The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Happy 100th birthday to the Forces' Sweetheart!

The Forces' Sweetheart, the wonderful Dame Vera Lynn turned 100 on 20 March, and in tribute her picture was projected onto the white cliffs at Dover and a new compilation of her songs has been re-released.
Dame Vera Lynn
By all accounts she is a wonderfully classy lady and rightly deserved the title of "Forces' Sweetheart"!





It's been nearly a year since my mother died. Her funeral was beautiful, very touching, and very funny because that is what we all wanted. On the order of service we had a beautiful picture of mom and dad in uniform during WWII.  I held it all together until they played Vera Lynn singing "We'll Meet Again" as we walked out! I think given the poignancy of the times Vera Lynn and her beautiful voice will remain one of the enduring symbols of love and hope of all time!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Didn't we luck out!

Friday (St. Patrick's Day) was my son and his girlfriend's wedding day, and I have to say we really lucked out with the weather. Actually it had been lovely all week but they kept forecasting rain "for tomorrow". Then "tomorrow" kept getting pushed back so we did, indeed, have beautiful weather "on the day" and "tomorrow" (i.e. Saturday) it piddled down more or less all day. I guess the Gods were indeed smiling on us!

I went to work during the day as they weren't getting married till 5 p.m. but I did make sure to leave early after having a shower at work and getting changed. The Geneva Car Show was on (what a pain in the butt that is) and by all accounts 690,000 people visited it, so I left nothing to chance and left work really early to get to their village. Maybe I'm a bit obsessive/compulsive because I was the first one there, but I prefer that since I didn't really know where I was going and the thought of screeching into the parking lot at the last minute gave me the heebie jeebies!

There were about 20 of us there and apart from the actual ceremony itself it was a very laid back affair, lasting only about 20 minutes. The lady Maire began by reading out several articles of the Swiss Civil Code (their rights and obligations under Swiss Law) and then asked them individually if they accepted the other as their spouse. After that, a few words of wisdom, a quick poem and that was it - they were married. Lovely!

With the wedding celebration already being planned for July, I had wondered why they had suddenly brought the civil ceremony so far forward but it turns out that Lily's grandfather is seriously ill and had recently taken a turn for the worse, so they brought the ceremony as far forward as they could in order for him to be able to attend.


André and Lily - the happy couple


Jordan - André's witness - and Jen
After the ceremony we all went back to their place for a very laid back dinner - "grab a seat and a glass where you can" kind of thing. Absolutely perfect to my way of thinking, to be honest.  Now onwards and upwards to the celebration in July when family will be coming in from abroad. Aaaah, one down, one to go!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Ollie the (not so) reluctant star!


Did anyone see this short clip of Ollie taken at Crufts recently. I am thinking I might get a dog when I retire in a couple of years, but have never been particularly attracted to small dogs. Ollie might just change my mind. You've got to love a dog this mad (and to be honest, the commentary is great too!)
 



After a rather "iffy" weekend last weekend weather-wise, it has turned out absolutely beautiful here again. I haven't been sleeping too well though (probably the full moon and upcoming events) so I haven't been out walking or exercising in general and I really have missed it. Who would have thought! So once I get this week over I intend to start up again next week. Of course I still want to lose weight and seem to be yo-yoing up and down around the same few pounds, but as of Monday I had lost 7 lbs. I have been using myfitnesspal.com to track calories and was a bit surprised to see that although I was tracking my intake and "being good", I still wasn't losing as much as I thought I should be, given that I was also exercising. But then it hit me - I looked at the number of grams of sugar I was taking in and not just the calories and I was going over pretty much every day! Bingo. It wasn't chocolate and ice cream, of course, but fruit for the main part, although interestingly there seems to be quite a bit of fructose hidden in other foodstuffs that you would never imagine! I love fruit but when I saw how much fructose I was getting through I realize I may have been overdoing it, so I am going to try cutting that out to see what happens.

To say I have missed walking, also includes missing hopping off my bus on the bridge and walking to work when I can. Well today for the first time in ages I had to bring my car all the way to work and I absolutely hated it. The traffic is terrible as the Car Show is on but the thought of having to go back to driving all the way in every day would do my head in, I can tell you. And talking of bridges, I mentioned last year that the one-and-only bridge in town up to my village was going to be out of commission for a year starting last August. Well I saw this morning that they will be opening it up to alternating traffic again as from Monday! Yipeeeeeee! We still have probably another six months to go with these repairs, but at least this is an improvement on having to drive all round the reekin for the past eight months.

Looking at the weather forecast, we are in for lovely weather tomorrow, and then wet and  horrible for the weekend. Good job my son is getting married tomorrow then!!!!! Can't wait!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Roly Poly Hippo Takes A Bath!

Roly Poly Hippo Takes A Bath was one of my youngest's favourite story books when he was little (about 16 I think - nah, that can't be right. I'm sure he can read now - although you probably wouldn't guess)! You know, it was one of those books where there is one line per page and lots of pictures of Roly Poly Hippo getting nice and clean in his bath and then going outside and rolling around in the mud - much to the horror or Mommy Hippo! Now I don't suppose this has much to do with this post really but I do seem to have some kind of word-connection kinda thing going on over the events of the last few days.

The first I guess is this weekend. As I have mentioned before, the road where I live is called (in French) fields of song, not, as I originally thought, because of the bird song, but because we have loads of underground mountain springs which "sing" as they trickle down the mountain. In fact, our water is of such good quality that it is not "treated" as such, which means we get to enjoy real spring water which is so much better than some chemically treated water I have tasted.  The downside of that, though, is that if ever our little village has excess water and the local town is in short supply, we are not allowed to sell it on to them - but then I can live with that, I'm sure!

Five of us home owners recently had the opportunity to purchase small tracts of land directly backing on to our gardens, something we did just in case the field behind us (the one in the header photo to this blog) is sold for construction (although technically it is non-constructible land) and we wanted to be sure that they could not build an access road immediately backing onto our homes. What that now means is that we are also responsible for the upkeep of the land and so on, although in the 28 years I have lived here the HLM (the owners of the land) have never maintained it - it has always been the homeowners. Another point, however, is that if, on the rare occasion, the rains/spring water get too much and flood the village road, we are also responsible for taking care of that. So the five homeowners got together and have decided to bury pipes under the land in order to channel the spring water safely away from our homes and from the road. The only problem is, two of my neighbours already did this by hand-digging trenches and laying pipes, my immediate neighbour had someone in to do it last week-end, and now I have mountain streams flowing through my back garden - which sounds lovely but definitely is not! I now need to do the same thing, but can only realistically do it when my neighbour "further downstream" is also ready, and since he has a helluva lot more pipeline to lay than me I think he wants to wait until April to do it. Hence the reference to Roly Poly Hippo, because we spent the last three days sloshing round in the mud in our wellies digging ditches to temporarily channel the springs securely. Yuck! I only ever occasionally (maybe three weeks out of the year) had actual "flooding" in my garden (never in the house) but now I have a permanent stream that needs to be taken care of pretty quickly!

The other thing that made me think of Roly Poly Hippo was the wonderful show three of us went to here in Geneva last night - Tango Fire!!! Oh man, was it good. I love the passion and intensity of Argentine tango anyway, and this group were just spectacular.


When the women strutted on stage in their skimpy outfits my friend suggested I get something similar for the wedding next week - so there's another one just got crossed off my Christmas list!

It was funny though, because after the show finished, the audience started going up the stairs to the upper exits - and I swear you could hear the creaking knees (mine included) from a mile away. So if ever you feel the need to beat yourself up comparing yourself to these show girls by looking like a pregnant hippo with fat ankles - I can highly recommend this Tango Fire! Just sayin!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Say what????

I have a Facebook account - there I admitted it! Not that I post much on it, but it is a good way to keep up with family members dotted all over the world - particularly nephews and nieces - who seem particularly keen on it. On Wednesday night I happened to be glancing over FB when I noticed that my oldest son was online. Our neighbour, with whom we are very close, turned 70 today so I sent André a message reminding him to wish Michel a happy birthday. He said he would and then asked if I was free on March 17th "only Lily and I are getting married that day"!!!! Say what!!!!! That is two weeks from today!!!! It's not the whole "we're getting married" business that threw me, it's the lack of notice!! Unlike the UK, church weddings are not legal in Switzerland (or France, for that matter) so typically people get married first at the Town Hall and then in Church, if that is what they want. In my case, the kids don't want a religious ceremony as neither are religious, so in July we will be having a non-religious family celebration of their marriage. My ex and I got married in Switzerland and the paperwork wasn't particularly fearsome, but with Lily being Swiss their paperwork was more complex because marriage to a Swiss confers certain rights to the spouse - I guess they are making sure it isn't a marriage of convenience. Fair enough and good for the Swiss, but heck, when was he thinking about mentioning the date to me? Bloody hell, now I've got two weeks to find something suitable to wear and no, I haven't exactly lost a ton of weight either! Kids! In fact this morning he emailed me to ask if I could send scanned copies of his brother's British and American passports to him today! Apparently the Maire who will be marrying them needs copies today of Jordan's passports to register him as the official witness. Luckily I make a habit of scanning all official documents so was able to send them but "no pressure there then"!

On the "losing weight" scene, I went walking again today and have to say it is slowly getting very slightly easier going uphill. On the way back I came through the botanical gardens again and I have noticed several times now the beautiful scents given off by some flowers in particular areas of the gardens. I try to look at the names of the flowers/bushes but can't keep the Latin ones in my head of course. Maybe I should take my ipad with me next time. But, going through a group of rhododendrons there is always the most beautiful scent - and I didn't know rhododendrons gave off a scent (not that I know much about any botanical matters really). In fact, in one part of the gardens is the "Jardin des Senteurs" ("perfume gardens", I guess, for want of a better translation). It is specifically designed for blind or sight-impaired people and has all the plant names written in brail. Some of the scents there are just fabulous! So that's another thing to add to my list of "things I want to delve further into" when I retire!

And moving swiftly on, last night a friend and I went to see La La Land. I always try to wait a few weeks when a film comes out to avoid the crowds at the initial screenings. After first going to the wrong cinema we made it to the right cinema just as the opening titles were coming up. I have to say - crikey - what an amazing place that cinema was! I nearly fainted when I found out the entrance fee was 25 Swiss francs (that's about 25 dollars) and that had even come down from the 35 Swiss francs he was charging previously. But ..... and it's a big but here ..... the cinema was absolute luxury! Imagine yourself on a plane in first class, reclinable seats, plenty of space, and with your own individual tray for drinks etc. There was a bar/coffee shop just outside and some people brought their glass of wine in with them. Frankly, although it was expensive, it was a real treat to see a film this way and. I feel, worth occasionally splashing out on. I must not be the only one to feel this way because apparently this guy has recently bought another run-down cinema and will be doing it up in the same vein! Now that's an entrepreneurial spirit if ever there was one!

As for the film, it was ok/good. Very "feel good" but not the greatest of films but by no means boring. I would give it a 7/10, to be honest.


The film is all about a young man desperate to open his own jazz club and a young woman desperate to find fame as an actress. I couldn't help noticing that while Emma Stone is not, in my opinion, conventionally beautiful, to my mind she has something very attractive about her (but of course, with Hollywood make-up artists they all look great). Nevertheless, I think she is attractive (and talented). This week, of course, we had the Oscars and while I don't watch them (9-hour time difference and no interest anyway) there was a real whoo-haa in the press about La La Land being named the best film by mistake. Not the end of the world by any means, and of course there are far more important things going on in the world, but I couldn't help noticing how dreadful Faye Dunaway looked. Yes, I know she's getting on and all that but her plastic surgery is just appalling! So then I got to thinking how hard it must be for someone who was once considered a great beauty to age, and how desperate so many seem to hold on to their looks. In the end, isn't it easier for the rest of us mere mortals not to have to "apoligize" for aging and not be examined under the microscope. Just a thought!

And finally, another thought (gosh, I seem to be having a lot of those lately)! OH and I split up in June last year after seven years together. I ended it because I was tired of never doing anything ever and felt that with my divorce well and truly in the past and the kids moved on I am just chomping at the bit to do things and he just wasn't. We're still friends in any case, and occasionally have a drink together, but we are no longer a couple and we're both fine with that. Well the other night I was having a drink with him after work and they were playing salsa music in the background. I commented on how much I love that music and ex-OH commented how much he "loathed it with a vengeance" (see how compatible we aren't!). Well I had been talking to a colleague who, like me, had previously taken salsa lessons and was thinking of going back to it in September when they start up again from scratch. The salsa teacher I had was great but like so many other women I didn't have a partner, and while she made sure we all swapped partners as much as possible, it wasn't ideal. So I was looking up the schedule for the current classes (she teaches other things than salsa) and I noticed that she gives private lessons. They are expensive but I was wondering if it might be worth treating myself to 10 private lessons so that I can get more out of it. I wouldn't just want salsa lessons either, as she teaches ballroom dances such as the waltz and the foxtrot and so on (which I tried out and loved). Normally each year I try to go away in February/March for a break from the winter, but this year, with the wedding coming up, I won't be going away until later in the year, so I was wondering - should I put some of the money I would have spent on going away into private dance lessons? Being a Libran I have to weigh these things up, not only because of the cost but because I have (happily) gotten involved in so many different clubs/projects that I also don't want to have every night taken up with going out. Aaaahhh first world problems to be sure!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Got the monkey off my shoulder!

I didn't feel like walking today. We had a helluva storm last night and today, for the first time in ages, it was grey, windy and cold-ish. Cars coming down from villages higher up the mountain had quite a good coverage of snow and there were broken tree branches everywhere - so nah, I didn't feel like walking. But hey, I got that monkey off my shoulder - you know, the one who says "oh don't bother, just this once, it won't matter". And of course, it wouldn't matter, but I actually got off my backside and went walking again at lunchtime. Yay me!


It was too muddy to go on one of my usual circuits so I walked along the lakefront, and while it was pretty windy, it was a really pleasant walk. It definitely blows the cobwebs away and is a real mood booster. Also they usually have various exhibitions along the lake front - at the moment they have sculptures which, to be honest, are quite beyond me and my peasant heart, but previously they had photos of people from all over the world photographed in authentic, unretouched detail -  they were so interesting. OK so stopping to pour over sculptures or photos probably doesn't do much in the way of calorie burning, but at least I got out there right!

On Saturday night a friend and I went to see "Shrek, The Musical", performed by Simply Theatre, which is the under-18s theatre group. We saw them perform The Addams Family last year and they were fantastic. And Saturday they didn't disappoint either. In fact, we were talking on the way home and both agreed that we think we actually prefer them to the adult productions. Just wow, I don't know where they get their talent (or their confidence) from but they were amazing. (I have to admit to a little weakness here, but donkey could certainly have given Eddie Murphy a run for his money - couldn't find a picture on their site though. Shame!!!)


Then on Sunday I got to watch the latest match in the rugby six nations - England versus Italy. I love the six nations (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy) because it is on every year and while it doesn't last long you get to see some great rugby. Sunday's match was scrappy, but entertaining, rugby. The referee was French and usually when they want to address an issue with a specific player they shout "number 10 white", or "number 8 blue". For some reason this time the ref just called out, "hey you with the beard" and five Italians turned round! I guess you had to be there but it was really funny - and the giggling from the commentary box was a real treat!


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Switzerland

This week has been one of my quieter weeks and I must admit I have quite enjoyed not having much planned (for a change). I weighed myself on Monday and there was no change - so while disappointing at least it was back to "normal" rather than the seemingly overnight 5 lb weight gain of the other week. It really is slow going considering how much I am exercising but I think I might be all right with that.

Yesterday I got to Geneva in good time so managed to hop off the bus and walk the last 30 minutes in to work. It was absolutely beautiful - bright sunshine and not even cold - and I saw a young woman at the end of one of the jetties sticking out into the lake doing her yoga practice. It was lovely to see. In fact, you do see quite a few "fitness" groups exercising outside in the parks round here - what better backdrop for your fitness regime. Last year, during the good weather, we also had a gent practising the bagpipes in the park outside every Wednesday, and then salsa music playing later in the evening outside one of the stately homes just near here. Sometimes I forget I'm actually at work!

When I walk in to work, I walk through an area called Pâquis, which is central Geneva, but not the "posh bit" (you know, where Sophia Loren lives - that's over the other side of the lake). I like Pâquis though as it has character, although over the years it has been dragged down and what used to be called "full of character" is now a bit less salubrious. At the hotel on my first night in Geneva in May 1980 I met Gill. She was starting work at the same place as me and we became (and have remained) friends over the years, even though she subsequently left my employer to work somewhere else. Well Gill and I rented a studio together in Pâquis for the first three months while we were looking for our own place. We went out together recently and walked past our old studio and both laughed when we remembered the dirty old dog that lived opposite our studio who seemingly, casually, always ended up standing on his balcony when we got home from work. We, of course, would dash in, have a quick wash, change our clothes and then dash back out again - without realizing that the dirty old sod could see straight through our net curtains when the lights were on!! Well, I guess if it gave him a thrill so be it, but we started changing in the bathroom after that once we realized what was going on!

A couple of months after I arrived, Gill very kindly moved out to allow my parents to come and visit for a week. One night my parents and I were walking down towards the lake when my dad commented on "what a lot of people there were out"! I started laughing because I hadn't thought to tell them about the "main industry" of Pâquis! So I asked my dad if it didn't strike him as strange that so many of those "people" were sitting on cars! You see, Pâquis is the main prostitution area of Geneva! I'm not sure if prostitution is legal or just tolerated in Switzerland but either way it is regulated and you really don't get hassled walking down there. Tell a lie, I think I did get propositioned once in all that time but I just laughed in the guy's face.

Anyway, since it was mom and dad's first time in Switzerland a friend suggested I take them up to Zermatt for a long weekend. I didn't have a car yet so booked us on the train. The only thing was, I knew we had to get the train as far as Täsch and then change for the little rack railway that takes you up to Zermatt (only locals are allowed to drive in Zermatt so it is pretty much a "pedestrianized" village).  Once we got past Montreux I knew to be on the look-out for Täsch but didn't know how much further it was, so when we stopped at one station I asked my mom what the name of the station was and she said "sortie" - at which point half the train burst into giggles. You see "sortie" means "exit". In fact, I think my mom and dad were part of the entertainment on that trip as they bounced back and forth from one side of the train to the other going "Ted come and look at this, no Mannie come and look at this". Lovely times indeed.

When we eventually got to Täsch and on to the little train we encountered what I can only describe as a typical British battleaxe! You know the kind, probably lived through the last days of the British Raj and totally bombastic. It was mid-July, scorching hot and a group of young people had opened a small window on the train to let some air in. Well they were told in no uncertain terms to close it again as she was cold! To give them their due, they did shut it but the rest of us almost suffered from heat stroke on the way up! Anyway it turned out that "Miss Crawford" (the battleaxe) seemed to be quite taken with my dad so she invited us to have a drink with her that evening. Being polite we did, but then she wanted to get together for every meal thereafter, so we spent the next few days dodging Miss Crawford, or as my mom would put it "Crawfie to the left" and we would all dodge into a doorway as she was such a crashing boor.

On a friend's recommendation I had booked us into a lovely little hotel called the Hotel Romantica. It was small but spotlessly clean and the owners were very friendly.

Hotel Romantica
Zermatt (with the Matterhorn in the background)
I hadn't realized, because nobody had told me, but my dad had just come out of hospital with another "heart episode". He had had several heart attacks over the years and, I found out later, it was touch and go whether he would be able to come out to Switzerland this time. But manage it he did and we had a lovely time, taking the cog railway up to the top of the mountains, stopping for lunch and then either walking or getting the train back down. Somewhere I have a lovely picture of him lying in the grass at the top of the mountain, lapping up the sun. I don't know if Switzerland actually did him good or just the fact that he had a tan when he went back made him look so well, but I have to say that trip was one of the best memories I have of time spent with my parents!