The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Monday 30 July 2018

Another amazing find!

I think I mentioned a couple of months ago that I wanted to start getting out and about rediscovering my local area because there really is so much around here as yet undiscovered (by me). I did a previous post on our trip to Chanaz and how lovely that was. Well last weekend I thought vaguely about going down to les Jardins Secrets (the Secret Gardens) about 40 minutes from here, but to be honest it was just waaay too hot and I kind of flaked out! Anyway, a friend asked me if I fancied a trip out there this Sunday, so seeing as it wasn't that far (about 40 minutes away) and it wouldn't be an "all day event" in the current scorching temperatures, we set off at 11 a.m. for a small village called Vaulx, just the other side of Annecy. And my oh my what a(nother) treasure we found!


I really wasn't expecting much but I have to say it beat all expectations. Not just ours of course, but everyone we passed seemed to be stunned. It all started out in the early '80s when N (a French lady who was born in Morocco) and A (a French gent who was born in Tunisia) got married and bought what I understand was a derelict farm in this area (the Haute Savoie region of France). Veeeerrrrryyyy slowly they renovated the farm into a home for themselves and their three daughters and, given their innate love of North Africa, slowly renovated various barns and out-buildings into meadows/gardens, or "riyads", by their Arabic name. Painstakingly over the years A built the different structures while his wife, N, added the ornate Arab-style decorations. It was all done by hand and as their daughters grew older they also pitched in (as do the eight grandchildren who were all working there yesterday). It was a scorching hot day but there were bench seats, tables, water fountains, and the most beautiful flowers and decorations imaginable. (As an aside, we discovered that there were eight water features, each with the name of one of the grandchildren engraved on it). People were invited to sit and shelter wherever they wanted, open up doors into all the nooks and crannies behind which were inevitably family photos and other treasures. It was a real gem - sadly I don't think the photos do it justice, but here are just a few that I took!


There were little rooms off all the pathways where you were free to roam and open doors and cupboards to your heart's content!

I think my favourite spots though were the "lounging" rooms, all decorated in Arab style where you were invited to just sit down out of the sun and take it all in. I walked into one room, though, and my jaw just dropped! They had the typical beds and cushions for people to lie on but had also put a swimming pool right in the middle of it, with ornate water features constantly drizzling water back into the pool. Of course running water is a very relaxing sound and frankly I think I could have just lay down and spent the rest of the afternoon there!

This pretty table had just been a simple, white garden table before they repainted it in all these glorious colours. Actually, I wish I had been quick enough to catch my friend, Karyn's face, as she walked into the pool room! That jaw drop would have been great to catch on camera - we all did it though - it was just stunning!

They have also (apparently only recently) started doing light lunches, which are proving a roaring success too. I had salad with local dried meats and cheeses plus a wonderful cocktail of apple juice, blackcurrant juice and lemonade. Karyn had the same but with a very simple dessert thrown in and lovely Moroccan mint tea! The grandkids seemed to be in charge of the cooking and washing up, and they were all extremely friendly and helpful. We were also lucky enough to see the grandparents (the original founders) helping out as the crowds were coming at them thick and fast! The thing is though, you never felt "crowded" as there were so many little nooks and crannies where you could take shelter from the sun in peace and relative quiet! It was truly brilliant!

You know, I admire people like this for their creativity but also for their guts in "going for it". I think if I tried to do something like this it would end up as one big colourful, splotchy mess, but here it just works! Ok they have been developing it for over 30 years but it truly is a fabulous site!  I don't have this kind of space or creativity but some of the flowers there have given me pause for thought. First on the list has got to be "hibiscus des marais"! I'm not sure what they are called in English. "Hibiscus" to be sure, but "des marais" (from the swampland? swamp rose mallow?). Who knows, but these hibiscus grow to about 1.5 metres tall with the flowers measuring approximately 12 inches across (how about that for a mix of metric and imperial!)

That's not me, by the way, but at least it shows the size of these flowers!
And finally, I think I know why I was a bit nostalgic/melancholy in my last post! I have been cleaning off a couple of bookshelves and wiping down old photo albums that were a bit dusty. So of course the first thing you do with an old photo album is look through it isn't it. Anyway, it got to me a bit in the end - I was feeling a bit sad - all that "wasted/lost" time I guess. Now it's not like me to be down but it really seemed to hit me the other day. Well that is until we had our fabulous day out at the Secret Gardens and then Steve called me later that evening and had me roaring laughing again, so all's well that ends well!

Friday 27 July 2018

A blast from the past!

Or isn't fate wonderful sometimes! I mentioned in a previous post that in 2010 I happened to spot my best childhood buddy, Ian, on the now defunct "Friends Reunited", reconnected with him and flew out to spend time with him after he upped sticks and moved to Bulgaria. We remained in admittedly sporadic contact after that and then I learned of his tragic death in May of this year. I'm just so, so glad that he got to spend the last years of his life enjoying Bulgaria and that we had re-connected in the meantime! Fate huh!

Before I got married I had had two long-term boyfriends - Mark, in England and Karim in Switzerland. Mark had lost his dad when he was just a teenager and my dad took to him and took him under his wing somewhat. When I went to Switzerland for a "five-month contract" in 1980 (40 years later I'm still here) Mark and I split, obviously, because I knew I wasn't going back to England and he didn't see a future for himself in Switzerland. If that "minor" issue could have been resolved I'm sure we would have ended up married actually. Oddly enough, fate again played a hand because in 2005, out of the blue, I received an email from Mark. When my dad retired he gave Mark all his tools and Mark said he had been using dad's tools one day and thinking how good my dad had been to him, so he decided to track me down and to find out how he was. I had to explain to him that sadly dad had died a few months previously but it was really weird that Mark had chosen that particular time to get in touch again, 25 years later. He wrote a lovely email about how much he appreciated my dad so I sent it on to my mom - who was very, very touched! Now Mark being a plumber and not exactly the Poet Laureate the emails fizzled out not long after that and I don't have any further news from him, but I'm sure if we did get in touch again we'd still be friends and have plenty to say to each other. I'm sure also that that very decent young man turned into a lovely husband for one lucky woman!

A few months after I moved to Switzerland in 1980 I met Karim, an Algerian medical student, and we quickly became an item. We were together five years, with him graduating after about three years and going on to become a surgeon. Karim had actually been born in France and therefore had French citizenship, but since his dad had fought in the Algerian resistance against the French during the war of independence in 1963 he was, understandably, very anti-French, so gave up Karim's French citizenship in order for him to be solely Algerian! I understand that of course, but when you are living in Europe it is a helluva lot easier to have a European passport than a North African one I can tell you! Anyway, the years rolled by and I got the feeling that I wasn't as much of a priority for Karim as he was for me, and then his dad dropped the bombshell on him. He was going to send him back to Algeria to do two years' national service (something which Karim could very easily have gotten out of)! As Karim later explained, it was a total, total waste of time, but more importantly the years he had been accruing towards acquiring Swiss citizenship now got screwed over, and the job he had lined up also passed under his nose because of his prospective two-year absence.  I had been getting more and more frustrated in our relationship and actually resigned in 1983 in order to spend six months in Australia so I could decide what I wanted to do about him. I mean, how can you "complain" when someone is so nice but it just isn't working for you! Technically we "split" when I came back as he had met someone else, but when I explained that that was fair enough with me because I had too, he changed his mind instantly and wanted to get back together again - waiting outside my house every morning with flowers and giving me a lift to work before I got my car back on the road - something he hadn't done in the five years we had been together! Eventually he wore me down and we did indeed get back together but my heart still wasn't in it - I mean, after five years we still weren't even living together, so I told him that if we weren't living together by the time he had to go off to Algeria to do his waste-of-time national service then not to expect me to wait for him! And sure enough, we weren't living together when he had to leave but he did ask me to marry him the night before he left - I said no, but with tears rolling down my cheeks.  I was very, very fond of him but honestly didn't feel that I had a future with him. He was (and still is) a very, very decent man and our different religions made no difference to us at all, but I actually thought I would get bored if I married him! A year later when he heard I was going to marry my (now) ex, he called me on my wedding day and begged me to reconsider! Man, if only I had listened, I could have saved myself 26 years of misery with the ex but you live and learn I guess.

Anyway, when I was offered a job back in Switzerland in 1989 a girlfriend called me one day and asked me what Karim's last name was. You see, her son had developed peritonitis on Easter Sunday and they had called an emergency surgeon in to operate. When her husband read the surgeon's name he commented that "that was Anna's Karim" - and sure enough it was! So egged on by my friend I put in a call to his office and left my number with his receptionist. He called back and we have become friends again after so many years. I'm fatter and he's balder but other than that nothing much has changed!

Then on Wednesday when I got home there was a "missed call" light flashing on my phone. Normally I just delete these calls because I get two to three telemarketing calls a day, but for some reason I looked at this number and decided to call back - and ended up talking for an hour with my old friend  from back in 1989, Patricia! You see, when we moved back to Switzerland I found us an apartment in a lovely village called Mont-sur-Rolle. There were only two apartments on our landing and Patricia and Manuel had a little girl just one month younger than our son, André. So we used to leave our apartment doors open and André and Nena (two terrible two-year-olds) would run back and forth and play happily for hours and hours. Patricia is Colombian (now also Swiss) and her husband was Spanish so it was extremely good for my Spanish! After a year I realized that while I loved our apartment and our little set-up, the ridiculous rent we were paying would pay a mortgage in France so my husband and I bought a house and moved across the lake into Haute Savoie in France. It was sad leaving Patricia but as she didn't drive and as a Colombian needed a visa for France, inevitably we lost contact over the years. Her marriage, as it turned out, ended up being pretty much like mine and we both ended up getting divorced, although her ex has since remarried and divorced two more times!!! Yikes, she was well shot of him, I can tell you. Anyway, the upshot of that phone call is that I'm going over to her place next Sunday for lunch, where I can meet up again with "little" Nena (Ainhoa), who is now 30 and the mother of a three-year old, and Patricia and I can make up for 30 years of lost chin-wagging!

And finally, (gosh this post turned out much longer than I intended), the real reason for this post is another very, very lovely "blast from the past" moment that happened yesterday. My best friend at work is Tunisian (can you see a pattern here) and I was telling him one time about my first "true love" which happened when I was a young student at Montpellier University in southern France. I was on the beach one day, under a sun umbrella with a towel over my shoulders when a young man walked past and asked if I was "warm enough"! I explained to him that if I sat in the sun it wouldn't be too long before you would smell the bacon and he just laughed and said that as a Muslim that would be a real turn-off but would I mind if he sat down with me! Yes, it was that corny. Anyway, his name was Nacer, he was Tunisian, and we hit it off like nobody's business. He and his brother were at Montpellier Uni studying to be pharmacists but as this was the summer break they were pretty much free of courses. Like I say, we instantly clicked and while I enrolled in many French courses at the Uni I spent most of my time down at the beach with Nacer! I learned a helluva lot of French I can tell you, but probably not the kind of French I use now at work! At the end of the summer I had to go back to England but he kept in touch, writing to me and so on, and one time even coming to visit me when I got my job in Geneva.  Have you ever reminisced/wondered what that first wonderful romantic summer felt like - well I lived it! And it really was wonderful! Anyway, as time moved on Nacer went back to Tunisia as a pharmacist, I met and married my ex and we moved to the States. Eventually I had to ask my mom not to forward Nacer's letters any more as I was now married but he still wrote for quite some time!!!

Fast forward 40 years and I was having coffee with my Tunisian buddy, Imed, before he set off for a month's vacation in Tunisia. I was explaining to him about Nacer and he said, you know, if you know his last name and that he is a pharmacist and originally from Sfax, he will have moved back to Sfax because that's what we Tunisians do - we go home. So why don't you search for him on FB! Well I tried a couple of times but I always spelt his name as "Nasser" and he wasn't showing up anywhere.  For some reason, last night I thought I would take a shot at finding his brother, Hachemi, and almost instantly up he popped, with Nacer as one of his friends! I couldn't believe it. He has barely changed. Well I guess that's not strictly true. We are both 40 years older and 40 years fatter but we both seem to have our own hair and teeth ...... So being a nosy bugger I scrolled through his FB page and he seems to be just as nice as I remember him. He posted something on one post about the atrocities in Syria and someone wrote back saying "what about the b***tard Israelis and what they are doing in Palestine!" Nacer's response was that when innocent civilians - in particular children - are hurt in these atrocities it doesn't really matter whether they are muslim or jewish does it! They are still unforgivable atrocities. Now as an Arab and a Muslim I doubt Nacer has any particular love for Israel but I thought that was a lovely comment. On another post they had a picture of a young girl removing her veil, and his comment was "religion isn't about covering your face with a piece of cloth - that's not what Islam teaches!" When you have someone who thinks and talks so reasonably it is just so refreshing in this world of hate and lies, and that is exactly how I remember him!

So, taking my courage in both hands I sent him a friend request on FB. I asked if he had studied pharmacy at Montpellier around 1979 because if so I had a couple of pictures of him and his brother. But, if I had got the wrong person, I apologized for the intrusion. I knew it was him of course - he really hadn't changed, so you can imagine my amazement when I got a "friend acceptance" five minutes later with a "Hallo Anna, how are you doing? Of course I remember you, that was an amazing summer we spent together wasn't it"! Oh my goodness, I haven't felt my heart flutter like that for years! I know of course that time and life has moved on but just getting a response from him really made my day. We sent a couple of messages back and forth and then he had to get off FB but said he would contact me again. Wow, I feel like I've just stepped out of my time machine and flown back to 1979 (but I'd better not look in the mirror had I). Of course we are older now and our lives have moved on, but if he is like my other "blasts from the past", it would be lovely to keep in touch occasionally!

Not a very good photo but ...  my first love, Nacer!

Wednesday 25 July 2018

In my next life I'm gonna come back as a ferret!

Not very glamorous I know but it seems to be my nature to be able to "ferret" things/solutions out! I don't know if you know her, but Nadiya Hussain won the Great British Bake-Off (in 2015 I think). Now I don't watch it because it doesn't interest me but I really like Nadiya. She's a Bangladeshi/Brit who seems very down to earth and I really like her style. Well the other day I was watching her cookery programme and she made prawn biryana - which looked wonderful. She happened to mention an Indian/Bangladeshi 5-spice mix that "is to die for" and guess who managed to find it out in the boonies in little old Geneva! The ferret here! Now if you live in the UK that's probably no big deal but despite being an international city I feel that Geneva is only relatively recently moving into the modern world as far as foreign ingredients are concerned. When I first came here in 1980 the only ingredients in the shops seemed to be those required to make fondue! Well I might be exaggerating slightly but not an awful lot. It has taken years to be able to get my hands on basic British stuff like tea-bags (I know, the horrors!) but they finally seem to be getting there. Truth be told, you can now get almost anything if you know where to look because, as I say, it is such an international community. When I first started looking for this spice mix everyone wanted to sell me Chinese 5-spice powder but that isn't it. However, thanks to the magic of the internet I found a little Bangladeshi supermarket and was able to navigate my way round Geneva's public transport system just like a big girl and get there and back in 30 minutes with my precious Bangladeshi spice mix. I ended up making her recipe this weekend and while the flavouring was lovely I don't think I did it any favours by using the frozen prawns in my freezer - better to get the real mccoy next time I think, but I have eaten it every day this week (I made waaaay too much as you can see).  Still, on the strength of that and Monday night's programme I have ordered her latest cook book - Nadiya's Family Favourites! We'll see how that pans out but it does look delicious!

Nadiya Hussain
The other Sunday I fancied a trip out to a local market about 30 minutes from me. I go to a very small local market on Saturdays but this one is quite a bit bigger. However, when I got there someone had "stolen it" - gone! Just like that! So I stopped and asked a man carrying his market goodies and he directed me to another location as the original location is being improved/black-topped with more parking spaces. Phew - I really like this market and love just wandering around even if I don't buy anything. Interestingly, when I stopped at the fish stall, right next to it were a few tables and bar stools where people were trying seasonal mussels but - this being France - they also had various wines for sale by the glass to try with the mussels! I didn't try any as I was driving but I must admit I do like their style!

Actually yesterday I was able to pick some of my own home-grown tomatoes and I must say you can't beat the home-grown stuff. Add that to feta cheese, cucumbers and olives and you have lunch made in heaven!

And of course the Tour de France is ongoing at the moment. We have had two Sunday's where our village road has been blocked off for bike races recently. This wasn't for the Tour de France but for a complementary race that they always have around the same time. However, on Tuesday the "real" Tour de France was in our area so once again our road was blocked off, but since I was in work I didn't mind so much. They always go over the Alpes de l'Huez and Grand Bornand before coming down to our local town, so I watched a little just to see if I could pick out various places. Far be it from me to stand out in the blazing heat though to watch that stuff - just not my cup of tea (even though I can now get the tea-bags)!

Coming down towards home from Grand Bornand
I think I have mentioned before that every week when I shop I pick up a few items for the local food bank, and when I have a crate full I take it down on the Tuesday night when they open. I have been quite remiss in taking my stuff down there lately so determined I was going to do it last night. When I got there one of the ladies insisted on introducing me to the Chairman of the local Red Cross group that runs this particular food bank and she was telling him how our little charity book store had also made a financial donation. Honestly it was no big deal but it really brought home to me just how grateful they are - particularly the closer they get to October/November when their supplies start to run out. As I was about to leave she stopped me and asked me about our little book shop at work, and then proceeded to drag out a huge bag of books in English to donate. She said she had been given them by an acquaintance who reads in English and boy did I drool!!! Whoever this acquaintance is has wonderful taste in books - I saw Aldus Huxley, among others - and a book that I shall probably buy myself by John O'Farrell, who I find hilariously funny! So I got to leave the food bank with more than I arrived with. My ferret nose working again I suppose!

And finally, I have my big meeting this afternoon. We have two big meetings a year for which we produce four extremely large reports. I have other meetings, of course, but these are the big ones. We just found out we will have TV cameras both inside and outside the meeting room so I guess I'd better not fall asleep for this one (they do drone on sometimes)! But talking of falling asleep, when I got on the bus at the terminus this morning there was a young man fast asleep at the back. When I got off the bus at the opposing terminus 45 minutes later he was still snoring away. Apparently, according to the bus driver, these young men go on the razzle in the evenings and sleep it off the next day by going round and round on the local buses until they wake up! My boss was saying just this morning how tired he is - he has young children who don't seem to sleep well and also final responsibility for this afternoon's meeting, so I told him if he wanted to get on the number 25 bus afterwards and get some sleep, I would wake him up when I got off at the border! Sounds like a deal to me! Well that and the bottle of wine he has got in the fridge for after our baptism of fire! I'll drink to that!

Tuesday 17 July 2018

More this and that!

Or odds and sods really. Not a lot going on this end. Saturday, of course, was Bastille Day in France so people let off fireworks on the Friday night in anticipation of having the day off on Saturday, which was just as well really as Saturday evening was wet so the fireworks displays would have been spoiled. Then Sunday was the World Cup final which, in my opinion, France deservedly won. To say my local town erupted would be an understatement. I actually had the sound turned off on the TV but knew when France had scored because of the roars from my local town 3 km away! Good for them, anyway. I was sad to see England go out but like most people I thought this young team did us proud. They are young and have plenty of room to develop and improve so I'm looking forward to the next round of Euro matches. Well done the three lions!  Onwards and upwards!

Then of course we had the visit of the Donald to the UK (and other parts). Beerrrkkkk is the only way I can describe how I felt, and most others seemed to have felt the same way too. At first I had misgivings about "Baby Trump" as I didn't feel it was respectful to the office but then as one of the organizers put it "we didn't put a US flag on it - we have every respect for the office, but we are just showing him the same respect as he shows others, i.e. none!" Fair enough in the end I suppose.

Thank God Melania is classy though, I mean, if she behaved the same way he did it would be a real old bun fight wouldn't it.  Then to have the Queen invite him to inspect the guard of honour and him walk right in front of her!!! Good god man, have you no manners. She is this diddy little lady (whatever her rank) and he just plops his ruddy great bulk down in front of her while she is inspecting her own guard! She is used to handling this kind of thing of course after so many years, but I really wish she had just taken his legs out from behind with her handbag!

And I really feel for the people in Scotland - apparently the costs for security while he was there for two days ran to £5 million - and as they so rightly put it, why should we pay for his security when he is coming to play golf on his own private golf course? Thank God it was such a short visit, is all I can say. I hear the reception was no better after that but as for the meeting with Putin!!!! Wow, just wow! You only have to look at the caricatures in the world's press to see what people think. I tell you, I wouldn't want to be part of that world for all the tea in china!

In other matters, 10 days ago I was fast asleep when I woke up with a start at 4 a.m. thinking there was someone in the house. I got up, turned all the lights on and went downstairs. Nothing! So I went back to bed but when I got up in the morning to go to work I looked at my phone and there at 4.08 a.m. was a text message from my ex asking about a recipe for "pâté campagnard" - a pâté made from pork!   What the f.......!!!! It's not as if I ever made this pâté and there was an ancient family recipe, but to send a text asking about something he could easily google and at 4 a.m. knowing that I have to get up for work!!! I was furious, but decided the best response was no response. You just don't engage in those cases. I mean we've been divorced almost seven years so why contact me about such rubbish!! Then on the Monday evening he sent me another text asking if I had got his previous message, so I just said "oh the one you sent at 4 a.m. knowing full well I had to get up at 6 a.m? Oh that one? Yeah I got that one. Thanks for that"! Geez, will he ever leave me alone!

In other matters, my car started playing up last week. I had difficulty getting it to start and thought it was a flat battery but no. I managed to hobble to Ford and they thought it was the ignition button so I had to wait a couple of day until they had ordered a new one. I managed to crawl to work for three days but on the last day before I was to drop it off every bloody light on that thing was going nuts - flashing indicators and so on as I went down the motorway. Honestly, you would have thought it was a presidential motorcade (see above) - but no, it was just me! In the end they kept it for two days (they lent me something that looked like a can of beans on wheels in the meantime) and they were telling me that they pulled loads of stuff apart and put it back together again but couldn't really say what it was. There was, however, evidence of a "fouine" attack inside. Now a "fouine" literally translated is a "weasel" but I think "fouine" is a local animal, something like a weasel but probably only about three inches or so long. The little buggers get inside your engine and nibble away at anything they can find, although in my case not the wiring thankfully. In the end Ford got my car working again but they have no idea how!!! Still, all's well that ends well - while I was waiting they were having their end-of-day apéritif so I got invited into the back office with a couple of other clients and we all had an apéritif together - vive la France, as they say!

And finally, I got round to telling my immediate boss last Wednesday of my plans to retire - he was stunned and asked what they could do to make me stay! Then on the Friday I told my director who was also stunned. I apologized for springing it on them but explained that it had nothing to do with work but everything to do with my dreadful commute. The director asked me yesterday to change my mind but I told him I would think about it until October, when I have to give three months' notice. I have an appointment with a tax advisor at the beginning of September to make sure my calculations are correct. I'm pretty sure they are but there is one tax called "contribution sociale généralisee" that I'm not sure is already counted in my tax calculations. If not, that is another 8% tax to think about and may put the spanner in the whole works as I just can't afford an additional 8% tax on top of the 22% I have already calculated. As I say, I'm pretty sure it's already included in the 22% but will have to wait until September to find out. In the meantime, I am still waiting to hear back from the French bank about the final pay-off for my house. I understand that they really won't be wanting me to pay off my mortgage 10 years early but really .... as soon as I get those two figures I can go ahead and hand my notice in. But gosh it's hard sitting around waiting isn't it!

Monday 9 July 2018

This and that!

Isn't it absolutely wonderful that they are finally bringing those young Thai boys out of that cave after such a horrific ordeal! As I am writing right now they have brought eight out - I keep flicking back to Sky News live for updates. And what absolute heroes the rescue teams are, in particular the divers, for going to hell and back themselves in order to save a group of what must be obviously terrified young boys. The sheer danger of it must surely be brought home by the fact that a brave Thai Navy Seal died of lack of oxygen before even the first boy was brought out. A brave and selfless man - as are they all!  Let's hope they get the remaining five out and quickly!

Brave Saman Kunan
In other news, it's cycling season here (actually it's cycling season pretty much all year round in France!) and you can't move on our small back roads for gaggles of cyclists heading, usually, towards Grand Bornand (that's where John Kerry fell of his bike and broke his arm). Hat's off to them for wanting to do that - I don't think I could even make it down to the bakery in the next village in this heat even with the promise of a pain au chocolat at the end. What I do wish, though, is that they would bloody well cycle in single file on these small roads, rather than drivers having to queue up behind them to get past! I can see why there is often animosity between drivers and cyclists to be honest, particularly in cities, but I'm not sure it's a case of the cyclists always being wrong or the drivers always being wrong - I'm sure there is selfish behaviour on both sides. That being said, when we made an earlier than usual start the other Sunday to go exploring Chanaz it was because they were blocking the road through our village from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a cycle race. As I said above, our village is the scenic route that leads up to Grand Bornand so that's why they schedule races through here. Fair enough I suppose, but then yesterday (Sunday) our village road was closed from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. for a bike race expected to number 17,000 cyclists!!!! Once that road is blocked off we can't get out. I gave up in the end and just decided to have a day at home pottering in the garden - and very nice it was too. I hope that's the last of the bloody things round here for this year though!

In other news, I've mentioned before that I'm not a particularly big football fan (much preferring rugby) but since England was playing on Saturday I thought I would take advantage of my enforced immobility to watch the match and it was great - well I say that because England won of course, but I really did enjoy it.  What gets me though, is that when Sweden did something amazing (which wasn't very often to be honest) they panned in to some beautiful Swedish fan cheering.

But when England did something wonderful (which was much more often) we got this lot:

Oh well, maybe that's a fair reflection of the state of play off the pitch but really!  Come on England!

While I was flicking back and forth watching TV last night waiting to hear if any more boys had been brought out of the cave, I started watching a programme called "Rich Kid to Skint" - poverty porn I suppose - where they took some rich little princess and had her stay overnight with a single mother of two on benefits in her one-bedroomed flat. My God!!!! What crap TV. Now I don't know why the young mother was single but she came over as pretty decent but Princess Twinkletoes!!!! If she was mine I would be ashamed! But then again, it's obviously mommy and daddy that made her like that, isn't it! OK, they have money and spend it on their kid. That's their privilege, but she was such a vacuous, monosyllabic amoeba it was embarrasing. Massive hair extensions, one inch long false eyelashes, one inch claws attached to the end of her fingers. Again, her choice, but she could barely string two words together, flailing her claws all over the place, playing with her hair, taking selfie after selfie, it didn't seem that even a single brain cell was firing in that tiny mind. What happened to having a personality? What happened to hard work? Why do they all end up looking like something from TOWIE or Keeping Up With The Kardashians? It beats me, and I really do fear for the future of these characterless individuals.  My goodness, now I know why I shouldn't have been channel hopping! It makes me so mad!

And finally, I have definitely made up my mind to retire at the end of the year. My boss was in Japan last week so I wanted to wait until I had a chance to speak to him before I spoke to my director. Trouble is, the boss is "a bit stressed at the moment" (it's a permanent state so I don't worry too much! My mind is  99% made up, even though I have an occasional wobble and run the figures (yet again) through the number-crunching machine and I know I can do it, buuut just this weekend I discovered a lovely blog called Miss Mazuma - a young woman aiming for early financial independence and how she is going about it. Is it ironic then that as I was having yet another wobble about retiring I came across this quote from her blog:

"But, seriously.  Coming up against “the norm” in life is difficult.  I mean, who doesn’t want to commute an hour to work [I WISH], put in 40+ hours a week at a boring job, drive home in traffic, eat a shitty meal in front of the TV, then head to bed before doing it all over again every weekday (minus 2 weeks vacation!) for the next 40 years.  Who? Sounds exhilarating!! Why would anyone want to stray from that path?"

Thanks for the kick up the butt Ms Mazuma!