Alpine Mummy

A new life in the middle of nowhere


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On the road with Alpine Mummy

Giving up life in the UK and moving to the Middle of Nowhere, Lost in the French Alps (my official address), was supposed to result in a healthier, more outdoors-y life, away from the smog and grime and roads and cars and traffic that is London life.

That has half worked.

The great outdoors is so much closer to our great indoors now – we can walk and ski and cycle mountains galore without needing to ever drive for more than four and a half minutes (I’ve timed it).

But recently, I have spent a LOT of my time sitting in a car – and it makes me wonder if we can ever leave the world of traffic behind us…

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On the move again…

I start full-time work tomorrow. Gosh.

Midweek Alpine Mummy fun will be no more. Gone are the days of frolicking in the mountains on a Monday afternoon, or cycling round the lake on a Wednesday, or spending the entire day eating cake and drinking lots of tea with other English mummies every Tuesday (and Thursday. And Friday. And… OK – I do more cake-eating and socialising than I do mountain-frolicking and cycling. Life is tough).

I think I can cope with having to wear vaguely presentable clothes every day, rather than the knackered jeans and holey t-shirts that have become my usual uniform (on the days I actually get out my pyjamas…). I can probably even cope with brushing my hair every day (I got it all hacked off on Friday to ease this pain), and I am certainly looking forward to speaking to grown-ups about things other than sick, poo, sleep, poo and sick. (Forget career aspirations – I’ll just be proud to get through a day without threatening to put my colleagues on the naughty step, or absent-mindedly spoon-feeding my boss at lunchtime…)

Anyway, all that will be fine. What I’m not looking forward to is my commute. I live about an hour and a quarter away from Geneva. More (a lot more) at peak times. I am working a full day. Every day.  I will never (and I mean never) see my kids if we stay here.

So the Alpine Family are on the move again… But where to?

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Top 5 Alpine Mummy moments

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Oh dear.  It’s been ages, hasn’t it?  Over a month in fact, since my last post.  And it was going so well!  (But don’t say I didn’t warn you – quote:  Not sure how long the blog will last (I was never very good at Dear Diary when I was younger…) and I’m sure it won’t be that interesting, but here goes!”.)

So, I hope you all missed me?!  My inbox has been inundated with concerned inquiries about where I might be and when I’m going to start blogging again (ahem).  So I’m feeling a bit of pressure here – perhaps you’re all expecting stories about how I’ve been wrestling wild wolves in the mountains; or how I’ve been lost in 2 metre-high snowdrifts having trekked back from the chocolate shop in a snowstorm; or how I’ve been cross-country ski-ing my way through the Alps with just a baguette in my bag and a baby on my back.

Sorry.  Nothing so exciting has been keeping me from my updates.  I’ve just lost the habit.  And not much has been going on really, so the habit stayed lost.  And when something interesting did happen I was usually up to my neck in pooey nappies or snotty tissues and so never found the time to write.

So I’ve decided to do a Top 5 things that have happened in Alpine Mummy’s life over the last two months post.  Catchy title, no?

So, here you are, pop-pickers, in at number 5:

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And yet more snow!

snow tree

This post has been a long time coming but I’m discovering quite how time-consuming it is living in the mountains in winter.  And winter has certainly arrived – we have nearly a metre of snow in our garden, it’s currently about -13°c outside, and our driveway is covered in ice.  I think I must have been singing “Let it Snow” just a little bit too loudly; someone up above appears to have heard me… Continue reading


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Yet more suppositories, Madame

Poor Alpine Girl has once again encountered the French medical system.  I’ll say one thing for French doctors:  they certainly are thorough…

Beaucoup de medicaments

Beaucoup de médicaments – all for Alpine Girl

She started off with just a cold and a slight temperature on Monday last week.  I didn’t really think too much of it:  it’s the first time she’s been ill and, although it broke my heart to see her red eyes and snotty nose, like the good English girl I am, I didn’t want to bother the doctor.  I remember going to see the doctor in the UK when Alpine Boy had his first cold (as I was worried it had got to his chest), and being told it was, well, just a cold.  The doctor didn’t actually roll his eyes and call me a hypochondriac during his three-and-a-half-minute consultation, but he may as well have.  I felt truly chastised for having wasted his time for “just a cold”.

So, forgetting the French aren’t like that, I didn’t take Alpine Girl to the doctor’s at first.  I still thought she was just a bit bunged up and I didn’t want to take her all the way into town in the freezing cold for nothing (it is very cold here at the moment).  But last Tuesday was the night from hell:  she wouldn’t sleep at all and I spent all night walking round with her, sucking snot out her nose (nice) and waving eucalyptus steam around the room.  It was the three hours’ sleep that night that finally convinced me that a doctor wouldn’t mind seeing her.

So last Wednesday we bundled her up and braved the cold for the doctor’s appointment.  I was still not convinced a doctor wouldn’t just tell me to stop being such a drama queen, but Alpine Papa convinced me.  You can tell he’s a true Frenchman.

And worth it, it was.  We had a full 15-minute consultation – none of the cursory glances I had experienced with the NHS.  (Please don’t think I’m slagging off all NHS GPs, I’m really not – some of my best friends are NHS GPs and I am sure they do a fantastic job!  Unfortunately they don’t work in my local doctors’ surgery…).  Everything was thoroughly and methodically checked – eyes, ears, nose, throat, chest, tummy, head….  And there was not one single incidence of eye-rolling.  Unfortunately, though, that’s because Alpine Girl did in fact have more than “just a cold” – she had an actual, real-life chest infection.  The weird, fleeting feeling of relief that I wasn’t a time-waster, however, was certainly not worth the pity I felt as I looked into the weeping, rheumy eyes of my poorly little girl and held her close as she coughed with fatigue (straight into my face.  Great.  I am waiting for my very own chest infection now).

But don’t worry, Alpine Girl – the doctor has just the thing for you.

Lots of things in fact.

We got antibiotics.  And a nose wash.  And eye drops.  And paracetamol.  And a decongestant.  And 6 sessions of physiotherapy.  My mouth dropped further as the doctor’s prescription got longer.

I had learned my lesson from the previous time the doctor gave us a prescription for paracetamol.  This time I swallowed any pride about not wanting to look like a stupid English prude, and specifically asked for syrup, not suppositories (to be honest I was thinking more about Alpine Boy – I’m now an expert at sticking tablets up a baby’s bum, but I don’t dare even suggest it to a grumpy three-year-old with a headache who has never had a suppository before…).  The doctor chuckled and obligingly deleted the word ‘suppositoires’ from her screen and, with a look of amusement in her eyes (no doubt relishing her new dinner-party story about the funny English woman who doesn’t want suppositories), slowly typed ‘s-i-r-o-p’.  I sat back smugly in my seat:  English sensibilities – 1; French superior treatment plan – 0.  Ha.

The doctor got her own back though – I casually mentioned that I had put some Vicks on Alpine Girl’s chest during that Tuesday night from hell, and she frowned and muttered how bad that was.  “I’ve got something much better than that for you” she said, taking a pen to the already long prescription.  “It’s really good – herbal decongestant, gets to work right away, will clear her nose and let her sleep.”  She looked up.  “I know you don’t like suppositories, but…”.  I could swear she was hiding a revengeful smile.

English sensibilities – 1; French superior treatment plan – 1.

And then the physio.  Wow – definitely 2:1 to the French by now.  It wasn’t a particularly serious chest-infection, but apparently this is standard treatment here.  Do they do that in the UK?  I’ve never heard of it (but that doesn’t really say much).

We had no idea what the physio process involved.  Alpine Papa’s colleagues were therefore keen to explain it to him, one of them helpfully reporting that her kid had been so traumatised by the treatment that he now refuses to visit any doctor.  Alpine Papa also made the mistake of watching the process on You Tube, and called me from work just before the appointment to explain just quite how horrific it all was.  Thanks.

So it was with trepidation and a knot in my stomach that I cautiously opened the physio’s door.  “Don’t worry, Madame” he smiled at me kindly (whilst cracking his knuckles and rolling up his sleeves like a pro arm-wrestler).  “It won’t hurt a bit.  I promise.”  My relief was short-lived, however, as he quickly went on: “She’ll scream like hell though! Don’t worry, that’s good”.

Oh.  OK.

So, for all you physio novices out there too: the process involves a burly physiotherapist putting his huge hands on my tiny baby’s fragile, bird-like chest and squashing her like a deflating air-mattress until all the air is forced out of her miniature lungs.  He doesn’t squash her hard, he assures me, but try telling Alpine Girl that.  She did indeed scream like hell.  Apparently that’s good because that gets all the gunk out of those millions of alveoli.  But I’m a mummy, not a doctor, and so it didn’t seem good to me, watching her get redder and more stressed and tired, screaming and screaming and not having a clue what was happening to her.  That first session was probably about as difficult for me as it was for her.

I’m hardened now though.  Maybe it’s because for the last two weeks she hasn’t slept more than five hours in a row, and has started waking up screaming two or three times every night.  I’m so tired that it’s actually a relief to be able to put her in someone else’s capable (albeit firm) hands for 20 minutes or so every day.  Even if it makes her cry.  And I can see it’s working – after five of the six prescribed sessions her lungs are getting clearer and her coughing has reduced.  If I can manage to get the car through the 60cm of snow we have up here then we’ll go to the final session this afternoon, and hopefully that will be it, she’ll be cured.  I never thought I’d say it, but I think I am a convert to the French school of interventionist medicine.  I’m sure many people will have things to say about how such treatment really isn’t necessary and causes more harm than good, but all I can say is it worked for us.  That horrible chesty cough has gone.

And you know what?  Those decongestant suppositories worked a treat…

Snowed in?  Not yet...

Snowed in? Not yet…


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Rediscovering my walking mojo

Beautiful day, up here at least

Beautiful day, up here at least

One of the main reasons I wanted to live here in the middle of nowhere was the mountain walks (oh, and the ski-ing.  And the chocolate.  And the wine.  And the cheese.  And the wine.  OK there were lots of reasons.  But walking was one of them…).  When we first got here I was up those mountains like a little mountain goat (me leading the way, Alpine Boy trailing behind being bribed with biscuits, Alpine Girl sleeping in a sling like a snuggly little joey).  And with Alpine Boy at school, Alpine Girl and I had been doing harder and faster walks than I ever could with a three-year old lagging behind me.

But not so much, recently.  I somehow lost my walking mojo. Continue reading