The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

All quiet on the western front!

There's not much going on here at the moment. All the work is done in preparation for the big meeting next week and then ..... probably bugger all to do until Christmas (or very little). I prefer to be busy but that's the way my work goes - very cyclical. Still, with all the stuff I have to do in connection with reverting to my maiden name I suppose it's as well to have some down time too. Talking of changing my name though, I have to admit it has really been pretty easy so far.  I stopped in at the Mairie (the local "town hall") on Saturday to register my change of name now that I have my new passport and it took about three minutes - two of which were spent just chatting! It was funny though because the lady pulled out a paper sheet from her drawer, put a pencil line through "B" and inserted my new name of "T" and that was it! Talk about high tech. Well actually she laughed and said that she would input put it into the computer also but probably "after coffee"!

I emailed a copy of my new passport to the French bank and received my new cheque book about a week later (on a side note, they haven't used cheques in Switzerland for 13 years now) and then I stopped in at the Swiss bank - having waited until my salary went in in my old name - on Monday and today (Wednesday) I have already received my new bank cards! Very impressed. Electricity, mobile phones, water bill - all switched.  Next up is my driving licence, although that does already have both names. Still, it's about to fall apart at the seams being a paper licence so I guess I should drag it into the twentieth century (at the very least) and get the credit-card-style one too. But so far, as I said, so good.

I'm still not sure what my kids are doing for Christmas this year. I didn't see them on Christmas day last year as they had other plans - but that was ok with me as we got together on the 29th. My youngest said he will be up home as his girlfriend will be working (she is a psychiatric nurse) but I don't know what the oldest will be doing yet. And, devil that I am, I don't think I will cook a turkey. I hate having to do/eat something just because it is a particular day so I am thinking lamb this year. Not sure yet but I am leaning that way.

Oh, André (the oldest) and his fiancée (am still getting used to that word) flew to the UK recently and had engagement pictures taken just south of London, and how lovely they are. (These are pictures of pictures so maybe not the best quality but good enough for me until I can order copies) and Lily tells me she found her wedding dress on her last long week-end in London!




To think that when my ex left I bought myself an expensive camera (in the duty-free at the airport) and took photography lessons and I am still crap. I lugged that bloody thing up Machu Picchu in Peru (and admittedly got some beautiful photos) but it was so heavy that I ended up taking most of my photos on my ipad! Still, I'm sure I have other qualities.

Talking of Peru, amongst the many people I met on that trip was a lovely Yorkshireman called Steve. He and I have stayed in touch over the last four years and now he is coming out to spend New Year here with me. He has been out before, although only briefly, but as we were chatting the other day we ended up arranging for him to come out again. I told him to bring his cozzie because I plan to take him to Lavey-les-Bains hotsprings on New Year's eve (via Vevey/Montreux on the way out and Evian on the way back - i.e. the scenic route). I did this once years ago when my family came over and I think it was the best New Year's I have ever spent - so totally different. (I don't suppose there's much chance I can lose 15 kg between now and then though!). Anyway, he is good fun so it should be great, particularly as my employer (very generously) closes between Christmas and New Year!


So on that note, I will love you and leave you. Just a shout out to Sonya Ann though who has been off the radar recently. Hope you are feeling better my dear - blogworld is a very quiet place without you!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

My first pub quiz

Last Friday my colleague invited me to join her for my first ever pub quiz! Yes I was a "quiz virgin" - but even though it was a heck of a trek for me, as it sounded like fun I thought I would give it a shot.

Her mom and dad had just arrived from Ireland and being the dutiful daughter that she is she got mom to baby-sit (on her first night and her birthday to boot) while dad came out to the pub with us for the quiz (though to be fair, mom loved the chance to baby-sit little-un as she doesn't get the chance to see him that often, of course). Anyway, dad's name is Charlie so our team name was - you guessed it - Charlie's Angels (I like to think we looked the part but that might be wishful thinking or beer goggles on my part)!

Anyway, it was well organized and well-attended, and was being held to raise money for a local refugee charity called "Foodkind". A lovely young Scottish girl gave a short presentation on how the charity works and a local (minor) celebrity DJ was the compere. Actually he was very good and sharp-witted (giving the team called "The Brexiteers" quite a run for their money).

To be honest, the questions were very much "locally-oriented" and maybe not quite what I was expecting, but then as the profits were going to a small, local refugee charity I suppose that should come as no surprise really. I mean, how many of you have ever looked at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) website? Nah, didn't think so. Me neither. Oddly enough, it's amazing what you "think you know, but don't really", if you know what I mean, although I was quite chuffed at myself for correctly guessing the name of the third goal-scorer on the 1998 French World Cup winning team (well this is France after all). Still even though we didn't win (well didn't actually come close) it was good fun and Charlie was an absolute doll, so I think I will give it another go. Apparently Paddy's Irish Pub in the local town runs a quiz about once a month (where I guess the questions might be a little less specific) so I might give that a shot next time.

Then on Saturday night my friend and I were out again at the local GEDS (Geneva English Drama Society) presentation of Noel Coward's "Relative Values". As always, they do a wonderful job but I have to say how much I enjoyed the actual play itself - never having seen a Noel Coward play before. Very drôle!


Actually, as much as I would like to fly into London or wherever to see some of these plays (and even though you can get some pretty good deals from here), being able to see these "amateur" performances has allowed me see theatre that I would otherwise never get to see, and I have had some really good experiences.

Actually they are putting on Puss in Boots for the Christmas panto. Don't think I will be going to that as it really is for young children but who knows - maybe when grandchildren come along ......!


Altogether now "HE'S BEHIND YOU"!!!!!!!



Friday, 18 November 2016

That was fast!

I wrote a couple of posts back about how I had gone the Deed Poll route of changing my name back to my maiden name. I had wanted to do it for ages but was put off by the amount of work that would be involved getting everything changed to be honest. And then, of course, I still had another six years to run on my current passport so kept saying "I'll do it when I have to renew my passport" and so on. Trouble is, if I waited those six years I would (hopefully) be retired and would, I think, probably be even less inclined to go through all the hassle. But then, as I mentioned in my earlier post, I was working late one night with my colleague and when we took a short break I thought "sod it", went on the Deed Poll site and changed my name "just like that"!

I also went the Deed Poll route because apart from being a perfectly legal way to change my name, according to their web site the Deed Poll was all I needed in order to get my passport changed. If reverting to my maiden name, the alternative, according to the passport office, was to submit God knows how many different papers (all of which I had) but in the original copy and all in English! Well I knew I wasn't going to be sending off my original birth certificate, marriage certificate or divorce judgement anywhere, and I certainly wasn't going to bloody well pay to have the 14 pages of my divorce judgement translated officially into English when all my paperwork showed my maiden name as "T" - so hence I stuck with the Deed Poll route.

The problem was, the passport office wrote back and said they also needed "x", "y", and "z", so I emailed them copies of my birth certificate, my marriage certificate and divorce judgement, my French driver's licence (showing both names) and an attestation from my employer giving both names and still it wasn't good enough. When I complained that (a) I crossed the Franco-Swiss border twice a day and despite Schengen I could still get stopped, and (b) I had been led to believe that the Deed Poll act alone was enough, they told me they couldn't be responsible for what was on the Deed Poll site!!!! Talk about frustrated. I mean, it's not like I was trying to change my name to Elvis Presley or anything, I just wanted my birth name back.

So next they said they would accept an attestation from my employer stating that my name was now "T" and not "B" so I told them that neither my employer nor the Swiss authorities (for my work permit) would change my name to "T" until they (the passport office) issued me with appropriate photo ID in that name! My God, I felt like the puppy chasing it's tail! I am pretty placid as it happens but I thought my head was going to explode. Their response to that was to get my employer to submit another attestation confirming that neither they nor the Swiss would issue me with new papers until I got my passport back in the name of "T"!!! So I drafted an attestation to this effect which my employer happily stamped and BINGO - it worked! While I understand that passports aren't (nor should they be) given out lightly, you can only imagine how frustrated I was. That being said - and to be fair to the passport office - I mailed my old passport off to them on 2 November and had my new passport back on 16 November so despite all the hassle the turn around time was pretty impressive. I also, despite my frustration, remained polite because they were only doing their jobs and to be honest, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar anyway. I mean, if someone who holds some kind of power over you really wants to screw you they can - so why tempt fate.



That little "chip" at the bottom of the passport means that it is an e-passport, which means that I can go through the automated customs control when entering the UK as it has all my details micro-chipped. I think I was coming back from Turkey the first time I went through the automated passport control and while there were occasional blips I think it works pretty well.

This morning I contacted my Swiss bank for an appointment to change my salary account etc. over to my new name and we will do it the day after pay day (wouldn't want my pay to end up bouncing around in cyber space), and the lady told me that I will have my new bank cards, etc. in three days! I then contacted my French bank and she told me to email her a copy of my new passport and she would take over from there - just like that - I didn't even have to go in! I don't know what I was expecting but I wasn't expecting anything quite so efficient. I am actually pretty organized and have been making lists of everything I need to change and the appropriate phone numbers. I'm sure I will forget a few things, but at least now the the ball is rolling. Trouble is, my married name was so much easier for the French-speakers to pronounce than my maiden name - ah well!!!!

After that, once all is in order, I will give more thought to applying for French citizenship. That alone could take about two years by all accounts but I reckon I would still have time to "outrun Brexit"!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

It's been a while



As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been frantically busy these last few weeks preparing for a big meeting in mid-December. While I'm still busy at least I got my last big report (250 pages) off to the Translation Department (they must be thrilled) so I am finally able to catch my breath, a little. All that to say that not much has been going on in my life lately (although WHOOOOAAAAA to what's been going on in the rest of the world)! Crikey - Trump! Who would have thought it. I have no great affinity for Hilary either but the thought of the US having Trump represent them on the world stage just makes my mind boggle! Still, it is what it is, as they say, and like it or hate it we now have to deal with it.

My boss was telling me that they were watching the news on the day the results came in and his five-year-old looked at Trump on the TV and said (in Spanish) "is it Darth Vader papa?" Dad just cracked up (and no, they're not Mexican). In fact, my lovely Mexican colleague has just been shaking his head in disbelief, while sending round some rather funny pictures. There was a great one about a new sport in Mexico that shows a bunch of athletes running up to a wall and scaling it with ladders, but I couldn't figure out how to load it.  Then there were these:

The "Mexican" Trojan  Horse!


Trump, Mexico salutes you!

Talking of kids, the weather has been beautiful here in Geneva and when I can I hop off the bus on the Mont Blanc bridge and walk the 30 minutes to work through the park. When my oldest started his first year in the international school, we had him riding the school bus to school from the stop outside my work. He was only five but since I could stand with him at the bus stop and it was the last stop before arriving at school we knew he would be OK. So on the first evening I asked him how he had enjoyed his bus ride. He said it was fine and "I got to see the man's willy"! I nearly fell over and asked him to say that again so he did - "I got to see the man's willy"! I didn't really know what to think but Mother Hen here was already mentally drafting an email to the school about the pervert driving the school bus. Anyway, the next day as I was driving to the bus stop my son shouted out "look mommy, there's the man's willy"! Talk about relief - I guess the moral of that story is take a deep breath before you fire off an incendiary email!


Anyway, our drive in to Geneva was hell (still is) because of the sheer volume of traffic on the bridge. Problem was if you missed the school bus you had to drive all the way out the other side of Geneva to school, thereby making you at least 40 minutes late for work so, as you can imagine it was pretty stressful. One time, however, my ex made it to the bus stop in really good time so he parked the car and was standing waiting for the bus with my son when said son asked if daddy thought he (the five-year-old) was strong enough to push the car. Dad said why not let's give it a try, so making sure the handbrake was on, dad and son went to the back of the car and started "pushing" to see if the car would move forward. After a couple of minutes of pushing, little 'un looked up and said "oh daddy, there goes my bus"! Way to go dad, get there 20 minutes early and still end up chasing the bus all the way to school!

Which reminds me of my lovely friend Joyce telling me the story of how many years ago two of her three young children also caught the school bus and between her and her husband they had to juggle picking the kids up at varying bus stops depending on ..... So one time her husband said to her son Kevin to get off the bus at the Pickwick. Well her husband was waiting at the bus stop and when Kevin got off dad asked where Steven was (the youngest), so Kevin said "well you didn't mention anything about Steven" - so yet another dad had to chase a school bus - this time to recuperate their youngest who had been left on the bus by his older brother! 

Talking of school days, I remember when my oldest (still five years of age) was in the school Christmas play and, still being on maternity leave with my youngest, I was able to go watch. Frankly he was crap. I mean, some kids are gifted actors right from the get-go, and then you get the kids like my son who should just move the scenery around, to be honest. He ended up being a "shepherd", muttered his lines with his thumb in his mouth and that was it - until he spotted me at the back of the room and shouted out "it's OK mommy, we've finished now - can we go to McDonalds?" and everyone burst out laughing. Happy days eh!



Friday, 28 October 2016

Ouch!

It's been a while since my last post, but I have been working late quite a bit and by the time I get home I haven't felt much like blogging, to be honest. More to the point, there hasn't been an awful lot going on besides work either so I guess there was no point posting anyway. I don't mind being busy or working late because I can pretty much judge when those times will be and my employer is very decent about it. Nobody looks at the clock when I arrive (I have a dreadful commute) and I don't look at the clock when I leave so everyone is happy  - swings and roundabouts really.

So let's see, what's happened since my last post. André's girlfriend, Lily, is in London for a long weekend at the moment "wedding dress hunting". With the pound being through the floor against the Swiss franc and London having so much more choice than Geneva I think she will have a fun time scouting out bridal shops. Of course, they're not just in London, but London is her "first" foray into serious wedding dress hunting. She and André are still getting to grips with the horrendous prices being quoted for their "ideal wedding", and I think, from the little my son has said so far, they may be coming round to something much simpler and I would think - to be honest - a nicer wedding than a big formal do.

Well on to the "ouch" in the subject line. Under the terms of my mortgage, the only time I can make an extra payment on my loan is if I pay a minimum of 10% of the total original loan amount, so you can imagine that takes quite some saving up. I made the first such payment a year ago and have just made my second additional payment this week, so "ouch" is pretty appropriate when I look at my savings account now, but that is balanced by the warm glow I get when I look at the amount of my outstanding mortgage! By my calculations, I am right on track to pay off my mortgage in just under four years, as opposed to another nine years, as originally planned! Happy days. With that paid off it will mean I can retire, as while I have a decent pension it wouldn't be enough to retire and continue to pay a mortgage.

To be honest, I am happy to work as I enjoy the contact and the work is fine, but I am truly tired of the minimum three-hour commute each day, so will be looking forward to quitting and moving on to other things. My house is actually too big for me I suppose so I could look at down-sizing. I imagine it makes sense to do that in the future at some point but for the time being I love where I live, my neighbours are wonderful (all 20 of them) and being on my own that is so important, plus I know pretty much everyone in the village, having lived here 27 years. On top of that, to downsize to something smaller would mean moving in to the local town - which is fine - but the prices there are so much higher than out in my little village that I'm not sure I would actually pay off my mortgage by downsizing. Something to be looked at for the future I guess but certainly not for the time-being.

In other matters, Rambler made me laugh with her comment on a recent post where she described cranking her old car up to start it and "did I remember those funny little indicators that used to shoot out of the side of the car when you were turning?" (Yes I do - but only vaguely). But her comment got me thinking about when we kids learned to drive. At the time, dad taught us and (very bravely) leap-frogged all the way up the road in the passenger seat with each of us as we crunched gears and stalled while learning (and this in a major city)! God he was brave (or maybe totally nuts) but either way he saved us all a small fortune in driving lessons.

Of course, mom and I (me being the "baby") used to make an "outing" of it every time dad took one of the older kids out for a lesson. I mean, how much worse could it be trying to navigate your way round a large city with your mom and little sister sitting in the back?  Pretty rotten right, but we never thought anything of it. I remember my brother-in-law taking my sister out one time and trying to get her to do a three-point turn in one of the smaller back streets. She executed her three-point turn "perfectly" and waited for him to say something. So he said "shall we just try that again" and off she went, forward, back and forward again, and pulled up level with the curb. On her third attempt he very gently said "well that was very good, but aren't we supposed to be facing in the other direction"!! (Smart arse)!

Another time, my older brother was out with my dad. Now R was the nervous one in the family and could not get the hang of this driving malarky. As usual mom and I were sitting in the back (I'm surprised we didn't take a picnic actually) and R was messing up terribly. Eventually dad lost his temper and told him to switch seats with him and he would show him what he wanted. It was absolutely pissing down with rain as my dad jumped into the driving seat and wound down the window to look in the rear view mirror before pulling out. Right at that moment a truck went past through a huuuuuuge puddle and chucked a bucketful of water straight through the window and into my dad's face. To say mom and I had to stifle our giggles would be an understatement!

But back to Rambler's comments about the little plastic indicators/turn signals. When my brother R was taking his driving test for the first time, the examiner said for him to imagine his indicators weren't working and what should be the hand signal given if he wanted to turn right (bearing in mind that we drive on the left in the UK). So R put his right arm out the window to indicate that (a) his signals weren't working, and (b) he intended to turn right. So then the examiner asked him what hand signal he should make if he wanted to turn left. The correct answer, of course, was to again put his right arm out the window but to make circling motions with his arm to indicate that he was turning left. R must have been pretty "hot and bothered" though because he flung his left arm out - and smacked the examiner straight across the face! Needless to say, he didn't pass. In fact, both my brothers took several attempts to pass whereas all the girls passed the first time (and my sister did it in Denmark on the "wrong" side of the road to boot) - yay for the ladies!

And finally my brother-in-law's mom used to tell the story of a friend of hers who was taking her driving test many, many years ago in her own car. As she came up to some traffic lights the car in front went through on orange, so she followed on behind him. The examiner made her pull up at the nearest bus stop and asked her why she had "gone through a red light", to which she replied that she had simply followed the car in front. So he turned to her and said "well I'll tell you right now that you have failed your test, so this exam is over". To which this lady turned round to the examiner and said "well, I'll tell you right now that if that's the case I'm not taking you back" - and they both had to get out and catch the bus back to the driving centre! You've gotta love an old lady like that!


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The engagement lunch!

This weekend was the engagement lunch for my oldest son and his girlfriend at their place. It was also the first time for me to meet Lily's family and I have to say what a lovely family they are. I had no idea what to expect, of course. My own family are very close and down-to-earth and we laugh a lot. Turns out Lily's family are just the same - except they speak French! Well actually her mom also speaks English as she was raised speaking it so another plus.

It was a very relaxed affair where I also got to see another side of both my sons - very confident and sociable. In fact it was nice to hear from other people what nice lads they are. I knew that of course but it's nice to have it confirmed!

Jen, Jordan, André and Lily
Lily's family are Swiss and after some debate on the US presidential candidates the subject changed to "the Swiss"! I have to say they took some good-natured ribbing very well. André repeated what I think was a  Robin Williams sketch about "the Swiss". Apparently the Swiss army is the only army in the world where the soldiers have a bottle opener as part of their knives.


So André does this impression of a Swiss Lieutenant strutting his stuff along the lines of enlisted men saying "now men, I'm going to show you how to open a bottle of Chardonnay properly!" Like I say, they took it very well. Certainly my family don't mind having the p.... taken out of them so it was nice to see Lily's family reacting the same way (in fact, I thought dad might bust a gut he was laughing so much)!  (A propos of nothing, I have carried a Swiss army knife in my bag for over 30 years and they are wonderful!)

A bit later the boys got to talking about a recent "gig" they had done. They are in a band and while I think they are good musicians I really can't stand the heavy metal music - but them I'm an old fogey of course!  They played two nights in Germany, one in Belgium and one in the Czech Republic. Jordan was explaining that after their gig in the Czech Republic they decided they wanted to go out clubbing and found a night club down a little back street - big metal door with a spy hole in it - think "speakeasy"! Anyway, they were let in and went to the bar to get a drink. Max is actually Jordan's boss but is the bass guitarist in the band too. He is not particularly tall but being a plumber by trade and in the process of renovating his own house he is built like a tank - with the muscular, tattooed arms to go with it. Anyway, Max was out on the dance floor strutting his stuff when it finally sunk in to the others that there were no women there. Max, of course, became the centre of quite a bit of interest until it finally dawned on him that things "weren't right". Jordan then did a perfect imitation of Max scuttling back to his seat while they all sat there demurely sipping their drinks before doing a runner.

Oh, and my graffiti cake didn't turn out too bad. I didn't quite get the spun sugar right but the taste was pretty good - you just had to be careful not to break your teeth on the toffee topping!

And finally, I have a lovely Mexican colleague who sometimes forwards me funny stuff like the one below. I think I will sign OH up for "Guiding Hands" so that he can still see the cricket results on his phone while pretending to listen to me!


Friday, 14 October 2016

Peter Kay - The Last Parkinson

My TV went on the blink the other week - for about four days I couldn't get it to work. Now sometimes it plays up if we have storms in the mountains but this time I couldn't seem to "wait it out". I did all the usual girlie things - you know, unplug it, thump it, turn the electricity off etc. I even got the instruction manual out, took a photo of how the wires at the back were hooked up to the Freesat box etc. but still nothing worked. So I gave up. Usually I read a lot anyway and just have the TV on as background noise, but I must admit it felt a bit weird sitting there in complete silence. So I got on to youtube and initially started off playing clips of the wonderful Robin Williams! He was such a motor-mouth and so funny (God rest his soul). Eventually I ended up with a clip of Robin Williams on the Michael Parkinson (talk) show and he was hilarious. In fact, over the years Parkie had some wonderful guests on - what a fabulous job to have eh! Anyway, I eventually got to the final Parkie episode before he called it quits. He had some of his favourite acts back on (always Billy Connelly of course), Michael Caine, David Beckham (who is an amazingly good sport - get the pun!!!), David Attenborough and Peter Kay. For me, Peter Kay is a relative newcomer - I say newcomer in that I have only known about him in say the last five years and I just love him. No swearing, very drôle, with just a very sharp narrative on everyday life (particularly in the north of England). I wanted to share one of his jokes which just tickled me. It would be interesting to see if others find it funny because humour is very personal and specific but this one just tickled me.

PK  "Me and my nan are really close. They were really different that generation - they didn't complain they just got on with things didn't they. Not like us lot, always complaining and feeling hard done by. Anyway, one day I got a phone call from my nan".

Nan  "Peter love, I've had a fall"

PK  "What happened nan, are you all right?"

Nan  "I don't know love, I think I might have broken my wrist".

PK  "But what happened?"

Nan  "Well I had just got off the bus with my shopping when I tripped and fell over and I hurt my hand."

PK  "So what did you do?"

Nan  "I got back up and managed to walk home with my shopping."

PK  "Crikey nan, tell you what, I'm on my way but in the meantime have you got any ice to put on it?"

Nan (looks in the freezer)  "No love, I haven't."

PK  "Well have you got any peas?"

Nan  "Yes love, I have that."

PK  "Well put the peas on your wrist and keep em there - I'm on my way."

Nan  "OK love, I'll just go and get the tin ......"

I don't know, it was probably more to do with the way he told it but it just tickled me.




Oh and as for the TV, I had pulled a chest of drawers out in my bedroom to clean behind it - and managed to dislodge the connection cables - so now all is well!  Happy days.