The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Friday 29 November 2019

Soft as a baby's bottom!

I just got back from my second visit to the spa in the next village and again I have to say it was a real treat. I didn't grow up having "beauty treatments" and getting my nails done because it just wasn't like that for us. We were poor and when I got my first Saturday job I had better things to spend my money on anyway, so all this "messing about" goes a bit against the grain for me personally. But in the end I just thought "stuff it", if I don't do it now then when - and in any case, there ain't no pockets in shrouds! All that to say that I am still a little uncomfortable being "pampered", although I'm sure I'll get over myself! But ladies, have you seen those disposable knickers they give you to put on, "to protect your modesty" I suspect. Oh man, those things look more like dental floss for the bum (and I'd probably get more coverage out of that). What's more, I never know whether you put the two inch triangle on the back or the one inch triangle!! Again, you can take the girl out the country but ….

Then you have to try "hopping up" onto the bed with some kind of dignity while "the girl" holds up a large towel in front of her, ostensibly for the sake of discretion, but I reckon it's so she can have a good ol' titter behind it! Still, I made it, at which point she proceeded to rub me all over with a body scrub (felt like being sand-blasted), but I have to say she was very professional and it did feel good. After that you have to get into the shower to wash the Sahara desert out of all the weird places before she then rubs chip fat "their mystical beauty oils" all over you. Yeah, I know, I'm a pleb but I have to say my skin feels wonderful so I'm gonna keep going! This ritual humiliation, though, is made all the worse by the fact that most French women are slim and me? Not so much! So I've now decided I'm gonna give up booze at least until Christmas in a bid to try to lose some of my blubber (although since we're heading off to Italy for the day tomorrow I do wonder about my timing sometimes)! Not sure it'll work but if not, I'm still shameless enough to keep going back for more abuse! In reality, I'm sure they've seen it all before and they certainly are very professional so maybe the "humiliation" is all in my mind. Yeah, that's probably it! I do remember many years ago, though, going for my one-and-only fake tan attempt (again in the dental floss disguised as knickers). When we got to the bit where I had to hold my boobs up so she could "get underneath" I swore I'd never go back - and I never did!

But talking of "silly", I saw this joke today and it tickled me so I sent it to my friend.

Paddy and Mick are walking down the road and Paddy has a bag of doughnuts in his hand. Mick says he's starvin' so Paddy says to Mick: "If you can guess how many doughnuts are in my bag, you can have both of  'em."

With all due apolo … nah, sod that! Anyone who's ever seen Dara O'Brien will know that the Irish have the greatest sense of humour! So anyway, my friend wrote back and said that he has just been invited to an open house/drinks do and was asked to bring along "booze and nipples" as his contribution! That shouldn't be too difficult I guess!

On another note, I know I've always been naive, but I think I'm slowly "coming of age". But still, I was somewhat shocked to learn that the RNC had paid out $100,000 to buy copies of Trump Jr.'s book! Way to make it to the best-seller list I guess, but seriously? Which reminds me of the court battle a couple of years ago between the repugnant, to me, Charles Saatchi and his then wife (I think they were still married at the time), the lovely Nigella. The court case had to do with alleged theft by two of their employees, but the trial was quite an eye opener. One of the "highlights" of the case was when a "private" text message between the two of them - in which he referred to her as "High-gella" - oops - and the fact that she had once taken cocaine when her first husband was dying - "accidentally" became public knowledge. Assuming that was indeed a private text message and it was never in her best interests to have it become public knowledge, it makes one wonder who on earth could possibly have leaked it! What came out of that trial for me, though, was that (a) Nigella wasn't exactly the desperately busy single mother dashing home from a hard day's work to effortlessly put together a dinner party for 30, but also that (b) she came over as a very generous and likeable person - quite the opposite of Saatchi! What also came out during that trial, though, was that after his book was published, his two assistants were sent around London in a taxi to buy up all copies of his "best-selling" book! Well colour me gullible but I never realized that happened! And talking of "gullible", someone once told me that the Oxford English Dictionary had decided to delete the word "gullible" from its latest edition because of lack of use! Can you imagine that!

And finally, somewhere in all my travails I seem to have lost one of my lovely wooly slippers. There just might be a suspicious looking "bump" under the new tiling by the front door, but I do hope somebody didn't do a "Jimmy Hoffa" on it!

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Christmas crackered!

That's "knackered" in Cockney rhyming slang, just FYI! Well my new floor is all done and I have to say I'm very pleased with Saint Maclou yet again. They show up when they say they will, I stayed out of their hair as much as possible and they did a very good job. There has been a slight problem with my "generic" skirting boards in the living room though because my original tile skirting boards were larger than standard so they had to put the generic on top, and they're not really deep enough! I actually don't mind too much but in some places there is a gap at the top of the skirting board where the new ones don't meet the wall completely, so I will have to put some kind of foam down there to fill the gap. For the time being though, I just want to get everything cleaned up and back into some kind of order! But otherwise, I'm very happy with them again. What with getting the new heating put in, then emptying and cleaning out the kitchen and now this, I don't think I'll be getting any more home improvements done before the spring (bathrooms, I'm looking at you). And this week I've given my exercise classes a miss as I wanted to be here on site and I'm just too tired anyway. Next week I'll be back at it though! All I want to do right now though is sleep!

The kitchen is actually very nice - but it still needs painting and decluttering (again)!
Glad I chose the mosaic style though!
As I mentioned previously, my friend and I went down to the local "old fogies" fair in town on Sunday as we wanted to pick up the latest prospectus from GAL Voyages. Next year they are putting on quite a few trips, Norway/Denmark being of big interest, Holland in the spring (in time for the tulips), Slovenia in autumn (that's a maybe), Brittany …. plus loads of day trips. Right at the moment I haven't got the energy to start figuring out what I want to do but a couple of days of no hassle and I'll be back bouncing around like a kid on too many "E" numbers I expect!

There was another fair going on at the same time with fancy wine, cheeses and sausages (from Italy), organic stuff and the the ubiquitous salesmen trying to "invest" my pension money (sorry mate, I've just spent it all - you can stop by and see my new floor though if you like)! My friend and I just headed out of Dodge once we got to that end of the fair. But on our way back home I saw the "homeless" guy who was hassling me the other night and his "poor leg" that required that I drive him in to town and give him money looked pretty good to me - in fact I don't think I could have kept up with him if I tried. My friend said she'd seen him around quite a lot and he can be a pain, although I would say that was an understatement!

Moving on, I was saddened today to hear of the premature death of popular British chef, Gary Rhodes, at the young age of only 59. As far as I know he wasn't ill so at the moment it's a bit of a mystery what happened, but still, 59 is way too young as far as I'm concerned. I have a couple of his cook books but to me they were probably a bit too "intricate", particularly when I was working. Having a 12-hour working day/commute I just didn't have the time or the inclination to put more hours into cooking, but the few recipes I did try turned out very well. But still, very sad all the same!

Gary Rhodes
And then just yesterday we heard of the death of a colleague, also 59, who died on Saturday of cancer of the liver!!! Bloody hell! He was a nice guy and a "health nut" - didn't drink or smoke, clean living, a runner, and here he is gone in just four months start to finish! I tell you, T's death hit a little too close to home. He will be missed as he genuinely was a nice guy!

And finally, on a more pleasant note, to all my US friends out there, I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving and get to enjoy being with your loved ones. I know I'm probably a grinch but as I get older I enjoy "formal" celebrations less and less and informal, spontaneous get-togethers all the more. I guess there's less pressure for everything to be perfect isn't there! But still, enjoy that turkey (yumm), pumpkin pie (berk, sorry, just can't do it), and enjoy the company of those you love!

Friday 22 November 2019

Walled in!

St. Maclou (the flooring people) showed up at 8.15 a.m. this morning so they were off to a good start. The main guy was French and I'm not sure if he's done work for me before - I seem to vaguely remember him. Turns out he lives in St. Jeoire so when I told him that Jordan and Jen had just bought there he said he might know him, being as these trades often end up working together. Said he would look out for him! He bought "Mr. Muscle" with him, who had been contracted to help with the heavy lifting and getting what was left of my stuff into the garage, and guess what! It all fit!! I'm delighted as I really didn't want to have any of my stuff left outside over the next four days (even if it was covered up) as it is cold and damp at the moment. Mr. Muscle was from Kosovo and I think he might be just starting to learn the trade. Either way, they worked very well together, were polite and efficient, and four hours later they were done for the day!

The main guy had told me that I had to chose whether I wanted to be "cemented in" or "cemented out" because once they had put down the agréage - aggregate? (the best translation I can think for that is "cement patching" - you know, what they put down to level the surface off), I had to leave it to set for about seven hours. At first I thought I might go in to Geneva for the day but in the end decided I would just stay home, so they cemented me upstairs with a baguette, a chunk of cheese (and a bottle of wine if I'm being perfectly honest) and that's where I stayed from noon to 7 p.m.!! It wasn't even that bad actually as my TV room is upstairs and I also had my sewing machine, computer and books so it was actually rather nice to have an excuse to do absolutely nothing for a few hours!

I sent my friend a photo of my living room and he said "damn, you could have set up camp at my place"! Nice timing dingbat! It would have been nice to see him but I wasn't going anywhere after mid-day was I! It turned out ok in the end, but my neighbour had told me that when they laid their new floor about 35 years ago they had to leave the cement to set for 48 hours so they ended up putting a ladder up against their external balcony and climbed in and out their bedroom window that way!!! I kinda hoped the products they would be using had improved since then and thankfully they have. Can you imagine me climbing in and out of my house over the bedroom balcony at my age!! That'd be a picture for Facebook!

So the workmen knocked off for the day at noon and the fitter called me this afternoon to confirm that he will be back to start laying the floor at 8 a.m. on Monday morning. Uurgghh! I'm really not a morning person, so I told him if I was still in my PJs to just let himself in (he burst out laughing so I guess the French might be starting to get my sense of humour)!

It's weird though because it's amazing how big downstairs looks with no furniture in it. And that, I think, is all the more reason not to put some of the stuff back once the new floor is down isn't it! A good time to declutter methinks. And, with all my stuff pulled out and stored, I don't think my place has ever been so clean, nor will it ever be again I suppose! That being said, I'll be glad when it's done and life can get back to normal - just in time to start thinking about decorating for Christmas eh!

Tomorrow my friend and I are off into town to the exhibition centre as I received two free tickets for the "Cap Senior" fair. GAL Voyages sent me the tickets (this is the bus company we do many of our trips with) and they will be there and handing out their new programme for 2020. I know Norway and Denmark are on their agenda but I don't know about the rest so we'll see if anything sparks our interest. It is a bit weird, though, to be getting invitations to "senior" events!!! Crikey I don't feel that old but then I guess, technically, I am a "senior". Apparently when I'm 65 I'll start getting invitations to the free "seniors" Christmas lunch in the village too! I imagine it's a lunch because everyone has to be in bed by 6.30 p.m.! Oh well! I wonder if they provide someone to chew your food for you if it's tough!

Thursday 21 November 2019

Raging boar!

I had my Italian class last night and was almost home, just reaching the outskirts of my village, when I ran into a wild boar! Well five of them actually. There are no street lights on that road so everything was pitch black, but I was driving slowly enough that I actually saw them crossing the road ahead of me and was able to swerve enough to just miss them - well four of 'em! Turns out there was a fifth one clambering his way up out of the field and I hit the bugger - or more exactly, he hit me with an almighty thump! He wasn't that big and wasn't even moving that quickly but the impact was pretty impressive, although I didn't stop to chat! There was a car coming the other way and he must have seen what happened so I pulled over but by that time they had already disappeared into the field on the other side of the road. Oddly enough, in 30 years of living here, this is only the second time I've seen wild boar, and it was also on this very spot that I saw deer last year, but only once! Weird that, considering how rural it is! I didn't get out of my car as I didn't want to try and get friendly with a wild boar with a bad shoulder and a grudge, but when I got home the damage didn't seem too bad - that is, until I looked at it again this morning. He must have hit towards my passenger side door and has indeed dented the body work as well as the front bumper. I suppose I'll stop in at Ford to see what they think and then decide if I want to put in a claim on my insurance. I intend to run this car into the ground so I'm not that bothered about a few dents but if the insurance will pay up I may get it fixed if my car won't be off the road too long. If not, since I don't consider my car a status symbol or a "reflection of my virility", I'll probably just leave it. It could have been a lot worse I suppose!

Ugly, bad tempered buggers - but can you imagine running into five of them!

Oh, and I see that ol' "Air Miles" has seemingly spoken to mummy and she graciously accepted for him to withdraw from royal duties for the foreseeable future" (and thus give up his £250,000 royal income). Ha ha, about bloody time too, particularly with all his charities' sponsors dropping him like a hot turd! Not that I think he, the parasite or the offspring will be getting real jobs any time soon though, but I suppose we could always start a "gofundme" page just in case. Wouldn't want them to have to rough it like we mere plebs would we!

Wednesday 20 November 2019


Well the never-ending news headline at the moment is the ongoing story of Prince Andrew, his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein and whether or not he had sex with underage girls! Of course the story isn't exactly going to fade gently into history any time soon (nor should it be allowed to), but his car crash "reveal all" interview the other night did him no favours at all! By all accounts, not only did it do him "no favours", but showed him to be what he apparently is - an entitled, boorish, arrogant, unempathetic dick!!! His ex-wife, "the lovely Fergie", as always stands resolutely behind her ongoing meal ticket ex-husband and was, apparently, the one who told him to "go for it and get the truth out there"! Yeah, well anyone who listens to Fergie for advice on how to be media savvy probably deserves each and every flying cow pat coming their way! And this is the same Fergie who, when caught a few years back trying to flog access to Andrew for £500,000 to a fake Sheikh (undercover journalist), eventually went on "Oprah" for a "tell-all" interview which ended up about as "grueling" as being savaged by a toothless kitten! Even more of a joke was that when they finally got down to the so-called nitty gritty, Fergie then started to refer to herself in the third person - "she didn't realize what she was doing, she made a big mistake". I guess if you refer to yourself in the third person that means it wasn't really you then right????

One of the things that really jumped out at me in this whole Prince Andrew debacle though was that "mummy" apparently provides him with "pocket money" to the tune of £250,000 per year, on top of his £20,000/year military pension (and also, I imagine, on top of any money/advantages/living accommodation he receives in addition to the freebie junkets "Air Miles Andy" used to enjoy). So no shortage of money there - well not to my eyes at least, but then I guess we have different ideas of what it means to be "rich" don't we! Anyway, as I was saying, what jumped out at me was that Andrew apparently went to Epstein a few years back to ask him for money for Fergie in order to get her debts restructured! The Epstein bail out turned out to be in the amount of £15,000! That's all! £15,000!!! Now don't you think if you had your fingers in as many pies as Andrew seemingly has that you wouldn't have to go to an Epstein to beg for £15,000 for your parasitic ex-wife?? Beats me! He could have come to me - I would have been able to rustle up a little something for "poor Fergie" - you know, the one who would show up to the opening of an envelope if there was a free buffet!!! Gawd, how the other half live!

And then there was the recent brooha over a cosmetic surgery clinic trying to suggest that if you got plastic surgery chez eux you too could end up looking as fresh as Kate Middleton! The media (the Palace?) immediately jumped all over them for trying to infer that Kate had used their services but the clinic did turn out to be where Fergie had had a facelift and other "rejuvenating" treatments. Crikey, if I was managing that clinic Sarah Ferguson would be the last person I'd want advertising my clinic!

Fergie - aged 60!
And talking of aging badly, I saw pictures of the celebrations for Monaco's national day and blimey, haven't they aged badly too! Now this isn't just me being bitchy because I'm certainly no oil painting, but these women have had access to the top stylists/make-up artists/hairdressers and so on all their lives and haven't exactly worked their fingers down to the bone in the local factory before catching the number 25 bus home have they! As they say, "fine feathers make fine birds"! But seriously, if they aren't an advert for staying out of the sun I don't know what is (although a lifetime spent smoking probably doesn't help either)!

Caroline - aged 62

Stephanie - aged 54
Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking getting older, but what shocked me was the state of their skin - the wrinkles! Maybe it's just my fat face but those wrinkles really jumped out at me. I think Princess Caroline has always been a beautiful woman (as is her daughter, Charlotte) and certainly the others have looked good (with the right help) but wow, stay out of the sun ladies. It's a killer!

And finally, there's Princess Charlene, who has to be the unhappiest looking princess I've ever seen! You know, the same Charlene who was apparently prevented from boarding a plane out of the country at Nice airport just before her wedding to Albert - that Charlene! Now I have a theory that the reason why she (and Victoria Beckham) never smile is because they have diddy little teeth that no amount of cosmetic surgery can alter. But poor Charlene's eyes just never seem to smile, and as they say, a smile that doesn't reach the eyes will never be a real smile will it!

Tuesday 19 November 2019

The bogey man!

Yesterday morning I went to my early morning yoga class and as always it was great! For the second week in a row she worked mainly on our arms and shoulders and I can still feel the effects of it today. Aching muscles but very positive! The gent who came for a "try-out" a few weeks ago actually came back too! I really didn't think he would as it can't be easy being the only man amongst a group of women, but nope, he came back after a couple of weeks' absence for a trip to Thailand. On the way out I asked him how he found it and he said "initially I was pretty skeptical as I'm usually full speed ahead, but it has really been a pleasant surprise"! I figured since he was pretty sporty he wouldn't be able to take the slower pace of yoga but like he said, it is working different muscles and the relaxed feeling he gets afterwards is just great! Nice huh!

Then when I got home I spent maybe an hour shifting more stuff out of the downstairs rooms, either upstairs or down into my basement, so downstairs is nearly empty now in anticipation of the arrival of the workmen who are coming to start prepping for my new floor on Friday. Well, first thing on Friday they will be shifting the big stuff I can't move on my own into my garage before prepping the floors in order to start work on Monday. I'm pretty sure all my remaining stuff will fit in the garage, but if not I may have to put a couple of things under my external balcony, cover them over and pray for reasonable weather! Then my neighbour took my lawnmower and bike down to his shed so we're almost hot to trot. A couple of weeks ago I had bought the paint to paint my kitchen before the new floor was laid but that ended up being a non-starter. I just haven't got round to it which, if I'm honest, is pretty ridiculous as there really isn't that much to paint. Actually, I'm in awe of people who decorate "this room this weekend and that room next weekend", when I can't even get my arse into gear for one room. But I know that's how I am. It will get done eventually but all on my schedule. It's almost like I need nine months and a bunch of Lamaze classes in order to get even the smallest DIY project started!!

Then last night I went to sewing club. Since I had the two additional sewing machines I had bought for club in my car I got there pretty early so I could make two trips up to our club room with all the gear. As I was unloading my stuff I heard footsteps running towards me and turned round to be confronted by a heavy set guy, about 40 years old, asking if I would drive him in to la Roche!!!!! He told me he was homeless, although he was nicely dressed and looked clean enough (not that that means anything) and "would I take two minutes to run him back in to la Roche"? When I said no, I have to be opening up the rooms for our club he started to become pretty insistent. "It would only take you two minutes, and you could open up the club room later"!!! So I told him it would only take 10 minutes for him to walk in to la Roche, or two minutes to walk to the main road where he stood a better chance of being picked up, to which he replied that he had a bad leg, but I said it didn't look too bad to me, given how he had run at me when I parked my car! But he kept on and on and when I continued to say no he then switched and asked for money. I again said no, and to leave me alone as I had to open up the club rooms. So then he grabbed my sewing machine and said "let me help you", at which point I balled him out, said to put my stuff the f**k down as the damn sewing machine was probably worth more than my car! At that point I knew I wasn't going to be opening up an unoccupied three storey building with psycho here trailing me so I decided to stand outside to wait for more people to show up. Keep in mind I was alone, it was pitch black and only just above freezing!! But I thought, "nope buddy, I'm not going anywhere with you on my tail and if you think you can freeze me out you haven't got the measure of me. I actually like the cold"! So I stood there for 20 minutes with him harassing me constantly for money or a ride back in to town. He eventually went over to the club building and tried the doors (which of course were still locked) and then pretended to leave but I saw him hide behind a wall right next to the front door. So then he came back and asked me to open up just for him to get warm but I told him the Mairie would take my keys off me if I let him in and I wasn't about to let him in anyway with a bunch of elderly ladies arriving shortly for club! Now normally on Monday nights there is also a choir that practices in the same building but for some reason it didn't look like it was on last night so I ended up on my own with the jerk!

After a while two younger guys pulled up in a car. I would say they were about 35 and they seemed to be looking something up on their phones. Eventually he went over to them and started asking them to run him in to town or to give him money and they both refused. So I'm thinking "here I'm saying to myself don't be mean and take him in to town and two young men are refusing this guy"!! I must have been mad to even entertain it!  Eventually Patricia, our teacher, showed up and I was able to drag her back to my car to pick up the other sewing machines and explain to her about creepy guy. So of course he came over and started in on her and she just kept telling him no. Once he realized he was getting nowhere with us he then went over to another, older lady who was just parking her car and started haranguing her. I told Patricia we couldn't leave her on her own to deal with him so we held back until she got to where she needed to go. Once we got inside Patricia said that just wasn't on so decided she would call the gendarmerie. Within about 10 minutes they had sent a patrol down and I think they pulled him over and started questioning him, judging by what some of the later arrivals were saying, but I'm not sure. In the meantime, we kept the front doors locked as he would definitely have come in (and how would we have gotten him out later?) and Patricia opened the doors up as each of the ladies arrived! Now I was a bit shaken at first being out there for 20 minutes with an aggressive guy. I told him he would be better off on the main road (which was literally a two minute walk away) and in any case no woman would give him a ride - all the more so since he smelled quite strongly of alcohol! But afterwards I just got pissed off. And that was quite reassuring (to me at least). I just felt if need be I would take a swing at him - although he was obviously younger and bigger than me - but it was reassuring to know that I wasn't afraid of getting hurt. And that, I guess, is a sad reflection on being married to a violent man. In the end I wasn't afraid of the violence - in fact, when he was "slugging away at me" I didn't feel the pain, to be honest. Oh sure, I felt it the next day but in the moment I wasn't afraid. And that's how I felt last night. Bring it on buddy if you must! Thankfully it didn't come to that but geez, all I wanted to do was get some sewing done!!!!

And talking of sewing, I tried quilting my baby quilt by machine. Hated it so I unpicked it. Re-did it by hand, and it was still bunching so I unpicked it again! So in the end I spent 20 minutes being harassed by an asshole and two hours getting nowhere with my quilt. Next week, when it's quieter, I'll probably take a trip down to Cluses to see my patchwork teacher so see what she suggests in order to just get the darn thing finished!

And then when I got home, I read for a bit on the sofa before getting in to bed to read for a while longer. And bloody hell, at 12.20 a.m. my damn phone rang with an incoming call from Morocco! Now I've been getting these calls for a while - two rings and then they hang up so I'd guess it's just a random computer dial-up. And as routinely as they come in I just as routinely block them but you obviously can't outrun these computer dial ups! I wasn't as mad as I probably should have been because I was still up reading, but about 10 minutes later I put the light out and went to sleep, only to be woken up at 1 a.m. by the same bloody thing! Now this time I was furious and eventually turned my phone off (which I didn't want to do as I wasn't sure if my alarm would work with the phone turned off). Either way it didn't matter in the end as I was awake by 6.30 a.m. as I had to go in to Geneva today. But add that to the three or four "random" calls I get on my home phone each day (which I don't answer and also keep blocking as and when), I'm starting to feel like it would be nice to get a break from "freaky" for a while!

Sunday 17 November 2019

Another week has flown by!

I don't suppose it's just me, but crikey don't the weeks seem to fly by! It's Sunday night as I'm writing this and yet before I know it it seems like it'll be Sunday night again, with the rest of the week just whizzing by at a rate of knotts!

So what's been happening? I was reading an article this week on Sky News where they had followed-up on the very sad case of a young stowaway who had fallen from a plane over London earlier this year! On 30 June a flight from Nairobi was heading to Heathrow airport in London when the body of a young man fell from the plane's fuselage, narrowly missing a man lying in his back garden reading. He said there was a terrific thud and this poor young man hit the ground just a few feet away from him! They are saying that he would have been dead long before he hit the ground - I certainly hope for the poor guy's sake that that was the case!

Sky wanted to find out who this young man was and what led him to take such a dangerous, and ultimately deadly, risk! Through a bit of investigative journalism they managed to identify him as a 29 year old Kenyan named Paul Manyasi who worked as a cleaner at Nairobi airport! His partner was able to identify the backpack he had with him on the day he went missing but wasn't able to say whether it was pre-planned or simply a tragic spur of the moment decision! He/they lived in a shack in a slum near the airport, earning just over £2 per day. Apparently the cleaners' contracts were routinely broken just before they accumulated six months' service thus preventing them from being given more stable contracts! Now where have we heard that before??? But looking at the abject poverty they lived in I absolutely understand the desperation that would have pushed this young man to take such a tragic decision!

Paul Manyasi

The shanty town where he lived
Coming just shortly before the discovery of 39 Vietnamese illegals found dead in the back of a truck in England it really makes me question life's inequalities, or maybe my own complacency - who knows! What I do know is that I absolutely understand these people wanting to escape their dire circumstances, and let's face it, they must be pretty dire to take such risks don't you think! Speaking as someone who has been an immigrant for the last 40 years, albeit a legal one, I really feel for these people, and am eternally grateful to have been born with the right to have the passport that I have! Now I didn't leave England at the age of 21 looking for better material circumstances. I left because I couldn't stand the bloody weather. Just sitting at home on a grey Sunday afternoon listening to Songs of Praise droning away in the background I just knew I was getting out of there - and I did! But I was lucky enough to have the right skills, and, as I said, the right passport to be able to do so. The fact that materially my life also improved tremendously was just an added bonus, but who can even begin to imagine walking in these people's shoes? Seriously! I don't know what the solution is, and I know that countries can't just keep on accepting immigrants willy-nilly, but understand? Yep, of course I do!

In less depressing news the weather finally picked up again this week, although the snow is creeping ever closer of course. As I was running out to the bakery on Tuesday before heading off to yoga I actually pulled over to try to get a quick picture of the mountains and how pretty they were. I don't always think to pull off and take a picture but this time I managed it!

Looking over towards the Mont Blanc
The Môle - Jordan and Jen now live on the other side of this mountain

Jen told me at the beginning of the week about a fabric store called Savoie Tissus which is closing down, so I decided to take a quick trip down to Sallanches to have a look around - and came out with some lovely patchwork fabric at a pretty good discount! Fabric for regular sewing wasn't so much in evidence but for patchwork - score! And today, they held the semi-annual "Fabric Fair" in La Roche, where the sellers come down from Holland and Belgium to sell their wares. I'm not sure they were necessarily much cheaper than what we can find locally but the selection was just wonderful - although I was very restrained and only bought a couple of small items! Give me too much choice and I'm scuppered! Then my bloody microwave also managed to blow up on me (I know, more first world problems right!) but since I use it a lot I decided to run back down to Annecy and buy a cheap replacement. I don't really use my microwave for much other than reheating so I didn't need a fancy, expensive one, but again, how lucky am I that I can do these things without giving them much more than a passing thought!

And talking of spoiling myself, on Friday I went to a new (to me) place in the next village for my first facial in about five years and it was lovely! So much so that I've decided I'm going to splash out every few weeks and treat myself to some kind of treatment there - whether it be a massage (that's coming up next) or a manicure or whatever. What with Brexit still hanging over our heads I've decided I won't be going on a warm destination winter break until it's sorted so I may as well use some of the money and treat myself!

Then on Thursday I ran out to a town on Lake Geneva called Thonon-les-Bains, which is just 10 minutes from Evian, where they bottle the water. Our sewing teacher had ordered a couple of second-hand sewing machines from her contact there so I volunteered to run over and pick up two new (to us) revamped machines. (I guess it had to be me anyway since I'm the one with the signature rights to the Club's account). Patricia was telling me I would like the shop owner as he was a bit of a "Nutty Professor" type, and boy was she right. The place was jam packed with sewing machines in various states of repair and he was jumping around looking for this, looking for that, and wondering "where on earth he'd put …"! But he was a nice chap and I think we have come away with two fairly decent new machines for the club, although finding his little shop in the middle of old town Thonon was no mean feat!

Old town Thonon
And finally, on Friday I received an email from our Pension Fund Secretariat to inform me that my pension was going to be adjusted upwards by 0.1% (!!!!) as from 1 January to reflect the cost of living in Switzerland. (Since I take my pension in Swiss francs they use Switzerland as my reference and not France). Wow, I can't believe that (a) I've been retired almost a year and (b) my pension is going to go up by a massive 4.6 Swiss francs per month (that's not even $5). No wonder I'm throwing my money around with such gay abandon at the moment! But all joking aside, how lucky am I to be able to do just that!

Monday 11 November 2019

The Prince's Trust

As I said yesterday, every so often I see a story in the newspaper or on TV and I think "oh I must write about that" and then I end up getting side-tracked. But this story I felt I just had to write about - however late in the day - because I found it so touching!

The Prince's Trust was started by Prince Charles in 1976 "to help vulnerable young people get their lives on track. It supports 11 to 30-year-olds who are unemployed and those struggling at school and at risk of exclusion." They have various programmes to assist young people to get back into the work force, start their own businesses or just get their lives back on track!

One of the young men helped by The Prince's Trust was a young man from Birmingham named Hezron Brown. When he was just five years old he fell into a bath of boiling water, burning himself badly. In her panic his mother ripped his T-shirt off him and ended up stripping the right side of his torso of most of his skin. This was the trigger for bullying to start at school, which he "dealt with" with outbursts of violence and anger. He fought constantly with his mom, she would kick him out and then take him back, until eventually, at the age of 13, she kicked him out for good. He stayed with his sister for a while and then ended up homeless, before falling in with local gangs where he "experienced the camaraderie and friendship which was missing in his life"! Things spiralled out of control, with him managing one time to outrun a group of about 30 armed gang members who wanted to "do him in" by virtue of the simple fact that he was in the wrong post code area!!! That was when he realized he was on the road to a life (and possibly death) of violence and crime! He was eventually arrested for robbery but, swayed by the encouraging report of his social worker, the judge decided to "give him a second chance". 

Through The Prince's Trust he was able to get a job at Birmingham Repertory Theatre and then went on to work at the National Citizen Service as a youth worker and motivational speaker, encouraging kids to take a path in life other than that offered by gangs!

Earlier this year he was told that the media would like to interview him about his motivational speaker role, with the interview to take place at Prince Charles' home at Highgrove. While they were setting up the cameras there was a knock at the door and Prince Charles walked in - and informed Hezron that he had won the Young Achiever of the Year Award! Well to say he was shocked would be an understatement. He was stunned, shook Prince Charles' hand and had to keep wiping away the tears. He was later interviewed by Sky News and proved to be an articulate and eloquent young man - a real pleasure to listen to - and hopefully a motivation for other young people who maybe haven't had the best start in life to take the right path! It was a story that moved me greatly, and I just hope that he and his mother made up and are in each other's lives again! And kudos to the judge that gave him a second chance! What a lovely young man he turned into!

Hezron Brown and Prince Charles

Never forgotten!

On this Remembrance Day, never to be forgotten!

Dad - WWII

The grandad we never knew, fought and injured in the Dardanelles, WWI

Sunday 10 November 2019

And in other news ...

I had meant to write about this previously but then I end up going off on a tangent and I should know by now where that leads me! Nowhere fast! But I wanted to comment on the fact that both abortion and gay marriage were legalised in Northern Ireland on 22 October! I am pro both, although feel very strongly, obviously, that abortion should never be considered an alternative to contraception. I had heard about this legislation rumbling its way though the corridors of power in NI but never fully understood what had happened until now. It was easier for me to take the text from France24 news rather than type it all out, so here's what happened.

  • The relaxation of the UK-ruled territory's restrictive laws on the issues occurred at midnight (2300 GMT), after a deadline elapsed for local lawmakers to stop the changes imposed by MPs in Westminster.
  • British lawmakers in July approved decriminalising abortion and creating lawful access to abortion services, as well as rolling out new regulations to allow same-sex marriage and civil partnerships.
  • They gave Northern Ireland's assembly—suspended since January 2017—until October 21 to institute alterations to the reforms, which will see the province broadly match the rest of the UK.
  • The assembly was briefly restored on Monday, but without support from opposition parties, they were unable to constitute an executive and pass any changes.
So on 22 October both became legal, along the same lines as the rest of the UK, and I'm delighted! Abortion, in particular, is a very divisive issue and I understand people's rejection of it, but rich women have always been able to have access to abortion anyway, while poorer women have always had to deal with the consequences of unwanted pregnancies! I remember watching a very moving episode of "Call the Midwife" once on this very issue. The series is set in the poorer areas of London in the 1960s. One family had five kids (I think) and were living in one room, unable to even adequately feed the children they already had. The wife got pregnant again and in desperation went to a back street abortionist as both she and her husband knew they couldn't cope with any more children. The problem was the abortion failed and so a few weeks later, in desperation, she tried again - with almost fatal consequences. In fact, in the programme, they lead you to believe that she did, indeed, die, only for you to find out later that she survived and the family moved out of London and its grinding poverty. It was a lovely programme because the nun-midwives at Novartis House were obviously completely against abortion, but understood exactly what grinding poverty and too many mouths to feed was doing to these people. I know people will say that in this day and age there shouldn't be unwanted pregnancies but contraception can and does fail, rape and incest happen, unviable babies are conceived and the life of the pregnant mother is sometimes in jeopardy so, while wishing there were never a need for it, I am absolutely pro early abortion. The fact that gay marriage also became legal was totally overshadowed by the abortion issue though, which was quite sobering to be honest, but I am so happy that this piece of legislation has finally gone through!

In other news, I decided that I wasn't going to go shopping this week because I have so much food in the house that it's just a nonsense to keep shopping every week just because. So I didn't hit the supermarkets and it's amazing how much food I have in store when I really get down to looking at it all! I did run into the next village of St. Pierre on Saturday because I wanted to pick up some stamps so I stopped at their Saturday morning market and bought some fruit and eggs, but other than that I don't actually need anything! So a win-win situation there then!

Tomorrow being Armistice Day it's a holiday in France, although I suspect not everything will be closed. Jordan and Jen are both off so they are coming over for a couple of hours. I asked Jordan to bring his tools because the radiator in my bedroom isn't working and I suspect it just needs purging, but I know he will take care of it pretty easily. In any case, I have let Max know, but if Jordan can get it sorted so much the better!

I'm still moving stuff out of my living room either upstairs or into the basement. This weekend I moved a couple of my outdoor plants/bushes into the garage to protect them from the frost before I get the chance to "bubble wrap" them for the winter! It's just as well actually because we have snow at 1,000 metres already and since I live at 800 metres it won't be long before we start getting hammered I suspect. It's already on the mountains at the back of my house, and very pretty it is too - I just wish it would stay there! I follow the "Département de la Haute Savoie" information site on FB (this region is called Haute Savoie) and they posted today that getting snow at the lower altitudes this early has given a very welcome boost to Christmas ski bookings already! I'm glad because when the resorts don't get the snow they lose thousands!

I'm not sure which village this is - it was taken from their FB site!
Other than that, I really haven't done much this weekend. I finally got a baby quilt I started ages ago almost finished and I'm very pleased with the (almost) end product. But, seeing how many hours I have put into it already, I can understand why it might be impossible to put an honest price on some patchwork creations if you took into account the hours of work that go into them, as opposed to those creations that are made as a labour of love - which this one is. I'll show it to you when it's totally finished though!

And finally, I see a few bloggers have been "hit" by some vile troll who seems to be doing the rounds lately. Well if it is some guy banging on about how well he "got his knob polished" in 1985, it seems he has found his way to my blog too. Not to worry though, I just hit delete, and he can keep polishing his knob to his heart's content - probably in his mommy's basement I suspect!

Saturday 9 November 2019

A busy week (again)!

My classes have started back up again after the school break and I'm back to being pretty full on - and I'm okay with that! Monday started with my early morning yoga class, and by god I soon realized how much I missed it! I felt like I'd gained 20 kg and turned into Lot's wife after just two weeks' absence. But I soon got back into the swing of things and thoroughly enjoyed it! It sets me up for the week actually! Then on Monday night it was back to sewing club and for some weird reason we are now at full capacity, our numbers having gone from eight to 20 this year. That really is the maximum number of ladies we can accept into the club, I feel, taking into account the space each of us needs for our different projects. So "full house" then, for the first time ever for the sewing club apparently! I was chatting with Patricia, the teacher, and she was telling me that two out of the three sewing machines that belong to the club are pretty naff (although most people bring their own machines anyway) so I took the "executive" decision to buy two new second-hand machines for the club and get rid of the naff ones! Patricia contacted her supplier and I will be heading off out to his place to pick them up next week.

I spent Tuesday morning lugging more stuff out of my living room and up into the back bedroom in anticipation of having my new floor laid soon. By 1.30 and realizing I was running a bit short of time, I jumped into the shower and then went to slather my usual body cream on before heading out for my yoga class with my neighbour, but I picked up the wrong bottle and ended up pretty much basting myself with sweet almond oil! I didn't have time to take another shower so sponged off what I could but half way through my class I realized I felt (and probably smelled) slightly like a Thanksgiving turkey! Oh well, at least I've got skin like a baby's bottom now! I asked my neighbour how she felt after the two-week break and she said stiff, "but I wouldn't give up my place for a cat", which is the French way of saying she wouldn't miss it for the world! I'm so glad for her! So then I asked her if she would now go on her own even if I didn't go, did she feel comfortable enough with the other ladies? I should have known better, because while her answer was "yes", she said she hoped I wasn't going just because of her, that I wasn't sacrificing my time for her!!! Oh cripes!! I should know her better by now! Mrs. "I-don't-deserve-anything-good"!!! So I explained to her that I was going because I wanted to take two yoga classes a week and not because of her!! Maybe if I keep hitting her over the head with a metaphorical hammer she will one day realize that yes, indeed, she does deserve to do nice things for herself! Then on Tuesday night I had my once-a-month patchwork lesson, which was our final lesson on how to assemble a Kaffe Fassett mystery quilt. Our teacher has been providing us with a new "section" of the quilt each month for 10 months, with instructions on how to make each block, but we won't know what the final quilt will look like until the end! We have made some changes to the basic blocks though in order to "jazz it up" a bit! To be honest, given how much we paid, I find the fabric a little disappointing - coordinated of course, but not some of the most exciting fabric I've seen! So yes it's a mystery quilt but I have to admit I'm not overly impressed - well, not considering all the work and money that will have gone in to it! But, and here's the good news, I've made such a cock-up of some of the blocks because I just can't cut straight/accurately! Seriously, I'm useless, and while you can work around covering up some cock-ups, I may have gone beyond that point! That, however means, that I've got to get creative to try to salvage some of the blocks and so my teacher suggested I cut all the "rubbish" blocks down to odd shapes and appliqué them on to additional, brighter (and much more to my taste) fabric to give it a different look. So that's what I will be doing (if I ever get the bloody thing finished). Oddly enough, one of the ladies took one look at what I will be doing with the "wonky blocks" and said that she would like to have done the same thing, to liven the quilt up a bit. As I say, one lady really wasn't impressed with the fabric provided and I think we are all fairly meh with it, but I'm hoping mine will finally come together when I get it all done, wonky blocks and all!

That's not my quilt - but just an idea for "wonky blocks"! Pity I've got about 30 to make!
Then on Wednesday I went in to work to use the gym/see my friends, had a drink with my friend and then shot off back to the other side of the lake for my next Italian lesson. I told you I like being busy! Thursday - pilates class - and I feel the instructor is starting to up the ante just a little, making us work just that little bit harder, which isn't a bad thing! At one point, to strengthen our lower backs, she had us lying on our stomachs, arms off the floor and then lift our head, shoulders and upper torso - which was fine as far as the head and shoulders go, but "upper torso" - forget it! I was telling my friend about it and she subsequently sent me this picture! Nice friend huh!

And finally, Friday we had a pre-planned trip for a "gastronomic tour" of Lyon. Lyon is considered the gastronomic capital of France and is only a 90 minute drive from La Roche! Actually, many moons ago before I was married my then boyfriend and I went down to Lyon regularly to see friends of his who were studying there (and who still live there, I believe)! So while we had a "students' eye view" of Lyon it was still lovely! It's a beautiful city with such a lot going for it! What's more, after pretty much two solid weeks of rain, the clouds cleared and we had an entire day of sunshine right on time!

We spent the first couple of hours wandering round les Halles de Lyon, which was right up my street! The best translation I can think of for les Halles would be "undercover market", but it is more of a luxury market rather than your run-of-the-mill market! They have les Halles in Geneva too, of course, and while the produce there is superb, I would probably have to sell a kidney to be able to afford to shop there! But we had a wonderful time exploring all the great stalls - people were already sitting down at 11 a.m. eating oysters (and snails!)! Beautiful place!

After that we had lunch in a relatively famous bouchon called chez Paul! A bouchon is a typical small Lyon restaurant known for its good food. (A bouchon is also a traffic jam or a cork, but not in this case, obviously)!

When they talk about "gastronomic" food, in this instance I would say it is more "peasant food", based on the wonderful ingredients available locally. Lyon, being situated in east central France at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, it lies at the crossroads between northern France and the southern mediterranean region. Also, not being that far from Italy, it was one of the first regions where Italian cuisine was introduced into France! An interesting feature of our trip around les Halles was when we were introduced to the concept of les Mères de Lyon (the Mothers of Lyon), who were the ladies who really initiated the first bouchons! These were working class women who were in service in the big houses where they learned the art of fine cooking. After the first world war many of them were laid off for economic reasons and so "getting in to cooking" was a way of making ends meet!

Mère Bizolon, was one such woman who set up her own restaurant and, I believe, it was with her that the legendary, Michelin-starred Paul Bocuse started out! Incidentally, the medals that she is wearing denote the fact that she was widowed during WWI and also lost a son in that war!

One of the Mères de Lyon, who offered free lunches to returning soldiers!
After lunch we had a couple of hours to wander around and take in the sights, and it was lovely! I haven't been to Lyon for years but I'll make sure I don't leave it that long before I go back again! Well in fact we'll be back there in a month's time for the Fête des Lumières (the Lyon light show), which is supposed to be spectacular! I can't wait!