The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Saturday 24 April 2021

Oh dear!

Well one more week to go and hopefully we'll be out of lockdown (again). I've felt a bit bleh this week but I suppose that's normal. I haven't been out walking because I guess I kinda "resent" the 10 km limit imposed on us - which is pretty stupid really because there are nice walks round here well within that radius! But don't mind me - I'm just having a whinge!

My dentist called the other day to say she'd had a cancellation and did I want it to get my broken tooth fixed? I did, of course and it was so nice to be back in Geneva for a change. There was loads of parking because I guess many people are still working from home and as Geneva "opened back up" on Monday there were people sitting on café terraces eating or having a drink. I thought about stopping and having a drink too but since she'd pumped goodness knows how much anaesthetic into my mouth I thought the sight of me slobbering at the next table might put people off their food so decided to go straight home! It did bring home to me, though, that while I'm pretty happy on my own, I have missed socializing too, particularly before the weather gets too hot for my liking. And talking of teeth, I've gotten more into Grace and Frankie as it's gone on and it's made a nice change to watch something "silly" and not too taxing, buuut I have to admit I'm becoming a bit fixated on Martin Sheen's teeth! I don't know if he always had "prominent" teeth (goodness knows he was a gorgeous young man), but I keep wanting to suck those babies back in and I find it a little distracting. Still, I can live with it and the whole series has been a pleasant interlude in the seemingly never-ending bleh of the pandemic!

Martin Sheen and Sam Waterson

Talking of the pandemic (for a change), I saw an article in the news the other day where the city of Nice announced that they had 4,000 doses of the AstraZenica vaccine available and only 50 people turned up to get their shot! I don't know if people have been put off by all the bad press AstraZenica has gotten recently (which is a shame, I guess, because I believe Oxford University asked for it to be distributed at cost price - unlike the other vaccines), or if people are just not interested in getting vaccinated at all. I don't know to be honest!

The other day I did a bit of baking and made James Martin's banana and maple syrup cake and while it looked nice I do wonder why I bother as I don't particularly like banana cake anyway. Still Jordan and Jen liked it and the Dorset apple cake I also made - that one's a winner every time! I also decided that while I was feeling pretty listless I'd give up on reading a couple of books which were turning out to be quite depressing. So I had a rummage through the hundreds of books on my shelves just waiting to be read and found a couple of Joanne Harris books (Chocolat anyone?) and another Carl Hiassen book (Star Island) which is a real hoot! I also saw that one of the victims of serial conman Mark Acklom has written a book about how he conned her out of the £850,000 she had in the bank from the sale of her home! I guess I was interested in his story because he was finally picked up by the police on the terrace of a café that I know in Geneva so his name stuck in my head. I think at last count he's been to prison five times and started his "career" as a conman at the age of 16!!!!! Damn!!! I know people will say "how the hell did he con her out of £850,000?" and "oh that would never happen to me", but I think these sociopaths are so good at what they do that so many people are in way too far before they realize they've been had. When the book comes out I'll download a sample onto my kindle as I think it might be a good read and, hopefully, a way for her to make back just a little of what he took from her!

Serial con artist Mark Acklom!

I got a pleasant surprise too the other day when I realized the farmer has yet again indulged his pleasure and put more donkeys in the fields at the back of my house. I counted 10 (there may have been more) and at least four babies and they are beautiful - if noisy buggers!

And finally, more good news came when Jen asked me if I could watch the babe today while they had a meeting at the bank. They had had a rough time with his feeding this week so Jen called and got an appointment with a paediatrician when he started having trouble breathing and constantly throwing up his milk. Between them they figured out he is lactose intolerant - as is Jen, so I guess she shouldn't have been surprised - and they've now switched him to baby milk made from rice. She was so upset as she had desperately wanted to breast feed and wasn't able to, but now the Munchkin has had his milk switched hopefully he will be better able to tolerate it. When they dropped him off today they said to "watch out" because he's got some evil farts due to not having pooped in the past 24 hours - and indeed he smelled like he'd eaten a dead rat and could clear a room in about five seconds! For the first hour he was in his little baby carrier and every time he opened his eyes he had André's grinning mug in his face. After a while though he started getting cranky with stomach pains, but I was able to pacify him for the most part. I was concerned in case he hadn't peed so put him on the bed and took his nappy off and that was fine, but trying to put a new one back on him was like trying to dress a feral cat! Damn those legs were all over the place! At that point he must have got a really bad pain because he just sobbed (I almost did too). Oh it didn't last for long - just a few seconds - but it broke my heart to see. Still, all's well that ends well. Jordan and Jen were invited over to Max's for lunch and when Jen sent me a picture from over there she also said that he'd just pooped. She also sent me a picture of that (just in case I doubted her?) and it was all up his back and on his clothes (I guess I didn't get that nappy on so well then), but boy I'm glad that load didn't end up all over my bed! André said it looked like he'd been eating grass (!) so I reckon it was changing the milks on him that did it. Poor little soul, but at least I guess/hope he'll be happier now! And that, folks, is the poopy diaper story for the day. You're welcome! And bon appétit!

Friday 16 April 2021

This and that!

The past couple of weeks have felt pretty long to me - just dragging by - or maybe it's just that this lockdown is feeling longer than the previous couple. We're two weeks into a four week lockdown "lite" and I'm guessing everyone is feeling pretty much the same! Still, time moves on, lockdown or no lockdown! The other day André finally received the good news that his loan application to buy his apartment has been approved. We were pretty certain it would be anyway (he's already picked out the kitchen units and flooring), but of course it's never over 'til the fat lady sings is it. His loan will be in Swiss francs, while the apartment is in France (think euros), but that makes sense as he earns Swissies and so will not have to worry about exchange rate fluctuations. I think more and more he's seeing what a good idea it was moving back into France (he originally wanted to stay in Geneva), because he realizes how much cheaper it is this side of the border, how beautiful it is (although he knew that anyway, having grown up here), and he has just as many mates over here (if not more) than he had when living in Geneva. It's amazing too to see that his monthly repayment will be just SF 1,100, compared to the SF 1,000/month he paid as his share of the rent on the one-bedroomed apartment he and Lily rented in Geneva. Of course he'll have all the other bills to keep up with on his own, but it's more than doable if he's sensible. He's also become more aware that one of the best guarantees of financial security in retirement is to own your own home outright. So yeah, he's stoked! What with that and stashing the cash to buy all the stuff he's going to need - it'll be fun to go out shopping with him! He also finally received his carte grise (title/log book?) for his car, which will allow him to switch his Swiss plates over to French. You're supposed to have these switched within three months of moving into France (he's been here 10!) but I guess there's not much they can say when you've done the necessary and yet still not received the corresponding official paperwork from them!

We've had snow three times over the past few days but honestly nothing to write home about, although the temperatures have dropped quite significantly again. I went down to the market in my local town of La Roche yesterday looking to buy some new tea towels and veggie plants, and while I got a few plants, the bric-a-brac stand wasn't there, so I decided to head to the market in Bonneville today to see if I'd have better luck - but again, he wasn't there. That's when I realized, of course, all the non-essential stores are in lockdown so they're not allowing non-essential market vendors to trade either!!! In fact I would say Bonneville's market was operating at about only one-third capacity, so life has got to be hard for some of these stall-holders. I've been tracking the number of covid-related deaths in both the UK and France, since both countries have a pretty similar population size. France is due to hit 100,000 deaths shortly and seems to be tracking at 30,000 fewer deaths than the UK on a fairly consistent basis, so who knows which government got this lockdown business "right"! While I was at the market it struck me how nice it must be to just be able to wander out of your home and have the shops/markets right there, within walking distance. I know I'd be in heaven if I could do my shopping at Turin's market every day! While I have no plans to sell right now I realize at a later stage it might be an option for me to get an apartment in a small town round here in order to be able to walk everywhere. I already dislike driving in the snow and getting a small place in town would definitely have it's appeal, it's just that while my house is nothing special, the view from my back garden is just glorious, so I don't see me selling up just yet - but who knows what the future might bring!

Bonneville market place!

The other day I managed to break a tooth so I'm going to have to cross the border next week as my dentist is in Geneva. As I'm going to be in Switzerland anyway I thought I'd book up another couple of check-ups to get them out of the way too and hopefully be done with doctors for the year! After I got off the phone fixing up my appointments, André called me to come and take a look at the dishwasher, which was "fizzing" away nicely. Turns out I'd put washing machine tablets into the dishwasher (????) by mistake! I guess that's one way to get the floor properly clean isn't it!

Yesterday I drove over to baby-sit the Munchkin so that Jen could have a few hours to herself (ladies, remember the luxury of being able to have a shower and wash your hair with the bathroom door shut?)! He'd just slurped his way through 120 ml of milk (up from 90 ml) and is going great guns, although the fact that he actually seems to "hoover" his milk is giving him a bit of tummy trouble. I can't say it's colic as it doesn't seem that severe, but since Jen's started giving him a fennel/camomile-based drink also it does seem a bit better. Oddly enough I remember my mom telling me that "in the day" they used to put a piece of coal from the fire into boiling water, let the water cool down and then give it to the baby as a colic remedy, and it worked pretty well. Makes sense, I suppose, since charcoal is in many "tummy upset" remedies. But isn't it amazing how so many of these old wives' tales turn out to be bang on? Anyway I played with the babe, who is now starting to open his eyes more, and babbled away to him for ages. Poor kid, he's probably wondering about the black and white fuzzy thing in his field of vision and the bunch of cobblers she's telling him! Still, it was lovely to spend some time with him, and at least Jen got to have a few hours to herself!

Then the other night I was watching Mary Berry's Foolproof Cooking on TV and since I like Mary and so many of those recipes looked good, I decided to throw caution to the wind and order the accompanying book - and to hell with the expense! Well all €7 of "expense" really, since I went online and bought it second-hand. Not that I really need another cook book but if I ain't going to either Thailand or Mexico this year ...! I've also been continuing to enjoy more of Grace and Frankie. While the series is fun, I'm absolutely loving the music that goes with it, so I decided to go through the entire series and, using my superior technical skills (ha!), have been downloading the songs I really like to my Amazon Prime Music account! Anyone else love Dorothy Moore's Misty Blue or Candi Staton's Young Hearts Run Free? I mentioned before that I want to get rid of about 200 CDs I have cluttering up my house (most of them being my ex-husband's), so I'm going to pick out the one or two songs I like on each CD to download and then box them up for André to take with him. Win/win right? Then André was telling me that if I got an "auxiliary music cable" I could plug my phone in downstairs or in my car and play my own playlists anywhere. Who wudda thunk (see previous note about my technology skills)! Well since I didn't know what an "auxiliary music cable" was in French, and typing "musical thingy" into Amazon France doesn't seem to get me anywhere, I went on to Amazon UK and rummaged around, then went back to Amazon France to order. I no longer order anything from the UK thanks to Brexit because I'd have to pay extra for the customs paperwork and, potentially, customs duty on the items ordered. But this morning, just before I set off to the market, I got a message on my phone saying my parcel was being "held up due to unpaid customs duties"! I had to think for a minute but then realized it was a scam. Everything I've just ordered I ordered through Amazon France, and even if I had ordered anything from the UK, the grand total was about £25 and I wouldn't need to be paying customs duties on such a small amount. It can't just be a coincidence that I've just been on Amazon UK and Amazon France and all of a sudden someone's trying to scam me about "parcels". Makes you wonder though - that's pretty sophisticated scamming somewhere along the line isn't it!

Friday 9 April 2021

The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish ...!

Well André and I kept the Munchkin here for five hours on Wednesday while mom and dad did a lot of running around, registering his birth with all the different agencies and so on and he was an absolute doll! It helps that André is even more ga ga than I am, so much so that after he'd given him his bottle I got the kitchen timer and put it on the table so he'd know when his "time was up" holding the babe! Ha! But seriously, he was so easy. Jen asked me to make sure that he held off on his next bottle for four hours as she really wants to get him on a schedule and I'd guess we only had about 15 minutes of him getting a bit restless before we could legitimately give him his next bottle - hence me walking around with him singing "the wheels on the bus go round and round" ... and I hate that bloody song! Still, it worked, he was as good as gold and Jordan and Jen got everything done that they needed to! Any time, kids, any time!

While they were out my front doorbell rang and I opened it to two young men who thought they had an appointment to do an "insulation evaluation" of my house, but when they saw me they realized they'd got the wrong address. I had to laugh when the first guy said "oh, sorry, I must have the wrong address because I made the appointment with a young person" (!) and when he asked if it might be next door I said nope, they're even "less young" than I am! I did point out that if they were hoping to make a few sales they might want to finetune their doorstep patter a tad, but we all ended up laughing anyway. A little later André took me down into town to pick up my new compost bin and I'm dead pleased with it! I know, to think I used to love going clothes shopping and now I'm all excited about a compost bin. It was really easy to assemble but you needed to be two people as it was heavy and unwieldly, but we got there in the end. Not bad for €15 huh?

Then, bugger me but didn't I get another whingeing email from bloody Chantal, she of the "let's hide behind the cauliflowers" fame. Why she thinks I care about anything she has to complain about is beyond me, but apparently she had just received a plaque from work to commemorate her 30 years of service to the organization and "had I received one, and wasn't it a load of rubbish, and what a stupid thing to waste their money on" .... and so on ad nauseum! Damn it woman, if you don't like it stick it in a cupboard or throw it in the bin but stop bloody moaning! (On a side note, I actually quite like mine and have it in a display cabinet)! Needless to say I never responded to her, but her constant whingeing gets right up my nose!

And finally, Prince Philip's dying shouldn't really have come as a surprise to anyone I guess. I mean, he was 99 after all, although it's a shame he didn't quite make it to 100! He had lived a very dramatic young life, being smuggled out of Greece as a baby in an orange crate, his mother being diagnosed with schizophrenia (I believe) and ending up in a psychiatric institution and his pregnant sister and her family being killed in a small plane crash. However "privileged" he might have been by birth, that's a hellluva lot for any young man to live through. But I liked him. I believe he was a force to reckon with and an absolute rock for the Queen. I also like the fact that he was irreverent and apparently had a great sense of humour. I guess most of us thought he was perennial because he'd always just kinda been there - and yet now he isn't. I'm also assuming his passing will knock quite a few stand-up comedians off balance for a while. But however much they made fun of him I genuinely believe he was held in a lot of affection by greater numbers than those that disliked him. I, for one, think he'll be sadly missed as one of the last real, true characters!

Monday 5 April 2021

All good stuff!

Did anyone see the amazing pictures coming out of Cairo yesterday where they were moving the sarcophaguses (sarcophagi?) of 22 Egyptian pharoahs to a new museum? They made a huge show out of moving the bodies of 18 kings and four queens to their new resting places and oh man, would I have loved to have seen that! Birmingham, where I grew up, had the most amazing library (goes with being a big city I guess) and what to me, as a young girl, was the most fabulous natural history museum. Before I got my Saturday job and was forever working, my mom used to let me catch the bus into town and wander round the city. I would go with my friend, Joy, with a whole 50 pence (I know!!!!), 16p of which would go for bus fares and we would spend the rest of the day wandering round the museum, the library and then on to Birmingham's Bull Ring market where we'd wander round the "rag market", take a few naff photos in a booth and then catch the bus back home. But the highlight of my day was always the natural history museum, and the ancient Egyptian section in particular. They had at least one complete mummy (that I remember - there may have been more) and displays of the jewels and barrettes that the ladies would wear in their hair and all I wanted to do was pick them up and handle them - which I wasn't allowed to do of course. That would be like taking a bone out of the T-rex exhibit's leg I guess! I know that part of the Cairo show was intended to generate interest in Egypt as a tourist destination, but I swear if I could have flown to Cairo yesterday I would have done! It's only a few hours' flight after all (damn the coronavirus)!

The other day I had a call from my friend, Marilyn, who wanted to know what she could send as a gift for the Munchkin. I've mentioned her before but Marilyn (American) was married to Philippe (French) and lived in the house opposite when we moved into the house where I still live. Times moved on, Philippe was head-hunted and they moved to the States where, sadly, he became seriously ill and eventually died. Marilyn's daughter is now married and working in London and Marilyn moved to Ireland with her son when he was transferred to Cork for his job. Her son is now married and has a step-daughter but it has long been all their ambitions to move back to France which, since Marilyn also holds French citizenship, should not be a problem for her. Well we spoke on the phone today and her daughter-in-law found out her transfer request to France has been approved and they are looking to rent in Annecy, where Marilyn and Philippe already owned an apartment which they rented out. So the good news is that Marilyn will be moving back to France, into her own apartment in Annecy, hopefully sometime in the summer. I am so looking forward to it as we have been friends for over 30 years. Circumstances separated us for a good many years but our friendship always remained solid. So I guess as soon as she moves back we will be careening round France like a geriatric Thelma and Louise (but without the yucky ending)! As long as we don't look in the mirror I guess we can pretend we're both still 30 again! I can't wait!

And the even better news is that Jordan just sent me a message to ask if they could leave the Munchkin with me for a few hours on Wednesday afternoon as they have a few appointments in town. I asked if he was out of nappies already but it turns out he might be a bit slow. André said to tell them no because he'll get no work done (he is even more gaga about that kid than I am), but yay me, he's only a week old and I'm already getting to babysit. Does life get any better than that? I don't think so!

Sunday 4 April 2021

Here we are again!

As of Saturday at 19h the whole of France has been put back into lockdown. Not as severe as the first two we endured, but lockdown nevertheless. All non-essential shops are to shut again, I'm not quite sure what's going on with schools/universities as I don't pay much attention to that, the 7 p.m. curfew is being maintained and people are being required to remain within 10 km of their homes unless there are mitigating circumstances and they have the required attestation with them. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to get on with it won't we. At least it's not "one hour to exercise per day within 1 km from home and with a permission slip" again, so I guess that's a positive. It strikes me that countries impose restrictions/lockdowns, the numbers go down and then as soon as they start easing out of lockdown the numbers start shooting back up again. I guess I'm just curious to see how many "waves" there are going to be before we get to the end of this nightmare!

The vaccine situation in France is woefully poor, and I'm not sure whether it's EU-cock-up related or for some other reason, but either way, they are way behind other countries in getting people vaccinated. Just out of curiosity I went on the government's website to do a "simulation" of when I could expect to get vaccinated and by the time I got to the end of the simulation, the site basically burst out laughing and said "see you next autumn sometime". I can't say I'm bothered one way or the other. If I have to stay home then so be it - that really doesn't bother me too much - and when the time comes that a vaccine is available for me, well then I'll take it. There's not much else I can do anyway is there!

When I went shopping the other day I noticed that some of the supermarket shelves were emptier than they had been, but I'm pretty sure it's not panic buying. I mean, everyone knows now that the stores are staying open and there is no reason to over-stock, so I was wondering if it was linked to the backlog of cargo ships stuck in the Suez Canal. Maybe - who knows - but if so, it would kinda show just how dependent we in the west have become on goods from Asia wouldn't it!

So with another lockdown ahead of me for the next month, I've been looking through my cookbooks and trying out new recipes. I've also decided that however far off my interview for French citizenship might be, now would be a good time to spend 30 minutes a night going through the potential background questions I could be asked if I ever get a date for my interview. A "baffle them with my knowledge" kinda thing! Of course I have the luxury of not worrying about money because I'm retired, and both my kids and Jen are also pretty safe, and I realize that is not the case for so many people. It got me thinking, though, back to my trip to Rhodes with Steve a few years ago and how we used to chat to the waiter at our hotel every day. He worked in the tourist industry during the summer months and as a fisherman during the winter months and he told us how the cost of the licence to sell his catch at Lindos (beautiful place) had doubled overnight, and while he could maintain this work schedule for the time being as he was still young, he didn't know how he was going to manage as he got older. Well seeing how the tourist spots have been hit by the travel bans, I was wondering what had become of him and his family. They and so many others will surely be having a difficult time, which brings home to me just how lucky I am!

I've also been continuing to watch Grace and Frankie and have to admit I'm liking it more than I originally thought I would. It was hard to stick with at the beginning as I thought it was so contrived, but it's definitely improved over time, so thank you to those who told me to hang in there!

With spring blossoming here my allergies are starting up again and even though they're not too severe it's bloody annoying when my left eye (always my left eye) itches like hell and swells up like a gargoyle for about an hour. It happened to me the other Thursday when I was on my way to meet Biboo for the first time (I guess he'll have to grow into the name Charlie because at the moment it's still Biboo or Munchkin). Oh man is he sweet, but I hate to think what he thought meeting Grandma Redeye for the first time! I actually don't remember the last time I held such a tiny baby - you know where their bum and back fit into the palm of your hand - but it surely was precious. With the new 10 km travel limit I won't be able to go to visit him for a month as they live 30 km away, but as Jen said, they make exceptions for child care, so I can use that reasoning a couple of times with me looking after babe so they can go out and do their running around without taking him along. Sounds good to me!

I did finally get round to meeting up with Marysette from sewing club on Tuesday and we managed an 11 km walk along the Arve river, which was a new one to me. It was a nice flat walk but I somehow managed to burn my right arm as it was so hot (I must walk with a list if I only managed to burn the right arm, I reckon). Then on Friday my friend came over and we did a 12 km walk into Cluses again and sat on a bench in town to have a picnic lunch, and yet again he loved it (I can see I'm going to be seeing more of him)! And then yesterday Isabelle, my neighbour, asked if I wanted to take advantage of our last day of "freedom" to go back to Passy for a walk, and while it wasn't what I had planned I'm so glad I did. It was pretty cold and the wind was howling but it was so, so pretty. There were a few people wind- and kite-surfing, and even one (fool)hardy (mad?) soul swimming! Not for me but why not? I'm so glad she suggested it as I got in another 12 km walk which was so invigorating!

The lake at Passy yesterday!

When we got back Isabelle was bemoaning the fact that we'll be limited to 10 km from home for the next month, so I took her round to my back garden and pointed out that Cou (one of the mountains you can see from my back garden) was well within 10 km from here and the hike up to the Chalet de Balme could easily be our next outing. I hiked up there many years ago in about 45 minutes but I reckon I'd be looking at about two hours now, what with me being older and fatter but who knows. If you don't try you'll never know, will you!

Cou (as seen from my terrace)!

The chalet at Balme!