When we first arrived in Switzerland, we all suffered terrible colds that lingered and made life in a new country an extra challenge.
The hotel 'residence' didn't help much either, but somehow Love Chunks would magic up a meal using just one saucepan, two dessert spoons and a jar and we'd either squeeze out onto the 50cm deep balcony or around the coffee table.
We were three storeys up and one street back from 'Rue de Tram' - the main shopping strip of Geneva. The soundtrack to our new lives was the mosquito buzz of scooters, the screech and clang of daily 3am rubbish trucks and the sonorous St Pierre church bells.
Hard rubbish days seemed to be weekly as opposed to twice yearly in Australia. From our lofty position we spotted a zebra-patterned dining chair and wondered if it might be worth snaffling and storing in the hotel bathroom for when we found a place to rent. Sapphire offered to go downstairs and check it out. "Eeee-oooh, no way, Mum. The reason the CD player's sitting on the top is because there's a huge stain on it."
Dinner that night was Uncle Ben's rice, supermarket salad and chicken something-or-other on plastic picnic plates.
A bag lady who seemed to be a regular around our neighbourhood appeared, dragging a chair up our side street. She spied the zebra chair and had a think for a while before apparently deciding that she needed both.
Scr-iiiiiiii-tch, Scr-iiiiiii-tch, Scr-iiiiii-tch. She'd drag one chair about a metre, then pull the other one alongside. It was pretty hard going because it was a warm summer evening and she was wearing what might have been her entire wardrobe including a fake fur coat and a kid's backpack.
I went inside, feeling conflicted. I wanted to take her photo but also felt tears coming on. It's always the same question when I see someone sleeping in newspapers or reeking of urine whilst pissed: How did they end up like that? What becomes of them?
Scr-iiiiiiii-tch, Scr-iiiiiii-tch, Scr-iiiiii-tch. Through the curtains of our hotel doors, I could see that she had reached the corner of the side street and the main street and decided to rest. Both chairs were placed opposite each other, forming a rough bed for her to relax on.
"Stop looking at her, Mum. Come and watch a Raising Hope episode with me."
An hour later, she was still there. Surely not sleeping because the night-clubbers were starting to appear and girls walking with linked arms and silly heels had to brush past the chairs to make their way to the taverns in Rive and Old Town.
At my bedtime it was almost completely dark and the white lines of the zebra chair were still visible. Her gray hair hung over the back of the chair and this time she did look to be dreaming, clutching the backpack in her arms.
I did take the photos and finally closed the door.
Sapphire was still awake which wasn't surprising seeing as the kitchen and sleeping were one and the same room and I had to climb over her sofa bed to shut the doors.
"Why are you crying, Mum?"
I knew that it was a combination of shock at how badly I was coping with our move overseas, a lingering cold, worry about Sapphire and being able to afford to rent anywhere within a 100km radius of Love Chunks' workplace but the lady moved me. "Mum?"
"I guess I'm sad because nobody, at eight years old, says, 'I hope to end up as a crazed, homeless and stinking bag lady' when asked what they'd like to be when they grow up."
The next morning, both she and the chairs were gone.