Thursday, September 29, 2011


“Your nails have ridges.” The sales girl at Calgary airport said. She could not have been in her mid-twenties and adorable as only the young and enthusiastic can be. “Healthy looking but ridged.”

Having never noticed that before, I looked down stared expecting to see something like the Blue Ridged Mountains having formed since I washed them twenty minutes before.

They looked the same as they always did.

Admittedly, my nail care is eating well and cutting regularly. I don’t bother with polish, although I would love to have the wonderful designs that my favourite banking teller has. To now I’ve been too cheap.

“Let me show you something.” The salesgirl said. She took out a cube. “Give me your hand.”
She rubbed one nail with one side of the cube, switched to another then another, then another.

“See,” she said.

The nail was a little shiner than the others.

“Isn’t that wonderful. The cube is just $20.”

I did have $20 Canadian dollars still on me. I’d planned to buy a book.

I moved my hand to the left and right. In some lights the nail recovering from ridge syndrome was shinier but in another light it looked about the same.
“I don’t think so,” I said.

She was a good sales girl, and had I trained her, I would have been proud when she asked “Why?”

My hands are not that of a young woman. Veins show. However, they work wonderfully, doing and undoing buttons, opening doors, typing on a keyboard, all the things one wants hands to do. They do not have to have shiny nails.

She looked amused.

So she wouldn’t get discouraged I told her I’d done sales training, and she was really good.

For the past week I’ve gone around with one shinier nail. I’ve sat in a way that only that nail shows. No one has stopped to admire it. Nor has anyone compared my ridged to non-ridged nails or gasped in horror at the ridges.

And with $20? I bought the book Help. I think I’ll get more pleasure out of it than shiny nails.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

From D to A

I know, I know...

It's usually A to Z or A to B, but yesterday it was definitely a backwards alphabet situation.

My plane into Frankfort was late leaving me less than 20 minutes between flights. Anyone who has been through Frankfort knows--it's huge--a mega airport.

I came into terminal D. The board for my Geneva flight was A.


Thanking all the travel gods and goddesses that I had checked my carry on suitcase and only had my laptop case, I started the dash. Why do they wax airport floors? No, I didn't fall, but I skidded.

The passport control line was long. I mustered my best German to ask a man if I could cut in front of him. "You can, but this is the EU line," he said.

I held up my Swiss passport, which although not EU lets me into the EU line and he let me in. I told him I wished that someone would do something wonderful for him that day.

I glanced at the clock as the line inched forward. Boarding had started 15 minutes before. They waved me through.

Another mad dash only to come to security. I chose the shorter of the two lines and got through with amazing speed. Five minutes till take off.
I then ran the rest of the distance. The people of the desk plunked my boarding pass on the machine to read the bar code, pointed me to stairs that I ran down. The stairs led to a door that was closing just as the bus taking us out to the plane was ready to leave. Bursting through the building doors, the driver opened the doors for me.

When I worked for Interskill years before running to meet a plane was normal. That I haven't lost the ability, is good...but if I don't need to do it again, it will be more than okay.

I had an interesting night

"I had an interesting night, last night," my seat mate on the Regina-Calgary flight said to me as soon as the seat belt sign was turned off. He was probably in his late fifties, a full head of white curly hair, slim neither handsome nor ugly.

As a writer, my immediate thought--what a great opening for a piece of fiction. I looked interested and he continued to tell me about his adventures.

His flight to Calgary, the last out, was cancelled. The airline tried to book him a room, but all the rooms in Regina were taken. The same with the B&Bs. They offered to fly him to Toronto where there was a room then fly him back in the morning to Regina for the first Regina-Calgary plane. The thing that made it interesting was the geography.

Think Bangor-Boston or Geneva-Zurich flights. Short hops really. You could almost taxi the distance. They were sending him as far away as Washington DC or Stockholm and not bringing him back to his final destination but to another destination.

"I'm too old for this," he told them. Finally they booked and taxied him to a hotel in Moose Jaw called Oasis, which he claimed wasn't, and taxied him back and put him in a seat next to me.

We continued chatting. He is a geologist, travels all over the world and has one son, a journalism student, battling cancer. During that short trip we delved into a variety of subjects.

He may have had an interesting night, but he made the morning for me into an interesting flight.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Touching gold

As editor/publisher of I get to do all kinds of neat things and meet neat people that I would never do or meet otherwise.

Right now I'm in Regina SK at a conference and one of the speakers was Brad Gushue, captain of the Canadian Olympic team that took the gold in Torino 2006. Now as a non-Canadian, I never quite understood curling, but then again I never understood baseball. Too much waiting around for nothing to happen on baseball, and in curling...well it's really nice that all those people are trying to keep the ice clean so fast.

Still listening to Gushue speak was a true pleasure. He admitted to being a sook (?) spelling probably best translated into his Newfoundland slang as a wimp and crying when his national anthem was played. And he gave an insight to the events behind the scenes that was fascinating such as they didn't realise the huge bird in the opening ceremonies was made up of human bodies until after it was all over.

He passed his medal through the audience and only a couple of times asked where it was. People touched it, put it around their necks, had their photos taken with it.

Even if I find the Olympics often too business driven, I admire all the athletes who worked so hard to get that to the stadiums and rinks. It always infuriates me when some announcer says, "Too bad he only took a silver (or a bronze)" Getting to the Olympics is such a major accomplishment in and of itself or as in my case yesterday, just being able to touch a gold medal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Another point of view

Going to our post is always an adventure with our OCD postmaster. Today there was a line and he was making sure their packets destined for Italy were perfect before accepting. Then he dealt with a Japanese woman and with a wonderful accent spoke to her English.
I knew that he knew French, Spanish, and German. Being able to speak four languages is an accomplishment. I also know he is an accomplished runner.

I complimented him on his English accent and he blushed. He said in French (the only language we use) that he was a “debutant.”

He may be frustrating at times with his microscopic attention to unnecessary detail, but he is also a man of many accomplishments.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Friend speak

Years ago I had this conversation with a friend.

Me: Esther called today.

Her: Semi colon or colon?

Me: Colon.

Of course no one else would have understood that Esther was a board member who regularly found fault with my punctuation not to mention the fact that any two-page direct mail letter I sent never had a full sentence ending on the first page, a trick to encourage people to turn the page over. I'm sure if Esther were alive today, she would find a typo in each of my novels and call me to tell me about it.

We knew what we meant because we were friends and could speak in shorthand based on shared experience.

Thus when my housemate talked about a blackberry moment, I knew she wasn't speaking about the taste but the time that I not only dropped them, they flew over my head and although I thought I'd gotten them all, we were finding blackberries in strange places for days.

And speech can be as multi-lingual as faux amies in French/English. Blackberry moments for my late friend Mardy and me would mean a moment of soul searching, based on a walk we'd taken at her parents' Maine cabin where we'd walked in the woods, shared our deepest hopes and fears while eating blackberries not a spilled something.

"Utterly ridiculous?" is a trigger for another friend and I to make plans to do something fun. The term came from her then boyfriend who thought our plans to ride each of the Geneva buses from end to end for a day, hoping on and off to have a coffee or investigate at will was utterly ridiculous. Now that he is an ex I'm wondering what he would have termed the time we took the sheep herding course?

I wonder if I said to my housemate that that I was doing a local postmaster trick, she would pick up that it was something obsessive compulsive. The thought crossed my mind when I arranged the file cards on my desk neatly.

After all friend speak vocabularies enlarge with time, so I'll try either doing a Daniel (the postmaster's name) or doing a postmaster later today. Just for the hell of it.

Friendly benches

I love the bench that invites you to sit and rest.

The last day in the mountains

When my housemate asked on our last day at the chalet, "How do you feel about taking the telecabine up to the top of the mountains and walking down?" my irrational mind said, "terrified."

My rational mind worked my mouth into saying "sure." I hate heights. However, for years I'd told my daughter that being scared was a reason to stop you from doing something. And one of the problems with giving advice like that, it is necessary to take it.

I also know that telecabines are far less accident prone than automobiles.

Thus we were out the door and into the telecabine and every second of the view was worth it.

At the top is a restaurant. The view from the terrace was beautiful: the glacier, the back side of Mt. Blanc.

Walking by pines for 2+ hours. The smell, the fresh air, the bird song, was wonderful. It would have been even better had I proper walking shoes with thicker souls, but then again, the pressure of the stones, is a guarantee to forever appreciate smooth services. Next time we go up there, I'll have the proper equipment.

Wooden barriers to stop avalanches.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chicken safari

On one of my walks in the mountains I saw the most unusual chickens, beige and grey and feathers that looked more like fur. Admittedly, I'm a city girl or at least a village girl with limited chicken-knowledge that does not involve a receipe.

A black cat hovered over the chicken coop as if thinking recipes, but did grew bored and walked away.

Sadly, I did not have my camera--when will I learn never to go anywhere without it?

This morning, I got up early to go on chicken safari.

The coop was empty.

The cat, I thought, but then out of curiosity, they popped out of their little house and came down to examine me.

I expect my chickens to look more like the one in the famous Migros ad with the cow.

The way the chickens looked at me and my camera, I half expected them to ask if they thought their right or left side was more hygenic.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Living in a jigsaw puzzle

No school days when I was a kid was a reason to light a fire, watch the snow and to do jigsaw puzzles. Many of them were of Swiss villages. Never, ever did I dream that someday I would be able to go to one once much less on a fairly regular basis.

My housemate and I were supposed to be on a research trip for my next book in the north of Germany, but we had to cancel at the last minute. Spending the same time in the chalet removed any trace of disappointment (we'll do Germany in late November).

And we had to go our favourite Auberge for a fondue with neighbours. We ordered two: goat and sheep cheese and never could decide which was better. The last of the raspberries for desert topped off the meal.

Even mail boxes and garages are made beautiful.

The gardens are lush, but this one sunflower caught my eye.

I thought I would take this photo after my hike, but decided to take it then and there. Good thing I did, because when I came by, the bull had been taken to another pasture.

Looking down the main street of the village.

Flower in the tiny garden outside our window.

Living in a jigsaw puzzle

Monday, September 05, 2011

It seemed so simple

My housemate and I sat out for the UBS in a nearby village, a picturesque ride though the fall-lush Swiss countryside with a view of the lake and the mountains. We passed a château or two and just as we approached the bank I asked, "Did you bring what you wanted to put in the safe?"

A funny look crossed her face and without saying a word, she turned the car back towards home.

I could have made fun of her, but I didn't.

Once again we made the same drive, a picturesque ride though the fall-lush Swiss countryside with a view of the lake and the mountains. We passed a château or two. This time we made it into the parking lot for UBS and I as reached for my wallet with my bankcard to withdraw funds I uttered an "Oh, oh?"

"You don't have your wallet?" My housemate asked.

I shook my head.

We both laughed. No recriminations. We just chalked it up to a memory to be giggled over sometime in the future.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

If the Queen's standard

If the Queen can fly her standard when she's in residence at Windsor, Balmoral or Buckingham Palace, the residents of Chemin du Port 15, have their own standards that face out when we aren't travelling. Since we roam a lot, it is lovely when all four standards are facing out.

Of course, Munchkin's idea is to sleep either inside or find a sunbeam outside so her standard is almost always facing out.