The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Thursday, 17 May 2018

It could be a strange wedding!

As I mentioned the other day, Jordan and Jen announced that they are now engaged and are planning to get married in July 2019. Jordan and his brother, André, have very different characters and styles so while André and Lily's wedding was indeed beautiful, Jordan and Jen will be wanting something different. At the restaurant the other night Jen was saying that they wanted a "dandy-like" theme. I didn't hear her properly and thought she said a "Ghandi-like" theme - I have to admit I was a bit shocked!  Can you imagine me showing up something like this:

Anyway, Jen started laughing and said "no, dandy!" Actually I can see that quite suiting Jordan. He has very long hair which he ties back in a "man bun" for work and when he is all dolled out in braces (suspenders in the US) and a dickie bow I think he looks rather good. I'll be intrigued to see what he will actually look like on the day!

Anyway, this morning I bumped into K on the bus going into work and was telling her about the engagement and the theme they were hoping for for the wedding. Trouble is, K understood me to say "candy"! Lordy, lordy, with this severe case of Chinese whispers the potential for screwing up is pretty high don't you think!

On a slightly different note, as I have mentioned before I am an avid reader and since I have at least a 90 minute daily bus commute I do get a lot of reading done. A colleague just lent me Jodi Picoult's book "Small Great Things" and I loved it! It is a book about racism and loosely based on a true incident in Michigan some time ago. Again, I just loved it! I like Jodi Picoult anyway, although she is the kind of writer I cannot read one book after another continuously. But she builds such wonderful suspense into her writing and has written what I think is a a very soul-searching story about the iniquities of racism. I plan to buy it in French for my neighbour as she also loved the last Jodi Picoult book I got for her. Isn't it great when you find a writer whose work you adore!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

They've done it again!

As I was on the bus heading home yesterday evening I got a text message from Jordan's girlfriend, Jen, asking if I would be home later. I told her "yep in about 30 minutes", so she asked if I wanted to go out to eat with them in (the one and only restaurant) in my village. Sounds good to me as the food is very good there. They had just gotten back from Cinque Terre on Sunday night so I was looking forward to seeing their photos - and how lovely that place is! I really have to go there! It was a six hour bus ride (they went on an organized trip with Jen's work), so it meant getting up at 4 a.m. but apparently they lucked out all the way with the weather (whereas we had dreadful weather) and they said the place was fabulous - as was the food! Everything was included and for the two of them, including two nights in a hotel, it came to about €240! Now that is a deal! Anyway, while we were waiting to be served I was looking through Jordan's photos and, like I said, it is such a stunning place. We hadn't had time to go through them all when our food arrived so we chatted about the trip with them rhapsodizing about the food in Italy until we had finished eating.  Afterwards, Jen said "oh you must look at the rest of the photos", so we started up again and somewhere around photo number 41 was a photo of Jordan down on one knee in front of Jen. When I asked what that was they said "that's when Jordan proposed" (and Jen said yes)!

I've said before I'm not a particularly emotional person but I will admit to a little tear at that. I really wasn't expecting it for some reason - well not just now, I suppose. He said he only bought the ring last week and since they've been together for seven years he thought "what the heck"! Wow! Everybody on the boat cheered when he got down on one knee! Anyway, they will have to get married in their local Mairie but I'm not sure when that will be. They don't plan on having a church service since neither of them are religious so they are planning/hoping to have a non-religious service like my elder son and his wife in the château in my little village on July 4th next year!

They have already looked into it and every weekend is taken in 2019 so they are plumping for July 4th as (I think) it is a Thursday. I told them I will take care of hiring the château (and probably the food) as they don't have the kind of money that my other son and his wife have but they seem pretty reasonable in their aims so hopefully won't be doing anything budget-busting! They told me I was allowed to tell my sister in England but nobody else as they haven't told Jen's mom yet, nor my other son, nor my ex! I guess I had better get back on that diet then - you know, the one that didn't work last time!

Still, I'm delighted for them as they seem to have good heads on their shoulders and to be very happy together!  Jen said she will be taking Jordan's last name as she does not want to keep her own surname - you know the one she inherited from the father who abandoned her and her mother when Jen was two! Can't say I blame her either! Needless to say he won't be invited, even assuming they were able to track him down - you know, non-payment of child support all these years and so on!  One thing that I thought though was that since both Jordan and I have to make up our minds about either becoming French or requesting residents' permits after Brexit, at least as the spouse of a French citizen he will get facilitated procedure whichever he chooses to do!

And finally, starting this week and through next week he has his final exams for his diploma as a plumber specialized in ..... I'll be buggered if I can ever remember what it is! But he will be staying on another year to take yet another specialization so things are going well for him on that score. But get this, for his first exam he had to drive down to Annecy for an English exam! Ha! That's great! He said the lady examiner didn't seem to register when he handed over his passport as proof of ID, and then she clocked that it was a  British passport and said "is there really any point doing this since your English is obviously going to be better than mine?" Anyway, they went ahead and did his aural and written comprehension and then what was supposed to be a 10 minute chat about plumbing! Well I guess that's a few easy points on the scoreboard since not only did we speak English at home but he also went to an international school where the curriculum was bilingual. Ah, if only the whole exam were that easy! Anyway, it's onwards and upwards I guess, and time to start up the exercise routine (yet again) in time for the next wedding!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The end of an era!

I have mentioned before that I live in a very small village. There is one restaurant, no shop, no public transport - you get the idea. When we moved in the population was around 500 (so I'm told by the Mairie) of which we were among the 12 foreigners. Now, 29 years later, I would guess the population is around 1,000 but the village is spread over the mountain side so it really isn't "crowded" at all. About 20 years ago a Franco-Nigerian family moved in - mom is French and white and dad is Nigerian and black and our kids quickly became great friends with their three kids - more so with the two boys of course, but also with the daughter. Martine and Stan have three very handsome and supremely likable/polite kids - probably because they are strict! Whichever way you look at it, it has paid off as they are a pleasure to be around.  Since the kids are mixed race their parents pushed them into sports as a way to combat any potential racism and all three kids are superb athletes, with D being a professional rugby player and already having played for France several times.

Anyway, all that was to say that we have known each other for a long time. Stan, being what I call "a professional shopkeeper" by nature, saw an opening in the village for a little shop/bar and so the Mairie allowed him to use a small tract of land (with a stunning view) to set up his little bar. It is basically just three or four portacabins glued together where he sells a small amount of groceries and runs a small bar/sandwich/french fry shop.  Believe me, it was really a godsend! You probably didn't want to look too closely into the corners/cobwebs but nobody cared. Farmers would drive up on their tractors and park up and my ex OH used to love to come over and spend the evening up at Stan's, usually discussing politics or rugby over a glass of wine. In fact when Steve came over the other Christmas he loved it too, as did my family when they came over for the wedding. That place just has so much character. Sadly (for us) Stan is now ready to retire and once he has closed up shop the Mairie want to get rid of the "building" and build something more "esthetic" (i.e. less grubby) just round the corner. I can't say I blame them because it is a bit of an eyesore but gosh we're going to miss "chez Stan". Strange thing is, he was just as strict with the youngsters who stopped by as he was with his own kids and those young people showed him nothing but respect.  He is off to Nigeria for a few months so I won't see him for a while but they will certainly be different times when he comes back.  Thanks for everything Stan!

The outside of "Chez Stan" was painted by one of the kids' friends!
My mate Stan!
In other news, it was Mother's Day in Switzerland on Sunday but in France it is always the last Sunday of May, so Sunday 27th for us.  Which puts me in mind of a funny story! When my second son was born my neighbour took care of him when I went back to work. She had two kids aged 10 and 12 who called her "maman" - French for "mommy". So of course Jordan also called her "maman". I didn't care because she was "maman" and I was "mommy". Anyway, one Mother's Day when he was in the local infants' school, they took a wooden mixing spoon, painted it pink and tied a bow on it. When he bought it home I was gushing praise about what a lovely present he had made me, when he said, all indignant "it's not for you, the teacher said I had to give it to 'maman'"! So that's what he did! She was mortified but I just roared laughing - that'll teach me not to count my chickens!

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

In other news!

As I was saying in my previous post, this week has been one helluvan expensive week, but I am more than cognizant of the fact that I am lucky enough to work in Switzerland and can afford to replace/repair stuff. This was brought home to me by a programme I was watching on Channel 4 the other night called "Britain's Benefits Crisis"! This was a serious programme, not one of your usual "all benefits claimants are scroungers" programmes that - while these people certainly exist - is really only rabble-rousing TV. No, this programme took a serious look into the effects of the new Universal Credit that has begun rolling out in the UK. It is supposed to be an easier system to use, rolling various benefits into one, but whose aim, admittedly, is to cut the UK benefits bill and get more people back into work. I don't live in the UK and don't claim any benefits (obviously) so I would be the last person to really understand how the UC is supposed to work but this programme interviewed claimants as well as people working within the system to administer this programme and the overwhelming majority of those people said that the roll out should be suspended until it could be better implemented!

They then proceeded to highlight several cases of people who had been hit really hard by the UC. I really can't remember all the details but one single father, who had been invalided out of his previous job, had been working as a taxi driver but switching to UC meant he had less money coming in and was in very grave danger of having to put his children into foster care. He was told by the Department of Employment that he would be better off not working if he wanted to gain back the money lost under UC - so that is what he did in order to be able to keep his children with him. Another single mother had serious health issues which prevented her from working. She wanted to work, however, and managed to find herself a job but her health problems eventually meant that she had to quit. At this point she was no longer eligible for her previous benefits but was switched to UC, which meant losing money and worrying herself into a state of eventually attempting (but failing) to commit suicide! These were not "scroungers" (so beloved of the Daily Mail) but seemed to be decent people who were having a very hard time. It was a very sobering programme for me. I know where I came from and am so very, very grateful that I don't have those kinds of worries, but feel so much for those caught in the benefits trap!

On a slightly less depressing note, a couple of friends and I had tickets to see "The Magic of Motown" in Geneva on Saturday night and it was fantastic! I would say you don't even have to be a fan of Motown (I am) as the songs just seem to take you straight back to your youth regardless. It was two and a half hours or solid dancing and singing and they were just great. I have been to many concerts in Geneva and this was the first time I had seen the arena full - with ages ranging from about 10 to 75, I would say. People were on their feet dancing the whole way through (again another first for me) and I have to say that even though I loved the tribute to Pavarotti, this one takes the biscuit!  They only sang a couple of slow songs but when the young woman went to sing "Ben" (Michael Jackson) they asked everyone to use the torch function on their phones and wave them about. Well, my phone is pretty new and I'll be buggered if I could find the torch function. I know you have to "swipe up" but every time I did that it asked me if I "really wanted to call the emergency services"! Yikes. Stuff the phone down. Try again - again with the "emergency services" business! In the end I had to give up but could you imagine the Swiss police storming in and yelling "what was your emergency?" "Well you see officer, they asked us to use the torch function and the song was almost over"!  There was an older chappie standing on the stairs near me dancing and he danced just like Mr. Bean! I wanted to go over and dance with him as I was having so much fun but I had visions of the two of us falling down the stairs at some point so I held back, but to say I boogied like I haven't boogied in ages would be an understatement!

Mayhem at the OK Corrall!

As I mentioned in a previous post, these last few days seem to have had everything collapsing around my ears. Earlier in the year I posted about my water heater conking out. To be honest, it didn't owe me anything as it had to be about 20 years old, but I do wonder sometimes why these things can't conk out in the summer when I don't care so much about hot water, rather than in January when it is -12°! Oh well, not my decision I suppose. As luck would have it my son was off the day it died so was able to run out, buy a new one and install it before I even got home from work (one of the advantages of having a plumber for a son)!  I think I had also mentioned that I am getting my external balcony completely re-done and a side gate to block access to my back garden. Well the young man who will be doing the metal work had told me he couldn't do it before spring 2018 (not a problem for me) but he took the railings off last last year so I have been without railings on that balcony for about six months now. Again not a problem as long I didn't have too much to drink over Christmas (I didn't). Having those railings removed allowed the mason to come in and remove about one third of the balcony and re-build it as it was pretty rotten (ha, and to think I had bought a bucket and chisel and was going to "do it myself" - it was the full scaffolding, support, week-long job). All well and good so far, except that about six weeks ago my son noticed a small crack in the balcony. I did my usual "let's ignore it and see if it goes away" business but it didn't. Then another crack appeared - blinkers on again, but still it didn't go away. Until last weekend when it didn't stop peeing down and I ended up being virtually able to take a shower underneath my balcony. I was worried that the water could have been channeled into one of three bedrooms on the first floor or into my kitchen, so I called the mason and he came right back out. He spent another three days working on it (trying to work around the rain) but although he repaired the cracks he wasn't too happy about it. Now I trust this young man and he has done great work for me before, but he called me two days ago to say that he was having exactly the same problem with my neighbour's balcony and the only solution he could find was to repair it, put down a rubberized, waterproof layer and then tile it!

At this point I'm thinking "oh to hell with it, if it has to be done".... Only thing is, that's going to cost me another €1,000 for the work on top of the initial €1,800, then I have about €300 to fork out for the tiles themselves. Oh well! Easy come, easy go, I suppose!  On top of that, my microwave died last week - again not a major problem is it to buy a new microwave, so that was planned for this weekend.  Except on Sunday I felt like cooking so while the oven was heating up I prepared some stuffed chicken breasts. It struck me as odd that the oven seemed to have reached "cruising altitude" in about three minutes, as opposed to the usual ten, but ... Anyway, I took my kitchen timer and popped round to drop something off to my neighbour's. I was only gone 10 minutes (according to the timer) but when I got in the house there was smoke streaming out of the oven! "Chicken's cooked" sez I! Turns out the chicken was more than cooked, it had been turned into two pieces of charcoal. Thankfully I hadn't hung around at my neighbours as I am pretty sure the oven was on the point of bursting into flames!  Again, the oven didn't owe me anything but bloody hell, that could so easily have burned the house down! Looking at the "fault" indicated, the block that should have prevented the oven from going past 180° seemed to have failed so the oven just kept getting hotter and hotter. I managed to get it turned off but three hours later the fan had still not been able to cool the oven so not wanting to go to bed with that risk hanging over my head I found the corresponding fuse and took it out of the fuse box. Problem solved right? Except that was the fuse that also ran my fridge!!! At that point (it was around 11 p.m.) I thought "sod it" and left the fuse out and fridge defrosting gaily!! As soon as I put the fuse back in the oven started up again so I had no choice really did I!

They say it never rains but it pours does it. Still, I am more than aware that I am lucky enough to have a good job and can afford to repair/replace these things, so while it is a pain in the butt it is nothing more serious than that. The next day I was able to order a new oven and Thursday and Friday being a holiday here I am having it delivered on Friday!  On top of that, the friend of my son who is going to be doing the metalwork for the balcony and the side gate finally has the time to do it, so he will be coming out to take measurements (and pick up a down payment) in order to start work on that. Seems like I'm going to be having a party at my house on Friday then - the oven people, the mason and the metalworker!

Oh, and did I mention that every week I give myself a pedicure? Probably not eh! Anyway, I had seen a "recipe" which called for soaking your feet in two parts hot water to one part vinegar and one part mouthwash (it works - I love it). Only thing is, I had run out of mouthwash so picked up a "stronger" version when I was in town. It was bright green - and that's probably ok when you are only rinsing your mouth with it briefly. However, when you have soaked your feet in it for 20 minutes guess what happens?  Yep, I ended up having to wear boots on Monday and Tuesday until "lime green trench foot" wore off!

The hole where my oven should be!

I'm hoping somebody steals it!

Top Gear - designing a car for old people!

I wasn't an avid Top Gear fan but this just happened to be on TV the other night. I watched it (for a second time as I had already seen it) as it was filmed near where my sister lives - a couple of miles down the road. I think the three old ladies were wonderful sports for going along with this!

Monday, 7 May 2018

Missing in action!

I've been MIA for a little while because everything seems to be blowing up around here - although thankfully it is just stuff and not me or my family! I will write more on the ongoing saga of "oh bloody hell not another one" soon. Needless to say I have been extremely busy at work (it's that time of year where everything is getting frantic) and then "stuff" keeps happening, but to put things in their proper perspective we are all healthy and happy and I have a good enough job to be able to repair the "stuff".

My office colleague and I were chatting away this morning catching up on each other's weekends and I mentioned something about the latest episode in the "Trump/Stormy" saga. She doesn't read the papers nor watch the news as she finds it too depressing (I did ask if she knew that Princess Diana was dead) so I started to explain a little behind the ongoing drama of Trump and Stormy - "no I didn't", "well yes I did reimburse my lawyer, but no I didn't have an affair with her", "so yeah I did give her the money but not as hush money, rather just to make her go away"! We were laughing and I said if a man like Trump had nothing to hide he would not pay her to go away, he has the resources to "sue her for blasphemy ... err, I mean, slander". We both roared laughing and she said, I think you may have been right the first time! Freudian or what!