Browsing Posts published in November, 2012

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” »

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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” »

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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” »

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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” »

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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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Meat and Greet

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Like most market towns in Europe, Vevey has its share of traditional celebrations and I’m hoping to see every one of them. First up, the 543rd (!) annual Foire de Saint-Martin. Okay, all you végétariens out there, brace yourselves and maybe even avert your eyes.

It all started, as does any respectable party, with the roasting of a whole ox in the town square.

They stoked the fire and turned the beast all night in anticipation of feeding the masses the next day. Of course the masses were in no danger of going hungry while they waited. Behind the rotisserie, giant vats of pea soup were stirred and endless links of Swiss sausages were grilled, all just a prelude to the main event. I imagine the barrels of red wine balanced out any ill effects of this festival of cholesterol. All things in moderation I say, especially moderation.

The next day was an absolute jewel of autumn—brilliant sunshine streaming through red and gold leaves, crisp mountain air and a soft breeze that could only be described as, well, beefy. Nothing like a giant BBQ to bring folks together …

The town bells clanged the chow chime and fancy soldiers marched through the square, hoisted their guns and fired, heralding the arrival of the first wave of plates.

A giant slab of meat and a whack of potatoes au gratin. What could be finer on such a glorious Fall day. These market festivals are one of my favourite things about living in this part of the world. For over 500 years the residents of Vevey have been doing this and it was a fantastic introduction to my new town.

But it wasn’t all guns and grizzle and next week I’ll show you more. For now, I’m back to conducting elaborate imaginary tirades against my well-heeled neighbour, waiting for the powers that be to put a stop to her demonic behaviour. Bon weekend mes amis.

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Statuesque

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Back before I landed here on the Swiss Riviera, I was blabbing about feeling that there was some reason for me to be here, that I was being drawn to this charming town by some intangible force beyond the lure of snow-capped mountains, sparkling lakes, chocolate, watches and multi-function army knives.

Charlie Chaplin spent his last days here and, in what can only be called a fitting tribute, there’s a statue of him not far from where I live.

What does a statue of a short, American man with a goofy mustache that have to do with me? Well, the point is the crowd here have a tendency to erect monuments to greatness—food, silent film stars and unusually tall Canadian women with plates and screws holding their necks together…

This goofy giraffe stopped another one in her tracks the other day. I’d never seen it before. It’s enormous and I have no idea what the hell it’s doing there. There’s no toy store nearby, no zoo, no pet store, no nothing. Just a gigantic, twisty neck giraffe in the centre of town. Although, the fact that it is just outside the French language school was not lost on me. Clearly, they’ve been waiting for me all along.

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So, what’s worse than a French haircut? A Swiss haircut. Sacred heart of Jaysus, a blindfolded five year-old could have done better. What a hack job. For those of you who are labouring under the delusion that there will be pictures, run to your nearest psychiatrist’s office and ask for some reality pills. Not a chance.

I don’t usually care too much these days if my hair looks weird. My Vogue layouts have been dwindling over the past few years, so what do I care if I look like I accidentally caught my head in a wood chipper. But since I put in six months of devoted scissor avoidance, only to end up worse off than when I started, I have to say I’m not impressed. Continue reading “The First Cut is the Deepest” »

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This Could Get Hairy

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You know, it’s the oddest thing. I noticed it in France and now the same thing here in Vevey and La Tour-de-Peilz. The most common place of business is a bakery, right? Not even close. I’ve never seen so many hair salons in my life, sometimes three right in a row.

This surprises me in these cultures where the majority of women have long hair piled haphazardly on their heads. Don’t misunderstand me, they all look très chic, but their haircuts are either very simple or, just to be totally honest, very bad. Let’s just say the concept of even layers has yet to catch on in this part of the world. Continue reading “This Could Get Hairy” »

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Amazingly enough, given my many sleepless nights, I’ve joined a gym. It’s a 5-minute walk from the now ironically named Peace Palace and it’s all things one would want in a fitness facility—bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, a weight machine to work every muscle known to woman, a sauna, lockers with digicode locks, a giant salle de spinning (my head spins enough all on its own, thank you), the whole enchilada.

I had an introductory session with the lovely and gigantic Henri, Swiss trainer extraordinaire. Now I also went to a gym in France where I had to shake hands with every burly Burgundian male who ever had dreams of being the next Terminator. Here it’s different, more like the North American gym experience. People smile and all that, but it’s not a private association, so the social rounds are kept at a minimum in order to keep the sweating at a maximum. Continue reading “The Silver Fox Rides Again” »

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Oh No She Didn’t

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Oh yes, she did. You know I’m talking about heel lady upstairs.

So, in a pathetic attempt to reveal the true identity of our mistress of torture, my husband and I lay in bed tracking the movements of the elusive Yellow Bellied Heelpecker. We listened as she pulled on those infernal boots and then, like every other morning, she click-clacked her way into my skull.

After 40 minutes of this blatant disregard for her fellow creatures, we heard her open her door to leave and Rusty sprang into action to face this cuckoo bird head-on. He raced out the door and met her just as she finished banging the shit out of the stone stairway. He stood there—bare feet, flannel pajama pants, flaming red hair sticking off in all directions—and yelled, “AHAAAAAA! MENTEUSE!!” Continue reading “Oh No She Didn’t” »

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Peace Talks

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As I said, I’m in neighbour hell. The guy next door continues his assault on my sleep pattern. The other night marked his fourth wee hours soiree in less than a month. At 4:35 I was at my desk looking up a translation for “If you don’t shut your big, fat, stupid face, I’m gonna kick you ’til you’re dead.”

Oh, I talk a big game all right—my note actually said please and thank-you, but I did use a black pen and several exclamation marks. So I’d say it got my point across. Or at least it would have if the bloody paper had fit under the door. I knocked with no answer, so instead of facing my foe like the intimidating giantess I am, he opened the door to me on my knees—wild-eyed, hair everywhere, in ratty pajamas, cursing and swearing at a piece of paper—every bit the lunatic that he has created. Continue reading “Peace Talks” »

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