The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Friday, 1 December 2017

Let it snow!

I woke up this morning to about five inches of snow. Very pretty indeed, but as I've said before I hate driving on the bloody stuff. That being said, I have had the week from hell traffic-wise this week, but this morning - nada! The roads were almost empty compared to usual and I just flew through until I hit the franco/swiss border! There really is no rhyme or reason to it, although I have to say the French do a very good job of maintaining the roads. Not my little village so much. Oh, the plough was round at about 6 a.m. this morning but because of lack of funds they don't salt or grit the roads so we kinda have to "slither" the first couple of hundred metres until we get to the boundary limit with the local town. After that, it's not so bad.

I have mentioned before that I use the park and ride for my commute -  I've been doing it for the last four years because the stress of crossing Geneva in rush-hour traffic just wasn't worth it. I drive to the border where I park and catch the bus across town. I'm lucky actually because this bus takes me door-to-door so if I wedge myself in at the back I don't have to move until I get to work, so I get plenty of reading done. It costs me 1,600 Swiss francs per year (that's about $1,800) for the parking and the all-Geneva bus/train/ferry boat pass, but actually just cutting out crossing Geneva, with all the stops and starts, practically halves my petrol bill, which in turn, almost pays for my bus pass. It's a lot less stressful and I get tons of reading done, so while I hate my commute there are some positives to it.

One of the negatives happened last night though. A young girl got on at the station and sat next to me. When she saw that I was reading in English she asked if I spoke English! Duuuuuhhhh! No I don't speak a word of it, that's why I'm reading in English.  Anyway, I don't mind chatting to anyone but just carry a book in case to fill the 45 minute cross-town bus trip. She was sweet enough and asked where I was from, so I told her England, and then she said she was from Utah! Alarm bells started ringing at this point because I had already been "nabbed" twice before by young Mormon girls and wasn't really in the mood for it. I mean, they have every right to their religion but I also have every right to not be the slightest bit interested. Still I chatted to her but told her straight out I wasn't interested in organized religion and so on, but every time I tried to change the subject she came back to it! From my previous encounters on the bus with young Mormon girls I reckon there must be a "Mormon missionary training school/handbook" and in chapter 2 it must say "give your target, the biggest, widest smile you can muster without ripping your lips"! Seriously, those smiles are very pretty but a bit weird aimed at someone you have never met before! Then, as I say, every single thing I said was brought back round to the Book of Mormon and her religion! I actually thought of asking her if she had watched the rugby match on Saturday just to see how she would bring that back to religion. I could see the cogs moving in her brain just trying to figure out how to do this!

In the 28 years I have lived in France I have never had Mormons knock on my door, but Jehovah's Witnesses yes. It really pisses me off because I figure if I am interested in your religion I know where to find you (one of my neighbour families are JWs and they are lovely so, like I say, I really do know where to find out more if I want it). Thankfully, I have a front door where I can leave the actual door locked and just open the glass centre piece (it's great in the summer because I can leave the door locked but "open" to let a breeze through without anyone being able to get in). That was a good purchase I can tell you. I just tell these people I'm not interested and to be fair they go away. I just wish they would stop door-stepping though because I really don't agree with it. I'm never rude but I have learned to be firm in my old age.

Years ago, when we lived in D.C., my husband answered the door to two young people who garbled something to him (not sure what) and then (of course) the young girl had trouble holding her files/books so the idiot invited them in. Two hours later they were still there discussing religion with him (no idea which religion they were), but after 10 minutes I left him to it, said "you invited them in, you deal with it, I have better things to do"! Anyway, about a month later I saw them walking up to our building again so this time I made a beeline for the door and I was the one who answered it. They said they "came by to say they were heading back to Texas and wanted to let us know", so I just said "have a safe trip"! And then there was silence. One trick to get someone to do something you want them to do is to leave an awkward silence, but I wasn't falling for that so we just stood there in a "face off" until the awkward silence got too much for them. Ha! Anna 1, bible bashers 0!  My ex did have the decency to say "thank God you answered the door this time" because he knew he would fall for it again.

Anyway, with the young girl on the bus I knew what was coming next. Just as she was about to get off the bus she thrust a card into my hand and told me to call her "when I felt God calling". Bloody hell, that'll be a long wait. I had even told her religion isn't a big thing in England for the most part. Basically if you want to see a full church you have to hire rent-a-crowd as people (particularly younger people) are just not into it. As soon as I got off the bus I threw the card in the bin, but I was at least kind enough to rip it up so that no weirdo could get hold of her number and bother her. See, now's that's called being decent!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Man, do I have the sweetest colleague!

I don't know if I mentioned previously, but ever since my ex left (and the kids have moved out) I have taken a vacation during the winter months. It breaks up the winter and is so nice to get away from the cold weather for a bit. It makes the winter all a bit more bearable. Anyway, for 2018 I have decided to go to Costa Rica. I will be travelling with a new (to me) group which comes highly recommended by a friend who has previously travelled with them (Sri Lanka, Iran, China). Anyway, this group flies from London so, having paid the balance on this holiday yesterday and gotten the flight details, today I was looking at flights to London the day before, plus an overnight hotel stay.

Typically, I was whinging to my colleague at how bloody expensive the flights were already. I mean I was looking at 350-400 Swiss francs (around $400). I guess it is because of the ski season, as people have already begun booking. Anyway, C must have been tired of my whinging because he said "let's look at British Airways because I have 10 trillion air miles, some of which I am going to lose anyway, and if it will stop you whinging you can have them". Well, actually he said nothing of the sort (he loves me really) but offered to give me his air miles so that they wouldn't be wasted.  Anyway, after much huffing and puffing we found a flight for the day before to Gatwick (it means I have to get the bus over to Heathrow) and outwards from Heathrow on the return leg, but we were having trouble booking it online. So C gets on the phone and spends ages booking it with the BA rep, telling  him it's a "birthday present for my aunt"!!!!! I should have hit him then! Buuuuut, after he hung up, he said "you're all booked but you're going business class"!  Wow. It's not the business class part (nobody needs to fly business class on such a short flight) but it was the fact that he had thought to do it. It ended up costing me just 100 Swiss francs in fees (just over $100) but when I looked at the round trip flight, business class, it would have cost me 740 Swiss francs (around $750)! Somehow I think I have to forgive him for referring to me as his "aunt" and I sense a nice bottle of wine winging its way to him don't you?

Not much going on here!

I have my big, semi-annual meeting on Monday. All the work has been done, the reports are out (all 500 pages of them) and I am just praying the French and Spanish versions are issued tomorrow, although to be fair our translation section have never let me down yet. So now, nothing much is going on, nor will there be much after the meeting. I much prefer to be busy but I'm sure I can find stuff to be going on with.

Last night it took me two hours to get home! Aaaarrrghhh! Luckily for me, just after I got through the border they had posted a sign to indicate a 6 km tailback (and growing) so I was able to jump off the motorway and take the back roads. Even so, since there is major construction work going on over there, the bloody roads were just one traffic light after another so I pretty much crawled all the way home. And then again this morning, although I have no idea what happened this morning. Last night I could see it was an accident but as for today ... no idea. People say to me why don't you move but (a) the closer you get to Geneva the more expensive it is, (b) I wouldn't get another mortgage at my age anyway, (c) when the CEVA train comes through my local town it will (would - I'll be gone by then) halve the commute time and hence push prices up, and finally (d) my neighbours are great. They really look out for me and being on my own that is priceless, I can tell you. Funnily enough, this morning as I was day-dreaming in the traffic jam, I remembered when we went to the States for Christmas some years ago. When we got back to France, my neighbour had been in and lit a roaring fire to welcome us back. Trouble is, he must have got distracted and left the back veranda door open when he left - the bloody house was actually freezing, although I never told him that. But you see, who would move away from neighbours like that. Then this Saturday night we have our second "neighbours" board game evening. It should be a hoot, judging by the last one at my place, so I'll probably have some funny pictures to share next week!

So more this and that. I am so sick, sick, sick of wearing the clothes I wear for work. I keep putting off buying new because I am determined to lose weight (yeah, right, you've heard that before haven't you?). Don't get me wrong, I am more than presentable but .... Anyway, last night I was looking on the web for clothes to get me through the next few months until I am again sylph like (?) and it was so depressing when they didn't have half the clothes in my size, well not the ones I like anyway. I mean, if you want to look like a circus marquee no problem, but nice clothes, there weren't too many of them in my size. I'm not ginormous by any standards but have a hard time getting something where I can fit both boobs in at the same time. So onwards and upwards, as they say!

And finally, talking of funny pictures, I finally got round to printing wedding pictures for my (ex) mother-in-law. I had promised her them ages ago and had indeed bought photo paper to print the copies on. Trouble is, I buggered up the heavy-duty printer at work doing it - not once, but twice - the printer technicians weren't best pleased I can tell you! I guess I'm off their Christmas card list then. Anyway, as I printed the pictures off finally, I came across this one below. After the meal and as the games started, the two competitors were given instructions to dash out among the guests and come back with, in this case, a tie. Now the young man giving the instructions mumbled a lot and I mis-heard him when it was my turn. My ex, however, has obviously got out of the habit of speaking French so hadn't understood a thing until this rather large, young man ran up to him and "started trying to strangle him". The man on the left is the father of the bride, the man "being strangled" is my ex-husband, and the lady roaring laughing is Jen's mom (my youngest son's girlfriend's mom). The photo just tickled me though so I thought I would share it with you. Oh, and I finally got the photos, plus a letter plus a Christmas card sent off to my mother-in-law (so that's one more thing ticked off my list).


Monday, 27 November 2017

So much wasted time!

I had no plans this weekend so all-in-all it was very quiet and very pleasant. Oh how I love me some weekends like that! Actually, though, I got an awful lot done so I'm feeling pretty pleased right now.  Someone had mentioned to me that one of the local towns had a new shop that had just opened where you could take your own containers rather than having to accept their packaging. I reckon there must be one in Geneva and certainly one in Annecy but I had not heard of anything locally. Of course we have health food shops and organic shops where you can buy some things without packaging but to be able to get everything packaging-free was interesting to me. Admittedly it wasn't very big but it is certainly a start. The lady explained to me that if I wanted to buy, for instance, washing liquid she would need to sell me a specific container (for some reason) but after that I could take it back as many times as I wanted. Everything else was "bring your own container". The selection of goods so far is pretty limited but I'm hoping it will take off, although to be honest I don't see how you could shop for a family in this way. Who knows, like I say, let's hope it takes off (I guess we are only about 30 years behind California in this respect then)!

Other than that, not much going on really. I got to watch some great rugby internationals on Saturday. England won (yaaaay) - and it seems like the England team are on the way back up again. Obviously as the older, more experienced players have retired it takes time for the youngsters to fill their shoes, but they certainly seem to be heading that way. Then after that, Strictly Come Dancing and all I can say is "go Debbie McGee". She is 59 (the same age as me) and it is wonderful to watch her dance (says me who looks like a pregnant heffalump in comparison). I couldn't begin to hazard a guess as to who might win, but to me Debbie certainly stands a good chance. Let's hear it for the older woman!

Debbie and Giovanni
Then on Sunday I thought I should give my brother a call. As I mentioned before, he now has a lady friend, after being on his own for quite some time after the death of his wife. I'm not sure how long they have been together - maybe nine months - but she seems to be doing him the world of good. Anyway, two weeks ago they took themselves off to Rome for five days, but unfortunately, M fell on the first day and injured her shoulder. They ended up in the emergency room at Rome hospital and to say they were less than impressed would be an understatement. They took an x-ray but with the swelling they weren't really able to tell what was wrong, so they just gave her a crepe bandage and told her to go to the pharmacy to buy a sling. She said the nurse's uniform was filthy and when they asked if they could take the x-ray with them they refused.  M was determined that they stay on and apparently they had a good time, within the limitations imposed by her arm. My brother's son picked them up at Liverpool airport and then they caught the train the next day back to North Wales, whereupon M, who was still in pain, went to the little local hospital. Turns out she had broken her shoulder, so they took her into surgery the next day and all is sorted. Thank God for the NHS is how they put it. Buuuuut, get this, since M can't drive she will now be staying with my brother for some time so that he can take care of her. I guess the true test of a new relationship is how you react in times like this isn't it so to hear my brother say "I can get her knickers on but the bra got me beat" says it all don't you think!

Later that afternoon I decided it would be good time to put the last of my garden to bed, put the garden furniture away and cover up what couldn't be moved since they are forecasting snow this week (I'm so glad I already got my snow tyres on). My colleague teases me that I must be attracted to the little fat French man at the local tip as I make "any excuse to go down there on a Saturday" (hence more garden refuse to go next week). I think it could have something to do with me saying how enticing I found his little belly peaking over the top of his trousers, and how the wind softly whistled around the lone tooth in the middle of his upper jaw when he spoke! So now I have a reputation with my colleague ... oh well, if you can't beat em join em. I told C I had visions of me, you know like in American Beauty, with the blond love interest lying there surrounded by rose petals, only it would be me lying in the tip surrounded by grass clippings and compost! Told you I have a wacky sense of humour!


And finally, I was sad to hear of the death of teen idol David Cassidy's last week. Goodness he was only 67 and while he had struggled with drink over the years, the saddest thing was when he admitted he was in the early stages dementia. At 67!!! Good Lord. But even sadder was that on his deathbed, this young man who had it all - the looks, the talent, adulation, money - his daughter said his last words were "so much wasted time"! Now that is tragic!

David Cassidy

Friday, 24 November 2017

If not now .... then when?

I watched a rather funny TED talk by Tim Urban the other day - "Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator". I won't post it here as it is easy enough to look up, but as I say, it was funny, if not exactly earth shattering! I can't say I consider myself a procrastinator (I'll give more thought to that later .....) but I know I work better (a) when I have a lot to do and (b) when I am up against it time-wise. That being said, I tend to anticipate things and get stuff done in advance so no, I guess I'm not a procrastinor!

Anyway, in the TED talk he starts off by saying that people can be divided into the rational thinkers and the "instant gratification monkeys" who procrastinate before getting things done.


Instant gratification monkeys let things slide until the "panic monster" shows up - at which point they know that they had better get their act into gear and produce whatever it was they were supposed to!




Credit to "waitbutwhy.com" for all of the above

Nothing earth-shatteringly new there right? Buuuuuut, afterwards Tim flashed up a simple photo of what looked like a white page covered with 4,680 squares. Nothing more. What if there was no deadline? What if the panic monster didn't scare you into doing whatever it is that you were supposed to do? Those 4,680 squares, he explained, were the number of weeks of life available to a human baby, assuming that baby lived to be 90 (and that's already a pretty big assumption). How many of those squares had you already checked off? How many more would you check off before you (a) lost that weight, (b) stopped smoking, (c) got into shape, (d) got your financial house into order? You see where I'm going with this. Now that was a pretty "ah-ha" moment for me I can tell you (and I don't get many of them). And he was right. What if there is no deadline - you are just going to do something "one day". So with that in mind, I thought I should get my backside back into gear (again) and went to the gym yesterday and have already clocked up 14,000 steps today. If not now, then when (indeed)?

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A sad indictment of Western society!

I happened to catch this video this morning while surfing the internet. I have no idea how old it is and I don't know this guy, but it made me really sad to see so much perfectly edible food going to waste. It's not a dig at America, nor Walmart, because we all know it goes on everywhere. Moreover, I don't blame the poor Walmart employes caught on camera - it's obviously not their decision to throw this stuff away and even they are not allowed to take, or even buy, the food either!



A good while ago I mentioned the wonderful Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's documentary called "Hugh's War on Waste" in which, among other things, he went dumpster diving around the back of one of the major UK supermarkets (can't remember which one) where he and a volunteer from a local soup kitchen were hauling out whatever they could to take back to the soup kitchen to provide food for people in difficult circumstances. Hugh asked the young man if he had ever been arrested and he said "no, but I sat in the back of a police car once", at which point he begged  them to arrest him. The supermarket weren't going for it though, of course, because of all the bad publicity that would engender.

I think subsequently supermarkets began pouring bleach over food in order to make it inedible - how sad is that!  In the video above, if I caught it correctly, they were throwing out what seemed to be whole bins of shampoo and other toiletries. It is just so, so shameful, when half the world doesn't have enough to eat, and even in a wealthy country like America there are people who could use a little help. This guy is right - and again, I say, it isn't a dig at America because it goes on everywhere, it's just that this guy happened to be filming at a Walmart in Ohio. Good on him, is all I can say.

Last year the French enacted a law whereby any store with a surface area of more than 4,000 square metres (I think - I'm just typing this from memory) had to hook up with a local charity/community group in order that food that they were going to throw away be handed over to them rather than having bleach poured over it or going to landfill. It's not a panacea of course, as I recently posted on how low stocks at my local food bank were, but isn't it about time others followed suit. To be throwing away these huge quantities of food when people are going hungry is just appalling. Well done Gary Joe Ahms!


Monday, 6 November 2017

Thrilling!


This weekend was quieter than the last couple of weekends but I don't mind that at all. Sometimes it is good to have a lazy one isn't it. On Friday I resisted the urge to take scissors to my hair, which was sticking out all over the place, and called and got an appointment to get it chopped off on Saturday. I got my usual running around done, plus hair cut and also jammed a good 45 minutes of gardening in (so another trip to the tip this weekend), but otherwise a pretty quiet day.

Then on Sunday two friends and I had tickets to see Belcanto - a tribute to the fabulous Luciano Pavarotti - at the Hotel Kempinski in Geneva and it was wonderful. I have seen many shows over the years but I think this has to be my absolute favourite. I always loved Pavarotti's beautiful voice and this touring group - who are funded by the Pavarotti Foundation - were just so amazing it sent shivers up my spine. I am not an emotional person (stiff upper lip and all that) but at the final song, the male singers started singing and then a screen was lowered with Pavarotti singing to end the song. They had such beautiful voices it would be hard for me to chose my favourite, but one young man who was quite small in stature had the most beautiful, powerful voice imaginable, so I guess he might have been my favourite, but they were all just sensational! Quite a few people were crying at the end (even I was close) and they had three curtain calls before they sang their final encore - which was made all the more sweet by the fact that they took a little girl of about eight or nine and hoisted her up on stage with them, whereupon the first male singer got down on one knee and serenaded her, while holding her hand! And hats off to mom and dad for taking such a little one to such a magical event!





After such a glorious Sunday afternoon, I was so hyped up I went home and made a caramel-apple cheesecake to take to work. Not bad, although not being a fan of apples I don't think I would put them in it next time. Still, it has gone down very well here all the same.

The bise (wind) is blowing today which I kinda love. It makes the lake look like the ocean but of course is bitterly cold, and with the temperatures dropping we should soon have some magnificent (and slippy) sights out my office window, as they are predicting snow this week. Thank goodness I have an appointment to get my snow tyres on on Thurday. Winter draws (drawers?) on, as they say!

This is what the lake looks like today!


And shortly, it will look like this picture, taken just outside my office last year!