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.

 

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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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Meat and Greet—Part Deux

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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. 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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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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The Choice of Champions

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So. Let’s say you wake on a Sunday morning in late October to snow, howling winds and temperatures typically found in the Arctic this time of year. And let’s also say that, in what has to be the unluckiest turn of events for lunatics who run 26 miles just for the hell of it, the Lausanne Marathon is passing by your window. Several options present themselves.

Perhaps one could draw inspiration from these marvelous athletes who brave all conditions of climate to indulge their obsessive habits. You could bundle up and cheer them on from the sidelines, handing them tiny cups of frozen Gatorade as they chatter and shiver their way toward being able to say they ran the coldest marathon in Swiss history.

Or you could go for a small jog yourself, returning home without a medal or bragging rights, but triumphant all the same; your feet frozen beyond rescue, your face blue and crusted with frozen snot and spit, followed by days of muscle cramps and possibly amputation of a toe or two due to frostbite.

Or … one could choose a different kind of marathon entirely. Closed shutters to block out the biting wind (and the sight of people with thighs of steel). Flannel pajamas and wool socks, back-to-back Jamie Oliver Cooks episodes, bacon and cheddar sandwiches (doubly special after a two year search for non-smelly cheese and bacon that actually tastes like bacon), giant mugs of creamy Swiss chocolat chaud and then a sprint across the finish line with something like this …

You all know me well enough by now. I’ll let you decide how I spent this first frosty Sunday in Switzerland.

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Saturday, Swiss Style

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The move-in/settle-in frustrationaganza is finally settling down here. There are still a few outstanding To Do Tidbits, but with temperatures in the mid-twenties and the sun high in the sky, it’s time to get out there and see what there is to see in the Swiss Riviera before the grey of winter descends upon us.

Saturday past we decided to give the very touristy funiculaire ride a whirl. It’s a small train car that slowly (and quite vertically) carts you up through the Lavaux vineyards to Mont-Pèlerin where all the toil and trouble of international relocation just disappears …

Yes, there are churches and actual Swiss chalets …

And further down this road you can even find a Tibetan monastery where, on this lovely day, they were having a grand procession to welcome someone of great importance. There were Buddhist monks all over the place, a sea of bald heads and saffron robes escorting other monks in fancy hats to a large ceremony. I say if you are going to spend your life meditating, why not do it in a place as inspiring as this. Continue reading “Saturday, Swiss Style” »

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Maple Leaf Forever

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I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Goodreads. Basically it’s a social networking site devoted to the joy of reading. People make lists of books they’ve read and books they want to read, review and recommend books to friends and it’s a great way to discover your next favourite book.

Finding Me in France is there and every now and then I click around to see what people have to say about it. In fact, one of my favourite reviews yet was found on Goodreads: “Some good laughs, though the overuse of the word arse gets tiresome.” Who could argue with that one? I laughed my arse off when I read it.

Then there’s this one: “Well written and an enjoyable adventure. While I really enjoyed the style, I was a little disappointed in Bobbi’s anti Canadian attitude. As a tri (sic) blue patriot, I was very disappointed in her lack of Canadian spirit. You know what, if France is so amazing, stay.”

Oh no, dear reader, I beg to differ. Anti-Canadian, my arse (see review number 1). I’m as pro-Canadian as they come. I’d even go so far to say that every single Canadian should buy a copy of my great blook of doodles, that’s how much respect I have for the homeland. Sure just the other day I posted a picture of a naked woman with a maple leaf over her crotch. Ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t get more patriotic than that now does it?

Anti-Canadian indeed. Who the hell is against Canada? That’s like saying you’re anti-puppy or anti-dessert. Anyway, for what it’s worth, I’ve never been anti-Canada unless you count my support for an independent Newfoundland, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

I love my country of origin no matter how unpalatable the Prime Minister or disorganized the health care system may be. I’m always proud to tell people where I’m from, and I do it right quick lest they think I’m American. Oh now, I’m just kidding. The point is I’m not overly keen on anyone thinking I’m down on Canada just because I choose to live somewhere else.

And speaking of elsewhere, while a few (very few) fellow Canadians now own a copy of the book, I’m apparently huge with Moroccan boy bands…

This is my French neighbour Jean-Claude with members of the music group Izourane. How he gets all these people to pose with this book never ceases to amaze me. I need to start paying him.

As you can see, from Manitoba to Morocco, I’m willing to be immersed in any culture that comes my way—French, Moroccan, Swiss, whatever. OK, maybe I am ‘anti’ a lot of things: war, sexism, racism, death penalties, political oppression, skinny jeans, but all that proves is I’m as Canadian as any toque wearing, hockey playing, maple syrup swigging Canuck. Plus, I barbecue in the snow and say please, thank-you and I’m sorry a million times a day, definitive proof of my nationality.

So to that confused reviewer: Thank you so very much for reading and I’m sorry to have to say this, but I think I will stay, if that’s okay with you, eh?

 

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At the Risk of Being Risqué

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Ah Switzerland, land of mountains and lakes, sour cream and driver’s licences, you are shaping up rather nicely as a country I must say. But still. There will always be a longing for the things that make Canada great, specifically Shopper’s Drug Mart. I’d say once a week (at least) for the past 2 years, I’ve endured the wistful desire to roam the aisles of my favourite place to shop.

Being a giraffe allows mega drugstores to win out over fashionable boutiques. A lifetime of frustration over 32-inch inseams means I detest the average clothing store, but aside from the scary diaper/pacifier/baby food section, I’ve never met a SDM shelf that I didn’t like. When I left they were adding cosmetic sections to rival any department store. Who knows what the hell they’ve done since I’ve been gone. Maybe now they offer massages while you wait for your prescription. It’s too sad to think about.

Not that French pharmacies aren’t wonderful. They have their own merits, but a one-stop-super-shop they are not. Plus, I have a somewhat celebrated history when it comes to la pharmacie. If you’re new here, you may not know what happened to me at the pharmacy in Semur. To summarize: there was a lady problem and a language barrier, vaginale was called out top lung all over the store and the earth, much to my dismay, did not swallow me whole (book, book, it’s all in the book). Of course the worst part was having to repeatedly engage with the vaginale hollerer on a regular basis. I don’t miss her at all.

So this week, when I had to stock up on a few pharmaceutical odds and ends, I stood under the flashing green cross in our neighbourhood and I decided, one, I had to accept that this store was never going to live up to my SDM standards, and two, I would not leave red-faced. No white coat whippersnapper was going to bring me down, no matter how much attention she paid to my privates. Continue reading “At the Risk of Being Risqué” »

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Full Speed Ahead

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Immigration is great fun, probably ranking up there with repeatedly sticking a fork in your eye. It’s hard to say what the biggest hurdle is, but looking back over our move to France I’d have to say that the driver’s licence debacle was the worst piece of bureaucrazy we encountered. Just to refresh your memory, Neil spent 600 euros, endless hours of intensive driving education and a grand total of about 18 months to procure the pink paper that set him legally loose on the roads of France. Continue reading “Full Speed Ahead” »

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Trivial Tragedies and Minor Miracles

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Okay, so maybe this move to Switzerland could have been smoother. But honestly now, does any of it really matter? There are people out there with real problems, so today I’m all about being grateful for what’s right in my new corner of the world.

Sure, our apartment is small and apparently lacking in any kind of soundproofing, but with windows grand in scale and many in number, it’s filled with Swiss sunshine (same as Canadian sunshine only more expensive). And yes, the bathroom is small but the water pressure is strong enough to blast the grit and grime right off me. I’ve decided that will compensate for the pink tiles, however the one toilet issue remains an ever present threat to the marriage. Continue reading “Trivial Tragedies and Minor Miracles” »

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A New Life Begins—Again

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Well mes amis, here we are: the end of the line. France and I must say au revoir. What a wild and wacky time it has been. I’d have to say that my two years in France have been … weird. A good weird, as in completely different from my life before France, but weird nonetheless. I had no idea what to expect and I’ve learned that there’s no other way for me to roll.

Of course I didn’t do half the things I’d planned on doing. I didn’t see every corner of France. I didn’t eat every delicacy on offer in this mecca of bizarre cuisine. And I didn’t become fluent in French, not even close. But I did meet many extraordinary people and I learned how to offend a lot of them with my well intentioned yet vulgar phrases.

I studied this fascinating culture and I learned many things about this marvelous country. I experienced the incredible French health care system. I trespassed on a few fine estates. I got sweaty with a gaggle of French bodybuilders. I was called out as a vagina owner in a packed pharmacy. I stood in a field of sunflowers taller than me during one of my many moments of existential angst. And I wrote a book. Overall, not bad I’d say.

But all things must end and I’m ready to be existentially anxious in a new place. Come 7 a.m. Monday morning Rusty and I will embark on what may prove to be our toughest transition yet. We have to pack as the movers load, drive 4 hours to the Swiss border, pass a full customs inspection, go over the apartment with a fine tooth comb with the rental agent (the Swiss way is one of rigorous standards in all things) and then begin the set-up. The next day we have to register with the authorities and then tackle the tasks of health insurance, driver’s licences, vehicle importation and full psychiatric assessments, obviously.

I’ll be going offline for a while. Now, don’t look at me like that. Our apartment won’t even have lights (Europeans take EVERYTHING with them when they move) so you can imagine internet service may not be first on our list of priorities. That said, if you don’t hear from me after two weeks, send a few RCMP officers over to the customs office in Vallorbe where I’ll be incarcerated for trying to smuggle in 20 bottles of Miracle Whip.

Anyway, I’ve had a grand time and I hope you have too. I know some of you don’t look too kindly on my abandoning La République, but that’s just because you don’t know my little corner of Switzerland yet. Trust me, you’re going to love it. I don’t know how long this blog will endure (or what to call it now) and I don’t know if there will be another book (tell everyone you know to buy the first one and the chances of a second improve), but for now my plan is to continue telling our story to anyone who cares to listen.

Merci France for hosting us so well and merci beaucoup to all of you for coming along for the ride. See you on the other side.

 

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Personal Effects

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Sweet Jaysus it’s just sad, triste as they say in these parts. I’ve started packing and I’m dismayed to see just how much stuff I’ve accumulated. I mean how can a person who sold off all her worldly goods just 2 years ago have so much crap? There’s a pale turquoise vacuum cleaner, an Ikea love seat that I think was once off-white but is now more accurately described as dingy. There are 2 desks, a old dining room table found in a dusty French shop, a wooden étagère that holds stacks of plates and bowls and Rusty’s giant coffee cups. Which leads to a coffee maker and a toaster and a TV and so on and so on.

Naturally, all these things had to be brought into my life in order for me to actually live it. I’m not a total idiot, I do get that. But I can’t help wishing I could sell it all off again, just load up the car and race off, all footloose and fancy free. I know that doing that would come at a cost—money, time and the aggravation of sourcing things in a strange and expensive land (Kitchen Aid mixers sell at over 1000 bucks), but still. Continue reading “Personal Effects” »

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