The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Internet dating - la suite

The scammers!  Ahh the scammers. As I wrote yesterday, I have to admit that my brief foray into internet dating was pretty positive.  That of course, was after the contact I had with the scammers. Nevertheless, while they were indeed scammers, their tricks were so pathetic they actually succeeded in giving me a good belly laugh!

Before I joined up on the Swiss site, I had been persuaded to try out an international site (you see it advertised on the TV all the time).  They were going to give me a free trial period.  So I put in my details, and a very brief profile.  I wasn't really that interested anyway so my profile on this site was probably about two lines long. Of course the site asks for your date of birth so without actually giving away your birthday it is possible for other members to know your age.

Well I would say within 10 minutes of uploading my free profile I was contacted by "General Mike Whadyamacallit", US military.  And wouldn't you know, he was the same age as me and a pretty good looking guy in his military fatigues. Yep he even posted a photo. Turns out he was a widower with a 17-year old son and would be retiring from the military in 18 months time. Perfect if you think about it. Same age as me - check. Widower - so no ex-wife to worry about- check. 17-year-old son - soon be off his hands - check. And soon to be retiring - perfect for him to be able to travel freely and meet up with the woman who was shortly to become the love of his life (that's me by the way, in case you hadn't guessed) - double check.

Anyway, we messaged back and forth for a little while and he asked me a bit about my background. I gave him the short, cleaned-up version (i.e. no bad language about my ex) and then I asked what his story was.  Well I tell you, quicker than you could say KAZINGAA, he shot back 3 pages giving his complete life story.  In fact I'm surprised my computer didn't crash with the size of the file. Born, blahhhhdy-blah, raised blahhhhdy-blah, studied - blahhhdy-blah.  Graduated from West Point in 1966.  Saw active service in blahhhdy-blah and so on. You get the gist.  You name it, this guy had done it all.  BUUUUUT one thing jumped out at me.  I was 51 at this time and he claimed to be the same age, but something about his profile didn't fit.

Anyway, "Mike" and I chatted politely back and forth for a little while more when he said that much as he would love to, he wouldn't be able to speak on the phone for some time as he was currently serving in Afghanistan so they were restricted, for obvious security reasons.  Same for skype. Security issues.  So at that point he was going to have to love me and leave me as he had to get back out into the field to "speak to his boys"!  But, he couldn't wait until the next evening when he would get to chat to me again.

So before I logged off I just said "Hey Mike, wait a minute.  It has been so exciting to meet you but I just wanted to ask you one thing."  "Sure anything, go ahead honey."  "You said you were the same age as me right - 51?" "Yep" came back the reply. "So born in 1958 then?" "Yep".  "Hey, please, please don't hang up just yet I need to ask you something.  I am so looking forward to our chat tomorrow, but it's just that - well you know - I mean, it is just that I am so excited to be chatting to someone who graduated from West Point at the age of 8!!!!!!

And before I could say "now holdyacottonpickinsocksthere Jehosafat", the jerk's profile page went KERPING!!!! and disappeared in about 10 seconds flat. And you know, the next night I had pretty much the same contact from "Lieutenant Todd Thingemebob" - US military.  I told him not to waste his time as I didn't get out of bed for anything less than a 5-star general (or should that be into bed? -  not sure).

Needless to say I reported these two email addresses back to the abuse lines at their relevant email sites.  Of course they will be up and running with a new ID and other fake photos lifted off the internet in about 20 minutes so I hope others are careful.  But hey, I wonder what the weather is really like in Nigeria at the moment!

Courtesy of

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Internet dating

Ha, what fun that is!  When my husband left me in January 2010, the first reaction was RELIEF.  It was so wonderful to have peace, quiet and calm in the house - no more yelling and screaming and throwing punches.  The thought of wanting to be with anyone ever again never crossed my mind. A few months later I still felt pretty much the same, but some of my girlfriends started egging me on to give internet dating a try.  What the f......!  I had been married 26 years by the time we divorced and we had met the "old fashioned way", so what the heck did I know about internet dating.  Anyway, after a lot of nagging I thought I would give it a shot.

There is a pretty good site here in Switzerland (naming no names) so I took a look on that, and to be honest I didn't know whether to laugh or throw myself straight in the lake. I mean, all those people who are "romantic, sensual, liking long walks on the beach". What the hell! I am none of those things, nor do I know anyone who is.  So I thought, in for a penny, in for a pound, and drew up a non-photo profile.  Something along the lines of "fat, 50 and menopausal, couldn't care less how much you earn, not interested in your car, can build my own white picket fence thank you very much, and if you really want to know what I like best in bed, it is complete control of the TV remote and a cheese and pickle sandwich"!  (The reference to what I like in bed was after a complete weirdo contacted me asking if he could lick my feet while I was wearing high heels - at first I thought he was joking and then realized that this nutter was for real!!!!  Turns out I'm a "lying, frigid b*tch" - well whaddya know!)  I also did not put a photo because I had actually recognized a couple of work colleagues on the site!!!! and reading their profiles was, I thought, waaaaay too intimate.  But guess what, I had so many replies from men who loved my profile, it was unbelievable, thereby I believe, giving lie to the fact that men also feel they cannot just be "normal men" - but have to pretend to be some Brad Pitt lookalike.

Courtesy Catfish and Online Dating

So I agreed to meet up with (in total) around 7 men, I think, for a drink somewhere public and, with 2 exceptions, they were really good company.  The 2 exceptions were (1) a very nice chappy who I couldn't understand in any language (he was Turkish) and (2) another Turk who frankly was on the wrong site - I mean, it was immediately "so shall we go to your place or mine?"  I told him wherever he wanted to go sling his hook.  I ended up having dinner twice with a charming Italian called Massimo, but there wasn't much spark there and frankly his ashtray breath was more than I could take, and then met up with a Panamanian/Swiss who remains a close friend to this day and briefly dated a Spanish lawyer who was an experience in itself, and with whom I also still remain in touch.

Turns out the Spanish guy was a high-powered lawyer - the chief lawyer for a big multi-national in Switzerland with a penthouse overlooking the lake.  Some of my friends were pig sick that I had struck it "so lucky" to meet a guy like this but hey, he invited me out, not the other way round.  After a few dates he asked me if I would be his date at his company's annual black tie dinner (f......k!!!!). What the hell would someone like me wear to something like that - I mean, these women were dripping in jewels and designer clothes.  I suppose on the positive side, no-one else would be wearing a dress from H&M with plastic earrings from the kiddies shop in town - but I digress.  So I said ok, when would it be and when should I come over?  He said, oh not till May, and don't worry about driving here, it's in Monte Carlo for the Grand Prix (double f.....k!!!).  So I asked how would we be getting there - and you've got it - corporate jet!  Oh man, I felt soooooooooooooo sick.  I mean, what the hell?  I don't think I slept for about a month worrying about it.  It turned out in the end that he had to travel to Japan for an urgent meeting so he had to cancel.  To say my relief was palpable would be an understatement, but I didn't get off the loo for about a week.

Dating him was actually great fun - he was so full of testosterone that it was a hoot (for a while).  I wasn't intimidated by him or his money, which I think is why we remain friends. But bloody hell. What an episode.  Eventually I deleted my profile from the site when a colleague of long-standing asked me out (and we have been seeing each other ever since, but do not, nor will we ever, live together).  We are just like a very comfortable pair of old slippers, happy in each other's company but leading our own lives totally independently.

That being said, I have to say that my one-and-only experience of internet dating was a positive one. It's not for me and there were a couple of scammers (to be written about in "internet dating bis") but all-in-all I have to say that there really are some nice men out there - they're not all flesh-eating monsters and many/most of them just want a bit of company the same as we women do.  Just be sure to pick the right site.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Should I be feeling smug - or just old?

Not sure whether to feel smugly superior - or just old!  Some years ago a few colleagues and I were in the habit of going over to a nearby hotel for lunch.  One or the other of us would call ahead and make reservations since the hotel food was pretty good and it was usually full at lunch time.  Anyway, one day my friend Maggie called the hotel to reserve.  The conversation with the receptionist went like this:

Maggie:  "Hallo, I would like to reserve a table for four at one o'clock today please".

Receptionist:  "Certainly madam, what name shall I put?"

Maggie:  "Kennedy, like the President."

Receptionist:  "Which one?"

Maggie (stunned):  "Reagan!"

We all cracked up when she told us.  I think it was actually just a bit of a slip on the girl's part - surely everyone knows of JFK ...... or maybe not.  Man did we feel old!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Embarrassing or what?

A few years ago I went home to England for a few days to see my family.  It was towards the end of September so the Hallowe'en decorations were already in the shops.  I LOVE all the ghouls and ghosts but here in France it hasn't really caught on that much - I'm not sure that I really want it to anyway because it would feel like a "fake" celebration (I mean, I know it's a "fake" celebration, I just mean as opposed to one I grew up with).  As I was walking round the big supermarket with my sister we could hear screams coming from over at the Hallowe'en aisle.  When we checked it out I have to admit I was in little piggy heaven - I love that stuff and it was so cheap.  Anyway, since I was going to be flying back home and not having a bottomless suitcase, I decided I had to restrain myself and only buy one "ghoul in a coffin" to bring back to France.

When you walk past it, the ghoul leaps out of the coffin and screams really loudly - I just loved it!

It was at the height of one of the more tense anti-terrorist periods so, being smart (or so I thought) I decided to take the batteries out of the ghoul and pack them separately.  The only thing was, the screw holding the batteries in place was really tiny and nothing I could do would get that damn thing out.  My sister, very helpfully (not), suggested wrapping the ghoul very tightly in my clothes before putting it in my suitcase assuring me that "that should stop it from screaming".  Yeah right!

I then drove the 2 1/2 hours back to London to drop off my rental car and catch the plane.  But OH MY GOD, as soon as I put my suitcase down on the moving walkway into the airport the bloody thing started to scream in my suitcase!  People were looking around but couldn't figure out where the noise was coming from.  On top of that, I was flying with Easyjet and the check-in line was really long - you know, you go round and round the little rope barriers forever just like as if you are waiting to get on a ride at bloody Disneyland.  Or maybe it wasn't taking forever but it just felt like it with my suitcase constantly screaming.  Now I don't embarrass easily but I have to admit this one really did a number on me.

When I got to the check-in desk I explained to the girl what was going on and asked her if she would like my ghoul as a present.  She said she wasn't allowed to accept anything so I decided I would throw the damn thing away - only to find out that all the litter bins had been sealed shut because of the security threat!  And I mean, the place was crawling with police officers armed with machine guns.  Bloody hell.  I wasn't sure what to do at that point so I decided to just break the back off the battery compartment, which, after much blood, sweat and tooth-gnashing I managed to do.  So I took the batteries out and stuffed them in another pocket in my suitcase and made my way red-faced but triumphant back to Geneva with my ghoulish trophy more or less intact.  And guess what, the bloody thing still works!  Great eh!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Noise pollution

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that the only way it would seem to be possible to separate some people from their mobile phones would be to have it surgically removed! Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful to have a mobile phone for convenience sake, and I understand absolutely that people read on them, listen to music or use the internet, etc. I don't have a problem with that at all.  I don't use my phone for those purposes because I cross the border from France into Switzerland every day and in order to use the internet I would have to enable data roaming (and all the expense that would incur, so I just don't bother).  But what I cannot understand is some people's need to be constantly on the phone.  I mean, can you think of anyone you would want or need to talk to 24/7 (I mean, while sitting on the bus, standing in line at the bank, sitting on the john?).  I can't so I find it very difficult to understand.  I'm not talking about teenagers who seem to feel the need to send sms to their friends 10 minutes after they last saw them - we were all daft, lovesick teenagers at one point I guess. I am talking about the adults who seem to have them attached to their ears by skin grafts and constantly feel the need to yell into them.

Every day I drive 28 km to the Franco/Swiss border, park my car and catch the bus for the 8 km ride across town to work.  Geneva being what it is, this usually takes about 40 minutes.  It gives me plenty of time to sit and read, daydream or whatever.  Many people listen to music under headphones, or read.  BUUT, there is always someone who gets on and has to have that oh-so-important conversation in the middle of a crowded bus while speaking at the top of their voice.  There is one man who sometimes gets on at the station and yells non-stop into his phone until he gets off about 30 minutes later.  I dread it when I see him get on.  Another is a Portuguese-speaking man who frankly doesn't need a phone as he could just as easily yell to whoever he was talking to - even if they were in Portugal.  And then another lady recently who had a really, really loud "chat" with someone for about 15 minutes.  When she hung up I'm sure I wasn't the only one who thought "thank God for that", but no, she then proceeded to have another really, really loud "chat" with another friend.  She is entitled to chat of course, but when you can't even think straight to read because someone is on the phone talking SOOOOO loud it is really bloody annoying.  I mean, if she at least put the damn thing on speaker-phone we could ALL hear the entire conversation, but NOOOO, we just get to hear her side.

I know I wasn't the only one annoyed by this as people kept glaring at her and when we got off at the terminus a group of us just burst out laughing in relief.  But you know, it isn't funny - it is damn well rude and inconsiderate.  I would have loved to have a fake, loud, imaginary conversation right next to her to see how she liked it .... but who needs the hassle - life is too short.

Then there are the people you are actually with who can never stop looking at their phones or texting. I got so fed up of this at a dinner recently that I asked the guy if he was waiting for a heart transplant! When he said "no, why" I said "do you realize just how ignorant it is to be constantly looking at the phone when you have been invited to someone's place for dinner"!  (I guess that means I'm off his Christmas card list now, eh).

On an only slightly related subject, my house backs on to a farm.  The farmer sometimes keeps cattle, raises horses and/or donkeys.  The cattle have cowbells on since during the summer months they take them up to higher pastures and bring them down in the autumn (it's called la transhumance in French - now that is something beautiful to see).

I have to admit when we first moved in and the farmer would call the cows down for milking the "dunk, dunk, dunk" drove me mad (but probably only because I wasn't used to it and 5 a.m. was just a bit early for me).  But I soon not only got used to it but began to love it (all the more so when they were further up the mountains and you could just hear a gentle thud, thud, thudding sound).  But, apparently someone complained.  Can you believe it.  I mean, if you live in the country that's what happens.  Donkeys, bulls, cows and cockerels make a noise (my vote goes to the donkey for being the noisiest bugger - just saying).  So for a while the farmer removed the bells!  All for the sake of some city-slicker who wanted the country without the inconvenience of the country!  I'm glad to say, however, that the bells were soon back (as Quasimodo might have said) and I love it.  Give me the bells over the mobile phone fiends any day!

(And just as another "by-the-way", since I started doing the park and ride to get to work, I have to admit I had never realized how many people smoke.  I put it down to me sitting on the bus day-dreaming and then seeing people waiting at the bus stop taking that one last drag before hopping on the bus.  But it truly shocked me for a while.  We all know the health risks attached to smoking, as well as getting the occasional, really pungent whiff of bad breath from the hardened smoker.  I have never smoked and have no idea how hard it must be to give up so I'm not knocking them.  But what I will never get through my brain is how, in this day and age, anyone can actually afford to smoke. Good Lord - I hate to think how much of their money is literally "going up in smoke").

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

I couldn't resist this!

I just could NOT resist posting this video (if it works).  A dad trying to cut his baby's finger nails.  It really is adorable.

Now how did that happen?

Many years ago, when my oldest son was about seven, he was best buddies with the neighbour's son who was the same age and whose garden backed on to ours.  It was a nice little neighbourhood for kids to grow up in, with loads of other kids to play with and acres of open spaces and woodlands to roam.  I grew up like that - loads of kids around and roaming free and it was absolutely the norm. We would disappear out to play and come home god know's how many hours later filthy and starving, but we were never bored!

Like my own parents, it's probably just as well we didn't know what our kids got up to during those long hours.  Now my sons talk of trekking miles into the woods dressed as soldiers and building dens and so on.  It makes me sad to think that so many people nowadays aren't comfortable letting their kids roam because of "all the crazies about"! That is probably true but I do wonder if there are more crazies about now than before or if we just hear about it now because of the availability of instant media coverage.  I mean, when I was a kid we would never have known about a child being abducted or murdered in the States because the coverage just wasn't there.  I really don't know the answer, and I know kids have to be watched, but it will be a sad day when our kids are no longer free to run and play!

Anyhoo, one day my oldest had been out playing with Kevin and when he came home the front of his shorts were all wet.  So I asked him if he had had a little "accident" and he said "no"!  So then I asked him how come his shorts got all wet then.  He said he and Kevin had been having a competition to see who could pee the farthest.  They were standing opposite each other and Kevin won!  Somehow I wish I hadn't asked.

Illustration by Dennis Cox

Friday, 4 September 2015

Travelling solo

For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about travelling and seeing the world.  I have no idea why.  Maybe a few too many documentaries on TV when I was growing up about all the wonderful sights there are to see.  I left England at age 21 to work in Geneva, Switzerland.  Now that alone is a sight worth seeing. I have to admit I was a bit upset flying out because I had a job in the UK and a lovely boyfriend, but I had to put my money where my mouth was and take this job that had just been offered to me in Geneva - I mean it was only for five months right!  Well as you can imagine, it didn't quite work out the way I expected.  Over 30 years later and here I still am (with a few detours over the years).  I remember flying in over the mountains and all my sadness about leaving the UK (well the boyfriend really) just evaporated as the mountains were so beautiful, and again, more than 30 years later, I haven't changed my mind about that -they are still stunningly beautiful.

When I first came to Geneva I had the money and the generous holidays to continue to travel (along with a new boyfriend who also wanted to travel!!!! Oh fickle heart).  But fast forward a few years and I ended up marrying someone else - oh double fickle heart).  We ended up moving to Washington, D.C., on to Pittsburgh and then had the chance to move BACK to Geneva and jumped at it.  Two children later (now grown), one ex-husband (now thankfully out of my life) and here I am, 35 years later again on my own and looking to travel.

I must admit when the ex left I was 51 and while I couldn't have cared less about him shacking up with his tart, it felt a bit weird being "fat, 50 and menopausal" and suddenly on my own.  I thought that was it, I would end up like Psycho's mother, totally content in my own company, to be found dead in my rocking chair, book in hand and covered in cobwebs.  Well let me tell you, not a bit of it.

My friends egged me on to try internet dating (what the f***!), which I did and had a very good experience despite my misgivings (but I suspect that is the subject of another blog post).  But what I did miss was travel.  I now had the kids off my hands, the time, the money (if I was careful) but no-one to travel with, and I was not really that thrilled about travelling alone.  That is, until a colleague mentioned that her mother had been going on "solos" trips, i.e. organized group trips for people who, for one reason or another, wanted to travel but had no-one to go with.  They could be single, widowed, divorced, or even happily married but their other half doesn't want to travel.

Well I thought about looking for a Swiss group but in all honesty they would probably be flying out of Zurich and all speak Swiss-German.  Then I looked at French groups.  I was comfortable with that idea as I speak French, but then it occurred to me that if I was going to fly up to Paris to travel I may as well look for a UK group and fly out of London, and get to pop in and see family at the same time. And it was a GREAT idea, all the more so because the majority of the people on these trips are in fact Brits and having grown up with the same background we have the same sense of humour - I mean, everyone laughs immediately when someone mentions Morecambe and Wise and the AndrĂ© Previn sketch.

So with some trepidation, I booked my first trip to a place called Kusadasi in Turkey in October 2012, flying via London.  Now I am not shy but I have to admit I was a little nervous about it, but I felt so much for some others (women mostly) who seemed really nervous.  But you know what, over the course of the next week they really came out of themselves and people always found someone to sit with on the coach, get along with and natter to.  Some were widows who had plucked up the courage to make this trip and I don't think a single one of them regretted it.  In fact, for me, I loved the older women who had so many stories to tell.  On the flight back, I sat next to one widowed lady who told me that while her son and daughter were wonderful, they both worked full-time and that she would sometimes go a whole week without speaking to anyone.  Now how sad is that!

I am not a beach person (you can usually smell the bacon within about 15 minutes when I go on the beach) so Kusadasi was wonderful for me - all that culture, the fabulous food (and the glorious weather of course).  We got to visit Efes and Pamukkale which were just fascinating.  (As an aside, I am just so glad that the wonderful relics of Efes are safe from the mindless destruction of artefacts going on elsewhere).



For some reason, Machu Picchu in Peru held the strongest draw for me and I made it there in March 2013 - it truly was magical - that and the fascinating floating islands of the Uros, where the lovely ladies made us all dress up in their brightly-coloured clothes (with us looking like real idiots but it was fun anyway).

I was also lucky enough to visit lovely Croatia, the only downside being that the weather was dreadful, so not as much fun as it might otherwise have been.  Then on to Cuba in March 2015 (I wrote about that in a previous blog post) and hopefully St. Lucia in the spotlight for next March.

All this costs money of course, and it takes some saving up for.  But you know, that is my pleasure in life and I will happily do without other things in order to spend it on travel. In fact my ex once snarled asking how I could afford to travel like I did. I answered that firstly, it was none of his business as we were divorced (I didn't get a penny out of the divorce), secondly he earned as much as I did and thirdly, the €70 a week he spent on cigarettes and the small fortune he spent in the scumball bar he frequented probably made the difference between my being able to travel and him not being able to.

Anyhoo, this long rambling post was really just to say to anyone who would love to travel but doesn't want to do it alone, if you can afford it, please try it.  I don't think you will regret it.  In fact, when we were in Cuba one of the men commented on a couple who were having dinner together.  We were all yacking away and he said "look at that couple, they haven't said a word to each other all evening, and look at us"!  It brought it all home to me right there and then.  Maybe that couple were just so comfortable in each other's company that they didn't need to talk.  Or maybe they had nothing to say to each other. Who knows.  Those of us travelling "solo" had common interests and so much to talk about - he was right you know.  Give it a shot.