Things my beloved does: apes the outlaw

They tell men to take a long hard look at their mothers-in-law before marrying their daughters. It’s true, I am morphing into my mother. Not that my beloved minds, he worshipped my mother and she reciprocated. He might only have been one of her three son-in-laws but he was most definitely her favourite and, in her eyes, could do no wrong.
However, there are a few clear differences between me and my late mother. I’m much tidier and better organised, I get that from my Dad. If there was something my mother wanted or wanted to do, she would organise it, or get me to arrange it, otherwise she was happy to let Dad deal with everything else, while she occupied herself with the house and garden. I’m far too much of a control freak to allow that to ever happen. Plus, my beloved is nowhere near as reliable as my late father.
By the same token, you might imagine that my beloved would be turning into my late father-in-law. But, no it’s my brother-in-law, his younger brother, who’s the dead ringer. Instead, and much more worryingly, my beloved is turning into the outlaw, a women I haven’t seen for eight years and haven’t spoken to in around five. That’s not a complaint you understand, merely a statement of fact.
Horrifyingly, from time to time, I observe my beloved emulating odd habits or behaviours of hers. For example, my mother-in-law  is a total hypochondriac. Most of my beloved’s weekly conversations with her are given over to her airing her various ailments in graphic detail. I know when she’s doing this from the look on my beloved’s face. She sees her weekly (minimum) trip to the doctor’s surgery as a social outing and she’s up for anything she can get out of him. To say that she’s a drain on the NHS is putting it mildly.
I still recall the last time we had dinner together, many years ago, to celebrate her 80th birthday – she’s now 92. She’d just had a colonoscopy and was intent on telling us all about it during dinner. I put my hand up and said; “Val, we really don’t need to know all the gory details, particularly not during dinner. The important thing is that the examination provided you with reassurance that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you”.
My beloved betrays worryingly similar issues. He’s regaled anyone who was foolish enough to ask chapter and verse about his broken leg and subsequent recovery. I keep telling him that people are merely being polite and all he needs to say is that everything is progressing nicely and he’s now fine.
In addition, and I suppose it’s inevitable as we age, I get daily updates on his health niggles. For example, he’s always imagining he’s got a pulled muscle which requires the application of some unguent or other. He has a large cupboard in his bathroom chock full of medicaments and implements such as infra-red heat lamps for self-medicating. I’m the complete opposite. I have a couple of plasters, some cream for insect bites and that’s it – not so much as an aspirin.
If challenged about his hypochondria, he’ll hotly deny it but……….. he recently went to the doctor to get a medical certificate to join a new cycling club and, to his delight, she said it was time for another blood test. The French are (quite rightly) keen on these and most people have them every six months, early detection and all that…..he’s off to the medical centre tomorrow. When he gets the results, he’ll pull out the one from last time, make comparisons and then check out on the internet whether he’s showing signs of anything. I keep telling him that’s the doc’s job!
Although, I joke about his similarities to his mother, given her current longevity, I can safely assume he’ll be keeping me company for many a year to come.

Things I’ve done: almost crashed into a cactus

One Christmas we decided to vacation in Arizona. I can’t recall exactly why we chose that particular location but I think it had a lot to do with warm weather, somewhere to play golf and the millennium. I tried to put the holiday together myself but couldn’t do it cheaper, largely on account of the flights, than the travel agent. BA had just started direct flights to Phoenix, Arizona and the travel agent was able to get killer rates for two club class return tickets.

This could have been one of our “40 Memorable Moments” but it didn’t make the list despite being a fabulous vacation, with breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, astounding scenery and where I was introduced to South Western and Texan cuisine.

There are lots of great resort hotels in Arizona but we plumped for The Boulders because it sat so beautifully in the landscape, and it had two great golf courses. The plan was my beloved would work on his handicap while I chilled out in the spa and we’d also tour around the area. For me the highlight of the vacation was the beauty of the desert landscapes. I had just thought it would be miles and miles of sand, but it wasn’t. It was surprisingly green and achingly beautiful.

I even controlled my fear of heights to see the landscape from a hot air balloon which was nowhere near as bad as I’d feared. We set off at first light and I was amazed at just how much you could see from the balloon and I didn’t really (fortunately) feel I was up high. Maybe all that sand masked the sensation of height?

We also took a flight to see the Grand Canyon which was truly spectacular. I was surprised at just how large it was, but then that’s so often the case in the States: meals, buildings, distances – everything is larger than life. There’s this huge crevice, carved out of the landscape with a beautiful turquoise ribbon (Colorado river) at its base. When my two sisters went to Las Vegas, I said they had to go see the Grand Canyon. On their return I learned it had been sunny on the day they’d decided to visit, so they sun-bathed instead of visiting one of the world’s great sights!

We also drove around the area, admiring the rich palette of colours of the landscape, particularly the reds and ochres of the rock formations. One fine sunny day I offered to drive the golf buggy for my beloved and we set off from the club house with me driving carefully along the track. After a while, I started mucking about, particularly as the track became quite windy.

There were loads of cacti on the golf course largely chollas, prickly pears and saguaros. The flower of the saguaro is the emblem of Arizona. Harming one of these in any manner is illegal under Arizona state law. Obviously, there are exceptions but, in general, you must obtain special permits to move or destroy any saguaro unless  it has fallen over in a storm or it has become a potential hazard.

While driving along in the golf buggy, turning the wheel from left to right and back again, I slipped sideways out of the seat and onto the ground. I found myself running alongside a runaway golf cart heading straight for a massive saguaro. My beloved wasn’t helping as he was doubled over laughing. At almost the last moment, I managed to leap back into my seat and steer the cart away from the cactus which had really long, deadly looking spikes. Naturally enough, plenty of golfers witnessed my loss of control and I’m sure I provided a few tall tales in the 19th hole, along the lines of….”you’ll never guess what I saw on the golf course today!”

That was my one and only time at the helm of a golf cart. The rest of the vacation passed without incident.

However, what stuck in my mind from this holiday wasn’t the incident with the golf-cart, although it’s one of the few things my beloved teases me about. No, it was a sign found along many of the roads in Arizona – you know how I love signs? It’s sign RS-107 from the Arizona Manual of Approved Signs  – yes, I looked it up and here it is (just click on the link!)

road sign

I love the suggestion that off-road driving or collecting fall into the same category as off-road shooting! But then, of course, we are talking about the States. Fire away, just don’t run over any cacti!

(Images courtesy of The Boulders and Arizona Tourist Office)


Apres-ski anyone?

After our first vacation skiing in Seefeld, a colleague asked me about the apres-ski scene. I was unable to tell her anything. “Frankly” I said “it’s as much as I can do not to fall asleep over dinner after a day out cross-country skiing!”

I’m someone who always sleeps well but I sleep really well in the mountains, easily sleeping for 8+hours a night. I’m please to report that habit has stayed with me back home. Yesterday I slept for 9 hours and 12 hours the day before! I can’t even excuse it on the skiing or clean mountain air.

The lack of any apres-ski action has persisted over the years. After 4-5 hours of cross-country skiing, we’ll typical stop early afternoon, enjoy a late lunch, then head for the spa to relax and unwind before dinner and bed. We usually managed to stay up for New Year when we were staying at the InterAlpen, if only to see its magnificent firework show, thanks to a nap in the afternoon. I know, we’re a bit of a boring couple.

The one exception was  a previous company’s Eastern European Equity Conference which was held in late January in the Austrian resort where the Head of Securities had a holiday home. To be honest, back in the early 1990s, it was just an excuse to have a few days skiing with clients. Inevitably it was a very alcoholic few days and I felt obliged to take part in some of the apres-ski activities. I looked after those clients who wanted to try cross-country skiing, not downhill. There were always a couple.

I clearly recall one evening when the younger members of the group were exhorting me to go to a disco with them. “Come on out with us. It’ll be fun, put on your boob tube and rara skirt!” While I was hotly denying possession of any such garments, our Head of Research had a far away look in his eye and said “I see you more in a French maid’s outfit than a boob tube and rara skirt.”

There was one of those awkward silences where no one in the group was quite sure what to say, and you could’ve heard a pin drop. I took charge, jokingly replying that I felt I was more of a leather all-in-one and whip kinda gal. I didn’t go to the disco and the Head of Research (thankfully) refrained from making any more personal comments. This is my roundabout way of saying that after a hard day of sporting activity, I much prefer to curl up with my beloved and a good book, than a vodka and Red Bull.

The apres-ski scene has always seemed to belong more to alpine skiing which often has small bars at the bottom of slopes where the alcohol and music flow well into the small hours, and well away from the accommodation. My experience of these is that they’re hot, smoky (before the smoking ban) and crowded affairs, none of which I particularly enjoy. I like SPACE and I’ve always hated smoky places. Somethings never change.

Things my beloved has lost: a dinner jacket

My beloved recently wore his tuxedo to an industry awards dinner. It was the first time he’d worn the suit in many a year. Fortunately it still fitted him and required just a light pressing to bring it back to life. Probably, the last time he’d worn it had been for the New Year’s Eve bash at the InterAlpen Hotel. This suit was an eventual replacement for one he’d lost many moons ago.

How can you lose a dinner jacket? Well, we’re not sure exactly how it happened. My beloved went to a black tie do with his dinner suit and only came back with the trousers. However, I can probably hazard a guess. This was his first major loss. Up until then it had just been the usual towels, swimming trunks and swimming goggles carelessly left behind at one of the UK’s many swimming baths after a training session or water-polo match.

Many moons ago, all-male black tie dinners were quite popular. When we first got married, my beloved couldn’t afford to buy a dinner suit and had his late father’s one altered to fit. It was a lovely double-breasted jacket and, in my opinion, he did look rather handsome in it. Generally at functions where he was obliged to wear it, I was with him. But (sadly) not on this particular occasion.

He left for the black tie event with the suit in one of those heavy plastic suit carriers which he hung up in the back of the car to make sure that the freshly pressed (by me) suit remained in pristine condition. He returned from the event and rehung the carrier in the wardrobe without saying a word! Several months later we were due to attend another black tie event, this time with my parents. The week beforehand, I checked the suit carrier to find out whether the suit would need pressing, spot cleaning or dry cleaning. There was no jacket, just the trousers. I checked the other hangers in the wardrobe but there was no sign of his dinner jacket.

When he returned, I questioned him about the jacket and he immediately began to look uncomfortable. My beloved cannot lie. It was clear he was aware he’d “lost” the jacket when he’d repacked the morning after the event and couldn’t find the jacket anywhere in his hotel bedroom. Of course, he didn’t think to enquire of his dinner companions if they could remember what he’d done with it or even ask the hotel staff if they’d found a lone jacket! Too late now to enquire of the hotel staff, even if he could remember the name of the hotel where he’d stayed. It must have been some event!

In our early days of married life we didn’t have much money and, consequently, I didn’t feel like busting the budget to replace the suit. Instead I opted for pairing the black trousers with a white dinner jacket, as none of the black ones in Marks & Spencer were of the same weight and colour as his trousers. To be honest this made him look more like one of the waiting staff – white gloves anyone? – than a guest, but he just had to grin and bear it. It was quite some time before I bought him a new dinner suit which I’m delighted to say he still has in his possession, not that there’s much call to wear them these days.

So, how did he lose it? The jacket was made from a heavy wool and was rather warm. I suspect that as soon as he was able to do so, probably after the port had been served, my beloved divested himself of his jacket and hung it on the back of his chair. Thereafter I’m sure the table probably headed for the bar and my beloved left his jacket behind. No doubt it was found by the hotel’s waiting staff who put it into lost property, fully expecting its owner to reclaim it the following day. Why my beloved didn’t bother to enquire of the hotel whether they’d found his jacket, only he knows. On the bright side, as far as I was aware there was nothing of import in any of the jacket pockets.

I was rightly annoyed with him because he’d made no attempt to find the jacket and, if he’d owned up about the loss sooner, I could’ve rung the hotel to reclaim it or at least tried to track it down. At worst I would’ve made a small claim on our household insurance for a replacement. As it was, three months down the line, none of these was now an option.

Things I’ve done: race day

Having successfully completed the Engadin Marathon trial-run, Friday and Saturday were spent preparing our skis with the right waxes, stretching our aching limbs to aid recovery and indulging in a spot of carbo-loading. After my beloved’s faux humour, everyone was very solicitous towards me, carry my skis, making sure there was room for me at the table, giving me a helping hand so I didn’t slip on the icy paths and so on. Frankly, it made a nice change from being ignored/taken for granted by my beloved.

2018 Engadin Marathon Map

The Engadin marathon starts at 08:30 for the elite racers however there’s a tendancy for everyone to turn up far too early for the start. We were there at 06:30 to brave the elements and the very, very long queues for the facilities. I see from the event’s website, they now provide heated tents for people to wait in, but (sadly) not back in 1990. As newbies, my beloved and I were at the back of pretty much everyone and, like the London marathon, it took a while just to get over the start line though no one was wearing fancy dress.

While waiting for the start, I realised I had drunk too much hot tea staving off the morning chill which meant I needed yet another comfort break. I took an executive decision. I wouldn’t ski back to the facilities at the start but would have a pit stop at the first set of facilities, because there were bound to be portaloos en route? Wrong! I note from the profile map above that there are now facilities along the course but (sadly) there weren’t any back in 1990. However, there were tons of spectators with their video cameras. A fear of featuring on someone’s home video kept me glued to the track rather than seeking out a tree or some bushes for a much-needed pit stop.

I consoled myself with the thought that I’d stop for a comfort break in one of the many villages on the route but I soon discovered it was well nigh impossible to leave the track. With an already overfull bladder, I moderated my intake at the feed stations where the biggest hazards were rolling paper cups, soggy snow from dropped liquids and volunteers encouraging you to drink Rivella – revolting!

As one of the race’s tail-end Charlies, I had plenty of time to take in the raucous support from the spectators lining the spectacularly scenic route which helped take my mind off my more pressing need. Finally, about three-quarters of the way into the race, I reached one of the villages (La Punt) where there was a small restaurant right next to the tracks. I threw down my skis and legged it to the toilets. There was a long queue for the ladies but no one waiting for the gents. Who cared? Not me, I rushed in. What a relief!

Needless to stay without that pressing matter my skiing much improved and I sped toward the finish. As I approached the line, I listened to the announcer. I was just ahead of the oldest person in the race, an 86 year old woman, a local. I positively raced across the line to beat her by a full minute – result!

This was my maiden attempt and I went on to improve my time subsequently, particularly once I learnt the skating technique. My best ever time for 42km is just over three hours while the winner – usually a professional ski racer – takes 76-78 minutes! I’ve never taken part in any other ski marathons  largely because so many are even longer and I fear I might need an overnight stop.


Things I’ve done: gotten lost

It’s time for me to hold my hand up. While the amusing things my beloved has done, said and lost would fill several volumes, I’m not entirely incident-free. There, I’ve admitted it.

In an earlier post, I mentioned we’d taken part in our first cross-country ski marathon in the Engadin in 1990 and to prepare for the event had signed up for a week’s pre-race training with the cross-country ski school in Pontresina.

We had done this on the recommendation of one of my beloved’s Swiss work colleagues who took part in the event every year. He also advised that we’d need a few days to acclimatise to the altitude. We were glad we’d followed his advice. Not only did we have a very sympathetic ski coach but also we were with a nice group of people, all of whom were virgin marathoners.

It seems apt to mention all this as 2018 will be the marathon’s 50th anniversary and I can see from its website that while the route is unchanged, much has improved over the intervening years since my maiden attempt in 1990.

The first few days of the cross-country skiing programme laid the foundation for our Thursday trial-run on the course, during which our ski coach attempted to improve our technique and impart words of wisdom. My beloved and I were the only Brits and quite obviously the least experienced skiers. However, our years slogging around Seefeld’s many undulating tracks stood us in good stead. We may have been slower on the flat but we could hold our own on the ascents and were markedly superior, and much faster, on the descents. Though that may partly have been due to our superior body-weights!

When we were out skiing with the group, I typically brought up the rear. This is largely because I hate having people skiing on my tail but mainly because I like to go at my own pace. The exception was on the descents where I wanted to be out in front of my fellow pupils who either weren’t as fast or as agile as me. I’m a bit of a demon descender.

The day of the trial run dawned fair and we were up early at the start on the frozen lake in Maloja. The ski coach had advised us to take our time, familiarise ourselves with the course and we’d all see one another at the finish. A few of the group decided they would only ski as far as Pontresina (mid-way) and the coach suggested I might like to do the same. I know he had concerns that I wouldn’t be able to complete the course but I assured him I would see him at the finish. Once I set my mind on something, there’s no stopping me.

Start of Engadin Marathon on frozen lake in Maloja

I set off on my own, intent on enjoying the day out. The start is icy and it’s advisable just to put your skis in the tracks and propel yourself along using your sticks. Of course, I saw no point in going hell for leather, I would save that for the race on Sunday.

2018 Engadin Marathon Map

As you can see from the profile above, the course is largely flat but there’s a steepish climb before St Moritz where the snow tends to get churned up so it’s trickier than it might otherwise be to ascend, followed by a wonderful swift descent into St Moritz before a climb up into the forest.

St Moritz

The descent from the forest back into Pontresina starts with a twisting narrow, track through the trees, where the tree trunks are covered in mattresses – not sure whether this is to protect the trees, or the skiers? It’s a popular spot for spectators during the race as there are usually plenty of fallers here. The snow is generally quite soft so it’s rare anyone ever injures themselves but fallers tend to set off a domino affect behind them.

I stopped in Pontresina for a drink and a quick bite to eat before setting off for the finish in S-chanf. In the penultimate town I took a wrong turn and had to double back on myself before finally reaching the deserted finish line. Where the hell was everybody? I reasoned they’d probably gotten cold waiting for me and had taken the minibus back to Pontresina.

I skied to the railway station, bought my ticket and, because I had a bit of a wait, rang the ski school to let them know I was on my way back. Remember this was way before mobile phones. The woman who answered the phone was almost hyperventilating. She told me that they’d been concerned I’d gotten lost and were on the verge of contacting the police! Holy Moly!


It wasn’t until the next day I heard the full story of my feared disappearance. Apparently, everyone else had decided to stop at the ski school in Suoz, the self-same one I’d skied past twice because I’d taken a wrong turn. I wouldn’t mind but in a bright red, all-in-one ski outfit I was easy to spot. What’s more, the group had sat outside, in the sunshine, slaking their thirsts while waiting for me.

When I was a no-show, my beloved had joked: “Don’t worry she’ll eventually turn up and, if she doesn’t, she’s well insured!” His attempt at humour – never his strong suit – fell flat with the Swiss-German coach and group who clearly decided my beloved was akin to a wife-beater.

The ski coach organised the group into search parties and was asking anyone and everyone whether they’d seen an English woman in an all red outfit in difficulties. Finally, they decided to get the bus back to Pontresina where the ski coach was going to report me as “missing” to the police! Luckily, that didn’t happen otherwise I’d be even more notorious than “The English woman who got lost.”

Now, of course, I wasn’t lost merely misguided and misinformed. However, the upside was that for the rest of the vacation, and indeed subsequent vacations in Pontresina, everyone was very solicitous. However, my story doesn’t end here. Oh no, there’s still race day to come.

Things my beloved has lost: hire car keys

You may be wondering why I’m bringing this up over the holiday season but in the early 90s we were once again spending Christmas and New Year in Seefeld, Austria. This time, instead of driving from the UK, we’d flown to Munich and hired a car, a VW golf. After an overnight stay, we’d driven to the hotel on 23 December to discover the whole area was devoid of snow, although it was happily forecast for the coming days.

On Christmas Eve my beloved and I drove down from our hotel into the nearby Leutasch Valley. We parked the car next to a telegraph pole and went for a very long walk which included pit stops for coffee and lunch. As my beloved locked the car door, I suggested he put the key in the zippered pocket of his jacket. As we set off, there was a decided nip in the air and the sky looked ready to drop plenty of the white stuff. We walked almost the length of the valley, a great area for cross-country skiing, before finally stopping for lunch in one of the many restaurants dotted around the area.

We had set off for our walk after a plentiful breakfast at the hotel but the brisk exercise had given us an appetite and we’d lingered in the warmth of the restaurant before turning around and walking back to where we’d parked the car. By the time we reached the car, snowflakes had started to swirl and settle on the ground and the light was beginning to fade.

As we reached the car, my beloved asked me for the car key. Normally I would have taken the key and put it in my handbag but I’d not taken one with me. I’d shoved just enough cash in my zippered pocket for refreshments and lunch. I often find that when I’m out with my beloved I’m something of a packhorse as he happily expects me to carry everything he wants to take with him while refusing to carry a bag or backpack himself. My way round this is to carry the bare necessities – cash, lip balm and a hankerchief – in my pocket.

I reminded my beloved that he’d put the key in the zippered pocket of his jacket. Problem was the pocket was no longer zippered and no longer contained the car key. I have no idea when or why he’d unzipped the pocket but it was decidedly empty. We checked all his other pockets but none of them yielded any keys! I’ll leave you to imagine my reaction……………

There was no point in retracing our steps as the grass was now blanketed with snow and the restaurant where we’d eaten lunch most probably closed. There was nothing else for it. We walked into the main area of Leutasch and got a taxi back to the hotel.

Of course, we most probably wouldn’t have used the hire car over the Xmas period particularly now that it had snowed heavily. Our main method of transport would be our cross-country skis. After Boxing Day I contacted the hire company and explained our dilemma. I confess it was difficult to keep a straight face as I talked them through the problem and I’m pretty sure I heard a few sniggers at the other end of the line. No doubt our tale of minor woe would fuel a fair amount of amusement in the VW offices. They promised to organise a replacement key as soon as possible.

A few days before we were due to fly back home, a rendez-vous was arranged where we’d left the car, which by now was completely covered in snow. Luckily we’d been able to pinpoint it using the telegraph pole although we now had to dig it out. Fortunately, the hotel had lent us a couple of shovels though I had to explain why we needed them. Cue more smirks!

It took us quite some time to clear the car of snow but we’d just about finished when the replacement key arrived with a mechanic from the VW garage in Innsbruck. Unsurprisingly, the locks were frozen but he helped us to defrost them with anti-freeze and just like that we were mobile again!


Things my beloved doesn’t do: put stuff back where it belongs

As you might expect from someone who is anally organised, everything has its place. Consequently, I’m unlikely to lose or mislay anything. Sadly, the same cannot be said of my beloved who misplaces anything not surgically attached to him. As someone who loves planning and preparation, it’s singularly annoying being married to someone who totally eshews it.  Of course, it may simply be a case of opposites attracting but sometimes I feel as if I’m in groundhog day.

If he leaves the flat to go for a ride, you know that several minutes after he’s slammed the door shut, the bell will ring. This will be because he’s forgotten something. It could be his sunglasses or helmet but is more likely to be his keys or mobile phone. To avoid something similar happening before we head off to the airport, I will make him check his briefcase for his passport, mobile phone, charger and wallet. This often means he has a frantic last-minute scrabble through coat pockets and drawers to locate at least one of these items. While he’s hunting around, I’m standing by the front door with a face like thunder enquiring why he couldn’t have undertaken these simple checks the night before.

It’s rare for my beloved to unload the dishwasher and put everything away but, on the few occasions that he does, he won’t put utensils in the correct drawers. We have lived in the flat for nearly 13 years and, in all that time, everything has remained in the same spot. The many drawers have a logic, I group similar items together. Likewise the implements I regularly use are grouped beside the stove, stacked in jugs. But he just stuffs them in any old drawer and then I have to hunt around for them – so annoying!

I have however stopped putting his clothes away for him after I have ironed, pressed or cleaned them. He has his own dressing room, cupboards and wardrobes. When he claims not to be able to find something, he can’t blame me. Of course, if it’s not immediately in view, it’s not there! I can’t tell you how many times he’s told me he’s searched and it’s not there and I find it almost straight away.

If it doesn’t need to be hung up, it should be put away in clear, see-through plastic boxes. However, he tends to keep wearing the same things over and over, either because he can’t be bothered to put them away or because they’re at the top of the box. We had a massive clear out of his wardrobe recently where it was pretty obvious that he just stashes stuff in the nearest rather than the designated box which partly explains why he can never find anything! They’ve now been sorted and I’ve even carried out of few spot checks to ensure he’s not mixing up the contents again. But I know it’s only a matter of time………………………….

No prizes for guessing who owns this!

We share an office, not an ideal situation, but it’s the only place in the flat that has a WiFi service. We recently looked into ways in which we could extend said service to the rest of the apartment and we’re still reeling from the size of the quote! You can immediately tell which is my half or, in truth, my quarter of the office. It’s the tidy bit where everything is neatly filed and labelled. The rest is a mish-mash with stuff stacked any old how. It’s next on my list of things to tackle after the much-postponed clear out of the caves. Of course, part of the issue is the number of week-ends he works or is away from home, meaning these types of chores just keep getting postponed indefinitely. I’d happily tackle them myself but it is his stuff!


End of an era

In the commercial centre next to the Domaine, there’s a company which supplies a band of qualified and dedicated nurses to look after those residents who have need of their services. These were the nurses that took care of changing my beloved’s dressings on his leg, giving him daily anti-coagulant injections and generally keeping an eye on him until he was well on the road to recovery. They provide a vital service enabling hospitals to discharge patients and have them cared for in their own homes, something everyone greatly prefers. For many of the Domaine’s elderly residents, this service means they don’t have to go into old-people’s or care homes.

The nursing service has for the past seven months or so looked after one of our neighbours whose health has rapidly declined in recent years, and particularly so since she broke her leg. We first met her when we moved into the block, she lived in the flat directly below our’s and was the epitome of a chic French woman with a huge amount of joie de vivre. We thought she was probably in her mid-sixties but, on getting to know her better, realised we’d underestimated her age by some 20 years. She used to drop in regularly for a glass of champagne or afternoon tea while we regaled her with tales of our latest travels. Her late husband had been a military attaché and they’d pretty much travelled the globe together. She was great company and we often took her out with us to various local events.

Every Christmas I’d buy her a copy of the Rois du Stade calendar which she would proudly hang on her bedroom wall. It was a bit of a standing joke between us. Until recently, she’d led a fairly busy life socially, enjoying trips abroad to visit her younger sister, who’d married a US serviceman and lived in Arizona.  About five years ago, our neighbour suffered a series of small strokes from which she initially recovered but gradually they started to erode the quality of her life until she couldn’t go out unaccompanied. Then her eyesight started to fail so she could no longer enjoy the magnificent views from her balcony, read or watch television or enjoy my calendars! She spent more and more time at home but still employed a personal trainer so that she stayed trim. I’d pop in from time to time for a chat with small gifts from our travels. Other neighbours also visited regularly. But there was no denying, her quality of life was deteriorating rapidly, a point she appreciated, often saying she longed for death.

Earlier this year, she suffered the same injury as my beloved, she broke her leg but it had much greater ramifications for her quality of life. Initially, the doctors feared that an operation under general anaesthetic might kill her but, eventually, having stabilised the leg, doctors pinned it back together. However, she’d been bed-bound since the accident and wholly reliant on our marvellous local nursing service who popped in to help her throughout the day. Respite was occasionally provided by either her niece or nephew who both visited frequently, and her cleaner who still came in twice a week to make sure that her flat remained spotless. Not forgetting numerous neighbours, like me, who’d pop in from time to time, but only for a short while as she tired rapidly.

The last time I visited her, she looked incredibly frail, her skin translucent. Her body was letting her down. She barely opened her eyes. A week or so ago, I bumped into her primary care nurse who told me that she doubted my neighbour would see out the week. She’d taken matters into her own hands and had stopped eating and drinking. This was a device employed by both my late parents towards the end of their respective illnesses. My neighbour, like them, had had enough and just wanted to check out. Or as my Dad would say, she’d moved from the waiting room to the departure lounge.

You’ll have spotted my use of the past tense. I recently learned that she’d passed away but her nephew, who I’d met a few times, hadn’t thought to let any of the residents or the nursing service know about her funeral arrangements. I don’t enjoy funerals  – who does? – but, if possible, I’d have attended this one as I was very fond of her, as were other residents. I had anticipated her funeral would be a celebration of her full and very interesting life and I’m now bitterly regretting I never managed to get her to record that life in some fashion. Our collective dismay has been conveyed to her nephew.

It’s the end of an era, because she was the last surviving member of my band of elderly neighbours who would occasionally have afternoon tea with me. Aside from a selection of fine teas, occasionally champagne too, I would make small scones to eat with home-made jam, finger sandwiches of cucumber, smoked salmon and ham along with petits fours sized cakes. I enjoyed inviting them round and I know they appreciated the gesture and opportunity for a chat. Maybe, now they’ll be having tea-parties together in heaven?

Things my beloved has lost: golf clubs and cart

When we first moved to the Cote d’Azur, my husband drove a 4 x 4 which spent most of its time collecting dust in the garage while he circumnavigated the globe. The move to the Cote d’Azur was supposed to herald a change in lifestyle. In particular, my beloved was looking forward to improving his golf handicap. He’d been a member of a club in the UK, not far from where he’d previously worked in Amersham. It was one of those clubs where you had to become both a shareholder and member and couldn’t relinquish your membership until you sold the shareholding!

My beloved travelled extensively even while working in the UK and therefore had neither the time nor opportunity to play much golf. If I look at how much money was expended on his membership, it was probably around £500 per game! Most of the courses in France are pay and play, no need to be a member, though membership does convey the benefit of much-reduced green fees. My beloved assured me that he’d get his worth from his membership of the local club. I was less convinced but nonetheless paid the membership fee. ,Again, a significant amount of travel plus his growing love of cycling, left him with little time to work on his handicap or profit from his membership. More money wasted on golf.

Prior to moving to France,  our belongings were spread across three properties in UK, France and Germany. My beloved had golf kit in all three locations. Once, we moved to France he consolidated and added to his growing collection. One birthday, my two sisters bought him a trolley for his heavy golf bag. Generally, my beloved kept his golf kit in the boot of his 4 x 4 or in our storage cave in the basement, not far from our parking spot in the underground garage.

One week-end, for reasons best known only to my beloved, he took his golf bag and trolley out of the car and left it in full view in our car parking spot. I kept urging him to put everything away. I got quite exasperated with him, fearing someone would take them. My beloved said no one could see them, only our immediate neighbours in the garage. Well, of course, one fine day after about three weeks of nagging him, the cart, the bag and most of his clubs disappeared.

Initially my beloved thought I’d put them away, but I hadn’t, I thought he had! But no, persons unknown had taken them. However, I suspect another golfer took them  because the thief knew their clubs as the ropy old ones were left. The thief probably concluded that as they’d been there for three weeks we no longer wanted them and just helped themselves. I was furious with my beloved and, of course, the theft wasn’t covered by our household insurance as he’d left them in an open garage. My beloved can be very cavalier with his possessions, unlike me. He claimed he wasn’t too bothered as he had yet another bag and set of clubs  – he did – albeit no golf trolley.

In the ten years or so since the theft he’s barely played any golf, probably no more than half a dozen times. I can’t even remember the last time he played and I have an elephantine memory! There’s two reasons. Firstly, I don’t play golf, it’s not my type of game. I can strike a golf ball quite well thanks to good hand-eye-ball co-ordination but I’m hopeless at putting. In the limited free time he has available, my beloved prefers to ride his bike rather than play golf. I can’t argue with that and it’s something we do together. Maybe when he really retires, he’ll resume playing golf. He’s still got plenty of golf clothing and one full set of clubs and drivers.