Ladies with Bifocals and Cows with Bells


I’ve just spent a week in France with the parentals! It was a fairly relaxing week… I guess helping mum to decide on what colour to paint the new bathroom and tromping around every bathroom store known to the French and Swiss people (they live near Geneva) for a suitable mirror is somewhat more relaxing than thinking about my own household issues!

I took part in the obligatory “meet my mum’s friends parade” – members of the United Nations Women’s Guild no less – which is always something I detest in theory but in practice it is never as bad. I brace myself for the introduction; practice my smile, my handshake and my most charming “it’s a pleasure to meet you”. I’m then likely to be lavished with kisses, two if it’s a French friend or three if it’s a Swiss friend, and plenty of ‘OH its wonderful to finally meet you, I’ve heard so much about you’. .. to which my response is “oooh I do hope its ALL good ha ha ha”

On this particular occasion I met two lovely ladies who managed to coerce me into attending the weekly UNWG hiking group which my mother runs. “It would be lovely to have you along, it’s an easy 3 hour hike this week, hurrah”

Well, the UNWG is primarily made up of over 60’s with a handful of ladies who are on the approach. It was insightful to say the least – adorned with bifocals, large print maps, walking sticks, first aid kits, medicines for cramp and most importantly a variety of edible goodies (for energy) we set off up a mountain. It was slow, steady progress…plenty of stops to catch your breath or to wait for the less energetic members of the group to catch up. Stop for a banana break here, a dried fruit break there, stop to search for a pair of lost glasses, someone quips ‘are we going the right way?’, stop to consider the direction. We double back on ourselves, “where’s so and so?”, stop to wait for her to catch up… it goes on and 3 hours turns into 6!

The walk was pretty tough and the descent in my mind was particularly treacherous. At half their age, I was struggling with sore knees, unsuitable footwear and keeping upright. I couldn’t bear to watch as some ladies teetered dangerously close to the edge of a steep drop. Every time I heard the sound of sliding gravel under foot I half expected to have my feet whipped out from under me in a ball of bifocals, rucksacks and dried fruit, then plunge to my death. But thankfully there were only a few wet bottoms and no major incidents. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty grim with heavy mist and drizzle so I can’t regale you with stories of awe inspiring vistas.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting insight into my mum’s generation! There was lots of raucous laughter (which hindered the wildlife spotting) and plenty of debate about how girls these days wore G-strings, memory loss, which part of the body is malfunctioning and whether it was good or bad to be offered a seat on the bus. My interpretation of the offer or don’t offer scenario is:

If a lady is in a good mood its bad – “how dare someone assume I’m not young enough or healthy enough to stand on my own two feet”. BUT, if a lady is carrying lots of heavy bags, feeling tired and grouchy then a nice, pre warmed seat is welcomed.

The week was good fun and was rounded off with a visit from L who was suffering from a raging cold and had just finished a week nights at the hospital. On arrival, hardly two words were exchanged before she slinked off for a cat nap and some well deserved rest.

The next morning we were up early to engage in all things Swiss. Des Alpes is an annual festival where the cows are herded down from the mountains for the winter but not before they are made to look utterly ridiculous. Christmas trees covered in paper flowers are tied to their heads and huge bells slung around their necks before they are paraded down the streets crammed with spectators. There are mountain dogs pulling milk floats, alp horns, yoddlers and St. Bernards carrying barrels of whisky around their neck – it’s a bizarre site and this photo doesn’t do it justice:

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