The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Friday 31 May 2019

Thursday 30 May 2019

Slowly but surely!

Well I still  have a million things flitting through my head to write about - hence the name of this blog really I suppose. But somehow, I added a few more! Today, being Ascension, it is a public holiday here in France, so not much going on. I didn't know if our local market was on as usual because of the  holiday but decided to forget about it and settle down to get a few things done at home. I mean, in France there is always another market tomorrow. And yes, indeed, I will head off to the market in Bonneville tomorrow before doing my grocery shopping. I have occasionally been to this market (not routinely being off on a Friday), but it will be good in any case to check out another one.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. There is an expression in French that goes "je saute du coq à l'âne" which basically means I "jump from the rooster to the donkey" - or my mind goes in a million different directions at once! I guess that's me at the moment.

Anyhoo, back to the real world. Mother's Day in France is always the last Sunday in May. Jordan was born on Sunday, 31 May in 1992, so on French Mother's Day. In Switzerland (where my oldest lives), Mother's Day is two weeks prior, so mid-May. Anyway, I knew Jordan and Jen were going to lunch at her mother's for Mother's Day and it didn't bother me, so I invited them to stop over on the evening. I can't say this stuff bothers me that much so having them go to her mom's for lunch was fine by me. (I remember one Christmas after my divorce that there was absolutely no way I was going to spend Christmas with their dad and his skank so told the kids to go to his place. They were torn of course but I just thought "get on with it", I ain't having him here so go there)! And I was fine with it!

Anyway, after lunch Jordan sent me a message to ask if Jen's mom could come over with them! WELL OF COURSE SHE CAN! I learned afterwards that mom wasn't doing too well so "come on over"! Well they came over and we started off playing some extremely daft board games while dinner was cooking, but you know what? It was fun!

I tend to cook for an army anyway so I don't see where the problem is and we ended up having a very nice evening together! 

Monday night was our last "Monday night sewing club", of which I am now the "Présidente". We didn't plan on sewing but had decided that we would all eat together. Everyone bought a dish and it was a very, very nice evening. The club meetings are not a course as such as everyone takes their projects and does what they want but we have a lady who comes along and who really knows how to sew and she helps out wherever. This is the first year for Patricia to help us out, and to say that she is really "rough around the edges" would be an understatement! She has had a tough life and it shows but she is actually very, very nice and we all appreciate her. Anecdotally, her father was a "native (US) Indian" (not sure how I'm supposed to phrase that), who came over to France just after WWII and never went back. But she said he was an evil, alcoholic bastard who ruled with a rod of iron (when he was sober enough to do so) and her mom lived a life of hell - until he abandoned her and their five children! So to say she is "tough" probably is an understatement! Add to that, a few years ago her 20-something year old son was dashing down the stairs to go out, fell, smashed the back of his skull in and is now permanently brain-damaged. She has had to fight to get him the help he needs knowing that he will never get better, so I'm sure you can see why we all take her "abrasive" tongue with so much leeway! In fact, on Monday evening she was ranting about something when I looked at her and said (in French), "you know Patricia, to hear you speak is pure poetry! When my appointment comes through for my naturalisation (to become French) and where I will have to have prove that I speak French fluently - maybe we can get together so that I can practice with you - I'm sure they will be impressed!" At which point she just doubled up laughing! Which was the whole point really! She is rough around the edges, but is good at what she does and we like her! 

I had spoken to Geneviève previously and she said she would buy a wine set for Patricia as a thank you from all of us, so I said I would get some flowers, to show our appreciation. Well I went down to St. Pierre to my local shop that morning only to find out that they weren't open on Mondays! Damn! So I dashed off back to our local town where I thought/hoped our bigger flower shop would be open - which it was! I picked out a lovely arrangement and took it in to pay for it when the lady asked if "it was to be placed on the coffin immediately?" I said "I hope not, she's not dead"! At which point the lady was at pains to point out that "no of course, they weren't typically funereal flowers". When I think about it, that shop is mainly for funeral flowers but …. how was I to know. I thought "shall I tell Patricia or shan't I" - and in the end I thought "sod it" and I did. We all had a great laugh!

One big issue that came up as we were chatting over dinner was that our group is a very friendly, happy group. Mid-year Pascale showed up and asked if she could join! No prior contact, she just showed up! Well that was no problem of course, yep come along and join in! Except, Pascale was a miserable, demanding sodding cow from day one! What to do! She was obviously (physically) not well - that was apparent from the get go. Terribly, terribly thin, with a pinched mouth! But she was also very, very demanding right from the start! It didn't matter whether Patricia was helping someone else or not Pascale interrupted and "demanded" attention immediately! Now, looking at her you could see that there was something very, very wrong immediately. She was stick thin with a pinched mouth and a very, very sour personality. I had been absent one week (probably when I was in Sri Lanka or Cinque Terre) but the following week they asked me how old I was!!!! I said "you know I celebrated my 60th in Sicily in September so what gives?" So they asked me how old I thought Pascale was - to which I answered "not far off 80".  Turns out, she was also 60. So compare fatty old me to skinny old her at the same age, and I can tell you she didn't come out of that comparison well! I was stunned!

Now apparently she suffers from anorexia. Seemingly many years ago a boyfriend had told her she was too fat and …. there you go. But she is a thoroughly, thoroughly unpleasant person. Cynthia, one of our group, is Swiss and moved into France probably 20-30 years ago. At the time she had Swiss plates and said she remembered going to get her Swiss plates changed to French and Pascale happened to be working there (pre-anorexia). She told her that she would "denounce" her to the authorities if she didn't get it done in time!!! As Cynthia said, "I was well within the time limits and here I was doing the necessary to get my Swiss plates changed to French plates when this miserable cow 'threatened' me"! And she was right! She has always been a miserable sod apparently! It turns out that Pascale is married and has a daughter but is unpleasant to everyone. AND it turns out that when I missed one night when I was away she had been so, so rude to Patricia and Cynthia because Patricia was helping Cynthia and not her! I realize that this woman has problems, but it seems to me that she was more than unpleasant before that. My ex-husband had "problems", but beyond a certain point, "hey asshole, deal with them"!

So obviously a lot going on here. Cynthia knows her mom and says she is very sweet. God alone knows what Pascale's husband and daughter go through. BUT she is a thoroughly unpleasant person at the club and Patricia said "nope, she goes"! Now there were two of us who were willing to give her another chance but as Patricia rightly said if you end up with a "cow" like that coming to the club other nicer people will stay away so she has to accept the consequences of her behaviour. And they are right. She has, seemingly always been a thoroughly unpleasant person, so they have decided it is "niet" to her re-enrolling. But it's sad really isn't it!

And finally (for today), Jen asked me (confidentially) to translate something for her from French to English. So today I was intending to translate the order of service for their wedding ceremony but was having terrible problems with my computer. I had downloaded Office 365 as a staff member of my former employer and honestly there was no problem with my continuing to use it (until when?)! But every time I tried opening a word document I kept having to sign in with my former, employer account - and I had forgotten the password! In the meantime I had bought Office 365 for myself and downloaded it but couldn't get "word" to switch from the employer account to my personal account. Anyhoo, I logged on to Microsoft support with my problem, whereupon a lovely lady called Trista spent two-and-a-half hours trying to fix my problem by remote logging - and in the end she did it! But two-and-a-half-hours! Anyway, what can I say. I had nothing confidential on my computer so told her to go ahead and kept checking when she needed me to try logging in again (and again, and again). But hats off to Microsoft support - I was really impressed! In the meantime, I hope it will allow me to go ahead and translate Jen's order of service and, completely confidentially (schhhhtttt - don't tell Jordan) - she is practicing to recite her vows to him in English (once I have translated them of course)!

Wednesday 29 May 2019

More this and that!

It seems like ages since I posted but I suppose it hasn't been really. I guess I've just been so busy (nothing that important of course) that time has flown by! And I've come to realize that I actually like being busy (for the most part) even in retirement. When I was at work I much preferred being busy rather than not having much to do. You get lazy don't you? Or at least I did! So where was I? Oh yes, Turin.

Last Saturday my friend and I took our, now annual, trip to Turin market, only this time, for the first time, we weren't lucky with the weather at all! It absolutely peed down all day, to the point that I think everyone on our bus was thoroughly soaked! For once I thought ahead and actually took a towel and change of socks in my bag, but boy did we get wet! Still, we both enjoyed it as always, and ate, yet again, in a little bistro off the main market square. And as always it was excellent. To be honest, I'm not sure you can eat badly in Italy at all!!! I didn't go nuts at the market this time though, just bought myself a very cheap pair of lazing around slacks (wish I'd bought three or four pairs - they turned out to be great), a nice, new handbag and a couple of shirts for my son. After that, it was fruit and veggies, and again they are just out of this world - and so cheap compared to here!

Now I know these are different varieties of avocado (bought in France on the left and in Italy on the right) but the quality of the much cheaper Italian avocado just bore no comparison!

We had a wander around the indoor fish and meat market, where everything looked so wonderful. I think next time I will get myself better organized and take a large cooler to stock up!

To get out of the rain, just before we were to head back to the bus my friend and I stopped off for a drink. Her hot chocolate was so thick you could have stood your spoon up in it!

On the way back we again stopped off at the Italian hypermarket where people stocked up on the cheaper Italian produce and alcohol and then back home for around 8 p.m. It was a shame about the weather but what can I say … we still love going! We found out at the end of our trip that there had been a second bus going from our depot and bumped into a lovely lady that I used to know when I went to my Monday evening patchwork club. We also bumped into a colleague who is still working - the one who forwarded my tax information regarding my lump sum to the French tax authorities without my permission! She is one of those big "blousy" women, with trowelled on make-up, beehive hair and a loud mouth and though I tried to dodge her I got caught out. She was asking how retirement was and I told her how much I was enjoying it, to which she replied "well of course you were a higher grade than me - that's why you can afford to retire and I can't, even though I'm older"!!! She didn't see the irony of then going on to tell us that she went down to Turin clothes shopping every weekend while they were running these bus trips! I bit my tongue as there honestly is no point trying to reason with some people is there!

The next day was the semi-annual Foire du Tissus (Fabric Fair), where the big fabric sellers come down from Holland and Belgium to sell their beautiful fabrics. We were late getting there but whole busloads of people had come from Switzerland and taken back suitcases of fabric - I guess it's that much cheaper than in Switzerland. I wouldn't know, actually, as I wouldn't even know where to shop for fabric in Switzerland any more. Here again we bumped into three ladies from my former patchwork group and I promised to stop in and see them the following week. I was actually very reasonable and only bought two pieces of fabric for €10. You could go mad there, of course, but I reckon I have enough fabric to keep me happy for quite a while and a few projects on the go that need finishing up first. (In any case, don't tell anyone, but the Fair will be back in town in November!!).

Anyway, I decided that I would, indeed, stop back in to visit my patchwork ladies as they were a nice group. So I had a shot at baking Anzac cookies (for the first time) to take to visit. They didn't work out exactly as planned as I made them too runny and they were "gooping" all over the place. Not to worry, I cut them out with a cookie-cutter after baking and they turned out great in the end! Anyway, I popped in to see the ladies just as they were having a coffee and cake break during their all-afternoon sewing session. I told them that I wouldn't be coming back to the group as I didn't want to take on too many weekly commitments, but they said to just to pop along a couple of times a month when I felt like it - so I probably will as I have so much to learn from them. Their work is beautiful!  But .. don't laugh … when I got home I felt like I was going to sneeze so tried to reach into my trouser pocket for my hankie, only I couldn't get it … I had had my brand new Italian trousers on backwards all day and hadn't noticed! Seriously! You wouldn't want me to make alterations to your clothes now would you!

And I know I was saying in a previous post about how we Brits love to talk about the weather but look at these babies which have been hanging overhead for about the last week! Yeah, spring! Ya gotta love it!

Monday 27 May 2019

Oh God!

We played a few board games yesterday and ate outside, but I just read this about being British too!  Damn, I really am such a cliché!

"Being so determined to sit in the lovely warm sunshine that you completely disregard how cold you are!"

I think I might be a procrastinator - I'll try to suss that out tomorrow!

Oh dear, I have another "odds and sods" post all lined up in my head but I have tons to do today and yesterday was full on (being Mother's Day here in France), so I'm re-posting something I just saw about "being British". Bloody hell, now I know why I'm such a stereotype!

1, 2, 7 and 10 particularly apply to me. In the comments after, someone wrote "feeling proud and respectable for having read every rule and obeying every single one of them, then being disappointed when you don’t get the full search to prove it." 


"the utter joy at being able to have a pint with your breakfast at 04.00 in the morning without disapproving sneers from other people. (this is not exclusive to airports and also applies to any Wetherspoons you have ever visited)".


"constantly zipping and unzipping the pocket in your bag that holds your passport and boarding pass just to check (AGAIN) that you haven’t forgotten them"!

Thursday 16 May 2019

Odds and sods!

It's been a funny ol' couple of days I have to admit, but the best news is that I just received a message from Steve to say that he came out of hospital last night after over four weeks in isolation following his bone marrow transplant! Way to go mate! I posted about him not being quite his normal self when I was staying with him in August last year - with it turning out that shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with cancer. So he immediately started chemo and various other treatments with a view to having a bone marrow transplant "as and when". Well he went in to hospital just over a month ago, spent the entire time after the transplant in isolation in Liverpool Hospital and is now home! I'm so, so pleased for him. Other than being incredibly tired (and bald) he is doing really well. And yet again, I say thank God for the NHS because after all that treatment (and continuing check-ups) he walked out of there with not a single bill to pay. Socialized medicine at its best!

In other news, I have finally decided to go ahead and begin the paperwork to request French citizenship. It will take at least two years from when I submit the paperwork but knowing that most of this paperwork will be necessary for me to get a French resident's permit after Brexit anyway (if it ever happens - I still hope not), I may as well go ahead and request citizenship. So with that in mind, I drew up a list of all the paperwork they will need, which isn't particularly onerous if, like me, you are administratively minded anyway. So today I called the notary's office to ask for an attestation from them to the effect that I own my own home here in Haute Savoie. I just have to take a few papers down to them tomorrow and they will begin the "search" to prove that I am still the registered owner of my home and I should get my attestation in a couple of weeks. Then I was faffing about online as I needed a copy of my parents' birth certificates, their marriage certificate and my own birth certificate, but the kicker here is that while I know all the relevant dates, what the official search engine in the U.K. needs to find the appropriate references is not the dates of those events but when they were registered! Crikey! For instance, I know my mom was born 5 October 1921 but they don't want that to find the reference number, they need the date her birth was registered!!! It's pretty funny actually because she was Welsh and her maiden name was Jones, and if you ever look at the names of the Welsh rugby team you will see that 75 per cent of the team are called Jones - so it should be a doddle to find her reference (not!) - especially given that her mother's maiden name was Williams (see the remaining 25 per cent of the Welsh rugby team)! Anyway, I found a "Gwladys M. T, née Jones" registered in the right quarter in a small town called Llanrwst, so I'm hoping and praying I got the right one. Dad was easier as his mom's maiden name was more unusual, so with a bit of luck all that paperwork is winging its way to me as I speak. The good news though is that for a small extra fee the UK authorities offer to provide that paperwork in a multilingual format (I had to specify "French") so hopefully that will mean that I won't have to go to the trouble of having it re-translated by a recognized French translator. We'll see I suppose!  And like I say, I'm doing it a bit at a time so I'm not exactly stressing about it! It's weird though because had I chosen to request U.S. citizenship "in the day" when I was living in the U.S., it wouldn't have taken one-tenth of the work that French citizenship will. I didn't do it because at the time I would have had to give up my British citizenship and there was no way I was doing that. The U.S. changed the rules on that shortly thereafter and began recognizing dual citizenship, hence my boys have both U.S. and U.K. passports!

And talking of "Jones", I heard from my sister last night that my mom's last remaining sibling died yesterday in North Wales. My sister must have had some kind of premonition because she and her husband went up there on Tuesday to see our aunt, only for her to die yesterday as they were on their way back. So that's the last of my family on the "Jones" side - all gone now!

In other news, I got a call from my youngest and his wife on Tuesday to say that they had been to see an apartment in a place called St. Jeoire, had put in an offer on it, which had been accepted, and they were hoping to go ahead with the purchase when they got the final approval from the bank - but they have been told it will go through. I'm so excited for them. They've both knuckled down and worked hard so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for them that they are, indeed, able to get on this first step of the ladder!

On the home front, I'm slowly learning that it's ok if something doesn't get done today because, you know what, there's always tomorrow! And that is a really nice feeling. That being said, I'm trying to get myself into a routine of getting in some exercise, something done in the house, a little sewing and some gardening done every day just to keep things ticking over - and so far it seems to be working! To that end on Monday I spent four hours pressure spraying my front and back terrace to get the winter's crud off and boy was it hard work. It was also quite windy so as I was spraying the moss and crap loose the wind was blowing it back in my face and I ended up looking like I had a beard!! Talk about cruddy! So with all the aches and pains that came with that I was really looking forward to my Tuesday afternoon yoga lesson to iron all those creaks out. Except I got a message from my friend asking if he could come over and buy me lunch! Say what? We split up about four years ago (it was my decision, I just felt we weren't going anywhere), but have remained friends all the same. But he hasn't been to my place in four years so I'm wondering what's going on. Anyway, we went to the one and only restaurant in the village for lunch and had a great time! He was saying how much he loved where I live, how calm it is and so on and then we came back to my place and spent another four or five hours chatting away and it was really nice! I have no idea what was going on there but I guess it doesn't really matter either does it! We will always be friends and he will always be welcome here - it's just that I'm curious as to why now? Why come over after four years? Oh well! Then yesterday I was determined to drive in to work to use the gym as I really needed some kind of exercise, having missed out on the yoga. I bumped into a few colleagues and every one of them said how well I looked - "younger" was the most common term! Now I don't know about "younger" but I guess more rested could have something to do with it. It hit home to me last night, though, as my nephew sent me a message to ask if I knew that mom's sister had died and after a bit of a chat he said he was going to go to bed!!! What!!!! It was 9.30 pm in the UK!!!! When I told him I never went to bed before 12.30 - 1 a.m. he couldn't believe it. But, even when I was working I would only go to bed around 12.30 a.m. as I felt that if I went any earlier I really didn't have a life, what with getting home so late! And it's true! I didn't! So maybe I do look more rested now that I'm still going to bed at the same time but not getting up until I darn well feel like it. I guess sleep really is the big healer isn't it!

Then after using the work's gym I met up again with my friend for a drink and also with a couple of other colleagues who go way back to when I first came to Geneva in 1980. We had such a laugh reminiscing! It was really great!

And talking of exercise, I went to the market this morning and then on to the supermarket. From there I always take a small back road back home instead of going through town. Now I don't know what made me do it but I saw a woman parking up in a rather remote spot and getting out of her car with her hiking gear. So I screeched in next to her leaving her covered in a cloud of dust from my tyres (for which I apologized) and asked if she could recommend any good hiking trails in the area as she would seem to be "in the know"! Well I got talking to her and she told me she was off to join her hiking group to hike up "le Grand Môle" and I might want to join them next Thursday. Turns out this was the lady I had once called about the Thursday afternoon walking group but didn't join up in the end as I didn't want to have too many commitments! How odd! I actually asked if her name was Christiane and when she said yes we knew we had already talked on the phone. I guess that's God's way of saying "so what's your excuse now"?, although to be honest, once the hot weather hits the thought of hiking in the mid-day sun could be as good an excuse as any!

And I see that the Jeremy Kyle show has been definitively cancelled! Good, is all I can say! For those that don't know it, it's a kinda U.K. version of the Jerry Springer show. Bear-baiting to all intents and purposes, where the "participants" usually have a grand total of 56 tattoos and four teeth between them! It is (was) absolute crap and I, for one, am glad it has been canned. Then again, if they canned all the "Real Housewives of XXX", "Keeping up with the XXXX", "Don't be tardy" crap I think the world would be a better place, to be honest. Yeah I know, we don't need censorship since we all have an on/off switch on our TVs, and to be honest the only one I have ever seen in any detail was the Kyle show anyway, but honestly, it's no loss. I'm sorry for the guy who committed suicide but I can't help believing these people know what they are getting into and in any case the show really is simply scripted bear-baiting! OK, rant over!

Anyway, on that note, I shall probably not post for a few days. I'm off to Turin (again) on Saturday for our annual day trip to the market. I hear the weather isn't supposed to be great but that doesn't really matter. Then on Sunday they have the annual fabric fair here in town so it could be a "spendy" weekend.  Oh well. Onwards and upwards, as they say!

Saturday 11 May 2019

Never plant out before les Saints de Glace!

And the locals should know, although having lived here in this village for 30 years (and in this region for 36) you'd figure I would "think" like a local wouldn't you! Well apparently not! Ya see, round here they say never to plant your veggie plot until after les Saints de Glace have passed - that's from 11 to 13 May this year - because you can still get frost! Our village is at 800 metres above sea level (so around 2,400 feet) and yep, we did get frost twice last week! But every year we have such glorious months of March and April that I think "hey, spring is here, let's plant out all those seedlings I started". And every year I get shat upon from a great height (forgive the expression), the bloody weather turns and my seedlings get pummeled to smithereens! What's the expression - "keep doing what you always do and don't be surprised if you keep getting what you always get" - or something like that. Well I guess, to be honest, I did  listen somewhat this year because although I planted out a few cucumbers that I had grown from seed I did ferry them in and out of the house as the weather changed. So I've lost a few but I've still got some coming up that I finally learned to treat like the delicate seedlings that they are!

I absolutely love "roma" tomatoes - not sure what they call them in English - a kind of plum tomato that has little juice but tons of taste. But I find if I don't jump on the plants and buy them when I see them they often sell out! So I bought five decent-looking plants and have, indeed, been hardening them outside and bringing them in at night "just in case". I've got more seedlings on the go of course but I was thinking I would plant them all outside this weekend as I have a quiet few days - and then this happened!

Sous-Cou - the Mont Blanc is off to the left out of picture
The mountain behind my house is called Sous-Cou and is at about 1,600 metres. And we've still got bloody snow on it!!!!! Behind that to the right (but immersed in cloud) is Sous-Dine, which is the place to go locally if you want to see wild life (and where the hunters go). Beyond that is the Massif des Aravis, which is stunning of course, but seriously, at this point in the year shouldn't winter be over?


Massif des Aravis
I had great plans to pressure spray my back terrace this morning - well that was until the hail came! Anyway, I nipped to our next village for the Saturday market and was chatting to the stall-holder there. He just laughed when I told him I had planted stuff out already and said "look at the bloody hail". His response? "Oh, you should always wait till after the Saints de Glace"! Maybe one day I'll learn!

Anyway, moving on, I went in to work yesterday as I had made plans to meet friends for lunch. I normally try to go in to work to use the gym on Wednesday (because the traffic is, theoretically, easier) but since I was meeting friends I took my gym bag and flowers for an adorable colleague who has just announced she is pregnant and pootled into Geneva around 10 a.m. So I piddled around in the gym for an hour or so, but you know what, although it is "piddling" (and it really is) I always feel so great when I leave! After that I went to lunch with a couple of friends - great Italian food (again!) and good company - and then came back to work as I had offered to drive one of my colleagues to the airport on the way home. But when we got back to work there were diplomatic cars arriving one after the other after the other - and the red carpet was out! Now since I'm no longer a staff member (but retirees still have access badges) I didn't know that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was coming today to meet the big boss and give a speech - to which all staff were also invited! I would have been interested to hear his speech but since I had showed up in jeans and a t-shirt I thought it would have been out of place for me to attend. But still, here's me thinking that red carpet was for me (yeah, as if!)!

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

So moving on, I finally got around to starting reading "Fire and Fury" this week! I've had this book for a couple of months but since I always have piles of books sitting looking at me waiting to be read this one kinda got buried for a while. (A propos of nothing, I just finished reading "Thin Air" by Michelle Paver, which I kinda enjoyed - the story of ghostly hauntings out in the Himalayas, if you're interested)! Anyway, I haven't been able to put the book down, going to bed at 1-2 a.m. reading it every night. It's very well written (although too many "commas" maybe to my taste - you'd have to read it to understand, I guess. Sometimes the sentences get a bit convoluted with "sub" texts written between commas so I have to keep going back and re-reading to make sure I get all it all - and I'm no dummy when it comes to English - so that's only a minor criticism from my point of view)! That criticism aside, I find it an absolutely fascinating insight into the workings of the White House - or more exactly - the non-workings of the cast of characters in the current White House! It's pretty fascinating (and horrifying) stuff so far, so if you want a good read (and to totally depress yourself) read on!

And finally, I see that the newspapers are full of the story of Vlad ("the Impaler"?) doing a face-plant while playing ice hockey! Don't get me wrong, as someone who can't skate I'm in no way making fun of his face-plant, but apparently his team won 14-6 (I think) with him scoring eight of the goals! Seriously? Do you think any of the opposing team would dare to tackle old shark eyes! And this, seemingly, a guy who the Donald worships at the alter of (I know, I know, Churchill would hate that sentence!)  Oh well, I hear the Donald was thinking of warming up on the sidelines just in case Vlad's victory was ever in doubt! Nah, I don't think there was ever any doubt who would score the winning goal do you?

Wednesday 8 May 2019

This and that!

Well what crappy weather we've been having! Rain, rain and more rain! I put four large buckets outside on my garden wall to catch rainwater and they were all full to the brim in just a couple of days! I suppose it's probably a good thing a group of us neighbours decided a couple of years ago to dig up part of our back gardens and put in large drainage pipes to channel the underground springs away from our homes as this is exactly the kind of weather that gets homes (usually our basements) flooded! But even though as a Brit I generally don't mind the rain, even I'm ready for it to go away now!

Other than that, what's new! Not a lot really. I was on a bit of a roll last week and got a lot done by my new "retired person" standards. I had a bunch of stuff I wanted to take to Emmaus, which is the big charity organization in France, but I had never gotten round to finding out exactly where the drop off point is. So last Monday I punched their address into my GPS and took a whole load of stuff over there - only thing is, it doesn't look like I got rid of anything when I go back down into my basement! It's weird how those little gremlins move in overnight and fill up the empty space you've just made isn't it! Still, it's a start! And funnily enough my friend must have had the same idea the same day and I found out that she was there just before me! Now she was donating some nice stuff and it got me to thinking that for young couples starting out you could pick up some very nice stuff second-hand if you were prepared to look around!

And talking of "starting out", on Saturday we held our latest board game evening at my neighbours' house. We were quite a few down on our normal numbers but my son and his new wife were there and they told me that they had been to look at a two-bedroomed apartment for sale just down the valley from them. It seemed to be in pretty good condition and they were going to see if they could negotiate the price down a little and put in an offer. The only thing that worried them was that what with the wedding and the down payment on the apartment their savings would be wiped out! And man I know how that feels because on 26 April those "greedy bankers" wiped out my nice, healthy bank balance and took the final payment on my house! About $100,000 - so I'm down to bread and gruel from now on but at least the house is all mine! Well actually this is the second time this house has been "all mine" because my husband and I had it paid off about 15 years ago - and then he decided to go AWOL and buggered off with his fat-ankled skank (it didn't last - I mean, who couldn't have seen that coming)! Not that I'm complaining about that but having to buy him out means I've actually paid off this house twice now. But at least this time it's all mine and only mine! Yay me!

Oh and here's another weird thing! I read quite a few blogs and one of the "blogging ladies" mentioned one time how creepy (usually married) guys often start up games of Words With Friends on Facebook to try to pick up women!!! Say what! I play Words With Friends with a few people I don't know, including one chappie in New York who sends me silly jokes from time to time. Other than him, if I don't know the person I don't communicate, just play. It's all women anyway as far as I can see, although one lady did play the word "fart" once and then sent me a message saying "sorry about that". I just sent her a "no worries" back! Well this person with a very "gender ambiguous" name asked me to play a game. There was a very blurred photo attached to the request and it seemed to be a woman, with a man behind her with his arms around her, so I just assumed it was the woman. Well no it wasn't, it was the guy! Not that that's a problem at all but I have to say that as the picture was pretty blurred it was hard to make out much of his appearance! Anyway, after playing a couple of words he sent me a message asking where I was. I told him France and he told me he was in Texas. A couple of moves later and he sends me another message asking for my email address so "we can get to know each other better!" Say what!!! Why would I be wanting to get to know you better? So I told him that wouldn't be necessary and it was fine by me if he didn't want to play again. He's come back and played a couple of words with a few inane comments thrown in but it's pretty much dead now. But what a creep! When I mentioned it on this web site somebody said that she ended up receiving unsolicited "dick picks" that way (sorry to use that expression but that's the way she put it!) Crikey, I wonder if his real name is Anthony Weiner! Anyway, I guess you're never too old to learn are you!

Other than that, what's new? Well I went to a rather fancy health club the other week to have a look around thinking that I need to get back to some regular form of exercise and was looking to avoid having that long drive into Geneva to use the gym at work. I looked at a couple of gyms here in town but they weren't up to much but this place was really luxurious. Like really nice! Trouble is, it was also pretty expensive and to make it worthwhile I knew I had to really commit to going two to three times a week. For once I did the right thing and decided to sleep on it - and in the end I decided not to go for it (yet). For the time being at least, I think I'll stick with walking at least once a week, yoga on Tuesdays and the work's gym on Wednesdays. After yoga yesterday I asked the young (replacement) teacher if she gave other classes in the area as I really enjoy her classes. She told me that as from next "term" (September) she will have a room available to her here in the local area so I think I might sign up to a couple of times a week with her from then on. It isn't particularly dynamic yoga (or at least it doesn't seem like it) but by gosh I feel wonderful when I come out of there! Then I might sign up for a Monday afternoon pilates class at the local community centre when they start up again in September as hopefully by then I'll have a better idea of how many "commitments" I want to sign up for (or rather, how much free time I really want). I have been checking out a few arm exercises online to try to get rid of the nascent bingo wings - I even bought myself a couple of 5 kg weights to use at home - but crikey, the first time I picked them up and tried to do this exercise a couple of times I almost fell over backwards!

Then, shooting off on a totally unrelated tangent, I was at our little market in town on Thursday having a shufty. That's one of the true pleasures of being retired - I get to visit all the bigger markets that are held locally but on weekdays. I love it! Anyway, I managed to find a parking space and stopped off at the bank to get some cash out. When I rounded the corner to head over to the market I became aware of a "body" sitting on the floor by the bank. Turns out it was an Eastern European beggar (Roma gypsies usually). Now I have a hard time with beggars and never usually give to the Roma, but sometimes give to other beggars. This bothered me as a I was walking round the market but this woman looked so pathetic I put a couple of euros in my pocket and decided I would give it to her on the way back. Buuuuuttt, just as I drew level with her she whipped out a mobile phone and was talking to someone counting out the amount of change in her begging cup and giving them the run down!!! Now I know this is what they are like but I guess I needed hitting over the head with that 2 x 4 to finally realize "no, you don't give these people money. It's a business to them!" I tell ya, I'm a real slow learner sometimes!

And finally, my friend told me that she had received free tickets to the local Fair currently being held in our little town and did I want to go today. If you are looking for a new camper, a new fireplace, a jacuzzi or even just good bottles of olive oil they have it all at this fair. Now today is VE day (Victory in Europe) so it's a public holiday in France, but even given the fact that it is a public holiday I have never seen so many cars trying to get into the parking lots. Never! What with the crowds and the fact that it was pissing down rain we decided to give up and head out to a couple of vide-greniers. The first was in a picturesque town called Taninges which was also pretty washed out, although we had a wander round and spotted a couple of walks that might be interesting to think about if and when we ever get our act together. Oh, and they had a pretty "Roman-ish" bridge I had never noticed before too!

I did pick up a small, collapsible metal table which will be perfect for when I'm sitting out in my garden reading (that is, if it ever stops raining), all for the grand price of €5. After that we decided "in for a penny, in for a pound", so headed out to another vide-grenier in a place called Frangy. This was pretty much closing up for the day but my friend picked up a beautiful bougainvillea on the way out. So all in all, not a bad day out really but boy am I ever ready for spring to finally get here!

Monday 6 May 2019

And then it was off home!

We had yet another early start on our last day as our driver was saying that it could be quite hit and miss with the traffic (in more ways than one) during the week. But, as luck would have it, the traffic conditions on our way home were really good and we made pretty good time. We left after yet another sumptuous breakfast and I made sure to tell the hotel manager how much we appreciated the wonderful food and asked him to thank the chef and kitchen staff in particular! We stopped at a service station after a couple of hours for coffee and snacks then headed back up the Aosta valley where we were to have lunch at a place called Pont St. Martin, not too far from the French border. Another four-course meal? Nah, this time it was five-courses, and again it was excellent! When you take into account the travel, the hotel, the excursions and all the meals (which included wine and coffee), I really think our trip was very fairly priced at just over €600!

After lunch we had around 30 minutes for a little wander so we all trudged up to the famous "pont" - or Roman bridge which was built in … errrr Roman times!

This picture just tickled me - "don't do it Winnie, don't do it!"

Another thing I found kinda interesting was the vines in this area! The supports for the vines were actually constructed horizontally sticking out from the side of the hill - thus making it easier to pick the (future) grapes! Smart huh!

About 30 minutes later we stopped at a large hypermarket for some last minute shopping. Just as the Swiss fairly routinely hop over to France to do their grocery shopping - it's quite a bit cheaper, especially wine, meat and cheese - many French also pop into Italy to buy certain goods, with Italian cheeses and hard liquor being considerably cheaper than in France. Now in this instance you have to take into account the cost of the toll for using the Mont Blanc tunnel but I guess if the savings are big enough it can be worth paying it and having a few people going by car!

Which kinda brings up the thought that if/when Brexit ever happens some towns in northern France (particularly near the Channel tunnel) will be very seriously affected if the Brits can no longer take day trips to France and fill up their cars with French goods without having to pay duty on them upon returning to the UK. I know the association of Maires in northern France is very worried about this situation and have taken it up with President Macron. I don't know if it will do them any good but …!

Anyway, my friend and I tootled round the supermarket and then got in line to pay in order to be back at the bus by 4.45 pm. Except, our lady cashier was a stereotypical Italian, chatting away to two men in front of us, kisses on both cheeks, talking with her hands, "hey Luigi, how's mamma? And Isabella. Cara mia, she must be so big no!" You get the gist of it. My friend was getting a bit pissed off but I found it quite charming (and in any case the bus wouldn't have left without us) - and we made it back on time anyway! But that kinda reminds me of my mom who seemed to think all foreigners were deaf so IF …. YOU ….. SPEAK ….. VERY ….. LOUDLY …. THEN …. THEY …. WILL …. UNDERSTAND! That's what this lady did to me when she was counting out my change VERY SLOWLY (this despite the fact that I live in France and yes, we use euros too)! Ah well, no harm done!

So we made it through the Mont Blanc tunnel with only about a 10 minute delay but on the French side! Oh my! They were showing at least a 90 minute delay to get into the tunnel which would have been very frustrating for people who thought they'd just pop into Italy to spend a few days over Easter!

The next day was the Thursday before Good Friday and this is what the motorway looked like …

although to be fair I think that was more down to a gas leak than holiday traffic!

So that's it for the time being. Well not really I suppose as we are off to Turin market in two weeks time, but that is only a day trip (our annual mosy round the market). Oh and we have picked out another five trips we would like to take with this company, but only one is an overnighter. That's to the Christmas market in Alsace in December (obviously) and that trip is already almost fully booked up!!!! So now it's back to the routine and back on the diet, trying to shift goodness how many kilos I managed to pile on on such a short trip! But it was well worth it!

Friday 3 May 2019

Italy - day 3!

After our visit to Cinque Terre the schedule for the next day was the leaning tower of "pizza" and a trip to a marble quarry. I had mixed feelings about Pisa because for some reason I had this idea that it was a bit "shabby", although why I thought that I have no idea! So I got quite a shock when we pulled into the parking lot at Pisa and found out what a delightful place it is. Not shabby at all - it was beautiful!

The entrance way to the "walled part" was full of market stalls and the ever-present Senegalese selling their "real Luis Vuitton" bags. I did "cave" and bought myself a nice leather backpack (not Luis Vuitton) for use as cabin luggage on future travels, although I have none planned as yet! It's rather nice, if I do say so myself! When we walked through the arched entrance to the old town it actually took my breath away as it was so stunning!

Picture courtesy of Google
Of course people were taking all the "corny" pictures of themselves "holding" the tower up but luckily we got there around 10 a.m. before the crowds started piling in. Good planning all round on the part of our tour operator! My friend and I decided not to go into the buildings but rather to take a wander round the town itself and, my, how pretty it was. There was a plaza called Piazza dei Cavalieri just a couple of hundred metres away from the main square which seemed to house the main school district of Pisa, and again it was stunning!

Can you believe this is actually a school!
After a couple of hours in Pisa it was back to the hotel for another four-course lunch (!) before we were due to head up to Carrara to visit the marble quarries! The mountains all along the coast oddly seemed to have "snow" on them but our driver explained to us that all that white "snow" was, in fact, white marble!  He took us up the mountain as far as he could but after that it was into jeeps for the hair-raising trip up to the main quarry! We had six jeeps (I think) and four people had to go into the back of each, open-sided jeep for the trip up. My friend and I were with two older ladies, one of whom was absolutely terrified! So terrified, in fact, that she kept her eyes shut for most of the journey. We were all bouncing around like bill-yo and her friend was roaring laughing. I suppose it would have been more frightening for us if we could have seen that there were no guard rails or anything over those ravines but sometimes we were just "driving blind". Once we got there a much older lady (I would put her at about 80) hopped out of the front jeep and doubled up laughing. Her laughter was so infectious she had us all in hysterics! Our guide knew his spiel inside out and made it a fun trip, but I would almost say that that jeep journey was the best part of our trip!

After that it was again back to the hotel because we obviously hadn't eaten a four-course meal in a while (I'm being facetious!), a couple of drinks and off to bed for yet another early start the next day!

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Italy - day 2!

We stayed in a hotel that was about 30 minutes out of La Spezia - which turned out to be a good choice as it happens, even if our little town hadn't really opened up for the season yet. It didn't matter anyway as we were always on the go and didn't really have any time to wander round! La Spezia was very pretty and it was from here that we were to catch the boat out to Cinque Terre - "the five hamlets", I guess, in English. Our driver dropped us off at the harbour where a guide was waiting for us and then the plan was that he would go park the coach and cycle back to meet us. Unfortunately he didn't make it because - as we found out later - he had been knocked off his bike by a young woman driving too fast!!! Thankfully he only suffered fairly minor bruising but did not want to take it any further! I'm just glad he was all right!

La Spezia
The bay leading out to Cinque Terre is referred to as the Golfo dei Poeti, or the Bay of Poets, but doesn't it sound so much more romantic in Italian!! and it was on the western side that we made our first stop at Portovenere - the Port of Venus. The boats we were on were kinda like taxi boats and people just hopped on and off all day visiting the different locations as they pleased. Our guide told us that we were very lucky to  have come before Easter (the start of the season) and to have good weather, because come May and June the weather would be hot and the place heaving!


How many hats does one guy need!
As each boat moored we were met by these guys (Senegalese mainly), hawking their wares and "real" Gucci handbags and "real" Rolex watches - all for the grand price of €10! I'm surprised they get away with hawking counterfeits and I wouldn't buy one anyway even though some of the stuff was pretty nice because I remember a few years ago people being stopped by mobile customs officers on the lake side in Evian just for buying this stuff and having it confiscated!

We didn't stop at each of the five hamlets - Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore - as we didn't have enough time, so our first port of call after Portovenere was Corniglia.


Corniglia was very pretty but was already starting to get crowded so my friend and I decided to forego the guided tour and just have a wander round on our own!

"Nonna" enjoying the view - courtesy of my friend
After that it was on to Riomaggiore and finally on to Monterosso for another four-course lunch, a wander round and a souvenir hunt. The vendors were all nice and cheerful, unlike some places I have visited, so I bought myself a pretty water jug and a few knick-knacks (to add to my ever-growing collection).

I just loved this focacceria - and that "fly net" is actually made out of pasta strung together! Neat huh!

Then it was back to our hotel for yet another four-course dinner!!! Wonderful food (again) but you wouldn't want to go swimming afterwards. So after dinner and a few drinks with our table companions it was off to bed for another early start the next day!