The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Thursday 28 September 2023

Getting back to normal!

Life has slowly been getting back to normal at my place - well as normal as it can be with the plumber and tiler trying to work around each other. To be honest it's been fine as the plumber comes for a few hours and then leaves, while waiting for the tiler to do his bit before he can carry on! And I have to say how impressed I am with how clean they leave the place. Of course there's dust but both pick up their mess as they go along and so far it hasn't been half as stressful as I thought it would be! It's gonna be slow getting things finished of course, but I can live with that - heck I ordered the fittings in January so I guess there's no rush is there!

Yoga started back up a few weeks ago but I wasn't able to go because of having workmen in. That is until this Monday and boy was I glad to be back at it. After two months of no yoga I really missed it and even just one lesson a week sets me up for days on end. Sewing also started back up last Monday and it has been good to see everyone again, with two sisters who took a year off now rejoining the club. The last time I saw Marysette she was asking me about my solos trips (although I never really thought she would do anything about it) but lo and behold, she just sent us all a photo of her at Niagara Falls as part of her solos trip to Canada! I'm so pleased for her that she took that leap! There was a bit of a blip with flight delays and possibly missing her internal flight, but in the end it all worked out well, so I really hope she has a good experience. Then I bumped into the young lady manicurist (she of the dinky little pink caravan) at the recycling centre and she was asking me for more info as her mom is my age and very interested in doing something similar, although again with a French-speaking group! And again, I hope she does it. I've only heard one person being really negative about her solos trip but then this lady is negative about pretty much everything so I take that with a pinch of salt!

The weather is a lot cooler but still glorious and as expected my energy started coming back. The summer heat knocks me back every year so I really don't know why it surprises me. Hmmm, maybe I should start spending my summers back in the UK to get away from the heat - now there's an idea! Go back home and visit all the places I've missed over the years! The state of the house has been bugging me again so I've started setting my timer and trying to get in at least a one hour stint of decluttering/putting the garden to bed every day and it really does seem to be a system that works for me. It's amazing how much you can get done in just one hour, even to the point that those annoying little jobs are also getting done when I reach minute 50 and have to find something to fill the next 10 minutes! It's silly really, but as I say, it sure is working! I've taken so many trips to the recycling centre/charity shop that even my cluttered up basement is starting to look a little better. You know, getting rid of all those plastic plant pots I was keeping because obviously every spring I'm going to have a lush exotic garden full of organic fruit and veg! Nah, not gonna happen. I think I'll just buy it at the health food store next year! But, for the second year running I see that a local environmental group has set up a small wood-chipping truck that will come to your home and put all your hedge trimmings etc. through it at no cost to you and leaving you with all the free chippings and/or mulch. They've also set up a scheme whereby for the month of October people can try out battery-assisted bikes for free to try to encourage more people to use them and the local bus service is free to everyone, again for the month of October! Great initiatives all round, but one that really cheered me was a scheme called Pedibus, where for a very small fee children can be signed up as part of accompanied groups from the local villages walking to and from school. Over here walking to school is very feasible for the most part, so I really hope it takes off!

Jordan started his new job a couple of weeks ago, working in a two-man team for the director of his former company (you know, the one that's going bust because the owner has seemingly "disappeared" a lot of money) and who started up his own company in the local area. He enjoys working with Christophe and they pretty much have carte blanche to order any equipment they need - the boss just tells them to go ahead and order it and send him the bill! And talking of career plans, Jen has so much patience with Charlie and spends lots of time reading, playing and working with him and it's really paying off. She routinely has him sitting on her lap while she's cutting up vegetables and just last week bought him a "trainer knife" for children (I know, I was thinking the same thing)! Apparently they cannot cut themselves with it but it allows them to develop knife skills, so now Charlie is mainly responsible for all veggie prep in the evenings. They could be on to something there!

Move over Jamie Oliver!

Finally, thank you to everyone for the birthday wishes. I must admit 65 felt a little weird as this would be the birthday by which I had to retire from work. In fact, tomorrow would have been my last day had I not decided to retire five years early (still no regrets). As I've mentioned before, the fact that I'm now 65 fulfils the final condition for me to request French citizenship via ascendency (i.e. through Charlie), which is pretty much a given, assuming I haven't spent more than six months in prison (I haven't, I got divorced instead). So the other day I printed off a list of all the paperwork I would need and it wasn't too bad actually as I had most of it anyway, and already translated into French. The only two documents that I have to request are (yet another) copy of my divorce paperwork, and a copy of Charlie's birth certificate. I still find it confusing that documents issued by the French authorities have to be less than three months old. I mean nothing changes the fact that I got divorced on 23 December 2011 right? Well Jen was explaining that apparently French administrative papers are actually a "living" document, I guess drawn from a database, so if I were ever to get remarried in France (not gonna happen), my new marriage certificate would state "formerly married and divorced from P on dates X and Y"! She finds it strange that our administrative documents are "static" documents, but in the case of my divorce paperwork I'm guessing a more recent copy would also reflect any subsequent marriage. Confusing isn't it!

So last night I filled out the form to request a more recent copy of my divorce paperwork - which was pretty easy and only took about 10 minutes. In order for them to send it back to me I had to include a pre-paid envelope so then I set to to print a stamp off the French post office site (a system introduced in January of this year) but what a nightmare it was. I had also ordered a bunch of labels suitable to print stamps on (rather than having my stamps split over two labels), but when I went to pay for them and they asked for the delivery address, the web site kept spitting out that my village was "unknown to the post office"! Say what????? I spotted that the next village over was also missing from the list and yet they've been delivering my mail to me at this address for the past 33 years! After about an hour I was pulling my hair out so I'm guessing it was a simple case of "computer sez no", but eventually I got the bloody thing printed and mailed off. On the positive side, they don't charge for it, unlike the Swiss who charged me SF 33 for a copy of Jordan's birth certificate this morning!!!!

So slowly but surely I feel like I'm getting somewhere and who knows, maybe by the time the next General Election takes place in the UK I will have my voting rights reinstated (British in Europe are working on it) and maybe, just maybe, I'll even get to vote in the next French and European elections. A girl can dream, can't she!

Saturday 23 September 2023

More Mallorca!

I figured I'd better get back to journaling about my trip before I forget it all, but I've been a bit busy since I got back. So after our island tour I took the following day as a kind of laze around day, just going for a walk along the beach (although not as far as the nudist beach!!!) and reading by the pool. I can highly recommend it - having absolutely nothing to do, that is. 

Anyway the next day six of us had booked a trip to Palma, Mallorca's capital - me, the three Scottish ladies, and Irene and M (The One)! The trip there was a bit tedious because the guide did his spiel first in Spanish, then in English and finally in German but since people had booked different tours in Palma I guess he had to labour the detail a little! Our ticket basically just gave us a ride there and back, but people getting on at other hotels had different coloured tickets, which indicated maybe the aquarium tour and/or the guided tour of the cathedral. None of that was an option for us, but I was fine with that as I like to do my own thing anyway.

When we got off the bus the guide explained that the aquarium people should be at this spot at 10.30 and the cathedral people at noon, and M was adamant that they were booked on the cathedral tour. I told her she wasn't as that wasn't offered at our hotel but she was having none of it. In the end I've no idea if they showed up for the cathedral tour but Bernie, the little Scottish lady, just laughed and said to let them get on with it! So the four of us set off for a coffee in what looked like the old town and then wandered down the back streets to find a restaurant for lunch off the main drag and in the shade. We found just what we were looking for and were enjoying a meal of tapas when up comes a man who sets up his keyboard and started blasting out very bad music which meant we couldn't hear to speak to each other. I used to get that a lot when I worked in central Geneva, the guy who wandered round the restaurants playing three bars of Rawhide and then came round with the hat and it drove me mad - every single day! Mind you when Karen said "I wish Richard Clayderman would bugger off" we all cracked up - and maybe he heard because he packed up and left not long after that!

After that we spent an hour wandering round the old town and the cathedral but as it was so hot we were only too glad when we got back down to the harbour to wait for the bus in a shaded café!

Palma cathedral!

Later that evening a young man came in who played soul music so for once I sat and listened as I love soul. He wasn't bad but the heat was a killer so I left around 11.30 pm just to get out of it! The next day was another "do nothing" kind of day until later that evening when the guide came over to me and asked if I spoke Spanish (I can get by, but I'm not fluent), because apparently Irene and M were at the police station and the hotel receptionist didn't speak enough English to explain what had happened. Well it turned out that Irene and M had taken a taxi to Alcúdia and sat down in a restaurant when M decided it was too expensive and got up to leave. At this point I think Irene had had enough and offered to pay for her meal but M was already out the door, so Irene grabbed her purse and ran after her. It was only when she got to the next restaurant that Irene realized she'd left her small shoulder bag with her papers, money and phone at the previous restaurant and went running back to get it, only for it to be gone. The people at the next table said that nobody had been at that table since they left except for the wait staff so it was pretty obvious who had taken it! At this point the owner refused to give Irene the restaurant's phone number and virtually threw her out the door and told the people at the other table to stop talking to them!!!!! The big worry, of course, was did Irene have her passport in that bag as we were leaving the next day, but the hotel receptionist told us that even with Irene's permission she could not go into her room and open the safe, so we just had to pray she had left it in her room (she had, as it turned out)! While I was chatting with our guide the receptionist came over to me and said that a gentleman needed her to go with him to his room for some reason, and she was letting me know that she was going up to room 152 - if you get my drift! To be honest I'd never thought about that kind of thing but she just wanted someone to know where she was in case anything happened. I guess they see it all in hotels, don't they!

Later that evening our guide bought me a drink for helping her out and we ended up having a long chat about this and that - and it came out that her first husband had been extremely violent, one time throwing her through a glass door into the garden and that she would have bled to death if the neighbour hadn't seen her through the kitchen window lying on the back patio!!! Crikey, I wasn't expecting that, but she did send me a text message after she got back to England thanking me for allowing her to open up like that!

The trip back was a bloody nightmare, with my flight ending up being delayed six hours and Easyjet changing the gate number from gate C44, to C62 and back to C39 all while making no announcement of the gate change over the tannoy! So I got back around midnight and threw a load of washing in because of course the plumber was coming at 8 am the next morning to start work!!!! Then I got a call from the chimney sweep, who had tried to set up an appointment while I was in Mallorca, and he asked if he could come in an hour's time too. So at one point I had a man running a vacuum upstairs with another man running a vacuum downstairs - that surely must be a Women's Libber's wet dream!

It was only when I got back that I heard about the earthquake in Morocco and realized that my neighbours had been there at the time. They were in Agadir and said they were in bed on the fourth floor of the hotel when it started swaying like crazy! Nobody was killed in Agadir (most of the victims were in the Atlas mountains and Marrakesh), but one man had a heart attack and died from the fright. I can't even begin to imagine how frightening that must have been!

And finally, last Sunday was our "clean up the neighbourhood" day and we lucked out in that we had good weather all day - only for a torrential downpour to hit right after we'd cleaned up. And now life returns to normal - or as normal as it can be with a plumber and tiler traipsing through the house most days. Still, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs can you!

Oh and get this, tomorrow is my birthday but this morning I had a "happy birthday" text message from the young man that I dated briefly after my husband left. He lives in Berne and the relationship kinda just ran its course but we parted on friendly terms. So today he texts me and we end up chatting off and on all day, It's hard to believe we hadn't spoken in about 14 years and then just picked back up where we left off! How weird is that!

Saturday 16 September 2023

Island tour!

Later in the evening of our first night our group was joined by an Irish man who flew in from Dublin (quite the character) and two older ladies who arrived from Manchester. These two ladies reminded me a little of The Odd Couple. Irene had obviously been quite the looker in her younger years and was indeed still very glamorous and sociable. M - her companion - was the complete opposite, a kinda "quieter than a church mouse" type. I did get to speak to M a few times because she had at one time owned a house in Normandy (and apparently very much regretted selling it) but others said that when they tried chatting to her about the many solo trips she had taken she pretty much blew them off! That kind of thing doesn't bother me much because I just do my own thing anyway, but I heard later in the week that things were somewhat tense between Irene and M because Irene wanted to do more things with the group but ended up "having" to stay with M all the time! Hence I don't travel with anyone on these trips 'cos my days of having a regimented schedule are well and truly over! Anyway, I mention this as it's relevant because of what happened on the last night! More to follow!

There was also another couple of Scottish women travelling together and who also seemed to fit The Odd Couple mold somewhat. They too had slight tensions during the trip but ended up being okay together for the most part. I got along really well with the outgoing Scottish lady but the quieter lady had actually had quite the life too, it turns out. She had been born in India (her father was manager of a tea plantation) but when she was six her grandmother in Scotland had become seriously ill so A (the quiet lady) was shipped off to boarding school in Scotland and she hated it! She said she had never seen anywhere so cold, wet and grey in all her life, but I suppose having been born in India that was a normal reaction. Ultimately she ended up loving Scotland but said it wasn't easy at first. And Mrs. Quiet Lady had also travelled all over - although Asia was her main love, for obvious reasons! There was also another quiet lady who I put in her mid-70s (as did others) but turns out she was only 68 and she had been doing the solo travelling thing for the past 18 years. She seemed to have been everywhere and was such an interesting person to talk to, so I guess it really is true that you should never judge a book by its cover!

Anyway, the next day six of us signed up for the aforementioned island tour and it was wonderful, if a little hectic! Our first stop was in a town called Inca to visit a leather goods outlet. Mallorca is known for its leather goods and cultured pearls and their wares really were lovely and very reasonably priced, but in the end I realized that I actually don't need any more stuff. I really do have everything I need in that department so decided (reluctantly) to pass! After that we ended up crawling over a hair-raising horseshoe pass to get to our first stop where we would pick up the boat. Hats off to the bus driver is all I can say!

This was the "easy" bit. We had crawled
through forests with steep drops over the side
for an hour previous to this!

Our guide said the locals refer to this pass as the Ay Maria pass (or basically the "oh my god" pass) and you can see why! Anyway, we made it out alive in time for a quick lunch and then boarded the boat to circle further down the island, heading for the beautiful port of Soller!

I had to laugh at this one because some time ago I wrote about driving up a hair-raising road to get to the Plâteau de Cenise and nearly laying an egg en route. Well when I got back this picture popped up on Facebook showing just how nasty that road really is! Never again says I!

I had been to Mallorca many, many years ago with my boyfriend and I remember Soller being stunning then, and of course it still is. André told me that he and his then wife took her grandma to Soller for a holiday and she just loved it (I'm not surprised)!

This is a google picture of Soller, as I couldn't get
my head out of the train window quick enough
to take a decent picture!

After a quick lunch in Soller we caught the rickety old tram for a few km up to the town of Soller and from there hopped on the train for a one hour ride back to our bus!

Another google picture I'm afraid!

13th century church!

Town centre!
When we got back to our hotel our guide asked us what we thought of the trip and we all said it was great, if a little rushed because of having to marry up with boat/tram/train timetables. Well all of us, except Irene and M, one of whom had apparently complained that at their ages (mid-70s I would guess) it was disgusting that they had to stand on the 3km tram ride! My eyes almost popped out on stalks because twice I had offered Irene my seat and she waved it away and the younger Scottish girl in front of me had done the same. I'm guessing it was M who was bitching then but we both put the guide very much straight about what really happened. As I say, there's always one isn't there!

That evening it was back to the hotel for a quick shower and dinner in an excellent Argentinian restaurant on the beach where the food (and the margaritas) was wonderful and very reasonably priced. In fact the food throughout Mallorca was consistently good so guess who's gonna have to go on a diet now that she's back!

Friday 15 September 2023

Home sweet home!

Well my first Solos holiday in over four years has come and gone and no surprise there but I thoroughly enjoyed it yet again! Even though it was only just over a week long, I felt like I'd been away for about a month and needless to say, the travel itch is well and truly back and just waiting to be scratched!

I hadn't been getting much sleep the week prior as I had this stupid cough which, while it wasn't particularly severe, was enough to wake me up pretty much on the hour every hour. Then I happened to spot another video by one of my favourite Youtube doctors where he recommended putting Vicks on the soles of your feet and explained why it might help ease the coughing - and bugger me but didn't it just work!!!! My friend dropped me at the train station in La Roche, which turned into something of a nightmare. The ticket machine must have come out of the arc as it was very user-unfriendly so I went to the service counter to confirm that the ticket I finally managed to buy would indeed take me all the way to the airport - which it did (not that anybody checked it though). I then asked how I could get over to the other platform and the lady told me to "go out of the station, turn right and I would find the underpass there". So I did just that, left the station (in scorching heat), crossed over at the level crossing - and ended up on a construction site, so had to turn round and retrace my steps. It was only when I was almost back at the station that I realized I'd dropped my cardigan so had to lug my case back to the construction site, all the while thinking I'd gotten there so early but if I didn't get a move on I might still end up missing the train! When I finally located the underpass I was horrified to see that it consisted of 40 steps (20 down and 20 up) - no ramp and no lift! What the flip???? I mean what about people with heavy luggage, or pushchairs, or wheelchairs - or people who simply couldn't physically manage it? By the time I'd gotten my case up to the 30th step I thought I might have a coronary and that's when a kind young man picked it up and carried it the last 10 steps. Even though the airline allowed 23kg I had only packed 14kg but it still felt like I was transporting dumbbells! What a stupid set-up for a railway station - but at least I figured out a solution for next time and that would be to get on a stop earlier where there are no steps at all as everything is on the flat!

When I got to Geneva train station I had to change trains to go to the airport and that was when a Roma gypsy woman and her two kids decided that they weren't going to take the escalator after all but would follow me into the lift - all the easier to trap me and ask for money, you see. Well I was hot and sweaty at this point and told her exactly where to get off! In the end I got to the airport too early to check-in, but when I saw the crowds in the food hall I decided to take myself up to the fancy restaurant on the top floor and while away the next couple of hours in relative peace!

The flight to Mallorca was uneventful but the Spanish have this disconcerting habit of clapping when the pilot lands - which might lead one to think he wasn't normally very good at that kind of thing right? Anyhoo, I'd booked a hotel near the airport for the night and very nice it was too - although the mattress was a bit softer than I like so it felt somewhat like I was sleeping in a dish of rice pudding. I had thought I'd get washed up and go out for dinner but in the end I just bought a sandwich and a bottle of water and had an early night. Then next day it was back to the airport to meet up with the main group and head north to our hotel for the duration!

Everyone had been on at least one Solos trip before and it turned out to be a nice group - with no "pain in the bum" types like there usually is. As it happens that turned out to be not quite accurate, but that's a story for another day.

The resort wasn't quite what I expected in that it seemed to be more of a party resort but in the end I quite liked it and the party animals in our group had plenty to keep them occupied! The "Bee Gees" were playing at one of the bars the night we arrived, followed the next night by Michael Jackson. I didn't go to any of those shows but had a great time on the lovely beach the next day where I had a foot/leg massage by a Vietnamese man with fingers of steel - absolute bliss!

The next day was market day so a few of us had a wonderful time wandering up and down the stalls until we could take the heat no more. One of the ladies talked me into buying a new bikini and we ended up roaring laughing with the lady stall-holder as she was flogging her wares. When I got back to my hotel room I tried that thing on and while it did indeed fit I honestly looked like a Rubik's cube with a pair of knickers on, so out came my tried and trusted "whale harness" and off to the beach I went again that afternoon where I found out that "Madonna" was playing in another bar later that evening. I never went of course, but it was nice to have some quiet time in anticipation of a couple of fast-paced trips we had lined up over the next few days. More on that tomorrow!

Saturday 2 September 2023

See ya later!

Just a quick note to say I'm off to Mallorca next week for about 10 days (I think), so I'll try to catch up with you all when I get back! Hasta la próxima!