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 "" 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


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!

Friday, 3 November 2017

Acid drops!

I've been frantically busy these last couple of weeks getting huge documents prepared ready for our next big meeting in December. I don't mind at all as I kinda like the satisfaction I get pulling it all together, but that is the reason I haven't posted much nor commented on other people's blogs this past while.

Anyhow, despite that, I did manage to take myself off to a lovely spa here on Lake Geneva last Sunday. For Christmas, my youngest and his girlfriend had given me an entry voucher with "hammam" circuit included and when I realized it was about to expire in November I thought I had better get a move on. I had never been to this spa as it is relatively new but what a lovely time I had. The "public" part was a bit dark for my taste but after the first hour, when I got on the hammam circuit it was much lighter and less crowded. I did the jacuzzi, friction rub room, steam room and then headed off for a 50-minute massage which I decided to treat myself to. Gosh it's been ages since I had a massage and I felt so good afterwards - all soft and wobbly (well "wobblier" really). Not a pretty site in a bikini but ..... And of course, as someone who wasn't brought up in the lap of luxury, a bit of luxury treatment feels like dying and going to heaven.

The view from the rooftop pool over Lake Geneva

And I definitely loved the Moroccan theme inside - the exotic lamps hanging low and the beautiful metal-work tea tables. Think I might look out for something like that for my back terrace in the summer!

As I was saying, I am really busy at the moment and have worked late hours most of the past two weeks. The other night, however, I did get to watch a couple of documentaries that I thought were really interesting.  The first was on the  night of Halloween so I never got to watch the whole thing uninterrupted, but it did give food for thought. It was called something like "Who's spending the UK's billions", and was an investigative documentary into how much money was being paid to consultancy firms in times of austerity to have them show you how to save money!!! Madness right! The one part I did catch was in a small town in Wales where the local council spent millions on a consultancy company to show them how to cut back. At least the lady Councillor had the balls to appear on TV (before storming off in a huff when the interviewer asked her to justify this spending on consultants when people were being laid off).  Another glaring example was a consultancy firm being paid UK£ 60 million (I think that was the figure - as I say running back and forth handing out Halloween candy didn't help) by the NHS (the UK National Health Service) to show them how to save money!!!! The NHS is stretched incredibly thin and deserve better considering the wonderful work they do. When the interviewer pointed out that the £60 million paid to the consultants would have kept two small hospitals functioning for a year, the interviewee squirmed and tried to waffle his way out of it.

Anyway, don't talk to me about "efficiency" consultants. Sorry but I think 99% of it is a crock of shit and they just have their noses in the trough. I mean, how many of us have been on "team building" days out, tearing through the flip charts, and come away with bugger all at the end of it. One lunatic that we had got our boss to have us set up a kind of "chat forum" between us (all 25 of us!!!) so that we could share information we needed for our work. We somehow always managed to share that information at the coffee machine or at the photocopier before - we didn't need to pay some consultant $2,000 a day to come up with that brainwave, all the more since his brainchild lasted about three weeks before we went back to meeting at the coffee machine! And if you remember I talked in a previous post about the psycho boss we had a few years ago - it seems a bit telling that the first consultant we hired after she joined us turned out to be the first referee on said psycho's job application. A case of you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours eh?

The second documentary was called "Saving Lives at Sea" and follows the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) on their call outs. While the RNLI are a charity they refuse government funding as they want to run their organization as they see fit. So all the staff are volunteers and the RNLI is self-funded. I regularly give to charity but have this daydream of winning a largish amount on the lottery and sending them £1 million, as they would be top of my list (I have a list of about five favourite charities). They do an amazing job and are remarkably non-judgmental when they end up having to save idiots from themselves out at sea.

RNLI volunteers!

After the "Mousehole" tragedy of the Penlee Lifeboat in December 1981, where all eight volunteer crewmen drowned, I have a very soft spot for the RNLI. Here's hoping I get the next big win on the lottery then - I don't need much but would have great pleasure giving it away!

And finally, I have just started reading a book by the late comedian Kenneth Williams called Acid Drops. "Acid drops" are what you might call put-downs or pithy little retorts, and Williams was known for them. I wasn't a great fan of his and while the book is ok I feel it is a somewhat contrived collection of snide comments, put-downs and so on.  Of course I guess most people have heard of Churchill's put down of Lady Astor.

Lady Astor - "Mr. Churchill, it would seem to me that you are drunk"!
Churchill - "Madam, I may be drunk but you are ugly and tomorrow I will be sober ...."!

As I said, while it seems somewhat contrived, there are some pretty funny examples in it.  One of the better ones is an incident that happened in 1960 at the United Nations. Apparently the British Prime Minister, Harold McMillan, was talking when Nikita Krushchev erupted in fury at something he had said and started banging his shoe on the table. Without missing a beat, McMillan turned to the interpreters' cabin and said "interpretation please"! A gem!

Thursday, 26 October 2017


For the third time since I took out my mortgage at the age of 53, I have just paid back an extra 10% of the initial sum! Ouch indeed. My poor savings account looks very sad, I can tell you!  Under the terms of my mortgage, the only time I can pay an additional amount is if I pay a minimum of 10% of the initial mortgage (they obviously don't want people doing this), so since I took out a mortgage of 321,000 Swiss francs, that means I have to save up around 33,000 Swiss francs - and it's bloody hard going obviously.

Even though I live in France (think euros), my mortgage is in Swiss francs, since the French banks want to get their hands on that lovely, stable currency! When I first signed on in order to buy my ex out of the house I couldn't put much extra away since my overheads were pretty high and I didn't know what my new "solo" overheads were going to be. Turns out he was one helluva drain (and not only emotionally)! In very short order I was able to knock around 1,000 euros off my monthly bills without noticing any discernible difference in my and my kids standard of living. It's absolutely ridiculous to live the way we (he) lived - I have been so much better off in so many ways since he has been gone. Ha! Anyway, three years ago I was able to pay my first extra 10%, then the following year the same, and now the same again for the third year in a row. I'm a bit miffed in a way because over three years I have "only" paid off an extra 99,000 Swiss francs - not that I'm knocking that of course - but an extra 1,000 Swissies would have put me at 100,000, which kinda has a magic ring to it don't you think. Still, I have been working on the assumption that I will be able to pay off my 17-year mortgage in nine years, but looking at it now it may even work out at around eight years, if I have done my sums right! And that sounds pretty darn good to me. So I am on schedule to pay the whole thing off in under three years and then I can retire. And that sounds even better! So in my depleted state, if anyone can throw me some breadcrumbs and a little gruel it would be gratefully received (just kidding - "let them eat cake" - said Marie-Antoinette never!). I calculated (haphazardly) once that I reckoned it would save me around 40,000 Swissies in interest. Not sure if that's correct - I will probably have to wait until the end to see how much I have saved - but either way I'll take that!

In other news, "ouch" was also the way I felt when I came back from Greece. I was down 7 lbs in weight but when I got back had pretty much put it all back on. Aaaarghh!!!! That Steve was a bloody bad influence, I can tell you. So, it's nose back to the grindstone and on to the serious business (yet again) of trying to shift the blubber. Oh dear! How come I can do it with money but not with the weight? Beats me!

Monday, 23 October 2017

Such fun!

On Saturday I went for my first ever lesson in cake decorating and thoroughly enjoyed myself, although I have to say it is more difficult than it looks. I have to admit I tend to be a bit "slap dash" and kinda think "oh, I've got this" and then find out that really I haven't! I ended up with quite a few holes in the icing because I rolled it too thin but for a first attempt it wasn't bad.

These are the cakes we six ladies decorated - not bad for first efforts are they (mine's the green hat in the middle)!

It was a bit hectic to be honest as I had people coming over on Saturday night so had to dash out and get some shopping in, then race into Geneva for my class, then back and get ready for our "board game evening".  A couple of years ago I had joined the local MJC (community centre, if you like) where they had a board game evening once a month. They said it started at 5 pm so I showed up at 5 on the dot, only to be surrounded by little kids playing tiddly-winks! Apparently the adults show up around 8 pm but nobody thought to let me know! I went a couple of times but as there were already established groups it was kind of difficult to integrate, although the people were nice, of course. Then last year, as we were having our annual neighbourhood clean up I got chatting with Valérie and she said how she would like to join too. Well we went a couple of times but again it was difficult to join in a group that was already used to each other, so rather inspiringly Valérie suggested we do it ourselves in our own homes once a month. So Saturday night was our first "date" at my place and though a couple couldn't make it we ended up being six in the end and had a great time.

I had bought the game "Big Mouth" where you put a kind of "mouth stretcher" in and then have to read words off a card and get your team mates to say them. It was so much fun. I got a great video of Isabelle trying to get her husband to get the phrase but I'll be buggered if I can get it to post. Still, here are a few pictures anyway! A great game if ever you need to liven things up a bit (but watch out for the drool)!


Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Psychopath Next Door .....

.... is the name of a book I read a couple of years ago following the appointment of a new head of HR in the large corporation where I work. I obviously can't go into specifics but to say that she was a ***+***++  ***+***++@@ would probably be an understatement! I am lucky I guess in that I rarely sense office "tensions" and "sensitivities" so they hardly ever bother me, but in this case - good God alive - even I couldn't miss it! The terms "sociopath" and "psychopath" are used interchangeably by many, but for me "psychopath" seems to be the more "depraved", for want of a better word. Of course not all sociopaths are evil nor are they criminal but ....... They say 4% of the population are sociopaths, or 1 in 25, so it seems to me that I must be a bit weird never to have realized I was dealing with one before this "gem" came along. As I read this book she lept off the page to me constantly - it was surreal, to put it mildly!

This woman was such an extreme case that even I couldn't fail to see it. Sociopaths are supposedly lacking in any empathy or remorse, which is why they often make good business managers - they are willing to do whatever it takes in the name of the almighty dollar, and to hell with anyone that gets hurt (as long as it's not them)! It also seems to me that they would make good surgeons and the like (for instance) because I guess no-one wants an "emotional" surgeon operating on them do they? Anyway, the She Devil was totally devoid of any talent or competence but with an opinion of herself that must almost have made her head explode. 10 of us filed a complaint against her whereupon she made our lives very, very difficult while scratching and clawing to save her empty soul. It wasn't just us of course - most people in this corporation hated her and we therefore had tremendous support behind the scenes pushing ahead with our complaint. But the price we paid in terms of our physical and mental health was appalling. It is significant that - as far as we know - she was fired from the last four jobs she held and is more than likely continuing in the same vein given that a leopard never changes its spots!

Since coming across so blatant a psychopath that even I couldn't gloss over, I have been absolutely fascinated by them, to the extent that I have just finished another book by M.E. Thomas (a pseudonym) who is apparently a diagnosed sociopath. If you are interested in this, it is quite an eye-opening read! (I suppose I must have looked like a bit of a nutter on the bus reading this too, come to think of it!)

The main characteristics (in a very small nutshell) are lack of empathy, lack of remorse, an opinion of themselves and their skills which rarely has any correlation to reality, an enormous sense of entitlement ... and the list goes on and on! Of course, just like autism, there is a spectrum and I suppose we are all on that scale to some degree or another, but if you ever have the misfortune to end up dealing with someone like we did, this book is an absolute revelation!

My dad used to call them "the wise boys", with their fancy qualifications who used to fly in to a company, throw everything into upheaval, destroy the staff's health and mental stability while wreaking havoc on the company itself, and then fly off leaving a trail of destruction behind them, all the while chalking up another notch on their CV. So if you ever see the mad witch on her broomstick flying over your house with her long blond hair trailing behind her - run for your lives. She is worse than something you would scrape off the bottom of your shoe and she just ain't worth it!

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Giggling schoolgirls!

There is a free newspaper available here in Geneva every day called "20 Minutes". You can always find a copy on the bus or pick one up at the bus stop. I usually don't bother reading it but this morning I didn't feel like reading my book so I grabbed a copy of the 20 Minutes to read. Ha! In yesterday's post I mentioned that we had visited the local exhibition centre on Sunday for the "Creative Hobbies" fair. Well yesterday, they had a practice drill at said exhibition centre to put police, firemen, first responders etc. through their paces in the event of a terrorist event. Apparently it involved over 700 people, and while I'm sure the "hostages" were all volunteers one chap said what a really weird feeling it was with people hiding wherever they could and some feeding information on the "terrorists" to emergency services on their phones. Uughh, it's the kind of place that wouldn't have many hiding places to be honest, but the thought of getting caught up in something like that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Having watched another episode last night of "Saving Lives at Sea" (the fabulous RNLI volunteers in the UK), I can only say how eternally grateful we should all be to our emergency personnel!

On another note, and still on the bus this morning, there were two sets of schoolgirls who giggled non-stop from the time they got on until they got off about 20 minutes later! I don't knock 'em because I was one of them many, many moons ago. Oh, how I remember sitting with my friend Vanessa at about age 15 and giggling all the way into town. We must have driven people mad but whadda ya wanna do? That's what schoolgirls do!

I remember one time I was going to compete in a swimming gala and Van was coming into town with me to watch. In those days you got a paper ticket before you got on the bus (if I remember right) and occasionally an inspector (we called them "conductors") would get on and check that everyone had a ticket. Well Van and I were giggling away and she would fold her ticket, then bite down on it with her teeth, then fold it again, giggle some more and so on. Eventually a conductor got on and asked for our tickets. I had mine of course, but she looked up at him all horrified and just said "I ate it!" And I confirmed to him that she had indeed done just that! He must have been so baffled he just let her get away with it and didn't charge her for another ticket!

Then another time, I was sitting with Van on the bus coming home from college. We were sitting on the side seats and I had my arm bent at the elbow hanging on to a support pole. Anyway, a man got on and accidentally stood on my foot.  As he leaned over to apologize to me a stream of drool came out of his mouth, went down my sleeve and pooled in the crook of my elbow. I didn't want to say anything in order not to embarrass him but trying not to giggle with her tittering away by my side almost gave me a coronary!

Another time we caught the late night bus from town back home around 11 pm on a Saturday night, I guess. Of course in the UK we have the double deckers and this particular route had a nasty left turn over quite a sharp bump which made the bus really keel over to the right (since we drive on the left in England). We always sat up top at the back on this particular route (being connaisseurs of that left turn) and this particular night a man who was a little bit the worse for wear sat in the seat immediately in front of us. Well he must have dozed off because when we went round that bend he fell right off his seat and landed on his backside in the middle of the aisle! On hearing our stifled guffaws behind him he turned round and glared at us and said "I suppose you think that was bleedin' funny don't you?" All we could do was say "Who me? No, not me, I didn't think that was funny at all, did you Van?" and then try to stifle our giggles for the rest of the way home.

And finally, one day as we were on the bus going to college, Van was sitting nearest the window and I was sitting in the aisle seat. It was fairly crowded but there were still some seats further up the bus. Eventually a man got on and stood right next to me, leaning up against my left side. I didn't say anything but Van tried to shuffle over nearer to the window, so I followed suit. She then tried to shuffle a bit more but obviously there is a limit to how much you can "shuffle over"! She was again trying to stifle her giggles but I had no idea why, until the man got off and she said "he does that all the time, stands right next to a young girl and rubs himself up and down on her arm!!!!!!!" He had already done it to her so she knew what I was feeling (frankly at this point I could almost tell what religion he was). After that we looked out for him and would break into fits of giggles every time he got on the bus. I only hope he knew why we were laughing, is all I can say. Oh happy days .......

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

This and that!

What a glorious weekend that was. Perfect autumn weather and temperatures with just the right mixture of relaxation and getting out and about thrown in.

I have mentioned before that my friends and I frequently go to the theatre to watch what is a very good and very large anglophone drama group. They put on some fabulous stuff and we get to watch plays and musicals that we probably wouldn't otherwise get to see. Simply Theatre is the kids group - ages 18 and under - so when I saw an ad for their latest show - The Magic Toy Shop - my friends and I booked for last Saturday. The show started at 17.30h so we figured it was going to be the younger kids performing, but in fact it turned out to be a simple two-man show, but which was excellent. The main protagonist, "Charlie", went to the magic toy shop as he wanted to be come a wizard's apprentice. The wizard - who conveniently enough was looking for an apprentice (how about that for a coincidence) - decided to set Charlie some tasks to see if he was worthy of becoming his apprentice! It took place on the small stage at the Academy itself and as people walked in Charlie and the Wizard greeted everyone and somehow managed to make a running list of the names of all the "important" people - i.e. the little kids - as they walked in. They called out to the kids by name asking for their help and put on what turned out to be such a great little show. We were the only ones without a little kid with us but it was so, so worth it. All the more so for me as I had a real little giggler sitting next to me and it was a joy to listen to her!

Then on Sunday, our local town held, for the first time, the Foire des Loisirs Créatifs (Creative Hobbies' Fair, I guess). This Fair was usually held in either Lyon or Grenoble but apparently having it in my local town was a roaring success, by all accounts.  Here's hoping it will be repeated. Not exactly a big Fair but good nonetheless. Rather foolishly I bought myself a couple of cross-stitch projects. Goodness knows when I will get time to do those but they were so pretty I just couldn't resist. And, being goody two-shoes, my friend and I decided to walk there and back so got in a 90-minute walk to boot.

In fact, the ladies from my patchwork group were exhibiting some of their work there also and it really was very impressive!

On a totally different subject, a colleague hopped on the same bus to work as me this morning and we got chatting, as you do. Her mom and dad are over from England for three weeks and she was telling me that the neighbours' kids (aged about 7 or 8 I think) asked if they could "borrow" dad to take him to school for show and tell! Dad went along very happily, said there were some "bright little buttons" in those classes and was delighted to be prize exhibit no. 1 as the "funny little foreign man". I told her she should have sent her mom in too as her mom is German, but they thought  "one funny little foreigner" was probably enough for one day. He was really tickled when the kids asked if we had wild animals in England - he should have said yes, lions and tigers and bears, oh my! But I thought it was great that he went along with it all so willingly.

Which got me to thinking ..... year ago, my husband's nephew mailed to us here in France a "flat Stanley" (only this guy was "flat Justin" - for obvious reasons). For those that don't know, flat Justin was a school project that the kids sent wherever they could to friends and family all over to see how far he could travel in the given length of time. In our case flat Justin was about 4 feet tall and folded up nicely into an envelope to make his travel plans easier. We took flat Justin down to our favourite local restaurant and got the owners and kitchen staff to pose, somewhat emabarrasingly, for a photo with flat Justin before he was sent back to his home in Pittsburgh. Aaah, the things you do for kids eh!

Flat Justin

Friday, 13 October 2017

Literally speaking

.... otherwise known as "say what you mean"!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I flew out to Greece to meet up with Steve, a friend I met in Peru almost five years ago. We have remained in touch (albeit sporadically) over the years with him coming out to Geneva to visit me for a weekend a couple of years ago, and then again over Christmas 2016. The weather cooperated on that last trip and we had a good laugh together, I guess because we have a similar, very silly sense of humour!

I remember one day as we were driving somewhere Steve mentioned that he would shortly be visiting a friend who had a lovely house called The Round House "because it's round"! Bearing in mind we really didn't know each other that well I suppose it just isn't done to look at someone and say "ya don't say" (meaning "you pillock"!). I just laughed and he realized what he had said. Then when we were in Greece last week, he got talking to a couple in the lovely restaurant I mentioned in my previous post. He was telling them about a place we had "discovered" (another restaurant I think), and it would be easy for them to find "because the walls are white"! Again, I'm thinking "you pillock". What I actually said was "we're in Greece, all the walls are white"! At which point the lady he was speaking to burst out laughing!

I suppose I could be accused of being a bit "literal" myself too though, because I remember giving  one of my recipes to a colleague and saying "first open the packet"!!!! (If you are interested, I mix raw potato cubes with oil and a packet of dried onion soup mix. In the oven for about 45 minutes and "bingo" you have lovely oniony-tasting potatoes). Anyway, I digress, but somehow I don't think it was necessary to tell her to "first open the packet"!

Listening to Steve and his brother talk in Greece I think I know where he gets his "literal" thinking from - it seems it's genetic! Their dad was Polish and had fought in the Free Polish Army during WW2.  After the war he was given the choice of going back to Poland, or emigrating to either Canada or Britain. He chose Britain, where he met his future wife and the rest, as they say, is history!

Anyway, they were both laughing at how dad used to make his sandwiches for his lunch - how he would carefully spread whatever he was having on them to all four corners of the perfectly aligned sliced bread leaving nary an inch of bread uncovered.  Well one day, having bought a pair of shoes which were marked "waterproof", dad decided to find out if that was really true.  So he took a washing up bowl, filled it with water, put his shoes in and carefully weighted each shoe down with a can of baked beans - and then left them there to see if they really were "waterproof"!  I thought this was hilarious and asked if I could put it on my blog - to which the response was "of course".  So, in tribute to Marian W - also known as Charlie the Weaver (I guess we Brits couldn't get our heads around the name "Marian" for a man), I give you the saga of the waterproof shoes!

Marian W ,,,

... otherwise known as Charlie the Weaver!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Now what have I let myself in for!!

I got back off holiday late on Sunday night. Monday was back to work and Monday night was the "annual general meeting" of our patchwork club. It's funny really because the other sewing club I go to on Monday nights (I alternate) is pretty much tea and a natter - oh and you can bring a bit of sewing along if you want. But this one is much more serious. The lady president takes her job very seriously and in fairness does an excellent job. Now I had had about five hours sleep in the last 48 hours and really did not want to go but ... I also don't think it's right to just not show up to these things. Anyway, Marie droned on and on (in my exhausted opinion) about the different projects they would tackle during the year, plans for the club's 20th anniversary, the date for the Christmas dinner and so on. Also (and this is where she is so dynamic) she was sounding out the ladies' opinions on which kinds of techniques to develop over the year and any courses they would like to invite guest presenters to give. I am very much a beginner and haven't heard of half of these techniques and since 95% of this stuff takes place during the day when I am at work, as you can imagine I was starting to nod off. Then, towards the end, Marie pulled a rabbit out of her hat and, holding up a leaflet, asked what the ladies thought about maybe attending the annual quilting exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, England next year!

At that I stopped snoring and just gave a little laugh. When she asked why I laughed I told her that I grew up 20 minutes from the NEC and knew the place like the back of my hand. In fact, I had considered attending this exhibition this August but didn't get my act together in time to book flights. The NEC is a huge exhibition centre built right next to Birmingham airport and the quilting exhibition is apparently the biggest in Europe, hosting (I think) over 300 exhibitors and with 700 quilts being presented in competition last year!

So on a very preliminary show of hands around eight people said they might be interested, particularly now that "we have someone who speaks English going with us and who knows the area"! My mind immediately went into a mixture of panic and delirium, thinking "oh we could go to Stratford or Warwick Castle or to the Cotswolds" and so on and then I was hit with the thought of dragging 10 elderly French ladies round a massive conference centre and on an off the planes etc. ("Do we have to get pounds? How much is that in 'real' money? Ooooh isn't it scary driving on the left!" and so on). I tell you, I was so dog tired when I got home but still I couldn't sleep - I was having dreams of being chased round the NEC by elderly French ladies with zimmer frames.  Then of course I was dumb enough to mention that Birmingham had a massive "rag" market that was only 30 minutes away by train. Looking it up it has over 350 stalls (not all fabric stalls) but an absolute treasure trove of a market, so again my dreams switched to nightmares of losing an old biddy somewhere in central Birmingham!

My mind has calmed down a bit now, probably due to a decent night's sleep, but it could prove an interesting weekend if we manage to pin numbers/flights/hotel rooms down properly.  We'll see!

One of the many, many halls at the NEC

Birmingham rag market - in the Bullring
On a totally different subject, Tuesday night is the night our local food bank is open to its customers, so Tuesday is the night I take down my donations whenever I have a full crate of goods to donate. The door opens at 7 pm so I make sure to go around 8.30 pm in order not to embarrass any recipients (I have recognized a few people on occasion). When I got there last night the lady looked at me and said how great it was to see me because "take a look at our empty shelves"! I knew from last year that around this period their shelves really empty out as they are only allowed to collect donations outside supermarkets once a year at the end of October. There really was hardly anything left at all! The one older gent explained that they had collected less than expected last year and that there had been more and more demand so they were really hurting at this point to the point that the ladies had had to go out and spend some of the centre's financial donations in order to buy groceries. I was thinking maybe €500 or something like that but no, they spent €100 because they really had to try to eke out their finances!!!! Going down to the food bank always makes me eternally grateful to be in the financial situation that I am, but having just got back off holiday in Greece and to already be thinking about maybe going to Birmingham for what will be an expensive weekend at the NEC, really put into context exactly how lucky I and so many of us are! I make no apologies for my situation, but I sure am grateful for it!

Monday, 9 October 2017

And so it's back to work I go ......

Well that went quickly! Crikey! Still, even though time flew by it was a lovely, restful few days - well that is until I spent all those hours flying back! I mean, what kind of idiot flies west to the UK in order to fly back east to Greece? Me I guess. Problem is, in order to get into the same hotel as Steve I had to fly out of the UK so I ended up spending two nights in London before and after my trip. We'll have to re-think that next time, I think.

Still, it was lovely. I have always liked Greece but being able to go at the end of the summer season is wonderful. Nowhere near as hot as it can get in July and August and no crowds! What's not to like. The hotel was ok although had I been on my own I would not have chosen self-catering. But in the end, that was fine too and although I had no intention of "self-catering" anything, not having meals included in the deal meant that we avoided the breakfast, lunch and dinner crush in a buffet-style hotel.  Steve and I stayed on Pefkos Beach in one hotel and his brother and his wife a little further down the road. They were a lovely couple and while we didn't spend our days with them we went out with them a couple of times for dinner and/or drinks (and while both the men wanted to watch the rugby league final towards the end of our stay since I like rugby too that wasn't a problem). The other thing is his brother and wife were both sun birds and spent most days by the pool, while Steve and I dashed from cover to cover trying to stay out of the sun. I suppose in the end, we just did what they did all day except we did it in the shade.

We decided to avoid organized day trips because Rhodes really isn't very big and you can get around on the local buses anyway. I think the organized trip to Lindos was something like €40 and we paid €6 each on the local bus (a 15 minute trip). And oh how lovely Lindos was.

It's not very big at all but has streets like rabbit warrens full of lovely touristy shops. Add in some lovely spice smells and you could be in the souk in Marrakech! I bought a few table cloths/runners while I was there to brighten up my house. I'm sure Steve was thrilled being dragged round all the shops but being the good sport that he is he just kept nodding his head diligently and saying "that's nice". Aaah, love him!

We stumbled across a lovely little restaurant which really drew me because of all the greenery inside and it was a gem. There were only three couples in there (all Brits) and we quickly got chatting to the one couple. They were, I guess, in their 70s and I suspect the man was a widower as he had a ring on his wedding finger.  They explained that they were a couple - with him living in Edinburgh and her living in Brighton and they flew up and down the country regularly to meet up, and then shooting off to (usually) Greece or Spain when the fancy took them. The background music was lovely and at one point the man took her hand and waltzed her gently round the restaurant. It really was sweet to behold!

The owner spent much time chatting with all three couples and when we had finished our lovely main course, he came over with complementary cheese cake for us, followed by limoncello, followed by a shot of something else ..... Steve couldn't believe how friendly they were. In fact, we found everyone to be friendly and hard-working, but you certainly got an earful about "those b"""stards in government" if you had the inclination to listen (we did).

Our regular waiter at the hotel told us that 64% of the population had voted not to accept the bail out plan proposed by the European Union so "what did that jerk of a Prime Minister do? He double-crossed us! At least in the UK you had a vote on Brexit and went with it - that's what democracy is all about!" That was pretty much the sentiment we got from other Greeks too. Our waiter told us that out of season he worked on a small fishing boat with a licence to sell his catch in Lindos twice a week, but the cost of that licence had gone up from €700 last year to €1,800 this year with nothing in return. He worked extremely long days and said that while he was still a young man he could do it, but he was worried about what would happen later. Again, this sentiment was repeated by anyone we spoke to. There was also much resentment that the islands brought in tourist revenue which went straight back to Athens and none of it was reinvested on the islands!

Anyway, back to the plot. We spent a couple of days at the hotel reading (or yacking really - we could both yack for England) and then decided to catch another local bus to visit the old town of Rhodes. We spent a couple of very pleasant hours having lunch in the shade of a wonderful old tree before visiting the old town (more shopping for me, more bag-carrying for Steve).

Rhodes' old town
Then on my final night, dinner with Steve's family (the food was invariably good) and back to dear old Blighty for my flight back to Geneva next day.

Dinner on the last night
The weather in Geneva is glorious, but after the temperatures in Greece I feel like I need my long-johns on! And 6 a.m. sure comes early when you have to get up to go to work .....

Friday, 29 September 2017

When did England become so efficient?

I apologize in advance for any fat fingered typing on my iPad but I am ensconced in my room at London airport ahead of my flight tomorrow to Greece.

Everything went so smoothly getting to Geneva today for my flight except .... I planned to park at work for free then catch the bus to the airport. I had looked up the bus timetable and planned it with Swiss precision until I was almost at work when the pillock in front of me slammed his brakes on to get a parking place. Thank god I didn't hit him - but then he changed his mind, pulled out and turned up towards our underground staff parking lot. Pulled into the entrance and then obviously realized it was private parking and 10 cars had to reverse back up the ramp to let him out. I know it could happen to anyone but the net result was that I made it out of the parking lot just in time to see the exhaust smoke of my bus as it pulled out and left. I think I said something like "oh dear" (or words to that effect) and had to wait in the glaring sun for another 30 minutes for the next bus. I can't stay mad for long thankfully and tend to be so clinically early that it wasn't a problem really and I was at the airport in good time. I guess it has now become one of my holiday treats to have a wonderfully fresh shrimp and salmon salad while waiting for the flight to be called. Wonderfully tasty but by gosh you almost have to sell a kidney to pay for it. Still, like I said, just consider it part of the holiday I say.

While we were waiting to board a couple behind me asked their young son - who was, I would guess, about six - where his jacket was. Of course the answer was "errrr I don't know"! Long and short of it was the lad had lost two jackets in two days. Dad gave him a "stern talking to about taking responsibilty" but mom frankly went ballistic. I know it's frustrating but I had one of those kids and I think at that age you just have to watch 'em like a hawk. I understand her frustration but in the end what can you do except stop at the lost and found on the way back. As I say, I'm laid back but in the end they grow up and either deal with their own lack of responsibilty (it's called growing up) or ya marry em off to someone who'll take over where you left off! That's what I did (just kidding Lily)!

Getting through passport control to leave Geneva now takes longer because Schengen states are being more thorough but the flight was perfect and passport control in London just made me realize I was chez moi or "home" again. Crowds of people were flooding to the passport controls and there were people there to direct you if you had non-EU passports, non-electronic passports or e-passports. A couple of French people came through the passport lane with just their French ID cards and were very efficiently whisked off to another lane. Then there was the chap guiding people into the correct lanes but admonishing people to "stop smiling cos your holidays are over and it's back to work on Monday"! It was, as I say, very efficient and very good natured and I had forgotten how charming that could be when dealing with masses of people.  To top it all off my bag was first off the carousel so I would guess I was done and dusted in all of 10 minutes!

Just a 400 metre walk and I was at my hotel and I would say I was checked in in under five minutes. I've just had a rather good dinner and off to my room to read. But my original point was, I would say 80 per cent of the workers at the hotel are Eastern European and they hustle (as do the Brits here but they are in the minority)! So I just hope the powers that be negotiatiating Brexit realize this (they will) and how much the hotel and agriculture industry rely on them. Of course I'm not a disinterested party either being a Brit living in France - I don't think the egghead negotiators can afford to get this wrong! I pray I'm right.

Anyway I'm looking forward to what must be my idea of heaven that is a full English breakfast tomorrow and probably another exorbitant shrimp salad while waiting for my flight out of London! Oh my poor diet - looks like it just got shot to pieces!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

6 lbs down!

Of course, if I'd gone with yesterday's reading I would be 7 lbs down, but ..... oh well. Not that I'm complaining of course but I still feel I have a few more pounds to lose before I actually believe it, because of all the fluctuations my body seems to go through. I was so, so good last week and exercised like crazy (wasn't bad with the food either) and while I don't think exercise really makes you lose weight (unless you are really exercising, not just piddling about like I do), every time I exercise my stomach goes down as I just seem to lose the bloat immediately. Oddly enough I am looking forward to getting back to it - how weird is that!

Still, that will have to wait until I'm back off holiday on 9th October, 'cos guess which lucky beggar is off to Pefkos (Rhodes)? Yay me! I'll probably not be able to post much while I'm away (you know, fat fingers on a skinny iPad and all that) but I'm sure I'll have plenty of gossip when I get back.

Aaaaannnnd the weather is supposed to be good over there too, so what with that and all the lovely food I'm not exactly expecting to come back sylphlike! I have always loved travelling and while I certainly do travel I feel I don't do enough of it, particularly now that I am footloose and fancy free. For example, my (now retired) boss and his wife have invited me to stay with them in Edinburgh! They have a beautiful place and would happily show me around, so why haven't I done it yet? I think I'll take them up on it next spring if I can. I don't care about the weather (being used to the rain) so any good weather I might get would only be a plus.  We'll see.

Oh, and I just had to mention a lovely interview I saw with Mel Brooks yesterday. He is currently in London for the opening of his new production of the "Young Frankenstein".  It stars (amongst others) Ross Noble who bears an uncanny resemblance to Marty Feldmann and is a comedian I really enjoy. The stars of the show were bantering back and forth with Mel and it was a delight to watch, all the more so since he is 91 and still as funny as ever and sharp as a tack. I have always enjoyed his madcap humour so if the show takes off (which I think it will) maybe I will try to fit in a flying visit to London just to catch it.  Anyway, as I said, things will probably be quiet from me for a short while so until next time .....

Thursday, 21 September 2017

How to stay young

..... is the title of a BBC series I came across last week. The second episode was last night and I have to say it was pretty interesting. It had nothing to do with miracle creams and liposuction and so on, but was an interesting experiment aimed at the "hidden" dangers within our bodies and courses of action to do something about it.

Each programme follows the story of three volunteers, mostly in their 40s and 50s from what I can see, who agree to follow a 12-week programme devised to tackle problems that are causing them to have bodies which are biologically older than their actual age - which I guess could probably include most of us, unless we are ultra-fit and healthy. Well it definitely includes me! They start off putting the volunteers through a series of tests to assess their percentage body fat, their strength, their blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and so on, and then based on statistics for others the same age, the "guinea pigs" were shown the difference between their actual birth ages and their body's biological age. As you can imagine, if they had agreed to participate in this experiment it was because all these people had "issues", but to be honest, not obviously so. One lady was 57 and very slim and so was shocked when her percentage body fat showed up as 48% (I think the maximum should be no higher than 25%). She admitted she was lazy - for instance she said she would drive to the nearest shop which was "minutes away", and indeed when the presenter asked her to walk with him to the shop and timed it it turned out it was 1 minute and 20 seconds away on foot!  According to the strength tests she was in the 3 percentile for muscle strength - that is to say, weaker than 97 other people her age out of a hundred - and her biological age indicator showed her to have the body of a 75 year old!

Another man was 51 and obviously overweight - although again, not excessively so. He was a chef but said that chefs often don't have the time to eat properly so he spent his time picking at fries, eating pies - and also admitted he loved his beer. His biological age worked out to 90 - again another shocker. So the three guinea pigs were put on a 12-week programme to address their various issues - one lady had depression, another had sleep problems - none of it was about losing weight for the sake of it. Many of the techniques used in the programme were of course similar - walking for an hour a day would probably never do anyone any harm would it! And at the end of the 12 weeks they revisted all the tests they had done and in every case, their baseline figures had improved. All that in 12 weeks! It was very motivating, I can tell you, and they all looked to have gotten some "ooomph" back. Of course most of them also lost weight but they never announced what their weight loss was because that was not what they were focusing on. If you think a 51 year old with a 90 year old body was shocking, apparently next week they will showcase "the worst age gap" they have had on the programme, so that should be interesting.

I hate to think where I would be on that scale - it would be interesting to find out though. On that note, I have done well so far this week with exercise (five times since Monday). My fitbit already confirmed that I am pretty sedentary, averaging only around 6,000-7,000 steps a day if I don't do any extra exercise. If I want to make it to the 10,000 recommended steps it means I have to add in at least an hour of walking per day - which in my case means lunchtimes, because I'm not getting up any earlier to fit in extra exercise (and in any case I am not a morning person) and lunchtime is the easiest time for me. Anyway, so far so good, and if nothing else I am already enjoying it.  I'm looking forward to next week's programme in any case.

On another note, I have been a busy little bee in the kitchen lately. I made pumpkin soup, ham and split pea soup and Dorset apple cake this weekend. On top of that, since Sunday's vide-grenier was a bit of a wash-out my neighbours brought round some of the rather nice looking sausages that were left over from the BBQ stall. So last night I threw together what I am laughingly calling my version of "cassoulet", using the sausages and a few odds and sods I had hanging around. Threw it all into the slow cooker this morning and we will see what it tastes like tonight, 12 hours later. I suspect the person who "invented" cassoulet will be spinning in his grave though!