The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Natural good looks!

I've spent a few days offline over Christmas so I'm only just now starting to catch up on all my favourite blogs. While it's been a strange and unpleasant year for most people I hope that everyone got to enjoy at least some parts of Christmas with family and friends. The kids came to me on Christmas day and it was really nice, except I managed to massacre the Yorkshire pudding again. Think I'll have to give up on that one, which is a shame because my kids love them. Jen and Jordan have been looking into the local day-care for the baby and she was telling me that they might be stuck for the month of July as the day-care can't take the baby before September. They are going to take August off anyway and that works out well because the day-care closes for the whole month, so Jen asked if I would be willing to step in for July (would I????). They know I'm not ready to do full-time baby-sitting because I feel having worked for over 40 years this is my time now. But of course I'll help them out whenever they need me, if the baby is not well or whatever. So the plan looks to be Jen will drop down to 80% work and take Mondays off and I will take care of the baby on Fridays so that will mean only three days a week of day-care. Sounds good to me. When I was going through stuff in my basement the other day I came across a bag of baby things that I had hung on to. I found the sweetest baby jackets that my mom had knitted for me when I was pregnant with André, so I washed them and showed them to Jen and she has taken a couple. Now to be honest, they're incredibly old fashioned - heck they were old fashioned 33 years ago, but I kept them and put them on both babies when they were new born for a while. Obviously you can't put them in them for too long but it would be quite sentimental to me to see the baby in one of them at least once!

In other news I've signed back up for the "Walk 1,000 Miles in 2021" challenge. I want to give it another go with (hopefully) this pandemic being kinder to all of us. Who knows, maybe I will aim for 1,500. That might be pushing it a bit but I'm pretty motivated (but then aren't we all on New Year's Eve)!

It's cold and pretty bleak here at the moment so I haven't exactly been knocking all those things off my "to do" list lately. But the other night I actually sat and watched a programme called something like "Christmas at the Castle" and they were filming at Highclere castle, which was the location for the fictitious Downton Abbey. They have a staff of about 35 and were showing how they organized everything getting it ready for the Christmas tourist season (covid willing - it was, luckily for them). While I have mixed feelings about so much wealth being in the hands of so few people, I have to say everyone worked really hard - including the owners - the Earl of Carnarvon and his wife - and they all seemed to be such a nice, cheerful group. It certainly brings home to you though just how hard they really do have to work to generate the income to keep these places running!

Highclere Castle - "Downton Abbey"

Next week, apparently, they're showing the filming at Warwick castle, which I really would like to watch having grown up just down the road from it. It was funny really because when my husband's family came over from the States for our wedding we took them to see it, and my dad was saying he had spent the last 60+ years living right next door and had never visited it. But then, isn't that always the way!

Warwick Castle

And finally, just when I thought I had done all my Christmas shopping I spotted these masks and just had to get them as stocking fillers. The boys and I decided to model them - I'd say natural good looks run in the family wouldn't you!

Friday 18 December 2020

Well at least one of 'em's useful!

I just happened to stumble upon a programme called Wartime Farm Christmas the other night and it made really good viewing. Obviously in Britain during the war food and resources were in very short supply so the programme had them recreating the ways people coped. Rabbit - which the "posh" people had turned their noses up at previously - became a staple, combined with 1,001 uses for potatoes and carrots, because there wasn't much else available in the way of vegetables. They showed them making beer out of potatoes (smelly but good, apparently), using matchboxes to make furniture for a doll's house as a Christmas present and making Christmas decorations out of old newspapers.To show them eating their "Christmas dinner" they filmed inside Chiselhurst Caves near London, which provided sanctuary for around 15,000 people per night during the bombings. I found it so fascinating I might buy the book - but then again, since I have goodness knows how many books to read already maybe I should just put it on my wish list (edit to add, it's not a book it's a dvd)!

Inside Chiselhurst Caves

"Christmas decorations"

Homemade beer

One of the books I'm reading at the moment (I usually have a couple on the go at once) is called Round Ireland With a Fridge, by Tony Hawks, and it's just as daft as it sounds. On a drunken night out with a mate in England Tony accepted a bet from his mate, Seamus, that he couldn't hitchhike around Ireland with a fridge. Drunk as he was, he accepted. I mean he must have been really drunk because the bet was for £100 and the fridge alone cost him £130!!!! I haven't gotten very far into it but it's well written and very silly. I don't know when it was written but there were obviously still "tensions" between north and south and at one point he needs to take the road to Donegal which, apparently:

"... dipped in and out of Northern Ireland, and I was anxious not to find myself hitching in that part of the world. Apart from the fact that I'd been told that drivers rarely stop for hitchers there, I was conscious of the interest a small white container might hold for the security forces. Of all the romantic and heroic ways to leave this world, being part of a controlled explosion with a large kitchen appliance rated very poorly." (taken from Tony Hawks' Around Ireland With A Fridge).

It's very daft, but I have to admit I'm enjoying it immensely.

I saw in the news the other day that for the first time ever UNICEF has donated money to the UK to help feed children. It's not a tremendous amount in the grand scheme of things (£25,000) but I guess it shows just how bad things are (for whatever reason) in certain parts of the UK. Whether or not you believe feeding poor children is the responsibility of the government (it is if the parents can't do so), either way that money was very welcome apparently. But then you get dickhead politician Jacob Rees Mogg making some snide comment about how UNICEF was using that donation to score political points and it wasn't appropriate. Yeah, this from an AH who is apparently worth over £100 million and likes to lie down when he's "working" in Parliament. And these are the people who are "running" the country? God give me strength!

And yes, he is just as much of a dick as he looks!

My new oven was delivered the other day but since my old oven was attached to the electrical wiring by a domino and my new oven came with a plug the delivery guys wouldn't touch it so they just put the oven on the floor of the kitchen and left! So that left me faffing around trying to get a plug onto the old wiring and then trying a small mixer to see if I'd got it working. I hadn't, and I was starting to panic a bit about how I was going to make Christmas dinner with an unplugged oven in the middle of the kitchen floor (ham sandwiches anyone)? So as Jordan is off for a few days he came over and soon figured out where I'd gone wrong and together we lifted it into its spot and voilà, I'm the proud owner of a brand new oven, which seems pretty easy to use, having tried it out for the first time tonight. So then I asked him if he could take a look at a couple of electrical sockets which were starting to pull out of the wall. I've an idea they were the original sockets from when we moved in and I guess over time they'd started to come loose. So in a couple of hours he went all over the house and tightened up and secured every single socket in the house. It was such a relief and I realize it's things like this that have been getting me down lately - the kinds of jobs I can't do myself and you can never get anyone to come and do for you. When I told Jordan I'd been thinking of trying to hire a DIY guy for the entire day he said he didn't think I'd get one even for a full eight hours because what they actually want to do is sell you the parts - that's where they make the money - not on the labour itself! Damn, I'm so glad I've got him to help me out. Now compare that to André. He's been complaining for a couple of days that there's a loose nail sticking up at the top of the stairs and he keeps catching his foot on it. So as he was going upstairs I handed him a hammer and told him to just hammer it back down. Bang, bang, bang and it was fixed. Then when I asked where he was going he said "to lie down because I'm exhausted"! Ha, I knew he was joking but I tell ya, sometimes I think he's neither use nor ornament that one!

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Misheard lyrics!

I was in a bit of a funk last week. Well a lot of a funk actually. Didn't even go grocery shopping (if you can believe it), so yeah it was bad!!! I know it's normal and I realized the state of the house was getting me down big time. André has been very good while he's here but he seems to have these ruddy great boots that just drag muck through the house every time he breaths out, and as for cutting a baguette, well he seems to religiously miss the board or the bin and all the crumbs get strategically scattered all over the floor every time. I shouldn't knock him because he really has been no problem at all - and I knew it was just a normal funk. What I did eventually have to acknowledge, of course, is that I still want to get rid of so much crap in this house and I really don't think it was fair that I got all my ex's crap dumped on me with five days' notice to "get rid of as you will"! Yeah, thanks for that!

Still, I just received a Christmas card/letter from my former boss and I think he wrote very well about the current situation (he always had a way with words). They are both British and when he retired they moved back to the UK - to a beautiful place in Edinburgh. I'm pretty sure he didn't want to move back though - I think it was more his wife's idea, but they seem to be making the best of it - enjoying it actually, after so many years living away. It helps that they have more than decent pensions and can come out here pretty much as and when they want (I mean, who else can afford to get "trapped" by the pandemic for five weeks in Zermatt in spring without too much hassle (it's beautiful but very expensive)?


He made the very valid point of just how beautiful Edinburgh was without the crowds, the traffic and the noise, and how nature started assuming it's (rightful?) place again, with birds expecting you to step around them! They found plenty to occupy themselves and seem to be doing okay during this bloody pandemic. Then of course there's Brexit coming up (will there, won't there be a deal)? They were both very much against Brexit and he wrote about how they were trying to deal with the aftermath of a decision they were against and in which they, like me, had no vote. So now, while they are disappointed, they're dealing with it - have to don't they/we! They're even talking of food shortages in the UK, but I suspect there's an awful lot of brinkmanship going on on both sides! I just hope Boris is up to it - it remains to be seen!

In other news, the French lifted the strict lockdown today. No more permission slips needed to leave home, we can cross into other départements and so on so it feels, yet again, like we've regained a little freedom. However, we are still going to be subject to a curfew between 20h and 6h, the only exception being 24 December (since that's when the French really celebrate Christmas). That kinda leaves me in the doodah because everyone is coming to my place on Christmas Day and it looks like it'll be an awfully short-lived celebration then, with everyone having to be off the roads by 20h! They're not even giving anyone a break for New Year's so I think my kids will be going to a friend's house and staying overnight. Cinemas, restaurants and gyms will hopefully get to escape from purgatory on 7 January, as well the ski lifts/slopes. It's hard on them getting to miss out on the Christmas/New Year trade but people are being very strongly encouraged to go snow-shoeing/cross country skiing in the resorts. They just don't want the crowds around the ski lifts!

Then tonight I received a note from the administration of this région (Auvergne-Rhone Alpes) to say that as from tomorrow there will be free covid testing for anyone that wants it and giving the address of the locale in my town! Very efficient I thought. I'm just hoping I never have to use it!

I did get my tree up last week, despite being an "ungracious shrew" at the time, so at least that's done. I also got some cleaning done and put away a shedload of things on the bathroom vanity. It looks better already. I think my problem is I want everything done now, so I charge in like a bull in a china shop, wear myself out and then just give up! I think André could see I was in a funk so I told him, "just look at all these bloody CDs I got landed with from your dad and now it's my problem to get rid of them"! There must be over 200 left being very un-feng shui around my house and they are driving me nuts because I just don't listen to them. Plus an awful lot of them are country music and I honestly don't know any French people who are interested in hearing someone sing about the farm, the truck, the train or mamma! Luckily André stepped in and said to give them to him because while country isn't really his taste either he said he would have fun going through them when he gets his own place (he should sign on Thursday). I'm so glad because I don't think anyone wants CDs nowadays and I felt bad about throwing them away!

I don't quite know how we got on the subject but I was telling him about one time my ex was singing along to a John Denver song - "and so he talked to the fish in the creek" - and I burst out laughing because I'd always wondered what the fish were doing in the trees in John Denverland!!! Then I told him about my ex-BIL who used to sing "home, home on the range, where the deer and the cantaloupe roam". So then he told me couldn't sleep last night (I know, I heard him roaring laughing and I knew he was listening to Peter Kay). Peter Kay is a very funny comedian from the north of England and an astute social observer (i.e. he can take the piss - albeit kindly - out of anyone)! So, André had me watch this sketch about misheard lyrics and it's hysterical. He might not be that easy to understand to anyone outside the UK but just look at the crowd's reactions. He's a gem!

Tuesday 8 December 2020

This and that!

There's not much going on here of course as we're still in lockdown. Hopefully that will be eased a little on 15 December but who knows. If not, it'll just be me and André for Christmas dinner I guess. I already told him it'll be baked beans on toast (and he's fine with that)! Actually that's a real treat as we were never "allowed" to eat that because my ex thought anything "beans" was disgusting. My answer was "just don't eat it then" but nope, it had to be banned! When I was walking with my neighbours last week we got onto the subject of "beans on toast" and they were horrified at the thought of it - and this from a nation that eats frogs' legs and snails. Each to his own I guess. André and I are invited to Jen's mom's for Christmas eve and I seriously hope snails and frogs legs are not on the menu. What the heck do you do? I don't even particularly like seafood so I sure as heck am not going to eat snails! 

My new oven was delivered yesterday but they didn't actually install it because it needed a "female" plug rather than just the wire-in domino that I had. So I ran down to the DIY store and asked what kind of plug I needed and the guy sold me a rather sturdy plug, suitable for an oven. Trouble is, he sold me a male plug, so I had to run back down there and get a female one. But now I can't open the bloody thing to get it hooked up so I'm hoping someone (Dave, I'm looking at you) can enlighten me. I took the screw out of it but I'll be damned if I can get the thing open in order to hook it up! I guess I'm looking at another trip to the DIY store tomorrow! At least the bloody thing is delivered, but it does bring home to me how little I actually need an oven, except maybe for cooking the Christmas turkey! When I got home André told me that my gardener had stopped by as I had told him I had an envelope for him (over €500) so I guess that's a nice sum for him to pick up before Christmas. I'm not sure how much is declared but that's not my problem I guess. He used to come by about twice a month when I was working so I never actually saw him and just paid him when I caught up with him and we seem to have continued that tradition. But good for him, it's a tough job and I'm glad I found someone willing to do it!

Then today I got news that a former colleague had died aged 72. I worked with JM when I first came to Geneva in 1980 and he was a nice guy. We had our "moments" later on when I worked in HR and asked him to fill out paperwork that we needed (he was definitely onto a scam) but all in all he was a nice guy, and I was so sorry to hear of his death. And then today I read that former England rugby player, Steve Thomson, has been diagnosed with dementia at the young age of 42!!! Damn, it makes you wonder what all that trauma to the head does doesn't it! I'm a big rugby fan and those guys wear very little protection so it makes me think is it worth it? What with that and "Nobby" Stiles (England footballer) being just the latest sportsman to have died while suffering from dementia!

Just now I received a text message from my friend to say that he had passed 1,500 miles. I told him it would be hard for me to make up another 400 miles between now and new year but after that we could plan on walking together out my way when this damn lockdown is lifted (he lives in another département/state/county) and he said he would look forward to that. Damn, I haven't seen him for how many months now!

And finally, I see that tonight's euromillion lottery is worth over €200 million. I've played, but damn, I wouldn't want all that money. I reckon it would be better to have 200 winners but then I'm not making the decisions am I. We always used to joke about winning the lottery with my family, and I actually dreamt the numbers (believe it or not) when the UK lottery started up. I had got all six numbers and saw the last number as 42 or 49 so it would have been no problem to play either, but then I just poo-poooed it. Never again I tell you. But it's nice dreaming about what you'd do with that money isn't it. My brother, Phil, who died two years ago, told me once, after I had got into it with him, that he was knocking another "0" (zero) off the amount he would give me if he won so I was now down to £10!! Ha ha, it's a fun dream isn't it. If I ever did win a large amount of money I would sort out my family first but not so much that my kids could ever give up work. I believe you need to work to appreciate what you have - which is why, I believe, so many who are born into wealth are unhappy. I have about seven UK-based charities who would be first in line for my "Secret Santa" donations - RNLI (life boat), air ambulance, Red Cross, Sally Army, The Anthony Nolan Trust, Help for Heroes, The Battered Women Refuges, but I would need to find more charities in France. The local food bank is an obvious choice but other than that, I'd need to find more. Actually, I don't need to win any money because I have everything I need and most of what I want, but I sure would enjoy giving it away!

Saturday 5 December 2020

A language lesson for the neighbour!

My neighbour knocked on my door earlier this evening to ask if I had any star anise and cinnamon sticks as he wanted to have a go at making mulled wine. I had both (I've got most things as I'm a spice-a-holic) but it brought back memories of this time last year when we went to the Christmas market in Alsace and got to drink mulled wine while walking round. Making it even better was that you could actually buy hot white wine, and since that is my absolute favourite it was just heavenly - all the more so because of the wonderful aroma. Not that any of that has happened this year of course, but it's nice to look back over my blog and see what we were up to. And talking of white wine, I'm up to almost three weeks without touching a drop and believe it or not I haven't given it a second thought. Just proves, I guess, that opening a bottle was simply a habit that needed knocking on the head a little!

When I wandered over to my neighbour's to take the spices she invited me in for coffee and while I was there the house phone went. She made the mistake of picking it up just a bit too quickly because next thing I heard her giving some poor bloke on the end of the line a piece of her mind, saying she "thought that with lockdown we could at least be spared, just for a few weeks, from having your bloody religion pushed down our throats"! Jehovah's Witnesses then! Actually I hadn't realized that one of the few positives of lockdown was that we would not have them ringing the doorbell for a while! And yet, when I got back home, my own phone went and since the number was withheld I just let it go to answering machine and lo and behold I get a message urging me to check out this wonderful website (, if you're interested) to "cure my depression in these difficult times". Hey buddy, I'm not depressed, but I may well end up that way if you lot don't bugger off and leave me alone!

Then I got a message from Jen sending me a picture of the latest baby scan, with a full-face "can you see me looking at the camera" image which was just lovely. I didn't say anything but I seem to have also counted six arms but that may just be my eyesight! Still, it was lovely! She then told me that her mom wanted to know if we wanted to go up to a local ski resort called Les Gets on 19 December (assuming lockdown is again eased on 15 December) to see the Christmas lights, so all being well we won't totally miss out on a little Christmas cheer this year, even if it's not exactly a long weekend in Alsace!

Les Gets
Picture by Peakretreats
I'll have to check though to see if we need snow chains. I have winter tyres on my car but if we also need chains I'll have to run out and buy some as I'm pretty sure the ones I have downstairs don't fit my tyres!

On a side note, just a quick shout out to T'Pol to say that so far I've gotten rid of 30 items of clothing. I still have a way to go (and it's getting harder) but three bags of clothes have already gone to the charity shop. When I look at some of the things I put in the bags my only thought is "what on earth was I thinking"!

And finally, it started snowing quite heavily last night so the snow plough made it's first run out in the village and we had a decent covering this morning. Decent enough to need shifting with a snow shovel anyway. I spent two hours out there clearing my driveway (and starting to clear the communal bits) before my young neighbour came out to give me a hand, followed by his dad a bit later. And I was knackered! We were just about done and starting to put our shovels and salt buckets away when there was an almighty "crack" and all the snow on one section of my roof gave way and slithered down onto my driveway. Which was when I let out a loud "oh sh*t, damn and blast", and that was when dad said "and that, my son, is how you say 'dearie, dearie me in English - or words to that effect"! Time for a little hygge I think!