Sunday, December 17, 2017

It’s started, or rather I have finally…

The writing of the annual family letter, the reception and sending of Holiday Greetings, Christmas Cards or whatever else anyone may chose to label them!

I missed last year entirely thanks to a bad bout of flu in between Christmas and the New Year that lasted well into 2017 so this year am making a serious attempt – note that word “attempt” to at least send those who have already sent me greetings, mine in return.

It was writing the first three that had me reflecting upon how good my life is, how wide my horizons and the depth of my friendships.

The first one was in French, the second in English, but when I wrote the third in German I had to realize that perhaps this order wasn’t random and that I was blessed. May you all feel the same.

Monday, December 4, 2017

I love the tax office!

Now that isn’t a sentence one hears often and this statement does need some qualification.
I should rather have said I love the Geneva tax office.

I have not needed to go down to the Hôtel des Finances often, but when I have I have
Always come away thinking only the very best of the people who work there, their competencies and the speed with which my problems are solved – and not once has it not been in my favor either!

Why though they call it a “financial hotel” I haven’t had a clue – no one ever stays, nor would one want to as the booths tend to be rather monastic, gray and blue grey, lots of rather styrofoam-looking ceilings and probably linoleum from at least 50 years ago so not make for attractive lodgings.

However, this is more than made up for in the smiles and helpfulness of those found behind the counters.

I needed to sort out my younger son’s 2017 tax declaration as when he officially left Switzerland the department of the population had transmitted that fact to the taxation office and they had sent a formula to be filled in that even I had a question on every other line.

In the end it turns out that one can be officially gone from Switzerland but still liable for taxes until such a point as one has a foreign employer and fixed foreign address (that was one of the problems – no fixed foreign address as he is coach surfing, Airbnb…ing and the like). They “divorced” the information from the population control from their system, took back all the forms and the tax declaration and will send them to him as normal in January.

This was very good news indeed making things much simpler all the way around, so after perhaps all of 15 minutes spent there I walked out with a spring in my step and love in my heart for the Geneva Tax Office.  Too bad that I don’t have the same warm fuzzy feelings for the IRS!

Items taken to the tax office - the envelope was full and returned empty!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

It’s started or…

Help – it’s way too early

I received my first Christmas card yesterday before I have even gotten around to considering writing any myself.

OK this is perhaps a reply to my on-line Thanksgiving greetings and the friend who sent is leaves around the 12th of December and won’t be back home until after the holidays.

I must say I admire her – especially as last year my Christmas letter never got written
at all: flu just after Christmas that lasted 10 days just wasn’t propitious for letter-writing and by the time I had caught up and recovered it was more like Easter!

This year I shall have to try and do better so let the cards roll in, that will perhaps stimulate my reciprocation. 

Still, a Christmas card in November? 

But I sure did enjoy this first one - gets me in the holiday mood so bless you J for being even more organized than I.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Enough already or…

How many more days will be labeled?

Black Friday,
Small Business Saturday
Cyber Monday and now
Giving Tuesday

If one goes to Wikipedia ( the number of “Black Fridays” boggles the mind, the latest of which is of course a selling mecca. Most people don’t even realize that the reason for it is the captive audience in the USA of those who have taken off the Friday in between Thanksgiving Thursday (I can coin labeled days with the best of them!) and the weekend that follows giving the retail industry the ideal opportunity to sell, sell, sell.

Cyber Monday. Again, according to Wikipedia, Cyber Monday was created in 2005 as a marketing tool to incite consumers to shop online in the USA. It too has spread to the rest of the world. Why, oh why, must we copy everything the USA does?

Giving Tuesday: a movement created to somewhat counteract Black Friday and Cyber Monday, although in my mind, simply another marketing tool

And somewhere in all that I missed something that hasn’t been largely touted, Small Business Saturday!  Totally understandable of course as small local businesses haven’t the advertising power of the large companies!

So how about
Wicked Wednesday (you decide what is wicked),
Thankful Thursday (we could use that one every week – no need to sell or tout anything but love)
Or – the best of all – Simply Sunday, Serene Sunday, Celebrating Sunday.

Listen friends, get off the consumer bank wagon; get out and either take a good look at the world of nature around you or interact with other humans; live your lives and enjoy them and we won’t need to label the days.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The luxury of being elsewhere

There is nothing quite like a vacation. One chooses a city, a beach, a country, a mountain.
One studies up on whatever culture, subject or destination one has chosen and gets on the road having duly arranged for air or train fare or having decided to take the car.
There is the enjoyment of planning; the excitement of actually doing and finally the quieter pleasure in the memories and photos of any given trip.

I will never downplay vacations.

But there is better: there is – back when I was renting in the mountains – and with a very few select people - the luxury of being elsewhere.

Being at a friend’s where one follows one’s own schedule and desires (and those do take into account the host or hostess with many a pleasant hour simply chatting, cooking together etc.) knowing that one is allowed to be at home in a way that one never actually is in one’s own home.

No normal schedule: no cleaning a drawer, a cupboard, the refrigerator – so one happily enjoys doing the dishes or mopping the floor because one wants to, not because one needs to or “should”. Here it is simply “could if I feel like it”.  No tasks needing done, no niggling in one’s mind that one should call so and so; visit another; plan something with a child, etc.

Here one can be egotistical – walk to the beach? Hmmm think I will; lay in bed reading half a day, no problem; eat breakfast at 10 or lunch at 11, have dinner or not it’s all delightfully possible.

I love my life at home and would probably be bored should I enjoy this state of affairs too long nevertheless I will return so mellow that it will take days to get back into a “normal” rhythm and life. Who cares? I highly suggest and hope that all my friends can experience, if not often, at least occasionally the luxury of being elsewhere.

Friday, November 24, 2017

We’re the “dindon de la farce” or…

The fall guy, taken for a ride, the captive audience, the idiot consumers.

One recent morning I headed for the train station – fortunately early, which although it isn’t my want, worked due to a train at the most reasonable hour of 10 a.m.  First glitch: bus dumping us out two stops early due to “heavy traffic jams in the area”.

OK so it was a glorgeous day (combination of glorious and gorgeous) and again having sufficient time I decided to walk the rest of the way: through the park, over the main bridge, re-connecting with my city.

Duly arrived in the train station I went to the kiosk to buy some of my normal reading material – and couldn’t believe my eyes when the cashier told me CHF 6.80 for a magazine that had a CHF 3.40 sticker on the cover – and which I bought for that price last week!

You’ve got to be kidding
Doubled from one edition to the other!

I had her run another one – labelled the same – and got the same results. Her supervisor wasn’t there so I said never mind. Went to another kiosk only to find the same price.

Who are we kidding here? Do they really think that we pay so little attention to prices? Even I will no longer purchase these magazines at those prices and I will make sure that all my local English-speaking friends are aware as well so they might as well pack them back up and send them to the publishers – the market is dry for the duration.

By-the-way I checked: it wasn’t a double edition nor a Christmas edition, just someone deciding that gouging the customer was fair.

Funnily enough the third glitch wasn’t one: they were saying that my train was 18 minutes late – good thing I didn’t take them at their word as we left only two minutes late. Oof lunch in Valence was safe.

A recent edition of Woman's Own that I bought for CHF 3.40

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Clean as a whistle or…

It would have been useful to have been a beer drinker!

After four days of a non-residue diet (and my mean non-residue or absolutely nothing that might stick to one’s ribs at all!) I was ready for the great event: a colonoscopy.

There is some question as to the origin of the phrase “as clean as a whistle” or “as slick as a whistle” but it was what came to mind after processing that last 2 liters of prep and 1 liter of water!

Some say it refers either to the ease of producing a whistle or to its clear tone.
Others that the basic idea suggests the clear, pure sound a whistle makes, or the slippery smooth surface of a willow stick debarked to make a whistle. But there is also a chance that the phrase may have originally been 'as clean as a whittle,' referring to a piece of smooth wood after it is whittled.'" (From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997.)

What it has to do with cleaning out one’s intestines I don’t know, but that is definitely how I felt going into the exam.

Good news: a five-year reprieve by which time I may (note the emphasis on MAY) have just barely forgotten the process.