The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Tuesday 30 June 2020

A day at the dodgems!

I got a phone call on Friday from my roofing guys asking if they could come and start work on my roof insulation on Monday (yesterday). This work was planned for October but since I'm home anyway I said yes. So they showed up at the crack of dawn yesterday morning and started clonking about on my roof like cast members of Riverdance. They are very polite and efficient but the noise was driving me slightly nuts so I tried to spend as much time in my garden as possible to get away from it!


They laid out the plastic protection sheeting first, which was a bit funny actually since the world is trying to do away with single-use plastics and McDonalds are getting hammered for their straws and yet these guys (of necessity) basically gift-wrap the whole house! To be fair, my neighbour took the unspoiled sheeting off them last time but still! They hadn't long got to work removing tiles when would you believe it - the heavens opened. The forecast was a bit iffy anyway, but as soon as it started to pour the boss gave orders to get all the tiles put back and told me that sadly they were done for the day as they couldn't do any more in the rain!

I wasn't too bothered actually as they told me they would be back later in the week so around 2 o'clock I thought I it might be nice to take a siesta as I was feeling a bit tired. But wouldn't you know it, the sun came back out and just as I was thinking about crawling into bed there was a knock at my door, a mad rush to put my bra back on and they "hoped I didn't mind but could they start up again this afternoon"? Now I don't know if I was imagining it but I'm pretty sure I smelled dope on the boss guy but what could I say, so off they went and the three gofers managed to remove all my very poor insulation in about an hour and that was it. Tiles back on and they would see me again on Wednesday (and Thursday and maybe Friday) to get the insulation laid! I feel like I've had so much work done in the house this past year that I'll be glad to see the back of workmen for a while, but it's all for the greater good really isn't it, and I have to say that all the work done for me this year has been done well (somewhat to my surprise I realize)!

My sister called me earlier today for a chat and when I asked about my brother she said they had just cancelled Sky (cable TV) as it was costing him £60 a month and he was hardly watching it. I remember cancelling Sky about 10 years ago for the same reason, and of course they then bend over backwards to offer you a deal but nah, I'm just not into TV that much and my Freesat does me just fine! My friend was annoyed when he realized he couldn't watch the cricket anymore but then there's always the Mr. Pickwick pub in Geneva if he's desperate. Actually, believe it or not, my brother used to listen to cricket on the radio if he couldn't get it on the TV!!!!! I know!!!!! It's boring enough watching it but can you imagine listening to it. That being said, the late commentator, Brian Johnston, was an absolute gem in the commentary box, as well as being an inveterate giggler. His absolute classic had to be his commentary when West Indian legend, Michael Holding, was facing England batsman, Peter Willey and "Johnners" came out with "the batsman's Holding, the bowler's Willey" followed by barely stifled giggling when he realized what he'd said! Anyway my sister was telling me she had now gotten a Firestick 4 and a subscription to Vlod (sounds like a Russian weightlifter doesn't it), and with all that my brother can now get 100s of channels for about one-tenth of the price - (I guess it just depends how many channels he wants to sleep his way through really)!

Although it was hot I got quite a bit done today. I did a load of washing, including my summer duvet which I will now put away for a few months as I'll be sleeping with just a sheet while the heat ramps up. One of the joys of having my balcony is that I can put drying racks out there and hang the big stuff, like my duvet, directly over the balcony to dry and it's usually all done and dusted in a day. Okay it might look a bit like a gypsy encampment for the duration but technically nobody should be able to see it since my house backs onto the farm and the only people that might see it would be my neighbours walking through my garden to get to each other's houses. I have also learned to peg the stuff in place as it can get quite windy and I have found my knickers in the back garden on more than one occasion. So pegs it is - or at the very least buy some really kinky underwear and get the neighbours talking!

I'm also doing quite well in my "do something round the house for one hour a day" plan, which is similar to what Fly Lady advocates on her website, although she drove me batty with her emails. It's actually quite satisfying to set my phone timer to one hour and see how much gets done - quite a lot as it turns out. While I was working on my veggie plot my gardener showed up on his riding lawnmower and started work. Then the neighbour's partner started doing the same on her land, and my other neighbour pitched in with his lawnmower. Apparently they've forecast rain for tomorrow so I guess everyone was trying to get it done beforehand. At one point they were all mowing at the point where our gardens meet and it felt slightly like a stand-off at the OK Corral, although to be honest, it looked more like a day at the dodgems to me!

Friday 26 June 2020

Rock on my son!

I had lunch with my son today and it felt so good. He moved in with his brother and his wife on Saturday. I'm not sure how long he will stay there but I think it's good for him to be able to talk with people who understand but he can always move in with me any time he wants anyway. But it really was lovely. We walked down to a local restaurant where apparently he has been going every lunchtime and buying his lunch "to go" for €10 a pop. I think he's already seeing the difference between France and Switzerland as at a minimum he would be spending SF 17 per day just for lunch. Anyway, it was nice. I have always been very open about my finances, how much I make, what my bills are and so on, so we were going through him buying something in France and how much it would cost him. While he says he loves living in Geneva the prices are ridiculous and he knows he would be better off in France. The only thing I told him is he has to get a handle on his finances. It's more than doable - hell he makes so much more than I do and I'm still saving money. I find it hard to believe also that he has never gotten round to internet banking - damn, they say we're old foggies! So I told him I can help him set all that up but that I think it would do him good to live on his own for a while, pay his own bills and then take it from there. He told me he doesn't think he will ever get married again, doesn't know if he wants kids - and that makes me sad. The good part is that he has his brother and his wife bolstering him up and Max and his other mates really revving the engine! I told him that his mates are really in France so if he bought in France he can still do the drive if he wants to stay in the city after work.

He sent Lily an email saying that he wanted to go directly for a divorce, that he was not prepared to remain her husband while she was messing around so let's go for it. And bingo, he got an email back saying that he had shaken her up, she wasn't prepared for that and so on. She's a good kid and I think they are well suited but in the end, if she wants to start messing around, good on him for saying "nope, I ain't going for that"¨

Anyway, I went through all my finances and what he could expect to pay in bills and it is more than doable. While we were chatting away the lady owner of the restaurant just looked at him and said "I thought you were French". And he laughed and said "nope, I'm anglo-american" and she just looked at him with a stunned look and said she couldn't believe how perfect his French was. Well yeah, he's grown up here! So there you have it. I told him to move in with me if and when, save money and we'd get it all started for him to have his own place. I left feeling that he was quite motivated. As we were walking out of Jordan's place Jordan showed up as he had finished work for the day, so it was lovely to have both my kids there at once. Just wish it could have been under better circumstances!

Wednesday 24 June 2020

What can you say about Uncle Johnny?

That he was kind, thoughtful, funny and would give you the shirt off his back? Nah, I can't say any of that because in actual fact I never met Uncle Johnny. You see, "Uncle Johnny" was Johnny (Goldfinger) Palmer, once described as Britain's richest criminal and thought to be worth £300 million. He was acquitted of handling stolen gold bullion from the Brinks-Mat raid in 1983 but it was on this day five years ago that he was shot and killed in the garden of his home in what looked like a very professional killing. And yep, he really was an uncle on my dad's side, although I never met him!

Johnny (Goldfinger) Palmer

My dad, Uncle A and John Palmer were sons of three sisters (there were loads of other kids too of course). As I say, I was just a little kid and never met him, although I believe my older brother did meet him a few times. In any case, he and my Uncle A are dead ringers for each other. I never knew an awful lot about the Brinks-Mat robbery but I was told that Uncle Johnny subsequently moved into the time-share business in Spain, where people were often strong-armed into buying time-shares that I'm not sure even existed. Mom told me that "all of a sudden" Uncle A started taking short trips to Spain and seemed to have an awful lot of money to throw around when he came back. Now this was in the 1970s and no-one went to Spain for a long weekend - well no-one, that is, except for Uncle A. Dad reckoned he was carrying cash over to John Palmer, although he never had any proof of that. It just didn't make sense to him, since Uncle A had a fish stall in Birmingham's Bull Ring market and even if they made good money there was no way he was all of a sudden making the kind of money he was throwing around. Dad reckoned the stress of whatever shinanigans he got up to eventually killed him because one day, at the age of just 54, Uncle A left his stall to go get a newspaper, had a massive heart attack and died on the spot! Whenever I would give my older brother some lip he would say "watch out, or I'll tell Uncle Johnny!" and that was enough to make me shut up. Yeah, as if! My dad barely knew him, he just knew they were distant relatives on their mothers' side, so my brother was truly a rotten sod scaring a little girl half out of her wits with threats of "Uncle Johnny". So there you have it, my one and only claim to dubious fame!

I do remember being a really little girl - hadn't started school yet, so maybe three years old - and my mom left me with Aunt S, Uncle A's wife, so that she could go grocery shopping in peace. Anyway I remember asking Aunt S if I could just pop over the road to see if my mom was back and she said yes. Well mom wasn't back so I decided to walk to the shops (about two miles away I would guess) to see where she was. All I remember is balling my eyes out in the middle of the shopping precinct and my mom coming over wondering how in the hell I had got there! It didn't mean anything to me of course but I reckon there must have been a few frosty exchanges with my Aunt S when we got back!

In other news, I didn't make it out to Excenevex today because, as I thought, I was just too slow off the mark this morning, but at least it gives me an idea of somewhere to go sometime before the schools are out to enjoy the lake for a while. I did get my grocery shopping done (but boy am I spending a lot at the moment). I also went to the Chinese store as I needed some black bean/garlic sauce - and man do I love going to that store. I just love the smell of it. It's like having a souk right on my doorstep with the wonderful smells of all those spices. Now these people are very good businessmen and sell not only Asian goods but also African and Middle Eastern spices - well basically if you ask for it they'll find it and sell it to you. I also like that if you are buying heavy stuff they will always have a young man carry it out to your car for you. It's like that with the Turkish stall holders I often go to also. When we were five living at home I used to buy a lot of fresh produce and they would always have one of the young boys carry my stuff to my car for me. And for me, that kind of service goes a long way, I can tell you!

I also managed to make a dentist and gynae appointment for the month of July. When I was booking the gynae appointment the receptionist said I was to "come alone and wear a mask" - which kinda got my warped sense of humour going because surely that's not the bit he'll be sticking his nose in - but I managed to keep myself from saying that as not everyone gets my sense of humour!

Anyway it's hot here and I'm wilting. I know I'm going to be miserable for the next couple of months - in fact it's only going to get worse as summer is only just starting! I just love that point in September when you can actually feel the heat break and know that things will get cooler from here on in. I pity the poor folks that have to work outside in this weather but I guess they manage or they're used to it. I know one thing though, I'll never be a hot weather person!

The farmer turning hay in the part of his field at the back of my house!

Tuesday 23 June 2020


I had so many plans for today - I was going to go on another walk (once my muscles "defrosted"), then come home and spend some time clearing more stuff out the basement (why do I sense I'm going to get my son's stuff dumped on me soon?) and then do some batch cooking to get ahead for the next couple of days. In the end what did I do? Bugger all! By the time I'd got my backside into gear it was already starting to warm up and I just couldn't face doing much more than sitting in the back garden reading. There's no law against it but I do get annoyed at myself sometimes! As I say, the temperatures are starting to pick up now and we've already hit 32°C (90°F) this week so I'm not looking forward to the start of the hot season which will soon be on us. I did get Jordan to carry my mobile AC unit up to my bedroom the other week so I'll probably be starting to use that soon, although I like to hold off as long as I can. And then of course I could always do a few "lengths" of my paddling pool (ha!) trying desperately to look like a naiad but in truth looking like Moby Dick proving Archimedes' water displacement theory. Not to worry though, that's one of the advantages of living alone isn't it!

I have the AGM of our local community association tomorrow night where I will be attending in my capacity as President of the Sewing Club (I know, the responsibilities!!!!). I've already sent in our accounts and a list of members but if I'm correct tomorrow will be when they hand out the different subsidies to each club so I need to be there for that. They're very generous actually because the commune of Amancy give us the room for free (and I don't even live in that commune) and also give us a small amount of money to spend for the benefit of the club. Last year I bought two second-hand sewing machines but we've still got plenty left in the bank. We each pay our teacher, Patricia, an annual amount of €100 for her services so I'm thinking I might use the money from the commune to subsidize that amount this year in view of having to shut up shop during lockdown. Either way, we're on to a very good thing. I got an email the other day from the association that organizes the Italian lessons too in which they sent out a form saying that they would reimburse anyone who requested it on a pro rata basis, but also giving people the option to forego reimbursement in order to help the association. Since the MJC is a community-led association I decided to just give up the money, although in reality our teacher had already been off sick a month before covid shut the lessons down entirely. Still, if it means that they were able to keep staff on their payroll it's a small price to pay and I don't actually need the money!

I probably won't get to go out walking tomorrow since I plan to go grocery shopping instead to get that out of the way. I looked on the web and saw that on Wednesdays they have an open-air market in a lovely little town called Excenevex, which is right on Lake Geneva, so I might try to shoot out there tomorrow and have a wander. It will probably take me about 40 minutes to get there, but it is a lovely spot with a nice little beach right on the lake so will make nice ride out - if I can get myself moving! 

Excenevex beach

As I was pottering in my garden my neighbour wandered over and I was asking her how she enjoyed Father's Day and seeing her grandchildren that live in Switzerland. She said they'd had a lovely day together and was over the moon to see her grandsons, although she still worried about the older grandson as he has Downs Syndrome and is more fragile health-wise. She also said that they are saying in the French news to expect a new covid spike in September and that people should prepare accordingly. I figured it would happen anyway as the country, of necessity, has to open back up, but here's hoping it's not as bad as this first round!

Anyway while we were chatting I starting digging around in my potato patch. Remember, the potatoes that I planted on top of the sheet of cardboard? No digging, no lugging soil around, just plonk down the cardboard, throw on some sprouted potatoes from the garage and dump grass clippings on top. Well guess what, it looks like it has worked! Talk about the lazy woman's guide to potato growing. I only poked around at the one plant as I didn't want to disturb it too much but I picked six decent sized potatoes and just covered the diddy ones back up. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing, how often I should mound up the clippings or anything, but they are definitely growing! Yay me! They've worked out better than the cucumber plants (they were savaged by slugs). The curly kale has done well. The tomato plants are coming along fine and also the courgette (zucchini) so I'm quite pleased considering the amount of studied neglect I have subjected my garden to for the most part!

I've got tomato plants by my living room window,
but the rest of the stuff I just plonked at the top of the garden!

In reference to my son's situation somebody commented yesterday that I did well not to wrap my kids up in cotton wool. I was thinking about that and realized that I probably would have done if I could have, but either way I guess I was more relaxed than some. I've always been pretty easy-going and thankfully my kids seem to have taken after me and are not highly-strung like their dad. While I was talking to André up in the mountains yesterday I commented something about Lily not having had the easiest of childhoods - but then neither did he, what with the screaming, shouting and physical violence (directed at me, not them). And he said something that really touched my heart. He said that he actually had a great childhood and sure we had our issues but then what family doesn't - and I wanted to cry as I've long felt so guilty for "failing them" when they were little. I guess it's just as well my phone battery conked out when it did!

But it got me to thinking about "coddling" your kids and brought to mind a woman I worked with when I was just 16. From age 16 onwards I had a Saturday/holiday job working at WH Smith (the big bookshop/record store/stationers). Initially I worked on the shop floor/cash registers and hated it. I remember when the kids were buying their back-to-school supplies we had to ring up all the different pencils according to their individual codes and it was really tedious. I also remember the actor, Robert Morely, coming in one time and walking straight to the front of the queue, so I asked him to go to the back of the queue as people had been waiting. He looked at me and said "do you know who I am?" and I said that no I didn't but these people had been waiting and I felt it was right that they got served first! (Mouthy little sod wasn't I). Well my heart was thumping but I thought I'll be buggered if I'll let that sod jump the queue. As he was paying, another customer leaned over and congratulated me for speaking up - and I went bright red in the face as a result. I never liked Robert Morely anyway. As far as I was concerned he was another Hugh Grant - an actor with just one act, although at least Hugh Grant was better looking!

Robert Morely

Anyway, someone in the queue must have spotted my name badge on my lapel and a bit later in the afternoon the switchboard paged me to answer the phone. My heart was pounding because my dad had had several heart attacks already and I just assumed it was bad news. But no, I picked up the phone and some twisted bastard called me by name and told me exactly what he would like to do to me!!! He also told me that he would be waiting for me outside the shop when we closed!!! I just burst into tears, walked off the shop floor and explained to the manager what had happened. I was only 16 and terrified that this jerk would indeed wait for me when we closed so the manager walked me to a back door and off the premises that evening! Perverted bastard!

All that was by the way, of course, because I always seem to go off on a tangent don't I. Eventually after a few years at WH Smith I graduated to working in the cash office, tallying up the cash registers (which were rarely accurate) and working with the ladies who suspected some light-fingered work going on, in particular in the record shop. Anyway, two sisters worked in the cash office - Kath and Mary. Both were very nice and Kath had a son my age - Howard - and I couldn't believe some of the stories she told me about "Howie"! Howie had various Saturday jobs but mommy always told him "don't you let them put upon you Howie, you just walk out if they do", so Howie was always walking out of jobs where, apparently, they didn't appreciate mommy's little treasure! Mary, the older sister, used to look at me and roll her eyes. Daddy used to drive in to whichever job Howie had walked out of that week and pick him up to drive him home. Now this is in city centre Birmingham, the UK's second city after London, with excellent public transport, but nope, daddy always had to drive in and pick precious up! Even I was stunned. When I handed in my notice because I had got my job in Geneva Mary pulled me aside and said she couldn't believe I was starting work in Switzerland and Howie had just walked off his umpteenth job because yet again they didn't appreciate him! So yesterday's comment made me think - I wonder whatever became of Howie? Not much I expect!

Monday 22 June 2020


While I was over at Jordan's yesterday I told him that I was going to start looking at bathroom fixtures as my plan is to get started on refurbishing both bathrooms as they desperately need redoing. I had asked Jordan if he was interested in doing the fitting in his spare time and he said yes. I was fine if he didn't want to but would obviously prefer to give him the money than pay someone else. So we got to talking about what kinds of fixtures I should be looking at and I was saying I wanted "suspended" toilets with eco water consumption possibilities since my current toilets are very old and very heavy on water usage. I'll always remember my friend, Ian, who moved to Bulgaria in 2010. He was sick to death of England and chasing after the almighty £££ in order to consume more and more, thereby trapping yourself on the eternal money-chasing treadmill. Anyway one thing Ian said that stuck with me was that it just appalled him that we in affluent western countries actually use clean water to flush our toilets - simply because we can afford to do so. Ian was in construction in England so I guess he knew a thing or two about "wastage", but it's odd that that sentiment always stuck with me. So why am I talking about toilets? Well at this point Jordan piped up and said that his boss, Max, (who is also the bass guitarist in their band and a friend of both my sons) had actually installed a urinal in his home!!! And that urinal used only one litre per flush, as compared to 5-6 litres for modern toilets, and between nine and eleven litres for my old bog! Fascinating stuff isn't it, although I don't see much of a future for a urinal in my home, to be honest. Max bought a run down old farm on a fair bit of land and started doing it up over the last few years. Jordan helped him at weekends and learned a lot in the mix. Another thing Max did is have his home set up so that the ground floor could be used as a completely independent living area if the time ever came that he couldn't get up the stairs. Now he's only 31 so hopefully that's not even a consideration but he was also smart enough to install doors that were wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, as he wants this home to be his forever home. Now the point of all this is that Max has recently become rather smitten with a young woman who is tetraplegic as a result of a car crash involving a wild boar (!!!!) and things look like they might be getting more serious! He said she is gorgeous, very funny and fiercely independent and while it's early days yet who knows where that relationship might end up. But isn't it amazing what a forward-thinking young man he turned out to be!

So jumping from the rooster to the donkey again, today I had my Monday morning yoga class but was a bit apprehensive because I didn't fancy doing it outside in the scorching heat. While I was in the shower getting ready I heard a clunking sound and thought "oh my god, someone's on the roof" (my shower is under the roof and I'd been tootling back and forward naked while getting my clothes together to go to yoga)! Turns out the chimney sweep had come to work on my neighbour's chimney. Hopefully he shouldn't have been able to see into my house, but I guess it wouldn't be the first time they've got an eyeful would it. A bit like the window cleaners when I lived in England. They just showed up, climbed up their ladders and off they went, so you'd better hope you weren't stark naked when they started on your bedroom window! Yoga turned out just perfect though. It was already pretty hot but we were able to practice in her garden in the shade of a massive cedar tree and apart from one lady getting shat upon by a bird in said tree, it was actually lovely!

After yoga I thought it would be nice to go out walking but didn't want to go on my usual walk down to Thyez as I wanted something a bit more challenging (but not that challenging)! So I set off in the direction of the Lac de Roy, which is a small lake in the mountains up above a ski resort called Praz de Lys. I'd heard it was only about an hour's walk and not very difficult so I thought I'd have time to fit it in after lunch. Only problem was I'd forgotten to pack anything to eat so I decided to treat myself to lunch in a small town about half way there - which was a real treat as I don't do it very often nowadays! 

Lunch at the Col de Chatillon

I guess I set off up to the lake at around 1.30 p.m. and it wasn't too bad a walk, although every damn time I end up feeling like my lungs are on fire within about 10 minutes! Once I get into my stride it's fine, but those first 10 minutes are pretty miserable. Before I left I fished out an old sun hat that had a flap to protect my neck so I reckon I must have looked a bit like Beau Geste by the time I finally made it to the top!

Gary Cooper in Beau Geste

Lac de Roy

The air up here was cooler with that still quality you get in the mountains and the dunk dunk of the cowbells. I had just gotten to the end of the lake and the cows were coming over to pose for a photo when all of a sudden I got a video call from André who wanted to run something by me. Last night he received another email from Lily. It was a bit "rambling" to my mind, but then I guess they have different styles of expressing themselves. French is a bit "flowery" and they can go round and round before they actually say what they mean, whereas English is direct and to the point - which is why it's the world's number one language for business. Anyway Lily's email just served to confirm to me that there really are no "issues" as such in the marriage, more a feeling of restlessness on her part, as she was talking about "being tired of thinking about everyone else and wanting to put herself first for a change". What can I say, I guess we all get restless too sometimes, but as André said, he just wished he didn't have to pay the price for her restlessness. There was one passive-aggressive dig at him so he wanted to run his reply by me before sending it as he knows I will always tone it down. Actually, what he replied was excellent. He's naturally very diplomatic anyway but direct and to the point. His intention would never be to hurt her but like me he's straight-talking. So the long and short of it is that he wrote back saying that he was hurt by the fact that she encouraged Pete, the photographer, after he told her he had feelings for her at the end of May (yes, it's that recent). Pete will never be a friend of his again and he was not prepared to give her the summer to "figure out her true feelings", but wanted to just go ahead and file for divorce since he didn't know if he could ever trust her again! So there you have it. He's going to move his stuff out of their place during his July vacation and push forward with the divorce. I admire him actually and told him that if he sat around moping like a sad-eyed puppy she would have no respect for him, but pushing ahead and kinda saying "don't let the door hit ya in the ass on the way out" might be the wake-up call she needs. Maybe she will realize what she has to lose - or maybe she won't! Sometimes that's when they come running back but he isn't counting on it and I think now genuinely not looking for that either. Still, it's sad, but what can I say. So as I was saying, I was just about to take the perfect picture all up close and personal with the cows and the bloody battery on my phone died as a result of talking to André. I must have looked like one of those yuppies - you know, the kind who can't even put their phones away at the top of a mountain pass, but just this once I'll take the hit. Either way I'm going to drive over and take André to lunch on Friday but I'm already reassured that he's coming out fighting and looking better than I expected. Add to that that I got in over 13,000 steps today and feel like I could crack walnuts with my bum cheeks, all in all I would say it was a day well spent!

Sunday 21 June 2020

Mad dogs and English (wo)men ...

… go out in the mid-day sun! But at least this time I remembered to put more sunscreen on. I went over to my youngest son's place today as my oldest moved in with him and his wife last night. I hadn't wanted to write about it before, and to be honest I'm not going to go into too much detail here, but my oldest was blind-sided by his wife about five weeks ago when she said she was thinking about asking for a divorce! They've been together almost 15 years and married for three, and as far as he knew were very happy together, so to say it hit him like a 2 x 4 round the head is probably an understatement. She has her "issues" or "complaints" which she spelt out to him in a letter, but to be honest they seem to me to be "issues" that can be dealt with by talking - not by separating!!! I just listened as he told me everything that she said and tried to be as supportive as possible. His wife then left for the week to move in with her friend and at the end of that week my son moved into an airbnb and has been there for the last five weeks. He has many places he could have stayed here in France of course but the bloody borders have been closed and when he went to ask at the border they told him he wouldn't be allowed to cross into France (he lives in Switzerland) because his life was not in danger! So he's been in what turned out to be a very nice airbnb until yesterday. His friend offered him a place to stay, as did Jordan and Jen (and of course he can stay here as long as he wants), so he took Jordan and Jen up on their offer and moved in last night since the borders opened up on Monday. 

I went over there today to see him (first time since Christmas) and I have to admit he looked better than I thought he would (although a shower and a shave wouldn't have hurt at that point). They stayed up 'til 3 a.m. chatting so he had a bit of a hangover too, but I reckon he got a lot out of his system just by being there and talking with them. The good thing, as far as I'm concerned, is that he's now getting angry and ready to stand up for himself. Lily wants a trial three-month separation before they make a decision, during which "we can consider ourselves to be exes". He's now made up his mind that the wedding photographer (Pete) is a definite no-no from now on as Lily made the mistake of admitting she had feelings for him (although he's in the UK and I don't think anything has happened between them). He also told her that as long as they are still married there is no question of "considering themselves exes" so if she wants the freedom to mess around they'd better go for the divorce up front! They spoke last night and she still wants to go with the separation until September, but now he's more of the mind that even if she decides she wants to continue with the marriage he's not sure he can trust her again and is not willing to go through this a second time! So there you have it - the drama that smacked my family upside the head so unexpectedly!

He seems good though and although initially he was saying he doesn't want to move back into France, when I mentioned to him how lovely Jordan's balcony was he said "yeah, I'd forgotten just how beautiful it is round here". So if they do end up splitting, moving back to France might be more appealing to him now than it was, all the more so since he could afford to buy something in France rather than rent. Then of course we've got bloody Brexit to contend with but as long as he moves before 31 December he's guaranteed the right to stay (and to be honest, it shouldn't be a problem anyway). I told him wherever he stays, to put my address as his home for the time being as they already know him at the Mairie here since he lived the first 21 years of his life in this village, and I can give him an attestation to say that he's living with me for free. Anyway, we're not there yet but there's an awful lot for him to think about, both on an emotional and a practical level!

Leni the horrible cat on Jordan's balcony today

On Thursday I went into Geneva to have dinner with my friend, my first time crossing the border and my first time in a restaurant since God knows when. The weather has been crap for about 10 days now and around 3 p.m. we had the most almighty hail storm I thought the windows might crack. So knowing that the road conditions would probably be horrendous I set off nearly three hours early to get to Geneva and decided to just spend the time waiting sitting on the lake front reading … and it was just lovely! The rain had stopped by that time and there were a couple of families just sitting on the lake front with the kids splashing around - and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! One thing I did notice though is that Versoix (where the restaurant was) is a pretty nice little town in Geneva's suburbs, except for the fact that it is right under the flight path for the airport and is therefore really noisy. Except for Thursday that is, because with air traffic hardly showing an uptick as yet, in the 90 minutes I sat there reading I only counted four planes going over. What a respite that must be to the locals!

My home is in the mountains off to the right

Looking towards the Jura mountains on 
the north side of the lake

I had a lovely evening with my friend, who caught me up on all that was going on at work and while he has a big meeting coming up in July and is very stressed (oh I remember those meetings), I invited him to come over to my place once things calm down so we can spend more time together and he said he would like that. 

In other news, I was watching another episode of The Sopranos the other night and it centred around a "war" being waged between the Italian mafia (The Sopranos) and native Americans who wanted the statue of Christopher Columbus removed because of what it represented. So 20 years later things haven't changed that much have they - or maybe The Sopranos writers were more attuned to human behaviour than we care to think.

I've also been attempting to cook more vegetarian meals lately as I'm still leaning more and more towards heading that way. Well vegan is also a possibility actually since I've found for a long time that dairy irritates me and I end up coughing and trying to clear my throat if I have too much of it. Vegan might be a bridge too far at the moment though but I don't think I would have much difficulty going vegetarian. I'm finding more and more that meat just doesn't do it for me and I love vegetarian food anyway. What's more I started watching the vegan-produced documentary Dominion the other night and I could only stomach the first 20 minutes of it (so far). I've watched these kinds of programmes before and managed to get through them but this is the first one that has turned my stomach to this extent. Narrated by Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix (amongst others) it is very well done, and I have to say pretty upsetting. So with that in mind I made what turned out to be a rather good chili tofu noodle dish the other night, and vegetarian or not, I'll definitely make that again!

I guess it's no surprise to anyone except Trump that the Tulsa rally turned out to be not quite the roaring success that he bragged it up to be. I for one am at least glad that many people seem to have done the sensible thing and stayed away, so maybe the message that "there's a pandemic going on" did get through to some! I'm just curious to see how Trump will exact his "revenge" on whoever for the latest narcissistic injury, since narcs can never let any perceived slight go unpunished!

And finally, I read in the news that Bojo is having a plane repainted to look more "official" at a cost of £900,000 and many people are outraged as that money could be much better spent. So the following meme tickled me -  made me laugh out loud actually - although I'm thinking maybe only the Brits and the Aussies might get it!

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Think I'm in the doghouse!

So the Swiss/French border (and as far as I know the French/Italian border) opened up yesterday and it feels like such a relief. Not that I crossed the border first day or anything but just knowing that I can is a great feeling. I have a few doctors' checkups that are now overdue so it will give me a chance to catch up on them. I lived in Switzerland for a total of six years so I've tended to keep my specialist doctors in Geneva, even though it's more expensive than in France. Trouble with France though is you can wait six months for an appointment, hence the decision to just stay with Switzerland. On Thursday night I'm going into Geneva for dinner with an old colleague, so now I'm all excited to be (a) crossing the border, (b) going out to dinner like a real grown-up, and (c) with a man!!! I know. It'll feel like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one. Well actually just being able to speak face-to-face with another adult will already feel pretty good, to be honest!

I was reading the local Swiss news this morning and see that there are already articles in the paper about Geneva residents crossing into France to do their grocery shopping. Of course there are always the snide comments about "they come over here and take our jobs" and the reverse comments about "so you don't want us coming over there 'taking your jobs' but it didn't take you too long to come over here and do your grocery shopping did it!", but for the most part I understand it. The Swiss franc and the euro are not quite at parity (but for the sake of argument let's say they are, and the Swiss franc is pretty much 1:1 with the dollar), but one guy was saying that even shopping at ALDI or LIDL in Geneva he would spend SF 250 for a shopping cart full and here in France he would get a fuller cart for €150! So you can see why they would do it can't you! The bigger shock for me, though, was when one lady said that rump steak in France is €25/kilo and in Switzerland SF 72/kilo!!!! Wow! I've always known Switzerland was expensive and indeed spent a fortune grocery shopping for the three of us when we lived there, but I guess I'd forgotten quite how expensive it is!

In other news, I've been following the story about 22 year old Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United and England football player, who wrote a very eloquent letter to Members of Parliament imploring them not to stop the free school meals programme for poorer children when the official school summer holidays begin. Apparently he has been working behind the scenes for quite some time helping to raise £20 million to support food banks and help fight child poverty. The government had been continuing free school meals to eligible children during lockdown but had announced the end of the scheme for the summer holidays. Marcus took it upon himself to write an open letter to MPs imploring them to maintain this programme. As the child of a single mother who worked full-time but only earned minimum wage he stated that the free school meal was sometimes the only meal he had some days growing up as a poor kid in Manchester. And guess what, the government have backed down and will be continuing the free meals programme throughout the summer. Well done Marcus!

Marcus Rashford

On Saturday we had our latest board game evening at my place. We discussed beforehand whether we wanted to meet in person or via Zoom again and we voted unanimously for "in person" as there are no longer any restrictions in private homes. There was no "social distancing" as such because you just can't do it when you're all seated around three tables but we were all comfortable with the set up. Initially we were supposed to be 10 but then Adeline asked if she could bring her boyfriend so we ended up being eleven but that was fine. Yet again the food was lovely and I was really pleased with the way my spinach and ricotta-stuffed cannelloni came out. My photos aren't very good (I really should use my camera instead of my phone) but we had a lovely time with everyone leaving around 2 a.m.! I then stayed up till about 3 a.m. just tidying up and running a second dishwasher load, but yet again we had a great evening and the fact that the younger ones are asking to bring their friends means we must be doing something right!

Isabelle is a real giggler - and her husband, Philippe, just lost it!

Then tonight my friend called and we had a bit of a chat. I told him that we had been 11 at my place on Saturday night so he pretended to be all outraged and said "but what about me, why wasn't I invited?" I just told him I knew damn well he wouldn't come because he's an anti-social bugger, and that even if he had been here when everyone arrived he would probably have just gone upstairs to watch TV! To which he replied that that was nonsense (it isn't) but it was good to know he was one of my 11th-20th best friends and therefore outside my social circle of "10 best friends"! So yeah, somehow I think I might be in the doghouse again!

Friday 12 June 2020

I'm getting hammered here!

And I don't mean drunk (although that wouldn't be totally unknown). No, I mean the bills have just been rolling in these past couple of days. Not unexpectedly, and I plan for them over the year anyway, but wow! I got the satellite dish replaced on Monday (€152). Then the chimney sweep came on Tuesday (€70), which frankly is money for old rope since I haven't used my fireplace in over 10 years, so five minutes vacuuming and it cost me €70, but since my house insurance isn't valid without it I had to do it. I received my fuel bill yesterday (€770), then my water bill for six months (€103), which isn't excessive by any means but still. And then my tax guy's office sent me a message to say I'll be getting the official bill from the tax people for 2019 (almost €17,000) any day now and then my monthly direct debit for taxes for 2020 will kick in at the same time!!! So yeah, I'm getting hammered. As I say, thankfully I plan for all this stuff (except the satellite dish) but it would be nice if they took the foot off the pedal a bit!

Then yesterday I got another "telemarketing" call on my house phone, which I ignored of course. So the same number then rang on my mobile. This has been happening for a few days so I figure anyone that has my mobile I'd better answer, so I did. Turns out it was a telemarketer from SFR, my internet provider who I negotiated a new deal with last week. I knew instantly it was telemarketing though as he called me by my married name and everything has been changed to my maiden name for years now. The killer was, though, that this guy was obviously a French-speaking African. Not north African (Maghreb) - they're easier to understand - other African, and he was just so difficult to understand! In the end I had to say to him that I wasn't French and was having a hard time so could he please speak more doucement. Now doucement (gently) is usually taken to mean "slower", but he obviously took it to mean "quieter" 'cos that's what he did. So I've got this guy who sounds like a French-speaking Robert Mugabe on steroids whispering at me now and I'm thinking why oh why did I answer this bloody call? I eventually figured out that he was trying to sell me antivirus software for my computer/phone etc so I was able to whisper back at him that I had just quite genuinely renewed my Norton subscription on 31 May. Damn, I hate telemarketers to begin with but it's even worse when you end up playing Chinese whispers!

In other news would you believe I've actually clocked up 500 miles walked since the beginning of the year!!!! I know! I wouldn't have thought it either. I was doing so well at the beginning of the year towards my 1,000 Miles in 2020 challenge and then the pandemic hit and I was scuppered (or so I thought). Obviously I couldn't get out and about in lockdown so I just had to put on my pedometer every morning and do what I could, but continuing to log the km/miles walked every night was a motivation to be more active around the house and garden (except for last week, of course). I'm pretty pleased and now going to give it my best to get the next 500 miles in by 31 December. I have also been good at keeping to my "one extra hour a day of getting something done" pledge (although it's only day two - ha!). I actually worked in the garden for two hours today and it's quite motivating once you get started, although a word to the wise. You know that compost I was making from damp grass clippings, well don't dump it around the tomato plants by the kitchen door. Damn that stuff stinks!

I saw an article in the British press today on the fact that France's covid numbers continue to fall one month after the easing of the lockdown. There are obviously still new cases and more deaths (28 today I think), but the trajectory is even better than the government had dared to hope. Compare that to the numbers in the UK (over 40,000 deaths so far as compared to 29,000 in France for an equivalent population size) and I think it shows that the French pretty much got it right implementing a strict lockdown quickly as compared to the way the UK reacted. In fact, when you compare per capita deaths (and I actually know what that means Mr. Trump), the UK is doing worse than the US so far, although the pandemic is far from over in the US either. What's more I saw that Trump's team are making it a part of the terms and conditions of attendance at Trump's upcoming rallies that if attendees get sick and/or die of covid through attending his rallies they are not allowed to sue him!!!! Now frankly if you're stupid enough to attend a mass rally or concert during a pandemic you shouldn't be allowed to sue anyone, but to put it in writing? Wow. The guy never ceases to amaze!

And to end on a less serious note, I saw this joke today and while it's a bit long, it actually made me laugh out loud!

Two Aussie builders (Keith & Ken) are seated either side of a table in a rough pub when a well-dressed man enters, orders a beer and sits on a stool at the bar.
The two builders start to speculate about the occupation of the suit.

Ken: - I reckon he's an accountant.

Keith: - No way - he's a stockbroker..

Ken: - He ain't no stockbroker! A stockbroker wouldn't come in here!

The argument repeats itself for some time until the volume of beer gets the better of Ken and he makes for the toilet.
On entering the toilet he sees that the suit is standing at a urinal. Curiosity and the several beers get the better of the builder.

Ken: - 'Scuse me.. No offence meant, but me and me mate were wondering what you do for a living?

Suit: - No offence taken! I'm a Logical Scientist by profession.

Ken: - Oh! What's that then?

Suit: - I'll try to explain by example... Do you have a goldfish at home?

Ken: - Err.... Mmm . Well yeah, I do as it happens!

Suit: - Well, it's logical to follow that you keep it in a bowl or in a pond. Which is it?
Ken: - It's in a pond!

Suit: - Well then it's reasonable to suppose that you have a large garden.

Ken - As it happens, yes I have got a big garden!

Suit: - Well then it's logical to assume that in this town if you have a
large garden then you have a large house?

Ken: - As it happens I've got a five-bedroom house...built it myself!

Suit: - Well given that you've built a five-bedroom house it is logical to
assume that you haven't built it just for yourself and that you are quite probably married?

Ken: - Yes I am married, I live with my wife and five children.

Suit: - Well then it is logical to assume that you are sexually active with
your wife on a regular basis?

Ken:- Yep! Five or six nights a week!

Suit: - Well then it is logical to suggest that you do not masturbate very often?

Ken: - Me? Never.

Suit: - Well there you are! That's logical science at work!

Ken: - How's that then?

Suit: - Well from finding out that you had a goldfish, I've told you about your sex life!

Ken: - I see! That's pretty impressive...thanks mate!
Both leave the toilet and Ken returns to his mate.

Keith: - I see the suit was in there. Did you ask him what he does?
Ken - Yep! He's a logical scientist!

Keith: - What's that then?

Ken: - I'll try and explain. Do you have a goldfish?

Keith: - Nope.

Ken: - Well then, you're a wanker!

Thursday 11 June 2020

Getting my mojo back!

I've been feeling a bit blah this past week, but then it's been raining pretty much non-stop and the temperature has dropped way back down to around 15°C (59°F) - but I'll be damned if I'm going to put the bloody heating back on in June! So "winter drawers back on then" and/or keep moving it is. It really has bloody piddled down and "something" has gotten to my cucumber plants and savaged them - not saying what but the bloody slugs are now about the size of feral cats!

I've been having a hard time getting off my backside too in the morning and have often ended up just sitting reading for hours on end. I even seem to have lost my oomph for cooking, but I know I'm not alone there. So I guess now's the time to change all that. Last night I went to bed at 1.30 a.m. and while I'm still getting up around 8.30 I think it's the wrong way to go. Or maybe it's just age, I mean, you know you're getting old when you have lunch at 10 am., dinner at 5 p.m. and breakfast the night before don't you (just like you remember your mom and dad doing??)! So I'm going to try for lights out by midnight at the latest, getting up earlier and other than the news, no computer until the evening. We'll see how that works. I also think I should be spending at least an hour a day getting something done, so apart from shopping and cleaning today I spent an hour in my front garden lopping back the huge (dead) roses and peonies. On 15th June France is planning to fully open up it's borders (as far as the EU/Schengen is concerned), so I'm hoping not only to be able to go into Switzerland and see my son/friends/my friend, but also to have free access to the local tip (as opposed to by appointment only, as it is at the moment). Then hopefully I can get more stuff taken to the charity shop also as I'm really getting sick of "stuff".

As I mention, Switzerland isn't in the EU but is part of the Schengen zone (no passport controls). It's been both good and bad for Geneva (but sad to say we didn't really have beggars or the bigger drug problems until then either). But the other day I was reading the local Swiss newspaper and can you believe, only one of two Kosovans who had been hired by a banker to murder his wife (they failed thankfully) is being sent back to Kosovo. The request to send the other one back was initially approved and then repealed because of a technicality in Swiss law!!! So you see, the "bloody immigrant problem" exists everywhere (says she speaking as a "bloody immigrant" herself). It's not just in your country that the bad 'uns are taking advantage of their immigrant status (and getting away with it) but they're giving all immigrants a bad name at the same time!

While I was outside working the donkeys were making a helluva racket and when I turned round to see what was up the male was obviously having a very "hot-blooded" moment and the female was having none of it, hence all the bloody noise. But that made me remember an incident many years ago when my niece was little. My mom and dad had a couple of donkeys in the field at the back of their house and my niece saw them having an amorous moment and said "oh look nanny, Mary's giving Bailey a piggy-back"! My dad - who embarrassed easily - didn't know where to put himself!

Then I decided to take a bag of rubbish up to our local bins and bumped into Stan's oldest son, Sam. He's the one the most affected by being bi-racial but when I look at him all I see is a lovely young man with killer looks! Strange how most of us only see our negatives isn't it. I remember a couple of years ago on one of my Solos holidays to Greece an older Welsh widow commented to me how lucky I was to be able to wear shorts in this heat as I had "good legs". I was stunned because when I looked at her - yep maybe she was a bit heavier, but she had the most beautiful coffee-coloured skin because she tanned easily - and I told her so! And guess what, next day she was wearing shorts! Anyway, back to Sam, I asked how his dad was doing in Nigeria and he said that while he was happy to be there things had changed so much since he left that he was thinking of coming back to France. He has started a small business growing herbs and some crops and at first when he paid his employees their salaries everything worked out fine. But, after a couple of months, as soon as he paid them they buggered off and never came back to see out the month! He said another shock for his dad was that they no longer have coins in circulation among the population. Sure, the national bank had coins but they were "hoarding" them and everything now had to be paid for in notes - with no change being given. You can imagine the effect that has had on prices I'm sure! So maybe we'll see Stan back here shortly, but sad to say his café is already long gone (and sorely missed)!

And finally, with my new satellite dish up and running, I managed to stream The Good Liar the other night and quite enjoyed it. The acting was superb with Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen portraying the perfect conman/scammer (McKellen) setting out to divest a rich widow (Mirren) of her fortune. I have to say McKellen in particular was excellent and really showed how good these con artists can be. That being said, there was a final sting in the tail which was somewhat unbelievable but I enjoyed it anyway.

And then I stumbled on a new-to-me cookery programme called The Good Cook. Now Simon Hopkinson has obviously been around a long time as he is now mid-60s and opened his first restaurant at the age of 20, but I'd never heard of him. And I like his style. Very understated and calm. My sister loves The Hairy Bikers but I find their constant "good ole lads" banter irritating, and got fed up of Nigella's simpering, tight blouses and batting eyelashes. So if you want some simple, well explained cookery ideas you might try looking up The Good Cook!

Friday 5 June 2020

Creepy crawlies (and other wonderful things to find in your shoe)!

We finally got our first rain in ????? days the other day and it's forecast to continue for a good few days. It's not horrendous but the temperature has dropped and a couple of times a day I now go out into my garden with a large spoon to train for the annual slug flinging competition! Bloody things, I hate 'em, so I keep checking my veggies and scraping the little buggers off before flinging them into the hedge. Well them and snails!!!! I don't mind the snails so much but I absolutely hate stepping on the bloody things in the dark, or worse still, finding one inside my garden shoes that I leave outside with my gardening stuff. Eewww, snail-filled shoes - certainly not my idea of a good pedicure! I had to laugh though as I found two snails "stuck" together by my front door last night, so flicked them on to the garden. This morning when I opened the door the poor sods seemed to have just been able to make their way back on to my front porch overnight to continue "mating" and I flicked them back onto the grass again. So they made all that effort for what turned out to be an exercise in futility to me, but then I don't really know how a snail's mind works do I. Oh wait …. nah, better not got there. I'm divorced! Then the other morning I was pulling back the curtains in the spare bedroom and found a ruddy great hornet trapped between the curtain and the window. Damn, I opened that window as wide as I could and beat a hasty retreat thinking I'd managed to get rid of it a couple of hours later when I went back in there and couldn't find it. But no, when I went into the other bedroom and turned the light on there he was again, the evil looking bugger. So I shut all the doors and opened just that one window and hope I've got the bloody thing out this time as I swear it was as big as my thumb. I remember one time finding a nest on the balcony right by my bedroom window. Not knowing what to do I set fire to the bloody thing. I'm not sure if that was the best solution but they seemed to change camp sites after that!

Despite the slugs, snails and hornets, we need the rain and either way, the meme below is still pretty much spot on!

And shooting off in a totally different direction, in The Sopranos episode I was watching the other night the "guys" headed off to Naples to do business with their Italian counterparts. Of course Naples was all very beautiful but I remember going there in 1980 (on our way down the Amalfi coast and then over to Malta) and my boyfriend and I ended up spending a couple of nights in Naples. Nope, don't think I'll bother again. We got so sick of being ripped off everywhere we went and since the lira was still the official currency at the time, with way too many "000000" at the end of each figure, I'm pretty sure they had us paying over $100 for a bottle of water as we couldn't figure out the exchange rate. Then getting ripped off by the hotel owner and taxi driver (who actually ran over my boyfriend's foot) and some of the worst food I have ever eaten, I swore I'd never go there again. I remember at the end of a disgusting meal we had, the restaurant owners sent the sullen little fat kid to "wipe off our table" as we were preparing to leave (i.e. flick the crap into our laps), so then of course you have to give the "cute little fat kid" who had done bugger all evening a decent tip! Which we did of course because no way were we arguing we those guys! Actually my son went there with the school many moons ago and he said the same thing about Naples. He swore the spaghetti napolitana was just spaghetti doused in ketchup and said the food was disgusting and a rip off for the tourists. That being said, he had a wonderful time and of course Naples is in no way indicative of the rest of Italy, thankfully. One of my friend's father is from Naples (mom is Scottish) and she said that even though she is family and speaks the language, there's no way she would wear any kind of jewellery while walking out and about in Naples. So I guess the mob mentality really is still alive and kicking there!

In other parts of the globe, seeing people commemorating the Tiananmen Square protests the other night made me think of an article by an English friend of mine who was actually in Tiananmen Square when everything exploded! I can't remember all the details but she ended up being in the square quite by accident when the protests erupted. In fact, she hadn't really intended to be in China at all but was making her way to Siberia to see her boyfriend to get married there. As I say, I can't remember all the details as it was some time ago but she realized that as a blue-eyed blond she was most definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time and vividly described the absolutely electric tension! Eventually a bunch of Australian journalists dragged her to safety at the hotel where they were holing up and she said even there, in the relative safety of the hotel, the atmosphere was like sitting on a powder keg. Eventually they were all shepherded out of the country by the authorities and as she was getting on the train to leave a young Chinese man (a friend or a new acquaintance?) asked her to keep his address book on her as he was afraid what would happen to him if he was found with it. So she stuffed it inside her bra and this young man was, indeed, taken away on the train for "questioning" but was subsequently released and as they were parting ways she was able to give him his address book back, although she never knew what became of him! Now the reason she showed me the written account of her experience was because they had put out a call at work for people to submit stories to the intranet and she asked me if I thought she should submit it!!! To say I didn't think it would be a good idea would be an understatement and of course she saw my reasoning and never did publish it, but I'm so glad I got to read it. Was she foolish? Foolhardy? Or just unlucky? Who knows, but as a lady who went on to marry her Russian boyfriend in beautiful Siberia (beautiful despite the bugs that almost ate her alive), I would say she's certainly had a few experiences wouldn't you!

On a totally different subject, I've recently got so sick of transferring my to do list from one page of my diary to the next that I finally got so annoyed with myself and thought "oh for God's sake just get it done will ya"!

So I finally got round to crossing off another couple of seemingly eternally pending tasks today. I called the travel company we were going to Holland with and asked when I was going to be getting my refund and then drove down into town and fairly easily got an appointment to have the guy come out to my place on Monday with a view to replacing my ancient satellite dish. It wasn't even that difficult so why I put this stuff off I will never know!

And finally (I don't half go on don't I), as I was sitting watching the news tonight they interrupted the broadcast to cut to Trump's impromptu speech from the Rose Garden. Now as soon as he comes on all I can hear is "me, me, great, best, strongest" so I usually mute it and just watch the chest thumping without having to listen to him. I get the gist of anything important he had to say later from whichever poor sod was given the task of listening to it and breaking out the actual facts from the self-congratulatory flatulence. But one thing that did strike me was that he always has to have a whole army of advisers standing behind him. Fair enough, I suppose, as he is the President. But it then made me think of how the other psychopathic narc I had the misfortune to meet in my working life was exactly like that. She never went to a meeting alone and it would have to be a cold day in hell if she only took one person with her. No, she would usually take an entourage of about five other colleagues (thus taking them away from their work) so that she would never get "caught out". You see, she actually knew jack shit and couldn't possibly dip her toes into what should not have been unknown waters alone because then she might be found out for the fraud she was. So now I'm wondering if that's another narc trait - chest beating and taking your army with you wherever you go in order to ensure that nobody ever gets to see behind the mask!

Monday 1 June 2020

More this and that!

Yet again there's not an awful lot going on here at the moment - or maybe it's just me that's run out of steam for a while because I'm not achieving very much. Who knows. It does seem like everyone and his uncle is ringing my phone and doorbell at the moment trying to catch up with stuff but other than that it's pretty quiet. Well over here at least - unlike the violent scenes in the US right now. What can I say that hasn't already been said? But the really sad thing to me at least is that I don't think George Floyd's death will be the last one. It never is is it, and that's what's so tragic!

In other news, the telemarketers are back at it again and the other day I made the mistake of answering my mobile to a telecom company called Free trying to get my business with a special introductory offer on my house phone, TV and internet for just under €10/month for the next year. Actually I was somewhat interested as I've been disappointed with my internet provider lately, although to be honest this area is known for not having particularly good internet capacity. Anyway, I listened to the lady but as I was in a bit of a funk I just thought "I can't be bothered going through all this again" so decided to call my own internet provider, SFR, and tell them what Free had to offer and could they match it? And seemingly they could because I had already looked on their website. Well the lady tries to tell me that the offer is just for new customers so I said that in that case I would just give Free the go ahead to take over my account. And that's when I got put through to Mr. Account Retainer Guy! Now sometimes I have a hard time understanding these people because they go through their spiel so fast and very often they seem to have north African accents (the equivalent of the call centre in India?), so after a while I told the guy I wasn't interested in listening to much more or being put on hold again so could they do something for me or not? At this point he tried to offer me a special deal on a movie channel but I told him I wasn't interested as I don't watch French TV, so long story short, he knocked €20/month off my internet/house phone deal and another €7/month off my mobile if I would stay with them. I don't actually spend a great deal of €€€€ on either anyway so I was happy to go with that. I guess it really does pay to ask then, as long as you are prepared to politely tell them to quit the BS and let's just get down to the nitty gritty right? Actually, that's the way I ended up handing my notice in. As my friend said, you can go in there and ask for what you want (in my case, occasional telecommuting) but you have to be prepared to put your money where your mouth is and follow through if you don't get what you want. And since that's something I've always been prepared to do, I handed my notice in within a couple of hours of being refused! (And the dumb thing is, everyone at work has been working from home for the past 10 weeks now but hey, what do I care now)!

I also finally managed to get Jordan's US taxes sent off and his British passport application. Wouldn't you know his passport runs out in July and as from 1 July we have to be requesting our residency permits for France, although I honestly believe the website will crash for the first couple of weeks anyway, so he should be ok. I had to laugh though as I uploaded his picture onto the passport renewal website and his picture came back as "unacceptable" because (apparently) it was difficult for the computer to distinguish between his facial features and the plain wall behind him!!! Who wudda thought - my son has a face that looks like a brick wall!!!!! I sent it off anyway as I disagreed so we'll see if it comes back. They also now ask if you have a second nationality and since he also has US citizenship I was supposed to send off a photocopy of every page of his US passport - which I don't have - so I just sent in a copy of the main page. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it'll go through as is but who knows!

And talking of Jordan, it was his 28th birthday yesterday so I drove to their place to take his gifts over and chat for a while. I really do like their apartment because although it's small they have the most fabulous balcony overlooking a park and the mountains so I think that apartment was a good choice. And would you believe he's off on sick leave until this coming Friday because he managed to drive a nail through his thumb and ended up at the emergency room on Thursday. Apparently it was spewing blood so badly that his boss almost passed out (😅) so there were almost two of them out sick that day! He said it hurt like hell at the time but the doctor did a really good job of stitching it back up and Jen has been able to change the dressing on it and keep it clean, so hopefully he'll be back at work next week!

I think my satellite dish is also on the blink so I'll have to get "the guy" to come out and try to realign it with the UK channels again for me. In the meantime, I'm still watching The Sopranos and have taken to watching Gina, The Italian Grandma cooking on YouTube. She's great and I like the way she cooks but she speaks English like my former neighbour in England who came to England as a war bride and never actually bothered to learn English properly. Everything - male, female, inanimate object - was a "she" and sometimes her rants were a delight to listen to (for the neighbours at least, maybe not for her 10 kids)! But Gina is fun to watch - as long as you've watched a few Sopranos episodes and can guess at half the Italian words!

Gina, the Italian Grandma!

Which brings to mind Trump's latest spat with Twitter. I think he has tried to open social media up to lawsuits, or something like that, you know, for doing depraved things like fact-checking his tweets. It was originally touted as being that Trump wanted to close Twitter down, but could you imagine Trump without Twitter??? It would be like putting two Italians in a room, tying their hands behind their backs and asking them to hold a political debate!

Then on Saturday night I got an email from a former colleague who must have retired almost 20 years ago (I remember processing her pension and medical insurance paperwork). I bumped into her in town about a year ago and she did the usual "oh we must get together for a drink" kinda thing, "here's my email". So I sent her an email just to say hi and never heard back from her. Until Saturday night, when she sent me an email and asked if I could call her to "discuss pensions"! My first thought was that it was a scam so I checked on the number and it was indeed her number. So then I thought maybe she had gotten confused and thought I was still working in HR, but in the end I called her and she had a whole list of questions about whether she was entitled to keep French social security and our work medical insurance, did she have to pay the CSG (tax) on this and that? So I asked her if she realized I had retired and was no longer working in HR and she said "oh yes, but Chantal gave me your number and told me you knew all about it"! Bloody Chantal is the woman my friend and I bumped into on our way to Italy last year when she was telling me that she would love to retire but couldn't afford to, although "it's all right for you because you were a higher grade", and then went on to tell us how she went to Italy every week during the warm weather to go clothes shopping. And she was the one that had the same question about the CSG tax where I had been given conflicting information by two different tax guys and she went ahead and forwarded all MY tax information (with my name attached) to our local tax office to have them answer her query! I was furious because although I had nothing to hide and have indeed declared everything, that bloody female had no right to forward my information to the tax people!!! She's one of those people who talks at you not to you, and since she also sent me an email to say that she would be retiring in June I'm thinking I'll have to avoid our local town like the plague from now on. Anyway, I told Josy I couldn't give her any advice on her situation because I am not a tax expert and have never actually worked in France, so all I could do was give her the name of my tax guy (the good one, not the "charlatan")! But staying zen knowing that bloody Chantal is handing out my personal tax information and my contact details to staff members and former colleagues is not going to be easy I can tell you!

So on that note, I'll finish with a picture of my lovely peonies and roses. All very beautiful of course but keeping up with dead-heading them takes quite some doing. Maybe it'll be easier to rip the dead heads off if I picture Chantal's face on them! Chantal's face on roses? Nah, maybe not. She's more like poison ivy. A pain in the butt you can't get rid of!