The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Friday, 15 December 2017

The Armageddon Cupboard!

Does anyone else have one? Goodness knows why I have one (anymore) but I do and I'm trying to clear/clean that sucker out little by little. I don't think you can blame me though because my parents lived through WWII and the subsequent rationing in the UK, which only ended in 1954. I was born in 1958 so it was still a very real memory for them. In fact, I remember once seeing my mom's old ration card and I so wished I still had it now - for me that would be something to treasure. Anyway, since they had a large family and even if you had tons of money there wasn't, at that point, an awful lot to buy with it, mom and dad always "stock-piled" whatever they could, even when rationing was over and money was less tight. So that's what I grew up with and was subliminally absorbed by me, I suppose. So over the years of getting married and having a family I always had "extras" in the cupboard by the front door. There was also the fact that being in Geneva/France it wasn't always possible (in the early days at  least) to get all the stuff from the UK that I might want to cook with, so I "stockpiled" whenever I went home. Now, of course, it's much easier and I can get pretty much anything I want (though I still have never found peppermint essence but I've got tons of that anyway). So over the years I have been stuffing things into that cupboard on the basis that "you never know when we might run out" and also, truthfully, because I like to cook and have got into the bad habit of thinking I have to have everything available no matter what I feel like cooking. The net result is, of course, that foodstuffs get old, pantry moths appear and I can never remember what I have in there anyway. So over the past however long I have been emptying that sucker out, maybe while standing waiting for the kettle to boil, and cleaning, sorting and pitching what I can. Turns out the pantry moths don't come so much from the food storage (which I am pretty meticulous about, although they can't be avoided with certain products) but the little buggers have actually been nesting in the holes where the screws were put in when assembling the cupboard!!! Et voilà! Since I figured that out I have had every draw out and scrubbed and dug into those cupboards like you wouldn't believe. Still, it has taken a long time doing it bit by bit, but I really must get out of the habit of "stockpiling" now, especially since I am on my own.

Other than that, we had one helluva storm last night. Wind, snow, rain - you name it. I'm just glad I made it home before the worst of it hit as it really sounded like the chimney might come down. Luckily it didn't but crikey, while I love a storm that was a doozie. Then this morning, the traffic simply flew through, I tell you, there is no rhyme nor reason to it. I actually made it early to the parking lot and another lady and I were standing waiting as the bus pulled up, slowed down, and then drove straight past without stopping. We both stood there gawping with our mouths open like venus fly traps. It turns out, since 10 December the Geneva transport authorities have introduced a rule where buses no longer stop unless a passenger on the bus wants to get off (nobody did, apparently), or unless the person waiting for the bus actually flags it down. So we both stood there like lemons and the bus waltzed straight past us! A lesson learned, I can tell you!

On a separate note, we had our divisional Christmas party a couple of hours ago, which they have at lunchtime rather than in the evenings. I left after about three hours but understand they are still partying! Oh to be young again.

Colleagues from Peru, China and Japan


Colleagues from: India, France, Austria, France (x3), Denmark, France ...

The view from the terrace  - over there is where the rich people live - think Sophia Loren et al!
Secret Santa, with colleagues from: Japan, Ireland, Bolivia, France and Guinée!

It is all very pleasant but I must admit I am already tired of eating. You know how you go out to lunch with colleagues so much just before the holidays - and that's without even talking about how much you will eat during the holidays. On Wednesday I was invited out to a Japanese restaurant and while I'm not really a fan of Japanese food, I have to say it was exquisite. I can see why Japanese people are generally not fat. They don't eat huge quantities but what they do eat is beautifully prepared and delicious. Looks like I'll be re-appraising my thoughts on Japanese cuisine!

Talking of "cuisine" though, since I was cleaning again last night I defrosted some homemade lentil soup I had in the freezer. Crikey, it was so think you could cement a brick wall with it. Still, you only have to add water right, and it beats having to cook when I have other (exciting) things planned - like cleaning! Oh, what a life I lead.

Still, I don't lead a bad life at all, considering that I was reading in the newspaper this morning about the Loneliness Initiative that has been taken up in honour of the late MP (Member of Parliament) Jo Cox, who was tragically shot by a man with "mental health issues" (you don't say) a year ago. Jo was very pro the European Union and the lunatic that killed her shouted "Britain first" as he shot her. One of her projects was the Loneliness Initiative wherein since she believed that modern society was being killed from within by loneliness - and she wasn't not wrong there was she - she was trying to do something to fight it! I hope the Initiative really takes off as loneliness has no place in our society.

And finally, years ago when on the west coast of France at a place called Dune de Pilat, I bought a tacky piggy bank made out of a coconut shell. I love that piggy bank so every time I get a five Swiss franc coin (about $6) I throw it in there. When I have 250 Swiss francs I can roll them up and hand them in at the bank. Just two more coins to go then. It's surprising how quickly this "throw away" money adds up though isn't it. What you don't have you don't miss I guess. So on that note, have a lovely weekend everyone - or bon weekend, as they say here!

Dune de Pilat

Thursday, 14 December 2017

This and that!

There's not much going on here at the moment. My big meeting was over at the beginning of the month and now I have time to (leisurely) prepare for my next meeting in March. That basically means getting the five sections of the report ready, edited and off to the translators in plenty of time to allow them to plough through it. Otherwise, it is pretty much winding down with many people already heading off for the holidays.

The weather is pretty weird though. Last Saturday we easily got five inches of snow but with glorious sunshine. After that it bucketed down rain for about four days - which is fine by me as it means the snow stays up in the mountains and the roads in the towns lower down stay clear. It has been like this for the last two weekends actually and again forecast the same for this weekend. It really messes with your body temperature gauge though. I mean, yesterday morning it was -3° when I left home. I almost pulled the door handle off my car trying to open it (I did do that once), and when I tried to roll down my window to badge into the parking lot the window blocked solid. Then today, as I left for work it was +7°, so a difference of 10° overnight. No wonder you don't know what to wear!

For some obscure reason (I've given up trying to figure it out) traffic into work was again dreadful this morning. As I got to about 2 km from the Swiss border traffic stopped completely so when I actually got through the customs about 30 minutes later there must easily have been a good 10-15 km tail back. Then, while I was sitting waiting to get to the park and ride I saw a truck coming alongside me down the hard should but driving the in the wrong direction - down the motorway! It wasn't a works truck or anything like that, but assuming no-one hit him coming up the hard shoulder (they shouldn't do that but they do), I don't know where he thought he was ever going to be able to turn around. I mean, he could maybe make it to the previous exit but there was no way he was going to be able to get off there!!! I can only hope the motorway cops caught up with him!

When I finally made it to the park and ride I thought I had better use the loos there as given my luck goodness only knew how much time it would take to cross Geneva on the bus. As I was trying, without success, to badge myself into the toilets a women came running up to me, hopping about on one leg and almost in tears, she was that desperate to use the bathroom. Well my badge wouldn't work, her badge wouldn't work and another man had no luck either, so she pushed the emergency button and yelled through the intercom for them to "open the bloody door". Whereupon she pushed straight past me and charged into the disabled toilets! Poor thing actually, because I suppose we have all been there and just how embarrassing would it be to pee yourself (or worse) in a situation like that!

Still, the good weather (when we get it) gives us fabulous views of the mountains on the ride in to work.  Geneva is surrounded by the Jura mountains to the north and the alps to the south, with the lake slap bang in the middle (hence all the traffic problems caused by the local geography). Below is a picture of the Jura mountains (I used to live on the "Jura side" when I was single) and the lovely hotel where we spent our one-night honeymoon in 1985. Yep, that was it - one night - and then he had to be back to work the next day.

The Jura

View from our hotel across to the alps - I live on the  "alps side" now!
Hotel La Mainaz
The hotel was lovely, but as you can see it does look like something out of The Shining (I guess I should have known the ex would eventually go mad)!

Anyhoo, last night I finally got round to putting my Christmas tree up. I hate putting the bloody thing up but I have to admit it does look very pretty when it is all done. When my youngest and his gf were living with me I used to leave them to do it but no such luck anymore. Oddly enough I have never minded taking it down. I'm sure there's some Freudian significance to that somewhere!

Oh, and I just read in the news that the French are going to ban mobile phones for children in primary and middle school as from September. It doesn't concern high school students but for the others they will not be allowed to have their phones on them in class (obviously) but nor will they be allowed to take them out and use them during break/lunch. As they have quite rightly said, kids should be out  playing and running around, not glued to a screen all the time! I think it's absolutely right and good luck to them, but I guess we'll see how that works out won't we.

And finally, what can we say about the vote in Alabama except well done Alabama! Finally some people with sense!

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)?