The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

All quiet on the western front!

There's not much going on here at the moment. All the work is done in preparation for the big meeting next week and then ..... probably bugger all to do until Christmas (or very little). I prefer to be busy but that's the way my work goes - very cyclical. Still, with all the stuff I have to do in connection with reverting to my maiden name I suppose it's as well to have some down time too. Talking of changing my name though, I have to admit it has really been pretty easy so far.  I stopped in at the Mairie (the local "town hall") on Saturday to register my change of name now that I have my new passport and it took about three minutes - two of which were spent just chatting! It was funny though because the lady pulled out a paper sheet from her drawer, put a pencil line through "B" and inserted my new name of "T" and that was it! Talk about high tech. Well actually she laughed and said that she would input put it into the computer also but probably "after coffee"!

I emailed a copy of my new passport to the French bank and received my new cheque book about a week later (on a side note, they haven't used cheques in Switzerland for 13 years now) and then I stopped in at the Swiss bank - having waited until my salary went in in my old name - on Monday and today (Wednesday) I have already received my new bank cards! Very impressed. Electricity, mobile phones, water bill - all switched.  Next up is my driving licence, although that does already have both names. Still, it's about to fall apart at the seams being a paper licence so I guess I should drag it into the twentieth century (at the very least) and get the credit-card-style one too. But so far, as I said, so good.

I'm still not sure what my kids are doing for Christmas this year. I didn't see them on Christmas day last year as they had other plans - but that was ok with me as we got together on the 29th. My youngest said he will be up home as his girlfriend will be working (she is a psychiatric nurse) but I don't know what the oldest will be doing yet. And, devil that I am, I don't think I will cook a turkey. I hate having to do/eat something just because it is a particular day so I am thinking lamb this year. Not sure yet but I am leaning that way.

Oh, André (the oldest) and his fiancée (am still getting used to that word) flew to the UK recently and had engagement pictures taken just south of London, and how lovely they are. (These are pictures of pictures so maybe not the best quality but good enough for me until I can order copies) and Lily tells me she found her wedding dress on her last long week-end in London!

To think that when my ex left I bought myself an expensive camera (in the duty-free at the airport) and took photography lessons and I am still crap. I lugged that bloody thing up Machu Picchu in Peru (and admittedly got some beautiful photos) but it was so heavy that I ended up taking most of my photos on my ipad! Still, I'm sure I have other qualities.

Talking of Peru, amongst the many people I met on that trip was a lovely Yorkshireman called Steve. He and I have stayed in touch over the last four years and now he is coming out to spend New Year here with me. He has been out before, although only briefly, but as we were chatting the other day we ended up arranging for him to come out again. I told him to bring his cozzie because I plan to take him to Lavey-les-Bains hotsprings on New Year's eve (via Vevey/Montreux on the way out and Evian on the way back - i.e. the scenic route). I did this once years ago when my family came over and I think it was the best New Year's I have ever spent - so totally different. (I don't suppose there's much chance I can lose 15 kg between now and then though!). Anyway, he is good fun so it should be great, particularly as my employer (very generously) closes between Christmas and New Year!

So on that note, I will love you and leave you. Just a shout out to Sonya Ann though who has been off the radar recently. Hope you are feeling better my dear - blogworld is a very quiet place without you!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

My first pub quiz

Last Friday my colleague invited me to join her for my first ever pub quiz! Yes I was a "quiz virgin" - but even though it was a heck of a trek for me, as it sounded like fun I thought I would give it a shot.

Her mom and dad had just arrived from Ireland and being the dutiful daughter that she is she got mom to baby-sit (on her first night and her birthday to boot) while dad came out to the pub with us for the quiz (though to be fair, mom loved the chance to baby-sit little-un as she doesn't get the chance to see him that often, of course). Anyway, dad's name is Charlie so our team name was - you guessed it - Charlie's Angels (I like to think we looked the part but that might be wishful thinking or beer goggles on my part)!

Anyway, it was well organized and well-attended, and was being held to raise money for a local refugee charity called "Foodkind". A lovely young Scottish girl gave a short presentation on how the charity works and a local (minor) celebrity DJ was the compere. Actually he was very good and sharp-witted (giving the team called "The Brexiteers" quite a run for their money).

To be honest, the questions were very much "locally-oriented" and maybe not quite what I was expecting, but then as the profits were going to a small, local refugee charity I suppose that should come as no surprise really. I mean, how many of you have ever looked at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) website? Nah, didn't think so. Me neither. Oddly enough, it's amazing what you "think you know, but don't really", if you know what I mean, although I was quite chuffed at myself for correctly guessing the name of the third goal-scorer on the 1998 French World Cup winning team (well this is France after all). Still even though we didn't win (well didn't actually come close) it was good fun and Charlie was an absolute doll, so I think I will give it another go. Apparently Paddy's Irish Pub in the local town runs a quiz about once a month (where I guess the questions might be a little less specific) so I might give that a shot next time.

Then on Saturday night my friend and I were out again at the local GEDS (Geneva English Drama Society) presentation of Noel Coward's "Relative Values". As always, they do a wonderful job but I have to say how much I enjoyed the actual play itself - never having seen a Noel Coward play before. Very drôle!

Actually, as much as I would like to fly into London or wherever to see some of these plays (and even though you can get some pretty good deals from here), being able to see these "amateur" performances has allowed me see theatre that I would otherwise never get to see, and I have had some really good experiences.

Actually they are putting on Puss in Boots for the Christmas panto. Don't think I will be going to that as it really is for young children but who knows - maybe when grandchildren come along ......!

Altogether now "HE'S BEHIND YOU"!!!!!!!

Friday, 18 November 2016

That was fast!

I wrote a couple of posts back about how I had gone the Deed Poll route of changing my name back to my maiden name. I had wanted to do it for ages but was put off by the amount of work that would be involved getting everything changed to be honest. And then, of course, I still had another six years to run on my current passport so kept saying "I'll do it when I have to renew my passport" and so on. Trouble is, if I waited those six years I would (hopefully) be retired and would, I think, probably be even less inclined to go through all the hassle. But then, as I mentioned in my earlier post, I was working late one night with my colleague and when we took a short break I thought "sod it", went on the Deed Poll site and changed my name "just like that"!

I also went the Deed Poll route because apart from being a perfectly legal way to change my name, according to their web site the Deed Poll was all I needed in order to get my passport changed. If reverting to my maiden name, the alternative, according to the passport office, was to submit God knows how many different papers (all of which I had) but in the original copy and all in English! Well I knew I wasn't going to be sending off my original birth certificate, marriage certificate or divorce judgement anywhere, and I certainly wasn't going to bloody well pay to have the 14 pages of my divorce judgement translated officially into English when all my paperwork showed my maiden name as "T" - so hence I stuck with the Deed Poll route.

The problem was, the passport office wrote back and said they also needed "x", "y", and "z", so I emailed them copies of my birth certificate, my marriage certificate and divorce judgement, my French driver's licence (showing both names) and an attestation from my employer giving both names and still it wasn't good enough. When I complained that (a) I crossed the Franco-Swiss border twice a day and despite Schengen I could still get stopped, and (b) I had been led to believe that the Deed Poll act alone was enough, they told me they couldn't be responsible for what was on the Deed Poll site!!!! Talk about frustrated. I mean, it's not like I was trying to change my name to Elvis Presley or anything, I just wanted my birth name back.

So next they said they would accept an attestation from my employer stating that my name was now "T" and not "B" so I told them that neither my employer nor the Swiss authorities (for my work permit) would change my name to "T" until they (the passport office) issued me with appropriate photo ID in that name! My God, I felt like the puppy chasing it's tail! I am pretty placid as it happens but I thought my head was going to explode. Their response to that was to get my employer to submit another attestation confirming that neither they nor the Swiss would issue me with new papers until I got my passport back in the name of "T"!!! So I drafted an attestation to this effect which my employer happily stamped and BINGO - it worked! While I understand that passports aren't (nor should they be) given out lightly, you can only imagine how frustrated I was. That being said - and to be fair to the passport office - I mailed my old passport off to them on 2 November and had my new passport back on 16 November so despite all the hassle the turn around time was pretty impressive. I also, despite my frustration, remained polite because they were only doing their jobs and to be honest, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar anyway. I mean, if someone who holds some kind of power over you really wants to screw you they can - so why tempt fate.

That little "chip" at the bottom of the passport means that it is an e-passport, which means that I can go through the automated customs control when entering the UK as it has all my details micro-chipped. I think I was coming back from Turkey the first time I went through the automated passport control and while there were occasional blips I think it works pretty well.

This morning I contacted my Swiss bank for an appointment to change my salary account etc. over to my new name and we will do it the day after pay day (wouldn't want my pay to end up bouncing around in cyber space), and the lady told me that I will have my new bank cards, etc. in three days! I then contacted my French bank and she told me to email her a copy of my new passport and she would take over from there - just like that - I didn't even have to go in! I don't know what I was expecting but I wasn't expecting anything quite so efficient. I am actually pretty organized and have been making lists of everything I need to change and the appropriate phone numbers. I'm sure I will forget a few things, but at least now the the ball is rolling. Trouble is, my married name was so much easier for the French-speakers to pronounce than my maiden name - ah well!!!!

After that, once all is in order, I will give more thought to applying for French citizenship. That alone could take about two years by all accounts but I reckon I would still have time to "outrun Brexit"!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

It's been a while

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been frantically busy these last few weeks preparing for a big meeting in mid-December. While I'm still busy at least I got my last big report (250 pages) off to the Translation Department (they must be thrilled) so I am finally able to catch my breath, a little. All that to say that not much has been going on in my life lately (although WHOOOOAAAAA to what's been going on in the rest of the world)! Crikey - Trump! Who would have thought it. I have no great affinity for Hilary either but the thought of the US having Trump represent them on the world stage just makes my mind boggle! Still, it is what it is, as they say, and like it or hate it we now have to deal with it.

My boss was telling me that they were watching the news on the day the results came in and his five-year-old looked at Trump on the TV and said (in Spanish) "is it Darth Vader papa?" Dad just cracked up (and no, they're not Mexican). In fact, my lovely Mexican colleague has just been shaking his head in disbelief, while sending round some rather funny pictures. There was a great one about a new sport in Mexico that shows a bunch of athletes running up to a wall and scaling it with ladders, but I couldn't figure out how to load it.  Then there were these:

The "Mexican" Trojan  Horse!

Trump, Mexico salutes you!

Talking of kids, the weather has been beautiful here in Geneva and when I can I hop off the bus on the Mont Blanc bridge and walk the 30 minutes to work through the park. When my oldest started his first year in the international school, we had him riding the school bus to school from the stop outside my work. He was only five but since I could stand with him at the bus stop and it was the last stop before arriving at school we knew he would be OK. So on the first evening I asked him how he had enjoyed his bus ride. He said it was fine and "I got to see the man's willy"! I nearly fell over and asked him to say that again so he did - "I got to see the man's willy"! I didn't really know what to think but Mother Hen here was already mentally drafting an email to the school about the pervert driving the school bus. Anyway, the next day as I was driving to the bus stop my son shouted out "look mommy, there's the man's willy"! Talk about relief - I guess the moral of that story is take a deep breath before you fire off an incendiary email!

Anyway, our drive in to Geneva was hell (still is) because of the sheer volume of traffic on the bridge. Problem was if you missed the school bus you had to drive all the way out the other side of Geneva to school, thereby making you at least 40 minutes late for work so, as you can imagine it was pretty stressful. One time, however, my ex made it to the bus stop in really good time so he parked the car and was standing waiting for the bus with my son when said son asked if daddy thought he (the five-year-old) was strong enough to push the car. Dad said why not let's give it a try, so making sure the handbrake was on, dad and son went to the back of the car and started "pushing" to see if the car would move forward. After a couple of minutes of pushing, little 'un looked up and said "oh daddy, there goes my bus"! Way to go dad, get there 20 minutes early and still end up chasing the bus all the way to school!

Which reminds me of my lovely friend Joyce telling me the story of how many years ago two of her three young children also caught the school bus and between her and her husband they had to juggle picking the kids up at varying bus stops depending on ..... So one time her husband said to her son Kevin to get off the bus at the Pickwick. Well her husband was waiting at the bus stop and when Kevin got off dad asked where Steven was (the youngest), so Kevin said "well you didn't mention anything about Steven" - so yet another dad had to chase a school bus - this time to recuperate their youngest who had been left on the bus by his older brother! 

Talking of school days, I remember when my oldest (still five years of age) was in the school Christmas play and, still being on maternity leave with my youngest, I was able to go watch. Frankly he was crap. I mean, some kids are gifted actors right from the get-go, and then you get the kids like my son who should just move the scenery around, to be honest. He ended up being a "shepherd", muttered his lines with his thumb in his mouth and that was it - until he spotted me at the back of the room and shouted out "it's OK mommy, we've finished now - can we go to McDonalds?" and everyone burst out laughing. Happy days eh!