Friday, December 14, 2012

This meme is pinched from Fernstar who had one hellish year health-wise but has pulled through with flying colours and two adorable cats to help her.

1.What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Learned how to ski. Yes, I tried (and failed) during Christmas 2011, but Magic Mike from Mageve spent a weekend with nine of us at wildly varied levels ranging from Black Run into other countries' borders (Adje) and Fearful and Clueless (Moi). I was pootling down blue runs and even parallel skiing by Sunday afternoon.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Sadly no, and sadly yes. It is always the same: Keep my mouth shut: food-wise and silly show off comments-wise, and I fail on both counts.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Nope, but I have a friend here who is a maternity health professional and I've helped her at a couple of her toddler and mothers-and-new-bubs sessions. Milly sniffs the room with fascination afterwards as humans under the age of two are a treasure trove of aromas.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No. And I realise how incredibly lucky that makes me.

5. What countries did you visit?
France (only 5km away as a 'meat tourist' to buy food that costs less than half of what it does here in Switzerland) - but also a weekend in Paris; UK (Exeter and a week in London); Luxembourg, Austria, Germany and a tiny two day skiing stint in Italy right behind the Matterhorn.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Some regular freelance gigs that result in some sort of reliable financial contribution and engage the creative side of my brain. Failing that, I'd like to do some charity work that doesn't require any French language skills beyond 'Bonjour' and an exaggerated thumbs up sign.  Oh and a size twelve body wouldn't be unwelcome either.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
May 23rd, when my daughter turned thirteen. So beautiful, yet completely unconvinced of it. So witty and hilarious, yet hides it at school. So insightful, yet challenged by all the teenage crap that NONE of us would ever wish to go through again.
Tenth of August, when my parents arrived to visit.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Is this a vain answer? Taking pride in being the matriarch of the household. Chores are boring but I'm minding them less when I'm able to do so many other things that I love. House hunting for a friend in France; taking visitors up the cable car to the top of Saleve; sitting in the train and watching several countries whizz by. Participating in NaNoWriMo and wanting to finish what I started.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not taking an interest in growing anything in our window boxes. I did, however, buy a plastic tub of bright red geraniums that never failed to get visitors saying, "Oooh, they are so healthy and so lovely. What a green thumb you've got."
"Er, no. These are plastic jobbies purchased for ten euros from Carrefour supermarket."

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Just my stupid, recalcitrant, malignant, hurtful Achilles. No running until January 2013. Swimming has been okay as the replacement exercise but trudging home with wet hair in the snow and goggle marks still marked in red lines around my eyes has been a big bucket load of un-fun.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
So many crazy brocante (flea-market) items but the stand out is the Golden Croissant that Love Chunks thought was a gilded dog turd!

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Love Chunks. Somehow he still wants to come home and see me and for that I'll forever be amazed and grateful.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
My own so many times. The travails of a thirteen year old daughter butting heads, hearts and minds with LC and me did not bring out my practical, understanding or mature side as often as it should have, unfortunately. I think I'm improving though.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent. Car. Credit card. Food. Travel. Sapphire's medical needs. No longer begrudged but acknowledged as truly essential.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Sapphire's laugh, Love Chunks' warmth, soft dog fur, friendships that amaze and nourish and surprise and gladden me, visitors who came to stay, travelling and seeing our concierge now willingly approach Milly to pat her.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
'Say you don't want it' by One Night Only. THE best running and mood lifting song.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?
a) Happier.
b) Fatter.
c) Richer (then again, that just means we're no longer at the 'How the hell will be able to afford to eat, let alone live here' stage).

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Visitors would probably say 'housework', but my inclination is for Sunday drives to get to know the towns and attractions just outside of Geneva. Trouble is, I hate to drive.....

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worry. If there's any dark side - no matter how unrealistic - to an upcoming event/issue/chore/meeting/party/situation/confrontation, I'll find it, catastrophise it to an entirely new level of insanity and then lose sleep over it.

20. How will you spend Christmas?
At Mum and Dad's in Victor Harbor. Yes, we're due our UN-sanctioned 'Home Leave' and will be spending a brief, but hopefully blissful, time in Melbourne, Adelaide and the South Aussie coast!

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?
Stayed in love.

22. What was your favourite TV program?
Anything on British TV that features a panel of comedians. Have I got news for you; Mock the Week; Stand up for the week; Never mind the Buzzcocks; Russell Howard's good news; 8 out of 10 cats ..... 

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Not hate, but someone has disappointed me. Despite this, I hold no ill will and in fact feel a lot of sympathy for her.

24. What was the best book you read?
As a keen second-hand book stall trawler, there was a lot of interesting stuff to enjoy and if anything costs less than a Swiss franc (CHF), I'll eagerly snaffle it. Therefore some of the subject matter included:
  • Alan Alda's autobiography (his father was a vaudevillian actor); 
  • Bees (Sophie Monk-Kidd); 
  • Jo Brand ('Look back in hunger');
  • Tragedy ('Into the Wild' and even the poor children in 'The Nanny Diaries');
  • Light hearted but informative history ('One thousand years of annoying the French,' written by a Pom of course);
  • Fish ('Salmon fishing in the Yemen' and Richard Flanagan's entertainingly bizarre 'Gould's book of fish'), 
  • The history of the Jews (over 1000 pages, lent by a literary friend and author's name now escapes me);
  • Life after Pride and Predjudice had been overcome ('Death comes to Pemberley' by PD James);
  • Berlin when the wall was still up (Douglas Kennedy);
  • London (Rutherford, a great stonking doorstop of a book that made my arms ache when I tried to read it in bed);
  • Home (Bill Bryson, 'Down Under' and 'Home'); 
  • Middlesex as a gender issue and not a UK county (Jeffrey Eugenides)...
...but the best was a PG Wodehouse I picked up for eight euros (brand new!) in Berlin. Dad had been a fan of his for years and my incorrect assumption that the Jeeves and Wooster series would be out of date was laughingly wrong. It was hilarious, witty and very very modern. I'm now on a mission to buy anything and everything the chap wrote.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Let me just preface this answer with this fact: I am forty four years old and don't listen to the radio or watch music videos. Therefore, my discoveries are always ancient ones, accidentally happened upon in Spotify when I click on a song that appeals to me, then click to what the magical music genie recommends and on again to that particular group or singer's top five. This has enabled me to finally discover Keane, Marina and the Diamonds (Hypocrates is my favourite), One night only, Panic at the disco, Amy McDonald and Greyson Chance.  

However, Ed Sheeran's popularity leaves me:
a) struggling to stay awake; and
b) utterly baffled.

26. What did you want and get?
An iphone - yay!
My parents to visit and my best friend to stay!
Friendships old, established, cemented and new ones still blossoming.A sense of contentment mixed with dollops of adventure and immense gratitude.

27. What did you want and not get?
A month in Italy. During the warmer months. Pre-paid four star+ accommodation, a loaded credit card and a packed sightseeing itinerary. Health spa and massage options at the end of each day. A home that cleans itself.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?
Cinemas in Geneva are not only eye wateringly expensive, but you must be careful to pick the 'Version Anglaise' session or risk seeing The Hobbit in French. Even then, the Version Anglaise has a third of the screen taken up with not only French subtitles but also German ones. It's cheaper to buy a DVD later online.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Love Chunks was flying out to Colorado for the week, so we all got up and had a coffee (LC and myself), a stretch (all of us) a whizzer in the forest (Milly) and unwrapped a couple of presents and cards that Sapphire had snatched from the mailbox and hidden from me. Dinner was with Sapphire, Milly and our lovely friends the A Family, playing Balderdash until midnight.

30. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Despite admitting that I'm a worry wart in an earlier question, I believe that I 'went with the flow' a bit more this year and said 'no' to some things that were 'expected', like learning French. It was a relief to say, "No, I haven't learned French. My brain is still struggling with English," and not care if the other person thought I was lazy, stupid or both.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
Excuse me whilst I wipe away the tears of laughter ...... as long as I'm clean and vaguely colour coordinated, I'm happy. Black hides most sins but long baggy shorts are the saviours of summer.

32. What kept you sane?
Love Chunks. Milly. Coffee. Medication.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Stephen Fry's brain
Russell Howard's slightly wonky eye
...and a shameful(ish) couple - Jeff Probst from Survivor and chubby Michael McIntyre....

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Gay marriage - how hard is it to just legalise it already?
Syria - why can't we remove Bashir?

35. Who did you miss?
Everyone in Australia. Gianna when she hops back to London. Flemington neighbourhood. Milly whenever we couldn't take her on holiday with us. 

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Gianna and SimonJenne
Kate, Lyndon and Immi
Di and Clay
Christin G
Isabel H's terrific being in a new country because, like six year olds in a playground, you can meet someone and instantly approach them with 'do you want to be my friend' (although usually it's 'What's your email address? Want to come over for coffee and a cuddle of the dog?')

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
Stop talking and listen more. Especially to Sapphire.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
A corny little pop song with this line: 'I don't want to be anywhere else but here with you,' sung by Olly Murs. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hating with Honesty Part Three

To be honest, I don't think I'm a really vehement 'hater' and this is only my third Hating with Honesty post in seven years: the first one was published in 2007 and the last one in 2008. However, a few niggles have started to emerge beyond the obvious ones such as why is Kim Kardashian the most Googled person for 2012 and are we allowed to punch anyone who says 'for the win' yet?

Here are the things that make me want to whistle air through my imaginary dentures and waggle my crab-like finger in the air.....

Ryan Gosling

I honestly don't see the attraction.  I even - and this causes me no small amount of shame - found a second-hand copy of The Notebook; read it to find out what the big deal was and suffered for my curiosity before suffering again through the exrementally soppy movie. What is the magic oestrogen-luring essence that this man has that I can't perceive?  He looks like he should be decorating the top of my latte, not headlining movie marquees....

Boston Terriers

I'm a dog person. When Milly's with me, I have to provide a wide enough berth so that she doesn't snap at her fellow canines in jealousy, but when she's not, my trips are always made longer due to the need to stop, ask 'Is he/she friendly?' before having a pat and a chat. But Boston Terriers repel me. They seem to have scored all the leftover body parts of a Corgi, Pug, Bulldog and the many unwanted mutant features of inbreeding, put into a fur-lined blender and tipped out with an unappetising 'glug' onto the ground with the final humiliation to be left without a tail.  Like X-Factor contestants raving on about how much they love their mothers, Boston Terriers always leave me shuddering slightly.

Apple tarts / Tarte Tatin

Cake. Cake. CAKE. The French Suisse seem to believe that everything tastes better in, on or under flaky pastry. But a dry croissant for breakfast or a sheet of pastry with some apple slices pressed into it gets boring very, very quickly.  Without moistness, self raising flour, chocolate, icing or custard it's just a brown rectangle of over-priced snooze; the Tom Cruise of bakery produce. 'Oh, goodie. Here's the eleven hundredth boulangerie selling tarte tatin. How exciting and creative.'  CAKE!

Channing Tatum

I haven't seen any of his movies but even in my advanced state of ageing I'm not unaware of the various swoonings and droolings over this bloke that occurs with sickening regularity online.

He's sort of musclier and chunkier than Ryan Gosling, but the question is the same: Why? What is this flesh and bone replica of Mr Potato Head exuding that brings all the cerebrally-challenged chickadees to his chippery?  Shouldn't he be putting on my winter tyres and topping up my antifreeze?

Zombies and vampires

Buffy whooshed by without a glance. Twilight books were endured when my eleven year old was reading them and quickly summarised as cold blooded Mills and Boon for virgins. Vampire Diaries and the plethora of zombie telly shows and movies leave me about as excited as seeing tarte tatin on long haul economy flight menu.  Why not be done with it and have the vampires (sexy, boring and murderous), zombies (irretrievably stupid on all levels) wage war with the ridiculously cartoonish Marvel characters that also seem to hold so many movie-goers' attention?  Winner is the last man (or half robot or undead corpse in love with a wolf) standing!

Bushy beards on young blokes

Fellas, most of you, when you're in your twenties, are lovely to look at.  However, when the hipster urges take over and you decided to grow a bushy beard, you take me back to those oh-so-steamy photos of 1850s gold prospectors, upstanding Victorian philanthropists and men who ate each other when lost on expeditions.  Having to hold a brief conversation with a bearded bloke with cappuccino froth dangling from his Dastardly Dan moustache was not a heavenly moment for me last week.

Land agents to renters

We pay a small - no, large - fortune to rent an apartment that has not been updated since 1970.  The balcony turns into a small swimming pool when it rains and has since flooded the apartment downstairs. Sapphire's unused bidet develops a strong ammonia and mouldy pong that permeates the bedrooms at least once a week and we were sent three angry letters (in French) when our rent payment was not processed by the bank and was subsequently five days overdue.

So, with fairly frequent contact between my good self and the man who manages the property, it was a big surprise when he wrote back to my email last week requesting that someone come and look at our stove top (two out of the four hotplates have decided that being 'hot' is no longer their bag) and announced that he didn't know how I was.

"Pardon me, monsieur? YOU and four other men knocked on my door yesterday to come and see la piscine (the pool) that was my balcony for yourselves, checking the drain and taking photographs. Have I so little charisma that you have forgotten me already?"

But you are not in my records, he wrote back.

"Erm, I must be, buddy - because you send me rent slips every month with MY NAME on them and we've been transferring you money for over eighteen months now...."

Let me check, he replied, suspicion oozing from every keystroke.

"So, about the oven and the enormous whistling draft that blasts through our living room from the sliding door..."

Yes, you are on our records, he wrote, as though he was informing me of that fact.

I KNOW THAT, stupid rental man!  "So the oven...."

Please email me tomorrow when I'm available to read through tenant's concerns before forwarding them on to the owners for consideration.

Horrible ugly stupid rude rental man!  I decided not to email that as my reply.

BBC News channel

The Beeb is mostly known for being a stalwart for consistency, fair-minded reporting and for looking beyond their own borders.  Having a news-only channel would, we thought, be a brilliant way of keeping up with current events all around the world in a language we could understand (unless the story came from Wales).

Sadly not so, unless you are only capable of absorbing three stories at a time.  Even then, those three stories are repeated over and over and over for at least two days, so that breakfast time on day two will see the same video footage from the day before. No, not overnight so that muesli munchers can come up to speed with things that occurred while they were still snoozing in their doonas, but the day before.

Sometimes, the typer of the ticker tape thingy that runs along the bottom of the screen can only be arsed to write a single sentence on a single story that rolls by at a snail's place ad infinitum.  Surely, if sending reporters to all corners of the globe and footage and editing is prohibitively expensive, Tony the ticker tape typer can pop in a few more sentences for us to read?

'Rate me' Facebook photos

Erk.  Any photo where the subject matter is one's self, especially holding an iPhone where the subject can gaze at one's self during the taking of it, is enough to make all prospective viewers want to heave and (fairly) surmise, "No wonder he's single, he's already found his life-long partner in love."

And the girls ...... oh dearie, dearie me.  Being friends of friends with buddies and acquaintances of Sapphire has shown me that the cleverly angled iPhone photo that enlarges the eyes, gives the duck pout credence and recedes the chin into the far distance - all done while pushing the shoulders unnaturally forward to produce a credible replica of cleavage - makes up approximately 98% of all photos loaded up onto Facebook pages by girls aged between eleven and twenty nine.

"Like my new winter hat," asks Bubble, which is sitting so far back on her head in order to show off the pulled forward shoulder length hair, off-the-shoulder tank top and double-handed upside down peace signs.  Or, "I'm so ugly today," says Twinkle, leaning forward in her black bikini, fluttering her kohl lined enlarged eyes and pouting in pink frost lip shimmer.

If I wasn't so old and supposed to be a role model or sensible mother or some other such tomfoolery thing like that, I'd say, "Yes, you are. No go and put some clothes on and turn your account off."

Nicki Minaj / Kei%$#a / Rihanna et al

Notes for all of you:

If you need auto tune, quit the business.

If you can sing - then for Lindts' sake go have a good scrub in the shower, put on some clothes and stop putting out videos that ram it down young girls' throats that it's only when you behave like nymphomaniac pole dancin' gang molls does your 'song' hit the itunes charts. Please.

Kate Moss interview in Vanity Fair

Ah, the chat that was going to reveal the secretive, never talkative Ms Moss. The one that would delve deeply under the surface to find out how she thinks, what her motives are, the life lessons learnt.  A quarter of a century in the spotlight; she must have some witty anecdotes to share. Vanity Fair will make sure that we find out what charitable causes are close to her heart; how she priorities her time to develop her skills as a responsible parent; the contribution to society that drives her to unselfishly devote her energy to further her knowledge and understanding of homelessness/poverty/discrimination/disability and people with bad dress sense.....

Hah!  The majority of page space was given to Kate's topless poses generously peppered with glowing quotes (in bold type) from various fashionistas and around six vaguely coherent sentences uttered by Kate herself. The end result was about as revealing as my triple-pile, 180 centimetre blue beach towel.  The much-touted hidden depths were the equivalent of the film that you peel off between a boiled egg shell and the egg itself.

Muesli bars

Why do they insist on calling them 'bars' when, unwrapped, they're about the equivalent of two teaspoons of sticky oats?  Why are they 'breakfast for busy people' when people usually like more than 21 grams of solid food to satisfy their hunger?  Why are the packets 15 centimetres long, but the 'bar' only eight?

Cup cakes

Like low rider jeans, saying 'swag' and Lady Gaga, you've had your fifteen minutes of fame, cup cake.  This obsession has escalated to ridiculous levels where icing has been pooped out from a great distance and is, in fact, larger than the dry/boring/tasteless cake itself.  Maybe the next craze will just be the icing and decoration without the cupcake underneath?

How I Met Your Mother

This show is on constant re-run on one of the British second-tier freebie channels, so even when I try to avoid it, it is manages to wedge itself into my consciousness at least once a day when I'm channel surfing to find things to record for later.  The lead guy possesses the same amount of charisma that I clearly do for my land agent and the little red headed girlie who used to be in American Pie is one of the worst actresses I've ever seen. No, cuteness doesn't make up for lack of talent.  The irony doesn't escape me that Neil Patrick Harris (Dr Horrible) plays Barney who, if the world was fair, would have his own sitcom and leave the other four 'characters' in the Seasons 1-8 remainder bin.

Fingernail 'art'

Apart from endless iPhone facebook 'selfies', nothing says 'I spend too much time on myself' than fingernail 'art.'  Painting cartoons, logos, flowers, stripes or dress-matching designs onto (usually) fake fingernails also implies that the owner of such tacky travesties does very little work.  Nails with mini sequins embedded into them are not going to be much use when zipping up a small child's winter parka, popping open a long life milk box or scrubbing off the scum around the plughole.  Oh, and they don't distract the viewer from less desirable body parts either.

There. That's enough for now.  Time for a trip down to the Dog Forest with Milly.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Snow surprise

Lovely River from Drifting Through Life runs Sunday Selections. Participants can put up photos they've found from years or minutes ago or ones that run to a theme.  We had snow here in Geneva this week - the first of the winter - and I decided to take my big Canon SLR down to the Dog Forest* to catch Milly's reaction.

To preface it, we had already been for a big walk earlier in the morning. It was -3C and the sky was dark, but there was no sign of snow.  No sooner had we returned to our apartment upstairs than Milly flopped into bed and had a long and contented snooze.  Three hours later it was time to wake up, stretch and indicate to me with a wet-nosed nudge to the knee that a whizzer in the Dog Forest was in order.

The world, as Milly understood it, had strangely disappeared, only to be replaced by fluffy, cold white stuff.

This wasn't here this morning....

.... and the smells have all changed.

Hang on a second.....


Ohmygod Ohmygod Ohmygod it's still ON THE GROUND

Look behind you! 

Is it there?

Aw poo.  Ran up the tree.

My back is getting a bit cold.

...nothing a good flap of the ears won't remove.

Hey, hey heeeeeeyy..... there's another one!

There! See him - he ran under the hedge!

Come out wherever you are...


Oh sod this for a lark, I'm cold now...

Alrighty, now that we're inside and it's warm, I'll now sit still and pose for you. Is this close enough?

* Dog Forest - our term for the side of the garden that Milly is allowed to play and poop in. The fancy manicured side is only for looking at. No-one - human or dog - is permitted to sit on the grass or eat there, let alone contemplate having any fun.

Thursday, December 06, 2012


Regular readers may recall that just over twelve months ago we were assigned temporary guardianship over twelve year old Nafeesa. Her mother had suffered a stroke and was hospitalised, and, as her father had died of cancer six years earlier, Nafeesa asked if she could stay with us.

You can read about it / refresh your memories by clicking here.

It was a rather tough time for everyone, to put things optimistically.  Yasmin has not returned to work, but is now able, many months of intensive therapy that continues on a less rigorous level today, to live at home unassisted. Her right hand has not regained full strength, so computer work is tiring and problematic.  She is able to converse for around ten or so minutes before her words start slurring and her face slackens: then it's time to lie down and recuperate.

Despite having family scattered in all corners of the globe and an only child, Yasmin had a lot of very close friends who stayed with her, offered support and did everything they could to help her with cleaning, groceries, taking her to rehabilitation sessions and her daughter Nafeesa to school.

Throughout that time, my daughter Sapphire was Nafeesa's constant companion in the flesh and online.  Hours and hours of Minecraft and Skype happened after school and in the evenings; both girls nourished by fun, private conversations and shared creativity.  Despite not being in the same class (or year level) at school, they met up for lunch when they could; got to know each others' classmates and hung out together nearly every weekend.  Everyone knew that they were besties.

Despite this, Nafeesa was still unable to stay overnight at our - or anyone else's - house.  The only time she had ever successfully managed to stay away from home was when her mother was hospitalised for eight weeks, with most of them spent at our place.  Sapphire's hurt was palpable when, during a sleepover she'd arranged for Nafeesa and her three other girlfriends a few months later, Nafeesa begged to be driven home at 2am.  "But she'd stayed with us before," Saph wailed in puzzlement.

"I know love, but that was an exceptional situation and she hasn't really figured out how to deal with homesickness."  Sapphire nodded, trying to understand.  Nafeesa had confessed to me that she was now terrified of leaving her mother home alone at nights in case something awful happened again (the stroke occurred after midnight). "I'm all she's got," she whispered to me in the car.

Summer holidays for the two girls involved phone calls and arrangements for picnics in the local park, movies, shopping trips and meeting mutual friends at the Ferney swimming centre.  They looked a comical pair: one pale and blonde; the other skinny with frizzy black hair: Dakota Fanning and Olive Oyl and laughter always surrounding them.

The new school year started in September. Sapphire was naturally apprehensive but also looking forward to it. After all, she was no longer the 'new kid' in a place that hosted UN offspring from all over the world and she had friends she trusted.

At the end of day one, she came home, closed the door and burst into tears. "Nafeesa walked straight by me and when I thought she hadn't seen me and I said 'Hi' she deliberately ignored me," she sobbed.

Over a diet coke, we sat on the balcony with Milly enjoying the late afternoon sun and tried to figure out what Saph might have done to annoy Nafeesa. After all, no child is perfect and there's two sides to every situation......

The snubbing continued for four weeks.  Sapphire emailed her, sent her texts and left messages on her phone but all were ignored.  One night, she decided to call her home number (a rarity for kids these days as it's so public: hell, a parent might answer).  "How about I sit in and listen," I suggested, "just to see if there's something you're not picking up on." To my surprise, she readily agreed.

Sapphire's phone call was impressive in its politeness, concern and open need to restore a valued friendship. Nafeesa sounded disinterested and hung up.  "Nafeesa made me happy. I hated being here at first, but she made the year so great for me. Why is she doing this?  Why do my friends only last a year?"  The shadow of J's bullying tactics in 2010 were not a faint memory for either of us.

The dreaded sentence: "What's wrong with me?"

With the brain and body of a sixteen year old but the blind trust of a child, my heart ached for her.  Was I guilty of bias in my reliance on quick pop psychology; in reasoning that Nafeesa might be jealous of Sapphire?  Was she pushing Saph out because envy for her life was an additional stressor in her own life?

Sapphire drafted a carefully worded email.  She asked me to check it before she sent it, and, again I was impressed with the admission that Nafeesa's friendship was incredibly important and she wanted to talk things through with her so that they could patch things up again.

Through more tears, diet coke and cuddles, I reassured Saph that she had truly tried her best but, sometimes, girls 'dropped' each other for a variety of reasons; not all of them mature, sensible or fair. "Be proud of how you tried to fix things and remember that you have other friends who really do love being with you."

A week later, the tears started again the moment she'd closed our front door behind her. "Now she's making a huge fake show of waltzing up to my classroom friends at lunchtimes, hugging them all and asking them questions when before she hardly knew them. I've just got over the fact that she doesn't like me any more and to give up, but why does she still want to keep hurting me?"

Hugs and empty platitudes were all I could offer and it wasn't enough.  So, I did what parents always want to do, but know they shouldn't do.  I contacted Nafeesa's mother.  She was distracted and tired, and asked me to put it in an email.  Fair enough.

'This is a tough email to write, but LC and I are now becoming rather concerned about Nafeesa’s treatment of Sapphire.

From what we understand, Nafeesa has decided to ‘drop’ Sapphire since the new school year started (September).  Despite some emails and phone calls (some I sat in on to ensure that Sapphire was being reasonable and personable), Nafeesa has not given Sapphire a reason why she is no longer her friend, or any apology for snubbing her repeatedly at school.

Naturally, there are always two sides to every story – teenage girls especially – but Sapphire is utterly miserable, very hurt and puzzled.  After several weeks of trying, she decided to give up, realising that some friendships end.  She is still very sad, but now rather stoic. It seems disappointing that, although their friendship has ended, that Nafeesa doesn’t even want to greet her when they pass by each other at school.

However, it seems as though instead of just ‘dropping’ Sapphire, Nafeesa is now being more active in trying to exclude her.  Nafeesa has got to know a few girls through Sapphire – namely A, J and K– and is, on most evenings, overusing Facebook with links and conversations with these girls. Sapphire is torn between wanting her friends to stick with her and between not being called a bully or unfairly demanding for asking them to avoid Nafeesa.

Nafeesa appears to have plenty of friends in her own class and Sapphire, right now, really needs the ones she has in her class.  Is it possible to have a chat with Nafeesa to find out what Sapphire did to make this all occur and, to get her to tone down the active seeking out of Sapphire’s friends?  I ask this because Sapphire is going through a tough time personally right now with lingering issues of fitting in and self esteem and we just want her to be happy and settled.

Feel free to ring me any time to discuss this – I’m around all next week for coffee/chocolate if you’re free.'

No reply or phone call was received, and a week later Sapphire asked if she could try calling Nafeesa one final time.  Yasmin answered the phone and was lucid enough to make it very clear to my child that "Nafeesa has fights with her friends all the time and if I wasted my time sorting them all out, I'd never get anything else done."  I heard Sapphire trying to say, "But Yasmin, surely you know that she falls out with C, never me..."
"Sapphire, I really don't care. Nafeesa says that she doesn't know what you're talking about, and I believe my daughter."  Click.

I steeled myself for the tears.  Surprisingly, none came.  "Mum, I tried, I really did. And Nafeesa once told me that she never tells her Mum anything so that's it."  She folded herself into my arms with a sigh. "I miss her so much though."

Yeah, me too.  Another surprise. "But I do feel sorry for her, Mum. She hasn't got a father and her mother is still really sick. It must be really hard."

Too right.  Poor Nafeesa; poor Yasmin and poor Sapphire; all forming a curious blend of fierce pride and regret in the pit of my stomach.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine

Pandora has very generously given me a Sunshine Award which is ironic considering I haven't seen any for several weeks now and it's forecast to be -8C on Friday.

Still, she insists that I bring a bit of sunshine to her day and has asked me to answer eight questions and then ask some of my favourite bloggers to answer 'em as well.  

1. What is your favorite Christmas/Holiday movie?

Elf. I really don't like Will Ferrell all that much, but in this he is perfect and earned his salary by wearing yellow tights and green velvet.  
Buddy is a small baby in an orphanage who accidentally crawls into Santa's sack on Christmas Eve and subsequently raised at the North Pole. Now grown up, he feels out of place amongst the tiny and industrious elves and decides to leave and search for his real father in New York. 

When he's shown the mail room (where he is to start work), he says, "This place reminds me of Santa's workshop, except that it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me."

And later, when he believes that leaving his family is the best action to take, he writes them a farewell note on an Etch-a-Sketch and reads it out loud to himself: "I'm sorry I ruined your lives and crammed eleven cookies into the VCR."

Being duped by a crappy cafe with a neon sign touting 'World's Best Coffee' and rushing in to congratulate them is another highlight.

2. What is your favorite flower?

Roses and violets for their smell, tulips for their elegant beauty. I carried a dozen long stemmed cream roses on my wedding day. They looked terrific and, just as importantly, gave my nervous hands something to hold onto.

3. What is your favorite (non-alcoholic) beverage?

Coffee made by Love Chunks, water at room temperature and Coke Zero whilst living here in Switzerland.  At 'home' in Australia it's all of the above and Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee when it's very very chilled straight from the fridge.

4. What is your passion?

Love Chunks, for obvious reasons, but I'll name just three of them. Kindness, strength (in all senses of the word) and humour.

Sapphire because she's a complex creature that I've got the privilege of seeing grow.  Plus her hair smells nice.

Milly because she's my velvety, farty friend who does a good show of listening to every bit of nonsense I say or sing to her. Plus, her fur smells nice when she hasn't elected to roll in a dead hedgehog or leftover kebab in the park.

Writing because it makes my brain do strange and wonderful things.

5. What is your favourite time of year?

Early autumn when it's still warm enough to wear t-shirts during the day but cool enough at nights to want to snuggle under the covers and dust off the ugg boots.  Not so late autumn, as here in Switzerland the leaves have dropped and get dangerously slimy from the rain. Skidding downhill with shopping bags in both hands is not a pleasant sensation. But yes, it's hilarious when it happens to other people.

6. What is your favourite time of the day?

Late morning tea time.  I'm a morning person and by Second Coffee O-clock, I usually feel proud of what I've done in the day so far but can't usually boast of being anywhere near as productive afterwards.

7. What is your favourite physical activity?

Running. When my pesky Achilles finally heals, I'll be at it again: on the treaddie, waving to furniture removalists passing by in their cherry pickers and singing my heart out.  Otherwise it's walking with Milly, swimming laps and - a brand new discovery - snow skiing.

8. What is your favourite vacation?

Impossible to answer. London every time; Ayers Rock/Central Aust with LC and Sapphire; Italy, Germany, Singapore, New Zealand and Scotland.  The more you travel, the more you realise what you haven't seen - never set foot on either of the American continents, been to Japan, Scandinavia or eastern Europe. Yet.

I'm now meant to nominate eight other bloggers for the award.  It's up to them if they want to answer the questions, but here goes:

Franzy - Writing
Dianeb - Adventure before Dementia
Fen - Between the wires
Red Nomad Oz
Baino's Banter
Hannah - Wayfaring Chocolate
Deep Kick Girl
Ropcorn - My life in Sweden