Good News for Fat People Who Can’t Sleep

If you’re a skinny person who sleeps like a baby for a solid 8 hours every night, then don’t even bother to read this. You don’t need my handy health tips and medical reassurance. At least, not at the moment.

In this house, watching evening TV is a normally-pleasant communal activity. The ritual of the Swiss news, the French news, the international news, the weather, more weather, a movie, a series or two usually keeps us going until the sun has long gone down. The big friendly TV is our window on the world and all the lights are blazing. We are alive and active. Sort of.

Dragging our sorry asses up to bed at about 11:00 (I’ve usually already fallen asleep on the couch) I am told not to snore, and then sleep overwhelms me until about 2:30 a.m.

 And then comes then comes that terrible bit.

Unless seriously jet-lagged, I have always taken this next hour or two of wakefulness as a physical and psychological failure. Tossing and turning, trying to read, worrying about the state of my sock drawer, anxious about being awake, hoping I manage to nod off before the sun comes up—I had thought was unnatural and seriously unhealthy.

I have now learned that I am the victim of light bulbs. Prehistoric, and even preindustrial, humans went to bed shortly after the sun went down or the candles ran out (depending on your wealth), you then slept for a bit. Then you indulged in a spot of dorveille. During the “watch” praying, interpreting your dreams, sex, writing, singing, meditation, visiting neighbours and burglary were popular activities. You then crawled back under the feathers until the sun came up. This, it seems, was healthy and natural.


So, that’s my first spot of good news. Lying awake in the middle of the night is GOOD for you.

And then it just gets better and better. In today’s paper a very large, lengthy and serious Danish study published in the JAMA has shown that people who have a body mass index of 27 (which means pleasantly plump in laymen’s terms) live longer than everyone else. They actually die less from everything!

Now this is cheerful information indeed. My two helpings of potatoes I had for supper and the banana cream ice-cream I’m now considering suddenly seem like healthy life-style choices.

Dusk is settling. I will prepare my Alpine herbal infusion and hit the sack. I will revel in my dorveille, and awake refreshed and relaxed for a day filled with bread and butter, pickled herring, frikadeller (meat balls), and leverpostej (liver paste). I’ve even put akvavit on my shopping list.

We all know the next study is going to show that the BMI number is completely irrelevant and it is their Viking food that is keeping the Danes all going forever. I’m one step ahead of them on this.



Down in the Dumps

Well, you cannot trust anything anymore. The greatest fun in Geneva of a Sunday was always a trip to the cantonal dump. It’s a glorious place; full of action, excitement and true human drama.

After your bucolic drive through the Geneva countryside filled with colza blooms, dripping wisteria, and fields attesting to great human activity and endeavour, you must then pass through two important signposted gates (reminiscent of a penitentiary) and then negotiate your way up the ramp.

Much like an inverted Roman arena, this circular spot on top of the crown of a little artificial hill is the centre of the action. Various huge containers are spoked out below invitingly signposted as to desiring glass, wood, iron, building rubble, electrical things–and you actually get to pitch your worn-out objects down into the bins with glee, noise and panache.

garbage things

This exercise is entirely satisfactory. Much like throwing Christians to the lions, one would think.

Old beds, old computers, old lawn furniture, are all grist to the mill. The only forbidden item is entire cars. You must not simply drive your old banger into the appropriate bin. This is a bit of a pity, but to make up somewhat, tires, batteries, metal, oil, and bulky objects are all allowed. So, you just have to take your car apart.

There is even an audience. Not only are other citizens taking an active interest in your rubbish, and your hauling/dragging/swearing abilities, but the décharge employees also have their eye on you, as your antics backing up the ramp with your trailer full of oddities has captured their full attention.

However, today there has been a hideous surprise. This morning’s car full of interesting things—a compressor that has compressed its inner organs into jelly, garden chairs that have slowly turned into rust buckets, and an exercise bike that has been pedalled into oblivion—have all had a nice drive to the dump, but have also come back home.

A new sign has been placed on the second gate at the dump (the first entry gate was wide open) announcing new hours – afternoons only!

Rechecking the official web-site, the information is profuse and varied and like Alice in Wonderland invites the belief of at least six impossible things before breakfast: open mornings and afternoons; closed on the weekends and open on Saturdays and Sundays; open on afternoons and Saturdays; open all the time and only ever truly really completely shut on Christmas and New Year’s days.

This is a truly shocking and confusing development. So, in a saddened state of mind, we will try to capture an afternoon dump moment one day soon. The car must remain locked with the old treasures all safely inside.

These are the chosen ones and, like a smile-without-a-cat, their destiny is assured.







I have a hedge. It has a monstrous life of its own filled with birds and cats and caterpillars and cobwebs, and stands fat and strong between my jungle-garden and the race-course road where people travel at top speed towards town in the mornings. The trajet home is even faster as who wants to miss their apero?  They are going so fast that it seems they have never noticed the speed limit which is a clearly-posted, sedate 30 kph through the village.

And now it seems that one of these drivers has complained about my hedge impeding their vitesse while sailing over the speed bumps around the corner. There is also a neighbour who is also a possible suspect. Anyway. I’ve been busted, yet again, by the hedge police.

This time they’ve even sent coloured photos: a set of four. In them the hedge looks quite perky and healthy. In the background, over the road is the ugly house that was built in the nature reserve. Needless to say, they do not have a hedge, so are possibly jealous of mine.

largest-yew-treeAnyway, we are routinely busted by the hedge police as both height and width of roadside verdure are strictly regulated and seriously enforced. A young city-slicker usually arrives with a clipboard and an attitude. Long conversations with cantonal officials have resulted in civil engineers surveying our property, the hedge, and the road. We keep winning (Geneva has stolen a bit of our land to widen their road) and the hedge keeps growing. Nothing else happens.

One of my summertime jobs in Canada was pruning baby Christmas trees, so I consider myself something of a pro when it comes to pruning. Needless to say, I never get to stand on the ladder or use the electric trimmers except as a special treat. I’m the orange leaf-rake and green compost-bag girl. I push the communal garden refuse container into place. I snip the odd branch with the old-fashioned, dull, wooden-handled shears.

So, I will pay my annual respects to my hedge. I will clip the fragrant wet cedar, spruce, laurel and other hedge-bushes that I don’t know the names of. I will work diligently for an hour or two and fill the compost bin and revel in a feeling of deep satisfaction. I will have a bath in water that will become like the insides of a China tea pot – flecked with green leaves and mysterious brown bits.

I will obey the Geneva Ordinance of the Roads dated April 28, 1967, L1 10, article 70 et al. and will (temporarily) be back in from my walk on the wild side of the law.


Wilhelmina Tell

I’ve just walked a bit of the Swiss Path and it almost killed me. Constructed jointly by the 26 cantons for the 700th birthday of Switzerland in 1991, it is a steeply glorious thing—35 kilometers of lovely Swiss tricks and treats.

First of all there is pure beauty. When the sun is shining, the backdrop is that of soaring mountains, blue skies, white summits and grey craggy drop-offs. However, the multiple pylon grids with their looping power lines probably look better in winter than in summer as snow would tend to camouflage them somewhat.

The belle-époque lake boats slide smoothly through the turquoise waters. Just the sight of their massive white magnificence coming to rest beside the Schiller stone can make tourists (well, the ones that did not grow up watching The Lone Ranger) start excitedly humming the William Tell Overture.

The flower-filled meadows tinkle merrily with cow bells. Much like electronic cars, the cows are perhaps moving forward into a silent future. Animal-rights activists have declared cow-bells disruptive to the animals’ inner peace and innate tranquility causing possible psychological damage, turned milk, and irritable cow syndrome.

TellDenkmal2The Swiss Army is subtly present. There are fewer screaming low-flying fighter jets than there used to be; however, the bunkers and mysteriously-numbered concrete constructions along the way are interestingly ominous. Swiss lore has it that whole mountains have been hollowed out and are filled with the Swiss Air Force planes (with pilots) ready to scramble straight south towards Italy or north towards Germany on the drop of a pin.

The juxtaposition of the old and the new is also breathtaking. One of the oldest wooden buildings in Europe (a farm house dated 1348) is just across the road from a carefully disguised (as another old farm building) space-age stainless steel toilet with rolls of sparkling white toilet paper. This is a god-send for anyone who has had too much pro-biotic Swiss yogurt for breakfast.

There are picnic tables, BBQ grills with already-split wood, crosses, shrines, grottos, chapels, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Ayurveda Health Centre, dangerous slippery icy spots, vitaparcours (to be strenuously avoided), red wood benches with fine views, and many many cheerful hikers all wishing you a hale and hearty “Gruezi-mitenand!”

Sitting waiting for the train to take us back to Brunnen, I was so delighted and exhausted that if someone had put an apple on my head and shot it off I don’t think I would even have noticed.

How to Live Forever

If you don’t get bitten by one of the millions of poisonous snakes on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa you will live a long, long life.  Centenarians abound.

This has been attributed to the food: purple sweet potatoes, canola oil, tofu, ginko nuts, vegetables, konbu seaweed, squid and octopus. Fish and Vitamin D from the sunshine also help. Add to this their famous healthy black sugar and a little bit of Okinawa pork belly which is quite good for you.

Old-Lady-Drinking-WineJasmin tea, turmeric supplements, and hitami lemon all help tremendously.

Their philosophy for eating stipulates that you do not eat to bursting point, but stop when you feel 80% full. This is called hara hachi-bu. And in Okinawa, there is no word for retirement. You continue working until you stop permanently. The population is not stressed by time, and Okinawans live in a perpetual state of sun-kissed contentment.

But what really keeps you going for a century is the Okinawan salt. It is sea water salt extracted by using a natural temperature instant evaporation technique. It is full of potassium, zinc, iron, copper, and manganese. There’s even a plan for taking the sodium chloride out of it to make it the first super-healthy non-salt salt. It actually lowers the blood pressure, and as the island is unendingly battered by storms the magic sea-salt is in the air at all times. Baby Okinawans absorb its goodness from the day they are born.

Now, living in the Geneva countryside we are going to have to mix and mingle some of these exotic products and techniques into our new improved health regime. It’s a bit like moving the furniture around in the house. I will change my tea to Jasmin and see if the vegetable barn lady has purple potatoes. The fragrant clouds of grilling squid and octopus are bound to surprise and delight my neighbours this summer.

I will go for a troll on the internet to see about procuring black sugar, konbu seaweed and Okinawa health-salt. And I will eat as much tofu and turmeric as I can until some new study shows them to be poisonous.

I really feel that by adding these new health-foods to my daily rigorous regime (a walk for the legs in my rice-paddy shoes, a dose of right-handed pro-biotic yoghurt for the gut, a glass of Geneva red wine for its antioxidants, and lots of black chocolate to fight stress) I might be on the verge of a brand-new new life-changing live-forever epiphany.

In all the excitement, though, I really mustn’t forget to take my pills.