The Best Days of Their Lives

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

Tag: birds

Geneva walks with a toddler: Meyrin to CERN

We didn’t do this in a straightforward manner. Today we took in two “ends of the lines”, starting our walk at one end of the 14 tram route (Meyrin Graviere) and we finished at CERN at one end of the 18 tram route. This walk wouldn’t take anyone going at a normal speed very long at all, as it is only a couple of miles. But as you’ve probably gathered, we don’t tend to do normal.

Meyrin: it's lovely if you live there, right?

Meyrin: it’s lovely if you live there, right?

I’m sure that if you live in Meyrin, it is lovely. Lots of people live in Meyrin, in their thousands, so it can’t be all bad, right? Well, there are huge concrete blocks everywhere, from six to 15 storeys high. It feels densely populated, even though the blocks are quite well spaced and there’s lots of green space between the buildings. Lots of green space for playgrounds. Though they’re playgrounds of varying quality. Before we left Meyrin for the first time, we spent time in two of them, with great swings and climbing frames. We also visited the Commercial Centre, with at least one supermarket in it and several other shops.

View to Meyrin from the edge of the woods

View to Meyrin from the edge of the woods

To leave Meyrin and head for the woods, the main reason we had come to Meyrin at all, we carried on the road where the 14 tram left off, then turned left down Rue des Lattes. When there’s a crossing over the road, take it, seemingly into a hedge on the other side, then cut through and continue along towards the woods ahead of you to the right. These are the Marais des Crets. We spent a happy while here on the boardwalk that snakes through one end of the woods and marshes. There’s a slightly comical hide here, which is just a fence that isn’t even as tall as me, with some holes for looking out of. We saw five Teal from here, plus some Mallards but most of the action was along the boardwalk itself where we saw Nuthatches, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Marsh Tits, Chaffinches, Wrens, Robins and Blackbirds. We also saw a Great White Egret and a Grey Heron flying out of the woods. Oh, we also saw some mice!

Nuthatch in the woods

Nuthatch on the boardwalk

Mouse (left) in the woods

Mouse (left) in the woods

It was a cold day today so we headed back into Meyrin after our stint in the woods, intending to head home. But after a long play in a sandpit and fortified by crisps and cheese and croissants, we decided to walk to CERN.

G is for Geneva. One side is in Geneva, the other is in France

G is for Geneva. One side is in Geneva, the other is in France

 

We cut off a bit of the walk, so didn’t go to the woods a second time, but linked up with the path out of the woods, then followed a path alongside some woods and the Swiss-French border, which was marked by border stones. We kept on the path until we reached Chemin de la Maille, which is recognisable by the site of an opening after woods on both sides, a couple of houses and some bee hives. Here we saw a Goldcrest and a Treecreeper, plus some Woodpeckers and Long-tailed Tits and a Common Buzzard. Keep on this road until you reach a crossroads with a farm to the left, Meyrin in the distance in front of you and CERN off to your right. Turn right, then right again just before the main road, to bring you up to CERN’s visitors’ car park and the 18 tram terminus.

CERN's visitor venue and the tram to Carouge

CERN’s visitor venue and the tram to Carouge

We crossed over to CERN’s reception but you don’t really need to go there unless you want to visit the shop. The only permanent exhibition that’s open is in the dome next to the car park. It’s all IKEA eggshell chairs and interactive domes and tables. They’re not ideal for toddlers as they’re generally above their height. And as the guide in the venue said, you have to insist to the interactive buttons that you want them to do something by pressing forcefully. I didn’t know much about CERN before I went and I think I have learned more from chatting with a runner who works there than I got from the exhibition itself, but it was kind of fun. It reminded me of the sort of thing that gets put on from time to time in the Hayward Gallery on the Southbank in London. All laser lights and spinning numbers and so on.

You have to press the buttons really hard to get them to do anything

You have to press the buttons really hard to get them to do anything

Eventually Mtoto asked to leave, so we did, catching the 18 tram back into town.

The visitor exhibition

The visitor exhibition

Janathon exercise: about 3 miles of walking today.

That Mountain Buggy gets everywhere...

That Mountain Buggy gets everywhere…

2015 birds: the Marsh Tit was a new one. It took ages to see it while comparing the Marsh and Willow Tits in the bird book, but we eventually settled on the Marsh Tit on account of its shorter beard.

 

Birds on Lake Geneva

Tufted Duck on Lake Geneva

Tufted Duck on Lake Geneva

There are some great places to go to see birds around Geneva at Lake Geneva. Point de la Bise is one of our favourites. There Pro Natura runs a nature reserve with a two-storey bird hide (including child gates) and a great education centre. Round the other side, Versoix has some great spots, especially where the river meets the lake. If you’re willing to further afield, you can take the train to Prangins and spot birds from the marina. Or take the train to Nyon and then take the boat to Yvoire, on the other side of the lake, in France.

Sometimes all you need to do is go down to the lake at Eaux-Vives. This afternoon, it took a long while to settle Mtoto down for his afternoon nap, but as soon as he was asleep I went for a saunter by the lake. All the usual birds were there, including some Mute Swans, Mallard Ducks, Black-headed Gulls and Coots. And just now there’s a great number of Tufted Ducks and Goosander there too as well as the occasional Ferruginous Duck.

Little Grebes at Eaux Vives on Lake Geneva

Little Grebes at Eaux Vives on Lake Geneva

Having thought I had spotted one earlier in the week, but not being sure enough to note it down, today I saw about a dozen Little Grebes. I only saw these because I walked along one of the pontoons in the marina, so if you fancy seeing something different, I wholly recommend walking among the boats. There are a couple of places like this that you can go to get a different view to the usual tourist view of the Jet D’eau or the Cathedral or perhaps both together, so it is well worth taking the extra few minutes walk if you have time.

Finally, there was one bird that I didn’t recognise and haven’t been able to identify from my bird book. It looks like a bit of several things, but not definitely something. If you know what it is, please do say! Edit: (21/01/2015) I have learned from a birdwatcher (merci!) that the unknown bird is likely to be a White-cheeked Pintail. It is a rare or scarcely seen bird in Switzerland, though already this year over 100 sightings have been recorded in Geneva canton.

The not-so-accessible bird hide on the Rhone

The not-so-accessible bird hide on the Rhone

Janathon

Today, we went for a 4 hours + hike from Tours Lignon to Aire de la Ville with Edward. There’s a lovely hide on the rive gauche just west of Passerelle de Chevres. It isn’t wholly accessible – Mtoto couldn’t get in on his own and needed to be carried or have someone hold his hand.

2015 birds

49. Starling

50. Little Grebe

White-cheeked Pintails on Lake Geneva

White-cheeked Pintail

Laconnex

In the pub with the Geneva Dads drinking beer last week, a cry went round the tables that 2015 is the year. The year of what? Someone replied. The year! It came back. Today was the Monday of the year. The start of how I mean to go on. Monday has usually been jobs day. I do the weekly clothes washing in the evening and have been filling the day with food shopping and crashing. We lie in bed and watch videos. Or I fall asleep playing with Duplo in Mtoto’s room. I’ve had a lot of Mondays like that in the past five months.

Learning about the Groupe Ornithologique du Bassin Genevois on Saturday helped me find a focus for this week. On the GOBG website is a list of 21 places in Geneva canton which are recommended as spots to watch birds from. Planning our week, I simply set the first place on the list for Monday, the second for Tuesday and so on. Of course, it won’t be as simple as this. We’ve been to some of the places already and a playdate (whose parent is a mother!) for Mtoto on Tuesday means the second place is postponed and so on. But still, it’s a start.

I even prepared the buggy beforehand. I was on it yesterday. I looked up the times and knew we needed to get the 9:22 from Bel Air to get to Croisee de Confignon to get the L to Laconnex. Yeah, I know, Laconnex. Where? I can’t tell you much about Laconnex the village. There’s a playground, a cafe, a shop, a farm and a garage selling old American cars. There’s all the usual stuff that a village in Geneva canton has. To be fair to the people of Laconnex, we didn’t poke about today in their village. We were on a mission. We were on our way to the Pro Natura Reserve Naturelle de Laconnex.

 

Winter's morning at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

Winter’s morning at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

We got off at the L stop after Stand Laconnex, turned first right into Rue des Rupettes, then left at the roundabout onto La Vy Neuve. Then we turned right at the next junction, just after the American car dealership onto Chemin-de-la-Loi. The reserve is about 200 yards up on the left. It’s on the site of an old gravel pit and has ponds, reed beds and lots of trees around the edges. It has a noticeboard and a path for visitors around the edge. What it doesn’t have is an entrance that is suitable for buggies, not even Mountain Buggies. I first tried pushing the buggy up the steep path over the bordering mound of soil that serves as entrance but we got stuck part way up. So we went back down and then I went up, pulling the buggy behind me. Which was fine but for the slope down the other side being steeper, longer and narrower. We made it, but only just. Afterwards I went back up the slope to pick up the things that had come out of the buggy on the way over.

Winter's greys at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

Winter’s greys at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

Unfortunately, Mtoto took an immediate dislike to Reserve Naturelle de Laconnex. Which was a real pain, because it was one of the most peaceful, tranquil and simply beautiful places I have been in a while. And there were lots of birds flitting around in the trees. “Pappi, I don’t want  this path, I want the big path” he shrieked. “I don’t like it, I want to go home” he cried. I tried him in the buggy, I tried him walking, I tried him on my shoulders. Nothing worked. We only reached harmony when we were on the way out and he knew it. Still, we saw Goldfinches (the first of the year), Reed Buntings, Blackbirds, Kestrels, Crows, Robins, Blue Tits and Long-tailed Tits. Not bad considering we were a bright red and blue seven feet high two-headed giant, wielding two cameras and in constant dialogue about leaving. As we were about to take on the entrance/exit again I asked Mtoto how he wanted to tackle it. He suggested that he went in the buggy, which was when we discovered that somewhere along the way we had lost Hippo. She’s a nondescript blankety thing, of little sentimental value except that she’s been with the buggies since day dot. So we trekked back along the path until we found Hippo and brought her back.

Droplets at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

From the reserve, we continued on Chemin-de-la-Loi, stopping to see various birds including some buzzards, then turned left down Route des Allues, where we saw our first hare of the year. Cutting a quick left took us on a path that eventually led back onto Chemin-de-la-Loi and back to the village, where caught a bus back, an hour-and-a-half after we had arrived. It was a beautiful morning, cold and crisp. The mountains were clear and had fresh snow on top. We made dragon breaths all the way round, picked up sticks and went fishing from the buggy. We rode mud, ice and roads. We saw one other person in the whole trip, a guy with a large lens on his camera, keeping still and watching the woods. This was the day and this is the year.

Janathon stats

I ran tonight with the Geneva Runners, 9.9km in 52:53 at 5.21 per km. Then I joined the runners for their weekly social – burgers at the Clubhouse and ran home afterwards.

2015 birds

46. Goldfinch

47. Great Crested Grebe

There were more, but I don’t know yet what they are. Edit: (21/01/2015) A Yellow Bunting and a Common Reed Bunting, with thanks to the Swiss birdwatcher, B, who got in touch with his suggestions.

Raptor (I presume it's a buzzard) in flight at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

Raptor (I presume it’s a buzzard) in flight at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

 

yellow bird. Any idea what it is?

Yellow Bunting

More yellow bird. Any i/d?

Yellow Bunting

Little Brown Job. But what is it?

Common Reed Bunting

Little Brown Job on its way.

Common Reed Bunting

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

Perly to Grand Lancy

Today we went for a walk with our friend Edward, like we do most Thursdays. Thursdays with Edward have pretty much become the mainstay of our daytime in Geneva for Mtoto and me. Edward moved to Geneva when he was about nine years old, because his mother got a job in Geneva. So he’s an earlier version of Mtoto in that regard. Edward is a librarian by trade and is also in some demand on the theatre circuit as a lighting guy. But on Thursdays he’s our getting to know Geneva buddy. And I mean Geneva in the canton sense, rather than the city, as we’re often to be found out in the countryside.

Edward and I share some interests, in particular photography and birds. He’s also very good with Mtoto, which helps, and on days like today he’ll happily push the Mountain Buggy along the whole of our route, which today was just under 10km. On these walks of ours the three of us are often to be seen with our cameras. Mtoto points his at anything that takes his interest. Edward and I generally point ours at birds and very occasionally, other stuff.

Today we had arranged to meet in the village of Perly in south-west Geneva, with a view to walking round to Grand Lancy. We met in Grand Lancy to get on the 42 to Lully. There was little of note on the short journey except perhaps for going through the ZIPLO industrial estate and seeing some expensive car showrooms such as for Ferrari and Maserati. We got off at Perly-Marie to be as far through the village as possible. From there, we followed the route of the bus and where it went round the bend to the right, we went straight on. Just outside the village is P+R Perly (the park and ride stop), which is one end of the 4 route, and is basically just a giant car park. But ignoring the car park and the ugly housing estate just over the border in France, the view to Saleve on the left and the Jura on the right is quite wonderful and well worth being in the presence of. Walking past some Gamay and Pinot Noir vineyards we were soon under the cover of trees and pretty much from here on we were in a birdwatching paradise. As well as the plentiful Blue and Great Tits, Robins and Blackbirds, we were treated fairly quickly to a close up of a long-tailed tit, followed by a Treecreeper. The path goes downhill, then becomes a u-bend to the right (past a small playground on the left) and then joins up with the River L’Aire.

For the next mile or so the path goes straight alongside the river, crossing over one road until getting to a remarkable wooden bridge. We saw lots of birds, mostly Mallards in the river as well as a couple of pairs of Goosanders. In the trees and all around we saw the usual melange of birds as well as some nuthatches and a hawfinch. Along the River L’Aire, some major renovation works are taking place and later on we had to abandon walking near the river because the paths are closed. But up this end the works have finished and the wooden bridge marks the start of those works. Just before we got to the bridge, we took Mtoto down to the river’s edge so that he could throw some stones. He loves throwing stones into water and since I love skimming stones on the river I have figured that I can’t ban him from doing the same. Some of the water was frozen so Mtoto shrieked with delight as his stones varied so wildly, some plopping straight into the water, some smashing through the ice and some coming to rest on top of the ice. My favourite was the stone that hit the ice, slid along the ice and eventually dropped through a hole into the water, which we hadn’t been expecting.

While down there I saw the sudden flash of blue that I have come to know is a kingfisher. It was my first of the year but was gone in a flash. Now hopeful we went up onto the big wooden bridge that also seems to be able to act as a two-way hide. Looking down the river we saw what I at first thought was a moorhen but soon realised was quite different and we now reckon was a water rail. There was a pair and they were having a good splash about in the streams. I saw the kingfisher again, flying along and then under us. I photographed one bird in midflight over the river. Excited by a flash of orange I quickly looked at my photos only to find a robin in my shots!

Now on the other side of the river we saw many more Mallards, a couple of Moorhens, Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings and a Yellow Wagtail. We followed the river until we had to turn off, then wound back to Grand Lancy via Confignon, mostly walking on country roads with a bit of traffic. The final highlight of the walk was going through a petting farm where we saw pigs, goats, horses and rabbits, prompting Mtoto to claim that Rebecca Rabbit was in his hand and there she remained for the rest of the journey. At one point he said that Rebecca Rabbit wanted a leaf, so I plucked one from a tree and gave it to him/her and it was much appreciated by both, apparently.

For the Janathon followers, we walked 9.67km in 2 hours 51 minutes. Average speed 3.4km/h and top speed 8.2km/h.

the birds list will be updated here.

Hearts and minds prepared

At our Quaker Meeting in Geneva, we worship together in silence. If anyone is moved to minister, they do so. Each month our elders read out a query that they feel may help the worship. January’s was read out today:

“Do you come to meeting for worship with heart and mind prepared, with an adventurous spirit? Viens-tu aux reunions de culte dispose de coeur et d’espirit, ouvert et audacieux?”

Hearts and minds prepared, eh? It’s an obvious question in Quakers, the phrase is used a lot. It’s something I mostly take for granted. Of course I come to Quaker meeting with my heart and mind prepared. Funnily enough though, I was thinking on this as I rode into Quaker Meeting this morning. The idea to go this morning had come a few days before as I sat down to make my new year’s resolutions. I wrote down a lot. Laurel suggested that we might make intentions rather than resolutions and I liked this idea. I’ve come across my old lists a lot of times before and I’ve rarely done much of what was on the lists, so making it an intention feels like when I don’t succeed at it, I might keep trying again. Adapt it, change it, develop it, evolve it.

Going to Quaker Meeting was on that list. Right next to it was ‘ride my bike more’. Great, I thought, I’ll combine the two. I reckoned it would take about 25 minutes to ride to Quaker Meeting so I set off with 25 minutes to go. After getting through the three doors with the 3 keys from my apartment to the bicycle room, I discovered that the bicycle lock key was not the right bicycle lock key. So back I went. Three doors, three locks. After a rummage, I had 3 bike lock keys in my hand. Back I went with all the keys for all the doors and just one lock. It’s always the last one that works, not least because you don’t carry on trying after you are successful. And so, I was on my way. A bit flustered and behind schedule.

Out on the roads, it wasn’t much better. Something I had not noticed from walking around Geneva and travelling by public transport was just how many sets of traffic lights there are. Geneva, it seems, doesn’t do roundabouts. I can only think of one or two in the whole city. So there are lots of lights. If I was open to new light today, as the Quaker saying goes, then that light was coloured red. I started and I stopped. I started again and stopped again. Sometimes I thought that I was going to get through, but no, I had to stop again. Oh, and apart from the first kilometre or so, it was up hill all the way.

I arrived at Quaker meeting late, hot and sweaty. If having a heart prepared means that it is beating rather fast, well, I was prepared! But what does it really mean, anyway? Recently I read an old article in the Guardian about people who have survived plane crashes. Someone suggested that a difficulty for people when they’re in a plane crash (besides all the other factors) is that in plane travel we are told what to do, where to stand, where to sit, when we can go to the toilet, when we can eat a meal and so on. We’re not proactive. And when we’re in a life-or-death situation we need to suddenly change and take control and for many people that’s hard. I wonder if sometimes I think of Quaker meeting as being a passive experience – I go, I try to empty my mind, I wait expectantly on God for some ministry or to receive others’ ministry. But it’s not me leading my way.

Coming into Meeting by bike, I’ve got to change all that. I’ve got to keep my wits about me. Can I get through this changing light? Where’s that car turning? Can the driver see me? Can I avoid an accident going over these tram tracks? Can a bike go up here? I’m making decisions. I’m proactive. So for me, especially today, having a prepared heart and mind was about being active, having the blood flowing, smiling and feeling good.

And so it was a great Quaker Meeting today. The query question chimed with my thoughts about my journey. There was another ministry of passing interest. And first Sunday of the month is French-speaking day for Geneva Quakers, so when thoughts came into my head I tried to think them in French. And afterwards I had a conversation in Franglais (the best I can do) with a French-speaking Swiss friend.

In one strong sense, I also realised that Quaker Meeting is a reward. I cherish the time spent there, alone in one sense but in many others together. Together with God, together with my faith community.

On the Janathon-related exercise side, well, I was using the Strava app for the first time. What I didn’t realise when I set off was that I needed an internet connection to start, so the recording didn’t work. On the way back, I had one and I recorded 4.3km in 17:56 (allowing for the fumbling at beginning and end, which might have been a couple of minutes extra). This was almost all downhill too, which was lovely and again the sun was shining and I could see mountains much of the time. Glorious.

The need for internet for the Strava app to work is a serious issue, which may be a deal breaker, especially since all Endomondo needs to work is a GPS signal.

Birds…

No new birds seen today, but Laurel reminded me that we saw a pied wagtail on Thursday, which I hadn’t listed. Loathe to have to rejig the whole list, I’m adding it today.

24. Pied wagtail

Whatever floats your boat

It’s a new year, a new day and goodness me I’m back in front of the computer, blogging again. 2014 was a tumultuous year, so much change that we wouldn’t know where to begin. Suffice to say, on New Year’s Eve last year we had a dinner of fondue and raclette with some friends where we lived in south-east London. Seven months later, we arrived in Geneva, Switzerland, our new home and the home of fondue and raclette. Last night we had lasagna for dinner, so Turin here we come?

I have an idea of keeping lists and documenting my experience. I had a good go during 2014 at trying to see all the French car registration department numbers, Swiss car registration canton letters, all the diplomatic plates Geneva offers and all the international stickers I could see. I didn’t quite make it on any front but I had a good go trying, with FL from Liechtenstein being the last of the latter I saw just a day or two ago. I’m keen on having another go at all of these in 2015 and adding in Italian plates too.

And with my new found freedom to go walking and birdwatching, I intend to keep a list of birds that I get clear sightings of in 2015. I even saw some today:

1. Dipper

2. House Sparrow

3. Crow

4. Wood Pigeon

5. Robin

6. Buzzard.

7. Mallard duck.

8. Gadwall

9. Goosander

There are a couple more, I might need to edit this later!

And as I had a good go at it last year, I’m having a go at Janathon in 2015 – exercising every day and posting about it. Then I was posting from http://jezsmith.wordpress.com but this time I’m having a go from the family blog, as part of an initiative to get me writing more on this blog. We’ve got lots to share!

Today’s Janathon exercise was a 4.1k walk from Bout-de-Monde to the Arve around Vessy, where we spent an age throwing stones in the river, skimming stones and floating our little nutshell boats that Mama and Mtoto made this morning. Some had sails, some had candles inside. They all floated in pools we made or off down the river. I made a wish as I released each of mine, sending them off with my fears and anxieties from 2014.