The Pregnancy Diaries: Part 5 – Drinking for Two

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After initial disappointment of first scan we’d been advised to schedule another scan before Christmas. As our doc only works from the clinic we attend on Thursdays we had to schedule the appointment for the same day we were due to fly back to the UK, timings were tight but just about do-able.

Initially we had intended that I go to the appointment alone and the bearded man would meet me at airport with all the bags, but as we got closer to the day of our appointment, I was becoming increasingly more nervous and couldn’t stand the thought of potentially hearing that the potato had gone away without him by my side. The beard offered to take bags to the airport, store them in lockers (as would be too early to check in) so he could join me for the Doctor’s rendezvous.

This time the black smudge we’d barely seen last time had evolved into something that contained a definable blob resembling a mushy kidney bean. Complete with a racing heartbeat. We received a hearty congratulations from the doc. The potato was real.

Had the results been otherwise there is a serious chance we’d have cancelled Christmas and decided to stay home instead, but as it was we left the clinic in a bit of a rush, conscious of the plane we had to catch.

The sense of relief we both felt was palpable but unspoken and we reached the airport in a blur of luggage checking, security and boarding before either of us said anything. It wasn’t until we sat on the plane, seatbelts fastened that we finally asked ‘so what now?’

At only eight weeks pregnant we weren’t ready to widely share our news (we wanted to wait until after the 12 week scan when the risks of miscarriage and serious complications dramatically decrease), however, we also didn’t want to keep this from the families when we’d be spending the holidays with.

We decided on only telling immediate family and close friends, those that we felt we could handle it if we had to ‘untell’ them about the pregnancy if the potato went away. We thought there was a pretty high chance certain people would fail to keep schtum but reckoned that if there was any ‘untelling’ to be done that additional burden would fall to those officially in the know and we could minimize the amount of people we’d have to deal with in the event of bad news.

To decrease the temptation of anyone letting the news slip we decided to time our announcement well. Bearded man’s family we’d tell on Christmas day (after arriving on 22nd December) and my family we’d tell after the extended family Boxing Day event.

The plan was sound but there was one issue, which was how to hide the obvious signs of pregnancy until we were ready to share? Morning sickness and fatigue was still a burden but I could plausibly hide these symptoms behind having picked up some kind of office bug and having worked too hard at the end of the year. The more obvious red flag would be my not drinking, particularly as I’m well known to be partial to a nice glass of wine or several.

There was nothing for it, I was going to have to do some stealthy non-drinking and the bearded man was going to have to drink for two. On the 22nd and 23rd we weren’t around the family home much to have to enact our plan. The first challenge was Christmas Eve, the entire family was at home all day, plus Granny, and there was a big family lunch.

We planned that if we sat next to each other at the table and strategically placed our glasses next to each other the man could sneakily drink from both our glasses without anyone being the wiser.

The bearded man’s first mistake was to attempt to polish off my glass of wine as quickly as possible so that he could then enjoy his at a more leisurely pace. His second mistake was in marrying someone a little bit evil.

When mother in law noted my glass was empty she very kindly offered to fill it up. A nice person would have politely declined or at least stalled. I am many things, but ‘a nice person’ is probably not one of them. As I gladly accepted a second refill and then a third the bearded one did manage not to visibly flinch or express his growing discomfort as it dawned on him his wife was throwing him under the alcoholic bus.

After lunch it got worse for the poor fellow as I offered to prepare drinks for everyone to maintain the illusion I had nothing to hide. I planned to make a round of Gin and Tonics for everyone (but without the gin for me) but then father in law brightly offered us pre-mixed G&Ts in a can, no way of separating the booze from the mixer and the bearded man had to once again drink my drink.

Another bright idea of mine, when discussing the family Christmas with brother and sister-in-law long before realizing I was pregnant, was to suggest a Christmas Eve trip to the pub (an annual tradition from my neck of the woods). To my credit I did quietly hope that this suggestion, so enthusiastically greeted many months before, might quietly be forgotten, but the hope was in vain and it was off to the pub for several rounds instead.

I did try to have a soft drink, claiming ‘I’d’ drunk too much earlier, but after the first round of mockery this wasn’t sustainable so I had to resort to more booze for the bearded man to surreptitiously consume. At least when his brother bought out shots, I steadfastly declined. Shortly after midnight we made our way home, with the bearded man only slightly wobbling, and headed for bed.

The next morning as my unlucky lad felt the force of the hangover he was bearing for both (all three) of us, I couldn’t help but feel a smug satisfaction as I’d been feeling permanently hungover for weeks now. Unsurprisingly he was keen to share our news as early as possible the next day!

A year in Geneva

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22 February 2015 was my one year anniversary of moving to Geneva. I celebrated this by trudging through the slushy snow to go to work (yup that was on a Saturday but don’t worry I don’t make a habit of it) and later I met up with a friend for a drink. I forgot to spend any time reflecting on the momentousness of the occasion as I experienced a pretty normal day without spectacle. So I’m using this week’s blog post to consider what failed to register at that time and offer a retrospective on my year in Geneva.

When I first moved here this city seemed so strange and alien to me, so far from ‘normal’ life that for my first few days, well probably first six months actually, I was constantly noting the passage of time and questioning whether coming here was the right move or not. (Parlez-vous franglais per favore, mein leiber dich?)

My first few months, when it was just me, whilst my fiancé tied up loose ends in the UK and prepared to join me, was quite an intense experience. I lost quite a lot of weight through a combination of discovering meat was too expensive to eat and going running most evenings, not because I’m an exercise freak but because I had nothing better to do. In my first flat I didn’t have television or radio so most evenings were spent watching a DVD on the laptop, reading, running and an early night. (“Boldness has genius, power and magic in it”)

I strove to make friends and discovered this was a pretty exhausting process when driven by compulsion. If I stopped to think about it I have to admit I was pretty lonely and I needed some friends in the flesh, although was grateful to remain in contact with those friends I’d left behind. (Absence makes the heart grow fonder)

But it started to pay off and relationships that maybe had to be forced a bit in the early stages developed into something more genuine and I’ve met some very cool people. Although some of these I’ve also had to say goodbye to as their expat adventures have taken them elsewhere. And that hasn’t been easy but the great experiences we’ve shared more than make up for my sadness at their departure. (An expat among expats)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI found a lovely flat in an area I really like that suits me well. It is close enough to walk to the centre of Geneva but enough out of town to be pretty quiet and it borders on some truly beautiful woodlands along the river Rhone. We navigated arrangements, which were surprisingly straightforward, for the cats to fly out to join me, travelling as cabin baggage from the UK to Switzerland. I had no idea that animals could even travel in the cabin on flights, probably because you can’t do this coming into the UK, but it was a pretty easy process. And with the cats and then our UK life shipped out to me in boxes, my new abode started to feel more familiar. Normality was creeping up on me, gradually seeping into the day-to-day.

I had a period of illness when I felt completely sorry for myself, nothing serious but a flaring up of multiple minor ailments that I was left to fend to myself. Nothing is worse than feeling a bit grotty and not having anyone to complain to about it (that can’t escape from the whinging by just hanging up the phone). I also didn’t understand how the health system worked, but fearing the financial cost of seeing a Doctor I potentially couldn’t communicate with decided to stick with home remedies and sweat it out. Literally. (Why I’m not great with doctors)

I now had the cats for company but Jasper chose this moment to develop an infected abscess and force me to figure out how vets work. However, having someone else’s needs to focus on stopped me from indulging in so much self-sympathy. And not needing a loan to pay for his vet’s fees was a pleasant surprise! (The forlornest looking lampshade)

Jasper lampshadeEventually the fiancé came out too and my world started to right itself a little bit more, although his being there after several months of living apart did take a bit of adjusting to. (The arrival of the fiancé!)

We settled into a bit of a routine, disrupted by a few trips back to the UK including for my best friend’s amazing wedding. (The art of public speaking) And also a trip to Portugal for another great wedding. (Strangers are friends you haven’t yet met) I’d work, he’d job hunt, keep the flat in good working order and cook for me when I got home. I definitely got the better end of the deal.

His job hunting has been a bit frustrating with nothing resulting in paid employment to date but we’ve scraped by on my salary, and spent a lot of time speculating on how great it’ll be when he’s working and we can buy this, go there and enjoy that. A bit like playing the game of ‘when I win the lottery’ just with better odds. Even on a budget though, we still managed to try some fun new things. (The fears we all share)

Christmas and New Years were spent in Geneva. We had a nice time with great friends on those days and enjoyed a leisurely period of blissful nothingness for the days in between. I’d thought it would be weird to have such a friends and family-lite Christmas but actually it was really relaxing not rushing around like lunatics trying to see everyone, and after quite a disruptive year it was easy to appreciate a bit of quiet time. (Going somewhere nice for Christmas? Well, bully for you!)

This year, has felt a bit strange with personal challenges and exciting work opportunities but these have been absorbed into the new normalcy of life in Geneva. (Resolving on a great 2015, The tedium/tremendousness of travelling for work) I’m not quite settled here yet and don’t think I will be until the man finds a job and can start to find his own way to a regular life here. But the fact that my year’s anniversary here was so unremarkable is a good sign. It doesn’t feel quite like ‘home’ yet but it doesn’t feel like another planet anymore either.

Resolving on a great 2015

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“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” – Abraham Lincoln

So 2014 has drawn to a close and 2015 has begun! With the marking of another year’s passing there is a medley of resolutions to be made.

Generally, I want to improve my health. Specifically, I’d like to run a half marathon this year, not really because I think I’d enjoy running 22km but more because I think I’d enjoy telling people I’ve done this and because my best friend did one last year and I don’t want to be outdone! I also want to commit to ice-skating on a weekly basis (whilst the rink is open), to be able to stop without crashing into the sides and to be able to skate backwards.

This year I’m also going to work on the long-standing goal of being able to converse easily in another language, an aspiration that has become a tad more pressing since moving to a predominantly French speaking part of the world and realising my existing language skills are really sub-standard. By the end of 2015 I hope to be confident chatting to strangers in the language.

Finally I am resolved to start actually working on one of those books I’ve always wanted to write, to start undertaking some research, come up with character briefs and a developed plot outline and maybe even start writing it.

So there we go, my resolutions for 2015. As I’ve publicly shared them with you all do feel free to give me a nudge every now and then to remind me about these.

I love making New Year’s resolutions because I think it’s good to put a bit of pressure on myself at the start of each year to strive to do just a little bit better. I make resolutions every year, some I’ve kept and some I haven’t, a lot of them I can’t even remember.

From experience I’ve learnt that the more general the resolution (i.e. be healthy) the less likely I am to achieve that so I hope the specific goals I’ve set will be enough of a challenge to push myself a bit harder in certain areas but not so unobtainable as to be doomed to failure. If I tried to simply cut out a bad habit completely, i.e. consumption of chocolate, the chances are I’d smugly manage one or two days and then thoughts of the chocolate I’ve banned myself from ever having again will infiltrate every waking moment until I cannot take anymore and give in to a chocolate binge of Peter Jacksonesque epic proportions! Approaching my resolutions as goals to be achieved by the end of the year rather than behaviours to be instantly changed from 00:01, 1 January takes the pressure off a bit.

A lot of people are dismissive of New Year’s resolutions and I can understand why when we tend to make and break the same resolutions every year but nonetheless I think there’s something admirable in the whole process.

Whilst I think you can make life-changing decisions at any time of the year I think that New Year’s resolutions provide a natural kick-start to the process of self-improvement. There is something fresh and optimistic about the start of a new year, the closing of one year and looming blank canvas of the next. It’s the perfect time to take stock of where we are, to identify any aspects of our lives we might like to see changes in and to think about how we can attain these.

This year was a pretty eventful one for me. In trying to realise my career ambitions I moved country to start a new job and life abroad, away from family and friends. Thankfully my fiancé and cats have been able to share in the adventure with me, although granted the cats didn’t have much of a say in the matter. I’ve tried a number of new things (shooting, rope climbing, running 10km, book-club and ice-skating to name a few) and I’ve met a staggering number of amazing people. Was I expecting any of that at the start of 2014? Not at all. So it’s exciting to think what sort of things 2015 might have in store for me that I can’t even imagine yet.

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This year I had a really great Christmas with friends I didn’t even know last year and rounded 2014 off with a memorable night out on New Year’s Eve which was everything I could have hoped for and really ended the year with a bang (and not just from the fireworks).

Sadly the first day of 2015 wasn’t the optimistic start that I’d hoped for as we received the sad news that my fiancé’s grandfather had died. Whilst his passing wasn’t wholly unexpected, given his age and several underlying health problems, that didn’t make the news any less shocking or upsetting. The loss of this lovable rogue, who I will always remember with a smile on his lips and mischievous twinkle in his eye, has certainly taken the edge off my unbridled hopefulness for 2015 but it has also caused me to take stock of what, and who, really matters.

I remain optimistic for the year ahead and committed to my resolutions but I am more grateful than ever to have the love and support of a number of wonderful people in my life, who I know will make the realising of my personal aspirations that much easier. Whilst it feels good to be able to reel off a list of achievements each year my greatest ongoing resolution is to be the kind of person that can provide similar levels of love and encouragement to those I care about. Although if I can become a proficient skater in the process then so much the better.

The Christmas Eve Wrap

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Where’s the scissors?
Where’s the tape?
Where’s the paper?
Where’s the crepe?

Where’s the bow?
Where’s the string?
Where’s the ribbon?
Where’s the trimming?

Where’s the box?
Where’s the bag?
Where’s the wrap?
Where’s the tag?

Where are the presents?

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Where are the presents?

Where are the presents!
How did I forget?
Which shops are open?
What can I get?

Where is my coat?
Who can give me a lift?
Where are my shoes?
Can we be swift?

Does this go faster?
Can we up the speed?
What did everyone want?
What does everyone need?

Who needs a gift?

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Who needs a gift?

Who needs a gift!
Did we make a list?
How many to buy?
Who have we missed?

Can this be an offering?
Could this be a prize?
Is this a present?
Is this the right size?

Where is the till?
Have we enough time?
Is it possible?
Are we going to be fine?

Where is my bag?

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Where is my bag?

Where is my bag!
Where is my card?
Where is my purse?
Why’s there a guard?

What will we do?
Have we nothing to give?
How will we manage?
Can it still be festive?

Can we still be happy
Without any stuff?
Could being together
Really be enough?

Will it still be Christmas?

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Will it still be Christmas?

Will it still be Christmas!
With family and friends,
It’s love, not presents,
On which Christmas depends.

We don’t need gifts,
Under the tree.
Just a little cheer
Between you and me

So if you were expecting
A little something,
Don’t be disappointed
When you get nothing!

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Merry Christmas everyone!

Going somewhere nice for Christmas? Well, bully for you!

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We made the decision not to head back to the UK for Christmas and will instead be experiencing our first Genevan Christmas.

I have come to understand that Geneva will be a quiet place for Christmas. Being a city that is comprised of approximately 40% expats it is natural that a lot of these non-Swiss will return back to their respective homelands for a Christmas with friends and family. Other residents will be running to the hills, as heading for the snow-capped mountains is a popular holiday tradition. This means there wont be many people actually left in Geneva.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 2.24.47 PMI’m actually quite happy with the idea of a quiet Christmas this year. Yes, Christmases filled with friends and family are lovely and magical times but they can also be quite tiring.

As so much of Christmas is a time for thinking about loved ones there is a great deal of pressure to find time to catch up with everyone you care about in this condensed holiday period. Whilst this is wonderful it also entails lots of travelling around, events and activities and very little rest time. Factor in the reality that if you are taking a decent amount of time off over the holidays (and I’ve always been lucky enough to do so) this means there is always a lot of work to be done before the end of the year.

So you are usually tired approaching the holiday season and by the end of it might be more exhausted starting the new year than you were ending the old one. Having had a quite eventful year (moving country, starting a new job, enjoyable but demanding trips to the UK and a wedding abroad) I’m quite looking forward to a quiet Christmas this year with my bearded man and cats.

However, when chatting with various people about their plans for the upcoming holidays a lot of people have expressed surprise at my staying in Geneva for the entire duration of the holidays. A surprise that suggests that this is a mistake and it will absolutely be the worst Christmas I will ever have. Or if they don’t say as much they might pull a face that looks like this:

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At the book club Christmas party last night I was speaking with a friend who said he was staying in Geneva but added the explanation, because clearly he felt he needed one, that he would be going skiing in the mountains. To express my frustration at having to yet again explain and defend my holiday plans I uttered four little words: ‘well, bully for you’ and then started laughing. Aware this was a pretty rude response I tried to explain it was a private joke between me and …er…me, or to be more accurate between me and the memory of my Granny.

Several years, actually decades, ago, when I must have been somewhere around six or seven, I attended a family party for my uncle’s 40th birthday. My Granny and Grandad had divorced long before I was born and generally did their best to avoid each other, however this was one of those rare occasions when both happened to be in the same place at the same time with the same people.

My Granddad, no doubt in the spirit of family goodwill, came to where me and mum where chatting with Granny and started a conversation. He started to tell us about a recent holiday he had been on and my Granny just looked up at him from her wheelchair, said ‘Well, bully for you’ tartly and promptly wheeled away.

I’m not really sure exactly what it was about the scenario that I found and continue to find quite so funny. I think there was a lot of genuine ill-feeling as my Granny delivered her damning one-liner to my Grandad and moved away. But over the years both mum and I have come to adopt the phrase and liberally use it to express mock indignation at anyone we perceive to be potentially bragging about any experiences, circumstances, etc. And every time I say that phrase I remember my Granny and it makes me laugh.

Last night after making a pathetic attempt to explain why I just insulted my friend’s holiday plans and then started laughing about it the memory stayed with me and continued to amuse me. Walking home later that evening, I recalled the conversation and the phrase I’d used and started laughing to myself all over again. I’m grinning away to myself as I type this right now.

Just saying those words or thinking about them brings a smile to my face or laughter to my lips. And, even though when my Granny uttered them she didn’t mean them to be quite so amusing, it also fills me with a very happy feeling about Gran that I can’t fully explain. Perhaps it is just that in repeating those words I can recall her so vividly in all her wonderful, flawed and complete humanity that it makes me feel close to her. There are lots of great memories I have of my Granny, particularly playing a lot of Mahjong or Rummikub, but that particular ‘well, bully for you’ memory surfaces most frequently when that phrase she bequeathed me slips off my tongue so easily.

I wonder if others have such equally bizarre triggers for remembering someone who is no longer a part of our lives for whatever reason? So if I ever seem to guffaw at your new watch, holiday plans or whatever with those particular words don’t take it personally but know that I’m remembering someone I loved in my own unique way.