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
Barclaycard – Petra
Barclaycard – Mark
University - Petra
Gym Membership – Petra
Sailing Club – Mark
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.