Settling In

The eerie feeling of existing in parallel universes is beginning to fade as I slowly readjust to living in just one of them, and wriggle my way back into my Swiss niche. Picking up the threads after a lengthy absence is always demanding: some are permanently severed, some are frayed, yet other bonds are still strong. Had you asked me for a forecast five years ago, I would never have dreamt of all the events and circumstances that lay before me, and yet I wonder if there was some vague prescience that impelled me to start blogging in September 2011: was there a sense that changes were afoot? That I would be glad of an outlet among all the ups and downs ahead of me, and the chance to keep some kind of record?

One of the biggest challenges I now face is to reprise my role as Granny – in particular, as Great-Granny. My eldest granddaughter’s little brood know who I am, but they don’t really know me personally yet and so we are gingerly feeling our way into a relationship. It’s easy with the youngest, who is still a toddler and at 18 months very open and friendly to everyone. Play with him and he’s your pal. I’m hopeful that the new baby – due in November – will also accept me from the start.

The two older ones, however, are more reserved and not yet totally willing to put their trust in this strange woman who doesn’t really speak their language. My great-grandson was three when I left to live in England, his sister just a couple of months old. We have had sporadic contact via FaceTime and they have visited England a few times during the last four years, but I am still really unfamiliar to them and even though I am now back in Switzerland I live about an hour and a half distant from their house so we don’t see each other often.

It was a surprise to them to find that I have a permanent home here: “Is this your holiday apartment?” was an understandable question, as they had only met me at my mother’s and they assumed I lived in England. Fortunately, we have a very nice children’s playground in the park down the road, so that’s an attraction, and there are friendly little squirrels in the park itself that will come and take food from your hand. I feel rather like a suitor, trying to woo this little Hänsel and Gretel, and hoping they don’t cast me in the role of the wicked witch!

When my granddaughter suggested they should come over and visit me on Saturday, I was very pleased and decided it would be fun to invite them to a nearby facility that houses birds of prey. The birds – ranging from various species of owl to majestic eagles, together with falcons, exotic raptors and vultures– are kept in large airy cages, and there is a grassy expanse of parkland all around. In one corner there is a barbecue pit with tables and seats, trees and a parasol, so you can bring your own picnic.

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My granddaughter, always highly organised and efficient, had brought a copious picnic with sausages that she and her eight-year-old son grilled (the wood, charcoal and all necessary implements were provided) and we lunched beneath the watchful eyes of the eagles. I felt rather guilty at eating hard-boiled eggs so blatantly in front of them, but my conscience was salved later when I discovered that many of the birds are fed on young chicks so cannibalism is normal for them.

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After we had eaten lunch, splashed in the water trough and inspected all the birds in their cages, we took our seats for the “Show”, a demonstration by the couple who run this sanctuary, where the children had the opportunity to stroke the silky soft feathers of an owl and see the other birds up close as they swooped to and fro in the arena and hopped about among the spectators. A little too much talk by the presenter for the children’s liking – far too much information for them – but they were impressed by the birds and enjoyed petting the miniature goats in a special enclosure at the opposite end of the park.

I’m afraid I failed the final test, though: on arrival at my apartment, the kids were hungry again and my fridge was empty apart from half a pineapple, a tomato, milk and butter. No use explaining that, living alone, I don’t need a full fridge. Luckily their mother still had some bread rolls left from the picnic so the rumbling tummies were temporarily stilled by bread, butter and honey with chunks of pineapple and a glass of milk. Next time, I had better be prepared! Or they really will class me as the wicked witch who starves them!

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5 thoughts on “Settling In

  1. Welcome back! You’ve been missed. It sounds like you had a lovely day with these little greats and your granddaughter. I suspect the older two will remember the day for many years. They’ll remember stroking the birds and the goats and forget about their hungry tummies. And you’ve learned your lesson. Always have some sort of treat on hand for little tummies.

    I wonder how it feels for you to be back in Switzerland. Is English you first language and Swiss the second?

    • Thanks! We chuckled about my empty fridge! Yes, English is my first language, French my second and German my third, but I don’t speak the Swiss German dialect, though I understand it well enough. My family all speak English with me, but because of my absence the youngest ones haven’t had so much exposure to it in everyday life, so we have yet to establish a common language that we are all comfortable in. It’ll come.

  2. Thank you for this post. I’m sorry I don’t know your name but I can’t keep calling you Cat.
    I hadn’t realised that you were living in England only temporarily. Are you English and did you live there originally. Why do you choose to live in Switzerland. So many questions to ask you even though I thought I knew you as a blogging friend.
    I really enjoyed this post Grandchildren and greats are a joy. Yours grands are obviously well grown up, mine are just getting there.
    I look forward to reading and learning more ofyou.

    • My name is Catherine, but Cat will do, too! Yes, I am English and have lived in Switzerland since 1973, when we moved here for work. It’s a nice place, so I stayed and now all my descendants are here. My mother was taken ill in December 2011 – I went back to stay with her in England, originally for 3 months, to try and get a care package set up, but that didn’t materialise so the 3 months turned into 4 and a half years! I had to come back because I would have lost my residence permit if I had stayed away any longer, and this is really my home now. It’s been strange having one foot in each world, and they are both such very different worlds, which is why I talk of parallel universes.

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