The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Friday, 18 March 2016

Oh dear

As I had posted earlier, my older brother lost his wife totally unexpectedly in January of this year. From what I can gather he is doing pretty well - there are good days and bad days of course but I always felt he would cope nevertheless. Previously he was big into swimming but, for the time being anyway, he didn't feel that he wanted to go back to swimming - maybe later. When I was in Wales for the funeral he mentioned that he felt like he wanted to join a walking group to get him out of the house, so I mentioned the Ramblers. I was talking to him this weekend and he had, indeed, joined the Ramblers and had been on his first walk on the previous Thursday. His description of that walk was hilarious. He said that even at 73 he thought he might have been the youngest of the group, and though he considered himself to be reasonably fit, they were all like "*!**y mountain goats" (his words, not mind)! He couldn't believe it! It was only supposed to be a 4 mile hike so he was thinking it would take just a couple of hours. But NOOOO, it turned into a 6 mile hike "up and down the bloody Welsh mountains". He said these "oldies" just shot off like mountain goats and while everyone was really nice he soon realized exactly how out of his depth he was (to put it politely).

He described one lady as "a Joyce Grenfell type" - anyone who remembers Joyce will know exactly what he meant.

Joyce Grenfell
She seemed to take a shine to him and walked along with him, all the while knitting as she went! He said she had a ball of wool in her pocket and knitted and yacked for the entire walk - not that he was complaining, because he couldn't catch his breath anyway. She was incredibly knowledgeable and explained all the different types of sheep's wool caught in the hedgerows and so on. He couldn't believe that she could walk, knit and talk without skipping a beat or dropping a stick, while he was on his hands and knees discreetly trying to avoid coughing up a lung.

At one point they came across a small bay which he hadn't seen before, and were lucky enough to spot a mother seal and her pups splashing around in the water. Idyllic indeed. His intention was to "pop into ASDA" on the way home to get some groceries, but he ended up going straight home to a hot bath and a glass of whisky, while at the same time realizing how ill prepared he was - the wrong boots, the wrong rucksack, the wrong .... you name it .... and just how unfit he was. He said they were a nice group though, extremely well organized and very friendly and that he will go again, only better prepared!

Funnily enough, when we landed in St. Lucia, waiting in the arrivals hall was a driver holding up a "Ramblers" sign. He was there to pick up a group of Ramblers from the UK who were in St. Lucia for a rambling holiday. Bloody hell, "rambling" in that heat - it was as much as I could do to stagger down to the beach in the mornings!

On an only slightly related note, many, many years ago, when I was a little girl, we were on holiday "down south". We were driving round Dartmoor when my mom said that she was bursting for the loo. I mean, in the middle of Dartmoor all those years ago, what was she expecting? So my dad stopped the car and when she asked where the toilet was he said "20 yards in any direction".

So mom scooted out and went behind a bush for a pee. Trouble was, when she pulled her knickers back up and got up to leave the bush got up at the same time - it was a bunch of soldiers on training exercise. I guess we can mark that exercise a success then!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Spring is sprung!

Or at least I hope so after yesterday's burst of snow. As predicted the snow didn't stick so that's was a relief. I notice from the bus that the magnolias haven't even begun to blossom yet, which is weird because in St. Lucia they had well and truly blossomed. I know it's not exactly the same climate but to me seeing the magnolias in bloom is always a sign of spring. And because I live at 800 m altitude the local magnolias, crocuses, daffs etc. are always that little bit later to bloom than they are here in Geneva.

As I didn't have any plans at lunchtime I thought I would take advantage of our lovely weather and just tootle over the road to the Botanic Gardens. I have to say we are extremely lucky to be located right on Lake Geneva and have the Botanic Gardens immediately opposite. The crocuses and daffs are on their way out and the tulips are trying their best to get in on the show, but aren't quite ready yet. Still it's a lovely spot to sit and read while enjoying this lovely spring weather. Bliss!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Spoke too soon!

Ha - and only yesterday I was saying I didn't mind coming back to France since the weather was so glorious. So what did it do? It started snowing again! Wasn't expecting that at all! When I woke up this morning and raised the black-out curtain in my room (covering the velux in the roof) it looked like it was all frosted over, but when I opened the bathroom shutters it was bucketing down snow. I couldn't believe it. I mean really, really thick snow. Damn! To be honest, I knew it wasn't going to stick and I'm pretty sure that when I get home tonight, while there may still be snow in the fields, there won't be any on the roads - at least that's the plan anyway. The good news is that glorious weather is again forecast for the foreseeable future. I hope so anyway, because I planted my first tomato seeds last weekend and while they are sitting contentedly in front of my living room window, getting more snow really does feel like taking a step backwards!

Anyhooo, moving seamlessly on, one day after coming back from the beach in St. Lucia I realized that my iPad had gone bananas! I had it well wrapped up, inside a bag and sitting in the shade, but when I went to turn it on I got this kind of screen.

I reckoned it must have either got sand in it or maybe had suffered from the heat. So I messed around with it for a bit but there was nothing doing. Bloody hell, there went my chance of taking more pictures etc. and I have to admit I do enjoy maintaining contact "with the outside world" when I am on holiday.  Not to mention the unappealing thought of having to shell out another wad of cash to get a new one on top of the obvious expenses of the holiday.

By now I was resigned to my fate though and since I had a couple of days before I went back to work I thought I could run down to Annecy and pick up a new one. I don't know why but the night before I googled "how to repair an iPad" and there were various Youtube videos purporting to be able to fix it. The problem was, apparently, that there was a loose connection between an internal wire and the screen (or at least, that's the way I understood it) and in two different videos people were saying to "tap gently here" or "tap gently there". I tried both those solutions and it didn't work. Then another video suggested turning the iPad off and dropping it on the floor. Not exactly hurling it off a cliff in a fit of pique (that can always come later) but dropping it from a height of about a foot onto a carpeted floor. So thinking I had nothing to lose anyway that's exactly what I did - and guess what - it worked! I kid you not, the blooming thing is now working again. So you see, those Youtubers were right and I have them to thank for not having to shell out another small fortune for a new iPad. Thanks guys!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Back to the grindstone

Well it's back to work after two weeks off and time to get my nose back to the grindstone. Not that I am complaining as the weather here is beautiful, except maybe 30 degrees cooler than St. Lucia!

March seems to be the best time of year for me to take time off, firstly from a personal point of view because it gives me a break from the winter and secondly, from a professional point of view, because work starts gearing up after March.

Since it is the ski season here Easyjet do flights to Geneva from a larger number of U.K. airports so in the winter I am lucky enough to be able to get a flight Geneva/Bournemouth for a very reasonable price. Bournemouth airport being only about 30 minutes from my sister's home is therefore great for me. I got to see my 94-year-old mom a couple of times. The conversation is very repetitive of course and to be honest I'm not sure she even realizes I was there but it was good to see her and she looked well. On the Sunday we went down to Weymouth to watch quad bike racing, starting with the youngsters. It was fun to watch, although I suspect an expensive hobby. We were lucky with the weather, which was lovely and sunny although bitterly cold and windy - a great way to get a free facial peeling with all that sand being thrown around!

On the Monday I caught the bus down to London in order to spend the night at Gatwick before an early morning flight to St. Lucia. Since I was the only passenger on the bus I got chatting to the driver. He was from Slovakia so we were discussing the upoming referendum on whether or not the U.K. should stay in the EU. With me living in France I would say we both have vested interests in the results of that referendum.

When I got to Gatwick I checked into the Premier Inn at the north terminal and again I was impressed with the efficiency and the overall experience. Again food for thought was that at least 50 per cent of the staff there seemed to be Polish and both the Brits and the Poles really did hustle.The experience was a very positive one and for me at least a great counterbalance to all the negative "anti-immigration" articles you see in much of the gutter press. I have my own views and opinions on the "in-out" debate and will vote as I see fit, but feel that no-one can truly know what would happen in the event of an "out" vote until and if that happens, just as would have been the case with the Scottish referendum. I would be allowed to remain in France in any case and would most likely request French citizenship in the event of an "out" vote but I'm not so sure how things would work out, for instance, for the many British expats living in other EU countries. I guess only time will tell.

On the Tuesday morning I got up and got showered to go to the airport in good time and thought I should just give my hair a burst of hairspray to try to maintain some sense of "polish" (ha - me?) for when I got to the other end. I grabbed a big can of hairspray that I had picked up at home - and proceeded to spray bright blue shaving cream all over myself and the bedspread. Bloody hell - I must have picked up my son's shaving cream by mistake. Cue a mad rush to get washed and showered again and dash over to the airport for my flight!

Once again I travelled with a group of people travelling solo and was not disappointed. There are always a couple of people who you maybe don't gel with but the majority are always, if not fun to be with, at least interesting. Our tour guide Paula was an absolute gem. Not sure I could do that job personally as some people are just downright pains in the you-know-what, but she didn't let it phase her and she turned out to be a wonderful (and very thoughtful) person.

On day two idiot-here spent too long in the Caribbean sun lolling in the sea and got burnt, which meant staying out of the sun for the remainder of the holiday. That'll learn ya! Or maybe not. It seems to be par for the course for me every time. Will I ever learn?

We got to visit a Lucian rain forest and were entertained by a lovely lady called "Mama" who showed us some of the older remedies and traditional "cures", which I find fascinating.

I also got "bullied" by K to sign up for the helicopter tour and zip lining!!!!  I can't believe it.  I really didn't fancy the helicopter tour - or should I say I don't mind the idea of a helicopter ride as long as it doesn't take off! On top of that, I guess I was expecting a bloody Chinook that would seat 20 to 30 people so you can imagine how I felt when I saw the six-seater waiting for us! Yikes!  I have to say though that the ride was very smooth (thank God) and we did get a bird's eye view of the island, although for obvious reasons it was pretty expensive. Still, I guess you have to do it once in your life.

The Pitons seen from the helicopter

As I said, mad K also bullied me into zip lining. I can't believe I let her do that to me. The night before I didn't sleep a wink as I had visions of throwing myself off something resembling the Empire State Building but it turned out to be nothing like that. When we got to the rain forest they made us put hair nets under our crash helmets to avoid anyone's hair getting tangled up in the zip line and effectively scalping them! Nice thought eh. So to be honest, when we went up in the gondola we actually looked more like flying dinner ladies than intrepid she-warriers. We were well harnessed up and the two young women leading the group did an excellent job. We went up to 1,200 feet and (I believe) the total zip was just over a kilometre long, spread out over eight zips - I'm not sure really as I had my eyes closed for the first three zips! But you know, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be and I ended up actually enjoying it. In fact, I think I would do that again rather than the helicopter ride, to be honest.

Marigot Bay - where Dr. Doolittle was filmed
So all in all, yet again a lovely way to spend a vacation. The food was pretty good, if expensive, the island is beautiful and the people very friendly. On top of that I met some interesting and fun people, a couple of whom I think I will stay in touch with, as has been my experience on previous trips. So now I've got to knuckle down and get back to work - and dream of the next place I want to visit. You know, my bucket list of places to visit keeps getting longer with every trip I do - funny that.

I spent a total of 35 hours start to finish getting back home (including a rather long layover in London) but hey, that's the way the cookie crumbles if you want to go on these far-flung holidays.