The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Sunday, 29 September 2019

My first time at a "desalp"!

So yesterday I got up at stupid o'clock to meet my friend for our trip up to Gruyères to see our first "désalp". The "désalp" is when the cattle are brought down from the higher pastures for the winter, although I always knew it as "la transhumance", but whatever! I'd never been to one anyway so it was another first for me. We booked this trip with the bus company that we did our trip to Cinque Terre with as they were so well organized, although I'm not really sure why we treked almost three hours into Switzerland when they do the désalp around here too! Oh well, no matter I guess. Moreover, my friend very kindly paid for my ticket as a birthday present - I kept asking her when she thought we should go and pay for our tickets and she said she had called them and they had said we could pay on the bus - not true - she had already been and paid a couple of weeks ago! Very nice huh!

Our route took us through Geneva and along the northern bank of Lake Geneva, which is just stunning. As you get towards Vevey, which is just 10 minutes from Montreux (think Montreux Jazz Festival), the motorway starts to climb and the view over the lake and the mountains is so beautiful. At that point I guess we had been on the road a couple of hours so the bus pulled off and the drivers (there were three buses) laid out the picnic that they always bring for the passengers on these trips - bread, various cheeses, ham, salami, cake etc. and tea, coffee, water and red wine! I know! Much as I like a drink I couldn't drink red wine at 9 a.m. (or at any time really as I don't actually like red wine - give me white any day)! The drivers obviously didn't drink but there were a few people partaking - still, I guess since most of us had been up since around 5 a.m. it could technically be classed as lunchtime. Or, as the saying goes, the sun is always over the yardarm somewhere isn't it! Still it was a wise move as Switzerland is anything but cheap and that particular service station, while spotlessly clean and serving very good food, is particularly expensive!

Vevey - where Charlie Chaplin lived until his death. Picture by MySwitzerland.com
We made it to the village of Charmey at bang on 10 o'clock and only had to wait a few minutes for the first cattle to come through. This being Switzerland it was very well organized - and somehow they even managed to have the sun shine all day when it had actually forecast rain! I guess a herd was driven through the village about every 30 minutes or so, so we had plenty of time to wander around the cute little back streets in between times. It was, however, pretty crowded, and quite an effort to get from A to B in good order. They had all kinds of market stalls and food and drinks tents on the go all day. There were also various brass bands playing at different times which were very good - but my absolute favourite part was hearing the alpine horns in the distance!!! I wasn't quick enough to get over to film them but their sound is just beautiful! They used to be used to call the cattle in from the pastures at milking time, but that has obviously fallen by the wayside nowadays, which is such a shame as their sound is just beautiful!


I also saw this cute little plant holder which I thought about going back to buy (I didn't want to carry it round with me all day) but never made it back to the stall in time! Shame, as I think it's really sweet!


Each herd was driven through the village by its owners, who were all dressed in traditional costume. The cattle were also all decked out in their Sunday best, with huge cowbells and beautiful flower headdresses. Now while this all looks lovely, a friend who did a désalp last year to help a neighbour out was telling us what hard work it was - walking through the mountains for hours at a time, then sleeping overnight in a tent and continuing the next day until all the cattle were brought down. She said it wasn't for the faint of heart - as was proved when a few people called it quits after the first day! We calculated that all in all they must have driven over 1,000 head of cattle through the village that day!


Cattle drivers in traditional dress!






What neither of us realized was that there was to be no trip to the village of Gruyères (where they make the cheese), which we felt was a shame as it is a lovely little village and definitely worth a visit - as are the cheese factory and the Cailler chocolate factory. It didn't bother us much as we had both lived in Switzerland (me for six years) and had been to Gruyères many times, but I think some people were disappointed, and given that it was only 10 minutes away and we had all day, we think it should have been on the programme. We mentioned this to our driver at the end of our trip and he said that this was their first time at the désalp but they would definitely rethink their programme next time

Gruyères Castle - picture by leman-sans-frontiere.org

Medieval Gruyères - picture by oleandra
Since we had plenty of time to kill we treated ourselves to a rather long lunch of fillet of perch (a local speciality), followed by meringues with Gruyère cream - again, another local speciality! Talk about the diet being blown to smithereens yesterday!


Thanks to making good time and no accidents we got back around 8 p.m. - so all in all it was a lovely way to spend a day out!

In other news, my neighbour got back to me to say that apparently our team came in 10th out of between 150-200 teams (there were 806 participants so I'm not sure how many teams that meant) at last weekend's whodunnit (no thanks to me), so I was dead impressed!

And tomorrow sees my sewing club starting up again for the year, so what with my other classes my weeks are going to be pretty full from now on. I did see the following on Facebook this morning though, that kinda tickled me: "A yoga retreat" - translation - "an expensive stretching holiday"!

And finally, I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but a couple of people sent me a "friend" request on Facebook recently. One person I knew so just hit "accept" and I must have accidentally hit "accept" for the other lady. Only problem is, I have no idea who she is! She "likes" pictures I post and so on, and I've looked at her profile to see if we have any mutual friends but nope - like I say, I have no idea who she is! Oh well, maybe that mystery will clear itself up one day - or then again, maybe it won't and I shall forever be none the wiser!

Thursday, 26 September 2019

More this and that!

Max called me on Tuesday night asking if he could come over the next day to finish installing the valves on my radiators. I told him I had to go in to Geneva but would leave the back door open for him and to let himself in through the garage. So when I got back from Geneva he was pretty much finished up and I'm now done with workmen for a couple of months!!!! We got chatting over a cup of coffee and I told him I was looking to do both my bathrooms, probably next spring, and he was just full of ideas from projects that he had carried out in other homes. He gave me quite a lot to think about going forwards so I have a few months to have a look around and see what I might want/be able to afford and how much upheaval it might entail. It's exciting stuff!

Then yesterday morning, as I was getting in to my car to drive in to Geneva for lunch with a friend, my phone pinged and I got a WhatsApp message from an old flame, Luis, wishing me happy birthday!! After my husband left me in 2010 I had a brief foray into internet dating and as weird as it was for me (I'd been married 26 years after all), I actually met up with probably eight men for coffee or dinner and dated two of them - a sexy Spanish lawyer in Lausanne and Luis - a lovely Panamanian (now Swiss through his ex-wife) engineer working in Berne! We dated briefly but the problem (for me) was that (1) he lived in Berne (which is about three hours away by expensive train) and (2) he is 12 years younger than me!!! I am more than wary of dating someone that much younger than me because I honestly don't see much future in it when there is a big age gap. However that notion is pretty ridiculous really as my lovely Dutchman is 13 years older than me and it doesn't bother me in the slightest. What attracts me to a man is his intelligence and his humour. I also need a man to be his own man and know his own worth - all qualities these guys possess! Anyway, back to the plot. I wrote a quick message back to thank him for the birthday wishes, saying I couldn't talk right now as I was about to drive in to Geneva. At that, he texted back saying "at last, it only took me two years to get an answer from you"!!! Say what? Now he did, indeed, text me birthday wishes on my 60th birthday last year when I was in Sicily. I wrote back to thank him - and then that was the end of it - nothing, nada, zip - which I found pretty strange because why bother getting back in touch so many years later if you don't at least intend to keep up the communication? I was intrigued by his comment about my not replying so asked him what he was talking about. At that he sent me a screen shot of his message from last year and the one from yesterday with no response from me in between! I wrote back and said I did indeed write back several times but that he hadn't responded - ever!!! So we went back and forth for a while and I thought I would just send him a screenshot of my messages which, weirdly, I still had in my phone - and it was at that point that I discovered that I had two mobile phone numbers for him! Turns out, he had switched phones (and numbers) sometime ago and I had been sending my replies to his old number - the one that either no longer worked or now belonged to some poor sod somewhere else in Switzerland who must have been wondering who the hell I was!!!

Anyway, with that mystery cleared up (and both of us feeling somewhat less "wronged"), we have been chatting back and forth today catching up on the last 8-9 years!!!! He is good company and we have so much in common but I don't know if or where, if anywhere, this is going. Maybe I'm a chicken but I'm not sure how I feel about his renewed "enthusiasm". He actually asked me to move up to Berne to be with him (this was in 2010) and he would "take care of me". I told him no way, I had a mortgage, a kid still living at home, a pension pot to fill and no way was I giving up my financial independence! So it pretty much fizzled after that, more on my part than on his, I have to say! After that my lovely Dutchman and I got together and the rest, as they say is …. just how life turned out, I guess! He's now 49 to my 61 and while it's nice to be back in touch it still feels kinda weird to be "chatted up" by someone so much younger. And like I said, it really isn't a case of the "older woman with money and a passport" in this case because (a) I ain't got no money anymore and (b) a British passport? Really? Right now? As I was saying, he is Swiss and earns good money as an engineer! Yikes, I really don't think I'm cut out for dating any more!

And in other news, I understand there is a possibility of a new post opening up for a part-time staff counsellor at work (or something to that effect). Now this would have been right up my alley when I was still at work as it involves knowledge of the staff rules and regulations and those of the pension fund and the medical insurance, all of which I had - and guess what, feelers have been put out to see if I might be interested in it! The idea is that it would be part-time and pro bono, and while that wouldn't bother me I really don't know if I want to get into all that again even on a very limited basis, as I really don't want to start doing that God-awful rush-hour commute again. One of the "big bosses" asked me something along these lines sometime ago but, like I say, it isn't a lack of goodwill on my part, but more the idea of that dreadful commute, and the fact that my retired life is filling up nicely and I'm loving it!

And talking of filling up my time, I had my second Italian lesson last night, and now have to work out the best way to discipline myself to get my admittedly very limited amount of homework done to best effect! But, as I was driving home last night in the dark I started to get a little worried because I was having real difficulty finding my way on the unlit backroads - gosh, I thought my bloomin' eyesight had suddenly gone totally to pot! It was only when a couple of people flashed their lights at me that I realized I hadn't got my headlights on!!! That's a relief, at least, to think I'm not suddenly going blind! Senile maybe, but not blind!

Then this morning I had another pilates lesson, and while I did have my doubts about whether I would like this class, this morning, for definite, I absolutely loved it! I'm already starting to feel like I might just be strengthening my shoulders and core/lower back muscles just a little as it is already so much easier to stay in a seated position with a pretty straight spine for a good while - something I found more difficult previously - probably as a result of poor posture!

Then after the pilates class I settled in to watch England's second match in the rugby world cup. It was against the US and they absolutely nailed it - end result 45-7 to England! It was an exciting match so I was happy. Their next match is against Argentina, which could be a whole new kettle of fish but one I'm looking forward to all the same!!! After that I set to and cleaned my front windows and frames before putting up my new curtain rods and the newly-washed curtains - and then - bloody hell! I finally got those babies hanging and the bloody things had shrunk - by about 20 inches!!!! Damn and drat! So now I have to go out and buy new curtains. Aaarrrggghh! Not the end of the world I guess, but I'll have to be more careful when it comes to washing curtains next time!

And finally, just in case Anne in Alabam' is reading this, I don't know if it was deliberate or not but I tried commenting on your latest blog post but seemingly "comments are no longer allowed". I thought you might want to know just in case! Cheers!

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Whodunnit!

At our last board game evening, my neighbour, Isabelle, mentioned that they had seen an upcoming "Whodunnit" event to be held in Annecy and did I want to go! When I jumped at the chance she went ahead and got tickets for herself and her husband, Philippe, and for Jen and me for last Saturday's "Sherlock Holmes" whodunnit being held about 20 minutes from here. Now Annecy is stunningly beautiful and on a sunny day it can be hell as it gets so crowded, but even though we had trouble getting into our preferred parking lot, and considering over 800 people (as it turns out) had signed up for the event, it really wasn't too crowded at all! So a definite win there, even before we started! (All pictures taken from the Annecy Tourist Board site).

The old prison!

Lake Annecy


When we arrived at the starting point we were given a map of the city with (I think) 36 different locations marked out, all indicating places where clues could be found. We then downloaded their app, walked over for a small "pep talk" by one of the "cast" and set off. Now, considering there were over 800 people taking part, it really wasn't too bad at all as departures seemed to be pretty staggered, with all teams having three hours, more or less, to solve the crime.


In a nutshell, the "crime" took place around 1892 (I can't remember the exact date), with someone blowing up a car factory in France causing two deaths. At the same time, the local town was gearing up for the imminent take-off of a zepplin/blimp, but we had to try to solve the crime because we knew the culprit also intended to blow up the blimp!




We started off pretty slowly, looking for clues at the closest spots indicated on the map. The organizers told us that we didn't have to visit all the clue sites, and that indeed some of them would prove to be red herrings, so to be careful how often we used the app to "question" potential suspects as doing so would score points against us! Turns out most, but not all, of the clues were on yellow cards tied to lampposts and such like!

The clue to be taken from this card and punched into the app was 03403!

After we had solved a few riddles we reached a location where a cast member was handing out a newspaper "published" on the day of the explosion and containing more details of the crime, but also more red herrings!


As time started to run a bit short we split up into two groups of two, sending Philippe and Jen off to locate the clues at the most far-flung spots (we're not daft are we), while Isabelle and I tried to locate clues around the cathedral area. Trouble is, once we got to the cathedral we couldn't find clues anywhere! We wandered round and around for a good 10 minutes but nothing doing - that is, until Isabelle took a closer look at a local artist in the square!




Turns out, he was the clue! In "jigsaw puzzle" pieces attached to the back of his shirt were snippets of the code we were after but which he kept well hidden by the cloth over his shoulder and by constantly turning his back away from us! In the end, we had to volunteer to draw something on his canvas, after which he handed us his cloth to "wipe our hands" - and stitched into it was the code we were after!! Clever huh!

Anyway, the four of us met up back at the starting point and tried to hash out what we made of the clues we had collected! In the end, Jen figured out the killer and his motive! I was really stunned, but then as a psychiatric nurse I reckon she always had the edge!!!! As for me, frankly I was about as useful as a chocolate teapot! Seriously! I guess it's just the way your brain works, but whichever way you look at it I was useless! Just as I can not do cryptic crosswords! Ever! My sister can bang them out in record time while I don't even get off the starting block! Still, having participated in one event now I reckon I'd have more of an idea what to look for next time, but in the meantime, thank God for Jen!

When I got home I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep straight away so I stayed up (until 2 a.m. as it turns out) and watched a 1998 de Niro/Samuel L. Jackson movie called "Jackie Brown". And you know what, it was really good! I'm not a great fan of de Niro as I find he always plays the gangster, and this film was, indeed, a "gangster" movie with all the inherent bad language! But it was still a very clever and entertaining film about a corrupt air stewardess who couriers dirty money from Mexico back to the States for the bad guy (Samuel L. Jackson). When things go horrendously wrong, she tries to not only get herself out of her dangerous predicament but also to put one over on both the police and the bad guys! You end up feeling strangely sympathetic to "Jackie Brown", as played by the very sexy actress Pam Grier! Very well worth staying up late for!

And finally, today is my birthday, and while being 61 feels a bit weird, it definitely beats the alternative doesn't it! I didn't see my kids because André is still in Korea and Jordan worked very late, but I'm sure I'll see them at some point. What I did do was attend my regular Tuesday afternoon yoga class with my neighbour, who came out of there today in raptures about how "she didn't have a single ache or pain in her body for the first time in years"! Result then - I'm so glad I was able to nag her into it in the end! Then when I got home my lovely Dutchman was just getting ready to leave my place (I told him I wouldn't be home that afternoon but he is, and always has been, a law unto himself)! Anyway, he had bought a birthday gift over for me, which was all the more remarkable since he always used to whinge about the one-hour journey over to my place! He must be going soft in his old age huh! And judging by the birthday cards I received from my sister and my friend, I guess the "classy" image I try to project in my daily life isn't exactly working for me!

The birthday card from my sister - that's not me by the way - as if I would drink beer!


And the birthday card received from my friend.


But I forgave her when I opened it and found this.


It's a photograph taken from the brochure for our trip next Saturday. We're heading up to Gruyère (in Switzerland - where they make the cheese) to see the "désalp" - or where they bring the cattle down from the mountain pastures at the end of the summer! And she'd only gone ahead and paid for my ticket too!  So all in all, it was a lovely way to spend a quiet birthday!

Sunday, 22 September 2019

A busy week!

Crikey, last week was busy! Not that I mind that for the most part, but what with the house being all torn up (my furniture is still in the middle of every room so that the heating engineers can have access to the radiators) the chaos has taken some serious ignoring skills, I can tell you!

I went to yoga twice (Monday and Tuesday) and then went on the hike I mentioned in a previous post. Normally I try to go in to work on a Wednesday also to use the gym and meet up with friends, but Max phoned and asked if they could come over on Wednesday to finish hooking up of my water heater and the fuel heating system, so I had to stick around. It took the three of them all day to get it set up but I have to admit I'm dead impressed! That stuff looks complicated! So when my hot water started coming through and even the radiators that had previously died on me started heating up, I was dead chuffed! "Oooooh look Max, it works" - at which point he gave me the evil eye which, if I'm not mistaken, seemed to say of course it works you dumbkopf, that's my job! He has to come back sometime this week to install adjustment valves on the radiators but that shouldn't take him long, and in the meantime I have heat and hot water, which is just as well since the weather is starting to turn (although I can usually live without turning the heating on for a long time too - you know, being English and all that)! But, after they had left for the day I realized that Max had left his sweatshirt in my basement, so I threw it in the wash with some of my stuff, ironed it and since I had my sewing machine out I sewed a name tag in it - you know, like your mom did when you were at school - and sent him a message to remember to pick it up when he comes by this week!!!

So since I was somewhat trapped at home I went back to pulling apart and cleaning my kitchen and this time it was the turn of the spice cabinet. Crikey, some of that stuff was ooooolllllldddd! Now normally I don't care too much if stuff like that is out of date but there does come a point when it no longer has any flavour either so I decided to get rid of a lot of it. I must have thrown 20-25 bottles of various herbs and spices (there were many duplicates of things like allspice that used to be so difficult to find here) so I emptied each bottle into my bin and put the glass bottles in the recycling but, honestly, my home smelled like a curry house for a good 24 hours until I got that bin out of there! After that, still trapped at home, I started work in the garage and found 13 gas bottle caps - you know what you put back on the gas bottle when it's finished which helps you to lift it (the bottles are pretty heavy). But thirteen! I probably had five bottles myself - for the BBQ, the hob and the camper, when I had one - and got rid of any excess bottles. But when my husband went back to the States without emptying his house I ended up with God-alone knows how many more gas bottles and caps (one guy asked him if he was planning to blow up the town hall), so I'm now planning to get rid of all that as well! In the meantime, my lovely neighbour was out in my garden hacking back my hazelnut, damson and plum trees (I get the impression he didn't like my handy work so decided to put himself out of his own misery and finish it himself)! And, he took it all to the tip for me too! Win/win then! He gets to keep his sanity and I get my garden sorted!

Michel - terrorising my damson tree!


Then on Wednesday night I had my very first Italian lesson and I loved it! I got there pretty early so I could find my way around - and then sat there, and sat there. You see, the lady teacher was a "typical" Italian and was chatting away gaily with the group before us, seemingly oblivious to our group waiting outside. That being said, she was delightful - your very stereotypical Italian, talking very loudly and using her hands constantly! I actually found the lesson pretty straightforward (ok, it was only the first lesson) because I speak Spanish and so it seemed to sink in easily. She also didn't clock-watch at the end of our lesson and as there are only seven of us in the class I suspect I might enjoy myself very much. I realized long ago how lucky I was to have had such an excellent French teacher in high school. He was so strict but he drilled French grammar into our heads with silly little rhymes and songs and it worked! The grammar stuck! Actually, after I got my job in Switzerland in 1980 I wrote to thank him for his wonderful teaching skills as I felt that they went a long way to helping me to get such a great job - he wrote the sweetest letter back (which I still have somewhere). I learned that he died not long afterwards, so I'm so glad I made the effort to show him my appreciation!

As I couldn't find Italian lessons in my local town I had to drive 45 minutes to another community centre, but since it was dark on the way back I made the decision to stay on the motorway (I usually like to take the back roads) because the Facebook group I follow on "the state of the roads" has had "scam" warnings one after another, after another lately about foreign-registered cars (usually Bulgarian or Romanian, sad to say) supposedly broken down on the side of the road with the guy waving a bank note at passing motorists. I mean seriously, we might get five of these warning a day and it will very often be exactly the same "broken down car" at various spots along the lesser-frequented roads! People call them in to the police but there is very little they can do to stop them, I reckon. Having had a friend almost caught out by these bastards over 30 years ago on a dark country lane (she managed to throw her car into reverse and swerve round the four men who got out of the car), there is no way I would stop for anyone, particularly late at night! Sad though, isn't it!

Then on Thursday morning I had my first pilates lesson in town - and crikey, I discovered muscles in places I didn't even know I had places!!!! I had tried pilates very briefly a few years ago, but as ever it was the eternal problem of not being able to make the class on time because of the traffic. I must admit I had visions then of doing a few "piddly little exercises while sitting on a space hopper", but boy did I ever get a shock (and some very sore core muscles the next day). But all's well and good this time because at least it gets me into town early on a Thursday morning in time for the market, when otherwise I might get hooked on reading on the computer and end up missing the market yet again!!!


Oh, and I was playing Words with Friends on FB the other day (I actually had one word score 198 points would you believe!!!!) when I realized my oldest was online. I had forgotten that he and Lily are in Korea so bugged him to send me some pictures, and how lovely they are! Lily's mom was originally from Korea and Lily spent nine (I think) months in Korea learning the language a few years back. It's a country they both love (Seoul is a young people's city I understand) so if they ever decided to leave Switzerland I could see them heading out that way, although I don't actually reckon they will ever leave Switzerland, to be honest!

And finally, I sat down today to watch England's opening match of the rugby world cup. My lovely Dutchman was obviously doing the same as he kept sending me WhatsApp messages throughout the match!!! I had mentioned to him that a retired colleague had seemingly suddenly been taken very very ill and it turns out she died on Friday night. Anyway, C then sent me a message that another retired colleague died this morning also, having not been ill for very long either!!! We worked for a relatively small, friendly organization and all tended to know each other, so two deaths in two days has come as a big shock, and since I don't think either of these colleagues was 65 yet, that made the shock even worse! I guess you really never know what's around the corner do you - I hope that's enough to make all of us more determined than ever to go for it while we can!


Tuesday, 17 September 2019

10,000 steps!

I got my 10,000 steps (and more) in yesterday, and how!!! Since I have retired I've only been getting 4,000-5,000 steps in in a day unless I make a huge effort, and to be honest, making a huge effort while it was so hot was not going to happen. So now, seemingly, I have no excuse!

On Saturday I stopped in at Jordan and Jen's to take something over that Jen had asked for. She had not been well (spent the night in hospital) so I wanted to see how she was doing. Initially they suspected appendicitis but that turned out not to be the case, although they found massive internal inflammation instead. Hopefully with a bit of treatment, rest and some TLC she will be feeling better soon! Anyway, I was telling Jen that I wanted to get one hike in, either up Le Môle or up to Balme while the weather was so perfect. But she told me that she had recently taken her patients on a hike up to a place called La Bourgeoise, which was a pretty easy hike but with the most spectacular views! So I decided to take a trip out there on Sunday just to see what it looked like. First I stopped in at a local vide-grenier which was much bigger than I expected and very well organized. I didn't buy anything though as nothing really caught my eye, but it was still nice to be out and about anyway. And then I set out to find La Bourgeoise. It was about an hour from home and just over 50 km and what a lovely spot it turned out to be! I drove up to the top of the pass to a small café which is the starting point for the hike. Since, by this time, it was already 5 p.m. I decided not to go up to the look-out but that I would come back "some time soon". So I sat and had a Perrier water while taking in the sunshine and the beautiful view (all the while trying desperately to look like I'd just done a gruelling hike - but nah, that didn't work). Behind me was a large party having a drink and as they got up to go someone called out "grandma, you forgot your walking stick". I was just thinking how sweet it was that they took "little ol' grandma" up the mountains for a day out, when I turned round and 70+ year old grandma" came striding back to the table all shorts, thigh muscles and hiking boots, picked up her hiking stick and then ran back off to join the rest of her group! That'll teach me about stereotypes I guess, especially around here!

Anyway, yesterday morning I had my early morning yoga class in the next village, and I've come to realize that doing that first thing, right at the beginning of the week, is a wonderful way to set up my week. As so often with yoga, I've found that it doesn't really feel like I'm actually doing anything, but when I leave I feel absolutely wonderful! I love it! So on the way back I was telling my friend about La Bourgeoise and when she said "let's give it a shot", I suggested "how about this afternoon" so off we went. And my was it ever pretty!

The walk to the top was pretty easy actually, although I agree with my friend that it's still probably better to do these hikes with someone as it would have been easy enough to twist an ankle in some of the more treacherous spots. We came across sheep and cows (and a few goats), all with their bells on, and it was just glorious. Most people do this hike in about an hour or less - we took an hour but were fine with that as neither of us like to rush and it was pretty hot to boot!

Right in the distance, to the right, you can see the tip of the Mont Blanc!


That "little dot" in the middle of the patch of green is actually a chalet!
And then didn't we just totally luck out when a group of men came up behind us and were setting up for hang-gliding lessons - and we had an eagle's eye view!


My friend and I were talking about how strong the instructor must be because with a novice they have to be prepared to take the weight of the student, if necessary, when they come back in to land. So my friend was saying she'd need knee pads and shoulder pads (and here's me thinking incontinence pads would be more likely to be on my list of essentials)! Still, it was such a thrill to see them up close in action!

And in other news, seems my scammers are back. There were two yesterday and one of them, a widow, formerly married to General Somebody-or-other in the Congo, apparently wants to marry me!!! Now I must definitely be giving off the wrong vibe - not in the sense that I'm a "woman looking for another woman", but anybody who knows me knows darn well that if they think I am ever getting married again they want their head looking at! But thanks for the offer anyway!

Then last Friday the Swiss/French emergency services carried out a simulation of a "catastrophic" event in one of the tunnels of the new CEVA train line, which will begin running mid-December. The CEVA, or the Léman Express (lake Geneva is called lac Léman in French) will eventually link Geneva airport all the way through to Chamonix/Mont Blanc because skiing, in particular, is very big money around here. In December, however, the section of the line linking Annecy to Geneva (the section that would have benefitted me had I still been at work) will be opening up so they simulated an "incident" (crash/bomb) inside one of the tunnels with 2,000 "victims" and around 900 emergency service personnel/first responders to see how they would cope in such an event. I'm told it went pretty well, but of course the upshot of that, very necessary, exercise is that roads were closed for hours, although they had forewarned people via the press. Unfortunately, on top of that, there was what I understand was a relatively minor three-car smash on the motorway leading to France, but which involved having to close off more roads so that the emergency services could get in! And again, I can only say that I'm just so, so glad that I don't have to do that commute any more!

And I saw in the newspapers this morning how an elderly cyclist in Australia had died falling off his bike after being "attacked" by magpies! How very sad! But I remember being in Australia in 1983 (my six-month "round Australia" trip) and at one youth hostel in Queensland they had put up signs advising us to "beware of the thieving magpies". Well we just thought it was to warn us to keep an eye on our valuables, but no, it was, indeed, to watch out for the bloody magpies who swooped and basically attacked pedestrians as they were walking down the street. It was quite amazing really!


And finally, I got a call from Max last night to say they would be here tomorrow morning to finish hooking up my heating/hot water system, so I'll finally be able to get my house looking somewhat less like the site of a nuclear "incident"! I also got a call from Patrick, the "official" French translator, to meet him for a drink tomorrow afternoon so I can drop off my parents' death certificates for him to translate in connection with my request for French citizenship. Now I'm not totally convinced I need their death certificates but since it only costs 30 cents a word to get them translated I may as well just go ahead and have everything ready for if and when I ever get my initial appointment with French immigration (don't hold your breath)! So on that note I will love you and leave you as I have my second yoga class of the week a little later this afternoon and I'm sure the ladies would probably appreciate it if I had a shower first!

Friday, 13 September 2019

Well, it was worth the wait!

The wedding photographer finally got the website up. It was worth the wait though - now the problem I have is deciding which ones to go on the wall! Never be a Libran!

All pictures by Ap-Art Photography (well done Pete)!

The château in my village - Château de St. Sixt - small but beautiful!






The "mates"!


Thursday, 12 September 2019

Ha ha!

Hey, "Sharon from the USA" just contacted me. Apparently she knows Mrs. Victoria, who knows a spell caster who can make your husband faithful again. If anyone should need her services please see below. (I took the liberty of deleting the phone number just in case, but 0234 is the country code for Nigeria)! But hell, if anyone tries to cast a spell to make my cheating ex-husband come back I might have to put out a contract on them! Anyway, see below the message from "Sharon".

"Hello everyone out there, I'm here to share my unexpected miracle that happened to me through the help of Dr OKHUELEGBE. My name is Sharon, I'm from USA. I was happily married with two kids; we lived together as one because we both loved each other. All of a sudden, my husband started acting funny and started keeping late nights. I took out time to know what was actually going on and realized that he was cheating on me. Later on, he told me that he cannot continue with me, I even pleaded with him but he never listened. The worst part of it was that he left me and my two kids with nothing to hold on to. But there was nothing I could do to stop him or bring him back to me. I work so hard to pay the kids school fees and other responsibilities for good three years. I cried all day and night because I didn't know what to do to have my husband back to me until this fateful day i read a short piece from one Mrs. Victoria testifying how the great spell caster helped her to get her ex back. I said let me give it a try because I never believed it will work. I contacted the great spell caster and he told me not to worry that my husband will return to me in no distance time after he must have finished casting out the spell placed on my husband. The unbelievable happened on Sunday when I got a call and I was so surprised to hear my husband’s voice apologizing to me that he is so sorry for all his Wrong did, telling me he is coming back home to fix all the pains and hardship he brought upon me. Wow! I really appreciated the great work of DR. OKHUELEGBE. I will always acknowledge your "FABULOUS WORKS" and there is nothing I could say than to tell the whole world about my miracle. So, if anyone is out there reading this post and you have similar issue like this, worry no more, Dr. OKHUELEGBE is there for you, he can also offer any type of help like Reuniting of marriage and relationship, Curing of genital herpes and all types of Diseases, Court Cases, Pregnancy Spell, Spiritual protection and lot's more. Call/WhatsApp him on:+234XXXX or through his email: XXXXXmail.com"
Oddly enough, I also got two messages today from another lady who wanted to give me $2 million since she was dying. The lady the week before only wanted to leave me $30,000 so obviously I'm on the up and up! I wrote back and asked if she could possibly put her message into intelligible English. No reply as yet but I will let you know when I have that $2 million to share around!
BTW, have you ever felt like a complete idiot? I have on a few occasions and I did again today. I went into town to our weekly market and saw a neighbour. Not a close neighbour but one who had once given ski lessons in our ski club and who I knew vaguely, although I can never remember his name as I only see him about two times a year. Anyway, I saw him coming towards me at the market with his sunglasses on and waved quickly. He took his sunglasses off and came over for la bise - you know, the two kisses on either side of the cheek. That was when I realized it wasn't my neighbour and this guy couldn't have known me. Bloody hell! I have no idea what to make of that and I'm sure he didn't either but who knows, maybe I have just made a new friend! I guess we'll see at the market next week!
And I think I mentioned some time ago about someone telling me when my dad had just died that a white feather is the symbol of your guardian angel. Well I have to admit Steve's death has really bothered me. On Monday, at 1 o'clock French time (the time the funeral began in England), I went out and sat in the garden and just absorbed the stillness of my garden, just thinking about Steve, and it really upset me. Yesterday I went in to work to use the gym and as I parked in the parking lot I pulled out my ID badge from the inner pocket of my bag and there was a small white feather hooked into the chain of my badge! And last night, I was a bit "moithered" and didn't sleep well. At one point, I remember dreaming various odd things and then Steve walked over and hugged me while I was crying in my dream! How weird is that! But I just know that was Steve saying he was ok and everything was good with him! Like I said before, it might just be poppycock but it is very reassuring either way!
And finally, I have been plugging away and struggling to get several trees/bushes cut back in my garden. Then I came back from shopping today and my neighbour was outside at my hazelnut tree cutting it back to half its size, so I went out to help him. He has just come over to ask how I want my damson bush cut back this weekend!!! Now I'm not struggling to get this stuff done as it will get done as and when, and in any case I would be willing to pay someone to do it if necessary, but isn't it nice when someone comes over and takes over, maybe when they see you are a bit fragile!
And just in case, I've been having problems with my computer. First I couldn't play videos and then when I got that fixed I couldn't get the sound on the videos. So I updated Windows 10 and switched to Chrome but in the meantime I have been very remiss on reading and commenting on your blogs. Hopefully that is all fixed now so onwards and upwards! Speak soon, and don't forget Mrs. Victoria and the spell caster!

Sunday, 8 September 2019

All booked up!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was debating whether to enrol in a Thursday morning pilates class at the MJC (the local community centre), as I was wondering whether it might be taking on too many commitments in one week. Buuutt, in the end I decided to go for it as I realize I like to be busy and feel I need something that is a little more challenging than just yoga. Truth be told, I really need to get my backside into gear and do something slightly aerobic, but I'm still valiantly resisting that urge (rather easily as it turns out). But yesterday between 14-17h was enrolment time at the MJC so after dropping more hedge clippings off at the tip I decided to drive past the MJC to check it out. It was only 13h30 and I could see that the queue was already snaked through the corridors of the building and round the entire block!!! Say what! Well there was no way I was going to stand out there in the heat for goodness knows how long so I took myself off back into town and decided to treat myself to lunch out, having had the forethought to bring my kindle just in case the queue at the MJC was a little long! Crikey, I could have read "War and Peace" by the time that lot had worked their way through the enrolment process! So after about two hours I drove back up there and it was still chocablock, so I decided that maybe pilates wasn't for me after all and drove home. But then again I'm a stubborn bugger so at 4.30 p.m. I decided to give it one last shot with just 30 minutes to go before closing time, found a place right in front of the building and was in and out in about 10 minutes flat! So it seems that, yes, God really did want me to take pilates classes after all! It was pretty well organized (as I found out later), in that you did your initial enrolment at various desks depending on the subject you were interested in and then you headed off to another room to pay. I suspect a large percentage of the initial group was all the young kids enrolling for judo and karate and so on, but I saw that all the yoga classes had quickly filled up and they had posted a note at the front gate to that effect. These classes were given by a lady called Sylvie, and I'm pretty sure she was the lady I enrolled with about eight years ago but had to give up in the end because her class started at 7 p.m. and more and more I never made it back to La Roche before 7.30 p.m! She was very good, so I'm not surprised her classes are all fully booked and I guess teaching yoga maybe 10 times a week is one reason why she is in such great shape!

And talking of yoga, my neighbour did, indeed, finally come with me for a trial run at Tuesday's class and she loved it. I told her to be sure and tell the teacher that she suffered from scoliosis and she would guide her as to what and what not to do. In fact the teacher was very attentive to her, making sure that she was comfortable in everything she did, but M, my neighbour, hung in there and managed to do every movement that the rest of us did and she loved it. She was just bubbling afterwards and it gave me such pleasure to see her so happy! We both ached later that evening (for me particularly the neck and shoulder region) but she said that she had tried out some of the moves at home to "keep up the momentum" and has decided she will sign up. Score for me then, as I've been "nagging" her for ages to give it a go as I just knew she would get a lot out of it!

Then on Wednesday I decided it was time to get back on some kind of walking schedule as I no longer had the excuse of it being too hot! The weather has turned almost 180° - but then I guess that's normal for September - and it has gone from chilly to warm to chilly again (and guess whose heating still isn't installed!). I did the one hour walk round the Church of the Blessed Fountain and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'd planned a longer walk in the mountains today but it is currently peeing down, with thunder in the offing, and the last place you want to be in a thunder storm is in the mountains. Oh well, it will perk up again soon enough so I will get that walk in at some time. I can't wait actually, as it's a new one to me, despite having lived here over 30 years! And looking out the window at the rain I see that some of my neighbours have already got their heating on, but I'll be damned if I'm turning mine on before end-September (not least because, as I say, it isn't installed yet, but as a matter of principle I don't want to turn it on before October ever!). Max had to order specific tubing in order to hook it all up so as soon as that arrives it should just take another day to finish the installation. I can't wait, actually, because I'm curious to see if it really turns out to be as economical as he says!

Then the other day Jen called to ask if I had gotten rid of all my ex's CDs yet. He must have left about 300 of the bloody things in the farmhouse that he was renting when he buggered off back to the States (without emptying the farmhouse) and I had been slowly going through them to see if any were salvageable. Trouble is, he never took care of anything so most of them were scratched to sh*t anyway. In the end I had pretty much given up because you can't even give CDs away and I was damned if I was listening to any more of his CDs to find out if I could put any of them on Freecycle, his taste in music not being anything like mine! In fact, one of the joys of being divorced is never having to listen to Willy Nelson ever again (I know, I know, all you Willy Nelson fans out there will probably chime in) but I got so sick of listening to the same songs (not just WN) over and over and over again! And now I don't have to! Anyway, back to the plot, Jen has a project lined up with some of her patients (she is a psychiatric nurse) and was looking for CDs to use - not the cases, just the actual CDs themselves - so it looks like I will be getting rid of pretty much the whole lot in one fell swoop without actually throwing them away. I'm not sure what she plans to do with them but …. all I know is that they are wending their way out my house as we speak. But, I did come across a few that I have listened to again and got a lot of pleasure out of. Simply Red and Santana anyone? So yesterday afternoon I was standing out in my garden in the glorious sunshine watching the hangliders soaring over the mountains behind my house blasting Santana. And then I got to thinking about Steve and I started crying! I just felt so sad but it was a really poignant moment all the same! When I got in I opened up my mail and there in my inbox was a lovely message from his daughter, Josie, thanking me for the beautiful letter I had written to her and her brothers and for the cheque I asked her to donate to a charity of their choice in memory of her dad. I told her that I just wrote from the heart and that it just came spilling out, that their dad was so very, very proud of them and that they were his everything! And you know what, I'm good with it now. She said she wished they had gotten to meet me so I said maybe one day we will as I really am hoping to spend more time in the UK and in the north in particular, so maybe we can meet up sometime when all the sadness is over. And I would like that. Who knows, one day!

Monday, 2 September 2019

Life goes on!

When I went back to the flooring place to return the samples, the sales rep was very helpful and full of ideas about how it might work best (aren't they all though). But, like I said previously, I have had work done by these people before and have been very pleased with them, so I went ahead and ordered my new floor! I guess I tend to be like that in most things - think about it for quite a while - chew the cud if you like - and then just go for it. I tend not to spend an awful lot of time going back and forth once the decision is made, so I went ahead and ordered the tiling I posted pictures of the other day. The rep is coming out later this month to do the final measuring up and then a few weeks later they will come to lay it. Which means that I will have to get everything out of the rather large living/dining room beforehand - and I mean everything! Apparently, they clean and pre-treat the original floor so there is no question of just moving furniture around - it all has to go! While we were looking at numbers I told her there was no way I could move some of that furniture on my own, so included in my quote is the cost of two half days' manual labour by a second person (hope he's got bigger muscles than mine) to get everything moved out and then back again on the final day. They reckon it should take 4-5 days all told, so that'll be more chaos to look forward to. Still, it should be pretty nice once it's all done. And, I must be getting good at this "gestimating" business because the quote has come in at €200 less than I had reckoned on spending, so I'm happy with that!

Problem is, Max and his team have to have my new heating installed before they can start on the flooring so it looks like I won't be able to go to Steve's funeral. I could make it out to the UK over the weekend but need to be back here by Tuesday morning and from what I can see there are no suitable flights. I know his family will understand and I'm actually ok with that as I wouldn't know anyone anyway. I would basically have to show up and then dash back to the airport so I'm not sure what the point would be really. I will send Josie a cheque, however, and ask her to donate it to a charity of her choosing in memory of her dad. As a "no fuss" Yorkshireman, I know Steve would understand!

And moving swiftly on, our latest board game evening was scheduled at my place on Saturday night, but Jordan and Jen asked if they could host it at their new place as a kind of "housewarming". When I got there I realized they had already moved in - they had spent their first night there the night before - and had it all set up pretty nicely to host our evening. We had a lovely time and spent the entire evening playing Cranium. I was useless, but in my defence, a lot of the questions were "French-biased". Buuut Jordan surprised me and his brother with one of his answers to a puzzle. I gave up before I even started - not my kind of thing obviously, or maybe I'm just thick! Just in case you want to try it: "A woman has two pairs of red socks, two pairs of black socks and two pairs of white socks in her drawer. What is the minimum number of individual socks she can remove from the drawer before she cannot fail to have a matching pair of red socks?" When Jordan came up with the right answer I was stunned - as was his brother! I guess the facility for logical thinking wasn't something I ever recognized in him before. Just as well he has it, I guess, what with being a plumber and all and installing complicated heating systems. (Oh, I'll put the answer in another post if you're interested)!

To play Cranium we split into three teams of four and towards the end of the evening Jordan was wandering around making sure everyone had drinks and Jen's mom and her partner actually nodded off, so my poor neighbour, Philippe, whose team they were all on, said "I guess it looks like I'm now relegated to a team of one since the rest of my team seem to be either sleeping or have gone AWOL"! Not to worry, as he's probably smart enough to beat the rest of us all on his own!

The day before it had been André's 32nd birthday so I took two bottles of champagne over, one for the house-warming and one for André's birthday. As this was the first time André and Lily had come to one of our get-togethers it ended up being a very nice evening, for me in particular, spending time with both my kids and their wives, although getting home at 2 a.m. knocked me for six the next day, I can tell you!

André and Lily


Lily


Alexandre - 17 years old and one smart cookie. He was the one that answered 
the question re "Beethoven's Ode to Joy"!


As we were leaving we set the date for the next get-together (at my place) and Alexandre's parents asked if I might be interested in joining them for an "enigma challenge" which will take place in Annecy later this month. Apparently as a team you're given a set of clues and have to find various "staging points" around Annecy - or at least that's the way I understand it - a bit like geocaching (or Pokemon Go, I guess)! The last one they went to was in Lyon and there were over 600 participants so it could be quite fun!

And moving seamlessly on, the lovely young woman that was giving the yoga classes on Tuesdays contacted me to say that she will now be giving classes to a small group on Monday afternoons and was I interested? Yes, very much so, in fact. She was a replacement teacher when the other, Tuesday afternoon, teacher was placed on long-term sick leave and my friend and I agreed that we both preferred Tiphaine's classes so are happy to go to her Monday class, in addition to the Tuesday class we went to previously. My neighbour popped round the other day and asked if she could go with me as she has terrible back pain due to having scoliosis, so I called the organizers and she can have a couple of free sessions at both classes to see if she likes them (I think she would enjoy the Monday class more, so will be interested to see what she thinks). I've also decided to go to the Thursday pilates/gym class at the local community centre that I mentioned previously. It's only for an hour - so I added up all the time I would be spending at these various classes and in the end it doesn't really eat up much of my time so I reckon I have no excuse!

And finally - and I have no idea why I did this - but haven't I just gone ahead and enrolled for Wednesday evening beginners' Italian classes! I suppose I got the feeling that I needed to do something to actually use my brain and since I have always loved languages I thought I would give Italian a shot. It's a beautiful language and as we are only an hour from the Italian border I might well be able to use it sooner rather than later. I'll be curious to see how fast I can pick it up as when we learned languages at school, of necessity it would have been rather slow going since "we were kids and obviously not that quick" (my interpretation of the snails' pace we worked at). Could be interesting and a good way to start using my brain again. So until the next time "Ciao"!