The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Thursday 30 January 2020

Oh dear!

I hadn't planned on posting today but …. As you may (or may not) know, Brexit "goes live" tomorrow night and I'm gutted in a way, but now I just want to get on with it and move forward. I think it's been too divisive and at this point que sera! Both on this side of the channel and the other, what will be will be! The British Embassies (certainly the Embassy in France) have been wonderful trying to keep expat Brits in the loop as much as was possible given all the uncertainty. Anyway, now that the Withdrawal Agreement has been signed it will hopefully alleviate some of the worries that many had, particularly regarding health care coverage in the EU and uprated UK pensions. I've been following a tremendous group called British in Europe who, along with The 3 Million (referring to EU residents in the UK), have been doing sterling work fighting for our rights. Sadly citizens' rights have been very much overlooked on the grounds that "oh you'll be all right" kinda thing! Well, actually, no, "you'll be all right" was never a given for so many, and still isn't. But now I just want it to be over so that I can get my papers in order (gonna request my permit on Monday) and also move ahead with my request for citizenship - although that will take longer of course.

To that end, I've been sitting down reading the Livret du Citoyen (the Citizens' Manual, if you will) in the evenings to try to take in background information on France, its constitution, its system of government, it's history and culture and so on. To be honest I have a hard time staying awake as I'm certainly not into French philosophers or French pop music (that's a misnomer as far as I'm concerned), but I have no problem having to learn this stuff because ... why not? Even if it bores the pants of you you should know some of this stuff, although apparently most of the ladies at my sewing club on Monday night didn't know the half of it. So anyway …. today on FB one of the expat Brit groups asked what common misbeliefs we had encountered from friends and family regarding what would happen to us after Brexit. Now my sister has lived in Denmark for over 40 years and I've been in France over 30 years so you'd think my family would at least have an inkling of some of the difficulties we are facing now that we are leaving the EU wouldn't you! Well no, despite that my family all voted "leave", with the exception of my brother who died last year (God love ya Phil). Oh well, whatever, we just have to agree to differ!

So I wrote on FB that when I met up with Steve in Greece a couple of years back I also met his brother and his wife. They were a lovely couple and we got along well. They had all voted "leave", and this despite Steve's dad being Polish, but then that's their prerogative! I decided not to get into it with them because they were nice people and you should never talk politics or religion in unknown waters right? But then the wife told me that she and her husband were intending to move to Spain in a couple of years when the husband, Steve's brother, retired! Now Steve had told me that they only had UK state pensions to retire on and no savings because, according to Steve, the wife was a real spendthrift and the husband would complain bitterly to Steve about it after he'd had a few drinks! So I asked her, before they put their house on the market and started house-hunting in Spain, if had they looked into the income requirement as a citizen of a "third, non-EU country" - which is obviously much higher than that required of an EU citizen? And I got a blank stare. And then I asked her, if the UK wouldn't guarantee their medical coverage, could they afford to pay private medical insurance on top of the minimum income to cover their life in Spain as this would be a requirement? And again I got the "deer in the headlights" stare. It obviously hadn't occurred to them that the restrictions being imposed on those "damn EU immigrants in the UK" would now apply to them if they wanted to move to Spain. They just hadn't given it a thought! I'm not knocking them, but it was very definitely a foolish move to be thinking about taking without looking into it further!

So I posted this on FB and stated that while I liked this couple very much it was indicative of how little so many people in the UK had thought this through! Most people said "yeah, I've seen that 'penny drop' expression too", but one woman wrote back directly to me and said that "it's a good job you're so knowledgeable and pompous about this" (or words to that effect) and was really very rude!!! Say what! So I said I didn't think it was pompous to ask if these people were aware of just what administrative hoops they would be required to go through if they intended to move to Spain. Indeed I thought it was fair of me to mention it because they were going out to Spain house-hunting but if I came over as "pompous" then I apologized! And again, I liked this couple very much so didn't push it.

Well, since then people have been rushing in to defend me and saying that the only "pompous" (and aggressive) person on this feed was her and if people thought they could now just up sticks and move to Spain (or wherever) as easily as they could have pre-Brexit then they were idiots. I did ask them to let it drop because it wasn't my intention to start a group argument, but up to about 10 minutes ago the argument is still going strong and she has been asked to leave the group if she won't stop being so insulting to people!!  Crikey, I kinda feel sorry for her. My first reflex when people are in my face is usually to "tone it down" anyway, which I did I when said I hadn't meant to offend anyone but, as I say, she's getting torn a new one by some very angry and upset expat Brits as I write. Maybe she'll learn to "tone it down" a bit herself next time then!

Tuesday 28 January 2020

My little ray of sunshine!

Looks like the weather has finally turned here as last night we had howling winds and pelting rain all night. But I was dead to the world when around 3 a.m. I heard a loud "pop" and a whooshing sound so I got up to see if anything was amiss and even went to check on Shaggy in the spare bedroom but he was just fine. I couldn't figure out what it was and when I looked outside this morning everything seemed okay until I took stuff up to our large compost bin and found the lid hanging over the side and the bin leaning at a perilous tilt. I reckon the wind must have lifted it up and shaken it about, despite the fact that that baby is heavy, but at least it wasn't anything serious, thank goodness!

Then two nights ago I was again fast asleep in the land of Nod when I was woken by a "ping" at 4 a.m. When I looked at my phone it was my "Words with Friends" buddy in New York who must have just thought of a joke he had to send me right now! So, 10 p.m.-ish in New York and 4 a.m. my time!!!!! And it wasn't even that funny! He's the only person I actually chat back and forth with while playing and I think he's nice so I don't really mind when he gets it wrong occasionally. So I sent him a message to say that I'd got the joke "ha, ha" - and did he realize I was reading it at 4 a.m. my time because we're six hours ahead of New York? And God love 'im but he wrote back and asked what on earth I was doing awake at four in the morning!!! So I wrote back and said "reading lousy jokes that some old guy in New York sends me because he doesn't realize it's four in the morning my time"! He did apologize (not that it matters really in the grand scheme of things), but vengeance turned out to be mine when I got my biggest ever single word score of 207 points! That'll teach him!

Anyway, this morning it was still pouring rain and trying to snow at the same time so I decided against attempting to walk to yoga again. I had checked out an alternative route to the forestry road (too much mud) and this route would have added 1.5 km to my trip, for a total walk of 8 km, but given that I had already seen a FB post about fallen tree branches/limbs on that particular route I decided to give walking to yoga a miss this week. Yesterday's yoga lesson was quite something though I have to say, as in addition to doing our usual floor exercises she told us that she was going to be working on relaxing "the rhomboid muscles" also. Yeah, that's what I thought too - what the hell are the rhomboid muscles? Well it turns out it is the set of muscles between your shoulder blades (which we now call the scapula apparently - gosh I'm becoming a walking encyclopaedia aren't I), but since this is the region where I feel the most tension, probably due to poor posture, I was all for it!

So she had us lie on our backs and then came around and placed two very soft balls under us between our shoulder blades and we did the rest of our exercises with this added instrument of torture! To say it was very uncomfortable would be an understatement, even though she told us not to force anything, but later that afternoon I felt just wonderful. It really is quite amazing (well to me anyway) how these yoga exercises can target specific muscles and they darn well work! Whoever invented yoga should be canonised!!!! In fact, Sylvie - who goes to both the Monday and Tuesday classes with me - came over this afternoon and asked how I felt after yesterday's lesson as she felt amazing - so you see, it really does work!

As the rain had eased up somewhat after my lesson I decided I really must get out and walk while I still could so I took off to a small town just up the road called Bonneville and headed out on a new-to-me riverside trail along the river Arve - and it was lovely! Perfect walking weather and a lovely trail to get an hour's walk in!

So while I'm not managing to get a walk in every day I'm still getting a few km in as and when and you know what, I'm actually really enjoying it!

Then later I was curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a good book when I heard the rain start to bucket down again. So I sent a text message to my friend saying "isn't it wonderful when it's cold and wet outside and you don't have to be anywhere!" And he came back with just one word - "miserable". To which I wrote back ????? and he said "I'm miserable because the weather is miserable"! So way to burst my bubble there, my little ray of sunshine! Such a joy to chat with him as ever!

Anyway, jumping from the rooster to the donkey again, One Family One Income was writing yesterday about an acquaintance of theirs who was embarrassingly cheap, so of course I got to reflecting on some of the "cheapskate" stories/people I have come across in the past. I suspect we all have a few stories we could tell don't we! Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with being thrifty, but some people are just so cheap it makes your hair curl. God knows my ex had his faults but "cheap" was definitely never one of 'em, thank goodness!

Anyway, probably number one on my "cheapskate" charts was my ex-BIL - damn that man was both miserable and cheap, he was unbelievable! He made decent money as a translator and my sister also worked but they never had any money. He never maintained his cars and I think the last time he opened his wallet two thousand bugs flew out and Denmark thought they'd been hit with a plague of locusts! I was over there one time and he was going to lend us his car for us to take a day trip to Sweden with the kids. My sister couldn't drive so it was up to me to do the driving and in order to hand the car over to me he pulled in to a petrol station and insisted on showing me how to put petrol in his car - like I had never put petrol in a car before right! The cheap bastard handed that car over on fumes and thought he could get me to pay for his petrol by taking his time insisting that I understood how to put petrol in a car "over here in Denmark". My family had already figured out he was tighter than a duck's bum at this point so I didn't rise to the bait and I let him pay for his own petrol. Shit, we probably only used about $5 worth of petrol that day and that was just driving a couple of km to get the ferry over to Sweden, but that a**hole tried his best to get me to pay for it! Didn't work though, even if I did hand it back to him with a full tank! Then I remember he was leaving the house one day and my sister said she needed to go shopping for dinner so could he leave her some money (she didn't have access to any money????) and he threw on the table what I calculated was the equivalent of about $1.50 to buy groceries for dinner for six of us! Yeah, he really was that cheap - not with other people's money of course - then he was very generous - it was just when it was his own money you practically had to break his fingers to get a dollar out of him! (I should note that I forever had my hand in my wallet every time I went over there and my family did the same both in Denmark and in England, so it's not like I was expecting much of him to fill his own car with petrol or buy a few groceries was it)! Well it turns out that the reason he had to be so cheap was because he had "lady friends" in several different countries and I guess "lady friends" when you're married can be expensive can't they. But even they weren't as expensive as the 20-year-younger Russian whore who fell madly in love with him over the internet without ever meeting him. Long story short - and do let me know if you can guess the ending to this story - he managed to sponsor her and get her in to Denmark even though he was still married to my sister and the whore had a husband in Russia, my sister divorced him, he buggered off with the whore who eventually brought her two bratty kids and her mother over, and then proceeded to fleece him out of every penny he had! I love a story with a happy ending though don't you! And to think I received a "friend request" on FB from him a couple of years ago! Yeah right, I just can't wait to get together with you again! Ah well you know what they say, there's only enough blood in a man's body to keep one head functioning at a time - and the one above the neck rarely wins!

Then there was lovely Janet who I shared an office with in 1989. We were in an annex with no access to the cafeteria, so we took it in turns bringing in milk for tea and coffee every so often. A litre would probably last two days, so someone else would bring another litre in on day three and so on. Except Janet! When it was her turn she would bring in just enough milk for herself in a tupperware container because she was "afraid it would go off over the weekend"!!!! Sadly she was your typically English horsey stereotype - a kinda Joyce Grenfell type with a "jolly hockey sticks" accent and buck teeth! And damn was she cheap!

Joyce Grenfell

She managed to get other people to drive her round Switzerland at the weekends on "day trips", which inevitably ended up at the town where her brother was living further up the lake and which meant she never had to put petrol in her own car! But my overriding memory of her was around Easter one year. She came in rattling a huge bag of crisps and asking if anyone wanted any. That packet must have been an already opened packet left over from a Christmas party which she found in a locker and she was still eating them! When she uttered the immortal words "well you can't let good food go to waste" I thought I was going to die, I didn't dare look at my colleague, whose jaw had already hit the floor with a loud clang!

And talking of not chipping in, my dad worked with his half brother as a welder at the Rover car factory for quite some time. All the men used to put 50 pence into a kitty to buy tea, sugar and milk every week - except my dad's brother Alfie. He used to do a "Janet" and bring his own milk in a tupperware and it made my dad so mad. Mad that Alfie was his brother and too damn cheap to throw 50p in the kitty! So one time dad had to weld a metal bar onto a work bench and asked Alfie to jump up on the bench and stand on the bar to hold it down while he, dad, welded it. I guess the temptation was too great because my dad actually welded Alfie's steel toe-caps to the work bench and walked off and left him. Dad said Alfie nearly broke his neck when he went to jump down! Ah, I miss my dad!

And then there was Welsh M - who was slightly odd but nowhere near as cheap as Janet. Until, that is, she was leaving to go back to Wales and decided that rather than take all her clothes back with her (the organization would have paid for her shipment) she would sell them off to her colleagues for five Swiss francs a pop - "but not the dressing gown, mind you, I can't let that go for less than 10"! I remember my colleague again looking at me with that "WTF!!!!!" look in her eyes. You see, while M was okay looking she dressed like Amy Farrah Fowler from the Big Bang Theory, so as you can imagine there wasn't a huge stampede to get the best pickins' from her wardrobe!!

Amy Farrah Fowler
And then there was my nephew's mate who, according to Darren, when they had a night out at the pub, always managed to be the first out the taxi but the last one at the bar! That's what you call having "cheap" down to a fine art isn't it!

And finally, I couldn't write about "cheap" without mentioning Crazy K. Trouble is, Crazy K was such a study in lunacy that even 20 years later she still gives me the heeby jeebies. Maybe I'll save that tome for another day when I feel up to climbing that particular Everest!

Sunday 26 January 2020

Meet scoby!

No, no, not Scooby, the indefatigable canine member of that 1970s private investigators' team, but scoby, a yeast and bacteria culture needed to make kombucha! I'm in the process of making one - well, at least, I hope I am - I'll know for sure in about four weeks, I guess!

Pretty gruesome looking isn't it! And I guess this is the point where my juvenile mind goes racing off on a tangent to another gruesome encounter of the bacterial kind! I remember when I was pregnant with my first son I was working at the World Bank and my medical insurance covered Lamaze pre-birthing classes. Now frankly I didn't find these particularly helpful (as it turned out, you can't daintily "pant" your way past the pain of pushing something the size of a basketball out your rear end), but it was very helpful in teaching about the various stages of labour and delivery and what might happen. One of the things that the very competent Lamaze lady told us was that in many cases before labour begins you might "lose the mucus plug" ahead of time - not always, but fairly often, she said. So she told us what to look out for and said that would probably be a good time to call the hospital for advice. I had to laugh when someone asked exactly what this "mucus plug" looked like and the lady said "well not to put too fine a point on it, but it looks like you blew your nose in your underwear" - and we all burst out laughing (and I still remember that 32 years later)! Still, it was a good thing she mentioned this because I actually lost mine with my second son three weeks before I went into labour and not, as my mom had said would happen, gone into labour within 24 hours. Had the Lamaze lady not described "the plug" I might have thought I'd given birth to a jelly fish!

Anyway, back to the plot. I mentioned in a previous post that I had decided to do "Dry January", not from the "giving up booze" point of view really but because I thought it might help me lose a few pounds. Well I actually "gave up" on 26 December and it's been a doddle so far, haven't missed the white wine at all oddly enough, but I have been a bit stumped as to what to drink instead. I don't like coke and all those sweet drinks so when I stumbled upon kombucha I realized I had hit pay dirt. Or maybe I just picked up a really good brand because I found it tasted a bit like cider and was really refreshing. Trouble is, at over €5 a bottle it is also quite expensive, so I decided to "Youtube" it and look up how to make my own, having been impressed seeing my friend messing around with her concoction when I went to visit recently. It seems the first thing you have to do is make a scoby (which actually isn't all that difficult but which can take anywhere from one to four weeks to grow), so that's the stage I'm at. Think I'll call mine Shaggy! Well "Shaggy" is now sitting in the dark in my spare bedroom and hopefully keeping just warm enough to grow into a real scoby. Will let you know how it pans out in a couple of weeks.

Anyway, while I was in the health food shop yesterday buying my kombucha I saw a couple of Brits trying to "mime" to the young assistant that they were looking for turmeric! Now how you "mime" the word "turmeric" beats me, unless you paint yourself yellowy-orange and put on the sari you just happen to have handy, so I went over and asked if I could help, much to their relief. ("Turmeric" is "curcuma" in French, just in case you're ever caught short!). But that incident got my mind wandering on my drive home about other daft things people have done while trying to communicate across the Tower of Babel (myself included of course, I've come out with some howlers). But one of the first incidents that popped into my mind was when our neighbours back in Birmingham had gone on a camping holiday to France many, many years ago. While they were there their eldest daughter started her periods for the first time and was in a lot of pain. Mom didn't want to leave her and their younger daughter alone so sent her non-French-speaking husband into town to buy sanitary towels. Well poor Norman obviously ended up in a right state as none of the assistants in the pharmacy spoke English. Turns out he ended up drawing one on a sheet of paper - and then they got it!!! My mom always used to double up when she told that story!

And when I flew out to Bulgaria to meet up with my old childhood friend in 2010, we were travelling round the country in his clapped out Postman Pat van and ended up staying in what were some fairly basic, Soviet-era campsites. And I mean basic! Very poor facilities and hardly anything in the way of grocery stores or other amenities. Anyway one day Ian decided that we'd have omelette for dinner but realized he didn't have any eggs, so off he trotted to the little (in)convenience store to get some. We had learned Russian at school 10 trillion years previously and he had been getting by with a few words of Russian during his time in Bulgaria but completely blanked when he walked in the store and couldn't see any eggs on display. When he did indeed come back with a dozen eggs I asked him how he'd managed that, so he did a rather impressive impersonation of a hen laying what was apparently a square egg and the elderly babushka in the store got it straight away! Oh happy days!

Which leads me off on another tangent of course. I'm still in the process of putting my books back on the shelves in the living room after having moved them all when my new floor was laid. Trouble is, I can't just put them all back, I have to look at each one and decide if I want to keep it, if it's too tatty and I want to throw it, or if I want to donate it. So to that end I now have a huge pile of books stacked on my coffee table in the TV room and also on the arm rests of the sofa where I sit watching TV, all waiting to have their fate decided. So if on the off chance I ever disappear from the ethernet please get the avalanche tracking dogs to come sniffing under the pile of books on my sofa 'cos there's a good chance I'll be buried alive under it! But, just today I opened a Delia Smith cookery book that my ex had taken with him when he moved out - and when I opened it I found a letter from him to me, saying how much he missed me now that I "wasn't there"! Well of course I "wasn't there" you idiot, you cheated on me and moved out. Still, it bothered me a bit as there was a sentimental side to him, although since the gf had cheated on him at this point I suspect he was just feeling a bit lonely. Still, it's weird to find something like that (it's not the first time) five years after he moved back to the States and all his stuff ended up dumped in my basement! But just to show how much I must have had my finger on the pulse of current events even then, I also found this book that I bought before I was married (so pre-1985):

So ya see, I was obviously way ahead of Greta Thunberg (well, she hadn't actually been born at that point but let's not split hairs shall we), and I can see that the environment/conservation/recycling has always been something that's interested me. But if you want a bigger laugh, around the same time I must have also bought this:

So again the same kinds of interest, but considering I live just 45 minutes from Geneva airport and hardly in the back of beyond, I don't think Bear Grylls has much to worry about do you!

Friday 24 January 2020

It's a small world isn't it!

I didn't get much walking in these past two days as it's been really foggy - too dangerous to be walking on the roads round here and pretty grim to boot! So I took the opportunity to drive back to Thonon this afternoon to take one of the sewing machines we bought for our club back to the seller as it's not sewing properly, but man was it hard going driving - a real "pea souper", as they say! So I'm glad I'm home now, and it's actually rather nice not having any plans tonight. I've just been sitting watching a couple of episodes of "Would I Lie To You" (Lee Mack was on fine form tonight), and eating some rather nice Algerian dates I bought from the market. For some weird reason I feel a bit like Cleopatra stuffing my face with dates - or could it be just because I'm sitting on my ass? Oh well, whatever!

And talking of feeling like Cleopatra, I went for a facial again this morning as part of my newly-decided-upon once-a-month treat. I still find it a bit weird being "spoilt" like this but I'm struggling along valiantly trying to get used to it! I kinda embarrassed myself again though as after much pummeling and prodding she applied a face mask then left me alone for ten minutes to relax while it dried. Trouble is, I'd had three cups of tea before I went out and was getting a bit desperate for a pee while I was supposed to be lying there "relaxing". Have you ever tried "relaxing" with a full bladder? Impossible right! So I decided I had no choice but to hop off the bed and run out to the loo - with no top on, greasy hair and a bright blue face! Which would have been okay I guess if no-one else had been there, but of course I just had to bump into a lady en route didn't I! Still, I guess we were all there for the same thing weren't we but damn if those cucumber slices didn't keep falling off!

I saw in the news the other day that Princess Anne's oldest, Peter Phillips, is now cashing in on his royal credentials to plug milk in China, as is Diana's niece, Kitty Spencer, and Princess Michael of Kent (yep, that is the way she is referred to) is now also plugging some stem cell treatment centre in the Caribbean (they reckon that woman would go to the opening of an envelope if there was a free lunch involved)! And it would probably be easier to just draw up the short list of what Sarah Ferguson hasn't tried to plug using her royal connections! WTF!!!! So I suppose that's the route Harry and Megan will be taking - or will it be public speaking at how many thousands of ££££ a pop? Who knows, but really, who cares? Now I know there's good money in this kind of stuff but I'm forever amazed at the levels these people will stoop to when there are $$$$$ involved. I suppose they've all got their snouts in the trough in some way or another though haven't they. But the bigger idiots (in my humble opinion) are the "sheeple" that actually go out and buy this shit just because it's plugged by some celebrity (or celebrity wannabee). I mean, seriously, why would you go running out to buy some product just because it's being plugged by a Kardashian or some chinless wonder with protruding ears and a royal title? I suppose some of the lemmings are simply young and stupid, but I will never understand that kind of thing - but then again I don't suppose I'm part of their target audience anyway am I! I never would have been that dumb even when I was young (and probably stupid). It sure beats me though!

Peter Phillips

Kitty Spencer

Princess Michael
So where was I? Oh yes, "it's a small world". In her comment on yesterday's post Marksgran mentioned that her aunt had lived in Geneva and she knew it fairly well from having been a frequent visitor. She mentioned a small bakery in the old town and I'm pretty sure I know which one she's talking about. Then yesterday I saw an article about an attempted abduction of a 13 year old girl on her way to school in our local town of La Roche, so I posted a link to the article on Facebook. When I got back from Thonon this afternoon I opened up FB (I play Words with Friends quite a bit) and a lady from another FB group that I follow commented that her brother and a colleague's brother live in La Roche (this lady is French but lives in Texas). So yes, it would indeed seem to be a small world!

So that got me to thinking about a colleague who told me she was sunning herself on a beach in Crete many, many years ago with her boyfriend when all of a sudden she hears "Ello Janet, what are you doin' 'ere?" spoken with the very thick Wigan accent of a colleague of ours!

Then when I was doing my six-month "round Australia" backpacking trip when I was 24 I stopped off in Bali on the way over. Being on my own I didn't go out much at night but did end up going out to what I thought was "dinner" with a bunch of "older" Australian ladies (in their 50s I reckon so "ancient" to me at the time) when I realized that they weren't really interested in "dinner" so much as picking up young Balinese men (and paying for their "favours", if you get what I mean)! I was young, naive and horrified, so you can imagine my relief when a young European put me out of my misery and started chatting to me. Turns out he was Swiss, was from a place called Buochs (as was my boss), and guess what - his uncle was my boss! Again, what a small world, right?

And during my wonderful trip round Australia I met a young man called Jim in Darwin (God what a humid hellhole that was), and one day we got talking to an older lady who was working out in the desert doing some kind of research into earthquakes and earth tremors (or something like that, you can see how well I listened can't you). She was a fascinating lady to talk to and when I told her I worked in Switzerland at Organization XX she said "oh I know that building. Beautiful isn't it! In fact, I used to work there when it was the ILO (International Labour Organisation)! So fancy meeting a lady in the middle of the desert in Australia who was probably a previous occupant of my office (and may even have carved her initials into my desk - nah, I doubt that bit)!

Which makes me think, I have to think about writing about my six month trip around Australia at some point. I had a blast but I have hardly any photos because I got hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing fairly early in my trip and while I was unhurt my pretty expensive camera bit the dust as a result (something I only found out later). So yep, I guess I'll have to start dredging my brain for memories of that trip before it all disappears in a blur - or maybe not eh. Then again, maybe I will. I guess I'll be dead by the time my kids get around to reading this blog (if ever) so maybe I'll just go for it and to hell with it! Kids, take up any issues you have with my ghost when I come back to haunt you will you!

Wednesday 22 January 2020

This and that!

So what's new here at the moment? Not an awful lot really I suppose. Life is just ticking along nicely and the weather is still glorious, if cold, but then it is winter isn't it! We had rain on Friday which stopped me going out walking. Well I guess that's not strictly true because I could have just put on a different coat couldn't I, but if I'm honest I couldn't be arsed and I'm fine with that! While I'm enjoying the walking and have been pretty consistent with it, if I don't go out for some reason that's also fine. Saturday was again really sunny, but what I hadn't realized was that the rain from the previous day had actually caused black ice to form in certain areas and on two occasions my car went into a bit of a skid coming back from the market. I wasn't going fast of course, and I do have my winter tyres on, but it is a weird feeling all the same. Thankfully I had been able to pick my own car back up from the garage after they had spent most of the week repairing the damage caused by the wild boar. Turns out there was more damage than we originally thought which was not immediately visible from the outside, but the guy showed me pictures of where the internal damage had been done and it ended up costing €1,900 (that's about $2,100 at the moment). Thankfully I only had to pay €350 out of pocket, with the insurance picking up the tab for the rest. Thank goodness for that! Actually just looking at that exchange rate conversion I see that the euro is going down against the Swiss franc, or more likely the Swiss franc is going up (well that's what it looks like to me when I look at the Swiss franc/US$ exchange rate). That's all good for me as my pension is in Swiss francs and gives me more bang for my buck when I switch it into euros. I don't even want to look at what the GB£ is doing - it's probably losing points against the Matabele bongo bean as we speak thanks to Brexit but …. nah, everything is going to be just f-i-n-e if you just listen to Bojo! We'll see!

And talking of the economy, I see that the big boss was on TV with Trump in Davos today. I haven't had time to read the transcript of the interview but it could be interesting (to me at least)!

So where was I? Oh yes, routine. After yoga on Monday morning I headed out to a new-to-me spot to try to get some walking in, and it wasn't bad at all. Not as picturesque as many places but it is just down the road and for the most part easy walking - well I managed to get 9 km in that day so it can't have been that bad can it!

In fact, I was just looking at my walking totals and since 2 January I have logged 94 km (or 58.5 miles), all mileage that I wouldn't have done if I hadn't signed up for the walking challenge. So maybe that's what I need - an accountability incentive! I'm just barely on track to making the 1,000 miles in one year, and it will mean really upping my walking on days when I do walk because there are obviously going to be days when I can't, but I'm a stubborn bugger and I have to admit I'm quite enjoying it! I had a fitbit but that suddenly stopped charging and since I didn't want to buy another one I just bought myself a cheap pedometer to wear round my neck, given that I wasn't carrying my phone on me half the time. It's funny though but I noticed on my phone that it was tracking all kinds of weird things, one of which was called "cycle tracking", so I though, "oh great, if I decide to go out bike riding that might be useful". Stupid sod I am sometimes, because when I looked closer at it it can apparently tell when I'm ovulating (on a bike?). Ha, as if! I swear my kids would just shake their heads sometimes!

I also gave myself a good talking to today and got my act together enough to drive in to Geneva to use the gym at work (it's quite a trek and can be a pain in the butt if the traffic is bad). But as I was walking down from the car park I realized that I actually miss walking along the lake front or in the botanic gardens. It's so peaceful and yep, I kinda miss it. So I think I may start taking myself off down to Lake Annecy and start walking down there instead. I actually find Lake Annecy prettier than Lake Geneva so I can only think it will be good to go down there to walk and I'll still get that lovely "sea air" smell!

And finally, on Sunday I talked my friend into driving into Geneva to see Knives Out and it was pretty good. Daniel Craig's "southern" accent was a bit hard to take but then I think it was played for comedic effect. In fact the whole film was pretty funny and we both enjoyed it. Without giving too much away, there was one scene that involved someone leaving a message using "invisible ink", so as we were walking out I asked my friend if a spy was using invisible ink to leave a message how would he know when his pen was empty? He just looked at me like I was mad! Then I told him that tomorrow night I'm going with friends to see a tribute to the Bee Gees in Geneva and he asked me if it was the original group! Considering that three of the four brothers are dead I told him I thought that was highly unlikely don't you! So touché then!

Saturday 18 January 2020

Living the dream!

Well it's Saturday night and I've just spent the last fifteen minutes watching a Youtube video by a Scotsman showing me how to make yoghurt in a yoghurt maker! Some of us are just living the dream eh! I had actually bought my yoghurt maker some time ago as I go through a lot of yoghurts and it started to seem like madness to me to keep putting plastic yoghurt pots in the recycling bin when I could be making my own using glass pots. Trouble is I couldn't remember what I'd done with the instructions (not that it's that difficult to make your own yoghurt right) so I went on Youtube, looked up the make of my yoghurt maker and that's how I stumbled across the Scottish guy's video. So it took all of - oh, I don't know - 30 seconds to figure it out but then he actually took the thing apart to let me see inside it! Gripping stuff! I tell ya, those of you out on a date with a gorgeous hunk this Saturday evening can eat your hearts out!! I know, I know, I used to have a life and now I watch Youtube videos on yoghurt-making and collect pretty tins for my baking (my sad little secret). Oh well. Anyway, I made my first batch of seven yoghurts and they weren't bad, although I think I'll heat the milk first next time as it's supposed to give a more solid yoghurt. But my mathematical little brain calculated that they work out at around 10 cents per pot, as opposed to around 60 cents for the shop-bought ones and there are no more plastic pots to recycle, so I guess it was worth sacrificing my Saturday evening right!

Anyway, now that that adrenalin rush is over, what else happened the past couple of days? Oh yes, I heard from Ginette (the lady I met at the market) and she asked me if I wanted to meet up on Thursday for a coffee. I told her I couldn't make it at 10.30 a.m. because I had my pilates class but I could meet her at 11.30 if she was still up for it - which she was. We ended up going for lunch together and she asked me if I wanted to go out for a walk with her and a friend of hers "who knew a good walk up through the woods near Chatelet", and I thought why not. So we drove out to Chatelet to meet her friend and parked near a little flour mill, but as we were about to set off she noticed three men firing up a very old oven in preparation for Saturday's Fête du Pain, or Festival of Bread. The two ladies got chatting to the men, one of whom turned out to be Ginette's son's neighbour, and he turned out to be a real character. He said that every year they fired up the ancient ovens and started running the flour mill as a way of celebrating the old bakery there. They would have lunch and drinks for all the locals and any profit they made from their little fête would go to keeping the old mill in working order.

The old flour mill
Anyway, "Mr. Personality" called the other guys over and we ended up standing there chatting to them for about 20 minutes - not that I minded, but so much for "walking" right! They invited us to go into the oven area to have a look round and get warmed up, and then one of the guys told me not to worry as "they hadn't burned any English at the stake for a long time"! Ho ho! That's usually a pretty common go-to joke for the French - always a reference to the English burning Joan of Arc at the stake in 1431! Still, they were nice enough and actually invited us to come along to their "do" on Saturday. When I said that I wasn't a local the "Joan of Arc" guy said "I'm inviting you, come as my guest"! What was so weird though was that he actually looked very much like an older version of Steve - it was uncanny!

Anyway, after a while we set off on our walk, only to find out that Marie-Christine (the friend) hadn't got a bloody clue where she was taking us. We wanted to try to stay in the sunshine as it got quite cold in the shade, but she had us going off on these woodland paths, then doubling back and trudging along trails that in the summer were probably quite nice but in the winter!!! Bloody hell, I could feel my shoes getting sucked off my feet every step I took. By the time we sloshed back to the road I/we looked like we'd done a "tough mudder" race!

Picture courtesy of The Hull Daily Mail

At one point we stumbled across five youngish men who had built a camp fire and were roasting what turned out to be duck on it. They were collecting dead wood for the fire and had a few beers in the trunk of their car but weren't in any way "threatening". Ginette asked if they had hunted the "pheasant" and they laughed and said "no we just got back from the supermarket" (as evidenced by the styrofoam trays) so we wished them bon appétit and headed on back towards the road. Buuttt by the time we'd got back to the road Marie-Christine had decided they were poachers, they were making an illegal camp fire, they were Eastern Europeans in the country illegally, probably unemployed and/or selling drugs!!! Say what??? First of all I didn't notice any "foreign" accents and if they were "poachers" they appeared to have shot that duck in the poultry aisle of the local supermarket! So then she asked if we should report them, so I said "for what"? It's not illegal to make a fire here, they're only collecting dead wood, and the place is sopping wet anyway! So we agreed (or so I thought) that it wasn't any of our business! Well that was until a car pulled up with a man asking if we had seen his runaway dogs (we hadn't), at which point Marie-Christine went into great detail to tell this man about the evil ax murderers in the woods!!!! He just laughed and said they often made camp fires between shifts! By this time I was starting to get the "lay of the land" as far as "nut job" was concerned but knew we had to keep going as we wanted to get back before it got dark. Further along the road we passed an older man pruning his apple trees and stopped to talk to him. Again I don't mind stopping and chatting at all - well that is until nut job started going off about French politics, local politics, how dreadful Switzerland was and "as for the Swiss" - it seems they are arch enemy number one! At that point I just had to speak up so I said that if this region was as wealthy as it was it was largely because the locals had the possibility of going into Switzerland to work and paying French taxes on their Swiss salaries. Otherwise what was there in this region? A little bit of industry in the Arve valley and the possibility of making a bit of money off the skiers if (and that's a big "if" at the moment) there was any snow! After that I thought I'd better just shut my mouth so I pretty much walked back to the car in silence. When we got back the Steve look-alike guy again invited me to their drinks on Saturday so I said I'd think about it. We said goodbye to nut job and then Ginette drove me back to my car. On the way there she said "you were very quiet", so I just said I didn't know much about French politics and in any case talking about politics (anybody's politics) got me all worked up so I preferred to keep my mouth shut! But then she asked if I would like to go out walking another time with her (and here I'm thinking "I'd rather have all my teeth out without an anaesthetic") but next time we would go without nut job because she was hard work! I told her I didn't want to interfere in their friendship but she said no, I'd rather keep my distance too, so who knows, maybe there will be a next time!

One thing she did say though is that she had broken up with her partner over the Christmas holidays. On New Year's Eve he had told her he had a bad back and didn't want to go out (which she didn't mind at all), but on an impulse she drove over to his place at 4.30 p.m. and he wasn't home. So she sat there until he rolled in at just after midnight and broke up with him there and then. Seems he had been out dancing (looking for his next victim she suspected), and since then he has been bombarding her with phone calls and showing up at her house begging her to take him back! Not in a million years was her answer, and I have to say she seems much happier now to be shot of him!

And talking of the Steve-lookalike, I sent a message to Steve's daughter on Christmas Eve to say that I was thinking of them at this sad time as I knew they all used to get together at their dad's house for Christmas day. I then went on to tell her the story of how her dad had this God-awful jacket that I hated. It was bright red on one side and reversible to dark blue but it looked horrible on him and I told him so. Then when I was coming back from Colmar and we had stopped off at a service station for a potty stop, I saw a "mac in a pac" for sale. It was a rain jacket that folded up into a very small pack and was ideal for keeping in your bag "just in case". When I got home and opened it up I realized I had bought the same bloody God-awful jacket as Steve had - and it looked just as awful on me! So Josie wrote back and thanked me for my message and said that they'd got a good laugh out of the matching jackets story. I think if things had turned out differently and Steve hadn't died so unexpectedly Josie and I would have gotten on a treat, but it wasn't to be, sadly!

Then yesterday Jen asked if she could come over because she was trying to book their flights to the States on British Airways and was having a hard time so would I help her? We got online and booked their flights Geneva/London/Pittsburgh (so it would seem that BA are now offering direct flights London/Pittsburgh again then - they stopped doing that some years ago) and they've decided to give New York a miss, sadly, because the flight New York/Pittsburgh was almost as expensive as the flight from Geneva to Pittsburgh and it was probably beyond their budget! Shame, but there's always another time I guess. So then I helped her fill in her ESTA visa request for the US, but I had to laugh when it asked for her town of birth and I had to type in "Bitche"! No kidding! She was born in a place called "Bitche". I guess we'll see if they decide to let her in then!

And finally, it's been a year today since my brother died. Gosh hasn't that year gone fast. And four years to the day since his wife died too. Yep, they died on the same day, three years apart! Still can't believe it, but I know he/they are still around us all the time. Miss you both so much! God bless!

Brenda and Phil

Wednesday 15 January 2020

So that's decided then!

My Italian class was cancelled tonight as the teacher is unwell, so I decided to take advantage of the extra free time (but damn it, I'd already done my homework!) and head on down to Annecy as I wanted to visit the hypermarket there. I needed to buy a new iron for sewing club and I wanted a 21 cm spring-form cake tin, but wasn't having much luck finding one locally. Trouble is, when I go to this store I always end up coming out with other stuff because their prices are pretty good and they have a much larger selection of goods than our local stores. So I came out with a new, lightweight winter jacket, some ski trousers (just in case) and new woollen socks, as I seem to be very hard on my socks at the moment. Oddly enough, every time I went to England I would come back with new sweatpants because buying sweatpants obviously meant I was going to get fit and lose weight didn't it!!! Ha ha! Still, they're coming in useful now I suppose! When I got back to my car I noticed that I'd missed a call from Jen so I called her back and she asked if I would be around the second half of February or did I have travel plans. When I told her that I was going to be around she asked if I could take them to the airport as she and Jordan are off to the States for 10 days end of February! Turns out he handed in his notice at work today and will be starting work with Max on 1 March so he needs to use up a couple of weeks' leave beforehand. His current employer was disappointed but thanked him for seeing them through the worst of the winter anyway - it's always good to leave on a good note I feel, so I'm glad he resigned "the proper way". So they are off to Pittsburgh for a few days to see my ex and Ammy (grandma), which I'm pleased about as she's 84 and he hasn't seen her for seven years. After that they're off to New York for a few days and I can already tell Jen is really excited as she's never been to the States before!!!!

When I got back I realized I just had time to fit in a quick walk up the hill behind me, and for the first time ever I made it up that hill without stopping to regurgitate a lung. I suppose I've been making an effort to walk for two weeks now so hopefully I am making steady (if somewhat slow) progress. Oh and I weighed myself this morning and I'm actually down six pounds since 2 January! While that's great, I know myself well enough to realize I can go up or down three pounds overnight, but at least it's going in the right direction for the moment!

Oh and guess what, I've got tickets to see André Rieu in Zurich in October! And I'm delighted - it will be a real treat! When "Marksgran" commented on my blog that she couldn't get tickets for Glasgow and that both nights in Wembley Arena (London) were sold out, I thought damn, that's 26,000 tickets right there, sold out! So I knew I'd better get moving. My friend didn't want to see him (the miserable sod) but a former colleague (we're both now retired) said he would love to go, so I checked again with Tony and got tickets for both of us. From my place it would be a 4-5 hour drive I reckon so I might shock him and suggest a "dirty weekend" and that we get a hotel! Well, actually I don't think anything would shock him and we are just good friends anyway, but I'll have to see how he feels about driving back overnight. Makes sense to me to get a hotel but we have time to discuss it between now and then!

And talking to Tony reminded me of a time I was going out to lunch and Tony was standing with Ian (another tall, lanky Brit) waiting to get the bus into town. Now Tony is very tall, and consequently has pretty big feet. I don't know what he had done on his way to the bus stop but somehow the sole of one of his shoes had separated, but not completely detached, from the upper part of his shoe, so since he was in a rush he had just wound scotch tape round and round his shoe to hold it together. Those things made a horrendous "farty" squelching noise as he walked up the path and Ian and I were doubled up laughing! I remember talking to Tony one time about buying shoes (and the difficulty I had finding shoes for Jordan when he was a young man with ruddy great "plates of meat" - Cockney rhyming slang for "feet") and he was saying that having such big feet was a nightmare in Geneva because you just couldn't find the larger sizes. He said if he found a size 50 pair in pink with ribbons on he would buy them he would be that grateful just to find something - bet he was sorry he'd missed the sales that day then!

And jumping again "from the rooster to the donkey" (word associations), the other day at Grand Bornand Jordan asked me if I had a spare pair of gloves as he had forgotten his. Which made me think back to a dreadful Saturday job I had (my first) when I was just 15. My aunt found me a job in a horrible little shop of the kind that seemed to proliferate in England at the time - you know, the kind of place that sold wool, handkerchiefs, bras and other undergarments, men's ties - I mean, I was 15 years old and into fashion not ladies bras that looked like barrage balloons (you know, the kind I wear myself now - tee hee)! Still, at 15 I was underage to be working so in the end I was glad of this job, even if they were rip-off artists. The owner, a lady called Joyce, was probably in her 60s and used to bore the pants off me telling me how she had perfect legs - taking the definition of "perfect" (apparently) used by the Zigfeld Follies (but then, what would I know). Seemingly "perfect" meant that she could put a coin between her thigh muscles and her calf muscles and it would stay there - hence "perfect" Zigfeld legs - as opposed to my bandy legs that you could drive a truck through!!! Now this might have been interesting if you had been young during WWII (like her) but to a 15 year old kid it was so boring I had to stifle my yawns more than once. Anyway, I remember one time a lady came in and wanted a pair of brown leather gloves to go with a wedding outfit, so I went through all the boxes of gloves and got out every box of brown leather gloves for her to look at. At which point Joyce came in and went ballistic saying that if the lady wanted gloves I was to get out every box for her to look at, not just a few! Thankfully the customer stood up for me and said that she had indeed asked for brown gloves so the ones that Joyce was throwing on the counter were of no interest to her! Thank God for that lady! They used to pay me a measly £2 per day at the time, but one time during the school holidays I worked six full days and at the end of the week the daughter gave me an envelope with £9 in it and said she "hadn't deducted any tax" (as if I was declared! Right!) My mom was horrified that they had ripped me off, but what horrified me even more was that while the daughter was giving me her little spiel about not deducting taxes, she was actually picking her nose, and I'm standing there thinking "does she not even realize that she's fishing for boogers while she's talking to me"! Yuck. I was so grateful when I turned 16 and got a job at W.H. Smiths I can tell you!!

But the funny thing was, my friend, Joy, same age as me, got a job in the pharmacy next door and while the young woman was showing her the ropes she said "and of course if any man comes in and asks, all embarrassed, for 'you know what', they're under the counter" (this was around 1973 I should point out). So one day a salesman came in and asked for a packet of aspirins, some cough medicine and "a packet of the usual", so Joy put it all in a paper bag and rang it up. When she told him how much, he said "what the heck have you just sold me?", and when he looked in the bag and saw the packet of condoms he burst out laughing. "A packet of the usual" was apparently a packet of chewing gum, but Joy, being new there, wasn't to know that was she. Still, at 15 years old, sooner her than me! And to think I was mortified the time a lady with a very severe speech impediment asked me five times for something and I had to run into the back and find the owner because I couldn't understand her (turns out she wanted a packet of sanitary towels - thank God I didn't ask her to mime it)!!!!

In her younger years my sister also had a Saturday job working in a fish 'n chip shop in the same group of shops (and since my brother worked in the outdoor fish market at the time I guess someone in our house always smelled of fish in our younger years then)! Anyway, these shops were a good three miles from home (and we had to walk it), but if you cut across the "recreation fields" ("the rec") you could cut a good mile off your journey, so that's what we did. But the scary thing is, not so many years later "the rec" became a very dangerous place to walk across, with more than one rape and assault taking place there - and to think we used to walk through there as a matter of course! One of our neighbours also used to make this trip back from work every night, but at a certain time every evening her family would let their German shepherd out and he would trot the couple of miles to the stop where she would get off the bus and sit and wait for her to accompany her back across the rec every night! Amazing stuff huh!

My boyfriend at the time also used to walk across the rec and I remember him telling me one time a young girl had been raped there and he, Mark, was asked to attend the police station on some vague pretext. Nobody had told him why they had him there (although he guessed 'cos he had heard about the rape), when suddenly an older woman and a young girl walked in, supposedly to report a stolen handbag. The girl took one look at Mark and then walked out. She was obviously the young girl who had been attacked and that was how they brought her in to take a look at Mark (who obviously had nothing to do with the attack). It's funny but that would never be allowed to happen nowadays would it, but at the time that was the way it was and you just got on with it. What different times we live in now though!

Tuesday 14 January 2020


Damn, I ache all over. Y'see, I had another bright idea this morning and now I'm paying the price for it! Since I'm trying to get some walking in every day while the weather allows to work towards my 1,000 miles challenge, after yoga yesterday I decided to drive back down to Thyez and walk for an hour on the cycle path along the river Arve. While it was better than nothing I realize that an hour isn't really enough to clock up the steps/km - even if it's more than I was doing before I signed up for the challenge. So my intention was to get up and out this morning for a walk through the woods before my 2.30 p.m. yoga class in a village two villages away. Trouble is, since I'm now retired and no longer have to the hit the ground running in the morning, I've gone back to my natural sloth tendencies and spend a good couple of hours reading while having my breakfast and a cup of tea (or 10). That then made me a bit pushed for time to get in a decent walk before heading off to yoga class in St. Pierre - so like an idiot I decided to walk there! With that I ran round to my neighbour and told her I would meet her there as I was going to walk - and she just burst out laughing and said I must be mad (she's probably right). My neighbour's mirth notwithstanding, at 12.30 I set off walking in the direction of the village of St. Laurent, and then on down the forestry road to St. Pierre. Turns out it's almost five miles away! Who wudda thunk! I made it to yoga class with just five minutes to spare and the teacher then chose today of all days to up the ante and teach a much more dynamic class. Damn, I'm aching all over! Buuuttt, I got a total of 12,400 steps in today in just a couple of hours and walked about six miles in total in addition to 90 minutes of yoga! I guess that should up my weekly total a bit then!

In other news, when we were driving up to Grand Bornand on Sunday Jen said that they would like to ask my opinion on something! It turns out that Jordan has been offered a job back at the company where he worked while apprenticing as a plumber. Max, the young man that installed my new heating system, is the boss and Max's dad started his plumbing business many years ago and employed both his sons in the family business. Dad retired in September so Max and his brother are now the owners of a rather large plumbing business that specializes in "big jobs" - like replumbing hospitals and apartment blocks - and Max called Jordan to say they had a few big contracts signed and their only other employee had just resigned to move into a different branch of plumbing and would he come back. Now this sounds ideal because Jordan really doesn't like what he's doing at the moment - servicing central heating systems - and wanted to get back into "proper" plumbing anyway. The way Jordan looks at it, though, is that Max is a long time friend (they both play in the same band together) and sometimes they clash, but to my mind the positive is that they know each other, he knows how Jordan works, and he will have much better working hours with Max than where he is now. His current employer schedules in as many as eight service appointments a day but does not factor in travel time and the eternal traffic jams, so Jordan often works through his lunch break and then on until 8 p.m. While he doesn't mind occasionally he says it shouldn't be an every day thing - and he's quite right, especially considering he starts at eight in the morning! He already told his employer before Christmas that he was looking for other work but they asked him to hang on during their busy winter period so he agreed to see them out until the end of February - which would tie in very well with Max's offer. He doesn't want to leave them in the lurch as he said they have been good employers but doing routine maintenance work is doing his head in. So I told him I think he should go for it, since Max has also been very good about lending him tools in the past if he had other jobs on the side (jobs that Max doesn't want because they are too small). If worse comes to worst and they do clash he can always look elsewhere anyway, so I think he's going to go with it! And good for him. Fewer hours, the same or more money, proper lunch breaks, although with harder physical work - but that's what he wants so I say go for it!

Then yesterday I dropped off my car at the garage for them to repair the damage caused by the wild boar the other week. I had asked the garage if they could lend me a car for the duration and they have lent me what must be one of the smallest cars in captivity (a little Fiat), but you know what, it isn't bad! It's about as big as a matchbox car and probably has less power than my sewing machine, but it's fairly new and quite nippy so I can live with that. In fact, now that I'm no longer putting in the km to drive to work and belting along the motorway at high speed every day I don't think I will need such a heavy duty car when this one dies on me, so maybe a nippy little four-wheel drive might be nice! Still, we're not there yet, and hopefully this one will keep going for a few years yet.

And finally, tonight I drove in to town to drop off a crate of stuff that I had bought for the food bank. The elderly man there who took my crate can never figure out how to collapse it back down when it's empty and we always laugh and joke about him needing to take night school classes in "crate folding". Anyway, he was telling me that the food bank will be moving to new premises next month and when I asked where it turns out it's near the Church of the Blessed Fountain. So I told him that that was near to me, so we got chatting, as you do, and it turns out he lives in my village, right near the church, and knows my neighbour well, since they were on the village council together! And now I think about it I might just recognize him from around the village but who knows! As I say, it's a small world isn't it!

Sunday 12 January 2020

Another beautiful day!

Jen had mentioned last week about us going out walking today if the weather was nice - which it is! It's still lovely here at the moment, which I guess is payback for all the rain we had in December. Anyway, she called last night to confirm and then sent me a message this morning to say they would be over around 1 p.m. to head up the mountain to Grand Bornand as they wanted to go skating. At this point I was a bit "blah" - not too enthused about getting all trussed up in long johns and such, but then I picked up my phone and saw that I had seemingly only taken 24 steps this morning!!! Now I'm pretty sure the distance from the couch to the bathroom is about 30 steps and I don't remember having an accident so I reckon I clocked up so few steps because I don't keep my phone on me all the time unless I'm out. But, that was just enough of a kick up the backside for me to start getting ready to go out. "Getting ready" involved making tuna/mayo sandwiches, since we'd decided to take a picnic lunch, and then making lentil soup and a quiche for tonight. I also took cold drinks and a couple of thermos flasks of hot water so we could have hot tea up there - and it's all just as well really because there wasn't very much open. I guess the lack of snow meant that many of the locals didn't bother going up there skiing for the day, although the paragliders and walkers seemed to be making the most of it!

Anyway, by 2 p.m. we were up at Grand Bornand, which is only about 10 minutes away from my favourite ski resort of La Clusaz. It's been years since I've been to Grand Bornand so it was lovely to visit again and see how pretty it is!

The little kids were having a blast!

Just about to land!

One thing I must remember to do next time though is take my ski poles as it was really slippery in the shaded areas. After a quick walk around the village the kids decided to go ice-skating and as the rink was pretty empty I think they enjoyed it. I haven't skated since I was a kid so decided to give it a miss and go on another walk by myself.

Again I didn't get much mileage in but having signed up for the 1,000 mile challenge I now have 40 km more walking in since the start of the year than I would otherwise, so I guess that's a positive!

In other news when I went to my friend's the other day she was making clementine kombucha and it was pretty nice. I looked up how to make it but it seems a bit of a faff to me so I picked some up at the health food store the other day and it was really good. It tastes a bit like cider but without the alcoholic kick and is really refreshing. So that's a definite hit for my shopping list until I decide to give it a try myself (although I'm not sure that'll ever happen, to be honest)!

And finally my car goes in to the garage tomorrow for a week to repair the damage done when I hit the wild boar before Christmas. Well technically he hit me but since his insurance wasn't up-to-date my insurance will be picking up the tab! They will lend me a car for the duration (an old beater I expect) so I won't be driving into Geneva this week and will probably do fewer miles than I usually do, but it will be good to get my car repaired as there was more damage than was initially visible. Oh well, I guess that's the way it goes sometimes isn't it!

Saturday 11 January 2020

The Strauss Concert!

So on Thursday my friend and I met up in Geneva for a concert by the Strauss Festival Orchestra and Ballet Ensemble. And right from the start I loved it! I love Strauss's music and from the very first piece I was totally enthralled! I was somewhat surprised though to see that the theatre was only about two-thirds full - I really expected it to have sold out but that wasn't the case - which, I guess, is why I got the email offering me a 15% discount in the first place I suppose. Still, I'll take it! I used to get their programme of events sent to my work email, so after I retired I lost touch with much of what was going on in Geneva for a while. I suppose now, having since booked a few concerts using my private email address, I'll start receiving more regular updates.

They had a lady come on for about four songs singing opera - which I can take or leave frankly - but she did have a beautiful voice and was quite funny in some of her rôles. They also had dancers (as the name "Ballet Ensemble" suggests) and that I enjoyed very much, although to be honest I felt they didn't have that much room to dance. Towards the end of the evening they were playing a grand waltz when one of the male dancers walked on with a bottle of champagne which he was supposed to open and pour into several glasses. I didn't think for one minute that it was real but as he went to open the bottle the cork shot off and champagne (or some other fizzy stuff) spewed out all over the floor! I don't think that was supposed to happen somehow, but they were very professional and kept on going - although I was living in dread of one of them slipping in it! Thankfully that never happened!

The penultimate piece they played was The Blue Danube, which everyone recognizes and loves of course. But after that they played The Radetzky March for the grand finale and that was the piece that raised the roof! What I didn't know was that Johann Strauss Sr. wrote The Radetzky March and his son, Johann Strauss Jr. wrote The Blue Danube. Seems like there was just waaayyy too much talent in one family there don't you think!

Obviously this concert wasn't being filmed but since I love André Rieux I found a clip of his orchestra playing The Radetzky March (in Holland, im guessing, since they're all wearing orange). And guess what, I see that he's coming to Zurich in October and while my friend doesn't want to go, I have a friend who would like to go with me, assuming we can make the dates fit around his birthday celebrations! Damn, I hope Tony can make it!

I got up quite late this morning so got off to a slow start when I had been meaning to get some walking in. Around mid-day I was just thinking I couldn't be bothered to go out walking today when I looked on the 1,000 Mile website and saw that their motto was "boots on", so I thought sod it, "boots on", and here I go. The weather was glorious here today so there really was no excuse and I realize I need to seriously up my mileage if I'm going to achieve 1,000 miles in one year, as I'm nowhere near close to hitting the right daily target!  So I drove down the valley for about 30 minutes to a small leisure centre in the village of Thyez. Now my friend and I discovered this pretty little lake a few years ago when we went to a vide grenier (car boot/garage sale) there, but I hadn't realized that there is actually so much more there than just the lake/swimming area. There were kids playing football, tennis, basketball, a skateboard park, a ping pong table and of course the usual swings and slides for the younger kids. In fact, there is a more than decent riding/walking trail there which would make it a good place to go walking on days when the weather isn't so great and I don't want to walk in the mud. So I got in a 90 minute walk (minus the 15 minutes I spent chatting to a lady sitting on a bench - told you, I'll talk to anyone!) and got a few km in towards my total, but it's really nowhere near enough. So I'm hoping that as I get more consistent with my walking I can pick up the pace and the mileage, although from what I hear that gets easier once you take your hands out your pockets!!! Who would have thought!

Lac de Thyez

A one-man Olympic team!

I mentioned yesterday about Stan's son representing Nigeria in the cross-country skiing in February's winter Olympics, and that he could well be a one-man team (I'm not totally sure of that but it makes sense doesn't it). Well along the lines of the great Eddie the Eagle (as a Brit I'm so proud of that guy!!!!) it got me to thinking about Eric the Eel (better known as Eric Moussambani), who represented Equatorial Guinea in the swimming at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. From what I remember, after two false starts by his fellow competitors they were disqualified, so all Eric had to do was successfully swim 100 metres to qualify! Thing is, he nearly didn't make it as, to be honest, he could barely swim! But the crowd were on their feet cheering him on and he did, indeed, do it!!!

I tried to post the video as it is so funny but apparently it is the property of the Olympics Committee so it won't play here. If you get a chance have a look. 17,000 people on their feet cheering him on! Just brilliant!

Eric Moussambani - he said that moment changed his life!
Sam's participation for Nigeria will be nothing like that because he was tipped to be selected for France (until his accident), but what a lovely story Eric Moussambani's is - one of the most memorable Olympic moments of all time!