The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Monday 25 February 2019


I guess my nephew is looking to get his dad's place listed for sale as he just sent me a link on RightMove showing a house for sale and asking if this was gran's place in Betws. Yep, that's Bod Hyfryd, my gran's old place. It is an 8-bedroomed house with separate cabin accommodation at the back. They are asking £400,000 for it, which doesn't seem a lot to me but then I know I haven't lived in the UK for years and you really do have to compare apples to apples.

I reckon that there would be a steady income stream from it with the walkers in North Wales, even in winter, and with Betws being located inside Snowdonia National Park. It was lovely looking at what has been done to the house over the years - not at all how I remember it of course. But I'll be curious to see if it goes.

Bod Hyfryd
Something that also caught my eye this morning though is a short article on how a drain in Ipswich was found to be blocked after someone flushed leftover Yorkshire puddings down the toilet! Unbelievable! Not the fact that some idiot did that (that's gross enough) but the fact that there would actually be leftover Yorkshire puddings! There certainly wouldn't in my house!

Yorkshire puddings - a national treasure!

Sunday 24 February 2019

As clear as mud!

I suppose with my brother's sudden illness and death, getting into some kind of routine in retirement was naturally pushed back a bit but I feel like I am slowly starting to get there, although maybe not yet an optimum routine! I find myself going to bed pretty late - anywhere between midnight and 1 a.m. (or 1.30 last night!), and then getting up around 8.30. I have always been a "late" bird but, ideally, I would like to get that down to getting up a bit earlier. I suppose, though, since it's still officially winter why would I want to get up earlier in the dark and cold right? That being said, the weather is absolutely gorgeous here, with temperatures around 14°C, or in the 50s F, so if I can get my act together I will aim to start going to bed by midnight and up by around 7-7.30! We'll see how that pans out though won't we!

What I have been putting off, however, is looking into what I need to do for residency after Brexit, so yesterday, after taking myself off for an hour's walk in the sunshine, I decided I would get online and have a look at the kind of paperwork I will need to stump up in order to get my resident's papers (carte de séjour in French). A friend sent me a link to what turned out to be a fairly efficient UK Government website which has been set up to help Brits in Europe. After signing up I must have received 50 emails immediately on "living in Germany after Brexit", "living in Greece after Brexit", "living in …." you get the idea. But in addition to those emails there were also emails entitled "IP (intellectual property) issues after Brexit", "import and export procedures after Brexit", and so on. Anyway, I clicked on the "French" link and got some fairly standard info there. The French, though, have also set up a website for Brits living in France but the big problem is that they have to keep keep referring to "in the event of a deal", you will need to provide this, but "in the event of no deal" you will need to provide that. Basically nobody knows! So it's all still as clear as mud you see! The positives, as far as I can see, is that deals are being negotiated (and hopefully pushed through) on the issue of medical coverage for Brits in various EU countries and pension security. It's by no means sorted but at least it is moving forward, and frankly it is in nobody's interests for this to be screwed up. Seeing all the pages and pages of information I have to wade through, though, does make me wonder what those Brits will do (many in Spain as far as I can see) who never bothered to learn the language! I would not like to be trying to trudge through this stuff if I didn't speak French, I can tell you and, most likely, there will be a French language proficiency test thrown in for good measure! But then why not - we live in the bloody country don't we! On the issue of medical insurance and pensions I will be ok as I have private medical insurance for life through my former employer and a private pension, again through my former employer and not dependent on Britain. My youngest son - the one still living in France - is employed and has medical insurance through his employer and will be married to a French girl by the time it goes through. Ditto my oldest son, although he is in Switzerland and married to a Swiss. So there you have it, despite my best intentions and sitting down to "really go through this stuff", I am no further forward than I was a couple of days ago, so I guess I will just wait until April and take it from there. The good news is that we will have at least until July 2020 to prepare our files, as opposed to the three months my husband and I had in 1990 to submit our requests for cartes de séjour.

Then to add to the paperwork, up until this year the French have always received full, untaxed salaries and, at the end of each tax year, they file taxes and pay what is owed to the State. Since 1 January 2019 they have instituted a PAYE (pay as you earn) system so everyone should now be having taxes deducted at source by their employers. Except for people like me, though, because I have a foreign (non-French) pension which they cannot touch so I have to set it up myself to allow them to direct debit my monthly taxes from my bank account. The problem with that, though, is (a) I don't actually know if I have to wait until the end of 2019 for them to estimate my taxes (as was usually done up until now since this is my first year as a pensioner), or if I should be paying in already! No idea! I am of course putting the money aside so I can pay it immediately once it gets sorted but I still have to correct the issue of the bad information provided to me by my "tax advisor" regarding the amount of tax I have to pay on the lump sum! So, really, I can't do anything until I get that sorted! I am, therefore, going to make an appointment with a real tax expert for when I come back from Sri Lanka and hopefully get that sorted pretty quickly.

And talking of Sri Lanka (I was wasn't I), I'm off there on Saturday! Yay me. I'm flying from Zurich and will arrive a day before my tour starts so I have booked into what I hope is a nice hotel in Colombo for the first night, allowing me to recuperate from jet lag a little before we set off on our tour. Same for when I get back too, as my flight arrives in Zurich around 9 p.m. and I don't want to then set off on a three hour train journey to get in to Geneva probably around 1 a.m. Sooo, I have booked myself into what looks to be a rather nice hotel at Zurich airport on the way back.

As luck would have it, this evening I saw that Top Gear was on tonight and just happened to catch that they would be having a race from Colombo to northern Sri Lanka in two tuk-tuks to try to make it over "Adam's Bridge" (hint, it's not a real bridge) to India! So I got to see the kind of scenery that awaits me and it looks beautiful. I'm not much of a Top Gear fan to be honest (particularly since Clarkson left) but it was lovely to see all that lush scenery and the beautiful beaches. Kinda exciting!

Then to add more flavour to the mix, my son and his fiancée are getting married on the Saturday after I get back. It is the mairie wedding (the legal wedding), which will last about 30 minutes and then we are all going back to the bride's mom's place for lunch. They are making "tartiflette" (my favourite meal in the whole world I think) and have asked me to make desert for 20-25. Since tartiflette is pretty heavy we have agreed that I will make a fruit salad with rum and a cardamom sauce, millionaire's shortbread, and I think I will also make a heart-shaped chocolate cake, which is one of Jordan's favourites. My friend is making her "to die for" chocolate chip cookies so I don't suppose we will starve. I just hope this glorious weather holds out for them. My other son got married two years ago on 17 March in beautiful weather and Jordan and Jen are getting married on 16 March, so fingers crossed.

Other than that, there's not much going on. I took myself off to the Bénite Fontaine (the Church of the Blessed Fountain), in order to get a walk in but ostensibly to fill up my water bottles from the mountain spring water that runs through there (a bit like bottling your own Evian water - which you can also do for free). I noticed the farmer in the distance on the way back tending to his horses but other than that haven't seen him since. So all's good here. Packing almost done, and I haven't forgotten the mozzie repellent so Sri Lanka here I come!

Thursday 21 February 2019

I'm beginning to love Sundays!

I know, I know, it's not Sunday, but do you remember that awful sinking feeling you would get (well most of us, I would guess) on a Sunday evening knowing that tomorrow would mean "up at the crack of dawn and back to the daily grind"? Of course I don't have to do that any more and as such I am starting to really appreciate Sundays. I was thinking just this last Sunday as I marvelled at how quiet and peaceful it was, with people out cleaning their cars or just pottering in their gardens. You see, over here in France nothing is really open on Sundays so while I enjoyed doing a bit of shopping on Sundays in the UK there is none of that here. And now I really appreciate the quietness of it, often just tootling around the garden and watching the planes overhead wondering where they are off to!

Well I suppose "totally quiet" isn't strictly true! I was driving down to the market in the next little village on Sunday and the traffic heading up and down the mountain was pretty awful seeing as the schools' winter break/ski holidays have already started. What! But they've only just gone back to school after the Christmas break! To be honest, I don't know how we did it when the kids were young, coping with those never ending school holidays, although I'm pretty sure we never tied them to a chair and left them home alone! Anyway, the next village of St. Pierre is the access route to a winding mountain gorge that takes you up to some lovely ski resorts - La Clusaz (my favourite), Grand Bornand etc. - and the traffic was horrendous, as it was "changeover day" for many renters and ski day for quite a few locals, although I always tried to avoid the resorts when the schools were on their break. In fact the day before there was a traffic jam heading north (towards Paris) that we know was about 130 km long. It started way before the toll road just near me and stretched at least until Bourg-en-Bresse, 130 km away! What a nightmare! I have a vague thought that I might go back to downhill skiing again next year but only with a group that goes on Tuesdays and Thursdays rather than the weekend. The Swiss Alpine Club do this so I might try them out, although I'd need to be a lot fitter before joining them I think. Ha, I once joined CAS (the Swiss club) a few years ago and signed up for what I thought was a cross country trip. On the list of recommended equipment was a "piolet", so I asked my friend what that was in English. When she said an ice axe I nearly died, I had signed myself up for ski touring, you know skiing up mountains and not just down or across them. Hell, could you imagine me turning up for that!

I was keeping an eye on the traffic though as I had arranged to meet my friend in Geneva to go to the cinema and wanted to know if I needed to take the back roads but by Sunday afternoon it was flowing freely. Just as well really as it's almost an hour's drive even without the traffic. We went to see "Green Book" and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. It is based on a true story of the unlikely friendship between a black concert pianist who elected to do a tour of the US South in the 1960s and a hard hitting Italian New Yorker hired as his chauffeur. It was funny but also thought-provoking on just what it must have been like to be a black person in the South in the 60s. The next film I want to go and see is "Stan and Ollie", which doesn't come out here until 3 March so it will have to wait until I get back from Sri Lanka. My nephew made me laugh though as he said he had seen it (and thoroughly enjoyed it) but while he was queueing up to get tickets somebody behind him said "so what's it about anyway?" Sweet!

And going off on a totally different tangent, being at home more has brought home to me how many bloody scam/telemarketing calls I get on my home phone! I got three in the space of an hour the other day while I was sitting reading. If I don't recognize the number I never pick up as my friends know to start leaving a message. These callers never leave a message of course. And I was getting quite a few calls from Tunisia on my mobile until recently, even though I never give out my mobile number unless it is necessary. I routinely block them as they come in but then of course they just call from another number. Tunisia seems to be on the wane now and Tonga seems to have taken up the slack! Bloody hell, Tonga!!! Again I just keep blocking the numbers but seriously?

After my experience with the farmer yesterday I must admit I have spent a good amount of time today looking out my window to make sure he wasn't in the field at the back of my house. He has the horses in a field nearer to my house today but I only saw him from a distance. You see, while I didn't mind having a coffee with him I really don't want to get taken "unawares" again as he was quite insistent yesterday! Time to get the wig and false mustache out I guess!

And finally, I see that Karl Lagerfeld died yesterday. I'm no fashionista (haven't got the figure for it) but I did find some of his "bitchy" comments quite amusing. I particularly like the one about sweatpants. "Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants!" Oh dear, I wonder what he would have said about woolly socks, no bra and sweatpants!

Tuesday 19 February 2019

What the hell just happened!

Gosh I had so many things I was going to write about but I seem to have just gotten side-swiped!  I suppose I should start at the beginning though right. I have, once again, decided that I really should try to lose some weight. I know, I know, I've said it all before but this time I really can't seem to come up with any valid excuse why not. I have the time to read, to cook and to exercise, so as I can't think of any other excuses here we go again. I have signed up to several dieting websites over the years which I'm sure work but the problem is … you have to follow them, and I have a real hard time being "told" what I can and can't eat. I think, more importantly, I read up on these diets and think "oh that sounds right" and then another one completely contradicts what the first one said and I end up being so totally confused as to what to believe! In the past I have signed up to Weight Watchers online (twice I think) and also attended their meetings (also on two different occasions), but firstly it was hell trying to get to the meetings because of the traffic round here and, as usual, I always have big problems sticking to a "plan". I have no doubt that they work but, as I said, I really don't like being "told" what to do! I have (briefly) tried the Dukan diet (I lasted three days), Slimming World online (they don't have meetings here) and was looking into keto but I hadn't got past the "oh I think I could do that" stage! Anyway, while I was in England the other week a neighbour of my sister's walked past and was chatting away with my sister and her husband and he commented on how he had already lost one stone (14lbs) with Slimming World and it was "fantastic". My sister got to chatting with him and afterwards was telling me that, yes, it really was a great system and so many friends had lost weight easily with it. OK quite a few had put weight back on too but that was because they didn't stick to the principles of SW. So when I got back from the funeral I thought "sod it", I'll sign up online again and see how it goes. I guess the only difference is I now have time to look through their recipes and try to follow it that way rather than looking through my store cupboard and trying to adapt their principles to my store cupboard - although I'm sure that's also possible. So I started SW online last week and have lost 2 lbs this week. That in itself is OK but in reality I can lose or gain 3-4 lbs overnight (hormones I guess) so I want to wait until next week to see if I think this will work for me. The big thing in their favour, as far as I'm concerned, is that I can eat fruit, and with the other plans I was just not willing to give up my fruit ration! Yeah, yeah, I know fruit is nature's candy but I still wasn't willing to give it up.

Anyhoo, all that to say, I have also been making an effort to get out and walk in this glorious weather we have going here. As my car needed some work after failing it's MOT last week I drove into town yesterday to drop it off then slugged my way back up home (I live at 800 metres) afterwards. Not too bad but it is hard work. Then, when it was time to pick it up, I walked back into town again so I managed over 13,000 steps yesterday. Today I had a bit of running around to do and when I got back I hesitated over whether I wanted to go out walking again but in the end I thought "sod it, put your money where your mouth is and get out there"! The weather is glorious, bright sunshine and around 14°C (57°F) so I decided at the last minute to head out for a walk up behind our houses before the sun started to go down. I have mentioned this walk before when I posted a picture of the pretty chalet and where I stopped to talk to the horses.

They were out again today (minus the snow), so I had a good excuse to stop and catch my breath (read "prevent myself from regurgitating a lung") so I went over and started talking to them. There was a man there a little further up with his "Savoyard" hat on (like a French cowboy hat) - they wear them a lot round here up in the mountains - and he wandered over and started chatting to me. I recognized him immediately as the owner of the farm up at the back of my house (you can see where his fields start in my header picture) and asked if they were his. They were, and he was explaining to me that they were females and one had just had twins - he said he misjudged her due date by two days so had taken her inside with her foals. So that's when I told him I recognized him and he was "Dédé A", or "André A", my neighbour. Now I have been friends with his sister for years, our kids grew up together, her only child being killed eight years ago in a car crash involving four kids from our little village. Two of the boys were killed in fact, and V, the mother of Hugo, the other boy who was killed, is one of the (founding) members of our board game evening and we are still friends. The other two kids in the car were M, the driver, who was badly injured, and C, Stan's daughter, who was also seriously injured but survived. So yes, I knew Dédé, but not well. Problem was, his sister couldn't stand him, said he was a "brute" ("a savage", I guess, in French) and they have nothing to do with each other. That being said, he did go to her son's funeral and stand at the back of the church so she at least realized that there was a heart there!

Anyway, as I got chatting to Dédé he asked me if I would like for him to show me round his farm and have a coffee with him. I didn't really know what to say so ended up saying yes. What I didn't know was that his wife had died in August and he was alone!  But like I say, I knew this man vaguely so off we went in his jeep further up the mountain to his farmhouse. Here he showed me his sheep and lambs (80 in total) and his Pyreneen mountain dogs that take care of them. A couple of years ago I did a post about how lovely it was to see the sheep and their dog/guardian in the field behind me. Then he took me over to see the goats. I just loved that shed as those goats were so pretty. Apparently he has 800 animals in all, but was telling me how lonely he had been since his wife had died. Anyway, we ended up having a coffee at his place and he asked me out!!!!! I said "but you don't know me, or at least only slightly", and he said he didn't care but did I want to go out with him!!!! Oh crikey. I said thank you but no I am very happy alone and not looking but I understood that he was lonely. Don't get me wrong, he was an absolute gentleman, but I have a hard time reconciling this man who was very good company and an absolute treasure-trove of information about local customs and the local landscape with the "brute" that his sister describes. I tend to believe her as he can be more than a bit "rough around the edges" but then I guess that is the nature of alpine farmers isn't it!

So we got chatting and he was asking me about my ex. I told him that many moons ago he had bought his tractor into our garden to take out a hazelnut tree for us (we couldn't dig the roots up) and he said "oh yeah, your husband had the baseball cap on" (well he is American). Then I explained that when Jordan was around 10 he and two friends had been up on the farm and thrown stones into the bath tub that served as a drinking trough for his cattle and that he had balled them out. So he said "so that's why you don't want to go out with me - because I balled your kids out"? So I said "no, Stan and I actually sent our kids back up to your place to apologize" (which they did - but he terrified them) and he remembered them. Shotgun in hand he yelled at them "je ne viens pas vous emmerder chez vous, ne venez pas m'emmerder chez moi", which basically means I don't "f...k around at your place so don't come around at mine"! He just laughed when I told him how scared the kids had been, but you know what, I don't blame him for balling them out because a farmer has a living to make and his animals are more than precious to him.

Anyway, after the coffee he got out the "niol" alcohol - homemade - and explained to me that it is made from a mountain plant called isopline (in English), where he went looking for it and how he made it. If you're interested - 40 isopline plants, 40 sugar cubes, cover with niol and leave for 40 days - easy right! 

Isopline - looks a bit like lavender doesn't it!
It is quite common here to have an alcohol "chaser" after a cup of coffee and I really was fascinated by all that he knows about the local area and its traditions. Under other circumstances he would be a dream man (for me) but I still wasn't interested in going out with him!!! Crikey, I only stopped to pat the horses! But you know what, I don't regret going for a coffee with a lonely widower - I just hope he knows to respect my boundaries and not show the "brute" side! So there you have it - a "brute" of an alpine farmer who invited me for coffee (and niol) and all I was trying to do was lose some weight! I told him up front I wasn't interested and was trying, kindly, to tell him that there were loads of women out there who would jump at the chance to date him. I did, however, say I would gladly have coffee with him occasionally - but the look on my neighbours' faces when man mountain/the "brute" dropped me off at my front door was a sight to behold!

Thursday 14 February 2019

Returning to normal - hopefully!

I flew back from the funeral via Manchester on Sunday night after a week full of 360° weather changes and very mixed emotions. Sadness, of course, for the loss of my brother, but full of laughter - as usually happens on these occasions when we allow ourselves to remember the silly things too. The funeral was nicely done and the celebrant spoke well, I thought. Turns out he knew my mom's family from when he was a child and he managed to bring quite a personal touch to it. After the funeral I actually commented to Phil's oldest son, Darren, that it was a shame we now only seemed to meet up at funerals since, for a large family, we (mostly) get along very well so did anyone have any thoughts on meeting up occasionally somewhere "neutral" - to which Darren replied "but who would we have to shoot"? He has my brother's sense of humour and just cracks me up!

We set off from Dorset on the Thursday morning before the funeral as on a "good" day it would be a 6-7 hour journey and on a "usual" day it could take any number of hours! For that reason, my brother-in-law decided to take the back roads as the last time he had driven up to North Wales on the motorway the traffic jams were horrendous. And honestly, it was a real pleasure to take that route and visit (or re-visit) places I hadn't seen in decades. On the way up we went through a lovely town called Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire - it was so, so pretty it would be hard to do it justice. It was also near here that we stopped to eat in an unassuming little place that ended up doing the most amazing food! Homemade venison or chicken pies, fabulous cakes, sticky toffee puddings, you name it!! It really was superb, although after last week I don't think I'll even set foot on a set of scales for at least a month!

Near Ledbury we passed a lovely looking pub that I had never seen before. Ledbury is only a few miles from where BIL grew up so he and my sister spent quite some time reminiscing about the different places they had been when dating/first married.

The Trumpet Pub near Ledbury
My youngest son and his fiancée were able to get a couple of days off in order to come to the funeral so afterwards, having shown them around Conwy and Llandudno, I thought they might enjoy "UK prices" and took them to that young person's shopping paradise - Primark! Well that was a hit! Basically Jordan followed Jen around like a sherpa carrying a shopping basket, with her going "oh my goodness look at these prices! How much is that in real money?" and so on. After her shopping spree it was Jordan's turn and we went upstairs to the men's department where he got to satisfy his urge to shout "oh my goodness …"! Anyway, they were both really happy with their purchases and, since they made sure not to bring too much stuff with them, we were able to get all their goodies back without having to pay any excess baggage! Which did trigger an interesting question (provoked by me, I have to admit) about whether they would be able to have such a "spend up" if a no deal Brexit meant import duties were re-imposed on goods coming into France from the UK! Which also gave way to a more interesting discussion with my family when we saw a similar sign to the one below on a door in Conwy!

On our final day in Wales we decided to visit Portmeirion since none of us had ever been there before and I/we were very pleasantly surprised. It was so pretty and the china in the gift shop was to die for! Expensive and fabulous so unfortunately I couldn't indulge but I was drooling, I have to admit!



I had forewarned my sister that on the way back I wanted to take the kids for a drive up through Betws-y-Coed so wouldn't be following them back to Llandudno via the normal route (through Llanrwst - where my grandfather used to have a cobbler's shop). Well! By the time we got there it was dark and starting to snow and as we were leaving Betws I was having a hard time seeing where I was going as there were no lights, no cats' eyes and walkers heading up the road in the dark, presumably to the Snowdonia hostel further up, It was really hard work, bearing in mind I was on the "wrong side of the road" too! At one point I had had to chose between going straight on (unsignposted) or taking a left turn but going that way would take me over Llanberis Pass, in the dark, in the snow, on the wrong side of the road and still not sure I was going the right way! Turns out I was right, but by golly that was hard work, although listening to Jen trying to pronounce Welsh names from the GPS on her telephone was hilarious!

Llanberis Pass
When I got back to France I ended up coming down with the lurgy, which could have been due to stress in addition to the cold and howling wind that we had to put up with in Wales, but I have to say we were actually pretty lucky for the most part in that when the weather was doing its worst we were mainly in the car and actually managed to avoid the worst it could throw at us. Not completely, of course, or else I wouldn't have got sick but ….. Either way I'm starting to feel better already after a few lazy days and am already thinking it's time to get back to the old exercise malarky to compensate for the surfeit of calories I managed to cram into my poor body last week!

And finally, when I got home I realized that the bloody handle on my (relatively) new suitcase had come right off, either in Manchester or in Geneva upon arrival, so somewhere or other there is a suitcase handle with my name and phone number attached to it squeaking forlornly around a baggage carousel, somewhat like Rhod Gilbert describes below!

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Couldn't resist this!

My sister and I have been going through a pile of old photos from our childhood, just killing time I suppose. It's nice because she can put names to faces that I can't. Talk about a rag tag bunch! But what stood out and had us roaring laughing were the bloody "home haircuts"! I swear our mom just used to put a bowl on our heads and attack our hair with garden scissors! I think Vidal Sassoon can rest easy don't you! From top to bottom: Anna, Brenda, Marion and Rachel!


Tuesday 5 February 2019

I made it - but only just!

We had more snow on Sunday but the roads were pretty clear when my friend dropped me at the airport (I am perennially early) and I had almost made it to the check in when a line of Swiss police started herding everyone out saying "evacuate, evacuate"! And we were all directed out of the airport (to stand for the next 90 minutes in the snow as it turned out). I eventually discovered that there was an unattended suitcase found outside a bookstore and they ended up calling in the bomb squad and sniffer dogs! The Easyjet check ins seemed to be where it was "all occurring" and most of those flights were UK bound (mainly skiers) so in the end I ended up standing outside in the snow with a group of very good natured Brits, I have to admit! Maybe we're just more used to getting stuck in delays and we're definitely experts at queuing, but nobody got worked up or ratty and one man cracked me up after about an hour when he proclaimed in a very loud voice "well that's the last time I pay for speedy boarding"! We all burst out laughing!

They had a robot x-ray the case and then sent in the dog and the bomb squad and it turned out to be a false alarm luckily! I hope they came down hard on the bag's owner (presuming they found them) as it must have cost the airport/airlines a small fortune! I had resigned myself to missing my flight (and possibly also the funeral) but I have to admit the staff pulled out all the stops (Easyjet ground staff in particular) and I made it to the UK with just a one hour delay!

We're off to Wales on Thursday for the funeral on Friday and then it's back to Geneva on Sunday for me. I don't have my laptop with me so I'm bashing this out one-fingered on my phone! I hope to get back to catching up with my blog reading (and indeed catching up with my own life) next week, so until then .....!

Friday 1 February 2019

Let it snow!

Crikey, I know I've been saying winter hasn't even started here for a while but then today happened! Starting yesterday evening with rain it must have turned to snow during the night because this morning it was coming down thick and fast! And it didn't stop all day! I heard the snowplough come through around 5 a.m. but the snow never stopped. I can't say it was cold at all (I guess it has to warm up in order to snow) but that snow was just relentless. Which would have been fine if I didn't have to go anywhere (normally I don't) but I recently received a reminder that my car was coming due for its contrôle technique (MOT in the UK) and I had it booked in for this afternoon! Typical! It has barely snowed at all this season and now I have to drive into town behind the plough! Still, on a positive note, yet again I am eternally grateful that I wasn't pushing snow off my car at 6 a.m. this morning trying to get to work on what I'm now beginning to believe is the world's greatest parking lot - the Geneva ring road! I swear two days a week the traffic on that road doesn't move at all, thus becoming one massive parking lot!

Anyway, I made it into town ok and dropped off my car for it's inspection, which, conveniently enough, was located right next door to Intersport - a local sporting goods chain - where they were having their sales! Yay me! Thirty minutes to spare and the sales are on next door!  I managed to find a nice lightweight, but windproof, top in the sale - which kinda surprised even me to be honest, as I usually can't find anything in my size - French women are just so diddy for the most part and I can rarely find a sports top to fit!! I guess I might have lost a little weight then! In addition I also picked up a long rain poncho for my trip to Sri Lanka in March. We were told to bring warm-ish clothes as certain parts can get cold and can also be wet (though I doubt as cold and wet as here) and I wanted something really lightweight as I only want to pack a small case! For the other stuff I want I will look around when I get to England as there are good sporting goods stores near my sister and they will be a lot cheaper!

Anyway, my car was basically OK but I have to have a couple of minor things sorted. He mentioned something about the "power steering having a little too much give" and a small light that needed changing, but frankly I know very little about cars and even less when they explain it to me in French! I have two months to get it sorted in order for my car to be fully compliant, so I dropped straight in at my garage and booked an appointment for when I get back from England. I have known Thierry at Ford for ages and he is a really good guy. He also speaks fairly decent English and likes to practice with me! He has me booked in for the work when I get back and then offered to drop it back off at the MOT place when it was done so that I didn't have to bother - so all good then!

Well "all good" until I got home of course, which was when I found out the electricity was out! I have no idea when it went off and they have always been very good about getting it up and running quickly, but having no electricity does make you realize how dependent you are on it doesn't it. I mean, I heat my home with fuel but obviously the system can't run without electricity! Still, I was able to make myself a cup of tea on my gas hob so all was not lost! I keep a couple of torches dotted around my house but the the one in my bedroom didn't work when I picked it up because of course the batteries had been in it too long! Not a worry though as I had others but it could, indeed, have been a cold evening had they not got the electricity up and running fairly sharply! The longest we have been without electricity since I have been here was over New Year 1999/2000 when I think it was out for about 24 hours and by golly it was cold. I'm lucky in that I have a log fire that I can use to heat the house but it obviously wouldn't be a long term solution. And another little tidbit, our little town of La Roche was the first in France to get electricity! You never know what you don't know do you!

Anyway, it has started to rain now so I'm hoping it will wash away a lot of the snow by the time I fly on Sunday. I can already hear the snow falling off the roof right now so fingers crossed!