The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Monday 24 September 2018


It’s difficult to post as I have to pay for WiFi and it doesn’t seem to be working that well. Nice group. Average age seems to be about 75 - you know, all varicose veins and bus passes. Nah just joking. They seem really nice. Spent the day in Syracuse. Scorching hot and beautiful but so far the food hasn’t been as good as I thought it would be but who cares ! I got back to my hotel room to find a bottle of champagne for my birthday. Maybe turning 60 isn’t so bad after all!  Can’t seem to post photos either - oh well . Ciao from Sicily!

Thursday 20 September 2018

Well that went well - errr not!!!!

To say my request to telecommute went down like a lead balloon would be an understatement!!! Man oh man, the French have got to give me French citizenship now as I have them all manning the barricades. I made a written request asking for a partial telecommuting arrangement because of my commute from hell, its negative effect on my health and quoting the relevant organization policy. You could hear the very loud intake of breath from the director when he received it as he hates these arrangements with a vengeance. Trouble is, I had been asked by my supervisor what would it take to make me stay on rather than retire so I asked for a 50% telecommuting arrangement with the obvious proviso that I would be available in work when necessary - that goes without saying. Well I not only got a very resounding "no" but now colleagues who had been benefiting from such arrangements are being told they now have to come back 100% and work from the office. There is uproar. I feel bad to have been the catalyst for this but in the end I was not prepared to potentially be accorded this right but have to hide it from the others. As far as I'm concerned it has to be up front or not at all. And in any case, I am ready to retire so I have nothing to lose!

I think my director doesn't know what has hit him. Some very, very unhappy people are coming up to me complaining so I guess somebody had to "pierce that boil" as the French say. My supervisor just asked me 10 minutes ago to go away on holiday and come back with the minimum arrangement I could accept and he will run with it. In the meantime, some very ballsy women colleagues have also gone up to bat against the director. Lordy, lordy, that was never my intention but .... there are obviously some very unhappy people in this division!

Anyway, I can't go into more detail as I have work to finish before I head off for my flight to Sicily (yay me). I don't know what the outcome will be but in the end I'm not unhappy that it has happened. There was obviously festering resentment that has now been bought out into the open. We'll see I guess. I may or may not be able to post from Sicily as I will be on my ipad, but until then, man the barricades and vive la révolution!

Friday 14 September 2018

Oh cripes!

Oh sometimes I hate being a Libran! Really, seriously! Whenever I have major decisions to make I go over and over them endlessly until I am comfortable with my decision and then go for it. Buuuuutttt, to put a spanner in my future plans I know my immediate supervisor is very very upset about my wanting to retire and two days ago he called me in to his office and said for me to tell him exactly what it would take for me to stay a little longer and he will go up to bat against the Director to get it for me!!! Crikey! And oh bugger! After so many years working together my supervisor, P, trusts me and my colleague totally when it comes to getting the work done. Additionally P is going through a rough patch right now so if ever there was poor timing for me to go (from his point of view) it is now!  A couple of years ago I asked W, the Director, if I could work 80% or telecommute because my 3+ hour daily commute (on a good day) is killing me. He said no. He is totally, totally against either and said that while some people already work part-time or telecommute that was accorded to them during the time of the previous director and he didn't want to "go there". Don't get me wrong, W is a very nice person but you can tell that he has never had to dash off to the day-care by 6 p.m., never had to race around grocery shopping in his lunch hour and never had to worry about feeding and bathing the kids in the evening so I think it is totally unfair (not to mention archaic) of him to be so dogmatic. Anyway, P told me to name what I wanted and he was prepared to go see W and throw a hissy fit (he will too) to get me what I ask for. Oh bloody hell!

I told P that I had already had my appointment with the tax guy and that on Saturday I have an appointment with the bank and that I would let him know on Monday what I wanted to do, if anything. So I gave it a lot of thought and initially thought maybe working from home on Mondays and Tuesdays, but then thought no, if I am going to telecommute it would make my life much easier to work from home five mornings a week then come in to work from lunchtime onwards. Yesterday I had a cardiologist's appointment so left home later and instead of the usual 45 minutes to one hour to get to the border it took me 20 minutes!  All that stress for the sake of trying to get in to work on time!

But then I got to thinking that it wasn't up to P to go in to the Director and start banging the table, it was for me to ask for what I wanted and take it from there. So yesterday I drafted a very good (in my opinion) memo to the Director requesting 50% telecommuting, quoting the relevant company policy which very strongly encourages this and asking for equivalent treatment to my colleagues who already benefit from this arrangement. I haven't sent it yet as I want to wait until Monday, but I wanted to put it in writing (as I write better than I speak) and so that he has to answer me in writing and then I (and P) can take it further if need be. The fact that probably 30% of the staff in HR telecommute just adds fuel to my fire. I honestly don't know what the director will say as I think I may be boxing him in to a corner but we'll see.  I know for a fact that there will shortly be a directors' meeting where the "big boss" will be making it quite clear that this is the way he wishes to go forward. I also know that our medical service have been questioning our staff about directors' attitudes to these requests so who knows.  As I say, W is a nice guy but in this respect I believe he is totally in the wrong. Just my opinion though! Watch out for the fireworks next week!

I think I mentioned previously that I have been scheduling various medical check-ups in the run up to retirement as I have been putting a few of them off for too long. In the past month or so I had been feeling discomfort in my chest and jaw and know that this can be a symptom of heart problems as my dad had many heart attacks. I am convinced it is stress-related linked to my commute but made an appointment to see a cardiologist yesterday and oh the shame! Said cardiologist is drop-dead gorgeous as far as I am concerned so picture me topless, with wires attached all over my torso pedaling away on a stress-test bicycle with my boobs resting on my knees and Dr. Gorgeous standing next to me talking about Brexit! Oh la honte as they say over here (oh the shame). Now I know he is used to this but me .... what we women have to go through eh. On top of that I have the gynae on Monday so more of the same I expect. Anyway, Dr. Gorgeous told me that my heart was fine but since my dad had his first heart attack at the age of 48 I was classed as "at risk" for hereditary heart disease so I have to go for a scan next Wednesday when the results of my blood tests are in. This will be to test for cholesterol and related blockages in the arteries, just in case. I'm happy to be doing it anyway and I can only thank the powers that be that I have wonderful medical insurance and it is all covered!

And finally, I wanted to make a "get well soon" card for Steve, in view of his recent shock diagnosis, so I printed off the picture below and sent it to him in the form of a card. Thankfully he has the same sense of humour as I do so took it in good part. So far he is doing well and says he is feeling "normal" - I told him to dash off to the doctor's quick as he wasn't "normal" beforehand! Long may it last in any case. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday 11 September 2018

For no better reason than .....

I thought this was funny! There is a photo doing the rounds at the moment that just tickled me. I love the expression on the gondolier's face!

Better visit Venice before it's too late!

Monday 10 September 2018

An eventful weekend!

Thursday and Friday of last week were public holidays for us in Geneva - the last until Christmas so it is in your best interests to enjoy this break! And wouldn't you know, Thursday being the official holiday, it decided to rain - after days and days of glorious sunshine. That's not to say it stopped what seemed to be the entire population of Geneva from getting out and about though - Thursday seems to be the day that all of Geneva says "hey, it's a holiday and the French are still working so how about we pop down to Annecy and enjoy the lake" - so that's how you end up meeting half your colleagues in Annecy on the Thursday of Jeûne Genevois! Not that I'm complaining though, as I decided I wasn't going to do anything that day, or more to the point, I had an appointment with the French tax accountant to see how my calculations matched up against his figures with a view to retiring at Christmas. Well I have to say my figures were spot on with one major exception!!! Pension - check, tax calculation - check, but oh the lump sum!!!! Now I had calculated a 7.5% tax on the lump sum - which is correct - but in addition there is an obscure, newish tax that I was afraid of - the CGS - which is applicable in addition to the 7.5% tax that I had calculated and bugger me if it doesn't bring my tax bill on the lump sum to almost 21%!!!! That was a shock I can tell you. I had wanted to take €132,000 to pay off my house, put in a new heating system and re-do the bathrooms and so on and have a little left over just in case. Well out of that €132,000 the French tax man wants to take just over €30,000 so I have to admit I went a bit weak and wobbly at the knees. The very nice tax accountant said it would be madness to pay that and suggested instead that I refinance the remainder of the outstanding mortgage back to its original expiry date of 10 years from now, take a full pension and continue to pay the mortgage. Ooooooorrrrr, why not do another 15 months at work, pay the mortgage off totally and live like a queen! I could have cried - I really have my heart set on going at Christmas so once I had picked myself up off the floor I started running through my options. In any case I have an appointment at the bank this Saturday and will see what she suggests but if it can't be sorted to my satisfaction I think I might just bite the bullet, pay the (daylight robbery) tax and live relatively well on what's left. We'll see by next week I guess but yikes, really yikes!!

Theeeeeennnnn on Saturday I had a call from Steve in the U.K. In a previous post I mentioned how we had planned to go out one day but ended up not being able to as he had an appointment come through for a scan at Liverpool hospital, so I ended up spending the afternoon at the hospital reading while waiting about four hours for him to get done with his scan. Anyway, the last time I spoke to him he hadn't had his results but by this Saturday he had already been on chemo for a week!!!! Yep, without going into too much personal detail he is being treated for cancer and will continue to do so probably up until Christmas!!! I had thought he wasn't his usual madcap self when I was there in August so I guess having that niggle on his mind was what was behind it! From what I have heard it is a very treatable cancer assuming they caught it in time - a bit like prostate cancer, I guess, although it's not that. But to say he was shell-shocked is an understatement. And to my mind this is another reason to go ahead and retire at Christmas rather than wait until "things get better". What with Ian dying in May and then my friend Penny dying in July (both unexpected) I'm thinking "oh for God's sake go, what are you waiting for". Now don't get me wrong, I have every belief, sincerely, that Steve will be fine, but it's not me facing the treatment it's him, so I just wish I could transfuse some of my positivity and ship it over to him. Not to say he isn't positive - he is - but it was a hard blow to assume out of the blue! Fingers and toes (and anything else you can think of) crossed!

I didn't do much for the rest of the weekend - which annoyed me in the end because after Thursday we had such glorious weather, so on Sunday I decided that I would trot up to my son's place as I had some paperwork for him and find out how his first week had gone at his new job! It looks to be great! He is working for a fairly large company (indeed they are looking to recruit even more plumbers) and he already has his works' van, his works' mobile phone, credit card and iPad which he just "taps" and it sets out his next job and what the potential diagnostic is. He is being shadowed for his second week by a senior guy and then next week there will be two rookies together to see how they get on. It is only 10 minutes from home and is already waaaaayyy less physically demanding than his previous job for about the same money! The biggest thing that seemed to excite him was his daily lunch allowance of up to €18 per lunch whereby he pays for his lunch, takes a photo of the bill and sends it by iPad to the main office who will reimburse him! Pretty cool eh! I genuinely didn't think he would be unemployed for long (one month in total but he managed to get some temporary work in there) and there really is no such thing as an unemployed plumber is there, but I have to say I think we were all relieved when he signed his new contract!

Anyway, as we were leaving I asked if he could suggest any local spots where D and I might get up the mountains for a bit of sun (not that it's not sunny "down here"). We have all the usual beauty spots where we routinely take visitors of course but given what a stunning area we live in I wanted to try somewhere else - and boy did we strike it lucky again. About 30 minutes from home is a place called Agy where there is great hiking in the summer and cross-country and Nordic skiing in the winter. There was loads of parking at the little restaurant so D and I decided to treat ourselves to lunch before hiking the short distance to the top for what is apparently a panoramic view of the Mont Blanc.  Exceeeeept, dingbat here had put her hiking shoes by the front door, loaded up the rest of her stuff and promptly set off to her son's in her flip-flops, completely forgetting about the hiking boots by the front door. So I ended up looking like the proverbial tourist trotting off up the mountains in my flip-flops! And true to form, about 10 minutes from the top, my flip-flops broke and I couldn't go any further!!!!! D went on ahead for a while but decided to turn back and watch me hobble back to the parking lot like the Hunchback of Notre Dame!!  Oh well, maybe this Sunday.

Flip-flops - what the best dressed hikers are wearing these days!

And finally, just before lunch today I bumped into V - a lovely German colleague. She had had her hair cut and coloured and I remarked how much it suited her. She said that she had had it cut at the hairdresser's but that she had coloured it herself. Trouble was, when she was shaking the bottle of colour with the setting solution to get it properly mixed she had been a bit too "enthusiastic", did a weird movement and had hurt her back - said back having been hurting all over the long weekend! Now frankly, (a) she is German so I guess you have to expect that kind of "enthusiasm" but (b) I told her if it had been me I would have said it happened while I was in training for my next extreme sports event! I mean, how do you hurt your back colouring your hair? Beats me!

Wednesday 5 September 2018

MIA again!

I've been missing in action for a little while as I'm frantically busy at work and I think my computer is also on the blink as it has been pretty painful trying to log on here.

So what's been happening? Well the other Saturday night two friends and I went to see Simply Theatre's "The Best". This is the theatre group made up of youngsters studying the performing arts. They are aged 18 and under and do a wonderful job. I have no idea where they get their confidence from  because I could never do what they do even assuming I had half the talent - which I don't! While it wasn't my favourite (that accolade still goes to their performance of the Addams Family) it was still very good. It was a show which incorporated some of the best songs from hit shows but I think where it fell a little flat for me was that they weren't my favourites! Talk about picky! But I mean, if you talk about the Rocky Horror Show it's got to be the Time Warp Dance hasn't it. Still, as I say, they were excellent and the young girls that sang Evita's "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" and "Memory" from Cats really pulled it off. A couple of the young men had incredibly good voices too, although I did find the one "sexy" performance by two young lads a bit uncomfortable - I mean, you really can't do "sexy" when you haven't even hit puberty can you! Still that's not a criticism of their performances, they were great, it's just maybe the choice of song that I thought odd!

Then last Saturday we had our "monthly" board game evening, which was again at my place. Since I was the first person to host this we have obviously come full circle already! We ended up being only 10 as a few people were still away but gosh what a noise we made. Jen had bought along a new game where you picked two cards and had to mime the "afflictions" that were indicated on them - for instance every time Valerie spoke she had to do it like she was speaking to her lover, stroking his cheek with a squishy voice and all that. Trouble was she was doing that to Isabelle's husband, Philippe. Philippe had to be Valerie's "imaginary friend" who she had to get to say a certain word. Difficult to describe I suppose but it was hilarious, particularly the more wine we drank (I wonder why that was?)!!!! Our next evening will be held at Valerie's because she lives at over 1,000 metres altitude and we wanted to make it to her place before the snows hit. Our group does seem to be growing in popularity somewhat as Jen asked if she could bring a friend (obviously not a problem as it was at my place) but then on the Sunday I dropped in at my oldest son's place to give him his birthday presents and they asked if they could join! Little buggers, they had been included in the initial invite over a year ago and never responded. Still, if they want to come I'm hardly going to say no am I and it is a great way to see my kids! At that point we might be 18 which I think is pretty much the limit to entertain in someone's house but we'll see how it goes.

Talking of André and Lily they came back from Sicily (which is where I'm going in two weeks' time for my birthday) and in a couple of weeks are heading back out to the American "west". Not quite sure what their itinerary is but they are going to be covering a helluva lot of miles, but then they both love it. All I know is that Lily is organizing it all and that they will be landing in Denver, heading for their "main attraction" of Utah and leaving from San Francisco. She has all the places they want to visit mapped out (which in their case includes hiking up to eight hours a day) but they do indeed have some wonderful photos from their last visit in March. Do it while you can afford it and before the little 'uns come along is all I can say!

And talking of my birthday (we were weren't we), I have decided to line up a few doctors' appointments to get a complete check-up before I retire. When I called the cardiologist's I explained to the receptionist that I was already a patient but had changed my name. When she asked me to confirm my date of birth I said 24 September 1958 and she said "oh, so the big one's coming up isn't it"! I told her not to remind me but she assured me that it would have been fine (for her) if the following week she hadn't received advertising for funeral expenses and incontinence pads! Ain't that the truth! When I hit 50 all of a sudden the advertising coming my way was no longer for push-up bras and stockings but support socks and adult diapers!!! So I asked her if she had received any magazines giving out free 1950s knitting patterns yet but when she said not I told her I would bring her some on the day of my appointment! The "sad" thing is, I wouldn't mind taking up knitting when I retire! Still she was a very friendly receptionist and she kinda made my day!

And yet again talking of being an "old fogie", yesterday I bumped into a lovely colleague who I hadn't seen for quite some time. He was the lovely guy who took me out dancing after my husband left me. It was a Thursday night, I couldn't dance for toffee but we danced until four in the morning. When I told him I was on my knees but that I would seem him later at work he just said "oh, I took the day off"!!! So 30 years after the last time I pulled such a stunt I ended up pulling an all-nighter! I can't believe I ever used to do that on a regular basis. Anyway, I hadn't been able to catch a coffee with Jean (he is French/Lebanese) in ages as someone always ended up cancelling - so he asked if I wanted to have a "quickie" next week, "you know about 30 minutes". I burst out laughing and said "hey in my book that would be more of a marathon than a quickie but why not. Anything has got to be better than three pumps and a slump! His English is excellent but I'm not sure he actually knew what a "quickie" was! I guess I'll have to meet him for coffee next week and explain, just in case. Oh dear, what a let down. He only meant coffee!

Anyway, Thursday and Friday are public holidays here in Geneva so I will enjoy my last long weekend before the Christmas break. Yikes, fancy talking about Christmas already - how depressing!