Friday Five: ‘The Exile’s Return’ Edition

1. So… I turned 30. It was fine. It was a really busy month of social events so I was coaxed out of my narcissistic pit of introspective anguish and actually enjoyed myself an awful lot. My actual birthday was spent in Barcelona, and as the clock struck midnight, heralding the significant birthday I had so feared, I surveyed the 10 (!) empty martini glasses in front of me and felt a sense of strange calm. And a sense of being fucking shitfaced, obviously. It was a very pleasant combination. The night of my actual birthday we were boozing once more, and I got to wear my Vivien of Holloway dress that I wore to our rehearsal dinner again. Though I am glad that our hotel had such clean floors…

 

10 martinis later. And a very sad looking bottle of water.

10 martinis later. And a very sad looking bottle of water.

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A Speakeasy in Barcelona.

 

Before...

Before…

 

During...

During…

After...

After…

 

2. I went to three weddings in the month following my birthday. The first was near Barcelona, and was my first experience of a Catalan wedding – it was ace, but oh my word, so much food. Amazing, delicious food, but man alive. So much. Obviously I took one for the team, and ate everything in sight, but even the memory makes me want to unbuckle my belt a little. A beautiful day though – I wish I could show you more pictures but apparently putting other people’s faces on the internet without their permission is uncool.

 

Just keep smiling and try not to explode!

Just keep smiling and try not to explode!

The second wedding was the week after my birthday, in Tuscany. It was the wedding of one of my oldest friends and his frankly awesome partner. It was an incredibly emotional wedding for me – I mean, I love a wedding anyway, but as soon as I saw him waiting for his bride to arrive, there were some tears. The whole ceremony was so simple, but so beautiful. It was the first non-religious wedding ceremony I’ve been to, but having said that, it was also the first with a David Ginola-look-a-like Italian mayor, complete with goatee and red, white & green beauty-pageant-style sash. It was a cracking do, too – lots of Welsh people make for a damn fine party.

When in Italy, attempt to be stylish...

When in Italy, attempt to be stylish…

 

The third wedding was just last weekend, and we celebrated the union of one of my really good pals from university with her beau. It was in London, in a pub on the Thames that overlooked the Shard. We flew into London City airport and took a cab straight to our Liverpool Street hotel to get changed and then jumped in another cab to get to the reception in time, so all a bit hectic, but we had a great time. And even managed to take a cab to Chelsea to make a special guest appearance at one of my best friends’ surprise 30th birthday party. Drunk. But so were they, so it’s cool. Unfortunately I don’t have very many pictures, so you’ll just have to imagine it from the vivid and detailed description i have provided

 

3. I had a bloody marvelous birthday party. Seriously. The best ever. Ok, it is a tie for first place between my 30th and my 8th, when I got a My Little Pony Courtyard, and a tiny kitten walked out of one of the little stables. TRUE STORY. But my 30th was pretty epic. We hired a house in the peak district and my nearest and dearest flocked up for a good old fashioned house party. I should probably give it its own post, but I feel that this photo sums things up nicely.

The birthday beast.

The birthday beast.

 

4. I got home from the third wedding and fell into a seriously homesick funk. It began on the tube from Liverpool Street to Paddington, but because London is London, people have seen much stranger things on the tube than a nostalgically weeping and hungover woman in a stripey dress accented with baby sick, clutching a Washington Red apple. (I’m not going to explain that – I think that image stands alone).

I’ve missed home before, of course, but this wave of homesickness hit me really hard. I think it was because I’d had such a lovely time seeing all my friends every weekend for a few weekends in a row, as if we were still in London. I got upset looking at the advertisements for West End shows, seeing all the restaurants and bars where I could be making memories with my pals, beholding businesses who deigned to open for trade on a Sunday(!) and just generally felt a bit melancholy that we are missing out on one of the greatest cities in the world, at the point in our lives when we actually have the time, lack of responsibilities and resources to enjoy its infinite sexiness. But we are here. In beautiful but dull Geneva. Until at least April 2017. (If you think I sound spoiled and ungrateful – I am both of those things at times. But in my defence, they don’t sell monster munch here. Try waking up from a hangover here on a Sunday when nothing’s open and all you can think about is the unforgivingly harsh texture of roast beef flavoured corn snacks and then we’ll talk about ungrateful).

 

But I'M in Geneva...That makes it perfect. Fact.

But I’M in Geneva…That makes it perfect. Fact.

 

5. Ever the diligent listmaker, I made a two-point plan to get out of said funk – it involves my online and offline abodes. Online, I think that I can use this blog to make me happier about our expat lives here, by recording fun shit that we do. Because we do fun shit, that we couldn’t do anywhere else, and I think it’s easy to forget that when I’m hankering after a night out in Soho or a Marks and Spencer Dine in for 2 Meal Deal. The second prong to my tuning-my-life-fork is to make our apartment into a place I’m happy to spend a lot of time. I work from home, and even though we’re limited in what we can do as renters, I think there’s a lot more we can do to make this feel homely and semi-permanent, rather than as a glorified waiting room where we can tread water waiting for our lives to recommence. (Oh, as well as being spoiled and ungrateful, I also tend towards the dramatic too. I’m a treat).

Existential crisis face, complete with hair of the apocalypse. You're welcome.

Existential crisis face, complete with hair of the apocalypse. You’re welcome.

So there – happy Friday fucking five.

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Friday Five: Running the Gauntlet

From Wikipedia: Running the gauntlet is a form of physical punishment where a captive is to run between two rows – a gauntlet – of soldiers who repeatedly strike them.

I was hungover this morning from a rather lovely dinner at a friend’s house last night. This week’s Friday Five chronicles how I ran the gauntlet – or went to the shops to get emergency hangover Sprite and a croissant.

Five things that tried to break me this morning:

1. Man pulling a rickety old trolley full of recycling and dropping glass bottles into the bin, at great volume.

2. Roadworks. Specifically, digging up the road underneath the tram lines, right where I have to stand by a pedestrian crossing for 45 minutes (ish) waiting for the green man.

3. Police siren. Why today?

4. Very sweaty smelly man walking right next to me into the shop. I inhaled, and immediately gagged.

5. This.

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Why today? Why? WHEN I DEALT WITH IT, IT WAS STILL WARM.

Not cool, Lyla. Not cool at all.

Expat Eff-that: Swiss Vote to Curb Immigration

50.3% of a recent vote in Switzerland was in favour of instituting strict immigration measures. Switzerland. A country arguably reliant on the influx of foreign money to ensure it benefits from an incredibly stable economy, the lowest unemployment rate in Europe (save Lichtenstein, but pfft), and the country that benefits, above all else, from my currently residing in it.

You're welcome.

You’re welcome.

Feeling kind of unwelcome isn’t a novelty in Geneva; I’ve certainly experienced the odd bit of ‘oh so you’re not completely fluent in French yet and even though you’re giving it a go I shall still roll my eyes before replying to your polite request in unaccented and perfect English.’ But I think that’s a cultural thing – people are generally much less rude than in Paris, say, to us foreigners. I can understand that people who relocate to Switzerland with banks, hedge funds or oil companies that don’t even attempt a ‘parlez-vous anglais?’ before launching into demands in English (not even Franglais!) can rile the locals, but tarring all of us with the same brush is unfair, and legislating against immigration is taking the pissed off waiter act a little far if you ask me.

Would Hemingway et al have put up with this shit in Paris in the 20s?

HemNope

Exactly. Thanks, Hembizzle. Whilst I admit that I haven’t actually gotten around to establishing a literary salon and founding a literary movement (expatriate chocolate postmodernism anyone?), us foreigners do contribute, by and large, to cultural life in Switzerland.

As well as introducing quotas for foreign immigration to Switzerland, the initiative also means that Swiss nationals will be given priority when applying for jobs. The quota system won’t mean that we get deported, as it won’t be instituted for two to three years and doesn’t apply retrospectively. But applying for jobs could be difficult, once I’ve tamed this PhD beast. To be honest, when I finish the PhD, I’m quite inclined to say ‘fuck the beautiful mountains and delicious cheese, I’m going back to Blighty. Toblerone is cheaper there anyway.’ I can’t be the only one.

Interestingly, there was a language divide in the voting, the Swiss Germans and Swiss Italians being generally much more in favour of the right wing measures than Francophone Switzerland. The cosmopolitan cities in which most expats live and work, like Geneva and Zurich, which interact and cohabit most with the expat population, voted against the immigration-curbing measures. We obviously charmed them adequately. But it seems that the rest of Switzerland is really worried about the increasing population, and the UDC successfully capitalised on this fear without adequate challenge from the other parties.

I understand that the unlimited influx of people can put strain on a country’s infrastructure, but it’s pretty clear to see that Switzerland is doing alright. Of course, the worsening situation in countries like Portugal and Spain has meant that there has been an influx of people seeking a better life in Switzerland (how dare they) but concerns over crime rates increasing and welfare fraud can be addressed in other, more effective ways than by simply closing the borders, chaps.

Source: swissinfo.ch

Source: swissinfo.ch

And the people complaining about how public transport is getting more crowded need to get the last tube from anywhere to anywhere on a summertime Saturday night in London. I’ve seen things, man. Bad things. You have nothing to complain about, Switzerland.

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With some companies making preparations to relocate to Ireland in light of the recent vote, it is unclear how this impacts on the bilateral EU-Swiss agreements that evidently took a lot of effort to negotiate (though this somewhat predates my interest in Swiss-EU politics).

The Swiss people that I’ve spoken to are sad and angry with the results. I know that referenda are a hallmark of the Swiss system, but I can’t help but feel let down that evidently there wasn’t much effort expended in countering the propaganda distributed by the UDP. This is uncomfortable viewing, on billboards in my host city:

Brb, just going to go and stamp on the Swiss flag in my Gestapo boots...

Brb, just going to go and stamp on the Swiss flag in my Gestapo boots…

This whole vote has left a bad taste in my mouth, and combined with my recent discovery that Switzerland didn’t grant the vote to women until 1971 (this is not a typo), has left me saddened and perplexed, despite valiant efforts by organisations such as www.theotherhalf.ch/.

Sort your shit out, Switzerland. The world is watching, and thinks you’re kind of a douche.

The Weekend

This weekend was a pretty quiet affair, which was great because we’ve been so busy of late. It started with a bit of quality time with my Nespresso machine.

Give me all of the coffee...

Give me all of the coffee…

Then we spent a couple of hours in the Swiss equivalent of Homebase, Conforama. It’s like a slightly less stabby version of a morning in Ikea, and true to form, the decisions that we had made from the comfort of our apartment, browsing the catalogue in chillaxed fashion, were all shot to shit as soon as we entered the store. It’s like some kind of freaky magnetic field that screws with all logic and domestic harmony. Within about 40 minutes, things had gotten pretty tense. As my darling husband said, ‘It’s a good thing I didn’t bring a loaded gun.’ Quite. Anyway, we eventually ended up buying a dining table and chairs, though not before heading home for a while to mull over our decision, and waste as much of our Saturday as possible. Matt assembled the furniture while I sat on my ass watching crap TV and occasionally telling him he was doing a great job.

Great job, sweetheart! Good assembling... Go team! Woo!

Great job, sweetheart! Good assembling…     Go team! Woo!

The construction of our first ever proper dining table (in 10 years) warranted a celebration. So we drank some fizz and spent a Saturday night in playing board games. It ain’t easy being this cool.

Medieval cities were constructed:

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Don’t hate the playa

Such larks! Sunday was another slow paced day in which further chairs were constructed (him) and more fizz was quaffed (me) and more games were played to celebrate not having anything to do. In the afternoon, Lyla tried out her Outdoor Feline Funhouse with mixed results. She liked the treats inside the funhouse, but was (rightly) suspicious that we might zip up the door and so didn’t stay in there for very long. She much prefers going out the apartment door to sit in the stairwell to exploring the balcony, with its view of lots of birds. Strange cat.

Trust no one.

Trust no one.

The evening was capped off with more games,

It's ok to be jealous...

It’s ok to be jealous…

more drinking,

Mmmm... tastes like regret

Mmmm… tastes like regret

and some bad-ass slow-cooked pulled pork (recipe courtesy of the fabulous Love Audrey, found here) with our secret BBQ sauce,

Yum yum pig's bum

Yum yum pig’s bum

and some more drinking, before settling down to watch Her. It was a pretty good movie, with a fascinating premise, but it was about an hour too long. Nonetheless, it was basically a pretty damn good Sunday.

If your Sunday evening didn't involve battling Commando Ghouls, I feel bad for you.

If your Sunday evening didn’t involve battling Commando Ghouls, I feel bad for you.

Come at me, Monday. I’m ready.

obama

Friday Five: Photos of Lyla

1. Lyla is our new cat, who we adopted five weeks ago.Image

2. She’s 11 years old, and has been a bit sickly, so we’ve treated her to a series of immune-system boosting treatments as well as a dental operation that removed 13 teeth. She has not been impressed by this.

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The horror… THE HORROR

3. Despite being in pain, she’s been an adorable companion, though doesn’t really get the concept of sharing desk space yet.

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a) Your essay is shit; I’m actually doing you a favour by obstructing the keyboard, and b) why are you drinking when the sun hasn’t even gone down yet? I’m judging you.

4. She gets all shy when she’s sleeping…

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Don’t look at my face! Look away, human!

5. And is generally completely adorable. Welcome, Lyla! Long may your reign over my desk continue. Image

I would like..

… to wear trousers in the depths of Swiss winter without looking like a bowling pin

… to be able to put tights on without getting sweaty from the effort of wrestling with them

… to buy and wear gorgeous vintage clothes that only come in petite sizes

… to buy and wear non-vintage clothes that fit well and are stylish, rather than being limited to what comes in XL

… to look great and feel great on my 30th birthday in three months

… to stop whinging about wanting to lose weight and actually lose weight

… to feel in control of what I eat and drink and have fewer ‘fuck it’ moments

Funny Confession Ecard: I have more food in my body than in my fridge.

So true…