The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Friday, 30 November 2018

Hi Sharon!

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

Thursday, 29 November 2018

What a lovely family!

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


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

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


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

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

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


Wednesday, 28 November 2018

MIA!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Why bother paying for "professional" advice!

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

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

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

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

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

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



Friday, 9 November 2018

This and that!

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

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

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

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

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