The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Sunday 28 February 2021

The kibbutz!

Talking of my "silent to-do list", I finally got around to sorting the last of my ex's paperwork the other day and while I've thrown some of the "neutral" stuff, the rest - the stuff that didn't need to be kept - I need to be putting through the shredder as and when. Gosh I wish I had access to the big shredder we had at work which would make short shrift of those papers but I don't, so I'll have to make do with shredding what I can with my crappy little paper shredder. Then André and I got to chatting about work and different stuff and how it takes a while to get accustomed to the lingo used in your particular work setting. When I first worked at the large international organization where I spent most of my working life, the "members" were referred to as "the contracting parties", later to be changed to "member States", and I remember one huge document that had been sent out where someone must have messed up on the spell-check because "contracting parties" had been changed to "contracting pastries" all the way through the 250-odd page document. Then the other night, when we were watching an old episode of The Big Bang Theory, Amy and Sheldon were playing verbal ping pong and using the expression ipso facto. This is wording that could easily have been used in the large agreements that we typed up where I worked and I remember someone - some poor young sod - sent out a whole document where ipso facto had been changed to if so fatso! But damn we had some fun - maybe not at the time but can you imagine sending that document out to government agencies all over the world!

Yesterday, I and two neighbours decided to set off back down to the lake at Passy in order to stop in at the Quechua store to buy snow shoes. When we got there would you believe it but they were sold out yet again! I reckon since people can't go downhill skiing at the moment because the ski lifts are not running, if they aren't doing cross country skiing then everyone and his grandmother must be buying snowshoes. I'll give it another try during the week to see if they have been restocked but at the moment snow shoes are rarer than hen's teeth. Either way, my neighbour Isa, and my other neighbour D (who had been ill this week), decided to have a quiet stroll round the lake at Passy and again it was wonderful. The weather was glorious and so sunny, even though the wind was absolutely howling. I commented that we looked like Charlie's Angels plodding around the lake in the wind, but in reality I reckon we probably looked more like The Three Stooges!

The Three Stooges!

Then yesterday morning I got caught out for the second time slobbing around in my sweatpants and mucky t-shirt. As I was taking stuff out to the car to take to the tip a young gendarme stopped by and asked if I had seen anything unusual last night because the D family had had two of their car's tyres slashed during the night. I explained that while my bathroom looked out towards their home and I did, indeed, go to bed very late, I hadn't seen or heard anything. At this point he asked me if I was English because he detected "un petit accent", but when I said yes he said said the cup of tea in my hand also gave me away. I laughed and told him that I had put in for citizenship and apparently at some point I will have to have a visit from the gendarmerie so I hoped he would be nice to me! But seeing how it was the D family that got their SUV tyres spiked I can't say I'm really surprised. I have to have dealings with dad as he is the President of our Home Owners' Association and I am the Treasurer, and for that I have no problem, but I don't trust him any further than I can throw him. If it's his son who was targeted in the "tyre stabbing" I can't say I'd be overly surprised either because, apparently, he's an arsehole just like his dad. He drives around our little neighbourhood like a lunatic, never thinking there might be other cars on the road and - who knows - little kids playing on their bikes. So yeah, I can well imagine that someone, somewhere, doesn't like this family. I'm just glad to keep out of it!

Not sure if you can see the two flat tyres on the SUV!

Which reminds me of years ago - I was dating my lovely Algerian medical student/doctor/now surgeon. We were great together but I was getting fed up of feeling that we were never going anywhere. Goodness knows the fact that he was (nominally) a Muslim while I was (nominally) a Christian made no difference to either of us. He was, and still is, to this day, a great guy. But I got fed up of waiting. Waiting to live together, waiting to maybe establish a family together. Hell, I didn't care if we didn't get married. His mom loved me. His dad hated me, but then his dad hated everyone so that didn't bother me too much. But in 1982 I'd had enough of waiting for Karim to make his mind up what he wanted to do so I applied to Australia to get a six-month working visa for the under-25s and off I went. My idea was to break with him completely because as lovely as he was (and still is), it was going nowhere. So off I went to Australia for six months, had an absolute blast, but ultimately I knew I wanted to come back to Europe to live. So Karim picked me up from the airport after six months apart and then took me out to dinner. But damn, he was so formal! In French if you address someone as "tu" it's informal, but if you address someone as "vous" it's formal, and I remember asking him if he would be more comfortable addressing me as "vous" because he was so weird! That's when he told me that he had met someone during my absence and he wanted to continue seeing her. And that's when I told him I had met someone in Australia and that was fine by me. WELL, you'd think I'd let off a nuclear rocket because all of a sudden he no longer wanted to break up with me, he bought flowers every single morning and waited outside my house every morning to take me to work because my car was still in storage. He begged me to get back with him and in the end I relented. But damn, I'd gone to Australia to get away from him right? Buuuut, what I didn't know is that the girlfriend wasn't totally in agreement with them splitting up. Now at that time in Geneva my surname was the only one in the phone book so I'm guessing the gf found out where I lived. I remember getting a phone call at about 4 a.m. one morning asking for Dr. F and when I said I would pass him to her she hung up. Next morning when he went out to go to work he found he had two flat tyres, but when he took the car to the garage it turned out that someone had slashed both of them. Yikes, someone was a bit hormonal I guess!

Anyway, yesterday André went to band practice at his mate's house and stayed over because of the 18h curfew here so I had the evening to myself. I decided it was finally time to get back to watching The Crown - series 3 and it was great. It's the new series with Olivia Coleman as the Queen. It was really interesting seeing the "reality" of the 1964 election win of Harold Wilson - who I remember of course - and the story behind the Anthony Blunt spy story. As I say, I remember all this but as I was just a young girl it didn't have any meaning for me so as time goes on it has more and more meaning. One thing I have to say is how wonderful I think John Lithgow was as Winston Churchill. Oh others have done it, of course - equally well probably - but he really captured not only the gruff Churchill but absolutely nailed the accent!

John Lithgow as Winston Churchill
in The Crown!

Gary Oldman as Churchill in The Darkest Hour!

Then today Jen asked if they could bring over a baby car seat for me - only five weeks to go folks - so I invited them to eat over at my place. Jen had agreed with Anaëlle, our neighbour's 15 year old daughter, that she would clean her car for pocket money so they stopped over at 10 a.m. While we were chatting Jordan set to and tried to break up the tyres that I have hanging around with my new angle grinder in order for me to take them to the tip. Then Marylène, my other neighbour, came out and was showing me how her hand was still bothering her after her operation so Jen, as a nurse, came over and reset her splint in order for it to stop bothering her. Then I stopped in at Marylène's to drop off some French books that Jen had given Isabelle, so we all ended up outside in the spring sunshine chatting away and doing all the different things that needed to be done. I pointed out that it was like a kibbutz and Marylène and Isa said that yes it was, indeed, like a kibbutz, and did I remember when .... But you know, I now realize how much I enjoy that. Oh, I'm perfectly fine not having a partner and I really do enjoy my own company, but today brought home to me how much I enjoy being part of a society that just pitches in to help each other and shares whatever they have. I just loved it when the kids were little and I would have goodness knows how many little kids in my house playing together.  Heck, as Jordan and Jen were about to leave they couldn't get Jen's car started so another neighbour came over with jumper cables and got it started that way. So yeah, I like being on my own, but I think it's sooooo nice to have the "look out for your neighbour" experience. Oddly enough, it seems that that's one of the selling points for our little lotissement, as one of the new buyers pointed out the other day - we all look out for each other and it feels like a little kibbutz! And you know what, that's fine by me!

With the neighbours, trying to get Jen's
car started!

Thursday 25 February 2021

"Grab a handful and start stuffing!"

I guess everything is relative but, "relatively speaking", it's all go here at the moment. On Monday afternoon my friend who lives opposite me called and asked if I could come over as she wasn't feeling very well. She was complaining of having a pain like a really tight belt wrapped around her chest (oh, oh), but on the right side of her body, not the left, saying it was becoming hard to breathe, it was so painful. Thinking back on it, oddly enough covid didn't even pop into my mind, I guess because I know this friend has probably even less contact with the outside world than I do. So no, my first thought was "heart attack", not covid. I could see that she was having a hard time holding it together so I asked her permission to call the emergency services and she agreed. That alone told me that it was serious because "stiff upper lip" and all that. When I called them they asked to speak to her and she tried to explain her symptoms to them - but when she was put on hold for what seemed like ages, we hung up and decided to just take her straight to hospital ourselves. To be fair they called back almost immediately but we told them that we'd make our own way there. I would say she was admitted in less than 15 minutes, so the hospital was very impressive. And that was the last I could do because, of course, I wasn't allowed to go with her. Thankfully André was waiting for me back at the parking lot so we were able to make it home before curfew, although I think under those kinds of circumstances we wouldn't have got into trouble for being out after 6 p.m. Despite poor internet connection, she managed to send me a message later that night to say they had done a scan and discovered a pulmonary embolism and were keeping her in. I managed to get hold of her sister in Spain through FB and let her know what was going on, and she, in turn, kept the family in England in the loop - although maybe a little less "in the loop" for her mom and dad who are both 91 and who she didn't want to worry, since both have their own health issues. Next day mom called me to find out the latest news, so I told her they were keeping her in again to do more tests and promised her I would call her back when I knew something. So with my friend's permission I called mom later and told her about the embolism and that they thought it might have some kind of link to the fall she took on the ice recently. Who knows - I don't know how these things work. Anyway, they kept her in for a third night and it turns out she was also in the early stages of pneumonia so hell it was a good thing we took her in when we did! I called mom this morning to let her know that I was just leaving to pick her up and bring her home and that my friend would call her later. I know some people have mixed feelings about letting family know, but having been on the receiving end of not being informed when my dad was (frequently) in hospital because of being in Switzerland, I know that I would always prefer to be kept informed. At the very least I could call every night to find out how he was doing right? I obviously wasn't going to tell mom anything without my friend's permission but I do feel very strongly that it was the right thing to do! Anyway, it'll be all anticoagulants, antibiotics, blood tests and more check-ups for my friend for the foreseeable future, but at least she is now receiving the treatment she needs!

And while we're on the subject of hospital stays, M, I don't suppose you're out of hospital just yet but I bet you're glad that's over too aren't you. Get well soon mate!

In other news I realized this morning that I think I might be turning into my dad. When we lived in Birmingham our house was at the end of a short path that led down to just three houses, but it seemed like every time dad heard footsteps on that path he bobbed up out of his chair to see who was there. While I was living at home it was a poor, but not particularly rough area, but I understand it changed quite a bit (i.e. became rougher) after I'd moved to Geneva, so I guess I know why dad did it - and why they were both so relieved when they inherited a little money and were able to leave the inner city for a quieter coastal area! But now I seem to find myself doing the same thing. Oh I'm not worried about being murdered in my own bed, it's just that I have this terrible habit of going to look out the bathroom window when I hear a car stop outside. I think it's because I tend to live on the first floor and the door bell always makes me jump and then start dashing downstairs to answer it. But still, yeah, I think I might indeed be turning into my dad!

The other day I heard the expression "the silent to-do list", meaning all the things that you keep thinking "oh I must get around to doing ..." and yet you never seem to get round to - and it bugs the hell out of ya because it's constantly going through your mind. One of my main bugbears is my basement and yet I have been clearing it bit by bit - although admittedly not lately. Then there's the box of my ex's papers to go through and that's just sitting there looking at me screaming "sort me, sort me". So today when I returned from the hospital I decided I needed to get back to spending about an hour a day on what I now refer to as my silent to-do list. An hour really isn't very long is it, especially for someone who's retired. So here's hoping it'll stick this time!

In the spirit of dealing with irritating things, I took more pictures of my heating system in the basement which is yet again, leaking. It's not a tremendous amount of water - more leaking condensation I would guess, and it will dry, but I thought nope, Max, you've got to come back and get this sorted. Jordan seems to think he needs to put a more powerful "condensation pump" in than the one he installed, but either way, he's got to come back and deal with it. So I sent him the pictures with a "guess what" text and we'll see what happens. Then this morning, just as I was about to leave for the hospital, I saw that my neighbour's cleaning lady yet again parked partially blocking my driveway. At first I asked André to move his car, which would allow me to pull out, but then I thought nope, she can park her bloody car like a grown up because we shouldn't have to move two cars to be able to get off our driveway. Why the hell she parks like that I have no idea - I mean, it's not like there isn't tons of space here to park. Hell, she can even park in the driveway of the neighbours whose house she cleans! So I sent Isabelle a text message asking her to ask her cleaning lady to move her car because I couldn't get out. I don't know where Isabelle was but she didn't get back to me immediately so we ended up again moving our own two cars. This bloody woman does it every damn week! Eventually Isabelle got back to me, apologizing for the delay and said she will ask her cleaning lady to park properly in future as she hadn't realized that was how she dumped her car!

My driveway is off to the left but by parking
like this she blocks me up against
a wall/hedge. Hell, why doesn't she park in front of 
the black car? Her car's small enough and that's
the house where she's cleaning!

Anyway, the good news is that I received my carte de séjour (resident's permit) from Annecy after just 15 days, thereby confirming me as "legal", and I now have everything I need to apply for citizenship. So thinking I'd start checking off paperwork, yesterday I went on the naturalisation site and just started uploading the documents they requested at each step. They didn't want the whole shebang first time round but they would need all 27 pages of my divorce decree because wouldn't you know the stamp that shows it was a notarized copy issued in the last three months is on the last page. Do you ever have that sinking feeling when you're dealing with officialdom, you've got all your paperwork together and you hit "upload" and then sit there biting your nails hoping page 18 of your bloody divorce decree doesn't "crash" the site? Well luckily it didn't and hopefully I can upload the next stage shortly while my time-limited documents are still valid!

And finally, André had to weigh himself the other day in order to fill out forms relating to the life insurance necessary for his new mortgage. When it turned out he was 10 kg (22 lbs) heavier than he thought I just cracked up. Well that was until I realized my usual pair of jeans have just about had it so pulled out an old pair from the cupboard - and nearly cut off my oxygen supply when I tried to zip them up! Cue André's turn to laugh, but I told him not to be so smug because if my zipper went when I exhaled I reckon the shrapnel would kill anyone within a 10 metre radius! It was just like the scene in The Big Bang Theory where Howard's (never-to-be-seen) mother, Mrs. Walowitz, goes clothes shopping and yells from the changing room "It's this dress. When I put my front in, my back pops out. When I put my back in, my front pops out. It's like trying to keep two dogs in a bathtub. We're gonna have to work as a team. Get in here, grab a handful and start stuffing ...!" Maybe Karl Lagerfeld was right when he said women who wear sweatpants have "just given up"!

Saturday 20 February 2021

Just lovely!

The weather these past few days has been glorious - and it's forecast to continue next week, from what I can see. Today we had 17°C (62°F) and bright sunshine, so as hard as I tried I just couldn't come up with an excuse not to get off my backside and go out walking. Actually it was a bit of a cop-out because I should have left earlier and I should also have chosen a place to walk that is somewhat more challenging! But what can I say, I ended up back down at the lake at Passy again this afternoon. Well that would be me and half of Haute Savoie, from what I could see! When I got there the first parking lot was pretty full, but there was still plenty of room in the second one. Then I realized it was busy because it was spring break. France divides its school districts into three zones and, under normal circumstances, this would be spring break for our zone. For the next six weeks we would normally have a constant influx of foreign and out-of-state registered cars coming here for the skiing, but since the borders are closed and the ski lifts aren't running, it's been pretty quiet round here! That's great for the likes of me, of course, but it must still be devastating for the resorts which desperately need the winter season to make their money!

Just before the turnoff to get to the lake there is a large sporting goods store (Quechua) that supplies most of the local sports outlets round here, so I decided to stop in and check it out. It's very spacious, has everything you could wish for in the field of sports and pretty reasonably priced, from what I could tell. I was thrilled to see that they had a large selection of snowshoes, since Isabelle and I had looked for them a few weeks back as we'd agreed we'd like to try it out up at the Plâteau de Glières. I sent her a photo and she replied telling me to "get her some", but in fact you need more specialized assistance as there is a difference between snowshoes for men and for women, the kind of terrain you want to walk on and your weight (I guess this is one area I shouldn't lie about my weight then)!  I did get myself a pair of cheap, bright green, wrap-around reflective sunglasses which apparently cut the UV rays, and while they are not "designer" (as if I care), they did a great job given the bright sunlight and its reflection off both the lake and the snow!

The lake was great, with loads of people sunbathing, picnicking, BBQing, fishing and even a few hardy souls in the water - mainly little kids who decided they needed the water for their sandcastle-building endeavours. It was really just a stroll for me, but it gave me a chance to mess around with my Peakvisor app again and I finally figured out which of those mountains was really the Mont Blanc (the tallest mountain in Europe at 4,809 metres). Funny, I had it more over to the left ("left" obviously not being a technical geographical term)!

This picture makes it look like the Aiguille du Midi is
on top of the toilet building!

The Quechua store - it was half empty!

There were actually a few hardy souls in the water!

I had to keep an eye on the time in order to be back before curfew, but leaving around 4 p.m. I made it back in time to stop by the DIY store. I asked one of the employees where I could find the angle grinders and he kindly took me there and asked what I wanted it for ("I'm making a patchwork quilt")! He was a bit bemused when I told him that I had a bunch of tyres that I needed to separate from their rims in order to take them to the tip and that even with the help of both my sons I hadn't been able to do it, so I was going to cut them off! Not sure what he thought of that but I got the angle grinder and with a 10% discount! Actually Jordan had to go to the bank yesterday to deposit his $600 covid stimulus cheque  - thank you US treasury - and as it's a $$$ cheque being deposited into a €€€ account he has to go in in person. So he stopped up here for lunch with André and me and spent a good hour yacking with his brother. Again, it was great to have them both here, and when they got to talking about their first (piece of crap) cars, or the time Jordan was driving my car in the winter and the handbrake froze, they were doubled up laughing - me, not so much, when I heard that last bit!

The other night I spotted that they were showing a film on TV starring British actress Sheila Hancock. I think she's lovely and a very underrated actress so decided to sit and watch it as I had nothing else planned! Just like Shirley Valentine, it's not really a "man's" film (you would probably be bored out of your minds), but I actually enjoyed it. It's about an 83-year old widow who had been a lover of the great outdoors as a young girl, going hiking, fishing and canoeing with her father as a child. She met and married a man her family didn't particularly like and who proceeded to cut her off from them and the outside world, and turned into a monster she admitted she hated. In an effort to get her to start living a little again, when she was in her 50s her father sent her a postcard from Mount Sullivan in Scotland saying "one day we'll climb this together"! And she decided she would do just that! Except, her husband would hear nothing of it, went ballistic, and provoked a horrible argument, with him stamping his foot and throwing a fit when he realized she wouldn't back down. But the very next day, while still in his 50s, her husband had a massive stroke and never walked or spoke again - and her father died a couple of months later. She took care of her husband for the next 30 years, all the while hating the man, and when she one day decided that at the age of 83 she would, indeed, climb Mount Sullivan, everyone thought she'd gone stark, raving mad! Anyway, without giving away too much, Sheila Hancock did indeed climb up Mount Sullivan at the age of 84 (she's 87 now), often having to do several takes in order for them to get the close-ups and the distance shots. So ladies, if you would like to watch a gentle "ladies only" film, you could do worse than to watch Edie, Scottish actor Kevin Guthrie, as Sheila's co-star, also being very easy on the eye!


Sheila Hancock

Kevin Guthrie!

I'm also reading an excellent book in the Jodi Picoult genre called The Wife Between Us! I haven't finished it yet but it's turning into the kind of book I can't put down. I think it was a recommendation on The Richard and Judy Show (UK daytime chat show - that I never watch), but if you like some easy, but gripping reading, I can highly recommend it!

And finally, I recently saw on Youtube an interview with Ernestine Shepherd - "the world's oldest competitive female bodybuilder"! I don't know if she still holds that title but ... She only started working out at age 57 and is soon to be 85 and still going strong. She's a lovely lady and I find her so inspirational - well I guess that would be more believable if André wasn't staying over at Jordan's tonight and I hadn't discovered that he'd left a couple of beers in the garage! Ah well, there's always tomorrow!

Ernestine Shepherd!

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Rough times!

Some days are just so much rougher than others aren't they. I know the weather has a tremendous influence on people's psyche, but sometimes it seems that bad news really does seem to come all at once. I'm not talking about me personally, thank goodness. I'm doing fine, André and I are getting along famously (telling jokes at the moment - it's nice to get reacquainted with my son), and the weather is glorious - no clouds, bright sunshine most days and the stars are so pretty right now! But the rotten news just seems to have kept on coming these last few days!

The first thing I heard this week was that one of the ladies in our FB walking group "lost her battle with depression" recently. I didn't know this lady, of course, but I'd seen some of her posts and like many people, I think maybe she was trying to use the walking challenge to help her emotional well-being. Sadly it didn't work. We all get "down" sometimes, of course, but real clinical depression must be hell, and while there are treatments/therapies that can help, how sad for this lady that she just wasn't able to make it through!

Then the other day I knocked on my neighbour's door to let them know that they'd left the car window open - not good when snow is forecast and the temperatures are well below zero. When she opened the door I asked if she was okay and she said yes. I just said "so that's why you're crying then" and she smiled. I didn't want to intrude but invited her to come round for a coffee if she needed to chat. She didn't immediately but I'm sure she'll want to get what's bothering her off her chest at some point. It could be the tension in the house, I know she's missing her grandchildren in Switzerland, or it could just be this damn pandemic getting on everyone's last nerve! Who knows!

On Saturday André met up with the others for band practice at Max's house and said he would be back before curfew (6 p.m.). By 6.30 p.m. I'm starting to think something's wrong, because maybe the police might forgive 15 minutes, but 30 minutes past curfew was definitely pushing it. Thankfully he called me shortly after and said that he was going to stay the night at Max's. Their friend, Alexi, had set off to make the short drive home after practice, lost control of his car on the snow, hit a guardrail (above a drop down the mountain side) and called them to come dig him out! Damn! André said Alexi (and his car) were okay and "it wasn't such a bad drop", but even so, who really thinks skidding into a guard rail on the side of a mountain "isn't so bad"!

Then yesterday I had two messages pop up. The first was from our retirees' association announcing the death of a former colleague and while I knew of this colleague (you get to know everyone's personal details when you work in HR and do payroll), I didn't really know him. But he was only 61 and retired about six months after me, so he got to enjoy just 18 months of his retirement and then bam, gone! I know I've said this before, but I really would encourage anyone to retire as soon as it's financially feasible (if that's what they actually want), because cases like this colleague's bring home that nothing is a given!

The second message was from my friend, Marilyn, who is currently living in Ireland to be near her son and his wife. She wanted to let me know that her older brother in Texas had just died of covid. They are all devastated, as you can imagine. He was the brother who very kindly welcomed André into his home for a holiday when he was just 10 and André had the most wonderful time. I last saw him a couple of years ago at Marilyn's daughter's wedding here in France. He and his first wife had divorced, he subsequently remarried, and as an English-speaker I was sat at the same table as them. They were a lovely couple, even if I found the wife's first comment to me that "we're from Texas and voted for Trump" a strange way to greet someone you've never met before. I just said I'd heard it was rude to talk politics or religion at the table so I figured we'd be fine. Sadly she was also a "covid-denier", stating (apparently) that it was just a bad case of the flu - and now just a few weeks after he got sick, and despite excellent medical care, her husband is gone, killed by the "hoax"! I talked to Marilyn today and she said she and this sister-in-law have not been particularly close, mainly because of vastly divergent political views, but that she reached out to her during her brother's illness and since his death but SIL hasn't been much inclined to respond. So now, sadly, it looks like there will be additional distress for his three children from his first marriage (he has no children with the second wife) and it could get pretty unpleasant! It's so sad - another person taken early by this damn virus!

On the positive side, Marilyn's son and his wife desperately want to move back to France (as does Marilyn) and since she also has French citizenship it should be relatively easy once the issue of medical coverage can be sorted and they can find somewhere to stay. They're looking at Annecy, which is just down the road from me, but of course first her son has to get the job. I can't wait as I know Marilyn and I will have so much fun together! And you know the other day when I was talking about getting caught out looking like a slob, well Marilyn can go one better (not that she's ever looked like a slob). Years ago her husband's job saw him responsible for sales in certain Asian countries and at one point, just after the birth of their son, they were staying in a hotel in Hong Kong (I think it was). Anyway, she was in the elevator holding the baby and had baby spit-up on her shoulder (a permanent feature for new mothers), when the elevator door opened and guess who stepped in! You can't guess? Piers Brosnan - James Bond himself! I know!! I would have passed out!! And she said that while he's still an absolute hunk, 35 years ago he was even better looking in real life than in film! At least I only got caught out by Stan!

And finally, as I was scrolling through looking at what's on tv (nothing, basically), I saw that Fifty Shades of Grey was on. I know!!! I never bought the book (I thought it was a sample book for you to pick your paint from)! But I clicked on the film anyway for the hell of it and landed right on a "juicy bit" - just as André came into the room laughing. Damn, I felt like he'd caught me watching porn or something - and I wasn't even interested in it to begin with. But whatevs, as they say! Anyway, he started to tell me something he'd just read about a couple of guys who were out fishing on a frozen lake in Estonia when they spotted a half-frozen dog struggling to get out of the water and back to dry land. Somehow they managed to fish it out, wrapped it in a blanket and placed it in the back of their car in order to get it to a vet. When the vet came out to take a look at it he told them they'd just driven 20-odd km with a slowly defrosting wolf in the back of their car!

Monday 15 February 2021


Do you ever wish you'd gotten into the shower just a few minutes earlier? Yeah, me too! I was still slobbing around the other day around 11 a.m. when the doorbell rang, and who should be there but Stan, my Nigerian friend. He retired a couple of years ago and spends most of his time back home in Nigeria, but comes to France for a couple of months every year to be with his wife and his three adult kids who are all now parents in their own right. It obviously works for them, and when his (French) wife retires in a couple of years I guess she will spend much of her time over there, although I'm guessing she'll still want to spend most of her time here in France where her grandkids are. Like I say, it works for them. But it was lovely to see Stan again. I was sitting there (unwashed and pretty pungent I would suspect) in t-shirt and sweats and he was sitting there in a big puffy coat and scarf - I guess the temperature difference is that great right. But André was there and we all got to sit around chatting for about an hour and it was really lovely. I miss having Stan's coffee shop/bar to stop off at, and despite what was apparently promised, nothing has been set up to replace it. Maybe that's an opportunity for some enterprising young person once this damn pandemic is over!

I also got a call from my long-term friend the other day, which I couldn't answer because I was at the Préfecture for my permit, but when I called back, there she was sitting with her hair in curlers saying she didn't mind because it was only me! Now that's friendship! She had her naturalisation interview a year ago and still has heard nothing so I guess I've got plenty of time ahead of me. The other day I spent a good hour going through the "100 most likely questions to be asked at your interview" and while it was ok it was also incredibly wearing. I like history and geography but am not so interested in culture and politics, so that will be a challenge. I like reading about different political candidates' leanings but how the whole system works - nah not so much. I remember having to read "The Corridors of Power" about the UK political system many years ago and absolutely hating it. I don't know, maybe it gets more interesting with time! I certainly hope so!

We got quite a dumping of snow the other day, but 24 hours later the sun was out and most of it was starting to melt so "yay me", no more shovelling that stuff! I noticed that when I took stuff up to the partly-burned-out compost bin the other day primroses were valiantly trying to poke their noses up through the snow. A sure sign of spring on its way! Spring is my favourite season so I'll take that as a positive even if realistically I know we've got a good six to eight weeks more of winter to deal with!

When I woke up the other day I realized I was stiff all over, and tired of hobbling down the stairs like a 90 year old woman - well the first few stairs at least. So I spent 15 minutes doing a short yoga work-out immediately after getting out of bed and guess what, it worked. Fifteen minutes and I feel great again! André has obviously been feeling bored lately so every time he comes downstairs he yanks the door on the landing back and forth so I get to listen to it squeaking. So the other day I thought I'd get the bugger and brought the DW40 out and sprayed those hinges. The poor kid's lost now! That'll teach him to mess with me. In the meantime, if I find something that works on those knees I'll be sure to let you know!

Tuesday 9 February 2021

"Ooohhh-oh, I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an En ..."

Do you know, I've had this melody spinning around in my head for a while, and I think I'm starting to conjure up a few lyrics too. "Ooohh-oh, I'm an alien". Someone should write a song about that - someone did? Sting? Oh damn, I thought I was on to a good thing there. But guess what, I really am a legal alien in France now! Yep, I had my appointment today in Annecy to do the necessary and it all went swimmingly! For important things I tend to set off chronically early and of course getting my carte de séjour (cds) (residency papers) in order is probably the most important thing on my (non)jam-packed agenda right now. They had only asked for my passport and two "South American drug mule" photos and everything should be in order, but being just a tad anally retentive I grabbed a whole bunch of other stuff (almost needed a Sherpa to carry them) and set off for Annecy. Annecy is the "capital" city of Haute Savoie - and very beautiful it is too. So I was feeling pretty smug when I arrived there one hour ahead of time thinking I could just have a wander around. Well that was until I realized that half of Annecy is dug up with road works and I was "deviated" ("detoured"? sounds better doesn't it) all over the place until I ended up at Galleries Lafayette and decided to park there anyway and walk. Now Annecy is a city but it's really not very big - just labyrinthine - so I knew I wouldn't have very far to walk either way. After I started going through Galleries Lafayette I asked a young security guard ("mask and sanitiser obligatory") how to get to the Préfecture and he very kindly took me down to street level and showed me where to go. Sadly, I hate to think I look that much of an old biddy that I needed help - I prefer to think he was just a very kind, but bored, young man!

On the way there I noticed green signs painted on the sidewalk saying "masks are obligatory", and also on billboards all around town. I had my mask on anyway but as I learned from André when I got back home, different municipalités have different rules, as defined by the Mayor, so in Annecy it was mandatory masks everywhere. When I got to the Préfecture they couldn't find my name on the appointment list despite my email rdv (please tell me they don't still have me under my married name), but they added my name there and then and told me to wait. Well all in all it took about 20 minutes for me to be called in to the very efficient young woman who was handling all the expat Brit shrapnel. And yes, she did indeed only need my passport and mugshot (so no proof of income or medical coverage then). All in all it took about 10 minutes and I was done. While I was waiting I asked her if Brexit had caused them a lot of work and she just laughed. Apparently so far they have issued over 3,000 Brit permits in this area alone, and that's not counting anyone who arrived after 31 December, or people like my friends and my kids who have so far not received a rdv! So considering the extra workload, all I can say is hats off to them, they've done a good job. And I should get my permit in a couple of weeks! 

After that I decided to have a wander around Galleries Lafayette (because "sales" you see) and got drawn into the babywear section. Trouble was, I don't know the sex of my soon-to-be grandchild and most of the clothes they had were pretty sex-specific. In the end I fell in love with a complete set of gender-neutral baby clothes that were soft as a baby's bottom. When I got to pay for them, however, I found out they were cashmere and cost the equivalent of two weeks' groceries. What? Did they have a Himalayan virgin milk the goat (yak?) that produced that wool? Oh well, whatever. It's for my Biboo. It will be the one and only really expensive thing that baby gets from me because I know (hope) mom and dad will be sensible enough to dress that baby in second-hand clothes so that Biboo can get dirty and nobody cares - yeah I know, that'll be the case! Give me The Little Rascals any day!

Once I receive my resident's permit I can go ahead and request citizenship. And even though that will likely take a couple of years (it's a possibility, not a right), I will still go ahead with my request even if I keel over on my zimmerframe on the very same day they hand me my citizenship paperwork. Hell, I've told me kids if I die to bury me with both a French and British flag - but to make sure they get that whisker on my chin before they decide to have an open casket viewing!

In other news, I have to say that I started this blog because I wanted to have a record of my life to look back on after I was pushed to do so by a lovely English lady I met in Turkey in 2010 (I hope she's still belly-dancing and singing in Welsh at 91) and Chris in Cuba (lying in the sea knocking back Cuba Libres was when she really convinced me to start my blog). Hell knows my kids don't seem interested, but hopefully one of my grandkids might like to read it someday. It doesn't matter to me how many "hits" I get, but goodness knows how much my life has been enriched by "meeting" people from all over the world. But still, I wrote this blog for me - a kind of personal diary if you like. So it's been odd seeing so many new people commenting on my blog lately but ladies (and gents) all I can say is welcome to my blog. I hope you stick around, and if you have your own blog please let me know so I can hop over to your world. One of my lovely new commenters (commentators?) mentioned that she, like me, lives alone and that I seem to have been through a rough time. Well yes I did. My marriage was a living hell for about 15 years and I honestly didn't expect to survive it. But I did, and, thanks be to God, I no longer hate my ex-husband. It's one thing to be divorced and eternally grateful to be so, it's another thing to be widowed or having to deal with the very real grief of living with someone who is so very, very ill and being, essentially, alone. So yes, I live alone (well as soon as I can get rid of my kid) and am very happy to do so. For many years I hated my ex-husband. But you know what, the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference, and I've been indifferent to him for a good few years. And goodness knows that makes life easier. I blew a fuse the other day when I read what his skank had "testified" about my abusing him financially, but it took all of 10 minutes to calm down because in the end, who cares what irrelevant people think. As they say, "Why wrestle with a pig? You get covered in shit and the pig enjoys it"!

Sunday 7 February 2021

This and that!

When I was still going to my local MJC (community centre) for pilates classes I spotted that they had instigated "repair cafés" twice a month. Now I knew they had them in Geneva already but I wasn't aware of any here locally in France, so I was keen to stop in and see how they work. Amongst the myriad things that are "wrong" with this world, recycling is something that has always interested me. Oh lots of other things interest me too but since I don't feel that I, personally, can make much difference in the larger scheme of things, it's better to start local, right? Unfortunately the pandemic threw the world into chaos and everywhere has been shut down, opened up, shut down again and so on. But one thing I did do was join the group responsible for the repair café called "TransitionlaRoche" (or something like that). They seem to be pretty active on many fronts actually - encouraging the use of public transport rather than the car (difficult round here though), they've negotiated with the Mairie to offer up to €400 to anyone wishing to purchase a bike for commuting purposes, they are active in local government and so on - but it's the "zero waste/recycling" part that interests me. Anyway, since we're not in total lockdown (although still subject to curfew), I see that they are again holding repair cafés on Saturday mornings and will shortly be having another meeting on how to encourage zero waste, so I think I might go along. I am a bit leery of getting more actively engaged with such a group because while I'm happy to volunteer, pre-covid my life was pretty full anyway, and with a new grandchild shortly to put in an appearance my time will be more limited - but I guess we can see how it plays out. It's nice to find a group locally that appeals to your interests though isn't it!

On Tuesday I have my appointment with the Préfecture in Annecy to (hopefully) finalize my resident's permit. Apparently I only have to bring my passport and two photos but I will be taking a whole bunch of other stuff to justify my claim to residence "just in case". Mind you, seeing the photos I had done the other day I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they won't burst out laughing and just refuse me on the grounds that the don't accept "battleaxe" photos. I know you're not allowed to smile anyway but seriously, I'm going to be left with that mugshot for the next 10 years? Eeww!

On Wednesday my neighbour asked me if I wanted to get in a quick walk before curfew as she was going stir crazy so I thought why not. We stayed out of the woods though as it has been raining pretty heavily and we wanted to avoid the mud, so walked around the local neighbourhood and got in a good one-hour walk. Well that is until we passed a house just down the road from here where a dog came crashing out of the garden and bit me on the back of my leg! My guess is that someone had driven out and not closed the gates behind them, but this rather large hunting-type dog came snarling out and actually drew blood and ripped my trousers! While I wasn't hurt my neighbour yelled for the woman owner to get out here and take a look at what her dog had done. She apologized profusely and said she would pay for any damage (to my trousers or medical costs), but it was only a minor wound and as for the trousers - well, I'm not that bothered. But my neighbour read her the riot act about controlling her dog, particularly as it could have been a child that was attacked. My friend says I should report it to the police anyway but the jury's still out on that one! I probably will though, I just need time to think about it! That actually reminds me of when I was in Alice Springs on my "round Australia" trip in 1983. I spotted a nasty looking dog with froth coming out of his mouth and was just about to tell my friend to "watch out for the dog" when he turned around and bit me too (I guess my left calf muscle must look pretty tasty to dogs then). We went to the local hospital where the nurse told me that as my tetanus shot was up-to-date they wouldn't do anything as "they don't have rabies in Australia". It must have been true because I'm still here, but getting bitten by a rabid-looking dog is not particularly confidence-inspiring, I can tell you!

Other than that, there's not much going on of course. You know you're probably getting covid boredom when you're pleased that you can now recognize the sound of the post van coming down the road don't you! André came downstairs the other day and asked if I had seen the amazing colour of the sky - sepia coloured, he called it. And it was indeed sepia coloured, due, apparently to a phenomenon called the Sirocco Phenomenon (I did not know that, but then again there's an awful lot I don't know), which picks up sand in the Sahara and dumps it in Europe wherever the rain is heading that day. Mind you, when I saw the state of my windows and car, "sepia coloured" didn't immediately spring to mind. "Crap coloured" was more appropriate I think - you should have seen the line waiting at the car wash!

And finally, in response to Northern Living Allowance's blog post (nice to see you back) about covid weight gain, heck I thought my dryer was shrinking my clothes - turns out it's my fridge!

Tuesday 2 February 2021

Easy come, easy go!

I was watching the news earlier today and see that Captain Tom, the nation's covid hero, has just died of pneumonia after being hospitalized with covid. Of course at 100 years old it was logical that he wasn't going to live for many more years, but as someone who will have been shielding at home it makes me wonder how he actually caught covid all the same. The sad thing is, with the pandemic still raging he won't be afforded the kind of funeral that I'm sure many would have wished to give him. Nevertheless, RIP Captain Tom!

Captain Tom!

As I once again figured I'd have a go at losing a bit of weight (or even a lot of weight), I decided to do a repeat of Dry January this year and again found it surprisingly easy. I have to admit I did have one drink - a glass of mulled wine when I was out walking with my neighbour in the mountains the other week - but other than that nope, not a single drink since just after Christmas. While I didn't expect miracles I thought I might lose a few pounds, but despite "instantly" losing 4 lbs, a couple of days later I was back up 4 lbs so I'm back to my starting point, even though I've been out walking and eating pretty healthily. So I guess it's portion control from here on in but, damn, it's hard when you've got a human hoover living with you!

Bit by bit I've been going through more files that my ex left behind and so far there've been no more horrible surprises, although some of the documents he left behind should actually be important to him - tax documents and such - but hell, since when did it become my responsibility to sort and file that stuff? I did find an entire file relating to various campers we've had over the years so kept the buy/sell paperwork and pitched the rest. Looking at the papers I see that we bought our first camper in 1996, when the kids would have been four and eight. I remember our second outing in the van, when we were still trying to figure out what all the buttons and switches were for, we decided to leave straight after work on a Friday night and head down to a reservoir called the Barrage de Serre-Ponçon. This involved a five-hour trip down the route de Napoléon and us ending up arriving around midnight. We'd called ahead to let them know we'd be arriving late so they told us to just pull in and hook up without making any noise and we could register in the morning. The kids were already fast asleep at that point, but that night the wind picked up and ended up blowing a hoolie, rocking the camper from side-to-side and me wondering what the hell we'd let ourselves in for. That is, until the next morning when we opened up the blinds to the most magical view of the reservoir against a mountain backdrop. It was just stunning! I was talking to André about it this morning and he said he remembers how much fun it was playing with other kids in the swimming pool and running around the camp site all day - it felt like a week's holiday crammed into a weekend!

The view from the dam!

Our camp site!

The reservoir at Serre-Ponçon!

In other news, I was reading the other night when I saw that The Pirates of the Caribbean  - Salazar's Revenge was on. I think I might have seen the first film but none of its sequels - I usually don't have the patience to sit and watch TV anyway. I have to say, though, that however messed up Johnny Depp may be in real life, he absolutely nailed Jack Sparrow! In addition to that I realized that Javier Bardem was playing Salazar and I just love Javier. I find him so sexy (although maybe not in full Salazar make-up) and deliciously evil so I did watch a bit of it just to drool! He kinda has the brooding good looks of a young Al Pacino in The Godfather and the sexy voice to go with it! 


Javier Bardem - gorgeous right?

Then the next night Skyfall was on and yet again Bardem was playing the baddie. I really don't like him "as a blond" but still, he was a great baddie, even if I don't care for the Bond films at all! There's been some talk about who should replace Daniel Craig as the next Bond and I have to say I'd have a hard time choosing between the two potential front-runners - Tom Hardy and Idris Elba. They've both got that kind of twinkle in the eye that to my mind Daniel Craig lacks - but I don't suppose anybody cares what I think do they!

Tom Hardy!

Idris Elba!

I stopped over to see Jen again today and she's doing well, although still being good about laying on the sofa as much as possible and not going out. She's 31 weeks pregnant today so it's going in the right direction thankfully. The weather's been crap here for the last few days but just as I was heading home the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds so I had to pull over and take a quick snap of the mountains as they were so lovely!

When I got back Max was at the house, having come over to check on my heating system (or, more likely, to have a beer with André)! He was asking what all the tyres were doing in front of the house and I told him that André and I have been lugging them up from the basement so that I can throw them in my car as and when and take them to the tip. Yesterday I asked at the tip where I should put the tyres that were on rims and when he told me I had to separate the tyres from the rims first I just thought "here we go again, something else that I've got to figure out how to do"! Max was somewhat incredulous that we wouldn't even try to sell the tyres/rims that were in decent shape. I don't care about the money but I agree I don't like the idea of just throwing out something that can be of use to someone else. Admittedly that kind of stuff gets put to one side at the tip but still. So while he was standing there Max took a few photos and posted six tyres/rims on Le Bon Coin (a local buy/sell/exchange paper) and within five minutes he'd gotten three enquiries, so hopefully they will sell pretty quickly and be taken off my hands. If they do sell, any money they make will be put towards more musical equipment for their band so I might get Max to come over next time I've got a load of stuff I need to get rid of. I guess some people are "sellers" and some are not - and seemingly André and I fall into the "not" category. Like I say, easy come, easy go, right!