Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sad tabs

Geneva has several English-language, online bulletin boards for the expat, non-French speaking residents in search of share accommodation, a ride to Italy, dog walking jobs or second-hand IKEA furniture.

Sapphire would not have met her best friend without it. Two weeks after arriving, I responded to an advert seeking someone to take over the lease of an apartment in Secheron: quite literally a tennis ball’s throw away from LC’s work place.

We didn’t get the place – Karen the renter loved us, but the regie (land agent) didn’t. No rhyme or reason behind it other than the power of the landlord is hugely strengthened by cripplingly stratospheric rents and a long queue of eager UN workers to pay them.

However, we did buy a superb dining table, six chairs, blender, ironing board and washing machine from the lovely Karen who didn’t think she’d be able to take much with her in her new WHO role in India. When cash was exchanged and the removalist guy stopped talking to me about Midnight Oil – “I am Swiss German, so I am open to new sounds” and actually delivered our furniture, we received a final email.

Her soon-to-be ex work colleague also had a twelve year old daughter. Also an only child, also attending the international school but at the city campus. ‘Here’s her email and phone number. Both the mother and the daughter are lovely people so don’t be afraid to make contact.’

It took me several hours of humming and hah-ing to write what I hoped was a breezy and inviting introductory email, which led to Mayada phoning me an hour later...

...three months on and the girls hang out with each other regularly, skype incessantly and now find themselves at the same campus, albeit in different classes. All thanks to several sentences extolling the virtues of a large balcony, two downstairs bedrooms and an entertainers’ kitchen.

The same site has been helpful in finding a holiday French tutor for Sapphire and myself. The lovely Roopa – a Sri Lankan lass who is fluent enough in English to now be studying Law there. Another win as I can now at least ask for the essentials like coffee, wine and where the toilets are, and read a lot of the public notices on the bus.

With the big and essential items now in our apartment, I thought it was time to see if G-locals could cough up any little bargains such as a bookshelf, stuff for the study, kitchen equipment or a filing cabinet.

MarkUK68 had several items on offer for not only a good price but – very unusually – was able to deliver them to the buyer. Such a relief after seeing too many ‘Before collecting the two Annebrod wardrobes and Malm king-sized bed with Tromso shelf, the buyer needs to dismantle them all so that they can be taken out of my attic apartment and down seven flights of stairs...’ type of advertisements.

True to his word, MarkUK68 delivered a 7 foot tall bookcase, bedside table and double-drawer filing cabinet not only to our door, but helped Love Chunks carry them inside and place them exactly where we wanted them. How’s that for ninety five francs?

Several weeks later on a drizzly day that found Sapphire happily at her new school and LC in Brussels for a meeting, I opened up our tea-chest of Aussie papers and gathered up the teetering pile of Swiss-related documents and set to work organising a filing system.

Teasing out the old labels with my fingers gave me a glimpse into Mark’s now on-sold old life.
Pension Plan – Petra
Pension Plan – Mark
Life Insurance
Building Society
House Purchase
Mortgage docs
Barclaycard – Petra
Barclaycard – Mark
University - Petra
Gym Membership – Petra
Sailing Club – Mark
School Info
Investment account – Conrad
Investment account – Annabel

They fluttered to the floor, forgotten for a few hours as I wrote my own labels and saw our loose papers disappear into order behind the drawers.

Sweeping up the detritus, Mark’s words returned. “I’ve just moved from a four bedroom house in Versoix to a one-bed in Aux Vives which is why I’ve got a lot of stuff to sell.” He paused for a moment. “I’m getting a divorce. Petra and the kids have gone back to England.”

I didn’t know what to say to that as he handed over a crinkled envelope. “Sorry about the used tabs in the filing cabinet but I found some spare labels for you.”

With a quick wave, he turned on his heel and strode out of the lift into the car park.

“Thanks...” I called out into the darkness, wondering whether it would have been more appropriate to have given him a big, long, wordless hug.


Anonymous said...

We only write on the internet what we want people to hear, but you do appear to be adjusting and settling into such an odd city.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Andrew - I am. I find myself feeling - dare I say this? - happy!

Elephant's Child said...

I am so pleased that your anxt has eased enough to allow happiness. And your final sentence in this post was lovely. Reaching out to people and feeling their pain. No wonder so many of us love you.

Vanessa said...

That is just sad.

Hannah said...

Maybe even just being able to tell a total stranger helped him. Hopefully.

And hurrah for serendipity and frienships! So happy for Sapphire, and for you, who I'm sure is almost as glad as she is about the friendship :)

Kath Lockett said...

Aw EC, you've made me slightly teary. And smiley....

It is, Vanessa. Heartbreaking. I've seen Mark a couple of times since then and he said 'it's getting better' but it can't be anything other than utterly sad to scale down from a family to a single.

Thanks Hannah. Sapphire is happily settled in which is a huge relief.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. Poor Mark. However, if he looks anything like Clive Owen or Alexander Skasgard, could you pleas invite him back to visit his filing cabinet while I'm there? :)

Ann ODyne said...

oh poor Mark. Petra obviously couldn't cope with all the 'being an expat' stuff that you guys are.

But bless Karen for her input and I am glad Saphire has a friend now.

"7ft bookcase" holy swiss cow batwoman.

Kath Lockett said...

Red, he's about seven foot tall, kind of strawberry blonde with big blue eyes...

Thanks Ann - the massive bookcase mostly has framed photos on it, unloaded from our teachest

Kari said...

Oh :( Sad indeed.

On a more positive note, I love the story about finding a new 12-year-old best friend via a possible rental that didn't work out. Probably worth more than the rental :)

Kath Lockett said...

Kari, it was definitely worth more than the rental. Plus, we found a much better place soon afterwards!

Baino said...

Oh that's kind of sad but happens the world over I guess. Wonderful to see you settling and even better that Sapphire has a friend at school it helps no end.

Jayne said...

People are generally nice everywhere it's just finding the doors to open, glad to read Sapphire has a good friend :)

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Baino and Jane - just said goodbye to Sapphire as she headed off to her school camp. Nice to see her look excited about it and yes, I *still* had to 'farewell' her at the corner farthest from the school!

Jackie K said...

So sad for Mark. But so glad to hear Sapphire is enjoying school and has a close friend! That is wonderful. Things seem to be falling into place.

Kath Lockett said...

They are, Jackie and hope that things fall into place for Mark too.