The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Busy, busy, busy!

Crikey, it's a feast or a famine sometimes isn't it! One week I'm sitting here doing nothing at all and then the next week I'm running around like a "blue-arsed fly" (one of my dad's quaint expressions)!

Monday morning as usual was my weekly yoga class, and on Monday evening the ladies from the sewing club had planned for us all to have dinner together before sewing starts up as we hadn't been able to make the end-of-year get together. You know how sometimes you go to these things but kinda wished you didn't have to - well that was me Monday evening. But I'm so glad I went as the food and service were excellent and I had a really great time! They are nice bunch, very friendly and we had a good laugh - which is something of a miracle considering what some of those ladies have been going through lately! One lady who I went walking with pre-covid lost her husband suddenly in his sleep last year at the age of 53 to a suspected heart attack. They were estranged and living apart, but were friendly enough. I met him and he was a handsome man and apparently in good health until ....! So you can imagine what a shock it was for her and her boys. As a result of his death his two sons received a small pay-out from a life insurance policy of around €40,000 each, but she started telling me what living hell she has been going through with her youngest son because of it! She was leaving for a long weekend in New York (she's there now) and her sister-in-law, who had organised everything, asked her for a small amount of money (less than €500) towards part of the payment. When she went to her bank her cash withdrawal was refused because - as she found out when she went inside - over 17,000 Swiss francs had been taken from her bank account in the last few weeks! I think she told me this was a disbursement from her Swiss pension and she hadn't looked at that account for a while, so she was more than stunned to find that the money had been taken - and more importantly that it had been taken by her younger son! It turns out that when they were clearing out his dad's house, the son had asked for her bank card to put petrol in his car, must have memorized her pin number and then stole her card at a later date! What didn't make sense though was that he had just received €40,000 from his dad, but when she mentioned that he had just met a young Romanian woman online everything clicked right into place (just like my former BIL who got milked out of every penny by a Russian woman he met online a few years ago)! Oh the Romanian and her son had definitely met up, as she discovered when she found out that he had gone to a fancy nightclub in Geneva and paid SF 1,200 for a bottle of champagne, SF 600 for a bottle of whiskey, and spent a small fortune on a night in a swanky Geneva hotel! And of course, as soon as his money evaporated so did the Romanian girl - who couldn't have seen that coming! What's worrying my friend though, is that the sale of dad's house is due to go through this week and sonny and his brother are due to inherit around €100,000 each from the sale of the land (which belonged to his dad's family) and the three of them will then also inherit from the sale of the house! She's desperate to slow down the sale until they can get his money put into something secure like a small apartment for him, but since he turned 21 last week there's not much she can do if he decides to blow through the whole lot yet again! Geez, what a nightmare - I feel so sorry for her!

On Tuesday I decided it was time to start walking again now that the weather has cooled down, so took myself off to the lake at Passy to do a couple of circuits and it was lovely! At the beach end I stopped and chatted to an older lady who was sitting in a deckchair in her swimsuit debating whether to go in for a swim. I told her I was going to do another circuit and would check up on her on the second round - and yep, there she was swimming. Ha, I thought I was brave just walking so I can't imagine what it would take to actually get into that water!

The lake at Passy - beautiful but freezing!

Then on Wednesday night the retirees' association organised our first cocktail in over two years and again it was really nice to see some of the old familiar faces. And so many of them haven't aged at all!!! When I first joined my organization in 1980 I had an appointment with Hugo G, who explained to me all about the pension plan. He retired in 1992 at age 60, which would make him 90 now - and he hasn't changed a bit! I guess there's a lot to be said for retirement then!

On Thursday I dashed around to get my grocery shopping done because I've yet again signed up for something else - a card game afternoon from 2 pm to 6 pm! I was glad I'd looked at some of the grocery flyers because I'm now on a hair-brained scheme to try out planting potatoes, garlic, onions etc. over winter in plastic laundry baskets, since I don't have enough raised beds! Anyway, LIDL were selling them for €4 so I picked up four of them, and then when I went on to my usual supermarket (LIDL doesn't sell everything I want, obviously), the very same baskets were selling for €10!!!! Anyway, I have two planted up already so I will be curious to see how (if?) they work out. Oh and isn't it lovely to see the clementines/tangerines on sale in the farmers' markets - a real sign that autumn has well and truly arrived! As I was heading home I spotted a cyclist and was trying to figure out which side of my car he was going to cycle on so gave him a wide berth just in case. After I'd passed him he caught up with me a little way along and stopped and tapped on my passenger-side window. Now I'm ready to read him the riot act about how I'd left him plenty of room, when he leaned in through the window with a big grin and said "hi Anna"! Turns out it was Stan's son, Sam - you know, the young man who competed in this year's winter Olympics! He'd recognized my car so boy, am I glad I didn't run my mouth off!

Later that afternoon I made my way to the new-to-me card game club because I've always wanted to get back into playing belote and tarot (I haven't played in 40 years). There were about 20 people there and I would guess the average age was around 80, so I felt like a spring chick when someone called me a "young 'un"! They were a nice crowd and I've always liked older people anyway, so age wasn't a problem for me. The old guy I was sitting next to playing tarot shouted at me quite early on for playing the wrong card, but then I realized he was a bit shouty with everyone so I explained to him that I was trying to pick the game back up after so many years and could he help me? After that he was as nice as pie! Turns out it was his birthday and he had brought in wine and cake for their break, but I have to admit I got quite a shock when they all stood up to go over to the drinks table and saw how many of them couldn't stand up straight! We called it dowager's hump in my day and I think it can be caused by osteoporosis (and many other things, most likely), but it made me realize just how difficult life can be for those that are afflicted by it! So with that in mind I also stopped off at the gym for my first weight session in about six months! It was a bit namby-pamby but I guess you have to start somewhere, don't you!

My kids told me that one of my ex-husband's cousins and her husband were in Paris for her 60th birthday and were coming down to Haute Savoie for the week-end to meet up and would I like to get together with them? Well of course I would. I didn't know Pam particularly well but I always liked her. She was what I would consider somewhat reserved so it was a surprise to meet her outgoing, uber-friendly husband, John! He was originally from Brazil but had spent most of his life in the U.S., so I guess the Brazilian blood explains some of his party-animal side! On Saturday night the kids invited us all over for raclette to celebrate my birthday (64 - yikes) and I liked Pam and John instantly. Then on Sunday morning we went to the farmers' market in Annecy - which was still beautiful despite the drizzly weather (they loved it), and then off up the mountains to the lake at Les Confins (again, they were enthralled by the cowbells), and then a quick walk around La Clusaz before heading back to Jordan and Jen's for pizza. Charlie was on fine form and they both obviously like kids so he got to enjoy showing off for everyone. They left back for Paris on Monday morning, where John has booked dinner and a show at the Moulin Rouge for Pam's 60th birthday tomorrow! They were so taken with France (and Haute Savoie in particular) that I feel sure we'll be seeing more of them (and with pleasure - they were great fun)!

Pam and John in Annecy!

And finally, I've mentioned before that I follow a blog about narcissism - less so now than before, but I still sometimes check to see what's going on there. Anyway, one of the ladies wrote how, at 64 and after 42 years of marriage, her husband had left her for a "bright young thang" and that while she initially had a hard time recovering from the shock, she was beginning to rebuild a life for herself. This is what she wrote that tickled me no end as it's so evocative!

"But in an attempt to work around those limitations I recently joined a gospel choir. And by gospel choir I mean eight elderly white people singing rather dull 1970s middle-of-the-road pop songs slightly off-key in a damp Welsh church, led by a pianist with delusional aspirations towards Britain's Got Talent, who makes his endless disappointment in us very evident đŸ€Ł It's good fun though, and I'm making new friends there."

And the Brits on that site all chimed in "Vicar of Dibley"! How very true to form we are!

Sunday, 18 September 2022

This and that!

It looks like autumn is well and truly on it's way. The weather is still gorgeous but considerably cooler and nippy in the mornings, so much so that I decided to put a duvet back on my bed today when I changed the sheets, rather than sleeping with just a sheet. And you know what, I welcome it! I find summer so draining that spring and autumn are definite favourites. Even winter is doable (just as well really right?) - anything rather than that dreadful heat! Blogger Sam in Minnesota mentioned the other day that she was going to try to refrain from putting her heating on until November!!! A fine aim indeed and one that it would be nice to replicate over here, but in all honesty I don't really see being able to hang on that long but hey, why not give it a shot!

Talking of heating the house, when I was dropping garden cuttings off at the recycling centre the other day I noticed that there was a fireplace/wood burning stove place right next door to it that I'd never noticed before. Now if you remember I'd been to two places about getting a wood burner inserted into my fireplace since open fireplaces are now illegal here. To be honest I've only used the fireplace once in 12 years anyway (when we had a power cut), but I thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to look into it just in case. On both occasions they told me they were unable to help me, something to do with the width of the opening at the top of my chimney, so I just dropped the idea since, as I say, I don't really use the thing. But on the off chance, I dropped into this new place the other day, explained my problem and she said "well why don't you just get an insert rather than a stove"? and I was flabbergasted. If it's really that easy (and that's a big "if"), why didn't the other people mention this to me? I guess I shouldn't count my chickens until they're hatched but they are sending someone out to take a look mid-October so fingers crossed it'll work out this time! I thought my friend was smart when she had her wood-burner installed in that it is purely a wood-burner and not electric powered because, as my other neighbour was saying, if we get long power cuts her own wood burner will be down because it also uses electricity. In the event of a long power cut I would use my fireplace anyway (and to hell with the law, but don't tell anyone)! So we'll see what they have to say, but if I can get that done it'll be another positive in my book!

On the entertainment side of things, I finally got round to watching The Dallas Buyers' Club the other day and boy was it good. I don't know why I never bothered watching it when it first came out, but I have to say Matthew McConaughey was excellent (as was Jared Leto), but it's stunning what he (they?) did to their bodies in order to be able to play HIV/AIDS-infected patients! I've never seen him in anything else so it was a pleasure to realize that he's not just a pretty face! I also finished reading a book by Joanne Harris called Blackberry Wine and enjoyed that too, so I guess I'm on a roll at the moment. I like Joanne Harris' books (Chocolat probably being her most famous), which tend to be set in a fictitious town in France and always include some kind of magic or spells - they are an unusual read!

I don't know what was going on the other day but while I was sitting reading a helicopter was flying overhead constantly for about 30 minutes non-stop. I don't think it was search and rescue because (I believe) their helictopters are red, but who knows!

You might just be able to make it out
(badly circled in blue) just above the white house!

And remember I was saying in a recent post how I was trying to stop wasting so much time on social media, well I don't know what happened in the last week but I am getting absolutely bombarded on FB with "suggestions for you", it's really weird. Things like a post by Radio Humberside, something about an obscure football club somewhere, a vintage car club ... you name it, it's being suggested as something I might like. I was so p....d off that I managed to bash out a message to FB asking what the heck was going on. Oh I doubt they'll do anything about it, but after deleting 20 such consecutive "suggestions" in a row (and still counting) I decided that as soon as I saw a "suggestions for you" post I would log out of FB - and viola (as they don't say over here), I don't waste nearly as much time on FB anymore, so thank you FB!

Yoga started back up last Monday and while I never actually want to make the effort to go I positively floated out of there after an 8-10 week break, so much so that I drove straight to the gym where I was enrolled pre-covid and have paid back up for a year's membership! Now I just have to start motivating myself to go again, but I'm sure it'll pick back up once I get in the swing of things! Then the other day I got a phone call from the company my friend and I did quite a few trips with pre-covid saying that they had had two cancellations for their upcoming trip to Corsica and would we like to sign up? Damn, my friend will still be away in Spain over those dates so I guess we'll have to give it a miss this time around. But it did get me to thinking I might wait until Christmas and book a "solos" trip somewhere for around March/April, depending on the situation then. I'm thinking maybe South Africa or Mexico but who knows where (and even if) I'll end up. Still, it's nice to be thinking about travelling again after so long! I don't enjoy travelling on my own, but am perfectly fine travelling with a group of people I don't know. My friend, however, loves to travel on her own and has been posting pictures of her trip to the South of France recently and it looks beautiful. She is also a very talented, creative person and posted a picture of some painting on silk that she had just done! I'm green with envy at her talent!

Isn't she talented!

And talking of talent, the community association of Amancy (where our sewing club is) had their open day on Saturday morning to showcase the various classes/clubs that are available. As president of the sewing club I set up our stand and some of the ladies brought in their creations so that we could display them as a backdrop. To be honest the Mairie had really done a poor job advertising this event so there was very little attendance - but at least for our sewing club that wasn't such a problem as we are pretty much full anyway (lack of space). We just felt we needed to show up in support of the Mairie which makes the premises available to us free of charge and gives us a small sum towards running the club!

We got one or two potential new members but I ended up enrolling in a Thursday afternoon "leisure time" club where the 20-30 members play card games, principally belote or tarot, so yay me! I played both these games in my mid-twenties when I was with my ex-boyfriend and we and friends of his would sometimes pull an all-nighter in order to finish a game. In fact it was in order to get back into these card games that I first went to the gaming evening in town about five years ago. The problem was though that they were already pretty well-established groups, so that was how my neighbour and I decided to set up our own board game evenings - which have surprised me by the fact that we are still going and that we have more people asking to join! In fact we had our lastest board game evening at ValĂ©rie's house just this Saturday. She lives at 1,200 metres (almost 4,000 feet) and it was cold up there Saturday night - but it is such a beautiful spot. We played one game which I thought was going to be a bit naff but ended up being a real hit with everyone so you never know what you're going to get. Next time will be at Jordan and Jen's place (so they can put Charlie to bed) and we've all been asked to dress up for Hallowe'en!

Valérie sent round a message beforehand asking if anyone was interested in buying half a lamb as her neighbours are small-holders and were selling organic lamb raised in the pasture behind them. I was the only one interested but in the end it was just too much meat (and too little freezer space). Valérie already had extra lamb in her freezer so she sold me the most beautiful leg of lamb from her own order which I cooked today. It was hellish expensive but good quality, and in any case I'm happy to support local producers as and when I can. There's way too much meat on that leg for me but I was thinking I'll make a rogan josh (lamb curry) to take over to the kids when I keep Charlie on Friday and put any leftovers in the freezer!

When I signed up to get solar panels, I was told that they were hoping to install them sometime in October so I thought I would request a transfer of the balance I will owe from my credit union in order to have it ready as and when. I have to say I was pretty surprised, though, when I got an automated form to fill in to indicate what I wanted this money for!!! What the flip???? My first reaction was to tell them to mind their own business but soon thought the better of that - but how long has this been going on? When I was still working and paying off my mortgage, once a year I would request 33,000 Swiss francs in order to put down extra on my mortgage and they never asked what that money was for. But now I request SF8,400 and I'm supposed to tell them what it's for??? Geez Louise, you'd think it was their money! Oh I got the money within 24 hours but really???

And finally, the Queen's funeral is tomorrow, which frankly is a good thing in my opinion as it's time to move on. Heads of State have been arriving from all over the world so I can't even begin to imagine what security will be like tomorrow. There's been an outpouring from the majority of the British public, mainly I think out of respect for how devoted to duty and stoic she was. As for Charles, well, we'll see - to my mind the jury's out on that one as yet. But - and this is a big "but" - not everyone has felt that way about the Queen's death or indeed about the monarchy in general and that is absolutely their prerogative. They have every right to their opinions of course, but one lady - a fish and chip shop owner in Scotland - took it a step further and posted a celebratory video of herself with champagne basically crowing that the Queen had finally died. Again, as I say, she has every right to her opinion - free country and all that - but given that many of the locals did not agree with the way she behaved and that the woman had to be escorted from her premises for her own safety, I have to say I'm wondering where exactly was her brain when she embarked on her new business model. As one bright spark commented - "she'll never sell another chip again, I reckon"!

Saturday, 10 September 2022

Been offline again!

I took a few days away from the computer again last week so I apologize for my lack of comments on your blogs recently. Yet again I realize I'm spending way too much time online and while for the most part I don't have anywhere to be, I'm aware what a time suck it is. Heck, I unplugged the television in January and haven't plugged it back in since so I obviously haven't missed that, and while I don't want to get off social media/reading online news permanently, I really want to cut it right back, so apologies again for my lack of commenting!

After deciding I was going to "go offline", the other day I ordered some seeds that I wanted from a well-known gardening catalogue here in France and then added to my basket a small greenhouse for either the balcony or my upstairs bedroom (yes, I might put a greenhouse up there as it's a sun trap). But then I had the bright idea of looking up the same greenhouse on other websites and bloomin' hell, the one from the seed catalogue was €50 and the exact same thing at the local DIY store was €26!!! So as you can imagine, I'm going to be doing a bit more shopping around if I decide to buy anything else like that! This was the same DIY store where I bought my generator a few months ago, and while it was already assembled, of course, the handles and wheels needed to be put on it, so I got Jordan to do that for me this weekend while he was over! So I'm ready to go if (when) we get any power cuts. Actually we always get power cuts anyway (a 23-hour power cut just before Jordan's wedding springs to mind), but who knows what the situation will be like this winter, so I'm glad that's sorted!

Last weekend was a busy one for me so I was pretty tired this week - guess I need to pace myself better, but then you can't always choose can you. Heck if I was still married, 29th August would have been my husband's 60th birthday, 30th August was André's 35th birthday, and 31st August would have been my 37th wedding anniversary, so thank God I only had one event to deal with! As it was I kept Charlie on Friday as usual, but the kids had asked me if I could keep him in the evening too as they had booked dinner at a really fancy restaurant. Actually this was the caterer that did their wedding, and in order to get a reservation at his restaurant they reserved it three years ago - at the time of their wedding! I knew it was going to be a long evening! Charlie was as good as gold all day but of course he's a human dynamo too so it's always tiring. I got him down to sleep easily (it's not just me he wears out, obviously), but around midnight he started coughing and crying and I thought he was going to choke so I went in and picked him up. And that was that until mom and dad came home at 1.30 a.m. when they found him sitting on my lap wide awake reading a book! Still he wasn't difficult to put down again and I got home around 2.30 a.m., although I must admit I'm starting to get more uneasy about driving around at night, (a) because of the wild animals and (b) because the Eastern European licenced cars that always seem to "break down" in deserted spots and try to flag you down are back again - if they ever left! I know many of the places where these Mercedes "break down" so try to avoid them, but whichever way I go home from Jordan and Jen's place, I always have to go through isolated areas. The unfortunate thing is, these cars are always licenced in either Bulgaria or Romania - which does nothing to help with feelings of animosity towards perfectly innocent people from these countries, as you might imagine!

Then on Saturday I had people over for André's 35th birthday. It was a lovely evening, I made way too much food, of course, and my fridge is now bursting at the seams with leftovers that I have to figure out what to do with. I bought a ton of cheese for the cheese platter and since I don't really eat cheese I think I might drive over to the kids tomorrow and drop that off at least!

André with his favourite

Jordan and Jen stayed overnight because the next day we had our neighbourhood clean-up, where everyone spends about an hour tidying up our little island, which is then an excuse to all get together for a knees-up! It's always good fun and particularly appreciated this year after so long being kept apart!

But since I've had a few quieter days to rest, I really must get back to cleaning/decluttering this place. For some time now I've noticed a smell which I haven't been able to pin down. I've always got the windows and doors open in this weather but as soon as I closed up for the evening the smell would come back. Well I finally figured it out yesterday when I looked on the shelf just above my kitchen sink and realized the smell was coming from the two whole heads of garlic nestled up there. Thank God for that - at least it's my garage that stinks now and not the house!

Oh and just because ... I spotted this picture of Annecy the other day, taken I think from the Haute Savoie Tourism website, so decided to post it because it's just pretty. Actually Annecy is so beautiful it's difficult to take a bad picture of it, but here goes anyway!

Taken from the Pont des Amours
(Lovers' Bridge) in Annecy!

And I see Bojo used his final days in office to give the British people the benefit of his wisdom on how to make it through what are undoubtedly going to be some very difficult times financially. You see, assuming you have an old electric kettle that gets caked up with limescale, if you spend £20 on a new kettle you can knock a whopping great £10 a year off your electric bill!!! Wow, thank God he pointed that out! So with electric bills going up to potentially £7,000, using Bojo's tried and tested money-saving tip, next year's electric bill will only be £6,990! The man's a genius with his finger on the pulse of the lives of the British people - I don't know why on earth we don't keep him!

On a more positive note, the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has already said she will be introducing measures to cap energy bills (or is that just electric bills?) at £2,500 I believe, so that's a start. Whether she'll be any better than Bojo remains to be seen but at least she doesn't come over as a condescending dipshit!

And finally I'm so glad that Liz Truss was able to meet the Queen in Balmoral and be officially invited to form a government - just a day or so before the Queen died! I see people using the word "shocked" to hear of the Queen's death but I can't help thinking there's got to be a better word than "shocked" to describe your feelings about the death of a 96 year old woman! I guess so many people thought she was invincible and would always be here because she always has been here, or at least as far as I'm concerned anyway. She was a class act and I think Charles will have his work cut out to follow that - although he has already promised to keep his nose out of politics, so that's a start! Apart from the many lovely tributes to her though, I thought it was nice to hear all the stories about her wonderful sense of humour. This one particularly tickled me and happened when she was out walking in the highlands near Balmoral with only her long-time security officer to accompany her. What a lovely memory for him!

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

More this and that!

Finally the weather broke last week, and while we've had some rain and the temperatures have dropped to between 25-30°C it's still lovely out - and a real pleasure to feel some oomph coming back! I generally feel bleh in the summer so I don't know why it always takes me by surprise! I felt like I had no energy or motivation to do anything other than sit on my butt but hopefully that will change now!

Mist settling over the mountains behind my house.
Scenes like this always make me think of my mom's
village in North Wales!

It's nice to be sleeping better with the cooler weather, although I've noticed my feet have been "restless" in bed - which I put down to being on them so much. Then the other day I spotted an advert for "detox patches" for the feet - I guess related to reflexology - advertising patches for "ionic foot detox and Meridian therapy" (containing various medicinal herbs etc.), claiming they could ease tension in the feet, help you sleep better and detox the body! The write-ups on Amazon were a bit "iffy" but for €20 for a 100 I thought "what the hell" and bought them. And would you believe it, by jove I think they're working for me! Now I wouldn't know if they're "detoxing my body", but when I woke up the next morning the aching was gone and that restless, heavy feeling seems to be kept at bay. Now it may be a load of old codswallop but since I'm interested in this kind of thing anyway, I thought it wouldn't hurt to give it a shot - and I'm actually pleased with the results!

While I was on Amazon I also bought two 3-packs of Moston LED rechargeable lights since I reckon we're going to be in for a few power cuts this winter (we always get them), and thought I should get better prepared and not rely on the crappy flashlights in my drawer. I charged all six last night, put three in strategic places upstairs, one in the kitchen and two on the cellar steps/basement - and I'm delighted with them! I've made a note to myself to make sure I keep them charged, but what a good purchase they turned out to be!

Moston LED rechargeable lights!

Jordan had last week off as he wanted to do some final running around before going back to work and use the remaining few days of leave to redo their balcony. He took up the horrible wooden flooring and laid concrete tiling, redid the railings and set up a BBQ/fridge area. He did a great job of it, although I'm sure having Charlie help made it so much easier!

That's not their balcony - he's just
preparing stuff there!

I drove into Geneva last week to have lunch with a friend and crikey is that place all dug up! I was really glad I know Geneva well, having lived there for five years, because half the roads are blocked off and you're pretty much left to your own devices to figure out how to get around!

So with my new "zen" energy starting to come back I've slowly been decluttering inside the house and working on the raised beds in my garden in order to prepare for any autumn planting I might want to have a go at (lofty aims I feel, but who knows)! I attacked a couple of drawers the other day and they took ages to sort because one was full of receipts that I wanted to look at and the other was full of jewellery and odds and sods that needed to be gone through. I actually found a fitbit in an unopened box which I reckon I must have bought while the last one was on its last legs and then never gave any more thought to it. (Note to self, the walking is not going that well this year so it's time to put that fitbit to good use, methinks)! I also paired up and sorted tons of junk jewellery (I think the polite word is "costume jewellery", but we all know what I'm talking about) and boy did I have loads of pairs of dangly earrings - which probably looked quite nice when I still had a neck, but now - not so much! So off to the charity shop they'll be going!

In the garden, the damson bush has only produced about a dozen measly damsons this year, but the peach tree has gone nuts - I guess it likes the prolonged heat! The peaches aren't exactly eating quality, but are perfect for jam-making, so yesterday I cut a load up and set to making peach jam. Only problem was, I went and sat down outside to read "for a minute", forgot the jam and now I've got a jar of what can only be described as a solid, burnt, orange brick!

In other news, I got quite a shock last week when my oldest nephew (the son of the brother in Wales who died a couple of years ago), called me to say that his younger brother was in hospital after having a stroke. Say what???? The guy is only 52, doesn't smoke, hardly drinks and has a job that keeps him physically fit! The good news is that as it was a relatively minor stroke he was only in hospital a couple of days and they think they can handle it with blood thinners, but to say it was a shock all round would be an understatement! The oldest brother went down to visit this weekend and they drove past the house where I grew up before coming to Geneva at age 21. Now I thought they were going to demolish those houses but apparently they've been done up and the estate renovated quite a bit. The junior and infants' school used to back onto our garden, so if I was ever late for school I just climbed over the fence! Well apparently the school sports fields have completely gone and been replaced by new school buildings while about 200 metres down the road (where the filthy old River Cole runs), it's been done up and looks pretty nice now! The down side is that in the article my nephew sent me they were talking about still having to fish shopping trolleys and wheely bins out of the lake! Maybe it's not just England, but I have no idea why people can't respect these places - I certainly don't see that kind of behaviour in France where I live! But to destroy and pollute something that was intended to give pleasure is just beyond me!

Babbs Mill Lake

And finally, for some years I've been following a blog dealing with narcissism. It fascinates me, having had the misfortune of working with the narcissism poster girl. I'm not on there very often now but occasionally pop in to see what's going on. Well one lady wrote about how the cheating narc she had once been married to got a job with Zambian Airlines after their divorce. He was a flight attendant but she described his uniform as "all gold braid and chains" and which wouldn't look out of place on a five-star general! Anyway, she and the children were living in a small mining village in Yorkshire and one time her ex came to visit the children. She described him as a man who wouldn't walk 20 metres if he could drive it, but the first night he got all dressed up in his "military uniform" and found a pretext to walk the mile into the village twice in the same evening! Knowing a little about "dour" Yorkshire people (Steve was a Yorkshireman) and having seen a few episodes of Last of the Summer Wine, the visual she described tickled me to bits!

Last of the Summer Wine!

Sunday, 21 August 2022

That was nasty!!!!!

I've been offline again for a while because quite frankly there's not been much going on (well, not in my part of the world anyway). Oh apart from the exciting stuff like getting Jordan's US passport application sent off and his US taxes prepared (he is severely dyslexic so I'm happy to do it)! We'll see how long it takes to get his passport back and I'm not worried about being late for the IRS. He earns a pittance and at least he files, right! On Friday I kept Charlie for a few hours for him to do some running around and must have left around 5.30 p.m. - and that was when the heavens opened, the drought decided to end and the most awful storm hit out of nowhere. I'm usually quite level-headed but it was that nasty I was starting to get scared. Grey sky, sleeting grey rain, grey walls on both sides of the highway at the worst part where it was just single lane traffic. I thought briefly about stopping but then reckoned I'd get slammed by someone unable to see coming from behind, so I crawled along with my hazards on as slowly as I dared - and somehow made it out of there! But I just saw on the news that Paris, London and Spain (Menorca, I think) also got hammered, and of course where there are underground rail networks they are the first to get flooded! I haven't heard of anywhere else but I'm sure they can't have been the only places. I'm just glad I made it home all right!

La Roche held it's annual Blue Grass festival a few days ago and luckily the bad weather held off for that. The musicians come from all over the world and are so talented it's incredible! I believe it was originally only meant to be a one-time thing but it was such a success that it's now held every year and is very popular!

Another "roaring success" (depending on your point of view) would seem to be a grass roots scheme that has started up in the UK in protest at the massive increases in energy prices scheduled from October. As I understand it, energy prices were capped up until now but that cap will be increased horrendously come October - and all the while the energy companies are announcing record profits! I first heard about it from a US vlogger who described it as "Don't Pay UK", thinking that people were being told not to pay their bills. Turns out that's not the case at all - people are being encouraged to cancel their direct debits which allow the energy companies to debit whatever they like in the name of "estimated bills". One Scottish lady vlogged about a young man she worked with who had just bought his first place. The electricity company quoted him a direct debit amount of £56/month (if I remember correctly), then a few minutes later raised that to £86, then thirty minutes later to £150 and a few days later to £250/month!!! He was totally panicked so this lady told  him to cancel his direct debit and call his actual consumption in every month and pay that way. Now I have heard that the energy companies give a reduced rate for direct debits but those kinds of increases are just insane. As far as I know 108,000 people have so far followed suit and they are hoping to have a million people on board by October! Damn, what complete and utter madness! I think I read that Germany's electricity prices are going to go up by 23% and France's by just 4% (France kept it's nuclear power plants running), but to see these projected price hikes in the UK - well I think they could have a revolution on their hands soon!

But as I say, not much has been happening here and I haven't been going out much because it's still too hot, so I was at home this afternoon when the most God-awful argument broke out next door! Worse than anything I have heard in the 30+ years I've lived here. Their daughter was there (I presume come for lunch with her husband and daughter) and eventually got it calmed down enough for the wife to jump in her car and disappear for a few hours. Damn, that used to be us - we were the neighbourhood "entertainment" for so many years. I can tell you, I don't miss that at all but I feel desperately sorry for a couple who so obviously can't stand each other but yet are seemingly trapped together!

Finally, just because I spotted it this afternoon, I thought I'd post this Spike Milligan clip from years ago. It's making fun of the Irish - but then nobody does that better than the Irish themselves. I just love their sense of humour and Milligan was Anglo-Irish anyway, so no offence meant! Oddly enough years ago when I was young I didn't find him funny in the least and now, like so many things, I can see how clever he actually was. And a fitting story to remember him by - apparently he had "see, I told you I was ill" inscribed on his tombstone!

Saturday, 6 August 2022

This and that!

Well the weather finally broke just a little and we had a mild storm last night for about an hour. It brought the temperatures down slightly today but the ground was so dry I doubt it did any real good, that is unless it rains again soon - which doesn't seem to be on the cards right now!

It's been so hot (38°C/100°F yesterday) that yet again I haven't felt like doing much, although on Monday I did manage to make a trip to the tip and also to drop some stuff off at the big charity shop. Since I was out that way anyway I took the back road over to Jordan and Jen's place to check in on Leni, The Horrible Cat! Their neighbours are taking care of him while they're gone but I thought I could take a book and read for an hour or so, in order to open up the place and give him some time on the balcony. In the end I spent 90 minutes there and he seemed glad to get some fresh air, although you wouldn't know it because he still treats me with complete disdain!

I mentioned some time ago that I had received an email from "the gendarmerie in Paris" indicating that they had evidence that I'd been looking at child pornography and to call them pronto if I didn't want the matter to go any further". Well I saw an article in Le Parisien this week where one of their reporters followed up on these scammers and was told he could "pay an immediate fine of €7,000 if he didn't want the matter to be taken any further". So he called them back pleading poverty and they kindly offered to let him pay an immediate amount of €3,000 (with the balance to be paid later) and gave him the bank account details where it should be paid. So they tracked down the female owner of the bank account and as a result up to 100 arrests were made! Well done that reporter! I suppose it begs the question why someone would pay anything to these bastards if they were completely innocent, but I can actually see that some people might be confused or just frightened thinking they might accidentally have landed on a site like that - I don't know really, but all I can say is that I'm glad at least some of them got caught. Now if they could just catch the slimeballs who are "holding my parcel until I make a payment" or the people from McAfee (whose email address reads something like and let them know that I haven't used McAfee ever so no, my coverage isn't about to run out, I would be really grateful!

In other news, I called my fuel supplier this week to order 800 litres of fuel and thought the lady was very decent when she asked if I could hang on until I needed to order at least 1,000 litres because I'd get a better rate! It's expensive either way you look at it, but I thought it was kind of her to mention that. She also told me that the price of fuel is currently going down so to keep an eye on the price at the pump and try to time my order in accordance with that! Huh, there are some nice people about aren't there!

I don't know if any of you play Words With Friends but if you do, you'll probably have noticed that after every second play you have to sit through advertising blurb before you can continue. Well I noticed this week that the advertising at the moment seems to consist entirely of a sales pitch for the game Family Farm Adventure and I just realized how awful it is! In one scene a young woman runs in to show her partner her positive pregnancy test and next thing you know he's physically throwing her out of their home into the snow! Then in another scene Mr. Macho is just about to hit his partner (for whatever reason) when the dog jumps up and bites him on the arm! Damn, I hadn't noticed it before, but I can tell you I'm mad as hell to see that these game developers think that kind of crap is a good idea for a game! So guess who's going to be writing them a stinking review!!!

And talking of abusive AHs, I saw a book review of My Daddy Is A Hero - the story of Chris Watts, the murderous pig who killed his pregnant wife and two very young daughters! I've only gotten to the part where they have just discovered the bodies but the book is written to ask the question "are psychopaths made or born?" - which is why I bought it in the first place. That is something that really interests me - but how that monster could murder his entire family because of his infatuation with a skank is beyond me - or probably beyond most of us, I suspect!

In other news Jordan and Jen left Brittany today and are heading south for a few days, and André - as far as I know - is now in Slovenia and they will be making their way back to France via Bulgaria next week. It's all right for some isn't it! That being said, I'm going to check out a few of the "solos" holidays available between now and Christmas and see if there are any European trips I could join up with by driving to meet the group. I've got the travel itch starting up again!

And finally, my friend spotted that there was a pottery market taking place this weekend up at Grand Bornand - which is about 30 minutes from here. Since we both fancied a trip out despite the heat, we headed up there yesterday morning, knowing full well we would most likely ding the bank cards pretty hard but ,,,,! Well the market was pretty small so it didn't take long to wander round but their stuff was beautiful. I spotted a large salad bowl that I fell in love with and intended to go back and buy it after lunch, but my friend trotted over there and bought it for me as an early birthday present (she'll be in Spain for the next two months)!!! Did I need it? Not in the slightest! Do I love it? Absolutely! How lucky am I?

I just love this sculpture!

Made out of recycling materials!

Friday, 29 July 2022


I have been offline for a few days because, well frankly not much has been happening anyway. I don't like the bleh feeling I have at the moment, but when I think about it, I always get like this in the heat of the summer, and boy have we been having a humdinger this year! I don't know for certain but I would guess it hasn't rained for about a month, and we've so far had temperatures as high as 36°C (97°F) round here, bearing in mind that most homes don't have AC! Oh a few people are putting in AC in maybe one room now, but whole house AC, nope! I haven't done it because until we hit 36° I was able to cope with it, you know, by keeping shutters shut and opening strategic windows to create an air flow, so in the end it hasn't been so bad - even if I hate the heat. And to think I was once considering retiring to Spain in order to retire earlier! Ha, the joke would have been on me wouldn't it! Today as there was "a 90% chance of rain" I was almost jumping for joy. And then it happened, all 15 minutes of light drizzle and we were back to where we started. Still, at least for a few days it should be down around 30° so I'll take that!

As in so many countries there have been massive wildfires breaking out in France (in the Gironde they have lost over 20,000 hectares so far). They're also breaking out in other southern dĂ©partements too, although in one case a volunteer fireman has been arrested for arson! What the flip!!! What kind of lunatic does that? I sure as hell don't know!

Moving on, I had to laugh the other day because I've been watching a British journalist/Youtuber for some time now and I've come to realize he's a bit of a Mrs. Malaprop, not only mispronouncing words on occasion, but sometimes using a completely wrong word. I've often thought "oh he'll cut that and rerecord it", but nope, he just plows on - and I find it pretty great! When I actually looked up the origins of Mrs. Malaprop (Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals, apparently), I came across this quote which was attributed to Mike Tyson - although I'm not sure I'd have laughed at him!

That put me in mind of an incident 20+ years ago where I worked. There was a massive negotiation taking place regarding our pension fund. I was in the thick of it - as a grunt, not as anyone important - but it did mean I got a ringside view of what was going on. Anyway, when the negotiation was finally successfully concluded, the big boss - who was Italian - called the staff to a meeting to announce the outcome. I was sitting opposite my friend when, with all the innate theatricality of an Italian, he stated that "it was the most difficult negotiation in which I have NEVER participated"! Of course English wasn't his first language but I looked at my friend and we both had to put our heads down to prevent from bursting out laughing!

On another note, Youtube randomly suggested to me a video about the demolition of slums in the late 1950s in Birmingham, England (where I was born) in order to replace the many insalubrious homes that were either just old or had been bomb damaged during the war. I had always heard that Birmingham City Council were (and still are, apparently) very proactive and even if some of the high-rise flats were later demolished, I still remember moving out of our house in the city centre into the new "posh place with two toilets", even though I was only three years old when we moved. I honestly didn't recognize much (if anything) from the video but when I sent it to my sister, my BIL knew most of the places shown as he had been a young copper on foot patrol in that area for many, many years! What's weird though is that dad came from inner city Birmingham and mom came from the prettiest little village in Snowdonia National Park (North Wales) and travelling between the two as I was growing up was surreal - but then as mom said, there was no work in North Wales and you had to go where the work was!

From my memory, these places look "posh"
compared to where I was born!

Moving on again, I recently received notice that I would shortly be getting the breakdown of my annual electric bill and so far my consumption is down 44%. Yay me, and yay AndrĂ© for moving out. Likewise, my last three water bills went from a consumption of 43 cubic metres, to 51 cubic metres - to 14 cubic metres! Again yay me and thank you AndrĂ©! Mind you, given how energy bills are increasing it's probably just as well that my consumption has been going down, isn't it!

Then the other day I noticed that things had been kinda quiet round at my neighbours, so when I heard her out in the garden this morning I stopped round to see if they were okay. She told me that she had ended up at the emergency room because she'd taken a drink of water and hadn't noticed that there was a wasp in her glass - which promptly went on to sting her in the mouth! Since she is allergic to wasp stings, her face swelled up immediately, the only saving grace being, I guess, that it had stung her on the inside of her cheek and not at the back of her throat! She's okay now, thank goodness, but I'd say that was a close call!

And finally, we had our latest board game evening on Saturday and it was again a really nice time, playing a game that for once interested me called I Know!

The next day Jordan and Jen set off for three weeks in Brittany, staying with Jen's friend and then moving on to Jen's grandparents! From the pictures/videos they are sending they are having a wonderful time at the beach and it's nowhere near as hot as here! Then this Sunday André and three friends are heading for Slovenia via Switzerland by car, and will figure out a way back depending on where the almost Europe-wide farmers' protests are located (in support of the Dutch farmers) blocking the main highways! I hope they all have a good time, and hopefully with the cooler weather I can get some decluttering and maybe even some walking done too, as I'm failing miserably at that so far this year!

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

This and that!

When I got up the other morning the internet was down (shock, horror). First thing I do when I get up is read the news with a cup of tea in my hand, so you can imagine this was seriously going to mess with my day! Oh, I could still get the internet on my phone but I really don't like reading on that so after about 15 minutes of piddling around I gave up. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how your day suddenly becomes about four hours longer! I think I'm pretty aware how much time I waste on the computer but even so, the fact that I went out and got a week's worth of grocery shopping done and the internet hadn't even been restored by the time I got back really brought home to me how much time I waste! I reckon if I could knock that on the head and get to bed by midnight I'd score a whole extra eight hours a day!

My friend is having her balcony rebuilt by the same young man that did mine five years ago. He does excellent work, is very friendly and he and my kids apparently have a couple of friends in common, one of them being Max. Anyway, when I stopped to check my mailbox, he wandered over to me and asked if it was correct that Jordan was a plumber/heating engineer. When I said it was, he handed me his card saying that he routinely gets clients asking if he knows any reputable plumbers and to have Jordan give him a call if he's interested. So I explained to him that at the moment, Jordan's biggest problem is lack of tools (that stuff is expensive), but he said not to worry as he had pretty much everything Jordan could need! How nice of him! And talking of Max, Jordan told me he sent him a message the other day to say that he (Max) hoped they would remain friends despite everything, that he realized just how much work Jordan had voluntarily put in when Max was renovating his farmhouse (he was over there most weekends), and that if he ever needed to borrow tools to work on his own place to just let him know! Wow, that was nice wasn't it - now if only his brother hadn't been such an AH to work with!

Things at work are going fine for Jordan. He's been at a different site these past couple of weeks and said the site manager is a bit of a jerk (he said the heaviest tool he's seen him pick up so far is a pencil!!!) but that the other guys are nice enough. There are three Romanians and a Polish guy on site, and while the Romanians kept themselves pretty much to themselves, he and the Polish guy got along well. Then, when the Romanians realized that he wasn't in fact French they started asking him to translate English words into French for them - and now they all get along just fine! The temp agency also said they want to extend his contract for another month but he told them he'll be taking leave come August and then they could see what happens after that. That's not a problem apparently!

I had Charlie again on Friday and as it was really hot, after a trip to the farmers' market I went to a bar and sat outside in the shade with a bottle of Perrier water. He loves drinking out of bottles, so he had the other clients cracking up every time he took a slug of my Perrier and then made the funniest faces when the bubbles went up his nose. And again, I have to say just how much I like their town as it has everything you could need right on your doorstep within easy walking distance - something that is very much lacking in my little village! It was a bit of a pain in the butt on Tuesday for them though as the main road was blocked off all day when the Tour de France came through town - but since that only happens once every few years, I'm sure they weren't too put out!

The clock tower in St. Jeoire

Then on Saturday a group of us neighbours were invited to my favourite neighbours' daughter's house for lunch. It was scorching hot, they have a pool, and a wonderful time was had by everyone. The husband next door had his legs operated on yet again this week, but the surgeon has told him they can't put any more stents in his veins as they are "too far gone" now, so he is looking at by-pass surgery in the near future. And to be honest, he looks dreadful, terribly thin and stooped now - much older than his 74 years. His wife was telling me that he now struggles to get up the stairs and while he is talking about building an extension onto the house, she's talking about selling up, him taking his share of the proceeds and she'll move back to the west coast of France! Doesn't sound great does it!

I like both the son and the daughter from next door very much, so again I was shocked when the son and his wife arrived to see how gaunt and tired he looked at just 45! He works in catering for a large company in Geneva and when the pandemic hit they laid off four of the seven employees. In the meantime the company expanded and now they can't get staff back to keep up with demand, so he's working 14 hour days, servicing cocktails in the evenings, and he looks dreadful. He asked me if there was any way André could get him in where he works, but how do you let somebody down gently and explain that he doesn't really have the relevant skills for where André works. Years ago my organization outsourced the guards, then the messengers, followed by the catering and most of the IT staff so the trend really is leaning heavily towards outsourcing (although to be fair to my employer, they never laid anyone off - anyone who wanted to stay was found alternative employment). I really hope he can find something else as it does seem to be a buyers' market at the moment - companies are crying out for staff and are not able to find them!

While I was there I got a message from my American friend who lives in Annecy. She was mortified a couple of months ago at having to "uninvite" me to her son's destination wedding in Spain because I'm not vaccinated and there would be medically fragile people there. I was perfectly fine with that because hey, it's their wedding, and in any case, I didn't want the hassle of the ever-changing rules and restrictions regarding foreign travel and covid. Well as it turns out, the entire wedding party (with one exception) came down with covid, including her very pregnant daughter and the daughter's FIL who had a liver transplant earlier this year. Thankfully it seems everyone is fine now, but I wonder how many of those guests unknowingly jumped on planes back home before they knew they were covid-positive. Either way, I wouldn't have fancied the idea of trying to find accommodation and/or rebook flights because so many of the flights were cancelled anyway due to staffing shortages. I'm relieved that everyone was ok in the end, but also so glad I was already uninvited, for obvious reasons!

The young salesman came by on Wednesday to give me the info on solar panel installation (strictly speaking, photovoltaic panels) and I've gone ahead and signed up. It's weird because the cost and the projected savings would seem to align exactly with what my sister in England is experiencing, so that's reassuring. It's going to cost me €12,000 to install and he reckons that at today's prices I should knock around €1,000/year off my bill, without taking into account what I can sell back to the grid. So it occurred to me I'd have to live another 12 years to get my money's worth out of it - although I hardly think I'll be on my deathbed yelling "damn, I wish I hadn't had those solar panels installed", do you!

I also took an executive decision this week regarding money I am holding as the treasurer of our little second-hand book store at work. There were just three of us handling the logistics of this bookshop so a while ago I sent a message to the other two saying that I thought it was madness for me to be sitting here with €1,000 in the kitty for over two years when the local food bank was crying out for help, and did they mind if I took €300 and made a donation? Well I got a "greetings from Peru" message from one lady and the other guy didn't respond at all, so on Tuesday, when I took my usual crate of food down to the food bank, I also handed over €300 in cash to them (I got a receipt of course - not my money). Still I don't think anyone will object, I just wish I could have gotten a "go ahead" first!

And finally, I see Bojo finally got his "et tu Brutus" moment, after being stabbed in the back by his own MPs. It probably should have happened ages ago but I don't think anyone is surprised. The problem now is who will replace him, and while I didn't like him playing the buffoon on the international stage, I'm not sure if any of the potential candidates will, in reality, be any better! That being said, I don't know much about British politics so was interested to look up some of the names involved and again, while I don't know this lady or her politics, when I first listened to her speak I was very impressed with her poise and how articulate she seems!

Kemi Badenoch

Can you imagine if she got in as Prime Minister - wouldn't that just upset the apple cart of the old boys' network!!!! Oh, and I just had to post this - a letter from Bojo's former tutor to his father regarding Boris!

Martin Hammond, who was Johnson’s housemaster and taught him classics, spotted early on that the prime minister showcased a certain irresponsibility and inattention to facts.

Writing of him in a school report in April 1982, he said: “Boris really has adopted a disgracefully cavalier attitude to his classical studies . . . Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility (and surprised at the same time that he was not appointed Captain of the School for next half): I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.”

So yeah, hopefully things could be achanging in the entitled old boys' network. Macron got his a$$$ handed to him in the legislative elections last month, and while he still has a relative majority in the National Assembly he no longer has an absolute majority, and so will have to actually negotiate instead of just having his legislation rubber-stamped from now on!

At the G7 summit in Madrid recently. Divulging
 "confidential" information regarding Middle Eastern oil production?
Macron: Oh my goodness, are those cameras?
Biden: Who the hell was that!

Sunday, 3 July 2022

Andy scores an own goal!

For some reason I felt a bit meh last week (better now), so only got the bare necessities done as I wasn't motivated to do much more. Being retired I have the luxury to do that, of course, but I was really annoyed at myself because I ended up wasting a fair amount of fresh fruit and veg that I'd bought the previous week because I was just too lazy to do anything with it. I think part of the problem is that I get carried away when I see all the beautiful produce and think "oh I'll make this, and then I'll make that" and I go into fresh food overload. Since I also tend to go grocery shopping just once a week I have this compulsion that I must buy all the ingredients for everything I might want to cook just in case. Well that blew up in my face last week and I'm annoyed as hell at myself! If I don't shop at the farmers' markets I go to a wonderful shop called Fresh which, as the name would imply, only sells fresh stuff. It's the kind of place where you're just bursting for someone to take a look in your shopping trolley so you can feel smugly self-satisfied because it's full of "virtue", whereas in fact anyone shopping in that store has the same kind of shopping cart because they just don't sell junk. It's all fresh fruit, veg, meat etc. with nothing pre-packaged and it's lovely!

So then I had the bright idea that maybe if some of my shopping choices were taken away from me I might get inventive and actually use up some of the stuff I bought. I've seen UK bloggers talking about buying "no waste" boxes for a couple of pounds - boxes where you have no idea what you'll get but it's heavily discounted because the store needs to get rid of it. In fact France passed a law in January (of 2021 I think) whereby supermarkets are no longer allowed to throw perfectly good food away - they have to make arrangements with soup kitchens or other outlets to take this stuff - or they can offer it to the public at heavily discounted prices. I'd seen a couple of these at LIDL once or twice but they looked a bit mangy, whereas some of the UK bloggers do really well with these boxes. Out of curiosity I googled the Too Good To Go app and bingo, they do the same thing here too - only it's called anti-gaspillage - no waste here - and lo and behold there are maybe five places locally that use this app to sell off goods that are nearing their sell-by date. To be honest I'm not interested in buying bread/pastries because I don't really eat that stuff, although I suppose if I had room in the freezer it might be worth freezing the bread. There are a couple of the health food stores that also do it, and then I spotted a new-to-me store that had no waste boxes available for €6, so I decided to give it a shot. I signed up for one, paid my €6 and had to go into town the next day to pick it up. As I said, this shop is new to me and I was delighted when I found it was an organic bring-your-own-container place, although honestly, I'm not totally sure my little town is big enough to support four of these places. Still, the lady was very nice and went into the back to bring out what she had put aside for me. Now I was expecting maybe a bit of fruit and veg but when I got it home and unwrapped it it contained: 1kg of rice flour, 1kg of semolina, bee pollen (????), organic chicken bouillon and sun-dried tomatoes! Not what I was expecting at all, and when I think back to the UK bloggers planning a whole week's menu around their surprise box I had to laugh because unless I want to eat sun-dried tomatoes cooked in organic chicken stock for the whole week, I'm buggered! Still, as I actually shop in these kinds of places, I was very pleased with what I received and I certainly got more than my money's worth - it was just not what I expected! A local supermarket also recently offered a last-minute no-waste box but I couldn't be bothered to drive down there to check it out. I might do so next time because I'm sure the food bank would be more than glad to receive the packaged/canned goods (if any)! While I can see that prices are rising, at the moment it's not so in-your-face - except, that is, when I went to buy my weekly treat of a Starbucks coffee. Crikey, they used to sell for €2, then they went up to around €2.10 - and then this week they were asking €3.10!!! Sod that, I'm not paying an extra 50% for a Starbucks coffee - they can go off in the freezer for all I care!

Someone mentioned that as a result of her no-waste box she'd decided to cook Jack Monroe's "sort-of paella" so I decided to give that a shot too. It wasn't bad actually, but I would use less tomato if I make it again. But it was good to get back on Jack's site as it was a blog I read quite some time ago when she first hit the scene. Yes Jack is a woman! I remember reading her blog A Girl Called Jack years ago and admired her very much. She was (is?) a single mother who, if I remember correctly, had worked as a fire department despatcher before her son was born. When she tried to go back to the fire department on the night shift in order to accommodate her child-care needs they refused and she ended up unemployed and broke. She was at great pains to point out that while she did not live with her son's father, he was still very much involved with his son, but at one point she found herself with empty cupboards and completely skint. It was at this point that she wrote Hunger Hurts - which kinda took off and fame sort of found her. She is an ardent and articulate supporter of the working poor and did not hesitate to take on MPs who paid lip service to helping but then did bugger all about it. The trolling and hate she received took a toll on her but to this day she continues to fight for the less fortunate in society! 

Jack Monroe

On a completely different note, four of us and two kiddos took a trip out to a place called Le Grand Parc d'Andilly today, which despite the fact that it is only 30-45 minutes from my home, is a total new one for me and it was lovely! It's a fantasy land with giants and elves and goblins set in so many acres of woodland. The website doesn't do it justice because it was so much better than I expected and even if it really is for little kids, I had a great time over the almost seven hours we spent there!

Telling the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge
and A Christmas Carol

Tree-top walkways!

Elf houses built into the trees!

The magic owls!

My friend on the giant's rocking horse!

Thankfully the giant was still sleeping!

At elf school!

Sitting in the shade "at the beach"!

The woodcutter's house!

I can't believe I've known about this place for years but never been before. I guess I was thinking it's just for kids (it is) but there really was so much to do and take in that we could easily have spent another couple of hours there if it hadn't been so hot!

And finally, how about that Andy guy then? For those of you who haven't heard of Andy, Halifax Bank in the UK recently decided to spend a fair amount of money to "urge their customers to declare their gender pronouns"!

Frankly anyone that wants to wear this kind of name badge
should feel free to do so but if Halifax obliged me to do so
for my job, I would not be pleased at all! What's more, I know if 
I had to have dealings with "Gemma", I'd spend all
my time transfixed by her chest!

Well apparently quite a few of their customers felt that Halifax's money could be better spent and wrote in saying that as a bank they would rather that money be spent keeping rural branches open, or maybe lowering their interest rates. To which Andy, from Customer (non)Service replied that customers should feel free to close their accounts if they didn't like it. So that's what they did - in their thousands! One man wrote that he had closed a £450,000 investment with them and some quoted as many as 10,000 other customers followed suit!

Whatever you think about this issue, I'd say Andy has quite a bit to learn about how to address sensitive issues with customers wouldn't you. Anyone want to take a bet on whether Andy still has a job or is now joining the ranks of the unemployed?