The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Sunday 28 March 2021


Biboo arrived safe and sound at 12.50 this morning - well what should have been yesterday evening I guess because we put the clocks forward today. The first 12 hours were apparently horrendous as Jen threw up with every contraction but then an angel in human form descended from above with an epidural in his hand and both Jen and Jordan got to enjoy the rest of her 21 hour labour, with Jen being allowed to pull the baby out herself. Turns out Biboo is a little boy (I was right!!!!) and weighed in at 3.2 kg. When I looked up "3.2 kg to lbs" it suggested cooking time for turkey (ha) but that's just over 7 lbs, so a good weight for a first baby, particularly given that Jen is so tiny. His name is Charlie, but I suspect he'll be Biboo to me for quite some time. Oh and tonton (uncle) André is so totally in love already it's something to behold! I'm now officially the (second) happiest woman in France today (with Jen being the first)!

Saturday 27 March 2021

Life's little pleasures!

André had his appointment in Annecy on Thursday to hand in his paperwork for his resident's permit. I was going to go with him since I've already been to the Préfecture twice and with Annecy being all dug up at the moment I thought it might help. That was when he told me it wasn't necessary as he'd be fine (he was), but I had to laugh 'cos I guess you never stop being a mom do you. I mean, I moved to Switzerland at age 21 for a job and I travelled around Australia for six months with a backpack and a $50 tent when I was 24 (the parents of every young woman's worst nightmare I imagine) and here's me fretting about my 33 year old son finding his way round Annecy, which is all of 30 minutes drive away! Ha ha, do ya think I'm turning into Howard's mom in The Big Bang Theory? Anyway, everything was in order so he should get his permit in a couple of weeks. Hats off to Annecy though because they seem to have done a great job dealing with the extra workload caused by Brexit and have been very efficient. I think he had the same young black woman handling his dossier as I did and she was a real sweetheart. So that's one thing crossed off his endless to-do list at the moment!

Today he was going to lunch with a mate and then on to band practice afterwards so he asked me if the ski pants he'd borrowed last week for the trek up to La Clusaz would be dry by this morning. They were, but it's a good job I checked them because I'd just bunged a whole bunch of dark clothes into the machine together and I found three pairs of my knickers stuck to the velcro at the bottom of the leg of the ski pants so I'm sure Max would have done a double take when he handed them back. Or maybe not - I don't know - Max might think he'd become a "kinky" dresser - who knows!

Then the other day I got a message from the MJC (community centre) where I do my Italian lessons and it looks like they'll be reimbursing us for most of the course pretty shortly. I'm assuming my other courses will also be doing the same then, although for the independent young yoga teacher who is not part of a major organization I'm more than happy to let that pass. No-one could have predicted covid and if not reimbursing me helps her then I can live with it. That being said, I should also be looking at about €1,600 in reimbursements for our cancelled trip to Holland and Germany last year. Now that I will be very glad to receive back - it's a lot of money after all. With that in mind, I decided to take a trip out to a large garden centre near here where André had gotten me a gift voucher for Christmas. So I toddled round to my neighbour as I knew she wanted to go out there and we headed out together. She never goes anywhere (even pre-covid) so I know she thoroughly enjoyed herself and since I'd managed to get her out I then told her we'd be taking a trip to the fabric store and again she was like a little kid in a sweetie shop. I think she's just grown so used to never doing anything different that it's hard for her to accept that yes, she CAN go out occasionally and NO she doesn't have to ask anybody's permission! I went a little nuts because while I was only looking for a few plants I actually went slightly crazy and bought a whole new set of wine and water glasses. Mine were ok but very much a hotch-potch and my new ones are lovely. And then, since I'm obviously going mad anyway, I stopped in at a lovely shop and bought a complete new set of dishes in very, very bright colours. I didn't need them, of course, and it does make my decluttering exercise a bit moot at this point, but I thought "why not". Since I haven't travelled in over a year, and am unlikely to do so for another year, I may as well go slightly nuts and get a few things I've wanted for some time. I then stopped in another store and bought a couple of baby things to keep at my house, as well as a flower arrangement for Jordan and Jen's balcony and a fluffy Easter bunny for Biboo's first Easter. So yeah, my bank card is creaking a bit right now but gosh it felt good!

These are the kinds of plates/bowls/dishes I bought in three different
colour configurations. They're much prettier than the picture though!

Jordan was asking me the other day how he should go about registering Biboo at the US consulate. I told him he'd got time as they would need specifics - name, dob, sex and so on, and that's when I got to telling him about my experience at the British consulate in Geneva. André was born in the US but Jordan was born in Geneva (although he's not entitled to Swiss citizenship). I handed in all the paperwork to get him a British birth certificate and passport and they told me it would be ready in about 30 minutes so to just take a seat. Thank God I checked this stuff before I left because the birth certificate had his date of birth down as 21 May, when he was born on 31 May, and when they handed his passport over he was down as "female". Can you imagine trying to correct this stuff after the event - although André said I could always have raised him as a girl and not gone through the hassle (ain't big brothers rotten)!

Then two days ago Jen sent me a message to say that Biboo had been accepted for a place at the crèche 100 metres from their home as from August so all is well with the world - 'cos ya see, Biboo is on his way. Mom and dad have been at the hospital since 4 a.m. this morning and it's now 4 p.m. and I'm still sitting here waiting, and waiting and excited as hell!

Monday 22 March 2021

This and that!

It turned into a lovely weekend this weekend, both weather-wise and socially, with the weather being just glorious, if a bit chilly. André was invited up to a friend's family chalet in La Clusaz with the mates in his band for a birthday celebration. He showed me pictures of the chalet and it was lovely - not modern at all but rather a rustic old chalet which has been in this friend's family for many years. It was actually located right on a ski slope, so I'm guessing it would be worth quite a bit if they ever wanted to sell, but that doesn't seem to be of any interest to them from what he was saying - they get too much fun out of the place. Because the ski lifts are still not running (to discourage crowds), they had a 90-minute hike up to the chalet carrying all their supplies with them - now that's dedication! I think he said there were eight of them in five bedrooms so they weren't crowded at all. While a few of the lads set up ski jumps, the others got the BBQ going on the terrace and started getting dinner ready. André was saying he now realizes exactly how unfit he is because he was the last one to make it to the top, but then he has to realize most of these kids have been doing this all their lives, and while he actually grew up in this region, he's spent the last 10 years living in Geneva "going soft" (as I so kindly put it). Still, it's motivated him to go to the sports shop to get kitted out with winter gear because - as he admitted himself - he was woefully ill-equipped for the weekend and trudging through 60 cm of snow! Ha, and to think I've got brand new snow shoes sitting downstairs and we never even gave them a thought? He did say though that there were loads of people in the resort snow-shoeing or doing cross country skiing - and even a few hardy souls lugging their skis to the top of the mountain in order to get just one run in! I'm pretty sure you wouldn't see me doing that - I couldn't imagine trying to hike up to the top of a mountain in heavy ski boots and carrying my skis! Those days are long behind me!

That being said I got a message from my friend on Wednesday asking if he could come over the following day and do the 8 km walk along the river I'd told him about!!!! I know!!! The daft thing is, I knew that once I'd got him out here just once on a local walk he'd want to do it again! He lives in France on the other side of Lake Geneva at the foot of the Jura mountains and they are also really beautiful, but I just don't think he's ever taken the time to get out there and explore. When we first came back from the U.S. in 1989 we lived in Switzerland for a year just below the Jura and there, again, we were out exploring every weekend with André as a little kid, so I know there are some lovely walks out there. This time we drove out to the lake at Thyez and then did a walk along the River Arve which had been measured out at 8 km. We managed to get a coffee in the town of Cluses (had to drink it outside and standing up of course) but it was a pleasant walk, totally on the flat, and we ended up walking for about two-and-a-half hours. I got in almost 14 km total that day, or over 17,000 steps, and was well pleased, but he kept banging on about how his phone mis-measured his km (most likely true, they say smart phones show an approximate 10% under-estimate in the distance walked), but I told him surely the only thing that mattered was that if you walked 7,000 steps a day last week then the aim should be to walk 8,000 steps a day this week. In the end I told him if he didn't shut up he'd get more steps in than he bargained for because I'd leave him there and it was 25 km back to my place! Still, we had a good time together and I sense he'll be more amenable to other walks once the snow starts melting. I also sent a quick message to one of the ladies from my sewing club asking if she wanted to go out walking sometime now that the weather has picked up. We had planned to do this last year (she knows loads of great hikes round here) but covid happened, then lockdown, then winter, so it's only now that we can really think about it. The end result is that I'm going over to her place for lunch on Tuesday and then we'll head off out for a walk near where she lives. She and two of her sisters get together every Thursday for lunch followed by a walk/hike, so she invited me to join them next time, which is really nice as I've known her one sister for several years through the sewing club and I really like her. So it seems like things are starting to fall into place again - or maybe that sense of optimism is just spring starting to break through!

Then yesterday I had a call from Carol, a lady I met when I went to Sicily for my 60th birthday. We clicked immediately and had plans to visit each other (she lives in London) before covid intervened. Still, it was nice to chat with her and make tentative plans to get together when it's safe to do so! She's already been vaccinated as the U.K. are way ahead of France in that respect (I'm still just a tiny speck on the covid vaccination list). That being said, my nephew was telling me that his partner had her first jab the other week and has been violently ill with it, almost to the point of needing hospitalization. That's not very reassuring as she's only in her early 50s but she already had covid at the start of the pandemic and was very ill with it for about four weeks. Thankfully she's getting better now, but it seems to bear out the theory that those that have already had covid are the ones having the strongest reactions to the vaccine!

In other news, yesterday I was out putting peelings in my neighbour's very swish new wooden compost bin (you know, after I melted the other one) and asked his wife how much they'd paid for it because I wanted to pay half. When she said €15 I thought I'd misheard, but it turns out that the local community of villages (they call them communes here) is offering rather nice wooden compost bins to local tax payers for €15, with the commune picking up the tab for the rest of the cost. Splendid initiative right, so I've gone ahead and ordered one of my own so that we can have two on the go at the same time. I'll have to make a concerted effort not to burn these two down!

I've also taken to watching various series on either Netflix or Amazon Prime for about an hour before I go to bed. At the moment I've watched the first few episodes of Grace and Frankie as I heard rave reviews about it, but as yet I'm not sure. It seems to be a bit "formulaic" (is that a word?) to me so far. You know, just take a standard formula, stick a few different actors in it and basically punch out another cookie-cutter comedy series. I hope I'm wrong but right now I'm not feeling it. You know, as much as I loved Friends, when you see something like The Big Bang Theory afterwards it just strikes me as "take six people - three men and three women - stick them in an apartment eating - unbothered by trivialities like having to go to work, write some smart-arsed script and voilà, you've got a new series on your hands". Anyway, I'll watch a few more episodes to see if it improves, otherwise I think I'll just move on!

Yesterday I was invited up to my former neighbour Valérie's place to spend a few hours playing board games. We haven't had a board game evening since last October, for obvious reasons, so seven of us got together at her place to play for a few hours. She's got a huge place overlooking the mountains so we were well spread out, but it was a nice way to spend a few hours, even if we did have to be back home by the new later curfew of 7 p.m. I stopped in at the supermarket on the way there as I had volunteered to bring the bread and cheese. Maybe I'm just becoming a crab but I have to admit it does annoy me when I see older kids sitting/standing in shopping trollies when they have no business being in them. Toddlers and babies, of course, but to see a kid of about eight standing in the cart with dad pushing him around kinda turns my stomach as I'm thinking "how much muck is on the bottom of his shoes and then someone's going to be putting their groceries in there afterwards"? There was nothing wrong with his legs either, as was proven when he pushed the trolley back through the mud to the trolley stand! I guess it's just one of my pet hates and there's not much I can do to change it so I'll just have to like it or lump it!

The view from Valérie's living room!

Her back garden!

So all in all it was a nice week, and an even nicer weekend. Last night I watched the programme Secret Eaters on TV, mainly because there was nothing else on. You know, all these people who can't for the life of them understand how they've put on so much weight because "they don't eat that much", and then the TV crew follow them around and secretly film them for them to see just how many calories they really were getting through. With that in mind I went on to the Myfitnesspal website to check out the calorie content of some of the stuff I've been picking at in the evenings these last couple of months - out of boredom really - and oohhh errr, I think it's a good job I've got some long walks lined up because man was I in denial!!!! So no more snacking for me I guess. André too from the looks of it. We'll see how long that lasts but so far (day 1) it's working a treat! Ha, just another how many days to go?

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Just waiting!

The other day I received a strange FB message from André - strange, because it really wasn't his style and stranger still, because he was sitting about 10 feet away from me. Turns out he'd been hacked, of course, so he spent the next 30 minutes messaging his FB friends telling them not to open the link. What was really nice, though, is that as he was sending the messages he started getting replies from friends all over the world. See, having attended an international school here in Geneva his friends are all different nationalities, and within minutes he got a reply from Macnos, who is working in Australia, Chris in Dubai, Abdelazziz in Saudi and so on, and it was really nice. I guess that's one of the positives of FB really, isn't it. A friend's son went to the Hotel School in Lausanne (which is hellish expensive) and as a result has friends working all over the world. One time he wanted to go to Hong Kong (I think it was) for a vacation, so sent out a message asking if anyone could put him up for a few days and bingo, a mate replied offering him a room. It's all very different from our family camping holidays in Stratford-on-Avon, I can tell ya! Still, I shouldn't whinge because my former boss just sent me a message telling me to "reserve the date" in order to go to Edinburgh in August to celebrate his and his wife's 50th wedding anniversary. Covid-permitting, I'll definitely be going!

In other news, it came out this week that the young girl who had gone home from school last October and told her father that their teacher had shown them the offensive Charlie Hebdo cartoons in class in order to talk about freedom of speech, hadn't actually been in class that day! Apparently, the teacher, Samuel Paty, had asked any of the kids who wished to leave class at that point to do so, but the girl in question had been suspended by the school for absenteeism so lied to her father to try to get herself off the hook. The father started ranting on FB and this "inspired" a young lunatic, who took it upon himself to behead Samuel Paty as an act of revenge!!! And all that stemming from a young girl's stupid lie!

Samuel Paty!

The other day I received a copy of the monthly Haute Savoie Magazine, which lets you know what's going on in the region politically and economically, and also has a section promoting tourism. I actually tore this page out because I'm thinking I might start a "let's visit local châteaux" gig in order to check out the sights and see if there are any interesting walks. I spotted two châteaux that took my fancy, all the more so when I realized that the Château de Clermont is only about 50 km away, when for some reason I'd had it in my head that it was in Clermont-Ferrand, which is about five hours away! Covid-permitting, it'll be opening up on 1 April so I think that could be on the agenda pretty soon!

Château de Clermont

I guess I'm getting a little bit "antsy" in general, because I've started looking up potential trips for next spring. I'm thinking Mexico, Thailand, Viet Nam or Cambodia at the moment - although that could change - but in any case I won't be going anywhere until this whole pandemic business settles down. Maybe potentially somewhere in Europe in the autumn but, again, it depends on so many external factors. Then just last night I was watching some gardening videos on Youtube (spring is in the air I guess) and somehow got sucked in to two blogs, one by an American retiree who has made his home in Costa Rica for the last five years and the other by a Canadian lady who went to Guatemala at the age of 52 and is still going strong out there six years later. I don't know, sometimes I guess I just get the "itch" to try something else. In reality I know I won't be leaving France because I have everything I ever wanted here - my kids, my soon-to-be grandchild, my friends and my life in general and I'm happy here, but I can't help it - I still do sometimes get that Backpacker Granny feeling (you should check out her blog, she's amazing)! I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that most of my long haul trips have been around this period of the year and FB keeps reminding me of them. Yesterday it also reminded me that Jordan and Jen got married two years ago on 16 March and then, sadly, that André and Lily got married four years ago on 17 March. That's life, I guess! Still, André's having a blast picking out stuff for his apartment and I can tell he's happy so he'll be all right!

I finished watching The Crown this weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it, and since whenever someone recommends a series/film I write it down I ended up watching the first two episodes of Unorthodox the other night, and boy is it hard going! It's about a young woman who runs away from a Hasidic community in New York and how her husband and someone who looks like a mafia hitman try to find her and bring her back. I haven't watched all of it but it is pretty raw. That being said, I have enjoyed seeing some (although by no means all) of the rituals of their daily life! I remember many years ago, when Jordan was about four, I took my family up to Zermatt for the day to see the Matterhorn. It was scorching hot and we were at goodness knows how many metres altitude so the sun's rays were fierce, when all of a sudden an Orthodox Jewish family passed us, all dressed in heavy clothing, with the females also wearing black woollen tights. When I made an "oh my God" remark to my brother because I was just dying from the heat, he said "don't feel sorry for them, they don't envy you at all", which I thought was a weird thing to say, but actually I think he was right! I've downloaded to my kindle a sample of the book this series is based on, but I'm pretty sure I'll end up buying it as I just know I'm going to want to read it!

Talking of books, I seem to be playing "book tag" with someone at the local supermarket. I was hesitant to leave my books at their book exchange shelf, thinking that as mine are mostly in English they will just hang around cluttering the place up - but not a bit of it! Every time I stop in at that supermarket I have a quick look and they seem to disappear every week, so it's nice to know that someone is getting pleasure out of my second-hand books. Well it's either that or they just throw them away once I've left the shop, I guess, but somehow I doubt it!

And finally, I saw an article in the paper the other day where Stephen Fry was saying that since he's taken up serious walking, he's lost five stone (70 lbs) over a period of about a year. Damn - well, good for him really, but somehow I think he must be transmitting his lost pounds to me telepathically because I haven't shifted an ounce despite all the walking I've been doing. Gotta start upping my game methinks! That's the trouble with men actually - as soon as they make up their mind to lose weight it just seems to fall off them. It's not fair is it ladies (and Dave, I'm looking at you, you know that, right?)! Not that I've been getting much walking in this week. It's snowed and/or rained all week, and I've also been running Jen around quite a bit as she's afraid to drive now, what with getting fairly constant contractions. I took her out to get some blood work done today and she is very uncomfortable so here's hoping Biboo will be putting in an appearance pretty soon and that all goes well!

Thursday 11 March 2021


It's been a strange week this week. It seems like everyone is complaining about being fed up and depressed and I'm raring to go like the Energizer Bunny and I have no idea why. To that end I've been continuing in my bid to "get this place sorted" and so I've been spending an hour every day working on something in the house and also working another hour in the garden while the weather's half-way decent. It's amazing what you can get done in just one hour! This week I started on my bedroom, pulling all the furniture out, sorting/throwing, vacuuming and scrubbing and it already feels great. I guess it must sound like my bedroom was filthy but it really isn't. I keep my house pretty clean and picked up actually, but you know once you start moving stuff, how that works right. One rather nasty surprise I had though was when I pulled out the armchair I have in the corner of the room and started scrubbing behind it. As I was pulling the covers off to wash them I noticed a small "mass" attached to the back of it, and bugger me if it wasn't some kind of insect cocoon. I've had these things before (I occasionally get hornets' nests on the balcony - I burn them off), but this kind of bug seems to like fabric and places where that fabric "doesn't move very often", so the back of that chair would have been ideal and it's right next to the balcony door where the hornets build their nest. I took a picture of it next to my finger so you can see the size. My neighbour tells me she gets them too and you have to be really vigilant looking out for the little sods anywhere the fabric doesn't get moved about - like decorative curtains, for instance, that you never close. In French they're called guêpes maçonnes which literally translates to "mason wasps" (I really have no idea what they're called in English). They're easy to remove but not nice to find, all the same. She was telling me that they also get ladybird infestations for about three weeks this time of year and that's what I'm also dealing with at the moment. Damn! I guess it's a good thing I started this cleaning malarky!

Guêpe maçon

Yesterday morning, just as I was waking up, I heard a couple of buzz sounds on my phone to indicate two missed calls. When I looked to see who it was it was "Albert" in England so I knew that must have been an accident. And that, in itself, is a whole other story. Ya see, my older cousin, Dorothy, dated and eventually became engaged to "gorgeous Bert" when I was just three years old (so in 1961). She was plain looking - not physically attractive, but a lovely person - and Albert was a drop-dead gorgeous young man who was head over heels in love with her. Seen from the outside they really were a strange-looking couple. Anyway, the years went by and whenever anyone asked when they were getting married Dot's mom always used to say "oh they're in no hurry". So they waited and waited but "were never in any hurry"! My mom always said that her mom didn't want to lose the rent money Dot paid them (we called it your "keep") and that could well have been true. So they got engaged in 1961 and in 1977 her mom died of cancer. In the meantime, they're not living together, have never been on holiday together and I'm pretty sure never slept together. They saw each other every evening and then he went back home to his parents' house. Of course when mom died Dot would be expected to take care of dad, Uncle Jim, which she did until he died somewhere around 1990, I would guess. So you'd think they'd now be free to get married wouldn't you. But no - Dot had an older brother, Barry, who was perfectly healthy but as was often the case with that generation he expected her to take care of him also - despite the fact that she also worked full-time her entire life. She and Albert would catch the bus into the city on Saturdays for a wander round and I remember one time her brother balling her out when she came home because "he was starving". When she said she'd left his dinner in the oven and all he had to do was warm it up his answer was "well I don't know how to do that". He "couldn't" even make himself a cup of tea! Now I know this sounds ridiculous (well it is ridiculous) but it was very much the way things were with many of that generation and very definitely the way it was in that household, with my Uncle Jim ruling the roost (and also running around behind his wife's back sewing his wild oats). So Dot's perfectly able-bodied blob of a brother couldn't get off his backside and take care of himself, right (anyone ever read Marilyn French's The Women's Room?)? Well eventually even they realized that it was ridiculous for Albert to go home every night and since they had a three-bedroomed house, Albert moved in with them, but into the third bedroom???????? I know, see what I mean! But Albert continued to adore Dot and she continued to adore him - and that's when fate truly was cruel because a couple of years after Albert moved in, Dot fell sick and died of brain cancer, leaving Albert devastated. At mom's funeral he told us that many years later, well into his 70s, a woman had asked him out for coffee and he said that while it felt nice knowing he could still "pull", there was only ever one woman for him and that was Dot. He and Barry continue to share the same home to this day. Every year they drive down to the south coast to stay with my sister and every year my sister says "Albert any time, Barry - bloody hell". He is such hard work, rarely gets off his backside and has no conversation! Anyway, all that to say, when I saw that Albert had called me the other morning I called back. He couldn't believe I had his number, but I pointed out that I had got it at my mom's funeral. Turns out he was messing around with his phone checking his credit and must have accidentally dialled my number, which in itself is a miracle because they both turn their phones off at 6 p.m. every night because they "don't want to run up any charges". No matter how you try to explain that leaving your phone on doesn't incur charges neither of them will hear of it. They really are living in a time warp you see! Anyway it was lovely to chat to "gorgeous Bert" who even though he's nearly 80 now still refers to me as "bab". When he said, "here I'll pass you to have a word with Barry" my heart sank as he's got no conversation at the best of times and I was only just waking up and not really thrilled at the prospect. Fortuitously Barry is also pretty deaf so in the end I never got to speak to him, but can you just picture those two living together. Albert walks everywhere as he doesn't drive, does all the shopping and cooking and every Sunday he goes to the cemetery to put flowers on Dot's grave. In the meantime, Barry sits on his backside like a statue of buddha while being waited on hand and foot by Albert - who oddly enough doesn't seem to mind. Talk about The Odd Couple, though what a waste of a life for gorgeous Bert as I'm sure he and Dot would have made wonderful parents!

Changing the subject somewhat, André came downstairs last night and said that Youtube has a documentary channel called Vice and a girl he was at school with is one of their roving reporters. He'd just seen her in one of their programmes covering a man in Chile who has lived off grid for the last 40 years. So he was saying "you remember Adri don't you?", but no, of course I don't. He told me that one weekend Chris had stayed over at our house and Adri and her friend Carolina had called when the lads were out. When they called back later apparently I'd told the girls that he and Chris were "out playing guns" and the boys were mortified. I genuinely don't remember saying that but if he said I did ... - "and couldn't you have said we were out doing something "manly" like repairing someone's scooter or something?" Ha, the answer is never have your mom answer your phone, I guess. Mind you, that's nothing to what my dad did to my sister the first time she brought a date home. He parted his hair down the middle and Brylcreemed it to his head, took his false teeth out and sat there in his undershirt and braces (suspenders in the US), with a chamber pot (my grandma's metal po) on the table with plastic daffodils in it! Apparently my sister burst into tears and didn't forgive him for months! Ha, God love ya dad (although I'm glad you never did that to me)!

Today I decided to go into town to the market as I wanted to buy some dish towels and have a wander round. I couldn't find parking so ended up parking way up the road at the railway station - which is fine when you're going downhill but not too much fun when you have to slog your way back up carrying a basket full of fruit and veg - although "every little helps" in the fitness quest doesn't it. I knew I wanted to get bread too and ended up getting the most beautiful loaf of artisanal bread - although I think next time I'll ask him to cut it in half. I'd guess that thing was about two feet long but by god it was good!

We'd already eaten some of it when I took this picture!

Just as I got home my friend showed up for the first time in about a year. We kept promising we'd get together my side of the lake to go walking but - covid! Anyway he couldn't get over how good the bread was so all three of us ended up eating huge chunks with salted butter before he and I set off to the lake at Passy. Just on the off chance I stopped in at the Quechua store and miracle of miracles, they had just received about 10 pairs of snow shoes. They were all the same type and suitable for men or women up to a maximum weight of 120 kg (thank God, that's not an issue). So I grabbed three pairs (two for my two walking partners) and the lady then took her time to get me fitted out for suitable hiking boots to use with them, so eureka, we're set to go! We had a lovely walk round the lake (twice round the lake actually) and just made it home before the heavens opened (it seems we're due crap weather all week, even snow). But having finally convinced ol' Clog Hopper to give it a shot he's now totally enthused (told ya) and is going to come back over so that we can do a 10 km walk out at Thyez as soon as the weather picks up again. Why I ever had to nag him I will never know but at least I got eight miles in today so I'm well pleased!

Saturday 6 March 2021

Yeah, that's just what you'd do isn't it!

My immediate neighbours on either side are the "R" family, with whom I am very close, and the "S" family who, while not as close as the Rs, are still very nice and we have done things together socially in the past. One thing I've learned over the years, though, is if you want something spread all around the village, tell it to Mrs. S in confidence. So while I will always chat with her, if I want something to stay private I never mention it to her. Not that I have much that I'm desperate to keep private, mind you - I'm pretty much an open book - but not everyone feels the same way do they. Anyway, about a month after André moved in with me I spotted her in the garden and she asked what André was doing here so much. So I told her he was getting divorced (I figured she already knew, actually) and was going to be with me until he got his own place. Well a couple of days later I went to the market in the next village over and bumped into another neighbour who I don't see so often. She asked how I was coping during these never-ending lockdowns and I said it wasn't so bad as André was getting divorced and was living with me for the time being. That's when she said that she had already heard because Mrs. S had told her the day after she found out. Not that these two are friends at all, it's just that they had bumped into each other in town and got chatting. And this neighbour said how absolutely disgusted she was that this was the kind of tittle tattle that Mrs. S liked to gossip about. So I told her it was fine as it wasn't a secret anyway but she insisted that as she, herself, is a private person she thinks Mrs. S needs to keep her mouth shut about other people's business. But that was the end of the story as far as I was concerned. Well that is until I bumped into Mrs. S this week out walking the dog on her own. Now she never goes anywhere without Mr. S, never, because he is insanely and irrationally jealous. If she wants to have a coffee in town with a gf he goes along too. He goes to the market and shopping with her and they always walk the dog together. She told me this herself, many years ago, because he at one time figured she was having an affair with Mr. R (my neighbour on the other side) and then decided it was actually my husband she was having an affair with - and all because she used to wash the bed sheets on a Monday, so that must have been when she saw her lover! I know, it's crazy-making isn't it! But all that just to say that you never see one without the other - until yesterday that is. When I commented that she was on her own she told me that he had been taken to hospital on Monday after having what is, hopefully, a minor stroke but I was to keep it to myself in strictest confidence, as nobody was to know! She then told me that she'd been in such a state that she pulled out onto the main road into the path of another car and while she was okay, both her and the other car needed repairs. So I told her if she needed me to run her around just to let me know as I was free any time. She thanked me for the offer but again reiterated that no-one was to know about him being in hospital. And that's when it struck me. I wonder if she will ever see the irony between the fact that she feels free to tittle tattle about everyone else's business but when it comes to them, she expects everyone to respect their privacy! I, of course, will keep this to myself (I reckon everyone will find out eventually anyway - it just won't come from me), but somehow I still don't think this will change her!

When I went out to fetch the mail later that day I bumped into my other neighbour (Mr. R) returning from a short walk. He's been pretty good about walking lately after recovering from his third or fourth operation to put stents in his groin to open the veins up. I commented that I'd seen him out and about quite a bit and "good for him", and that's when he told me that this summer he intended to walk from the lac Vert up to the lac d'Anterne - and I nearly fell over! It's one thing to have a stroll round the neighbourhood every day but I think he is seriously deluding himself that that hike will be within his capabilities by this summer - if ever! He's smoked for over 50 years (hence the stents), and while he did get out walking when he was a much younger man, over the 30+ years that I've been here I've never seen him go out hiking once. But I would love to do that hike so I told him if he was game for it I'd go with him. I don't see it happening, to be honest, but I would like to have a shot at it (again), despite the fact that it is rated as "hard" on the local hiking review. I've been up to a refuge called le Réfuge de Moëde before, and the lac d'Anterne is a good 90-minute hike above that, but who knows. It's spectacular scenery and maybe I can persuade Isabelle and/or my other neighbour to have a shot at part of that hike with me (the bit that I know) once the snow has melted!

The Réfuge de Moëde

The lac d'Anterne is only small, but
about another 90 minute hike past the refuge!

I've been doing pretty well lately at sticking to my one-hour-a-day schedule for getting things sorted/cleaned/decluttered, but there's obviously still an awful lot to do - not that there's a deadline of course. Still it's nice to see things slowly starting to take shape. Today I got all the bed linen washed and hung outside to dry for the first time this year. It wasn't warm enough to dry completely, of course - not yet - but doesn't everything smell wonderful when you bring it in from outside! After that I thought I'd give my sister a call as I haven't spoken to her in a couple of weeks, but blow me, what had she done to her hair? They're still in lockdown in England and she was explaining that the hairdressers are still out of bounds and will remain so for a good while yet. So as she was totally sick of her hair she'd taken her almost-bald husband's hair clippers to her head and ran them all over. Crikey, she definitely went a bit nuts! I doubt her hair is half an inch all over, but while she'll never win any prizes for Home Hairdresser of the Year, by god she could give sheep shearers a run for their money!

And finally, as I was watching the French news on Youtube yesterday, some abstract algorithm decided that I might be interested in deleted scenes from the film Love Actually - and lordy were they right! The one I watched involved "mom" (played by the wonderful Emma Thompson) being summoned to her son's school over "an incident". It turned out that the children had been asked to write an essay describing what they would wish for if they had a magic wand and could wish for anything for just one day. Well most of the kids wished for world peace, of course, and one child wished that his sick sister would be healthy for just one day. But not Emma Thompson's son of course. They made her read it out loud in front of him. No, her boy wished that just for one day, whenever someone farted, little bubbles would start floating up around them so that everyone would know who it was. They showed grandma at Christmas lunch with the little bubbles, the vicar giving his sermon in church with little bubbles and then - oh heresy - the Queen bending over to pat one of the corgis with little bubbles all around her!

At this point Emma Thompson asks if she can speak to her son in private and they leave the Headmaster's office. When her son says "sorry mom", she turns round to him and says "no, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for putting you in a school with a bunch of pricks who can't see your story for the comedic gold that it is" - and then she completely cracks up. And that's when André said "yeah, that's just what you'd have done too isn't it" - and you know what, he's right - 'cos I'm a pleb!

Why they deleted this scene from Love Actually
is totally beyond me - it's hilarious!

Thursday 4 March 2021

Where did the time go?

Wow doesn't this pandemic make time seem like it's standing still? I suppose no-one is doing much of anything and each day kinda merges into the previous one and just drags along doesn't it! Well that was how I felt until FB reminded me the other day that it's now been eight years since I went to Peru! Crikey, March 2013 saw me flying off on only my second "solos" holiday to fulfil a dream of mine, which was to visit Machu Picchu. It was bloody hard work though, the altitude sickness being difficult to navigate, but I did, indeed get to see Machu Picchu and the floating islands of the Uros - and enjoy wonderful weather on what was a bit of an "iffy" vacation weather-wise. Peru was also where I met Steve (RIP mate) and gave me the confidence to try out the longer-haul solos trips and not just the European ones! Gosh I'm starting to look forward to travelling again, although who the heck knows when that will be!

The floating islands of the Uros!

Machu Picchu - not my picture sadly, but I
couldn't find where to attribute it!

Since any kind of travelling isn't on the agenda right now, but with spring on the way, I'm looking forward to getting back up to the higher walks I'd been attempting before the snow came because I'm not getting any fitter just slobbing round here am I!

Max finally stopped by yesterday to replace the pump on my heating system which should prevent the condensation leaks I've occasionally been getting in my basement. He also took away the four BMW tyres (tyres and rims) that a friend of his wanted and that I had had in my basement for ages, so I also talked him into taking the final two tyres to the tip for me, figuring he owed me one, what with all the hassle I've had with my heating system. So yay me, I've finally got rid of - I think - 10 tyres/wheels from my basement so that's a move in the right direction!

Then today I drove my friend down to Annecy for her to hand over her paperwork for her resident's permit and we were yacking so much we ended up taking the "scenic" route again (i.e. we missed the turnoff)! Still we made it just as the immigration offices were opening up and all in all I would guess it only took about 40 minutes for her application to be processed. She was telling me that one lady from Côte d'Ivoire starting kicking off and yelling at staff because "there is obviously something wrong with the ticketing system, as some people have got numbers in the 100s and mine is number 550"! They tried explaining to her that each of the six different desks dealt with different situations so the numbers weren't consecutive. For instance, they had one desk specifically for Brexit Brits which moved pretty quickly because we would all have at least five years' residence in France at this point. Then they had a second desk for new immigrants, and others were divided into zones for people coming from different countries. But she was having none of it. In the end the head honcho told her to just keep it up and he would have her removed from the premises and she could start her application all over again - and lo and behold she must have figured it was probably a smart idea to shut up. I always think unless you've got a very good reason to be ranting it's always a better idea to remain civilized and polite because (a) these people are just doing their jobs, (b) she was not being discriminated against, and (c) in the end they hold the power ultimately don't they! But as I say, all in all it only took about 40 minutes for my friend to get her paperwork completed and I got to sit on the lake front at Annecy admiring the view in very pleasant weather!

I'm trying to make an effort to be more au courant with what's going on in France, despite not having French TV, so I'm at least picking up the news and a few documentaries online every couple of days. I was watching one report the other night to try to understand more about the proposed reform of French pensions and why there were massive protests. Well I can't say I understand all the ins and outs of what is going on but to see how some people are struggling along on tiny pensions is really sobering. And while much talk might be given to improving the lot of the little man, I'm not so sure that's how it works really is it! And then how about ol' Sarko getting a prison sentence???? Just in case you missed it, former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been sentenced to three years imprisonment for trying to "influence" a judge (read "bribe") investigating allegations of improper funding for his 2007 presidential run. His getting millions in campaign funding from the l'Oréal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, was the main focus of their investigation - although not the only one - and apparently they have recordings of him offering "favours" to one of the judges involved in return for information on the investigation. So yeah, two years' suspended prison sentence and one year under house arrest (during a pandemic? yeah, that'll teach him)! He's been on the news doing the rounds these past few days saying how he intends to appeal and "defend himself vigorously" as it is all "fake news" basically, but either way, you can bet he won't be struggling to get along on a presidential pension of around €750 a month!

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy!

And finally, I saw the other night that Amazon Prime had Florence Foster Jenkins showing so as I'd wanted to see it when it originally came out I thought I'd sit and watch it. I didn't get all the way through it as it was late but I have to admit it's "watchable". Well anything with Meryl Streep in will do it for me. Hugh Grant - well he just plays Hugh Grant really, but I have to admit the real hit for me has been Simon Helberg (Howard, from The Big Bang Theory)! I think he's a talented comedian and watching his facial expressions when he hears Florence's singing voice and realizes he has to accompany her on the piano is a real treat. I've got the last part to look forward to tonight, but when you realize it's based on a true story it makes it that much funnier. So truly "light" entertainment!