Friday, May 10, 2013

It's all good

....but busy.  A fantastic work contract for one hectic month, two very long weekends and a bucketload of stuff shoved in between.

Blog visiting and commenting will resume soon.

In the meantime, go and visit RedNomadOz's blog and you'll see something familiar:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Douche Bonnet

Regular readers will already know this, but habitual lurkers (you know who you are; my counter's been collecting stats about you) or newbies looking for 'my left boob' (still the most-searched for item on this site) may not yet know that my sense of humour really is rather juvenile.

Whilst my French is limited to hello, goodbye, thank you and an ever-increasing range of charades that I'm prepared to act out in front of perplexed strangers, it is still the word 'douche' that never fails to amuse.

It was 'Jovial Douche' shower gel last year that saw me giving it to all of our house guests and, of late, it's been the Bonnet de Douches that's been snaffled from every hotel we've stayed in.

Shower caps, yes; but Douche Bonnets....?!  How can I not snigger at that and then, pondering my recent whinge about feeling grumpy and stumped, not take up PlasMan's idea to "Tell me - and the world - what YOU think is rubbish - and why."

Sapphire regularly accuses me of being overly judgmental of teenagers and of laughing too loudly at drunk uncles falling over in 'You've Been Framed' wedding clips, so it seems right to have myself feature as the first Douche Bonnet in the hopes that on a semi-regular basis my knickers will get twisted up enough to write about other people/trends/issues/behaviours that also require a public session under the scornful shower cap.

As such, I'm telling the world that I'm rubbish (or slightly, as even my bruised ego is aware that some good points are to be found) at being ........ not jealous.

This is a tough one to admit to, but jealousy is only ever evident to me after I've had a rant, been a bit bitchy, made a snarky comment (usually to Love Chunks or Sapphire) and then, seeing their slightly disapproving reaction(s), realise that it's all down to being more than just a tad envious.

Blogging is the issue that highlights my worthiness to be the first to don the Douche Bonnet.  A bugbear of mine concerns comments.  I'll admit that my knowledge of blog etiquette is minimal, but if someone is generous enough to take the time to read and then add a comment to my blog, I'll click on their link to see if they also have a blog and comment on one of their recent articles as an acknowledgement.  Then, if their blog is one that appeals to me, I'll add them to my regular reading list and keep on visiting and commenting.  After all, what blogger/writer, doesn't enjoy feedback?  Comments are, in my minuscule, jealous mind, the way of spreading the love back and forth and is the reason why I feel mightily pissed off when my comments are either never returned or even responded to, especially if the blogger is directly answering other commenters. My inner Douche Bonnet begins to inflate with annoyance.  Bloggers want comments, so surely they should do the same for others...?

So, when a blogger (and friend) recently announced via another form of media that they've revamped their long-forgotten blog and now want everyone to 'like' them and recommend their site to all their friends so that they can attach some advertising and make some money, my Douche Bonnet fogged up even further with an unattractive combination of 'who the hell do they think they are' and 'what do you think I've been trying to do for seven years' with a side order of 'so you think you can achieve what three billion of us already out there can't?'

The bonnet blew up bigger still when my elephant memory reminded me that the revamped blogger hadn't left a comment on mine in years....!

"You read far too much into things," says Love Chunks, not looking up from his iPad.

"It's hardly a life or death situation, is it, Mum," snorts Sapphire, packing her school things.

They're both right.  I deserve to be publicly exposed as the inaugural designated Douche Bonnet and learn to get over it and not blame my irrational envy on being in week three of a six week self-imposed no-sugar detox un-fun abstinence experience.  Either that or find out the hard way how difficult it is to remove both my head - and the now-desecrated Douche Bonnet - from out of my arse.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Home made oysters

The angry red bloodshot splodge changes from one eye to the other in the matter of hours, reminding me that whilst Spring has sprung in Switzerland, I am allergic to all of it.

Hayfever never troubled me in Australia, except for the three years that nasal polyps blocked each and every sinus drainage point.  This occurred during the bad old workaholic days, and my team reckoned that they knew when I was in my office (not directly visible to them) because of the window-rattling, endlessly honking nose blows.  Managerial mucus, if you will.  Thankfully, surgery occurred, scraping the inside of my face clean and then feeling the sheer relief of being able to speak without the other person looking at me with pity and inevitably asking, "Do you have a cold?"

Here, however, I'm chalking it down to a different hemisphere, different time zone, different season and different flora (and possibly fauna. Who knows what those pesky woodpeckers and squirrels do up in the trees when we're not looking).  It still seems incredible to me that bulbs can emerge when covered in thick snow and ice only six weeks earlier and trees switch from bare to bursting with blossom when my back is turned for a mere moment.

Nasal spray and tablets do help slightly and are well-earned after my attempts to act out 'hayfever' to the non-English speaking girl at the chemist.  However my walk with Milly in the mornings still results in sneezing a dozen times in a row with the air suction generated then causing every third one to be punctuated by a robust fart, pushing and shoving my body around like a disoriented set of blonde bagpipes.  Three steps back and a big one forward, thanks to the butt trumpet fighting the good fight on behalf of my itchy throat, streaming eyes and torturously tickly nose.

Milly also sneezes more than usual, but hers occur out in front of our apartment door in the marble-lined foyer by the lift doors.  "Ah-yeeeee!  Ah-yeeeeee!  Ah-yeeeeee!" reverberates down the hallway, in direct contravention of the Swiss-enforced 'no unnecessary noise before 8am on weekdays' rule.  If either of our neighbours opened their door to complain, they'd be presented with Milly's first real stretch of the day - head resting on her front paws as the rump is lifted towards them to expose a pencil sharpener arse already dilated and ready to discharge a poo in the park.

Outside and soon unencumbered by excrement exertion, she's as happy as the unknown-but-obviously-always-joyous-and-oft-referred-to Larry, scooting madly between the rows of daffodils, her paws flicking dew drops up against her belly.

This time last year she scooted in the rows of daffs, mouth open like a mobile hungry hippo as she avidly devoured the yellow petals.  This year she's either forgotten the joys of wanton destruction or has outgrown the taste.  I dawdle along behind, pausing every now and then to honk into my hanky, rub the reddest eye and do an exaggerated swallow in order to ease my throat.

It's all worth it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Accidentally trading up

On our last skiing outing for the season, we headed to La Clusaz.  We might have been on the French side of the border, but like the Swiss, they too revere their dairy cows and idyllic alpine scenery.  Picture a hotel room completely done in carved in knotty pine with floral curtains and you'll see why the lift door here was one of the more understated bits of decor.

Out on the slopes, I managed to get on and off the ski lifts without incident and stay upright for the entire morning session.  After three hours, my body was screaming for a break and my gut was groaning for some grub. The highlight was the break for lunch at a restaurant on the slope itself.  Diners are greeted by the dog, 1664 (yes, named after the beer) who is seen here trying to grab one of Simon's poles.

To gain entry, you literally ski up to the entrance, unclick your skis, jam 'em into the snow and drape your poles by their straps over the pointy ends.  Then there's a few metres of stiff walking like robots in unwieldy boots with a grunt after each step due to protesting muscles starting to untwist themselves and throb angrily at the treatment they've just been subjected to.

With helmet-hair and red marks from the goggles still on my face, I peeled off my gloves and gratefully slurped my bowl of hot chocolate.  Bowls make sense here as they warm up the fingers.

We all enjoyed lunches of BBQed steaks, tuna, quiche gruyere, chunky chips, smoked pork and a bit of red wine to wash it down with.  Conversation was bright, the sun even brighter and I shared my finding that farting in your ski pants (salopettes) isn't a good idea because the gas travels up your body and poofs out at the top of your jacket, resultant stench sailing straight up the snout.

Love Chunks, now a confirmed addict for alpine activities, inevitably looked at his watch. "We'd better make the most of it before the lift closes," he said, clicking the strap of his helmet under his chin, his eyes looking not unlike Milly's when the word 'walk' is uttered out loud.

Clunking our awkward disjointed way back to 1664 (who was busy chasing a slow learner around the other side of the building and not interested in patrons who were leaving), we reached for our skis.

"These aren't mine," I said, noting that the stocks were white and not brown.

"Are you sure?"


It was then that Simon recalled seeing a woman fumble about in the general vicinity of our skis as he ate.  "As we were diving into the creme brulee, I remember noticing that the clumsy way she tried to put on her skis made it pretty clear that she wasn't a natural and was still most definitely in the Beginner category."

"Like me, you mean...?"

"Well, now that you mention it......"

We stood around the alien skis, wondering what to do.  Gianna, the fluent French-speaker among us, went back into the restaurant and left our contact details should the woman realise her mistake and return.  There were no 'hire' barcodes on them, so they were privately owned.  Stealing didn't seem likely. "And of course the stocks would be my size or she wouldn't have been able to slip into mine if they didn't fit," I concluded. "She'll probably get home and one of her teenage kids will say, 'Er derr Mum, they're not your skis!" 

There was really nothing for it but to put them on, keep an eye out for a woman with largish hooves on white skis with brown stocks (and bent ski poles) and see if things couldn't be set to rights.  Not so easy in practice when on a steeply sloping field hosting a couple of thousand skiers, none of whom stayed still long enough to let my eyes focus.

Over dinner, I again pondered the fate of my still very brand new skis.  "She's left me a pair that have a few scratches on them, but at least her poles are straight." 

Simon got his iPad out and did a bit of research.  "You're in luck, Kath. Her skis might be slightly broken in, but they're a current brand and model that's still available.  How much were your Rossignols again...?" Tappita tappita tappita he went, beer temporarily forgotten as he delved deeper into the details.

It was time for a glass of champers: the value and quality of my skis had doubled in a day.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Apart from a brand new kitchen tap that was installed last week to prevent the cupboard underneath from rotting away and contributing to the outdoor pool that is our balcony, our rented accommodation has been largely untouched and unrenovated since it was built in 1970.

Despite this, I've discovered from the occasional chat with other building dwellers that our place is the largest size they have.  Every third floor (second, fifth, eighth and eleventh levels) has one our size that stretches across the entire length and allows pretty decent views of the Saleve and Jura mountains from both sides. "Plus, you have a maids' door," Anne said to me.

A maid's door?

She's right.  Taking care to snap this photo with keys safely in my hand, I'd almost forgotten about our second door.  It's the one on the right - closest to the gorgeous matchy-matchy lift door. Nothing but the best of burnt seventies' brown sugar for our external furnishings.

"And don't forget what was constructed for the housekeeper inside," she said, pointing to the tiny room next to the guest toilet.  This windowless, power point-less room measures 1.5 by 2.5 metres.  

We use it as our indoor storage space. My two nanna carts, LC's and Sapphire's scooters, unused winter quilts, art supplies and a dodgy IKEA desk chair have been shoved there out of the way.  "Well, if you had a live-in housekeeper, that's where she would have to sleep."

No wonder Milly and I see so many nervous and tired-looking Philippino and Malaysian women entering the foyer as we're exiting for Milly's first whizzer of the day at 7:00am.  They all stop and greet Milly, who rushes up to greet them with a wildly wagging tail.  "I miss dogs," one said wistfully the other day. "My kids look after mine in Manila for me."

It seems that these days no-one has live-in domestics; or not that I'd noticed anyway.  Then again, Guillaime upstairs has a cleaner visit every single week day.  Considering that it's just him and his wife in their two bedroom/one bathroom apartment (ours is 3br/2 br), it's a genuine struggle to imagine just what kind of detailed tidying up is required so regularly.  From the hoovering, scraping and clanging sounds overhead, Guillaime's debris keeps her occupied for least three hours.  Is he a messy eater who then defecates on the floor?  Does the always-stunning Mrs G let everything hang out once the front door's closed behind her, grinding dropped blobs of her Chanel Double Perfection Lumiere foundation into the gaps in the parquetry...?   Are they against wardrobes and discard clothes like dead skin cells?  Are dishes frisbees?  If so, they keep pretty quiet when it's not anyone's birthday.....

Our 'Maids' Entry' door has been permanently locked ever since we moved in, and is usually hidden by a rack full of damp washing, a handful of doggy doo bags dangling from the handle and the three designated recycling containers lined up in a row.  Lotto win fantasies see this door get removed forever and a decent pantry installed instead.

If we were the type of people who had a maid, then she'd apparently only be given a key to the side door and this is what she'd be greeted with: laundry and kitchen.  After all, why look at the comfortable bedrooms or living areas (with spectacular views) unless you're in there to spruce, dust and polish?

"Our cleaner is very good," Guilliame once remarked to me as we shared the lift. "Only twenty five francs an hour."  Waiting for the internet to rev up to normal speed and upload these photos, my mathematics-averse brain struggled with a calculation.  That'd be three hours, at 75 francs a day, totalling 375 for the week.  The Aussie dollar and the Swiss franc are pretty close these days, so it was no small biccies he was shelling out for managing a tiny living space.  It's also, it has to be said, a lot more than I charge per hour for my writing gigs.

If you've made it this far, you're probably wondering what the point of this entry is, apart from showing you how hideous our doors, floors and tiled walls are and that it might prove best not to visit Guillaime's place until after the cleaner's worked her magic.

Well, I was walking Milly in the Parc de Trembley this morning when I spied what initially looked like a rather cute scene.  Mum, dressed in a power suit with a sleek leather briefcase slung across her chest, was sharing a ride on a scooter with her toddler.  Bent nearly double, she was gripping the handlebars tight, calling out, "Wheee! Wheeeeee!", using one leg to propel them faster and faster forward.  The child was giggling with glee.  Sweet, right?

For the first few seconds, yes, until their companion was revealed, coming up behind, huffing and puffing to keep up the pace.  Dressed not in workout gear but a rather formal uniform was (presumably) the nanny, forced to run alongside until Mum had reached the enormous UIT building and handed her both the scooter and the child.

The nanny was not giggling with glee, and I sincerely hoped that she was at least paid enough to afford to live in a place of her own.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Scenes from a Genevan restaurant

"No wonder Simon and Gianna wanted to meet us here. It's actually modern," exclaimed Sapphire as we asked for a table to seat 'cinq' people and waited for the other two to arrive.

"I'll order a bottle of Rose. Everyone likes Rose and it'll go with pretty well any sort of Italian food."

Love Chunks surveyed the scene and then the menu, wincing as he did so. "Well, each dish is helping them pay for the renovations."

Sapphire, looking beautiful in her own chosen ensemble of skirt, boots and cute top, rolled her eyes. "Dad, that's Geneva for you."

He smiled. "You're right.  I'll try a glass of Cotes du Rhone red----"

"-----And I'll have a glass of that orange Aperol stuff, see?" Pointing wildly at a couple in the corner, "Remember me drinking it all the time last year in Germany...?  They've just ordered the same drink, which is the first time I've seen it here. I love that stuff!"

"Yes Kath/Mum," my two favourite humans chorused.

Gianna and Simon arrived, glad to see that we'd snaffled a table. "There's already a queue outside and it's only a quarter to seven," she said, sipping on the Rose. "What the....?" she swallowed only because it would be impolite to spit inside. "I'm sorry but this is awful!"

Simon and LC agreed.  "Never fear, I'll drink it," I said, worrying more about the cost of the wine and inwardly cringing at it going to waste.

"Peach iced tea for me, please," said Sapphire.  "Hey Mum," she whispered, tapping my arm. "Don't look now - I said DON'T LOOK - but one of the chefs over there has the Colosseum tattooed on his arm."

"So he has. No prizes for guessing where he's from." The completed half litre orange Aperol and first glass of Rose were working their magic. "So. Pretend that your life depended on getting a tattoo - on your upper arm, so it's mostly visible - of a landmark or living thing to represent yourself, what would it be?"

"Certainly not the Opera House," Sapphire said before turning to place her order.

"A flower of some kind," said Gianna. "Seeing as this year my birthday has a zero in it, I have been giving it some thought but haven't got as far as decided what flower."

"My girls," Love Chunks said, "but how awful would that look?"

"The Southern Cross for me," was my contribution. "It's time we took it back from the brain-dead bogans."  Sapphire shook her head in disapproval. "Mum, they'd just think you were their big white nanna."

"A British Bulldog," Simon said decisively. "But to overturn the racist element of it, I'd have him smiling, sitting on top of the Tower of London and wearing a Shamrock around his collar. My mum would like the shamrock."

It was then that we noticed the two real dogs in the restaurant.  The one closest to me was still a puppy and resembled our Milly crossed with a kelpie and a whippet and a whimsical dash of shrunken golden retriever.  Glass number three had me lean back and slur slightly, "Love your dog. What is she?"

"We're not really sure as she was a rescue dog from Austria," the man replied in a strong German accent.

At the table on the other side of us was a full-sized Boxer, his back almost the same level as the table.  Arse facing us, we were treated to an eyeful of his baked potato-sized bollocks.  Turning to face us (which we were all relieved about), he presented a very handsome but slightly huffy face.  His nose inevitably found her:  the cute Blonde Bitzer I was currently enchanted with.  His paws scrabbled on the shiny floor to reach her, knocking against the legs of his owners' table. A sixty-something man, clearly the owner, grabbed the dog and roughly shoved his head under the table, cursing loudly.

"That seems a bit harsh," observed Simon. "The dog's only doing what is natural..."

I leaned back to my Austrian friend and pointed to a spot just behind Simon's left elbow.  "There's a boxer over there who is very keen to meet your dog."

"But he mustn't," he whispered, "As she is on heat."

A fourth glass was swirling inside me yet even I queried the wisdom of bringing a dog on heat to the most popular restaurant in our postcode, with tables almost touching and overloaded with stemmed glasses and bread baskets.  "Oh," I said, turning back to my friends.

By the fifth glass, Gianna had had enough.  The Italian fire in her soul - and inborn knowledge of the language - saw her plonk down her calamari and square up to the Boxer's bully.  Never a shy petal, Gianna was obviously giving the bloke a goodly piece of her mind in her mother's native tongue, gesticulating at the dog and pointing towards the Blonde Bitzer behind me.  The waiters quickly intervened and magically found the Boxer family a table against the counter, presumably so that the dog could be hidden underneath and only have one side to escape from.

Things now settled, we enjoyed the meal. The food was indeed superb and the increasingly loud conversation, yelled orders to the pizza chefs and clacking heels on parquetry were adding to the chaos.  A downed sixth glass made me brave enough to lean back on my chair - now being steadied ever-so-subtlely by LC - and ask the question. "Why is your dog on heat?"

"She was supposed to be neutered on Tuesday but started bleeding, so the vet says he can't do it until next week-----"

The Boxer was there!  He'd broken out of his pizza and pasta-prescribed prison and was about to........."NO!"  Despite the imminence of a violent sexual scene and three separate groups of diners in distress, the packed restaurant remained oblivious, carrying on their own chats over carpaccio platters and wood fired focaccias.  Admittedly, things were fairly hazy in my Rose-saturated state, but pizza crusts and prosciutto may have been proffered to encourage the besotted Boxer to forgo his attempts at rooting in a restaurant and crouch back under his table.

"I'm not sure that food would normally dissuade a determined guy that easily," Simon muttered.

Our meal was all over by a tame 9:30 pm and Sapphire kindly held my elbow to add an element of safety to my sterling impression of a toddler walking down a flight of stairs for the first time.  "I'm sorry love, but I haven't set a very good example for you tonight, have I?"

She paused for a moment before smiling. "A drunk Mum, Gianna gettin' game and dirty dogs - remind me not to get so dressed up next time."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The chaos of chairs

Much like marriage, apartment living is a continual exercise in consideration and compromise.

We apparently have multi-storey living arrangements a far lot easier than the average Swiss person in that we have our own washing machine and therefore escape the dreaded laundry room timetable.  Friends on much higher salaries than ours are unable to go out on Monday nights because it is when their allotted two hours are given to use the washer and dryers.  The judges' decision is final and no further correspondence will be entered into, such is the difficulty in trying to nab a Saturday afternoon slot.  Someone has to die and have their next-of-kin tracked down, bribed and shagged to have any chance of being able to change the time you have been given.  (While we were in Spain, our house and dog-sitter said the highlight for her was being able to wash her clothes when she felt like it - such small pleasures)

For those of us with washing machines, life is relatively carefree as long as we don't use them before 8 am or after 9 pm and never on Sundays.  The Sunday restriction is regularly flouted by me - surely it's OK to do something other than stay utterly still and silent from, say, 10 am to 4 pm?  Doesn't that allow sufficient time for a sleep in or pre-work wind down? So far, no neighbour to the left, right, up or below has taken offence at my rest day rejection.

With our dog now fully embraced by our concierge, The Fratman, and able to leap into the lift doors and accompany elderly couples to their floor (and back down to me) with joy and safety, we figure that the block is pretty used to the noisy Australians who like to yell 'Tea is READY' instead of walk the fifteen metre dog leg to the bedroom area.

However, there is a big booger still dangling from the symbolic nostril that is upper-level etiquette: our balcony.

When it rains, the water simply gathers into small pools, eventually turning into one rather shallow swimming area when they join up.  The drain may be set in the far corner but the undulating slope of the tiles means that it rarely gets wet.  Instead, the water is eventually dried up by the sun or soaked up by my ugg boots; whatever happens first.

Unfortunately, it is not just worn woollen footwear and solar power that is removing the water - it is also seeping through the balcony and starting to stain the ceiling and upper walls of the apartment directly below us.  The neighbours (to be referred to as the Seventh Floor Fusspots from hereon) are understandably annoyed by this and have asked the land agent to contact the owner of our apartment to fix the problem.

With Swiss efficiency meaning that the plumber rings to apologise if he's going to be ten minutes late, I assumed that the balcony repair work would be relatively easy.

But no. In the past eight weeks, I've had no less than ten separate visits of men arriving with clipboards to
a) have a smoke and fling the butt over the edge of the flower boxes down into the garden that no human is allowed to enter;
b) point to the drainage hole and hold some intense discussions about it;
c) jump up and down on the tiles; and
d) tell me 'We fix. Later. Fratman will call you.'

TEN TIMES.  Unless they somehow scrape off a thick layer of cement and slope the entire balcony surface towards the drain or knock the entire edifice off and build a new one from scratch, it is not clear what quick job they can do to prevent the Seventh Floor Fusspots from continuing to complain.  Put in a blue pool liner perhaps?

Mrs Fusspot has usually been friendly to me whenever we've crossed paths by the mailboxes or in the lift, but the frustration of no action and her presumably still-ugly brown-stained walls are starting to fester beyond  annoyance at the owner and towards the renter.  Me, in other words.

Witnessing her pretending not to see me as she struggled into the four person lift with myself as the only other person present was a little too much, so I applied my cheery 'Hello' that often gets unfriendly dog walkers to respond when we pass by every single day.

She grunted.  I tried again. "Look, I'm sorry that there seems to be no improvement on the balcony for you.  I've had ten lots of men come up to look at it, but not one of them has returned to do anything.  Is there anything I can do to help it happen quicker for you?"

"Yes," she hissed, causing me to step back a little in surprise.  Even her drop pearl earrings were swinging erratically. "You can stop scraping your chairs on the floor."

"Oh, sorry.  We have those felt dot things on the bottom of the legs---"

"It's NOT ENOUGH. You scrape them all the time and we need you to stop."

We had arrived at her floor and she swept out to my, "Sure, I'll speak to my family about it...."

Arriving back upstairs, I realised that our six dining chairs are all on carpet.  An IKEA job that has soaked up a few of Milly's left-inside-too-long butt nuggets, an infinity of dropped bread crumbs and more spilled wine than what had remained in the glasses they were originally poured into.  The rug now had several extra layers that not only prevented the chairs from scraping, but also provided recording studio-quality sound-proofing and a large, aromatic area for the dog to ram her nose into for a lick and a sniff if the kitchen floor is too clean.

It was hard not to laugh.  If this complex was in Australia (say, Flemington), housing this many people it would be a madhouse of noise.  Two hundred residents would mean that simple Aussie-related maths would see at least two out-of-control parties, several domestic incidents, a visit from the ambos, stolen wheelie bins, hard rubbish put out seven months too early, hills hoists pulled over, cars being keyed and Eminem on level eleven during work hours.  And we'd be pretty accepting of all that....

I saw The Chair Scraping Shrew again the following day.  "Good morning Mrs Fusspot.  We've had a think about what you told us and realise that it's not us who are scraping the floors.  It must be people on either side or on the ninth floor, as we have carpet under our chairs."

She stopped unlocking her mailbox and gave me a skeptical look. "No, you are wrong, it is you.  You have chairs in your kitchen."

"No, we don't, actually.  Our kitchen has a fixed bench in it and no chairs."

The fact that I dared to question her statement and profess knowledge of my own kitchen still did not convince her.  She shook her head. "I think you are mistaken. Your kitchen chairs scrape all day."

All day....?  When I'm home, I'm usually in the study - with a different apartment underneath me - blobbed out in a rollerball office chair and never on the dining setting. I felt my mouth form into the universal sign of increased annoyance - the cat's arse pucker.  "Look, Mrs Fusspot, you're more than welcome to come on up and see for yourself."

"That won't be necessary. All you need to do is stop the scraping."

It was then that I decided forget about visiting the bootmaker's in Petit Saconnex.  Not because he doesn't do a good job in re-heeling my beloved black boots, but because I was going to ask him to apply a layer of special rubbery stuff that would stop the 'clop clop clop' sound of my brand new boots (black again, of course) when I walked across the parquetry floor boards not covered by rugs.

Sod her.  Milly's nails can get longer AND the double spin cycle will be selected on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nine hundred and seventy five

Well, it's been eight years and 975 posts and I seem to have hit a brick wall, ideas-wise.

Therefore, I'm opening it up to you.

What do YOU want me to write about?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Sunday Selections - Alhambra Aquatica

Alhambra (in Granada) is Spain's most-visited site and we were determined to get our egg-beater-for-an-engine hire car over there to see it.  The contraption was so small the back seat had to be flattened to get our suitcase inside and we did our best to heed the traffic warnings:

In a place known for temperatures of 45-48C in the 'high' season, we felt a bit like tourists who visit Ayers Rock/Uluru during a thunderstorm: slightly damp due to rain rather than sweat, and well aware that not many get to experience it in this way.

Kicking off as a fortress in the 8th century, becoming a Moorish palace by the 11th and reclaimed by the Spanish Catholics in 1492, the place has seen a few changes, additions, dodgy renovations, vandalism, refurbs and a tourist or two.  Granada was barely visible during the drizzle and the ticketing system was run on an almost Swiss-like, humourlessly strict 30-minute basis.  Miss your slot and you don't get sent to the back of the line: you get told to bugger off and try and book for another day.

Rain I can handle; bone chilling breezes are what make being a traveller with nowhere to hide until late afternoon check-in a nightmare.  Luckily was wet but mild and the grey skies helped make the intricate stone carvings stand out even more.

It was a genuine joy to see how Sapphire responded to the place. "I will come back here again," she gasped, "I have to."

Whilst admiring the endless rooms of painted tiles (not allowed to be photographed due to the need for the use of flash), 'glory to god' carvings, blue and green alabaster ceilings and courtyards that would have been the coolest places to recover during a blistering summer day, it was hard not to wonder how the poor peasants of Granada felt seeing an enormous mini-city of opulence literally looking down over their town.

The Four Minute Showerer may have left her birth country, but couldn't help seeing the water tumbling down and thinking, 'What this joint needs are a few humungous corrugated iron tanks dotted about and some guttering."

The flowers were in a mild state of shock.

"This is crazy, yes," said a museum guide, watching as an inner courtyard turned into a plunge pool.  We all had to jump in as the circuit only went one way and Alhambra doesn't tolerate tourists who don't toe the line or move in an orderly clockwise direction towards the overpriced gift shop.

Perhaps I've left it a bit late in this piece to let you know just how dazzled and impressed and inspired we were by the place?  

And how my photographs don't do it justice?  Especially the ones where I'd left a fingerprint on the lens so that the famous lion fountain could only be glimpsed behind what looked like a lonely cloud?

Wet through yes; in awe and thrilled to be there, yes times a hundred.

Sapphire's currently working on a painting for her bedroom based on some of the recurring patterns she saw here and immediately answers 'Alhambra' when polite adults ask her what the highlight of her holiday was.

A slight whinge about to occur now, but nothing to do with the all-encompassing amazingness of Alhambra.  I try to be a nice person and hopefully succeed in this endeavour at least fifty one percent of the time. If a couple are taking photos and one poses in front of the monument/silly sign/tower/river/ski field/castle, I'll wander over and ask if they'd like to me take their portrait together, as otherwise it's likely they'll end up with an album full of selfies (see above) or of each photo featuring just one of them.

"Yes please," they'll eagerly reply, but here's my beef: why don't they ever offer to take OURS for us?  I can count on one bloody hand how many photos of The Lockett Three there are in existence.

Fingerprint smear, flash bouncing off the glass and someone scraping the side of my eyebrow with their passing umbrella be damned: this is the kind of garden I'll have when the lotto gods smile upon me. 

And orange trees.  I eat an orange every single morning before breakfast (it's true: ask Love Chunks or Sapphire) and smelling their spring blossoms even in the down pour made the relative lack of chocolate an afterthought.

You haven't seen the last of us Locketts, Spain.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

OHS, Schmo-OHS

The above title sounds better when said out loud and, when applied to holidays, is usually said by me when it comes to food:

"Holiday weight, Schmoliday weight."

Love Chunks managed to wangle the Thursday before and Tuesday after the Easter long weekend to give us six days in Spain.

Spain's a rather large patch of ground, so we decided to hit a smallish area and keep reminding ourselves that living in Europe for the next (at least) couple of years means that we can calm down and revisit or see more of the place later on.  Madrid and Barcelona were idly bandied about over a dinner party table a couple of months ago, but friends urged us to consider Seville.

Gianna and Simon, let this be a public declaration of sincere thanks for your advice.

Easter is the Holiest of Holy weeks in an extremely Catholic country and we were surrounded by hours and hours and days and days of parades that seemed to feature gorgeous young women wearing black lace mantillas as a sign of mourning for Christ's death and a heap of differently-coloured Ku Klux Klan members who were supposedly covering their faces to hide their sorrow.  No photos to show you as it didn't seem right to jump out and snap away at them during a time they took particularly seriously.

Honey toasts, deep fried and anointed in delicious syrups were an Easter treat that I inhaled eagerly, telling myself that having a freshly-squeezed Seville orange juice would sort of counteract the fat. (In Kath Land, an apple following a Kit Kat chunky means nothing was imbibed at all).  Not so easy to do the same for the aubergine 'fries' that were coated in a fine crumb and then drizzled - again - in honey. We were skeptical at first, but all raving and rolling our eyes in ecstasy several seconds later.

Balconies were draped in red brocade, velvet and gold trimmings and the city was packed with people of all ages. No dinner to be had at 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 or even 9:30pm..... try 10:30pm with a few tapas to tide us over before then.  Toddlers were at outdoor tables eating with gusto near midnight as we walked home, bellies full and wondering just how we'd be able to lie down and sleep comfortably.

Respecting their Christian celebrations aside, I'll admit to deliberately lining up my shot of this guy so that it looked as though he was praying for good BBC World News reception....

....and, yet again, an art work has to feature the single crusading female with a boob hanging out. As they inevitably do.....

Reluctantly driving out of Seville (thanks to Love Chunks and Ken, the tom-tom we brought over with us), we stopped at an intriguing lookout named Saucejo so that I could grab a photo of my best boy and best girl.

Ronda (the town, not the girl that the Beach Boys were keen to use as a rebound for heartbreak) took our breath away.  LC is a bit of a mountain goat and loves to clamber on things, so while he busied himself being King of the Valley, Sapphire and I took a selfie that you can clearly see reflected in my sunnies:

The bridge spans the deep rocky valley from the old town to a still very-old part of town that also has the largest bullfighting ring in Spain.  We all preferred not to see any bull being stabbed by a bejewelled ponce wearing ballet slippers for sport and instead decided to take the walk down to the base of the bridge.

This was where the difference between Occupational Health and Safety Australian-style compared to OHS Who Cares Spanish-style was glaringly obvious.

"Oh look, LC," I said, voice quavering along with my knees, "Under this temporary IKEA step ladder stapled to the moss on the rocks is the original cement staircase, cracked in half and collapsed. How comforting..."

"Hey Dad," a much-braver Sapphire called out. "The railings have rusted and you have to wedge yourself up against the side of the cliff so that you don't smash yourself on the rocks below. This is incredible!"

She was right.  The cement had long since crumbled down into the river, leaving a single iron bar jutting out like a hangman's frame, a visual reminder that the path was once a metre wide instead of several centimetres.  Around the corner, a stone hut was teetering dangerously into the drink and as my two beloveds dashed eagerly ahead, my feet refused to move and I found myself staring straight ahead in a self-imposed trance. I was convinced that if I stayed motionless, the return trip around the cliff and back up the rocks would be achievable if only my ragged breathing-with-a-squeak-at-the-end would cease...

"Ma'am? Hey, Ma'am? Can you take a photo of us please?"  Four young US college students were on top of the death trap cottage and one was dangling his canon down to me via the strap.  "Er sure," I rasped, my shaking hands making several misses before finally catching the strap.  Later, there was a tiny sense of satisfaction in passing them all on the climb back up to town, but fitness wasn't really the factor; fear was.

In Granada, Sapphire's tiny balcony provided a rather lovely view.

Beauty aside, it wouldn't be a Kath-splattered holiday if some signs and mistranslations didn't tickle my giblets.  Colon Street, Tourism Colon and even a sign pointing to the turn off to MorĂ³n de la Frontera.  There were times when I thought that I should have headed in that direction and many more when I'd gladly have shown other people the way.

In France, the 'Do Not Disturb' sign hung on hotel doors usually translates to 'Do not DERANGE me,' but in Spain it's 'Do not MOLEST me.'

Then again, as an Aussie sheila used to the Sharons and Narelles of the world and their 1970s/1980s-style insults, it could also be interpreted as being a Mole Star.  Personally, the first interpretation is my preferred one.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Area avoided often

I'm participating again in River's Sunday Selections event that invites bloggers everywhere to post up photos they haven't yet published, consider linking them with a theme and write something about them.

...this will help me get over the fact that Love Chunks, Sapphire and myself had a bog-ordinary Burger King meal at a roadside stop near Rolle, Switzerland that cost us Seventy Seven Francs.  That's fancy eatin' money!

On with the meme.

A bit after 8:00am on weekdays and weekends, Milly and I trot happily over to Parc de Trembley to stretch our collective total of six legs.  All furry, if I'm to be brutally honest.  It's a slab of land with a busy street that carves it into two segments, one considerably larger than the other.

We owe a lot to this humble park as it allows Milly to run free and keep her post-arthritic body in better shape than when she was first diagnosed with two irreparably wonky back legs over six years ago.  A sniff of a squirrel or the opportunity to snuffle around bench seats has resulted in a sleekly fit dog who can jump up into the back of the car with ease when she was completely unable do so in Melbourne.

With a paddling pool, ornate flower beds, ponds, ancient trees and friendly gardeners who know us and greet us, we both feel as though we know this little part of Geneva like the back of our hands/paws.

And yet there is one section that neither of us want to enter.  That's probably a good thing, because the sign outside this section already forbids entry to dogs:

The sign always leaves me feeling slightly offended on Milly's behalf as she should NOT be compared to disgusting urinators, vandals, noise polluters or litterers.

Then again, she's a beautiful and intelligent beast who hasn't shown the slightest interest in venturing into what I can only call - wait for it - brace yourselves - Pedo Playground.....

These creepy 'animals' are presumably meant to be cheery creatures intended to invite children to climb on them, play on them and generally enjoy themselves, but I have never ever seen a child - or adult - in there.  It seemed long past time to break the rules stipulated by the sign and have a whizz, sorry, take Milly in for a closer look.  She'd protect me if she had to, I'm sure.....

With a shaking dog so close to my legs that we tripped up several times, we tentatively approached this yellow abomination; a filthy chunk of butter with a tangible sense of unwholesomeness about it.  Made by a angry person with an old box and no artistic skills or is there a more sordid meaning behind the nubbin for a tail and the demonic blue ears?

Smile or not, the purple 'up yours' horns did not conjure up any innocent joys of childhood.

And these....?  A creepy looking camel and a half submerged pervy pincered crab? No way!

F-words aren't usually my go-to words, but what the phark is this pink thing??  A par-boiled testicle??

Milly whined several times as I nervously snapped away.  If this was supposed to be a dog with antennae for ears, porn star breasts for eyes and nose and a distinctly un-PG tongue lolling out lustily, it was a challenge getting her to pose next to 'it'.....

It was a relief for both of us to get the hell out of there.  A-poo-behind-a-bush-relief for Milly, and a thank-god-we-have-wine comfort for me.

That is, until the label revealed that it too wasn't offering real comfort....

But dear old LC did.