The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Wednesday 30 May 2018

RIP my partner in crime!

I had my patchwork lesson last night and (seemingly as usual nowadays) there was an accident on the way there so it took me 2 1/2 hours instead of one to get there and then the heavens opened on the way back so I didn't get home till 11.30 p.m. When you leave home at 7 in the morning and don't get home until 11.30 it takes its toll I can tell you, and as I can never go straight to sleep (I guess patchwork is just that exciting - adrenaline rush and all that), I decided to play a couple of games of Words With Friends on Facebook. So you can imagine the shock I got when I happened to click on an old friend's page to learn that he had died suddenly on 7 May at the young age of 58!!! He hadn't been on FB very much lately but since he had mentioned that he was going to give it a rest for a while I didn't think anything of it, but there in front of my eyes were pages and pages of posts from friends sending their condolences to the family!

Ian and I grew up on the same council estate in Birmingham, about 100 yards away from each other. Right from really little we hit it off and by the time we went to infants school we had become "best buddies". I guess he really liked "older women" because I was a whole, oh I don't know, 10 months older than him so we used to walk to school together and then play together after school.

One time, I remember, we decided we were going to set up a snail hospital "to help all these poor snails that we kept finding in my back garden". So we gathered as many snails as we could, lined them all up on our back fence and then dipped them all in a washing up bowl full of soapy water to "get rid of all that gunky stuff". We never could figure out why they all kept dying!!

His dad died when he was 40 leaving his mom a young widow with five young children to feed. Times were tough for everyone but particularly for her, as I'm sure you can imagine. I found out many years later that she worked four jobs just trying to keep those children fed! She later found happiness with a Polish man who I understand was very good to her and the kids, but for many years it was tough going indeed! I remember Ian told me one time you always knew what you were getting for Christmas because his mom would be knitting away and all of a sudden she would say "stand up and put your arm out"! Many years later he also told me the story of how she must have bought a second hand scout's outfit from some old dear so that he could go to scouts - problem was the legs were waaaaay too wide for his scrawny legs and he ended up looking like Eric Morecambe!

The outfit was also the wrong shade of green so when time came for a general inspection all the other scouts closed ranks around him! Another time I happened to mention that one of the older ladies in our local area had a beard (I was a little kid and I was fascinated) and had he ever spotted her, when he said "oh that would be Mrs. Skull who lived in the flats opposite us". I almost fell off my chair laughing and asked if her late husband had been Mr. Crossbones, but Ian said he thought she must have liked her beers somewhat as he used to go round to her house to collect the empties in order to get the 1p back on each bottle and give it to his mom!

As I say, Ian and I were great buddies up until the end of junior school (so from ages 3 to 10) when it was no longer "cool" to be friends with a girl - or at least not until a few years later when being "best buddies" with a girl was probably all you could think about! I left school at 16 and went to college, eventually emigrating to Switzerland at age 21 and Ian joined the army, absolutely hated it (said it was worse than school) so went into the construction industry as a labourer and worked his way up. We lost touch until one day, 36 years later, I spotted his name on Friends Reunited and contacted him. It was great to get back in touch again after so long!  He told me that he was sick to death of England, the rat race and chasing after the eternal ££££££ so taking his courage in both hands he rented his house out, bought himself a Postman Pat van and headed off to Bulgaria with a couple of mattresses in the back and his tool box, for no better reason than "because he heard it was cheap". He wasn't interested in chasing money out there either - he wanted to make just enough to "live" so that's what he did. As a builder it would have been pretty easy and he could have had more work than he could handle had he so wished. But he didn't want that - he wanted to live a little!

Anyway, we chatted back and forth for a while and in 2011 he asked what I was doing that summer. When I said "nothing" he said "why don't you come out to Bulgaria so we can catch up"! My husband had not long left me so taking my own courage in both hands I thought "what the hell" - and that's what I did! Now my elderly mom rightly said "you knew the boy but you don't know the man" so I booked myself into a hotel on Sunny Beach and flew out to join him. But oh my goodness, you wouldn't know it had been 36 years since we had last seen each other! We laughed so much I thought I was going to get lockjaw!!!!

Anyway, we got along so well that we decided to set off and explore Bulgaria in his Postman Pat van for a couple of weeks, and it was a blast! You know when you have grown up with someone and you know all the people in their past - well we had so much catching up to do! We had both learned Russian at school so could decipher some Bulgarian words - and on that basis we decided we had to go to "Cозопол" because we loved the sound of it - that's Sozopol to you and me! You see even then we both had the same sense of humour!

Out and about in the Postman Pat van!
Now we both have strong personalities and just as when we were young we clashed a couple of times, but I have to say that while nothing further came out of our travels we remained friends until the end.

Not politically correct now but Ian is 4th from right at the back and I'm 2nd from the right at the back!

Both members of future Team GB! - 1969

I knew Ian had always liked me and one night he told me that under the wallpaper back in their old house was written "Ian C loves Anna T"! I told him "I know, I saw it"! And that makes me want to cry! I'm so glad that your final years were happy ones. RIP my old mate!

Monday 28 May 2018

Another lovely (but exhausting) weekend!

Just as I was getting into town on  Friday night my friend sent me a message to say that one of our neighbours was organizing an impromptu get together in support of the neighbours' fête. Now this is an artificial fête (of course) but I happen to think it's a great invention as it gives people an opportunity/excuse to get outside and meet up with their neighbours. It may sound silly but I do believe from what people have told me that many people don't actually even know their neighbours or rarely - if ever - speak to them, and I think that is so sad. I remember my friend Steve telling me that he always says good morning to a couple of his neighbours when he is out and about but that's about the extent of it - and Steve is about as sociable an animal as you could ever wish to meet! I think that's a sad state of affairs really. OK no-one wants to get that involved with their neighbours and end up living in each other's pockets, but it's nice when people are friendly and look out for each other. Goodness knows, that was the way it was in my neighbourhood when I was growing up. My mom pretty much never had to take us kids grocery shopping with her because there was always another mom around to keep an eye on us!

Anyway, C very kindly set up a table on our little island and bought out drinks and snacks, with about 10 of us quickly following suit. I only found out about it 10 minutes before arriving home so I had to take along whatever I had in the house - which turned out to be a few beers and some peanuts. Still, we stayed outside and chatted for a couple of hours and had what turned out to be a rather nice time. In a few days we have our annual "clean up the neighbourhood" Sunday in any case, where we all spend an hour or so cutting grass, weeding and so on and then all eat together, but hats off to C for going that one step further.

I had intended to get so much done that evening too, but that went by the way. I had to be up at 4 a.m. as my friend and I were going on our (now annual) trip to the market in Turin, and while I hate getting up at the crack of dawn we both agree we really do enjoy this trip! We made it to Turin around 10.30 a.m. and had until 3.30 p.m. to wander around and fill our little wheelie bags with lots of goodies. Since it is Jordan's birthday on Thursday I was able to pick up a few extras for him too, in addition to the wonderful fruit and veg. Just perfect. It was very hot - up to about 30° - but thankfully it remained relatively overcast so we didn't feel the full power of the sun. Around mid-day we headed off to a little restaurant we had spotted and had the most excellent lunch of (fresh) tuna salad in my case and grilled salmon in D's case. It was stuff to drool over, I can tell you. Looking at the prices I actually commented to D how rich we would be if we took our pensions and moved to Italy as it is so much cheaper than the region of France where we live - which is expensive because of it's proximity to Geneva!

All in all it was a lovely (if very tiring day) - well that is until we neared the French border on the way back. Just before the Mont Blanc tunnel we stopped at the lovely ski resort of Courmayeur but the heavens opened and it absolutely pelted down - but just for about 15 minutes and "poof" it was gone! Really weird but it does go to show how you can't trust the weather in the mountains.

From this ......

to this in the space of about 10 minutes!

The Mont Blanc tunnel is quite the piece of engineering, I tell you. 11.5 km long cut through the Mont Blanc it took us 16 minutes to drive from one end to the other - so you enter in France and exit in Italy!

The next day we were up and at it again - this time down to our local little town where for the first time they were hosting the "foire aux tissus" - a fabric fair! This was a pretty big fair with such a choice of materials I just couldn't make my mind up. The traders come down from Holland and Belgium to sell their goods and it was just eye watering for me! You could easily spend a small fortune in that place! I think the powers that be have realized that our little town is the perfect venue for something like this given the exhibition facilities and its proximity to Geneva and all the money there!

After that it was back up to our little village, which was hosting its annual vide-grenier. They changed the date from September to May in order to take advantage of the marquee that had been set up for the village fête the other week. Very often we get bad weather in September so I think changing the date might well be a plus. Apparently it wasn't such a roaring success though because Sunday was also Mother's Day here in France and I guess a lot of families were eating together rather than going out.

And finally, I saw a rather lovely video this morning of a young man risking life and limb to save a little boy who had managed to get himself hanging over a fourth floor balcony in Paris!! The young man is a recently arrived immigrant from Mali who was hoping to make a better life for himself in France. Judging from his heroism he is just the kind of immigrant that France needs don't you think!

Anyway, President Macron was so impressed with his bravery that he had him over to the Elysée Palace to meet him, and I believe his request for French citizenship will be expedited. And it turns out he has been offered a job in the fire department! It's nice to see something good coming about for such a brave young man isn't it!

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Busy weekend!

Well that was a busy (long) weekend and for once the weather actually cooperated. It doesn't always in May but this one was lovely. We had Whit Monday off, which is always nice because my little village always has it's village fête on Whit Sunday, so you get to recuperate a little the next day. As I had plenty of plans for the long weekend I tend to look up all the vide-greniers (car boots/garage sales) that I might be interested in, plus anything else that's going on, and write it all down in my diary. I don't use my phone as a diary as I still prefer to use a paper one but it does get pretty messy! When I looked at Whit Monday I had written down "nosewing" and I thought what the hell is that. Any which way I looked at it it still read "nosewing", until I realized it actually said "no sewing". Ha! And here's me thinking I'm going mad!

Over the past couple of weeks my friend and I got to fit in a few vide-greniers, what with the season being in full swing. It's quite a nice way to spend an afternoon pottering and even though I am trying to declutter (and am succeeding believe it or not) I have picked up a few treasures too.

The pretty green flowery plates plus the serving dish were a total of €2 (I couldn't believe it but she really wanted to get rid of them) and then there were 11 of those red glass ice cream dishes for €3 - not bad huh! I can use them all at the next board game evening at my place (well that's my excuse anyway)!  I also picked up the pretty tulip picture for €2 and if nothing else I can use the frame for one of my "Peru" pictures that I still haven't gotten round to putting up.

It's also a good excuse to get out in the fresh air (and snaffle a bag of chips from the concession stand)!

It was just as well we ran up the mountain to the one vide-grenier on the Saturday because on Sunday that particular mountain pass was blocked by a landslide! Yikes, well I guess it is the season!

On Satuday, of course, I watched the royal wedding. Not all of it though - that's like watching paint dry - but I made sure to come in from gardening in time to watch the actual service and I have to say it was lovely. Very inclusive, wonderful music and for once the weather cooperated! And weren't they handsome!

And talking of handsome, just take a look at the photographer! Alexi Lubomirski - just wow! Or "down girl, down" as my sister would say!!!

Being the classy kind of person that I am, I thought sitting there for an hour watching the ceremony would be a good opportunity to give myself a pedicure. Well after soaking my feet in the "mouthwash" mixture again, look at the bloody results!  We were going out later so I had to spend a good 10 minutes scrubbing the red stuff off my feet. Oh well, at least it wasn't green this time!

Then on Sunday, after a couple more vide-greniers, we decided to take a trip out to check out some of the local landmarks. I stopped exploring many years ago and it really is a shame as there is so much to see round this area. We decided to take a scenic route back rather than the motorway and check out a small waterfall which you routinely see from the motorway but I had never stopped there before.

This was the upper part of the waterfall

And the lower part - I couldn't get it all in the picture at once because of the trees!

There were a couple of families picnicking near the waterfall but to be honest, only five minutes drive away were a couple of lakes which I think might have been nicer but then who am I to judge.

After that we stopped in at our village fête. I always love our fête because it really is rural - kinda back of beyond-ish. I was lucky enough to bump into Jordan and Jen who had come over for a drink, as well as my neighbours - heck the whole village shows up at some point during the day. I have a great video of the accordion players and people dancing but I'll be buggered if I can get the thing to post here!

Dancing the conga - although in French you dance the "caterpillar"!
On the weight front I'm all over the shop. At one point I was down 10 lbs but now I think it is only about 6! So it's back in the saddle for me. I managed to walk in to work this morning and went to the gym at lunchtime and I always feel so good afterwards I wonder why I ever stop! Then yesterday I went for my annual check-up with the dermatologist - I usually get a few bits and bobs burned off as I am fair skinned. He looked at my arms and asked where I got that burn from (I'm not burned, I'm just red) so I told him it was from gardening the day before, at which point he told me to stay out of the sun because "you can't take it"! Fat chance - we're off to Turin for the day on Saturday to "do" the market, and they've forecast 30° and glorious sunshine! Can't wait. I've got my granny bag/wheelie bag all ready! Turin here I come!

Tuesday 22 May 2018

A different post to the one I had planned!

I had a really busy but lovely weekend. Our local village always holds its village fête on Whit Sunday, but very often it rains, which tends to put a damper on all that hard work. Not so this weekend - it was glorious and the weekend turned out to be superb. I meant to write about our adventures but that will have to wait for another day. You see, I have just read of the death of a lovely lady called Barbara Wragg, who recently passed away at the age of 77. You probably don't know her name (neither did I) but for some reason her story has always stuck with me. You see, in 2000, she and her husband Ray won £7.6 million on the UK lottery - and that same evening decided to give most of it away! They simply decided that they had little need for that amount of money in their 50s and 60s so decided to give most of it away!

Of course they treated themselves to a nicer home and so on but they decided that their pleasure was going to be in donating most of it to good (local) causes. The reason their story rang a bell from years ago was I remember them hiring a coach to take deprived inner city kids to the annual panto in Sheffield, but not only did they hire the coach they went along with the kids to watch the show!

Anyway, of the £7.6 million they gave away a staggering £5.5 million to (amongst others) family and friends of course, 17 local charities. a local hospital to buy a bladder scanner, they bought 30 television sets for a local hospice so that all the children could watch their own TV, they gave money to a local breast cancer unit, they paid for a group of veterans to go on a trip to honour fallen heroes, they paid for 50 war heroes to go to Italy for the 60th anniversary of the battle of Monte Cassino, and so on and so on! To my mind that is how lottery money should be spent! I'm pretty sure we've all had dreams about winning the lottery (I know I have) but I feel the same way these people did and while I would obviously take care of my family, my greatest pleasure would be in giving most of it away. In fact, I already know the names of the first five charities that would benefit! Now all I have to do is win! Still, I suppose you can dream can't you. Anyway, RIP Barbara Wragg - you and your husband did a wonderful thing!

Barbara and Ray Wragg

Thursday 17 May 2018

It could be a strange wedding!

As I mentioned the other day, Jordan and Jen announced that they are now engaged and are planning to get married in July 2019. Jordan and his brother, André, have very different characters and styles so while André and Lily's wedding was indeed beautiful, Jordan and Jen will be wanting something different. At the restaurant the other night Jen was saying that they wanted a "dandy-like" theme. I didn't hear her properly and thought she said a "Ghandi-like" theme - I have to admit I was a bit shocked!  Can you imagine me showing up something like this:

Anyway, Jen started laughing and said "no, dandy!" Actually I can see that quite suiting Jordan. He has very long hair which he ties back in a "man bun" for work and when he is all dolled out in braces (suspenders in the US) and a dickie bow I think he looks rather good. I'll be intrigued to see what he will actually look like on the day!

Anyway, this morning I bumped into K on the bus going into work and was telling her about the engagement and the theme they were hoping for for the wedding. Trouble is, K understood me to say "candy"! Lordy, lordy, with this severe case of Chinese whispers the potential for screwing up is pretty high don't you think!

On a slightly different note, as I have mentioned before I am an avid reader and since I have at least a 90 minute daily bus commute I do get a lot of reading done. A colleague just lent me Jodi Picoult's book "Small Great Things" and I loved it! It is a book about racism and loosely based on a true incident in Michigan some time ago. Again, I just loved it! I like Jodi Picoult anyway, although she is the kind of writer I cannot read one book after another continuously. But she builds such wonderful suspense into her writing and has written what I think is a a very soul-searching story about the iniquities of racism. I plan to buy it in French for my neighbour as she also loved the last Jodi Picoult book I got for her. Isn't it great when you find a writer whose work you adore!

Wednesday 16 May 2018

They've done it again!

As I was on the bus heading home yesterday evening I got a text message from Jordan's girlfriend, Jen, asking if I would be home later. I told her "yep in about 30 minutes", so she asked if I wanted to go out to eat with them in (the one and only restaurant) in my village. Sounds good to me as the food is very good there. They had just gotten back from Cinque Terre on Sunday night so I was looking forward to seeing their photos - and how lovely that place is! I really have to go there! It was a six hour bus ride (they went on an organized trip with Jen's work), so it meant getting up at 4 a.m. but apparently they lucked out all the way with the weather (whereas we had dreadful weather) and they said the place was fabulous - as was the food! Everything was included and for the two of them, including two nights in a hotel, it came to about €240! Now that is a deal! Anyway, while we were waiting to be served I was looking through Jordan's photos and, like I said, it is such a stunning place. We hadn't had time to go through them all when our food arrived so we chatted about the trip with them rhapsodizing about the food in Italy until we had finished eating.  Afterwards, Jen said "oh you must look at the rest of the photos", so we started up again and somewhere around photo number 41 was a photo of Jordan down on one knee in front of Jen. When I asked what that was they said "that's when Jordan proposed" (and Jen said yes)!

I've said before I'm not a particularly emotional person but I will admit to a little tear at that. I really wasn't expecting it for some reason - well not just now, I suppose. He said he only bought the ring last week and since they've been together for seven years he thought "what the heck"! Wow! Everybody on the boat cheered when he got down on one knee! Anyway, they will have to get married in their local Mairie but I'm not sure when that will be. They don't plan on having a church service since neither of them are religious so they are planning/hoping to have a non-religious service like my elder son and his wife in the château in my little village on July 4th next year!

They have already looked into it and every weekend is taken in 2019 so they are plumping for July 4th as (I think) it is a Thursday. I told them I will take care of hiring the château (and probably the food) as they don't have the kind of money that my other son and his wife have but they seem pretty reasonable in their aims so hopefully won't be doing anything budget-busting! They told me I was allowed to tell my sister in England but nobody else as they haven't told Jen's mom yet, nor my other son, nor my ex! I guess I had better get back on that diet then - you know, the one that didn't work last time!

Still, I'm delighted for them as they seem to have good heads on their shoulders and to be very happy together!  Jen said she will be taking Jordan's last name as she does not want to keep her own surname - you know the one she inherited from the father who abandoned her and her mother when Jen was two! Can't say I blame her either! Needless to say he won't be invited, even assuming they were able to track him down - you know, non-payment of child support all these years and so on!  One thing that I thought though was that since both Jordan and I have to make up our minds about either becoming French or requesting residents' permits after Brexit, at least as the spouse of a French citizen he will get facilitated procedure whichever he chooses to do!

And finally, starting this week and through next week he has his final exams for his diploma as a plumber specialized in ..... I'll be buggered if I can ever remember what it is! But he will be staying on another year to take yet another specialization so things are going well for him on that score. But get this, for his first exam he had to drive down to Annecy for an English exam! Ha! That's great! He said the lady examiner didn't seem to register when he handed over his passport as proof of ID, and then she clocked that it was a  British passport and said "is there really any point doing this since your English is obviously going to be better than mine?" Anyway, they went ahead and did his aural and written comprehension and then what was supposed to be a 10 minute chat about plumbing! Well I guess that's a few easy points on the scoreboard since not only did we speak English at home but he also went to an international school where the curriculum was bilingual. Ah, if only the whole exam were that easy! Anyway, it's onwards and upwards I guess, and time to start up the exercise routine (yet again) in time for the next wedding!

Tuesday 15 May 2018

The end of an era!

I have mentioned before that I live in a very small village. There is one restaurant, no shop, no public transport - you get the idea. When we moved in the population was around 500 (so I'm told by the Mairie) of which we were among the 12 foreigners. Now, 29 years later, I would guess the population is around 1,000 but the village is spread over the mountain side so it really isn't "crowded" at all. About 20 years ago a Franco-Nigerian family moved in - mom is French and white and dad is Nigerian and black and our kids quickly became great friends with their three kids - more so with the two boys of course, but also with the daughter. Martine and Stan have three very handsome and supremely likable/polite kids - probably because they are strict! Whichever way you look at it, it has paid off as they are a pleasure to be around.  Since the kids are mixed race their parents pushed them into sports as a way to combat any potential racism and all three kids are superb athletes, with D being a professional rugby player and already having played for France several times.

Anyway, all that was to say that we have known each other for a long time. Stan, being what I call "a professional shopkeeper" by nature, saw an opening in the village for a little shop/bar and so the Mairie allowed him to use a small tract of land (with a stunning view) to set up his little bar. It is basically just three or four portacabins glued together where he sells a small amount of groceries and runs a small bar/sandwich/french fry shop.  Believe me, it was really a godsend! You probably didn't want to look too closely into the corners/cobwebs but nobody cared. Farmers would drive up on their tractors and park up and my ex OH used to love to come over and spend the evening up at Stan's, usually discussing politics or rugby over a glass of wine. In fact when Steve came over the other Christmas he loved it too, as did my family when they came over for the wedding. That place just has so much character. Sadly (for us) Stan is now ready to retire and once he has closed up shop the Mairie want to get rid of the "building" and build something more "esthetic" (i.e. less grubby) just round the corner. I can't say I blame them because it is a bit of an eyesore but gosh we're going to miss "chez Stan". Strange thing is, he was just as strict with the youngsters who stopped by as he was with his own kids and those young people showed him nothing but respect.  He is off to Nigeria for a few months so I won't see him for a while but they will certainly be different times when he comes back.  Thanks for everything Stan!

The outside of "Chez Stan" was painted by one of the kids' friends!
My mate Stan!
In other news, it was Mother's Day in Switzerland on Sunday but in France it is always the last Sunday of May, so Sunday 27th for us.  Which puts me in mind of a funny story! When my second son was born my neighbour took care of him when I went back to work. She had two kids aged 10 and 12 who called her "maman" - French for "mommy". So of course Jordan also called her "maman". I didn't care because she was "maman" and I was "mommy". Anyway, one Mother's Day when he was in the local infants' school, they took a wooden mixing spoon, painted it pink and tied a bow on it. When he bought it home I was gushing praise about what a lovely present he had made me, when he said, all indignant "it's not for you, the teacher said I had to give it to 'maman'"! So that's what he did! She was mortified but I just roared laughing - that'll teach me not to count my chickens!

Wednesday 9 May 2018

In other news!

As I was saying in my previous post, this week has been one helluvan expensive week, but I am more than cognizant of the fact that I am lucky enough to work in Switzerland and can afford to replace/repair stuff. This was brought home to me by a programme I was watching on Channel 4 the other night called "Britain's Benefits Crisis"! This was a serious programme, not one of your usual "all benefits claimants are scroungers" programmes that - while these people certainly exist - is really only rabble-rousing TV. No, this programme took a serious look into the effects of the new Universal Credit that has begun rolling out in the UK. It is supposed to be an easier system to use, rolling various benefits into one, but whose aim, admittedly, is to cut the UK benefits bill and get more people back into work. I don't live in the UK and don't claim any benefits (obviously) so I would be the last person to really understand how the UC is supposed to work but this programme interviewed claimants as well as people working within the system to administer this programme and the overwhelming majority of those people said that the roll out should be suspended until it could be better implemented!

They then proceeded to highlight several cases of people who had been hit really hard by the UC. I really can't remember all the details but one single father, who had been invalided out of his previous job, had been working as a taxi driver but switching to UC meant he had less money coming in and was in very grave danger of having to put his children into foster care. He was told by the Department of Employment that he would be better off not working if he wanted to gain back the money lost under UC - so that is what he did in order to be able to keep his children with him. Another single mother had serious health issues which prevented her from working. She wanted to work, however, and managed to find herself a job but her health problems eventually meant that she had to quit. At this point she was no longer eligible for her previous benefits but was switched to UC, which meant losing money and worrying herself into a state of eventually attempting (but failing) to commit suicide! These were not "scroungers" (so beloved of the Daily Mail) but seemed to be decent people who were having a very hard time. It was a very sobering programme for me. I know where I came from and am so very, very grateful that I don't have those kinds of worries, but feel so much for those caught in the benefits trap!

On a slightly less depressing note, a couple of friends and I had tickets to see "The Magic of Motown" in Geneva on Saturday night and it was fantastic! I would say you don't even have to be a fan of Motown (I am) as the songs just seem to take you straight back to your youth regardless. It was two and a half hours or solid dancing and singing and they were just great. I have been to many concerts in Geneva and this was the first time I had seen the arena full - with ages ranging from about 10 to 75, I would say. People were on their feet dancing the whole way through (again another first for me) and I have to say that even though I loved the tribute to Pavarotti, this one takes the biscuit!  They only sang a couple of slow songs but when the young woman went to sing "Ben" (Michael Jackson) they asked everyone to use the torch function on their phones and wave them about. Well, my phone is pretty new and I'll be buggered if I could find the torch function. I know you have to "swipe up" but every time I did that it asked me if I "really wanted to call the emergency services"! Yikes. Stuff the phone down. Try again - again with the "emergency services" business! In the end I had to give up but could you imagine the Swiss police storming in and yelling "what was your emergency?" "Well you see officer, they asked us to use the torch function and the song was almost over"!  There was an older chappie standing on the stairs near me dancing and he danced just like Mr. Bean! I wanted to go over and dance with him as I was having so much fun but I had visions of the two of us falling down the stairs at some point so I held back, but to say I boogied like I haven't boogied in ages would be an understatement!

Mayhem at the OK Corrall!

As I mentioned in a previous post, these last few days seem to have had everything collapsing around my ears. Earlier in the year I posted about my water heater conking out. To be honest, it didn't owe me anything as it had to be about 20 years old, but I do wonder sometimes why these things can't conk out in the summer when I don't care so much about hot water, rather than in January when it is -12°! Oh well, not my decision I suppose. As luck would have it my son was off the day it died so was able to run out, buy a new one and install it before I even got home from work (one of the advantages of having a plumber for a son)!  I think I had also mentioned that I am getting my external balcony completely re-done and a side gate to block access to my back garden. Well the young man who will be doing the metal work had told me he couldn't do it before spring 2018 (not a problem for me) but he took the railings off last last year so I have been without railings on that balcony for about six months now. Again not a problem as long I didn't have too much to drink over Christmas (I didn't). Having those railings removed allowed the mason to come in and remove about one third of the balcony and re-build it as it was pretty rotten (ha, and to think I had bought a bucket and chisel and was going to "do it myself" - it was the full scaffolding, support, week-long job). All well and good so far, except that about six weeks ago my son noticed a small crack in the balcony. I did my usual "let's ignore it and see if it goes away" business but it didn't. Then another crack appeared - blinkers on again, but still it didn't go away. Until last weekend when it didn't stop peeing down and I ended up being virtually able to take a shower underneath my balcony. I was worried that the water could have been channeled into one of three bedrooms on the first floor or into my kitchen, so I called the mason and he came right back out. He spent another three days working on it (trying to work around the rain) but although he repaired the cracks he wasn't too happy about it. Now I trust this young man and he has done great work for me before, but he called me two days ago to say that he was having exactly the same problem with my neighbour's balcony and the only solution he could find was to repair it, put down a rubberized, waterproof layer and then tile it!

At this point I'm thinking "oh to hell with it, if it has to be done".... Only thing is, that's going to cost me another €1,000 for the work on top of the initial €1,800, then I have about €300 to fork out for the tiles themselves. Oh well! Easy come, easy go, I suppose!  On top of that, my microwave died last week - again not a major problem is it to buy a new microwave, so that was planned for this weekend.  Except on Sunday I felt like cooking so while the oven was heating up I prepared some stuffed chicken breasts. It struck me as odd that the oven seemed to have reached "cruising altitude" in about three minutes, as opposed to the usual ten, but ... Anyway, I took my kitchen timer and popped round to drop something off to my neighbour's. I was only gone 10 minutes (according to the timer) but when I got in the house there was smoke streaming out of the oven! "Chicken's cooked" sez I! Turns out the chicken was more than cooked, it had been turned into two pieces of charcoal. Thankfully I hadn't hung around at my neighbours as I am pretty sure the oven was on the point of bursting into flames!  Again, the oven didn't owe me anything but bloody hell, that could so easily have burned the house down! Looking at the "fault" indicated, the block that should have prevented the oven from going past 180° seemed to have failed so the oven just kept getting hotter and hotter. I managed to get it turned off but three hours later the fan had still not been able to cool the oven so not wanting to go to bed with that risk hanging over my head I found the corresponding fuse and took it out of the fuse box. Problem solved right? Except that was the fuse that also ran my fridge!!! At that point (it was around 11 p.m.) I thought "sod it" and left the fuse out and fridge defrosting gaily!! As soon as I put the fuse back in the oven started up again so I had no choice really did I!

They say it never rains but it pours does it. Still, I am more than aware that I am lucky enough to have a good job and can afford to repair/replace these things, so while it is a pain in the butt it is nothing more serious than that. The next day I was able to order a new oven and Thursday and Friday being a holiday here I am having it delivered on Friday!  On top of that, the friend of my son who is going to be doing the metalwork for the balcony and the side gate finally has the time to do it, so he will be coming out to take measurements (and pick up a down payment) in order to start work on that. Seems like I'm going to be having a party at my house on Friday then - the oven people, the mason and the metalworker!

Oh, and did I mention that every week I give myself a pedicure? Probably not eh! Anyway, I had seen a "recipe" which called for soaking your feet in two parts hot water to one part vinegar and one part mouthwash (it works - I love it). Only thing is, I had run out of mouthwash so picked up a "stronger" version when I was in town. It was bright green - and that's probably ok when you are only rinsing your mouth with it briefly. However, when you have soaked your feet in it for 20 minutes guess what happens?  Yep, I ended up having to wear boots on Monday and Tuesday until "lime green trench foot" wore off!

The hole where my oven should be!

I'm hoping somebody steals it!

Top Gear - designing a car for old people!

I wasn't an avid Top Gear fan but this just happened to be on TV the other night. I watched it (for a second time as I had already seen it) as it was filmed near where my sister lives - a couple of miles down the road. I think the three old ladies were wonderful sports for going along with this!

Monday 7 May 2018

Missing in action!

I've been MIA for a little while because everything seems to be blowing up around here - although thankfully it is just stuff and not me or my family! I will write more on the ongoing saga of "oh bloody hell not another one" soon. Needless to say I have been extremely busy at work (it's that time of year where everything is getting frantic) and then "stuff" keeps happening, but to put things in their proper perspective we are all healthy and happy and I have a good enough job to be able to repair the "stuff".

My office colleague and I were chatting away this morning catching up on each other's weekends and I mentioned something about the latest episode in the "Trump/Stormy" saga. She doesn't read the papers nor watch the news as she finds it too depressing (I did ask if she knew that Princess Diana was dead) so I started to explain a little behind the ongoing drama of Trump and Stormy - "no I didn't", "well yes I did reimburse my lawyer, but no I didn't have an affair with her", "so yeah I did give her the money but not as hush money, rather just to make her go away"! We were laughing and I said if a man like Trump had nothing to hide he would not pay her to go away, he has the resources to "sue her for blasphemy ... err, I mean, slander". We both roared laughing and she said, I think you may have been right the first time! Freudian or what!