The Best Days of Their Lives

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

Tag: switzerland

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.

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.

Giving notice

When we started “The best days of their lives”, I intended to write about the days, once a week, when I didn’t go to work and instead cared for our mtoto.

I wanted the blog to look good so I didn’t write up our experience as I was waiting for the time to put into the site.

And so 6 months have passed since I changed from working 5 days per week to 4.

Last week everything else changed. We got an incredible opportunity to turn our lives upside down.

From August, L will be working 5-days a week. And for the foreseeable future, I will be the homemaker and full-time carer of our mtoto.

But that’s not all. L’s new job in Geneva, Switzerland. So we are moving lock, stock and barrel to Geneva from London. It’s only 600 miles away, but it is another country. It’s not even in the European Union.

Yet more. This is also a fantastic opportunity for us to learn French and for mtoto to learn French. So, from a not-quite-standing-start, we hope to bring our mtoto up speaking at least 2 languages.

It’s crazy and it’s completely normal, all in one.

We are planning to move within 2 months so we are in the right country when L’s job starts. Apart from that, nothing else has been set.

So far all we’ve done is give our notice at our respective organisations in London, start telling people that we’re off and give notice at mtoto’s nursery. The director of mtoto’s nursery has been brilliant, making us feel very good about our choices. “We will stay in touch,” she said.