Thursday, 28 February 2008

Good Friendship and Good Fortune

We got some great news a few months ago. Two of our oldest friends Marc and Nathalie were moving to Geneva with the Royal Bank of Canada. While living in Calgary, we passed many, many happy hours together walking our beloved retrievers, sharing long dinners, and playing cards. They are Murphy’s other family and the only dog-sitters she had ever known.

Nat is my super-stylish girlie-girlfriend. She’s the one I went clothes shopping with (she’d always tell me if my bum looked too big!), drank frozen bellinis with, and faithfully perused the annual In Style ‘100 Best Products of the Year’ with. In spite of her poise, she was (and is) as crude as a dockworker and made me laugh until I peed…her antics at Calgary’s El Sombrero restaurant remains the stuff of legend.

As native Montrealers, we also shared a similar history. We understood their pining for the Plateau Mont Royal, and they understood our affection for the Monkland Village. We all attended Concordia University at various times in our lives, and could all wax lyrically about les chiens chauds and poutine from La Belle Province.

When we moved to Geneva, leaving friends like Marc and Nat behind was wrenching. Our friendship, however, forged over years of shared experience and much mirth endured. We all had familiarity nurturing long-distance friendships.

Marc and Nat arrived in Geneva about a month ago, and the smile hasn’t left their faces (or ours) yet. From the pleasure of restaurants and shops welcoming separation-anxious Ben (did I mention their 100+ pound Labrador?), to their fabulous new apartment in Geneva’s old town, to our renewed long retriever rambles; their experience so far has been nothing short of fantastic.

Nat and I have lunch together every Thursday in a different part of Geneva and together we toast to good friendship and good fortune.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

(No) Sense and Sensibility

I never used to consider myself particularly sentimental. My pragmatic sarcastic side was usually dominant. But sometime around 5 years ago something changed and now without notice, I find myself reduced to a weepy undignified heap on an uncomfortably regular basis.

Films like The Notebook, or An Affair to Remember are lethal. Oh and don’t even get me started on my behaviour during a climactic scene of Grey’s Anatomy Season 2 “I know you’ll be fine…but Denny, what about meeeeeeee?”- wrenching stuff.

I once fled the room shrieking (I’m not kidding) during a Walt Disney movie about a yellow Labrador who fell off a bridge trying to protect his young master (the dog was fine and swam to safety, my bemused husband later informed me).

But nothing quite compares to last night’s mortification. I was aimlessly flicking the television remote control whilst waiting for my toenail polish to dry and happened upon the schmaltzy classic ‘Love Story’. It was the definitive scene. With the music at a crescendo, a dying Jennifer bravely tells her young husband “it doesn’t hurt Ollie, really it doesn’t”. My eyes welled. By the time she called him “her god&!#@ stupid preppie” (a timeless line if ever spoken) and gracefully slipped off into that good night, I was into unprecedented full body convulsions.

I guess motherhood did this to me (damn hormones). I didn’t see it coming but I have to admit “my name is Cxxxxxxx and I am a schmaltz junkie”.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Winter in Geneva

Snowdrops and crocuses February 17, 2008

Do I miss brisk 6-months long Canadian winters with -30 temperatures and frigid winds - uh not so much!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Mr. Clean or is that Monsieur Propre?

Scene: The cleaning products aisle of the grocery store.
Characters: 4-year old J who rarely accompanies 40-something mum to grocery store.

Jack wanders the aisle absently but face suddenly lights up when spies a familiar bottle...

J: "Look mummy, this promises to remove rust and limescale".

Mummy: confused look, mouth drops open

J carries on down the aisle, face lights up again when spots a familiar pink box...

J: "Look mummy, this will leave our washing crystal white".

Morale of the story - reduce number of hours of BBC viewed by 4-year old or pre-register him in marketing program of local university.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

If a Tree Falls in the Forest...

...and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? It was the sound heard around a village. Our lovely village is surrounded by several country paths frequented by joggers, dog walkers and folk out for a stroll. One in particular we use regularly. It is the start of my run, it is Murphy's daily walk, it is J's favorite quick bike ride.

During a fierce wind storm a few months ago, a majestic 200-year old oak tree fell along that path and our village mourned a lost friend. Villagers trooped out to visit the felled giant, letters of poetry were left among its shedding bark. Children swarmed over its exposed gnarly roots and gentle arms. We dubbed it 'the climbing tree' and it became a destination. But what happened next was both unexpected and quite magical.

A local wood sculptor arrived with chainsaws, woodfiles, varnish and an overflowing bucket of talent. Slowly this amazing man transformed that hunk of deadwood into a work of art. He lovingly crafted images of all creatures beholden to an oak tree. A tapping woodpecker, a squirrel eating an acorn, a proud owl, and several oak leaves, acorns and mushrooms adorned the tree trunk. A rabbit shyly peaked through a hole. A frog crouched in a corner. A beetle burrowed into the wood.

Throughout this tiny wooden community, the sculptor fashioned benches and a small winding stairway to a tiny arena of oaken seats for an audience to contemplate the surrounding fields, vineyards and alpen views.

Our 'climbing tree' has become something of a local celebrity. A constant stream of people and cars arrive to marvel at its loveliness. Its majesty once more restored, this proud old chene tree is having a happy ending.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

When I grow up, I want to drive a SnowCat

Jack, Will, Maddie, Adam, Mattie, and Evelyn

Monday, 4 February 2008

Life was pretty good at 1172 meters too!

Yesterday, I was so caught up in the joy of skiing that I neglected to mention the joy of eating and the joy of friendship that is also part of the the annual Mxxx-Hendricks ski holiday experience.

Let's start with the evenings of blind champagne-tasting contests. Melissa and Kirk kindly transferred this New Year's Eve tradition to our ski holiday. Last year's winner was a Bollinger, this year's a Moet & Chandon. The champagne is almost always followed by outstanding bottles of wine from our respective caves (ie bomb shelters) in a continual effort at one-upmanship.
Melissa and I planned the menu weeks before our holiday in painstaking detail with ample sophistication to appeal to the adults but also varied enough to interest our younger set. Our evenings were raucous with much laughter though puncutated by the inevitable 'stay in your seat', and 'don't speak with your mouth full'.

Our kids, 4-year old J and Mighty Mouse, and 7-year old Emma the Brave are the greatest of friends. They loved racing back and forth between our respective chalets to play, and spent many hours trudging as a trio faithfully up our sledging hill and screaming with delight back down it. The girls were J's real inspiration to ski...he wanted to keep up to them.

Skiing together was the perfect puzzle. Sometimes the two families stayed together, sometimes we strayed. Sometimes the men sped toward some distant trail together, sometimes we followed but regardless, Melissa and I always had each other's back.

In the mid-18th century, Boswell wrote "Friendship, the wine of life, should, like a well-stocked cellar, be continually renewed". Well, same time... same place... next year.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Heaven is at 2002 meters

We just returned from a week's ski holiday at Les Gets in France with our friends, the Mxxxx's. With J having just figured out how to ski, we were hoping for a good week. We got an exceptionally great week!
Less than one month ago, J was still balking at snowplowing down the bunny runs. Yesterday I chased him down reds. (For you other North Americans, red runs are after the blues and before the blacks). Skiing as a family down long sugary runs in the mild air listening to J's whoops of joy was an incredible experience.

I remember a conversation with my best pal Sheila. While lamenting J's of enthusiasm for skiing, she said to me..."be patient, the day will come when you spend all your time skiing after him hollering to slow down and turn". I doubted ever seeing that day. Well, I did a whole lot of hollering yesterday.

J proudly earned his Flocon medal from the Ecole de Ski Francais and wore it like a hard-won badge of honour. Congratulations buddy, well-done!