The Best Days of Their Lives

The everyday stories of family life, told with love and joy

Category: Switzerland (page 2 of 3)

Slow walk

It was back in the 1980s that the Slow Movement was first manifested, as an Italian guy objected to a McDonald’s in his neighbourhood. From Slow Food came Slow Cities, Slow Living, Slow Design, Slow Travel…. zzzzz You name it, there’s probably a slow version. In the 1987 novel The Pilgrimage, Paulo Coelho introduces an exercise of walking slowly, very slowly, especially after a meal. You see life differently when you take it at exceedingly slow pace, is the gist. There was some truth there and I got a lot from this message when I first read this book not long after I started my first post-university job, working in a law firm. I started going out for a very slow walk after lunch, taking time to observe and to see.

After a while I forgot about Paulo Coelho and his slow walk exercise. I was reminded of it when Mtoto first began to walk and we started to take things at his pace. I don’t always walk like that and more often than not, Mtoto is accommodated to us, either travelling on our shoulders or in his buggy.

Today though, was slow walk day. It started after Quaker Meeting when we went to have lunch at the benches at the top of Parc Trembley. We weren’t in a particular hurry to be or go anywhere. Most of all, we just wanted to be. So we followed Mtoto’s lead. Mostly, it was L doing things with Mtoto, while I had the opportunity to birdwatch. We did some picking up of sticks and games were played. Chasing. Catching. Hide and seek. I had time to stop and look up. Lots of looking up. Nuthatches revealed themselves in abandon. Best of all, the Nuthatch preening with its beak in the mid-afternoon winter sun.

Nuthatch. Photo: Jez Smith

Nuthatch. Photo: Jez Smith


More observation and I realised there weren’t so many, just five or six, but they were getting about a bit, on every tree and every branch. Blackbirds, Crows, Robins, Pigeons, Blue and Great Tits were all there. And four birds on their own-some, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, a Greenfinch, a Hawfinch and best of all as it is new to me in 2015, the angry looking Goldcrest.

Goldcrest. Photo: Jez Smith

Goldcrest. Photo: Jez Smith

Down through the park, Mtoto climbing on logs, reaching over fir tree branches in his way, negotiating his way past holly branches and learning that he could hold the stalks but not the leaves. Into the Jardin de la Paix (Peace Garden), we played together at the shallow ponds. We looked at our reflections and learned that they were easier to see in the shade than in bright sunlight. We dragged sticks along the water and saw the ripples that they made. Flicking water made drops that made circles in the water. We dropped our acorns, previously stored in one of the cavernous Mountain Buggy pockets, and some floated and some sank. With sticks, we brought the floaters back and played with them again. We ran over the bridge, calling out the address of Monsieur Goro from Voila le Facteur by Naokata Mase. We jumped, we ran, we walked. Towards the end, Mtoto got our French bird book out of the buggy and started reciting the names of birds that I had seen today and he had heard me calling out. For some, he pointed to their picture but for others he called out and pointed randomly at text. And after two hours we were all of about 300 yards from where we first started (that will do for Janathon stats). These are the days.

2015 Birds

45. Goldcrest

General impression, size and shape

About 12 or 13 years ago I had the honour and pleasure of making friends with an RSPB warden, Mark Nowers, in Colchester. Mark was newly appointed to a post at Wolves Wood near Hadleigh in Suffolk and we ended up living in the same house. My passion at the time was Ultimate Frisbee and Mark, to his credit, got involved in playing that. Mark’s great passion was wildlife and without much prompting that was something I could get more into too. Mark was quite the most amazing person to play a game of Ultimate Frisbee with. In training or in a competitive game, Mark’s eyes and ears were never switched off to what was going on around him and mid-action he might suddenly call out a sound and name the bird or name a black dot that was flying overhead.

Mark’s passion for wildlife was infectious and his easy-going nature and kind way of sharing information so that you never felt ignorant, just that you were learning, and you were becoming more knowledgeable. One of the gift’s that Mark gave me was something that is common knowledge in wildlife circles, which is to use the word guide of General Impression, Size and Shape to help guide your thinking about what you’re seeing around you. It works brilliantly for birds and very well for other wildlife. It helps me to think about the context of what I’ve seen – such as any stand out colours or markings and to think about the size of what I’ve seen compared to other birds that I know. This makes it easier to remember things when I come to look them up at home in our Collins Bird Guide – the most complete field guide to the birds of Britain and Europe.

This morning I went out before breakfast for the run that I didn’t do yesterday. It began with 5 minutes walking, followed by 45 minutes running and finishing with 10 minutes of walking. I set off on the road out of Eaux-Vives up to Frontenex, then on to the outskirts of Cologny and on to Vandoeuvres, before cutting back to the centre of Cologny and down to the lake beyond Geneve Plage, where I head back into town. Out on the road, I got to use my General Impression Size and Shape guide as a small posse of birds flew overhead – Long Tailed Tits identified by their small bodies and long tails. They were black against the light sky, so I saw no colour but I knew as best as I could, what they were likely to be.

Later on by Lake Geneva (as it is known in English, in French it is Lac Leman and I’ll probably use the terms interchangeably from time to time) I saw some fabulous looking ducks. There were a group of about 20 of them, some male, some female. They were grouped together in the lake, along by the marina at Geneve Plage. The (presumed) males had orange heads, with orange/red beaks. Their bodies were black at the front, white at the side and brown on top. The (presumed) females had brown head tops, white on the sides and brown bodies. Running further along the lake I saw lots of the regulars such as Cormorants, Mute Swans and Black-headed Gulls. At Baby Plage I turned right to follow the wall out and saw the flash of a bird I didn’t know for sure from above. But using General Impression, Size and Shape, as well as location, I figured that it was probably a Yellow Wagtail. A few moments later I saw it again but saw the yellow on the breast and confirmed my initial idea. A moment later I saw a Pied Wagtail and then my first Wren of the year by the marina, which was a bit of a surprise as I don’t remember ever seeing a Wren by the lake before!

And then as my watch buzzed to tell me that my 45 minutes running were up and I should start walking, I came across a group of 12 or so birdwatchers. Pausing my timing, I spent a few minutes with them, learning that they were a group of friends who were part of a subscription-based school of learning. I imagined, looking at the group, that it was probably the Swiss equivalent of University of the Third Age, though I could easily be wrong – maybe that’s General Impression, Size and Shape coming into play again. One of the women lent me her binoculars and showed me in her book that they were looking at a Ferruginous Duck, so I saw a couple of those too! She then pointed out the group leader and having told him of my interest in learning more about birds and meeting up with more knowledgeable people he pointed me in the direction of the local birdwatching group – the Groupe Ornithologique du Bassin Genevois. He also asked if I was interested in learning for me or for Mtoto and I said me, but it’s true that one of my aims from being a stay-at-home Dad is to give Mtoto as broad an introduction as possible to nature. One of Laurel’s friends is a primary school teacher in east London who also runs gardening clubs and that sort of thing. She once said that one of the things she’s been able to do is to introduce to children that there’s more than one kind of tree. Yes, really, many children simply aren’t taught about the different kinds of trees that there are. For me, whether or not he does anything with the knowledge, under my watch I would like Mtoto to learn about the different kinds of birds and learn how they look and what they sing. I’d like him to know about different kinds of trees, animals, flowers and plants. A lot of this I need to learn too, by the way, so it is a lot of lessons for both of us. But we’ve made a good start and Mtoto already knows his Coot, his Swan, his Robin, his Kingfisher and his Sparrow, to name just a few.

So all in all, a fairly successful stint of marathon training.

Janathon stats: 6.03 miles in 1:00:00 at an average pace of 9:57 per mile.

2015 Birds

42. Ferruginous Duck

43. Red-crested Pochard

44. Wren

Man friends

Probably for the first time since I went to an all-boys secondary school, most of my friends are men. I didn’t expect this when I first knew that I was going to become a stay-at-home Dad. Rather, I thought that I would be friends with more women, since there are more women than men looking after children day-to-day. But the world of caring for children in the day is a strange place and is drawn up, it seems to me, along gender lines.

Making friends with women is harder than I thought it would be. But I can’t say that I wasn’t warned. In his book Men Can Do It – the real reason Dads don’t do childcare and what men and women can do about it, Gideon Burrows describes the problems he faced as a father sharing parenting 50:50 with his wife. He described trying to go to parenting and baby groups and discovering that they were for mothers only and seeing signs that welcomed mothers and babies to cafes and by omission not fathers.

Most fancifully, I thought at the time, Gideon Burrows suggests that women didn’t want to meet up with him for playdates because they feared that he may want to have sex with them. How I laughed at this at the time. I would have laughed still if I had thought of it, until I joined a group on, which was suggesting playdates for parents (not specifically mothers) and their children in our local park. A couple of days later I received a message from the group administrator querying why I had joined the group as she saw that I am a man and she was concerned in case I was trying to hit on any of the mothers in the group. Suffice to say, I haven’t been invited to any playdates in that group and plenty of others state that they are WOMEN ONLY.

Another time a friend  put me in contact with a woman who had also moved from south-east London to Geneva around the same time as us and with a child of similar age to Mtoto. We arranged to meet at a park. I described myself in my last email as ‘a tall man’. The reply came back: I didn’t realise you were a man. We still met, but just the once.

There are other instances, I won’t bore you with all the stories. Ultimately, of course, the real loser in all of this is Mtoto, since he’s losing out on opportunities to play with other children, simply because he’s with me.

Thankfully there are other Dads around though. Most of the stay-at-home Dads I have met have been through the Geneva Dads’ Beer Night Facebook group and through other social networking sites, such as Glocals and one who I met in a ludotheque very early on. The group was set up a few years ago, apparently, when some mothers objected to having fathers in their Facebook group, so a couple of guys branched off on their own. Although I haven’t met up loads of times with these guys and their kids, I’ve got on well with every stay-at-home Dad that I’ve met and it’s good to know that they’re around. As a work comparison, we’re like freelancers working alone and it’s good to have those doing the same role to network with. Our latest get together was last night and there were 9 of us out and 5 of us were current stay-at-home Dads. It was a good craic and I laughed often and hard with the others. They’re good guys.

Which brings me onto today’s adventure. Today I met up with P, who is a father on paternity leave. Our contact was set up by my friend A, who after all this above is a mother on maternity leave who is a friend of mine. She’s a friend of some 13-years standing, so preceding either of us being in Geneva. So A set me up to meet P, though P has never met A, but P’s wife has. Got that? P’s son is just under a year old, so it was very much a case of the kids being near each other in the park rather than actively engaging, although we did have a lovely game of blowing raspberries at one point. P was very jolly and has been making the most of having 2 months paternity leave after his wife went back to work and before they get external childcare. After Mtoto had worn himself out making sandcastles in the sandpit and launching himself down the superfast tunnel slide, tumbling along the wibbly-wobbly bridge and the rope bridge, he went for his quiet time and P and I had time to walk and chat. P’s on maternity leave, so he’ll be going back to work soon, but he said that it had been a brilliant experience that he was very glad to have had the opportunity to do and he felt that he had insights from this period that he would take back to his work.

I didn’t take any recording devices out today, so I have no stats for Janathon. I’d imagine it was a 2-3km walk. I should have done a run today, but Mtoto didn’t want to go in the buggy this morning and my heart wasn’t in it, so I’ll be off tomorrow instead.

Geneva Runners

When I was leaving London my parkrun friends mostly said “will you start a parkrun in Geneva?” The answer was always “no”. I love my parkrun community but I could easily see that I wanted to start a parkrun, forgetting that I’d need to work my way through all the administrative and insurance issues, I would be doing it because I would be willing to do a lot race directing and volunteering. And just now I’m still in the stage where all I really want to do is run.

I was lucky, before we left London, to discover the Geneva Runners. They’re not so hard to find. They’re on Facebook and on Glocals, the social website for many things Geneva. It took me about six weeks to get around to running with Geneva Runners. But since then I’ve hardly looked back. I ran once a week with them for about 2 months, then have missed a few now and then, but Geneva Runners is very much where I’m at.

It’s very different to parkrun. It’s not a formal group. Really it’s just some friends who meet up three times a week to go running. At the core are some dedicated people who make sure that those three times a week always have familiar faces. And when I say friends, I mean a group that ostensibly has around 500 people connected to it, though the number of active participants is much smaller. They organise socials. They organise ski trips and all sorts of other things. When I say they, I really mean H, a woman who greeted me on first appearance, learned my name and has greeted me by name ever since. She does it with everyone. She remembers the details of our short conversations in a way that makes you feel connected. And it’s easy to get into the same sort of process, greeting everyone when you arrive at the start point and greeting everyone else who arrives. They do socials too, heading out after runs to the Clubhouse pub.

And then, a few minutes after seven, we’re off. I’ve run with Russians, Poles, Canadians, Americans, Australians, Turks, Swiss, Germans and French people as well as more whose nationalities I haven’t found out. It’s always the same route, unless you want to do more. Along the lake to the park, up to Rue de Lausanne, along to the botanical gardens, up Imperatrice, right to Pregny, left at the cafe, left on the brow of the hill, right by the church and down, then left at the road, immediately right, then right again until you reach Place de Nations. Diagonally across there, down France, across Lausanne and back to the lake. Phew! You got that? I only ask, because there’s only one thing we don’t seem to do at Geneva Runners and that’s directions or maps. But as long as you run with someone who has been before, you should be okay! And there are lots of variations on it that you can do and many do.

Today was my first time with the Garmin watch and it felt good. I pushed myself all the way, helped by a German guy who I know I’ve not kept up with before. Afterwards he was apologising for not having been able to go faster, whereas I was amazed that I kept up with him and two other guys who we ran with. Back home, checking over my stats, cross-posted to the Strava app, I can see that I did the Geneva Runners course in 39:48, which is several minutes faster than I’ve ever done it before. Woo!

For the Janathon stats, I include my runs from home and back too, giving me a lovely 7.24 miles in 1:02:10 at 8:35 minutes per mile.  I ran 5k in 25:02, faster than my best ever parkrun time (though helped by some downhill) and I ran 10k in 52:35. Good times.

First Garmin run

Tonight was my first run with my new Garmin watch and heart rate monitor. I’m currently using the London Marathon website beginner 17 week training plan and this was my last run of week one. I had meant to go earlier but fell asleep soon after Mtoto had gone for his afternoon nap, only waking after he did. By then it was raining, as forecast. I wasn’t pleased when I realised this but my disgruntlement at the weather was tempered by recalling that this would be my first opportunity to use my new Garmin kit.

I ran/walked for 55 minutes with a 5 minute warm up walk, 30 minutes running, 5 minutes walking, 10 minutes more running and a final 5 minutes walk. Total distance covered: 5.58 miles. This is a good place to be right now and I decided to count it as my Janathon run for today. Counting the first 50 minutes I covered exactly 5 miles, meaning that I was on 10 minutes a mile including walking. Using the Running For Fitness marathon calculator, I came up with a time 4:48:40 to complete the marathon, averaging 11 minutes a mile. In my head I would like to hit 4:22 and therefore complete at 10 minutes per mile, but I would very happily settle for 4:48:40 to complete my first marathon and be injury-free.

Tonight I ran along the lake from Eaux-Vives towards Vesenaz. I got as far as the beginning of the hill on Route de Thonon before turning back and eventually wiggling through Eaux-Vives to use up a few more minutes that I had. I like this part of the lake, it is relatively quiet as there are practically no tourists there and apart from the general hum of traffic from the dual carriage way a couple of yards away and the occasional other runner I like to think that I’m completely alone.

As well as the training run, we also had our annual New Year’s Walk today. It was our eighth year in a row, but our first in Geneva. Three other families came out, being another seven adults and two children. I called it the Heron Walk, since I was about certain as I could be that we would see at least one heron and most people, though perhaps not the toddler who slept almost all the way round. We took the “A” bus from Geneva to Carre-d’Amont and then walked a circuit round to Meinier. The distance was 5.47km in 1:44:19. Highlights included the toddlers dancing on ice and watching a great egret and a kestrel in a tree together.

18. Teal

19. Great Egret

20. Kestrel

21. Jay

22. Moorhen

23. Greater spotted woodpecker

After the walk several of our friends came back to ours for lunch. I enjoyed their company and the opportunity to share my favourite beer and wine of the moment with them, as well as our homemade mince pies. The beer is Murailles from Meinier and the wine is the merlot from Le Clos de Celigny, which, coincidentally, has a greater spotted woodpecker on the label. The only downside being that we’re now out of beer and we’ve hardly got any wine left.

Clos de Celigny's lovely Merlot

Clos de Celigny’s lovely Merlot. Photo: Clos de Celigny

From playground to playground

Today was the day that I received my Christmas present, a Garmin GPS watch. So from here on in I hope to have some useful measurements of my training runs. But until then, well I didn’t even have my cell phone with me today as I decided to switch it off and leave it at home. Consequently, I have no records of the time we took or the distance I walked. But it was a good one.

First up a walk across Geneva, skirting the lake from Jardin Anglais and over Pont Mont Blanc, then through Cornavin and up to see friends in St Jean, around 35 minutes walking and about 2 miles. They live on the seventh floor of their block, with fabulous views of Saleve and other mountains in France, as well as the top of Jet D’eau and other parts of Geneva’s horizon in profile. Fuelled by mince pies, banana bread and muffins we played in a nearby playground for over half an hour, then snaked our way down to the playground at Seujet with the forest graffiti walkway. After about a quarter of an hour there we went over the bridge to Stand then got the tram two stops to Plainpalais.

Planpalais is pretty much dominated at present by the Cirque de Noel but we were there for the toddlers’ playground, which is a funny new place. Next to the skate park, it ought to be rammed but it somehow doesn’t quite deliver. The gravel doesn’t help and it always seems cold there. We stayed for quite a while and lots of people came and went. It’s a good playground though, with two discrete areas for different ages and the toddler section is pretty demanding for Mtoto, but he loves a challenge, so it keeps him busy.

Then we went over to Bastions and up into Place Bourg-Four, just because we can. There’s something special about old Geneva on the hill.

Finally home via some shops to knock out a mushroom and broccoli quiche and make mince pies ahead of our fun tomorrow. I was meant to run today but didn’t fit it in. Thankfully I’ve got a day’s grace in the schedule so I’ll have to fit it in on Saturday instead. So something in that can be my Janathon contribution. Maybe the walk from home to our friends first thing, since it was a straight stretch of exercise, punctuated only by stopping to look at the birds, waiting at traffic lights and popping into the Tourist Information to pick up some spare maps for tomorrow.

The birds continued to come come today, not least because we were by the lake:

10. Blue tit

11. Cormorant

12. Mute swan

13. Pochard

14. Coot

15. Tufted duck

16. Black-headed gull

17. Magpie

Call the midwife!

I’ve just had one of my most enjoyable social hours since becoming a stay-at-home Dad and I may just have discovered how to meet Swiss people. And, it wasn’t even an hour – possibly only about 20 minutes or so.

Partly, I have myself to thank and partly I have a Swiss midwife called Sandrile. For myself, it’s because I’m a fairly social chap – almost always ready to put make myself vulnerable by going into social situations where I don’t know how they’ll turn out.

I had already done it once today. In BM – the magazine of the Bibliotheques Municipales de Geneve – I discovered that today there would a reading hour in the Paquis library for parents with children aged 0 to 2. And it’s in French. So I went along, feeling tired and with a cracking headache. When we got there, we discovered that although the session started at 10, the library wasn’t open until 3. Quite a bit of me wanted to go home at this point. But I stuck around and eventually I saw two women with babies going round the back of the library. I followed them and voila – it turns out that you have to go in the back. We were in. We were a small group, less than 10 parents, carers and staff. The staff read stories in French and explained about registering your child at the library and where to find books in different languages. And, to top off our experience, mtoto was given a pack of 3 books, which are usually given to all children born in Switzerland. The staff made an exception for him. Magnifique! I still had a cracking headache but we had had a good time. We read some great books in French including a lovely one about some animals on a tightrope. We also read a book about Elmer the elephant in the snow. Mtoto made me read it six times before I suggested we try something else.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the library was great practice for the afternoon. After lunch, we went out to the playground, as has recently become our routine. For the first time, we were alone in the Tunnel Slide Playground until a Russian woman and toddler joined us in the sandpit. The boys played together for a few minutes. Or rather, mtoto shared his toys with the Russian toddler who gratefully took mtoto’s and then wouldn’t share his own. As French was his mother’s and my only shared language it was all a bit confusing. Then it began to rain. They left and mtoto and I played football until I decided that rain had stopped play and I got him down so I could walk him into his nap.

I had a sense that something was about to happen and that I needed to be open. But I didn’t know what. So I prayed to be prepared for whatever came my way. I thought it was the Russian woman so I looked out for her again. And then I passed a group of around 8 women with babies, led by one older woman. The second time that I passed them, I heard a noise. I carried on. I heard the noise again. I stopped. Be open I reminded myself. Then I realised that the older woman was calling to me. Her name is Sandrile and she’s a midwife. She and 2 other midwives run a weekly free session for mothers, and why not, for fathers too, she said. They go for a walk every Tuesday in the same park, starting at 2pm. I could join them if I liked. It would have been easy to say no, so I said yes.

I had a lovely chat with Sandrile and then I got into step with a couple of mothers. I got to speak and hear some French and then one mother said “please speak English, it’s good for our babies to hear it”. This is how I can meet Swiss people – I can offer to speak English! I hadn’t realised that English might be a useful commodity.

Again, I didn’t change numbers with anyone. I think that all the other babies are around 18 months or so younger than mtoto, so they wouldn’t be much good for playing together. One of the positive aspects is that it seems to be a local group, which means opportunities to meet local Swiss people and good reason to keep practising my French, though I’m also prepared to speak English to help the Swiss babies!

One of the three midwives leads the group every Tuesday at 2pm from the Rue de Montchoisy gate. I’m sure I’ll be going back!

Geneva’s Jet D’eau and treasures at the end of the rainbow

For many visitors to Geneva, there’s an obligatory photo to pose for, with the famous Jet D’eau fountain in the background. For those who prefer a close up, you can walk up the pontoon, almost to the Jet itself and pose for your pictures there.

Along the way is a sign warning visitors about getting soaked and slipping into the lake and about changing winds that might blow them off the pontoon.

The first time that we came to visit the Jet D’eau I heeded the signs and strayed no further than the signs. But Mamma had other ideas and she happily pushed mtoto in his poussette right up towards the fountain. They got a bit wet but mtoto loved it.

Mtoto loves the Jet D’eau. The Jet D’eau has been central to mtoto’s understanding of Geneva. Mamma’s first ever night away from mtoto was so that she could attend the interview in Geneva for the job that she has now. To encourage her, I taught mtoto the words ‘Jet D’eau’ and he said them to her over the phone that night. When the time came that we knew we were going to move to Geneva, we encouraged mtoto by telling him that we were going to Geneva and that we would live near the Jet D’eau.

Fast forward a few months and our new apartment has a view straight down the road to the Jet D’eau. Almost every day mtoto asks hopefully “can we go and see the Jet D’eau?” Quite often I put him off but at least once a week we go down there.

Today was a good day at the Jet D’eau. The wind was largely taking the falling water away from the pontoon so we could get right past it and out the other side. But it still had some spray drifting back and we got soaked.

And there were two treasures today for going all the way through. The first was the rainbows. We saw them first before we arrived on the pontoon, spreading themselves through the spray. But the best one of all started at our feet, wherever we walked, while we were coming out of the spray.

The second treasure was a sandpiper on the rocks just beyond the Jet D’eau. Just out of range of a decent shot from my camera, I sat down next to mtoto in his poussette and we spent several minutes watching this delightful little bird pecking and interesting things among the rocks.

Then mtoto was ready to move on. Pappa look for a rainbow, he cried. So we went back and this time I dared to keep my camera out.

“Pappa look for a rainbow,” he cried,
We saw it shimmer across the lake,
Flowing from our feet just inches wide,
Then we knew our own treasure we make.

Naming names and the Swiss flag phenomenon

Mtoto has progressed from stating things when asked questions to making his own observations. For example, yesterday we were on the 14 tram going up Rue de Servette. “We are going up hill” he stated without prompting. And we were going up hill – on Rue de Servette we are usually going up (towards Balexert) or down (towards Cornavin).

A moment later and mtoto pointed out of the tram window and said “Switzerland flag”. I looked out and sure enough, on about the seventh floor there was a Switzerland flag. This is an easy spot though – there are Swiss flags everywhere. If I saw this many England flags about in London I would probably be feeling a bit queasy as I tend to associate it with right-wing views. But I don’t so much about the Swiss and their association with the flag so I tend not to be bothered.

So unconcerned are we about the Swiss flag that we’ve even been swimming in it. Yes, there’s a Swiss flag swimming pool in Geneva. And bizarrely enough, it is floating on the river, close to the lake. When it was announced on 1 April, many people thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke. But it turned out to be real.

When we were there last Sunday, having paid our 2 Francs (approximately £1.40) per adult to get in, it was fairly quiet at around 12:30pm. But the crowd was slowly building by the time we left at 2pm.

While I was swimming in the pool a photographer came in and started lining up some shots. He was from a Zurich regional newspaper he said and he asked all four of us in the pool if we were happy to be in his pictures. He was tasked with taking some pictures of life in Geneva. The final one he was happy with had a girl diving in from the side and me swimming in the background – possibly my first Swiss media appearance since we arrived.

The floating Swiss pool

The Carouge Market routine

Mama and I have a distinct memory, from our last period in Geneva, of visiting Carouge Market on Saturdays. So when we ended up in an airbnb stay in Dancet and followed it up with a sublet in Carouge, there was no better incentive to revisit the market.

Going to the market is also a great opportunity to practice a small amount of French in a way that you just don’t get when you shop in the supermarket.

So we’ve been off every Saturday morning to the Place du Marche to get our fruit and vegetables. Until today, I didn’t realize just how big an impression the market has had on mtoto and how it has given him some new routines.

On our first visit, we ended up going to one of the larger stalls. The prices were competitive and it was busy – surely a good sign. And we’ve gone to the same place each time now. So that’s a routine.  Another one of our family routines has quickly becoming stopping to eat fruit on the same bench after we’ve made all of our purchases. And last Saturday we had a whole breakfast at the market, including croissants, yoghurt and fruit. Mama was prepared and had brought her pen knife so she could cut up some of the fruit. She also brought our plastic cutlery (which came from the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank – thank you London!).

We’ve been able to practice our French and the staff on the market stall have put up with our slow choice of words and understand when we say that we would rather not speak English. Today I had fun asking for a “plus grande pomme de terre”. The woman serving me took me to the back of the stall and showed me a stash of dirty potatoes. I declared them perfect. She wasn’t sure but she did ask if I wanted to wrap them in foil. I didn’t, but I said yes, in case that helped. She checked with somebody else and then she got more out and I bought three.

Today, mtoto helped me by putting the things that we bought into the shopping bag. He was quite keen to start before I had someone serving me and then when we going he got the bag upside down but eventually he proved to be a valuable assistant. Then, when we were done I suggested to him that we could go to the playground. He turned and set off in the opposite direction. After appealing in vain I followed him and he took me to a bench in the market where he declared that he wanted to eat melon. Another routine!

Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought a knife so mtoto had to make do with four plums instead. I topped off each one and pulled the stone out and he munched away until he had finished all of each fruit. I then tried him with an apricot but he wasn’t so into that. The only thing that slightly spoiled our pause was that a trailer selling cheese was parked right in front of the beach, rather hampering our view of the market.

When mtoto was satisfied that he had had enough fruit, off we went through the square, stopping at the fountain so mtoto could wash his hands. Then we went to the playground at Parc Louis-Cottier. And when he was done there we went to the playground at the back of Boulevard des Promenades.

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