The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Tuesday 30 January 2018

I think I'm getting old!

Well aren't we all really, but just lately I have realized that while my eyesight is still pretty good (I just use glasses to read), when people are some distance away from me I can't always recognize them. At lunchtime I decided to walk into town to pick up a few groceries and a colleague was almost level with me before I recognized her. When I apologized she just laughed and said "you're not the only one"! I'm sure I'm not either but I do wonder if it has been going on rather longer than I realize. About 10 years ago my son and I were just setting out from home for work/school. It was dark and there are no streetlights in the village. As we past an oncoming car my son started laughing and said "that was Stan and he was waving to you", to which I replied that he could well have been my mother but I still wouldn't have recognized him. So he just said "mom, he's the only black man in the village" - and it was true. I live in a very small village and at one time Stan, who is Nigerian, really was the only black man in the village. It wouldn't have made any difference though 'cos I still wouldn't have recognized him. Told him to honk his horn next time!

Another sign of the times is that just yesterday I received my tickets for my trip to Costa Rica in my inbox. I read through them and looked online to check that I didn't need a visa (I don't) and if they recommended any vaccinations (again, they don't). But think back to not all that long ago when all this would have had to be done in person at a travel agent's. While there are obviously some negatives to the internet and the worldwide web, I would say 99% of it is so positive. Let's face it, I wouldn't be sitting here writing this (or have any of you reading it) if it wasn't for the internet would I!

Which brought to mind a rather funny story from when I first came out to work in Geneva in 1980. Of course in those days we still used typewriters (and quills and ink and parchment paper and abacuses - ok I'm joking about the last two). The unit I was working for at the time was drawing up a lot of statistical data for use by a French-speaking country on tariff lines/imports, etc. Incredibly boring stuff. You know, "tariff line 1098.00.10 - leather goods not further worked than ....". You get the idea. BORING! But our job was to type up around 100 A3 tables of tariff lines which had been produced by our statisticians in English. These would then be sent to translation so we would have to leave a big gap after each English text in order for the French typing pool to type in the French equivalent. It was a hit and miss affair (with lots of tippex). Since these were A3 tables we had to use the big typewriters with the extra-wide platens (the roller bit where the paper is fed through) and every time I did a carriage return my colleague had to duck or she would get pushed off her seat. But one day one of the statisticians came in in quite a temper and asked who had prepared this batch of tables "because they were rubbish and he wasn't going to waste his time checking any more". I took a look at them and we realized they had been typed by L, who was a sloppy worker at the best of times. So he said to ask her to go through and check and correct all her work and oh, just as an example "everywhere I had written furskins, not further prepared or worked than ..... she had typed foreskins! Now this statistician was French so I don't think he realized what a foreskin was but J and I nearly bust a blood vessel trying not to pee ourselves laughing. Oh Lordy did we have some fun. And to top it all, we were plowing our way through the next batch of tables when leaving time rolled around, so J took those that had been finished (which was the majority of them) and sat them on her trash can while she cleared her desk. The next day we couldn't find them anywhere - figured the cleaners must have thrown them away when they emptied the trash!

Monday 29 January 2018

A rather nice weekend!

Well we finally got some nice weather this weekend after what seemed like forever and a day of rain. I noticed that the crocuses and daffs are starting to come up (they come up later here than in Geneva because of the altitude) so while I know spring is a while off it really feels like it's on its way. My favourite season!

I spoke to my ex OH (the friend I was seeing for six years after my divorce) and he mentioned that he wanted to go see the new Gary Oldman film, The Darkest Hour, so I suggested we go together. And you know what, it was really nice to spend some time with him again after splitting up over two years ago. I know it will never work out between us in the long run but it is nice to have remained friends. What's more we both enjoyed the film. I think Oldman is a wonderful actor (loved him in Dracula) and he managed to portray a moody and grumpy Churchill with a real twinkle in his eye. Loved it. And the make-up/prosthetics!!!! Wow, just wow. What talented artists those people are to be able to transform Oldman into an absolute replica of Churchill!

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill
I saw an interview with Oldman recently and he was saying how ill he became after filming due to having to wear the prosthetics and the fat suit day in and day out. Said it took about four hours to get him kitted up as Churchill but it was definitely a success. Then he said having to smoke all those cigars while filming made him as sick as a dog as he had given up smoking years ago, so while everyone was toasting the new year in he ended up spending a couple of days in hospital getting a colonoscopy and getting himself sorted out. Still, the end result was definitely worth it as it was a great movie.

Then on Sunday my friend and I decided to walk into town to the 1940s-1980s vintage fair. To be honest it was a bit small and not really what I was expecting but there was quite a bit of 1950s paraphenalia, a few bikers, loads of 1950s cinched waist dresses (I wish) and some rather nice jewellery but not the kind of stuff that suits me, unfortunately. I did buy myself a nice red polka dotted head band (I wear them when working in the garden) - oh the expense!! and bumped into my kids on the way out just as they were arriving.  I took a picture of them at the entrance then put the headband on my oldest son (but promised him I wouldn't put that photo on Facebook). Still he did look rather cute!


So while the fair wasn't that great at least my friend and I got out into the sunshine and managed to fit in two 45-minute walks to boot. Not bad considering (apparently) Geneva was shrouded in cloud all day. Happy days!

Friday 26 January 2018

Justice finally!

I was so glad to see that narcissistic, shriveled excuse for a man, Larry Nassar, sentenced this week to 175 years for his crimes against his young victims. What brave young women they were to stand up and face that pig to demand justice. I was also glad that the judge in this case was a female judge, Judge Aquilina. I think she was eloquent and civil but she also let that POS know exactly what she thought of him. That toerag finally got his comeuppance and it was a woman that handed it to him! These narcs think they are all powerful and that the rules don't apply to them. They can turn on the tears when it suits them but in the end it really always has been and always will be "all about them" in their minds. So finally some justice. Well done Judge Aquilina and well done the US.

Compare that to the case of serial rapist John Worboys who is up for parole in the UK anytime now (if he hasn't already been released). This pervert taxi driver offered young women a drink in his cab after flashing money at them claiming he had just won the lottery. Problem was, the drinks were drugged and the young women raped. He was convicted in 2009 of the rape of 12 women I believe - who knows how many there were in reality - and was given an "indeterminate" sentence. That pervert is due to be released anytime now. I don't always agree with all things America but it seems to me they are getting an awful lot right when it comes to sentencing these sickos. Shame on the British justice system.

And finally, I have been having problems with my French bank for the last 2-3 months. Every month I transfer €2,000 to my current account with them from my Swiss, salary account, and also 2,000 Swiss francs to my Swiss account with them to cover my mortgage. In November the €2,000 took forever to be credited to my French account and when I chased it up they said there were "new regulations whereby the bank had to check the origin of my funds (or something like that) and ensure that I was legally resident in France". I have lived in this house for 28 years and they have my French tax declaration information so .... Anyway, I chased it up with my French banker and eventually it was transferred but very late. Then along comes December payroll. My bank transfer left Switzerland on 22 December and 10 days later it still had not been credited to my French account (normally this would go through on the same day). After about 11 days the transfer was refused and the money was returned to my Swiss bank account. In the meantime I'm running up overdraft fees for a transfer that has been refused by the French bank. When I asked the Swiss bank to chase this up they explained that they had been having endless problems with this bank lately with many customers for this very reason. It likely stems from new French banking regulations but I had never been informed of them and, as I said to my French banker, "what more do you want from me. I'm at a loss to know what else I can provide to prove that I am legit". I mean, it's not like as if it even looks like drugs money or anything. I'm sure the drug mafiosi are not into piddling amounts like €2,000 and this transfer has been going on for the last 28 years, for pete's sake! I think it is more a worldwide case of proving that people are really living where they claim to be living and not evading taxes (this is a big issue for US citizens in particular but I am not American). So eventually I decided to block my automatic transfer and have now moved on to the thoroughly modern means of withdrawing cash from the Swiss bank and carrying in my purse to the French bank to deposit it. As I said to the French lady "it sure ain't progress is it". I'm not sure when this will get resolved but in the meantime I shall continue to deposit cash only on pay day. The really stupid thing is, though, that the Swiss franc transfer to pay my mortgage continues to go through uninterrupted. I can't figure it out, I tell you. But I did write to the French bank and have them recredit me all charges incurred as a result of the "irregularities" (their term) on my account.

But, that brings me back to the issue of my mortgage. I pay my mortgage to the French bank but in Swiss francs every three months, and about a week before the due date of each payment I put a copy of the original loan amortization agreement in my diary to make sure that I am aware that it is about to be debited. Anyway, I happened to glance at the outstanding amount that would have been pending as at end January 2018 if I had not started to overpay three years ago. I was stunned to see that in the last three years I have overpaid my mortgage to the tune of 88,000 Swiss francs! Or almost $100,000! I knew I was doing well but really! So on that basis, by my calculations I can have the darned mortgage paid off exactly two years from now. Yippee. That being the case I will be free to retire any time I want after that. Wow - has it ever been so worth it!

Thursday 25 January 2018

It's all or nothing isn't it!

I mean, there was me saying just the other week that it was "all quiet on the western front" and now this week it seems to be non-stop. Not that I'm complaining but for some strange reason it's starting to feel like I used to feel when I was young and single in Geneva many, many moons ago. You know, footloose and fancy free and going out all the time and having a blast. It's a great feeling, I have to admit.

Monday I had my sewing club (yeah, exciting I know), Tuesday I was at a retirement party and then Wednesday back in Geneva for my Thai cookery course. Then this Saturday I am going to the cinema with my former OH (we're still friends) to see the Darkest Hour, then off to the retro-fair on Sunday with my kids. I was like this when I was single but I'm not sure my energy levels will be the same this time around somehow!

Last week I felt like I was permanently hungry (I get like that occasionally - it kinda reminds me of when I was pregnant - but I'm not, obviously!!!). Some days I felt like "just hook a conveyor belt up to my mouth and shovel the food along why don't you". Of course you can't keep going on like that so I figured it was time to get the gym clothes back out, and guess what? I've been pretty darn good this week and I feel great. I must have walked either 30 or 60 minutes at least five times this week (I can't remember exactly) and have been to the gym twice already and have actually been adding moves to my work out. Great eh. Actually I'm a pretty lazy bugger when it comes to the gym and I can't stand fitness classes so I dawdle along doing my own thing until, I guess, I start to get just a tiny bit fitter so decide to add in a few extra moves. Long may it last, is all I can say, as I feel great. I trudged up to the US mission Tuesday lunchtime (and then slithered back down in the mud after all the rain last week) so yesterday I decided that instead of risking the mud again I would walk into town at lunch time to get my walk in and pick up a few groceries at the same time. It was a beautiful sunny day and as I walked along the lake I heard people yelling and looked over the wall to see seven young people diving into the lake!!! In swimsuits - no wet suits! I mean, yes it was a beautiful day but it was still January in Switzerland! I swear I would have a coronary if I did that! Which reminds me, about 10 years ago my ex and I had tickets to see Lionel Richie at Geneva's Arena concert hall (great concert, very professional). It was in March and when Lionel took the mike to introduce his band he said how he lived in LA and he couldn't believe that it was March in Switzerland and we were all in shorts! It was true too, it was that warm. Very strange times we live in right!

I think I mentioned sometime ago that we had set up a board game evening between a group of neighbours and Valérie - our next hostess - sent round an email today asking for a head count for next Saturday when we will all be up at her new home in the mountains. Jordan and Jen will both be coming again this time so it seems each time we meet the numbers are going up. I'm really glad we started doing it too as between neighbours who are already friends it is a great way to have fun and have the kids join in (one couple have 11 and 14 year old kids).  When I sent Jordan and Jen a text message to ask them to let me know if they were coming so that I could let Valérie know, Jen confirmed that they would both go (Jordan wasn't a definite to begin with) and oh by the way, both my kids and their partners plus another mate would be going to the 1940s-80s retro fair in town on Sunday and should we meet up? Weather-permitting I will be walking down with my friend.It will be great to get together with my kids as a group again!

And then last night I had my second (and final) Thai cookery course in central Geneva. We made Pad Thai and a chicken-chili soup which were both delicious. It was a very nice group too (they aren't always) and the tiny Thai teacher was a doll. In addition to trying to up my exercise I have been (vaguely) trying to follow Weight Watchers online - yeah, I know - taking a Thai cookery class doesn't really fit totally with that - but I have been printing off a few of their recipes as I really want to give it a serious shot this time. This isn't the first time I have signed up but I lose interest very quickly when I can't figure the points system out for homemade dishes. It's a pathetic excuse really but Tania in blog land gave me a tip on how to calculate that using their app, so here I go again.

Oh I don't think I mentioned either that just before Christmas I treated myself to a private 3-hour session with the make-up lady who had done Lily and the bridesmaids' make-up for the wedding last year - trying to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse I guess! Anyway, she was lovely and absolutely not trying to push make-up sales at all. I did, however, buy two make-up pencils from her and she told me she would have to send me the bill after Christmas as she couldn't remember how much they cost. So I waited and waited then two days ago I thought sod it, I'm going to remind her. I don't like being dishonest and as it turns out she had indeed forgotten! Which coincidentally puts me in mind of another story from about 15 years ago. Two friends and I had gone out to a Thai restaurant (can you see a theme building here) for lunch one time. We all had the set menu and wine (it's perfectly normal over here to drink at lunchtime). When the bill came Sue said "Oh, oh, dilemma. They've billed us for the food but not for the drinks, what do we do?" Well it took about two seconds for each of us to pipe up that we needed to get the bill corrected so we called the waitress over and explained that she had forgotten the wine. So then she said that no she hadn't forgotten the wine but "that man over there paid for it for you"! And it was my boss!!! The three of us heaved a sigh of relief when we realized what had happened. But can you imagine if we had "done a runner" and said nothing about it! I would have been mortified. I'm just so glad we were honest as you never know when it will come back to haunt you do you!

And finally, I was looking through the Geneva newspaper this morning and the local police had posted a video taken by cctv on Saturday night in a parking lot in central Geneva. This drew my attention because I mentioned previously that I was uncomfortable going to the parking lot late at night after my cookery course (it turns out it's not too bad as the parking lot is right next to a sports centre and a fitness club so there have always been loads of people around when I get there). But this video was not of a woman being robbed, it was, seemingly, a video of a couple arguing and then the guy lit into this young woman and started beating the hell out of her. He grabbed her by her hair, by her wrist, kicked her feet out from under her and was seriously beating the crap out of her. The cctv operator called the police and the affair was sorted with "no charges being brought"!! I guess she was too scared to press charges even if it was all there on tape. As I said to my colleague, if that's what goes on in "public" can you imagine what that poor young woman goes through in private. I can only hope that the police override her and press charges against him and that she gets away from that pig!

Monday 22 January 2018

Time to dust off the arc!

Crikey, I swear it hasn't stopped raining since Christmas Day. Well we have had maybe two days where it didn't rain but other than that, I think I'm developing webbed feet it's rained that much. Still, growing up in England you do kinda get used to it so I don't find it depresses me as much as some of my colleagues. In any case I'll take rain over snow in town any day. They have forecast slightly better weather during the week - up to 13 degrees on Wednesday and bright sunshine so I guess there is that to look forward to, if only briefly. Hindsight being 20/20, it's probably a good job we neighbours dug up our back gardens at Easter and laid drainage trenches - 'cos they're certainly being tested at the moment.

Since I need to get back to the "I have to lose weight malarky" I actually trudged up to the gym at lunchtime.  Trouble is, when it rains the gym is packed as people don't want to go out running. But I made it and I have to say I always feel so much better afterwards, even though I only do a namby pamby little stretching routine. It does my back and neck the world of good! Just gotta keep it up now I suppose.

So what else is new. Not a lot really. I saw on the UK news last week that somewhere in the south of England (I forget where) they have opened a "menopause cafe", where women can get together to commiserate with each other over the trials and tribulations of the menopause. Not sure I would go to it but even so menopause did come as a bit of a surprise all the same. The biggest thing I guess was the weight gain (around 16 kg - about 35 lbs, I would guess) and at one point I felt like I wanted to cry all the time. When I spoke to our work's doctor I told her this and she just laughed and said "if I was married to your husband I would want to cry all the time too" (she knew all the horror stories of my marriage, as you can see). Strangely enough, that was very reassuring as I obviously wasn't really going mad! In the end though as I was occasionally finding it difficult to hold it together at work I went to my gynae and he put me on HRT and it was wonderful! It changed my life and - between you and me - it made me as horny as hell! But don't tell my kids! Seriously, he put me on quite a strong dose at first to stop my periods and all of a sudden I felt how young boys must feel when they hit puberty! Perpetually horny! Damn, it was that good! You know it's working when you get on a Swiss bus, look the short, fat hairy driver over and think "hallo baaaabbby"! Not that I was complaining! Oddly enough it was right about this time that my husband left me but hey, not to worry. In my books that was just an added bonus (if you know what I mean). Anyway, after about a year my doctor put me on a weaker dose (shame!!!) and off my own bat I decided eventually to lower it again by taking just two tablets a week, which seems to work for me. As my doctor said, at this point it's really just therapeutic for you isn't it and he was right. I know some people are totally against HRT but for me it was a life saver, I can tell you. Which puts me in mind of an old Victoria Wood joke:

Betty to Maggie: I hear they're bringing out a new magazine called "All you ever needed to know about the menopause".
Maggie to Betty: Does it come monthly?
Betty: No, why would it?

It tickled me at the time!

And what about the situation with the US government closing down eh!  I think 2013 was the last time where certain services were closed for two weeks - which got me to thinking - I wonder what state many people would be in if all of a sudden they were short two weeks' salary? It's a sobering thought and Dave Ramsey's exhortations to save 3-6 months expenses is indeed a very good one. Since I am saving up hard to try to pay off my mortgage early I do indeed probably have 4-6 months of expenses in the bank, but that wasn't always the case, and certainly not when I was married. In fact, by slamming as much as I can down on my mortgage I think I can have my 17-year mortgage paid off in just over eight years - so in about two years from now it will be gone and I can retire. But, back to my original point, it must be a nerve-wracking time for some US government employees and even if it is only a two-week closure like the last time I'm sure it will hit some people hard. Very disturbing times indeed. Let's hope they can get it sorted out, if only for the sake of all those employees whose livelihood is being affected through no fault of their own. Of course in their case it is only temporary - Carillon anyone! What a bloody nightmare!

And finally, my local town has a big exhibition centre (called a "foire" over here) where they host many fairs all year round. This weekend they are hosting a retro-fair covering the period 1940-1980 and all the fashions and furniture styles from those decades. Jordan's girlfriend wants to go with me and I don't know yet whether my DIL wants to go although I did mention it to her because I know she loves 1960s furniture. I hate that stuff because I grew up with it, but I do love the 1960s fashions, which, now that Call the Midwife is back on TV, I am getting to appreciate all over again. Another good reason to lose this weight I think - I would love to get back into some fashionable clothes as opposed to the "practical" beauties that I have been wearing of late. Onwards and upwards, as they say!

Thursday 18 January 2018

Delicious Thai food!

Well my cookery course last night was just wonderful. Probably the best course so far (they aren't all good). Since I finish work at 17.30h and the course started at 18.30h I decided to walk across town, figuring it would take me about 40 minutes and I would have time to grab a coffee beforehand. What I hadn't banked on was how cold it was walking along the lake front. Crikey, it was freeeeezing! I made it in 35 minutes but I'm sure having icicles dangling off the end of your nose will never be a good look on anybody!

The group was made up of the lady instructor and nine pupils - six women and three men. In fact, one (presumably married) couple came along with their 25-ish-something daughter, which I thought was a lovely way to spend an evening together. The first dish we made was a starter of Thai ravioli stuffed with chicken and shrimp. The teacher had us all doing the cutting and smushing and so on and then all rolling our own ravioli parcels. I think she overestimated a bit as we ended up making 64, but served with sweet chili sauce they were absolutely delicious!

After that she had us cutting up rump steak and all kinds of other delicious ingredients to make Thai beef with basil, and again it was fabulous. She was very good in that she had us all doing the preparation and then we all  had to make our own beef dish in the wok, while she stood by giving instructions and/or encouragement. Just as a "by the way", it was the first time I had ever used coriander (cilantro) root on its own - not the leaves, just the roots. You live and learn I guess. At the end of the class we all sat down to eat our culinary creations and this being Switzerland there were a couple of bottles of wine on the table too! So we got to enjoy a lovely home-made dinner and then take the leftovers home too.  What's not to like!

As part of this same course we have another class next week where I think we will be making Pad Thai and - if I remember correctly - chicken soup with coconut milk. Lovely! I generally find that I am too tired to want to commit to an ongoing course but doing these one or two-off courses is just perfect for me.

Since I was on my own I didn't want to hang about too long before leaving for my bus because, sadly, as a sign of the times I am a little nervous making my way back to a pretty empty parking lot at 10 in the evening. But, everything was fine, and since the parking lot is right  next to a sports centre there are generally quite a few people about. So marks out of 10 - a definite 10 for this course.

On a totally different note, I see that the UK has just named it's first ever "Minister for Loneliness", and while it has a rather comic ring to it I'm glad to hear that some attempt is being made to address this dreadful problem. Of course, it was an issue dear to the late MP Jo Cox (who was murdered by a lunatic with "mental health issues"). I hope they really do achieve great things with this initiative because it seems to me a problem that shouldn't really be that difficult to solve. I wish I could be named "Minister for Loneliness" - my ideal job I think, but until then I guess I will just have to keep chattering on obliviously to all and sundry.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

All quiet on the western front!

It's been pretty quiet here since Christmas, hence the lack of posts! After Christmas we had what seemed like enough prolonged rain to start thinking about getting the arc ready. I mean, seriously, about 10 days of non-stop rain, which of course meant that it was snowing in the mountains. All good for the resorts of course, as opposed to last year when there was nothing over the Christmas period. Then of course the wind picked up and some of the ski resorts had to suspend skiing as it was just too dangerous, and finally some (lucky) devils got snowed in at Zermatt. Frankly I can think of worse places to be snowed in than Zermatt, although you would probably need pretty deep pockets as Zermatt's prices are pretty prohibitive at the best of times. After record snowfalls which completely blocked the access lines, some people were helicoptered off the mountain but within three days the train access was back up and running. All exciting stuff I suppose.

For we lesser mortals it was back to work and having the snow stay up in the mountains was great as I really hate driving on the blooming stuff. That being said, we have had some pretty windy days and nights and when I went to leave for work this morning I had to get the broom out of my garage and push the snow off my car before I left. The odd thing is, though, that just five minutes down the road in my little local town it was pretty much all clear.  I guess maybe just that 100 metres difference in altitude makes all the difference!

Things at work have been just ticking over. I have another couple of meetings coming up in March but they are fairly routine so I can get most of the work done ahead of time. My big meetings are in July and December and they take about 3-4 months each to prepare so that keeps me out of trouble for a while, I suppose.

On the exercise front I was pretty good last week. Managed to walk four times, either into work in the morning or at lunchtime and then went to the gym one time but I have to admit I couldn't be faffed so far this week. One of my Monday evening sewing clubs has decided not to meet in the evenings this term as some of the older ladies don't want to go out in the evenings when the weather is yucky - pretty understandable I suppose, so I have been sticking with my other Monday evening club. And guess what, the Présidente and the two assistants have announced that they no longer want those responsibilities any more so the club would effectively be disbanded, after 20 years, next June. Now I was speaking to one of the other ladies and saying it was a shame to lose the use of the room if some people wanted to continue. The local commune lets us use it for free and will even give us a small subsidy if we need to buy supplies, although to be honest with everyone paying €40 for the year we haven't needed that subsidy so far. So to make a long story short, it looks like I may end up becoming the next Présidente! Ha what a joke that is, since I can't sew. Really! I'm taking patchwork lessons but as for sewing itself - forget it. Actually, based on that logic I should probably go into politics too because as far as I can see not many politicians (whatever their persuasion) really know what they are doing either. Still, it seems it would involve just doing the administrative side of it, which I don't mind at all, so if I can get another lady to go along with me and keep the second set of keys for when I can't make it, it looks like I will have a new role shortly!

Other than that, what else is new. Oh, this evening I shall be attending a Thai cookery class, which I am quite excited about, although I find going out after work - particularly in the winter - to be very tiring. In Switzerland the big supermarket (the equivalent of Tescos or Wal-Mart) is called Migros and they seem to have a finger in every pie - supermarkets, travel, insurance, banking and evening classes, etc. so I am taking this class (and another again next week) at the Migros evening class centre downtown. When I first arrived in Geneva I lived in central Geneva as a single girl for five years and never stayed in one single evening! God, talk about staying power. I had a boyfriend and saw him regularly, obviously, but I think I did every one of the Migros' evening classes - sailing (loved it), sewing (I was the youngest by about 40 years), tai chi (burrrrk - hated it), cookery. You name it I had a bash at it. Actually looking at my mortgage pay-off figures I could well have my house paid off in two years (at which point I can retire) and like Sam over at a New Frame of Reference I realize I like structure and like to be busy, so I can see myself getting more involved in classes - mainly in France - but also at the Migros, where there is a better (if more expensive) selection, when I am retired. Although I have a couple of years to go, the planning of it all is pretty nice, I can tell you.

And finally, in a couple of weeks I will be off on my winter holiday to Costa Rica. I can't wait. I am travelling with a new (to me) group and they don't have the most direct flights for some reason (Geneva/London/Toronto/Costa Rica) but I am really looking forward to it. Having missed out on my winter vacation last year because of the upcoming wedding, I can't wait for this one as it always feels like spring is just around the corner when I get back. I just hope that holds true!

Friday 5 January 2018

I blame it on Sam!

Only a couple of days ago Sam over at a New Frame of Reference was talking about the work projects she and her hubs were hoping to get done around the house, which to prioritize and how to go about saving for it. I pitched in with my ever-growing list of stuff that needs to be done sooner or later and bugger me, wouldn't you know it, my water heater gave up the ghost Wednesday night. I had felt the water not really heating up for a couple of days but on Wednesday morning I ended up having a cold shower! It seems strange to me that these things never seem to blow up in the summer when a cold shower would be welcome, but in January when it's minus whatever .... that was one of the quickest showers I ever had, I can tell you.  Not that I can complain I suppose as that thing must be about 20 years old but .... Anyway, I sent my (plumber) son a message asking what I should do about a replacement. My water heater's capacity is 300 litres which has been plenty for us over the years, but he told me that when it came time to replace it maybe just go with a 150 litre tank, since I am on my own. I wasn't too sure about that thinking that I wouldn't want to run out of hot water if/when I have visitors, so I was more inclined to go with a 200 litre. My house is technically a five-bedroom so I also didn't see the point in one day advertising it for sale as such with only a tea kettle capacity for hot water.

As luck would have it (for me - maybe not for them) Jordan and Jen were both off yesterday so he said he would take a trip down to Cluses where his company buys their professional supplies as he thought they were of a superior quality. In the end he agreed with me that the 150 litre tank would be too small so was going for the 200 litre tank when the guy in the shop said that for only €30 more he could get the 300 litre tank, so that's what they did.  The best bit was though, that when the guy asked them where they wanted to load it they pointed to J's little Ford Fiesta and the guy just laughed and said it wouldn't fit!  Not to be outdone, J and Jen laid the back seats down, pulled the passenger seat waaaaay forward and heaved the thing into the back, although with the tail end sticking out! Poor Jen had to ride home with her nose almost touching the windscreen, but since they are both as stubborn as each other she didn't mind.

It gave us a giggle though because I'm sure we've all done it. You know, gone to IKEA and bought a shedload of stuff and then wondered how the hell you were going to get a double bed into the back of your mini. Or bought that huuuuuge Christmas tree from the farm, shoved it across the back seat of the car and then had every passing car manage to chop bits off it as they went by, thereby leaving you with a twig by the time you got home!

Anyway, by the time I got home from work Jordan and Jen had got that bugger down into my basement and got it all hooked up in 30 minutes.  The real difficulty, of course, was getting the old one back up the spiral staircase. As I walked through the garage, Jordan and all 100 lbs wringing wet of Jen were underneath that bloody thing pushing, with my 70 year old neighbour at the top of the stairs hauling on a rope! Turns out they are all three as stubborn as each other and blow me if they didn't get that bugger out of there.  What can I say, I am just so eternally grateful to the three of them that they got it done so quickly! Oh and as an aside, J was looking at the state of my bathrooms - ok, I admit it - I somehow managed to mention what a mess they are - and he was saying what he could and couldn't do himself. I don't know if or when, but he said he might be willing to take on part of the project when he gets time! God love him. The blessings of having a plumber for a son! Now if only the other one had been a hairdresser, or a car mechanic, or .....

And finally ladies, any suggestions please? We will shortly be having our next board game evening between neighbours. At the first one (at my house) we were only six, at the next we were 10, and we may well be 12 at this next one. Since we all take a dish I was looking for an idea as to what to take. I don't mind sweet or savoury (or both), but since it isn't at my house it should probably be something that doesn't need reheating. I'm just not very inspired at the moment so any suggestions gratefully received! And on that note, I wish you all a lovely weekend. And for those of you in the north eastern US - stay safe!

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Out with the old!

First of all, I wish you all a happy new year - full of health, wealth and happiness. I hope your Christmases were good too. My break was lovely with the boys and their wives plus a friend coming over for Christmas dinner. I didn't make turkey but cooked a sublime filet of beef - which was more thanks to the quality of the beef than anything I did to it - but it really was good. Because I love my kids I also tried to make yorkshire puddings but while they were better than usual they were still a bit soggy to my liking. Oh, well, keep on trying I guess.  We exchanged presents, played a few silly games and then just had a really nice time chatting and being together for a few hours. Now that's my idea of a lovely Christmas. I actually also finally showed them my blog so if they want to take a look at it they can. After everyone left I plonked my unwashed self down on the sofa and read for the next seven days as while I had all kinds of wonderful plans for the rest of the week in the end it was just too, too inviting to do bugger all. I kinda looked like Phyllis Diller by the end of the week (how's that for showing my age)!

Phyllis Diller
After that, no plans for New Year's although I did stay up until 1 a.m. French time to watch the fireworks in London and Edinburgh. Lovely, but I'm also glad it's all over too. I think it's all the celebrating/partying you do during the month of December with friends and colleagues and so on that wears me out so like many people I am glad to get back to a routine and slow down, even if it does mean back to work! 

On New Year's day I actually decided to go through all my "favourites" from my blog lists and can you believe it took me over two hours to delete those I was no longer reading (shows you how many I had been following doesn't it)! I found that my favourites list was just so long that I was getting swamped so I went through all of them and just kept hitting delete if I couldn't remember why I was reading them in the first place! It's not that I don't like those blogs any more but sometimes the blog changes and no longer suits, other times my centres of interest have changed and so on, and then of course there are some bloggers who just seemed to have disappeared - I hope they are ok. Sonya Ann over at A Mom, Money and More you are sorely missed my dear. I hope all is well. I also like a blogger who has now disappeared and who had the absolute goofiest style that I loved. Hyperbole and a Half disappeared quite some time ago but I kept her on my favourites as she was such a character. I think, if I remember correctly, she sometimes talked about her struggle with depression so, again, I hope she is ok. On the positive side, by jumping through some of my remaining "favourites" and seeing which blogs they are following, I have discovered some lovely new ones. Since I enjoy stories about Britain during WWII I am really enjoying Carolyn's blog over at "The 1940s Experiment". Not only does she have some fascinating (to me) insights into the 1940s period but she has very bravely been using the wartime "rations" diet to try to lose a substantial amount of weight. It has come off and gone back on again but she is still heading in the right direction and is a real trooper!

Browsing through other people's blogs has also, on occasion, led to their book recommendations and as I am an avid reader I am looking forward to trying out some of these books! Win-win, I guess!

Oh, and talking of other people's blogs, I would like to thank Anne over at New Happenings for organizing the "international bloggers Christmas card swap" and also Jane in Ontario (Crabapple Landing), Kylie in Australia (I'll have to check back for her blog name - but it was really weird for this blogger to get a Christmas card with Santa in a cozzie carrying a surf board!) and Sue in California (not sure if she has a blog) for their lovely cards.

Anyway, this morning it was back to work for me in the pouring rain. It wasn't cold (about +5° I think) but the rain was belting down and the wind was howling, but again the wind wasn't cold and the traffic was fabulous as the kids haven't gone back to school yet. Just as I was about to walk through the turnstyle to get into work I spotted a rather large sticker that had been stuck to the ground outside which said "Bollocks to Brexit"! Since my company is very involved in things such as Brexit I guess there can be no doubt about the phantom sticker-hound's feelings can there? Short and to the point!

On a slightly different note I was reading in the UK press this week that a "man" (if you can call him that) has just pleaded guilty to murdering his wife with a claw hammer. This "man", as it turns out, had served prison time for murdering his first wife, had then murdered his second companion, and since he was now out of jail he had the opportunity to murder this poor lady! Dear God alive, how many chances do these people get! It seems to me there is something very, very wrong with the British justice system that this piece of scum has been able to kill three women. I don't often envy the way the US does things because I think we are very, very different culturally but just for once I wish this bastard had come up against the US justice system rather than ours.

And then this week we had the announcement of the next bunch of "stars" who will be appearing in the latest Celebrity Big Brother. Frankly calling most of them "celebrities" makes my brain explode. I think this time around "in honour of women" all the "celebrities" will be women, although I'm not totally sure of that. Most seem to be reality show trash and one who was hinted at as a possible contestant was someone who "had almost shagged a (total dumb ass) British footballer"! Some claim to fame eh! Now I admit I have never watched this crap, although I tried really, really hard for about 10 minutes once but I could feel my brain frying so turned it off. The other big joke was that a "rumoured Kim Kardashian confident" might be on it! Say what! What the hell has KK ever kept confidential. I give up. But one comment I saw in the British press said "from suffragettes to this lot. Where did it all go wrong? I couldn't have said it better myself!

And finally, because I can see how long-winded I am getting, I have to mention Mrs. Brown's Boys. For those that don't know, Mrs. Brown is supposedly an Irish widow with six stereotypically over-exaggerated kids. You know, a priest, a ne'er-do-well son who has been to prison, a "sensible" one, an "eternal spinster daughter" and Rory, the gay one. It is all over the top and there is quite a bit bad language but, while I feel it has gone downhill latterly because it just isn't possible to keep up that level of "funny", I still like it - for the time being anyway. The writer and actor who plays Mrs. Brown, is a man (Brendan O'Carroll), and when the actor who played the gay son, Rory, said he wanted out of the series Brendan had to come up with a way to re-write "Rory" as he was such a popular (if over the top and exaggeratedly camp) character. So they had "Rory" getting plastic surgery and coming back with a slightly changed face. Now the new actor does indeed look somewhat like Rory but I found him a bit stiff (nervous maybe) and waaaay too camp in the Christmas Day show. He was instantly slagged off by many in the press saying get rid of him, but I think, give the guy a chance and let him grow into this or a slightly different version of Rory. Anyway, I loved the original Rory because he was such a giggler and in the TV shows they left all the bloopers in. So here, for your greater pleasure, is "Mamie" explaining to Rory how "Dermott and Maria are going to Venice for the week-end". Enjoy!