The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A weekend of celebrations

My youngest son is 24 today, so I had asked them a while back if I could invite them over to dinner sometime to celebrate his birthday. I completely understood that they might want to be with their friends on the Saturday night (I mean, who wants to spend a Saturday night with your mom when you can be with friends right?) but he and his girlfriend sent me a message on Friday and said "how about we go out tonight to celebrate his (upcoming) birthday and Mother's Day"?  Mother's Day in France is always the last Sunday in May, while in Switzerland (where my other son lives) it usually falls mid-May.

So on Friday night we went out to dinner at the one-and-only restaurant in the village where I live. The food is good, the people are friendly and the views are spectacular so what's not to like!

The weather hasn't been great (indeed it was pretty rubbish all weekend), so that was excuse enough for me to order my absolute favourite dish "tartiflette".

It's pure stodge really but eat it with a salad (to feel virtuous) and a selection of dried meats and for me it is pure heaven. Jordan is (finally) developing a taste for cheese and chose a lovely goat's cheese and honey salad and Jen had a burger, which is something new for this restaurant as they are not a "burger joint", but she said it was very good anyway.

Jen and the (almost) birthday boy!
I often just pop up to their place on a Sunday for a little while but it was really nice to spend an evening with them "down here". As Jen had lived with us for about three years anyway many of their friends are local to me, so after dinner they went and called in on some of their friends from the village - a nice bunch of kids I have to say.

Since Sunday was Mother's Day they had brought me a present and I am absolutely thrilled with it! I sent a picture of "Daisy" the cow to OH and he came back saying he thought it was a clown. Bear with me, he is having his cateracts operated on in a couple of weeks!

Isn't she lovely! I had nipped out to the garden centre and bought the thyme for my garden but I think Daisy looks rather great with her new haircut - something about her hair puts me in mind of James Brown, although I'm sure his hair didn't smell of thyme!

On the Sunday it absolutely peed down but my friend and I did make the effort to trudge out to the garden centre and then on to another local vide-grenier. It was such a shame as a lot of effort goes into putting these events together and it really was pretty much rained out. We did treat ourselves to merguez and chips though and to be honest trudging round in the rain didn't really phase us too much as we are both Brits, but I did feel sorry for the event organizers all the same.

And so, on to today, it really is Jordan's birthday. I can't believe he is 24 already.You know, I remember very much when he was a baby and toddler, but after that the years just seem to have flown by. If anyone knows how to make time slow down (or keep it in a bottle as the inimitable Jim Croce would say) please let me know how you do it. It is so lovely to look back over those times but they are gone before you know it.

So happy birthday Jordan. Quarter of a century next year!

We never did find those car keys!

As a post script, I'll leave you with one of Jordan's little gems. I have shoulder length brown hair with a slight wave in it. No matter what I have tried to do with it over the years it always comes back to looking like "shoulder length brown hair with a slight wave in it", so in the end I just gave up. When Jordan was about 10 he suddenly looked at me one day and said:
J     "Oh mommy, you're so lucky, I really love your hair"!
Me     (stunned) "Well thanks sweetheart, it's really nice of you to say that".
J     "Yeah, I mean, you look just like Simba in the Lion King!"
While that may have burst my bubble, hey I'll take compliments wherever I can find them!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Belle and Sebastian

When I was a little girl I remember being entranced watching the French series "Belle and Sebastian" about a little boy and his Pyreneen mountain dog (Belle). I can't recall much more about it except the stunning scenery and the fact that it was French language with English sub-titles. I remember asking my mom if they really were speaking another language or was it just gobbledy gook, and she said "oh gobbledy gook I expect"!!! Anyway, from that day on, I wanted (a) Belle, and (b) to speak gobbledy gook.

I did get to speak gobbley gook eventually, as much from my love of languages as from the fact that if we didn't go down the "languages" route, we would have to go down the "sciences" route, so it turned out to be the lesser of two evils, as you can see, 'cos me and sciences just didn't see eye to eye.

Anyway, although at the time I never did get a "Belle", when I was a young teenager we somehow managed to twist our parents arms (by asking them when they were half asleep) and ended up with a lovely border collie mutt.

Now border collies really are working sheep dogs, of course, not that ours ever had to work a day in his life, but we loved that old mutt anyway. But now, eventually, I have gotten to see my very own "Belle". Well it's not mine of course, but for the first time in the 27+ years I have lived in this house, the farmer has put sheep in the field behind the house. He initially had dairy cattle when we moved in and then alternately raised donkeys and horses (beautiful to see them running on a sunny day), but as of about a couple of weeks ago, we must have 100 sheep in the field behind us!

And, they have got their very own "Belle"!

They call them patou in French, but they are effectively Pyreneen mountain dogs. It has been lovely to watch how he protects his flock, but I was amazed to learn that these dogs are essentially nocturnal by nature. They are fiercely protective but incredibly gentle with the little ones. To watch how Belle herds the sheep up the mountains is a sight for sore eyes. And the weirdest thing happened the other day. While sheep of course bleat and baaaa, and they have their "cowbells" on them at all times, when Belle was herding them further up the mountain they made the strangest groaning noise, the likes of which I have never heard before. It was a really loud, spooky sound - a bit like the noise I make at the thought of another gym class, but multiply that by 100 sheep!

I don't know how much longer they will be staying on the field behind the house, but 50 years later I am so glad that I finally got to see my very own "Belle"!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Lazy weekend - well not really!

Last weekend they had forecast nice weather for the Saturday and then "iffy" for Sunday. By the time I got back from England they had had tons of rain and not being able to cut my grass before, I swear it looked like I lived in the Serengeti! It gets to me when things look a mess so I was determined to get all caught up with the housework, washing, ironing, and so on and then decided that just in case it was going to pee down on Sunday I had better get the grass cut as well. I must be mad!

I don't have a very big garden but the part at the end, which actually looks like it belongs to me, is in fact a fireman's access right of way. It runs round the back of all our houses to allow access to firecrew in the event of an emergency. It is also, supposedly, to be maintained by its owners, the local HLM bank, but who, in the 27 years I have lived here, have never set foot on it (nor indeed, ever set foot on it according to my neighbours). In order not to look like we live in a pigsty therefore, we homeowners have always maintained our respective parts of it. Actually, we are in the process of negotiating buying our individual plots off the HLM (ongoing as we speak) in order to prevent them from potentially putting in an access road to any future housing developments that might be built in the fields above us - but that will most likely be the subject of another post).

Anyhoo, I nearly snuffed it cutting that bloody grass. It was so hot and so heavy once all that wet grass hit the lawnmower bag. Never again in that heat I can tell you although, like I said, I really wanted to get that crossed off my to-do list before it got any worse.

So, having got everything I wanted done on the Saturday I decided to go up the mountains to visit my son and his girlfriend to drop off some paperwork. They bought the sweetest little kitten a couple of months ago, and while I am not a cat person, this kitten is absolutely bonkers.


Up until recently they had been keeping it in the house, but then he got adventurous and went out onto their rather large balcony, really curious to have a good look around. Anyway, Jen decided to throw some bread out for the donkeys in the field right next to them, at which point Leni pulled himself up to his full 8 inches and 5 ounces and took a flying leap off the balcony to try to catch the bread. My son said to imagine the song "I believe I can fly" being sung and Leni flying off in slow motion looking like this:
He said it was sooooo cute - and then they had to dash off in hot pursuit! I'm not sure Leni will be content to stay around the house too much longer.

After we had left them we decided to go down to a local vide-grenier (car boot, to all intents and purposes). The only difference is that they tend to be organized by the local communes so there are always food and drinks stands, and often much more (as this time, a bouncy castle etc.). It was being held in the local village of Arenthon.
Arenthon vide-greniers
It's not the biggest nor the best but it was nice. Trouble is it was again scorching hot - the heat only being made bearable when the wind picked up - and boy did it pick up. It came in great gusts so people were having to hang onto their parasols and stuff and the men behind the bar were actually holding down its metal roof at one time, just in case it flew off - which obviously would have been very dangerous. We had just ordered sausage and fries when the wind caught mine and I ended up with a lap full of mustard and fries - not quite the look I was going for but I wasn't the only one that got caught out, I suspect.

While I didn't actually need anything (do you ever?) and going totally against the grain of getting rid of stuff, I actually picked up a few sweet little bargains for the grand sum of €8 - four wine glasses, a bonbonnière and two water glasses. I am well pleased with them!

Trouble is, the vide-greniers go on until October - oh dear, I guess I shall have to work a little harder on the decluttering - or we could just consider it "recycling" in that I borrow this stuff for a while for about eight euros before getting rid of it at the next vide-grenier. Well that's the plan anyway. Still, all-in-all quite a lot of fun can be had for a few euros don't you think? Better than mall shopping anyway!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

An evening at the theatre

A couple of weekends ago, after the recent sadness of my mom's passing, it was nice to spend a few hours "getting away from it all" at the theâtre. It was the Geneva Amateur Operatic Society (GAOS) who, yet again, put on an excellent performance - this time of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

My friend and I tend to go to the Saturday night performances as it is less of a rush for us than going during the week. I have to admit though that I wasn't overly enthusiastic about this one because I don't have particularly great memories of the film - I don't know what it was, but I found the film didn't make much of an impression on me as a youngster, though I have no idea why!

We decided to go anyway, and I have to admit I was more than pleasantly surprised.They put on an excellent show as always and I found myself really enjoying the story. The children performed superbly and certainly held their own against the excellent performances from the adults. For me, the villainous Baron Bomburst, Ruler of Vulgaria, was just outstanding (picture a Mel Brooks kind of character on crack cocaine) and of course the role was an absolute dream for him.While I have no acting talents or ambitions, I couldn't help thinking what a gem of a role that was for someone to camp it up to the hilt - and he certainly did so!

I have to say though, that I was also amazed at how "Chitty" performed! I have no idea how they managed to create a "magic car" but they certainly pulled off an extraordinary feat in the props department - it was amazing. I suppose if I wanted to get involved with something like this group it would be "in the background" as I think it would be just fascinating to see what goes on behind the scenes.

Talking of "behinds", during the interval I went out to get a drink and one unfortunate lady walked passed me holding a young boy by the hand but with about two feet of toilet roll hanging from the back of her jeans! I went to call out to her to let her know but just at that moment there was a surge in the crowd and I lost sight of her. The poor thing - you can only imagine how mortifying that would be. A couple of minutes later, however, she came back in my direction and I was able to attract her attention to let her know. I mean, it wasn't just a little piece of toilet paper - it was almost reaching down to the ground! She of course was horrified (I guess it's like walking out of the ladies with your skirt tucked into your knickers), but, as I said to her, not to worry - if she's lucky she will probably never see me again!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A lovely farewell!

So now it's over and we all got to say our final goodbyes to mom - and what a lovely service it was!

I flew back to the UK last Sunday in order to spend a couple of days with a friend who retired to the Cotswolds. I flew in to Bristol (a first - and a last for me, I think) because it is a smaller airport and closer to the Cotswolds. It's not that I have anything against Bristol of course but getting round the city - on the wrong side of the road for me!! - with all those bloody road works/diversions, etc. was a flaming nightmare. Go ahead, ask me anything you like about Bristol Cathedral - anything - I must have passed the bloody thing at least 10 times and while it is indeed beautiful I really wasn't there for the magical mystery tour! Eventually, however, I managed to make my escape from the city's tentacles and made the 90 minute drive to Lechlade where my friend lives. And again, just like in Wales previously, I had forgotten just how pretty it is.

Of course it was lovely to see my friend and her husband again but the weather also cooperated fully and it really was quite stunning. Their home is a 300-year old cottage with all higgledy-piggledy walls and vertical stairs and absolutely lovely. They also have the daftest dog - a lurcher - who hasn't realized she is the size of a small bus but acts like she is the size of a small pug. But still, a lovely pup indeed.
We took my one-and-only day in the Cotswolds to visit the lovely neighbouring town of Burford, and again it was absolutely charming - and not particularly crowded considering it was 1st May.
U took me into her "favourite" shop, and I have to admit it was just like a rabbit warren - a never-ending maze of nooks and crannies. AND - get this - they also had an oldy-worldy sweety shop selling the old fashioned sweets that I remember from my childhood. Chocolate limes, butterscotch - oh it was just heaven, although I'm not sure my dentist will thank me for my indulgences later!
On the Tuesday I drove down to Dorset for mom's funeral, which was to take place the following day. And you know, while it was sad, it really was all right! I mean, she hadn't been in ill health, she was 94 and happy, and she just sat down and went to sleep. Who wouldn't want to go like that? I know I would.
All five children were there, with just two out of her 10 grandchildren not being able to make it from Denmark. My kids flew in from Geneva after work on the Tuesday night and made it to Dorset at 2 a.m. and then had to fly back out after the funeral on an 8 pm flight - but I am so glad they were able to make it.
My sister, who had made all the arrangements, had chosen a semi-religious service as we are not a religious family, and the celebrant had taken the time to sit with my sister and her husband and write down some of their memories and stories. In a case like my mom's I personally don't think the aim is to make people cry, and I have to say that having the celebrant read out some of the silly stories during the service was lovely, and certainly cut the tension. I mean, how about when we went to visit Corfe Castle and my mom scrambled up the hill on all fours to get up to the castle, only for my dad to point out afterwards the pathway which she could have used (and was just out of sight) - I don't think she spoke to him all day after that!

Corfe Castle
After the ceremony, my other sister was telling us that when she was preparing to move to Denmark nearly 40 years ago mom had told her to buy a TV in England to take with her because that way "she could get all the English channels too"! I mean, how lovely is that!
The music was also beautiful and I think the only thing that made any of us a bit wobbly was on the order of service they had put a picture of mom and dad in uniform during WWII and as we said our last goodbyes they played Vera Lynn singing "We'll Meet Again". What a lovely choice, but it caused a few tears I can tell you.
Mom and dad in Blackpool

After that we went to the marina for refreshments and then those that could make it went back to my sister's house afterwards, although some had flights to catch and had to dash off. And there we spent several hours telling all the old stories (as you do) and laughing - which in a way is why I am writing this blog because I want those stories to remain for those that are left behind. Can there be a better tribute?
Gwladys Myfanwy - "mom"

God bless!