The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

What a week that was!





My goodness, I was expecting to be busy last week but I think even I underestimated just how busy! That being said, I have to say it was just the perfect week. It's so lovely when everything goes even better than planned isn't it.

On the first Saturday I was off I went down to Chambéry, which is about 80 km from here, for the wedding of a dear friend. Marilyn and Philippe already lived in our little neighbourhood when we moved in - in fact Marilyn was heavily pregnant with Maddie as we moved in - and with both Marilyn and my ex being American we instantly hit it off - it was nice to speak English sometimes. In fact, our kids pretty much grew up together and many a happy day was spent skiing and then enjoying the après-ski!


I think my youngest was just a baby when I took this picture, hence he isn't in it!

Well time marches on, Marilyn and Philippe moved down to Chambéry and then on to the States. The kids grew up, we grew old and sadly Philippe became ill and died suddenly last year. So it was a somewhat bitter-sweet day when his daughter, Madeleine, got married here in France, although Marilyn made sure Philippe's presence was felt everywhere.


Madeleine and Yousaf got married earlier this year in a civil ceremony in Gibraltar and then had another celebration in the lovely Château de Candie just outside Chambéry. And how beautiful they were. This really was a "United Nations" wedding though as Yousaf's father is Pakistani, his mom is Colombian and they live in Dubai! Madeleine's dad was French and her mother is American - so I would say we had many bases covered there wouldn't you! And it really was a lovely mixture of people - all very friendly and welcoming.

Oh, and one of the things that tickled me was as part of the favours there was a bar of yack's milk, a fridge magnet from Colombia, and this lovely little tuk-tuk from Pakistan - isn't it sweet! It was so good to see them all again, and see what lovely kids they turned out to be - but more especially to re-connect with Marilyn again after all these years!




I stayed till 1 a.m. (lasting on just one glass of wine as I had to drive) and got home around 2.30 a.m. on the Sunday morning.

Then the next day my neighbour had invited a group of us over to lunch, as a kind of semi-annual get together of old friends and former neighbours. Thankfully I had had the forethought to make something to take round beforehand as I was pretty tired that morning, I have to say. I knew there was the little granddaughter from next door going also so I made sure to take a couple of games I had just bought to keep her (and the adults as it turned out) occupied. Ker-plunk was a big hit!  In fact, a group of us have decided to get together once a month for a board game evening, so I have been buying games which I have fond memories of from my childhood, as well as new games that have recently come out (Pie Face anyone) and of course new sets of playing cards. I have wonderful memories of playing Tarot and Belote (sp?) as a singleton, as well as Uno, so I'm hoping these evenings really take off!

More to follow - it really was a heck of a week!

Lunch with the neighbours
Ker-plunking!
Hunting for grasshoppers!




Monday, 24 July 2017

Perfect!!!

Everything went absolutely perfectly for the wedding! I still can't believe it.  More to follow!

In front of the Matterhorn - photo by Ap-Art Photography
On cloud nine! Photo by Ap-Art Photography



Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Phew!

I got it finished. By "it", I mean the quilt I decided to make for my son's wedding in a fit of insanity (wedding is next week). By "insanity" I mean, if you have never made a quilt before why would you suddenly decide to make one for your son's wedding? Which implies (a) a deadline, and (b) it can't just be "n'importe quoi" - I mean, it should be reasonably well done right? I must be nuts.

Anyway, I had already given them money as a wedding present since they have everything they need as they have lived together for nine years already. But, I thought I would like to give them something a bit more personal and decided to make a quilt. I had just learned how to transfer photos onto fabric so decided to incorporate some into the central panel. I also knew I wanted a photo of each of them as toddlers so while I already have photos of my son when he was little, obviously, I had to go on to Facebook and steal one of Lily (the one and only toddler photo of her) from her FB page. That bloody quilt took me ages, all the more so since I was unsure what I was doing and was kinda learning as I went along. But, despite chewing my nails down to the quick and making quite a few blunders (I won't point them out to you), I finally got it finished this weekend, which is just as well as I will be fully occupied from here on up to the wedding.



There are loads of cock-ups but I have to say I am rather proud of it - I just hope they like it!

And moving swiftly on, in other news, I mentioned recently that my Uncle Frank - my dad's last surviving sibling - had died recently. The funeral was in England and I couldn't go but sent my condolences to his son, Simon. So yesterday I received a memorial card back from Simon in memory of his dad, which kinda triggered a memory of something my brother said at my mom's funeral last year.


I was very fond of my Uncle Frank and, compared to some of the other brothers, I always considered him rather more "restrained" - quieter, if you like. But my brother Phil told a story of Frankie in his younger days when he might have been slightly less "restrained". Dad and Frankie both played football, and apparently Frankie was quite gifted. Moreover, he was a "left footer" - something which was quite prized because (apparently) most players are "right footed". So one day, local talent scouts arranged to be at a match to check Frankie out. Well seemingly Uncle Frank had been "out on the razzle" the night before, played about 10 minutes then walked over to the side of the pitch and threw up. And that, as they say, was when he saw a glorious future filed firmly behind him!


Uncle Frank is in the front row, seated second from the left. And, parenthetically, my dad is in the back row, standing, first player on the left - you know, the one wearing the odd socks!

And talking of pictures (we were, weren't we?), now that the quilt is finished my next job on the "to do" list is to start sorting/purging old pictures. I have an idea for my boys for Christmas where I want to sort out a few photos of them when they were younger and make them into photo albums using Snapfish. I experimented with Snapfish for the first time recently with the few photos I have of my trip to Cuba. The quality wasn't great because my photos weren't great but at least I got to play around with the formatting (it isn't easy) and was able to send off for my album. My boys love the old photos so I hope they will like what I put together.

And again on the subject of photos, my neighbour was in my house the other day and asked me why I still had my wedding photo up since I have been divorced nearly six years. To be honest, I barely notice that photo since it is tucked away on a corner wall, but I thought "she's right", I don't need to have photos of my ex on my wall since there is no love lost between us.  At the weekend I told my sister that I was dreading seeing him again next week at the wedding and was praying to God he wouldn't just show up at the house "because we're all great friends you see" - err, not! She said not to worry as she would answer the door for the week!!! Yay, for sisters. I have already re-programmed my doorbell to play the theme music from "the Good, the Bad and the Ugly" for the week just in case. On top of that, until I get a photo from my son's wedding to replace my old wedding photo, I used my Photoshop skills - to great effect, I think. I hope you will agree!





Thursday, 6 July 2017

Neighbours are a wonderful thing - well in my case at least!

I think I mentioned that last year I decided to employ someone to cut my grass. I was sick of doing it myself because while I don't have much land, trying to cut grass on the side of a mountain in searing heat just wasn't my thing, so I called the guy who cuts my hedges and he jumped at the chance. He is pretty reasonably priced and it seems to be working out with him cutting the grass about twice a month - depending on the weather. What a relief that is!

Well the grass was getting a bit long as we had had quite a bit of rain recently so while we were having our neighbourhood clean-up on Sunday I hesitated to cut in front of my house but then thought no, that is what I pay him for. And yay, when I got home Tuesday evening it had been done. It is a lovely garden with a beautiful view so when the grass is cut it is quite stunning. And as an added bonus for my gardener, my neighbours also decided to employ him - I guess things kinda snowball like that don't they.

Anyway, at the top of my garden I have a few raised beds where I have planted what is laughingly called "my veggie plot". I could plant a lot more as I have the room but I honestly don't have the time to take care of any more - maybe when I retire. And next to the raised beds I planted a peach tree, which amazed me by actually producing a few (very small) peaches last year - I had assumed it was too cold, and some red currant, raspberry and gooseberry bushes. Trouble is, between all those bushes the weeds were growing at a rate of knots so I had decided that this Sunday I would get out there and tackle that. Buuuuut, when I got home last night I saw that the weeds had all gone. It was weird because I don't remember my gardener doing it and he normally doesn't but .... As I was stood there pondering, my neighbour tootled over and asked if I would mind if he cut the hazelnut tree back, then the mirabelle plum tree, and how about the honeysuckle and the lilac????? Only he wanted it to be "nice for the wedding" in two weeks!!! Wow, I told him it wasn't necessary but he insisted. The way he put it is, he spends 10 minutes chopping away and the next 30 watching the Tour de France so it is no big deal! I tell you, I have great neighbours (all of them in fact) but I think I am particularly lucky with both sets of immediate neighbours. Of course over the years we have always helped each other out - I was dropping his wife off at the hospital once a month on my way to work for a while - but hearing what some people have to put up with (One Family, One Income I am talking to you), I really appreciate having such nice people around, all the more so as I live on my own now.

Oh, and off on a totally different tangent, this morning I thought I should start getting my backside into gear and get back to walking more, even if it is otherwise too hot to exercise. So I caught the express bus which dropped me at the train station in 20 minutes and hopped off to walk the last 30 minutes to work. The hotels around the train station are particularly popular with Japanese tourists for obvious reasons and traffic being heavy around there, when you want to cross the roads you really can't nip over between traffic - you have to wait for the "little green man". So a whole bunch of people were standing waiting for the lights to change when I spotted two (Japanese?) women standing partially on the road waiting to cross but totally absorbed in their phones. After a couple of minutes the "little green man" appeared and everyone scooted over to the other side. While I was crossing I watched the women tapping away on their phones and continuing to do so for the minute or so that we had to cross. By the time they had looked up the lights had changed back to red and they were stuck there again. A younger woman just looked at me and laughed saying "now that was surreal", and yes indeed it was!

Monday, 3 July 2017

This and that!


It's been a while since I last posted but that's because the days just seem to be flying by. I have been really busy at work ahead of our 24th July meeting but most of the gruntwork is done so my feet have time to touch the floor now! The bloody traffic has been dreadful of late and I really don't know why but hopefully with the schools breaking up soon it should be a bit calmer. And the weather!!!!! A week ago last Friday as I was driving home the external temperature sensor on my car showed 37 degrees C (98 F). Then last Friday it flashed up at 14 degrees C (57 F)! A drop of over 20 degrees in one week! Crikey. Not that I minded too much because 37 is just way too hot for me, particularly since my office is in a beautiful old (protected) building (so read "no AC"). Yuck that was miserable. And of course, over here unlike places that routinely get much hotter, homes don't have AC either (or none that I know of anyway) so you really are trying to make the most of any little thru-breeze you can get. It's back to about 25 at the moment and so much more bearable!

We had some sad news on the home front too. My dad's last remaining sibling, Uncle Frank, started to suffer from Alzheimer's a few years ago. His wife had had a severe stroke a couple of years ago and needs full-time care so their only child, S, made arrangements for her to be moved into a home in the south of England near him. For Uncle Frank he had changes made to his own home so that dad could move in with him and his family. Three weeks ago they decided to give Frankie a break and take him away with them on holiday to Wales. Frankie got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, got confused about how to get back to his room and fell down the stairs, breaking his back and dying within 24 hours. So very sad. I know Alzheimer's is no fun (dad had it) but it just seems such a sad way for him to go when things were finally starting to "look up for him a bit"!

Then the weekend before last, on the Friday evening, one of my two sewing clubs held our end-of-year dinner in a lovely restaurant near me. Quite by coincidence, the other Monday-night sewing club chose to have their end-of-year lunch at the same restaurant the following day, in addition to springing a surprise farewell lunch on a lovely German lady who was leaving our region to move to Brittany to be nearer her sons. She and I got along well as the two "foreigners" and she was quite tearful when she realized what they had organized. And this being a patchwork club the ladies had had an all-day "sew-in" and made her a beautiful quilt as a souvenir. It really was stunning. I, of course, couldn't take part in the "sew-in" because I was at work so I bought her a beautiful book of post card images of Haute Savoie (the region I live in) as a reminder! She was moved to tears. Then she started threatening not to move to Brittany at all .......

But the sad thing that put a real damper on her leaving do was that one of the other ladies' husbands had been killed in a freak accident just two days earlier. He was only 64 and had been towing a 1,000 litre water butt out to the field when it moved, fell off the trailer and crushed him! Absolutely tragic and of course the shock of something like that must be unbelievable. While I'm sure losing someone you love to illness is appalling at least there is some knowledge of what might happen, but to lose your husband like that just doesn't bear thinking about! So very sad.

Getting back to my rotten commute, last Friday the traffic in Geneva seemed to be easier than normal at leaving time, but once I got through the border and pulled off the motorway to head home I got stuck in nose-to-tail traffic for another hour. The roads were completely blocked and we all got told to turn around and take little back roads!!!! Aaaarrrrkkkkkkk! It turns out it was a demonstration by local farmers using their tractors to block the roads. Much as I love France I have to say the French are very good at going on strike (I'll never fly Air France - they always end up going on strike at Easter, the school holidays, Christmas you name it). I suppose the other side of that coin is that they are not afraid to fight for what they want. BUUUUT on Friday night I wasn't impressed I can tell you. Turns out though, that they were protesting because they wanted something done about the "travellers" (gypsies by any other name) who would just park up on their land and seemingly would only move when they were good and ready. I guess that changes my opinions of the farmers' actions now! While we get a couple of groups of travellers round by us who do leave the fields clean, some are just disgusting pigs. There is a more or less permanent site near Annecy's small airport and they are filthy tips. I saw an article one time about how a group of travellers parked up on a hospital car park in England and it took ages to get them moved so I can understand the farmers' frustration.

Well, the good news is that a group of travellers cut through one of the farmer's chains protecting his field and installed themselves there. So what did the farmer do? He called up a few like-minded friends and they went down to the field and sprayed liquid manure all over them!!! You gotta love that one haven't you - and they moved off pretty sharpish by all accounts! I do so love a good ending.

And finally, on Sunday we had our annual neighbourhood clean up - a little later than usual but it seemed the last available date before people disappeared on their summer hols. It honestly doesn't take long to have our little place looking spic and span - and then we all pitch in and eat together on our little island. There was waaaayyyy too much food but hey, we all had a really pleasant day, we met two new sets of neighbours and the kids (and one dad!!!) had a blast!

He was definitely outnumbered!



Princessing is hard work!


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A girl needs all the support she can get!

Just this week a comment on another blog about buying underwear (you know, the kind of thing you discuss transatlantic with someone you have never met) reminded me of a "bra buying" story I had all but forgotten about!

Some years ago my oldest sister, her daughter and I decided to go to Marks and Spencer's in Dorset to be properly measured for a bra. We have always been "well stacked" in my family (well the female side anyway, although apparently cosmetic surgery for "moobs" (man boobs) is now the fastest growing cosmetic surgery for men, but I digress). Anyway, we went in to be measured in turn and all three of us came out in fits of giggles. As is pretty common, we had all been wearing totally the wrong size of bra for years! Of course the "right" size bra ended up basically looking like two wheelbarrows welded together, so not exactly a turn on, but my niece said that as soon as she started wearing the correct size bra her back pain totally disappeared! Ha, who wudda thunk!

A few years later the same sister had to have an operation on her shoulder. Shortly after the op she decided that she would like to be re-fitted for a new bra, so back to Marks and Sparks she trotted with her husband (who was driving) and my mom in her wheelchair (who was just along for the ride).

When her turn came to be measured she went into the changing room with the lady but with her shoulder operation being so recent the lady was afraid to touch her in order to take a proper measurement. In the end they called my sister's husband into the changing room thinking that he could help very gently move my sister's arm/shoulder in order for the lady to measure her.

After a little while they finished up and my sister and the assistant walked out. At that point, my brother-in-law stuck his head out from behind the curtain and called out "Who's next please? Professionally qualified bra fitter at your service!" They said the look on the waiting ladies faces was a sight to behold, and my mom went into a fit of the giggles! Oh, and did I mention that my brother-in-law was a cop!!!! So ladies, if you are looking for a professionally-qualified bra fitter and you're in Dorset, you know where to go!


Monday, 19 June 2017

And even busier!

And still as busy as ever, but at least on the positive side, I know that this will be my busiest period so I know what to expect. That being said, added to the general exhaustion of last week, the weather was scorching and the traffic was awful. I mean, one night when I didn't work late, I left work at 5.30 pm and made it home at almost 8 p.m.!!! Not sure what that is all about but I am so looking forward to the kids getting out of school and there being less traffic on the roads for a couple of months!

Add to that, the state of my house has been getting to me and when I get like that I always feel like I am chomping at the bit to do something about it. By European standards I have a fairly large house with an enormous basement, and of course when you have all that space you fill it up don't you. Not just me of course. At one time we were five living here but as the kids (and one gf) moved out and the ex left me, my house became the repository for all things unwanted, particularly an entire three-bedroomed farmhouse' worth of stuff that my ex left behind two years ago. Admittedly my kids took what stuff of his they wanted but that still left me with a shedload! Oh, and does anyone else have the same problem that when you switch from summer tyres to winter tyres, all the leftover tyres get dumped back at your place! Then of course, nobody can really recognize whose are whose summer tyres to put them back on when summer rolls around! Urrggghh!

I'm not totally blameless of course. I love to cook and for more than 20 years subscribed to the BBC Good Food Guide. Trouble was, I went through the magazines and either highlighted recipes or ripped them out, meaning to get around to trying them later. Well you can imagine how that went can't you, and while I have discovered some fabulous recipes, if I live to be 1,500 years old I would never get around to trying them all. On top of that, being just me at home now, why would I want to cook Ken Hom's full Peking Duck menu!! So to that end, I vowed to not only attack the basement but also start going through the house, and much to my shame, the picture below shows the recipes "I was going to try out" taken from just one drawer!!! (Man, this is like washing your dirty underwear in public!!!) Shame on me!


I took quite a large load to the tip on Saturday - stuff I could donate or give away I will advertise on Facebook or take to the local charity. It's amazing though how just getting rid of one small pile of stuff instantly lifts your mood isn't it!

Still, not being too hard on myself, I have to show you my "major achievements" this weekend too. Every time I go on holiday I tend to pick up little souvenirs but with the intention of actually bringing back something "useful", or at least not just a dust collector. For instance, the table runner you can see in the above picture I bought on the Floating Islands in Peru four years ago. I had a few things I fell in love with in Greece last year that I wanted to put up on my external walls, but had no drill to put them up with (the little drill I bought after my ex left was not strong enough).  Anyway, having cleared some stuff out of the basement I came across my ex' power drill so thought "sod it, I'm gonna put those things up". I tell you, it was hard going as I was drilling into solid concrete, sometimes with metal inside it (I hit that in a few places), but after much sweating and swearing, and a couple of my neighbours looking on laughing (they did offer to help), I managed to get six pieces put up in about an hour, so if anyone needs a "handywoman" just give me a call!

I thought, living in France, my little frog was quite appropriate!
My little lizard is actually very, very brightly coloured - but the sun drowned the colours out!
And after the terrible events in the UK in the past month (two terror attacks in London and a loser blowing himself up at the Ariana Grande concert, plus the tower block going up in flames) it felt nice to find a small bit of "joy" this weekend. My next door neighbours have three grandchildren. The nine year old is down's syndrome and then there are two five year olds. Well, I was out in what I laughingly call my "veggie plot" attempting to take it back from the encroaching field, when the three kids came "to help". I think in reality they were more interested in watching the horses galloping around (you can see them better from my garden which backs directly onto the field) but the excuse was "to help me"!



Anyway, the two five-year olds eventually left but the oldest, the little DS boy, stayed to "help me", and eventually, with the help of his dad, he was able to tell me that he now knew when he had to go pee and could tell his mommy and daddy! I was shocked because, I suppose, not being in their situation, I had never given it any thought how long it would take to "potty train" him. But, he was as pleased as punch, and for the first time ever I got a big kiss!

Oh, and if I really want to be a nasty cow (I do), I stopped in at Stan's for a coffee on my way back from shopping on Saturday and as I walked in just routinely said "bonjour" to the couple who were waiting to pay him. Turns out, it was the dumpy, fat-ankled little cow that my ex-husband ran off with in 2010 and maaaaaaan has she got fat! I asked Stan if she was pregnant (she looked about eight months) and he said of course not as she is nearly 50 (she is 10 years younger than me). I had been working in the garden that morning and looked a bit of a mess but decided to clean myself up before going shopping - good thing eh - bumping into her like that. I must ask her when the baby is due next time! (Yeah, strike me down I know)!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Busy, busy, busy!

As I have mentioned before, my work is very cyclical and right now we are busy gearing up for a big meeting in July. I don't mind at all because I hate the "down" times and get a real buzz out of being up against deadlines. Ok, I wouldn't want to be like that all the time but it certainly makes the days go faster.

So, what's new? Well although my oldest got married in a civil service in March (they bought the wedding forward in order for Lily's granddad to be there. Thankfully they did as he sadly died shortly thereafter), the big celebration will be in July. As the best man, it was up to my youngest to organize the stag do. I only got to see the one photo posted on Facebook but I saw a couple on my youngest's mobile phone - and it was quite a do! One of the girlfriends found a "Heidi" outfit for him but by the time they had added a red cape apparently he looked more like Little Red Riding Hood. As they were about to set off though, one of the girls decided that his make-up wasn't quite right so they set about putting that right!


After a few drinks (nobody was driving) they went off to play "balloon football". Berrrrrkkk. The thought of a few drinks in me then running round a field playing balloon football doesn't bear thinking about, but apparently he was fine (at that point at least)!


Next up was a trip to the local go-kart place where I'm given to understand his stomach didn't make it past the finishing line at the same time as the rest of his body! Oh well, you only do it once right? That's where he lost his Marilyn Monroe wig too apparently. Man, I have to get hold of some more photos!

After that it was back to Max's place (he of the tattooed arm in the photo) and BBQ and partying till 5 a.m. when they all passed out until about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. All good fun I guess. On a side note, Max is a friend of both my sons as they play in a band together. His father has his own plumbing business and took my youngest on as an apprentice a few years back, so technically Max is Jordan's boss too. To give credit where credit is due, Max bought a run down old house on around 10,000 square metres of land and over a period of about three years has slowly done it up to what is apparently a stunning home now. Not bad at the ripe old age of 27 but hey, he put the hard work in and is now sitting pretty, something I hope my youngest will be able to do in a few years when he has acquired more skills.

After that it was Jordan's turn. He turned 25 last Wednesday so his girlfriend organized a surprise party for him at a bar about 200 metres from their home. She got him there by saying that the bar was doing a special that evening and how about they just go out for a quick drink before dinner. Well when he got there she had arranged with a whole bunch of his friends to be hiding inside the bar! Apparently they had a great evening!


It's so nice that these kids have been friends for so many years and still make time to get together or go hiking or skiing when possible. The bar is called the "684" because it is 684 metres above sea level, just in case anyone is asking!  Oh, and the handsome young black man kneeling down in the red T-shirt is my friend, Stan's, son, the professional rugby player. And again, another party. Daniel had been chosen to play for France in the rugby sevens held in the UK the week before so his girlfriend organized another surprise party last Monday for when he got back. Lovely times indeed!

In other news, I am starting to see all the little things that need fixing up in my house and realize I should get round to having them done. So a couple of weeks ago I had the chap who painted my house take a look at my external balcony, which is in a very sorry state. The cement had started to leak and the underside paint was starting to chip because of it. It didn't make any difference to the inside of the house but it was looking pretty shabby. I was therefore somewhat shocked when he came up with a quote of €1,800! I mean the balcony is probably only about 7 square metres and I am not asking him to do the barrier at all. So thinking that was a ridiculous quote I went out to the DIY place and bought a few basic supplies to have a go myself. Cost me €140 for the lot and that included some of the tools that I would need. Anyway, while I was chipping away at it my doorbell rang and my friend had sent over a guy who does work for her - reliable if a bit pushy. So I asked him to take a look but made the mistake of telling him what the other guy had quoted. His response was "oh, that's about right, but did he mention you would have to do this, and this and this too?" Turns out his quote would come in at around €2,000 but he "would do a better job"! So still not convinced, next time I went up for a drink at Stan's I happened to bump into Philippe, who is in the business, and asked him to give me a basic quote "off the top of his head", given that he knew my house and had already seen my balcony. He came up with about €400, and that included the supplies! When I showed him the written quote I had he nearly fell off his chair. As he said, "they can see you coming can't they!" I hate the thought that these people are taking advantage of me (a) because I'm a woman and (b) because I'm alone. So to make a long story short, Philippe is going to come and do it for me - we just have to set up a time.

And on the subject of the balcony, the wooden barriers are also pretty shabby having been exposed to the elements for so long. My sons have a friend who has his own sheet metal business so tonight he is coming to give me a quote to get that done. My house looks out onto a dairy farm so I have an idea of what I want for the balcony itself.  What do you think?


And I want him to give me a quote for putting in a gate at the side of my house. So far my gardens have been totally open but as they are building more and more in the village and I have had a little sod come into my back garden and steal my decorations (the neighbour caught him and gave him a bollocking), I think I may as well go ahead and get the gate put in. At least that way it would be "fenced off" from the front, even while still being open at the back, although to get into the back they would then have to go through two other neighbours' gardens. For the side gate I have seen a picture of a gate made by this same young man with a cat chasing a mouse. We'll see - I guess it depends on the price!

As I said, all the little bitty things that need doing around the house have been getting to me, so amongst the pile of junk in my basement I finally managed to track down my ex' heavy duty drill. Over the course of my travels I have picked up lovely little souvenirs that I wanted put on my walls but never got round to it. Well now Jordan has shown me how to get the drill bit in right (yeah, I'm that good), last night I decided to get a few pieces put up. Trouble is, all my souvenirs stand a chance of being put up at eye level because I "ain't getting up no ladder!"

And finally, a bit of a rant. I don't rant very often and tend to keep my political opinions to myself but I was horrified at the insensitive, oafish tweets that the tangerine buffoon posted about Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, in the aftermath of the latest atrocities. I don't remember him being so offensive to the Mayor of Manchester - oh right, Sadiq Khan is muslim, not that that's got anything to do with it of course. Thankfully, people have come out overwhelmingly in support of Sadiq Khan, who at least knows how to conduct himself with class, which is more than can be said of you-know-who! And to think he has the code to the "big button"! It's downright scary!




Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Ooooh ger off mi foot!

I was sad to learn that former Blue Peter presenter John Noakes died this week at the age of 83. I understand that he had been very ill with dementia and that it was in so many ways a relief, but I have such fond memories of watching Blue Peter as a little girl, it just seems to be the end of an era I suppose. For me, John and his lovely dog, Shep, were the highlight of the programme and if I am having vague rumblings about getting a dog when I retire, Shep is the one I want!  Rest in peace John and thank you for so many wonderful memories.

John and Shep
And the infamous elephant scene:



In other news, the weather here in Geneva is absolutely glorious, if a little hot for me, so as usual it was out and about this weekend at a local flea market. I look at it as having a lovely day out for a few euros, bring home some junk, and then give most of it back to charity in about a year's time. So an economical day out, right! Sunday was the first time I had ever been up to Groisy, and I have to admit, if and when the time comes to downsize I would definitely give Groisy a thought - the only downside possibly being that it is at an even higher altitude than where I currently live so not so sure about driving on snow in later years.


This photo doesn't do the view justice but ....
Groisy church
We had a wander round the flea market and while I was happy with my haul we were both glad to get out of the heat!



Love the oldie-worldy lamp I picked up!
And moving swiftly on, I was able to get off the bus and walk to work this morning from the train station and for once chose to walk through town to check out some of the shops. It's amazing what interesting little places you miss when you are always on the bus and I noticed quite a few "newbie" shops that might merit further inspection. The Geneva authorities give parts of the park over to wild flowers, which were stunningly beautiful, with some giving off a lovely perfume - so yes for once I did take time to stop and smell the roses!

In other news, I have been feeling particularly lacking in energy lately (probably due to the humidity) so last week I decided to have another shot at going vegetarian. I had done this twice before many years ago, and well remember how much energy I had after the initial few days of feeling yuck. And true to form, for the first few days I am feeling a bit light headed but otherwise it hasn't been difficult so far. "If it was so great why did you stop?" you might ask. Well I was much younger then and was thoroughly defeated each time by a full English breakfast whenever I went home. This time who knows what will happen. I like to cook and love veg and pulses and so on, so, as I said, it hasn't been difficult so far. Just hoping one of the side-effects will be weight loss. We'll see.

Oh, and I think I have found an outfit for the wedding in July. I have ordered it and everything else I have had from this company I have been very pleased with so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

And finally, Anne's "Train Wreck Tuesdays" posts about verbal dueling with her mother got me to thinking about an only slightly related incident with my own mom many years ago. I remember being in her kitchen in Dorset when she commented that "they don't make fridges likes they used to, you know." So when I asked her why she said "see that fridge, we bought it when you were three and it's still going"! I was about 50 at the time, so yes indeed it was impressive. Or maybe it was really that nobody liked to point out to her that the fridge had probably conked out 30 years ago, but England being cold in the summer half the time she had probably never noticed! Ah, God love her!



Friday, 19 May 2017

A Time to Live

US blogger Sam recently posted about the tragic sudden death of a very young and very dear friend. Quite by coincidence I had seen a trailer for a BBC documentary called "A Time to Live" which aired on Wednesday. It recounted the story of a group of people in the UK (around 12 I think - I didn't count) who had all been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and had been given XX number of months/years to live. While I'm sure to most of us that would be a horrific experience, the way the documentary unfolded, while it was indeed terribly sad, it was also thought-provoking and strangely uplifting.

If I remember right, the youngest person they interviewed was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at age 23. The oldest (that I remember) was a gentleman of 69. All were sad that they would not get more time with their loved ones, and some with younger children were very concerned about making sure they would be ok once that parent died. But the over-riding emotion that seemed to emanate from all of these people was gratitude for the chance to really live life to the full! Sounds weird I know. So I started writing down comments that they made to try to make sense of it all afterwards, and here are just a few (paraphrased as best I can remember them).

One lady, upon learning her diagnosis, talked to her children and with their agreement left her husband of 28 years to travel, indulge in her passion for art and learn salsa. It wasn't quite as "clinical" as it sounds and she and her husband both moved on but ....."It allows you to do things instead of just dreaming about doing them"!

Another young woman was asked if she would like to go back in time with the possibility of "eternal life" (well, as "eternal" as any of us have it). She thought for a minute and said "if 'eternal life' meant going back to how I was living before then no, I don't want it. All the stress and rushing around just living to work, and so on - no, I don't want it. Not now I really know what it feels like to be alive"!

One man who was naturally devastated at being told that his illness was terminal "started to shuffle", like the sick person that he now was! He was "a sick old man" so he knew he had to "shuffle". And then he decided that he bloody well didn't have to shuffle - or indeed have his behaviour conform to any particular way of being just because he was sick! So he started running constantly. I get the impression he was a runner anyway, but he explained how wonderful and "full of life" he felt when he ran despite being "terminal". I don't remember the proper name but he entered "the great desert race" not knowing whether he would still be alive when the time came. He was and he completed it! To him, the fact of enrolling was the important thing - finishing it was very much secondary.

Another lady said it was a blessing knowing that her time was "finite" because it allowed her to put all her affairs in order - but more importantly sort the children's photos for them and slip little messages on postcards in amongst their photos for when they would feel sad or lonely.

There was an overriding positivity to them all. "Knowing how long you have gives you a game plan/clarity, and reinforces the gift of life when you realize it is finite"!

And lastly, an older lady who had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, seemed like she had been a heck of a character during her life, a frequent traveller and a "grab life by the horns" kind of person. So after diagnosis she joined a group of solo-travelling women and continued to travel as long as her health would allow. Then she met up with them in the UK in her wheelchair when she was no longer able to travel. She said she had "no intention of seeing this disease through to the end" but would be travelling to Dignitas in Switzerland when the time came to end her own life. Her sadness was that she would have to do this "before she was ready" because after that she would no longer be well enough to travel. Her final comment was that she would have liked to have remained in her own home and "do it here" (in the UK) but sadly it is not (yet) legal.

As I said, very sad, thought-provoking, but incredibly uplifting too.

The narrator's final words were that all these people had made the choice to live life to the full knowing that their time was running out. And she (the narrator) had also made a choice to not tell her audience the names of those who had died since the documentary had been filmed. The right decision I think. RIP those who have passed!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

I'll have what she's having!


As I mentioned previously my brother, his son and son's gf came out last week for a long weekend, and although rotten weather was forecast we actually didn't do too bad - for one day at least - and then not so bad on the others. As their first day here was warm and sunny I decided to head up to Lac des Confins. Despite appearances (see the snow in the background) it was actually beautiful and Lady Luck was yet again on our side as the restaurant I wanted to take them to was open for the last day before it closes until July. Their busy season (cross-country skiing in this case) has just wound down so they take a few weeks off before gearing up for the lesser, summer season.

Not the greatest picture of me and my brother but we were looking into the sun!


Linda, Darren, Anna and Phil
We then drove down to my favourite ski resort of La Clusaz and while it was also pretty much closed up for the season it was still very pretty. After that we picnicked a bit further down the road (Nathalie, sorry I couldn't get a picture of the "Thônes" signpost for you but traffic was diverted and we ended up taking the "even more scenic route" - i.e. we got lost), arriving in Annecy to spend a few hours walking round the old town before my kids were to join us later for a dinner-dance boat trip around Lake Annecy. It turned into a bit of a nail-biter as my oldest and his wife (that still sounds so funny to me to be saying that) were driving from Geneva after work and he called to say that the traffic was horrendous but he "hoped to make it before the boat set sail". Crikey, I mean there is no leeway in that is there - you either make it before the boat leaves or you don't! But as luck would have it, they made it with minutes to spare, and what a lovely trip that was. You know, I came to Geneva in 1980 and have been to Annecy many, many times but have never taken a boat trip. We always stay up one end of the lake when we visit - but what a mistake that was as the "far end" is stunning. As this was the beginning of the season for the boat operators there was barely anyone on board so we more or less had it to ourselves. The food and service was excellent - I can't say it was overly expensive for what we got, and when we reached the far end of the lake the little town was all lit up and very beautiful. I can't believe I have never done that trip before in all these years. After dinner, a lady got up to sing and again, it was a real treat. I hate to have to shout over loud music to talk and hate it even more if it isn't my type of music, but she was excellent, not too loud, and seemed to sing just the right combination of songs in different languages to keep everyone happy. When we got back to port we could have stayed on board to dance until 1.00 a.m. but since no-one was really up for that we all headed home.  My eldest and Darren talked "politics", as is their want, but it was really nice to see them all get to know each other better. I also took a few of those "helium balloon" photos of everyone so we all had a good laugh.  I'll try to post a few when I get my act together. But it really was a lovely, lovely evening.

Just before the boat sets off
Then on the Saturday we headed off to Lavey-les-Bains. It was raining so my concern was that if there were storms we would not be allowed in the hot springs, but again as luck would have it, while it rained there were no storms so we got to spend a few hours there. My youngest had suggested that instead of taking my usual route along the north bank of Lake Geneva it would be shorter to go through Chamonix and down to Martigny. At Chamonix we decided to stop and have some lunch and here it did rain quite a bit but we had a lovely lunch anyway and got to see the cable cars taking supplies (and a few hardy tourists I imagine) up to the top of the Mont Blanc/Aiguille du Midi.

Aiguille du Midi
Since this wasn't my usual route to Lavey I ended up going the wrong direction on the motorway for quite a while but we made it in the end, although I think we were all tired of being on the road at that point. So on the way back we decided to skip stopping off at Evian in favour of just getting home and getting out of our wet clothes.

On the last full day of their visit the weather picked up a little. It wasn't great but at least it wasn't raining so we were able to get out to Sixt Fer à Cheval and Cascade de Rouget.

This is what Fer à Cheval looks like on a good day


Darren and Linda - not so bad weather really!

At Cascade de Rouget

On Monday before I was to take them back to the airport we had a little time to kill so we decided to stop in at Yvoire, which is just starting to open up for the season, followed by a quick stop in Geneva's old town for coffee before heading out to the airport.

Yvoire
We almost came a cropper though because as we headed out for the airport we became aware of a strong smell of smoke, only to discover that one of the hotels being renovated in central Geneva had gone up in flames. Emergency services had closed the roads but luckily we were early enough that I was able to take another route (and no-one was injured in the fire).

This was my brother's first trip since he lost his wife last year and I think it did him the world of good. He and his son kept joking (I hope) about leaving clothes and toiletries behind for "when they move out here" - yikes! I told them Brexit was gonna be really, really hard and I wasn't sure the French were going to let any more Brits in ever again - not sure they bought it though!

After the excitement of that weekend last weekend was back to normal. I had driven up to my youngest's to get him to sign his US tax declaration and then my friend and I decided to take a trip out to a vide-grenier (car boot/garage sale) near him.  There wasn't much of interest there, to be honest, but I did pick up a nice little dish with a smaller dish embedded into it (you know, where you serve olives and there is a little dish to put the stones). After that we had heard that there was a "garden sale" up at Combloux and since we had tried to make it to Combloux several times in the past and got lost we decided to give it another shot - and WOW - just WOW! I had obviously been to/through Combloux years ago when I used to ski in Megève, but I had totally forgotten how spectacular it is.

Combloux


My little haul!
And finally (gosh don't I yack on!) on Monday night I had my weekly sewing club. One of the ladies showed up late as she "there was a radio programme on about sex toys and she wanted to listen to the end of it"! Now all of these ladies are older than me so you can imagine how that was greeted. The other ladies were in uproar and the conversation definitely took a "turn for the worse". I won't go into great detail but to say it was ribald would be an understatement. And you think men are bad - they ain't got nothing on little old ladies! In fact, in a previous post I had mentioned that sometimes when I go to my local fabric store, if I can't get a parking place I have to park round the corner at the Easy Love sex store! Well I think the evening ended with a kinda "Charlies' Angels pact" where all us little old ladies are gonna go to the fabric store together and then do a "granny sortie" into the sex store (the subject of another post I imagine).

And last night, was my final - for this year - once-a-month patchwork lesson in Cluses. The ladies there got to talking about the French Presidential election. To be fair it was really interesting as I didn't know much about all the candidates and these ladies had some interesting views. But eventually they got to discussing the new (39-year old) President, Emmanuel Macron, and his 64-year old wife, Brigitte. The discussion was more along the lines of "like him or not give him a chance to actually do something" and for the most part the conversation was cautiously optimistic. But, of course, inevitably, the conversation got around to the 24-year age difference with his wife. These ladies were all for it, even if the conversation, yet again, turned somewhat ribald in the kinda "I'll have what she's having" kind of way. And this being France and a sewing class, the new First Lady's outfit was put under the microscope. For me the colour was beautiful but it was way too short (she's got knobbly knees) and to be honest she ruined the look as she struggled to walk in six-inch stilettos over the cobbled stones of the Elysee Palace. (On that note, I once saw a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker in killer heels hobbling like a cane toad over an icy New York pavement and she looked ridiculous - and I love SJP)! 

France's new First Lady
Yeah, yeah, I know, women always get judged on their looks and nobody ever comments on the also 24-year age difference between the tangerine buffoon with the haystack hair and the US First Lady! But like I said, these ladies' comments were pretty darn positive, though I'm not sure I'd like to be 64 years old with a 39 year-old husband and subject to all that scrutiny! Could someone pass me my fluffy slippers please!




Monday, 1 May 2017

What we women have to put up with!

At my latest gynae check up last week he pointed out that it was time for another mamo (every two years in my case). I know we all have to go through these things but really .... don't we women have to put up with it! I had dropped my son and his girlfriend off at the airport on Friday and have to pick them up again tonight, so had to bring the car in to work. I hate driving into Geneva and much prefer to get the bus at the border so I can ignore the traffic and read. But today being 1st May and a holiday in France (but not in Switzerland) I thought it would be a good time to try to get a mamo booked up, reasoning that traffic would still be fairly calm today. And wonder of wonders, I managed to get an early morning slot. My appointment was at the clinic where I had my youngest almost 25 years ago and I have to say it is still just as luxurious. I mean, if you have to be in hospital if there is a bit of luxury so much the better right?  In Switzerland we have privatized medicine and by law everyone has to have medical insurance. I am lucky enough to have very good coverage through my employer so have the luxury of being able to use Swiss facilities. I can use French facilities also of course but since I lived in Switzerland previously I have kept some of my main doctors here. The other thing is everything is to hand in Geneva - hospitals, clinics, specialists etc. whereas in France it means running all over the place as they are much further spread out. Of course they are also one quarter of the price of Swiss medical facilities but you can also end up waiting months to get an appointment, so for the time being I will be sticking this side of the border.

Up till now I have always had female radiologists but I don't know why I was so surprised to get a young man this time. I know it's no big deal but I was just a bit surprised. And of course there is always the ignominy of him crawling under the machine to try to push my boobs into the right position for the x-ray. I suppose it could be worse - I mean, if there was a fire alarm while your boob was stuck in that thing then what do you do? Of course he and the doctor were obviously extremely professional but yuck ... I hate those bloody things. Still, it is better to be safe than sorry I guess and I do understand how lucky I am that these things are routinely covered by my insurance.  I also realize I am lucky in that being "stacked" the mamograms don't hurt either. Some colleagues have told me that it is agony, but for me not a bit of it. In fact one friend described it as "open the fridge door, stick your boob in, then slam the door"! She frightened me half to death as I had never had one at that point but now I know it's no big deal!

Anyway, enough about my boobs. One of my new year's resolutions for 2015 was to join a hiking group. I live in perfect hiking country and rarely ever do any walking, so I actually went out and joined three groups. Problem is, I don't think I was specific enough in my resolution 'cos it turns out you actually have to turn up for these hikes, not just join the group! Damn, who would have thought! Trouble is, I am so unfit that what the locals consider "easy" is usually enough to have me on my knees so I wanted to start off really slowly. The other week a colleague mentioned that our local villages had organized their annual hike and did we want to go. So in for a penny, I said yes. It was advertised as being 13 km long but I knew it wasn't going to be a flat 13 km. Nevertheless, three of us set off on Sunday morning to join up with the group. I was quite proud of myself actually because Sunday morning I really didn't want to go, but I knew I wasn't going to be able to think up an excuse fast enough. So we set off to pick up our paperwork from a very well organized meeting spot and headed off. On one side of Lake Geneva are the alps (the side where I live) and on the other side are the Jura mountains, and kinda slap bang in the middle is the Salève. The first part of our hike was up the Petit Salève, which actually wasn't too bad.

Salève
Then back down to one of the local villages where soup was available for those who wanted it. At the entrance to the "soup kitchen" there was a display of old photos and a lovely elderly man representing "Friends of Old Monnetier" who took the time to explain all the old photos to anyone who was interested.  The trip back through the villages was lovely with tons of wisteria everywhere - apparently the area is known for it. At one point we came across a house with a plaque on it saying that Richard Wagner and John Ruskin had lived here (although not together!).

View of the alps from Petit Salève

Wagner wrote Walkyrie here
I suppose in the olden days it was common for wealthy people to travel to various beauty spots to take the air, take the water, etc.. The Salève would most likely have been visited for its pure air and is en route to Chamonix/Mont Blanc, although what we would cover in probably 90 minutes by car must have taken them days!  On the way down we came across a lovely tree stump that someone had taken the time to make into a "hobbit house"!


After that we headed back towards another village called Esery. This was somewhat flatter but at this point we were starting to flag.

On the road to Esery

Since it was no longer "fun" we decided to call it a day. So we trecked back to K's house where she had tea and the most wonderful apricot and almond cake waiting. While we didn't make the full circuit (we managed about 11 km), I think we were all pleased with what we managed to achieve for our first outing. The old bones are creaking a bit this morning though!



Friday, 28 April 2017

Mental health

Most evenings, if I'm not going out, it is usually around 9 p.m. by the time I sit down for the evening. Last night I saw that the second part of "Mind Over Marathon" was on, so I sat down to watch it. It had caught my eye a couple of weeks ago so I had set it to record but hadn't got round to watching the first part, therefore I won't know the whole story until I watch that tonight. From what I gather from the second part, seemingly the documentary team had recruited 10 people with "mental health issues" last year and started them on a training schedule with a view to running the London Marathon.

The London Marathon took place on 23 April - St. George's Day (the patron saint of England - you know the guy that killed the dragon).

St. George
Of course there were the usual wonderful nutters dressed up as dinosaurs and so on, and many, superb individual achievements. I have nothing but respect for the people that give it their all and do this!

This runner almost collapsed 150 metres out, so another runner helped him across the line!
People can and do run in aid of any charity they wish but the official charity this year, supported by Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge, was "Heads Together" - a mental illness charity.  Without having seen the first part of the documentary, I believe all ten of the people in training had suffered from some kind of mental issue. The one man who dropped out seemed to suffer from agoraphobia, some from depression, but the one that really touched me was a lady whose three year old son had died from pneumonia - and five days later her devastated husband committed suicide as a result!  It was horrendous, but she wanted to run the marathon in aid of the charity and to do something for herself after living through such a devastating turn of events.

The documentary follows the group's training, their ups and downs, over a period of six months, and then at the great day itself. Kate, Wills and Harry came out to see them in training at one point and then were there to officially start the race as well as cheering the runners on throughout the race. It was such a moving documentary. I don't think I'm giving much away by saying that the chappie with agoraphobia dropped out BUT - and this is a a big BUT - he was able to travel down to London on the train by himself to cheer the others on, so he was also one of the success stories, but in a different way. It was a very moving, feel good documentary and well worth an hour of your time if you want to get motivated!


On a slightly less impressive note, I am enrolled with two friends on a 13 km walk this weekend. I think the organizers' aim is to promote local cuisine, farms, cheeses etc. so the walk will follow a route where the walkers are welcomed to various pit stops along the route. 13 km doesn't sound that much to me but as my friend pointed out, "you do realize how hilly it is round here don't you"?!!! I mean, we live in the alps so chances are it wasn't going to be flat was it!! Oh well, we will play it by ear and I will report later.

As I mentioned previously, I went on a "Persian cookery course" on Wednesday night and while it was a great improvement over the vegan course I had taken, I was a little disappointed in the dishes we cooked. Oh, the lady demonstrator was great, very dynamic, but somehow the dishes disappointed. I can't help feeling there are much more tasty dishes than that in (in this case Iranian) cuisine!  Still, at least I got to see certain techniques and use a few ingredients I hadn't used before. Sometime ago I bought a beautiful cookery book by British-born Israeli Yotam Ottolenghi, so hopefully I will be able to use a little of the knowledge gained on Wednesday night in some of the wonderful recipes in his book.

And finally, this morning I dropped my youngest and his girlfriend off at the airport as they are spending a long weekend at a friend's in Brussels! Gotta try their wonderful beer, if you go to Brussels. I don't know Brussels much but I understand it is beautiful. I will know more when they get back. So on that note, I wish you all a wonderful weekend and if I don't get back from this walk by 10 p.m. on Sunday please send out a search party!