The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Thursday, 28 January 2016

More this and that

Don't forget to put your handbrake on! On Tuesday night I caught the bus from work back to the border to pick up my car at the Park and Ride. When I got to my car, I realized that the car behind me had parked literally up against my rear bumper. I took a photo on my phone and decided to pull my car forward to see if any damage had been done. So I pulled my car forward a few feet, put the handbrake on and immediately the car behind slammed into my car again. It was then that I realized that they must have forgotten to put their handbrake on and it was only my car that was stopping it from rolling forward. I had a course that night in Cluses (about an hour's drive away) and in any case I wasn't going to hang around until whatever time the other driver showed up, particularly as there was no damage to my car. As I pulled out of my parking spot I pulled over to put my seatbelt on and heard a terrific thud; when I looked round said car had rolled out of its spot, picked up speed and slammed straight into a Renault Espace, pushing it into the wall in front and had now come to a complete stop blocking one of the lanes round the parking lot (although there was another exit route). Bloody hell! Luckily there was no-one in the car's path. I didn't really know what to do so I buzzed the parking attendant on my way out and left my name with him just in case. On the way home I was, I suppose, feeling a bit superior thinking how I would never do something so stupid when a car on the motorway pulled in front of me and put his hazards on - I had forgotten to put my headlights on! What an idiot I am. But then, when you are in a lit up parking lot I suppose it is easy not to notice that you haven't got your headlights on - just like it might be easy to forget to put your handbrake on when you are in a hurry. I hope there wasn't too much damage to either car though.

And talking of parking lots, a friend of mine had an appointment for medical treatment in Geneva last week, so she drove to the parking lot early afternoon in order to hop on the bus to go into town. Out of the blue a "swarthy" looking lady carrying a map tapped on her driver's window. Stupidly (her words, not mine) she rolled the window down, and at that point two "swarthy" looking men appeared at the passenger side, one jumped into her car and grabbed her handbag, which was on the passenger seat. When she yelled at him to get out, the two men held her down while they took her bag - which contained her wallet, her passport, her driving licence ..... you get the picture. Understandably she was very upset and frightened - as would I be - knowing that while these b@@@@stards were probably only interested in the money, they now had her home address (and most likely her house keys as well).

Unfortunately (for us) we now have a large influx of Roma gypsies (hence the reference to "swarthy") and you can say what you like about tolerance, but they really are *!*!*!*! You see them begging all over town now, with "begging" being the least of their antics. I once spotted a woman with a baby in arms begging, only to see the same baby with a different woman the next day. And they can and do become aggressive. Again unfortunately, there isn't much the police or anyone else can do about them. A friend told me sometime ago that she always threaded the seatbelt through the handle of her bag when she was driving. I now do the same, or put it in the trunk and keep my doors locked. What a sad state of affairs we are having thrust upon us though.

On another note, I have a friend coming over from the UK for the weekend. I met Brian on my first solos trip to Turkey a few years ago and we have remained in touch. When I sent him a message not to worry about snow gear as we have warm weather and sunshine he replied that he was disappointed as he had actually been looking forward to snow (me not so much!). It reminded me of the time many years ago when I was going to drive into town to go shopping after it had just snowed. My friend asked if she could come with me so we set about struggling to put snow chains on. Now in the advertising for snow chains at that time they always showed some bird in a pink sweater and manicured nails putting the bloody things on in about 10 minutes.

The reality, however, was that after struggling for about an hour, we looked more like this (although maybe not as skinny):

But get the bloody things on we did, only to turn a corner out of our housing plan and discover that the roads had been ploughed and gritted and there was no more snow! Never again I tell you, if I have to put chains on I ain't going.

And finally, at Fat Fighters on Wednesday night, disappointment as I had lost nothing at all. Bugger it. I was disappointed because I felt I had actually been pretty good about following the programme and exercising ..... but apparently my body didn't agree. Since I consider myself to be pretty "hormonal", I noted the date and will watch out to see if there is a monthly pattern. Still, I'm not too discouraged. I will just have to try to get it down next time I go, which will be in two weeks' time as I am back to the UK next week for a funeral. Time will tell I guess.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Weigh in

Well Wednesday was my second day at Fat Fighters and my first weigh-in.  I have to admit I wasn't too optimistic as although I had followed the programme pretty well I didn't feel as though I had lost any weight.  On top of that I tend to yo-yo with my weight quite substantially, which I put down to hormones/fluid retention for the most part.  I mean, I can go up or down 2-3 lbs in a couple of days, so I guess the moral of that story is "do as the nice lady said and don't weigh yourself every day"! Gotta get out of that habit.  So all-in-all I wasn't too optimistic, and when I got on the scales I read a loss of about 200g. Beeerrrrk!  As you can imagine I was therefore delighted when she said 1kg 200g!  I had misread my starting weight so had actually lost a decent amount (just over 2.6 lb). Wow. I am a now officially a happy bunny.

I know it's quite normal to lose a fair amount the first week and then have the weight loss taper off afterwards but in any case I was pretty pleased with my first results.  And the programme was actually quite easy to follow since I am only cooking for myself at home and can make (or not make) whatever I feel like. In fact, the WW recipe for chicken with pak choi was pretty nice, so I will definitely make that again.

Wearing my pedometre also brought home to me just how sedentary I am.  Even with hopping off the bus on the Mont Blanc bridge and walking along the lake for the half hour it takes to get to work, I am still not achieving 10,000 steps a day.  More like 7,000 if I leg it to work or walk into town at lunch time and obviously less when I don't.  Hopefully, with the weather again scheduled to be good next week I can get more exercise in. I did actually walk two days and go to the gym two days last week (and of course I always feel wonderful afterwards - all "bendy" and relaxed).  It makes you wonder why on earth you just don't keep going right?  Anyway, we will see what next week brings.  I am fully expecting a lower weight loss but if I can just keep it going, by summer I reckon I will be doing pretty well.  And you know what, the ladies at Fat Fighters are actually proof that the programme really does work if you follow it. Who wudda thunk!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

RIP my lovely sister-in-law

What a terrible shock we all had this week.  My lovely sister-in-law, Brenda, died totally unexpectedly on Tuesday.  We are all in shock, as she hadn't been ill and was, seemingly, in good health.  From what I can gather, she was taken ill while preparing dinner on Monday night with what turned out to be a stroke.  Luckily my brother was there with her and was able to get help immediately.  Unfortunately she then had a second, massive stroke on Tuesday morning and my brother was told that she wasn't going to make it.  Their sons were just able to make it to North Wales to be with her before the end, for which I thank God and hope that she realized they were all with her. She died without regaining consciousness on Tuesday evening.

To say we are all in shock is really an understatement.  She was 69 and, like I said, seemingly in good health.

Brenda and Phil in their younger days

Bren had been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  My brother is 17 years older than me so he and Brenda were married while I was still very young.  I remember watching Bewitched as a child and thinking that Brenda looked so much like "Samantha" (Elizabeth Montgomery), except that she was dark and "Samantha" was blonde.

She and my brother had raised their sons and, having both retired, were starting to travel and enjoy life to the full.  I guess that's why it seems so sad.  Some people seem to spend their lives in front of the TV watching actors living their fake lives, not realizing that life is there to be lived, not absorbed off the TV.

I had another friend whose mom lived to be 101, still living on her own in central London. My friend really did live life to the full - in fact I have no idea where she got all her energy from.  But then this friend developed cancer and died also at the age of 69.  I always felt like she was "cheated" because she was someone who seized life with both hands and her "good" genes just didn't pan out.

I know life isn't fair and never will be, so all I can say is carpe diem, or seize the day. You never know what tomorrow holds.  RIP Bren.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Winter drawers on!

Well it has finally arrived - winter that is.  Actually we had about five inches of snow once in November, I think it was, but that melted overnight and we have had nothing but sunshine since then. Even the ski resorts were in trouble over Christmas as there was no snow but it seems that has now finally changed.  We got snow on Saturday and Sunday and then again last night with some sunshine in between flurries  I really don't like driving on the snow but once I'm over the first day I just get on with it.  And to be fair, the French really do maintain the roads well in winter.  I guess they have to as so much of the local economy depends on winter tourism and skiing.

The view from my bedroom window

This morning was pretty grim though.  Almost three hours to get to work, which is pretty weird because again the roads were ok but traffic was awful, lining up to get through customs.  I was so glad to finally make it to the border where I could hop on the bus, hunker down with a good book and leave everything else to the bus driver.  I don't mind the winter really (especially when it starts so late like it has this year) and I don't even mind the cold (prefer it to sweltering heat anyway) but I don't like the commute much in the snow.  In fact, a car passed me today on the motorway and I swear the car behind him was only about three metres from his rear bumper.  Madness.

Geneva of course is pretty all year round but, like many places, particularly pretty in the snow.

The view from my office on to the lake

It's when I see views like these I'm reminded how lucky I am really.  Forget all the whingeing about wanting to retire (well I still want to retire of course but .....).  If I can blank out the thought of the journey home tonight it really is a winter wonderland.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Fat Fighters

Well last night was my first night at the local Fat Fighters meeting.  I pretty much knew what to expect as maaaaaany years ago, before I was married even, I went along to a WW meeting in Geneva.  I only had a couple of kilos to lose, truth be told - oh how I wish that were the case now. Anyway, down to the nitty gritty.  Fully dressed (of course) and with my boots on I weighed in at 81.1 kg (180 lb - yikes, it sounds even worse like that - or 12.7 stones according to Mr. Google). (Frankly I don't like any of those numbers much but I guess I have to go with the kg as that is what we will be working with here.)  She asked me what I would like to weigh and I told her I was comfortable at about 65 kg so we are looking to lose about 15 kg.

Then I went and sat in on the cheerleading meeting, all the while thinking "I'm never gonna stick this out for an hour"!  But it turns out it was only 30 minutes so I guess anyone can sit still that long. After the meeting the other "newbie" and I - she actually gasped out loud when she was weighed - it was really funny - stuck around so that Chief Cheerleader could explain the points system to us.  I suppose I am being fascetious as the ladies were very nice but I have to admit I do feel like I was having to sit on the Naughty Stool because of letting myself go.  Still, the system doesn't seem that difficult really.  The only problem I have so far discovered is that having downloaded the French WW app onto my phone, it doesn't seem to recognize Swiss WW products, which is a bit weird.  But then again, it is only Day 1 (boy oh boy I hope I've lost 2 kg by tomorrow) so I have to give it time.

I see that in among all the other stuff they were selling "fitbits", which I guess are pedometres, as Fat Fighters want to encourage you to "get active".  I already have a pedometre which I have started using again and to be honest it is quite shocking how little I actually move.

So, thinking "in for a penny, in for a pound", I signed up on Ilona's blog with others who wanted to take the challenge of walking 1,000 miles in 2016.  I must be mad.  According to the Chief Cheerleader at Fat Fighters anything under 5,000 steps a day is considered "sedentary" (so that would be me), above that "average" and the real aim should be 10,000 steps a day.  Using my pedometre I am averaging only 6,000 steps a day so I guess I really have to up the ante.  Then, because on Ilona's blog they are talking about "miles" walked in 2016, I reckoned I had to convert my steps walked from km back into miles.  Not easy.  I don't use an app on my phone to calculate distance because, crossing the border from France into Switzerland every day I will be hit by data-roaming charges.  So I realized I had to simply use my pedometre.  First off, measure your stride - turns out to be only 40 cm (otherwise known as the short, fat, hairy leg syndrome).  Then calculate the number of steps taken daily, multiply by the length of my stride and convert those km back to miles.  (Honestly, I almost gave up there and then). But, I had to admit to feeling smugly superior when I worked out I was hitting about 20 miles a day! Of course my bubble soon burst when I realized I had put the decimal point in the wrong place and in reality was back in the "mobile blob" category.  Oh well, I guess I will have to go with what I've got and see what happens this week.  Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

This and that - oh and Fat Fighters

It's a strange kind of atmosphere at work at the moment.  All the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over and work has not really started gearing up yet - kind of the lull before the storm I guess, although frankly I prefer it when I am busy.

A funny thing happened on the bus on the way home yesterday.  As I have written before I drive to the Franco/Swiss border every day and then catch a bus for the 40-odd minute ride across Geneva. Since I am an avid reader I use this time to get quite a bit of reading in during the day.  You know, wedge yourself in at the back where you couldn't give up your seat for little old ladies even if you wanted to and Bob's your uncle.  Anyway, last night an older Chinese man got on at the station and ended up sitting next to me.  He absolutely reeked of garlic .... but I digress.  He looked over at my book and when he saw that I was reading in English he said "I see you on here most days reading. In China we have a saying that you are chasing time".  Now what the heck are you supposed to reply to that?  I took it to mean that I was "chasing time in my busy life to find time to read".  Not sure exactly.  So I just said "well I am a prisoner of this time so I may as well use it wisely".  (Can you feel a little "Confucius says" coming in to this conversation?)  He wasn't at all offensive (except for the garlic) and when he got off the bus my friend leaned over and said "I think you're in there".  But to be honest, I'm not sure if I understood what he was talking about or he understood what I was talking about - I guess we may find out in chapter two next time I bump into him.

Another thing that made me laugh today was a story carried by that bastion of truth in journalism, the Daily Mail.  They had run a similar item previously but their "journalism" never ceases to amaze me. It was a story on reports of how fearless Kim Jong Whatsisname had supposedly climbed up a mountain almost 3,000 metres high recently. While I have no doubt that he did indeed succeed, I must admit whenever I go up into the mountains round here I have a rather different style of clothes. It could just be that I'm a scaredy cat but what do you think?  Am I being overcautious?  Time to break out the brand new fearless me do you think?

And moving seamlessly on to other news, when I went to see my doctor six months ago it turns out that all of a sudden I had developed high cholesterol.  They did another test just before Christmas and it was still the same so she asked me if I had been under stress recently.  Hallooooo, doesn't everyone's ex just bugger off and leave his ex-wife and kids to sort out 26 years' worth of accumulated crap, empty a three-bedroomed farmhouse and get rid of the dog?  No? So it must just be me then. She also mentioned that I seemed to have put on quite a bit of weight lately and that that could also be the cause of my relatively sudden high cholesterol reading.  No kidding.  I think what probably gave the game away is that I am now at the exact weight I was when I gave birth to my second son - so the equivalent of 9-months' pregnant then.  Great.  Oh boy, time to do something about it I suspect, although in truth I had been feeling pretty uncomfortable for some time, especially this summer with the unseasonally hot weather.  So (drum roll please) I decided "oh to hell with it" and have signed up for Weight Watchers (affectionately known as Fat Fighters).  Actually I would have liked to go to Slimming World, but they don't have that here in France so Fat Fighters it is.  I have enrolled and will go to my first meeting tomorrow evening.  I suspect/hope it will be easier this time round (famous last words) since my kids have left home and I don't have to cook for anybody except myself.  So wish me luck and watch this space.  And now I'm off to shave my legs before the weigh-in.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Long time no speak

Well, it's been a while since I posted here as you can see.  Not that there's anything wrong with that but with Christmas coming and trying to get everything finished at work before that I was just glad of the break.  And what a nice break it was.  My company is very generous and we always close down for about 10 days over Christmas/New Year and it is not taken out of our leave.  Now how good is that!  On top of that, the weather was gorgeous.  Well at least gorgeous as far as I am concerned in that we had mild weather, lots of sunshine and no snow.  However, living in the alps I did feel sorry for the poor buggers I saw driving in with non-local number plates heading up to the slopes, knowing full well there was no snow up there either.  Such a shame to spend all that money and then not get to ski, and of course the resorts also stood to lose a ton of money.  I just hope those people like walking as the mountains are still beautiful but maybe not exactly what they had been looking forward to.

As for me, I had a long list of things I wanted to get done so just jotted them down as I thought of them and managed to knock out quite a number over the holidays.  I even managed to get to IKEA and buy new mattresses for my bed - that is quite an achievement for me as while I love the products I hate the store - the heat, the crowds etc.  While it was busy of course it was nowhere near as busy as if I had had to run in there after work or at the weekend.  On top of that a haircut (finally) and I got to try out a new local massage place.  What bliss.  And while I know it is true, when I finally looked at the figures I was still shocked to see how much cheaper these things are in France than in Switzerland.  For both the massage and the haircut things were about half price compared to Geneva. So I guess it is obvious why so many Swiss residents do their shopping over our side of the border! I also got to meet up with a friend of long-standing who had just come out of hospital and discovered a lovely new (to me) restaurant on "her" side of Lake Geneva.  On the way out we passed a realtor and I nearly fainted when I saw the prices over that side.  Crikey, because of the proximity to the international organizations, the banks and the big multinationals I would say prices are about two-thirds higher than over "my" side (i.e. south) of the lake.  What's more, prices were hit in the recession and have actually come down.  Jesus H. I looked at a couple of apartments (2, maybe 3 bedrooms) and they can run around €500-600,000 ($500-600,000)!  It's no wonder rents are high in Geneva.  And of course, I am still talking about France. To buy that same apartment in Geneva would set you back around CHF 1,500,000 ($1,600,000)!!!!!  I kid you not!  Prices over my side of the lake are considerably lower, although still not cheap by anybody's standards.  I guess I won't be moving anytime soon then (not that I want to anyway - I love it where I live).

I didn't get to see my boys on Christmas Day, which was fine by me actually, because I hate having to do something just because it is a particular day, but they all came over on 29th December and it was really nice.  I happened to be sorting out old photos before they came and they had great fun looking through them (as you do) and it was lovely to be with them.  I only saw OH before Christmas as he was trying to be with his children, although it wasn't possible for him to see all of them unfortunately.  Something he said was quite interesting though.  He went to midnight mass in his local village on Christmas Eve and outside the small church there were two armed police officers. He happened to look up and in some kind of scaffolding/crane just next to the church and normally hidden from view was another police officer, also armed.  How sad is it that we have to have armed police at our churches now.

New Year's Eve I spent quite happily on my own.  I usually like to stay up till 1 a.m. our time to watch the fireworks in the UK but didn't quite make it this time.  I think I was snoring my head off at 11.30!  But all in all it was a lovely break.

So now it's back to work and time to take down the Christmas tree (I didn't get round to it before). Apparently the snow is on its way and we will have to knuckle down till the end of winter.  But, if winter only starts in January I can hardly complain - it's just when it drags on for months and months that it gets me down.  So on that note, I wish you all a happy and healthy new year.  Till the next time.