The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Friday, 19 May 2017

A Time to Live

US blogger Sam recently posted about the tragic sudden death of a very young and very dear friend. Quite by coincidence I had seen a trailer for a BBC documentary called "A Time to Live" which aired on Wednesday. It recounted the story of a group of people in the UK (around 12 I think - I didn't count) who had all been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and had been given XX number of months/years to live. While I'm sure to most of us that would be a horrific experience, the way the documentary unfolded, while it was indeed terribly sad, it was also thought-provoking and strangely uplifting.

If I remember right, the youngest person they interviewed was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at age 23. The oldest (that I remember) was a gentleman of 69. All were sad that they would not get more time with their loved ones, and some with younger children were very concerned about making sure they would be ok once that parent died. But the over-riding emotion that seemed to emanate from all of these people was gratitude for the chance to really live life to the full! Sounds weird I know. So I started writing down comments that they made to try to make sense of it all afterwards, and here are just a few (paraphrased as best I can remember them).

One lady, upon learning her diagnosis, talked to her children and with their agreement left her husband of 28 years to travel, indulge in her passion for art and learn salsa. It wasn't quite as "clinical" as it sounds and she and her husband both moved on but ....."It allows you to do things instead of just dreaming about doing them"!

Another young woman was asked if she would like to go back in time with the possibility of "eternal life" (well, as "eternal" as any of us have it). She thought for a minute and said "if 'eternal life' meant going back to how I was living before then no, I don't want it. All the stress and rushing around just living to work, and so on - no, I don't want it. Not now I really know what it feels like to be alive"!

One man who was naturally devastated at being told that his illness was terminal "started to shuffle", like the sick person that he now was! He was "a sick old man" so he knew he had to "shuffle". And then he decided that he bloody well didn't have to shuffle - or indeed have his behaviour conform to any particular way of being just because he was sick! So he started running constantly. I get the impression he was a runner anyway, but he explained how wonderful and "full of life" he felt when he ran despite being "terminal". I don't remember the proper name but he entered "the great desert race" not knowing whether he would still be alive when the time came. He was and he completed it! To him, the fact of enrolling was the important thing - finishing it was very much secondary.

Another lady said it was a blessing knowing that her time was "finite" because it allowed her to put all her affairs in order - but more importantly sort the children's photos for them and slip little messages on postcards in amongst their photos for when they would feel sad or lonely.

There was an overriding positivity to them all. "Knowing how long you have gives you a game plan/clarity, and reinforces the gift of life when you realize it is finite"!

And lastly, an older lady who had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, seemed like she had been a heck of a character during her life, a frequent traveller and a "grab life by the horns" kind of person. So after diagnosis she joined a group of solo-travelling women and continued to travel as long as her health would allow. Then she met up with them in the UK in her wheelchair when she was no longer able to travel. She said she had "no intention of seeing this disease through to the end" but would be travelling to Dignitas in Switzerland when the time came to end her own life. Her sadness was that she would have to do this "before she was ready" because after that she would no longer be well enough to travel. Her final comment was that she would have liked to have remained in her own home and "do it here" (in the UK) but sadly it is not (yet) legal.

As I said, very sad, thought-provoking, but incredibly uplifting too.

The narrator's final words were that all these people had made the choice to live life to the full knowing that their time was running out. And she (the narrator) had also made a choice to not tell her audience the names of those who had died since the documentary had been filmed. The right decision I think. RIP those who have passed!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

I'll have what she's having!

As I mentioned previously my brother, his son and son's gf came out last week for a long weekend, and although rotten weather was forecast we actually didn't do too bad - for one day at least - and then not so bad on the others. As their first day here was warm and sunny I decided to head up to Lac des Confins. Despite appearances (see the snow in the background) it was actually beautiful and Lady Luck was yet again on our side as the restaurant I wanted to take them to was open for the last day before it closes until July. Their busy season (cross-country skiing in this case) has just wound down so they take a few weeks off before gearing up for the lesser, summer season.

Not the greatest picture of me and my brother but we were looking into the sun!

Linda, Darren, Anna and Phil
We then drove down to my favourite ski resort of La Clusaz and while it was also pretty much closed up for the season it was still very pretty. After that we picnicked a bit further down the road (Nathalie, sorry I couldn't get a picture of the "Thônes" signpost for you but traffic was diverted and we ended up taking the "even more scenic route" - i.e. we got lost), arriving in Annecy to spend a few hours walking round the old town before my kids were to join us later for a dinner-dance boat trip around Lake Annecy. It turned into a bit of a nail-biter as my oldest and his wife (that still sounds so funny to me to be saying that) were driving from Geneva after work and he called to say that the traffic was horrendous but he "hoped to make it before the boat set sail". Crikey, I mean there is no leeway in that is there - you either make it before the boat leaves or you don't! But as luck would have it, they made it with minutes to spare, and what a lovely trip that was. You know, I came to Geneva in 1980 and have been to Annecy many, many times but have never taken a boat trip. We always stay up one end of the lake when we visit - but what a mistake that was as the "far end" is stunning. As this was the beginning of the season for the boat operators there was barely anyone on board so we more or less had it to ourselves. The food and service was excellent - I can't say it was overly expensive for what we got, and when we reached the far end of the lake the little town was all lit up and very beautiful. I can't believe I have never done that trip before in all these years. After dinner, a lady got up to sing and again, it was a real treat. I hate to have to shout over loud music to talk and hate it even more if it isn't my type of music, but she was excellent, not too loud, and seemed to sing just the right combination of songs in different languages to keep everyone happy. When we got back to port we could have stayed on board to dance until 1.00 a.m. but since no-one was really up for that we all headed home.  My eldest and Darren talked "politics", as is their want, but it was really nice to see them all get to know each other better. I also took a few of those "helium balloon" photos of everyone so we all had a good laugh.  I'll try to post a few when I get my act together. But it really was a lovely, lovely evening.

Just before the boat sets off
Then on the Saturday we headed off to Lavey-les-Bains. It was raining so my concern was that if there were storms we would not be allowed in the hot springs, but again as luck would have it, while it rained there were no storms so we got to spend a few hours there. My youngest had suggested that instead of taking my usual route along the north bank of Lake Geneva it would be shorter to go through Chamonix and down to Martigny. At Chamonix we decided to stop and have some lunch and here it did rain quite a bit but we had a lovely lunch anyway and got to see the cable cars taking supplies (and a few hardy tourists I imagine) up to the top of the Mont Blanc/Aiguille du Midi.

Aiguille du Midi
Since this wasn't my usual route to Lavey I ended up going the wrong direction on the motorway for quite a while but we made it in the end, although I think we were all tired of being on the road at that point. So on the way back we decided to skip stopping off at Evian in favour of just getting home and getting out of our wet clothes.

On the last full day of their visit the weather picked up a little. It wasn't great but at least it wasn't raining so we were able to get out to Sixt Fer à Cheval and Cascade de Rouget.

This is what Fer à Cheval looks like on a good day

Darren and Linda - not so bad weather really!

At Cascade de Rouget

On Monday before I was to take them back to the airport we had a little time to kill so we decided to stop in at Yvoire, which is just starting to open up for the season, followed by a quick stop in Geneva's old town for coffee before heading out to the airport.

We almost came a cropper though because as we headed out for the airport we became aware of a strong smell of smoke, only to discover that one of the hotels being renovated in central Geneva had gone up in flames. Emergency services had closed the roads but luckily we were early enough that I was able to take another route (and no-one was injured in the fire).

This was my brother's first trip since he lost his wife last year and I think it did him the world of good. He and his son kept joking (I hope) about leaving clothes and toiletries behind for "when they move out here" - yikes! I told them Brexit was gonna be really, really hard and I wasn't sure the French were going to let any more Brits in ever again - not sure they bought it though!

After the excitement of that weekend last weekend was back to normal. I had driven up to my youngest's to get him to sign his US tax declaration and then my friend and I decided to take a trip out to a vide-grenier (car boot/garage sale) near him.  There wasn't much of interest there, to be honest, but I did pick up a nice little dish with a smaller dish embedded into it (you know, where you serve olives and there is a little dish to put the stones). After that we had heard that there was a "garden sale" up at Combloux and since we had tried to make it to Combloux several times in the past and got lost we decided to give it another shot - and WOW - just WOW! I had obviously been to/through Combloux years ago when I used to ski in Megève, but I had totally forgotten how spectacular it is.


My little haul!
And finally (gosh don't I yack on!) on Monday night I had my weekly sewing club. One of the ladies showed up late as she "there was a radio programme on about sex toys and she wanted to listen to the end of it"! Now all of these ladies are older than me so you can imagine how that was greeted. The other ladies were in uproar and the conversation definitely took a "turn for the worse". I won't go into great detail but to say it was ribald would be an understatement. And you think men are bad - they ain't got nothing on little old ladies! In fact, in a previous post I had mentioned that sometimes when I go to my local fabric store, if I can't get a parking place I have to park round the corner at the Easy Love sex store! Well I think the evening ended with a kinda "Charlies' Angels pact" where all us little old ladies are gonna go to the fabric store together and then do a "granny sortie" into the sex store (the subject of another post I imagine).

And last night, was my final - for this year - once-a-month patchwork lesson in Cluses. The ladies there got to talking about the French Presidential election. To be fair it was really interesting as I didn't know much about all the candidates and these ladies had some interesting views. But eventually they got to discussing the new (39-year old) President, Emmanuel Macron, and his 64-year old wife, Brigitte. The discussion was more along the lines of "like him or not give him a chance to actually do something" and for the most part the conversation was cautiously optimistic. But, of course, inevitably, the conversation got around to the 24-year age difference with his wife. These ladies were all for it, even if the conversation, yet again, turned somewhat ribald in the kinda "I'll have what she's having" kind of way. And this being France and a sewing class, the new First Lady's outfit was put under the microscope. For me the colour was beautiful but it was way too short (she's got knobbly knees) and to be honest she ruined the look as she struggled to walk in six-inch stilettos over the cobbled stones of the Elysee Palace. (On that note, I once saw a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker in killer heels hobbling like a cane toad over an icy New York pavement and she looked ridiculous - and I love SJP)! 

France's new First Lady
Yeah, yeah, I know, women always get judged on their looks and nobody ever comments on the also 24-year age difference between the tangerine buffoon with the haystack hair and the US First Lady! But like I said, these ladies' comments were pretty darn positive, though I'm not sure I'd like to be 64 years old with a 39 year-old husband and subject to all that scrutiny! Could someone pass me my fluffy slippers please!

Monday, 1 May 2017

What we women have to put up with!

At my latest gynae check up last week he pointed out that it was time for another mamo (every two years in my case). I know we all have to go through these things but really .... don't we women have to put up with it! I had dropped my son and his girlfriend off at the airport on Friday and have to pick them up again tonight, so had to bring the car in to work. I hate driving into Geneva and much prefer to get the bus at the border so I can ignore the traffic and read. But today being 1st May and a holiday in France (but not in Switzerland) I thought it would be a good time to try to get a mamo booked up, reasoning that traffic would still be fairly calm today. And wonder of wonders, I managed to get an early morning slot. My appointment was at the clinic where I had my youngest almost 25 years ago and I have to say it is still just as luxurious. I mean, if you have to be in hospital if there is a bit of luxury so much the better right?  In Switzerland we have privatized medicine and by law everyone has to have medical insurance. I am lucky enough to have very good coverage through my employer so have the luxury of being able to use Swiss facilities. I can use French facilities also of course but since I lived in Switzerland previously I have kept some of my main doctors here. The other thing is everything is to hand in Geneva - hospitals, clinics, specialists etc. whereas in France it means running all over the place as they are much further spread out. Of course they are also one quarter of the price of Swiss medical facilities but you can also end up waiting months to get an appointment, so for the time being I will be sticking this side of the border.

Up till now I have always had female radiologists but I don't know why I was so surprised to get a young man this time. I know it's no big deal but I was just a bit surprised. And of course there is always the ignominy of him crawling under the machine to try to push my boobs into the right position for the x-ray. I suppose it could be worse - I mean, if there was a fire alarm while your boob was stuck in that thing then what do you do? Of course he and the doctor were obviously extremely professional but yuck ... I hate those bloody things. Still, it is better to be safe than sorry I guess and I do understand how lucky I am that these things are routinely covered by my insurance.  I also realize I am lucky in that being "stacked" the mamograms don't hurt either. Some colleagues have told me that it is agony, but for me not a bit of it. In fact one friend described it as "open the fridge door, stick your boob in, then slam the door"! She frightened me half to death as I had never had one at that point but now I know it's no big deal!

Anyway, enough about my boobs. One of my new year's resolutions for 2015 was to join a hiking group. I live in perfect hiking country and rarely ever do any walking, so I actually went out and joined three groups. Problem is, I don't think I was specific enough in my resolution 'cos it turns out you actually have to turn up for these hikes, not just join the group! Damn, who would have thought! Trouble is, I am so unfit that what the locals consider "easy" is usually enough to have me on my knees so I wanted to start off really slowly. The other week a colleague mentioned that our local villages had organized their annual hike and did we want to go. So in for a penny, I said yes. It was advertised as being 13 km long but I knew it wasn't going to be a flat 13 km. Nevertheless, three of us set off on Sunday morning to join up with the group. I was quite proud of myself actually because Sunday morning I really didn't want to go, but I knew I wasn't going to be able to think up an excuse fast enough. So we set off to pick up our paperwork from a very well organized meeting spot and headed off. On one side of Lake Geneva are the alps (the side where I live) and on the other side are the Jura mountains, and kinda slap bang in the middle is the Salève. The first part of our hike was up the Petit Salève, which actually wasn't too bad.

Then back down to one of the local villages where soup was available for those who wanted it. At the entrance to the "soup kitchen" there was a display of old photos and a lovely elderly man representing "Friends of Old Monnetier" who took the time to explain all the old photos to anyone who was interested.  The trip back through the villages was lovely with tons of wisteria everywhere - apparently the area is known for it. At one point we came across a house with a plaque on it saying that Richard Wagner and John Ruskin had lived here (although not together!).

View of the alps from Petit Salève

Wagner wrote Walkyrie here
I suppose in the olden days it was common for wealthy people to travel to various beauty spots to take the air, take the water, etc.. The Salève would most likely have been visited for its pure air and is en route to Chamonix/Mont Blanc, although what we would cover in probably 90 minutes by car must have taken them days!  On the way down we came across a lovely tree stump that someone had taken the time to make into a "hobbit house"!

After that we headed back towards another village called Esery. This was somewhat flatter but at this point we were starting to flag.

On the road to Esery

Since it was no longer "fun" we decided to call it a day. So we trecked back to K's house where she had tea and the most wonderful apricot and almond cake waiting. While we didn't make the full circuit (we managed about 11 km), I think we were all pleased with what we managed to achieve for our first outing. The old bones are creaking a bit this morning though!

Friday, 28 April 2017

Mental health

Most evenings, if I'm not going out, it is usually around 9 p.m. by the time I sit down for the evening. Last night I saw that the second part of "Mind Over Marathon" was on, so I sat down to watch it. It had caught my eye a couple of weeks ago so I had set it to record but hadn't got round to watching the first part, therefore I won't know the whole story until I watch that tonight. From what I gather from the second part, seemingly the documentary team had recruited 10 people with "mental health issues" last year and started them on a training schedule with a view to running the London Marathon.

The London Marathon took place on 23 April - St. George's Day (the patron saint of England - you know the guy that killed the dragon).

St. George
Of course there were the usual wonderful nutters dressed up as dinosaurs and so on, and many, superb individual achievements. I have nothing but respect for the people that give it their all and do this!

This runner almost collapsed 150 metres out, so another runner helped him across the line!
People can and do run in aid of any charity they wish but the official charity this year, supported by Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge, was "Heads Together" - a mental illness charity.  Without having seen the first part of the documentary, I believe all ten of the people in training had suffered from some kind of mental issue. The one man who dropped out seemed to suffer from agoraphobia, some from depression, but the one that really touched me was a lady whose three year old son had died from pneumonia - and five days later her devastated husband committed suicide as a result!  It was horrendous, but she wanted to run the marathon in aid of the charity and to do something for herself after living through such a devastating turn of events.

The documentary follows the group's training, their ups and downs, over a period of six months, and then at the great day itself. Kate, Wills and Harry came out to see them in training at one point and then were there to officially start the race as well as cheering the runners on throughout the race. It was such a moving documentary. I don't think I'm giving much away by saying that the chappie with agoraphobia dropped out BUT - and this is a a big BUT - he was able to travel down to London on the train by himself to cheer the others on, so he was also one of the success stories, but in a different way. It was a very moving, feel good documentary and well worth an hour of your time if you want to get motivated!

On a slightly less impressive note, I am enrolled with two friends on a 13 km walk this weekend. I think the organizers' aim is to promote local cuisine, farms, cheeses etc. so the walk will follow a route where the walkers are welcomed to various pit stops along the route. 13 km doesn't sound that much to me but as my friend pointed out, "you do realize how hilly it is round here don't you"?!!! I mean, we live in the alps so chances are it wasn't going to be flat was it!! Oh well, we will play it by ear and I will report later.

As I mentioned previously, I went on a "Persian cookery course" on Wednesday night and while it was a great improvement over the vegan course I had taken, I was a little disappointed in the dishes we cooked. Oh, the lady demonstrator was great, very dynamic, but somehow the dishes disappointed. I can't help feeling there are much more tasty dishes than that in (in this case Iranian) cuisine!  Still, at least I got to see certain techniques and use a few ingredients I hadn't used before. Sometime ago I bought a beautiful cookery book by British-born Israeli Yotam Ottolenghi, so hopefully I will be able to use a little of the knowledge gained on Wednesday night in some of the wonderful recipes in his book.

And finally, this morning I dropped my youngest and his girlfriend off at the airport as they are spending a long weekend at a friend's in Brussels! Gotta try their wonderful beer, if you go to Brussels. I don't know Brussels much but I understand it is beautiful. I will know more when they get back. So on that note, I wish you all a wonderful weekend and if I don't get back from this walk by 10 p.m. on Sunday please send out a search party!

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Say cheese!

Nathalie's comment on my last post about "save a piece of reblochon for me" got me to thinking about cheese (as you do). This might sound like heresy but I am not a great fan of cheese for some reason. A little is fine but I suspect I might have an intolerance because too much cheese (hard cheese in particular) brings me out in a sweat! Weird right. Chocolate has the same effect so I really do think it might be a slight lactose intolerance. Anyway, that being said, I think my most favourite food in all the world has got to be tartiflette! It is pure, unadulterated stodge that sticks to your ribs and turns the world into an even more beautiful place than it already is.

Traditionally tartiflette is is an alpine dish made to be eaten after many hours hard skiing or, in my case, after a day sitting around on my backside during the winter then looking for a treat to cheer myself up. I did used to ski many moons ago but as I found happy hour starting earlier and earlier when I had to sit around looking after my toddler I kinda gave up. I was never very good anyway - extremely enthusiastic but not an awful lot of control! But tartiflette .... a slice of heaven on earth. Strangely enough, local folklore has it that fondue is a Swiss invention and raclette a French invention, but I understand I might be committing heresy here.

Anyway, tartiflette is traditionally made using a local cheese called reblochon. Very creamy, pretty smelly but delicious.I remember one year deciding to drive to England when my kids were about eight and four (I must be mad - about 1,000 km with two young kids in the car) and I decided to take some reblochon cheese with me so I could make tartiflette for my parents. Despite my best efforts, the car was pretty stinky with the cheese in the back but we made it all the way to the port at Cherbourg, parked the car and I had just got out to stretch my legs when my youngest threw up all over the back seat!!!! I mean, we had, at that point, just driven about 800 km and he waited till we stopped at the port to throw up over the seats! Not even a chance of opening the window or stepping out of the car - no, it all went over the seats. So I cleaned up as best I could but when we pulled onto the ferry he did it again. I can tell you no-one wanted to park next to us, with the smell of sick and cheese everywhere. Luckily I always took a cabin so I was able to hose the kids down but the car .... not so much!

Talking of insanity, when I was on maternity leave with my youngest I again decided "it would be fun" to drive to England to spend some time with my family. My youngest was about six weeks old at the time so we were just starting to get into some kind of routine at night. The oldest was four so I had to make frequent potty stops along the way and to feed the baby. At one point I was in a service station and was a bit stuck. I needed to use the loo and I needed to take the baby with me. Of course I couldn't leave the four-year-old either so I decided I would take him with me into the ladies but started drilling into him that he waited outside the door for me and "no matter what, he was to stay there. And even if the nice man or lady offered him some candy, he was to stay there. I would be less than one minute, but he was to stay there". You get the idea. So just as I was going into the toilet I said "so what do you say if the nice lady offers you some candy to walk away with her?" And he looked at me and said "merci beaucoup?"! I give up! Anyway, I got to pee and nobody kidnapped him so I guess all's well that ends well right, although horror of horrors, on the way back the ringroad around Paris was closed so I had to drive through central Paris with a newborn and a four-year old! You gotta be young, or insane, or both!

As I mentioned before, cheese (and to a lesser extent chocolate) disagrees with me on occasion, sometimes more dramatically than others (if you know what I mean). Anyway, before I married my ex I dated a young man who, at the time, was a medical student. He qualified while we were together and eventually became a surgeon. He asked me to marry him but I refused even though he was adorable and a very decent man, but I just felt that he was too "staid" for me, despite us having spent five very happy years together. Anyway, Karim and I split and I married my ex. When I came back to Geneva, a friend's son had to have emergency surgery on  Easter Sunday and her husband recognized Karim from years before. That set the wheels in motion for him getting in touch with me. We have had lunch a couple of times and agreed to meet up for dinner one evening. He is married and it was all perfectly above board - we are just old friends. So we agreed to meet in my local town and had a really pleasant evening. I ordered tartiflette and guess what - the "unfortunate reaction" kicked in!!! TMI, I know, but I was dropping Karim back at his car when I felt my stomach start to rumble. I knew I then had to show him the way to get back onto the motorway so I dropped him at his car and shot off like a bat out of hell towards the motorway. Considering we had just spent a lovely evening together when I kicked him forcibly out of my car without hardly saying goodbye he must have wondered what the hell had happened😌! I was so stressed that I actually got lost on the back roads (the same back roads I have been driving round for the last 28 years) and only just made it home!! Bloody hell. Still, I think we are good enough friends that I can explain what happened next time I see him - he is a doctor after all!

And finally, my youngest in particular was never a great fan of cheese but as his tastes have changed he has started to develop a liking for it. Not so long ago they drove up to Alsace to see Jen's grandparents (about a six-seven hour drive) and he called me to say that they had introduced him to the greatest cheese - "it's called abondance" - which they make in a place called Abondance, which is about 20 minutes from here!!!! Kids!!

And Nathalie, talking of Les Flottins, I wrote a post about the exhibition in Evian over New Year (see my post dated 4 January). It was beautiful.  Am off to a Persian cookery class tonight organized by Migros (the local equivalent of Wal-Mart). The vegan cookery course we went to wasn't so great but I have high hopes of this one. Will let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

This and that!

My whole little spiel yesterday about people's behaviour on buses was brought about by what was quite a funny incident yesterday morning - and then I forgot to mention it. I think I'm becoming a bit batty but I don't actually mind. Truth be told I'm actually quite enjoying  that side of getting older!

After the chaos of digging up my garden last weekend I spent about four hours on Saturday pressure spraying my terrace to get a year's worth of accumulated muck off it. I don't mind doing this at all as it is so instantly satisfying but, while the weather was beautifully sunny there was quite a strong wind, so standing outside soaking wet all afternoon ended up with my feeling like I had been kicked in the kidneys by the time Sunday rolled around. I knew then that I had better get back to exercising as it instantly relieves the aches and pains and lifts my mood. Anyway, yesterday morning the weather was nice and I made it to the Mont Blanc bridge in good time to be able to hop off the bus and walk the last 30 minutes to work. Just as I was waiting to get off the bus, however, I spotted a woman sitting close to the door - about my age but much heavier set - and noticed a big white label sticking out of her top - she had got her top on inside out. What to do? I guess it's like do you tell a man that his fly is undone or what? Well to be honest, if it was a male colleague I would most likely tell him his zip's slipped but a stranger? So the question was do I tell this lady or not? In the end I decided it was kinder to discreetly let her know.  She was obviously embarrassed - although to be honest it's easily done right - but I was very discreet about it, so it was all the more amazing to me that she promptly turned round, took her top off and put it on the right way - all while sitting on the bus!! Now even I wouldn't have done that as it wasn't so glaringly obvious her top was inside out. Wow! I mean, she did have a kind of thermal undershirt on but all the same to just sit there in your bra and vest .... there's nowt so queer as folk!

Anyway, this morning I again made it to the bridge in time to hop off the bus and start walking to work - only for the heavens to open up and me to have to do a runner up a back street where I ended up catching the same bus a bit further along. The bus has to go round via the train station so by cutting through the back streets I was able to catch the same one - the driver must have thought I had gone nuts though! At least, just walking that short distance allowed me to see how far the park people had come along with their planting already. Beautiful!

And talking of bad backs, it's like the walking wounded here at work right now. The boss of my unit is Danish. He has two young children and this being spring break he and his family went away for a few days. They arrived back from their trip late Monday evening exhausted, all the more so since they had to hang around at the airport because their luggage had got lost. Now lost luggage is not the end of the world but when you have small children in tow it isn't pleasant. I was asking him this morning how things were going and he commented that his mother-in-law had arrived back ahead of them "so that she can spend the rest of the week finishing my sentences".   Eeew, anyone else sense that all's not quite quiet on the western front? Actually I think he is going through a rough time at the moment as the kids seem to have been continually sick, his wife has come down with some kind of virus but has to go into work today (short-term contract) and mother-in-law is in the house to crack the whip!!! Yikes, Not sure living alone is so bad now! Then C, my other colleague who I work most closely with, started walking round clutching his back. He is a runner and particularly in periods of intense stress needs to run to keep his stress levels down. Only thing is he hurt his leg and hasn't been able to run for a while, and now seems to have put his back out - something he again puts down to stress.  Crikey, if it goes on like this much longer I will soon be the "last (wo)man standing" (chocolate being my preferred form of stress relief)!

In other matters, last night I had my regular Monday night sewing club. I am working on two projects - tote bags for my sons' girlfriend/wife - and the one I was working on last night is really intricate. I enjoy all the embroidery/bead work but goodness, I worked for two solid hours last night and only finished a small section of the bag. Talk about over-estimating how much you can get through. Then when I got home my brother (the one who just lost his wife) had left me a phone message. You can see more and more how much his wife used to do because I don't think Phil has ever used an answering machine before. The message was something like "START OF MESSAGE, I've got my euros so am all set for next week. STOP. Looking forward to it. STOP. Will try you again tomorrow. STOP. END OF MESSAGE"! It makes him sound like a resistance fighter in World War II leaving cryptic messages for the Allies in sodding morse code! Aaah, bless him!

And finally, Sunday was the first round of the French elections - which proved interesting to say the least. It ended up with centrist - Macron - going through to the final round with right wing Marine Le Pen. What a weird situation that is. I mean, picture elections in the UK where neither the Conservatives nor the Labour Party made it through to the final round - or in the US where the Republican and Democratic parties were scuppered in the initial stages!!! That's what we are dealing with here in France.  I would have bet against Trump getting in and I would have bet against Brexit so you can see how well my political instincts are honed, so while I would say the right wing Le Pen will never get in - who the heck knows!!!  Of course, the fact that Macron's wife is 25 years older than him has given plenty of fodder to the gutter press. But hey, does anyone remember the uproar about Trump being 100 years older than Melania? No, me neither!  I guess we will just have to wait and see then!

Monday, 24 April 2017

On the buses!

I have mentioned before that I really dislike having someone eating their breakfast or whatever when sitting next to me on the bus. Maybe it's just me - I guess we all have our little niggles right - but I hate the elbows in the ribs and the smell of someone's breakfast all within 10 inches of my nose that early in the morning. I posted previously that there is a chap who gets on and always has his tuna-mayo sandwich followed by a slice of pizza and coffee, so you get a varied array of smells depending on how far along his route we are. Well on Friday the guy sitting next to me seemed to have a bottomless pit for a bag. First the crackers, then the sandwich, then the banana, followed by more crackers then another banana - in the end I had to smile because it just put me in mind of the scene where Mr. Bean is sitting an exam and has the never-ending bag of supplies, or indeed Mary Poppins' bottomless bag (you see, I really am easily amused)! The only thing missing from this banquet was the flip-down table!

Whinging apart, there are worse places than Geneva to be on a bus, as witnessed by the elderly couple on the bus on Friday evening. The gent didn't seem to be completely with it and it was obviously the lady's job to take care of him. Immediately people jumped up and helped him to a seat while the lady was trying to explain to him that she would be getting off at the Museum as she was going to Paulette's but that he must get off at the next stop and make his way home. He seemed a little confused but I have seen them on the bus before and I guess this is the way it rolls for them - it can't be easy for either of them. Anyway, the lady got off and when the gent went to follow her a couple of young men stopped him and explained that "she was going to see Paulette and that he should get off at the next stop", and then took it upon themselves to make sure he got off safely at the right stop, at which point he seemed to get his bearings. Sad really, but at least there were decent people around to take care of him. I make no judgement on the lady (his wife?) leaving him on the bus as I would guess this is their norm, for the time being at least, until one day it won't be!

I also mentioned in a post in January about a young cyclist (she was 27 I think) who had been killed on my bus route having gone underneath the wheels of a truck as it was turning. Her loved ones put up a tribute which still remains, although the dead flowers have now been replaced by candles. What amazed me though is that a cycling helmet had been left amongst the tributes, and three months later it is still there - no-one has taken it! It warms the heart a little, I must say.

In other matters, I had great plans for the Easter weekend, none of which came to fruition because, apart from being woken up at 4.40 a.m. by a telemarketing company, unbeknownst to me my neighbour had set up with his friend to come over with his digger to dig out the ditch which would re-channel the underground springs in the garden. So I was woken up to that unexpected joy at 8 a.m! This is what my back garden looked like over Easter, and where I spent my time humping stones out of the ditch in order for them to lay the piping. Happy days! Still, to be fair, it ended up costing us less than half what our other neighbours paid!

My sister made some smart-arsed comment about how if I really didn't want them to visit in July I should just tell them rather than digging a moat, but I explained that while the ditch was for the underground springs I thought the anti-tank guns out front would suffice to keep them away!

This is the top end of my garden leading down to the neighbours' where the springs would have ended up if I had gone ahead and started without them. I don't have much land (and for that I am thankful) but am lucky enough to have the field behind which is agricultural land so even better. I think I only have about 350 square metres, but frankly that is more than enough. It's sad really but when we first moved in in 1990 the farmer was selling a riding lawnmower and my ex desperately wanted to buy it! I mean, you have a plot of land about as big as three handkerchiefs and he wants a riding lawnmower!!!! And worse still, I would have given in and let him get it if we had had the money, but having just bought a house and paid for a move from Switzerland to France we were broke! How stupid would he (we) have looked on a riding lawnmower having to do a 350-point turn just to turn around and go in the other direction!!! I don't know if it was just because he was used to that kind of thing in the U.S. where people have bigger gardens but really .........????? He also bought a ruddy great roto-tiller to turn over a patch of ground as big as my underwear so we could grow veggies (my 80-year old neighbour just leaned on his shovel and smiled benignly). And then the lawnmower - everyone else's cost maybe €400 and we had to have one that cost €2,000!!  I never did understand but I sure as heck discovered pretty fast why we never had any money! More importantly, he never took care of anything so it really was money down the drain. When he moved back to the States and left me to empty the farmhouse he had rented, he had three strimmers/weed whackers rusting in the garage and he didn't even have a garden of any description! Nothing. He had, I think, four rose bushes at the side of the house, no grass at all, and that was it!  One day, he came to the house and said he needed to borrow the aforementioned expensive lawnmower. When I asked what for he said he "needed it" but I knew he was just going to give it to one of his buddies so I said his buddy could borrow it when he replaced the hedge trimmer he had lent him last time which he then broke and never replaced! Grrrr, those bloody mates drove me nuts - but at least I don't have to deal with them any more.

And on a slightly different note, in connection with a programme on UK TV about people who were living "mortgage free", Jane over at Shoestring Cottage was talking about "saving money" and one of her commentators mentioned the website where you can calculate how much interest you would save by making overpayments on your mortgage. I started overpaying my mortgage three years ago but couldn't be bothered to work out the back details so I input my info as though I was starting overpaying this month and - just wow! According to their calculation table, I would save myself around €72,000 and almost eight years on the mortgage by doing this. When I did a rough estimate of the three years that I didn't take into count I reckon it will be nearer €100,000! Just wow!

And finally, it's a small world isn't it? I follow Anne's blog at New Happenings at the Table. She is based in Alabama and one of the ladies who commented on her blog (Nathalie) put in a mention to me about how, while she lives in Florida, her dad lives just up the road from me in a place called Thônes! Blogging world really is small isn't it!