The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Tuesday 31 January 2023

You vill eat zee bugs!

This week has been pretty nice - cold of course, but lovely sunshine (and no more snow, for the time being). There were 12 of us at my place on Saturday night for our latest board game evening and as ever, I'm still pretty surprised that we're still going. I thought it would fizzle out before now to be honest, but nope, it seems everyone is just as keen to keep going! We played a game a bit reminiscent of a visual "Chinese Whispers" (although in French it's the "Arab telephone"), where you would be given a word to draw, then the next person had to describe it in words, and the next person had to draw something based on that description. It was pretty easy to play but it gave us quite a few laughs - although not as many laughs as we had with my new Amazon candles!

I mentioned before that one corner of my living room is quite dark because the plug sockets in that corner are naff so I don't have a light there. So with that in mind I bought three battery-operated candles from Amazon that I could leave on the coffee table if ever we are sitting down there. They also gave me a chance to play with Charlie by showing him how to blow on the candles and they would light up or turn off (all depending on where I held the remote control of course)! Well he was pretty taken with it for a while, and then a little later I saw Jen's friend, Julien, over there repeatedly blowing on the candles. I assumed he was playing with Charlie but when I realized the babe was behind me, I went over and asked him what he was doing and he told me he was trying to figure them out. At that point I burst out laughing and showed him the remote control! He was pretty embarrassed .... that is until we were all sitting at the table and I put one of the candles in front of Charlie again to keep him occupied. And that was when Isabelle picked it up and started blowing on it - and then her daughter did the same and they couldn't figure it out either! Isabelle's husband was cracking up laughing because he could see me messing with the remote, and when they finally cottoned on she started laughing and couldn't stop. She has a very infectious laugh and I think it's been a long time since we've all lost it like that, so I can highly recommend those candles (if your friends are maybe a bit slow on the uptake and/or alcohol might be involved)!

They were something like this!

Jordan is still working up at Flaine where it is -18°C during the day (-4°F). He says while it's not too bad, it'll be a lot better when they put the windows in the hotel - I'll bet! He's still enjoying it though and what with the extra money they're paying him to pick up the Romanian plumbers in town he told me he's now doubling the salary he was making when he worked with Max. Add to that the fact that he's not paying for petrol and I'd guess he can count another €400/month just for that, so I'm really pleased for him!

I'm still plodding on with my decluttering and cleaning (always easier when you've pitched a load of stuff), but while I was vacuuming in the end bedroom the other day it brought to mind a story a colleague told me when I first arrived in Geneva. At the time she was dating a young physicist who was working at CERN (the European nuclear research place - think Hadron Collider) and Manfried, being basically lazy, told her that he reckoned he'd figured out a way to "zap" the dust out of his apartment without dusting! So he ran a wire over most of the surfaces with the intention of running an electric current through it - which would then, theoretically, attract all the dust away from his furniture and onto the wire. It ended up leaving wire-shaped burn marks all over his furniture. They broke up not long after that (and thankfully I think he had nothing to do with the Hadron Collider)! 

I got quite a big job sorted in the kitchen too the other day when I pulled all my herbs and spices out. Man oh man, do I have a lot. I guess every time I was looking for ground cumin and couldn't find it I went out and bought another packet from the Chinese store! I ended up covered in all kinds of exotic spices and smelling like a curry house but at least that is done and sorted!

On Monday I had my last yoga lesson for two weeks as the yoga teacher's kids are on mid-term (ski) break until 20 February. Two weeks ago we did a class that centred around balance and boy did I hate it. While I know balance is extremely important, particularly as we get older, I was hopping round that place like a drunken pirate with a wooden leg! Yesterday's class worked on the lower back - which was great - but crikey you realize just how easy it isn't when you try to do some of that stuff. And talking of balance, I decided to take myself off to the lake at Passy for a walk today, but what I hadn't realized is that the path around the lake is still extremely icy so after walking up to the "beach" I decided to turn round and go back as I really don't want to go flying again and maybe break something. It was very cold but still stunning, all the same!

And what do you think about the EU's latest "offering" where certain crushed up bugs/insects have now been approved for inclusion in food products!!!!! I first read about it here and if I remember right, it was going into effect on 24 January. Since then at least a few other media outlets have picked it up and several of the better MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) are also raising the issue (thank you the wonderful Virginie Joron). There are a few really good MEPs (Christine Anderson of Germany, Cristian Terhes of Romania) and a few others whose names I can't remember and thank goodness for them, because otherwise we'd be left with people like the Greek MEP who had hundreds of thousands of euros in cash in a carrier bag in her apartment and can't for the life of her think how it got there (she's now in jail I believe)! Anyway, it would seem that certain bugs (crickets, mealworms etc.) have now been approved for grinding up into a kind of flour and included in food products. They're mainly destined for junk food like cookies, crisps, frozen pizza and ready meals, etc. but will also be included in certain pasta and bread producs under their latin names, of course! I'm off shopping tomorrow so I'll definitely be taking my glasses with me and using my Yuka app (I'll be curious to see if it picks up "ground crickets"). I'll let you know, but bloody hell, what on earth will they come up with next!

Yuka app!

And finally, for no other reason than I just discovered them (better late than never), I've included a video by an Irish trio called Foil, Arms and Hog who I think are hilarious! Take away "mammy's" Irish accent and give her a Welsh one and you've got me and my mom going out clothes shopping - which thankfully didn't happen too often!

Friday 20 January 2023


It's all go again here and boy has it been a weird few days. I went to sewing on Monday evening and we were all chatting (some of us do more chatting than sewing - that would be me) and I commented to Patricia that she didn't look too well (she's the lady whose son is now disabled after falling downstairs and landing on his head)! She's been off work quite some time with an arm/shoulder injury and as she works in a factory and does sewing on the side, I imagine there might be a few financial worries there too! Well she sat down and kinda burst out that she was going to ask her doctor to test her for Alzheimer's! Yikes, I wasn't expecting that! She's 58 and told me that not only is she becoming extremely forgetful but that sometimes she can be driving and have to stop because she doesn't know where she is - and that's on familiar roads! Wow, what can you say to that? I think we've all gone upstairs and then couldn't remember why we'd gone there, but to be driving on familiar roads and suddenly not know where you are would be more frightening! I hope for her sake it's the stress of her current situation rather than anything more serious. Heck I remember once mentioning to my doctor at work that I was starting to worry about that too, but since she knew my home situation she told me that stress and lack of sleep are extremely toxic to your mental health. Turns out she was right!

I mentioned in my last post the very heavy snow fall we've had here the past few days and "how much fun it is" digging out. Well I can see my friend's driveway from my front door and I noticed on Monday that she hadn't dug out. Nothing wrong with that if she wasn't intending to go anywhere. Then on Tuesday the same thing - again, no problem - but I did notice that there was a very large dump of snow directly in front of her car, as though it had melted off the hood and was starting to build up. Then the following day the same thing, so when I got home that evening I sent her a FB message calling her a lazy bugger! No response. I sent her a text message. Again, no response, so I called but ended up getting her voice mail! As it was nearly 11 pm already I sent a message to her sister in Spain and asked her if she had spoken to her lately. About an hour later she replied that she'd spoken to her the day before so she was probably all right. My friend didn't respond until the next morning when she told me she'd turned her phone off so I told her next time to at least check it before she went to bed because she'd almost had a couple of French gendarmes rappelling in through her bedroom window that night!

My brother-in-law was in hospital on Monday for a hip replacement and I could hardly believe it when he was up and walking in the afternoon and home the next day! He's still in quite a bit of pain, which was to be expected, but crikey, isn't it amazing what they can do today!

Then on Thursday there was a general strike in France with about two million people protesting (mainly in Paris) against Macron's reform of the pension system and anti-Macron generally. This strike was planned ages ago but Macron, the Interior Minister, the Minister for the Economy and the Transport Minister went to Spain for the ever-so-important "Friendship Treaty" between the two countries! Given that the biggest sector affected by the strikes was the transport sector, makes you wonder if the choice of the French delegation to Spain wasn't just a little bit suspect! Anyway, some schools were closed and since Charlie's daycare was closed Jen asked me if I'd have him for the day!

It was -9°C (15°F) when I scraped god knows how many inches of ice off my car at 8 a.m. and gingerly drove through the village to get to our local town. Once I hit town though it really wasn't bad going. In town I stopped to let a young lad on a driving lesson pull out. It must have been one of his first lessons because he took the traffic island almost as wide as I was taking bends when I had shrunk five inches last week! But poor bugger, first lesson and you're driving in town in 10 inches of snow! Which reminds me of André's first lesson when the young instructor took him into the mountains in the snow! André was a cocky bugger (aren't they all at that age) and he said it was great, so no harm done!

So I had the babe all day and we had an absolute blast. After his nap "we" decided to play hide-and-seek and then we had to jump out and scare each other. Well of course he always hid in the same place - behind his bedroom door - but he must have been having a "bit of a wind problem" because he kept farting up a storm and saying "oh pardon" ("oh excuse me") every time. Needless to say he found me more often than I found him but at one point we were laughing so hard we were crying! God love him!

On the good news side, I mentioned before that Jordan had been working with a group of Romanian plumbers who went home for three weeks over Christmas. Turns out the company has a contract with a Romanian company to bring these guys over and find and pay for their accommodation to do plumbing work. Well I guess the ski resort where they were working (and staying) needs the accommodation during the ski season, so the Romanians are now staying further down the mountain in a place called Cluses. So Jordan's boss asked him if he would volunteer to be a driver, and when he said yes (it's only five minutes out of his way), the boss rented a 9-seater bus and Jordan is now getting an extra €400 a month for picking them up and getting them up to the ski resort!

I drove home (gingerly) after looking after the babe, but the roads weren't too bad considering it never made it above freezing all day. So feeling proud of myself I parked the car, got out - and went "arse over tit" on the ice! I wasn't hurt (except for my pride, I guess) but even I thought it must have looked pretty funny (if anyone had been around) as I kinda did a "running on the spot" thing before my pratfall!

And finally, around 8 a.m. this morning I heard the most humongous bang and instantly thought my solar panels had come off the roof. When I went outside to check I found half the neighbourhood doing the same thing but nobody knew what it was. I kinda thought it might have been an earth tremor but turns out a tanker carrying propane had caught fire and exploded just 10 km from here! It was lifted into the air and debris crushed a car one kilometre away! Thankfully the driver was able to get out and there was just one person injured (although seriously, I believe). The explosion happened in the village where Jordan and Jen lived before they moved to St. Jeoire, but still only about five km from both their and André's places. Considering this is on a major access road for those travelling into Geneva and it was rush hour, it's a miracle there weren't more injuries - or even deaths!

For the time being the snow has stopped and the sun is shining and everything is absolutely beautiful! So I thought I'd share a couple of photos published on FB by the Département de la Haute Savoie (the State of Haute Savoie) yesterday, although the first two photos are mine (spot the difference between an iPhone and a real photographer!

The view from my place!

The view from Jordan's balcony!

The rest are from the Département de la Haute Savoie!

Tuesday 17 January 2023

Quite the workout!

I was offline again for most of last week because yet again I felt like I needed to break the online habit in order to get more done around here. Trouble with that was I still don't seem to be able to pace myself and suddenly think I'm going to declutter the whole house, get out walking every day, take care of Charlie and a million other things all in one week. Well that didn't quite work out as planned, so I "crashed" for a few days and did pretty much bugger all! Oh I'd been working really well before that and did get a lot done but I really hate that I still don't seem to be able to pace myself better - or maybe it's just that I'm no longer 25 (probably that, right?)!

Oh and before I forget, since I was again offline for a while, Sam I was glad to read that you had a wonderful time with your kids, even if your son's flying "adventures" weren't optimal!

Anyway I took some time out and tried to stay away from the computer for a while, although what with all the gardening videos starting to pop up on Youtube I wasn't always successful. I did get round to reading a book I must have had hanging around for ages, but it seemed quite appropriate (even if it's somewhat dated) to read it in January!

I think I must have gotten rid of about 40 books last week, most of which were beautiful but I finally had to admit that I was never going to get round to reading them. Five of them were on the Normandy landings which I guess my ex bought when we were in Normandy about 20 years ago and as it felt kinda "shameful" not to read them I decided to keep just one and donate the others, my reasoning being I'm not here to curate any more of his stuff! I think it's a bit like not being able to get rid of a bible, with the guilt factor being pretty strong even though I'm not religious!

I watched a few new-to-me Youtube videos today and have discovered a couple of UK news programmes where they talk about current events but can be so funny and irreverant at times! They were talking about various space exploration programmes and one item I hadn't heard of was how the UK Government seemingly "convinced" taxpayers to fund a Virgin mission to Mars (and how ridiculous that is given these very difficult times), but when the one commentator said "I think it made it as far as Brighton" I just cracked up!

The guys came and installed my solar panels last Tuesday so that might have contributed to my fatigue levels, but they were very efficient and in about six hours they were done. All three were Kosovan and told me they travel all over France installing panels. Then the other night I heard a couple of terrific bangs and realized there was a massive thunder storm coming down the valley - and praying the solar guys had done a really good job fixing those things to the roof - seemingly they had. And I was saying to them that it was starting to get serious in the resorts, what with the lack of snow and how I felt sorry for them! Mind you, this cartoon did make me laugh!

And then of course Monday night happened and we got about eight inches of snow dumped on us, followed by about another four inches today, so guess who got to get a real workout and shovel about 10 inches of snow off three driveways!!!! My two sets of immediate neighbours are pretty good about whoever gets out there first just does the three driveways or we do it together - there's not an awful lot to do to be honest - but today that stuff was heavy! My immediate neighbour didn't look very well to me last time I saw him and I was pretty sure the others were away but thought I'd just do the whole lot and get it over with. Mind you, by the time I'd finished even I didn't want to be downwind of myself! And of course it's started snowing again this evening!

After I'd taken a shower and sat down to recuperate a bit I received a rather nice text from my ex telling me that he and his mom loved the photo albums of Charlie I'd made for them and that it was very thoughtful of me! I guess I really wasn't expecting that but maybe it's more than just the snow that's finally starting to thaw!

Wednesday 4 January 2023

They're just tiles, right? Well no they're not, as it turns out!

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all enjoyed yourselves, however you chose to celebrate! For me, I stayed home alone because frankly I don't like new year's celebrations and would rather be off the roads in any case. I did contemplate opening a bottle of wine to celebrate but then thought "nah, why bother", so I got to spend new year's eve reading and enjoying the silence until midnight. Local fireworks were probably more intense than usual but they only lasted a few minutes. I mean, who can afford a 15 minute firework display anyway! The odd thing lately, though, is that I'm finding I could sleep for Britain if it were an Olympic event. I mean, I went to bed around 1.30 a.m. on New Year's Day (which is a pretty usual bedtime for me) and woke up around 11 a.m. - and there was no booze involved! For a couple of days now I've slept till around 10 a.m., which is just unheard of for me! I guess I'm turning into a marmotte (like Charlie) then! Still, with life starting to pick back up again, I suppose it'll soon sort itself out!

Talking of "home alone", the other day I received a bank letter for André as he obviously hasn't gotten round to changing his address for some things. He asked me to open it and turns out it was his new Swiss bank card so I told him I'd drop it off at his place next time I was in the area. Well I stopped off on the way to look after Charlie on Wednesday and let myself in to leave it on the table, rather than in his mail box. He was in Geneva and told me "not to mind the state of his place", but in reality it was fine except he'd had a few mates over the prevous night so I knew what I'd find ready for the recycling bin! With that in mind I'd prepared a little something at home, which I left taped in the kitchen on the way out!

I promise you, this is nothing
compared to what I was expecting
to find!

Talking of André, he was telling me that he has been tasked with setting up a meeting for his unit in Istanbul in February. I'm not sure what all it entails but I told him he'd better get very precise terms of reference and find out exactly what he will be responsible for beforehand, as well as a name of someone he can coordinate with in Istanbul. He is very junior so frankly it doesn't make sense to me to have him responsible for this, but I guess he'll find out more in due course. Heck we had a huge conference task force which was responsible for booking flights/visas, setting up conference facilities, recruiting interpreters and so on, so I'm thinking there's got to be more than just him for this event, even if it is a relatively small meeting. I'd love to go with him "to help out" as I love Istanbul, but then when you go on these things you're there to work, not sightsee!

Jumping from the rooster to the donkey (as they say over here), it's now been a year since I turned my television on and I haven't missed it at all! The computer - now that's another matter altogether and in fact one of my "resolutions" (most likely the only one) is to not get bogged down on the computer as soon as I get up. I get so much more done if I limit my time online in the morning that I really want to pull the plug on that bad habit. In the evening it doesn't really bother me, but to waste so much time in the mornings when there is so much I could be doing is just silly!

That being said, the other day I spotted a Jimmy Kimmel clip on Youtube which I thought was hilarious! I have never liked these one man monologue guest shows and the few that I have watched have confirmed that they just don't appeal to me! But in these clips I see that Jimmy and his cousin Sal are forever pranking his elderly Aunt Chippy (who is now over 80 years old)! And she is a hoot! Oh, she's feisty as hell and has a mouth like a dockworker but the other night I must have sat for over an hour watching the various ways they've pranked her over time. One time they had her house painted lime green while she was out. Another time he brought her a brand new car and had it put in her living room! Then shortly after all covid restrictions were lifted he invited her to watch one of his shows in Las Vegas, but beforehand she "had to have a medical, just in case"! How the actors kept a straight face I don't know but boy was she hot when she realized what was going on! But so far the best I've seen was when he "tricked her" into zip-lining off the 12-storey building where his show was taking place - and she would have been almost 80 at the time! The affection that their family seem to have for each other is just lovely, and Aunt Chippy is a hoot - if you don't mind bad language! And now I want to be Aunt Chippy when I grow up!
Jimmy with Aunt Chippy and Guillermo!

The other day I was giving André a ride home and as we went round the bend to pull into his parking lot he blithely commented that I could "get a Mack truck between me and the kerb", I took it so wide! Well yeah, I know that, but as I explained to him, all of a sudden I felt like I couldn't see the right hand side of my car and didn't want to bounce off the kerb! So when we parked he took one look at my seat and suggested I "move it up out of the reclining position" so that I didn't have to drive lying down! What?? While I know we shrink with age, I thought it weird that I seemed to have shrunk about five inches in six months and to be honest it was starting to bother me. Turns out one of my kids must have driven my car, and while I'd pulled the seat forward again afterwards I hadn't set the back in the upright position so no wonder I couldn't see the bloody right wing of my car! Huh, and here's me thinking I'd started shrinking faster than Aunt Chippy!

Talking of cars, it kinda tickled me (though not really) to read that there was huge disruption in parts of the UK over Christmas with people taking their electric cars to travel long distances to visit family and then getting stuck waiting as much as three hours at charging points to recharge their batteries! I guess that's what you get when they try to push "eco-vehicles" onto the public when the infrastructure isn't ready!

And again in the UK, I saw that the UK border force went on strike for whatever reason - pay I imagine - so the military were called in to take over. Well apparently they did a fantastic job with people singing their praises, particularly at airports, saying how efficient they'd been. I guess the moral there is before you decide to go on strike you'd better make damn sure you're indispensable first!

I think I mentioned in my last post that we'd lost one of Jen's Christmas presents. Well I searched high and low this week and decided to take down my Christmas decorations and pull out drawers and move furniture to try and get this place cleaned up at the same time as looking for the envelope (it turned up). And I've been doing really well, spending maybe an hour or sometimes two every day in a concerted effort to clean and/or declutter - and it's been great. So great in fact that I took a car full of stuff to the charity shop today - and yet there's still loads more that can go when I've got the time to sort it! I'm flitting from one room to the other, as is my want, but it's amazing how much better everywhere already looks just by spending a few hours at a time. I also submitted another medical bill to my insurance company via phone app on Sunday and just 45 minutes later I got a message back to say I'd been reimbursed! Apart from providing excellent coverage, I can't sing the praises of this company enough. Talk about efficient!

Oh and thank you to all the ladies who sent me Christmas cards via Anne's card swap. And Jan (in Santa Ana), yes I've been to the States. I actually lived in the States for four years (D.C. and Pittsburgh) as my ex is American, but when I was offered a job back in Switzerland in 1989 we both jumped at the chance to move back!

Talkng of new year's resolutions, while I think not wasting my mornings on the computer has got to be number one, I have indeed signed back up for the Walk 1,000 Miles Challenge as I'm hoping it will push me to get out walking more than I did last year. That being said, I also logged back into Myfitnesspal - a site I've used in the past for recipes and inspiration. Oh, I doubt very much I will be counting calories as I just don't have that kind of discipline, but when I logged back in the other day for the first time in about a year, I see that I'm actually down nine pounds as compared to this time last year! So I guess the trick is to ignore all dietary advice and just keep doing whatever I feel like!

And finally, wouldn't you know they're coming to install my solar panels on Tuesday - the same day as I've booked my car in for its contrôle technique (the MOT or vehicle safety check). Still, I'm sure they can work without me being home for about an hour. I mean, it's not like I'll be getting up on the roof or anything, is it! Then yesterday I went with Jordan to order all the fittings to redo my two bathrooms. I had a pretty good idea what I wanted anyway, but I really valued the sales lady's help (she obviously knew her stuff) and I'm so glad Jordan was with me to talk the "plumbing" talk! My French is good, obviously, but half this stuff I don't know in English, let alone French. One thing I finally got through my thick skull though is TILES! Tiles are tiles right? Well not in French they're not. Oh I know that roof tiles are tuiles, and floor tiles are carrelage but I could never get through my brain what faïence were. Turns out faïence are wall tiles and on many occasion I've mixed things up a bit so thankfully Jordan was there to explain to the nice (confused) lady that no, I didn't in fact want the pretty mosaic tiles I'd picked out for the roof, they are going on the floor because they are carrelage! I tell ya, I came out of there almost €10,000 lighter and totally exhausted - but not as knackered as that poor sales lady must have been. Still, at least she'll be making good commission!