Browsing Posts published in 2012

I wanted to start off 2013 with some sort of shrinky, reflective wisdom, but it seems I doled out all my good New Year’s stuff last year in this post. I maintain my position that resolutions are for suckers and regret is at best a wasteful way to spend one’s time.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have an agenda for the coming year, and by that I mean goals beyond the rigours of my current wifestyle. Personally, I think gazing at snow-pillowed peaks all day is a perfectly acceptable aspiration. Trouble is, it doesn’t pay the bills and, if I’m completely honest, it’s not exactly what I want to do with my life. Which brings me to goal number 1: finding a way to support myself—financially, sure—but more important, finding that ‘something’ that supports my spirit.

Naturally, I have other goals—whipping my middle-aged arse into better shape, making serious efforts at improving my French, but I can’t even gather the energy to think about facing that one, so back to goal number 1. Continue reading “The Year of Living Illogically” »


Oh dear Finders I hope the holiday was kind to you. I took my own advice and ate all kinds of things I say are good for me (medical expertise aside)…

But the tale today is about what I didn’t eat: poultry. Neil and I planned a very quiet Christmas at home, lots of lounging in fleece and flannel, biding our time until the Downton Abbey Christmas special aired. And can I just say the DA writers are trying to kill me, talk about thickening the plot. I’ll say no more for fear of the collective screaming and covering of eyes that have yet to see Season 3.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand—birds. We thought while a turkey was overkill for dinner for deux, a roast chicken seemed just the thing for our first Swissmas. We set off to the grocery store, and, as with every purchase here in the land of luxury, we carefully checked the prices before making any commitments. Continue reading “Where the Streets are Paved with Poultry” »


Merry Swissmas

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Cripes, every time I turn around it’s Christmas. I was so busy moving that I almost forgot about the holidays. I like Christmas, mostly because it’s completely normal to eat and drink everything in the house at once and wear pajamas all day long, also known as any day of the week in my little world.

Here it is December 24th and I’m just getting around to putting up the tree …

Sweet Jaysus, I’m exhausted. I had to open the box AND hang the bauble. I needed a big glass of Chardonnay and a load of chocolates to recover. Oh I know some of you out there have a house strewn with enough lights to power Vegas, and you’re thinking that’s it? That’s the best you can do for decoration?

Sure, I’ll grant you it’s a bit on the minimalist side (just how I like it), but it is a fine example of NovaScotian Crystal, the only mouth blown, hand-cut crystal made in Canada, and a gift from my lovely in-laws; an upscale version of Charlie’s Brown’s tree fit for any Swiss banker or a Canadian gal sponging off her better two-thirds.

My scaled back holidays (and all my other days) are not for everyone, and I would love to see my family and friends, but it’s not so bad being far removed from all the madness. Back in the day, I always worked Christmas, the busiest time of year for the malls and mental health. It’s a rough time for a lot of people and for what it’s worth, I’ll offer you my professional holiday survival advice, the exact same advice I give every year. Continue reading “Merry Swissmas” »


A Womb with a View

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Well mes amis, I am reborn, delivered from the depths into this new life. No heels at ungodly hours. No parents hootin’ and hollerin’ at youngsters all hours of the day. No hipster crashing about the apartment next door like an inebriated elephant. While certainly we have some stompers above us, the situation is markedly improved. Be advised, these are early days, so I reserve the right to freak out at the slightest deterioration.

I fit in the shower (trust me, not always has this been the case), the washer and dryer fit in the bathroom, the kitchen feels enormous (by European standards) and the heating is sufficient to defrost the icy pontoons found at the end of each of my legs.

We even have this intercom/phone/buzzer thingy—how it works is anyone’s guess. I do know that it functions not only as the ringer for the main door of the building, but also as our apartment doorbell. Well, I know that now. Continue reading “A Womb with a View” »


And … I’m back. Well, I have to say that was probably one of the smoothest moves I’ve ever experienced, and it only took 5 days, my nerves. By the time the movers came on Monday for the big stuff, everything we could carry back and forth in our French blue bubble putt-putt was tucked away in the new digs (more to come on that). One more move and I think I get the lifetime achievement award.

Frankly, I found it hard to stay on task. Normally, I try not to focus too much on bad news in the world, but there’s not a child therapist on the planet who could have looked past the latest American tragedy. I watched it unfold until I saw reporters sticking microphones in front of traumatized kids and moms detailing their children’s mental illness histories (with identifying pictures) online, predicting them to be the mass murderers of the future. Fearing my head was going to explode, I had to look away.

Hearing big talk about mental health makes this lapsed psychiatrist happy, but I have too much first hand knowledge about kids witnessing and committing murder, and I simply could not believe what I was seeing in the aftermath. Oh, the media, don’t get me started. And the damage the internet can do, well, there’s no point of even going there. So I won’t.

Instead, I decided to seek out some good news. Sure, atrocities are everywhere you look—America, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or wherever you happen to find yourself, but it’s not all murder and mayhem out there.

Take a break from the news and have a look at this. Warm fuzzies guaranteed.


Total Net Birth

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So, a little while ago, something called The Economist Intelligence Unit (don’t ask me) revealed the “best” countries for a child to be born in next year. Number 1? Switzerland. Sweet Jaysus, not only do I have to move again, now I have to have a baby sometime in 2013. Canada was #9, so my fellow Canucks, you all better get yourselves knocked up ASAP.

The analysis was based on a quality of life index that includes factors like crime, job security and, of course, wealth. And there’s no denying it: the Swiss are rich. The cost of living is as high as the Alps, but so are the salaries. The tax structure here is kind to the super-rich, which probably explains why Shania Twain lives up the street from us (no, I haven’t seen her taking out the trash yet). Continue reading “Total Net Birth” »


A Clean Slate

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Incredibly (or maybe predictably is the right word), I find myself packing up my belongings yet again. I’m up to my very high arse with all things moving this week, so if I were you I wouldn’t expect the usual level of brilliance you find here three times a week.

Ah yes, a fresh start to this Switzerland stage of my mid-life mayhem, that’s just what the doctor ordered. Bring it on I say. I’m tired of being tired and it’s time to get back to bitching and moaning about French grammar instead of my unruly voisins.

And, just as I suspected, I am indeed the centre of the universe. Taking a cue from me, Mother Nature herself has decided to start anew with the first snowfall of the year here. She blustered into town, a giant windbag motivated solely by her own selfish needs. Hmm, reminds me of someone.

On the whole, I am not a lover of winter. The perpetually cold hands and feet, the slip-sliding around, the down-filled layers, plus, I look ridiculous in a wool toque. But there’s something magical about a sparkling white world, especially in this corner of it.

I was trudging home from the gym when I paused to take in this scene. It’s the same walk I always take, but it was so silent and serene; the light was different, the smell was different, anything unsightly was hidden from view. To me, it was a perfect moment.

Looks peaceful doesn’t it? Maybe it’s a sign of things to come. I hope so. I’m counting on this being the storm before the calm.


The Peace Price

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I wonder if I’ll always associate Switzerland with sleeplessness? I hope not. Of course I might also associate it with paperwork. We’re up to our eyes yet again, although I can’t say I’m finding signing this new lease particularly challenging.

We get the keys to our new home on December 13. I want to say, “Only 6 more sleeps!”, but that would make me a liar. “Only 6 more nights of grinding frustration thanks to the 3 neighbours sent by Satan to torment me!” is far more accurate. And in the further interest of accuracy, the real culprit is the building. While ignorant heel-wearing, partying until 4 a.m. and screaming at your spouse and children all day are not necessarily admirable behaviours, if the walls weren’t made of paper, things would’ve been better. Continue reading “The Peace Price” »


Laughing My Ass Off

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A while back I asked you to send me photos of the blook from wherever it happened to find itself. I had a grand time watching it travel around the world like that garden gnome on TV, everywhere from St. Pierre et Miquelon to Paris to Memphis to Morocco. And now I have yet another exotic locale to add to the list: Corsica!

Folks who have read the book will know that I love asses, by that I mean donkeys, and that I used to live across the street from a lively character named Jean-Claude. And here now are two of my favourite creatures, together at last…

JC and Anouch, the Corsican donkey. She’s taking a well-deserved break from her job as head wood carrier for the village.

Clearly, she thinks it hilaaaarious, a right hee-haw. I’ve never been to Corsica, but now I might have to head out there to greet my devoted fan. Gotta love that JC. Anyone else got one for me?

And speaking of books and hilarity, here’s a website for a bookseller that must be seen. It’s a one-stop shopping place for the wackiest books you’ve never heard of, like How to Live in Your Van and Love It, How to Make Love While Conscious and the classic C is for Chafing. Someday I’ll find myself there, I just know it.



Sweet Boot of Youth

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I don’t tend to make many purchases, what with being funemployed and all, but with talk of a small book royalty cheque in the air, I decided I deserved an ‘I published a book and a few people (suckers) bought it’ present. I love receiving gifts from me. I’m always so impressed with how kind I am, plus I always seem to get exactly what I want.

This particular cadeau was inspired by two things. One: the women of Europe. God love them, each and every one. What I’ve learned from over two years of watching them is how they refuse to let their age define anything about them, particularly how they dress. Sure, when I see a gal in her 70’s sporting red leather pants, obvious breast implants and waist-length blonde hair extensions (true story), I admit something has gone amiss. Continue reading “Sweet Boot of Youth” »


Good Grief

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Jaysus, Mary and good Saint Joseph, me nerves are rubbed right raw. Translation for those not lucky enough to be Newfoundlanders: Oh my god, the stress of this last week exceeded my capacity to cope. In case you forgot, we were waiting to hear on our application for the much sought after, supposedly quiet, too expensive, but likely worth it apartment.

As the week wore on, it’s safe to say we were both wrecks. Me, because the neighbour shenanigans have hit new heights (or lows, depending on your perspective). Neil, because he’s had to put up with a wife running low on sleep and high on irritability. But really our wreckage reached the red zone when we noticed that the apartment was no longer listed on the rental agency’s website and we hadn’t heard a word.

From there I descended into the 5 stages of grief and loss: Continue reading “Good Grief” »


Asylum Sweet Asylum

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I’m not exactly maternal. It’s never occurred to me to have baby birds of my own, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to build a nest. While others have been passing on their DNA, I’ve spent the last decade searching for, buying, selling, mortgaging, renovating, and decorating dwellings. Easier than raising humans maybe, but you try delivering a bungalow sometime, talk about stretch marks.

As we shrinks often say, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, and here I am again, trolling the real estate websites and emailing property agents. Of course none of this is my fault. I’d be happy to stay right where I am, well, except for the fact that it’s the 10th circle of hell. Continue reading “Asylum Sweet Asylum” »


Checks and Balances

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Obviously, there’s a lot to love about putting a book in the world that has your name on it. No matter how simple it is or how few copies are sold, it endures (at least until it goes out of print). But probably what I love best are the emails I receive from kind souls who take the time to tell me how much they liked it. Well, that and an email from my publisher that includes the words “royalty cheque.” Perhaps the best part of that discussion was asking if she could wire the money to my Swiss bank account. All I need is an archenemy, a gun and some missing microfilm.

Yes, apparently the time has come for me to finally, finally see some green from this whole debacle. And not a moment too soon. There’s a long Swiss winter coming and my 8 year old boots are not up to the task, plus there’s that bill for 2 tons of sour cream and chocolate . Continue reading “Checks and Balances” »


Sleepless in Switzerland

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I deserve a medal or a peace prize, at the very least some sort of red ribbon or gold star. Why? Because I have not yet broken down the door of my neighbour’s apartment and dumped a bottle of ketchup on her head. Things have gone from bad to worse. Last Saturday morning she was at it again. Stomping around at 6:51, slamming drawers shut at 7:30, dragging furniture across my bedroom ceiling at 8:15, then the heels. All. Day. Long.

I met her gaze over the big garbage bin outside our building once, and she just stared at me. And I just stared back. Normally, I have an abundant supply of snappy snark fit for any occasion, but I was so cognitively impaired from sleep deprivation that I had nothing. Plus, I was afraid if I got started, I would have skipped right over speaking and proceeded directly to slapping. Continue reading “Sleepless in Switzerland” »


Well, it appears that Saint Martin really is a saint after all. Without the festival that bears his name, I’d actually have to write something clever today. Finders, I’m just too tired. I’ve been averaging about 4 hours sleep a night for over 9 weeks straight. So, if it’s a clever story you’re after, you’re shit out of luck. But if it’s cultural exchange you’re seeking, well, today’s your lucky jour. Without further delay, more from the Foire de Saint-Martin.

As I told you, giant slabs of meat were not the only points of deliciousness …

And while marinated olives, specialty nougats (Mom, I know you’re drooling), spicy gingerbreads and sugared honey cakes called Nonnettes (words cannot describe) are, as almost everyone will agree, reason enough to give thanks to any saint, what I really love about these fairs are the people.

A young woman making tartes—tattoos meet tradition …

Vevey’s revered Chicken Man who speaks any language you like, has raised roasting poulet to high art, makes a porc Chinoise to die for and, on occasions like this, tosses plates of sticky ribs and frites …

And then there’s the oyster guy, for those who like to eat on the wild side …

I tend to get stuck on the food at these events, but there is always something for every taste, from jewelry to books to every kind of knick-knack and bric-a-brac. The one thing that always grabs me are les foulards.

Oh if only I had a paycheck, every one of those would have been draped around my ridiculously long neck. But who has time to be distracted by pretty scarves when there are “T-Shirts Americains” to be had …

Don’t laugh, these babies were selling at 49 bucks a pop. To whom remains a mystery. Americans, I weep for you.

What a time this was and what a way to fall in love with a town. Anyway, my fixed funemployment income means coming home with a bag that’s almost empty but with a heart overflowing with happiness. It’s less about the goods on display and more about experiencing something wonderful and unexpected. Like haphazardly pointing your phone at a crowd and not realizing until days later what was inadvertently captured …

Whoever you are, you two, my sentiments exactly.

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