The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Friday 28 February 2020

Just an ordinary week!

I made it to yoga on Monday even though my legs and backside were killing me from our hike the previous day. When I told our teacher about all my aches and pains she said "oh you'll just love today's class then", so that was encouraging at least. She explained that in yogic beliefs winter is the season of descending energy, just as the sap in trees and plants descends back into the earth for the winter. Right now we're in the "between seasons" period and she was explaining that the body stores water during the winter (for whatever reason) and today we would be doing exercises, torsions more specifically, that would help the body "wring out" that water like a sponge, ready for the ascending energy of spring. I'm all for being wrung out like a sponge as I've always felt I suffer from water retention to a certain extent, and can easily go up or down 2-3 lbs in weight overnight! In fact I have indeed lost four lbs since Monday so maybe those exercises really did help huh. Either way, they certainly felt good! And I took the bull by the horns after my class and decided to go out walking to take advantage of the continuing good weather! I also did a one-hour walk today as I'm trying to keep up on my "1,000 Miles in 2020"  challenge, and while I'm not going to break any records (I most likely won't even make the challenge), so far I've walked 281 km, or 175 miles since 2 January and I'm pretty pleased with that!

So what else is new? Oh yes, my foray into kombucha-making was a complete disaster. I waited out the required four weeks for my scoby (my baby) to develop in my darkened spare bedroom but when I finally took a look at it there was no way I was gonna use that stuff to make kombucha. It was supposed to look like a kinda "slimey mess" - you know, like you might find in vinegar that has turned slightly - but this was more green and mouldy-looking so I thought I'd better give a brush with botulism a miss and threw it away. So it's back to the drawing board on that one then! Or else, I think I might just stick with buying it at the health food store!

Then on Tuesday I noticed that our new neighbours opposite were having their roof treated so I wandered over to talk to the workmen as I think my own roof could do with a de-mossing and restorative treatment (it was done eight years ago). So long story short, I'm now signed up to have my roof done in March (the cleaning and tile-repair part) and then a "sealant" applied four weeks later. It's all money of course but I need to keep up with these things for my own comfort and to protect my investment anyway!

I also learned this week that the French will be changing some of the requirements for requesting French citizenship as from 1 April. Right now anyone 60 or over (so that's me then) does not have to sit a written French exam (I'm not sure why they figured we old foggies didn't need this but …). Now under the new requirements everyone has to sit a 90 minute written French test, regardless of age. I can't say I was overly thrilled, even though the test doesn't worry me, but it's just one more hoop to jump through in a long list of other hoops, so I'm starting to feel a bit like a circus animal. And, if I get my initial appointment within the one year time-frame as indicated (that would give me an appointment in July), I need to get this test beforehand!! With that in mind, I went on the French Government website last night and found four or five test centres in this area and booked the first spot available to me on 16 April. So I decided to knuckle down last night and sit a previous exam paper and it was ok to be honest. I got 99% thankfully, but I'm just going to keep taking these tests so I will be up to speed when the test comes around. Frankly, I'd rather do this test than try to learn all about the kings of France but what I want is neither here nor there in the end is it! I also spent an hour tonight putting away all my paperwork as I had it spread out all over the bed in the spare room. In the end I just thought to heck with this, I know where it all is when needed. I also read in the paper today that all the EU countries are going to issue qualifying expat Brits (that would be me) with a special ID card recognizing us as "third country nationals" with the right to live in our chosen country, but specifically mentioning Article 50 of the (Brexit) Withdrawal Agreement. So onwards and upwards it is then!

Tomorrow night, instead of our usual board game evening, our group has decided to go play a couple of Escape Rooms right near the Swiss border. I'm looking forward to it as I've never played an Escape Room (I suspect I won't be very good at it - well I certainly wasn't when we went on our Sherlock Homes "Whodunnit" day out a couple of months back)! Then on Sunday I'm finally going to see "Judy" with my friend. It's only just come out over here as they wait until the dubbed French version is ready before they bring it out for public viewing (although we'll be going to see it in English of course)! I'm looking forward to that too!

On Wednesday we got our first real snow of the season, but even that didn't last long, oddly enough. But it would have to be the day I had to go pick the kids up from the airport after their trip to Pittsburgh wouldn't it. No snow all season so far and yet on Wednesday they were calling for five inches!!! So I decided to go use the gym at work and then head out to IKEA after having the inspired thought that I could spend a couple of hours in IKEA (I'd been wanting to go for a while) and hang around there until the kids arrived as it is only five minutes from the airport. And that's what I did (in addition to buying lovely new bedding and a couple of rugs I'd been after). You know, IKEA's quite nice if you can go when there are no crowds, but finding your way out of that place is (deliberately) also a bit of an Escape Room challenge in itself!!

The kids made it back with no hiccups thankfully. The return Pittsburgh/London flight was only five and a half hours, as opposed to eight hours on the way out, so that must have been quite a tail wind don't you think! They had a great time and everyone made a big fuss of Jen being French and her cute accent (including the very friendly immigration officer). Well everyone except my ex's gf it would seem. Sadly there's no love lost between my kids and their wives and the gf as they think she's weird. My family also felt the same way about her at both weddings, to be honest. My feeling was she was ok if she was the centre of attention all the time but if not, forget it. I mean come on, she's 57, but hey, what can I say, I don't have to live with her! Anyway, the kids had a great time with the ex and his family and even though the gf didn't make them particularly welcome they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Or maybe, as they said, they actually enjoyed themselves all the more so since the gf never went with them when they went out! Oh well. Grandma was all "I love ya hon" and hugging them, so I'm glad they got to see her. I had made sloppy joes and bought bread to take over to their place for their first night back but Jen said all they wanted to eat was salad. No more pizza, hamburgers or hot dogs. They wanted salad! That's not a reflection on the ex's family as grandma is a good cook (as is my ex), but I guess there wasn't an awful lot of cooking going on last week.

Then they were telling me the stuff they'd bought in the US. Not everything was cheaper but they got some good deals with the US$ being so weak against the euro. I mentioned to them afterwards did they realize that there are $$$$$ limits to how much you can bring back without declaring it at customs, but they both just shrugged. Not that they were buying Rolex watches of course, just a few pairs of jeans and a couple of jackets, but I suppose technically they might have been over the $$ limit, but who knows!

And that brings to mind a story of my lovely friend, Joyce, now sadly deceased. I must write some of my "Joycey" stories sometime as she was a great friend, a lovely person, and an absolute blast! But that'll have to wait till some other time I think. Anyway, many years ago, before there was free movement of goods and people between France and Switzerland, there was, indeed, a limit to the monetary value of merchandise that could be bought in one country and taken back to the other. I think at one time it was 200 Swiss francs, so the Swiss who went into France grocery shopping (because it's cheaper) would pile all the family into the car in order to get the higher allowances. Even then, there were still restrictions on how much cheese, meat and alcohol they could bring back into Switzerland regardless of the cost. Anyway, Joyce would quite often go clothes shopping in Switzerland during her lunch break and take the (undeclared) clothes back home with her to France in the evening. One time after another shopping trip I asked if she wasn't afraid of getting stopped at the French border on her way home. At that she just opened up her raincoat like some ol' flasher and stood there wearing just her underwear underneath! Yep, she used to come in to work with just her underwear under her coat (her husband must have thought he was going to get very lucky at work on those days) and then cut the tags off the clothes and wear them home again in the evening. Or she would keep old dry cleaning bags and take them back home that way. I mean, it wasn't exactly hard-core smuggling but when I asked her if she was ever afraid of getting stopped at the Swiss border coming in to work in her underwear she just laughed. She was such a cracking looking woman in her younger days I'm sure the Swiss border guard would have come over all "unnecessary" if he had rumbled her! God love ya Joyce. I still miss her so much even now so many years later!

Sunday 23 February 2020

I'm exhausted!

I didn't do very well with my walking last week, which was pretty pathetic really because the weather was nice and I really have no excuse (although, believe me, I'm still trying to think of one). I just felt kind of lazy so I guess you have to go with the flow don't you. Our Italian teacher has been off sick for the last month so I decided to check with the community centre to see if she was back on Wednesday as I wanted to get her some flowers as a "get well soon" gift. While I was choosing the flowers I saw the florist had some pretty red tulips in a bag with hearts on so asked if she had any other kind of container as these were obviously leftovers from Valentine's Day. When she said she didn't have anything else she told me just to take them as they were right on the limit anyway and I could have them for free! Nice huh! I didn't give these to my Italian teacher of course (I bought her a lovely bouquet of dried flowers), but it was a really nice gesture on the part of the florist I thought!

After leaving the florist's I decided I really needed to get some walking in so crossed the road to walk in a little park I had spotted some time ago but had never got round to visiting. It was small - seriously, you could walk round that park with a broken leg in about 10 minutes, but at least I got a few laps in and very pretty it was too!

Using an old ski lift as a book exchange - neat huh!
Then today three of us decided to go off in search of the newly-completed 7 km addition to the cycle path near Talloires on Lake Annecy, mainly because the weather was glorious and I believe it has forecast snow come Wednesday. So off we shot and since we really had no idea where to find this cycle path we decided instead to head up to see if we could find the waterfall known as the Cascade d'Angon. Well we found it all right but somehow managed to find the "scenic" (read "vertical") route rather than the easy route. I tell ya, the first couple of km really were vertical and tough going, although if you take it easy and go at your own speed anything is possible really isn't it. Well we made it to the top of the climb into a pasture, then up further to a road, which lead back down towards the path to the waterfall. It was quite slippy going down to the fall but there were barriers and it really was definitely worth the effort.

The first part of our climb up above Lake Annecy

Still climbing

This has got to be the most perfect spot for a picnic!
The little kids in the picture above had to stop every so often and have a drink of "magic potion" to help them up the mountain - turns out it was fruit tea (but it obviously did the trick)!

The barriers leading to the waterfall

The "slippy" bit!

The narrow walk around to the bigger part of the waterfall
By the time we got back down I had clocked up 19,750 very tortuous steps and 15.83 km (or just under 10 miles) but boy were we tired. So we spent the next hour over a lovely glass of cold cider while our muscles started to seize up a treat! I'm so glad I've got yoga tomorrow!

And here's a tip for the uninitiated:

Do you think this was why I was invited?
And can you believe this weather! That is snow on the mountains in the background and these lads are going swimming in the lake. Now admittedly they didn't stay in long and that huge bottle of Ricard may have had something to do with their decision, but crikey, they're braver (or maybe just dafter?) than I am!

"Dutch courage"?

Wednesday 19 February 2020

This and that!

Jen sent me a quick message yesterday to say they'd made it to the gate and were on their way to the States (finally)! I picked them up at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning and they made it to Pittsburgh at 2.30 a.m. this morning (Wednesday) so a total of three days in the same clothes (nice), but at least they bought toiletries and other "essentials" at the airport before they left for the hotel. Then Jordan sent me a message this morning to say that their baggage had left on the original, Sunday afternoon flight. That's a huge no-no to have luggage travelling without its owners but what can I say! It was chaos and things happen but at least their luggage made it, even if it was 48 hours before they did. Told Jordan at least he has a clean change of boxers now!

Day 3 of being on the road!
I was talking to my sister yesterday about their travel saga and about the new flooding in the Hereford/Worcester area (near where we grew up). It floods in that area pretty much every year because of the large rivers, but I understand this time it is the worst flooding on record! While obviously people's homes getting flooded is much more devastating, it just breaks my heart to hear of some of the beautiful, historic buildings being damaged also. And totally irrelevant to anyone's safety or livelihood, she told me that the old Miners' Bridge in Betws-y-Coed (the village where my mom grew up) had been washed away!! This bridge was built many hundreds of years ago and was used by miners ferrying stone from the quarry in the woods, hence its name. Like I say, it had no real "value" except as a tourist attraction but we were both saying how sorry we were to see it gone as it was such a magical spot with great memories of where we used to play as kids when we stayed with family in North Wales.

The Black and White Museum, Hereford

Miners' Bridge, Betws-y-Coed
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, on Sunday, after I dropped the kids off at the airport, I met up with my friend for a coffee. Municipal elections will be taking place here in a couple of weeks so different parties were handing out flyers outside the coffee shop. When the guy offered me a flyer I just said no thank you (in French) and then he said something back in English. So ole Dutchy says words to the effect that "we speak French, what's your problem?" (ok, maybe not quite as rude as that but you get the gist) and I was furious with him. "Why do you have to be so rude"? Well actually he knows it irritates me and sometimes does this kind of thing to wind me up. But he said that people switching languages on him drives him nuts, even to the point that sometimes when he goes to Holland he will speak in Dutch (of course) and it really irritates him when they reply in English. So I said maybe they just want to practice their English, but he would have none of it. Then inside the coffee shop there was an incident with an old guy who brought his dog into the café and the waitress asked him twice to take it outside as dogs were not allowed. So Dutchy makes some comment and there were a couple of small "digs" going back and forth between Dutchy and the dog owner and I just hate it! In the end I told him that what really annoys me is that his English is so perfect and his accent so bloody posh that everyone thinks he's English and we get the blame for being miserable sods when it's nothing to do with us! And with that he just laughed at me (the sod)!

Which brings me back to another gem many moons ago. We had taken the kids on a fairly last-minute trip to Cyprus at Easter one year and my ex and I got friendly with a British-Indian couple called Jaz and Mandy. One night they were having a karaoke session in the hotel (oh horror of horrors), and this British couple got up to sing "The Only Way Is Up" - or at least I think that's what it was. I couldn't be sure though because they were terrible! Totally out of tune and everyone was either roaring laughing at them or egging them on. And they looked so British too - you know, the guy in the string vest, shorts, brown socks (seriously) and sandals. They were just excruciating. Jaz looked at me at one point and said "are you just wishing the ground would swallow you up too?" and I just nodded. But the soul-destroying thing about the whole event (as we found out afterwards) was that those embarrassing "Brits" turned out to be Kiwis, and short of running round with a foghorn shouting "they're not Brits, they're Kiwis" Jaz and I couldn't see any other way around taking the blame for being embarrassing Brits abroad - so we decided to head off to the bar to drown out our abject humiliation! That sorta worked!

The Brits abroad - note the socks and the hanky!
This one I'm happy to claim - Mr. Bean - comedy genius!
And finally, yesterday would have been my dad's 100th birthday had he lived that long. When someone is in their 90s, for me at least, it's still somehow real, but thinking that dad would have been 100 just blows my mind. My sister said the same thing. Gosh they lived to see some things in their lifetimes didn't they!

The family - late 1950s/early 1960s - I'm the babe in arms!

Ted (dad) as a young man!

My wedding. Dad didn't quite make it to 100 and my marriage didn't quite make it to 30 years but hey ho!

Monday 17 February 2020

Oofff - sorted!

I got a message from Jordan at 2.30 a.m. this morning to say that they had finally made it to the front of the queue at the British Airways service desk and they had provided them with a voucher for a room for the night at the Premier Inn and breakfast! They didn't have their luggage but were just glad to finally get a room and a few hours rest after such a long and stressful day. So I could finally relax a bit once I knew they were sorted. I knew I wasn't going to sleep anyway until then because I was more worried in case they didn't have a "decent" credit card than anything, but with BA paying for their overnighter there was less to worry about and I could finally go to bed!

Turns out that the big problem at Heathrow was that all the computers went down because of the storm. People couldn't use electronic tickets, although Jordan and Jen had printed theirs also, but the information boards indicating which gates people should go to were also down (which is why they missed their flight) and ground staff ended up having to write boarding gate info on white boards - but by this time it was too late for them as their flight had already left!

They called me this morning while they were having breakfast (put a "full English" in front of those two and they are happy) and told me they had to go back to the airport to sort out rebooking their ongoing flights - and this was the queue waiting patiently to get to the British Airways information desk when they arrived!

Still, within a couple of hours they got to the front of the queue and while BA could get them out today they could only get them as far as New York or Chicago and would not be responsible for onward flights to Pittsburgh, so the kids decided to opt for the direct flight tomorrow (Tuesday) in order not to have connecting flight worries again. That has meant spending another night at the hotel - which they were okay with - and even though central London is only 45 minutes away by train they decided to give it a miss and just "chill" around the village where the hotel is located as they were both tired. So they're now all checked in for their flights tomorrow (although I'm not quite sure where their luggage is), and will hopefully get a good night's sleep tonight.

I've been watching the news a lot today too and Storm Dennis coming hot on the heels of Storm Ciara, the UK has been pretty battered, with severe flooding now also hitting the more central areas. I feel so bad for those affected because even though they have put in flood defences, the incredible amount of rainfall hitting the UK in the last week has meant that so many of those flood defences have been breached! What a nightmare!

This video of an Etihad flight landing at Heathrow this weekend is doing the rounds at the moment and my God, if I ever end up flying Etihad I want this pilot. He landed that thing sideways!!!!!!

My ex phoned me a short while ago to make sure I was up to speed with the kids as I had been out this evening. He was saying that while February isn't the ideal time for a visit to Pittsburgh they have enough things in mind to keep the kids entertained. Amme (grandma) doesn't know the kids are going so my ex is having "everyone" over for dinner on Wednesday night in order to spring the surprise on her (she hasn't seen Jordan in seven years)! I can just picture it now. She is a great story teller but by golly she goes round the Wrekin with her stories, so when I saw this picture below, if you change "how I tell a story" to "how Amme tells a story" you'll get an idea of what Jordan and Jen are in for!

And finally I haven't got much walking in in the last week, more out of laziness than anything as the weather, up until now, has been pretty good. But I have to say some of the people on the "1,000 Miles in 2020" walking group are really funny. One lady posted the picture below during Storm Dennis with the caption saying "hubby asked me if I wanted to get down and dirty"!!! She said she lived in hope ...

Sunday 16 February 2020

What a bloody mess!

Well storm Dennis rolled in to the UK this weekend and I was kinda hoping it would have calmed down a bit by the time the kids were due to fly. After a few nail-biting moments their flight to London took off just 30 minutes late and they arrived at Heathrow Airport three hours ahead of time for their ongoing flight to Pittsburgh. So they sat there, and sat there and sat there waiting for their gate number to be called … and nothing happened. I kept checking with Heathrow's website (which suddenly started saying "gate closed") and British Airways' website (which then stated that the flight had left 30 minutes ago!!!!)  Say what????? I got in touch with Jordan and he was getting all the same info his end. Trouble is, Jen was very worked up and in floods of tears because she doesn't speak English, and then she started worrying about money because "they can't afford to be rebooking flights and hotels and so on"! And Jordan wasn't exactly brimming with confidence either because the whole airport was a bloody mess, the computer systems being down because of the storm and loads of flights delayed or cancelled!

I told him first thing to do was get some cash - say £100 - just so that they had a few GB£ on them and not just euros or Swissies. Then go and buy drinks, sandwiches and maybe soap, toothbrush and so on, because there is a good chance everything would close down and they would end up high and dry with nothing to eat and feeling decidedly smelly and dirty. After that they headed over to queue up at the BA information desk, where they were told to go to Gate A9 - but at Gate A9 they were just booking hotels or doing paperwork for people who had had enough and were giving up and going home - not an option for Jordan and Jen obviously as they needed someone to let them know about rebooking flights or other alternatives! I called a little later and as it stands now they have to go back out through customs/passport control and into the public area as Terminal 5 is closing down, and then they have to hook up to a BA site to see if the proposed alternative flights are acceptable to them. Who knows what BA will offer them but I doubt they'll be going anywhere tonight. If they decide they just want to jack it all in and forget about the States they'll have to track their baggage down and make alternative arrangements. Jen was saying she just wants to come back to Geneva. Good luck with that. EasyJet cancelled loads of "skiing/Geneva" flights yesterday because of the storm, as did other airlines, so I doubt they'll be getting back to Geneva anytime soon as the people bumped from yesterday's flights have to be accommodated first!

So I've been in touch with my sister and I can get them on one of several buses to her in Dorset any time tomorrow and have found a couple of hotels within a few miles of Heathrow if they decide they want to give up on the idea of going to Pittsburgh. I also told them not to waste time (or more importantly their phone batteries) calling my ex as I will keep everyone informed, although thankfully they both have their mobile phone chargers with them. What a bloody mess. My sister told me it's just been on the news that all the computers were down at Heathrow so everyone will be in the same boat I guess. I know they're adults and Jordan, at least, speaks English but neither of them knows much about the UK and what's what, to be honest, and so are pretty out of their depth in how to deal with this. I have no doubt they would be much more confident sorting themselves out in, say, Geneva or Paris, but London/the UK is a whole new ballgame for both of them!

The only other thing I told them was to stay cool, and to be civil to the poor sods on the service desks because it's nobody's fault and these people will be just trying to do their best to get everyone sorted. Trying to find the positives, I told them to be thankful that this happened in England because at least we Brits queue and are pretty stoic in a crisis, for the most part. It could also be worse as they could be travelling with young children or elderly relatives. So I reckon they are in for an uncomfortable night either way, and I'm probably going to be awake most of the night, credit card to hand, just in case. Happy days then!

Taken at Birmingham Airport I think

Flooding in South Wales

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Tulips from Amsterdam!

That was the title of an old Max Bygraves song - I suppose "Tulips from Keukenhof" doesn't have the same ring to it does it! But who cares anyway 'cos guess who's going to Holland in April to see the tulips. Yes me!!! The company that my friend and I have done quite a few trips with put out their 2020 programme at the end of November and the "tulip" trip was on it. So at the beginning of January we stopped in to see them and reserve and the darn thing was already fully booked! In fact, it had sold out within a couple of days and even though they could easily sell out a second trip they had no plans to do so apparently. Well that is until today when we received an email saying they were doing a second five-night trip in April and were we interested? My friend saw it before I did so jumped right in and reserved by phone, telling them we would be there by Monday to confirm, so we're now going and I'm delighted. We could have booked something ourselves actually by flying to Amsterdam and booking something that end but as my friend pointed out, there was quite a lot else going on on this trip so we didn't want to take planning our own trip any further and end up disappointed. From what I can remember there are a couple of river cruises, a night in Amsterdam, a visit to the diamond quarter and a trip to Keukenhof towards the end of the trip.

Keukenhof Gardens
Actually I'm just as excited about visiting Amsterdam as I am to see Keukenhof so I really am pleased that they decided to put on a second trip!

After stopping in at work to use the gym I had a drink with my friend tonight and was excitedly telling him about my trip and how we would also get to see the town of Gouda - which is apparently very beautiful, in addition to being the home of the famous cheese of the same name. So then he got all Smart-Aleky and decided to correct my pronunciation to something that sounded like "Xhouda", Ha ha, what a joke. I told him that if I pronounced it "his" way people would either think I was choking or I'd gone off my head and booked a trip to China, despite all the coronavirus warnings! So my way it'll be for the time being! Actually that makes me think of the time I had a Finnish colleague whose name was "Tuire" and if I said her name my way everyone knew who I was talking about, but if she said her name the correct way, nobody knew who was on the end of the phone!

So what else is new? Not a lot really. I felt like a pregnant two-ton hippo at yoga on Monday (and had about as much grace) and when I came home I lay on the sofa and fell asleep for two hours. What the flip! And I knew I would have no problem sleeping that night either - indeed I slept about nine hours! But I hate it when I feel like that - like I could just nod off at the drop of a hat, and I can only put it down to the vagaries of the weather. Up one minute and down the next. I wasn't particularly looking forward to yoga on Tuesday either for that very reason but by gosh I'm glad I went. We again worked on the "Salutation to the moon" and I as much as I don't enjoy the "Salutation to the sun", this sequence is just great. It seems to work every muscle in your body giving a great workout, a fact that all the ladies I spoke to afterwards seemed to agree with. More to the point, I felt all my energy coming back after that session and no longer had any desire to nod off all the time so maybe there really is something to this "yoga thangy"!

Then on Friday of last week I met up with a very old friend, G, who I met the first day I arrived in Geneva. Our employer had put us up in the same B & B on our first night and we hit it off immediately. We ended up renting a studio together in central Geneva on a month-by-month basis while looking around for a place of our own and it worked out really well. We still laugh, though, when we remember the day we realized what was going on with the dirty old sod in the apartment opposite. We would dash home after work each night, jump into the shower and then get dressed up for a night on the town. In fact I don't remember ever staying in one single night as a singleton - so for five entire years I was out every night of the week!!! Anyway, one time in autumn or maybe winter (sometime when it was starting to get darker earlier) we had the light on as we were getting changed and it was then that we realized the dirty old sod opposite was always out on his balcony when we got home - looking in through the flimsy net curtains, the dirty perv! As soon as we realized what was going on we started getting changed in the bathroom and "Merv the Perv" no longer seemed to feel the need to get a breath of fresh air on his balcony every night, although I do remember him saying "bonjour" to me one day as I was walking out the apartment and wondering who the hell he was (I obviously didn't recognize him when he wasn't standing on his balcony in his underpants with a massive erection)! I remember one time, too, that G was away travelling with her parents and there was a knock at the door around 1 a.m. I was alone and thought "who the hell comes knocking at 1 a.m.?" and when I looked through the peephole the apartment manager was standing there all dressed up in his Sunday best! Now I knew we were up-to-date with the rent and there was never any noise coming from our place so there was no way I was going to open the door to him at that time of the morning. He obviously had a key anyway so I moved a big table from the middle of the room and wedged it against the door. Thankfully nothing further came of it but I have to admit I was glad to get out of there after a few months when we each got our own place. It was in central Geneva and wonderfully located, both for work and for night life, but it was also in the prostitute area and while I never felt threatened I did get propositioned a couple of times. It was funny because the first time mom and dad came out to stay with me while G was away, we were walking down the road and my dad said "ooohhh there's a lot of people out tonight aren't there", so I asked him if had noticed how many of them were sitting on the hoods of cars, and he just looked at me with a kind of rictus grin as the realization set in!!

G and I were also at our first staff Christmas party when this charming older gent came over with a glass of wine in his hand and asked us where we worked. I said in Division X and she said in Division Y and then she asked him where he worked - and he said "in the Director-General's office". After he left I nudged her in the ribs and said "that's the new DG", and she almost fainted, with visions of her contract renewal floating away before her eyes I imagine! Not that anything of the sort happened. The man was an absolute gent and had the most wonderful sense of humour, as you can probably tell (may God rest his soul)!

Anyway, on Friday we met up for lunch in a wonderful Indian restaurant near her place. I haven't eaten Indian food in ages so it was a real treat, with excellent food in beautiful surroundings.

The Rajpoute

G spent some time telling me about her recent interview for French citizenship and while there were, indeed, questions about French history and politics, etc. she said they were more interested in whether or not she had assimilated into the local French community (she has, very much so)! So she told me to make sure I took a screen shot of the web site which shows me as being the Présidente of the sewing club (daft as it sounds) because that proves I'm willing to get involved in local activities. She said also to show proof of all the different courses (yoga, pilates, Italian) that I'm taking locally, as opposed to in Switzerland, so I guess signing up for all those things wasn't such a bad idea after all!

And then, as we always do, we got to reminiscing, and despite the fact that she left my employer and went to work at the World Health Organization after a couple of years and we didn't see so much of each other, in May it will be 40 years since the day we first met and yet we still have so much to reminisce about. I know I always do it but I had to bring up the time she decided to repaint her bathroom. It was a long weekend and really hot and she got it in her head that her bathroom needed repainting. So she got herself all kitted out, took the handles off the door so it would be easier to paint, and then decided that it was waaayyy too hot for overalls so she took that off too and started painting in just her underwear. Except, of course, when she shut the door to paint it she realized too late that having taken the handle off she couldn't get the door open again and was now effectively stuck in the bathroom! So she started frantically tapping on the piping and yelling to her downstairs neighbour, but being a long weekend, this particular neighbour had gone away. In the end she managed to get another neighbour to realize that there was a problem and asked her to call her landlord. The initial problem was compounded, of course, by the fact that her key was on the inside of the door and the landlord couldn't get in, so he ended up basically rappelling from an upper balcony into her apartment to let her out of the bathroom - in all her glory, covered in paint and wearing only her bra and pants!!! I told her she was going to make it on to my blog someday but promised I'd keep her anonymous, so G, there you have it! Fame at last!

We then got to talking about the various trips we had planned (none for me at that point). She likes to travel alone as she likes to do her own thing, whereas I am happy to travel without knowing anyone but I don't like to be completely alone. So then she brought up our long weekend in Madrid the first Easter after we arrived in Geneva. G is very artistic and creative and was determined to visit the Prado while we were there. Me? Not so much! I like natural history but art? Nope, not for me (I know, I know, I'm a pleb). Anyway, we legged it over to the Prado and glory of glories, it is closed on only two days of the year - Good Friday and Christmas Day and "today" was Good Friday! Now it's very hard to fake disappointment when you're secretly thanking God that it's closed but I did try very hard. Still, my luck could only give out the next day so off we trecked back over there and this time, of course, it was open. I'll never get how people can spend hours wandering round these places looking at the paintings - it really isn't me - so after an hour I couldn't fake it any more and told her I'd meet her at the café in the park opposite and to take as long as she wanted. So we both ended up happy in the end - she got the Prado and I got white wine and tortilla!

The Prado
She told me she knew I wasn't enjoying it when she took a photo of me inside the Prado leaning on a wall yawning with my arms folded! The next day she wanted to visit a Cezanne exhibition (I probably would have held on a little longer if we had started with that one) but I just told her to enjoy herself and I'd meet up with her a few hours later, which was what we did. Talk about the Odd Couple - but I suppose that might be why 40 years later we're still good friends. Who knows (although I'm obviously Walter Matthau)!

Picture courtesy of Film Art Gallery

Saturday 8 February 2020

Well that was embarrassing!

As we were driving back from yoga on Tuesday my neighbour said "oh, I've got big news for you, M (her daughter) and B (her British boyfriend) are getting married on Saturday in Geneva"! It wasn't as big a surprise as it might have been as they were engaged anyway and looking to get the paperwork completed in France, but since B still has his name on the lease for his apartment in Switzerland until the end of the month they were able to get accepted at the Mairie in Geneva where an available time slot came around quicker than they anticipated, so they had to rush and get everything sorted in time for a civil wedding today. It wasn't a big wedding - just immediate family - but they looked lovely. After the wedding they drove up the mountains near me for a fondue and my neighbour asked me to come back to their place afterwards for a celebratory drink. Actually they were lucky to get up the gorge for lunch because I saw on FB this morning that access was pretty much at a standstill (it leads to two of the bigger ski resorts round here). Initially it was blocked with people heading out to ski - locals, I guess, because the big ski vacations for the schools don't start until next week - but I just heard from a friend that there was also a horrible accident on the way up there too. It's a narrow winding mountain pass up through the gorge with steep drops on the one side. Apparently a car was involved in a fairly minor collision with a truck and one of the passengers jumped over the retaining wall to in order to get off the road and out of the way of the traffic but didn't realize there was a horrendous drop on the other side of the wall. It's not as stupid as it sounds because there are trees right up against the wall and you could easily mistake it for flat ground behind. Anyway, the roads were blocked for several hours while the emergency services looked for the poor guy - who eventually turned up dead further downstream trapped under a rock in the river! Bloody hell, what an awful way to go!

Anyway, since I was invited over later to have a drink with the newlyweds I dashed out as I wanted to buy a bottle of champagne to take with me. The supermarket was pretty busy unfortunately so as there was no line for "10 articles or less" I ended up standing in the line where priority is given to the disabled, elderly and pregnant women. Well the lady cashier at one point looked at the stomach of the woman in front of me and asked her if she was pregnant because if so she should jump to the head of the queue. Now this young woman did, indeed, look about seven months pregnant but the husband turned round and said "no, those days are over for us"! Ooops! I saw the cashier blush vividly and felt so sorry for her as she was only trying to help! Actually, I did the same thing with our banker too when we were going through the divorce. After we had finished our meeting I asked her when the baby was due and she said "I'm not pregnant"!!!! Never again! I will never say anything to a "pregnant" woman ever again. Better to just wait till the baby's born next time before opening my mouth I think!

That being said, I can't really talk as my own belly isn't exactly J-Lo material and I reckon I haven't seen my toes (except at yoga) for a good while now. And this despite the fact that my weight goes up and down like a bride's nightie! On top of all the walking I've been doing I haven't had a drink for six weeks now so I kinda hoped some of it would come off but apparently sugar cravings seem to have kicked in so I guess that'll be the next thing I have to tackle! Gotta knock the chocolate on the head too I guess! Anyway, when I was buying the champagne I also picked up another bottle of kombucha as I'm going through it at a rate of knots at the moment. And talking of kombucha, my home brew seems to be coming along nicely at two weeks along - I've either got a very good base for my own kombucha or a severe case of botulism in the making looking at the mouldy stuff floating about in there. I guess only time will tell right!

Anyway, getting back to next door's wedding, my neighbours said I could ride over with them because of limited parking space and the husband got chatting to me about his friend, Jo, who might also come if he could get back down the mountain from his shop in time. He has several shops that sell cheese and dried meats - upscale deli-type of thing, I guess. Anyway, M was telling me what a nice guy Jo is - I've met him a couple of times and he does indeed seem to be a nice chap. He's a widower but had been with someone for quite some time when she apparently ended it a couple of months ago. So my neighbour was saying how the gf will regret this as "Jo is a lovely guy and has plenty of money"!! His wife has also made a few comments about inviting me over to dinner at the same time as Jo, so trying to set me up or what? Now I have nothing against Jo - from the little I've seen of him he seems to be a genuinely nice guy - but what really riles me is that the husband has to mention how much money he's got. Is that what men really think? That women are only interested in them for their money? Or is that what women are really like? I don't know, but that's certainly not the case with me. I was actually pretty offended to think that Jo's having money (or otherwise) would be a factor in whether or not I was interested in the guy! Actually it doesn't rile me up, it makes my blood boil!!! I mentioned one time previously how the first guy I dated briefly after my husband left was a very wealthy Spanish lawyer and he offered to pay my mortgage off because "I've given more money than that to the Prado"! So I told him thanks very much but no thanks as you can't put a price on freedom and that I value more than anything in the world. Oddly enough that's probably why we remained on good terms even after we split up! But my neighbour trying to "sell" Jo to me really offended me. Am I being unreasonable here? Maybe trying to play matchmaker - no problem there - but please don't insult me with the money angle!

It brought to mind a time when one of the local guys asked me if I would be interested in standing for the village council "because we could do with another woman on the board", and then realized I couldn't because I'm not French. And again I think "what, do you want me to stand for the village council because you think I'm up to it or because I've got a pair of boobs"? I don't know, maybe I'm just hormonal (ha) but I get really offended to be (a) treated like a pair of boobs or (b) treated like someone who would be interested in dating a man just because he has money! Now before anyone bursts a blood vessel I know there are plenty of women out there who do see men as a pocket book but I'm certainly not one of them. I have my own home and my own money - it's not a fortune but it's more than enough for my needs. What's more I didn't "make out" in the divorce either - quite the contrary actually, but what the hell, it was worth losing out on over $100,000 I had put into the house to begin with (as against his $0) to get my freedom (and I wasn't the one playing away from home, which brought about the divorce anyway). I don't know, maybe I'll say something to my neighbour the next time Jo comes up - or maybe I shouldn't. Am I being over sensitive? I'm not sure on that one!

Anyway, on to less cerebral things! I was messing around on Google Earth yesterday and had great fun googling my address and seeing my house with my car in the driveway. So then I googled my ex mother-in-law's place and saw her car in her driveway too. It kinda made me a little sad as I have fond memories of both my mother-in-law and father-in-law in that house, and now pap is dead, amme (MIL) is old and I'm divorced from their son. I guess time moves on faster than we care to think doesn't it. So then I googled my ex's address in PA (I know, nosy cow aren't I, but he gave me the address) and it's a nice place he's got (although his windows could do with a good clean). But google earth is really something. So then I googled my address when I was growing up in Birmingham and see that the school that I attended, and which backed on to our back garden, is now huge - about three times what it was when I was there. Oh, and then I read that Birmingham City Council are trying to push through a motion to make all of the city centre a car-free zone! Wow! Good luck with that, I think it would be wonderful. In fact, as long as I can remember Birmingham's City Council has had a reputation for being very dynamic and forward thinking (probably something to do with all the ladies on the board - it's the boobs ya know) so I really hope this comes to pass. Not that it will affect me, of course, but good on them for giving it a shot!

Spaghetti Junction, Birmingham
The above is a picture of Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham. I only ever drove round it a couple of times but I think I was about 18 when I got on those roads one time and about 21 by the time I found the right exit!

In other news I've been slowly continuing my attempts to learn more about France in connection with my request for citizenship. There's a lot to learn but I honestly don't mind - I just have to park my bum and get down to it. But today at the drinks with the neighbours I asked them to name all the French presidents since the beginning of the Fifth Republic (established in 1958) and no-one could do it - so I'm pretty sure I'm on the right track then if the French don't even know the answers!

And wrapping up, I see that Kirk Douglas has finally died at the grand old age of 103. To be honest, I wasn't a fan of the man or his films. I don't have a lot of time for serial cheaters, but then I guess that was a matter between him and his wife wasn't it. Can't stand Michael either but … In any case, talk about having good genes though, with both him and his wife living in to their 100s and seemingly in reasonable health to boot. That is quite an achievement in this day and age isn't it! Not sure it's one I'd want to emulate but when you consider the alternative who knows!

Wednesday 5 February 2020


I think I'm starting to get the hang of this exercise business, well in as much as it seems to be growing on me and I don't actually hate it anymore. From my past experience with exercise I know that once I get on a roll I really begin to enjoy it eventually so I'm hoping I can keep going without anything putting the kibosh on my good intentions! And I really no longer have any excuse do I - no work, no kids, no husband! The biggest "worry" I have actually is the summer heat because I just hate it and want to crawl under a stone somewhere for at least six weeks - but we're not there yet are we!

After yoga on Monday I decided to take myself off walking as the weather looked like it might be forgiving for a little while, which indeed it was. So I took a 90 minute walk along the river Arve at Thyez, but sticking to the paved trails as it had rained a lot over the weekend and everywhere was pretty muddy. Then on Tuesday I went to my second yoga lesson of the week with my neighbour and really enjoyed this session. We've been doing quite a lot of "salutation to the sun", which I don't particularly like, but on Tuesday she had us doing "salutation to the moon", which I found more enjoyable - although I ached like billyo afterwards. Seeing me getting out of bed this morning was pitiful! Still, those aches only last as long as it takes to warm up a little and then I feel great.

Salutation to the moon

I found the above on Pinterest, although there are different variations, but of course the only person who looked anything like those photos is our teacher!! Still, if at first you don't succeed … That being said, my Monday morning teacher must be in her mid-40s and looks around 10 years younger, and my Tuesday teacher, I reckon, is in her 50s and while facially I would say she looks her age, her body is incredible - all "bendy", slim and toned! They are both great adverts for yoga, I can tell you! On the drive home my neighbour was saying that after a week "without" she starts to get stiff and miserable so I asked how she thought she was going to feel when the classes shut down for the summer. To which she asked if I would be willing to have a go at doing a yoga session with her a couple of times a week during the summer break! My, haven't we come a long way! And to think this is the lady I had to nag for two years to join me and now she can't imagine not doing it anymore! To that end, I also can't imagine "doing without" as I feel so great when I get my full quota of four different classes in during the week so I'm wondering if I should sign up for a third yoga class next year. I'll have to think about that though, I guess, as my friend warned me about over-scheduling myself during my first couple of years as a retiree!

I didn't go walking yesterday as we had our first snow fall of the year - can you believe that! Our first snow so late it's just unreal! And while it snowed fairly heavily in the afternoon and evening it was all gone this morning when I got up. I only hope the rain we had down here translated into snow up in the mountains as the skiing holidays are coming up shortly and this place will be heaving with kids on spring break! Anyway, I was feeling a bit lazy today and wasn't going to make the effort to get out walking but then I looked at my walking log for the year and realized I was so close to 100 miles in that I'd better get out there and start walking. So I went up behind the houses at the back of me and what I used to consider a complete walk took me just 45 minutes today (including uphill). Heck I must be a bloody wimp to have ever considered that strenuous, so I'm suspecting some progress is being made, however little! When I came to the end of that circuit I decided to head on out towards La Roche and added another hour to my walk and now, I'm delighted to say, I've hit 105 miles walked since 2 January. It isn't enormous by any means but it has all been "conscious" walking, spurred on by signing up to the FB challenge! And I'm loving it!

When I got back I saw that I'd received an email from a lady who runs the kiddies' craft club in the community hall where we have our sewing club. It's called the Association des Associations and there are about 20 different clubs run by the commune of Amancy. Hiking, zumba, yoga, photography, sewing, choir, belote (card game) and so on, which is quite impressive for such a small village. Anyway, this lady had got my email address from the clubs' info sheet and asked if I would like some patchwork books for the club. It's actually a sewing club, not a patchwork club (I'm the only one that does patchwork because I can't sew), but one of the younger woman asked me on Monday night if I would help her start doing simple patchwork as she loves the stuff I'm making!!! Yikes, frankly I'm rubbish at patchwork and usually have to do work-arounds because I keep messing up, but what could I say! I told her that I was learning myself but I would be glad to help her if I could. So I ran down to the community centre tonight and the email lady handed me about 30 books on patchwork, all in French (mine are mostly in English so not much use to the others) and it looks like we could well be taking off in another direction with the sewing club! And since eight of our members are new to the club this year it's been gratifying to see how friendly everyone has become - it's a nice bunch with no "difficult" members like we had last year (thankfully just one person). In fact, one of the younger women suggested we have a kind of pot luck at this Monday's sewing evening as she felt it was a shame to limit our socializing to just a Christmas dinner and an end-of-year get together. Nice huh! I have no idea what I'll make but I'm leaning towards a red velvet cake at the moment, although that could change any time between now and then!

And finally, seeing all the stuff in the news about the coronavirus bought back an incident that happened, I think, in 2003 during the SARS epidemic. Because the threat was classed as epidemic-level by the World Health Organization, they invited representatives of all the international organizations in Geneva to a meeting on how to deal with such an epidemic should the city be hit. The head of HR was invited and he asked me to go along with him! Me???? What the flip! You can't begin to imagine how I felt sitting in that huge room surrounded by all these eminent epidemiologists giving their opinions on such a serious subject in what seemed to me to be a language right out of Star Trek, although I was assured it was English! As we walked out of the room my boss actually said "Sorry, I should have introduced you to everyone but I never got the chance"!!!! Say what! I would have just died if he had 'cos, you know, me and Marie Curie weren't exactly like this:

But, after the conference, they took us to see the underground bunker that they could use in the event of a mass emergency and that was fascinating! They can stock emergency supplies of vaccines and so on and everything else that would be needed to keep things running as normally as possible in the event of a life-threatening epidemic. So my embarrassing trip to the WHO meeting actually turned into a pretty interesting time for me, but it's just as well they didn't ask my opinion on any of the "meatier" issues isn't it! And an interesting fact (and this'll show you how forward-thinking the Swiss are). All homes built after a certain date in Switzerland - although I couldn't tell you what date - have to have an emergency bunker/sleeping cell to be used in the event of a war/nuclear incident. When I first moved to Geneva in 1980 I had a lovely large studio and in the underground area where the washing machines were we all had what they call a cave, or storage area - you know, somewhere to keep your skis and bikes and so on. The doors at the entrance to these caves were one foot thick solid metal and could be closed up in the event of an incident, with the doors to the individual caves lifting off to be used as beds for the duration. Those weren't particularly sophisticated times either by today's standards so I can only imagine how much they have progressed in their preparations in the 40 years since! It sure beats what I think would be the British alternative of sitting in the middle of the road with a bottle of whiskey singing Auld Lang Syne and hoping the nuke lands directly on top of you doesn't it!

Sunday 2 February 2020

And moving swiftly on ...

So Brexit is done and dusted - for the moment at least - and thank God for that! I think just waiting has always been the worst part. I'd rather get it over with and get on with my life - a bit like ripping a sticking plaster off a scab I guess. Anyway, I had all my paperwork ready to request a carte de séjour (resident's permit) online this coming week when I see that that site has been blocked as the French are setting up a new site specifically for Brits to request their permits. This site will only be up and running come July so I guess I'll have to wait for a while then, although I did tell Jordan to get his British passport renewed as soon as possible because it expires in July. Timing is everything I guess! Apparently these new permits will have a specific indication on them that they are for Brits in France caught up in Brexit. I don't know what that will be - maybe it'll have a free tea bag stuck to the back. Still, now, at least, we can all draw breath for a while and regroup I guess!

I saw a little of the "party" that took place in London to celebrate Brexit. Again, whatevs, as they say. The only thing that tickles me is that Nigel Farage is being hailed a hero - and frankly only the Brits could come up with a hero named Nigel! I mean, if it were the Scandinavians I'm sure their hero would be a "Thor" or an "Igor" for the Eastern Europeans, but no, we got a "Nigel"! It's a bit Monty Python-esque and says it all really doesn't it! But I, for one, can't wait until the mask comes off!

Farage cartoon by Gary Barker
Anyway, moving seamlessly on, I checked my final walking log for January and came up with 94 miles walked in total, so under target but at least it's something. That being said, the weather has been crap these last few days and I've been a lazy bugger anyway (and thoroughly enjoying it) so I need to get back in the saddle pretty quickly if I'm gonna catch up at all.

So what else is new? Oh, I didn't get to see the Bee Gees tribute in Geneva in the end as it was cancelled a couple of hours before it was due to start, due to poor ticket sales I guess. It's a shame really as I'm sure they were very good, but there obviously isn't the market for that kind of thing here I suppose.

But I did get to go to a live-streaming of Porgy and Bess performed by the Met in New York last night and it was lovely! Again, I'm not a great fan of opera but some of the songs were just beautiful, as you can imagine, and the cast were wonderful. Apart from the fabulous portrayal of Porgy and Bess by Eric Owens and Angel Blue I have to admit to being quite smitten with Frederick Ballentine's Sportin' Life - I just love a wicked grin and he had it down to a fine art!

Porgy and Bess (performed by the Met)

Sportin' Life (performed by the Met)

The introduction stated that it was being simultaneously relayed in 70 countries at 2,200 theatres to an expected audience of a quarter of a million (if I remember right). The wonderful thing is that apart from not being local to these hit shows, in many cases the cost of tickets would just be prohibitive so to see this live and just down the road was a real treat!

During the interval people stayed in their seats and then pulled out their picnics - and, this being France, their bottle of red of course. A few seats over from us, they even had champagne flutes and a couple of bottles of plonk! How civilized is that! And just as importantly, in my opinion, they took all their rubbish with them and dropped it in the bins on the way out leaving a near spotless theatre with very little clean-up for the staff!

I'm not sure what the next event will be (possibly The Flying Dutchman), but I'll be sure to look out for whatever is upcoming as I think I'm hooked!

South African Golda Schultz singing "Summertime"!