Hello New Life

By Werner Bayer
By Werner Bayer

It’s been almost two weeks since the children and I arrived in Geneva. J had been living with a tiny amount of rented furniture in what was to become our new family home. It felt odd at the time he said, imagining what the house would feel and sound like when it was filled with our things and the sound of the children. It turns out that family life is quite noisy, especially if you happen to buy a second-hand washing machine which sounds like it is taking off during the spin cycle. I digress.

The truth is, I’m not sure Geneva will ever feel like home, or at least, not soon. I miss the old walls of our Edwardian semi in London. I miss our family and friends. We met our new Swiss neighbours last week. They were perfectly wonderful, and invited us into their garden for a glass of wine. They had seen a succession of rental cars that J had been using and had wondered if the house was being used as a CIA safe house. They were relieved to meet us. They told us about the different nationalities of people who live in the neighbourhood and that almost everyone has cats. The cats have territory wars and almost all of them wear little bells around their necks to help the birds escape. There are lots of birds it seems, especially singing outside our bedroom window first thing in the morning. In an irritable half-awake state I considered doing something drastic but think I may opt for ear buds instead.

We let the cats out today. They were free to come and go as they pleased at home, but needed time to get used to their new environment here. We didn’t want to risk them making for South London. Our female cat was cautious when we opened the doors. Her brother, a voracious hunter, quickly got over himself and set off, and now they’ll be British moggies mixing with the ginger toms and Birmans I’ve seen wandering around. It’s like our own situation in a microcosm. I wonder how aware they will be of the change in their surroundings. They will have realised the change in domestic setting, of course, but will they instinctively know that we are far from home?

By Steve Guttman
By Steve Guttman

The soil was rich when I was digging in the garden yesterday. The sun is strong and the air is crystalline, free of London’s smog. Just beyond our house we can see Lake Geneva. Everywhere you go, the Alps and the Jura can be seen. The views are breathtaking, so all-encompassing that after a while I imagine you don’t even perceive them anymore. To appreciate the magnificent, don’t we need the mundane in contrast? The vistas, certainly where we live, twenty minutes from the centre of Geneva, are unfettered by high-rises. As a result it seems there is a huge expanse of sky above us, with candy-floss clouds hanging low, ready to be plucked and consumed.

There is no aggrieved eye contact or menacing body language between drivers here. Congestion seems to be rare and therefore London’s on road aggression has been bested by a calm, measured pace. I can almost hear the Swiss drivers whistling an eerily jolly tune as they wait patiently at junctions. Come 6pm and Sundays, with the exception of late night shopping on Thursdays, retailers are shut. It is then that I miss cities that never sleep. Sundays are strictly family/no work days here. I’ve been told a woman was admonished by the police for ironing on her balcony on a Sunday.

Geneva cathedral
By Valerii Tkachenko

It seems as if our courtship with Geneva will be a slow one, and perhaps that’s no bad thing. I was beginning to wane in London. Cities demand ceaseless energy from us, to power themselves, reminiscent of the heaving metropolis in Fritz Lang’s 1927 film. They are wondrous in the opportunities they present but they are also relentless beasts. I’m tired of wrestling the beast for now. Instead, I’ll embrace this slower pace and allow my mind time to clear. It’s in the quiet moments that stories take hold and refuse to let go. For a moment, I’d forgotten how to be quiet.

17 thoughts on “Hello New Life

  1. This was a magical read. I’m glad you’ve finally settled into your new home, and that your cats are becoming accustomed to the neighborhood just as you are. Thank you for posting!

  2. “There is no aggrieved eye contact or menacing body language between drivers here. Congestion seems to be rare and therefore London’s on road aggression has been bested by a calm, measured pace. I can almost hear the Swiss drivers whistling an eerily jolly tune as they wait patiently at junctions.”

    I love the contrast between the two places, laughed aloud at this part. Maybe it won’t take too long for the whistled jolly tunes to stop sounding eerie. ;) Sounds like you’ve landed in a wonderful place. May the magnificence of your view endure.

    1. Hi Jess, thanks very much!

      I drove on the other side of the road tonight for the first time. We picked up a little run around for me. We’ve named the two cars Pearl & Monster. Mine’s Pearl. In any case going to take a lot of getting used to. Kept trying to grasp a gear stick out of thin air on the wrong side of the wheel. Luckily the patient Swiss didn’t bump me off the road.

      Cheers for commenting. Love x

      1. Oh I can’t imagine trying to drive on the “wrong” side. ;) And I do the same with the gear stick after driving my husband’s car. When I get back in my van, I’ve a foot looking for a clutch and a hand grasping at air. Never fails to get a giggle, even if it is at my own expense. Your car is Pearl? Monster sounds much more exciting. ;)

        Cheers to your new adventure! <3

  3. It sounds like you are going to have an amazing adventure, Nillu. It’s always difficult at first to adjust to a new place, because you don’t have the comfort of friends and family…but, it is worth it. A new experience in a new setting will do wonders for your writing too. :-)

  4. So glad to hear the pace of life is slower and you will embrace it. Too many of us nowadays are consumed by a supposed rat-race, but sometimes I wonder if we are merely racing ourselves? I truly believe bright ideas come to the fore when the fog in our minds is allowed to lift if we can but just s.l.o.w. d.o.w.n. Enjoy this fabulous experience, and by the way – we miss you too xxx

  5. Just remember, here in Switzerland it’s illegal to hang out your washing on a Sunday… ;-) (Personally I never let that bother me, but it’s something to bear in mind) Yes, life is slower. Sometimes a good thing, sometimes not. But it means you’ll REALLY appreciate the buzz of the city when you’re back visiting London. Looking forward to seeing you in September!

    1. Hi Linda, cheers for the comment. I must remember that re washing – I let ours build up until it’s an avalanche and then Sunday or no Sunday, it just needs to get done! Looking forward to seeing you in September too and hearing all about the book tour. N x

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