The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Happy birthday André!

Although we got together as a family the other Saturday night, today is my oldest son's actual 30th birthday. Wow, talk about weird - having such an old guy for a son!!! When did that happen?

Anyway, he went from this:

Ah, how cute!
To this:

And even cuter!
Much love to them both and I hope the next 30 years bring you health, wealth and happiness!

Old dogs and new tricks!

What a joke that is! I'm talking about my brother and teaching an old dog new tricks but, on an only slightly different level, I guess I could be talking about myself too. I can't say I am particularly interested in technology, don't have to have the latest gadgets and only learn how to use something when I either have to or it interests me. I learned how to use my new sewing machine because it interests me - my iphone - nah, not so much. In fact, the only reason I have an iphone is because the Blackberry I had kept dying on me so I thought I had better "upgrade". As to all the functionalities, I'm not that interested, although I have to admit it can be a bit embarrassing when I am out with friends and we try to set up another date - they all check on their phones and I have to think really hard to remember because my appointments are all written down in my diary! Of course I use a computer extensively for my work and am forever grateful that I know how to use it, but in and of itself, I'm embarrassingly disinterested.

That being said, I positively look like Bill Gates compared to my brother (or both of them, in fact). When his wife died suddenly last year, in addition to being absolutely devastated P was also in the unfortunate situation of "being the one who didn't know where anything was". In fact he told me that one of the hardest things was figuring out such things as where she ordered the heating fuel from and so on, as he had no idea.  I do remember trying to get my ex involved in this kind of stuff but he too just wasn't interested. Every so often he would do his nut about how "someone was obviously draining the bank account" (I guess he meant me) because we had no money, but during our divorce I was able to demonstrate extensively just where all the money was going - and it sure as hell had nothing to do with me! Don't laugh but I also always did our accounts basically on the back of an envelope because I knew how much was going into the bank and I was supposed to know how much was going out. This didn't quite work out when I was married because he was constantly spending and I had no idea what on. Since I am on my own, however, I am pretty much spot on. (On a side note, my friend Steve, who came over from England over Christmas, laughed when I told him I do my accounts on the back of an envelope and have envelopes in a tin under my armchair with all the money divied up for various bills.  He was incredulous that "you have a Swiss bank account and do your accounting on the back of an envelope"!)  Note: it's not that kind of Swiss bank account but yep, that's about the truth of it!

Anyway, back to my brother. When his wife died he didn't have a credit card, barely knew where the cheque book was, didn't have a mobile phone and couldn't use the internet or email.  He was supposed to go to Greece with me the first year after her death but wouldn't book it himself through the English travel agent because "I don't have a credit card and I can't use email"! So I booked it from over here using my credit card and then he wanted to send me a cheque in pounds!!! I told him they haven't used cheques in Switzerland since 2003 (true) and a cheque in sterling was no good to me. Talk about hard work - sometimes he's like pulling teeth!

I used to phone him every week to see how he was getting on and after the first year, when all the "first" anniversaries were over he began to do a little better. He told me that he desperately missed female company and while he has made friends at his widows and widowers club, he misses being able to chat to a woman over dinner and so on. Not that anyone would or could ever replace his wife, but he just wanted some companionship - as do we all I suppose!

Well finally he seems to have met someone who makes him laugh again. She is his age and also a widow. It is in the very early stages and they won't be seeing each other an awful lot since she lives 150 miles away, but so far they seem to be making each other happy.  His new lady friend, M, is also trying to drag him at least into the 20th century technology-wise (she can forget the 21st century I think), so he has now got a phone, can reply to an email as long as you write to him first, and got his first look at Facebook the other day and was stunned to see pictures of his recent trip out to France to visit me. He loved it. And most recently, M has got him turned on to Whatsapp so that the hours they spend on the phone every night are no longer costing them a fortune!

So all seemed to be going along swimmingly - until last night, that is! I had just got into bed to read at 11 p.m. when I get a Whatsapp message from my brother.

P - "that thing I was saying about the shoes, why did you take them, now I have nothing" (or something along these lines).

Me - "Say what?"

P - "I only bought those shoes because I thought they were smart.  Blah, blah, blah"

Me - "Come again? Hey, who do you think you have been chatting with for the last five minutes?"

P - "You, M, of course!"

Me - "Ha, bloody ha. You have been divulging your deepest secrets to your sister since, oh, about 11.05 pm!"

P - "Oh, shit, please please forget we had this conversation. I'm going to take myself off and give myself a good talking to"!

Me - "No worries, it's forgotten already. Night!"

Except I didn't forget it - I just wrote it down here so that I would never forget that conversation!  Tee hee! Actually there was nothing raunchy or super-secretive about the conversation at all (much to my disappointment) but he sure as hell wasn't making any sense to me, until I figured out what was going on when he sent a photo of what looked like an older lady and two younger females (turns out it was his lady friend and her granddaughters).  But - and I'm sure we've all done it - it just goes to show you have to be really careful before you let that trigger finger loose!

Old dog and new tricks!

Monday 21 August 2017

More this and that

Not at lot has been going on round here lately. The traffic is starting to pick up as families are heading back home after their holidays and preparing for the new school year. Oh how I used to hate it in England when school would finish towards the end of July and before you knew it the bloody shops would start pushing their "back-to-school" supplies. It seems like we had only just gotten out of school and here we were heading back already! Of course compared to the 10-12 weeks summer break the kids have round here (as compared to - what - 6-7 in England) - we really were almost heading straight back! Later, as a working parent, I came to appreciate how difficult it is to keep the kids occupied during those long school breaks, but at the time it sure didn't seem fair to me!

So what's new? Oh yes I got a call from my youngest son's gf the other night asking if I wanted to come over on Saturday night for dinner to celebrate my oldest son's 30th birthday (you know, the one who just got married). Actually his birthday is on 30 August but both couples seem to be pretty booked up at the weekends so this was one of the few times we were all available. It was a lovely, simple evening and I thoroughly enjoyed it. After we ate, Jen got out a board game called "Cranium" - a new one to me - but actually quite fun. Because three of us (my sons and I) had grown up with a more anglophone culture, we skipped over some of the more difficult French-based questions, but found plenty to keep us going. For instance, I had to get my team mates to say "Mr. Bean" by miming him (got it in one!!!) and another time I had to mime "work interview". I didn't mind this stuff at all, but, for example, the "tooth fairy" in English becomes the "little mouse" in French so we had a few crossed wires mixed in with the giggles. There was also one card where I was blind-folded and I had to get them to say "Mont Blanc" by drawing it. Guess what, I managed it! I drew round my finger on the paper so I knew where I had drawn Lake Geneva (in order to put the Mont Blanc further south) but when I took my blindfold off I have to admit Lake Geneva looked more like a penis (but luckily no-one came up with that one)!

I think I mentioned previously that a few of us are going to host a monthly board game evening and with that in mind I had already bought a few fun games. I bought a new game called "Pie Face" where basically the loser gets "tarted" with whipped cream! I had to nag my sons into playing and I so wish I could figure out how to put the video on here as the video of the two of them playing and roaring laughing when the eldest got hit in the face with the cream was great. Something else to figure out I suppose. But it was great fun - oh and I got "tarted" too, by the way!

André knows already that Jordan is too good for him!
André's response to getting "tarted" - hey, I like this game (slurp, slurp)!

On the Sunday, I had spotted a vide-grenier taking place at a place called Thorens-Glières. It had been ages since I had been up there so a friend and I took a trip out there. For once I didn't buy anything (except a huge hamburger) but she did quite well with a lovely bag, bracelet and tiny, leather slippers for her great nephew. Very pretty.
During the second World War, there was a huge battle between the occupying Germans and the French resistance on top of the Plâteau de Glières, so I think I might take a run up there next weekend to re-visit the museum, time and weather permitting, of course.

On the way back, my friend asked if I would stop at the little church called La Benite Fontaine (the Blessed Fountain) so she could fill up a couple of water bottles of spring water/holy water. I don't know that it is really holy water, but it is certainly untreated mountain spring water and she, very touchingly, wanted to get some water for her beloved labrador who, we suspect, is on his last legs. She knows the time is coming but thought a little "help from God" wouldn't do him any harm either would it.

A little shrine at La Benite

One elderly lady was there filling up about 10 bottles with the water and I asked her if it was good - she said "well it's natural spring water and I'm not doing so badly on it am I" as she trudged back up the hillside with her two carrier bags full of bottled water.

"Thank you" plaques addressed to the Virgin Mary

At the spring
It's actually a lovely spot to picnic too!
Church of La Benite Fontaine
France is a Catholic country and I'm not Catholic - but you can't beat a beautiful church in my opinion!

Wednesday 16 August 2017

I was in a really good mood until .....

The temperature here dropped quite a bit last week, much to my relief. I really don't "do" heat - I mean, if it is cold you can always get warmer by moving, can't you, but getting out of the heat can sometimes be difficult, to say the least. So any puny exercise regime I might kid myself I am following soon falls by the wayside once the summer hits. In the spring I had gotten into a fairly regular routine of walking either to work or at lunchtime and going to the gym, but once the temperature gets up into the 30s and above (around June) I just can't cope with it. I failed miserably in my attempt to lose weight in time for my son's wedding in July. Oh, I absolutely did lose about 10 lbs but probably put 8 back on so not much cheer there. Anyway, with last week being a bit cooler I did manage to exercise five times in all, and I know I've said this before, but I always feel so good when I do this. Beats me why I ever quit of course, but if anyone knows where you can buy bottled motivation or willpower please let me know.

For today, at least, I am on track though, as I got off the bus and walked 30 minutes this morning and plodded my way round a pitifully hot Botanical Gardens at lunch time, so I will be well over my 10,000 steps today. And it is such a lovely walk - well I have three lunchtime routes in fact. The first is to the Mont Blanc bridge and back (all on the flat). The second is three times round the Botanical Gardens (which includes a slight uphill part), and the third is up to the US mission, which is perched on top of a hill and which, though I huff and puff all the way to the top, I am actually beginning to find easier with every attempt I make.

As it was so hot I decided to take my time today and take photos (well that's my excuse). I made it three times round the circuit nevertheless, but crikey - was I sweating!

Kiddies' carousel in the Gardens
UN Beach
I had lunch at the UN beach restaurant that you can see in the distance with a friend last week - it's been ages since I have eaten there and it really feels like you are on holiday when you eat there.

I loved this tree (being chased by a pterodactyl?) but couldn't get the whole tree in - the trunk was beautiful.

Young goats play fighting - very cute!

This walk takes me about 45 minutes, which gives me 15 minutes to get back to work and into the shower. But .... and here's the bit that pissed me off, I had gone up to one of the shower rooms away from the main exercise rooms since they get quite crowded at lunchtime. I was the first in and left my clothes on one of the 10 clothes pegs in that room - a room which has only one shower. When I got back from my walk though, I saw that my clothes had been moved out of the shower room and into the general toilet area - frankly that is a no-no to me since there were nine other places to hang your clothes up other than mine. The shower was already running when I got there so I waited .... and waited .... and waited .... and - you get the idea. In the end, I timed it and the person in the shower actually had the water running for 20 minutes after I had got there. Bloody hell! I don't take 30 minute showers at home and can be in and out in five minutes, so what she was doing for well over 20 minutes is beyond me - assuming she doesn't work down a coal mine - which she doesn't. Well eventually the shower stopped and I thought "oh goody, I can get in there in a minute"! But no, another 15 minutes to huff and puff and get herself dry and whatever else she was doing. For me this is just not on when there is only one shower and we have 60 minutes for lunch. So after 30 minutes she finally came out and when she saw me said "oh I moved your stuff outside in case you wanted to go to another shower room". I pointed out that no, I really wanted to use this one since this is where I left my stuff so please don't move it in future (I may also have muttered something about "keeping the bloody shower short and sweet in future too", but I can't be sure!!!) Hell I was ticked off but you know what, in the end, I figured hey there are more important things to get mad about and having to wait 30 minutes for a shower is really just a first world problem isn't it. So all's well, I'm back "in the zone", but jeepers you should see my frizzy hair!

Tuesday 8 August 2017


I'm not in the slightest bit artistic or creative. That's not false modesty - it's just the truth. I can and do enjoy learning crafts but as a "self-starter" - well that's just not me. You know when people are creative because it's just there from an early age and for me that wasn't the case. Oh don't get me wrong, as I am getting more and more free time to myself, I am thoroughly enjoying taking patchwork lessons, cookery lessons and so on, but it doesn't come naturally or easily. I take that back - I actually can cook and enjoy it - the lessons are more about discovering different cuisines and ingredients.

I recently discovered a small haberdashery store not too far from home where they offer patchwork lessons pretty much any time, including Saturday mornings. They also offer knitting lessons and I would love to do that later, when I am retired. I have this thing about making myself a beautiful pair of woolen socks some day. Who knows, that may well happen. In fact my mom was a beautiful knitter - she could and would knit anything up until she was almost 80 years of age, when her eyesight started to fail her. Of course, with that generation it was often of necessity. I remember her unraveling old sweaters and knitting them back up as "new" (oh my aching arms - having to hold them both out so that she could wrap the wool around them). In fact, about five years ago my childhood friend, Ian, decided he had had enough of England and just upped sticks and went off to Bulgaria to live with no fall back plan (note, he's still there and loving it)! When my ex left me in 2010 Ian invited me out to Bulgaria to meet up. Now his father had died at the age of 40 leaving his mom a widow with five young children to support so money was tight! We laughed so much on that holiday about "the old times", but one of the funniest things I remember him saying was that you always knew what you would be getting for Christmas because your mom would be knitting away and all of a sudden she would say "stand up and put your arms out"! And he was right¨

Anyway, where was I going with this ramble? Oh yes, creativity. I think I mentioned in a blog post about my son's wedding that one of his closest friends showed up in a bright orange suit - I mean, really garish - and his brother showed up in a matching canary yellow suit because "they said not to wear black or white"! I have a pretty wacky sense of humour so I loved it.

See if you can pick them out!
My youngest son tells me all the women love S because he is like a great, big, red-haired teddy bear - and he's right. He is a lovely person and a very talented wrought-iron worker - now working for himself.  Well my external balcony has been badly in need of some TLC for quite some time - in fact, the mason started dismantling the balcony and working on the cement part of it just yesterday. Quite by coincidence, S called me and said could he come over last night with his ideas for my balcony and the side gate I want to put in.  We had already talked about what I want and he came over with his initial sketches - which I loved!

This will be what my wrought-iron balcony will look like (he is going to give me a white cow with black spots on the left (sorry, I'm not good with "breeds") and the one on the right will have brown spots - the one chewing the grass). And when I asked him "where are my rats?", he is now going to add a couple of rats running along the handrail! I should explain my home backs on to a dairy farm so this for me was just so spot on (yeah, I know I'm nuts!)

For the side gate he came up with this:

I'm not too sure about the cat on the right (he's green) so I am thinking of having him take a look at the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland (oh, and he's going to add in a couple of hedgehogs too). I can't wait!

Cheshire Cat - from Alice in Wonderland
I love it! I love bright colours and I love "wacky". I know it might not appeal to everyone but hey .... one of the great joys of paying all your own bills is that you get to choose everything right?

On an only somewhat similar note, I watched a lovely documentary the other night celebrating comedian Billy Connolly's birthday where they had invited three different artists to create pictures of Billy, which would eventually be displayed in the art museum but also on buildings around Glasgow, to celebrate one of Glasgow's favourite lads! The young lady who created the really wacky (as you can see, I love that word) portrait of him took her inspiration from his various - often "potty humour" - jokes and I think she really managed to capture the very spirit of him.  All three were wonderful (as is Billy), but wow, what talent!

And finally, I also saw Grayson Perry on TV the other night. He is a (happily married) artist who just happens to be a transvestite. "Odd" I guess is the way he might be described, or more likely "outrageous" but what came over so strongly in this programme was what an intensely funny and interesting man he is. I'm not sure that his art appeals to me, but his unconventional side certainly does!

Grayson Perry (left) and his wife!