The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Wednesday 30 September 2020

I'd want my money back too!

Last week "the guy" came out to my house to see what kind of cassette would be best suited to insert into my fireplace. Well there wasn't much choice as it turns out. I don't want to knock out the fireplace and put in a free-standing stove (all the more so since I only had my floor redone a few months ago) and the actual opening in the chimney is not big enough to take the majority of the models available, so I'm going to have to go for a smaller, wood-burning rather than granule-burning cassette, but I'm fine with that. I'm just waiting for the quote and then having that installed will be more upheaval to look forward to this winter! The good news is that the French government are apparently offering a €1,000 incentive for this kind of work (i.e. sealing in an open fireplace), and I can take a tax deduction for it, so that sweetens the pill somewhat. Then this Friday I'm going to start the initial run around looking at bathrooms/showers as both my bathrooms are in a pretty sad state. Even though Jordan is willing to install everything, I'm more nervous about the cost of that project but they really do need a major overhaul so I'll have to get started on it some day. After that I reckon that'll have to be it for quite a while as the money tree will need to go into hibernation for a looonnngg time!

Sometime ago I bought sealant strips to replace the badly worn-out window sealant on some (most?) of my doors and windows and finally got round to having a bash at the window in my bedroom this week. I figured it made sense to actually get this stuff done before winter right? Well I had the strip all meticulously applied and then when I went to close the window it wouldn't shut. I thought shutting the window would squash it down somewhat but nope, there was nothing doing as it was too thick. So I had to take it all off and put another, thinner type of foam insulation in instead. It doesn't look great but it's an improvement over what was there previously. So I just need to seal another how many then to get them all done? Plus I need to get a few light fixtures replaced, and then I realized it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to start re-sealing some of the wooden surrounds on my windows as a lot of that could do with a makeover too. Gosh, there's always something to do isn't there, but at least with the colder weather coming along I should hope I will get my backside into gear and get some of it done!

I read in the press the other day that Michael Schumacher's wife has moved him from their property in Geneva to another property they own in Spain. Poor Michael! He spent most of his professional life competing in an extremely dangerous sport and look what happened to him in a "simple" skiing accident! I very much respect his wife for keeping his circumstances/physical situation private though - she and their children have been amazing! But seeing him mentioned in the press along with a photo of their Geneva home, I realized that it was indeed true that the Schumachers bought that house off the father of a friend of my son, André. André had spent some time there and was dead impressed - their own private beach, a helicopter landing pad in the grounds, plus the massive house of course, and I remember him saying that when they put it up for sale (something to do with "tax evasion in the UK/prison time"!!!!) a representative of Michael Somebody-or-other had come to look at it. Now somewhat stupidly I reckoned it was Michael Jackson, but nope, it was Michael Schumacher and seeing the photo of the house in the news this week made me realize that that was where André's friend had lived up until maybe 18 years ago! (I bet they never worried about wind-proofing the windows huh?)!

Michael Schumacher's house in Gland, Switzerland!

Then on Monday night we had our second sewing club meeting and had to take over the kitchen as well as the sewing room in order to spread ourselves out sufficiently. I got chatting to a lady called Marysette - who had been planning to retire in June - and asked her if she had, indeed, retired. She said she had, but while it was great to no longer be working, she'd had a nasty fall almost immediately after quitting work and had spent quite some time doing physio and attending doctor's appointments ever since! Since I knew she lived in a small town near here called Bonneville I asked her what she thought of the walk along the River Arve there (I've done it a few times) but she said unless she had her dog with her she wouldn't do it alone because it's quite isolated, with lots of trees and bushes and she didn't feel safe. Actually, that's why I asked her, so I guess she got the same vibe as I did from the place. I know, however, that she does lots of walking in her spare time (knee-permitting) and we've tentatively made plans to go out walking in Samoëns next Wednesday if the weather is half-way decent. As much as I love my walks in Thyez I'm getting a bit bored with it, so if we can get some longer, new-to-me walks in on the flat I'll be well pleased!

Sixt Fer-à-Cheval, Samoëns

The ladies were also talking about the French government floating the idea of another two-week total lockdown in December to "get this thing over and done with once and for all". I hadn't heard any of this because I don't have French TV but it must be very worrying for those struggling to keep businesses afloat. Apparently they've also talked about shutting gyms down again, but my neighbour was saying that was more aimed at south-eastern France for the time being, but again, picture the gym where I've just signed up and I can't even begin to imagine how much money they must have sunk into that place, so I hope it doesn't prove necessary to shut it down again!

As I was heading out to said gym this morning, I spotted the local postie's van all festooned with balloons so I reckoned he must be about to retire. Actually I saw him a couple of weeks ago training a new, younger guy so that looks about right. I used to see the postie at Stan's sometimes when I came back from the market. He'd be there having his lunch (and a glass of wine) and though I didn't speak to him that much he was a nice guy. In fact, he was the person that when dropping off mail at a neighbour's house about five years ago realized that the guy's face didn't look quite right, so after about 10 minutes he doubled back and knocked on the door again. Turns out the guy was having a massive stroke (at age 54) and our postie effectively saved his life. So I'd say he's earned a well-deserved retirement wouldn't you!

The sign in the window says "retirement convoy"!

And finally, after yesterday's bombshell New York Times article about Trump's taxes, today the wires are all abuzz with last night's "presidential" debate, which was anything but "presidential"! I tried watching some of the "highlights" when I got up this morning but after a couple of minutes I realized there was no amount of money in the world you could pay me to sit through more than five minutes of that stuff. Talk about stooping to a new limbo low - it just makes me sad that whatever their differences, the behaviour was just appallingly lacking in class (and yep, I guess I'm talking about "Mr. $70,000 hair do"). Damn, $70,000 in hair-styling expenses!!! Mind you, if my hair looked like that I'd be falling over myself to reclaim that money too! Trouble is, they say it ain't over till the fat lady sings and I sure as heck can't hear Montserrat Caballé singing anywhere can you?

Sunday 27 September 2020


I've been keeping an eye on my friend's place as she and her sister drove to southern Spain last week where they've just bought a house. Her sister will be staying on as she intends to make her life in Spain (she's lived there before) and my friend will be back shortly. I sent my friend a message to say everything was ok and she mentioned that she had already received an appointment for 1 December for Annecy to check her paperwork in connection with her request for French citizenship! Say what????? She only sent her request in about 10 days ago and she's already got an appointment? I sent my request in July 2019 and not a peep. She did mention that as soon as she sent her email she got an automatic reply saying "if you've already made a request please send another one with the word "reminder" in the subject line", so I've now done that too. I don't actually mind too much as other than my French test I already had everything pretty much ready to go and I'm sure I'll get an appointment soon, but heck, it's a good job she mentioned it isn't it!

On Wednesday I did my first stint at the gym trying out the workout programme my coach drew up for me and I actually really enjoyed it. It certainly made a difference being shown how to use the machines correctly and while it was hard work it was good fun. The young coach was working on the ground floor and said if I had any difficulties to give him a yell and he would come upstairs and show me what I needed to be doing, so I'm pleased with the "service" too. My idea is to go to the gym on Wednesdays and Fridays but then they also seem to be the only days I will have to meet up with friends and set up appointments so I reckon I'll be lucky to get two days a week in at the gym, to be honest! That being said, I was aching pretty badly come Friday so I was more than pleased to have the excuse not to go as I was meeting up with friends in Geneva for lunch. As it was my birthday on Thursday they kindly paid for me but it is always a treat to catch up with these particular friends anyway as we've known each other for years and have a lot to catch up on. Well saying that, it was all great until I walked back out to my car and discovered I had got a parking ticket. Stupid idiot that I am I had forgotten to put my blue "free parking" disk up, and since Swiss parking attendants are like grey ghosts I got stung. Actually (and I think this is pretty horrible, to be honest) they even pay people who live locally to "snoop" (as I put it) and dash out and put parking tickets on cars for them. One old lady has a dreadful reputation as the local snitch as she lives just above a bakery and is forever dashing out of her house and giving people tickets. Still, I'm sure it gives her a lot of pleasure right? And in any case, although I would have been allowed to park free of charge for four hours, I did indeed forget to put my blue disk up, so more fool me!

When I got home from grocery shopping on Thursday my neighbour and her daughter had left a beautiful flower display outside my front door so I went round to thank her and have a coffee and a chat. But man-oh-man, did I get an earful. I've mentioned before that they are one of the unhappiest couples I know and she really let me have it so I guess it was more of an opportunity for her to get things off her chest than for us to have a chat. I hate to see her like this as I sense she is verging on a breakdown but what can I do? I hear the yelling either out in the back garden or through my wall but .... My only selfish consolation is that it is no longer me and my husband screaming and entertaining the neighbourhood, but I feel so sad for my neighbour as I think the world of her!

My friend hasn't been well so I guess I will see him when he feels a bit better, and the kids have told me to block 18 October as they are taking me out for the day - oh and "you'll need your swimsuit"! Damn, I wonder what my chances of losing 10 kg between now and then are - zero right? It's going to be a kinda group birthday outing as it's Jen's birthday at the beginning of October and also her mom's so we're all going out together. I'm thinking a hot springs somewhere - they have a lovely one at Chamonix I'd love to go to - but I guess I'll have to wait and see! I had my André Rieu concert lined up for 17 October but that has just been cancelled so at least there is a "positive" in that I won't be in Zurich that night!

My "Walk 1,000 Miles in 2020" FB group is still going strong and I'm loving some of the pictures these people are posting - they really are putting me to shame. Someone recently posted a picture of their hike over Crib Goch in north Wales and it was beautiful. My mom was from a small village in Snowdonia National Park and I really would love the chance to go back there to see the place as an adult rather than through a child's eyes!

Crib Goch - can you believe this was classed as a
"mountain walk for novice walkers"!

I guess everything is relative but I remember going hiking with the school to the Lake District when I was 11 and they took us over Helvellyn, with us having to walk over Striding Edge to get to it!!! Maybe I'm just older but looking back I do wonder about taking kids over such hikes. I think also in the UK the bigger problem than the actual difficulty of the walk is the constantly changing weather conditions, but again, I still can't believe we went over Striding Edge at such a young age and probably not properly equipped!

Striding Edge


My sister called me for my birthday and she was asking if I'd noticed how ill Boris Johnson looked. Well he's just gone through a nasty divorce (which is what happens when you get your girlfriend pregnant while still married I guess), he must still be feeling the effects of having a serious attack of covid, but I also think he thought he could "buffoon" his way through being Prime Minister and is probably only now realizing just how hard it is! I actually used to quite like him when he was just "Boris the Buffoon" but now? No way! If you do everything in your power to take on that kind of job you'd better damn well be serious about it - or at least have the gumption to surround yourself with competent people who know what they're doing. Remind you of anyone?

I see too that yet again the UK Government are promoting an anti-obesity campaign, partly as a result of the dreadful state some people are in in the UK and partly because they are trying to push people to understand that obesity is a pretty crucial factor in just how ill you might get if you have the misfortune to catch the coronavirus. I think it's a commendable aim, but when they post pictures on the TV more or less saying "your aim should be not to look like this", my mind always jumps to wondering if some of the (headless) people they are showing photos of might actually recognize themselves because of their clothes! I know that's not the point of the whole campaign but can you imagine just how mortified you would be (or maybe not - who knows) if you actually recognized yourself as the "face" (belly?) of the anti-obesity campaign!! (First thing I'd do is burn that bloody T-shirt, just in case anyone recognized me)!

And finally, our temperatures have dropped like a lead balloon these past couple of days. Last night as I was shutting my shutters I saw that it was only 6°C (42°F) and it's "nippy" to say the least. I actually don't mind it being cold as I now get to bundle up and start working outside in comfortable temperatures, but to already see snow on Cou (the small mountain behind me) makes me realize that winter is well and truly on its way!

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Veet - removes hair, dignity and self-respect!

Life is pretty much back to normal now - or as normal as anything can be during a pandemic I guess! Sewing club started back up last night and damn if I didn't get there 30 minutes early (to set up tables and disinfect) only to find my bloody key wouldn't work! Oh I could get into the building all right as the front door was open, but when I got up to our sewing room I couldn't open the door - there was no beep, beep sound at all. So I tried opening up the toilets and again no luck. Damn! I had sent round an email earlier that day reminding people that we were starting up again so I had no choice but to stick around and wait. As luck would have it Patricia, the teacher, showed up first and fortunately her keys worked, so we were able to have our first get together - and very popular it seems to be too. It looks like everyone from last year is going to return and we have maybe another four newbies. I mentioned at one point that we might have to refuse any more requests because of space constraints, but a couple of the ladies just said "nah, we'll take over the kitchen too" - so that's what we might end up doing. Heck, I never knew it was that popular, but I have to admit we have a good laugh too. Patricia had asked if a colleague of hers could come along (no problem), but boy is she a bit weird. She hadn't actually brought a sewing project with her as she wanted to get an idea of what she might attempt, but when she spotted my now almost-finished baby quilt, she basically sat glued next to me and started pinning the border (badly). I'm thinking "back off lady and please keep your hands off my quilt as I've spent a year making this thing" (she had no idea what she was doing as she can't sew anyway), but ultimately I think once we can get her started on her own project I may be able to keep her away from my quilt!

I figured the battery in my key fob was gone but called the Mairie (who graciously let us have the room for free) just in case and she told me to come over for them to take a look. Oddly enough I keep a battery in my car in case my car keys conk out on me, but I didn't want to mess with this one as it wasn't my property. In the end it was easy enough to fix with a sharp tool to split the fob and I'll know what to do next time. Still, I think I should start carrying my Swiss army knife in my purse again just in case!

Talking of keeping my Swiss army knife on me, this past week I've been seeing FB reports (yet again) of the proverbial "broken down Mercedes" on the side of the road with some guy holding out money to try to get someone to stop. It's always a Mercedes or a BMW and they always have either Romanian or Bulgarian licence plates and you do not stop! It does make me a little uneasy driving back late at night from sewing club and my Italian lesson now, so I make sure to stay off the backroads - which pisses me off because you shouldn't have to do this should you! A few new incidents have also been posted of two "white van men" being stopped in a petrol station, one of the white vans having poorly painted "emergency medical supplies" on the side and then approaching a lone woman to buy petrol for them. On occasion they will also have a young child with them, but people are being warned not to have any dealings with them as they are con artists. So here we go again, more bloody scammers, potentially dangerous, and now I can't stop at night if I need petrol. Damn, they make me bloody mad!

In other news, I've almost finished Michael Cohen's book and I have to admit it is good, very revealing and, as I said before, surprisingly well written. After that I've had enough of Trumpanomics so I have indeed ordered the book of Doctor Zhivago and apparently it will be here very shortly. Oddly enough another book I've meant to read for years is All Creatures Great and Small - which has been sitting on my bookshelf since I was knee high to a grasshopper, so I think it might be time to up the ante a little and get back to the good stuff. Talking of speedy delivery, the other day I ordered a 2021 diary from Amazon UK because I like to have my diaries in English and I also get the important UK dates by doing it through them. And I'm thrilled to report that it arrived from the UK in 24 hours so I was very impressed as I can already start transferring dates/events. I don't write an actual "memories" diary (I consider my blog to be that), but it's the way I keep track of everything going on in my life. I know most people now put this stuff in their phones but I don't because I don't feel I can count on my phone half the time and would be in a real mess if I lost it. Call me a dinosaur (I guess my envelope budgeting system proves that right?) but I like a visual of what's going on in the coming weeks and I rarely, if ever, forget anything (well not as long as it's in my diary)!

My gardener showed up yesterday as the rain had let up, and in a few hours he got my hedges and my grass cut, so I'm well pleased. After a while the heavens opened up (yet again) but as I don't mind the rain anyway I stayed outside with him as I wanted to clean up more of the garden and get some seeds planted that my friend had given me. It's called love-in-a-mist and is a member of the buttercup family, self-setting and very sturdy so if it takes it will go a treat in my hard to manage soil. Fingers crossed as I find it beautiful!


I've already done two yoga classes this week and am planning to hit the gym tomorrow for my first trial run with the programme the coach has set up for me. But guess what, I am (finally) starting to feel a difference, in my legs at least. I can actually feel muscles in my thighs starting to develop and it's a good feeling, because I honestly believe I've been working quite hard lately. Nothing else has changed as yet. Oh I've lost and regained the same six pounds over and over again and since I carry my weight on my belly I still look like a boiled egg in a pair of shorts, but the legs are starting ever so slightly to react and I'm delighted - even if I still have a helluva long way to go!

When we came back from yoga today my neighbour commented that she wished she'd shaved her legs before going. I'm not at all hairy so I barely notice, but she has dark hair and you can see it. Still, who cares, we're just a bunch of old women and I doubt anyone's eyesight was good enough to be checking out her legs anyway. Still, that reminded me of a few years ago when I was in England and my sister was getting my mom ready for a doctor's appointment. Now you ladies will know that once you hit menopause you start discovering hairs in places you never knew you had places, and my sister had my mom sitting there with Veet on her upper lip and chin to get rid of the old lady whiskers. With my neighbour mentioning shaving, I remembered and pulled up on the computer an Amazon review I'd seen years ago. It was sent in in 2012 by A. Chappell (a man) in the UK giving his review of his experience with Veet and it's a hoot - very much "toilet humour" - but then I'm like that anyway. Now I'm English but even I had to think twice about some of the expressions he used, so when my neighbour asked what I was laughing at damn was it hard trying to translate things like "Rastafarian dangly bits" into French. If you're interested, his review is below!

"After having been told my danglies looked like an elderly rastafarian I decided to take the plunge and buy some of this as previous shaving attempts had only been mildly successful and I nearly put my back out trying to reach the more difficult bits.

Being a bit of a romantic I thought I would do the deed on the missus's birthday as a bit of a treat. I  ordered it well in advance and working in the North sea I considered myself a bit above some of the characters writing the previous reviews and wrote them off as soft office types...oh my fellow sufferers how wrong I was.

I waited until the other half was tucked up in bed and after giving some vague hints about a special surprise I went down to the bathroom. Initially all went well and I applied the gel and stood waiting for something to happen. I didn't have long to wait.

At first there was a gentle warmth which in a matter of seconds was replaced by an intense burning and a feeling I can only describe as like being given a barbed wire wedgie by two people intent on hitting the ceiling with my head.

Religion hadn't featured much in my life until that night but I suddenly became willing to convert to any religion to stop the violent burning around the turd tunnel and what seemed like the destruction of the meat and two veg.

Struggling to not bite through my bottom lip I tried to wash the gel off in the sink and only succeeded in blocking the plughole with a mat of hair. Through the haze of tears I struggled out of the bathroom across the hall into the kitchen. By this time walking was not really possible and I crawled the final yard to the fridge in the hope of some form of cold relief.

I yanked the freezer drawer out and found a tub of ice cream, tore the lid off and positioned it under me. The relief was fantastic but only temporary as it melted fairly quickly and the fiery stabbing soon returned.

Due to the shape of the ice cream tub I hadn't managed to give the starfish any treatment and I groped around in the draw for something else as I was sure my vision was going to fail fairly soon. I grabbed a bag of what I later found out was frozen sprouts and tore it open trying to be quiet as I did so. I took a handful of them and tried in vain to clench some between the cheeks of my arse.

This was not doing the trick as some of the gel had found its way up the chutney channel and it felt like the space shuttle was running its engines behind me. This was probably and hopefully the only time in my life I was going to wish there was a gay snowman in the kitchen which should give you some idea of the depths I was willing to sink to in order to ease the pain.

The only solution my pain crazed mind could come up with was to gently ease one of the sprouts where no veg had gone before.

Unfortunately, alerted by the strange grunts coming from the kitchen the other half chose that moment to come and investigate and was greeted by the sight of me, arse in the air, strawberry ice cream dripping from my bell end pushing a sprout up my arse while muttering..."Ooooh that feels good"!

Understandably this was a shock to her and she let out a scream and as I hadn't heard her come in it caused an involuntary spasm of shock in myself which resulted in the sprout being ejected at quite some speed in her direction.

I can understand that having a sprout farted against your leg at 11 at night in the kitchen probably wasn't the special surprise she was expecting and having to explain to the kids the next day what the strange hollow in the ice cream was didn't improve my status...

So to sum it up fellas, Veet does indeed remove hair,  - but also dignity and self respect.......!"

Hair removal for men!

Sunday 20 September 2020

Easy come, easy go!

I'm messing about with my blog at the moment - just in case you see any weird things going on before I get this sorted. Is anyone else having problems uploading videos with new blogger? I'm not even sure if this one will work but if not, please bear with me!

So where was I? Oh yes, Russia! It has started raining today and I think it's scheduled to be wet all week so I suspect I'll be spending much more time indoors, which isn't a bad thing as goodness knows I have loads to do indoors (too)! Not that sitting down watching Dr. Zhivago achieved much but God I love that film. It is visually beautiful (I mean, who wouldn't fall in love with Yuri and Lara, as played by Omar Sharif and Julie Christie?) but the music is just so amazing it seems to transport you right there with them! Oh and the story's "not bad" either, although truth be told I haven't actually read the book. I suspect that will shortly get added to my reading list as it's a classic. Not exactly the same genre as Michael Cohen's book which I'm currently reading but the beauty of not belonging to a book club is that I get to read what I want - even if it's an eclectic mix!

Julie Christie and Omar Sharif in Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago!

Talking of Egyptians (we were weren't we), the race is on to elect a new top boss at my previous employer, and up until very recently an Egyptian former colleague had been in the running as a potential candidate from Africa. After many years living in Switzerland he is also now a Swiss national but was running on the African ticket. It turns out he is now no longer in the running and this was announced in the local Geneva newspaper. But, I was absolutely horrified when I saw some of the comments below the article (admittedly not many)! Comments such as "oh he looks like a typical Swiss doesn't he", or "I wonder how he can afford to live in Switzerland without working" (he's on a pension you idiot), and "oh I suppose he'll be trotting off back to Morocco now to sign on for unemployment" (????? since when was Egypt part of Morocco?)! I was well and truly disgusted because he is a nice man and I believe he would have been a good candidate. Whether he was the best candidate I have no idea but he certainly knew the organization inside out and was well-liked. But to hear such casual racism from people who had obviously never met the guy - well, it just defies belief (to me at least). I know people the whole world over are subject to such racisim, but it hit me hard that if any of these cave trolls actually knew the man they might see that he was a good guy! God give me strength!

Heading off on another tangent, somebody made a comment recently to the effect that now that I'd passed my French test "I would soon be French"! Ha ha, as if! I haven't even had my initial appointment in Annecy for them to look over my paperwork (although surely that can't be too much longer right? I mean, it's been 15 months in the making already). But today on FB a couple of people in the local area posted that Annecy had just accepted their paperwork and they were told that Grenoble would get in touch with them for their final interview "sometime in 2023"! Ha ha, good job I've got a sense of humour isn't it! I want to become French mainly because I want to remain an EU citizen, but also because thanks to the cock-ups of the so-called "politicians" in the U.K. I now no longer have a vote anywhere in the world! That's right, women died to get the right to vote and with the stroke of a pen some dickhead in London took that right away from me, although to be fair it wasn't Bojo - he's just a dickhead in his own right. So, long story short, if I ever do get French citizenship it looks like I will be at least 65 - I just hope I still have all my marbles at that point so I'll know who to vote for!

In other news, I was paying some bills yesterday and was surprised to see that instead of the usual over €1,000/month deduction being made as my automatic deduction for 2020 taxes (it's catch up time since the automatic deduction was only set up in June), this month, and until the end of the year, the tax people will "only" be taking out €602/month. I've tried to figure out the reasoning behind this and in any case I'd decided that I would put the "savings" into a savings account for taxes as I still don't understand it, but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless! Well that was until I saw that Jordan was overdrawn €300 and he has another 10 days to go to pay day! I have always been able to see his own, personal account since he was a kid (not their joint/married accounts obviously) and told both my kids that I was happy for them to remove this access any time they wanted, but as I've said before, we're very open about finances and they aren't bothered that I can see their accounts. (On a side note, it's gratifying to see that André's sticking to the "envelope" budget we set up a couple of months ago, and even he's both surprised and delighted to see how easy it is to follow.) Anyway, that said, Jordan's being off work for a month during lockdown hurt his bank account because although he received some money, it was nowhere near his usual salary. Then of course he was off work for over a week when he put the nail through his hand, so again his account took a hit and he's been playing catch-up ever since. So I took a look at my new-found "excess" money and thought "sod it", and transferred €300 into his account to bring him back up to solvency. I sent him a message and told him what I had done and to consider it a belated gift from the tax man as I hadn't bought him much of a birthday present this year. He said that I didn't have to do that but I can sense he's relieved too! So since he has more need than I do of a few extra €€€€ at the moment, I guess it really is easy come, easy go as far as I'm concerned isn't it!

Friday 18 September 2020

They certainly know how to put on a party!

I couldn't seem to get a handle on what time the Tour de France was supposed to arrive in La Roche yesterday so around lunchtime I thought I should head on down into town. I couldn't have gone up to Glières or La Clusaz if I had wanted to as the roads were closed off and only the already-fully-booked shuttle buses were allowed in, so on foot it would have to be. And it was hot! After about 20 minutes I ran into a young girl who was manning one of the barricades across the road and asked her about timings. When she told me that one of the media vans had just gone past and they were expecting the peloton in town anywhere between 5-6 p.m. I thought "nope, I'm not going to hang around in town for the next five hours", so I walked back into the village and decided to have lunch in our one-and-only restaurant. My friend always refers to this place as "the restaurant that's never open" because it did indeed seem to be closed half the time. Now I don't know if it has changed hands or if the owners have had to pull their fingers out to make up for the covid closures, but now it seems to be constantly open. The owner's wife runs another restaurant further up the mountain so I guess they will have been hard hit by the lockdown!

The village school - now up and running again!

So I sat and ate lunch while reading the Michael Cohen book, and you know what, I'm actually enjoying it! He pretty much admits he was a slimeball and doesn't appear to be making excuses for himself, but he writes well and it is, of course, quite a story he has to tell! After killing a good hour or so I decided to walk back down into town - about a 30 minute walk but boy was it hot! This is when it started to get busier - people were out walking to "their spot" along the road to watch the arrival and everybody and his uncle who had a bike seemed to be cycling to better vantage points too! When I got to town everything was ok - it wasn't overly crowded as yet (I'd say people were more lining the roads then congregating in town) and it was fun! I think that's why I prefer living in France to Switzerland actually (where I lived for six years). They know how to have fun. Sure they sometimes go over the top but it seems to me that they also like to have a good time and do it well!

Picture from Le Dauphiné

Leaving the Plâteau de Glières - picture from Le Dauphiné

La Roche - picture taken from the Tourist Office website

Le Pont Neuf - arrival into town

God, when I think I have trouble walking down to town (and even more trouble walking back up home), I can't even begin to understand how these young men can cycle up mountains in this heat, all the more so since it's now September (and obviously cooler) and the original race had been planned for July! I guess that explains the constant whirring of helicopter blades overhead though!

They always decorate the traffic islands!

So despite the fact that I had to slog my way back uphill to get home, I have to say it was a fun time. Like I said, I'm not that into cycling (I don't even know who's top of the leader board!!!) but I had a pretty good time (and a couple of glasses of wine to complete what was a rather nice afternoon)! The icing on the cake though was when I got home the postman had dropped off the results of my French test that I had to sit for my citizenship and I got a C2 - a good pass! So that's one more thing crossed off my seemingly never-ending to do list!

Thursday 17 September 2020

Almost there!

I went to my first Italian lesson of the year last night. There were only three of us, although I think one lady from last year will be coming next week. One new guy has also signed up so we agreed to more or less go back to the basics, both for his benefit and for ours to rehash what we learned what now seems so long ago. Still it was a good start! Then this morning the sewing club teacher sent me a message to ask if a colleague of hers could join us on Monday. I wrote back that that was not a problem but as I've also had two potential newbies contact me we might need to put a hold on any new enrolments since we're obliged to follow distancing requirements now. In any case we don't have enough tables even if the room were big enough. I mentioned to her that I had bought hand sanitizer and a few masks, just in case anyone showed up without one, but she said frankly if someone who can sew shows up without a mask it doesn't bode well for them does it! Ha, I hadn't thought of that! My thought was more along the lines that if someone forgot to bring their mask at least we wouldn't have to turn them away!

Then this morning, despite being tired and still pretty stiff, I made a good faith effort to get down into town for my first pilates class of the season. And would you believe it, despite them being in the process of setting up to welcome the Tour de France, I actually got a place right in front of the building! Problem was, when I went to the front door there was a sign up saying "no classes today due to the Tour"! Bloody hell, don't you think a group email might have been in order? Oh well, it wasn't that far anyway and at least I was up and showered I suppose. So I came home to faff around for a bit before I walk back into town to have a shufty. There was no Thursday market today for obvious reasons, but they're already setting up the drinks stands, bouncy castles and so on so it looks like it could be fun. Actually I'm not really that interested in the race to be honest - although I probably shouldn't put that out there on the internet before I get my French citizenship should I, especially given that Catholicism seems to take a distant second place to cycling in France. But, as Steve told me when he retired, he decided that whenever there was the possibility of doing something that might be fun, his mantra was always to say yes. To walk to the one spot where they should be coming down from Glières is only about a 15 minute walk, and if I want to go down into town (that will depend on how crowded it looks), it will be another 15, so given the good weather I'll head out in a little while!

Up at Glières they're already setting up for their arrival, although if I had realized they would be cycling through La Clusaz this year also I would probably have driven up there earlier in the day as I love La Clusaz. At this point no cars will be allowed up anyway, and from what I can see all the shuttle buses are fully booked, so walk it will have to be. That being said, my 80+ neighbour was all kitted out in his cycling gear when I came home as he was obviously off out to greet the Tour (that man is like a human mountain goat). When I offered to come with him he just laughed! Somehow I suspect he doesn't take me seriously - you think?

Pictures taken from the TdeF official site and FB page!

Plâteau de Glières this morning!

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Well that wasn't so bad!

While not everything has opened back up here (sewing club starts up again next week), most things are up and running so I'm getting into a better routine - which now I think of it, I actually quite enjoy! We had our latest board game evening at my neighbours on Saturday and it was fun, even if we were only eight this time, what with people being away on holiday and whatnot. We played a new-to-me card game that Jen brought along and I enjoyed it, even though, yet again, I came last. Still, someone's got to make everyone else feel good haven't they!

The weather is absolutely beautiful at the moment, much cooler than it was, hovering around 28°C (in the 80sF) and so much more pleasant. Long may it last as I have so much more energy in these kinds of temperatures. I finally decided it's time to empty my little swimming pool but I didn't want to just "unplug" it as I'm not totally sure where all that water will end up (it's untested territory as yet). Instead I've been carrying buckets of water out back and front and finally my garden is getting the kind of watering it probably should have been getting all summer long, and I have to say it seems to be appreciating it!

Ages ago I took up the rose bushes by my back window and planted simple winter plants for the most part, but as it's a real sun trap and up against a white wall, my tomato plants seem to do really well there. This is probably the only time I eat tomatoes, to be honest, because unless I am getting them from Italy I don't think the plastic things you find in the stores are worth wasting money on!

I've been having some pretty strange dreams lately involving my mom, who died in 2015. The dreams themselves are ok but I end up wondering what they're about as I tend to think most dreams have some kind of meaning. It would have been her 99th birthday in October but I don't think that's it. Still, I'm sure it'll come to me at some point. Or maybe she's just stopping by to say hallo, who knows. I used to have the most dreadful nightmares when I was married - and for a long time after the divorce - but I could easily figure out what they were about. But mom, I'm not sure. As the saying goes, "I'll have to sleep on it"!

I also think, like most people, I've been getting an overdose of politics on the TV lately. Actually I've had a bellyful of both Cheeto and the blond idiot in Downing Street. The accents are different but the antics seem to be pretty much the same sadly and I don't think you can trust either of them. So I've tried to stay away from the TV as much as possible because - well just because. That being said, I've been reading a few of the books that have come out about Trump, and they are fascinating. I read Mary Trump's book and found it really interesting. I've also just finished Melania and Me, and while there was way too much use of acronyms and back and forth of emails, I can see why she wrote the book. Boy was she set up (and subsequently exonerated it seems) to take the fall for the missing millions from the inauguration coffers. I don't blame her for writing her book actually because I know I would want to set the record straight, but more than once she said she was told not to have anything to do with the Trump family - and she admits she wished she had listened because they nearly destroyed her. I think I will also download the Michael Cohen book because each of these people tells their story from a different angle, and while Cohen was obviously as thick as thieves with Trump, I think his book will probably do the most damage. We'll see when I read it I guess!

After my Monday morning yoga yesterday I managed to fit in another hour's walk also. It seemed a shame not to as the weather was just perfect. Then I figured that as I was going to be pretty booked up for the rest of the week it would be a good time to run out to a local chimney installation place. I have a wood-burning open chimney in the middle of my living/dining room, and as of fairly recently they are apparently no longer legal in France. Having a fireplace that just emits wood smoke directly into the atmosphere is no longer allowed, so while I can keep the fireplace as is, it would be against the law to actually use it now (not that I have for the last 10 years anyway). So I now have an appointment set up to get a cost estimate to have what they call a closed cassette inserted into the fireplace that will burn granules instead of wood. I wanted to keep the fireplace as I think it's more attractive than having something that looks like space ship in the middle of the room, and apparently doing it this way would allow me to heat the large downstairs area very cheaply if I choose to. I don't really heat it too much anyway because I tend to live on the first floor, but I'll see what they say and how it might work out when they come next week I guess! On the way home I stopped in at a store I don't use very often and when I looked at the bill I noticed they had this printed at the bottom and thought what a great idea it was!

If you are a victim of domestic violence, call 3919

Then last night, just as I was getting ready for bed, I got a FB message apparently from an gent in New York with whom I play Words with Friends. We chat sometimes but instantly I thought this message was a bit weird. Out of the blue he's asking me if I've heard of the rgg programme? "He has used it, it's linked to the "Rotary Fund" and he was able to claim money from them without paying it back". First thought, well he's an older U.S. veteran so maybe it's linked to the situation in the U.S. and he had included me in the message by accident. But then I thought, nah, something about this sounds pretty fishy, so I sent him a message including a screenshot via another account and asked if he was indeed the author of the message and he said "never in a million years". So I told him in that case I think he'd been hacked and he might want to warn his friends and change his password. At that he told me that his credit card had once been hacked to the tune of $3,500, only $3,000 of which he was able to claim back. His bank told him that the scammers had tried putting through small amounts at first to see if they went through, so when he was reimbursed he received hundreds of individual cheques in one go! Wow, talk about having to watch your back!

My screen shot!
His reimbursements!

And finally, tonight I had my one hour session with a coach at the gym where I recently signed up for him to set me up with a work-out programme. To be honest, it was much better than I expected. I guess I'd been put off by seeing this one trainer in particular at our work's gym. To my mind she was alienating some people by being so dogmatic in what she insisted they do. I mean, it's not because she found it easy that others would also and I know more than a few people who dumped her. Anyway, Ben was just lovely. He sat with me and asked me what I wanted to achieve (lose the bingo wings for one) and what I wasn't interested in. I told him my only no-no would be running on a treadmill (a) because I hate running and always have, and (b) because I think I should take care of my knees which sometimes give me a bit of gyp, but other than that I was open to trying anything. So he walked me through maybe six machines and four floor exercises that would form my programme for the next few months - or until Christmas at least - when he would expect me to be able to move it up a notch. He explained what the objective was for each machine (and how to use it correctly) and told me that the one machine I particularly like (to build the inner thigh) wasn't of much use to me as I didn't need it if I used the other machines. I had to bite my tongue not to make some crack about the last time I'd used my inner thigh muscles but you'll be glad to know I managed to show some restraint! So all in all it was a much better experience than I was expecting. On my way home tonight I tried to take a picture of the setting sun as it was going behind a cloud. Not sure if it came out that well as I had to grab it really quickly, but I thought it looked a bit like a space ship at one point!

When I got in I turned on the computer to catch up with my blog reading, and saw that our "die boomer die" troll is wanking online again from mommy's basement. I had to laugh though because had this guy watched me tonight trying to hold a plank at the gym for one minute he'd have seen that he almost got his wish!

Thursday 10 September 2020


Or, how to make every bone in your body ache in three easy lessons! I mentioned in my last post that most (though not all) of my activities started up again last Monday, so I had Monday morning yoga followed by Tuesday afternoon yoga (with my neighbour - who was delighted to be starting back up again) and that was when Sylvie, who takes both classes with me, asked if I wanted to go walking with her on Thursday, as she had a free day in her schedule. She looks after children after school, helps with homework, gives extra tuition (she used to be a teacher) and does drop off and pick up on school days - so as you can see she's an absolute treasure for working parents! Things being as they are at the moment, her schedule is all over the place so I knew if I wanted to go walking with her it would have to align with her schedule rather than mine. So I said let's go for it!

As I drove through the village of Saint Laurent to meet her this morning, I saw that in the small, newly-built apartment building opposite the Mairie there is now an artisan baker's also. I think that's a masterpiece of a business plan because it's also directly opposite the village school so I imagine they will do a roaring trade. It's kinda sad, in a way, for the little baker's that has been in the village for many, many years. It's a stunning place - exactly how you would picture it - set up off the road in a quaint little building at the foot of the mountains. I've known the owners for over 30 years so I sincerely hope there is room in the village for two bakers!

Sylvie was born and raised in this area and offered to take me on a relatively easy hike (a word to the wise, never take the word of a local when they say "relatively easy") up to a place called Plaine Joux, about 30 minutes from here (and just 20 minutes from Jordan and Jen's place). Obviously anywhere round here you've got to climb a little so in reality it probably wasn't that bad, but I still had a hard time of it for the first 30 minutes or so - although the heat and trying to talk and walk at the same time probably didn't help either. We made our way round a circuit which took two-and-a-half hours and oh were there some lovely chalets up there. Really old and weather-beaten, but they all had the most beautiful displays of flowers - they were just stunning. I tell ya, if you wanted to cut yourself off from most of civilization, that's the place to be (in the summer at least - in winter they have cross-country and downhill skiing up there). But it really was just lovely!

Pointe des Brasses

Looking toward the Môle, where Jordan and Jen live!

Wild horses!

Not so wild cows!

On the way back down!

By the time I got home I realized I'd put in 20,000 steps today and boy do I know it! I've also just washed my face and pulled my hair back and see that I've got a rather fetching bright red face to boot!

I read in the British press yesterday about an 80-year old hiker who had been out walking on the Yorkshire moors with friends when he got separated from them during a hail storm (yep, that's England in summer for you). He was apparently stuck on the moors for three nights, while search and rescue teams were out looking for him! But, he has just made his way back to civilization, unharmed apart from a bump on his head and a desire for a pint and something to eat! As he explained on the news, he was well-equipped and well trained so he knew exactly what he had to do. He found shelter, pitched his tent and stuck it out until the weather cleared enough for him to make his way down. Compare that to me hiking half the time in flip-flops and ending up with a burnt face, I think I've got a lot to learn don't you!

Harry Harvey - made it back safe and sound after spending
three nights on the Yorkshire moors!

And yesterday I felt I had to put my money where my mouth was and go to my first try-out at the gym I've just signed up for. I ended up being one of just two people using the machines on the first floor, which is good as it gave me time to walk through each machine and try them all out. I have my session with the coach next week, but even so it was good to have some time to get my bearings. I'm also going to try to go tomorrow as I want to have a full week of it to see how it feels, but right now I think a hot shower and an early night is probably as much as I can manage at the moment!

Monday 7 September 2020

But what happened to the fly?

So I finally made it out to a vide-grenier on Sunday - my first of the year probably - but it was disappointing, to say the least. They were selling the usual tat, except for a few nice glasses I would have been happy to buy if I needed more desert glasses. But, nope, probably not. I wasn't sure if masks were mandatory -  as I understand it, outside they're not. That being said, I would say 90% of the people were wearing masks so in the end I decided to put mine on and go with the flow. I didn't buy anything but I did have a glass of wine on the way out. While I sat on the side drinking it, two little boys were trying to beat the hell out of any grasshoppers they found. They were catching them and then burying them in sand, only to smash them with stones later. I didn't want to get into it with them but eventually I said that if that grasshopper had made it through all that alive maybe they should just let her go and live in peace! I don't know, I was never that cruel as a kid but who knows!

And the other night I watched the first episode of a new series of All Creatures Great and Small that is now playing in the UK and I'm thinking I will probably enjoy it. This series was around in the 1970s and I really loved it. It portrays the life and times of Yorkshire vet, James Herriot, and while those times were physically much more difficult, I do wonder if they weren't happier times emotionally, although believe it or not, I have yet to read the book!

In other news, I see that Kaing Guek Eav (also known as Comrade Duch) died in his prison cell last week. He was one of the principle protagonists responsible for one of the worst prisons in Cambodia during the reign of Pol Pot. Comrade Duch had apparently been a maths teacher, but for whatever reason, got sucked into the evil that was the Khmer Rouge at the time!

Comrade Duch
Some of the young people killed by the Khmer Rouge!
I mention this because when I first went to Geneva I ended up working with the sweetest, kindest, most gentle man I will ever meet, and he was Cambodian. He was one of seven children (I think, maybe eight) and all of those children - except for him and his sister - were massacred by the Khmer Rouge - along with his parents. T had managed to make it out of Cambodia, but told me that any people with even slight "indentations" in their noses - which would indicate that they wore glasses and that they could read - were massacred in order to "level down" the intelligence of the population. What struck me most was that the Khmer Rouge also killed their children, because they didn't want the children coming after them years later to exact revenge! This is oddly reminiscent of the initial film of The Godfather, in which Vito Corleone's father had been shot, and when his mother went to plead with them to spare her son's life, the Godfather's response was to kill the mother, and try to kill Vito, "so that the son does not exact revenge later"!

So when I first arrived in Geneva I ended up working with sweet T. At that time, he had made it out of Cambodia but his sister and her husband were still in concentration camps back in their homeland. So a Vietnamese colleague was doing the rounds collecting money trying to raise enough money in order to bribe prison guards to let them out. Apparently it worked - although my memory of this is not clear -  because his sister and her husband made it out and ended up as refugees in Zurich. But, for some reason his brother-in-law went back to Cambodia to try to get more family members out - and that was the last anyone ever heard of  him! So whatever Comrade Duch's justifications were for running a concentration camp that killed 14,000 people, I'm glad he never saw the light of day again - and that my lovely T did and lived to tell his story and find any happiness he could with his lovely Italian wife!

And today I had my first yoga lesson in probably six months, but you know what, it only took one lesson for me to feel totally relaxed again! Okay, maybe I was a bit squeaky, but by golly it felt good. After that I drove out to Sallanches as I wanted to visit le Vieux Pont and cross that off my "to visit" list. I managed to get a good walk in there before I got a call from Max saying he had the spare part to repair the leak in my heating system and could he stop by? I told him I would arrive as soon as I could but as the garage door was open anyway he could just show up whenever. On my way back home I got stuck behind a van with a sign which read "Gérard Bastard - mechanic". Oh, I remember those days, thinking I could never marry that guy, what with having him introduce me and my kids as "this is my wife and these are the little Bastards"! Still, it's better than living in Wankdorf in the Swiss German part of Switzerland, where all the Brits have to stop and get a picture, isn't it! All the same, I was glad when I got home to see that Max had parked properly on my driveway, given the recent tensions with my neighbour about his blocking my driveway/parking in front of my garage! 

Le Vieux Pont

The Mont Blanc!

Since I knew I would be having to get up early for my yoga class, last night I decided I wouldn't stay up late reading the news and surfing Youtube - that only ends up with me having nightmares about Donald Trump. So I ended up watching a video of Gina, the Italian nonna, and spent half the night dreaming I was stuffing mushrooms instead!

And finally, I saw a rather sad article in the French news this morning. Apparently an older gent had been having problems with a fly that was driving him nuts. So he went into his house and came out with an electric fly swatter and tried swatting the living daylights out of that bugger. Trouble was, unbeknownst to him, there was a gas leak in his home and the electrical spark from the fly-swatter ignited the leaking gas and blew half his house away. He emerged from it pretty much unscathed - but apparently no-one knows what happened to the fly!