I’m over winter now. I’m weary of the snow, the white, the bare trees, the cold and the damp. Summer, I’m sorry I complained about you last year. Come back – all is forgiven.
The Black Dog always appears in winter, particularly in February. What is it about February? October and November are bearable because of the pretty autumn colours and the start of winter heralds a break from gardening, less pressure to shave my legs, the arrival of pumpkins in the shops and no flies (I was killing about 30 every night in the height of summer). December is not bad either because there is the build up to Christmas and the anticipation and thrill of the first snowfall. January is survivable because I have a reservoir of stamina and buoyancy leftover from the Christmas season.
By February, my tank is empty. This year has been particularly gruelling with the metre high snow, the icy winds and the subsequent problems with our roof. I’m glad we have insurance. One Sunday evening, there was an almighty bang and an avalanche of snow, ice and some roof tiles crashed to the ground. Our metal snow barrier buckled and broke and the repairman said he can only fix it in the spring once the weather improves. It snowed again after that which made entering and leaving the house stressful as I didn’t want to get bopped on the head with sliding ice or roof tiles.
Another problem with February is that by now I’ve run out of ways to occupy Megan. She hates the cold and is too young for winter sports. My friends feel the same. One of my mates said she is ‘lonely and stir-crazy’. Another said that if the winter weather forces her into further isolation, she will ‘slit her wrists’. Another friend was desperate so she inflated a jumping castle in the basement and then invited us over. It was the best playdate ever!
This week was the half-term school holiday which reduced my entertainment options even more. Places are either closed over the break or activities exclude me because they cater for children aged three and older. My Swiss neighbour said that the reason there are so few activities for kids is because most Swiss/French mothers work so they don’t crave entertainment as the expats do.
‘What about the library?’ my mom asked.
Even that is closed. It baffles me that libraries shut for the holidays because surely that is the time when they would be most useful. My local library is closed the whole of July and August, can you believe it?
Speaking of libraries, I must tell you that recently I almost got a job as a librarian. My dream job! Libraries are my happy place and I love the studious, muted feel of them. Shortly after writing my post on Edible Books, a friend saw a job advertisement taped to the window of the village patisserie and suggested I apply. It asked for people to work part-time in the little, one-room local library.
My imagination fizzed and bubbled and I began to heavily fantasize about how great it would be to have a rewarding part-time job. When I meet new people and they ask, ‘Do you work?’ then I could reply, ‘Yes! Of course!’ And when they ask, ‘What do you do?’ I could say, ‘I’m a librarian.’
I would not just be any old librarian, but a French one too. The duties included handling registrations, answering the phone, putting books back on the shelf, tidying up and locking the door. When I enquired about the job, they said they would ponder my application which surprised me because I am a chartered accountant. Then I remembered that a premier business qualification is no guarantee of invincibility and anyway, some of the dumbest people I ever met were qualified CAs. So I just said, ‘No problem.’
The downside of a job as the village librarian is that I wouldn’t get paid, which is not ideal as jobs go. These types of roles are always unpaid and done by bénévoles or volunteers. My French teacher said they have the same system in France. That is why library opening times are often inconvenient and random and they are almost always shut over the school holidays. They open when the librarians are available so my local library is only open 3 times a week for about 2 hours at a time.
This blows my mind. I can’t understand why libraries are run by volunteers when Switzerland is a wealthy country and can afford to pay fulltime librarians. Most of the books at our local library appear donated. Sometimes I open the cover and it says something like, ‘Dear Celine. Happy Christmas! Love Granny.’ The shelves are also almost bare. Either they have so many clients who have taken out books (which I doubt) or they just don’t have a big stock.
I was hoping to work one afternoon a week and take the children with me. I imagined Megan sitting quietly at my feet paging through books while Jessica cooed and gurgled next to her. I thought this would be possible since the Swiss are open to taking dogs to restaurants, libraries and shopping centres so I assumed I could take my two pets, my children, along as well.
That part of my fantasy was delusional. After our last horrific excursion to the library when Megan galloped through the aisles and skidded round bookshelf corners, I realized she is a lot less well-behaved than the average Swiss dog and I couldn’t possibly take her to work with me.
So, my librarian fantasy dissolved and vanished and I’ve made peace with the fact that for now, my focus is narrow and on my children and I’ll be a French librarian in a few years’ time when they are older.
On another note, I am so proud that for the first time ever, I am keeping my new year’s resolution and we are faithfully writing down our happy moments every day. It is exercises like these that remind me that although winter is becoming a drag, I really have nothing worth complaining about.