Tuesday, February 27, 2007


The guy who makes these videos makes me laugh - see youTube for others!


Sorry, I can't direct you to the address directly (Mac and blogspot don't make for happy familes).


'My mountain' seen from my office window, reappeared this morning, all blanketed in white

This tree could have been one that decorates Christmas cakes, but it is life-size

The street this morning after the snow plough had been through

Proof of what my son and friends get up to on the slopes, using my camera!

My son's autoportrait taken with PhotoBooth on the new Mac - although this must be a photo of the image on the screen. It reminds me of the posters that were in the Beatles album. Was it Sgt. Pepper's? Only my lad is far more gorgeous that the four Beatles put together!

And finally, three more photos taken by Pierre

Monday, February 26, 2007


My post, Microsoft for Mac, is now nearing the 100 comments. Unfortunately only about a dozen remarks have anything to do with the subject! Sometime during December, the same thing happened - I passed the 100 mark, not because of the subject, but because of in-fighting.

As many will remember, there were frequent discussions on the Telegraph blogs, about 'blue pencilling' - readers/writers complained that some of their comments were struck off for no apparent reason - but as no-one else other than the writer of the post and the guards at the Telly saw the remark, it was impossible to comment on the rights or wrongs of having a posting censored.

I make no pretence to write a political, intellectual, cultural blog. I do not want to get involved in various arguments that can be too sensitive ... you have all seen that my blog is just snippets of my everyday life, and I would think that a large majority of women who do blog, write the same kind of thing, or so it would seem from the blogs I have read.

So I would like your opinion on a couple of things when the blog fills with in-fighting.

1. Should I not allow 'Anonymous' comments? (But the Anonymous in question can easily type in any old name...)

2. Should I strike off all comments that personally attack another blogger?

3. If doing so, should I explain why?

4. If you are an anonymous blogger, would you continue blogging if you had to use a name? Not necessarily your real name but 'another name'?

It would be interesting to have your feed-back, but try and keep it short and I will, in this particular case, strike off any personal attacks towards another blogger as the discussions on my Mac posting over the last couple of days have been getting rather heated, to say the least!

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Do you remember that awful song by Cliff Richard? Last night I dreamed of summer, nothing definite, but it was warm and green and 'summery'. Perhaps this was because it was snowing when I went to bed.

So I started thinking about summer holidays this morning, and decided to pick your brains. I try and get away for two or three weeks in the summer with the child, who will have just turned 16. It is the time of the year that we offer each other some 'prime time' as between the lycée, skiing and mountain biking, we don't meet up too often during the year and I know that holidays with parents will soon be a thing of the past! So basically I am looking for a holiday that will please both of us - we 'did' New York a year and a half ago and both of us had a fabulous time.

Personally, I'm not too fussy - not worried about the weather, as long as it isn't too hot; don't think we would want to be in a city in the summer, but perhaps 30 minutes or so from one. I would like to be on the coast. Either Europe or North America.

A couple of things that have crossed my mind : what about a house swap? Have any of you done this or have friends that have done it? What about renting a National Trust property in England? Eastern Europe (Roumania, Hungary etc.)? No Disney land, thank you! Great for kids of 9, but no go for 16 year olds (and their mother!!).

My daughter has been offered a job in San Francisco - she is off on a fact-finding mission in May/June and if all goes well, will probably stay on - going out there could be a possibility although all those hours in a plane turn me off, but of course there are the XGames in CA which my son would probably die for.

The academic year ends the 3rd week of June and they go back the 3rd week of August, so we need to fit in with those dates.

So, any ideas? Tell me about your holidays - even places to be definitely avoided!

Friday, February 23, 2007


Well, I've done it! A minute proportion of my Mac's hard drive has been allocated to Bill Gates and his totally awful system! And I am trying to type this post on it! No mean feat, I can tell you! Having got used to my new Swiss keyboard, when I installed XP it only recognises American keyboards, thus I am now playing a guessing game as to where the letters are (back to qwerty) and especially, the symbols. The @ sign has now gone back to above the 2 as opposed to ALT G, the () are above 9 and 0 and not 8 and 9, etc. etc. So excuse the typos.

It would seem however that one can jolly up the posts on Microsoft - already I see more options are available, like italics, colour, etc. and I suppose I can pick things off the internet to add to a post. At the moment I cannot add photos as I have no photos in my album here. But will I use Microsoft? I think not - the laptop grinds away, makes funny indigestion noises, every two minutes a warning sign of some kind flashes up on the screen about viruses, my trackpad no longer has the speed of a scuttling mouse but that of a large slug and the graphics are just downright ugly. Much of this could be improved if I made the effort, which I might do eventually, but I can see why Apple refuses to recognise the Microsoft system - I feel as though I am working on a computer that is ten years old - I used a PC ten years ago and in that time, nothing has changed. It is fussy, boring and totally lacks imagination.

Sorry all you Microsoft users out there (like 98% of the population) but it pains me so see this sleek machine adulterated!

PS. This bit is written on Mac - with no warning, Microsoft closed down as I had no battery left. Was in rather a panic as I am wary of Microsoft and wouldn't have been surprised if something very nasty had happened. Mac warns me when I am low on
battery and you have enough time to plug into the mains...hey, ho!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


The other day we went to visit Gruyères - a small hilltop village famous for its 'Crème de Gruyères'. I hasten to add that this is not some awful processed cheese out of a tube, or wrapped in little bits of tinfoil in a box, but a wonderful, thick, fattening and divine double cream as you can see from the spoon standing up in the tub.

It has become one of my local tourist trips for the non-skiing visitors, being about an hour and a half from Verbier, north of Montreux and off the motorway leading to Berne. After leaving the car in the car park at the bottom of the hill, there is a little uphill climb of about five minutes to the village. It is in fact more of a hamlet than a village - one immediately arrives on the main square/middle of village, which is pretty and cobbled. A few souvenir shops, a couple of restaurants, a couple of shops selling cream and meringues, and that is about it. At the top of the village is the Chateau de Gruyères, which is most imposing and which I eventually managed to visit for the first time the other day. Dogs are allowed virtually everywhere in Switzerland, but not in castles, so my little black friend had stayed at home with a pigs' ear to chew (yes, they are disgusting but Gus loves them!).

We had a quick look in the church which is under the chateau, but of no particular interest, apart from the fact that it was SOOO clean and well-organised (they probably have under floor heating) and had a most antiseptic feel to it. The graveyard was more interesting. Amongst the rather ugly modern gravestones, were a few of the old style typical crosses with a little 'roof' protecting the sculpture (usually a Christ). These roofs are made out of thin 'tiles' of wood and are beautifully put together. I have added a couple of photos of roofs made in this manner, although the houses no longer have them - if they ever did?

From the church we went up to the chateau and set off to explore. The chateau has been heavily restored inside, although the interior courtyard doesn't give that impression. The chateau was obviously a fortress originally and was probably restored during the 16th century.

It was then partially modified in the early 19th century, to make it more habitable. There isn't much rhyme nor reason to it - one goes from a Renaissance room to a Louis XIV décor, but despite its imposing exterior, the rooms inside are 'small' and it has a homely atmosphere to it. Not much furniture and it was a shame that the fires weren't lit, which gives chateaux a very different atmosphere (such as Chambord, where there is no furniture, but with the fires burning in the winter, the visit is lovely).

The last owner was the Bovy family, who I imagine are a well-known family of Swiss painters but I didn't find out anything about them, and in the chateau there are quite a few fairly good portraits painted by a Bovy and one of the rooms has panels decorated by Camille Corot - totally unprotected from fingers and light, but still...!

We had lunch sitting outside at the Hotel de la Poste, where the food is good but simple (especially when one sees the number of tourists in the summer - the quality is consistant). I had an enormous plate of roast beef (bien saignant) served with a homemade tartare sauce made with 'crème de Gruyères' which was to die for, accompanied by loads of freshly cooked vegetables and a rösti, followed by a lovely fresh fruit salad and an espresso - 30CHF. Not expensive for such a touristy place, I think.

The photos I have added in rather a willy-nilly fashion - blogspot is Not Mac friendly and although I have now put the horrid Windows on my Mac, I hate it so much that I haven't plucked up the courage to use it for blogging. Sorry, the tub of cream will appear later! And the other photos, as blogspot is playing up and it's impossible to download photos!

Monday, February 19, 2007


Rather a heterogeneous bunch, the four books I am about to comment on but after finishing the first one, it was time for a little light relief.

My first book 'Les Bienveillantes' by Jonathan Littell is grandiose. If you read easily in French and haven't read it yet, then go out immediately and buy it. 'Les Bienveillantes' won le prix Goncourt and le grand prix de l'Académie Francaise this year - something that leaves me a little wary usually, but this is definitely a great book. Jonathan Littell is the son of the novelist Robert, and although totally bilingual, he chose to write the book in French and beautifully written it is too. Published by Gallimard, it is a BIG book in every sense of the word; 900 pages of small type on good quality paper makes it a heavy book, especially for night readers such as myself.

'Les Bienveillantes' ('The Kindly Ones' is its temporary English title) tells the fictional story of Maximilien Aue, an SS Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) during World War 2 who is posted to the Eastern Front and is then muted to deal with the problems in the concentration camps, trying to improve conditions of the prisoners so they are able to work in the factories turning out munitions for the German army that is almost defeated.

It is interesting to read a book from a German point of view on the last war - it doesn't however excuse the horrors that happened or explain them; it is simply the story of a young bourgeois man who gets thrown into something he cannot handle - physical sickness, drunken orgies, homosexuel relationships - he loses his mind trying to come to terms with the horror that is thrown at him daily, and continually harking back to an incesteous affair with his sister.

It is a terrifying book, some of the descriptions make one feel weak at the knees, but worth every single page.

After finishing such a book, I then needed something light and silly and found it in two books I was offered for Christmas - Molvania (A land untouched by modern dentistry) and Phaic Tan (Sunstroke on a shoestring) - both published by Atlantic Books under the Jetlag travel guide. A spoof on Lonely Planet. Both are ficticious - loosely based on Eastern Europe and Asia, but are a hoot! There is a new one out based on South America. They are written exactly like a guide book but the information is complete rubbish (or is it?) - great to flip through and to have a really good laugh - as Bill Bryson said 'Brilliantly original and very, very funny'.

And finally, I have just finished 'A short history of Tractors in Ukrainian' bz Marina Lewycka and published by Penguin. The story in told by the younger of two sisters - the elder born during the War in German-occupied Ukraine and the second born ten years later in post-war Britain. It is the story of their widowed emigré father who falls for, and marries, Valentina, a Ukranian gold-digger 40 years his junior, who only wants marriage for the passport. It is very drole, the family trying to make the father see that Valentina is only after him for his pension and his passport and the descriptions of Valentina are lovely with her boil-in-the-bag cuisine, amongst other things. There is also the darker side of the story - the escape of the family from the Ukraine which is reveals through the story, but a good book about families, skeletons in the cupboard, and a most delightful read.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Lolling in bed this morning along with the animal kingdom of the house, I was trying to think of a new subject for my blog. I should try and write a new post on a book that I have read and enjoyed, but that is not a job for a Sunday. And neither is housework, which I have now abandoned for the day. One of the other ideas was a posting on what I would do if I was rich and having just ironed 6 bolster covers, 4 rectangular pillowcases and 8 square pillowcases (I mean, where do they come from?) I have now decided that this is a good subject, and shall start off with :

1. A lady does that all my ironing

2. A lady that cleans my house (could be No.1)

3. A person that does all my boring shopping for me (like loo paper, toothpaste etc) so that I could devote my time to buying yummy things

4. A chauffeur for long trips (preferably handsome!)

5. A large and gorgeous chalet with indoor pool, jacuzzi etc.

6. Someone to walk Gus when it is chucking it down (could be No. 4)

7. Someone to sort out all my paperwork and make sure the bills get paid on time

8. Lots of short break holidays within Europe throughout the year, being driven by the chauffaur so I wouldn't have to use crappy low-cost airlines

9. Fly first class on long haul

10. Visit St. Petersberg

That's just for starters and I'm sure that there a lot more things - but unfortunately I'm not rich (perhaps I should play the Euromillion). And if I had all the above and more, what would I do, life would be most boring!

What would you do with your millions - and I know I have left out helping family and friends and giving money to charity. This is a Selfish Sunday.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


It was cheering to know I was missed in blog land so without further ado let's get this blog up and running again, albeit briefly as I haven't really got my act together yet.

As the regulars know, the eldest of my brothers died three weeks ago very suddenly, so it was a case of downing tools and getting the first 'plane back to England to be with Mum who was, as you can imagine, totally knocked sideways. Whatever the age of one's children, it is not in the order of things to be predeceased by them...

The process of getting him home for the funeral was long and complicated and we have had to deal with autopsies and eventually an inquest as he died at his home, but we got there in the end and last week he was cremated in Guildford on a gloriously sunny day, which funnily enough is very comforting at such a difficult time.

Back here in Switzerland, my son has been totally brilliant and I am very proud of him coping by himself for three weeks (my daughter has been overseeing operations) - he shopped, cooked and cleaned for himself during that time and although the chalet is rather muddled, I didn't get home to piles of dirty plates and tons of washing! He did admit last night that it was good to eat green vegetables again as he hasn't had any since I went away!!

I have a pile of bills/letters waiting to be opened but my new Mac arrived during my absence, so I have been twiddling with it, getting it up and running - I am trying to resist the temptation to spend the day on it, as I have the family arriving in a few days and things do kinda need sorting out here. I haven't transferred all my rubbish from the old Mac to the new one, but am busy trying to go through the files and keep the strict minimum - rather a long process but worth it in the end I hope. My new Mac has a Swiss keyboard which is virtually the same as the English one except the z and the y are inversed so my typing has slowed down - all the y's in this post started life as a z! It does have accents though, which will make typing in French easier, but no euro sign (at least not visible on a key) - only $ and £.

Quite a few remarks on England to make, but will leave that for another day! Just to let all of you off skiing for the half-term that the snow is on its way so conditions next week should be good!