La Soupe

November 27, 2012

Lately I’ve thought there’s something wrong with Google.  Every day I check their weather site and it says the sun is shining over Geneva.  I look outside and the sky is the colour of an old bruise.  It is grey and cloudy and sunshine is nowhere in sight.  ‘Google, you piece of useless rubbish.’ I’ve thought.  ‘What’s with the constant weather prediction duff ups?’

This cheerless, iron-dull sky has been sitting like a lid, a manhole cover over me for about three weeks.  It turns out that Google is correct and there is actually sun and blue sky everywhere, except over my head.  Well, except over my head and the Lake Geneva basin.  Apparently, around November, a blanket of clouds drifts in and plonks itself over the lake and part of its coast.  It hovers over the area and won’t budge until it rains, or the wind blows or the temperature changes drastically.  This thick, distinct layer of murky grey is known as ‘La Soupe’ (the soup).  The clouds invert the temperature so it feels cooler below them than above them.  You must go about 600m up the mountain, through the clouds and beyond them, for the warmer weather and clear skies.

Here’s a picture of what I have seen from my bedroom window for the past three weeks.  It reminds me of England.  Depressing, innit?

Every morning, when I open the blinds in the bedroom, I see fog and gloom and I start the day feeling foggy and gloomy.  I wish my moods weren’t so weather dependent.  If it is a bright, sunny day, then I feel chipper and there’s a spring in my step.  If it is constantly cloudy and miserable, then I am a bit flat.  This is why The Black Dog followed me around in London and I felt permanently grey and damp, just like the weather.

The problem with weather dependent moods is that it is not immediately obvious why you are merry or down in the dumps.  It is like that classic frog in hot water story that explains the best way to kill a frog is to place it in a pot and slowly raise the temperature.  If you chuck the frog in boiling water from the start, it will notice the heat and leap out the pot to save itself.  However, if you raise the heat gradually, the frog won’t jump out because the temperature difference is less distinct and it slowly cooks itself to death.  The thing about weather-related ‘flatness’ is that it creeps up on you and it takes some navel-gazing to pinpoint the cause of the bleakness, especially when things are going hunky dory and there’s absolutely no obvious, logical reason to feel depressed.

I shouldn’t allow weather to affect me so much but I can’t help it.  It is comforting for me to know that I am not the only person suffering in La Soupe.  Last Sunday, I saw a friend at church who responded, ‘depressed’, when I asked her how she was and she then explained that the fog and greyness were ‘slowing killing her’.

Many people do special trips in search of brightness and blue skies.  One of my friends said she took her kids up the mountain after school one day as they all needed to lighten their moods.  She said they were above the cloud for 45 minutes and that short time did wonders for their state of minds.  She said, ‘It will keep us going until the weekend.’  At my mother’s group on Tuesday, I asked one of the ladies how she manages in the fog and she said she is, ‘Totally depressed.  Why do you think I am here?’  So you see, it is not just me.

Last week, I could no longer take the gloom.  ‘Enough is enough’, I thought.

I was on a mission – I needed the sun. Megan and I drove up the mountain through fog that reminded me of misty, spongy English moors.  All of a sudden, I broke through the cloud curtain into blue sky and sun.  Hooray!  Instantly, I felt happier.  Megan and I had a great walk through St-Cergue, which is a little Swiss mountain village close to the French border.  The fresh air, exercise, blue skies and brightness did wonders for my mood.  At one point, I even skipped. As I drove down the hill, back into the fog, I felt as if I was holding my breath to go under water.  Hopefully my dose of sunshine will keep me going for a while longer.

This is a picture of the sunshine in St-Cergue on the same day that I took the photo of the fog outside my bedroom window:

This is ‘La Soupe’ which is the low cloud cover over the Lake Geneva basin.  I appreciate the beauty from above and not from below.  I feel better when I am on top of it and not when it is on top of me:

One of my friends suggested I may cope better with La Soupe if I imagined it as an analogy for life.  We humans sit here in the ‘fog’ on earth and assume that this is all there is.  We plod along without realizing that there is something better – blue sky and sunshine – above and beyond the greyness in which we live.

Some people say La Soupe is heaviest in November and others say it can last all winter.  What a thought!  If so, Megs and I will have to make regular trips up the mountain and through the cloud curtain in search of mood-enhancing sunshine.



November 17, 2012

It’s been a busy day.  It is 19h30 and Megan has just fallen asleep for the first time today (aside from a 30 minute power nap in the car).  I am spent, finished, shattered, knackered, kaput.  For the rest of the evening, I want to unwind by lying on the carpet like a starfish and then I want to vege out and stare at the ceiling.  Toast for dinner!

Today we drove across the border to France to do a big grocery shop because it is much cheaper than Switzerland.  Alastair slowly pushed Megan round the store while I zipped around like a hyperactive ant gathering supplies before she grew restless.

While I was loading the car, I realized my purple shirt was hanging open except for one button.  My white nursing bra was bared for all to see.  I am surprised no good Samaritan said anything to me.  I even helped a lady weigh her carrots and she didn’t say a word.  Maybe they thought that revealing my bra was part of my outfit, like some sort of camisole.  But, you know what, who cares!  Breasts are udders and nursing bras are not at all eye-catching or sexy.  Maybe no one even noticed and that’s why they didn’t say anything.  Anyway, sometimes I feel it is a waste to do up the buttons on my shirt if I am going to undo them 2 hours later when it’s the next feed.

We planned to go to a restaurant for lunch while we were in France.  These days we don’t eat out much so it is a big thrill when we do.  I’ve noticed restaurants in France are not at all baby-friendly.  They are dog-friendly though, which annoys me because I can’t understand why they welcome bouncing, crotch-sniffing yap dogs with open arms and look at prams with such disdain.  Babies are more hygienic and have the same noise potential as a dog, so what’s with the different treatment?

The last time Al, Megan and I ate out in France, the host banished us out of the way and gave us a crummy table by the door.  I asked if we could move somewhere away from the draught and he said, ‘No, it’s there or nowhere’.  Service in Europe sucks and the customer is not king.  There is no way North Americans would put up with that kind of shit but we are used to it by now.  So, because we were desperate for a break during which someone could prepare a meal for us, I wrapped Megs in a blanket and we ate our burgers in the draught.

Tomorrow I am hoping for some Me Time.  I adore my Megan and I love spending time with her but I just need 15 minutes to refuel myself by drinking a hot cup of tea while I check Facebook and read celebrity gossip in the Daily Mail.

I may try Al’s strategy.  He doesn’t know it, but I am on to him.  Since Megan’s birth, he spends more time in the bathroom.  So when I shout, ‘Al can you come and help me for a sec?’, he shouts back, ‘Sorry!  Can’t!  I’m in the bathroom!’ and then I don’t bother him further because, shame, he’s on the toilet.  At first I thought he was suffering from constipation or diarrhea but then I noticed he takes his iPad in with him.  I reckon our toilet is becoming a glorified chair for chilling and time out.

I don’t know why Megan won’t sleep during the day.  I’ve tried everything.  She NEEDS to sleep because her tiredness makes her grizzly and whiney.  She is happier when she takes little kips during the day.  I have realized I must help her.  I need to lead her to her sleep and then push her into it, like you would push someone into a swimming pool or over a cliff.  Yesterday I took her for two walks – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  By the time she fell asleep, my feet were smoking.  My mom said I was not a fan of sleeping during the day so maybe it’s payback time.

I hate to admit it but today I daydreamed about putting a bit of chloroform on some cotton wool and waving it under her nose.  Of course I wouldn’t do it, I just thought about it and I won’t take it further.  Anyway, I wouldn’t use a lot – just a little drop or two to knock her out for 15 minutes max, which is just enough time for me to put my feet up and finish a cup of tea.

I think my ultimate frustration with Megan’s reluctance to sleep is that I don’t have an opportunity to do my admin and chores.  I never make inroads into my to-do list.

On Tuesday at mother’s group, there was a lady with twins.  I asked her how she does it, how she gets things done and she answered, ‘I don’t.’  She said to-do lists are a waste of time and quite destructive as they make her feel she is not achieving anything when, in actual fact, she is doing something very worthwhile by pouring her time and attention into her two precious boys.  She said she expects to never get anything done so, when her children don’t sleep or they occupy her attention for the entire day, that’s ok because she never planned to do much else.  She said I should have one item on my to-do list – ‘Megan’ and that’s all.  That’s what I am going to do from now on.  If I get anything else done, it’s a bonus.

Boerewors and lemonade

November 7, 2012

My little Megan is not a fan of sleeping during the day.  If I’m lucky, she will have two or three short kips of about 20 minutes each, which gives me a chance to load the washing machine and make a cup of tea (but never enough time to drink it).  So, it is a miracle that I found the time to watch a 60-minute interview between JK Rowling and Charlie Rose.  Admittedly I watched it in the dead of night, which is the only opportunity I get for a bit of feet up, R&R and Me Time.

There were two things that I loved about this discussion.  Firstly, Jo Rowling spoke about the creative process, which is a topic I find endlessly fascinating.  What is inspiration?  How do average people with average backgrounds churn out amazing literature, works of art, business ideas etc?  How do people come up with the next big thing?

I love listening to interviews with people who have created something special.  I want to know how they did it, what steps they followed and from where they got the inspiration because sometimes I think, ‘If they did it, why can’t I?’

Rowling said that being creative is a choice. People misunderstand creativity and think that she is a successful author because she was lucky enough to take dictation from angels.  Creativity comes from hard work.  It is about building structure and discipline into your life so you can follow through with an idea.  She said that inspiration exists and she feels fortunate that the Harry Potter idea just popped into her head.  But, if she only wrote when she was inspired, she would have written a page and a half and never followed her glimmer of inspiration through to completion. Sometimes you need to run with an idea and just get on with it.

A real dinkum, van-die-plaas-af Afrikaans guy lives near us and makes boerewors for a living.  He is the only place in Switzerland where homesick Saffas can get decent sausage.  He is starting to import groceries from South Africa and I know he will make good money.  I thought, ‘Damn.  Why didn’t I think of importing SA goods into Switzerland?  Why didn’t I do that first?’  The thing is that his new venture is more about roll-up-the-sleeves hard work than supernatural, airy fairy motivation and inspiration.  If I had had a similar idea, I know I wouldn’t have followed it through.  He had a small fleck of inspiration and ran with it.  He just got on with it, as Rowling said successful and creative people tend to do.

Now for the best, most inspiring part of the interview.  JK Rowling’s beloved mother died before the first Harry Potter book was published.  She never saw anything of her daughter’s fame or success.  Rowling never even told her mom about her idea.  Charlie Rose asked her, ‘Do you feel sad that your mother never got to read Harry Potter or see anything of what you have achieved in life?’

Rowling’s response gave me goosebumps.  She said that of course she wishes her mother was still alive but she has realized that it was precisely because of her mother’s death that she has achieved so much.  She said that if her mother had lived, the Harry Potter books would not be what they are and they may not even exist.

It was because of her mother’s death that Rowling made a series of life decisions that led to her completing the first Harry Potter.  When she looks back at the trajectory of her life, she realizes with hindsight that the soul-corroding, teeth-grinding pain of her mother’s death put her in a predicament where she had no other option but to take writing seriously.  The pain and darkness in her past pushed her into some big life decisions that mean she is happy now and has hope for her future.

Her mother gave her things in living and, in dying, she believes her mother gave her Harry Potter.  Her death made the Potter books darker, deeper and richer.  She believes the books would have been different had her mother lived and maybe they wouldn’t have been as popular.  She said that sometimes life throws us things that are dark, atrocious and painful but you can get through them.  Jo Rowling is a powerful testimony to the possibility and hope behind the saying:  When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.