The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Monday 18 December 2017

It took me over three blo*"*"*dy hours to get to work this morning!

I called my brother for a chat yesterday as I hadn't spoken to him in a while and he was asking when I planned to retire. I told him (as I say so often) maximum another three years but preferably before as though work is fine the bloody commute is killing me, and lo and behold, where man makes plans God just laughs! Though it snowed pretty much all weekend the roads were ok when I got up this morning. I heard the plough come through our little neighbourhood at 7 a.m. just as I was getting ready to leave, and although you had to go carefully, it really was ok driving. Well, that is until I hit the motorway and the tailback was massive. In retrospect, it had nothing to do with the state of the roads but more to do with a couple of accidents in Geneva. I mean, the traffic was backed up the 20-odd kilometres of motorway from the border (that took me two hours to navigate) and then over another hour to cross Geneva, where a couple of accidents had pretty much brought the city to a halt! Still, at this point, I am pretty zen about it, I was on the bus with a good book and figure I'll get there when I get there. But like I say, all it takes is one idiot not to put snow tyres on (and there are loads of them about) and the whole city comes to a standstill!

Anyway, I eventually made it and will finish up what work I can do before heading back home, although the snow has now stopped so fingers crossed.

I had a lovely weekend though. On Saturday "Père Noel" was scheduled to do a practice run to my little village. As my kids are grown it has been ages since I went to meet Santa but decided that this time I would go and it was lovely. I have to say, the Sanfys (the local community group that organizes this kind of thing) does a wonderful job. In fact, I had volunteered to participate in this group (time permitting of course as I am one of the few still working) but I guess they lost my details or something because I never heard from them! Oh well, next year maybe!

Anyway, the weather was dry but not sunny when Père Noel showed up on his practice run, only Rudolph and the team must have been having a rest as he showed up in an old red and white Citroen Diane.

It was very well done and there were loads of kids and parents from our little village waiting patiently. The Sanfys had organized all the presents plus drinks, chocolates and brioche and an organ grinder (without the monkey) at the drinks stand and were walking round handing out huge glasses of mulled wine to the adults. I tell ya, you daren't have a partially-filled glass because before you knew it it was filled back up again! I have to say though, that not all mulled wine is good but this really was very tasty - or maybe it was just all that standing about in the cold that made it taste good!

An added bonus is that just as Père Noel was getting ready to leave, one of the local farmers decided to move his flock of sheep so the whole village road was blocked off while they were herded further down the road! If they had wanted to add a bit of "reality" to the event they couldn't have done better.

You can make out the sheep in the background on the village road
And finally, I ended up chatting to Steve this weekend after a couple of weeks absence. It has been a while as Mr. S is a party animal and has seemingly been busy partying. Anyway, we had a good long chat and he sent me the following video (which from the sounds of it was filmed in either Italy or Spain). It is pure magic. Steve hadn't realized it wasn't three men (new glasses anyone?) until I pointed out that no, it was in fact one man and two dummies - so three dummies then! Enjoy!

Friday 15 December 2017

The Armageddon Cupboard!

Does anyone else have one? Goodness knows why I have one (anymore) but I do and I'm trying to clear/clean that sucker out little by little. I don't think you can blame me though because my parents lived through WWII and the subsequent rationing in the UK, which only ended in 1954. I was born in 1958 so it was still a very real memory for them. In fact, I remember once seeing my mom's old ration card and I so wished I still had it now - for me that would be something to treasure. Anyway, since they had a large family and even if you had tons of money there wasn't, at that point, an awful lot to buy with it, mom and dad always "stock-piled" whatever they could, even when rationing was over and money was less tight. So that's what I grew up with and was subliminally absorbed by me, I suppose. So over the years of getting married and having a family I always had "extras" in the cupboard by the front door. There was also the fact that being in Geneva/France it wasn't always possible (in the early days at  least) to get all the stuff from the UK that I might want to cook with, so I "stockpiled" whenever I went home. Now, of course, it's much easier and I can get pretty much anything I want (though I still have never found peppermint essence but I've got tons of that anyway). So over the years I have been stuffing things into that cupboard on the basis that "you never know when we might run out" and also, truthfully, because I like to cook and have got into the bad habit of thinking I have to have everything available no matter what I feel like cooking. The net result is, of course, that foodstuffs get old, pantry moths appear and I can never remember what I have in there anyway. So over the past however long I have been emptying that sucker out, maybe while standing waiting for the kettle to boil, and cleaning, sorting and pitching what I can. Turns out the pantry moths don't come so much from the food storage (which I am pretty meticulous about, although they can't be avoided with certain products) but the little buggers have actually been nesting in the holes where the screws were put in when assembling the cupboard!!! Et voilà! Since I figured that out I have had every draw out and scrubbed and dug into those cupboards like you wouldn't believe. Still, it has taken a long time doing it bit by bit, but I really must get out of the habit of "stockpiling" now, especially since I am on my own.

Other than that, we had one helluva storm last night. Wind, snow, rain - you name it. I'm just glad I made it home before the worst of it hit as it really sounded like the chimney might come down. Luckily it didn't but crikey, while I love a storm that was a doozie. Then this morning, the traffic simply flew through, I tell you, there is no rhyme nor reason to it. I actually made it early to the parking lot and another lady and I were standing waiting as the bus pulled up, slowed down, and then drove straight past without stopping. We both stood there gawping with our mouths open like venus fly traps. It turns out, since 10 December the Geneva transport authorities have introduced a rule where buses no longer stop unless a passenger on the bus wants to get off (nobody did, apparently), or unless the person waiting for the bus actually flags it down. So we both stood there like lemons and the bus waltzed straight past us! A lesson learned, I can tell you!

On a separate note, we had our divisional Christmas party a couple of hours ago, which they have at lunchtime rather than in the evenings. I left after about three hours but understand they are still partying! Oh to be young again.

Colleagues from Peru, China and Japan


Colleagues from: India, France, Austria, France (x3), Denmark, France ...

The view from the terrace  - over there is where the rich people live - think Sophia Loren et al!
Secret Santa, with colleagues from: Japan, Ireland, Bolivia, France and Guinée!

It is all very pleasant but I must admit I am already tired of eating. You know how you go out to lunch with colleagues so much just before the holidays - and that's without even talking about how much you will eat during the holidays. On Wednesday I was invited out to a Japanese restaurant and while I'm not really a fan of Japanese food, I have to say it was exquisite. I can see why Japanese people are generally not fat. They don't eat huge quantities but what they do eat is beautifully prepared and delicious. Looks like I'll be re-appraising my thoughts on Japanese cuisine!

Talking of "cuisine" though, since I was cleaning again last night I defrosted some homemade lentil soup I had in the freezer. Crikey, it was so thick you could cement a brick wall with it. Still, you only have to add water right, and it beats having to cook when I have other (exciting) things planned - like cleaning! Oh, what a life I lead.

Still, I don't lead a bad life at all, considering that I was reading in the newspaper this morning about the Loneliness Initiative that has been taken up in honour of the late MP (Member of Parliament) Jo Cox, who was tragically shot by a man with "mental health issues" (you don't say) a year ago. Jo was very pro the European Union and the lunatic that killed her shouted "Britain first" as he shot her. One of her projects was the Loneliness Initiative wherein since she believed that modern society was being killed from within by loneliness - and she wasn't wrong there was she - she was trying to do something to fight it! I hope the Initiative really takes off as loneliness has no place in our society.

And finally, years ago when on the west coast of France at a place called Dune de Pilat, I bought a tacky piggy bank made out of a coconut shell. I love that piggy bank so every time I get a five Swiss franc coin (about $6) I throw it in there. When I have 250 Swiss francs I can roll them up and hand them in at the bank. Just two more coins to go then. It's surprising how quickly this "throw away" money adds up though isn't it. What you don't have you don't miss I guess. So on that note, have a lovely weekend everyone - or bon weekend, as they say here!

Dune de Pilat

Thursday 14 December 2017

This and that!

There's not much going on here at the moment. My big meeting was over at the beginning of the month and now I have time to (leisurely) prepare for my next meeting in March. That basically means getting the five sections of the report ready, edited and off to the translators in plenty of time to allow them to plough through it. Otherwise, it is pretty much winding down with many people already heading off for the holidays.

The weather is pretty weird though. Last Saturday we easily got five inches of snow but with glorious sunshine. After that it bucketed down rain for about four days - which is fine by me as it means the snow stays up in the mountains and the roads in the towns lower down stay clear. It has been like this for the last two weekends actually and again forecast the same for this weekend. It really messes with your body temperature gauge though. I mean, yesterday morning it was -3° when I left home. I almost pulled the door handle off my car trying to open it (I did do that once), and when I tried to roll down my window to badge into the parking lot the window blocked solid. Then today, as I left for work it was +7°, so a difference of 10° overnight. No wonder you don't know what to wear!

For some obscure reason (I've given up trying to figure it out) traffic into work was again dreadful this morning. As I got to about 2 km from the Swiss border traffic stopped completely so when I actually got through the customs about 30 minutes later there must easily have been a good 10-15 km tail back. Then, while I was sitting waiting to get to the park and ride I saw a truck coming alongside me down the hard should but driving the in the wrong direction - down the motorway! It wasn't a works truck or anything like that, but assuming no-one hit him coming up the hard shoulder (they shouldn't do that but they do), I don't know where he thought he was ever going to be able to turn around. I mean, he could maybe make it to the previous exit but there was no way he was going to be able to get off there!!! I can only hope the motorway cops caught up with him!

When I finally made it to the park and ride I thought I had better use the loos there as given my luck goodness only knew how much time it would take to cross Geneva on the bus. As I was trying, without success, to badge myself into the toilets a women came running up to me, hopping about on one leg and almost in tears, she was that desperate to use the bathroom. Well my badge wouldn't work, her badge wouldn't work and another man had no luck either, so she pushed the emergency button and yelled through the intercom for them to "open the bloody door". Whereupon she pushed straight past me and charged into the disabled toilets! Poor thing actually, because I suppose we have all been there and just how embarrassing would it be to pee yourself (or worse) in a situation like that!

Still, the good weather (when we get it) gives us fabulous views of the mountains on the ride in to work.  Geneva is surrounded by the Jura mountains to the north and the alps to the south, with the lake slap bang in the middle (hence all the traffic problems caused by the local geography). Below is a picture of the Jura mountains (I used to live on the "Jura side" when I was single) and the lovely hotel where we spent our one-night honeymoon in 1985. Yep, that was it - one night - and then he had to be back to work the next day.

The Jura

View from our hotel across to the alps - I live on the  "alps side" now!
Hotel La Mainaz
The hotel was lovely, but as you can see it does look like something out of The Shining (I guess I should have known the ex would eventually go mad)!

Anyhoo, last night I finally got round to putting my Christmas tree up. I hate putting the bloody thing up but I have to admit it does look very pretty when it is all done. When my youngest and his gf were living with me I used to leave them to do it but no such luck anymore. Oddly enough I have never minded taking it down. I'm sure there's some Freudian significance to that somewhere!

Oh, and I just read in the news that the French are going to ban mobile phones for children in primary and middle school as from September. It doesn't concern high school students but for the others they will not be allowed to have their phones on them in class (obviously) but nor will they be allowed to take them out and use them during break/lunch. As they have quite rightly said, kids should be out  playing and running around, not glued to a screen all the time! I think it's absolutely right and good luck to them, but I guess we'll see how that works out won't we.

And finally, what can we say about the vote in Alabama except well done Alabama! Finally some people with sense!

Friday 1 December 2017

Let it snow!

I woke up this morning to about five inches of snow. Very pretty indeed, but as I've said before I hate driving on the bloody stuff. That being said, I have had the week from hell traffic-wise this week, but this morning - nada! The roads were almost empty compared to usual and I just flew through until I hit the franco/swiss border! There really is no rhyme or reason to it, although I have to say the French do a very good job of maintaining the roads. Not my little village so much. Oh, the plough was round at about 6 a.m. this morning but because of lack of funds they don't salt or grit the roads so we kinda have to "slither" the first couple of hundred metres until we get to the boundary limit with the local town. After that, it's not so bad.

I have mentioned before that I use the park and ride for my commute -  I've been doing it for the last four years because the stress of crossing Geneva in rush-hour traffic just wasn't worth it. I drive to the border where I park and catch the bus across town. I'm lucky actually because this bus takes me door-to-door so if I wedge myself in at the back I don't have to move until I get to work, so I get plenty of reading done. It costs me 1,600 Swiss francs per year (that's about $1,800) for the parking and the all-Geneva bus/train/ferry boat pass, but actually just cutting out crossing Geneva, with all the stops and starts, practically halves my petrol bill, which in turn, almost pays for my bus pass. It's a lot less stressful and I get tons of reading done, so while I hate my commute there are some positives to it.

One of the negatives happened last night though. A young girl got on at the station and sat next to me. When she saw that I was reading in English she asked if I spoke English! Duuuuuhhhh! No I don't speak a word of it, that's why I'm reading in English.  Anyway, I don't mind chatting to anyone but just carry a book in case to fill the 45 minute cross-town bus trip. She was sweet enough and asked where I was from, so I told her England, and then she said she was from Utah! Alarm bells started ringing at this point because I had already been "nabbed" twice before by young Mormon girls and wasn't really in the mood for it. I mean, they have every right to their religion but I also have every right to not be the slightest bit interested. Still I chatted to her but told her straight out I wasn't interested in organized religion and so on, but every time I tried to change the subject she came back to it! From my previous encounters on the bus with young Mormon girls I reckon there must be a "Mormon missionary training school/handbook" and in chapter 2 it must say "give your target, the biggest, widest smile you can muster without ripping your lips"! Seriously, those smiles are very pretty but a bit weird aimed at someone you have never met before! Then, as I say, every single thing I said was brought back round to the Book of Mormon and her religion! I actually thought of asking her if she had watched the rugby match on Saturday just to see how she would bring that back to religion. I could see the cogs moving in her brain just trying to figure out how to do this!

In the 28 years I have lived in France I have never had Mormons knock on my door, but Jehovah's Witnesses yes. It really pisses me off because I figure if I am interested in your religion I know where to find you (one of my neighbour families are JWs and they are lovely so, like I say, I really do know where to find out more if I want it). Thankfully, I have a front door where I can leave the actual door locked and just open the glass centre piece (it's great in the summer because I can leave the door locked but "open" to let a breeze through without anyone being able to get in). That was a good purchase I can tell you. I just tell these people I'm not interested and to be fair they go away. I just wish they would stop door-stepping though because I really don't agree with it. I'm never rude but I have learned to be firm in my old age.

Years ago, when we lived in D.C., my husband answered the door to two young people who garbled something to him (not sure what) and then (of course) the young girl had trouble holding her files/books so the idiot invited them in. Two hours later they were still there discussing religion with him (no idea which religion they were), but after 10 minutes I left him to it, said "you invited them in, you deal with it, I have better things to do"! Anyway, about a month later I saw them walking up to our building again so this time I made a beeline for the door and I was the one who answered it. They said they "came by to say they were heading back to Texas and wanted to let us know", so I just said "have a safe trip"! And then there was silence. One trick to get someone to do something you want them to do is to leave an awkward silence, but I wasn't falling for that so we just stood there in a "face off" until the awkward silence got too much for them. Ha! Anna 1, bible bashers 0!  My ex did have the decency to say "thank God you answered the door this time" because he knew he would fall for it again.

Anyway, with the young girl on the bus I knew what was coming next. Just as she was about to get off the bus she thrust a card into my hand and told me to call her "when I felt God calling". Bloody hell, that'll be a long wait. I had even told her religion isn't a big thing in England for the most part. Basically if you want to see a full church you have to hire rent-a-crowd as people (particularly younger people) are just not into it. As soon as I got off the bus I threw the card in the bin, but I was at least kind enough to rip it up so that no weirdo could get hold of her number and bother her. See, now's that's called being decent!