Sometimes I feel as if I could rain

June 27, 2012

A French-speaking lady left a high-speed, 10 second voice message on my cell phone.  I have spent the last 15 minutes trying to decipher it.  I have replayed it at least 10 times and I may need to repeat it a few more.  I could ask a native French speaker to listen to it and help me.  But I won’t.  No, I’ve decided.  I want to do this myself.  After a year of language lessons, I should know what’s potting in a short voice message and I must translate it on my own, even if it takes a couple of hundred replays.  Besides, the last time I asked my boss to help me decipher a phone message, it was from a recruiter, asking if I was still looking for a new job and could I send over my CV.  It was a bit awkward.

I have more or less understood the gist of the message but the problem is figuring out how to call this lady back.  She left a telephone number and that is the challenge.  The French numbering system is so complicated.  Beyond 70, numbers are broken down into parts and this demands rapid mental arithmetic.  The French must be very clever people. 

For example, 70 is soixante-dix which is translated as sixty ten.  98 is quatre-vingt-dix-huit which is a mouthful and is four, twenty, ten, eight (98 = 4 X 20 plus 10 plus 8).  The French stick to this long-winded route but the Swiss and Belgians have simplified matters and will say that 98 is nonante-huit which is translated as ninety eight, like English.  That doesn’t help me because I live so close to the French border and so I must know both systems.

When people leave phone numbers, they tend to group the digits into groups of two.  They do not say, ‘Call me back on 3-2-2-6-7-8-9-1.’  I could cope with that.  Instead they say, ‘Call me back on 32-26-78-91’.  When they say the 78, I am not sure if they mean the number 78 (as in 2 digits in the phone number) or 60 and then 18, which would be 4 digits of the phone number.  It could be either.  That is why I must listen to messages what feels like 1,000 times.

My French has improved over the past year.  I have my good days and bad days but I can get my point across albeit with a lot of flapping around.  Hallelujah!  Breakthrough!  So what if I look like a highly-strung, ruffled bird when I speak! 

I take two different buses to get home every afternoon.  The other day, I hopped on the first bus outside my office and, when I sat down, I realized that the driver gave me the wrong ticket which meant I could not transfer to my second bus and get all the way home. 

The bus started moving and I waddled to the front, taking my fat 7 month belly with me.  For the rest of the journey, the driver and I discussed my ticket while the bus rocked back and forth like a ship on a stormy sea.  I couldn’t hold on to anything because I needed my two hands for communication so I spread my legs apart and squatted into a ballet plié for optimum balance while I talked to him in his glass driving booth.  I explained my predicament.  He said I had the right ticket, I said I had the wrong ticket.  I said he made a mistake, he said I made a mistake.  He didn’t understand.  ‘How can I make this man get my point?’ I thought.  So, I spoke louder.  On and on it went. 

The other passengers clutched their handbags and briefcases on their laps and watched as if I was providing entertainment from the front.  Surely they could see my distress?  No one bothered to help me.  One thing I’ve noticed about the Swiss is that they generally don’t give a hoot about pregnant people on public transport. 

When we stopped at the station, everyone got off the bus while I stayed behind and breathlessly explained that I needed a new, different ticket and I was not prepared to pay more for it.  I was just about to unleash my final French negotiation tool (tears) when the driver finally reprinted my ticket – the correct one – and I skipped off with glee.  I can’t describe the elation I feel every time I conquer a French challenge like that.  And the best part was that I did it all on my own, with no help from anyone.  I felt like the Little Red Hen.  In my head I sung that war cry from school days ‘V-I-C.  V-I-C-T-O-R-Y.  Victory victory is my cry.  V-I-C-T-O-R-Y.’

But, as I have said many times before, I can’t get a big head.  French won’t allow it.  I have now finished my Wednesday evening language classes which were run by the local supermarket.  They were brilliant.  My Italian teacher was a great French instructor.  I was so sad that the lessons were over and saying goodbye to my teacher made me a little tearful.  At the end of the final class, I said (in French), ‘Rita, I loved these classes and I am so upset the lessons are finished.  I feel as if I want to rain’.

You see, just when I start to fancy myself and think, ‘Julie my girl, you are the bomb’, then I say something whacked and off-the-wall and I realize I still have a lot to learn.


Everything will be okay in the end

June 22, 2012

One of my friends put this sign/picture up on their Facebook wall.  It is so simple yet it struck a chord with me.  My life is plodding along calmly at the moment but some people I know have been going through rough times.  I understand that we are guaranteed to have both battles and blessings.  As a Christian, at least we know how the overall story finishes – our struggles are temporary and everything will be ok in the end.  It helps if you keep the final chapter in mind when you are passing through what feels like life’s wood-chipper.


Pregnancy: An Update

June 12, 2012

Some people have asked me to write more about my pregnancy.  I don’t have anything wildly interesting to say yet.  Nothing major has happened.  This is good and I am endlessly grateful that things have been easy so far.

Nevertheless, here’s an update:

Boy or girl?

I don’t know what sex the baby is but people speculate it is a boy.  One thing I have learned during these 7 months is that everyone has an opinion and the general consensus is that I am growing a little penis inside me.  I can’t help myself but I have started to imagine him.  I imagine changing his nappy.  I imagine feeding him.  I imagine him smiling.  I imagine his urgent, towering desires.  I imagine him bellowing at me, tight fisted and red-faced with his chubby legs kicking up and down like angry pistons.

I want a healthy baby so I don’t care what gender it is.  Maybe a teeny tiny part of me hopes for a girl.  This is only because people say that a daughter is a daughter for life and a son is a son until he finds a wife.

Learning the ropes

I start pre-natal classes soon.  We will learn about the Swiss medical system, pain relief, birth options, breastfeeding etc.  One English midwife said she could give me a private lesson for an evening and in that time, I would learn everything I need to know.  ‘Are you sure about that?’ I asked, unconvinced.  I settled on a longer course in Lausanne because I want to meet other moms-to-be so that we can become BFFs and have tea parties and push prams together along the lakeshore.

I also need to clear up a few mild neuroses and an evening will not suffice.  One fear is that after I have blasted my baby through my hips, nurses will take it away to clean it and they may inadvertently swop it with someone else’s.  All babies look the same – blue and shrivelled – so it can easily happen, can’t it?  I am worried I will be too zonked to know the difference.  I need someone to allay my fears and explain the internal controls in the maternity ward.

Goodbye sleep

 I can’t sleep properly anymore.  I used to sleep dead but now I wake up often during the night.  I like sleeping on my back but this no longer works so I twist round and round all night like a rotisserie chicken.

I am smashed with tiredness which is strange because I don’t overexert myself at work.  I take hourly trips to the bathroom because the walk keeps me awake.  These frequent toilet visits mean I have weakened my bladder control which is a problem at night.  It is a vicious circle.

Goodbye baths

From now on, it’s showers only.  I love soaking in a hot bath, with my face and the tip of my swollen belly poking out of the water as if I am a happy hippo.  I can’t bath anymore because, while I can flop into the water (with a big splash), I can no longer get up out of it.


Leg cramps are an unfortunate side effect of pregnancy.  On Friday night, I drifted off to sleep and later jack-in-the-boxed up, screaming.  I was paralysed with blinding agony and poor Al had to frantically stretch and rub my leg through his thick, sleepy fog.  Waking up to a cramp is scary and very sore.

Cell phones and long walks

Now I can’t exercise on my own without taking a cell phone with me.  Most days, I trot around the neighbourhood, just me and my iPod.  The other day, I walked far from home and realized I was faint and didn’t have the energy for the journey back.  I pumped myself with positive selftalk – ‘You can do it Julie.  You can do it’ – as I waddled all the way home.

Babies are expensive

I haven’t got any baby supplies yet, other than those things I received as gifts.  Everything is so expensive.  The massive upfront outlay on prams, cots, changing tables etc is a shock to the system.  It is worth having more than one child to get a better return on the initial investment.

I have discovered two second hand shops.  I always poo poo’ed shopping at the Salvation Army but we live in a just-throw-it-away culture and I can get almost new clothes, books and toys at bargain prices.  I won’t buy certain things such as bedding second hand (could cause cot death, so I’ve heard) but I am unwilling to blow money on fancy, new outfits that my child will wear once or twice.  I’ve been told that the three most important things a child needs are security, self-worth and significance.  My child will get these in abundance but while wearing a babygrow from the Salvation Army or the local hypermarket, and not from Ralph Lauren.


During my recent holiday in Greece, I had a disturbing realization.  I don’t like kids.  Not all kids, just badly behaved ones.  I understand that little children are a tangled mass of desires and needs and they want THIS and they want it NOW.  But I am stunned by the number of 21st century parents who pander to their children’s unreasonable whims and worship them like they are Little Buddhas.

During the dinner buffet at our hotel, a toddler’s naughty cries reverberated throughout the room.  I didn’t want to eat my souvlaki with a side of scream, thank you very much.  I feel that because I am pregnant, I am obliged to cootchy-coo at all kids and pat them on the head.  I want to tap them on the head, but sometimes with a pick axe.  Why does one wild child get to ruin dinner for over 60 adults?

Alastair and I have agreed that after 18h00, children must be seen and not heard.  Many friends have rolled their eyes when I say this and one even asked me if she could have my parenting plans in writing, like on an affidavit so she could hold me to it.  Children these days need more discipline.  Maybe I am too idealistic, too pie-in-the-sky.  I don’t know.  Time will tell.

That’s all folks!  It turned out I had more to say than I thought.

Coming soon:  In a future post I will tell you about a lady I met who ate her placenta (cooked, not raw).  Very interesting!