......what a year it has been!
Mistakes were made, arguments were held, travel was undertaken and spare cash spent, but as I sit back in the dusty spare room (currently holding a weeks’ worth of washing, two un-renovated 1950s armchairs and paperwork covered in Milly’s fur), some lessons have been learned. Allow me to share my collected twelve months' worth of wisdom with you, dear reader.
Geographic location is everything. So is desperation.
I scored a terrific gig at – not sure if they should be mentioned or if rhyming words should be used, so we’ll play it safe – 'Bureauvision.' I had dropped in my CV a month earlier and the lady who received it looked about as interested as a Kardashian not in front of a camera, but I only live one kilometre away. Four weeks later, when the dust had settled on some redundancies and an additional staffer was forcibly ejected for completely misunderstanding what ‘work’ meant, I was called in. Yes, I could be there by lunchtime; I could be there right now if they liked
Cheapness is seized.
With the car not even warm after the 1km drive, they asked for my hourly rate. Not one for thinking quickly on my feet, I blurted out the one I use as an English tutor. This was accepted before I’d fully closed my mouth, so it was easy to figure out that a Swiss street sweeper with special needs rakes in more (and most of that from the gutters in the nightclub district). Even so, I bet they didn't have as much fun as I did trying to publicise, coordinate and report on an awards ceremony that featured drunk Belgian comedians (yes, they do exist. Belgian comedians I mean, not drunks), a stage hogging Dutch host, a scene-stealing Aussie producer, Freddy Mercury fans, a modern interpretative dance routine during dessert and a huffy royal wrangler. The gig is mine for this year too!
First impressions are usually right. Second ones just confirm the first.
Lyon in France was visited again and still failed to give me the ‘oh wow’ reaction that everyone else seems to get. Lingering smell of stale piss that seeps into your own clothes and lingers for a week? Check. A run-down riverfront that is praised to the skies online but was a dusty obstacle course of bottles and beggars? Check. Overrated ‘gusto’ restaurants with 2074 price lists and 1974 decor? Check.
Swiss cows aren’t happy; they’re deaf!
Those enormous bells that your least favourite Aunt brings you back from her big bus tour around Europe? Usually festooned with vomit-swirls of hand-painted edelweiss and alps? Switzerland’s beloved bovines really do wear those brass bongers around their necks. Even when casually standing in a field and doing nothing other than flicking away summer flies and considering which charming native flower to chew on next, the sound is a cacophonous chorus that renders ramblers strolling by temporarily deaf, let alone the poor creatures themselves.
Life is full of pricks.
In my case, it was time to try another method to persuade Mr Migraine to favour me less: acupuncture. My GP referred me to his own acupuncturist; a German guy on the wrong side of town: next door to the soup kitchen and the car park entrance favoured by pick pockets counting their loot from the Plain Palais flea market. My nerves were hidden by my immaturity: the doctor’s initials were PP. Doctor PeePee... tee hee. After sitting down and asking about my symptoms, how often, how long and where, I was asked to strip down to my knickers so that he could place his pins in parts of my body that included.... To be honest, I forgot where he stuck them; the tiny sensation of them being inserted was immediately forgotten and it was only when I sneezed and felt some wobble on my forehead and shoulders that I remembered.
Don't save your nice undies for date night.
My weekly sessions with Dr PeePee (see above) were making a significant difference. Three weeks into a six-week schedule had shown only one sign of Mr Migraine and he was surprisingly easy to send packing. In a now-familiar routine, I stripped off, lay on the bed and received my various pricks before being placed under a foil space blanket to keep warm. Dr PeePee left the room and I decided to use the time to remember how to meditate..... WOO WOO WOO!
I sat up in shock; pins catching on the blanket and the ones on my ears pinching my hair. WOO WOO WOO! The alarms were sounding all over the city. Had it finally happened? Was today the day that the rest of the warring world decided that Switzerland had been neutral for far too long and it was high time that they were forced to use their bomb shelters?
WOO WOO WOO! And here I was, alone, in nothing but knickers, studded with pins....!
“Dr PeePee...? DR PEEPEE????” Sliding off the table with a partly-stuck on silver blanket and pins that waggled as I walked uncertainly towards the door to call out ‘Dr PeePee’ for the third time was not particularly comfortable, especially when some were at the top of my ankle that folded in a bit with each tentative step. “Dr PeePee...?!”
“It’s okay Madam Lockett,” he said, eventually squeaking up the passage in blue Crocs. “Today is the day when all of the alarms have to be tested in Geneva. It’s the law.”
My sigh of relief caused a pin in my neck to fall out. “In that case, wouldn’t today would be the ideal time to bomb Geneva, as nobody would think it was anything except a drill, would they?”
Dr PeePee smiled. “Well it’s a good thing that your clothes are within arm’s reach then, isn’t it?”
You can teach an old dog new tricks.
Steph’s friend Anne is a pharmacist by trade, but a dog trainer by passion. As with alarm testing and cow bells, they take it very seriously here in Switzerland. She was required to video lessons she’d undertaken with various dogs and needed to run a class with a young dog and an old dog. Harley, at two, fulfilled the first criterion and Milly, at ten, amply provided the old.
The aim was to get both dogs to walk left and round around four orange traffic cones, sticking closely to the sides of their owners and then sitting down at each end. Harley was eager and up for it and walked alongside Steph willingly, but decided that manoeuvring through the cones was a waste of his time.
Milly, on the other hand, followed my every move, left and right, onwards and upwards, sitting proudly on her backside (always careful to protect her arthritic back legs) at the end. The same result was achieved over and over again, encouraging idle fantasies of Milly-n-me putting Pudsey and her human chick Ashleigh firmly into second place and snatching the half-million UK pound prize from under their noses..... “Milly, you’re a natural at this,” Anne said, walking towards us, hands in her bum bag. “Although if she eats any more of my treats her stomach’s in danger of dragging along the ground.