The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Thursday 18 January 2024

This and that!

Well after feeling all gung ho and getting so much junk out of the house last week, I kinda ran out of steam somewhere mid-week and took a few days off. Mind you, the bloody awful weather - constant rain - is enough to make anyone pull their hair out, I reckon. I've never really minded rain and positively love the cold, but this non-stop drizzle is bloody awful. As I've mentioned before, both my neighbours have problems with water coming into their basements so I hear their pumps working constantly. And then of course we have the downed trees and landslides, as the water obviously has nowhere to go!

I did get a walk in last week at the lake in Passy (one of my favourite places) which was just as well I went when I did because the next day we got about eight inches of snow! I've learned my lesson well however in that I never let it sit anymore as it's just so hard trying to shift ice the next day. I needn't have worried though because the temperatures went right back up the next day and it all melted - just adding to the dank and misery!

I had a nice time last Saturday as rather than holding our board game evening at someone's home, Jen asked if we would like to join in a game evening at the ludothèque (toy library) in their little town and we were all up for it. This was how I had originally tried out board game evenings in my local town, but to be honest the groups were already so well established that I felt like a spare part and only went back one other time with my neighbour, Valérie, where we got the same result. This time though it was much better and the organizers took time to show us new games and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Everyone made finger food (and took wine, of course) and after about 90 minutes the organizers basically just raided everyone's bags and put all the food and drinks on the table for everyone to help themselves. We even adopted a new young man who sat and played with us, so I'd say the evening was a big success!

Oh and remember I wrote in my last post about a possible scam email telling me I'd won gift vouchers, well it turns out it was legit. I was invited to show up at the Mairie in town and about 60 of us were presented with vouchers averaging around €150 each as a thank you from businesses for shopping locally. Now I honestly can't remember filling in any form for this but it was a nice surprise all the same. There are two vouchers for €50 each for a local optician's so I've told the kids they can have them if they can make use of them - if not, I guess I'll just get new glasses sooner than I planned, although it actually must be about four years since I got my last pair, so maybe it was a sign!

I see "everyone's favourite troll" (Rajani Rehana) is back doing the rounds, telling everyone that they have a "great blog"! I wonder if it's a bot trying to push more traffic to their site or if it really is just some bored little man sitting in his underpants in mommy's basement! Guess we'll never know!

In other news, British in Europe have done a sterling job in getting back our right to vote. A law had been introduced sometime ago whereby anyone who had been out of the country for 15 years lost the right to vote in UK General Elections, and this despite giving 3.5 million non-Brits in the UK the right to vote. Many European countries do have representatives in various countries looking out for the interests of their citizens abroad and affording them representation in their respective parliaments, but not the Brits! So as of 16 January I have applied for my right to vote again, since Brexit meant that I, like many others, was totally disenfranchised everywhere!

And talking of the right to vote, I watched Youtuber Andrew Gould interviewing writer Norman Baker, mainly it has to be said about Prince Andrew and what went on on Epstein's Island. I've heard many stories over the years about Andrew and his boarish behaviour - including one time when the security staff didn't open the gates to his property quickly enough so he rammed the gates with his car, causing £80,000 of damage???? So nah, I never liked him in any case, but then Mr. Baker got on to the subject of the rest of the monarchy and "why, for instance, did King Charles not pay a penny in inheritance tax on the money left to him by his mother" and on and on it went. Anyway, he's just brought out a book called "So What Do You Do" (standard royal chat to adoring members of the public) and as I was so impressed with the interview I've found the book on Audible and will be starting on that shortly. I honestly don't know what I think about the monarchy because when I was growing up they were just always there. And I think people genuinely did have tremendous respect for the Queen. However, if we were to have a vote on keeping the monarchy or getting rid of them, I honestly don't know how I'd vote - not that there's much chance of that ever happening right? As for the book, I'll reserve judgement until I've read it!

Saturday 6 January 2024

How to get things done!

So the snow line's getting closer and Christmas and new year have come and gone. I don't really make new year's resolutions and my mind goes blank when I try to think of a "word for the year", so I guess I'll pass on that too! Christmas was nice and new year was quiet, as I mentioned previously, which is just the way I like it! For some time I had been wanting to go and see either Barbie or Oppenheimer (or both) but never got around to it when they were in the cinemas in Geneva. Our local cinema probably has them playing but I really don't want to see them dubbed in French, so you can imagine how pleased I was to see that Amazon (I think - not Netflix) had them both available to rent for the grand total of €4.99 each! If you consider that driving into Geneva is a hassle and cinema tickets are around SF 25-30 each (just over $25-30) it was a no brainer to sit and watch them in the comfort of my own home with a glass of wine, right! Barbie was better than I thought it would be, but I probably only really watched it because I adore Ryan Gosling - he's such a ham. Oppenheimer was good and I thought Cillian Murphy did a sterling job, but something that made me think was when they were doing the initial test on the atom bomb at Los Alamos - how important was the music? They really built up the tension with the music and if you think about it, if they'd played something out of Mary Poppins the effect would have been totally destroyed. So yeah, I guess there really is a helluva lot more to movie-making than meets my amateur eye!

My walking tally for 2023 limped along to around 800 miles so maybe that should be one of my resolutions for this year - walk at least 1,000 miles again! Hell I clocked up way over 1,000 miles during covid lockdowns when we were only allowed out of our cages for one hour a day (unless you were a politician, of course) so I really have no excuse! I've already managed a couple of walks when the weather cooperated and really enjoyed them, all the more so since I used my air pods and listened to either podcasts or a book while walking - although admittedly I still feel a bit stupid with an antenna sticking out of each ear like some remote controlled robot! That notwithstanding, I'm getting so much more done now that I can "take my podcasts/books with me" rather than staying glued to the sofa in order to listen to them! At the moment I'm listening to Matt Haig's "The Midnight Library", and while it's pretty weird, I do like him. I read his book "The Humans" some time ago and that was also weird, so I do wonder how his mind works on occasion. A bit like J.K. Rowling I suppose - who on earth could dream up the Harry Potter books? That being said, I think I once read that Lewis Carroll was supposedly on LSD when he wrote "Alice in Wonderland" (probaby why it is so brilliant), so who knows!

On a totally different subject, the other day I got a text message informing me that I had won a gift voucher during the "La Roche fortnight" (huh?) and was invited to the Mairie in La Roche next Thursday evening to be presented with my voucher by the Maire! I checked on the La Roche website to make sure it wasn't a scam but it's legit, although I certainly never filled out any competition entry forms. Maybe they just picked my name out one time when I used my loyalty card somewhere - I've no idea, but I guess I'll find out soon enough!

Next week many are going back to work (if they haven't already) and yoga and sewing club start back up again, so I expect I'll fall back into something of a routine. My tiler has come over several times this past week for between four and six hours at a time and while he's making progress it's very slow going. He explained to me that it's taking so long because the wall tiles I chose are really small and are therefore so much more work, but I have to give it to him, he's a hard working young-ish man. The other day I was trying out a new cannelloni recipe so invited him to eat lunch with me. I was asking him about his country (Kosovo) and he explained that it was a pretty poor country with a population of only around two million, with maybe another million living outside the country and sending money back home. It floored me when he said that in many respects prices were similar to here, but when he said, say, a cashier working full-time would earn around €400 I was stunned. On the reverse side, he said that many people owned smallholdings and still lived off the land, although younger people were not so willing to do that anymore and wanted out! He had come here as a teenager after the Serbia/Kosovo war (as a refugee presumably) but even today still many more want out!

Anyway, while he's been here working I try to stay out of his way, so have been pulling more cupboards and drawers apart. And oh my word how on earth did it ever get that bad??? Well I suppose having once been home to five people at any one time, and of course when people move out they leave a lot of their crap behind, but still, I'm amazed at what I'm pulling out and throwing away even now! I reckon I've spent six hours on the cupboards by the front door alone (food storage, baking supplies, etc.) but when I ever thought I was going to want to cook 250 cupcakes all at the same time is beyond me! So out went the tatty old cupcake trays and other "cute" stuff I've simply never used. The unwanted good stuff I'll probably take to the charity shop next week, so I hope someone gets more pleasure out of it than I obviously did!

So trying to stay out of his hair has meant me setting my timer (repeatedly) to one hour and continuing to attack the clutter. It's weird because every time another bag of stuff goes out of the house I genuinely do feel like the air flows more freely - maybe feng shui is really a thing! Since I drink tea rather than coffee I've unearthed goodness knows how many boxes of fancy tea that people have given me over the years, so I thought hey, how about you start drinking that stuff rather than bunging it in a cupboard! In reality I like "builders' tea" (i.e. plain and simple) but some of the fancy stuff isn't too bad at all!

We call that "builder's crack",
for obvious reasons!

So, all in all the decluterring is going pretty well and I'm already thinking about what small pieces of furniture I'll want in the big bathroom when it's finished. Then I had something of a brainwave and realized I could probably take a small chest of drawers out of the third bedroom and use that in the bathroom, i.e. shop from home. I mean, it's not like if anyone was staying in that room they'd be able to use that piece of furniture - because it's full of what I call my "travel junk"! So having completed the cupboards by the front door, next on the list is the small bedroom and the "travel junk" unit! 

André sent me a "happy new year" text from Italy and when I asked him how it had gone (with the young woman he met in Thailand) he sent back a flood of photos showing him out with her and her friends watching the fireworks on new year and having dinner with her family. He hit it off really well with her dad, who kept cracking open the champagne and wine, so two sore heads later they are apparently now best buddies! She lives just south of La Spezia, which is where you catch the taxi ferries to get to Cinque Terre - so a beautiful part of the country!

Cinque Terre!

They got along well so Bekka is coming up here around 18th January so we'll all get to meet her. I'm still working on my Italian lessons (and still enjoying it) but obviously my Italian remains very limited. But hey, did anyone ever see that episode of Friends where a door-to-door salesman tries to sell Joey a complete set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica but Joey only has enough money to buy one volume? He picks the volume covering the letter "V" and so tries to keep bringing the topic of conversation round to "Venus" (and they switch to talking about the Mars landing), and then the Vietnam war - at which point Monica starts talking about the Korean war, so he never gets to show off his knowledge. I reckon if I can keep the topic of conversation on her "big dog" (assuming she has one), whether she'd "like a new black backpack", or asking directions to the market and "is it really cheap", she'll be dead impressed! Watch this space!