Saturday, December 31, 2011

Let it snow let it snow let it snow .... again

What the.....?

I don't like this stuff at all.

And yet my family saw fit to DUMP ME AT A DOG SITTER'S so that they could go away and spend their time in this stuff. Willingly!  Poo Bum Farty heads....

Apparently Sapphire could barely keep her eyes open. Boredom and the utterly freezing cold wearing down her nervous system I guess.

Dad looks happier, but then again he is Alpha Male.

They all seemed thrilled to see me when they got back home but the white stuff was still around. I didn't feel like running or sniffing at anything for very long and one morning Sapphire and Mum took me a long walk along bushes, roads and trees I'd never smelt before.

Only to buy me this:

They know that I hate wearing anything on my body except a collar.  One day I was visiting Great Grandpa with Mum and an old lady ruffled my ears a lot and gave me a dog coat, brand new, still in the packet. Mum said 'thanks' and put it on me and I ran away from it - even while still wearing it - flapping my ears furiously so that it twisted around slightly and I could chew the straps off.  

You'd think they'd have learned from that reaction, but no, it didn't stop them from putting a Santa hat on me. It has an elastic strap that my paws can't flick off. Worse though, is that they took photos and laughed.

Back to now.  This thing feels a bit weird and Sapph and Mum are praising me like crazy. "Oooh you're a pretty girl, what a good dog" over and over. I know that already!

But ...... *sniff sniff sniff* ...... 


..... I don't feel like rushing any more to get inside...... is that a .....


The coat isn't so bad I guess, but taking it off afterwards is the best thing.

Thus endeth December Details 2011, leaving you with a picture of Milly forsaking the padded, blanketed comfort of her bed for the hard floor in prime sunbeam-soaking location.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year, even if that means going to bed at 9:30pm safe in the knowledge that it'll still be 2012 whether you stay up until midnight or wake up at breakfast time.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Meeting the Plastic Mancunian

I've been reading the Plastic Mancunian for a while now. He likes to claim that he's a miserable old git who, if not trying to convince us all that heavy metal has musical qualities we should all investigate, is prone to ranting about the dire quality of British television but there's a big beating heart under all that.

He's fond of a meme and even fonder of Mrs PM, his sons and their three crazy cats and has made me inhale my meusli in amusement more than once.

And the other day he was being sent on an urgent work mission to Geneva. 'Well, we've GOT to meet up,' I insisted, not respecting his schedule or personal wishes.

So we did:

He's as funny and clever and engaging as his blog and if he's in town next time we'll have him over for dinner (cooked by Love Chunks, of course. Mine would just scare him away).

This brought to mind some recent comments by Andrew, of High Riser fame, who was worried about meeting up with another blogger. "He is edjacated, artistic, a high achiever, a professional and young," he fretted. I hoiked my considerably chunky thighs over my lofty and smug high horse and wrote, "GO FOR IT and MEET HIM. I met the Plastic Mancunian a couple of days before Christmas and am very glad I did. I ain't single or young or gorgeous, but it's amazing what friendships and connections are made via our blogs. If he reads your blog, he already knows a lot about you and how you think, so please don't be worried."

Over hot chocolate (moi) and beer (PM), we revealed the true names of the people we love and write about but there was one question I didn't ask. I briefly agonised over it, but decided to leave it.

That night, lying in bed with Love Chunks, I broached the issue. "LC you know that you're my Main Squeeze and I'll adore you forever and ever and all that, but would it have been wrong to ask Plastic Mancunian what after-shave he had on because he smelt gorgeous!"

LC's answer was kind of muffled, but the odd word emerged.  Odd ball, Inappropriate and Stalker were the ones that were audible.

I've also met the terrific and prolific Baino and would gladly offer her a spot in our spare room should she ever find her way to Geneva.  She's gutsy, honest, hilarious and would have to be a contender for the hottest and best mother in the world.

River was someone I'd seen many times at my local shopping centre before finally 'clicking' and working out who she was.  Her bravery and ability to see the best in life is an inspiration to me and recent tough circumstances have seen her blossom.  Franzy is another. I found his blog after laughing at a witty remark he'd made in a 'reply all' email sent from a mutual friend.  He's sharper than a razor blade and a justifiably proud new Dad whose not afraid to give me honest feedback if my writing seems too slack for his standards.

Pandora was another find - a blast from the past who hid herself for a while, patiently waiting for my plodding grey matter to fire up, put the pieces together and make the identification. I'm bloody glad I did - we had a lot of ground to cover, including explanations and lessons learned.  She's run half-marathons, travelled the world and somehow combines Beer Club on one hand and the slightly more intellectual Book Club on the other.

Other bloggers have become friends online or via facebook too and for those I haven't yet met, I also consider them friends, comrades and (very often) wise and comforting sages. 

Never underestimate the positive power of contributing a comment. Or advice.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Real tweeters

There are hundreds - no, probably thousands - of walkers (using the adorably-termed 'racquettes'), skiers and snowboarders currently enjoying themselves in the alpine region right now.

The tracks left by snow boarders looked like a string of Maggi Two Minute Noodles. The bars and restaurants at 'The Top of Europe' - by the Jungfrau railway - are chockers with human beings drinking beer,  sipping coffees and eating all manners of wurst sausages and sloppily-fried rostis. Sunglasses are huge sellers when folk like Sapphire realise that the dazzle from the sun reflected in the ice will render them blind, so the racks of shades outnumber even the St Bernard key rings, carved wooden cows and miniature pocket knives.

Amongst all this bustle there are just as many birds around; all happily flying, tweeting and strolling along with little fear of wayward skiers, kids on sleds or three wheeler vans carrying luggage up the hillsides.  They gather in their hundreds on the roof of the chalets, in the pine trees, on top of power lines, church steeples, train carriages and cable cars.

They clearly thrive in the bitter cold and snow and the icicles hanging precariously off gutters, river banks and shop fronts are no deterrent. If you've been to a spot, they've been there before you.

So it was no surprise to see that even they get some facilities built for them at the top of Europe:

This is a wonderfully eccentric place to be living in.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Red Letter Day

Our apartment is a shrine to all things IKEA and cheap poster-related, but it's warm, comfy and homely.

The computer is in the third bedroom which is a rather cheeky term to describe a cavity that is no wider than a blow up mattress. When emails, facebook updates or phone calls aren't sufficient, I'll come back out into the living room to sit at the dining table to write the birthday card or complete the paperwork that needs to be posted.

Just before leaving for Wengen, Geneva got some snow. It looked rather beautiful when viewed from the eighth floor in a cosy room, but Milly was in need of an outdoor 'visit' if her fragrant farts were anything to go by and I had a couple of letters to post. Time to put on the Dog Walking Coat, rubber boots and grab the plastic poo bags. Oh and the letters - best to keep them in my other pocket so I don't post them as well like I did last time.....

Venturing outside it was clear that the snow was only a light covering. A sunny day and some rain would soon see it disappear. Despite this, the uncovered bits were white with frost and crunchy to walk on.

As I scanned the area for a red post box, I took time to admire the holly nearby. All of our Aussie Christmas cards and decorations feature it, but the red berries are never in season when we're celebrating, so this looked particularly lovely to me.  Now, to keep my eyes peeled for a red letter box....

Like continuing to automatically first look to the right hand side of the road before crossing and annoying people by standing still on the left hand side of the escalators at the shopping centre, finding a letter box still remains a challenge.

Why? Because they're yellow.

Why again? Because they're found in weird spots like behind bus shelters, in the walls of boulangeries situated under dimly-lit stairwells and here, in the front fence of a private house.

Of course.  Why didn't I think to walk three streets behind the main road and around the corner of the World Quaker Organisation into the private residential area to find La Post on this fence?

....and I still smile when I see their enormous buttercup coloured trucks (camions) drive by with the enormous slogan 'Jour Apres Jour' and the German DIE POST underneath.

Maybe that's what happened to Jill's birthday card?  Two first class stamps, well within standard weight and size and yet it arrived three weeks after posting. DIE post, DIE!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Better late than....... BONK!

After changing trains five times in a four hour journey before taking our local tram and then lugging our wheelie cases up avenue du Bouchet for home, we had enjoyed three days of skiing and a white Christmas in Wengen.

Love Chunks found an instructor for Sapphire and myself because we were absolute novices and not the types who'd just take to it like ducks to water (more like meat loaf in mud).  Just putting on the boots and fandangled metal clicker thingies and walking like Frankenstein over to the nursery slope was a demanding physical strain, let alone having the teacher admit that, yes, at forty three I was her oldest complete beginner student. These were merely two indications that I was not going to fly down the powdery blanc hillsides with ease or grace.

However, I did in fact master the baby slope and on day two, in response to his urgings and encouragement, decided to join Love Chunks on the easy blue run from the Wengenalp train station.

Less than two hundred metres and several falls later, it was clear that 'blue' was beyond me.  Falling down is easy but getting up when your feet are securely fastened in rigid high-strength plastic boots affixed to long planks that are usually sunk into 60cm of snow is the human equivalent of a beetle flailing uselessly on its back. In a sack of flour. Wearing toothpicks.

Tears and fears meant that I had to walk the rest of the 3km run home and the pressure of the high-cut boots smacking into my shins at every step, the cumbersome nature of the skis and poles and my sad, sulky face saw the bloke clearing the side gates take pity on me and give me a lift back on his ski-doo.  My left hand wrapped around his waist whilst the right held onto the bloody slippery ski equipment so there was no luxury to be had freaking out about the speed in which he sped down the hill or the angles of the corners.....

On the third and final day, Sapphire was conquering her turns and manoeuvres at the nursery, LC was up at Mannlichen - no, not to seek a total lifestyle change but to have a go at a longer and more challenging blue run - and I was going to conquer The Hill.  This monolith glistened and gleamed alongside the teaching field and had its own separate climate and misty clouds at the top - just looking at it had me trembling in terror.

When The Hill is negotiated with confident turns, expert snow ploughing and a fast but controlled whoosh to the bottom, coaches and teachers confirm that you are ready for a blue run. I knew this because I saw other instructors take their charges (yes, aged between 3 and 10) down The Hill a few times before clapping their hands and loudly announcing that they were ready to do 'real' skiing.

Love Chunks promised to meet me at a snick before the ski lifts closed at 4pm to take my photo. I yearned for visual proof that I had mastered The Hill to send to folks back home and to show you, my brilliant blog readers.  

Three hours of doggedly lining up to grab at a rubber stick to unceremoniously shove between my quivering legs and pull me up The Hill was still resulting in several mouthfuls of snow, snapped slalom flags and an arseful of shaved ice. 

I was going to do this. I wanted to make Love Chunks proud of me.  I wanted to show Sapphire that persistence would overcome fear and (a very surprising) amount of soaking nervous sweat.  I wanted to feel that there was still life in the old girl yet.

"This is YOUR turn chook," said the lift operator from Yorkshire, with a soggy roll-up in the corner of her mouth. "You're getting there now."

I took the obligatory deep breath, then a slow and careful push..... Four slalom flags were happily untouched and turned around almost on purpose before I struck a long streak of ice that cruelly shoved me down the left side of The Hill and careening far beyond anything so tepidly described as 'being out of control'.

BONK!  The skis shot for the sky and my back hit the ice first with my head a close second. The nearby clumps of proud parents stopped teaching their three year olds and the cafe patrons momentarily forgot their beer orders when my still-sliding, starfish profile finally stopped in the middle of the unofficial causeway. I was the human personification of a snowflake pattern: modern interpretative art occurring right there in front of them.  

When I opened my eyes I saw a circle of concerned faces, all speaking different languages.  I smiled at an elderly lady who said, "Are you OK love? I'm a nurse from Newcastle. How many fingers am I showing?"

I never thought I'd ever hear that line in anything other than a movie.  A few more questions and a pat-down reassured her that I was suffering from nothing more serious than humiliation. "Let me walk you back home and make sure you take a pill for that headache you're already starting to get," she said.

The double-folded polar fleece***cap, thick scarf, goggle elastic band and fur-lined hood had saved my head from any serious damage. Inside, my brain now realised that it knew what that last, stubborn globule of ageing ketchup feels like when it is finally pounded and shaken out of the bottle.

I peeled back my glove and glanced at my watch. 3:30pm. "There might be half an hour of ski lift time left and I've already paid for it, but I think I might call it a day now."  No photographic meet up with Love Chunks to provide some pictorial evidence to share with you but if you could see how I'm walking today - a lady on a zimmer frame overtook me in the meat aisle at Migros this morning - you would believe.

*** Ah, dear, sweet, dependable polar fleece.... is there anything it can't do?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Apres ski

By the time that this particular blog article is published, we'll be on our way home from spending Christmas in a ski resort at Wengen. Three hours on the train in a two-sides-of-a-triangle journey enjoying some splendid scenery and (hopefully) scanning through some terrific photos to post here soon.

Due to writing this in advance, I can only hope that the snow equipment we're given to learn on and use is slightly more up to date and comfortable than this:

That I won't feature as a 'Another Successful Rescue' on the list in this museum:

Or be accidentally clunked in the head by ski poles or clipped on the heel by crampons or any other alpinistic gear:

....and that the only lying down I do is entirely voluntary and for reasons of rest, like Milly here, and NOT thanks to broken limbs and traction!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Favourite Boy and Favourite Girl

To Love Chunks and Sapphire

You've seen me kiss the dog, dance to the rhythmic pulsations of the coffee machine and embarrass myself in many a public place.

You've heard me sing, cry, moan and laugh uproariously at people falling over.

I've known one of you for over eighteen years and one for over twelve yet the twenty five years before that seems so hazy and undefined.

You two are everything to me and ...

.... I can't thank you enough.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Just call me CRUSHER

I've already featured my 'winning barrel' washing machine in Details December, and now it's the rubbish chute's turn.

According to long-time Geneva dwellers, these hole-in-the-wall chutes are no longer common in apartment buildings; you lug your own muck downstairs to the communal bins in the basement.

Apart from telling us that every item must be placed in a sealed bag with no liquids or cardboard or recyclables permitted, our ancient rubbish chute isn't very generous in how much refuse it'll accept at any one time.

My hand is there for a vague comparison but you get the idea: a 100-box of tissues or a house brick is about all you can fit in the slot.

Or is it?  With the use of bin liners and a previously undiscovered strength in 'squishing', I can now wedge in around 12 litres of kitchen rubbish that includes tuna tins, dog food sachets, all manner of vege peelings, cellophane wrap, meat trays, yoghurt tubs, Quark containers, vaccuum cleaner dust and plastic milk cartons.

We're not allowed to use the disposal before 7am or after 10pm because it makes a hell of a clanking noise as it (reluctantly) creaks open and then (noisily) swallows the rubbish, letting it bounce against the metal pipes all the way down, down, down to the basement.

There it plops onto a mini skip which is also the spot for we residents to take our larger gar-bags full of rubbish in person. I'm undeservedly proud to say that I've only had to do that three times so far. I'm STRONG baby!

Friday, December 23, 2011


We were at Gruyeres recently (home of the famous cheese, even though the foodstuff loses the 's' and is just called Gruyere) and a trip to the gorgeous castle on top of the hill overlooking the town was a must.

I'm a sucker for beyond views and busied myself happily taking what I imagined were artistic photos... only to find a queue of a dozen Japanese tourists behind me patiently waiting their turn.

Inside, my attention turned to the stained glass windows ...

.... before Sapphire started sniggering.  "What's so funny?"

She paused, thinking how to phrase her answer. "It's just that.....ummm, either the artist is being a show off in his self portrait or it's the king of the castle he's painting here and  ummmm, he has to make him look, er, 'good'."


I was torn between trying not to laugh and agree and telling her to focus her eyes on something more educational. As usual, the giggling won out.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Anyone for tennis?

OK, table tennis, to be precise?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Want a walk?

Hey Milly..... Milly are you awake?  Want to go for a walk?

No, a WALK. Not a tummy rub.

How much grass can you possibly eat, especially when you don't throw it up afterwards?


Maybe not.  Just some crows flying off.

But hey, what the....... 

Back home, we have the obligatory look around in The Dog Forest, or the only bit of the complex's garden that Milly is allowed in.  The photo doesn't show it clearly, but the old stone wall is on a rise and makes Milly around eight foot tall as she gets a squizz at what the neighbours are up to.  It must look funny to see her haughty orange face from their side.

Back home it's a cup of coffee for me and instant, snoozy contentment for her.

Best dog ever.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some advice

... Never let it be said I'm not always thinking of my readers.

I share my stupidity and pain so that you aren't at the risk of suffering from either.

ALWAYS open your eyes and read the labels of everything on your bedside table. That way you won't burn the skin of your mouth off with muscle-softening Tiger Balm instead of soothing mint lip balm.

Having never owned lips that look fleshy or collagen-enhanced or costing me a fortune in cosmetics, it's surprising how much a knife-slash-in-butter-smile can STING when ancient Chinese medicinals are applied.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nanna cart

I call my shopping trolley on wheels a 'nanna cart' because I don't know what the technical term for it is.

Personal shopper? Land-based lard lugger? Mobile munchie mover?

No matter. I have two actually, and if hassled, Sapphire will bring the other one along.  She loathes my brown with pink flower cart pictured here, preferring the other with its much more traditional (and nanna-ish, to be blunt) royal blue canvas body and tartan cover flap.

Not having a car for four months but a family and dog to feed meant that the nanna cart was a necessity.  Trendier (and wealthier) types get spotty ones from IKEA or retro funky jobs from over-priced gift shops but these Migro models have tyres that an upmarket pram would yearn for and a turning circle tighter than a school kids' compass.  I was keen to not embrace the Genevan standard of doing a small shop every single day and instead reduce my need to visit the cheerfully chuckling check-out chicks of Migros as few times a week as nanna-cart-owningly possible.

Mine has been able to hold a dozen bottles of wine and two dozen cans of diet coke as well as a big baguette and a triple pack of Snickers bars in one sitting with a cos lettuce, a sack of dry dog crunchies, a kilo of budget macaroni and six pack of chopped tomato tins to seal the deal. The clinking sound of the wine bottles protesting at being at the very bottom of the load as the cart rolls back home behind me isn't the most elegant way of indicating the priorities in my life but at least my arms aren't dragging on the ground from the strain of having to carry it all.

Even now that we have a car, the nanna carts are still essential.  I wheel them down to the underground car park and leave them there until I return with a boot full of food. And booze. Okay and chocolate.  Then load 'em up so that I only have to make one trip through the three secure doors, lift and our front door with a double lock on it.

If utterly bored and certain that dinner is more than a mere nudge of my butt and five minutes away, Milly will sniff them to ascertain what tasty delights might have been contained in them earlier.  The day I bought Gruyere, blue cheese, salmon and hackfleish mince was her favourite.  Laundry liquid, loo cleaner and scented bog rolls results in a look of How Could You disappointment and a slow waddle back to the sunny spot on the carpet.