Sunday, May 28, 2017


For almost 30 years I've been doing the Swiss to Argelès-sur-mer trip or the reverse, always noticing the brown signs along the autoroute telling me what was nearby of interest.

The trip can take between six (quick pee stops) to eight (pee, meal, stretch stops or traffic delays) hours. We are usually in a rush to get to one of the other places.

For almost 30 years, I've said, "someday we should take our time, stop and explore."

This trip, we said. "Not sometime. Next time or the trip after."

I took down the different places that interested us. There are abbeys, châteaux, museums, nature parks.

We have narrowed the list and are looking for good restaurants in our guide books and places to stay. It will take probably three days, or more depending on what we stumble across.

Now the only decision is which direction.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The chair

I used to think flushing had to do with toilets or Meadows and tennis tournaments.

For almost two years I've had a new definition. It is that cute little thing planted in my chest that was used to deliver my chemo in 2015. I loved it because I have veins that run away from needles which meant I could be stuck up to eight times before each treatment. The port-a-cart was a single poke thru numbed skin.

Even though my last treatment was in early 2016 and I am reported to be cancer-free, a state I want to continue, the oncologist recommends keeping it in. It also needs to be "flushed" every six months, a relatively simple procedure of deadening the skin, inserting a needle, drawing blood, inserting sterile water--a few minutes at best.

Some people thought I was crazy when I said chemo was fun--the treatment itself was--not the weakness afterwards.

The wonderful nurses at HUG  (Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève) made each treatment almost like a tea party with terrible tea. It was a group of women sharing recipes and stories.

This week when I went in for my treatment instead of doing it at the nursing station, they took me to the chemo treatment room. They were rushed because the next day was a holiday and they were trying to get everyone in.

I saw my favorite nurse Marie-Odile, a treat.

They sat me in the chair where I had most of my treatments. The view of La Salève out the window was still rocky and beautiful. The room was still cheerful with its decorations. The atmosphere still cozy.

But I didn't want to be there. I wanted that part of my life to be over.

Then I reminded myself, it is over, as long as I do the checks. The women on each side of me still have a lot to face. I just hope it will be as all right for them as it has been for me. There is life after cancer.

I still don't want to sit in that chair, good memories or not.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


It's Sunday in Switzerland.

Let's vote. It sometimes seem like voting happens every Sunday but in reality, it is four times a year when citizens cast their vote for initiatives and referendum.

The Swiss vote on almost everything from dog muzzles to buying airplanes for the air force. They vote to cancel out a parliament vote or they vote to tell parliament what to do.

Sometimes the votes can be as stupid as any parliament. Other times they show great wisdom. Often the Swiss German part of the country over rules Swiss Romand, the French part. They call that that the Rosti Graben, referring to the hash brown-type potato dish popular in the Swiss German section, but in reality eaten in all parts.

This time we were voting on:
1. The future energy policy of the country (Federal yes)
2. Bus rates (Cantonal yes)
3. The house of associations (Cantonal no)

Normally, I get my ballot by mail, study the pros and cons, check out what the many parties think (scares me when the far right and far left agree), and get my ballot into the mail in plenty of time.

I missed the mailing deadline. Thus at 10 a.m. when the church clock struck we were at the voting place doors when they opened. It was in the local primary school.

There was a warm greeting and I was pointed to a long table with several people siting behind it. I was told that only the blue envelope with the ballot was to go into the yellow box. The young man behind my slot checked my identity card and kept my signature card.

I dropped the ballot into the box.

"Have some breakfast," the young man said pointing to a table filled with croissants, cookies, juice, coffee and tea.

I found my husband chatting with the official greeter in French. I chatted with both of them for a few minutes, took  cookie and we left.

So civilized. I may vote in person from now on. That cookie was good.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Roads and toilets

After driving over major NY state highways and roads that should have been repaved decades ago, I really, love the A9 when I go from Geneva to Argelès. And unlike NY where the only usable restroom is a tree, the toilets are lovely whether in one of the frequent well-fitted out stops, or just a parking place with toilet, picnic tables, and play places.

Stops have a variety of restaurants, although often changes where one can get anything from MCDos to a full meal.

There places to play for kids and exercise courts. Some even have historic information.

Cleanliness is encouraged.

Stores offer basic things, souvenirs and local products.

Meanwhile in New York, leaves make good toilet paper.

Monday, May 15, 2017


My way of shopping, is to go in and if I can't buy it in five minutes I am outta of there.

Friends I know, check out several stores, do Consumer reports, weigh each advantage and disadvantage.

I thought they might be right.

Our induction stove top, which always was emotionally challenged at the best of times, decided only two of three burners should work. The one in the Nest* is ceramic.

I decided to do the thoughtful way of shopping even though I thought that the ceramic one in the Nest had the advantage of always turning on and off something the induction one did not. There were moments I believed it wanted some kind of cooking rain dance or magical chant to cook my meal.

I went into where we buy all our appliances. I listened carefully to the clerk explain, less use of electricity and a timer on the induction. A couple of safety features were appealing if and when a small child (never has there been a small child in the flat in four years, but there might be) sounded good.

It wasn't a matter of price. And he threw in an induction stove top Italian coffee pot. Prior to that my old Italian coffee pot was useless except in The Nest's ceramic top.

I bought the induction.

The installer had a hard time with the wiring and space, not the stove top's fault. This is a 400-year-old house, although the wiring is under ten years.

He broke the dishwasher's door under the stove stop which we discovered the next time we opened the dishwasher, which although a new and a top brand name never dried properly.

My perfectly tin-lined copper pot I bought at the vide grenier will not work on the new stove top. It can go to The Nest.

It is NOT the stove top's fault that I misread which on switch button operated which burner.

This morning I discovered my favorite tiny fry pan won't work.

My goal is to have a stove top that you put a pan on with food in it, the food cooks, you shut the burner off and eat the food.

Instead, I am checking the internet to determine which magical dances, chances and herbs will make the new stove top do the same.

I am going back to my old method of shopping: in, I want, you have it, but it I buy it, if you don't I'm outta there in minutes.

It was my mistake and I'll live with it or maybe -- hmmm -- seems like every thing that goes wrong in the US is Russia's fault.

When my stove top annoys me, I will blame Putin.

*The Nest is the 18 sq. meter studio I bought for my retirement home and is perfectly set up for me. However, when I married Rick is was much too small so we rent a flat two doors down and we use the Nest as a guest room.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Martin Luther King and I had a dream.

His were based on a just world.


Not so much.

Last night I dreamed in French, in itself not strange. If I watch a French program, read a book in French or spend the evening more in French than English before going to bed, I will most likely dream in French.

Yesterday was almost totally an Anglo day after a long café sit in the sun with Brit and American friends.

My French had been limited to a quick chat with one of the marché merchants. Then I spent a good part of the day in English working on my new project Coat Hangars and Knitting Needles and reading a American detective story for work breaks. I watched an episode of West Wing, season 1 with my husband.

In my dream three French-speaking males were seated around a table, much like in a police station. Two other men came speaking another language. I did not recognize the language. It did not have the music of Oriental languages, the gutturals of Germanic tongues, but seemed more Slavic.

I woke before figuring anything out.

Maybe subconsciously I speak that strange, unknown language.

Or not.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Lunch in two cultures


In my Swiss life, luncheons with friends of my then partner were formal affairs, often planned weeks if not months in advance. We dressed up to at least business casual standards.

Six to eight people were in attendance and each time someone new came in, they shook hands on did the three-cheek lip kiss. People were on time making the shaking and kissing a bit chaotic. Most had been friends since childhood. I was the new kid on the block.

As guests, we would bring wine, chocolates or flowers.

An Apèro was always served in the living with small nibblies.

After an appropriate time we moved to the dining room to a table that would not have been out of place in any life style magazine with linen, crystal and silver. I never went to a luncheon (or dinner) where there wasn't a beautiful knife holder to protect the table cloths.

Never was I served a bad meal. Imaginative courses included:
  • Appropriate wines for each course. Often the bottle was dusty, signifying the bottle had come from the host's wine cellar
  • Salad
  • Main dish and multiple vegetables
  • A minimum of three cheeses, often local
  • Dessert
  • Coffee or tea 
  • Digestive after lunch drink
Conversation  was lively. In the beginning until my French improved, the guests spoke more slowly, but as I became more fluent, the speed increased. In general, thank goodness, the Swiss speak French more slowly than the French. I learned a lot about local politics but any topic was trotted out.

They were often surprised that I was familiar with Swiss/French popular and classical cultures as well. Between being a writer and despite being American, my intellectual level was accepted.

My partner had schooled me on Swiss manners which differed from those my New England grandmother had drilled into me.
  • I waited for everybody to be served before beginning to eat.
  • I murmured "bon appetit" before food grazed my lips as did the others.
  • I waited for my host to offer the toast, chinked my glass with everybody at the table and looked into each person's eyes before drinking.
  • I kept my wrists on the table (a punishable offense as a child), but never my elbows. 
  • My hands were NEVER in my lap.
  • I said, s'il vous plaît and merci.
  • A knife never touched my French bread and I tore it with the best of them. I did not expect butter.
  • I used my left hand for the fork and the right for my knife to push food onto my fork. This I love. It makes it easier to eat.
  • I cut any cheese served as a wheel, cut from the center into slices much like cutting a pie.
  • When I finished, I put my knife and fork parallel to one another on my plate to indicate I was finished. And I never left anything on the plate, taking only what I could eat. Many hosts would keep heaping food on my plate and filling my wine glass, and I needed to be quick to not eat or drink too much and demur politely. See number six with the word, non before it.
We would leave shortly afterward, making sure that I had shaken or cheek-kissed every other guest. Within two day I wrote and mailed a formal thank you note, making sure it was personal by mentioning something special. I needed my French checked.


It is my day to cook and I am just about to stop writing to prepare when Rick says, "Will Facebooked me and wants to have lunch in the sun."

A quick exchange of emails and we amble down the street to meet him and his partner at La Noisette which has a new sign.

We do a double-cheek kiss, although I am now the only Swiss in this anglophone group. "I hope you don't mind," she says, "I included Robin."

Wonderful. I haven't seen her since I returned from our latest trip and I see her hustling down the street.

We are all dressed casually.

Anna, the waitress, takes our orders.

Our conversation has to do with my trip to Congress, Brexit, chairs (Will has almost a museum and is an expert), our writing, tennis, golf.

It is casual and heart-warming and impromptu.

The life styles are so different--not better or worse--just different. I am happy to experience both.

One difference--the food was/is good in both.