though! At least, just walking that short distance allowed me to see how far the park people had come along with their planting already. Beautiful!

And talking of bad backs, it's like the walking wounded here at work right now. The boss of my unit is Danish. He has two young children and this being spring break he and his family went away for a few days. They arrived back from their trip late Monday evening exhausted, all the more so since they had to hang around at the airport because their luggage had got lost. Now lost luggage is not the end of the world but when you have small children in tow it isn't pleasant. I was asking him this morning how things were going and he commented that his mother-in-law had arrived back ahead of them "so that she can spend the rest of the week finishing my sentences".   Eeew, anyone else sense that all's not quite quiet on the western front? Actually I think he is going through a rough time at the moment as the kids seem to have been continually sick, his wife has come down with some kind of virus but has to go into work today (short-term contract) and mother-in-law is in the house to crack the whip!!! Yikes, Not sure living alone is so bad now! Then C, my other colleague who I work most closely with, started walking round clutching his back. He is a runner and particularly in periods of intense stress needs to run to keep his stress levels down. Only thing is he hurt his leg and hasn't been able to run for a while, and now seems to have put his back out - something he again puts down to stress.  Crikey, if it goes on like this much longer I will soon be the "last (wo)man standing" (chocolate being my preferred form of stress relief)!

In other matters, last night I had my regular Monday night sewing club. I am working on two projects - tote bags for my sons' girlfriend/wife - and the one I was working on last night is really intricate. I enjoy all the embroidery/bead work but goodness, I worked for two solid hours last night and only finished a small section of the bag. Talk about over-estimating how much you can get through. Then when I got home my brother (the one who just lost his wife) had left me a phone message. You can see more and more how much his wife used to do because I don't think Phil has ever used an answering machine before. The message was something like "START OF MESSAGE, I've got my euros so am all set for next week. STOP. Looking forward to it. STOP. Will try you again tomorrow. STOP. END OF MESSAGE"! It makes him sound like a resistance fighter in World War II leaving cryptic messages for the Allies in sodding morse code! Aaah, bless him!

And finally, Sunday was the first round of the French elections - which proved interesting to say the least. It ended up with centrist - Macron - going through to the final round with right wing Marine Le Pen. What a weird situation that is. I mean, picture elections in the UK where neither the Conservatives nor the Labour Party made it through to the final round - or in the US where the Republican and Democratic parties were scuppered in the initial stages!!! That's what we are dealing with here in France.  I would have bet against Trump getting in and I would have bet against Brexit so you can see how well my political instincts are honed, so while I would say the right wing Le Pen will never get in - who the heck knows!!!  Of course, the fact that Macron's wife is 25 years older than him has given plenty of fodder to the gutter press. But hey, does anyone remember the uproar about Trump being 100 years older than Melania? No, me neither!  I guess we will just have to wait and see then!

Monday 24 April 2017

On the buses!

I have mentioned before that I really dislike having someone eating their breakfast or whatever when sitting next to me on the bus. Maybe it's just me - I guess we all have our little niggles right - but I hate the elbows in the ribs and the smell of someone's breakfast all within 10 inches of my nose that early in the morning. I posted previously that there is a chap who gets on and always has his tuna-mayo sandwich followed by a slice of pizza and coffee, so you get a varied array of smells depending on how far along his route we are. Well on Friday the guy sitting next to me seemed to have a bottomless pit for a bag. First the crackers, then the sandwich, then the banana, followed by more crackers then another banana - in the end I had to smile because it just put me in mind of the scene where Mr. Bean is sitting an exam and has the never-ending bag of supplies, or indeed Mary Poppins' bottomless bag (you see, I really am easily amused)! The only thing missing from this banquet was the flip-down table!

Whinging apart, there are worse places than Geneva to be on a bus, as witnessed by the elderly couple on the bus on Friday evening. The gent didn't seem to be completely with it and it was obviously the lady's job to take care of him. Immediately people jumped up and helped him to a seat while the lady was trying to explain to him that she would be getting off at the Museum as she was going to Paulette's but that he must get off at the next stop and make his way home. He seemed a little confused but I have seen them on the bus before and I guess this is the way it rolls for them - it can't be easy for either of them. Anyway, the lady got off and when the gent went to follow her a couple of young men stopped him and explained that "she was going to see Paulette and that he should get off at the next stop", and then took it upon themselves to make sure he got off safely at the right stop, at which point he seemed to get his bearings. Sad really, but at least there were decent people around to take care of him. I make no judgement on the lady (his wife?) leaving him on the bus as I would guess this is their norm, for the time being at least, until one day it won't be!

I also mentioned in a post in January about a young cyclist (she was 27 I think) who had been killed on my bus route having gone underneath the wheels of a truck as it was turning. Her loved ones put up a tribute which still remains, although the dead flowers have now been replaced by candles. What amazed me though is that a cycling helmet had been left amongst the tributes, and three months later it is still there - no-one has taken it! It warms the heart a little, I must say.

In other matters, I had great plans for the Easter weekend, none of which came to fruition because, apart from being woken up at 4.40 a.m. by a telemarketing company, unbeknownst to me my neighbour had set up with his friend to come over with his digger to dig out the ditch which would re-channel the underground springs in the garden. So I was woken up to that unexpected joy at 8 a.m! This is what my back garden looked like over Easter, and where I spent my time humping stones out of the ditch in order for them to lay the piping. Happy days! Still, to be fair, it ended up costing us less than half what our other neighbours paid!

My sister made some smart-arsed comment about how if I really didn't want them to visit in July I should just tell them rather than digging a moat, but I explained that while the ditch was for the underground springs I thought the anti-tank guns out front would suffice to keep them away!

This is the top end of my garden leading down to the neighbours' where the springs would have ended up if I had gone ahead and started without them. I don't have much land (and for that I am thankful) but am lucky enough to have the field behind which is agricultural land so even better. I think I only have about 350 square metres, but frankly that is more than enough. It's sad really but when we first moved in in 1990 the farmer was selling a riding lawnmower and my ex desperately wanted to buy it! I mean, you have a plot of land about as big as three handkerchiefs and he wants a riding lawnmower!!!! And worse still, I would have given in and let him get it if we had had the money, but having just bought a house and paid for a move from Switzerland to France we were broke! How stupid would he (we) have looked on a riding lawnmower having to do a 350-point turn just to turn around and go in the other direction!!! I don't know if it was just because he was used to that kind of thing in the U.S. where people have bigger gardens but really .........????? He also bought a ruddy great roto-tiller to turn over a patch of ground as big as my underwear so we could grow veggies (my 80-year old neighbour just leaned on his shovel and smiled benignly). And then the lawnmower - everyone else's cost maybe €400 and we had to have one that cost €2,000!!  I never did understand but I sure as heck discovered pretty fast why we never had any money! More importantly, he never took care of anything so it really was money down the drain. When he moved back to the States and left me to empty the farmhouse he had rented, he had three strimmers/weed whackers rusting in the garage and he didn't even have a garden of any description! Nothing. He had, I think, four rose bushes at the side of the house, no grass at all, and that was it!  One day, he came to the house and said he needed to borrow the aforementioned expensive lawnmower. When I asked what for he said he "needed it" but I knew he was just going to give it to one of his buddies so I said his buddy could borrow it when he replaced the hedge trimmer he had lent him last time which he then broke and never replaced! Grrrr, those bloody mates drove me nuts - but at least I don't have to deal with them any more.

And on a slightly different note, in connection with a programme on UK TV about people who were living "mortgage free", Jane over at Shoestring Cottage was talking about "saving money" and one of her commentators mentioned the website where you can calculate how much interest you would save by making overpayments on your mortgage. I started overpaying my mortgage three years ago but couldn't be bothered to work out the back details so I input my info as though I was starting overpaying this month and - just wow! According to their calculation table, I would save myself around €72,000 and almost eight years on the mortgage by doing this. When I did a rough estimate of the three years that I didn't take into count I reckon it will be nearer €100,000! Just wow!

And finally, it's a small world isn't it? I follow Anne's blog at New Happenings at the Table. She is based in Alabama and one of the ladies who commented on her blog (Nathalie) put in a mention to me about how, while she lives in Florida, her dad lives just up the road from me in a place called Thônes! Blogging world really is small isn't it!

Friday 14 April 2017

F"*稨èèg cold callers!

As of today I am off for four days for the long Easter weekend and have been totally looking forward to it before work shifts up a gear in the coming weeks. Last night - or more precisely at 4.40 a.m. this morning - I get a cold caller on my mobile!!! I was able to pick it up quickly as my phone is next to my bed but 4.40 am????? Nobody answered so I called back and got an answering message for "Media something or other" who are doing a survey on my media use!!!!! I have no idea how they got my mobile number  - probably just random computer dialing but bloody hell! I have blocked that number in any case, which is something I can't do on my house phone (I mentioned in my last post how I got a cold caller at 11.15 pm on Tuesday night! These people are a damn pest!

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Oh to be creative!

This week is one of the weeks where I have sewing evenings twice in one week. Every Monday night I go to one of two sewing clubs - I have to alternate as they both meet on Monday - and then once a month I have my actual patchwork lesson on a Tuesday in a town called Cluses. I love these lessons because patchwork is something that I have always been fascinated by and I have to admit I'm improving, albeit very slowly. I'm not a natural by any means and I really don't see myself as creative because I depend on my teacher an awful lot to help pick out and coordinate colours and so on. It's a gift I wish I had but I genuinely don't. Of course when Lydie puts it all together I think "oh yes, that's perfect, why didn't I see that"! Of course it's her job to be creative and how she makes her living but again I wish I had that creativity naturally!

Our last project was working with jelly rolls (I am still in the process of making a quilt with my last effort) and at the moment we are making a cloth bag with all kinds of appliqué, embroidery and decorations on it. Last night our teacher started showing us how to use rubber stamps/dies. When I was thinking about writing a post about this I was talking to my colleague and we realized that in French a rubber stamp is called a "tampon" so I was chatting away to her and explaining how we had been using "tampons" to put pictures onto different fabrics and so on. It's weird when you live outside of your own country for any length of time because you end up effectively losing some of your own language and speaking - in my case - Franglais. For instance, a collapsible plastic crate (that you might use for carrying groceries) is called a "cagette", a basement is a "cave" and so on and when you can't instantly think of a word in English you just use the French word because everyone understands anyway. I noticed my sister (who lives in Denmark) does this also, just throwing Danish words into the conversation when she can't think of the English word. Anyway, if I ever start writing about making pretty pictures with tampons will someone please send me a comment!

Well my project is coming along pretty well and I picked out a few images to rubber stamp onto my fabric which I will later embroider. Lydie was explaining that you have to be careful to wipe off excess ink before you press it onto your fabric as it will run and spoil the look. So I explained that many, many years ago, when I first came to Geneva, I worked in the Budget Unit and was responsible for sending out hundreds of invoices which were all typed on the typewriter and had as many as six carbon copies. Well one time I must have been using carbon paper and touched my upper lip. Nobody said anything to me but as I walked down the corridor my friend gave the Nazi salute and walked off. I had no idea what she was on about until I walked into the bathroom and saw ...

Of course the obvious choice of photo there would have been Hitler but there's no place in my blog for him, so better Charlie Chaplin I think. And to think they had let me walk around all afternoon looking like this .....

I am usually pretty tired by the time I get home from this class as I go straight there from work and get home around 11 pm. So last night I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed when the phone rang and it was BLOODY TELEMARKETING COLD CALLERS! I get at least three a day and I was furious that they had the nerve to call at that time of night. OK I wasn't in bed yet but they didn't know that! Unfortunately, by the time I had picked up ready to give them a piece of my mind they had hung up. I had looked into getting a phone that could block calls but the only model that seemed to fit the bill didn't have a very good write-up as an actual phone, despite having the facility to block certain numbers. And the problem of course is that these buggers just keep changing numbers anyway. Since they are usually calling from an overseas call centre I can't block them through France Telecom either and for some reason I can't get my phone to switch to "silent". So when I want to have a siesta at the week-end I now have to turn the bloody phone off! These people are a real pest, and while for me they are more of just a nuisance, I can easily understand how older, more vulnerable people can be bamboozled by them. Ugh!!

Monday 10 April 2017


Car boot (garage sale/yard sale) season has started up again, only over here they call them "vide-gerniers" (attic emptiers). And yes I know I don't need more "stuff" because I already have way too much of it to begin with it, but I like to think of it as having a nice afternoon out at very low cost while temporarily "renting" the stuff I purchase before handing it back to the charity shop! Convoluted much? Anyway, this Sunday was one of my favourites, at a place called Thyez, which is about 20 minutes from home. It is set in a stunning location and the good weather meant that the place was packed.

There were quite a few families around picnicing and I thought what a lovely place to let the kids have a run and burn off some energy (says she looking back fondly to our afternoons in the local park with just a bottle of water and jam sandwiches). I can see why parents want to get the kids out running around for sure!  There were also the usual food and drinks vendors and the lovely restaurant where my friend and I had eaten last year, but this time it seemed to be fully booked. Not to worry though, as neither of us were hungry anyway.

To be honest, there wasn't an awful lot of stuff that interested me, although that didn't stop me from buying of course. My friend found a beautiful candle-holder similar to one she had picked up in Mexico a few years ago - man, I wish I had beaten her to it - it was really pretty!

So here is my haul.

I picked up the lovely picture in the background for €2. I may (or may not) repaint the frame but think I would like to hang it in the spare bedroom. The two "coils" in the front are actually belts for me. I needed belts because mine are starting to fall to pieces (probably pulling them too tight to get them round my belly) and yes, I know, who the heck wants a plastic "Noddy car"? Well me, it turns out! When my oldest was little he was car mad (as was the youngest, to be honest) but his absolute "favourite car in all the world" was "doggy car". It was a yellow plastic car with Dougal the dog from the Magic Roundabout driving it (a bit like this one only the other two "passengers" had fallen out).

Doggy car went everywhere and the little bugger actually managed to throw it off our third floor balcony the day we were moving from Switzerland to France. It landed in gorse bushes and guess who ended up scrabbling around looking for doggy car while the movers just looked on in amazement. But hell, there was no way I was "emigrating" without doggy car! I found it and am pretty sure we still have it somewhere (I would never have thrown it away), so when I saw this car at the vide-grenier I jumped at it - and I'm going to give it to my now-married son for Christmas! (He has the same warped sense of humour as I do luckily)!

I mentioned very early on in the blog that when my husband left I ended up back in contact with "my best friend in all the world from the age of three", Ian. He was also my neighbour and as toddlers we played together, walked to school together - everything, until we drifted apart when we went to different schools at the age of 16. When I got back in touch with Ian we hadn't seen or spoken to each other in 36 years! A few months previously he had decided he had had enough of England, the rotten weather, and "chasing pennies" so he bought himself what I call an old Postman Pat van (there's a definite theme developing here), re-vamped it, threw his tools and a mattress in the back and buggered off to Bulgaria for the simple reason "that it looks cheap to live there" (he didn't know the first thing about Bulgaria)!

This isn't really his van!
In July of that year he said "Anna, if you've got nothing better to do, why don't you fly out to Bulgaria and we can get together"! So I did - call it my Shirley Valentine moment or whatever you want, but I bloody well did it - and we had the most fantastic time together, my jaws hurt so much from laughing! While we definitely weren't meant to be together long-term, we remain friends to this day. Ian has stayed on in Bulgaria, which he loves and recently posted a clipping from the local Bulgarian newspaper entitled "We did it!". I ran it through google translate and seemingly the expat Brits had successfully pulled off the first ever KABUT in the local area. It took me a while to figure out that KABUT was actually "car boot" - it seems it was a great success so well done Ian!

And finally, I was talking to my brother yesterday evening. He has now started volunteering at the local hospice two days a week, is still going regularly to his widows and widowers meetings (which he loves), had just been out for Sunday lunch with the group and was looking forward to starting their walking tours. Also this week he had been to his first afternoon dance meeting with the group. He said he hasn't laughed so long and so hard since his wife died. As usual the women way outnumbered the men so he got waltzed off his feet all afternoon. But his absolute favourite was an 81-year-old widow who had him up and dancing constantly. He said he had never trodden on so many women's feet in such a short time and he LOVED it! All I can think is GREAT - if there have to be widows and widowers I, for one, am delighted that they can still enjoy life after so much sadness!

Friday 7 April 2017

Fixing Dad!

Every so often I come across a book recommendation, or a website that looks interesting so I jot it down on a scrap of paper and leave it next to my computer at home. Sometimes I get to doing something about looking it up and other times, when I have too many scraps of paper piling up, I just throw them all in the bin because they are making the place look mess(ier)!

Well last night I finally sat down about 9 pm and thought "I don't want to spend the evening on my computer or watching rubbish TV (although last night I discovered the wonderful Channel 4 programme "Walks With My Dog" - to be followed up as it was lovely), so I actually picked up one of my "scraps" and it read "Fixing Dad". It certainly didn't disappoint!

It is the true story of two brothers who are desperately worried about the state of their dad's health, particularly his type 2 diabetes. In addition to that he has heart problems, high cholesterol - you name it - and he is only 62. They realize that the lovely dad that brought them up all those years ago was now a shadow of his former self and basically decided to "bully" him into doing something about it. After one scene where a man in the next hospital bed to dad reveals that he had a foot amputated due to diabetes, the shock enables them to get dad on board, They sought medical opinions wherever and whenever they could and, in the words of Baldrick, "devised a cunning plan".  They narrowed their goals down to "fitness, nutrition and mind", and started from there.

It was lovely to watch them sparring with each other - something of an understated Laurel and Hardy routine - and that made it all the more pleasurable to watch as they were just so normal! In one of the scenes at the beginning you had a shot of 17-ish stone dad (about 250 lb) dressed up in lycra shirt and cycling shorts setting off on his first park ride on a very wobbly bike! Cue a quip from one of the brothers - "That's comedy gold right there"!  The brothers realized that spending so much time "bullying" dad into doing something about his health was also taking away time from their own families and there were the inevitable tensions and bickering. At one point they are in a taxi and one of the brothers is speaking on the phone to someone about their "dad project" when dad tells him to get off the phone and basically keep his business private. So the brother replies "she's calling about our project, what am I supposed to do, hang up on her? you miserable old git"! But you know what, it was also actually a sign of how very affectionate and comfortable they were with each other!

Eventually they pay for a private full check-up for dad which reveals another, non-diabetes-related blow (don't want to give too much away here) but while this knocks them for six, as a family they get on with it and eventually come out the other end of a very long, dark tunnel. One very telling realization though is they realize that before the project dad seemed to have just "given up" because he was depressed and lonely - something they hadn't thought of before.

Eventually they all do a 100 mile bike ride around London in aid of Diabetes UK, and you see dad standing up to give a talk in a large auditorium about fighting back against diabetes. It's a smashing documentary, about an hour long and very "feel good"!

In fact, it was Ilona's comment on a Dr. Michael Moseley article in the Daily Fail that made me look up this documentary. Dr. Moseley was basically saying that it was time people fought back against type 2 diabetes, rather than just looking for a magic pill - which just isn't going to happen. In his opinion, diabetes in the U.K. (and presumably elsewhere in the western world) is a ticking time bomb.

They had a stock photo of an obese man in the article and I mentioned to my colleague how mortified I would feel if I actually recognized myself as "that obese person" in the Daily Fail article. Some of the clothes worn in these photos are pretty distinctive so I guess it would come as a helluva shock.

I'm overweight, although not shockingly so, and I seem to have been bobbing up and down with the same 7 lbs since Christmas. I had set the goal of losing weight by the time of my son's wedding in July, but that ship sailed when they bought the civil ceremony forward to March! Oh well, there is still the "party" side of the wedding to aim for in July, so I guess it's time to get back in the saddle.

On another note, I am the Treasurer (read "I keep the money in a tin under my bed") of our small group that runs the second-hand book shop at work. Whenever we get a reasonable sum together we meet to decide where to allocate the money. One time we managed to buy two wheelchairs for a hospice in Peru, and this time we have donated to a young man's trek across Mongolia in aid of a muscular dystrophy charity. Since we still had a little left I asked that we donate to a food bank in my local town run by the Red Cross. Every week when I shop I pick up a few items for them, and when I have a box full I take it down. Towards the end of the year their stocks start to run very low as there are strict rules about when and where they can collect. So I took our donation down to them on Tuesday and while they are used to people making financial contributions I don't think they were expecting as much as we were able to donate. To say they were surprised would be an understatement.

I was so glad we were able to give just a little back, all the more so since I actually spotted one of my neighbours picking up a food parcel! I just said hallo and went about my business. It's a strange world we live in sometimes isn't it!