The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Sunday 22 August 2021

Just needed a break!

I decided to take a break from the news and social media for a few days this week because it was starting to get me down. "Starting to get me down"? Maybe not, I'm sure it's been affecting all of us in some way or other for the past goodness knows how long, right? I guess sometimes you have to say to yourself "well there's nothing I can do about it is there" - by which I mean for me at the moment the appalling situation in Afghanistan. My heart breaks for those people - more especially the women and girls who are stuck there with a bunch of swaggering neanderthals and who will shortly be laying down their own version of the law and how these women will be "allowed" to live their lives! So I had to turn it off for a while!

That's not to say that we don't have our own problems closer to home, of course. I'm sure many of you see what's going on here in France and the passe sanitaire which will supposedly only be required until 15 November. Well if you believe that I've got a bridge in Paris I can sell you. The only way I can deal with that is basically keep myself to myself for the most part, which was when I realized the other day that other than going grocery shopping I haven't been out for weeks - well not counting seeing my kids. I haven't seen my friend in about six weeks, though I spoke to him today and thankfully he is starting to feel better. So we haven't been out walking and I think that might be part of the problem. I haven't been out walking and I realize how much I need some form of exercise for my sanity. Mind you, I reckon I always get a bit like this in summer in any case because I just can't function in the heat. Still, from what I've seen we had about 10 days of "summer" and our temperatures are already going back down to "autumn" levels, so maybe I'll take myself out walking this week and become all Pollyanna-ish again! I guess also having André move out might have had an impact because at least I had someone to talk to occasionally, even if he did spend a lot of the time in front of his computer. Jen asked me if I would watch the babe on Wednesday while they get the rest of André's stuff out of their garage, so that'll be something to look forward to. He's just started taking more and bigger bottles per day so as she reckons he's getting hungrier and needs more than just milk, she puréed courgettes yesterday and has started trying him with a couple of spoons of that. Judging by the turned up nose the jury's still out on that one (I told him to push for chocolate ice cream tomorrow), but he's eating it slowly anyway so it's a start!

Since I've been at home so much lately I'm also getting the full force of the bloody telemarketers. The other day I got seven calls on my home phone and I reckon they are all from two different companies because the only things that change each time are the last two digits on the number calling. I mostly just black list them on my phone but they obviously have more numbers available to them than I have fingers to hit the "black list" button. Still, I never answer them, just let them go to the answering machine and of course the big give away is that they never leave a message. I reckon at least one of them is from my mobile phone carrier because my contract with them expired in May and they are obviously desperate to get me to sign up again. I still haven't decided whether I will take up another two-year contract and maybe update my phone through them, or just go ahead and update my phone without signing back up. The jury's still out on that one too!

I did finally get my backside into gear though and sorted out a whole ton of bed linen to put in the charity bin - some of it still in the original packaging! It was all in good condition (I cut the "iffy" stuff up for rags) and I matched sheets with duvet covers and pillow cases but in all honesty, how many sets of linen do I need? Jen took one set that she liked and André took two others but all in all I threw out seven 30 litre trash bags of linen, one bag of clothes and I have two more bags of stuff that actually needs to be taken to the charity shop. I also picked out a few Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs books to put in the book exchange at the local supermarket, where I'm glad to say they've already been taken! I initially liked Patricia Cornwell very much but eventually decided there were only so many books I could read about "exhausted forensic pathologists" so put them in the "donate" bag without taking the time to check if I'd already read them. Next job has to be sorting all the pretty plant pots, vases and trinkets I've collected over the years. Sure they're pretty, but as Anne was saying (at New Happenings) if you haven't used an item in years, why hang on to it when someone else might get some pleasure out of it!

In other news, I follow a couple of vloggers on Youtube, one of whom I really like for his down-to-earth no-nonsense approach, mainly to the ever-more-evident benefits of Brexit (I'm being sarcastic) and while I don't agree with him on everything, I have to admit I enjoy listening to him slam Boris Johnson and this Conservative government for their complete lack of ability (or desire?) to govern. On that I agree with him completely. I heard someone (I think it was Michael Heseltine) once describe Johnson as "someone who looks to see which way the crowd is running, dashes to the front and shouts 'follow me lads'" and I think he's spot on! (The vlogger in question is Phil Moorhouse at A Different Bias, if you're interested)!

Another vlogger who is quite interesting (but I really don't like his delivery style) made a vlog this week about "a kipper" as he calls them - someone who voted for Brexit but who has been living in France on the quiet for years! While the guy had every right to live in France, after a period of 183 days of living in the country you are considered fiscally resident and yet so many of these Brits (mainly in Spain and France) never registered their cars in their E.U. countries and you can be pretty damn certain they claimed to be still living in the U.K. and never regularized their status here. Well he just found out that this one guy stated that he was "going back home" and when asked why it was because "he didn't want to lose his Britishness?????" (what, buck teeth and a face like a horse)? No the real reason would be because now that deadlines have passed for applying for residence permits (we three have ours thankfully), the local authorities will start chasing up these "temporary residents" in the British registered cars and coming after them for unpaid taxes. What's more, the vlogger also found out that the "kipper" had a council house in the U.K. (subsidized housing) which was paid for by the local council and he had a mate living in it and paying him £1,000/month in rent on the quiet, so he was getting the best of both worlds! That kind of thing makes me so mad so I guess you can see why I had to get off social media for a while!

Then we had the rather satisfying case of that other prat, Nigel Farage, finally getting somewhat of a comeuppance the other week. He's another politician who plays the "hail fellow, well met, friend of the people" but who, in my opinion, is just in it to line his pockets like so many of the others. Well he made a comment the other day that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) were basically now just a taxi service helping refugees to cross the channel in rubber dinghies into Britain and they should be prosecuted! I can't quite remember but I think he actually mentioned introducing a draft law into Parliament to propose just that - prosecuting the RNLI and others in the same situation. On a side note, if the powers that be can't solve the refugee crisis then I'm sure I wouldn't know how to, but to expect the RNLI not to provide assistance to anyone in distress in the middle of the Channel is downright evil. The RNLI are my favourite charity, well respected and staffed totally by volunteers, but they are not a charity in the sense that they receive no funding from the British government because they want to have complete control over the way they operate. Well the uproar caused by Farage's comment was so great he ended up back-tracking as fast as his little legs could peddle, but someone set up a Go Fund Me in favour of the RNLI and it raised over £200,000 in one day! Way to go that person!

So thankfully I seem to be coming out of my funk for now and have yet again realized that the best way to keep a positive attitude in these rotten times is to keep plodding on with the exercise. And apparently Facebook seems to agree with me because I'm still getting the "sites that may interest you" which all seem to be about competitive cycling! I have no idea what kind of algorithm they use to suggest these sites - or maybe I'm getting a bit masculine looking in my old age, but I've just received one suggestion for a bodybuilding site called "Men's Physique - Posing and Flexing"!! Ha, maybe I'd better make an appointment to get my whiskers taken care of sooner rather than later!

Sunday 15 August 2021

Hmmm, so what if ...?

Well summer seems to finally be upon us, arriving in one fell swoop since last week and it's scorching here. While it's been a pain in the butt to have had so much rain for so long, I can't say I mind having missed out on these temperatures for the last six weeks or so as I just I can't take it. Which I guess is kinda sod's law that André and I ended up moving the vast majority of his stuff out to his new place this week. On Wednesday I was up and down stairs like a mad woman, packing and loading stuff and then in the afternoon we went back to the store where he bought most of his furniture to get a few extra items (coffee tables, book cases, shelves for the garage) and by the end of the day we were both wrecked. Then on Thursday I took him to a store where he could get most of the remaining stuff he needed (you know, like trash cans, linen baskets) at a reasonable price, a quick drive through Mickey D's for lunch and then back to his place to unload. Friday I told him he really needed to get some grocery shopping done because the truckers' union had threatened to bring the country to a stand still starting this weekend over the pass sanitaire and he might not make it out his front door. Oddly enough it hasn't happened because Macron decided that truckers (along with the police, the military and politicians???) should be exempt from being required to have this vaccine for their work and their truck stops/watering holes would also remain open to them! So there's method in his madness because (so far) they haven't gone on strike, but the fact that those four categories of people will not be required by law to get the vaccine proves - to my mind at least - that this pass is anything but sanitaire! But ... I digress. So I showed André where I got all my fresh stuff if I didn't want to go to the market, then on to the frozen food store which is excellent (I'm sensing he will be living at this place), and finally to the regular store for the rest of his stuff. Now this supermarket chain regularly has promotions whereby you get a sticker for every €10 you spend and it enables you to buy other goods at much reduced prices. They were doing that with wine glasses and then Tupperware recently, but I only collected the stickers because my neighbours wanted them. But this time they are doing a good deal on towels and for 10 stickers and €10 you can get one very good quality bath towel, so I started collecting them thinking they would come in useful for André. Well I had parked and gotten there before him and while I was waiting a man came up to me and asked if I collected the stickers only he had a whole pile of them and had no use for them. When I said yes I would be glad of them he handed me an envelope full, so André now has a whole pile of bath and hand towels on order for about a quarter of the regular price. I hate to even think what he has spent this past week though, but he's keeping track of it and said he is still fine. I sure hope so! 

Then yesterday I went over to Jordan's to make sure Leni the horrible cat was ok and decided to spend an hour there with him reading (me, not him) so that he would have some company. Can you believe I even gave him cat treats and the little rat still treats me with utter contempt (well after he'd had the treats that is). Oh well, I did my bit, cleaned up his food and put fresh water down for him and heck, I even emptied the cat shit out of his litter and there's not one bit of gratitude! While I know most cats are more affectionate than Leni, it just confirms to me that I'm not a cat person as I don't want to go shit shovelling for an ungrateful cat, and in the end, although I like dogs more, I really don't want to do it for dogs either, so that, at least, has put any idea I might have had about getting a pet to rest!

After that I went back up to André's (he was out running around) and spent about five hours emptying boxes and putting stuff away in this bloody heat! Man does he owe me big time. But you know what, I love his apartment and it's giving me vague thoughts of "hey, why don't I move too"? I'm very impressed with the builder and who needs a house when a two or possibly three-bedroomed apartment will do the job just nicely? I reckon I could sell this, buy an apartment and walk away with about €100,000 so it would make sense too.  Hmmmm, has the seed of an idea just been planted?

Now I love where I live, the village is beautiful and my neighbours are great, so there's that to consider, but more and more I like the idea of being able to at least walk to a shop or a restaurant rather than having to take the car everywhere. Oh I wouldn't get that where André lives either so the choice of location would have to be carefully considered, but I'm beginning to like the sound of it. Of course it would mean some serious down-sizing/decluttering this end, so with that in mind, after I'd finished cleaning today I worked for about two hours sorting and putting stuff aside for either André to take or for Goodwill! We'll see I guess, because this burst of enthusiasm has so far lasted 24 hours. I really do love this village as it is so picturesque but who knows what the future holds. It's kinda exciting just thinking about it all the same!

Jordan and Jen leave Brittany tomorrow and will drive through the night in the hope that the babe will get as much sleep as possible. They've had a great time and wonderful weather, although Charlie didn't like his first experience of the sea - he was afraid of the waves! 

But talking of the heat, I saw on the news that Syracuse in Sicily has just registered the highest temperature in Europe (I believe) - 118°F!!!! Wow, it was scorching the day I visited and it was nowhere near that temperature - but what a stunning place that was!

Syracuse, Sicily

I bumped into my friend at the mailbox the other day and we were discussing her upcoming trip to Spain (I'll be taking her to the airport) and I was saying how much I would actually like to go back to the UK and travel around, something I feel Steve and I would have done together if he hadn't died! She feels the same as I do in that when we used to go back home, it was always to see family, so you never really visited other places and there are so many places I would like to explore. André and Lily fell in love with Yorkshire and the Isle of Skye on their last trip to the UK, and my niece has just spent a week in the Lake District (I have fond memories of Youth Hostelling there) after which she and her family made their way slowly back to their home in the south of England, stopping off in various beauty spots for a night or two on the way back. She always takes loads of photos and it's really whetted my appetite to go back home whenever that might be possible and do a long trip! It ain't happening yet of course but it's nice to dream isn't it!

This isn't a very good picture, but it's of The Shambles
in York, which was the inspiration for Diagon Alley 
in the Harry Potter movies!

Wednesday 11 August 2021

All change!

Things are starting to move again around here, starting with the weather, which has finally hit the kind of temperatures we would normally expect this time of year. Would you believe last week we only managed 16°C (60°F) and it rained all day? I mean, by the time August gets here we're usually desperate for the 15th to roll around in the hope that it might start to cool down a bit, but this year? Not a bit of it! Well that was until this week when we've finally started getting up to about 33°C (90°F) - even though this time of year we'd normally be hitting as high as 38°- 40°C. Still, I'm not complaining about missing those temperatures!

The people showed up to André's new place yesterday to install the kitchen and need to come back tomorrow to provide the finishing touches and then he's pretty much set to go. I think he's talking about moving out good and proper on Friday night, but there's no rush as he can stay here as long as he wants, obviously. Still, nine months of having him here hasn't been bad at all and he was able to save up a good amount of money, which has allowed him to get pretty much everything he needs for the apartment. I guess it's sod's law though that today was the day we ended up moving most of his stuff out of my place - and also the hottest day of the year so far! We had a pretty good removal system going between the two of us but given that my house is on four floors I was a sweaty mess by the time we'd got most of it loaded up into our cars! Still, his place is lovely and we got to sit and enjoy a beer on the balcony when we were done (for as long as we could stand it, because the sun was scorching)! First thing he's gonna have to buy tomorrow will be a couple of parasols for the balcony because we could barely open our eyes, it was so bright! So tomorrow we're off to IKEA, Geneva, to have a shufty and pick up some smaller decorative items! I love going to IKEA, but I also love leaving the place as it can be so tiring - that's if you can even find your way out of there. Very crafty bit of consumer-promotion that - make the buggers keep walking round and round until they promise to buy something if only you'll let them leave!

My ex was supposed to be arriving here to meet Charlie for the first time on 25th August, but when I commented to André that his dad would love his new place he told me that he wasn't coming, but was pushing his trip back to next March! Say what???? Although he has had both vaccinations it turns out that he can't provide a "QR code" to prove this and so would not be allowed to land in Switzerland (although crossing the border into France is usually not a problem)! When I asked how he proves he's been vaccinated in the States André said he doesn't have to (at least not in PA), nor do they have to wear masks. I don't know, I don't understand any of this any more because I thought there was some sort of equivalence to allow foreign travel to start up again - but apparently not! Who knows!

Jordan and Jen are in Brittany at the moment staying at Jen's best friend's and the weather looks lovely up there too, although it can be very windy. I'm so glad they've got to have something of a break too because it's been a tough year for them both - well, like for most people, I guess!

I'm starting to get itchy feet a little with the travel bug but since I won't be going anywhere until at least next spring I'll have to get back out into the mountains as soon as the weather cools off a bit, just to make it feel like I've actually done something this year! Not a lot, admittedly, but at least something! It's been about 15 months since we were supposed to go to Holland (to see the tulips) and come back via Germany, but that was cancelled because of covid of course, so I'm thinking that in a couple of months I should be getting the money back for that trip (as well as a short trip to Italy) - crikey, it's amazing how much you save when you never do anything isn't it!

My house phone has been ringing off the hook these past couple of months (I always let it go to the answering machine), when I realized the other day that my mobile phone contract with SFR (my carrier) had expired so it's probably them plugging me into speed dial so that they can sign me back up to a contract. Just out of curiosity I looked to see what they were offering by way of incentive, and did the calculations on renewing with them and getting myself an iPhone 12 at a much reduced price. But, I'm getting quite good at sitting on these things too because while I think I probably need to upgrade my phone, to be honest, I don't really care that much about phones either. I also looked into buying an iPhone through the Apple site and the prices aren't too bad there, but I think I'll leave it for a bit as my current phone is ok, even though I had to change the battery last year. And talking of phones, somehow I stumbled across a couple of Youtubers called "Payette Forward" (basically "iPhones for idiots") and they walk you through which phone settings you can easily turn off in order to not only save your battery but also to limit somewhat the apps that can track your phone usage. While I knew that Facebook was automatically loaded onto my phone when I got it, I hadn't realized that the FB tracker is defaulted to "on" when you get your phone. So they explained that by turning this one particular setting "off" (and loads of others), you can not only save your battery but also afford yourself just a tad more privacy, although I know darn well Big Brother is constantly watching of course. I tend to use my computer rather than my phone for FB but oddly enough, since I turned off this app setting on my phone, I'm now getting the weirdest suggestions of "sites you might like" when I log into FB on my computer! Half the bloody things seem to think I'm some kind of cycling fanatic and could give a toss about where the latest races are or what the best deals on bikes are! Well I guess, if Big Brother is watching me at the moment, he must be slightly drunk, because I can't block these cycling ads quick enough!

And finally, whenever someone mentions a book, a movie or a series that they've enjoyed I write it down for "the times when I can't think of anything better to do" .... which will most likely be more often now that André is moving out. So with that in mind I started watching The Kominsky Method on Netflix and I have to admit it's growing on me. I've never been much of a fan of Michael Douglas, but the writing is very clever and I think Alan Arkin (so far) has just stolen the show. To be continued, I guess!

Thursday 5 August 2021

In praise of the stay-at-home mom (or dad)!

I've been taking care of Charlie full-time this week as the crèche closes for the month of August and Jordan and Jen only start their vacation (they're off to Brittany) next week. Now that he's well again he is his usual adorable self but I'd forgotten just how hard it is taking care of a baby full-time. You can't do anything on the spur of the moment and have to plan everything around the baby's schedule! Plus if you do have to go out you basically end up packing for a Himalayan trekking expedition! Oh I know you build up to it and you definitely develop a routine as time goes on with your own kids, but it brought back to me just how hard a job being a stay-at-home (SAHM) is! I would have given my right arm to be a SAHM, but since I earned more than my husband and I was the one with the wonderful expat benefits it wasn't to be. Ultimately the fact that I kept my job worked in my favour because I was able to comfortably divorce my husband (receiving no spousal or child support of course) when he decided the bar room skank was a better fit for him (she was)! More than once I've wondered where I would have ended up if I had stayed home with my kids with no income of my own, only to be abandoned for a skank at 51. Thankfully I never had to find out!

Of course working full-time with young kids I, like so many others, had the constant pressure of having to run, run, run and the stress of keeping all those plates spinning was tremendous - as any working mom knows! But to anyone who wonders "what on earth SAHM's do all day", I would just say try it for yourself and then get back to me in a year's time! Because of course it's not just about the kids is it. There's the cooking and cleaning and shopping and homework and all the other duties that usually fall to the person that stays home. It can also be mind-blowingly stultifying to sing Old MacDonald Had A Farm on an endless loop to try to calm a cranky baby (ask me how I know - tee hee - at least Charlie knows all the names of the farmyard animals in English at this point)!

At one point, when we were in the thick of raising kids and both working full-time, I spoke to my husband about the possibility of him giving up work to stay home because I felt that if we were careful financially we could have pulled it off. Trouble with that was the words "financial prudence" and "my husband" should never feature in the same sentence - as I learned to my cost after getting married. I mean this was the guy who, while drunk, went out one Saturday afternoon and bought himself a car (on credit, of course) for €40,000 (which was around $60,000 at the time), while I was driving a car that would generously be valued at around €1,000 in the divorce!!! So no, we would quickly have gotten into a real financial mess if he had given up work and we depended solely on my income. The other problem with having him being a stay-at-home dad was that I learned - through experience when he lost his job in the US - that his idea of being a SAHD was feeding the baby and maybe making dinner - but that was it. I remember coming home from work one night and he hadn't washed or dressed the baby at all that day, the washing was piled up and he was doing his usual, sitting there playing guitar. For him, as I say, being a SAHD didn't involve grocery shopping, cleaning, ironing or anything other than - well "staying home", so I dropped that idea poste haste! It was a shame though because I always felt life would have been easier in so many ways if one of us - it didn't matter who - had been able to stay home! So having spent a few days with Charlie, who I reckon needs an inordinate amount of sleep at the moment, it reminded me again of just how much "unseen" work stay-at-home moms do, Ladies (and the occasional gent), I salute you!

By Katie Kirby, Hurrah For Gin

I used to follow Katie Kirby's blog "Hurrah for Gin" years ago, and I think she captured what was often the real truth about what it's like staying home with young children!

In other news, André got the keys to his apartment on Tuesday so I packed for the aforementioned Himalayan expedition and took Charlie over to see it - and it's just lovely. It's on the top (second) floor of a small, new build apartment block about 30 minutes from my place. 

The view from his very large balcony.
It's not a very good picture as I had babe on one arm and
was trying to get the picture with the other. The mountains
in the distance are where my house is - so he can
wave good night to me every evening if he feels like it!

On Wednesday most of his furniture was delivered and assembled, with more being delivered today. The kitchen will only go in next Tuesday but he said it is already looking good. Unfortunately he can't get a wifi connection before 18 August as so many people are on holiday, so he was initially thinking he would have to continue to work from my place. But with Jordan and Jen being away as from next week they asked him to move into their place until they get back - which works out well for them also because he can take care of Leni, the horrible cat! Seriously, this cat is a nasty piece of work who would scratch you rather than look at you (thankfully he's ok with the baby so far). I mean, the other day I had put my bag on the table with my car keys next to it. Well Leni has a handbag fetish and is forever sniffing around it. As I wanted to leave I managed to nudge my bag away from him, but in order to get my car keys I had to go get a large hooked pole (you know, the kind you close roller blinds with) and surreptitiously hook my keys away from him! The good news is that with me going over there more often to take care of the baby he now just treats me with mild contempt - and I can live with that because the feeling is mutual. But André has a better relationship with him as he lived with J and J for three months so I guess a short period of cohabitation between them will work out okay!

So I'm really pleased to see that things are working out well for him and he's happy. I was asking him about work the other day and apparently he is good to work from home (primarily) for the next four years, because his employer is renovating their main building with a view to getting rid of an annex and what I presume is a ridiculously high rent. Of course he and the rest of the staff will have periods when they will have to be on site (and he is happy to go in to work anyway), but to be able to telecommute pretty much indefinitely will be a dream come true (if he did but know it), given the horrendous traffic problems we have round here. Heck, I was only asking for the occasional telecommuting days and my boss refused - hence I handed my notice in two years earlier than I intended to. But then whaddayaknow, a few months later the pandemic arrives and everyone has been telecommuting ever since. But, as I've said before, I don't regret quitting because the freedom I have gained was so worth it. And now I'm off to sing Old MacDonald to try to get the Munchkin down for his nap! Freedom? What freedom? Did I say freedom????