The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Monday 30 March 2020

Making good use of a bag of carrots!

I bet you thought I was going to post a recipe didn't you. Well no! I just remembered I had a pretty mangy bag of carrots in the garage and then spotted the donkeys in the field at the back of my house. I thought there were only four or five of those darlins but shake a bag of carrots and nine come running up! Add to that the sunflower seeds I potted up in my living room just last week are already starting to sprout and I'm ridiculously happy. I guess I'm back to being easily pleased again. Stay safe everyone.

Sunday 29 March 2020

This and that!

So here we are again, another day older, another day wiser? Maybe, maybe not! As you might imagine, life around here isn't exactly bursting with excitement at the moment, but that doesn't really matter any more does it!

So what is new right now, if anything? Oh, on Sky News last night they showed a report on another upsetting aspect of the pandemic in Italy - as if they haven't got enough to deal with already. The northern part of Italy is the richer, more developed part of the country, while the south and Sicily depend more on agriculture and tourism. While the south doesn't (yet?) have the pandemic-level number of coronavirus cases it is being absolutely hammered by the economic consequences of shutting the country down. As the money is drying up and people's savings, if they have any, are also disappearing, they are now finding it more difficult to buy food and, in some cases, taking the law into their own hands! And to be honest, you wouldn't want to be in Sicily when people take the law into their own hands would you. One clip from the report showed a man trying to kick his way through a LIDL entrance so that they could get their hands on some food, while his mother was standing in the background begging the police officer to show some compassion. Now in this particular case the family were all living off the mother's small pension, but at that moment the bank was closed and they couldn't get their hands on any money to buy food. What a nightmare! In other instances, however, the reporter was explaining that although the government had set in motion "bail-out" cheques to help these people, many would not be eligible to receive this money since the south tended to "operate on a cash economy", and they were not, therefore, registered. I think we all know what that means don't we. But oh my goodness it struck a raw nerve in me seeing this because it does make you think (well me at least) "there but for the grace of God go I". And I know, I know, people all over the world go hungry and die every day but I think it takes something much closer to home to make it real somehow. I have a few smaller charities that I donate to every month and I also collect food for the food bank in town but at the moment, while I have a crate of food ready to go, I'm not sure about being allowed out to deliver it. They are only open on Tuesday evenings anyway so I'll have to try to get hold of them some how (so far unsuccessfully) to see if I can get down there and back without being hammered with a €135 fine for breaking curfew - money that could be much better spent on buying food don't you think!

In other news we put the clocks forward today so that was probably the only exciting event in my life this weekend - well that and moving my car over in my driveway by about 10 feet because (a) it needs to run occasionally and (b) I find the brakes seem to stick if I don't use it very often. Oh the excitement! And I saw on my 2020 calendar from the fire station that today is St. Gwladys' day. My mom's name was Gwladys and I've never seen it spelled like that outside of Wales, so maybe it is a Breton spelling too. But I guess that's just more trivia that serves no real purpose in my new daily normal!

Since I wrote yesterday about using technology to keep in touch, earlier this week I saw a clip of a group of workers in the US working from home who had set up a video-conferencing meeting. Unfortunately, one of the ladies must have forgotten it was a video-conference (I think the word "video" in "video-conferencing" was a bit of a giveaway though don't you) and she took herself off to the loo for a pee - while her horrified co-workers looked on in utter mortification. Way to go Jennifer!

And finally, again talking about "technology" issues, did anyone else see the video of the Italian priest who was trying to live-stream mass but accidentally turned the special effects on? Oh the poor sod - but what a hoot! Now that's how to make church interesting again I reckon!

Saturday 28 March 2020

Pity party over!

Well I got over myself pretty quickly last night. I knew I would anyway, but I guess I was just a bit surprised at how the news of the extended lockdown hit me. It was a pretty stupid reaction in any case because we were definitely expecting it and it's the right thing to do anyway! I suppose it was more a result of not actually speaking to anyone all day to be honest, and while mostly I'm fine with that sometimes it can be hard. Then again, as I've been sitting here reading today I've heard the neighbours having a couple of right ding-dongs so I guess we all have our crosses to bear don't we!

Anyway, this morning I sent a message to my friend asking how he was as I could tell he'd had a bellyful yesterday too. Instead of just text messaging him though I decided to video-call him on WhatsApp - only for him to answer me from the bath! Ha, I should have remembered! When he gets up he spends a good 45 minutes in the bath reading and while I figured it was late enough that he would be "decent" I obviously timed that a bit off. Oh well, no worries, he wasn't the slightest bit bothered by it and I wasn't either so we had a nice chat, which I think did us both good in the end. After about 10 minutes he said he had to go because he was running out of battery and bugger me if he didn't get up to get out of the bath just as his battery ran out. Teasing again!

After that I sent a message to my oldest son to see how they were doing. It's one week today since they got back from Thailand so I figured if they had been in contact with the virus in Thailand or on the return flight they would probably be showing symptoms by now, but he said they were both fine. They're working from home at the moment and André has another week of that but after that he has to go in to the office to work as he is on a list of "essential staff" (I guess there's a roster), ironically working at WHO. Still, with Geneva being as quiet as it is at the moment it shouldn't be too hard on him going into the office.

So all in all today was a much better day. I got some cleaning and gardening done and paid a few bills before sitting outside in the garden for an hour to just read and take in the sun's rays. It's an odd thing though as about this time every year my top bedroom seems to get an infestation of ladybirds. For a period of about three weeks, every time I go up there there are maybe 10 dead ladybirds on the floor. I guess there's something up in the roof, but I'm hoping when I get my roof done that will be taken care of too. I also found a bunch of old magazines, and the one below, in particular, has really whetted my appetite to get back out walking when this bloody pandemic is finally over, as it shows all different hikes in my local area (and even has proper maps inside)! I can't wait!

And talking of staying in touch during the pandemic, Marksgran mentioned how she was going to try to teach her mom how to use an iPhone so that they could stay in touch! Good luck with that. I know I could never have gotten my parents to use one of those things. Heck, my brother in England still can't use his (but having fingers like sausages doesn't help either). In fact, my brother in Wales who died last year was another one. He was a smart guy but his wife obviously took care of "all that technical stuff" so when she died suddenly he was lost. I remember him being delighted when I sent him an email and coached him through how to "reply" back to it. We eventually got him to use an iPhone too, although that never really took off until he met his new lady friend 18 months after my sister-in-law's death and with her being 150 miles away he had to learn how to use it. It's amazing what you can do when there's an incentive isn't it. When he finally realized he could actually leave messages on my phone it was pretty painful - you'd have thought he was in an extra in MASH, always ending his voice messages with "end of message, over and out"! I think he might have had delusions of being some kind of Rambo-figure with his new-found technical skills!

And finally, I've been watching the news on the pandemic obviously, but I've been trying not to watch it all day long. Just maybe once in the morning and once towards the end of the evening. I have to say, if I ever get caught in a pandemic again (and I hope I don't) I sincerely hope I end up on Team Cuomo! Now there's a leader! He gives the facts, sets out his plan, pulls no punches but also gives hope, I feel, and he knows his stuff. I don't know much (or anything actually) about his politics but from what I can see there's a man who can actually rise to the occasion! Very impresive!

Governor Cuomo

They've just extended the lockdown!

I knew it was going to happen but when I saw tonight that our lockdown has been extended until 15 April at the very least, it kinda knocked the wind out my sails. This is the first day of the enforced confinement that I've felt like this. I guess it's normal and I'm sure people are suffering much worse fates than I am but I have to admit the news of the extended lockdown has been a bit of a damper tonight. That being said, a couple of hours later and I'm fine. I've got loads to do around the house anyway so maybe I will go out and cut the grass tomorrow, just to get out in the sunshine. I haven't wanted to do it because it looks so pretty with the primroses and forget-me-nots but I think my mental health needs a decent workout at the moment.

I sent a message to my friend and he seemed pretty down too, but then he lives in a small place and while he goes out walking every day it's not the same when you have to stay within 1 km of your home and you can only go out for a maximum of one hour, one time during the day. So far I haven't wanted to go out walking but I think that might be next on my list of things to do also. It just feels like such a bloody pain to have to print out the attestation and fill it in just in case I get stopped!

Anyway, enough of this self-pity nonsense. I guess everyone wishes this would all be over and we could get back to our normal lives, although what "normal" will be afterwards I'm not sure. But in the end, I've no business being down. I've got a roof over my head, an income, good medical insurance and there's plenty of food in the shops. Others don't have it so lucky. And seeing that the number of cases of infection in the States has already skyrocketed to over 100,000, if we have to sit out this pandemic in our own homes for a few more weeks then so be it. Stay safe everyone. Normal service will be resumed (in about five hours I reckon. It's 2.30 a.m. here and I'm off to bed)!

Thursday 26 March 2020

Oh the stress!

Day 10 of lockdown - or at least I think it is - and it's still ok here. I still think we're going to get an extension of this lockdown though. The French government have talked about needing a six-week lockdown already, but to be honest I can see another two-week extension in five days time when this one will be over, even if they don't go for the six-week extension immediately. And if that's the only way to beat this thing then let's go for it. We don't have a choice anyway do we. Every day I check the figures worldwide and the US is, of course, fast, catching up with the leader board. It's normal of course because it's a big country with a large population, but I'm just wondering how long it will take before they get the gold medal nobody wants. Another figure that intrigues me is that Switzerland (where my son and his wife live - hence the interest) is still ahead of the UK so many days later. Switzerland has a population of around 8.5 million and the UK around 66.5 million and they are still ahead of us. Obviously there could be several reasons for this, of course. They are so many days/weeks ahead of the UK in this misery. They genuinely have bigger problems than the UK. Or they are way ahead in testing people (more likely I think). Anyway, who knows, but I think we've got a way to go before we see light at the end of this tunnel - and that's hoping that that particular light is freedom rather than a train coming in the other direction!

In amongst all the disgusting behaviour that I'm reading about I was proud to see that at last checking over 560,000 people in the UK had volunteered to "help the NHS" as of this morning, with 405,000 of them volunteering in the first 24 hours! I always knew there was a good side to people despite the appalling behaviour of some, as highlighted in the rabble-rousing of the gutter press in order to sell papers. Aside from the obvious health care professionals who are so desperately needed, they have a volunteer roster to help with transport, shopping for the quarantined, moving medical supplies around and just social contact. I would love to do something like this but so far I haven't gotten any further than the message from the lady at the Mairie telling me to take care as I live alone! I even have a crate of foodstuffs waiting to go to the food bank but can't take it there as we're not allowed out - or at least I'm not allowed out at 8 p.m. on a Tuesday night to take stuff to the food bank, which is the only time they're open! I'm sure if I got stopped I could reason with the gendarmes but I also don't want to risk a minimum €135 fine if I come across some little jobsworth who is having a bad day!

The French have now issued a new attestation giving more details as to why we are allowed out and about. I guess they're trying to stop the "24 hour a day exercisers" from being out all day long in their sweat pants, rather than the one hour time we are allotted. We now have to give our address (so they can calculate if we are more than 1 km away from home "exercising") and the time at which we left home. I don't mind that at all but it's kind of sad that they have to dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s to this point because a few can't show common sense. It did tickle me a bit though because they have now updated the list of "essential" shops allowed to stay open to include the tabac (tobacconist's) and the off licence (in the UK - where they sell booze). I suppose if booze and ciggies help people get through this then so be it. I reckon in about nine months' time we might also see a sharp increase in the birth rate but … great! Sadly, this also seems to be the kind of situation where the incidence of domestic violence also increases, for obvious reasons. The only thing I can say is I'm so glad to be going through this alone and that someone, somewhere is going through this with my ex - and it ain't me!

I also saw on the local Geneva news this morning that the Swiss have chartered a plane (paid for by an anonymous individual) to send about 100 Roma gypsies back to Romania. This came about because, well, there is nobody in the streets any more to beg from and they want to go back to Romania where they have homes and a livelihood! So the Swiss jumped on the opportunity, an anonymous individual stepped in to pay for it, and voilà!

As for me, I'm just puttering along daily and still doing fine. To be honest, if I have to get quarantined anywhere I could do a lot worse than here, and I know many aren't as lucky. I actually got most of my Kaffe Fassett mystery quilt put together and am ready to start quilting. Now I haven't enjoyed this at all, mainly because I actually don't like the original design (but wasn't to know that at the time, hence the word "mystery" in mystery quilt) and because I can't cut straight to save my life. But after much blood, sweat, swearing and improvisation that thing is laid across my living room floor while I'm crawling over it in shorts and clean socks trying to tack it together by hand until I can get it under the machine to quilt. Kaffe Fassett would probably roll in his grave (if he were dead, which he isn't at time of writing but who knows) at my version of his mystery quilt but hey, what can I say!

What Kaffe Fasset had in mind

My version - I must have read the instructions wrong!
And in other news, when I was making the brownies for my neighbour the other day my hand-held mixer started playing up. Not surprising really, I suppose, because I reckon my parents gave me that when I first moved to Switzerland in 1980 so it owes me nothing does it. Anyway with my newly-acquired zen attitude I decided to sit outside in the sunshine on my terrace and take that baby apart. Well, I'm not surprised it was playing up! While I obviously clean it after every use, when I took it apart I was amazed at how much dust and muck had accumulated over the years! I got an old toothbrush and cleaned that thing out and put it back together, but seriously! I'm not surprised I feel "bunged up" in the morning (not that I sleep with the mixer of course) and blame it on hay fever!!! I mean, how much dust is hidden from sight in our daily lives even if we consider ourselves "clean"? And talking of dust, I decided to further my zen mindset and have been doing a bit of yoga every day following "Yoga with Adrienne" on YouTube. I can highly recommend her as she's great! Except, that yesterday, as I was lying on the floor doing my bit with Adrienne, all I could focus on was the bloody dust and cobwebs underneath the furniture! Damn! Maybe I'm not quite as laid back as I thought!

And then to add to my stress, I went out grocery shopping today and everything was fine - more than fine actually - at first. No queues, no worries anywhere, except I can't find my teabags! I know!!!! What's a Brit gonna do without her teabags???? I guess that patronising book I gave my kids making fun of the Brits who travel abroad with their emergency supply of teabags is ringing a bit hollow now isn't it!

And finally, my "Walk 1,000 Miles in 2020" walking group is having "technical" issues as you can imagine, with people no longer allowed to go out walking - well maybe within a 1 km radius but that's a helluva lot of "walking round the garden" isn't it. Anyway, yesterday on FB one of the group said that since we were all in the same boat did anyone want to contribute stories about how horrible they/their siblings were to each other when they were growing up. There were a couple that made me laugh. One woman described how their family had gone camping and she and her brother smuggled chocolate fingers (biscuits) into their other sister's sleeping bag and the next morning her sister woke up and thought she'd shat herself!!! And then another one, in a similar, classy vein, mentioned how she'd licked melted Mars bars out of a (clean) nappy to the horror of her siblings. I know, I know, we're a classy lot we Brits aren't we! So I chimed in that when I was about 10, my older sister told me that if I shaved my eyebrows and cut off my eyelashes they would grow back twice as strong! Well guess who did it!! Thankfully they grew back but I walked around looking like a frickin' lizard for about a month and never forgave her! Siblings, don't you just love 'em!

Tuesday 24 March 2020

A closed casket!

The news about the virus isn't getting any better is it - no surprises there, I guess. Italy had a "relatively" improved day yesterday with a dip in the number of deaths but it soon went up again today, sadly, with Spain looking to be hot on their heels. I saw on the news tonight that they have actually taken over an ice rink in Madrid to use as a makeshift morgue now. It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better isn't it!

Later in the news broadcast they were showing the plight of people trapped overseas (Brits in this case) and desperately trying to get back, with flights being cancelled left, right and centre. One poor family were trying to get home from Thailand but having just spent the last 24 hours in Bangkok Airport trying to get on a replacement flight they were getting nowhere fast. They could get a flight in a couple of days' time at a cost of £12,000!!!!! but, as they said, they didn't have that kind of money. Eventually (and I would probably say provisionally because who knows if "confirmed" flights will be cancelled between now and then) they managed to get a flight out on Sunday at an additional cost of just £2,000! But today is only Tuesday so what are they going to do between now and then? I can only thank the heavens above that my kids managed to get out of there when they did, and on their already scheduled flights. Again, as I say, this is just another facet of what is already a nightmare situation!

In better news they announced on the British news tonight that so far 35,000 volunteers have come forward to help out the NHS. That number is made up of retired doctors and nurses of course, but also medical students and interns in their final year of medicine. That's an amazing number of volunteers and the number is still rising. In addition, a nationally-organized volunteer scheme has been set up where people can volunteer in areas outside the medical field but where there is still a need, so hopefully some kind of order is being brought to the current madness.

Then this afternoon Ireland announced stronger lockdown measures to deal with the crisis, in addition to relief measures to be undertaken. I didn't catch all of it but one thing that struck me was that they had come to an agreement with private medical facilities and their staff to step in and work with the public sector on a not-for-profit basis to get them through this. In addition, there was guaranteed coverage by the government of unemployment pay (up to what sounded like a pretty generous limit), as well as a ban on all rent increases and evictions "for the duration". Over here I was expecting to hear President Macron speak tonight but ultimately we got the Minister for Health giving information on what is going on and, I believe, softening us up in time for an extension of the current lockdown for up to a possible six weeks! While I'm not thrilled at the idea of a six week lockdown, if that's what it takes to defeat this thing then that's what it takes - which made me all the more horrified to hear that Trump is pushing to get people back to work after two weeks against the advice of his medical advisors! I suppose, ultimately, if that happens only time will tell whether the "two week" or the "six week" roll of the dice was the correct one, won't it!

As for me, I'm still jumping from one project to the next but enjoying getting odds and sods done.  Even if I'm not making huge headway on any one particular thing at the moment that's just the way I roll. When I get fed up of sewing I stop and go down to the basement to work. Then when I've had enough of that I go out to the garden for a bit. As today is my neighbour's birthday (the wife), I decided to make up for my appalling cookies intended for her husband's birthday and make a batch of my "no fail" brownies. When they were done I ran round to their front door and played "Thunder and Lightening"! You remember playing that as a little kid right? Knock on the door like thunder and then run like lightening? Or was that just me? Anyway, she was delighted that I had remembered her birthday so while I was out back working on my raised beds a while later she wandered over to thank me (our back gardens are all open) - stopping a good 10 metres away of course. I was "shit shovelling" at the time as I was trying to empty some of the sludgy compost onto my raised beds but somehow that stuff had taken on the consistency and smell of horse muck and I was having a hard time of it. But then from beyond the hedge over at my other neighbours we could hear them barking out orders to each other. She'd say "but the hole is right in front of you" and he'd say "well just grab it with both hands"! So she'd yell back "you're behaving like we've never done this before"! At which point I commented to my neighbour that they were apparently making a porn movie! Well she got a fit of the giggles and the game was up. Turns out they were trying to put a new cover on their outdoor parasol but weren't having much luck! It's amazing how your mind plays tricks on you when you've been kept in isolation though isn't it!

I decided to become a proper little old lady too today as I finally dragged a card table upstairs into my TV room in order to do a "wasgij" I've had sitting around for ages (that also sounds like it has "porn movie" connotations doesn't it, but not a bit of it)! A "wasgij" is a jigsaw puzzle where the finished jigsaw uses the same characters but looks only slightly like the picture on the box. We'll see how long it takes me I guess. Additionally, in the "pass time" arena, I picked up a freebie book in English at my pilates class the other week and I have to admit I'm quite enjoying it. It's an easy read and I like his style, even though I'd never heard of this author before. I'm not sure if it's the kind of book you might like but I would definitely give it a thumbs up!

And while I know there's nothing funny about the coronavirus, there have been a few black humour stories/events all the same. One guy was saying how ridiculous it was to have a sign saying "wash your hands" at the entrance to the motorway. I mean, can you imagine getting pulled over by the motorway cops with your hands in a bucket of water singing two verses of God Save The Queen! And I also spotted the "Italian mayors' rants" that is doing the rounds at the moment too. As I say, while there is nothing funny about this pandemic, some of the things these mayors came out with were hilarious - unintentionally maybe - but hilarious nonetheless! And here I would point out that while I am indeed learning Italian I'm not quite at the level of understanding these guys so I took the translation from the sub-titles - and apologize in advance for the language. Well one mayor was going absolutely ballistic about people not respecting lockdown and "no, having your hairdresser come to your home instead of going to the salon does not constitute an essential or urgent necessity! You'll be in a goddamn closed casket so nobody will be looking at your hair"! Again, sorry about the language, but somehow that just about sums it all up doesn't it!

Sunday 22 March 2020

Day seven!

Under normal circumstances I guess we'd be almost half way through our 15 day lockdown here in France, but in all honesty these aren't normal circumstances are they and I fully expect that lockdown will be extended. What can I say! I realize exactly how lucky I am compared to so many people who are worried about their or their loved ones health and/or financial stability, so for me to complain would be unforgiveable. I have no intention of complaining anyway as I really am just fine. Maybe the truth is that I'm just antisocial as these past seven days being alone haven't bothered me at all. I do now have a lovely clean terrace and even though the temperature dropped today I spent a couple of hours outside weeding as it was good to get some fresh air. I also rather optimistically set up a few pots with tomato and courgette seeds to start off in my living room but - and don't laugh - I'm actually thinking I might lug one of my little old el cheapo greenhouses up into my bathroom and set it up in there for the seedlings. It's a large, bright and sunny room which retains the heat so I reckon they might do well there and hey, I live on my own and have no-one to impress anyway so why not!

I mentioned before that I went out grocery shopping on Friday and it was really fine - not really any shortages and plenty of fresh fruit and veg, which makes the images I see of empty shelves and people lining up outside the shops in the UK all the more saddening! What the heck is that all about? My sister and her husband got back from Spain on Friday and she said that although they stayed in while they were there, again there were no shortages in the stores!! Shame on (some) Brits for such selfish behaviour! My sister and her husband will be staying indoors for a couple of weeks, of course, and like the rest of the country just have to get on with it. André and Lily made it back safely from Thailand on Saturday on their regular, scheduled flight and again they will be working from home in Switzerland and self-isolating. I'm just relieved they're all back home safely. I found out today that three colleagues have now tested positive for the virus and one person has lost a family member in Spain so it really is hitting close to home now!

André and Lily travelling home
We have to have this attestation de déplacement on us every time we go out!

I have been watching the British government's nightly update on the situation and while I will never be a Bojo fan I have to say I'm impressed by the people he surrounds himself with, in particular Professor Chris Whitty, the UK's Chief Medical Officer. Although having a bit of a Mr. Bean appearance I've found him impressive and reassuring when giving his opinions and answering questions in an extremely composed and stiff upper lip kinda way! I suppose the good news at least is that Bojo doesn't keep firing his experts!

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer
When I came in this evening I thought I may as well sit down and do some Italian homework that our teacher sent us. Just a couple of short stories to read and answer questions on so that took up another hour before I headed down to cook dinner. Another thing that surprises me though is that restaurants and cafés are closed in the UK now but they can still supply take-out meals! I suppose it surprises me because you have a snowflake's chance in hell of getting a take-out meal over here at any time, not just during a pandemic!!! Don't get me wrong, I'm glad these businesses can continue to provide this service for those who might need it, but it's just such an anathema to me because take-out doesn't exist here. There are no grocery store deliveries either. Maybe in Switzerland but not around here, so it's just not something we can count on. But what also surprises me still is how so many people just can't cook. I don't mean that they don't cook, but that they can't cook! I remember years ago meeting a colleague's sister who was over here on vacation. She had four kids and told me she never, ever cooked! Never! I think my jaw just dropped as I couldn't get my mind around the idea of never cooking for your family - or that such a thing was even possible! I suppose knowing the rudiments of how to cook went out the window at the same time as home economics classes did in school sad to say! What a loss those classes were. Both boys and girls at my school had to do at least three months each of woodwork, metalwork, sewing and cooking. We can't all be boffins can we and I really feel the loss of those classes did no-one any favours (although I was crap at metalwork, I have to admit)!

In other news I see that the UK put out a call to retired nurses and doctors to come back into service and so far 4,000 nurses and 500 doctors have stepped up to the plate. Given the fairly recent dispute between the government and junior doctors about their contracts I seriously hope that everyone remembers what these people are doing for us all right now, in particular when it comes to giving them the salaries they deserve!

In other news I had the weirdest message on my phone this evening. Around October last year I mentioned that I thought something might be wrong with my friend Brian in England as in the 10 years we had known each other he had never forgotten my birthday, always contacted me on Remembrance Sunday and always sent me a Christmas card - until last year, that is! I sent messages and tried his number but got nowhere, so given his age and his recent ill health I could only assume the worst. Well tonight I received a forwarded message from his number. It was a copy of a letter written to the Irish Times re the coronavirus. From Brian!!!!! So I wrote back and said "Brian???? Is that you????" and so far, several hours later, I've not received an answer. It's a bit like a couple of years ago when I woke up in the middle of the night to a "thumbs up" message from Ian, my friend in Bulgaria who died so suddenly about three years ago. In all honesty I think it's just a fluke, maybe a spam message or something, as I really think Brian would get in touch if he were able to, but it was definitely weird, and I still have the message on my phone, unlike Ian's message which disappeared after a few minutes! Maybe it was just Brian telling me to stay safe. I like to think so!

The big "joke's on you" I just read about is that Boris Johnson's father, Stanley, has applied for French citizenship on the grounds that his late mother was French!!! If that goes through it would allow Bojo and his siblings to also apply (his sister broke the news and is already rubbing her hands with glee apparently). So there you have it, another Brexiteer in the land of I'm all right Jack!

And finally, the UK is still not in total lockdown and the city of London is still open for business, with people simply being advised to maintain social distancing. Trouble is, while most people will indeed do the right thing some idiots will continue to believe the rules don't apply to them and ruin it for everyone. Just like the bloody idiot YouTube wannabe who, although not a Brit, must be a candidate for the Darwin Awards for the most stupid thing to do in her desperate search for fame. Apparently this "aspiring model" (aren't they all) and two-time guest on Dr. Phil, "took up the coronavirus challenge" and videoed herself licking the toilet seat on an airplane, all in the eternal quest for YouTube glory! Natural selection at its best (I hope)!

Thursday 19 March 2020

Day three and going strong!

Well it's day three of lockdown here and everything's going just fine. Well more than fine, strangely enough, because I've had this long list of things that need doing for ages and I'm finally starting to tick a few off. Now given that I no longer go out to work and in normal times only have a few hours' activities a week, I'm just wondering why my list ever got to be this long in the first place. But it's quite satisfying actually getting down to some of the nitty gritty. Yesterday I spent another couple of hours pressure-spraying the front of my house and hosing down the balcony, so that's the pressure spray put away (hopefully) for another 12 months! Then today I decided I was finally going to fill in a few of the holes in the concrete paving on my terrace. They've been there for a while but of course pressure-spraying showed up a few more eroded spots so I lugged a bag of quick-setting cement up from the basement (set like a brick already for the most part) and after bashing the hell out of it with a crowbar and a lump hammer I made up a small bucket of cement and starting "trowelling" it into the holes. It didn't look very good until I got water and a cloth and started tamping it down and now, while it's hardly a professional job, it definitely looks better than it did before and will hopefully stop bugging me every time I see it. To be honest though, I could probably have just mixed up another batch of that dreadful cookie mix I made for my neighbour the other week and used that - I bet the crazy paving would never move again after that!

I've also been trying out a few new vegetarian recipes as "going veggie" is something I'm quite interested in. I don't think I'll ever really go totally vegetarian but I am more and more drawn to that way of eating, all the more so since watching the documentaries Forks Over Knives and Food Inc. recently. I just feel more and more that meat is not really necessary in our diets and the inhumane way in which so many of our animals are raised and slaughtered makes me want to try to eliminate meat as much as possible. Trouble is, at the moment everything seems to be "chickpea curry" , or some version of it, and while I love chickpeas there is a limit. So today I spent a fair bit of time cooking yellow dahl lentils with aubergine and tomatoes. I'm not totally sold on it (maybe too much tomato sauce) so the jury's still out on that one. I did, however, use up the mushrooms I had stuffed at the back of my fridge to make garlic mushrooms - now they were delicious (but it's probably just as well I live alone - all that garlic you see). Still in addition to keeping vampires away I'm hoping it will also keep the coronavirus away - well that and turmeric maybe!

Earlier this afternoon I sent a quick message to the lady I know at the village Mairie and said that I was able-bodied and had time on my hands if there was any way I could be of help. She wrote back and said at the moment everything was pretty quiet but if I knew anyone near me who was living alone I might want to check in on them. So I gave it some thought and the only person I can think of near me who lives alone is me! Ha, job done then! But with that in mind I thought I'd better check in on my brother in England who also lives alone. I never usually call him because he is a technophobe, doesn't really know how to use his phone and in any case he stutters so he hates using it. But I had a quick chat with him anyway to see if he was ok and mentioned he might want to get a few bits and bobs in "just in case"! I know he's fine really but with my sister away I thought I'd better let him know he could call me if he was worried about anything. In any case, my sister and her husband finally made it back from Spain today on what they were calling a "repatriation flight". That's good news as the Spaniards have told all tourists it's time to leave the country as they are shutting all the hotels down! So one down, just the other one to go then!

I had a good long chat with "the other one" yesterday - i.e. my son who's in Thailand with his wife. I guess he was bored because we got into a rather political debate about the state of US politics. I shouldn't do it really but I quite enjoy a good banter with him. He is very politically-minded and I would say pretty well informed. He once told me that he not only listened to US news stations (as well as the BBC), but also to Al Jazeera, because if you wanted to know the real truth you had to hear a story from all sides didn't you. I thought that was pretty smart actually. Anyway, I can't say he's pro-Trump but he is just so disgusted with the Democrats it makes his blood boil. Says that all this in-fighting and behaving as badly as Trump (as though they were on reality TV) has done them no favours and risks losing them the next election as he genuinely thinks Trump will get back in!!! As you can imagine, it was an interesting discussion. As I say, he is very politically-minded and can diplomatically debate with anyone. He actually once had a protracted discussion with his very conservative American grandma about why abortion should be legalized - and she said that although she could never agree with him it was lovely to have such a spirited (but respectful) discussion with her own grandson! Anyway, hopefully he and Lily will be on their flights out of Thailand tomorrow night. At the moment everything looks to be on track, thank goodness!

I think I might take a trip out to the grocery store tomorrow to get fresh stuff as long as there are no queues (with my attestation in case I get stopped)! If that fails, I'm good. I have no idea whether or not they have paper products or soap in stock (I suspect they will, although not as much as normal) but I'm good anyway. And then it occurred to me, when I ended up emptying out the farmhouse my ex abandoned in 2015 I gave all the decent linens/towels etc. to charity, keeping the tattier stuff in my spare bedroom to cut up for rags. Well five years later and I'm nowhere near through using it all up (he had a lot of stuff, as you can imagine). Whenever I'm cleaning I just cut up a few more rags and throw them afterwards but here I am five years later and I've hardly made a dent in my pile! Crikey. My mom always used to say you can tell "posh" people because they actually buy their rags instead of cutting up their old sheets. I guess we weren't posh then and I'm still not now 'cos those unposh rags are still going strong!

My friend is already having a hard time in isolation, it would seem, because yesterday he sent me a message to say "temperature 34° and I'm bored out my mind"! I knew it! He lives in a small apartment so I guess there's not much he can be doing around the house. He does a lot of consulting work on international trade law now he's retired but I guess that's not enough to keep him busy either right now. I mentioned that I had thought of inviting him over here to wait out the quarantine with me but then thought the better of it as I was afraid one of us might murder the other stuck in close quarters for too long! He pretended to be offended but we both know that's the truth. So in the meantime he's bored and I'm loving it! While I know there's an awful lot of unhappiness going to come out of this coronavirus madness, I'm also kinda hoping that maybe, just maybe, people might learn to slow down and enjoy the quieter things in life. Who knows. Certainly the basic goodness of some people is starting to show too. I saw today that two of the UK's top footballers are going to open up hotels that they own in the London area to be used by exhausted NHS (medical) workers free of charge so that they don't have to struggle to get home after long shifts! As I say, bad times bring out the worst in some people but also the best in others!

I also saw a couple of things on the net that tickled me too this morning. One young woman had been house-sitting for a family she didn't know and posted that while the house was lovely they had the weirdest soap ever - it didn't lather and was in fact very unpleasant to wash with. She found out later that they had left a chunk of cheese out near the sink by accident before going away and she had been washing her hands with it!

Then I read another story about an American couple travelling in Scotland who were absolutely rhapsodizing about the place - about everything, that is, except the soap they found in their room. They said it was grainy, didn't lather at all and left their hands scratched and blotchy. When they mentioned it to the hotel manager he burst out laughing as they'd been washing their hands with traditional Scottish shortbread!

And finally, talking of "supplies" I just had to post this picture for Dave. Dave I saw this and thought of you. Hope your dogs are better behaved!

Tuesday 17 March 2020


Well for us, at least, it started at noon today. So from today, and for the next 15 days, we have to self-isolate at home. There are exceptions, of course, and people will be allowed to leave their homes but you have to have a signed attestation de déplacement on you at all times. That basically is a form signed by yourself (wording proposed by the French government website) to say that you are out and about because (a) you need to get to work, (b) you need to buy essential supplies (groceries, medicines, etc.), (c) you need to take care of a vulnerable person, or (and this is the best one) (d) you've got to take the dog for a poop! Well it's not quite stated like that but I guess they know that people need to take their dogs out and people also feel the need to get out in the fresh air and exercise so we can actually go out for our jog (fat chance of me doing that) or walk but it must be local, we must be alone, and we must have that attestation on us. Failure to produce it gets a €38 fine, which can increase to over €100 for repeat offenders, so it's just as well to print it or copy it out and do the necessary I guess!

I had yoga yesterday morning and decided afterwards to go out for what turned out ultimately to be a "last hurrah" walk for a while. I took myself off to a place called Passy and spent a very pleasant hour or so walking round a couple of small lakes round there. But wouldn't you know it, all the skiers have gone home because they've closed the resorts a month early, the price of petrol is going down and down, the weather is glorious - and we're all now stuck at home! Sod's law, I guess, but it's a small price to pay even though I'm pretty sure the lockdown will be extended beyond the 15 day initial timeframe!

Lac des Ilettes

I spoke to Jordan yesterday and he will be going in to work, but the company they get most of their supplies from in Italy have already told them they have ceased production for the time being, so I don't know how long he will be properly employed. In any case he should get 70% of his salary whether he works or not but somehow I can see them finding plenty for him to do. Jen, as a nurse, is definitely going to be in full-time employment but she has also been put on a reserve list as a replacement for the hospital near me in La Roche in case of necessity. She hopes it doesn't come to moving here because she loves where she is currently working and even though she liked working in La Roche before she hated the administrators there, so I hope she can end up staying where she is. At this point it's out of her hands though isn't it!

I booked myself in for my regular monthly facial about 10 days ago which was very nice of course. Then the next day I found myself hacking bits off my hair with my sewing scissors so I dashed in to town to get it cut by a professional before I did any more damage. Then, remember when I left work and my colleagues very generously gave me a gift box as a leaving present? Well I chose an entry into a hot springs in Geneva with a massage to follow from that gift box, but what I hadn't realized was that there was a second free entry into the hot springs, to be used within one year. Well one year was up on 17 March 2020 so I also booked myself in for another massage last week - just in time, as it turns out, because since yesterday there is no more "non-essential" crossing of the Franco-Swiss border either!

My sister and her husband were caught short by this coronavirus and are in Spain at the moment and - we hope - have managed to get a flight out of there on Thursday. They are staying in their own small home there anyway so hotels are not a worry but in times like these I think everyone would prefer to be "at home" wouldn't they. My oldest son and his wife are in Thailand too. They booked it as a third anniversary trip and are loving it, although are somewhat "concerned" about the new travel ban. They've been in touch with the Swiss Embassy in Bangkok who told them that while things are ok there at the moment they should get back to Geneva as soon as possible. Today's flight out was fully booked and for Thursday's flight they wanted 3,000 Swiss francs ($3,000) one-way! Can you believe it! Their original return flight leaves on Friday anyway so they are sticking with that, but will keep the Embassy up-to-date if necessary. They've also looked at local air BnBs on the island and they say there are plenty if they get stuck, but it seems at the moment that Thailand is not overly affected by the virus (so far). Still, I'll be glad to see them safely home too!

My trip to Holland to see the tulips has gone down the pan of course so I'm waiting to see if they will reimburse or how that will work out. Can't be helped though can it. There does seem to be a fair amount of solidarity here with people offering to help older and more vulnerable people out - which is always nice to see! You hear so much about the bad side of the hoarding (not that I've seen any as yet, to be honest) and the nastiness and probably not enough about the good side of things do you. Like the florist who walked round giving away all his unsold stock today at lockdown!

And talking of "little ol' ladies", my lovely Tunisian friend from work called me yesterday to see if I was ok, what with me being a "little ol' lady living on her own"! Cheeky bugger - but it was very sweet of him anyway. All the more so since this little ol' lady decided if she was gonna be stuck at home for a couple of weeks it was time to knock some of the "must do" jobs off the list. So with that in mind I spent three hours pressure spraying the muck off my back terrace today, and very satisfying it was too. Well, satisfying for the first couple of hours but by hour three I was starting to get wet and slightly cold (in addition to having a face full of muck and crap) so I was glad when I finally finished up. To be honest my face is "as red as a turkey cock's arse" tonight (as my dad used to say), probably due to the wind blowing all that crud in my face, so in retrospect I probably could have done without the facial the other week!

The winter muck!

Almost done cleaning!
When I was looking through my bathroom cabinet for eye drops (got muck in my eyes from the pressure spraying) I realized I'd also got a couple of bottles of rubbing alcohol in there too, as well as a couple of (very old) disinfectant scrubs. Then, when I was reading Frugal in Istanbul's blog today (I can highly recommend it) she mentioned Turkish lemon cologne/sanitizer and I realized I actually had a bottle of it in my kitchen all this time. I bought it last time I was in Turkey as I loved it and the bloody thing has been staring me in the face all this time. So now I'm set to go, not that I'll bother with it at home as that's what soap and water is for, but it's good to have it in my bag just in case, or if the kids' need it!

I've got plenty of food in the house but I'll be curious to see what the situation is like when I do go out shopping (attestation in hand) later this week, or maybe even next week for fresh stuff. I suspect it won't be too bad anyway once people realize that supplies are not going to run out. Either way I'll not starve. Interestingly, the other week I intended to make stuffed cannelloni but realized I didn't have any ricotta when I got home. What I did have, though, was Boursin à l'ail (soft, garlic-flavoured cheese) so I used that instead and it was really good. I might get a bit sick of it by day 15 but what can I say, food is food isn't it!

And finally, you know how FB suggests people you might know. Well at the moment it's going slightly mad because apparently I "might know" half the Indian sub-continent - or so it seems. I just delete all those suggestions but I had to laugh at the two I saw today. As it turns out I don't know either of them, but looking at the trout pout on the left and the dog on the right I think I prefer the dog!

Saturday 14 March 2020

Winding down!

Like most people, I guess, I'm tired of thinking about the coronavirus. And yet .... and yet, we really do have to keep up with it don't we. It's such a big thing that it would be foolish not to. That being said, I don't see the point of going into total panic (at least not where I am) and having sleepless nights about it. As I said yesterday, all of France is in partial lockdown as from Monday but (so far) it's still not total lockdown, as in parts of Italy. Frankly I would hate that as I know I would get cabin fever if I couldn't go out, but needs must I suppose. I remember when my oldest was born in the States, I came home on the second day and was told to keep him indoors for about 10 days. Well I couldn't do that. Cabin fever - being told I couldn't go out - meant that I took him out almost immediately. Not far and not to crowded areas, but once someone told me I couldn't do something that was it. I suppose if we do go to total lockdown I'll have no choice, but so far so good! I made the mistake last night of watching Trump's speech in which he declared a state of national emergency. Two things struck me - it would seem that nobody ever taught the guy to read aloud because although he was reading from a script half the time it was difficult to understand what he was saying as reading aloud involves, you know, a certain fluidity to your speech so that people can follow what you're saying doesn't it. But the biggest thing that bothered me were the two "nodding dogs" at the back. You know those nodding dogs that you used to see in people's cars? Well Pence and the blond woman (sorry, I've no idea who she is) kept nodding sagely at everything he said like they were hanging on to pearls of wisdom and I find it kinda weird that my only take from it was the nodding dogs!

Today I received word that my Tuesday afternoon yoga classes have been cancelled "until further notice" - which probably isn't a bad thing as maybe that will give the teacher a chance to claw back some mental sanity - I don't know. The next cancellation was my Italian classes. They're now cancelled until 30 April, and since my teacher was also off sick for a month recently I think I'm totally screwed for hooking up with a sexy Italian, given that the sum total of my Italian conversation at the moment would seem to be "at what time does the train to Milan leave?" (Side note, the answer to that question is probably "not at all at the moment"!).

So yesterday I decided to take a walk up in the mountains as the weather was half-way decent and I needed the fresh air. On the way up there I stopped off at a new-to-me store called Fresh which, as the name would suggest, sells only fresh goods, but by golly it was a great place. The meat, cheese and produce looked wonderful and was cheaper than my local haunts, so I might be doing my main shopping there for the duration of the market closures!

After that I headed up to the Lac Vert for a little wander and it really was lovely. It's a very small green lake (as the name suggests) but stunningly pretty, although I couldn't get good pictures on my phone so had to use google images to show you. As an aside, the last time I went up here was about 20 years ago with my friend's parents. I was walking round the lake behind her mom when she unfortunately let out a rather loud fart. I didn't want to embarrass her so didn't react, but when we got back to the cars she leaned over to me and in her rather posh English accent thanked me for pretending not to hear! Ah, I love her mom!

Le Lac Vert

As I haven't been up there for years I wasn't sure I was on the right road so I stopped part way up to check. When I pulled over I noticed a book on a bench in the layby and went over to have a look, thinking that someone had forgotten it. But no, someone had left a bible there. It seemed in reasonable shape when I took a look at it but I don't suppose it will stay dry for long. It was a nice touch though!

As I was driving back I got a text message from my eldest asking if I was ok as he had heard things were "rough" in Europe! When I said I was fine but where was he he told me that he and his wife were in Thailand and worried about closed borders when it came to coming back. Said they were keeping up-to-date with the Swiss Government information site since the Swiss are effectively closing their borders to non-essential travellers right now! And I didn't even know the little bugger was away! When he told me to stock up just in case I just laughed as I can usually feed an army even on a normal day so I told him not to worry! Add to that that my sister is currently in Spain and wondering if they will be allowed to leave on Friday it's all go at the moment. At least they have no worries about where to stay if they get stuck because they are staying in the small home they own out there!

And I note with satisfaction that Weinstein finally got his come-uppance. 23 years!!! Yes!!! While some people will say many of these women used his advances to further their careers there is no doubt in my mind that 100 women accusing this guy proves that the jury made the right decision, so I, for one, am glad (and surprised) to see him go down. These rich, powerful guys think they're invincible - and it's a good day when the little people fight back and win. Actually, many moons ago, I worked for a company where one of the top guys was an evil, narcissistic bastard. He treated everyone - in particular the "little people" - like shit and it was a happy day for all of us when he retired. Buuuut, about 10 years later HR received a letter from him. He had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and in this letter (if I remember right) he almost apologized for his behaviour. I say "almost" because I can't remember the exact wording of it, but maybe - just maybe - it was an act of contrition on his part. At the time I just blanked my mind out to it because I didn't even want to think about him as he had been such a nasty, evil piece of work. Now, many years later and maybe with hindsight and compassion on my side, I can try to see it as an apology rather than the last ditch, "save my soul" bid of a nasty dying man. Who knows, although I doubt anyone will feel that way about Weinstein, even though his lawyer tried to get him off with just five years because he is a "sick man". His "illness" didn't stop him abusing his power at the time did it!

And finally, I had so many plans for today and basically did bugger all. I mentioned before that I completed Dry January and basically just kept going. I think I've had maybe four glasses of wine (and a rum punch) since December, but today I felt like just doing nothing so I sat outside for a while in my back garden just looking at the mountains and opened a bottle of wine, just for the hell of it. And you know what, listening to the Gipsy Kings with a glass of wine was just magic and all seemed well with the world - even if it wasn't!

Thursday 12 March 2020

And there you have it!

About an hour ago President Macron went on TV to announce that as from Monday all nurseries, schools, colleges and universities will be closed until further notice. They are now also looking at closing borders and Haute Savoie (where I live) is one of four regions where free movement will be severely restricted. He has asked over 70s, in particular, to stay home as much as possible and assured people/businesses that the State will pick up the tab when people are unable to work. So now we know!

I went to pilates this morning and was somewhat surprised to see that the market was on as I had thought that markets were being closed down for the duration. That being said, I understand that markets in Haute Savoie will, indeed, be stopped as from Monday. Those poor people - can you imagine being prevented from making a living "until further notice"! There were far fewer people at the market than usual but at least it was on today. After that I went grocery shopping and I have to say I didn't really notice any shortages. Plenty of tp, maybe slightly less well-stocked shelves of rice, pasta and couscous, but not really anything that noticeable!

On a whim I looked up the exchange rate and sure enough the Swiss franc is starting to soar as in times of crisis other currencies traditionally take refuge in the Swiss franc. It's now at it's highest level against the euro in decades (SF 1.05/€1 right now) and US$1 will now only get you 0.94 Swiss francs. To give you an idea, when we got married my ex was paid in US$ and at the time it would have bought him SF 2.50!!! Even if you never leave your home country such roller-coaster rides in currencies makes a helluva difference. For me, for instance, since my pension is paid in Swiss francs, I will make more money when I change it into euros. But it makes Swiss exports and tourism more expensive, and imports into Switzerland cheaper. The downside of the strong Swiss franc is that interest rates on savings in Swiss francs are negative (and have been for quite some time). So you're actually paying the bank to keep your Swissies safe!! What a mess this whole situation is, but ultimately I'm sure this lockdown is probably the right thing to do. I'm just glad I don't have any travel plans!

That being said, yet again I can only say how relieved I am that I no longer have to worry about work and day care. Others, sadly, are not so lucky. So with that in mind I am going to use this "free" time to try to get in more exercise/walking, as well as more sorting, decluttering and sewing as the weather is supposed to pick up (hopefully). At this point I'm not even sure if our yoga classes/sewing club will be allowed to meet as from Monday. What can I say! Hang in there everyone and stay safe!

Tuesday 10 March 2020


Well there's a surprise (not). As of today the entire country of Italy is now in lockdown - so over 60 million people, assuming they're all home! Crikey, that was quick, but maybe it was the right thing to do. Again I'm not totally sure how this is supposed to work but from what I understand public transport will still be running and people will be allowed to go to work and to shop for groceries but other than that I don't know. I imagine some people won't be able to work and will therefore not get paid but then how will that work for them? And how many people are just one pay check away from financial disaster already? On the positive side I see that the Government has issued a debt moratorium for the time being so that people won't have to worry about making their mortgage payments at least! That's got to be some relief but is it enough?

On a whim I looked up the website of the Mont Blanc tunnel which links Italy and France by cutting through the Mont Blanc. I was pretty surprised to see that as of today cars, campers and buses are still being allowed through but trucks over 3.5 tons are not! I was talking to my neighbour about that and neither of us could figure out the logic of not allowing goods and perishables through but then allowing people to travel! Beats me!

Then yesterday I received an email from my nephew and his girlfriend has been at home sick (in Liverpool) for about a week now and they're thinking she might have the virus. There has also apparently been a confirmed case at work, which isn't such a surprise in itself, I guess, in an organization with over 700 staff and constant meetings/visitors. I don't know what the plans are at work but I imagine it's time for people to be working from home and cancelling meetings, if that hasn't already happened. I guess I'll be avoiding the gym there for a few weeks then as it just doesn't make sense to go in does it!

And still thinking about the coronavirus, last night we had our sewing club and I got talking to Valérie, who is a nurse in the large hospital down the road from here. She was saying that while they do have a couple of cases she feels that they are "ready for it" - or as ready as you can be for an epidemic of this kind. We were "sensible" though as nobody did la bise (the kiss on both cheeks) to greet each other like we usually do. We just kinda waved at each other to say hallo in that very British way - made me feel right at home for a change!

Picture by shutterstock

And I just watched a few minutes of the news tonight and saw Trump give a short quote to the awaiting press corps at the White House re the coronavirus situation, words to the effect that "the economy's doing great, consumers are going to spend and great things are gonna happen, you'll see"! What the flip!!! Those are the soundbites he uses whenever he's asked a question on any subject. But don't worry America, apparently consumers are going to spend their way out of this epidemic so you're all good and have nothing to worry about!

Then today I had my first Tuesday afternoon yoga class after the spring break and oooohhh was it awkward. The teacher mentioned the coronavirus at the beginning of the class and all the "fake news surrounding it" and do we chose to listen to bad news all day and sit there in a state of permanent panic or do we do like her and chose to see all the good things we have in life - our health, our homes, enough food and so on? Fair enough, she's entitled to her views and she is a yoga teacher after all. So then she put some rather pretty "oriental" music on and asked us all to lie down and just listen to it to see if we could block out the whirring thoughts in our brains and really appreciate the gift that is our sense of hearing. Again, no problem, I can do that (although someone fell asleep at this point - I heard the snoring). But she then proceeded to go on and on and on …. she never stopped talking about seeing the positives in life and not being materialistic and how life is wonderful, and totally drowned out the music she was asking us to listen to in the first place. It was just weird! That is one of her big faults actually, she never shuts up and when you're trying to "get in the groove" for yoga you don't need someone constantly blathering away. Well after about 30 minutes of this I started just doing a few stretching exercises as I was getting bored and starting to prepare my shopping list in my head to tune her out, so other people started doing the same (the stretching exercises, not the shopping list thingy). But in all this went on for the entire 90 minute class and, as I found out afterwards, people were getting more and more irritated with her (like I said, I just tuned her out). Everyone had had a bellyful of her whittering it seemed. On a side note, my ex-husband actually used to "whitter" too. I remember him picking up on a particular song that he liked the lyrics to, so he put it on really loud (too loud) and kept saying listen, listen over the top of the song. Well this went on for so long I just turned round and said "I'm trying to f....g listen, but do you ever shut the f up"? Sorry about the language but I have to say it was provoked, believe me, and oddly enough my outburst kinda spoiled the moment somehow. I've no idea why!

Anyway after yoga I went to the loo (not forgetting to wash my hands of course) and bumped into Sylvie who said that in her opinion our teacher was heading for another "breakdown" because "this is how she got last year shortly before she went completely under for about three months". Then when I got out to my car a few others were saying the same thing, with a couple saying "remember this, we didn't pay good money to listen to that rant"! So I'm not sure what's going to happen. Will she end up having another breakdown? Will they end up not using her services any more because she is unreliable (as was proven last year)? Who knows. I was saying to my neighbour on the way home though that if, as a yoga teacher, she is still as highly strung as she is I would hate to imagine what she would be like without the yoga. The two just don't seem to go together at all. I mean, you imagine yoga teachers to be all zen in their personalities too don't you. But I suppose if that's all it takes to be a yoga teacher I'd make a good one - I'm so laid back I'm surprised I don't bloody well fall over half the time. Pity about the "yoga" bit though!

Sunday 8 March 2020


So it would seem that approximately one-quarter of Italy's population is now effectively in lockdown - 16 million people currently located in the regions designated as high risk in the coronavirus epidemic. I'm not at all sure from the news how this will all work out (I don't think many Italians know either). Are they going to be allowed out shopping? Should they go to work? What about businesses and services? I've no idea. What I do know is that Lombardy is just over the border from here. Forty-five minutes by car gets you to the Mont Blanc tunnel and in to the Aosta Valley on the Italian side, with Piedmont and Lombardy the neighbouring regions. As I was watching the news tonight they were saying that there are now over 7,000 cases of infection in the country, with an increase of 2,000 cases in the last hour alone - a phenomenal rate of acceleration! So now I'm just wondering if/when it will hit here. I'm eternally grateful that I'm retired and can self-isolate if necessary. Other than death, the worst case scenario would be "inconvenient" for me, but what on earth happens to the local businesses in particular, and the economy in general? Scary times indeed!

Even despite the proximity of Italy I haven't seen any evidence of panic buying of anything as yet. For some reason I bought a bottle of hand sanitizer about a month ago, probably the day I went hiking up to the waterfall and felt pretty grubby on the way down. I don't usually carry it with me unless I'm on my travels but I'm pleased to say I have some to carry around with me for the time being. And as for the "rush" on toilet paper - nope, not seen that at all. I had to laugh though at the chap in Australia who accidentally ordered 48 boxes of toilet paper online a month or so ago instead of 48 individual toilet rolls. Apparently he had the mickey taken out of him by his friends something terrible, so in light of the latest panic buying in Australia he published a rather funny video of "who's having the last laugh now"! Gotta love the Aussies!

His wife on her toilet paper throne!
Talking of Italians and toilets (we were weren't we?), at my Italian lesson on Wednesday we were learning the use of c'è and ci sono - "there is/there are". It makes sense in English but in French they don't distinguish between the two - il y a means both, so it was a novel idea for the French-speaking students in our group. Anyway, our teacher was asking us about our homes, our gardens. Do you have a garden? Do you have a balcony? etc. to get us to use c'è and ci sono. One of the things she asked was did our homes have doppi servizi, which basically means a full bathroom. Then she somehow wandered off on a tangent about how weird it was for her, as an Italian, to find bathrooms without a bidet. She said her grandmother would have been horrified to find no bidet and even she, as a 40-something Italian, found it strange that most homes round here do not have bidets. So then the conversation degenerated wandered on to the subject of bidets and their uses until I burst out laughing and asked if anyone realized we had just discussed bidets for the past 10 minutes!!! Either way we covered a lot of ground and it was a fun class! In amongst the different words we were learning she asked me if my home had la cantina, which, it turns out, is what the French call a faux ami, in the sense that la cantina is actually a basement and not, as the name would suggest, a cantine/kitchen! These are the kinds of words that trip you up when you learn a foreign language. For instance, in French sensible means sensitive and not sensible, so a faux ami! Gripping stuff isn't it!

Anyway, in other news I've managed to get some work done in the basement (la cantina) and the garden this weekend and it's been really pleasant. The crocuses (crocii?) and primroses are starting to bloom and my little patch of lawn is looking lovely - well at least to my eyes anyway - I don't need it to look like a bowling green! While I was outside working there was a knock at my door and a young lad asked if I would like to buy an Xbox 360 for €30! I told him I already had one (I don't but it seemed easier than turning him down), but since I saw he was going door-to-door I asked him why he didn't just put a notice up on the mail boxes round here. Well that must have sparked an interest in him because guess who ended up making him five flyers to put up!! I recognized him as the young lad who my neighbours had kicked out of my garden a few years ago when he was just coming in and breaking/stealing my ornaments. Actually he's the reason I put my side gate in, truth be told, but that's all water under the bridge now I guess as it was five years ago. At one point I asked him to write up one of the flyers (since I had a few to make) and he told me he "couldn't write that well"! I was stunned as he is 11 now! So I told him to just copy what I had written and he couldn't even do that! This is the youngest from the family I wrote about in another post where mom has run off with another man leaving dad and the last four of her seven children with dad - who is now in the process of drinking himself to death apparently! Remember - the one where their golden retriever followed me on my walk! It's sad really but what can I say. It didn't take him too long to see the sweets I had out on my cabinet so I told him to take one from each bowl. Well he ended up taking quite a few ("one of each colour", I think he said) and left with a bunch of flyers and pockets bulging with candy!

Then last night I did, indeed, go out with Ginette to the Soirée Réunionaise in her village but ... meh! It wasn't so great. They had four young women from Réunion who did a couple of African dances and that was pretty much it for the entertainment. I have to say the food was very good but pretty expensive, all the more so since they didn't include even one drink in the price. When I went to buy a glass of white wine they told us they only sold it by the bottle (????) so we both ended up having a glass of rum punch that nearly had us on our backsides!!! After that we stuck to water! She was telling me re her ex-boyfriend that she had recently sent him a "cease and desist" letter, which he probably received that very day, as he has been pestering the life out of her since she split from him, calling, showing up at her house and begging her to come back. She said it's funny how he was a miserable sod for three years and tighter than a duck's bum and now all of a sudden he can't do enough for her and wants only to lavish money on her!! In any case she told him to get lost and if he doesn't leave her alone she will take it further. Crikey, all that drama at 72!!! I don't do "drama" so I'm so glad I'm not in that situation. Maybe it'll be one of the requirements of the French citizenship aptitude test - how to throw a wobbly à la française! If so I'll have to practice! At about 11.30 it had turned into a blaring disco with strobe lights so I told her I was getting a headache (I wasn't but couldn't stand much more of it) and that I was going to leave. She agreed with me and we decided to leave at the same time but in the end I don't really regret going. If you don't try these things out you'll never know if they are good or bad will you! On the negative side, in order to make it on time to this do I missed the last five minutes of the England/Wales rugby match and it would seem that Wales managed to score two tries in those five minutes and I missed it!!! What a bummer! Just as I was leaving though she asked me if I skied. When I told her I didn't do cross country she said "no, downhill". Now I haven't done that for about 20 years but she asked if I wanted to go one afternoon when the weather is fine and we could try out a few easy slopes. So I guess it looks like I might be scratching around in my cantina some more looking for my ski gear very soon!

Typical dancers from the Island of Réunion
And finally I had the weirdest dream this morning just before I woke up. I used to get awful nightmares about being stuck in a maze or down a diamond mine when I was married (no prizes for guessing what they meant), or not being able to wash myself clean for some reason (again, no prizes), but all those kinds of dreams stopped after my divorce (and yet again, no prizes). But this dream had me sitting next to Boris Johnson (seriously????) while he was driving a bus through a tunnel (I do hope that's not a euphemism) and I had to keep telling him he was going over the central line or he was too close to the wall. What on earth was that all about? I wonder if that means ol' Bojo will soon be driving the country into a brick wall? Sadly I'm afraid that might be true if my dreams are anything to go by!