The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Monday, 31 December 2018

Health!

I suspect most of us take it for granted … that is, until we lose it don't we! I know I certainly do. But sometimes life has a way of giving you a kick in the butt to make you sit up and take note! My eldest brother was taken violently ill about three weeks ago, totally out of the blue, with horrendous stomach pains and severe vomiting. He couldn't even make it up the stairs! His lady friend drove up from her home about 120 miles away to be with him and he was in hospital last week having a camera put down his throat. They were talking cancer but also the possibility of an ulcer and were awaiting the results later this week. I spoke to him last week and he looked pretty good, but then yesterday when I called he had been unwell again and didn't look too great, having lost 20 lbs in three weeks - and there wasn't much of him to begin with! Well this afternoon I got a message from my sister to say that he had been taken to hospital, in incredible pain and vomiting "black stuff". Ever since his lady friend, M, had arrived she has been taking care of him, picking up his prescriptions and trying to get him to eat but he was up constantly every night vomiting and she made the decision to call the ambulance today. They have confirmed that it is indeed cancer but are not sure whether they have caught it early or whether it has spread! They will know more later when all the test results are in! Bloody hell, what a shock. Whatever happens, he is in the best place he can be both for himself and for poor M who has been through the wringer for him! I just sent her a message to thank her for everything she has done for my brother and she was really moved. You see, they got together about two years after my brother's wife died and while the oldest son is perfectly fine with their relationship the younger one (who is 50) is, to be blunt, being an absolute twat! He has been rude to M from the beginning and it is now getting worse. He should be ashamed of himself after all that woman has done for his dad! And to be honest, I have never seen my brother as happy as he has been these past two years. She is a good woman and son number two needs to grow up! Anyway, we are keeping our fingers and toes crossed that the outcome will be treatable!

On a slightly happier note, I spoke to Steve yesterday for the first time in 10 days and he looks really good. He has had his last round of chemo (for the time being) and is slowly getting his strength back. He was already bald so the chemo didn't affect that but he shaved his beard off and so far it hasn't come back and those hairy Polish arms of his are somewhat less hairy but otherwise he is doing well. He has been to the hospital and they are looking at a bone marrow transplant in February followed by four to five weeks in isolation. But he's getting there and very positive! It did get me thinking, though, that thank God they live in the UK. When I hear people from other countries worrying about medical insurance and co-pays I can only thank God for the NHS. Neither of them will get any kind of bill for their treatment - I know this "free" treatment is paid for out of taxes but I, for one, think that that is the way it should be everywhere. Not living in the UK, I'm very lucky that I have excellent, worldwide medical coverage through my employer (even in retirement) as prices for medical treatment in Switzerland are horrendously high. But again, thank God for the NHS and the foresight of Aneurin Bevan who founded it in 1948!

And just tonight I hear that "little" Jimmy Osmond has just had a stroke at the age of 55. His second, apparently. He was appearing in theatre at the Birmingham Hippodrome and felt unwell, but being the supreme professional that he obviously is he finished his performance, signed some autographs and was then taken to hospital. God speed Jimmy!

And talking of "health" I thought my own puny efforts at getting fit/losing some weight had fallen at the first hurdle today as I made the mistake of plonking myself down to read and I don't remember getting up again. Despite the beautiful weather I talked myself out of going for a walk (I know, I know) buuuuuut around 4 o'clock I metaphorically gave myself a kick in the butt and decided to do Jane Fonda's workout. Yep, I still have the tapes. Tapes, can you believe it! I used to do her workouts many moons ago and eventually found even the advanced tape easy, but now!!!! Well let's just say a few years and a few (ok, many) pounds heavier I knew it wouldn't be pretty. And it wasn't! But I did it. The beginner's tape is about 35 minutes long but I knew I would feel so much better afterwards (I had been getting back and neck ache from lack of exercise). But by golly, the shoulder stand at the end! If you really want to see how much blubber you have on your belly try to get yourself into a shoulder stand! I tell you the weight of my boobs and my belly almost suffocated me! Like I say, it wasn't pretty but I did it. And I hope hearing about other people's health problems will be the catalyst to make me get serious about getting fit this time. You can't take your health for granted forever!

I definitely didn't look like this!

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Two for two!

I guess I shouldn't be bragging but I actually went out walking again today so that's 2 for 2!!!! Only another 363 times and I will  have a complete year of exercising! Ha! But seriously, the weather is so glorious at the moment - like early spring in fact - that I decided to set out once again around noon to do another short walk near my home. This time it took me an hour and I clocked up 5,300 steps so an improvement over yesterday. There is another, similar, walk to this one that I might venture out on tomorrow called the Bois de Fournet and that will certainly clock up a few more steps. I was a bit apprehensive as these walks go through some local woods where in previous years there have been tents and so on - obviously either a homeless camp or (more likely, according to the neighbours) a druggie set up, but either way it was broad daylight and there was nothing there when I went through. It's kinda sad though isn't it that, particularly as a woman, you have to be aware of your surroundings like that!

Anyway, I set off around noon and decided to take a few pictures as I went. I mentioned in a previous post my Nigerian friend, Stan, who used to have a little bar near the railway lines. That is now over as Stan has retired but he hasn't gotten around to getting rid of the "portacafé" yet. Stan's place has been sorely missed though as there is only one restaurant in the village which, while very good, is not open all that often and it doesn't have the same feel as Stan's place. Apparently they are going to build a café/bar in the village "sometime" but when that will be who knows!

A (perfectly legal) eau de vie still!
As I got near to Stan's place I saw that they had set up the "roving still" to make "alcohol de noix" or walnut alcohol (eau de vie I guess). They come around just once a year, collect the walnuts and then produce and sell their eau de vie locally. I believe, sadly, it's a dying tradition because, if I remember right, this tradition can no longer be passed on from father to son so will die out soon enough. I hope I'm wrong as it would be a shame to lose this skill (and the booze)!

"Chez Stan"
As I walked on further past Stan's I turned around as the clouds parted and (hopefully) got a really pretty view of our village!


From there I walked on through the woods to the Bénite Fontaine church (the church of the blessed fountain) where there is a spring water fountain where people come and fill up their bottles with "holy" water (a bit like Lourdes I guess, or at the very least like Evian which, while not holy, is renowned spring water). Actually the little area where I live is called "Les Champs de Chant" or fields of song in English. Originally I thought it must be because of the bird song but in fact it is because there are so many underground mountain springs that they "sing" as they run through the fields! Either way, our tap water is untreated, which means we can't sell it on to the local town when we have an excess, but which also means that we have beautifully sweet, untreated tap water!

The spring where people fill up their bottles

The church of la Bénite Fontaine
After that I headed back towards home. I think the entrance to our village is really pretty but have never been able to get a decent picture of it because I can't exactly slam my brakes on and stop the car in the middle of the road. This time, however, I was on foot so decided to take a few pictures as the weather was perfect. They were only taken on my phone but they're not bad are they!



A view of the church. The spire on the right is the chateau where my son is getting married in July.

So yep, that's two for two so far in the exercise campaign! But we'll see how the rest of the year goes though won't we!

In other news, I don't think the book I read was called "Eat the Frog" but the principle of "eating the frog" was enshrined in there somewhere. Basically it means if the worst thing you have to do at any given time is eat a live frog (not a dead one - that would be too easy here in France) then do that first and everything after that will seem easy. And it's true! How many of us keep putting off the "hard" stuff because we can't be bothered with the hassle!  Well that was true for me so I determined that today's frog would be to get my bloody visa for my trip to Sri Lanka in March! I had already tried numerous times and their damn site kept crashing so I thought rather than get riled up, leave it a few days and make that the frog for today. And guess what, it's done! I have no idea why it went through this time but I seem to have learned that it's better to walk away when I get frustrated and come back to it another day! I also sent off an email to the travel agents asking them to book my transfers to and from Colombo airport since I will be making my own way to Sri Lanka direct from Switzerland rather than flying back to the UK in order to fly out again.

And finally, sometimes I think if I had half a brain I would be dangerous! Frog number two for today was "get the bloody dead light bulbs changed"! In my TV area I have eight inset lights, two of which had blown and then a third went last week! But changing these light bulbs meant dragging heavy stepladders up and fiddling about with inset lighting. So I decided I would do just one today. That's all! So I hauled the stepladders upstairs and set about pulling the light fitting down (after turning off the electricity of course) and within five minutes it was changed! No sweating, no swearing, no hassle! But then, when I looked at the other two "dead" light bulbs it occurred to me that they weren't dead at all, they were just on another switch! Hence the expression "if I had half a brain I would be dangerous"! You live and learn I guess!





Saturday, 29 December 2018

Yikes!

At the moment I'm not getting up as early as I would like yet (early days, early days) as I just don't seem able to go to bed much before 1 or 2 a.m. so I'm getting up around 9 a.m. - I'll have to get that sorted soon as I don't want to be getting up so late as a general rule, even if I am a night owl by nature! On a normal weekend I get up and have breakfast while sitting and reading the news but I know I'm going to have to make sure I don't start blog-hopping immediately after as that is death to any possibility of being productive. So this morning I determined that at least one trip to the tip/recycling centre was in order if I'm going to get a handle on this decluttering malarkey. With that in mind, I loaded up the garden clippings from yesterday's foray into trying to put my garden to bed then, in a fit of inspiration, dashed downstairs and dragged two very old suitcases up and threw them in the car to take to the tip also. There was nothing wrong with them but they are at least 30 years old and have seen better days. I hate throwing things away but I hate them cluttering up my home even more. The good thing, though, is that I always see people going round the tip looking to see what they can take so if anything is even halfway decent I leave it next to the bin rather than throw it in. For the first time in all the years I have lived here I noticed they also had a clothes recycling bin there, which is good because when I took a bag down to our local clothes bin a couple of days ago it was so full I couldn't get my bag into it. I suspect the bin at the recycling centre will be emptied more frequently. One of my foibles is that when I decide something has to go, it has to go now, so that I have no chance of changing my mind, so if I can get stuff down to the tip the same day it will be very positive! I also have a bag of 5-6 winter coats to get rid of but I will be taking them down to the food bank when it opens in a few days' time. They are only open to clients on a Tuesday evening and, unfortunately, this year, both Christmas and New Year's day fall on a Tuesday so I'm not sure they will be open before the week of 7 January. It's a strange feeling getting rid of even just one bag don't you think, as there is an immediate feeling of "lightness" just to get one thing out of the door. Well there is for me at least. It doesn't last that long but a good feeling nonetheless.

After my trip to the tip and the post office  I tootled off to my little local market for a few things then headed back home. It was about noon when I got home and I suddenly had this flash of inspiration. Why wait until 1 January to start exercising again. Why not just start now! I know, inspired right! But these past couple of months I haven't been exercising at all, whether it be walking or going to the gym, and I have really missed it. Well my body has! I guess the excuses were pretty good - too busy with meetings, too much to do with getting ready to retire, too many parties to go to, and so on, but in the end they were all still excuses weren't they!

So I decided that as it was dry and still light, now would be as good a time as any to go for a walk. It's cold of course (a couple of degrees above freezing) but actually mild for the time of year. And for me at least, cold is the best time to go out walking as I hate walking in the heat. So I put my fitbit on and headed off up hill round the back of our housing plan. It turned into a 45 minute walk and clocked up 3,500 steps. I don't listen to music or anything like that as I like to just daydream and, exactly as I knew I would, I felt sooooo good when I got back. It really is great therapy isn't it!

But the whole point of this post is that I already know that if I sit down and start blog-hopping early on I won't get anything done that day. So I will have to limit myself to reading just the news first thing in the morning, get some work/exercise in during the day and only start reading/watching TV later in the day. The scary thing though is that even with adding the 3,500 steps on my walk, I only got in 6,000 steps today! That is really sedentary! On a routine day at work I would get in 6,000-7,000 steps without any additional exerice, I guess with getting to the bus, maybe walking from the bridge and then just walking back and forth to the photocopier, but to have a "normal" retired day tally of only 2,000-3,000 steps is scary. I'm going to have to do some re-thinking of this whole set up I can see! If not, given that I love to cook and now have the time, I hate to think what kind of nightmare it will be looking for something to wear to the wedding!


Friday, 28 December 2018

The square root of bugger all ...

… is what I did on Boxing Day. I think I literally sat on the sofa all day flicking between books, the computer, and the TV. It was so bad I think my backside is now square and flat!! But you know what, it was very nice! It's not something I would want to do often but very occasionally I suspect that might be a real treat. Actually, I'm just sitting here with an old, unused 2018 diary making lists of all the things that need to be done or that I want to do. The nice thing is I can tick a few things off each day from here on in and they will all get done - although not necessarily any time soon.

One thing I did do though was cancel my automatic toll contract. Since I was using a toll road every day, twice a day to go to work and back, I had a contract with the toll company to the tune of €55-€60 a month (I can't remember exactly) which got me a reduced rate on the toll that I used the most and then standard rate on any other tolls. I had a badge on my windscreen and could just go through without stopping (as long as it was only around 30 km an hour) and the monthly bill was debited automatically. Well this was one of the first things I wanted to cancel since I don't want to be paying €60 a month for something I don't need any more. So yesterday a friend and I went out there to cancel our contracts and set up a pay-as-you-go contract, which only costs €1.90/month for the automatic badge if you use it, plus standard toll fees, and nothing at all if you don't use it. The "telebadge" is very convenient so I wanted to keep it if possible but, as I say, not at the cost of €60/month. No problem, everything was sorted in about 10 minutes and I will now be that much better off each month.  My poor friend retired in August 2016 and hadn't given it any thought so she has indeed been paying €60/month since then while using probably only about €10/month in tolls so she, at last, cancelled that too. Kids today!!! Whatever can you do with them!

On the way back I wanted to stop in the next little town from us to check out their swimming pool (or nautical centre as they call it). Our local town only has an outdoor pool (unless they've built an indoor one since I was last there 20 years ago) so I have this vague idea (very vague actually) that I might start going swimming once a week. When I say "vague" the thought of me in a swim suit and swimming hat is probably enough to kill that idea before it even gets off the ground but we'll see. Again, as I say, my idea is to try to do some kind of activity, if not every day, but most days, so I'm trying to gear myself up to that. I already have a 90 minute yoga class to check out on a Tuesday afternoon in the next little village to me as that is one of the things I want to take up again, and a hiking group, but I also don't want to commit to too many activities until I get a feel for how this "retirement thingy" actually feels. Right now, all I can say is that it feels like I have a huuuuuggggeee weight of traffic jams lifted off my shoulders already!

In other news Christmas day was very nice, spent with my kids and their partners and a friend. I actually didn't stress about this one - it's probably psychological because I know in the future I won't have to get everything done in one mad rush at the end of the work year. I cooked pork this year and actually set it off in the slow cooker at 1 a.m. since I was up anyway and it worked out perfectly. I made a gratin since I love it (to hell with the others) and other stuff and at the last minute thought I would have a shot at making yorkshire pudding for my youngest as he loves it. I do too but I have never been able to get the timings right since they need to be in a really hot oven and then trying to keep everything else hot is what always throws me. They didn't turn out too bad this time (well they all went) and my eldest basically took a second entire Christmas dinner home with him as leftovers. For once I didn't make desert as my friend always brings cookies or mini pies and they went down really well too.


I think I mentioned in a previous post that I had bought morph piggyback suits for my sons for Christmas, well they loved them, and since I already had one for myself we did a fashion parade. The photos didn't come out very well but they were really funny, particularly on my sons because they are taller and the suits looked better!



Since my youngest and his fiancée already play in our board game evenings I invited my oldest and his wife to our next evening, which is on 12 January at my house and they said they are going to come. So with that in mind, we got out a game called "Time's Up" and played that for a while, as well as "guess who I am" (not sure what the real name for that game is) and it was good fun.


A little later the daughter from next door came round with her (relatively) new English boyfriend. He was a good sport and joined in easily so I wonder if they will join our group. It's always nice to have new blood, although to be honest there are sometimes difficulties with the different cultures/languages. Obviously most of these games are French and sometimes I will have no clue what I am supposed to be "guessing" since I don't even have French television. OK if you have to guess "Harrison Ford" that might be easier but some of the French celebrities just go straight over my head. Lily is Swiss so I had her guessing the name of a local Swiss politician who would seem to be as "morally bankrupt" as it is possible to be. Some very, very dubious expense accounting going on there and the local Geneva population are trying to get him out. He, like most of them, is clinging on by his finger nails. None of the others had a clue who I was talking about but as soon as I gave Lily a few clues she got it. So like I say it isn't always easy given the different nationalities involved but it is fun, although I wonder if next time, if we are about 14 or so, maybe we should split into a couple of groups and play cards. With that evening in mind, I have beef braising in my slow cooker at the moment as I want to try out a "French dip sandwich" idea which, if I like it (we used to like this kind of thing before but made slightly differently), I will make a bunch of them as my contribution to "dinner".

So on that note, I'm looking forward to a quiet New Year's eve. I don't particularly like to go out on NYE and I certainly don't want to be on the roads so I will snuggle up on the sofa and try to stay awake till 1 a.m. here to watch the fireworks in the UK. I don't always make it but ….

And finally, thank you to those ladies who sent me Christmas cards in the Christmas card swap organized by Anne (New Happenings). Seeing your cards, though, does make me realize how appalling my handwriting is as yours was so lovely. Now in my defence I left this till the last minute and was trying to get all my Christmas cards mailed from work on my last day so there was a tequila-sodden "leaving party" going on behind me in my office. Not that I think my handwriting would have improved much without it but that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

Cheers to you all and have a happy new year's if you are celebrating!



Monday, 24 December 2018

And so one chapter closes ...

The week before Christmas my two friends and I went to see the Geneva Amateur Operatic Society's production of the annual panto, The Little Mermaid. Well to be honest they talked me into it because since my kids grew out of it I have drifted away from the panto scene. It is a peculiarly British thing and I have to say that despite my misgivings I thoroughly enjoyed it. You know, all that "booooo, hissss, he's behind you" and in this case "no Queen Hypochondria, don't drink the coolaid"! It was lovely to see all the little kids dressed up in their sparkles and to recognize a few familiar faces from work with their children/grandchildren. A very good production so maybe next year will be a repeat!

Courtesy of GAOS
Courtesy of GAOS
As I have mentioned previously, although technically my retirement date is 31 December, Friday was my last day of work as my company closes until the new year. There was quite a bit of stress trying to get my meetings/related work finished up as well as all my administrative stuff done before I leave, plus removing personal stuff off my computer - not to mention the bloody traffic - so at the end it may have occasionally felt a little like the shower scene from the Mel Brooks' film, High Anxiety. He is a doctor in a psychiatric hospital and to say this patient "was having a bad day" might be an understatement. It certainly felt a little like that on occasion at work towards the end!


I was adamant that I didn't want a party, mainly because of the reason why I resigned, but also because it's just not my scene. So what did my colleagues do - they decided to totally ignore my wishes and bring the party to me! The buggers! They started streaming into my rather small office with booze, ice and glasses and off they went! Then they presented me with the most beautiful gifts (they had had a collection for me despite my wishes). At this point, the one-who-should not be named (OK it was Ali) decided to put some rather loud music on and the dancing and singing started! All the while I'm trying to clean up my computer and finish up! But you know what, it was lovely and I'm so touched that they did this for me. As the booze started going down someone went and got pizzas, then someone else got the G & Ts flowing and off it went! And, again, it was exactly my kind of thing. They couldn't have done anything nicer for me. Now I suspect there were some sore heads the next morning (not me - two glasses of wine and I was done as I was driving a few hours later and, as I suspected, the police were all over the borders). So it was water for me after that, but it is quite funny to see your colleagues getting tipsy. Gawd I will miss them.

When I pulled into my driveway I bumped into my neighbour who was just coming back from walking his dog in the local woods and who had the most beautiful bouquet of holly in his hand. When I explained to him that I had just retired he handed it to me and said "happy retirement". They are Jehovah's Witnesses so don't celebrate Christmas, but I thought it was a lovely gesture on his part.

I've only been "done" two days so technically it is just like a long weekend so far, but you know what, just knowing I will never again have to do that God-awful commute has drained so much tension out of me it is unbelievable. I feel I cope easily with work stress, and as I say I didn't mind my work and liked my colleagues but I really am already starting to realize just how stressful that commute was! So in the space of a couple of days I've gone from this ...


… to this …



… and this …


Anyway, I have no plans for this evening as my kids spend Christmas Eve with their in-laws or friends. That doesn't bother me at all as I enjoy snuggling up with a good read. In a minute I'm going to head down to the kitchen to prepare a few things for tomorrow when I will have my kids, their partners and one friend coming over (plus there is a standing invitation for my lovely Dutchman but I don't know if he will show). Other than that there's not much to do (for the first time in my life I have "not much to do" - and that feels great). So after watching the semi-annual spectacle that is my neighbours trying to load up their car to leave on holiday (next year I think I'll sell tickets and get the popcorn out), I wish you all a lovely day tomorrow. Merry Christmas and "health, wealth and happiness" in 2019!

Thursday, 20 December 2018

A little (true) Brexit trivia!

Well I haven't been posting lately because I have just been so darn busy trying to get everything caught up before I leave - both from a work point of view and from an administrative point of view. I had two smaller meetings at the beginning of December which, although easy because the economists I worked with are just so on the ball, still entailed follow-up and deadlines. Then I had my second "big" meeting (I have two a year) on 11 December which has meant working flat out preparing for that. The meetings themselves aren't so bad but there is a lot of frantic prep beforehand. This last meeting involved two huge reports (I would say 500 pages total) to be put together and translated (into French and Spanish) and published beforehand, so flat out doesn't even cover it! Don't get me wrong, I'm just the dogsbody in all this. We have economists, lawyers, statisticians, translators and so on doing all the hard work but some idiot (me) has to put them all together in a coherent form without getting the graphs upside down (for instance). There are always mistakes, usually no big deal, but you have to work with it. Also we have just started using Windows 10 and it is not without it's "particularities", to say the least. There certainly are bugs to be ironed out! One of these reports goes to the G20 meeting of trade ministers so I, personally, really would rather not get my graphs upside down! Anyway, that has kept me flat out but I actually enjoy it and get a lot of satisfaction when it all comes together. We have our moments as a team but I have to say I love the team I work with, despite the fact that occasionally the men seem to have more "hormones" than I do! Oh, and did I mention, it took me three hours to get to work that morning thanks to a four-car pile-up on the motorway! Can you see why I'm leaving!!!!

Anyway, even though all that is now over there were then all the administrative "thingies" to get out of the way for my retirement. Since I dealt with this stuff when I worked in HR I knew exactly what I had to do but you still have to actually do it! This morning I ran up to HR and handed in my permit to work in Switzerland and with lovely Brexit on the horizon I have to start thinking about what the future holds for me and my one son who lives in France! Nobody can tell us anything. We had drinks with the British Ambassador two weeks ago and they can't tell us any more. As it stands, my oldest son is married to a Swiss girl and lives in Switzerland so can easily get Swiss nationality in the future if he wants to (in addition to being anglo-american). Boy would I love to see my lovely, hypochondriac son do Swiss military service! Yodelayhedee! Anyway, he has a permit for Switzerland through his work so that isn't actually a problem.  My youngest (the plumber) lives in France and always has since birth, except that my doctor was in Switzerland so he was born in Switzerland. Hence although he was born there he was not entitled to Swiss citizenship (they don't have "droit de sol") and as he wasn't born in France he wasn't automatically French either. It's like trying to nail jelly to a wall isn't it! As soon as I came out of the maternity hospital he was back "at home" in France. I did enquire about French citizenship for them when they were little but was told that they needn't "bother" since they were both British! Sooooo, since he and his French fiancée are going to get married next year in any case, they have brought the civil ceremony (the legal one) forward to 16 March (I think that's the date) so that he will already be married to a French citizen when the Brexit freight trains steamrolls its juggernaut way through!

As for me, I will meet all the requirements for residency as they stand at the moment in that I will earn over €27,000 a year even in retirement, I own my own home and have private medical insurance. If my younger son had to meet those requirements he wouldn't make it on the income requirement, being a lowly plumber. So what are they going to do? Ship him "back" to the UK to claim unemployment and a council house in a country where he has never lived! What a fiasco this whole bloody thing is. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the three of us Brits were not entitled to vote on Brexit - you know this "little" thing that only "slightly" affects us. I get so mad that I sometimes just think go ahead and pay the stupid costs of the vote that no-one had a clue what they were voting on except "let's control immigration"! That's a fair point and I agree with it, but the consequences are going to be so far reaching if they can't come to an agreement. "Piss up" and "brewery" come to mind!  In the end, I know we will be ok but we now have to start the laborious business of applying for French citizenship (which takes about two years, but I'm already taking evening classes on how to complain constantly! Don't get me wrong, I love France and I love the French but if there were a complainypants Olympics they would win hands down!). But what about the poor Brits in countries that don't allow duel citizenship? My sister was married to a Dane and has lived in Denmark for nigh on 40 years, has four Danish kids but the Danes don't allow duel citizenship. What a bloody mess. And doesn't the hypocrisy of the likes of the former Chancellor Nigel Lawson, who was a staunch pro-Brexiteer but who is now taking up legal residence in France, stick in your gullet! In the end, I think they will cobble through some kind of bastardized agreement because neither side can afford such a balls up, despite the chest beating from Juncker! I mean, nobody wants to see 800,000 job losses in the UK car industry and its subsidiaries alone do they! And again, despite all the above-mentioned chest beating, the EU would be in some serious financial schtuck too if they tried to screw one of their major trading partners (and net financial contributor)!

Anyway, the whole point of my post (and I have quite a few lined up since I am almost retired - yaaaay tomorrow!) is this. The EU has just issued a civil aviation directive whereby only EU majority-owned airlines will be allowed to fly intra-EU! Buuuuuut Iberia (Spanish airlines) is majority owned by British Airways, which means that come 30 March 2019, with no alternative agreement, if you want to fly, say, from Madrid to Barcelona or from Malaga to Seville you will not be able to take Iberia!  Ha, bloody ha! However, if you want to fly from Madrid to Gibraltar you're quids in. No problems. Don't all jump at once!

Friday, 30 November 2018

Hi Sharon!

Sorry, I had to do that. I had told my colleague Sharon about my blog and figured she would just forget about it like everyone else but no .... she just told me she is still reading it, so I figured I owed her a wave. She is a "yam yam" like me. That means, we are both Brummies (from Birmingham, England) and tend to talk like "so how yam doin?" (If you've ever watched Peaky Blinders you'll get the accent)! I remember when Sharon joined our company actually. I was in HR and had asked her for a copy of her passport. When I saw where she was born I realized that we were born about one mile apart! Small world eh!  Anyway, see you Monday Sharon. Bon weekend!

Thursday, 29 November 2018

What a lovely family!

The other night I watched the first episode of  "Our Yorkshire Farm" on TV - a glimpse into the lives of the Yorkshire Shepherdess (Amanda Owen), her husband Clive and their nine children. What a treat that programme was! It was really, really refreshing to see such down-to-earth people living their physically hard but happy lives raising their "free-range" kids in such a happy home. They came over as so, so refreshing. This episode was filmed during the winter of the "Beast from the East" and you could only imagine how tough it must have been taking care of their animals in such physically demanding conditions. The Yorkshire Dales aren't easy to live in by anybody's standards but by golly, this was just incredible. What was so nice, though, was how they are raising such seemingly "salt of the earth" children. They all pitch in and all have their jobs but seeing them at Christmas opening what, to most of us, would appear rather small presents and enjoying them was a real treat. I also loved how Ruben (I think), the teenage mechanic in the family, showed his "shadow" (six year old brother, Sid), how to fix and mend and really took the time to look after and involve his little brother! I had read Amanda's book "The Yorkshire Shepherdess" and, to be honest, while it was an interesting read she really isn't a writer so it wasn't that great a book (in my opinion), but seeing them as a family in this documentary really was a treat and I look forward to seeing the rest of the series.


In other news, the protests of the "gilets jaunes" have now ended here in France, and not before time. "Gilets jaunes", or yellow jackets in English, was the name given to the nationwide protests throughout France against the increase in the price of diesel. Their first protest in my area was Opération Escargot (Operation Snail), where trucks went on a go-slow on the major arterial roads to bring traffic to a standstill. We always get clobbered as our little town is mid-way between the major cities of Geneva and Annecy so that was one day that I worked from home regardless of my director's opinion! Since then they have been blocking access to supermarkets, petrol stations and so on and while they blocked my local toll road "open" - i.e. nobody paid - they closed six of the eight toll booths so traffic was drip fed into those two (admittedly free) booths! Well not free for me actually, since I have a monthly contract and it will be debited from my account anyway. I have mixed feelings about these kinds of protests (and the French are very quick to strike/protest). On the one hand I understand the plight, particularly of the truckers, who will be having to pay more and more just to be able to work. On the other hand, as I said previously, it seems to me that they are always protesting/going on strike over something or other. Even if you gave me free tickets there is no way I would fly into or out of Paris over Easter - you just know someone will be on strike and your trip will be buggered!

And moving on, since I am now working 50% up until my retirement date I took a trip down to Cluses yesterday afternoon as I wanted to pop into the Yves Rocher shop (I love their stuff) and also to stop by my patchwork teacher for some tips about finishing a project. I wasn't going to sign up for more lessons this year as I knew I would miss the first few because of work, but it turns out that the lessons are late starting and will begin only on Tuesday 4 December so I have signed back up again. After that I will be retired anyway. We will be making a Kaffe Fassett mystery quilt, and since quilts are my favourite projects to work on, here I go again. It was sunny when I pulled into Cluses so I stopped to take a picture of the mountain ahead of me. Not that the photo does it any justice but it really did look so pretty.


On another note, and not related to anything, as I was waiting for some rice to boil last night I decided to use those few minutes to start pulling stuff out of the fridge in order to clean it. Hey, have they discovered penicillin yet? They have! Damn, I thought I was on to a good thing. I tell you, some of the stuff at the back of my fridge should be in the British Museum! Yuck!

Oh, and remember my trip to Sicily? Well while I was there I kinda palled up with a lady called Carol. Anyway, we ended up Facetiming each other the other night for a gossip, and all being well she will be coming out to visit me sometime after I retire. Nice eh!

And finally, jumping from one topic to another, I was talking to my son, the plumber, on Saturday night at our board game evening and he was telling me he really doesn't like his new job much. He said all he does is takes the front off boilers, checks them over and repairs anything that needs repairing, and puts it all back together again. On occasion he has noticed small plumbing jobs which he could easily do for the client but he is not allowed to! And even if he decided to break the rules and do them anyway, his firm have him on such short turnaround times that he wouldn't have the time in any case. So he has started looking at jobs which would get him back into real plumbing. I was telling him it would be good to think about trying to get the tools so he could go out on his own at the weekends - but as tools are really expensive that will have to wait for a while. If and when he does decide to work for himself, I told him he should get a van like this one - it is just my sense of humour (and his to be honest) and it would definitely get him noticed!


Wednesday, 28 November 2018

MIA!

I've been missing in action a bit lately as I have been so frantically busy for the last few weeks, even arriving home between 9.30 and 10 p.m. on occasion. I genuinely don't mind because I know when it's coming and there really is quite a feeling of satisfaction when these big reports are published. That being said, it is nice to slow down a little - and get this - as from now I'll be working 50% until I retire and it's bliss! Actually having a life outside work is heaven - who wudda thunk! Oddly enough my boss called me a couple of minutes ago panicking slightly as they have just issued the vacancy for my post and he is worrying about who will (or won't) apply - will they get the right fit work-wise and personality-wise (as there are some "tricky" personalities here too. In all truth I only seem to be able to handle that aspect of it because office politics just goes straight over my head. I seem to be able to just tune it all out - which mostly is a good thing but not always). Oh well, not my problem now.

So where was I? Oh yes, well a lot has been going on too since I last posted. My lovely Dutchman and I finally got round to going to see A Star is Born last week and both thoroughly enjoyed it. We are no longer a couple but still friends and I really enjoy his company. I asked him if he wanted to sit at the back of the cinema and snog but he turned me down! Damn, I can't even get lucky with a 73 year old! But, like I say, we both thoroughly enjoyed the film and I was just amazed a what a lovely voice Lady Gaga has. I had never heard her sing before but it was a real pleasure to listen to her. Moreover, although she doesn't have a conventionally pretty face, I do think she is very attractive - probably more to do with talent and personality - but then, isn't that what it's all about!

Then this last Friday a couple of friends and I went to see the Geneva Amateur Operatic Society's production of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and sadly, for once, we were disappointed. My two friends just found the play weird. I didn't mind the "weirdness" but was totally transfixed by a colleague of ours who was appearing in it and who was, frankly, totally crap, and it took away the enjoyment as I kept concentrating on her. So, by mutual consent, we left during the interval (we had a one hour drive home in the pouring rain anyway). Still, we regularly support this association and they are usually very good - but not this time sadly!

Then the following night we had our monthly board game evening at my former neighbour's. She lives at 1,200 metres so we had to play it by ear whether or not we would get up there in the snow but it turned so mild (still is) that all the snow had melted and it was easy going. In a fit of inspiration (to my weird little mind at any rate) I had seen some "piggy back morph suits" and ordered two for my sons for Christmas, plus one for myself just for the hell of it. They don't read my blog so I'm not giving anything away here. So I thought "what the heck" and decided to go to the board game evening wearing mine, and very fetching it was too (errr not!)!

My boobs aren't actually that big but it's not very flattering is it!
Towards the end of the evening I happened to mention that I was playing "Words with friends" on FB with an older gent in New York so my son decided we should all send him a "hi from France" message (we'd had a few at this point). He was delighted!


And moving seamlessly on, earlier this week I had my "exit medical" at work with a charming, older, replacement doctor. There wasn't really much for him to do as I had already seen the doctors I was most interested in seeing privately and had any reports he might need. I did ask him to put the exchange of correspondence with my Director on my file, explaining that his intransigence on my (and all of our) requests for occasional telecommuting arrangements was the reason I had resigned in the first place. It is too late for me but maybe it will help someone else! When I asked the nurse for a copy of my vaccination records she realized that I hadn't had a DTP shot in 20 years so offered to give me one there and then to bring me up-to-date! Why not - free vaccines! Buuut it's amazing how soon you realize just how many people actually thump you on the arm when they say hallo or goodbye! Damn that bugger hurt - but I was very brave, you'll be glad to know - stiff upper lip and all that!

Then, a "funny" during the week. I was targeted by a hacker on my work email. Someone who said "Treaders - email ......., password Thierry" you have been hacked. They have obviously somehow got hold of a partial password at some point because I tend to use Thierry-something as my password. Anyway, unless I wanted them to "out" me as having surfed pornographic web sites using my work's computer (ha ha!!!!) I had to pay $900 in bitcoins into their account or else! And it was no use trying to change my password as they would intercept each and any change from now on! I must have received about 15 of these emails in the last 10 days, so I just forwarded them to our Informatics people and wrote back to "superhacker" and told him to stick his demands where the sun don't shine!

And finally, all the Brits working in our organization have been invited for drinks next week with the British Ambassador. I don't suppose for one minute we will get any updates on Brexit so in which case I really hope it's gin and tonic time and not cucumber sandwiches and a cup of tea!

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Why bother paying for "professional" advice!

And so, the ongoing saga of how much tax I will be liable for on my lump sum continues! I mentioned previously that I was expecting to pay 7.5% tax on my lump sum and then the guy I consulted on tax matters (before handing in my notice) dropped the bomb shell on me that there was another tax - called "CSG" - payable on top. First it was an additional 8.8%, then it was an additional 17.2%, then it was .... Lord alone knows!!! Eventually, based on what he had told me, I was expecting to pay 7.5% tax and an additional 8.8% CSG! Even with that "clarified" I still couldn't figure out the figures he sent me after our meeting. So I went back and forth with him, and a colleague - who is soon to be in the same situation as me - went back and forth with our local tax authorities, who basically told her my guy didn't know his a$$ from a hole in the ground! Anyway, I was supposed to be attending a pre-retirement course up at the International Labour Organizition (which I have now missed due to workload) and wanted to put this question directly to their expert so it would be sorted once and for all. With that in mind, last night I sent my guy an email basically saying, "I understand the €22,000 tax on the lump sum - no problem. I get the €8,000 tax on the pension - no problem. But can you please explain to me exactly where the additional €9,000 comes in!" And then, this morning, I get an email from him to the effect "well maybe the 17.2% isn't correct - you should check with the tax authorities when it comes time to do your taxes"!!!! What the flip! That is why I paid him isn't it - to get "expert"advice!

Anyway, in the meantime my colleague forwarded my exchange of email with this guy to the tax authorities who said that he had totally got his knickers in a twist and was quoting figures based on such things as tax charged on rental property income and so on - which is not my case!!!! The tax lady again confirmed that the only tax to which I would be liable on the lump sum would be 7.5%!!! So my tax liability went from €37,000, down to €24,450 and then down (finally?) to €11,250 (which was the figure I was expecting to pay from the very beginning) and all that in the space of about four emails!!! So, like a €25,000 difference from one email to the next!  This lady said she would be more than happy to speak to me but I don't have the time at the moment. I am working late every night and need time to get my thoughts together, so maybe I will stop in and see her after I retire, since the tax will only be payable in 2020!  What a bloody mess, and can anyone tell me why one pays for "expert advice" only to find out that he is no expert! I sincerely hope this lady is right (I think she is - she works for the tax office after all and it would seem to confirm what other people have told me) but really!!!!!!

In other news, I thought the ceremonies to honour the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 were beautiful. Moreover it was sunny in London so it was more moving than usual, especially seeing the "old soldiers" marching by!  I don't usually like to bring politics up on my blog but I didn't believe even Trump could sink any lower - and then he exceeded all expectations by refusing to attend the ceremony in honour of the US marines who had died "because of the rain". Oh FFS!!!! Even assuming his helicopter couldn't make the trip, it was a one hour trip by car!!! I really, really didn't think he could sink any lower but .... he continues to surprise and disgust!

And talking of "idiots", my ex recently posted on FB a photo of two female military personnel in uniform with a caption underneath saying "can I get a thumbs up, a share and an ooooorrraaaaah for the good ole U S of A"!!!! Which was fine until somebody pointed out that they were Israeli solders! I mean, even I had spotted that but hey, if I ever go into stand-up comedy he would be comedy gold!

On a more positive note, a few months ago I bought four tickets to see the Glen Miller Orchestra at Geneva's Hotel Kempinski and what a fabulous evening that turned out to be. We are usually three friends who go to these kinds of event but I bought an extra ticket as a treat for my neighbour, since she had said ages ago how much she likes that kind of music. So on the Thursday night I went round to tell her that I had bought a ticket as a treat for her but she told me she couldn't go as she wasn't well!  Frankly she is (genuinely) never well and it is so sad to see. I love her to bits but I find her to be a very, very sad woman! She is (in her own words) an unhappily married woman, married to a domineering man. Now I believe you can only be "dominated" if you allow yourself to be dominated but after so many years married I feel she has had all the spunk worn out of her! Don't get me wrong, I don't live in that house and I don't know "the whole truth and nothing but the truth" but for various reasons I am inclined to believe her. Truth, of course, is subjective and that may be the truth as she sees/experiences it, but while her husband is lovely to me and always popping in to do favours and so on, I really do believe he treats her with complete contempt and disdain. He has had affairs in the past as a younger man and I think that marriage died a death then but I like them both. They are good neighbours to me but she is my friend.  The poor thing has spent her entire life living on cigarettes and coffee so she doesn't get fat because "M doesn't like fat women"!!! He doesn't??? Hey I've got a pair of knockers on me and they don't seem to bother him. My feeling is if my body offends you then don't bloody look! I won't go into detail but I have had occasion to put him firmly back in his place before and after he apologized for being out of line we are now back on a good footing. Anyway, as I said, the long and short of it is that she is a sad woman and a nervous wreck and I honestly think all those years of consuming cigarettes and coffee in a bid to stay slim are catching up with her. She is always ill with some ailment or other and a permanent hacking cough. As I say, I love her to bits but I honestly don't think she will make old bones!

The upshot is that she genuinely couldn't go to the concert so since her husband also liked Glen Miller he asked if he could use the ticket - no problem! So the three of us had an evening out with her husband (with her blessing) at a fabulous concert, after which we were literally "buzzing", they were that good. So, if you ever get a chance to see them and you like that kind of music - go for it, you won't regret it!



Friday, 9 November 2018

This and that!

It's been a little while since I posted (well apart from the farting video) but I have been frantically busy, this week in particular, getting home anywhere between 9-10 p.m. I honestly don't mind because I know this is my busy period in any case and there is a feeling of satisfaction when things start falling into place! That being said, I'm pretty tired right now so I haven't been online much lately.

Even though I have been working late and you would expect traffic to be easier by virtue of missing the rush hour, traffic is still just as awful as ever. In fact on Tuesday night I must have left here around 8 p.m. and it still took me 90 minutes to get home because, yet again, there was an accident in the run up to the toll booth. There were only two cars involved from what I could see but one was pranged and had ended up across the right-hand lane - very dangerous. They had it signaled and the emergency services were just making their way there but it would have been very, very easy indeed for another car to plough into them. I tell you, I won't miss that madness at all!

And talking of "that madness", I have just - about 10 minutes ago - sent another mail to HR asking where the heck my paperwork is, noting that my resignation letter was dated 1 October so we are looking at six weeks and counting! When I was in HR I could have all the paperwork prepared in one afternoon and even if we were busy nobody waited more than a couple of days. I am just itching to get my resignation/retirement signed, sealed and delivered.

Oh, and did you like yesterday's video post - that made me giggle so bad! Just my schoolboy-ish sense of humour I guess. I was watching TV the other night and that's what made me think of that video. Well let's back up a bit here shall we. I seem to have phases where I tend to watch certain types of TV programmes. For the longest time it was cookery programmes (because I was obviously going to become a world-famous cook), then there were the "Place in the Sun" type programmes where I was obviously going to up-sticks and move somewhere sunny. Oops, been there, done that - got the T-shirt. Then there would be the "renovate an old farmhouse" kind of programmes because I was obviously going to do that too. Then I moved on to "Snapped/Killer Women" because I was obviously going to .... oooooops, better not even go there I suppose, but suffice it to say I am very happily divorced! Anyway, at the moment it is all about emergency services, be it air ambulance, regular ambulance or ER kinds of programmes. Well, the other night I was watching an ambulance-type programme which was based in the West Midlands, so it was all the more interesting to me because I knew the places involved. What these programmes do for me is highlight the excellent emergency services that we have in the U.K. and this despite the fact that the NHS is slowly being crippled and these people are seriously underpaid. I mean, seriously! But what leaps out of the TV is the compassion that they have for their charges. The highlight of this one particular episode was when two lady paramedics were called out to an elderly gent complaining of pain which had moved up from his knee to his chest. He lived alone and had pancreatic cancer so they were aware that he was already on morphine but ran various tests on him and determined that his pain did not come from his heart. To the camera one of the ladies said that in many cases these people are frightened and lonely and don't always necessarily need much more than medical reassurance but sometimes maybe just a smile and a chat. So they went into the kitchen and made him a cup of tea (the solution to all ills!) and sat and chatted with him for 20 minutes, making sure that he understood that he had to go and see his GP on the Monday morning. By the end of their visit he was visibly improved even though they had not actually administered any medical treatment. As they headed towards the door he got up to accompany them out and to lock the door behind them, when all of a sudden he let out a prolonged, high-pitched ("alto" I think) fart that I swear lasted five seconds. They all burst out laughing, to which one of the paramedics said "problem solved" then! Ah, bless his heart!

In other news, this Sunday is Armistice Day of course, and the 100th year anniversary of the end of WWI. Traditionally in the UK for around 10 days prior we wear poppies in remembrance, the sale of  which allows the amazing British Legion to collect millions of pounds in aid of war veterans (from all conflicts) and their families. I am usually able to buy a poppy through a colleague who gets them from the British Consulate here in Geneva but this year I thought I would like something prettier and longer-lasting. So I decided to buy a poppy broach through the British Legion that I could wear every year and simply donate money at collection time. Anyway, I went onto their site and I don't know if it was just submerged by enquiries (hopefully for them) or whether my geriatric computer was about to give up the ghost, but every time I tried to put my selected broach "into the basket" it wouldn't let me. So after about 10 minutes of this I decided to give them a call - which of course took around 15 minutes to be answered. So much the better as far as I'm concerned because that hopefully meant they were selling-out! Anyway, in the end I got through to a very nice lady and placed my order for one broach at £15 with an additional £15 for postage! That's a lot of money for postage but, again, if it's for the British Legion, I have no problem with that. Buuuuuuuttt, just as we were finishing up I happened to glance at my computer and every "click to put in basket" seemed to have gone through all at once, leaving me with a total of 15 poppies at £15 each plus (I imagine) £15 each for postage! Yikes, while I'm more than happy to support the British Legion I hadn't planned on spending £450!!!! Not to worry, of course, because in the end I was able to empty that basket and hopefully will get my one-and-only poppy in time for the ceremony here in France on Sunday.
This is the broach I chose!



Friday, 26 October 2018

Ouch! Brrrrr! And I wish they'd make up their bloody minds!

Ouch! Well first of all, as in the past three years, two days ago I was able to pay a further 10% extra off my mortgage. I think I've explained before that the only time I can pay extra off my mortgage is if I pay 10% of the initial sum (obviously they don't want people to do this), so in my case it means I have somehow to cobble together 33,000 Swiss francs. This will be the fourth year in a row that I have been able to make this extra payment on top of my regular mortgage payments and I thank God I have been able to do it because that is what is going to allow me to retire at Christmas!

I always keep a copy of my original mortgage amortization schedule in my diary on the date the mortgage falls due (I pay every three months) and from that I can see that by doing this I have knocked an extra 114,000 Swiss francs (£89,000 or $114,000) off where my mortgage would have stood had I not made these extra payments! Yay me! I realize, of course, that I have been very fortunate to be able to do that but I'm just so, so glad that I knuckled down and threw (almost) everything I had at it! Not everything of course because I have still travelled but as I mentioned in a recent post, I cut everything else back as far to the bone as possible in order to be able to sock that money away!

On the "brrrrrr" side, we have been having glorious weather here still - no rain, and you can still easily go outside in the sunshine without your coats on (well the Brits can - everyone else seems to think it's "cold" enough to wear coats. What a bunch off wimps!!!!) Buuuuuttttt, apparently as from Saturday we are heading for fairly constant rain for a few days so I imagine the snow won't be too far behind. I'm just so glad that when I got my car serviced the other week I had them put my winter tyres on because as soon as the first snow flurries come the garages are swamped with people rushing to do the same, so again "yay me"!

And on the "I wish they'd make up their bloody minds" part, I had spoken to a colleague who lives near me (in France) and was telling her about the horrendous tax I was going to pay on the lump sum. In any case, I have resigned myself to paying it but the thought of it is more than a little painful, I can tell you. Anyway, since she will also be retiring shortly she contacted our local tax office and they basically said the info my tax guy had given me was baloney, and that the tax on the lump sum would work out at about 15% instead of the 22% he was talking about. So I forwarded to my colleague the explanations my guy had given me and she then "played tax ping-pong" with the tax authorities, which eventually led to the lady there basically saying that my guy "doesn't know his a$$ from a hole in the ground" (only she put it more politely) and offering to bring him up to speed!!!!! Sooooo, I have the name of another tax person that I intend to talk to and I will shortly be going on a pre-retirement course to be held in one of the large international organizations here where they bring in tax people from both Switzerland and France to talk about these issues (amongst other things), so I intend to put my case to them (in front of about 500 people I guess). Crikey! In any case, I have/had resigned myself to paying around 22% of my lump sum in tax so if I can get that down to around 15% I will be well pleased, but don't you think everyone should be "singing from the same song sheet on this matter"!!!!

And finally, on Wednesday night I went with Thérèse, the "Présidente" of our sewing club for the last 22 years, to the annual meeting of the local community centre groups. I was surprised to find out that there are about 14 groups in total who use the facilities donated by this particular commune for free (and who also receive a small subsidy from the commune) and we are, therefore, obliged to have a yearly meeting where each club must submit its accounts! That's a bit of a joke to me at least because I am the treasurer of the second-hand bookshop that we run in aid of various charities and for me that just means tracking spending/receipts and keeping any remaining cash in a tin under my bed! Still, this has to be done properly and it was pretty nice to find out more of what kinds of groups it is possible to join (you know, when you're not putting in 12-hour days working/commuting). Anyway, the big joke is that I am now the "Présidente" (so a little respect is in order don't you think) of our sewing club (despite not being able to sew!!!! - I do a bit of patchwork when I go, but can't sew) but then they only need someone to do the administrative work in any case! After the meeting everyone crashed out of the meeting room for drinks and snacks, but as it was nearly 10 p.m. and I hadn't even been home yet I bowed out (this time). So there you, go - another feather to add to my hat (and CV) when I finally get round to asking for French citizenship! I hope they are impressed!

Monday, 22 October 2018

This and that!

There's not a lot going on here at the moment. Well I am actually pretty busy at work but it's all routine stuff. There's not a lot of interesting stuff going on, is what I suppose I mean. I had another bloody awful few days' commute though. On Friday (12 October) I again took three hours to get to work. There was an accident on the motorway (turns out it was a four-car accident) which I saw ahead of time so decided to take the back road. Problem was, everyone and his dog decided to do the same thing so I ended up crawling to work yet again, getting in at 10 a.m. after leaving home at 7 a.m.!!! Aaargh! What is especially frustrating though is that although there were four cars involved in the accident, it was (seemingly) just a prang and no-one was hurt (thankfully) and so it was cleared pretty quickly. Had I stayed on the motorway I probably would have been in at least an hour earlier but who can know that in advance eh! Then on the following Monday and Tuesday central Geneva was blocked by a construction workers' strike, yet again causing me (and thousands of others this time) to be late for work. Double aaaarrggghhh!! Now I actually have some sympathy for them because the gist of what I can understand of their complaints is that when they get to 55 on a regular contract they then acquire the right (assuming certain conditions are met) to retire at 60, so what happens is that many, many construction companies effectively fire them at age 55 and take them back on as temporary staff, thus screwing them out of their guaranteed retirement rights. It isn't right or fair of course and I understand their frustration because goodness knows any long-time construction worker who makes it to 60 in that kind of hard, physical job, in my opinion, deserves to retire. That being said, this constant drip, drip, drip of commuting delays is doing my head in. Yet again, I am sooooo grateful to have put my notice in you wouldn't believe it, as I don't really see the traffic situation improving any time soon!

On another note, I got my latest electric bill plan for the upcoming year and it has gone down by €10 per month so that can't be bad given that EDF (the French electric company) have just put their prices up! Which got me to thinking, when my ex was still living with me, our electricity bill was €344 per month!!!! Yes, you read that right! About $400 or £300 per month!!!! I found out after he had gone that he had fixed the water heater to be on 24/7 and routinely left heaters running all day and night even when we were not home (and despite the fact that we have oil central heating)!!!! So my new bill works out at €80/month! Not bad really for this area and given the size of my house. Then there was the home telephone bill. €266/month ($300/£236/month)!!!! Yep great! I think I mentioned before that when I called the telephone company they explained to me that he had set up a contract for unlimited calls to the U.S. for €150/month plus €70/month to Canal+ (the French cable TV company) "just in case there were any good concerts on"!!! For Pete' sake, we could have afforded to fly all over the world to different concerts for that amount of money, and in any case he only called his parents about once every two months to the tune of about €30! I now have my house phone bill (plus Wifi) down to about €25/month so just by cutting those two bills down I was saving around €500/month! Of course, that's without his mobile phone bills, his car insurance (drink drivers pay horrendous insurance bills - that's if they can even get insurance afterwards). Yep, one time after we had separated our finances he had a mobile phone bill of €1,200/month and a home phone bill of about €800/month (in the same month). Add in the car insurance of €500/month as a "high risk" driver and I'm sure you can imagine how much I saved just by having him leave me!!!!

Actually, I called his mom last night as it was her birthday last week and I wanted to wish her a happy birthday. I was pretty fond of my in-laws and I occasionally call her just for a chat. Well we were on the phone for about 1 1/2 hours but I don't mind that at all (and in any case it doesn't cost €266 does it!). I never ask about him but I do get to hear how the rest of the family is doing, and occasionally to hear about him as she tells me some stuff - like the fact that he just bought himself a new, top of the range phone (so nothing's changed there then) and was pissed off when she didn't want his old one. She was then talking about her other son who is on invalidity and how she gets him to come up and help her with her garden (for which she pays him!!!!! - she is 83!!!!) but she has to be very careful what she says to him because "his eyes go black and he explodes into a fury"! So just like his brother then! The brother hasn't worked for years, lives with a woman who has had three kids by three different men and whose 25 year old daughter also lives with them and doesn't work either. In fact, they all live with her granddad (who is 94) and basically sponge off him, although what will happen to them when he pops off this mortal coil God only knows. So no-one works, no-one cooks, no-one cleans and the washing machine is broken and there's no replacement in sight because granddad won't buy a new one. What a lovely picture that paints. To be honest though, my ex is retired and why he can't go up and take care of his mother's lawn (they have a riding lawn mower) is beyond me, but then why would he treat her any better than he treated me. He never cut our lawn either - my neighbour always did it - and I did everything else!!!!! Uuuuurggghhh, I'm so glad I'm divorced. She was also telling me about a cousin of his who (seemingly) had a good marriage but then the husband took to drinking, lost his job and was rolling in at all hours of the night drunk, and (I'm guessing) aggressive since the cousin has now left and moved in with her mother!!! So I just said, "yeah, I know that feeling too, dreading the sound of that key in the lock". Now I don't really mean to pile it on but I think she deserves to know what kind of sons she produced. I have no idea how, actually, since my in-laws were decent, hard-working, church-going people and definitely did not raise their boys to be like that. Buuuuut, they all had those stinking tempers and I guess alcohol never did any of them any favours in that department as the sons are both evil drunks (even though mom didn't drink and dad only rarely)!

So eventually I got around to telling her about my decision to retire at Christmas, despite losing quite a bit of money by taking a lump sum to pay off my mortgage. So she asked "what mortgage - didn't P give you the house in the divorce?" HA! So that's what he's been telling them all Stateside then - what an evil, money-grabbing bitch I am I suppose. Oh man, oh man! Anyway, like I say, I was very fond of my in-laws and am happy to chat with her occasionally, but some of the stuff she comes out with never ceases to surprise me!

Other than that, the weather is glorious here, warm and not a spot of rain. We actually have a hosepipe ban in place - not that anybody would be watering their plants I guess, but no washing of cars and so on. Since I have come back from Sicily it has rained briefly one time and other than that I would say it hasn't rained for about three months! It's not good for the crops and our water levels are running really low, but for the moment I am enjoying this glorious Indian summer!

And finally, yesterday a friend and I went to town for the now-annual "Creative Hobbies Fair". We walked there and back, thereby getting in a good 90 minutes of walking, and yet again it was lovely, although I resisted the urge to spend on all  the beautiful items they had for crafting, particularly since I haven't even started the embroidery projects I bought there last year!!! They had put the entrance price up to €7.50, which I thought was a bit expensive for a small, small-town fair, but luckily I had received two free tickets so I was well pleased. They had also increased the parking to €2.50 from €2 (although, like I said, we walked) and the drinks and refreshments prices were also pretty steep, but all in all it was a pleasant way to kill a few hours, and the quilt display at the entrance was, as always, pretty impressive. That'll be me some day!







Monday, 15 October 2018

Our latest board game evening - and just too much partying for this old bird!

On Saturday night we had our latest, monthly board game evening at my neighbours' house. There were only eight of us there this time as quite a few of our group already had plans and I did wonder if it would be as much fun as usual - but it was every bit as much fun, probably because we could all easily play the same game. Yet again there was way too much food, although I found that we were very reasonable in the wine department, thankfully. We spent most of the evening playing a game called "Time's Up" where we split into four teams of two and each had to get our team mate to say certain words or phrases, either by giving clues or by miming, all the while being up against the clock! It wasn't easy as many of the answers were very "French-specific" - by which I mean French culture, TV, expressions and so on. I don't even have French TV so a lot of it went straight over my head but on occasion we stumbled across a few anglophone answers which tended to make up for all the "Frenchie" stuff. For instance, what is the name of the main character in The Big Bang Theory (answer: Sheldon Cooper - hope you got that one!).

Anyway, at one point I had to get D, my English friend, to say "Harrison Ford". Easy right! Well bugger me but do you think I could think of the name "Indiana Jones". It went straight out my mind. I seriously couldn't be on a programme like "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" because even if I knew the answers (unlikely, I admit) my brain just doesn't fire properly when I'm under pressure! So my solution to getting her to say "Ford" was to start singing "climb every mountain, FORD every stream"!!! Seriously! The French just looked at me like I was mad!! So Jen, my daughter-in-law (to be) suggested she say the word "hedgehog" in French - i.e. "hérisson" - which, for some reason, to Jen, sounded like "Harrison". OK, I can go with that I suppose, but I can't say we were on the same wavelength really. Then she asked D what make of car I drive - to which somebody yelled out "Toyota" (I drive a Ford). So in the end, "Harrison Ford" ended up coming out like "Hedgehog Toyota"! I guess you had to be there but I was doubled up, it was so funny! I also had to get her to say "Claude Monnet", so just said "how do you say "argent" in English?" and she stared at me and said "money"! I took that one as a win even if D had no idea what I was talking about!

We finally finished that game around 1 a.m. when Isabelle, our hostess, suggested another game - "Six qui prend" - a rather good card game which was new to me but good fun anyway. I ended up trudging home exhausted (all 20 metres of it) at around 2.30 a.m.!!!! Goodness, I'm too old for this partying malarky, I was so out of it the next day that I had to have a three hour siesta! The sooner I retire the better, I must say, if I'm going to keep partying like this!

Isabelle - miming God alone knows what!

A "smaller" mime obviously!

Jen - either with her swag bag or being Father Christmas!

Not sure what Philippe was miming with such gay abandon!

Jordan all smiley-faced!

Isabelle - looks like she's singing opera!